A Little Summer Update

I thought I’d get a chance to catch my breath this summer. Slow down, relax, catch an extra gulp of air here and there. Turns out it just wasn’t meant to be, but that seems to be the story of my life these days. I think I’m getting used to it. In any case, I’ve spent a lot of great time with my kids and watching them grow into the people they’ve been created to be has filled me up in ways I didn’t know was possible. It’s the kind of reflection parents need to keep us going–remember that the hard work is worth it, and never really done.

In the meantime, I’ve worked on a few projects that have come to light that I thought would be fun to share.

An essay I wrote got accepted as a chapter in a book called Always There which came out in April. Another short piece I wrote on forgiveness landed on my doorstep last week as part of the Everyday Matters Bible for Women and I worked behind the scenes to give some editorial direction for Lisa Chan’s new video series True Beauty produced by Flannel and my friend Steve Carr (more on that to come).

I’m continuing to manage the FullFill blog for my friend Elisa Morgan and had a piece on friendship in the spring digizine and wrote this recent blog post. And writing for the Redbud blog always makes my heart sing (my latest post here). I just wrapped up a piece for a print publication on youth depression based on the IVP book When Life Goes Dark by Richard Winter that will come out this fall. My most recent post at Strangely Dim just went up yesterday, which I have to admit, I kind of like. I’ll leave you with a small excerpt below which you can click through to keep reading (please do!).

As for you, I hope you’re enjoying the last moments of summer and remembering to catch a little breath yourself.

*****

One of my favorite moments of the 2012 Olympic Games was when Great Britain’s Jessica Ennis snagged a gold medal in the heptathlon. If you didn’t see it, I’m sorry you missed it. Headed into the last event of the competition–the dreaded 800 meters–all Ennis had to do was finish respectably and she’d win gold. But with an entire stadium on their feet, and an entire country’s hopes pinned on her shoulders, Ennis did more than just finish respectably. She smoked the pack. Nike must have been on to something: she totally found her greatness.

I think I wept.

Continue Reading . . . (scroll down one post)

Reflecting

I’m sitting in a hotel room in Orlando, wrapping up the final hours of a conference I attended for work.

I have a few perks to my job, none of which are more enjoyable than spending time with thoughtful writers who are passionate about our world and the difference they dare to make. I spent an exorbitant amount of time with two particularly prolific thinkers, a privilege that was ridiculously delightful and immeasurably profound. Now, looking out at a gloomy Florida skyline — the bustle of Disney just miles down the street and the reality of my frenetic suburban life a few hours away — I wish I could muster up a touch more energy to capture my thoughts. Because they’re the kind that stir and poke and church and mean.

But after being in the presence of men of great and lasting influence, all I can manage is to sit quietly and reflect. And I suppose (a text graciously thanking me from one of them just lit up my screen *sigh*), that, yes, reflecting quietly is just what I need.

“a good story in which to learn to fail”

I just finished reading Lauren Winner’s new book StillIt’s a series of reflections on life after losing her mom, ending her marriage and trying to figure out if the God she once passionately confessed is really there at all. Life, as she says, “in the middle.” In some places I found myself revelling in her soul-pricking insight while others left me scratching my head, but part way through I made a decision. I decided to exchange any ambivalence I had over her journey (this woman I didn’t even know) for acceptance of who she was in the pages before me –a gifted, thoughtful woman authentically pursuing her God.

This snippet, perhaps my favorite in the book, is a beautiful picture of why I’m glad I did:

“It turns out the Christian story is a good story in which to learn to fail. As the ethicist Samuel Wells has written, some stories feature heroes and some stories feature saints and the difference between them matters: ‘Stories . . . told with . . . heroes at the center of them . . . are told to laud the virtues of the heroes–for if the hero failed, all would be lost. By contrast, a saint can fail in a way that the hero can’t, because the failure of the saint reveals the forgiveness and the new possibilities made in God, and the saint is just a small character in a story that’s always fundamentally about God.’

“I am not a saint,” says Winner. “I am, however, beginning to learn that I am a small character in a story that is always fundamentally about God.”

Ditto.

“Are You A . . . ?” (A Quick Reflection on the Festival of Faith and Writing)

Over the weekend, I attended the Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Lots of bloggers are commenting on their experience (check out Michelle Van Loon’s for starters ) and if I had the energy, I’d write a post of my own. But instead (my friend Caryn and I were just marveling over how tired we still are) I’ve mustered up just enough for this one thought:

Early Saturday morning I was having breakfast with a few colleagues in the conference center lobby when, in desperate need of more coffee, I wandered into the “restricted section” (reserved for conference presenters and hotel guests) for a refill. I overheard a middle-aged man asking Pulitzer Prize winning author Marilynne Robinson if she was a presenter at the conference.

“Yes,” she said. “I am.”

“Oh,” he said. “Are you an author?”

“Yes,” she said again. “I am.”

I politely smiled, not quite bold (or socially inept) enough to stick around for the rest of the conversation. But as I made my way back to my colleagues, I couldn’t help but think how even the most successful people are only known and celebrated within the circles in which they are known and celebrated.

It was a sliver of a moment, but one dripping with profundity about motivation and perspective and humility and pursuing our dreams.  Because — whatever our circle —  someone’s bound to ask all of us if we are, well, anyone at all.

And no matter what that circle, our answer will be yes.

And our answer will be no.

And the person who asked might not really care about our answer to either.

My (one and only) Lenten Reflection

I recently read this Bernard Bailey quote on a whimsical little sign hanging in a store window: “When they discover the center of the universe, a lot of people will be disappointed to discover they are not it.”

I laughed because I knew that by “a lot of people” he meant me. It’s been the recurring lesson of my Lenten season.

True confession: I’ve never really done Lent before. I didn’t grow up with the tradition, wasn’t raised in the brand of Christianity that practiced it. During the past six years, however, thanks to our current church, that’s changed. I’ve come to appreciate it. I’ve listened to friends and acquaintances talk about their attempts to give up wine or chocolate or Facebook or some other vice that’s squeezed a little too tight and have admired their discipline and conviction. But for no particular reason (except perhaps my own laziness), I’ve never chosen to join them.

So this year, I decided to give it a go. Uninspired by the typical dietary restrictions, I decided to do a weekly fast. Nothing crazy, just breakfast and lunch, about 12 hours in the middle of my week. While I’ve fasted before (sporadically and always for specific reasons), I’ve more so enjoyed making it part of my normal routine. I’ve found it enlightening, refreshing. Even now, as I sit here typing away my last couple of hours, I’m strangely sad to see it end. Not because I love being hungry, but because my brief little exercise in self denial has taught me something about myself that I needed to be reminded of.

It’s not very often I deprive myself of the things I want. Anything, really. I’m alarmed, in fact, by how accustomed I’ve become to filling my needs when and how I feel like it. How easy it is to open my laptop or my pantry or my wallet and get the exact thing I want at the exact moment I want it. I’m quick to over indulge, protective of what’s “mine” and am ridiculously, pathetically awful at dying to myself.

But my weaknesses have reminded me of God’s goodness and grace. His patience, his tenderness, his empathy. The needs only he can meet, the longings which aren’t meant to be fulfilled, the necessity of dependence, the vulnerability of limitations, the crystallizing that happens by yearning for that which lasts but is not yet here. Most of all, though, it’s reminded me of my own brokenness, my utter inability to do life on my own and my desperate need for a Savior.

My friend Adele says, “Our small denials of the self show us just how little taste we actually have for sacrifice. . . .” Which ultimately reminds me of how great his was. Fitting, I suppose, considering this is Holy Week, the culmination of why we practice Lent in the first place.