writing

ambition. bedrock. spirit. soul.

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There’s only one week left to register for my online writing workshop before it closes for the year. Head on over to Truth Collaborative to take a look and sign up if you want to join us. Registration closes November 18th.

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We are wrapping up the soccer season this weekend and watched the final game yesterday in the chilly wind. There are three weeks left of my semester. December is almost here. I know I’m not alone in this, but 2017 feels like it just began. I can hardly believe it’s almost over.

I love the reflection that the end of the year brings and the goals it prompts us to make for the future. I’m thinking a lot about what I wish for my 2018. I mentioned on Instagram yesterday that I’ve thought lately about that Zora Neale Hurston line when she tells us that “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” After years of questions and hardship and confusion, 2017 was finally an answering year. Everyone in my house learned to stand a little taller somehow. We are steadier on our own feet than we were a year ago – all three of us.

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I think the big answer that 2017 gave me is that I can handle it – whatever it might be – and I can do it on my own. When I think back to the past three years of my life and the catastrophes that seem to tumble one after the other, big and small ones, it seems like some divine storm. What other explanation can there be for so many things happening at once? And there are moments in all of that when you think you are not okay and you maybe will never be okay again. But this weird thing happens eventually when you just suddenly find yourself in the most mundane of tasks – grocery shopping, or stepping out of the shower, or stirring dinner on the stove, or sitting in a boy scout meeting or a neighborhood festival – and you are suddenly struck with how okay it feels now. It quietly swells in me in the most simple moments sometimes. 2017 showed me the other side of the storm.

I’m using this last few weeks of the year to ready my own self to take on 2018 with what I hope to be a combination of intention and surrender. I’ve got big ideas and little pockets of time, but sometimes the most fulfilling things can happen with that simple combination.

I think I’m ready to remember myself again now that the seas are quiet and I have a rhythm. I can feel this brewing in big and small ways. I updated my ancient iPhone 5 this week. I ordered clothes last month to freshen up my fall wardrobe. I cancelled plans to do things I want to do instead of heeding the call of a guilt-induced yes to someone else. These things are no big deal really. … The phone adds $20 a month to my budget; the clothes are simple and second-hand; the scary no felt not scary at all once I did it… I find myself wondering why I didn’t do these things before, and I don’t really have a good answer except that I was treading water for quite a while, and it’s easy to forget yourself when you are in that mode. And now it’s time to remember me again.

I caught Rob Bell’s podcast on ambition last week on my drive to work, and it’s worth a listen.  It was a message meant to find me at this particular time. (I love it when that happens.) I’ve struggled a bit with wanting things for myself and my own future, I think. I didn’t even realize that I was resisting that until recently, but now I see it so clearly. It’s hard to sort out our ambitions sometimes – what we want and why we want it.

I’ve been feeling the call to greater goals but also feeling both overwhelmed and a little guilty about pursuing them at this season of my life. Rob Bell noted on the episode that the New Testament tells us that it’s only selfish ambition that gets you in trouble. The original translation refers to a mercenary which is so interesting to me – a reminder that doing things for no reason other than your own interests without a nod to a greater purpose and framework will lead nowhere good. But as Bell says, “Proper ambition will move you beyond yourself.” 

I took a big leap of commitment, and my Christmas gift to my own self is a series of sessions with a professional book coach and editor. I’ve worked myself to the bone this semester teaching overloads to earn extra money for my household, and I set some aside for this purpose. I’m something like 10,000 words into a book manuscript that is disjointed and incomplete, but it’s a start. And every finished thing begins somewhere. My commitment with these sessions is a commitment to my own self too, a nod to that proper ambition I own. It’s both exciting and scary for me.

But Bell’s show made me feel a little better about that fear as well because he reminds me that “When you own your ambition, what you will notice is how humbling it is. Because when you properly own it, it will – if it is the deepest desire within you – inevitably tap into the divine within you which is the divine within everybody” Or as he says later, “When you go far enough into your own ambition, you strike bedrock, spirit, soul.” I dabbled for years without going deeper into that ambition. I guess it took the storms to find the bedrock, but I’ve found it now. Here we go.

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I have things I am meant to do, which doesn’t make me special or more important than anyone else because we all do. But I think the difference for me now is that I am listening and that the call is for the purpose of a greater framework and not a mercenary life. We all have stories that can open the eyes and hearts of other people, and I think mine is meant to make its way to other people as words on the page. I feel that thread between my ambition and the spark in others, and I want to watch it grow. 2017 paved the way for that, and maybe 2018 can finally be the year I can hold that ambition without question or apology and just heed the call. I’m listening. I’m ready.

 

**** Photos on this post are by my friend Michelle Andrews this fall. If you are in Atlanta, check her out!

 

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Life and Randomness

day by day

I can’t believe it has almost been a month since I last posted.  August was crazy and not that fun, to be honest. The bumps and changes of back-to-school combined with some heavy travel for Scott.  And then my sweet grandmother fell and broke a hip. Again. It was major surgery for her and scary for all of us, and I’m glad the surgery was uneventful she is on the mend now, but she’s got a long road of therapy and healing ahead.

Old age is not for sissies – I’ve heard it said before.  I read a memoir this summer that gave me perspective on life’s changes and how hard it is to age and watch those around you grow older. Maybe it’s because I’m getting a little older, or maybe it’s that I see family and friends around me who are aging.  Whatever the reason, it’s been taking up a lot of my time and thoughts lately.  It is such a hard truth that we grow wiser as our bodies grow older and weaker.  I also received news this week about a high school friend of mine who lost her mother to ovarian cancer coupled with news of someone I admire professionally who was diagnosed with an aggressive liver cancer as well.

I’m glad that we live in an age of information and that I have the curiosity to read and learn. But sometimes I have to back off a little.  It’s almost too much for one human heart to consider, I think.  I’m trying to focus on what I can do to avoid physical trials and stay healthy – eat thoughtfully, make good choices, take notice of things I put on my body and in my home. But just as important, I think, is to use my healthy body while I have it and focus on how I can truly use my time to better my family, my children, and others around me, too.  Day by day, we can make little choices and accomplish so many small things that make us feel like our time is worth something.

Life sends rude wake-up calls sometimes.  It’s a finite thing we are doing here on Earth. I don’t want to take it for granted. In the meantime, these two are bringing lots of distractions and bright spots in my days.

 

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Because it has been six months since I posted my birthday list and because I am writing a bit about how to really do something with my time, I thought I’d check in on my 33 goals to hold myself accountable a bit.  I am already seeing some things that will not be done my next March. But I’ve made some progress, too.

Goals from the list that I’ve accomplished or made at least a little progress on….

  • Get an actual physical.  (I got this out of the way in July.)
  • Establish somewhat regular exercise.  (We joined the Y this summer, and my frequency has dropped since heading back to work in August, but I’ve made it in a few times.  Hoping to get better at this, but it’s a start!)
  • Travel somewhere I’ve never been before. (Our trip to Mexico in June filled that requirement.)
  • Start using my camera again – not just my iPhone.  (Baby steps.  I used it last weekend for Jude’s first soccer game and when we head out somewhere special, I’m trying to remember to bring it.)
  • Discover a new musician or two.  (Loving Walk the Moon these days)
  • See three movies in the theater.  ( Only one so far, but I loved Begin Again.)
  • Go on a few real dates. (Twice in recent months. None for the insane month of August.)
  • Blog more often, at least 24 more entries before I turn 34.  (Last month, I failed big time on this one. But on the whole I’ve increased my frequency around here.)
  • Have some fun new experiences with the kids. (We went to Tellus this summer, a few new parks, and I’m gearing up for fall festivals.)
  • Get to know our new farmer’s market this summer.  (We went often in June and July.  It was great!)
  • Create more time for reading and finish more books.  (I was good about this during the summer, and I just began Traveling Mercies. I love Anne Lamott so much, and it is just what I need right now.)
  • Establish some flowers and vegetables in our back yard. (I was sad to see that a fungus ate my squash in July, but I was excited to have lots of fresh herbs and tomatoes!  I’m hoping for some fall lettuces and greens soon.  Grow Boxes are making it pretty easy.)
  • Create a reading nook in our master bedroom. (We moved around a few book shelves and inherited some leather chairs from friends who downsized and moved recently.  I hope to add some comfy throw pillows and an ottoman, but it is shaping up.)
  • Get a better understanding of retirement savings and save more in general.  (We’ve finally begun college savings plans for the kids and started using Mint recently.  We made big strides in this area this summer.  I feel good about it!)
  • Go strawberry picking with the kids and enjoy the apple orchards again as we did last year.  (Strawberry picking was so fun, and apple season is around the corner!)
  • Make use of our screened porch and outside space.  (We did this a bit this summer, and I hope to do more as the weather cools down soon.  Fall is my favorite time for outside play in Georgia.)

So I’ve made progress on 16 goals which is pretty good.  It’s been a fun project and I might repeat it next year….and have to move a few things to next year’s list if they don’t happen soon.)

 

Thanks for reading, friends. I hope September is treating you well as a new season is around the corner.

Life and Randomness

33 Goals for Year 33

I didn’t mean for a whole month to pass before posting again.  We’ve been so busy this past few weeks, and I’m excited to say spring is around the corner.  I celebrated my birthday on Sunday with dinner outside and strawberry shortcake Jude helped me make.  It was a perfect way to begin my year and inaugurate the spring and summer.  Longer days and more time outside lie ahead.

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I’ve seen goal lists for new year’s posts and birthdays, and I love the idea, so I decided to do one for myself.  As always, accountability is a reason to post it here, and I figure it will be fun to post a little every now and then on my progress.  Some of these are a little embarrassing in that they are things I should be doing already, but I am putting it all out here anyway.  Some are just for fun.   I hope to come back to this post and cross them off as I get them done.   I love fresh slates and new beginnings, and I have a good feeling about 33.

1. Go to the dentist.  (Recently neglected for me.  I think it’s been about two years!)

2. Get an actual physical.  (So embarrassing to admit this, but 2007 was the last time I had a physical.  Seven years ago!)

3. Establish somewhat regular exercise.  Emphasis being on somewhat – I’d be happy with 1-2 times a week if it really happens.)

4. Start submitting some freelance writing pieces for publication.

5. Travel somewhere I’ve never been before.

6. Start using my camera again – not just my iPhone.

7. Get at least three facials before I turn 34.  (My friend’s skincare clinic is AMAZING, and I’m old enough to take care of my skin a little better.  I love visiting her for treatments when I can.)

8. Discover a new musician or two.

9. See three movies in the theater.  ( I never do this anymore!)

10. Go on a few real dates.

11. Blog more often, at least 24 more entries before I turn 34.

12.Pack some good food for a real picnic once this spring or fall.

13. Have some fun new experiences with the kids – maybe a day trip, a new museum, festivals, etc.

14. Get to know our library.  It is walking distance from our home and just opened this year.

15. Get to know our new farmer’s market this summer.  It’s busy and thriving and one mile down the street.  So much better than the supermarket!

16. See a concert.

17. Focus on taking a true sabbath every week. No plans, at least a few hours of no housework and phones and computers.

18. Master steak in a cast iron skillet. (Some claim it’s the best way to cook them.)

19. Make homemade gnocchi.

20. Complete 5 knitting projects.

21. Create more time for reading, and finish more books.  (I’m leaving them unfinished so shamefully often lately.)

22. Establish some flowers and vegetables in our back yard.

23. Create a reading nook in our master bedroom.

24. Finish the family recipe book I began last year.

25. Complete Norah’s second year album.

26. Finish our 2014 family album.

27. Finish the guest bedroom in our house.

28. Get a better understanding of retirement savings and save more in general.  (I know we put money away, but at this age, you don’t question or worry too much.  I could examine it a lot more carefully.)

29. Continue to invest more time in my close friendships.  Maybe even a brief girls’ trip this year.

30. Streamline my closet a bit, throw out old clothing and be ruthless about it this time.

31. Share 6 recipes here.

32. Go strawberry picking with the kids and enjoy the apple orchards again as we did last year.

33. Make use of our screened porch and outside space this summer.  (I have big plans for ferns, rugs, extra seating, and a sandbox for the kids.)

Thanks for reading if you’ve made it this far.  What about you?  Any goals for the upcoming year or the season ahead?  Spring is a great time to make big plans.