And then BOOM! A Mack truck flies through the room.

I’ve never mentioned it here. And, the truth is, I don’t mention it often. I try not to think of it, quite frankly, if I don’t have to.

 

But I was doing some cleaning yesterday and found my journal from last year.

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Lots of people journal. My Mom has kept one for years. She writes her ups and downs, her dreams and thoughts, answers to prayer and the ways God moves in her life.

I’ve never read it. But, I think of it often and wonder what it will be like when I read it. How will it feel to look into her head and her heart. To peruse through her life from her perspective, to see myself through her eyes.

And so, I don’t talk it about it much, that my oldest daughter has Multiple Sclerosis. Diagnosed at age sixteen, after suffering through it for at least two years, she battles like a champ. She has always been a champ. At everything.

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That’s why it was such a shock. A sucker punch. Yes, God, have my oldest daughter–the National Champion Gymnast. The one with I.Q. of 143 at age eleven. Take her brain, her body, use it how you will for your glory.

Did you ever have to say that? Has it ever occurred to you what it takes to say that? Do you know how...hard, it is to say that?

And so, maybe, letting you peruse my head–and my heart–from the private words I wrote in my journal last year, maybe that will help you see how it feels to say that. At least how it felt for me.

June 14, 2013

I do not want Erin to die.

And I hope no one reads this.

And I wonder why I have to step over throw pillows to find the couch. And where is the switch for the lamp???

And, as much as everything in my life is a story, I do not want this to be my story–my daughter is sick. My perfect, amazing, super-cala-fragil-istic over-achieving ninja daughter is sick.

And I understand what it means to be mad at God. But I wonder how long a person can stay mad at God? And is it really a sin not to trust God with all the bad stuff? When the bad stuff is gone, over and done with, maybe it’s easier to let go of it. When it’s going on, maybe it’s harder?

Does everyone’s life feel like a soap opera, or a bad mellow-drama?! It’s like, “What will happen next? Tune in tomorrow when Pam will say…’Oh, No!’…”

For real.

And even as bad as it seems, sometimes it seems not that bad.

And some days, I even forget the bad things.

And then BOOM! It’s like a Mack truck flies through the room.

 

Words can take us back. But they can also bring us forward. And a lot can happen in a year.

My daughter still has MS. And I am still trusting God. And some days it is easy. And some days…it’s not as easy.

But, I am still doing it. I’m holding His hand as I walk through this life. And, in that, there is life.

 

What are you walking through?

How is He holding your hand?

Leave me a comment so we can walk together.

 

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Get real or go home.

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Music has always moved me. There’s not a day that goes by that music is not part of my life. And although I’m mostly a sing-in-the-shower, and sing-in-the car, and you know, sing-where-ever-else kind of girl, I have also sung in public. Not professionally or anything that crazy, but I used to sing solos in church and at funerals for hire. So, more than just for myself or my husband, kids, and dogs.

 

It’s one thing to have a desire to perform, and something entirely different to actually do it.

 

The more I blog, and grow in my own skin, the more I realize that singing is a lot like writing. Of course they’re both creative endeavors that require you to stand up and speak your own brand of truth. But, even more than that, I’m finding similarities that go further and deeper into what it means to let your heart out in notes, or, well…notes.

 

You have to open your mouth.

 

Although it seems obvious, this really isn’t. And as I’ve aged I’ve had to practice this more and more. Last Christmas I mentioned to our children’s pastor that I might be able to sing a solo in the Christmas Pageant. (Okay, never, ever, say you might be able to do something unless you are fully willing to do it. That’s just the way it is.) Once I got over the “Oh Lord I haven’t sang publicly in years” drama I downloaded an accompaniment track and went to work.

 

And it was work. I hadn’t used my voice in so long it had grown older, deeper, and less attractive. I also lacked the lung capacity to give me the vocal range I’d once had. As disheartening as this was, it also taught me a lesson. As I practiced, singing the song over and over, I realized that the wider I opened my mouth the better I sounded. In fact, with my mouth open really wide, in a strange kind of expression where my eyes were closed tight and my cheeks pulled back, I could reach a higher, more clear second soprano.

 

It felt real and it felt raw. It felt natural to sing that way. It wouldn’t look cute, calm, or reserved, but it would allow me to sing my heart out. In private I belted the song to my bathroom walls, and I’d like to say when the time came I nailed it. But, I didn’t. Unable to get past how I might look, nervousness got the best of me and I was barely able to stay on key.

 

I failed to rock the world, and glorify God fully, because I wouldn’t open my mouth enough.

 

It’s the same way in writing. As a novelist I can feel when I’m and rocking the story, and when I’m not. What’s the difference? Opening my heart and opening my mouth. When I let the words out from a wide open place inside I always score, I always touch others. If I’m too guarded to let you in I won’t ever reach you. I have to risk.

 

You can’t expect to reach deep places of others with the shallow parts of yourself. (Tweet that!)

 

Music, like writing, is about belief. Belief in your story, belief in your song, belief in your art. But mostly, belief in yourself. I’ve found that creating and releasing is both the most terrifying and the most  liberating experience in the universe. It’s so many conflicting emotions all at once. It’s being insanely brave and accepting death. It’s surrender. And it has to be.

 

Because without surrender I won’t buy what you’re selling. (Tweet that!)

 

Let me say that again. If you aren’t sold out I won’t be buying. If you don’t believe it, neither will I. And neither will they—the millions of everyday people out there who are being bombarded constantly with ideas, images, and art. Let me tell you this: don’t throw your art at the world until you are prepared to take it all the way.

 

You can’t kind of like it. You can’t just be messing around. You can’t whisper, or banter, you have to shout. You have to be willing to shout it from the rooftops. You have to be so sold out on it that no one, no where, no how, will ever be able to pry it from your cold dead fingers.

 

Yes. You have to believe in that much. And you have to want it that bad. And more.

 

Because here’s the deal, someone else does. And the world can tell the difference. The good thing about the new freedom of the internet is that we get real now. We get it full-time. All day, every day, every hour, minute-by-minute. Real is crawling all over us and oozing through our fingertips. We eat real for breakfast. Don’t come at us with your half-hearted wanna-be crap. We don’t have time for that. Sorry, but we are getting real shoved down our throats 24-7. You better have something even better.

 

So how do you do that?

 

Easy. Believe it. Write it. Paint it. Sing it. Create from the part of you that can’t be tamed. Tell the world to step off and stop being afraid.

 

Stop being afraid we won’t like you enough and do your thing. Because really, it’s the only thing you’ve got baby. (Tweet That)

 

That part of you. That real part. The part that you can’t put down, or shut up. That part that sings. Yes, that part!Thats what we want. It’s what we need. For crying out loud!

 

Let us see you!

 

Open up your mouth and Tell.Us.The.Truth!!!!

We are waiting. So you better hurry. Do it.

Sing to us.

NOW!

 

And while you’re at it, go check out one of my new favorite groups who is selling us real and giving it away for free! PAPER LIGHTS

 

Trust me. They’re the real thing.

Your art sucks.

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Alrighty then, let’s just get it out in the open why don’t we?

 

Your art sucks.

 

Your writing sucks, your singing, your poetry, your portraits and perspective are off. They’re just…bad. Anything creative you’ve done is worthless. You have no talent. No one, but no one, will ever appreciate your work.

 

All that time you’ve spent pursuing your dream? Wasted.

 

You should probably face facts now—you’re never going to make it in this world.

 

Give up.

Go home.

Quit.

 

Did I miss anything? Because I think we should cover all the bases. Let’s just make sure we’ve done all we can to kill your dream. Leave no stone unturned, no insult left unsaid. I don’t want to give you any hope. None.

 

Surrendered yet? You sure?

 

Good. Now we can move on. Now you have no excuse to fear failure. Because you just had it. Right there. You failed to impress me. I saw you, saw what you had to offer, and I turned it down flat.

 

And guess what? You survived. It didn’t kill you. Your world didn’t end because I didn’t LIKE what you do. That art you made? That little piece of your soul that you somehow managed to let outside your body, out of your hands, into this big wide world all by itself—it survived.

 

Your art didn’t spontaneously combust when it faced rejection.

And do you know what? Neither will you. (Tweet that)

 

Oh, I know it feels like it will. And I know you think you might just die from the pain of not pleasing Every. Single. Person. But the truth is, you won’t. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

 

See, here’s the thing about failure that no one else will tell you—are you ready? It’s important. Essential. You need it. Not just need—want! Trust me, you do! You may not see it yet, but oh do you ever need some rejection.

 

Because rejection teaches you something that a thousand adoring voices will not.

 

Trust.

 

Listen to me, rejection teaches you to believe the good. It helps you have faith in the one the reason you really did this in the first place; because you loved it.

 

That’s right. You didn’t think I knew that did you? You thought you could be coy. As if you could just take this art, or leave it. As if it doesn’t matter. You’re cool. You’re fine. Whatever. Accolades? Who needs em’. Cheers? Applause? That stuff’s trivial. You just did it to pass the time. Yeah…Right.

 

Don’t feed me that line of Bull. (And stop rolling your eyes. No ones buying that either.)

 

The truth is, you’re dying for this art. Aren’t you? You’re down right bleeding it out. And some days, it feels as if everything inside of you might just be sitting out on that page, or that canvas, and man does that hurt. And at the same time, it feels so good. In fact, I bet if you’re really doing the art you were made to do, it feels like Heaven. As if God himself is smiling on you. Holding your hand. It’s divine, isn’t it?

 

And that’s where the fear comes in.

 

Fear will lie to you. It will tell you that you need the fans. You need the followers. But the truth is—you need the art. (Tweet that!)

 

You need the art because that’s where you find the sweet spot. Doing the art is where you feel alive. Who cares if ANYONE likes it? EVER?

The question is, do you? Do you love the art you you’re doing? Is it the best you’ve got? Are you really showing us the truth? The truth about you and the truth about your beauty. The real beauty deep, deep inside you, the beauty that’s dying to come out.

 

Because if you’re showing us that, how can we not love it.

 

But you’ve got to go there. You’ve got to get to the good stuff. That lost part of you, that place you keep covered so no one can see. Yes, that. We need to see that. We are waiting. We are waiting and hoping you will let us see you, the real you, the true you. And man, are we praying that you figure out who the heck that is. Soon.

 

This pandering, and playing around, that’s not who you are. Stop that. Just stop it. Right now. Let us in.

 

Let us see you. Show us your art.

 

Show us your heART.

 

Stop hiding. The world is waiting.

 

Now that you’ve faced rejection, you have no excuse. Go make your art and let us love it, or not. But please, by all means, make the art.

 

Live the art.

Be the art.

We need it.

 

 

Starbucks must not think this painting of mine sucks…they let me hang it in their shop.

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What do you think?

Because maybe you are too.

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At fourteen, I wanted to create art. Not because it was cool, or to impress anyone, but because I had, inside of me, something that needed to come out. I had a darkness that pushed on my flesh from the inside and never let me rest.

 

It’s sad to say, that someone so young could feel that broken. But, it’s true. Yet, telling you the truth is the last thing I want to do. And even though, quite frankly, I’m awfully tired of lying—it wears on me—it’s heavy; exhausting—I am afraid, still.

 

I’m afraid you’ll see me and leave. Not just see me, but really…see me.

 

In the last several years I’ve been on this journey. Sometimes, it looks like words on paper, sometimes, some thing else. And I have kept focused on the road with very few detours. Oh, okay, I had some detours. Who doesn’t? Mostly though, I tried to keep my eyes ahead, to not look back.

 

But something called out. When they said, “Be honest.” When they told me to be myself.

 

What if I don’t want to, I thought. What if I don’t know who that is?

 

But, that’s a lie. And I know the truth.

 

I am an artist.

 

I didn’t not know this. But yesterday I heard someone speaking about who an artist is, and I saw myself. I didn’t really want to. But I did. And art can take on all forms; writing is art. Certain forms of it more so than others. But to paint a picture–whether with acrylics or adjectives—is still rendering a view. There is something created, something new in the universe that wasn’t there before.

 

That is art.

 

And you know I always find it interesting how God speaks, and when, and through whom. This morning it was through my seventh grade art teacher, Sara Pitts. Her written words that have transcended time to speak to me now, some three decades after they were penned.

 

It was Christmas, 1984. The day before break she caught me as I was leaving the building, quickly stuffed a small envelope in my hands and smiled warmly. Her eyes were always dancing, but this time they were more solemn. I don’t remember, but I wonder if they were glassy, if she fought tears. Or did she even know the impact she would forever have in my life all because she saw me, she really saw me.

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“Thanks,” I offered, acting adolescently casual. I shoved the envelope in my bag and pushed through the doors into the December cold. That evening I read them, held the crisp $10 bill she gave me. The money intended for me to purchase a cassette disc. I loved music, always. I still do.

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I know I read the words then. I know they impacted me, especially because no one else in my struggling teenaged life seemed to give a rats. Her gesture of genuine kindness has always stuck with me. That letter has set in a box of things too precious for me to dispose of for over thirty years. Today, however, I read it differently. I saw it as if for the first time.

 

 

The meaning of the letter as a whole was to encourage me to follow my heart, to see myself for who I truly was, the way others saw me as well—as an artist.

 

 

She knew it would be hard, so she told me to have courage.

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Be patient with myself.

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But, ultimately, it whispered what she knew about my soul; it would thirst after art. Creating. Living the creation. And maybe, even having a career in art.

 

She said I was special. And I am. And, so are you. You artists. You creators. You dreamers and doers.

 

You who follow the beat of a different drum. You who see beauty in the places others miss.

 

I see this in my daughter, Holly. I see her finding so much true joy in creating art, and I pray that the world doesn’t steal that from her. Because I know it will try. It will tell her she isn’t good enough. It will say art is not acceptable as a career. It’s not honorable work. How can you survive doing art? Where will you live? What will you eat?

 

And while money is important in it’s own right, in its proper place, it is not an end in its self. It is simply a means. And a means will not fulfill. And those who try to stuff their square pegs into round holes will tell you this; no matter how you fold in on yourself, those rough edges just won’t fit. The world can press down, and pound away, but you will never be what you truly are not.

 

If you are an artist, you will never be satisfied until you are creating art.

 

You were made by a creator. The Grand Creator. And if you are knit together with threads of art and beauty, and the desire to recognize and create that, you will not ever be what you were made to be until you fully accept it.

 

So maybe you are an artist. And maybe you’re not. But if you are, listen to your heart. Stop fighting what your soul is so clearly thirsting for. Be yourself. Be real.

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Live the art you were made to be.

 

 

 

 

 

When you don’t know why.

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  “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”    

            1 CORINTHIANS 13:12

The last few weeks have seemed to close in on me like the walls of a shrinking room in a sci-fi movie. Schedules loom, days fly by, and the every-little-thing of normal life has become this monstrosity. My to-do list has spun out of control and chased after me snarling.

It’s been rough. To say the very least. And although I don’t always let these things get to me, lately I have. I’ve let them all pile up to some big mound of disappointment with some unknown thing. What, exactly, am I disappointed with? I don’t even know.

Is it my writing? My life? The weather? Is it my lack of desire to follow the schedule of Lent that’s been laid out so neatly by so many? Because it seems like it has, and I do think that’s a part of it. Something there about the “schedule” of Lent, the enforcement of a certain way of worshiping, that seems to scrape up against who I am.

I don’t despise a liturgical calendar. Truly, I don’t. We all need reminders to focus on God, times to make Him central. Somehow, though, I feel like they need to be more regular than just Easter and Christmas. Yet, I struggle with guilt here.

If I’m not on board with what’s being offered for this dinner am I missing out?

What if, what Gods speaking to me during this time is different than everyone else? Not theologically different, but relationally different? Is that okay?

I never mind being the odd man out. Okay, maybe I mind a little. But, it hasn’t stopped me from listening to the One who calls me over the many who chatter. Still. It is never easy to speak up and be the only voice.

My last post (and several before that) alluded to my yearnings—and the whispering of the Spirit—in the area of Speaking Freely about difficult things. And maybe that’s really where my disappointment lies. Because, I want this to be easy.  I want it clear cut. Simple. But the truth is, it’s anything but.

And maybe, I just need to do it and stop waiting for it to feel okay. Because, maybe it never will. Maybe, it will always be hard. It will always feel like ripping open my chest and letting you read my heart. I don’t know. But if I don’t try, I may never know and the never knowing is even worse.

So, here we go. Here’s a truth for today that I am choosing to speak.

I am discouraged.

It’s true. I have tried to pretend it wasn’t the case. And I won’t say I always feel this way, like every second of every 24 hours. But, it’s there none the less.  And many people will read this and immediately assume I’m the one to blame. I’m not walking closely enough with God. I’m in a season of disobedience. I’m back sliding.

Because, otherwise I’d have Joy, right? I’d be happy all the time and smiling through every trial. Because that’s what Christians do…isn’t it?

Or is it? Is it that we smile through every pain and every hardship or is it that we hide? Have we learned not to feel the pain of a fallen world any longer or are we keeping secrets?

I really don’t know. I don’t know what you do when—and if—you ever stop to think about the evil present in the world and our lives, but for me, I hurt.

I hurt that somewhere on this planet (and maybe in my own state…or city even) a child is being bought and sold like meat.

I hurt that over half the planet is starving and sick while we buy Coach purses and Ugg boots and a million other things to impress people we don’t even know with things they will never see.

And I hurt that The Church has become a closed door beaten in with a battering ram wielded by those who comprise it.

How did this happen? When—and how—did things get off track?

I don’t have an answer. But I am choosing to believe two things about this season, at least my own understanding of it. I am believing what it IS, and what it’s NOT.

From my experience, a season of disappointment is a chance to grow. We can often learn more from what we lack. Setbacks, falls, embarrassment, failings, and unfulfilled dreams give us one most important thing; a reference point—a place to begin.

So you didn’t get what you want? You don’t like the way things are going? Congratulations, you just learned half the answer. Even if you don’t know where you are, knowing where you aren’t is half the battle. You just found your starting line.

The realization that you aren’t getting what you want from a situation is actually a wonderful gift. Many, many people continue in failure and frustration for years, even lifetimes, before finding that line, if they ever do. If you have accepted, or at least acknowledged your problem, or any problem, you’ve just put yourself ahead of half the pack. Look up! Things are getting ready to change.

Pain is a wake-up call. If you hurt, you are still alive. So, while you’re still alive, and since you’re not in the grave just yet, let’s do something about that pain why don’t we? Let’s use it. That’s right. We are going to take that thing that’s causing you grief and let it be a catalyst for change in your life, in my life.

You know what? I hurt most deeply when I feel I’m wasting my God given talents and gifts. Namely, writing. I’ve said it before; Why I AM a writer! God gave me words and stories and I need to share them. Yet, I flail in my writing life for many reasons…excuses…and it wears me down. Every time I feel God inspires a post and I don’t write it, I feel discouraged. When He wakes me at 3 a.m. with a dream that gives insight into one of my stories and I choose to go back to sleep instead of getting up and hitting the keyboard, I feel depressed. But because I’ve just identified that as a source of my tension I am now able to fight against it. I have a new frame of reference from which to move forward.

I hate sex-trafficking. I actually hate it. HATE. IT. It makes me angry, literally. And I feel more angry at myself than anyone else when I fail to do anything about it. Because if I’m not part of the solution than I am just part of the problem. If I fail to talk about it, or pray about it, and help others understand why we need to work against it, I am really no worse than those committing it. The blood of the innocent is on my head.

So maybe, today, I will put that red X back on my hand so I remember to keep praying for those bound in slavery. And that sticker of the #enditmovement? Maybe I can actually have it made and put it on my car, and maybe sell some to raise funds for this cause that is so important to me, important to us as a society, and species.

I just found my starting line.

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So what is it for you? What’s eating you? What haunts your sleep? I think it’s time to find out what that thorn in your side is really there for. It’s there to move you. And it may only be for a season, or it may be a permanent fixture in your heart. I don’t know. Only God does. But wouldn’t you like to find out?

When you find out what it is, just remember what it’s not.

It’s not the end. Disappointment, disillusionment, and pain do not mean you are done. As crazy as it sounds, it’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t necessarily even mean you are doing something wrong. You could be, but this is a chance to reevaluate that. It’s an opportunity to look at things from a fresh set of eyes and see what’s missing.  It’s not as bleak as you imagine.

And God is NOT done with you yet.

He loves you. He’s in control. And He’s waiting for you to step forward and draw closer to Him through this.

Please speak freely with me in the comments about what is discouraging your heart. What disappointments are you harboring? This Lent, let’s work together to get past them.