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.

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"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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