Never Alone

For many of us those early teen years were difficult. I remember being a Christian without that necessary “friend” support. Not in school. Not even at church. Truthfully, the kids in my Sunday school class were often worse than the kids from school, and that hurt more.

I’d always been a reader and found kinship with characters in books from Trixie Belden to Nancy Drew, but the faith element was missing. And that was the element I hungered for. I needed a friend, either in real life or in literature, who shared my faith, who could relate to me on a deeper, spiritual level.

It was a lonely time.

And then when I was thirteen I received a short novel from my pastor for Christmas, and it opened my eyes to a new world of literature. Behold a Pale Horse by Joe Musser won’t win any literary awards, and I won’t get into an theological discussion regarding its eschatology lessons, but it did show me that there were stories out there with people like me. Other Christians dealing with life. I wasn’t alone.

Then I discovered the Christian bookstore in a nearby town and I began devouring the books in the YA section. The Danny Orlis series by Bernard Palmer were Hardy Boy-like stories that had Christian teens solving mysteries. I graduated to the books by John Benton–these were gritty stories about teen runaways and prostitutes, and they dealt with teen pregnancy and mental illness. No topic was off-limits as Benton’s books portrayed lives that were truly lonely. Until God scooped them up from their low places.

And those stories taught me that I am never alone.

At the BibleGateway.com site, I searched for the phrase “I am with you” (NIV) and came up with 21 verses. That’s twenty-one times God is reminding us “Don’t be afraid, I am with you.” Even when we have those moments when we can’t hear His voice, He is with us. Even when everything seems to be going wrong, He is with us. And when you feel you have no friends, Jesus is there.

We are never alone–it took a simple, nondescript book to help me realize that.

“Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit…”

Corinthians 5:3a

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8QubLxJI54

A Letter to My Teenage Self–You Are Never Alone

Dear Brenda,

I understand it’s a lonely time in your life. Making friends has never come easy. The same holds true for many your age. I wish I could say that struggle will ease over the years, but few things worthwhile are achieved without effort. As you strive, always remember to be yourself. God made you uniquely you and He treasures who you are. Remember, you are never alone.

And don’t forget to look for friendship within your own home. Siblings make the best of friends and will always be there for you.

Those dreams you have of writing a book, they’re more than just dreams. God has crafted that gift especially for you. Don’t  bury those longings where you’ll never find them, but act on them. Receive God’s gift and multiply it. You’ll find no greater act of worship.

You’re growing up on a farm, one of the best places in the world, but it won’t always be there for you. Take time to enjoy the beauty around you. Cradle the kittens and roughhouse with the dog. Take walks through the cornfields and sing down by the lake. Throw snowballs and go sledding. Bike. Swim. Walk. Enjoy the skies dotted with innumerable stars and be awestruck by the northern lights. Breathe in lilac’s spring bloom and autumn’s spicy harvest.

Always accept your grandma’s offering of molasses cookies. Nothing fills her heart more than watching her children and grandchildren enjoy her baking. Your acceptance of her gift is her treasure.

Never stop making music, be it blending with a choir, harmonizing with friends, or playing guitar alone by the lake, praising the Creator of song. Music will always unlock your stoic facade and sing the truth to your heart.

And, in all things, remember the One who breathed life into you, the Giftor or your dreams, the Painter of nature, the Architect of music. Your life will climb peaks, slide into valleys, and plateau on the plains. Yet through every moment, He is with you.

Even when no one else is around, you are never alone.

Sincerely,

Your older, wiser, and always-learning self.

Conflicting Fear

What do I fear most?

Hmmm. Just a few weeks back, my pastor asked the very same question. The answer that popped into my head was confusing and conflicting. In just a moment, you’ll see why.

Over the past week and a half, I’ve read of other’s fears and considered them.

I grew up in a spooky old house—a century old farmhouse that relentlessly creaked and moaned. Mice, spiders, and even bats shared the space with us, whether we wanted them there or not. So, I guess I’m used to that. Often, when I walked into our barn, I was greeted by spiders, bodies plump as grapes, clinging to intricate spider webs.  I get the shivers just thinking about them, but it’s more of a creep factor than fear.

The drive home after watching Amityville Horror was also creepy. On the way to drop off a friend, we rode through woods whose gnarly tree limbs ached to grab onto you, and over pitted gravel roads that relentlessly shouted turn back! Still, I don’t consider that true fear.

When I did a 360 on an ice-coated I-94, with my infant daughter in the car, that was a heart-stopping experience. But, a quick pull to the side of the freeway, accompanied with a few minutes of deep breaths and whispered praises, my heart resuscitated.

If I’m honest, there are two things that truly and consistently scare me.

Standing out in a crowd. I do notwant to be the center of attention. I absolutely shiver at the thought of all eyes focused on me. I’m definitely more comfortable in an ensemble where I can blend in. But God isn’t interested in our comfort, is He? Through a high school teacher, God encouraged me to join the speech team. I wasn’t very good, but the experience was invaluable. When my children were very young, I worked for a direct sales company and sold products at home parties, and even did quite well. Now, God’s got me writing words on a blog that the whole world can read, and He’s got me hawking a new product—my novels. Now, that’s scary. Again, waaaay out of my comfort zone. Can’t I write just for Him and not worry if anyone else reads it?

His answer is no.

God continuously pulls me out of the choir and gives me a solo—literally. My knees may shake, and my voice may wobble, but God is there in my fear, encouraging me in my weakness.

Then there’s my other fear:

Not being noticed. Yeah, I know, it doesn’t make a lot of sense does it? I’m an introvert and somewhat of a social misfit. (Think Data on Star Trek.) Mingle, to me, is a four-letter word. As I said above, I’m comfortable blending in with the wallpaper, and I’m very adept at it.  But, am I happy there? Not really. We all want to be noticed. We all have an innate desire to know that we have value and a purpose. When we become invisible, our purpose disappears along with us. So, God nudges me away from the wall and encourages me to say “hi.” Again, my knees knock and my heart palpitates, but God is right there holding my hand, reminding me I’m never alone.

When I think about it, what do I really have to fear?

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9