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Seasons

Writing is a joy like no other. And after nearly a decade of dedication (I’m twenty-three now; I was fourteen when I finished Issym–my first book), it is still full of surprises. I sit down at the keyboard with no concept of what I want to say and yet words, beautiful, important words, come flowing out. And they ease the ache in my soul.

I’ve come face-to-face (yet again) with the reality that seasons end. Good, wonderful, God-blessed seasons do not last forever. That’s why they are called ‘seasons’ after all. So I’m closing some chapters in my life, most notably with my resignation from my beloved coastal church. Working six days a week and commuting over wintry coastal roads for early morning worship practice is no longer a viable lifestyle. And while I am disappointed beyond measure, I’m also supremely confident that God orchestrated this decision and so it is good.

He has been showing me the value of finishing well. Not focusing (for once in my over-achieving life) on what is to come, but instead focusing on doing the last few weeks of this season to the very best of my ability. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I’m a major Eiffel Tower nerd. I’ve always been struck by how it was built to be temporary. Knowing that his creation was doomed for destruction, Gustave Eiffel still poured blood, sweat, tears, and inspiration into the now iconic tower! He wasn’t daunted by the certainty his creation was temporary. He finished well. And so will I.

12278732_10207210957488957_8617144566751611846_nAs for the holidays, we’ve had a few less Christmas movies or mass-baking evenings than the usual season, but we’ve still had lots of fun. Who knew it could be cold on Christmas Tree Day even without snow? And who knew how FREAKING TALENTED my brother-in-law and I are at picking out Christmas trees. (Isn’t it a beaut?)12219417_10207199026510690_5196170164171381163_n

We’ve celebrated a few less birthdays than usual too, thanks to cases of pneumonia and a deer that made contact with our family van. But the 12274458_10207199026950701_7812799157813826790_ncelebrations we have pulled off have been awesome, from flame-filled nights at the local hibachi to an entourage of people taking dear niece Evelyn to Build-A-Bear for Year 1 of a running tradition. (The writer in me couldn’t help but stick a note inside.) Yes, my niece–who surprised us all with a month early arrival–has reached the age of one going on thirty. Intelligent, persuasive, and highly verbal, she is already turning my world upside-down in all the right ways. I can’t wait to spend Christmas with that sweet little soul.

Overall I’m settling into a new skin–one that’s a bit less afraid of the telephone and far more confident in glasses and even more determined to keep on writing. One that is learning to let go and still savor every second of every season I’m in.  A few months back I wrote a song for my church and I think I’ll close with it here:

Verse 1: There is time for celebration. There is time for tears. You’re the God Who holds me through it all. You’re the God Who holds us through it all

Chorus: Hallelujah to the King of majesty. To the One Who calls me friend. Hallelujah to the One Who conquered the grave. And is coming back again.

Verse 2: The past, the present, and the future, Can overwhelm the soul. But You say “Do not fear for I am near”.

Verse 3: You are trustworthy; You are faithful. You number the hairs on my head. How can it be that You would love me through it all? How can it be that You would love us through it all?

Bridge: You are good, You are good, You are good. You are faithful and sure. For everything there is a season. In every season You are Lord.

 

 

 

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Tales Of Merriment

I’ve got to say. I’m happy.

It has been a bizarre season and I have been very busy, stretching myself thin on too many projects all of great importance. But I’m happy. Really, really happy.

And not just because the holidays are coming or because the projects are finished, but because I SURVIVED. I survived the first three months of transition into a new job, juggling a six-day work week, the completion of a new book, and so, so much more. I’d like to take credit for all the success of this season, but that isn’t even close to true. It’s all God. I was the terrified girl who wanted to revert to hermit mode. God was the faithful One Who saw me through.

front cover image 2So about that new book… It’s called the Tales of Merriment and it contains three short stories featuring characters from The Orion Records and The Xsardis Chronicles, along with a sample from The Rise of the Dark Sprite (the next book in The Orion Records). I love these stories, all for different reasons. They are bittersweet, with moments of levity and moments of seriousness. And one isn’t even a Christmas story. But I adore this collection. For its representation of hope in the face of loss. I could go on, but I don’t want to spoil anything for you, so I’ll stop there.

As for the holidays, they have indeed arrived. My week contains three, which include Pie Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Tree Day. Of those three, I’d rank them: 1) Christmas Tree Day, 2) Pie Day, and 3) Thanksgiving, although Pie Day very nearly outranks Tree Day this year. Because making pies equates to time singing Christmas carols with my dear Sister Kate, who happens to be dearly missed. Family is a precious thing.

Whatever you do this week, may it be merry and bright; may it become your own tale of merriment.

Reawaken

I’ve been crunching numbers in the last-ditch effort to find another way. With my new job responsibilities and my fuller understanding of publishing, I recognize my role in Rebirth Publishing has to change. For months, I have been prayerfully contemplating a major change. But I’m not down for the count yet. Sometimes, you need to work smarter, not harder.

And that is exactly what I’ve set about. I’m reawakening (which, when you think about it, is kind of poetic. ‘Rebirth’, after all, is synonymous with ‘reawaken’). And in that reawakening I am discovering a new self. This 23-year-old leader of Rebirth Publishing doesn’t have the same time or energy or carefree enthusiasm that the 17-year-old founder did. But what 23-me has is resources, smarts, experience, and savvy. I’ll put all of those to work for me instead.

17-me was passionate and hard nosed and hopelessly hopeful. 23-me is more tempered. I know my limitations. And, for a while, understanding those limitations caused me a potent concoction of shame and fear. (When you’re looking at your own flaws, it’s easy to throw up your hands and say, “I can’t!”) But I’ve learned a thing or two along life’s journey. Instead of fighting my limitations, I’ll lean into my strengths. While its true that God’s “power is made perfect in weakness”, it is also true that He made me with certain talents, inclinations, and strengths to use for His glory.

For years I’ve told students across the country not to be afraid to do big things (or small things) now, not to wait to write the book or record the song or join the team or bake the cookies or start the non-profit. I’ve been telling them not to let their limitations stop them; to focus, instead, on the talents God gave them. Who knew I was the one that needed that message? But if Rebirth Publishing is a company calling for reawakening, it only makes sense that this reawakening should start with me.

Will you join me?

Roots

12039619_801074946669870_4257282269312714570_nSometimes you just need the solace of friendship. Of bringing homemade coffee to your sister’s place and having her make cinnamon rolls. Of watching Mulan while cuddling her baby. Of facing big decisions together so you don’t feel so alone. Of celebrating life and sweetness. Of choosing to be still.

And this Saturday was all that and more.

It felt like the old days, when we both had the time to go shopping and the money to buy fast food and the energy to talk through movies (instead of falling asleep to them). I put so much weight on moving forward that I forget that, every great once and a while, you can go backwards instead. It is possible to recapture the roots of friendship and family. And in those roots is strength beyond measure.

Treasure your roots, friends, as I do mine.

Today is the National Day of Writing, so this is a tribute post to Writing, my trouble-making, soul-inspiring companion throughout life.

“Words are sacred… If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.” ~Tom Stoppard

Love is a choice. You feel a spark with a person and you choose to embrace it. Even with family–the biological club you are born into–love is a choice. You have shared experiences and a mutual spark and you choose to love them–for better or worse. And as my recent posts on the value of friends like Naomi and Sister Kate might lead you to believe, I have been made much better for loving these people.

Love is such a profound word to tie to something like coffee (which I adore) or ice cream (which is also pretty much the best) or even a concept like baking (which is one of the most relaxing things I have ever done). Really, the term ‘love’ doesn’t belong with any of those things. I crave coffee; I enjoy coffee; but I don’t love coffee. Writing, on the other hand, I do indeed love.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” ~Flannery O’Connell.

There are times that writing is hard, grueling, painful work. I get headaches from craning my neck at my computer screen (or maybe those headaches come from banging my head against my desk in frustration). My characters can be as illusive as my own thoughts. And writing becomes a chore, something I have to work at instead of enjoy. But I stick with writing because I love it. Every day I choose not to ‘have been an author’ but to ‘be an author’; to put one foot in front of the other and stay faithful to one of the greatest gifts God gave me.

“This is how you do it; you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy and that hard.” ~Neil Gaiman

“Create: verb. The act of banging your head on the desk until something interesting pops out.” ~Unknown.

Writing is the way I discover what is going on inside my own head; the way I decide on a future course of action; and one of the pivotal ways I learn about God’s nature. It has been my faithful companion on late nights and early mornings; in lonely airports and crowded coffee shops; in times of joy and times of abject grief. God put writing inside of me and He lets me use it to connect with the world around me. If I could only tell you all the stories of the impact in my own life and the lives of others…

In July I shared this post on why I choose to write. “I think story-telling, with its power to embolden the hearer and enrich the speaker, is one of the greatest gifts God gave us. Stories… provide a context for situations that would otherwise overwhelm us… (They) are a medium worth a life’s work.”  I still feel the same way. And it is worth noting again this line from Westmark:

“I make nonsense of the world to help others make sense of it.” ~Lloyd Alexander.

It’s only fair this post is wordy–after all, it is a post about writing. So I feel I can sneak in one final quote:

“But whatever you do, find the God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated passion of your life, and find your way to say it and live for it and die for it.” ~John Piper.

I don’t know whether I was born to be a writer; but I do know that I choose–now and forevermore–to be one.

So here’s the thing about life… It’s unexpected. Just when you give up on an idea, that idea reinvents itself and comes rushing into your life.

Case and point: In a large part due to poor health and in a small part due to introverted-ness, I missed out on the whole ‘stay up late with a friend and giggle’ phase of teenagehood. Of course, it didn’t help that the girls who were some of my dearest friends lived in Virginia. So I graduated high school and then college and finished up the ‘I’m-a-starving-artist’ years and settled down into a real job and thought, “There. That stay-up-late phase of friendship and life has passed me by.”

And then the strangest thing happened.  My Virginian friend Naomi fell in love with a boy from Maine. She ended up at my church in Belfast, on my worship team in fact. And then she and I found ourselves roomies for a women’s retreat this last weekend. Both being relatively early-to-bed people, we turned off the lights without much more than a ‘sleep-well’ wish. Ten minutes later, the talking and giggling started. Not the silly, adolescent kind. The deep, soul refreshing laughter that I only find with fellow believers. And it was very, very good. Far better than if we had tried to do the same thing in high school.

Dreams and wishes often don’t come true. They die in their original form and we do feel loss. It’s part of growing up. But the wonder of a God-led life is that He has better, fuller dreams for us that will come true.

“I cry out to God Most High,
    to God who fulfills His purpose for me.” ~Psalm 57:2 (ESV)

God has a purpose for me. And He has built in joy along the journey–because He is just that good, that loving, that thoughtful. His perspective is bigger than mine and He hasn’t forgotten me or the little things I long for. So I’m hoping I’ll stumble across this post the next time I feel the loss of a dream and be reminded that God is good. God fulfills His purpose for me. And He can bring back that dream long after I’ve given up.

Life may be unexpected, but God is good.

Day of Birthday

I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’m starting to feel a return to normality. My creativity is peaking its head out of its shell. Oh the sweet relief of writing again! Just a little writing, true, but sometimes a little is all it takes.

Sister Kate and I have a birthday tradition. When we are out shopping, one of us usually finds something we adore but won’t spend our own money on. So the non-birthday sister buys the birthday sister that gift, on the spot. It could be a month before the birthday or a month after; it doesn’t matter. Whatever fun is lost in the absence of wrapping paper is reclaimed in the joy of being together and steeped in tradition. Of course, life changes. And shopping time is such a rarity that this year I decided to break with tradition.

Enter the Day of Birthday celebration. I woke up excessively early to sneak coffee and donuts into Kate’s house (I love my sister, but how on earth does she survive without a coffee pot of her own?); left a card IN her fridge (because, why not?); and then skipped over to her office with a photo collage mousepad. With more than an hour to kill before I could be at work, this was the moment that I pulled out my laptop at the local Dunkin’ Donuts and got back into writing.

Blog Bonus Feature: I was perfectly peaceful until I opened up my laptop at that Dunkin’ Donuts. Then my mind went into flight mode. Any and every excuse came to me to abandon my pursuits. But I pushed through. Even to authors who love their craft, writing isn’t always fun. Fellow writers, stick with it anyway! The results were/are so worth the effort.

Later, I managed to sneak a few more presents into her life: chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting (a family tradition), more pages in our joint scrapbook, and a book she should enjoy. My creativity was thoroughly tapped between baking, card writing, and scrapbooking. And I think my sister got the message: I’m really, really glad she was born.

Friends like her are a rarity in life, to be treasured and held onto. They laugh with you; they weep with you; they struggle with you; they pray for you; they examine Scripture with you. They are the iron that sharpens iron. They are true gifts of God.

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