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.




Saturday, March 30

Measure: A Five Minute Friday Post


MEASURE...

I have three children, three girls, as a matter of fact…
     They are bright, hilarious, witty, energetic, full of life kids who we are trying to teach to be light in the world, “Be the light Jesus created you to be,” we tell them regularly.
     When you have children there are a myriad of measurements that become part of your life—at every check-up the doctor wants to know their weight and height—how much they have physically grown. At the end of every marking quarter there are grades that show us how they are doing in school- how they are measuring up to the expectations set for them.
     But, all stats and grades aside, what we hope is blossoming and growing more than anything else is what we cannot see…their heart. Their relationship with God. Their love for Jesus and how that love expands their hearts to love the world, and the people around them, in bigger ways.
     These things cannot be measured...the things that matter most.
    Several years ago, I sat in an elementary parent teacher conference for my oldest daughter, and as is typical the teacher began to go through her reading evaluations, test scores, her schoolwork, because that is what she is required to do.
     And, honestly, while I want my kids to excel in school—while I want them to do their best, it’s not what I care most about (given that they’re not slacking off, of course!).
    “I have to tell you,” the teacher said, after she put all of the grading, and papers away, “Ava is such a sweet kid. She is always kind. She helps others. She is a silent leader in her actions.”
    The same was said of her younger sister in several of those same meetings in later years.
    Can you measure compassion? Empathy? Kindness? Love for others? 
    While there is no tangible measurement, those observations by my girl's teachers were more important to me than anything that can be scored or ranked...
     To me, they were the most important measurement of all. 

(This post is part of Five Minute Friday-- a place where a bunch of writers join in the practice  of writing about one word for five minutes every Friday. If you'd like to check it out you can do so here).