faith · Uncategorized

Why God Does(n’t) Love You

He doesn’t love you because you pack healthy lunches.

He doesn’t love you because you volunteer for every ministry.

He doesn’t love you because you tithe ten percent.

He doesn’t love you because your kids always match.

He doesn’t love you because you have a big house.

He doesn’t love you because you have a new car.

He doesn’t love you because you went to college.

He doesn’t love you because you are pro-life.

He doesn’t love you because you have a well-ordered home.

He doesn’t love you because your children are healthy.

He doesn’t love you because everything always goes your way.

He doesn’t love you because you asked.

He loves you in spite of all these things. He loves you although you believe He couldn’t. He loves you when you’re perfect but I think He loves you more when you’re not.

Because then you need Him. Then you’re crying. Then you’re ready to say you are incapable of creating a perfect life.

There is no perfect life.

There is only a harsh world through which filters goodness and grace and glory.

Because God does love you. For all the reasons you think He shouldn’t.

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Books · resolutions · Uncategorized

Why (and How) I’m Reading 60 Books in 2016

This morning our normal routine finally resurfaced. Everyone went to school and this mom used her Starbucks gift card and holed up in a cold corner of the local Ingles. (If your grocery store does not have a Starbucks, I am very sorry.)

There was a man across the way, a big hulking biker looking man who is actually a really nice guy. I think he works in the meat department. Anyway, he was tucked away in the corner himself, on his break, reading.

Not on Facebook. Not mindlessly staring. Not talking too loudly on his cellphone. But reading a fantasy novel–as in actual paperback book–and  my writer’s heart sang.

Print’s not dead. Not by a long shot.

Of course print might mean Kindle or iBook and I won’t judge you if I see you scrolling on your phone (because I’ve got a big ‘ol finger pointing right back at me and my social media apps), but for me, there’s just something about a book I can hold in my hands. Which probably explains why I’m choosing a traditional publisher over self-publishing for my first novel.  This year will be a year of work and sweat and tears as I bleed again and again over that story (and the ones to come after), but this time next year? I’ll be able to hold a real book in my hands.

But in the meantime, as I pray and list and plan and wait for some revelation as to which project I should pour into next, I’m reading. A lot.

Sixty books in twelve months. Five in one month. More than one a week, my husband pointed out. Maybe you read more than that in a year? I’ve never tracked my consumption of novels and non-fiction, but this year I am. Because this year, I’m making intentional choices to do what I’ve always said I’m going to do.

And that includes reading books I’ve been saying I want to read.

There’s a shelf in my room that’s full because my mom retired and reads voraciously and then stacks books on my kitchen table with admonishments that I better love it. There’s a wish list on Amazon that frightens my husband with its one-clickability. There are author’s names that are becoming names of colleagues as I delve into publishing. There’s that number one tip for how to write better: READ more.

So I am. So I will. And wonder of wonders–I think you all want to as well. When I posted a picture on Instagram and Facebook of my stack stacking up, I received so many responses I started a group.

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60 in 2016.

That’s it. Nothing too catchy. Nothing too hard. Read whatever you want. The point is–read the story or the information or the opinion that’s found its way between two covers while you’re snuggled under yours.

My Monthly Five:

  1. A book I’ve been wanting to read. (Cannot wait to crack open Dear Mr. Knightly which I scored off the clearance shelf at a LifeWay bookstore in December.)
  2. A book I ‘should’ have already read. (Just finished Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.)
  3. A book that betters my heart and soul. (This month that’s Restless by Jeannie Allan–might bleed into February though because I’m also on the launch team for Kristen Welch’s Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World and it is SO good.)
  4. A book that develops my craft. (For me, that’s writing. Haven’t settled on this one just yet, but probably The Extroverted Writer by Amanda Luedeke.)
  5. A book that’s a current bestseller or new release. (This covers my book club’s choices, but since this month we chose Go Set a Watchman and I’ve already read that, I devoured Gone Girl. In three days.)

What are you reading and how much do you think you read in a year? Join the conversation and let me know if you want to take the #60booksin2016 challenge.

1000 gifts · Uncategorized

How Do You Measure a Year?

I’d forgotten all about these lyrics until my jazzercise instructor used the song in class the other day–

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, a year in the life?
Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/rent/seasons-of-love-lyrics/#ulRxxkIvQXcSY0JZ.99

The words all came rushing back along with lots of memories of drives back onto Berry’s campus late at night after Waffle House runs. My friend Melanie would put in her Rent soundtrack and roll down the windows and we’d be all young and idealistic and going-to-change-the-world.

Then we all grew up and life happened and years have gone by and we’re all world changers in some big and small ways if we open our eyes to see.

View More: http://candiceholcomb.pass.us/al-wedding

How do you measure a year?

2015 will blow out today, taking with it bands of storms that have plagued lives and spirits. The flood waters haven’t just risen in the Mississippi or spilled over the levees in St. Louis or my sleepy little college town.

They’ve spilled over my life in countless ways of hope and fear and promise and pain.

So do I measure the passing of 2015 in MRIs and blood work and countless unknowns? We took my almost-six-year-old for her sixth MRI yesterday. She’s considered stable right now, and most of the time, these days, we are too. But in other ways this will always be the year I watched my daughter’s little body degenerate–

and watched her learn how to put herself back together.

That’s the hope I need to carry. That she, as her physical therapist reminded us this week, always compensates and keeps going, never worrying about the fatigue or the pain.

May I learn that lesson from my child.

How do I measure a year?

In apologies and forgiveness, rather than meltdowns and tantrums.

In acts of kindness, not jealousy.

In second chances and mistakes that taught lessons.

In successes, not in failures.

2015 is also the year I gulped faith and pushed down insecurity and wrote a novel–bleeding heart and soul and family onto the pages that are under contract with a publishing house for release in early 2017.

This is the year I rebranded my blog and myself, as a Southern writer of life, and have shifted my focus to where my heart truly lies–in the words of creative non-fiction and fiction that paint portraits of the life I know and cherish.

This is the year I heard God whispering, Ask and you shall receive.

Not a give-me faith of praying for things, but a resolute faith of praying that I can walk with His plans, surrendered and passionate and in constant awe of how and where he can use me. A faith of believing that if God has placed a restlessness within my soul, it might be because He wants to do more with me than I ever imagined possible.

And more might simply be to live and love and give and hope through the measure of another year.

Uncategorized

When Christmas is One Week Away and You Wish it was Over Already

I should have known better than to write a post titled How to Underwhelm Your Overwhelmed Holiday.

Because that was kind of like praying for patience.

And while I did actually do those three things I suggested for simplifying this over-symbolized time of year (I said no to a couple parties, I volunteered at school because I know that’s what the teachers really want, I practice gratitude) my past three days have been anything but underwhelmed.

I put myself to bed at 8:30 the other night because EXHAUSTION. And I cried when I forgot to send the book for the preschool party exchange and I bought cookies instead of baked. No guilt, right?

Except, so much guilt.

At church Wednesday Night Supper (where they thought it was okay to feed this overwrought mom pasta, bread, and cheesecake in one sitting) I sat with another mom who just looked like she wanted to crawl in her bed and not come out until January. That’s basically what she told me. How chaotic it is to keep up with the parties and the expectations and the kid who wants to dress like the Grinch and wrap all the presents and read the devotions and actually be present and move the freaking Elf on the Shelf.

As an aside, I don’t know a single mom who actually likes Elf on the Shelf. You all do it for your kids. And that’s great, but if it makes you miserable, they might be happier if you stopped. Or if you just sat it in one place and told the kids Jingles is playing a month long game of Statue.

I gave her some advice–advice I need to take myself because trust me, Queen of Christmas Humbug I am. And then I told several other moms I’m launching a movement. And I’m serious.

No More Mom Guilt at Christmas. 

Here’s what I’m going to do and you can join me if you are certain and sure and ready to admit that what we’re doing out of love may actually not be the best thing for our families.

I’m going to get through the next week. I’m going to breathe and pray and read devotions for me and try to read the Jesus Storybook Bible or Unwrapping the Greatest Gift or Luke 2 from my NIV with my kids. I’m going to wrap presents and accept a few credit card charges and make the Southern Living cover cake.

I’m going to laugh and smile and be happy because that’s what matters most.

Then, when the frenzy is over I’m going to sit down with a glass of something that’s not eggnog or hot chocolate, and I’m going to make a list. I’m going to divide what all we’ve done into two categories: 

  1. What I Actually Enjoy About Christmas
  2. What Makes Me Want to Light My Hair on Fire and Run Away Screaming

Or, you know, something less extreme.

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The list from 2015.

Then I’m going to put the list away and pull it out again in November. I know by then I’ll be ready to dive in again and maybe a few items may migrate from #2 to #1, but at least I’ll be doing so with the perspective that this isn’t particularly enjoyable, but I’m doing it because a) Christmas is about being selfless or b) I know my kids will love it.

And then I’ll move that elf or ice those cookies or go to that party without grumbling because I gave myself a choice.

That’s the big secret friends–if you’re overwhelmed because you feel you don’t have a choice but to do all the things, know that you do. 

You have a choice.

You can say no.

You can stay home in your pajamas and watch the Grinch with your kids and eat the store bought cookies and they’ll say, “Hey, Mom, you’re being so nice, we think your heart just grew.”

And it will.

We need a hashtag. Any suggestions?

amelia · motherhood · Uncategorized

Looking Back and Moving Forward

Found this sitting in my drafts folder from almost exactly a year ago.

When our diagnosis was still AVM, when we were still being told surgery would be an “easy fix” (don’t you just love doctors’ optimism?!?) and had no idea that one year later, our daughter would still struggle.IMG_3481

There are good days and bad days and in-between days. Sometimes I still sit in the school parking lot and cry. But this line breaks my heart when I read back over and remember our darkest moments of this time: I can’t suit up for this fight with everyone watching. I think the biggest lie I bought during that time was the idea that I had to be strong. Instead my kids have learned more about trusting God from my inept brokenness than I ever could have taught them by faking my way through the fear.

Yesterday started with Amelia refusing to wear shoes to school. We’re in the parking lot of her tiny little Christian school at a tiny little church in the middle of the country with the mountains all around and I’m throwing her backpack and saying, “Well, fine, then. Stay home. I don’t care.”

Except I really, really did.

I don’t know how to walk this line. How to parent her through this time in our lives without caving to every little whim (she ate gummies for breakfast by the way). I don’t know how to discipline my child with the “slightly bleeding arterial abnormality” in her brain. I don’t want to yell, but I still need to be the mama. I don’t want to be selfish, but I still need a little bit of time for myself. I can’t suit up for this fight with everyone watching.

She didn’t go to school. Of course it was my one four hour block in the week where everyone goes to school and I keep “office hours” with the free wi-fi in Chic-fil-a and try to write. But another mama came to my rescue. Hers weren’t going either. They all played hooky at her house and ate funnel cakes at 10:30 a.m.

Don’t judge us. Sometimes everyone just needs a little break.

{Maybe I should insert here that our Sunday School Christmas party was the night before and it was at least 10 p.m. before anyone went to bed. Sort of explains the morning meltdowns.}

But when that break is over, reality is still there. My big girls are still in need of attention, the dishes still have to be done, and we’ve got a plumber bill coming to go with the new pipes in the bathroom.

And then apparently I ran out of steam…

What moments from this past year are you dwelling on as Christmas draws near?

Uncategorized

Waiting for the Fog to Lift

d5669-img_0941The fog creeps in at night and lays a shroud over our morning.   Warm air has banked in underneath this gray day and I’m wrapped in a cocoon of quiet as I strain past headlights in the dim white while I drive the little man to school.

For once he doesn’t shout or scream or holler and sing. He’s still and my mind races and I beg for the morning to go by slow. There is much work to be done and many words writing their way across my heart.

And there are those tears I shed, falling softly down my cheeks like the rain outside my window, tears I cried over the top of my youngest daughter’s dark head this morning while she wept on my shoulder and I faced the reminder again that our life right now is this hard, uphill battle always.

We plateaued a bit and coasted on routine and rhythm. Then last week she couldn’t grasp her cup and I mopped milk and hardwood floors everyday.

I drive through the misting fog and know this is how we’re covered.

Wrapped. Shrouded. Blanketed. Warmed.

Unable to see that clear view from the mountaintop, a life of endless possibility and wonder stretching out before us in green rolling hills and lush pastures and skies as blue as a dream, we instead peer through a gauzy haze and can only see the here. The now. The right this very moment.

And because we’re held so close, we cannot be afraid of what we cannot see. We can only be grateful for where we’ve already been and wait for the fog to lift.


Friends, we continue to covet your prayers for our Amelia and what is hopefully her healing journey from a neurological disorder that lingers in so many little ways.

You can read about that here and here.

Linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee and #TellHisStory.

Christmas · Uncategorized

What I’m Crushing on for Christmas

I know. It’s still two days before Thanksgiving. But y’all. There’s shipping to consider and handmade gifts from busy moms who are also entrepreneurs are well worth a little early shopping.

And crushing.

These items are on my favorites list for Etsy and Santa. Hoping you’ll find something to love–and just know purchasing from these shops directly funds small businesses with big dreams and great goals. Like empowering women, adopting children, and trusting the creative spirit that enlivens us all.

And there’s a little something for you at the end.

What I'm crushing on for

For My Tree…

I love these seriously sweet ornaments from One Less Lonely Child (formerly Black Tag Studio). We bought one last year for our tree, and this year I’m giving a couple as gifts. But the real gift is that your purchase helps fund my friends Lance and Julia’s adoption of Zara from Uganda.

For My Walls…

This wall statement has been on my list since Jennifer, 163 Design Company owner and designer, was my roommate at the Allume Conference in 2013. She and her parents handcraft these gorgeous pieces of jewelry and home decor from their home in Maine, but don’t let the address fool you. Jenn’s a southern girl at heart. Hence one of her newest creations that needs to find its way to my kitchen, Sweet Tea and Grits. And I’m forever in love with my necklace–Well With My Soul of course.

 

For My Kitchen…

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My family is seriously talented, y’all. My beautiful cousin, Jocie, launched her own business this year making her passion–beautiful, unique,  and functional pottery pieces as Jocie Pots. For my sister’s wedding, she pressed lace from the invitation into individual pieces for us, in addition to being our florist and designer. She’s got a cake stand standing by for me, and I’m thinking some of those perfect size mugs need to make their way into my cabinet as well. Because the only way to prepare for edits on my first book is with lots and lots of coffee.

For My Laptop…

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When we were graced with a gift that enabled me to purchase my own laptop this year, I went on a search for the perfect bag to accompany me to writers conferences (like FWCW and BRMCWC) and to my weekly “office”, a booth at our local Chic-Fil-A.

I’ve yet to make this purchase, but when I do, I’m hoping it’s the 13″ laptop sleeve with leather strap from Better Life Bags. This company’s vision is why I’d be willing to shell out big bucks for a quality bag I can use for a lifetime. Every piece is hand-sewn by a woman in the Detroit area with a barrier against traditional employment.

For My Kids…

My sister, Katy, will monogram anything that stands still. But how cute are these shirts? She’ll make you anything you want with the use of her heat press and a roll of glittery (or not) vinyl. That softball shirt cracks me up because we actually had a sister who played softball, so some of us didn’t have a life outside of tournaments. She can customize, so you just insert your passion. Right now ours would credit community theater, but come spring it will definitely be all about the track. You can find Katy hanging out on Facebook way too much as BoardHouseWife Crafts.

Now onto the real reason you read to the bottom of this post–

GIVEAWAY!

Julia will be giving away a personalized swirl ornament, Katy will monogram you a leather cuff, and if you’re local and order from Jocie Pots, I’ll make the trip to pick up your goodies so you don’t have to worry about shipping. (Well that last one’s just a freebie for all.)

Just leave me a comment here on the blog about what’s on your Christmas Wish List–and if you pin this to Pinterest or share on Facebook and tell me, you’ll be entered twice!

I’ll choose the winner by random selection on Black Friday. Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and may the cash be with you.

Comments closed! The winner is Hannah Hall! Congrats!