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The Writer’s Battle

*This is a free-write exercise. I was wrestling with all kinds of thoughts and ideas and was getting nowhere. So, I sat down and wrote whatever came. Being a free write, I am publishing it unedited (except for spelling).Thanks to my friend Deborah for the idea of stepping away and just…writing*The Writer's Battle

Words pound in heart and head, threatening to destroy you if not released, shared, shepherded from mind to hand to paper.

Characters beg to be introduced; stories told; lessons unpacked. And it’s like a free fall, this opening of heart and mind. Exhilarating, exciting, terrifying. You can think of little else until you at last, once again, are free to  catapult into the stratosphere of creation. Words flow, ideas materialize and you’re left breathless, heart pounding with the beauty and grandeur of it all. Pictures so moving tears flow alongside the words; scenes so breathtaking the one writing them must stop for fear of suffocating in the sheer beauty of it.

Then, inevitably, there is that moment just after liftoff when the tether has yet to pull taut and you no longer see the beauty, the wonder, the magnitude. You see only the ravine floor rushing up faster and faster and you wonder why in the world you put yourself through this. And why you do it voluntarily again and again. You remind yourself that the last time was the same and you are still breathing but logic flies off in the wind along with your screams and you see only failure. Fear. Regret.

The successes of before now reek of mediocrity and are left in a pile like picked over bones because you comb over them again and again never quite able to get them just right.

Why waste my time? Do I write only for me? What if I pour my heart and soul onto this page and it turns out to be merely…okay? What yesterday burned like a beacon in the night, no more able to be held back from the page than the light from a candle on a stand in a darkened room, now seems small, insignificant. A mere shadow of the flame it had once been.

You close the book, unplug the computer. Enough raw bits of your soul etched for today.

It’s  not worth it anymore. I don’t need to write. It’s just a hobby. No one cares what I have to say anyway. I’ll be happier when I just let it go and move on to more important endeavors.

And then the morning comes and stories beckon once more and the characters call and the lessons burn deep and the cries are deafening and you’ll explode if you don’t let them out.

So you take Hemingway’s advice and you sit down at your typewriter, or notepad, or computer…and bleed.

When Your Dreams Disappear

“What are you longing for, deep down in the depths of your soul?…Use your imagination…go on, close you’re eyes and dream.”

I stared at those words on the page in front of me and blinked hard.

What are you longing for?

Sleep!! Came the cry from my heart. Ha!

Beyond that…what are your dreams? Your callings? What makes you come alive?

Alive?!

I can’t remember the last time I would’ve used the word alive to describe how I felt.

There was a time that I had dreams, longings; things that I would desperately love to do “if time and money were no option.” Yet now, when faced with that question, I couldn’t even venture a guess. What do I want? What are my dreams? Do I even have dreams anymore?

Longing for ParisIn her new book, Longing for Paris (Tyndale House, releasing August 2015), Sarah Mae asks us these very questions and helps us discover that the God who created us does, in fact, care about our dreams. The creator of the universe who has painted uncountable sunsets in unimaginable colors and beauty made us in that same imaginative, creative image.

We – as humans and as women – were made to long, to dream, to create, to laugh, to enjoy. However, sometimes, life has a way of stealing those things from us. We lose our ability to relish the beauty of a sunset or revel in the coolness of a soft summer breeze because we are so caught up in just surviving the day to day grind.

If we are married, we are called to devote ourselves to our marriage, making it our top human priority. If we have children we are, of course, called to raise and nurture them, training them in the ways of the Lord and how to navigate the great big world.

However, recognizing and respecting our dreams does not necessarily have to drag us away from the calling of home and family. In fact, when we are fulfilling the longings and giftings the Lord has intentionally placed within us, we are able to fulfill our roles of wife and mother even more fully – and flourish doing so.


So, what do we do when we go to explore our dreams and realize they are no longer there; no longer recognizable?

When Your Dreams Disappear

1. Observe. Pay attention throughout your daily and weekly tasks and routines. Is there anything you do that energizes you? Makes you feel alive? Feeds your soul? What drains you, leaving you feeling dry and dead inside? Anything that answers any of these questions can give you good insight into what your dreams my be. Don’t forget prayer, too! Ask God to show you those gifts, talents, interests and dreams that He’s given you.

2. Experiment. In Longing, Sarah Mae talks about how she embarked upon experiments and adventures with her family in order to find and bring more beauty and enjoyment into her life. If you don’t come up with much in the way of answers after some observation, experiment a little. Try a Zumba class. Join a baking group at the local community college. Start a blog. Write a song. Take a woodworking class. Just find something that piques your interest and try it. You don’t have to be great at it, but you may just find something makes your soul feel alive and free in the process.

3. Prune. We can’t have it all, and we can’t do it all. Sometimes the reason we’ve lost sight of what fills our souls with color and life is that we’ve said yes to some things we should’ve said no to. After you’ve observed and experimented, you’re in a good position to find things which you can prune from your life. Things that drain, time suck, or serve no real purpose for your personal/family goals. Sometimes the biggest thing we can do to rediscover our dreams is to give ourselves room to breathe.

If you do these three things, you will be well on your way to reconnecting with the things that make you tick. Those things which bring light and life to your heart – which make it easier and more fulfilling to pass that light and life on to your family. It may not happen overnight, but it’s a process that can be highly freeing, and make for a happier, healthier, more well rounded wife, mom, and daughter of the King.

Happy dreaming, sisters!

 

Ripples of Grace – A New Perspective on the Mommy Wars

The internet has been all a flutter recently over the arrival of the new royal baby. You would be hard pressed to visit any news website or social media outlet and not see something about the big news.

And for each media outlet post, there has been every manner of remark about Kate herself, and the timing and fashion in which she left the hospital. I have seen everything from undying devotion and awe to downright hatefulness. She went home too soon, too fast, she was dressed too nice, and on and on.

April was C-Section Awareness Month and for every article I saw float across my Facebook feed, I saw hundreds of hateful, argumentative and judgmental comments from all sides of the C-Section “debate.” Even an article I wrote about my own experiences with my third baby received some of the most spiteful and downright vicious comments I’ve ever heard in my life. Ripples of Grace: A New Perspective on the Mommy Wars

How is it that we who nurture sweet babes at our breast, who lovingly tuck notes into lunch boxes and blankets under chins long after the lights go out, can be so destructive to one another? How can we who love, hug, cry and defend; we who care for and nurture because it’s in our nature suddenly become divisive, angry and hateful to the very ones with whom we should declare unity – all because of the way in which our children came into this world; or how soon we came home from the hospital; or how we choose to educate; or immunize; or, or, or…

I truly believe that all women mother someone, whether or not that’s what we call it. LisaJo Baker just wrote a stunningly beautiful article on this very idea. As she says so beautifully:

We mother because we can’t not. Because there are friends in the cubicle next to us who have been hurt and need a soft, safe place to come undone. We mother because we’ve watched our grandmas make slow, determined soup for the sick. We mother because the next door neighbor can’t change her tire in the blistering March wind and of course we call AAA for her and wait and shuffle feet and rub cold hands because she asked for help. Because, of course. This is what we women do. We give ourselves away — little bits and pieces of who we are, of our courage, of our deep faith even on the nights we’re the most afraid. We bear down and we find ways to bring life to people desperate for air.

Every decision we make is a global decision.

Like the dropping of tiny pebbles into a pond, every word and deed splashes deep in this world and then ripples out unto the farthest reaches of the shore. One standing on the other side might see the tiny motion of a minuscule wave and not realize the point from which it began, so small and insignificant it seems, but it reached that shore none the less.

It is the same with us, dear sisters. Each harsh word, every divisive comment, every hateful and smug action against one of our sisters ripples round the world and shakes deep the core of our humanity.

Likewise, every act of kindness, each word of compassion, every hand extended in peace changes the landscape of this world. Though they may not seem to splash as loudly, I believe they reverberate far deeper and reach far wider than any act of hate could ever hope to.

What if…

What if it started with me, plopping a pebble of grace here, a stone of kindness there, as I walk alongside you, my sisters? Then, what if you joined me? And then your neighbor? My teacher? What if one by one we made our mark? What if the ripples of grace and compassion surged and spread until the whole good earth resonated with the weight of it until one day, pulsed to action by the rhythm of grace, we moved together so that our grandchildren awoke to find this world a very different place? 

What if they found themselves raising children alongside one another with support and love regardless of homeschool, public school, un-school, under-the-sea-school? Whether home birth or VBAC or in-the-car-on-the-way birth, each woman discovered herself and her story truly valuable? Truly beautiful?

So, sisters, on this Mother’s Day – and every day after – let’s give one another the gift of grace…and maybe a piece of cake that we don’t have to eat hiding in the bathroom…and together let’s start a ripple effect that will change this world.

How City Life Has Changed My Extroverted Tendencies

I love people. I always have. My nickname in elementary school was Hug-a-bunch. Yeah.

For me, the more people I’m around the better (within reason…huge, massive crowds like those found in Times Square on NYE freak me out), but in general give me people and I’m a happy camper.

I enjoy doing workout videos in the comfort of my own home (Jessica Smith is a fave), but give me a jam-packed Zumba class full of other women rockin’ out and just trying not to catch a glimpse of our own reflection in the mirror, and I’m in seventh heaven. I love it!

However, after living in a large, urban city for just over a year now, I’ve noticed my extroverted tendencies are changing. And, just so we are on the same page, when I talk about an extrovert, I don’t mean someone who likes to talk to anyone and everyone, super outgoing. While I can be that way (just ask my introverted husband), I’m equally happy to just be in a group of people and observe and listen. So, I’m operating from the definition that an extrovert is someone who draws energy from being around people; and conversely when required to spend extended amounts of time alone, find themselves feeling drained of energy.

How City Life Has Changed My Extroverted TendenciesSo, like I said, the longer I live in the city and use public transport and am around people all.the.time., I’m finding that my extroverted needs and tendencies are changing.

1. I now prefer smaller, more intimate groups where I feel known, rather than just any gaggle of humans. One of my favorite ways to relax and spend a “me day” was to go to the mall and walk around. I used to love going to the mall at Christmas time. The crowds very rarely bothered me, because it gave me prime people-watching opportunities, and I would feed off of their energy. I would come home feeling refreshed, energized and excited.

These days, I find trips to the mall or window shopping on the local shop street draining and stressful rather than energizing. I’m sure is has something to do with the fact that it’s all in another language and I can never fully “shut down” mentally and just enjoy the experience. But now, give me three or four good friends with whom I feel safe, some coffee and a sweet or two and time to just hang out, talk, laugh, whatever.

2. I need more down time between large social gatherings. I used to be able to go from church, out to eat, to the mall, to an evening hangout and thrive on the energy I got. Now, after church, a school play or a day at the mall, I need time alone in the quiet to recover. This is totally new for me, and it took me awhile to recognize and respect that need. Now, I’m careful not to overextend myself socially – something I never thought I’d have to worry about. Small gatherings with close friends still energize me, and actually help strengthen me for the “bigger” social experiences. For that, I am so extremely grateful. It makes my Tuesday morning coffee and prayer times with my friends here that much more special and meaningful.

3. I need more true alone and quiet time than ever before. I’m finding I need to be very diligent about building in time where I’m truly alone and in the quiet – no music, no media. This is a struggle for me. For one, I have 3 kids and we live in an apartment. I’m trying to get up earlier to get a few minutes of quiet to pray, and energize my soul before the craziness of the day. However, I”m also not a morning person. Like, at all. So this is proving to be a challenge; but I’m learning just how beneficial it is for me and how in the long run it bolsters my energy level even more than an extra half hour of sleep does. Did I just write that? Who am I? Also, did I mention I’m struggling with this one?? Right now, I’m in the “knowing is half the battle” phase. :)

4. Self-care is proving  more important than ever. I suppose this goes hand in hand with number 3, but it’s a bit different. I’m learning I need to make time to make my own health a priority. I need to plan – and stick to – times to exercise. If I go more than a couple of days without it, my stress level rises and my ability to handle the noise and chaos being around people nearly 24/7 brings plummets. So, I’m working at making time 5-6 days a week for  exercise, and to make the time and energy to prepare healthy, real food for me and my family. Simple, but healthy. Because energy is a scarce commodity for me these days, and spending all day preparing every last thing from scratch leaves me grumpy and bitter, and completely defeats the purpose for which I would be doing it. This is another work-in-progress for me, but the more I work at it, the better I feel…and the happier my family is, I’m sure.

I’m still an extrovert at the core. If I spend too much time alone I start to go crazy and feel like a lead blanket has been laid upon me. But in this phase of our lives, I’m learning that extrovert is a trait with many facets, and I’m enjoying learning more about myself and how I fit into those facets.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How does your current lifestyle affect how those tendencies come out? Have those things changed over the years along with your living situation?

 

Vienna, Personified

Someone once said that Paris is a woman, London is a man, and New York City is a transvestite.

Granted, I haven’t been to New York outside the airport, but after my visits to Paris and London, I must say I find that statement to be shockingly true.

It always amazes – and delights – me how each major European city has a distinct and unique personality.

Paris is the haute cotoure model that intimidates everyone; strong and beautiful inside and out, but with a hidden daintiness that surprises even the model herself at times.

London is the slightly stuffy businessman. He’s all propriety and decorum with a hint of conceit. During business hours, anyway. There’s a wild/unkempt streak running through him that he tries hard to conceal, but it is there nonetheless.

Athens is the vibrant, eclectic woman that lives across the street. The one with the amazing energy, infectious laugh and zeal for life everyone else secretly wishes they possessed.

Dublin is the angst-ridden teenager trying desperately to find his place in the world, not sure if he loathes or loves himself. His convictions and culture run deep and strong, but at times he longs to be anyone but himself.

But Vienna…Vienna is somewhat of an enigma. Some might call her a melting pot of cultures, languages and ideas,  but I see her with starker dividing lines than that.

Vienna PersonifiedVienna is like the Johnny Depp of cities. Vienna is the city that is cool beyond reckoning – without even trying or meaning to be, and I’m not sure she cares. She can be both stunningly beautiful and breathtakingly disturbing.

She is full of art, music, and culture; vibrant and alive, brimming with life, love and creativity. Sometimes you feel as if your very breath might be stolen away by the sheer weight and magnitude of the beauty displayed in the most mundane of places and around unlikely corners.

Other times, she scares the crap out of you with her dark secrets and mysterious ideas that are more terrifying than intriguing.

Vienna is a city loved and revered by young and old alike. The elder folk loving the tradition, the stability, the classical nature of architecture and music that runs deep in her life’s history. The young come for her vibrant night life, new ideas in art, science, language and more.

But when I love Vienna the most – when I most relate to her and feel I most belong – is in the morning. Early. This city never stops, it is always teeming with people. Streetcars. Subways. Taxis. Buses. All the time. Day and night.

But morning…

The morning commute is somewhat of an anomaly that resonates deep within my own heart. The trams are full, subway cars packed to the brim. Sidewalks and stations full of people, of shuffling feet. And yet, all is near silent. Words are only spoken when absolutely necessary, and eye after eye is bleary and groggy.

In one way, Vienna is quite the morning city. Schools and businesses open early, and people are on the move before the sun many days. And yet…she is also like the jazz-playing-actor who spent too many hours the night before wailing a tune or spinning a tale for friends over a drink. She functions in the morning because she must – but she’s not happy about it.

I love the morning in Vienna. It feels like a collective protest against rising early and getting things done. We’ll do it, but we don’t have to like it, the city declares in silent unity. This, too, is how I feel about mornings.

By midmorning, and certainly by the lunch hour, the delicious coffee has been had and the city is truly awake and interacting with one another. Conversations in a hundred different languages heard on every street all the live long day.

But morning.

Yes, Vienna to me in many ways is a very strange city; one that I will likely not ever fully understand. We have had our ups and downs, not always having started off on the right foot. But Vienna and I? We’ll always have the mornings.

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