Monday, March 30, 2015

i asked God for a sign

Last week I posted the above photo on Instagram with confidence that Draft 2.0 of the book would be done by Saturday afternoon. I was sure that on Sunday, my twenty-sixth birthday, I'd be on to celebrating a new year and a new manuscript completed. Much to my own disappointment, I didn't make my goal. Not even in a slight, sort of way.

On Wednesday morning, I woke in a funk. I'm not sure if it was the intense word counts I was asking of myself, the intense desire to start the celebrations, or the impending ski trip on the calendar but I wasn't making any progress in my word count. Thursday was more of the same and the start of celebrations with Jason. I was thankful, so thankful for the distraction. I was so sad to have made such progress only to be met with a bad attitude and lack of words.

Thursday night, closer to that midnight hour that ends in AM, I laid in bed and felt doubt creep in. Doubt that said you can't do this, you won't do this, you're dreaming a messy, ugly, soon-to-be-carcrash kind of dream. And, I wish I were being dramatic when I say, I mourned right there over that manuscript.

I laid awake for more moments than I'd like to admit, asking Him how I dreamed up such a wild, misconstrued thing. I wrestled with words in the way I always find myself doing in the dark of night. I asked Him how this writing about hope could feel so hopeless. And, in the way I tend to do, I made a plan. A plan that faithful girls make. A plan where we tell God He best give us a sign. I told Him not a little sign, not a flicker, but a big, bold, undeniable sign.

I lived Friday in a bubble of wishing to know. We ate lunches, ran errands, took walks and played with dogs. All the while, I searched for that hawk that would fly so close I'd know, for the wall graffitied with HOPE, for a billboard along the freeway screaming out WRITE AMBER. And nothing.

Come Sunday, I felt deserted.

I asked God because I trust Him. I asked not to test Him, but because I want assurance. I want a burning bush, a pillar of salt, a dove with an olive branch. I want Him to move the way I read about Him moving for His early people. I know He's a God of impossibilities and my asking for a sign seemed minor, easily accomplished, and fine. I didn't get my sign.

Instead, He gave me a reality check. I sat distracted in a cushioned church chair while a pastor talked passionately over my busy working mind. I wrote furiously, my stream of thoughts scribbled and scrawled over and over again. Scribbles that said I love you, but I do not act according to your whims. Scrawls that said, I love you and, in that, please know your place.

I understood, but I wanted my way.

I laid in bed that night thinking of a pastor's words when I was torn on where to attend college. Over the dusty sand of a small Mexican village he told me, "When making big choices, follow what's good, what works and just be sure to take Him with you. As long as He fits, you're headed the right way." I knew I'd left Him behind.

Manuscript 2.0 is too small, too constricted, too scared of what He has laid here in my little fleshy heart of fear. It's disappointing as its writer, it's too gentle as a reader, it's uncomfortable as a Believer. So, we're going to try again. We are going to do it together as Him and me. It's not about my small words and big fears this time.

Pray for us.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

how to home make an acai bowl

Last summer my mom had her first acai bowl. She told me about the way it was sprinkled with granola and berries and banana. She said she knew I'd love them and I should try one. Then I forgot about it. Until she bought some acai pulp online and gave me a couple of bags and told me to do myself a favor. I said okay. And then I forgot about it.

I forgot until a few weeks ago when the sun was out in the morning and it seemed sort of like summer wasn't such a thing of the past. And then I wanted to eat something that tasted of summer. What better than that sweet acai bowl Mama had once mentioned?

So I texted her and said I'm going to make one of those bowls you liked. She told me it's tricky because they can get really thin and be more smoothie than breakfast bowl. And I made a note. Then a few mornings later, on a beloved Friday morning, I threw one together. And it turned out just right.

1 packet acai pulp 
(or powder if you have that instead)
1/2 cup frozen fruit 
(think peaces, bananas, pineapples, blueberries, apples)
1/4 to 1/2 cup of almond/coconut milk
scoop of protein powder 
(or other add-in, completely optional)
1 banana
1/4 cup of granola
sprinkle of sliced pecans 
(or almonds or cashews)
flax seeds
chia seeds
*really you can add anything you want on top.

1. Put acai pulp, 1/2 cup of frozen fruit, and your add-ins (like protein powder) into blender. 
2. Add 1/4 cup of chosen milk. 
3. Blend.
4. Assess. You want your acai base to be so thick you have to scoop it out.
Too thick -add more milk (SLOWLY).
Too thin -add more fruit. 
5. Blend again. 
6. When you get your desired thickness, put in bowl. 
7. Top with all your goodies like you're at FroYo. 
8. Enjoy. 

This is one of those art-of-the-blender moments. It's a fine line between too thick and too thin. Don't be afraid to take a spoonful of the fruit and see if it's a consistency you enjoy. 

Now go get healthy with this you FroYo loving friends of mine!

Monday, March 23, 2015

on growing old [a letter]

Welcome to you, to you and to your words today. 

The Letter Link-up | Mr. Thomas & Me
This letter is part of The Letter Link-Up. They are written to remember mundane moments that would otherwise slip away, to hold tight to him, and to remember how life looks right now at this very moment with the chance to shed light on your heart. 

While my letters documenting moments within our marriage before children for our children because they won't know us without them, you are allowed to write your letter to anyone, on anything with the prompt being simply a loose and suggestive starting point. 
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Dear Jason,

Someone once said to slow down and savor this moment. It was probably at a wedding or a baptism or birthday party. But they said it and then told everyone to breathe it into our lungs and let it be a part of our heart.

As we laid in bed for a slow Sunday morning washed over in the dark of night and dawn's early light, I ran my fingers through your blonde hair. I was surprised at how thick the hair felt though we always agree it's thin. I twisted it between my fingers impressed with the softness of the strands. I wanted to see the yellow hue of it, something the sun and genetics afford you so graciously. And it was then I heard that someone from long ago who said, savor.

I hear it like a chant: savor, savor, savor; all beautiful and comforting. I lay there hearing your breath and I remember the way I've dreamed of silver hair, wrinkled skin, simple hand holds on the back porch swing of our retirement home. I've dreamed of traveling the world, near and far, with you by my side. I've dreamed of the grand-kids that will fill our home with noise and our hearts with love like we've never known. I have dreams for us.

But we've learned that our dreams don't necessarily translate to reality. We've learned loving doesn't always mean living to see dreams turn out. And in this learning process, we've come to understand how to savor. We've stopped worrying about tomorrow and started loving today. And, it's in this groove, I can't wait to grow old -even if old is younger than we dream.

May our hearts always dream of one another,

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The Prompt for April:
To Say I Love You
And it'll go up live on:
Monday, April 20th.
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And now, the turn is yours: 

Friday, March 20, 2015

how to keep your heart in lent

You've made it over half way through Lent and that is worth celebrating (something we know happens throughout the bible). But you're feeling like celebrating and calling it good, though your heart and soul says you need to finish this out strong.

Here's some encouragement and tools to keeping your heart here in this Lenten season:

Just over a month ago you were on fire for fasting. You were thrilled about the potential this forty day period holds and you entered into this time craving a change for the better. So, reignite those feelings with Him. Find some bible verses that speak to your chosen fast, write them down and hang them around your daily routine.

Throw it back to elementary school and throw together a Venn diagram. Have one side with the before and one with the after and write down the ways you have changed. This will make the changes obvious and feel more appreciated. Now, hang that paper up on your fridge.

Are you fasting from a certain food or drink? Maybe find some "treat" replacement... Like no wine, how about cranberry and soda water instead? No coffee? Try a new tea. If you're giving up the internet in the evenings (like I am), think about placing your phone and computer completely out of your proximity so there's no temptation.

If you're like me, you've slipped up and made mistakes in the last few weeks. You've found yourself growing lax and sort of apathetic. This is where you rest in the grace He gave us through the gloriousness that is Easter (which is what we're celebrating even now in the Lenten season!).

Take a moment and thank yourself. You care, you're pursuing Him, you are pushing yourself like athletes do. That's worth saying thank you to yourself. You didn't let doubt or I can'ts come in and convince you this couldn't be done, so be grateful.

Say out loud that this is hard. Ask for some encouragement. Request prayer and support from the women in your small group. Don't be afraid to say, whoa, this fasting thing is really reflecting how hungry my soul happens to be.

Easter is a huge and beautiful time in faith. Remember that. Remember how hard, how scary those three days would have been for the disciples left behind. Reflect on the joyous occasion Resurrection Sunday would have been. And bring that in to today by planning a special something to mark the end of your fast. (I'm planning on some sort of delicious cake in case you needed some ideas!) 

Go and be free friends. Be free to finish this fast with strength and joy!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

everyone deserves your kindness.

I'm not everyone's shot of whiskey. Or even their cup of tea.

We're heard the quips, pinned the quotes, repeated the cliches that say we're not all going to like each other. I believe it: in fact, there are people who I simply will never like. We're not the same sort of person -too vulnerable, too guarded, too sarcastic, too kind, too abrasive, too gentle. We're not the same and the chemistry never takes off and, well, that happens.

But, quips and quotes and cliches aside: It hurts when someone doesn't like us.

My rawness turns people off to friendship. My open book policy takes people off guard. My shyness can be misconstrued as bitchy. I'm more a shot of tequila -an acquired taste, best chased with salt and a lime- than any smooth sipping beverage.

I understand. I've been the not-liker, naiveté, personality, sense of humor too much or too little and, like Goldilocks, I've walked away. I've been that girl, the one who doesn't like you for one fact or another.

I've been the one who knows the hurt of rejection. Who was too much, too little, not enough in between. I've been the one brushed off -politely and not. I've been the one minority heartbroken over the fantastical chemistry that simply didn't happen. It hurts when someone doesn't like me.

More so: It hurts when someone doesn't like me and makes an effort to show me.

There is something to say for polite kindness. Something to see in children that disappears in most adults. Something to cherish in young, sweet hearts that dissolves with adolescence. There is something to say about chivalry among people -the respect, maturity, soul to acknowledge another's presence.

So, go on having an eclectic taste in people, in friendships. But without kindness, simply stop now, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Monday, March 16, 2015

the dozenth coffee date

If we were on a coffee date, I'd offer you a wheat bran muffin drizzled with honey and a homemade latte. I'd have a dozen more muffins where that one came from, which is good, because we'd eat them with smiles on our face.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd introduce you to NPR's book concierge. I'd say I want to read all the books, all the time and this just makes it delightful.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd brag about butchering my own chicken wings. I know, not a big deal, except it totally is because I've never before butchered anything but those poor animals we dissected in middle school science class and mostly then I just watched. Yes, I chopped off the wing tip and separated the flat from the drumette and I felt like Anne Burrell.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd tell you I'm working on self-awareness. It sounds so new-age, spiritual, and that's not what I mean, but it is. I'm working on being honest with myself, like that I love writing in natural light and, so, I moved the furniture around in our office to make this possible and now I won't write anywhere else. I struggle with all emotions coming out as snark and so I know my next task to conquer.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd sing a little happy song about being so close. So damn close. You see, I wrote that manuscript in November and then realized it was a mess and so basically redid the whole entire thing in February and March. I almost quit a couple times because I tried to tell myself I couldn't, but I could and I have and I'm almost done with Draft One.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd ask you if you prefer jasmine or plain white rice. I'd tell you jasmine always wins because it's sticky and delicious. I'd ask you if you've ever cooked it in equal parts water and coconut milk and made sticky rice. I'd hope you say yes because you deserve such a treat, but, if for some reason, you said no, I'd whip some up right away.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd pump my fist in the air and the cold never bothered me anyway. I'd say by cold I mean snow and that my dusty skis are getting polished up and rode down the mountains for the week next week and this is the best birthday present a girl could ever enjoy.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd savor this time with you. Lately I've felt more emotionally aware and available. I'd want to hear everything from you because I need your words. I've not always been a great listener, -in fact, I'm still not- but I'd practice and you'd indulge me with words on words on words.

Friday, March 13, 2015

are we there yet?

It fills my prayer life, initially brave, then begging, now pleading desperately. It sounds like a whiny child needing to stretch her legs and possibly dying for a good potty break. It consumes the little vehicle God and my family and I are traveling. We hit mile markers, make progress, cover thousands of proverbial miles, only to need to move further. 

Are we there yet, God? 

The move of him from home to care facility, doesn't that put us close enough? You count the tears, hundreds of them dripping and dropping, leaving clear trails down my cheeks. You know the heaviness of my heart, long for me to hand it over, but first I ask. 

Are we there yet, God? 

Losing him, the man with the dry humor, the leader of all the things, the father bold in his love and provision. Is that not close enough? You hear my shattering heart, collect the pieces with patience and care, leaving a warmth behind despite the coldness of my soul. You know the ways in which I am desperate, long for me to welcome you in, but first I ask. 

Are we there yet, God? 

He's so thin, so frail, so messy. I sit on the couch trying to wake him, two other residents slumber in sloppy heaps of flesh next to him and I spare us all the tears. Are we not close enough now? You see the brokenness; I know you are faithful to bring beauty to this. You know redemption, you did it once, you'll do it again and again and again. You promise it to me. But first, I ask. 

Are we there yet, God? 

Dementia is the "are we there yet?" disease. Some days I pity myself and this hand of cards we've been dealt. But then I remember, life is filled with times of disease -even just figuratively- where we raise our hands and want to know when THERE will come over the horizon.

Are we there yet, God? 

We're driving through a desert, dying for some coolness and the mirage of a watering hole just continues to evade us. I find a map of my own making and I wander off, I think hard, I worry plenty, I grow itchy in the stillness. I wander -mostly in thought, but sometimes in faith and in physicality. I wander aimlessly, without searching for something new, but, instead, seeking something old, comfortable, some remnant of life as it was before. 

Are we there yet, God? 

I'm ready to be there, to know he's done suffering, to be relieved of the freshness of grief with each coming visit. I'm ready to settle down, be still and warm, find comfort rather than hunger deeply, but then there is Him. Patient always, care-filled constantly, true despite my qualms and questions. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

5 Surprises From The Scale-Free Life

It's been two months since I gave up the scale. Remember how I told you about that one time before? It's been two months and I thought what I said at one month would be everything, but that is not so.

When you give up the scale, you learn things. None of these are ground-breaking or revolutionary, but all were unexpected, exciting to know in a way that is deep and true -not just Pinterest quote hearsay. And so, with scale or without, I want you to have the knowledge you deserve. 

In the last two weeks I've picked out clothes and told myself I'm too fat to wear them. Then, instead of agreeing with myself or asking my scale to tell me True or False, I decide to try them on. Usually, in putting on the clothes, I find that I enjoy the way they look on me, though my body isn't perfect.

I love myself. Seriously, I do. And in a way that is pure and sort of childlike. This is something I haven't had/felt/understood because I've been busy trying to get a damn scale to love me. I still fluctuate between love and wishing I was thinner, stronger, bustier, but positivity > negativity without a doubt. 

Like the BMI index (popularly debated in its validity), a number hardly captures a slice of our whole pizza pie. My weight has often determined the worth I assign to myself. No scale will ever, EVER be able to tell me the weight of my soul and my goals and my intelligence. Nope, no scale. And I'd heard that before, but now, without the scale to be my friend, I believe it. 

The first month of scale-free living had me thinking often of how I would know if I'd gained weight or not. I was a slave to those thoughts, over and over. But then I realized something interesting was happening at meal time. My body was getting hungry. And then saying, thanks I'm satisfied. And I'm hearing it, completely hearing it. 

I really like my legs. And my deep innie belly button. And my hair. And actually my arms are starting to look toned. I have started to feel more adorable in my clothes, more sexy without them -feelings I can say I've really never understood. 

I am looking in the same mirror I did when I had a scale, but without the scale at my feet, I am seeing someone different. I am wearing the same clothes I did when my scale determined how they fit or not, but without the scale under my body, I am seeing someone beautiful and confident. I know, it's a minor change, a ridiculous edit, but it's beloved.

If you've got a scale, have you considered ditching it? And if you've not had one, thanks for letting me be among you, you brave, dear souls. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

the struggle with words

The other night Jason and I were watching a docu-series on emergency services in New Orleans. We've grown absurdly attached to the EMTs who are regularly featured and find ourselves caring about their patients similar to how they do.

As we watched sitting in flannels on the couch under blankets, our favorite pair received a call for a man slashed with a machete. The paramedics were flabbergasted as were we. Upon arriving, the man revealed both arms were cut to the bone, bleeding, fleshy, traumatic. He show how he'd raised his arms in an X over his face to protect himself and the knife had slashed him.

I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry for a man I don't know who'd been slashed by a stranger with a machete in the middle of the night.

Under starry skies, he was hurt, severely, intentionally, with an oversized blade.

Tears were burning my eyes, a lump forming uncomfortably in my throat. I wanted to cry. Maybe Lent just has me sensitive, this lack of distraction breeding an acute and intense awareness of myself and the mess of this world. Maybe it's a mix of sadness for that man and for me. Maybe it's realizing, I have a machete of my own.

My tongue is sharp, so very sharp, easily slicing and shredding without my realization. I know the danger of the tongue and its fruit. I know the way one can eat a poisonous apple and fall into a stupor while those little arsenic-filled seeds poison the soul.

I believe those gifted with a love for words, often struggle with them most.

My words, a gift I believe is truly and graciously bestowed upon me by Him, are my best and my worst. They're my tools to build up and my weapons in combat. They're my strength and my undoing. They're a machete for clearing the densest of emotional jungles, easily turned to vicious weapon on the streets of life.

The tongue is sharp, two-sided, easily slashing and slaying those around us. Our strength being our weakness, our words being our weapon, it seems more often, words stomp around sarcastically, caustically, in cutting motions than dancing in dainty, blessed encouragements.

I believe those gifted with a love for words, often struggle with them most. May we set down our selfish motives and only retrieve intentions well-meant.

Friday, March 6, 2015

speak up: on truth

This month we are speaking truths. And speaking on truth, and sharing what is true to us. This month we're focused deeply on what is true.

Please be sure to see the goodness from my beloved friend Annie. The girl's a goldmine of wisdom and faithfulness.

Important links that I happened to mention: 
Prayer in C (by Lily Wood & The Prick)

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And for next month, we're speaking to, on, about
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Yes, with Easter and my birthday and a trip to the snow, I'm going to be practicing celebration all month long. Please join me?

Before we go, some inspiration for next month for you: 
How about some pretty party details from Pinterest
Sometimes I use just a few of these around our house on the daily. 

Let me share these celebratory quotes with you: 

Finally, your turn to share your vlogs on truth! 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

what i read and what i'm reading v.2

February was a month of fabulous reading. A month about the heart was expanded and delightful as mine was enriched by the reading experience. I wanted to make all of these big YES shares, and, truthfully, they are, but I also realize I'm a subjective reader and some of the books this month were more ME focused in my choosing to read and review them.

I finished a few chapters of my own this month, one of them at the window in the library overlooking the sports' park in our town. And on my way out that day, I got myself a library card. A treat, reward, to myself. This month three of the four books I finished belong to the public. And somehow, I feel so grand about myself in saying that is so.
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by Beth Kephart

YES, if you're interested in memoir as a writer or reader. Otherwise, you might be bored out of your mind. I really enjoyed reading Kephart's perspective on memoir -as a writer, reader, and teacher. Do be warned: your reading list will grow EXPONENTIALLY when you read this as Kephart pulls excerpts from lots of memoirs. Mine is currently bursting at the seams.

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by Toni Morrison

MAYBE. I adored this, I mean, this one was a whoa. I think it should be required reading in high school, but it has "themes" that might be a little racy for teens. If bad words and challenging familial relations are distracting to you, this won't be your cup of tea. Regardless, it was interesting, beloved, throwing me into a chaotic analysis of our culture with the complicated racial relations of today. 

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by Anne Lamott

YES. I mean, what else do I have to say about Anne Lamott these days? I really, truly enjoyed this book as I always do. But, I also watched this YouTube video just prior to reading it and I melted into a little puddle of Lamott-lovingness. She reinvents the way I see the world with her words and, well, do yourself a favor and pick up one of her books.

via | 
by Susanna Kaysen

ABSOLUTELY YES. I was so refreshed by Kaysen's approach to her mental illness and 18-month stay in an asylum in the sixties. She was relatable, hilarious, candid, and, at times, crazy to try and understand. This brought a person to the diagnoses we often see as only a name.

But, the movie, NO. I mean, the movie is good, interesting, riveting, really watch it. BUT, only after you've read the book because they're so different. So, so very different.

Monday, March 2, 2015

monday be like burnt toast and fried coffee.

I feel bad for Monday. It's like January and autumn and the first stall in women's bathrooms. It's a thing, a necessity because what would a week be with only six days, but it's not celebrated or beloved, only annoying and here as a fact of life. 

The first Monday of a new month feels different though, more Monday-ish, more full of madness and chaos and unpredictabilities. It smells like burnt toast and the insane and unprecedented worries that I'm having a stroke. It tastes like fried coffee, black and bitter beyond any sugar and creamer's repair. It's a bad-hair-day complete with frizzy ends and an I-have-nothing-to-wear-day because rain isn't my friend and billing-customers-for-the-work-we-did-last-month-day. 

Sometimes I stop feeling bad for Monday and I feel bad for myself because Monday is happening to me whether I like it or not. I feel bad my little soul must work hard to survive it. I look at my To Do list and hang my shoulders in defeat while making little moping noises similar to Hazel's take-me-on-a-walk whines. Sometimes I sit at my desk and wave an invisible white flag, hoping Monday will have pity on me and tell me to go home and sleep it off. Alas, days do not talk to us or grant us pardon, and I must go on. 

This Monday, this first Monday in the March of 2015, is destined to be different. I'm going to dress in something like skinny jeans and a sweater, clothe myself in prettiness and productivity, sporting the turquoise spike earrings that came in the mail last week, tying my converse tight around my striped socks. And I'm going to smile as I sip my coffee. 

Because Monday you aren't my cup of tea. But today, this Monday, with it's burnt smell and bitter taste, ain't no thing to mess up my week. It's a foundation, a beginning, a fresh start. It's a day who gets a hard time and mean looks. Today I will welcome Monday warmly, bringing Monday in for a tight embrace and coffee date. I will let my soul love on her like it would on an old friend having a tough time. 

And Monday, she will repay me with all her kindnesses. 

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