Autumn Leaves 3 Column

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sowing and Reaping

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 2 Corinthians 9:6

A couple of weeks ago I went out to Ohio to visit my Mom and celebrate a mile-stone birthday of hers with extended family and friends. I have profound admiration and respect for my mother. While she is not perfect, she has been a bastion of faith and perseverance. I have often liked her to the church of Smyrna in Revelation 2:9 in that she has known affliction and poverty, yet she is rich! She persevered through a difficult and painful first marriage of twenty-three years which ended in divorce. She recently buried an uncaring and unloving second husband to whom she was married for twenty-six years. She raised eight children to adulthood, for all practical purposes, as a single parent and she has invested more love, prayer and sacrifice into us than I can imagine. She is active in her church and has a vibrant and evolving faith as she strives to walk with her Savior daily. She has never had material wealth of any kind and has lived a life filled with trials. However, she is rich: rich in the heavenly treasure of faith. My mother, spiritually speaking, is a faith giant.

Presently at age seventy, she is finally reaping what she has sown. She has children who love her, who enjoy her company, who assist her with daily needs, and are the joy of her life. She has sixteen grandchildren ranging in ages twenty-seven to two. The older grandchildren, my two included, have incredible memories of the simple life on her farm: herds of cows to be milked, sheep to be sheared, flocks of chickens needing eggs gathered, and county fairs. The younger grandchildren have more recent memories of a Grammy who reads to them, builds puzzles, gives them cookies, and gently teases them with affection and humor. All of us, children and grandchildren are witnessing a life of faith sown in trials; a life lived in perseverance to endure through the trials.

Personally, I have praised God for providing me a tremendous model of faith in my mother. As I’ve written in the past, I have been in a lengthy season of trials. And the promise in James 1:2-4 has become my mantra as I hang on with all of my strength to the truth: I can rejoice in trials because the trials are producing perseverance. Perseverance is maturing my faith. My mother has modeled this perseverance and has taught me this mantra, and I am watching her reap what she has sown in laughter and tears, prayer, hard work, and commitment. I have faith that I will also reap what I am presently sowing: hard work, prayer, faithfulness, commitment, and trust. In my mother, I have living proof that God is a God who is faithful to His promises. One day I, also, will reap what I have sown.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Fifteen Minutes

If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:10-11

The nerves were just overwhelming. My hands were shaking, my words were stumbling. I actually started hyperventilating, unable to slow my breathing down. Quickly I grabbed the small plastic bag on top of the ice bucket and panting I opened it up and began breathing: in, out, in, out until I felt my heart slow down. I tried to sit for a moment and again began the process of rehearsing my “pitch” for the appointment I was to keep in forty-five minutes.

I couldn’t believe how quickly a year had passed. Both Kathleen and Susan reminded me that I had set this goal last year: to sit down with a publisher to present a book that I had been compelled to write. Truthfully, writing had become a matter of obedience. I kept asking the Lord, “Am I wasting my time?” “Is this really what You want me to write?” “I have no real qualifications. I’ll never get past the opening words of the presentation.” Over and over I questioned Him. But unless I had a clear answer of “no”, I knew that I had to keep writing.

So write I did. Not as studiously as I should have. Some days I wasted time with games. Other times I’d pick up the phone and call somebody just to put it off a little longer. Then there were times, precious times, when I would become so absorbed Bob would startle me just by speaking my name from my office door or I would jump if the phone rang. But the ideas, thoughts, and stories insisted they be written down; the Scriptures begged for a place to be discussed so that one person might gain understanding one day. Obedience.

The forty-five minutes passed far more quickly than I ever thought they would. Over and over, I said the words to myself: “Thank you for seeing me today. My name is Gayle Dunphy and my book is about….My credentials are….My target audience is…” As I waited outside of the door of the appointed place, God in His mercy, sent a distraction in the form of a conversation with a lovely woman who had just pitched her book. She was small and slight, the complete antithesis of myself, and I was quickly engaged in listening to her story. Then it was my turn.

I walked into the room and I could feel my heart fluttering. Years of dreaming, two years of prayer, and hours upon hours in my office rested upon the next fifteen minutes. I tried to speak slowly and steadily as I shared my passion and heart’s desire for God’s people to fall in love with Jesus and His Word. When I was able to take the actual proposal out of my bag, I no longer felt my being making the motions or carrying the conversation. It felt as though His Spirit had stepped into the moment and made it His own. As I went over the chapter overviews, I could see the publisher’s interest and was able to answer her questions with clarity and enthusiasm, surely proof again of His divine presence. Obedience for fifteen minutes.

Suddenly, she was saying, “I’d like to read your proposal.” I’m really not too sure of what was said after that. I know that I handed her one of my business cards and shook her hand before I walked out of the room. My fifteen minutes were over, but the future was laid out before me like the vision from the top of a beautiful mountain. My joy was beyond words. Fifteen minutes of obedience.

I’ve had a couple of days to process my experience. The fact that a publisher wanted to read my proposal was far more than I had ever dreamed, far more than I had “asked or imagined.” This book may not be published this time. The publisher may read it and not like it. And that’s OK. My focus is this: I have been quietly on my face before my Lord and thanked Him over and over and over; not for the appointment going well although I am thankful for that. But what I have been most thankful for is His empowering me to continue to be obedient when my fears and doubts almost paralyzed me as so often has happened in the past. He has shown me the joy of obedience in the face of my absolute surety that I would fail yet again; that I would be rejected yet again. And still He empowered me to be obedient. My joy is complete.