follow me: a testimony (part 2)

Over a year ago, I shared about the pivotal moment in my testimony of knowing Christ: the moment when He said, “Follow Me.”

But something I’ve always firmly believed about testimonies is that they are much more than nice stories with happy endings wrapped in bows. They are dynamic - they’re the stories God is actively writing with our lives, right now, evolving in real time as we take each step forward with Him. Every testimony really ends with “To be continued.” Every testimony, as long as the Lord tarries, will have a part two, three, or four.

When Jesus says to someone, “Follow Me,” it’s the beginning of a journey, not the end. And the invitation will, of necessity, be renewed daily. Sometimes hourly. The choice to obey is not once; it’s over and over again, one step at a time.

It would take pages to recount all the steps He has asked of me since that first invitation. I often took them without even knowing where my foot would land, and the course the path has taken is nothing like I expected. There have been moments when I let go of His hand and begged Him to go on without me because the next foothold looked so terrifying, but in His grace, He never left me there alone.

Today I’m standing in a pretty forest clearing, a place of rest. My Lord is not endlessly demanding and He knows I need to catch my breath. We have come a long way.

A year and a half ago, in April of 2018, He asked me to start writing a book. Together we stepped into a walk of solitude through a wild wood, the trail ill-defined and a bit lonely. I’ve written many thousands of words in my life, but I have never sat down to a project and vision of this size before. It was six months to put out the first draft, another six months to read it a dozen times over and make thousands of revisions to the manuscript, and yet another six months to design the layout and place it in the hands of people who can look at it with new eyes for me. Still to come, I am sure, will be yet more revisions based on their feedback.

Every step of this process has been an exercise in submitting to Christ’s call: “Follow Me.” He has brought inspiration, motivation, and accountability alongside me exactly when I’ve needed it. He has held my hand when I was scared to tell anyone about what I’ve been creating. And now He is slowly, bit by bit, revealing His vision for how He wants me to use and share this book with others.

With the fruit of this journey now in the hands of a few people I trust to provide sound criticism, I am taking a breather in this pretty little forest clearing, watching Jesus paint a picture of where the journey might lead from here. I doubt I’ll see the finished product before we start on our way again, but there is comfort in simply knowing that He knows, even when the path seems obscure.

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I can tell you what His work is stirring in me so far, though: an ever deeper desire to help other “ordinary” American Christians (like myself) know who He is by knowing His Word. My heart aches for my own nation, which has greater access to God’s Word and solid Biblical resources than any other, and yet largely doesn’t know how to use them, or even why they’re important. We are a nation of people who can easily find a Bible verse that supports nearly any ideology but have no idea how to respect the true intentions and origins of the text. In this place, we are terribly vulnerable to deception, legalism, and licentiousness; we are easily enslaved to cruel masters, like unnecessary guilt and our shifting emotions, and are deaf to the softness and tenderness of Jesus’ call.

Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). What a gift and a relief it is that we are known by God, and that He offers us the safety and care of the Good Shepherd. But we can’t rest fully in that truth, nor trust fully in His leadership, until we can hear His voice in the first place.

(By the way - if you want to be the first to know when this book becomes available to the public, you can drop your email address below.)

these are the days: october

Last month’s “these are the days” post inspired me to continue this practice, maybe monthly. There is something helpful about being still for long enough to mull over what life looks like, here and now.

These are the days of rather ambivalent weather, true to a Pacific Northwest October’s form. My weather app has been forecasting rain for the last week, but each day it holds off just a little longer. That’s all supposed to change tomorrow, but in the meantime I’m enjoying my near-daily walks and watching the evolution of the trees. A few of them are all but bare, with puddles of crinkly brown leaves around their trunks, but most are somewhere in the awkward stage of half-green, half-golden foliage. My favorites are the ones that fade from green to golden to brilliant red at the tips all at once.

They are days of stretching myself outside the comfortable space I’ve existed within up until this point. Some of this stretching has been ideological, some of it theological, some of it relational, some of it social. I am developing a taste for deliberately making myself uncomfortable in many areas so that I can become stronger, much like exercising my body, only now it’s my whole self. I auditioned for a play. I started listening to a podcast that makes me think - and rethink. I’ve been reading and researching the role of women in the Church, on both local and global levels, and thinking critically about what it means for me to be a disciple of Jesus in the exact time, place, and situation He has me. These are the days of asking many questions, especially, “Are there other ways to think about this, or is there something I’m missing because of the bubble I live in?” (The Enneagram 5 is strong with this one...)

And they are days of lots of hours spent working at my desk with my Bible at hand, deep in the throes of preparing another year of Bible180 to begin on January 1st. I’m also working on an upcoming series of resources on how to study the Bible that I hope you will all find helpful, and have been adding to our free resource library. So although the blog has been a little quiet in recent weeks, rest assured there is a lot going on behind the scenes.

Suggested thinking:

I’m adding a new section this month. “Suggested reading” and “suggested listening” seemed a bit too narrow, because I tend to do a little of everything, so I’m just going to call it my Suggested Thinking list. These might be books, podcasts, videos, articles, pretty much anything that has been making me think lately. I’m inviting you to think with me. :)

What do the days of October look like for you?

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Hallie Liening

Hallie grew up on a small farm in rural eastern Washington. At 18, she moved across the country to go to Bible school, and then married the Boy Next Door at 20. Now 22, she is a graduate of Great Commission Bible Institute with a Certificate in Biblical Studies and resides in Olympia with her husband and her two cats. She survives the claustrophobia of living near the city by making frequent trips back home to visit her family and her horse, writing sentimental blog posts about the countryside, and by filling her house with photographs of Mt. Adams sunsets.

these are the days: september

(This post is inspired by Emily P. Freeman and her recent podcast episode, “Point and Call”.)

It’s September, suddenly - one of my favorite months of the year, and I’m concerned that today is already day three. Ten percent of the month is already behind us. The days go so fast, in a blur, so I feel the need to mark time here before it gets away from me.

These are the days of long, hard shadows in morning light, angled across all my flowers and filtering through their petals like tiny stained-glass windows. These are the days of cold nights, as evidenced by the chill in the lake water when we spent last week together at the cabin, and sometimes even a layer of fog to mute the world on my way to work in the morning.

They are days of learning many random things I never thought I’d need to know: how to stack russet potatoes, the best way to rotate the new produce in with the old, a hundred four-digit PLU codes. All those little things that make a shelf look nice? Someone does them - they don’t just happen by magic. I guess I knew that, but it didn’t mean anything until I became the one turning milk cartons to face the right way in the cooler.

And they’re days of learning many deeper things - the kind that have to be learned again and again, day in and day out. Like learning to set my eyes on Jesus, who has already endured and overcome every heartbreak and struggle I face. Learning to take refuge in who He says I am, and remember that He alone (not my feelings, not my mistakes, not my perceptions, not another person) gets to name me. Learning that He doesn’t always disclose the destination, or even the goal, but He does faithfully take the next step forward with me.

Welcome, September; don’t go too soon. I want to enjoy these days with you.