writing

What Makes Your Story

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My first morning on Edisto I poured my coffee and wandered down to the beach that’s almost unrecognizable behind the tower of manmade sand piles standing in for washed away dunes.

And I walked right into the sunrise.

I sat in that damp sand in my yoga pants with the bleach stain, closed my eyes, and hoped this was a blessing and a confirmation and a warmth I could cling to on all the cold nights when I wake up slightly riddled with anxiety over Amazon sales rankings and bookstore dealings.

I think it was.

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Standing in the sun, driving under the oaks, breathing deep the air that stirs my soul reminds me over and over that I am really nothing but a witness. My story is your story is our story–a retelling of a story that’s older and stronger and wiser than any words we could ever find.

In my small group right now, my leader friend talked about the four components of every story–not plot and character and setting and theme as writers believe.

Creation. Fall. Redemption. Restoration.

The parts that really matter. We all have them in our story. Repeating over and over in small moments and seasons and journeys. Manifesting bigger and bigger and ever-changing.

So I ask you today–what’s creating you? What’s shaping your story? What’s fallen or redeemed or restored within your own life?

And in the end, who’s writing your story? 

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With my fellow Word Weavers and conference writers, this week we mourn the loss of a great man who knew exactly who wrote his story. Who took time in his last days to tell me he was praying for mine. Who I called soon after my near fatal car accident in February to say, I know he said we should all live like we’re dying but that was a close one. I know beyond doubt Bruce’s health is full restored today and he’s standing in the sun. 

I’ll be sharing all about my Lowcountry book tour–and my current favorite podcasts, reads, and recipes–in the Newsletter tomorrow. Sign up for free or follow my author page on Facebook, Lindsey P. Brackett.

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joshua · just write life · marriage · writing

Dear Twenty-Two (a lesson in marriage)

561065_4402535546884_1042303218_nDear Twenty-Two,

Look at you, so flush with love and naivety in your crinoline and Scarlett O’Hara curls. Wedding day dress up. But you don’t know, twenty-two, what I know now. Thirty-seven and fifteen years later. You don’t know anything about marriage or motherhood or making every moment count.

You don’t know about mortgages and missed opportunities and meeting in the middle. You think you do. That’s the lovely beauty of youth. The endless idealism and optimism that rides the top of the waves, cresting right into the shore of adulthood, so certain and pure.

Bless your heart. You’re only twenty-two.

Fifteen years will pass quickly—in a blur really. You’ll have four different homes and four different children and the constant love of a steady man. You got that part right, twenty-two. You picked a man who’ll stick it out through the thick and thin and threadbare years of lean tables but baby-plump waistlines.

Fifteen years later you’ll understand a smidge more about the mystery of a good marriage. But only a smidge. Because there’s folks like grandparents and church leaders and pillars of the community who’ve been sticking it out for much, much longer, and when you tell them it’s your fifteenth anniversary on that hot July day, they’ll smile with knowing.

Fifteen is barely beginning in the long journey to fifty or sixty or seventy-five.

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Oh, twenty-two, you thought that one day was perfect and nothing could be more right, more true, more content. But more is coming.

More blessing. More sadness. More love.

If I could have told you then what I know now, you’d never have believed me. You’d never believe you’ll make selfish decisions or impractical ones; you’ll say hurtful things you nurse into the night on your side of the bed. You’ll say proud things too, and brag about how he loves you even when you’re broken, even when you’re wrong, even when you’re ridiculous with fatigue and deadlines.

Twenty-two, you believe all the right choices add up to a just right life. But standing on the other side of fifteen years, you’ll learn it’s not about right or wrong decisions. Making a life is about handling the choices you weren’t given—like the child with the neurological disorder or the job he believed in until the bitter end or the responsibilities that come with melding two families into one.

You’ll learn, sweet twenty-two. But when you do, promise me, you’ll never lose that spark of naïve idealism—that eternal, hopeful belief everything will all work out in its own time. That dark days can only get brighter and bright days will shore up your soul for the ones to come. Marriage is hard; life is difficult. But the journey through these years, the beauty of growing old with the one person who knows you inside out? More than worth the bumps along the way.602545_4402534626861_359516234_n

Keep smiling, twenty-two. That look of joy on your face? I want to see it there in another fifteen—or fifty—years.

Originally published in The Elberton Star, July 26, 2017. 

 

P.S. My debut novel, Still Waters,  is available for pre-order! It’s a Lowcountry love story about the power of family and forgiveness.

just write life · writing

Five Symbols of the South

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An Edisto sunrise. But we’re not there right now. Just dreaming. Photo credit Jocelyn A. Conrad. 

I’m on my back porch and the air is hovering between heavy humidity and storm-blowing breezes. Either way, rain’s been skirting all around our southern summer all week long.

The book has a cover now and if you’re in the know you’ve seen it. If you’re not, what are you waiting for? Sign up for my newsletter or let me know you want to join the launch team. Or just wait because we’ll be revealing it officially soon. It’s swirly and lovely and very southern romance–Gone With the Wind keeps popping up as a comparable, which makes me laugh because (don’t hate me), I don’t love GWTW.

I think I might have read it too young and need to re-read it now as an adult who can appreciate the history and the sweeping grandeur while hoping none of my daughters turn out like Scarlett.

You don’t get much more southern than Gone With the Wind, but I was recently asked if I’d write about what I saw as five symbols of the South. I settled on these and left off the hot-button topics, because at the end of the day, we’d all rather sit on the porch with a glass of sweet tea and the cicada chorus than sit at a table and talk anymore about that late unpleasantness.

Five Symbols of the South (that don’t hang off pickup trucks)

Food. The rule of true southern cooks raised in my mother’s generation is this: if it stands still fry it. I adhere to this each summer with okra and sometimes squash and on Father’s Day, I fried chicken for the first time in years. (Although my own mother has admitted it’s just easier to go by the Bojangles.) But I think southern cuisine is changing a bit with the times. I love seeing the shift toward locally grown and farm to table restaurants that make greens so good, you’ll slap your mama. But if you do, she probably won’t make you anymore fried okra and you’ll have to take your own self to Bojangles.

Fashion. I know very little about this myself, but I do know this: pearls go with everything. Sunday dress? Check. Funeral dress? Tasteful. Wedding sundress? No doubt. T-shirt and jeans? Why not. My sisters are far more fashion savvy than I, which is how we all wound up dressed alike for my sister’s wedding, right down to our cowboy boots. I got mine at Rack Room but now my almost-thirteen year old is wearing them out. If my novel makes loads of money, maybe I’ll spring for a sweet pair like these, handmade at King Ranch in Texas, by people who know boots.

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.

Football.  I still can’t tell you the rules of football. I just know if our guy has the ball, you have to holler until he crosses the end zone. This helps him run faster. But I do know that Friday nights and Saturdays are sacred down here. That wedding with the boots was strategically planned on a day UGA was off because certain family members said they’d wear earbuds. Which didn’t match the boots, obviously. I believe in the football tradition enough that it’s the background for my next novel and I might have a slight obsession with Friday Night Lights. Or just Kyle Chandler. Or both.

Faith. I tell people I write southern fiction because that’s true (even though Terry Kay told me I’m too young for that title), but I don’t tell people I write Christian fiction because here’s the thing–I am a Christian, so of course anything I write carries that viewpoint. I believe in happy endings and redeeming love and saved by grace. It permeates who I am. Down south, our culture is permeated by the Bible Belt and Southern Baptist and Methodism and Vacation Bible School. Sending my characters to church on Sunday is as natural as having them say “y’all” and “ma’am”. Where I make a story, however, is when that faith gets shaken by its culture and has to learn to stand on its own.

Family. Every good southern book has one iconic scene at the family dinner table, and the more dysfunctional and offbeat the family, the better the tension and the narrative. I love my family, but our little idiosyncrasies are finding their way into everything I write. Makes for good storytelling but awkward family dinners. I close ranks, though, when somebody from outside wants to comment. This family is mine. We’re allowed to poke at one another, but nobody else is getting through. Find your own family to write about. Trust me, everybody’s tree has some crooked branches and those make the best stories.

What defines your home place? Your culture? Ever thought about it?

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.

faith · just write life · motherhood · writing

When You Really Don’t Want to Run the Race Anymore

StockSnap_I5APPDXHX3Had one of those pinnacle moments of motherhood this weekend. One of those times where I thought–this moment is it. The choice I make, the choice she  makes, in THIS moment will define how I parent her for the rest of her life.

Actually, now that I think about it, I’ve had more than one moment like this with this particular child this past month.

And I’m not so certain she’s the one who’s learning. I pray she is. I hope she is. I think she is. But really? I’m learning the hard and fast truth about motherhood, writing, life–you have to keep going even when you don’t think you can. 

She fell Saturday morning barely 25 meters into the 3200 meter race at the state track meet for youth. That red-hued track ate up her knee and elbow and pride. The whistle blew for a restart because the rules allow it that early into a race.

(You know, quite often we aren’t as far along as we think, and the opportunity to begin again is right there if we take a few steps back.)

The gatekeepers let me out there as soon as I said she was mine, and I wiped the bloody trickle and slapped on a bandaid and told her to line back up. That’s the worst part of motherhood, you know. When your baby is crying and hurting and you know you have to make them finish. When you know it would be easier to say, good try, there’s always next year, you’re hurting so let’s quit. 

But truth is I called up reality–we drove three hours so she could run in one race. This is her event. She’s had a tough season, but we’re finishing. It’s two miles, I told her, and you’ll be done in fifteen minutes. Line up.

I practically pushed her back to that starting line believing she might make it one round and then beg to come out. I would’ve let her. Because she got back up and tried again.

She finished the race.

We run with endurance the race that is set before us…

The preacher called up those words Sunday morning amidst a congregation that featured a woman who left her Georgia home in 1954 and served 38 years in Nigeria as a missionary. The pews were filled with her girls, come visiting for her 90th birthday. What a race she’s almost finished.

…run with ENDURANCE…

My girl might carry that scar on her knee for awhile. She has a wall full of medals and ribbons from other races she’s won, but this one–this race she lost by all the standards which measure speed–this is the race where she truly gets the prize.

This is the race I will remember in this long marathon of motherhood and grace. The one that cost the most. The one that made me set aside the instinct to coddle and press forward with the commandment to endure.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, [a]fixing our eyes on Jesus, the [b]author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. –Hebrews 12: 1-2

 

faith · family · Home · marriage · writing

What Happens When You Move 10 Miles Down the Road and Everything Changes

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New living room. Perfect for dance parties and silly boys.

I know things have been quiet around here since I revealed what happens when the three year house becomes the ten year house becomes the sold house. There’s still a lot to say about that and God’s timing and sense of humor and my incredible lack of patience and grace, but y’all… I’m really tired.

Moving is no joke. Can I get an amen?

Ten miles. That’s about how far we went. Far enough to jump the county line and need a new school situation. Far enough to make me choose between my familiar Ingles with the bag boys who learned how to write complex sentences under my tutelage. Far enough to make me understand why this stretch of rural highway annoyed my husband every afternoon for five years.

Somehow we moved into a bigger house with less dedicated space. One less bedroom, a basement in need of a true finish, and a family room big enough for our family of six and all of our friends who are just as outnumbered in this parenting gig as we are.

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New obsession with items I  have wall space for. Well, porch space actually.

That’s why we bought this house. So everyone can come over and drink sweet tea on the back porch and the kids can run wild on our almost-four-acre subdivision lot without us having any real worries.

But this different space means everything is different. I can’t put the same furniture in the same places. My Ikea tables are woefully out of place. There’s nowhere to plug in a lamp next to my couch. Our master bedroom is ginormous which is good because my kids like to play hide and seek in there. For the first time ever, there’s room under the bed because, hello? Basement = lotsa storage.

It’s a little like living the dream. Really. Even though it’s not my dream farmhouse with a wrap around porch.

(Joshua says he’ll build me one. He’s a much better person than I am in case you’re wondering.)

Yet we’re still wandering around. A little uncertain about things like end tables and dining room chairs and pictures to hang. My friend Brooke said I’m not allowed to hang my beautiful wall art from 163 Design until it truly is Well With My Soul.

So I’m sipping coffee and the Word on the back porch. Soaking up the sounds of birds and cicadas and squalling kittens who won’t leave the dog alone.

Because you should always get new kittens when you move.

 

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You should also knock off from unpacking and climb a mountain with your Florida friends.

Here’s another life lesson about moving. Somehow ALL the kids stuff–including scraps of paper and toys you intended to throw away–will make it to the new house and get unpacked. However, their daddy and I still can’t find:

  • the alarm clock
  • the printer
  • his shoes
  • the Wii console

So this is where we are right now. Big changes. Little changes. And a whole lotta Jesus being spoke over me by blessed friends who love me through my crazy.

And a husband who is willing to put up with me for another fourteen years and beyond. Here’s to a new house and a new life.

family · Home · hospitality · just write life · writing

When Your 3 Year House Becomes Your 10 Year House Becomes Your Sold House

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I tucked myself into the corner of the sectional couch we finally broke down and bought last year so we would have furniture that fit this tiny living room. Early in the morning the sunlight shafts through a kitchen window I’m not great at scrubbing clean and lights up a worn table with perpetually sticky chairs.

This is my quiet place. For three years I’ve risen early and written hard and sipped coffee and liked this little house best with that golden pool of light beaming on my hardwood floors.

In some ways, we outgrew this house before we ever moved in. When we bought it in 2006 at the climax of the real estate inflation, mere months before the fall, we figured three years.

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Three years. New paint. New carpet. A few handy little things and then we’d be moving on. I had two girls then, one toddling and one nursing. My mama told me this house wasn’t big enough for more kids.

Ten years later we’ve raised four kids in that house and hosted friends and family and parties and memories.

We tried to sell in 2010. Again in 2012. Again in 2014. Fourth time’s the charm. Did all the right things–items in storage, fresh and clean, highlight the good. Big backyard. 4 bedrooms… just very little family space. Really 3 bedrooms and an office and don’t forget we have fiber internet!

IMG_7156None of that mattered. When we get all the paperwork signed and sealed our little house that built me into a mother, a writer, a better person–this little house will be sold to a neighbor who felt the timing was finally right for her to take it on and share it with others. This little house is about to be a ministry, a caregiving place, a breath of hope.

We prayed that years ago. Thought maybe we’d even be the ones to keep it.

Y’all, when this house is finally sold it will be at the last possible moment before our loan changed, before we reached the end of our rope with what to do about finding me space to write, the kids space to play, my husband space to work from home.

Always it’s been one of those first world problems. Six people cramped in 1400 square feet. We always knew we could make it work and in the last few years, I’ve made a conscious effort to offer hospitality without comparison. Because I was tired of telling my kids our house was too small to welcome our friends.

That is never, ever true. No matter the size of your place, true friends will sit on a narrow porch and play games with ten kids running around inside because it’s raining.

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We take help in all sizes.

Some of those true friends helped us load a U-Haul with material wealth and drive ten miles down the road this week. To a place that’s bigger–and plenty better in some ways.

But that house that grew us into a family will always be out true first home.

P.S. I know you all want a tour of the house…. I’m working on it! Had to clear up some space on my fancy video camera, i.e. phone.

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Notice the difference between Annabelle’s friends and Madelynne’s… of course, they did unpack all the books to find the ones they wanted to read.