when chasing your dreams makes you want to stuff your face with chocolate…and maybe even give up

Sometimes, God’s answer isn’t “No,” it’s just, “Not yet.”

And so then you imagine banging your forehead on the keyboard in front of you. But you don’t, because you’re having a good hair day and also because you’re at the library and you would scare all the children.

But really. The love I have for my Asher series is big.

I love the seven year-old I created. Love him. Love his quirks and his imagination, love his freckles and his two best friends who wear capes to school and only talk by writing on mini-whiteboards.

I love them. But an agent hasn’t picked them up yet, and at this point, it’s been about a year shopping this little guy and his crew.

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photo by erica zoller

And so, for now, it’s time to move on from this particular series. I mean, I could self-publish Asher, but that route simply was never in my game plan. It’s a great route to take! I know BUNCHES of self-published authors, and they’re SUPER successful.

But for some reason, I just don’t get the feeling self-publishing is my route.

I’ve wanted to go the traditional publishing route since I was little, and by golly, I’m going to do it.

(Well. Maybe. If I can stop eating these dang Hershey’s chocolates and let Jesus pick me up by my bootstraps and kick me in the pants to snap me out of my pity party.)

Just kidding. Jesus doesn’t kick me in my pants. I don’t think.

Or maybe He does. Goodness knows I need it.

But my point is, I’m having a moment where I imagine I’m staring into Jesus’s eyes from across the table.

I say, “I’m done. Find me a cave. I’m moving to Alaska with moose and hubby and this bag of Hershey’s and I’m totally serious this time. Why haven’t you published my books yet? This is NOT how I would have planned it!”

And I can almost imagine Him sighing, tilting His head and looking at me with only Love in His eyes.

I imagine Him saying (with a touch of humor because my own mouth is full of chocolates like a squirrel with nuts), “Don’t you remember, Beloved?”

“Remember what?” **mouth still full of chocolate.**

“I have good plans for you. And there are many things you just can’t know yet. I promise, My plans are far better than your own.”

all bundles by Erica Zoller

photo by erica zoller

**Squints eyes accusingly. Tries to look tough and it’s not working but that’s fine.** “But my plan was really good. I was going to show everybody how easy it is to follow your dreams and I was going to make money from my book sales and shop way more at the Loft and take a vacation it totally would have been awesome.”

This is where I’m pretty sure He hoots with laughter the way one laughs at a puppy chasing her own tail. But not a mean laughing, a laughter laced with delight in His creation. In me.

“You’re funny, Robyn, Beloved. I love how I’ve made you.”

I can imagine Him smiling at me, and I try my best to frown in return because I want to stay mad at Him because He didn’t do what I wanted Him to do.

He didn’t follow my plans.

But I suppose Jesus is more exciting than that, right? More exciting than my type-A calendar squares. More exciting than dollar signs or likes on Facebook pages.

And I suppose He really does love us too much to let us settle for lesser things than the glory He’s got in store.

And now, just like that, I hear a whisper that’s more quiet than our conversation had been a minute ago. “Just keep your Eyes on me, Dear One. Are you not worthy already? Are you not already My Beloved?”

I exhale and I smile. Just a little.

Because, yes. I suppose I am.

I know I am.

Despite my forehead banging on the keyboard and my squirrel-esque consumption of chocolate nuggets, I am already enough for Him.

And you know what else?

I’ve got a 2-inch binder at home chalk-full of 320 pages of the most favorite words I’ve ever written. Words filled with magic and wonder and beauty and messiness and a character I’ve poured my heart into.

They’re untouched words, words full of the hope and excitement and the possibility of publishing.

So I ask Him what His plans are for this next book, and all He’ll tell me is that…

…I’m already worthy.

 

Blessings, joy, and an abundant knowing of your worth,

Robyn

why we can actually love our stories: a poem

why we can actually love our stories…

…and maybe trust that the Author loves us, too…

 

a poem, written by a heart that doubts more than I’d care to admit:

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You are faithful when I rest

You are faithful when I work

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You are faithful when I’m happy

You are faithful when I’m hurt

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You are faithful in the evening

You are faithful in the day

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You are faithful through the night

You sing melody at daybreak

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You are faithful when I’m right

You are faithful when I’m wrong

*

You are faithful when I can’t

find the words to sing Your song

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You are faithful to the animals

You are faithful to the trees

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You promise to come back

and take the pain from them and me

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You are faithful when I weep

You are faithful when I dance

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You are the author of joy

You call us home in true romance

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You are faithful when I know

I need you all the time

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You are faithful when I say

“I’ve got this. This life is mine.”

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You are faithful every season

You are faithful in all Your plans

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You are faithful to me always,

for I am always in Your hands.

 

“Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6

“The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in His hands.” John 3:35

Blessings and peace to you,

Robyn

the time i cursed at God and He didn’t leave me

I’ve had an injured knee for about two and half years.

I had surgery for it in October (after years of exhausting all other options) and supposedly should be able to run right now.

I can’t.

At least, not yet.

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And it’s not like I was a crazy, hardcore runner before – I wasn’t. In fact, I didn’t “do” anything to injure my knee. It just started hurting one day – and then it never stopped.

I promise I’m not whining. I’m not. Maybe I am.

But hear me out: I’m extremely thankful for my overall health, the use of my limbs, the food on my table, the roof over my head, the health of my family – it’s all abundantly more than I could have ever asked for.

And I’m so thankful for it.

But chronic pain….it does something to a person after years go by. Especially when people keep telling you “it will get better in X number of months” over and over and over and months go by and it doesn’t get better and you’re left wondering why.

And chronic pain…it never lets you forget. It’s there when you turn over in bed, it’s there when you walk down the stairs, it’s there when you wake up and it’s there when you go to sleep. It’s there when you can’t dance at weddings. It’s there when you watch people play frisbee. It’s there when you fall trying to sit on the floor. It’s just there.

And now I really am whining. Sorry. Over now.

Two weeks ago, recovery for my knee took a bad turn, and not only did it scare me, it absolutely brought me to my knees.

I’d spent so much time trying, trying, trying, praying, praying, praying, hoping, hoping, hoping…

And I was just finally done. Done. Done. Done.

Done.

And I told God as much. I’m all for being real, so I’ll be real: I yelled at God. YELLED at Him. YELLLLLLLLED at Him like I don’t think I’ve ever yelled at anyone before in my entire life. (I was alone in the house. I might have scared the cats, though. I haven’t asked them.)

My angry, tear-filled rant sounded something like this, but only after I chucked my bible study onto the ground for dramatic effect:I’ve been faithful to You. I’ve done everything every doctor has ever told me to do. And all the while, I’ve read the Bible and I’ve tried to trust You and I’ve stayed positive and I’ve looked for the bright side in this whole thing and I’ve prayed and I’ve asked You for healing EVERY DAY FOR YEARS and I know you CAN heal but YOU WON’T ANSWER ME! WHY WON’T YOU HEAL ME?!”

Then I cursed. At God. With my finger pointed all crooked and accusing in His direction. Again and again. 

I know. My whole face burns with embarrassment as I write this. See my sin in all its ugliness: I cursed at the face of my Creator. At the One who loved me before I knew love. I cursed at Perfect Love Himself. At perfect Holiness and Purity. I cursed at the one I’d already nailed to the cross.

I did.

But then something even crazier and more scandalous happened.

He met me there.

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I didn’t scare Him away. He wasn’t angry at me. I wasn’t struck down by lightning. I wasn’t given an “F” on my Christian Report Card.

Instead, over the next few days, I felt Him bending down nearer and nearer, leaning in, gently whispering, “Thanks for being honest with Me. You can trust me with all of you. I love you. I want all of you. I want intimacy with you. I don’t want your mask. I already know what’s underneath. I knew every word you’d spoken to me before you spoke it. And I still love you. I always will. You can’t change how I feel about you.”

It absolutely scandalized me. And confused me. I was slightly offended, in fact.

Because I hadn’t been good. I’d been ugly. But He didn’t punish me. Things aren’t supposed to work that way, right? Not in the economy of perfectionism.

Perfect Love tends to do that to perfectionism – exposes it for the fake security that it is.

“There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18, emphasis mine).

Can I fast forward to today?

Two weeks later from when I cursed at God and walked out on Him and called Him names?

Today, Michael and I walked 4 miles. Outside. In the sunshine.

And it felt ah-mazing!! Did you just read that?

I WALKED 4 MILES.

It didn’t hurt! At all!

I literally can’t remember the last time Michael and I have been able to do that together.

In fact, over the past two weeks, my physical therapist has been amazed at the sudden spurt of growth and progress I’ve had in my knee.

I’ve done more in the past two weeks than I’ve been able to do in the past two years – all with little to no pain.

All this outpouring of blessing. All this answered prayer. And all….after I failed God. After I cursed at the Healer Himself and accused the Faithful One of being unfaithful. After I walked out on Him.

Y’all.

I’ve never been more in love with Jesus. And not because my knee is doing well. I do love that, but that’s not why I love Him more.

It’s because when I let Him see me, really see me, He still liked me.

I let Him in on the good, the bad, the ugly, and He didn’t turn away.

He welcomed me, anger and all. I was fully known. Fully accepted. Fully loved. Fully hemmed in, behind and before.

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He didn’t punish me for spewing anger His way. He didn’t make my knee worse. (Yes. I was actually afraid of that.)

On the contrary, like David said, God actually blessed me in the weeks that followed:

“When I was beleaguered and bitter…in Your very presence…I’m still in Your presence, but You’ve taken my hand. You wisely and tenderly lead me, and then You bless me” (psalm 73:21-24 msg version, emphasis mine).

I did apologize for treating God badly – for being mean to Him. That’s not how I would have talked to a friend. To my dad. To myself.

But He “made me lie down in green pastures…He restored my soul” (psalm 23 v. 2-3).

He made me lie down. He brought me to my knees.

And then He raised me up.

I’ve never felt more secure or loved…or calm. All of a sudden, I’m praying all day. I’m not trying to, I just am. I’m just talking with Someone who already knows and already loves.

Y’all. With confidence: we can trust Him. We can trust Him. We can trust Him.

You can’t scare Him off. And you certainly can’t out-perform Him.

Perfect Love won’t punish us. He punished Himself for us.

Mmm. Yes.

It’s scandalous. Scandalous grace.

 

Blessings, sunshine, fresh air, and long walks to you,

Robyn

a clinched fist is tiring, but an open palm can hold all the chocolate

I’ve learned this year that…to receive the blessings of God, the promises of God, the Word of God, the confidence of God, the love of God, the glory of God, the rest in God, the peace, the joy, the steady heartbeat that comes with simply being loved by Love Himself

I have to open my clinched fists of control. So that, open-palmed, I might receive from Him.

That I might receive Him.

Control makes no sense. So then, why do I want it so badly? Is it maybe because I don’t trust God fully enough to take care of things?

That’s embarrassing. Because that would mean…I myself want to be God…instead of letting Him be God.

Seriously. That’s embarrassing.dsc_7386

So how then, I wonder, do I combat the need to clinch the fists and tighten the grip and strangle the carefree life in search of elusive control?

Heart bowed, humility washing, I ask the Lord to gently uncoil my fingers…

…and suddenly the breathing is easier. I notice the sun on the pinestraw outside and the whiskers on Tuck and suddenly there are enough hours in the day to do everything I want to get done because suddenly all I want to get done is…enjoying God.

And the work is more fun. The words are beautiful. The pressure is gone. The rest is easy and the burden is light. Jesus didn’t lie about that part.

I always wondered what He meant when He said, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). Because I must have been coming to Him all this time with my fists clinched. Head-butting Him, probably. Knowing me. Because with fists clinched all I can do is head-butt or punch. And head-butting is more fun. Just ask Michael.

But with open palms, I can receive from Him. Receive life. Receive more of Him. Right where I am. In the middle of the work day. In a night of anxiety. In the quiet moment on the couch with coffee. In the triumph of progress. Wrangling the cats. Waiting for an answer.

And we can, you know? We can open our palms to receive from Jesus..because He can be trusted. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lam 3:22-23).

Gosh, it’s hard. But clinching the fists tight, I’ve learned, is harder. And much less fun. I prefer joy over worry.

I can, I must, to really live, open my palms to Him. And I can, I remind my heart, because He, in order for me to really live, opened His palms for me. He engraved my name upon His hands (Isaiah 49:16). He let the nail pierce His hands, knowing it was for me. Me. If He saw me as worth His very life, can’t I trust Him with mine?

I will open my hands to Him. I will receive the restful life He promised. I will receive Him.

Because I can trust this God-man, I tell my heart. The One who gave His life for me. I can trust Him.

Jesus holds all things together, and everything is in His hands. Col 1:17, John 3:35.

So I’ll live with open hands today, thrilled and kid-like to see what God places in them. Marveling at how God holds them gently. Loving the easy-going rest.

And you know, with open hands, there’s just flat-out more room to hold all the chocolate.

 

Blessings and joy and freedom and a handful of chocolate to you,

Robyn

when we think Jesus counts straws

Ever felt like this must be the last straw?

Like if you seriously make this SAME. MISTAKE. one more time, Jesus is totally done. He must be.

Because let’s face it: we feel that way about ourselves sometimes. Lots of times, maybe.

*(Seriously, Robyn? You’re really going to worry. Right now. About that thing. AGAIN. You seriously forgot about “not worrying” already?)*

And maybe your “last straw” isn’t worry. Maybe it’s insecurity or selfishness or pride or laziness or a million other things that you KNOW that you know that you know you don’t like.

But here’s the thing: Jesus doesn’t have last straws.

Because instead of counting straws he counts the hairs on our heads (Matt 10:30). He counts the tears we shed (Psalm 56:8). He even counts the beauty of our smallest seed-size faith (Matt 17:20).

His Love is too great to leave room for last straws.

Jesus doesn’t do last straws.

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He shows us this in the book of Luke.

First, Jesus chose his 12 disciples. And His disciples weren’t just his students, but they were His closest companions on this earth. These last-straw people were the ones with whom He literally reclined (relaxed and shared meals with). By choice. He chose these men to share in His intimate times of prayer. So dare I say it? He trusted them with His heart.

And let me clarify something: Jesus knew before He picked His disciples, his friends…He knew every time they would mess up, every sinful thought they’d ever have. He knew Peter would literally deny knowing him.

And then there’s this: Jesus didn’t need to trust anyone with His precious friendship. He’s God! He’s completely self-sufficient! He didn’t need anything.

No.

Intimate friendships with last-straw people were His choice.

And they still are.

Can I tell you a little bit more about His disciples, His chosen companions, some last-straw champs just like you and me?

Luke 9 gives us a nice real-life window into their lives. Here’s a very brief summary:

The disciples (Jesus’s chosen friends) fell asleep amid a miracle. Then they compared themselves with one another and argued about which of them was the greatest. Next, one of them became jealous of a Christ-follower who was able to perform a miracle that none of them could yet perform. Then they tattled on this particular man and even tried to exclude him from their group.

But did Jesus ever give up on His disciples or trade them in for better friends? Did He ever roll His eyes and mark an “X” on their checklists of “How to Follow God?”

No.

He was patient. Because Jesus doesn’t throw in the towel.

In fact, He does the opposite.

After all the drama, after all the last-straws of Luke 9, this is what Jesus did:

“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem” (v. 51).

That’s exactly the next verse after the disciple-getting-jealous-and-tattling-and-excluding episode. Jesus sets out resolutely to the place where He would die for that very disciple. And for you. And for me.

Meriam-Webster definition of “resolute”: marked by firm determination; bold, steady.

That’s our Jesus, isn’t it?

STEADY. We fall asleep, we get jealous, we exclude, we sin, we fail. But He’s there at the end our race, flag waving in victory, RESOLUTELY STEADY. And He’s there in the midst of our race, guiding us with the hands upon which our very names are engraved (Isaiah 49:16). RESOLUTELY STEADY.

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Jesus doesn’t count our straws.

He counts us as His friends.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13, emphasis mine.

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15, emphasis mine.

Peace to you and abundant blessings today in Christ,

Robyn

when i asked the scariest question of all

I would love to share a bit of my story with you…

Here’s why.

I was nervous to lead worship last week.

But it wasn’t the good, excited kind of nervous.

It was the nervous that happens when thoughts creep in like, “What if they decide I’m not good enough to come back and do it again? What if I choke up there? What if I sound bad? What if they think…?”

And these are not worship-leading thoughts.

And they bothered me. I knew I couldn’t lead worship like that, but I also knew singing to the Lord and inviting others to sing with me breathes life into my heart.

I couldn’t surrender to those thoughts, so I prayed.

And just like He promises, Jesus bent down low to my quiet plea and came near.

He whispered gently, quietly, the question I simply couldn’t ask myself.

Because at first, it was literally the scariest question I could face.

It was the question He used to unlock my heart and set it free.

“What if they do decide you’re not good enough, Beloved? What if you do mess up? What if you don’t sound your best? What if they never invite you back?

Who are you, then, Beloved?”

And I swallowed hard in the realization and My heart popped out of my chest and the house I’d built upon shifting sand was gone.

Where to put my house, my identity? Where to place it? MyLANTA, is there nowhere on this Earth safe enough, secure enough, to rest in who God made me to be?

No. Blessed truth, no.

Not here.

May I share a bit of my story with you? It seems I’ve been in a sort of identity crisis for lots of (most of) my life until now.

I had a very comfortable childhood, a wonderful family with loving parents who are still together to this day.

I had an even more comfortable growing-up and teenage life, which Michael informs me is weird.

I loved high school. I found my placemy identityand I built my house upon it.

I led worship at our FCA and at youth group. I was the guitar-playing, singing chick who loved Jesus and loved singing to Him and that was my identity.

I had awesome friends and they were my identity.

I was crowned homecoming queen, and that was my identity.

Homecoming

Needless to say, I was a pretty confident girl headed to college but whose confidence and identity was built upon a foundation of sand.

I joined a sorority. And all of a sudden, I wasn’t the only homecoming queen.

I was literally surrounded by homecoming queens.

The sand started to slip.

My grandfather passed away.

My loving family looked different to me now.

Death happened.

More sand slipped.

I tried out for the worship team of my campus ministry.

I didn’t make it.

I wasn’t a worship leader anymore.

The sand slipped.

Lots of friends headed a different direction than me.

I wasn’t in my friend bubble anymore.

And the sand was gone.

And all through college, my Jesus walked with me and picked up my broken pieces, but still I was so insecure and couldn’t figure out why.

Andrew Strickland Photography (19 of 53)

Fast forward to post-college, and I became a teacher. My new identity. My new house to in which to rest my heart and yet it was built upon sand again.

It seemed pretty secure until I was told with the harsh words of misdirected anger that I simply wasn’t good enough, and was laid off.

I taught for a bit longer elsewhere, and then became a writer.

Relief, a new identity.

Positive feedback came with my first book, and my house upon sand seemed golden.

And then, I found a book so similar to mine that I had to put my project on its shelf and start from scratch.

My timeline of publishing books for children wasn’t panning out the way I had planned.

What if I never publish a book? Who am I, God?”

This cry of my heart came to a head when I was asked to lead worship last week.

And then Jesus, upon His throne of mercy, stooped down to me in a pew as I prayed and cried and He whispered,

“You are mine. I am yours. You’re identity is Me.”

What?

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…” Hebrews 6:19.

The eyes of my heart were opened in sudden seeing. Seeing freedom. Seeing the Rock on which to build my house of identity for the first time.

Jesus says, “I will never change. Therefore, who you are, my sheep, my heir, will never change. Rest in Me. It’s why I came, Beloved.”

And I cried with relief and the joy I cannot even describe, and I made this list.

It has become my freedom banner.

My identity is not…

a mess up, a worship leader, a good girl, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an author, a nanny, a teacher, a friend, a pretty girl, an ugly girl, an anxious girl, a control freak, a worryer, popular, unpopular, a right girl, a wrong girl, a discerning girl, a faithful girl, a musical girl, a successful girl, a lazy girl, a fired girl, a hired girl, a homecoming queen, an outcast.

My identity is…JESUS.

I. Am. His.

Andrew Strickland Photography (28 of 53)

If you’ve ever felt insecure, (so that’s like, 100% of us, I’m assuming), I encourage you to make a freedom list of what your identity is not…ending with Who your identity is. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Blessings to you and forever security in Him,

Robyn

when the fig tree doesn’t bud

Full disclosure?

I may or may not be crying a bit while I write this.

Fortunately, I also have a bag of barbecue chips by my side which makes things a little better.

I wanted to give all my friends an update on my book publishing process, and it’s a painful update this time. One of my main goals in making this blog is to be transparent – to override the facade of social media perfection.

So here goes.

* crunches chip. sniffles. crunches another chip. *

Okay. Ready.

I blow through about 3 children’s chapter books a week, since that’s what I’m writing.

* okay, not ready…more sniffles. *

Anyway. I spend hours reading them, studying them, diagramming them, and re-reading them.

I found one a few weeks ago that as I read it, page by page, I got that hot feeling in my face that happens when a teacher calls on me and I’m caught daydreaming or that time I got pulled over in a speed zone or now, that hot feeling I get when I’ve found a book parallel to mine.

Yes. Parallel to mine.

*sniffles.*

I was sitting in the minute clinic waiting area, just wilting with each turn of the page. And not because of the ringing in my ears or the fact that I couldn’t breathe through my nose.

Good news?

My writing voice is extremely different from this author’s. My characters are extremely unique from these characters.

(So I can keep my babies. I love them. I don’t want to give them up.)

But the plot….oh, the plot. There it was. Laid flat on each page.

Months of work. Months and months and months of work and someone else did it first.

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But hey, other good news?

This book turned out to be a New York Times bestseller.

Dad says I should take that as affirmation that I know what I’m doing. That I know my audience, and I know what’s relevant to them. And praise God, I picked up this book before I spent too much time sending mine out.

But my heartache.

Couldn’t this have been easier?

Could my first book have been the one?

I know it doesn’t usually happen like that for authors, but couldn’t I have been the exception?

Maybe “easy” isn’t God’s plan for me or this book.

Maybe I’m learning what it means to persevere. Maybe I’m learning what it means to have faith in what I believe the Lord has promised me. The kind of faith that I can’t muster up on my own…the kind of faith only God can give. Maybe I’m in the process of creating books so much better, so much more developed, so much meatier than my first one, that kids will love them and benefit from them even more.

Maybe I’m learning to be real with people and not apologize about it.

I have faith that someday, I’ll hold my published book in my hands and I’ll read it to a class full of littles knowing that I didn’t give up.

Knowing that I didn’t lose faith in God even when things didn’t go my way.

Even when the disappointment was real.

Even when my 6-month project had to be filed away.

Even when the stomach dropped and the tears came because that book was like my baby.

I have faith that someday, I’ll tell littles not to give up. To follow their heart’s desires.

Because by God’s grace, I’ll say, I didn’t give up either.

And a beautiful book happened because of that.

So, with tears in my eyes and a knot in my throat, I’m on to book 2.

Ann Voskamp is a delight.

Ann Voskamp is a delight.

Thank You God, for teaching me to bow my head and to bend my knees and to run the good race with You as my anchor and with faith as my shield.

Dear reading heart, if you have a goal, a God-given heart desire, press on. Press on. 

I have a feeling we’ll be glad we did.

And may we, the bold dreamers who face disappointment, call our hearts to sing this anthem:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

and no cattle in the stalls, 

yet I will rejoice in the LORD,

I will be joyful in God my Savior. 

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;

he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

he enables me to tread on the heights”

-Habakkuk 3:17-19.

Blessings and joyful strength to you,

Robyn