You’ve got to know when to fold ‘em

Y’all know that commercial with the punchline about playing cards with Kenny Rogers and he’s singing “The Gambler”? I was thinking about that today when I was pondering the blog and its future: you’ve just got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run…

“I just don’t have anything to say,” I confessed to my husband the other day. We were discussing the blog, this one, and whether or not I should just shut ‘er down, fold ‘em, walk away as it were. It’s really not *that* momentous of a decision, I realize, except for the fact that the renewal payment on my domain will come due before too long so, yeah, there is something of a financial obligation at stake, albeit a small one.

“All writer’s have writer’s block,” he said and I suppose he’s right though I have my doubts if what I do here could rightly constitute writing per se. But blogger’s block? I got that in spades. What has it been, two months of silence? More? Not even a humble status report to maintain some semblance of life?

I listened to a podcast about blogging thinking maybe I’d rediscover some inspiration and inclination toward writing or blogging or whatever you want to call this. It was encouraging and informational and no doubt a great help for someone who already wants to blog. But where’s the podcast for the uncertain blogger, she who can’t find anything to say nor the desire to say it? Is there a litmus test, a flow chart, a quiz to determine definitively, finally, once and for all, yes, go forth and blog, or, no, sister, it’s time to fold ‘em?

In the podcast the blogger being interviewed confessed to never, not once, feeling the sort of block I am muddling through. This did not encourage. Of course, in my defense, I’ve been at it a lot longer so maybe I’m just old. In blog years I mean.

In real life it’s been a strange couple of months, months marked by transition and some degree of sadness and, well, the sort of nebulous strangeness that tends toward private introspection over the kind of public confessional that constitutes blogging, at least the kind of blogging engaged by this blogger. So maybe it is a stage of life deal.

But life is good too. I don’t mean to sound all melodramatic and melancholy (though admittedly sometimes I can’t help it!). We’re right in the middle of some of our favorite times of the year and of life, enjoying football games and celebrating September birthdays and anticipating all things autumnal. I’m back to teaching Bible study after our summer hiatus and I love it more than ever. The kids are great, church is awesome, and, like I said, life is good. There is much to enjoy, much to anticipate, much to be grateful for.

So will I write more? Will I write at all? Should I cut my losses and close shop? I am undecided. Do I love blogging enough to push through writer’s / blogger’s block? Does it matter? I have no ambition beyond just the blog so, really, why fret so over what is really, in the end, a hobby? Will I know when, if, to fold ‘em? I guess we shall see!

Can any of my blogger friends relate? How do you rediscover the joy of writing and of blogging?

Favorite reads of the summer

I, like all true bookworms, make reading a priority all year long, sometimes all day long if it’s an especially good day! However, there are those times of year that seem naturally suited to reading. The week between Christmas and New Year, for example, is a stretch of days where I tend to do not much more than lounge on the sofa with a book or two or five.

Summertime is another season that seems all the better for the happy enjoyment of a good book. Since we are now in September and at the close of another one of those perfectly suited reading spells, I thought I’d offer to you a list of some of the best of the best of the books I read this summer and I read some really good ones!

Read my list of summertime favorites at Out of the Ordinary.

Dead Poets Society, carpe diem, and the story of my life

When I was in college, and for several years after, my favorite movie was Dead Poets Society. The story of John Keating and his students inspired me; carpe diem became my mantra. I was impassioned. I was determined. I was going to live a life that counted.

However, I was also clueless.

I wonder now, these 25 years later, if the 20 year old me with all her bright eyed idealism had been given a snapshot of her life as it would be at 45, what would she think? Would she consider her life lived to the fullest? If she saw herself on a hot day in July, for example, running errands and doing laundry and sweeping up dog hair, would she trust that she had indeed seized the day and lived a life thus far that counted?

I like to think she would, you know, being that I am that 45 year old me of which we speak.

Read the rest of my post at Out of the Ordinary.

Wage war

I’m writing today at Out of the Ordinary with a few more thoughts on comparison and coveting…

We are to be wise and to take whatever steps necessary to put to death…what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Col. 3:5-6) Put it to death. Wage war, as John Piper has said. Can’t get much more serious than that.

We tend to think this all a little silly, at least if we’re talking about Twitter and blogging and Instagram. Silly and radical and maybe a little, well, you know, “out there.” Maybe so. But did you catch what we are to put to death according to Colossians? Impurity, passion, evil desire and, yes, covetousness.

Waging war against sin and temptation and covetousness begins with the wisdom of knowing ourselves and our weakness…

Read the rest of my post at Out of the Ordinary here.

It’s the ordinary days that make a life

When my oldest son was born we were renting a 100 year old house on a corner lot a few blocks from the high school. We had no air conditioning other than the two window units and no dishwasher other than our two hands.

Oh, and the carpet was blue.

My son’s nursery was a simple affair. We bought a white crib with $100 my husband’s grandmother gave us. A friend let us borrow a changing table. That plus a chest of drawers that had been mine and my sister’s growing up and a rocking chair of my grandmother’s my mom painted and recovered the cushions made up the nursery decor.

Some of my pregnant friends (homeowners with slightly more disposable income than us) were busy decorating their nurseries with stenciled alphabets on the wall and adorable matching bedding sets in the crib.

I was insanely jealous.

It seems funny in retrospect, especially now that I have both AC and a dishwasher and no need for a nursery with or without stenciled walls. However, when I reflect on the current standards of perfection and expectation that accompany motherhood as we now know it, I realize I would never have made it in this day and age of Pinterest and Instagram. The Lord does indeed determine the specific times in which we live, yes and amen.

I once read an article about Instagram envy. Apparently it’s a thing and I can see why. As we adopt this alternate reality as the standard, we begin to lose sight of what’s really real. If I, as a much younger mom, envied to the point of bitterness my friend’s real life nursery adorableness, how much more so a edited and filtered snapshot of nursery perfection? I’ve heard of motherhood being delayed until the perfect house could be afforded or a wedding put off for the ideal venue. I understand wanting an adequate home or a beautiful backdrop but motherhood is more than the house and marriage more than the wedding.

No AC and dishwasher aside, those were happy days in that small two bedroom house. We had little in terms of worldly goods but we were rich in joy and grace. Our family was just beginning to grow, we enjoyed the fellowship of several close friends, our life was good. Real good.

I have often advised my younger friends to enjoy their children while they are young, so often have I done so that I fear I have been misunderstood. One young mom finally admitted to me on a particularly tough day that she did not and would not enjoy nor miss that specific day or its struggles.

“No one misses the hard days,” I told her. “No one wishes for those days back!”

I know I don’t. What I regret most are the ordinary days that I resented for their very ordinariness, the days I spent in jealousy or bitterness over someone else’s providence, the times I compared and felt I’d been shorted, the wasted moments wishing for something else, something I thought to be better.

I’m not advocating all young families live in 100 year old homes with primary colored carpeting. By all means, have your elaborate birthday parties and decorate your nursery with every Pinterest inspired project you desire. But let’s be wise as we do so, knowing our own hearts and knowing that such pursuits are fleeting at best. They do not last. In a few short years the wedding album will be tucked away in a drawer somewhere, the nursery decor will quickly be replaced by something less baby-ish, the birthday parties will pass leaving a detritus of wrapping paper and cake crumbs to be cleaned up.

It’s the ordinary days that make a life. Don’t waste them in comparison and envy. Enjoy them.

 

True spirituality

In her plenary session at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference, Kathy Keller made an observation regarding Nehemiah (whose book by the same name comprised the key text for the weekend) and his contemporary Ezra. Comparing Nehemiah’s journey to Jerusalem in Neh. 1:9 with Ezra’s journey in Ezra 8:22, Kathy highlighted the two men’s differing approach concerning the use of soldiers as an escort. Nehemiah employed them; Ezra claimed to do so would be a lack of faith.

Kathy warned her listeners that we must not rigidly stereotype believers into identical patterns of spirituality. Rather we must ask what are merely personal preferences. A word to the wise: we must be careful how we definite true maturity in the life of the believer.

Though I think perhaps I extrapolated her application beyond what she intended, I thought of her warning late that Saturday night of the conference as I listened to a panel of bloggers and writers discuss their craft and their goals and their platforms. Though the blogger event was, as it was intended, very encouraging and a whole lot of fun, I couldn’t help but feel a little, well, less than compared to the writing excellence before me.

I’m not sure, still, of my writing goals or even of my writing life period. My blogging is, at this point, somewhat unconcerned with branding or querying or getting a book contract. Hardly anyone reads what I write, relatively speaking, and I’m usually okay with that. My spirituality, as measured–or not–by my writing, is very different from that of the panel.

It might be easy to get discouraged should I compare my offering, meager as it is, with theirs.

But it wasn’t just the size of my blog audience or writing goals that prompted my comparison and corresponding unease. If truth be told at various times throughout the conference I found myself feeling, well, a little ridiculous. Dumb even. So many of the women I met over the course of the weekend were talking about big things, important things, deep things, smart things, things I had no idea about.

A few days after I texted my friend. “Realizing all over again I am not nearly the thinkers some of these women that I admire so much are. Which is cool, the Body needs depth and fluff, yes and amen, but it’s a blow to the pride when you like to think yourself one way only to realize you’re not in that league! Ha!”

My friend commiserated, as all good friends do, but finally reminded me that “in the end don’t we really just want to be known for loving God?” In other words, those so-called spiritual markers and evidences of maturity may really just be differences.

We’re just different.

Maybe it seems a little silly to write so seriously about a hobby. But we do this all the time, do we not, measure our spirituality or someone else’s by some arbitrary standard that is, in the end, an extrabiblical one, a matter of personal preferences and little else? Nehemiah took a band of soldiers and Ezra didn’t. Some bloggers work hard to see their work published in many different venues and some are content with a small readership barely beyond their own families. Some can wax philosophical all day long and some of us are better able to discuss lipstick shades and the latest fiction releases. Or some of us wear jeans to church and some wear a dress and heels. And then there’s education choices and dietary differences and on and on it goes.

Truly there is no end to the lengths we will go to measure and define the truly spiritual and the truly not.

Kathy’s warning is a timely one. Let’s take care, sisters. Let’s not stereotype each other into rigorous sameness. Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt.

What then marks true spiritual maturity? Love for the Lord. A hunger for His Word. A passion for His glory. Love for the church. Humility. The fruit of the Spirit. By the grace of God, may He grow these attributes in us as He grows us into greater maturity. And may He cause us to encourage and appreciate these attributes in others!

Bring us the Book!

I’m writing today at Out of the Ordinary about Nancy Guthrie’s plenary message from Nehemiah 7 and 8…

…that beautiful passage of Scripture where Ezra teaches the book of the law to the people and all who hear understand. Nancy called our attention to Nehemiah 8:1 where Nehemiah reports that the people “told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel.”

“Bring us the book!” Nancy imagined the people crying out and as she did so throughout the auditorium various women echoed the cry. “Bring us the book!” Nancy called out again and again the cry reverberated throughout.

It was obviously arranged beforehand yet striking just the same. As we called out for the Book, Nancy replied with the obvious application: O, that God would raise up women hungrier for the Book!

Read the rest of the post here.

 

Status Report, post #TGCW14 edition

Sitting…on my back porch. It is a gorgeous morning, a slightly unusual one for July in that the temperature and humidity are a little lower thus making it actually quite pleasant out here. For now. I plan to enjoy it for as long as possible, rare as it is!

Drinking…coffee, black.

Recovering…from my trip to Orlando. Yes, still. I got home Monday and today is Thursday and yes indeed it’s taking me three days plus to get over a four day trip. A mark of a good trip in my opinion.

Pondering…the takeaway from the conference. What did I learn? I mean, I learned lots (!) but what is the main takeaway I want to concentrate on in terms of meditation and application? I think maybe I know but I am still pondering and praying through it all. Hopefully I will blog through some of my thoughts soon.

Loving…that I got to meet so many of my blogging and Twitter friends. Staci (of Writing and Living and my fellow writer at Out of the Ordinary) and I were instant BFF’s. We had fun hanging out through the course of the weekend. Chatting with other friends that I’d previously only known online was both surreal and incredibly encouraging. Not to sound like a fan girl, though I may or may not have totally embarrassed myself in the worst fan girl way in front of an author and blogger I greatly admire, but meeting women I respect so much was humbling in the best sort of way.

Laughing…with my girlfriends who made the trip with me over the fun we enjoyed last weekend. We had a blast. From shopping until we dropped at the outlets to the early morning fire alarm to other incidents I won’t mention in a public forum such as this, it was quite an adventure. I am so thankful for their friendship and for our shared experience at the conference.

Beginning…to plan toward Bible study this fall. I just started reading Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin (one of the many–many!–books I brought home from the conference). As I read I am reminded again of the holy privilege and sacred calling that is mine to encourage women to know the Word and that knowledge to fuel a love for the Lord. Yes and amen.

Thinking…of the precious reader who approached me at the conference to thank me for my blog. Yeah, this blog. Her sweet comments brought tears to my eyes. Thank you. You have no idea how much your words mean to me and how you encouraged me!

Pouring…another cup of coffee.

Happy July, friends!

#TGCW14, ready or not!

In the morning my friends and I will board a plane bound for Orlando and the Gospel Coalition’s Women’s Conference! Woo hoo! I’ve spent most of the day packing and making such preparations as is necessary when the mom will be out of town for four nights. I think I’m ready. Surely I must be, good grief I have to be after all this! I do know at the very least I have a change of clothes, deodorant, a moleskine journal, and three books on the kindle app on my iPad. What more do I need? :)

Once I found a few minutes to sit down and scroll through my Twitter feed, I read another blogger’s post reflecting on what she learned at the last conference two years ago. Inspired, I glanced over some of my own posts about it. As I read and remembered, I, of course, grew even more excited about the incredible teaching we will receive as well as the fun and fellowship we will enjoy hanging out with friends and fellow bloggers. It’s going to be a blast!

Some of y’all may remember that I blogged my notes from the conference sessions last time. I do not plan to do so this year. But, never fear, the conference will be live streamed and after the conference concludes most of the sessions will eventually be available online. You can click here to watch the live feed. You can also follow the hashtag #TGCW14 for conference related tweets.

True confessions: there was something else I noted about those posts from two years ago, namely how easily I seemed to write and how passionate I was about the things of the Lord. It occurs to me they are perhaps related, the passion and the writing.

I miss that about me.

I am hoping to find both again. This weekend perhaps. However, I do know this, whether or not the writing comes easy, whether or not the emotions run high and happy, the Lord is good, His Word is true, and His gospel is my only hope. Yes and amen.

 

What’s on my nightstand

Once a month 5 Minutes for Books hosts a What’s On My Nightstand carnival where participants share books they are currently reading. It’s been my goal to do a little more reading this summer than the school year afforded me and despite our travel and other general busyness I’ve been able to do just that! I have high hopes for July to have even more time to devote to reading some really great books. So here’s my list of titles I’ve read recently, what I’m currently reading, and what I’m thinking of reading next…

RECENTLY COMPLETED

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace & Everyday Prayer by Micha Boyett. This is a beautifully written, thought provoking memoir that I enjoyed very much. I think Micha and I might disagree on a couple of things but what’s the fun of only reading authors you completely agree with? And do we really all of us agree all of the time on every thing? But, I digress. I may share more about this book in a later post but Micha’s journey surprised me by how much it resonated with my own despite she being a young mom in San Francisco and me being, well, not a young mom in a small town in Alabama.

Me Before You: A Novel by JoJo Moyes. Loved it and hated it. My friend named it one of her most favorite and least favorite novels she read last year and I totally see what she means. It’s a compelling story, well told, but, well… (And, by the way, some readers will want to know there is some language and adult situations).

Someday, Someday, Maybe: A Novel by Lauren Graham. A fun, light, enjoyable read about a wanna-be actress trying to make it in New York City. Though it was somewhat predictable, I thought the funnest part to be all the 90’s pop culture references.

CURRENTLY READING

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy. McCarthy’s ability to evoke a sense of place through the beauty (and sometimes the sparseness) of his prose is masterful.

Gospel Amnesia: Forgetting the Goodness of the News by Luma Sims. Though we only know each other through our blogs and social media, I count Luma a friend and am ashamed I am only just now getting to her book. So far I have been greatly encouraged by her call to forsake gospel amnesia and to cling to Christ as our only hope.

READING NEXT (maybe)

What about you? What are you reading? Do you have any recommendations? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to visit 5 Minutes for Books and check out other Nightstand posts.