Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Good Insteads



Maybe it is I who is in a state of winter.
Finding that all of what I am is being said in a symbolic stutter all around me.

That it is cold there, and frozen solid. A once fragrant heart pushed into a Ziploc bag and shoved away for a later thaw.

Maybe I've forgotten just how good You are.

Maybe I'm full of insteads.

Each new dawn, I see Your new mercies that sit feather-light on the top of my soul and I kick them to the side, like old, out of style clothing.

No, thanks.

I'd rather wear something a little more fashionable today. I need an edge. I push the hangers around, searching for the proper attire to meet the cold world.

A glittering dress of cynicism. A straight jacket of control, in the finest fabric imaginable. Doubt, the handheld mirror in my purse. Did God really say? And the Knowing, a scarf wound endlessly around my throat and ears.

I walk into the light of the sun and feel the melting urge and wonder why it doesn't move me like it used to when I was so naive and pale, a shadow of my now stiffly sophisticated self. I struggle against the raging tide of sadness that leaps to steal all my joy - the gloom that settles deep when I realize just how far gone this world truly is. How far gone I truly am.


I forget the simplicity of green pastures and still waters, the assurance that surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.

Instead, I start to build, relenting to the cold, planning an occupancy that will cost me time. Years, maybe.

I trade all of it, for the Knowing.

Like in that garden.

Biting off the syrupy fruit of My Way and Did He Really Say in order to have more. And feeling the doubt as they felt it and how it made them full. The more becomes less. I so willingly trade the brighter gift of innocence for a distracted installment of adulthood, penance of sweat and toil, intuition of pain.  

And forever we feel the bitter dredges, the slimy residue of that bite in our very marrow.

So maybe winter comes to me as a gift? Maybe it's an all out, no expenses spared attempt to give me another chance, a cleared table on which to place the nourishment of shouting spring?

But the cold settles long and deep and You wait for me there in the warmth, Your chair pulled up to a fireside of such proportions that my doubt would never let me imagine. A hot cup of nail-hole-filler at the ready.

Two chairs there. Two glowing chairs.


The ice crusts around my soul, I walk limping through the trees, the fashioned trees, and I take in the malicious wardrobe of those whose heart became stone long ago. I listen carefully to their serpentine ramblings. I let the gates to my heart swing wide open.  I shake my head and disagree that You could ever be so visibly good, so thermal. I agree with them instead.

O house of Jacob, come and let us walk in the light of the Lord. (Is. 2:5)

I want to remember, in every nucleus of every cell, in every follicle and drop of blood, in taste buds, the older truth. The taste and see truth. I want to let its buoyancy be in charge once again, to feel the thawing float, the bubbles of grace that burst and actually change the air I'm breathing, the fizzy pop of Your grandeur and joy, the manifestation of Your smile in the waterfalls and smoothening river stones. The one strong song that sings under all the others, allowing them a reason for their existence and a road for their melody.


That You are good. ...and your mercy endures forever.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Being Winter


I am in awe of the snow.

Sitting in my bed this morning, drinking my coffee in my usual custom, I watch it come down, falling recklessly and heavily out of the sky.

I think I find You in the snow.

You are the white.
Pure, glistening, blinding white in the stillness.

The only sound is the falling, like thousands of hushed brushstrokes.

You are the sound too, aren't You?

And the light, the graceful gray-dressed light, with a soft hand for my flaws, covering all with the comforting murk of rest.

You are here in the cold, reminding me where home is. Hiding Your magic in the plummeting mercury.

And the wind suddenly throws everything into a swirl, sweeping white clouds across, briefly dusting the windowpanes with millions of tiny, individual, uniquely crystallized flakes, taking my breath away with its power. Showing me Your willingness.

And that you know about sweeping me too.


Later, I find You in the strong branches. Bare but unmoving, immobile against the bitter elements. I see roofs caved in, cars waylaid and pipes burst, but my trees remain steady. Stoic promises of the building of a life, the stretching out of roots, the blooming and falling of leaves, and the near-approaching spring.


I find You in the laughter of the children, bundled and packaged in warmth to the hilt by mothers who cannot afford to take the risk. They run and throw, slide and skate, dig and build in the frosty air. Our breath shoots out, visible steam, and I am thinking of the molecules and atoms, the tiny components that make up everything, even my heart and brain, and are fueled by a life force that is You. 

You building in miniature and super sizing it all at once.


I try to simply find winter, but it is not just him that I see. The lines blend and sway in the chilled, gelatin dusk and I find only You instead, holding the reigns to it all, stopping to cup my chin in the frigid night, to stroke my cheek with your cold,white brush, the stars lighting our ballroom moment.

But you are not an only, are you? That would be like saying everything everything. Or You Are. Or I am. But you are I am.

My I am.

My winter I am. 


You are winter.

You are more than green, and life. You are more than autumnal fires and campouts in the thin-aired hills. You are more than fireflies and summer nights of droning bees in busy flight. 

You are here in the cold too. Helping me to understand that you won't leave me. Even when no fruit is on my bare tree, you stay.  Making sense of the frozen and singing along the thaw.

Being winter and promising spring.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Gradual Ascent

When I wake this morning, I can hear the birds beginning their daily shift. What seems like endless drudgery to me, the call to rise before the sun every morning and sing their hearts out, greeting the day before it exists, setting the mood before I throw covers off and stand in the cold air, is joy to them. It is their art, their love, the purpose they rise to, the clock they live by, the structure and harmony that unify their every heartbeat. There in the feathered dark, they sing, calling things that are not as though they are. Trilling the very soul of hope into my darkened room and eyes and sometimes, heart.


I sit up quickly in bed, out of alarm and startled from the solitude of sleep. Morning has come and I feel no friendship between her and me. We are so different. Me, slow to warm, slightly suspicious of everything that moves, naturally in a lazy state, wishing for more darkness at times, longing to live in dreams, keeping the bright part of myself back until all the doors are locked and it is perfectly safe to emerge. But not her.


Morning rises like a dancer, slowly, with grace and tempered light. She picks her wardrobe, explores blues, grays and whites with enthusiastic advancement, and usually settles exuberantly on gold. She is lithe and bright, with blooming flowers all done up in her hair. She sings sporadically at first, in the lilting soprano that sends the crickets to their beds, but then, she builds her birdsong, weaving a harmony, adding a player here and there, swelling the symphony at perfect pitch and tempo, but differently every morning, to eventually match that of the sun's arrival over the horizon.


I sit in bed drinking my coffee and striving to become one with the hope that is morning. Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness. (Lam 3:22-23)
Every single morning. My mind stretches her arms out blindly to grasp a truth that seems a lie. I sip quietly, and the children start to rise and Rosey begins preparing breakfast for all of us and I stumble through the house, putting articles of clothing into tiny, splendid, waiting hands, saying good morning in my frog-grumpy voice, hating speech, hating light, wishing for gray rain and soft quilts and quiet. Wishing for all of the things that would take this miracle of family mornings away. I climb back into bed and continue drinking my coffee.


The light outside my windows is changing. The birds have worked themselves into the height of song that tells me that any minute now, over the distant hilltop that I can see from my backyard in winter when the leaves are gone, the sun will begin to break forth, first in simple greeting that grows and burgeons into ecstatic, shouting light with the birds as accompaniment. All of the night-darkened melancholy world will begin to feel that daily lift, the aligning of ourselves to the light of a new day.


Is this the physical manifestation of those new mercies? I puzzle it over while I finish my coffee, still sitting in bed while my family continues in their morning cycle around me. "Mommy, can you put a braid in the front of my hair today, or two on either side?" 


"Mommy, did you see the dinosaur I made for you? I named it Jillian, since that's your name. That's your name Mommy! Your name is Jillian."


"Mommy, I can't find my other shoe and the laces on this one are too short."


"Jillian, do you want me to make you a smoothie or a fried egg with toast?"


The questions are my final signals that it's time to engage, my catalyst for immersing myself in the daily routine, usually with all the excitement that most people have for jumping into frigid water. I stand and rub my eyes, drain what's left of my coffee, and shudder involuntarily at the thought of being up before the sun, waiting for the promised new mercies to kick in. Where are they? Doesn't He know how badly I need them? 


Everyone is dressed and eating breakfast while I begin to pack lunches.
"Mommy, can I have two cookies today instead of one?"


"Mommy, I showed Mrs. Schwenk my carrots yesterday and she said I was lucky that my mom gave me healthy food."


"Mommy, will you put my necklace on?"


"Jillian, can I take you out for lunch on my break today?"


Amazingly enough, I answer the wonderful we-need-you questions in a voice like a zombie, still striving to awaken to their needs, their hopes, their beauty, their love. I am in slow motion, moving through these early minutes like someone wallowing in thigh-deep mud.


I can still hear the birds as I start the car, letting it warm up for awhile before we all pile in, now that the sun has fully risen they are more subdued, maybe in awe of the golden light, or in awe of how the old, sad world looks fresh and young once again. Perhaps they are just being reverent. How I wish to be like a bird, preparing joyfully for the rising sun, singing lustily with all of those in my home, swirling in an instrumental symphony of enthusiasm and grace, that crescendos and climaxes into a towering sound of life and reverent gratitude as I become increasingly aware of the sun and the light. My Sun and Light. From Heaven.


It is not until we are in the car that the Light starts to have its way with me. Driving down the hill toward the front of our neighborhood, on the way to take everyone to work and school, I naturally start to shift. I notice the naked trees, their limbs stretched up in cold surrender to the quickly brightening winter sky. I see the folks out walking their dogs, the steam rising off of cars, the fog lifting from the hollows everywhere. I see the dew, like glimmering jewels, almost wasteful, all over the dead brown grass. I notice where standing pools of water on the roads and sidewalks have frozen into ice, vast mystery enclosed in tiny dirty ruts. My mind begins to worship. Kindness for my family arrives. But it is late for this. Five minutes later, they are all gone, at school and work, and I am left to myself for the day.


It is then, as I drive home in a now silent car, with the beautiful well-made world scurrying all around me in her winter state, that I realize they were there all the time. Did I think new mercies an intangible emotion, or a spiritual state? Did I fancy they would be like that of an abduction of all of my most hostile morning thoughts, a lobotomy of my tendency for early suspicion? No. They were in the open hearts of those I love, the simple acceptance of my human inability to be cheery in this fragile state. They were in the sweet declarations and the hopeful questions of need. They were in His love for me, His placement of all of this around me. All of this! His mercies, new in every way, treating me as the best, while I swam in the knowledge that I was the very worst, humming over me while I trudged and dreaded and stumbled. All of this loving-me-as-I-am forcing me to realize.


All of it. All of it is a mercy. My whole life is a mercy, given newly, given freely, every single day.


Oh teach me. Teach my heart to rise joyfully to each new day, to hold reverently these early moments, to see, really see, the untold riches I am given, the grace that permeates my life. Teach me to see your mercies, to recognize them at the onset of every dawn, to prepare for them even in the darkness.


Teach me to know everything that You are for me, and in every place.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Secret to a Clean House

Rearranging furniture is seriously one of my favorite pastimes. And painting walls. My kids are totally used to it. Sometimes when they go to school their room will be yellow and the bed will be under the window. When they come home, the walls will be green and the bed will be on the door wall. Sometimes the bed will be in someone else's room because that's not their room anymore.

Kidding, kidding. I've never switched rooms on them. But there's an idea...

All of my friends from childhood know this about me. If you have ever been any kind of good friend in my life at any time, then you've probably had your room rearranged by me, and a lot of you have had it painted. I used to go over to friend's houses to spend the night on Friday night and after doing the normal girl sleepover stuff, you know, painting our nails, talking about boys, being mean to little brothers, watching Jonathan Brandis and Leonardo DiCaprio movies, and choreographing a new mime to Margaret Becker songs (What? You don't know who Margaret Becker is!?), usually we'd sit there for awhile, crimping each other's hair for a homemade modeling shoot or telling scandalous secrets until finally, I could bear it no more and would burst out with, "Hey, let's rearrange your room!"

Such fun! I love the possibilities that four walls and a bunch of random, mismatched furniture hold, especially when you use what you already have. I am at my decorating best when utilizing my already existing resources.

When I got married, I think Rosey was shocked the first couple of times he came home and everything was totally different or a lone wall was painted red or yellow. One time, in our first apartment, I even painted words on the wall. "Hope Dies Last" in bright green on a white wall. Kind of morbid. I don't know, back then it seemed so inspiring...

It wasn't like I hadn't rearranged both his college room and bedroom at his parent's house while we were dating, but I don't think he knew it was my permanent mental state.

That's why I think it a very good thing that there's a perk to my constant need for change.

I always clean.

I have a "clean as you rearrange" policy, and it has never failed me so far. Having a new room, so to speak, justifies itself with the need for cleanliness. And I mean clean. I scrub the whole room from top to bottom usually, so it can really shine in every way. And so my house is almost always clean. But nothing is ever in the same place. Well almost never. There are three instances in which something could be in the same place, and that would be:

1. I really really like where it is for a longer than normal amount of time (but this has only happened once, back in 2002, and it only lasted about a year).

2. That particular piece has simply made its circuit around the house to all the other conventional places it could be, and now it is revisiting this place for a little while, while I decide whether or not to sell it, paint it or put it somewhere totally unconventional, like the front porch.

3. It just seems to be in the same place, but it is actually three inches to the right of where it was last time you were here.

Yes, I clean my house like normal people, when it is dirty. But that reason is usually too boring to motivate proper scrubbing action. My favorite way to clean is by rearranging and decorating.

I like a clean house. It's inspiring, refreshing, reassuring, safe, fun, bright, new. A clean palette. A fresh canvas. An excuse to invite people over. Conducive to a good night's sleep. Something to be proud of. A wonderful symbol of order and peace, my home, as an island in the midst of a sea of chaos, the crazy world out there.

Whenever I get a new piece of furniture, which usually comes from the trash, a garage sale or thrift store, since I am not filthy rich and I'd rather spend good money on travel (and paint), and I like to be free to paint or saw or hammer the pieces I find, I feel quite rich. With placement possibilities. And encouraged that my house will keep on staying really clean because I will keep on being inspired about it.

What about you?
What forces you to clean your house? 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Where I Attempt to Fortify You (and Me)


So this is what you have to do. First you have to know that you are meant to do this thing that some would call work, but you will always call art. Maybe it is dancing. Or singing. Writing, teaching, mothering, ministry, what you love to do. You know it requires work, but the feeling you have after putting your whole self into it is more than work. It is joy. It is freedom. It is song. It is calling and purpose. You know this is what you are good at, but you also know you need all the help you can get. There is a mixed pride and humility, a confidence in all that God is doing through what He has gifted you for. It is immeasurably fulfilling. You must keep this assurance close to you, wear it like clothing, ingest it like medicine, digest it like nutrient-rich sustenance, for it will carry you through those nights where you lay awake, full of God-doubt and self-doubt and art-doubt. You must tattoo on your soul that we are not given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.

Power. The ability to create, to transcend, to inspire, to speak straight to the heart of something. To heal, to mend and bind, to change.

Love. For your audience. For your judges. For your enemies. The ability to see the person, to love the person, to know the beauty this person is undoubtedly endowed with and will hopefully and ideally master someday.

A sound mind. Confidence. Creativity. Trust. The ability to walk surely and securely through previously uninhabited territories of your own soul, the hope that all Truth will come true in your life, responding with assurance to those who would lead you astray. Discernment.

Then you must be brave. You must fully realize that if God is for you, then who can be against you? You must understand that not all people will love your art, that some will hate it, and some will think it mediocre or not even care at all. That's okay. You must not allow people to validate you, Artist. You have to strengthen yourself with the certainty that this is the path you were born to walk, that you will make a ton of mistakes, and that anyone who chooses to circle you like prey and kick at you with steel-toed shoes, and jeer and laugh is not your friend. You must shake them off. Shake these poisonous relationships off, forgive them, and walk on.

Find your people. God will provide them. Your people consist of anyone who is willing to be on your cheering squad, anyone who will pray for you, hear your heart, root you on, encourage you, and speak the truth in love to you. It is your human support system. These people will be well-equipped to speak into your life in many different ways. Some of them will take action. Understand that no one person will be equipped to provide everything you need. That can only come from One, and that can only come from faith. It is a crucial ingredient to understand that in some ways you will feel alone, alienated, cursed to walk a quiet path. It isn't true. People aren't meant to fill you, Artist. Only God can. And He will never leave you, never forsake you, never give up on you. No one else can do this for you.

Set your sights. Aim high, there is no other way to aim. Aim true. And straight. Let your art take its natural shape and swirl determinedly around your most profound Center. Let all the different angles, all the lovely lightings and timings and voices come through. Represent the vast and unknowable mysteries of God by creating. Shine forth the simplicity of Love with all your happy layers. Open yourself, spread wide every pore of you to the rivers of living water that exist only to cascade from your life and into those around you. Defy cynicism, that proud and blind boaster of knowledge. Become like a child in your observations and really see. Place high priority on wisdom. Flee legalism. Guard your mind from pointing its fingers. Guard your heart from regurgitated philosophies of this world. Let His mercy, beauty, grace float bouyantly to the surface, a bubbling hope bursting forth, a ready shout eclipsing all gray waters. Hone your art. Prune it. Plant it. Achieve excellence. Train yourself. Stretch. Grow. Change it up. Tell the truth. Watch others carefully. Listen even more carefully. Work hard.

Surrender. There is only one way to do this and that is by opening your hands. By jumping off. Let it all become nothing to you. Lose your sense of importance. Find yourself under the wings of an Almighty God. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? You are not an artist because of you, you are an artist because the Artist could not help but create you to create. In the beginning, God created...It was the first thing He did. And His love for you was such that He gave you this life, this ability to feel a part of who He is, to place your calloused fingers upon the heartbeat of Heaven, upon the pulse of history, upon the skin of Eternity. Believe that this is not of you. Be willing to give it away, be more willing to walk away from it. Begin to hear His voice. Do you think your art is a luxury, a selfish indulgence that you hide from His eyes because He would never allow you this freedom? That is a lie. He made your art as He made you, fearfully and wonderfully, and for it to come fully alive, for it to fill out and color deeply and begin to sing you must give it back to Him.

Do you think that all of this was done, that trees were made and flowers born, that every color of the rainbow resides in frogs, that seasons faithfully arrive throughout the year, for a bunch of rules? You are mistaken. All of it, every beautiful thing, Life, Music, Creation, Eyeballs, Brain cells, Redemption, Art, it was created for Love and with Love and by Love. Everything is built on Love. It started with love and continues with love. You could give all you had to the poor, you could have a faith that moved mountains, but if you didn't have love, it meant nothing. You must let Him be the inspiration that never runs out. Let His love be your main weapon, your most broken in tool, your frayed paintbrush, your tooth-gnawed pen, your ever present help in time of trouble. You must tap into the complex star-sung melody that weaves itself in and out of every good thing.  You must believe that there is no other thing for you than to be an Artist and surrender.
 

Monday, January 24, 2011

What I want to be When I Grow Up

"Mommy, what do you want to be when you grow up?", My 7 year old daughter asks me one Tuesday afternoon as we lounge on my bed reading books. The boys are sleeping and I have invited her to read with me in my room until their nap is over. She is reading The Secret Garden. I am reading The Hunger Games.

"A mommy. And an artist. And a writer. And a missionary."


"What did you want to be when you were a little girl?"

As I sit there, looking into her sweet inquisitive heart-shaped face that is so perfectly framed with blonde tresses and set with blue eyes and a tiny nose sprinkled with just the right amount of freckles, the question takes me back.


I didn't want to be a mom.


When I was a little girl, I used to tell anyone who would listen that I wanted to be an artist. 


In college I seriously considered joining the Peace Corps for awhile. And before that I wanted to do a year long missionary internship but my parents couldn't afford to send me. I went to Guatemala on a missions trip with my youth group when I was 16,  and I remember not wanting to come home. I just felt like I could have stayed there indefinitely, turning the blisters on my hands from tying wire around rebar for the foundation of a church building into something more permanent, callouses. I loved the cold nights and scorching days, the way we had to drink Coke out of a bag with a straw because they wouldn't give you the valuable glass bottles at the roadside stands. I loved the open markets, the hand woven fabrics, the winding mountain roads, and most of all, the generous, open-handed people. The thought of spending my time and life in aid and practical care to families and villages in the mountains of that overlooked Central American country appealed to me like nothing else.


Even now I entertain fantasies of wild adventures in the vein of humanitarian aid somewhere in desolate, jungly third world countries where they speak Latin-based languages. I've felt the intense pull to be a foreign missionary since I was 15. The kind who would totally immerse myself in a culture and figure out the way to translate God's love and story across the language barriers, while supplying blankets, clothing, shoes, medicine and clean water. This has truly been my largest and seemingly most unattainable dream in life. To just go, with no strings attached. In fact, I told Derek I didn't think I could marry him unless he had the same calling.

So you can understand why I was a tiny bit confused when I ended up in a middle American life, and in all appearances seemed to be chasing after the American Dream, something that had never been important to me. It still isn't. Yeah, I get that we need to pay the bills, and provide the necessities for our families, but all this acquiring of stuff and chasing down of the latest and greatest and watching of hours and hours of television and caring what everyone thinks about everything has always been a bit exhausting for me. I try to stay away from those particular stumbling blocks, since I think they rot your brain and waste your time (sorry, just saying...) but you still get sucked in, somehow, to a little bit of it. Especially if you want your voice to have any relevance with those you hope to reach.


And I do want to have a voice.


But there I was, in 2002, with a newborn baby girl, and I felt trapped. I felt the importance of being home as a mother, but I also secretly felt like maybe God had made a mistake and given the wrong life to the wrong girl.  I wasn't sure where the old me, the adventurous, artistic me that I really admired, fit into the mix.  I spent the first six months of motherhood in the house, scared to go anywhere, insecure about my new limitations, unsure of who I was anymore.


I think a lot of stay at home moms feel this way.


It's not just the insecurity from being thrust into a new place where this tiny little person, and the world at large, is expecting us to meet all of their needs, but it's also the dissatisfaction that can sometimes come as a result of this life. Especially if we thought we wanted this. And I do want it, really, we say to ourselves, but it's just so hard! We feel discontent, unhappy with how our days are spent. We even feel bored. Some of us came from really fast-paced jobs, or thrilling social lives. Some of us planned on having a totally different life. A few of us used to have a great body before having babies. Some of us are struggling with depression. Then there are those of us are lucky if we brush our teeth before noon. 

Some of us thought this was all that we wanted, to be a wife and mother, but it turns out that we don't feel full, that something seems missing.


And we can't admit it, because that would show the eager-to-judge-us world just how ungrateful we are for the blessings we have. So we go on, day after day, with a fake smile, in guilt and unhappiness, until we finally realize that it's a choice.


That's right. Being content, finding happiness, seeing the beauty, finding the extraordinary, it's all a choice. But you need help. Supernatural help. You have to surrender, stop fighting, stop acting as though you are living in a wilderness and "Rejoice, and blossom as the rose." (Isaiah 35:1).


And that's what I did. I finally heard God's voice. I stopped pretending He wanted something different for me, and I made a choice. About three years in, with two children and another on the way, I finally learned to embrace my life. I realized that I only have one life. I only have one chance to enjoy my children when they're young, to teach them and form their character, to show them the unconditional love of God, to provide a safe place for them to always come, to be their mother.


I only have one shot at this.


And I was wasting days, months, years even, in the pit of discontentment, wishing I was anywhere but here, certain that the grass was greener elsewhere.


What about you? Are you trying to find your old self in the middle of a new place. Do you feel out of touch with your own life? Do you feel guilty for feeling this way?


Know this.


The grass is never greener somewhere else. That somewhere else is a place full of regret. We were meant to be always being made new. We were meant for a life of  "the old is gone, behold it is the new!" (2 Cor. 5:17) Your old self is gone. It is time for the new you. The grass you're standing on right now, is as green as it's ever going to be, because you're standing on it. Right now. Make sense? So why not throw some fertilizer down, plant some flowers, install an arbor, train roses to climb a trellis? Why not make your grass as beautiful as you can, and trust God to do all the rest?


After my perspective changed and I wised up to the riches I was wasting and decided to bloom where I was planted, my whole life changed. I started making friends, other moms who were in same place in life that I was. I joined some different groups. I started running again, and eating right. I got into gardening and began writing poetry and making cards. I began to flourish. My kids started flourishing even more. My kids wanted me to be happy, because I'm so much more fun, and it started to show in their creativity and security level. But it took that first honest acknowledgement that I was struggling, and then the willingness to open up my heart and let God change it.


It was fully worth it. I love love love being a stay at home mom. You could try to pay me millions of dollars to do something else, and I wouldn't take it. Really. I am happy right where I am and what's more, I am in bloom.


But one day, Derek and I will hit that foreign mission field. I'll pack my bags, say my farewells, and board a plane without a backward glance. I'll run with steady legs toward the certain hard work and adventure that I look forward to being a part of. I'll sleep in hammocks. I'll wash my clothes in the river. I'll bake bread on a rock. But instead of going on my own, I'll have my family with me. And I'll be well trained, ready for any possible situation.


How's that, you ask? When did I have time to attend a missions training seminar?


Why, it was all those years of sleep deprivation, three ingredient meal preparation, budgeting down the last penny, organizing and stocking cupboards, killing insects I was afraid of, letting insects live that I was afraid of, handling massive loads of laundry, breaking up fights, cleaning up poo and vomit, turning a blind eye to mistakes, turning a deaf ear to whining, giving grace, laying down the law, taking time to teach my children how to do every good thing I know how to do, hours of homework instruction, even more hours of lengthy explanations to toddlers who don't get it, bargain shopping, apologizing, and ultimately, being willing to follow God so my children could follow me.


That was my missionary training field.

And it was exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Write Thing


I am now deeply enmeshed in the story I am trying to write. Last week I decided, on Thursday, to begin writing the fiction that I am constantly talking about writing. While writing fiction is exponentially difficult for me in some ways, it was much easier to start than one would think.

You simply begin. You just start writing the first sentence that comes to mind, and keep going until you get stumped. Then, sometimes you have to walk away for a few minutes or hours or even days. I have not yet experienced needing to walk away for months or years. I think that terrifies me.
When you come back (from walking away), you sometimes are able to start right back where you left off. Other times you scroll down a bit, until there is nothing but blank white canvas, and you begin another part of the story, or you describe something. Sometimes you look something up to make sure you have the right definition or word. 

Still other times, you wander around aimlessly on Facebook for awhile, searching for inspiration, reading status updates and wasting hours down long, meandering rabbit trails of life while the laundry sits neglected and the scones you were going to make for the kid's afternoon snack stay uncreated...at least for one more day. Sigh.

It is different from writing a blog. With a blog I am just writing myself, and since I inhabit myself and think my thoughts and conduct myself accordingly, it isn't as hard (for me) to tell that story as it is to tell another story using my self as a guinea pig. I put myself in some else's shoes in writing fiction, and try those shoes out for an entire journey. It seems exhausting and I have no idea if there's any true ability inside of me to do this, but I find that I must know if there is. Even if I fail. I just need to try it and know. 

I'm glad I began doing this.

While the easy part is beginning just the once, one of the hard parts is beginning every day, anew. Beginning again in my commitment, goal, gift, and ultimately the freshly baked mercies of God, I set out each day to devote at least part of my thoughts, to the telling of a truth by way of a story. 

Another hard part is the crafting. I know what I want to say, but saying it, oh how tricky that can be. And isn't is profound to think that how something is said can make all the difference in the weight of it's message? The way something is said has almost everything to do with almost everything. 

The entire attorney population probes this mystery every day.

It is not what you say but how you say it. 

It's also hard to craft a story without unveiling the blatant. But many good stories are buried under a layer of parable, in the vehicle of wit and wearing the clothing of apt description.

The other obstacle I'm running into is scheduling time to write. I'm going to need to have days to write fiction and days to write on my blog, days to make cards, cook elaborate meals, days to sew and paint and make soap and garden...oh you know. I love structure, which helps me to truly feel an artist, because if everything in my life has its place, with God and my family being first and my art being second, in my eyes that is peaceful and truly beautiful. I am able to weave creatively on the loom of structure.

I'll end this ramble with this. I went to my new writer's group last week, and I had been writing my story for two days by then. One of the leaders was talking about a writing magazine that she liked. She opened it up to the middle to show us a sampling of their articles and what do you know, the title of that article was "How to Write a Great Chapter One". I took it as confirmation. I took it as guidance and direction and as that tiny little dry wittish way that God loves to speak to me in the normal, seemingly coincidental moments of life. He's so good at inside jokes. He was telling me that I am right where I'm supposed to be, that I need all the help that I can get, and that He's a part of every detail.

Or maybe that I'm a detail of His parts?  My soul rises up in hope that I could ever contribute to the Great literary Conversation.

Either way, I'm glad I'm doing the write thing.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Shortest Post Ever

I am incapable of writing short blog posts.

However, here goes nothing.

I'm beginning.

I kept rereading the post I did yesterday, certain there was something I had missed, because it wouldn't leave me alone. It haunted me all night, in fact, I dreamed about it, abruptly sitting up in bed at 2am-ish, staring into the inky blackness in front of my face, waiting for the revelation to come. What was the message I had missed?

Nothing happened.

So I swung my legs out over the side of the bed, answered "nothing Rosey" to Derek's mumbled "MMffmmhum", and went to check on the kids. Often I wake up in the night, knowing to pray for someone or feeling strange and needing to check that my kids are okay, or even just with the intense desire to read the next chapter in a particularly engrossing book.

I made my way down the hall, checked to see that everyone was in bed with covers on, reassured myself that they were still breathing (yes, I'm one of those moms) and then found myself standing in front of the thermostat, squinting at the temperature and trying to decide whether or not I should add or subtract a degree of heat on such a cold  night. Hmmmmm...

And that's when the idea popped into my brain.

All this time I'm spending writing blog posts about writing books. I think I'll just write a book.

So I'm beginning.

I'll start with an idea I have for a story and let's see where it goes. Now that was a profound sentence to type. Witness me summoning my bravery...

Why am I telling you all of this? I think I just want it documented that I will do the hardest thing there is for me, and begin.

Okay, I know I said the shortest post ever. Sorry.

But you know me. I was born to write chapters, not short posts.

So, on that note, I'll keep you posted. Hee hee, get it? Posted?

Nevermind.

Here goes nothing.

Chapter 1...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Nature of my Beast

I'm a pretty competitive person. Not with things I stink at, like dancing, singing, making people laugh or doing my hair (see photo at left). But with things I love and feel gifted to do, like making things with my hands, cooking and writing. Even with a definite awareness of what I am and am not gifted to do, I kind of get lost sometimes in the competition of something and lose sight of the actual purpose for the actions. I forget the reason for the gift.

Take writing, for example. I started a blog in order to practice writing. I lacked discipline and needed a good excuse to write regularly. This is where you, the reader, come in. I needed an audience. I know. It's weak. Any real writer worth their salt wouldn't need the affirmation and presence of actual human beings as witness to the mundane process of honing one's hoped for ability to truly write and not just regurgitate the ideas of books one is reading, but I guess I'm willing to stand in that lighting, of weakness and the constant human need for reassurance. 

Still, there are those times, and I'm ashamed to admit how regular they are, that my competitive nature raises its ugly head and roars, leaping eagerly to the fray, in the attempt of putting someone in their place and hopefully, showing them up.

With blogging, I have naturally been more interested in the blogs that are out there that I never really noticed, in much the same way that you don't see lots of pregnant women until you are pregnant and then voila! Everyone is pregnant. Well, everyone has a blog. Which makes my natural inclinations for wanting to be the best start to flex their muscles. I start to measure myself against everyone else, reading and analyzing what other people are offering to the world by way of cyber thought, and try to figure out how to beat them. I forget the whole point of everything. I begin to put all of my energy into the competition, racking my brain for new ideas and new ways to draw folks in, instead of focusing on the message. And simplicity. 

Furthermore, I begin to compromise on my particular style of writing, trying to cram myself into a shape that doesn't work for me and, let's face it, I've never been too good at cramming myself into anything. Buttons pop. Seams rip. The fat rolls are even more grotesquely illuminated. Because I'm not letting me be me.

I didn't create me. God did. And I wish I was cool, I really do. Gosh, I wish I was cool, this ultra trendy, fashionable maven with a ready artillery of amazing topics to wax expert on, and lots of cheering fans. But I'm not. Most of the time I have trouble having a real conversation with "cool" people. Not to say that cool people aren't cool and all, but we just aren't super compatible. They think I'm kind of strange. And I am kind of strange. I'd rather take a class about how to raise bees and goats, talk about 18th century poetry, read Jane Austen, or ponder the metaphorical impact of the movie Inception than discuss The Bachelor, fall in literary love with Edward or Jake in the Twilight series, know what kind of red wine to serve at a party or watch Dancing with the Stars. Nothing wrong with any of those things, and I read the entire Twilight series to see what all the fuss was (and was a bit disappointed - book three is the best), but they're just not my bag. 

Coolness was not part of God's plan for me.

I'm kind of a nerd. And a little bit of a dork. And my writing style thus far can sort of be seen by more cynical folk as sort of cheesy. Derek makes me look cool, if I'm being quiet, for about five minutes, because he's cool, but then I open my mouth and the cat's out of the bag. So I've got to keep this in mind when I write.  I know it's not bad to to learn new tricks, and to hone and pare down my paragraphs, to better my vocabulary and grammar, or to learn the art of brevity, something I really stink at. Sometimes its necessary to change it up, to go a different direction, to seek inspiration in an unconventional way. But fundamentally, I'm being a coward when I refuse to stay true to who I am as a writer.

There's nothing worse than being known as a fraud, someone who pretends.

So this is what I've got to do. I need to realize that it's not a cop out to say that for me, blogging is practice. I'm not out to have a gazillion followers and write amazing short renditions of  home decor or epiphanies I have while checking the mail. I have no ability, yet, to write anything short, except recipes, and they usually take half the day to make. With blogging for you, I am simply practicing, working out my writing muscles, seeing if this dirt road could actually become a highway one day. Writing a respectable book is the goal, and hopefully, writing some noble fiction for teens.

I'm not going to compete with cyber space. I'm going to be thankful for the gift God has given me to write, even if its not Pulitzer Prize, Newberry Medal or New York Times Bestseller List worthy, and I'm going to use it. I'm going to give it my best shot and I'm going to pray. Each time I write I'm going to close my eyes and surrender the gift to the One who bestowed it, hoping that He can find some use for it in the lives of others and that maybe someday a publishing company agrees with Him.

And I'm going to be happy for my fellow bloggers, whose amazing feats never cease and who I really should be thankful for, since they push me to greater heights and stretch me in my own abilities, while throwing in some cool home decor tips and mailbox epiphanies.

I refuse to be jealous of someone else's gift. Jealousy is equivalent to ingratitude.  

So this is what I'll change. I'll be grateful. I'll be supportive of others and their gifts.

I won't artificially change myself to be less or more. 

But I'll change my less and more to be true to myself.

What about you?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Celestial Seasonings

I write this, sitting on my bed, which sits at a 45 degree angle from the corner of my room, and allows me a perfect view of the backyard.

It is snowing.

The whole world is lost in a dusty whirl of snowflakes. There are  just a few right now, but the day holds the weatherman's promise of heavier snow later today and tonight.

The snow is causing me to remember the post I keep wanting to write about seasons.

All  my life I have wanted to live in a place with four seasons. I can't remember a time when I haven't wanted to see the changing of the leaves in autumn or the falling of snow in winter. I have loved living in Florida but have always wanted to end up in a place where contrasts were seen throughout the year, in the same trees having and then not having leaves, the grass being green and then brown, the air being warm and then cold, and all of the in betweens. I don't think I have a favorite season. I think my favorite part of each season is the beginning, when it starts to look like itself and unlike the last season. Each season, spring, summer, fall and winter, has its own distinct face and personality, and after living here for a full year now, I feel that we've been properly introduced.

Physical seasons always invite me to ponder spiritual seasons.

Recently, as I was in Florida over the Christmas holidays and spent some time with my friends there, I became very interested in the topic that kept coming up in different circles of friends. As I spent time with different girlfriends, eating dinner at restaurants, shopping and getting coffee together, we kept discussing the seasons of motherhood.

Like how you'll go through a season of the baby biting, or the toddler throwing temper tantrums, or even major sleep deprivation from the newborn's messed up sleep schedule, and you think it will never end and can't wait for it to do so. You pray for the end of those seasons. Much like I think most people pray for the end of winter, and smile holistically at the first signals of spring.

Beyond motherhood, there are many seasons we pray to see the end of, aren't there? When your husband is in school and working full time, or there are more bills than money at the end of the month, or a loved one is very ill or in danger. 

Then there are those seasons that you want never to end.

The seasons that make you feel special, alive, young and needed. For  me, one of those seasons was Saturday morning snuggle time. When the kids were tiny, almost every Saturday morning that we didn't have to be somewhere or Derek didn't have to work, we would sleep in and the kids would get out of their beds in the morning (or be freed from their crib) and they'd come climbing up into our bed to snuggle. Usually we'd lay there for awhile, all toasty warm, having silly conversations and tickling each other, and this would turn into wrestling with Daddy, while I dreamed up what I wanted to make for breakfast. Derek would make coffee and I would engage the kids in helping me with breakfast, which, since I like to cook, would usually be something yummy from scratch. 

I have pictures of those Saturday mornings in my scrapbooks, photos that capture the fun and creativity of those moments in the kitchen, my family and me making scones, crepes, omelets, fresh bread, fruit salad and muffins together, usually in our pajamas. I look like a mad scientist with my morning hair and there is usually flour or food residue on at least one face in these photographs. There was almost always singing and dancing, and since Derek and I have different taste in morning music,  whoever got to the CD player first got first dibs on what was going to be played.

We would cook and dance to Louis Armstrong, Anberlin, Taylor Swift or Michael Buble' (my picks), or Squad Five-0, Matt Redman, Tom Petty or Led Zeppelin (Derek's picks). Some of the heated debates over what everyone wanted to listen to and furthermore, what kind of berries to put in the scones, seem ridiculous now.

But they are among my most cherished memories of the times our family spent together when the kids were babies and toddlers.

That was just one of the seasons that was, for me, very hard to say goodbye to.

Of course, we still have Saturday mornings together, and we all listen to music, dance, and cook together all the time. But no one (besides Derek) is ever really interested in crawling up into bed with me anymore, and rubbing a cold nose up against my cheek, because there are cartoons and Legos, light sabers and a puppy to play with immediately upon waking up on Saturday morning. I usually sleep in and Derek usually makes breakfast now, either his fabulous pancakes or cheesy eggs. It's different.

It's not bad. It's just the natural progression of things.

But it's still hard to say goodbye to the really sweet seasons that I know must healthily be replaced with their betters.

That's right. I said betters.

As mothers, or even just as parents, it's sometimes hard for us to imagine that the next season could be better than the current one, or that the sweet, snugly season we enjoyed so perfectly could ever be outshone. We tend to think that as our children grow up, the sweetness and level of fulfillment in parenthood will deteriorate. But I'm finding that it's not true.

One of my verses for 2010 and 2011, Isaiah 43:18-19 is deeply reassuring:

"Do not remember the former things,
 Nor consider the things of old.
 Behold, I will do a new thing,
 Now it shall spring forth;
 Shall you not know it?
 I will even make a road in the wilderness
 And rivers in the desert."

A new thing. Springing forth. Forgetting the former, losing interest in the old. Pushing forward, to the road He is carving in the wilderness, to the place of saturated life He is filling in the desert.

And the future can sometimes seem very desert-like, can't it? We don't know what to expect and we think it could never be better than this. How could it?

But what hope in this scripture! Not just that God wants to give us new fun and life at every bend in the road, but that He intends to do it.

As I spent time with my friends on one particular night, some very special mom friends I met and grew close to while in the early trenches of motherhood, we decided to walk from Kohl's to a frozen yogurt place, and while we walked we kept talking about saying farewell to the beautiful seasons of motherhood. One of us started up in song, being joined by some of the others after the first few words, "Oh, it's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday...."

I bet Boys II Men never realized their target audience should have been all the nostalgic mothers out there. Forget screaming, hyperventilating teeny boppers...

I'm not saying I'm good at moving on into the new. In my life, in every category, not just motherhood, it's at the bend in the road that I stop and hesitate, unsure of how to proceed, and let's just be honest, unwilling to move on, full of bittersweet reluctance, and with the tears wet on my cheeks. I have trouble trusting that what is to come will always outweigh, outshine, outsmart, outfill what has gone. It is a conflict of the mind and heart.

My mind knows it to be true.

Life was meant to be ever-increasingly fulfilling.

My heart longs to hold on, staying put in the warmth and glow of spring and summer.

But fall and winter have their own lessons to teach me, and spring and summer will be all the more greener and lush with the knowledge of those harder, and hardier, lessons. God builds, with seasons, the knowledge of His faithfulness in our lives, and the latter lessons that we are not ready to embrace until we have experienced the former.

What is the season you are saying goodbye to?

Maybe it's as simple as bidding adieu to the old year and embracing the new. Maybe it's a change in diet, or schedule, an addition of discipline into your already busy life. Maybe its the busy pace you are used to, that must be traded in for something a little more substantial and purposeful.

Or maybe you just need to come to terms with the forever closing of a particularly special chapter, one that has made you feel so very full of life. I exhort you to say goodbye. Stand at the bend in your road, knowing the scenery that you've smiled upon for these last months or years to be passing quickly out of view, hold that season dear and close for one more moment, and then let go. Open your hands, turn your back, and walk forward into the promising days to come.

Letting go of the old.

Knowing He is always up to something new.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The It-Gets-Better Sequence

When it happened, I was in the preliminary stages of a bad attitude.

You know the kind. One of those nasty, I'm mad at the world and so misunderstood, not to mention undeserving of all of these trials, and furthermore, if I had it my way...blah blah blah.

One of those attitudes.

And there was actually no reason for the change of perspective that seemed to be sweeping over me almost involuntarily. Life was good. We had been living in Tulsa for about ten months. I had just finished having coffee with a new acquaintance, a really nice woman and fellow mom that seemed to have major friend potential, fall was fully present all around me in a glorious display of color, and my family was thriving. But for whatever reason, hormones or lack of sleep (not for something justifiable like having a newborn or a sick child, but because I like to stay up until all hours of the night reading or being crafty when I really should be in bed) or even just because I was feeling a little lonely, my perspective had started to change, throwing up red flags and warning signs throughout the whole day.

It started in the morning when I woke up kind of blue and tried to make myself feel better by yelling at my daughter for not brushing her hair the right way. When she had tried her best and after all, isn't that what mothers are for? To help you with your hair when your little arms are too tired to get all the tangles out?

Then I got annoyed with the girl who rang me up at CVS and I was unaccountably snappish with her. Over chapstick.

Then there was the road rage in the early afternoon. Someone cut me off and instead of shaking my head and smiling sarcastically like I normally do, I shouted "What the heck!" at my windshield, throwing both hands up in the air, hoping the other driver saw me and my apparent I'm not gonna take nothing from nobody spunk. Worse still, the kids were in the car and in the middle of telling me about their day. Not that I was listening or anything. I was full of me-ness. Me. Me. Me. It's all about me.

So when Derek unintentionally and apologetically came home late from work, I freaked out. Instead of being grateful that he has such a good job, which goes hand in hand with needing to stay a bit late from time to time, or being so very happy that he never has to work weekends like he used to and almost always is home by 5:30, like he never used to be. The minute he walked in the door, I attacked, going on and on about being on time and being inconsiderate and food burning in the oven and so on. When I don't even have to work. He has never asked me to get a job. He has always thought it a grand idea for me to stay home with my kids if I wanted to. And he's never late.

So the day had been bad. I was working quite energetically toward Jerk of the Week status. 

I think you know what I mean.

Most of us go insane from time to time, calling our very greatest blessings burdens, or worse, curses.

I think many of us struggle with depression from time to time too, although it seems to have a stigma of embarrassment that surrounds the admittance of it, which I think further alienates us from each other and the comfort we are meant to give and receive. 

So after my poor children were in bed I went to coffee with a new chum and successfully mastered what I call the fake-out. I was sweet, witty and fun. I discussed my life lightheartedly, with depth and humor. I asked friendly questions and grinned from ear to ear. It was an Oscar-worthy performance. You would have never known I was seriously struggling, inexplicably so, with depression, ingratitude and anger.

Then I got back in my car and began to sink back down down down into the doldrums of depression, forgetting the ever present help in time of need that is promised to me (Ps. 46:1) and casually throwing aside the promise that I am never left, never forsaken, loved more than I can humanly comprehend and chased. I am chased, pursued like I'm completely lovely. No matter where I go, who I become in error, or what I decide in foolishness, Psalm 139 assures me that I can never escape the care and love of God. No matter what. Nothing separates me from His love.

Not even unfounded depression.

As I drove down 71st toward home, lost in grayness and quiet, full of dark inward contemplation, a light rain began to fall. The soggy lights of storefronts and restaurants whizzed past my car windows, distant in their light and cheeriness, the leaves falling off the trees whirled aimlessly down into the night and became mush under the wet tires of my car and the very air seemed to press down on me, exacting pressure toward my joy, causing me to feel a domino effect of sadness to the very marrow of my soul. 

And then I saw it.

As I drove past the sign, it looked like someone had been in the middle of changing out the message and had given up halfway. The letters to the three words remaining were all askew, one letter even dangling. Perhaps the letter changer had been caught in the rain? Each word was on a different row of the sign, and with no symmetry, causing my eyes to instantly assume that whatever the message would be, it was in no way complete. It was a church sign, something old and made of brick with the white section for a message and the black letters that fit into the tracks on the top and bottom of each row. It was set out by the road, dimly lit in the rainy night, the accompanying building behind it dark and unoccupied. The three words remaining, in no regular manner were: It Gets Better.

It took a minute for the words to hit me, so lost was I in the quicksand of self-pity.

 And then hit me it did, like a slap in the face.

On so many levels.

It Gets Better.

For me. That message was for me. It was intended for me to see as I drove home from something as hopeful as a new friendship, but with a poisonous attitude. How often has God's voice been so blatant in my life, reaching across supernatural mystery and the beauty of Creation, surpassing the sovereignty that I never understand and delivering a simple message. To me. In English.

How apt to single me out with three little words. And so full of grace, this message from Heaven. Call it what you want, but goosebumps travelled from my scalp to my toenails, as I experienced the personal kindness of God, complete with a sense of humor to interrupt my descent into the world of woe is me.

You see, I have been given one of my heart's desires in living here in Tulsa. And not only that, but the whole thing has been easy. Too easy. Supernaturally easy. There's the job Derek was able to get - and he loves it, the wonderful school we found for our children, the church we accidentally landed in that is perfect for us, the house we rented sight unseen and how it ended up being so right for our family, the timing of it all. Every detail of our transition here has been peaceful and joyous and exciting. There are the distinct fingerprints of God all over it.

So I should have known by then, as I drove home, that He has a plan. He knows exactly what I need. Jeremiah 29:11 tells me "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  All I must do is trust and follow, knowing that His plans for me will fit me perfectly, make me smile, laugh and sing, and will ultimately change me into a beautiful representation of His life and love.

It's true. 

And those were the three words I needed that night. It was the only pick me up that would work. He spoke to me like a small child, petting my hair and crooning it gets better. He spoke to me like a coach, causing me to buck up and snap out of it with it gets better. He spoke to me as the planner of my future, the keeper of my dreams, assuring me that it gets better. And he spoke to me as a writer, infusing my imagination with the hope of a life that boasts a good plot. The It Gets Better sequence. Unless you're sadistic, I can't imagine a much better plot for one's life.

Pulling into my drive that night, I was freshly invigorated and ready to apologize. I jumped out of the car and raced into the house to share my experience with Derek. I had new eyes to see the great bounty that had been heaped in my lap, undeservedly. And God had spoken to me in a new way. He used a silly haphazard church sign in the middle of construction to speak simple truth to my heart like healing balm.

Maybe it's the truth you needed to hear too.

Such nourishment was not meant for me alone.

Know it to be true. The future trumps the past. God's plans for you are wondrous. And daily. They involve the ordinary, mundane things of life and they point the way to an extraordinary perspective. All of life takes on full color in the shadow of those great wings.

As you drive along, perhaps in the rain, with the scenery of your life flashing by, look up and see the sign.

It gets better.  

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year, New Pot


I'm back!

Did you wonder where I had gone?

Well, offline actually. My computer of five years crashed in early December, forcing me to leave my poor little baby blog out in the cold for most of the month since we were going out of town for Christmas and wouldn't be able to focus on buying a new computer until we got back.

And now I'm back.

Don't worry, I still love you.  

I've been thinking about you quite a bit. Yes you. My wonderful readers. I've been composing new posts in my brain while driving the 24 hours to Florida with my family in our cram packed minivan, tossing around new ideas for topics to explore in the new year while eating tons of bad food full of caloric emptiness at family gatherings, feeling a little frustrated that I couldn't put all of my Christmas inspiration into written form for you as I experienced it firsthand, and all around just missing the wonderful creative fulfillment I've found in parenting The Greenest Version.

So I'm back in the groove and feeling great about what this year might hold. I know it's going to be good. I'm happy to have celebrated the close of the old year in the place that I've always called home. 

Florida.

Funny thing, that, because it doesn't feel like home anymore. I was shocked to realize this after being there for a few days, because in the summer when I was there it still did feel like the place that had always fit me. Not anymore. So I thought it quite apropos to say goodbye to 2010 in a tangible goodbye place in my life. I really got the sense of leaving the past behind me as we drove down the main drag for the last time in the town both Derek and I grew up in, Merritt Island.

My favorite chapter in the Bible, Philippians 3, states "not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal..."
(vs.12-14)

And that's pretty much how I feel about both the past and the future right now. I needed to go to Florida not just to see loved ones, but to realize how much I no longer belong there full time and I needed to realize the simple truth of being transplanted. I'm looking forward to the future. I'm ready for all that God has for my family. I'm ready to learn and grow, I'm ready to stretch, to trust, and to learn to see what I'm really looking at when I venture out into the world each day. I'm ready to continue to become who I was meant to be.

I'm pressing on.

I'm like a plant that switched pots. The old Florida pot was nice and comfy and then the new Tulsa one seemed so big, sophisticated and cold. But now, I have grown used to my perimeters in the new pot and the old one just won't do. I am now realizing the space I have to stretch and dream and grow in this new life I've been given, the wide open space that I never seemed to have in the old pot.

So I look forward to filling out my pot this year. I'm starting to love this particular mix of dirt I'm living in. I look forward to more growth, more faith, more blossom and beauty, new friendships, maybe some college classes, healthy weight loss, decorating my home and making it fun and funky and of course, surprises. I look forward to all the surprises, the rapid-fire curve balls that life is known to throw without fail.  

Who knows, maybe Derek and I will even host a community group for our church this fall in our home. It's a secret dream of mine. I think we'd be good at it.

As I write this on my brand new, super cool, smarter than me laptop, our new puppy is racing around on the carpet at my feet. He's full of pent up energy from being in his crate for a little too long and then being put outside where it is quite cold. It has made him hyperactive and frisky. He's doing laps. Around and around the room he races, so excited he can't contain himself, and every now and then he lets loose with a flying leap.

I feel the same way about this new year.

Wildly excited.

Join me, won't you?