Wasting Time . . . Instead.

It’s been a month since I finished my manuscript. I’ve spent the last 30 days doing what I said I would do (and have looked forward to with great anticipation for more than a year) when I finally finished my book: nothing.

I’ve savored the freedom of the moments: instead of flipping open my laptop the second I sat down on the train, I opened my Bible to the book of Joshua. Instead of spending my Saturday morning tucked away in the home office shushing the clatter of my house, I baked banana chocolate chip muffins. Instead of heading to Starbucks during Sadie’s volleyball practice, I went shopping and bought a splendid little black dress.

I’ve read two books purely for fun, both of which my soul is still lingering over (to me the mark of a truly good book). The Boys in the Boat by  Daniel James Brown and Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (the latter I finished before bed last night; I’m still in a pocket of grief).

And every moment, I’ve fought the brooding lie that I was wasting time.

The full force of it barreled down over Memorial Day weekend, rushing to get out the door for Clay’s baseball tournament another state away. I shooed everyone out the door while I took one last inventory of all of our stuff. Chairs. Cooler. Kindle. Sunglasses. Phone. My eyes swept over the chair where my neon green computer bag rested, and I felt a pulse of anxiety at leaving it behind. I never went anywhere without my computer. Being the passenger on a long car ride or a bystander waiting for the game to start were drops of golden (writing) time.

Before I could change my mind, I turned on my heel and walked out the door, leaving the bag decidedly in its place. Instead of being irritated by too much chatter in the car while I tried to muster creative energy, I caught up with Eric on the events of his week; I bantered with the kids and flipped through some pages of my book. I stared out the window. When we got to the game an hour early, instead of sitting in the car trying to gain progress on a new chapter, leaving Sadie to stare endlessly at her phone, we drove 4 exits to a candy factory where we bought 3 species of gummy bears and gorged ourselves silly.

Drops of golden time.

candy store

I suppose wasting time is all a matter of perspective. What we choose to do instead is often just as important.

As much as I’ve enjoyed the respite, I’m antsy about not having written much these last few weeks, much the way I feel when too much time has passed without talking to my sister or going to the gym. I’m taking that as a good sign — just the right mix of rest and discipline for the next time I have to choose writing instead once again.

So I Wrote a Book . . .

It’s hard for me to believe it’s been two years since I’ve spent any time on this site.

It’s okay, though — all for good reason.

Shortly after I wrote my last blog post (in which I thought I’d start blogging more), I went to a writer’s conference where an editor asked me if I’d ever considered writing a book. It had been a dream of mine for years, but I wasn’t sure I was ready. I bluffed my way through the conversation, then drove home and got to work on figuring out what it was I finally wanted to say. I put together a book proposal, sent it off to the publisher and four months later, a yellow envelope showed up at my door — my book contract — and  I cried all the way to Sunday. This, the truncated version, of course.

Writing a book (at least in my mind) is akin to building one’s first house. It sounds exciting when you break ground (and it is), but you quickly start to realize how hard it actually is. Like way harder than you ever thought. And you quickly realize that you don’t actually know what you’re doing, so you find yourself in over your head multiple times before you get to the end . . . because you don’t actually know how to build a house. Because you’ve never actually done it.

That’s pretty much been my last two years.

Outside of work and being a mom, I’ve had my nose in a laptop. Writing on the train on the way to work, writing in my car waiting for my kids to finish practice, writing in coffee shops in the dawn of many Saturday mornings. Writing, writing, writing — in completely over my head — in every nook and cranny I could eek out of life. Until I finally finished building the house, fingers crossed that I didn’t make too many mistakes along the way. At least not the kind that would bring the whole house crashing to the ground, anyway.

Last week, I finished my final revisions. A few weeks before that, I got the official title from my editor: The Sound of a Million Dreams: Awakening to Who You Are Becoming (InterVarsity Press, Spring 2017).  Soon there will be a cover, another subtle reminder that this thing I began two years ago is not just some random conversation between me and my laptop that no one will ever read. This thing is actually happening. This thing will actually have windows and doors and a roof and a floor. This thing will become a book that someone, somewhere, will hold in their hands and potentially read — ready or not.

A dream come true.

I’m super excited. And I’m super tired.

My next adventure will be turning this blog into a website and beginning to dip my toes into the world outside my own laptop and thoughts once again. I haven’t decided what that will look like yet, but I’m going to spend the next few months trying to figure it out. Wish me luck. It’s like starting to build a house all over again — in way over my head and toes and nose and fingertips — because it’s a different kind of house than the one I just built. Lord have mercy.

I write this in hopes that you might stay tuned. It’ll be fun to share the journey if you feel like tagging along.

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ps. I just updated the theme for this blog, but don’t have a photo for the top. Sorry it looks a little wonky. Just for now.

 

Ode to the “Second Mom”

Last February, I attended the funeral of one of my best friend’s mom.

Vicki was the childhood friend whose house, outside of my own, I spent more time at than any other. I’d often catch the bus to her stop after school where her mom, Ginny, would be waiting at the kitchen table with a glass of iced tea or sitting in the living room, curtains pulled dark, ready for some real-time gossip on the latest episode of Guiding Light.

Ginny was what you might call my “second mom.” I’m sure you have one too.

She was the mom who came on field trips when my own mom had to work, who bandaged my knees when I wrecked my bike in her driveway, who let me tag along at family events. She was the mom who insisted we go to church after a Saturday night sleepover, who gave me a Bible for my 10th birthday and whose pastor first introduced me to Jesus. She was the mom who sat with me late one night as I cried over the loss of a favorite cat – and got my own mom on the phone to help calm me down. She’s the mom whose mac-and-cheese recipe my own kids beg for to this day.

As I write this, I acknowledge that nothing compares to the sacrifice of my own mom — the thankless, nitty gritty job of the every day, teaching, encouraging, instructing, loving and supporting. My mom is one of the greatest influences in my life and I’ll tell her so this Sunday.

But today, for whatever reason, I’m thinking about all the “second moms” — the women in our lives who have allowed us to sit at their dinner tables and sleep in their basements, who drove us to school dances and volunteered in our classrooms, who listened to us cry over boys and teachers and mean girls, who allowed us to raid their refrigerators (without so much as a thank you); who came to our weddings, sat through our baby showers and held the hand of our own moms as they watched us become women ourselves.

Most likely, they didn’t know they were making a difference. And they probably didn’t think we were paying much attention.

But they were. And so were we.

So happy Mother’s Day . . . to my mom, to my second moms and to all of the women — moms or not — who have taken the time to see beyond the busyness of their own lives and loved me as their own.

You are beautiful, cherished and absolutely amazing.

The Sound of My Voice

I read somewhere that you should never apologize for long periods of silence on your blog.

So I won’t.

Work, kids, family, friends, a never-ending to-do list . . . it’s all the same stuff that makes finding time hard for everyone. For me it’s not only finding the time, it’s finding the energy — the creative space that writing takes when I actually have the time.

I’m convinced that getting those two things to match, whatever your passion, is one of the great challenges of life.

So over the last few months I’ve slugged through it, doing my best to find chunks of time to make the match. In the process, I’ve learned how difficult it is to listen to (or even find) the sound of your own voice when you haven’t heard it for a while.

And I can’t believe how much I’ve missed it.

Cheers to blogging again.

And seeing how it goes . . .

But If Not

Reposting this from a blog I write for at work called Strangely Dim. It posted on Monday, but I hope was hoping you might enjoy. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

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I had my morning all mapped out: a quick edit on my Strangely Dim Thanksgiving post (set to go live today), a slew of emails returned, a large dent on some research for another project I was working on, an early lunch and I’d be in the office to hit “publish” on this by noon.

Except when I flipped open my laptop to get my super-productive morning kicked off, I realized I hadn’t saved the most recent version of my gratitude-induced post. In fact, I hadn’t saved anything even close.

After two hours of trying to recover the file (a whimsical yet thoughtful IVP twist on my favorite holiday classic, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving), I emailed my buddy and co-contributor Dave to tell him I’d be a little late with our pre-Thanksgiving entry. His reply came swiftly, “Ach. That sucks. Happened to me this morning as well. Gonna be hard to be thankful this Thanksgiving.”

Funny, right? The irony of his humorous little quip is how precisely it captured what I had already planned on quipping about myself–a cultural leaning (or perhaps just a human one) to extend gratitude only as high (or as low) as our current circumstance. Or if we’re really getting down to it, our cultural leaning to equate the goodness of God with our pile of stuff.

Insert Linus’ prayer from A Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving here.

Don’t get me wrong. On Thursday I will be overflowing with gratitude for both my circumstances and my stuff. I will sit on my in-laws’ couch, enjoying a rare third cup of coffee, inhaling the childlike enthusiasm of my kids all sprawled on the floor as they watch the Macy’s Day parade. I will hold hands with people I love around a table buckling with food and, with warmth in my bones, I will lift up a prayer of thanks for every last bite.

At the same time, I will remind myself of the slippery slope of thanksgiving–proclaiming God’s goodness based on our own abundance rather than his. After all, no home or person or sweet potato casserole is guaranteed an invitation year after year. But the true goodness of God, those attributes that reside in his character — generosity, trustworthiness, holiness, love, justice, mercy and self-sacrifice — these are a safe bet every time.

Several years ago my husband brought home a worship CD produced by Student Impact at Willow Creek Community Church. The chorus of one song in particular still runs through my head, both on everyday mornings like today when life doesn’t go as planned and in my more reflective moments pondering life’s greatest gifts.

The song goes like this:

If today brings only pain and sorrow

And my heart says there is no tomorrow

I lift my hands to you and ask in my small voice

That you would come to save me

I know it’s your choice

But if not

I’ll still call you father

I’ll still call you Lord

I’ll still praise your name forever

No matter what life brings

If tonight my eyes close and I’m alone

l’ll ask you to comfort me

ask you to send your angels down to rescue me

But if not . . .

This Thanksgiving, I hope your table is surrounded with friends and family and overflowing with food. I hope your job is plentiful, your children are thriving and your adventures are successful. I hope your health is strong, your mind is sharp and your soul is full with love, laughter and life. I hope your turkey is juicy.

But if not . . .

Invitations and Influence

I wrote this post for the blog I manage over at FullFill. It’s a blog for women that focuses on using our influence, but I think it broadly applies. If you want to click through to finish reading it, well, please do (while I resist the urge to make a few small edits. . . ). And thanks, once again, to my friend Adele for writing a bookI can forever quote.

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UGH. Why did I say yes to this?

I don’t need to know you to feel comfortable making this wager: you’ve said these words, probably more than once—and you’ve hated yourself for doing so. Most likely sitting at your kitchen table exasperated, staring at the seventy-fifth email you had to send for the committee you begrudgingly agreed to lead (because no one else would), depleted of sleep and energy and time and relaxation.

And you wonder for the millionth time, “Why on earth did I ever say yes to this?”

A few weeks ago, I spent a weekend with a group of women talking about invitations. We were led by author and spiritual director Adele Calhoun. In her book Invitations from God, Adele makes this bold statement: “Invitations shape who we know, where we go, what we do and who we become. Invitations can challenge and remake us. They can erode and devastate. And they can also heal and restore us.”

If you’re like me, your heart lurches at the profound truth lodged in those sentences. Flashes of triumph and pangs of failure crash your mind at once. Failure: the time you said yes to leading the team you had no business leading, the relationship you endured that became a damaging mark on your soul, the opportunity you were afraid to risk that won’t quit nagging at the corners of your heart. Triumph: the job you took that helped you rediscover who you are, the adoption papers you signed that gave hope to new life, the pressure you had the guts to resist and thanked your good senses a million times over.

As influencers, we have a responsibility to be wise about which invitations we accept and which we decline. Our influence has reach. Our decisions affect the health of our families, our friendships, our teammates, our coworkers and most importantly our own souls.  But we often fall prey to the cultural lie that the more invitations we accept, the more valuable we are.

Continue Reading . . .