Thursday, October 1, 2015

On Your Left

A few weeks ago, my family and I rode the Virginia Creeper Trail. Built on an old railroad bed, the Virginia Creeper Trail offers a unique biking experience.

17 miles.



It’s an amazing ride. The scenery is stunning and the trail is open to cyclists of all experience levels. As you head down the mountain, you see professionals wearing their padded bike shorts, wild little boys on their 20” bikes peddling as fast as their legs can go, infants snoozing in their bike seats, and parents cruising along with their toddler behind them on a tagalong.

For the most part, the cyclists are respectful of the trail and their fellow cyclists. There’s a real sense of camaraderie. After all, we’re all on the same trail, headed in the same direction. We all want to achieve the same thing—to get to the bottom safely and have a great time doing it.

With such a variety of skill levels, it would be boring if you had to start down the trail and ride in single file. Fortunately, that’s not how it works. There may be a bit of bunching up at the top, but before long everyone finds their own rhythm. The faster riders start calling out the standard warning, “On your left!” as they pass the riders taking the trail at a more leisurely pace.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Already There

Despite the fact that he has never been left and has absolutely no reason to expect me to forget him, one of my children needs constant reassurance that I’m not going to leave him alone.

This summer, I arrived early to pick him up from Vacation Bible School. I took a seat at the side of the room and waited for the session to end. When it did, I moved in his direction. I knew exactly where he was, but the people milling about blocked his view and he couldn’t see me.

I saw him a few seconds before he realized I was there. I wrapped my arms around him just as his face crumpled. I caught him the instant before he let out a wail. He held onto me, his body trembling.

“Where were you?” His tearful voice accused me.
“Baby, I was already here. You couldn’t see me, but I’ve been watching you. I knew exactly where you were the whole time.”
“But I couldn’t see you.”
“Just because you couldn’t see me, doesn’t mean I wasn’t already here.”

Maybe it was because I was standing in a church (I’m kidding), but the Holy Spirit didn’t even let me get the sentence out before He pointed out the obvious.


The Bible is filled with verses exhorting me NOT TO FEAR. Over and over again, He tells me that He will be with me. That He will never leave me. That no matter who betrays me, no matter who bails on me, no matter who breaks me heart, He will be there.

Not only that, but the Bible tells me that BEFORE I walk into that doctor’s office, or pick up the phone, or open the mail . . . No matter what is on the other side of that door, there is one thing I can know for sure I will find.

Already there.

No matter what my day holds, He is never surprised.

I am.
I get caught flat-footed all the time.
I get the wind knocked out of me at least once a week.
I get overwhelmed just thinking about my calendar.
And even though He’s told me 1000 times that He will never leave me or forsake me, when I don’t see Him right away, I panic.

As I held my little boy close, and whispered assurances to him—again—I had a glimpse into my Father’s heart.
I wasn’t angry with my son for his fear. All I wanted was for him to trust me. To be so sure of me, that he wouldn’t doubt for a second that I had kept my word and was waiting for him.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot ever since.

Separation from God was never part of His plan and my guess is that He knows we will fight this fear until the day He returns and call us Home. I think that’s why He didn’t say, “Don’t be scared,” once and leave it at that. I don’t think He’s surprised when He’s standing right beside me, even as I’m wailing for Him to show up, and He has to tap me on the shoulder to get my attention.

Today...know this...
Whatever you’re afraid of?
He’s already there.

Whatever is keeping you up at night?
He’s already there.

Whatever has your heart racing, your palms sweating, your tears streaming, your stomach churning?

If you’re in a pit and you’ve been wondering when He was going to show up, the answer is that He was there BEFORE you got there. He’s with you now and He’s been there the whole time.
Go ahead.
Look around.
And even if you can't see Him, reach for His hand . . . He is already there.

Deuteronomy 31:8 - It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. (ESV)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Perfection and Vulnerability, A Tough Combination for Writers

There are a few things I know about myself. I don’t like them, but I know they are true.

I’m a perfectionist and I don’t like feeling vulnerable.

But I kept hearing about this author and researcher, Dr. BrenĂ© Brown, who has a couple of insanely popular TED talks where she discusses her research. 

Guess what she researches?

Vulnerability, shame, and she throws in some really nice stuff about perfectionism in there as well.

The TED talks left me wanting to delve deeper into the ideas she presented so I requested her books at my local library. Daring Greatly came in first, so it’s the first one I read, followed by The Gifts of Imperfection.

I'm over at The Write Conversation today. Come on by to read the rest of this post. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Thursday Review - The One Thing

I’m a task-oriented person. It’s how I’m wired.

You’d think with that kind of wiring, I’d be churning out books by the dozens.

Not so much.

In fact, I’ve been struggling to figure out how to get this whole writing thing squeezed into my day.

I’m a wife, a mom of three, and a published author. And that is how I want my priorities to stay…husband, kids, then books.

Not the other way around.

But…this book business? The storytelling and swooning. It’s not just for kicks and giggles. It’s certainly not for the money.

When life crowds out the creating, my calling goes unfulfilled and my spirit shrivels under the tyranny of the urgent. I do the laundry and cook. I read and clean (not much, but still…) and pay bills.

But when I don’t write, I’m not right.

I’m not fully living as the person God intends for me to be.

But how am I supposed to rightly order my world and priorities (God, family, then fiction) and still get it all done?

I don’t have a perfect answer, but I’m a lot closer to it than I was a few months ago.

I'm guest blogging over at The Write Conversation today. Pop over there to read the rest of the story. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

He loves me?

One of my greatest frustrations as a parent is wondering if Emma knows she is loved. Does she? Is she secure, certain, confident that her parents love her? 

After years of therapy, Emma can articulate most words, but that doesn’t mean we have conversations. She gets her point across, but abstract feelings and emotions? No. We are left to wonder.

While her brothers are experts at communicating their feelings about everything from the fairness of life to the tastiness of the food on their plates, Emma often resorts to wordless whines or grunts of frustration when she isn’t getting her way. The other day she stood at the bottom of the stairs for several minutes trying to formulate a word. When she yelled out, “Mad!” I had to force myself not to throw a party. I was thrilled that she’d been able to express what she was feeling. 

(Not that it changed anything — she was NOT taking those crayons up the stairs. The artist-in-residence lost those privileges a LONG time ago).

But back to my point. We tell her we love her. We show her love. We quite literally pour our lives into hers and make every effort to give her a joyful life. 

But the reality is that there are things about Emma’s life that are challenging. For her and for us.

One of our biggest challenges is food.

Emma is allergic to just about everything. It’s easier to list the foods she CAN have than it is to list the foods she can’t. On top of that, she has eosinophilic esophagitis. Basically that means certain foods irritate and damage the lining of her esophagus. The solution? Don’t eat those foods.

Because of this, Emma’s dietary landscape is quite small. 
But she knows there is more out there. And she wants it!

She’s her mother’s daughter and if she can get her hands on an Oreo, she’s going to eat it. She’s well acquainted with cake, and she knows that the pizza she eats and the pizza everyone else eats are NOT the same. If you leave her alone in a room with access to Goldfish or brownies, you can expect to find them missing when you return. 

I often wonder if she thinks we dislike her because we don’t allow her to have those things. Does she think we are unloving or uncaring?

When I see her grab a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and I take it out of her hand right before she eats a bite, does she think I’m MEAN?

After all, those foods are yummy. Her brothers can eat them. Why can’t she? And bless her heart, she does not understand how bad those things are for her. It’s so hard to communicate why they aren’t bad for everyone else, but they are for her. 

So when I have a chance to give her something that she enjoys, I try to take it. 

I had that chance this morning. When I dropped her brothers off for camp, I turned to her with a big smile and said, “Emma, let’s go to McDonalds. I’ll get you a hash brown. (And mommy will get a ginormous iced coffee).”

Her response? “Chick-fil-A.”
My response? “Baby, McDonald’s is closer. (And while I LOVE me some Chick-fil-A, I prefer McDonald’s iced coffee).”
She said okay and I pointed the van toward McDonald’s. But I felt like a mean mommy. We got a quarter of a mile down the road and her little voice piped up from the back of the van….”Chick-fil-A.”

I turned the van around. 

I drove a mile in the opposite direction all the while thinking that we were going to spend more money, I was going to get a so-so iced coffee, and she probably wouldn’t even eat the stupid hash rounds.

When we pulled into the drive-thru, Emma sang out, “Yeah! The right place!”

In that moment, the extra time, money, and not-so-awesome coffee no longer mattered. I’d made her happy and I was as thrilled as she was. It made my morning to be able to give her something she wanted. To bring her some joy. To say “yes” to her. And even though it meant jumping through a few extra hoops, her happiness filled me with delight.

As we pulled from the parking lot, I felt that nudge in my spirit.
“You know that’s how I feel about you.”

And I had to ask myself…do I?

When God takes something that I had in my hand? When He refuses to give me something, even as He lavishes it on someone else? When no matter how much I pray for something, He keeps saying, “NO?”
Do I believe that He loves me?

Do I?

I know I don’t act like I do. I get mad. I even tell Him I’m mad. Or sometimes I just pout and trust that He’s clued in to my frustration. 

Does that hurt Him? Does He look at me, the One who loved me enough to send His only Son to die for me, and does He wonder what it would take to convince me? He’s already given me everything.

Well, except for those things that He knows are bad for me.

They aren’t necessarily bad things. And they aren’t even bad for everyone. But they are bad for me. Maybe they would lead me to sin. Maybe they would ruin my life in a way I can’t fathom. Maybe they would cause me to chase after things other than to chase after Him. Maybe they would, quite literally, kill me. 

So to those things, He says no.
Not because He’s mean.
But because He loves me.

I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes and a barely sipped on iced coffee, listening to Emma play in her room, and I’m amazed at the lengths my Father goes to to remind me of His love.

I’m not sure what’s going on in your world. I’m not sure why He’s told you “no” or why He’s not giving you something you want—maybe even something you really believe you need.
I am sure of this. He loves you. He loves me. 

Someday, I believe I will be able to talk to Emma about this stuff. I don’t know what she will be like in heaven, but I have a peace that there will come a time when she will understand. That some of the things we’ve missed out on here will be ours there.

I wonder… does He feel that way about us? Does He look forward to the day when once and for all we will be eternally certain of His love for us?

And I wonder how different life here would be if we lived each day like the beloved children we are?

For those of you who are new here and may not already know, our daughter Emma was born with Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome, a syndrome some people say is caused by a “misspelling” of a specific chromosome. We say God is an excellent speller and He makes no mistakes. We believe that Emma is EXACTLY who God intended and created her to be. 
Grace and peace,

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Super Structure

Every time I see a book on “structure” or “story” I find myself bracing for the inevitable battle. If you’ve hung around with writers for long you know why, don’t you? 

Someone is about to get in an argument about THE way to write. In my mind, I see a group of literary protesters. “Structure Leads to Perfect Stories!” shouts one side. “Structure Leads to Predictable Stories!” counters the other.

I see myself standing in the middle of the crowd singing, “LET IT GO!”

Don’t get me wrong. If someone has figured out how they write, I want them to tell me how they do it. I really do.

But I have absolutely no illusions that the way they do it is going to wind up being the way I do it. I wish it would work that way but I know a lot of writers, and I have yet to meet one who writes exactly like someone else.

I’m okay with that. It’s part of the mystery of story…and I love a good mystery.

Want to know more? I'm guest posting today over at The Write Conversation. Come by and join the conversation!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Don't Let the Whiteboard Get You Down

I got home from the gym the other day, and I felt great. Well, I didn’t feel great physically. It took me an hour to stop sweating enough so I could take a shower.

But mentally? I felt great!


Because that workout was the kind of workout I wanted to skip. 
Because burpees.
This workout had 60 of them. With 60 wallballs thrown in for good measure. 

The only silver lining was the 13 minute time cap. A guarantee that the misery would end. When I walked in, I honestly didn’t expect to finish. But I did. With time to spare.

So when I got home and my husband asked me how it went my response was, “Good! I finished!”

I felt pretty good about that all day. And then I messed up.

I don’t know why I did it, but I looked at the whiteboard. The whiteboard is where everyone’s results are posted. When I pulled it up on my phone, I realized that some of my friends had not only completed the workout in significantly less time than I had, a whole bunch of them had done a much harder version!

My result didn’t seem so good anymore. In fact, it stunk. It was ridiculous. I’ve been doing CrossFit for a year and a half and I still struggle with burpees. I bet the coaches see me coming and think, “We don’t know why she’s still so bad at this.” 

Thankfully, this crazy train of thought didn’t last long, because as I was scrolling through the results, I saw where one friend had made this note on her time. “I showed up.”


The whiteboard isn’t intended to make anyone feel bad. It’s a record of your results, not so you can compare with everyone else but so you can compare yourself with yourself.  So you can see YOUR progress on YOUR journey. Of course there’s room for some friendly competition, and that’s fine and healthy. But ultimately, when I walk into the gym, the only person I’m in competition with is myself.

Despite my ranking when compared to everyone else, I had left it all in the gym that morning. I went hard. I pushed myself. I had nothing to be ashamed of because I did the best workout I could do. 

The more I thought about it, the more I realized how much I do this in other areas of my life. Maybe you do to?

  • We are pretty happy with the exercise we got this week until we see *that* mom at the pool. You know the one? Yeah, you do. We eye her from behind our sunglasses and determine to drink more water, eat less chocolate, and workout EVERY DAY.

  • We are thrilled with the one baby carrot our picky eaters consumed with supper until we show up for lunch relief and see the kid eating an arugula salad with beets. Beets? Suddenly, our kids are the least healthy on the planet and they will be stunted for life if we don’t expand their culinary horizons. 

  • We had a great time on vacation until we open Facebook and see the family of five on a plane to some tropical location. We fight off the jealousy by assuming that they must be in debt up to their eyeballs to be able to afford that and at least we are better stewards of our money.

  • We are proud of our kids’ A/B honor roll until we go to awards day and watch that one kid walk across the stage to receive every.single.award and then, because she’s so awesome, she gets one they had to make up just for her. 

  • We think we married a pretty good guy until we find out our neighbor’s husband comes home every day by five. Or he just got another promotion. Or he brings her flowers every week.

I’m not saying all comparison is a bad thing. I love to read blogs on healthy eating, parenting, education, and exercise. I’m always interested in how other people do things because I might discover a new way to approach something that we struggle with in our home.

The problem comes when we start comparing what someone else has (the perfect body, the perfect kid, the perfect home, the perfect job, the perfect spouse) without keeping a few key things in mind.

First, we need to remember that what we see as “perfect” might not seem so perfect if we knew all the details. But even if it is. Even if that woman you think has it ALL together really does, we must remember this:

It’s not a competition.

Who knows? That kid who won all the awards? That may be the very kid who is going to cure ALS. Her path will be hard. She will struggle. But she’s brilliant and talented and God has an extraordinary purpose for her.  

You don’t have to try to turn your kids into her because you can rest in the certainty that God’s purpose for your child may not be as flashy, but for the Kingdom, that doesn’t mean it is any less valuable.

One of my favorite verses is Colossians 4:17. As Paul is wrapping up his epistle he has this to say, “And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you fulfill it.”

Do you see it? Do you see the freedom here?

Take heed to the ministry which YOU have received. Do that.

Your story will not read like anyone else’s. It’s uniquely yours.

That competition you think you’re in? It’s not with anyone else. It’s not even a competition.

It’s a calling.
Your calling.
All you need to do is that.
Filter everything through that.

When God leads you to eat healthier or watch less TV or stick to a budget or write a book, do it because HE IS CALLING YOU TO. Not for ANY OTHER REASON. Trust me, He’s going to call you to enough without you adding a whole bunch of other stuff to the list.

Pursue YOUR ministry with everything you have and encourage others as they pursue theirs.

Goodness knows the whiteboards in life are everywhere but we can train our mind to see them, not as a record of a competition, but as proof that we are showing up for the ministry we’ve been called to.

So friends, this week my prayer for you and for myself is that we will take heed to the ministry which we have received in the Lord, that we fulfill it. 

Grace and peace,