Tag Archives: humor

A Frustrated Post Standing in for Acceptance

Standard

angry-1296476_960_720

“All conflict we experience in the world is a conflict within our own selves.” Brenda Shoshanna

Don’t you hate it when you’re on a roll, and then life throws a curveball or a donut just five minutes into committing to a goal, 10 minutes after you’ve undertaken a healthy habit, and 20 minutes since getting your own life?

At the end of last week’s blog post, I mentioned I’d be highlighting acceptance and tolerance next. I’ve learned my lesson about announcing upcoming posts after typing, backspacing, and deleting for hours only to end up with an abridged (and unhinged) version of non-acceptance that rambled on something like this.

“Acceptance is off the table. We’ve faked tolerance for years, some of us until we got our way and some of us until we didn’t.”

“We’ve read history books and the Bible, so time’s up for us to accept that we have never embraced diversity, stood united, or practiced political correctness. “We the People” have been at odds forever.”

“Acceptance is a fine idea until we disagree. Then, forget it.”

Just so you know, this isn’t the positive post I envisioned or the one to which I invited you. Authors of novels blame their characters for taking over scenes, however, I’m not sure who to blame for this. If I had known about this post, I would have sent a warning, not an invitation.

defiance-1948023_960_720

I’m naïve, though, and figured most would be weary of … what’s the antonym of acceptance?  

Oh, yeah, dissension, antagonism, discord, rebellion, judgment, and nasty posts. I figured most would be weary of these. I was wrong. I googled “antonyms of acceptance” for the list above – all except nasty posts. I made that one up.

I planned to gush on about accepting others as a byproduct of accepting ourselves, an overflow of acceptance, of sorts – are you getting even a glimmer of that? – kind of like a volcano of acceptance. Ahhh, that describes more accurately how this post was spilling over.

Take heart, though, all who wander (into frustration) are not lost.

Okay, so at the moment, maybe we are lost. And unhinged. Yeah, definitely unhinged. I couldn’t figure out the problem, or a solution, until my husband texted from the bedroom at 4 a.m. and said, “Come to bed.” I looked at the clock. I felt like I’d been slapped awake.

Until he texted, there was no way I was waking up to and accepting the fact that, since last week, the gracious post I’d started about acceptance had turned frustrated, and so had I. My post about acceptance was off the table the same as acceptance was off the table.

But I had to wonder, since being “slapped,” why such an emotional reaction when I’d hardly been involved in any backlash during the week, or during the year for that matter? I’ve felt overwhelmed and scared and misunderstood in the shadows of it all, but not personally attacked, yet I was taking this week on like I had been. It’s like the quote says, “… it is conflict within our own selves.”

apple-570965_960_720

So, there you have it, the problem and the solution.

The Problem: I take things personally that have nothing to do with me, which lands me in a frustrated place instead of an accepting one. I want to resign my inner conflict that tells me things outside myself are my responsibility, my fault, and mine to fix. I want to accept that friends who rage and name call and belittle aren’t talking to me unless they tag me, text me, call me, or knock on my door.

The Solution: Following through with acceptance means work, prayer, and writing to rid myself of fear, especially fear of others’ confrontations and disapproval. Following through means accepting their reactions are theirs to deal with, and also accepting I deserve contentment and I’ve earned the right to my own life, even unpopular opinions.

#gettingyourownlife #workseverytime #whilelovingthepeopleinit #acceptingmyself 

A friend’s funny comment to a disparaging one put the problem into perspective. He wrote, “Wash, rinse, repeat.” #lovetolaugh

And my daughter’s solution is the same instruction she gives to our nearly two-year-old grandson who overreacts, “Shake it off, buddy.” And he does. He shakes, wiggles, and stomps until he’s done with it. I won’t be cute like him, but if it helps with acceptance …

How is “getting your own life” coming along if you’re like me and easily distracted by negative noise? Sharing solutions help us all. And if you need to share frustration, that’s fine too because we’re in this together.

We sure are,
Kim

Thanks for the images, Pixabay.com.

Advertisements

A Pot of Gold at the End of Envy

Standard

clover-1225988_1280

“Negative emotions like loneliness, envy, and guilt have an important role to play in a happy life; they’re big, flashing signs that something needs to change.” Gretchen Rubin

I don’t often mess with envy since reading an article about Reverend Ike, a minister known for his controversial prosperity theory. He was a poor preacher in the city of New York when he figured out to “recognize and rejoice in prosperity.” He’d see a well-dressed person and instead of envying him, he’d say, “Isn’t it wonderful he has so much abundance?”

I don’t remember much else about Reverend Ike except his happiness for others who had more that he had. Hearing his story inspired me to practice the same because envy negates things like “getting your own life while loving the people in it.”

It’s been years now and I’ve rejoiced with a friend whose addiction blog post received tens of thousands of readers, a friend whose article landed her on a radio show, and several friends who’ve signed book deals.

What is funny about this?   

It’s funny (in that laugh-at-myself-later kind of way) how we get caught off-guard and suffer momentary amnesia.

As hard as I tried to concentrate on writing a blog post, I kept getting distracted by notifications popping up on my screen. Friends liked, commented on, and shared a blog post (about expectations in relationships) I posted earlier in the evening on my Facebook page. I stopped writing my post and reread the one I shared by Derek Harvey, “The Silent Killer of Relationships.”

blog about green

What ENVY looks like. 

I thought, I could have written that, which rings true like thinking I could have jotted down Gone With The Wind. I can’t write someone else’s story, but that evening I wished I had because of its popularity.

I left Derek’s blog and looked him up on Facebook. I didn’t mean to be searching for something I didn’t like about him, but, truth be told, I wanted to uncover an egotistical writer so I’d get over my own ego and get back to my own writing. Instead, I stumbled on a young man who loves God and his wife, who affectionately calls her “babe” and “love”, and who shows off his sweet-faced little girl reminding me of my granddaughter.

He’s hard to dislike, for sure, but I was on a roll paying homage to green while St. Patrick rolled in his grave.

What I noticed.

It wasn’t until I revisited Derek’s blog that I noticed …

Even though his other dozen or so posts were equally praiseworthy, especially the one acknowledging his dad, the only comments he had received to date were on “The Silent Killer of Relationships.” He began his blog on September 30. By January, he posted more often. The “magic” of a viral blog post happened early on for him and out of the blue (that’s what we sometimes call God’s influence). It wasn’t because he built a platform, wrote consistently, and promoted himself on others’ blogs, not that there’s anything wrong with these things. But his magic happened …

Because he wrote a well-written, genuine, and relatable story.

Because he wants to help others.

Because it’s his time.

And because he wasn’t wallowing in envy about someone else’s blog post.

That last one’s a guess. I don’t know for sure.

If I’d kept up my jaunt with jealousy and my determination to figure out something wrong with him, I likely would have disregarded Derek’s talent, as well as his humility about it, his wife’s excitement for him, and anything else good that comes from moments like these.

He wrote on Facebook the day after his post went viral, “So apparently expectations in relationships is a hot topic … who knew!”

His wife wrote, “So incredibly proud of Derek Harvey. And the world should know it!”

The day after these Facebook updates, Derek announced, “Well friends … as of today, my recent blog post has seen over ONE MILLION VISITORS … and counting! Thanks to everyone who shared! It’s being seen all over the world and my hope is that it’s making an impact and a difference in people’s lives. Thanks for being a part!”

pot-967858_1280
I let him know I was one of the people who shared. I deserved recognition for passing along his story, especially considering the envy I put myself through. He can take credit for reminding me “my hope is that it’s making an impact and a difference in people’s lives.”

I almost forgot why I shared his post. I almost forgot why I was writing my own.

What I’ve been reminded of since Saturday when I shared Derek’s blog post …

  • I’m happiest and most productive when I focus on my work and celebrate others and their accomplishments.#GettingYourOwnLife #LovingThePeopleInIt
  • Something good, like a viral blog post, could be around the corner, but I lose sight of good and significant things when I’m comparing.
  • The worst way to take care of myself is by searching for what is wrong with someone else.
  • Envy distracts me from getting my own life, which includes writing blog posts.
  • What feels like God overlooking me is more likely Him overseeing my spirituality.
  • I write not for likes and comments and shares (although I appreciate each one), but to make an impact and a difference like Derek mentioned, and because I love you.
  • I don’t look good in Green. #IwantaMillionVisitors

When Derek committed to helping others by way of his blog, this kind of list probably wasn’t on his radar. Sometimes we help each other in the weirdest ways. I hope this somehow helps you … weird or otherwise.

Happy Green Day! Keep it envy-free.

In this Together,
Kim

Images by Pixabay.com and Derek Harvey

You Complete Me (or maybe not …)

Standard

IMG_5639 copy

“Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction.” Antoine De Saint-Exupery

For a man to complete me, he’d have to weigh a ton, which reminds me of Sawyer Brown’s song, 800 Pound Jesus. Prince Charming couldn’t come close. Neither could a knight on his white horse. My husband, John, hasn’t stood a chance either.

My stomach knots up when I hear, “He completes me.” I’ve joked about it, but the reality is I hated that John didn’t complete me and I hated that I wanted him to. I hated groveling for my parents’ approval and the admiration of my kids. I didn’t want it to matter how many friends I had, but it did. And while friends were a number to rack up, I didn’t have many. I felt incomplete when I’d scan a room to see if men besides my husband noticed me.

I thought, I wouldn’t be like this if John would …

I didn’t give up, either. I worked more than 30 years to straighten out him and our marriage – to help him be who I thought I needed. All of this trying came with some screaming and lots of tears.

I suggested self-help books, counselors, and marriage retreats.

I emailed him quotes about attitude and growing up and taking responsibility. I forwarded articles with helpful husband tips.

I pointed out examples of couples (with a focus on the man) who I thought we should emulate. Most of these couples are no longer together.

Instead of helping, I hurt us by insisting John do something impossible … complete me.

I haven’t been easy to handle since feeling incomplete manifested as anxiety, dissatisfaction, and depression. I made marriage messier the more I insisted holy matrimony had something to do with filling the hole in my spirit. I mixed up my husband’s purpose with that of the Holy Spirit. I’d throw fits because God felt far away and John was standing right in front of me, so why didn’t he hold me and make me feel saner and loved.

I acknowledge now how impossible that is for someone to do when they’re just as broken and trying to nurture the same kind of hole in their spirit.

Sawyer Brown’s video 800 Pound Jesus is a beautiful visual of how God shows up in those places that people can’t fill. I’ve always skipped the song on my CD because it wasn’t a favorite, but now I listen because it reminds me of the ever-present presence of Jesus.

I didn’t mention grandchildren filling me (which seems an obvious choice as much as I love mine) because of what happened about eight months before our granddaughter’s birth. Claire is two and a half so you don’t have to wonder how long ago it’s been … not long. My husband and I fought our final battle over whether he was up for the job of completing me.

The story is too long for this post and maybe too personal for my blog, but I’ll tell you it was a six-month stalemate and the most painful time for me of our marriage. Pain is sometimes the only way God gets through to me.

As a result, when I held Claire for the first time, the love I felt for her overwhelmed me, but it never crossed my mind she’d complete me. In fact, I knew she wouldn’t. It was bittersweet because she’s so loved and lovable, it almost seemed like she should. However, for the realization that she wouldn’t, I would have fought with John for six months plus sixty years. No one needs the burden of completing someone else. I’m sorry to those I tried to make carry it for too long.

So, where’s that leave our marriage besides incomplete?

I heard my answer in the movie Shall We Dance with Susan Sarandon and Richard Gere. After Beverly Clark (played by Sarandon) finds out her husband’s not having an affair, but taking dance lessons without her, she meets the private investigator at a bar to let him know she no longer needs his services. She said about marriage, “We need a witness to our lives. There are a billion people on the planet … I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things … all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.”

IMG_5645

If there’s anything you’d like to share, I hope you’ll consider leaving a comment. It helps all of us to hear from each other.

In This Together,
Kim

Artwork by me.

When’s It Going To Be My Turn? (Getting Your Own Life while Loving the People in It)

Standard

background-681969_640

“Healing is a small and ordinary and very burnt thing. And it’s one thing and one thing only: it’s doing what you have to do.” Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed, author of the memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, had to hike for months to get her own life. I have to write blog posts and a manuscript to get mine. It’s that simple and it’s that hard.

I blogged about my qualifications to write relationship posts in 2016 (What Qualifies Me? (writing about relationships)), knowing how unqualified I feel to write the second part of this year’s focus – getting your own life.

Mark Twain said, “Write what you know.” An unknown author said, “Teach what you want to learn.”

I’m combining the two quotes. I know I’d like to learn how to get my own life.

I also know my husband and kids want me to learn. However, they are three of my biggest distractors, but that’s because of me, not them.

Lots of events happen to bring us to the point of willingness. One of those things for me was a friend’s question, “When’s it going to be my turn?”

Anytime her husband, her three adult children, or her extended family and friends need something or they have anything go wrong, she’s on their speed dial. She said, “I feel overwhelmed by their needs and confused about when to help and when to say, ‘No.’ There’s plenty I’d like to do, but when would I ever have time or energy after dealing with them and their lives.”

I understood.

I would let the mailman derail my plans if he decided to tell me about his bad day. I’m not sure it’s because I’m compassionate. I think it’s more because I’m a coward. I am afraid to live my life.

I hated understanding. 

I wanted to scream at her, “Why don’t you stop enabling everyone you know and get on with your life? That’s what would be most helpful to you and to your family and friends … seeing you live your life.”

Like Carl Gustav Jung said, “Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.”

Women tend to attend to others. It’s our maternal instinct whether we have children or not. Sometimes we want to help. Sometimes we’re expected to help. Sometimes we don’t know better; we don’t know we have choices.

I lived up to my title that I was voted in high school as “Most Dependable.” It’s not dependable, though, to throw up in the parking lot outside the door to my kindergarten classroom because I’m concerned about letting down my students. I ended up driving back home that morning feeling dizzier and weaker than on my way to school.

I lived this way for years. Stopping the insanity of being overly responsible for others was an initial step to getting my own life, but it wasn’t the end-all. Just because I stayed home when I was sick didn’t mean I was living my life.

Since the start of my writing career, I’ve watched myself like I imagine you’d watch yourself during an out-of-body experience. If my behavior weren’t so maddening, it’d be comical because of all the ways I distract myself from writing my manuscript.

After my daughter got engaged, I misinterpreted her busyness and fewer phone calls as meaning she wanted to plan her wedding without me. I felt left out. Who can write through these kinds of emotions?

When we straightened out our misunderstanding, we had a lot of wedding planning to catch up on. Who can write when overwhelmed with details?

When she got pregnant, she lived four and a half hours away. We agreed that I’d try to be there when the baby was born. When she got pregnant again, it was good that she had moved closer because my job this time around was taking care of their little one while she and her husband were at the birthing center. Who can write with deadlines more important than their own?

Our son’s wedding was the same year as our second grandchild’s birth. Who can write with this much going on?

My husband had two health scares the same year. He’s fine, but there were months of tests and stress. Who can write under this kind of pressure?

As significant as was each of these events, an abundant number of women live their lives and live out their purposes under circumstances as special, busy, and weighty. Being distracted from our lives doesn’t mean we love and honor others more. It means we love and honor ourselves less than we should.

Making my way back to my blog to write about distractions is an attempt at getting my own life and being more qualified to help others do the same.

What are you distracted by? What are you distracted from? What’s the first step you can take to getting your own life?

In This Together,
Kim

Image from Pixabay.com.

What Qualifies Me? (writing about Relationships)

Standard

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 7.27.05 PM copy

“Try, try, try, and keep on trying is the rule that must be followed to become an expert in anything.” W. Clement Stone

When a writer friend said I should focus my blog on relationships, it wasn’t the first time I’d heard the idea. It was, however, the first time I thought about it seriously. I knew she was on target about my blog needing to be single-minded. Relationships have been my most passionate topic and the most popular among readers.

Besides passion, though, I wondered what qualified me.

Editors and publishers ask that same question anytime a writer proposes a new idea. I figured readers would wonder also. I recognized that until I answered it for myself, I’d keep asking, “Who are you to be writing about relationships?”

Experience is typically the first thing an employer asks about.

I’ve been in relationships with thousands of people for more than 58 years. If this were any other career, I’d be retired by now and have a gold watch.

One of those people has been my husband for 37 years. We’re still together because we loved each other the best we knew how, because God loved us a whole lot more, and because I think He wants me writing about our lives.

After marrying, I spent time and money on counseling, as well as dozens of workshops and conferences to restore our marriage, rethink my other relationships, and rebirth my inner child. The latter is not like being born again in a Baptist church, which I also had happen. Instead, it’s like coming out of a cocoon of blankets while participants confirm you’re a good and lovable person. I would’ve tried almost anything to fix them and me.

We have a 33-year-old son and a 31-year-old daughter. Both are married. Our daughter and her husband have a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter and a nine-month-old son. Between our three families, we have five dogs. Anyone who says getting together with that many people and pups doesn’t offer plenty of challenges and experience for writing about relationships is either lying or healthy. I’m neither.

I have several groups of friends I get together with every month. One of them is the same group of girls who used to eat lunch together on the front lawn of our high school. There are seven or eight of us who still live close by and make it point to stay in touch. Plus, I have all of you – my online friends who sustained me not so long ago during my toughest bout with depression.

Education is next on a job application.

Growing up in my family of origin was like being home schooled for a writing career. I witnessed the destruction of dysfunctional family patterns, the sickness behind keeping secrets, and the pain caused by addictions. Our home and relationships were messy, to say the least. Siddalee Walker from “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” said it best when being interviewed about her writing, “If I’d had an easy childhood, I’d have absolutely nothing to write about.”

My formal education included attending a local college. I chose my major so I could find out what was wrong with me. I ended up with no answers and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. While teaching early childhood classes for eight years, I earned a Master of Arts in Counseling and an Educational Specialist in Counselor Education. These degrees landed me in internships working with alcoholics and homeless young adults trying to get their lives on track. I got job offers from both internships, but since my own life wasn’t on track, I took a job as a middle school guidance counselor (the lesser of the three evils). Later on, a trusted friend suggested I shy away from a career in counseling because I had enough issues of my own.

When I embarked on a writing career in 2007, I trained by way of classes, conferences, and a mentor. At first glance, the work seemed all about submissions and rejections. As it turns out, it’s as much about relationships as any career I’ve worked, however, it feels emotionally safer since I’m airing dirty laundry on a computer screen. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself so I’ll keep typing.

References usually finalize the decision to hire a candidate or not.

Several of my high school friends can offer references from a half-century back, depending on their hearing and their memories that day. We’re getting older, you know.

If I liken my relational experiences and education (and all the trying that went into both) to standards set by W. Clement Stone in his quote about becoming an expert, I’m qualified.

To move forward, is there a question you need to answer? If so, I hope you’ll answer it soon.

In This Together,
Kim

Don’t Stop Short of Success (a blog post about persistence)  

Standard

he-ones-who-win-600x600When I heard author Sue Monk Kidd speak in Greenville, SC at Furman University, she answered this question at the end of her presentation, “Do you have any advice for someone who wants to get published?”

“I’ve never known a writer who wanted to be published who didn’t eventually meet their goal as long as they kept writing, as long as they persisted,” said Kidd.

While reading Michael Hyatt’s blog post about persistence, How to Develop the One Trait Essential for Success, I thought about sharing his information along with what I heard at Furman with the group Women in Networking. I sometimes present the thought for the day at our meetings like I did in June. After the presentation, a member and friend encouraged me to blog about it, so here it is.

Even though persistence is easy to suggest and maybe even cliché like “hang in there,” there are plenty of “messy middles” when tasks get hard, what’s at hand seems overwhelming, and giving up makes more sense than keeping on.

Hyatt’s six tricks to persisting through messy middles are below. I included personal insights.

  1. Set goals. Hyatt says to break down BIG projects into small chunks. For me, this means I don’t set out to write a book by next year. Instead, I set a much smaller and more manageable goal like writing 2,000 words today. He typically reminds us to write down our goals.
  1. Keep the end in mind. I read somewhere on Hyatt’s blog that while writing his seventh book, he wanted to give up – the same temptation he had during the messy middle of every book. He’d learned by then, though, to look at the bigger picture, to reassess the bigger goal. This sounds contradictory to number one, but it’s not. The idea is to accomplish a big dream (keep the end in mind), one small chunk at a time.
  1. Improve your pace and renew your enthusiasm. Now, that’s an easy trick to follow when you’re smack dab in a messy middle, and feeling overwhelmed and discouraged, right? (Imagine this typed in sarcasm font.) How do you turn the urge to give up into an improved pace, much less enthusiasm? In another post, Hyatt said something like, “Reconnect with your why.”

In a workshop presented this week, friend and colleague Summer Turner said, “Figure out who your customer is, what they need, and what you have to offer them. This purpose renews your enthusiasm.”

During today’s meeting of Women in Networking, our president Anjana Duff suggested something like this, “Gratitude, though not a natural response during messy middles, helps us refocus on inspired action and regain enthusiasm.”

Hopefully one of these ideas will prod us along and refuel our enthusiasm.

  1. Run and walk. This trick is about pacing ourselves. I can attest that running hard and fast lands us in a place of reacting (like saying “yes” to opportunities we don’t want) rather than taking action toward our goals. It’s best sometimes to rest, to make time for recreation, and to reevaluate our direction.

For nearly two years, I wrote at least seven articles a week, often more. I took every assignment offered including a how-to blog post about starting a lawn mower after it sits idle throughout the winter, one about the best mousetraps on the market (don’t ask, I don’t remember), and another about eliminating squirrels from the attic. Speaking of squirrels …

  1. Kill the distractions. Distractions run rampant like squirrels … oh, look, a tree. Oh, a nut. Oh, a car to run in front of. Oh, the same car to run back in front of since it didn’t hit me the first time. It’s easier to avoid being distracted when we’re clear about our purpose. To say no to small distractions, we have to be committed to a bigger yes.
  1. Change your self image. Hyatt says, “The most important trick for getting more persistent is to see ourselves as persistent people.” Norman Vincent Peale said something similar, “Change your thoughts and you change your world.”

I appreciate comments and your insights about persistence. I ended the presentation with this quote by John Maxwell.

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret to success is found in your daily routine.”

A Fairy Tale Can Take A Long Time (a blog post about 37 years of marriage) 

Standard
“A perfect marriage is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other.” Unknown

“A perfect marriage is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other.” Unknown

It’s a bit unromantic, I guess, to write about our messy marriage on the same day we eloped 37 years ago, but messy is the only story we’ve got.

We’ve been messy from the beginning. John and I married in Mr. Coyle’s living room the day after the justice of the peace buried his wife. That could have served as a forewarning, but we were in love and blind. We shared our condolences, then our vows. A neighbor came over to act as our witness. We consummated our marriage at Tremont Inn in Columbia, S.C. I like to think it’s one of God’s favors that the motel still stands. We rode through its parking lot several months ago and reminisced.

The day after our wedding, I returned to my parent’s home in Conway, S.C. to finish my next-to-the-last semester at what was then a campus of the University of South Carolina. No one found out we were married for six months.

What happened over the next 36 years belongs in a novel, but I prefer Facebook and fairy tales.

Weird, I know, but I’m grateful for the role social networking played in our marriage. Facebook’s the place where, in the middle of arguments, loneliness, and depression, I made up how I wanted our relationship to be. I think a lot of us do that. And who knows? Maybe it helped. In front of my online friends, I shared our best memories, showcased our best moments, and wrote about us like we were living happily ever after – not to be misleading, but because that’s what I wanted more than anything.

Even weirder (since John’s only been on Facebook maybe a dozen times to my two million), this morning he posted a sweet and much appreciated sentiment, which I’ve actually contemplated doing for him since I have his password. I’m thankful I waited on him.

Friends left the kindest notes to congratulate us and even said we set a good example of marriage for our son and daughter. I’m not so sure about that. I am sure, though, there’s little I’d change since recognizing the beauty in our battles. Oh, sure, I often say, “If I had known this, I would have done that.” And John says the same. But we didn’t know this and we couldn’t do that, not until we had some life-changing experiences under our belts. In our case, quick learners that we are, it’s taken 37 years.

But like I said, there’s not much I’d do differently. If we hadn’t entered into holy matrimony while fighting our personal battles, we never would have grown up like we have, we never would have wrestled so hard to get better like we have, and we never would have begged God like we have – begged him to take first place in our lives because our marriage came up short.

Our marriage’s battleground transformed into our personal sacred grounds even though we’re not quite sure when it happened.

This may not sound sentimental and affectionate and gratitudinous, but, let me tell you, I’m feeling all these things and more. This is our most significant year yet and our most special. We’re living our happily-ever-after because we’re asking for God’s help, we’re accepting our brokenness, and we’re healing in spite of our mistakes. Best of all, we’re doing it together. That’s new for us and it feels like a fairy tale.

We have words for weathering the storms for anyone who wants to read on, and especially for our kids if they ever tune into my blog:

  • Love each other. Obvious, right? That is, until you realize you don’t know what love is or you don’t like what the other person’s doing. My friend Betty shared the best definition (it’s one of acceptance) I’ve ever heard, “Love is the act of me letting you be who you are and you letting me be who I am.”
  • Forgive each other. This is easier said than done when you’re always right, but maybe you’re not always right.
  • Forgive God. It’s not his fault when we abuse and suffer consequences as the result of our free will. Okay, so maybe it’s partly his fault because he designed our world this way, but we choose.
  • Change what we can. Blame, bad habits, and distractions are easy, but they get us nowhere. Change is hard and it takes us wherever we want to go.
  • Stop staring at each other. Dr. Orlo Strunk, a marriage counselor who taught counseling classes at Webster University, said, “I wouldn’t have a job if everyone looked at their own part in a marriage, then did something about it.”
  • Look at each other right. When we do watch one another, make sure it’s with the admiration I saw in her father’s eyes and the love I saw in her soon-to-be husband’s eyes when our daughter walked down the aisle on her wedding day.PicMonkey Collage1
  • Pray together. I kind of cringe typing this one because it sounds preachy and self-righteous and cliché, but it’s anything but these things. We’re finally humble. We’ve been on our knees at bedtime for about a year now. Remember I said it’s been our best year so far – it’s a little bit because of our willingness to do what’s uncomfortable and a lot because of God’s grace.

To John ~ I couldn’t find the perfect gift for our day, so I wrote it. I’ll love you forever. A song for us, Broken Together by Casting Crowns.

Write Along Beside Me (a long post about getting started)

Standard
(Image from Edie Melson)

(Image from Edie Melson)

“How’d you get started with your writing? And how’d you get published?”

I finally decided to blog about my writing detour since I’ve been asked these questions so many times.

A lot of people write, so I’m not unusual in that regard. A lot of people get published, so I’m not unusual there either. I am a little unusual, however, in that I’ve been published sans a degree in English or journalism and without initially knowing anyone in the writing industry.

Getting published is challenging enough with a degree and with connections, so, without either one, how’d it come about?

God’s been all over it, of course, but that’s not what people are asking about. Most of us know we don’t accomplish anything without him by our side. The fact is, though, for writing and publication to happen, we have to be all over it too.

I never intended to be a writer. I intended to open my own counseling practice. It wasn’t until a friend talked me out of my plan that I changed direction. She said, “I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to sit all day in an office and listen to others’ problems.”

Here’s what she didn’t say, but probably wanted to, “You have enough problems of your own. Don’t be a counselor.”

Around that same time, two things were going on.

The first: I was studying Experiencing God, a Bible study about paying attention to where God’s working in our lives.

The second: It didn’t matter where I was, who I was talking with, or what we were talking about, family, friends, and strangers would out-of-the-blue say, “You should write about that.”

So, I did.

I wrote a book about raising teenagers. I was sure readers wanted to get their hands on a poorly written account of drama, bragging, and preaching. I didn’t get ahold of my writing or myself until a neighbor volunteered to read the 100-page manuscript. She returned it with tire marks on the pages because the day she picked it up, she drove off with it on the back of her car and it blew all over the highway. She handed it to me, apologized about the dirty pages, and said, “I let a writer friend look over it. She said you might want to swim in a pool before you try the ocean. You know, maybe write for magazines and newspapers before you try for a book, but I really like the quotes you included.”

In that moment, I felt determined to learn the craft of writing. I thought, “I’ll show her.”

The problem is, it’s a long, laborious process to proving someone wrong when it comes to writing right. Or should that read “writing well”? Anyway, it took time, but I eventually progressed from misguided motivation and showed up to do what I thought God had in mind all along. He flung open the doors. I’ve written hundreds of articles and blog posts that have been published in dozens of local, regional, and national publications. I’ve also had the opportunity to ghostwrite for local, regional, and international personalities.

Your story will be different, but all writing requires much of the same footwork. Hopefully this encourages you to show up and do the hard (and very rewarding) work of writing for yourself, for God, and for readers who need to hear your stories.

Here’s a little about my story and some bullet points to go along with it.

I drove to Greenville, S.C. to attend my first writing workshop about writing and illustrating children’s books. I had written a book for children some years earlier as part of an assignment for a counseling class. Since a friend took the time to forward the information about the event, I imagined it was a sign that the book would arouse attention. Instead of a book contract, I ended up with a flyer about classes on newspaper and magazine writing (you know, poolside writing before the ocean). The instructor was an editor in Greenville who had written for major publications like the New York Times.

For six weeks, I drove four and a half hours one-way to learn how to write right. The editor/instructor announced she needed freelance writers for three regional newspapers. When she didn’t publish me before Christmas, I signed up for six more classes. The second time around, not only did she publish my first article, she assigned me a column in all three papers, and hooked me up with other publications in Upstate S.C.

“There are two kinds of writers – writers who are bad and writers who keep learning,” she said. Here’s a list of things I do to avoid falling prey to “bad writer.”

  • Attend classes, conferences, and workshops. Last year, I returned to Greenville for another six-week class.
  • Find a mentor. I paid for critiques, as well as insider tips about being accepted by publications like LifeWay, from a well-known writer who presented at a conference I attended.
  • Blog regularly. Okay, so I blog irregularly, but do as I say.
  • Sign up for writing sites that post jobs daily. Continue to submit writing samples and clips for assignments that fit my writing style and my interests.
  • Familiarize myself with magazines and submit writing samples for publication.
  • Read inspirational books like The Artist’s Way and informational ones like The Associated Press Stylebook. Read blogs about writing, social networking, marketing, and sound business practices by people like Michael Hyatt, Rachelle Gardner, Steve Laube, and Edie Melson.
  • Connect with other writers, mostly online and in critique groups, but also in local networking groups, workshops, and at conferences.
  • Drive to Wilmington, N.C. to meet with a critique group for information, improvement, and encouragement. I cherish, instead of challenge, their feedback, then I return home and edit. My editor/instructor reminded us again and again, “Writing is rewriting.”
  • Write and submit stories. Sounds obvious, right? I can’t tell you how many writer friends I talk with who either aren’t writing or have never submitted a story. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said I was a writer when I wasn’t writing.
  • I sometimes drag myself out of my comfort zone and write something that makes me uncomfortable.

Are you up for an encounter with writing?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – If so, get ready for a beautiful, frustrating, gratifying, scary, procrastinating, delightful, angering, exhilarating, disheartening, uplifting, and life-changing experience that I wouldn’t trade for any other career. I’d love to hear about your experience on paper.

On the side: A great read about writing right, The Difference Between Good Writers and Bad Writers by Jeff Goins.

Too Good for My Own Good (more about suffering, more about acceptance)

Standard
He must become greater; I must become less.  John 3:30 (Image from iStock)

He must become greater; I must become less.
John 3:30
(Image from iStock)

Although suffering is inevitable, Sunday’s sermon shed light on how often we suffer unnecessarily. Our stubborn will is the cause. We put something other than God in the place that he set aside for himself.

Our will goes something like this –

We worship intelligence only to end up feeling stupid.

We worship beauty only to end up feeling ugly.

We worship success only to end up feeling like a failure.

I knew before the sermon’s end what I worshipped – being a good person. It never crossed my mind (until now) that being good was anything but admirable.

The sermon put an end to my asking why I’ve felt unlovable no matter how many times I’m told “I love you.”

It put an end to my asking why I’ve felt ashamed, never mind all my attempts at being perfect.

It put an end to my asking why I’ve felt unkind even though my husband says over and over, “You’re the most caring person I know.”

How did trying to be good turn out so bad?

It’s pretty simple when I apply the sermon’s formula – I worshipped my own goodness only to end up feeling anything but good.

I put my goodness before his Godness, and nothing good comes from that.

What’s getting in the way (no matter how admirable you deem it) of your relationship with God?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – I’ve wanted to get out of my own way for some time now. Thank you, Iain, for the sermon. Thank you, God, for the shove.

On the side: I’m posting next about Robin Williams and suicide – a man and a topic that deserve to be talked about.

What Died? (more about suffering, more about acceptance)

Standard
“There’s nothing more depressing than having it all and still feeling sad.” Unknown  (Image from iStock)

“There’s nothing more depressing than having it all and still feeling sad.” Unknown 
(Image from iStock)

I’ve spent nearly a decade grappling with Dad’s death and with the death of thoughts that I had control over my now 36-year marriage. Both losses left me feeling lifeless.

When friends said grief takes time, I nodded. However, I knew this was more than being sad that Dad was gone. It was also more than letting go of the control I tried to have over my husband. Something else died and it scared me that I didn’t know what it was or how to revive it.

I prayed every single day for more than three fourths of those years.

I prayed for energy and motivation to write and exercise and live life as it came. I prayed to focus on myself instead of staring at what others had done to me. I prayed to know what died so I could begin accepting it was gone and move beyond days that were dark and heavy.

Prayer didn’t work (meaning it didn’t make the pain go away). 

Neither did gratitude lists that included seeing my first article published, celebrating our children’s wedding and engagement, and sharing a precious granddaughter with the world. The more good that happened, the darker and heavier I felt for not feeling grateful.

Neither did advice about my attitude, attempts to diminish my pain in the light of others’ more devastating pain, or my own self-contempt for not being able to shake depression.

And neither did attending church, reading positive passages, or talking to family and friends who looked sympathetic, but confused. Their expressions said, “Now, tell me one more time why you’re feeling sad and lost?”

I almost stopped trying to explain because I didn’t know myself what was happening. That was, until I tried one more time.

“Nothing’s motivated me like trying to get it right with you and Dad,” I said to my husband. “Sick as it sounds, struggling for your attention and Dad’s approval got me out of bed every morning.”

He heard me. 

I heard myself.

Since burying my dad and my marriage (as I knew it), I’ve been missing my sickness. I wrote in my last post that suffering serves a purpose, but suffering is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

Instead of learning and being changed by suffering, then moving on, I’ve tried to revive it by staggering too often into the past, flirting with fear and self-doubt, and throwing pity parties. Not that I’m saying this party girl is finished, but I’m over-the-top relieved to know what died – my suffering that masqueraded as purpose. When I’m ready, life is waiting.

And so is more suffering and I’m okay with that.

Are you smack dab in the middle of your sickness, your struggles, and your suffering? Are you feeling more dead than alive? I hope this post offers some answers, some optimism, or at least lets you know you’re not alone.

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – It takes what it takes for each of us. I’m grateful to be at another crossroad where I have insight and hope and choices, and, yes, awareness that there will be more suffering.

On the side: In hindsight, some of the things I listed – prayer, gratitude, church, reading, and sharing with family and friends – did work (meaning they made my days feel gentler, they moved me forward, they grew me up), just not as quickly or as dramatically as I wanted.

Here’s additional reading about suffering from A Holy Experience, “The 1 Unlikely Secret to Hold Onto When You’re Sad.”