Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark {a review & giveaway}

Me and the book

How do you know God is real?

Because you’ve felt him.

Until you don’t anymore.

Addie Zierman’s second book, Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark, officially came into the world one week ago Tuesday. It arrived on my doorstep that night, and as I absorbed myself into it, I found myself within its pages. Like her first book, When We Were On Fire, it took me to familiar places, hard places, true places.

Like Addie’s debut, Night Driving is a memoir. This one chronicles a spontaneous road trip she took two winters ago with her two young boys, to escape the darkness of her even-colder-than-usual Minnesota home for Florida light … to escape the darkness and emptiness inside her to maybe, just maybe, find a Light she could take back with her.

The book flits between past and present, and I was carried along on interstates and into strangers’ homes. I was carried to beaches of yesteryear where fire lit the sky, lit the heart, and to beaches where the rain thundered down, where nothing was as simple as it used to be. Night Driving is achingly beautiful; Night Driving is achingly real.

It seems fitting to be writing about this book in the cold of a Colorado blizzard, in the darkness of Holy Week, in the sparseness of my own soul.

The morning after I finished the book, I found myself flipping back, a few chapters at first and then all the way to the beginning, filling three pages deep with quote after quote. I was going to share a few of my favorites, interspersed with reflections on why these particular words are meaningful to me … but then I realized that you don’t need my words right now, that what you need are Addie’s words, full stop. And so, here they are:

“In the dark kitchen, I feel as if my eyes are finally beginning to adjust. And I’d forgotten that this is how sight works. We move from someplace very bright to someplace very dark, and for several minutes it’s very hard to see. But then the pupil expands and the rod cells engage, and the whole eye is flooded with rhodopsin, and we can finally absorb photos, perceive light. I’d forgotten that we are made like this. We are equipped to see not only in the light … but also in the darkness. It just takes time to switch between the two.

And maybe this has all been nothing more than part of the natural process of things. I spent the formative years of my life, my faith, looking straight into the Light. It only makes sense that it would take my eyes a while to heal from that burning and to adjust to a world that so often is dark. But now I’m sitting at the kitchen table, blinking in the darkness, and God’s presence doesn’t feel at all like fog lights or romance or smoke or fire. It is as steady and commonplace as the wooden farm table between us, at the floor my feet brush against, the slant of the oven light barely illuminating the table. It’s almost pitch-black. I’ve never seen so clearly.”

Night Driving, pages 195-196

“I feel like I’ve spent the last several years twisting and turning the puzzle pieces of my faith, trying to get them to plug up that ‘God-shaped hole’ that is still throbbing like an abscess in my heart. But it never seems to go away – no matter how long I sit there, Bible in my lap, staring out the patio door of my kitchen, waiting. … ‘All sins are attempts to fill voids,’ Simone Weil said, and at some crucial point that I can’t actually remember, I figured out that burning down your own life felt strikingly similar to being on fire. That if I couldn’t shoot the gap via that bridge which is the empty cross, at least I could pour wine down into it. Such an easy shortcut. Such a simply fix to get tipsy on cheap cabernet and smile at some guy on some street and feel myself float to the top of that gaping, empty space in me – at least for a little while.”

Night Driving, pages 126-127

“It’s like this: Once upon a time, I learned that God came like light. I spent a long time, head against the window, peering into the darkness, praying for God to come like a spotlight, like a fire, like some wild laser show in the pitch-black sky. I learned to fear the darkness, and when it came, I struck myself against everything around me trying to make sparks.”

Night Driving, page 208

“I hadn’t understood, then, that love doesn’t always look like romance and faith doesn’t look like fire and light doesn’t always look like the sun – and that this matters.”

Night Driving, page 209

You can find out more Addie and her book at addiezierman.com, and you can find Night Driving on Amazon (or wherever you buy books).

Also, a GIVEAWAY! I have a copy of Night Driving that I’d like to give to one of you. If this book sounds like it’s for you, simply post a comment on this blog post, and you will be entered in the giveaway. On Easter Monday, I will randomly select one winner (so make sure you include your email address in your comment, so I can contact you if you win).

UPDATE: The giveaway has ended. Thank you to everyone who participated!

Advent of Restlessness

mountains
Photo by james j8246 on Flickr’s creative commons.

I have a bit of a crush on Advent.

I buy things for Advent and I daydream about Advent and I want to spend as much time with Advent as possible.

And every year, I am disappointed. This isn’t because Advent stands me up, however, but because I make Advent stand in the snow, and put a Santa hat on her head, and fill her arms with enough books and music and art and calendars to make anyone topple.*

When will I learn that Advent is more about letting go and listening than strapping as many things to my body as I can?

Maybe this will be the year I fall all the way in love with Advent.

After all, I can relate more to Advent longing than Christmas joy. Give me poetry that makes me ache, give me songs that make me cry. Give me silence and take away the color and let us sweat and climb together. Maybe the sun will come out from behind the clouds for a moment, maybe we will glimpse the shore across the channel, maybe we will catch an earful of birdsong before we have to pull our hoods up and turn our bodies away from the wind.

I am restless. I am always restless. Even on my happiest days, I am restless.

I look for people who will take away my restlessness. I try to make something of myself. I cannot stop moving, but I know I must stop moving.

I think of St. Augustine’s words and I know, deep down, that I’m looking for God, somehow:

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

I’m looking, but I have not found. At times, I think I glimpse something out of the corner of my eye, but when I turn, nothing is there.

The sky is overcast and I am so cold.

But I can breathe.

Maybe the real God is not who I expect. Maybe the real God doesn’t want to take me off my lonely mountain and stick me in a room where the windows are shut tight and all the furnishings are from a certain decade, a certain century, a certain school of thought. Maybe the real God is breathing the same air I am and likes the mountain as much as I do.

I pull hope into my lungs, hope fills my ears and streams from my eyes, hope dances with me in the darkness, hope sits with me in the pain. And this is what I love about Advent.

 

*Not that Advent books and music and art and calendars are unhelpful. Quite the contrary. I just tend to imbibe too many at once. This year, I will be sitting with my friend Cara Strickland‘s devotional calendars, a bit of music, and perhaps a book of poetry (any suggestions?).

Looking between the lines in “Noah”

Russell Crowe as Noah
Russell Crowe as Noah (from ew.com)

As I read reviews and then sat in the dark cinema, I was open. I was reaching, as with feelers, into the waters of Noah, open to receiving what was good and thought provoking about the movie. And I didn’t come away empty-handed.

But then I read the lambasting words, and the movie called blasphemous and compared to excrement, and I tucked my feelers under my body, afraid what they would think of me for daring to see anything good in the adaptation.

But I did. I also saw things that unsettled and troubled me. I’m not entirely sure how to make sense of it all, but I’ll try.

First, I don’t think the filmmakers were intentionally trying to mock Christians or distort the biblical account as much as possible. My take is that this was a serious attempt to examine the story of Noah and the Flood in a new way while challenging expectations, looking at human nature, looking between the lines, looking at philosophical questions the story evokes.

Second, there are many things we don’t know about the story of Noah. Here are some of them: how devoted Noah’s family members were to God and what kind of people they were; if any of them (Noah included) ever doubted or struggled or didn’t understand; exactly how God communicated with Noah, both at the beginning when he told Noah what to do, and throughout the journey of building the ark and escaping the Flood; what the antediluvian world was like; what Noah’s interactions with the corrupt world were, especially as he began his ark-building endeavor; and let’s not forget the mystery of the Nephilim. Granted, I’m not a theologian, but none of these things seem cut-and-dried to me.

The biblical account is essentially this: God told Noah what to do in a way that was clear and intelligible to him, and he did it. And not just instructions about the dimensions of the ark and how many pairs of animals to bring aboard, but also which humans to bring on board, and the fact that He was establishing a covenant with Noah.

This seems clear-cut and straightforward with little room for ambiguity, but is there anything clear-cut and straightforward about a Flood in a rainless world; about a God who embodies both mercy and justice, love and wrath, beginnings and endings, death and life; about humanity being preserved inside a 350-cubit-long box made of gopher wood while death writhes in the waters outside? I remember all the things we don’t know about the story of Noah, and I realize that there may have been more going on between the lines – even if only at the heart and head level – than we know.

(If you haven’t seen the movie yet, be warned that the next few paragraphs contain spoilers.)

In the movie, God’s instructions to Noah are a part of that ambiguity, especially as relates to the future of the human race. At first, Noah is planning on finding wives for his two unmarried sons, but then he sees the wickedness of the world in all its perversity, and becomes convinced that humanity has corrupted itself beyond repair, has lost its chance. God’s justice, he believes, requires that the human race end with his family. But then Shem’s previously barren wife gets pregnant on the ark, and we’re plunged into an Abraham-and-Isaac scenario with a Noah willing to kill his own grandchild if it (or they, as it turns out) is a girl.

As I was watching this, I thought, The only way to redeem this is to make it clear that Noah had misunderstood God’s will and was taking matters into his own hands in the wrong way.

In a way, this did happen, but not as clearly as I would’ve liked.

I have no problems with Noah being a flawed human being. He was a sinner like the rest of us, despite being “blameless in his generation.” In the movie, we saw a man who obeyed God and walked differently from the rest of the world … and yet a man who saw a world that was broken and evil and corrupt, and struggled with that tension.

Here is what I keep coming back to: I think the movie portrayed some of the emotions and struggles that Noah and his family could have been dealing with, even if they didn’t manifest themselves in the same ways they did in the movie. What must it have been like to be the only ones following God in a corrupt world? What was it like to face the unknown and the prospect of every other human drowning while they would float atop the waters and survive? The Bible doesn’t probe their hearts and minds, but Noah opens that door, and is it far-fetched to look into the facts of the Flood and wonder if there was any fear, or doubt, or a struggling with the tension between God’s mercy and God’s justice, or even wondering deep down if they deserved to be spared?

Yes, there were things I would’ve changed about the movie. I would’ve made it clearer that Methuselah’s special abilities were from God. I would’ve sketched out the Nephilim differently. And I especially would’ve drawn out more of God’s mercy and love than we saw portrayed. That is what troubled me the most: knowing that this interpretation of God could leave some people thinking of Him as impersonal and unloving. And yet, wrath and justice are a part of God’s character, and especially need to be examined in a story about the Flood.

But despite all this, Noah helps us explore and ask questions and wrestle with a familiar story in a new way. Even though this movie was made by a non-Christian taking creative liberties, I believe that God can use it. He can illuminate our minds and hearts to see what was good and draw it out. He can redeem the ambiguities and interpretations that went too far. And He can resolve those tensions and bring us back to Himself.

Day 29: God vs. King (Psalm 2)

throne

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 2

Even if all the kings, presidents, and prime ministers of the world grasped hands and conspired as one, they would be no match for the King of Kings. God isn’t worried that the people of the earth will be able to defeat Him if enough of them unite against Him. If Lucifer couldn’t do it with a host of traitorous angels, then our efforts are less than feeble.

Sometimes, we raise our eyebrows at descriptions of God as One whose “wrath is quickly kindled” and who will “terrify in His fury.” Why must we “serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling,” as this psalm says? How does this jibe with a God of love and compassion and mercy?

Let’s look at the context. This psalm is about the kings of the earth vs. the Lord’s anointed. In the tumultuous years after David’s son Solomon reigned, when the kingdom was divided and many unscrupulous men (and one woman) took turns on the two thrones, the people followed the lead of their monarch.

If the king feared and served the Lord, the people followed his example and repented and turned away from the idols. If he didn’t, they didn’t.

That isn’t to say that the people were blind sheep without minds of their own. God raised up prophets to be messengers of truth to His people, and there were others who served God even in the midst of corrupt, godless leadership. Obadiah, a man high in King Ahab’s court, is one example.

But when there hadn’t been a true witness of God in years, when the king ruled with an iron fist and he and others in his entourage were enticing and intimidating people away from God, it isn’t hard to understand why so many stopped seeking the Lord. And when they stopped seeking Him, they stopped seeing Him.

The story of Elijah’s defeat of the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel is a profound example of what happened when the people saw the power of God in a remarkable, irrefutable display: “They fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God’” (1 Kings 18:39), and then they rose up against the prophets of Baal.

But I digress. My point is that rulers are responsible for more people than the average citizen is. They shape the character of their nation, not to mention so many individuals, and if they reject God and spit in His face and plot against Him, it isn’t just they who are affected, but thousands of others!

And God takes that very seriously. He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9b).

Don’t we want a God who will take action when world powers rise up against Him, who will fight for His people when they are on the brink, who is greater than sin and strong enough for us to take refuge in Him?

(photo credit)

This is day 29 of 31 Days in the Word.

Day 9: In which it all feels like too much

I feel fragile today.

Fully rested, but still fragile.

Overwhelmed by the weight of everything — including these 31 days — more focused on writing the words and doing the social media thing than on reading and absorbing the holy words to which my words are supposed to be secondary and responsive.

Too much giving, too little receiving. Too much trying to be like him or her, too little trying to find out who I really am. Too much pressure, too little grace. Too much trying-to-please, too little trying-to-trust.

I’m still reading the Bible (almost) every day. The experiment is working, one day and one chapter at a time. And yet it feels off, like I’ve turned the Bible into a means to an end that’s all about me and my writing goals.

And in addition to all that, I’m questioning many things and wondering about others and despairing of finding life in all the usual places.

Right now, there are few things I can honestly say that I know for sure, without feeling like I’m being at least a tiny bit disingenuous.

But I am still here, refusing to be consumed by the fires of my own mind and heart, seeking God in the “grit and routine of everyday life,” and in the pages of his Word.

This is day 9 of 31 Days in the Word.

Day 4: Brought to Wide and Wild Life

(This is day 4 of 31 Days in the Word)

“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night…”

I can’t help it. Whenever I read this exchange between Nicodemus and Jesus, I hear in my head the voices of the Two Witnesses and Tsion Ben-Judah, from the Left Behind dramatic audio series. Say what you will about those books (and believe me, I have plenty to say), this adaptation had some amazing voice acting.

Including in a pivotal nighttime scene where a desperate rabbi-turned-Christian found himself talking in Scripture-code with two supernatural old men.

Moments like that stick with me. Good words brought to wide and wild life are never forgotten.

The Crucible
“The Crucible,” a Taylor University Theatre production. The best play I saw in college, and one full of many good words spoken well. (photo courtesy of Tim Kerigan)

There’s just something about hearing the Bible read with emotion, full stop and for its own sake. For its own sake, not for the sake of a point I’m making or a paper I’m writing or any means-to-an-end you can think of.

The longer I work in radio, the more I understand that it isn’t just the what you say that matters, but also the how and why.

Imagine if we got to see this conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus brought to life. We wouldn’t just hear “the best summary of the Christian faith,” or “what it means to be born again,” or “the most well-known verse in the Bible.” From the acknowledged ruler of the Jews, we would hear confusion and a humbling struggle to comprehend and maybe even some embarrassment because he feels like he’s asking stupid questions, but this is too important to stay quiet and dignified and pretend he understands. And from the other, the unacknowledged king of the Jews, we would hear love and patience that draw people out from behind their masks, and wisdom that is gentle but sure and bears no trace of the know-it-all.

Jesus the teacher, Jesus the Savior, Jesus the Christ. Jesus with his prayers on the Mount of Olives and his sermons on hillsides and his hands on the heads of the needy. Jesus with his bread and wine at the Last Supper, and his body hanging pitifully on the cross, and his scarred hands palms up and outstretched before a group of timid men.

We have many pictures of Jesus fixed in our minds. Let’s allow those pictures to expand and fill our whole consciousness. Let’s add the sound and watch. Not as we would watch a movie, in front of the box with the popcorn and the sporadic chatter, but as we would watch a play — riveted as those who see the flesh-and-blood people before them and hear the words and music and forget it isn’t real. Because this one, this one is real.

Day 3: Wonderful Words of Life

“Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life. Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life … Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.”

Bibles
photo by pasotraspaso on creative commons (flickr)

Just as I find myself tiring of all the warnings and judgments and woes against Israel, and Judah, and Babylon, and Egypt, and all the others, then come the promises. And, oh, the promises! Many of the judgments feel locked in Old Covenant Israel, but many of the promises greet me timelessly.

This is day 3 of 31 Days in the Word, and today I want to highlight a couple passages in Isaiah that stood out to me.

“And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.”

Isaiah 25:7-8

We’ve all heard the bit about death being swallowed up forever, and our tears being wiped away, but I love the universality at the beginning too: “He will swallow up … the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.” All nations. All faces. Even before Jesus, God spoke of all the nations.

“And the Lord said: ‘Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”

Isaiah 29:13-14

I just love this! Instead of the judgments that you’d expect to befall a people of apathy and hypocrisy (especially if you’ve been reading the Old Testament for any length of time), blessings are promised instead! I definitely did a double-take when I read the words that followed “behold.” Because their hearts were far from him and their faith was an inherited thing, he decided to amaze them. Wow.

Even though I’ve pulled out a few verses here and there, I maintain that the best way to read the Bible is in chapters and in context, not piecemeal. Therefore: Isaiah 25, 28, and 29.

And speaking of pulling out a few verses here and there, let me say that I don’t want to be a person who zeroes in on all the feel-good bits in the Bible and glosses over the uncomfortable ones (ones undoubtedly made doubly so by the fact that my knowledge of the Bible is largely on a Sunday-School-and-Christian-college-Bible-survey-class level. Oh School of Biblical Studies, I need you!).

All I can say is … there is a time for everything.

Day 2: All the Good Feelings

This is day 2 of 31 Days in the Word.

road close-upI want the good feelings, all of them.

I want the romance of exhaustion melting away and eyes that drink in words that fly off the page and make perfect sense. I want epiphanies and whispers and nudges and the always sense of more.

From what I’ve heard, though, marriage isn’t like that all the time.

Lately, I’ve thought a lot about how I want to find God in the grit and routine of everyday life, not just in the detours and the journeys beyond. I don’t want to think of God as my own personal inciting incident, come to save me from the boring normal. Isn’t it just as likely that he’s coming down to join me in driving the same roads, eating the same foods, talking to the same people, sitting behind the same microphone where I say the same sorts of things?

This is hard for me because I love stories and I want my life to be one. I want to be the protagonist who lives on the tightrope of life and changes the world. I want movement.

I forget that books skip past the boring parts in the characters’ lives. I forget that the exciting people in history probably didn’t think they were that exciting. I forget that the grand narrative of the Kingdom took thousands of years to unfold, and is still unfolding.

I forget that it’s okay to be in the middle of something.

Don’t get me wrong, I think life is supposed to contain movement, plenty of it. Life is a story, we just have a warped sense of how that story should be paced. Sometimes, we discount subtle changes as nothing, and we think all of life should look like an end or a beginning instead of the middle it probably is. We forget to be and love right where we are. Sometimes moving looks a lot like standing still.

Sometimes reading the Bible feels a lot like standing still.

You want it to be grand and glorious and intimate, and maybe it isn’t. Maybe half the time you feel dry or tired or disconnected, and you wonder if you’re doing something wrong. Spending time with God shouldn’t be like this!

So you try to fix yourself and get yourself in the right frame of mind and emotion and get more sleep and listen to more worship music. You’re searching for the formula.

But the thing is, there isn’t a formula.

I want to find God in the grit and routine of everyday moments, not just in the ones that feel super-spiritual. I come to the Bible and to times of prayer with so many expectations. I want to let them go and just be who I am today, whether it’s tired or burdened or over-the-moon or sensitive or clever. If he is the God of the here as well as the God of the beyond, then he’s with me whether my eyelids are light or heavy; whether Isaiah’s prophecies resonate with me or seem a long, long way off; whether I’m lost in my own thoughts or God’s thoughts or no thoughts.

During these 31 days, I don’t want to simply summarize whatever Bible passages I read, or force myself to write devotionals about them. That isn’t the purpose of this series. The purpose is to read the Bible and engage with it in whatever ways seem natural for me. Maybe some days it will be specific and direct; maybe others it will be indirect and more about the-girl-who-is-reading rather than the-God-she-is-reading-about. That’s okay. I give myself permission to read about Jesus turning the water into wine and cleansing the temple and then write nothing about those events.

A final thought: Maybe there are emotional or physiological or external reasons why connecting with God seems harder or easier on a given day. Let’s bravely play the cards we find ourselves with today and be real. God can meet us, regardless.

31 Days in the Word

31 Days in the Word

I need this.

I found out about the 31 Days Challenge late. I returned to the Bible late.

Outside of work and church, I’ve barely read the Bible in months. Lately, though, I’ve felt the longing. Two nights ago, I listened to the longing and opened and read. Isaiah and John. And then it seemed a natural thing to lean over my pillow and muse on paper for a few minutes before shutting the light off.

Hundreds of bloggers are accepting the 31 Days Challenge to write something each day in the month of October. I’m one of them.

I’ll be writing about the Bible. I’m anticipating doing most of my writing based around the book of John, chapter by chapter, but that may change (especially since there are 31 days in October and only 21 chapters of John).

Let’s start with John 1.

When I read this chapter, the words “come” and “see” stood out to me. John the Baptist saw Jesus and recognized Him as the Messiah. His testimony encouraged others to follow Jesus, but that was just the beginning. It wasn’t just “take my word for it,” it was “listen, and then come and I will show you the truth of these words.”

“Jesus, where are you staying?” Come and see.

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Come and see.

“Jesus! You know something about me you couldn’t have known! You are the Son of God!” You will see so much more!

If I’m honest, sometimes I wonder if I’ve ever really “tasted and seen.” Maybe I’ve experienced what words like freedom and hope and love mean on a human level. Maybe years of seeing them printed in a certain holy Book and hearing them spoken of in warm, inviting tones from pulpits has convinced me that I’ve experienced them on a spiritual level too. But have I? Have I really?

I want to. I want to know that there really is something … Someone … to taste and see. So I am opening wide my eyes and arms and heart as best I can and returning to the Bible and prayer and following the longing and returning to the reinforcers of faith.

I am coming. I want to see!

(If you’d like to get these daily blog posts delivered directly to your email, you can enter your email address in the box on the right. Thanks for stopping by my little corner of the Internet! As always, your feedback is welcome.)

Day 2: All the Good Feelings

Day 3: Wonderful Words of Life

Day 4: Brought to Wide and Wild Life

Day 5: The Cup

Day 6: Never Lose Hope (a Sunday blessing)

Day 7: It’s a wonderful thing to be human

Day 8: A Confession From One Who Loves the Bread More

Day 9: In which it all feels like too much

Day 10: Why did he use mud?

Day 11: When the Outcome Matters Most

Day 12: Breathing in Saturday

Day 13: The Resurrection and the Life (a Sunday blessing)

Day 14: I am not a Sunday-school-teacher robot

Day 15: Lectio Divina and a Lost Conference

Day 16: Was I Ever on Fire?

Day 17: Let the Lower Lights Be Burning

Day 18: Suffering and Adventures in Odyssey

Day 19: A Saturday for Leaving

Day 20: Keep running toward love (a Sunday blessing)

Day 21: Thoughts on balance, rest, and multitasking

Day 22: I need you.

Day 23: Performance vs. Conversation

Day 24: When November 1st Can’t Come Soon Enough

Day 25: Public Speaking and Other “Performances”

Day 26: A Saturday for Looking Back

Day 27: Be Still (a Sunday blessing)

Day 28: Walking with God (Psalm 1)

Day 29: God vs. King (Psalm 2)

Day 30: Pieces of an October

Day 31: Here, at the End of This Thing

9 Things I Learned in September

For the third time, I’m linking up with fellow blogger Emily Freeman and others to share with you a few of the things I learned this month. I do always look forward to these blog posts (though I can’t believe September is almost over!). Anyway, this is a collection of some of the things I’ve learned, on a head level, a heart level, an experiential level, and a wow-I-never-knew-that-before! level.

1. I can walk in high heels and not look completely unnatural (not to mention not fall over). This may not sound very impressive, until I tell you that I have never owned a pair of heels before, and that these heels were monstrosities! They were the required footwear for a wedding I was bridesmaiding in, and even the hardened high-heel wearers of the group found these heels especially uncomfortable. Looks like all my hours of practice paid off!

me and high heels

2. It feels good to step out of your comfort zone. None of the other bridesmaids were going to give a toast, so I offered to give one. What have I done? I thought for a split second as the bride-to-be made the call to add me to the schedule. And then it passed. I was a little nervous before the DJ handed me the microphone, but in the moment and afterward, I marveled at how natural it all felt, and how glad I was to be able to encourage my friend in this way. Doing hard things is always worth it.

3. You can mute Spotify while it’s playing an ad and not just pause the ad in the process. (I know, I was excited too!). You simply pause the ad, then mute your computer, then press play. Unmute when the music starts again.

4. I am learning how Twitter works. I’ve had an account for a while, but hadn’t really tweeted much until very recently (you can follow me at @lizziegoldsmith if you want). Until a couple days ago, I didn’t know about the “Connect” button and that it lets you see all your interactions with others. Twitter makes so much more sense now.

5. Speaking of Twitter, I’m discovering a tension between social networking to promote myself and my blog, and social networking to connect with others. I don’t want to be a brand and all focused on appearances, but it can be very easy to forget that life is not about me (and neither is the Internet) — to quote my recent blog on the subject. Anyway, I can’t forget that social networking is indeed a helpful tool, but I don’t want to make it all about me and the pursuit of what I want. I want to be real online and seek to understand as well as to be understood. I know this will be something I’ll have to keep coming back to to check and re-check my motives, but it’s worth it.

6. Love is more important than the right words. This is one of the more important blog posts I wrote this month. I was thinking about how to say things in ways people will receive, and then I realized that love is more important than all those strategies. That’s the way to get through to people, and that’s the way to live life to the fullest yourself. “And if you feel like the love is lacking, pray for more love. And if you feel like the love is strong, pray for more love. We always need more love.”

7. I found out what Bluetooth is. In a word: wireless.

8. I’m not where I want to be spiritually, but the longing is there. With the help of my journals over the last few years, I recently took a long, hard look at my spiritual life. I’m not where I want to be. I’m not where I was a year ago when I had just returned home from my Discipleship Training School with YWAM. I doubt. I wonder if I’ve ever really tasted and seen. “I don’t know how I feel about God right now, or where we’re at, or what it will take to get back to a place of intimacy and trust. But I want that.” I can’t go back, but I can go forward!

9. I can blog consistently for a month (and counting)! I had hoped I would be able to say this at the end of this month, and now that it’s here I’m happy to report that I have been blogging consistently twice a week since August. It has been so fulfilling to write more, especially now that the habit is there and the accountability is there.

What did you learn this month? Feel free to share in the comments section!