Faithfully thinking: when your glad God doesn’t answer some prayers

Do you know what I’m grateful for today? I’m grateful that sometimes God doesn’t answer “yes” to some of our prayers. That sounds weird, doesn’t it? I mean, who is happy when God says “no” to them?

I can tell you who. People who pray for things they really think they want but later realize they never did, are happy when God says “no” to a request. Of course, we aren’t happy in the midst of our disappointment but down the road, we are struck by relief.

“My word, imagine if God had answered that prayer my letting me have what I wanted,” we might think. “Imagine the stress I would have been under then. I think it’s bad now but if I had been given the desires of my heart back then – ouch. Nightmare for sure!”

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For me I know one prayer I’m actually glad God didn’t answer yes to was for a full-time photography business that I could rely on to partially support my family. Once upon a time, I wanted to be busy every weekend, taking and then editing photos of other people and their children. I imagined that if I could do that then I’d be a real photographer and I would be popular and yes, yes, Sally Fields, people would like me too.

When that dream never came I was crushed. I was rejected and I’ll let you in on a secret – there are many days I still am. But, my goodness, am I so happy I’m not dealing with the stress of worrying about doing the right things for a different group of people every weekend – juggling personalities and soothing egos and simply trying to please them all, no matter what. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been very lucky that almost every client I’ve had for photography has been easy to get along with and a blast to photograph. Still, let’s face it, no client is perfect and even if they don’t mean to, stress can come with having clients, even if it is stress I place on myself.

I still accept requests for photo sessions or freelance assignments but I don’t ever see myself being a well-known or well-sought after photographer and I’m finally perfectly happy with that. I’m actually happy with my small, boring and run-of-the-mill life with my two children, my husband, the cat and Zooma the Wonder Dog.

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I have found joy in being a mom, in homeschooling, in rambling on blogs and sometimes being offered freelance assignments in writing or photography and even in the daily chore of cooking meals. (Pray for me to also find the joy in cleaning.) I can honestly say that that previous unanswered prayer is one I’m glad God has said “no” to. And any of the rejection I felt from it is something I can continue to ask God to heal me from, even as I rejoice in how His ‘no’ became a yes in other ways.

How about you? Is there a prayer or two you’ve uttered and now, looking back, your glad God didn’t answer “yes” to?

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Faithfully thinking: how many more blogs written by Christian women for Christian women do we really need?

This past week I started thinking to myself, as I scrolled through my Facebook timeline: how many more blogs written by Christian women for Christian women do we really need? It seems like every time I turn around another one has popped up and they are all writing about “God’s calling”, how to be a Godly wife and mother or how to be a woman after God’s own heart. And they all include a way for you to download an ebook to tell Christian women how to be better Christian women.

I know. It sounds like I’m against Christian women writing about,and for, Christian women, but I’m not. I read many of these blogs, books and Instagram mini-blogs and they are insanely encouraging and welcome. I seek them out, in fact, to feel encouraged. And sometimes I am even one of those Christian women writing for Christian women! Gasp!

Still, one has to wonder – when do we stop only encouraging each other and start trying to encourage the people who either aren’t Christians or who are but aren’t the “model Christians” by our own definitions? I think many Christians are so busy making sure they have it all together, never doubt, never question and always trust God, they forget, or don’t want, to show their weak and questioning moments. And they certainly don’t want it to appear they are criticizing the church in any way, even if they might only be trying to express a concern of an area they would like to work on so they can improve with the church.

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000009_DSC_0802-(1)I have received my fair share of scoldings from members or leaders of “the church” for expressing my feelings about church behavior or my doubts about God at one point or another in my life. Often, though, by expressing those feelings out loud I found others who agreed with me and felt the same and only when I mentioned it did they feel comfortable to say so. It opened a door not to complain but to exchange ideas and ponder solutions to our feelings.

One time I vented on Facebook, something I do not recommend, about cliques within in the church and how it makes other women feel left out to the point they finally stop attending church. I wrote this while never naming an actual church, or the church I attended yet I still received a private message, from the associate pastor, warning me to stop trashing their church online and a Bible verse about bringing concerns about other Christians to that Christian in private. Apparently, I had hit a nerve but what was odd was how this pastor didn’t come to me in person, as the verse had suggested, but hid behind social media to do his scolding. In fact, when I did see him in person, he never addressed me about it and shortly after our family left the church for that and a couple of other reasons.

Social media and smartphones as a growing form of communication is a hindrance to the church in my mind and the topic is something I plan to delve into deeper in future blog posts. Before you think I’m pointing fingers at people and not realizing they are pointing back at me, trust me, I know that I have also been guilty of hiding behind social media to deal with difficult situations.

SpringInspiration (1)The “leadership of the church” may not have appreciated what I wrote that day, and I shouldn’t have taken to social media about my hurt and concern, but I also received a private message from a friend who thanked me for the post and confessed that one reason she had stopped attending church regularly was because of the clique mentality at so many churches. Another friend also private messaged me later, once I had removed the post so as not to receive any more “scoldings”, and said she had also felt “outside the circle” during the times she’d tried to get involved in churches in her area.

So on that day I may not have been liked by Christians, who thought I should have protected the church and not air its dirty laundry, but I was understood by those hurt by the church as a whole and who, though they were hesitant to attend a church again, felt comfortable to share with me they wanted a relationship with God, knew humans were imperfect and not always a reflection of his true nature, but were not sure how to get past their disappointment in people.

We were able to have an open and honest conversation about church and Christians. I didn’t discourage either of my friends from attending church but simply said “I get it. We are on the same page. Me too.” It was nice for us all not to feel alone and maybe in one way we formed our own clique of sorts, but one outside the church instead of in.

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I think that’s what the church is lacking – a way to reach out to those who don’t attend church and say “me too. I get it.” Instead many in the church write or speak only to their “own kind” and scold when some speak about God in a way they consider wrong, usually out of hurt or frustration as they work out their feelings. I know correction and encouragement of “our own” is needed but there is a time and place for both and sometimes obliterating the box we’ve put God in is needed.

I hope Christian women, and men for that matter, continue to write encouraging pieces for other Christians, but maybe we should question if we really need to only encourage our own using language only we Christians get and making an entire generation feel like they are on the outside looking in.

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To follow my writing or photography you can catch me on Instagram at www.instagram.com/lisahoweler or at my photography site at www.lisahowelerphotography.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lisahoweler. I also offer stock photography for bloggers, creators, writers and business owners at the following links: Lightstock or Alamy, or contact me directly for personalized work for your custom project.

Quieting the creative voices of others so you can hear and feel your own

I fell into one of those Youtube spirals the other night (like one does) and I caught this interview from last year with Ellen and Bradley Cooper and she asks him if he is on social media at all, which she actually knows he isn’t. When he says “No, I’m not.” She feigns shock and says “Oh my gosh. What do you even do with yourself?”
He laughs, shrugs and mumbles something about being able to waste a lot of time on the internet without social media. But really, a better answer, since was there to talk about a movie he was just filming at that time but comes out this week, would have been, “I create.”
“A Star is Born” comes out this week and Bradley both stars in it and directed it. If he had been sitting around wasting his life on social media, getting distracted by the drama and ridiculousness that can be found on it, he might never have made the movie or made the music for it along with Lady Gaga and Luke Nelson (Willie Nelson’s son).
Lady-Gaga-and-Bradley-Cooper-in-A-Star-is-Born-2018-670x335Imagine all the books and paintings and songs we would never have heard if social media had existed earlier than it had. Yes, there are good things about social media for a creative. We can share our creations and our art to a wider audience and immediately. But what we lose in that immediate interaction is taking the time to really develop and plan our craft before we throw it to the world. What we lose is the time to actually create because we are distracted by looking at either the work of others or the drama of others.
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We are squelching our inner voice because we can’t hear it over the shouts and creations of others. We are comparing and contrasting and then going back to our creative work, thinking we either can’t create as well as the others we’ve seen, or we can do the same, but never giving ourselves time to really develop the skills we need to create, as well as, or better than, those we admire.
Bradley Cooper worked with a voice coach, musicians and others for almost a year and a half, if not longer, before creating what many are calling a masterpiece remake of a movie, that touches hearts and will inspire many – creatives and others. he had a vision and he put the work in to complete and present that vision.
If he had wasted his time on the drama and distraction that comes with social media, he may have never reached his goal of creating something he is extremely proud of that will touch the souls of so many others.
Though I don’t know what Bradley Cooper’s personal reasons for not being on social media are, I do think he’s made the right choice by abstaining from it when it comes to strengthening his creative voice. It’s something other creative people, or anyone with a goal they want to reach, should try as well.

The day God told me I needed to create a war room

One day last month God told me (in so many ways and with various hints) that I needed to go to my war room and pray about all that has been leaving me stressed and tied up in knots inside. The problem was, I didn’t have a war room. I’d never established one.

For anyone asking, “what in the world is a ‘war room’?”, in modern Christian terms a war room is a small, quiet place without distractions, reserved to meet with God about specific issues you are facing in your life.

In all honesty, God has been laying this whole “war room” idea on my heart for months, after I watched the movie War Room, but I’ve been ignoring the prodding because this Mom can’t even use the bathroom alone most nights, let alone lock myself in a closet to pray.

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Yet there I was one day, anxious about so many things and scrolling through Instagram, when I should have been praying, and two posts hit me full in the face. They were both written by women who were also struggling with anxiety. One wrote about withdrawing into her war room during the difficult times.

A half an hour later, this time while I was avoiding life by wasting time on Facebook, the word was in front of me again in a post by blogger, Roslind Jukic. 

“When you find yourself soul-weary, the first place you need to go is to your war room,” Roslind wrote. “And here’s why: Satan will take advantage of your weariness. He will whisper lies to your heart. He has already been creating a strategy for your demise. He wants to use your weariness for his purpose, to steal your joy, to rob you of your purpose, and to destroy your testimony. When you are weary, you need to get in your war room and begin developing a strategy against the enemy….a war plan for victory!”

So I made a war room in my bedroom closet. I cleaned it out (tossed clothes and stuffed animals to one side), taped a piece of paper with some pressing issues written on it on the wall and sat in there to pray.

My 11-year old son, who I had practically forced to watch War Room with me one day, found me there and looked bewildered for a moment but then had a moment of realization and said “You’re making a war room aren’t you?” And then he crawled inside with me and I held him for a few moments before he left to make sure his sister wasn’t pulling knives out of drawers to cut open her yogurt tubes.

I came out of my bedroom closet ten minutes later having difficulty breathing because of all the dust in there, but I did it! I had established a war room.

“We pray because our own solutions don’t work and because prayer deploys, activates, and fortifies us against the attacks of the enemy. We pray because we’re serious about taking back the ground he has sought to take from us.”
― Priscilla Shirer

Now I just have to be more consistent about going in it and actually praying about issues facing our family instead of worrying about them.

Do you have your own war room? Or have you thought about creating one? If you have one, how has it helped you and how do you keep yourself consistent in entering it during the tough and stressful moments of life?

The Adventures of Zooma The Wonder Dog: The bunny

I’ve been sharing little stories on my personal Facebook page about our new puppy Zooma from her perspective and thought I’d start sharing them on the blog as well because I think Zooma would think “it’s hilarious.”

May 3, 2018

This morning I woke daddy up at 6 a.m. by licking his face all over with my tongue.

Mommy says my tongue feels like wet air because it’s so tiny.

Daddy wasn’t very happy with being woke up but took me into the backyard so I could do my potty time.
Back inside Daddy wanted me to go back to sleep but I knew it was time to explore, lick, dig, run and slide across the floor and then chase that big, fat, black and furry thing with the sharp things on her feet. It’s fun trying to see how close I can get to her before she tries to claw my tiny eyes out.

I spent the morning listening to Daddy grumble about how tired he was and how much he needed something called coffee and then I ran up the stairs to find Mommy and my playthings.

DSC_3610_1One of them likes to squeal and scream when I nip at it’s legs. It’s hilarious. The other one shouts “No! No, Zooma! No!” Also hilarious.

When the taller Plaything took me in the backyard for another potty time I found fur and some squishy stuff that tasted good and was fun to roll in.

This resulted in Plaything One flailing and screaming and chasing me around the yard yelling “That’s so gross! Drop it! It’s a dead bunny! Oh my gosh! Zooooommmaaa!”

Plaything One stole my treat and it was back in the house to chase big, fat black beast again while Daddy staggered around with a cup of that coffee stuff and a scowl and then left to clean up the fur and squishy stuff so I couldn’t have it anymore. I heard him tell Mommy he felt awful because he’d apparently run over a bunny nest with the lawn mower. I hope he does that again. That treat was fun and tasty.

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I spent the rest of my day napping off and on, because I’m just a baby and I like to sleep, with a few moments of ripping paper and dragging it around the house in between while Mommy and the Playthings tell me to “Drop it. Drop it. Droooooooop it.”

It’s hilarious.

 

Trying to be still and remember He is God

Some days life is all topsy turvy. The world seems upside down and turned around these days. What was once up is now down and what was once frowned upon is now applauded. Those who say they love children and babies only protect them once they are born, not before. Those who say they support women don’t support them if suggest we respect ourselves by not dressing inappropriately. Those who say they respect life are murdering others. The other day every story in my Facebook newsfeed seemed to want to remind me of what foods and vitamins can kill me and what my children shouldn’t be doing that I once did because now it’s dangerous instead of fun. (Side note: I’m on a Facebook break for my sanity).

It makes my head hurt and the other day it found me shutting off Instagram and FB and just about literally huddled in a fetal position while I nursed my daughter to sleep for her nap (by the way, I’m not supposed to be doing that either, whether it feels right and natural to me or not). I closed my eyes against the tears and all the voices in my head and I heard a still small voice say “Be still.” That was weird. I said, “Huh? Why did that thought pop into my head?” It sort of creeped me out, but I heard the words again. “Be still.” And I then I heard, “Be still and know that I am God.”

It happened again a few days later as my mind raced with worry about another situation I’m currently facing. I kneeled to wash my daughter’s hair and as my thoughts raced from worry to worry to worry I heard the words “Be still..” again…

I often tell God, “Lord, I am awful at being still, at least as far as my mind goes. You know this. Yet you still urge me to remember that you are God. You are in control of my finances. You are in control of my health and that of my children. You are in control of the world, even when it seems out of control. Please, help me to not forget and please keep placing those words in my mind.”

Psalm 46:9-11 “…9He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire. 10″Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 11The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.”