Lorri Dudley

Be moved. Be changed. Love because you are loved.

kids drawing depicting doubts

Unqualified for Life

I’m unqualified for my life.

I don’t have a degree in creative writing, but I write books. I majored in psychology so that I wouldn’t have to do math, and go figure, I do bookkeeping and accounting for my husband’s businesses. I don’t believe there is a degree that could teach everything a mom needs to know to raise children, but I’m in the middle of raising three teenaged boys anyway.

I don’t know what I’m doing.

Fortunately, God does.

I love stories, but some aren’t constructive. Especially the ones I tell myself. The conversations in my head fill me with self-doubt and turn me into my own worst enemy. If I allow the wrong self-narrative to run wild, I can talk myself out of anything, even God’s will for my life. Before someone thinks I’m crazy, these voices are quite common, even going back to Biblical times.

Through the burning bush, God informed Moses that He’d heard the Israelites’ cry and vowed to rescue them. God commanded, “Go to Pharaoh and bring my people out of Egypt.” Moses should have had been ecstatic. In Egypt, he’d advocated for ending Israelites’ slavery to the point of killing an Egyptian guard who was beating an Israelite slave. However, instead of hearing his victory cry, Moses listened to a different self-narrative telling him, “You’re unqualified.”

“Who I’m I,” Moses told God, “that I should go to Pharaoh?”
God responded, “I will be with you.”
Yet, Moses’s self-doubt still spun out of control. “What if they don’t believe me? Or what if they listen but say the Lord didn’t really appear to me?” And then, “I’m not eloquent enough.”
God sets him straight, “Who do you think gave human beings mouths? I will teach you what to say.”
However, Moses let the voices in his head top God’s voice and almost missed out on God’s will because he still asked God to send someone else (Exodus 4).

cup and string telephone

Which voice are we listening to, God’s or our self-doubt? What purpose are we missing because our minds told us a story that we’re not right for the job?

The truth is, we’re all unqualified.

We don’t have the skills, wisdom, or power on our own, but God does, and that makes all the difference.

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Woman overlooking city

Made for This

As an author, I love to play the what-if game.

What if the hero believes the heroine is dead?
What if the heroine gets robbed and thrown in the poorhouse?
What if the heroine falls overboard?
As a mother and wife, the what-if game isn’t as much fun.
What if they get bullied at school?
What if there’s a car crash?
What if we fail?

If worrying burned calories, I could quit the gym and eat ice cream all day.
You’d think as Queen, Ester wouldn’t have had much to worry about, but that wasn’t the case. A decree had gone out that all Jews were to be killed, and their possessions confiscated on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month. Ester was Jewish, but she’d never told King Ahasuerus. If she sat back, her beloved Uncle Mordecai and her people would die. 
Wouldn’t telling the king be an easy fix? All Ester needed to do was explain to the situation. However, the punishment for approaching the king when he didn’t request the person’s presence was death unless, by chance, he extended his golden scepter to them. Already thirty days had passed since the last time she’d summoned by the king. What if she’d fallen out of favor? What if she failed? What if she perished?
What if it was the moment for which she was created?

Her Uncle Mordecai set things into perspective. He asked her if perhaps she was placed into her royal position to save her people.

Sometimes we, too, need to have a shift in perspective. In her Mark of the Lion seriesFrancine Rivers writes a scene where one of the characters suffers a stroke and can no longer speak—a terrible situation. However, the woman realizes God allowed it to happen so she could focus all her energy on praying for her daughter’s salvation.

I may not like it when my son is bullied, but I get the opportunity to tell him who God says he is. I wouldn’t wish for my boys to get into trouble, but it’s an opportunity to show them my love is unconditional. I hate failing or making mistakes, but it’s a chance to demonstrate humility.

These moments we can take for granted.

But what if they are the moments for which we were created?

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Proposal picture

Mission Critical

Don’t abort the mission. You may have to re-strategize, change tactics, or reprioritize, but keep your eye on the goal. I left this message for a friend before he proposed to another friend of mine over the weekend. He’d elaborately worked out a scheme to ask her to marry him at the top of a mountain where the view is spectacular, but the climb isn’t for the faint of heart. Wielding cameras, music, and even a change of clothes for pictures, he had friends get up early and climb to the summit to wait and record the special moment. With the careful, well-thought-out plans, the mission was set into motion.

Who would have thought you’d need a reservation to climb a mountain?

Turns out, in 2020, you do. Thankfully after some quick thinking, he finagled the park director to let them hike an obscure trail. They made it to the summit where friends hid behind a rock playing, Marry You by Bruno Mars. She caught sight of one of the people hiding and broke into tears before he could get on one knee. She was crying so hard he had to ask her if she was okay before he could say, “Will you marry me.” Thankfully, the tears were happy tears. She said yes, and they have the most beautiful engagement photos.

My friends

Plenty of obstacles attempt to hinder us or thwart our plans, but we’ll never experience the joy and spectacular view of heaven if we abort the mission.

In this case, my friend’s mission was to propose to his girlfriend, and despite the roadblocks, he forged the climb and was successful.

But what is our mission?

To love.

We’re told to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and love our neighbor as ourselves, but we can get so caught up in our own detailed plans that we take our focus off our mission. Loving our neighbor sounds easy until obstacles arise. What if the neighbor throws their lawn clippings over the fence into your yard, spouts off about their different political views, never returns what they borrowed, or cranks loud music while you’re sleeping?

Inside we might fume. We might retaliate in kind or run mental replays of how we’d tell them off, but where does that leave us? Loving someone can be easier said than done. However, that is our purpose, and more than ever it seems like we’ve reached mission-critical. When the world starts to spew hate, we are supposed to love. When your “neighbor” acts like the devil incarnate, it’s time to kill him with kindness. When life throws one battle after another at you, open up your arsenal and choose to love, because love conquers all.

Don’t be fooled into believing that love is wimpy, soft, or naïve. Love is a powerful weapon. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always endures, but best of all, love never fails (1 Corinthians 13). It takes a strong, brave person to love. Nevertheless, we can do so because God first loved us.

Don’t abort the mission. Love people throughout the rocky climb, because there are spectacular rewards awaiting us at the summit.

My engaged friends on Mount Monadnock summit

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I couldn’t tease the proposal without showing you the video. Enjoy!

Trashed office

Save This

Our newly remodeled four-bedroom rental unit had to be stripped to bare studs. The apartment could have appeared on the tv show hoarders. As landlords, my husband and I became leery when the tenants complained that the heat wasn’t working. We inspected the unit. The air wasn’t circulating because they had stacked things on top of the vents, and we asked them to remove some items, but they wouldn’t. A year later, the tenant below complained water was leaking into their ceiling. We sent a company to fix the issue. The plumber refused to work inside the unit, instead, they broke through the house’s exterior wall to repair the pipe. The board of health started to call, but what could we do? Legally, I couldn’t barge in and throw out items that belonged to them, our only option was to proceed with an eviction.

The tenants never even appeared in court, just up and left, abandoning the items that got them evicted in the first place. It took four overflowing 40-yard dumpsters and men decked in hazmat suits to empty the apartment down to the studs. Even the drywall had become ruined.

Some things we grip so tightly they end up gripping us.

Sometimes it’s old ideas or opinions. When my husband and I started attending church, we got involved on Sunday mornings and joined small groups that met on weeknights, but we held back our Friday evenings. Fridays, we kept for our old friends and old way of life. We’d given God six days, but He couldn’t have our Fridays. The funny thing was, we didn’t love our old ways. We merely clung to them, like a child hangs onto a worn and tattered blanket. God, however, tested us (check out last week’s blog on tests). Two months later, our closest friends in the church invited us to a small group—you guessed it—on Friday nights.  

God asks for complete surrender because He knows the things of this world can choke the life out of us. What may at first appear pleasurable or intriguing can quickly become a noose around our neck. When we fully surrender to God, the things of this world lose their power. We’re no longer the hoarder suffocated by our things, buried alive by junk we idolize.

Woman arms spread

The decision to attend that Friday night small group freed my husband and me. Our old ways lost their grip, and we breathed in new life.

Put away the old person you used to be. Have nothing to do with your old sinful life. It was sinful because of being fooled into following bad desires. Let your minds and hearts be made new. You must become a new person and be God-like. Then you will be made right with God and have a true holy life. – Ephesians 4:22-24

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written test

This is a Test

The speedometer read 40 miles per hour. I sat white-knuckled behind the wheel, flying through the empty school parking lot, my heart pumping faster than a techno dance beat. It was my first driving lesson with my dad. I was merely following his instructions to give it some gas, but the faster the car sped, the more nervous I became.

“Now break hard,” he commanded.

woman driving

My foot slammed on the break. The wheels locked-up and the Buick sedan screeched to a halt. The seatbelt bit into my shoulder, and my head jerked forward then back. This was not how a lesson was supposed to go. A young driver is supposed to ease the car into drive, maneuver some cautious turns, and crawl to a stop. I’d done something wrong. This felt like a test—one that I failed. I eyed my dad and waited for an angry reaction.

“Feel that?” He adjusted his seatbelt. “We were only going forty. On the highway, you’ll be going nearly twice that.” His voice remained surprisingly calm. “Now, you know why you leave a good stopping distance.”

Stopping short had been a test, but at the same time, also a lesson. To this day, I still leave a fair amount of stopping distance between myself and the next vehicle. If my dad prepared me for his test, then the experience of a one and a half-ton vehicle going from a high velocity to a dead stop wouldn’t forever be etched in my brain. Today if I brake hard, it’s not a big deal because I’ve grown accustomed to my car and confident in my driving. The test was impactful because of insecurities and lack of familiarity.

Often, God gives us the test before the lesson.

woman walking into fog

We tend to expect a detailed plan. We want God to chunk down his vision into small digestible bites so that we can grow comfortable before we take a step of faith. But God knows we’re more dependent  on Him when we’re stepping out into the unfamiliar. Our ears listen intently for His voice and direction when we’re wandering into unknown territory. He’ll use the opportunity to embed a deeper faith into our hearts.

Venturing out in faith can be a test. No one’s saying it’s easy. However, tests can make the best testimonies.

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brain and artificial intelligence

Avoiding Mind Tricks

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing,” said Greek philosopher Socrates. We can think we are so smart, but our brains are easily fooled. The boys and I binge-watched some old episodes of Brain Games. While a dance crew preformed their routine, the audience had to count how many times the dancers stepped into a circle. Because of their focus on the ring, over fifty percent of the crowd missed a large penguin strolling casually across the stage. The next segment showed how our brains make assumptions about shading. The host showed a Rubik’s cube where the center color on the shadowed side appeared orange, but on the unshadowed top, the center square looked brown. When the squares were moved next to each other, they turned out to be both brown, but the shadow tricks us.

In psychology labs, I was warned against many different types of bias that could alter results. Here are a few I remember:

Selection bias – over or underrepresenting certain people groups in the sample.

Observation bias – where participants in the sample group are aware of being watched and alter their answers or how they act (consciously or unconsciously).

Confirmation bias – researchers (consciously or unconsciously) look for results or patterns to agree with their opinions or conjecture.

Between biases and mind tricks, it seems our logic often can be flawed. We’re disillusioned into relying on reasoning skills to guide us, but truth is, humans are easily deceived, which makes the devil’s job a lot easier.

If the brain isn’t reliable, then what about our feelings? Perhaps we should let our hearts be our guide. Yet, anyone who’s thought they’d met Mr. Right only to get dumped knows the heart can be capricious at best.

Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that appears right, but in the end, it leads to death.” When we live by logic or emotions, we can easily be led astray. If we don’t know God’s wisdom and plan for our lives, then we’ll wind up settling for a secular counterfeit. Feelings and rational thought can become the idols we sacrifice ourselves on.  However, the bible says, fear of the Lord leads to wisdom (Proverbs 15:33), and if we ask God for wisdom, it will be given to us (James 1:5).

If we seek Godly wisdom, we can walk in our purpose with confidence. But how do we know when wisdom comes from God? James 3:13 says it will show with deeds done in humility and a good life, and in verse 17, James states, “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”

God has a plan for us, but so does the world. God’s plan is to give us life to the full, but the world’s plan will leave us empty. We can choose life and to be life-giving.

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defeated knight

Help is Here

I love a good rescue. In most romance novels, after the darkest moment, when all looks lost, some heroism allows for a happily-ever-after. Sometimes it’s the hero swooping in and sacrificing something to save the heroine, sometimes it’s the heroine relinquishing her goal in order to protect the hero, or it could be both. Often it takes this black moment for them to realize they aren’t strong enough, smart enough, or brave enough to endure on their own, and that’s when readers should want to scream at the pages, help is coming.

In those real-life moments when our strength is spent, every solution exhausted, and our courage is defeated, it’s good to remember the servant of the prophet Elisha. Elisha had thwarted the King of Aram’s plans to attack the Israelites, so the King of Aram sent a strong force of troops, horses, and chariots to surround Elisha during the night. Elisha’s servant is the first one to discover they’re hedged in and about to be attacked.

medievil soliders

I imagine him shuffling outside still in his robe with an earthen mug of coffee clutched between both hands, eyelids heavy with sleep. He stretches in the early morning sun with a resounding yawn. A glint of light reflects off something metal, and he’s instantly awake, staring at an army of men ready to kill him and his master. He backs up a step, his shaking hands sloshing his morning coffee when he hears Elisha step outside. The wide-eyed servant frantically whispers, “Oh no, my lord, what shall we do?”

Elisha probably issued his servant a confident, we-got-this sort of look and said, “Don’t be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” The servant must have glanced around, doing another quick count, and still came up with just two versus an entire army. Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, that he may see.” God revealed to the servant hills full of horses and chariots blazing with fire that surrounded Elisha, ready to battle against their enemies (2 Kings 6: 2-23). In a single moment, the servant moved from hopeless despair to an attitude of bring-it-on King Aram.

The chances initially looked bleak, but help had been there the whole time. God had those blazing chariots lined up before the servant even realized he needed help, and God has already prepared for our battle too. We must focus on the invisible, not the visible.

I pray that God will open your eyes to see the warriors He has ready and waiting. I pray your faith will remain strong even in the blackest moment, and may you always have an Elisha to confidently stand beside you and remind you, don’t be afraid. Help isn’t just on the way—it’s already here.

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man throwing nets into water

Because You Said So

Backseat driver

I won’t drive with my husband in the car and haven’t done so the entire time we’ve been married. He’s a great man, but he backseat-drives from the passenger side. I’m a year older than my hubby, and since I learned to drive in Pennsylvania where the driving age is sixteen, and he lived in Massachusetts where the driving age is sixteen-and-a-half, I have a full year-and-a-half longer of driving experience. I did not take well to his corrections. (Admittedly, I still don’t when it comes driving. God is still doing a work in me.) So, I intentionally pulled over and moved into the passenger seat and wouldn’t budge.

Thankfully, Simon-Peter wasn’t as stubborn as I am.

Jesus was preaching on the shore one day, but the crowd grew too big, so he climbed into a boat owned by a man named Simon (later to be called Peter) and finished preaching from there. Afterward, Jesus tells Simon to let out his fishing nets. Simon was a fisherman, and he most likely grew up in a family of fishermen. He had already been working all night. They didn’t even reel in a couple of minnows, and here is this carpenter telling him where and when to fish. Now Simon is a better man than me because instead of arching a brow and staying, “That’s it. You drive from now on (or in his case, fish),” Peter politely says, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:5)

Man casting out fishing nets

Simon went ahead, and the nets filled with so many fish the ropes began to break. He called over some friends to help, and they jam-packed both boats almost to the point of sinking. What would have happened if Simon had let his stubborn pride get in the way? Would he have become one of Jesus’s disciples? Would the sons of Zebedee, who where Simon-Peter’s partners? What if he stuck to his guns about knowing what was best?

What are we missing out on by clinging to our know-it-all ways? How often do we take offense when God asks us to do something, and we don’t want to, or we think we know a better solution. The old way of doing church may have seemed to have been working just fine, but God is doing a new thing and reaching new people. Having kids attend school five days a week has been how we’ve always done it, but God is opening new possibilities. Sports were played every weekend, but now maybe we’re called to do something else as a family. It’s a lot easier to type this up than it is to actually let go of my stubborn pride and tell God, “because you say so, I will do it,” but I don’t watch to miss out on the big catch of fish and men.

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Man looking in broken mirror

In the Mirror Moment

Sometimes I wonder if fiction mirrors life or if life mirrors fiction. Currently, I’m in the process of plotting book number five, tentatively titled, The Marquis’ Pursuit, which is the story of Max, the son of the Duke from The Duke’s Refuge. Novels typically have a similar structure. The story opens with a character going about their normal life. Then, an incident happens to change their course, which sets them on a journey either physically, spiritually, mentally, or all three.

James Scott Bell noticed a common factor in most books and movies. Around the midpoint, the hero or heroine is confronted with a disturbing decision to change or die. He calls this the mirror moment. In most cases, the death doesn’t mean physical death, but a psychological death to an old self, a dream, goal, or status. The main character realizes he or she has to fight because there is no running from themselves. Essentially the characters have no choice but to Cowboy Up.

We see this in Star Wars, A New Hope, when Han Solo, whose plan was to leave to pay his debt to the bounty hunter Jabba the Hut, decides he’ll stay and fight with the rebels. In The Proposal, the mirror moment is when Sandra Bullock’s character realizes she is starting to adore Andrew, her assistant and fake fiancee, and his quirky Alaskan family. She second-guesses the farce because it will hurt the family, yet not getting married would end in her deportation.

We are all on this hero’s journey. Before Covid-19, we went about our normal lives, but then the pandemic hit, interrupting our normal and forcing us into a new journey—physically, spiritually, and mentally. Now we’ve reached our mirror moment where we have to decide if we are going to grow stronger, become wiser, strengthen our beliefs, or are we going to suffer a psychological death. It’s okay to take a moment to mourn for the future that would-have-been, the missed graduations, large weddings, school proms, the canceled high school football season. (My boys are upset over that last one.) However, we can’t stay in the mourning phase. We need to look in the mirror and be strengthened, knowing that God fights with us and for us. We aren’t alone and we aren’t the underdog when we are on the side of the One who created the universe.

To quote Kyle Idleman from Southeast Christian Church“We aren’t going to act like we don’t have hope when we have The Hope of the World. We aren’t going to act like we don’t know the way when we know The Way. We aren’t going to act like we don’t have light in the darkness when we know The Light. Jesus is whom we put our confidence in.”

Fire extracts the impurities out of gold. Just as how trials refine our faith pulling out our selfishness, doubts, and fears where they’re exposed to the light. The pressure, heat, and stirring things up can be agonizing, but in the end, when we look in the mirror, we’ll see the reflection of Jesus.

1 Peter 6-7“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

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invisible man

Seeing the Invisible

invisible man

I was Zoom caller 219 out of 428, not even a blip on the screen. This was one of those meetings where I was muted, and there were no video images other than the presenter. The only way to interact was to type unanimously into the chat, and if your question was deemed one they wanted to answer, then it was discussed.

I felt overlooked.

The world can feel distant like we’re not on the same page or the same screen. We’re a census number, a paycheck, a tax dollar, or an object to drive around. Masks add to the feeling of invisibility. I passed a good friend of mine at the store because I didn’t recognize her with half her face hidden.

God doesn’t overlook people.

There was a woman with a bleeding issue. She’d spent all her money on doctors only for her problem to worsen. Back in those days, when a woman bled, she was considered unclean. They even had special tents where a woman stayed during her menstruation to keep them separate. Twelve years she dealt with this incurable disease, and its isolation. Hope seemed like a luxury until she heard of a man named Jesus who had healing powers. She thought if she could just touch his robe, she’d be healed.

Reaching hand

She stood in the crowded street, jam-packed with people who’d come to see Jesus. The disciples rushed Jesus through because a prominent Synagogue leader’s daughter had become deathly ill. The woman nudged through the crowd, jostled by the throng, waiting for a glimpse of Jesus. As he passed, she squeezed her arm out and touched the hem of his cloak. Jesus froze and turned to the disciples asking, “Who touched me?”

I can imagine the jolt of panic that coursed through the woman. How did he know? Was the healer going to scold her for her overreach? The shame of being unclean burned her cheeks as she confessed, but Jesus looked her in the eye. The rest of the crowd watched with curiosity—who is this woman? The disciples tugged on his arm with a we-need-to-go look, but Jesus stilled them with a hand. He didn’t admonish her. He called her daughter and praised her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering (Mark 5:34).”

God sees us.

The busyness of the world doesn’t force God to de-prioritize our importance. Most would think the dying little girl would have taken precedence, but at that moment Jesus knew the desperation of the bleeding woman. To Him, every need is great. Her being unclean didn’t stop him from speaking to her, nor from saving the dying child. God sees us. A mask won’t hide our faces from him. He sees our hearts and calls us daughter or son. He knows our hopes, our desires, and the insecurities we try to hide. He understands the areas in our lives where we’re hemorrhaging physically or emotionally. Nothing remains hidden from the God of the universe. He welcomes us with open arms and instructs us to lay our troubles at His feet.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7

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