Thursday, March 30, 2017

abandoned to goodness


There are many things I would not want to be abandoned to...but abandoned to God is not meant to be horrifying. We should be afraid of His holiness...but not of His will. His ways are not our ways, neither are His thoughts our thoughts, and so often we struggle with the following Him...why? As I've said before in some of these posts, I feel like it so often comes down to us not wanting to release that illusion of control, and fearing that His thoughts not being our thoughts means He wants us to do or to endure something terrible. It comes of us being already in the midst or having already undergone something horrific and pulling back from the pain, telling God we cannot bear feeling that again.

But... 



The goodness of God endureth continually.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.

O how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!

O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.

We shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple.

The joy of the Lord is my strength.

Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster to give you a future and a hope.

To quote Rachel Starr Thompson's short summation "...the will of God is our highest good. The will of God brings freedom and joy and looks after all of our needs."* 

There isn't much question in the Bible that His will really is our highest good. 
The question is do we believe it or do we not believe it. 
Are we willing to wait for work together for good, rather than the all things are good promise that we want? Are we able to follow Him knowing My yoke is easy and My burden is light...even though it is equally true that in this world you will have tribulation? He tells us to cast our care on Him; He doesn't say we will have no cares.

Can we believe that the God who named Himself Truth is unwilling to be made a liar? Even if it is hard to believe that One so great could possibly care enough about us...we know He cares for His name and His glory. Dare we act as though He will not fulfill His own word? Dare we call Him a liar and refuse to believe that His will and His work are that we might have abundant life? 


We cannot, can we? 

But what then do we say when we are living the opposite of abundant life, when we taste no goodness, when we feel no joy? When we have none of the comfort that has been promised? When we have found no way of escape and our burdens are more than we can bear and He does not appear to be taking them from us?

I want so badly to have a simple answer to this. To know how to simply take Him at His word, even when I cannot see proof. To know what to say when the lives of those around me are pressed down and running over with pain. The Problem of Pain. 
We acknowledge it is a problem, but when it is our problem, the answers so many have found seem pat and unhelpful, leaving many to veer into either He is a liar or He is not real...or to head into He is Truth, therefore this all completely my/this other person's fault for not trusting Him enough/not believing Him/having sin in my-his-her life. The former is an agonizing wasteland, the latter insult to injury and sometimes the last piece that destroys a person nearly as well.


As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my meat day and night, Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me. Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?

David knew this pain. He knew the discomfort of family issues, he knew the loss of his other self/brother in arms (how have the mighty fallen), he knew the betrayal of the king he served and of the children he adored...he had enemies on every side, hatred and death everywhere he looked, so often because of an anointing he had never asked for in the first place. And what does he say in the midst of this?

O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.

Not but. Not despite. Not anyway. Not still. 
No. My soul is cast down. Therefore. I will remember Thee.

I am not scholar enough to know for sure, but I don't think it's reading between the lines too much to note that the land of Jordan, from the valley of Arnon to Mount Hermon, was land originally taken from Og, king of Bashan, one of the last of the giants, one who came out to attack Israel, about whom God said, Fear him not: for I will deliver him, and all his people, and his land, into thy hand, and then promptly did so. David's soul is in tumult, and so he is looking to see where he is and what has already happened there -- what armies destroyed, what giants slain, what promises 
God has already kept in this place.

Can we also look back on what He has already done for us? Can we fully embrace the fact that His ways are not our ways and remember that the all-seeing, all-knowing, almighty Father knows what we do not and that His comfort and His relief and His joy are ahead for us? Can then we move on to say, as David did,
Yet the Lord will command his lovingkindness in the day time, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life. Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God. 

Can we trust Him, even in the darkness, believe Him, no matter what circumstances imprison us, and abandon ourselves to the love He has promised us?


Come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.

view from one of the hospitals at which I rotated 







* from 1:11 Ministries, which I highly recommend. Sign up here.

Monday, March 27, 2017

return of the SNIPPETS

via pinterest



From a rather different project...a fairy-tale mash-up I'm writing with a sparkling friend. Guess away which of these traumatized high school characters is from which fairy tale...and I hope you enjoy! XD










Aiden Carlyle on Isabelle Morue:
Also smart and good-looking, which was was also more than he could say for a lot of students. He couldn’t really blame Gage LeGume for slobbering over her like a puppy. 
But someday he was going to take Gage LeGume’s poster-perfect face and put it through his locker door. 
It’d be the last thing he ever did, but it would probably be worth it.

The scholarship boys make life interesting for the wealthier students at this private school...
“Heyyy, Prince, let’s see whatcha got!”
He glanced back to see Fitzherst snatching at Randoph’s sketchbook just as the latter reached to put it away. Fitzherst was the only one who called him that to his face, and he’d still somehow managed to evade significant repercussions the past three years. 
“Decent. Decent effort, Randolph.”
Christian bit back a smile at the condescension dripping from Fitzhert’s voice. That evasion of repercussions was a miraculous testament to Randolph’s patience, really.
“You really think my nose looks like that, though? Really?
Randolph grinned goodnaturedly and waved for the sketchbook’s return. “I tried, Gene. It’s not my fault you have a weird-looking nose.”
“Oh! Blame the model, huh? I’ll have you know my nose is the best looking part of my face!”
Randolph laughed outright, and three rows back Fitzhert’s best friend Ladin raised his head from his desk with a horrified look. “Wow. Gene...Gene...Gene...That was a terrible comeback.”
Fitzherst looked blank a moment, then dropped the sketchbook on Randolph’s desk before bounding towards his friend. “Oh, shut up. Lemme see what you drew!”
Ladin’s horror turned into a smirk and he flipped his sketchbook around, holding it up so the rest of class could see an extremely feminine figure seated on the desk, ankles neatly crossed, and Fitzherst’s head set discordantly atop a long slender neck.
“I’m gonna kill you!” Fitzherst bellowed, and Miss Porter clapped her hands to her ears.

I have a special place in my heart for Christian Cavelli...artist extraordinaire with a special interest in shoes...
Christian swirled the tip of his grey pencil across the top of the page absent-mindedly, waiting for everyone to come in and settle down. It wasn’t like they were going to learn anything today - nobody ever learned anything on the first day of the school year - so their distraction was understandable. But if they’d only hurry up they could get on with the not-learning and it would be finished sooner.

And one of my favorite friendships ever...Aashiq Ladin and Gene Fitzhurst...
"Dude, smoking already?" Gene dropped a red and white peppermint onto his lap. "You smell."
He took the peppermint, completely unsurprised that Gene had managed to steal candy off Grim’s desk while arguing with him.
"Great to see you back, too, bro. And sheesh, watch it with the racist slurs, huh? How do you think that makes me feel?" He flung his arms out and Gene made one of his frighteningly insane faces in response.

And a particularly heartbreaking relationship...
Esme jumped in, slamming the door after herself and shoving the jacket over her seat’s headrest. “Ugh, I hate that thing. What is this, the army?”
Rajah grinned slightly, glancing over his shoulder as he pulled away from the sidewalk. “Don’t tell me you are in trouble already. What was the last thing I said to you before you got out this morning?”
She put her elbows on the center console, looking up at him with a laughing flutter of her eyelashes. “Behave yourself, Princess.”
He looked down at her, braking for somebody, and rolled his eyes. “Such a good imitation of me.”


Friday, March 24, 2017

~Menhir~Standing Stones~Masseba~


I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works. I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High...The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee...Sing praises to the LORD, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings...That I may shew forth all thy praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion: I will rejoice in thy salvation.

photo credit: Shmuel Bar-Am, via google...
click the picture to go to article about Israel,
where I have never been and therefore could not take
this picture of standing stones in Israel.  
Over and over again the Bible talks about marking the things God has done for specific people, for specific families, for specific nations, speaking of them, remembering them, telling them that others might know more about Him.



I've already written up how I ended up in college...a gif-filled post on the strange awesomeness surrounding my admission to medical school...what I learned about following God without being carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease....quite a lot about the worst summer of my life and the miracle of Step 1...what God taught me while studying for Step 2...(i.e. you've all gotten to read quite a lot about my most stressful moments the last 7 years, and not nearly enough about the amazing times in between and how I fell in love with medicine and all the incredible people I've met and fascinating things I've learned) but I still find it incredibly weird to realize where exactly I am on the path God has put before me, how clearly He has directed me, and to see how He has led me step by step over the past 10 years since I first realized that I could be a doctor, and first thought about starting college with the goal of MD. 

The early admission program that allowed me to swap my final year of college with my first year of medical school was a huge blessing...the rural program I joined for my 3rd year of medical school definitely the most awesome part of med school...and the place and the people who have taught me all made med school actually work for me. I liked the faculty, I liked the school's focus on rural primary care, and things clicked. Except for that nagging question about what comes next? XD

Of course I started everything planning on Family Medicine -- it was one of the things my school is known for, and I had every intention of becoming their typical rural family doc. It was what I knew and what I liked.  And yet -- "What are you going to be? A pediatrician?" random people repeatedly asked me. "She doesn't care about this; she's going to be a pediatrician," one doctor said as she performed a urological procedure, having just met me seconds before. I always shook my head and laughed and wondered what was up with people. Family Med, guys! By the middle of second year, though, I was second guessing myself, frustrated with how little family med focused on pediatrics {which okay, I was thinking I wanted to know more about...}, and wondering how on earth I'd learn everything in 3 years of residency, and what would happen if I ever wanted to specialize, given I wasn't much of a fan of the available family medicine specialties.

And then there came one gorgeous blue day when I was staring out across one of the Great Lakes, praying for some idea of if God wanted me to switch course or stay family med...and in one of the larger DUH moments of my life, I realized I love kids, I've always loved kids, I want to work with children in the future, and what better way to take care of them than knowing how to be their doctor? I'm obviously going to be a pediatrician. Everybody else has seen it for years. 

But quick as the relief came, there came also the continued nagging feeling that it wasn't the final answer. I loved my elder patients, and I'd heard the "Oh, they're just a pediatrician" comments, as well as my parents and grandparents wanting medical advice that I would be pretty unqualified to give, should I become a pediatrician. I felt increasingly torn. I wanted to help children...but I didn't want to be limited to only children.

"I'm thinking med-peds...maybe..." It was a random comment from a classmate who changed his mind to emergency medicine shortly after, but it was the first time I'd heard of med-peds -- a specialty that started 50 years ago, and combines 3 years of Internal Medicine and 3 years of Pediatrics into an intense 4-year residency in both, leading to double board certification at the end and a future in full-spectrum primary care or further education with any fellowship desired.

The catch, of course, is that there are 86 programs in the country, compared to 500 Family Medicine programs, 438 Internal Medicine programs, and 198 Pediatric programs...and many of those 86 programs prefer high Step-scoring, research-heavy, genius applicants. (One reason I kept getting so stressed about those Step exams...XD) And, all those programs are pretty far away from my hometown. All but two. My school's program, and one that from here on out I'll be calling Mars. 

Meanwhile, not yet having discussed this with my school, I applied for my school's 9-month rural rotation. I went to the meeting, explained that yes, my homeschool background left me well prepared to do this sort of rotation, and named the top 3 places I wanted to do the rotation, with all my very good reasons behind my choices. My school said Cool...and stuck me in a totally random place


That random place happened to be the single rural place where I could have found a Med-Peds preceptor willing to spend most of those nine months teaching me and write me a smashing recommendation letter at the end of it. 

By that point, of course, I was sure I wanted to do Med-Peds, and finding myself intrigued that random people kept talking to me about Mars. It was a program that was the size I liked, in a place I liked, and basically on paper looked perfect. "It's gorgeous," patients told me. "I've been there and it was great. You'll love it." 

My preceptor gave me a weekend off to go to a conference there, and my mom and I went to a pediatric conference together and both found ourselves impressed with both the hospital and the city. 

I finished my rural rotation and went back to my school to see the person who would have to write me an Internal Medicine letter of recommendation. "Do you think I could possibly find a program to take me?" I asked, in the middle of somehow spilling a liter of fruit juice into my computer bag. ".......Yes," he said. "Of course."

I went down the hall to talk to my new advisor. "I want to apply Med-Peds," I said. He looked at my papers, and then at me. "You don't have a snowball's chance in hell of getting into a Med-Peds program."

Great.

He looked back at my papers.  "No research, board scores that don't make up for it, and...how are you going to interview? I just got an email from the last person you talked to, and he said you were flighty and needed confidence."


Well, I'd been minorly distracted by the fruit juice frying my computer, and I'd already been told by a few people that Med-Peds was hard to match. And this conversation with my advisor was really not helping my confidence levels.

"What else do you have?" he asked, and I handed over my personal statement. 

"Oh," he said. "Oh. You're a writer. This...okay, this might be your ace-in-the-hole. You might get somewhere with this."

Doing what God wants me to do is my actual plan, but...I waited.

"You better apply to every single program in the country, though, and then apply to 7-12 Family Medicine programs here for backup."

I left torn between relief that he didn't think it completely impossible and wondering what exactly God had planned for me. This would have been a whole lot easier if I'd just fallen in love with Family Medicine and stayed in love with it and been sure that was what I was supposed to do. "Good thing you're not depending on what everybody else is depending on," my mom said, and I headed to meet with the Med-Peds program director at my school. 


"You need to match yourself to the programs you want. The programs that want you are the ones where you'll be happy," he said. "Don't apply to the ones that seem obsessed with their research. Apply to ones focusing on what you want." Well, that narrowed my selection considerably...

"Do you have any particular programs where you think I should definitely apply?" I asked, and barely missing a beat he said, "Oh, Mars. It's a this-size program in this-area, and I think you'd be a good fit."

Starting to get the message, God...

You already know about the interviews...but I think it's worth mentioning that every single other program had at least one interview that I finished going what was I thinking and how did I say THAT? except at Mars. One of the people who interviewed me that day was a member of the Christian Medical and Dental Association, and the other...well, the other asked me for a story.

Those of you who are writers...what goes through your head when someone goes, "Oh, you tell stories...tell me one!"? XD But I grabbed the first one that came to my head {HIPAA compliant, of course}, one about a patient of my Med-Ped's preceptor who nearly died in the woods, and launched into the story. "Wow," he said when I was done. "Wow, I won't forget that anytime soon. Do you believe there are actually spirits on the land, those who have gone before?" 

{So, random side note, I find it a little weird that both my med school interview and this residency inteview veered into spiritual things, when none of the other residency interviews did, but also it was awesome.} 

After all that, I was told that I interviewed well and that Match Day should go well for me. Encouraging, to say the least.

Which doesn't mean by the end of interview season I wasn't worn to a frazzle and hadn't fallen in love with 4 programs, even though I kinda figured Mars had to be first on my rank list, given the number of things pointing to it. An established program, in an area I loved, close to family, with many fascinating people involved with great training, a program that's been ahead of the curve for years in all kinds of awesome things...

Meanwhile I was flying to other states and eating alligator at resident dinners and finding out the murder statistics of different cities and being properly awed by innovative on-call schedules and residents who booked night trains to the mountains in between hospital days so they could go skiing and cities where "normal" blood sugar measurements were practically off the charts and the patient population was different from where I'd been or exactly the same and being amazed by people in general and all the possibilities. There was that one program with the crazy director that I mentioned (I love her), and then there was one at a Catholic Hospital, where everything was missions-oriented and the residents were a joy to hang out with the entire time. And of course, a program where it became quickly clear that it would be the hardest of the {obviously already very hard 4 years of residency}, yet I'd be surrounded by passionate people giving their all...not as unnatractive as it might seem, despite little pay and a lot of work. "If you match there, you're going to get shot," my mom said. "If I match there," I told her, "That part of my autobiography is going to be titled Kevlar and Keflex: The Residency Years." 

Monday we found out if we matched or not...I was in the middle of an orthopedic surgery clinic day, and if I got an email that said Sorry, you did not match I was...I don't even know. There was definitely peace that people were praying for me, and I got the email and carried on with my day, knowing that I'd matched somewhere, and didn't have to jump into the panicked Scramble, searching for an empty spot throughout the week. It was a good day and such a better week than it could have been. 

The night before Match Day I was among the 35,969 US and international applicants waiting for one of 31,757 residency positions (of which only a fraction were Med-Peds, of course)...and my mom said "I feel like if you open that envelope tomorrow and it says anything other than Mars, you're going to feel like it's not God's will. But that won't be true. Whatever that envelope says will be God's will." 

And I said, "I don't know...maybe Mars was repeatedly underlined for me only so I would have something to focus on and hope for throughout this past year...so I wouldn't start this whole thing feeling lost...maybe its purpose was only to give me a goal. If it's any of my top 4 spots...I'll be thrilled. If it's one of my top 6, I'll be happy. If it's the others...I'm gonna get good training and it'll be better than I think it will be." 


Then I had to go to sleep and wait one more night before finding out where my life was headed. Southwest, southeast, midwest, moderate climate, hot, cold...guys, there are so many questions in your head when you've pre-signed a contract with a long list of places and you don't know which one or where you're going to live and work and learn for 4 years. 

Med Schools being big on drama {who knew}, the ceremony dragged on forevvvvver...{with everyone going "Oh, everybody seems nervous and excited...it's because it's St. Patrick's Day today, right?" -___-} But I was delighted that one of my med school advisors, who had encouraged me hugely a few times in medical school when I really needed it, had returned from his new job in another state to hand over the envelopes to his advisees. We all had to march across a stage and get our envelopes from our advisor, and then sit down and wait for the exact time when students all across the entire country open their envelopes simultaneously. {Seriously. The Drama.} Organization being a bit lacking, by the time my entire class managed to get across stage, we'd been waiting several minutes past that time and a friend was texting me from Taiwan asking me to let her know the next day and I was like I'LL FIND OUT IN A FEW MINUTES. And she was like I am staying up then

And finally we could open our envelopes. 

Which is when I became one of the 291 people who matched into Med-Peds this year who found out where they were going to go.

{You can tell the drama rubbed off on me, right? XD Okay, this blog post has gone on wayyyy long enough and I can't even listen to myself anymore.}

I'm going to Mars.

It's going to be harder and crazier than anything I've ever done, but come July and God's continued grace, I'll be starting as a post-graduate year 1 med-peds resident physician in a lovely town God has pointed out to me repeatedly since I first heard about med-peds being a thing. I don't know how hard and I don't know how crazy, but I know He's made this happen and when I start to wonder, I will only have to look back to see these moments in my life where He has made things crystal clear. He has a plan, and He's showing it to me one step at a time. I have no idea where it leads, but so long as I am closer to Him at the end of it, I know it is going to be incredible.





Monday, March 20, 2017

On interviewing for residency...


Interviewing is definitely a memorable experience, especially for me, who had previously had only a single medical school interview, consisting of two conversations, prior to applying to residency. Basically, I didn't know how to canoe. And then I went over Niagara Falls.

Starting with meeting my new med school advisor. I met with him in summer of 2016, and he looked at my application and resume and basically said

I responded with I DON'T WANT THOSE OPTIONS, I WANT THE MED-PEDS PROGRAM CLOSE TO MY HOUSE OPTION. AND COME ON...


To which he said

And I replied (or wanted to reply *ahem*)

And he basically said,

And I proceeded to continue with my application. And getting letters of recommendation (which included stalking people in hospitals and emailing other doctors to put pressure on people and...let's leave it at that I got my letters...) and figuring out the wonderful nightmare world of ERAS and...

I submitted my application on the golden day in September.

Nothing happened.

I spent part of a week slowly melting - the family practice applicants were getting them right and left...clearly I'd made a terrible mistake...or did med-peds just not send out until later? Or...*melt-down proceeded*

Then invitations started arriving. The day the first one came I had stopped to get a drink from Starbucks (ie my supper for the day). I checked my email using their internet and promptly flipped out. I'd spent a week hearing about the invites other people were getting...and hallelujah here was mine and...it was a good day. (Of course, later on I emailed a program I hadn't heard back from in December and was told they were still reviewing applications...I received an invite from them shortly after. Indeed, Med-Peds does march to the beat of its own drum, which is one of the reasons I wanted Med-Peds in the first place.)

Following that first glimmer of hope, throughout Fall 2016 I visited a decent number of programs and had some 40 individual interviews, which were basically 20-45 minutes each of tell me all the worst things about yourself and then tell me why we should let you in to this program.
I mean, what else do you say to that???

Okay, some were more chill than that, but one interviewer started off by telling me what his least favorite interview question was when he was interviewing, and then said, "So, instead of asking that, I'd like to start out by asking you if there is any problem with your record, any issues with your scores, any negatives you need to explain to me."

me:

I mean...Nice to meet you, too. Um....

The problem was compounded because, mainly,

A few asked if there was anything not on my application that I wanted to tell them, which I did think was a great question, but then there were a few who asked me things that...well, my application was right there in front of them. And the information was definitely in there. XD  


Of course, there were a few moments where I left interviews thinking:


And mornings I headed to the airport at 3am going

And times that I contacted my people and every time they responded

(Similar to whatever dear lady answered the phone when I was in Arizona calling my bank going I HAVE TO SCHEDULE AN UBER RIDE RIGHT NOW TO GET TO AN INTERVIEW DINNER AND MY DEBIT CARD KEEPS BEING REJECTED. "We'll get it figured out," she said, "I'm a mom." Bless her, wherever she is right now.)

My favorite part was definitely meeting so many fascinating people in so many different parts of the country, from program directors whose list of degrees took up paragraphs to the driver I had at one place who'd never been to college, but whose description of the state, town, and weather was most insightful and helpful. So many cool people, everywhere. 

The residents I met while traveling every time told myself and the other interviewees about the best restaurants in their town...(eating seems to be a very common resident theme - I'm guessing because they don't have time to do anything else?)
Basically, they all seemed to have the life-motto of

and

And they all told us to be very, very careful how we ranked programs, because, after all...


There was the one interview where the PGY-1 resident giving us a tour got us lost in the hospital basement, where we wandered around until we found ourselves outside the psychiatric ward...and we all went


But on the whole, the residents were incredible, even when discussing diseases they had seen that made all the interviewees respond with



And at the end of nearly every interview I returned home saying
him being whatever place had just interviewed me
Which meant that I went from going "THERE ARE 72 PROGRAMS IN THE COUNTRY AND I WILL DIE AT ANY BUT THAT ONE I LOVE" to "Here are 5 programs I would be absolutely thrilled to be a part of, and I think I'd survive and learn all I needed to at any of these others where I've interviewed."

And then I made a rank list...in order of my favorites...and sent it in to the grand computer system...while each place that had interviewed me made a list of their favorite applicants...and sent it in to the grand computer system...and then we both waited, while every day I said


And if you want to know how that worked out...well, to be continued. 



Saturday, March 18, 2017

Author Interview


As part of Promise's Prayer release day blog party, please welcome author Erika Matthews to my blog! I knew Erika years and years ago, and though I have not yet read her book, I enjoyed reading her answers to my interview questions and seeing so much of her heart for others and I hope you do as well!


What kind of books do you like to write?
I enjoy writing Christian books both fiction and non-fiction. I find non-fiction (stories, devotionals, Christian living) easier to write, though I enjoy fiction enough to continue writing it. Despite my love for writing, it’s hard work and I want to ensure that what I am writing has a worthwhile message to be shared with the world. I haven’t pinpointed a favorite Christian fiction genre yet.

Do you have a favorite quote?
Favorite Bible quote: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
Favorite historical figure quote: “I have but one passion: it is He, it is He alone.” ~ Count Nicholas van Zinzendorf

Do you feel called to minister in any way to a specific group of people?
As well as to my family, God has called me to minister to Christians in need of encouragement in their relationship with God/spiritual journey. I love dialoguing with believers and building each other up in Christ. So many Christians are struggling, discouraged, or even lied to about what the Bible says and what life in Christ is like. God’s desire is that His people be dynamic and joyful, causing His kingdom to come on this earth as it is in heaven!

What is your favorite Book of the Bible? Why?
I’m going to say Philippians. When I was two years old I wanted to hear it read every day, and that book has been meaningful to me at several key points in my life. It’s a beautiful picture of what life in Christ looks like.

What was the easiest part of writing Promise's Prayer?
The easiest part was probably the first seven chapters. After spending several weeks outlining the book, I was excited to begin writing, and I wrote the first 10,000 words (5-6 chapters) the first day. Words flowed onto the paper; I knew where the story was going; it was easy to set up (despite the wide ranges of emotion portrayed in the first few scenes); and I loved introducing the characters. I also couldn’t wait to get to Chapter 7 and introduce Carita’s point of view; I so enjoyed writing Carita and her relationship with Adon Olam (Taerna’s name for God).

What first inspired this book?              
The idea for Promise’s Prayer stemmed from pondering the clich├ęd storyline of “saving the world” and the desire to write a “saving the world” story from a Biblical/Christian perspective. So often even Christians misunderstand Biblical truths and I wanted to write a journey of learning to lay down one’s preconceptions and receive what God has to say, even if it doesn’t match up with what I always thought. In addition, God had been teaching me a lot about the importance of prayer during the previous year or two and I wanted to incorporate that into a fiction novel.
Although I originally wrote Promise’s Prayer as a stand-alone in November 2014, a year later Carita’s little sister Ellisia begged for her own book (Victory’s Voice) and the year after that Kaelan’s sister Laelara got Surrender’s Strength—and over the next three years I plan to write the stories of Kaelan’s other three siblings. Each book of my Truth From Taerna series focuses on an aspect of spiritual truth that today's church often downplays. My desire is to demonstrate how the real, powerful, lifechanging truths of God's kingdom (the spiritual realm hidden from our physical senses) could play out in a fictional setting. My goal is that God will use this series to reveal His kingdom to my readers. As C.S. Lewis' eloquently writes: "By knowing Me here for a little, you may know Me better there." 

Can you briefly describe the main characters of Promise's Prayer? 
Kaelan Ellith: age 19, 5’10”, dark thick hair, brown eyes, sturdy build, athletic, active, determined, impetuous, adventurous, and tired of the quietness of home
Carita Kostan: age 20, 5’5”, sparkling golden brown eyes, medium-brown long hair, slender, looks young, Her expression usually looks sober, almost frightened, as if she were lost, but when she smiles it’s beautiful. She’s very shy, quiet, home-loving, and devoted to Adon Olam.
Ellrick: age 70, white hair and beard, kind green-blue eyes, pleasant features, trustworthy, experienced, friend of the families, devoted to Adon Olam, wise, and a good listener
Ellisia Kostan: Carita’s red-haired eight-year-old sister who loves books
Laelara Ellith: Kaelan’s eleven-year-old sister who takes care of the house
Kelton Ellith: Kaelan’s nine-year-old brother with big brown eyes who loves fun
Kethin Ellith: Kaelan’s seven-year-old brother with a big heart who loves animals
Liliora Ellith: Kaelan’s sweet four-year-old sister
Caeleb Rohaea: Kaelan’s friend from Syorien

Can you share a favorite scene? 
Adon Olam,” Carita spoke as she parted the curtains to watch the sun peek over the horizon. “I am afraid. Show me what the next thing is that you would have me do, and take away my fear. Cause me to trust in you.”
She took a deep breath. She was still just as afraid. But she had to believe He had taken away her fear. “Cause me to receive the reality that you have taken my fear,” she said.
I lead you. I make straight paths for your feet.
She picked up one of her books and paged through it. One sentence jumped out at her. “Take the first step.  Do the next thing. His word is a light to our feet, so move forward one step at a time. What is the task that is next in front of you?”
She raised her head calmly, arose, and prepared for the day. She was still eating her breakfast when a knock sounded at the door.
Her heart jumped, but she rose and opened the door. Laelara stood outside, her eyes darting here and there. She seemed very apologetic for being there. “Good—good morning,” she began. “I am so sorry to disturb you today, because I know you must be quite busy, but I was wondering if you could possibly spare any time today to help us. The rain shower last night soaked a big wet spot on our rugs, and I’m not strong enough to lift them to wash and dry them. Father has to mend the roof, because he says it looks like showers again this afternoon.”
Carita looked thoughtfully at the child in front of her.
“I’m sorry,” Laelara repeated apologetically. “It’s all right if you’re busy. I can find someone else. I just thought I’d ask you first because—because—”
“No,” Carita broke in. “I’m not busy. I can come. Just let me finish and clear away breakfast, and I can be right over. Will you eat with me?”
“N-no,” Laelara hesitated. “I’d better not. The children will be waiting for me. They won’t know I’m gone. I’ll just see you in a few minutes, then. And thank you so much.”
She looked so relieved and delighted at Carita’s assent that Carita marveled as she watched her skip back to her home. “Is this the next thing, Adon Olam?” she whispered.
And a smile worked its way up inside of her.

If there was one thing you could say to every person in the world, what would it be?
The loving, all-powerful Creator designed you for an intimate relationship with Him and earnestly longs to give you rich, deep, true, real life in His Son. True life is spent listening continually to Him, caught up in oneness with His joyful intimacy and infinite love—joyously free from the bondage of self.

Is there a specific lesson you hope readers take away from this book? 
My hope is that readers will identify with Kaelan and Carita and their struggles but also that they will journey with Kaelan and Carita through their struggles and receive God’s answer and God’s ways. I hope that through Promise’s Prayer, readers are inspired and encouraged to know Him intimately and rest in His work as they seek Him continually through prayer.


And in case you missed my previous post...
Erika Mathews is an author and editor who lives in the farm country of Minnesota with her husband and daughter. She’s a homeschool graduate with a Bachelor’s in Communications, a Master’s in Biblical Ministries, and a passion for sharing Jesus Christ and His truth. When she’s not working with books, she enjoys reading, outdoor activities, piano and violin, organizing, and using the Oxford comma. You can connect with Erika at restinglife.com, on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram.

Celebrate the exciting release by entering to win Promise’s Prayer! One winner will receive a paperback and a second winner will receive an ebook.  Rafflecopter giveaway


Book Release

Promise's Prayer by Erika Mathews is now available in paperback and eBook! Promise’s Prayer is the first book of the family-friendly Christian novel series Truth from Taerna. Check out the other blog party stops below, connect with Erika at her website, and don’t forget to join the giveaway!

About the Book

Kaelan is restless for adventure and relentless in his efforts to bring the land of Taerna back to the blessings of Adon Olam and the prosperity of the days of his ancestors. Fueled by a solemn promise and his mother’s secret, he finds himself in the forefront of a desperate scheme that is crucial to Taerna’s future. Can he keep his promise? Can he save the people of Taerna from the corruption and rampant lawlessness that threaten them with extinction? Shy and quiet Carita knows she possesses what Taerna’s people so desperately need. But how can she help them when her own soul is simultaneously tormented by witnessing unmet needs and handicapped by her own paralyzing fears? When Kaelan and Carita come face to face with the true nature of Adon Olam’s call, will they each choose to embrace Adon Olam’s plan for Taerna—and for their own lives?

Click here for purchase information!

About the Author

Erika Mathews is an author and editor who lives in the farm country of Minnesota with her husband and daughter. She’s a homeschool graduate with a Bachelor’s in Communications, a Master’s in Biblical Ministries, and a passion for sharing Jesus Christ and His truth. When she’s not working with books, she enjoys reading, outdoor activities, piano and violin, organizing, and using the Oxford comma. You can connect with Erika at restinglife.com, on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram.


Giveaway

Celebrate the exciting release by entering to win Promise’s Prayer! One winner will receive a paperback and a second winner will receive an ebook.  Rafflecopter giveaway

Blog Party Special Stops!

Check out each of these stops today for special highlights, snippets, features on Promise's Prayer characters, interviews, and more! Also, keep an eye on social media for Promise's Prayer posts by special guests! 

Ellrick Character Spotlight at Reality Reflected (Brie Donning) 
Author Interview at Elvish Pens, Fantastical Writings (Alea Harper) 
Carita Character Spotlight at God's Peculiar Treasure Rae (Raechel) 
Author Interview at Seek Him First (Katherine Sophia) 
Kaelan Character Interview and Spotlight at Random Reflections (Gabriella) 

Release Party Central at Resting Life (Erika Mathews)

Friday, March 17, 2017

~abandon~

Sit started late in 2016. 
I was on the interview trail, trying to figure out what time zone I was in half the days, and from there how to get to each of my destinations, and how much sleep I was going to lose because the 5am flights were cheaper than the 10am flights, even though the airport was repeatedly an hour away...and a friend asked me how I was doing on chat. I said I was fine...and she questioned me. I reiterated my fine-ness, and she noted that she was worrying about me. Something in the way she said it made me question myself...and before I realized it, I'd pulled the hanging string she'd pointed out, and the lovely fuzzy fine-ness I'd been wrapping myself up with like a comfortable sweater began to unravel. 
I was actually decently on the road to not-fine-ness. I wasn't getting done the things I needed to get done, I was missing deadlines, I was stressing out. But so long as I kept pushing along, I could convince myself things were going okay. 
She made me stop pushing. 
A little later that week I explained to another friend what exactly was going on with me...and she pressed in from another angle, revealing further levels of lies I was believing, not only about where my life was at right then, but ideas about myself that I had not challenged since childhood.

Not long after being caught short by the women God has so graciously placed in my life, I was reading Numbers. And chapter 14 started and Moses and Aaron were falling on their faces, Joshua and Caleb were tearing their clothes, Israel was weeping all night. I listened and had to agree that something hard was being asked of them - not merely to go and fight, but to Fear not. With only "if the Lord delight in us, them He will bring us into this land and give it to us" ahead of them, and one step after another all the way they'd come saying that God did delight in them.  

And, listening, I had to say, Oh. Well. That sounds wince-inducingly familiar. How many times can I react this way to an upcoming event over which I have little control? Because I had realized that at the base of my procrastination and failure was fear. Fear that I wouldn't match, fear that I wouldn't match into a good program, fear that I would have come so far only to be refused admittance to the next step.

Of course, the Israelites refuse the command given them...and only then did God say How long will this people provoke me? And how long will it be ere they believe Me, for all the signs which I have showed among them? But Moses interceded for them...and I thought immediately of the One at the right hand of God interceding for me even now.

Time and time again He has shown Himself gracious, He has shown Himself faithful, He has shown Himself worthy of trust. Yet the world continues to fall apart and there is in my life, in the lives of those I love, in the lives of everyone, those things that are unfixable by any human means, and those things that He seemingly refuses to touch. That go on and on and on, worsening every year, every month, with effects increasing and more people hurting and hurting worse and...nothing. 
And every time the question comes up I doubt which it is this time...something He will fix in a way I never imagined possible...or something He will allow to continue its downward spiral in a way I never imagined possible. And that realization made me stop and wonder if it was perhaps a sign that I did not believe that in those other things, even there, He is the Love and the Life He has claimed to be. 
Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him... 
if I perish, I perish... 
if He delight in us, then He will give it to us.
I wrote to both those friends: 
With the current things - the residency stuff, the knowing medicine stuff, the projects I have to do...can I completely drop any wondering about the outcome and simply do my work? Complete the lists of things I have to do and refuse to distract (lol autocorrect changed that to destruct...hmmmm) myself simply because it's easier not to think about it? How easy, if only I believe that He is Love, and any outcome in His will is best for me. 
With those other things...I so fiercely believe they are not His best...that this was an ending He never wanted...I don't know where that leaves me - do I believe He will bring good from it despite so much wrong involved or are our own attitudes preventing any good from coming from it? I don't know...God is love...but clearly that doesn't mean things aren't going to hurt. 
But though He slay me, yet will I trust Him...If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
The word that came to me then was abandon

Whatever He chooses - to go with that. To know that in His torture and death and the turning away of God from God Himself He has given up more than I ever can, and that anything I give up will be more than repaid, though it is no more than my duty to Him...to trust that in the end it will be good, and that until it is He will be with me, and that with-ness is all the goodness I need.

I then came across two quotes from Oswald Chambers, which I am going to set in their entirety here, even though they are very long for a blog post.
"Martha believed in the power at the disposal of Jesus Christ; she believed that if He had been present He could have healed her brother. She also believed that Jesus had a peculiar intimacy with God and that whatever He asked of God, God would do; but she needed a closer personal intimacy with Jesus. Martha’s programme of belief had its fulfilment in the future; Jesus led her on until her belief became a personal possession, and then slowly emerged into a particular inheritance — “Yea, Lord, I believe that Thou art the Christ….”Is there something like that in the Lord’s dealings with you? Is Jesus educating you into a personal intimacy with Himself? Let Him press home His question to you — “Believest thou this?” What is your ordeal of doubt? Have you come, like Martha, to some overwhelming passage in your circumstances where your programme of belief is about to emerge into a personal belief? This can never be until a personal need arises out of a personal problem.To believe is to commit. In the programme of mental belief I commit myself, and abandon all that is not related to that commitment. In personal belief I commit myself morally to this way of confidence and refuse to compromise with any other; and in particular belief I commit myself spiritually to Jesus Christ, and determine in that thing to be dominated by the Lord alone.When I stand face to face with Jesus Christ and He says to me — “Believest thou this?” I find that faith is as natural as breathing, and I am staggered that I was so stupid as not to trust Him before."
"We are in danger of getting the barter spirit when we come to God, we want the witness before we have done what God tells us to do. “Why does not God reveal Himself to me?” He cannot; it is not that He will not, but He cannot, because you are in the road as long as you won’t abandon absolutely to Him. Immediately you do, God witnesses to Himself; He cannot witness to you, but He witnesses instantly to His own nature in you. If you had the witness before the reality, it would end in sentimental emotion. Immediately you transact on the Redemption and stop the impertinence of debate, God gives you the witness. As soon as you abandon reasoning and argument, God witnesses to what He has done, and you are amazed at your impertinence in having kept Him waiting. If you are in debate as to whether God can deliver from sin, either let Him do it, or tell Him He cannot. Do not quote this and that person, try Matthew 11:28 — “Come unto Me.” Come, if you are weary and heavy laden; ask if you know you are evil (Luke 11:13).The simplicity that comes from our natural commonsense decisions is apt to be mistaken for the witness of the Spirit, but the Spirit witnesses only to His own nature and to the work of Redemption, never to our reason. If we try to make Him witness to our reason, it is no wonder we are in darkness and perplexity. Fling it all overboard, trust in God, and He will give the witness."

"Fling it all overboard, trust in God, and He will give the witness."

Abide in Me and I in you...I came that they might have life, and might have it more abundantly...

Live life with abandon, and receive abundant life.

This is one of those paradoxes that I love, and it hit me hard. I then promptly came across this poem of Amy Carmichael's.
Thou hast not that, My child, but Thou hast Me, And am not I alone enough for thee? I know it all, know how thy heart was set Upon this joy which is not given yet. And well I know how through the wistful days Thou walkest all the dear familiar ways, As unregarded as a breath of air, But there in love and longing, always there. I know it all; but from thy brier shall blow A rose for others. If it were not so I would have told thee. Come, then, say to Me: My Lord, my Love, I am content with Thee. 
As I said in 2016, knowing Him and making Him known is the entire purpose of my existence...there is no I mastered that goal, on to something new. But part of knowing Him...is to simply go. To forget feelings, worldly wisdom, assurance of any kind...and to do what He has placed in my path. This year, 2017, I want to be the year of abandon. Of disregarding outcomes and simply doing what He has directed. Of being content with my Lord, my Love. Of losing myself in Him. 

Abandon. I basically see this as a joyful surrender. Surrender alone to me indicates more of an acknowledgment of what is being given up. Abandon I see as more of a throwing oneself forward without seeing any worth to what is being left behind. And the more I think on it the more I see that abandoning to God, living abandoned to God, abandoning the world, is basically just an acknowledgment that I'm not in control of this anyway.

I mean what exactly are we doing that makes surrender/abandon/whatever you want to call it so hard? It's not like we are actually handing over control of anything. It's just that we are acknowledging God's overarching control and power over every piece of our lives. The thought of it is weirdly terrifying considering we can't actually make the world happen the way we want it to happen

Abandon returned to my thoughts throughout the rest of 2016...and then I received a January 1 email of Oswald Chamber's My Utmost For His Highest. I will leave you with this charge. 
He went out, not knowing whither he went. — Hebrews 11:8 

Have you been “out” in this way? If so, there is no logical statement possible when anyone asks you what you are doing. One of the difficulties in Christian work is this question — “What do you expect to do?” You do not know what you are going to do; the only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing. Continually revise your attitude towards God and see if it is a going out of everything, trusting in God entirely. It is this attitude that keeps you in perpetual wonder — you do not know what God is going to do next. Each morning you wake it is to be a “going out,” building in confidence on God. “Take no thought for your life,…nor yet for your body” — take no thought for the things for which you did take thought before you “went out.”
Have you been asking God what He is going to do? He will never tell you. God does not tell you what He is going to do; He reveals to you Who He is. Do you believe in a miracle-working God, and will you go out in surrender to Him until you are not surprised an atom at anything He does?
Suppose God is the God you know Him to be when you are nearest to Him — what an impertinence worry is! Let the attitude of the life be a continual “going out” in dependence upon God, and your life will have an ineffable charm about it which is a satisfaction to Jesus. You have to learn to go out of convictions, out of creeds, out of experiences, until, so far as your faith is concerned, there is nothing between yourself and God.
Nothing between my soul and my Savior...so that His blessed face may be seen.

Nothing between, nothing before, nothing behind...I am His and He is mine and I would see Jesus. 




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