Category: faith

~ Guest Post by Amy Steingard ~

Hey you.  I know what you’re thinking today.

Yesterday, you said, “Tomorrow I’m going to start that thing, dream, book, calling, work.”

You know what your thing is.  It’s tap dancing right on your heart, and it’s impossible to ignore.

And then this morning hit in a flurry of cereal with spilled milk, lost homework, dirty diapers, and the middle child home with the stomach flu that you know will run through your entire family. You surrender to your circumstances and say a defeated, “Tomorrow.”

I’m with you, sister.  There’s a dream in my heart, too, that sometimes feels buried under the clutter and weight of motherhood and life.  I feel like I am never going to get there…never going to have the time or the emotional fortitude to make that dream happen. A bad day with my kids can cause me to question EVERYTHING about myself and the work I want to do.

Hi, I’m Amy.  I yelled at my kids today and ate chocolate in the bathroom with a screaming toddler 6 inches on the other side of the door, but my passion in life is to be an encourager of women.

Hypocritical much?

I will blame motherhood and lack of time all the live long day.  I will blame my kids, my husband, my house, my lack of resources. I make excuses why I can’t do the thing right now, and while all those are valid and persuasive reasons to not pursue my dream, deep down it’s all an underhanded cop-out.

Those things that we claim hold us back, that’s just life, and, frankly, life has wisdom of it’s own. Life and, most specifically, our imperfections are what makes us endlessly fascinating.  Kathryn Craft explains this better than I ever can, “[Life] dumps s— on you and stirs you up until your soil is fertile.  Accept the challenge and plant some seeds. This is how artists grow.” Read More…

 

~ Guest Post by Abi Partridge ~

As I write this I am in the middle of a month where I have committed to write every day on simple creativity. This daily challenge, is motivating me to write because I can sit around thinking that I don’t have something to say, but just the act of putting fingers to keyboard is enough to prompt me to write something. To write something, anything, and most of it – some of it- will be helpful, encouraging to someone else – I hope! But it’s not easy, almost every day I battle with getting something down in words, and the truth of it is that I know some of it will resonate, some of it will hit blank ears. There may be some gems, there will be some duff posts. There will be some words that help someone, some that may hinder. But it is a process and I know that I will learn more about myself and my reader through putting the words out there. I write because I can’t not write, and I write that it may help someone else, because I can’t only write to get my words out. I write because my heart is to share what I know because I know we read to know we are not alone.

You can’t do this

I know some of you think: “it’s all right for you” –  “you have days of time with your children in school, you don’t have a job, you have time and space to be creative”. How do I know this? Because I’ve thought it too. I’ve done comparison and thoughts of “it’s all right for them but… I couldn’t, I can’t.” But do you want to know a secret? It’s not easy for me either. I do have children in school but if I don’t have the writing done by the time they are home then I lose out on the computer, my eldest son has an important school year and usually needs the laptop for homework. My husband also is currently between jobs and needs our only laptop for job applications and freelance work. I am also juggling applying for jobs – (writing doesn’t pay the bills yet), the stress of a life-changing situation that has caused much heartache, disappointment and doubt, and a home that we are never sure quite how long we are to be in it.

Behind every story, every creative’s work, there is a life going on. Read More…

Some days having a dream to pursue feels dreamy. But some days it’s like an elephant is standing on your chest; you feel a lot of pressure and you’re acutely aware that you’re dealing with something much bigger than yourself.

Can I be honest? Today was one of those days. I woke up and before I even opened my eyes I remembered that I’m carrying around a dream. A dream that suddenly feels as is if it weighs a thousand pounds.

I’ve tried putting it down, I’ve tried ignoring it, and I’ve tried shouldering it alone only to realize two steps further that I’m exhausted and not cut out for this nonsense because I’d definitely rather be watching Netflix.

As you might imagine, none of these tactics actually worked, so here I am with my book dream. We’re no longer strangers, startled to find each other there every time we turn around, but we still havent quite figured out how to co-exist, either.

We’re sort of just chillin’ here together, except nothing is chill and The Book Dream and I are either madly in love or completely at odds, depending on the day.

It’s all very dramatic, you see. Read More…

img_0103They were supposed to come over for some chicken salad and swimming. You know, fun, casual, summer-Friday-type-stuff.

Instead we wound up lingering on the porch despite the 100 degree heat, asking each other general questions about what’s new, when we were all equally caught off guard by the tears that immediately started rolling down my face.

I laughed, a little embarrassed as I brushed away the freshest layer of wetness from my cheeks. Then I made a joke about how it was sweat and definitely *not* tears and shook my fist dramatically at the sweltering Oregon sun.

They laughed, but continued to sit comfortably with me, neither of them moving to change the subject or rushing me to explain my sudden display of emotion. They both know I’m a blurter and it’s only a matter of time until it all comes tumbling out anyway.

“I’m just not sure if I’m doing it right.

You know?

Any of it!

The mothering, the writing, the prioritizing, the expectations I’m setting for myself, my Yeses, my Nos, or the way I’m trying to hold them together loosely all at once…”

They waited. There was more. Because of course there was.

“I feel like I’m on this precipice, and my toes are hanging off the edge… and I don’t know whether I’m supposed to dive off or if I’m supposed to grip the edge harder.”

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Yes I know. It all sounds a bit melodramatic. But I can’t help it. You see, I’m neck-deep in a season of flux. Of transition. Of being in the middle. I feel one season slipping away, and another season not yet within my reach, and I’m not at all sure how to bravely inhabit the place I’m in right now.

My littles are becoming bigs and my role as their mother is shifting so quickly that I can hardly keep my bearings. I miss the simpler days scheduled around nap times, when the hardest thing I had to do was keep the 1-year-old out of the toilet and the 3-year-old out of my makeup. (Said with zero sarcasm, because we all know how hard that really is).

Meanwhile, my writing is changing from a hobby that I secretly played at, to a calling I’m taking seriously and a vocation I’m stepping into. Where I used to give myself free rein to play, to embrace my amateurism, and to throw my love of words around like confetti at a parade, I now tend to give myself expectations, timelines, and heaps of pressure to get it right. I’m still learning how to weave together that amateurish love of writing with the narrative that serves you as the reader. There’s a crossover, I think. There has to be. Because I feel a deep resonance when I write from that place. I hope you feel it too.

All my roles are shifting, and while that’s exciting, I worry a lot about whether I’m getting it right here in the transition. The pause between two notes. The split second of awareness between what’s behind and what’s ahead.

I think a big part of me yearns for those simpler mothering and writing days- when the stakes didn’t always feel so high. But there’s this whole other part of me that also yearns to up the ante and go all in. Get to the next thing.

I guess I’m still learning how to be “all in” as a mom and be “all in” as a writer at the same time. 

Because even though I’m on a creative path that feels right and rings true, even though there’s a deep resonance with this work that makes it difficult in all the best ways, I’m still constantly tripping myself up with hesitation. Fear of making a wrong step.

I’m caught between wanting to freeze time so I can enjoy these fun, independent, capable kids who no longer fit on my lap, and wanting to hurry up so I can grow my own dreams right along with them.

I think that’s why I was crying on my porch about the precipice, and wondering whether or not I’m doing this part right.

///

Maybe you’re wondering too.

Maybe you’re here, in the middle of that thrilling and scary place, where you feel yourself voyaging between seasons of motherhood, of creativity, or of work, when all the lines are constantly moving and you have no clue how to stay inside them.

Or maybe you’re in that equally thrilling and scary place where, in the middle of all of that,☝🏼your dreams have come bubbling to the surface of your heart, and you can’t ignore them, but maybe you aren’t sure what to do with them either.

How does it all fit together?

How do we live this part well?

No seriously, I’m asking.

How?

Because so far I’ve only got one answer:

Rest.

Rest is the only way I know how to simultaneously recover from what’s finished and to prepare for what’s ahead.

As a family, we’re coming off an extremely busy season of school, sports, house-flipping, and projects. Personally, I’m coming off of an intense season of book proposal writing as well. It’s finally done now, (ALL THE PRAISE HANDS)… But, I also know it still needs some polishing.

So I have no idea if it’s right or wrong, but this summer I’m saying yes to precisely two things:

  1. Finding an agent and making my proposal the best that it can be.
  2. Soaking up moments with my family this summer through rest.

You may have noticed that things have been a little quiet here on the blog this summer. That’s because I know I can’t serve you well with my words, unless I carve out time to rest and be inspired first. So we’re pausing to eat popsicles in the pool with the kids, and play boggle and laugh at our weird dogs by the campfire. I’m jotting down notes and ideas for letters to you and I’m letting them percolate before I rush to my keyboard.

Don’t worry, this isn’t some kind of Dear John letter where I tell you I’m done blogging, “but there’s a casserole it the fridge and you’ll be fine without me.”

No, I’ll still be here, writing to you. I couldn’t quit you if I tried.

This is just me, inviting you into this space, and hoping we can be honest with each other about how we’re not sure if we’re getting any of it right.

It’s me saying I’ll be here, but we may not do any deep dives this summer.

Is that okay?

We may just keep it light and fun and talk about our Favorite Things (like a flip flop with actual arch support, because at 35, these are the things I am forced to investigate for us. Don’t worry, I got you, boo) Or like what to do for fun on a date night, or what happened on the Road Trip this summer… because let me tell you, this year was something extra.

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But before I go, I have to tell you about this thing that Sarah Bessey said last week. I came across it while I was writing this very piece about rest, and it was so heart-stoppingly simple and profound that I have to share it with you. She was talking about the power of faithfulness,  of staying, of not giving up on our creative work.

She said, “Cultivate joy and rest and renewal as an act of resistance.”

I can’t stop thinking about that last part.

An act of resistance.

Maybe the only way to push back against the questions, the pressure, the scary unknown stretched out before us… maybe it’s rest. Maybe it’s getting low and getting quiet and trusting God to lead us while we find joy in this brief moment on the precipice.

 

*this post was sent from my computer and my heart*

While our kids played in the next room, my friend and I stood in her kitchen, sipping coffee and talking about our dreams- in hushed tones peppered with nervous laughter, as if the very topic was somehow taboo.

Frivolous.

Indulgent.

Maybe even selfish?

“I feel like I’ve lost pieces of myself since having kids…” She spoke quietly, almost to herself, but her words echoed loudly inside my own heart.

I knew exactly what she meant.

I think in an honest moment, many of us would admit we do.

Motherhood, especially in those early years, can be an engulfing experience. It’s a deeply beautiful, life-giving (literally), and fulfilling role that some of us have always dreamt of, but there can be moments when it feels as if motherhood and the minutia of the day might swallow our identity whole. Like we’re constantly needed yet rarely seen.

We’re busy doing those million and one little things that we worry don’t matter, even while knowing, deep in our hearts they do. We teach, we train, we pray, we worry, we kiss, we rock, we soothe, we comfort, we’re filled up and emptied clear out 100 times in a day. We lose sleep and gain access to chambers of our hearts we never knew existed. We’re driven to the edge of our sanity and then pulled back again in one suddenly tender moment.

We ride that rollercoaster of fear and worry, pride and dismay, wonder and bafflement, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

We love our life.

And yet…

We wonder about those pieces of ourselves that seem to have disappeared. Our audacity, our playfulness, our ability to dream. They don’t call. They don’t send flowers. They just slipped unceremoniously out the back door.

Will they ever come back? Read More…

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about blooming.

I know, how deep, right?

Thinking about blooming in the springtime?

Call someone call Oprah! Tell her to get out the overstuffed chairs and place them in the forest! It’s time to sit down and talk about how deep and unique I am for having a revelation basic to the human existence! (Btw, I never planned on referencing Oprah so much in my writing. It just happens sometimes so I’m rolling with it.)

Anyway, blooming- I’ve been thinking a lot about it.

Which is sort of new, because I don’t exactly have a green thumb- In fact, I’ve killed every plant that I’ve ever owned. Every single one. Even the succulents on my front porch, which I assumed were basically indestructible. After 15 years of attempting to have greenery in my home, the plant-killing became too much for my conscience to bear so I finally gave up.

I’ve never even been one to notice flowers, much less learn their names, how to care for them, or appreciate their unique beauty. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not some kind of cold, cynical monster who landscapes her front yard with exposed aggregate instead of grass, I guess you could say I’ve just never exactly stopped to smell the roses.

Until lately.

Last week flowers made me cry.

They weren’t even flowers that someone picked or bought or presented me with. They were just out in the wild. And by “the wild”, I mean that one island of trees in the middle of the parking lot at my kid’s elementary school; the one that runs the length of the carpool lane.

There were cherry blossom trees in full bloom there, in the middle of all that asphalt, bursting with so many pink petals that they covered the entire surface of the ground below.

It probably feels like I’m about to ramp up here into some metaphor about life springing up out of dead places or something, but that’s actually not where I’m headed. (Although, maybe it should be a post for another day? ??‍♀️Please mark yes or no and put in locker #7.) Read More…

I recently turned 35.

While it’s officially the oldest I’ve ever been, I decided to do something that felt admittedly…childish? No, that’s not it.

Indulgent?

No. Thats not it either.

I don’t know.

Let’s just say it felt wonky, but in the good kind of way.

Even though it was freezing cold I went outside to sit on my back porch (because being outdoors helps me think) and I brought my favorite spiral notebook- the one that reads “Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You” in shiny metallic gold lettering across the front.

It’s the notebook that currently holds all my most important words.

My ideas.

My notes.

My outlines.

My reminders.

My inner monologue.

It’s all there.

But I realized there was something MISSING from the book. Something so important that I can’t believe I’ve never bothered to write down.

My dreams.

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As I sat on my porch casting vision for the year ahead and reflecting on the year behind, I realized that 2016 was full of surprises. As I’ve told you here before, my “One Word” for the year was “Yes” and God certainly wasted no time using it to draw me directly outside of the comfort zone that I’d carefully created for myself.

Remember on Inside Out when Joy draws a circle for Sadness and tells her that her only job is to STAY INSIDE THE CIRCLE? It was kind of like that except I’d drawn my own circle,  labeled it Comfort Zone, and planted myself there like a fool. We could really get deep here and talk about Joy and Sadness and how in reality, comfort zones are the easiest place to become miserable, but we honestly don’t have time for that today.

The point is, all of that changed the moment I began saying YES. Read More…

Well folks, 2016 is officially over.

Between the election (don’t worry, I’m not even going there) and everything else that happened (side eye to you Brad & Angelina), let’s all be real here: It was a bumpy ride, yes?

But take heart, dear readers, because it wasn’t a total wash.

We did learn a few things along the way.

Things like…

CHECK YOUR JUNK MAIL

~

I cannot tell you how many times this year I sat wringing my hands, checking my inbox, or even foolishly ignoring it, ultimately having no clue that emails were just sitting in my junk mail collecting dust. And I don’t just mean Old Navy ads and those pesky emails from the dealership where you bought your Chevy Traverse 4 years ago.

I mean like, important emails.

“Oh, that editor actually wants to have lunch with you and she needs to know if Wednesday works? Cool, cool, cool. You should probably just sweat bullets, assume she’s never going to respond, and that you’ve clearly made the whole thing up, only to discover at the last minute that she had emailed you DAYS ago.”

“Oh, you’re going on a podcast and you’re wondering what the questions will be, but you’re not sure if it’s kosher to ask? You should probably just wing it, only to discover 17 minutes after you nervous-talked all that nonsense about your recurring Amy Poehler dream to your gracious interviewer, that he had, in fact, emailed you offering to show you the questions ahead of time.”

“Oh, you just yanked your two grumpy children out of bed and hauled them to school because you didn’t see the email from the school district about the snow day?” In the famous words of Adam Sandler in the Wedding Singer, “This information would’ve been useful to me yesterday!” 

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People of the Internet! Learn from my mistakes!

CHECK YOUR JUNK MAIL.

Regularly. Read More…

She yells it to me through my television screen at least twice a week:

“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable! Right now, this moment! This is when it counts! When you’re tired and you don’t think you can do it and you want to give up- THIS is when you make change happen!”

It turns out there’s more to learn from Jillian Michaels than how to simply not die during a high intensity cardio session.

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Remember a couple of weeks ago when we talked about how sometimes creative work feels impossible? I confessed that I’d gotten to “the hard part” of my project and how I’m learning to sit in that tension instead of struggle against it?

Well I thought “the hard part” was being brave.

Brave enough to step out, brave enough to share that journey with you, and brave enough to be honest about it along the way.

Because all creative work requires bravery.

We know this. 

We love to talk about the bravery because it’s noble and grand, but we don’t speak much of the aftermath that almost always follows. The wake of those unsorted and far less noble feelings of confusion, doubt, and disorientation that come after the bravery.

The questions of, “Wait, did I do that right?

Should I be embarrassed right now?

Was that really true and helpful and good?

Or was it self indulgent and foolish and cringeworthy? Read More…

I have a confession to make. It’s the sort of thing that a writer should never admit.

I’m a VERY picky reader.

When it comes to purchasing books, I rarely discriminate. At this very moment I have at least 20 fantastic books on my shelf that are still waiting to be opened. I love to buy books. I love the smell of them, the feel of them nestled in the crook of my arm as I walk into a coffee shop, and the way my little heart skips a beat every single time I walk through the doors of a Barnes & Noble.

But when it comes to actually reading books in their entirety, I do admit that my standards are…shall we say…a bit high? I’m not easily entertained. I can’t help it! I’m just not.

If a book doesn’t grab me within the first 3 chapters I rarely pick it back up. I realize that this makes me sound like an elitist snob, and no, the irony is not lost on me that as a humble and lowly writer myself, I may need to consider suggesting LOWER standards for consumption, but whatever. I don’t care. It’s the truth! And I’m only telling you so you understand that when I recommend a book, I really mean it.

So obviously I’m going to recommend a book now.

Are you ready? Read More…