Have you ever met parents who had an ugly baby? I’m serious! You know you have! And did you ever tell a ‘white lie’ (if there is such a thing) to the parents saying, “Your baby is so cute,”? I’ll admit that I have! And here’s where telling those ‘white lies’ has backfired on me: When my babies were newborns, I thought they were the most gorgeous babies on the planet and everyone I met seemed to agree with me. So, I have to wonder, how many of those people weren’t telling me the truth??
It’s a silly question, I know and it’s not one I spend time mulling over, but I bring this up because I recently had what I refer to as an ‘ugly baby’ moment. Let me explain.
For months and months now, I have been in the Production phase of my book. I submitted my manuscript in October and since that time, I have been in the back-and-forth process with Cover Design, Editors and Layout. It has been a much bumpier ride than I expected and not for any of the reasons that I thought it would be bumpy. I expected critique from editors to feel as though ‘my baby’, the book, was being attacked. I expected to have to sit myself down for ‘Grow up and get a grip’ pep talks. But that didn’t happen. My second error was in assuming that the layout process would be quick and easy. I thought they simply plugged the final draft into a software and – poof! – out popped a final manuscript. I am obviously a first time author because it doesn’t work that way at all!
When I received the first version of my book from Layout a few weeks ago, I panicked. It was WAY too long for my liking. I was horrified that I may have written the equivalent of the Hindenburg, I giant tome that was going to crash and burn! My Production Executive calmed me down and together we came up some ideas on how to streamline the format so that without losing the integrity of the writing, the book would be a more manageable size (in my opinion).
So now flash forward to last week, one year exactly from the date I signed my publishing contract with TBN. Production and Layout had been working on the fairly substantial revisions for weeks and I had not heard a peep from anyone. One morning as I was cleaning up and replying to emails, I saw my Project Manager’s name in my Inbox. The only part of the Subject line I could read was, “Here it is!”.
Knowing the little bit that you do about how long I had been working on this book and how major the revisions were to this draft that could possibly be ‘it’ – the final, final draft, would you not think that I opened that attachment as fast as my right hand could click the mouse button? One would think that…but no, that’s not at all what I did. I kept scrolling past it as if it was an invoice I would file later.
The next evening, I was at a birthday barbeque when a close friend asked me how the book was coming (a question I am asked almost as often as an overly pregnant woman is asked if she’s having any contractions!). Oddly, I had no recollection of getting the draft in my Inbox and replied to my friend that I was still waiting to hear back from Layout. What in the world??
The next morning, as I was having time with the Lord which many times involves me opening my journal and asking the Lord if there is anything He wants to say to me, He reminded me that the book was in my Inbox and that I hadn’t opened it. I was in total shock. I had completely blocked the memory of the email and the very important attachment out of my mind! And as if that wasn’t bizarre enough, as soon as the Lord reminded me about it, I began to sob. What in the world was going on??
I realized quickly that the Lord and I were going to have a very pivotal conversation seeing as my behavior was so odd. I asked the Lord why I was crying and why I didn’t want to open the attachment and review my book. And then in His oh-so-gentle and soul-revealing way, He showed me that I was afraid. Afraid of what, I asked?
And then, like a movie in my mind, I saw myself in the hospital the day I brought home my first baby, Ashley Paige. I was a young mother with almost no experience taking care of newborns. The nurse came in to give Ashley a bath before she sent us home. I remember watching as she deftly handled this fragile, wobbly infant and thought, “You’re going to let me walk out of here with this baby? Shouldn’t we stay here for another week so I can get in more practice?” But that’s not the way it works. They send you home and you have to figure it out. Miraculously, with the help of my mother, my mother-in-law, and my pediatrician, I did figure it out because there was no going back. Once Ashley was born, it got real. While I was still pregnant, I could fool myself into thinking that I had time to learn, time to prepare, time to become an expert. But once she was in my arms, it was sink or swim.
And in the same way, once the book is published, I can’t go back. While I am ‘pregnant’ with the book, it’s a cool idea. While I’m in production, I can fool myself into thinking that I’ll be a book launch professional by the time it arrives, and that I’ll be totally prepared to keep this book alive. But the truth is that I will never feel prepared enough. I will just have to figure it out along the way with the help and counsel of people that God has put in my life. The Lord used that memory of how inadequate I felt as a brand new mother to show me that feelings of inadequacy were plaguing my thoughts concerning the book, and that I had been succumbing to toxic patterns of thought that told me I’m not ‘enough’.
Then the Lord showed me I had a secondary fear. I was afraid of having ‘an ugly baby’! I had a subterranean fear that after all the long months of writing, revisions and re-reading my book for the millionth time, that the book would be an ‘ugly baby’. Additionally, the thought had apparently been rolling around in my subconscious that if the book was an ‘ugly baby’, no one would tell me until it was too late to turn back. Eegads! Being a creative person is certainly an emotional roller-coaster.
Even though I was taken aback by the nature of the fears I was harboring, and the toxic thoughts I was giving voice to, I was glad that the Holy Spirit brought them out into the light so I could address them with the Word of God and prayer. As soon as I saw those fears exposed in the light, I went before the Lord and repented for allowing them to have a voice in my soul. I evicted the fears with the Word of God and with the tender words of affirmation that Jesus spoke to me in my journal. And then, most importantly, I gave the book back to the Lord.
I had turned the book over to the Lord earlier in the writing process, but now I had to do it again. And I may have to do it again from time to time. I don’t know. But what I do know is that there is absolutely nothing about us that surprises the Lord or causes Him to shrink back from us – even if it catches us by surprise! And there is absolutely nothing better than being a Child of God who can hear His voice, receive His gentle correction and re-alignment, and leave the Secret Place humbly empowered. Only God!
- Do you ever wrestle with fear about not being ‘enough’?
- Have you ever been afraid to walk into the ‘next’, whether it is a job, a relationship, a responsibility, or a ministry?
The ‘Next’ can be intimidating because it is the unknown. We know that we don’t know what we don’t know…did you follow that? We know there will be roadblocks and steep climbs so it’s easy to get stuck in the fear that we don’t have what it takes to succeed.
That’s where our relationship with the person of Jesus Christ and our ability to dig for truth in the Word of God becomes critical.
There are three tools that will drive fear from our lives and give our faith the boost it needs to carry us over the threshold of the ‘Next’. Let’s look at them now.
- Find scripture that pulls the covers back on the fear you’re facing down.
- Get a clear word from the Lord.
- Clean your spiritual atmosphere.
Let’s look at the first tool. I believe that the Word of God, the Bible, is the inerrant word of the Almighty God to mankind. I believe everything in my Bible from the Table of Contents to the maps! Every miraculous outcome and success in my life is a direct result of my love for the Word of God and my diligent pursuit of revelation within Scripture.
For instance, when I was facing the fear that I am not enough to handle being a credible author, successfully launch a book, or promote my book properly, I found Scripture to meditate on that is the Truth. The more I meditated on those verses and spoke them out loud, the more the fear evaporated like condensation on my shower glass. Fear veils my spiritual eyes and blocks my spiritual vision but when the breath of the Word is allowed to enter my soul, the steamy hot emotions of fear dissipate until I can clearly see who I am in Christ.
Regarding the second tool, getting a clear word from the Lord, I think you can see that I would not have even come to the awareness of the fears I was stuffing down, unless I had first asked the Lord if there was anything He wanted to say to me. Remember, this conversation took place two days after the email arrived in my inbox. For two days, I had managed to push the task that frightened me so far down in my consciousness that I had to be reminded by the Holy Spirit. I’m sure that I eventually would have remembered the email and forced myself to open the attachment, but I would have done it in fear and angst. My decision to ask the Lord to speak to me that day allowed me to not only face the thing I had been avoiding but also exposed and uprooted two ugly thought patterns as well! It’s no coincidence that on that particular morning I chose to begin my quiet time with an invitation to the Lord to speak to me. Could it have been that I was prompted by the Holy Spirit to take my devotion time in that direction? I am convinced this is so!
The last tool protects our spiritual and emotional health in the same way that an air purifier works in your home. A cluttered, dirty, unkempt spiritual atmosphere breeds all kinds of mental, emotional and spiritual ‘bacteria’, of which fear is a nasty strain. However, cleaning the spiritual atmosphere around us creates an environment where fear cannot grow. For me, cleaning my spiritual atmosphere starts with putting on instrumental worship music and spending time in communion with the Lord. Before I sit down to the computer or move forward with tasks for my day, I have what I call Tabernacle Time. Tabernacle Time differs from my morning devotion time in that I am not ‘doing’ anything, i.e. reading, studying, researching, writing. I am just sitting with Jesus and letting HIM direct the time.
Maybe your days are hectic with children who don’t allow you to have a minute to yourself. You can still create a peaceful, Christ-focused environment by tuning your heart to the Lord throughout the day and protecting your airwaves from content that pulls you down. Maybe your time to just ‘be’ with Jesus is 5 minutes before you go to bed, resting in His embrace, letting Him wipe the residue of the day from your brow.
Maybe you work in an office where there is toxicity all around you that you can’t control. I’ve been in your shoes, and this is what I did: I created a peaceful, godly environment around myself before I left the house and in the car, before I walked in the door of my office building, I would say out loud, “Father God, I thank You that the Kingdom of God in all its fulness walks in the doors of (name your company) with me. I bring Jesus with me everywhere I go so signs, wonders, miracles, and salvations are breaking out all around me. I hear Your voice and Your favor goes before me like a shield.” Try making this declaration of faith and see how your view of your workplace changes from fear-filled to faith-filled and your view of yourself changes from overwhelmed employee to empowered messenger. Your workplace, your home, and your neighborhood are your mission fields. God has already given you the grace you need to prosper wherever He plants you! You are not a victim of a toxic work environment. You are an atmosphere sanctifier, diffusing the fragrance of Christ everywhere you go!
Walking into the ‘next’, whether it’s a job, relationship, responsibility, ministry or promotion can be intimidating and usher in fear and thoughts that we’re not good enough. While these thoughts are common, they are not from God and need to be evicted. Fearing that the dream that we’re pregnant with is going to be an ‘ugly baby’ is a lie that needs to be called out and torn down. Hearing the voice of Jesus through the Word and in quiet communion with Him is vital to seeing our heart and being able to walk in faith.
Heavenly Father, I ask You to search my heart and show me if I am wrestling with thoughts that I am not enough for the tasks in front of me or visions of failure. Please forgive me for putting more faith in the negative than in the One Who promises to uphold me, strengthen me, fill me with His Spirit and give me all the wisdom I need. I praise You for Your patience and compassion on my weaknesses. I ask Lord, that You would help me carve out time to just ‘be’ with You so that I can hear Your voice speaking peace to my heart. Teach me how to open the door of my soul to Your Spirit so that He can clear away the fog that keeps me from seeing You clearly. In Jesus’ mighty name I pray, Amen!
I have received the power of the Holy Spirit and He can do miraculous things through me. I have authority and power over the enemy in this world. (Mark 16:17-18; Luke 10:17=19)
I have received the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowldge of Jesus, the eyes of my heart are enlightened, so that I know the hope of having life in Christ. (Ephesians 1:17-18)