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?

Puny Gods and the end of my American Dream.

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What do you worship? Because, really, we all worship something. Whether it is the God of the universe, or the puny gods of our own creating, we all bow down in one way or another and declare something righteous. You may not know exactly what, or who your gods are, but it isn’t difficult to locate them. Take a look at your day to day choices and you might see a pattern emerge, one that points directly to what is truly important to you, to what and whom you give honor.

For me, I spend as much time as possible in denial. It’s only when I’m forced that I see beyond my immediate needs and decisions to the impact and ripples they create in my life and the lives of those closest to me. We all make choices and those choices have repercussions, not only for us, but for those in our world. We might want to pretend that our decisions only affect ourselves, but that’s rarely the truth.

I spent some time in Dallas last week. It’s a beautiful town, but a tad over-dressed and opulent for me. I am a hopelessly middle-class girl. I wasn’t born into wealth and quite frankly, I’m okay with that. In fact, at times, I even want to shun my middle class life. You see, I found out something a few years ago; middle-class is broken—it’s a lie. The truth is, it doesn’t even exist.

To begin with, the entire premise is misleading. By very definition, middle implies something midway–in the center of—located equally between two poles. But that’s the first problem, because we here in America think we hold both the poles. We don’t. There’s this whole big world out there beyond our borders and guess what? They matter. Although, by the way we live and breathe and perceive our existence you wouldn’t know it.

See, we are the Target generation. And as a so-called middle class girl, Target is like crack to me. No, really. I think I might actually salivate like Pavlov’s dog just thinking about it. My heart races, I get all kinds of weak. You know, there’s just so much to see, so much to buy! Their selection changes so rapidly and when they do clearance? Baby, they do clearance!

Target, is the Wal-mart of the middle class. Its everyday prices are like Anthropologies best sales. If you want to mimic Better Homes and Gardens, Country Living, or Architectural Digest even—on a modest salary—Target can hook you up.

But, is that really middle class? And in the middle of what, exactly? Because if I can buy a swanky throw pillow for $24.99, and yet that same amount would feed a family of four in Kenya for a few months, I think middle is a bit off the mark…

So who shops at Target, and how close to the middle of anything are they really living? Is it those who make $50K a year—the U.S. median income? Because, according to a 2013 Gallup poll, per-capita incomes in the top 10 wealthiest populations are more than 50 times those in the 10 poorest populations. And yes, the U.S. is in the top ten wealthiest populations in the world, even if we refuse to acknowledge our place as such. While we pretend we are barely getting by, the rest of the world lives with a totally different perception, and reality. We look on, refusing to see both our wealth, and our power to live responsibly. (Pass me my Marc Jacobs bag so I can find my Visa card–there’s a sale on shoe’s at Nordstroms…)

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”                   Luke 12:48

I’m not blaming anyone here. I’m blaming everyone, including myself. And to be honest, I never gave it a real thought until I went to Africa in the summer of 2012. That trip changed me. It wrecked me for normal life, forever. There’s just something about seeing a child scavenge in a mound of trash that changes your perception of wealth, of life…of everything. Now, I know I can never go back to the sweet Target salvation I used to know.

I can’t, because it doesn’t exist for me any longer.

See, what I realized in Africa is that I need less—not more—to feel content; less stuff, less power; less acclaim. My heart needs more of something else to come alive. Starbucks does not fix everything. A fancy house does not a home make. In fact, a home—home in the true sense—where your heart is free and open and bare before God—is readily accessible even with no house. Even in the bush, on the red dirt of Africa, you can find home, true home, in hearts and community with no walls or roof, because our home is with God, in God, in service and communion with his people.

So for me, there is no middle class. The American dream is dead. And if the bulls-eye we’re shooting for is pointed at acquiring more useless stuff to pad our already over cushioned lives, we need better aim. I need better aim.

Let’s see if we can find find it together, maybe over a Grande Americano…

What’s your poison? What keep’s you stuck in your safe, normal, American Dream? How can I help you get out of your box and see the real world? Share with me in the comments–let’s do community here!