SAYING NOTHING

I sit across from her in a crowded restaurant, listening, watching.

There's a decision to be made today;
not an earth shattering, life-altering decision, but an important decision about stepping into a new position of leadership.

I listen to her recite pro's and con's, and while she lists them I imagine how every fact and detail is written carefully at home in a notebook on her kitchen counter. She gets to the end of her list and takes a sip of her water.

I say nothing. I say nothing for a really. long. time.

She finally clunks her water down on the table and looks at me with tears in her eyes. I know of the grief she is walking through right now. I know that right now it's hard for her to get out of bed; hard to feel anything, hope for anything, see anything but the last few months.

Cancer is a thief, and it stole her Momma. Her young, vibrant, active Momma. 60 days from diagnosis to goodbye.

60 days.

And now my friend is desperate to stumble into something, anything, that will keep her from sitting on the couch with a remote control in her hand. She is looking for something to wake her up.

"Why can't God just tell us what to do at times like this?"

I say nothing, because that's the wrong question.

The truth is, nothing will change the fact that her Momma is gone. Nothing will change the fact that she has to walk through the grief. She can walk through it busy, or she can walk through it barely moving.

But she must walk through it.

There is no list to check through this time. There are no pro's and con's.

This is life. And it's messy and it's beautiful and it's full of color and it's broken and sometimes it sucks.

And sometimes it's our job to just sit across the table and shut our mouths and let the questions come.

Sometimes questions are just questions. And sometimes they lead to more questions.

And somewhere in the asking, we will find what we're looking for.







MY DECISION

Many times the unpublished drafts of this blog are like a private journal; I can see unfinished thoughts and words and lists scattered throughout the past several years and it's like a timeline of my life.

I came across an unpublished draft today that stopped me in my tracks. It was from November of 2012.

My Decision
I will not let awkwardness or fear drive my decisions. I will learn how to love urgently, extravagantly and invisibly.

That was it. I'm not sure why I wrote those words when I did, but I'm pretty sure it was after an epic failure of some sort. I'm feeling a little goosebumpy as I read them again today because somehow after I wrote them, I began to say them to myself and pray them and live them. I don't remember even writing them down, but I know I wanted to live more like Jesus and this was the best way I knew how.

Have you ever written down a goal list or a life statement or something important you wanted to accomplish? Like, really written it down and put it somewhere safe? Once about twenty years ago, the Lumberjack and I wrote down everything we wanted to accomplish by the end of the year. I found the list after the year was up and we both laughed our heads off because we were able to cross every single thing off of the list. (It probably wasn't a very ambitious list, but we were young. Ha!)

'My Decision' was powerful because it summed up what I was learning at the time.

I had been letting fear get in the driver's seat. It took me places I hated.

Was it the only important decision I made at that time? Nope. Have I still found myself making bad decisions? Pssht. Of course. But I'm making them less and less. And I'm focusing on the "I will" in my life more than the "I won't". I think that's progress.

What about you? Think back over the past several months. What are some times you would love a "do over"? What is at the core of the mess? For me it was fear. For you it will be something else.

Write down your own 'My Decision' today; something that you will say to yourself the next time you are faced with a choice. (P.S. I would LOVE to hear about it!) Write it down and pray it and begin to repeat it to yourself. You might just be surprised at how things will change. You might be surprised at how much it changes YOU.




 




ROMANTIC NOTIONS AND PUKE ON MY CARPET


It was a romantic notion, really; this jumping off into a place with no borders. When I decided to follow Jesus and leave behind beige living, I pictured myself doing something in vibrant color: I would be moving to a third world country, or starting a ground breaking non-profit, or maybe even becoming a famous writer. I would learn about fair trade and I would type my manuscripts on a vintage typewriter and I would take my vacations in Iceland or Uruguay, all while saving orphans and freeing slaves from a life of suffering. Oh, and I would have awesome abs. Because duh.

So I started doing things that scared me and I called it 'Jumping Into Awkward' because I thought that sounded compelling and super cool and even a bit risky.

Awkward was a nod to my misfit self; that part of me that doesn't really like to walk into conflict or tension of any kind. I should probably tell you that I'm married to a guy who pulls on his rubber boots and strides boldly into the center of conflict. He just clomps right into stinky, gross tension and says 'I see you and that green stuff between your teeth. Let's be friends'.  And I'm the wife who stands on the edge of the muck, praying no one notices me and calls me out into the swamp and asks me to bring dental floss. Because, ew, I'm not going in there. I just scored these name-brand shoes for $12.99 at Ross and hurry up we have somewhere to be in half an hour. Get the picture?

But I was determined that if I stuck to the plan and embraced Awkward, I would finally arrive. I would arrive with my world traveler's tan and my passport full of stamps and a whole crop of new, interesting friends and stories.

So how's that little plan been working for me? Welp, I'm still living in Southern Oregon, I can't find my passport, my abs are not awesome, I still get pitty when I make myself talk to strangers, I'm whiter than Bill Clinton, I'm working in a beige cubicle every day and lately I've been neglecting this little blog. Say what? Hold up! Call Oprah and Grandma and John Tesh, 'cause that's a whole lot of awesomeness going on right there.

This journey through Awkward has looked nothing like I expected. So what does it really look like?

It looks like a 2:00 a.m. drive to a scary neighborhood to pick up someone who's probably lying to me. It looks like having to tell someone she can't get naked or smoke pot in my living room. It looks like sitting across from someone who just lost their mom, or someone who wants to kill herself, or someone who is leaving her drunk husband, or someone who is just pissed at God. It looks like swallowing my self righteous advice and saying "What do you need and how can I help?" It looks like giving up 'me time' so my daughter-in-law can have a break, it looks like endless stacks of dirty dishes that I didn't eat from, it looks like 6 gallons of baby puke on my white carpet. It looks like new wrinkles on my face and ugh-not-so-cute toenails. It looks like shining a flashlight on a path in the deep dark woods and shouting "Come on! I found it! Walk here!" It looks like sitting in my pajamas staring at an old computer screen, hoping my words mean something to you.

There's more, but let's stop for a second. Do you see the beautiful, broken mess? In all of my dysfunction and inadequacies I am following Jesus. It never looks how I think it will look; that's how I know I'm doing something right.

Awkwardness wrecked me for any other way of living.

....aaaaand this is where some of you will stop reading and move on with your day, if you haven't already. Honestly, I don't blame you. Go forth if you must, my friend.

BUT, if you're still reading, there are a few things you need to know before you jump.
I mean, if you're still reading I'm assuming it's because you've been thinking about jumping into Awkward with me. Ready? No? Good. Me neither. Or is it either? GAH!

1. CHASE THE TRUTH: In order to call out the best in people, I have to know who I am and why I'm here. I want to soak in scripture until the day I die because it reveals who I am and more importantly, who God is. Don't underestimate the importance of knowing God's word.

2. PUT FEAR IN THE CORNER WITH BABY: You are going to feel completely clueless and inadequate and stressed out. If you untangle it all, fear is in the center of it. Acknowledge the fear and the tension. Recognize that a healthy amount of fear and tension are needed to help you grow; just don't let them be the loudest voices in the room.  And don't ever EVER let fear steer your decision making. (And by the way, if you grew up in the 80's, you will know that NO ONE puts Baby in a corner. So Fear will just have to sit there alone and pick his nose and sulk. See what I did there? Now go back and read #2 again because I know you were distracted by Baby being in the corner).

3. TRUST THE COUNCIL: Find a small 'council' of people you can share your journey with. My council meets once a week around a dinner table to work through life. The council speaks truth, holds me accountable and helps me dream. If that's not possible for you right now, make sure you have a few healthy friends you can count on. Honestly, I can't stress this one enough. So many of my friends are just treading water because they haven't cultivated a council. (I plan on writing more about how to do this later, because I have recognized this is a huge need around me right now).

Ok that's enough to get you started. May you find your stride today. May you walk in boldness and in all things messy and stinky and beautiful.

And may the God of all things Awkward delight in you today.

Which of the things above are hardest for you? Are there other things that help you live a compelling life? Please share with the class!


**photo courtesy of Natalie Rose Art. Visit her Etsy store and check out her amazing work!

BEAUTIFUL THINGS


It's the phone call every Momma fears the most.




And I ride, shaky and sick, up the elevator to the third floor and turn the corner and stand with my back against the wall outside ICU. I stare up at the cameras and I stare at the doors and I just stand there, staring, dumb and afraid.
And then that Momma, she comes slipping out of those doors carrying her phone and looking like she just swam the entire ocean and back again. And she says to me, "Hi".
And what do I say? What do I say when her boy is laying in that hospital bed with tubes sucking things out and forcing things back into his broken body? Everything that's rolling around in my mouth feels meaningless and  flat. I'm just dumb. Dumb and shaking and afraid.
Me and this sweet Momma, we've poured our tears out over the years; when our boys were doing things they shouldn't, going places they shouldn't, smoking things they shouldn't. And we would just shake our heads at each other and smile through the tears, because no one hopes and dreams for a boy like his Momma. No one sees him like she does. No one aches and worries and prays through the night like her. And no one forgives, over and over, like a Momma. So over the years, Keri and I, we just kept hoping. Hoping and praying. Over and over.
And then one night Keri gets a call that could have just as easily come my way. And now there are things that can't be undone. There will be tough days ahead. Nothing I can say will change it or make it any less brutal.
Jakob's life was spared last night. He woke up today, and his body will eventually heal. Tonight, I pray over his life and his brokenness. I pray for his future. I pray for eyes that will not see just today, but a thousand and ten thousand days from now. I pray for discovery and grace. I pray for a life reborn.
Because no one loves and restores and relentlessly pursues us like our God. No one pours Himself out like He does. No one.
We sang in church tonight about how He makes beautiful things out of dust; about how He makes beautiful things out of us.
And I will keep on singing that. Because it's true.



A LEGACY OF LOVE

Since I was a wee girl I have been a lover of words. I tend to devour a well-crafted plot like a plate of Donna Benton's no-bake cookies. Words have shaped me and challenged me and comforted me over the years.

As important as words are, these days I am learning what it means to speak Love with less words; wild and faithful love, without borders or expectations or rules. As I have slipped into adulthood and crept quietly towards middle age, I've been watching someone expand the boundaries of her love. Simply put, she lives a lifestyle of love.

This person is my Momma. And today is her birthday.

The day she was born, she made the local news. You see, my Momma and her Sissies were the first triplets born in Shasta County, California. 


And as legend goes, every year the local paper would do a story about the Triplets and they would have to get their picture taken.


With a two year old and 3 babies in the house, I can't imagine the chaos and joy and exhaustion that echoed from those walls. We all grew up on stories of the antics of the Triplets and their big Sissie. My favorite story is when the little girls wanted some extra cash so they went door to door in their grandmother's neighborhood selling tickets to a spaghetti dinner. Unfortunately, my Great Grandmother learned of the dinner when a hungry crowd of neighbors showed up on her doorstep.

My Mom's well-worn Bible sits on the coffee table in the living room, a testament to years of soaking in Gods word and petitioning the throne for her children. The Lumberjack swears that he's alive today because she prayed through many nights when, as a young dad, he regularly pushed his limits driving a big rig through icy mountain passes.

Momma, I hope your birthday is fabulous. Thank you for your kindness and loyalty and generosity. Thank you for teaching me about love. Thank you for laughing at my jokes and always encouraging me. Thank you for loving my Dad.

Happy Birthday, Marcie Jane. I love you so much. I'm so privileged to be your daughter.




THE KEY

I have always had a fascination with keys. As a kid I collected old keys like rare coins, stashing them in a little drawer, turning them about in my hand, dreaming of the doors they unlocked. My great grandmother had a big black metal key; a rough heavy thing that hung from a ribbon and felt cool and heavy in my hand. I remember locking and unlocking her front door many times with this beautiful key. There was something spellbinding about hearing the click-click-thunk as I turned it. Even to this day, if you were to rummage around in my junk drawer at home, you would find random keys that I just can't bring myself to throw away. I have no idea what these keys go to. But for me, a key possesses possibilities and mystery.

I found a key last year. Not a shiny metal key or a big lumpy key on a ribbon. This key contains nine words.

This key forces me to put aside my own ideas and step through a doorway of possibilities much more wild and messy and intense than I could ever dream up. It's changing the way I live my life. It's plunged me into trust and bewilderment and awkwardness and even the very heart of God.

My friend Alicia shared this key with me last year, and now I'm going to share it with you. You can read about her story on her blog, but for now just trust me. This girl is legit.

Are you ready? Here's the key.

WHAT DO YOU NEED AND HOW CAN I HELP?

Oh, the magical doors this key will open for us. But we must be willing to use this key properly.

Using this key requires that we put aside everything we think we know. We must toss all of our expectations and 'fixes' and pride. We must abandon all judgment and cynicism and baggage. This key is full of pure humility and is marked with authentic servanthood, and when used properly it will shake foundations and cut new paths in the wilderness.

Say it with me now, What do you need and how can I help?

Doesn't that feel cool and heavy in your hand? Can you feel the possibilities and the mystery? Can you imagine the sound of it turning, and the door swinging wide?

May you travel lightly this year, and may you carry this key close to your heart. And may you never fear to use it where it is needed most.














YOU FIRST

YOU FIRST
 
There are so many things I could talk to you about this morning
Here next to the fire
with my coffee and favorite pen
 
Holiday memories linger and hum with the sounds of my morning
The Lumberjack's heavy footsteps while he tinkers
The first Saturday in a long while
When I can just rest and write and talk to you
 
So many things to catch up on, so many words
fears
longings
hopes
dreams
frustrations
complaints
lists 
ideas
notions
projects
 
But I wonder now
as I sit and listen
to the silence that feels like fingers in the sand
 
I wonder
 
What do you want to talk to me about?
 
YOU first.



MILEPOSTS


A couple of years ago I accepted the challenge to write a screenplay...in 30 days. I wrote like a fiend for a month and finished with characters I loved, 3 complete acts, and a brilliant twist at the end. It was such a great feeling. For the first time in my life I really felt like a writer!

Everyone asked what was next. Honestly, I had not really thought too much about what I would do when it was finished. I found a reputable script consultant who lives in Hollywood, and I took advantage on a special he was running on his website.

I sent him the first 10 pages and an outline of the story, and a week later I was sitting in my car on a lunch break waiting for his phone call. Would he love it? Would he understand the twist at the end? Would he be blown away by my creative genius? I knew the script wasn't perfect. I told myself I could do any revisions he recommended. After all, the guy has worked with Tom Hanks. He knows his shizzy.

Come on, friend, you can guess where this is going.

After 5 minutes of answering his questions I knew my work was crap. Crap Crap Crap. Don't get me wrong; Erik was professional and kind and......right. 

I had some major problems with my plot. 

For the next 25 minutes I stuttered and stammered my way through trying to explain the conflict, the  beats and the twist. After making a super awkward joke, I hung up and went back to work at my grey cubicle and tried to figure out what just happened. I was embarrassed. Deflated. Frustrated.

Honestly, I was pretty hard on myself for a while. But looking back now, I see some things. 
  • I started and finished a big project. 
  • I put myself out there for some constructive feedback.
  • I learned from said feedback.
  • I learned writing a compelling story is almost as hard as living one.
  • I'm more appreciative of a good story when I see one.

I haven't gone back to that script. I think it's too sick to ever be made well. 

But that script is a milepost for me. Sometimes it feels like my life is stuck; like I'm repeating the same day over and over and over. That script is a reminder that I'm moving forward, even if not everything works out the way I want it to. That script reminds me that sometimes we need to do hard things, even if we're not very good at them the first time.

We all need mileposts in our lives, especially if they're kind of a bummer. It's best when they make us uncomfortable and awkward. This wakes us up. 

These days I try to create mileposts for myself, so I can look back and see I'm moving in the right direction. And if it's been too long since the last one, or if I'm not moving, I create a new one. These mileposts aren't to show me where I've failed. They are to remind me where I've been and what I've learned. 

And I'm thankful for them.

What about you? Can you think of some mileposts in your own life? Is it time to create a new one?


HERE WE GO: 'THE BOOK'

Ok, I have officially started 'the book'. AAAAaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!! Hotdawg! 

Here's a peek at the concept. Will you help? I'm building a little community of people to be my first readers.
I'll need cheerleaders, proofreaders, networkers, lovers of the written word, and awkward people of all ages. :)
I'll be sending out the first draft of the INTRODUCTION by the end of the week.
If you're IN, please let me know. Dang, this is scary. And awkward.
But I'm embracing it!




HELP WANTED

I'm learning life is busy. It doesn't matter if you're raising toddlers or sending kids off to college. We all tend to fill the time we have, don't we?
I'm trying to fill my days with things that matter. I want to do a better job at loving people. I want live a better story. I want to do a better job just living.

SOMEDAY is a myth.
I'm tired of living in 'someday'. I'm sick of it.
Someday is today.

I'm excited to share something with you.
I've been wanting to write a book for a while, and now I've officially started writing it.
I've really started it.
Yikes.
A little scary. But mostly cool.

So...
This blog is where I'll be throwing my ideas out there to see what sticks. This is where it will brew and simmer and eventually come to life. Will you help me?

I don't work well alone. I work best in 'community'. I like to talk things out, figure them out, try the words out and rework them and try them again. I need a tribe of friends who will support me. I'm still working out what that interaction will look like, but I'm asking....will you help?