Tuesday, July 30, 2013

On Dreams-Come-True & Everyday Stories

Today I am slogging through the trenches of the everyday here at Casa de Hot Summer & Sibling Rivalry. It is a far cry, my friends, a far cry from the dreamy two-and-a-half days I just spent at She Speaks, an event that I received as a 40th birthday gift from husband, friends, and family.

She Speaks is a conference for writers and speakers, a conference that I've dreamed of attending for years. This year was finally my year and I am here to tell you, it far surpassed my hopes and expectations. 

For two-and-a-half days I connected with other women whose hearts are shaped a bit like mine. 

I learned about writing compelling non-fiction messages and how to use stories in public speaking.

I took pages of notes and wept with gratitude and laughed 'til my belly ached. 

I pondered and dreamed and cheered on fellow writers pitching book proposals.

I raised my hands in worship and sensed God's personal message to me through Michael O'Brien when he said, Never let your giftedness get in the way of your calling. Yes, I'm a wife and mom first.

I wore a name-tag and something other than my usual fare of running shorts and t-shirts.

I reconnected and roomed with one of my dearest college friends and made precious new friends, some of whom live on the opposite side of the country and some of whom live just 30 minutes away.

I felt God crystallizing my own message and I outlined it as fast as I could scribble. 

I had a complete stranger speak a "word" over me. 

I asked Michael Hyatt a question in a conference ballroom in front of hundreds of women and thought I might throw up into the microphone. And because he was seated two feet from me after his Q & A session was over, I asked him yet another question. {One may as well take full advantage.} He was gracious and wise. And God, in his mercy, allowed my jumpy innards to remain in place. 

In a word, it was amazing

I am more thankful than I can say, full of affirmation and inspiration but not urgency. And I think that if I'd gone to She Speaks before this year, I wouldn't have been in a place to receive it in the way I did. 

Upon returning I have refereed more than a few sibling squabbles.

I've scraped Fruit Loops off my kitchen table. 

I've lost my temper.

I've not done laundry. 

I've miscommunicated with my husband.

I've shaken my head in embarrassed resignation that my driveway looks like this on any given day. {You think I'm joking.}

I've hurt deeply and wept freely for loved ones going through unspeakable pain.

I took my kids and three of their friends to a free summer movie, Disney Nature's African Cats. Within 20 minutes, I had two girls bawling and my youngest asking, "So Mommy, why did you bring us to such a sad movie?" Innocent animals die, people. This is information I wish I'd known ahead of time.   #funoutingfail

And this is often how it goes, doesn't it? 

We teeter from elation to depression. 

We get a taste of our dreams and rub shoulders with despair. 

We get it right one minute and have to repent the next.

We idolize the things of this world and also long for the perfect world that is to come.

And this is the stuff of life. And this is why I write. 

Because life is hard but God is good and we claim this even when we don't feel this. 

Because we were created for the ideal but we have to grapple with the real and this is a desperately hard reconciling indeed.

Because for some of us, we can't make sense of all that we experience until we put it into written words and in doing so, we help others make sense of all that they experience too. We write our stories, both the everyday ones and the epic ones and in doing so, we help others see that they too have stories and those stories are worth something

Our stories are often not the ones we would have chosen but they belong to us nonetheless and we can live them with courage

Whether today is a "living your dream" day or a "trudging through the trenches" day, it is all sacred. 

It is worth living. 

It is worth lamenting. 

It is worth celebrating.

It is worth surviving. 

It is your story. And it is His story too.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What's New at the Blog? {and some posts you may have missed}

Notice anything new around here?

My five-year-old blog got a facelift. Five blog years is equal to ten human years. It's a fact. The facelift is sort of a temporary fix, one I did myself even though I don't know code or have photoshop or any skills whatsoever with this sort of thing. 

I can pick out many things here that aren't what I would choose if I had more options. {Blogspot is easy but limited.} 

But. A certain blogger--the very first one I began reading way back when--her mantra kept ringing in my ears: It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful. Or, in this case, It doesn't have to be perfect to be better than it was. {The Nester, God love her.}  

Honestly, I felt like a preschooler attempting calculus. I did everything using the ready-made stuff that Blogger already has and I made my header using Picasa and this tutorial. Sort of. The tutorial didn't exactly work for me but it gave me the idea and I hacked my way through the rest. 

Just seven short hours later, I had a finished product that would have taken a real web designer about seven seconds to produce. Yay for continuing education and steep learning curves! 

A more comprehensive overhaul is still in the works but we are having blog-naming issues. Like I said in an earlier post, naming one's blog is proving to be more difficult than naming one's child. {Suggestions welcome.}

I'm happy-ish with it, considering my lack of expertise. And I hope you'll like the cleaner, more organized space. 

At the top you'll notice that I have "pages." Apparently blogger has had that feature available for years. I just figured it out a month ago. You can find everything from booklists to my 31 Days series to the craziest "About Me" section you've ever read. 

Also, if you've never subscribed to the blog, I invite you to do that. If you want. No pressure at all. {I am the worst self-marketer ever.} When a la mode moves or renames herself or whatever it is she's going to do, I think that I can simply move over the subscriptions at the same time. And if we can't, well, I'll just have to sheepishly invite you to subscribe again. 

Here are the ways you can read or subscribe:

  • Subscribe through a "feed." You'll see that option on the right sidebar. 
  • Have the blog delivered to your inbox each time I post. Just enter your e-mail address in that option box on the right sidebar and voila, a little fairy who lives in the enchanted forest of the internet hand-delivers each new post with love and pixie dust, directly to your inbox. 
  • Subscribe through bloglovin. Ever since Google Reader shut down earlier this month, I have loved reading my favorite blogs through bloglovin. It's a very user-friendly "reader" that receives new posts from your favorite blogs and displays them all in one place. If you don't already use a "reader," I highly recommend it. You don't need any tech skills whatsoever. Simply go to bloglovin and set up an account. {It takes 10 seconds.} Then you can enter in the addresses or names of your favorite blogs that you want to regularly read. You can even search for them if you're not sure of the correct web address. I especially like the mobile app for bloglovin. It's free and so very easy. You can sign up through the bloglovin link on my right sidebar.

Hey, Scooper, I've subscribed via e-mail or through an RSS feed and it looks like you haven't written a post in two months. What's up with that?

I am so glad you asked. Apparently there was a glitch through Feedburner at the end of May. It is now the end of July and I just fixed it. And by "I," I mean my husband.

I develop a nervous twitch at all things numeric and code and techie. But my husband does not. And he is infinitely more patient than me at figuring out things like computer glitches that Satan himself invented just for me.

In case you haven't stopped in since the feed broke, I've listed all of the posts since the end of May. Thankfully, I am not prolific so you haven't missed much. Here they are, listed in order of most recent first:

When Your Little World Conspires to Love You Big {my surprise 40th birthday party}

So there you have it. A new look. New features. And some new posts that are actually old posts...but new to you. You're welcome.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

True Consolation

I only want to leave a post like my last one up for so long. I mean, it wasn't exactly an easy-breezy summer post about popsicles and fireflies and the slow and lovely rhythms of summer. 

It was about suffering. And suffering does not take its cues from seasons, trends, or the whims of a writer. Suffering comes when it comes; this I know.

But there's something else I know. Hope. Hope comes when she comes and we're good to grab on as if our life depends on it. Because, it kind of does. 

Like the sureness of the morning, Hope slid up next to me last Thursday, the very day I wrote about her absence. She showed up in the form of counsel and prayer and acceptance. 

And she brought along her favorite companion. Courage. They travel together often. So Hope and Courage, they sidled up next to me on a rainy Thursday and told me that I can do this, that I was meant for this road even though I've tried to say, Um, no thank you. May I have another?

There's a quiet strength that accompanies acceptance. And there's a subtle weariness that accompanies resistance. Ironic, isn't it?

I've done a bit of study and found that the words comfort and consolation in Scripture don't simply mean sympathy. That's a good thing. While sympathy certainly makes us feel better, it leaves us in the same place. 

A Greek word for comfort {parakaleo} actually implies strengthening. God's comfort doesn't just pacify our pain; it makes us strong. Similarly, the Latin word for comfort {fortis} can actually be translated as brave

I can't tell you how much I love the layered meanings of these words.

Though consolation found its way into my heart last week through several means of grace, it ultimately pointed me to the One who is both the person and the power of comfort: Christ

The power of the bravest of the brave--it resides in me.

The perfect love of the Savior of the world and the Savior of my rotten days and crazy stories--it's mine. 

Though the world {and my own psyche} can offer sympathy, self-help, and supposed solutions, it cannot offer me true consolation. 

I don't normally do this but today, it seems fitting to simply end with a prayer. It's for all of us.

Because of Christ, may Hope be more than "the thing with feathers that perches in your soul." May it be a furious wind that blows you away with the power of its pursuit. And may this Hope bring along Comfort so sweet and so strong, that you are empowered by its sacred courage to press on with purpose, grace, and fortitude. 
If you'd rather not walk the road you're walking, may God give you the grace for acceptance and the discipline of gratitude. If you're feeling blessed by the goodness of your life, receive the gifts, give thanks, and be generous. Whatever your story tells and whatever this day holds, know that the Father loves you with an everlasting love and an everlasting purpose. He's got you and He's got this and He is good. All the time, He is good. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Space Between Where You Are & Where You Wish to Be

It feels like a chasm, this place. 

It feels like you're that crazy man who started on one side of the Grand Canyon and tightrope-walked to the other. Except that you're not him and you don't know how to tightrope-walk so you're just stuck on that one desolate side of the canyon and getting across will take a miracle. Or at the very least a helicopter.

I write about "receiving your own life" and the "unfixable life" and some of you might be thinking by now, Sheesh, Scooper, get a hold of yourself. Either you really do have some crazy in your life or you have a flair for the dramatic. 

And really, both of those things are true. 

There is crazy, both the normal kind of crazy when you're a mom with young-ish kids and you're running a home and balancing the budget and wondering about dinner and fire-hosing sibling squabbles like they're relentless wildfires. 

And then there is the deeper stuff and you just want it to be fixed and resolved already but it's not. Life is not okay. You are not okay. And because all of this brokenness has been wonky for so long and you've been fighting so hard, you are simply tired. So stinkin' tired.

You stare at the other side of that canyon, that elusive finish line that also feels like the starting line because if you can just. get. there then you can finally begin to live the life you really want to live. 

I hear the unmistakable whisper: This is your story, child.

And I do not whisper back. I yell with clenched fists and hot tears: This is NOT the story I wanted. I don't want its storyline or its scars. Also, God? I'm tired. 

I want God to make like a super hero and swoop down to save me, to fly me across that impossibly large canyon and plant me securely on the other side. 

Sometimes those who are close to me, the few brave souls who know me and love me anyway, they tell me that God will use it all. They remind me of redemptive value. 

And I think to myself, No thank you. My truth-telling has its limits. And our stories never stand alone anyway.  

Do you ever get to this point when any redemptive purpose of your story feels irrelevant? A point when well-meaning consolation and redemptive hope fall flat? 

You just want to wish the current struggle away.

You want to erase the past.

You hope for a different future.

So what do you do...when you can't really do anything? What do you do when you know all the right answers but you're encased in a self-imposed armor and those truth-arrows fall to the ground in vain, deflected by your steely shell?

What do you do when you know the truth but you don't feel set free?

I guess you're left with two choices:

The truth isn't actually true.


You don't really know the truth you thought you knew. Or perhaps you {and by "you" I mean "I"} confuse knowing the truth with feeling the truth.  

Sure, I can spout off the truth I say I believe. Even now, I'm tempted to tie up this melancholy, soulful post in a satin bow of comforting Christian speak. But that's not being honest with you or me or God.

I'm wired in such a way that truth sometimes doesn't seem true if I don't feel it. Yes, I'm an over-thinker but I'm also a over-feeler. And so it's tempting to just flush all the truth away because I don't feel it helping and also I'm mad and when I'm mad I sometimes just want to stay all armored-up. 

I know, my maturity amazes even me. 

So what can I tell you today? What can I tell myself? 

This is what I've got: 

It's okay that life is messy and that certain things in life are simply quite broken. It is okay.

I don't have to do anything today to try to fix what I cannot fix. 

God loves me so much, even though I'm melancholy and mad and not wanting to pray or read my Bible.

Because I feel too frustrated to pray, I've asked other people to pray for me. And they are. And this is such love.

Hormones certainly don't help. Just accept this. 

That "better life" on the other side of the canyon? It is not perfect. And because I want it too much, it is probably an idol and I need to do business with that.

There is hope. I don't know what "hope" looks like in my particular life. The hope I'm speaking of isn't the perfect-life-on-the-other-side-of-the-canyon hope. It's a you-are-going-to-be-okay hope. Eventually, you really are going to be okay.

Waiting is hard. Simple pleasures like coffee and mint-chocolate anything and an evening glass of red wine can be sweet graces. I'm not talking about escapism; I'm talking about receiving good gifts for what they are: gifts.

Helping a friend helps me. Yesterday one of my dearest friends asked me to help rearrange all of the art and pictures in her living and dining room. It took us all day and it was such fun and I teetered on top of a piano and kitchen chairs and forgot about my big, sad self.

Just be where you are. Now, if you're in a pit I do not recommend staying there. But if you're mired in some mess and it seems like everyone else is not quite in the land of cuckoo that you are, just accept that this where you are today instead of fighting against it. Make peace with what is {as best you can} and know that you will not always be here. 

{Can you tell that I did not do so well in my college philosophy class? Did that last paragraph even make sense?}

And that is what I can tell you {and tell myself} today, friends. What can I say? You get what you pay for.  

No Bible verses. No scrawled out prayers. No mantras. 

God loves you and He loves me and He has good for us. He does. It just may not look like someone else's good who lives on the other side of the canyon. But He has good. He is good. 

This is truth that I know, even if it is truth I cannot quite feel today.

Hang in there. 


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