Saturday, October 5, 2013

Two Chairs And An Ottoman

  The last of our mother-daughter laundry has long since been whirled, spun, folded neatly, and dirtied again; the clinging scent of campfire left us weeks and weeks ago. In the days since our return, normal has set in and almost without lull, life just keeps moving us forward to next things—a gifted trip out of town for my husband; a thirteenth birthday for my oldest; hints of turning leaves, shorter days, and new routines with home-school friends. But there are some things from our time away that adhere to me still, like the red dust that lingers on our car from the washboard Forest Service roads we returned home on. I've wanted to dismiss them as elementary—these words about promises and knocking on doors—but like that fine coating of earth, it's a theme that won't go away and every time I disturb it, it rises and falls again, covering me.

Back in April it was the over use of our West Coast voices in a Middle America time zone that served as catalyst to my first light-bulb moment. We'd been tucked tightly into fireside chatter, dreaming what-ifs and nodding our heads, marveling with new friends over different-but-the-same. The first hints of too-late were coming and we had not even realized it yet, really, until a jammy clad sleeper wandered into the hall, almost apologetically, to see if maybe we could take it down just a notch.

It was bed time; she was right. We had been warm and full, sedated from another course of rich conversation, but it was definitely time. My roommate was practically tucking herself into bed covers before the heavy dorm-room door could close behind us. A habitual locker of locks myself, I reached behind me to secure the doorknob and  pulled it tight.  With one eye open she gave me a slight warning about her heavy sleeping and reminded me that she'd be wearing headphones if I locked myself out of the room that we had no key for. We joked that my next blog post would be about having to sleep in the hall, but I assured her that I was not going anywhere.

I fell asleep immediately but was unfortunate to have overlooked two other things I've become known for:

1) I eat lots of ice which, though in its superior form, is still just water.
2) I've had lots of babies. 

These two factors combined, make for often inconveniently timed trips to the bathroom, and as you are probably already guessing, this would prove to be one of those times.

The location of those bathrooms? Out the door and down the hall, and I didn't even have to unlock the door to get there.

Not until I was standing directly in front our room again did I have any memory of my roommate's cautionary words, but I knew then that I could beat at those doors, waking our entire wing, and my friend would still not hear me; I never had reason to doubt her.

So, back to the fireplace I went, happy to at least have pants on. I gathered two lounge chairs first, then an ottoman, and lined them up facing each other--chair, ottoman, chair--thankful too, for the ability to sleep almost anywhere, because it looked as if that is what I'd be doing.

This time though, I couldn't get comfortable. That too loud voice from earlier had said to-heck-with-time-zones and took up its chattering in my head.

"You never knock anymore."


"No, you never do. You disguise your disbelief in shades of feigned contentment or waiting, but you stopped knocking long ago. You're afraid you won't be heard-- that you'll knock and no one will be there to answer."

And I had no rebuttal because it was true.  My belief had been grounded, fine and powdery, by consecutive years of no let-up, and now my faith had only slightly more substance to it than my doubt. 

But it hadn't always been this way

I knew courage once-- the kind that keeps knocking through the fear of disappointment and doubt that the person on the other side even knows you're there-- and I wanted to know it again.

I wanted to walk brave again, trusting that God would hear me.

There has been a lot of stirring going on in my heart during this long writing absence of mine and I just wanted to share a bit about the journey I've been on. There's more. Come back for part two?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Be (in)couraged!

She's been rattling around downstairs and is quiet now beside me, our bellies pressed along the counter, making dinner. This girl, my child always in motion, always with something to say, is silent. I rest with her there for a while, giving her undisturbed time to hear her own thoughts, and finally the thing she's been pondering releases:

"Mom, there are lots of pictures of Asher downstairs--where are the pictures of me?"

Pieces of her story are missing and maybe it's because hers is a story not worth celebrating? I rush in to assure her that this not the case.

When her sister was little, I explain, the only way to see the photos our cameras had taken was to print them, but by the time she came along, just a couple of years later, we were able to see and store our images instantly, giving us a false sense that they'd always be there. Many of her photos were lost when our computer went down, but their absence didn't make her moments any less worth remembering.

This conversation lingers with me long after I've tried to comfort her. I hear a hundred voices in my little girl's silence that evening because we all have those places, don't we? Areas that, for one reason or another, are hidden from view and cause us to doubt whether or not our story is really worth telling? Maybe we've started digging-- penning words or reaching out to others-- only to have fear immobilize us.

All of this may be true, but I want to tell you exactly what what I told my daughter, and I want you to trust me on this:

You are worth celebrating.
We need your stories.
Your voice and presence among us matters.

Today (in)courage wants you to know that there is a place for you to be you; they are opening up their doors to community

I have the privilege of co-leading a gathering of ladies who share a love for the overcoming beauty that grows tentatively in each jagged syllable of our lives put to paper. If you love words but are afraid to call yourself a writer, this is a safe place for you. If you are published and have been writing for years but find yourself in need of something genuine or new, come.

So if you’re clicking over for the first time from (in)courage or if you are a long-time reader, here’s what you need to know.
  • (In)courage has mad skills when it comes to building women’s community and one way they’ve done that is to form (in)courager groups.
  • It’s a way to break past the comments on blog posts, tweets, or status updates and go deeper with a small community who gets you.
  • There’s one that’s just right for you, even if this one isn’t it. So take a look at them all and if you want to join us, we’d love to have you.
  • As one of the (in)couragers writing groups, we’ll be connecting through a private Facebook page to maintain an intimate community where we can share our stories, our hearts, our dreams, and yes, our fears. We hope this will be a place of encouragement and growth for everyone God intends.
  • This isn’t meant to be a huge time commitment. We’re here for you and we know you have to live life to have anything worth writing about. There’s lots of flexibility.
  • This group will run from September 23rd through November 8th. No obligations and we’re not going to make you read aloud to the class. We just want you to know we have your back and we love that you feel called to write!
  • We’ll be offering 7 weeks of conversation around finding and using your voice to tell the story God has given you.
  • If that’s you, be sure to head over to (in)courage and sign up for (in)couraging writers.


If you want to know a little more about me, feel free to stick around and say "hello".

To get to know a little more about the absolute treasures I'll be co-leading with, you can visit Alia and Tonya's blogs by simply clicking on their photos. 
Alia Joy


Friday, August 16, 2013

More Than Checklists

My phone alarm went off at 4:40 this morning and neither my husband or I could figure out what it was-- the act of getting up that early has become so foreign to both of us.  Once the mystery was solved, he turned around and dug shoulders deep into mattress, liberated by the fact that it was calling out to me and not him. I hesitated for a minute and wrapped both arms around my own pillow, as though this somehow anchored me from the risk that someone might come by at any minute to tug me out of bed by my ankles. No one was coming, of course, and it ended up being completely left to me to do the grown-up thing and get my own heiny out of my covers.

Today is a big day in what feels like a month long string of big days.

My oldest daughters and I will be heading to our second year of mother-daughter scouting camp after we pack up the littles for grandma's house and the temporarily comfortable husband in this scenario drops them off with her, before dropping himself off at work. I've gotten up to do the laundry and the list checking to make sure we have everything, from stuffed one-eyed monsters, to marshmallows meant for stuffing, and it's a good thing I did because last night's towels in the dryer were loaded but not run.

Silly little dryer button, if you had put yourself on The List, I might have remembered to actually push you.

My girls have been looking forward to this time all year and I'm looking forward to seeing how this time will be different and how it will be the same. Last year the girls were new to each other and now they've had a full year of laughing and playing and getting to know one another better and there will be an ease in that familiarity that wasn't there before.

We will buy snacks for the drive and make sure we've packed Jenga and Apple To Apples to share. The ten year-old will pull me along with excitement at check-in and race down bunk-house stairs in search of the highest and squeakiest of beds. They'll shoot off in a thousand different directions, drink unrestricted amounts of hot cocoa, wipe dirty hands on the fronts of t-shirts and shorts, and we'll eat camp food, gloriously prepared by Not-Me.

I imagine that in the late evening, after a day bursting with tie-dying and critter catching and splashing in the lake, the other moms and I will gather in our pajamas on folding metal chairs around dining hall tables, and we'll notice how fast our girls are growing, as if this gathering again in this same place is a pencil mark on the wall of life itself, and we suspected it to be true before, but when you actually draw that line?

And we adults will have grown, too--in community and in other ways. And I will be thankful for this brief exhaling of breath, and for these women and girls and for God's provision of friendship.

A prayer of slowing and seeing for you, too, this weekend. May our days and our people be more than check lists in this life that just moves so very fast.


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