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:

Extraverted-Intuitive-Feeling-Prospecting-Turbulent

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.

living local · motherhood · reflections

When All You Really Need is 10 Quarters to Do Laundry

I came home from the beach a week ago to this greeting from my husband who likes to try and reduce my stress.

“So, you want the good news or the bad news?”

Hmmm….well the bad news was the washing machine had been broken since Tuesday. But he thought he could get it fixed.

With at least $85 and a technician.  Luckily we had this conversation in my parents’ kitchen over pizza after I had napped in the car while my daddy drove two kids, me, and lots of our stuff back home from a week at my favorite place.

Cushioned the blow. And my dad chimed into this conversation with, “You know I think I saw a YouTube video on how to fix that problem.”

Really, sometimes I wonder how people survived before YouTube and Google were actions that can solve anything.

But…fixing it required more hands than Joshua has and more patience than our eight year old has when she’s out of shorts. Plus, I honestly wasn’t sure if this would work (much as I wanted it to) and I had the crazy notion that the laundromat could be a good experience.

Yes, I think taking all four of my kids into a laundromat on a Monday afternoon sandwiched between school and Family Night at the Fair could be a good experience.

I wanted them to see how the other side lives. What it’s like not to have a washer/dryer handy for your favorite shirt at any time. What it means to choose between after school ice cream and clean socks. What it is to mingle with people who look a lot like us but don’t walk in our socio-economic circle in which a laundry room is a necessity and not a luxury.

I wanted to have a smidge of an experience of what it might look like to live out words I penned nearly a year ago.

Because we don’t really know each other until we do dirty laundry together.

So we did. We got an education from a kind gentleman who wasn’t put out that they had taken over the folding tables in order to complete homework. We exchanged smiles with a Hispanic father whose daughter was infinitely calmer than any of mine. We marveled at those who do this on a regular basis and are pros.

But mostly we just learned about Georgia’s habitats and fourth grade algebra and listened to the refrain of the Daniel Tiger app. Being stuck in the laundromat meant I couldn’t escape into the internet or my bedroom or even a novel because between four kids and four washers with timers, something constantly needed attention.

Which was the real heart of this experience for me.

In my own home, I often hole up and overlook the outside world. Including the world of my kids, sometimes. It’s easy to let them retreat to their rooms to complete homework or a project or a book. It’s easy to flip on a show and call it “family time.” It’s nice to fold laundry by myself in my bedroom with a podcast going.

But sometimes that means I’m out of step with all that’s going on around me. I want to see. I want to experience. I want my kids to know how good we really have it.

Even if that sometimes means I need 10 quarters for every load of laundry that needs washing.

What about you? Any new experiences lately? 

Oh, and YouTube worked. He fixed the washer. And after seeing Madelynne’s photo on Instagram, I had no less than five friends tell me I could have used their machines. Which was kind and a lesson to me about remembering it’s okay to humble myself and air my dirty laundry with a friend, too. 

faith · reflections

Because I Know the Feeling {A Bit of My Depression Story}

After reading Ann Voskamp’s beautiful challenge to the church and because I was saddened that Robin Williams lost his fight, I sat down and let the Spirit move. That was two weeks ago, and I’ve sat on this for a while and listened for the prompting to post. It came.

I was heavy with the swollen belly of my second baby girl when I got the call. I’d eased myself into the narrow space of a middle school desk only a few minutes after the last bell sounded and that phone on the wall rang. It was nearly nine years ago. Land lines were still common and I was teaching seventh grade language arts and drowning in my own depression as we faced months of financial strain and uncertainty. All the while I was preparing to do this new baby thing before the ink had hardly dried on the first’s birth certificate.

But he told me to sit down and so I did, and then my husband gently told me Michael was dead.

There was no way to cushion the blow or sugar coat the news and I’m not even sure if I cried right then. I think my whole body went numb and I know I kept breathing long and hard and deep because he asked me if I was going to be okay or if he should come get me. And I asked what happened and he told me in softest way he could.

Our dear friend had taken his own life after calling his wife from the top of a mountain and telling her goodbye.

Bipolar disorder had ravaged his joy and the man who used to be known for his 1000-watt smile and insatiable zest was put back to the dust a mere three days later.

And I hugged and held his wife and buried my grief in the shoulders of lifelong friends and stayed strong for the new little life growing inside me and didn’t scream into my pillow at night even when I felt like the weight of this world would crush my chest.

I didn’t say what I thought–that if one of the most godly, Jesus-loving men I knew could lose this fight how could I believe I would even survive a round in the ring?

I stayed choked up quiet and tried to pray harder and there was no one to hold my hand and let me weep who had walked through the fire and come out the other side and I bought the lie that I just wasn’t good enough until it broke me into pieces.

Broke me into pieces all over the honey hardwoods of this house when it was still our new house and the paint color that we paid a man so many dollars to slap on the walls came out all wrong.

And I knew then that I would never do anything right or good or better but I kept feeding myself the lie that I would get better and it was just hormones and stress and a thousand other causes.

And no one told me it was okay to take the antidepressant and I didn’t even know it was okay to ask and I gulped water when what I needed was air and everyday I drowned a little bit more.

Everyday for a year until the next summer when I was home alone with two toddlers and a lost mind and the idea that maybe I should just lock the door and leave and hope someone else would come along and be a better mother and a better wife.

I don’t remember when the decision was made to ask for help. I don’t remember if there was advice from my closest friends or my mother or another mom who whispered to me that I could try some medicine and it would be okay. It didn’t make me weak. It didn’t mean I had no faith. It didn’t mean I was doomed to a dose for the rest of my life.

It just meant I needed a life preserver until I could get back to shore.

I’m on the shore now, almost always, but sometimes my toes wander a little too far from that sand and I recognize the crash of waves getting too high and I know when I need to back up, take a break, ask for the physical help of hands that can feed, and clothe, and love as well as I. I know I have a tendency toward depression, likely genetic, as I learn more family history and see more of my own tendencies manifest in those who share my DNA. I know I’m creative and have long tried to make myself fit a box that isn’t my shape and as I settle more and more into this skin that the Creator Himself stretched over my soul, I know the warnings and how there are some thorns I will always have no matter how much I may pray for their removal.

I know how to ease the sting though. How to count blessings and beg forgiveness and believe in each new day with no mistakes in it yet. I know how to be proud of the talents I’ve been given and I’m working on not resenting those that weren’t tasked to me.

And I’m treading carefully when the Lord prompts me to share the bits of my story that struggle with depression and anxiety because I know the sensitivity of the topic.  But here’s what I know even better–

I sure wish I’d known how to share this with Michael. Because no matter what we think when we reach the pits of despair, there is always someone waiting to pull us out.

For more about how Michael’s incredible wife Natalie has lived in the wake of his mental illness and death, visit her author page or pickup a copy of her book, Tears to Joy