Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The butterfly life

In January, my friend came by with a jar and an idea to store all the good things during the year. You know how it's easy to store all the bad stuff? To recall all that went wrong and brush over what went right?
Maybe there's something symbolic of the ball dropping on Near Year's to show all the ways we don't get it right year after year.
I kept a jar this year, because I had to remember graces. Maybe God knew I'd have a year where that was going to help me see truth and beauty again.

Don't worry if you didn't keep a jar.
Maybe you work differently. Maybe you want to keep a jar next year. Maybe you will laugh at the fact that I crammed tons of paper and now have to make sense of my scribbles and if anyone's good at interpreting jibberish, I have a job for you.

It's going take me awhile to figure out what all I've learned this year. This year I know I have learned a lot but I've been slow at processing that. The good news is I'm getting better at seeing His love. And I'm not always good at that.

Let's start at the beginning. The beginning is usually with the small stuff. Which in the end becomes the big stuff.

God is good and another year has gone by. I hope there has been much grace in your life, too, even through the trials.

Here are 8 random findings when I grabbed at some notecards a day early (the goal of the project -- there's always a goal -- is to wait until New Year's and then read them, but if you can't wait that long you are an utter failure. Just kidding).

1. Starting back at consistent women's Bible study. Faithful friends.

new friend this year. no, we aren't having a fist fight.

2. God who heals..redeems..comforts..loves us always.

3. A lottery ticket.

I won it in a gift exchange and it landed in the jar. Good place for it. I wonder if I won. I know we're all at the edge of our seat.

4. Hummingbirds.

Good job if you can read this description of hummingbirds below. A friend sent me a card about them, and you win (not lottery win, just win) if you agree hummingbirds are the best. 

5. Dad got to come visit NC -- fun times -- basketball

6. A Group of 4 People.
Neighbors / friends / nc family who adopts me in and lets me stay in their home for days on end in snow storms.

7. Cleaning my closet.

 "This is a praise because I need to get it done"
(literally this is what the card said...)

8. Two friends who had losses earlier in the year getting pregnant at the same time. Thanks God!

Grace helps me remember who I am. If only I could live in this mentality all the time.
It's easy to forget. It's easy to feel like we're not enough. Instead of thankfulness. For things like cleaning closets (I don't even know...).

At the conference I went to this year (which all of my actual bookish learnings could come from that), Glennon Melton said that "we are like caterpillars who constantly quit right before we become butterflies."

This is probably true.

Not just when the calendar turns this year, but everyday, I want to live out of my butterfly life. The one I know I already have.

I live a caterpillar a lot of days. But I know I am a butterfly. Randomly, my fun coworker even nicknamed me Butterfly this year when I started my new job. So that's further proof.

If you need me to, I can come give you a butterfly tattoo. We may have days and weeks where we inch along back like the caterpillar, or where our butterfly lives are not all they are cracked up to be. We forget we have the potential to see the world before us and bring beauty to it. But we do! Come on, butterfly, come see the world with me and  let's shed off the old skin.
linking with emily

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The tinest light

I often think of families I've worked with, past and present, around the holidays, because I know as much as it's a time of joy and celebration, it's also a time of longing and struggle and heartache for many. Preparing, hoping, yearning. Sometimes I hear that and all I hear is "I'm just hanging on."

I believe this hope that we have is real. Christmas and Christ come is such good news. And yet, all that the season entails does not equal merry moments for everyone.

Which brings me to Advent.

People seem to like Advent. You know, preparation, hoping, yearning.

I'm not always so good at these things. My friend asked us at Bible Study if we were taking part in Advent this year. I told her I was 'engaging with Advent,' which kind of sounded like Advent and I were acquaintances but not really friends. I don't like the word acquaintances, so much so that I just had to look up the spelling of the word acquaintances.  

I like friends.
I've made friends with Christmas. My family makes me laugh and I love to see them. I remember God's goodness a little more around this time of year, even though it's evident all year round. Not because of gifts of course. I told someone today you could get me no gifts whatsoever and I'd be fine. I am the girl who wants to go ice skating or make Christmas cookies. I made the dough for buckeyes tonight with my neighbor, who is also from Ohio, so I'm a step closer to my goal of eating Christmas cookies.

And, call me Elf but I like seasons in life dedicated to merriment and celebrating because I like celebrating, celebrating's my favorite. And of course this celebration is for the birth of our Savior, so that's even better. People who aren't normally kind or generous or warm seem to break out of their shells a bit more at Christmas, which is also nice.

Except when it's hard for people at Christmas.

Which is often.

And I get that. I like Christmas. I understand Advent.

Everyday, behind the scenes of the joy which take center stage, there exists the not so popular longing, the ever unwelcome grief and the not talked about conflict. I see it everyday as a counselor.

Most of us would rather skip over this. Some of you stopped reading this already.

Good news, I'm not saying we have to choose one or the other.

I'm just guessing that if you're part of humanity, you've experienced this, even if you pretend to jingle all the way, all the way.

I can't pretend to pretend, mostly because my job isn't about that and mostly because it makes me want to be sick. There are times I am like an elf-creature and there are times I'm not. I know longing, too. I identify with both.

I've said it before on here, but every Christmas I think of a family I worked with long ago, and the fact that they had barely anything that winter. They were in between housing situations and would likely be going into a shelter soon.

It was a cold day at the park. They brought their baby.

Don't worry, that baby was loved and cared for. There was a Christmas happy you could see, but it was evident the parents were longing, with a longing that made sense and only hoped things would change.

I know grace stretches beyond things we can't see in the moment, but it feels like a lot sometimes.

Who hasn't held tight to December prayers in the dark, looking for the light?

But the magic of Christmas isn't found in the most showy moments or the lights that twinkle the most bright. Sometimes, it's found in that one candle in the window, catching you by surprise, in the midst of an otherwise dark night.

linking with five minute Friday for the prompt prepare

Friday, December 5, 2014

Dear Teenager

Dear teenager at Teen Night Lock-in,

I apologize that I didn't interact with you very much there. It's no excuse that I spend most of my days with your age group. It's also no excuse that I got LOCKED OUT of the lock-in at one point and had to bang on every door and window until someone finally saw me and let me back in.

OH and one more thing. I'm also sorry I didn't stay to find out how it played out when you guys had breakout sessions about all things sexual health and testing for STD's. At an overnight. I try not to ask too many questions. 

(Check back for more on these stories later)
One thing is for sure. Where you people are is always eventful.

Dear teenager who knows more than me about social media (= all of you),

Please help --

Thank you.

I still (now affectionately but previously for real) call Snapchat Snapfish. I downloaded this app this week. In an effort to better understand your life, of course. I subsequently deleted it. There are a few things that are better left a mystery.

Dear teenager neighbor friend who just got your driving permit,

I think you (along with every other teen) are helping me prepare for my future life as a teen mom. Correction, not a TEEN mom (thankfully, that can't happen, and let's not go there for you either..) but a mom of teens. You make me nervous that my kids are going to pop out as 15 year olds. I think that might happen.

Even though you are some of my most favorites, I still need you not to grow up too fast.

Dear teenager who has to live among drama in school and life I can't imagine,

Remember number two? I wish we could get rid of social media some days. Everyone wants to know why things are so hard for you all. Lots of reasons I'm sure. But yours is the first generation where nothing is secret anymore. Everything is documented before it barely leaves your mouth. Videos. Pictures. Texting. Tweets. It all sounds fun, but I know what's said can also hurt.

I would love to be a bug on a wall and see what goes on in high schools now. To most of us adults, especially those who prefer Snapfish over Snapchat, I'm sure we wouldn't last a day.

I know it's hard. Keep going.
I'm proud of you that you don't give up.

linking with five minute Friday on the prompt DEAR to get me back to writing again! 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The internet doesn't know

I laughed until I cried tonight with my friend whose birthday is today. We laughed when we shared stories about silly things we do. Which is a lot.

I told her I'm a bit of a library delinquent at the moment and I've had some books out for far, far too long. I love to write, maybe even more than talk (and I like to talk), but stories do better in real time.

I'm not sure if it's funny to you that I lost one of my books in my car. But we laughed for five minutes about it. "Your car is smaller than your apartment!" Truth.

So here's the thing. I took a stream of nonsense internet quizzes the other day and one of them was 'what is your special gift' or something and it completely proved how false those tests are (as if we didn't know) because it said I was good at retrieving lost items. It said my gift is never, ever losing anything. What?!

I told my friend that I keep going to the internet to answer questions and that is the current foolish game I am playing with myself. Foolish for all the reasons not to mention the internet is the worst. I know I'm an oxymoron because eventually this will be out there, too.

But really, I have been thinking the internet can somehow help me and if I can just find a search for that exact thing that keeps plaguing me, I can learn by reading. Because that's what I do. I read, I learn, I try not to keep making the same mistakes.

But for the love, there's nothing to find in those buzz word quizzes. I told my friend I need to just stop right there and go talk to God and ask Him the questions I keep having.

Yep. That's it. That's the one. The churchy, let's just answer Jesus for every answer but in this case it's actually true because I have searched the buzz word quizzes and the internet and there's nothing there, people. Nothing.

Because I value words and thoughts and meaning, even more so do I have to be careful about where I go for that meaning.

And when I find that I'm feeling less secure and trusting in Christ and His promises, the more I have to go back to every answer is yes in Jesus and let him fill up all my false places that I go to again and again.

Sounds easy enough...

I wander and He brings me back. I wander still and He brings me back again.

Again, sounds easy. But that process takes time. And it hurts because it's a process where I have to re-learn what I think I should know. But that's His mercy that we get to learn it again, and then my question changes because I see that and I just want to ask why are you so good to me still? 

And that's how He changes me. He pours out love even when I fall, he presses in when I press out. When I hurt, He stays. I am reminded how I run and that He gently calls me back. He knows how the story goes, that all those other things won't satisfy and his love is where I want to be after all.

linking with five minute friday

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Julie not Jacquay

"Umm..but my name isn't Jacquay," I told the flight attendant when I was leaving for my trip back to Raleigh from Chicago after attending the Storyline Conference. Apparently, after a weekend of learnings I had switched personas. No more Julie, now Jacquay?

That's what the ticket said. They printed the wrong one and I didn't notice it until I got inside the plane.

"You're fine," they told me. "Just use that ticket. Sit where you think you're supposed to sit."

Where is Jacquay then?

Apparently, they're not too concerned about true identities on airplanes.

I almost wanted to keep the whole Jacquay thing going for the rest of the trip but I didn't have a talkative person next to me and she didn't seem very false-identify/true-identity interested. I haven't thought much about it until...

I reopened my Storyline material today, I know lots of people have been writing about it all for some weeks now but I am a slacker. Out falls the airplane ticket and it makes it all worth it because I had forgotten about Jacquay. I think she ought to make a comeback.

What do you think?

I know false identities might not be in right now (or are they? I'm not actually hip). But, I think generally speaking, we'd all agree, being you is typically a good choice.

Still, it's a little more fun sometimes, right?

Pardon me for getting all deep (not sure if this is Julie or Jacquay talking here), but isn't that like us, as people, to consider it more fun to be someone we're not?

I mean, it doesn't always start out that way. Overtime we bend a little bit and a little bit more and before we know it we're 60 degrees in another direction and calling ourselves by another name.

Just in the process of writing this post I looked up the origin of the name Jacquay and had to look in three different locations and have to share with you my concern.

So. It looks to be a boy's name.

Maybe you already knew that but I didn't. I once knew a girl named Raquel and that seemed close.

See what happens when we veer off in a much different direction. It gets a little strange.

There's a lesson to be learned here, friends.

It's okay if you're not like everyone else. It's okay to be just you.

You don't have to be someone you're not.

That's not just a line.

There will always be an airline who will try and tell you you're someone you're not.

Take that United Airlines. You can give me a different name but I'll turn it back around. And now I'm curious if Jacquay had the same issue and was contemplating being Julie...

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Someday is a joke {Storyline Conference + book writings along the way}

This past weekend a lot of things happened.

I went to #StorylineConf which to the rest of the world is just Storyline Conference in Chicago but those of us who were there and on twitter it was basically Christmas as one of my new friends put it. That hashtag brought people together and it got a little nutty. I don't think I've been on twitter that much and for an actual useful event...ever. At one point I actually hunted down a guy (I didn't know) from International Justice Mission on twitter and told him to meet me by the balloons in the lobby, all creepy-like. I wasn't trying to be weird and I think he was used to it being tied to D.C. and cool but he informed me I have trouble with landmarks. I guess the balloons where near impossible to find. Lesson: I should not be a spy with secret meets after all.

In no particular order, here were some other highlights:

-meeting new friends including friends in real life a.k.a. Beth from Simply Beth. This was one of my most faves. She picked me up at the airport when I got to town, y'all. She'd never met me, only through blogging. Still, there she was to as the first face I saw when I got to Chicago. This older gentleman I sat next to on the airplane going up there -- who I kept referencing a lot over the weekend -- said that must say something about my life if I'm having an electronic, e-friend (what does that even mean?!) come pick me up, but actually I think it says more about her.

-oh, and no big deal, I didn't have to get one cab ride while I was in the city. Seems like a small thing but I was trusting God with this whole trip from the start. I didn't think I'd have finances or time off to go, but God kept providing. The weekend was so relaxing and I know that played a part.

-I got to ride a train for the first time in years! I like trains more than I do cars and I've missed them. 

I also get a thrill out of jumping on the train at the last possible second. I was in the hotel shuttle and the gps told me we would arrive the exact minute the train left and I think the words "can we try and hustle, we have one minute?!" came out of my mouth. No shame.

(this proves I got on the train)
-I got to see Chicago with my cousin. We had fun. She noticed I was all kinds of sentimental after that conference. She took me on a walk before we high tailed it back to the airport, this time by car. At one point, she was going to throw me on another train but that didn't work either. Are we seeing a theme?

I only wonder what my daily life would be like if I lived in a bigger city.

I didn't even tell you anything about the actual conference yet.

This is why I am writing a book about my everyday encounters with interesting people. It lights me up and gives me energy and I forget to tell you where the momentum behind it came from.

All the stories, all the wisdom. Donald Miller. Shauna Niequist. Scott Hamilton. Bob Goff. They left me on an inspiration high.

I've been writing my 'book' about people and encounters and experiences with strangers, the unplanned kind, for awhile now. It seems to happen daily, but I've just started incorporating it into story.

Problem is, I can write a book in my head for years. Eight years even. That's how long Don Miller says he might need to process something while someone like Bob Goff is out doing it after the first second. He doesn't wait.

I am not a waiter on everything, but I do let ideas sit and go stagnate. For what?

I may need more time to discover all that the conference was teaching me and that's okay. I know I need time to sit with ideas that are meaningful to me.

BUT, it's not okay that life keeps happening and I am letting moments pass by that I know I'm supposed to write down.

As I was leaving on the train, two guys from behind me tapped me on the shoulder and asked me where I was going. The luggage was a dead giveaway. One of them was obviously drinking and me from a few years ago would have just moved along. Who has time for a conversation that could just get weird? By the end of it, though, like every other time I've decided to engage with someone who is willing to talk, I'm happy I did. Turns out they sell insurance to mega churches and we got on the topic of spirituality and Jesus. Jesus and beer and a train makes for deep conversation somehow. And they asked about my writing because they wondered why I was in Chicago and nonchalantly I let them know they might be included in a book someday.

Someday is a joke. I repeat. Someday is a joke!

They tell me they are going to look for it in a year and set some kind of alarm or scheduled appointment on their phones.

I get nervous. I know I can't wait eight years now but a year is a very short time.

I need a little wiggle room, I plead with these strangers.
"What if I'm not done by then?"

What if you really look me up and I'm an epic fail is what I really mean.

It's in their phone. I gave them the predicted name of the book. If I keep this up I am going to have 87 disgruntled new friends, I think to myself.

"It's okay," Paul tells me (always learn their names, I realize after I talked with direction-guy tonight, or you will give them nicknames). "I'll just push it back a year. We'll look again."

Something changed in me at that moment. I told my friend later that all of a sudden it became 'our book'

Umm...that's too deep, she said. These are strangers...

I laughed. Yep. There I go again.

All kinds of sentimental.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Humor for the days we need it (and get on our own nerves) and this might be the end {finishing something}

So, I wrote a nice long post attempting to tie up this month and say a bunch of 'finishing' things and how it makes sense that I only wrote for maybe ten out of the 31 days because of all sorts of things going on, but really, my excuses are lame.

Instead of writing I do things like prepare for trips and go to my neighbor's house and I can't even think what I did the past couple days that kept me from writing.

Sometimes if you focus on a thing long enough you psych yourself out. I think some little kids do this with school and tests. I think that may have been why I stopped being a teacher, I couldn't take the pressure they put on themselves. Just kidding, but really, I can't stand all the testing.

All right, back to the point. Psyching yourself out. Telling yourself you've got to do this thing like writing for 31 days on finishing something and then you barely write anything and spread it out over the month so it looks like you wrote a lot (fooled you).

I am wearing a shirt right now in my house that says "don't hate cuz you aint." What does that tell you about how serious I am about finishing this series?!

I don't even take myself seriously when I wear this shirt.

I found it after it had been buried in the laundry for several months. But it's one of my favorite t-shirts. I think it would be a good conversation starter. Maybe something to spur a Halloween costume if I cared about Halloween costumes. I can never think of anything interesting -- it's a thing. My friend and I usually go in on a theme together, just because it's fun that way. One year we played each other as character's, I wore her clothes, she wore mine (no we are not in middle school). Apparently, I have no distinct dress because no one thought she was even dressing up. I on the other hand looked all Bohemian and such with my look.

Friends, it's really easy for me to sit here and talk about things like Halloween costumes and what else is going on in my head, but who knows if that is at all interesting to you. I had a lot of serious things I wanted to write about but I decided to skip it for the moment (I'll send you the cliff notes).

So much of my life is serious. Job is often serious. Relationships can make me serious. I realize that writing is a space I find where the first 30 minutes of what I write -- and maybe don't feel like publishing -- is oober serious. Then, once I scratch the surface, beyond that point lies some humor or fun I've been missing. I wonder if that's backwards from how it is for other people. Maybe because I'm used to the seriousness of life from work or whatever, it comes out more easily, and I have to wait a little, wait a little more, and yes. There it is. The humor. That's what I've been looking to find.

I like to see where there's possibility and I'm more prone to seeing the good because I've understood the hurt and the pain. Maybe that's backwards. But I am SURE there must be good just around the bend. There has to be. It's not Pollyanna living, but I want to see the hopeful elements of life. The fact that if things are hard or things are bright, there is hope.

Humor helps me do that. It helps me look at the realities of life which are pushing their way to the surface, and say, despite the fact that you didn't write much this month and life is hectic and you're leaving tomorrow and yep, this series is STILL unfinished, like most everything else, it's okay. That probably drives your readers nuts and also you sometimes, but that's what's real. There's just no way to make it sound better.

I get tired of trying to make things that just aren't sound better.

I visited with one of my close friends in North Carolina today who has had an illness this year and it's not through yet even though we believe it will be soon. We can't make it sound better than it is.

There are things that are unfinished that do sound better.

I get to go to a conference tomorrow in the Windy City and instead of sleeping or finishing packing now I am writing this to at least somewhat finish this series.

Things are always unfinished with my plans and what I 'think' is going to happen but this conference, a little bitty dream I had a few years ago that is coming true is a reminder that things have their own timetable and God always knows.

When life moves quickly, and I think 31 days will help me finish something once and for all, I'm probably kidding myself. The best I can do is lay out what I have to give and receive what others have to offer. To remember this journey is a good one and perhaps the gifts God gave us, the ones I so often take for granted are the best things going right now. My friends who never give up on me, somehow. Family who does the same. Great coworkers and a job full of kids to care about. Laughter and funny shirts and skits about Halloween (this is too wonderful; you are welcome).

I might get on my own nerves just a little but perhaps God writes my story in an unfinished way because He knows if things were entirely neat and finished and sorted, I wouldn't have reason to trust Him.

I DO need to keep writing and this month has gotten me more in gear for that, praise the Lord.

But these other things, they take time. See you next year? :)

Check out all -- I know there's so many -- posts from this year over here.
Thanks for the love, friends. You're the best.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sweet October {finishing something}

My favorite October was the one when I lived in Switzerland student teaching in the months before I graduated college with some girls who would become treasured friends and a Peruvian apartment that made us feel grown up and partially confused about Swiss life. We were Americans in a Swiss German village in an apartment with South American d├ęcor.

It was no surprise we messed up the serious order imposed by our Swiss neighbors on laundry schedules and lost a few Tupperware items during our stay, which did not make us good tenants, although we cleaned that place better than any place I've lived in since.

Switzerland is no joke when it comes to the word clean. The streets are clean. The trains are clean. I bet even the dogs who ate at the restaurants were clean.

I miss that October. I think about it every now and again, for a lot of reasons. I wonder if I would have the closeness with friends from that trip if not for, well, the closeness you have when you live with a friend overseas. Three months even in the most beautiful country in the world can seem like an eternity if you don't get along with the people you're with, because they are're.with.ever. It's probably the closest thing to being married. I wouldn't know because I'm not married, but when we came away from the trip we laughed about the closeness of it all. That's really the only right word for it. 

one of my swiss friends, mandy, when our other friend abby got married

If this has ever happened to you, you know that in the moment-by-moments, the people you are with are the only people you can rely on, when say you get locked IN a school at nighttime (that happened to me, yes) or you get lost, or take turns keeping your eyes open so you don't miss your stop and end up in another town -- or worse -- country. Or when you miss a flight and do end up in another country. And of course there's that thing about not knowing any of the languages. Maybe when you went overseas you were smart and learned a language. 

I blame the fact that we went to a country with four languages.

Then there's different food and different everything even if it is only Europe. Because you're 21 or 22 years old and you've never been anywhere.

All of us and all of life is a blend of this unique diversity.

That trip was the beginning of the end for me because from then on I've always been pulled toward different cultures and people. Maybe not only because of that trip, but it started the fire.

In my little third grade class, there was something like 18 different cultures and peoples represented.

It's funny, because almost all my jobs since have given me an up-close glimpse into different cultures, where I almost feel a part, and where I am the minority.

It's hard for me to move on from an intense time with people I've come to love. We are each a blend of the collection of people who have shown us what it is to live a full life, to remember our way is not the only way. It's helpful every once in awhile to pay tribute to them.

When I get to the end of a season, when another 'October' gets ready to make its passage, I wonder if there's a way to avoid putting a period there. I hate moving on from things I fear I will soon forget.

There are so many details I can't recall from Octobers long ago. But they are still there.

Just like that Peruvian apartment, there are things we own for awhile, but they are not ours to keep for good.

October always helps me remember there are seasons to hold on and times to let go, that we don't have to fear the dreaded period and it's okay to say something is finished 'for now' and maybe that's good enough for today.

What's been one of your most favorite adventures? Why was it so special?

Messes and dares {Finishing Something}

"It's a really old city...stuck between the dead and the living."

"You said, remember that life is not meant to be wasted."

Sometimes I feel stuck between the dead and the living. My creative soul all dried up.

That song by Sara Bareilles always moves me for some reason.

"my earth is somebody's ceiling"

I am made alive, today, for a purpose?

Today with it's strange uncertainty?

We don't get a do-over with how we choose to live.

You'd think I would be able to be more daring knowing this, but instead I often pull back.

You'd think I'd be a hope-seeker all the times, but there are plenty of moments my world shrinks and I can only see what lies right in front of me.

You'd think I'd choose the loving stance even if it wasn't easy or didn't go well for me.

I come up short, though.

I'm glad life isn't a paint-by-number drawing, because by my count, I'm way off on number 25 of 31 so far.

I choose to count what I have and recognize what I am doing here, rather than play a numbers game.

It doesn't mean I don't need to keep going. I just told a friend tonight that my writing feels 'stale' right now, but that's a perfect time for a challenge, isn't it?

And by perfect, I mean, remember this, a lovely reminder by Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird:

"Your day's work might turn out to have been a mess. So what?..

"Messes are the artist's true friend. What people (inadvertently, I'm sure) forgot to
mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here -- and by extension, what we're supposed to be writing."

linking for five minute friday and 31 (minus several) days.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The art in waiting {finishing something}

Today there was a beautiful sunset on my drive home.

(This is not the same sunset. I added it for visual effect. I didn't take a picture of today's sunset. See below.

I barely saw it though.

Looking back, the sky was lit up with color everywhere, pink hues and clouds that looked like colored pencil drawings.

It was easy to miss.

The act of seeing requires work.

My mind drifted in and out of thoughts from the flutter of activities during the day- to -do I have time to stop at the mall' -to- the mall is my least favorite place of all- to -I wonder if I should just eat leftovers for dinner- to- why does it get dark so early- to- I keep forgetting to buy baby gifts for every single friend who has had a baby this month!

It's no wonder all my creativity feels a bit stale at the moment, even though I decide to pour out what little I have for this 31 -- I mean 21 -- I mean possibly 11 days project.

The sunset comes back to me now and I remember its brightness.

I remember the goal here is NOT what I think it is.

Not the end of the month

finishing a book

making sense of a complicated relationship

reaching some milestone with my blog.

No? I thought these sounded good. Maybe they are in some ways. Maybe we all desire a longing for completing something.

Emily Freeman reminds us that there is a deeper work happening here.

What if the art, what if our hope comes out in the waiting? What if that's when we learn to trust? Learn to shed our skin a little, to accept the things that need to change, crack the surface, and surrender to ourselves, the ways we want to solve and fix and complete.

What if we can't manufacture art, in or around ourselves, anymore than we can manufacture our own safe places?

Emily says that when what we long for is completion, mostly we are looking for a "tangible work you can hold and point to.

"Your souvenir may be a relationship, an education, an investment, a charitable cause," she says.

"As you stare at the stone of the hoped-for souvenir, remember the deeper work happening within you, where your life is hidden with Christ in God."

All these things happen in hidden, mysterious places, but I put limits on God when I believe I can do it better than Him, faster than Him.

Friends, where are you in waiting now?
Where does life look a lot like trying...or striving for completion?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The enemy of done? {Finishing Something}

"You don't know what the story is about when you're in the middle of it. You think you do, but you don't. You make up all kinds of possible story lines: this is about growing up. Or this is about living without fear. You can guess all you want, but you don't know. All you can do is keep walking." -Shauna Niequist {because every 31 days must have at least one quote from her, of course}


"I want to see the finished product. Right now I'm in the middle and it's a mess." -my friend working on a home improvement project. This may be somewhat paraphrased but I have dibs on her words because she knows I quote all the wise things she says.

So, I didn't realize my series on 'finishing something' would turn out to be more about finishing this series than anything else. I keep showing up MIA so finishing this is becoming a feat! Who knew writing for 31 days would be so hard. I guess I'm not surprised, since Octobers seem to be a flux month for me, but every year without fail I think a daily writing challenge will be easy breezy. This year, I'm okay with the fact that a daily writing challenge is not easy breezy.

Thank you, friends, who stand by me in the beautiful mess that is writing and life.


I am becoming a big proponent on clapping for things that get done even in the midst of things that don't get done.
-I am excited that I am starting to do Morning Pages, even if it's actually more 'Night' Pages for me.
If you are a writer or a creative (we all are somehow!), do you have a way to get the juices flowing? This is a process I used to do a lot more in the past and need to remind myself is important to make space for nowadays, too.
-I've been creating writing/blog goals, concrete ways to move forward, because if you aren't moving you are just standing still and will probably get run over by a train (that was me attempting to say one of my favorite quotes off the top of my head, but I messed it up -- here is the real quote).
-I have momentum again for the book patiently waiting to become a book, 87 Coffees, where I interview lots of different folk. I get excited when I interview people, because this continues to be the slowest process known to man. Even though I meet interesting people every day and even though the book has been trying to write itself for a long time.
Brene Brown says it well when she says, "perfection is the enemy of done."
Your turn: Where can you spot good things that are moving you forward right now?

Monday, October 13, 2014

For those who grieve {Finishing Something}

"Life seems to be a story of holding on and letting go, learning which is which and when." -To Write Love on Her Arms

i heard this song
performed by christa wells 
at the barn
and every so often
i play it
and then play it again

because it's so true to life isn't it?

it doesn't matter your job
or your personality
or the strength of your faith
things break
for you
for others
and there are times you lose words
because maybe something is burning

and it should be easy
to pray and
'lay down our plans'
to fix it
but it's not

how do you sit in the burn?

friends, who grieve

"what can i bring to your fire?"

i listen to those words on repeat
it haunts me

i know it's me too
the times the flames have grown
and i've needed someone to
"brave the heat and come close now"

so where do you go
when it breaks?

when even best words start to fail
and you can't hear anyone speak to you

they can't get in
through the door


He's not afraid
He can get in to

"come close now"

{maybe this has nothing to do with finishing something
or maybe it has everything to do with it..}

Check in here for what's going on with the rest of the series.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The welcome home {Finishing Something}

Life is one adventure after another. Tonight was a fun day of golfing -- yes, golfing! Somehow I have never actually hit a golf ball other than putt-putt so this was exciting. It was pretty low key though. We took pictures while we golfed.


 I mean, we took it very seriously.
Speaking of serious, these fruits, called Rambutans, are no joke. They look like bugs to me and taste kind of slimy inside. A customer at whole foods called me brave just for trying those suckers, so that was exciting, but I ended up keeping a couple around my house for show for a few days before I tried them again (still not very good) and wishing it was Halloween already because they were spooky.
 What else is going on? Well, God, being God, keeps speaking to me through different mediums and for awhile now He's put this song on my mind to remind me of grace.

The wonderful Brennan Manning, who wrote Ragamuffin Gospel, one of my favorites, reminded me tonight that we -- ragamuffins -- are never far from grace and "a light in the window"  with "a "welcome home" sign on the door."

I can do well to remember that. That I need the welcome sign.

"It's not the long walk home that will change this heart
But the welcome I receive with every start" - Mumford and Sons

I don't know what this series, this story about finishing, will become. It feels like my stories become more about beginnings than endings. And what I seem to learn along the way is that He is the real author, as much as I want to be. 

Manning says that Jesus "chose to enter your broken world and limp through life with you."

Wouldn't that be like God, as I limp along, to show up each time, with each start, and remind me He's there with me?

I can't do everything. You can't do everything. We are broken people. It does me well to remember I need him, every single day, in writing and in life, when I think I can figure it all out, or can bring everything to the table.

I can bring him all my hopes and desires, all my pride, my flaws and my sin, my distress and the places I hurt, and all the places I limp.

You'd think it would be the long walk home that would change this heart. But maybe it's the welcome I receive with every start.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Simple words {Finishing Something}

A simple word for me, perhaps for you.
 Or maybe only I am lacking motivation at the moment?
Don't forget to write through the rut and the heartbreak.
And when you want to leave it alone for another day, when you think your words have come up dry, there is something there just beyond the muck.
It may not be fun all the time, but it's there.
Write even though your laundry needs done.
Your family will love you for that.
(So will your washing machine. Tonight I accidently went through a wash cycle with nothing in it, it was a good time).
Write even though your kids may be calling you and you have to crawl into a closet to get it done.
On days when you don't write and all you think about is how you can get writing done (irony, anyone?), sigh and remember tomorrow's coming. Celebrate whatever little discoveries you found today and pack them away for tomorrow.
You can always pick up where you left off tomorrow. You don't have to wait for tomorrow's tomorrow.

Pretty sure that translates to big, bad writing procrastinator, amidst this stellar series on finishing.

Does anyone share this pain?

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
his mercies never come to an end
they are new every morning
great is your faithfulness
lamentations 3:22-23

P.S. This post had the word TOMORROW in it five times.
You are welcome for being highly motivational.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The first and the last {finishing something}

I wrote a lot of things down in a brand new journal at the barn when I went a couple weekends ago, for a day to breathe the crisp air of fall and to hear rhythms of quiet and to remember that writing is good even when it feels redundant and let's be honest, sometimes meaningless.

But it's not. 

What you love, where you feel called, where you can't sleep unless you share your voice or your creativity or your whatever, these places are sacred and they are valuable.

These places make us come alive.

We can always start again. Even if you've had a thousand false starts and so many rough drafts your garbage can is full.

Begin today.

This 31 days series is on finishing. But I always, always must remember the journey, our lives and our faith is one of second chances, and third and fourth chances.

Goals and visions and clear production are important,

but this quote by Frederick Buechner helps me remember the point.

May our lives be fully lived wherever we are, whether we see today and our work as the beginning or the end.

It is the first day because it has never
been before and the last day because it
will never be again.
Be alive if you can all through this day.
~Frederick Buechner

Saturday, October 4, 2014

I'd rather be yard saling

It's 31 days and I missed a day already. 

But busy days and unusual situations provide writing material and so, I have to keep the big picture in mind. 


My friend is calm, even in the face of boxes and bins and baby clothes everywhere. I even remember some of the clothes because she's one of my longest friends and I've watched her three grow.

Sentimental but ever trying to be practical, I ask if I can take a "small box" to store so my own kids can wear the clothes someday. I'm (half) joking, I tell her. That's almost as silly as holding children's books, like I've been doing since college (that's called being an education major).

I become my best self in moments with friends. I (mostly) forget about all the things. 31 days. The need to finish what I start. That I want this season to make sense and perhaps skip over it.

Instead, while I put up yard sale signs in the dark, I take a video to remind me of all that is right on the world (of course I do), like laughter and blending in with the trees as the cars drive by. 

Even though my friend says I am forever her "optimist Julie," it still becomes far too easy at times to lean into where we've all gone wrong. Sometimes you need moments of playing auntie. Reminders that little ones will jump off the couch and free fall into your arms without a second thought that you'll catch them. 

They will risk and maybe they don't know that sometimes that means they will get hurt like the rest of a us do.

I try my best to catch the babies every time but sometimes they are too quick. 

Their excitement overrules any pain they feel because they know bedtime stories are next and for the night I sneak into the world of princesses and far away lands and pigs who eat pancakes and llamas with mamas.

Check back here for all of the posts of the series with a goal of finishing's always an adventure in these parts.

P.S. My friend just asked me what I'm writing about this month.

I replied: "Finishing something. Anything..."

Including and especially 31 days.

Note to self: let's work on that

Thursday, October 2, 2014

"I don't even really work here" {Finishing something}

I might work with kids in my 9-5, but writing is my job, too.

Most days, I don't struggle with calling myself a writer, because I know that it's a love and a calling, but at times I do struggle with getting words on the page. I am sure there's lots of reasons for this oxymoron.

Writing is an essential ingredient for a writer.

Don't listen to Kramer's boss.

I do work here.

You do work here.

Whether writing is your day job, or the kind you have to squeeze into the in-between, it's meaningful.

I like to ask kids what they think they are good at; there are times they tell me writing. Sometimes they tell me talking.

You're onto something, I say.

Write on, little people. Talk on, young friends.

If you're a writer, who inspired you? How old were you?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

31 days of finishing something

Welcome to 31 Days.

31 days of finishing something
 "I don't even really work here"
I'd rather be yard saling 
The first and the last
Simple Words
The Welcome Home
For those who grieve
The enemy of done?
The art in waiting
Messes and dares
Sweet October
Humor for the days we need it

I feel much more refreshed now. True story, I took a nap this afternoon after work.
If I'm going to be writing for 31 days (did I forget that I said no more after last year?!), first things first.
After some help from new friends at the barn this weekend (more on this later), I decided that I would write for 31 days on one condition. If the topic was 'finishing something.'
Here we are. True to my word. Sorry no buttons, no frills. Not this year.
I am going to write and write and write and share some of that in what could be a live experiment in discipline and finishing something in action. You might see me fail. I'm just warning you. BUT, no one can say I didn't warn you.

Still, I created this master plan three days ago, so there's a lot of potential here.
 Plus, Pinterest told me I could do it and it could be anything I want. So there's that.

My hope is that these quotes and photos will motivate your journey as well.
Pinterest also showed me this photo next; take with it what you will.
Focusing is key. So here's the one takeaway from today:
Less talking
more doing

Don't forget it's not too late to join in the *fun. If you're writing, share your site below so I can follow along!

*fun is a subjective idea