Five Minute Friday: Fly

I’m linking arms with my sisters over at http://www.lisajobaker.com, where we meet up every Friday to write for 5 minutes, just 5 minutes, on a one word prompt.  Then we link our posts up and go leave some love for each other.  It’s a blast!  Want to play along?  Come join us – we love to make new friends!

The days may trudge by, but the years – oh, how they fly!

When my middle girl was a baby, I was absolutely certain I would never have a full night’s sleep again.  She didn’t sleep well (still doesn’t) but since Daddy had a regular 8-5 job it fell to stay-at-home Mommy to deal with the sleepless baby, then toddler, then preschooler.  Some days it was all I could do to get through the day.  I confess that I sometimes wished her older so we could get past this pesky phase or that one, and well-meaning friends and relatives would caution me not to wish life away.

They were right.

She’ll be 13 in a couple of months and I truly do not know where the time went.  All those days and nights that felt so monotonous and endless – where did they go?  Why was I in such a hurry?

She’s a joy just as she is now but if I’m honest, I do miss the baby years.  So much potential and so much anticipation to see what she would be!  Oh it’s still there, even as she’s developing into who she will one day become but I miss the wide-eyed little princess for whom every new adventure was a delight.

And still I catch myself looking ahead, wondering what’s around the bend for her, and for her sisters.  And I have to remind myself to remain here.  There’s no need to fly ahead.  Flying may be the most expedient way to travel from one place to another, but it’s not the best way to spend our lives, flying from one thing to the next.  There is joy in the journey, even when it feels endless.

Because one day you’ll look up and realize how much you missed in the every day.

Now it’s your turn.  Let’s hear what you have to say!

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Behind the Scenes: Sleeping Arrangements

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My girl doesn’t want to sleep in her bedroom.  She’s afraid there are bugs in there, more of the ones she’s seen in there over the past few days.  I don’t blame her – I’m not a big bug fan myself – but I think I could handle these.  They’re ladybugs.  You know, the little red beetles with black spots on their backs.  They’re supposed to be good luck. In fact, families who’ve adopted from China sometimes take on the ladybug as a symbol of China adoption itself (having something to do with the Chinese proverb about the red thread, I think). At any rate, they’re harmless, but until we figure out where and how they’re getting in her room and stop them, she’s going to refuse to sleep there.  It doesn’t matter how many times we reassure her, she remains unconvinced, and although we might be able to force her to get in her bed, sleep just isn’t going to happen in there.

And this poses a problem.  She has asked to sleep on the living room couch instead and to her credit, she has fallen asleep fairly quickly each time she’s slept there despite my knocking around in the kitchen, cleaning up.  But it means that I can’t watch TV at night because it will keep her awake.  Oh sure, I could go upstairs to the bonus room and watch TV up there but it just seems like too much trouble after a long day. So instead I sit at the kitchen table and work on my proofreading website, or I write posts like this one, or I go to bed early and read a book in the comfort of my pajamas and a cozy blanket.

At our house I think we leave the TV on for background noise much of the time.  Apparently we’re not disciplined enough to turn it on, watch the show we’re interested in, then turn it off.  We turn it on and peruse the guide to find something to watch instead of being purposeful about our viewing habits.  I remember when I was a little girl living with my great-Grandma (that’s a book in itself right there), she had a 12-inch black and white TV on the counter and it was only turned on at certain times.  We watched the 6 o’clock news most nights, and on the weekends we’d watch The Carol Burnett Show, Hee Haw, Lawrence Welk, Wild Kingdom, and The Wonderful World of Disney.  Sunday mornings brought the “TV preachers”, usually Oral Roberts and Rex Humbard.  That was all.  No Saturday morning cartoons, no Bewitched, no I Dream of Jeannie or Brady Bunch.  And I survived.

So although I missed seeing Noah Guthrie on “Dancing With the Stars” tonight, I think I can handle the silence of the tube for a little while longer, until the ladybugs have been eradicated and my girl is comfortably back in her room. It’s actually quite pleasant.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a warm bed and a book waiting for me.

Five Minute Friday: Tree

It’s Friday again, and time to write with that beautiful crowd of free-wheeling wordsmiths, the Five Minute Friday crew.  We get a prompt from our fearless leader, http://www.lisajobaker.com, at midnight (for some of us.  The rest wait until a more civilized hour the next morning.) and write for 5 minutes without over-thinking or editing.  It’s scary but liberating at the same time.  Want to play along?  All the details are at the website.  And away we go!

The tree is enormous.  According to the guide it has stood for over 100 years in this plantation yard at Boone Hall, and to my sixteen year old eyes it looks like it.  The branches bend low to sweep the ground, the bark is worn clean off in many spots, there are big holes where branches have been lost, and the shape of the tree is just…weird.  I see other people posing in the tree, so I do it too, sitting on one of the low branches and asking my cousin to take my picture.

In a way I felt like I was touching history, although at that age the concept of a full century was vague at best.  I wished that I could see pictures of the tree in an earlier era to see how it had changed as it grew.  What had that tree seen?  It had stood in that spot through rain, hail, hurricanes, and the merciless South Carolina summer sun.  It had seen generations of families come and go, stood sentinel during the Civil War and saw slaves go free.  And it stood firm.

Sixteen years later, I visit the tree again and again I take my picture sitting in the branches.  This time I’m on my honeymoon and I see the tree through different eyes, because I, too, have weathered some storms over the years since I visited last.  My scars may not be as visible as the bent limbs and missing bark of that majestic old tree but they’re there just the same.  I can look back at my scars and see how I grew through the storms, how God used the hard times to shape me into the me I am today.  And that makes the imperfections beautiful.

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And now it’s your turn.  Let’s see what you’ve got!

A Collection of Random Thoughts about Allume

I just came home last Sunday from my first ever blogging conference, Allume.  See, I’ve been watching this conference from afar ever since it was called “Relevant”.  I actually tried to go last year but it was sold out by the time I had made up my mind.  During the 2012 conference I watched my Twitter stream blow up with the Allume hashtag and I resolved then and there that I would be at Allume 2013 no matter what.  Once I found out it was in Greenville (practically in my back yard), wild horses couldn’t have stopped me from going.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  I had made lots of friends in the online blogging community but I didn’t really know how those relationships would translate once we were face to face.  From the first person I encountered (my roommate Julie) to the last one I introduced myself to (Mary, who worked the help desk with me Saturday night), it was clear that God was placing people into my path with Divine purpose.  And while I didn’t get to meet or talk with every single person I would have liked to meet, the ones I did get to meet were just so wonderful I’m not sure I could have handled any more wonderful-ness.

He set me up with my three marvelous roommates, and I could not have asked for better ones.  Tonya and I have spent months building a friendship online and have so much in common that we joke we were separated at birth.  I know that she will continue to be a dear friend, even though we are many miles apart.  I already knew Julie from her blog, but she is even sweeter and more delightful in person, if you can believe it.  And Heather and I discovered that we lived in the same town and attended the same church several years ago yet never knew each other until now.  Coincidence?  Of course not!  Lots of sweet, sweet conversation took place in room 754.

God put two very special ladies in my path one afternoon who spoke love over me and encouraged me to pursue what sounds like a dream job.  Could it be a God-sized dream?  Well, since I haven’t actually finished Holley’s book yet I can’t say for sure, but it looks like it very well might be.

He arranged for me to meet an online friend who I admired so much that I found her slightly intimidating.  As soon as she slid into the restaurant booth next to me for a “side hug” I felt I’d known her forever.  (I still admire her style but she’s not intimidating to me anymore, and I think that’s the way it should be between sisters in Christ.)

I met lots of Five Minute Friday friends, and it was like we had known each other all our lives.  Seeing the precious faces behind the avatars was priceless, and being able to hug them was a bonus.  And now when I read their posts and tweets, I can still hear their voices.

Speaking of Five Minute Friday, the experience of doing it live, together, was…just…wow.

Existing relationships grew deeper and new ones began this past weekend.   The hard part is that in most cases we are divided by hundreds if not thousands of miles and that means that we’ll need to be intentional about maintaining connections.

That’s not to say that the weekend was not without its awkward moments.  I’ll admit there were times when I felt a little like a duck out of water and considered retiring to my room for some chocolate and TV, but every single time I thought it was a good time to make my escape someone would come up to me, introduce herself, and strike up a conversation, and the awkward moment was over.

I drank coffee – lots of lots of very good coffee, thanks to Just Love Coffee.  It’s kind of important when you’re only getting a few hours of sleep a night.  There were so many good talks to have in such a limited amount of time that sleep just didn’t seem as necessary.

One message I heard over and over is that every voice is important, no matter the size of its reach.  We are created for a God-given purpose and we should pursue it with abandon, keeping our eyes on Jesus.  I learned that the sight and sound of 453 women worshiping with open hearts and open hands is a little bit of heaven right here on Earth and that I will never again hear “10,000 Reasons” or “It Is Well With My Soul” without remembering how it felt to sing them with my sisters at Allume.

I cannot say enough nice things about the Allume team and the tireless hours they put in to make Allume an experience that would ensure that we walked away different than when we arrived.  The keynote speakers, the session leaders and the sponsors were all amazing!  I can’t speak for anyone else but I felt so cared for, prayed for and welcomed the whole time.

My one regret?  That I didn’t spend enough time in the Smile Booth.  I think I took a grand total of three photos.  Next year you’re going to have drag me out of it.

The binder?  Not important.  The elevator speech?  Way important!  I lost count of how many times someone asked me what my blog was about and I had no idea how to articulate it.  I could probably write a whole separate post on what I did that worked and what didn’t.

On Saturday night when we were given the opportunity to make art during worship time, I was inspired to depict a night sky with stars.  (I may or may not have scraped a little glitter off the centerpieces to make the stars shine.  I plead the Fifth.)  And the words that cried out to be written on the picture went like this:  “The stars don’t ask permission to shine.  They do what they were created to do – no questions, no doubts, no fears.  Shouldn’t we?”  So maybe that’s one takeaway:  we have all been created to “do” something, our own special something, and we need to just get busy doing it and stop thinking so hard about it.

Recently I read a passage in the book Love Does by Bob Goff that screamed Allume to me.  Substitute the word “write” for the word “say” and maybe you’ll see what I mean:

Words can launch us.  We don’t need to be a dean to say words that can change everything for someone.  Instead, God made it so that ordinary people like you and me can launch each other.  In fact, I wonder if we can launch people better than a dean because we’re ordinary.  I believe it’s true that the right people can say words that can change everything.  And guess what?  We’re the ones who can say them.

I just don’t know how I’m going to wait until next October to do it all over again.

Day 31: Lessons Learned

Writing for 31 days in a row (well, almost) has been an eye opener!  Most of the posts I did actually write on the day I posted them.  There were a few that I wrote in advance and had on hand in case there was a day so jam-packed that I didn’t have time to write.

I’ve learned a few things about myself from this adventure, and the light it shone on my life was not necessarily  just a happy glow – more like a harsh spotlight.  Here are some highlights:

1)  I’m a terrible time manager.  Horrible, at least when it comes to managing MY time.  I have a bad sense of time passing and I continually underestimate how long any particular task is going to take. My husband told me that when we were dating he always added 15 minutes to whatever time I said I would meet him because he knew I’d be late.  I don’t think I like that image of myself.  I attribute some of this to a hopeful nature, as in I usually go for the best case scenario and don’t allow for the unexpected but I could really improve my time management skills.  Period.

2)  I have a hard time telling myself “no”.  I believe this is commonly known as “poor self-discipline”.  This may go back to my childhood, when I was an only child and generally was set free to do whatever I pleased.  Whatever the origin, as an adult of such “advanced” age, I should know better than to give into myself every single time.

3)  Ditto for my children.  I have a hard time telling them “no”.  Clearly I need to practice this skill a bit more.  My children are old enough to learn to delay gratification, something I apparently didn’t learn myself.  I guess we’ll all learn together.

4)  If you feel called to do something, you’re still going to need to make time for it.  And not just 10 minutes here or there like I’ve been doing.  An hour here or there to write ahead, plan ahead, gather my thoughts…

5)  I read a blog post that describes all the in’s and out’s of procrastination, complete with hilarious drawings (and a little colorful language, so be forewarned).  It reminded me that I do have some control (okay, a lot of control) over my behavior.  It also equates procrastination with a little monkey in my brain, an image that is sure to stick with me for years.

Overall, this was a good exercise for me.  Because I didn’t have a lot of time to sit around and consider how I sounded, I wrote in a more natural “voice”.  I learned some things I can improve and likewise I learned that I have more material than I thought I had.  If I could sum up my series in just one phrase it would be:  Just Do It.  Stop thinking so hard and just sit down and write.  It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time.  Just.  Write.

Would I do it again?  Definitely, and next time I will write a little cache of posts to have on hand for when inspiration doesn’t strike out of the blue.

Five Minute Friday: Grace

I can’t believe that just one week ago I had the pleasure of the company of 453 of my closest blogging friends at Allume.  I’m sorry if you’re tired of hearing about it, but I don’t think it’s going to wear off any time soon. 🙂

Anyway, it’s Five Minute Friday (or Saturday for some of us) and time to write with my bravest writer voice along with the crowd at http://www.lisajobaker.com.  All the details are right there if you want to play along.  And now….GRACE:

One of my favorite speakers last weekend said that legalism used to be a list of “don’t do’s” that you had to conform to if you wanted to be a “good” Christian, and now it’s more a list of “do’s” that you’re expected to follow, but the truth is that neither of those is a true barometer of your inner spirituality.  Because…grace.

I find that we are much freer with grace when it applies to other people than we are to ourselves.  At least sometimes we are.  My 9 year old daughter has been known to tell me out loud to give grace to some other driver who just cut me off in traffic.  My 4th grader, y’all.  Where does she get this stuff?

But it’s usually true, isn’t it?  We smile anyway when someone hurts our feelings, because…grace.  We love on our kids even when one of them has forgotten to take the trash out two days in a row, because…grace.  We continue to love and follow a friend on social media even when we feel a little slighted because while we’re close online, we never got to speak when we were in the same room at a conference (this did not happen to me, FYI), because….grace. 

And then we want to throw the book at ourselves every single time we trip and fall.  The words from our own minds condemn and shame us when we yell at our children.  When we fail to stop and give money to someone holding a sign on the interstate exit.  When we sleep in instead of getting up to read the Word.  But grace is the hand that reaches down to pull us back up to our feet so we can keep on walking in the light. 

Grace is not a get-out-of-jail free card by any means.  If you are a Believer, the Holy Spirit will let you know when you’ve sinned, and you’ll feel remorse and repentance.  But grace means that you don’t beat yourself up every time that happens.  It means you remind yourself that  God alone can judge and that He loves all His children, from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high, and nothing, nothing, you do can change His love for you. 

(Once again, I find I could write for hours on this subject when I didn’t think I had five minutes in me.  Now it’s your turn:  give us your best five minutes on Grace.)