Thursday, September 15, 2011

Keeping Vigil and Carrying the Load

Life is full of pain, yet God's goodness still shines through. This day has felt strangely holy, as I hold three people before the Lord in my thoughts.

Photo Credit

My friend Katie, whose police officer husband accidentally struck and killed a local 14 year old kid yesterday morning. What a shocking event in this small community, well connected to the families on both sides of the situation.

My friend Rhys, whose daughter Lia I am convinced shared time with Lulu in God's waiting room a couple years ago, sitting in a Boise hospital with Lia as she recovers from major internal surgery yesterday. Lia's road has been so unique and challenging already in this life, and it just doesn't appear that "normal" is something that will ever materialize for this family. Normal is overrated, but it does tend to come with more sleep and a greater sense of stability than this family has had for almost three years now.

And an amazing blogger, Sara, whose words I have been reading for three years now. She has been housebound for many years with an autoimmune disease, and has used the situation as a chance to be a voice of encouragement and beauty on the internet. We read this week that her earthly journey is almost at an end, and she is poised to make her entrance into the presence of Jesus. Go, Gitzen Girl!

I also have a friend trying to finalize adoption papers before a crazy deadline next week, another celebrating her dad's first birthday in heaven this week, and a new acquaintance whose divorce just finalized a couple days ago.

Life is full of pain. And difficult moments. I have no easy answers for the pain I am helping carry today. But I have hope. Today, as I have held this vigil in my heart, I have been reminded of Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength,a very present help in etrouble.2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,3 though its waters roar and foam,though the mountains tremble at its swelling. 
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.I will be exalted among the nations,I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;the God of Jacob is our fortress.

The mountains seem about to fall into the sea today, but even if everything crashes around me I know that God is here, and he is still God. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Word Love Wednesday :: RUE Your Words

What’s your art?

Once a week, we gather here to discuss the art of writing. Not publishing--that’s a big world that involves marketing and business. Not the message itself--you already know in your heart what you want to say. Rather, we discuss the nuts and bolts that contribute to powerful delivery of your message--for the love of the written word.

Today’s tip: Resist the Urge to Explain. You have read over-explanations; you have probably written some of them. In my case, it usually comes from a sincere intention to help the reader feel invited into the moment, but sometimes it leads to too much backstory.

Backstory weighs a story down; if that weight comes right at the beginning of a story, before a reader is hooked, you might actually be able to see the reader’s eyes glaze over as she moves her mouse to click on to the next story. You have 5 seconds (50 words) to persuade your reader to stick with you--make the most of that time.

So how can you lighten up a little? Try any of these three tricks:
  1. Start with a bang--jump right into the middle of the action. "Ring! Ring! The telephone's insistent call sucked her out of reverie. She tucked her thoughts away and turned her attention to Valerie's shrill voice on the other end of the line."
  2. Start by declaring the topic sentence of your piece. "Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, yet more than 25% of moms neglect to train their children to eat it." A quotation, Scripture reference, or statistic can work well to encapsulate the point you are about to make.
  3. Start with an unusual thought that grabs the reader’s attention. "We learned more from the egg that didn't fry on the sidewalk than we ever did in school."

One strategy I use to lighten up my piece is to simply cut out the first paragraph of the first draft. Often I only end up needing a few words from those opening sentences to set the stage just as effectively in much less space.

It boils down to this silly acronym: RUE your words. Resist the Urge to Explain.

As you write this week, be aware of your backstory. Practice starting in the middle of the story. Practice finding quotes or Bible references to place at the beginning. Practice phrasing a thought in such a way that makes the reader say, “I want to read more!” Practice cutting your first paragraph, and see if the story really loses anything.

Now, let’s think about last week’s assignment: set yourself a goal to write so much a week. What was your goal? How did you do? I am still writing a lot more than I did earlier in the summer; but I found I need to write a lot on the weekend in order to focus on my other responsibilities during the week. My new goal for this week is to get four blog posts in the hopper by the end of the weekend, so I can use weeknight free time on other writing projects.

Join the conversation! Remember, you can comment something as simple as, "I am a writer!" The more you say it, the more your confidence grows. Tell us your writing goals; tell us your experience cutting out the backstory as you try to chisel out the best presentation of your message.

Photo Credit

Monday, August 8, 2011

Homeschool Report :: 2011 Week 1

I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

We got a small taste last week of what homeschool can look like. It definitely does not look like traditional school. I still feel a little crazy to think I can be the kids' teacher, but I hope that with every successful day (defined very loosely of course), my confidence will grow.

On Monday, homeschool looked like wallowing in a new bucket of geometric shapes. The kids didn't come up for air for nearly an hour.

I wrote a nice "Why I want a clean house" mission statement (more like a prayer): Lord, bless all who enter my home, and fill them with your peace. Release me from chaos, so I can focus on the needs of others.

On Tuesday, homeschool looked like creating a new animal out of clay, and naming it. Adam had a tough job naming all the animals, you know! Miss Boo's creation received the title of doliphant (part dolphin, part elephant), although I see more resemblance to jet plane, hummingbird, and aardvark.

For my project, I cleaned out the fridge and freezer. Only took 15 minutes due to it having been cleaned three months ago. Love that!

On Wednesday, homeschool looked like building a musical instrument, to celebrate that music has been around almost since the beginning. Lots of hammering in the garage happened on this day. We also visited the library.

I started out trying to get my kitchen counters cleared off, but got mired in the details. We accidentally paid the mortgage twice, resulting in some administrative distractions including a lengthy visit to the bank.

On Thursday, homeschool looked like buildling a puzzle map of Africa while we made cards to send a girl we sponsor in Malawi, through World Vision. We also made beads for the baby to string, and baked cookies.

Also on Thursday, we did that egg-on-the-sidewalk thing you may have heard me talking about. What a fiasco! First it didn't cook as fast as I expected, even in 106 degree temps on a black asphalt street. But I couldn't wait around because it was dinner time. I carried the baby back inside, set her down--and slipped a disk in my back.

After crawling into the living room and laying on the floor for ten minutes, I finished making dinner and dragged myself to my writers' group meeting, forgetting all about the egg. By the time I checked it at 10pm, it had cooked after all.

Never did clean out the stove and microwave, but they were pretty neat so I'm still okay.

By Friday, my back hurt, my intentions were melted in the heat, and it was time for a pool party and some grocery shopping. We did zero school, and ended the week with a house in its usual state of slight disarray. Ah, well.  It was a week, and I will count it as such. I met several new friends, both online and in person, that encourage me.

I have no idea what Friday's cleaning assignment was. Doesn't matter, I didn't do it. Weekends are for catching up, so that's why I built only 5 projects into each week. Unfortunately, we also spent the entire weekend getting out of the house, so my Monday morning is looking pretty scary already. Guess I'll just back up to day 3, on top of the neverending laundry mountain, and aim to finish goals 3-7 this week.

Not feeling especially victorious after one week, but not yet beaten down and discouraged, either. I suppose if you ask, "How's it going?" I would have to say, "About what I would expect after the first lap of 36. Anything can still happen!"

This week, we will work toward a getting-started routine that includes breakfast, getting dressed, and a little Bible time; then we will do math first, followed by our Mystery of History lessons. As time permits, we will set up a roly-poly observation station and start asking questions.

We will also be working in a visit to Discount Tire; a trip to the chiropractor for me; and 8-10 hours of writing time as I work on a workshop class, an interactive discipleship "party" for a half dozen pre-tweens, and a Bible study lesson.

What does your homeschool week look like?

Hip Homeschool Hop Button
This post is linked up with the Hip Homeschool Hop.
Because I'm chill like that.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

On New Beginnings

This post is linked up to the Not-Back-To-School Blog Hop. Hoping to meet a few new homeschool friends this way--I am still very much building my homeschool tribe!

Not Back to School Blog Hop

In March, I reacted. Pulled my 9 year old treasure (an amazing gift, who stretches me more than I thought possible) out of the world I had misgivings about sending her to in the first place, and declared I would homeschool this one while we decided what to do next.

Now, I purpose. This week I become the full time teacher of the 9 year old and of her 6 year old brother. We will study the Mystery of History together, beginning at the beginning and working our way through the Resurrection of Christ. 2 year old baby will be coloring a lot of printables this year, I think.

We will study biology together, using a handful of books and a house full of odds and ends for experimenting and learning about classification of living things; move into the human body after Christmas; and finish with botany and ecology by the end of the year.

The 4th grader will work her way through Teaching Textbooks for math, while I play counting, calendar, money, and other math games with the 1st grader. What math does a 6 year old need to know, anyway? Adding? Story problems? Parts of a pie? I think we'll do okay.

We will all do a little First Language Lessons and Spelling Power, and I intend to get my writing-resistant daughter to develop handwriting and composition skills by narrating and documenting the things we study in all the other areas.

If I am totally awesome, we will listen to classical music each Thursday while alternating art studies between drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, and collage. And studying art styles & artists, musicians & music history. We might even learn a Latin prayer by the end of the year.

Oh, and I have a subject this year, too: Cleaning the house, 5 days a week. I'll be using Sarah Mae's 31 Days to Clean. Best $5 investment I have made in a long time. I hope it helps bring some peace to our home, because summer has been way too chaotic and disorganized.

I honestly don't know how I will be able to accomplish an entire year of homeschool to my personal satisfaction. But I do know that the discipleship of my children is my primary responsibility, and this is the way I choose to do it right now.

I also know I don't do it alone. Jehovah Shammah, The Lord my companion, stands by my side.

What are you attempting this week, that can only happen with the Lord Your Companion?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Word Love #1 :: Own It

Do you want to write, or do you want to be published?

This question challenged me at She Speaks. After having considered myself “a writer” for four years, I attended the conference hoping to both improve my writing skills and to get a foothold in the world of publishing. In addition to accomplishing both of these goals, my time at the conference also taught me the vast difference between the two.

Andrea Doering, executive editor for Revell Books, encouraged writers that if we have ever shared a blog post for the world to see, we may consider ourselves published. We may even have a larger audience through blogging and speaking than we would reach through traditional publication.

As a blogger, I can consider myself a published writer. I have had a few other pieces published to larger audiences, but let’s stick with the blogging for right now. As a blogger, I have the ability to write whatever weighs on my heart, without having to go through an editor. I can interact with my audience directly, thus lending strength to my influence with this audience. I can post links to my content all over the internet, constantly growing the reach of my message. To be honest, the more I consider these facts, the more I think I am quite happy just blogging here in my own corner.

So, then, when is it time to seek publication? According to Andrea, these two questions help determine the answer:

1. Is there something I can do with a book length work that I cannot do with a blog?
2. Is there a reader I want to reach that I can not reach with a blog?

I can think of answers to these questions that might indicate my readiness to publish. For instance, if I had an active speaking schedule, I’d like to have something to take with me that gives my whole message in context. Also, while many readers spend many hours a week reading blogs, I would imagine still more than half the potential audience has yet to call the online world their primary information source.

So do I want to write, or do I want to be published?

At this point in my career, I personally want to write. Blogging offers all the publication I need for the moment. Publication, the traditional bookish kind, will require a lot of hard work and dedication to a message God is still refining in my mind. The message may grow large enough to push beyond this venue; and thanks to the direction of these two questions, I will know the time has come to move to the next step.

What about you? Do you thread words from your thoughts onto paper? Do you aspire to share a message with whatever audience you can reach?

If you want to get published, follow people who talk publishing:
Terry Whalin
Michael Hyatt
Seth Godin
Rachelle Gardner
Mary DeMuth

But if right now you just want to write, then this place is for you. You can be published right now, through the wonders of blogging.

And, here is the fun part! You can learn to communicate your message as clearly as possible. Today starts a new weekly series, Word Love Wednesday. Every week, we will look at a tip to improve your writing. Ready? Set? Word.

WORD LOVE #1: OWN IT. Determine whether your goal is to write, or to get published.

If you want to write, call yourself a writer. Go ahead, say it out loud! Post it in the comments here if you need to.

Then start doing it. Just start. Journal, blog, volunteer to write the office newsletter, make a creative grocery list! Whatever works for you, as long as you pick up the pen (or sit at the keyboard) and say something. Set yourself a goal to write a certain amount by next Wednesday, then come back here and check in. Nobody will check your work, but we want to cheer you on! If nothing else, come see if I made my goal of posting four times during our first week of homeschool.

I also want to share with you my personal favorite guide on the subject of writing. I'm thinking of giving away a copy to a Word Love commenter in a few weeks. Would you like that? Here it is, check out the reviews.

An Introduction to Christian Writing:
An Indepth Companion to the Complete Writing Experience
by Ethel Herr.

Where are you in your writing journey today? Where do you aspire to go?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

She Reflects :: On The Greater Gift

I may be almost out of She Speaks downloads.

Except for a new series beginning tomorrow on how to better communicate your message, of course. Every Wednesday I will be sharing one tip on how to tighten up your writing. Called, "For the Love of the Word Wednesday." Do you like it? That's going to be funny to me whenever I start muttering about having to get that Wednesday post up, For the Love.

Anyway. So, other than For the Love Wednesday, and all the extra-amazing blogging about to go on over here (are you rolling your eyes yet? I am, but giggling all the while), I just have one post left about She Speaks. The only catch is, you have to do a little hop to see it. But I promise it delivers. OK?

Read my post, The Greater Gift, about Ann Voskamp's keynote message, and my She Speaks encounter with Jehovah Shammah over at

May you be blessed abundantly today, by the God who does not limit his presence to churches or temples, but is accessible to all who love and obey him!

Monday, August 1, 2011

She Reflects :: On Divine Appointments

He knew better than to bother with me before the conference: 
I was too focused.

He knew better than to waste his efforts on me during the conference: 
I was too confident.

He knew better than to start in on me during the trip home: 
I was surrounded by too many fellow attendees.

In fact, I can't think of a time in my life that I have felt more protected, sure of my calling, and supported than I did last weekend. 

The night before my trip to Charlotte, as I sank exhausted into bed for a three hour nap before morning, an unexpected warmth washed over me. God reassured me, tenderly, that I was on my way to a divine appointment. What a gift, to carry that with me all weekend!

At the end of my flight day, I collected my suitcase off the conveyer belt, turned around, and saw the one person of 650--the one person in all of Charlotte--that I already knew personally. The rest of the evening was spent in catching up and sharing with Laurel, a leader in my home church whose office I shared during my summer ministry internship over a decade ago. What a gift, to start the weekend with one who has known me since I came of age, who knows my parents and knows me!

At dinner, we invited a few others to share our table. Halfway through the meal, Katie suddenly recognized me as a blog friend. We have followed one another's stories for three years, and there she was sitting six inches away from me! What a gift, to realize all this blogging business has real people on the other end of it, and that we can meet in a place like this. My world grew three sizes in an instant.

Before my first publisher appointment the next afternoon, I connected with Shona and Caroline, two more friends I had known only through the internet. Both supportive, both helping me work out some of my jitters. What a gift, to have Caroline sit me down 20 minutes before my time and let me practice my pitch on her!

Walking through the hall later, I saw a face I thought I recognized. Squeee! Emily, whose magical, thoughtful prose first cast me a vision for a blog that could be a living thing, engaged in conversation with me. What a gift, a treasure to satisfy my secret desire to meet her in person. And she really is as sweet and just-right as she seems.

On through the weekend, the divine appointments continued. Clear through the entire trip home, through date night at the end, through the beginning of the next week as I unpacked, counted, and treasured each gift.

The mountaintop high didn't end Tuesday, when I learned the Captain would be taking a business trip for the remainder of the week.

It didn't end Wednesday, when Lulu found scissors and cut her lovely goldilocks for the second time in a week.

It didn't end Thursday, when I worked on an article until 3am, and went to my room to find ants milling around on the floor of my closet.

But oh, my friends, all good things come to an end. And that sneaky prowling enemy just lurked, waiting for his opportunity. Friday, the mountaintop experience came to an abrupt end.

At 8am, I got a call that the Captain's flight home from D.C. had been cancelled and rerouted, which would cause him to miss the last flight into town, thereby stranding him overnight in Dallas.

At 10am, I found inappropriate months-old pictures on my phone, taken by my children, who apparently didn't realize that their potty humor mini videos and body part gallery would be viewable by me. And that's all you need to know about that.

At noon, the baby ran around the house yelling potty words learned from the children in the above description. She also regressed a bit in her potty training progress from before my trip, and had two accidents on my sofa. At this point, I outlawed all potty words and banned laughter from the house.

At 2pm, I took out the trash, which led to the discovery of a moldy yogurt container in the bottom of the can; which led to a delay in taking out the trash, which led to the bag leaking a clear bile-smelling liquid on the floor and carpet; which led to floor mopping and a bleach incident (bad for my bleach-fumes allergy); which led to the discovery of rotting potatoes in the pantry next to the new trash bags; which really put me over the top for the day, smell-wise. At this point the kids were enlisted as slave labor; and they folded laundry (a first), picked up and vacuumed the living rooms, and otherwise earned their keep for a few moments.

At 4pm I didn't care anymore, and went back to bed.

At 6pm I took the kids out for dinner and a few groceries, whereupon my exuberant boy chased the baby right out of the store through the low grocery cart opening while several horrified busybodies stared and blocked my path as I shed my dignity and chased her like the sassypants she is.

At 8pm I got a nice call from my sister-in-law, during which the kids took total advantage and messed up all their beautiful tidying progress from earlier (see 2pm).

At 10pm the Captain called, and after we traded war stories from the day (my story being far better than his), I belatedly realized I had just stolen all his joy and anticipation for coming home the next morning. Oops. I hate when I do that. Kind of a downer moment on which to end a defeating sort of day.

But I had a slip of a dream remain with me all day. I dreamed about another appointment, one I haven't had yet, in which a nice lady smiled at me and asked for my book proposal. Her interest, and obvious belief in me, set my heart right at ease. It's a nugget to store with that peace and tenderness moment given the night before my trip, to reassure me through all the other moments. I am on the right path, and I have confirmation of it in the many divine appointments I seem to be keeping all along the way.

That sneaky old enemy may have scored a round on me, but he will not win. I am confident of this, that the one who began this good work in me will be faithful to complete it. And I am confident he will complete the work he is doing in you, too. Just treasure your gifts and watch out for those divine appointments!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Five Minute Friday: Still

Once a week, a special community writes for the pure love of the unedited word. We take just a few moments to spill our un-smithed thoughts, and share them with one another--and with you.

I like it because by Friday, everything I have left is of the un-edited variety.
Five Minute Friday is specially hosted at inCourage today. There's even a giveaway to one random linker. You know you want to participate now!


Would you believe God specially reminded me to BE STILL this week, and remember that He is with me. Psalm 46 is one of my favorites (along with about 50 others, ha!) and has always been a good reminder not to fret when I don't know what I am about. Because seriously, compared to GOD, what's left to worry about?

I went to this marvelous conference last weekend (has it been a week already?), and was left wondering where God was in the midst of it. At the tail end of the weekend, I remembered to visit the prayer room. And believe me, that holy ground was STILL.

I had worried that I wasn't close enough to God, that all the other women at the conference had a better line to him than I do. But what I found in that STILL place was my name, prayerfully placed next to this name of God:


and along with it, the reference to Psalm 46. God's presence is always with me, and always supersedes any of my doubts.

God is good. And I love when he works so perfectly to remind me that he is with me.


Much more poetic post on this to come Monday. But I could not believe this was our prompt for today, after I just spent three hours smithing that other post! Good reminder to me to pull out Psalm 46 again and meditate on it over the weekend.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

She Reflects :: On the Proposal

“Sometimes rejection is God’s protection.” Renee Swope, author of A Confident Heart

Sitting in the Writers’ Coffee House on Saturday afternoon, listening to a panel of veterans share candidly about the industry, I continue to reflect on my first-ever experiences here at She Speaks 2011 this weekend. I think of myself as a confident soul, with a healthy self esteem. Turns out even the confident ones have room to grow that confidence deeper by clinging to God alone.

After spending six weeks obsessing about demographics, markets, comparable literature, and my publishing pedigree, I had a small challenge with remaining objective about the original purpose of my appointments: to have gone through the exercise enough to get the maximum benefit from the conference. To prepare for my first experience, I took a class a month before the conference, about preparing the perfect pitch. This gave me the words to say, at a time when this writer tends to get tongue tied: whenever the words have extra importance.

My first 15 minute appointment went according to the script. Except that I forgot to practice parts the editor might say. So my words tumbled out in a rush, I struggled mightily to refrain from self-deprecation, and when the door opened with 90 seconds left on my timer, I quickly wrapped up and left--without ever allowing the editor to ask me any questions about my project, or offering her a copy of my proposal. Whoops. She took a copy of my one-sheet book description, but as I felt the need to thank her for having been my “first interview,” I feel fairly confident that she will not be pursuing me this year on the basis of that (lovely, thanks to my amazing husband) piece of paper.

This first representative did manage to squeeze in a few words when I got to the question, “What are you looking for right now?” She responded smoothly that they are “looking for authors with an established platform, with whom we could partner to help market the book.” And I know I am not there. Then she offered a few suggestions on ways to grow my blog audience in order to get to the point where her publisher might have more interest in taking a chance on me.

Truthfully, this appointment went about as well as I expected, although I still experienced a sense of letdown afterward, a knowledge that on this day, I had yet to be “discovered” by the world. But I had the second appointment looming in 26 hours, to pull me through.

For the second appointment, I vowed to show more personality, to engage the editor more before launching into my project description. This second editor asked me for the chapter outline, and when I showed it, she did not seem to quite understand it. While friendly, she explained that as written, the project does not fit with their target demographic. She gave me a few indications of how the project would be attractive to her publisher, but declined to take even a copy of my one-sheet.

I walked out with my head held high, a little stunned that I had no thread of hope to hold on to that the second editor might ever call. And an hour later, here I sit in the conference room, heart breaking on the inside as I realize the advice being shared so freely by Lysa TerKeurst, Mary DeMuth, and the others does not apply to me yet. All my talking and writing, all the sacrifice of my family as I stretch the fabric to create more me time, and the world has yet to even open this 44 page document I worked so hard to create.

And from the depths of my being, all the hopes, the anticipation, the fatigue, the disappointment, the everything--they well up and with sinking heart I recognize what comes: the ugly cry. Right here in front of my writing mentors and heroes. Jesus, help me.

The session ends, and I find myself falling apart all over a sweet twenty-something twitter friend from Dallas, who has the perfect shoulder to cry on. I. Hate. Sobs. I avoid it often enough that when it comes, I have no idea how to stop it. Public or not, the crying will run its full course.

In the hours that follow, I remember my earlier Choose to go deeper moments, and I know that here I have come against a hard stop. Here I recognize that before I am ready with something of value to share, I need to sink my roots deeper into Jesus. I have followed Jesus since childhood; yet in the ache of my heart over this moment that should not have hit so painfully, I conclude that I have just barely scratched the surface of God’s mighty work in my life. And I sense God asking me to start a journey that digs much deeper, so that at a point further down the road I might have something of even greater value to share.

Photo Credit
"She is like a tree, planted by streams of water..."
Psalm 1:3

Not that discipling my children, developing a new ministry at church, and blogging have small value in the Now. All of those things have great value, and I am content to have those outlets for the message burning within me. But publication? I am only at the beginning of a long road, and that will grow naturally out of the overflow as I turn my energy to the near things.

God used a firm rejection to protect me from overextending myself, or even expending too much time in anticipation during this season of beginning homeschooling. How about you? How has God used rejection to protect you?

Coming Monday: How God physically answered me in my quest to sink my roots deeper.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

She Reflects :: On Going Deeper

“Let God Chisel” -Lysa TerKeurst, author of Made to Crave

Lysa TerKeurst, Mary DeMuth, and three other industry veterans sit at the front of my hotel conference room, sharing candidly about the journey to publication. My journey to sit in this room on this particular Saturday afternoon has taken four years, yet I hardly hear their voices over the tempest swirling inside me. How can I feel so confident in my place here, yet so miserable in this moment? Lord, what am I missing?

With four years blogging experience, a slew of positive input from my tribe, and a growing heart to communicate God’s message, I arrived at She Speaks on Thursday night with a blog-series-turned-book-proposal and a pair of appointments to introduce my Grand Idea to the publishing world. It started out as an academic idea, just a chance to go through the experience of writing a proposal in order to best squeeze every drop of benefit from this amazing conference. But then the proposal developed a life of its own, and I began to believe in it. Although I acknowledge the diminutive size of my growing platform, and the sophomoric quality of the presentation, I still intended to walk into those appointments with my head held high and give those editors my best pitch.

Until I unpacked my suitcase.

During flight, something in my toiletries bag leaked. Soaked with dampness--saline? body spray? hard telling--my blue bag then bled on the clothing around it, including my one nice white shirt, my chosen comfort uniform for that first publishing appointment. I felt a little heartsick, but almost immediately I took a deep breath as I heard a whisper, “What will you choose?”

The God who flung the stars into the sky, who coordinated my arrival at this conference with my particular dreams and hopes, this same God knew that blue bag would bleed on that white shirt. And he brought me here anyway. I could choose to fret in this moment. Believe me, I considered it. Or I could choose to go deeper with God, to trust that clothing would not change a single detail of my upcoming agenda. I chose to go deeper. And as I continued to unpack, I found I had packed a sweater to wear over the white shirt. The blue bleed spot would not show anyway.

I breathed a sigh of relief. Until I ran into another hiccup.

Friday morning, I scheduled myself with some quiet time to prepare for my first appointment. As my anxiety grew (despite my best efforts to quell it), I showered and began to dress. Suddenly I realized the hotel room lacked a hairdryer. What? I searched the bathroom, then moved into the main room. Closets, drawers, under the beds, inside the microwave. Nothing. I returned to the bathroom and took a long look at my scary toweled hairdo. Lord? Do you want to walk through this with me also? Is this another moment you want me to choose to go deeper?

I took a breath, made peace with the scary hair. Even if I could not otherwise solve my problem in the 90 minutes before my first meeting, I knew God had brought me here, had known of this adventure, and would be honored only by a choice not to fret over this detail. And in that moment, as I turned to my toiletries bag hanging from the wall shelf, I discovered another bag hanging behind my bag. In it, I found a hairdryer.

Both moments--the blue bleed marks and the scary hair threat--seemed small in the moment, but as I sit in the hotel conference room, pondering my first publishing industry experience, these moments rise up from my memory and speak once more, “Will you choose to go deeper?”

Coming Thursday: She (Finally) Reflects on the Proposal.

Monday, July 25, 2011

She Reflects :: On Priorities

“What are the three things that only you can do?”

The question slid so smoothly into my consciousness that I can’t remember now if I first heard it just this weekend; or perhaps it never received voice this weekend at all, just so wildly appropriate that it framed my response to the many nuggets of application clamoring for dominance.

I hold a mental snapshot answer to this question on priorities, from the camera’s perspective. Three grinning, sticky faces jostle one another in the foreground as they peer directly into the lens: my children.

At 2, 6, and 9, they represent the number one project that only I can handle. They need me to provide meals, clean clothing, and a home environment that nurtures them. They need discipleship in the faith they have chosen.

A personal chef and a housekeeper illustrate the point that these responsibilities, while mine, could be delegated. Even their education could be delegated to a home tutor if I chose. And believe me, I reserve the right to do so at whatever time it becomes necessary. But today, this month, for the foreseeable future; this entire job remains not just my responsibility, but my largest task. Only I can play with them. Only I can shepherd them to adulthood. Only I can be be their mom.

Beyond the faces monopolizing the foreground of my snapshot, I see the sanctuary of my local church. In that sacred place sit hundreds of believers with all backgrounds, with a hunger to know God more intimately. And of the people in that community, God has chosen to impress on my heart the urgency of providing more venues for them to know Him more, through foundation building.

Over the coming months, I am honored, permitted, and responsible to develop a series of workshops, to help these hungry believers go deeper into the Christian life. The messages welling up within me can find outlet in the venue of my local church; and I sense my path moving that direction. This fulfills me.

My snapshot answer to the question, “What are the three things only you can do?” has one more element, beyond the children and the sanctuary. Far in the distance, still in view, I see a torrent, falling off the edge of the world. As I grow my own roots deep in order to pour God’s living water out on my kids and in my local church, I see that water overflow beyond my small sphere and reach a more distant audience.

Writing God’s message. Blogging, networking, freelancing, e-publishing to share living water. Someday, those sticky faces smudging the lens will be grown and need me less. Someday, my local church may move more into the foreground, bringing that far distant torrent closer in focus as well.

Today, I have small bits of this already available to me, for which I am grateful. I still have this job, which only I can do: I speak of my own journey, from my perspective; and attempt to find the universal truth to share with another.

The many lessons I collected this weekend seem packaged with laser precision. This one, my Three Things Snapshot, gives me a bit of relief as I settle into the confirmation that the kids come first. The message welling from within me will find voice beyond them, as it overflows. But the message starts with them.

Life seems so simple when priorities emerge clear and measurable. I feel the peace of a well-organized priority list tonight.

What are your Three Things right now?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Right Start

This was published in P31 Woman Magazine online a few years back, my first official published piece. It actually turned out to be a seed that started rolling down a snowy hill, and that snowball has turned into my book proposal. I am having a great time reworking it, but good glory I get hungry when I write about food.

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A noted Chinese proverb says, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

Moms could adapt these words to say, "Give a child good food, and she will eat good food at home. Teach her how to make wise choices with her food, and she will eat good food wherever she goes for the rest of her life."

One of the first choices we make in any day is of what to eat. Breakfast is not the largest meal of the day, but nutritionists are always telling us that it is an important one.

Why Eat Breakfast?
Consider these benefits of breakfast eating, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Those who take the time for a good breakfast (i.e. not coffee and a doughnut!) have a tendency to eat more nutritious food in general; to accomplish more before lunchtime; to keep their weight under control; and to have lower cholesterol, thus reducing certain health risks.

Kids especially can benefit from breakfast with improved coordination, concentration, and ability to think clearly. Moms want the best for their kids, and one very simple way to give them the best is to make the effort to feed them a good breakfast each day.

With today's busy lifestyles, getting a good start can be quite a challenge. Planning ahead always helps. It starts with laying out clothes and other necessary items the night before. Then if the right food is in the pantry, and the choice for the morning already pulled to the front of the fridge, breakfast time can proceed a lot more smoothly.

What makes a good breakfast?
There are several components to any healthy meal, including protein, whole grain, dairy, and fruits and vegetables. According toUCLA Health, the magic is in the combination of elements. When we consume a breakfast with at least three of the above components, we set our bodies up to be able to regulate our blood sugar throughout the rest of the day. We also give our digestive system enough to keep it busy for longer than a bowl of sugar cereal does.

Some suggested traditional breakfast combinations include high-fiber cereal, skim milk, and a banana; whole-grain toast with peanut butter and a glass of 100% juice; a hard-boiled egg, an apple, and an English muffin; or a smoothie made with plain yogurt, fruit, and a couple tablespoons of wheat germ. Less traditional, but still appropriate, options could include leftover veggie pizza on whole-grain crust; cut-up veggies layered in a tortilla with salsa and string cheese; or even a baked potato topped with broccoli and cheese.

How Do I Train the Kids?
Moms can help their kids learn to make good breakfast choices in two ways. The first is to offer good options, by only bringing "good choice" food home from the store. Just a few alterations can make breakfast a whole lot healthier for the whole family. Change one item a month for a few months, and they will have gradually re-educated their taste buds.

Choose cereals with higher fiber, such as Raisin Bran, Shredded Wheat, and Multi-Grain Cheerios. Switch from flavored to plain yogurt, and stock up on frozen fruit to stir in. Begin to serve less juice, but make sure it is 100% juice with no sugar added, then dilute it about 20% with water. Develop the habit of only buying whole-grain bread. One final trick is to invest in some wheat germ and/or ground flaxseed, and stir it into all kinds of things from muffin mix to yogurt to oatmeal.

The second way moms influence their kids is to lead by example. When moms eat right, the kids learn to distinguish good from poor choices. This can be a challenge for those of us still loving the fact that we are on our own and have the freedom to choose! But it is so important, given our role in setting our kids up for long-term success.

More than Good Food
Choosing a smart start in the morning includes one other element. All of the child-rearing good we do is useless if we fail to teach our kids the importance of looking to God at the beginning of each day. Psalm 5:3 says, "In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation" (NIV). Again, we start by setting the example of doing so ourselves: Take a moment to invite God to be part of your morning before even getting out of bed; allow ten minutes to read God's Word before getting the kids up.

Then, help them do the same. As you greet the kids, sit down together for a moment to ask God to be part of their day. Some parents even wake their kids early enough that the kids can do their own quiet time before getting ready for school. It is so simple, yet all it takes is just a little planning ahead. And the rewards will continue for years.

Sometimes change does come hard, but a mom's job is to stand strong. The kids may complain for awhile, but soon they will have forgotten the old ways. And remember, the changes are not just to give them good fuel for the day, but to help them learn to make good choices for the rest of their lives!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Every Day Special

My in-laws celebrated a wedding anniversary yesterday. I nearly missed it, but remembered in time to acknowledge them on their special day. Hubby and I brainstormed ways to make it special, and came up with a few:

  • Visit.
  • Pool.
  • Hand-lettered Sign.
  • Candles.

It seemed so special, except that it is what we do about five evenings a week, from May through September. How can something we do all.the.time be special?

I struggled with this for a bit, until I came to terms with the fact that this challenge represents a good thing. Really.

The fact is, we moved to Texas nearly four years ago, for the exact purpose of raising the kids with grandparents down the street. We spend time with those grandparents, because we have intentionally structured our lives to be able to spend time with them. We chose to fill every ordinary day with special.

Every ordinary day becomes special for followers of God, too, because every ordinary day we have something to celebrate: through the great gift of paying the price for all our icky sins, Jesus made the difference in our eternity.

In the early days of Israel's life as a nation, God set up their calendar so they would not lose sight of their special life. He gave them regular feasts and festivals throughout the year, so they would never be far from a moment of remembrance that they stood apart from every other nation, because they alone lived under the protection of the true God.

Perhaps when Jesus came and fulfilled much of the law, he was saying, "Now you may choose to celebrate your special life as often as you wish. Live each moment in light of this miracle of eternal life."

I don't always remember to be thankful for this everyday special. But when the challenges seem too steep a hill to climb; when the kids seem in danger of self destructing around the house; when my own shortcomings threaten to crush my spirit, I can always reset my mind by stopping to consider the special thread running through this and every day:
Because I confess with my mouth (and life) that Jesus is Lord, and believe with my heart that God really raised him from the dead, I know I am saved (read the promise in Romans 10:9).
Saved is an uncomfortable word for me; it sounds so Old Time Religiony. But it basically means I know when I die, my eternal spirit will go to spend its eternity in heaven, with Jesus himself.

And that everyday ordinary fact is pretty stinkin' special.

This story could have been illustrated a hundred ways. What is your everyday special?

Monday, July 11, 2011


What do you dream about? I mean the ones your brain feeds you while you sleep, not your aspirations.

Are your dreams literal or abstract? Black & white, or technicolor?

My dreams, while they vary wildly, tend to follow a certain theme. Apparently I suffer from an undiagnosed hero disorder, because I am forever trying to solve problems, rescue people, and otherwise keep Armageddon at bay while I sleep.

Except for the ones where the world becomes overrun with cats. In those dreams, I just exult in all the cats everywhere. 

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But I digress.

Do you ever wonder what your dreams say about you? I am considering including a dream sequence from an actual dream I had, in a piece for publication. And suddenly I wonder, how much will this dream reveal about me, that I never intended to reveal?

I wish my dreams included more about my husband and kids. When I meet my husband in my dreams, I don't know him. I just have a vague sense that I like him, and I would like him to come with me while I try to rescue the Girl Scout camper from drowning in the lake. The kids almost never appear, unless they are grown up and I don't recognize them even in my dream-conscious.

In my understanding, we only dream about things that we didn't process enough during the day. So it makes sense that if the kids consume 99% of my waking thoughts, I don't have a continuing need to think about them at night.

Except I just remembered I do dream about my Rooster boy. Once I dreamed he fell off a ladder and his round baby head popped off. Horrified me so much I shot straight up in bed and couldn't go back to sleep.

And two nights ago, I dreamed I was chasing 6 year old Rooster down a long and windy road. Every time I thought I caught up with him, he was inexplicably further down the road. Finally, at the last house, I found him and took him home with me, along with the additional little boy we found there. And good thing, too, because the minute we got home a giant tree fell on that house, and that little boy would have been killed--

Rats. It's just another hero dream.

But seriously, I have been putting the kids to the back burner more than usual these past few weeks. I know it's just for a brief season before we start homeschool and spend all our hours together ad nauseum, but I still struggle with feeling like an adequate mom right now.

I think the exercise of putting a book idea together has been an amazing boost to my being-born writing career. The next step seems natural, of putting together a speaker sheet and beginning to communicate intentionally about the connections between spiritual truth and the physical world.

But these kids, they are young for such a brief time. I don't want to blink and realize I missed it. I am really looking forward to starting homeschool with them in a few weeks, after the rush of this amazing conference has passed. Just ten more days of crazy writing hours. . . .

It is just about time to stop the dream-conscious from using them as characters in my nightly apocalypse dramas.

What have you been dreaming about lately? Care to share?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Five Minute Friday: Grateful

Okay I suck at this. I already started and deleted two sentences. Yes, I'm cheating. It's my first time.

Now GO.
When I hear the word grateful, I see an image of a silhouetted cross at the top of a hill.

I'm grateful for a life that gives me relatively little baggage to carry around, and most of it I chose for myself--it wasn't thrust upon me. This gives me fewer stories to tell, in a way, but it also frees me to step back and just tell all the stories. I don't spend all of my story telling one story, as it were.

My heart overflows when I stop to count the things for which I am grateful, to the point that I usually don't stop. It's a little uncomfortable getting all weepy over dumb things like my suburban life, or the friends that send me unprompted happy notes in the mail. I'm afraid if I stop and spend too much time being grateful for my absurdly secure life, it might all go away.

So I go back to that image of the cross on the hill. There is no shame in being grateful for that. It's the greatest gift I could ever hope to have been given. I do a terrible job of talking about it sometimes, because it's easier to focus on the generalities of love and relationship, but really, it all comes from the action of the Man on the cross. Who gave up everything so that I, with nothing, could have it all.

God is good.


And that's all I can say in five minutes of not tweaking and pondering the turn of every phrase. Much.

Linking up today with the Gypsy Mama's Five Minute Friday. Just for fun, and because it's easier to blog for five minutes today than to try to think of anything else to say right now. I am spent from my experience assembling a book proposal. And it's a good thing.

Have a lovely weekend, friends!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


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I still remember life before she arrived . . . although I seem to remember we anticipated her coming for a couple years before that, saying things like, "If the Larkin girl were here..."

The last two-plus years have flown so quickly, I still think of her as a baby. But she walks; she feeds herself; she talks--boatloads. And her personality grows just a little bit bigger every day.

Now she seems to be potty training before her 2.5 year mark. How is this possible? I expected to have a baby for another year, and suddenly she's a panty-wearing diva with an opinion on everything from the color of her dinner plate to which way the knives should go into the dishwasher.

At least she's still impossibly sweet about all of it, except for about four minutes a day. And I can tolerate those four minutes--as long as it doesn't become five or six.

I could grieve the fact that she's growing up too fast. She now gets herself out of bed (tonight, she did that several times, boo) and comes to get me every morning before I can crack an eye open on my own.

However, I accept her potty training as a special gift to me right now. My heart lightens as we celebrate each success; her obvious pride and growing independence provide such validation for me as a mom. This milestone brings enough satisfaction to quell the pangs of "I'm graduating from 9.5 years of diaper-changing. Now what do I do??"

Ah, that's a silly question, right? I already have all those diaper-changing minutes spoken for, and all those diaper-buying dollars spent on the "what's next."

In fact, I am attempting to start three, count 'em three new chapters in the next few months. Milestones in their own right.

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In pursuit of my dream of reaching a large audience, I am heading to my first writers and speakers conference, She Speaks, in just two weeks. Eek! Four years of anticipation almost have me faint with nerves, for no good reason besides a made-up sense of urgency as if I'm trying to pass my final exams before ever attending a single class! The truth is, I have a feeling my three day getaway to Charlotte will be the high point of 2011, and I wish I could grow my capacity to take it all in just for those few days. Kinda like I wish I could eat twice (or three times) as much for Thanksgiving dinner as on any other day of the year.

In pursuit of my vision for impacting a more local audience, I am preparing a series of workshops to be taught at my church starting in September, to help those desiring to pursue a more personal understanding of God's will in their lives. It's exciting and a bit daunting to realize that I've been involved in ministry for more than 15 years, and that I am essentially graduating to a different level of input into the life of my local church.

And in pursuit of what I understand as my highest discipleship responsibility, we will become a completely homeschool family this fall. Well, in August, since I decided to give us a week of vacation for every six weeks of "school." I think it just might turn out the greatest adventure of the three.

I appreciate everyone who is already part of this journey; and am thrilled to have recently met so many new friends on their own journey. Can't wait to see where the road leads next!

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

God in the Yard :: Hospitality

"Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." Romans 12:13
Hospitality. The word evokes for me images of church fellowship halls, lined with long tables, loaded with steaming offerings for the Sunday afternoon potluck dinner. I can smell the coffee, hear the buzz of conversation, and feel the late summer humidity as if I stand there now...

Today I am guest posting again over at, reviewing chapter 12 of L.L. Barkat's gentle look at spiritual discipline, God in the Yard.

Before continuing, you are invited to pause here and comment on what hospitality means to you. Then click over and read the rest of my post.

From comments here and on the previous post (God in the Yard :: Group Blogging Project and Giveaway), and from comments on my posts (Open:Prayer and Home:Hospitality) at, I will choose a winner of a copy of God in the Yard. Winner will be chosen from comments posted by midnight EDT on Friday.

I look forward to seeing your name in the comments!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

God in the Yard :: Group Project and Giveaway!

I have a copy of this book to give away! Read all the way to the bottom for details.


Earlier this year I began blogging my way through a lovely drink of cool soul water. God in the Yard promised to gently lead me through some core spiritual disciplines to help me more fully grasp the substance of my Christian faith. Below I have included links to my beginning posts, in case you missed them.

Chapter 1: Invitation
Chapter 2: The Way
Chapter 3: Contemplation
Chapter 4: Celebration
Chapter 5: Gratitude

And about the time I hit Chapter 6, on Prayer, I also landed in 2 small groups reading through Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life and Stasi Eldredge's Captivating; I committed to memorize Colossians; and I received Ann Voskamp's 1000 Gifts in the mail as a prize from a blog giveaway. About that same time, I began getting up earlier to spend time reading through the Bible again; I began writing a book proposal that turned into a discipleship class to be taught through my church; and THEN I decided to withdraw my 3rd grader from public school and homeschool the remainder of the year.

If it's not one thing, it's another.

I also got hung up on prayer because, well, I did. I think I understand the value of Bible study pretty well, but sometimes I wonder why prayer comes so hard. The believing in its power part. The remembering to actually do it part. The craving it part.

But apparently Someone wanted to kick me in the pants to stop avoiding the prayer chapter, because somehow I got myself signed up for a group blogging project and somehow I got assigned the chapter on prayer!

I have posted over at today, and it worked out to be an explanation of how prayer is like good sex. Oh yes, you know you have to read it now.

Be nice to me, it's my first time posting on someone else's site and I've got a little stage fright.

So here's how I'm going to work it. Contest runs from today until June 10. I received a free copy of this book to review, but I already had my own. So I'm going to give away the free one to one of my readers. I really want you to have it. To enter, please do any of the following:

  • Comment on my May 25 Pray post at
  • Comment on my June 8 Hospitality post at the same location
  • Comment on this post
  • Comment on my upcoming God in the Yard June 8 post
  • Comment on the Facebook Fan Page.
  • Or tweet me and tell me you'd like to be entered to win. Include hashtag #godintheyard

Straightforward enough for you? As a non-detail person, that was a challenge for me to outline for you. I hope you feel it's fair, and I hope to have many entries!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Throw another Bucket on the Bonfire

Last fall, I read through the entire Bible in 90 days. Cover to cover, every word.

This experience liberated me. As a lifelong Bible student, I had never read the whole thing in one go. I enjoyed the overarching narrative; the proportion of Old Testament history to New Testament instructions for living; the multitude of times certain topics and ideas come up. But most of all, it broke my hangup with reading the Bible as a book.

When I finished in January, I started over the next day. Just a few chapters a day this time, but enough to keep me drinking from the well a little bit at a time. Sometimes I miss for a couple weeks here and there, but thanks to having YouVersion installed on my phone, I can just pick right up where I left off.

Now I can always answer the question, "What have you been reading lately?" with a Scripture passage. God speaks to me in amazing ways as I work my way through the history of Israel. Mostly because it seems the bulk of Scripture covers little else.

Today I picked up in 1Kings (I get bogged down in the Samuel/Kings/Chronicles area EVERY. BLESSED. TIME.) and came upon chapter 18, In Which God Shows Off.

Elijah and the Prophets of Baal
It seems the Lord Almighty got fed up with wicked King Ahab being an idiot. The rest of Israel was suffering due to a 3 year drought brought on as punishment for King Ahab following the god Baal, and the time had come to end it. So God sent Elijah to challenge Ahab's 450 prophets to a Sacrifice Showdown: Whichever god could light his own sacrifice on fire, he was the true powerful god that the people should follow.

And Elijah came near to all the people and said, "How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him." And the people did not answer him a word. (v 21)

This passage contains some of the best comedy in Scripture. Elijah gave the Baal prophets every advantage. They got to go first, and they had all day.

All morning they danced around the altar, but got no answer. At noon, Elijah taunted them that Baal must be sleeping or on a trip, or hard of hearing. So they danced harder all afternoon, even cutting themselves and letting the blood flow in order to get their god to hear them.

Finally, Elijah left them to their ceremonies and called the people to come watch his sacrifice on the altar of the Lord.

First he rebuilt it. He used 12 stones to symbolize the whole of God's people (the nation had been broken by civil discord for 2 generations by this point). He dug a trench around the stones. He put wood on the stones of the altar, and laid the pieces of the offering on top of the wood. Then he had someone pour four giant jars of water over the entire thing.

"Do it again," he said, and they did it again. "Do it a third time," he ordered, and they did it the third time. (v 34)

Elijah totally stacked the deck against himself and against his God. I sometimes wonder what the people thought at this point. Did they hang around simply to see Elijah play the fool once and for all?

Finally, the moment of truth arrived. Elijah stepped forward and addressed God simply, yet with confidence.

"Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again." (v 36-37)

And immediately, fire came from heaven and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, the soil and even the water in the trench. The whole shebang.

What's left to doubt, about who is the true and powerful God?

When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The Lord - he is God! The Lord - he is God!" (v 39)

Do I Trust Him?
A few years ago I faced a difficult situation. As I shared it with my friend Diane, she responded, "Throw another bucket on!"


She explained what she sees and hears every time she reads this passage of Elijah and the Baal prophets. The comedy of Elijah taunting the prophets; the ludicrous way he has buckets and buckets and buckets of water poured on the sacrifice, so it runs off and makes a soggy moat around the altar; and the immediate, undeniable way God sends fire to consume the WHOLE thing: it's cinematic gold.

Then she sang me a line, to the tune of, "I love rock and roll. Put another dime in the jukebox, baby."

I have an awesome God. Throw another bucket on the bonfire, baby!

And I can't get it out of my head. This phrase has come to mean to me: Hey, so this looks impossible. So what? Nothing is impossible with God. So let's keep letting the ridiculous situation add up, knowing God's power can only shine more brightly as the situation grows more dim.

I needed to remember this story today. I've got my own uphill battle to fight, and I think God is asking me, "Do you trust me?" I think it's time I get my assumed limitations out of the way, and watch to see how He will work. So that He gets the glory, and so that someone else can see Him working to turn their hearts to Him.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

When Pigs Fly: Cleaning House

Never thought I would write this next sentence, but here it is: On Mother's Day, I cleaned house. Yep, that's right, pigs have flown.

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Crazy, right? But also freeing.

The Team Captain left at 9am on a weeklong business trip, and I didn't feel like braving the sympathetic small talk in the church lobby, so I took everyone straight home from the airport. I set them up with their own entertainment, and set to work organizing my kitchen cabinets. Culling, really. By the end of the day I had filled the back of my Explorer with donation boxes for the local mission.

You see, I am clearing out life clutter.

Do your possessions weigh you down? Mine tend to, especially when I can't keep them ordered and put away. To be honest, the state of my stuff reflects my mental state. And when the effort of managing my things makes me tired, it's time to take charge.

As a naturally disorganized person, I have found I need to set a few structures in place to assist me with pruning this weighty matter so I can get to the business of living. Perhaps some of these structures might help you, too.

The Accountability Factor

Homemakers Challenge - 31 Days to Clean

I found an amazing ebook, 31 Days to Clean, by Sarah Mae. And I found a blog sponsoring a Homemaker's Challenge, complete with a supporting Twitter community, going through the days of the cleaning project together. Community helps so much in attempting something new like developing housekeeping skills.

The first 9 days of the challenge walked me through cleaning out my kitchen, step by step. All I have left is the pantry, and I had just organized that a month ago. I am content to move on to day 10, in which I begin to declutter two living areas (we're not even talking upstairs yet. Baby steps here, folks).

Here's a link to another project to get you started cleaning, if you need a little kick in the pants. The community aspect of the project already happened, but it's great direction. I'm going through these five hot spots just as soon as I finish the 31 Days to Clean Project.

Simple Mom: Project Simplify

The Fantasy Motivator

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Lately we have started a running fantasy of someday selling our house, buying an RV, and traveling the nation for a year. Wouldn't that be fabulous?

We chronically have multiple crazy fantasies running, this is just the dream du jour. Another involves selling our suburban home and moving to the country to set up a homestead.

Whichever fantasy we ultimately choose to pursue, I have found I better enjoy cleaning house with that goal in mind. It provides me with motivation. I am calling it mock downsizing: pretending I have less space, and sharing my stuff I don't use with the local mission.

Pretty much the clutter-busting fantasy boils down to the fact that I don't want my stuff to own me. I want to be prepared and free to pursue whatever opportunity comes to me, whenever it comes.

The Survival Factor
I also think clutter-busting clarity will prove a critical factor to my success in homeschooling.  Between the Captain's work-from-home job, and me bringing all the kids home to school, we will be all on top of each other starting the end of next week. If we are all home all the time then we need order. All of us do.

And whether or not I relish the role, I am the key coordinator of the team. My job responsibility is to plan, organize, and implement consistency for the mental health of the entire family. And I can't do that until the chaff, the clutter, the chaos--whatever you want to call it--is whittled down to size.

I read this super inspiring post from Ann Voskamp yesterday, about homeschooling and living a one-piece life, and the importance of providing consistency to the kids in the 10-and-under years:

A Holy Experience: Why Would Anyone Be Crazy Enough to Homeschool?

So I'm on a clutter-busting bender. Make no mistake, it does not come naturally. But I'm so tired of being overwhelmed, and I am in a clutter-monster-butt-kicking frame of mind.

I am here to tell you, pigs can fly.