We Are All Masterpieces–Every Single One of Us

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On the heels of prayer I laid in bed anxious to sleep, but sleep didn’t come. Instead, God flooded my mind with an exquisite ceramic wall hanging, painted in different colors and shapes.

I had never seen it before, but I stared at it from different angles in my mind’s eye and appreciated all the detail and the careful eye of the one who created it.

I saw how the artist had lacquered the finished product, but what I remember most is an overwhelming feeling of pride on behalf of whoever had made it.

Somehow I saw this piece of art through the artist’s eye.

Each color was chosen with care, each brush stroke masterfully executed, and this molded piece of essentially clay and water was built into a masterpiece.

It lingered in my mind and I knew God wanted me to see how it beamed with the pride of workmanship.

This wasn’t made by some hack; it was purposed into existence by an Artist. Suddenly it dawned on me that this piece of art was me.

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This work of art was the product of the Artist’s love. Its only job was to point to the artist’s creativity and imagination. That lovely, multi-colored masterpiece only ever needed to show forth the glory of its creator.

It need not compare itself to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, saying “Why don’t I look like that.” Or, “Oh, look at those brush strokes.”

As I laid in bed, I realized just how ludicrous it is to compare our Creator’s work with the rest of His creation. We are each a masterpiece because we were created by a perfect Master artist.

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And if you create any type of art, this will be especially hard for you to understand. We artists are our own worst critics, aren’t we?

Every author I know can point out to me all the flaws of each novel.

But God doesn’t create the way we do. His process and outcome are perfectevery single time. His design for you is perfect, despite the fact you live in a sin-marred world.

Despite the fact that you are a work in progress.

As I write this, a symphony plays in the background. We are all symphonies to God, even when the music of our lives sounds commonplace and ordinarylike a TV jingle when we long for Beethoven.

This is where we go wrong, when we try to measure ourselves. Our perception is skewed. We fear the obscure and the small and prize grandeur, but that’s not how the Cosmic Artist of the sky sees it.

Not only are each of us fantastic displays of God’s creative genius, He’s creating a larger picture—weaving a tapestry—a multi-generational, diverse, and eternal picture. We are single threads, or just single instruments in His great orchestra.

As we love and connect with one another the whole picture emerges, one more brilliant than its individual components.

The Master Artist leaves no detail to chance, each brush stroke, each note of music exists by His design and purpose.

We are each His masterpieces—every single one of us. 

What would happen if we saw ourselves and each other in this way? If we stared deep into the face of our neighbor and coworker and saw the face of God, the imago dei?

What if we strained our eyes to see God’s signature in all of His creation? What if we looked for the Artist’s fingerprints in everyone we met?

 

When you Can’t Catch Your Breath, Plus Exciting News

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“To truly follow Jesus, I must follow my hands to my keyboard.”

I scrawled these words in my journal so big and bold, the only words in months.

Until very recently, that’s all I’ve written–little profound sentences that call to me. Little snatches of ideas that God breathes my way.

I know I don’t need to explain how we can get winded running this race. Maybe you know exactly what I’m talking about because life has kicked the wind right out of you.

I’m learning how to catch my breath again, how to keep running because I’m desperate to truly follow Jesus.

It’s left me questioning how best to spend my days as a busy mom. I’ve spent the past year devoting all my time to homeschooling. I’ve snuggled and squeezed my babies, as if to stop sand sifting through an hourglass.

It never works though. Here’s proof. My baby starts Kindergarten this year.

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My two nieces, Josh and Sam, and my nephew.

I’ve missed this community, and it’s Jesus who calls me back here. He’s called me to write even when I lack vision or don’t want to make the time.

His love always resuscitates us, doesn’t it? Just this week, a fresh reminder of His love arrived on my doorstep in the form of a case of books sent from my publisher.

While I’ve been away from blogging, I’ve helped to write a few books for Worthy Publishing, and one of the books just released.

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I love the concept for Just Breathe, and isn’t the cover just lovely? A big shout out to the cover designers at Ellie Claire. The colors and photo are so appealing, and the whole journal is printed in color!

It’s for the busy, worn-out people like you and me, who need a ten-minute break to just breathe. Drenched in the grace of God, these devotions will remind you of Jesus’ outstretched arms ready to embrace you.  

Sometimes we forget His grace.

If you’re like me, you need more than a reminder of His grace–you need someone to put a permanent sticky note on your soul reading, I am His, and He will not cast me away.

Sometimes we forget, too, that God answers prayers and our deepest longings. As God gives us to dreams, and we must not forget that He’s in charge of fulfilling those dreams.

When these books arrived, it reminded me of just how faithful God is in the dream-fulfilling department.

If you’re in the middle of chasing down a dream, know that if God has called you to it, He’s at work behind the scenes.

On the pages Just Breathe you can unload what’s on your mind. So if you’re looking for ways to meditate on God’s truth, grab a copy. I love the half page left open for journaling. Blank journals can intimidate me, but this is the perfect amount of space.

If you need to make room to catch your breath, this book won’t disappoint in terms of a beautiful space to reflect, reminisce, and remember God. You can purchase it on Amazon.

If you buy a copy, would you be so kind to post a review? Reviews mean so much to authors.

Thank you so much for inviting me into your life. I pray you have the space you need to catch your breath and dwell with God.

Hope for Those Feeling Weak

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I need you to tell me that I’m enough.

I texted my husband this message the way a sinking ship shoots up a flare.

Perhaps you’ve been in a similar sinking boat of emotions, feeling run down, depleted, or small.

Worthless, even.

I can barely whisper this bully of a word. I certainly don’t want you to know how I’ve cowered in its shadow most of my life.

Worthlessness is the single thread running through all my issues—all my hang-ups and failings.

Am I enough? Am I worthy of time, attention, affection?

This slave driver runs my life, driving me to prove myself to the world, but here’s the good news. We can choose to bask in God’s love.

We can trade worthlessness for wild love. Click To Tweet

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My friend Mary DeMuth just wrote a whole book on this subject. In Worth Living: How God’s Wild Love for You Makes You Worthy, Mary teaches us how to defeat the 10 lies that kill our worth.

If you find yourself engulfed in the flames of insecurity, this book extinguishes fire.

It teaches how to get off the treadmill of perfectionism, how to unshackle your worth from your to-do lists.

And I’m learning so much from it, bookmarking page after page, like this gem:

“If our worth is settled, we no longer have to run around this life desperately trying to prove it. We no longer have to use people’s opinions to feel better about ourselves. We can give up trying to do so many things in order to garner applause.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of doing things out of worry, fear, and guilt.

When we know God’s audacious love deep in our bones, “we live an abundant life based on our worth. We become irresistible to others who are hungry for our settled sense of worth and worthiness,” Mary writes.

So, when I’m tempted to believe my worth hinges on my productivity—how well I’m measuring up to my to-do list, I remember the truth.

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This book ya’ll!—if you buy and read one book this year, you won’t regret this one.

You are wildly, wonderfully loved. You don’t have to live with roller-coaster feelings of… Click To Tweet

 

 

Bound for Bangkok

A Bangkok peanut salesman. Photo by Tord Remme, via Fllickr.

A Bangkok peanut salesman. Photo by Tord Remme, via Fllickr.

Photo by Mike Behnken, via Flickr.

Photo by Mike Behnken, via Flickr.

Ten years ago, while sitting in the breakroom of at work, I overheard a colleague tell a bad joke. I only remember the sophomoric humor ended with the punchline “Bangkok.”

I remember laughing a little too late and worrying that this joke-teller, a senior copyeditor at the newspaper, might doubt my knowledge of geography.

Since I billed myself as a “global citizen,” this bothered me.

I studied international relations in college, made sushi with my Japanese roommates, and waited tables alongside students from Nepal, Pakistan, Lebanon, and all across the Middle East.

When work slowed at the restaurant, we quizzed each other with games like: “Name the capital cities that begin with the letter ‘B.’”

Brussels, Budapest, Buenos Aries. I don’t know if I would have listed Bangkok back then.

I never dreamed I would visit Thailand’s capital city, home of the “reclining Buddha,” the Grand Palace, and a whole lot of spicy street food. Isn’t it just like God to take us to places we don’t plan to go?

God recently opened the door for me to teach pastors how to write and publish in their native languages. In June, I’ll travel to RREACH’s Global Proclamation Congress, where more than 5,000 pastoral trainers will gather from all over Asia.

Through two seminars, I’ll pass on my passion for good writing and God’s Word, and how these go hand in hand.

I work for a nonprofit that publishes Bible resources in languages that need them most. Authenticity Book House is like the Wycliffe of Bible commentaries.

Through ABH, I’ll help give away thousands of Bible commentaries to pastors who need resources.

Did you know 95 percent of pastors worldwide receive no pastoral training whatsoever? That’s 450 pastors with no training to every 1 who receives the gift of education.

Would you consider praying for me as I travel to Bangkok?

  • Would you pray for strategic partnerships with editors and translators?
  • And for us to give away 1 million free downloads.

If you would like to consider supporting this Bangkok trip financially, a gift of any amount is appreciated. You can give here, but please add my name and “Thailand mission trip” to the notes section.

I would love to hear if you’ve ever been in or near Thailand. What was it like?

Has God ever taken you somewhere you thought you’d never go?

Grand Palace, via Flickr, Creative Commons.

Grand Palace, via Flickr, Creative Commons.

 

Water taxis in Bangkok, via Flickr, Creative Commons.

Water taxis in Bangkok, via Flickr, Creative Commons.

Healing for Marked Hearts

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Nine-year-old Dipa lives in India. Her uncle raped her last week. But that’s not the truly shocking part.

More than half of Dipa’s fourth-grade class has been raped or molested, according to a 2007 government survey. Visit any playground or school in India, rich or poor, boys or girls—53 percent are victims of sex abuse.

The atrocity of sexual abuse spans the globe and millions just like Dipa suffer in silence. They need hope and healing for wounds that run deep, piercing even into adulthood.

But often that hope never comes. Many victims don’t dare risk the stigma and shame associated with telling their story. No one talks about sex abuse.

That’s where the Healing for Marked Hearts campaign makes a difference. The Christian publisher I work for hopes to  place a purse-sized book in the hands of these silent victims—a book translated into their own language.

Dipa speaks Marathi, and few resources exist in her language. As a Christian publisher we want to fix this problem, and we have the perfect solution.

Mary DeMuth gave us permission to translate her book, Not Marked—a guidebook for sex abuse victims—into Dipa’s language.

With your help, we can translate this book into Marathi, Mandarin, Spanish, and even more, to provide hope to Dipa and others just like her. Translating, producing, and printing books cost money, and we can’t do it alone.

Will you help us bring hope to these marked hearts?

Not Marked voices Mary’s healing journey and beckons readers to risk the same journey toward emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental health.

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Heal Marked Hearts with Ultimate Hope

The Healing for Marked Hearts campaign will equip churches, crisis centers, and missionaries with both the full-sized book and mini books.

Although full of practical advice for trauma survivors, “Not Marked” sets itself apart by offering everlasting hope. Sex Abuse victims bear scars only Jesus can heal.

Each book includes a beautiful story of the gospel, which brings hope. And fewer than 2 percent of people who speak Dipa’s language —Marathi— know Jesus.

This book may be the only opportunity for these victims to hear the hope Jesus gives.

How You Can Help

If you would like to help many like Dipa you can give here. Millions need the hope this book brings. The money from this Generosity campaign goes directly to producing Not Marked into Marathi, Spanish, and Mandarin. Donations cover:

  1. Translating Not Marked into 3 languages (full sized book, one Mini book version, and one Q&A Mini book)
  2. Editing
  3. Cover Designs
  4. Marketing
  5. Formatting
  6. Book Printing
  7. Shipping to these countries

Marked Hearts Costs

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Other Ways You Can Help

We understand some cannot contribute financially, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help.

  1. Share the campaign using Generosity’s sharing tools.
  2. Like our Facebook page.
  3. Check out our blog posts about sexual abuse.
  4. Ask God to use these books to change lives.

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Author’s Note: I originally wrote this post for my day job. But I couldn’t wait to share it on my personal blog. I want to thank you for helping make a difference for these marked hearts around the globe.

So You Want to Be a Writer?

Photo by John O'Nolan via Creative Commons

Photo by John O’Nolan via Creative Commons

The dreaded rewrite has always struck me as one of those dirty little secrets no one tells you about when you begin a career.

Take for instance the kids who dream of working at the zoo. They romanticize about working with animals, but nobody tells them how often they’ll need to sidestep manure (or the size of elephant dung).

Every job has an unglamorous side. Fire fighters battle fires, and celebrities contend with the paparazzi. And writers fear the rewrite.

I don’t know a writer who doesn’t cringe at the thought of reworking a chapter. If you think editors relish asking for a rewrite, think again.

No editor wants to break out that red pen a second (or tenth) time.

As a writer myself, let me go on record saying I hate rewriting. It stinks compared to the thrill of the first draft—the euphoria of plotting a story or giving birth to an idea to the page.

We all adore the beginning stage of a writing project. I like to call this “the Disney phase” because it reminds me of Disneyland—effervescent happiness tied together with iridescent rainbows.

But rewriting, on the other hand, reminds me of building Disneyland—not vacationing there. It feels like we’ve joined a sweaty construction crew and been asked to drive dozers through the dirt and hoist steel beams into place.

Not to mention working with an editor can resemble communicating a thousand details over walkie talkies.

But if we embrace the editing process, we’ll see a theme park slowly rise out of the dust. Like building a park full of rollercoasters, rewriting requires time, patience, and work.

Photo by Ritesh Nayak via Creative Commons

Photo by Ritesh Nayak via Creative Commons

Rewriting distinguishes the good writers from the great writers.

I’ve never met a manuscript that didn’t need tweaking. Even Pulitzer Prize winners need editors.

But what do we do when rewriting means starting from scratch? When (not if) this happens, take five minutes for a little trash-can basketball. Then restart.

So stop fearing the rewrite—instead, embrace it.   Tell yourself the truth—it needs the strength and clarity that come through rewriting.

Don’t quit when your editor mouths the fearful word, rewrite. Instead get to work. Drag in some better verbs. Take the wrecking ball to awkward sentence structure. Level flailing chapters and build a stronger story.

 

**Author’s Note: This post first appeared on Authenticity Book House’s blog. Read the blog, here.

Four Things I Learned from Living with Cockroaches

Photo by Kathy via Creative Commons Flickr,

Photo by Kathy via Creative Commons Flickr.

Another Kathy photo, via CC Flickr. "Eating at night always makes me gain weight."

Another Kathy photo, via CC Flickr. “Eating at night always makes me gain weight.”

My ability to see a cockroach out of the corner of my eye borders on a superpower.

I honed this skill after five months of watching these creatures crawl back into walls when I turned on the kitchen lights.

I worked among roaches, too.

Since my work commute included a jaunt into the spare bedroom, crawlers surrounded me all day.

Can someone say heebie-jeebie? I shudder to type the word roach now, but I will for two reasons. I want to face my phobia and tell you what I learned about tough times from these little fellas.

1. Hard times can infest any home. Just as roaches don’t care whether you live in a mansion or a shack, difficult times are no respecters of persons.

We all go through valleys and slumps in life and have moments we long to do over.

2. Only God gives lasting peace. I know my little roach story may not compare to real suffering, but I know the One who carries us through the large and small trials.

This peace Jesus gives—this Peace He is—doesn’t go away. It’s permanent hope for our life and can be applied to ANY circumstance.

Believe me, those five months living with roaches tested me. Our roachy apartment showed me how peace can calm an ocean of fear.

We always have the ability to tap into this peace through prayer and meditating on His truth.

Kathy, you may have too much time on your hands. Still, nice name, "I think these make my antennae look fat." Via CC Flickr.

Kathy, you may have too much time on your hands. Still, nice photo title, “I Think These Make My Antennae Look Fat.” Via CC Flickr.

3. Cockroaches love a dirty house, like hard times love a messy life. Ever met someone whose drama never ends? At some point their drama snowballed and started creating its own drama.

Sometimes God leads us through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and other times we pitch our tent there.

I wish I could tell you I’ve avoided self-inflicted difficult seasons, but that wouldn’t be entirely true. Here’s what I know. My life gets “messy” when my thoughts stray from God’s truth.

When I choose to let my mind feast on the negative, tough times are almost sure to follow.

4. Move on and don’t let any bugs (or excess drama) come along. Since roaches are natural hitchhikers, I consider it one of God’s greater miracles these bugs didn’t follow us when we moved into our house four years ago.

These are the things nightmares are made of. But I did take a ton of precaution to keep the little dudes from jumping into our boxes. (I bagged everything in plastic).

Hard times teach us to rely on God. Sometimes we need extra time and care from Him. If you’re in one of these seasons in life, please believe, God longs to meet with you and speak to you. He’s not against you. He’s always for you.

Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Romans 5:2-5).

An Interview with Authors Mary DeMuth and Frank Viola

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Authors Frank Viola and Mary Demuth stop by the blog today to talk about their their latest book, The Day I Met Jesus.

Why did you write this book?

Frank: Back in 2007, I got an idea to create a new genre of Christian literature. I call that genre “biblical narrative.”

The new genre would contain autobiographical fiction closely based on the Scriptural narratives and faithful to first-century history. It would also contain a nonfiction section that applies the narratives to our lives.

God’s Favorite Place on Earth (2013) was my first book in this genre. In it, Lazarus tells the story of when Jesus came to His hometown Bethany and all the amazing things that took place there.

The Day I Met Jesus (2015) is the second book in this genre. I wanted it to tell the story of five women whom Jesus encountered, allowing each woman tell their own story. I also wanted to draw out practical lessons and critical insights from each narrative.

Because I’m not a woman, I couldn’t do justice to the stories on my own, so I asked the top female Christian fiction writer of our time—Mary Demuth—to coauthor it with me.

Mary: I wrote it because I love stories, and I felt that some of these encounters with Jesus didn’t get the air time they deserved. By doing careful research and weaving more of a story arc into the five women’s encounter, I hope to show people that the “characters” of the New Testament are actual, breathing people with stress and dysfunction and hopes just like us.

Tell us the story of how you two came to coauthor it.

Mary: Frank wrote God’s Greatest Place on Earth and had long wanted to do something similar with five women of the New Testament. He approached me about writing the fiction side of The Day I Met Jesus after he found out I wrote fiction as well as nonfiction.

Frank: I had known that she was a non-fiction writer, but had no idea that she could “switch hit.”

You feature five women from the Gospels. Why pick women in particular as your subjects? 

Frank: Some of the most gripping, instructive, inspiring stories in the Gospels involve women. The longest recorded conversation that Jesus ever had was with a woman. And some of the most amazing things He said and did related to women. So I thought that a book in which some of these women told their own stories about Jesus would not only bring the Gospels to life in our minds, but it would also bring Jesus alive in our hearts.

Mary: Women had significant, personal encounters with Jesus, a fact that we sometimes miss. I love that we’re elevating these stories, helping people reimagine just how radical it was that Jesus so beautifully interacted with these women.

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Which one is your favorite and why?

Mary: For me, it’s hard to say. I love them all in different ways. This week, I’ll say it’s Mary of Bethany. She didn’t have a blatant “need” for Jesus. She was just downright faithful and often misunderstood. I think a lot of people can relate to that.

Frank: Mary of Bethany is my all-time favorite disciple of Jesus. This came home to me when I wrote God’s Favorite Place on Earth. Mary was the sister of Lazarus, so she gets ample airtime in that book.

I love Mary because she knew Jesus better than most, anticipating His reactions and even His impending death. She also paid the price for loving Him, for she was falsely accused by both her sister and the other disciples.

Why would someone want to read the book?

Frank: If someone wants a good story to get tied up into… or if they want to see the Bible come to life in a compelling way… or if they want to experience Jesus Christ anew and afresh… or if they are lacking love for the Lord and want that love to be rekindled…, they’ll want to read The Day I Met Jesus.

Mary: Someone would want to read it because it’s truly unique. It’s biblical narrative, but in short story form, but it doesn’t end there. After you’ve been absorbed into a page-turning story, Frank exegetes the wisdom from each encounter and helps you apply it to your life.

Tell us about the course that supplements the book. Frank: The Day I Met Jesus Master Course is designed for those who wish to delve deeper into the themes set forth in the book. It includes a workbook and 20 audio messages delivered by Mary and me. In addition, it includes 8 bonus eBooks from Mary and me. It also includes a closed forum where people can access us both directly for Q&A and dialogue. People can check it out at http://www.thedayimetjesus.com/coursesalegraphic

Tell us what readers get if they purchase it from March 3rd to March 17th from Parable.com.

Frank: They’ll get these 7 exclusive bonuses.

  1. An exclusive audio interview where Mary and I give a behind-the-scenes look at all the facets of the book. The interview covers where the idea of the book came from, why we wrote the book, what it was like collaborating, the hardest part about writing it, and much more.
  2. Mary’s Book Beautiful Battle in Kindle & Nook.
  3. My Book, Rethinking Spiritual Growth in PDF, Kindle, and Nook.
  4. A never-before-released audio conference message entitled “A Woman Inside of a Man.”
  5. Mary’s Book What To Do After People Poop on You in PDF.
  6. A never-before-released audio conference message entitled “He’s Not Ashamed to Call Them Brothers and Sisters.”
  7. A 15% discount off The Day I Met Jesus Master Course.

Click here to order The Day I Met Jesus from Parable before March 17th and get your 7 exclusive bonuses.

When You’re Taking Yourself Too Seriously

Photo via Creative Commons, Flickr

Photo via Creative Commons, Flickr

I sat in my car close to tears, my most recent parenting failures played on repeat in my mind.

My niece had failed her spelling test that morning. My son was cranky because of dental pain, and I still hadn’t managed to arrive on time to gymnastics practice even once.

I owned all of these failures and let their weight crush me until a familiar verse shed a new light.

“Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone—as though we had never been here,” (Psalm 103:15-16 NLT).

I’ve always seen this verse as sobering—even a little sad. But on this day when my cares mounted, it set me free, because it reminded me that I’m grass—not God.

It made me feel lighter somehow. I felt silly for fretting. If my life seems like a blade of grass in the expanse of eternity, then I need to get busy being a happy blade of grass.

Maybe you’re like me, and you take yourself way too seriously. You worry and forget to pray.

That day in the car God reminded me to do my job—the trusting part, and leave orchestrating the cosmos up to him. Our days here are short, and God’s numbered them already, (Psalm 139:16).

Next time I’m tempted to see a world that orbits around me, I’m going to remember who breathed supernovas into existence. And I’ll think about grass—or the wildflowers growing in my backyard.

Before the layer of ice formed across my back yard, I was growing some blue ribbon, Texas-sized dandelions. They bloom on borrowed time, because if the ice doesn’t kill ‘em, I will.

When Spiritual Growth Hurts

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We had finished lunch, and my son slid down from his booster chair and took two steps from the table before he started howling in pain.

I noticed agony written across his face.

I carried him to the couch and cradled him in my arms for several minutes. He didn’t want to walk or put any weight on his left leg. As tears fell down his face he pointed to his left kneecap

The pain sent him back to the couch all afternoon. He tried to hobble away a few times, but he never made it far.

I didn’t worry about it too much. Somewhere along the way I had read about growing pains and knew a growth plate lived near the kneecap.

As we walked down the stairs the next morning, his hand in mine, I reassured him, “Those were probably just growing pains.”

And in that moment I heard the Lord whispering the same thing to me. These pains of the past few months have been growing pains.

My spiritual bones have stretched forth in all directions. And it hurts. It explains the bone-deep ache and soreness I’ve felt the last few months.

But pain often points to growth. It’s evidence that we’re moving forward. Growth shows us we’re living, and I’m trying to welcome life every chance I have, even when it’s mixed with pain.

Sometimes growth can only be appreciated in retrospect, when heads lean against door frames and pencil lines sketch the progress.

Parents know when a growth spurt threatens. They see the ramp up in hunger just like I noticed my son devour three pieces of egg casserole that morning.

If you’re in the middle of a season of growth and pain, increase your intake of the Word of God. You’re going to need it.

And take some time to relish the fact that God, “the author and finisher of your faith” (Heb. 12:3), is growing you.

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns,” (Philippians 1:6).