Two for the Road

Driving is a source of great pleasure to me.  I know I’m not alone.

Although I much prefer to be. Alone. In my car.

My thoughts can breath. Aspirations and inspirations and exultation’s stop getting all mixed up. Moments of clarity become stretches.

How many times have you had a conversation with a parent of kids under 21 who exclaimed, “And, I got to drive for twenty whole minutes, ALL BY MYSELF!”?  How many times?  Maybe it was you who uttered that very thing just this week?

One of the most precious get-away moments comes as I press play on a song that mama wants to hear. Can I get an amen?

Here are two of my favorites. I’d like to share the music, of course. But, I’d also like to share the why, because I like each one for radically different reasons.

If you’ve never heard the words “amazing” and “grace”, together, about a song, then I ask you, where have you been living for the last 235 years?

There is a version of this song that has undone me more times than I care to count. Amazing Grace, (My Chains Are Gone) was the song I first sang upon realizing the extent of my deep need for True Grace to swoop down and save me. It was later the song that ushered in a realization that addiction was part of my DNA. It is The Song that reminds me, again and again, that my chains are exactly that – mine. I’ve truly been set free.

And Grace reminds me that it doesn’t matter what I chain myself to – or how many times I attempt to chain myself to anything other than the God who made me – He. Will. Find. Me.

And set me free.

While I won’t apologize for my taste in music (it is, after all, thinking in sounds), I will say that some things just appeal to my inner need for a beat.  When I first heard “Letting Go”, by Bethel Music, I was on the verge of making some rotten decisions.  The moment the words “you’ve brought me to the end of myself”, I knew.

I knew that Grace would meet me there. At the end of myself.

And He did.

And does.

What tunes go on the road with you? Share please!

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This post is day 2 of the #write31days over at The Nester’s website.

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One Thing Better Than High Hair

I attended a rockin’ Twitter party last night.  It was a happy hour filled with flying fingers, cracked jokes, and community building. I was surrounded by a couple dozen amazing women, many of whom I am able to call “Friend”.

And, it was grace.

“The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you.”

– Frederick Buechner

Because, the party wouldn’t have been complete without me.

Without me?

Yes!

And it’s not complete without you, either.

It took me twenty some-odd years to own that.

And, my season of High Hair ushered that lesson in.

One of the most painful memories I have, is of being labeled an outcast by a group of middle school girls that I thought were my best friends.

I could say it was because I developed physically before they did and they were jealous. Maybe. It’s possible that they were acting out of a need to have control over some part of their out-of-control lives. Beauty wasn’t my friend back then; and that didn’t do me any favors, either.

I might never know why they shunned me as they did.

What I do know is that as a tender 12 year old reed, it broke me.

And, I took my broken pieces and receded into the safety of my tomboyish ways. Hunting and fishing with Ahab, skateboarding with Brother, keeping my face in the pool and away from the eyes of those who sought to bore holes into my heart. Those were my survival techniques.

And I surely did survive.

But God wanted me to see Him. And He wanted me to do more than survive.

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So, He sent Grace striding into my life, all high hair and hairspray, frosted lips and Northern accent. That unmerited favor modeled a grace for my fragility. That one longed-for friendship did so very much to repair some of the damage done to my heart.

God tenderly repaired this broken reed and set it straight.

I learned a beautiful lesson that year: sometimes Grace comes through people. And He reminds you that what happened then doesn’t matter near as much as what you allow to happen now. It pours over you and into you and shows you that you are not alone, that you are loved, and that the pain of the past does not have to define your future.

Indeed! While Beauty and I never did make amends, Grace and I?

We’ve become BFF’s.

Has grace ever found you in friendship? Would you share here?

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This is post #1 in my 31 Days of Grace series. The Nester is hosting her annual 31 Days of Writing. If you’d like to check out one of the thousands of unique contributions, click here. You can find my introduction post here.

 

 

 

31 Days of Grace

Commitment and I have a rocky relationship. Once in a while, we’ll actually come to terms and hang out peaceably. But, inevitably, we turn on each other.

I’ll claim that staying committed is too hard to do at this season of life.  And Commitment is over there all, “but you make time for what’s important to you, don’t you?”

There’s nothing worse than a Commitment who’s a know-it-all.

Writing consistently is something I struggle with. Maybe you do too?  It’s partly, I’m sure, because I don’t like knowing that I must do anything (thank you, rebellious sin-nature). It’s mostly because I’m scared to commit to something that I don’t know if I’ll be able to see through. With a bit of the sense that I’m not good enough sprinkled on top.

I think, and I’ll only speak for myself here, that if God has taught me anything over this last 18 years with Him, it’s that He’s bigger. Way bigger! And, for sure, 31 days bigger!

All of that is such an anti-climactic way to say that this year, I’m going to throw caution to the wind (and fear and rebellion and anything else that whispers “NO!”). I’m going to be writing for 31 days.

About grace.

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Because people, if I know anything about anything, it’s got to be about the grace that’s doled out in heaping amounts, around these parts.

It’s almost laughable that I didn’t think I had anything I could write consistently about. The grace galore around here…

Yeah, definitely that.

Flitting in to light upon my angry heart or gently pressing in on that bruised place, bringing lightness of being to my darkness of feeling or leaving mirth in its wake – how it’s delivered, doesn’t matter. I only know that I gobble it up. Every time.

Like so much necessary air.

Because without grace, I am lost.

Maybe a few of you feel that way too? My heart’s desire is that you will read something here during the next thirty-one days that speaks grace into your own heart. Right where it aches. Or longs to be reminded that Hope is still hanging around (probably with Commitment!).

And, of course, I hope that you’ll be able to laugh, too.

Because, laughter.

And, grace.

Oh, yes indeedy!

Ready?

Links to the series (Updated daily)

One Thing Better Than High Hair

Two for the Road

Three Little Words

Flying in a V Fourmation

Five Ten

Six for Grace

Seven Times Seventy-seven

Eight Hugs a Day

It’s O Dark Thirty at Day Nine

Ten Second Grace Period

Day 11 – Take Two

A Dozen Ways to Say It

Thirteen Times, and Then Some

I’d Edit Chapter Fourteen

Fifteen Years Strong

Grace Comes as a Camel on Day 16

When I Was Seventeen

An Epic Battle on the Eighteenth Day

Interrupted by Grace on Day Nineteen

It Only Took About Twenty Years

Beyond the Twenty-First Time

Twenty-two Times a Day

Smitten With Grace

Twenty-Four Hours a Day

Whispered Things

Pain Has a Purpose

A Laugh a Minute

Grace Blazes a Trail

Filling the Void Within

Hooked on a Feeling

Phoning It In

Come on back tomorrow and we’ll get this Grace party started. And, if you are participating in The Nester’s 31 Days, please let me know below, in the comments.  I’d love to surf around and see what some of y’all are up to for the next 31 days, too! Watch for this button and you’ll know it’s from yours truly.

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When It Isn’t About Failing

I’m listening intently as writer friends spill their hearts about why they haven’t yet pursued their dreams of writing more fully.  And, as I listen, I’m trying to piece together my own reasons.

Slowly, and clearly, mine are emerging.

They aren’t pretty.

Each one feels as though it reveals a deep character flaw.

And, although I’ve never been one to shy away from writing about the hard things, I’ve also never reveled in shining a spotlight on my deepest cracks, either.

As I ask myself what plays a part in the hindrance of my dream of writing, I’m realizing that failing isn’t what worries me. A writer has to accept a certain level of failure with every push of the publishing button.

If, as Flannery O’Connor said, “I write to discover what I know”, then that is surely one of my strongest inhibitors.

My dream of writing is often stifled by my understanding that I don’t know much. I’m not writing, necessarily, for an audience that will “get it”. Although, it is such a beautiful feeling of community and camaraderie when that happens. I’m writing so that, eventually, hopefully, I’ll get it!

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Putting words to feelings and ideas is a deeply personal thing, yes. Writing, and then discovering that I haven’t really got the foggiest idea of this concept I’m trying desperately to type my fingers around, stings.

Pride.

How often my pride has indeed gone before my fall!

Thank you, God, for your grace!

And, while I’m being brutally honest, I’m also learning that a well written piece of writing takes painstaking effort.

And time.

Even if the germ of an idea seems to sprout and easily grow a life of its own, I am still left with the daunting task of fleshing it out. And worse, editing it! And this sometimes takes an immense amount of effort. I’ve often wondered if those moments when the seed of an idea takes root in my mind, but I don’t pursue it on paper are simply laziness on my part.

I am so very thankful for the grace to try again.

I do believe that Ernest Hemingway had it exactly right when he wrote that “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

Indeed. It’s true. Not a one of us will ever arrive at that perfectly crafted body of work. When I leave this earth, it will be for a place that is ruled by The Master Creator, of All Words, Ever.

That means that I don’t have to cling to the hope of getting it right every time I make the time and effort to put pen to paper or type word to screen.  And, there is such freedom in the knowing of that!

For me, it’s not about failing.

It’s about The Grace in the trying.

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This post was written in response to a prompt from my Writers
(In)couraging Writers community group. Visit here to learn more.

Bravery Can Mean Going Belly Up

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Dream chasing and encouraging and fulfillment has taken up plenty of space on this here blog, of mine.

And last month?  Last month, I pursued one dream that I’ve harbored for a mighty long time.  With encouragement poured in from friends and Holy whispers of “you are already enough” ringing in my ears, I entered a writing contest.

If what I write next isn’t The Most Anti-climactic Statement in the history of ever, I might not know what anti-climactic really means.

I didn’t win.

But, but, BUT… I submitted.

And y’all, that was huge. It was a step toward something I’ve been saying I wanted to do out loud for a sweet forever.

And since I didn’t win, I get to share my entry here. With all of you.

You, who keep me on my toes and support the stuffing out of me. (I wish. The stuffing remains.)

My submission may have gone belly up, but my bravery in continuing to pursue The Dream? Alive and kickin’!!!

So, without further ado… my entry into the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. (And if you want to check out who did win? The winners are here.)

What the Toilet Paper Taught Me

I grew up with a father who lived by the credo that we have ten boxes of Kleenex in the house at all times. I thought this was normal.

Until, that is, I flew the coop and lived on my own for the first time.  My meager wages earned as a substitute teacher, while working as many jobs as possible until I landed my own full-time teaching job, barely covered one box of tissues – let alone ten! The idea of stockpiling Kleenex was laughable.

Years went by and I got the job, met a man, and started buying tissues ten boxes at a time. It only took two years of marriage and a visit from my in-laws for me to learn that this was normal to other people, too. Just, not always with tissues.

My husband’s parents live only a few hours away from us. One particular weekend, very soon after buying our first home, they made plans to visit and see what we’d done with the place.

A cleaning frenzy ensued. My inner Martha Stewart was ablaze in the kitchen, when my husband emerged from the bathroom, distraught.

“Please, TELL ME there is more toilet paper than this one roll,” he begged.

I mistakenly thought that reminding him that his parents would only be visiting for a few short hours would calm his agitated state.

Wrong!

“We DO have more than just this roll, though, right?” he pleaded again.

My choice of marital mate now fully in question, I reminded him, a little less gently this time, that his parents would only be visiting for four hours! And, while I don’t know how others’ bathroom experiences usually work, one double roll of toilet paper would probably suffice for four people in that short amount of time.

I shared this with him, jokingly.

This was a grave error on my part.

He slipped on his shoes, grabbed his keys and headed for the door. “I’m going to run out and buy us a six-pack. Just in case,” he announced. He looked pale.

At that moment, I understood.  I knew what this was. This was the Kleenex manifesto, only with toilet paper.

I explained that there was no need, as I had bought a twelve pack, double-rolls no less, the day before.

Those words worked better than any aphrodisiac. He strode over, looked deeply into my eyes, and proclaimed that I really was the one for him.

Two very important lessons were learned that day. One, I had clearly married a version of my father.  And two, my husband’s affections could be bought.

With toilet paper.

Rainbows and Unicorns and Allume

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My heart took flight throughout my time at the Allume conference, last week. In addition to chasing rainbows across the hotel lobby, I cemented friendships with some women who I knew my heart was connected to long before meeting in person.

I learned that I have a place within the legion of writers out there in the blogosphere. My need to stay up until midnight pouring my heart out until it finally feels right? I learned that’s totally normal.  Sitting on suitcases and praying for them to suddenly zip? Also? Totally normal. 

That Five Minute Friday community of writers that bravely hit the timer each week? I met many of them in person.  They. Are. Gorgeous.

That (in)courage group of women that I am so deeply encouraged by?  They are real flesh-and-blood women, with a desire to make each heart feel like they have a home in community.  They. Radiate. Love.

I found My People, y’all.

They are brave and smart and funny and kind.  They care and connect and crave community.

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I heard a similar message, meant just for me, throughout each Keynote Speech, Session, and Sitting.

And a couple of very distinct words were emblazoned on my heart.

Confirmation.  Carrying a message wrapped in funny is my gifting.

Creativity. We are art because we were made by An Artist.

Doors. Walking through the ones that are open will bring you one step closer.

Salt. Be it. Make sure you bring it to the table every time.

Second. Playing Second Fiddle can be a thing of beauty.

Unicorns. They are more beautiful in person.

Validation. We are ALL stars – and each one of us in the blogosphere is needed to make the others shine that much more brightly.

This conference provided more encouragement for my heart than I could possibly have hoped for.  I was loved on, prayed over, and pushed ahead by some incredible women.

And I can’t wait to do it all again in 2014!

Yes indeedy.

The One Where I Write

for five minutes.  Uninterrupted and without editing.  And then, I join in with so many others over at Lisa-Jo Baker’s place to share and read and say, “Me too!”. Join us?  Click the button below to do just that.

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Write

Go…

Without fear of perfection, I am allowing myself to dig into what’s percolating in this brain of mine today.  I consciously choose to shoosh those little demons of despair and tell them Who’s Boss.  (And it’s not me!)

I live in a fast paced world that is on the constant prowl for the next snippet of Interesting to consume.  It seems like too much, too much, too much.  Maybe if I allowed myself the peace that comes with being still, I could discern between which of those snippets to really dig into.

The one about ditching the devil dogs in favor of more exercise. (The yoga pants have been talking to me again!)

The little tidbit about Perfectionism and how it taints even the good things that are emerging from my soul-deep places? (Those demons of despair – they can be so loud!)

How about the friend that longs to connect and leaves phone messages and texts and encouragements but doesn’t have a life in the same time and space as mine; and so, doesn’t ever seem to make it to the top of my priorities.

And the guilt.

All The Guilt. It sets in and I realize that what I really long to write about is weeding through the mess to the still.

And that’s how I end up drinking a cup of salted caramel coffee and enjoying a luscious gooey chocolate croissant.  It’s in the moment, right here, that I find the stillness. Other than the chewing and sipping sounds my mouth makes, I hear nothing. And I end up writing about just that.

Nothing.

And everything.

Right here.

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