Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A cover and a calling

Today I'm officially releasing the cover of my first book, Hitched in a Hurry: The ultimate how-to for a speedy "I do," and I couldn't be more excited!

This book hasn't happened traditionally, or perfectly, or anything like that. But working on this project has been a huge learning experience and lots of fun. And you know what? More and more, it's felt like my calling.

I struggled with that for a little while, the "calling" part, because Hitched in a Hurry doesn't involve orphans or Africa or ending world hunger. I'm thinking specifically here about Katie Davis, a blogger, 24-year-old adoptive mother of 13 (yes, 13) children, Ugandan missionary, and author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Kisses from Katie.

This girl is just a rock star. Her humility is palpable, her love for Jesus and for others is unshakeable, and her desire to give all glory and honor to the Father's name is unquenchable. She is on fire, and she has invited the world into her Ugandan village to watch her burn through the pages of a book. If you don't want to be challenged, don't read her book. Because it will shake you up. Why do we have more than enough, when children all over the world are going to bed hungry, alone, afraid? If you don't want to consider these questions, acknowledge these realities, this book is not for you.

It was for me, though. I have learned much through reading about her life.

It's easy to look at Katie's sacrifices and the fact that she doesn't wear makeup and say, "Wow, she's really incredible. She's really doing something." The truth is, though, that Katie Davis is just a woman, as I am just a woman. But she is changing a nation, and I am not—not yet, anyway. The reason? Katie Davis has completely opened herself up, completely poured herself out, to be the hands and feet of God. She has gathered everything—her talents, her vision of the future, her plan, her desires, her American dream—and stacked them all like so many pieces of wood, and she has called the fire of God to fall upon her offering and consume what she thought she wanted, replacing it with what He says is better.

I may not be called to walk the red dirt roads in Uganda or adopt 13 children. But like Katie, I am called to gather everything—my talents, my vision of the future, my plan, my desires, my American dream—and stack them all like so many pieces of wood, and call the fire of God to fall upon my offering and consume what I thought I wanted, replacing it with what He says is better.

I don't want to take Katie's place in the body of Christ. I want to take my place, the place that He has ordained for me to fit and to go. After all,

"For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully." Romans 12:4-8

I have not written a memoir about binding wounds, treating diseases, feeding the hungry, or adopting children. But I have written a how-to guide for brides planning weddings in six months or fewer, and there is room for God to be glorified in that, too.

Cover Design by Jaime Williams

 See, Hitched in a Hurry isn't just about planning a wedding. It's about building a marriage. Hitched in a Hurry isn't just about celebrating the bride. It's about encouraging the bride and groom to love each other; to listen to each other; to give themselves up for each another. Hitched in a Hurry isn't just about a couple making it to the altar. It's about a couple making it to a porch swing when they have gray hair and grandchildren and years of memories behind them, and it's about them still holding hands through it all.

I want people to read Hitched in a Hurry with excitement at the prospect of loving their spouse with the forever kind of love that Christ has shown the Church. I want people to absorb the advice of each and every Real-Life Love couple and say, "If humans can show this kind of love to one another, how much more can my God—who 'did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all'—love me?"

If you read the Our Story series, then you know that I had nothing to do with writing my love story. The Author and Perfecter of my faith took the script from my hands, whispered, "Trust Me," and proceeded to blow my mind with His goodness, mercy, and love. Oh, and a really, really hot husband.

And so I give this book right back to Him.

Without You, Lord, there would be no story to tell, no tips about dress-hunting, no warnings about over Pinterest-ing, no registry lists, no To-Do-Before-"I do" sections...nothing. This is a small thing, this wedding planning book, but you are Great and Mighty. The works of my hands are Yours. May You be seen by all who purchase this book, and may marriages be blessed and strengthened by the words on these pages. May Your inspiration and wisdom come through, and may all else fade away. 

Grace and peace to all of you as you are strengthened day by day to walk in His unique calling upon your life.

. . .

Colossians 3:17—"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

Psalm 90:17—"May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands."

. . .

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

I have decided

My junior year of college, my New Year's resolution was to talk about others less. That same semester I began interning for US Weekly magazine, a publication based entirely upon celebrity gossip.

Whether that was an example of irony, a test of faith, or both, I don't know. But I do know that making and keeping New Year's resolutions can be really, really hard.

Which is why this year, I spent a few extra days thinking about the kind of commitment I wanted to make. My first thought was this:

I will be more selfless. 

That sounded great—noble, actually—until I realized that even the word "selfless" does not omit "self." So I revised my resolution:

I will be less.

But then I realized that my resolution to "be less" still began with me. "I" will do this. "I" will be that. So finally, I landed on this:

He will become greater.

The fact that it took three attempts to seat the Lord before myself is proof that "He will become greater" is a necessary and vital resolution. You see, I am tired of thinking this life is about me.

I am tired of accumulating experiences, of treasuring affirmation, of consuming compliments.

I am tired of forgetting to be overwhelmingly grateful for the food on my table, the warmth of my bed, the love of my family.

I am tired of thinking constantly about how to elevate myself, gain exposure, showcase my talents.

I am tired of meeting someone new and forgetting their name because I was too focused on saying my own.

I am tired of seeking comfort, tired of wondering how far His provision will extend, tired of looking back and wondering, tired of looking ahead and fearing.

I am tired of watching as we, the church, fail to identify sin as sin under the pretense of "accepting others."

I am tired of watching the enemy siphon away joy, and hope, and life from believers and non-believers alike. 

I'm tired of sitting in church and seeking a feeling, tired of closing my eyes to the fact the Lord called all believers, even me, even us, to leave everything to follow Him.

I am tired of censoring myself, wondering if I'll lose or offend friends, or readers, or fans, or whatever, by "talking about Jesus too much."

I am tired of measuring success by the standards of the world.

I am tired of comparing my walk, my spirituality, my experience with God against the walk, spirituality, and experience of other believers.

I am tired of I.

After all, I cannot fix, manage, or carry the weight of any of these things. But He can. So I have decided to follow Jesus. Not for this day, not for this year. Forever.

. . .

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders / Let me walk upon the waters / Wherever You would call me — "Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)" by Hillsong

I love to sing the words to this song. They stir me up. They make me feel alive. These words are what I long for.

At this moment, however, I'd say that my trust extends about as far from my body as a hula hoop. Yet I celebrate, because for me that is huge, astounding growth from where I've been in the past.

In March of last year, I quit my full-time job as a society columnist and staff writer for People Newspapers, which is owned by D Magazine. That job was hard, but let me tell you, it sounded really glamorous when I told people about it. People were impressed by the places I was going and the people I was meeting. And to be honest, I loved that.

When I quit, people wanted to know why. Most times I said, "Because I'm getting married and I need time to plan, plus we might be moving to North Carolina."

I don't know why I settled for saying that. I mean it was true, but it wasn't the whole story. The rest of the story was that God had called me to leave that job. On a plane back from North Carolina, He lovingly, gently asked me to use my words and my writing and my time to say things that matter. To talk about Him. To bring life. To proclaim the freedom I've found in Him. To say goodbye to fluff, to status, to position, and to wholeheartedly seek to bring Him glory.

I have not done this perfectly. Not even close. I have not been spared from moments of pain, or doubt, or human weakness. But I have witnessed His constant flow of provision, and as He has become greater in my life, my hula hoop of trust has finally started to expand.

Here is a testimony: Since quitting my full-time job, I have never been without a freelance project. Never. I have not sought these projects out—the Lord has provided them, and He has done so more abundantly than I could have asked or imagined. Not because I am special or talented. Because that is who He is.

Because that's who He is, I know that one day my trust will be the size of a field, allowing me to lie down in the Lord's promised green pastures without fearing I'll be attacked while resting. One day my trust will be the size of a country, allowing me to move and go and see and find that I am "home," no matter what state I'm in. One day my trust will be the size of the world, equipping me to love as He has loved me without wondering what I'll get in return, or who will notice or praise my efforts. One day, when both the pain and the pleasure of this life have ended; when feelings of sadness and joy have faded away; when the exhilaration of adventure and the light and momentary struggles of this world are behind me; when I'm standing at the feet of Jesus, my trust will finally, finally be without borders. Limitless and infinite in the presence of my Limitless and Infinite Savior.

Until then,

I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.
Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
Though I may wonder, I still will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
No turning back, no turning back.
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
No turning back, no turning back. 
S. Sundar Singh 

. . .

"And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” — Joshua 24:15
Karley with a K. Todos los derechos reservados. © Maira Gall.