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?

Recalibrating Toward Rest

I’ve never really been cutting edge. Growing up, my clothes were hand-me-downs from my fashionable cousin. I get most of my books from the library, so it’s rare I’m reading material that came out at the last minute. Maybe it’s because I’m such a processor that I have to sit with new ideas for a while before committing to action. Maybe it’s just that I’m not cool enough to be a trend-setter.

IMG_8155Right after I started blogging, seasoned bloggers declared that this medium is dead. No one reads blogs anymore! No one comments anymore! The golden age of blogging has passed! Many of these bloggers moved on to write books or create podcasts, which is awesome. I’ve loved many of their books and podcasts. Now, a few year later, some of them are coming back to blogging. In their newsletters, they’ve said they miss this type of conversation.

When I finally took the leap to start writing publicly, it was a bit disheartening to hear that the blogging world was dying. Was it worth it? For me, it has been. I didn’t start writing to get a book deal or build a huge platform. I did it to help view life more intentionally. For me, when I write an essay meant for public consumption, I have to put some thought into my life experiences and the message I’m learning from those moments differently than if I processed in a private journal. As with most creativity, this journey has been more for me than for recognition.

With the announcement of the return to blogging (by some – I’m sure many others are still making the case for the death of blogging) I wondered if blogging had ever really died or if bloggers just needed a rest.

When I’m reading too many heavy books, I know it’s time for a break in that genre when the entire world seems hopeless. Often, I need not look farther than my Goodreads list to see that too many books on mass incarceration can shade my outlook on justice in this world. While these books are necessary, I need to balance them with fairy tales and memoirs to remind me that there are many stories in this world.

When our house seems claustrophobic and the mess seems unbearable, I know it’s time to get outside for a walk or a trip to the park before I tackle the clutter. A change of scenery, even for an hour or so, shifts my perspective of home.

I’ve written before about how we all rest differently – that sometimes rest looks like a nap; sometimes it looks like a hike in the mountains; sometimes it looks like a walk around the block.

What I do know, is that before we declare something dead, we most likely need to take a rest first. Whatever it is – from something as benign as blogging to something as impacting as spiritual burnout – I wonder if we need to pause and rest first. Maybe this means resting from the news or resting from reading Biblical commentaries. Maybe this means resting from journaling or a specific type of exercise. Maybe your rest means more of those same things but in different ways. When I get overwhelmed or easily annoyed, it’s time to rest. It’s time to recalibrate my mind and body, even if just for a few hours.

We’re entering our family’s tax season schedule. If I let myself get overwhelmed, I easily go to extreme places of death and destruction. What I’m trying to remember is that, before I declare our family dead from lack of connectedness, I may just need to rest, to call on my community for help, and to recalibrate what I know to be true.

How do you find rest in the midst of chaos? How do you recalibrate your expectations of an experience or situation when you’re overwhelmed?

The Compost Heap: A Newsletter

After hearing about the need to start a newsletter for a few years, I’ve finally decided to jump on the bandwagon. I like the idea of having a more conversational “this is what I’m into” sort of thing that doesn’t really fit in with the blog. So, I’d like to introduce The Compost Heap: Digging into the Soil of Ideas.

The Compost Heap

I wrote about Natalie Goldberg’s analogy to the craft of writing as a compost heap – that it takes time for our experiences to decompose into the rich soil of essays and poetry and stories. In this newsletter, I’ll give you a glimpse of what I’m processing.

You’ll get an essay, books I’m reading, things I’m learning, poems that are impacting my thinking, and other daily life and behind-the-scenes snippets. This is where I’ll share links to other great articles from around the web, any news that’s happening here, and where I’ll host my book giveaways.

I hope you’ll join this new conversation! You can sign up by clicking this link or the image below.

The Compost Heap

I’m looking forward to this new adventure! Is there anything you’d love to see in a newsletter format that doesn’t make it onto the blog?

Backyard Justice

Last week, I returned to the University of Denver for the first time in over 10 years. I’ve signed up to take a month-long enrichment course and the class is located in the same building as my grad school classes. I pulled up a desk to the circle and took out my notebook. As I went to swing the hinged desk over my chair, I noticed that I had selected a right-handed desk. No problem! I scanned the room for a left-handed version, but none were to be found. I propped my notebook in my lap and took notes in the slightly awkward but totally manageable way I had learned long ago.

BackyardBeing left-handed in a right-handed world is not an injustice. My rights aren’t being removed; it’s annoying but not threatening. But it reminds me of ways in which injustice starts. Often, it can begin as a minor annoyance, but it stems from the fact that those who make decisions make them for the majority of the population. Rather than design ambidextrous desks, the expectation is for left-handers to adapt.

Of course, this is an incredibly trivial example of injustice. However, my goal is to open my eyes to see those seemingly minor “inconveniences.” It’s easy to bring my blood to a boil when outrageous discrimination and acts of injustice occur. But what about all those minor situations in which people are slowly dehumanized and made to feel less-than? Those all build up and create something that is much more complex and harder to dismantle than the big issues.

This month, I’ll be joining with hundreds of other writers to participate in the Write 31 Days challenge. The goal is to write every single day for the month of October. Short, long, pictures, ideas – the rules are loose and the purpose is to have fun and improve the craft of writing.

I’ll be writing about Backyard Justice for these 31 days. What does practicing justice in the space of my own home look like? I’m not an activist – I’m constrained by nap time and school pickup and the life of a mom of little kids. But, that doesn’t mean that I can’t practice justice. I’ll be using Micah 6:8 as a guide:

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God? (NRSV)

I hope you’ll join me on this journey!

And, if you’re a writer and interested in joining the challenge, link up over here! You have until October 6th to join the community.

Five Things I Learned in July

It’s August, which means school starts in just a couple weeks and our routine will start again. I’m thankful for this month off – we had a busy July and it was such a relief to know that I could focus on the present, to not worry about self-imposed deadlines. But, for the necessity of rest and rejuvenation, I’m also glad to be back!

I thought I’d start back with a few things I learned during July:

1) Finding God on Vacation
IMG_5400Frank and I went to Hawaii for five days, just the two of us. My cousin was getting married and we planned this trip back in February. Between the beginning of the year and our departure, a lot of unexpected changes happened. Suddenly, we wondered if going on this trip at this time was the wisest choice. But, it was already paid for and planned. As the dust settled around some big decisions, we realized that it was actually perfect timing. The smallest of details worked out – Frank had a week off before our trip so when we left, he had already started to unwind a bit to the timing Vacation Bible School at Bea’s preschool being the same week. We biked and swam and had coffee in bed. We were able to have actual conversations and process the past six months.

I had read a blog post right before leaving about not only finding God on vacation – that we needed to be able to find God in our daily lives in our ugly towns, as well. While I totally agree with that, it was nice to be reminded that God is in the details of a tropical vacation, as well.

2) Practice Really Does Make Perfect
Even though this break was necessary, I didn’t write on my own as much as I thought I would. We were busy with zoo camp and playdates and swimming and vacation. As much as I thought I would take the time I usually spend blogging to write for myself, without the accountability of hitting publish, it just didn’t happen. While I thought I’d have loads of ideas and posts ready to go for August, I found my brain going into summer laziness. I have a feeling it’ll take a few weeks to get back into the rhythm. And that’s ok. It’s still so necessary to take time off but I was surprised that I needed something more than self-motivation.

3) Recognizing That Books Fit a Specific Season
I’ve been trying to read War and Peace for over a year now. While we were packing for Hawaii, my thought was to only bring that one book so I would be forced to read it. But then, Unfamiliar Fishes arrived at the library and my online book club was reading The Thorn Birds. I brought those as backups. I read Unfamiliar Fishes on the plane ride over, justifying that since it’s about the history of the impact of missionaries on Hawaii, I had to read it before landing. And then I only brought my e-version of War and Peace and didn’t want to bring that to the beach. So, there it sat. I was kind of disappointed that I only added about 100 pages to my dent. A friend reminded me that Tolstoy isn’t going anywhere and that this simply may not be the best season for this particular tome. I deleted it from my Goodreads “currently reading” shelf so that my failure wasn’t taunting me and I’ve felt a bit lighter since. I know there’s some sort of life metaphor in there, but for now, my new goal is to read it before I’m 75.

4) Removing Social Media in Order to Connect with Social Media
I-joined-the-tribePart of not blogging was also taking an intentional rest from social media. I deleted the apps on my phone and only checked in during nap time. By quieting the noise, I was able to focus on a few Facebook groups that I had wanted to participate in. One is The Dangerous Women Tribe, hosted by SheLoves Magazine. These fierce women are changing the world and the daily conversations and interactions are truly inspiring.

I’m also on three book launch teams and it was nice being able to participate more in the discussions. I’m almost done with two of the books and highly recommend them! Adopted: The Sacrament of Belonging in a Fractured World by Kelley Nikondeha is available now and is an important look at the theology of adoption and how God uses the story of adoption to restore our relationships.

I’m almost done with Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel, which releases on September 16 (but you can preorder now and get some fun goodies!) Anne breaks down popular personality frameworks into useable, helpful information. The chapter on Highly Sensitive People was such a necessary and enlightening read for me! If you’re into personality frameworks at all, this is the book for you!

Up next: Shalom Sistas by Osheta Moore and Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker – stay tuned for reviews and giveaways!

5) The Power of Routines in the Midst of Summer
I intentionally started our summer without many plans. I wanted us to rest, relax, have pajama days, and just enjoy the slowness of this season. Around the last week of June, Bea and I started really getting on each other’s nerves. No amount playdates or lazy days were helping. And then zoo camp started and she was engaged with a teacher every morning. She learned about habitats, pet animals, made new friends, and created her own habitat. And our relationship was restored! I still don’t believe in over scheduling summer, at least for our family in this stage, but it was a reminder that kids love structure and a kid like Bea loves outside stimulation. I think next summer, we’ll do zoo camp again and I’ll keep an eye on our rec center catalogue as well.

The summer is certainly flying by – Bea starts kindergarten in just a couple weeks and then I know I’ll be looking back at these unstructured days nostalgically. But I also know that she is so ready for the challenge and excitement of elementary school and I’m looking forward to seeing what this new season holds for us.

What are some things you’ve learned over the summer? What’s your favorite summer – lazy days, loose rhythms, or scheduled routines?

Enjoying the Noisiness of Summer

Different seasons have different volumes, don’t they? Winter is quiet, hibernating. We are in a set routine and getting out of the house feels more necessary in some ways. october 25, 2018party starts at 7pmSummer is loud, active. Even on days we don’t get in the car, we’re outside biking and climbing and getting wet.

In those quiet winter months, I appreciate the connection of places like Instagram, Facebook, and routine blogging. We’re already in a rhythm with school and regular activities and these fit naturally into place.

In summer, these same good things feel like more noise. Space feels harder to carve out and I don’t have the same amount of time or energy to devote to thoughtful planning and writing. I don’t think that’s a bad thing – summer is about making memories, no matter how small and I want to focus on those moments.

So, I’m intentionally taking the month of July “off” from blogging and regular social media check-ins. We’ll play and maybe I’ll post something randomly on Instagram but, really, I just want to stay focused and present without any feeling of deadlines.

I have a couple book reviews and a discussion post over at SheLoves for the Red Couch club. (We’re reading Threading My Prayer Rug by Sabeeha Rehman – join us? We have discussions going over at our Facebook group.)

I also want to take time to plan out my goals and vision for this space. How can I make it better? How can I (re)find my voice? Otherwise, things will be quiet around here and I focus on the noisiness of of our actual lives.

I hope your summer is filled with all the good noises, too! What are ways you focus on your actual life?

Being Content with More

Mo! Again! Mo! One of my favorite learning-to-speak mix-ups is when Elle confuses more with again. I’ll be spinning her in her swing and she’ll shriek in the midst of laughter, mo! mo! ag’n! While making cookies, she’ll lick the batter, demanding, ag’n, mo!

IMG_3210Already, she’s outgrowing this sweet mix-up, understanding that more is used for quantities and again is used for an experience. I love that she’s understanding words and language but it’s a reminder that these sweet explorations are fleeting and that, before we know it, she’ll be articulating her wants and needs in full and clear sentences.

There are so many times I feel like all I can say is mo! without much articulation. When I stopped working,  my mom offered to take Elle once a week while Bea is at preschool. I decided to use this time for me – not for errands or chores. So, on Mondays I have two quiet hours to write or plan or do something that is significantly more challenging with kids around.

I’ve already noticed a change in having these hours but I see others who are farther on the journey and think, If only I had more… More time, more creativity, more direction.

I’m not content to recognize this gift of time and the slow process of getting better at something. I often think my journey needs to mirror the journeys around me. As I type this, I know this is silly but the feelings are still there when I’m feeling discouraged.

I’m learning to be grateful for more and to recognize that more looks different in different seasons and for different people.

Where is an area of your life or your time when you wish for more? How do you find time for more?

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