Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Real" Ready

October 1st is in two days and I'm about to have a panic attack. 

That's because I've determined to write every day for the 31 days of October and I don't feel ready. 

I've typed up lists of what I want to write about and I've scribbled out some stuff and my brain is chock full of ideas. But I'd hoped to have actual posts just waiting in the wings and, well, my wings are sitting empty. 

That's okay though. I've always worked best under pressure.

Also, I didn't have a button and that was more concerning to me than it should have been.

But the Nester went and made free buttons for people like me and by some sort of miracle I figured out how to customize it. I hope I can figure out how to magically stuff some code in there and make it a real-life, working button.

Some of you may still be wondering what "31 Days of Real" is all about? 

I realize that it's sort of an abstract topic but I'll do my best to explain without giving too much away.

It's about real life, mine and yours. 

It's about acceptance. 

It's about hope. 

It's more descriptive than it is prescriptive but I hope that in some of my own story sharing, you'll find a bit of sisterhood and encouragement.

Over the last few years of writing here, I've realized that "writing about the real" is what I do best and enjoy most. 

Apparently y'all feel that way too. I get the most comments, e-mails and feedback on the posts that are the easiest for me to write but the most difficult to actually publish.

I'll be honest. I wish that my area of expertise was 31 days to Easy Organic Baking or 31 Days to J-Lo Hair or 31 Days to Compliant Children. Instead, I am prone to burning the things I bake, my hairdresser recently cut my hair entirely too short, and all of my children had meltdowns of various sorts in Wal-Mart yesterday.

So it looks like I'll be writing about the real for quite a while.

And I'm learning that it's a blessing even though it's messy and challenging and embarrassing. 

I'm guessing that you feel like you're stuck with real too. My hope is that this series will inspire you to embrace the life you actually have instead of the one you wish you had or the one you feel like you've settled for. 

I'm learning that beauty and acceptance and redemption can bloom full in the midst of messy and crazy and broken. 

Sometimes it's about unrealistic expectations. Sometimes it's about choosing to see things differently. Always, it's about grace and grace gives birth to freedom. 

If you're anything like me, you've probably wasted a lot of energy trying to live a life that's not yours to live. Whining and wishing, resenting and retreating...I'm prone to these things and let me tell you, they're life-draining, not life-giving.

I want to live full, not empty. 

As far as topics are concerned, I plan to dish about quite a lot, all through the lens of realism and grace: home, food, kids, marriage, and a fair amount of miscellany. The posts will be true to my tag-line: a little scoop for every slice of life.

If you have ideas or topics you'd like for me to explore, I'd love to hear them! 

I'm excited and nervous and overwhelmed. I'm afraid that I'll run away after 13 days and then say, "Oh, it was supposed to be 31 days? I thought it was 13 days. Silly me, I must have reversed the 3 and the 1." 

It's safe to say I may need a lot of grace and some hand-holding along the way.

See you in two days! 


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Monday, September 26, 2011

Free to Be Three


He stumbled into the living room rubbing sleep-swollen eyes, clutching faithful blankie in one hand and Buzz Lightyear sunglasses in the other. Even though it was 7 a.m. And raining. 

He is the poster child for randomness right now and I love this stage entirely too much. I wish it could last forever.

At three years old {almost four,} he does not apologize for wearing mismatched clothes or backwards shirts. 

Snow gloves in September? 

A bowl full of milk for dipping one's muffin? {Notice the sunglasses still within reach.}

Reading a book while sitting in a cardboard box in the middle of the bed?

Watching TV while sitting in the same cardboard box in the middle of the living room?

{Obsessed with cardboard abodes in general?}

Bandit masks with Pollyanna hats?

It's all good with him. And it's all good with me too.

Had he been my firstborn instead of my thirdborn, we'd all be missing out.  

Ten years ago I was a bundle of insecurity and control, steamrolling my grown-up conventions over her free-spirited expression, too caught up in perfection and appearances to allow for mismatched clothes and light-up shoes. 

It's one of my biggest parenting regrets. 

She had a mile-wide independent streak and I was too busy trying to mold her into my vision of perfect, pink, compliant girlhood. Thank goodness I realized it before she was grown and have since changed my ways, vowing never to go back. 

The point is, kids do not apologize for being who they are. They wear their bold colors with confidence and we'd do well to soak it up instead of stamping it out. 

I know that eventually self-consciousness wins out and that freedom of expression emerges in more socially appropriate ways. Its inevitability brings tears to my eyes. 

Until then, I'll love every second of the kooky, unexpected, sheer craziness of abandon. 

My 38-year-old "refinement" marvels at his three-year-old recklessness, wishing desperately that I could be as brave and adventurous as he is, if only for a day. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Book Love & Beauty at The Nest

Winner of the Grace for the Good Girl giveaway is....

Kristen {#4 in the comments}. Congratulations! {I sent you an e-mail.}

For the rest of you, head on over to wherever you buy books and get a copy. You can read more reviews here and maybe even win a copy from some of the other reviewers.

Lucky me, I was able to share in the book love at the Nester's party for her sister, Emily, who just happens to be the author of this book. I know, some sisters just get all the skills. 

Lily, Emily, Me, Nester

But you just have to love them because they are such swell girls, welcoming and real and silly. Also? They wear boots with party dresses. Love that.

I got to hang out with Lily and we were so engrossed in conversation {shocker} we didn't even realize we were blocking all the other guests from the brownies. I told everyone how she runs an empire out of her home and it's true. {Non-subliminal message: Go buy a Padalily.}

And if all of that wasn't enough, I got to hug Bonita in real life. Bonita says the nicest things to me. Sincere encouragement is always such a blessing. {Non-sublimal message: Read Bonita's blog.}

Bonita & Me

And right before I left, I met Ellen {of Handmade Recess} and I told her what a fan I am of her handmade bags. Seriously, I had just been at her blog a week earlier looking at her pretty, pretty wares. {Non-subliminal message: Visit Ellen and buy a lovely bag.}

I've never been to a blog convention or anything like that so it was a real treat to chat with fellow bloggers. Lindsey has a kitchen blog and Melissa has an event-planning blog and it's just fun to meet other girls doing their thing like I do. 

As for the party itself, that Nester, she went and killed a thousand books just for their pages. Librarians everywhere just formed a mob and are planning to hunt her down. 

She made book-page wreaths and book-page garlands and book-page leaves and book-page trees and a book-page tablecloth. She even a book-page chandy. Oh it was just swoon-worthy in every way.

I found myself looking covetously at my kids' homeschool books this morning, wondering if they'd miss a few pages or if maybe we could just make crafts out of their books instead of having to write in them. 

And while I am rambling, I just have to tell you this hilarious story: 

So I met this sweet and fun girl, Melissa. She's friends with Emily and the Nester and she'd told Emily at some point how great it was that she'd gotten so many well-known speakers and authors to endorse the book. As she went on to list such noteworthy people, she threw my name {not "Scooper," but my real name} in the pot with all of these famous writer / speaker gals. 

Well, Emily was clearly puzzled and asked Melissa, "Um, do you know her?" To which Melissa replied, "Well isn't she one of those Women of Faith speakers or something?" Emily laughed and said, "{Insert my real name!} That's Scooper!" 

I probably told that all wrong and in the worst paraphrase possible but you get the gist. It struck me as hilarious. Because really, I live in obscurity sort of in the middle of nowhere and my name has never been on a poster or book or anything else. My speaking gigs have consisted of classrooms, tours of historic sites, and when I ran for student government stuff a hundred years ago. 

I am not even almost famous. 

But I do think it would be funny if Melissa had started a big rumor at that party and I got famous for being no one. It would be funny until everyone realized I didn't have a clue about anything. Sort of like when Kramer got fired from Brant Leland and he didn't even work there to begin with. When Jerry asked him what was in his briefcase, Kramer just said, "Crackers." 

{That line gets me every time.}

I keep envisioning myself all dressed up and speaking to throngs of people about nothing and carrying a briefcase full of crackers around with me.

Goodness, I have seriously digressed. Apparently this post has followed after a Seinfeld episode. It's become a post about nothing. 

Anyway, if I don't post for a while, you'll know why: I'm too busy being famous. 


P.S. If the formatting is all wonky, my apologies. Blogger has a new editing set-up and it may be the death of me. Also, do any of you have trouble commenting? I guess you can't really comment and let me know but if so, send me an e-mail. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Grace for the Good Girl: This Girl's Review and a Giveaway

I've decided that the most difficult praise and gratitude is sometimes for that which means the most. 

Writing a review of Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life has felt a bit like writing an Oscar speech, not because I've won the award but because I have so much I want to say and my words don't seem to do this important book any justice whatsoever. 

I've started and restarted this post. I've scribbled out notes and then decided they're no good either. I've deleted and cut and pasted and just walked away from the computer altogether.  

Normally I'm not like this. When it's time to write I can usually write. But not this time. This morning I shared my writing frustration with my running partner and she said, Can't you simply write what you just told me? That speaks volumes about what this book has meant to you. 

She's right. I could simply tell you that I have no words and that you need to buy the book yesterday. End of post.

But if you're still reading, allow me to gush. 

Without even getting to the nuts and bolts of the book, I can tell you that Emily Freeman shares a life-changing message and I wish I'd read it years ago. 

I'm reading it from cover to cover for the second time and there are chapters I've now reread multiple times. The margins are chock full of notes and underlines, arrows and highlights, smiley faces and tear stains and coffee dribbles.

In telling her story, she tells mine and there's a good chance she tells yours too. She spoke into my guilt and shame by sharing her own. And when I read this excerpt about the "invisible good girl?" Well, I knew I'd found a home in these pages. 

I felt as if an invisible good girl was following me around wherever I went, showing up without permission to shame and blame and scold...She embodied the good girl version of my current life stage and shamed me accordingly: good student, good leader, good wife, and good mom. She represented the girl I wanted to be but could never live up to...I often experienced guilt but didn't know why. I felt the heavy weight of impossible expectations and had the insatiable desire to explain every mistake. My battle with shame was constant and hovering.   

And I thought I was the only one who carted invisible people around in my head. 

She talks about the masks she wore and she challenges readers to name their own. Her invitation to come out of hiding is so compelling:

Behind the mask, you are just a woman who longs to believe that Jesus makes a difference, but you have difficulty collecting the evidence of it in your own life. The true gospel really is good news. For you. Right now. 

I love so many things about this book but let me just share a couple. First of all, I love Emily's creative, witty, perfectly-said style. I have loved her since I first read her words over three years ago. 

Sometimes you find a writer who simply speaks your language, who puts your own thoughts and craziness into words in the most beautiful and just-right way. Emily is that writer for me. 

Second, this book is Biblical. Stay with me...I know I'm treading lightly when I say this but there is a lot of feel-good, Christian fluff out there. Stuff that sounds good but that is not, in fact, sound. 

This is not that book. While Emily's style is gentle and non-preachy, she is bold. She speaks the truth unapologetically. She speaks with wisdom. She digs deep into the Word and you don't walk away with warm fuzzies or the resolve to do better or with another formula tucked underneath your belt.

You walk away with Jesus.  

I realize that "good girl" may conjure up all sorts of stereotypes in your mind. Maybe you're not sure if you're actually the "good girl" she's referring to. Perhaps you have a vision of some goody-two-shoes, buttoned-up, straight-laced type and you haven't exactly been that girl. 

Truth be told, I haven't exactly been that girl either. I've had moments when my desire to have some fun or just give in outweighed my default tendency to be good. I've endured seasons in my life when doubt and unbelief gripped every part of me and I didn't care if I ever darkened the door of a church again. 

But this book is less about your track record of behavior and belief and more about the expectations that rule in your head. As one reviewer poignantly said, This book was written for every Good Girl as well as every Not Quite Good Enough Girl. 

On any given day, I am both girls. 

At 38, I'm hardly a "girl" anymore. But most days I don't feel quite like a grown-up either. Grown-up's are surely more together and responsible than I feel on most days, aren't they? Emily offers sweet assurance, speaks truth into my adolescent heart that beats anxiously inside a grown-up body.

Allow him to look beyond the girl-made hiding places you have so carefully constructed. I know it goes against all the words the world says are admirable: self-reliant, capable, strong, and resilient. But I am in desperate need of a source outside of myself all the time. And so are you.

Do you long to come out of hiding? Deep down do you hope to be found? Do you want to be able to just put it all out there--the "try-hard" or the pretend indifference or the ugly of all uglies--and know that it's okay? Do you realize that He has rescued you? Do you desperately long to know that you are safe even when life hurts and it's all falling apart?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, get thee to amazon immediately. 

The grace-filled truth of this book is what I need to cling to in the messy everyday when I'm weary from the children and the laundry and the budget and the bickering. And it's the grace-filled truth I cling to when life has completely come undone in catastrophic ways and seems entirely unfixable. This book arrived on my doorstep last spring when life was more like the latter. 

I questioned the timing of it all. I was skeptical that a book about the "try-hard life" was what I needed to be reading when I could barely get out of bed and look reality in the face. 

But this is not ultimately a book about recovering from your good-girl ways. It's a book about the Rescuer of good girls and rebellious girls and not-quite-good-enough girls and all the girls in between. 

Jesus is the truth every day of the week, every moment of the day. He's the one who lived a perfect life on our behalf because we can't do perfect. 

He's the truth that sets us free on the days when the sun is shining and things feel orderly and fine. And He's the truth that sets us free on the days when we wonder if we'll ever see the light again, when the life-altering fractures are too deep and too painful to even articulate. 

I don't know where you're living today. Maybe it's blue skies or maybe it's dark as night. But I hope that maybe something I said here has convinced you. I hope you'll buy this book. I don't get royalties or fancy swag from this review and I sincerely mean every word of what I've written.  

My prayer that accompanies these humbly typed-out lines is that Emily's message will forever change the way you see yourself and the way you see Jesus and the way you think about how Jesus sees you. 

And just like an Oscar speech, I fear that the dreaded conductor man has told me to wrap it up eighteen paragraphs ago. We've probably even gone to commercial already. 

Thank you for letting me share my love for this book with you, wordiness and all. 

You didn't think I'd wrap up this post without giving away a copy, did you? I wish I had a hundred of them to give away but y'all will have remove your good-girl gloves and duke it out over just one. 

Simply leave a comment by this Saturday at midnight {September 17th...which is technically the 18th but you know what I mean.} Tell me why you'd love to win a copy of Grace for the Good Girl or share anything else about grace or being a good girl. Whatever. I'm not picky, just bossy. 

And make sure you enable your e-mail on your profile or include it in your comment. If you win, I'll need to e-mail you and get your address.

Now get yourselves to amazon or barnes and noble or your favorite bookstore this minute and buy two: One for you and one to give to the favorite good girl in your life. 

Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life by Emily P. Freeman is available September, 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Inspired to Let Go

You know, we could look up some inspiration ideas from the internet. Would you like for me to see what I can find? Oh, and there's some really great books we can get. They might help you.

No, that's okay, she replied,  I really like to come up with my own designs.

She rattled on in Hobby Lobby about all of her ideas...using this sort of fabric for the pins and beads for the centers and a design she had in mind for dangly, beaded, three-strand earrings. 

I thought to myself how those ideas just wouldn't work at all, how the fabric would need to be double-sided for the flower pins and the three-strand earrings would be too hard to make and probably look tacky. 

But I bit my tongue, as I have learned to do often. 

Good thing I did. As it turned out, I was wrong. The three-strand idea was genius and I would wear those earrings any day.

That girl, she trusts her instincts more than I trust mine and I sort of envy that about her. 

It was yet another reminder to just let go and marvel at the ways God has uniquely designed all of us. Sometimes letting go allows us to see His handiwork, His workmanship, in a way we never could if control ruled the day. 

My micro-managing, perfectionist tendencies can run roughshod over my kids and their budding creativity. I never imagined it would be so hard at times to just stay quiet and let them be, to figure things out for themselves. {As long as there are no blow-torches or chainsaws involved.} 

To let trial and error and ideas galore weave their way into jewelry-making and fabric flowers, legos and watercolors, cake-baking and sentence style.  

I remind myself constantly that control kills creativity and rules can squash the spirit. Learning to be an artist in residence takes a lot of practice for this slow-to-learn mama.   

We need room to breathe, time to percolate, and freedom to discover.

Sometimes I'm afraid that I'm not doing "it" right. I want to find the perfect, most efficient, most expertly-advised method of doing whatever "it" may be. But really, I just need to lighten up, to accept that getting it wrong can simply be another way to learn. 

In fact, getting it wrong is often the way I learn best. In wanting to spare them the "getting it wrong part," I sometimes deprive them of their most valuable lessons. 

And while this is sometimes about their jewelry-making and cookie-baking, it's more challenging when I apply it to the really consequential stuff like navigating relationships and cultivating virtues like honesty and responsibility.

I long for my home to be a place of grace. A place where there is freedom to fail. A place where we know that messing up is inevitable and that His mercies are new every day. A place where we, only by Grace, can share those new mercies with one another. 

That kind of place doesn't come naturally to me but I'm learning that it's the only way to really live. The alternative is just an anxious, un-fun, uptight, fearful, and judgmental place to live. 

As summer fades and fall invites newness and inspiration, I'm inspired to say less, to observe more, to let go and just create from the inside out. 

May new mercies, fresh hope, and timely inspiration find you as well. 


I love talking about grace so much that I'm going to talk about it in my next post too. I can't wait to share a book review with you: Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try Hard Life by Emily P. Freeman. This book has been so powerful in my life and I'm giddy just thinking about this opportunity to write about it. In case you're wondering, yes, I am giving away a copy. Stay tuned...


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