Wednesday, October 1, 2014

31 Days of Chasing Light

As of last night I went to bed without an idea and with no intention of doing a 31 Days series this year. We've been on the road visiting family and my sweet girl woke up this morning with a stomach bug. We took to the highway to avoid passing the sickness onto her cousins.

While driving a stretch on I-40 I was thinking about people I know currently struggling through dark days and hard grace. I was thinking about the 24 hour news cycle and all the ugly, scary awful in the world tempting us to despair. A low fog hung over my heart and the sky and I felt the pull toward the darkness.

I began to think about my own life and some dark days I've walked through recently and in the past. Corrie TenBoom's sister Betsy famously remarked from her death bed in a German concentration camp, "There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still." Her words have stayed with me and I've seen God prove them true in significant ways.

I'm beginning to be a light chaser. I'm learning when it is darkest that the light has a way of breaking through the cracks. I'm convinced that we learn to see the light by looking for it in the every day mundane. In fact God's word tells us that the light is in our hearts if we are in Christ. The same creative gift that God used to speak first light has spoken light into our hearts. It's there.
"For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
This month I want us to be light chasers together. I want to chase down the light in the darkest parts of our stories and the most boring parts of our day. If you believe that God is speaking in the everyday and Betsy's words are still true then dare to plumb the depths of the pit with me this month. 

I'll be posting each day and on the weekends I'll offer resources, books, music, help you find the light. Join me in using the hashtag #chasinglight to share via tweets, instagram pics and facebook statuses how you're pursuing the chase in your daily life.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Circle of Sisters

I knew before we left that I would need a circle of sisters around me. Not literally. No, we didn't have a host of folks begging to ride our coat tails to the shores of war recovering West Africa. But thankfully it was 2010 and folks could come along for the ride via blogs, email and the occasional when-internet-was-good-enough skype date.

Before we left for the field I thought long and hard about who I wanted in my inner circle of sisterly support. I prayed that God would bring them to my mind and then my goal was to commit to sending a weekly email to them covering the nitty gritty details of life in all it's crazy hard and beautiful ups and downs.

In the beginning it was simply a way to keep myself grounded. I needed women guarding me spiritually and sending encouragement that helped me go on when I wanted to shut the door to our little two-room-cement-floor-hot-as-blue-blazes-house and never come out. What their support turned into was a space for me to feel understood and known.

We need people in our lives that don't think we are superheroes for the life we are leading. Without those people we either will begin to think we are superheroes or we will be crushed under the weight of the realization we are weak to meet the needs and do the task set before us. 

Today I'm sharing this part of my story over at Velvet Ashes. Even if you aren't a woman serving overseas I invite you to read and think about the importance of community along the rocky path of life. Click on over and read the whole story.

Photo Credit: Dani_vr via Compfight cc

Thursday, September 25, 2014

To All Who Mother Motherless

There are a hundred ways to lose a mother. 

Cancer, car accidents, cocaine habits...

Depression, disability, distance...

My mother died when I was twelve. A man crossed the solid yellow lines and crashed her van onto the side of the road. Her loss is as much a part of me as the double helixes of DNA that make me curly headed and fair skinned.

I'm writing to you because I want you to know that you are welcome in this place and you are far from alone in the journey. I hear it from so many of you and I can see the tears that have trailed your cheeks stained. You carry a heavy weight because your mama couldn't bare fully the weight of motherhood. 

If I could see your soul it would likely look hollowed out, malnourished in all the motherless places. Years of living motherless can leave you hungry to know the curve of a mothers love, the way it can wrap itself around the bare places of your heart.

Some of you are like me. You lost your mama to circumstance or illness and you wish with all your heart that she could be here, by your side, a phone call away during those midnight feedings.
Others of you have mothers who made the choice to quit when you needed her most. She walked out and kept walking despite your cries and desperate need. I believe it all aches the same. No loss is more or less and the hurt, regardless of how it happened, can debilitate us. The ache can whisper into our hearts and minds that we are lacking in every way.

Let me cup your face in my hands and look deep in your eyes for a moment because there is something you deeply need to hear. It is something that I have deeply needed to hear.

Your ability to mother the children God has given you has nothing to do with how you were or were not mothered. 

I know it feels differently. I know in those moments when the baby is crying, the toddler is wailing, the teen slammed the door (again) and you disagree with your husband that it can seem the world is imploding and you're the one to blame because you weren't mothered well. I know sweet sister. I know that ache and I know the thousands of tears that you've cried because you thought you were getting it ALL wrong.

Let me whisper truth into your soul. That is a lie. 

God says He has given us everything we need for life and Godliness and that He will supply all your needs according to His riches. He is rich in grace for the motherless among us. He says once you were without hope but now He has given you a hope and future. He has placed you in a family.

You get to be the mama and you get to be a part of God's rewriting of the story.

Your past? The generations of women in your family that mothered with a limp? Women who struggled along and gave grief when they should have heaped grace? The cycle ends with you. 

There is a fire that burns bright for those of us who have lived motherless.

Motherless women have a passion unparalleled to mother well.

I know you feel it. You can be at a loss most of the time about the "how-to's" of motherhood but you rarely are at a loss about the gravity of your calling.

We are women who celebrate most bravely the big accomplishments and tiny victories of the everyday. We are mama bears who wrestle cubs into bed and read an extra story because we're utterly convinced it matters.  

In Christ we mother whole even with a hole in our hearts. That's the beauty of redemption. Redemption doesn't erase the scars it simply gives them meaning. It gives their story depth so that when we recount the tale to our sons and daughters we can share a different ending.

Motherhood begins long before the labor pains. We learn the lay of the land from the women before us but when we hold those precious ones to our chest our story takes on a life of it's own. Live that story in confident hope God will meet you in the middle and fill in all the gaps and cracks.

And if you're ever feeling alone in the midnight of motherhood just wave a hand. I'll be there and together we'll remember the truth. We are whole in Christ. Whole to mother fully though our own mothers failed us. Whole to risk failure to change the future.

Are you feeling the ache today? Leave your tears and hurts in the comments and we'll take it to Jesus together.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Saying "Yes" to the Detours

There is a false belief that I often find myself embracing. It is the belief that if I make the right choices things will get easier and the questions will decrease. In my limited experience that is never true.

Three years ago I rolled my suitcase off of a plane in Raleigh, North Carolina, my hometown. I had the most imperceptible baby bump and my husband was 8,000 miles away in West Africa. Our plans to stay there together were cut short by a rocky first trimester and a severe lack of quality prenatal care- ironically enough an issue I was working on as a maternal health advisor.

My husband would follow me home in six weeks and then we would start the process of piecing our life in the States back together. No job. No savings. A baby on the way. Our hearts still on another continent.

Read the rest of the story... 

works for me wednesday at we are that family
I'm over the moon today to share with you the rest of the story over at Kristen Welch's online home better known to most of us as We Are THAT Family. I'm part of her Works For Me Wednesday:"Yes Works For Me" series.

If you haven't grabbed a copy of Kristen's book then do it. Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God When Sparkly, Safe Faith is No Longer Enough is the story of how God shook up her everyday comfortable faith and began a work that has healed and helped so many young women . It is not to be missed.

Photo Credit: Michael W. May via Compfight cc

Monday, September 22, 2014

My Summer in the Rearview Mirror

The summer is slowly fading into the rearview mirror. I took what I called a Summer Sabbathical which meant I stepped away from regular blogging and retreated to the quiet of writing without the pressure to publish or stay on a schedule. It might have been the best idea I have ever had.

Our summer has been all over the place. My husband started a new job. We moved into a another {temporary} house. We went swimming a lot. We traveled some. Mostly we just tried to find pockets of time with the one's we love. It was good. It was what I needed after last Spring's unexpected storyline.

Back in the Spring I decided to step away from the buzz of social media to write and slow down. It was a great choice and along the way I learned a few things. Things which have made me more aware of how I spend my time and direct my energy. I'm easing back into this blogging thing but I thought I would start off by sharing what I learned along the way this summer.

Busyness is a choice. 

I knew this. I really did, but it wasn't until I slowed down completely that I began to question the choices I make on a daily basis to fill my time. I choose to do many things because somewhere along the lines I began to see them as necessary.

As I wound down my pace I recognized much of what I was doing on a regular basis was not tied to God's calling on my life but on a litany of things I think others expect of me. I was astonished at how much margin I began to see in my life when I turned off those outside voices and leaned into the One Voice that matters. 

Balance is key

My summer was a bit experimental. I removed most everything from my plate. Guess what? The world did not fall apart. Imagine that.

But here is the rub. I love blogging. I love being a part of online community. I want to be a writer.

This is where I find myself now. I have hesitated to jump back in fully because I know I struggle with balance. I crave balance in my life and am very sensitive when things get off kilter, but I also find it difficult to strike the necessary balance. I bet a lot of you can relate. I prefer not to spin plates. I like my plates squarely on the table piled high with good food. You too? Pray for me in this, ok?

My voice is bigger than I realize.

I've been blogging for five years and in that time I have stuck to topics that feel safe to me. The stories are sometimes messy but most of the time I try and keep it kosher. I have a rabid fear of conflict.

I don't have a deep desire to be controversial. In fact I get extremely frustrated with writers/bloggers/talkingheads who feel it there place to be inflammatory on purpose. The Lord really spoke to me this summer about the way He has gifted me. I am a discerning person and have always had the ability to cut to the heart of the matter. I have recognized that I need to do this more in my writing.

With that said don't expect me to go wild responding to each new cultural uproar that comes across the news. Part of being discerning is knowing how and when to respond. I pray that I can be faithful as I use my words boldly to point back to the Gospel.

Those are just a few things that I have wrestled with this summer in between jumping off the diving board, tickling a two year old's tummy and applying sunscreen generously. Fall is here and I'm feeling tired and refreshed all at once. The words are flowing, cup of tea in hand and my record player is spinning. Let's do this!

There is much to look forward to in the next couple of months around this space, heck this week is gonna be pretty stellar. Wednesday I am over at Kristen Welch's place for her Works for Me Wednesday series. I hope you'll read because I am sharing the nitty gritty raw place of what it means for me to say "Yes." to God right.this.minute.

Also, I'm going to be spending the day this coming Saturday in The Nester's newly renovated barn with a circle of writers. I'm looking forward to gleaning wisdom from others especially Emily P. Freeman and Christa Wells who are hosting us!

Lastly, I'm about to make a long time dream a reality as I upgrade and rearrange this space. Wednesday I'm having a vintage-inspired photoshoot and by mid-October I hope to launch! All of that right before I journey down to Greenville, SC to hug a few necks and soak up the goodness at Allume. Thanks for your patience and your faithfulness to read my words and encourage me so deeply. I'm a whole lot of grateful!

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Six Senses of Life Overseas

Nothing ever prepares you for arriving in the dark of night on a new continent. There isn't enough cultural sensitivity classes, language training or dining at a hole in the wall ethnic restaurant in your city that can prepare you for the way your life will change.

Go ahead and embrace that truth. You can have all the training and orientation in the world, but stepping foot on the soil of your new overseas home will challenge and change you in ways that you will only understand once you are there. 

You can't fully prepare your senses. 

Prepare your senses to be ravished in the country to where you are headed. Take in the sights and sounds because too soon they will become commonplace.

I'm over at Velvet Ashes today sharing about how to experience life in your over new overseas home with all six of your senses. Yes, six senses. The sixth might be the most important.

Photo Credit: D-Stanley via Compfight cc

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Breaking My Break {A Blog Hop}

I know, I know, I am on a “break”. To quote Ross Gellar from Friends “We were on a break!” Sorry I am cheating, but for good reason.

Sometimes you break your break for something too good to pass up.

A few weeks ago  my friend and kindred spirit Alia invited me to a little blog hop among writers. To join the blog hop I simply had to answer four questions about my writing and share with my readers a few of my very favorite authors around this online world.

Once I read through the questions I knew it would be a great way to pair a bit of blogging with my off-line work to refine my personal writing. So here I am to share my answers and some of my favorites wordsmiths with you!

Alia invited me which I count as a true honor. Ya’ll, I met Alia a couple of years ago when I coerced her into joining The Nester for her yearly 31 Days link-up. We both decided to wade into the crazy deep waters of posting every day for a month. That was all it took and we realized that we were kindred spirits and writing soul-sisters. Also, I’m reasonably sure neither of us made it through the 31 Days with a perfect record. Since then we’ve gotten to share a real life couch a couple of times and I adore her more and more with every chance we get to share life.

Oh and by the by Alia is one of my favorite writers on the whole worldwide web. Her writing draws you in and is the kind of beautiful which finds you gazing inward for God’s fingerprints on your own life- the really messy beautiful kind. I’m grateful for her and the way that she writes her story and somehow teaches us about our own. It is a gift. She is a gift. Sheesh, I love her and the words she weaves.

Here are my answers to your burning writing questions...ok, that is overstating, but here are my answers none the less! 

What am I writing or working on?
My most recent project began as an exercise in retreating from the weekly/daily pressure to blog and publish. God has been chiseling on my heart to help me prioritize the dreams and demands of this season of my life as well as value rest in my daily life. One thing His heart surgery has brought to the surface is the desire to write and grow my online space with a dream to one day be published in print.

Taking time to refine my skills as a writer is the first step toward my goals. I am currently taking a blog break and daily working on the mechanics and flow of my writing. This involves a lot of writing, listening to and reading other writers.

I’ve already seen the benefits of this focused time and the result is a growing collection of my thoughts on rest and solitude. I hope to catalog these thoughts into a e-book to be available when I re-launch my online presence.

A writer’s greatest skill is observation. It is summer time which is a wonderful time to get outside and observe nature as well as slow down to really look and listen to the people that matter to us most. This time of focused rest is allowing me to really relax into the practice of observing the world around me in a more intent way.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? 
When I read my own writing I have a hard time determining which genre it falls under. As a mother and Christ follower it would be easy for me to try and align myself as being a “Christian mommy blogger” (which MANY of my dear and amazing mama-writer friends are!) but the label really doesn’t suit me very well.

I definitely do not feel like your typical blogger. Blogging for me is the medium, but the technical end and other parts of blogging aren’t super life giving for me. I like to say that I am a writer who blogs not a blogger who writes.

My writing tends toward the lyric end of styles and I’ve been known to capitulate between storytelling, politics and metaphor all in one post. There are a few others that write in the same strain, but I differ because I really take a look at my now- motherhood, faith, marriage, current events, etc..- with a real eye to the past. Amazingly enough I am often able to emerge with real, concrete practical ways to move forward in a messy world. I’ve realized my skill is not typical of storytellers in my genre and it’s part of my writing I am eager to grow.

My unique story as a child who was orphaned by the age of twelve colors much of the way I see my day to day as an adult. The experiences of my childhood have made me unafraid to face issues of loss and faith head-on in my writing. Although I’m writing about my day to day life and how God intersects all of those things I am also processing my past. I believe that most people do this in there day to day lives and it is one of the reasons that folks resonate with my writing style.

Why do I write what I do?
I remember my high school English teacher telling me that I had a gift with words. I shrugged it off at the time and continued my romance with words, but always with a wistful, “I wish I could write.” I never really took her seriously.

In fact during my “college years”- the years everyone else was in college and I was working at a camp- I lived with a dear friend and eloquent songwriter. She once asked me if I wrote. I nodded no because in my mind, compared to her, I didn’t.

Upon the encouragement of my husband I began pressing into writing as a way to process my past, particularly the death of my mother. In secret I set up a blog and began to share my writing. “Share” is probably an overstatement because it was a year and a half before anyone saw my blog. I happened upon the world of blogging and connected with some other writers whose work challenged me to push forward in my writing journey.

My writing is still a way to process my past, but it has also become a way to process my present. In fact I would argue that the two, past and present, are so inter-related that you can’t write about one without the other.

The birth of my daughter and my entrance into motherhood has made me a better writer and has allowed me to see my own mother with new eyes. I find the greatest depth of writing when I delve into the stories that have formed my life.

I write about motherhood, loss, faith and the messiness of life lived in broken but beautiful world because that is what I know. You won’t find me writing fiction (though I love a good read and admire fiction writers) because I’ve never been able to make up anything more real than the stuff of real life.

How does my writing process work?
Does it work? That is a question I am asking myself right now.

I have a gift for extemporaneous writing. I discovered this as a part of Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday challenge. If you give me a topic on nearly anything I can write you at least a few paragraphs.

I never really stop writing. My mind is constantly going and in writing mode looking for a story and perspective in all things, but I don't always take the time to pen my thoughts. I never realized that this was a unique way of thinking until I talked to someone who had a much more analytical mind. That was one of the key moments that me realize that I was a writer. The title of "Writer" has always felt elusive and reserved for a select few to me, but once I recognized my voice and talent I knew that I truly deserved the moniker. 

The place that I start with writing is always a core idea. Sometimes these ideas are scrawled on the back of receipts or typed up in Evernote as reminders. It is important for me that I capture my thoughts in the moment so that I can try my best to pick up from that point when I sit down to write. From that core I write until I have extinguished my words on the topic or find a natural stopping place. I try and save edits for the end, but I am a notoriously bad editor. It is a discipline for me to sit and read over every line with attention to detail and mis-types.

A great companion to my writing is music and I try and have a soundtrack playing to provide a rhythm to the process. Below is just one of the many soundtracks that I love to spin words too.

As a toddler mom with a lot of responsibilities my writing time has to be found in the cracks and margin of my day. That means a bit here and there in the early morning, afternoon (read as naptime) and late evening.

The biggest thing a writer can do for his/her writing is to simply make time to do it. My writing is best and grows the most when I am regularly refining and looking to others for encouragement and wisdom along the way. My process is imperfect- along with everything else in my life- but somehow God keeps using it and for that I am humbled and wholeheartedly grateful.

 Now to introduce you to a few of my friends...

The encouragement of other writers in my life has been invaluable to my growth. Most of those writers I have found here in this online space. These women write brave and tell their stories with beauty and hope in their own unique way. It is my deep joy to introduce you to a few of my writer friends.

Karina Allen a devoted follower of Jesus and you can find her on her blog For His Name and His Renown. She is from New Orleans, Louisianna, but has lived in Baton Rouge for the past 15 years. Karina loves singing, writing, reading, acting and dancing.  She is a contributing writer for (in)courage, Satisfaction Through Christ and Hashtag Hope. She loves teaching and mentoring the next generation, serving and missions. Karina loves the local church especially her own, Healing Place Church. She loves her Pastors and friends and considers them family.  She absolutely loves concerts, conferences and retreats! But the most important thing to her is that she lives out Isaiah 26:8 and her prayer is "May everything I do be for His name and His renown."

Karina is a sweetheart with shining faith! I got a message from her the other day and I have never heard someone so happy to be sitting in traffic. The joy of the Lord just exudes from her. She loves to share that joy and it comes through in her writing and her relentless faith in a great big God who knows us and calls us His own.

Karrilee Aggett is a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. She is a writer, reader, pray-er, photographer, artist, beach lover, laugh seeker...serving God to the best of her ability. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and nearly grown girlie. She is passionate about diving in deeper with the Lord and inviting others to discover His love for them. Her life message is...Speak Life. Be Love. Shine On. Karrilee loves to share her heart and what the Lord is speaking to her over at Abiding Love, Abounding Grace.

Karrilee is an encourager extraordinaire. Over the past couple of years she has left me comments on this blog that have spoke true courage into my life as a writer. She also happens to be a beautiful artist and gifted writer herself. I met her in person at Allume last year and even though she is a quiet soul off-line (at least in a conference setting) she speaks loudly with her intentional love and focus on others.

Holly Barrett is a Christ-follower, minister, speaker, writer, mother and YaYa from NC. Her passion is connecting people with Jesus and sharing her life’s message of God’s redemption. An extreme extrovert, Holly loves people and currently ministers to young adults as a Program Director for The Crossnore School in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of NC. Next to Jesus, Holly’s greatest loves are her precious grandbabies and their parents who proudly serve our country in the US Air Force and US Army. A social media addict, Holly blogs at Reclaiming a Redeemed Life and you can also find her on Twitter and Facebook

I met Holly through Five Minute Friday and turns out she is a Carolina girl too! In fact she lives right up the mountain from me in the hills of North Carolina! Small world! A couple of months ago we met face to face at a little lunch we had with a couple of other bloggers up in Boone, NC. She is such a sweet encouragement to me and we're determined to share a cup of real life tea soon!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...