My latest read, Fully Alive, by Susie Larson was powerful and absolutely life-changing. She teaches, guides, & inspires her readers to activate a fierce faith throughout each chapter. I drank in every word and am going back for more – I have to read it again! There is SO MUCH to it.
At the end of each chapter, she offers physical, emotional, & spiritual encouragement along with soul-searching questions to journal and reflect on and powerful prayers (with a guide for HOW to pray through each chapter). Susie helps women intentionally identify what hinders them from healing, wholeness, and the kind of flourishing God promises.
I have met Susie at several events over the course of this past year and she was the one that actually inspired me to write. I am forever grateful for her encouragement, inspirational writing that has moved me deeply, and her passion for seeing women healed and restored in the name of Jesus.
Here is a little of my writing journey and how God has begun to reveal a beautiful story within the pages of my life.
Last summer, God gave me a vision.
Love & serve a community of women in ministry.
Step out in faith.
I kept this to myself for some time before finally speaking it out loud to my husband as we traveled over the holidays that year. It was the first time I had said the words out loud and I could already feel myself cringing inside. I felt vulnerable and rather silly. I didn’t know what it all meant. I felt sure that he would think it just another one of my “ideas” and dreams to chase.
But he didn’t.
He pondered my words and thoughtfully said, “I think if God is calling you to step out like that, then you should…Just remember to take things slow.”
Now, if you know me at all, the word “slow” is not in my vocabulary. I see green and I go, go, go…and I don’t stop until I reach burn-out or melt-down mode. He, of course, sees this all the time and wisely tries to protect me from my own self. He is my best friend, my love, and my partner for life – I’m so thankful God brought us together.
I chose to listen to him.
I waited several months before thinking of writing and just spent time in prayer and reflection. I had journaled and written since I was 5 years old as a way to communicate with the Lord and have always thrived and flourished in any English classes throughout my school days and even went on to get my Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies. I also have written music since age 15 – both lyrically and instrumentally.
Writing and composing have always been a special and intricate part of me but I never knew it was something intended to be shared with others. Until that vision.
In early 2018, I received an email from my alma mater, University of Northwestern – St. Paul announcing a Writers Conference that they were hosting in the summer. For some reason, instead of the email going into my “Promotions” (spam-ish) folder that I rarely check, it actually came through to my regular inbox where I saw it. Taken by surprise, I read through the email and immediately knew I was supposed to be there….However, I couldn’t afford it. Since staying home with my littles, our family budget had no room for extra expenses like this. I knew I couldn’t go. Yet, I knew I was supposed to be there. So I stepped back and I let it go into the hands of the One who works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
About a month later, I attended the Aspire women’s conference that Susie and several other friends had founded and heard her speak. After just finishing her book, Sacred Yes (another one I highly recommend!) with my women’s Bible Study, I was excited to hear her speak in person because her book had inspired the theme that God placed on my heart to begin writing about. Afterward, I got to meet and speak with her and after sharing a little of my writing vision and how her book had inspired me so much, she encouraged me to attend the Writers Conference. I explained my desire to go but that I wasn’t able to afford it.
You know what she told me? “God will make a way. Trust Him!”
Later that month, I was listening to a podcast of her show, Live the Promise, and I heard of a Writers Contest that her station (Faith Radio) was offering. Winners would receive a full scholarship to the Northwestern Christian Writers Conference. There I was, on a Thursday evening, casually listening to the radio while I worked for my corporate job from home and I just stopped. I couldn’t believe my ears. This was it! I knew this opportunity was meant for me.
I finished up my work and at 9:30pm that Thursday night, I got to work on my article submission for the contest. The contest had already been underway for a month and ended that Sunday. I had 3 days to write an article, obtain votes for it from my friends & family which had to secure me a top ten spot among all of the submissions so that I could be looked at by a panel of judges from Bethany House Publishing – they then chose three submissions to win a scholarship from each category (fiction and non-fiction).
I had never written for others before. I mean actually written what was on my heart. All these months of praying and reflecting and knowing that God had placed a theme on my heart but I hadn’t written a single word of it yet. The only thing left to do was step out in faith and just begin the journey. I knew that God was telling me that this was the time. My husband went downstairs to sleep on the couch so I could stay up on the computer in our bedroom and I began typing. I typed into the wee hours of the morning and I finally felt like my piece was ready.
I entered it into the contest Friday morning and shared it with friends and family on social media that day. In those 48 hours as the contest wrapped up, I received an overwhelming response and secured a top ten spot to move on to the next step in the review process. After anxiously waiting several weeks while the panel reviewed the submissions, I tuned into Susie’s show once again (this time LIVE).
I was shaking with excitement and nervousness.
My oldest listened with me, “Mommy, will we hear your name?”
“I don’t know, buddy. I hope so.”
And there it was.
The LAST name to be announced. Elizabeth Fry with Mirror Moment.
God swung open the door and all I had to do was step through.
I attended the Writers Conference this summer and walked away completely changed. After the first evening, I was giddy with excitement as I called my husband and told him that I felt like everything in my life had prepared me for this moment. I knew that this was what I was meant to do for the Kingdom. My purpose. My calling. Writing.
One of the main chapters that stood out to me in Susie’s latest book, Fully Alive, was Chapter Three: I’m Afraid (Jesus, Grant Me Fierce Faith). Over the past few months, since coming off the Writers Conference “high”, I have felt afraid. Tested. Tried. Unsure. I’ve done everything BUT write the book that I feel like God has been calling me to write because I have felt afraid………..of failure.
As a perfectionist and people-pleaser, I have been allowing pride to rear its ugly head. What if the words that mean so much to me don’t actually make a difference? What if no one likes what I have to share? What if I embarrass my family or offend someone? What if my greatest flaws and failures are revealed and I’m seen as a fraud?
Fear of failure. Fear of exposure.
Susie writes, “In my book/DVD study Your Beautiful Purpose, I wrote and spoke about the fear of exposure. Countless people admit to fears of being publicly humiliated or of having old skeletons fall out of the closet for all to see. And still others feel perfectly unqualified to do what they do, even if they are qualified and quite successful in what they do. Their greatest fear is that others will see them as the imposter they believe themselves to be. Fear of exposure drives us into hyperviligence, steals the joy from our work, and keeps us from flourishing in our God-given assignment.”
Do you ever look back on memorabilia from your childhood? Do you have that box (or closet) filled with art, projects, scrapbooks or yearbooks, and perhaps journals? I do. I look back on those items and while bringing back fond memories, it also reminds me of how young (and immature) I once was.
Now imagine pouring your heart out in a journal and then having that in print (or on a website) for all to see. You don’t get to take it back. You don’t get to just forget about it because it’s already been read. You are vulnerable and exposed. Someone else gets to read your thoughts and then have an opinion about it. They won’t always be love….and there won’t always be encouragement and positivity – there will be scoffing, polite indifference, and even offense I’m sure. In a decade, I will look back and see how much I’ve grown from the place I started and maybe even laugh a little at my writing…I don’t want someone else to see me now the way I will look back on myself in the future. Pride.
At the Writers Conference, our keynote speaker, Sheila Walsh, brought up a picture of her first book and chuckled at it while she showed us her picture on the back – so young! Look at that hair! Oh, how things have changed since then! I sat there and realized that I’m in that place – not a place of confidence and eloquence and experience (where she is now) but the place of her first book, the one that gets fond chuckles now. The writing that I’m pouring my heart into right now might later bring laughter. My pride rears up and I think, “Well if I just don’t start, I won’t have to worry about rejection, laughter, or even indifference. I don’t have to put myself out there and be vulnerable.”
Or do I?
When you answer the call of God, you have to be willing to step outside your comfort zone and realize that you are only meant to serve an audience of One.
Susie writes, “…fear created a hypersensitivity to my own capacity to mess up, trip up, and fall down (which only exacerbated the opportunity to do more of the same). Without realizing it, I had put more weight on my ability to fall down than on God’s ability to hold me up.”
But 2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV) says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.”
Susie continues, “Fear is a spirit, and it’s not from God. And fear can become an actual habit in our lives.”
Why is it that we allow the devil such a foothold in our lives? To use the spirit of fear to manipulate us and turn us away from the beautiful plans that God has for us? To keep us bound and captive. A slave to our sinful nature.
Have you ever thought of fear as a spirit? Something that can be cast away and released at the feet of Jesus? Read 1 Peter 5:8-9. What do you gather from that passage? Susie summarizes, “The fear-lion prowls around and looks for an opening in our lives, an opportunity to at least disrupt our peace, at worst, to bait us into sin, ruin our lives, and rob us of our influence, perspective, and joy…as long as we react to our fears instead of responding to God’s promises, the enemy’s strategy against us will continually be successful.”
When I look at my fear like this, I realize that I am being used and distracted from my calling. I don’t want to live captive by fear. I want to thrive and flourish in the one life that I have by answering the call of God on my life – I have freedom in Christ. It’s my choice whether or not to accept that freedom and then live in it.
Susie affirms this, “The closer we get to exposing and identifying our fears, the more it threatens the enemy’s claimed territory in our lives…his only power in our lives is the lie. So when the lie goes, so goes his access to us. Hang in there. You will win this battle.”
I choose to do battle against the fear-lion.
I choose a fierce faith that will triumph over the spirit of fear and replace it with the Holy Spirit that already lives in me – a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind.
I choose to follow Jesus, no turning back. Just as He answered the call of God on His life, I choose the same. I will listen, learn, lead, and love like Jesus.
Yes, I will fail.
Failure is inevitable. I am only human. But I choose to step out and put forth my best effort anyway. God will use whatever we give Him. He sees our hearts and He will bless our efforts. It’s not about us and our effort – 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV) says, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in your weakness’. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
Has God given you a vision? Has He asked you to step out in faith in some way? Have you? Will you? Today, won’t you join me in choosing a fierce faith? One that does battle against the fear-lion?
Let’s do this together.
~Music encouragement: Fear is a Liar – https://youtu.be/vq97OIbWRxM
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