To write that real

writethatreal

I skim 90% of what comes through my inbox. I admit with crimson cheeks (not exactly, but I like the imagery) that I rarely read through the entirety of every WordPress newsletter. There–I’ve said it and now I can sleep. Well, I can after I put the rock back over the crook in the gutter so the rain stops pounding on it at freakish decibel levels.

Anyway, today I was skimming and for some bizarre reason the word “Bloggess” struck my fancy. I’m like that with words sometimes–you know, words like flummox and pulchritude and brouhaha–I just can’t pass them up without seeing where they take me.

So I clicked on today’s WP newsletter linking their blog post welcoming The Bloggess. As I read through the various sections of the post, one thing stood out above everything else: this gal writes the real. Anybody who has read me for more than ten minutes knows that my saying “she writes the real” is like placing a Queen of All the Things sash across her midsection. I have a ten-mile-long list of blogs I follow so it’s the rare blog any more on which I click that “follow” button, but I’ll be following this one.

Something she said grabbed me by the ear.
“I don’t think there’s such a thing as an unimportant story, but some are told better than others.”

I’ll be chewing on that today and likely well beyond. Thanks for the prompt, Miz Jenny. I like you already.

P.S. Upon further review of her blog, I thought I’d mention that her language does get a bit colorful in spots. But feel free to head over if you’re feelin’ froggy. Clearly we each have our own unique way of expressing our real.

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Lost

rainlost

Not all who wander are lost. Not all who wonder are lost. Do all who are lost wonder?

I feel lost lately. Not sure where I fit. If I fit. Sometimes even wondering when or if my time will come, or if that time has come and gone. And if it is to come again, where will I be? Is there a time in life when we are freed to use our giftings, and then once that time is over…are we obsolete? I wonder sometimes if I am just plain washed up.

I know what I’m good at. I don’t talk about it a lot because I don’t want to be “that person”. But I know, deep down, what I am wired to do. I know what jazzes me. I know what I’ve done wildly well in the past. I know how God has used the unique (maybe even a little bit crazy) way He knit me together to reach out and shed light into other lives.

I am a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a friend. I am a homemaker, writer, speaker, editor, creator, maker, artist, singer, musician, composer, mentor, teacher, nurturer, connector, encourager. I keep hearing that those things are of value. Are they?

I’m just not sure what to do with those things right now. If I lament that I wish I could do more, be used more in what I can do, I fear being written off as a complainer. If I stay silent, I hurt alone. Either way, as resilient as I try to remain, this hurts.

In the absence of being needed so much outwardly, I am drawn toward home. This is not unusual for me, homebody that I am. I am happiest here. I feel drawn inward, deeply introspective and almost private. At least for now. But I don’t believe it is meant to turn my thoughts inward toward myself. I believe it is to turn my thoughts more intently on Him and the message–messages–He wants me to get out in books.

In short, I am feeling called to a season of words. Specifically, words sprawled into books. What He does with them is up to Him. Showing up to the page is up to me.

And so I lose myself to find the messages. Wherever they are.

I wander and I wonder and I am lost but not lonely. These are days to find my rest in Him.

A Beautiful Life

ABLbookcoverFREE for Kindle this weekend

It’s a lot like giving birth, this book releasing thing, like holding a newborn out to the waiting world and whispering, “Please love it?” Makes me a little queasy, if I’m completely honest, and I admit moments of wondering what in the world I was thinking taking this on. But I did, and here it is, and I really do hope you love it.

I’ve been writing my whole life, and it’s no secret that I have a particular passion for using words to build into people–especially other women–and offer them courage and hope. I’ve had bits and pieces of books written and stored for a long time, but it wasn’t until Brian Williams’ book writing class that the motivation and accountability teamed up with my love for writing and resulted in a finished work.

My first book. As I consider how many women have received it since it went live yesterday, the thought of that many people holding a me-shaped piece of hope is both terrifying and exhilarating at once. Deep down I am awed by God’s grace that I get to be a part of something this lovely, this inviting of others to remember what it was like to dream.

I won a writing contest in fifth grade, and from the moment I read my story aloud and saw the wonder on my classmates’ faces, I was hooked. With a million butterflies dancing around in my tummy, I was overcome by an excitement I couldn’t word. I had a feeling that was just the beginning, and I was right. There is no feeling quite like having someone walk up to me and say, “I read your book, and I love it! Thank you for being real on the page and putting it out here for all of us.” That happened this morning, and I’m pretty sure it will never get old.

So here’s my baby, and I offer it out to you, my sweet friend. Because it’s you I pictured sitting across the table from me as I wrote. You, with your questions and your exhaustion and your wondering if you can keep going one more single minute. You can, and I’m going to be here cheering you on. You aren’t alone, and don’t you forget it. We’re in this together, and I can’t wait to meet you on the page.

My heart to yours, I wish you an ever-increasingly beautiful life.

Slowing Down {Days 1-3}

dusk

My friend Retta encouraged me to join her in the Jeff Goins “Slow Down Challenge”. I gladly accepted.

I’m a couple of days behind, so I’ll combine Days 1-3 here.

Day 1 was Noticing.

One thing I noticed was a hawk just outside my office window, feet firmly pinning a small critter of unknown description to the ground beneath him. I could see movement but couldn’t see what he’d caught. I dashed for my camera, then had it poised to snap the picture through the window when he clutched his prize and took flight, too quickly for me to see what he was holding OR capture a picture. I guess some things just have to be savored in the moment and recalled in words rather than photos. We can’t always freeze the image, but we can still give it permanence in print.

Another notice was the sound of the air conditioner coming to life, blowing cool air against my neck and setting my baby hairs to dancing. I don’t often think about how grateful I am for air conditioning, but here in Florida life would be very different without it.

Since Day 1 would have been Monday and that happened to be the day I spent some leisurely time with my beautiful friend Retta, I want to mention her as one of my focused notices. There is something unique about my friendship with her that I keep trying to word, keep trying to even understand in my own mind, and every time I try to pin it down with words I come up short. I tried again on Monday and failed again. I am grateful that she doesn’t think I’m weird for my failures. No, Retta is one of the most patient and gentle souls I have ever known. Friends now for ten years, we only hugged for the first time in person a bit over two weeks ago. There is something almost ethereal about now having her living close by. I almost feel like I’m afraid to touch the trail of pixie dust, fearful it might suddenly blow away and leave nothing behind. But she and I have talked about walking together in a better direction–walking in light and hope instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Too many days have been wasted in both of our lives to waste even one more waiting for something awful to rob us of the beauty of this life. And if we get to share it, I want to celebrate that for the gift it is.

Day 2 was Savoring.

“Because sometimes our biggest frustrations turn into our most beautiful moments.”

In response to this challenge I sit back in my chair and listen. I don’t watch much TV in general, and to be honest my usual response to hearing the TV playing is mild annoyance at the intrusion into my hearing space. This time, though, I listen with my heart. It’s a football game tonight, and the truth is football games on TV have historically been one of my favorite things in the world. Daddy and I used to watch it together, and I’ve watched with my family all through these years of our life together, these years of my husband and me raising four boys and a daughter, all of whom totally dig football. These thoughts make me smile soul-deep and I savor the moment to the sound of NFL theme music and all the memories that flood in.

Day 3 is Addressing  the Myth of Multitasking.

First off, I’ve always thought multitasking was a good thing. You know, something the most efficient among us do with pizzazz. I mean, multitasking seems like the only way to survive this life of motherhood and wifing and home management, right? How can it not be a good thing?

In theory I can see how doing too many things at once dilutes the focus on any one of them. I suppose I do understand that each thing I set myself to doing is worth my full focus at the time. Kind of makes me wonder why I didn’t think of that before. Probably because I was doing too many things at once.

I’m pondering the task assignment for today and will work on that tomorrow since it takes a bit of pre-planning. Stay tuned for more on that in the next post.

All these thoughts of slowing down are reminding me once again of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts and how gratitude slows time down. I always love reminders of Ann’s beautiful message.

Tonight I will be doing further thinking and soul-searching in regard to things God has been whispering to my heart. Friendship is figuring prominently in my thoughts lately, so it’s likely that will be at the forefront.

“Busyness robs us of the gift right in front of us.” –Jeff Goins

When deep inside beats the heart of an artist

TAJbeartracking3-unfinishedI recently pushed myself out of my comfort zone and started an art journal. This is big for a girl who has spent most of her life telling herself she “can’t do art”.

As a writer, I’ve always considered myself an artist in a broad sense. At any mention of it, however, I would always say something like, “My medium is words. My canvas has lines!”

I’ve created pictorial art before, but it was never good enough in my own eyes to give myself any credit. For years I doodled in my journal margins, depicting myself with goofy expressions and speech bubbles.

In 1990 when the death of our baby daughter rocked our world, I longed to sketch a picture of my husband in Heaven holding Heather in his arms. It wasn’t something I could commission anyone else to do; I couldn’t explain their expressions and the joy I was imagining. So I took out a pencil and a half-sheet of paper and sketched it myself. It fell far short of what I envisioned, but it was from my heart and by my own hand and on a sunny Father’s Day afternoon he cried over my gift.

Nearly twenty-three years later, it remains tucked between the pages of his Bible.

Writing comes easy to me. Not that I fancy myself that great at it, but it’s natural, like breathing. My heartbeat picks up when I write because it jazzes me. My heartbeat picks up when I sketch or paint, too, but it’s because I feel nervous. Scared. Inadequate.

Somewhere in me there has always lived a longing to create pictures. Something else in me has kept that longing from seeing daylight, and I’m not even sure why. I just know that a few months ago, God opened my eyes.

A friend invited me to a painting class where the students all follow an instructor step-by-step and create a painting. I could feel my heart pounding in my ears with those first brushes of acrylic across white. With each stroke I grew more excited as colors took the shape of a tree. The end result was a real painting, and it was my own work. I didn’t care that someone had walked me through it like a baby—it was mine!

In recent weeks I have joined an active art journaling community and started a small one of my own. I’ve begun to discover color and texture and techniques I’d never encountered before. I’m finding ways to express myself that go right to the core of the visual learner in me.

The visual learner in me. I’ve been a visual learner my whole life, so why did it take me nearly 50 years to allow myself this form of expression?

At this point I don’t even care why it took me so long. I only care that I’m no longer afraid to share my story in pictures.

My friend, what are you denying yourself that could bring your story to life?

 

 

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A Write Where It Hurts column post

April’s NaPoWriMo – {One I might stand a chance with}

writerApril is National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo). The Novel Writing one kicked my butt and left me in the dust, but I might have a fighting chance with this one.

It could happen.

Anyway, here’s one for today.

April

April dawns, both cruel and kind
Brings both love and loss to mind
Twice come times to mark the day
Two sons gave their hearts away
One day holds the memory of
A flower we will always love
That mid-day will see tears and joy
When waves goodbye our baby boy
April goes and blows a kiss
Till it returns a year from this
Grateful, its return we’ll greet 
With mem’ries fond and bittersweet

But did I mother you well?

motherhands

You’ve grown up, now, all five of you. You are productive citizens pursuing life with fervor. You love God and your fellow man and you serve gratefully. You are both respectful and respected and are just plain good people.

But I need to know: Did I mother you well?

I know I rubbed your back four million times and did your hair and then backed off and watched you do your own when you were sure you could do it by-a-self. And I fed you Southern fried chicken and created KFC Bowls from scratch, made you sweet tea and homemade bread and baked all those cookie cakes for all those birthdays until peanut butter pie took over the favorite spot and then I made those. I planned themed birthday parties and hosted slumber parties of 15 with bodies draped all over the house at 5am, all but those pulling the all-nighter munching on homemade chocolate chip cookies and talking and playing games.

But did I mother you well?

Did I spend enough time just listening to you, sitting with you in the quiet space or doing something you wanted to do? Did I tell you enough times how much I love you?

I know I didn’t complain about football-sweat hugs or get too mad about you leaving your black leather batting glove in your white uniform pocket that ruined my favorite white shirt, and I cheered like a madwoman when you pitched the baseball through that piece of plywood and left a perfect baseball-sized hole clear through. I yelled, “See the ball and take it out!” and “You can do it!” and “Yes, that’s the way!” and “Oh, no you did not just blindside my baby!”, whispered calm and protection in the night and left a lullaby playing softly as I tiptoed out.

But was that enough?

I sat long at the ball practices and watched through every dance class for nine straight years and brought all that strange stuff backstage (just in case, because you never know when you might need an eighth-inch wooden dowel in a pinch). I took those photos–all those photos of every event and every ordinary moment I could capture because they are all extraordinary when you are mothering miracles.

Yes, I chased you down with homemade remedies that smelled awful but made you well by the next day. I teamed up with Daddy to guide you away from bad behavior and attitudes and had those long talks about hormones and all the crazy stuff that comes with growing up. I tried not to make you feel guilty for too much if I could help it, said sorry from my heart when I reacted or made a mistake or scolded too quickly.

I stayed home and made do and lived simply and taught you to love learning for its own sake. I did everything I could do to ignite a passion for life deep in your heart. I treated you like the unique person you are and didn’t compare you to anyone else. I loved celebrating how God wired you because I happen to think He did a splendid job and didn’t mind telling you so. I said you didn’t have to kiss me goodbye in front of your teen friends even though you did it anyway because you wanted to.

But did I mother you well, my children? Did I give you precious memories to hold onto, minimize life’s struggles even a little bit, help you believe you could do anything with God’s help and a good dose of gumption? Did I mother you well?

I ask because as the years fly by and you grow up and out and I see the collateral damage I and others in my generation carry on our backs I need to know I didn’t shift that onto yours. I need to know you carry a much lighter load into adulthood than I did, than my parents did, and theirs before them.

I need to know that I mothered you well because in all this life I can write and speak and paint and and produce but there is no art I could ever create as beautiful as you.

 

More ways to leave a legacy of words

legacywords2My daughter and I have kept a dialogue journal since January of 2003. Early entries show her talking about her friends and signing off with “Love, You’re Dear Doter, Rosie”. I cherish her words, right down to the last misspelling and roughly formed letter. Reading back over the entries I watch her writing improve, both in penmanship and construction, and I smile at the memories each invokes.

Time marches on like a focused soldier, but it cannot steal the words we have taken the time to write down.

I have learned a valuable lesson in the encouragement of writing within our family: There is no measurable value one could place on printed memories. It’s why I have taught creative writing first in our home school; then in schools, cooperatives, and bookstores; then worldwide online.

One of my most intentional goals in this life is to leave a legacy of words. Through words, stories breathe and live on. And in some way, we live on through them.

I hold our little denim journal, turning it over in my hands and reminiscing about the places we’ve hidden it for one another to find. Under pillows, on desks, leaning against vanity mirrors, in the folds of blankets. I imagine her delight and recall my own at finding it and knowing it was my turn to write. It is a turn I have joyfully taken for the past eleven years, and will continue to take for as long as the pages of our little journal hold out—and perhaps beyond.

Words between Rosie and me have held much shared laughter over the years. I remember chuckling and then dashing for my camera when I caught the first glimpse of the picture attached to this post. It was the perfect scene to capture, and we still giggle about it together.

I wonder, my friend, how you might also make words a beautiful part of the freezing of your moments. I want you to know this same joy.

Perhaps you could start a tradition of leaving sticky-notes in strategic places for your loved ones to find, notes of encouragement and love and silliness.

You could do what I did when our eldest was in kindergarten: I adapted familiar nursery rhymes by rewording them to fit our family and the current circumstances. He is now 32, and still has the scrapbook containing all the notes from that year.

We have a magnetic white board on our refrigerator, a dry erase marker attached by a cord. Right now it houses a note thanking my husband for mowing the lawn, a message thanking my family for being my best friends, and a “Baby, you lookin’ good!”

Immense possibilities burst forth when you wind words to weave love.

Might I invite you, even now, to begin creatively dreaming up ways to word your heart? Remember, you are not alone in this. We are a team. We are family.

Here’s to moments worded and memories captured, for all of us.

 

 

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Featured at Write Where It Hurts

How a story worded never dies

storywordedFrequently in Scripture we see where God told His people to build memorials to His work, to set up stones commemorating what He’d done, how He’d delivered, how He’d provided. He wanted His people and those who came after them to remember His matchless power and limitless love for His children.

God also told His people to write down what He had done, so that no one would forget His deeds.

Imagine it: Words as memorial stones.

Isn’t that what we are doing here–setting up memorials in writing, telling of where we were then and where we are now and how it’s only His grace that could’ve brought us through?

If our words are that important, our stories so worth wording, then shouldn’t we embrace the task with joy?

Memorials live on after those who built them have gone. So do our words after they are written.

Builders of memorials chose specific materials. The results would stand for many long years and the stories behind them would go on.

Wording our lives allows them to go on.

Aren’t we always searching for that Fountain of Youth, that magic pill or perfect diet that will stretch our lives into the future? Don’t we seek immortality?

As writers we get to board a time machine—or perhaps more accurately a machine that removes time and affords us the ability to create (we were made in the image of the Creator, after all) something that will outlive our earthly shell.

Journals become time capsules that can be opened and reopened by generation after generation, spelling out our thoughts and dreams and fears and questions for an indefinite audience.

Even now I reread old journal entries and God leaps out from the pages with one miracle after another: a grief endured, hunger satisfied, a prayer answered, a need provided.

This is why I teach life story writing. This is why I plead with people I meet to seek the words and write them down and immortalize life. It’s why I’m always on the lookout for more and better ways to inspire and equip others to put their stories into words.

We buried Daddy in the Pine Grove cemetery. I wore a blue dress with white lace and tulips embroidered below the collar. I clutched the tiny white handkerchief with blue stitching Mama had tucked into my hand in the back seat of the hearse. I heard someone whisper that Daddy had died of heart failure. I would spend the next 20 years carrying sole blame for his death.

And you, friend? What of your story? If you don’t tell it, who will? Be assured of this: No one can tell it like you can!

I am wording my story, and I would love to have you along for the ride as you word your own. Will you join me in this building process? It isn’t nearly as difficult as you might think.

And know this: you won’t be alone.

 

 

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Featured at Write Where It Hurts

When you’re being splashed across a canvas

lisapaintingA small green paintbrush captured me today
Brushed me across a canvas rough but welcoming
Moved like music over the whiteness and left it with a face
Not quite smiling, but far from sad
The lines blurred slightly, but it was me
Colors thrown across the surface
With purposeful abandon
Eyes staring back like midnight orbs
Hauntingly mine

An artistan’s easel held me today
Cradled me like a timid child
Rocked me with a subtlety only an artist could know
Strong legs held me fast
Completely balanced but not so firm
As to rob me of the edge
The knowing that at any moment I could fall or fly
Or fade

A master created me today
Or maybe just allowed me to see what was already there
Held up the magic mirror where only fools look in
And I looked, fool that I am, and smiled
Seeing for the first time my truth
Reading the page with perfect understanding
Knowing I would never be the same
Nor would I want to be
Anyone but me

 

 

___________________
Featured at Write Where It Hurts