Fancy Boots, Falling Off Mountains, and Overcoming Fear with Friendship

Another step and I was certain my boot would slide out from under me, flinging my tall frame down the scree-covered hill, and I would plummet to my death. I was sure of it.

I bent over on all fours, like a cat stuck in a tree, nearly 14,000 feet in the clouds. Most cats don’t trust a soul, and neither did I, paralyzed, cotton-gloved palms clawing at any rock poking out of the ice.

“I’m going to die.”

Acrophobia, my extreme fear of heights, was freezing up body over mind, as it had done at the Royal Gorge, the Eiffel Tower, and the steel, narrow stairs overlooking Yellowstone Falls. I lived with the mantra, “Weakness is so weak.” I was determined to power through my irrational phobia by signing up for this women’s climbing expedition on a mountain aptly called Quandary.

What I didn’t take into consideration were my fancy boots lined with GORE-TEX® failing me. They had carried me across Scottish fields mired with cow dung. Those boots had sturdied my feet step over step of salt-water sprayed basalt columns poking out from the sea on Ireland’s Northern coast. Why were they failing me this day?

Today I’m honored to be over at Jerusha Hagen’s blog: Fear. Love. Hope. Repeat. (I seriously love her blog name!) Read the rest here

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To the God of the Middle Seat

God, I’m tired of feeling slightly above average, middle of the road, and unresolved.

Call it fair to middling,

Or what you will.

I confess I’ve lived a life of extremes.

I long for a thrilling life, exotic destinations, extreme conditions, and transformational stories, because this is where change happens right?

Then there has been the ditch of depression,

The pinging sensation of suffering

Which any sensible person would try to vault themselves out of,

And up.

(Anywhere but here.)

Middle?

Like a dreaded airplane seat,

I sit bookended between a beginning and an end. 

A window seat and an escape route.

But the middle seat can’t quite reach the desired view and freedom without elbow banging,

Stubbed toes, bumps, and clambering over a barrier.

Middle? Oh, so blasé.

I want to excel at something, to turn an exciting age, or have someone tell me,
“You’ve arrived! Finally!”

The closer I get to life’s middle, the more I see these are the places faith is lived out, love is tested, and hope matters most.

The middle is a centered stairwell where sound carries up and down, whether quiet or loud,

where I hold my past and dreams,

disappointments and victories,

pain and life in a strange dance of acceptance,

for not having an answer,

to be OK with I don’t know,

to open my arms wide to this world because I know I will never ever understand the mystery and the craziness I find myself in.

I once saw life as a line to be lived out,

A departure and destination.

I was wrong.

God, you are the center of a circle.

The focus.

The friend.

The one who centers me in love. 

You are Three in One.

But, certainly, in your divine family, one of you must get the short straw from time to time and have to squeeze into the dreaded middle seat?

This post is part of Five Minute Friday with Kate Motaung. This week we’re writing for five minutes on the word MIDDLE. P.S. We love latecomers, as you can tell by my belated post. 

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Connect: a Dangerous Word for a Desperate Heart

My therapist challenged me to write a piece without a happy ending. I didn’t like that idea one bit. This year I’ve worked hard to heal the old wounds of rejection and loneliness, but like any hurt, it comes back round and needs to be invited in for another deep chat. Stuffing pain under the rug with the crumbs and dog hair never ever works. At least, not for long. So I invite you in to a conversation I don’t enjoy, but I’m finding is necessary and good. 

Connect is a dangerous word for a desperate heart.

It conjures up memories of dictating my phone number to new mom friends at the park four years ago, only to never get a call. I remember saying hello to every single face I recognized at church, only to get few, if any reciprocating invitations, which we all long for.

I recall how I found that longed for in-person lives-closer-than-20-minutes friend, taking walks, being absolutely refreshingly real. Then God moved her halfway across the country.

The need to connect cuts me deeply because its a longing I see in myself, magnified at every stoplight. All of us drivers tapping away text on our phones. We want to be needed, noticed, acknowledged, and most of all, known.

Connect is my heart’s cry, and God is creatively filling in my connection gap in such amazing ways, which is another post in itself.

Connect is a deep yearning, one that gets filled and emptied, emptied and filled, and it always leaves me wanting more. I don’t quite know what to do with the ache that seems to never go away.

This post is part of the wonderful flash mob of Five Minute Friday Writers at Kate Motaung’s blog. We write on one word (today is CONNECT), and write for five minutes without stopping. I hope you’ll join us, even if it’s in your personal journal. 



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100 Things I Found Amazing in 2016

2016 is a glass brimming with gratitude and unexpected friends like Emma Hughes. She and I have been chatting about lessons learned and discoveries made, sadness and celebration, hurt and healing, mistakes and amazing things. So here’s my farewell letter to 2016 and a list of 100 things I found amazing within its days.

Dear 2016,

You are the year too much became cool. Decades of ideas, dreams, and thoughts resurrected and refocused. I turned 37 and you taught me (again) to stop caring so much what people think. You are the year I started with no regrets, went shelling in a freezing tidal pool, wrote love notes, and penned hesitant poetry about bombings. During your spring, I struggled to find Easter resurrection, so I wrote about suffering, picked strawberries and muddled my way through May, motherhood memoirs, and wept for middle school coming. (Turns out, there’s a whole lot of wonderful in this phase too.)

You were the year my baby sister married and I pitched a book proposal. The year I decided the hurried-scurried life sucks, and being present to people is worth sacrificing every selfish bone in my body.

You are the year I started working on me again. The year I stretched into the maturity of my extroverted introspective Enneagram 4 sensitive self and started liking her. What a thought! You taught me to rest, to run again, and to be O.K. with pinging between my pinball machine of a brain full of ideas and praying like a monk.

You are the year I made a left turn past lonely, found my dream team, and led a 31 day writing charge, all the while, letting God love me more fully. You are the year I reconciled being a friend of Christ and a real poet, which I’ll be working on for a lifetime.

During your reign, 2016, I found plenty of frustrations and sorrow, but I also found miracles and the goodness of God. I learned to really forgive, took a giant step toward brave, give meaning, and say Come, Lord Jesus during Advent.

Yes, you are a glass brimming with flecks of drinkable gold: scintillating adventures and stunning connections. 2016, you are simply wonderful.

100 Simply Wonderfuls from 2016

Books, people, ideas, experiences, things I tried and random bits of wisdom and hope I collected this year. Salut!

  1. Real things still matter: honesty, resourcefulness, simple pleasures and courage. Thank you, Laura Ingalls Wilder.
  2. Life-changing books that made me stop everything like Sabbath and Pilgrim’s Inn.
  3. Twitter parties full of friends who show up: the fabulous flashmob of Five Minute Friday.
  4. The connecting power of Voxer.
  5. Tweetspeak poetry prompts and Every Day poems in my inbox.
  6. Holy yoga when I was a hot mess with Caroline Williams on Youtube.
  7. Meeting Compel sisters and my dream team at She Speaks.
  8. Hearing Emily Wieringa speak there and share the art of inspirational memoir: “This desire to make God known, is worth more than our very lives. And that’s the story worth telling.”
  9. Hooking up with fearless Kate Motaung at the beach and gutsy Amy L. Sullivan in the mountains.
  10. Finding Christian poets at Breathe, dessert + coffee food truck (be still my sweettooth), and the niceness of Grand Rapids.
  11. The quaintness of St. Joseph, MI.
  12. Skateboarding while writing about God’s love.
  13. Hosting 31 days of five minute free writes.
  14. My sister getting married.
  15. Refinding myself with the help of Upstream Field Guide.
  16. Reading The Secret Garden aloud with the kids and remembering “the first miraculous morning when the garden begins to grow.” It never gets old, however many years I live.
  17. Spiritual formation with Renovaré book club + their thought-provoking podcast.
  18. Gourmet hipster donuts: Hurt’s in Springfield, MO.
  19. Summer fun at White Water, a classic relived from my childhood.
  20. Escapes to Groundhouse Coffee.
  21. Reading On Being a Writer with in-person writing friends.
  22. After soaking up Ann Kroeker‘s writerly wisdom all year, I got to meet her in person.
  23. Finishing the old TV series Numbers (because I loved Northern Exposure.)
  24. Then finding a new late night addiction to the hilarious spy throwback show Chuck.
  25. Truly finding the joy of poetry in a memoir.
  26. Collaborating with so many amazing writers! (You know who you are.)
  27. Trying to learn Greek on Mango.
  28. Remembering “home isn’t a place where loneliness never happens, but a place where loneliness is transformed.” -Sally Clarkson
  29. Taking better photos with my phone. Gracias, Snap Shop photography!
  30. Diving into the brilliantly phantasmagorical mind of George MacDonald.
  31. Fierce, fabulously Spirit-filled workouts with Revelation Wellness.
  32. Family traditions like making lotion bars and PW cinnamon rolls with Abby.
  33. Dreaming of traveling the world with my kids thanks to The Simple Show.
  34. Epic wisdom in nurturing boys and raising girls from the God-Centered Mom.
  35. Learning the art of being an ENFP on the Meyers-Briggs: this book helped so much.
  36. Hosting a Gutsy Girls book club about Corrie Ten Boom.
  37. Trevor Hudson’s nightly prayers.
  38. Redefining achievement: “If you can help someone, then you’re a success. share your low points and how you’ve battled them. Share your biggest doubts, challenges, and failures so that readers can join you in your journey. Write about the thing you fear the most. We can, in part, redeem the low points and valleys of our lives by inviting others into our journeys.” –Ed Cyzewski
  39. Claiming Cafe des Amis as our personal French cafe and doing dinner up right with courses + wine pairings.
  40. The incredible harmonies of Oh Wonder.
  41. Getting a handle on my never-ending list + calendar with Inkwell Press Planner travel planner and Weekly Jump Start.
  42. Syncing up with my body. My Garmin Forerunner assisted greatly.
  43. A new pair of rainbow Sanuks.
  44. Making peace with the strengths finder test.
  45. Taking personality analysis to the next level with 16personalities.
  46. The Enneagram.
  47. Reading the paper over breakfast at First Watch.
  48. Getting lost in book stacks at Half Price Books + Savers.
  49. IF: Gathering.
  50. Yoga socks.
  51. Great blogs like: Cisneros Cafe,
  52. The Very Cranky Mummy, and
  53. Altarwork.
  54. A Thing of Beauty by Emily Conrad.
  55. Napping on my outdoor white couch from IKEA in the sun.
  56. Purple pansies.
  57. Fresh eggs, happy chickens, and Tawanda the turkey from my local farmer.
  58. Black Papermate flair pens, because they just make the writing life better.
  59. My Microsoft Surface Pro (how I love thee!)
  60. Chile Mochas from Starbucks and the occasional Christmas blend.
  61. Strawberry Hill Povitica English walnut bread.
  62. Earrings from Fair Trade Friday and Wild Juniper.
  63. Going out in public sans makeup more often (thank you, Emily Conrad + Nifty Betty).
  64. When I must makeup: Cowgirl Dirt.
  65. Buying ecological AND economical friendly house products with The Grove Collaborative.
  66. The menu planning magic of Prep Dish.
  67. Celebrating a Messianic Passover Seder.
  68. Rereading Resurrection Year.
  69. Walking around my personal lake down the street.
  70. Praying in all things: “According to the Psalms, the primary use of prayer is not for expressing ourselves but for becoming ourselves—and we cannot do that alone.” –Eugene Peterson
  71. Exploring caves and mountains with the kids.
  72. Finding a pair of Sperry sneakers I can wear anywhere.
  73. Taking the kids to play chess with the elderly at a local assisted living home.
  74. Celebrating Kyle’s birthday with Korean BBQ.
  75. Giving away The Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.
  76. Becoming myself and telling that story because “When we, any of us who have been transformed by Christ, tell our own stories, we are telling the story of who God is.” –Shauna Niequist.
  77. Learning to celebrate in the mess better.
  78. Movies, new and old: The Martian, Sing Street, Soul Surfer, and Passengers.
  79. Summer Olympics in Rio. Why don’t they do them every year?
  80. Giving the kids an allowance with Financial Peace Jr.
  81. Candles and quiet most mornings.
  82. Walking through the park daily with the Examen prayer by the Jesuits of Britain Pray as you go app.
  83. Living out the Psalms with this Switchfoot devotion.
  84. Monthly Skype chats with besties.
  85. Earbuds with a microphone.
  86. Tea + poetry on Tuesdays.
  87. Friends who make the drive, check in even when I’m checked out, and keep inviting.
  88. Naps.
  89. Speaking of chillaxing, this reminder: “To rest is to prepare yourself to be used by God—because imagine what He can do in a person who is fully rested, able to think and feel deeply?” –Shauna Niequist.
  90. Working on a family mission statement.
  91. Abby’s custom My Little Ponies.
  92. Kyle’s big words and awesome creations.
  93. Bono + Eugene Peterson discussing the Psalms.
  94. Chasing failure by Ryan Leak.
  95. I admit it: The Great British Baking Show made me cry.
  96. Supporting Preemptive Love.
  97. Pumpkin pancakes.
  98. Postcards by Charissa Steyn at Art of Adventure.
  99. Leagues dance parties.
  100. This quote that helps me remember motherhood matters more than words.

2016, I hold you in my palm with all gratefulness before I throw you to the stars, like confetti.Tweet This

I didn’t have time to link to every photo from 2016, but here’s my Instagram if you feel like getting lost in the scrolling vortex.

Happy New Year, Friends!

XOX,

 

 

 

 

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Ten Books That Changed My Life in 2016

My criteria for a superb book is twofold: 1. It seizes my imagination, and 2. It changes how I live my life for the better. (If this idea of a book profoundly influencing your life forever sounds perfectly reasonable to you, then you are a bibliophile as well. Wear it proudly, my friend.)

A great book can open up new worlds of thought and shift our perspectives forever. It gives us empathy for our fellow humans and presents questions we never dreamed of asking. We read, think, and live afresh, all because of a few hundred pages.

I read a lot (like 5-10 books at a time), but this year I gave myself the freedom to stop reading books I didn’t enjoy. So I started many and completed less. Here are the best books in 2016, the reads which truly turned me inside out:

1. Pilgrim’s Inn by Elizabeth Goudge

Set in England, this is book 2 of a trilogy. The Eliot family takes over a rustic inn for travelers and rediscovers who they are and where they truly belong. The characters and imagery in this book are deep, complicated, and painted with the attention of a masterpiece. I reread many lines over and over because they were so beautiful. This book motivated me to keep pressing into discovering who I am and finding where I belong.

2. It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario

Lynsey Addario has lived through hell and back, through war and being held hostage, and she recorded her experience in pictures the whole way. This stunning memoir offers a raw, real look at the personal sacrifice and extreme dedication professional photojournalists must have. I can safely say this book helped to nip my dream in the bud to be a career National Geographic photographer (at least in war zones), and helped me rethink the cost of doing hard things for the sake of family.

3. The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel

This book was a gift from a dear friend who has become my Sabbath coach of sorts. I differ on some of the theology, but the poetry and potential peace and beauty it illustrates for those who observe Sabbath inspired me to pursue rest with a vengeance this year.

4. Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist

Essays set on the shores of Lake Michigan? Yes, please. I love everything Shauna Niequist writes. I read this after a frantic summer of writing, and it very well saved me from an impractical, killer pace of life.

5. Preemptive Love by Jeremy Courtney

This is the true prologue of a couples’ journey to make a difference in one of the most conflicted areas of the world. Their story of fixing holes in children’s hearts while navigating the complicated, dangerous tribal and war-torn world of Iraq redefined courage and love for me. Today the Courtney family helps refugees fighting and fleeing from ISIS. I dare you to read this book and not be changed.

6. The Joy of Poetry: How to Keep, Save & Make Your Life with Poems by Megan Willome

This book convinced me I can write both memoir and poetry, maybe within the very same binding one day. It helped me rediscover the power of poetry in my personal creativity and spiritual life. I read it with the Tweetspeak Poetry book club and even got a poetry buddy out of the deal.

7. Beyond Loneliness: The Gift of God’s Friendship by Trevor Hudson

Yes, this book changed my life, and I have to meet Trevor Hudson in person some day to thank him. When I saw that the Renovare book club was reading this, I promptly sent in my $50 and waited by the mailbox. After some very lonely experiences, the reflective exercises and simple stories started a process of deep healing between God and me.

8. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas gift from a writerly friend, this classic was such a pleasure to read in its entirety. I once played the Ghost of Christmas Future (gravestone, creepy pointy finger, black hood, and all), and always pictured myself as that character. But reading the last ghostly scene in full, I was struck by Scrooge’s thankful repentance at being shown the fate he might have had as well as the quivering joy that overtook him throughout the book. He kind of reminded me of Bob Goff at the end. I’d like to be more like that when I grow up.

9. Our House Was On Fire by Laura Van Prooyen

I read this little but powerful book of poetry very slowly. Van Prooyen is a master at taking normal experiences and turning them into weighty beauties. Some of the poems left my mouth wide open in astonishment at the sheer artistry of Van Prooyen’s ability to draw profound meaning in the seemingly normal. My favorite poems in this collection are “Our House Was on Fire” and “Blue Nude.” If my house was on fire, I’d snatch this book up before I ran out the door.

10. The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald

George MacDonald’s works of fiction are like spiritually-loaded cannons wrapped in mystical story. This is the sequel to The Princess and the Goblin, which I actually liked even more. We definitely need more stories like this one of brave boys and princesses who possess the awareness and chutzpah to save a kingdom. A timeless tale of resurrection and light that inspired me to live with more courage and kindness and teach my kids how to do it too.

I stopped at ten books so as not to go overboard with my recommendations, but I would be remiss not to mention two more:

Roots & Sky by Christie Purifoy

A poetic journey of growing into a home and a life full of beauty and belonging.

Come, Lord Jesus by Kris Camealy

An Advent devotional that cracked my heart wide open and the centerpiece of the recent book club here on the blog.

New Friends to Read in 2017

The Road Back to You by Crone + Stabile

The Happiness Dare by Jennifer Dukes Lee

All the Pretty Things by Edie Wadsworth

And two I need to finish:

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Essays of E.B. White by E.B. White

You are today who you’ll be in five years except for the people you meet and the books you read. –Charlie “Tremendous” Jones

What books have turned your life upside down?

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What Forgiveness Feels Like

“When you are praying and you remember that you are angry with another person about something, forgive that person. Forgive them so that your Father in heaven will also forgive your sins.” Mark 11:25 (ERV)

It’s making me squirm in my wooden chair, this idea of total forgiveness.

People talk loudly around me as I sip coffee at a restaurant and read Jesus’ words that rock me to the core. I wonder, Can these people hear the secret welling up in my throat? I’m a Christian and I don’t know how to forgive.

I instinctively put my hand over the page to hide the words. I feel exposed.

I’ve walked with God for many years, but I’m struggling to get over past hurts. My relationships are suffering, and the same personal issues keep rising up in my life. I’ve realized I haven’t really shown mercy to those who have injured me, not completely. Forgiveness does not come naturally.

I thought it would be easier to love others like my Father in Heaven. But today, forgiveness feels strange, uncomfortable and radical, like the sun blazing hot on me through the cold cafe window.

Forgiveness is heat and exposure, my heart laid bare in front of God. It feels like surgery. I’m having to admit I’ve become angry and bitter. There have been times lately when forgiveness feels nearly impossible because my heart is bound up tightly like a kid’s knotted shoelaces.

I’m honored to be guest posting at Proverbs 31 Ministries today. (Pinch me, will you?) Read the rest here

Forgiveness Resources

This post was inspired by the book Total Forgiveness by R. T. Kendall. Listen to a fabulous interview my friend Sheridan Voysey did with Kendall here.

When we can’t forgive

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