Lorri Dudley

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

Stepping on shoulders

Go Ahead and Step on Me

Stepping on shoulders

Mental health emergency room visits and suicide rates are up in young adults during the pandemic, according to the CDC. It grieves my heart to know people feel hopeless, alone, and distanced. They can’t see a future or their purpose when they’re stuck in a holding pattern that feels never-ending. For those of us who’ve been around for a bit, we’ve survived ups and downs before. It’s easier for us to have confidence that the sun will rise and the storm will eventually blow over.

People aren’t born with resilience. It’s learned usually through pressure hardships and adversity.

Only those 30 years old and older will have experienced the ’08-‘09 recession Only those 45 and older will remember the Black Monday stock market crash of ‘87. Only those in their nineties would have been impacted by the Great Depression. High school and college-age kids don’t have the perspective to know they won’t always be stuck in the valley and that the fog will lift.

More than ever, we need to pour into those around us: our neighbors, friends, children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, etc. We need to teach them resilient faith. Let them know that this too will pass. They may argue that the circumstances are different. We’ve never been through a pandemic. That is why faith is the “confidence in what we hope for and the assurance about what we have not seen (Hebrews 11:1).” Let them lean on our faith because we know God will take what the enemy meant for evil and turn it for good.

Nehemiah was grieved after hearing about the circumstances in Jerusalem, and he begged the king of Persia to allow him to return to help his people. As they labored to build a wall and faced opposition from the neighboring counties, Nehemiah called his people together and told them, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!” Nehemiah 4:14.

girl throwing punch

It is crucial for us to reach out. We must fight for the next generation, their marriages, their minds, and especially for their spirit. We need to offer them hope and loan them our faith. Let them use it as a stepping stone to lift them above the clouds. By stepping on our shoulders, we can help them rise above the fog.

It’s not in our strength alone. Resilience means believing in something bigger than you.

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Imagination Gone Wild

Rendition of Edvard Munch's painting The Scream.
“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” – Seneca the younger.

I’m notorious for jumping to the worst-case scenario. For writing, it’s a great skill. I identify my heroine’s greatest fear and then concoct the worst possible outcome that I can think of that preys upon her anxiety.

This skill is awful when it comes to real life, especially when you have a child getting his driver’s license. There is nothing worse than lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, running through all the possible catastrophes, until you hear the garage door open. It also doesn’t come in handy when flying in an airplane, hearing strange noises at night, or during the onset of a pandemic. My imagination can be my own worst enemy.

In my stories, the heroine learns she must trust God, yet in my own life, how often do I choose to worry first and give it to God afterward? Why do I let my anxiety build until it pours out in complaints or groans? Why do I allow fear a grip when 2 Timothy says, God didn’t give us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and sound mind?

I’m still learning how to turn off the bombardment of negative thoughts like one would a faucet, but through prayer, I’m able to filter them to a trickle or a drip. As soon as I realize the flood of worst-case scenarios is assaulting me, I take my thoughts captive and lay them at the feet of Jesus. My simple prayer sounds like this: God, you know my fears. I can’t control this situation, but You are all-powerful and all-knowing. Protect myself and my loved ones in Your loving care because I know you care for us.

dripping faucet
When we pray, God becomes a problem for our problems.

We need to bow our heads, fold our hands, and introduce our fear of the worst-case scenario to the One who wrote the book and who already knows the ending. Why should we suffer from our what-ifs when God tells us to cast all our worries on Him (1 Peter 5:7)? It’s time to turn off our run-amok imaginations and turn on our prayer warrior side. Unsheathe the sword of the spirit and battle in the spiritual realm instead of in our heads.

It’s time to stop talking about our problems and instead start speaking to our problems. Remind them who is ultimately in charge and who wins in the end. Introduce our mangy fears to our fearless God.

My tall boys and me

Fighting Fair

My tall boys and little me.

At barely 5’3” tall (I convinced the DMV to round up to 3 inches for my license), I’m used to being patted on the head, being pushed to the front row of pictures, and never being able to see in a crowd. However, I refuse to ask strangers to grab things from the top shelf at the grocery store. People probably look at me funny, but I’ll do running leaps, use other items to knock the high stuff down, or climb the lower shelves and pray they don’t collapse. I don’t like feeling helpless. I want to grocery shop without the aid of others. I want things within my own reach and own power.

This stubborn determination to do things my way has gotten me into trouble.

When I was younger, I took a karate class where we practiced sparing. I’d been paired up with a boy about my size and weight, but he didn’t want to fight a girl. He lazily half-preformed all the movements, and I grew angrier with each languid punch. The sensei had just finished reminding the class that there was no contact allowed when I hauled back and slugged the kid as hard as I could in the shoulder. A loud thwack echoed through the dojo. All eyes riveted on me. After that, the boy sparred with me more seriously, but it was wrong for me to punch him. I had to do knuckle pushups as a punishment. 

green boa constrictor

What seems just and right to us isn’t always God’s will. Take Eve, for example. At the time, it probably seemed fitting that she should eat the apple. The serpent used false logic to reason why Eve should disobey God’s command not to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden. He twisted God’s words saying, you won’t really die. God just doesn’t want you to eat the fruit because it would make her like Him, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3). The snake convinced Eve that God was holding out on her, not allowing her to reach her full potential or experience something she deserved. What might have seemed right or just, at the time, led to a lifetime of pain, suffering, and death for generations to come.

We want to feel smart and in control. We want to believe we’re fighting for fairness, but before we take matters into our own hands and eat an apple or make a fist and throw a punch, maybe we should ask God what he thinks of our situation—pray on it a bit—seek God’s wisdom before we make a move. If we ignorantly choose human intelligence over Godly wisdom, we can wind up with greater consequences than a few knuckle pushups.

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The Anticipation Isn’t Over

Grinch

My son calls me the Grinch. I have this weird thing about me that I like to have all the Christmas decorations down before starting the New Year. I’m torn about it. Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, as the song goes. I’m filled with whimsical sorrow as I wrap up the nativity scene and stow away the ornaments for another year. However, part of me gets excited because the anticipation isn’t over.

Jesus came into the world as every baby does—hungry for milk, unable to control his arms and legs, eventually sucking his fist. Our great God donned a frail, tiny human body made in his image. He was born in a dirty stable to a young woman and a modest, hard-working carpenter. There was no pomp and circumstance. The innkeeper continued with his duties, unaware of the miracle in the barn outside. The guests dined and slept peacefully in their rooms while the humble savior of the world lay in a feeding trough. God could have chosen to have His Son born in the Bethlehem version of a Four Season’s hotel or a luxurious palace with parades, singing, and dancing as the world rejoices at his arrival.

But that’s not how it happened.

God chose such humble beginnings to break down the barriers between a perfect God and imperfect man. He didn’t don royal robes. He removed them to cloth himself in swaddling cloth so that we might connect with Him, relate to a flesh-and-blood man, feel His love without shame, and let Him wash away our sins. All because our God is a relational God.

I get excited to put away the Christmas decorations because it symbolizes preparing for what God is doing next. Our anticipation shouldn’t get tucked into a box and stuffed in the attic until next year. We need to ready our hearts for His return because next time, He won’t come as a tiny baby. He’ll return as the crowned King in all His strength, might, and splendor. A single star’s light won’t shine to guide a group of shepherds. Jesus will shine bright in all His glory for all to see. This time there won’t merely be a few magi paying their respects. Instead, every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus as Lord.

In Bethlehem, Jesus was born to be the sacrificial lamb. When He returns, He will come as the Lion of Judah.

Hallelujah, come Lord Jesus!

Lion

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Mary & Jesus

Know Your Source

It was a big day in the Dudley household. My sixteen-year-old passed the written driving test to get his learner’s permit. Shortly after, I handed over the wheel and was out on the road with him, traversing through neighborhoods. Handing over the controls isn’t an easy task. My right foot pumped an invisible break, and my grip tightened on the door handle. Somehow, I maintained a calm voice, “you’re doing well, now break… break… break harder.”

It’s strange to think that Mary the mother of Jesus would have fallen somewhere between my oldest and middle child’s ages when the angel, Gabriel, visited her. Here was a young girl who became the mother of the savior of the world before she’d even could qualify to get her driver’s license.

And talk about relinquishing control. Pregnancy itself feels like something has taken over your body. Add to that, the weight of wondering whether her betrothed would still marry her after discovering she was already with child. Back then, women relied on a man’s support and name. A ruined reputation could have landed Mary begging in the streets.

However, Mary’s only question to the angel, Gabriel, when he foretold what was about to happen was a technical one, “How can this happen? I am a virgin” (Luke 1:34). She didn’t ask about the consequences, what others might think of her, or what they might say. She didn’t worry if her husband would divorce her or her parents renounce her as their daughter. If she was concerned about her abilities to raise the Son of the Most High, she didn’t pose them. Mary told the angel, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true” (Luke 1:38).

Mary trusted God. She even visited with her cousin Elizabeth and rejoiced in song:

Mary holding Baby Jesus

 “How my soul praises the Lord.
  How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
  For He took notice of His lowly servant girl,
  and from now on, all generations will call me blessed.
  For the Mighty One is holy, and He has done great things for me.
  He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear Him.
  He mighty arm has done tremendous things!” (Luke 1:46-56).

That is not the song of an anxiety-ridden, frantic with worry, young woman. Mary’s attitude of praise came not from looking at her troublesome situation but by looking back at God’s faithfulness. He was and is the promise keeper. He was and is the way maker. To another, Mary’s circumstances would have looked bleak, but Mary’s source wasn’t Joseph, nor her parents, or her neighbors’ opinions.

Mary trusted The Source from whom all blessings flow—The Lord Most High.

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guy waiting at kitchen table

Waiting for the Plan

Waiting can be painful.
This year has been full of long, agonizing waiting. Waiting for schools to open, see family and friends, travel or vacation, a job position to open, and relief from bills or payments that have started to pile up. We’re told to hang tight for another 2 to 4 weeks, but the waiting has begun to feel endless.

Elizabeth understood what it was like to wait. She’d married Zechariah with the hopes to bear him a handful of children, yet her womb remained empty, and each night, she set their supper table only for two. She watched her hands become wrinkled, and her hair streaked with gray.

However, Luke 1:6 claims she was righteous in the Lord’s eyes, careful to obey all the Lord’s commandments. When she became pregnant, as the angel foretold, she didn’t doubt God’s ability to fulfill His promise. Not only that she would give birth in her old age but that her son will be called a prophet of the Most High, with the power of Elijah. Her son, John the Baptist, would prepare God’s people for the coming of the Lord.

Once she’d given birth to her son, Elizabeth’s waiting wasn’t over, nor were her worries. The baby she cradled in her arms would someday become a prophet, and the world was notoriously unkind to prophets. Queen Jezebel had sought to kill Elijah and had been successful in killing other prophets (1 Kings 19:1-2). The prophet Jeremiah was tossed in a pit because King Zedekiah didn’t like what he told him (Jeremiah 38:6). Daniel was thrown to the lions (Daniel 6:16). It wasn’t uncommon for a prophet to be stoned, jailed, or sawed in half. Elizabeth, who’d waited so long to be a mother, knew her child wouldn’t have an easy life, but she trusted God’s plan.

Her son had a calling. He was to proclaim the coming of a savior. For 400+ years, the world hadn’t seen a prophet. But God was setting things into motion. John the Baptist was born to point them to the light of the world—the messiah that would save them. In the waiting, the worry, and the fears, Elizabeth never lost sight of God’s promises. God had a master plan, and it began with her trusting Him with her son.  

My sweet friend, who has a lung condition, has been waiting in her one-bedroom apartment since March. I admire her because, like Elizabeth, she holds a grateful spirit—that each day and each breath is a gift. She remains positive because she trusts God is making a way.

woman waiting at window

Although waiting isn’t easy and the future is uncertain, God is making away in the wilderness, like Elizabeth, we need to change our waiting to anticipation. As Christmas draws near and 2020 draws to a close, we must wait like children on Christmas Eve, expectantly for the great thing God is doing because He has plans for us.

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”  This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” Matthew 3:1-3

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Man holding sword

Sticking to the Message

Man point sword

Ever feel bombarded by small battles? Multiple gauntlets are thrown down, issuing one challenge after another. We seek satisfaction, running around picking up gloves, accepting challenges, and dueling in match after match until exhausted and spread too thin.

All these small battles, although significant, fray our rope. By expending all our energy on the smaller skirmishes, we’re left with nothing in our tank to fight the big battle.

Our true mission gets muddled in the frenzy. Our message is buried while we argue lesser points.
In November, I virtually attended ACFW Virginia’s writer’s conference and sat in on Historical Romance Author Kristi Ann Hunter’s class on incorporating message into your story to make an impact. One point she said that stuck with me was, “never go too long before touching base with the message.” While Kristi spoke of writing, I wondered when I last touched base with my life’s message?

fencing or duel

Love Because You are Loved is my tag-line and, loving others because God first loved me is my mission, but when life says en garde and advances, am I counter-parrying with love? Have smaller challenges frayed the main thread of my life song? Have I taken my eyes off my real opponent for too long?

Here are a few other things Kristi noted in bold, followed by how I relate the points toward life.


The message must be:

  • Relevant to the story – It’s crucial to be intentional. We can fight with purpose when we’re staying on message and not distracted by the smaller battles.
  • Essential to the plot -Not every gauntlet needs to be picked up. Although some small battles may be important, they may not be ours to fight.
  • Demonstrated as well as stated (or show don’t tell) – Are we walking the talk? I’m constantly reminding myself and my boys that we are representatives of Jesus. The world is happy to tempt us and then condemn us for doing what it led us to do. It’s so easy to be baited into losing our cool, railing at being wronged, but how does that affect our witness? I can be more effective if I’m acting as a light and behaving in a loving manner.

Intentionally keeps our focus on the mission. God has a plan for us, but we must avoid being weakened by side battles. We must stick to our message. Proclaim it loud and clear. Go through life by design, not by default.

“I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Romans 9:17

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My oldest son spraying whipped cream into his mouth

A Whipped Cream Whammy

My oldest spraying whipped cream into his mouth
My oldest still likes whipped cream

Sometimes you don’t know whether to cry or laugh.

Back when all three of my boys were under the age of five, my husband awoke early, working a Saturday in November. I had come down with an infection and overnight started running a fever. I didn’t realize how bad I felt until I laid down in front of the fire to close my eyes for a second. Twenty minutes later, I jolted awake and did a quick headcount of all three boys, only to find my oldest son holding a can of spray whipped cream and a cloth. With a big smile, he said, “Mommy, I dusted.”

Every horizontal surface in my family room was smeared with sticky, partially-dried, whipped cream. I hadn’t believed I could feel worse than I already had at that moment, and then life whammed me with whipped cream as its cherry on top.

Life is good at hitting us with whammies. We’re in battle playing whack-a-mole with problems that relentlessly pop up or fighting multiple fronts—the work front, the home front, the kid front, the relationship front, the I-forgot-to-take-something-out-for-dinner front. (Maybe the last one is just me.) As soon as we think we have our battles under control, something changes: schools switch to full remote, bosses add a new deadline, kids tell you about a project due tomorrow. Our strength, energy, and ammo run out.

The Philistine army was the problem that wouldn’t go away for King David. David prayed, and his army drove the Philistines from the land, but the Philistines relentlessly popped back up again in later attacks. Frustrated and tired of battling, David prayed again, asking God if he should fight the Philistines. This time, God instructs David to use a circular route and not to attack until he hears marching in the poplar trees. When they heard the sound of marching, they were to move quickly because the Lord himself had gone before them to strike down the Philistine army (2 Samuel 5:17-25).

Like David, Instead of picking up the mallet and hammering away at those whack-a-mole problems, I’ve learned its best to take a moment and pray. Here are three takeaways I gathered from David’s story:

  1. God understands and recognizes our frustrations.
  2. Sometimes, God has us take the long route for a more permanent victory.
  3. God moves ahead of us and paves the way.

 There is comfort in knowing that God goes before you. He brings perspective and wisdom to help strike down those problems, and then we can sit and enjoy our whipped cream how I prefer it—on an ice cream sundae.

ice cream sundae

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Uncle Same

For You

Uncle Sam

I’m writing this before the final day of the election. I don’t know if the next president will be determined by the time this blog is posted or if the new president will be announced by the end of the week, the next month, or next year. What I do know is that “He [God] controls the course of world events; He removes kings and sets up other kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars (Daniel 2:21 NLT).”

While so much energy, emotion, and hope has been put into the election, My husband brought up a good point. Whoever is elected president probably won’t ever know my name or yours, but God has our names carved in the palms of his hands. The president probably won’t know what we look like, but God numbered the hairs on our heads. Our president, even though he may try, won’t know our specific hopes, dreams, and fears, but God knows the desires of our hearts. He came so that we may have life and have it to the full.

Why do we put our hope in a president, when we can trust in the Almighty?

We don’t need to fear either election outcome because God is in control, and He cares deeply for His children. He left the majesty of His throne and entered the world to save His children (both red and blue-leaning). While campaigns promise us one thing or another, God came to bind up the brokenhearted, set free the captives, comfort those who morn, and create beauty out of ashes (Isaiah 61:1-3).

There is no person, platform, or position He can’t utilize to spread His love to those who need Him. What the world uses to divide us, God sets to unite us. God is that good. He is that powerful, and that awesome.

God’s not for merely Trump or Biden, God is for us, but more specifically…

He is for you.

This touched me.
You may have heard the song “The Blessing” but look at the effect it’s had worldwide. To me, this is an amazing example of how God can turn all things around for His good. While it was playing, I looked at my Youtube sidebar and there are renditions sung in multiple countries and languages. Here are just a few of them:
United Kingdom
Australia
Sweden
Ireland
Japan
In Hebrew
Canada
India
In Reggie
In Celtic
Zimbabwe
Chana
South Africa
New Zealand
Nigeria
Singapore
In Tamil
Kenya
Malaysia
South Korea
Germany
France
Nepal
In Spanish
India

God is good.

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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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