1000 gifts · giveaways · writing

Ordinary Graces (Book Review + $75 Giveaway)

I believe wholeheartedly in the glory of the everyday ordinary.

The morning light through the window on the hardwoods of my kitchen floor. The coolness of clean sheets after a long, weary day. The colors of peppers and onions caramelizing in a cast iron skillet.

In her new book of everyday devotions, Lucinda Seacrest McDowell distills the great ordinary graces of this world into one word a day.

Sleep. Flavor. Resource. Restore. Story. Weary. Carry. Baggage.

Sustain.

I’ve been reading out of order, choosing a word that suits my early morning, sipping my first cup of coffee, dark-thirty before everyone’s up mood. I guess you can tell some of my struggles just from some of those words.

But each day, Lucinda’s reflections speak to me. She pulls out a verse, such as Psalm 3:5–

I lay down and sleep; I will wake again because the Lord sustains me.

Then in only a few short paragraphs, she unpacks its simple wonder and reminders that first and foremost, I am God’s beloved, and He is mine. Sometimes there are statistics (apparently I’m not the only one whose anxiety rears up during sleep), references to movies, pop culture, or great theologians. Always, the reading closes out with a short prayer, a moment when I close my eyes, breath in my coffee’s steam, and open my heart.

A lovely devotion perfect for any one, in any circumstance, Ordinary Graces will bless your heart. In the good way of course.

Want to win a copy for yourself or a friend? How about $75 for Etsy? I’m delighted to be participating in this awesome blog tour giveaway with LitFuse Publicity. You can enter to win below.

Ordinary Graces Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Are you ready to receive gifts of ordinary grace and abundant life from God and His Word? Join Lucinda in focusing on one word a day through devotional readings and short benedictions in her new book, Ordinary Graces. God has given us many gifts, such as his grace—the gift we don’t deserve and can never earn. Promises from the One who declares we are already loved, already accepted, already created in his image. The question becomes, will we truly receive that gift? Will the reality of it actually change the way we think and notice and reach out?

Celebrate the release of Lucinda’s new book and grace your holiday season with a $75 Etsy gift card giveaway!

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • A copy of Ordinary Graces
  • A $75 Etsy gift card
  • A grace bracelet
  • A set of Ordinary Graces greeting cards

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on November 24. The winner will be announced November 27 on the Litfuse blog.

Did you know Lucinda endorsed my novel? She called it a “brilliant debut”. I’m still smiling. You can get it right here.
I adore this book. It is wonderfully written and tells the story beautifully.

 

Advertisements
1000 gifts · just write life · madelynne · motherhood · writing

13 Ways to Live When You’re Only 13

Dear Daughter Turning 13 Today,

IMG_2418

Yesterday I couldn’t reach the paper plates on the top shelf of the tall cabinet and you could.

Yesterday you lay in bed with me, snuggled up like you were still five, but we read Harry Potter instead of Llama Llama.

Yesterday, you were still twelve. You were still considered a kid by society and all the people who create children’s menus at restaurants.

Today you are thirteen.

IMG_2292
This getting older is pretty much like standing on that mountaintop again, realizing we still have so far to go. 

Your daddy doesn’t like when I wish it away. This growing up, growing older, growing taller by the second. He loves having you all independent and that I don’t make him carry a diaper bag anymore when we travel.

But when you were small, I could tuck you into my lap and protect you from the world. I could hold you close and make everything okay with a Disney movie and some popcorn on a school night. (I keep trying to use this tactic, hence Gilmore Girls on the first day of new school when you cried because you didn’t have any friends.)

When  you were small, I was all that stood between you and all things scary. Now you’re growing up and you’re the same age as students who once called me Mrs. Brackett and talked me into reading Twilight and told me about which boys were no good. I can’t imagine you being the same age as Ansley or Cassidy or Katie or Maribeth or Mattie or Savannah or Jessica or Veronica. In my mind, you’re still five and you love coloring and mismatched clothes and playing at the house up the hill and when you grow up, you’re going to be President and Jackson is going to be your Vice President.

Now you’re standing in front of a world that when the news or weather channel is on–thank goodness we don’t have cable TV–seems awfully scary. Do I caution you about social media? Cyber bullying? Nuclear missiles? Hurricanes? EMP pulse? ISIS? Zombie apocalypse?

Or do I just teach you how to live in the face of a world we can’t control? 

I think this is a better lesson.

13 Ways to Really Live When You’re Only 13

  1. Sing. Loudly. Off key or on key. Hamilton score or Taylor Swift (the old stuff though). It makes you happy. So do it no matter what anyone else thinks.
  2. Laugh. At yourself and with your friends and always, always with your family. We yell enough. We don’t laugh enough.
  3. Wear the clothes that make you feel good. I wish I’d learned that sooner.
  4. Try harder everyday. Keep practicing volleyball and geometry and music and all the things you like.
  5. Enjoy the sugar now. Though we do talk about healthy choices… I’m so jealous you can drink a Dr. Pepper without an ounce of guilt because you’re young and full of never-ending metabolism.
  6. Be yourself. You’ve never cared what the popular kids thought. Don’t start now.

    IMG_2154
    Case in point: sparkly hat.
  7. Keep the compassion. Walk between the crowds, see the ones outside.
  8. Know what you believe. Now’s the time to ask all the questions. To maybe find all the answers. Talk to us now, while we’re closer than a phone call.
  9. Talk as much as you want. I know we joke about how you could talk the wallpaper off the dining room wall (and I really wish you’d try) but I love to listen to you tell me about every detail of your day. Truly, even when you think I’m not listening, I am.
  10. Delight in all the small stuff. You already do–let that be a part of the young woman you become. One who sees how all the little moments really matter.
  11. But let the little hurts go. We talk about this almost everyday. We’re both working on it and I hope you learn faster than me that letting some things roll on off will make you happier.
  12. Like what you like. Music. Books. Clothes. Games. Like the things that make you grin and let others do the same.
  13. Stay honest. You tell me you’re like me–but you’re not. You’re stronger and more confident than I’ve ever been. And you’re honest–with yourself and others. You talk things out. You wrestle your hurts. You ask for help. Because you don’t pretend to be something you’re not.

While I could happily wait a little longer to see you become a young woman… this time keeps coming at us and the days and years seem shorter every time. Settle in, baby girl. We’re going to make it to the other side.

IMG_2575
Madelynne was born so long ago WE DIDN’T USE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY AT HER BIRTH.

 

Thirteen years ago I birthed this baby. Eleven days ago I birthed this book. Let’s just say one took longer than the other and they’ve both caused me immeasurable amounts of tears–and incomprehensible joy.

1000 gifts · faith · family · just write life · writing

That Time Looking Back Was Worth the Glance

IMG_1100

I’ve always had a smidge of sympathy for Lot’s wife. I know, I know. If God tells you to go,  you go and don’t wonder at what you’re leaving behind.

That’s a whole lot easier said than done.

Besides, I don’t think the point of the story is “never look behind you.” I think the point is radical obedience–which looks not the same for each of us.

We took our whole family on a jet plane a couple weeks ago and touched down in Nevada with no sights set on winnings bigger than the snuggles of missed cousins. We rented a minivan the kids liked better than ours and drove into southeastern Utah, where you can try, but you won’t be able to take a picture without an amazing background view.

IMG_1465

We stayed in this great house and everyone had plenty of space though they preferred to be together all of the time.

We hiked and walked and trudged through the sand of Snow Canyon and the most family-friendly trails of Zion National Park. Except for when my fearless one and her daddy ascended legendary Angels Landing–and she told me later about hiking the last half-mile holding a chain and that she didn’t believe I’d be able to do it. You’re not supposed to look down, Mommy. If you do, you’ll get scared. 

I suppose that’s a lot like, you’re not supposed to look behind. If you do, you’ll regret leaving. 

IMG_1095

Maybe Lot’s wife regretted leaving. Or maybe she was just nostalgic. We don’t really know. All we do know is God told them to get out of town and don’t look back–and she did.

I’m a master of hindsight. Oh, if I’d known then what I know now. I’ve got a long list of how our life could be better.

Better than what, though? Because, truthfully, right now, we’re pretty darn blessed. And I’d say it’s mere grace the Lord hasn’t turned me to salt.

 

 

 

IMG_1482

Instead He’s teaching me something with my tendency to look back and what if and wonder why. Showing me in great strokes of glory that what lies behind me is the best kind of broken beautiful.

Looking a lot like this sunrise I almost missed the morning I drove my sister into work so early the sun rose behind me while I drove back down the valley.

IMG_1469

Sometimes that glance back reminds us Who’s got our back–shining like the sun and sweeping us away into the greatest kind of love story. The kind where, when we glance backward we see all the little pieces falling together to make the story we have today.

Abraham’s family had to survive–no time for looking back. Praise Jesus, we get to live and learn and stare over our shoulders at the wondrous majesty that has protected us all along.

 

 

1000 gifts · reflections · writing

One Scary Sunday Afternoon … and One Good Gift

img_0907

I certainly didn’t wake up a week ago, thinking, What if I die today?

I drank coffee with my writer-soul sisters and talked about a new book idea with my editor and mentor. I listened for all God might be telling me during this time away from my family. I heard him calling me to more–not to less. To something outside of just my career, to a greater good that He designed uniquely for me.

Something He no doubt planned for me long ago and has waited patiently for me to discover.

And no mistake about it, I believe God knew I’d reach a pinnacle last weekend, and He knew what waited on the way home.


 

img_0928

Sometimes people come into your life and you can’t imagine they haven’t always been there. I feel this way about my friend Sarah. We met because we worked together at Splickety Publishing, but we are friends because God has knit our hearts together so intricately I can text her on a random day and find her dealing with the exact some issues of motherhood and teaching and writing and Christ-following.

There aren’t many people with whom I could go to the darkest and brightest places.

She’s one.

Last Sunday afternoon, a mere handful of miles from her home, we stopped in the traffic on the interstate and the driver behind us… well, he didn’t.

And in the week that has followed, I’ve battled fear and anxiety and elation and bitterness and joy and gratefulness.

It’s important to me that people get it–how horrific and frightening that moment was when the impact came and the car spun and we opened our eyes in the middle of the interstate with traffic still bearing down.

Because without grasping the severity of that moment, you might miss the power.

I’ve been a Christian since I was nine years old. But I’m not sure I was a believer until I opened my eyes last Sunday afternoon.

That time my husband had a heart attack or our journey through our daughter’s illness–I knew God carried us through those events. But I didn’t feel protected, I felt challenged. Expected to step up and live my faith. Even then, I still believed I had some measure of control. If this, then this. There was a plan, even if it was one I never hoped to enact.

I had no plan for Sunday afternoon. We were supposed to make carnitas and play with Sarah’s kids and stay up too late on our last night together before real life started again. And in less than thirty seconds, my plans spun completely out of my control–and were cupped and held safe in the capable hands of a Heavenly Father.

On the accident report, the officer marks all areas of the car that are damaged. Only two small squares aren’t marked on Sarah’s car. One is on the driver’s side. The other is on the passenger’s.

img_0910

People prayed for our safety that day as we traveled. How often do we utter those prayers and not hear their power? We were kept safe.

Why?

My life is certainly not worth more than yours or theirs or the others who lost their lives on that same day in what were surely similar circumstances.

All I know is we were saved. And the driver who hit us spared the guilt of leaving six children without mothers.

And all I know is I have been given a gift–and there is no greater purpose than giving it back to the One who only gives good.

img_0914
source
1000 gifts · Christmas · family · holidays · writing

That Time My Kids Almost Slept Through the National Christmas Tree Lighting

img_0271

We hit D.C. last week. Yes, again. Sometimes blessings fall at your feet and I’m trying to be good about picking them up.

My mom arranged for us to receive tickets the lighting of the National Christmas Tree. The program is nationally broadcast (Hallmark channel this year) and features popular performers as well as a Christmas message from the President.

I’m sure some people come for the concert, no doubt. Madelynne did say she was more excited about seeing Kelly Clarkson than President Obama, and she’s twelve, so that’s acceptable.

Garth and Trisha were there–I was pretty delighted about that because my twelve year old self would have loved to see Garth Brooks or Trisha Yearwood in concert back in the day. Blooper story is that their mikes weren’t on and they had to start over. Joshua, with all his vast technical theater experience, said that was a really unacceptable mistake on the part of the sound guy. But they were gracious and funny about it.

Simone the swimmer read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas with Michelle Obama, which was a lovely tribute to her Olympic accomplishments and proves we don’t all have to have Yolanda Adams’ pipes to contribute to the evening. (Her “O Holy Night” was astounding.)

We also learned about Chance the Rapper, so I’m feeling pretty hip in my pop culture knowledge these days.

img_0338
What’s that Einstein? You like rap too?

Oh, and I got this text from Joshua at the beginning:

Littles are asleep.

Well, of course they were. We had a busy whirlwind two days letting the bigs catch them up on all the best of Natural History, American History, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, National Gallery of Art, and Air and Space.

img_0283
I solemnly swear to uphold this Oath as President… she might be someday. Never know.

But let this be a lesson to you–there are some things in life you don’t want to sleep through.

Like the chance to see Garth and Trisha.

 

Oh, and there are no pics of us at the National Tree lighting because…. well, I forgot.

1000 gifts · favorite things · linkups · writing

What’s Saving My Life :: Winter 2016 Edition

What's Saving My Life Right Now __ Winter 2016 EditionI adore that Anne of Modern Mrs. Darcy says this about the Saving My Life posts…

The idea comes from Barbara Brown Taylor’s wonderful memoir Leaving Church. In it, Taylor tells the story of when she was invited to speak at a gathering, and her host assigned the topic: “Tell us what is saving your life right now.”

This is one of those six-degrees-from-Kevin-Bacon moments. (Did you ever play that in high school?) Barbara Brown Taylor is a professor at a local college here, so I see her and read her writings in the way that frequent small towns do–without much recognition that greatness lives among us. I haven’t read her memoir, but I might add it to my #60in2016 Reading Challenge.

But anyway…

Saving my life right now doesn’t look much different from last year about this time when I penned a post for the same link up with the same theme. But this time last year I was drowning in fear over my daughter’s neurological diagnosis and every moment seemed a blessing in disguise.

This year I’m aiming for renewal–of my soul, my hope, my joy, my focus. Last year was hard on us emotionally and many times, the year was as crushing as it was uplifting. For all the strides I made publishing-wise I still found myself floundering for my purpose, wondering how I could really be called to much beyond these four little souls (who try my temper daily) and making sure everyday physical and spiritual needs are at least acknowledged.

But there’s a call to not just write but share. And I hope that’s what this little corner means to you–that it’s a place I share the real and just write life.

Saving My Life Right Now :: Winter 2016 Edition

  1. The Trampoline. Seriously best Christmas present ever. Keeps them all occupied with something that’s not digital for longer than 20 minutes. Netflix, you’ve been replaced.IMG_0964
  2. My Reading Challenge. I love this group that came about because so many of you said you wanted to read 60 books in 2016 with me. I’m six down: Gone Girl, Dear Mr. Knightley, Jane Eyre, Raising Grateful Kids, The Extroverted Writer, and Restless which leads me to…

    IMG_5919
    On the nightstand for February.
  3. Scripture. Which, I know, is the point of believing the Bible is God-breathed, but when you’ve been a good church girl your whole life, like me, you run the risk of letting the familiar become… familiar. Which is why I read Restless and why I’m exploring some verse-mapping ala Kristy Cambron (and also I’m an author blog stalker). Also why this one is on my reading list. IMG_5278
  4. My Better Life Bag. An early birthday present (twenty days until I tip early-thirties and into late-thirties) from my patient husband who appreciates a specific request. And, you know, a list for him that’s been commissioned as a blog post.IMG_8875
  5. This boy and his trucks. He both saves me from days of uninterrupted computer time, which would undoubtably result in back spasms and poor eyesight, and drives me batty because we’re trying to sell the house and piles of dirt and rocks don’t exactly say curb appeal. But that grin? It’s kind of irresistible.

 

Tell me about you–what’s saving your life right now? And if you want in on #60in2016 let me know!

1000 gifts · Uncategorized

How Do You Measure a Year?

I’d forgotten all about these lyrics until my jazzercise instructor used the song in class the other day–

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, a year in the life?
Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/rent/seasons-of-love-lyrics/#ulRxxkIvQXcSY0JZ.99

The words all came rushing back along with lots of memories of drives back onto Berry’s campus late at night after Waffle House runs. My friend Melanie would put in her Rent soundtrack and roll down the windows and we’d be all young and idealistic and going-to-change-the-world.

Then we all grew up and life happened and years have gone by and we’re all world changers in some big and small ways if we open our eyes to see.

View More: http://candiceholcomb.pass.us/al-wedding

How do you measure a year?

2015 will blow out today, taking with it bands of storms that have plagued lives and spirits. The flood waters haven’t just risen in the Mississippi or spilled over the levees in St. Louis or my sleepy little college town.

They’ve spilled over my life in countless ways of hope and fear and promise and pain.

So do I measure the passing of 2015 in MRIs and blood work and countless unknowns? We took my almost-six-year-old for her sixth MRI yesterday. She’s considered stable right now, and most of the time, these days, we are too. But in other ways this will always be the year I watched my daughter’s little body degenerate–

and watched her learn how to put herself back together.

That’s the hope I need to carry. That she, as her physical therapist reminded us this week, always compensates and keeps going, never worrying about the fatigue or the pain.

May I learn that lesson from my child.

How do I measure a year?

In apologies and forgiveness, rather than meltdowns and tantrums.

In acts of kindness, not jealousy.

In second chances and mistakes that taught lessons.

In successes, not in failures.

2015 is also the year I gulped faith and pushed down insecurity and wrote a novel–bleeding heart and soul and family onto the pages that are under contract with a publishing house for release in early 2017.

This is the year I rebranded my blog and myself, as a Southern writer of life, and have shifted my focus to where my heart truly lies–in the words of creative non-fiction and fiction that paint portraits of the life I know and cherish.

This is the year I heard God whispering, Ask and you shall receive.

Not a give-me faith of praying for things, but a resolute faith of praying that I can walk with His plans, surrendered and passionate and in constant awe of how and where he can use me. A faith of believing that if God has placed a restlessness within my soul, it might be because He wants to do more with me than I ever imagined possible.

And more might simply be to live and love and give and hope through the measure of another year.