Lorri Dudley

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

Rainbow in a field

Hope Amid Disaster

I woke this past Saturday at 5:30 am, and my blood turned to ice despite being under layers of covers. My husband and I got up early to hit the gym before my son’s wrestling match and turned on the news. The Governor of Kentucky stood in front of a podium, and the electronic banner beneath him read, Massive tornado hits Kentucky. The screen changed to a map of a red line that ran straight up the state’s western side—right to where my parents lived.

I grabbed my phone and texted them: Are you all right?

I waited for their response, all the while sending up S.O.S. prayers for their protection and remaining glued to the T.V. screen.

Minutes ticked by. No response.

I felt helpless being so far away. It was 5:30, and my parents could have still been sleeping. Or, they could have been buried under rubble. I must have checked my phone twenty times as I tried to go about my day as usual, but I couldn’t shake the niggling fear of what if…

At 7:30, my mom texted me back, stating they were fine, and I breathed a deep sigh of relief.
Unfortunately, not everyone can say the same.

It breaks my heart to see the devastation that was wrought in Western Kentucky. Tears fill my eyes thinking of the presents that had been under Christmas trees, children who had been asleep in their beds, moms and dads who were resting up for the weekend holiday plans, and then it was all gone.
I wish I could say this was a singular occurrence, that things would get better, but the truth is our world is fallen. The Bible says the earth will groan as we draw closer to the end of the age, and things will get worse until God establishes a new heaven on earth.

Thanks for the uplifting message, Lorri. I can imagine the sarcasm, but this is the reason Christmas exists.

Jesus came to bring light into the darkness and hope to a fallen world. It is in these dark times that God’s love shines brightest. We may have to live in a world with tragedy and natural disasters, but we don’t have to live in despair. God works everything for his good, and He raises beauty out of ashes.

candle

Because of Christmas and the birth of Christ, we can hold onto hope. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 says, “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.”

Christianity thrives in the worst of times. Look at how the Christian church grew under the diabolic reign of Roman Empire Nero; look how it’s expanded in China and now is spreading in the Middle East and Northern Africa. God’s light shines brightest in the darkness.

Hope came into this desperate and lost world in the form of a baby in a manager. Jesus lived and died so that we might cling to hope, knowing death has been defeated. He also commissioned us to spread His light to others until He returns once more.

The world may seem dark, but soon there won’t be a need for the sun because God’s radiance will shine in its place.

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icicles

Ice Doesn’t Melt at 31 Degrees

We had our first snow up in New England the day after Thanksgiving. There’s nothing like frosty weather to set us in the mood for Christmas. For some of us (usually those who still have shopping to do), the big day comes much too fast. For others, especially over-excited children, Christmas day can’t arrive fast enough. When my boys were younger, we always had to do a Christmas chain or advent calendar so they could see the days getting closer. Otherwise, I’d be plagued with, “How many more days?”

Waiting can be excruciating.

When I train any new greeters to the first impressions team at my church, I have them envision the father of the prodigal son watching the horizon, day in and day out, hoping to spy the silhouette of his son in the distance. Or I have them picture a mother who gets on her knees every morning and in earnest prays for her son or daughter to come back to the Lord. Every day they prayed, and each day they battled discouragement when nothing changed. However, this could be the day. The prodigal son could wake up and realize he doesn’t need to starve to death and can return home to his father’s house. This could be the day that a daughter, who had nowhere else to turn, remembers her friend who invited her to church. Today could be the day, and if you were the mother whose knees were worn from praying or the father whose eyes were strained from staring at the horizon, how would you want your son or daughter to be welcomed?

Waiting can be frustrating

dog waiting

Nothing happens to water until it reaches 32 degrees. Until that marker, ice won’t melt and water won’t freeze, but once the temperature hits that degree, things start to happen. Life can be a lot like water. We wait and we wait, and nothing seems to happen. I remember growing so frustrated in hoping for a book contract, questioning whether the desire I felt to write was actually God’s plan for my life. Discouraged was an understatement, but I kept putting my fingers to the keyboard. I’d written five and a half books (some of which will never leave my computer) before a publishing house reached out to me and then a second shortly after—all those years of hoping and waiting, and then wham, three books released in six months.

Waiting doesn’t mean forgotten

Joseph waited in a jail cell for a crime he didn’t commit, and after interpreting the baker and cupbearer’s dreams, he asked them to remember him so he could be freed. What happened after the baker and cupbearer were released from jail? Well, the baker was beheaded, but the cupbearer promptly forgot the man who’d helped him, so Joseph continued to wait in prison. It wasn’t until Pharaoh needed a dream interpreted that the cupbearer remembered Joseph and Joseph was brought before the king. In all that waiting, God never forgot about Joseph.

Waiting is a development period

Waiting can be a time for learning, developing, and understanding ourselves better. With me, I learned a lot about writing (what to do and what not to do) through those first books and by reading everything about the craft I could find. While waiting in the jail, Joseph was put in charge of managing the prisoners, which developed skills to help him later manage all of Egypt. He also grew in humility and wisdom. As a boy, Joseph hadn’t used discretion when telling his brothers about his dreams that they would someday bow down to him. Having three boys myself, I understand how such comments from a younger brother wouldn’t be well-received. God used this waiting period to teach Joseph and change his heart toward his brothers.

If you’re in a waiting period, God hasn’t forgotten about you or your prayers. Use the time to understand what God is trying to teach you, and don’t give up hope. Ice won’t melt at 31 degrees, but a lot can change with one degree.

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Burning ship

Burn the Ships

In writing, the doorway of no return is the situation that pushes our hero into a new normal. In the story’s opening, a glimpse of the hero’s life as he knows it is depicted until something rocks his world. The hero is thrust, whether willingly or unwillingly, into a new normal. Even if he wanted to return to his old life, it’s now out of his reach. He’s left with no other choice but to press forward.

When Alexander the Great reached the shores of Persia in 334 BC, he ordered his men to burn the ships, stating they would “either return home in Persian ships or we will die here.” (Kanigan, Manner of speaking.org, Burning the Ships and Sailing Away, Jan 2015)  Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortez took the lead from Alexander, and when landing in what is now modern-day Mexico, he scuttled his ships to force his men inland, slamming closed the door of retreat.

The doorway of no return happened for Rahab in the Bible when she hid two Israelite spies. The King of Jericho demanded the men be brought out. Rahab could have given them up and gone on with her life. Instead, she hid them among the flax piles on her roof and told the soldiers that the Israeli men had already come and gone.

Rahab burned her ships.

A prostitute held little value to the King of Jericho and treason was a serious crime. The moment she chose to aid two strangers, failure no longer was an option. What put Rahab in the faith hall of fame was her trust in the God of the Israelites—a God she had only heard stories of but went all in to serve and trust (Joshua 2).

man looking back

Since Covid, many of us have been waiting for life to go back to normal, but we’ve passed through a doorway of no return. While it’s admirable to learn from history (Jesus often referenced those that came before and God’s prior works), it’s detrimental to remain stuck in the past. The time has come to decide whether we’re going to cling to the shipwreck that was 2020, be buried under the crumbled walls of Jericho, or choose to burn the ships. It’s time to step forward in faith and realize that God is doing a new and better thing.

We can’t let our trepidation of the unknown keep us from walking inland toward God’s purpose for our lives. If we keep looking back and holding onto the past, we miss what’s ahead of us. It cost Lot’s wife her life. She didn’t heed God’s warning and looked back. Doing so turned her into a pillar of salt.

We need to be turning to God to show us the way forward. What younger generation can we pour into? How can we get reinvested and reinvolved? It’s time to prepare to march into God’s promises knowing that He will never leave us nor forsake us. God’s making streams in the desert and paths through the wilderness (Isaiah 43:19), but we have to move forward to see it.

“Through every generation of the human race, there has been a constant war, a war with fear. Those who have the courage to conquer it are made free and those who are conquered by it are made to suffer until they have the courage to defeat it, or death takes them.” ~ Alexander the Great

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Snorkel diver

Go Deeper

Diver
Dig deeper is typed into the margins of my rough draft. I’m blessed to have incredible editors. They push me to draw emotions out of my characters, forcing me to place myself within the character’s head, see what they see, and feel what they feel. If they’re angry, then it’s my teeth that grind, my fingernails that dig into the seat of my chair, and the low rumble of a growl that builds within my chest. If they’re falling in love, then my stomach needs to flutter like migrating monarch butterflies, and it’s my blood that needs to zing as if newly carbonated.

If I’m lazy, I slip into telling: she felt, she hoped, she realized. Lazy writing creates distance between the heroine and the reader. The reader no longer resides within the heroine’s head. They’re now a fly on the wall observing the plot from a distance. The emotions fall flat no matter what flowery words or similes are used.

Even worse is being lazy with my faith. It’s easy to go through the motions, like praying because it’s expected or because we’re sitting down to dinner. It’s simple to say rote prayers where the words spill out without consideration of what they mean. Lazy faith keeps God as an observer from a distance instead of inviting him into our hearts and daily lives to experience true intimacy.

So how do we not let our faith become stale? Isaiah 37:31 says, “Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above.” When we dig deep and take root, i.e. through reading scripture, praying for revelation, and seeking the Holy Spirit, we’ll draw closer to God, and in turn, God will draw closer to us. When we lean into God, He solidifies our faith. When we press in, our convictions strengthen. Our roots anchor us into the fullness of God, and we feel Him on an intimate level.
Tree with large roots
Isaiah 37 tells us to take root below and we will bear fruit above. The more rooted we are in God, the more we reap the benefits of the fruit of the spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. Bearing fruit like all relationships takes work. The more you put into it, the more you get out of it. God is passionate about His children and desires to spend time with us. Jeremiah 29:12-13 states, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Sometimes we have to push past our complacency and go deep to experience the richness of God.

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bandaged teddy bear

Walking Wounded

bandaged Teddy bear

My novels all follow a pattern. The heroine and hero are going about their daily lives trying to maintain the status quo when an inciting incident throws their ordinary world into chaos. This new struggle reveals wounds and insecurities and forces them to figuratively look at themselves in the mirror and realize they are broken. Up to that point, they’ve been either ignoring their issues or trying to fix the brokenness by themselves. The problem is, they can’t.

And neither can we.

I have tons of insecurities. My biggest involves my children. I’m constantly plagued by doubts that I’ve done the right thing to build their characters or trained them up in the way they should go. I’m always second-guessing whether I disciplined them enough or too much, whether I supported them or let them down, whether I blessed them or messed them up for life. It wasn’t until God impressed upon me that I wasn’t the only one who brought them into this world. My boys are His children too. There wasn’t anything I could do that He couldn’t undo or fix. He made them the way they are for a reason, and he made me their mother for a reason. I must try to do my best and leave some things up to Him.

We have self-doubt. We are all broken in one way or another. Some wounds are accidental, some are generational, and some are deep and put us on life support. We don’t get to choose our wounds, but we do get to choose how we heal.

I’ll never forget watching the movie Master and Commander when the ship’s physician is shot and has to pull the bullet out himself and stitch himself up while his shipmates hold a mirror. His work was messy, and he did a terrible job, but it’s because we weren’t meant to fix ourselves.

How often do we try to band-aid a gushing wound? Placing a bandage on a broken bone isn’t going to do the trick. We don’t know how to fix ourselves properly because we didn’t make ourselves. However, the one who formed us in our mother’s womb, our Creator and Maker does. When we surrender our lives insecurities, wounds, and brokenness, God will hold us in the palm of his righteous right hand and heal our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls.

Lion

Chutzpah!

Lion

I love feisty heroines who stand their ground, put their foot down, or dish it back out to the hero. I’ve never considered myself a gutsy person. Sure, I like rollercoasters, but I’ll climb the curtains if I see a spider. If someone says something negative, I have great comebacks—only a few hours later, usually alone in the shower. These great zingers tend to go unspoken. In the past few years, however, it’s as if I’ve been taking pointers from my heroines. My inner sass has blossomed, especially when it comes to fighting for my children.

My youngest getting ready to wrestle

My youngest son, my baby, who’s now taller than me, wrestles. It was his second year wrestling, and he was up against a kid who’d been in an elite wrestling club. The boy picked my son up and then did a pile driver (an illegal move) that slammed my son headfirst into the mat. My heart jumped into my throat as I stood on the ring’s edge, ready to rush in and call 9-1-1. My son got up dazed. His coach beckoned him over and asked if he was okay. My youngest took a moment, shook it off, and continued to wrestle. I could tell he was still a little rattled, and the other kid maneuvered him into an almost-pin. My son fought hard and held off the pin for what seemed like an endless moment. The other wrestler’s coach jumped up and stood over them, screaming, “Finish him! Finish him!”

I saw red.

I don’t know if I was filled with righteous anger or became possessed by a demon because little 5’3” me jumped in front of this bulky, vein-bulging-in-his-neck wrestling coach and screamed back, “Finish him? What do you mean finish him? That’s my son you’re talking about.” I was ready to throw down. I didn’t care who or how big this man was. He wasn’t going to hurt the child I bore, nursed, and spent sleepless nights caring for.

The Yiddish word for what I did is called chutzpah. It means bravery that borders on rudeness (or insanity—my definition). Jesus encountered a Canaanite woman with a lot of chutzpah whose daughter was demon-possessed. She followed Jesus, crying out, “Lord, son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering greatly (Matthew 15:22).” Jesus didn’t say anything, but eventually, the disciples became annoyed and asked Jesus to send her away because she kept shouting after them. Jesus told his disciples that he was here to save the Jews. It wasn’t his time yet to start helping the gentiles. The woman, however, knelt before Jesus and begged him to help her.

Jesus said, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

 “Yes it is, Lord,” she replied in her relentless mother-bear-mode chutzpah. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

Part of me thought, whoa now. Did she know she was talking to God’s son, who was there at the creation of the earth? The man who commands the angels and controls the wind and the waves? The other part of me cheered for her bravery. Her daughter was suffering, and this mama would pursue the man who had the power to heal her child. She would beg for his mercy and go to any length, even if it meant convincing him to change his plans. She knew Jesus was the only hope.

Jesus saw her faith, granted her request, and the Bible says, “Her daughter was healed at that moment (Matthew 15:21-28).”

Our children and grandchildren are watching. They are waiting to see if we have the chutzpah to stand up against the bullies that try to influence them. They are learning from us how to face down demons. Are we doing it with faith and God’s authority?

The length of our love and the depths of our devotion will be what makes a difference for their future. They are worth fighting for, so let’s muster our chutzpah.

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Seasons Vs. Cycles

Fall trees

The changing seasons in New England are gorgeous. Fall is one of my favorites, with all the leaves setting the skyline on fire with color. Winters can be a little long and cold, but as I learned after my first snowfall here, you layer up and wait for spring. There’s nothing like snuggling up in a blanket with my laptop to write as snow falls softly out the window.

Seasons are each unique, charming, and challenging in their own way. Life’s seasons can be the same. My youthful innocence held the peace of unfettered responsibility along with a struggle to learn identity, life skills, and a sense of belonging among peers. The season of parenting meant the joy of holding my precious babies in my arms but also such sleep deprivation that I could barely function at times. My husband and I are heading into a new season of our children becoming grown men where we see the fruit of what we’ve worked hard to develop within them, but with a sadness that they will soon be leaving the nest.

In seasons we learn and grow as God uses it to mature and mold our character. We pass through them and come out stronger for it. However, it can be challenging to distinguish whether we are in a season or a cycle.

One of the more famous cycles, the Crazy Cycle, termed by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs in the book Love and Respect, is where a woman seeks love, but a man seeks respect and vice versa. When the woman is feeling unloved, she reacts by acting without respect toward her husband. He feels her disrespect and, in turn, acts unloving toward his wife. They end up in a vicious cycle of unloving and disrespecting, with hurts building upon hurts.

cycle

Cycles go around and around, repeating the same thing seemingly without end. Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re in a cycle until we’re so dizzy, we lose our lunch and with it the nutrients that our souls and lives need. Cycles seem like they should be easy to break—just stop and get off. But often, we’re stuck. It can feel like the seatbelt button won’t release or centrifugal force is holding us in place. We’re not learning from our past and keep repeating the same mistakes.

Dance instructors will teach their students how to spot a turn and not become dizzy. As they spin, the dancer will keep their eye on one spot until their neck strains. Then they whip their head around, locking eyes on that same spot. When we’re in the spin of a cycle and tired of going around the mountain again, we need to fix our eyes on God. He is the only one who can bring us out of a tailspin.

If you don’t know whether you’re in a cycle or a season, look up. God will spot you. He’ll make a way to get off the crazy cycle. It says in Daniel 2:21, “He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.”

His righteous right hand can pull us out of cycles and guide us through seasons.

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Hero embarking on a journey

Into the Unknown

Hero embarking on a journey

The Hero’s Journey

What do Froto Baggin’s from Lord of the Rings, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, Marlin from Finding Nemo, and Luke Skywalker from Star Wars all have in common, besides being movie characters? They’ve all experienced the Hero’s journey. I’m in the plotting process of book six of the Leeward Island series (The Marquis’s Pursuit is off to the editor), so my brain is focused on character arcs or what’s also called the Hero’s journey. It got me thinking about how God plots a similar path for us.

The Hero’s journey is a cycle where the Hero starts in the known world, journeys into the unknown, and returns changed into a new known. It’s comprised of three acts: 1. the separation or call to adventure, 2. initiation or death/rebirth, and 3. the return or resolution. For example, in The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s separation is physically done by the tornado that drops her house into Oz, where her adventure begins. Her initiation follows as she follows the yellow brick road, and she meets the scarecrow, lion, and tin man. Through trials and triumphs, she discovers a way to defeat The Wicked Witch of the West and return to Kansas. However, Dorothy goes back a changed woman. As part of the resolution or new normal, she holds a new appreciation for her family and friends.

We relate to the Hero’s journey so well because God propels us on our own journey to better walk in His purpose. He coaxes us out of our comfort zone to step into the unknown, where He uses trials and triumphs to mold us more and more into his image. In 2 Corinthians 3:18, Paul says, “We all show the Lord’s glory, and we are being changed to be like him. This change in us brings more and more glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” To become more like Christ and reflect Him more and more, we must allow ourselves to be refined. Sometimes it’s a quick journey, but other times it takes multiple trips around the mountain, painful backtracking, and even psychological death to old ways of thinking to come home as a new person. Romans 8:18 states, “We have sufferings now, but these are nothing compared to the great glory that will be given to us.”

Helper up a ramp

We aren’t journeying alone. If suffering, trials, and the thought of psychological death, have us crawling back to the couch to hide under a blanket, do not fear. We must remember a vital aspect of the Hero’s journey. A helper comes alongside the Hero to guide him along his path. For Dorothy, it was Glenda the good witch, for Froto – Sam Wise, Nemo – Dora, Luke Skywalker – Obi-Wan, but for us, we get someone even better—the Holy Spirit. We are not alone in our journey. The Great Comforter walks beside us, guiding us towards our purpose, urging us to stay on the path, picking us up when we stumble, and redirecting us when we lose our way.  

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Young woman with megaphone

Find Your Voice

Young woman with mega phone

Finding one’s voice in writing means discovering your unique writing style. It’s a blend between the types of vocabulary used and how you play with sentence structure. Some authors mince words with short, straight-to-the-point sentences, while others may elaborate on a verbose soliloquy of description. Some may use a blend depending on the tension level. A writer’s voice is what makes them unique. Many authors have written under different pen names only to be linked to their other works by their writing voice. For example, J.K. Rowling wrote as Robert Galbraith, Steven King wrote under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, and C.S. Lewis wrote poems under Clive Hamilton.

Discovering our distinct voice can be not only challenging but also scary. What makes us unique makes us dissimilar. To stand out can also mean to be exposed. There are a variety of different reasons why authors chose to write under a pen name. Dean Koontz used more than ten pen names because publishers in the 1970s warned about writing in different genres out of a fear he’d lose readership. Mystery writer Agatha Christie wrote romances as Mary Westmacott because she viewed writing mysteries as work but playtime was writing romance. Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov hid his identity by writing as Paul French because he was embarrassed to be known as the author of a young adult sci-fi book that was to be made into a TV show.

boy singing into microphone

Finding our voice reminds me of Blind Bartimaeus, who sat by the side of the road as a large crowd was leaving to follow Jesus. When Bartimaeus overheard Jesus was near, he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” The crowd immediately tried to silence him and told him to stop, but Bartimaeus was determined. He knew he needed Jesus, so he shouted louder.

Jesus heard and called him over. While the crowd tried to coax him, telling him not to be afraid and it’s going to be okay. Bartimaeus jumped up, threw off his coat, and ran to follow the voice of Jesus. Jesus told him, “Your eyes are healed because of your faith,” and immediately Bartimaeus could see.

Focusing on and following God’s voice will help us to find our own. When the crowd public opinion tries to muzzle us to stop speaking, we need to find our voice. When the crowd tells us to quiet down as they did Bartimaeus, we need to shout louder. When society tells us to be afraid of retribution or public shame, we need to stand firm on the solid rock of Christ Jesus and speak of the grace and love of the one whose opinion that truly matters—the Lord God Almighty.

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