The Wizard of Oz(car)

When I found out John’s dad was born in 1939, the first thing I thought was, “Oh, he was born the same year The Wizard of Oz released in theaters” because I only remember the important parts of history.

wizard of ozImage from Wizard of Oz: 50th Anniversary Edition book that I own, love and cherish.

Seriously though, it’s no secret here that The Wizard of Oz is one of my favorite all time movies. In the Life section of yesterday’s paper, there was a huge photo of Judy Garland as Dorothy and John saved it out just for me. I read the article in its entirety for the kids while they ate breakfast because history. I should totally homeschool.

I would be lying if I said my main motivation for watching the Oscars last night wasn’t to see how they would honor the 75th anniversary of the movie. I mean yes, star-studded audience and nominees and musical scores and Best Picture and all that. But The Wizard of Oz! When Ellen didn’t come out first thing wearing ruby slippers, I realized I might need to lower my expectations.

1 oscar tweetAnd then I saw Liza Minelli in the audience and I started to really worry. Because if they think pointing to Liza Minelli and saying Look, Judy Garland’s daughter is here! Happy Birthday, Wizard! is going to cut it for a “celebration” they may as well just shut it all down. This will not do.

After way too long into the evening, the orchestra started to play a familiar Oz tune and my heart started to pound in anticipation. And then Whoopi came out and I saw her red shoes right away and I started to nervous-twirl my hair. She gave a short tribute to the movie which I didn’t hear because I was staring at her feet. And even though she was wearing striped tights like the Wicked Witch, I forgave that poor wardrobe choice because she said this:

2 Oscar tweet

And that’s when the lights dimmed and out comes Pink wearing a ruby dress. Pink! In a ruby dress! I didn’t take any photos of my TV because I was mesmorized by all the ruby and I would share an image with you here but I’d have to swipe it from the internet and I’m afraid Getty will sue me.

You can watch the video here if you missed it. And if you have any love at all for Dorothy and the Wizard, you’ll want to because they show a montage in the background while Pink sings Over the Rainbow and you are dead inside if you aren’t moved. I thought she did a beautiful job even though she made some strange breath choices during the song and she could have used a cami under that lovely dress, but that didn’t stop me from tearing up and loving every minute of it. And when Ellen came out dressed as Glinda after the commercial break, well. It was a drop the mic moment for me.

Thank you for this Vine, People Magazine.

Obviously this Oscar re-cap is not complete, as I bascially haven’t mentioned any of the movies that were nominated (or made in the last 74 years for that matter) or any of the beautiful red carpet people like Lupita (fierce Tinkerbell) or Jennifer Lawrence (beautiful awkward genius).

This concludes my Oz indulgence. I will return to our typical soul-breathing posts in a few days. Meanwhile, (which I always used to think was meanwild) if you want to read a legit Oscar recap, might I suggest this post from Kendra Adachi? Because it’s fantastic.

Did you watch the Oscars? What did you think of Pink?! I mean, the Oscars?

for when you are running on empty

Sometimes you anticipate your vacation, make plans and reservations, and look forward to your needed time off. You pack a nice bag, shop for a few travel sized toiletries, and ask the neighbors to pick up your mail while you’re gone.


Other times, you work on your projects and try hard to finish tasks but you end up just walking in circles and writing the same to-do list items on seven different 4×6 note cards until you finally realize, Oh. I’m not getting anything done. I suppose I should take some time off.

So here’s to time off – both the kind you take and the kind that takes you.

If you are vacationing, may it be restful. If you are working, may it be fruitful.

And may you have the wisdom to know when to stop if it isn’t.

As I take a few days to readjust to the summer schedule, here are a few things I’m into this week that are helping me out:

I have the privilege of co-leading a retreat with Fil and Nathan Foster this fall (maybe I’ll see you there?)John and I have known Fil for about 12 years now and I highly recommend his books – but I also highly recommend his person. Is that weird? His portion of the interview starts in around 10:00 mins. You can also listen to it in iTunes by searching “Simplicity Podcast.”

“Here’s a guy who’s famous for what he has to say, yet what I remember most about him was how he sat and listened . . . He touched my life with his kindness.”

-Fil Anderson on his friendship with Brennan Manning

  • I’ve been listening to this album by Christa Wells and Nicole Witt on repeat. Track 5 called Pray is The Lord’s Prayer and it is beautiful.
  • I got my third Stitch Fix! I’ll share what came in that box soon, but I realized I never told you what I kept from my second one: so here’s my keeps from my second fix.

What are you into this week?

what happens when an artist chooses generosity

It was a long day of filming the Try Hard Life series in Charlotte. Several friends and family members were gathered there for the day to help us pull it off. We took a break for lunch.

As I tried not to spill salsa on my pants, I listened to Dad and Reeve talk in the kitchen about how her dad makes guitars. They talked more about music and he asked if she writes her own songs.

She said she did and he asked her what she likes to write about.

And then, the question musicians always hear, and depending on their personality, they either long for or dread:

Would you play a little something for us now?

Her face turned red and she smiled small, shrugged her shoulders and looked around the room. Was she waiting for someone to object? No one did.

We had the time and my brother in law had an old guitar. She settled in to her place on the sofa and we continued to eat as she began to strum.

Time stopped a little and we held our breath. Lucky for you, the camera was rolling.

Reeve singing Night Owl.

Reeve took us on a four minute trip into her soul. We were quiet there at the end simply because we hadn’t come back yet.

She could have said no, but I think she would have regretted it. We would have regretted it, too.

When an artist chooses to be generous, everyone wins. Even though she wrote the song about her own life, we could all somehow relate to it. The more personal you are with your art, the more generally it applies to those who are there to receive it.

It seems counter-intuitve, I know.

Add more of yourself to your work – more of your personality, preferences, and desire. The more we see you, the more we’ll see ourselves.

Go here to learn more about Reeve’s music.

Artists and Influencers :: they’re teaching me about writing

artists & influencers :: a series at chatting at the sky

Last Monday, I introduced a series inspired by this question: What do you know for sure?

I tried to come up with a response to that question, but instead of a list of answers coming to mind, I kept seeing a list of people.

And so I bring you Artists & Influencers.

For the next several Mondays I will share with you some people who are helping me uncover and affirm those things I know for sure about a variety of topics and challenge you to identify and celebrate who those people are in your own life.

So for today, let’s talk about writing.

Donald Miller has a post up today called How My Faith Has Changed Since Blue Like Jazz. It’s an interesting read, but the thing that caught my attention was simply this: his faith has changed since he wrote Blue Like Jazz.

One reason why it feels like so much pressure to write a book is because I have thought that everything I put in my books has to be Completely And Undeniably True Without Possibility Of Changing.

Writing does not represent that for me anymore. I’m not writing scripture, I’m writing blog posts and I’m writing books. The kind of writing I do is not evidence of absolute truth, but of a person who is absolutely alive.

I will always work to pursue and represent truth, but to carry the burden of only writing what I will agree with for the rest of my life? Impossible.

In the spirit of embracing change, growth, and learning from artists and influencers, here are 5 people who are helping me uncover what I know for sure about writing:

1. My husband.

My most encouraging words for you often come after a discouraging time alone. But what moves me from the “discouraging time” to the “encouraging words” is conversation, usually with my husband.

When I am stuck, trying hard to write it out doesn’t always work. I need him to remind me of what I know is true, to point out the holes in my reasoning, to ask me questions and expect an answer.

If you are a writer who is having a hard time writing, try having a conversation instead.

artists and influencers

2. Christa Wells.

Christa is a singer/songwriter living in Raleigh who I also consider a friend. Back in October, she wrote a two-post series called How to Love Your Independent Artist. Here’s something she said that resonated with me:

“I think people often believe all artists are hoping for the same things: notoriety, money, awards, platinum albums, or even just to be picked up by a label. We are all either on our way or not on our way due to unfortunate circumstances.

If we weren’t after those things, then what could possibly be the point?

The reality is that the majority of professional artists do want all of those things. But there are many of us who honestly don’t.”

And then she said this, something I’m beginning to know as true, true, true, true, true:

“The longer we stay in or around the business, the more we’re aware that all good things come at some cost. Those costs are too high for some of us.”

Not all singer/songwriters have the same goals.

Not all writers do, either.

And all good things come at some cost. Even good things cast shadows.

It is important to work out and continue to uncover why you write and who you are writing for. My reasons may not fit with the latest marketing trends and they may not produce impressive numbers. I’m continually drawn to writing content that feels like it is for a smaller number of people.

Sometimes that’s hard for me to accept. But it would be harder for me to write differently just so more people would read.

3. Jon Acuff. 

I don’t know Jon personally, but when I am in danger of feeling the weight of responsibility and overwhelmed with The Serious And Important Work I’m doing, it helps to remember these words of his:

“Have fun. Don’t take yourself so seriously. You’re not discovering penicillin. You’re writing a book. If you ever find yourself becoming pretentious about the magnitude of what you are doing, go write at the library.

There are tens of thousands of books there that some other author once thought, If I don’t share this book with the world, the world will be incomplete. Writing a book is hard work, but don’t put the pressure of ‘changing the world’ on every page you write. You’ll cripple yourself and not enjoy the process even a little bit.”

In other words:


image source

4. My editor, Andrea Doering.

Last week I received the first round of edits for my next book, to release in November. I will spare you the details of her edits, of which there are many. But here’s one thing I can say with confidence: I have a lot to learn about the craft of writing.

In the past, that was overwhelming to me. Now, it’s strangely comforting.

Andrea is an artist in the way she eloquently encourages and speaks into my strengths while also calling out a more courageous voice that she knows is in me.

I learn and embrace the rules of writing in order to release my clearest, most powerful message. I have her to thank for that.

5. You. 

Last Wednesday, I spent several hours responding to email from readers. I read every email I get but I can’t always respond to them all the way I want.

But that day, I did. There was a moment when I was overcome with emotion – it almost felt sacred to me.

The fog of discouragement and self-doubt lifted and I could see how the cycle of words given to me turned over into words given to you.

Generally it is important for me to remember what Jon Acuff says – lighten up!

But sometimes, on days like last Wednesday, it’s nice for me to remember that even though every page doesn’t have to change the world, there will be some pages that do. And it is good and right to celebrate that.

These are some of the artists and influencers who are helping me uncover what I know for sure about writing. What about you? Who are the people in this season of life who are teaching you about writing? What are they saying?

for your weekend

a weekend blessing

May your weekend be filled with small steps. May the believers hold hope and welcome questions, may the lovers extend grace and enter messes, and may the dreamers move toward sharing their visions with the world. Enjoy your weekend, friends.

Good reads from the week:

weekend links

I’m not sure I can explain the comfort of hosting Tuesdays Unwrapped again even though it’s only for the next few weeks. I haven’t made my way through all 98 entries, but the ones I’ve read are simply lovely. Thank you for seeing the holy moments in the midst of ordinary life and for sharing them with us. I hope you’ll do it again next week.

snow on branches

Since it’s Friday, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite links from this week:

I think I’m going to make these winter branches with duct tape from my sister.

Lisa Leonard made a darling wonder-filled pewter wand for kids.

Amber Haines gives an update on Titus, her sweet baby who just won’t gain weight.

Ree wrote a beautiful tribute post to her Grandmother who died yesterday.

Boo Mama gives links to 10 free printables.

Over 400 Christmas mantle decorating ideas at The Lettered Cottage.

What have you found to inspire you this week? Share one link in the comments! (If you share more than one link, it will think you’re spam and your comment won’t go through). Happy Friday.

love a horse and talk to plumbers

“Love a horse and talk to plumbers. Ask questions of everybody and don’t hide your ignorance, for ignorance is simply the unlit side of curiosity and the outside of the door to wisdom and knowledge. Be a limitless person to others and maybe you will stretch them more than your art does. Let’s hope.”

- Harold Best’s letter to artists as recorded in Scribbling in the Sand by Michael Card

The entire letter Harold Best wrote is too long to quote, but this part was my favorite. It came on the tail end of his encouraging the reader to be open to learning about things outside of their own natural interests and specialties. He reminds us to take our head out of the middle of our own projects and pursuits long enough to learn about owls, race cars, geography, the law of gravity, spit.

This both overwhelms and delights me.

As my youngest enters kindergarten next week, I think of all the things I want him to learn, things I want to teach him, things the world wants to teach him.

I pray he never forgets his questions and curiosity.

I pray I don’t forget mine, either.

I’m not exactly sure what it means to love a horse and talk to plumbers in the midst of the everyday life stuff, in the midst of just finally figuring out that thing I really want to do, in the midst of learning my own art and being brave enough to share it, in the midst of junk mail and school supplies.

It must have to do with gratitude, with seeing beyond my own obsessions, with being present in the moments and not always consumed with me and mine.

What are some ways you love a horse and talk to plumbers? Or maybe you love a plumber and talk to a horse?

why chartreuse is the color of a dream come true

The store smells strong of paint and wood. Adele plays from a speaker in the back and I have a compulsion to touch everything I see. Story is thicker than the paint in the air.


The shop owners greet me when I turn the corner. She waves from behind the desk, steps around to offer a hug. He smiles and holds up his paintbrush. They have been married as long as I’ve been alive.

This is what they do, they keep this shop and sell these goods and remake things already made.

The man, he’s a long-time family friend. He knows more of my family story than perhaps anyone on earth. He sings like an artist, listens like a friend, laughs like Jesus.

If I ever have to act in a play and my job is to cry the real, I will think of what our lives would be like without this family friend. I tear up every time I imagine it. I try not to think of it at all.

Before the store was a store, she has a dream to create a place where they take the old, beautiful things and give them new life – a store where they do what they always did: make the used into art. He is up for the adventure and she goes to bed dreaming of a name. Chartreuse comes to mind, a word that hugs both art and reuse, though she won’t realize that until later. She keeps the name to herself, falls asleep dreaming.

They wake the next morning and he tells her he thought of a name in the night. “What is it?” she asks, curious.

You know where this is going.

“Chartreuse.” He says. The same word, the same night, two different people. But not really.

And so it was.

I don’t share their story to advertise their shop (although it is one of my very favorite places in Greensboro to find things for my house). I share their story because they had a dream and they weren’t afraid to make it come true. And the Lord, he put himself right in the center of it, literally.

He makes the used into art. Chartreuse.

“Having vision beyond your resources is synonymous with dreaming big. And it may feel like you’re setting yourself up for failure, but you’re actually setting God up for a miracle. How God performs the miracle is His job. Your job is drawing a circle around the God-given dream.”

Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker

Do you have a dream you’re afraid to voice? Are there things swirling around in your heart that need to find a place in your life? Do you believe God can give that dream a name?

10 Favorite Blog Posts of 2011

While my family and I are gallivanting around this week, I want to share with you my own personal picks for the 10 Favorite Blog Posts of 2011. (When you capitalize things, it makes them Super Official). I have nothing to offer these 10, no award or certificate or badge or banner. But great writing deserves some attention. All of these posts have moved me, some even months after I read them. Of the many lovely and soulful posts I’ve read this year, here are 10 that seem to have lingered for various reasons (listed in no particular order).

Unstyled Life by Jules at Pancakes and French Fries:: Having just recently watched my family sort through the many collections of everything from manilla envelopes to Waffle House pins that make up the remnants of my father-in-law’s earthly possessions, this post struck a chord somewhere down deep. She writes beautifully and I am left standing right next to her, shaking my head. For anyone considering the purpose of all our stuff, this post is a must read.

Please Don’t Miss It by Sara Frankl at (in)courage :: She wrote this on her birthday, the last birthday she had on earth. She wrote to us, begging us to see, to open up, to live fully. She wanted us to learn from her life: don’t miss your own. Read it. You won’t soon forget.

The World Needs More Artists by Jeff Goins :: Jeff is a great voice for those of us who work hard at our craft but have trouble with the last five percent. He reminds us that making great art is its own reward and that we have a say in the kind of legacy we want to leave. His blog is one of my favorite new finds of 2011.

We’ve Been Conditioned to Not Make Mistakes by The Nester at Nesting Place :: She reminds us that while home is supposed to be the safest place on earth, some of us manage to make it our biggest source of shame. It’s not supposed to be that way. Read at your own risk.

What is Deployment? by Ashleigh Baker :: Think of honest writing and then go two steps deeper. That is how Ashleigh communicates on her blog. She spent many, many months alone with her two boys as her husband served overseas. And then he came home, and she wrote about it, and it was beautiful, and I still think of it sometimes. So here you go.

Hold Your Fire by Jenny S. Allen :: I met her on Canadian Thanksgiving in a Toronto hotel restaurant, she with my lost luggage and stories so similar to mine it made my head spin. We chatted over pizza until we closed the tired place down and shared nervous laughter over the interviews we had the next morning. And in that magic way that doesn’t happen all that often, a girl from Texas and a girl from North Carolina connected like girls who grew up only miles apart, swimming at the same pool. For any woman who feels a tug and a pull but is terrified of leading, read this post.

Here and There by Shannan Martin at Flower Patch Farm Girl :: She writes about home in ways that make me wish I had one. Not that I don’t have a home, I do. But we moved around so much when I was a kid that the roots she talks about didn’t have time to burrow deep. So I read her words and I know I feel that way about something but I just haven’t figured out what yet. So while this post is one of my favorites of the year, her entire blog is one of my favorite finds ever.

Because God Really Knows How to Meet Needs by Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience :: She wrote this post in November and I’ve thought of it more than I can say since then. Because The Farmer didn’t want to leave his pigs, but he did it anyway. And God has lovely ways of weaving our giftedness and our passion into our service and our worship. That is what he did on a small plot of land in Ecuador. I simply love this story.

These Are Magic Hours by Tara at Pohlkotte Press:: I found this post just a week ago. Tara linked up with Tuesdays Unwrapped and I’m so glad she did. She makes words dance. A taste? “These are the hours that make the years fly, folding us into life with grace and love.”

My Dead Hope by Gary Morland at New Life’n :: Don’t let the title fool you. It’s a post about broken dreams, yes. But it’s also infused with a beautiful, rich, scary hope that weighs even heavier than the dream. If you had goals for this year that never quite came to be, read this before the next year begins. And as a bonus? Gary has an ebook based on this series available for free download any day now – just look for Scary Hope (I’ll let you know when it’s available). And also he’s my dad so you know. There’s that.

Cherry Bomb by Megan Jordan at Velveteen Mind:: Whenever I feel wimpy in my writing I read this post by Megan and it makes me brave. She has a way of bossing without making me defensive, instead it just makes me get to work.

What do you think of these 10 posts {ok it’s 11}? Which ones would you add? (Feel free to share links in the comments, but if you leave more than one link, the blog will think you’re spam and block you). Would love to hear some of your favorite picks of the year.

And to you who have gathered here for yet another year, thank you for writing, for speaking truth into this chaotic world, for making your art, and sharing it with us.

to feed your soul

I really love Lisa Leonard. She is genuine, talented, and beautiful. She and I sat on the edge of the world a few weeks ago. Surrounded by friends, we talked about life and family and risk. We sat there in the cool sand, the southern September breeze carrying sweet conversation and the occasional laugh and holler from the girls behind us. And as we sat, my soul breathed in deep and wide. I felt the necklace around my neck, the one that says feed your soul, and I realized this is what it meant.

Lisa gave each one of us one of her tiny works of art, and now she wants to give one to you. Enter to win a feed your soul necklace in the comments below by answering the question: What is it that feeds your soul? Comments are open until 11 pm EST Sunday September 25. Winner will be contacted by email on Monday.

Lisa and her husband have two boys and live in California. You can browse Lisa Leonard Designs on her website or visit her beautiful blog. You can also use the code chattingatthesky to receive %15 off your purchase.