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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reflections · writing

The One Question Undoing Us All

How’s it going?

It’s asked so simply, so quickly, so this-is-what-I’m-supposed-to-say that almost always I respond with that ingrained response–Fine. All good. Can’t complain.

Pick your poison.

Because what if we all actually answered that question honestly–How’s it going?

It? Life? Finances? Motherhood? Job? State of the union? Facebook following?

There’s too much, maybe. Really. Too much to say and too little to say about it and too balanced on the edge of a precipice we’re afraid to dive down into deep.

So we’re fine.

Except we’re not.

We’ve got Puerto Rico and Houston and Florida and North Georgia and Vegas and Oregon and California–all drowning or burning or scavenging or sweating or bleeding. None of us are really fine.

Yet I worry over Amazon stats and retweets and Facebook followers.

What if we all answered honestly, truly? I told people to stop asking me how it was going last week because I didn’t know what to say. They want me to say it’s great–I wrote a book and the world is all sunshine and dreams realized.

But it’s not.

Because there’s still bills and math tests and soured laundry and sad people and lost friends and too  many expectations I’ve heaped upon myself before I can answer, Fine. 

But none of us, if we’re honest, really have time for all the burdens of everyone else every time we ask. All the burdens we’re carrying ourselves are more than we can already handle.

So how do we get there? To the other side? To the place of asking and receiving and listening and loving? Because I don’t want a national disaster to continuously shake me out of my stupor.

Except it always, always does. Anytime we blink and realize the world is bigger than us, our problems, our pettiness, our little worries, we let those small things go just a little bit more. And we free up our hands and hearts to hold and hear when someone else needs to be able to say–

It’s not going great. But if you’ll fold hands with me, maybe I’ll be able to breathe a little easier. 

Breathe easier today, friends. You can tell me how it’s really going in the comments, if you’d like.

 

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Available on Amazon or by request at your favorite indie bookstore. Local friends can find signed copies at Books with A, Peal in Cornelia or Home Sweet Home in Elberton.

reflections · school

Dear First Time Teacher {who wants to change the world}

Dear First Time Teacher,

I know you’re excited.  I know you’ve spent days (maybe weeks) assembling bulletin boards and organizing shelves and color coding plans and reciting your “welcome to my class!” speech while driving across town to chase the best office supplies sales.

I know you think you’re prepared to change the world one first grader or eighth grader or graduate at a time.  You are and you will.  It just won’t be the way you think.

Your first year teaching will be both the hardest and easiest of your career.  The easy comes because it’s the year everyone around you nods in understanding when you say, “It’s my first year.”

Except the parents.

Parents don’t care if you’ve been teaching one year or thirty years, they want the best experience possible for their child because, like you, they’ll never get a do-over on this year.

Remember that when you think they’re your friends.  They’re not; they are your employer and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.  You, likewise, should expect the same from them because in a conference you are there as the professional.

So be professional and understand, you can be a great teacher and still, not everyone is going to like you. 

But sometime later, when this year is over, and you establish a relationship that’s not founded on homework assignments or detention, some of those parents will become your friends and your greatest champions.

The scariest moment is going to come when you close the door to your classroom for the first time and realize you’re alone with close to 30 students who are waiting for you to make the first move.  They’ll size you up that first day and study you more that first week, and then they’ll decide how they’ll treat you.  And their decision will always be most impacted by the way you treat them.  


It’s your classroom, your routine, your heart that will give those lesson plans in that thick binder plenty of life, and before long, those students will be your kids.  You’ll love them more than you ever thought you could love someone else’s child. Of course, there will be plenty you’ll wish you could send next door to someone else, but when your colleagues see them in the halls and the cafeteria and they gym, they’ll be yours.  You’ll be responsible for them the whole time they’re on that campus, and there will be a precious few for whom the burden of responsibility will transcend an 8-hour day.

People will judge you by them.  This isn’t some new outcome of years spent with NCLB, it’s how it’s always been. You may not be able to control whether someone fed them dinner last night or if they got up alone in the dark to catch a bus just so they could get breakfast, but you can control your classroom.  You can make it a safe place and you can make it, first and foremost, a sanctuary for learning.  

I promise you can.

You just have to remember that you can’t save them all.

You are one person in a long line of educators and counselors and coaches and administrators, so sometimes all you can do is pray that someone else succeeds when you feel like you’re failing.

That’s okay.  You don’t have to be everything to everybody.

Chances are, when you’re a teacher, you’re everything to at least one.

Have a wonderful first year.  Learn from your mistakes (you’re going to make them).  Make new friends with those in the trenches with you.  Build a community.  Cling to grace.

You are a teacher.

faith · reflections · writing

What’s the Presence You Really Want?

Last week the heavens cracked open and poured rain all over the blue-tinged mountains we call Appalachia. So much that when I returned home from my writers conference in Asheville, the local paper’s headline bemoaned how we’d gone from not enough rain to way too much.

Trees down. Roads flooded. A general soggy mess. And a couple days of sunshine not near enough to dry things out.

By the time I came home from BRMCWC, that’s pretty much how I felt too. A little soggy and a lot poured out–not quite like that Luke verse I love that promises a good measure. More like when my kids spill a glass of sweet tea and there’s a sticky mess.

All my new writer friends (and wow, are these people talented and creative and fresh voiced) came home and got to work. More Facebook pages and new blogs and book proposals have been created in the last three days then I can even begin to follow.

I came home and crashed.

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I had to read Pepper Basham’s new book, y’all. It’s part of my job after all. You should read it too. Especially if you need a nice break and a does of good romance.

Then that little ugly green streak quivered its way up my arm, heading straight for my heart. What if she gets an agent and I don’t? What if her book’s a bestseller and mine’s not? What if her blog goes viral and mine stays sleepy?

Yeah, even those of us who have “made it” get those niggling pains of fear disguised as jealousy.

Because that’s really what it is. Fear. Fear of never being good enough. Fear of never giving back enough. Fear of God not taking my offering and finding it as worthy as hers or his.

In my last few days, I finally swiped open my friend Matthew’s new book. He’s a Blue Ridge friend, of course. Last year, gala awards, same table. A Presbyterian pastor from Canada and a Southern Baptist girl from Georgia and we connected over the one thing that matters most–awe at what God is doing.

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In Let God Be Present, Matthew writes, “Moses needed more than the promise of God’s presence. He needed to see it, and see it now. He was at the point of really wanting it. He wanted it because he was the one who had to lead the people. He wanted it for his people because he knew they would be the ones who would have to try and live out the holy life of work and rest in God’s name, for others to see and be drawn to the most beautiful, wonderful, awe-filled relastionship there is. They would need to live this God-filled life.”

Matthew goes on to ask in challenge, “He wants the presence of God. Do we?”

Do I?

Because if I am truly surrendered to the Adonai of all, then my desire–before I ever open this laptop to tap out words or bend the spine of my journal to scratch them–will be for God’s presence.

Dear friends, if what you’re doing right now doesn’t invite God’s presence, may I encourage you to take some time and rest? Slow the busyness and invite God into your everyday ordinary. You might be surprised how He calls you out from there.

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Did you know my debut novel, Still Waters,  is available for pre-order on Amazon? I know, I still get all the grins. It’s in the cover design process with my publisher, but don’t judge a book by that–right? And if you want more info on how you can spread the word follow me on Facebook as Lindsey P. Brackett, Author.

1000 gifts · reflections · writing

One Scary Sunday Afternoon … and One Good Gift

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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.


 

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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.

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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.

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Books · ePantry · faith · family · just write life · reflections · resolutions

Personality Tests, Surrender, and Dear Mr. Knightley

Why, yes that is a new header and logo.

Thank you to my sweet friend Merideth who blesses me with her talent.

Lately, I’ve been learning a few things about myself. Back in the spring the Splickety staff used the test at 16Personalities to discuss how different–and alike–we all are. I’ve realized for awhile now (pretty much ever since I became a mom) that I walk a line between extravert and introvert and this examination of my personality was pretty spot on.

According to the test, I’m an ENFP-T (the Campaigner)–really? I don’t much feel like a campaigner, but I am these things:

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There might be emphasis on turbulent.

View More: http://candiceholcomb.pass.us/al-wedding
This is my family. All my sisters and our one brother. And Jasper, the golden retriever. Because when parents of 7 kids become empty nesters, they need a dog who’s treated like a child.

The analysis says people with my personality type “tend to see life as a big, complex puzzle where everything is connected… through a prism of emotion, compassion and mysticism, and are always looking for a deeper meaning.”

Well, that’s pretty true. I dug pomegranate arils out the other day for a salad and then wrote a story describing it that was about more than just pomegranates.

“ENFPs will bring an energy that oftentimes thrusts them into the spotlight, held up by their peers as a leader and a guru – but this isn’t always where independence-loving ENFPs want to be. Worse still if they find themselves beset by the administrative tasks and routine maintenance that can accompany a leadership position.”

Ha, I don’t see myself as a ‘guru’ at anything but sometimes I think others do. At least the people who don’t see me falling apart as a wife and mom on a regular basis are always asking for my advice and opinion and help, especially now that I’m a published and contracted writer. I type that and then figure I sound like a snob. Trust me, I know very little but I am always happy to share that little. I have to humble myself everyday, especially when I edit, and google questions like, “In fiction should numbers be written out?” (Yes, in dialogue especially.)

My favorite part of that description is the part about “administrative tasks”. Please keep those away from me. The paperwork, data, charts, analysis–that’s what I hated about teaching. Just let me read books and lead discussions, already. The decision making and final calling–what I wasn’t good at when I coordinated MOPS. Just let me connect with moms. The find a cute image, schedule posts, and dissect page views of platform building? Ugh, I write 500 words and wish that was enough.

It’s nice to be validated. To realize that there’s nothing wrong with me for not being good at/enjoying those tasks. I just enjoy other tasks more. And I struggle with these time consumers because while I didn’t always find my strengths to be exact in this study, the weaknesses… well, those were unfortunately true.

ENFP personalities tend to have poor practical skills, difficulty focusing, overthink everything, get stressed easily, are highly emotional, and fiercely independent.

Ouch.

But the beauty of having your weaknesses pointed out (and mine have been shown to me with this test and the loving words of some kind friends) is that when I’m aware these are my tendencies, I can make a conscious effort to recognize when I’m being a crazed, anxious, difficult person and step back to examine the why. Which is helping me do something I’ve never done before–say no and guard the time I need. Because while I might have tipped the scales toward extravert, I also know the introvert rises up everyday and needs a little time of withdrawal.

That’s why I get up early and sit in the dim light and drink my first cup of coffee without a three year old baby in my lap. Then I study.

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Obviously this was not an early morning. But it was wedding morning.

Ever wonder what a personality test would say about Jesus? It’s comforting to me when I realize He too was misunderstood by those closest to him. In Mark 4, he’s teaching so many parables and then takes his disciples alone and aside and explains the deeper meaning, yet, still when they cross the Sea of Galilee that night and the storm blows up and He rebukes the waves they ask—”Who is this man?”

They didn’t really know him, not yet.

I’m paging though My Utmost for His Highest for probably the fifth time and this line yesterday, “We can only be used by God after we allow Him to show us the deep, hidden areas of our own character.” It’s when we see our own shortcomings that we can surrender to grace. I’m not so good at that (ahem, independent is another word for likes-to-do-things-my-own-way). Chambers goes on to say it is our pride that holds us back from understanding Christ’s work in us.

But I want to understand. So I’ve lain down a list that’s between me and Jesus of those areas in which I don’t surrender. Maybe you have one too? And maybe instead of being consumed with how others perceive me–or how I perceive myself–I can become consumed with knowing and understanding God so He can work in me—conform me to His image.

And speaking of surrender, that’s a major theme in Katherine Reay’s Dear Mr. Knightley which I finished just the other day.

Loved Dear Mr. Knightley—talk about introspective. Sam’s journey from hidden to found is delicate and though she appears fragile, we discover she’s a steel magnolia (trapped in Chicago). I learned I don’t really know Austen, so I’m adding Emma to my list (might read with Madelynne) and definitely Jane Eyre for a Bronte fix. This story is told in letters, which is unique, and at first I wondered how we’d really get the tale, but then I got lost in the first person narration. My only complaint was that she had to come out of it at the end (for justifiable and necessary reasons) but I hated losing Sam’s voice at that moment. Took me a few pages to feel we were still in her head. Which, the writer in me knows, is the trick of third person deep POV. Harder than one would imagine. So get this one if you like a good romance (not steamy but slow and savory) and appreciate good literature. Yes, I realize I just made romance sound like pot roast. But that’s the kind of story this is—wholesome and filling.

Oh, and if you’re interested I’m venturing over to Goodreads, so you can find me there if you want to talk books.

One more thing!

You can get some these goodies for free this week over at ePantry. I love ePantry. They send me items that make my daughter say, “I like to clean with the good-smelling spray.” Win-win.

She’s talking about that Meyer’s Multi-purpose spray. Favorite cleaning product EVER. I use it on everything and worry about nothing.

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The sweethearts at ePantry (y’all they write me handwritten notes) will send you a free Mrs. Meyer’s cleaning kit with a $20 purchase. To make it super simple, they’ll suggest a basket for you based on your answers to four simple questions. You can add/delete as you want/need but this is the easiest, cheapest, funnest way to freshen your January house. Just go here to sign up or here if you’re an existing customer. They’ll take care of the rest.

For example:

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Enjoy! I know I do, especially when the kids are cleaning and I’m reading. Sure, sometimes that happens.

What are you reading? Learning? Studying?

Linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee and the #TellHisStory crew today.

 

Manic Monday · reflections

When Sunday’s Rest is Over & Monday’s Reality is Settling In

They’re squabbling over episodes of Harry and the Dinosaurs and I’ve begged for just a few minutes. I didn’t get up early enough to write and despite drinking Sleepytime herbal tea before bed I spent a restless night alternately hacking and worrying.

Welcome to Monday.

The past several days have been like a month of Sundays. We’ve rested and recuperated and tried to stumble our way back to reality. I’ve sat and held Amelia while she slept and Gilmore Girls played in the background. Saturday morning we moved slow and curled around steaming cups of coffee and read magazines that have been piling up for a month.

I gave myself permission to escape via the Internet or Netflix or the glossy pages of Food & Wine. Thanks to friends who’ve been the hands and feet of Jesus in the form of folded laundry and hot food, there’s been few dishes and even fewer piles of dirty underwear.

You know a friend is true when they fold your underwear.

For days we’ve lived in this alternate reality where the world gets to revolve around test results and doctor schedules and the hours of the Children’s Hospital coffee shop. I didn’t try to write and I didn’t try to work because I’ve never been able to divide my life up into little segments and square each away to deal with another. I’ve always been a big tangled mess where every little thing bleeds into everything else.

Which is why when I rest, I stop. I halt whatever project I’m on and just retreat away into something mindless. Then Monday’s reality hits hard.

And thank God.

Because there is relief in the structure, the schedule, the normal. Even when it’s a new normal of monitoring progress and scheduling physical therapy and trying not to google every blessed worry. Because even though we are built to rest, we are also built to work and create and exercise.

We are built for the Mondays as well as the Sundays.

May your week be glorious, friends. May it be productive and encouraging and the very best kind of ordinary. Then, when it’s Sunday again, may you find the softest pillow and the quietest hour.

And something good on Netflix.