Stories of shame: part 7/the shame spiral

stories of shame blog button (1)

{Part 7 of a 10-part series entitled, “stories of shame.” Read the rest here.}

I knew the risks for a recovering people-pleaser in publishing a book. And a book about shame of all topics. I wrote about it in the final paragraph of Unashamed:

This book is a fruit of my own journey away from shame into the freedom of being clothed in Christ’s beauty. I am a people-pleaser by nature and practice, and writing publicly terrifies me because of the fear of criticism and judgment. I want my words to be beautiful and perfect. And yet – like every other part of my life – they won’t be and they cannot be. It is in offering my imperfect thoughts that I am practicing my freedom. It is in offering some of my failures and imperfect portions of my story that I hope to encourage you to do the same. Above all else, it is my unshakeable hope in the power of Jesus Christ to heal shame at its source that emboldens me to risk. For if you begin to taste the freedom of the unashamed in even one relationship, it becomes a seed that can transform your community. We need more neighborhoods, churches, homes, and workplaces where we live unashamed and give others space to live unashamed as well. Let’s be part of the movement away from shame into freedom, honor, and glory.

As in so much of life, nothing can prepare you for what will be hardest ahead of you in your journey – even if you can see it coming, know it’s there, and have walked through something similar in the past. When I stumbled upon a couple less-than-stellar reviews in the past few weeks, I went into a bit of a shame spiral.

spiral-staircase

photo from Unsplash

  • I froze up initially. Meaning I physically froze. Time stopped. My morbid curiosity meant that I kept reading even when I knew it was a negative review. In that moment, everything else faded.

Curt Thompson in The Soul of Shame  describes the neurophysiological impact of experiencing shame: “…although the description of our experience of shame is often couched in words, its essence is first felt. Though I may say, ‘I should have been better at that’ or ‘I’m not good enough,’ the power of those moments lies in our emotional response to the evoking stimulus, be that a comment, a glance, or recollection of that day in third grade when your teacher pointed out in front of the rest of the class that you weren’t that bright. … A deep sense of self-consciousness emerges; cognition becomes fuzzy as our thoughts are disabled; words may be hard to find …; and the mind becomes caught in a vortex of images, sensations and thoughts that recycle and feed on each other at light speed, reinforcing the experience.” (pp. 24, 66)

  • I assumed my worst fears were realized. The mental soundtrack was like this: I’m a first-time author who doesn’t know what she’s talking about; I wasn’t honest/vulnerable enough in my book; I was too honest and vulnerable to be helpful; I’m not addressing a biblically nuanced view of shame.  And the list goes on from there.
  • I wanted to isolate and withdraw from community and relationship. Spending a day at home alone in my pjs became my definition of paradise.

Here’s the beautiful interruption to this shame spiral: It stopped there. I did something brave and risky – what I encourage my readers to do when experiencing shame: I talked about it. I started with my safest people: God, then my husband, and an email to a few close friends asking for their perspective.

What I didn’t do was to keep on reading and re-reading and analyzing the negative reviews. (I wanted to!) I shifted my focus. There was laundry to be done, so I threw myself into that task. I organized some long-unorganized corners of our home. I went for a walk. I read a good book. I played with my kids and read stories to them. I needed to shift my focus away from the shame to the many, many good gifts in my daily life that God’s given me. This helped tremendously.

Then, I took a bigger risk. I shared these experiences with a group of women who I trusted to be empathetic, truth-giving, and compassionate. I shared about the negative reviews in general terms. These women’s response brought even more healing. It wasn’t just what they said, but it was also the way they said it. They leaned in, listened closely, looked at me while they affirmed and encouraged God’s gift and calling he’s given to me of writing. One woman said, “I think that’s really brave of you to write – I couldn’t ever do it!” (And I would say the same thing about her in what she’s been facing lately in her life.)

And isn’t that the beauty of the community of Christ? We offer space, words, respect, affirmation, prayers, and “Jesus with skin on” to one another.

My final step for today is to write this post and to keep living my life with freedom and grace. To “stay in my lane” as Brené Brown says, referring to staying in your own lane when swimming in a race. She uses this phrase to remind us to focus on our path, our next steps, what’s ahead of us and in our lives, instead of anxiously looking around and/or getting worried that we’re not “swimming” [or working, writing, parenting, praying, cleaning, counseling, praying, etc] as well as the person next to us.

And Brown wasn’t the first one (although she is the most recent) to talk about focusing on running the race set before us. The author of Hebrews spoke about in decades ago when encouraging the new church:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 

Hebrews 12:1-3

What about you? How do you know you’re in a shame spiral, and what helps you to get out of it? 

 

 

The process of writing a book: my story

It all begins small, as most things do. Three years ago I was quoted in an article on body image at the Gospel Coalition’s blog. I submitted a few more articles in the next several months, and a couple more were published. One had a particularly large following – a Father’s Day post. I felt humbled and amazed to have been able to connect with so many people. And encouraged to keep on writing.

I attended The Gospel Coalition Women’s conference in June 2014, praying for a connection with a published author and direction for how to go about writing a book. God opened more doors than I could have imagined, through Collin Hansen inviting me at the last minute to a writers’ gathering where I met real-live-published-authors Hannah Anderson and Jen Pollock Michel. I heard a panel of writers talk about their writing – Gloria Furman, Jen Wilkin, Christina Fox, and Melissa Kruger. I took it all in.

And I also “happened” to meet a member of Crossway Publication’s marketing team, who later introduced me to an acquisitions editor at Crossway who walked me through the process of writing a book proposal in fall 2014. January 2015 brought the best news ever: my book proposal was accepted and I had a book contract for a book on the topic of shame and the gospel. I couldn’t believe it!

writing-a-bookFor the next six months, I wrote the book between the demands of life in stolen moments while our daughters were at preschool and early mornings and late evenings. Then began the editing process – which was probably my least favorite. But my editors Dave and Tara certainly softened the process for me and sharpened my writing significantly. I am so grateful for them, and for the entire team at Crossway who have been so kind and helpful and encouraging to this first-time author.

All of these efforts (plus asking for a foreword and endorsements) have coalesced into the advanced reader’s copy that was printed and mailed out in the past month to my fabulous launch team and influencers.

A graphic that describes my emotions throughout this process is this:

stages of writing a book

Unashamed: Healing Our Brokenness and Finding Freedom from Shame is available for pre-order at Amazon, with a June release date. And it will launch with this summer’s TGCW 2016 conference in Indianapolis. Then another stage of fun begins – having the privilege of connecting with readers and other audiences around the message of this book. I hope you’ll be part of this group!

Top 11 Favorite Books Read in 2015

Each year I catalog my favorite books read throughout the year. I try to write about them along the way in this space, and yet I inevitably read many more than you hear about – and sometimes I overlook my very favorites.

So I annually look back at the year past and record my favorite books read. For 2015 I give you not a countdown as in the past – a rating from #11 to #1 – but I’m giving you my top favorites in the five categories I read from most often.

#5 Parenting

No -Drama Discipline by Daniel Siegel – This builds on his foundational teaching in Whole-Brain Child and makes it practical. Literally included are cartoons showing you as a parent how to implement his teaching on parenting. I would be lying if I told you that our home has transformed and there is never any drama ever – but this lays out a worthy goal to aim for, which has resulted in small changes. Like being emotionally more attuned to our daughters, even and especially in the midst of moments of discipline.

#4 Motivational

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – by Marie Kondo – Wow. Just wow. It has been magic in our home, and I have a long way to go before I’m at the place where I would say I’ve finished her method of home-organizing (a.k.a. “radical purging”). At least with Kondo, I have a map of what’s next and directions as to how to get there.

Rising Strong – by Brené Brown – Read my review here. I love Brown’s work, and her latest book continues in her trajectory of thought, inspiring action and courage – especially in the midst of so-called failures.

#3 Writing

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard – I felt like I was on a writing retreat with Dillard as she described her process of writing candidly. Writing can be incredibly isolating, but somehow this book makes a writer feel less so as you nod your head in agreement at the inevitable highs and lows of the writing process.

If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence, and Spirit  by Brenda Ueland – If Dillard’s book felt like a companion, Ueland’s book became like the writing coach I’ve always wanted. She gives helpful pointers like how to find your voice, and how good writing is best done in the midst of real-life – not separate from it on the proverbial “mountain top.” A classic and a must-read for all my fellow writers out there!

#2 Fiction

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen – Quindlen’s fiction is poetic and her narrative is gripping. You’ll savor each page – pun intended.

 The Space Between Us by Thrity Umbrigar – A piercing piece that transports the reader to another culture and unexpected joys and tragedies of a close network of relationships.

 All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – Amazing. Page-turner – beautifully written. Worth the hype and the Pullitzer Prize 1000 times over.

#1 Spiritual/Devotional/Christian Non-Fiction

Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with both our Hearts and Minds by Jen Wilkin – I call this gem of a book a condensed and highly accessible version of everything I learned in seminary about studying the Bible. Jen will feel like a friend and mentor as she takes you through her process of Bible study, making God’s Word come alive in new ways and coaching you through owning your Bible study for yourself.

A Loving Life by Paul Miller – Miller’s book met me with hope mixed with challenge, giving me the push and courage I needed to depend on Jesus’ life of love within me as I loved those around me. He uses the book of Ruth as a guide for looking at what it means to lay down your life in “one-way love” – a “one-way love” that is motivated and empowered by the ultimate “one-way love” of God for us in Jesus Christ.

Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World by Emily Freeman – Freeman’s book is another favorite of hers. This book more than any others I read continues to reverbate through my soul, calling me to notice the sparkle of the ordinary and the gift found in sitting and being still. The result has been a deeper willingness to embrace the mundane and a more pervasive joy in even the “simply Tuesday” moments of my life.

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why writers, ambiverts, and thoughtful living need both solitude and community

photo from belladepaulo.com

photo from belladepaulo.com

community

My husband’s staff team at church did a personality assessment this past week as part of a retreat day. His was confirmed as what I always knew (ISTJ) and what is exactly opposite of me (ENFP). The old adage, “opposites attract,” is proven true in our marriage. But that will be for another post.

The personality test stirred up my age-old frustration with who am I really? For although I tested as an “extrovert,” I have many introverted tendencies (and was just about equal on the two, with a slight preference for extroversion). It’s been suggested that I am what is termed “ambivert,” which is a combination of both. I would describe myself as an extroverted introvert, or an introverted extrovert. I’ve always enjoyed time alone to recharge, but then at the end of solitude, I’ve enjoyed nothing better than being in a group of friends or at a party. But after a day (like yesterday) of non-stop people time, I feel exhausted and in need of the comfort of a quiet activity – preferably reading a good novel, or writing, or painting, or some sort of solitary engagement.

I am also a writer. Writers are usually known as the quintessential introverts. It’s commonly thought that to do the best writing, you should be the most alone. When one has young children at home, and you’re trying to write a book for Crossway by September 1 (for example), there is great wisdom in that – and it’s true. So my husband sent me off on a 48-hour writing retreat last week, and it was blissful. I wrote to my heart’s content in perfect solitude. I took breaks in between finishing a chapter, and then I would go back for more writing. It was such a gift to my distraction-prone brain to be able to pick up exactly where I left off – without the intervening (normal) interruptions of finding that one lost princess shoe, or making sure that I started dinner on time, or answering the urgent work email/text.

And yet I found something interesting about the time away. First of all, it took me the entire first evening before I could write. I had to clear my brain of life’s distractions that accompanied me. To put to rest a few emails, and to call my mind back from all the places it scatters to in the normal course of life. Secondly, when I did begin to write, the first two-thirds of the day were prolific. I wrote more than what I had expected I could. But then – almost imperceptibly – I slowed down. The words began to drag. I was running out of steam by around 5pm of my big writing day.

writing bookMy writing mentor is currently Brenda Ueland, author of the 1938 classic, If You Want To WriteAnd she made sense of this experience:

I have come to think that there is irony in the lives of writers who sit at a desk always, tenderly or crossly protecting themselves from all disturbances, danger or uncomfortableness, so that they can work out a better literary style. … Instead of living a sedentary, literary life, assiduously polishing sentences and cultivating a prose style, he [T.E. Lawrence] lived a great life with supernatural standards for himself of courage, suffering, endurance and honor.

In summary, Ueland says that to be a great writer, you must be fully living a life outside of your writing. She proposes that your writing can only be as engaging and courageous as your life is. So perhaps motherhood is perfectly suited for writing, instead of opposed to it. And perhaps it’s not only ambiverts like me who need both total solitude and engaging company. Doesn’t a life lived thoughtfully and fully require both?

Five Minute “Friday”: share

It’s been a good week. Dare I say, even one of the *best* weeks of my life because of thrilling news: Crossway accepted my book proposal! I have been dreaming of writing a book since I was a girl who loved to get lost in the worlds (and words) of Anne of Green Gables, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Nancy Drew. It’s been a dream I have been afraid of naming, much less pursuing, until the last few years as my writing/blogging grew and so did my courage. But in June at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference, God opened doors that led to a contact with one of Crossway’s acquisitions editors. He patiently walked me through the process of creating a book proposal over the last 5 months, and then he delivered the happy news of its acceptance on Thursday afternoon! Now my real work begins of *writing* the book … but I’ve never been more ready in my life. And you, dear readers, are a large part of my growing courage to venture so greatly. So thank you for your support, and for reading, and for your comments, and for your cheerleading all along the way. I am excited to have *you* on this journey with me!

Ok – now on to Five Minute Friday and today’s word: “share.”

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She offers her homemade gift with eager hands and a shy smile. It’s a picture of me with her and her twin sister – “to help you feel better, Mommy!” [I’ve been sick in bed with strep since Thursday.] It is easy for her to share this – but ask her to share her favorite toy with her twin? How dare I suggest such a thing!

And isn’t that how it is for me, too? I am eager to share on my terms, in my way, with what I’m willing to give. When God asks me to share past the point of comfortable, well, now, I am not sure I am so excited about this whole concept. I can think of many reasons to hoard my resources. I feel entitled to “my” rights and “my” time and “my” things. But God is patient. He gently unfurls my clenched fist, reminds me that all that I have is a gift from him. He assures me that I can never out-give his ability to provide for me, his ability to generously restore any “loss” on my part. Even if it’s not a material restoration – it will be better. Treasures in heaven. And the joy that comes with giving beyond what duty requires.

***

Five Minute Friday is an online writing community who writes for five minutes on a given topic every Friday – unedited, simply for the joy of writing. Hosted by Kate Motaung here.

 

what’s your dream?

photo credit: fanpop.com

photo credit: fanpop.com

Last night I threw out this question to a few friends as we sipped drinks on my front porch in celebration of summer’s end: “What’s your dream?” All of us admitted to the difficulty of answering this question. I had mine on the ready (because it’s what prompted me to ask it), and a few of us had some ideas. But we all discussed why it’s hard to dream. And, I need to add, why it’s hard to dream as adult women. To children it comes easy. Astronaut, president, ballerina-princess-doctor (one of my daughter’s current dreams). “I’ll live in a castle!” “I’ll own half the world!” With gleeful enthusiasm, children freely dream. There are no checks to their dreams. No pause to think of the logical details like how and how much and when and what if. Their dreams tend to be fairly easy come, easy go as well. Yesterday she wanted to be a firefighter; today’s she’s going to be an artist. There’s no conflict in her mind.

What happens to our dreaming capacity as we grow up? I’m wondering if it’s similar to what happens to our creativity. That we begin comparing and analyzing and being “realistic” the older we get. We also go through a fair number of disappointed dreams, and this process starts to tell my heart that it’s emotionally too costly to dream. Then of course, there’s the question of if I dream, then how can I have a chance of contentment in my ordinary here-and-now? I think that’s why dreaming comes especially hard to us as women, many of whom have part of domestic life as our dream and/or our reality. Even if I am living my dream in spending most hours of most days at home with my kiddos, there are other parts to my life about which I have dreams. Motherhood often entails putting my dreams on hold, by choice and/or by force.

As I pursue my dream of writing a book, I am going through all of this (and more). Self-doubt creeps in disguised as “being realistic” and I condemn myself for wanting to write more than cook dinner, clean, or do crafts with my kids. I get impatient because walking towards a dream takes time. It’s slow and uncertain. And there is so much fear lurking just beneath the excitement. Fear that it won’t happen, that I’m not really “good enough,” that I will be horribly disappointed or that it will be too consuming and take away from life and love and relationships (thus=not worth it).

Nevertheless, I am trying to silence all my nay-sayers and live my dream. Have a dream; pursue it; and find out what happens along the way.

One inspiration? My in-laws, who ever since their only grandchildren were born 4 years ago have nurtured a dream of living day-to-day life with their only son and his family. Living in northern New Jersey got in the way, and so over the past year+ they have worked steadily towards realizing their dream and tomorrow will call Virginia “home.” Leaving friends they’ve known all their lives behind, and the only house they’ve called “home” in their 41 years of marriage, they will be traveling down here to be with us. I certainly am humbled to be the recipient of such love, and I am inspired at their courage to live their dream during their sunset years. They’re teaching me that you’re never too old to dream! 

A few of my favorite links lately

It’s been awhile since I have shared some of my favorites, so here’s a list of some of the *many* that have spoken to my heart and captivated my mind recently.

  • When you’re a mom waving the white flag on erstwhile dear

The muchy muchness of two knocked me totally on my back last week. I could not seem to refresh, no matter what I did. Conversation at the playground usually does it. Or sunshine. Maybe a podcast and a pastry treat on the way home. But not last week. Their needs seemed to be growing like basil on the windowsill—long, droopy tendrils reaching out to brush you, desperate for water every time I looked over. …

When we stood in the check-out and you leaned over and said, “What? I can’t hear you?” I could read it right then in your eyes.

Right there by all the glossy magazines screaming at you like a pack of jockeying hawkers.

If you listen long enough to all the loud voices about who you should be, you grow deaf to the beauty of who you are.

[from Allume] I let the accolades of others fill my soul and speak to my worth. I loved the recognition, however small, and craved more. And I slowly took the reigns of my writing career away from God, and placed them firmly in my own hands. … Not consciously, of course, but I did it. Instead of praising God over the growth of a ministry, I stressed over the numbers that still weren’t “enough”. I slowly stopped writing what was on my heart, and started writing what I thought people wanted to hear, what I thought might have a shot at going viral. …

Two recent bloggers I’m following after finding them through Five Minute Friday: Sara at “poets and saints” – particularly love her latest “the fearless list”

I wrote down several ideas of fun and somewhat nerve-racking things I wanted to “try” this summer.  Then I wrote down several more that will be real challenges for me. All of them are scary for me in some way and that’s how the Fearless List was born …

and Kim at “dappled things” 

When I grow up I really want to be a writer, but probably more than that I want to be human, as fully human as it is possible to be. So I practice both these things, writing and being human, on this blog which I call Dappled Things, borrowed from a poem by Gerard Manly Hopkins. Here, I will share some stories, grapple with some problems and bring a little faith encouragement, some knitting and friendship whenever I can.

 

Happy reading, everyone!

 

reflections on my story

20140617-071914-26354591.jpgTen days ago, I celebrated a milestone birthday. Not one of the big “decades,” but one that felt significant nonetheless. Birthdays are great opportunities for reflection, and every year I enjoy writing a bit about the year prior and anticipating the year ahead. In March of this year, I did a retreat that could be the title for my story: “When Good Girls Get It All Wrong.” This past year has been a year of realizing more and more of the ways I get it wrong when I trust my goodness instead of God’s abundant grace. My story is one of the prototypical “good girl.” I am the oldest of three children with two younger brothers. I attended private Christian school through eighth grade and my worst nickname was “Goody-Goody.” The transition to public high school was terrifying and faith-activating. While experiencing being made fun of for being a Christian, my youth pastor wisely identified this as a form of persecution for my faith. And all of a sudden, God’s Word came alive to me. Passages like this one in 1 Peter 4:12-14 made sense to me for the first time:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

When it was time for college, I ventured out to Wheaton College, hundreds of miles from home. I still am amazed at that courage as an 18-year-old who had never lived anywhere but my small hometown in South Carolina. Those four years were full of long, important conversations that can happen in the context of “all freedom/no responsibility” and halfway through college, grace flooded in for this good girl. I was months away from being a Resident Assistant to a hall of 50 freshmen and sophomore women, and God found me through his grace as I realized how much I needed him. I could not rely on my try-harder goodness to carry me through what had become a crippling bout of anxiety-induced insomnia. The summer between my sophomore and junior year is fondly remembered as “the summer of grace,” when grace flooded into my Christian life – transforming what had been black-and-white into full color. Not unlike when Dorothy in Oz travels from tornado-torn Kansas to the yellow brick road leading to the Emerald City.

I will fast forward a few years to the next major turning point of faith for me: Christmas of 2003 which was bookended by news of both parents’ cancer diagnoses. Yes, you read that right: BOTH. My mom received her diagnosis December 23, and then when we gathered as a family again on December 31, Dad shared that he, too, had been diagnosed with cancer. My parents had always been healthy, and I had taken them for granted. This shook me as a young finding-my-way elementary school teacher who assumed life would continue as it always had. The gift to my faith in the midst of this season of questions and wondering how I would make it through is that I questioned. Really questioned and had to wrestle with a God who did not guarantee “the good, healthy and happy life” to his people. I often felt like I was questioning alone – because so many in my well-meaning Christian community jumped to, “It’s going to be fine!” or wanted to give pat answers that failed to connect with my heart. This journey through questions, doubt, darkness prepared me for the next stage of calling: pursuing a graduate degree in counseling from Westminster Theological Seminary outside of Philadelphia.

My parents both survived (and have been cancer-free for over a decade) and my faith deepened; and the gift of counseling has been the gift of walking with others through their questions, their pain, their suffering; their untold stories of tragedy, grief, loss, abuse, dreams imploding. And it has been the gift of witnessing hope emerging, slowly and painfully at times like a butterfly getting used to its new wings as it emerges from its cocoon. My own hope rehabilitation journey in seminary included the unexpected gift of meeting and marrying my pastor-husband, who persevered despite much resistance from this battle-weary woman who had been through a few too many break-ups by that point to easily entrust my heart to another. Being married to him has been good and beautiful and hard and sanctifying all at the same time, often in the same moments.

And then we had twins. I have talked about my journey of motherhood often on this blog, so I’ll leave it to prior posts to fill in those gaps. [suggested: Trusting God When You’re Expecting, Part 3: A New Chapter Called “Bed Rest“;  Tiny Miracles; Twins: The First Month; Confessions of an Angry Mom, part 12, & 3A Prayer for Potty TrainingTears and TransitionsFor the love of poetryIdentity lessons from “Angelina Ballerina”The one voice that matters mostMind the gap]

Needless to say, for two control-freak parents addicted to self-sufficiency and independence, twin daughters has by far been the best and hardest part of our lives as we find our way back to grace over and over and over again.

Where am I now? Full of anticipation for the next years or decades of life left before I go Home. I want to write. I want to write of hope amidst imploded dreams and war-torn hearts. I want to give voice to suffering and permission to speak of tragedy and to ask the hard questions we too often paste over with faith platitudes. I want to connect with you, my faithful readers, friends, family. I want to hear and share stories yet untold and unheard. To celebrate grace and life and beauty in all its forms, and to beg for redemption and healing for all the pain that creeps in uninvited. I want to laugh, to create art, and to unleash creativity in a million little ways. Join me? I’d be so honored.

 

 

finding words for my story

In my work as a counselor, the first place I start is in helping others find words for their story. Their story is there – they have lived it, the soul-shattering moments and the glory-filled ones alike, and yet finding words for their story can be hard. Not simply because it’s hard to speak of what you’ve never spoken out loud before, but also because you may not have the words to describe it. And so I will often suggest that they read something – the Psalms, for instance; or a book or memoir or a blog – to begin to find words for their story. I include these questions as prompts:

What stands out to you? What resonates with you? What do you say, “oh yes! That’s me!” about? Underline it; write that out; and begin telling your story.

In this month where I’m finding it hard to find words for my story (not because it’s difficult or painful, but it’s just busy and quite seemingly ordinary), I turned to a few favorite blogs this morning. And what I found put words to what I’m experiencing. My story of today. Enjoy …

Both are from Emily Freeman at “chatting at the sky,” my #1 favorite blogger and writer these days because of her grace-infused artful words.

First, from her post “one word that is sabotaging the art you live“:

But I’m just tucking them in to bed, you say.

I’m just cleaning the room.

I’m just filing the papers.

I’m just balancing the checkbook.

I’m just driving the carpool. None of this feels sacred to you.

Did you see the killer there?

Pay attention to when  you use the word just. Because whatever comes after that word is usually where you’re allowing the art to die.

Resist the urge to disrespect a task because it doesn’t feel important.

And in “the kind of movement that makes a difference“:

Rather than resenting my weakness, I believe Jesus is asking me to embrace my weakness. Being poor in spirit doesn’t mean despising self but releasing self from the expectation of being anything but poor. Small. Helpless. Worn.

My soul needs to remember the kind of movement that will make a difference:

Don’t try to handle your anxiety. Bring your anxiety into the presence of Christ.

Don’t try to fix your loneliness. Bring your loneliness into the presence of Christ.

Don’t try to hide your addiction. Bring your addiction into the presence of Christ.

Don’t try to change your attitude. Bring your attitude into the presence of Christ.

Don’t despise your humanity. Bring your humanity into the presence of Christ.

There is still responsibility, there is still action that comes from me. But my action is not to make right, to make whole, or to make better. My action is to usher my abilities, inabilities, failures and successes all into the presence of Christ.

Somehow, all of this weaves into what I’m living and learning right now as we study Romans together in our women’s Bible study and as we delve into gospel & community in our community group and as I counsel and write and tuck into bed and calm down tantrums in the in-between moments.

Thursday free write

I sit in a quiet, secluded room of the Y, looking out at the Norfolk skyline on the fourth rainy day (or so) we have had this week. A welcome respite for the dry ground, which has not received actual rainfall that counted since August 10.

And here is a picture of my soul this past month. There have been waterings occasionally, but nothing substantial. It’s been busy, busy with good and beautiful things like one last vacation at the beach and the twins’ third birthday and retreat speaking and community group and women’s Bible study and preschool. So I took a soul time out this morning, and I did a yoga class followed by this space. This space of breathing. Of noticing life rather than letting it rush me by. Yoga felt slow to my fast-paced world of efficiency. And isn’t that illuminating?

On a date with Seth last week, I realized a few things – that writing helps my soul to breathe and I haven’t been doing that enough this fall; that when exercise is pushed off my plate it means the plate is too full; and that weekends need to be empty when the weekday rhythm of a pastor and counselor’s family leaves us all coming up for breath at its end.

What am I doing about it? Well … this. Starting to get in the habit of writing again. Saying no to external demands to say yes to Christ’s whispered invitation to my soul to “Come … all who labor … and R E S T.” What helps you to rest? What keeps you from it? Do share. We all need reminders and ideas of how to pursue the rest for which we have been redeemed.