How I’m working through the active fear and self-doubt of writing a book.

Morning and hello!

I’ve been doing oh-so-much thinking lately, while I’m editing and writing and reorganizing this mass of work I’ve been collecting it’s time to say here that … I think it’s a book. It is. But I think I’m going to do something with it. I am. But. It’s scarier than I thought it was going to be.

I printed the entire body of work this week and just finished reading it through for the first time. My throat hurts, I don’t usually talk out-loud that much apparently, but it feels like the first mile of a run is finally behind me and now I can set pace and just keep going.

With each essay I’m holding it up to a few standards and questions to determine whether or not there’s something constructive in it, if it meets the ultimate goal or message of the entire collected work, and finally, if it’s something I want my kids to know, learn, or have as a record of me.

That last one will cut through so much bullshit.

Writing here for the last 17 years or so has been a beautiful exercise in learning to use my voice, and while I get that publishing words on the internet is sort of like putting them “out there” forever … something feels so much less permanent about these words. I write, shooting from the hip, quickly edit, and then publish. Rarely do I rework something I’ve already put out there. But the idea of having bound pages with my words to live in a physical place for ever and ever? I mean, that scares the living hell out of me.

So. That means I just have to keep doing it. Being scared, I’ve learned, isn’t the emotion that leads to safety. It’s not the response my body needs to listen to when I’m on the cusp of making something happen. Being scared is more like the “here we go” feeling of heading off into the great big yonder. It’s the walking man signal of crossing the street, not the flashing hand. Fear, in this sense, isn’t the ‘stop and wait’, it’s the ‘time to go!’

In addition to that, I’ve tried to find the appropriate box I might fit in. You know the ones, the ideas and dreams we have: where do they fit, what size do they need to be to become the most successful commercial version so I can claim success by standards not set by me, but for me. And not in my best interest, but in the interest of commerce.

Which, sounds about as exciting as reading spread sheets. Ok, LISTEN! Here’s what I’m getting at: It’s all uncomfortable. To say the ideas or dreams out-loud, which moves to (hopefully) actually making work of them, which moves to the undeniably hard work of pushing through the fear and self doubt, which leads to the unknown.

The question is: would I do this if no one cared? Would I write books to leave for my children so they had a record of the kind of legacy I wanted for them? Would I tell them everything, anyway?

And that answer is always, without a doubt, absolutely.

The volley

Let’s catch up. I have a few things to tell you and then so many more to unpack with you, buckle in.

We started school this year at an entirely new school. My kids went from a private school to a public school and everything is going well.

Along with all of this change my daughter started a sport she’s never played with a team she’s never met and her first match was also the first day of this new school and everything is new – are you getting my drift? I spend a lot of time in bleachers waiting with her for her turn while she barrels through her nerves and anxiety and shovels every bit of it at my feet and then stomps around on it, like a tantrum. And I think to myself, this shit is ridiculous. Enough of this. Pick your damn self up off the mother loving pavement, Child, and go. get. it. But I don’t say those words, no I do not.

I spend that time rubbing her back and listening and offering a little hope, but not too much because then she accuses me of not understanding, so I wait with her. That is all she wants. Someone to bear witness to the waiting for her turn. When is it going to be her turn? Why isn’t it her turn yet? And the stage-fright. It’s tennis, but people are watching, so that takes it to a new level of MAKE IT STOP.

I didn’t play school sports for my own reasons, all of them selfish and kind of childish. I didn’t have a lot of school spirit. But this kid, she wants to do it all. Paint her face and wear the logos and do the fundraisers and buy the duffle bags and sign up for every club and get as involved as possible. She makes me tired. Because I still facilitate her social life, so when she signs up for something – in essence she is signing me up too. And you know what? I LOVE IT.

Here we are, doing all the new things and both for the first time ever. It’s pretty great. It’s great that she’s still inviting us along for the ride.

My life is now a serious matrix of overlapping schedules and carpools. I am always supposed to be in more than one place at a time. So far, it’s working just fine. Somehow.

I’ve tried to catch up over the summer or just chronicle our days and trips and memories but every time I came to this place and logged in and started writing I couldn’t bring myself to publish any of it. I’ve had kind of a bumpy summer? How do I say this without sounding alarming but also telling the truth THAT EVERYTHING SUCKS. I try not to spread the wealth too much. The wealth of emotional bankruptcy. That bitch came to win, and let me tell you, she swept me off the floor.

I’m mourning a great, very personal loss. In the wake of other very personal losses. Right after the other, all stirred up in a pot, on and on and on they go. Swinging at me like a batter bent on revenge. I see you: I’m awake.

I took a break from my other writing this summer as well, for the same reasons, everything was angry in response to my pain. But I also started this really lovely, very daring personal project before the summer came. And if the only thing you take away from this rambling is this: please pull for me. I think this is big, if for no one other than me, it’s monumental. And I need the timing to be right and the people to be in place and the conversations that have yet to happen, for those to have a way paved before them so I can have them. I need some cheerleaders. I need someone pulling for me, even if you don’t know why or what for.

As I was journaling recently I came face to face with some fear, not new. It’s the ugly side of my vulnerability. I am my own roadblock. Afraid of looking like a fool, but realizing that if everyone I’ve ever quoted or loved or admired let their fear stand in the way of their message or art or gift for the world: I wouldn’t have their words to help me or their photos to inspire me or their songs or poems or paintings to take my breath away. I wouldn’t have a full understanding of how big my own dreams are, how rare my own beauty is, how daring my own words could be.

And I learned: I’m not done yet. I have to keep showing up.

Just like my daughter needs someone there to witness her showing up, even when it’s scary and new and nothing feels normal, she needs someone who believes in her, not because we have to. Or because she’s shown great athletic prowess – but because we know she can. If she keeps showing up, if she keeps trying … eventually the ball will make it over the net. Eventually she’ll move from the bench to the court and without ever thinking of how or why, she’ll volley.

Not because she knows how – but because thats what you do when the ball is yours.

Remind me of this when I forget, which might be often. Or just every January.

I want you to be ridiculous. I want you to say YES to the weird stuff. You’re not having any fun? Change that. We can absolutely be sojourners on this ride, and we can be missionaries to our neighbors – or we can pack up everything and move across the pond. Let’s do it all. Let’s not wait another day to start living. Your bank account might never be wide enough for the dreams you can dream but may your heart always be strong enough for the weight it will carry.

You can’t afford a trip to Europe? Do you know someone who’s been? Invite them over to tell their stories and ask to see their photographs. Make food you might taste over there and drink the drinks you envision yourself having. Sit outside in a garden. Call the visitors bureau and ask them about the city. If you can’t call: research, here I’ve done some for you … Travel ideas for Italy. Pinterest is a thing: use it.

Streets of Madrid

Go there, do it. Even if you can’t literally go any where. Enlist help from someone who loves hosting, ask them to show you or help you, invite friends (new and old) to enjoy a night on the canals.

You don’t have to own a boat, rent one; it doesn’t even have to have a motor. Or you can ask a friend or family member who owns one. Buy the hat for the captain, sit down, play the music, and watch the landscape pass-by as if you’re in Italy. DO IT. Why not?

Fathers Day 2015

When you feel ridiculous you should always have weird looks and stares from those around you who can’t see the beauty of dreaming just yet. They will soon, keep going. When they ask “why” your answer is always at the ready … “why not?!”

Dreaming isn’t an idea that you never realize. Dreaming is the opposite of fantasy, it’s your reality waiting to happen.

It won’t give you permission and the first step into Ridiculous is chilly. You might feel foolish and childish. You might fain mocking from the crowds but here’s a secret: they all wish they could wade into this water too. So keep going. Start swimming.

Lakeshore, showing them the beach

They will know who I am by your love for each other. (Paraphrased from John 13:35) Love is so many, many things. Mowing someone’s lawn, visiting the sick in your hospitals, making meals for young mothers, lending your hands, giving to causes with time, money or talent. But love isn’t a chore. Love is also being first in line at the roller coaster with your wide-eyed 9 year old for the first coaster ride of their life. It’s the sheer volume of happiness they eek out as you ascend and then rip down the rafters. Love is showing up to the dance recitals and hosting the sleepovers, it’s making the pancakes or warming up leftovers. Love is beneath the sheets, but also in the backyard. It’s touching your loved ones gently and ushering them closer for an embrace. It’s always an offering, never an obligation.

You guys!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Love is the high five and the posters on the sidelines when your people run the race they never thought they could finish. It’s the Holiday dinners and traditions for some of us, it’s the stockings and wrapping paper for others. It can be too much and not enough all at once. Love is overwhelming, like standing in a field of wild poppies for the first time and noticing that if you had never taken the wrong turn you would have gone the rest of your life not knowing that this existed. And it would continue to exist, without your permission or need for interference whatsoever. It’s there because the seed was planted and the clouds broke open and sang them into the air, a duet with the sun. It’s there, we just have to see it.

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Love is so contagious. Be ridiculous. And then pass it on.

There’s water in my basement but everything’s ok.

I rushed home this afternoon after a workout to shower and get to a 1pm lunch appointment. I was cutting it close but I love the race against the clock and I would make it. Until I ran downstairs to change the laundry and find something clean to throw on and run out the door …

There was a sound of water running and the wash machine wasn’t on .. and then I stepped on our rug and it was soaking wet, and now so were my feet, and then I looked around more intently and yes; our water heater must be leaking. Must have BEEN leaking – there’s standing water in my basement. Coming up through our Hickory hardwood floors, just dancing around the grooves of the wood as water might do, when it has nothing else to do.

Raindrops: spring rain

I thought if I could figure out how to stop the leak and clean it up, I could still make it to my lunch a little late. I had been daydreaming about what I was going to order. I was so excited. A frantic call to Aaron, an email off to our insurance agent. I thought I would just have to wait … so why not wait over lunch?

But then the phone started ringing. The insurance agent, then the clean up crew, then the plumber. Everyone could come right away, or shortly. And all of a sudden I wasn’t going to be ordering lunch. Or washing my dishes, or finishing the laundry, or cooking.

I was (am) literally stuck here.

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Aaron and I had just talked about our plans for this summer. We need to replace a roof on a portion of the garage, we need a new door and the cement steps are giving way. It’s time to refinish our main-floor flooring. We are slowly and surely making our way towards a replacement car for our van. All the things, right? All. The. Things. Clearly we should have been planning to replace a water heater, too. Possibly a furnace. This is an old house, and while we remodeled her and gave her a new dress, she is still standing on the same 80 year old bones.

And sometimes I forget that doing something once doesn’t mean we’ll never have to do it again. Buying a car once doesn’t mean that in 230,000 miles you won’t need to buy another. Replacing floors doesn’t mean you won’t have to refinish them. Taking hot showers and doing your dishes doesn’t mean you won’t wear out the mechanics that deliver that hot water to you.

Northern Michigan

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A couple weeks ago at church there was a young man who got up at the end with a word for the congregation. This happens in our church – people listen for the Holy Spirit and often get images, dreams, or words of encouragement to share with everyone else – and he shared something about tithing. He had felt God convicting him to tithe $60 but all he had to give was $30 and he kind of went back and forth with himself for a while trying to justify his need vs conviction. After a bit he drove to the bank and got the amount he felt he was supposed to give and experienced overwhelming peace in that obedience.

That same morning I said to Aaron, a little off the cuff, I think we should be tithing. We haven’t for a while, and at the time that felt like what we were supposed to be doing. There’s obedience in all kinds of different ways with our time and our resources. But for some reason, that morning, I just felt like we needed to start again. Aaron said to add it to the list of things to discuss and then we kind of dropped it and went on with our morning. But as soon as the pastor called up the volunteers to take the offering, I whipped out our checkbook, wrote a check and dropped it in the bucket. Not knowing any of this young mans own conviction over tithe that same morning.

Weekend up north with Penelope

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Earlier this month I felt God hammering me with the word “Provision” – defined as “the action of providing or supplying something for use // An amount or thing supplied or provided” and I tend to think of provision as strictly financial.

I’ve chronicled our financial story on this blog for a long time. Becoming debt free and selling and buying homes, how we budget and even most recently – how we plan, financially, for vacations. Provision is a large part of our daily life, belief in God or not.

But when I started looking for more what that word really means, in a spiritual sense, I found some amazing things. In Philipeans 4:9 It talks about God supplying (providing) all our needs according to His riches in glory. In Matthew 6:26 it talks about the birds of the air – how God feeds them without their sowing or reaping … and aren’t we worth more than the birds?

Around the house and in the garden

I learned that Provision, in the sense that I felt God was hammering me with it, is a word for His economy. There’s an all encompassing feeling to being “provided for” rather than just putting money in the bank.

God wants to provide me with love, rest, assurance, knowledge, intimacy, joy, purpose, and satisfaction. He wants to care for my hunger, fill my emptiness, call me “daughter, sow seeds of intimacy into my life, save my marriage, equip me daily to parent and instruct me to steward my gifts well.

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It’s not that I’ve felt a lacking in provision, but I’ve been missing the point. Mostly in my personal life. I’ve felt the need to continue to work harder for relationships, for success. I’ve felt the pressure to perform and rush and run. I’ve felt guilty for the time available to me in order to pour into women, children, our family. I’ve measured myself against the world with a yard stick that is always only too short. But by centimeters. So the recognition was just in front of me, almost there. Just a little more. A little longer.

And I failed. Every time.

Windmill Island

But this word provision brought with it an understanding that God will provide my comfort. Not Aaron, or success, or recognition, or financial gain, or even being debt free, not my plans or expectations or need for control. None of the labels I want for myself or seek in this life are ever going to provide me lasting comfort.

When I have unmet needs, God reminds me to turn towards him. When I’m dying for connection, God reminds me to take my disappointments and unmet expectations to him. He is the giver of all good things.

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So we had our hot water heater replaced, floors are ripped up and broken into pieces in our basement, tomorrow the washer and dryer get moved to assess any damage underneath. We might need new floors. All things. All temporary things, fixable things.

A wrench in anyone’s plans for sure. And still a mountain of unknown ahead. But the sun is shining and everyone who’s been in our home helping this afternoon has been kind and friendly, professional and quick and most important, understanding.

I feel completely at ease in all of this. No rushing or fretting. No amount of planning can undo the surprises and no amount of planning can keep the surprises away, either. We’ll do what we’re able, when we’re able. And not just financially, because if I’ve learned anything here it’s that provision is far deeper than creature comfort.

Cherry blossoms

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As I was wrestling through this idea of Provision over the last few weeks, God kept asking me this question:

“Are you more worried about what people think of you, or what I can do through you?”

And I’d have to say that mostly I’m more worried about people, but slowly I’m learning to swim.

South Haven Pier and Lighthouse in the fog 2014

Hidden in all the words

It took over 700 words in an unpublished essay for me to get this one sentence … “If there’s only one thing I can keep from my first family: I want it to be that I was in one.”

And I haven’t stopped thinking about it.

This keeps happening lately. I surround the one thing I want to express with hundreds of words, often not knowing what it is I want to get out until I’ve written it and then I think, oh – there it is. And suddenly the rest of the words don’t mean anything and I walk away from the essay all together.

Riley Woods

I’m doing a Bible Study right now with a small group of women, we’re walking through a book on Your Beautiful Purpose and for the most part, I’ve been blown away each and every week. Because what I wanted going in to this study was a prescribed outcome. I wanted A to connect to B which was going to equal C and I could carry on knowing exactly what I should be doing with my life and voila! Purpose found.

I’ve been afraid each week to speak up, to tell parts of my story. I haven’t come to an understanding yet of what I should and shouldn’t share in these situations but last night on my way home it hit me that I’ve been trying to use my pain as the Branding Expert for my story.

That’s not to say that what I’ve been through/what I’ve done isn’t true. How often do I need to marry my past with my present? Or do I at all?

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I so badly want to do something great with my life, but I’ve longsince thought that meant I would have to tell everyone everything all the time for them to see the transformation in me. I USED TO BE THIS :: NOW I’M THIS. And that might work for a little bit, to live through the painful parts of my story over and over again to demonstrate the new life I have now, but is that the point?

Am I just staying abandoned in my pain because it’s powerful?

Am I staying unlovable in my self because it’s relatable?

Am I staying small in my life because it’s required?

Am I staying lonely in relationships because it’s comfortable?

To the Bay!

I think part of the shame story is always that our pain and our past is unique. Which, it is, but it’s not special. What makes me special is not what I’ve been through and I think for a while I’ve been lost in how to get out of this pattern.

Isn’t it possible that the small, seemingly insignificant parts of my life are the great thing I am doing in my life? Listening when my kids talk, being there when they fall apart, loving them unconditionally, feeding them around a dinner table every night, washing their sheets, signing their permission slips, volunteering in their social lives, driving them safely to their practices and events?

I’ve felt called to something significant for a long time. Something substantial. And how I’ve interpreted that has always been sparkly and great and big. SPLASHY! SEEN!

But I’ve also noticed a shift, because what I struggle with today will be gone tomorrow. I won’t always have children to rear or sheets to wash or feasts to serve. These guys are going to grow up and be wonderfully on their own and then I might find myself right where I am now: wondering what’s next?

Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park

So instead of begrudgingly accepting the task of my every day – I’ve started to think of it as an opportunity I’m grateful for. One of the lies I often get sucked in to is that whatever life is right now is how it’s always going to be. ALWAYS. ALLLLLLWAYYYYYYSSSSS. And that’s a really long time for me. But instead, I get to do this today. This won’t actually last forever, and for now this is where I’m planted.

So I’m sprouting a few small roots. No longer easily unearthed by the slightest wind, I’m learning to withstand the weather of life and to bloom any way.

Night 1, Day 2 of Summer Road Trip West

Morning light

And it will be ok.