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?





EMPTY NEST


If my life is like a book, I'm starting a new chapter. Who am I kidding? I feel like I'm starting a whole new book.

This week I'm experiencing what they call 'an empty nest'. Honestly, that term really annoys me. I've tried to think of a better way to describe it. I've really tried. It sounds like a term used to describe old people who obsess over their pets and talk about their bowel habits and grandkids. It gives off a vibe of loneliness and loss of purpose. A few weeks ago, in preparation for the big 'last kid exodus', I set out to find a better title.

But there isn't one.

My nest feels empty. I have no eggs to sit on. I have no squawking little mouths to feed. No feathery messes to clean up. It's quiet. Sometimes I'm sad, but other times I feel like I'm on vacation. I suppose there isn't really one perfect way to describe it.

I'm realizing I don't really know who Jenna is when she isn't worrying about someone, or taking care of someone, or cleaning up after someone. Actually, I'm excited to get to know her.

So here's to EMPTY NESTS. Here's to quiet mornings and little projects and new books. Here's to hot coffee and good music and new dreams. Here's to a new book, with new characters and new plot twists. Here's to life. May we live each chapter well.

ADVENTURES


Yesterday he carried guns in his belts, wore masks and sought out 
new adventures around the next corner.


This morning he is packing up his room and rounding the next corner, 
his eye on a new adventure.

I miss the little boy he was.



I love the man he is.

Goodbye, Ellis. This will be a very good adventure.

CLAIMING MY TICKET



It all started with a little Facebook post.


That week had been a crazy one for me. The Redemption Run was in 3 days, and we were scrambling for alternatives as the smoke from raging wildfires crept into our valley and hovered for days. I had a million and one things on my 'To-Do' list, and I was still working my regular day job for 8 hours a day, making phone calls and sending emails on my breaks.

I couldn't possibly put one more thing on my plate. Right? Right? Can I get an Amen, Sista?

And then I read this.


I had been following my friend Alicia's adventures online. Last summer this teacher from Redding, California decided to commit the bulk of her summer vacations to the people of Gulu. I read her blog post about the pigs, and without really thinking about it I sent Alicia a message asking how Oregon could get in on some Vigilante Kindness.

She wrote me right back. Some kids needed $230 shoes for school. Could I help?

Crap. Do I even have time for this?

My compassionate, adventurous spirit is impressing and inspiring you right now, no?

But seriously. I'm just an ordinary girl, working an ordinary job, living an ordinary life, trying to make a difference, and my schedule is packed. I'm planning this event for goshsakes. And I'm stressed out. I would be nuts to add one. more. thing.

But there was this little voice. It's hard to describe if you've never heard it. But in that moment I knew I had a choice.

CLAIM IT  or  CUT IT LOOSE.

No one would blame me for walking away from this one. And honestly, no one except Alicia would ever know.

It's like I had this little ticket in my hand, and I could take it up to the counter and hand it over or I could just let it flutter to the floor with all the other tickets I was too busy to claim.

I took a deep breath and opened up my Facebook and turned in my ticket. I had no idea what was about to happen. I didn't even know if anyone would respond to my post. Within 5 hours I had this.



20 people responded to my invitation to knock their socks off. I sent my son ELLIS out on a mission to collect the cash, and within 24 hours we were wiring $350 to Gulu.

But that's not the end of the story. Our money got there too late. Some California Vigilantes beat us to it and bought the shoes. Alicia messaged me and asked what she should do with our money. We decided to spend one day praying about it. We asked God to bring something crazy and heart-pounding and wild. We prayed He would make it obvious what that money was for.

And He did.

Tomorrow night I am having a big "Kindness Vigilante" party at my house. We will be celebrating what happened the day I turned in my ticket. I will be sharing some incredible news with each of them, because really, they turned in tickets too. I can't wait to sit in my living room and laugh our heads off about how God took our coffee money and our spare change and our ratty tickets and started something amazing in a little village in Uganda.

Today, if you hear a little voice, STOP. Just stop. Even if your plate is full. If God hands you a little ticket, don't cut it loose. CLAIM IT. You never know what will happen. It could be something magical.