I have a to-do list a mile long. Movers will be here next week to pack our stuff, so I need to box up what we are loading into our vehicles. I'm about a third of the way through revising my second novel, so there are scenes waiting for me. A CWG assignment is due on the ninth. Books on craft beckon from beside my reading chair. The grocery store is calling.

And I'm not going to do any of it today. I've been going full-tilt for several weeks now, gearing up for the move, polishing this book, driving all over the country visiting family... Just for today, I'm done.

God made us to take a day of rest. The Sabbath is not about Sunday or church or any of that. It's about rest. For you, rest might be fishing or golf or even mowing the lawn. For me, it's cup of coffee and mindless staring out the window. It's a book I can't wait to dive into. It's a long conversation on the phone with a friend in another state. It's an aimless walk with the dog. That will be my day today. No schedule. No to-do list. No nothing. No work. No guilt. Recharging my batteries.

When was the last time you Sabbathed? Hm?

I have to go now. I think blogging might qualify as work. There will be no work on my Sabbath. Starting... now.


Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds...and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of...wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up, the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor even eagle flew.
And while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space...
...put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

(John Gillespie Magee, Jr)

I was debating what to post today when I went on Facebook to see what my friends are up to. That's when I saw Kay Shostak (who may come and beat me up for writing this). It occurred to me then that the story of Kay has never really been told here, but it's important.

To shorten the long part of the story, I walked into a room filled with writers the first full day of my first real writers conference, and a stranger looked at my name tag, looked up at me, and said, "You're Jodie Bailey! I was hoping I'd get to meet you!" She was actually excited to see me. It was... very weird. As we talked, she finally told me she'd read my blog and wanted to meet the not-so-very-smart person who sent a proposal with no SASE or contact info and yet still managed to get a request for a full. Well, burst my "famous" bubble, why don't you. But then, the two of us proceeded, in the course of the first ten minutes of our friendship, to plot the novel that will change the CBA world FOR-EV-ER. Please don't ask what it's about... that's top secret. And it will probably remain top secret FOR-EV-ER.

Kay became a friend of my heart that day. And the longer we stayed in touch, the more I saw God's hand in it. Because He seems to have equally paced our writing journeys so that we have someone there for us, going through our very same waitings. Both of us had requests from agents for full manuscripts at roughly the same time... which required waiting to see if those manuscripts would be accepted or rejected. Both of us were accepted by agents at roughly the same time. And now we both sit waiting (roughly!) to hear the results of queries to publishers. (I think both of us are waiting for the other to get a book contract so we can see if this streak continues...) We went through the ups and the downs and the uncertainties of waiting--and having our work judged--together.

The take away? Look around you. God has given you someone to walk with on this road. Whatever you are going through, it is not unique. If you stop and look around, a stranger (or perhaps not-a-stranger) will grab you by the hand (or stalk you at a writers conference) and tell you they have walked--or still walk--the path you are on. God's cool like that.

And Kay is pretty cool like that too.

I woke up this morning to a Facebook/Twitter/Blogosphere racing with news about Diann Hunt, an amazing writer and woman of God.

I was all set to blog today, but felt instead the need to direct everybody to Girls Write Out, the blog she shares with some other awesome ladies of faith. Diann found out yesterday that she has ovarian cancer. There is a huge call to prayer for her! Please join us!

There is a "joke" in our house when it comes to military moves. It seems like we always go back where we've been. From Bragg to Michigan... and back to Bragg. From Georgia to New York... and back to Georgia. When we got word we'd be moving again, we assumed it would be to somewhere we've been before.

Nope. We get the adventure of going somewhere totally different. I actually enjoy that adventure. It's fun to see and learn a new place, to make new friends...

But yesterday it hit me that I'm leaving a whole lot behind. I have amazing friends here, a fabulous church, a group of ladies in Bible study who are a part of my heart, wonderful neighbors... And they are all going to be in my past very soon.

Just when I was starting to feel down, God brought up something in Bible study this morning. Joshua 3: 4b (MSG) says, "'ll see clearly the route to take. You've never been on this road before." This was just before the Israelites crossed into the Promised Land. And God did unbelievable things ahead of them there.

So, do we dare? Will we let God take us somewhere we've never been before and, in the process, show us more of Him? Deep breath... I think I'm ready.

It's no secret I've been dealing with trust lately, so it's probably no surprise that the old Travis Tritt song "Can I Trust You With My Heart" has been playing around in my head.

Side note? It hurt me to call that an "old" song.

After hearing that song in my head for days on end, I decided to look up the lyrics since it's been a while. It's your typical boy-meets-girl kind of song, but look deeper and the struggle about trusting God rings through.

We often experience that blush of "first love" with God, when we think nothing bad can ever happen. And then, that tough to understand thing comes, and we start to wonder. Can we trust Him? Will He always walk beside us? Will He really do what's best for us? Can He really handle our baggage? We back up and start to question Him, start to ask, "Hey, God... Can I really trust You with everything about me? Can I trust you if I love you and surrender to you?"

I think about Job a lot when I think about trust. I want to come to that place where, like Job, I can say, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." (Job 13:15) That is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. God is not a man (or a woman, like the Travis Tritt song). Men will violate our trust. God never will.

Easy to say, hard to believe some days.

I encourage you to read the lyrics to that song. Think about it in terms of God. No, not all of the words will apply, but for the ones that do, ask yourself where you are in your walk. Are you holding back, asking God if He is trustworthy? Are you making your trust conditional? Or are you trusting Him with no conditions on your relationship with Him? Yes, we will go through seasons of trust and doubt. Where are you now?

-JB (who is definitely still learning to trust)
When I was a little girl, my mother liked to listen to Elvis. She had an 8-track (yes, I'm that old) of his gospel music. To this day, my favorite Elvis song is his version of "Peace in the Valley".

That song was on my mind this morning. I have no idea why. But it got me thinking about Elvis. Now, I don't know a whole lot about him, but by all appearances, he started out as a good ol' Southern boy who loved his mama and Jesus. Somewhere along the way, people started calling him "The King." I think--just maybe--he bought that press. He ceased being Elvis Presley, became Elvis, and then became The King. He stopped being who he really was and became almost a caricature of himself. People idolized him, even worshiped him, but his life was off-center and he seemed to lose who he was.

I wonder if there's not a lesson there? God made me. He made you. He gave us a calling (or multiple callings) and set us on this earth to do something for him. But what happens when we take the reins? When we try to become The Kings of our lives? We become shells of who we were meant to be. We cease to be who we really are. We turn into that caricature. Oh sure, on the outside, things might look phenomenal, but on the inside we're a wreck. Whether we know it or not.

Now, I'm not trying to talk bad about Elvis or judge his spiritual state. I have no idea who he really was or how he really felt. I'm merely looking at the outside of things. What I do know is this: I need to take a hard look at who is reigning in my life. Is it God? Or is it me?

How about you? Who's The King in your life?

It happened again.

Last night, I was reading the passage in my "read the Bible in a year" (I'm behind... and reading chronologically), and it happened again.

God told Abram (before he was Abraham) to pack up everything and move to a whole new place. Did Abram balk? Nope. Did he argue? Nope. Did he try to bargain with God? Nope. He obediently packed it all up and went. He did exactly as he was told.

And do you suppose when he got to the place God led him, everything was peachy keen and awesome and wonderful? Get a load of Genesis 12:10 (NIV): "Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe."

WHAT?!? No sooner does Abraham get to the place God leads him, but a famine strikes and he has to leave.

Seriously? First Mary has to travel when she's hugely pregnant. Then Abraham does exactly what God says and runs smack into a famine. Hm. Obedience does not always guarantee an easy road, does it? Sometimes, we follow the plan only to see it apparently crumble before us. Here's the thing, though... God is up to something, even then. Maybe he's growing us. Maybe he's ministering to someone else through us. But it's never without purpose.

When I get frustrated and angry with God, maybe that's when I should look at His servants in the Bible: Mary and her inconvenient travels and dirty stable; Abram and the famine; Joseph in prison; Elijah hiding in a cave; John on Patmos; the other eleven disciples martyred... I think I need an attitude adjustment. How 'bout you?
I was reading about Mary this morning, about her being "heavy with child" when the census took her to Bethlehem with Joseph. What do you know? God convicted me. Ouch.

Boy do I ever complain about the little things. I handle the big things pretty well. For instance, this sudden state-to-state move we're about to make? I got it. No problem. Put it in gear and drive on. But the fact that we will probably spend three weeks in a hotel? That bugs me. That irks me. That makes me want to look at God and say, "Uh, we're doing your will. Shouldn't this be smoother than that?"

And then I read about Mary, heavy with child. God didn't make it easy on her, did he? He sent her on a long, arduous journey while she was pregnant enough to burst. Not only that, He sent her on this journey at a time when every hotel in the vicinity was full, and the only place to give birth to her baby--HIS son--was in a nasty old stable.

Nope, He didn't make it easy. Why not? I don't have an answer for that. But it sure does put three weeks in a hotel into perspective, huh?

I was thinking about Mary this morning. (Jesus's mother Mary, that is...) She was called blessed and highly favored. A lot of times, we're tempted to think she had it easy because she was Jesus' mother.

But most likely, she didn't. Think about this... How would you like to have to go to your parents and say, "Hey, Mom and Dad! Here's the thing. I'm pregnant. And it's not my betrothed's baby and, truly, I've never had sex with anyone! See, this angel came and told me..." Yeah, it's a believable story. Now imagine having to say that in a culture where adultery was punished by stoning. Ostracism at best; death at worst.

She had to face Joseph and tell him she was pregnant. He had every right to divorce her. And she had no way of knowing that he would get his own angelic visitor to instruct him.

You can bet she wished Gabriel had stuck around to tell a few other people besides her!

Just what did Mary say when Gabriel came to her and turned her life upside down? She basically said, "Whatever God wants to do, I'll go along with. Let Him do to me whatever He wishes."

Full submission. Whatever the consequences. Whatever God wanted to do.

Lord, help me to be more like Mary!

My daughter, when she was a baby, taught me more about God's love than anything else had in the first 29 years of my life. One day, I sat there, holding her. She was lying in my lap, staring up and focusing on nothing. Helpless. At that point, when she was less than a week old, she could not really do anything for me. She ate, she slept, she made some really big messes that we had to clean up... And in return for all of our work for her, all she could do was lay there, look cute, and make another mess. :-)

But, oh, that was love like I had never felt before... all for someone who could give me nothing in return right then. I'd do anything for her. Anything at all.

It hit me, as I looked at her, that God's love is a lot like that. We really can't do anything for Him in return, and we make a whole lot of messes for Him to clean up, but He loves us with a love so huge that He'd do anything for us... including die. As much as I love my daughter, God loves us so much more. The overwhelming love I feel? It doesn't even touch God's love.
Sometimes I forget that my life is "different." But in the face of a move and a visit to the National Infantry Museum last Saturday, I'm remembering.

Photo by Kristin Molinaro

When you first walk into the museum, you are invited to walk The Last One Hundred Yards, because "the last one hundred yards of any battle belong to the infantry." In the museum's hundred yards are images from the Revolutionary War to the present of our infantry soldiers doing their job. It made me cry. I was awed by these soldiers before me and all that they had sacrificed. I was proud of men and women who fight for freedom (for ourselves and for others). And halfway through, I stopped cold and looked at my husband, standing in the middle of all of that history and, literally, being a part of that history. He is one of those men. For that brief moment, my mind was able to wrap around that fact.

In the day to day and the moves and the TDYs and the deployments, I sometimes forget just what it is my husband does, just what it is he trains to do, just what it is he gives up. I sometimes forget that he is extraordinary.

No, this post has nothing to do with God or writing or anything else I usually put up for the world to read. But I wanted to say to my husband (and to every Soldier, Airman, Sailor, Marine, Guardsman... whatever the title) you are far from ordinary, and you are my hero.
Just wanted to share with everybody...

My new nephew is here! Timothy Matthew came into the world at ten last night.

6 pounds, 11 ounces, 20 1/4" long

My sweet nephew...

And his proud daddy (my little brother)...

So thankful for cell phones with cameras and unlimited data messaging! :-)

Yeah, I'm kickin' it old school today. :-)

It is nearly 11:00 in the morning and still only 23 degrees here. I'm a Southern girl. I'm not used to this. Well, we did do a stint up at Fort Drum in upstate New York, so that was an adventure, but other than that, I'm not used to this cold.

I was looking out the window this morning and noticed a tree that has, in the past few days, sprouted leaves. Are you kidding me, tree? Didn't you get the memo that this is the coldest winter on record? Those leaves won't make it. Are you crazy? I know you're a tree. God made you to leaf out but, really, your timing is all wrong. It won't work right now. It's not the right time.

And then, as I stood at the window and thought the tree could hear me and actually had control over this, I started to hear that song, "In His Time" in my brain.

Really, God? I need this lesson again?

God made me (and several of you) to be a writer. He made my closest friend to be a nurse. He made another good friend to be a mother. We know His callings on our lives, but sometimes, it's not our time. Just because God made us something, doesn't mean success will come immediately (or even in the way we picture it). It doesn't mean the road will be smooth. Like that tree, we're supposed to bear fruit, but in season. If we go rushing around, leafing out everywhere in our own time, we're not going to accomplish anything but a bunch of dead leaves.

So when the rejections come... when the days are long and frustrating... when you doubt the things you know you heard God say... when it seems like what has always been a yes might just be a no... hang on tight. Spring's coming... HIS time.

(Normally, I don't repost but, yesterday, I came across a blog I wrote in August and thought it applied so much to this week and reminded me of so much I'd forgotten, it deserved a second look...)

I write for God. Well, let's be honest here... I try to write for God. Sometimes the big ol' ME gets in the way of the I AM.

I hate when that happens.

But what does it mean to write for God? Well, my new friend Ronie Kendig, said something on the ACFW loop the other day that clicked it all into place for me. She said it so beautifully, I asked her if I could share it here:

"He wanted me to learn to write...simply because HE derives pleasure out of seeing me use the gift He gave. That's it. Not because anyone else will be ministered to(although, I seriously hope so). Not because I'll sell a bazillion copies (please, God?). But because when I write, He wanted me to know that it's like He's sitting in a cozy chair by a fire, listening to the clicking keyboard and just... smiling. Or like when I bought my sons new bikes and thrilled at watching them ride the bikes I gave them. God's up there saying right now, "See? You see her typing and writing? She's using the gift I gave her!"

Wow! Wow, wow, wow! THAT is what it means to write for God! I had always envisioned writing for Him as writing for some unknown someone out there who would be blessed by Him speaking through me. But that would be writing for that unknown someone. Writing for God means, simply, writing for God.

Couple Ronie's incredible description with the idea of success? Well, that changes everything, doesn't it?

You know how you have those days (weeks, months, years...) when you just know you're never going to make it? You look at yourself and your walk and you think, "I'm going backwards. I'm never going to be good enough. I'm never going to succeed. I'm never going to climb the mountain and see God. Where is He anyway? And do I have to give it all to Him and actually trust Him with it? Why can't I just let it go and give it to Him? I'm the worst Christian ever." Or even, "God won't want me. I'll never be good enough to be loved by Him."

And then, along comes somebody who echoes your thoughts.

Sometimes, when I'm praying, I go random on the Praise and Worship playlist on my iPod and I say, "God, what do you want to hear?" Yesterday, when I was feeling almost all of the above, just before I turned off the iPod and got to work (and after hearing Steven Curtis Chapman sing "Dive"--one of my very favorites), I was treated to the Casting Crowns song "Somewhere in the Middle." There's really nothing more to say other than the words of that song. I think God said it all right there.

Sometimes I wonder at God and how He chooses to speak to me. First of all, He is bound to have had a hand in Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down." (I wrote about what that song means to me, and God's awesome way of using it here.)

Today, I needed a lyric from the song for a Twitter post. See, Sandra heard back from Howard Publishing yesterday. They said "no" to my manuscript. When I saw her email, I honestly shrugged and thought, "Know what? They weren't God's choice. Next!" But after a few minutes, I confess to a little bit of discouragement. I want this to be easy, even though I know it's far from easy to get published. But I believe in this book and I believe God wanted me to write it, so I believe He has a place for it.

At any rate, I wanted to quote my "spiritual warfare anthem" on Twitter today and remind myself of that, so I looked up the lyrics to double check the words. Instead, I found this quote from Mike Campbell, the guitarist and a songwriter on the album "Full Moon Fever," which "I Won't Back Down" is on:

"We thought [the album] was really good, we were real excited about it. We played it for the record company and they said, 'Well, we don't hear any hits on here.' We were very despondent about the whole thing... In the interim, they changed A&R departments and a whole new group of people were in there. We brought the same record back like 6 months later and they loved it - they said 'Oh, there's 3 hits on here.'... I guess it's a situation of timing and the right people that wanted to get inspired about it..."

Ah, God, there you go again. Thanks for the postcard...

After an extended absence, the blog is up and running again! Miss me? :-)

Over Christmas, I read The Sweet By and By, a collaboration between country singer Sara Evans and author Rachel Hauck.

And I was amazed.

I'll tell you from the get go... at one point, I actually dropped the book while I was reading it. Dropped the book, sat up straight, and said, "Whoa!" That's a good thing, folks. Very, very rarely do I read a book that balls up a fist and hits me in the gut. Very, very rarely do I get emotional reading a book. This one got me. It's going on my list of favorites from here on out.

Sara and Rachel did a great job with the characters. They're not thrown in your face all at once. You get to know them, much like you'd get to know anyone you just met. Great way to keep me turning pages; I kept wanting to know more! And each little bit I learned made me want to learn the next and the next.

We begin with Beryl, an aging self-centered not-quite-former hippie who can't seem to commit to... well, to anything. But the main protagonist is Beryl's oldest daughter, Jade, who is about to marry the man of her dreams when the facade she's built around herself starts to crumble piece by piece by piece. Through flashbacks, we learn about Beryl and Jade's stormy relationship and about the past Jade believes shouldn't matter, even though it surely does.

The Sweet By and By is a beautiful story about broken relationships and forgiveness, about the past and its fingerprints on the present, about healing, and about love that abides through it all.

Pick this one up, y'all. It's well worth it. The Sweet By and By is one of those rare books that leaves a mark on your life and that you'll never forget.