just write life · Margin Mom · motherhood · writing

Definitely Not All That and a Bag of Chips

Let me tell you one of my absolute favorite reasons for attending writers conferences. Not only do I get to hang with my awesome friends whose minds work a good bit like mine, not only do I get to take classes from really smart people who become awesome friends, and not only do I get to network with awesome industry professionals who encourage and give me guidance,

I get respect.

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Some of my people. Aren’t they fun? Hannah Hall, Hannah Brock, Lyndsey Hulen, and Janet Surrette.

I’ve got a few bylines, great connections, and a job in publishing which means people approach me as a professional. Newbies ask me for advice and they want to talk this motherhood-writing-publishing-loving Jesus gig with me as if I know some secret they don’t.

Here’s what I know. I’m not all that and a bag of chips.

I’m a harried mom who has never really learned the art of simply playing with my kids.

I’m a stretched writer because I want to fulfill my creative endeavors and pay my bills.

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With Bruce Stewart, one of our prolific Splickety writers.

I’m a published author because of grace and maybe a little raw talent, but mostly a whole lot of right place at the right time.

Yeah, definitely not as together as I’d like to appear.

Two Saturdays ago I taught an online class about finding time to write. I had tried and true tips, funny anecdotes, and good connections to pass on to these writers.

But this past Saturday afternoon I cried hot streaming tears so hard and so fast, my daughters rubbed my shoulders and told me to just take my computer into the bedroom and close the door and work.

Because I had run out of time to finish edits to my never-existing satisfaction and my morning had not gone as planned and it’s the first week of summer and I’d gotten up early every day to work and I was so, so tired.

When I spoke with my editor she gave me some beautiful advice. “God doesn’t want your perfection, Lindsey. He wants your excellence.”

There’s a difference.

Perfection doesn’t exist for flawed, broken people. We can’t be perfect because that unattainable quality is reserved for the great Creator God. What we can be is givers of excellence, strivers of offering only our best, lovers of good works that resonate with souls.

And perfection actually doesn’t resonate with mine.

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The lovely Lucinda McDowell who is helping me market my novel and wrote my current favorite devotional, Dwell.

So I quit fiddling for now and sent in my manuscript. And I got a lot honest with myself. I’m terrified of the expectations I’ve heaped upon this book. But all I can do is the best I have right now, at this moment.

And that might not be good enough for some people. Everyone’s not going to love this novel that’s getting birthed from a small publishing house with a lot of wise people helping me along this journey.

Sort of like, everyone doesn’t read this blog. Everyone doesn’t think I’m all that. Everyone doesn’t believe I really have it all together.

And those might be the people I’m most grateful for. Because they push me to strive beyond my “good enough” and find that place where I can be excellent. And then they challenge me to find it over and over, again and again.

But never expect perfection. That’s a death trap of comparison and joy-stealing and self-hatred.

Perfection belongs to Christ. And we belong to Him.

motherhood · writing

Big Little Lies, Milestones Testing, and Trump

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That shirt just says it all. Most of the time this little one reminds me that my only job is to take care of her. She’s struggled a bit these past few weeks.

Sometimes I’m not really sure what I think about this world we’re living in. Sometimes I just want to take my kids to a farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere and finally own that granola tag a college professor gave me years ago. Sometimes I want to keep them home with me where the only fear is that I might lose my mind if they fight one more time over a certain couch cushion.

Seriously, kids. There are FIVE cushions and FOUR of you.

But if I just retreat into our own little haven, I’d miss out on all the goodness that is interacting with live, three-dimensional people and telling my friend at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday, in between comparisons of kale types, about the latest book I read.

I’m supposed to be reading the Divergent series with my oldest, but we’ve both lost it on Allegiant and I’ve told her to stop because a) it’s just not that easy to follow and b) it’s definitely not appropriate for her. Line crossed. Instead I finished my book club read. We’re on a Liane Moriarty kick. So much so that we just had to make a rule that we wouldn’t read anymore of her books this year.

Big Little Lies was just perfect for this time of year and for this public school mama/former teacher who has had it up to here (picture hand over my head) with all the drama. We’ve never had a parent die at a school fundraiser (spoiler alert!) but if you want a good laugh at the caricatures of typical parents these days, read this book. It’s got a heavy, serious side as well and things are not always what they seem — for anyone.

I love, too, that it’s set in Australia and the glimpse into a different type of school system is fascinating. But you could pick it up and set in America, no problem. Just sprinkle in some labels determined by a test that ultimately means nothing.

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No, he doesn’t have a concealed weapons license. And he’s a thief because that gun isn’t his. But a sweet boy said he could keep it.

Seriously. The kids and teachers did everything they were asked. My kids got a special snack and a cute saying everyday (“We’re CHEERing you on!” with the bag of Cheerios). We fed our teachers muffins, and said prayers for their sanity, and whispered among ourselves about whether or not we should organize an opt out movement that demonstrates disdain for this test yet shows support for our teachers.

And the state of Georgia can’t get it together so that the results are actually valid. Which just goes to prove our students and teachers are so much more than a test score. They’re volcano builders and story writers and stage actors and creative mathematicians. They’re kids who grow up to form their own opinions about the world and all it has to offer.

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Sixth at state track in the 1600. She’s mad I posted this because she hates to be the center of attention. Guess politics aren’t in her future.

Of course, in America, what we have to offer now is Donald Trump.

I usually keep my political views to myself, especially since I don’t land solidly in any camp, and I’ve come to believe that my circle of influence doesn’t have to be large to be powerful. But I’m really not happy about this.

Thank goodness I don’t put all my hope in this world where we can tear each other down and forget to build one another back up. My hope lies in a place where we no longer believe the lies we tell ourselves, where we no longer measure our kids by their performance, where we no longer divide ourselves into two opposing camps of right and wrong.

And that’s a great big truth.

What are you reading lately? Did you kids take the test? And if you dare, feel free to talk politics, but I’d rather talk kale recipes.

Margin Mom · motherhood · writing

Why I Can’t Coupon,Wrangle Laundry, and Write a Book at the Same Time

This week alone my three-year-old dressed himself three times.

Each time we had to negotiate a change of shirt or shorts or underwear because he was dressing himself from the dirty laundry pile on the floor.

We ran out of milk, lunch meat, bread, peanut butter, and fruit all on the same day. I packed my kids cheese and crackers for lunch, fixed grits for breakfast, and promised them I’d try to go to the store. They’d been telling me for two days we were running out of food. (We have plenty of food. It’s just all in the freezer or requires prep more advanced than my six-year-old’s skills.)

I should also mention that the freezer is hidden behind the piles of clean clothes that haven’t migrated out of the laundry room yet.

I used all my brain power writing and editing yesterday morning so I gave up the idea of price matching and instead came home with the biggest jar of peanut butter I could find.

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I should also mention that at this moment Gus is eating powdered donuts for lunch.

People love to remind me I can’t do it all. Nope, I can’t.

People also ask me how the book is coming. Well, I’ll tell you. Pretty much everyday I hold my head in my hands and wonder how bad the reviews will be and why I can’t think of a phrase other than “tilted his head” to use in conversation.

I get a little sick to my stomach thinking about how I can never write as well as ________________ (insert name of whatever author I’m currently reading).

I wonder if the story is too idealistic, too flawed, too close to my home and heart. I wonder if my grandmother would be proud.

Then I start writing again and every now and then, I think, maybe it won’t be so bad. Looking forward to our annual Edisto trip helps. Planning interviews and excursions all in the name of research helps. Drinking iced coffee in the library while there’s a babysitter at home helps.

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Remembering that this the story God gave me–word by word, moment by moment, through the eyes of editors and friends and in the windows of my own heart–that definitely helps. My novel is about letting go, embracing grace, appreciating how every flaw in your past can make you who you are today.

Mine has certainly made me. And my present re-makes me every day.

So some things have to go. Like clean floors and big savings and making sure Gus matches. For now, it’s just enough that his clothes are clean.

amelia · faith · just write life · motherhood · writing

What It Means for Me to Live Prayer

IMG_6043In February, when I attended FCWC (which is really more retreat than conference and I recommend it wholeheartedly for introverted writers and harried moms who want to be writers), Robert Benson was the keynote speaker. I wrote a little about some things Robert had to say about hurry and life and living within the steps of the Ancient Dance.

Robert will tell you he is a little man but God is great. He’ll also tell you the Yankees are the only baseball team worth watching and if you dress like an artist people will believe you actually are one. Because of my proximity to the staff at conference, I got to spend a little extra time with him, and because I have a habit of putting my foot in my mouth, we had a good laugh together. We wound up in the same shuttle on the way back to the airport–over an hour of him and Eddie Jones (who is my publisher) talking church and baseball and publishing’s state of affairs.

One of those divine moments you have to watch out for at conferences where everyone believes God will place you where He wants you. God placed me where I could listen.

Robert has written a lot of books about life and Christianity but not about Christian living in the self-help sense of the genre. Don’t expect a how-to list and questions to work through and a Facebook chat group.

I purchased Living Prayer because I’ve been in a season of life in which I wrestle with prayer. Not just the action of it–what it means to pray ceaselessly or in communion–but what it means to pray and ask and receive.

Or to not.

IMG_2246I wonder over and over when we pray for healing and restoration and then say God is good when we receive those things if we could have received them without the prayer? And when we don’t, we say that is His will, so if His plan is unchanging, what is our purpose in prayer? What is the point?

Prayer, for me, has not been a rhythm, a stepping to a cadence my soul already knows. Rather it has been a beating and a brush-off. A way people had of offering comfort when what I really wanted was someone to rail with me, to hold me while I wept, to tell me that I am out of tune with God’s rhythm because prayer is not about what I can get but what I can receive.

Prayer is not meant to be the catch-all we so often make it.

People tell me God is so good when I answer their questions about my daughter’s health. I nod. God is good.

But my daughter is not healed.

She may never be, and that is our reality.

She compensates well and we move through our days and maybe I might call her physical therapist because her hip drop is back and her leg is very stiff and she cried the other night because her knee hurt. If her next MRI shows her lesion has receded, I’ll be surprised. If it shows a new spot of deterioration, we’ll still go through our every day and maybe see her neurologist an extra time or two.

And the only prayer I have is that God will show us how to live though our days.

I no longer offer petitions for her body or mine. I offer praise for every day that is better, for every moment that we are broken, for every set of hands that folds with mine. Then i get really quiet because Robert says we cannot hear God’s voice when we are too full of our own. 

And “it is our brokenness… that holds the key to whatever we have to share.”

There is a chapter in this book about Walking in the Dark. If you’ve never walked that path, perhaps you cannot yet understand. But if you have…

“Perhaps God needs me to pray so I can be about the business of laying myself and the people and places and things I care about on the altar.”

And that simple act is what I am learning prayer is. A laying down. A lifting up. A coming to the altar.

I’d love to have you join me there.

For more about what I’m reading, writing, and listening to these days subscribe to my monthly-ish newsletter.

motherhood · writing

On “Working” Mothers and Doing It All

IMG_6257I finished The Bronte Plot this week. So then I pulled old, old copies of books by the Brontes themselves off my shelf and contemplated actually reading Wuthering Heights since I’d tackled another copy of Jane Eyre back in January and loved it.

These books belonged to my maternal grandmother, a woman I realize now I barely knew, but who left an indelible enough impression that I’ve crafted a novel around her memory. And ironically, tucked inside the front cover of that Jane Eyre I found too delicate to read (I have a tendency to break bindings) was this yellowed article torn from some Lowcountry paper, a fact deduced from the wedding announcements listed on the back.

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I can’t remember now how I came to possess these treasures of my grandmother, but I would guess my mother gave them to me at some point. Which makes me wonder if Grandmommy White Hair (that’s what we called her and I’m sure she appreciated it) left it there for her to find. It cites stats from 1983–the year my mother went back to work after staying home for a year with my brother and I. The year she also had another baby we brought home from the hospital in a Christmas stocking.

I’m not sure what the message in this piece of forgotten paper was.

But I’m sure it wasn’t a chastisement or a discouragement. As sure as I am it wasn’t that, I am equally certain, that perhaps, the last lines were her intent. In an article that says nothing different than articles of the same topic today–working mothers make less than their male counterparts, women in general make up much of the work force for less pay, women with children are more likely to take underpaying, part-time jobs, or become self-employed–the close is that even with the monetary discrepancies, women work for “independence, autonomy, and feelings of self-worth”.


My friend re-posted an article this week–a reminder to mothers that our work matters here at home too. We forget that all too easily, and we live in a world that glorifies the mom who can do it all.

I follow a lot of mothers who are big bloggers and for a long time I thought they either were a) much more organized than me, b) required much less sleep than I, or c) more loved by God because of how they’d been blessed.

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You know the women I’m talking about, right? The ones who homeschool and cook organic, paleo meals from scratch with ingredients price matched and make sensory bins for every child and delight in every moment on Instagram and run an Etsy shop out of their garage and have a blog getting 10,000+ hits a month and have a book deal with Thomas Nelson and go on dates with their husbands and call themselves “stay at home” moms.

We have a habit of believing these accomplished ladies have found some secret to motherhood–some balance–that the rest of us have not yet discovered.

They have. She’s called the babysitter.


People tell me all the time they don’t know how I do it all. I get this from people who really only know I have four kids. From people who know I have four kids and blog and write for the newspaper. People who know I have four kids and a book contract and the title Editor. People who know I have four kids and freelance for the first paycheck I’ve brought home steady in five years.

Then they find out I make homemade pizza on Friday nights and they really act like I’ve accomplished a great feat.

So I tell them the truth: this is the first year I’ve been able to do motherhood and writing to build a career and homemaking with any sort of balance.

Because for twelve hours out of every week all four of my kids are in school at the same time.

And when they’re not? When it’s Spring Break (hello this week) or vacation or too many snow days, I drop some balls. And I hire a babysitter.

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The truth is no one is doing it all. Not all by themselves. There are grandmothers or aunts or best friends or college students or husbands there helping. What women who are doing great things for Jesus from the corner desk in their kitchen have that you don’t have is the ability to admit– I can’t do it all without some help.

Some of them are just more transparent about that than others.

My favorite podcast these days is Anne Bogel from Modern Mrs. Darcy with What Should I Read Next. After that, I love Tsh and The Simple Show. They got together a couple weeks ago and talked work. How they run big business blogs and write books and travel and raise kids and homeschool all in one day.

Did you guess it? They have help.


Staying home is the greatest blessing my husband and the Lord could have ever given me. Being the one who’s available when they’re sick, when we have dentist appointments or doctor check ups or Career Day or field trips, is a gift–and sometimes, a drudgery. Let’s be honest.

I believe I was called home. I believe some women are called out. I believe we’re all great moms.

But I also believe (because my mom who raised seven children and worked outside the home all my life except for 1982 tells me all the time) WE ARE TOO HARD ON OURSELVES AND OUR EXPECTATIONS ARE UNREASONABLE.

Yes, I do what seems like a lot of things. But I have a team of people who back me up on all those things and extend grace when I miss a deadline.

Yes, I make homemade pizza. But we also have a line item in our budget for Chic-Fil-A.

Yes, I have four kids. And when I carve out time to do the work that enriches my soul, I become a better mom.

And they get two hours with a babysitter who isn’t impatient or snappy, who lets them eat more popsicles, play games I hate, and she jumps on the trampoline with them for an hour.

Everybody wins. And that, friends, is when it pays to be a working mother.

Want some of my favorite tips for doing it all? AKA Podcasts to Listen To, Books to Read, and Shows to Watch while folding the laundry? With a recipe for pizza too, of course. Sign up for my monthly-ish newsletter. First installment coming this weekend… maybe. If the babysitter is available.

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