12 great blog posts from 2012

Happy New Year to you! With just a few hours left in 2012, I thought it time to go ahead and share 12 great blog posts from 2012. The list isn’t complete by any stretch, but these posts have stuck with me for one reason or another.

Great Blog Reads 2012

To those of you who wrote these posts, thank you for sharing your honest and influential voice. And now, some great reads from 2012:

1. Always do Your Best (and 2 Other Olympic Sized Lies) by Stephen Martin at Messy Quest

2. In Which You are Loved and You Are Free by Sarah Bessey

3. Grief, 3 Little Girls, and God Somewhere by Guy Delcambre for A Deeper Family

4. Live in Today, Not Tomorrow by Kelly Sauer

5. Downward Mobility by Shaun Groves

6. Decorating Truths From a 15-Year-Old Tanzanian Boy by The Nester at Nesting Place

7. The Post That is Hard to Write by Hayley Morgan at The Tiny Twig

8. The Children Have Spoken by Rachel Macy Stafford at Hands Free Mama

9. Enough: Or, Why We Should All Be Laughing Hysterically in the Magazine Aisle by Rachel Held Evans

10. Starting Now? The End to the Cynicism by Ann Voskamp

11. One Way God Never Speaks by Shannan Martin at Flower Patch Farm Girl

12. Connect or Miss Out by Gary Morland, Dot Connector

. . . and because I can’t leave this one out, but also can’t put it on the list because then it would be 13, I offer you one to grow on: I Can’t Pick a Movie by Annie Downs for (in)courage. You’re welcome.

Thanks for reading Chatting at the Sky in 2012! This January marks seven years of writing in this space. If you would like to stay connected in 2013 and you haven’t subscribed to receive posts in your inbox, you can do that here for free.

If you would like to receive a short, monthly-ish note of encouragement as well as book news and speaking dates, you can sign up for that one here. Happy New Year, y’all!


the courage we all so desperately need

The starfish sits on our dining room table, a few feet away from the white Christmas tree I found at the Goodwill. There is a lot of white in that room and I like it that way.

White is the color of space.

And so we head into 2013 in a few days and I find myself longing for the beach already. I do odd things in the midst of change, in the shifting from the right-now to the will-be. I tend to rush ahead to the next thing, but I don’t do it as much as I used to.

Sit, girl. Stay in the place where you are.

Tomorrow (Saturday) I will stand in front of hundreds of college students and speak out loud about the things I know for sure – the grace and love God has for his people. I speak at 2 EST. Pray for courage?

Even as I write that, I think of Newtown, I think of Jennie’s friend Sarah in a hospital in Texas, I think of Nish giving birth to a brand new baby girl in Utah, I think of home here in North Carolina. There is much to grieve and there is much to celebrate, all at the same time.

Jesus is the courage we all so desperately need, no matter what we’re doing.

May your weekend be filled with thoughtful reflection and hopeful anticipation.

for your Christmas

May your Christmas be filled with laughter. As you miss those who can’t be with you, as you feel the truth of where you are right now, as you move through the packing and the cooking and the coming together, may the miracle of Christmas carry a lightness into the center of your being.

The world is broken, but Christ has come. Light wins. Hope lives. And the souls of the saints breathe a sigh of sweet relief. Enjoy your Christmas, friends.

how to reset your internal clock in time for Christmas

Over the past 35 years, I’ve watched my parents do things that have made me laugh, think, and roll my eyes. But when I first heard about this thing my dad does in the mornings, I knew I was going to have to start doing it too.

Four days before Christmas, while the kitchen is filled up with newly bought groceries, the kids spend their last day at school before break, the tree hangs on to drying pine needles, I need to remember how to reset my internal clock in the midst of the hurried bustle, the quiet grief from the events of last Friday, and the deep longing for Immanuel.

Want to know how to reset your internal clock, too? I’ll tell you over at (in)courage.

how to pray when you don’t know how to pray

We walk the kids to school like we do most mornings. Everything we can see is the same – uphill most of the way there, we stop to tie a shoe or two. I wrap cold hands around a half-full coffee mug.

When we get to the doors, the warm air from the building pulls us inside. But we’re walking sideways and distracted today, still shaken by images we’ve only seen in our heads. Normal thoughts swirl around with terrible thoughts – I hug my six year old bye for the day, laughing at the look he gives me.

Still smiling, I look over his shoulder into his classroom to see if there is a closet where the teacher could hide them.

There’s no closet, but there is a bathroom. That should do.

We walk away from the door, notice they’ve changed the artwork in the main hallway. I’m still thinking about his classroom, all those coats hanging on hooks on the wall.

I make dinner at the end of the day and for the first time since last Friday, I feel a wave of anger rise up in me. It comes strong and unexpected and brings tears of rage.

The chili starts to boil. I turn off the stove and set the pot on a cool eye. Chili isn’t supposed to boil.

Teachers aren’t supposed to have to hide kids in closets. Or bathrooms.

I thought I would only write one post about all this, but I’m not sure who I thought I was. I know this isn’t the first school shooting. But something about this one feels so personal.

As I stand at the sink after dinner, hot water runs over the heavy bowl. I lose my grip and the bowl slips. It’s loud and the water splashes my face and arms, soaking my shirt.

I have real emotion over it, mutter under my breath. Immediately, a flash of guilt – what have you got to be frustrated about?

I nearly stopped there, letting the guilt push me into proper behavior of thankfulness.

But as I become more fully myself, I think I’m also accepting my humanity in more complete ways.

I’m still going to roll my eyes at telemarketers and mutter when I drop dishes. My first response is still a human one when small annoying things happen the same way my first response is a human one when huge, unthinkable things happen.

We are fully human and our emotions run deep – our anger is red and sharp, our sorrow the deepest shade of blue.

Though I’ve only seen maybe fifteen minutes total of the news coverage, I have images in my head that I can’t get out. We all do – not the pictures we’ve seen, but the ones we imagine. I don’t want to imagine things from the classrooms, but the images come anyway.

It is horrifying.

We can’t linger there.

The things we feel most deeply – be it anger or sadness or fear – let these be hints of how to pray. Let your particular personality become fully awake in the midst of the questions. Where is your burden heaviest? Pray that.

I am an intense feeler with a sensitive imagination, and so I feel pressed to pray in the ways that make sense to me. I pray that those children and teachers and first responders who have survived will have renewed imaginations. That somehow, the horror of what their eyes have seen, what their souls have lived through, will fade.

There is an honest part of me that doubts that is possible.

I read Psalm 23, read about the Lord as Shepherd, the kind who leads and quiets and calms.

The kind who restores souls.

Lord, may it be so.

tuesdays unwrapped

tuesdays unwrapped

It’s Tuesday in December, and that means we’re unwrapping the lovely, the messy, and the unexpected. Whether you are in a season of work or rest, celebration or grief, take a moment to see where you are, who you’re with, and what might be worth unwrapping. Will you take a moment and unwrap your moments here with us? Need help linking up? This post should answer your questions.

an attempt to put words on the heartbreak

I wasn’t planning to write anything in response to the horrific tragedy in Connecticut mainly because I didn’t know what to possibly say. Words don’t come fast for me, especially not at times like this. Though everyone carries the weight of grief very differently, it seems like we all know at least this – there are no words. 

Walking under a great cloud of sadness this weekend, I read this quote from an art teacher named Donna who works at a school nearby Sandy Hook Elementary.

“I don’t know if the rest of the country is struggling to understand it the same way we are here,” she said. “Life goes on, but you’re not the same. Is the rest of the country — are they going about their regular activities? Is it just another news story to them?” source

Even though there is nothing to say, after reading her words, I felt compelled to take my nothing and say it out loud, if for no other reason than to pay my respect.

Donna, I speak for me and my husband, a mom and dad living in North Carolina. Through my small words, we extend our hands and hearts to you, to your community, your teachers, your parents, and your children – this is not just another news story to us. 

Though we can’t possibly know what your community is going through, we imagine how horrific it must feel. And our imaginations are heavy with sorrow, though we all might show that very differently.

I watch my three elementary school aged children, two third graders and a kindergartener. Seeing pictures of Sandy Hook, I am struck by how much the school looks like ours.

I light four candles on my table and try to avoid the news.

I pray for the community of Newtown and remember that we are all still waiting for home.

I haven’t really said anything here. But I couldn’t continue to write until I spent a little time searching for words to put on the heartbreak, no matter how inadequate they are.

Words from The Jesus Storybook Bible from Luke 2:

They knelt on the dirt floor. They had heard about this Promised Child and now he was here. Heaven’s Son. The Maker of the Stars. A baby sleeping in his mother’s arms. This baby would be like that bright star shining in the sky that night. A Light to light up the whole world.

Chasing away darkness. Helping people to see.

And the darker the night got, the brighter the star would shine.

Read from women (and one man) who have more words than I do:

Newtown As I Know It by Jamie Martin who loves and lives there

God Can’t Be Kept Out by Rachel Held Evans

Beautiful Grief by Shannan Martin

“Friday we cried again…” by my Dad

when it’s good to keep your art a secret

At 11 am this past Monday morning, I sent off a manuscript to my editor, thousands of words that will become my third book. It is as complete as I am able to make it right now and I’m thankful to have that massive deadline behind me.

I realize I haven’t talked about this book much on the blog and I’m not sure how I feel about that. With the first book, you knew about it when it was only a book proposal and were so kind to walk with me through each step.

With this book, I signed a contract and had it half-written three months before I even mentioned it here.

I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things along the way – one is that I need to save my breath because if I chatter away about a project too long before it comes out, then I’ll be chattering away about the same things for two years straight. No fun there. This next book is due to release in November of 2013 and so I just don’t want to wear you out by talking about it too much too soon.

But that isn’t the only reason why I’ve kept it to myself. I think part of it also has to do with knowing what is to come, in a way. I know that sooner or later, these words will be available to anyone gracious enough to accept them as well as those who might not.

That doesn’t scare me like it did the first time around. But it does make me a little tired to think of it. There is a time for sharing and speaking out. But I’m learning that my own rhythm of listening, creating, and waiting comes first.

There is a sweetness for me in keeping quiet this time, in holding my art close to my chest for a while, in sitting with my words and ideas in silence month after month before I begin to talk about them, in carrying my questions with a few people before I ask them in front of many.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to write. I’m thankful to you for reading. We already have a title and a subtitle for this next book that I can’t wait to share with you, but it isn’t yet time.

And so the manuscript sits in the inboxes of my editor and my agent and I pray my words make sense to them. I’ll know soon enough.

Do you have a project still in the stage of sacred waiting? What are the challenges and blessings for you as you hold your art close to your chest?

5 ways to know if it’s time for a mustache

It wasn’t my intention to put a mustache on my car. The Man works with high school kids so he really got it for his. We left the toy store that afternoon, smiling as we carried out the giant magnet. But when we got home, it didn’t take long to realize there was no good place to put the stache on his car – the grill and the headlights and yadayada – so he stuck it on mine “just to see.” That was nearly a year ago.

At first it was funny but now I mostly forget about it until I’m sitting at a stoplight and people walk across the street in front of me and stare and laugh point. And I get all weird and throw up my hands, What?! and get defensive.

Until I remember I have a mustache on my car. And then I laugh, too.

For months, I’ve meaning to take it off. I mean, I’m not the mustache on my car kind of person, really. But then, I keep not taking it off. I started thinking about why and came up with five possible reasons. Maybe you need a mustache, too?

1. If you’re easily offended, it might be time to put a mustache on your car. Give them a reason to point and laugh, and then laugh with them.

2. If you think your car is too nice for the foolishness, it might be time for a stache. In this case, you might need to skip the magnet and go ahead and get the fuzzy one.

3. If you are taking yourself too seriously, put a mustache on it. It’s hard to be introspective and twisty in the mustache mobile.

4. If you are feeling lonely? Mustache. People aren’t threatened by a girl in a van with mustache. You will delight children and their parents. Your friends will recognize you coming from far away, so when they get close enough to wave, you’ll see them. No mustache and they won’t recognize you until you’ve already passed. Too late for the wave.

5. If you aren’t the mustache type, it’s time definitely time for a mustache. Things have become too predictable. Shake it up a little. Laugh at yourself. Be silly for no reason.

Have things become a bit too serious for you? What are some mustaches you’re embracing these days?