Tuesday, August 28, 2018

When the Words Won't Come

I've learned something new about myself this summer: when my mental capacity is full (i.e. I'm stressed), my creativity is completely stifled.

I don't suppose this is earth-shattering to most of you. It seems logical, right?

But what's a girl to do when she can't write?

I thought writing might work like this:

But the reality looks a little more like this:

And this:

The truth is, sometimes I just have to write--whether it feels particularly creative or masterful or whatever. There's a certain necessity to just get words on the page.

The other side of that, though, is to stop and reflect on whether I'm writing with God or just striving with my own effort to get this new book written. (A great reminder I recently ran across while reviewing my notes from the 2016 "Write in the Springs" session with Allen Arnold. Wow--what a weekend!)

Too often, if I feel like the words won't come, it has more to do with the state of my heart, my connection to my Creator, than the state of my mind.

And when I get connected to my Creator, who gives me all the inspiration I'll ever need, I realize something else too.

These things that occupy my mind and have me stressed out--yeah, those. Did God put them on my plate or did I? What can I say 'no' to? What have I prioritized--and is that in line with my life's purpose and calling?

Most likely it means some things may have to go. And what stays must be surrendered to Him.

Then my mind is free, my words ready, my page eager and fresh.

How about you, friends? Do you write well under stress? Or does it paralyze you? What wisdom might you share with me? 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Lessons Learned in 10 Years

Ten years goes by in the blink of an eye, and yet it feels as if we’ve been married forever. I can’t imagine life without Laura, and I love the life we’ve built together. Ten years ago, this month she made me the happiest man in the world by saying “I do.” I wanted to share four things that I’ve learned in ten years that you might find helpful.
  1. Set realistic expectations. When we got married, the only marriage I knew up close was my parents. Naturally, my vision of marriage was theirs. While they have an incredible marriage that stands as a testament to their love and maturity, I didn’t see all of it. I never saw them fight, so I didn’t think they did. Now, years later, I realize that they do, and I just didn’t see it. I didn’t know how often it was okay to argue and what it was okay to argue about. You’re probably thinking, “That’s silly Howell, do what feels right,” but I was genuinely worried when we even had the most minor spat. Now, years into this and having talked to many couples, I know that my expectations were ridiculous. Don’t set crazy expectations. I wouldn’t even set expectations for your spouse and how they will act until you know them in the intimate setting of marriage. We all have to find what fits us and what we are willing to give to put this life together. High expectations only make that harder. 
  2. Listen first, talk later. My mouth has done far more damage in our marriage than I would’ve believed possible. I’m a pretty quiet guy, but I’ve learned that I’m much quicker to draw conclusions than I thought. I’m also not a mind reader, and neither are you. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to listen first about a dozen times. 
  3. Don’t hold it in. Be open. Laura and I have found so much freedom in sharing everything. When there are no secrets, life is much simpler. So, if you are upset and keeping that from your spouse to protect them, you are only making things worse. I know this from experience.
  4. Never walk away in anger. It seems like everyone says this, but it is so true. Laura often jokes about how I want to deal with things right now and not later. That comes from experience. Walking away to “cool down” or “catch your breath” usually just gives you time to think about why you are right and your spouse more time to be hurt. Storming off never helped a marriage.
Hopefully this has been helpful. We have been more blessed than I could’ve ever hoped for, and I pray the same for you. May you have many happy years together!


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Who's the Leader?

My best friend and I like to joke about who is the leader. We've been friends a long time, and over the years, we have bragging rights about who discovered a certain restaurant first or introduced us to a certain pop-culture icon, like a media platform or Netflix show or an artist (FYI - I still get dibs on Snapchat and Adele ;)).

When we're deciding what to do while hanging out, one of us will joke that we should go with X or Y plan because "I'm the leader."

More recently, we were hiking in Palo Duro Canyon over the summer with our husbands, and we were in front with the boys behind us. We'd playfully edge in front of each other and say, "No, you're following me. I'm the leader."

Of course, our running banter is all in good jest, but the Lord reminded me of it, especially our silliness while hiking, as I've been mediating on Mark 8:34, where Jesus says to take up your cross daily and follow me.

My friend and I at the Canyon that day no doubt provide a picture of my heart sometimes, wrestling with Jesus to be first, to be in control, to be the leader.

But you know what the Lord gently whispered? You can't lead when you're following.

The very principal of following Jesus means I'm not leading--He is. 

He is the King of this Kingdom, and yes, I am His daughter, and yes, He has given me an inheritance and status and all the riches of His glorious hope.

But I'm still to be submitted to Him. He's in charge.

This verse says to take up our cross daily, I think, because we need to remember to choose submission to His authority every day, every moment.

The Lord always amazes me. Even when I'm trying to be in control, and it's falling apart, I can usually look back and later see how He actually orchestrated an even greater plan.

So, Lord, let me--let us--remember today: there's only one leader in this relationship, and it's You.

May we choose to follow you daily.

Monday, August 6, 2018

A Decade of Love, Laughter, and Lots of Travel

Howell and I celebrated ten years of marriage last week. Ten years since we said "I do," and without a doubt, I'd say it all over again.

We've experienced joy and loss in various stages of our journey, and I am so very grateful for the man God gave me all those years ago. He is my greatest gift. My go-to for advice and a listening ear, the one who lets me unload at the end of a long day. My bed hog, who sleeps as close to me as possible despite our decade of graduations from small beds to a king. My laundry partner and the best dishwasher-unloader on the planet (thanks, babe!). My encourager, who never stops telling me I can do this--this job, this book, whatever 'this' looks like today. My prayer warrior, who covers me in words of faith every night, regardless of how I feel. My partner for golfing or hunting or hiking. And my best friend.

Traveling has become one of our favorite things to do together. And while this season of life has been child-less for us, we've taken advantage of the time to go and do and see all that we can. 

17 states. 6 countries. 2 cruises. And countless hours on the road. 

To celebrate a decade of trips, I thought I'd pick ten pictures from my absolute favorites: 

Honeymoon Cruise to Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cancun (2008)
In Bath during our London trip (2011)
Five-Year Anniversary cruise (2013)
Santa Fe (2014)
San Diego (the first time!) (2015)
Hot Air Balloon Festival (and ride!!) in Albuquerque (2015)
Vista Verde Ranch, Colorado (2016)
New York City (2016)

Browns Game in Cleveland (2016)

Redwood National Park, California (2017)

This year, to celebrate our tenth, we went to Charleston for a week in June. Amazing sunsets, historical buildings, and FOOD.

Who knows where the road will lead us during our next decade, but I know who will be by my side. <3 p="">