I’ve been following “Leaf and Twig” for nearly a year now, and it just struck me that I’ve never passed it on as a suggestion. Each day Catherine Arcolio, the artist behind “Leaf and Twig,” posts an incredible nature photo and a short poem to go with it. I’ve found it a wonderful way to celebrate God’s beauty found in both creation and word. The link above takes you to the entire site, but the links below take you to a couple of my favorites from months past.
I ramble with a purpose
I like cool blog titles. Here are a few of my favorites: Everyday Epiphanies, Still Point in a Turning World, Logic and Imagination, A Place of Abundance, Writing from the Margins, The Middle: Encouragement for the Journey Through, A Holy Experience…
(I think very highly of all these blogs as well as their titles, which is why I provided links).
I used to have a blog title.
But it wasn’t very cool.
Journey to Jen—how’s that for catchy!?
My husband, Dave, hated it, from the very beginning. I won’t tell you what he said it sounded like, but I will tell you I laughed and was also a little horrified. “It wasn’t the title I wanted,” I told him, “but ‘Jen’s Journey’ was already taken.”
I wanted “Jen’s Journey” because that’s all my blog was supposed to be: a reflection of my journey, what I’m learning, how I’m growing. I write to process, and the blog is my outlet.
Plus, I love the word “journey.” I also love the word “pilgrimage,” which is the word that led me to “journey” because, when I suggested “pilgrimage” as my blog title, Dave said that sounded weird.
(And if you don’t know my husband and are thinking right now he seems a little grumpy, he’s really, really not. In fact, he’s my greatest encourager and he makes me laugh.
Anyway, back to my blog title. I finally bought my domain (at the urging of Dave) and simply named it “Jen Underwood.”
As in, “Here’s me—and my journey.”
Come to think of it, “journey” was a bit of a misnomer, unless you think of a journey as a meandering path that sometimes goes in circles and follows rabbit trails and then comes back to another circle, much like one of the previously traveled ones, and at this point you’re all turned around and have no idea which direction you’re facing or, for that matter, where exactly this path is taking you.
That is the kind of “journey” mine seems to be. Every once in awhile I look back at my blog entries of the last few weeks and think, “It’s ramblings! Just ramblings. I’ve been all over the place, thinking about all kinds of things. There’s nothing linear about it at all.”
And sometimes I get discouraged about this, because the erratic nature of my blog is a reflection of the erratic nature of my spiritual growth. I share this with God. “Lord, I have this vague idea of the godly woman I want to become,” I tell Him, “and I have, really, no idea how to get there. In fact, I’m not even sure what this ‘godly woman’ looks like, but every time I try to plan out a ‘point A to point B’ sort of journey that I think might lead me closer to her, You rip up my map!”
“Come to think of it, God,” I tell him. “’Ramblings’ could be a good title for my blog, for my LIFE.”
But when I look further back than just a few weeks ago—when I read blog entries of a year, two years ago, when I pull out one of the notebooks I’ve been writing in for two decades—I see growth. I recognize that true good was formed out of disappointments and “rabbit trails.” I understand that each time I followed a circular path, it was a little bigger and a little deeper. I realize that I may not “look” more godly, but I’ve been drawn into a deeper faith in God.
I see a very masterful hand at work.
All my ramblings have had purpose! I just didn’t know it!
God knows very specifically how to draw me closer to Him so that I trust Him in and for everything.
Therefore, I am not responsible for planning my spiritual growth, just for following Him into it, one step after another.
And though that is frightening in one way, it is incredibly reassuring and hopeful in another!
I ramble with a purpose.
And His purpose is sure.
VERSES TO PONDER (in the Amplified version today)
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), [a]recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].
Psalm 57: 1-2 Be merciful and gracious to me, O God, be merciful and gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge and finds shelter and confidence in You; yes, in the shadow of Your wings will I take refuge and be confident until calamities and destructive storms are passed. 2 I will cry to God Most High, Who performs on my behalf and rewards me [Who brings to pass His purposes for me and surely completes them]!
Exodus 40:37-38 But if the cloud was not taken up, they did not journey on till the day that it was taken up. 38 For throughout all their journeys the cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel.
Isaiah 25:1 O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, for You have done wonderful things, even purposes planned of old [and fulfilled] in faithfulness and truth.
Check this out! please!
I am TOO busy right now to do what I just did.
But I couldn’t help it.
For one of the articles I’m currently working on, I interviewed a man whose daughter died of cancer a little over two years ago. She was just a few years older than I am. He mentioned that she blogged and that, in his opinion, she was a wonderful writer and was still helping people go through difficult times through her blog.
So, being a good researcher (ha ha), I checked it out.
And I can’t stop reading it!
Laurie Jane is a wonderful writer! I feel like I know her through her blog, and I am definitely looking this woman up when I get to heaven!
So I wanted to pass it on. Here’s the link to the latest post, which, I’m just warning you, made me cry, because it’s written by one of her friends announcing Laurie Jane’s homegoing: http://beautyliesinthetruestory.blogspot.com/
But if you want to start at the beginning and read how this funny, sassy, deep woman dealt with terrible, terrible pain and trials and how she drew closer to Jesus through it, here’s the link to the very first page of blog entries: http://beautyliesinthetruestory.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2009-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&updated-max=2009-06-15T16:09:00-07:00&max-results=50&start=98&by-date=false
I’m hoping this helps someone–besides me–today.
Thanks for reading,
Addicted, part 2
A few years ago I shared my “mixed bag” with a wise friend of mine. “Sometimes I hate the public side of writing because it reveals a twisted darkness deep inside me,” I told her.
I thought she would be shocked. I thought she might say to stop blogging.
She wasn’t and she didn’t. “Of course it does,” she said. Then she shared her view with me, that often the very ways God gifts us—the very things He calls us to do—have purpose within us as well as without, and often the “within” purpose is to reveal and begin pulling out deep roots of sin.
“It’s a little like the parable of the wheat and the tares,” she said, “though it’s clear in Scripture they’re symbols for people. But I think they can also symbolize our motives. Some are pure, coming from the Holy Spirit. But others are straight from our own selfish hearts. When we use the gifts God gives us, we will see both.”
“The ‘tares’ I discover in my heart make me want to quit writing,” I told her. “Sometimes I think it would be safer just not to do it—or at least not to publish it.”
“But that’s exactly what you should NOT do,” she said. “We will never have pure motives for any ‘good’ we do this side of heaven. It’s far better to have our sin revealed to us than to be safe and leave it hidden. We can’t deal with it until it’s out. We have to trust that God will not only reveal the sins but will also pull them out AND He will work good through our trusting Him and pursuing Him with our gifts.”
So the answer for how to “not become engrossed with things of this world” is NOT to quit using them. If that were true, we would have no believers in business or marketing or the fashion industry or law or coaching or…
No, many, perhaps most believers are called to use the things of this world AND not become engrossed in them. Many are called to wrestle constantly with the tension.
And to let the tension pull us ever closer to Jesus.
Because in this tension, we see our need;
we see His sufficiency;
and we fall deeper in love with Him.
“This high priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.” Hebrews 4:15 (NLT)
I blog my “thoughts” a couple times a week, and I recently started tweeting—since all the agents and publishers say that’s a “must” for any writers who are trying to get a book published. Those same agents/publishers say writers should check their blog and Twitter accounts a couple times a day.
Okay. Can do.
But I’m finding that this creates a tension in my soul, one that reflects the difficult “be in the world but not of the world” paradox in Scripture. I am using Twitter and the internet to, I hope, help others draw closer to Christ, but the stats and the publicity of it often draw my own focus onto ME.
In I Corinthians 7, Paul refers to a “crisis” in his time and gives advice related to that crisis. Some of the advice was specific to crises (such as not marrying), but Paul’s overall point is applicable to all times: to let nothing distract us from living fully devoted to Christ. Right in the middle of the passage, there is an interesting phrase that I am pondering in relation to blogging/Tweeting/social media: “(those of you) who use the things of this world, (live) as if not engrossed in them, for this world in its present form is passing away” (NIV).
I DO use “things of this world,” things that will “soon pass away.” So how do I use them without becoming engrossed in or attached to them?
I am not alone in this struggle (and that alone is encouraging). A few years back I heard a chapel speaker admit that shortly after his first book was published, he became addicted to the book’s selling statistics. He found himself checking these stats dozens of times a day. He shared this with a friend, and the friend partnered with him on a short-term “fast” from his own book media.
It’s very easy—actually, it’s natural—for us to become engrossed in the things we use in this world.
Because even though we have a new nature and the Holy Spirit, we still have that old nature that feels very much at home here.
When I check my blog and find that I have a new follower, there is one part of me that gets excited for all the right reasons.
But underneath that good reaction is a selfish one, the one that believes I become more valuable when more people like my writing.
I’m a mixed bag of pure and impure, and my use of social media often reveals that to me.
And perhaps that’s not a bad thing.
TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW: I am trying to cut down the length of my blog posts, so I split this post into two parts. I’ll post part two tomorrow, Monday. If you have any comments on how this tension plays a part in your own life, I would love to read them.