My mom has this funny prayer she prays whenever she comes for one of her always-too-short visits: “God, please make this visit feel like a long time.” At first I laughed—my delightful mom has the most faithful prayer life, and she prays about everything—but then I was like, “Oh, why not?”—and I started borrowing her prayer.
But you know what I’ve found? There’s something to Mom’s crazy prayer. Whenever we pray those words, time somehow moves a bit slower. Her visit, however short, feels long enough. Even if we only have hours together—a layover between flights—every minute feels fulfilling. Meaningful. Rich. When she leaves we may cry, but still we feel satisfied, knowing we made the most of what time we had. In the mysterious ways of God, he helps us stop and savor and be fully present in our fleeting, priceless moments together.
Sometimes we want time to slow down . . . but when we’re waiting, we want it to speed up and slow down at the same time. We want the wait to be over now,with no more time lost. We feel this pressure most acutely when we’re in the middle of one of those life-altering waits: The wait for a husband. For a baby. For a healing. Tick, tick goes the clock; flip, flip goes the calendar page—and you’re still stuck.
You feel your twenties passing you by, and you’re still single…
Your fifties are coming to a close, but still your adult child wanders . . .
And if you’re like me—always watching the clock, painfully conscious of life’s brevity—you can start to get paranoid: My life is wasting away. I’ll never get back this time. These are lost years.
But guess what? God is more powerful than time. Listen to this beautiful prayer:
“Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.”
Psalm 90:14–16 (emphasis added)
Do you get what the writer is saying here? He’s asking God to redeem lost time. To make up for lost years—to make Israel glad for as many days, as many years, as they have suffered.
Who wrote this prayer? Moses—Moses who spent forty years wandering in the desert, waiting for the Promised Land. Moses understood the pain of lost life and wasted years better than anyone. And yet he saw that God could still redeem that time, those desert years. In Moses’ eyes, it wasn’t too late. All was not lost. He knew the power of God—God who rained plagues and parted seas, God who appeared in cloud by day and fire by night, God who dwelled on the holy mountain. God could transcend time. God could make up lost years. God could make His people glad, so glad they couldn’t help but sing, for as many years as they had suffered.
We see God do this often in the Bible, showering suffering people with later-life blessings: Joseph. Naomi. Job.
I have seen God do this in my own life more times than I can count. After a tumultuous time in our church life, God provided a way for me and my husband to live in the same town as both our parents—we had never believed it possible, but we got to share eight happy years with both our families. We felt as though God went out of his way to comfort us after a time of trial.
After two years and nine months of infertility, God gave us three babies in…wait for it…two years and ten months. I can hardly see my computer screen for the tears filling my eyes—tears of gratitude, wonder, awe. It’s been eleven years, but still the joy of this blessing staggers me. Even now I ask God, “Why us, when so many others are still waiting?” I can’t answer that question, but I celebrate his gift even as I pray for others still awaiting theirs.
If you’re stuck on pause, mourning a delay, borrow Moses’ prayer. Remind God of the pain you feel watching time pass you by, and ask him to redeem the lost days. Ask him to restore joy. To make you glad for as many days—as many years—as you have suffered. I don’t know when or how God will answer your prayer, but I know he is listening. He is listening, he is concerned, and he is able.
When God Says “Wait”hits bookstore shelves today! (Here’s where I stop typing and indulge in an embarrassing jig that can only be described as “Riverdance meets Rhythm Nation, but without the rhythm.”) I am SO EXCITED, but wow, what a long journey it’s been.
Fourteen years ago, a vicious case of jet lag kept me up all night and gave me a strange gift: an idea for a story I had to tell about characters I met that night, but felt I’d known always. By the time sunrise set the Atlanta skyline ablaze, I had penned the first two chapters of a novel and outlined the entire plot. By the time my fellow Atlantans were stumbling to their coffee makers, my career path had changed; life had changed. I was going to become a writer.
If you had told me that night that I would spend the next fourteen years pursuing that crazy dream (and seriously, writing is a crazy dream), I don’t know what I would have done. I suspect a truckload of chocolate would have been involved.
In the past fourteen years, I have written more hours than I could count (I suspect the hours actually add up to years of life at this point). Spent thousands of dollars on coffee and conferences. Run over one laptop with my car. (ACCIDENT. Seriously. I can explain.) Worked another laptop so hard it finally just choked and died.
Along the way I have indie published two books, The Thirteenth Summer and The Tender Years: Parenting Preschoolers (coauthored with my wonderful mom, Geri), and those valuable experiences taught me so much about hard work and the joy of simply sharing words, and life, with readers.
Meanwhile, after an agonizing struggle with infertility, Kevin and I had three kids in less than three years and lived to tell the tale. (The tale involved more poop and vomit than one sentence can describe, but even so, it was a life worth living. A tale (mostly) worth telling.) After a while we had a fourth child, because hey—what’s one more?!
Along the way I have discovered that my husband is THE BEST HUSBAND IN THE UNIVERSE. I always knew that, but now I know it more. He loves all of my work—even the stories aimed at twelve-year-olds. He has always taken this writing thing seriously, long before anyone besides him was ever reading my words. He generously gives me writing time. He sends me to conferences and views every dollar spent as investment, not expense. He tolerates my coffee habit, having accepted that creativity requires caffeine (and occasionally champagne). He doesn’t get hurt feelings when I trail off mid-sentence, lost in a sudden plot-twist revelation. When I get manic, he takes away my coffee and makes me take naps. And all the while, he’s just so daggum cute and funny and faithful.
Along the way I have found the greatest BFF-slash-writing-partner any writer could have, who knows what I want to say and how I want to say it better than I do; whose soul-stirring writing takes my breath away.
This is my writing partner, Emma, in Barnes & Noble yesterday, with copies of my book! This is the same B & N where we met and have shared countless happy writing hours! Also, I helped her pick those fabulous boots. 🙂
In the past two years I have discovered the joy of connecting with people through words and scripture and silly stories right here on Lizzy Life. I cannot describe the joy this community has brought me. How I have loved sharing life with you here—giving you glimpses into our wacky world and hearing how our stories intersect with yours. You have helped me not write alone, not learn alone, not live alone.
Along the way I have found joy in writing with God. I cannot describe the intensely intimate and transcendent spiritual experience it was to write When God Says “Wait” with God. Every day writing was a day spent in constant communion with Him. Every day I prayed, “Fill me up and empty me out.” Every day, mystical as it sounds, He whispered words.
Along the way I have had the privilege to work with godly people whose courage, excellence, and giftedness blows my mind: my agent-slash-book-warrior Jessica Kirkland, who fights on no matter the odds. The entire team at Barbour: Kelly McIntosh, who is ever encouraging; Shalyn Sattler, whose heart and talent echo through every email; Mary Burns, who laughed and plotted with me and Shalyn and helped make marketing fun; Liesl Davenport, whose gifts for detail and design had me nearly weeping with gratitude; Laura Weller, copyeditor and comma-wrangler extraordinaire; Ashley Schrock, who designed the brilliant book cover; Jeane Wynne, publicist, cheerleader, and inspiring go-getter; my book launch team, who have made the “preseason” of the book launch such a joy with their enthusiasm and generosity.
Amazing friends have taken time out of their insanely busy lives to read and endorse the book—their generosity with their time and words has meant the world: longtime friends Chip and Pauli Wade, who we met when we were newlyweds and they were both cheerleaders at Georgia Tech; now they serve God in multiple capacities, as talented designers and HGTV stars; Lara Casey Isaacson, a writer friend whose ministry, example, and transparency are inspiring; Andy Lee, a local writer friend whose book, A Mary Like Me: Flawed Yet Called is a beautiful blend of Bible and storytelling; beloved friend Laura Whitaker, who has shared so many waiting seasons with me, and whose work with individuals with special needs is heroic; and devoted friend Marilisa Schachinger, who has also shared my waiting seasons (she was even brave enough to babysit the three-under-three, way back in the day!), and now honors God with her work as a business owner and entrepreneur.
And then there are our parents, Sam and Geri and Bill and Glenda, and our delightfully quirky family members, who have not just tolerated, but supported and encouraged, from the beginning. They have fasted, prayed, babysat, read drafts, given ideas, and picked me up off the floor a thousand times over. My sister Alexandra was enduring a horrific waiting season of her own the entire time I was writing, and her struggle inspired and guided me as I wrote—her spirit, too, is on every page. I could go on for pages about every single family member, but I am every day thankful for every one of them.
And my fiercely loyal friends, who have prayed with me and chosen to walk this journey with me even when the whole process was just so weird and confusing, and they secretly thought I was nuts (and of course they were right). Every girl should be so lucky to have such friends.
And my church family, who have prayed and listened and cheered me on for years, who have not made comments when I showed up to midweek wearing sweatpants, a hat, and crazy eyes. (Sorry about that.) They even let me share their poignant waiting stories in the book.
Much as it pains me and humbles me to say it—this is me, eating my words; Father, are you reading this?—these past fourteen years have taught me the value in waiting. I have seen that good things—maybe even the best things—truly come to those who wait.
The victory is all the sweeter for taking so long. The joy all the richer for following so much rejection, heartache, and doubt. The satisfaction all the more meaningful because it has been shared by so many—and it would not have been shared so meaningfully had it not taken so long. I recognize that; I celebrate what unparalleled joy it is to share joy. The thousands of prayers others have willingly offered on my behalf are staggering. Humbling. Overwhelming. I owe a prayer debt I could never repay.
Above all, I am so grateful to God for allowing me to write this book with Him and for Him. It’s all for you, God… do with it as you will.
Want to check out the book trailer, starring my beautiful friends, and put together by my brilliant brother-in-law? Here it is!
Want to order the book? It’s available anywhere books are sold: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook.com, even in your local Lifeway. I’d love to hear what you think when you’re through—I deeply appreciate every response, every story, every word you send my way. I can’t wait to hear what you think!
I sink into my friend’s cushy new loveseat with a grateful sigh. The eight-hour drive from my house to hers has left me exhausted—I don’t have great stamina as a long-distance driver, but today Cassidy and I have braved the long country roads between North Carolina and Georgia, just the two of us, for the rare treat of a mother-daughter trip to visit friends.
With a smile, my friend’s husband presses a steaming mug of tea into my hands. “You are the best,” I say. I’ve been looking forward to this moment for at least 200 miles. For a few seconds I cradle the mug, savoring the way warmth travels through the pottery, into my fingertips, down into my soul. My friend asks what I want to do tomorrow. I lift the mug to my lips, gathering thoughts.
In the silence between sentences there’s a strange little crunching sound, and suddenly I’m burning. Scalding tea is everywhere—drenching my hands, spattering my arms, filling my lap, soaking the chair. I yelp and leap to my feet. In one bleeding hand I hold the mug’s handle; in the other, I’m struggling to balance the now half-empty mug. My friend and her husband come running, our daughters come running. The next moments are a blur of shrieks and towels, Band-aids and blood. When pain stops and chaos settles, we register what happened: The handle separated from the mug, sending tea flying and pottery shards digging into my hand.
Eventually, when we realize that there’s more blood than actual injury, that my thick winter clothes have protected me from true burns, and that my friend’s forethought in stain-protecting her new loveseat has kept the furniture from total ruin, we dissolve into relieved and shaky laughter.
I change clothes, we clean up, and after a while we are back where we started, settling in to chat on the couches. My friend’s husband brews a fresh cup of tea and holds it out to me. For a heartbeat I hesitate—a hitch of anxiety stops my breath—and I slowly reach out to take the mug. As my friend launches into a story, I find myself holding the mug tighter than I should be, pressing it hard with both hands. I cast nervous glances at the handle, studying its width, weighing its strength. In spite of the rational voice in my head insisting, “This is so stupid, hold the dang handle,” I can’t bring myself to let go and hold the mug by the handle.
The next morning, my friend offers me coffee. Coffee, beloved coffee, sweet nectar of life. She pours me a cup and holds out the mug. A fluttering starts in my gut, and I find myself swallowing hard as I reach for the mug with my still-bandaged hand. She looks at me funny. “Are you okay?”
I nod my head yes. Shake my head no. Set the mug down. Confess with a laugh, “I’m afraid to pick up the mug!”
My friend laughs, then looks slightly wounded. “You don’t trust my mugs anymore.”
“Not just your mugs,” I say with a guilty grin. “Mugs in general.”
She assures me that the mug in question has been a reliable vessel for coffee and tea for many years and is worthy of my full trust. She holds it herself, waves it around to prove it. We laugh, I pretend to feel better, and I pick up the cup, hoping she doesn’t notice that I’m using two hands, unwilling to risk the handle.
Several days later I return home—home to my own coffee pot, my own familiar mugs, dear companions who have faithfully served me coffee and tea during countless prayer times, phone calls, and writing sessions. But even so, when I pour my first cup of coffee into my favorite mug, the “Our nest is blessed” bird mug my mom gave me, I find myself staring it down with eyes narrowed, suspicion rising: Are you going to fail me too? Are you hiding some unseen crack, some weakness in construction? We’ve lived a lot of life together, shared a lot of coffee and good memories, but now…I’ve been burned. I’ve changed—have you changed too?
Over the next few weeks, I keep drinking coffee, but always with two hands, just in case. It’s weeks before I can lift a mug without pause. Months before I can enjoy coffee or tea without a twinge of bad memory pulsing somewhere in the back of my mind. The two-hand mug-hold becomes an unconscious habit. Even though logic tells me I’m being ridiculous—In all your thirty-eight years you have had three million positive experiences drinking from mugs, and only one bad experience with mug malfunction—the odds are totally in your favor!—every time I lift a mug, some primal instinct rises up to defend me. Keep me from getting burned. Keep me using two hands.
After a while it occurs to me that I’ve done this before, only not with mugs. With people. With God. Most of my life has been filled with love, kindness, grace—ten million wondrous memories—but along the way I’ve also experienced a few shocking hurts and disappointments. Wounds I didn’t see coming, from places I’d never doubted.
Sometimes things break on us—not just mugs, but things that really matter: Health. Friendships. Finances. Churches. Parents. Marriages. Families.
Things we thought were a given, things we trusted without question—my mug will always hold my coffee, my friend will always be there, my church will always be a safe place, my parents will always love each other, my guy will always be faithful, my body will always be healthy—suddenly let us down. They break without warning. One minute we’re sitting on a couch with a friend—happy place, familiar comfort—the next we’re gasping in pain, world spinning, and it’s ages before we can even register what happened.
When we’re surprised like that, when things break on us, sometimes we break too. Trust, overcome by fear. Love, overshadowed by suspicion. Openness, overwhelmed by hurt.
We don’t want to be broken. We’re not doing it on purpose. Logically, we tell ourselves that our newfound fear makes no sense—in neutral moments we even laugh at ourselves—but every time we face situations that somehow remind us of that one terrible time, the fear comes roaring to the surface. Taking over. Commandeering our thoughts, our feelings, our reactions. Making us curl into a self-protective cocoon where we can hide safe inside, safe all alone.
Fear does this to us even when we are no longer in any real danger—it takes over based on mere memory. We may be sitting safe and snug—different chair, different day, different mug—but if our mind flashes back to the one bad experience with the one evil mug, suddenly we’re right back there, in danger, and it’s time to flee. Or time to fight.
We who used to live free, love hard… we become guarded. Protective. Isolated. Maybe angry.
We’re not crazy, not making it up. Some broken things, like my friend’s mug, are beyond hope and have to be thrown away—those losses hurt beyond words.
Other broken things can be repaired, but repair is scary. Imperfect. Risky. Even if we manage to glue the handle back onto a mug, we still see a seam. A scar. A weak place that, if we prod it and test it too much, we fear could break again.
Friend, if things or people have broken on you, if you yourself are broken, these words are for you. You feel pain, suspicion, fear—so do I. I’ve felt it in my own ways, through the lens of my own experiences, my own people. I understand the deep, visceral spring of pain that gives fear such ferocity, such control, such long life.
I understand it, but from one burned person to another, one broken soul to another, I’m asking you to let it go. I’m telling you that with God, through Christ, it’s possible.
I’m asking you to take away the power of fear—fear that warps and cripples and binds—by seeing through it. By seeing it for what it is: a fear that wants to distort the way you view people, do church, trust God, experience life, face the future. It is a hurt that wants to haunt you. An injury that seeks to change you. A wound that wants to keep wounding you—not with realities from the present, but with memories from the past. A fear that wants you to live trapped in an invisible box of your own creation. The wounds may have come from others, but the box you built and locked yourself—and friend, you still hold the key.
I’m asking you to use that key. Climb out of that box. Stand free in God’s sun.
I pray you find a way to heal. To forgive, as many times as it takes. To give your hurt and fear to God, and to trust that his hands are big enough to hold them. That Christ’s blood is thick enough, pure enough, to cover all and wash it clean.
I pray you find courage to breathe through the panic, reject the memories, reach out your hand, and take hold of that mug once more. To lift it up and drink it down.
I’m proud to say I have learned to trust mugs again. (Now there’s a sentence that’s never been said before!) It helped when I realized: Sometimes memory distorts reality. Inflates horror. Exaggerates pain. Over time, my memory of the heat and pain became more powerful, more dramatic, than the actual incident itself. Yes, for a few seconds I was uncomfortable, but I wasn’t truly burned! The cuts were mere scratches! Some experiences truly are as awful as we remember, but other memories grow over time—taking on heavier weight, accruing pain like interest.
Either way, isn’t it time to reach out and hold that handle again? The first few times will be the hardest. You might find your heart racing, palms sweating, head spinning. But with time it will get easier. And easier. Still easier. The more often you push through, the more quickly you will overcome. You may relapse every so often, but with focused effort you can keep moving forward. You can enjoy the things, the people, you used to enjoy. You can trust again. Love again. Live again. Yes, you may bear scars, but they need not define you.
My two-hand mug-holding habit took a while to unlearn, but over time, I have. (Mostly.) I now hold mugs with one hand, by the handle, the way normal, non-mug-ophobic people do, and most days I don’t think twice about it. (Although honestly, now that I’m writing this, I’m starting to feel a bit twitchy. Don’t judge me if you catch me relapsing with the two-hand hold for a few weeks.)
Now I’m grateful for the lessons the broken mug taught me:
Most of the time, life is wonderful. But sometimes life hurts. People disappoint. Things change. Mugs break.
But you and I… we can move forward. With God’s help, we can heal. Forgive. In time, maybe we can even forget.
And you know what? Even if we can’t forget, even if we still bear the scar, it’s worth it, reaching out and taking hold of that mug once more. Scar or no scar, bad memories and all, the tea, the coffee, this life… they taste as good as ever.
Who doesn’t love Psalm 23? For three verses it’s all smiles and peace, all dancing through flowers.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
We read this and we’re like, Woohoo! Christianity means I get to be happy, happy all the time! “Green pastures, quiet waters, restored soul”? Sign me up! “He guides me in paths of righteousness”? Yes please!
But then we hit verse four, and our happy dance skips a beat: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.” Wait, what? Valleys and shadows and evil? That doesn’t sound very Psalm 23-ish. I don’t feel like dancing anymore.
We back up and read verse four again.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…
Yep, we read it right. What’s Death Valley doing in the middle of Happy Land?
How does this:
turn into this:
If the Good Shepherd Himself is leading us on paths of righteousness, how can we end up in the valley of the shadow of death—the dark place where evil lives? Did God’s GPS stop working? Did he abandon us mid-journey? Confused, we are tempted to hurry past verse four, eager to get to the “my cup overflows” part at the end.
But let’s pause here for a minute. Let’s take a good hard look at the phrasing, the way verse three leads into verse four (I’m using the NIV, 1984):
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.
Notice that the psalm writer, David, doesn’t say, “And then we wander off the path and abandon God’s righteous ways, and that’s how we end up in the valley of the shadow of death, being punished for our sins.” No—one minute we’re following our loving Shepherd down paths of righteousness; the next we’re in the valley of the shadow of death.
Do you get what this means? Sometimes God’s righteous paths take us to the dark places. Sometimes God Himself leads us into the valley. We’re still on the path, still being righteous, still in the loving care of the Shepherd, but His righteous path is leading us where we don’t want to go—so close to death we feel its shadow.
It’s big, the valley of the shadow of death. Mile after mile of barren wilderness. The path through stretches long—no shortcuts across. The path of righteousness may wander around dark lands for days, weeks, months—even years.
Perhaps you’ve walked those dim paths before. Perhaps you’re walking them now. It goes something like this:
You’re graduating from college, faithful to God. It should be the best time in your life—the future stretching wide, so many options—but you? You have no plan. Not only are you jobless and date-less, you’re also directionless. Everyone else has a Great Life Plan—how they love revealing those plans in epic social media announcements—but you? You just feel lost. Lost and alone.
You’re sad. Endlessly sad. You don’t know why, and you can’t pull out. You pray, you work on yourself, you try to get help, but the sadness remains.
Or maybe you have a family, but your family is struggling. You’ve tried to instill faith in your kids, but they’re fighting you, fighting God.
In times like this, fear rises. Confusion reigns. You start doubting God, doubting yourself: What did I do wrong? Is God mad at me? Does this suffering mean I’m being punished? Did I accidentally wander off the path of righteousness?
Psalm 23 says no. God says no.
There is more to Christianity—and life—than quiet naps by gentle streams. There’s deep comfort for dark times. Living under our Shepherd’s protection and care doesn’t mean we will never wait, never suffer, never experience disappointment, decay, or delay. God doesn’t promise us an escape from hardship; He promises to guide and protect us as we go through hardship, all the way to the other side. No matter how dark the path. No matter how long the journey. That’s the real message of Psalm 23.
The more I think about this truth, the more beautiful this psalm becomes. Because who lives beside quiet waters all the time? Who experiences a life of constant peace and endless blessing? Not me! Sometimes I have, sometimes I do, but not always. Not today.
Psalm 23 doesn’t promise a life of never-ending peace and happiness; it promises strength and help and hope through all life’s ups and downs. We have a Shepherd who loves us and meets all our needs. He knows when we need rest, and He knows how to provide it. And when He leads us down into the valley, He does not leave us alone. His rod and staff—His presence—are there to comfort and guide us all along the way.
We may have times when we’re wandering, but we’re not wandering alone. We may have times when we’re sad, but we’re not sad alone. We may have times when we’re waiting, but we’re not waiting alone.
He is for us, He is with us, and if we will just keep to the righteous path, He will guide us all the way across the valley, however long it takes. Eventually, He will help us find our footing as the path climbs back up the mountainside. We may be out of breath when we reach the top, homesick and road-weary, but He’ll urge us to rest beside a bubbling mountain stream. He’ll ask if we’d like some water, and we’ll hold out our cup and say, “Yes please.”
Want more from Lizzy Life? Sign up for my quarterly newsletter, and you’ll be the first to preorder my new book, When God Says, “Wait,” releasing from Barbour Publishing in March, 2017. New subscribers also receive a free download: 7 Two-Minute Devotions to do around the breakfast table with your family!
Isn’t she the cutest? And I have serious typewriter envy.
Andy is humble, honest, insightful, compassionate, and funny—the kind of woman you want to have deep talks with over coffee. I loved reading A Mary Like Me. Andy dives deep into the lives of the Marys of the Bible: Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary of Bethany, and Mary Magdalene. Andy’s fresh insights into their stories and personalities cover such modern topics as women’s role in ministry, mental illness, grief, messy motherhood, and strategies for in-depth Bible study. In her interview, Andy shares more about who she is and why she wrote this book. I know you’ll love getting to know Andy (and the Marys!) as much as I have.
You wrote this book in part to inspire and empower women who have been called to ministry. What are some of the inner obstacles women may have to overcome when choosing to answer God’s call for their lives? What obstacles have you had to overcome?
Andy: Oh my, so many obstacles! The enemy of our lives is threatened by us, and loves to discourage us in our calling. A huge obstacle is comparison. That’s why I wrote this book. If I compare my speaking, teaching, writing, mothering, cooking (which I’m not a fan), decorating, gardening (which I don’t do), cleaning (which I don’t want to do), etc. to my friends’ and virtual friends’ cooking, writing, speaking, mothering, etc. I’m sunk. Comparison throws a blanket of discouragement over my soul, and I want to quit. I fight comparison by admitting my imperfectness and thanking God for the opportunities He puts in front of me everyday, and I ask for grace to do my best for Him, not for Pinterest or Facebook or the Mother of the Year Award.
For women called to preach and teach and perhaps pastor, there will be many obstacles. All I can say is, “Trust God.” Trust that He will open and close the doors. Go where He leads. Know that He is creative with His calling. It may not, and probably won’t, look like you envisioned when you first knew He was calling you into full-time ministry.
Finally, don’t despise small beginnings, the hidden places. God’s economy is not ours, nor is His timing. Live and serve right where you are with the people He has put in your life. They may be smearing jelly all over your television with chubby fingers. Pray for grace. Kiss those fingers. Thank God for today, and use the hidden places, the small beginnings to grow deeper into Him. Practice His Presence. And practice your calling right where you are now.
We tend to read Bible characters as flat, unrelatable characters, distant from us because of time and cultural differences. How do you hope your book helps modern women to better connect with the Marys of the Bible?
Andy: Oh . . . this is such my heart. Yes, they were from a different culture and spoke a different language, and they lived so long ago, but I am convinced that all of the biblical characters, men and women, dealt with the very same heart issues we do today. We see it easily with Peter and Paul, but for some reason, the “good girl” biblical characters have a holy glow when we read their stories. This detaches them from us, which distances God from us in our hearts because we don’t think we could ever serve Jesus as they did. It’s that comparison thing again. But when we find someone who can relate to our struggles, we are no longer threatened by them. Camaraderie encourages us and draws us closer. I also think that once we connect with the Marys’ human hearts, the thousands of years, language, and cultural barriers disappear, and the Bible becomes more real and applicable for today.
I love the way you incorporate the Bible’s original languages, Greek and Hebrew and even Aramaic, into your study of these women. Your book gives great pointers on simple, non-intimidating ways anyone can add this kind of study to our own Bible reading, even without a Bible degree. What does it add to our Bible study when we explore the original languages?
Andy:Oh my gosh! It adds LIFE to our Bible study when we study this way. It is incredible. My husband says that my goal is to turn everyone into a Bible nerd. It’s true, but only because digging under our translation has brought so much excitement and joy and life into my walk with God. Nuances have been lost in translation that can be discovered by word studies, and exploring the ancient language also brings a fresh understanding into familiar scripture. If the Bible seems dull or hard to understand, you’ve got to try studying this way. You’ll never read the Bible the same, and you’ll find the truth of Hebrews 4:12, “The Bible is alive and active . . . .”
You use the Marys’ experiences to address deep topics like grief and mental illness, with stories from your own life and ministry. How can an encounter with the Marys in the Bible help Christian women who are grieving a loss, or wrestling with mental illness?
Andy: It goes back to camaraderie. You aren’t alone. We find comfort when someone shares what we’re going through. It also takes out some of the power of the grief or depression when we realize someone else knows our pain. But what I really hope the reader sees in these stories is how Jesus interacted with these grieving, mentally ill women. He was loving, caring, and desired to heal them. He cried with them, and He understood their human heart. What kind of God does that?
I love what you wrote about Mary the mother of Jesus: “Mary wasn’t a perfect mother. This gives me hope. . . . My mommy failures won’t wipe out my kids’ destinies either. And neither will yours.” What advice can you give to moms like me who are painfully aware of our own shortcomings—we are striving to grow as Christians and moms, but sometimes we long for perfection and feel overwhelmed by Mom Guilt?
Andy: None of us are perfect mothers. None. Of. Us. We each have our strengths and weaknesses. I knew I’d be a better mom when my kids were teenagers than when they were babies. (And I was.) It’s probably a miracle they came out as good as they did. I prayed a lot. I prayed for God to redeem my mistakes. And He has. Comparison gets us here too. If Pinterest makes you crazy and depressed, don’t do it! I remember watching a friend get up from where the mommies were sitting and walk across the yard to whisper into her son’s ear, and that day I thought, “Oh! What a great idea. Instead of yelling at my kids I should get up, walk over to them, and talk to them.” It took energy. Everything about being a mom takes energy. So, I prayed for energy and creativity in the discipline department, and I did my very best to enforce quiet time in the afternoon so that I could do my Bible study while they were resting. The kitchen sink was filled with dirty dishes, but I was a much better mama when I had my time with the Lord.
See? I told you Andy was amazing! I know you’ll love reading A Mary Like Me as much as I did.
To stay connected with Andy, visit her website and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. (Tell her Elizabeth sent you!) Andy offers a free chapter of her book here after you sign up for her newsletter. You can purchase A Mary Like Me on Amazon and at your nearest Lifeway Store.
Hi! I'm Elizabeth, and Lizzy Life is all about clinging to Christ in the chaos of daily life. As a minister, speaker, and novelist (The Thirteenth Summer), I love finding humor in holiness, and hope in heartache. I live in North Carolina with my preacher husband and four loud children. I believe the recipe for a happy life is simple: laugh-cry daily, pray continually, caffeinate constantly. My next book, When God Says "Wait," releases from Barbour Publishing in March, 2017. READ MORE.
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