Sunday, December 30, 2018

Reflections on 2018

I love the week between Christmas and New Year's. I love the thought of "new" opportunities. I love the idea of wiping the slate clean and starting over, because most days I'm a hot mess full of mistakes and I'd need more than a Mr. Clean eraser to wipe up my disaster...

Except if 2018 has taught me anything, it's that everybody is their own kind of crazy.

And while I may feel like I'm a mess, I'm no more of a mess than the Pinterest perfect Mom in line behind me at Starbucks... and the lady behind me pulling on two crying kids in Walmart who honestly looks like she just wants to crawl under a rock and die? Well, sister... I'm no better than you.

As I said before, we all have our own kind of crazy...

And while 2018 has been tough (more than tough. A disaster, even though if you're on the outside looking in you might not realize it has been so bad, really... but it's all about perspective, and just like a patient you're assessing for pain is the authority, we are all the authority of how messed up our lives are) I've come through it alive.

And dare I say it? A better person.

I chose 2018 as my year of being fruitful, and I can't say I really achieved that. This hasn't been a great year for me to show the fruits of the spirit to anyone. I've struggled with kindness, gentleness, patience, and self-control. I've had to choose to love even when I really wanted to claw somebody's eyes out. I've not had a lot of joy and I sure haven't had a lot of peace...

But I've been reminded time and again this year of God's faithfulness. I've been reminded that in order to be fruitful, a tree must undergo pruning... a lot of dead stuff has to be cut away and that's what I feel like has happened to me in so many facets of my life. We get caught up in the status quo, and get complacent, and if we are complacent we grow stagnant... and we all know what lives in stagnant water.

Mosquitos that carry deadly viruses...

As I reflect back on my year, and look ahead to the next, I refuse to paint a pretty picture of change like I did at the beginning of last year.

You see, I can't change myself.

I can't change my circumstances.

I can, however, look to God to use those circumstances to change me. I can allow Him to complete His perfect work in my life.

This year, if I was checking off boxes to determine if it was a success or not, would probably be considered by most as a failure. As I go through my list of 18 "goals", I fell short in so many ways.

But as I said, I'm standing on the other side. I can look back and see growth potential... maybe in small increments, but it's there.

So I'm counting it as a win.

I didn't lose the weight I set out to lose... if anything, I put on a few more pounds. I didn't exercise near as much as I said I would... but I did "run" a 5K (mostly ran. But finished in a record time... of course, I had only finished one other one, so it didn't take much to beat my record).

I didn't memorize Scripture like I wanted. I am 50 pages away from reading my Chronological Bible all the way through (a goal which I think I will meet by this time tomorrow). However,  I didn't study His Word like I wanted. I didn't pray as much as I would have liked, and too often instead of turning to God when situations turned upside down, I decided to vent to others or at others.

I fell short on my goal of reading 150 books... but beat my last year total. 130 books isn't that bad =)

I didn't hike nearly as much as I wanted to. I did Explore Ky, though... visiting 30 new counties this year!

I didn't learn a new language. I did, however, learn more about the art of communication in relationships.

I didn't laugh every day, wasn't kind every day, and didn't always live in the present. I spent a lot of time worrying about the future... but I can honestly say that these last few months have found me appreciating the people around me much more.

My car is still a mess. My house isn't organized. My socks are in the drawer but aren't necessarily matched...

But I am happier. I am thankful. And those fruits of the Spirit?

I think they are budding a little more each day.

So, a blazing success? No...

but who cares about success? I'm choosing to live...

Thanks for the lessons, 2018. I can't say I'm sad to see you go... but I know that eventually I'll look back on you and the hard times won't be as prominent.

And the seeds that were planted will one day blossom into a fruitful tree...

because God's good like that.



Friday, December 7, 2018

What I'm Reading: Christmas edition

Over the past couple of weeks we've had a recurring conversation in my family. As Caleb has started to work and has been buckling down these past few weeks at school, we've been talking about purpose and calling and work.

It's hard to know at the age of sixteen what you want to do with your life.

I'm almost 40 and I still struggle somedays.

I made the comment to him that we each have something that we are good at, and we should figure out our strengths and focus on them. It's important to work on our weaknesses and try to develop them, but we should also key in on strengths and capitalize on them.

Sometimes it's hard to know what we are good at.

Caleb really boosted my self-esteem when he said, "You're really good at reading."

And I am. I love to read...

Always have.

I think it can be a positive thing, but it can also be a negative coping strategy. I try to hide from my problems by getting lost in a story line.

I can also get lost in planning what I'm going to read.

I can lose hours at a time scrolling on Amazon...

There's two times a year that I can allow myself to do that.

One of them is when we go on vacation if we go to the beach.

The other is Christmas vacation.

I've always been the kind of reader who reads more than one book at a time. I read biographies and history books and books focusing on medical issues. I read literature and contemporary fiction. I'm always reading more than on Bible study at a time...

But in December, all those books go on pause, and I indulge...

in sappy Christmas stories. In advent books about the coming of the Messiah. In devotional books about how to not lose yourself in the rush of the holidays.

I'm not a Hallmark movie gal, but I sure am a sucker for a Christmas love story.

After all, Christmas miracles are all about happily ever afters, right?

What I'm reading now (Christmas wise):

1. Behold the Lamb of God- The True Tall Tell of the Coming of Christ- daily devotions that begin in the Old Testament and show the story of Christ throughout the Bible
2. Dearest Dorothy: Merry Everything- A charming series of books focused on aging Dorothy and her small-town host of friends. This is the 5th book in the series and I thoroughly enjoyed the first 4.
3. Christmas in Smallville- Another charming book set in small-town America.
4. 40 Days of Christmas- another devotional book
5. Unwrapping the Names of Jesus- a devotional book that focuses on the four weeks of Advent and brings out a different name of Jesus each day

I'd love to hear your Christmas reads!!

Monday, December 3, 2018

True Success

As we enter into the Holiday season, it often feels as though we are suspended in between the past and the future.

Christmas is a time of waiting and anticipation, of laughter and joy, but it seems each year I rush through Thanksgiving and rush through Christmas and start looking ahead to new beginnings...

Even though each day is technically a new beginning.

This year hasn't been a the best. My end of the reflection probably won't be what I want it to be.

but that's ok, because I'm still alive. Y'all, sometimes putting one foot in front of the other deserves a prize.

Caleb and I were talking the other day about being a failure in life. It's easy to do. It's easy to see everyone else's "success" and think of all the ways we don't stack up.

Chances are, though, somebody is doing the same thing with us. There's that quote that talks about how somebody else would love to have what you are complaining about... and that's so true.

As I'm finishing up this semester, I'm reflecting on what true success is.

I love this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson. "What is success? To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate the beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch Or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!”

So, as I'm finishing up these last few days of 2018, I'm vowing not to get too focused on 2019. I'm going to think of this quote, and try to live it...

Laugh everyday.

Play with the kiddos at church and try to win the respect of intelligent people.

Live so that I can't be criticized... or that the criticism is a growth opportunity.

Forgive those who have betrayed me through falsehood.

Appreciate the beauty of the season.

Always look for the best in others, and hope they are doing the same for me.

Leave the world a little better...

Live so that others breathe easier.

Because that is true success...

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Hope

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

every year it seems to come a little earlier.

The lights, the trees, the decorations... the Black Friday shopping that creeps into Thanksgiving. The Christmas specials and the Christmas movies.

Tis' the season...whatever that means.

Today marks the beginning of Advent, the waiting period. I never remember observing Advent in my Pentecostal church. My cousin Jennifer did have an Advent calendar, where day had a box to open with a unique picture. Something about checking off a box on a calendar...

clicking through the days.

The story of our life, right?

We live for Friday evening (unless we work on the weekend).

Waiting for life to happen...

That's what Advent is. A waiting for life to happen period...

Life in the form of the way to an abundant life... The Way...

Waiting for Jesus.

This first week of Advent focuses on that anticipation of waiting; not the negative, will it ever come to an end, but the positive- hope.

Hope.

So much packed into those four letters.

Christmas is about the gift of hope to the hopeless.

It's about the arrival of hope to a nation, and then extended to the world.

Hope for our life here... but also hope that there is something else. Something more. Something meaningful.

And just like little kids who anxiously pen their letters to Santa and gaze into the sparkling Christmas lights, hope shines bright in us.

Until that light is distinguished, because life has a way of knocking the hope right out of you.

The bills add up. You mess up at work. You yell at your kids. The mistakes, the shame, the doubt, it builds up...

until it smothers out the hope.

You start believing there isn't hope for anything better. You've asked yourself "Is there more than life to this", hoping it's true, but you've been so stagnant that you can't see how anything could ever be any different.

I've been there.

It's a familiar place.

And in that pit, it's hard to see the light of hope there...

but He came, a light in the darkness, so that hope will not be deferred.

Sometimes, it's in the waiting that we discover the true beauty of the moment.

Christmas gives us the opportunity to focus on that hope. As kids, we dreamed of a doll or a train or a bike...

but as adults, we are dreaming of love, peace, joy...

dreaming of the better life.

And we can have it, because He came to dwell among us, to give us joy and ensure we could live the abundant life.

We just have to keep looking for Him.

Keep clinging to that hope.

Christmas time's a'coming...

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Priorities and Time

Today I was a little melancholy.

I'm not sure why, exactly, except that the weekend goes by so quickly.

And the fall foliage was beautiful on Pine Mountain, but the leaves were falling quickly, which led me to think of how soon winter is here.

And I have an almost 16 year old who was sitting in the front seat.

Almost 16.

I found myself thinking this weekend how quickly time really does fly. It seems the older I get, the faster it goes.

I guess that can be a good thing and a bad thing... good because if you're dreading something, it won't last for long. Bad because you blink and your baby is 16.

So, in my melancholy mood, I found myself ruminating on lots of different things.

How hard I find it to make friends and how lonely I feel sometimes.

I've been clinging to the belief that you have to fight for joy, but sometimes the battle is long and we get weary, even though our blessings are staring us right in the face.

Joy in the moment is something we must fight for, because as I said, time goes by so quickly and if you're not joyful, you're wasting the time you've got.

I preach that to myself probably ten times a day, and most days I preach sense into myself... but then other days it feels good to wallow.

As bad as I hate to admit it, I'm a wallower sometimes.

God gets it, though. We know that because one of the best stories Jesus told to illustrate salvation and mercy and grace had a young man spending his time and his resources unwisely (hello, procrastinators and those who dwell on the difficulties...) only to end up wallowing in a pigsty.

I'm so thankful He's not put off by the smell of mud, because I sure stink of it sometimes.

Wasting time... in whatever form you choose... is a joy killer.

Today I looked at my calendar and was shocked to see that there's only one more month in the year. I mean, I knew it... but it just doesn't seem real.

Every month my planner gives me the opportunity to appraise my previous month. I've not always filled out the pages, but this morning I paused to review the month of October and found that I honestly didn't remember much of it.

I then found myself looking at my priorities... or what I believe to be my priorities. My time doesn't reflect what I think are my priorities. Too often I get bogged down by stuff that doesn't even matter to me.

So today we drove to Letcher Co. to see the fall foliage on Pine Mountain. Brilliant oranges and yellows and reds...

And I forced myself to walk, enjoying the cool breeze as the sunset (at 530 PM.  I will not complain about the time change. I will not...)

And I ate a cupcake and loved every morsel of the strawberry flavor, even though it probably defeated the purpose of my walk.

I read my Kindle for a few minutes and soaked in the bathtub and read Jeremiah and Ezekiel because I'm months behind on my Chronological Bible reading.

Tomorrow I'll make time for family and laugh with them and celebrate my boy's birthday at his party and try not to dramatize the fact that on Tuesday he'll be 16... and then I'll blink and he'll be 40 and I'll be near dead.

Ok... so melancholy AND dramatic are kind of my forte...


Thursday, November 1, 2018

#Last90Days

So I made it through the month of October and only missed three days writing, which deserves a great big pat on the back. I'm learning to be my own cheerleader...

At the beginning of last month I joined a challenge focusing on living intentionally the last 90 days of the year. The premise is that if you start the year with a bang, you should end the year with the same excitement. If you've read this blog at all, you know I was pretty excited to see 2018 get started...

mainly because I wasn't in a good place emotionally, spiritually, physically... I was a little (or a lot) mad at God for some things that aren't even worth discussing now, but was too stubborn to admit it. Because of that, I was feeling a little lost and alone... so what better to do than focus on changing things myself??? (Because we all know how that works out! The best laid plans of mice and men... A man purposes in his heart, but God...)

So fast forward to hear and now. I'm in a better place but it's not anything that I DID. It's because I finally realized that I really can't do anything without Him... but I do love a good social media challenge. And living intentionally doesn't mean I'm going to change the world. No huge resolutions... because they don't work. Just setting some goals, working on some steps to reach those goals, and STOP THE LYING to myself.

It focuses on five components. The first one I just said up front I wasn't going to do, because I've tried it and it doesn't work. When I was a baby, I liked to sit up all night. My Mom and Dad talk about having to drive me in the car. I'd be perfectly content to sit up until 2 AM if I could sleep until 11... so getting up earlier just isn't an option for me. I swear my best sleep is in the 20 minutes I get when I snooze my alarm two times (ok, 18 minutes, but who's counting). As much as I love the IDEA of getting up and hitting the treadmill and reading my Bible and collecting my thoughts, I just don't see it happening. I'm convinced God made my circadian rhythm the way He did, so I'll settle for reading my Bible at night and getting in exercise when I can.

The second component is moving... and I have done better with that. Not great, not perfect, but it's something I know I need to do. The colder, rainy weather has slowed my running down, but I'm not punishing myself for it, nor have I completely quit, which is what I have done in the past. And I've bought lots of stickers for my planner, so when I put a shoe and a "killer ab" workout in there I have to actually do it because we all know planners are binding.

Third was to eliminate one food. I had started a love affair with Little Debbie donuts... so we've not bought anymore. Sweets are my downfall, but I've not let a chocolate donut pass my lips. (I have indulged in a blueberry donut... but not a dozen, which is what usually happened. Y'all, I'm so bad. So, so bad...)

Fourth is drinking 1/2 your body weight in water. I've struggled with this one, too. Like today... I only drank one bottle...but I am downsizing my Diet Coke option, and am at least drinking SOME water, which is better than nothing.

Lastly, writing down 10 things you are grateful for every day. Yes, ten. And honestly, sometimes that is a daunting task. Sometimes I write the same things over and over... but I've found myself looking for things through the day.

It takes 30 days, supposedly, to start a habit. I'm not sure I buy into that, because I'm not consistent, but I do know that my last 30 days were some of the better days of 2018. I'm not convinced it was because of this challenge... but I think that being intentional had something to do with it.

But I'm thinking that the biggest part of it is I finally opened my heart back up... to God and to love and to being vulnerable and to admitting that it's ok not to be ok...

And to worship Him through it all.

Here's to the last 61 days of 2018... and the rest of our lives. One day, one minute, one hour at a time...

Monday, October 29, 2018

Better Together

So, we've talked about moments within the story and the soundtrack of our lives. We've talked about changes in plot and unexpected events.

Every main character has to have a sidekick... or a tribe.

We weren't made to live life alone.

We were made for relationship, and that is evident in everyone's story.

Try to do things alone, and you may be ok for a little while...

but in Ecclesiastes we are told that two are better than one, so that we can help each other up.

It's an old cliché, but we are better together.

That means that when I am weak, you may be strong... and vice versa. Just like that old song "Lean on Me".

I struggle with this concept because I'm so socially awkward. I want friends, y'all. Really I do. I get some of that envy going when I see people post pictures on social media of them with all their tribe going to the movies or out to dinner or just hanging out...

because even though I have tons of friends on Facebook, and lots of social acquaintances who I speak to and smile at, I don't have a tribe.

I do have a collection of friends from over the years who I am fairly certain I could call if I needed them and they would help me out. They know my story and have played key parts throughout... but I struggle with needing people.

And I don't always know what to say. For crying out loud, I'll see someone I've known for years and not have a clue how to strike up a conversation.

That's one of the things I say every year when I make new years resolutions... I'm going to make friends... and then I quickly get busy in my own life.

Being together means you are just that... invested in each other.

It's no longer about your story... but about theirs, too.

How they are interconnected... but how you can help theirs be a bestseller.

This is a post in write 31 days, using free write prompts from Five Minute Fridays. Today's prompt is together.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

A New Song... or An Old One

Every movie has a soundtrack. That soundtrack often provides clues for what is coming next... the crescendos during the scary, suspenseful, dramatic parts. Upbeat music as the protagonist wins. Violins as the tragedy occurs.

If our lives are our stories, then our stories are much like movies. Perhaps we don't have a soundtrack that clues us in on what is to come, but more than likely your story is associated with some type of music.

Music has been an integral part of my life story. I can hear a certain song and it brings back memories... of me dancing in Mom's kitchen, of sunning in the backyard on a blanket covered in baby oil, of cheering at high school football games, of riding around in my cousin Jen's vehicle...

I loved to sing from an early age. Chorus was one of my favorite classes, perhaps because it provided a respite from Calculus and Chemistry. Also because Mrs. DeHoag was so spectacular.

Songs are often associated with sad times and happy times... but there's always music.

Music moves us. It often changes how we react to certain situations. It can make us melancholy or exuberant.

I think God made us that way. After all, central in His Word is the Psalms, a collection of songs. One such song said," He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise..."

May I sing Your song all day long, Father.

This post is part of write 31 days using free write prompts from Five Minute Friday. Today's prompt is song.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Whole

We are all broken. The beauty of our stories is within those broken areas, where God has pieced us together. We may just barely be hanging on, but He is much stronger than superglue.

He takes the parts that are shattered, the parts that even look like they are missing pieces, and magically crafts them together again...

Whole.

Being whole doesn't mean we have it all together. I'd wager to bet that we all still feel broken, because scars remind us of our cracks. Being whole just means that we know that we are broken, and are thankful that God put us together.

Being whole isn't always easy, either... because we must keep working. We are all works in progress. We won't be completely perfected until Heaven, but we are told that He is faithful to finish His work. He is faithful to piece together what is broken until it is perfected and whole and near like before...

except different.

Being whole means that we are changed. The Heaven-shaped hole in our heart has been filled with God's Spirit, and it changes everything.

This post is written as a part of a series for write 31 days using free write prompts from Five Minute Fridays. Today's prompt was whole.

Friday, October 26, 2018

This Present Moment

My story is my own...

except it's not.

It's a tapestry of threads from other people...

a musical medley of highs and lows and crescendos and decrescendos as other people's stories intertwine.

My story cannot be told accurately without telling someone else's... but that's their story to tell.

We are all like that... as we go through our days here on earth, minute by minute, each moment building on the previous, until before we know it ten years have passed and we find ourselves wondering where it all went to.

They say that at the end of life, it'll flash before your eyes.

All of those important moments.

Me bouncing down Picnic Hill, balled up in the floorboard of the driver's door. I don't really remember it, but I can't help but think that integral moment will be one that I'll see. I'm pretty sure I'll see an angel covering me with wings, because there's no other explanation for how I came out unscathed.

Me standing on the red carpet at Kragon Free Pentecostal Church promising to love and cherish through the good times and bad... and haven't we had both of those... and I've not always loved or cherished...

A tiny wrinkly face squinting up at me, red-cheeked, squalling, probably a little angry that he had to face those bright lights. Love at first sight...

Standing behind the pulpit speaking about my Mamaw...and my Uncle Dennis... and my Papaws.

But also the small moments, too...

like visiting Bybee Pottery the morning after 9/11 with my Mom... the hush of  the world.

And laughing with Melody.

And seeing Kami graduate from college, my baby grown up.

Watching Riggins chase his tail in the living room.

Listening to my Dad sleep in his recliner.

Hearing Holly's belly laugh.

Watching Wheel of Fortune with Mamaw Bert.

Our infamous Clemons Clan pictures at Christmas time, even though I am probably the only cousin who enjoys them.

Memories of playing detective with Brandon and then later riding around in his truck when I couldn't yet drive but he could. 

Walking with Nana and watching Papaw William sit on the front porch.

Crossing the stage after that long and arduous journey to get my DNP.

All of the students... so many students... seeing them in ER and on Med-Surg and watching the beauty that happens when they go from being scared, knowing nothing, to literally saving lives.

The ocean and the hills and the sunrises and the sunsets...

Moment after moment...

And so many of them I take for granted.

Lord, as I write my story, help me not be so busy wondering what the next chapter will consist of that I take for granted this present moment.

This post is part of the write31 day series using Five Minute Friday free writes. Today's prompt was moment.For more posts in this series, visit this link.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

LIfe's Brief

Telling our story often means revealing to others what make us tick. There are some things we hide, guarding those elements of our story tightly. There are other parts of the story that are like movie trailers... anyone who knows anything about us know those familiar lines.

One such part of my story is my love for reading. Ask anyone who knows me very well, and they'll be able to assure you that part of my world revolves around a good book.

Or even a not so good book.

I read them all. Any kind of genre. Old or new. Fiction or nonfiction. More than one book at a time.

Some books, I love to savor. It takes me a while to read them because they are thought provoking and deep.

Sometimes, though, I just need something light-hearted. Easy to read. Something that I don't have to think about.

The size of the book really doesn't matter... because sometimes even the longest book can be brief...

If it's a story you're really interested in.

It's like the old saying. "Time flies when you're having fun.". That's what our lives are like, here on earth. Some weeks seem to drag by, as we punch the time clock and cross the to do list off, going through the motions. Other weeks fly by... because they are full of life and adventure and laughter.

Regardless of how we perceive the time, though, ultimately our time on earth is brief. We have to make the most of it. Get the most bang for our buck.

And pack as much in our storyline as we can...

because we only have a set number of pages.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Common to Man

We like to think we are special. We're even told that in the Bible, kind of. We are His masterpiece, and He has plans for us that were established before the world was established.

So that's pretty unique, right?

Each of our stories are different... our paths in life, different.

And that's a beautiful thing, because the world would be a boring place if we were all the same.

However, too often when we face difficulties, we tend to think we're alone. We're the only one goingt through it.  Nobody can understand, right? And I can't help but think that the enemy wants us to feel that way, because if we believe that people won't understand, we won't reach out for help. And when we are isolated, we become self-centered. And when we are self-centered, we stop looking to God.

Even though we all face unique challenges, and our stories are different, troubles are common. We're told in 1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[ beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[c] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."

No temptation... except what is common to man.

Those difficulties you're facing? You're not alone. Somebody has walked the path before you. And He is faithful. He will provide a way out...

And those who endure to the end shall be safe.

This post is a part of a series for write31 days using free write prompts from Five Minute Friday. Today's prompt was common.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Help!

I am an introvert, unashamedly so.

I never liked group work in school. I would much rather be given a project and be allowed to procrastinate until I figured out how to muddle my own way through it.

I'm not sure what it is, and maybe it's only me, but I don't want people to think I'm stupid, so I very rarely ask questions. I'm learning to just bite the bullet and remembering that nobody knows everything they need to know, and the only way you'll learn is to ask questions...

I don't like to ask for help...

but we were made for relationships, and that means being willing to help others... but also to allow others to help us.

And they can't help if they don't know we need it. When we put up our walls and don't let others see, we may be robbing them of a blessing.

Our stories will not just be composed of the grand and magical times when we were the heroes... it will also include stories of those who served as heroes for us, by offering us a hand up when we needed it...

even if we were reluctant to reach out.

This post is a part of a series for #write31days, using free write prompts from Five Minute Fridays. Today's prompt was help.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Starting Again

Today I got a text from a friend about a personal best in a 5K. I was happy for her, genuinely, because I know she's worked hard.

I got the text as I was walking, trying to force myself to put one foot in front of the other. I had logged onto my C25K app for the first time in a few weeks... and not because I had been using my C210K app instead.

I struggle with motivation. I am great at envisioning things, but not so much in carrying them out. I get excited, and do ok, but then sizzle out. And let's face it, when it's cold outside it's so much easier just to snuggle up on the couch and lose myself in Facebook. I'm usually not even doing anything productive, just numbing myself by scrolling down my newsfeed.

I started to write today I did what I'm good at, starting the app...

but realized that's not being completely honest, either. Part of my procrastination is sometimes linked to a hesitancy to start, because of fear or uncertainty or just downright laziness.

I sometimes start, but I don't finish well.

I don't like that about myself. I wish I had more motivation. I'm not sure how to get it...

but tomorrow is another day and I'll start over. We have to just keep starting, every day, sometimes, every hour... knowing that He promises that if we'll be faithful, He'll do His part. We have to start, but then endure to the end. Those who endure to the end shall be saved.

Sometimes endurance looks like a straight line, bulldozing ahead...

but sometimes it looks like a series of starts and stops and starting again...

This is a part of the write 31 days series, using free write prompts from Five Minute Fridays. Today's prompt was start.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Audience of One

Yesterday my Dad and I were trying to have a conversation and Mel Belle just wasn't having it.

"Talk to me, Lauren. Lauren. Look at me. I'm talking."

Kind of reminded me of stories I've heard of me...

My favorite present every Christmas for three or four years was a homemade microphone with stand that my Papaw Paul would make me in his woodshop in the basement. I would stand in the kitchen and belt out songs, fully expecting my parents and grandparents and aunt and uncle and cousin Brandon to listen to me endlessly.

I was also the kid who got a tip from a waitress for singing "Tomorrow" at Disney World.

You could say I loved an audience...

but as I got older, not so much.

Only in this selfie generation, where everything is about what we post on social media, it seems we live for an audience. I'm just as guilty as the next person, thinking of how I'll frame my posts.

There's good and there's bad in that kind of life.

Lately, I've been thinking about what I posted and trying to make sure it holds up to a Philippians 4:8 philosophy. I'm not saying that life should always be great on social media, because that definitely isn't true life. I think it is important for us to be vulnerable and to allow others to see our weaknesses, especially if it is something we can use to encourage others.

I just think that we should think of how what we post affects others...and also how it affects our witness... because ultimately we should be about an audience of One.

This post is a part of a series for write 31 days (even though I missed yesterday...grace!) using free write prompts from Five MInute Fridays. Today's prompt? Audience.



Thursday, October 18, 2018

Search Me, Lord, Because I'm Tired of Searching

This month-long series is all about telling my story. Sharing who I am.

It'd be nice if I knew the answer to that, right?

Our whole life is made up of a search....

a search for who we are.

A search for Who He Is.

A search for the right path, for what is expected, for where we belong.

Just when we get comfortable, something changes, and we are off on another journey, often without knowing where the path is.

Faith is taking the next step even when you can't see it.

Tonight, as I'm penning these words, though, I'm reminded once again that I don't have to have it all figured out. I will never know all of the answers, and that's ok, because He tells us that some mysteries are meant to be just that... mysteries.

Because there are no mysteries with God, and perhaps in order to find the answers to what we are seeking we should cling to what the Psalmist suggests. "Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting."- Psalm 139:23-24

Search me, Lord. 

Know my heart, and reveal it to me, especially the dark and ugly so I can allow You to take care of it. 
Test me... and give me strength to pass. 
Know my anxious thoughts, and help me not focus on them.
If there is something offensive, remove it, please. 

Lead me in Your way, to the eternal, to what matters here, to what will be everlasting. 


This is a part of a write 31 days challenge, using free write prompts from Five Minute Friday. Today's prompt is search.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

In the Pause

I'll admit. I'm a procrastinator. If I'm honestly telling you my story, it has to come out. One of my favorite movies as a child was Annie, probably because of the song "Tomorrow". My favorite line from Gone with the Wind? "I'll think about that tomorrow. I just can't deal with it today."

That procrastination, though, can get me in trouble, sometimes. I wish I had a dollar for every last minute paper I've had to write, project I've had to complete, email I've had to send...

where I write furiously until my hand cramps (because I still have to write papers free-hand and then type them).

And at times like those... or times like today when I have a student in my office and emails to answer and a lecture to develop and a poster to present in 15 minutes that I start to smother down.

That little voice starts whispering "You're not good enough. What are you even trying to do? You can't juggle it all."

And sometimes, a lot of the time, I succumb to it. I listen and allow myself to become even more overwhelmed.

This evening, as I was driving home, I thought about the last 90 days challenge I'm half-heartedly participating in... (half-heartedly because one of the things to do is to drink 1/2 your weight in ounces of water and I'm pretty much floating through the day, and another part is to get up early and we all know how that goes because there is nothing like sleeping after the snooze button... see? I even procrastinate getting out of bed! ) Part of that is being intentional and figuring out your priorities in life...which I have been trying to do for all of my adulthood unsuccessfully. I mean, I know what my priorities are, but I don't always act on them.

And I thought of how in the hustle and bustle of the mundane... as one writer called it, the tyranny of the urgent, that occurs as we are writing our stories every day, so often that feeling of being overwhelmed can be solved with one act.

When I was working on my DNP, and I was feeling that time crunch in finishing papers, I would often get overwhelmed and get writer's block. I'd rewrite the same paragraph over and over, scratching through and rewording...

until I got up and took a break. Took a walk. laughed with Caleb. Read a little.

Because in the pause, that's where we breath in new life.

In the pause, we can become refreshed, ready for the next chapter of the story.

Writing using a prompt from Five Minute Fridays (although this one took longer than five minutes) for the write31 day challenge. Today's prompt? Pause...

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Pray It Out

Every story has an author.

A cast of characters.

Interaction between those characters, or at least intrapersonal interaction within the main character.

Our stories are no different. As Donne said, "No man is an island."

We were created for relationship, even though some of us have to be dragged kicking and screaming.

Relationship with one another... and relationship with God.

A post earlier in this series was about communication... inadequate or inappropriate or whatever other negative connotation it can take.

For any relationship to be successful, communication has to be open.

The ultimate form of communication is with the author of our story, and through this communication we can know which direction we are headed. Yet too often we fail to reach out.

I'm just as guilty. I often plan and plot and complain and worry and obsess before I do the one thing that is the most effective...

Pray.

Prayer changes things. Prayer gives us the ability to feel His presence. Prayer enables us to pour out our hearts and get rid of our burdens. Prayer humbles us, reminding us that God is in control... which can be a comfort if so many of us weren't control freaks.

As I write my story every day, day in and day, full of mundane events, may I remember to seek You first, Father. To pray without ceasing and allow You to take the pen.

This post is a part of the write31 days series using prompts from Five Minute Fridays, where we free write, unedited, for five minutes on a one word prompt. Todays prompt? Pray

Monday, October 15, 2018

In the When

It's funny, these stories of ours.

How our lives can change in a minute.

How so often we can be seen as a victim of circumstance, if you believe in that...

Or if you believe in destiny or in God's will.

We like to think we are in control, but there are so few things which we actually control.

For example, my life would be different if I had been born 50 years earlier... or 50 years later.

Our lives are framed by the times in which we are raised.

Journalists are often encouraged to ask questions... who? What? Where? How? Why?

When?

We ask when a lot, too, as we wait for things to happen.

When is it going to be my turn, Lord?
When will I get my heart's desire?
When will I find peace?
When will I understand?

And the answer isn't always clear.

When can seem like a long time...

Endless, especially if you are in the wait.

The glorious thing that we have to realize, though, is that our story is never over as long as when is important. As long as we are drawing breath, our story is still being written. We are being made into God's image, being perfected, here in the when...

And there is coming a time when our story will be perfected, when the last I will be dotted and the last t crossed.

The when won't be as important, because it won't have an end.

"When we've been there, 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun... we've no less days to sing God's praise than when we've first begun."

Writing today on the free prompt from Five Minute Friday provided for write31days. Today's prompt is when.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

It's OK to Ask

Just this evening I was reading my devotion and one of my favorite verses was the key verse. From Proverbs, "Commit your way to the Lord...."

I'm not always good at doing that. I tend to make all kinds of plans and then jump in feet first, only to get frustrated when I'm too gungho and waste all my energy.

I'm not great at asking what I'm supposed to do. I'm not the best at asking for help...

Part of telling our story is telling the past... where we came from and what brought us to where we are...

but it's also a means to help us know where we're going. What's next?

I've been asking that a lot lately... where do we go from here? What am I supposed to be doing? What's Your purpose in all of this, God?

This summer I participated in a Bible study with some other ladies in my county, where we worked through The Quest by Beth Moore. She's one of my favorites, and I find that I always learn something.

This study was different, though. It was centered around the questions in the Bible...

how many times have you been told not to question God? Beth actually encouraged it...

One of the key verses was 'Ask and you shall receive."

Ask...

when you don't understand. When you don't know where you're going. When you feel like you need something. When you feel all alone.

Ask... and you shall receive.

Not you may receive. Not you should receive...

you will. 

Because when we commit our ways to the Lord and acknowledge Him, giving Him the reigns to lead us and guide us, and when we seek His will for our lives, He will give us the desires of our heart...

because we will be in tune with His desires, and they will become the same.

Not sure where you're going? Oh, friend... I can relate...

but He has gone before us and He is behind us and He covers us.

Ask Him, and He'll answer.

This post is a part of a write31 days series about telling my story, featuring free write prompts from Five Minute Friday. Today's prompt- ask...

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Too Much Talk

When I can force myself to walk/jog, I like to listen to the music on my phone on shuffle. The other day, a song came on that really made me think. It was Civil War by Guns n Roses, and the first line before they even started singing caught my attention.

"What we have here is... failure to communicate."

How appropriate.

In today's society, we do a lot of talking and not enough listening. I know this series is all about sharing my story, and this is my blog and my facebook page is my facebook page...

but we've become a little bit too much about sharing our individual stories.

We listen not to hear what the other person is saying... rather, we are thinking about what we are going to say in response.

I get it, totally. As a socially awkward introvert who struggles to make conversation, I spend a lot of time thinking about what I'm going to say.

I'm pretty sure that when I was a kid my Mom and Dad wouldn't have believed this, but I don't like to talk...

but I sure do like to use my fingers to talk sometimes.

Talking about things I shouldn't.

Sometimes, talking about people that I shouldn't.

Talking in response to others, even when it's none of my business.

Talking is important. Communication is important. Telling our story is important, too, because so often it's important for others to know that we can relate. We aren't the perfect people you see on your newsfeed. We are all living, breathing, hot messes...

But if we are going to talk, we need to be sure that what we say is worth saying. There's a verse in the Bible that terrifies me on days when I truly sit down and think about it. In His Word, it says we will stand judgment for every idle word we say.

Every single one, y'all.  No wonder eternity is eternity, because I've said a lot of idle words...

So tonight, as I'm finishing up this post and thinking of how poor our communication skills are  in this "selfie" world, I'm thinking of another verse. "Let no corrupt talk come out of you rmouth, only that which is edifying."

May we build each other up, and ultimately build Him up.

That's why we're here, after all.

This is a part of a series using free write prompts provided by Five Minute Fridays. Today's prompt? Talk.

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Doxology of Praise

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow...

all of them. every good and perfect gift comes from above.

Praise Him all creatures here below...

every creature on earth praises Him in their own way. The trees sway in the wind. The blue skies reflect the sun and the birds swoop through the clouds. The flowers, fragrant with their unique smells, turn their face to the sun. Every creature...

Praise Him all ye Heavenly Host...

even though we can't see them, there's a heavenly host praising God right now. Singing songs. "Holy, holy,holy, Lord God Almighty..."

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost...

Father who loves us enough to send His Son, Jesus who is our Savior, the Holy Ghost who is our Comforter... The trinity...

AMEN.

This post is a Five Minute Friday free write, where we write for five minutes unedited on one prompt. This week's word is Praise. This is also a part of the write 31 days series about telling my story. May my story be one of praise, even in the difficult times, because He is worthy.

For more posts in this series, visit here

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Revolving Door

I love fancy hotels... the kind with big tall beds and soft pillows and comforters that are so heavy you can't hardly sleep under them. (Not that I get to stay in them much... I can count on one hand the times I've stayed in a "fancy" hotel.  But my dream job just may be 1. to review hotels and 2. to review books and get paid and 3. to review chocolate cake while reading books in those hotels).

Anyway, every fancy hotel has a bellhop... if that's the right term. You know, to open the door and help you with your luggage and to make sure you get your car back from valet parking (again, not that I use valet parking much... if ever...)

I like it when the bellhop holds open the door because generally most fancy hotels have those revolving doors...

and y'all. I'm terrified of them.

I mean, I'll use them if I have to...

but I'm always afraid I'll get stuck in one. They make me slightly claustrophobic, especially when it's in a certain light and you can see yourself in the revolving door. You know, that shadow you get in a glass window where everything is distorted and even the skinniest part of your body looks like it has triple chins?

I mean, can you imagine being stuck staring at yourself like that, unable to push the door forward or to go backward?

Life feels kind of like that, sometimes. The door is heavy, and you feel stuck, even if you aren't.

We gotta just keep pushing, folks.

And pray there's a doorhop that can help us out.

This post is a part of a free write series about my story using prompts from Five Minute Friday. We write on one word for five minutes, unedited. Today's prompt? Door.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

I Don't Know How but I Know Who

Sometimes I pause and take a look around and ask myself one question.

How did I get here?

Here, not in the physical sense of the word, but in this season of life. Sometimes I feel comfortable in my own skin, and sometimes I feel like the biggest fake on the earth.

There never seems to be any in between.

Either I'm completely sure of myself or I feel like a raging idiot.

Unsure of how...

How to be a better mom... wife... daughter...sister...aunt...teacher...nurse...friend...

How to fit it all in, all that I want to do and see vs. what I "need" to do to fulfill all of my roles.

How to balance...

How to be kind in an unkind world.

How to look past the hurts and frustrations and choose to love.

How do we do it, in today's upside down world?

By remembering that With man, it's impossible, but with God all things are possible.

And I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

I might not know the how, but I know the Who...

And He's working in me everyday.

This post is part of a 31 day series using prompts from Five Minute Friday to tell my story. Today's prompt is "How".

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Inspire

Sometimes, a lot of the time, actually, living this story we are writing is hard.

We face difficulties. Dark days. Days when things don't make sense.

Too often we go from one thing to another, and then another, and another...

mediocre at best. Living through the mundane. As one writer said, giving into the tyranny of the urgent instead of making time for what is most important.

Because urgent isn't emergent...

And some things have to be taken care of first and foremost. Just like a person who has a trauma can die if they are allowed to hemorrhage, if we allow our soul to hemorrhage, to empty without refilling, we too, will die. Maybe not physically, but definitely emotionally.

And as we go through this mundane, it is easy to keep our eyes in front of us. It's easy to get accustomed to the scenery around us and not even see the spectacular.

In this story we are writing, we have to learn to look up... to find something to inspire.

Just tonight I looked up at they sky around sunset. The sun was peeking through the clouds, sunbeams from Heaven. There are no words that can describe it adequately, but I felt my soul smile.

We can find inspiration in lots of places. I find it often in my students who struggle to achieve their dream. I find inspiration in the ocean, in the mountains when I hike, when I see an older couple holding hands, when I hear an uplifting song.

Inspiration is all around us. When you find yourself staring at that blank page of life, trying to put the next word down, look up and around. Breathe deep. You'll find it may be a little hidden, but it's there for the taking.

This free write as a part of write 31 days is using a prompt from Five Minute Fridays. Today's prompt was inspire.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Yoga Pants and Heaven- It's All About Comfort

Comfort...

We all love it. Being comfortable is an innate human desire...

but what's that quote? Life begins outside of your comfort zone.

How true that can be.

If you know anything about me at all you know I don't like change. I don't like stepping out of my space.

I like comfort, and not just in the form of the yoga pants and tee-shirts I wear all summer or the fuzzy blanket I like to nap under on Sunday afternoons.

I'm talking about feeling safe, protected, sure of myself in whatever situation I am in.

I don't like not knowing what I'm doing.

I fear what other people will say about me.

I wish part of my story could be about being brave, but I'll be the first to admit that I'm not.

However, I'm slowly realizing that when I'm not comfortable, God is working.

When I'm most afraid and unsure, He is there, settling.

I'm starting to learn that life on the edge isn't always so bad, because He is my safety net.

That doesn't mean that I don't spend the majority of the time inching toward the edge, shaking at the knees... but I think He honors every little step.

And y'all. We've got all of eternity to be comfortable.

I'm pretty sure Heaven won't be full of yoga pants and fuzzy blankets, but there'll be no pain or sorrow...

And even introverts like me will like people.

Don't get too comfortable down here... because it's only temporary. 

Thank goodness!

This has been part of a series for #write31days using Five Minute Friday free writes- today's prompt is comfort.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Name of Hope

Any good story is full of valleys and peaks.

Conflict and resolution.

Well-developed characters.

Every story has moments where the main character feels a little hopeless... but as they face the conflict and work toward the resolution, as they are tested and tried, their character is developed...

And usually hope shines bright as the plot is tied up in a pretty little bow.

Not always the case for real-life. In real-life, we often feel like the light at the end of the tunnel is a fast-moving train, and the bows that tie up the story slowly unravel.

Hope is a small word... one syllable... but it has a huge meaning.

If you've ever felt hopeless, you can relate to what I'm trying to say, because when you are standing at the bottom of the pit with no way to dig yourself out, hope can seem impossible.

The great thing, though, is that as long as we are breathing, we are living our story, and if we are still living that story, we have hope.

Even if we don't feel it.

Hope is the realization that one of the greatest words in the English language (when used appropriately) is one of the shortest.

BUT.

Not as we like to use it, to make excuses, but preceding another three letter word...

BUT God.

Because with God, we have the hope of salvation.

Of redemption.

We were hopeless in our sin, hopeless to save ourselves, hopeless to reconcile...

But God.

In His great love, He demonstrated... acted... sacrificed.

And now, we have hope.

His name is Jesus.

This post is part of a series for Write 31 Days using Free Write prompts provided by Five Minute Fridays. Today's prompt is hope...

And what a beautiful thing it is.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Where You Belong

One of my favorite songs right now is Lauren Daigle's "You Say". It's all about who God says I am, which goes perfectly with the theme of this #write31days storyline.

One line says, "When I don't belong, You say I am Yours."

I get that line, from the bottom of my heart.

I'm an introvert. I'm socially awkward. I have learned to deal with it because I work in a field where you have to make conversation, but I still struggle sometimes.

So many times I feel like a fake.

And surely everyone knows I'm faking.

I recently listened to a news story that was talking about research about social media. I love social media like the next person, but I totally understand where this research was coming from. Basically, the findings said that despite all of our "connectiveness", we are more lonely that we have ever been.

Let's face it. Sometimes it's easy to look around and see how everyone else fits into the puzzle... and feel like a square peg in a round hole.

That loneliness that we feel can be expected, because we were made for community. We were made to belong. We were made to be in relationship.

And we do belong... to an awesome God who loves us more than anyone can describe.

He knows every piece of our story, and loves us anyway.

He has a place for us... a safe haven. A home.

Where we will always belong.

Participating in #write31days using Free Write prompts from Five Minute Fridays. These free write prompts are written in five minutes on one subject. Today's prompt... belong.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Share Your Story

"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What, you too? I thought I was the only one!'" - CS Lewis

"No man is an island."- I think John Donne, but I'm too lazy to look it up. I'm not taking credit for the quote and I used to know in high school...

Our stories are meant for sharing. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

In the Bible, there's a verse that reminds us that we can use our troubles to help encourage others. If we don't talk about our troubles, how can that serve as an encouragement?

So often in this society we have measures to live up to that seem impossible. How can we share our story when it makes us look so bad?

Simply because, if we choose to be vulnerable, it may enable someone else to.

If they see what a mess we are, they may realize it's ok to admit their flaws.

I'm not saying that we don't try to do better...
just that it's ok not to be ok sometimes.

And it's also ok to share our successes. When we humbly express our achievements in a way that points to the Father, it encourages others to try.

Being willing to share our stories is hard. It's uncomfortable. And so often we wonder what we even have to offer someone else.

Here's the thing, though. That person standing in line behind you at Walmart? They may need a little encouragement. I'm not saying you tell them your life story, but by choosing to look them in the eye and look them in the eye, choosing to exchange a little pleasantry with them, we are sharing the human experience. In our day of technological connection, that little bit of human interaction can make a huge difference.

Small amounts of sharing can lead to big results- in the lives of others and in your own! So start sharing!

This post is a part of #write31days, with a prompt from Five Minute Fridays focusing on the word share. Five Minute Fridays is a community where individuals write for five minutes, unedited, on one topic. We're doing this all month instead of just Fridays! For more Five Minute Friday posts, click here.  For more posts in my series about Telling My Tale, click here.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

I May Not Know Why

We are often told that we shouldn't ask God why... but I'm getting pretty comfortable with it.

As I think about my story, and the various components of it, I realize that it is really a series of "whys" and "why not".

Everything has a reason, but so often we don't see it down here. I can't help but think that at the end of our life, we'll be allowed to see it all like a slideshow, but we'll see the "whys" and "why nots" and they will make sense...

but by then, they really won't matter.

In the meantime, we have to keep living, even if we struggle from day to day. Even if we don't understand, we have to keep putting each foot in front of the other. We have to keep breathing and looking for the beauty and choosing to embrace joy even if we feel as though we have no reason to do so...

In the absence of understanding the big "why", we have to embrace the small "why". We each have a purpose. We each have a calling.

Today I talked about self-concept in class... identity and how it develops and how it changes over time as we have new life experiences. When I asked them, "If I were to say to you, who are you?" one student said, "I would say I really don't know."

And I get that, because somedays I'm not sure who I am. A lot of the time, actually. I'm still trying to reconcile my expectations and my desires and my dreams and my reality...

and I think that will always be the case, as long as we are breathing, because each day brings something new. We are dynamic, and that's a good thing, because otherwise if we are stagnant we die. Maybe not physically, but on the inside.

So, we may not know who we are... but we can know whose we are.

And we may not know why here on earth... but we can know the One who does.

This post has been a reflection for #write31days, using the prompt "why" from Five Minute Fridays.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

What's Worth Believing?

One of my favorite quotes by Audrey Hepburn (and this is a paraphrase) says, "I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls." The entire quote is pretty lengthy, with Hepburn telling several things that she believes. I like it because so much of what she says seems simple...

But often what we believe is not simple at all. It's a complex makeup of what we've been taught and what we've personally experienced and what we perceive about the others around us.

In order to tell our stories, we have to know what we believe. What we believe can help us combat those things we are afraid of, as well.

Often, as I think I've mentioned before, we don't really know what we believe, which means we don't really know who we are. I'm still in the process of figuring that out, and since we are dynamic individuals that adapt and grow and learn every day, I think it's impossible to know exactly who we are, because essentially it may change. Who am I today is not who I was when I was 16, nor will it be who I am when I am 80 (should the good Lord decide to allow me to live my story that long. If not, I'll fly away and will definitely not be who am I now because I'll be in a glorified body...)

With that being said, as I'm trying to figure out who I am in this moment, I've been thinking a lot about what I believe. Here's a short summary:

I believe that Jesus died for my sins and that He loves me even though I am a huge mess. 

I believe that the Bible is God's Holy Word, inspired by God, and applicable to my life even when I'm not sure how.

I believe that being blessed to be Caleb's Mama is the greatest job on earth.

I believe that nature is healing to the soul, and that I am no closer to God than when I sit on a cliff facing in the Gorge or at the Oceanside.

I believe that books are always better than movies.

I believe that laughter truly is the best medicine.

I believe that compassion is a lost art, but one that I should seek to practice every day.

I believe that there is a purpose for my life, even when I'm unsure of what it is.

I believe that love is stronger than hate, but hate is sometimes easier... so we have to keep choosing love.

I believe that planners are awesome, even though I don't always get everything checked off in mine.

I believe that ice cream and sunshine makes any day better.

I believe that summertime is the best time, but that every season has its purpose.

I believe that there is always good... sometimes we just have to look harder. And we have to ask God to give us eyes to see the good.

This is where I'm at today. Each of those statements have reasoning behind them, and they make up a little piece of who I am.

Don't stop believing, people...

Thanks to Five Minute Friday for the prompt of "Believe". Today I wrote a little bit longer than 5 minutes.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

What Am I Afraid of?

What are you afraid of?

Big question, really.

There are so many THINGS we can be afraid of...

snakes. being alone. being unwanted. failure. the dark. driving on interstates.

Endings.

Telling our story means looking in the mirror and knowing full well who is staring back at you... and that can be scary sometimes.

Most of the time, actually.

So often we don't feel like facing those fears. I am guilty of wanting to be an ostrich with my head in the sand with more than just politics.

In order to share our stories, we have to know what is true and what isn't...

The difference between the fiction and the non-fiction...

And that means recognizing who we are, even with our flaws.

As that line goes from that famous movie (I can't remember which one... A Few Good Men, maybe?) "You can't handle the truth."

And because we're afraid we can't truly handle the truth of who we are, we fake it till we make it... one of my favorite mottos.

We paint smiles on our faces and keep on keepin' on... afraid to admit that we aren't "fine".

Afraid to discover who we are because we may not like what we see... or we may not be what others expect of us.

It's taken me a little less than 39 years to figure out it's ok to be afraid...

and I'm writing about that this month.

(Thanks to Five Minute Fridays for the daily prompts. Today's five minute write was on the word AFRAID).

Monday, October 1, 2018

My Tale that is Told... #Write31Days

"...we spend our years as a tale that is told."- Psalm 90:9

I have always loved reading.

Words on a page, forming a story that allows me to escape reality for a few minutes... or helps me to expand on reality and think about how I can make my reality better.

Doesn't really matter what kind of story. Doesn't matter what the setting, or the time period.

I just love stories.

The greatest storybook of all times is a true story- The Bible.

It's full of adventure and love and action.

Full of infallible men and women... men and women that did mighty things for God.

Despite their weaknesses.

As I looked back over the past few months and looked ahead to this writing challenge, one month about one topic...

I was intimidated, because I don't feel like I know enough about anything interesting enough to write consistently for a month.

And then I stumbled upon Five Minute Fridays, a website I have frequented often over the past few years when I needed inspiration.

This month, they are focusing on the story...

of each individual writer.

Again, this is intimidating, because who am I to think that my story could be inspirational?

And then I thought of the Psalmist, who asked, "Who am I?"

Who am I, Lord?

This month, I'll be  using this space and prompts from Five Minute Friday to explore that. It's really an exercise for me, this figuring out of my tale that is being told...

but if you're visiting, welcome. I'd be happy to hear about your story, too. Please share in the comments. Let's use our stories for His glory!

Day 1- My Tale
Day 2- What Am I Afraid of?
Day 3- What's Worth Believing?
Day 4- I May Not Know Why
Day 5- SharYour Story
Day 6-Where You Belong
Day 7-The Name of Hope
Day 8-Yoga Pants and Heaven
Day 9-Inspire
Day 10-I don't know How but I know Who
Day 11-The Revolving Door
Day 12 The Doxology of Praise
Day 13Too Much Talk
Day 14It's Ok to Ask
Day 15In the When
Day 16Pray It Out
Day 17In the Pause
Day 18Search Me
Day 19 Grace, please... no writing today
Day 20Audience of One
Day 21Starting Again
Day 22Help!
Day 23Common To Man
Day 24Life Is Brief
Day 25 Grace, please... no writing today
Day 26 This Present Moment


Friday, June 1, 2018

Return... A Five Minute Friday Linkup

This has been a season of new.

New job.

New home.

New people.

I started 2018 with a fresh desire to be a "new" me... a "better" me.

Here I am, starting my sixth month in, and I'm as far from that as I could be.

To say that new is hard for me would be an understatement.

To say that I'm good at adapting... well, I'm ok, I guess. I can do a lot of faking.

And in this season of "new", I kept telling myself not to look back.

As I saw all the blessings, I was reminded of the Israelites wondering in the desert. They were being fed manna from Heaven but all they could think about was the leeks of Egypt.

I felt that, as the teenagers would say.

So I pressed on and kept my nose to the grind.

Here I sit with a scraped up nose and a heart that's been hurting for a while.

In all my resolve to embrace the "new" and to get "better", I forgot the old.

Rather, I ignored the old... because I was a little mad at God.

I know, that sounds silly... but after all, isn't He sovereign? And yes, it felt (and still feels) like this is right where He wanted us. I have no doubt that my family was meant to be in Menifee County. At times it feels like home. The people have been lovely and Caleb has had a good year and we feel welcome...

but I have stayed homesick.

Homesick not for my home in Breathitt County, but for a home that is eternal.

Crazy, I know... noone ever said I was completely with it.

So, as this school year winded down and we came to the conclusion of this "new" year, I find myself in a serious funk... one I hesitate to share with anyone, because to look at us on the outside, we have everything that anyone would want...

but my temper tantrums and sulking led me away from God, and found me feeling more alone that I have ever been in my life.

So how fitting that this week's prompt was to return...

Turn back.

Not to a physical place...

but to a way of thinking.

Return to seeking Him first.

Return to time in His Word.

Return to joy and peace that only He can provide.

I hear You, Lord.

Here I come...

Linking up with Five Minute Fridays, where we write for 5 minutes on one prompt, no editing, not much thought... just writing.  This week's prompt? Return...

It feels good to be back.


Sunday, February 18, 2018

A Tine for Every Purpose...

It seems like it has been raining for a month.

The mud is thick in my yard and my feet feel stuck as I step out of my car...

kind of like my life, sometimes.

The winter months are always hard for me. I love the beauty of the snow and the romantic notions of curling up under a blanket with a good book...
but the days are short and the nights are long and the coldness creeps into my soul.

If I was a practicing doctor, and not just one in name only, I'd diagnose myself as having seasonal affective disorder... but that's outside of my scope of practice ;-)

Still, the month of February is hard. The holidays are over, and the newness of the possibility of a brand new year is over, and it is cold and nasty and dark.

Some have expressed fear that I'm depressed, but I don't think that is true. I just think that I relate to the seasons...

and winter time is a harsh time, no matter how you look at it.

It's a season of death... of darkness...

but there is a time for everything, a season for every activity under the heavens...

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.
What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.
- Ecclesiastes 3:1-12
Life comes out of darkness. The seed has to have time to germinate, and those seeds carried on the winds of late fall as the leaves fall have found their place and are buried by the wind in the dark soil.

There's life even when we can't see it.

I've been reminded of the fragility of life this past week... of the darkness and heaviness.

And of the beauty.

On Wednesday, Valentine's Day, a day when our hearts are filled with love, we were reminded that love often means we are vulnerable.

That morning, my Mama's heart broke as I sat in my baby's lap and let him cry on my shoulder, his heart breaking for the loss of his little buddy, Colton, who fought a valiant fight against DIPG for over a year and a half. Even in the darkness of his diagnosis, Colton's smile lit up a room, and lit up the hearts of all those impacted by him.

Later that day, my Mama's heart was shattered again as news from Parkland, Florida was filtered through the news. Senseless death. Hurting hearts. Questions and anger about why and how this could have happened...

and I felt the cold rain beat against my skin as I walked out of my Mom's house, and felt the coldness of that winter day all the way to my bones.

The next two days passed in a blur of work and ballgames and late nights...

because life has to be lived, no matter how bad we hurt. No matter how heavy the days are, we must keep putting one foot in front of the other.

And it's crazy how that life is lived... because even in the darkness there is small glimmers of light... small glimmers of life.

Saturday I stood in the cafeteria at Menifee County High School and thought again how fleeting life is.

There's something about a high school dance that always makes me wax poetic.

The girls in their dresses, hair curled and makeup just right, wobbling around on heels (ok, most of them walk better than I do...)

The guys in their ties and suspenders and sneakers...

And they hesitantly enter the dance floor. Self-consciously for most of them, they sway to the beat of the slow songs and somehow lose their timidity by the end of the night.

The whole lot of them, guys included, they are beautiful...

because this small frame of time will be over before they know it, and those days will just be a memory.

For some of them, it won't be the most pleasant, but for others, that night will be a highlight of their night.

They laugh to music I don't understand and join in on line dances, and as I stood there and watched them transform in front of my eyes, I got weepy...

because I'm an old sap but I also see the potential in each one of them.

This time... in their lives... it's a time for growth.

My boy was out there with them, moving to every song. He had hesitated on going to the dance, because it's been a difficult week and Colton's visitation was Saturday night, but I assured him that nobody would fault him for having a good time, because that's what we do in the face of death...

that (and Jesus), is how we overcome... by continuing to put a foot in front of the other and choosing to live in every minute.

So his time to dance was Saturday night... and dance he did. And I stood on the side and soaked it all in, not missing out on the gift that was in front of me.

Today I woke to glorious sunshine, and I don't think it was a coincidence. I thought of how Colton's smile was like that huge sunball outside my window... lighting up a room.

And I relished the idea that spring is on it's way.

Darkness will be over and the sun will warm our skin.

The life buried in the dark, cold ground will spring forth... and I'll have sunshine in my soul.

We have to appreciate every season... because we learn in the darkness and the cold. And He makes everything beautiful in it's own time... and He has placed eternity in our heart. Eternity, where there will be no time and maybe no winter...

Just glorious Sonshine.





Tuesday, February 6, 2018

In Bloom: A Review

For an introvert, I have so many best friends.

Seriously.

I have ladies who totally get me, and who make me feel appreciate and inspired. Their words make me laugh, cry, and feel as though I'm not alone.

The only problem? They don't know they are my best friend...

because we have a one-sided relationship through their written word.

This past month, I discovered a new friend. I had the privilege of serving on the launch team for Kayla Aimee's new book, In Bloom, and to be honest I was a little creeped out...


because how on earth does this perfect stranger know so much about me?

Her tales of middle-school angst, her description of church, her battles with her precocious daughter...

this. could. be. me.

Except Caleb is a boy and I'm slightly older than Aimee by my calculations.

This memoir is spot on, though, in running the emotional gamut. I found myself wanting to read on because it made me feel so much better. It made me think about areas where I could improve, and truly inspired me to love harder... including loving myself.

A good book is one that feels like an easy conversation, one where you're leaning in across the coffee table while sipping your drink of choice, and you look up and hours have passed by... and that's this book.

If you're a woman who struggles with insecurity and self-doubt, you need to read this book. It released today.

Kayla, I'm hugging your neck from across the internet and slapping you a high five because this one's a winner...

and I'm opening up Anchor next =)

Monday, February 5, 2018

On My Writing

So at the beginning of 2018 I signed up for this writing challenge, to write 500 words a day every day. Every day there'd be a new writing prompt in my inbox to inspire me.

Even though this is day 36 of the new year, I'm not even halfway finished with the challenge because I've used other prompts from link-ups and I've not written every day. Today's prompt is to evaluate my writing.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved to write. I express myself better with the written word because I can hide and not feel awkward... unless someone is reading what I've written in front of me. I finally accepted that imperfect or not, I am a writer, and it needs to be something on which I continue to focus in the coming year. I have lofty goals, and I don't know that I'll ever accomplish these, but I also know that I'll never get anywhere without trying.

Am I a great writer? I definitely don't think I'm there yet. I do know that often people relate to the words I spill out... my brain dumps and my venting sessions and my preaching to myself sermons.

This challenge has made me more aware of my words and how they present themselves. It's made me appreciate the difficulty it sometimes takes to string 500 words together, and appreciate brevity. It has also made me think of where I want to go from here...

do I have what it takes to write a book? It's one of my greatest dreams.

I just don't know what it would be about.

We're often told to write what we know and so often I feel like I know so little. I'm learning to be comfortable in my own skin, though, and admit that I don't have all the answers.

That might be my theme book... the title would be something like "Me and My Big Fat Mess of a Life" or "Trying to Hold it all Together with Duct Tape".

I have thought about writing a devotional book...

Or a book with funny stories, but many of those would revolve around Caleb and I'm not sure he'd give me permission to share.

I'd like to do a travel book... something with each county in Ky, except it might take me a while to visit all of them (I'm saving my current map because who knows what it'll be like when they all consolidate...)

And I've always been a lover of fiction, so there's that.

I just know that one book I will never write will be a recipe book =)

In this season of my life, I'll admit that sometimes the best I can do is hammer out 500 words in this space here. A book seems near impossible when I think of all I have to do...

but in the meantime, I'll just keep showing up. I'll learn everything I can about my craft by reading memoirs and self-help books, and when the time is right, my fingers will do the talking.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Agree to Disagree

So the timer is ticking down on my 5 minutes to write and I still feel at loss for where to start.

The prompt for this week's Five Minute Friday post (written late Saturday evening, because that's how I roll), wasn't something that automatically jumped out at me.

I'm not one to like conflict, but I am passive aggressive about it. I'm not really vocal unless it's to people for whom I really care (like my family... and that can get me in trouble. Just tonight I blurted something out and put Wallace on the defensive when I really didn't mean to...)

So, sometimes it'd be easy to take my silence during conflict as a sign that I relate to what you're saying...

That I agree with you.

When so often I don't.

I think in our world we have become so polarizing that it's hard to see past the arguments we hold close to our heart. There are dividing lines drawn in the sand, and we each have our place and our podium...

Our soapboxes.

Unlike the great debates of the past, though, our respect and common decency tends to hinge on the opinions of others.

We don't know how to agree to disagree.

Instead, we keep spewing hateful words until everyone listening has a headache, and are physically sick on the bitterness of those words.

I may seem like I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. Scroll through your facebook or twitter feed and you'll see it, too...

When we agree, it means we see things in a similar manner. We often have common experiences that guide our perception. We have a positive reaction to the other person.

It's easy to respect someone who's like you... whose mindframe is like yours... who won't argue with you.

But as a Christian, I'm called to walk a fine line... judge but not judge. Live in peace but live as a light. Call sin a sin, but make sure I'm not looking at sin through the plank in my eye and missing the big picture.

Accepting isn't the same as agreeing.

Loving isn't the same as agreeing.

We are, however, called to live in agreement with each other in the church... to support one another. To edify each other, and build each other.

As I think about this prompt (and my five minutes are up, but my 500 words are not, so I'm cheating...) I can't help but think of how when we aren't in agreement, we can try everything to change the other person's mind... but if they aren't willing to accept it, nothing will change.

To agree to disagree is to stop the discourse, to accept the other person and offer respect.

It's not easy, because our first instinct is to want to be right... but there are two sides of every story, and even if the other side isn't necessarily "right" (even Biblically), there is still a rationale behind it. Pointing fingers will never open someone's eyes... respectfully demonstrating love in action just might.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Making Excuses

I'm the world's worst at making excuses.

I make excuses for why I do certain things. I make excuses for why I don't do certain things. I make excuses for why I can't do certain things.

Sometimes, my excuses make perfect sense... but too often they are pure cop-outs, because I struggle with motivation and self-discipline and confidence and have too much self-doubt.

Tonight, I was reading in Exodus for my Chronological reading plan. The story of Moses is probably one of the first stories I can remember hearing about in Sunday School, complete with flannel board figures of a baby in the bulrushes. The timelessness of God, the "I AM" that never changes, reminds me that He is still the Great I AM. He is enough. He is all-sufficient. He is everything that we can imagine and need.

I can picture Moses minding his business in the desert, tending his father-in-law's sheep.

(What is it about shepherds? He is our good shepherd... but there were a lot of shepherds who learned some valuable lessons while out tending the sheep. Maybe it has to do with caring for something other than themselves... and I'm pretty sure being a shepherd involved humility).

Can you imagine how Moses must have felt when the bush actually started talking? And the fire just kept going?

Holy ground, yes...

(Can you imagine him shaking in his sandals? How do you even approach holiness? Too often we get so legalistic... but I can't help but wonder why he didn't fall flat on his face right before that talking bush in awe... and then I realize that often I'm staring right in the face at holy and I don't get it, either. I treat it as mundane and am not awestruck. Lord, help me. Help us.)

I found myself (again) wishing that at times God would use a burning bush to get my attention. Too often I struggle with wondering what in the world I'm really supposed to be doing...

but Moses had that burning bush there, with God speaking out of it, and he still struggled.

He started making excuses.

He wasn't good enough. Couldn't speak plainly...

A man of slow speech... that could actually be a good thing, because too often I am not of slow speech and blurt out what I'm thinking, sticking my foot in my mouth!!!

But anyway... here's what spoke to me.
Moses is sitting there making excuses about why he can't approach Pharaoh and about how the Israelites won't listen to him when God is telling him that he can. And as I read that, I thought to myself.

Ok... even though Moses didn't think he was enough, he was because God said that he was. Start believing what God says about you and not what you tell yourself.

He says I'm loved. I'm redeemed. I'm His child. I'm fearfully and wonderfully made for a purpose selected just for me before the foundations of the world. I'm a work in progress but I'm a masterpiece.

It's time to stop making excuses and instead trust that God will do what He says...

Because He Is I AM, I am what He says I am.

And so are you.