Time Capsule

 

An empty shell

 

Each room echoing with memory

 

Laughter, love, a haven

More than bricks and mortar

Each room a time capsule of life lived

Blessings fulfilled

We said goodbye and now we decompress

 

New memories await us.

Right now, though…

Wine awaits me.

The sliver of light

When I arrived home from Cali the other night, it was wickedly late.  I stumbled to bed and switched off the lamp that my husband had so thoughtfully left on for me.  Though I was tired to my core, sleep was a bit elusive.  The impending move out of our house has proven to push my mind over the edge.  But there’s more than that.  My mind was full of details that began to oppress my already fragile emotions.

As I lay in the darkness, I willed myself to fall asleep.  I watched the clock slowly tick the hours away.  1:30. 2:30…I finally started to drift off when I felt the room go from darkness to light instantaneously.  I opened my eyes in a bit of a panic to see Lee’s iPad, which was sitting on his bedside table, illuminated.  I figured he must get some kind of notification for emails and closed my eyes again.  Five minutes later the room lit up again.  And I got annoyed.  Who emails at 3:00 in the morning?

Then I marveled at how bright the room was from that one tiny light of the screen.  Turns out he gets weather notifications and his iPad was warning us of the impending storm that rolled through ten minutes later.  But the visual of the light piercing the darkness stuck with me.

As already mentioned, I had a wonderful time in California, but it was hard too.  I was processing a lot of emotions.  And on top of that, the subject matter of the novel I’m writing is oftentimes hopeless and desperately sad.  As I researched the events surrounding World War II, I found myself terribly sad.  The darkness of that time is so deep and as I read story after story of heartache, my stomach turned into a tighter and tighter knot.  I wondered how I would portray the characters in my novel with any sort of redemption, any sort of hope.

And then I saw it.  That one sliver of light that pierced the darkness.

Hope.

As I read the personal accounts of survival during those heinous years of war, I saw a thin trail of Hope.  One woman described seeing a tiny sprig of green growing from the frozen ground as she marched to the concentration camp.  Why did that small plant stick out in her mind?  It was Hope.  It was the knowledge that after winter, spring arrives.  After death, life springs forth.  A sliver of light in the pitch black can illuminate a whole room.

I read an account from a young mother whose infant was killed at birth by her Nazi captivators.  And she rejoiced, because a swift death was better than a slow one behind the barbed wires.  Did her heart ache?  I imagine it tore into a thousand tiny pieces and was never fully reassembled.  But she saw the sliver of light and sometimes that’s all we need to guide us through the darkness.

I read story after story like this.  Some of them were so horrific, I didn’t see how there could possibly be any hope – any redemption.  But many of the stories had a sliver.  Enough to give me the emotional strength to keep reading.  It was the same when I went to Ukraine nine years ago.  I interviewed veteran after veteran and saw so much Hope.  They were happy, jovial and so full of light that I wondered how they possibly survived such horror with their spirits in tact.  That’s the redemption of so many of their stories.  And that spirit is what I hope to capture in my characters.

A blade of green amidst the rubble.

Darkness is repelled by light – even the smallest sliver of it.  Sometimes the darkness is still oppressive and the pain remains ever constant, but that tiny bit of Hope is what keeps us going.  For me, that tiny sliver of Hope is the thing that keeps me moving forward with this book project.  It’s the tiny bit of light in an otherwise very dark story.  I am reminding myself to focus on Hope as I continue to research and write.  If I don’t, I fear the heartache will become too much.

California

Welcome to my new blog design!  I decided a couple of months ago that it was time to give this space a little more POP!  And Franchesca of Small Bird Designs was the perfect girl for the job.  Hasn’t she done a wonderful job?!  Hang on, hang on!  I need to introduce you to my favorite feature!!!

Watch the header for a minute.  Keep watching.  Keeeeep watching…

Did you see it?!

Fran sent me numerous templates with different color backgrounds and I just couldn’t make a decision on which color I liked best.  So I asked her if she could do all of them in a rolling header and POOF!  She did it.  She’s like my Fairy Godmother, she is.  She’s gotten all kinds of telepathic hugs and high fives from me for her magical design.

I’m still working out a couple of little details, but mostly I’m just desperately happy with these new changes.  And did you notice the picture of my van up top?  See how the sun just gleamed off of it?  It’s like the angels were smiling down on her hotness…

So I’m still in California.  It’s been just an absolutely amazing few days.  I can’t really describe how much my soul needed this break.  I have been loved and poured into and fed and graced and blessed.  I have written a lot – about 60 pages!  I have edited.  I have read and cried and laughed and slept.  It has just been so wonderful here in Clear Lake, California (which, incidentally is one of the most beautiful places in America…you should visit!).

Today we visited a local winery for a lavender festival.  Stunning is the only word I can use to describe it.  I didn’t bring my camera on this trip (what was I thinking?!) so all I have are a few cell phone photos.  But you’ll get the idea.  I am immensely grateful for these five days I’ve gotten away.  I will go home refreshed and ready to tackle next steps.

The Lavender field

Magic and Beauty

My friend Wendy has fed us like Princesses

Catch me at (in)courage today!

I love the (in)courage website.  Love it, love it, love it.  I think the women there are amazing and gifted and talented and none of them know that they are my secret BFF’s.

I had a conversation with Tia on our last trip to Florida that really struck me and I wanted to share it with others so I decided to submit it to the lovely ladies of (in)courage.  I am humbled and honored and baffled and thrilled to have been given the honor to share my words with their readers.  And with you!  You can find me over there today and I truly, deeply hope you are as blessed by this post as I was when writing it!

“Look at this, Mom!”

She rises out of the water, her mask pressed tight around her tiny face. Holding up her treasure, I examine it closely.

“That’s a beautiful shell,” I tell her, taking it delicately in my hand. It is perfect and smooth – completely unblemished. “Would you like me to hold it for you while you dive for more?”

She thinks for a moment, her five year old brain contemplating this offer. “Nah,” she says after a brief pause. She grabs it out of my hand and tosses it back into the waiting ocean where it’s immediately swallowed by the salty water. Taking a deep breath, she plunges yet again.

Click here to read the rest of the post.

The one where Calgon takes me away

I actually just had to consult with Professor Google on what exactly Calgon is.  It’s body fragrancewho knew?!  I always assumed it was some sort of lotion for muscle pain similar to IcyHot or Bengay.

I was way off.

Yesterday was a rough day.  I’ll mercifully spare you the details, but it was a knot in your stomach crazy kind of day.  I really want my house to be the house that all my children’s friends come to.  I like knowing who is here and what they’re saying and doing.  But on knot in your stomach crazy kind of days…it’s just harder.  The noise is louder.  The work feels like work. The kids weren’t bad ( not all of them, anyway – there’s always one trouble maker), but I was tired and didn’t feel well and overwhelmed and the day felt long.

But today?

Today I am on a plane to sunny Northern California where I have the privilege of sitting in the presence of my dear friend Wendy for five whole days.  Wendy and I met  when we were both newlyweds living in the Dallas, Texas area.  I will never forget our first phone conversation.  Lee had come home from a Bible study the night before and told me about this wonderful guy he met whose wife sounded very similar to me.

“She likes to drink tea!” Lee exclaimed.  My sweet new husband who was still baffled by my girly love of tea parties.

The next morning the phone rang.  “I hear you like to take tea,” she said, her voice all warm and buttery and laced with smile.  And that was the beginning of one of the dearest friendships of my life.

Wendy and I have only lived in the same town for just under two years but our hearts were knit tight together through God’s grace..and through our love for writing, tea and wifedom (that should totally be a word).  We spent countless hours those Dallas years talking about our passion for writing and teaching and speaking and learning and loving and growing.  And we drank a lot of tea.

I get to soak up my dear friend for almost an entire week and my soul soars at the thought.  I also get to spend some time alone, releasing the characters in my head.  They’re up there, churning and begging to get out.  Sometimes I’m afraid of it, though.  I’m scared of the story and of letting the characters down.  Because the story in my head is beautiful and what if I mess it up?  What if the trip from my head to my fingertips tarnishes the story and the people?

What if I fail?

These are my honest fears.  I love writing, but I’m sometimes unsure of whether or not I have the gift to pull off the massive story I long to tell.  Realistically, I know I’m not the best writer out there.  I think it’s my lack of inner angst that holds me back…

Whatever the case, I know I’m not the best, but I also know that I have a story to share and I know I have the ability to tell it.  I just really want to tell it well.  This desire is why it’s taken me ten years to complete this book.  I really don’t want to screw this up!

So I will write with full abandon this week.  I will let go and try really hard not to go back and judge my work along the way.  That’s a terrible, terrible habit.  One should never edit her own work before she’s even finished it.   Stephen King said so himself and given the fact that his book is the most inspirational book on writing I’ve ever read, I’m going to submit myself to Mr. King’s urgings and plow forward without looking back.  My soul will rest in friendship (have I mentioned that one of my very dearest friends from here in town is joining us on this writer’s weekend away?  How blessed am I!) and in solitude and in the joy that comes from allowing God to use my gifts and talents to His glory, because that is my deepest desire.

And when I return I will bid adieu to my home and embark on a new adventure.  It is exciting, this tiny little life I lead.

I’ll be back this week.  I have a something fun and special to share with you on Friday.  Stay tuned.

Happy Bulleted Monday

Alternately titled: My Super Lame Post

- I have nothing ground breaking to say today.  I probably shouldn’t even be posting.  But I’m a blogging junkie so I feel the need to subject you to all kinds of random.  I’m compelled.

- I’m sorry.

- I’ve gotten two solid nights sleep in a row.  Break out the bubbly!  I may or may not have taken a tiny little sleep aid to help make that happen.  It became quickly apparent that if I didn’t do something to get more sleep I was not going to be emotionally capable of handling the move out of the house.

- Speaking of the move, we packed our first POD this weekend.  The walls of my home are echoing now.  And I am walking through my days singing this song on a continuous loop:  01 Sentimental Journey That’s me singing, by the way.  It was recorded at a gig I sang at last January.  And I can’t get the song out of my head, folks.  I AM on a sentimental journey.  I look at my empty house and I see my life.  I remember walking through the front door with the weight of a newborn in my arms and the rush of new mom emotions in my heart.  I see my kids first teetering little steps, I hear baby cries and giggles, I see toddlers sipping hot chocolate for the first time, I hear first words spoken and I watch the progression of my life as a Mom.  I see our life so clearly for the last eight years in this sweet little house.

- Or maybe I’m just seeing ghosts…I dunno.

- In two days I’m getting on a plane bound for Northern California where I will spend the rest of the week working on my novel in solitude, catching up with sweet friends in the evening and soaking up some perspective as I step away from it all.  The timing couldn’t be worse, but the trip was planned months before the closing of our house was and I can’t help think that God needs to get me by myself for awhile.  Probably to get me off that sentimental train.  So maybe the timing is just right.

- I’m getting my hair fixed today.  I say fixed for a reason.  It’s painfully crazy right now.  Think two toned straw…that’s what’s on top of my head.

- A bulleted post leads to random, boring facts you never knew you wanted, doesn’t it?

- Father’s Day was yesterday. I hope that didn’t come as a surprise to any of you.  Can I just tell you how blessed I am?  I am surrounded by amazing fathers: My dad, my father-in-law and my husband.  I have so much respect for these three men that sometimes I feel like I might burst.  They are wise, funny, loving and precious and I’m beyond grateful for each one.

- I hear Landon stirring in the next room, which can only mean one thing: My quiet morning is about to implode.  He wakes up sure that the world itself is going to come to an end unless he gets a drink immediately. There is wailing and weeping and whining galore until that sippy cup hits his lips, at which point he turns from devil child back to an angel.

- Apple juice has magic powers.

- I took the kids to the Botanical Gardens last Friday.  It was a ton of fun and I got great pictures…until the sky turned green and melted into an ugly storm while the kids and I were trapped inside a glass encased building with Sloan huddled on my lap praying fervently for the second coming of Christ.

- I told Tia how babies get out of a Mommy’s tummy a couple of weeks ago.  Her reaction was priceless.  I’ll share the full story soon.

- This is the part of the post when I quit subjecting you to the random that is floating through my muddied brain.  I’m off to fill that ever important cup of juice and begin yet another day of packing up my earthly possessions.  Fun.

- I can’t think of a clever way to end this post I’m just going to leave you with this to start your week off right:

You’re welcome.

A Wisp of a Girl

I see her clearly – a wisp of a girl.  Thirteen.  Awkward.  All knees and elbows, teetering between innocence and angst.  She is loved well, but a certain enemy awaits.  She doesn’t know it and isn’t prepared for it.  And she falls.

“You’re fat,” someone says to her.  The wisp of a girl, without an ounce of fat on her body, laughs.  Then she wonders.

I see her clearly – a wisp of a girl.  She’s looking at a magazine and for the first time notices shape.  Long, tall, thin.  Is that perfection?  She studies the mirror and her eyes cloud.  She knows the Truth.  She’s heard it a lot.

Fearfully.

Wonderfully.

Image.

God.

Made.

Like the whisper of wind through tall grasses, these words float across her heart.  But this time, another wind, less gentle, rough like that of a tornado tears through her.

Ugly.

Fat.

Not perfect.

And she believes it, the wisp of a girl.

I see her very clearly – a wisp of a girl.  She is older now, having grown through the awkwardness that defines junior high.  She is beautiful, but she doesn’t think so.  Though she has been loved well, there are misguided comments from those who just don’t know better.  The hormonal teenage boy whose image of perfection is more skewed that her own.  “You’re not super skinny,” he says, and he’s right.  The wisp of a girl has developed a muscular physique – strong, lean…she’s not the waif that defined beauty in her generation.

The wisp of a girl also replays the voice of her coach over and over, like a broken record.  “You sound like a cow when you run.”  It was a comment made in passing – lighthearted and teasing.  But despite all that she knows to be true:

Fearfully.

Wonderfully.

Image.

God.

Made.

She believes the other voices – the louder voices.  Not perfect. Not skinny.  Cow.

I see her, the wisp of a girl.  She is allowing herself to be defined by the louder voices now.  The sound of the wind in the grasses is almost totally snuffed out.  In it she hears words like disordered and dangerous. The wisp of a girl is getting lost.  Does she hide this shame or wear it as a badge for attention?  She doesn’t know.  If she advertises, someone might take the shame away from her.  So she tries to keep it hidden.  But she’s never been good at keeping secrets and before long the wisp of a girl is in a counselor’s office. Tears.  Shame.  Frustration.

The wisp of a girl.

I see her now, the wisp of a girl.  She’s away from home, away from accountability, away.  College.  In the quiet of night, the tornado rips through her mind and her heart and she can’t seem to shake the destruction it causes.  She’s gotten better at hiding it, this wisp of a girl.  But the devil isn’t gone completely.  He’s still there, waiting.  Comparing.  And the wisp of a girl, still small, wants only to be smaller still.

This wisp of a girl is so loved, so poured into, that a new beast begins to take over.  Guilt. Now more than ever, she knows the Truth.

Fearfully.

Wonderfully.

Image.

God.

Made.

She knows this, and she believes it.  But…

I see her now, the wisp of a girl who’s grown into a woman.  She’s in a white dress and standing at the end of the aisle is a man who loves her completely.  He loves her perfectly.  He thinks she is beautiful – fearfully, wonderfully beautiful.  Perfect.  And she knows it, but she doubts.  She doesn’t know why, but she still doubts.  The tornado is strong still.  And the inner torment brings even greater shame.

Until…

The wisp of a girl cries out to Jesus.  It’s not the first time she’s done so, but it’s the first time she’s felt total and complete surrender and, for the first time, the tender whispers drown out the tornado of lies.  In one brief moment, the girl is healed.

Miraculous.

Sometimes I still see her, that wisp of a girl.  I stand before the mirror and look closely and the tornado winds swirl.  I’m not who she was, but she is who I am today.  The doubts like to surface every once in awhile, reminding me of the wisp of a girl who was so innocent, so naive, so fooled.  But the healing experienced that day years ago is the constant that keeps me going.  The whispers are louder and greater and Truth reigns leaving me to rest in healing.

I watch her now, my wisp of a girl.  Innocent, beautiful, lovely and perfect.  In the stillness of the night, I whisper prayers over her, for her.  In the silent black, I whisper my prayers like the wind across tall grasses, a hedge of protection that I hope keeps the voices of dissent away from her heart.  Protection.  Love.  Truth.

Fearfully.

Wonderfully.

God.

Image.

Made.

These are the things I want my wisp of a girl to know and embrace.

I’m ankle deep in these today

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IMGP8923

Wish me luck.

Living Life: Practicality vs. Wisdom

There’s a certain thing that happens when you become a parent.  It happens in different degrees and forms for everyone, but we all experience this phenomena:

We become practical.

It’s just natural for a certain amount of practicality to set in once that bundle of joy lands on your doorstep.  Suddenly life takes on a whole new meaning.  That money you used to spend on late night Sonic runs now gets applied to diapers or formula or a set of plastic keys for your little one to rattle.  And you forget what it was like to dash out for a snack at 11:00 at night anyway because, you know, practically speaking it’s not wise to leave the baby home unattended.

Practicality.

Where life was once an adventure, now you have to think about jobs and income and houses and schools.  You have to consider how your decisions will affect not only yourself or your spouse, but also your child or children.

Practicality.

Some people are very good at remaining spontaneous, even with children in tow.  Have you heard about the family that is driving around the world, living nomadically, raising their children on the road?  They’ve been on the road for 11 years, all four of their children born in a different country.  I don’t desire that life, but I envy their courage.  What they’re doing isn’t practical, but it’s pretty dang cool.

Or this family, whom Lee met recently on an airplane.  After adopting a little girl from China, they felt a strong prompting from the Lord to return to their daughter’s birth country and open up an orphanage for special needs children.  So they went.  They packed up their three young children, sold all their possessions and went.

“What organization did you go with?” Lee asked.

“No one,” came the astonishing reply.  “We just asked the Lord to provide and He has.”  Through charitable donations, they have raised enough to build a five story building where they currently house 34 children with various special needs from cleft palates to cerebral palsey.  And they’ve never asked for a cent.

That’s not practical.  But it’s pretty dang spectacular.

I used to fancy myself a bit of an adventurer.  I didn’t think twice about hopping on a plane as a 20 year old and exploring the former Soviet Union on my own.  I didn’t flinch when I spent 36 hours on a train to Prague by myself, half the time trapped with a horny Iraqi German (I know…).  I relished walking the streets of London by myself.

When Lee and I went to Europe last year, I once again found my adventurous roots.  I loved not having a plan, living in the moment, exploring, living.

But I’ve felt trapped in practicality for awhile.  This isn’t a bad thing, in some regards.  Obviously parenthood requires a certain amount of practicality.  We have to provide for our children.  We have to give them stability and they do need a certain amount of material possessions to feel secure.  Of course, our Western world children (as I’m sure yours as well) have far more than they need for security and stability, but as a parent I want to give them good things.  Just as I know the Lord wants to give me good things.

But I’m a little tired of feeling held back by practicality.  Because there’s a very fine line between practicality and fear. And I think that sometimes?

I blur that line.

I’m not going to act on passion because I tell myself it wouldn’t be practical for my family.  But really, I’m just too scared to try it.  I’m not going to follow a dream because it would be terribly impractical to do so.  ‘Fraidy Cat! As a couple, Lee and I always talk about all the cool things that we’d like to do with the kids and expose them to, but most of them seem too lofty and impractical to really pursue.

We’re scared.

What will people think?  What if it takes us out of our comfort zone?  What if we fail?  What if it requires us to leave all that we know?  Where is the practicality in that?

Here’s the thing: I don’t think God calls us to be practical.  I think He calls us to be wise.  We are not to live in fear.  “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do  not anxiously look about you for I am your God.”  Isaiah 41:10.  We are called to wisdom, not practicality.  Men are called to provide for their families, and that will look differently for everyone.  For some, that means a stable job in a good home where they can minister to, and meet the needs of, those in their local community.  For others still, that means selling all you have and leaving.

One of those scenarios is practical, one is not.  But for the two men who are guiding and leading their families according to God’s calling placed in their hearts - both are wise.

Does that make sense?

So Lee and I together are working on, and learning, to let go of the shackles of practicality.

Walk in faith.

Live in wisdom.

Cry out to Jesus.

Do not be afraid.

That last one’s a doozy.

When Daddy Explains

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I was on the phone last week, pacing the driveway.  It was a beautiful day and the kids were all napping or resting.  I just needed some air.  As I spoke with my friend, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye.  I turned in time to see Sloan marching by with a twelve foot ladder tucked snuggly under his arm.  He didn’t even glance my way as he walked past, his face cool and nonchalant.  As if carrying around a ladder was normal.

I swear, if that kid had a stuffed tiger I would be living with Calvin and Hobbes.

“Um…I think I should probably hang up,” I said to my friend as Sloan set the ladder down next to the corner of the house and popped it open.  He looked up at the roof, his hand shading his eyes slightly.  I managed to reach him just as he stepped on the third rung, the ladder wobbling precariously on the slanted driveway.

“Whatcha doin’?”  I asked, grabbing hold of the base of the ladder.

“Oh, hey Mom,” Sloan said, still playing cool.  “I’m checking out the bird’s nest up here.”

I looked up and sure enough, there was a nest just underneath the roof.

“Can I?” he asked, looking down at me with his penetrating blue eyes.  Then he grinned.  Stinker.

“Yes,” I replied.  “Be careful.”

So up he climbed to the top rung and he peered over the side of the nest.

“There’s a baby bird in there!” he screeched.  Seriously screeched.  My ears are still ringing.  “It’s so cute!  Aw, Mom come see the baby bird!”

So we switched places and I climbed the ladder with him holding it steady.  Inside the nest was a tiny, newly hatched baby, it’s beak pointed upward, waiting for nourishment.

“Can I see it again?” Sloan yelled, shaking the ladder for effect.  Nice.

He climbed back up and looked in again.  “This is so freakin’ cool!” he yelled again.  To which I reminded him that I was only a few feet below and he didn’t need to scream.  Then he reached for the bird.

“Don’t touch it,” I cautioned.  “If the Mama bird comes back and smells you on her baby, she’ll leave him and he’ll die.”

With one last look and a wave, we pulled the ladder back down and headed on with our day.

Fast forward to this afternoon when we’re driving home from church.  Sloan pipes up from the backseat.  “Hey Mom.  I don’t care if it dies, so when we get home can I get the ladder out and pick up the baby bird and keep it?  I’ll get it worms and I’ll take care of it.  Can I raise the baby bird?”

“No,” I said.  “It’s Mama would be sad.  And we really don’t know how to raise a baby bird.  It’s better if we leave it alone.”

“But I can take good care of it,” came the anticipated protest.

“Hey Buddy,” Lee said, glancing into the mirror.  “You don’t need to try and raise that baby bird.”

“Why?”

“Well,” Lee said, and he paused.  “It would be like a bear coming to our house and seeing you and saying ‘I want to take that little boy home and raise him.’  Bears don’t know how to raise little boys.  That bear wouldn’t know how to feed you – he’d probably just give you raw meat or raw fish, like he eats.  And if he tried to hug you or give you a kiss, he’d probably claw you to death or bite off your nose with his sharp teeth.  Bear’s aren’t meant to take care of little boys just like little boys aren’t meant to take care of baby birds.”

This is the part where I begin clutching my sides, I’m laughing so hard.

“And bee’s should take care of bee’s, wight?”  Tia chimes in.

“Right,” Lee replies.  “Bears take care of bears, bee’s take care of bee’s, bird’s take care of bird’s–”

“And people take care of people!”  Sloan interrupts.

“That’s right!”  Lee pumps his fist in the air.  “Homosapiens take care of Homosapiens.”

And THAT, folks, is what happens when Daddy decides to explain.

The End.