Category Archives: writing

Word-Paint: The Inside-Outside Conundrum {A Featured Story by Amber Cadenas}

I am so pleased to announce that we’ve chosen a story to be featured, a beautiful word-painting by Amber Cadenas. Kelli introduces her friend (and my *new* friend) below::

Amber Cadenas is a fellow sojourner with a penchant for all things creative, gentle, and transcendent. She calls her blog Beautiful Rubbish with a subtitle that could not fit any better: the everyday art of learning to see. Her writing is luminous and often reflects the bite of starlight in which it was conceived. Please welcome her voice as the final contribution to this series: The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging. ~Kelli Woodford

                                 photo credit 



“Can you be inside and outside at the same time?
I think this is where I live.
I think this is where most women live.
I think this is where writers live.
Inside to write. Outside to glean.”
~ Terry Tempest Williams*
Paint me a picture, I say to myself, of this tension of inside-outside living. So my pen becomes a paintbrush and I dip it in the colors of memory, splashing across a canvas of blank white page.
I am inside and outside, a woman on both sides of the looking glass.
* * * * *
I call myself a writer, most of the time, with varying degrees of confident assurance. I have a blog, where I air my words and my heart, one to three times a week. I surround myself with good books that inspire me in the craft. I have a group of writer friends who make me believe, at times I can soar on the wings of their prose, and maybe even on the wings of my own.
I am inside.
I hold my tongue, refuse to say this is who I am, because I am just not convinced. Maybe I got it all wrong. Maybe this is the last remaining, tattered shred of youthful idealism I’m clinging to and I need to let it go. How could I ever think I’m a writer?
I am outside.
* * * * *
I am inside the church where we worship on Sundays. Where we stand, sit, kneel, sing, speak, listen and hold the silence of liturgy. I am surrounded by people, many whom I don’t know, some whom I call “community.” We feast together at the table of communion, we share the same creeds of faith. We love the same Jesus.
I am inside.
I look up at the landscape of the front of the church sanctuary. Men leading us in worship through instruments and song. Men serving the bread and the wine. Men praying the prayers. Men preaching the sacred word. I feel silenced, disappearing in the pew.
I am outside.
* * * * *
I wear a wedding band, possess a certificate of marriage. We share the same address, the same car, the same bed, the same last name. We’re gradually crossing over for each other without losing sight of ourselves. He’s immersed in my culture and I in his.
I am inside.
We coexist, side by side. We give affection and we withhold. We sleep with a wall of fear, of silence, of weariness, of distant longing between us. I inhabit a place of hope deferred.
I am outside.
* * * * * 
I wrap arms around her and she buries tears in my shoulder. Our hearts are locked together in the ache of sorrow. She has walked through valleys of loss with me, and now, I set out with her. I would do anything to take this pain away.
I am inside.
I am not a mother. I’ve never conceived life, never waited through months of expectancy, nor delivered life into this world. I’ve never seen my body stretch to make room for another. I’ve never grieved a womb that was inhabited, now empty. I do not know this agony.
I am outside.
* * * * * 
I am breathing in rain-soaked air, heavy with cherry blossom fragrance. I am walking, running, standing still, listening to the songs of birds and the symphony of life that arises in my silent wonder. I am drinking in sunsets. I am inhabiting moments of beauty, moments of bravery, moments of failure, moments of being known, moments of loneliness.
I am outside.
I come inside, close the door, and set my hand to write, transferring words from head to hand, my paint across the canvas.

* * * * * 

Amber Cadenas is a people-loving introvert, who pulls espresso shots by day and writes the trail of glory-crumbs that is her story on her blog, Beautiful Rubbish. She is wild about nature, creatures of all kinds, books and spicy foods, and considers herself Mexican at heart, thanks to her husband. Her biggest ambition in life is to know Jesus and become someone who loves well.  



linking with friends, MichelleHolleyEmilyJennifer 

**This here is the final wrap-up of a series on writing–the last week! Let’s all gather around the table in the comments and discuss and show Amber some love! I will still be writing about once a week (hopefully) about the issues we face as writers, and I’ll be encouraging you to be brave in your writing journey!

Other posts in this series below  

In Which I Invite Us All to the Table –Nacole Simmons

A Hand In Your Own — a guest post from Kelli Woodford


A Divided Loyalty and the Stinging Truth –a guest post from Michelle DeRusha   

Rooted In A Tangible Grace — Kelli Woodford   

On Prostitution: Cheap Grace and One Word: Enough –Nacole Simmons

In The End, Three Things Remain –a guest post from Holly Grantham

What I Want You to Know About Mental Illness, Social Media, and Community –Nacole Simmons

On Vulnerability and Boundaries –a guest post from Diana Trautwein 

Walking With Christ Online :: thoughts on faith, calling, and diversity –a guest post from Lisha Epperson

Brokenness, A Grace-Bathed Thread — by Kelli Woodford and Nacole Simmons

Brokenness, A Grace-Bathed Thread

{The Conundrums of Writing and Blogging: A Series}

I am delighted to have my friend, Kelli Woodford, at the blog today, who has collaborated with me on this post. We are both sharing our voices and stories with you today of how we met. This is a bold move, we know–and we hope you enjoy it. 
More than that, we hope you can see one golden, grace-bathed thread through the entire thing–how God opens our eyes to see the souls beneath human skin, broken and beautiful skin we all share– and that you will maybe walk away with a renewed sense of sisterhood/brotherhood and what it means to be at the table together. Much love to our readers and thank you for being with us on the writing series journey~ 

The airport bustled as I pulled the car curbside. Flipping down the visor, I checked my hair and applied chapstick. The radio station desperately needed adjusting and oh for the love, where could that water bottle have gone? And it was there, hand jammed under the passenger’s seat with great angst written across my brow, that I recognized it: Fidgeting, yes, I was fidgeting.
Because nervousness? It always drives me to do.
She texted from inside the building. Only a few moments and we would meet for the first time. Only a few moments till the hopes and dreams of the person we had known through words on screens and a smattering of facebook photos would shake hands with stark reality. We would stand before one another in the flesh – for better or worse – in all our devastating human nakedness. Without the comfort of photoshop’s charms or a hearty following behind us. Without smartly punctuated witticisms or cleverly sculpted reputations. We would brush skin and hear joints pop and perhaps waft the warmth of the other’s signature scent. I wrapped my coat around me against the wind, took a deep breath, and let my feet find the pavement. Brave feet, I thought, keep walking.

I looked up at the sound of my name.
She was prettier than I expected her to be. Slender and blond. Her idyllic smile rivaled Denzel’s for shine and luster, teeth straight as a manicured picket fence. Intimidation crept up my neck and flushed my cheeks with scarlet. We chatted about her flight and about the weather. We sneakily studied one another’s faces when we thought it wouldn’t be noticed. I listened to the slow, thick drawl of the south on her tongue, and I imagine she heard the nasal whine so common to midwesterners in my voice. It was strange and wonderful, this stark reality. It was a bit like stepping into Narnia, finding more than you ever thought possible inside a wardrobe in the spare room.
Because aren’t we, all of us, more than screens can ever tell?

The weekend unfolded in gentle, halting exhale. Moments both sacred and scared laced our days. We revealed parts of our lives to each other, but not without a good bit of trembling. Intimidation faded like a fall flower in the honest light of brokenness shared. And then it came time for goodbyes. We parted alongside the very same curb where I’d exhorted my audacious feet. This time, there was a knowing in our voices. We didn’t hear the differences that took up so much space at first. We only heard the heart. For you see, we had taken time to listen.
And perhaps that is what many internet relationships need – this listening. Because it’s so easy to see a photoshopped profile picture and make assumptions, isn’t it? So easy to comfortably settle into a one-dimensional assessment of an individual instead of pushing deeper, believing for more, digging into the back of the wardrobe?
Now, I realize it’s not always possible to quell these misgivings by face-to-face meetings. I get it. But this mining for gold no matter what rubble lies on the surface – this is more than that. It’s a perspective. This is what it means to invite all to the table. This is where we feel the hand in our own. This is what it means to honor not only the stories that we uniquely represent, but even the opinions and convictions that result from the narrative being scripted. This is respecting each other’s process. And it is how community can form, even in as unlikely a place as these screens permit.

  
~by Kelli Woodford

——————————————

When she stepped out of the car at the airport, her big baby blues startled me. They were much more exquisite in real life than in any picture. I had never before seen eyes like that.

As we began trying to load my luggage into the car, I looked down and noticed dainty feet in the cutest flats. How hip, I thought. I should’ve brought shoes like that. I also noticed her energy and her determination to help. She wasn’t the stander-by type. She was hands-on. I liked her already, because I’m the type who’s always a little lost, needing help.

I had come that weekend, with so much hesitation. I don’t handle large social crowds well, and I refused to be sick and have an anxiety attack while I was there. I knew I’d be okay with her by my side, because though we only knew one another through a screen, something in me trusted her. She had such unassuming grace.

Oh, how I tried to be strong, but all the grace in the world could not keep the inevitable powerful attack at bay. We walked into a bustling lunch room, bloggers and writers chatting, the noise blinding me, and I felt so disconnected, that I didn’t belong. A couple of friends tried to talk to me, but I didn’t want to be the center of attention. I went outside to cry and to call my husband.

When I came back in, she met me in the hallway and asked how she could help. Did I need my food brought outside to me? I wiped my eyes, gathered all of my courage and strength, and told her I’d walk back in with her so she could finish her lunch. Then we went back to the hotel so I could swallow down the calm my body so desperately needed and she and I just took a break.

I did not want her or anyone to have to care for me in that way, but my human brokenness left me with no choice. She saw me–fully human and fully broken, the pieces scattered everywhere.

And those pieces scattered over that weekend, were the fragments that bonded us forever, like a quilt made with love, from many left over scraps. The Master Sewer, He wove us together over those days and nights. We sat in her car until the wee hours of the morning sharing stories too sacred to mention here. We laughed hysterically over teenage adventures and how we sometimes still feel like we’re at that age of angst, and yet, we’re more fully ourselves. We cried. We listened intently. We were on holy ground. But to get to that place of holy? We had to be brave, oh, so brave. We had to let all pretenses go.

May I suggest something to you? Perhaps this is a concrete and poignant example of what it is to pull up a chair at the table with others, let the facades go, let our presumptions go of what we expect others to be, and try to see ourselves through their lens? Perhaps there really is another soul, right there next to us, hidden and disguised beneath pretty clothes and fashionable shoes, just begging to be loved, not with piety, but with true warmth, the kind that prays for you in the middle of the night, the kind that would leave a conference to take you to the hospital if need be, knowing this is the reason they were there that weekend–to meet another soul, broken, right where they are, to care for them, as Jesus would.

At the table, together.

And might I suggest something else? That we are not ordained by God to decide who gets to be at the table? Because it’s not just for believers, for those with a strong faith in God, the ones sure of themselves and their calling and purpose. It isn’t just for the ones mentally well, the ones who do social circles just right, and always know the right thing to say.

But perhaps instead, God has designed the table so that the atheist can pull up a chair beside us, that we can sup together, to share battle-worn life-stories, to really see one another– a beautiful, mysterious creation–yes, one very beautiful face of God.

And perhaps it is for the awkward ones, too– the ones who say all the wrong things at the table that leave people gasping and uncomfortable. Jesus made everyone gasp. They were uncomfortable in his presence. And so, I have become more comfortable with my awkward self, and I feel more at home around ones who say the wrong things. They have a place amongst us, too.

And perhaps the chair next to us is just as much for the homosexual who is confused, or determined in their lifestyle. Maybe just maybe– have we considered that God loves them no less than us, and in our separation we have shown a poor example of that? And maybe they are not as lost as we think– perhaps they are trying to find their way–floundering and very human like the rest of us. And perhaps, if we weren’t so uncomfortable around them, and pulled out a chair, said sit here, we would find they have some battle-worn stories too. And we would find another human being just begging to be loved, a soul crying for help. Isn’t that what Jesus was all about? Isn’t it why He came?

And just maybe, when we look around at our table, and see no one different from us outwardly, we should re-think that. Because yes, there are many different faces of God, and he has made some lovely skin to stretch taut over sisters and brothers all around us. When we plan our bible studies, and our place-settings, might I suggest we think of the black neighbor down the street, or the Asian sister who greets us with a smile everyday at our local fill-up station, maybe the Mexican sister or brother who attends our homeschool functions, but we notice they are always quiet?

Let’s not isolate ourselves from the ones who need our brave words, our bold love, our audacious grace– the most.

And let’s remember–they need it no more or no less, than we do. Let’s make this a table that is wide and large–let’s make room for everyone.

Don’t hide your love. Don’t hide your words. Forget about trying to please the masses with your words and your art. Forget about writing what you think is the politically correct or religiously correct term.

Write it real and write it true. That is what we want to hear. We are weary of sugar-coated religious platitudes.

Sister and brothers, listen up: Tell us YOUR story. Give us something real, brave, bold. God has designed you to make a mark. Let your light burn brightly, and light up the dark sky. Just let the words fall out, friend.

There is room at the table for broken, brave, beautiful you.

~by Nacole Simmons

Please watch the video– how beautiful –what encouragement–Y’all –I want to SEE YOU BE BRAVE!






Kelli Woodford considers curiosity a serious expedition and is rarely satisfied with anything remotely status quo. She collects friendships with people as different as they can be and feels all the richer for it, but never experiences “home” so much as when she is with her best friend–who also happens to be her husband. They make their abode in Love, but also in the Midwest with thier seven blue-eyed children. You can read more of her tantalizing words here at her blog, where she chronicles grace in everyday life, or find her hanging our here on Twitter  and Facebook . 





linking with friends, MichelleHolleyEmilyJennifer and Outside the City Gate

**This here is the wrap-up of a series on writing–the last week! Let’s all gather around the table in the comments and discussKelli and I will choose one *amazing* story on Tuesday morning, the 22nd, {the link-up is available until 8 am Tues} from the link-up below to feature on both of our blogs next week, on Wednesday, the 23rd!! And we’ll share on social media, too. So, what are the issues we face and deal with as writers? What has your own writing/blogging journey looked like? Please keep this theme in mind, and think of how you’d like to share your own story or journey of blogging/writing with us! If you’re featured, be prepared to provide a photo and a short author bio!

**{Requirements for link-up: Please no maligning/no mention in a negative manner of other blogs/authors/writers/brothers & sisters in Christ. Hurt does happen in community, and if we write about that, one option is to change the name/situation/dates, so that the people involved remain anonymous and are protected. “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9}

Other posts in this series below  

In Which I Invite Us All to the Table –Nacole Simmons

A Hand In Your Own — a guest post from Kelli Woodford


A Divided Loyalty and the Stinging Truth –a guest post from Michelle DeRusha   

Rooted In A Tangible Grace — Kelli Woodford   

On Prostitution: Cheap Grace and One Word: Enough –Nacole Simmons

In The End, Three Things Remain –a guest post from Holly Grantham

What I Want You to Know About Mental Illness, Social Media, and Community –Nacole Simmons

On Vulnerability and Boundaries –a guest post from Diana Trautwein 

Walking With Christ Online :: thoughts on faith, calling, and diversity –a guest post from Lisha Epperson


**Announcing the winner from the book giveaway last week! Beth Stiff, you’ve been hand-picked. Kelli chose a number between 1 and 3– and your # was chosen!! WOOT! Please leave a comment or message me with your address, friend!


Walking with Christ Online :: thoughts on faith, calling and diversity

{The Conundrums of Writing and Blogging: A Series}



I am so very pleased to introduce to you my new friend, and who I can tell will be a forever-friend, Lisha Epperson. We’ve already gotten the hard stuff out of the way—this is a woman whom I already admire for her courage, her heart, and how she shows that she is so very human. She is audacious in her words here, and they challenge and inspire me. 

Mine and Lisha’s heart beat for the same thing: real change. We ache for it. Please listen to her story with a wide-open heart, and show her some love in the comments. I have gotten to know Lisha and I know where she is coming from here—from love, the kind that Jesus poured out and you couldn’t help but be changed. That is what is present here today. I pray we are all challenged and changed by her words.


                          
                                                                photo credit–Flickr CC gollygforce 


I call myself an accidental writer.

Suffocating in my minivan one summer, the summer my youngest turned 1, midlife motherhood wrecked and wrung me….left me stranded in the loneliest season of my life. God whispered the idea. “Write” he said, an unexpected answer to my desperate question. As I watched my mommy friends dash off for coffee again, without me, I wondered.. “How can I make this time useful? What can I do?”
I’d drop off the tweens and find my self stuck – in sandmans’ land with the littlest Lovelies. Fiddling around on Facebook led to twinklings on Twitter and the next thing you know…I had a blog.
A year in, and I’m still in love, still excited by the shaping of words like so many dancers in the beautiful synchronicity of choreography. But for a while fear was part of the journey…and expectation and comparison, and doubt. The initial rush and sweaty palms developed into a rapidly beating heart. I got scared.
That first post was thrilling in that jumping tandem way. I took the leap with God and felt confident of his presence. Sending my words out in cyberspace was a blast. But I lacked focus . I walked the unfamiliar halls of the blogging world glancing back at every sound. To break through the web of cries and catcalls for attention I had to hear His heartbeat. Respond only…to echoes of His voice.
So I developed a mantra…
1,2,3 Jesus. I count and let his name escape my lips. My rhythmical ritual, my soft silent prayer before posting. Every word is important and every offering good in a God way. I’m at a point in this relationship where what I thought was a fling feels like forever. It’s bigger and more important and I pray for the confidence commitment brings.
I’m still trying to find my voice. And beyond encouragement, struggle to write anything tangibly resourceful. I don’t know if I have a niche and wonder how one monetizes a ministry of words. Is it possible I’ve stumbled into my calling? In literally oceans of talent have I found my wave?
And then there’s this…I wonder if it’s too late and if there’s room.  Christians haven’t escaped the polarized packaged perfection of the typical Western experience. By and large, it’s the same old, same old. With few exceptions it’s segregated…by age and race. The subtle maybe even subliminal message for women my age and ethnicity is “prepare for landing” or “this” is not for you. The words may never be spoken…but they’re implied. When I walk into a room of 500 and see only a handful of people of color…I feel it. It’s what I think when I see a conference line up features only one face of color or platforms only thirty somethings.
As for race, Dr. King highlighted the sad fact of our separation as Christians. And too much of its broken truth is part of our online world today. Our continued division perpetuates the worlds narrative about people of color and the value of older women. We have to intentionally do better. Everything about our walk with Christ has to be intentional…especially if our goal is unification of the body.
And who’s doing the planning anyway? And is there really only room for one? One woman of color? One fabulously silver saint? It’s hard to say this because I know there’s grace for growth on all sides but it’s something we have to address. These words, from Holly Gerth and Brene Brown, inspired me to to push the envelope a little bit further today. Maybe cause a conversation. Incite a beautiful revolution. Take a stab at true diversity.


Fear will always tell you to keep quiet.
But love will always ask you to speak up.
And we need your story.
– Holly Gerth
Is there anything braver than asking for what we need and owning our story? I don’t think so.  – Brene Brown
And so I pose the question. I prayerfully voice my concerns as a new blogger. I’m taking in the landscape and I’m looking for level ground. Ground we’ve worn down with love…together. And I want to see me…standing…with you. Because this experience has birthed new sisters and I’m grateful for open doors and opportunities. I love ya’ll.
Still….Every woman of color might not express it but I know she’s thinking it. And every woman over 45 wonders if she’ll be the oldest woman in the conference hall. Our eyes meet between sessions and we laugh nervously about which of us is the oldest. Or we share a knowing glance or nod of solidarity. Your story, my story is part of the universal canvas. We can’t do this walk…in love….in the name of Christ…without each other.

sixinthestixlove
I want to attend Christian conferences for women. We may be in different seasons but we all benefit when we stretch and shift our minds to accommodate the perspective of another. Lets not perpetuate the problem by pushing ourselves into corners with our “own” clubs.
Here’s the deal.. honestly, it hurts to attend events where the only other faces of color are onscreen….when slides from a missions trip are run. I want to attend a Christian conference. If I’m “the only” , and others are “the only” where they are, then we need to all ask ourselves this question: is this true community? And without true community, I can’t receive the breadth of Christ’s provision…which is offered for all.
I’m a Titus 2 woman circling the sun in brown skin. I’m living the concrete beauty of a human experience. My life is full. Things you have to live to know? I know. But for me age is only a number and I understand the universality of many experiences. Is there a limit or line to cross to know the split wide Red Sea drama of motherhood, or the soul crush of NO in answer to your greatest wish. Or to know waiting.
No. Does He have a word for everyone but people of color? Middle-aged mamas/women?Did He not pour out his love, creativity, compassion, grace, peace, wisdom on all?
God is on the move. We’re living in an amazing era with an unprecedented capacity to reach people for Christ. We can’t limit him by caging his plans with barriers based on our minuscule vision of what He Can Do. A myopic gathering will not serve the nations and I can’t sit back and let this wave of goodness wash over without engaging in the beauty of its baptism. I should be in the water. I can show you what it looks like to believe because faith taught me to swim.
So we write anyway, don’t we? Because He says so and pray this experience of platforms and tweets is indeed a sacred offering. A place to wash the feet of others as he strips us bare. Every blogger I’ve connected with shares a story of the breakdown before birth. The breakthrough happens after an avalanche of truth. We won’t make it without authenticity. Because this is holy hard work and we don’t want to just be the next one. We have to be called of The One.
I told a friend whats happening to me online is a mirroring of what God is doing in my life spiritually. Its a holy integration of life and faith, head and heart. This journey takes place in real time. It’s holy and holistic.
Above all else we have to be found in his presence…before the throne and digging in hard. Planting feet, soul, heart…deep. Listening. Wholly immersed and grounded in His magnificent all inclusive plan. This is the forever I’ve been searching for. It’s eternal. An offering of words for such a time as this… I’ll keep writing. Will you?
p.s. Deidra Riggs did a fabulous job of highlighting conferences that are making an effort to do the hard work of diversity.  You can read that here.






View More: http://kimdeloachphoto.pass.us/allumeheadshots

Lisha Epperson writes the stories of her life on the couch, in the car or at the kitchen table. Scratching out bits and pieces of grace while homeschooling 4 of the 5 children she affectionately calls the Lovelies. ….. you’ll usually find her with a  cold cup of coffee nearby, dreaming about the beautiful choreography of words. It isn’t easy to carve out a modern Christian lifestyle in NYC but that’s what she’s doing. Lisha is passionate about marriage, motherhood, nutrition and her Christian faith. She makes room for her journey through infertility and adoption and shares a warrior song about this experience as an encouragement to women at www.lishaepperson.com  God has opened doors for her to participate in loving dialogue on race in the Christian community. She hopes you’ll join her in those discussions. In other travels, Lisha                                                                 was a ballet dancer and clothing designer.

linking with friends, MichelleHolleyEmilyJennifer and Outside the City Gate
{**Have you seen Kelli Woodford’s series: Brave Words? 
                 It’sback again! And I wrote there yesterday, in case you missed it! This whole series is delicious. Please stop over there today and give her some loveClick here.}

**This here is a series on writing–Let’s all gather around the table in the comments and discuss! Next week, on Thursday, the 10th, to wrap up the series, Kelli Woodford and I are writing a collaborated post, and hosting a link-up here for you to share your own stories of your writing and blogging journey. Kelli and I will choose one *amazing* story from the link-up to feature on both of our blogs! So, what are the issues we face and deal with as writers? Please keep this theme in mind, and think of how you’d like to share your own story or journey of blogging/writing with us!

**{Requirements for link-up: Please no maligning/no mention in a negative manner of other blogs/authors/writers/brothers & sisters in Christ. Hurt does happen in community, and if we write about that, one option is to change the name/situation/dates, so that the people involved remain anonymous and are protected. “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9}

Other posts in this series below 

In Which I Invite Us All to the Table –Nacole Simmons

A Hand In Your Own — a guest post from Kelli Woodford


A Divided Loyalty and the Stinging Truth –a guest post from Michelle DeRusha   

Rooted In A Tangible Grace — Kelli Woodford   

On Prostitution: Cheap Grace and One Word: Enough –Nacole Simmons

In The End, Three Things Remain –a guest post from Holly Grantham

What I Want You to Know About Mental Illness, Social Media, and Community –Nacole Simmons

On Vulnerability and Boundaries –a guest post from Diana Trautwein

In the End, Three Things Remain

{The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging: A Series}


                                                                             photo credit 
                                                                    


This quote appeared on my Pinterest feed a couple of weeks ago and, like a chill breeze that steals in under the warped door frame, it has descended down deep into my marrow. For you see, I have been awash in brackish thoughts of late.

With a few exceptions, I have taken a step back from my online presence the last six months. Five months ago, I gave birth to my third son. Three months ago, my mother began another round of chemotherapy. My withdrawal from the non-stop traffic of the internet was both a conscious and inevitable choice. I do not regret my decision but I would be lying through my teeth if I didn’t admit that, ever since, I have been at battle with doubt and envy.

My biggest frustration with the world of writing and platform building and influence is that what it requires seems so far removed from a life that bears the fruit worth reading about—a life of depth and stillness and meaning.

Writing, for me, has always felt like an intimate dinner party, hemmed in by golden light and the clink of dishes, measured in the crumbs stolen away on fingertips and the slow warmth from poured wine. There are the moments of sure knowing just as there are the heavy silences that come from the unknowing. But always, there is the table– worn and steady, wide and open.

But my attempts to translate that way of being to the online world feel antiquated and stilted, at best.

It feels like sidling up to a busy counter with a bustling lunch crowd. Bread is broken and laughter distilled, yes, but the din of conversation is confusing to this ambivert who simultaneously wants to try new dishes and run out the door, hands pressed over her ears.

I want to join in, truly I do, but sometimes it seems that in order to he heard anymore you just have to keep talking. And if you aren’t talking, others start walking.

That reality is the crack through which doubt and envy seep in, staining fabric already worn a bit thin. It’s also the tender spot struck silent by the quote above.

The last few months I have watched those whose words I love and champion take wing and fly and it has been glorious for the grand knowing of the gift that is to the world. But it has also been gut-wrenching. For as genuinely as I have exalted in their successes, I have also stood silent in the space that has opened up between us, tasting the char left in their wake. It has been difficult not to feel left behind.

To admit this feels anathema to all that I believe is good about the world of writing and blogging. I have become connected to an online community of writers (hereand hereand here, just to name a few) that, most assuredly, is a profound gift in my life. I have been encouraged and uplifted, loved and cherished, prayed for and buoyed by dozens of folks I’ve never met in real life. My identity as a writer, woman, spiritual being and friend, has been shaped immeasurably by my connections online. This is as true as the day is long.

So feeling jealous of others’ success–others who have lavished me with love and support, again and again–is a tell tale sign that something significant is amiss. I’ve lost my center, it seems, if it has become more about me and less about revelation and glory.

Since reading that quote from Buddha I’ve been meditating on the implications of what it would mean to fully embrace its truth. And I’ve been asking myself some hard questions.

What if I decided, right here and right now, to let go of the desires for applause and acclaim?

What if I decided, instead, to release my words to the world in an effort to sow love in greater measure? What if I chose to string together word upon word as a discipline in gentleness? And what if—what if—I honed my craft for the sheer love of art and I let that, and that alone, reveal the path meant for me?

I’m not sure how the answers to those questions will fair in a parley with the platform and influence jockeys. They might not even get an audience.

But I’m trying to be one that doesn’t care about all of that. For, in the end, there’s no greater platform than love, gentleness and grace.



Selah.






A classical piece {only the first piece in the video–the rest, you can listen to, if you enjoy doing so}, hand-picked by Holly, something she relates to–she says this is where her writer muse lives, in between the sad notes. What a beautiful soul she is. 







Holly is a wife, very relaxed homeschooling mom of three boys, snapper of photos, coming of age writer and a soul drowning in grace. After years in Atlanta where she attended college, married the love of her life and lived in an intentional community, she found her way back to her home state of Missouri. She now lives in an antebellum stone house, raises chickens (sometimes) and pretends that she lives in the country. You can find more of her astoundingly gorgeous words here on her blog, A Lifetime of Days,  or you can find her twittering here, and                                            facebooking here




**This is a series on writing–Let’s all gather around the table in the comments and discuss! And I hope you’ll be back next week, for more delving into this. At the end of the series, Kelli Woodford and I are hosting a link-up here for you to share your own stories of your writing and blogging journey. Kelli and I will choose one *amazing* story from the link-up to feature on both of our blogs sometime around the end of March. (nailed-down dates to come). So, what are the issues we face and deal with as writers? Please keep this theme in mind, and think of how you’d like to share your own story or journey of blogging/writing with us! **{Requirements for link-up: Please no maligning/no mention in a negative manner of other blogs/authors/writers/brothers & sisters in Christ. Hurt does happen in community, and if we write about that, one option is to change the name/situation/dates, so that the people involved remain anonymous and are protected. “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9}
Here are the other posts in this series:

In Which I Invite Us All to the Table –Nacole Simmons

A Hand In Your Own — a guest post from Kelli Woodford


A Divided Loyalty and the Stinging Truth –a guest post from Michelle DeRusha   

Rooted In A Tangible Grace — Kelli Woodford   

On Prostitution: Cheap Grace and One Word: Enough –Nacole Simmons


Rambling Vignettes of Listening {An Abstraction on Slippers}




I walk to the bathroom in my slippers at 6 pm, when my back feels like it will break, and bend over the bathtub anyway. Water and giggles splash me awake. I gently coerse them to their feet for a slathering of soap and the wash rag slides over their little bodies, and it’s like a good cleansing of my soul.

I do these things over and over—heat up the pajamas over the free-standing oil heater, slide them on, zip them up, then roughly towel-dry their heads and comb through wet hair. These rituals are quieting and peaceful, the heater a make-shift altar, the stool a pew, and the careful zipping and closure of buttons a concrete theology of the only kind that makes any sense to me—love. The theology that puts clothes on bare backs, brings a glass of water to the lips of the thirsty, washes the dirt of the unclean, and wraps arms round the filthy, looks into their eyes and accepts them the way they are.
Still in my pink and white furry slippers, plaid pajama pants, and stained Aeropostale hoodie, I dump can after can of tomatoes, beans, chilis and olives into a stock-pot large enough to feed a family of six for two nights. The soup simmers and warms the kitchen and my heart.
It’s difficult to pull myself away from the computer with all my adult friends, who make me feel so validated, and to ring my hands in prayer, in these rote routines that are never-ending. As soon as I wash and fold the clothes,  they are in the dirty pile again. I don’t get to leave home much, so it’s hard to stop “involving myself” in adult things. But living in this gentle, patient way requires that I turn off the noise and listen to my little people. And what I hear is beautiful in the silence, in the waiting, in the serving.
I practice the discipline of going outside, even when it’s cold. I don’t let myself be overcome with angst and melancholy. I look at the stars, and wait, because God speaks to me there.
I practice cutting off a conversation I’d really like to have on messenger, and walk outside because I can hear the giggles wafting in through my window from the trampoline, and don’t fancy myself too dignified to jump up on the trampoline and play silly games.
These are my altars, they are my sanctuaries, they are my church, my holy place.
This weekend I went on a bike ride with my daughter again to the store. This time it was the six year old. She is so fearless and brave. Not once did she say, Mama wait, or Mama I can’t keep up, or Don’t leave me. She cheerfully stayed behind, or sped on ahead, a huge proud grin spread wide across her face, and I, warily aware of cars that might come our way any moment, constantly tried to hold her back, or pull her up with me. Her bravery makes me come to a stop, and really take a look at my own courage, or lack thereof.
We all went to the playground on Sunday, and there was lots of sunshine there, as if it was waiting for us. It had not been beaming as brightly before.
Their smiles when I took pictures of them soaring on the swings found me in my stalled faith and depressed mood, and startled me awake and once again, I found a reason to believe.





I’ve struggled in my relationship with God, because I am afraid when I step out onto that limb in shaky belief, that He will leave me hanging, that I’ll be left alone, in jadedness and hurt.
For about a week, I could not hear Him at all, I thought. It seemed my heart was overwhelmed, confused, muddled. I worried, I doubted. I walked outside late one night, bundled up, and everything was still and my heart felt dead along with all the winter barrenness buried deep under the cold, wet ground. All the life had been beat down by freezing rain and all felt numb and desolate.
I let the sterile sleepiness overtake me for a moment. I felt abandoned. Then I surrendered, and looked up and the stars jolted me with their twinkling, their stark loveliness. I knew He was waiting. I said out loud, which is rare for me, Talk to me, GodWhat do I do with this?
And you know what? He didn’t leave me hanging. No friend, He comes on wings of love. He said to me, crystal clear, You are worrying over things you have no business worrying over. I am going to take care of it. Trust me, and stop worrying.
And he spoke something with limpid lucidity—grace.  And—love.
Yes, Father, I know. I see. I hear. And just like that, my fear was dissolved. In His hands, picking me up off that shaky limb.
I may have a relationship with Him now, all on my own, without someone else telling me what that should look like. Seriously. This is not blowing smoke, y’ know? No, for the first time, I mean it.
I thought I meant it long ago,  and I think in some ways I did. But– and here’s the really honest part– I was following someone else’s leading. I was doing it because I felt I had to– the advent, the lent, the praying, the homemaking (making cookies, folding clothes, and all the things). It was never enough unless I was doing IT ALL. I thought I was finding God in that. And in a way, I did. But maybe it was only a glimpse. I limited him, boxed him in, not in the ways I always had, but in a different way. I just gave him a new box.
Now, I’m listening. I’m not making idols, not play-acting, not doing Lent just because I’m thinking how much content it will offer my writing. I’m listening to the Spirit. I used to HATE it when people said that. Because I’m a rebel, and spiritual talk felt so superficial to me.
Oh, what I was missing out on, and then again, I wasn’t missing anything. Because I’ve travelled this roving path, like a gypsy desperately seeking the spark of life, and I’m listening. He is in the pain, the mess, the times I have too much to drink and go to bed drowsy, He’s in the words that aren’t being said when I’m talking to a friend, and I have to listen  for them, because then I get to hear HIM.

He is in the beauty, He is in the homework I don’t want to do with kids. He is in that beautiful dimpled smile my girl gives me, so proud of herself, when she reads her kindergarten reader.
I don’t care about prayer rituals. I don’t care about church services. I don’t care if my blog sounds dignified or if a lot of people read, or if I EVER write a book. Because these altars, on this sacred ground of wet bath-time tile floor? They teach me something a church service never could.
I want to listen, and I want to learn to be brave, and to be who He made me to be. And I don’t want to miss one precious moment. Oh, and believe me, I miss plenty.
But there’s the beauty in the mess, right there. I get to start all over the very second I pull myself away from my selfishness. Full Stop. Grace.


I guess I’m just talking about being set free.

To be free, we have to strip down bare, shirk of all that entangles. The noise, the comparisons, the selfishness, and the bitterness too–let’s throw them off. Those things keep you from listening, they keep you from freedom, and they keep you from creating the way He meant for me and for you to do. I know, because for a time when I allowed those things to consume, I just could  not write. My ears were stopped up, and I was caged inside the prison I had constructed for myself. 

Now I will embrace fearlessness. 

The courage I find in a bike ride teaches me to be brave enough to step out on the shaky limb, to believe and to say it out loud, that He speaks to me when I take notice, and that it’s in the red-winged bird’s flight, the rock song playing on the radio as we all bump along down the highway and it’s in the text messages a friend sends, holding fast with me in prayer and trust before God that His promise was never that things would be easy, but that He would finish all good things He has begun. 

He has spoken. I hear Him. 
What do you hear Him saying?




***Will you do this with me, friends? Let’s explore the practice of listening! This week, before you write, take a walk, in the woods, at the lake or park, down your neighborhood road, ride a bike, play tag, listen for the wind, watch the trees, the sky, pay attention to the small, seemingly unnecessary details of your day. It is here you will find wholeness, here you will find strength, beauty, brokenness, goodness, joy, pain… Here you will find God. THEN write about it– Our prompt is Serve (next week’s is below), but our focus is on the practice of listening and then writing. Excited? We’ll connect on twitter and facebook with the hashtag, #listeningtoyourlife and of course as always, #concretewords. Do me a favor and use these on social media and share with friends–invite them?

What this link-up is about: We “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going “what in the world is a concrete word?!“–this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what’s around us–concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber’s take on this. It was very helpful to me–I think it will be beneficial for you, too.


A few simple guidelines:       1. Be sure you link up the URL to your Concrete Words
                                             post and not just your blog home page URL.
                                         2. Put a link to this post on your blog so that others
                                             can find their way back here.
                                         3. Try to visit one or two others and encourage their efforts
                                         4. Please write along with us, using concrete words–
                                             and the prompt–Please no entries with how-to’s, advertising,
                                             or sponsored posts
                                         5. We connect on twitter with the hashtag #concretewords–
                                               please share so others can join!

Today’s prompt is Slippers. GO!


**{This link up will run until next Monday, the 10th, 11:59 pm., giving you plenty of time to write and link-up before the next concrete words is posted the following day. Sometime between now & then, I will read your stories and highlight one of them from this link-up on social media. On the 10th, the prompt will be Altar .}


On Prostitution: Cheap Grace and One Word: Enough

{The Conundrums of Christian  Writing and Blogging: A Series}

                                                                                 photo credit–Kelli Woodford 
Hands in front of the keyboard, I can’t bring them to type out any words. I’m overwhelmed with anxiety, and too many questions hanging over my head, so I gently bang my forehead on the table a couple times, then give in and go outside. I hope to gain perspective, for my writer’s block. I hope to listen. Because without listening, and living, I’ve learned, there is nothing to write.

Clad in jeans, a t-shirt, and sandals, the sun warms me all over. It finds me in the chair in the backyard, and I look up, squinting, I try to look straight at it, but it’s blinding bright.

I slightly lower my gaze and stare at the tree’s branches over me, and see spring’s buds about to pop out beautiful white.

I close my eyes and let the sun wash over, and the wind is so strong, the pages next to me flutter crazily and excitedly. The worn, frayed-edged card from a dear friend spins out from a book and rolls like tumbleweed over the table and towards the water-filled ditch. I jump up to catch it, and then all the papers go flying. They’re everywhere, scattered all over, spread out thin like me.

I don’t feel enough. For a long time, I’ve struggled with it. That I’m not enough.

I like to write about glorious things, like Kingdom Come and how to make a home, and where church is (and it’s not necessarily within four walls), and how to love the least of these–

And the truth is, my dirty laundry is piled up high and scattered down the steps where the kids have walked all over it, and my house aches sad with neglect, and I sometimes forget to fix breakfast for myself, and lunch too, and I’m hurting and broken, and I am tired of just writing about things.

I do pray Kingdom comes, for real this time. Because all I know is that He IS the only Really Real.

She comes up to me suddenly, to my chair in the sun and wind, and I see her smile, holding the yellow daffodils up to me proudly that she picked in the woods on the edge of our unruly backyard. I think I like things that way–unruly. It suits me just fine.

I smile back, thank you. I take the flowers from her dirty, chubby hands, and she wraps her arms around me in a hug, and like angels singing, the sun breaks through clouds just at that moment, and her head and mine are lit with it’s golden fire. I feel the heat and the love of this moment.

Moments like these tell me I’m enough. Moments like friends that tell me over the phone, You. are. capable. And moments when friends tell me there is so much bravery in me, and they BELIEVE in God IN ME. And they see, so clearly, that He is speaking to me, and has given me wisdom for this struggle.

For too long, I think I thought of myself as not good enough for anything, or anyone. And that included God. A blogger friend told me recently, that transactional, measured, performance driven prostitution is a pale comparison to God’s passionate love. And all I could say was a hearty Amen.

When I have lowered my standards, because I didn’t feel I was worthy, I have been the prostitute and I have made his grace cheap.

I allowed Satan to slither on that tree branch toward me, up onto my neck, seize the arteries tight, and tell me the lies —you aren’t good enough, and God’s love seemed pale to me, though I knew it was HUGE and I just couldn’t reach up. I wasn’t worthy, like the prostitute. Do you know? He loves her so much more than the religious who have it all together. Ah, that’s straight from his word, not from me. The “religious” that made His love and grace cheap, the ones that oppressed the people, bore the law down upon them hard, he called vipers. But he loved the prostitute, who recognized him as Saviour and washed his feet.

That is me. Unnamed, but named by Him, unwanted by wanted and called by Him before I was ever conceived, unqualified, but qualified supernaturally by the only Power that matters in this universe.

This is not a mamby pamby gospel. His grace is a force to be reckoned with, and I’m so grateful for this reminder. Because after going round and round the same desert for years, I am tired of mamby pamby faith and cheap grace.

Don’t mistake me to think I mean that now I will buckle down, grit my teeth and work harder to make his grace worth the sacrifice of his blood spilled. No–just the opposite. I will walk gentler with Him. I will let Him be Emmanuel, God with me. Jehovah Nissi, The Lord is my refuge, or banner over me. Jehovah Rapha, He is the Healer of all my troubles.

***************

In writing I think we all deal with the Not-Enoughs. And we are tired of them, yes? Can I tell you what He’s been whispering to me?

You. are. enough. Yes. Just the way you are. Not how you used to be, when things were better, and days were brighter. Not how you will be tomorrow, or next year, when you’ve gotten yourself together and whipped those bad habits into shape, when your marriage is holier and more loving, when you’re a better wife, mother, co-worker, daughter, or father.

Now. Just as you are. He loves me as I am. And He’s created so much in me, given me so much already. All He’s asking me to do (and maybe you, too?) is to step out brave, and to use those talents and gifts He’s placed in us. Not only for His glory, but because He wants us to be happy.

Yes, He wants us to be happy, because everything He created was perfectly made for our enduring existence here on earth, and for our pleasure while here.

It’s a beautiful thing, to be enough. To feel it, and to know it. To know I have everything I need for right now. I may not feel like I have everything I need for tomorrow–that is okay.

                                             photo credit–KelliWoodford

He is providing for me today. An extra, very rich and powerful measure of grace. Never mistake God and think that His grace is soft, sweet, and for girls. Oh no, it is something the most demonic, prickly hairs on the back of your neck of forces tremble at. They are afraid, as they should be.

The friends that say NO to the lies? They heal wounds in me where I was told I was less-than, that I wasn’t worth of Love, that I was only good for holding at arm’s length.

When I’ve vulnerable with my insecurity, they don’t prey upon it, they don’t offer worn out cliches and religious platitudes. They let me see them, vulnerably naked too. And they tell me what they see is good. They say no to the lies.

The ones that chase me after I’ve written a piece that I hope is good, but I wonder about bearing my soul. The ones that chase me after a conversation with a friend, and I wonder if I said this or that the wrong way? Wounds from the past haunt, and these sisters tell me over and over, and they never grow weary of it–you. are. so loved. I’m here, walking beside you. There’s nothing you can do to make me leave.

This is what we can do for one another. I truly believe that. We can be women who heal, we can be the Esther generation, who don’t stay in our fine palaces, planning conferences or our next blog post, but who kneel with the broken, and break bread with the hungry, drink wine with the thirsty. We can look one another in the eyes, and daily say you are enough.

And watch for it–because when this happens, we are at the communion table with Christ.

This is a series–here is the most recent post with the links if you want to catch up to the entire series:
http://sixinthehickorysticks.blogspot.com/2014/02/rooted-in-tangible-grace.html

Rooted in a Tangible Grace {The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging:: A Series}




It’s ten o’clock in the morning and I’m still in my pajamas. (That is one part confession and two parts bragging.) There’s clean laundry on the dresser. It has been sitting there all week. I am getting used to it. I think I might actually come to like it there. Kind of a relaxed decorating scheme. The same pervasive ornamentation dons the kitchen. Except in there, it speaks to me in the language of crumbs rather than cloth. Unswept bits of last night’s bread and stew, cheerios as far as the eye can see, and an apple core in the corner – just shy of the garbage can.
I plead with you: are these not somehow beautiful … ? Ah, to cultivate the eye of the beholder.
Because “laziness” is not always what it seems. My children are sick. We have been sitting on the plump blue couch keeping each other warm in more ways than one. Fevered bodies make for workable furnaces and fuzzy blankets with satin trim bring us comfort of the lasting kind. One boy has animals on his pajamas. He is angular under the thin fabric and it hangs loose around his shoulders and chicken legs. He loves dinosaurs more than life itself, I think. He also has the longest eyelashes the world has ever seen. The Boy Who Is Made of Skin, Bones, and Eyelashes. Yep.
The other boy is his antithesis. A soft, round belly protrudes gently between the spaceship on his pajama shirt and the top of his diaper. His fingers are still dimpled and his hair crumples in every direction when he gets up in the morning from the crazy nocturnal circus this kid performs in his crib. Oh, and appearance isn’t the only way in which he resembles a teddy bear. His warm forehead pressed against my shoulder is a sensation I could get used to, but pray I never will. Because I don’t want to take these daily graces for granted. He is the one who spontaneously kisses me. Like all the time. The one with sticky lips who likes his face so close I can taste his tears. It’s not just his fever that warms me, as I said.
************
Y’know, writing is not always about the big issues. Oh, I have written about them. (Some of themanyway.) And I believe there’s a place for that. But I also believe in writing as a lens. A tool. A way to practice living intentionally. Or better yet: A way to come home to our own ambivalent selves and the messy lives that ache with fever and rattle with clutter, and there see intentionally what is the holy, hidden heart of it all.
The words I tapped out above are not clever or pointed. They do not argue for a higher perspective or a deeper love. They neither deconstruct debates nor purport them. They have no side to offer, no club to join, no cause to uphold. They simply rejoice in what is. I once read that journalism is that which is devoured quickly and then disposed of, while literature is that which one returns to over and again, being filled anew each time. And without putting on airs, may I say that I know which description I’d like my words to resemble? I will read above words like these again not because I must glean information from them, but because I feel the existential truth in them. It is good for my soul to remember the way these days bump and sway and lay themselves out under my feet, so I can walk one step at a time. This is how I remember my size. And my need. I come to terms with – no, I make friends with – the limitations of my experience.
I will return to words like these because they remind me that I have not only been loved, but I have loved. And by reading of this mild interchange, I still smell the soggy Cheerios on spaceship pajamas and I taste the salt from his tears on my lips. Through these physical descriptions, I am rooted in a tangible grace that holds place for me on the darkest days. Days when I forget that love is more satisfying than being right. Days when present emptiness threatens to steal what once was. Grasping days. For the darkness obscures what I knew so securely in the light and sometimes I find hope emerge brightest by looking behind — at the having-been-ness of these moments. Which can never be taken away.
I have loved, therefore I have lived. Full stop.
I will also return to them because they remind me that life is indeed a holy experience. Even in the ordinary. Even in the necessary. Even in the ugly. Tears stand unshed, hemmed in by eyelash sentinels. Jaws set and arms sometimes cross. I’ve desecrated these most human of all places by their exile, instead of hallowing them by a full-frontal embrace. There is a tendency to divorce writing well from living well and I’m as prone to it as anyone. But present tense words written simply in the tone of observation bring me back. Their power, at least in part, is that they must be written one. at. a. time. They quietly usher in wholeness. They remind me that good writing doesn’t fragment us from our earthenware lives in these bodies, as if holiness is made of only starshine, but rather propels us back into the humdrum – to roll up our sleeves and catch snowflakes on our tongues and tickle baby toes – and to do it with open eyes.

To illuminate our blindness and wake the sleeping beholder in us all.

Kelli Woodford considers curiosity a serious expedition and is rarely satisfied with anything remotely status quo. She collects friendships with people as different as they can be and feels all the richer for it, but never experiences “home” so much as when she is with her best friend – who also happens to be her husband. They make their abode in Love, but also in the Midwest with their seven blue-eyed children. You can read more of her tantalizing words here, at her blog, where she chronicles grace in everyday life, or find her hanging out here on Twitter and Facebook.  

This is a series on writing–here are the other posts in this series:

In Which I Invite Us All to the Table

A Hand In Your Own — a guest post from Kelli Woodford

A Divided Loyalty and the Stinging Truth –a guest post from Michelle DeRusha

A Divided Loyalty and the Stinging Truth

{The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging: A Series}



                                                                                                                            photo credit

Two weeks ago I watched as the endorsements deadline for my first book came and went. I watched the deadline pass, knowing seven authors hadn’t responded.


Endorsements are the pithy accolades that appear in the opening pages and on the front and back covers of a book. Two months ago I learned from my publisher that it’s the author’s responsibility to ask other writers if they might be willing to take a look at the book and write an endorsement. The emails I dutifully typed to more than a dozen authors were among the most awkward I have ever written, because when it comes right down to it, asking for an endorsement for your book is asking for praise, and asking for praise places you in a position of vulnerability and weakness. Not my favorite place.

I waited. And I cried tears of relief and joy as I read some of the early endorsements that came in. I felt a little like Sally Field at the Oscars. People like my book, they like it, they really like it!

Until, that is, the endorsements stopped coming, and the deadline passed.

They’re busy, I told myself. They have their own deadlines, their own jobs, their own families to feed and socks to match and dry cleaning to retrieve. It’s not all about you.

Rationally, intellectually, I knew this was true. But emotionally I tumbled fast, head over heels down the slippery slope in a blur of self-pity and sorrow.


                                                                                                                photo credit 

I had always assumed that once I passed a “certain point” – landed an agent or sold a book or achieved a certain number of readers or blog subscribers – I would miraculously be able to let it all go. I assumed the insecurities would diminish, comparisons would fade away, envy would subside. I assumed I would reach a point of satisfaction, of enough.


But that hasn’t been the case for me. Because there is always the next thing.

The week the deadline passed and the endorsements didn’t come, I read the Book of James from start to finish every morning for seven days straight. The following week, when the endorsements still didn’t come, I read the Book of James from start to finish every morning for seven days straight.

“Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? …Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.”(James 4:4, 4:8)

I needed to read these words again and again, to hammer them into my mind and heart. I needed to awaken every morning and read these same words because I knew I was losing the battle, succumbing to temptation, letting my desire for worldly achievement win. And I knew I couldn’t save myself.

Friends, hear this: nothing will cease the cycle of not enough — not your next achievement or your next success; not the fanciest accolade or the highest praise. Nothing will haul you out of the pit of self-pity, not even the one-pound bar of dark chocolate your husband brings home from Trader Joe’s.

Nothing, that is, but God.

The Bible isn’t a quick fix for me. That’s why I have to read it every day. That’s why I have to read the same verses for fourteen days straight. My Bible is not a balm, but a hammer — pounding , repeating, forcing the hard, beautiful truth deep into my mind and heart one verse, one word, one syllable at a time.

I received one more eleventh-hour endorsement for the book on the morning it was scheduled to go to press. The remaining endorsements never came. And I won’t tell you it didn’t hurt; I won’t tell you it wasn’t a crushing blow. But I will tell you this: I came closer to God in those weeks of waiting. His truth was hard; it stung. But as I came closer to God, he pulled me closer to him. And then he shored me up and gently pushed me back out again, armed with new courage and fresh strength.      






A Massachusetts native, Michelle DeRusha moved to Nebraska in 2001, where she discovered the Great Plains, grasshoppers the size of Cornish hens … and God. Michelle writes about finding and keeping faith in the everyday at michellederusha.com, as well as for the Lincoln Journal Star, Prodigal Magazine and The High Calling. She’s mom to two bug-loving boys, Noah and Rowan, and is married to Brad, an English professor who reads Moby Dick for fun. Her first book, Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith, will be published in April 2014. She hangs out here on facebook and twitter.



Hey–isn’t Michelle awesome? I *so* love her honesty, y’all. Do you struggle with this as a writer? Or just in life in general? Let’s discuss this in the comments! 

**This is a series–I hope you’ll be back next week, for more delving into this. At the end of the series, Kelli Woodford and I are hosting a link-up here for you to share your own stories of what makes Christian writing and blogging hard for you. Kelli and I will choose one *amazing* story from the link-up to feature on both of our blogs sometime around the end of February (nailed-down dates to come). So, what are the issues we face and deal with as writers? Please keep this theme in mind, and think of how you’d like to share your own story or journey of blogging/writing with us! **{Requirements for link-up: Please no maligning/no mention in a negative manner of other blogs/authors/writers/brothers & sisters in Christ. Hurt does happen in community, and if we write about that, one option is to change the name/situation/dates, so that the people involved remain anonymous and are protected. “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9}












       

In Which I Invite *All* of us to the Table {The Conundrums of Christian Writing and Blogging: A Series}



You know these lines that seem to sometimes be drawn hard? They make me heart-sick, make me long for Home. I’m talking about up there, in the sky, where there is no camp of beliefs, there is no side, there is no arguing, there is no pushing others out for the sake of our own theology. I think this makes God very small, not that it changes Him, but who He is to us and them almost becomes obsolete, something we so easily discard for the glitz of new-fangled theologies and shoring up our traditional beliefs that have taken a battering.

There, where there is no camp, where He sits on the throne, and His Son, the darling of Heaven, illuminates everything, there will be no darkness in us and we’ll see clearly.

G.K. Chesterson said “Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair”.

If religion really is about the way we love God and people, following the two greatest commandments our Saviour asked of us, how can we live this out?

Do we get too caught up in wrong and right, black and white? Do we divide and separate, hurt people in the pursuit of being right in our own religion?

When it comes to our brothers and sisters who are creating art alongside us, are we judging too harshly what others are bringing to the table because of our own likes, dislikes, beliefs and experience? Are we in actuality, because we believe our highest calling is to honor truth and religion as we see it done correctly, pushing the chair back in, and excusing people from the table, leaving them nowhere to partake in the body of Christ?

Are we making them feel uncomfortable in our piety, or by telling them that the pie on the buffet table they just dug into was special-made by a caterer for a church meeting and cost $20?

Our words, and the way we use them at any given time, can be so damaging to people’s hearts and dreams, and we need to be careful how we use those words on social media.

Have we broadcast a party, off in our secret corners, and made them feel uninvited? Have we made it for the elite only, for the rich, for the clean, for the holy, for the ones like-minded?

Does God want more from us?

There have been times I thought for sure I’d happened upon a community of believers that was for me, a place where it was safe, until I found, of course, that it was not safe, and hurt happens everywhere, and hurting people hurt people. It’s been hard for me to navigate the sometimes treacherous, sometimes loving, but always the very human waters of community.

I don’t know much, but I am sure we spend way too much time scrutinizing one another’s art, words, and lives, and not near enough time just loving.

I’d love to see us read, share and write in such a way that we look at it as exploring the many faces of God, because he has as many as there are on this great, spinning orb at this very moment.

I want to pay attention to every life I come in contact with, because they may not be here tomorrow, and they were the face of God for me, uniquely, in a way I’ll never get the opportunity to see again.

Why do we feel the need to be God, to call someone out, to correct, to criticize, to stifle their creativity? Whatever wrong we are so convinced we see in their art, or their lives, through our own filter, when we question their theology, their motives, their calling, we have become self-important and we take on a role only God was meant to have–the role of just judge. And we ask them to quit, tell them they aren’t good enough. We humiliate them, assault their human dignity in the name of truth telling.

Friends, this is the basest form of love, which really isn’t love at all. It’s more akin to apathy, because we’re serving our own purposes.

All I want to do is bend low and wash feet.

When walls keep getting thicker and higher, and lines keep being drawn hard, sides are taken, it becomes harder to wash feet, doesn’t it? If we’re honest, it becomes impossible.

I can’t help but walk around with this ache, thinking this isn’t what Jesus wanted. And this ache, it has no description.

I don’t have a church because I just don’t know how to anymore. I get online to find some community and I see my people scrutinizing one another, talking in whispers, off somewhere in a seemingly private corner, but oh, we must remember, everyone sees, others hear, and it hurts. It’s painful, y’all.

Let’s not whisper in corners. Let’s be bigger than that.

Can we be people who heal?

Let’s not ask one another to quit asking the hard questions. Let’s not ask one another to change theology in exchange for love and acceptance. Let’s not ask one another to quit writing, or creating, or living life audaciously. No, lets’s tell one another the sky’s the limit, because really, it is.

And please, for all that is holy, let’s not excuse someone from the table. They are the face of God, and we need God at the table. I beg of us, to be reverent, to be kind, to protect one another, to be the face of God for one another.

I beg of us to love.

During the meal, Jesus took and blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to his disciples: 

Take, eat.

This is my body.

Taking the cup and thanking God, he gave it to them: 

Drink this, all of you.

This is my blood, God’s covenant poured out for many people
for the forgiveness of sins.  

I’ll not be drinking wine from this cup again until that day when I’ll drink with you in the kingdom of my Father.” –Matt. 26:26-29; The Message

For When You’re Feeling Small {An Abstraction on Yield for Concrete Words}

I don’t count myself very big. I’m all of 5’3, slender hands and small, narrow feet that shoes flop all over the place on unless I get just the right, snug fit. I’ve lost more weight, making my frame smaller, and my clothes a little loose, and I like the feeling, sort of how it feels to be lost in the back of a crowd, where no one can see. 

I know I should eat, but it’s hard. A lot of things that are good for me are very hard. They require yielding and effort on my part. 




On a beautiful, cold and crisp October morning, hundreds of women were driving and flying and carpooling to South Carolina from all over two countries to the Allume writer’s conference and me? I had to stay at home. Again. 

The ache of being left behind can feel very lonely. I was so looking forward to the glory of God there, the meat I would be fed with, the renewal I would receive, the direction I needed to push my weary bones on ahead, an animal’s ears perked up and ready for action by call of the Farmer’s familiar, gravelly voice. 


But my children were sick, and there was a different call from the one I was expecting. Perhaps I had not allowed myself to hear the familiar voice in a while, and forgot the sound. I’m an animal out of practice in wearing a harness, bit and reigns. My back has been bare and I have loved the feeling of roaming wild, hair whipping, lashing me in the face. He lets me feel the sting of my carelessness. 

And I could just almost hear the faint sound… God speaking to me in a different way, because who can deny what’s so obviously staring them down? He had placed them right in front of me. 


The children. The pine floors needing washing. Laundry needing to be folded, dirty dishes, and oatmeal cookie ingredients sitting in the cabinet to nurture a child’s belly and heart. 




Home. He had placed home right in front of me. 

It sounds cliche, but my small life is what I need, it’s what He’s given, and why run after things that seem greater? Why try to be a superstar? 


Oh, believe me, I don’t write to be known…. it never was about that. And honestly, most days, I want to closed down the blog, hide away and not be known at all. Because I am small and I know it. It would be easier to disappear than to keep offering up these meager, stray crumbs. 


No, I write because I can’t help myself. But a book? Being an author? Yeah, that’d be nice… and don’t we all have dreams and aspirations, and when I see others doing great and mighty works for God, I admit, I lose my wits for a moment and wonder how I could pursue that better, how I could get a book, or go on a missions trip. I’ve wanted to for years, before I started writing, and yet even though that desire is God-given, maybe it’s not the time. It seems God would have me stay. 


Why is staying so hard? 


Why is feeling small so heartbreaking? 


Why do I have this split personality that doesn’t want to be seen, but wants someone to approve, to see me and say who I am and what I bring to the table is good? 


This is a human condition and none of us can escape it. Needing and striving for approval here on this earth becomes sin in us because it consumes, and we forget to even look up and recognize the Father’s voice, to ask Him what He thinks. 


The beauty of sacrifice can be a beautiful thing when we yield. My yielding has come slowly and painfully. I can be a bulldog when I dig in hard and am determined to get something done. I show teeth when someone tells me I’m trying too hard, that it’s not working and I should just quit. It just makes me tighten my grip.


This comes from a hard grit I have deep inside that gets me through the hard times and the things I think I can’t do. But  God knows just how to pull the things from my heart that He needs to get from me. The tender things, the ripened fruit in due season. He is the Great Tiller I believe. 


He watches over the soil of my heart, like only a Good Farmer can. And like the Gentle Father He is, He patiently waits til I’m ready, tends me, constantly sees after me, and when I have fruit to give, be it ever so small and pitiful, he looks on it lovingly because what I can’t see is that in His eyes it is great and beautiful and powerful. 


And then in the way only His miraculous hands can, He touches it and it multiplies, producing the most bountiful gorgeous sweet goodness one hundred times over. I’m so blessed to call Him Father, so blessed to be staying home with my sweet, sick children who need me, though my first inclination is to run far away and take a vacation. I’m trusting He knows what I really need beyond what I can see. I’m holding his hand, trusting and taking every little gift that comes disguised, wrapped up looking like heartache, failure or disappointment, and receiving it as blessing from His hand, one thousand and more overflowing. Ten thousand blessings besides.


I trust Him, the Great Farmer of my heart, and I tilt my head slightly, ear listening for that familiar sound. 


I think the Whisper is saying to do the really hard things. I eat. I go to the grocery store. I cook nutritious meals. I check homework, scrub kitchen counters, bathe little ones, fold clothes, hold my tongue when I’m angry, love them when they drive me crazy. I talk to my children about house rules. I put my foot firmly down on the pine floors and take ground back when they run over me. 


And with my foot firmly in place, it feels like home. We are grounded.


We are cupped. And whole, and feel a little closer to heaven. It’s completely enough. 


What this link-up is about: We “write out spirit” by practicing writing about the invisible using concrete words. In case you are going “what in the world is a concrete word?!“–this just means (using the prompt to inspire) write out what’s around us–concrete words make the senses come alive, gives place. In every story, there is always an above and beneath, a beside, something tucked away, aromas in the air, something calling in the trees or from the street, notes in our pocket, rocks in our shoes, sand between our toes. Go here to see Amber’s take on this. It was very helpful to me–I think it will be beneficial for you, too.

A few simple guidelines:       1. Be sure you link up the URL to your Concrete Words
                                             post and not just your blog home page URL.
                                         2. Put a link to this post on your blog so that others
                                             can find their way back here.
                                         3. Try to visit one or two others and encourage their efforts
                                         4. Please write along with us, using concrete words–
                                             and the prompt–Please no entries with how-to’s, advertising,
                                             or sponsored posts
                                         5. We connect on twitter with the hashtag #concretewords–
                                               please share so others can join!

Today’s prompt is Yield


{I will highlight a beautiful post from this link-up on Friday (and announce it on social media), so visit back here to see whose post is highlighted and encourage them!}