When Life Gets Quiet

I don't blog nearly as much as I did in the past. I remember, back in 2012 when blogging was really in its heyday and suddenly every semi-religious mama with pretty kids and cute style was bringing home six figures, I tried my hand at making this space A Thing. I tried style posts (cringe), took my camera with me to the yogurt shop (before we had iPhones), and copied pretty much every blogger I admired in an attempt to matter.

Like many of us do with Instagram these days, I exhausted myself trying to be someone else's version of lovely. And for what? Attention? Money? Importance? None of which I achieved, mind you. Even I didn't believe myself. So when I had a mental breakdown in early 2013 (not triggered by blogging, I should clarify) followed by the realization that I was pregnant with Lucy, I decided to try, instead, for honesty.

And like most things, honesty really was the best policy.

Now, I definitely don't garner enough traffic to make money off this blog, nor do I care about anything like that. But I have cultivated a special place for myself on these here internets, a place where I have memorialized the earliest years of motherhood, the process of writing two books and seeing them published, and the decidedly unglamorous struggle to live with mental illness.

And I'm quite proud of it. I'm even proud of my posts from 2012. (They make me laugh, anyway.)

I'd like to try my hand at blogging more regularly these days. So much is changing in my little world, in all the small and quiet ways that life often changes, and it will do my soul some good to step away from the rigamarole of books proposals and grant applications and social media to simply write what I know for the sheer joy of collecting my thoughts and sharing them.

If you've been reading since 2012, God bless your soul and you have my apologies. If you're somewhat newer, I'm glad you're here.

As always, thanks for reading. I'll see you again real soon.

Puzzle Pieces

She picked out the puzzle, and I bought it.

Lucy loves to use her mind, to wrestle solutions from problems. She is unencumbered, the way children should be, by fear or insecurity or lack of knowledge. She hasn't yet learned to let any of those things get in her way. Puzzles are a delight for our little girl, our extroverted bundle of energy who was, miraculously, stitched together with a healthy dose of independence that her dad and I are only far too eager to cultivate. She finds equal joy in jumping and climbing as she does sitting with a puzzle, literal or otherwise. So when we went to Barnes & Noble that afternoon in search of an activity to take home, Lucy selected the best one on the shelf.

The aforementioned puzzle is three hundred pieces total, a bright, bursting combination of colors that are so numerous the prospect of piecing them together felt slightly overwhelming when we first spread it out on the table. At least it did for me. But we did it, over the course of four hours, between eating dinner and playing outside and getting ready for bed. And then we did it again the next week. 

On Saturday, Lucy pulled the puzzle down from our hutch and began working on it herself. She didn't ask for my participation or assistance, so I didn't offer it. Instead, I sat in the living room and finished The Forgetting Time while taking periodic breaks to listen in on the conversation she was having with herself. Lucy sang and talked to her baby doll and pretended to be a teacher lecturing her students, and all the while her little fingers stretched over the table, hovering, searching for the next puzzle piece. For two hours, she sat up on her knees and surveyed the landscape of color on top of our dining room table, perfectly content with the work she had completed and what still remained.

Every once in awhile, Lucy would call out, "Mommy! Daddy! Come look at how done I am!" And we'd scurry into the room to clap our hands and declare how proud we were of her progress.

This continued, on and off, for five more days. And last night, just before bed, Lucy finished the puzzle.

There are only simple lessons here, lessons I am always learning. The first is that children are vastly superior to adults in almost every way. Aren't they always? The second is that a little encouragement goes a very, very long way. Our words have potential to be so life-giving, don't they? We can build up people, leaders, and nations with the power of our speech...and destroy them just as quickly. Finally, there is just as much delight to be found in the process of making something—whether that something is a career, a family, a book, a plan, a home, or a business—as there is in the end result. Perhaps even more. 

I daresay, yes, definitely even more.

I watched my daughter pore over a puzzle more than half the size of her body and she saw nothing more than possibility in the progress. The possibility for a little bit of fun, for the pleasure of finding that next piece, for accomplishing something difficult all on her own. Without the pieces, a puzzle is just a picture. There is no possibility. There's only what already is. 

I am in the thick of not enjoying the progress that opens up to more possibility. Oh, progress is happening, I feel sure of it. But it is drudgery. It is pain. It is heavy and frustrating and, more often than not, discouraging. 

I'm writing a book that talks about lessons I've already learned, lessons I want to share. And two weeks ago I realized they are lessons I will have to keep learning every day for the rest of my life. They are not one-time realizations the way Jesus' death on the cross was a one-time salvation for all who believe. They are daily graces that must be chosen out of all the noise surrounding me, graces I have to submit to every single morning, over and over again. They are pieces of a puzzle, bright and colorful, that will remain incomplete until I stand at the feet of Jesus. 

Still, the promise from Philippians remains:

"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (ESV)

Perhaps the delight I'm seeking should not be my own. Perhaps it is His delight. Like like that of a little girl looking out over a beautiful puzzle, He fits my days together, one by one, gasping with joy as He watches me become the woman He designed at the start. 

The delight is in the progress, and the delight is His. 

The delight is me. 

The delight is you.

Book Review: English Lessons: The Crooked Path of Growing Toward Faith by Andrea Lucado

Hey, friends! Now that I have recovered from the stomach bug I got from Lucy (who spent three days this weekend being so pitiful I called my mom crying) I can tell you about the book I just finished reading! It's Andrea Lucado's debut and it's called English Lessons: The Crooked Path of Growing Toward Faith, a memoir she penned about her year-long stint in Oxford. And beyond just being a good read it also had me itching (even more, if possible) for our trip to the U.K. next spring!

Read on for my full review...

English Lessons by Andrea Lucado: A Summary

The church wasn't just a part of Andrea Lucado's childhood. It was her childhood. It provided more than happy moments. It provided an invitation to know Jesus. When Andrea arrived in Oxford the year after she graduated from college, she expected to meet God there. What she didn't expect was that God would be much bigger than she'd believed. 

In this engaging memoir, Andrea speaks to all of us who wrestle with doubt and identity. "So many nights in Oxford," Andrea writes, "I felt like the details of my faith were getting fuzzier. Nights turned restless with questions. I questioned God's existence, and the doubt was getting into my bones."

In English Lessons, Andrea takes us through the roads of England and, more importantly, the paths of the soul. Here she explores the journey of a changing faith and an unchanging God--and why growing up starts with realizing just how small we are.

English Lessons by Andrea Lucado: What I Think

I usually start with the good stuff and leave the cons for way, way down in the review (I'm a people pleaser, okay?) but I'm gonna lead with them this time because they specifically address claims made in the very first paragraph of the book's back cover blurb.

While I thoroughly enjoyed English Lessons, I didn't ever fully get the impression that Lucado "expected to meet God" in Oxford or that she left feeling He was "much bigger than she believed." In fact, it was kind of the opposite. It seemed as though her entire year abroad taught her a great many lessons about growing up, handling relationships, and experiencing connections outside of the American Christian Church, but her doubts about who God is and His role in her life didn't appear to ever get resolved. At least not in the way this book has been marketed. Lucado left for Oxford with doubts and a desire to meet people who didn't see her as just "Max Lucado's daughter"...and seemed to go home with those same feelings, albeit with more maturity and perspective.

Still, that doesn't stop English Lessons from making a great number of solid points about the difficulties of growing into one's faith, most of them in the second half of the narrative. On journaling about her struggles, Lucado wisely opines, "Sometimes faith comes very naturally, and sometimes everything we've ever believed is suddenly thrust under a microscope and we are forced to examine it. It's okay to look. In fact, please look. Because if you don't, what are you looking at instead?"

Good stuff.

(I also really appreciated her ode to coffee earlier in the book. Lucado is a woman after my own heart!)

Most of all, I appreciated Lucado's current insight into personal relationships, especially as the 22-year old Lucado who experienced them was clearly as uncertain as I was in my earlier years. I think if the marketing team in charge of English Lessons had done a little more to focus on that part of Lucado's year in England, rather than prioritizing the book as a faith memoir, my expectations about this read would have been more realistic. I get that the "Max Lucado's daughter" bit makes readers—especially readers like me who grew up reading her father's work—perk up, but it seems like Andrea has already made it pretty clear she's more than just a famous pastor's daughter.

When You're Angry About Your Anger

I am angry.

I have been angry for quite awhile now.

Maybe you have, too?

Let's talk.

Clean(er) Living // Earth Day Essentials

Happy spring!

It has only been in the last few years that I've come to love spring. Warmer weather after a cold winter is always nice because I despise the icy chill of January, but I grew up in Georgia where even winter is still fairly mild in comparison to the blistering snowstorms of the Midwest. During my childhood and college years, I lived for summer and fall, for beach days and football season, but now, with a spunky toddler in the house, when spring arrives it's almost like Christmas. We take off our shoes and make a beeline for the outdoors where, along with that pesky yellow pollen, the world has come to life again.