in praise of waiting

truth and beauty

In her memoir documenting their friendship, Ann Patchett shares a letter Lucy Grealy wrote to her after she (Lucy) had a particularly moving experience in Prague.

Dear Ann, An important thing happened to me a few days ago in Prague, though I haven’t yet reached a point in time at which I can know how it was important.

The story itself is deeply moving, but this line at the beginning is what caught my eye when I read it yesterday. As a writer I often feel like I haven’t truly learned something unless I’ve written it down, figured out how to put my experience into my own language. But this line from Lucy’s letter in Truth and Beauty reminds me – we are always taking life into ourselves, both our own experiences and the experience of others.

But decoding those experiences takes time. Sometimes the most important things that happen to me are those that take months or even years to unpack. I would do well to wait and give it all some room to breathe.

That’s where I am today. I’m finally home after nearly a week of traveling. I have a sense that important things are happening within me, but I don’t have English words for them yet.

I have a book releasing next week and I’m feeling grateful and also small. A book release is something to celebrate and is to me deeply important, but it is not the axle upon which life turns. It is a spoke, but it is not the wheel.

plane

When our plane landed in Charlotte yesterday, I felt a physical sense of relief. Even though I had one short flight left until I made it home, this skyline was familiar. These roads were familiar. North Carolina is home and I felt her there, the ground wide to receive that fast moving plane.

Today I’ll begin to return some email, try to finally connect with our Barn attendees (hello you!) and begin to make sense of my travel receipts. I’ll also sit in the silence of home and actively give myself permission not to figure things out today.

Maybe you need that permission too?

sweet July

july

Ihave lived in North Carolina for 16 years now. I can’t remember ever referring to July as “sweet.” Hot and humid? Yes. Heavy with grief? Once. Relaxing and fun? Usually. But this year I name July sweet because she comes bearing the gift of rest and space for my husband.

Saturday I sent out our monthly letter sharing with readers what we hope the next six months will look like now that John’s days as a youth pastor are behind us (If you would like to get July’s letter at the end of the month, here is where you can sign up.) The first item on the list is rest.

July

My schedule is picking up starting in July but John’s is doing the opposite. Still, I long for this month to be a time of deep soul breathing for both of us. We’ve had many conversations about how to navigate his calmer schedule with my more active one. One way I’m planning to do that is to take some extended time off from the blog this month while I work toward finishing some non-blog related deadlines.

I’m not sure exactly what that will look like, but I wanted to let you know that’s what’s going on if you don’t hear from me for a week or four.

In the meantime, here are some things I wanted to be sure you know about incase it’s a while before I check in here again:

She Speaks Meet-up for Chatting at the Sky readers: I mentioned this before but wanted to say it once again. In a little over 3 weeks, some of you will be headed to Charlotte for the She Speaks conference. I know this is a nervous time for many so I wanted to host an intentional time to meet up with you. Let’s gather in a corner, connect with one another, and share some encouragement for a few minutes. If you’re going to She Speaks and would like to gather with a smaller group for a little conversation at some point during the weekend, email me including “She Speaks” in the subject line and I will be in touch. If you have already emailed, you’ll hear from me soon!

Things I Learned in July: Y’all. Friday was so much fun. Seriously, this is my favorite link up I have ever hosted. I’m slowly working my way through your posts (all 128 of them so far) and I am learning the most spectacularly random stuff! I love it so much I can’t wait to do it again at the end of this month. So keep your “what I learned” lists going and we’ll meet back here the last week of July.

TryHardLife-03

Letting Go of the Try Hard Life Conference: I’m headed to Johnson City, Tennessee next month to serve at two events alongside two of my favorite musicians, Christa Wells and Nicole Witt! My prayer for both of these events is for girls and women to remember how Jesus’ pursuit of us is more important than our pursuit of anything else and to find relief from the anxiety of performing for acceptance. Here are the details for any of you who might be close enough to attend:

Grace Fellowship – Johnson City, Tennessee

For Teen Girls Friday August 9, 2013

For Women Saturday August 10, 2013

Alright friends. That’s all I have for now. In order to create a space here for your soul to breathe, I have to create some space for my own. So I’m going to take some time to do that this month as best I can. I may be back next week or . . . not. Until then, may you breathe in grace and breathe out worship in everything you do. Enjoy your week, friends.

what you can find in the ordinary moments

“The discovery of God lies in the daily and the ordinary, not in the spectacular and the heroic. If we cannot find God in the routines of home and shop, then we will not find him at all. Ours is to be a symphonic piety in which all the activities of work and play and family and worship and sex and sleep are the holy habitats of the eternal.”

Richard Foster, Prayer

These words of Richard Foster’s in his chapter called Praying the Ordinary resonated with me this morning so I thought I would share them with you. You’re welcome.

june

His words also remind me to remind you to come back here tomorrow to share some of the ordinary (and perhaps not so ordinary) things you have learned during the month of June. Here are some tips to write your post if you need them. I plan to have the linky up by around 10 am EST. Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

the importance of holding on

We’re on day eight of fever in our house – two have the flu, one has strep, and two parents have a common cold. Yes, that’s three different sicknesses all up in this house.

I fought against it for about two days last week, wishing I could change what I could see was happening. I realized around Tuesday that this Thanksgiving break was not going to look like what I planned. Some things were canceled, expectations passed by unmet, and all three of my kids suffered terribly with coughs and fevers and wakings in the night.

On Saturday when I started to feel the ache between my eyes, the runny nose and the heavy limbs, I got a little teary and ridiculous about the whole thing. I cuddled up to the idea of disappearing in my bed and letting someone else take care of all the things and people needing attention. Will we ever stop wanting our moms when we start to feel sick?

Today we begin the recovery from the fog. For me, that means trying to remember how to form a sentence. I have a manuscript due sooner than I’d like to admit. Books aren’t written by good intentions, so I have some serious work to do.

But all these things are small, really. Our family will be well soon enough, the book will be written in time, and all these disappointments from last week don’t add up to much even when put all together. I was even able to finish The Distant Hours this weekend and I’m glad I stuck with it. Slow start, great finish.

I remember once my husband telling me whatever you hold on to will hold on to you.

I held on to disappointment some last week and it kept a pretty tight hold on me. Today I’m holding on to gratitude instead, not just for the gifts but to the Giver of them.

What are you holding on to today?

what happens when you try to go home again

We take one last trip of summer, pile twelve deep into a van. We drive through the streets of my childhood, streets I know by heart but can’t navigate on my own. I never drove them, still haven’t. We moved from Columbus, Indiana when I was only eleven and this is the first time my husband and children have seen where I grew up.

picture in a pictureThirty years ago, Dad built that fence on the right. I remember the day he drove the wood into the ground, made a three-sided line around our grass, the house closing up the square. That house holds every memory I have for the first decade of my life. Strangers live there now. Maybe in twenty-five years, the children in that small white house will drive by with their own van filled with people, hearts full, hands empty.

Maybe they will remember the alley out back where they ran barefoot, gravel hardening soft feet with every step, arms filled with Barbies, ears keen for the carnival sound of the ice cream truck, eyes filled with wonder.

Nothing was ever going to change.

Grandma would live forever.

Sisters would always share rooms.

Saturdays would always mean donuts.

Dad would always hold beers.

Home would always be Gladstone Avenue.

It hurts to go back and remember, mostly because we can’t re-create it. My heart begs my eyes to see again, but I can’t un-see what is now there. We have lived so many lives in this one lifetime since then.

Standing in that alley on Halloween night so many years ago, I couldn’t have imagined change would ever be good. But I was four, so what did I know? Life was hard then, not that I realized it at the time. I haven’t fully processed what it meant to me to see my childhood home through adult eyes, my own children  nearly as old as I was when we left, my husband holding my hand.

columbus indiana

We look at the same buildings and streets and fields. But what was see is completely different. It’s difficult to accept that these people who are now my people can never really understand my past.

I look over on the seat next to me, my sister’s eyes as wide as mine, Mom telling a story behind us, Dad pulling out photos from the 80s. And I can’t believe it, but for a moment time is suspended. These are my people, too. Maybe Mom once felt like I do right now, and maybe her mom before us. We grow and move and change and make new people who do the same. At least we hope so.

We need the whole mix of them, this community of people put together by God. And it hurts to know them sometimes, to let them know me. But this is family, community, and in many ways, a picture of the church. Some of them remember as well as I do, others remember better and the youngest ones just want to get back to the hotel so they can play.

Some things are not for everyone to know, some gifts and lessons are only for those who lived through it. I’m learning to accept that and maybe even be thankful for it.

The van pulls out of the neighborhood, someone mentions Starbucks. The kids are having a bubblegum blowing contest in the back.

I smile, full.

the most important item to keep in your pocket

When true things don’t feel true, the world tips a little on its side. We see the sky but it sits sideways and it seems like the only way out is either to straighten up the clouds with the force of our own will or hide under the awnings until things start to look bright again.

But when the things that are true also feel like truth? It’s like a southern evening drive with the windows down. And we drive past the grocery store where we buy the ice cream and the library where we owe gratitude and a couple of dimes and all those things feel like small characters in a great big story and so do we.

A good story. A full story. A life.

I’m having a windows-down kind of Monday. I feel a re-connection to the people I love most and a calling I’ve said yes to and how it all fits together.

Tomorrow it will be different, at least that’s my plan. Even though true things are true no matter what, we can’t expect our feelings to always be following along with them. So we embrace the gifts of the good days when our loves are in line and our hearts feel full. We stuff those graces down deep into our pockets, so when the days get heavy and the wind blows strong, those gifts sit safe close to skin and the fabric of our jeans, pocketed for a time we need to remember.

the importance of staying small

There is a map of the world hanging in an office some 9,000 miles away from my front door. At first glance, it looks as though the continents are in the wrong place. But after a bit of study, you realize it isn’t wrong at all, but simply drawn from another perspective. Standing in the Compassion International office in Manila, Philippines, our team stared hard at that map. And seeing Asia in the middle with North and South America shifted way to the right didn’t cause one entitled huff or puff. Instead, our entire team breathed a collective sigh of relief.

I’ve thought of that moment a lot, wondered why we all had the same reaction to that map in that moment. Perhaps it’s because traveling the world helps you realize you aren’t the center of it. And there is a great relief in remembering that it isn’t all about us.

My dad used to watch our kids as toddlers and say under his breath, We teach them when they’re babies that they’re center of the world, and they spend the rest of their lives realizing they’re not. It’s true, we do it. We have to tend to them as though their world depends on it, because it does. They are so small. But so are we.

Still, we spend a lot of time working hard to keep our world spinning ’round–write the proposal, plan the meal, pick up the girls, deliver the brownies, ask him the questions, give them attention, and on it goes. We have to do these things, as they are our living, our livelihood, our art. But our living and our art can quickly cross over into our burdens even as we will them not to.

Instead of living and loving out of a place of fullness, we grasp for meaning and worth out of a place of need. Call me important! Tell me I matter! our actions cry out. There is a voice that whispers, You are and you do, but not because of all this activity.

Celebrate your smallness today. Lay back on the wide green earth and let the world spin the sun right up above you. And breathe a sigh of sweet relief as you realize you had nothing to do with it.

the invisible, glamorous life

We’d never seen a boat that big in the harbour. I’ve been coming here for 11 years – The Man for all his life. It was the Never Enough. The irony was not lost on anyone watching.

They said that the crew was dressed all in khakis and fancy shirts in the early day, and at dusk we saw them in their black ties. We could hear all the excitement from where we stood as the yacht slowly made her way around the smaller boats, and I nearly expected Jay Gatsby to walk right out onto the deck and nod to the crowd with a smirk and a white-coat wave.

She moved slow, heavy, regal. And I wished I was there, part of the buzz and glitz and mystery. But not really. Because as I lazy-looped my arm through The Man’s and we meandered our way back to our beach house, I realized that this life I live is someone else’s boat – they look and long and wish for this. And so do I, until I remember I have it. That glamour life doesn’t really exist, and the ones who chase it discover quick, It isn’t really there. Whoever named the boat knew that. This tangible life is never enough, not really.

It’s been four months since I first saw Never Enough floating slow in the harbor, and every time I see a movie star on the cover of a magazine or daydream about jumping on a plane to Paris, I think about her and about how she may have been the biggest yacht in our harbor, but she’s not the biggest yacht in the world, not by far. When you strive to be the biggest and best, the smartest and wisest and most interesting, your goal will always be frustrated with bigger and better, smarter and wiser, and much more interesting. And so there is an innocent comfort and safety in humility, in receiving what this day gives, and in knowing that none of it originates with me.

on loving :: a guest post

Linda has been married to her high school sweetheart for 43 years and is in the midst of the lovely season of life that includes Grandchildren. She enjoys time spent with her family, quilting, knitting, writing, playing the piano and Bible Study. To learn more about Linda, visit her at Linda’s Patchwork Quilt. Her voice is calming and sweet. I know you’ll enjoy her.

Before we can even get the car doors open they are there, spilling out of the house with cries of “Papa!  Grandma!”  I bend over to grab a little one in my arms, reach up for a hug from a grandson who seems to have grown six inches in the past few weeks, and caress the cheeks of a beautiful granddaughter. Everyone is talking at once as we make our way into the house. There is so much they all want to share. I feel like the most loved, important person in the world.

Try as I will, I cannot make time slow down during these visits. How I long to make a few days stretch into weeks. We play and laugh and talk. I lean in close to hear their hearts – the things that are deeper than words. I carry a camera in my hand wherever we go, trying to capture the moments. I know from experience how quickly they slip through our fingers.

We walk slowly to the car when the visit is over  - one last quick catch, promises to come again soon, hugs and one more hug. The car doors close, and it is time to go. They stand in the driveway, waving until we are out of sight. I miss them before we reach the end of their sub-division. They are so precious to me.

I think about a Father who feels the same way about me. He loves me unconditionally and longs to spend time with me. He wants to hear my heart and share my joys and sorrows. He is never too busy. He has all the time in the world.

But what of me? Do I make Him feel loved and cherished? Do I look forward to hearing what He has to say or has prayer become more like a duty?  Do I rest in His presence without counting the minutes – my mind already on the next thing I must do?

Surely He is deserving of so much more. I want Him to feel the way I feel when my grandchildren run to greet me. I want to give Him one of those hugs my grandson gives – the kind that make me wonder if my ribs might actually crack! I want to love Him with my whole heart, and I want Him to know it.

tuesday favorites

Because I’m working on this book, most of my writing energy goes into that. And so the blog gets the weary, wrung-out inspiration. Maybe I’m stating that which is painfully obvious.

There is so much I have learned over the past five months while writing this book, so much I want to share here. But there are rules in publishing, so I’m not really free to post much of what I’ve written. Still, I’m getting excited about the way it is coming to life. I hope you think so, too.

Anyway, since I am feeling a bit stifled here lately, I have to tell you that I spent some time yesterday reading a lot of your Tuesday posts. What a delight. You take my breath away. Really. Don’t believe me? Well, while Emily is using all her writing energy up writing in Microsoft Word in a dark corner of Panera on work that will not be available until the Summer of 2011, allow me to introduce you to some of my favorite Tuesday entries this week:

My Town by Graceful

I Get Funny Looks by Finding Serendipity

The Grace of a Normal Day by Billy Coffey

Of Bath Towels and Burritos by Gypsy Mama

Told ya.