Trust God And Do the Work

I was part of an interesting discussion on platform building in one of my Facebook writing groups. This particular group is populated by Christian bloggers so the discussion was mostly around promoting one’s work without promoting oneself. Many people said that they don’t promote but trust that God will put their words before the people who need to see them.

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Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Maybe it’s because, after four and a half years of blogging, I’ve recently decided to make more of a platform-y effort. For a variety of reasons, I want to start moving this from a pure hobby to the potential for something more. So, I’ve created things and followed steps and started plotting more intentional ways to engage with online communities.

About a month after I first started blogging, all the established and serious bloggers declared that blogging was dead and they were done. Similarly, about a month after I decided to start being more intentional about creating a platform, an established blogger-turned-author-and-podcaster declared that platform building is dead and that we just need to enjoy the work. I suppose if I had several popular books under my belt and a loyal and engaged following, I’d feel similarly.

Two things have come to mind from these recent experiences.

First, we are all on our own journies. I need to remember this in so many areas of my life. So, to the established and successful author, I say Yes! Stop building your platform! Sit back and enjoy the years of hard work! And to the new blogger, just getting the courage to take words from journal to a public space, I say Yes! Enjoy the process and don’t overthink it! (In fact, read this piece by Richard Beck on the anti-platform. I love his unique perspective because he never played the game.)

Second, trust God but do the work. As someone with perfectionistic tendencies, I like to practice. I didn’t mind blogging quietly for years before starting to get serious. But once I decided to get more serious, I appreciate people helping me understand what actual next steps are. And so now I’m taking methodical steps to do this next phase right. (Or as right as anything can be.) I love learning from those who know what they’re doing, especially in areas I don’t know anything about. I love having a plan and trying new things. I don’t think it means I’m any less trusting, but I’m learning that trust and hard work are not mutually exclusive.

In MOPS last week, we focused on Hebrews 12:1-3. The verses are about running the race set before us and keeping our eyes on Jesus. The part that hit home for me are verses 1b-2a,

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

I know that I’m taking this out of context – that it’s about a faith community and the idea of living out our faith. But I needed to hear this in my own writing journey, too. To remember that this race is marked out for me. That I don’t need to compare myself to the race others are running. I’m trusting that those markers make sense for my journey.

I’m thankful for the writers who have gone ahead – who have created platforms and systems that I can learn from. And I’m thankful for writers who are alongside me and who remind me that we’re all doing this a bit differently, and that’s what’s so beautiful about creative endeavors in the first place.

I feel like this is a conversation that goes beyond writing. How do we build our businesses and retain trust and integrity? How do we balance trust and hard work? What gives you inspiration?

I’m a Small Part of A Big Story

I’ve been in a bit of a blogging slump lately. Part of it is that my mental capacity is going toward this last push to the tax deadline. (Which is over tomorrow!!) Part of it is that I’m working on a Top Secret offline writing project that is taking up time and energy. (I’m nowhere near talking about it more, but if you want to be in the loop, sign up for my monthly newsletter: The Compost Heap.)

The universe isunder no obligationto make sense to you.Whenever I get in these slumps, I look for other small ways to spark my creativity. Just in time, Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy posted a #12daysofbookstagram, celebrating all the bookish things over on Instagram. I needed a distraction and this has been perfect. Day 4’s prompt was “favorite quote” and while there are many quotes that have inspired me over the years, this one from a recent read of Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson jumped out. The epigraph reads,

“The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.”

-NDT

I need this reminder. As a typical ESTJ, Maximizer, One, Type A personality, I love making sense of life. Reading nonfiction, learning about other experiences, expanding my horizons are all things that are lifegiving practices. Figuring out the universe over a cocktail with friends is one of my favorite things.

But I can get trapped in the discontent of figuring things out. The universe is a vast mysterious place. In a lot of ways, there’s great comfort in knowing that we know very little. The unknows of the cosmos help put the heartbreaking news I read every day in perspective. It doesn’t dimish what we deal with on this planet at all but it helps me remember that we are a small part of a big story.

I need people like DeGrasse Tyson, with such a different perspective, to broaden my gaze. When I couple books about astrophysics with memoirs that deal with issues of the moment like, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir I keep one foot in the important details of today that impact my actual neighbors while keeping a bigger picture perspective that lets me breathe.

As I read the news about a Black boy getting shot by his neighbor, about two Black men getting arrested for sitting in Starbucks, about the idea that the best way to combat war is with more bombs, I am overwhelmed but the injustices of this world. I read comments scoffing at the idea that anyone would actually want refugees in their homes as I imagine opening mine to Sara and Mona and Nagham, women who have become friends. My heart breaks for the disconnect we have between wanting the Ten Commandments posted in public buildings and actually living out the directives of having no other gods or not killing.

I keep reading the news because I have to. Because, if I take a break or turn it off, I’m choosing my own privilege over the reality of those who cannot turn off these policies and decisions that impact their everyday lives. I keep reading books that are hard and make me uncomfortable because these stories are not my own and I must remember and listen. I keep looking for ways to stand beside and learn from those whose voices have been ignored or dismissed.

But I’m also remembering to lean into the mystery of faith; the mystery of the cosmos. God doesn’t promise us answers; the universe owes us no explanations. Just because I’m not promised answers doesn’t mean I won’t keep searching. That’s part of how I experience God and love my neighbors – by digging into to stories and being present. But I’m also not going to get bogged down. I’m remembering that justice is slow but that doesn’t mean we stop; I’m remembering that my actions won’t make sweeping changes but that doesn’t mean I don’t model activism to my girls; I’m remembering that there is something powerful in being a small part of a big universe.

How do you balance perspectives of making a difference and being a small part of a big story? Which end of the spectrum gives you more comfort?

Books Referenced:

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Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

Creating Boundaries and Finding Balance

We’re doing the Whole30 reset again. Not because we don’t know what we need to do to eat healthfully but because, without rules and a commitment, it’s easy to cheat and let things slide. There is always a special occasion; always a reason to splurge. This time around isn’t as stressful since we continued to make many of the recipes throughout this past year. It also isn’t as fun since we kinda know how we’re going to feel – and that we’ll most likely get off track again by this time next year.

CreatingBoundariesandFindingBalanceI’m still glad we’re doing it though. It’s a reminder that resets are necessary. That even when we know what’s good for us, boundaries are necessary. I have a feeling that most of us are like that, whether or not it’s about the food we eat. We have indulgences and habits that aren’t bad, in and of themselves, but perhaps aren’t the best.

I was reminded of this with my reading habits the other day. I often lean toward nonfiction genres and this year have been making it a point to read more fiction. And I’ve read some incredible fiction! There are so many incredible storytellers in our world. I’ve also read a lot of mediocre fiction, which totally has its place, as well. But I noticed the more easy fiction I read, the harder it became to focus on nonfiction. And then I started reading easy nonfiction, with more conversational tones and format.

I was critiquing a book I had just started and Frank asked, Why are you reading that? You have another book about the same topic that’s meatier. Why don’t you just read that one?

Since life really is too short to read books I don’t love, I returned the other book to the library. It’s not a bad book – in fact it’s perfect for its intended audience, but at this moment in life, I’m not that audience. I picked up the thicker tome with thinner pages and smaller font and have set about reading it.

It’s harder. And my brain hurts more. But, already I recognize how much better this is for me at this point. I’ve taken a break and indulged in really great and really fluffy books, which was fun. And now I need something meatier. It’s a reminder that I should probably be a little more intentional about balancing the books I’m reading – whether it’s a heavy nonfiction with fun fiction or more thoughtful fiction with lighter nonfiction. All are good but, like food, they’re good when balanced and moderate.

This link to food and reading has made me pause and wonder what other areas of my life I’m off-balance a bit. What small recalibration would make certain activities healthier? I’m looking at our family’s schedule and we have a lot of really good commitments and activities. But we also have a limited amount of time. How do we balance those? What season are we in, where certain groups makes sense and others don’t? I’m looking at my exercise routine (or lack thereof) and am wondering how I can make small changes to my priorities and schedule to fit more of that into my days.

Like I said, I think there’s a time and place and necessity for fun, easy, fluffy foods, reads, and activities. And there’s a season for weightier and healthier ones. I’m remembering to take some time to asses and look at all areas and choose small changes that make sense.

I like the idea of fall-housekeeping for lifestyle choices. I’m remembering that it’s never too late to start a new habit. That I don’t need to wait until the start of the school year or January or the first of the month or Monday. I can start tomorrow or at 2:00 in the afternoon. Small changes happen any time, and I’m looking for opportunities.

How do you balance the meat and veggies of life? Do you have to stop and be intentional or does this happen naturally for you?

Feeling Satisfied but Not Full

I love meals that begin with champagne and end with port. One of my all-time favorites was a date night at the now closed Le Bar Lyonnais in the basement of the super-fancy Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia. Frank and I dressed up, even for this more casual venue, we spent hours eating beautiful food, paired each course with its correct drink, and left feeling full-but-not-stuffed.

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Champagne in Yellowstone

One of my favorite splurges is going to fancy restaurants and eating slowly for an evening. The portion sizes always leave room for the next course and I leave feeling satisfied but never over-full.

I’ve been thinking about life lately and how easy it is to stuff it full – to add activities and commitments and all the good things that build into relationships and community. It can be hard to say no when every single thing is life-giving.

But I want to be satisfied, not full. I want our days to be filled with goodness but not stressful. I can be very protective of our schedule, trying to find that balance.

I wonder if heaven is like eating at a super-fancy restaurant? We are satisfied but not full. We have enough time for all the goodness without all the stress.

What is your favorite fancy restaurant? What are ways you feel satisfied but not full?

Linking with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “enough.”

Finding Balance is a Gift

The windows are open, at least for a couple hours on this warm January afternoon. The backyard fountain is running, reminding me of summertime when it flows nonstop. Our new deck is finished and, with the sliding door open, I’m thinking about the next season and using this space that has been too unsound for us to enjoy since moving in.

img_3388During quiet rest, Bea curled up next to me with her pile of books while I read Rising Strong. I debated sending her into the playroom, which is our usual quiet rest custom. Both of us need time apart, time to reenergize. But I’ve been thinking about kindergarten a lot lately and how these days together are quickly coming to an end. So we snuggled and read and were just together for a while.

I’ve drafted several blog posts lately but none of them seem right. Perhaps it’s because of my helpers, never far, always talking. Perhaps it’s because when I want to write something deep and profound and yet also encouraging, I’m just too tired.

Like everyone else, the news is exhausting. I wake up in the morning wondering, what next? A friend recently wished we could return to the days when Facebook was newborns and what we ate for dinner. And while part of me wishes for that too, I also recognize the privilege I have in being able to turn it off. I don’t need to check the news all that often because the news doesn’t really directly impact me.

But I also recognize this reality and am finding this balance. Of feeling grateful that our lives continue without too much impact. And of finding ways to instill important values. How do I want my daughters to remember this time? How do I want them to view their childhood? What do I want our family story to say?

So, with these windows open and the true blessing of sitting at a big work table with my daughters working next to me, I’m thankful for our life right now. For the ability to enjoy this day and these moments. And I’m also looking into ways we can spend our money to support those who are far more equipped and qualified to fight injustice. I’m emailing organizations about volunteering our time as a family.

I’m remembering that finding the balance is a gift I’ve been given. And I don’t take that lightly at all.

How are you finding ways to balance the news and balance your outlook on life? What is your best way to practice perspective?

One Word: Capacity

Last weekend, some plans changed and Frank and I found ourselves already dressed and packed for snowshoeing with a babysitter booked for the day. After the smallest of seconds of wondering if we should cancel, we decided to continue on. Instead of the planned hike, we decided to revisit the trail where we first met, nine years ago.

capacityThe weather was perfect: Snow enough to need snowshoes, cobalt blue sky that makes Colorado famous, sunshine to keep us warm, and a trail that isn’t too popular so we had plenty of time as the only two on the path.

We talked about goals and hopes and dreams and wishes. We wondered what this next year would bring. It will be one of big changes for our family. Hopefully, we’ll see the end of a long business plan come to fruition; Bea will start kindergarten; Elle is becoming more active and articulate; I am still seeking a way to blend mothering and teaching and writing and volunteering.

Last year, my One Word was Enough. I centered my choices and decisions on the fact that I am the right woman for the roles I’ve been given. I am enough of a mom for these two particular girls; I am enough of a wife and partner for Frank; I am enough of a blogger (though I would love to figure out a way to write more often!); I am enough of a teacher (though I’m learning to draw clear boundaries around my work and life); I am enough of a reader (even though I missed my goal last year).

This year, the word that kept coming to mind as I thought of an extension of enough was Capacity. We are finding our groove as a family of four. I’ve been working and volunteering long enough that I feel I have a fairly good understanding of the time commitment both expected and that I’m willing to commit.

I know there are some commitments and dreams I have that I have the capacity to spend more time cultivating. I know that other enjoyable, life-giving areas already have my maximum time and energy. My hope is that I make space to discern which areas really could have more of my time and which areas are realistic, or even could use less.

Knowing the way this whole “one word” challenge goes, I wonder how capacity will show up unexpectedly. I have goals and ideas, but I’ve learned that this word often takes on a life of its own; that I am surprised at the ways in which it helps me grow and learn throughout the year.

What is your One Word for 2017? How do you maximize your time and energy?

Check out OneWord365 for word ideas and to find others with your same word.

One Word: Enough

When Bea was born, I transitioned to the role of motherhood fairly easily. Yes, there were tears over lack of sleep and anxiety over doing it right, but in reality we had it good. For her first year, we snuggled and stayed close to home.

Rim2015-0074As she grew more independent and I grew more confident, we hit a good stride. Our days started to fill up and I felt like I was able to find a good balance between being a stay-at-home mom and fulfilling my own goals and needs. I got a part-time job that combined several of my passions and fit our schedule perfectly; I became a leader with my MOPS group; I was successfully part of three book clubs; we continued to volunteer at church. On paper, it looked like I had learned how to balance life beautifully and in many ways, it was true.

When Elle arrived this summer, things changed. They shouldn’t have. Elle is such an easy-going, happy baby. It should have been easy to incorporate her seamlessly into our established routine.

In reality, the transition to two has been harder than I’d like to admit. Harder because as great a sleeper and as content as Elle is, she’s still a baby. Our nights are not as restful as they could be and she still has her own needs with our schedule. Plus, Bea has needed so much more in the midst of our new normal.

I tried so hard to keep everything perfect and together. And as I did, I felt myself slipping into self-criticism and anxiety. Why couldn’t I keep all my commitments and fulfill them perfectly? Slowly, I’ve had to step back from certain things and really weigh my “yeses.”

I’ve had to swallow my pride often to say “no” and to recognize that certain commitments aren’t feasible at this time. I know for outsiders, this is healthy and there’s no judgement. Internally, I was judging myself and my abilities.

As the year ended, I decided I wasn’t going to pick One Word for 2016. Or that my one word would be survive. At a particularly low moment, I felt a stirring and the word enough came to my mind.

You are enough.

I am enough of a mom. Enough of a wife. Enough of a volunteer, a friend, an employee, a reader, a blogger. I am enough for any or no labels. I am enough.

So, I guess I will choose a word for this year. And it feels humbling to have to say it out loud. My word is enough. Because I am.

If you could choose one word for this coming year, what would it be?

Check out OneWord365 for word ideas and to find others with your same word.