Friday Five · linkups · reflections · writing

When It’s Just Fine to be Finished {five minute friday}

On Fridays the writers gather at Lisa Jo’s. We write in five minute increments like ones scared braved. We’re not supposed to edit or backtrack or over think, though everyone confesses to that at least once and that’s why there’s grace for even the most ordinary of writing tasks.

Except on Fridays five minute ordinary becomes extraordinary. Join us? Link up here and give us your five minutes on

Finish

He says it in a sweet little voice that bears no trace of sarcasm or disrespect. In answer to everything I say.

“It’s time to take a bath now, Gus.”
“We’re going outside to pick tomatoes.”
“Do you want to go see the goats?”

Fine.

Fine, he says with his two-year old lisp and blond curls bobbing. I know he says it because he hears me sigh it in exasperation and his sisters reply it when they’re tired of being asked.

I know it has so many meanings. But sometimes that little four letter word just means what it is:
Fine.

It’s fine. It’s okay. It’s all right. Don’t worry about it. Let it go. Pass it on. Breathe deep.

It’s fine to be finished.

Lisa-Jo is passing the baton. Four years of wild five minute writing in flash mobs and dark bedrooms and late nights that have gradually gotten earlier because let’s face it–all us mamas are tired by 10 p.m. on Thursday, and she knows it’s time to pass it on.

She’s mentored my writing from afar since the day a friend forwarded me that old Gypsy Mama page and I thought who is this woman who knows the words my heart is whispering and weeping even though we’ve never met?

She told me in a crowded room at a conference last fall that I would know when the time was right to write that book that God has laid on my heart and I’m laying back down at His feet.

She was right.

And that time came before I was really read to wrap my mind around it and for months I’ve been trying to do it all.

But I think I’m finished too.

I think it’s time I admit that it’s fine if the blog doesn’t get the best of me and instead that part goes to my children and the legacy of words I truly hope to leave.

It’s fine to let what was once the best thing become something I used to do, for the sake of doing what I’m meant to do at this time, this season, this moment.

It’s just fine to be finished with one season so another can come.

I’m not shutting this down….just taking a break. I’ll be posting sporadically and not worrying about being faithful for numbers or platforms or expectations. I have long believed my best writing comes from when my soul is prompted and I need an alter to remember. This past spring I got caught up in trying to promote and that really didn’t work well for me or sit well with my heart for this space. This is the place that has given me the courage to try for new and bigger dreams and I want to honor it with words that are worthy. But mostly, I need to live and focus on those who share my home and life and give breathe to every word I write. 

linkups · writing

Why I Write (a Blog Hop)

 One of the great things about the internet is how this network of satellites and landlines brings people together. I love finding other women who understand what it means to be a writer, a creative, and a busy mama with way too many projects half-finished on the shelf. But it’s a really busy place too, and with so many people making so much noise, I sometimes struggle with wondering what I have to bring to the table. So when Christie asked if she could include me in this blog hop for writers to share their whys and wheres, I was honored that she had found my little space of rambling an encouragement despite all my shortcomings.

Christie and I met in real life, actually, at the incredible Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference. (A conference I wouldn’t have really known about had it not been for my real life friend Amy, who has been my cheerleader in all these endeavors for the past several months.) We were both taking a course in freelancing and discovered we had both been a part of the (in)courage writer’s group. She’s a beautiful person, inside and out, who uses her blog At the Well to reflect on the intersections of faith and motherhood while reminding us as women what it means to really sit at the well of living water with Jesus.

I love how she answered these questions and admits that the process isn’t always easy but when God has given us words, we are powerless to ignore them. Words are a legacy we are leaving to the next generation of the faithful. I’m stealing this reminder from her blog:

You show that you are a letter from Christ…written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.  2 Cor. 3:3 (NIV)

So why do I pack lunches and pay babysitters and hide in corner booths of restaurants with free Wi-fi? Because when I don’t, I’m not being His letter. I’m not preaching the gospel I know.

So here are my thoughts on the questions of why I do this writer thing now.

What am I writing or working on now?
So many things….likely too many. But as much as I’d like to dedicate myself to one project whole-heartedly, that just doesn’t seem to be my nature. I’m getting better about prioritizing and turning down projects that I don’t need, but I’m still not as focused as I should be. The good news is, I believe God is helping me narrow my overflow of ideas into the places He wants me to be. So right now I’m working on three major writing projects but I’ve managed to narrow each one to suit my style and build off one another.

First, I’m in the editing/finishing stages of my first novel. It’s been a work in process for a looooonnnngggg time, but I can see the end and I can see how God has grown me and groomed me to tell this story. It’s not the same story I would have told five years ago when I first sketched out some weak pages, but as I’ve grown as a writer, it’s grown to be the story that it’s supposed to be. I’m hoping to pitch it officially this fall.

Secondly, I’m freelancing. I’ve had some success recently with Splickety Magazine, Thriving Family, and Georgia Magazine published one of my favorite stories back in May. For Splickety I’m writing my first short stories and guest blogging about writing. Thriving Family lets me use my parenting “expertise” and I’m working on some articles for Georgia Magazine and similar publications that let me talk about one of my favorite topis: living local. I’m thrilled to finally be seeing my words in tangible print and that others are giving credibility to my work. I know it’s not all about that, but honestly, bills have to be paid. Writer’s conferences aren’t free 🙂

Finally, I’m blogging. It’s not as regular as it once was, but that’s okay. Something I learned at Allume was that it’s far more important to have quality than quantity. So that’s what I’m focusing on now. Blogging is my outlet, it’s my publishing without worrying about fitting a genre or a category, and it’s my connection to those I love to share my life with.

How does my work differ from others of my genre?

This is a tough one for me. As a “mommy blogger” I don’t feel that different from others. But as I’m working to enhance my writer’s voice, I think I’m finding what does set me apart. Ann Voskamp posted recently about a quote that inspires her “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” I think that’s really where my voice is. I didn’t realize how much of the slow life I was missing until I quit my full-time outside the home job as a teacher to stay home and just be a wife and a mom. And I love that “just”. There’s value and admirality in this role and it’s taught me to be a better writer because I’ve become hyper aware of my children and how quickly this stage of life is passing us by. I don’t want to miss a thing. I want to revel and delight and enjoy. Then I want to tell you all about how there is grace and amazement and peace in growing gardens and waterfall hikes and popsicles on the porch everyday. I’m seeing this in my fiction writing too. For me, the stories I write aren’t about the big changes people make. They’re about all the little things we wake up to on a daily basis but are at risk of never appreciating. My stories are all about those moments when we realize what it means to really breathe in grace.

And wow, giving words to this makes me feel like I’m finding my focus all over again.

Why do I write what I do?

Sarah Mae talked about “making alters” at Allume. She was referencing how the Israelites would make actual alters when God had done something incredible they didn’t want to have the next generation forget. Then ever since she said that, I’ve heard that phrase over and over in various capacities. And it’s helped me give a name to why I blog–it’s how I don’t forget what these hardest and most glorious moments of motherhood were like. Fiction writing is like that too–there’s a handful of stories in this world and we tell them over and over again and again in new and exciting ways because these themes of overcoming failure and desperation and experiencing grief and love are tales we need to never forget. My freelance work is all about that notion of being astonished when I really pay attention. I am beyond blessed to live where I do and have the opportunity to share it with others. I want families to come away from their screens and their booths at McDonald’s and know how easy it is to go on a picnic and shop a farmer’s market. This world is not scary. It’s beautiful and God gave it to us for our delight and our sustenance. I hope when I share stories of how I camp or hike or cook with my kids, that others don’t feel put down. Rather, I want them to feel empowered. I hope other moms say to themselves, “Well, if she did that, then so can I.”

How does my writing process work?

Yeah….I don’t know. All I know is I look for pockets of time I can steal and then I write. I like to get up early, but I have to be up super early to beat my kids out of bed. So during the school year, I’m aiming for 5 a.m. That’s when I do my best writing on the novel because I can almost always get a solid uninterrupted hour. Then I just try to find time for all the rest. Naptime sometimes works. I almost never write at night (except for Five Minute Friday) because I’m usually completely drained by 9 p.m. I make myself prioritize. If there’s a deadline for a publication I want to submit to, I work on that first. If I haven’t blogged in a few days, and I have a story I want to tell, I get that out of the way and I’m always better for it. I like these short pieces for freelance and blogging because I can almost always finish it and feel a sense of accomplishment. Short stories are good for that feeling too. If I get a story idea, I jot it down and if the muse is really working, I move that to the top of the list. (I wrote this story in two hours. It was just flowing.) I’m trying to build a cache of stories I can submit. This probably sounds a little crazy,  but if I’m working on something I believe the Lord has given me, I can usually work at lightening speed. It’s a mom thing too. I know I only have a certain amount of time, so I have to guard it carefully. I’m doing this post today while my kids are at a Mother’s Morning Out program and I’m already 8 minutes over the allotted time I gave myself to finish this project!  But that’s okay because I’m really learning about myself right now and that’s been completely worthwhile.

I’m grateful and blessed to be included in a community of writers who understand all that crazy rambling. The women I’m passing this hop onto are recent discoveries, but I love how I can visit their blogs and feel their heart.

Amy at The Little Farm Diary is a new real life friend. We connected at the community theater and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to get to know her (and her sweet daughter) better over the next few weeks as we perform. You absolutely want to click over to her page and check out her sweet farmhouse style.

Andrea over at 7-7-at-7 is a friend from my (in)courage group and I love her honesty about being a “newbie” to publication. It’s hard to into this industry and you need a thick skin. Having friends who have experienced these ups and downs is a blessing. She’s a creative writer and a fabulous photographer.

Erin is who I’m sending #fmfpartysnailmail to this week! The coolest thing was when I got my list and her name was right above mine–just like her hometown. We’re getting together for lunch someday soon and I can’t wait. She has a beautiful blog and I love popping over and reading about her life as a newlywed…ah, those days from twelve years ago that I so didn’t appreciate.

So who are some of your favorite writers or bloggers? Why do you carve out time to be creative? I’d love to know and share.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

giveaways · linkups · motherhood

Surprised by Motherhood {The Launch and the Giveaway and How I Stalk Lisa Jo Baker}

The first time I met Lisa Jo Baker she was totally cool about the fact that I was stalking her via twitter and the Dayspring booth at the MOPS convention.  This incredible woman who put my heart into words on her blog about motherhood and how it can break us into a million little pieces and then put us back together in the best possible way looked straight into my eyes, recognized my twitter handle and my Five Minute Friday presence, and hugged me like a long lost sister.

Then she told me she loved my earrings and in the most real way exclaimed that she thought she had the same ones from the dollar clearance at Kmart.

Because she may be my writing hero and have thousands of followers and a real live book on the shelves of stores today, but really, truly, Lisa Jo Baker is a budget-conscious mama who knows the power of a great pair of earrings no matter where they came from.

So just like that, she took me in and talked to me about motherhood and writing and the balance and waiting for God’s timing and having a story that I’m not sure I’m ready to share and all the messy grace in between. We stood surrounded by waves of moms and people who I’m sure needed her time and attention, but she gave it all to me, and that’s when I knew that the internet may sugar coat some things, but this woman? She was exactly who I imagined her to be because she doesn’t write to make herself look good.

She writes to glorify Jesus and to pour out the love He’s poured on her.

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Surprised by Motherhood is her offering to mamas everywhere. She wrote the back story, the before story, the story of how she went from being a civil rights lawyer rescuing women from sex trafficking to a mom with three kids who believes “motherhood should come with a superhero cape.”

She wrote a book for every mom at every stage.

To the mama with the screaming toddler in the checkout line at Target who just wants to get home and cry on her bathroom floor.

To the mama who has worn milk stains and vomit and possibly poop all day long because she packed extra clothes for the kids but forgot them for herself.

To the mama who has pried chubby arms from around her neck and put her crying child into the arms of another so she can bring home the daily bread.

To the mama who has wondered how she got here, surrounded by little people, in a world that seems foreign compared to her degree and high heels.

To the mama who makes the beds and sweeps the floors and churns the laundry every singe day on a constant cycle of rinse and repeat wondering if she’s ever going to feel that magic she’s read about.

To the mama who has navigated blindly into playdates and church visits and library storytime in an effort to meet someone else who just might understand.

To the mama who has never felt undone by her child but whose skin prickles when she thinks of her own mom.
To the mama who has flown cross country and cross ocean flights to bring babies home to the world that raised her.

To the mama who has had enough of feeling like she’ll never be enough.

Reading Surprised by Motherhood was like having a friend bring me a chocolate milkshake and then offer to watch my kids so I could take a bath by myself in a tub that’s not drowning in toys.

It was like hearing my own voice when I read, “There’s no rage like the exhausted rage of motherhood” and just about every other line in the chapter titled “How to Fall in Like” as she discusses with frank honesty what it’s really like to parent a child with a strong will and a fiery temper.

It was having someone finally understand that while we all know motherhood is so much better than we expect, we also choke down the reality that it’s so much harder than we expect.

But here’s the real beauty of Lisa Jo’s offering back to those of us who sometimes wonder if it matters that we’re just a mom—this offering came first from her knees when she realized that it didn’t matter whether or not she mothered, it mattered that the great Creator of all that is good and perfect* loved her.

He loves you too. And if you struggle to believe that, I’d like to put a copy of this book in your hands today.

Then I’d like to have you over for chocolate cake and coffee and tell you a little more about my own story and how I’m learning after nearly ten years as a mother and twenty-five as His child, how to finally find comfort in the skin He knit for me.

And if you’re not a mom or don’t want to ever be a mom? Read it anyway, just for the sheer joy of seeing these words:
“But when we metabolize love, it can sustain us for years.  It feeds the parts of our hearts we didn’t know were starving. This never-giving-up, always-chasing love that isn’t afraid…this lavish love that loves us first.”

You can get a copy of Surprised by Motherhood here or here or here.  You can read more about Lisa Jo here and you can read the first three chapters here. There’s a linkup over here (scroll all the way down) where our launch team is posting all our reviews and lots of those bloggers are giving away books too.

It’s a powerful thing when a community comes together to say we believe this is important. We believe this story is that.  We also believe it’s important to give back a measure of what’s been given to you, so that’s why portions of the book sales also benefit Lisa Jo’s South African home. 

You can read about how I’ve fallen in love with the world next door right here.

And my giveaway today?  It’s going to be for one of my personal facebook readers.  So many of you are my real life mama friends who have walked this journey with me.  So leave a comment on my personal page where we do life together with silly pictures of our kids and our dogs and our piles of laundry, and I’ll have the random tool pick one of you to get a copy by the end of the week.

So much love to my online community who writes raw on Fridays with Lisa Jo at the helm, and so much gratitude to my real life community who shows up with Chic-fil-a and donuts just when I need it most.

Motherhood surprised me. But you people who love me like Jesus through it all? You’re a gift straight from the Father above.

Follow the movement on twitter and instagram with #surprisedbymotherhood .

*James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

Linking up with Crystal over at Behind the Scenes as well.  Because we all need a glimpse into the reality that’s on the edges of those photos.  My beautiful family pics? My friend Merideth takes them and that day was a hot mess.  That’s the only picture of Gus where he’s looking at the camera and wearing both shoes.

faith · giveaways · linkups · motherhood

What You Can Give (and get) From Your Kitchen Table {Falling in Love with the World Next Door: Part 2}

My baby boy is spooning oatmeal into his face faster than I can say hot-hot! He’s sitting at our kitchen table that my husband helped me sand and my children helped me paint and he’s just eating instant oatmeal out of the pack.  It’s not even the good homemade baked kind my kids are liking lately with blueberries.

It’s just instant oatmeal that I made in five minutes because I have an electric stove and a microwave and a refrigerator that is always full even when I say it’s empty.

My kitchen is nothing spectacular and it’s not getting featured on HGTV anytime soon unless it’s on a remodel show because usually all I ever see is what’s wrong. Like, how my cabinets are unfinished inside and need new doors and that my super-deep cast iron sink could use a new finish.

And if I had $16,000 to put toward a new kitchen, you can bet it would be something spectacular.  I’m dreaming of gas stoves and soapstone counters and pull out storage in brand new cabinets and one of those really big fridges you can put trays in and an entrance straight from the kitchen to the deck so people don’t have to trek through my bedroom anymore when we’re having a barbecue.

But in Maubane, South Africa $16,000 can buy a kitchen for dozens of families and the orphans they’re raising. It can buy a roof instead of a tent and a stove instead of a fire pit in the ground.

It can buy a place for a community to gather.

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It can buy a place where we can help save the future for the motherless and fatherless who are coming to know the one true Father and Creator of all.

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Now, that’s a pretty spectacular kitchen.

Today won’t you sit at your kitchen table and join the online community who is helping make this crazy dream come true? I’m part of a team that’s writing alongside blogger Lisa Jo Baker, who champions moms to believe they can do great things at their own kitchen tables.

But this is more than a project to her.  It’s a lifeline because Maubane, South Africa is her hometown, her kitchen table, her community. It’s where her father is raising another family of rescued orphans and where he doctors during the week and preaches on Sundays.

This isn’t a random group of people. These are people who are connected to those of us who read Lisa Jo’s words and believe them because they are a part of her story.

So, when you bow your hands with your children in prayer, when you wipe the spilled milk and the stickiness off that table, when you set it with everyday china or Solo cups, give thanks for the table you have.  And maybe consider giving this gift to another mom who’s a lot like you.

A mom who wants to teach her children gratitude for the hard times and the good times. A mom who wants to teach her kids how to trust in the love of people because we trust a great big God to bring us together.

Sometime we’ll dance in Heaven about how God was glorified in the building of this community.

Or maybe before then, we’ll dance in Maubane, together, in the kitchen while we peel potatoes and slice oranges and give thanks.

There are so many fabulous ways and rewards for giving to this project today (or any day between now and Mother’s Day). You can click here to visit Lisa Jo and read all the details, but here’s a quick set of links:

Pure Charity: Give right here directly to the fund and watch it grow!

Buy a Vintage Dictionary Necklace from Krafty Kash and $12 goes directly to the fund. (Mother’s Day, hint! hint!)

Donate $40 and Money Saving Mom will pre-order you Lisa Jo’s book, Surprised by Motherhood, to be released on April 1, 2014 (April Fool’s Day, of course!).  She’ll also send you her own great read Say Goodbye to Survival Mode. 

If music is your love language, click here to order this beautiful album and learn to sing Jesus Loves Me all over again while supporting the building of this community center.

Finally, if you just pre-order Lisa Jo’s book right here, a portion of her proceeds goes directly back to this community because she knows motherhood is never short on surprises or encouragement. 

AND if you leave me a comment telling me that you donated and why you’re choosing to support this community, I’ll randomly select someone to get a sweet little package in the mail. It’s nothing big, but sometimes you just need a new dishtowel, yes? https://www.purecharity.com/widget?aff=jwgo5&slug=community-kitchen-and-welcome-center&utm_source=9jpa6&utm_medium=widget&utm_campaign=community-kitchen-and-welcome-center

linkups · saturday rambling

Linking You Up {Weekend’s Best Reads}

Sweet Jessie, who had one of the best smiles at Allume last year, has this fun linkup in which we all share our favorite reads from the week. I’ve written nothing here this week, but maybe in the days there will be more.

I’m working on a lot of projects right now, finishing up the MOPS year, typing away at the never-ending novel, submitting articles to various publications and trying simultaneously not to get my hopes up or sink to the depths of despair over rejection.  Oh, and I’ve got a column for the paper due this week.  I just love my church family who stops me when I’m getting my sweet tea on Wednesday nights to tell me they love what I write. Helps me remember that it’s okay to be small and that my small is someone else’s big.

We’ve also got a lot of personal reflection going on right now.  Nothing I really want to get into, but we’re in a waiting phase right now and I don’t like it because I’m so impatient.  I just want the change and I want it now, even though I’m not really sure what it should be.  Which makes no sense, I know. Maybe I’ll figure out some words this week.  We’ll see.

So my best reads this week are random and varied but what my soul needed.

100 Ways To Make Your Marriage Rock: This is an older post from Kristen Welch, but it was just something I needed this week. We get in the routine, you know, and it’s not that things are bad, it’s just that maybe they could be better? This list jogged my memory with great ideas of things we could do together to improve our marriage, because let’s face it, nobody’s perfect and nobody’s got it together all of the time.  Personally, I really love how she says in #20 and #21 to look to him to make the big decisions and let her make the small ones.  Lately, we’ve had a bit of an issue with me trusting Joshua and believing him when he tells me our debt payoff will work, and we’ve had issue with him giving me opinions on things like new bedding when he really doesn’t care, but I asked so he figured I cared what he thought. (It’s not that I didn’t value his opinion, but I had a vision that he didn’t know about. Bet you can guess how that went.)

Amy at Coffee with the Mrs. writes my heart in this post about finding your place at the roots. Right now, we’re both hoping funds come through so we can have cupcakes and coffee together at Allume this year, but what she says here is so exactly where my heart needs to be, no matter what happens.

How to Choose what’s important today over at Lisa Jo’s was the Five Minute Friday prompt this week.  I didn’t write because choosing is what I’m at odds with right now so I couldn’t even choose which of the five topics came to my mind when I saw this.  But her words about choosing to recognize that the daily mundane really is what matters most, and when she says “The only thing that stood the test of time was who was the parent and who was the child.” I almost wept.

And since we’re in this season of trying to decide (and hoping) on a new home I also loved this post at Incourage 5 Ways to Build a Beautiful Home because ultimately that’s the kind of home I want.

Lastly, on that home note, The Nester always has some great wisdom in the form of arrows for me.  I have no idea what the arrows are in my home.  Do you know what yours are? Want to come over and help me find mine? Oh, and I cleaned off my kitchen table.  Lasted all night.

What did you read that was great this week? Link up with Jessie or leave me some comment love below!