4/4/14

thoughts for a Friday

I woke early this morning, partially to make some progress on some writing and partially due to the cat who needed to be outside at 5:07. I smiled a little when I opened the back door and a thin blanket of snow welcomed him outside. He hesitated, feeling I think what we all think about snow in April, and then I shooed him out, thinking of the wide margin of time I had before The Stirring began. 

Coffee, Bible, breathing quiet in the dark office. Just when the work began two little girls appeared, both before 6:00, too excited to sleep because of our road trip today. 

Seriously. Before 6. 

So now they've been given a very temporary distraction and all writing momentum of long, sustained thoughts is out the door. So here are, this Friday morning. Just you, me, and a blog post that is filling up.

This week I finished reading The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. It was both tremendous and terrifying, like a great work of art that you never want to experience again. At least that's how I feel right now. (I love books so much and I would truly like to be someone who reviews them well, but when I finish a book, I'm often overtaken with how I feel about it, that a review seems silly. Then, when time has passed and the feelings died down, I've usually forgotten too much to write a useful review.) 

But this book, you guys, this book...I was mostly astonished. Such a wide scope of history, such a masterful use of narrative, such a gut-wrenching portrayal of missions and family and unintended consequences. I never cried, but I swear I read with my mouth cracked open a bit, leaning forward, eyebrows scrunched down. It drew me in and then I wanted to beg it to let me go. But I hung in there and saw it through, and I'm glad I did. I think I will revisit this book one day, read it again to really enjoy the language and understand the history more instead of being so wrapped up in the narrative. It is a masterpiece.

We are on spring break this week, which basically means we took off Wednesday through Friday in celebration of persevering through another year of CC (we made it!) and preparing for a road trip to see some of our favorite folks. Should be a nice relaxing weekend: just me and my husband, our two friends, and our eight children (ages 9, 6,6,4,4,2,2, and baby!) I think a road trip is just what the dr. ordered for our little family and we are thankful for some time in the car to chat, connect, and read the next Mistborn book, The Well of Ascension.

Well, the natives are restless so better head. Here's a few good reads I've enjoyed this week. Hope your weekend is all that you hoped and all you need it to be. 


Catch ya later!



3/27/14

rainy day rambles

I'm at a coffee shop on this rainy afternoon, a great place to watch the drizzle and catch my breath. Ella Fitzgerald is playing over my earbuds, white mocha to keep me company, and all the littles are home and happy with grandma about. 

And so I wonder...what should I write about? I'd like to tell you about a Reader's Digest article I read, but it's not here and I'm afraid I'll butcher the actual content if I try to remember it. 

I'd like to weigh in on this whole World Vision chaos, except that I don't know what I would say and don't believe the internet needs another voice on that. The only advice I have is what I constantly tell my kids- Let's Be Nice. That seems to go a long way.

In a fit of crazy Kindle clicking, I bought five new books for my birthday, thanks to an Amazon gift card. The only problem is, four of these books are nonfiction. Seriously. What was I thinking???? Me + 4 Nonfiction Books= 5 years of reading. But the penny pincher in me won't be brought to buy other books until they are read, or at least given a fair shot. Of course the library is still free...

(The four books I got were I am Malala, The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty requires the End of Violence, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, and Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse.)

To make matters worse, I still haven't finished Quiet or Outliers. I think the lesson here is that, while I want to expand my mind and learn things, at the end of the day, I really just want snappy dialogue and interesting characters. But mostly the dialogue. Is it impossible to be addicted to dialogue? What a weird thing to ask.

In other news, my kids are getting huge. For those of you who haven't seen them in awhile, my oldest is shooting up so fast I can set my chin on the top of his head without bending over. And my baby is talking, talking in big long sentences with huge words. She's really not much of a baby, but I think the perk of the last one is that they will always be the baby, right? Maybe she'll hate that, some day, but she seems to sense that it gives her  a status, a certain place among us all. We'll see how she feels about all that when she's potty trained and weaned off her night time pacifier- two changes that are on the horizon for her. 
Tessa Jo

I keep stopping, staring out the window at this rain, thinking I really should be *doing* something with this time, something- you know- productive. Since when is being still, thinking, staring out the window such a bad thing? That's a habit I need to recultivate- the art of doing nothing, letting the mind spin, the body sit. 

I've had my book out to a few folks and enjoyed conversations as people finish and give me feedback. It's amazing how someone's perception of a book can be so different, how five people can have five different critiques. But though I thought that would be the worst part of it all (hearing all the critiques), it's really not. It's been very fun, and people have been so gracious, and it feels like actually telling a story and not just adding words to a document. What to do with all those ideas...I'm not sure. But I'm trying to look for themes, sift through varying opinions and find common ground, so we'll see. 

Well, I think that's all for this afternoon. Hope this rainy day finds you thinking, maybe staring out the window, or curled up with a good book. Fiction, preferably. But to each his own. 

Catch ya later. 




3/14/14

goodness




The days are warming, miraculously it seems, and it's amazing how fast I forgive winter once it is almost gone. 

On Sunday afternoon, I worked in a quiet kitchen while Garrett read on the couch. At some point I walked into the living room and said, "Do you hear that?"

He looked up, listening to the nothing, and replied, "Amazing."

The sound of stillness. The sound of little people happily playing outside. I don't know why I forgot that they do that, why the winter months seemed extra long and like we might never, ever do anything but all teem in the living room, pulling out toys, poking each other, and running up and down the stairs. But there is something else, and that something else is so good.


I've been thinking lately about the goodness of God. Just that phrase seems like an understatement, as if a friend who split their veins and sacrificed their life for yours would be called "good". But more than the sacrifice of Christ, or rather in addition to it, there is the posture of God's heart to me, the sense that in all His dealings with me- from childhood to childbirth to child wrangling- He has always been unfailingly good to me, in the midst of each one. 

He is not "good". He is goodness.



Maybe it is easier to believe He is good now that the sun is shining, now that the kids are playing outside and the wind is biting less. There is something about changing seasons that exhales it all. 

Or maybe his goodness is felt by the coming of Easter, by the preparations for Holy Week and the sense that your own heart is preparing to focus on the death and resurrection of Christ.

Or maybe it is simply God, moving yet again in his own goodness, reminding me of who He is and why it is easier to get out of bed when I am thinking of His goodness. 




Here's to sunny days and a season of Lent and a song in our heart, each reminding us that the journey asks so much  but the One who leads can only be good. 

2/20/14

when something ends and (thankfully) not much changes

On February 4th, we had a noisy dinner.

I can't remember what we ate. I wish I could because it would have made a nice second sentence in this blog post. But we ate at home and it was probably not-so-spectacular, as Tuesday nights tend to go. And I probably overcooked it, if we was really business as usual. 

Then Garrett and the kiddos went upstairs for the evening. I did the dishes, swept the floor, made a pot of decaf coffee, and opened the laptop around 7:00.

And at 8:30, I closed the laptop and leaned back in my chair.

I had just finished my book. 

30 months from start to finish.

200,000 words. (over half of that cut at some point.)

A lot of late nights and early mornings. 

It was done. That was it.

I went upstairs and sat in Garrett's office.  We stared at each other, marveled that we made it, and then I read him the new ending. 

In the time since then, I've done a lot of important things. 

I woke the next morning, woke at my usual writing time, and started working on a new book. 

I made hot chocolate for this little band of snow fort builders. 



I went grocery shopping. Several times probably. 



I read stories that turned into silliness all around. 





We built snowmen.





I homeschooled. 

It's a funny feeling, this reality that I finished my book. That somehow that whole corner of my mind feels different, but this wide world of my life is still the same. 

It's been hard to bring up, honestly. And I've wrestled with how to even talk about it here. It feels like an achievement, but in the realm of actually producing a book, it's kind of a small step. An important one, I'd say, but just the first step on a long road that seems like a lot of scary steps.

And so what am I doing now? Well, I started writing something new which has been so fun, so wonderful to not be in Macy's head and be in Ren's instead. 

I've found a few people to read the draft and had some feedback.

I've chickened out sometimes and not actually sent the draft when I said I would. Something about it being out there, something about the waiting for feedback...it makes me feel so exposed.  But in the end I sent it, mainly because my friend laughed at me and told me to man up. (Thanks, Nicole!)

I read this article and found some good direction.

But mainly I've just lived my every day life, tried to be grateful that I stuck it out, praying about what's next, and trusting God in each step. 

It's been sweet and scary and morale-boosting and fear-inducing. But such is life, such is the reality that small victories, though hard fought, don't really replace any insecurities or make us whole. 

But those victories can make us grateful- for the people who cheered and the hours that were there and the joy that came from putting words on paper. And the knowledge that, through this venture, I found myself a little bit. Through the process of writing and daring and pushing through, I feel like I am more me. And that is so, so worth it. 

A special thanks to my husband for being supportive in every way imaginable, to my family who were subjected to early drafts that probably weren't ready to be shared, and to my friends who keep asking and hoping that a book will be born. Thanks to you, however you've helped or read or prayed or endured me lamenting this project. 

And for you- I hope if there is something that seems bold or crazy or just plain out of reach, I truly hope there is someone in your life that will say to you, "You got this."

And I hope when they say that, you will believe them and live like it's true. 

Have a great Friday, friends. 

2/13/14

the olympics & me

A few weeks back, one of my friends asked me what I had coming up. I instantly replied, "Well, the Olympics start next week."

She stared at me, then blinked, and then frowned, as if the Olympics coming up had nothing to do with what I had going on. She's not an Olympics person, to put it mildly. But I am. I completely am.

I love the Olympics.

I love the back stories and the big crowd gasps and the tears of relief and sorrow and joy. 

I love the flags. All the flags. Everywhere.

I love new events and old events and first time medals and long-time heroes.

I love to watch with my kids and watch by myself and watch with whoever will watch with me. 

The question is...why? What is it that makes me interested in any event that comes on?

I watch these people, and I wonder what kind of person has the audacity to think that they could be the best in the whole world at something. I mean, think about that. To wake up one day and believe that you might be better than everyone else on the planet at something, that you might even have a chance to hold your own against the world's finest, isn't that insane? Can you really imagine forming that thought, hatching a plan, starting the long road towards qualifying for the Olympics?

I watch these people, watch them wait at a starting gate or in the center of an ice rink or the top of a mountain, in that moment right before it begins. I think about how much is on the line. I think about how hard they have worked, how much they've given up, how many people have sacrificed for this moment right here. And this moment is like the climax of a story, like opening a book to the point where everything is at stake, where it all could go horribly wrong, where the hero must step up and hope that things go in their favor.

And these people- these crazy people- they know that only three will medal in their event, that the majority will go home as Olympians but not as champions. And they do it anyways.

It's drama. It's victory. It's fulfillment of dreams, dreams that were a little on the crazy side but panned out- for a few. Dreams that brought them to the world stage, with the hope of their country, the pride of their family, their lives on hold as they dream full-time. 

So here I am, stealing evenings on the couch and afternoons folding laundry as we check the standings and our own little medal count that we're tracking on the fridge. I'm soaking it in, celebrating the highlights, tearing up now and then as dreams unravel in front of the whole world. My kids are into it with me, giving reports and making predictions and cheering on their favorites. 

I hope that the Olympics can teach them something about life and hard work and sportsmanship (thank you, Shaun White) and the reality that things don't always work out the way you want- even when you try really hard.

I hope they learn to lose with grace, to appreciate their opponents, to take risks, to push past what they know can do.

I hope they can grow up to make space in their own lives, to dare to be truly great at something, to know that even if they fail, their lives will go on to new adventures. 

I hope they live in pursuit of something that is important to them, that they have the courage to chase things that might seem a bit much to those around them.

I hope they have the audacity to believe in themselves, the discipline to structure their life around what really matters to them, the wisdom to find the people who get them enough to cheer them on. 

I want my kids to strive, not just struggle.

I want them to test their own limits, to know themselves, to find joy in living out the things that make them unique.

I want them to live like something is at stake, like the days piled up on top of each other can actually take them somewhere. 

I want them to believe that how they live matters, that who they are in the midst of victory and defeat matters.

And I want them to love a good story. I think that's what brings me back, every two years, to my three week vigil in front of the TV. I'm a sucker for a story; for a high stakes, all on the line, it's now or never, kind of story. I want to watch that story, feel that story, live that story. 

So for ten more days I'll be here- watching medal ceremonies into the night and catching snips of interviews on the Today show and explaining to my children for the gazillionth time that Shaun White only snowboards. And then it will be over and I'll revel in the closure, in the feeling that I can get back to my life, in the knowledge that it will be back in two years. 

And I'll spend those two years living stories of my own, doing my own form of striving, finding the margins in my life where I can sneak a dream or two.