Monday, June 27, 2011


My son has these spots on his ankle bones - places where his shoes have rubbed the skin raw.  They scab over, get rubbed raw again, scab over again, and so on.  I can't seem to find shoes that fit him just right, protective coverings that won't cause him pain.  Even his Croc's and flip-flops can cause the scabs to flare up.

I'm thinking about this tonight as I ponder the state of my own heart.  I just read a good friend's post about how she is committing herself to being vulnerable with God - to trusting that He will give her good gifts and, if He doesn't, that He has a good reason.  As I read it I thought to myself, "just wait."

For what? you might ask.

"Just wait until you're disappointed by Him," is my response.

That's when I felt it - the scarring, the bitterness, the disappointment, the anger, sometimes even, the rage.  My scabs have been breaking open and reforming for decades now, and every time they do I feel like I have a right to point my finger at God and say, "see, I told you so!"

I told you that you aren't really good.

I told you that you don't really provide.

I told you that you won't really fulfill my heart's desires. 

I told you that bad things always happen to me/us.

Life is hard and you don't help.  You let awful things happen.  Want proof?  Look at my scars.

And yet, even as I write, I know that's not true.  It's not even close to true.  Bad things do happen, yes, but so do many, many immeasurably good things.  I can point to so many times that God has taken care of me, provided for me, given me good gifts, fulfilled my heart's desires to the point of overflowing (and when I forget, my friends can help me remember).

I know that He is good.  So, what's the deal?  Why the scars?

I don't really have a good answer tonight. 

I can tell you that the scars are a result of real pain and real choices - choices to believe in lies and make vows with liars. 

I can tell you that it takes faith to believe that the scars will heal completely when they keep reappearing, but that I'd rather walk in faith than by sight because, when I do, I see things so much better.

And I can tell you that I want better shoes - shoes that provide a firm foundation instead of a flimsy coating of self-protectiveness that only serves to agitate.  I want to let go of the scars to become fully healed.  If only that I might encourage my sweet friend rather than spew cynicism her way.

I leave you with one last thought...perhaps I need a time of walking barefoot before I find the right shoes.  Exposure to the air seems in order - a place of vulnerability, trust, unknown-ness.  Back to my friend's post and the sweet innocence that is willing to press in, trust, believe, hope.

A Spacious Place

"My goal is for you to have the space to live your dreams.  The physical space, the emotional space, the spiritual space - all of it."

My husband said this to me several weeks ago.  It was one of those moments when you catch your breath and tears sting your eyes.  He cut me to my core - you know, the place where deep longings lie in wait.

I have always wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom.

I have always wanted to be a writer.

And now, I'm both.

Last week I contracted my first paying gig as a writer.  I had pitched an editor some story ideas.  She turned down my ideas but came back with one of her own.  I'm in the process of rewriting the article which is due in a week.

My response after receiving her email?  I got quiet, but not really in a good way.  I became afraid.  Nervous.  Preoccupied.  I also immediately started writing in my head.  Straight to work, producing, getting busy.

Oh, and I sent my husband a text message.  How did he respond?

He called me, and these were the first words out of his mouth: "Jenny, I'm so proud of you!  Do you realize how huge this is?  You were hired to write!  You do know this is all Jesus, right?"

Um, sure, yea, Jesus, right.  To be honest, I hadn't even thought about Jesus yet.  It hadn't even occurred to me to get down on my knees and thank Him.  I was too busy freaking out and trying to respond to my fear by performing (an age-old, annoying, fleshy sin I know many of us struggle with).

So I stopped.  I got down on my knees.  I thanked Him, earnestly.  I tried to shut off all the ideas flying through my head, to reach a place of healthy stillness, when His voice cut through: "go write already."  I'm pretty sure He had a grin on His face as He said it. 

Then, I rose and started again, this time from a spacious place.

I'm linking up with the ladies at Soli Deo Gloria.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


It's our fifteenth straight day of triple-digit heat in Austin.  I can't seem to stay hydrated, and I've been fainting a lot (adrenal failure - not enough cortisol - due to dehydration and overheating). 

Sunday I was in one of my oldest friend's weddings.  I missed half of the reception because I had completely passed out from the heat (the wedding was outside).  I spent that time sitting in a room by myself while my husband rushed around trying to get me what I needed.  He was awesome; I was depressed.

Sunday night - me to my husband, on the way home from the wedding: "I'm not sure, honey; I just know that I feel sad and...isolated.  Like, no one really understands what's happening, or cares that I'm sick.  I know that's gross (I hate self-pity, but, there you have it....).  I'm really sad.  This is really hard.  And I feel really alone.  I'm not even sure if our extended family gets it.  I mean, I sent out that detailed email about gluten and what's going on with me, and I haven't heard anything back from anyone."

Monday afternoon - on the phone with my dad:

Dad to me: "Hi Red.  I got your article on gluten, and I read it.  Then, this weekend, Les (my stepmom) and I researched gluten and its effects and, well, I've decided to follow a gluten-free diet."

Me to Dad: "You have!?!  That's great!"

Dad, Les, Gunnar, Lily and I spent the late afternoon at Costco learning how to read labels and choose healthier options (not just gluten-free ones).

I felt so loved.

And it occurred to me: isolation is the opposite of love.  Love is fundamentally a communal act.  It must be given and received to be experienced.  There must be at least two parties involved, even if one of the parties is unaware of how well they are loved or being loved in the moment.  Isolation is the work of God's Enemy.  Love is the work of God.

When I see isolation cropping up in my life - in my thoughts, my circumstances, my choices - I want to contend against it.  (Side note: isolation is different from giving yourself alone time.)  I want to reach out to those around me and ask for help, choose to trust, expose myself for what's really going on.  I know that, when I do, He will meet me.  Faithfully.  Every time.

Linking up with Jen at Soli Deo Gloria today.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


For "Heard it on Sunday, Use it on Monday"...

Actually, I heard this on Saturday night.  I was at a very dear friend's rehearsal dinner last night.  It was a sweet experience for me.  As I looked around the room I saw faces that have marked my life over the last fifteen+ years.  I grew up with these friends.  In fact, in many cases, I grew up because of these friends.  I thanked God a lot last night.

One of my thankful moments happened when I stole away with a former mentor of mine.  We haven't talked in over a year, so we had a lot of catching up to do.  At one point, she mentioned a season in her life during which God had spoken specific promises to her.  When it seemed as if there was no hope and everything was lost, He spoke hope into her life.  As she put it, "at that time, no one else was hearing any promise, but I was and I knew it would be okay."  She concluded by telling me that another mutual friend had recently asked her:

"Do you hear God speaking any promises right now?"

That is what I "heard on Sunday" - that phrase has been ringing in my ears since last night.  Do you hear God speaking any promises right now?

It's been a while since I asked God for a promise from Him.  I've asked Him for assurances, explanations, words, scriptures, insight, revelation, and gifts (patience, mercy, love, and more).  But I haven't asked for a promise or promises.  And I didn't ask last night.

Yet, when I woke up to have quiet time this morning, He was standing before me with one in hand.  As if He had orchestrated that brief interaction last night to get my attention, so I wouldn't miss it when He spoke.

This morning I had a lot of questions for Him.  I journaled them all.  They were specific.  I journaled primarily to get them out of me so that I could empty myself and try to hear His voice.  I wasn't in the mindset to actually receive answers.  I just wanted to be able to look where He was looking and see what He was seeing, instead of all the preoccupations running through my mind.

He and I spent time togther and it was sweet, but I closed my journal before He was finished.  As I reached to put my journal away I heard Him say clearly, 1 Corinthians 1:9.

"Huh?" I asked.

"Just go check it out," He replied.

I opened my Bible:

"God will do this, for He is faithful to do what He says, and He has invited you into partnership with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord."  (New Living Translation)

He then spoke specific promises in answer to some of my specific questions.  I was...humbled.  And excited.  And left to encourage you: are there places in your own life God might want to speak His promises into? 

A promise is a powerful thing.  It creates a bond between the giver and receiver: the giver commits himself and the receiver chooses to trust, to live in hope.  The two parties become inextricably tied together.

God's promises to His people are all over the Bible - to individuals, to groups - and they are always fulfilled.

What would God promise you today?  I encourage you to seek Him today and ask if there's something specific He wants you to hope for, to wait on, to expect.

(Be sure to stop by Nebraska Graceful today for the link up!)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Creative Connection

Just found out about this conference, and thought some of you might be interested:

The Creative Connection Event

I'm not sure I'm going, but let me know if you decide to check it out.  We might meet up!

XOXO, Jenny

Soli Deo Gloria Link-Up

I wasn't going to make it here today.  It's VBS week (yes, the same VBS Jen has been working so hard on), and I'm volunteering + navigating the in's and out's of putting my kids in for the first time.  (For the record, it was not a good idea to be in the same family with my rather needy three-year-old son.  Live and learn.)

But I came by anyway.  Couldn't resist linking up - I would miss ya'll if I didn't "see" you, even if only for one week.

So here's my brief contribution to the party:

Yesterday was a very rough day for me.  Details aren't important right now.  Just know that I basically had to face my biggest fear - the one that makes you stop breathing if you entertain it even for one second - and push through.  I didn't want to; I wanted to run far, far away.  But I chose to stay in the place where I experienced fear (quite literally) and trust that God would step in and protect me.  Even though He didn't seem to yesterday, I chose to believe He would show up today. 

I don't say this to make it sound like I'm awesome.  I most definitely am not.  This was a fleshy, yucky, gross process.  Nothing pretty about it.  But it was also a holy process, a process set apart by God.  I don't fully understand why He showed up today but let something that really scared me happen yesterday.  But I do know that there is a reason, and He is in the process, whether I like how He decides to run things or not.

How do I know?  Lots of ways, but here's the most obvious.  This morning, during my quiet time, I heard Him tell me to go check out Psalm 34:17 (this, after pages of telling Him how mad I am at Him in my journal).

"Is anyone crying for help? God is listening,
   ready to rescue you."
-- From The Message

What a precious God we serve.  Even I, in my cynical, angry place leftover from yesterday, couldn't stand up against that - I melted. 

I know He keeps forcing me to face this particular fear, in deeper, more terrifying ways, because He wants to set me free from it.  I know that.  It doesn't make it easier.  It doesn't make me less angry in the moment.  But it does make it better.  There is a purpose.  This is a holy process.  We serve a good God.

Linking up with my friends at Soli Deo Gloria.  Stop by - you won't be sorry!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Health Update: Cortisol

So, I've been thinking lately about all that I have gained.  This is a switch.  For many years, when I was younger, it was all about lack.  Then, I had the thanksgiving epiphany and that started to change.  The change has gone deeper in the last several weeks.  It's been interesting.  I have felt like an observer watching a fascinating process take place.  I am not in charge.  I'm just receiving the changes that are happening and raising my eyebrows in surprise as they come my way.

Here are my observations.  They are simply that - my observations about my own body, my own process.  I am not a doctor.  But I do know my body, and I have been given sovereignty over it.  It is my gift to steward and offer up.  I need to pay attention, and, when I do, I will learn.

This is what I have gained in the last several weeks of being on a higher cortisol dose:
  • no more gum pain - a somewhat strange realization I had this week...I've had worsening gum pain for about the past six years, roughly in line with my diminished energy and fainting spells; the cortisol intake seems to be combatting all of this
  • very little joint/muscle pain (I believe this is also directly related to the addition of Corvalen (or D-Ribose) and a magnesium/potassium supplement into my regiment, but the cortisol has definitely helped this)
  • energy - this has come in two forms: the first is the simple practical fact that I do not pass out every afternoon from utter exhaustion; the second has come in the form of chores...I now have the everyday, miraculous ability to do the dishes and wash loads of laundry without needing to rest for hours afterward...I'm still tired but my endurance is up
  • drastic reduction in fainting spells - I used to have 3-4/day, now I go weeks without having any
  • less fear
Yep, I said less fear.  This has been the most bizaare part of this process.  I put it all together when, one day, I saw a spider crawling on my son, and I swatted it away.  There was no hesitation or fear or panic - I just acted.  This is a HUGE difference.  Since I was a little, little girl, I have had serious phobias - snakes, spiders, caterpillars.  I know, weird.  You can ask my friends - these things terrify me.  I absolutely sink into an irrational space when confronted by any of these, and, well, let's just say, I do not respond well.

And yet, here I am, swatting spiders away, holding my son's pet "snake" (a stuffed animal that I couldn't even look at when he brought it home months ago), and watching with intellectual fascination while a caterpillar meanders across the sidewalk leading to my door. 

What the - ?

I asked my husband if he had noticed a difference.  He immediately and enthusiastically concurred: "yes, you are much more chilled out.  You don't freak out as much.  It's almost as if you're better able to control your fear."

Apt observation.  I did some research.  I found several references online - both from scholarly sources and personal, anecdotal stories of individual experiences (here's one, if you're interested).  Though the research is not definitive, there does seem to be a growing consensus that people with "off" cortisol levels are incapable of responding, not just to stress, but also to fear, in appropriate ways.  In other words, they have disproportionate responses - reactions that seem totally irrational to folks with "normal" cortisol production. 

But here's the kicker: it's not simply psychological.  I could have spent years and years in therapy over these phobias with no improvement, all the while having psychiatrists tell me I needed to work it out (and creating more psychological trauma as a result).  But without the cortisol in my body, I simply would not have been able to respond differently.  I know that now like a mother knows her child: there is no denying it.

This last has been a fascinating discovery for me.  Very, very freeing.  This is not my fault.  It's not that I'm "not good enough" or simply need to "get over it" and "get better" (all voices that have run wild in my head for too many years).  And it's not that I'm a hypochondriac.  There is something physically wrong with me that I can't fix.  I just need to respond.  As I do - as I listen to the doctors and give my body what it needs, as I listen to God and feed myself well - I am partnering in my recovery with the one, true, Great Physician. 

And I can tell you, it's really a fun ride.

[A friend recently sent me this blog post from NPR.  It has some good information on gut bacteria.  This is where it all starts my friends.  Enjoy the read!]

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Five Minute Friday


I'm on my period so it's been a tired day.  Between that and 2 1/2 hours at the pool, we are all zonked.  It's interesting to me that my period takes so much out of me, like a blood-sucking leech.  The analogy is apt.

I know this is probably not an appropriate topic for the blogosphere, but it's on my mind, and this is five-minute-friday, which to me means "writing without editing" style.  Welcome to my Morning Pages.

For years I would sink low during these days, quite literally, and have little to no energy to handle life.  Now I know why.  Periods - or any other number of processes in the body - trigger cortisol production.  My adrenal glands don't make enough, so I haven't had enough, so I've been tired.  It's like trying to run a car on fumes.  At some point, it just don't go and you wind up with sputter, sputter, sputter.

My moral?

It takes energy to heal.

Or to create (in the form of ovulation and periods).  Or to produce...well, really, anything of value...ovum, babies, a good blog post.

What goes in must comes out, right?  What do I put in me - literally, physically - in order to produce the energy I need (not that I can produce cortisol - I can't; but I can create a healthy internal environment so that I don't need as much cortisol...that is the lesson for me)?  Do I ingest chemicals and toxic substances, preservatives that sit and rot inside my belly, preserving, or healthy, whole-food goodness?  What I am meant for and made for?  The choice is mine.  Give car gas, or give car a synthetic substance that looks/tastes/smells like gas but has no substantial properties representing the essence of gas at all.

The analogy continues.  It is a cycle.  Read it as you wish - in/out, around in a circle, physical/mental/spiritual.  Choose the level you need and go with it.  What are you eating today?


Linking up with The Gypsy Mama for Five Minute Friday.

Monday, June 6, 2011


"I hope you don't hear this the wrong way, but I'm really proud of you."

This is what a friend said to me last Saturday when she came over for lunch.  We talked about many things during those two hours, but that's the phrase that stuck to me.  I've been thinking about it ever since.

She was affirming me for changing the way I eat.  For changing the way my family eats, actually.  And for making other, healthier lifestyle choices (taking supplements, choosing organic, trying my hand at growing vegetables (still no tomatoes but my fingers are crossed!), removing plastic containers whenever possible, and more).

(For a great article on the whole plastic container issue, click here.)

It's hard for me to receive that affirmation.  In part because I resent it.  There.  I said it.  I hate the fact that choosing health is such a polarizing issue.  That, if you add words like organic or naturopath into your daily lexicon you suddenly conjure up visions of love-bead-wearing hippies.  I don't like being lumped in with a group in such a generalized way, based on preconceptions and misconceptions, especially when I don't identify with that group in many, many ways (but, of course, I do identify with that group in others...damn those generalizations!).

I also resent it because it's true - the implication behind her words...the truth that making the change took guts, took repentance actually.  I resisted choosing a healthier lifestyle for many years out of sheer stubbornness, I think.  And pride.  I only made the choice when I had to make the choice - when my doctors were telling me that the only way to get better was to eat better.  When God Himself was telling me to "eat well".

Isn't that the way it always is?  In our gross, yucky, fleshiness we fail to do that which is clearly best for us.  (For an ancient version of this same concept, check out Paul and Romans 7: 18-20.)  And then, when we finally make the choice, it's really hard to admit that we resisted making it in the first place.  To walk humbly.  We'd rather pretend like we knew it all along and walk about with our peacock feathers prancing about us.

At least, tell me I'm not the only one?!?

So here I am, stuck in the middle between the past and the future, in this present of transition and affirmation.  My friends who made the choice before me are proud of me.  My friends who have not yet made the choice are supportive, inquisitive, respectful.  No one seems to be judging me, yet I still feel judged.  What is that?  Why am I so fleshy?

I do not have an answer to that.  I can't sum this post up in one pithy point.  But I can go back to where I started and finish with this: with the amount of change I've walked through in the last ten months, I've realized one, very key thing about myself...I need affirmation.

I don't just want it.  I actually need it.

I believe that to be true.  That's why when my dear, sweet friend affirmed me for making the lifestyle/food/whatever-you-want-to-call-it change, her words sounded like a voice-over while the whole rest of our conversation faded into white noise in the background.

That's why I don't feel safe around doctors that only want to discuss facts but never give feedback or encouragement reflecting the hard choices I'm making to choose life, to walk in health.  They may be helping me, but their help is only so effective because what I actually need is more.

That's why God talks to me.  And I mean in a real, live, audible voice.  He knows that I need to hear Him speaking actual words that build me up and spur me on.  (He may speak to you differently.  In fact, I'm sure He does - because He knows what you need.)

This revelation of need, not just want, has really helped me in the past few days.  It has helped me "frame the view" as a gardener or interior designer might say.  In other words, I will make different choices based on this revelation about myself.  I will actively seek out people and situations where affirmation abounds. 

To put it simply, I will choose to get my needs met, and I will refuse to remain in places where they're not only not getting met, but where they're actively being denied.

I don't say this out of selfishness.  I say this out of balance (which is what this whole healthy-living thing is about to me anyway).  I say this out of love: self-love and love for others.  (Why would I want to continue demanding something from someone who is so ill-equipped to give it, setting him or her up for failure and us up for bitterness?  Better to move on with grace and seek spaces of love in my communicated in a way I can understand.)

And I say this out of a desire to love better.  If I cauterize the places of bitterness I allowed to grow where I did not get the affirmation I needed, I can remove diseased flesh and create space for healthy humanity to replace it.  I can heal and recover in such a way as to operate more fully, being able to give out more graciously, from more of an open heart, ultimately needing less in return and really loving the way He loves.

So anyway, this post may seem a bit random, but there you have it.  The intersection of the practical and the metaphysical via Holy Spirit revelation.  He made me this way, and I need to honor it.  I want to honor it.  That is my spiritual act of worship.  Amen.

Linking up with Soli Deo Gloria again this week.

Too Good Not to Share: Sweet Potato Mash

I adapted this recipe from a Cook's Country episode Justin and I watched last weekend.  I make sweet potatoes a lot, but I had never thought to let them self-steam.  (Because of their water content, they can basically cook in their own juices.)  I highly recommend trying this out.  Enjoy!

  • whenever possible, I highly recommend the use of organic everything - produce, spices, etc.
  • I used soy-based margarine because I'm cutting out dairy, but you can also use butter or regular margarine on a one-for-one substitution
  • make sure you keep the heat low and set the timer - I stirred once while cooking and it didn't burn
  • two organic sweet potatoes* (these are different from yams), medium-sized
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (4 tbsp) soy margarine (I found Willow Run at my local grocery store, and I love it.  If you can't find it, try Earth Balance spread.
  • 1/4 water
  • In a medium sauce pan melt margarine on low heat (low heat is crucial)
  • Peel the potatoes, wash thoroughly, cut into quarters
  • Thinly slice (about 1/4 inch thick) so you end up with even pieces
  • Dump the potatoes into the pot with the melting margarine and give a quick stir (still on low heat)
  • Add the spices and water, stir
  • Cover
  • Set timer for 35 minutes
  • Stir once while steaming
  • When time is up the potatoes should be carmalizing and falling apart at the slightest touch, but not mushy or runny
  • You can easily "mash" simply by stirring and then serve up
  • Makes two adult-sized servings (1/3 to 1/2 cup each) or two 1/3 cup servings with a little leftover for toddler-portions
I like serving this with pork or chicken.

*Click on the link for a detailed explanation of the health benefits of sweet potatoes.  When they're in season, try to eat them once or twice a week!

Allergy Info: this recipe is dairy free, lactose free, gluten free, nut free, corn free, and kosher.  Contains soy.

Update on Lily: Praise Report!

Exciting news!  We just said goodbye to our ECI (Early Childhood Intervention) team a few hours ago for the last time.  Lily has now been signed off on by her whole team of doctors and therapists as being caught up developmentally and a-okay physically (just one last issue of anemia we're working on, but I think it will resolve itself soon).  Yeeeeeee-haaaaawwwwwww!

I'm so full of joy and gratitude that it's leaking out of my eyes in the form of tears.  The emotions of the last ten months are definitely welling over.  I might be weepy for days.  I'm so, so, so, so thankful.

I'm thankful that Lily is a fighter.  She's worked so hard and come so far.  Good for her!  I will always be proud of our little girl for that and will tell her stories of her resilience for years to come.  She's got grit; there's no denying it.

I'm thankful for Gunnar (her brother).  All the way he has been by her side, 'helping' her do therapy, cheering for her successes (Lily learned how to clap because she saw Brother cheering for her when she hit a milestone), being patient - oh so patient - during the hours of Lily-focused time.  He has carried her (I think he's a burden-bearer in the making) and has loved her.  It has been so beautiful to watch.  I wish you could all have seen what I've seen in the daily places of life.  He is an amazing little person with such a huge capacity for love and compassion.  I'm very proud of him.

I'm thankful for what I've learned.  It has been intense.  It has been hard.  It has been painful - very painful.  But it has been good.  I'm a changed person on the other side.  Though I definitely wouldn't have sought out these changes, they are there now, and I'm sure that I'll need my new-found skills and perspective for whatever comes next in life.  I have learned advocacy.  I have learned not to doubt my own instinct.  I have learned to make people listen when their first inclination is to blow you off.  And if they won't, I have learned to leave and to choose to surround myself with people who will.  I have learned, in a new way, how to persevere.

Though I'm still struggling with anger toward the folks who really hurt us in this process (to be honest about it), I'm also deeply, sincerely thankful for those who have helped.  I want to name them, for the record, because they have made an eternal impact in this little family of ours:
  • Teresa, Heidi, and Jan at ECI
  • Allison at Big Sky Pediatric Therapy
  • Dr. Lindsay Elton, a professional, brilliant practitioner and a caring doctor who knows how to listen well
  • Dr. William Caldwell, Lily's first pediatrician - he was willing to go the extra mile and dig beneath the surface where others might not have
  • Dr. Tammy McConnell, Lily's current pediatrician - also a good listener...she helps me problem-solve when I'm not sure what I'm seeing
  • The wonderful, compassionate folks at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital - they do amazing work up there & treat you with dignity and respect
  • Kevin McHorse, a pediatric physical therapist who always made himself available to answer questions and help direct us in the right direction, even though we weren't his patients
And, of course, there are so many more.  To the countless friends and families who have prayed for Lily and our whole family, I thank you.  To the nursery staff at St. Michael's and the team at Milwood Preschool, I thank you. 

As I look back and choose thankfulness, I see a trail of good gifts.  Thank you all, and praise God!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Going internal

I had a stimulating conversation with two of my oldest and dearest friends last night.  It wasn't the kind of conversation that leaves you excited and 'raring to go'.  Not that kind of stimulating.  It was the kind that sits with you, seeping in...the kind that you can't get out of your head even when your nineteen-month-old is screeching from an ear infection and you're hosting a play date for some friends in the neighborhood.

What has the power to hold my attention even in the midst of daily life?

Well, it's actually several parts of our two-hour hangout time.  The parts seemed disparate at the time - dreams, writing struggles, my desire to make a difference in the world.  But, as they seep further into me, they're collecting in a common pool.

There was this from "Friend One":

"I've been thinking about dreams lately.  I wanted to know what ya'll think: are we all meant to have one dream, or are some of us just born to wander?"  (I'm paraphrasing here, of course.) 

In general, we all agreed that it is a parent's job to help his or her child understand what he or she is made for.  In the cases where parents give too little direction ("you can do anything", for example), we have each seen negative results - the 'wandering' I mention above.  Yes, you may be able to do anything, but what are you meant to do?  You certainly can't do everything - that's impossible.  As an eighteen-year-old, twenty-year-old, twenty-five-year-old, you need help narrowing the field.  That's where the parent comes in - we can act as mirrors, reflecting back what we see God doing in the hearts and lives of our kiddos.

This spun off into a philsophical conversation about destiny or calling.  Is there one thing that we're supposed to find and then spend our lives pursuing?  I chimed in:

"I spent a lot of years in my twenties looking for that magic answer.  Some 'Word from the Lord' that would make everything clear.  Ironically, he was silent a lot of the time.  It felt like He had His thumb pressed down on me, holding me in place, preventing me from moving forward, until I got it.  Until I learned the lesson(s) He had for me, in my heart first.  Not because He's mean, but out of mercy.  If I know one thing about God I know that He deals with the insides first - the externals come later.  Otherwise, it would be like building a life on a broken foundation.

"And one of the things I learned was that calling, or destiny, or purpose, is not something He imposes on us from above.  It's something He deposits in us when He creates us - some tiny reflection of His own longing.  So, discovering your calling is, ultimately, about going internal.  About digging deeper into your heart until you discover what you love, what you long for."

"Friend Two" added: "it's an uncovering, the process of discovering your dreams" (versus seeking something outside of a treasure hunt or something...or some mystical search that does nothing but distract you from the real source, the place where God indwells you with desire).

There were many more comments as the night wore on.  At some point I shared how I've been struggling with self-doubt this past week and wondering if choosing to write is the best path.  As I was elaborating I said - in an offhand way - "but then the Lord spoke to me and gave me clarity.  He showed me where to focus right now, which is on my novel.  There are other things stirring in my heart - things that would affect others more immediately and directly, that would pull me out into the world more - but the call is clear: stay in this internally-focused place and write."

Going internal.  There it was again.

Sometimes you have to dig deep in order to grow tall.  Sometimes you have to die down in order to bud again.  Sometimes you have to shrink your circle of influence ... well, for lots of reasons.  Maybe to combat your own pride.  Maybe to give you space to rest.  Maybe to keep you safe in an especially tender season of healing. 

And maybe - just maybe - you won't ever see the effect of focusing on the small space in front of you - the space that feels totally fruitless at times - but will have to do so anyway, knowing that your obedience will bear good fruit for His glory no matter what you do or do not see in your lifetime.

"Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life...."  (Psalm 23:6)

That's a promise.  A promise He will fulfill.  Our job is to seek and follow; He does the rest.

So if you're wondering what you're made for and/or what your dream is, I encourage you: dig deep; go internal; get to know yourself.  As you do, I promise you, you'll get to know Him.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Redefining expectations

So, it's been an interesting week.  I found myself lost in a fog of confusion and self-doubt.  Thoughts like this have run through my head:

Why am I doing this?  This is a waste of time.  I have nothing to show after ten months of solid effort - shouldn't I just give up? 

And then there were these thoughts:

I'm not gaining traction in any area, so maybe I'm not meant to do this.  I look around me and see _____ (insert any one of several names here) being successful, yet everything I try fails.  Again, am I fooling myself?  Maybe I'm not supposed to be writing.  Because, if I were, wouldn't I have more success (followers on my blog, responses to queries, paid freelance gigs - these things signify success to me)?

Then one day during my down time (read: kids' nap time) I hear the Holy Spirit whisper: "finish the movie you started last night."  Instead of writing? I think to myself.  Okay.

I had put in National Treasure the night before in an attempt to help me sleep (but let's be honest - I love all things historical and fiction, and Nicolas Cage movies make me happy).  I hadn't made it far, so I settled down during nap time to try again.

The part that stuck out?  Here it is, an exchange between Riley and Ben Gates (I'm paraphrasing here):

Riley: "It's not that it shouldn't be done; it's that it can't be done.  Here, let me prove it to you."  (After which Riley explains all the reasons their task would be impossible.)

Ben responds: "Did you know that Thomas Edison tried and failed 2,000 times to invent the thin-wire filament that would power the incandescent light bulb?  And when asked about this he said, 'I didn't fail.  I learned 2,000 ways not to build a lightbulb.'"

I didn't fail.  I learned....

Success and failure.  And through it all, the attempt.  Or, more aptly, the attempts.  And you learn.  The attempts are how you learn.

I'm revamping my writing plan this week.  After wading through the fog I found some clarity:
  • Focus on your novel
  • Keep pitching freelance ideas
  • Don't give up
I'm going to set aside my children's books and screenplay - for now.  I'm going to stop researching conferences and writer's communities - for now.  I'm going to quit worrying about online opportunities and other creative ways to break into writing more immediately.  Instead, I'm going to follow my three bullet points, remember Edison's words, and try not to get discouraged.

Out of that resolution came further clarity: the novel I thought I was close to finishing is nowhere near being done.  I'm currently in Part III of what I thought was a three-part novel.  It will be a five-part novel.  I have a lot more writing to do.

I had originally planned to make the novel a part of a series.  Now I'm going to let the other books lie and focus on finishing this one well.  If other books come later, then they come.  And I'm not going to worry about how long it's taking, how much effort I'm putting into something for a very uncertain promise of potential return.  When the fear thoughts start to enter my head, I'll think of Jane Austen, who only finished six novels in her career.  And I won't give up.  I won't give up.  By God's grace, I won't give up.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Giveaway by an SDG friend

A fellow SDG blogger just finished her 31 Days series, and she's sponsoring a giveaway!  You could win an autographed copy of Home-ec 101.

For details, click here.

Have a great Wednesday!