Thursday, December 31, 2015

His Joy Comes in the Morning

The year comes to an end, and in some ways, I feel 2015 is closing as 2014 did. We end again with loss and grief and hope deferred.

My family was discussing this recently—and noting that these last four years have been some of our hardest, maybe ever. My parents lost parents—and I have no more blood grandparents (thank God for two grandmothers by marriage or a whole generation would be gone completely). 
We’ve been through breast cancer and heart surgery at the end of a year of chemo and radiation. We’ve watched hair fall out and heads shaved while hearing ‘negative’ 14 times from the fertility office. My parents have six grandbabies in Heaven. Six. Who can endure four years of that?

But as I sit here this morning, when my heart could be sick from hope deferred, I am reminded of the choice before me: I choose joy and peace and gratitude. I choose to be content and to see the blessings.

We’ve faced a lot as a family since 2011.

But we’ve conquered a lot, too. And we’ve laughed a lot. And we’ve witnessed all the good.

Two weddings and a precious baby boy.
New houses, new jobs.
Dreams come true, and new dreams to come.
A cancer-free report again, and again, and again.

At the end of 2015, we still have each other: wonderful parents, in-laws, and siblings; blessed marriages, houses, and cars; and an 18-month-old, who is our hope and joy and light in the midst of what sometimes feel dark and painful.

On January 1, 2015, Howell and I made the decision to do nothing this year but live life. No more fertility treatments. No more adoption classes. Nothing.

Because after four tough years, we needed 12 months of each other.

And I’m thankful on December 31, 2015 for the memories we made.

Three ski trips, a half-a-dozen lake trips, eight days in San Diego, weekends away—in Dallas, in Santa Fe, in any place that was within six driving hours and had a king-sized bed. 

We’ve logged thousands of miles in the car this year—just us or with our fur-babies—and with every click forward on the odometer, the grief in our hearts is wiped away.

When Brad Paisley’s voice fills the cab of Howell’s truck with questions of how the love for his spouse could be more today than way back then, I smile because I feel it too.

I wish at the close of this year, I could announce a pregnancy with something clever like a third stocking, an unopened present, or a new year’s surprise, but while I still carry my dreams, I keep them securely placed in my Father’s chest, and every time I want to take a quick peek, he reminds me that I can trust His heart.

If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that my Father loves me more than I can comprehend. It’s something fierce and powerful, and it cannot be undone.

He can’t un-love me; neither can He love me more.

His love is immeasurable and complete.

When I doubt His plans for me, I doubt how great His love is.

When I feel hopeless, I’ve misplaced His great love, trading it for my plans, which pale in comparison.

His love is no longer cliché to me. It’s my security and my peace, my comfort and my hope.

When I believe His love is enough, I know I’m enough.

And when I’m less concerned with whether I’m enough, I can see others who need to know they are enough too.

I can tell that struggling college student, I know what it’s like—and you can overcome. This too shall pass. 
I can tell my struggling mom-friend, I see you, and I’m sorry for the hard days. They are real, and it’s okay to feel it.

When I believe how much He loves me, I can trust His heart. And I am set free.

Free to be me. Free to run in my lane and live in my margin.

I don’t have to compare or contrast.

I can empathize from my lane without bitterness or jealousy. I can be thankful and grateful in my lane without losing compassion for those in another lane.

The desire to be a mom is no less today than last year, but an amazing thing happened over these last 12 months: I learned life in my lane is pretty great too.

I can play with my nephew—who has my heart and my love in a way I’ve never known. I can take the pictures and sing the silly songs and treasure those sweet moments of hugs and snuggles.

But I can also sleep 9 (ish :)) hours without the interruptions—the runny nose and fever, the 2 a.m. throw up. I can take trips when I want to or randomly plan a date night in Amarillo or drop everything to see a movie and eat popcorn for dinner.

Don’t get me wrong—I still long for the day when my margin is expanded and a new mom-column is added, but this lane has its own perks. And I can see them when I’m not trying to run in someone else’s lane.

I’ve also learned this year that it’s okay to feel all the feels, as my good friend Jen Hatmaker would say. And it’s okay to be vulnerable.

When I’m hurting, it’s okay to tell someone. Text those friends I trust the most. Ask for prayers. Let someone else speak truth when I cannot.

It’s okay to ask for help. This is sometimes the most courageous thing I can do—and it’s worth it every time.

This year—more than any other—I’ve not only been okay with me, I’ve been okay with letting others see the real me. (She’s pretty awesome.)

And finally, I’ve learned that while emotions lie, His word never does. I can tuck His word deep into my heart, and it stands. Forever. Eternally true.

Not that this post has to be advicey, but if there’s advice to be offered, it’s this:

Pain and suffering is inevitable in this life; even Jesus said so. But joy is our choice, and it’s worth it.

Hope deferred happens—for whatever reason—to everyone, but His love is never deferred. It is ever-present to comfort and secure.

Comparison is a trap (don’t we all know it?), but life is great when you live with gratitude in your own lane.

The end of 2015 really has been hard, but I feel like the Lord has asked me not to throw away all of 2015 because of that. 

I believe 2016 is going to be a great year. This year we will see prayers answered and dreams accomplished. God is going to pour out blessing on our family—so much that we cannot contain it. I can’t wait to see how He chooses to unfold these gifts before us. Already, today, my cup runs over.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Merry Christmas... Break!

We decided to take a little break for the holidays, so we won't be blogging for a few weeks. We hope you enjoy your time with your families while we enjoy ours.

In the meantime... Catch up on our old posts, and we'll see you back on January 4!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Lessons from Another #NaNoWriMoFail

NaNoWriMo ended Monday, and I can safely put another #NaNoWriMoFail in the books. 

But before you stop reading, this is not a self-deprecating post. I made it to almost 11,000 words, and I’m proud of that accomplishment. I spent the first 10 days of the month stressed out because I started out behind, and then the Lord, ever so gently, asked me who I was performing for. Ouch

I stayed behind for the rest of the month, but it wasn’t about competing, or proving, or performing anymore. The goal was to write, and I did—when I could.

NaNoWriMo has this mantra that one should write 50,000 words—regardless of whether they are ‘good’ words or not. Just get them down. Just. Write. Write. Write.

I’m not necessarily opposed to this exercise in writing, but for me, I decided to make the month about being diligent to my writing—and for me, being diligent about writing means I don’t waste words for the sake of a word count. I’m a thoughtful writer—and, as I’m learning, that makes me a slow writer. I imagine scenes in my head for days before I write them down. When I write, I write a lot at once—but I can’t keep that up every day. It’s too much.

One of the big takeaways I had from the ACFW conference this year was creating a writing plan or a writing schedule. I talked to one person who told me Frank Peretti writes 250 words a day. That’s not much—and seems so do-able—and it allows for 90,000 words a year: a book-length manuscript.

Others, I learned, try to write 3,000 words a week; some even said 5,000 words a week.

I wrote almost 11,000 words in a month, and I feel good about that—it’s slightly less than 3,000 a week, and it’s slightly more than 250 words a day.

And you know what else? I wrote. I worked. I thoughtfully considered my new story plot and my characters and my scenes and my dialogue. And I wrote some more.

I was reading Rachelle Gardner’s post about rejection this morning. I especially like reading the comments section on the B&S blog, and I was reminded that if I genuinely feel called to write, if I feel like it’s the gift He’s given me, then I can’t quit—regardless of the rejection I might face. By the same measure, I can’t make writing about me—my success or promotion.

In For the Love, Jen Hatmaker says it like this: “Run your race. Maybe you need to invest in your gifts. Take a class. Go to a conference. Sign up for a seminar. Start that small business. Put that website up. Build in some space. Say yes to that thing. Work with a mentor. Stop minimizing what you are good at and throw yourself into it with no apologies. Do you know who will do this for you? No one. You are it. Don’t bury that talent, because the only thing fear yields is one dormant gift in a shallow grave” (p. 33). 

NaNoWriMo is over, but my story is not complete. That status for my first manuscript is still uncertain, but I am not done.

Being a writer is about more than writing. And writing a novel is about more than one month of the year.

I’ve said before—I’m willing to work, to edit, to take the hard words and the real truth and criticism, to collaborate, to re-do, and to listen.

My part, for now, is to write. To do anything else is to bury the talent.

 What gift has God given you to steward? Do you need to resurrect the talent from a shallow grave?  [Click to Tweet!]

Writer-friends:  Advice for me? What's your writing plan? How do you keep your "I won't quit" attitude? [Click to Tweet!]