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.

Murphy’s law of blogging

I suppose it is an indication of my blog’s lack of a defining niche that whenever I return to the keyboard after several weeks’ hiatus, planned or unplanned, instead of just picking up with some wise and profound post (you know it) I always feel the need to catch you up on where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to, as if we had been chatting on the phone or something and I had stepped away for a minute or two or a week or three. The problem, of course, is when one’s blog begins to consist entirely of those little conversational snippets and not much else. What sort of conversation is that? Anyway, here I am.

June has been a crazy month. I think had I actually blogged like for real I would have had to rename my blog “Notes from the Chaos” or something equally descriptive. My son’s graduation, his college orientation, a trip to North Carolina, and later this week The Gospel Coalition’s Women’s Conference (yay!!).

Okay, so, when I type it out like that, my June doesn’t sound so very chaotic. It sounds, well, normal.

Maybe the chaos is me.

No comment.

Whether is chaos is within or without, I am excited about hopping on a jet plane on Thursday bound for sunny Orlando. I’m traveling with three of my real life friends and look forward to meeting up with several of my virtual friends there. Fun, friends, as well as good teaching and books galore–I can’t wait! I’d like to tell you I’ve spent the last several days in prayerful preparation but, true confessions, what I’ve worried over the most? My hair.

I blame it on that post I wrote a few weeks ago for Out of the Ordinary. Y’all know the Murphy’s Law of Blogging, right? That whatever you assert in confidence in your blog post, that you will deal with in spades shortly thereafter. I wrote then about some of the good things about the middle years, one being that I was comfortable in my own skin. I specifically mentioned vocation but the application is obviously broader. And, now, I’m going to this conference with thousands of women, all with cute hair, and I have this new cut and let’s just say comfortable isn’t quite the word I would choose for how I feel.

Silly, isn’t it? Vain too. And self preoccupied, among other things. Why do I care? So I have a cut I have trouble styling. Poor, pitiful me.

People who love me tell me my hair really doesn’t look so bad, that in fact it looks great. I love them for that. In reality, though, my haircut obsession reveals some less than flattering truths about my heart, namely that I compare myself to others and that I derive my sense of worth based on that comparison.

Ouch.

Comparison always leads to despair and discontent. In contrast, the gospel compels me to look to Jesus. When I do so, I see my complete unworthiness yet, instead of despair, I hope. I am sinful, wicked, I’m having a bad hair day, but Jesus loves me, saves me, forgives me, redeems me, gives me life in Him. He is my worth.

So this weekend when I am hanging out with a few thousand of my sisters in Christ, all with adorable hairdo’s, and I am tempted to worry over how I look and what they think, I will remember the gospel. I will remind myself that my worth is in Christ. And that hair, it always grows.

The Middle Years: There’s good news, too!

At Out of the Ordinary this month, we are focusing on midlife, middle age, the middle years, whatever you want to call this unique and strange stage of life I, and my fellow authors, find ourselves in. Today it’s my turn and I offer some encouragement that the news isn’t necessarily all bad…

“I’ve done my research, ladies, and growing old, it’s not pretty.” I was a young mom at the time and the speaker’s ominous warning, though intended to be funny, filled me with dread. Who wants to grow old? Especially when it’s as bad as all that? No one, me included.

Fast forward a few years (or more). I am today in, or at the very least on the cusp of, the stage of life we were warned against, and, yes, the speaker was indeed correct–there are some, shall we say, unpleasantries. Hormones, that extra weight around the middle, wrinkles, graying hair, and did I mention hormones? This is also a time of transition for many of us, an emptying nest and aging parents, for example, and with transition often comes its own kind of heartache.

I have to say, though, that for all its unique difficulties and changes, I kind of like life here in the middle years. There are good things, aspects to be enjoyed, not the least of which being that my kids can not only bathe and dress and cook for themselves but they can also drive themselves where they need to be, can I get a big YES and AMEN.

Seriously, though, here are three facts of life in the middle years that I appreciate…

Read the rest of my post here. Whether you would consider yourself in the middle years or not, I hope you’ll be encouraged by the truth that the Lord is faithful no matter the stage of life.