Friends · just write life · reflections · writing

Lessons Learned from Red Shoes

My friend Kim (aka The Well Dressed Writer) loves red shoes. She says they’re sassy and classy and can elevate an outfit from boring to brilliant.

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Kim loves bows. And red.

She’s right.

I like comfortable shoes. Clogs. Crocs. Converse. These go-with-everything clearance finds that slip on easy when I’m headed out the door for the elementary school drop-off.

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Y’all. I’m all about the easy.

But sometimes, sometimes, it’s good to be all about the brilliant. Good to find a new place to connect–even if it’s over something as simple as shoes. When I wore these fun (but so-not-me) plaid heels of Kim’s at the Ohio Christian Writers Conference last weekend, they sparked conversations and broke down barriers.

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One pair of sassy red shoes. All it took. Because suddenly, I wasn’t just a writer talking about her book. I was a writer wearing cute shoes and others–even the men–made commenting on my shoes a thing.

And I made it through the whole day in the highest heels I’ve ever worn. I’m not going to lie. My feet hurt at the end of it. But isn’t that the way of life? Don’t we sometimes let ourselves hurt and sacrifice just a little so we can pour into others?

Obviously this is about more than red shoes. 

I can get pretty obstinate at times about wanting to do things MY way. MY plan. MY goal. MY expectation. But sometimes, when I let myself be given a piece of advice and then I take it (i.e. these shoes will look better), I find myself experiencing a whole new world. One where I can suddenly connect with a woman I wouldn’t have known how to approach. One where I can praise my friend for her fancy and frugal eye. One where I can wear a pair of shoes that caused me fear–what if I trip? What if everyone can tell I don’t usually dress this way?

What if everyone still sees me as just that mom scribbling words in her yoga pants and praying they get read?

Or… what if I wear these shoes and I feel smart and confident and well-dressed? What if all that spills over and out as I talk about my book and my writing journey and motherhood and the chaos of everyday life that makes a non-ordinary day with it’s non-ordinary shoes so very, very special.

Get yourself some red shoes, friend. Or your equivalent. Do something outside your norm and embrace the doors that open, welcoming you inside.

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Sweet shoe buddy. Apparently red plaid is a thing I didn’t know about.

I adore this book. It is wonderfully written and tells the story beautifully.

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amelia · Friends

When God Gives More Than You Can Handle

Things have been quiet here in this space, and I really needed it. Needed to step back and not spew out words and frustration that would do no one any good. Instead, I just had some good old-fashioned temper tantrums with my real life people.

And I made pizza and filled our house with friends and took a real position with a real publisher as a real associate editor. You know sometimes in this hard knock life, distractions are exactly what I need.

(Yeah, we’ve seen Annie a half-dozen times. Also, the new Cinderella and Home. I haven’t been to the movies so much since college.)

We’ve made some changes to our little home and are settling in to be here longer than we ever wanted, but Joshua’s got the garden plot ready to grow salsa and Gus is finally big enough to drive that hand-me-down Jeep all over the tracks in the yard his sisters originally created with the Barbie version, so we’re good.

Annabelle was baptized and Easter came and we can finally get outside in the sunshine.

Yes, that’s a Minnie Mouse balloon. You don’t keep balloons in your trees?
Yes, his mouth is blue. I think there was a ring pop involved.

We’re still living in a state of unknown, but we’re good. Well, sometimes.  Sometimes I just want to forget doctor appointments and physical therapy and that I’ll have to write a 504 plan if she goes to kindergarten. Sometimes I just want to drop everything and go to the beach.

She does too. She draws pictures of the Pink House and begs to go there where the sun is warm and the sand is cool and the peace that passes understanding blows in on a breeze across the sea.

I posted on Facebook a couple weeks ago that sometimes I have to pull a Katniss and recite what I know to be true:

Amelia has a brain lesion.
This lesion causes her right side to be weaker than her left.
It affects her gait and her grip.
It tightens her muscles and turns her foot inward.
It makes her tired and irritable and turns her into not my kid.
It’s not bigger.
It’s not smaller.
She has other autoimmune indicators that could lead to an MS diagnosis someday.
But right now, she’s still technically living through one episode.
There are good days. There are bad days.
It’s not a tumor….or lupus or lyme disease or genetic or a host of other disorders that have been ruled out with vial after vial of blood and scan after scan of her brain.

It’s a lot to handle, mostly because we just don’t know. I’m in a place where any diagnosis sounds plausible and fixable and better than “we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Everyone likes to say God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. But I read a piece last week that counteracted that statement in words that resonated: Of course God allows me more than I can handle. Because if He didn’t, I (we) would never have a need for Him.

We’re not long for this world of despair.

But this world is where we are and along the journey, He does give us miracles calling themselves friends. I just finished Anne Lamott’s essay collection, Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace.

(Side note: I love Anne Lamott. She’s honest and witty and irreverent and loves Jesus all at the same time. Sometimes I need a little left perspective.)

Anyway, she wrote a piece called Barn Raising about how her neighborhood circled the wagons and raised the metaphorical barn of shelter around a family when their young daughter was diagnosed with CF. I cried.

Y’all built us a barn, too. It’s a shelter from the fear and anxiety. It’s a place where Amelia is just a daughter, sister, friend and we are loved and comforted. It’s a place where she can jump on the trampoline with her friends and their moms can remind me to care for myself. It’s a place where dinner is on a gift card and gas for appointments is already paid for and Gus is always welcome to play.

It’s a place of prayer and a place of peace.

Thank you for loving us through this. Our barn door is always open for anyone who needs shelter from the storm. We’ll hug your neck and tell you we understand and in the fortunate-unfortunate dance of life, we will really mean it.

Friends · giveaways

Pucker Up {and let’s giveaway some love!}

Update: this giveaway has closed.  Congrats to Laura Beth Davis, the winner!

I know you’ve all heard by now about the great #snowjam2014 of the South.  So if all my kind friends to the north are done teasing us about being inadequately prepared for two inches of snow and ice, I’ll tell you the truth: I’ve never seen anything like it.  If I had thought for a second that my minivan with four kids would make it anywhere near the perimeter of Atlanta, we’d have handed out snacks and offered rides to stranded motorists, too, but sometimes, all you can do from afar is offer up a prayer and revel in seeing the goodness of humanity unfold.

It’s one of my favorite things to see people sharing love.  Now, it’s February (seriously, where did January go?) and there’s no better time for thawing hearts and souls than post-snowstorm and pre-Valentine’s.

Also, it’s my birthday month and this year both the blog and my sweet third girl turn four!  Crazy. So, I wanted to celebrate in a really big way.

That’s right, it’s a month of giveaways!  Hopefully, that means I’ll return to some semblance of regular posting, but mostly it means, I get to share a little love and some of my favorite things with those of you who stick around even when I’ve had to hide out for a little while because words for some freelance work and words for a nearly finished novel drain me a bit dry of words for this blog.

Today I’m sharing goodies from my sweet friend Andi. She’s a flower-making, yarn-crafting, homeschooling mama of five who has the kindest smile and the biggest heart.

We connected last summer through a series of emails with Sarah, Holly, Marcy, and Vanessa as we all tried to stumble our way through designing and redesigning our blogs.  She’s part of the incredible #fmfparty crew, too, and last October, I got to hug her in real life at Allume.

And she gave me a sticker that said You are Loved.  I stuck it on the spiral notebook that I use to scribble down post ideas and words of inspiration, and whenever I get stuck thinking blogsphere is too big and trying to do this writing thing is too hard, I see those words.  You are Loved.  It’s the best reminder that always there are people who go from complete strangers to dear friends in just a matter of moments when your hearts connect.

Andi is one of those who makes me feel gotten, you know?  Like even though we don’t know each other that well, I can bounce ideas off her and she understands what I’m fumbling around trying to say.

Then there’s her shop...

{source: Andi Gould Designs}

Seriously, how cute is this? I’m going to get her to Google hangout with me soon, so she can teach me how to crochet these sweet little hearts because I tried to teach myself and it. did. not. work.

Besides my sweet sticker, Andi also brought me one of my most favorite things to Allume: her homemade lip balm.

Y’all, it is the greatest chapstick ever.  I’m never buying Blistex again. Ever. Even if it’s on sale and I have coupon. Well, maybe then, because my girls love chapstick and I’m not sharing mine.

Andi’s is all natural and comes in really great flavors like the one I’m using right now, Vanilla Creamsicle. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, you know this is exactly what you’re needing to get those dry lips ready for some smooching.

So kicking off my month of giveaways, a chance to win a 3-pack of Andi Gould Designs exclusive lip balm.

To enter, all you have to do is fill out the entry form below. It’s super quick and easy, plus it helps me share this around social media so everyone can check out Andi’s shop. I’d love it, too, if you left me a comment about someone who did something unexpectedly special for you recently? a Rafflecopter giveaway//d12vno17mo87cx.cloudfront.net/embed/rafl/cptr.js

dayspring · Friends

Share a Little Love

Lately I’ve been on the receiving end of lots of love.  I owe a lot of thanks.  But isn’t there beauty in knowing people have given out of their hearts and not because they expect a return? I always have great plans to compose thank yous and send them with stamps and everything but it doesn’t always happen. 
But this time it might.  Because Dayspring has all their thank you cards and gifts on sale right now, and there’s nothing like a great card to make me want to find a fancy pen and say thanks. 
If you’re looking to pass on a little encouragement, I’m loving these from the Hot Chocolate with God collection. 
Hot Chocolate with God - You Rock - 32 Encouragement Note Set image
{source: dayspring.com}

I also love these Colors of Compassion cards. Dayspring gave us one in our Allume swag and I’ve been hoarding it for the perfect person.

Colors of Compassion 2013 - 10 Premium Card Assortment
{source: dayspring.com}

 I think I’ve found them.

Who could use a little thanks or encouragement from you this week? 

This post contains affiliate links. 

family · Friday Five · Friends · linkups

Encouragement {Five Minute Friday}

Joining with this amazing community of writers is a privilege every Friday.  Want to play along? Head over to Lisa Jo’s and read all the “rules”–but the only one that really matters?  Write your heart and give some love to the link before you.

Today’s words is…

Encouragement

They came bearing soup and casseroles and cookies and salads.  They sent cards the old way with stamps and return addresses slipped in between my weekly paper and coupons and bills.  They stopped me in the hall, in the store, beside the peeling paint minivan to simply express condolences that are more than sympathy—they gave me empathy.

It’s a small thing to call the florist and have flowers delivered.  It’s a small thing to rearrange a Sunday afternoon and drive an hour north to hug a friend for only a few minutes. It’s a small thing to show the greatest, deepest kind of love.

It takes patience and conscious effort and intentionality.  It takes work.  It takes a tiny little sacrifice of waiting a few more moments before watching or reading or folding or washing to write a note to place a call or send a message.

But the way it made me feel?  Loved.  Encouraged.  Reminded that I matter to many and my grief is not mine alone.  That in the family of God, we can embrace grief together and remember that this is not the end.

It is the beginning of joy and it is those on the outside who can find the cracks in my hurting heart and fill them with glory.

31 Days of Living Local · Friday Five · Friends

Together: Five Minute Friday {31 Days: Day 25}

Five Minute Friday

Because even though it’s October and I’m writing about Living Local for 31 days straight, it’s also Friday, and I’m learning to find my place in a local online community of gifted writers who let it all fly free for Five Minute Friday.  We’re linking up over at Lisa Jo’s where motherhood comes with a superhero cape and lots of chocolate.  Tonight some of us are blessed to be gathered together in person (wow!) for the #flashmob writing at the Allume Conference. Join us as we explore…

Together

When you live in a small town you spend a lot of time together.

There’s a lot of Friday night football and church potluck and Saturdays at the baseball fields and farmers markets and middle school dances. 
And everyone knows your name, especially when you taught that community for five years about the literary significance of hunger games and gerunds.
But if you leave, if you go somewhere else even for a short time (like say three days at a conference) you might discover that all those people who know your name back home only know a piece of you and not the real show. 

They only know the mama, the teacher, the MOPS coordinator who’s stepping out on a big Leap of faith to leave a comfort zone where folks pretty much know she doesn’t have it all together and they’re okay, and have even embraced that. 
But to be together with those who might know what it means to call yourself writer when it sticks in your throat and makes your stomach flutter is worth it.

family · Friends · http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post · linkups · summer

Freedom Walking and Hot Air Balloons {Behind the Scenes}

Hot air balloons and I seem to enjoy a last minute relationship.  Maybe it’s because in and of themselves the balloons seem to evoke a sense of spontaneity that is often absent from my planned and scheduled attempts at motherhood, or maybe it’s just simply because if I ponder a decision involving gas money, restaurants, and extra cash for too long, I talk myself out of it.

I’m so glad I didn’t back out of this one.

Callaway Gardens was hosting a weekend of balloon themed festivities and admission was half-price if you arrived before 9 a.m. So on Friday evening, we put on hold everything that was wringing our life out and gave ourselves over to children and friends and sunshine.

We slept over at with our friends Brooke and Matt, who are are the kind of friends who don’t mind when you call at bedtime on Thursday night to say you’ll be there tomorrow.  They’re the kind of friends who are totally on board with waking up six kids at daylight to see a spectacle of color against a misty morning sky.

The downed balloon beachside was called “Freedom Walk” and inside children squealed and floundered on the grass with beach balls.  The air was close and humid, but the vision was breathtaking, a kaleidoscope of colors that burned brightly as the morning sun rose higher.

We picnicked and swam and for the first time all summer, my children could play with their daddy.  He’s made a near full recovery.  It’s amazing how quickly we can forget what really matters. I’d been drowning in a sea of hopelessness and I’d forgotten that for a time before this summer began, I had realized just how precious life can be.

After Amelia and I rode that hot air balloon in June, I realized it was the fire that lifts those balloons into the air to catch a breath of wind and fly away.  

And as much as I’d like to believe it so, that’s never a spontaneous act.  It’s carefully planned and considered and just the right amount of fuel is used to carry that brightness into the sky.  

So the same for us: these fires that seem so insurmountable in life? 
If we let Him, a great and merciful God can use that fire to carry us to a far better place.

Joining with Crystal Stine and an amazing community of women this week who dare to bare the soul behind the pictures.  Tell me, what’s behind your scene?