Laugh or Cry—Just Live Your Crazy, Quirky Life

me and mike

“Just be. Do you know how to just be?” my mother asked as I jetted out the door.

“I’ll try,” I said, waving goodbye to my kids.

Truth is I’m not so good at “being.” I’m a doer who loves to keep moving. Perhaps you are too.

When busyness beats heavy on our lives, sometimes we need to push away and find a quiet place. For me that happened a couple weeks ago at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.

I even took the time to watch the Chewbacca Mom’s video. (I practically live under a rock, so you know that the entire internet saw this video.)

When I saw Candace Payne laughing hysterically, I didn’t need for the successful authors to explain personal branding to me. Candace’s video brought it all home. Just be yourself, your crazy, quirky self.

Just be.

For me, this means I need to lay aside people-pleasing.

Last week at church, I heard Matt Chandler preach this thought-provoking sermon, where he said all our idols stem from four basic sources:

  1. Comfort
  2. Control
  3. Approval
  4. Power

While I might struggle with all four, the approval idol holds a stranglehold on my life. It keeps me measuring up to other people’s standards. It ruins authenticity and shatters confidence.

Here’s the thing about idols. The devil doesn’t want us to see the ways our hearts crave and praise other things. He loves busyness because it masks our idolatry.

Those five days I spent at the writer’s conference gave me time to pause and listen to the silent driver behind so many of my decisions. So much of my fear is rooted in the idol of approval.

Finding some breathing room in the midst of life’s chaos also means we can reconnect with the One who conquered sin—the stunning One that heals and cleanses us of idolatry.

At the conference—besides running smack dab into my disease to please—I cried a lot. I even broke down crying in front of several well-known authors.

I cried tears of joy at the realization I’m not the only struggling writer. I broke down in frustration. I wept as I laid down the writing/approval idol.

I even teared up during pitches to agents and publishers, too. You know what? I don’t even care if everyone remembers me as “that weepy girl.”

It was real. Turns out just being requires honesty. Maybe Candace Payne has raucous laughter, and I have buckets of tears?

God wants to set us free moment by moment as we live and breathe in His presence.

What are some ways you can slow down and create some breathing room in your life?

Living with Fear? Break UP with Fear for Good

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Fear began stalking me a couple of years ago. I admit, I let it follow me at a distance for years.

But then I made one of the biggest mistake of my life.

I allowed Fear to move in, along with all its baggage. Once inside, Fear drudged up daily anxiety. Before I knew it, panic plagued my sleep. I even started grinding my teeth, breaking several in the process.

Fear took over my life, steered my every decision, and wringed joy clear out of my life. Fear held me hostage from writing for so many years.

Can I just confess something to you? I have MAJOR social media anxiety. My face flushes and my pulse rises before I hit “publish” on this blog, Facebook, and even Twitter for goodness sakes.

I’m afraid of snarky comments from Internet bullies. I’m scared of people laughing at me, or worse, thinking I love the limelight.

See the fear I’m up against?

For years, I’ve lived in a Fear-spun prison, but that ends today. This week, my writer friend Heather Creekmore challenged me to blog once a week “no matter what”—and to post to social media.

I’ve taken her up on the challenge, and I’ve learned a two huge things about Fear.

#1 If we want to break up with fear, we must defeat unbelief.

If you look closely, you’ll see that Fear’s ugly underbelly is unbelief.

We evict Fear from our lives the same way we kick an abusive boyfriend to the curb. And I’m not talking about getting a baseball bat—but calling in the authorities.

For years, I tried to rid myself of Fear, but it always came back. This time, though, I’ve taken my unbelief to God—the ultimate authority—and asked Him to help me kick Fear where it hurts.

I asked for faith—raw belief—the unshakable kind I can’t stir up on my own. All I can say is, it’s working.

#2 Fear looks scarier than it is.

Remember Scooby Doo? As a kid I lived for the big villain reveal at the end. Once Wilma or one of the others took off the villain’s mask, we saw the truth. Beneath the costume, a person appeared.

This reminds me of Fear. Fear wears a disguise, always duping us into believing the worst case scenario. Click To Tweet

But something wonderful happens when we muster the courage to face it. When we look under Fear’s mask, we will probably laugh at ourselves for being so afraid.

ScoobyDoo

Instead of a big, hairy monster, we see an ordinary problem that God’s already given us the grace to handle.

Do you need to sever your relationship with Fear? With God’s help you can put an end to that toxic relationship.

Will you join me the challenge to kick fear in the face? Leave a comment below about a fear you’re up against, and I would love to pray for you this week.

I’m looking forward to our discussions here every week.

So You Want to Be a Writer?

Photo by John O'Nolan via Creative Commons

Photo by John O’Nolan via Creative Commons

The dreaded rewrite has always struck me as one of those dirty little secrets no one tells you about when you begin a career.

Take for instance the kids who dream of working at the zoo. They romanticize about working with animals, but nobody tells them how often they’ll need to sidestep manure (or the size of elephant dung).

Every job has an unglamorous side. Fire fighters battle fires, and celebrities contend with the paparazzi. And writers fear the rewrite.

I don’t know a writer who doesn’t cringe at the thought of reworking a chapter. If you think editors relish asking for a rewrite, think again.

No editor wants to break out that red pen a second (or tenth) time.

As a writer myself, let me go on record saying I hate rewriting. It stinks compared to the thrill of the first draft—the euphoria of plotting a story or giving birth to an idea to the page.

We all adore the beginning stage of a writing project. I like to call this “the Disney phase” because it reminds me of Disneyland—effervescent happiness tied together with iridescent rainbows.

But rewriting, on the other hand, reminds me of building Disneyland—not vacationing there. It feels like we’ve joined a sweaty construction crew and been asked to drive dozers through the dirt and hoist steel beams into place.

Not to mention working with an editor can resemble communicating a thousand details over walkie talkies.

But if we embrace the editing process, we’ll see a theme park slowly rise out of the dust. Like building a park full of rollercoasters, rewriting requires time, patience, and work.

Photo by Ritesh Nayak via Creative Commons

Photo by Ritesh Nayak via Creative Commons

Rewriting distinguishes the good writers from the great writers.

I’ve never met a manuscript that didn’t need tweaking. Even Pulitzer Prize winners need editors.

But what do we do when rewriting means starting from scratch? When (not if) this happens, take five minutes for a little trash-can basketball. Then restart.

So stop fearing the rewrite—instead, embrace it.   Tell yourself the truth—it needs the strength and clarity that come through rewriting.

Don’t quit when your editor mouths the fearful word, rewrite. Instead get to work. Drag in some better verbs. Take the wrecking ball to awkward sentence structure. Level flailing chapters and build a stronger story.

 

**Author’s Note: This post first appeared on Authenticity Book House’s blog. Read the blog, here.

How to Trade Work for Rest without Quitting Your Job

Photo by Christine Wagner, Creative Commons, Flickr.

Photo by Christine Wagner, Creative Commons, Flickr.

As a child reading Aesop’s Fable, The Tortoise and the Hare, I always cheered for the Hare.

Slow and steady has never been my thing. I like pedal to metal. I’m a multitasking maven. Just keep the coffee brewing.

I never really saw a problem with the Hare’s approach to life until a few months ago when I started to write a book—and failed.

I decided I would crank out 1,000 or more words a day, and I did for several weeks. But this isn’t the type of book you can write quickly, especially for someone like me, who’s never written a book.

Now I see the hare’s problem—all the running made him so exhausted he decided to take a nap before crossing the finish line. I totally get it.

I know how exhaustion can lull a person to sleep even when they’re awake, leaving them sleepwalking through the motions of life—the motions of parenting and marriage.

parkpic

Last week the class I tutor at our homeschool co-op was assigned to narrate an Aesop Fable. When not one but two students chose to retell the classic parable and laud the tortoise for his leisure, I took it as a sign from God.

Maybe this book won’t unfold lickety-split. Maybe I need to slow down and seek rest.

So I have. I know if I’m going to finish this book, God will breathe it into my heart and provide the time to plant my bottom in the chair.

I’m done with trying to write it at a hare’s pace in my own strength, where my goals and good intentions can morph into the ugly two-headed monster of striving and selfish ambition.

I know one thing about trading my way for God’s way. When I do give up, it’s like a cheeky child turns back the hour hand on the clock.

I’ve found surrendering my time to God, multiplies my time.

Joy and peace flood our home—and overflow into my work. All of a sudden this writing life transforms from striving to the glorious exhale of rest.

The more I step and sway with the Spirit—learning His Divine rhythm and pace, the more I learn how to work from a posture of rest.

And this, my friends, changes everything.

Instead of the finish line consuming my thoughts, chewing up the in-between moments, I approach each task fully present. Laughter and concentration come easily, and so do a few jokes.

I think the tortoise knew all along he would cross the finish line—he never doubted it.

I, too, know this book will come, and I’m ok plodding through it slow and steady.

When Envy Distorts Your View of Yourself and Others

Photo via Creative Commons.

Photo via Creative Commons.

I’ve never been the jealous type.

If you buy a new house, I won’t covet your hardwood floors. I’m thrilled for you if you own a stunning wardrobe.

It might be hard to believe, but I’m happy to see your vacation photos. Sure I wish you would have taken me, (I AM human) but I love to see God bless people.

Maybe I thought I was impervious to jealousy. I was wrong.

Five months ago when I started this blog, I went on a blog subscription frenzy. I thought I would learn from the best in Christian publishing.

The jealousy started almost as fast as my inbox flooded with polished prose.

I soaked up every word. These writers had turned blogging into an art form.

But instead of rejoicing with my fellow wordsmiths, my heart took an ugly turn. I could only see how my words lacked the poetic ring of Ann Voskamp’s writing.

Would my words ever inspire like Mary DeMuth’s or encourage like Holley Gerth’s? Could my posts challenge the way Jennifer Dukes Lee’s do or bring as many laughs as Annie Downs?

And why can’t I seem to narrow my focus into one resounding theme like the way Crystal Stine hangs her entire blog around the word community?

By opening up the door of comparison, I allowed envy to walk in and strangle my joy. All of a sudden my blog posts weren’t witty enough, punchy or deep enough. I could only see my lack.

I coveted their books, too. As I elevated these writers, I forgot they were normal people, like you or me.

Maybe that’s the dangerous side of jealousy. It doesn’t only steal happiness, but it blinds us to our own blessings and causes us to see a distorted world—a world where our gifts never seem like enough.

Jealousy and competition mar our view of Christ’s body. Falling prey to envy prohibits us from fully functioning where God has placed us.

Whether you’re a writer or not, God’s gifted you with your experiences, personality and vantage point to create the depth and timbre of your voice.

Whether you write, speak or sit on a pew, your voice matters.

Photo Via Creative Commons.

Photo Via Creative Commons.

I remember the day God asked me to pray a blessing over one of these bloggers, to pray an increase over their lives and ministry. He asked me to pray what I ached for.

When I balked, I saw the green-eyed monster. But the second I obeyed, God began to change my heart.

I began to see how each author’s message was so often born from a mess. I saw how God likes to use the wounded to write healing words and how books sometimes come only after years of cross carrying.

I see a community of writers to whom God has given talent, each with a different voice, each with a different message. What a lovely thing to behold.

And I’m excited to take a seat among them. Today as I write this my heart sings Mary’s ancient words.

“‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled’” (Luke 1:38 NIV).

In the end this writing life is about serving. “Platform” building is only another opportunity to bow down and wash some feet.

Book photo credit

Book/vase photo credit