1000 gifts · reflections · writing

One Scary Sunday Afternoon … and One Good Gift

img_0907

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.


 

img_0928

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.

img_0910

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.

img_0914
source
motherhood · writing

Big Little Lies, Milestones Testing, and Trump

IMG_6389
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.

IMG_6386
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.

IMG_6384
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.

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

3.1 Things I’ve Learned from #31Days

c904b-mvc-100s
That’s my now 11 year old baby in the pumpkins her first Halloween. Time doesn’t fly, y’all. It sprints on ahead and dares you to keep up.

I truly love the #31days movement. Really, I do.

I just can’t do it.

I managed it (somehow!) in 2013. 31 posts in 31 days on one topic. I was proud of that effort. So maybe that’s why I just don’t have the heart for it here anymore. For one thing, this space for words competes with all my other spaces. Like the Splickety Publishing Group, where I get to edit really great stories and work with really great people. Or the short fiction world which has welcomed me so warmly already that I fear there’s a slew of rejection slips just waiting for my name. Or the hometown newspaper that puts my words in real ink and paper print every other Friday and makes me feel like a real writer every single time.

I love those places. Together with this place, they’ve helped me find my writer’s voice. And they’ve helped me define what I want my blog to be.

I want a writer’s space. An author’s page. A site with a little encouragement, a lot of thoughtfulness, and a dash of humor. This is my place to brand myself in a way that lets me still be myself–in whatever way I feel that day.

So what did I learn from #31days?

  1. I don’t have the capacity to post everyday. Writing is emotionally draining and this month alone I’ve written (and had edited) two short stories, two newspaper columns, and all these posts. There are status updates and tweets and all that Slack convo with my fellow Splicketeers. I’ve edited eleven flash pieces and articles, led my Word Weavers group, and drafted new versions of my info pages. I have to remind myself of all these things because I need to realize it’s okay for my blog to not be updated more than twice a week. And that’s about all I’ve got.
  2. I bore easily. I’ve always known this but it’s even more evident when I have to stick to one topic in my writing. This is probably also why I really like short stories. I get to write one theme, one way, and then move on to the next round of folks rattling around in my head.
  3. Sometimes I would rather watch When Calls the Heart or Friday Night Lights or Friends than write. And that’s ok. Writers are readers, that’s true. I’ve read voraciously my whole life. But you’ll be hard pressed to find a writer who doesn’t also appreciate a well-written television show or movie. This month my girls and I have fallen in love with the love story of Jack and Elizabeth, I’ve learned a few football terms from Coach Taylor and embraced my inner Tami Taylor with a pair of boots, and when I’ve needed a laugh, Central Perk has always been the place to be. The point is, when I indulge in the stories of someone else, I actually become a better writer.

and that .1? I really like reading other people’s posts. My favorite for this season of my life? Jessie Kirkland’s How to Snag an Agent. Real, timely advice for aspiring writers.

November crept in this morning. Here Sunday dawned drizzly gray, and a new challenge–the infamous National Novel Writing Month–buzzed through my social media feeds. I might be there, but I promise I’ll be back here with snippets of our days and in pursuit of my quest to Just Write Life.

31 Days: Fear

Overcoming the Fear of Not Good Enough: 31 Days

Plant where your roots grow deepest.that willbe goodenough.I have this problem. Maybe you have it too?

I sometimes say yes to things because I fear no one else will. And because everyone is looking at me. Sometimes I say yes because I want to direct that play or write that post or read that book, but I don’t consider if I’m really ready to handle that situation in my current life.

Then I realize–I’m in way over my head and I’m not equipped to do this thing. Whatever it may be.

That happened when I took the position as MOPS coordinator for our local chapter three years ago. I had a new baby, had been staying home a year, had served already on the leadership team, was the only member of the sponsor church left on the team…of course I would lead this group because I needed it so badly in my own life.

It’s really hard to serve when you want to be served yourself. Just so you know. And I kept being told that God equips the called, rather than calling the equipped. While I do believe that, I also believe that sometimes God is shaking his head when I’m nodding mine.

I can look back on those two years of leadership now and see God’s hand. That he let me be a bridge leader that helped the group transition to the amazing ministry it is now–and not that it wasn’t great then. But He let me lead during a crisis time when everything felt unsettled and He let me see that even when I know I’m not equipped, He is. So he gave me people on my team who buoyed me up, met my soul-hungry needs for spiritual support, and helped me find where my gift truly lies.

It’s not leadership.

And I can be okay with “not being good enough” at that because I’ve found where my spirit truly quickens.

I am a writer.

Saying those words took a lot of over coming that big not-good-enough lie too.

I haven’t published enough.

I don’t have enough followers.

I can’t understand all the lingo.

No one’s really paying me to do this. 

But I’m doing it. I’m saying it. I’m claiming it.

I’m believing that I am good enough for whatever I may be called to do with this gift. And I’m learning everyday that I can do more than I ever imagined.

I’d encourage you to ask yourself–is it that you feel “not good enough”? Or is the true wrestle in your soul coming from the feeling that you’re not where you’re supposed to be?

Because when we let ourselves be planted where our roots can grow deepest, that’s when we become strong and spread ourselves wide–

and are always good enough.

31 Days: Fear

Sticks and Stones and Fearing People: 31 Days

Fear of man will prove to be a snare,

but whoever trust in the Lord will be kept safe.

Proverbs 29:25

We hurled angry words at one another across that small bedroom of a rented house in the mountains. Feelings we’d kept pushed down until we cast them at one another like sticks and stones.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. 

What a lie.

Sometimes we have to break; we have to bruise and bleed and burn before we heal.  Holding back resentment and jealousy and pride only keeps us trapped inside our fear.

I can’t tell my sister (or my friend or my spouse or my co-worker or my child) how I really feel because what if she gets mad at me? Fear of confrontation has locked me so deep inside myself I can’t see beyond my own hurt to the heart of the matter. Face the fear of confrontation.

Ensnared by my own fear.

Not her words, her actions, her fear–but mine. My own worry that peace is better than pain.

Maybe sometimes peace is worth the keeping quiet. But when peace comes at the cost of anxiety, depression, and retreat, when keeping peace means not keeping those you love and value and cherish–

the time has come to fight free from the trap. Say the words and release the snare. Face the fear of confrontation and maybe, just maybe, you’ll find yourself speaking truth for the very first time. 

And rekindling a relationship that had nearly been lost.

This post is part of my 31 Days series: When Fear is Crippling. You can read all the pieces here. And in the comments below, you can tell me I’m not the only one who gave herself a stomach ulcer when faced with confrontation.

31 Days: Fear

Because Failure Is What I Fear Most: 31 Days

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was nine years old. That’s when my parents put a copy of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie in my hands, and I thought, I could do this too.

Tell stories. String words together to form images and persons and tears. Send someone into a world so different, yet so the same as their own that they long to step into pages and walk alongside those who exist only in imagination.

I wrote stories and poems and songs and terrific, terrible works of childhood. At twelve I was probably more of a writer than I am even today. In childhood, there was no fear of admitting this dream, because every child has an outlandish dream to become something truly great.

Then the fear set in, rooted itself deep and tight in my soul and heart and mind.

You’ll never be good enough. Failing Other People

You’ll try and you’ll fail and no one will ever respect you. 

They will judge you and tear you to pieces and you will be ashamed.

So I found my safety net. Teaching became a natural path for this creative type who wanted security and maybe just a touch of success. I knew I could be really good in a classroom. I knew I had compassion and idealism and knowledge. I knew that the best teachers evoke change in their students because of the passion brought into the room everyday. I knew I could do this, I could build up my confidence, and then, maybe someday, I’d stop scribbling in the dark and bring some of my own works into the light.

I floundered around in college. Theater welcomed me in and let me be part of telling stories that truly came alive. I learned to research and listen and delve deeper into words on a page. I thought this would be it–I’d be a high school drama teacher who maybe, one day would also write a book. That would become a play.

That would share a story.

Then I found no fear in love and settled down with a steady man who would give me the moon and the stars if he could. Then we had four beautiful, boisterous children.

Then I realized fear had taken over my life.

Mid-thirties approached with the knowledge that I had never been published, never been exposed, never been called a writer in the way I wanted to be. Blogging wasn’t satisfying this deep longing of my soul.

Blogging was teaching me to find the voice that would tell the stories buried in my heart–stories that weren’t always mine, but someone else’s. Stories that would keep putting light and hope and redemption into this dark world of fear.

And I found to my surprise that failing other people is nothing compared to the discovery that I had failed myself. 

So I wrapped my fear and my hope in a pretty shirt from StitchFix, packaged it into a neat one page and a 500 word excerpt, and I sat down at the table across from an editor and a real, published, well-known author.

And she told me I shouldn’t be afraid of my gift. That I was a talented writer. That my voice was strong.

And in that moment, the crippling weight of fear lifted, and anticipation, that blessed hope that someday this will happen, took its place.

You can read a sample of my fiction over here and here on the Lightning Blog with Splickety Publishing. And if you sign up for email posts, you’ll know when my award-winning short story comes out in Southern Writers Magazine later this month (because I might shout that from the rooftops).

Tell me–what’s holding you back from your dreams? Because kids and laundry and life will always tug at me, but I tell myself over and over, At least I’m trying. Can I help you try in some way?