Learning to Try

Mom, do I have to go?” he complained.  “Why did you even sign me up for this? I never said I wanted to play the drums!

Yes. You have to go. And you never told me to sign you up for soccer or basketball or drama camp either! Buddy, just trust me. I know you, and I really think this is something you will enjoy!

Okay, fine. But just remember, I didn’t ask for this.

Thirty minutes later, my pre-teen boy walked back down the hall after his first drum lesson. He was standing a little taller and a tiny grin pulled at the corner of his mouth. His teacher said he would send me a link for the drum sticks and book we should order, then fist-bumped my boy, telling him he did a great job and he’d see him next week. 

Yeah, see you next week!” my little drummer boy replied, swooping his hair back and heading for the door.

The whole ride home was filled with non-stop chatter about what they did and what he learned.  He kept asking me if he was going to get a drum set, when he was going to get a drum set, what it was going to look like, and how much it was going to cost. Finally, I made him look me in the eye and say, “Thank you, Mom, for signing me up for drum lessons and making me try something new. You are the best!”

Okay, so I tried. Instead, he laughed and mumbled “Thank you” under his breath… I’ll take it!

And it made me think. 

When is the last time I tried something new?

New things can be scary because there are so many unknowns. What if we aren’t good at whatever we try, or we make mistakes, or people laugh at us? What if it turns out to be a waste of time or money? What if it doesn’t turn out like we hoped? 

These are all valid questions, and worth consideration.

But a better question is, what if it does?

What if you love it? What if you’re good at it? What if you make new friends and learn something about yourself and uncover a new passion you didn’t know was hiding in there? What then?

A little over a month ago, I felt kind of disconnected from myself. It wasn’t anything I could put my finger on; there was just a lot going on and I was sort of numb to it all, like I was going through the motions instead of really living. So, for several days, I spent some time outside by myself. I took several long walks, breathing in the Fall air and listening to the leaves crunch beneath my feet. The sun sparkled across the lake, and then painted the evening sky with splashes of red. I watched as the world around me slowly revealed the fingerprints of its Creator, and something in me came back to life.

And suddenly, I longed to write about it. More than that, I felt CALLED to write.

I used to love to write when I was growing up, mostly sappy poems about broken friendships and the longing for love which only high school girls understand. But I also enjoyed writing papers for school (shh, don’t tell) and letters to friends. Most people signed yearbooks with statements like, “Have a great summer!” and “Don’t ever change!” but not me. No, somewhere out there are dozens of yearbooks with a full page of my handwriting recounting every single memory I treasured and declaring my undying devotion to our friendship. 

Apparently, I was a writer and didn’t even know it. 

Since then, my writing has been limited to my children’s church and youth ministry lessons and a bazillion private prayer journals. I wrote for my own benefit, never with the intention of showing anyone else. I started a book once, but then I had another baby, and somehow I never managed to finish. I blamed it on my responsibilities- how could anyone expect a homeschooling mom of four small children to finish a book? After all, I was doing good to keep them all alive and squeeze in a shower!

But I knew the truth. I didn’t finish because I was scared.

I knew I wasn’t really a writer, I was just someone who loved to write. Is there a difference between the two? Maybe. I think it has something to do with an audience. In any case, I quit trying, which isn’t like me.

I am a firm believer in life-long learning, so I have spent much of my adult life trying new things. I learned how to scrapbook in my 20’s, and I took sewing and tennis lessons in my 30’s. I learned how to grind wheat and bake bread, and how to homeschool my children. And when my kids started in theatre, I even learned how to change someone’s costume and get them back on stage in 12 seconds flat! So I am definitely not afraid to try something new. 

But trying something new with an audience feels a little different. A little scarier.

So I understand how my boy felt walking into his first drum lesson. 

What if I fail? What if I can’t do it right? What if someone laughs at me or I try my best and no one likes it?

What if I write and it doesn’t make a difference?

But then I remember how he looked walking down that hallway, hiding his grin. It didn’t matter to me that he only played the first page in the book, with a rhythm so simple I probably could have played it, too. It didn’t matter to me that no one heard him play except his teacher. It didn’t even matter to me that his first drum lesson didn’t change the world one little bit.

No, what mattered to me, his momma, was those squared up shoulders and that secret grin. What mattered to me was he stepped out in faith and tried something new, even with the risk of failing. He walked in there a scared little boy and came out looking a little more like a man. That’s what mattered to me.

It gives me a glimpse of what might matter to my Father.

I am not really sure why the Lord is calling me to write, but I am confident He is. Writing is not new to me, but writing for an audience, however small, is. 

Like my boy, I did not ask for this. I am being obedient and trying something new. It is scary and I am uncertain. I am clueless about what to write. I am unsure of my ability, but I am offering my availability, which seems to be all He requires. 

I have no idea where it will go from here; I guess that isn’t really the point anyway. The purpose is not in the outcome, but in the learning, in the willingness to try. 

When is the last time you tried something new?

A Day in My “Mom Life”

“It’s going to be a great day. It’s going to be a great day. It’s going to be a great day!” I mumble to myself, pulling back the covers and forcing myself out of bed. I really need to pee, but apparently so does the puppy, so I head downstairs first and wait by the door with my legs crossed while she does her business. Fifteen minutes later, when I should be enjoying my tea and Quiet time, I load my middle children into the family chariot and make my way to school. My oldest daughter, who usually drives everyone to school, doesn’t have any exams today, so she is snuggled up in her bed at home while I play carpool mom with the rest of the city. My darling children are so concerned with their dreaded exams that they jump out of the car without even a hug or a thank you.

There is no time for breakfast when I get home, because Sleeping Beauty and the youngest prince are apparently both still under the influence of Maleficent’s sleeping spell. With the puppy bounding behind me, I climb the tower stairs and fling open the curtains in both their rooms, spilling sunlight onto their pillows. A few well-placed licks from the puppy wakes them from their slumber, and I help them make their preparations for the day. Back downstairs, there is no time for tea either. Schoolwork awaits, as well as a sink full of dishes and 13 different milk-stained cups scattered across the counter. When the kitchen is clean and the schoolwork is completed, I have just enough time for a quick rinse in the shower (no time to wash hair- it isn’t Saturday, after all!) before leaving the house again.

Princess #2 has finished exams and requested a lunch date with her besties, so of course, I am happy to oblige. Baby brother tags along, and we settle in at a long table after placing our order. My sweet friend, Liz, (the besties’ mama) arrives while we are still eating, and I begin to get excited- I might just get a few moments of adult conversation! See, it is a good day!! But alas, just as we get started, baby brother invites my sweet friend to join him in a game of digital beer-pong, and who can resist those dimpled cheeks? Shrugging off my disappointment, I gather up our belongings and prepare for the rest of our day. 

The next few hours are a whirlwind of carpool pick ups and drop offs, snacks and dinner, jackets and shoes and scripts and basketballs. Finally, I drop the monkey boys off at basketball and head over to the Coffee Lodge for a few moments of quiet and leisurely Facebook scrolling. I can already taste the hot chocolate with extra whipped cream… until I notice that the doors are locked and the “Open” sign is the opposite of glowing. Ugh. Back to the smelly gym I go, empty-handed and heavy with resignation. I spend the next two hours trying to plan a Small Group lesson while entertaining each monkey while the other one practices. Finally they are done, and we hurry through the freezing rain to our car. 

Once home, it is more snacks, a second dinner, baths and prayers and tears and I need another blanket, until finally, FINALLY, the monkeys are in bed, and the sisters are not far behind. 

With an exhausted breath, I sit down to spend a few minutes to myself at the computer, when I remember the King is home from his trip and awaiting my company for our nightly TV viewing. The bell rings, and I have been summoned. 

With a little laugh, I roll my eyes and smile to myself. This is what I always dreamed of… a family to serve, a family to love. 

It’s been a good day.

Waiting for Perfect

Writing Challenge Day 3

I have had moments all through the day today when I could have made time to write. I didn’t though; I wasn’t ready. I kept tossing around different ideas in my head, waiting to see which one would stick. I could be practical and write about the details of how I will accomplish my writing challenge each day. I could be productive and work on my travel blog from this summer. I could be inspirational and write about how the power of our words is simply a reflection of Jesus, The Word made flesh. Or I could just write about how much I absolutely adore teenagers.

So many thoughts elbowing their way through my mind, fighting to be the one I choose. 

But I can’t choose.

Which topic is the right one? Which one is going to make a difference in the world? Which one needs to be heard by someone today? Oh good grief, woman. Just sit down and write!

I wonder how much of our lives we spend waiting for perfect. The perfect job, the perfect house, the perfect church, the perfect spouse, the perfect kid, the perfect friend, the perfect body… always waiting and never quite finding what we’re looking for. How many books are left unwritten and songs are left unsung, waiting for perfect? How many things get lost on the road of good intentions, waiting for perfect, and never find their way to completion? 

Perhaps it’s time to embrace where we are, to be thankful for what’s been given instead of waiting for what hasn’t. Maybe it’s time to alter our expectations and accept that just living this life is enough; that apart from Jesus, there is no such thing as perfect. There is just the next thing, done with purpose and intention, or at the very least, a sense of duty. And that’s enough. Perhaps it’s time to just sit down and write.

So there is no perfect topic for today, no life-changing content desperate to be read.  There is a new advent calendar hanging on the window, the names of Jesus waiting to be flipped over and discussed. A completed math assignment is lying on the counter after creating quite the conversation on Facebook (Are you smarter than a 6th grader?). There is an updated rehearsal schedule ready to be emailed out to parents and a pile of dishes waiting to be washed. The puppy is stretched out on the rug in front of the fireplace, and the children are tucked in under their covers upstairs. My honey is calling me to come downstairs so we can watch our show, and I tell him I’ll be there in a minute. 

I have 50 more words to write.

But after all this, am I really going to miss out on what’s most important because I’m waiting for perfect? 

I think 485 is close enough.

Coming, hon!

What to write…

Well friends, yesterday I wrote about why I started this writing challenge; today I will tackle the questions of  “What?” I had not planned to share this post, but decided to publish it so those of you who follow me will know what to expect and can hold me accountable (or ignore your notifications! Ha!).

My natural tendency has been to write when I happen to feel particularly inspired and actually have time to transfer that inspiration into words on a page. Unfortunately, neither of those things happen very often!  I should clarify that I write in a prayer journal almost daily. However, to me that is not really writing, but a conversation with Jesus… It is private and gut-level honest and not intended to ever be read by any other eyes except mine. In this challenge, though, I want to work on writing with the potential for an audience. That is difficult for me! 

For the sake of transparency, I must confess that I struggle with feeling it is prideful to think I have anything worth saying that matters. I know, I would find that idea ridiculous if someone else shared it with me. I would remind them that God gives us stories and wisdom so that we can share them with others! But I never want to write anything just for the sake of hearing my own voice.  My hope is that God will use whatever He is teaching me to also teach and encourage others. Writing about random things often seems just that to me- Random. I want to make sure my writing has a purpose so that it is beneficial to those who may happen to read it and not just a waste of time. I have dozens of partial blog posts in a file that have never been published because I didn’t think they were worth reading. I’m hoping that being more disciplined in my writing will also help me be more purposeful and effective.

For the sake of this writing challenge, I have a few goals on what to write. First, since it is Advent, I am trying to be intentional about keeping my heart focused on Jesus, lest I get distracted by the noise of Christmas and miss the Christ child altogether. I plan to write about some of the things I am reflecting on during this Advent season, the things I am pondering in my heart as Mary did all those years ago (Luke 2:19). I am also working on some tips and tools for our Senior Small Group girls as we prepare to launch them into college/adulthood next Fall, so I will hopefully be able to include some of those topics. I just finished reading a book by Robert Benson, Dancing on the Head of a Pen, in which he included a list of his all-time favorite books. I love that idea, so I hope to make time to comprise my own list. And finally, I really need to finish blogging about our trip out West this summer. As the months go by, it seems less and less relevant to write about, but it was a trip we often find ourselves commenting on and returning to, and I know the details can be helpful to many of my friends who want to plan a trip of their own. Thus, I need to be disciplined enough to finish what I started. It wouldn’t hurt to blog about my recent trip to New York with my girls, either!

Look at that… I am over 500 words! Not exactly exciting to read, but purposeful nonetheless. 🙂

(P.S. Part of this writing challenge is not revising and editing my thoughts before I share them. That is very difficult for me. I like to revise as I go, which is likely one of the reasons I don’t often finish. So please be gracious with me… this is a work in progress! I also get bogged down with all the other stuff that goes with a blog- photos, links, etc., so I am not worrying about any of that right now. My goal is to just write!)

A New Challenge

I have started a new challenge.

I know, I know… tomorrow begins the busiest season of the year, and most of us are still in a turkey coma from Thanksgiving dinner. There are trees to trim, gifts to buy, cookies to make, and carols to sing.  The calendar is overflowing with Christmas parties and various events of the Season, on top of all the ordinary madness that comes with a family of six. So who in their right mind would add in an extra item on the daily to-do list when there is already so much waiting to be done?

Me, that’s who!

You see, I’ve been in kind of a funk lately. I am so very blessed… I have an amazing husband, really great kids, good health, financial provision, faithful friends, opportunities to serve- more blessings than I can even put into words! I am grateful for each of them, and I do not take them for granted. So why have I been in a funk? I am not really sure. It just happens sometimes, I guess.

For whatever reason, I have felt kind of disconnected from myself, like I’m looking at my life through a window from the outside instead of living it from the inside. I am nostalgic for old times and old friends. I flip through old journals and photos and wonder where the time has gone. I find myself trying to freeze the moments we share as a family before our oldest daughter leaves for college next year and this season of life morphs into something new. My life is flashing before my eyes and slipping through my fingers all at the same time, and all I can do is watch it happen!

So I made some time to walk this week, to be outside by myself, alone with God and my thoughts. I saw my life reflected in the transition of the seasons- the vibrant colored leaves beside the bare tree branches, the brown leaves crunching underfoot while ducking under the bright red holly berries, the stillness of the lake amidst the scattering of flustered birds… it was nice to move and to breathe and to soak it all in. I realized there is not enough quiet in my life these days.  It is a busy season- not just Christmas, but having 4 children at the ages they are, plus ministry life and making dinner and doing laundry and homeschool days… there is a lot of NOISE. Good noise, blessed noise, sacred even, all of it a gift! 

But sometimes my soul thirsts for quiet.

And for whatever reason, my heart and mind find quiet in writing. It is an emptying process, one that fills me and centers me and reminds me who I am (and Whose I am). But with all the noise of these days, I do not find time for it often enough- no, I do not MAKE time for it. 

Enter the challenge.

I have joined a challenge to write at least 500 words every day for the next month. I do not expect them to be words worth reading, only words worth writing. In the busyness of these days, I fear I sometimes lose my real voice, and I’m hoping that writing consistently will help my find it. I do not think I am brave enough to post all my random ponderings, but I will include some, for accountability to myself if nothing else. If you happen to take the time to read this or anything else I write, thank you! Feel free to comment or ask me if I’m writing; comments and suggestions will be appreciated, as I have no idea what to say after today! But if no one reads this but me, that’s okay.

My heart is open to an audience of One, and that’s who I write for anyway.