Reaching for Your Dream

What is it about a dream–that something we would dearly love to accomplish … if only? I wrote this piece as I struggled toward my dream almost eleven years before Her Deadly Inheritance appeared in print and e-book.

Maybe you’ve felt this way–or feel this way now–as you reach for your dream.

The Frustration

I slumped at my desk and closed my eyes in an effort to trap the tears that threatened to escape. “I’m ready to give up, Lord! I’ve worked on this novel and worked on it some more. It’s just not getting anywhere.”

“I’m weary of the battle, Lord. I don’t think I’ll ever finish it.” Tears traced wet paths down my face.

Oh, great! I palmed them away. “Please, Lord, if you have an idea to share, I could sure use it now.”

Commit your work to the Lord, and then your plans will succeed.  ~ Proverbs 16:3 (TLB)

What? Surely God knew I had dedicated each piece of my writing dream to him from the very beginning. Obviously, I was missing something behind those twelve short words.

Something important.

Several hours later, I pushed aside my concordances, commentaries, and dictionaries and picked up what I had distilled from them. I stared at the pages.

So that was the problem.

Committing my work to the Lord involved more than offering a quick prayer before I barreled ahead with my plan. It was spreading everything before the Lord each morning — my manuscript, plans, deadline schedules — and most of all, myself. It was sharing my difficulties and delights with him, both writing and otherwise. It was praying, “Lord, here am I. Use me. What do you want me to accomplish today?”

I knelt down to do that very thing.

Before long I saw significant progress in the novel’s development. Excitement about the project returned! I couldn’t wait to get to my desk each morning and boot up my computer.

How glad I am to have learned this valuable lesson: Being a Christian writer isn’t a simple matter of being a Christian and writing. It’s being a Christian who lays her dream at the feet of the Lord and obeys him. As I look back, every one of my published manuscripts was a fruit of God’s plan, not mine. Painful as all the years of struggle have been, I am grateful that God continues to preserve that precious pattern.

Dear Reader, this piece has been a long time coming, and now you know why. Until next time . . . look to the Lord. He will help you overcome your frustrations!

Copyright 2005 Beth Ann Ziarnik

Are you reaching for your dream? May I encourage you to work at it and stick with it until it’s accomplished in the Lord’s timing? It truly will be worth it all.

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The Incredible Power of Memory

Today I walked in the rain, sheltered by my big black umbrella and enjoying a brief time with the Lord in my corner of his creation. My walk took me a half-mile down our country road to Lake Winnebago.

I smiled as I discovered deep blue violets and graceful wild geraniums growing along the roadside. During the months of May in my childhood, I picked bouquets of these pretty blossoms and other wildflowers to delight my mother. Those were sweet times.

Today birds whistling, trilling, and chirruping with all their hearts presented a great symphony that filled the morning air. Again I smiled, recalling all the springtime mornings I awakened to their joyous songs.

Memory is a powerful tool. That’s probably why God invites us to remember those times when he has answered our prayers and helped us. Why bother to remember? Because such memories cheer and encourage us. They help us hang on when life becomes difficult. They remind us that God is good. He deeply loves us and has filled his Word with wonderful promises of all he delights in doing for us.

Has God answered a prayer dear to your heart? Remember and be encouraged. Has God restored your health or the health of someone you love? Remember and be filled with thanksgiving. Has God given you the wisdom or strength to overcome an obstacle in your life? Remember and sing his praises. Keep a treasury of your memories of God’s goodness. It will encourage you to trust him today and in the days to come.

Focus: “I recall all you have done, O Lord; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts” ~ Psalm 77:11-12, New Living Translation.

How about you? What memories of God’s goodness do you hold dear to your heart?

(This blog post adapted from a May 2001 piece published by Together in Faith in my ten-year column, Love with Shoes On.)

Overcoming Thirst

Believe it or not, at one time no well had a bucket with which to draw water. Instead, each day a woman would bring not only a pitcher in which to carry water home to her family, but a rope and a hard leather bucket to draw water.

That’s why when Jesus and his disciples arrived tired and thirsty outside a small Samaritan town, they had no means to get water from the well. While his disciples went into town for food, Jesus rested at the well. Before long, a woman came with her pitcher and bucket, and he asked her for a drink.

She was startled! Why would he–a Jew–even talk to her–a despised Samaritan woman? This just wasn’t done!

But his question served its purpose. It opened their conversation, and she soon discovered he knew she was a woman whose life had turned out to be anything but what she had hoped. Married and divorced five times, she now lived with a man who was not her husband. Only minutes into their conversation, she begged Jesus for the “living water” he spoke of so that she would never be thirsty again (John 4:15).

We all know what it’s like to be thirsty. We’ve known hot days and parched throats. We’ve also known a thirst in our hearts that’s harder to define but just as insistent. Trying to satisfy that thirst, we turn to all kinds of things. But they fail us. They do  not possess the power of the “living water” Jesus promises.

After a while we begin to realize that he alone can supply what we need: (1) a brand-new cleanness through his forgiveness of our sins, and (2) the feeling of being wrapped in the bright and shining garment of being right with God, the one that replaces the wretched rags of our old sin-trapped lives.

The truth is that we know ourselves well and long to be better than we are. And we can be.

The good news is that Jesus stands beside his eternal well of love, ready to draw up all the “living water” we need. The moment we believe and plead for it, it is ours. His promise is true.

Focus: “Blessed (happy) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” ~ Matthew 5:6, New International Version.

So how about you? Are you ready for the “living water” Jesus offers to those who thirst for righteousness? If so, what are you going to do about it?

Following His Star

After Jesus was born, wise men arrived in Judea on a mission. Having seen a special star, they followed it to Jerusalem. They went to King Herod and asked where they could find the newborn king of of Jews.

Herod and his people were deeply disturbed. He told the religious leaders to consult Scripture, and they told the foreigners to look for this new king in Bethlehem. The wise men quickly went on their way.

As soon as they left the city, the star appeared again. They were overjoyed as it guided them to the exact place in Bethlehem where they could find the child Jesus.

God obviously used this star to guide those wise men to Jesus.

But what about looking to the stars to guide us? Should we be checking daily horoscopes to help us make choices and life decisions? Our loving God has something important to say about that.

“Call out the demon hordes you have worshiped all these years. Ask them to help you … [Do you hear the mocking in God’s voice?] You have more than enough advisers, astrologers, and stargazers. Let them stand up and save you from what the future holds. But … they cannot even save themselves!” (Isaiah 47:12-14, New Living Translation).

Does it surprise you to see God group astrologers with “demon hordes”? If anyone should know the source of so-called wisdom in horoscopes, it would be God.

To save us from such deception, he invites us to the safety of seeking wisdom from him. “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good and leads you along the paths you should follow” (Isaiah 48:17-18, New Living Translation).

Do you want to follow a star? God has a star for you to follow. “I, Jesus, … am … the bright Morning Star” (Revelation 22:16, New International Version).

God news! We don’t have to look anywhere else for the wisdom we need. We have had the right star all along–our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

Focus: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” ~ James 1:5, New International Version.

How about you? Where do you go to find the wisdom you need? Does it surprise you to know God is more than willing to give you wisdom?

Fear not!

Talk abut fear! On the night Jesus was born, shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem trembled with fear. From what I hear, we would, too, if we saw these magnificent beings.

But to go on with the story …

A mighty angel suddenly appeared–bright against the night sky–to deliver the joyful news that the promised Savior had been born nearby. But first he had to assure the quaking shepherds. “Fear not!” (Luke 2:10, New King James Version). Soon the shepherds were on their way to find this newborn baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Just as the angel from the Lord had told them.

Fear not! During his lifetime on earth, Jesus repeated those words again and again. And they are as much for us today as they were for people long ago.

Yet, I’ll never forget waking in the wee hours one night. A suffocating cloud of fear descended on me. After a few moments of panic, I remembered Jesus’ words to fear not. “Lord,” I said, “I give this fear to you.” Then I quoted aloud every Scripture verse I could recall to deal with that fear.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (1 Timothy 1:7). “Perfect love [that’s God!] casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). On and on I went until the fear dissolved, and I drifted back into a restful sleep.

Here’s the truth. We are not at the mercy f fear–whether it is fear of the unknown or the challenges that life throws at us. We have a God who is bigger than all our fear. We have a God whose tender compassion compel him to come along side us the moment we cry out to him. We have a God who has given us his Word so that  we can speak his truth and be comforted. We have a God who drives away whatever fear we place in his hands with childlike trust.

It’s his promise.

Focus: “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you” ~ Isaiah 26:3 (New Living Translation).

How about you? What fear are you dealing with today? What might happen if you trust your faithful God to deliver you from it?

Thanksgiving Living

On Thanksgiving Day in 1942, Dorothy was a beautiful, twenty-four-year-old bride. Over the years that followed, she and her husband raised seven children. They’s didn’t have much money, but they provided a home filled with faith in God.

Every Sunday they took their children to church. Every school year, they made room in their budget to send those children to Christian school. Every evening her children could find her on her knees at her bedside, bringing their needs to God in prayer.

During the early years, Dorothy cleaned, cooked, canned, and sewed to stretch each dollar to provide her family with the best her talents could offer. As the older children entered school, she added a part-time job as a waitress in family restaurants. None of her children lacked for love or care. Neither did her church family. Both she and her husband supported their church with their tithes and their talents.

Fifty years passed quickly. Surrounded by family and friends, Dorothy and her bridegroom of long ago celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary, including the renewing their vows before God in church. Eighteen months later–again in the company of family and friends–she laid her husband to rest.

This year Dorothy celebrated her ninety-seventh birthday. In a world consumed with the threat of an unstable economy, how does a ninety-seven-year-old widow on social security and a small pension manage? Who cares for her?

God cares for her! He not only provides for her needs but delights her heart through her children’s loving care. He surprises her with unexpected gifts, gives her the health to enjoy living in her small apartment in a lovely retirement community, and answers the prayers of her grateful heart. Surrounded by her loved ones, Dorothy lives quite well as she always has–by her faith in the Lord God whom she serves daily with thanksgiving.

Focus: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 4:6-7, New International Version.

How about you? How have you seen God provide for your needs in surprising ways as you walk in thanksgiving living?

Wounds In the Storms of Life

I loved the graceful, old maple tree that stood in our back yard. Its green leaves like layers of lace would rise and fall majestically in a mild October wind. Restless, they knew their time was short. Soon they would change color and fall to the ground.

That tree fascinated me. I’d marvel at its beauty and recall the time when lightening ripped it nearly in half. The wound stretched long and visible, one side of the tree stripped bare of branches.

On the advise of a tree surgeon, my husband painted the wound with black sealant. Over the years that wound not only healed but became almost invisible. As promised, branches grew and covered the naked side, restoring the tree to its former beauty.

In the storms of life, we also suffer wounds. Some lay our lives so wide open that we feel naked to the world. We wonder if we will ever recover, if we will ever know beauty again.

But from the very moment we are wounded, God is at work, and over the years, he heals and restores us. We do become whole again. What seems impossible to us is always possible with God. His loving-kindness is ever at work in the lives of those who earnestly seek him and put their hope in him. To those, he makes a promise.

Focus: “Behold, I make all things new.” ~ Revelation 21:5, New International Version.

What about you? What gaping wound have you suffered in life and then found God faithful to heal it?