good enough

 

Last year.

Last year, we settled into our first home, bought after many, many years of trying to fix the past. Out of the woods and into the sunshine.

Last year, I said goodbye to a regular paycheck, venturing out on my own. Learning trust again. Finding unexpected blessings.

Last year, we finally gave a kid his Christmas wish of eight years: a dog. He earned the money and we said yes.

Last year, we renewed and strengthened some friendships and said yes as often as possible to being with them. Our home. Your home. Church.

This year…

I’m excited to start a new year and am setting out to reach some long time goals. Thankful for the people beside me who are doing the same.

Dropping some weights along the way, and some of this post shared here is exactly what I needed to start this January 1.

Perfectionism is a torment. And I don’t know if you’re battling it too, but it wreaks havoc in my personal and creative life.

Never good enough. For all sorts of messy reasons.

Perfectionism is a thief of joy. Joy, my one word for 2016. I love one word. Invite was my word for 2015 and it did wonders. Opened doors.

Time to step through them.

Going to put more of me out there this year. Going to take walks. Going to publish things I’ve written – online or otherwise. Going to believe in good enough.

Starting here.

“Sometimes you have to accept that you’ll never be acceptable enough for some people. And whether you accept that as their issue or yours — is up to you.” -Ann Voskamp

beginning again and again

“In dishwashing, I approach the moral realm; there are days when it seems a miracle to be able to make dirty things clean.” — Kathleen Norris

This is the third of three posts on books that have inspired me in this season of my life. Grab your coffee, read the post, and then go check out one of Kathleen Norris’s books. (There are two authors named Kathleen Norris — this one is an essayist and poet.) 

* * * * *

Writers on writing and the writer’s all life seem to eventually get around to the mundane aspects of keeping house.

I think because it’s the housekeeping that gets most in the way of writing . . .

but I bet Kathleen Norris came up with these great lines when she was doing the chores:

“In dishwashing, I approach the moral realm;
there are days when it seems a miracle to be able to make dirty things clean.”

“Both housework and poetry require that I pull disparate things together,
sort through the odd pieces of my life,
and try to make a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Deep words for a Monday morning. And it’s about to get deeper . . .

Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life

person of faith

Sometimes, you read a book at exactly the right time and it makes a pierce-the-soul sort of impression on you. Whatever is in the writing of the story, somehow you feel like it’s yours, too.

That’s how I feel about writers like Madeleine L’Engle and Kathleen Norris.  They blend the writer’s life with family, housework, grief, faith, prayer and work.

Kathleen Norris is a Presbyterian who spent some time reviving from a particularly dry, discouraging season in a monastery. She describes the liturgy, prayers, and quiet in ways that express the healing combination of prayer and scripture reading and living in community.

Acedia & Me is where I started this Live the Season series for Write 31 Days. In this book, she dives further into the reasons for the seasons of discouragement and what met her there and pulled her out.

She talks about walking away from the Church and from her faith in God for a season, only to hear Him inviting her back through the kindness and love of a small-town, hymn-singing Protestant church and a bunch of monks:

However true and even beautiful this turning of times and seasons may be,

I tend to resist it as a necessary aspect of the spiritual life. Monastic writers

have always emphasized that maintaining a life of prayer means being willing

to start over, after one has acted in a sinful or destructive way. Both pride and

acedia will assert themselves, and it may appear that we are so far gone we may

as well give up and not embarrass ourselves further by pretending to be

anything but failures. It seems foolish to believe that the door is still open, that

there is always another chance. I may accept this intellectually, but I have come to

appreciate its depths only through experience. Just when I seem to have my life

in balance and imagine I can remain in this happy state forever, I lose sight of

the value of contemplation and prayer, and try to live without it. Soon enough,

once again, I am picking myself up out of the ashes.

–Kathleen Norris, Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life

This is so true and yet I wish it wasn’t. Strange that it’s so difficult to pray when things are going well. And then the crash comes and we realize what we are missing and we pray until things are in balance again and then we try life on our own again. It’s a cycle, like the seasons.

Also . . . don’t you wish you could go live at a monastery for a few months? Or at least every Monday . . .

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As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.  Psalm 103:13-14

don’t give up your day job

All the work I am called to do lends itself to the art of writing if I listen and let it.

I just realized there are probably a zillion posts and articles on the internet with that title. Normally, I would check to see and tell you just how many. But it doesn’t really matter because you are reading this one for some reason, and I don’t want to waste your time with facts . . .

This is the second in my series (a book for all seasons) within a series (Live the Season) which is not in any way a blog “inception” because that’s not really what that word means. Unless by “inception” you do not mean “dream within a dream” but rather “the beginning.” (And now I need to go back and watch that movie again to see if the person/people who gave it that title were actually far more brilliant than the ingenious plot . . .)

Anyway . . .

This post is about a book that has been especially inspiring for this season of my life.

Actually, maybe it IS after all an “inception” because it sparked my desire to read all sorts of autobiographies/memoirs about writing by people who write. Which I will write about later . . .

The book is Quitter by Jon Acuff and you can read all about it on Amazon.

But what it did for me was to remind me that:

A. I am my own patron of the arts.

I have no Medici family to fund my dreams. Many great artists of the Renaissance had to paint portraits of spoiled duchesses in order to have the means to paint the images in their souls. None of that analogy is in Quitter and I am no Botticelli . . . it’s just the thought that has worked for me when I begin to dream of doing nothing with my days but writing whatever and whenever I feel like it.

B. No one has time and yet everyone has time.

You have the perfect amount of time each day for the things that matter most. The key is spending time on those things. Few would boldly declare, “Today, watching television for two hours was one of the most important things I need to get done.” Yet that’s where we sometimes spend entire evenings.

The operative word in the phrase “enough time” is not time. It’s enough. And the truth you should accept is that you will probably never have “enough time to pursue your dream. But every day somebody somewhere is making magic with the less-than-enough time he has. So can you, if you stop focusing on the amount of time you have and start focusing on the amount of tasks that really matter. — Jon Acuff, Quitter

And so, instead of wallowing in the fact that I had to use all my creativity on writing for others for pay, I just went ahead and started writing the books in my heart.

Which led to blogging, because writing books was taking too long and the internet was where I went a decade ago to find help when I needed it most. I figured there were people out there like me looking for help, too. I  tested out how much I could say about addiction and recovery and life without shrinking back in fear and to put our story together in words and see if it was a story worth telling to more than a roomful of people who knew us.

I also blogged to re-find my voice — because when you are a copywriter, you write in the voices of others, for them, for their purposes and goals.

C. Embrace your day job and learn through it.

Not just copywriting, but mothering and being a wife. All the work I am called to do lends itself to the art of writing if I listen and let it.

The goal of this book is to get you to do what you love, with the life you already have. — Jon Acuff, Quitter

There’s much more, but it’s Saturday and I have a messy room to clean, a grocery list to make and a family to pay attention to. I’ve written more than enough for today. See? Learning.

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a book for all seasons and an invitation to share

I really want to squeeze in a little chat about books. And I’m hoping you’ll join me!

It’s the weekend! Date with husband, coat shopping with child, football game, two soccer games, a birthday party to go to, a baby shower for a friend, church . . . so much to do!

But I really want to squeeze in a little chat about books. And I’m hoping you’ll join me!

I’m going to write a little post each day this weekend about a book that is really helping me live this season of my life more fully — all of them deeply influential for me right now.

And I would love to hear from you about books that are helping you Live the Season you are in, too.

You’re invited to join in the comments below with:

  • the name of the book and author
  • what season you’re living
  • what you love about the book/why you’d recommend it

*** Bloggers: If you are joining me by writing about your Live the Season book or books on your own blog, be sure to put a link to your post in the comments with a few sentences of preview. I can’t wait to read your posts! And if you don’t mind mentioning my post with a link, that would be nice, too.

I’m starting with an immensely practical book. The sort with lists and stuff like that.

Saturday, I’ll write about a book that inspires me in my work.

And Sunday, I’ll focus on a more spiritual book.

So here goes:

an immensely practical book that is saving my sanity at home:

The House that Cleans Itself by Mindy Starns Clark

I am super envious of people who are both creative and organized.

I have tried every housecleaning system under the sun and have come to the conclusion that the art of housekeeping is definitely personality driven.

And those of us without a sincere love of order, who could care less about piles as long as they’re hidden, who ALWAYS have to shut AT LEAST one door when there are visitors have a considerable amount of trouble learning good housekeeping skills from people who are naturally offended by mess . . . at least I do.

I want a house clean enough that I’m not embarrassed, but lax enough that my family feels comfortable. Also, I hate daily maintenance. So The House that Cleans Itself — which was given to me for Christmas by my mother a few years ago — was written just for me.

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One of our two ridiculous cats. Who sprawls on everything and impedes all productivity.

The author, Mindy Starns Clark, gets me. And my husband will concur that this was the best gift he’s ever received from my mother — next to me that is.

I think she’s so good at helping me fix the mess in my home because she really thinks like I do. She is a writer, and here’s a quote:

Problem: You have a hard time remembering to pause, think, and do when it comes to the actions of daily life. Your brain is usually quite busy working on something unrelated to your body, so many of your physical actions are done without conscious thought. For example, when you’re brushing your teeth, chances are you are also designing a living room, plotting a novel, or planting a garden — in your head at least.

Also, she is a sage . . . and she reads my mind without even knowing me at all:

Problem: You are a perfectionist, or similarly, you are an all-or-nothing cleaner. You’re not going to clean at all unless you can do it right and/or do it completely. The problem is that life doesn’t often allow the luxury of that much uninterrupted time.

Pegged.

Perfectionists and all-or-nothingers can absolutely paralyze themselves, preferring complete inaction to doing something imperfectly or incompletely. Consequently, they miss out on a lot of life because they avoid having people come to their homes except when their places are perfectly clean.

Ouch!

This should be the goal of every perfectionist: to not need to be perfect. This should be the goal of every all-or-nothinger: to not have to finish everything. Ask God to begin to work such a change in you.

And she doesn’t just leave you there, she gives you step by step instructions on how to get your house in order. It’s do-able and maintainable — even for this crazy creative.  My whole family loves the system. But in writing this post, I realized we need a refresher.

Who wants to clean when there’s so much writing to be done? Not me.

So what about you, friend? What practical book is helping you Live the Season?

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6 shortcuts you learn when you’re always in a hurry

because you can only stay up way past your bedtime so many nights in a row before it all catches up with you.

Late Night Post #15  #13 . . . apparently I missed a few?

My clock is all messed up. I’m usually an early-rising morning writer. But that’s back when I would write and not actually post what I’d written for days.

And now I’ve resorted to a what am I doing post.

And that’s because you can only stay up way past your bedtime so many nights in a row before it all catches up with you.

When you run around like a chicken with its head cut off, eventually you’ll keel over. Yeah, you get the picture.

It’s a fact.

So I’m setting aside my more serious posts about toddlers & teenagers, letting go of the past but the past not letting go of you, commitment to prayer, etc. to give you some marvelous tips.

Note: these are totally off the top of my head. I’m sure I have a longer list if I could find where I put it. (Also note: I don’t want to mislead you, I didn’t just learn these this week . . . I’ve been perfecting these tricks for years and years. )

*pause while I worry about smelling burning toast and then realize it’s because I AM burning toast*

My incomplete list of shortcuts you learn when you’re always in a hurry

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Me, drying my hair in the car.

(BTW, I usually know the fastest way to get anywhere. Not because I’m so smart, either.)

1. Lay out your clothes the night before.  Dryer Roulette: wrinkled shirt, damp towel, toss in dryer for however long it takes to brush your teeth. Tada! (Also, I’m pretty sure the invention of polyester around the time women entered the workforce in droves is not a coincidence.)

2. Embrace the curl: Got crazy, wild hair like me? Don’t fight it — let your wavy curls air dry. My stylist — whom I last saw about eight months ago, let’s be honest here — gave me some hair clips to help boost volume and I make finger ringlets to help encourage the curl whilst I am driving. Not something I would ever have done left to my own devices. (This one is actual, legit advice.)

But that’s not the amazing thing! The amazing thing is, if I crank the heat in my car up to 85 and point the air vents just so, I can dry my hair just enough in the car on the way to work. It’s like my whole car turns into a giant hair dryer for 15 minutes.

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Hot rollers are HOT!

3. Hot rollers can double as a curling iron in a pinch. Don’t  know why I always end up with just 15 minutes to get ready to go someplace fancy, but I do.  And sometimes the fancy place is on the other side of the water, so I get to get ready in the ferry bathroom — which has way better lighting and mirrors than my bathroom at home, frankly. Only I usually forget something . . . last time, I was short on the deely-bobs that hold the hot rollers on your head. So I used my hands . . . Note: recommended ONLY in a pinch.

4. Office supplies can double as make-up: I once witnessed a co-worker using a Sharpie as mascara on a day when she’d forgotten to put on make-up. I was in my 30’s at the time and was appalled because why would you ever need mascara that badly? Yep. She was in her 40’s. I get it now. Without mascara, there are no eyelashes.

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Lipstick so-so. But note the car heater dried curls . . . #winning

5. Selfies are perfect for checking lipstick application: Since I almost never use a mirror for something as easy as lipstick anymore, it’s always good to check before you walk into a work meeting. Also . . . booger check.

6. If you keep telling yourself Downy Wrinkle Reducer is body spray, eventually you’ll believe it. It started as a skip-the-dryer-roulette and just spray the shirt it when it’s on your body. In the 20 minutes it takes for you to drive to work, the wrinkles will relax, right? But also, it smells kind of nice. Not perfume nice, but like dryer sheet nice. And then I ran out of perfume . . .

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Wrinkles reduced? Check. Button missing? Wait. Seriously?

7. Change the blog post title to 6 Short Cuts instead of 7 and get yourself to bed before midnight: Because you seriously need more time for an actual beauty routine.

Just Livin’ the Season, people. Livin’ the season . . .

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shoes for the season

It’s kind of amazing what the right footwear can do. They actually made me want it to rain . . .

I have lived in the Pacific Northwest for a dozen years, and I just bought my first pair of actual rain boots.

The first year we lived here, I didn’t really own socks. I had worn flip flops nearly year round in Southern California. I remember one day my neighbor said, “You need to get yourself appropriate footwear.” I smiled and laughed. We were kind of poor. We needed things like food and gas.

Eventually, I accepted the cold — got socks, and all purpose rain/snow/low top boots, but I never had the real deal: tall rubber boots. Brand new! For less than what it costs to feed my boys at Taco Bell — which has become a standard of measure.

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MY SISTER and ME!

It’s kind of amazing what the right footwear can do. They actually made me want it to rain . . .

. . . and go on an adventure.

So my sister and I hit Seattle to celebrate her birthday. She has lived here for a little over a year and is very much delighted by the rain and tromping around the city in the rain sounded like the perfect way to spend her day.

Of course, I managed to hit every light on the way to the ferry, took too long to find a parking spot and feed the meter, and I had to run to catch the boat. I am always running to catch a boat. (The last time I rode the ferry, I was the lucky last car. This time, I was the sad loser watching through the terminal window as the gangplank raised and the boat left. Win some/lose some. Even Steven.)

Half a minute faster would have done it. But either rain boots are not good running shoes  . . . or I am not a good runner . . .

Anyway, we had a lovely time in the city.

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SEATTLE SKYLINE & FANCY BOOTS

We walked all over, ate someplace we’d never been, drank coffee and talked about all the things we could fit into four hours of conversation. She is a writer, an editor, a cancer survivor, a wife of a man in ministry, a mom of teens, a cat lover and owner, an avid reader, a smarty, a voice for justice, an artist. I love her, and she lives here now and we get to be in our forties together.

It was a good day. But it never rained.

That is, it never rained on us. Rain boots, rain coats  — we were so prepared!

The rain started the second I got off the ferry and into my car to go home.

On the way home, I thought about some things. You know, like you do when you are gliding over the water, breathing the soothing sea air.

1. Teaching your kids to love each other and enjoy each other’s company is so worth the massive amount of effort it takes when they are growing up.

I’m so thankful that my mom spent so much of her days refereeing children. I know from my own experience that it had to have been exhausting. But I have always believed one of my primary jobs as a mom is to nurture the friendships inside my house. I want my kids to always love each other. How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! Psalm 133:1

2. I don’t dread the passage into fall and rain so much this year ‘cuz look at those fancy boots!

Live the season,

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a season of uncertainty and certainty

I wrote so many thoughts over the weekend and not one of them is ready for print. Not even on the internet.

I did, however, have a breakthrough last night when I realized the post I had written was the very thing I needed for something else but was definitely not the right thing to post here.

Sometimes, I wish I had written things for people to read when I was so sure, so certain of equations and sums.

If I am this sort of wife then, if I am this sort of mom then, if I am this sort of worker then . . .

But I’m very glad I didn’t. Because now, as much as I may like to think a thing should be this way, or this effort should produce this result, I know outcomes are not always up to me.

Perhaps that is the real crisis of mid-life.

Suddenly, the things you thought were real and true and guaranteed do not turn out as you expected.

The marriage you thought was unbreakable is broken. The effort you put in seems wasted. Children grow up and make their own choices in spite of (and sometimes to spite) you.

I am more reluctant now to open my mouth with certainty. Because what will come of it all is not yet known.

Because the important of yesterday fades as the walk becomes more by faith less by sight. Where I once thought I had a measure of control, I have discovered I have none at all. And the great mystery to me is that the less I am sure of myself, the more I am sure of God.

Because if you ask me if I believe people can change, I will say yes without a shade of doubt.

Ask me if there is hope in the worst of circumstances, and I will say always and never give up.

Ask me if the broken can be restored, and I will say nothing is so broken it cannot be mended.

Ask me how to parent a child, and I will say pray always without ceasing.

Ask me how to keep a marriage together, and I will say forgive.

Most things I write need to sit a while . . . and then filter through life and be worked out . . .

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a solitary space

So here I sit, in the hotel bathroom. In silence at last. Hearing my thoughts. Reflecting . . . . I want to live my season of noise and be fully awake to it.

Well, it happened. Ten days in to the challenge to post every day and I hit a wall.

Which I choose to believe means I am human. And that important things demanded my all the last two days. And that I’m too old to stay up after midnight more than a night or two in a row. And that this Howard Johnson’s hotel room is entirely uninspiring. And I can’t seem to block out the ESPN the boys are watching.

I had ALL DAY . . . my husband drove across the state, and I sat and wrote a piece for work. We stopped at a Starbucks and I sent it off and we got back in the car and drove some more.

I must have started ten different blog posts between Ellensburg and Spokane. At least.

Every one of them put me to sleep. Or maybe it was the culmination of ridiculously late nights and early mornings colliding with delicious, warm, feet-up-on-the-dashboard, car sunshine.

Or the radio . . . I just can’t tune out Taylor Swift to write. (Unless I’m already deep in creative thought. Then I can drive for miles and never notice I’ve been listening to the sports station Dave left on.)

When I’m home alone, I write in silence. No movies. No music. Nothing. I can’t think in notes and lyrics when other words and tunes compete for space in my head.

 . . . there aren’t many hours of silence, are there? 

The older the kids get, the later they go to bed. Sometimes, I am actually the first to bed at night. After all the years of being the one to tuck in, I love when the boys tuck me into bed and parade by to give me a good night kiss . . .

So here I sit, in the hotel bathroom. In silence at last. Hearing my thoughts. Reflecting on a lovely evening of dinner before the show with our college girl and then front row seats to delightful comedic musical theatre, watching her dance and sing. It was a marvelous opening night for The Drowsy Chaperone with hundreds of highly entertained parents, alumni, students and guests.

She inspires me, that one.

I think about the courage it takes to audition, which she’s probably done 50 times in the last nine years. And I think about how I hold my writing close so many times and am fearful of risks.

And I think about the writers who inspired me to pursue my dreams of writing and the commitment it takes to do it on top of all the other things they have to do like work and live and raise children and be married and have friends and do things, and I respect them all the more for their years of labor and for getting it out there into the daunting world already so full of words.

Another late night, then.

Only quickly as I can (though not quite twenty minutes) because I can’t be so tired anymore. I want to live in my season of noise and be fully awake to it. Because one day the quiet will not be a precious commodity and I refuse to add regrets.

Here’s to hitting that publish button again —

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a season of fragments

Creating meaning from scattered moments, half hours, and hours takes strength and purpose and vision. It’s too, too easy to just languish in the not enough time to do.

Our days are often fragments:

Unfinished sentences.

Unfinished conversations.

Unfinished laundry.

Unfinished books read and written.

Here a little, there a little, line upon line.*

Pieces of time connected by strands of musts, shoulds, and ought to’s.

Creating meaning from scattered moments, half hours, and hours takes strength and purpose and vision. It’s too, too easy to just languish in the not enough time to do.

I’m time-challenged.

Always ten, fifteen, thirty minutes late. I stretch the time to fit my need, or want.

Projects can span days, months, years. Put away for seasons or until seasons, finishing is elusive.

But lately, I’ve been challenged.

Challenged to love and really live in the pieces of time I would normally pass, believing them too small:

15 minutes of contemplative prayer,

1 hour of power to get jobs done,** and

20 minutes to write.

To appreciate the fragments and to piece them together.

To use what I have wisely and not ask for more.

* * * * *

My sister, Tamara Rice, is a wonderful writer in a season of work on other writers’ words. She’s been an editor for almost 20 years and these days, is doing it full time while being mom and wife and friend and sister.

We both took time this summer to do as many things with our kids as possible. We are counting summers with children at home now. And there aren’t as many as we’d like. Our babies are twelve years old.

Tamara wrote a piece in a fragment of time at the end of the summer, and I asked if I could share it here while I’m talking about Live the Season. Here’s an excerpt:

Because I’ve Got 20 Minutes …

I neglect my writing in the summer months.

Since my children got out of school 10 weeks ago I have posted precisely four times, and two of them should barely count as blog posts, since one was a photograph with a single sentence and the other was a 200-word writing exercise.

Maybe this shouldn’t count either.

You see, I have set my alarm for 20 minutes—yes, exactly 20—and have promised my daughter that when my alarm goes off I will hit publish and get back to our day, because she is more important than filling the blogosphere with more words and opinions or even stories and feelings.

* * * * * *

Read the rest of my sister’s wonderful post over on her blog, Hopefully Known. Yes, written completely in 20 minutes. While you’re there, check out some of her other writing. She’s amazing.

Making the most of our time, as fragmented as it is, brings satisfaction.

I want to be content with pieces.

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*Isaiah 28:13

**that’s for another post