10/5/14

on long days and dry wells and making sense of both


"How's the writing going?" a kind friend asks, and I wonder what to say. Should I say I can't make myself get up or should I say that the rejection letters have taken the wind out of my sails or should I say that the well is dry and thanks for reminding me? It's all true, in varying degrees. 

"It's not." I reply in regards to the writing.

"Not what?" 

"Not going. Not coming. Not happening. Just not."

"Oh." 

This conversation happens. A lot. And I'm not always sure what to make of it. 


On one hand, I love that there are people in my life who are on this writing journey with me, people who have read rough rough drafts and met the people in my head and heard me drone on and on about query letters and celebrated when agents take a little nibble. Those people have shared my disappointment and frustration, have loved me well in the middle of it all. And they ask because they know it matters to me and I matter to them. 

On the other hand, there's a part of me that feels like, "Can we all just pretend I didn't try to write a novel? Can we act like that didn't happen and we're not here and there's no one out there sending me 'thanks but no thanks' letters? OK? Can we do that?"

Oh, sheesh. A few paragraphs in and this melodramatic already. Sorry about that. 



Anyways, all that to say, I have all these mixed feeling about my novel and about writing and art and creating in general. It thrills me, this writing thing. It feeds me and helps me make sense of my life and there's a part of me that is so very me when I write. 

But it also drains me. It judges me. It asks things of me that I fear I don't have to give- time and determination and heart and courage to step in when all I really want is to hide under the covers and eat M&M's. Writing forces me to step up to the plate, to face my own fear in a way that is exhilarating and terrifying. 

Come to think of it, writing is a lot like parenting in that way. I love being a mom. In many ways I feel like I was made to mom, I feel so at home in the role, like there's a deep place in my soul that is doing what it was created to do. Raising kids is worthy and weighty and costly and good, and I love to give my life to that each day.  

But mothering also drains me. It judges me. And some days I fear that it asks things of me that I don't have to give- time and determination and heart and courage to step in when all I really want is to hide under the covers and eat M&M's. (Notice the common themes of my life: fear, courage, craving chocolate...)

And so here I am. A mom longing to write. A writer grasping for words. A creative heart trying to find joy in the rhythms of the day (I call it rhythms because the word "routines" leaves a bad taste in my mouth....thus needing an M&M). 

And each day comes and goes and sometimes I worry that today wasn't enough, that I wasn't enough in the middle of it. We missed our Bible story again. We're stuck on the same verse in our scripture memory.  Meltdowns far exceeded teachable moments.  Our homeschooling reality is a far cry from my homeschool vision. My kitchen floor looks like a hamster cage despite the fact that I sweep constantly. The laundry piles up and the dust settles on top of itself and how can kids not find socks when all I do is mate socks. I think back on the day and see that I was lacking in joy or lacking in patience or just...lacking.


Lately, I've been thinking of the Proverbs 31 woman. I have a lot of thoughts on that, thoughts that rock the boat a bit on traditional interpretation of that passage, which we can save for another day. But in particular, I've been thinking of how she "can laugh at the days to come." Traditionally, I've been taught that this ability to laugh is due to her uber-preparedness, her super planning and hyper-on-top-of-it-all state. Tomorrow? Next week? Ten years? Ha! Bring it on!

But lately I've been thinking that maybe she doesn't laugh because she has it all together and the days can do nothing to defy her. 

Perhaps she laughs because she doesn't take herself too seriously. 

Perhaps she laughs in wonder at how God will bring calm out of this chaos He's given her.  

Maybe she laughs at the thought of all she has to do, all that rests on her, and she meets that challenge with a light heart.  

Maybe her husband is just really funny.  OK, probably not that one. 

Still- there's a light heart there that I want to not just imitate but truly embody. I want to see my future, my tomorrow and my next week and my ten years, through hope-tinted glasses. 

I want to laugh at the days to come. 


So where does that leave me? I guess I feel the urge to merge those two loves, to mother and write with hope and courage. To reject the idea of being my best self and lay hold of the call to follow Jesus with all He's made me to be. 

To let go of performance and find peace in the enoughness of Jesus, that's where I want to be. I think that's a place of laughter, of joy unexplained, of life found even in the longest of days.

So that being said, we're still here. Taking the days one at a time. Thinking about this great challenge to love our Savior and our children well. The days are long but fleeting somehow, and the paradox of time crawling while it races never ceases to amaze me. 

But we're here. Together. And there's a goodness in that that grounds me and gives me hope. 

Hope to you, friend. May you find it in you to face today with courage and meet tomorrow with laughter. 








9/4/14

so much and so little to say




Been quiet around these parts, not this house in particular but this blog for sure. Sometimes it gets to be so long between posts that I get kind of rusty, the writing muscles cramping up a bit and everything settling into a non-writing state of being. But then I think, "Sheesh, I miss writing" and I start to make a list of things I could write about except that list doesn't seem to gain much momentum. I think writing, like a lot of disciplines and rhythms of life, is just something you have to do to get back into it. 

So here we are, Thursday night crowd, firing up the 'ol blog and trying to think of something to say. 

I could say that we're back in school and that it is an exhausting reality. But you probably know that. 

I could say that we're painting a room, the smell of drying paint is settling through the house as I type, and that once again the name of a paint color wooed me. Sail Cloth. What's not to love about Sail Cloth? It's looking good so far. 

I could say that we finished the Mistborn trilogy (finally!) and we started the Mazerunner series. 

I could say we've had visitors over the last month. We heart visitors. 

Harper and Tessa

And here's some pictures that can talk for themselves. 

Hubby's birthday = Maple Bacon Cupcake
 
Once again, our kindergartner lost the first tooth. And once again, the tooth fairy forgot. Sheesh.
Movie theater remodel: RECLINERS!!!!


In other news, the fourth born potty trained herself (yes, that's pretty much how it happened) and there was great rejoicing. 

And in the thick of all that, our friend moved out and a new person is moving in and Isaac is getting a pet and a chicken is missing and summer slipped away and the first walnut fell and the tomatoes didn't take this year and we discovered Thai coconut curry and two agents requested my manuscript and I have six rejection letters from agents who apparently felt differently and my husband is still making me laugh and the kids are still crazy sweet and crazy crazy in the blink of an eye and I have a serious crush on Dunkin Donuts iced coffee and football season is upon us and Tess is starting ballet and I'm tired of being tired and the sun comes up again and again and again. 

So here we are. Still here. Still we. It feels like there should be more things to say, the kind of deep and moving things to say. But tonight there's just the smell of paint and an attempt to catch you up and a hope that these writing muscles will warm up a little and the words may come a bit more often, a bit less forced. 

Thanks for reading, for hanging around in the silence. I hope your story is making sense, or at least making laughter or making joy or making the Father's heart happy. 

Catch ya later. 

8/3/14

when time slips through your fingers

Butterfly party

In July of 2011, Tessa Jo was born and our band became a permanent Party of 4. And now suddenly it all makes sense why people call their sixteen-old the "baby of the family" or say their "baby got married" or next year their "baby leaves for college."

My baby just turned three. If you talk to her for five minutes, she'll tell you all about where she travelled this summer and where her cousins live and how her nay-vors have chickens and the sad tale of our cats and why the tomatoes aren't growing this year.

She needs budspray and sunscream before she goes outside. 

She's been so excited to turn fwee so she can go to ballet class. 

She belts out Let It Go as she rides in the van.

She hates it when people call her little because, gosh darn it, she is BIG with a BIG girl bed and a froggy potty seat (that is more of an ideal than a reality) and little girls do not do BIG things like her. 

And all I can do is shake my head as I watch her troop out the back door with her siblings. 

All I can do is smile as I look out my small kitchen window and watch her carrying a chicken across the yard. 

All I can do is wonder where the days are going, worry that I might be missing them, and then tell myself that all I can really do is smile at these littles as the moments pass by. 

There is no way to freeze time, no way to have days back. And would I really want those days back? I don't know. But I can't help feel like something is lost, gone, slipped away, and if I could enjoy it one more time, I would. 

But here we are, heading into a school year with kids in 4th grade, second grade, kindergarten, and preschool. The baby items are disappearing but the days are ever busy. They need me less- they can put on their shoes (though not on the right feet, ahem, my daughters!) and spoon their own cereal and brush their teeth. They can function a whole morning, lost in the delight of the back yard. 

But in some ways they need me more. They ask, "Why should I obey?" and "Where is heaven?" and "What is inside electricity?" and "Why don't you get a job?" and "Why can't the sky just stay sunset forever?" And they ask about kindness and their own design and the shape of their fears comes trickling out. They sense that we're walking to our own drum, that they aren't getting on a school bus or going to a church building or living a life that matches what they see on bits of TV. 

And they wonder and I wonder and I try not to worry or chase time or hoard moments. 

I try to be. Here. With them. Be here in the moments that truly are our good 'ol days. 

It's been a bumpy summer for me, friends. I've drifted, not in some sort of profound drifting away from ideals, but more of life on a raft instead of life on a motor boat. I like to think I generally have direction, a little bit of power, an ability to steer my life against the waves. But this summer has left me feeling I got nothing. 

"I think I'm broken," I told my husband this morning. 

"Good," he said, smiling sleepy at me, "that's a good place to start."

This time slipping by, it reminds me afresh of my smallness, of my inability to hold on and hold in and hold out. Moments are passing, and I don't need to control them or cement them or even do anything crazy to make them better. I can only cherish them, watch them slip by, smile sleepy from my own brokenness, choose to be present in it all. 

So here we are. The baby who's not a baby. The summer that isn't much of a summer left. The school year upon us and the fall approaching and a long list of "Things I'll Get to This Summer" that I can just reuse for next year.  Time is both my friend and my enemy, my ally and my nemesis. 

But we're still here, and it's still barely summer, and we'll try to watch these last summer evenings linger. 

Happy Birthday, Tessa Jo. 

7/27/14

my latest book love: 1000 beautiful things


"When we are collecting books, we are collecting  happiness." - Vincent Starrett

On a recent afternoon out, I found myself wandering in a thrift store (cue The Thrift Store Song!) The book section at this store is a particular weakness of mine, featuring all titles for a quarter (a quarter! Just a measly quarter and you have a new book!) I picked up a John Grisham novel, two Newberry Award winners to add to the kids' shelf, and a cool looking old book that I thought would look good with the oldish books on my piano. 



I headed home with my little pile of books and ended up cracking this one open to find it was an anthology of poems, stories, and quotes. 

Now I've never been a big poetry person. I can appreciate a line here and there, admire a well phrased verse or flowing rhyme, but I don't really read it. Until this book. 


1000 Beautiful Things 
Compiled by Marjorie Barrows

And it really is a book of beautiful things. 

Here are a few of my favorites:

Favorite poem...


Days 
by Karle WIlson Baker

Some days my thoughts are just cocoons- all cold, and dull, and blind,
They hang from dripping branches in the grey woods of my mind. 

And other days they drift and shine- such free and flying things!
I find the gold dust in my hair, left by their brushing wings. 

Favorite line...

Opening line of the poem "Good Company", by Karle Wilson Baker

Today I have grown taller from walking with the trees...

...or the chickens. Whichever. 


Favorite quotes...

"No legacy is so rich as honesty." -Shakespeare

"You have greatly ventured, but all must do so, who would greatly win." -Byron

"A task without a vision is drudgery; a vision without a task is a dream; a task with a vision is victory." - Anonymous

"I hope that I shall never tire
Of watching colors in the fire..."- Mildred Bowers Armstrong, "I Hope"

"Happy he who dares courageously to defend what he loves."- Ovid




I'm not sure what it is about this particular summer, but it has robbed me of my mental energy. I can't seem to stick with meaty books, engage non-fiction, or even crack the classics that I so enjoy. But maybe summer is a time for poems, a time for words to rhyme and flow and linger long, like the sunsets in July. 

Or maybe our souls are more in tune with what we need, and maybe there are seasons where souls can override our habits, can cry out for something that will sustain us differently. 

So as for me, I'm downing the occasional novel (like this and this and this) but taking the reading easy. School's coming fast, kids are sprouting quick, and the long days of summer will not last long. 

Here's to finding what works for you in this season of your own summer. 

I'll leave you with one last poem. 

Song
Richard Watson Gilder

Not from the whole wide world I chose thee,
Sweetheart, light of the land and sea!
The wide, wide world could not inclose thee,
For thou art the whole wide world to me. 


7/10/14

snapshots of summer


I love this picture right here. I try to remind myself often that this view won't always be here, that these two won't always sit touching shoulders, that their crazy little girl hair won't always be crazy-little-girl-hair. 

Something about the last few days has me all Carpe Diem-ish. Maybe it's the 4th of July. Maybe it's the renewed energy that comes from not travelling for a few weeks. Or maybe it's just a timely reminder that these are the good old days, and that they are indeed good. Here's a few snapshots of our summer so far. 

Ella at Reptile Gardens, having a Jungle Book moment


Drew and the SD blue sky


Isaac and his rubber band gun


Cowgirl Tessa


We spent a long weekend in South Dakota and, as always, I left with the impression of how beautiful it is there. Seriously. I mean, really beautiful. Look at the sky in those pictures. Lovely.

In other news, the neighbors built a chicken coop. And when you tear down the fence between yards and declare it all to be one yard (as we did two years ago), this means we have chickens. The kids love it. 


In other other news, the tarantula molted. I realize that most of you don't want to hear about the tarantula, don't want to think about the fact that these creatures actually inhabit the earth and people willingly place them to live in their living room. 


There was a twelve hour period where this crazy creature was actually laying on it's back, those nasty hairy legs all stuck up in the air. We were pretty sure it was dead, and something inside me was happy at this idea. (When we ordered it on the internet, it was tiny and the website said that the odds of normal people keeping a spider alive from that size was not good. Meaning we- who can keep nothing alive besides our children who are very hearty- should not be able to sustain a delicate spiderling. But alas, three years later and it is the size of my palm. Not that I know that for sure as we DO NOT hold it. Ugh.) 

Anyways, I was almost happy about this development except that a certain gangly nine year old was crushed by the idea that his spider might be dead. He (the nine year old) sighed a lot, and swallowed before he talked, and then he yelled with excitement when it turned out the tarantula was shedding its skin and not dying. And I felt relieved, and sure that motherhood does crazy things to a person when you are glad that the tarantula lives on. 

Because an awesome summer updo is no laughing matter

This picture of Ella is funny to me because we are at the splash park and she has on a necklace. It is as if her life's goal is to accessorize at all times. Me, being more of a minimalist and not liking to keep track of everyone's stuff when we are on outings, tend to discourage the bringing of stuff with us. However, all I need do is yell "Get your shoes on!" and this sassy lady is filling a purse. And when I say filling, I mean filling.  

Where did my baby go???

And this lady will be three in three weeks. Three years old, folks. 

And what more shall I say? I've got a post sorta written about our latest reads, a post kind of brewing about the brutality of submitting your book to agents so that they can send you rejection letters, and a post I want to write about homeschool hope. So maybe those will happen.

Or maybe not. Either way, thanks for stopping in. Hope your summer is lazy and lingering and leaving you full.