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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Filtering by Category: Desire

A reader writes to ask, "Why want?"

jenmichel@me.com

Even though I’ve just recently released my second book, Keeping Place, I continue to travel and speak on the topic of my first book, Teach Us to Want. This is a question that was recently emailed to me, and I wanted to answer it at length here.

Dear Jen,

Can I run something up the flag pole with you on this subject?  After reading the beginning of Teach Us to Want, I had to put the book down and take two giant steps backward.  The book asks us about our wants and desires—our deep inside “ME ONLY” wants and desires. When I go the basement of my mind, lift up the rug and false floor, and pull out the old deteriorating suitcase labeled "Wants & Desires," I find a glaring new label affixed over the old one: "Disappointments.”

Man, it's heavy.

I had wants and desires from as long ago as when I was three years old. In the spirit of survival, those wants and desires were denied for me and on my behalf.  Fast forward to my adult life. Ten years ago, I made the hardest decision I've ever made, which demanded that I walk away from my very last lifelong dream and desire. And somewhere, sandwiched in the middle, is the painful drudgery of single parenting and challenge of "motherhood" that feels like a noose around my neck. Now, I am unexpectedly a grandmother—the result of my Dean’s List college-aged daughter’s teen pregnancy.

From my earliest memories, my life story is a continuous tale of crisis aversion, management and the desperate scramble to simply touch the fringe of "Wants & Desires"—but never actually own one.  In fact, after much review, I believe the last "want/desire" that I recognized and achieved was graduating High School in 1986.

It's not all doom and gloom. Sometimes life settles down, and I'm learning to find contentment in living the day to day.

The last decade? No desires. No wants.

Am I supposed to???  My greatest desire is to get back and forth from the grocery store without traffic.  That's good, right?

So, I picked up the book again, this time at Chapter 3. "Delight yourself in the Lord and HE will give you the desires of your heart.” I'm not sure I want to "want" or "desire.” In fact, I'm sure that I don't want to. I hear that He wants me to trust Him with reckless abandon and to "delight" myself in Him (how do you EVEN do that??) and He will give ME desires.

But why?? Why desire? Why want? Do I NEED to desire or want??

Confused in California

Dear Confused in California,

Thank you so much for reading Teach Us to Want and for posing these very important questions. I’m so glad that you’ve written, and I’m also glad that you’ve given me the permission to share our conversation publicly.

I suppose the first important thing to say is this: we don’t want simply so that we can get things from God. That would be to do what James condemns in his epistle, chapter 4: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly to spend it on your passions” (v. 3). Many of us have our life of desire turned upside down and inside out.

Life with God isn’t ultimately about getting things from him: it’s about getting him in us.

You’ve referenced Psalm 37:4, and I’m so glad. It’s an often-misunderstood verse. People use it to defend their gospel of, “God loves me; I love him; therefore, it’s only right that he gives me what I want.” But as you say, that verse isn’t about us telling God what we want and getting it. It’s about him giving us HIS desires. It’s as we delight ourselves in the LORD that the whole nature of our desiring life changes. As we delight ourselves, more and more, in the LORD, we delight ourselves, less and less, in the shallow pleasures of comfort and convenience. As we delight ourselves, more and more, in the LORD, we delight ourselves, less and less, in material security, reputation, even temporal happiness.

To delight ourselves in the LORD is to love what God loves. And the Lord’s Prayer teaches us what God loves: God loves for his name to be made holy, for his kingdom to come, for his will to be done. It’s not, of course, that we should stop wanting for the simple sustenance of this life. The Lord’s Prayer also invites us to pray for bread, for restored relationship with others and with God, for protection. But as the late Kenneth Bailey wrote in Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, there’s an important architecture of priority in this prayer. The “thee” petitions come before the “me” petitions, which provides a lesson for life.

We must become the kind of people who think of God and his kingdom priorities first.

I know I still haven’t answered your most pressing question: why want? If I’m only supposed to want what God wants, why even bother with the complicated business of desire? And doesn’t that just lead me to a lot of disappointments and unmet expectations?

Here’s the first reason to want in your life of faith: because it’s one way to risk on God’s goodness. Or maybe I could put it this way: how often is our failure to want really about our failure to trust God’s goodness? The Psalmist says that God is good and does good (Ps. 119:68). Whatever he chooses to do, whatever he chooses to give, whatever his timing: it’s good. We see this all throughout Scripture, that God’s impulse is to give and to bless. This doesn’t mean of course that we get to say “This is good, therefore you must give it to me, God.” But it is to say, “God, I trust you have my best interest at heart.”

To illustrate what I mean, let me share a story from my friend’s book, Praying Together. Megan Hill tells the story about arriving with her husband at the Ethiopian orphanage to take their son home. All the children, having learned just a few words of English, were crying out, “Mommy!” “Daddy!” She writes, “Those little ones knew the language of family and the gestures of asking, but twenty-four of the children had no right to use them. And though we gave candy and balloons to every child, there was only on little boy whose cries to us of ‘Mommy’ and ‘Daddy’ were absolutely compelling. This was the child with whom we have a relationship—having just appeared before a judge in a courtroom to secure his adoption—and this child alone could reach into our pockets with every assurance that he’d be granted whatever treat he could find there.” As Jesus said, if this inclination to generosity is true of flawed human parents, how much more must our heavenly Father want to be generous with us! God is good and does good. That’s a reason to bring him your desires—because he can be trusted to receive them and respond to them out of his lavish love.

A second reason to want—a reason connected to this first point—is that it will grow your intimacy with God. There is a vulnerability to admitting our desires to anyone, whether that’s a friend or God himself. It’s vulnerable in one sense because our desires say something about us. Maybe they say that we’re selfish! Maybe they say that we’re apathetic! To bring our desires before God is a vulnerable act—and prayer, if we want to pray like Abraham and Hannah and Jesus and Paul prayed—is supposed to be vulnerable. Bold. Self-disclosing. The Psalmist says, “O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you” (Ps. 38:9). I believe that God wants to know all of us. I believe that a life of walking with Christ is a life of walking in the light, of disclosing ourselves to God, not concealing ourselves. Maybe we could even just think about the impulse of Adam and Eve in the garden, after they had eaten the fruit. They hid themselves from the presence of God, rather than walking before him naked and unashamed. One way of seizing this marvelous invitation to “draw near to the throne of grace with confidence” (Heb. 4:16) is to come to God without concealment: to tell him what we really think, really want, really despair of, really fear. Only then do those things have a chance of being repaired, reformed, transformed! Only then do we deepen our friendship with God, which is what he is ultimately after and which is the only thing to satisfy our deepest longings and desires.

Maybe it’s in coming to God with our desires that we begin to see how much anything pales compared to the great worth of knowing him.

And here’s a final point that I’ll make here. (So much more to say, but I guess you’ll have to finish the book!) There is no real lasting transformation in our lives apart from a transformation of our desires. Philippians 2:13 talks about the ambitious scope of the gospel. When the Spirit of Jesus indwells us, he’s not content simply that we believe differently or behave differently. We must want differently. And when we want differently, we sustain real change in our lives. I suppose we’d only have to consider New Year’s Resolutions to consider how insufficient duty and obligation are for sustaining change. That’s not to say that we shirk duty and obligation, but it is say that when we do something dutifully, we have our eye on desire. God, let my heart change—alongside my behavior.

As I’ve risked to disclose my desires to God, to wait on him, to surrender to him, I’ve learned in much deeper and personal way that he is good, that he can be trusted. I’ve also learned that this world, so deeply broken and in need of repair, will always leave me wanting for a better one. And maybe that’s one of the most important lessons of desire. As C.S. Lewis has famously written, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

We’re living in the middle act. We’re not at the end of the story yet. When you open that box labeled “Disappointments,” you can remember that Jesus is coming again, that he’s promised to deliver the world from its groaning. You can remember “that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).

With you, I am longing for that home. Jen

Ruby Slippers

jenmichel@me.com

"Ruby Slippers" is the title of the final chapter of my book, Teach Us to Want, and I'm often asked about the significance.

Just last week, I met with a small group from my church who had recently finished reading the book, and several people wanted to make guesses about the meaning of the ruby slippers. One interpretation was particularly clever.

"The ruby slippers were taken from the feet of the Wicked Witch of the East when Dorothy's house fell on her. Dorothy puts them on, but the Wicked Witch of the West chases her and wants to kill her. So the ruby slippers represent the potential dangers of desire and how desire might possibly lead us astray."

Um, no. But really good try!

Because the subtitle of chapter 10 is "commitment," I really meant ruby slippers to represent the journey of desire—and all that's required for that journey, especially courage and resilience. It's a risk to examine our desires. What might we discover about ourselves in the process? It's a risk to admit our desires to others. What will they make of us? And of course, it's also a risk to pray our desires—not because God can't be trusted with our vulnerability, but because in praying our desires, we're also surrendering them to the possibility of divine interruption and change.

But before I clarified all of this for this particular group, another man ventured his guess. I had never met him before.

"Well, Dorothy puts on the ruby slippers so that she can get back home. And I think that's where desire is always leading us. Home.

We want home more than anything else in this world."

Um, HELLO?! Did you know that I've written an entire book about the longing for home?

Teach Us to Want was published in July 2014. I certainly had no plan for my second book, Keeping Place, which releases in two weeks. But maybe "ruby slippers" is the giveaway that when I took my own journey of desire, it would lead me to longings for permanence. Longings for safety and stability, for rest and refuge.

For home.

I'm going to tell you a little bit more about Keeping Place in the next couple of weeks here on the blog. I'll be posting an excerpt from the preface and some behind-the-scenes looks at the writing of the book. I'll even share with you some original poetry that I've written. I hope it's helpful to you in some way, and as always, thanks for reading along!

 

Thank you, readers.

jenmichel@me.com

conversation Thank you, readers, for your engagement with last week’s Christianity Today piece about the dangers I see in the self-fulfillment “gospel.” As Charles Taylor describes in A Secular Age, this modern “gospel” preaches human flourishing as life’s ultimate and final goal. The thesis of that article—that this gospel is a dangerous detour from that cross-bearing to which Christ and his followers have been called—was tied to the most recent public announcements from Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery of her divorce and her new dating relationship.

I have people legitimately asking: why are you writing about someone’s private life? Isn’t this the kind of self-righteous finger-pointing that gives Christians a bad name? Didn’t Jesus forgive rather than condemn? And haven’t you uncharitably mischaracterized Glennon’s larger body of work and the testimony of her life?

I am incredibly grateful, not just for your support but for your pushback. As I wrote in an earlier blog post, it is generally my decision to let every article that I write stand for itself. That decision is as pragmatic as it is philosophical. (People still want dinner around here.) Moreover, pre-Internet, this is generally what every writer did (excepting corrections in future publications, responses to letters to the editor, or public speaking events). Now, of course, with social media, there is ongoing conversation an article can inspire, allowing writers a chance to explain, to clarify, to endlessly defend. We can probably all see how easily that becomes circular and vain (not to mention tiresome).

I write this post today, not to settle objections, but to acknowledge that I have been listening as you have posted, messaged, and emailed. Let me offer some thoughts in response.

First, corrections—or better yet, confessions.

  1. I want to confess my failure to cite the great philanthropic good that Glennon has been doing as well as her own powerful story of personal redemption. I am sorry for that. It’s a very fair criticism to note the absence of these important biographical pieces in my piece. Clarification on these two points would have contributed to a more sympathetic tone and a fairer representation. I regret I did not graciously offer it. Glennon has said publicly, clearly, and regularly that she wants to serve her readers. Her story of deliverance out of alcoholism and bulimia has been a source of great encouragement to others, and her advocacy and activism are truly remarkable. I am thankful for all of this and highlight it here.
  1. Second, I want to confess the evangelical bias represented by the timing of the article. It is an entirely fair critique to say that “Christians are never scandalized until someone’s gay.” Yes, this sticks. Apart from matters of sexual indiscretion, we can sit silently by while the gospel of self-fulfillment and radical individualism is used to defend gross neglect of the two great commandments. It shouldn’t matter if it’s sexual sin, political gain, crass consumerism, neglect of the poor or racial injustice. These all grieve the heart of God, and I am sorry that I—and the church—have not been rightly outraged by these things. By God’s grace, I hope to do better.

For further consideration:

The premise of public discourse.

Some have argued that I should have brought my disagreement to Glennon privately. They are concerned for Christian charity. Their pushback also raises the important biblical concern in Matthew 18 for direct, personal, and private confrontation in the local church before any kind of public address of a “sin” issue.

I suppose it’s obvious but also important to remind readers that Glennon and I are not friends. We are not members of the same church, and the nature of my critique was not a matter of personal disagreement or hurt. Rather, we are public writers involved in the exchange of public ideas. The hazards of this work involve public disagreement, especially when writers like Glennon and I not only write but aim to teach.

I heartily affirm the need for charitable public disagreement, and admit that some insist my article has fallen short of this standard. But I would note that public disagreement is not, in and of itself, inherently unkind, although we can feel it to be. Disagreement can sharpen us. Criticism can teach us. I, least of all, like it, but I’ve had enough to know how painfully good it has been for me.

The nature of leadership.

Some have wondered why I couldn’t have talked about the dangers of the self-fulfillment gospel without referencing Glennon’s story.

When Glennon wrote the Facebook post I referenced for my article, she explicitly aimed to make her personal narrative instructive for others. She did not simply say, I am making these choices, and you can have your own opinion about them. (She said this, too.) She also said: I am modeling self-truth and self-bravery for you. “This is what I want for YOU.”

We may not all intend to make our lives instructive for others in the same way that Glennon has, but she is right in a very important sense: we teach and lead, not just with our ideas, but with our lives. This isn’t to say that God only uses the Mary Poppins of the world to build his kingdom. (Genealogy of Jesus, anyone?) But it is to say that there is never a nice, neat line between our ideas and our lives, especially for Christian teachers and leaders. Our ideas are our lives. Our lives are our ideas. This is what the Apostle Paul is getting at when he sets forth, in the Epistles, such rigorous ethical standards for pastors/elders. It’s his reason for telling Timothy: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching” (1 Tim. 4:16).

As one keenly aware of my own personal failures of conduct and character, I am deeply sobered by this truth.

The importance of discernment.

Some have wondered why I (and the readers of Christianity Today) should concern ourselves with the beliefs of Glennon Doyle Melton, who has never called herself evangelical.

In a world of Amazon Prime and the worldwide web, Glennon’s influence doesn’t stop at the doors of her United Church of Christ. Evangelical women read her blog, buy her books, and travel to hear her speak. Well-respected evangelical female leaders recently invited her to join them main-stage at a national conference in early November.

Glennon has likened her readers to congregants, her work to the writings of the early Christian church. It is worth remembering that historic councils vigorously debated the early writings of apostles and church leaders, determining what should and should not be included in the canon. The early church was incredibly preoccupied with getting the gospel right and did not back down from the public debate of those ideas.

Likewise (in kind, though not degree), every Christian church and pastor, every Christian publication and organization, has the pastoral responsibility to reason and affirm what is true and to challenge what is false. Rigorous theological, exegetical, historical, and cultural discernment is an act of great love for the church.

There is no such thing as radical autonomy in the Christian life—where permission is never needed and explanation never obliged. We belong to Christ, and we belong to one another. To love Christ and one another well, we must encourage, celebrate, and agree. As needed, we must also challenge, correct, and rebuke. The latter is as much for our good as the former.

Which is why I’m grateful for you—both your support and criticism. Thanks for reading here and for reading thoughtful publications like Christianity Today, which aim, however imperfectly, to help the church in this work of discernment and the witness of Christ’s love.

Glennon Doyle Melton's "Good News"

jenmichel@me.com

glennon-doyle-melton Glennon Doyle Melton, the popular Momastery blogger, recently revealed that she is dating celebrity soccer player Abby Wambach. In her public Facebook declaration that she “is in love” and “really, deeply happy,” the author of two New York Times bestsellers has insisted that “the most revolutionary thing a woman can do is not explain herself.” Melton seeks no one’s permission to live “her truth” as bravely as she can. Indeed, Melton understands that her most sacred responsibility as a leader is to model what it means to be “so comfortable in your own being, your own skin, your own knowing—that you become more interested in your own joy and freedom and integrity than in what others think about you.”

I talk about Glennon's "good news" in my most recent piece for CTWomen, which you can find here. My intent isn't to cast stones. (We know what happens to those living in glass house.) Rather, I want us to understand why Glennon Doyle Melton's gospel of self-fulfillment is not good news - and what the Christian story of desire really is.

 

Tempering January ambition: and finding rest

jenmichel@me.com

January In my own life, January normally blusters in with resolve and resolution. Maybe it’s the invitation of the winter landscape. The world, swathed in white, quiets to a hush, and the silence inspires reflection—the reflection, ambition. In January, I feel urged to straighten my house (an impulse no doubt inspired by hibernation).  But I don’t only decide to clean. I also determine to neaten my life. And though I don’t necessarily make goals in the formal sense, I do love the crisp, clean sheets of a new year.

 

But this year began differently for me. I didn’t hustle the kids back to school as I might normally have. I didn’t write ambitious lists. And while I did clean out two basement storage closets, I also decided intentionally to rest. One month, full-stop. (Whatever that meant. The only thing I knew for sure was that it included poetry.)  If I resisted hard and fast rules about what constituted rest and what constituted work (cleaning out storage closets can, in fact, be considered restful), I did commit to turning down any formal writing projects. (As it turns out, the only rule I set was the rule I broke precisely twice: one, to write this article at the invitation of the her.meneutics editors; two, to begin reading Randy Alcorn’s new book, Happiness, in preparation for an interview.) But despite those two transgressions (for which my husband exasperatedly pronounced, “You stink,”) I have embraced rest. I am, in fact, still lingering in the pause.

 

“What do you need rest from?” my spiritual director asked at the beginning of this month.

 

Isn’t it obvious? I wanted to answer.

 

Rest from deadlines.

Rest from the demands of other people.

Rest from hurry.

 

And it’s true that since the spring of 2015, I went breathlessly from one deadline to another. The year drove hard. But it is also true that this season of January rest, graciously spread for me like a feast by the table-setting God, has reminded me that it is not work or family or externally-opposed obligations that keep me from resting.

 

I am most ruthless at the reins of my life.

 

I am the Egyptian taskmaster with the leather strap, and until I rest from myself (and the hard-driving internal voices), there will be no rest at all.

 

I remember long car trips as a child. I’d sit in the back of the station wagon, staring out the car window, watching the landscape blur past. I’d fix my eyes on some solitary tree in the middle of the field and admire its rooted resistance to the rush. Whoosh went the corn. Whoosh went the soybeans. But the tree stood strong. Fiercely proud. Defiant. Imperial. I would imagine myself taking solace in its canopy of shade, stepping into the pool dappled with quiet and puddled with silence.

 

I wanted rest then, even as a young child without bills to pay, emails to answer, and library books to return. I still want it now. Like Judith Shulevitz writes in her book, The Sabbath World, “At some point, we all look for a Sabbath, whether or not we call it that. At the core of the Sabbath lives an unassuageable longing.” Humans, made by a working and resting God, are made for working and resting. We don’t have infinite battery life. We need pause from the quotidian. We need retreat from the inner voices goading constant improvement. Some days—a day a week, a month a year—we need to defiantly be still and know that He is God.

 

The habit of resting, however, will not be a habit that anyone forces upon you. But that’s when you remember the tree. And the Jesus who hung from it. The seventh-day resting God issues an invitation to take up easier burdens than the ones you lay on your own back. Whoosh go the soybeans. Whoosh go the corn. And the world, hurtling through space, minds the Maker’s word. He is God. You are not. In him (not your January ambition), the world is holding together.

 

As I linger in the pause of one more week of rest (whatever that means), I remember that rest is afforded to me. Because rest is central to the good news.

 

He settles me down in green pastures.

He leads me beside waters of rest.

He restores my soul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pain - and Purpose - of Unfulfilled Desires

jenmichel@me.com

Sue MacDonald As I hope you know, Ryan and I are active members at Grace Toronto Church, which is a source of joy for us. Every church is imperfect, of course, but in four short years, Grace has profoundly shaped who we are as followers of Christ. I am so grateful for our pastors and staff members, and I'm also privileged to know many, many gifted women in my congregation.

One such woman is Sue MacDonald, our head pastor's wife. She co-founded Grace with Dan and is actively involved now in the church, serving, teaching, discipling, and sharing her home with others. Sue spoke this past weekend at our women's brunch on the story of Hannah (1 Samuel 1, 2) and the subject of unfulfilled desires. It was such a blessing to me and the other women there that I asked if I could share it with you here.

As it was a 30-minute talk she delivered, it's quite a bit longer than a normal blog post would be. But I would encourage you to find time today or this week to sit down with Sue's words. In whatever disappointments or delays you may find yourself, you can begin knowing more intimately the goodness of God.

- - -

This morning, I want to take some time to look at this idea of unfulfilled desires and expectations.

Tim Keller says - “No matter what precautions we take, no matter how well we have put together a good life, no matter how hard we have worked to be healthy, wealthy, comfortable with friends and family, and successful with our career — something will inevitably ruin it.”

Keller is simply saying what is true. We live in a world that is broken. Everyday we are met with unfulfilled desires and expectations – either in ourselves or in others. No matter where you are in your journey of faith, this reality is inescapable.

One of my earliest memories of coming face to face with the power of unfulfilled desire was when I was 9 years-old. My dad and mom had decided to move us from India to the Philippines. All I wanted to do was stay where I was. I did not want to move. I did not want to leave my life in India. I was adamant. But all the pleading and complaining did nothing to stop my parents from making the move. And for the first three months of our lives in the Philippines, every time we would leave the house, I would throw up! Yes, throw up! I did not want to be there. I desired to be home!

Since then, I have desired much. And along the way, there have been many unfulfilled desires – things that have ruined my otherwise “well-constructed” life. Some are simple desires like hitting 40 and noticing the effects of gravity on my body. Every time I look in the mirror, I desire the body I had in my 20’s. Some unfulfilled desires are more powerful than others and leave a more defining mark on you. The death of my mom created a series of unfulfilled desires. She wasn’t at my wedding. She wasn’t there when Shaila was placed in my arms.

How about you? Unfulfilled desires are powerful. What do you do when you are faced with them? How do you deal when something ruins your well put-together life?

I want us this morning to take a walk with Hannah. She was a woman who dealt with unfulfilled desires. Through her life and words in 1 Samuel 1 and 2, we will see the root of her pain, the shape of her pain, the response to the pain and the change promised in pain.

Firstly, the root of Hannah’s pain.

Here the story of Hannah begins with the author setting the scene. The scene opens with a brief description of Elkanah – who he was and where he came from - which is significant because it sets up the lineage of Samuel – one of the great deliverers of Israel.

And then, we learn he had two wives. One was named Hannah and the other Peninnah. The order of them introduced seems to indicate that Hannah was most likely Elkanah first wife. Peninnah, his second. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.

To understand the root of her pain, we must understand the object of her desire.

Hannah desired to be a mother. She desired children. Hannah desired a good thing. The Bible tells us desire is a good thing. The Psalms is filled with songs of desire. If you want to read more about desire, I commend to you Jen Michel’s book, “Teach Us To Want.” It is an excellent book that explores the concept of desire. But what I want to note in this text is that the object of Hannah’s desire was good. Most of the objects of our desires are good!

You may be here and desire to be married. That is a good desire. You may be here and desire to get a good education. That is a good desire. You may be here and desire to have a good job and career. These are all good things.

Hannah desired that which was good! Therefore, the root of Hannah’s pain, was a legitimate desire withheld. When good desires are withheld, there is real pain and sadness.

I know what it is to be barren. It is the days that have been numbered in my life. I feel Hannah’s pain as a woman. Dan and I had talked about having 6 kids, early on in our marriage. I agreed to birth only three, by the way. If we were going to have 6, we would have to adopt the rest. We had desires and expectations – good desires and natural expectations. To this day, there are times I wonder what our children would have looked like, what it would be like to feel a baby’s kick. There is a sadness that I will most likely live with the rest of my life. There is a grief that I will carry with me.

If you are here this morning and you are struggling with unfulfilled desires, you are not alone. Your pain, sorrow and sadness are legitimate if you desire a good thing.

Secondly, the shape of Hannah’s pain.

If you were an original reader you would have understood the importance of women having children in that culture.

In Hannah’s day, a woman’s success was determined by the number of children she had. Women found their purpose and future secured by their kids. It was what they expected of themselves and what their culture expected. To not have children, would be devastating – personally and socially. A woman’s day was spent taking care of her children. It was her work. It was her career. It is how a woman made her mark on her world. It was how her culture defined the “ideal” woman – the “successful’ woman.

Hannah’s pain not only stemmed from a legitimate desire but was shaped and intensified by external forces – in her case her family and culture.

As women of the 21st century living in Toronto, we may have slightly different ways of defining the ‘ideal’ woman. But our culture shapes and intensifies our desires as well. In our city, the ideal woman is one who is fit, fashionable, educated and successful. I must say in my city-neighborhood, throw in - married to an equally successful man and two children – preferably one of each gender - and now we have the ideal, successful woman!

For Hannah, her barrenness was not just a private sadness and grief but a very public one. And in the shape of her pain, we see the transformation of a good desire into an ultimate desire. Let’s look what happens in the story: Hannah’s husband, who we are told “loved her”, took another wife because she could not bear him children. I can only imagine what that must have communicated to her. Her private sadness – a very legitimate pain - now became a very public shame. Elkanah’s own desire to have children was greater than his love for Hannah.

On a side note, it must be said that the Bible does not ever endorse polygamy. Every time there are multiple wives involved, it is never a good thing. The consequence of breaking the marriage covenant speak for itself through the devastating carnage it leave in families. And Hannah’s story is no exception.

To make things worse, his second wife, Penninah, was jealous. We are told she considered Hannah a rival. The ironic thing is that Hannah wanted what Penninah had – children. Penninah wanted what Hannah had – the love of her husband. Both desires were good. But a good thing became the ultimate thing in both their lives. And now the object and intensity of their desires corrupted their emotions, actions and relationships. Is that not what happens to us as well when we make good things our ultimate things?

We are told Penninah, provoked Hannah in order to irritate her.” That word “irritate” means to grieve her. It was like pouring salt on an open wound. Hannah’s pain was magnified by the constant reminded of her unfulfilled desire by Penninah. And all it did was condemn her.

We are told, in no uncertain terms, in verses 7 and 8 that her anguish over not having children became her everything. She wept. That word “wept” means to moan with grief. She refused to eat. When you refuse to eat you are saying pretty much, “I just want to die! I can’t bear it no more. Life is not worth living if I do not get what I desire.”

We see, in the shape of Hannah’s pain, what happens when a good thing becomes an ultimate thing. Hannah was never meant to wrap her identity around having children. The good thing was never meant to define her. It could not carry the weight of her desire.

Is this not what happens to us? Good desires withheld are legitimately painful. But so many times, the pain of our unfulfilled desires begin to change shape when a good desire become an ultimate desire we cannot live without.

I can resonate with Hannah.

It was March of 2006, and my phone rang. It was my sister-in-law, my older brother’s wife. She and I had journeyed together in our infertility for over 10 years – grieved together, supported each other. Though we prayed that God would bless us with children, I was not prepared for what I was about to hear. She said, “Sue, I am pregnant!” I felt a ton of bricks fall on me. I knew the right thing to do… so I went on autopilot and said, “Binc, I am so excited for you! Praise God!” When in my heart, all I could say was, “Oh, my God!” By that evening, I was in no place to see people or talk to anyone. I climbed into the shower, turned the water on – scalding my skin and wept. Wept like I had not wept before. I felt like I was going to be undone. I still remember that day! I still remember that shower.

What are your unfulfilled desires? What cultural expectations drive those desires? Where, on the spectrum of pain, do you find yourself? Are you at the beginning, where you are grieving a good desire or are you where we find Hannah, where the object of her desire consumes her every waking moment?

The shape of her pain revealed that she no longer desired a good thing – for that good thing had become the ultimate thing.

So what now? What do we do when we find ourselves in this place?

Let’s look at Hannah’s response because in her response we see three things: Firstly, Hannah moved towards God.

Three words in verse 9, indicate Hannah’s initial response. “Hannah stood up.” After years of weeping and at times refusing to eat because she could not imagine how she could continue to live, “Hannah stood up.”

These are seemingly abrupt words in the narrative. And I believe Tim Keller is right, when he says that the author of Samuel put in this detail not by accident but to show us a turn in the story – a move to action. Something has changed in Hannah.

We are at a climax in the story in verse 8. It can go either way. Hannah can go about doing what she has been doing year after year and spend the rest of her days in misery and anguish or she can make a change.

Look with me at verse 7. It seemed that Hannah had gone to the house of the Lord before but we were told that Penninah provoked her to grief. In other words, she kept hearing the condemnation of those around and allowed it to define her. And all it did was condemn her - leaving her in anguish and pain.

Here’s the thing we learn, the world will condemn us when we don’t meet their expectations. And the more we look to the world around us to affirm us, the more we find ourselves condemned when we fail. But Hannah had enough of the condemnation that she felt. Not only had her body failed her, her husband had failed her and her culture was relentless in reminding her of her failure. It was in the midst of all this, that she “stands up” and decides to move towards God.

Secondly, Hannah came as she was.

Hannah did not clean herself up. She did not get her emotions in order. Note verse 10. Hannah came to God in “deep anguish.” She came “weeping bitterly.” She was in such pain and anguish that the priest, Eli, thought she was drunk.

So often we think we cannot come to God with our deepest pain. We feel that he won’t hear us unless we have it all together. Hannah’s story tells us that we can come to God with our deep hurts, even our anguish over making an idol of our desires.

It was in that same shower, where the scalding water was now taking it’s toll on my skin, that I poured out my pain, anguish and hurt to the Lord. Thank God for a flat-rate water bill that year!

Thirdly, Hannah came in submission. We see her posture of submission in the way she makes a vow with God.

Two times we were told in the first 8 verses, that God closed Hannah’s womb. I don’t know about you but does this make you uncomfortable? It should. Really at this point, you and I should be saying, this is all God’s fault! How could a loving God withhold something good? And not only something good, but in this case something He created Hannah to desire? What kind of God is He?

Do you desire to be married? Is that good? Yes! Then why would God withhold it? Are you out of work? Is it good to work? Yes! Then why would God withhold it?

Two truths about God that Hannah submitted to.

Firstly, God is the Almighty, Sovereign God.

For the first time in the Old Testament, God is introduced as the Lord Almighty in verse 3 and immediately we encounter a God, who exercises his power by closing Hannah’s womb. And in verse 11, she begins with the words, “Almighty God…”. --that is not a coincidence.

Hannah was confronted by her autonomy and God’s sovereignty. I am sure in those days, even though they did not have fertility treatments like we do now, there were most likely things that the women in her village made her do that they thought would make her pregnant. And she probably did them all. But she was still barren. And we are told that God made her so.

Hannah’s, very act of standing up, going to God, and addressing Him as the Almighty God, was an act of submission – a laying down of her autonomy and acknowledging God’s Sovereignty.

John Frame, in one of his writings, Believing in God in the Twenty-first Century, writes, ”Believing in the biblical God and believing in one’s own autonomy are absolutely contradictory, totally at odds with one another. You cannot do both. The God of the Bible is the Sovereign Lord of heaven and earth. He will not permit himself to be found by a human intellect that shakes its fist in pride and says, “O I will be the final judge of truth and right.” No two views can be further apart than believing in the biblical God and believing in human autonomy.”

We see Hannah’s doctrine of God’s Sovereignty fully developed in Chapter 2, in her prayer of praise – verses 3 and 6.

“Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance for the Lord is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed…The Lord brings death and makes alive; he bring down to the grave and rises up. The Lord sends poverty and wealth, he humbles and exalts.”

Hannah’s heart had come to delight in the sovereignty of God – not just submit to it..

When our doings have failed us and our desires remain unfulfilled, when the world condemns us and we find ourselves at the end, we come to the Sovereign God of heaven and earth. And when we fully understand what it means that he is Sovereign, like Hannah, we will delight to submit to him. It will become a song of praise.

Not only did Hannah submit to a Sovereign God but secondly, Hannah submitted to a merciful God.

Note her prayer in verse 11, “If you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant.” These are the words of a subject in a King’s court pleading for mercy. Hannah came to realize only God could deal with the enormity of her situation and if he was not merciful then she would be undone. We now, on this side of the cross, have a greater confidence that God is merciful because His mercy was demonstrated in the gospel.

Hebrews 4 – “For we do not have a high priest (Jesus, God) who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

I don’t know how long I stood in that shower weeping but at the end of pouring out all my anguish I sat down in the tub and finally said these words, “If you don’t hold me, I will be undone Lord!” These were words of submission. These were the words that cried, “Do not forget me! Remember me! Because I will not survive, if you don’t!”

We have looked the root and shape of Hannah’s pain and her response. Now, finally, let’s take a look at Hannah’s change.

Her response began a change that was life-transforming.

In verse 11, she asks for a son. She says, “But give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

At first glance it looks like nothing has changed. She still wants what she wants. But let’s look closer.

I am sure, year after year, when she went up the house of the Lord she asked God for a child. I don’t think this was the first time she pleaded with God. But this time she does not just ask for a child. She is specific. She wants a son. And not just a son, but a son she will give back to the Lord. A son who will be a Nazarite – “no razor will be ever used on his head.” A Nazarite was one who as soon as he was weaned would go live in the temple and eventually be trained to be a priest. This meant, she would not hold him or watch him grow. She would not be able to sing to him or cuddle him. Everything you do as a mom would not be hers to have. Do you see the change? She no longer needed a child to fulfill her – to give her a purpose or identity. The object of her desire had become another. God Himself. And her good desire, having children, was put back in its rightful place.

What a change! What freedom!

In verse 18,”it says that she went her way and ate something,” and her face was no longer downcast. Another translation reads, “no longer sad.” What a contrast to verse 7 where she wept and would not eat. Her unfulfilled desires no longer defined nor consumed her. She did not know if God would give her a son at that time. She knew if he did give her a son, then she would give him back to him. Her good desire had met her true ultimate desire – God Himself – and it freed her!

That night in my shower was a defining night for me. It is one that will be seared in my mind forever. It was the night that God, in His grace, simply spoke to the deep place of anguish and pain and said, “I am enough! You will not be undone.” There was no promise of a child given that night but there was a reminder of a Son who was given for all time!

In the course of time, Hannah did have a son, Samuel. Hannah brings him to Eli and says, “I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked him for. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life will be given over to the Lord.”

Then she prays this beautiful prayer of praise in chapter 2, a foreshadowing of the redemption of God, where he will make right all that is wrong. He will do it by turning everything upside down. “The bows of the warriors are broken and those who stumble are armed with strength. Those who are full hire themselves out for food, but those who are hungry are hungry no more. She who is barren has borne seven children but she who has had many sons pines away….He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor.”

A long time later another woman, who carried another child, would pray a very similar prayer. Like Hannah, she too had a son. And like Samuel, this Son was going to deliver his people. And in His deliverance is THE PROOF that our God is totally sovereign and totally merciful.

Both Samuel and Jesus came to deliver God’s people. Samuel did it by ruling over the nation of Israel. Jesus did it by laying down his life and delivering God’s people from their real enemy – sin and death. And in doing so Jesus put to death any ideas that God does not care for us when he withholds our desires, that God does not feel our pain. Isaiah 53 says,

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our grief’s and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace and with his wounds we are healed.”

In Jesus, we will never be undone because He was undone. In His undoing He bore all the wrath of God so that all the mercy and love of the Sovereign God could be poured upon us.

In Jesus, we can lay down our good thing because He laid down the good thing, his life. So that for all eternity, we can enjoy the ultimate thing – God Himself.

When Lent is over, will penitence persist?

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At the entrance to the school, my friend's husband holds the door open for the twins. Colin and Andrew play London Bridge and slide under his arm. From my car window, I see the tremors of his right hand, watch his fingers open and close involuntarily. It's the Parkinson’s that puppeteers, a disease for which this forty-something is far too young. I follow him out of the parking lot, and we stop at the red light. I feel tremors of my own.

Moving to take off the glove from my right hand, I suddenly remember that I am fasting from this: fasting from filling all of life's inanimate seconds and empty spaces with virtual connection.

I think of his hand. The way it shakes. Without Facebook, with Twitter, without a quick scan of email, my restless mind settles into prayer.

"God, can you be with these friends in all of their tremulous uncertainties? God, can you grant them the stability of your grace? Can you be present to them in all of their fears?"

Yesterday, I asked God, "Does it do anything, Lord? Do these prayers every really help anyone?" I'd been feeling the impotence of my life and fearing the impotence of my prayers. Nevertheless, this one moment at the stoplight is real. I am present. In my body. Attentive to the close-at-hand brokenness, to the ever-closer Spirit.

The light changes, and as I turn east, the sun blazes a hello that fingers through the trees. I remember how yesterday's sky had hung dense and grey and thick like a shroud and feel gratitude for the change. I take too little notice of these things, I think. And remember Paul's hand.

I'm not used to seeing beyond the screen of my iPhone.

* * * * *

Divided heart 1 I wrote this journal entry during the first week of Lent after having decided to give up 24/7 connectivity and restrict myself to very limited Internet access (or rather, having the Lenten fast decided for me by the Spirit). I wrote more about my intention for her.meneutics in an essay entitled, "Patience is an Offline Virtue":

"For Lent, I decided to fast as remedy for distractibility. I wanted to practice real presence with God and with others, the kind that didn't suffer hurry or disinterest. If it felt urgent to recover unmediated centeredness, the truth is, when home went "dark," I panicked. All my technological tics surfaced. At stoplights, in the grocery checkout line, or halfway through a book chapter, I reached for my smartphone like an amputee trying to move a phantom limb. Without it, I suddenly discovered all the crevices in the day I filled with digital retreat. Without it, I was left to my boredom, to my self-doubt, to a thousand voices of inner restlessness."

As Lent draws to a close, I wanted to reflect on the impact this has had on me. It's probably best to say I haven't learned as much as I've experienced.

Without constant access to the Internet, I've lingered at the dinner table and listened better to my children. I've prayed at stoplights and woken up more slowly, thanking God for my husband's warm breath on my face. (I've slept later, too.) I've scooped kids into my lap, read more stories, and more patiently answered questions like, "Are sharks and dolphins on the same team?" I've read books, not blogs, and called friends rather than emailed. I've hosted dinner parties and cleaned out the crawlspace. I've noticed cashiers' nametags, drummed my fingers to music playing at the butcher, even left my phone at the piano teacher's house, not missing it until Ryan picked it up for me the following afternoon. I've spent undistracted hours in study and writing - and missed big announcements. (Teach Us to Want was nominated as a finalist for the EPCA book awards - woohoo!)

I've also missed texts and voicemails. (Sorry about that.)

But if this sounds too Pollyanna for you, let me also say that I've broken my fast three times - twice to download books at home, once to try and find Phyllis Schlafly on YouTube, giving her 1972 "American women have never had it so good" speech. (Huh?) I've wondered if practically disappearing from social media has insured I've been forgotten. I've discovered new strategies for postponing serious Bible reading in the morning. (What used to be The New York Times has now become whatever book I'm reading: this morning, Kathy Keller's short book, Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles.) The tics are still there: I still swipe to unlock my phone and hope for some activity that will insure my life is notable and noticed. I want to matter and wish for notifications, my heart still surging when there are, plummeting when there aren't.

Forty days is a boon, but it isn't a cure. I know I will continue to struggle to use my time (and technology) wisely. I know the disordered desires that drive me toward overuse and overinvestment aren't reformed yet. But here are some thoughts of what I might do differently as more permanent practices of penitence and presence.

1. Honor the sacred hours.

This is Christina Crook's phrase, and I love it. There is something sacred for me about the morning hours of every day. (When you're up at 5 am, there are more of them to enjoy.) Without having to obligatorily check email or social media or even the news, I've begun the day with so much less static in my head. I pray. I read. I plan the day (and then feet pitter-patter down the stairs). Priorities are so much clearer when the voices are fewer. What if I continued this and didn't allow myself to check in online until after breakfast and the kids were off to school? I've certainly learned the delay won't kill me. There are far fewer urgent tasks that I used to believe.

And what if I continued spending evening hours as I've been spending them: with a book; with my husband, reading aloud paragraphs from Dorothy Sayers, Are Women Human?; with my children, playing "Things" or cuddling on the couch, learning that my son composes lines of poetry in his head? What does the quick scroll through my favorite home decorating blogs ever really achieve after the sun has dipped below the horizon line and I entitle myself to the "break"? Is my life better for the constant stream of distraction? What do I lose from my embodied life when I choose presence in my virtual one?

2. Keep the Sabbath.

I'm wondering if a weekly Sabbath from 24/7 connectivity may be an important practice for me. I don't have to wait until next Lent to re-orient myself more fully to the presence of Christ and the presence of people. I can regularly disconnect from my technologies to practice presence. And what better day to do it than the day I've consecrated for worship?

3. Plan (and limit) my Internet use.

Because I've only checked in online outside my home, it usually means that when I do get to the library or Starbucks, I have a limited amount of time to do the most pressing tasks. I've had to make a list of the emails to send and the research to do in order to make the most of my online time. This is something Christina suggests in her book. She reminds readers that the Internet is a tool. It should serve us, not we it. So rather than losing my way (and wasting my time) in the stickiness of the web, which preys on distractibility, I can think ahead to what is really needed. (My compulsive self made a little spreadsheet with three columns: email/social media/research. The only irony was: without wifi, I couldn't print it.)

I've found a little planning tends to allow the non-essentials to fall off the list. Just this morning, I started thinking of an email that I wanted to send to my editor. By the time I'd dropped the kids off from school, I realized I wasn't ready yet to propose the idea I had for her. I needed a few more weeks to consider it, and in fact, I'd likely be seeing her in person by then. If the idea persisted, I'd propose it then. If I realized it was a hair-brained scheme, I'd abandon it. Either way, we'd have a face-to-face conversation, which is always a better solution than a sterile email thread.

I have fears that I won't make these permanent changes. As John Owen, the Puritan writer has attested, we are fickle and frail in our fight against sin. “Men are galled with the guilt of a sin that has prevailed over them; they instantly promise to themselves and God that they will do so no more; they watch over themselves and pray for a season until this heat waxes cold and the sense of sin is worn off—and so mortifying goes also, and sin returns to its former dominion,” (Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers, 60). But I am praying for the lasting transformation only God can effect in my heart: I want commitment to God's purposes more than I want convenience. I want my life to be mediated by communion with the Holy Spirit, not my iPhone. I want to recover a sense of my own humanness, I want to grow into greater humility, and I want to wear the mantle of ministry well. As Phil Ryken, President of Wheaton College, noted in my interview with him, ministry is about prayer and presence. These are burdens even as they are blessings. I carry them less faithfully when I'm tethered to technology. I carry them better when I'm not.

We are never as faithful as we intend to be. I know this. But I also know the Father finishes every good work he begins in and through Christ (Phil. 1:6).

Denial for Desire's Sake: Why Lent?

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computerLent begins tomorrow. I'll be meeting it in anticipation.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my fraudulence and quoted Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove's book, The Wisdom of Stability: "Maybe demons kill, but we're often more comfortable with the frenetic forces that drive us here and there than we are with the radical new way of life that Jesus brings," (38, The Wisdom of Stability). I didn't get specific in that post with my confession, as the larger point was this: we must be ruthless when dealing with sin.

Today, I can tell you that I'm entering a Lenten fast to curb my access to the Internet. Let me say that I don't believe the World Wide Web is some devilish conspiracy. And I don't believe that living like a Luddite is a more holy and perfect way. But I do know that hurry, preoccupation, distractibility, desire for approval, and disengagement are becoming too reflexive for me.

Every reach for my iPhone is like a tic.

It's time for me to be more ruthless about my habits of virtual connection to create more space for people, for prayer, for boredom even. It's time for me to practice the ruthlessness of which Jesus speaks when he says: if your hand causes you to sin, cut if off. If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It does you no good to cling to your death.

The irony of course is this: to kill death is to gain life.

Lent is the season we enter into small deaths of denial. Having now written years on the subject of desire, I am the first to caution when the language of denial is abused. Obedience isn't only doing the undesirable. Holy people don't exempt themselves from pleasure and fun because desire is sinful.

No, when we deny ourselves, it's in order that we may desire Christ. Denial is never in and of itself the point. For that matter, desire is never in and of itself the point. The point is always and eternally Jesus - and learning to live the abiding, satisfied life in him.

Would anyone come after me? Jesus has asked. Does anyone wish to follow?

"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Mark 9:34

The denials, the small deaths - a Lenten fast: these curb our appetite for the lesser goods upon which we feed that we might grow fonder and more faithful to the greater good, which is God himself.

"Who will enable me to find rest in you?" Augustine asks in The Confessions. "Who will grant that you come to my heart and intoxicate it, so that I forget my evils and embrace my one and only good, yourself?"

I think there is great worth, especially during Lent, to deny oneself in order to desire Christ. I've been honest that I haven't done this in years, so I certainly can't commend it to you by the steadfastness of my own example.

But whatever you might choose do this Lent as an intentional spiritual practice, may forty days form new habits - and new habits, new loves.

"How great a glory it is to cleave to God, so as to live for him, to gain wisdom from him, to rejoice in him, and to enjoy so great a Good without death, without distraction, without hindrance - this is beyond our power to imagine or describe." Augustine, City of God

- - -

If you're interested in examining your own relationship to technology, I would highly recommend you read my friend, Christina Crook's new book, The Joy of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World. It is extremely well-researched as well as easily applicable. Christina doesn't recommend we all get off the grid. Instead, she argues for habits of virtually "missing out" so that we can practice presence in our everyday lives. Here's a great quote, which resonates with my life as a mother. “The longer I navigate the demands of the Internet, the more grateful I am for my children. They save me every day. At each juncture, their very tangible needs crash against my frailty, and I must reach out to meet them. Without the demands of these little people I would easily slip into spending days the way I spend my nights: glued to the screen. Netflix is my gateway to relaxation, Facebook my voyeuristic portal of delight. Left to my own devices, I’d drain the currency of my life down Alice’s rabbit hole. Instead, I am forced into the present. . .

Doing the One Thing that Matters

jenmichel@me.com

"Will I see you on Thursday?" Two days ago, the instructor of the fitness class I normally attend on Tuesdays asked me this. While I'm reliably at the gym on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, I can't be counted on to show up other days. Sometimes I make a Thursday. Sometimes I squeeze in a Friday morning workout.

"I'm not sure," I said hesitatingly. "It's hard, you know, with work and kids. It's sort of unpredictable for me."

"Well, the important thing is that you get here when you can!" And I'm sure he walked away thinking that I was lousy at excuses.

The truth is that though I want to exercise more regularly (and am getting to the gym fairly predictably these days), bootcamp isn't always my highest priority. Sometimes I trade my time in the gym for lunch with a friend or for chaperoning a field trip. Last week, I skipped class and cleaned my house.

So maybe my "work and kids" answer wasn't an excuse after all. Maybe it just meant I had limitations.

Essentialism-300x210

It's already mid-January, which may mean that most of us us have already run out of resolution steam. But in the event that you are still reflecting on your goals for 2015, I want to recommend Greg McKeown's great book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. In this book intended for a more corporate kind of reader, McKeown isn't necessarily saying something new. In fact, his message is pretty straightforward: if you want to do the things that are most important, you have to eliminate what isn't. That's obvious, maybe - but the courage required for living "essentially" isn't. I suppose if there is one take-away for me personally from McKeown's book, it's this idea of emotional courage. It takes courage to admit to yourself that you can't do it all. It takes courage to bear the pending disappointments of the trade-offs we must make to live essentially. It takes courage to say 'no' to other people.

It takes courage to live into your limitations.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

"If you don't prioritize your life, someone else will" (10).

"We simply cannot have it all. An Essentalist makes trade-offs deliberately [and asks] 'Which problem do I want?'" (55).

"Courage is key to the process of elimination . . . Anyone can talk about the importance of focusing on the things that matter most, but to see people who dare to live it is rare" (132, 133).

"Saying no is its own leadership capability" (143).

"What's important now?" (220).

Again, none of this is rocket science, but the simplicity of the advice is actually what's best about the book. Figure out what's important. Define your priorities. Start courageously saying no to everything else.

I am a complete coward when it comes to saying no. But I'm trying to get better at it, and I think it's its own kind of spiritual discipline. If you're interested in the ways I'm applying some of these "essentialist" ideas to my life, I hope you'll click the links to some of these pieces below.

First, I wrote a piece for Christianity Today's her.meneutics blog entitled, "You're Not Too Busy for the Bible." Here's a little peek inside:

"Research commissioned by the American Bible Society shows that more than half of Americans want to read the Bible more often. Only 15 percent read our Bibles daily. (The oldest Americans and those living in the South are doing better than most.) While more than 60 percent aspire to greater diligence, we all cite the same reason for our laxity: we're too busy.

There may be good reasons for reconsidering the resolution to read the entire Bible this year, but citing "busyness" as the reason for not attempting any daily Bible reading is, in vernacular of my twelve-year old son, "a dumb old" excuse. So why aren't we reading? And how can we make a more enduring resolution to read the Bible in 2015?"

Second, I wrote a guest post for Charity Singleton Craig's blog. She features a regular series called, In Your Own Words. My piece was about leaving things undone:

"Setting priorities and living faithfully by them is never easy. There's no breeze in life that carries us effortlessly to the shore of the meaningful life. Rather, what will be required for new ambitions is the muscular motion of rowing into the wind: of other people's expectations, of self-imposed obligation, of inner demons like fear, apathy, and laziness. Priorities require both the strong yes as well as the brave no. Priorities depend on resistance as much as thrust, pull as much as push. To set a priority is to decide what will be prior-first; in this way, it requires leaving something undone."

I hope you'll pop over to Charity's site and find the rest here.

Courage, friends - for faithfully living into your God-given call and commission.

Winning essay, Sarah Torna Roberts: "I didn't want to be broken."

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Congratulations to Sarah Torna Roberts, whose essay was voted blog readers' favorite in my guest series, Found Wanting. Sarah Torna Robers

I hope you'll check out more of Sarah's writing online. When you have the chance, pop over to her space, and leave some encouragement. You can't imagine what that does for writers who linger long inside the hollow silence of their own minds.

Congratulations also to Larry Shallenberger, for his runner-up post, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Find more of Larry's writing at larryshallenberger.com.

And finally, congratulations to Megan Hill, for her bronze-medal finish with, "I want your blessing." Megan writes frequently for Christianity Today's Her.meneutics.

And here's Sarah's post again:

* * * * *

Once upon a time, I dated a boy. He had that all-American, boy-next-door look, a wide smile and kind eyes. He had two parents and one sister, who I adored. They were the kind of family who had thousands of inside jokes, who barbecued all summer long. From the first time I walked through their door at 15-years-old, I was welcomed with warmth and loving teasing.

We dated on and off through all the hormone driven theatrics of high school, falling apart and back together, but I faithfully believed we were in it forever, through all the pitfalls of long distance, through the slow changes that happen in those hard and flashing years.

One night through tears over a crackly landline, he confessed that my life, my broken family, my daddy issues, it was all too much. He couldn’t see a way through it, not with his glasses of wholeness, of one home and two parents and Sunday barbecues.

He took it back almost as soon as he said it, said he didn’t mean it.

It cemented though. I couldn’t stop it from reframing my expectations from then on. I had once hoped that my messy childhood would be the low point in my story, that beauty would rise from its ashes. Instead, I discovered it might hold my wholeness hostage indefinitely.

I grew wary. Our relationship broke.

When I fell in love again, it was with another nice, cute boy. He had parents who were still happily married and one sister, who I adored. They were the kind of family who watched the same movies together every Christmas, who had dozens of inside jokes, and more than a decade of memories at a cabin in Northern California. They welcomed me in and I wanted to believe them, him.

But I kept waiting for the bottom to fall out, surely his history wouldn't be able to handle mine.

He was whole, a man built on the firm foundation of parental security and the same house since he was 3 years old. I'd moved 12 times. How would he deal with my broken places?

He called them beautiful. He said all I'd experienced, all I understood about a harder side of life, it added to not subtracted from who I was, from what I had to teach a man like him.

He wanted me to rock his boat.

And then he looked at my family, the one I thought would hold me back, and he told me he loved them. My mom was funny, my sister was sweet and he’d never had brothers. My dad was a blast. They weren’t a liability, but a blessing to him, to me.

“But, we’re so broken,” I reminded him. “Everyone’s broken,” he shrugged off my reminder.

All of us, in all our different places and experiences.

I didn’t want to be broken. None of us do. But, of course… “that’s how the light gets in.”

* * * * *

Sarah Torna Roberts is a writer who lives in California with her husband and four sons. She blogs at www.sarahtornaroberts.com where she digs around her in her memories, records her present, and is constantly holding her faith up to the light. She snacks at 2 AM with great regularity, is highly suspicious of anyone who doesn’t love baseball (Go Giants!), and would happily live in a tent by the sea.

Blog Giveaway: VOTE for your favorite "Found Wanting" essay

jenmichel@me.com

If you've been reading here over the past several months, you are familiar with the "Found Wanting" guest series that I began at the end of May and ended this week. If you haven't read any of the essays, this is your chance! I'm inviting you to reread essays and pick your favorite! You can either vote by emailing me (jenmichel@mac.com) or by commenting on today's post.

I'd love to give away some books today, both for commenters and those writers whose guest posts "win"!

IMG_3441

I'll chose the top three essays and send them a copy of, Teach Us to Want, as well as one of the three books pictured here: Mark Labberton's, Called; Marlena Graves's, A Beautiful Disaster; and Bonnie Gray's, Finding Spiritual Whitespace.

I'll also (randomly) choose 3 commenters to win a copy of Teach Us to Want. Just comment below, naming the essay you've chosen and say your reason for choosing it.

*Giveaway ends Monday, November 3rd at midnight (EST). Books will be mailed the following week.

To get you thinking, here are some memorable lines from each of the essays that were submitted:

Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife.", I didn't want to sit on the sidelines watching someone else's dream come to fruition.

Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Our desire soared. We named the ache and set about filling it.

Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." On a hot summer's day, we packed boxes, and we sold house; we said goodbye to the best neighbors, and I kindly left my perennials behind.

Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Deep down, in spite of my rational mind, I see God as hating everything I love, loving everything I hate.

"Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Heads: our child would be all we'd imagined. Tails: he could still be in diapers at ten."

Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." His desires became my desires. And they were fulfilled in his perfect timing.

Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." God has been working on me, not letting me ignore the gnawing feeling that surfaces, most often when things are quiet. The feeling that I am wanting.

Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Living a desire-free life frees us from the responsibility of choosing. Once we find out what we want, we must make decisions about our desires instead of depending on God or others to make choices for us.

Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Yes, Want is an impulsive friend who does better when he's chaperoned by Wisdom and Duty. But Want is a friend now.

Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." When you're poor, there are a lot of things you can't afford; getting your hopes up is one of them.

Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Something nice, Lord. Please? I think I might want something nice?

Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." The timeline in which those desires would be met still needed some negotiation. But the desires themselves were good and God-given, even in the valley of the shadows.

Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." My heart whispered, 'Can I live on something other than faith for a while . . . please?'

Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." I didn't want to be broken. None of us do. But of course, 'that's how the light gets in.'

Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house." And so I’ve had to lay this desire—like all of my desires—at the feet of my Father. I’ve had to open my heart and confess both my needs and my wants. I’ve had to listen to what his spirit teaches me about contentment and comparison and inadequacy.

Courtney Reissig, "I wanted a baby." By not giving me the desires of my heart he was changing my heart to treasure him more than anything this world (or my body) had to offer me.

Cara Meredith, "I've wanted it all." The shouts of entitlement found their way in to my life of faith – because why wouldn’t My Big Genie Above grant me the desires of my heart?

Anonymous, "I want to not want marriage anymore." The bruised desire for marriage has led me to question the goodness of God. All I know is that the bruises need to heal.

Deborah Kurtz, "I wanted a husband." It became my idol when I grew angry with God for not bringing my husband into my life. But God.

Ben Jolliffe, "I wanted nothing." What happens when all the bad things are eliminated? Purely a hypothetical question of course, but when the house is swept clean, what happens next?

Charity Singleton Craig, "I wanted to get married." Sometimes I longed from a pure heart. Other times, I didn’t care what it cost me. I wanted to get married.

Hannah Vanderpool, "I didn't want to stay in America." But God is here. Right where he promised he’d be. And that makes it good enough for me.

Dorothy Greco, "I didn't want to doubt." If I could wrap my hermeneutic around the reality that God loves me and is for me even when doubt threatens to swallow me whole, it would change everything.

Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, "I wanted security." God has always sheltered me and filled my thirsting soul, even when my flesh was striving, and selfish, and weak.

Kris Camealy, "I've wanted to be known." I wanted to be known for what I accomplished, craving both recognition for me as the accomplisher, and admiration for the mighty works of my own hands.

Alisa Luciano, "I wanted to believe God was a good Father." The desire to understand Him as a gracious Father was fulfilled on a stretcher, in a brightly lit operating room, in a NICU nursery room, in the parenting realities of each day.

Found Wanting: Alisa Luciano, "I wanted to believe God was a good Father."

jenmichel@me.com

This is the last in a series of guests posts for a blog project I've called, “Found Wanting." If you've only just arrived, I hope you'll catch up on the stories below. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’"

The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?

What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?

There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.

Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.

I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I write, “Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”

To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house." Courtney Reissig, "I wanted a baby." Cara Meredith, "I've wanted it all." Anonymous, "I want to not want marriage anymore." Deborah Kurtz, "I wanted a husband." Ben Jolliffe, "I wanted nothing." Charity Singleton Craig, "I wanted to get married." Hannah Vanderpool, "I didn't want to stay in America." Dorothy Greco, "I don't want to doubt." Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, "I wanted security." Kris Camealy, "I've wanted to be known."

Today, Alisa Luciano shares her story of desire.

* * * * *

I wanted to believe God was a good Father. Unfortunately, I visualized God the Father as a harsh, exacting being, ready to hurl wrath on His creation. Even a growing trust in His sovereignty throughout history made me worry what His sovereign plans might hold. I had a healthy belief in the consuming-fire-God (Hebrews 12:29). But I wanted to hear, "Be not afraid. I am your Father and you are my child" (Isaiah 43:1)

After an unexpected bout with anxiety, an abusive church situation, a dead-end job, a bad economy that led to a temporarily unemployed husband, and a nearly complete graduate degree, I found out I was having a baby. I begged God to help me understand why He had chosen to give us a child, at this time. Having a child seemed humanly insurmountable – under-employment, a one bedroom residence, five and ten year plans gone seriously awry. I knew many Hannahs, kneeling before the altar of God, weeping and praying for a child... Was I really weeping because I was being given one I didn't want? But our Father in Heaven is the Creator of the tangible, not controlled by it.

After a turbulent existence for the next six months, I was diagnosed with mild preeclampsia at week 31. In six days, my liver became enflamed. I found myself on bed rest, delirium overhanging my head, unable to lift my phone to read incoming texts, reciting Psalm 125 in my head. I had HELLP syndrome. Suddenly, my life and the life of my baby were hovering at the gateway to the valley of the shadow of death. In God's gracious and miraculous timing, down to exact hours and minutes, I had an emergency C-section and saw a tiny 3lb baby girl being whisked away to the NICU, breathing on her own.

The circumstances careened beyond my control. When I was unable to comprehend any future beyond the current second that ticked on the clock, there was none of ME left. Life shifted so incredibly beyond my control, that I had no choice but to hope in God's good care. While enduring the agonizing process of bringing new life into the world, I had no choice but to trust the eternal Father, the Creator and Sustainer of life, whose steadfast love never wavers. My desire to believe the goodness of God was strong. The desire to understand Him as a gracious Father was fulfilled on a stretcher, in a brightly lit operating room, in a NICU nursery room, in the parenting realities of each day.

God gave me what I did not know I needed or wanted. A bouncing baby girl, arriving on Earth so astonishingly, that I have never worried about God’s care for her life. As I have learned how to parent, I have breathed in the perfect and complete the love of the Heavenly Father. I found this gracious care is the only treasure that can turn worry into peace, tumult into calm, nothing into everything. Possessing the love of the Heavenly Father endows strengthening freedom found within His shadow. And so, now, I can now truly pray, "Our Father who art in Heaven...your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven…" knowing He is a kind and gracious Father with a good will for my life.

* * * * *

alisaAlisa Luciano lives in Southern New England with her husband Nathan and their two daughters. She is the Director of The New England Studio of Music where she also teaches piano. When she has free time, she drags her two daughters to coffee shops and takes photographs of beauty around her. She writes about God as a loving Father and Creator at Through A Glass.

Found Wanting: Kris Camealy, "I've wanted to be known."

jenmichel@me.com

I have been curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting." This series will end in several weeks, and I am thankful for each person who has submitted a guest post. If you've only just arrived, I hope you'll catch up on the stories below. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’"

The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?

What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?

There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.

Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.

I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I write, “Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”

To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house." Courtney Reissig, "I wanted a baby." Cara Meredith, "I've wanted it all." Anonymous, "I want to not want marriage anymore." Deborah Kurtz, "I wanted a husband." Ben Jolliffe, "I wanted nothing." Charity Singleton Craig, "I wanted to get married." Hannah Vanderpool, "I didn't want to stay in America." Dorothy Greco, "I don't want to doubt." Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, "I wanted security."

Today, Kris Camealy shares her story of desire.

* * * * *

I've wanted to be known.

I flush with embarrassment to admit my intense desire to be known, and not merely to have friends, or to be well liked (though those are part of it). Rather, the desire to be known that shames me was an ugly lust for notoriety. I wanted to be known for what I accomplished, craving both recognition for me as the accomplisher, and admiration for the mighty works of my own hands.

It is most honest to say that I fashioned an idol out of fame and worshipped heartily at its base. This admission of where I've been makes me sick with grief, but I share it now, because in this way, I can give testimony to the good mercy of God.

I believe we all have an indwelling desire to be known. We are created in the image of God, who himself desires that all of His creation would know Him. Adam and Eve walked in communion with God, fully exposed, fully known, lacking nothing. I found myself hungering for this same intimacy, this kind of pure fellowship, and believed, for a time, that the world's recognition of me, would serve to satisfy a heavenly hunger.

The redemption of this in my life came only by way of a hard humbling. When God brought me low, his gentle, persistent mercy and blatant outpouring of grace coupled with His instruction, by way of His inspired Word, redefined what this desire ought to look like in the Christian life. God passionately pursued me into a wilderness of my own making, where He himself fed and nourished my heart, broken by shame and regret. I had gotten it wrong, but God's jealousy brought my desires into their rightful place.

Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. "For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another," (Isaiah 48:11).

It was in this desert, where God showed me that He bears intimate knowledge of who I am. This realization transformed my desires to be known. Knowing that I am deeply known by God changes everything. When a soul is matched with its Maker, and the passionate love of God fills the human heart from within, being known by man proves itself to be a shallow, vapid desire that cannot possibly fulfill with any lasting meaning or hope of satisfaction. My desire to be known has been replaced with a passion for making HIM known.

Because I know my natural bent, when I fear my desires I only need to surrender them to God. He gives wisdom and transforms my human hunger into a spiritual one. I crave the things of God, because in them I find soul-satisfaction. My delight in being known by God binds my heart to His, and in this communion with my Maker, He aligns my desires with those that are pleasing to Him.

* * * * *

kris in greyAs a sequin wearing, homeschooling mother of four, Kris Camealy is passionate about Jesus, people and words. Her heart beats to share the hard, but glorious truth about life in Christ. She's been known to take gratuitous pictures of her culinary creations, causing mouths to water all across Instagram. Once upon a time, she ran 10 miles for Compassion International, a ministry for which she serves as an advocate. Kris is the author of, Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey of Refinement, and the follow up, Companion Workbook. You can read more from Kris at kriscamealy.com.

Found Wanting: Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, "I wanted security."

jenmichel@me.com

I have been curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting." This series will end in several weeks, and I am thankful for each person who has submitted a guest post. If you've only now arrived here, I hope you'll catch up on the stories below. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’"

The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?

What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?

There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.

Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.

I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I write, “Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”

To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house." Courtney Reissig, "I wanted a baby." Cara Meredith, "I've wanted it all." Anonymous, "I want to not want marriage anymore." Deborah Kurtz, "I wanted a husband." Ben Jolliffe, "I wanted nothing." Charity Singleton Craig, "I wanted to get married." Hannah Vanderpool, "I didn't want to stay in America." Dorothy Greco, "I don't want to doubt."

Today, Natasha Sistrunk Robinson shares her story of desire.

* * * * *

I wanted security. I don’t know if the conclusion that every woman wants this same thing is in order, and I don’t know when this desire crosses from a simple and honest need to an idol and desperate cry. I just understand in the very core of my being what it is like to have a divorced mother do her best to care for her two daughters on her own. I have welcomed large tin jars of peanut butter and cereal purchased with food stamps. I understand the sense of anxiety of begging the car to start every morning, and wondering what the humiliation would be like if it didn’t.

Then my dad came to marry her and father us, and he was a hard worker in a hard profession. In spite of his hard work, he didn’t always get paid on time. We knew what it was like to live in the suburbs in comfort with the willingness and fortitude to carry on when the payments did not come on time. There was calls from bill collectors and bounced checks. No one said a word but I knew there was a financial struggle.

So when I left home for college, I made a simple commitment to myself. My parents would no longer have to take care of me. They did all they could to give us their best, and with two other children now remaining in their home, I wanted to relieve them of any unnecessary burden. I wanted security.

I wanted security, and I thought it would come from hard work, minimizing or managing debt, getting a good job, paying bills on time, having a great credit score, and making investments. Once upon a time, I did all of those things. I’ve also lost money and a home, have transitioned from great jobs, been worried about the ability to pay bills, minimized investments, loss a lot of savings, and now have a wrecked credit score. Not so financially secure now.

In all of my longing and wanting, I am reminded that, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty (Phil 4:12a).” My only hope is to learn, like Paul, the secret of being content in any and every situation. My desire and idol has been turned into thanksgiving, for I have always been well fed and never hungry. God has always sheltered me and filled my thirsting soul, even when my flesh was striving, and selfish, and weak.

I have learned that my security cannot be in a job or income, but I continuously must put my trust in Christ, for He alone cares for me. My longing, whether in surplus or when there seems to be a drought is to remember the One who keeps me yesterday, today, and forever, and to be thankful.

* * * * *

Natasha RobinsonNatasha Sistrunk Robinson blogs at www.asistasjourney.com. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook. She is the author of a forthcoming book on mentoring published by Zondervan.

Found Wanting: Dorothy Greco, "I don't want to doubt."

jenmichel@me.com

I am curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting.” (If you’d like to submit a guest post, learn more here.) During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’"

The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?

What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?

There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.

Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.

I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I write, “Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”

To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house." Courtney Reissig, "I wanted a baby." Cara Meredith, "I've wanted it all." Anonymous, "I want to not want marriage anymore." Deborah Kurtz, "I wanted a husband." Ben Jolliffe, "I wanted nothing." Charity Singleton Craig, "I wanted to get married." Hannah Vanderpool, "I didn't want to stay in America."

Today, Dorothy Greco writes her story of desire on the blog.

* * * * *

I don’t want to doubt.

Since I started following Jesus thirty-four years ago, God has consistently spoken to me through the written word, creation, and the faint whispers of the Spirit. Our relationship is thankfully not one way—on most days, there’s a stream of thoughts and words flowing in God’s direction. I’ve never doubted that He listens or hears me, but in the past few years, I have begun to doubt the efficacy of my prayer.

Perhaps it’s a problem I’ve created since I tend to go big when I pray. I’m not simply asking God to open up a parking spot. I’m praying for the eradication of the Ebola virus in West Africa, for an overhaul of the criminal justice system, for the church to choose holiness, and for my friend’s cancer to go away. None of these situations seem to be moving in the hoped for direction. That lack of circumstantial change can sometimes deflate my faith.

When doubt is having its way in me, I hear words like whatever come out of my mouth. I justify not praying because apparently, the frequency and fierceness of my intercession is directly connected to the level of doubt coursing through my system. Doubt is the siren which beckons me to shipwreck my faith. I fear it because I am well aware of just how far I would drift if I cut the cords which bind me to Christ.

According to theologians such as Paul Tillich, such fear is misguided. He wrote, “Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith.” The notion that doubt could be anything other than negative is new to me. I’ve always read Jesus’s words and assumed that if I doubted, He would spit me out of his mouth like cold coffee.

In the 2008 movie Doubt, starring Meryl Streep and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, Streep plays the role of an unflinching nun who appears to live free from doubt. Her certainty compels her to make decisions which result in personal and corporate loss. Throughout the movie, she never wavers—until the final scene. There, in the presence of a tender sister, she admits between sobs, “I have such doubt.” I admired her character before, but in that moment, my dispassionate admiration transitioned to tears and affection. Radical thought—is it possible that God feels that same way toward me when I doubt?

If I could wrap my hermeneutic around the reality that God loves me and is for me even when doubt threatens to swallow me whole, it would change everything. The doubt I feel when my prayers are seemingly not answered can be like an enormous anchor that drags along the bottom, holding back the ship’s forward movement. To know that God is not displeased with me when I doubt would be like having that anchor winched up onto the deck. While the anchor would still be there, it would no longer hold the ship back.

Of late, I’ve stepped up my prayer because what more can I do when the world seems to be descending into chaos? If that descent continues, I risk having to double back thorough the deep quicksand of disappointment and doubt. But because the only real option seems to be apathy—which is not where I want to land—I continue to pray, hoping that my words will hit their mark and that doubt will no longer discourage or dissuade me from praying.

* * * * *

DLGport-Jun-0612-016-©DGrecoDorothy Littell Greco spends her days writing about faith, encouraging others as they pursue Jesus, making photographs of beautiful things, and trying to love her family well. You can find more of her Words & Images on her website, or by following her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Found Wanting: Hannah Vanderpool, "I didn't want to stay in America."

jenmichel@me.com

I am curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting.” (If you’d like to submit a guest post, learn more here.) During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’"

The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?

What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?

There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.

Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.

I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I write, “Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”

To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house." Courtney Reissig, "I wanted a baby." Cara Meredith, "I've wanted it all." Anonymous, "I want to not want marriage anymore." Deborah Kurtz, "I wanted a husband." Ben Jolliffe, "I wanted nothing." Charity Singleton Craig, "I wanted to get married."

Today, Hannah Vanderpool shares her story of desire on the blog.

* * * * *

I didn’t want to stay in America. I’d just spent three of the longest years of my life in India as a missionary, along with my husband and three children. When I returned to the States, thirty-six lifetimes later, I was exhausted. The invisible fibers of my spiritual muscles had broken down through the relentless repetition of stress and spiritual warfare. The lactic acid of depression had seeped in, demanding that I slow down.

We came back home, but I didn’t want to call it that. The old me had died in India and the person returning to America was someone else. For every ping of pleasure the new me experienced (who doesn’t love a clean highway and fountain drinks?) there were moments of darkness, of anger. I found reasons to refuse the good in my country of origin, reasons to fear I might forget everything I’d learned while away.

We knew the Lord had led us to a season of rest in the US, but we kept waiting for Him to send us back to India when we felt better. Which was strange because at times living there had felt like it might be our undoing. But God did not send us back. It’s been two years since we returned to the States and, for reasons that become clearer with each day, at least for the time being, we know need to be right where we are.

I am learning that the Lord meant what he said when he promised never to leave or forsake us. I knew he was with us when our third floor apartment swayed during an Indian earthquake in year two. I sensed him nearer than skin when a crowd formed a riot next door in year three, chanting in chorus and threatening to burn our neighbors to the ground. Every illness, every trip to the bathroom that ended with my feverish cheeks pressed against the cool tile floor, he was there.

But the thing is, he’s here, too. When we found out that my grandmother has cancer, or discovered that my husband’s new job is more taxing than he could have imagined? We have known him near. When I sense a chill in the room after using the “missionary” word I have felt his comfort.

There’s a lot to love about America, though it may never feel quite like home to me again. But the chief reason to love it, the one that outstrips ubiquitous air conditioning, public libraries and cookouts with family, is that God is here. Right where he promised he’d be. And that makes it good enough for me.

* * * * *

Hannah VanderpoolHannah Vanderpool is a writer, world-traveler, and Jesus-follower. She can’t imagine a world without sisters and books. You can find her at prayingwithoneeyeopen.wordpress.com.

Found Wanting: Charity Singleton Craig, "I wanted to get married."

jenmichel@me.com

I am curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting.” (If you’d like to submit a guest post, learn more here.) During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’"

The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?

What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?

There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.

Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.

I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I write, “Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”

To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house." Courtney Reissig, "I wanted a baby." Cara Meredith, "I've wanted it all." Anonymous, "I want to not want marriage anymore." Deborah Kurtz, "I wanted a husband." Ben Jolliffe, "I wanted nothing."

Today, Charity Singleton Craig shares her story of desire on the blog.

* * * * *

I wanted to get married. From a very young age, I desired to be a wife and a mother. I didn’t know I would one day have those things, not the way friends of mine have known they would be a pastor’s wife or would have lots of children or would one day be a missionary. Knowing would have been easier. Instead, I wanted.

When I was in college, I met lots of other women who also wanted to get married. Many of them did get engaged and presumably became wives. I know, because every time a co-ed got a ring, we’d all gather in the lobby of our residence hall to discover the lucky girl. We cheered and clapped as a candle passed around the circle of friends. We squealed and hugged when the bride-to-be blew out the candle and placed a ring on her finger. We ached and held back tears as we filed back to our rooms. When would it be our turn?

For years after college, I wanted to get married. Though I moved a lot, in each new city I would find a church, try to get involved, and at least visit the singles group. I put myself “out there,” as others would recommend. I went on a few dates when asked. I became friends with men and accidentally fell in love a couple of times when they were just looking for someone to pass the time with.

Then, life got more complicated. Illness, death, heartache, disappointment: these were my constant companions for years. All around me, difficult circumstances actually made my singleness easier. My best friend’s journey as a widow and single mother, my dad’s heart surgery, my step-dad’s cancer: I was available for them, and I wanted to help. Then, my own cancer and infertility made marriage and motherhood seem impossible.

Yet I still wanted to get married.

At times, during all those years of singleness, I tried to give up wanting. The hope of possibility became a bad joke. I felt like an old maid in my late twenties. By the time I was 40, the flicker of desire seemed silly. I couldn’t say, as some might have wanted me to, that my desire for marriage hadn’t become an idol in my heart. Sometimes I longed from a pure heart. Other times, I didn’t care what it cost me. I wanted to get married.

Then, just like that, everything changed. I met Steve, we dated for six months, we were engaged for two, and then we were married. I became a step-mom to three sons. You got all you wanted, people will tell me. True. I love being married and having a family. But I had many great years being single, too.

At my bridal shower, surrounded by friends both married and single, I knew I had to be honest. “Getting married is not the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” I told them. (Not exactly the romance they were expecting.) I explained, “Knowing Jesus is the best thing that ever happened to me. He has been faithful to me during years of singleness, and I know he will walk with me during years of marriage.”

That’s what I’ve learned about desire. Whether we lack or whether we have, we always find our way in Him.

* * * * *

CharitySingletonCraig-squareCharity Singleton Craig is a writer, bringing words to life through essays, stories, blog posts, and books. She is a staff writer at The Curator, a contributing writer at TweetSpeak Poetry, and a content editor at The High Calling. She also is the co-author of an upcoming book on the writing life (T.S. Poetry Press, 2014). She lives with her husband and three step-sons in Indiana. You can find her online at charitysingletoncraig.com, on Twitter @charityscraig, and on Facebook.

Found Wanting: Ben Jolliffe, "I wanted nothing."

jenmichel@me.com

I am curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting.” (If you’d like to submit a guest post, learn more here.) During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’"

The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?

What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?

There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.

Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.

I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I claim that:

“Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”

To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house." Courtney Reissig, "I wanted a baby." Cara Meredith, "I've wanted it all." Anonymous, "I want to not want marriage anymore." Deborah Kurtz, "I wanted a husband."

Today, Ben Jolliffe shares his story of desire on the blog.

* * * * *

I wanted nothing. My whole life felt centered around denial.

As a [good] Christian kid, the son of a pastor, I focused on not doing the bad things. More than simply avoiding them, I worked at not wanting them. Sex. Porn. Money. Success.

Along with the big categories go the little, every-day things I also wanted: Doritos, another coffee, time alone. My spiritual life seemed to consist of eradicating these wants from my life and soul. It wasn’t all bad. At times it was incredibly freeing and life-giving to be free from porn and other sins.

But it felt like a zero-sum game. What happens when I get to the end? What happens when all the bad things are eliminated? Purely a hypothetical question of course, but when the house is swept clean, what happens next?

At some point, years deep into ministry, I read James K.A. Smith’s “Desiring the Kingdom” alongside Christopher Wright’s “Mission of God” and something clicked. Dealing with sinful desires (and actions!) was only part of the picture. Maybe not even half the picture. There was something bigger I was being called into, namely, the cultivation of desire to participate in the Mission of God.

The best part? The mission was bigger and broader than I imagined. It included gardening, playing tennis, eating, sleeping, sex, evangelism and social justice. It might even include Doritos once in a while.

I felt so refreshed. No longer was I aiming to be a neutered, passionless (and joyless) Christian man who simply avoided sin. I now had the chance to think about directing all of the energy, passion and testosterone at good things, things that spoke of the new Kingdom, things that brought life and vitality.

Now shaping your desires is much tougher than one might expect but it is a whole lot more interesting than a race to zero.

* * * * *

Ben Jolliffe is a church planter in Ottawa, Canada.

Found Wanting: Deborah Kurtz, "I wanted a husband."

jenmichel@me.com

I am curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting.” (If you’d like to submit a guest post, learn more here.) During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’"

The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?

What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?

There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.

Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.

I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I claim that:

“Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”

To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house." Courtney Reissig, "I wanted a baby." Cara Meredith, "I've wanted it all." Anonymous, "I want to not want marriage anymore."

Today, Deborah Kurtz shares her story of desire on the blog.

* * * * *

I wanted a husband.

I’d wanted to be married ever since I was a little girl. My dream husband was wickedly handsome, strong, and capable of anything. I imagined that he would someday sweep me off my feet, and together we would live. Happily. Ever. After. I was very young and very naïve.

As I grew older, and after the Lord captured my heart with the good news of what He endured on the cross to secure my justification {and wholly undeserved right to be an heir of the King}, I noticed a change in my desire for a spouse. While looks were still important to me, I realized that of far greater importance was a man who possessed a certain inward attractiveness; namely, a man of God. I longed for a husband whose aim was to treasure Christ above all. This kind of desire for a spouse, I knew, was good and right. I believed that it was God’s desire for me as well. But it soon became my idol.

It became my idol when I longed to have a husband more than I longed to treasure Christ and know Him intimately. It became my idol when I grew angry with God for not bringing my husband into my life. It became my idol when I chased after young men who did not know the Lord, yet showed interest in me. But God. But God, in His inestimable love and grace toward me, reminded me of a far greater love that was already mine – His. In the middle of a relationship that was not honoring to Him, God graciously broke me in my sin. And I returned – by His grace - to the great Love of my soul, the One who was pierced for my transgressions and crushed for my iniquities; the One whose wounds healed my soul (Isaiah 53:5).

A while later, God did fulfill a great longing of my heart when He brought my husband into my life. And he is a man of God. We have been married for nearly four years, and my husband is a daily reminder to me that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights (James 1:17)”; and that I am quite undeserving. I see glimpses of Christ in the way that my husband sacrificially loves me, and this turns my gaze heavenward and reminds me of the greatest desire of my heart – to be with the Lord forever. I am often humbled and awestruck that God has chosen to not only fulfill my desire for a godly spouse, but that He - through my spouse - reminds me of my very greatest desire which will eventually be fulfilled: the day that I will be with the Lord, my true Bridegroom. Until then, my heart cries: “soon and very soon, I will be with the One I love. With unveiled face I’ll see Him! There my soul will be satisfied, soon and very soon." ("Soon" - Hillsong United)

* * * * *

Deborah Kurtz is wife to a seriously awesome guy named Tim, who has just finished his first year of seminary studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. They reside in the Midwest, and are hopeful parents of two children by way of international adoption. You can read more of their story at Deborah’s blog, Journey of Faith: honeybeekurtz.wordpress.com.

My Radio Voice

jenmichel@me.com

I feel as if I can't show up here without first offering an apology. I haven't been around these parts lately, and I'm sorry for the unannounced absence from the blog. I promise to catch you up soon on all the activity of the summer. But to give you a quick idea of the insane amount of driving we did this summer, let me say that we nearly made it through the first five Harry Potter books on audio. I did want to pop in here today and let you know that when I was back in Chicago last week, I recorded a radio interview for Midday Connection, hosted by Anita Lustrea and Caryn Rivadeneira. We had a great conversation, and if you want to tune in, it airs today.

midday connection

You can listen live here at noon (CST) or find instructions for getting it on iTunes.