Wednesday, May 22

30 Days of Life: Day 3, Permission to Follow Your Dreams



Happy Wednesday from the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina.

I'm here at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer's Conference, and can I just tell you it's absolutely beautiful here! For the last three days (I got in on Sunday) we have had nothing but stunning blue skies, 80+ degree weather, all while nestled into the Ridgecrest Christian Conference Center at the edge of the mountains. We've been learning, making friends, singing worship songs together-- it's been incredible.

For this girl from Buffalo who loves the sun and is at the tail end of a six month season of gray clouds and cold weather this place is like water to my parched soul.

I'm also writing this post from a quiet hotel room at that serene conference center, so for those of you that are mommas I know you know how renewing it can be to get a way for a day or two and focus on a piece of your life that has nothing to do with managing the pieces of your little people's lives. You all know how deeply  I love my people, and their pieces, but a break is good for the soul.

A quick, funny story about momma breaks, and conferences...

My good friend Sarah stopped by on Saturday, the day before I left. Our house was trashed, and I mean TRASHED. We had had a busy week with birthday parties-- one that we were hosting, and others the girls were attending-- and then soccer, school, book projects, etc.  Add in my packing and getting ready and we wound up with a whirlwind of mess all around us.

 What I love about Sarah is how real we can be with each other. I invited her in, she and I laughed at the mess, and then we talked about how I was leaving and joked about how she needs to find a job or a hobby so she can go to a conference too (her husband had just come back from multi-day work trip in some warm place that I can't recall right now).



We brainstormed for a minutes about passions she could suddenly take up, just so she could find a conference and get away for a few days--I mean anything-- quilting, stamp collecting, a newly found interest in environmental biology...whatever.

"What about horses, do you like horses?" My husband, who was standing in the kitchen asked.

"I do. I do like horses," she said.

"There you go," I added. "Let's find you a horse conference!"

She smiled at the thought of it. She likes horses, but she's not a horse lover, but when you're a momma looking for a chance to get away and not feel bad about it, sometimes you're ready to go anywhere and try anything just for the break-- just for the distraction from the overwhelming responsibility of being a momma 24/7.

Here's the thing...

I think every mom needs to get away for a few days sometimes, and I don't think we give ourselves permission often enough.

I've had this conversation with my own mom a couple of times over the last few years-- I'll tell her that I'm driving to Rochester for a writing workshop for a day, or in January I drove to a monastery that is about an hour from my house to find some quiet (which wasn't quite the retreat that I expected it to be, but that's a whole other story).  And she'll say, "I always wished I could have done something like that when you kids were young."

Sometimes I wish I could go back in time, like in Back to the Future, and somehow make a way for my mom to get away-- I think it would have refueled and refreshed her soul in ways that would have given her renewed energy for her own tasks at hand. Life hasn't been easy for her, and when we were younger I can't even imagine how overwhelming it all felt, but I do know she needed space for her soul to grow-- space that she didn't get.

So here I am-- in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I arrived tired and weary, and am just beginning to feel renewed: Because my mind has had some time to focus on the Lord, and to be with other people who love Jesus too. Because the academic part of my mind is being engaged by the many classes I've attended already, and the inspirational keynotes that have reminded us all that we  have a God inspired seed of dream inside of us, and we need to tend it to make it grown.

We have been reminded that our dark world needs our light bearing, grace-filled messages and have been given permission to share those messages and share them boldly.

Isn't it funny how sometimes, especially as we get older, we need to be given permission to do the things we should do?! 

It's all been very good--this time away.  Refreshing. Encouraging. Inspiring.

I've made some new friends and have taken enormous amounts of notes that I'll have to process when I get home.

And since I'm here, and you might be wondering-- is it worth it? Should I do it? Should I take that leap and go to the conference and leave my family for a few days?

The answer is, YES.

I miss them dearly. They've struggled a little bit to get out the door in the morning (which makes me feel sad), and apparently there was a crises of enormous proportions yesterday when one of the kiddos somehow carried Nutella onto our new couch (I'm glad I wasn't there to see that go down!), but it's all good.

I'll be more mentally prepared for the morning routine and for the Nutella crises when I get home on Friday.

So, moms...I give you permission. 

To pursue a passion-- even a little one and to follow it to another state if you so feel led. I give you permission to jump out of the fray for a few days and let your own soul be renewed, or at the very least temporarily distracted, but distracted in the very best way. 



Here are a few photos from the last couple days (I have a few more that I'll post later, but I'm having trouble accessing them right now):









One quick update-- I've been thinking about the "30 Days of Life" posts that I'm committed to writing. I'm realizing that rather then squeeze them into 30 literal days (one month), that I will stretch them out over however long they take me to write them, which simply makes more sense for my own life and our rhythms right now.

Each time I blog I'll just write "Day 3", "Day 4", and so on. So, you won't get 30 days in 30 days, and you'll have to put up with me blogging about random life for a little bit longer, but that's ok (;




Friday, May 17

30 Days of Life: Day 2



I’m heading out on an adventure this weekend, and super excited about it. 

I’m also a little bit nervous, but mostly excited, which is how an adventure should feel, right? 

My flight leaves at 6 AM on Sunday morning, which means an early alarm, and that my bags better be packed before I go to bed tomorrow night. I’ll be flying from Buffalo to Charlotte, and then on to Asheville, landing at 10:30 AM.  At that point a very nice transportation guy, who unashamedely has already declared his love for Jesus over the phone, will be picking  several of us up from the airport, and driving us to the Ridgecrest Mountain  Resort where we begin five days of writing instruction and encouragement at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. 

Eeeeekk! 

Honestly, I can’t think of anything more fun than hanging out with a bunch of book loving, writerly types in the middle of the mountains for five days. A place where all of my food is prepared and the dishes are cleaned up afterwards. Doesn’t that sound like a little slice of heaven?! (I mean, even if you're not a writer but you're a mom, doesn't that sound lovely?!)

Here’s the funny thing... I almost chose not to go.  

I’m not kidding. I hemmed and hawed until I was sick of hearing my own hemming and hawing 😜. 

I should confess that Scott and I can tend to suffer from decision paralyzation sometimes. Does anyone else feel that way? Alone or with their spouse? Or, both?!

 When we have a decision to make, be it big or small, it can take us F-O-R-E-V-E-R, like light-years and light-years FOREVER, to finally come to a conclusion and move forward in a specific direction. I'm not sure if this comes down to fear of making the wrong decision, or a fear of commitment, or if it's peronsality type, but whatever the case, it doesn't come easy and it doesn't feel like a whole lot of fun when you're in the middle of it. Which is what happened when the idea of this conference came up. 

While I've had the conference on my radar for several years, I've not even attempted to go in the past because up until this year I've always had at least one kiddo at home with me full-time during the day. Since this particular conference runs Sunday-Thursday (covering the span of four weekdays), it would have been hard to find childcare to allow me to go. But this year, with all three girls in school, (which still makes me want to cry tears of sadness and joy all at the same time) it really opened up the possibility that I could attend if I wanted to.

So, you might ask, if it was that easy why wouldn't I go? Right? 

I probably waited too long to research airline tickets, and so they kept getting more expensive, and with two of our three girls in a private Christian school our budget has been tighter than it used to be. Once I totaled the cost for airfare, lodging, the conference ticket and miscellaneous travel expenses it was all beginning to make me a little uncomfortable financially. 

I applied for a scholarship, but wasn't a chosen recipient (which I fully understood, but was still disappointed), and then kept my fingers crossed for a magic check, or tax return, or some obvious financial "sign" to show up in the mail-- you know, like in Lisa's version of a Hallmark movie (;

But that never happened either. 

So I prayed about it. 

And then I prayed some more. 

And then I waited for God to write an answer in the sky, but it's been so darned cloudy here that I think I missed the message. 

I'm kidding. Kind of. 

Honestly, I wasn't hearing anything specifically from God one way or the other. No yay or nay...Nothing. 

Finally, three weeks ago I decided that it wasn't the frugal thing to do-- to spend the money to go, and so I declared that I wasn't going. I thought I would feel peaceful about the decision, and at first I was, but then I got a little bit sad about it. 

The thing is I've been freelancing in bits and pieces for years.  I have a journalism degree.  I've been writing poems and stories since I was six years old, and reading books like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre for fun since I was in 9th grade. I really have always been wired to love words, and books, stories and the sharing of messages. 

Deep down, I really wanted to go, but the investment felt big and there were no magic doors opening. 


Somewhere along the way, after I made the decision not to go, but kept praying about it anyway,  I heard a podcast about decision making. 

I don't think it was Emily Freeman's podcast, though I have been listening to that regularly and recently purchased her book "the Next Right Thing" (which is all about decision making and is fabulous). This particularly podcast by an unnamed podcaster, or perhaps it was a radio show host,  talked about how God has equipped us to make decisions-- that He's given us the intellect, the emotional intelligence and the wisdom (particularly when we're praying about something) to make decisions on our own. 

Listen, I'm not a theologian, so I apologize if this isn't proper theology. I pray about everything in my life and sometimes I do hear God very clearly. But, sometimes I believe God doesn't have a specific right or wrong in mind for us...He wants us to practice our decision making skills instead of spoon feeding us answers. 

Hmmm...I thought. Maybe there isn't a clear right or wrong here. Maybe I just need to use my God-given ability to make a decision and actually make one that I feel good about, rather than making one out of guilt or fear. 

And so I did. 

I thought about my reasons for wanting to go, and why I was choosing not to go. I realized that sometimes, in cases like this, we have to make investments into our callings in order to figure out our next steps. I decided I needed to make a decision not out of guilt, sadness, or ambiguity, but out of the authenticity of who I am. 

I started asking myself some questions. Questions like, What do you want to do? How will you feel when the date of the conference comes and goes and you haven't gone? What will you do to further your writing dream if you choose to not go to this conference? What might happen if you do go? 

It was that last question that got me. What might happen if you do go?  

I wanted to know the answer to that question. 

I'm looking forward to discovering the answer to that question. 

To what God may say to me, to the friends I may meet, to the business opportunities that may open up for freelancing, or for my dreams to be the author of a published book someday. 

After all of this indecision, the thoughts and the prayers, after finding myself increasingly curious to answer the question "What might happen if you do go?", I woke up one morning, about a week after I declared that I wasn't going, and declared that I was. 

I bought a plane ticket before I had the chance to concoct more excuses, and now I'm two days away from arriving in Ashevlille with a proposal in my bag, a dream in my heart, and an open mind to the possibility of what might happen. 

And if it's nothing more than making a new friend along the way, because I know I will, then it will all have been worth it. 



So, in the spirit of needing to finish preparing for the conference (I've been working on my proposal in my minivan, at my kitchen table, at my daughter's ballet practice...just about everywhere), I'm going to wrap this up and am telling you ahead of time that I won't be posting here tomorrow. 

I haven't packed a single thing, and we're having a small sleepover to celebrate Aubrey's 6th birthday tonight, so I'll be playing putt putt, eating massive cupcakes from Ohlson's (a fantastic bakery here in town), and trying to get three 6-year old girls to sleep after they've eaten massive cupcakes and played putt putt. 

But, I will write on Sunday while I'm traveling, and share lots of pictures with you covering my adventures to North Carolina.  Until then I wish you luck on any decision making situations you might be in. I encourage you to pray, and then use your God given wisdom and discernment to make that decision. I'm rooting for you, and promise you'll feel so much better once you make that decision! 











This

Thursday, May 16

30 Days of Life: Day 1

Today I start a little writing experiment...30 days of blogging about the stuff of life. I'll write about things like faith, family, writing, the weather (Oi! Maybe you shouldn't get me started about the weather here lately!) motherhood, identity, and anything else that comes to mind, or emerges as a part of life over the next month. I'll write about whatever leaves the biggest impression on me on any given day, or at least in the moment that I'm actually writing because my days are usually full of so many things that it would be hard to summarize my thoughts about an entire day into a mere 1,000 words or less. 

I hope you'll join me. There is not pressure to buy anything, to get up earlier than normal, to try to set goals, to become more organized...I've realized I'm not that kind of writer, at least not at the moment. I just need to find a new rhythm, a new way of living that includes more writing and so this is where I'm starting...by writing about daily life and inviting you into it if you so wish to join me. 



May 16th
It’s so like me to start a blog post like this on a random Thursday in the middle of May, but then again such is my life—a little all over the place and seemingly random at times.
I had intended to start this at the beginning of May, and then suddenly it was Mother’s Day and now here we are smack dab in the middle of May, and so rather than wait until June first, or a seemingly proper Sunday or Monday (which both seem like good days to start something new, don’t you agree?), I decided I would just start here. Right where I am.
Because honestly, is there ever any better place to start?
Here’s the thing, I haven’t started, or finished, a lot of things in my life lately because it didn’t seem like the right time, or like I had enough time, or like everything was aligned in such a way that I would actually be able to finish the task(s) properly. 

(As a side note, I’ve read that this is a symptom of perfectionism, which always makes me laugh because if you observed my life for any amount of time you’d see that things are far from perfect. But, I get what the ‘experts’ are saying and so I’m learning to just start…to jump in… into the messy middle…to avert any perfectionist tendencies that don’t really suit my life anyway).
Why am I doing this? Writing about life, just plain life, for 30 days?
Well, because I haven’t blogged consistently for quite some time, and I thought this experiment in writing about daily life might help me to re-establish a new rhythm. I thought it might help me to counteract the reasons I haven’t blogged consistently for quite some time—reasons like:
1.) The blogging and social media world have changed so much in such a short period of time that I haven’t known how to respond to it all.
Ten years ago blogs were more often about daily life and that was ok, even the norm. 

However, in the last few years they have become so much more—they’ve become platforms (to use a publishing term), they’ve become soap boxes, ways to make money, ways to promote people, places and things. 

It seems that the media powers that be (perhaps the readers) have demanded that blogs be more service oriented, meaning they should be meet a need for the reader either in a tangible way (by offering a product) or an emotional way (by offering encouragement or a solution), and while I think that can be a very good thing, I personally don't have a product or a solution to offer you at the moment...just my life...that's all. 
So, from a place of confusion and overwhelm of not knowing what my message or my “product” is (friends, I’m not a product peddler…I’m just not), or even what my proper niche actually is…I pulled back rather than jump in. I’ve been quiet, and not blogging, but I've missed this format as a simple form of sharing life and so I decided that since I have the freedom to actually say whatever I want here, I'll just talk about life again...for now. 
2.) Life has felt challenging in the most mundane ways for quite some time and I didn’t really want to talk about it. Because I’m a transparent person I would have talked about it, but I didn't want to bore you with the details, or, if I’m honest, I didn’t want to bring you down with my questions, struggles and honest accounts about how some of the pieces of life haven’t made sense—
I also had a couple of people private message me in the last couple of  years and tell me I shouldn’t talk about all of the “negative” stuff in my life so much. Ugh. I wasn’t sure what to make of that, or how to feel about it, and so it simply became another source of silencing my voice for some time…
I’ve kept a list of things I deemed good blog topics along the way—things like finding hope on hard days, how running is my natural antidepressant and how finally having all three of my kids in school hasn’t suddenly opened up as much free time as I thought it would.
I’ve been reading great books about identity, faith, spiritual healing and motherhood and I’ve wanted to share them all with you, but I lost my rhythm and my blogging way and so it’s all just jotted down in pen in my bazillion journals, and on post it notes, and index cards, and scraps of paper in the backseat of my car.
I’ve started posts dozens of times, but when you haven’t talked to someone in a while—you, my friends and scattered audience—I haven't been sure where to start. 

The weather? A good book I’ve been reading? Some thoughts I had during my prayer time this morning?
So, I figured I’d start by just re-inviting you into my  daily life. A little bit of this, and a little bit of that, and in the process I figured I’d see what feels like it sticks and where inspiration rises  in my spirit.
I may not get around to posting every day, but I will write a little something each day and when I do post (most days), you’ll see my posts marked by the date(s) on which the thoughts were written—kind of like a diary, or journal.  So, for example, if I don’t post on 5/21 and 5/22, I’ll put something up on 5/23 that has all three dates within the same post with a few thoughts from that day. 

Make sense?!

I'll leave you with one more thought, a quote I came across recently from a book called Everyone Has a Story (I haven't read it, but would like to). In the book Savi Shawrma, the author, says this, 


“...everyone has a story. It might or might not be a love story. It could be a story of dreams, friendship, hope, survival or even death. And every story is worth telling. But more than that, it’s worth living.” 


On that note, here we go...a little writing about living...we'll see where it goes (: 








Sunday, March 31

The One Verse That Re-Centers My Heart Every Day


Oh friends, it's so easy to become distracted in this world of ours, isn't it? 


By what is right in front of us. By what is clamoring to be right in front of us. By all that is tugging at our hearts and minds, demanding our attention. 


And that's not even accounting for our kiddos who are asking for snacks, and reminding us that we were supposed to have washed their pink tights for ballet class...TONIGHT. 


For me, distractions tend to come from three places; 

1. What's right in front of me--

Things like the mess in my sink, the perpetual to-do list, the Christmas stuff that needs to be properly stored away and is still sitting in a pile in my basement,  the dust so thick on the entertainment center that we wrote our names in it last Friday night while we were queuing up a movie...this list is a hundred items long for all of us on any given day. 


2. What's trying to be in front of me--

 The websites, the podcasts, the television networks, the newspapers, the magazines, all of the social media outlets. They're all clamoring for our attention-- "Read me!", "Watch me!", "Click on ME, ME, ME"! 

And we give in-- we click, we listen, we read-- and that's not always a bad thing, but that's like saying chocolate cake or a huge plate of nachos isn't always a bad thing either. 


You know. 

Too much of an ok thing inevitably becomes a not so good thing...and raise your hand if it feels like there is "too much" of a lot of things sometimes? 


We know it, but we let the distractions pull us in always, don't we? 


I do it when I'm tired, I do it when I'm discouraged. I do it when I don't feel like making dinner, or this northeastern winter feels like it's going on two weeks too long. 


3. What's going on inside of me--

Overwhelm. Discouragement. Anxiety. Depression. Frustration. Anger. Tension. Impatience. Low self-esteem. 

Who has been there? In any of these places? 


These are ALL distractions to our days, this yucky list of "feelings"-- they pull us away from intentionally loving, from engaging with our kids, from being a blessing to our spouse and friends-- they even pull us away from mundane things, like successfully doing a load of laundry or just getting the things done that you need to get done, right? 


As I was listing all of those "feelings" I realized they are the a far cry from the fruit of the spirit that the Bible talks about. If you want to read more about the fruit of the spirit, you can read about it right in Galatians. Basically they are the characteristics that God promises will be evident in our lives when we are rooted in Him--



     Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, 
Self-Control

Wouldn't you LOVE for your life to be filled with those things instead?!


I know I would!!  


So, what do we do about it? What do we do when our mind starts to wander, when the demands poke at our soul, when our hormones or ugly emotions start to peck, peck, peck from the inside. 


Sigh. 


We could resign ourselves  to thinking that things are just always going to be that way. 


We could listen to the world telling us to try another self-help book, or to buy ourselves something new, or that it's ok to scroll through Instagram because you deserve to do 'something relaxing in your day'. 

We could engage in whatever numbing behaviors the world promises will temporarily ease our frustrations. 


OR...



We could stop looking at the world and all that is in front of us.

All of the images, all of the promises, all of the noise. 

We could even stop-- for a moment-- looking at all that stands in front of us that is literally bringing us down-- the to-do's, the responsibilities, the things that feel like they're never going to get better, whatever those things are for you. 


Here's where I am going to offer you the verse that I mentioned in the title of this post that steadies my heart every single day of my life...



        "Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things." (Colossians 3:2)

                                                               
Set your mind on things above...

Not on earthly things...the bazillion things that make us feel unsteady. Like we're on a catamaran, out to sea, with nothing solid to focus our gaze on. 


I don't know about you, but that just makes me seasick! 

I need to focus on something steady, unmoving, and unchangeable so that I don't feel swayed, weary and seasick. 

The only unmovable thing I know is God and His truth. 

There is action involved here-- you have to CHOOSE to do this. 

To set your mind on things above-- that means God, His word, His promises. That means making an intentional choice away from the chaos of the world to pray, to read scripture, to praise God for the bazillion blessings around you. 


Not on earthly things...this is EVERYTHING else! All of that stuff right in front of you, trying to be in front of you, and  all that you are feeling inside of you. 


It's all earthly stuff...it's temporary, it's full of empty promises, and it will continue to overwhelm our hearts and souls if it is all that we look at. 


Honestly, it's like eating fast food diet everyday and thinking you're somehow, magically, going to wake up healthy. 


A couple of weeks ago I was invited to speak at a local women's gathering here in town.  We talked about finding Jesus in the messes of our lives-- how do we see him, truly SEE him, when we feel confused and overwhelmed. 


Colossians 3:2 was one of the verses we talked about-- that we need to look UP and not OUT when things feel like they're falling apart. 



Photo from "Make This Day Count"
I wanted to give the women a tangible reminder to take with them, and found this printable on Etsy in a super cute shop called Make This Day Count created by Melinda Mickholtzick. For $2.80 I downloaded this printable, printed it on card stock and framed it to put in my office. She has a website by the same name, Make This Day Count, if you want to check it out. 

(For the record,  I don't know Melinda, so this isn't a publicity thing- I just found her website, and loved her stuff!). 


I printed copies for the women in the group to take home and do the same (I hope that wasn't some sort of copyright infringement-- if it was, I'm sorry! But, it was all in the name of bringing more of Jesus into our worlds, and it was a small group!). 


At the time, I wasn't intentionally trying to find a scripture for my office, but it was as if it found me. I  found an unused frame in my basement, popped the print inside and took it to the women's group to show them how nice it looked framed. When I came home I figured I might as well put that print in a predominant place in my house because it truly is a reminder that I need to read every day. 


And, so now, here it sits. On a bookshelf in my office. 





My office isn't a nice, tidy little space like you see in the picture of some organizing magazine--it's full of life, and paper, and clutter. There is a 60 year old hand-me down corduroy chair in the corner where I read my Bible every morning, and more books and file folders than I can usual keep track of. 


Because I love books, and ideas, and because I have kids who have lots of books, and papers and projects, the space can start to feel like a cluttered artists studio at times with bags, and clipboards, journals, and assignments sheets all mixed willy nilly in no particular order. 


This used to bother me. 


Sometimes it still does. 


But now that that reminder sits there, artistically scripted words in black lettering reminding me of the bigger picture...the really big picture...


I don't let it bother me as much.





I read that verse. I pause. I ask, "Ok God, what's next? What do you have for me today because I know it's not get all anxious about these papers, or my to-do list, but that you have eternal goals in mind...settle my heart and give me wisdom." 


And He does. He settles my heart and my spirit in the midst of my day...no matter what is going on. 


I don't know what this looks like for you today, but whatever is, I urge you to take a deep breath, find a quiet space and talk to God for a few minutes. 


Read a devotional. Read the Psalms. Ask God to fix your eyes on Him, and what is truly important. 


Ask Him to steady your heart, and your eyes, in the midst of this overstimulating world that is clamoring for our attention. 


I promise you, His offer of peace is legit...It's a promise that always satisfies...


When you stop looking at everything and everyone else, and focus your eyes on the only thing that can actually steady your soul, you will find a quiet strength that can't be explained.  


Your heart will be re-centered. 


Your priorities will become more clear. 


You'll start to ditch the "icky" list of feelings for character traits that don't come easily, but are worth the fight.