A Review: Start Where You Are

417g2AHmtyL

I am a little bit in love with the style of this artist, Meera Lee Patel. I got a set of her notecards last week, the Start Where You Are notecard set, and I have already sent three or four of them. They are just gorgeous.

A couple of these cards may never make it to the mailbox, instead landing in tiny frames on my walls. I am making a concerted effort to hang art on my walls, art that I love. I want to surround my family in beauty in more than one way. I think what our eyes see on a regular basis affects our attitudes and moods.

Sending cards in part of that. I have always loved greeting cards. I am a sucker for a funny/sarcastic card and spend too much money buying them for birthdays, etc. Lately, I have been more drawn to watercolors and meaningful quotes, cards that double as art and could actually hang in someone’s house and fit the decor, if they wanted to use them that way. It is like tucking a ray of sunshine into an envelope and gifting it to a friend.

At least, that is what I hope it is like when I write a short note and lick the glue to set the seal.

The artist for these cards has all sorts of books and other items available on Amazon. I am very tempted by her Start Where You Are journal. And her website is full of gorgeousness.

Anyway, these cards or some others, send someone a little note this week. It will make them smile.

 

 

*I RECEIVED THIS BOOK FROM BLOGGING FOR BOOKS FOR THIS REVIEW.
Advertisements

Life Update

I’m busy.

Isn’t that always the excuse?

I miss blogging. It used to be such a part of my daily life… writing here and reading the posts of friends and strangers.

I write posts in my head sometimes, but I rarely sit down and make them appear on this screen.

And, yeah, I am busy, but I tend to make time for what I most want to make time for. So if blogging is important to me, I need to look at my priorities and see what’s up.

For a brief update:

I am finishing up my first semester as a preschool teacher. I have a backlog of picture books to review for you. I like the job way more than I thought I would, though it is not a forever job. I am praying the perfect work-from-home-with-flexible-hours job drops into my lap next summer. If not, I will go on teaching preschool and make it work.

I start back to college in January. I am nervous in a way, but mostly ready to get started already. Once I decide to do something, I loathe sitting around waiting to do it. Currently, I am waiting until registration to be assigned an advisor and told if any of my past credits will transfer to the new school. The idea of starting over entirely is frustrating, and it also hurts my pride. I will admit that. I am a writer with a literary agent, and I don’t want to retake Comp 101. Know what I mean?

I am working on a new manuscript. I haven’t written a word of it yet. Or, rather, I wrote a few hundred words that helped me see what was NOT my story. Now I am working through The Anatomy of Story and planning as I go. I started Chapter 7 of Anatomy yesterday, and I already feel so much more capable of writing this new tale. I am also scared to write it, because it is so close to my heart. Part of it is set in Honduras.

Speaking of, I will return to Honduras briefly in February. I cannot wait to be there again. My heart aches for that country. I plan to pick up some volumes of Honduran poetry. I’ve fallen in love with the writing of a poet there. She is my age, Mayra Oyuela, and her words are gorgeous. I also want to read the works of Amanda Castro. Finding the books I want is difficult in America. Amazon has failed me. But I contacted a bookstore in Tegus and they promise they carry what I need.

I have been thinking a lot about who I am and what I want my life to be like. I find myself wanting to finally make this house into our home, buying art and bedding and stuff and also getting rid of so much. I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and I will have to write a whole post about my thoughts on it. Mostly, it has left me ready to not be owned by what I own. So I am discarding things left and right.

I have my theme for 2017. It is two words this year, though I am finding them to be synonymous. I will write more about that soon.

It is time for me to head to The Well for band practice. I’m glad I sat down to share here, this disjointed sort of sharing. I’ve missed it.

Some Dreams Don’t Come True

Sometimes dreams don’t come true.

Now all of the optimists and encouragers shake in their seats, wanting desperately to tell me there is still time, that my dreams might come true, that I should not give up.

And they are right. All of you are right.

I’M NOT QUITTING, BUT I AM ACKNOWLEDGING THE FACTS.

All dreams don’t come true. Some dreams die. Some dreams look like destinations and turn out to be pathways to new dreams.

I’d be lying if I said I’m okay with any of this. I’m not. I’m frustrated and sad and scared and pinging back and forth between cuss words and tears on any given day. Regardless, the truth lays bare with every rejection I receive, with every day I clock in as a preschool teacher instead of hopping a plane for my book tour.

THIS IS MY LIFE.

When I returned from Honduras and started my job teaching threes and fours at a local church program, there was one song I played on repeat. I sang it loud, alone in my car, every single morning, over and over, until I had to turn off the engine and put on my teacher face.

Lauren Daigle begins her song, “Trust in You,” with this line:

“Letting go of every single dream, I lay each one down at Your feet.”

Again and again, I picture myself spreading my dreams out at the foot of a throne, at the base of a cross, in the sands of a desert where the tempter lurks.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT, RIGHT?

Hardly.

It hasn’t gotten any easier, and I don’t think it ever will.

Sometimes dreams crash and burn and you have to start over, choose a new dream, chart a new path, try not to give up and smolder alongside the ruins.

I’m yielding to my future, or trying to. I’m not really good at yielding. I never learned to do it as a kid. If confronted with my guilt, caught red-handed smacking my little sister, I denied it and never changed my story.

Give me a red light or a green light, but I don’t know what the heck to do with this yellow caution sign. Go? Stop?

Wait?

I don’t know what tomorrow holds, friends. I’m guessing you don’t either. It occurs to me we are always yielding to the morning, always giving up the night.

Some dreams linger, but others disappear when you wake up.

I’m in a strange place now, trying to discern between the two.

How do you know when a dream has died?

 

*originally published on Middle Places

Currently: I’d Rather Sit on a Pumpkin

Current Books: I’m reading Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light after my Bible in the morning and The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson along with our leadership group. My current fiction pick is The English Major by Jim Harrison.

Current Playlist: “Trust in You” by Lauren Daigle and “Happy Girl” by Martina McBride, along with podcasts (Writing Excuses and Happier)

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: Soda. I’d gotten to where I only drank water unless eating out, but lately I find myself buying soda way too often.

Current Colors: Grey and white and teal

Current Food: Tortilla chips and melted cheese… simple and yummy

Current Drink: Coffee in the morning and then water at work and a soda or Starbucks Refresher on the way home

Current Favorite Favorite: The fragile gorgeous glass bowl I bought for our living room. It holds prayers from myself, my family, and my friends, and it makes me feel peaceful when I look at it.

Current Wishlist: I really want to take the time to “Konmari” my whole house, so time. Time tops my wishlist. Time to work on Christmas gift projects and the like as well.

Current Needs: Patience. Lots of it. With the kids in my classes and with myself as I revise this manuscript and with the various things going on with life goals and dreams.

Current Triumph: I’m really excited about signing with a new agent, and today I hit the halfway mark on revisions.

Current Bane-of-my-Existence: Working an on-the-clock job.  I hate not controlling my schedule and I miss being by myself for the majority of the hours in my day. The job itself is fine. It’s fun to watch how the kids grow and change as the year passes. It’s just an adjustment, having to be somewhere everyday and having to make arrangements if I want to travel. I know that sounds spoiled. Welcome to the real world, Heather. But I just prefer working for myself. Ya know?

Current Indulgence: Fridays. When I get off work, I pick up pizzas or something I want for dinner. I binge-watch Netflix and eat junk food and read books and work on Project Life. Basically, Fridays are sacred me-time.

Current Mood: Pretty good, actually. I’m intensely engaged in revising a manuscript and that kind of creative focus always enlivens me.

Current Outfit: Jeans, polka-dot tennis shoes, and my “When in doubt, go to the library” tee

Current #1 Blessing: My husband. I’ve had two friends lose their husbands to death this past month. I don’t ever want to lose Corey. I can only imagine the kind of grief they are living right now.

Current Quote: “Knowledge is only a rumor until it lives in the muscle.” ― Brené Brown, Rising Strong

Current Photo:

My football player

 

Title from:  “I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.” ― Henry David Thoreau

When the Church Broke my Heart

How did you guys end up in Mississippi?

This week, as my husband and I chatted with new friends, a hard experience drifted into the conversation.

It’s a fair question. My husband was born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama. I was born in Kentucky and raised in South Carolina. We met at a church in South Carolina and eventually moved closer to his family in Alabama.

The leap from there to Mississippi was not one we ever planned to make. My husband took a job as a youth pastor at a church in a very small town on the bank of a river in Alabama, just thirty minutes from his parents and his daughter. It was there my oldest son turned two, and it was there I found out I was expecting my youngest son.

It was there the church broke my heart.

I grew up in a few churches and had mostly good experiences with them. The little church where my mama still attends taught me and sheltered me and launched me into adulthood. From them, I learned we always forgive, and we always lend a helping hand to those in need.

There were some lovely people at the church we served so briefly in Alabama. But the lovely people were not the people in power, as is often the case, and a series of misunderstandings and outright lies wove dissension around us. When we left, we left with broken hearts held quaking in our hands.

I still remember being six months pregnant, sitting on the floor of our little mill house, sobbing. Church people were supposed to be loving and supportive. They were supposed to be my community. They were supposed to lift me up when I fell down.

Instead, I felt isolated and scared.

All that to say, there was a time when I was terrified to let anyone associated with church into my heart.
It was in that moment, hopeless, money running out, that a church in Mississippi called my husband and asked him to interview for a youth ministry position. The timing was perfect, right down to the phone ringing as my husband was turning down a job offer in Alabama that we did not feel good about taking. We were hanging out on a limb, water rushing underneath us, not a canoe in sight. The church in Mississippi sure looked like a luxury yacht floating past.

We made the difficult decision to leave Alabama. Difficult, because my stepdaughter was there and the visitation schedule we were used to would not work with so much distance between us.

That is how we landed in Mississippi, but it isn’t why we stayed.

Nadia Bolz-Weber wrote, in her book Accidental Saints, “In the Jesus business, community is always a part of healing. Even though community is never perfect.”

We arrived at Crossgates United Methodist Church in Brandon, Mississippi, as two people broken by imperfect community. I struggled to find my niche. Nothing I had done at our previous church had worked. I was afraid to let anyone know me, because I didn’t want to get hurt again. I was afraid to listen to anyone, because hateful words had become the expected thing.

Slowly, the people of our new community drew me out. They bandaged up my wounds and showed me again and again that they were offering the love of Christ.

Did I ever get hurt by people at our new church?

Yes. I did. Eventually, I came to learn that a community is made up of people and people are often unpredictable. When you take a risk and share who you are, you might get hurt. But you might not.

And if you do get hurt, it might still be worth it.

My husband is planting a church now, and we are going to meet people who have stood where I once stood. There will be people who have no reason to trust us and every reason not to. I pray I can be a part of a healing community for those people, because I know how important it is. I know what healing looks like, what it feels like, how it takes time and effort and setbacks and fear and bravery and, eventually, you get to stand and look back down the road and see where you once walked.

The ugly can look beautiful when viewed across time and space.

He gives us beauty for ashes. I let the community that loved us burn away the pain, solder the wounds, and hold me up until I could stand on my own two feet again.

And it was worth it.

The risk was worth the healing.

 

*originally published on Middle Places

There’s Always Time for This

The Bible is pretty clear there are times for things, right times to do this or that and right times to do other things:

There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:
A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

What it isn’t so clear about is when those right times are. Sometimes, I sit with a problem and think, “Well, Jesus, is this the time to rip out or the time to mend?” And, yeah, I do wish He would audibly answer me. Wouldn’t that be convenient?

There are some things, one thing in particular, I think it is always the right time for.

A few weeks ago, my friend’s mother died unexpectedly. It was a shock to her family, to her mother’s friends and neighbors. Often, this is the case with death. There are car accidents and heart attacks you never saw coming and cancer found too late so it ravages a loved one before you know it’s there.

I knew my friend’s mother. She was a writer, like me, like my friend. We met once when I helped put together her classroom for a new school year. After that, we kept in touch via Facebook. I have the memoir she wrote on my shelf. We shared a love for words and she and my youngest son shared a love for music. Her stories of playing piano at an early age reminded me of my child who can hear a song and play it.

I want to tell you what it is always time for.

After this great lady passed away, I found myself scrolling through her Facebook feed, reading posts from people who loved her and will miss her. My favorite posts were from her students. One young man in particular wrote something that has stuck with me. He said he used to get in trouble in class and my friend’s mother would make him write essays about his infractions, silly sounding stuff like kicking the chair in front of him. That is such an English teacher punishment. It made me giggle. But the best part? My friend’s mother told him his essays, despite their odd topics, were very good. Had he thought about taking a journalism class?

This young man was writing on her Facebook wall to tell her he is now a Journalism major in college.

She changed the course of his life.

I cried, reading that. I wondered if she knew.

Friends, it is always the time to tell someone you love them. It is always the time to say, “You made a difference in my life.” It is always the time to make sure the people around you know they matter.

Because death is unexpected. You don’t know when it will be a time to die, but if you are breathing right now, then it is definitely a time to live.

It is definitely a time to love.

Who changed your life? Who made your last year bearable? Who said a kind word and helped your day get better?

Tell them.

Tell them now.

Don’t wait.

There is a time to say thank you, and that time is always today. That time is always right now.

 

*originally published on Middle Places

Building Your Own House

Sometimes, life hands you a reason to be really really really glad you did your job well.

There are days, weeks, months, when whatever you are working at is hard. For one reason or another, you are exhausted. You could cut a few corners. You could be a little lazy.

Who would notice?

My husband has been in youth ministry for almost twenty years. Recently, he was given reason to be really really really glad he doesn’t cut those corners.

We served a lovely church in Brandon Mississippi for about five years. While there, a teen girl visited a Friday night event. She ended up coming back for regular youth services. She could have been just another face in the crowd, but my family got to know her. We liked her. She is still my kids’ all time favorite babysitter.

Lauren turned out to be a natural when it came to youth ministry. After she finished high school, she landed back at our church as a volunteer. The longer we knew her, the more clear it became that Lauren was called to ministry. Corey was working two jobs and going to seminary full-time. We had preschoolers. He was exhausted and stressed.

Corey trained her anyway.

When he had done all he could, he helped her find an internship at another church, since we didn’t have a budget for one at ours. He encouraged her to get her degree and pursue her calling.

And she did.

Now, many years later, Corey is leaving youth ministry. For the first time in our marriage and our children’s lives, our world will not revolve around the schedules of a hundred teenagers. Instead, we are embarking on a new adventure in a new place, and it’s a little bit scary. But also a whole lot exciting.

And here is the part that makes my husband really really really glad he did his job well.

Guess who will be the youth minister guiding our own children through their youth ministry experiences?

Yup.

Lauren.

There’s a cautionary tale about a house-builder ready to retire. He’s hired to build one last house, but he is exhausted. He’s done with all of it. So he cuts a few corners. He doesn’t build the house to his usual standards. I’m sure you can see this coming, right? When the house is finished, his company presents it to him as a gift.

He was building his own house.

And now he will have to live in it, cut corners and all.

Without even knowing it, my husband spent many years training the young woman who will walk alongside our children through their teen years. He taught her everything he could, and then she went out and learned more from other places. She built on a solid foundation, and we are proud of her.

We absolutely trust her to guide our children spiritually.

There are days, weeks, months, when whatever you are working at is hard. For one reason or another, you are exhausted. You could cut a few corners. You could be a little lazy.

Who would notice?

Be careful when those thoughts intrude, friend. Whatever you need to do to rekindle your motivation, your passion, your drive… do it. Ask for help. Find a way.

You are building your own house.

You will have to live with your decisions.

 

*originally published on Middle Places