Friday, November 27, 2015

A Bit of Hoopla and Fanfare

Today is the one year anniversary of the release of my first book and it occurs to me that I've never really written about it here.

Finding Me in Him came out with very little hoopla and no fanfare. I received an email from my publisher announcing the release of my book on the day of my dad's funeral. In that moment my book, and the months of writing, editing and rewriting that went into it, didn't matter. All I wanted to do was sleep for a thousand years and then wake up to a world where cancer wasn't even a thing and I had lost nothing and no one to it. But a year out from that moment, I realize my poor little orphaned book deserves more. More than a rushed book launch party and a couple of radio interviews. It deserves to be shared with intention and enthusiasm. It deserves my attention and affection. It deserves to be celebrated. It deserves a some hoopla and fanfare.

This book is a gift. It was a gift to my soul as I wrote it and it continues to be a gift to my soul through comments from readers, conversations with friends and strangers and in the very words I wrote but still reread for encouragement and reminding. Recently, I blogged about Stones of Remembrance and in a sense this book is a collection of stones, of moments that I recognized God present in my life.

Finding Me in Him began as a letter I wrote to Dude. It was the January after the mastectomy surgery but I hadn't started chemotherapy yet. These were the in-between months, these were the couple of months that I was supposed to be able to participate in regular life stuff like driving the kids to school, volunteering in their classrooms and helping them with homework. These were supposed to be the easy months before the hard stuff started - or so I thought. Instead these months were the beginning of the Missing Months - the six months where I missed everyday, regular moments with the people I love most.

I was feeling sorry for myself and I was mad at cancer.

This is where I was when Dude crawled on to my bed after a rough day at school and confessed to me that he didn't know where he belonged in the world. He felt out of synch with his peers and more than a little bit lost. I held him for a bit and whispered, "me too, buddy" as I stroked his hair. After a while, Dude went to bed and I picked up a pen. I wrote these words,

The infinite God of the universe, the One who created the Heavens and the Earth, 
the One who breathed the world into existence, 
The One who is the beginning and the end thinks of you. He dreams of you. 
He desired you and so He created you! How marvelous is that?

I wrote these words and a thousand more. I started writing for Dude but by the time I put my pen down that night, I realized I had written a letter to myself, too. I wrote the things Dude needed to hear. I wrote the things I already knew but needed to hear again. I read and reread these words and life began again. I felt purpose and intention course though my body and I knew this stupid cancer wasn't going to win. I knew God thought about me, planned for me and meant for me to be here, on this planet, in this moment.

Then I wondered, what else did I know?

I started making a list of my favourite Bible verses and as I read each one again I was reminded of a time when God was so present in my life that I knew He saw me, knew me and loved me with an immeasurable love. And I wrote each memory down. Then more verses and more memories came. In the months I was going through chemotherapy and radiation this list of verses and random memories became pages and pages of stories in my journal. And then that journal became bones of a book.

Finding Me in Him is deeply personal to me and yet readers tell me its deeply personal to them, as well. This is so because the main character is deeply personal to the author and the reader. The main character isn't me, I'm the narrator. God is the main character. His love is the thing. His endless pursuit of my heart - of your heart - is the love story here.

This is a fabulous, beautiful book. It is. It is a gift to my heart and from my heart. And I'd love for you to read it. I'd love for you to share it with those you love and with random strangers. I'd love to hear about how my Stones of Remembrance are yours as well. These words were written to be shared.

In celebration of this one year anniversary I am giving away copies of Finding Me in Him to anyone who asks. From now until December 7, I will email a PDF copies of my book to any interested readers. All I ask for in exchange is a little feedback. Write a review on Amazon or Indigo, mention the book in a Facebook status, blog about it or Tweet a little something then email me the link. After January 7, I will chose a couple of readers who have emailed ( me their feedback to receive a signed copy of my book and maybe a little something extra.

Lovelies, I appreciate the moments you spend here in this space and the words you share with me through social media. You are precious to me … I just wanted you to know.

The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium.
~Norbet Platt

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Stones of Remembrance

Life is about living, about moving forward, about the next thing. We plan. We humans are planners. It's in our nature. We plan for what we're going to have for supper tomorrow, what appointments we have next week and where we want to go on vacation next year. We plan for the future. Our future. Our kids' future. All of the possibilities of the future. We plan, plan, plan. We look forward. We anticipate. It's what we do. But what about the past? All that has already happened? What do we do about that?

I recognize that this is a "for every mile of road there are two miles of ditch" conversation. I know some people get caught up in the past. They get stuck in a moment or happening of their past and they can't move forward. But that's not the case for most folks. Most folks, especially those of us in these middle-kid-raising-career-focused-marriage-growing-parent-caring-survival years of life, are so focused on What Comes Next that we rarely even think about what we have lived through already. But we ought to.

In the Old Testament of the Bible there is this crazy story about Joshua leading the Israelites across the River Jordan. The Israelites needed to cross the river so God told Joshua to tell the people to prepare themselves for a huge step of faith. Joshua did as he was instructed and God absolutely showed up. When the priests stepped foot in the river, God stopped up the water from flowing so all of millions of  Israelites could cross in and to safety.

Once they all reached the far side of the river, God wanted to be sure that the Israelites never forgot that He showed up for them that day. He wanted them to have a tangible reminder of that unbelievable occasion.  He wanted a monument to His faithfulness to be built - not because He needed the accolades but because He knew His children would eventually get so busy looking forward that they would forget the past. 

God wanted them, and their generations to come, to look at this monument and remember that He showed up for them that day - and that He would continue to show up for them everyday. So the people built a monument. They collected twelve stones - Stones of Remembrance - and they piled them beside the river to mark how far they had come and how much God loved them. They piled them there so they could look back and remember.

I think we don't collect enough stones in our life. We don't take the time to build monuments of remembrance to mark the places in our life that God has shown up and done something magnificent in us. We are so focused on What Comes Next and how we are going to problem solve our way into the future that we forget that God is and has always been so present with us. This intense forward focus makes us forget that worry and problem solving is not for us. It's God's job the work out the solutions that lie ahead. It's our job to trust and obey. Sometimes we need to pause and look back to see what God has already done and rest in the truth that He will show up for us again and again.

These are the thoughts that came to me when Sarah Bessy, author of Out of Sorts, issued an invitation to her launch team to participate in a blog link challenge. She gave us a writing prompt to work off of, I used to think ________ and now I think _______. 

In preparation for this post, I sat down and put pen to paper. I was looking for 'that one thing' that fit the challenge. That one thing that was the key to my metamorphosis but as I stared at the black sheet of paper before me I realized that there was no one thing. There were a thousand things that triggered, fuelled and sustained the continued growth and change in my life. 

I am different that who I used to be. Different than I was last week, last year or five years ago. I feel like I am constantly changing in connection with my relationship with Jesus. My faith grows but so do the list of questions. My confidence continues to blossom, my mind is sharper, my trust is deeper, my strength is bolder. I am more of me in Christ than I have ever been but its happened - and is happening - gradually, like summer turning to fall, one beautiful leaf at a time. The change of colour is so subtle that its hardly noticeable until one day when you look up and realize that the world is alive with colour in a new way. Suddenly, everything has changed and it's beautiful autumn and you can hardly remember what the world looked like before.  That's me. I'm autumn. I am full of colour and change and loss of what needed to go in preparation of the Thing that is growing deep within me. 

I am a gradual work in progress but if I take a moment and look back I can see my Stones in the road, my moments where God showed up and brought me to a place of safety. Let me collect some of my Stones here. Let me build a monument to remember. Let me show you how God has Been and will continue to Be. Let me remember.

*I used to think that though I couldn't earn God's love, I could prove to Him that I am a good investment but now I think that the truth of God's lavish love for me is proof enough that I am worthy.

*I used to think that being 'used by God' was the highest form of approval but now I think being chosen and loved by God, from the beginning of time, is the only approval I need.

*I used to think that my abilities qualified me to serve God but now I think God, in my weakness, is what makes me malleable and full of purpose.

*I used to think that church was the place we went to worship but now I think that The Church is all of us with our lives surrendered in every day acts of worship that look a whole lot like loving and serving and kindness and acceptance.

*I used to think that God was all about grand gestures but now I think God is far more into intimate, authentic, small moments.

*I used to think that any acknowledgement of my talents was pride but now I think God gave me gifts and talents to use for His Kingdom purposes and I get to celebrate that.

*I used to think that people not liking me was the worst thing ever but now I think not liking myself is worse.

These are some of my stones. Each stone has a story, a moment and a message. Each stone is full of intimate, heart breaking change. Each stone holds a truth that goes beyond words. Each stone is oh so precious and unique. And there are more of them, more stones waiting to be discovered. Stones that I am unearthing and polishing day by day. There are things I am still figuring out and moments and places where God is still at work. My monument is the cathedral of my soul. It's a work that will never be complete but with each passing year it becomes more evident, more beautiful and more fragile somehow. 

These are my Stones of Remembrance.

"And these stones shall be a memorial for the children of Israel forever."
~Joshua 4:7

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

All of the Questions. None of the Answers.

This has been a weird year. It's been challenging because of All the Happenings but it has also been challenging on a deeper, spiritual level. It's been a year of changes and surrender. Of letting go and grabbing hold. Of silence and of massive soul rewrites. And during this time - especially the last three months - I have been spending time in the silent margins of my world, asking God, not what comes next (as is my compulsive habit) but, who is next.

Maybe I've written about this before, I can't remember, but this has become the constant mantra in the back of my mind, the backdrop to every decision, every conversation. Who is next, Lord? Who do you want me to encounter? Who am I to be available for? And in this availability to Who I have learned the deep freedom that comes with being silent, of not having all the answers. This availability is so not about me and what I have to give. It's about God and the love He is. In these moments I try to listen more and talk less. I ask questions that open the conversation, I pray that these moments are sacred, safe spaces for people to share their heart. I pray that my words offer more encouragement than advice and point the Who to The One. I pray that Jesus will be evident in these random holy conversations.

This is so not normal for me. I've loved being a talker, one with more answers than questions. I've loved to talk about what is going on in my life but have forgotten far too often to ask others what is happening in their world. (disclaimer: I am still a work in progress and have the tendency to spew out too many words about me before I even consider asking about you - especially if you are a comfortable person to me. Sorry. Thank you for loving me through my awkward-self-ness). It is this 180 turn in how I relate to the world that has made me pause and reflect on what I put out into the world.

For more than a year, I have been making notes on The Next Book. I wrote about 5,000 words and a really fantastic outline. I felt like I had a really good handle on The Next Book and then all of a sudden I didn't. I don't know that there was a specific moment or incident that was the beginning of the unravelling of this book but I sit here with a pile of tangled yarn where a neatly begun masterpiece once was. I deleted the 5,000 words, tossed out the outline and scribbled over the title. I took an intentional hiatus from blogging and set aside some time to just BE with myself. Be with myself and read.

Actually, I think I blame reading for this tangled yarn that was once my neatly crafted self. I read things that completely undid me. I read things that challenged me, broke me, healed me and shook me. I read things that were exactly how I saw the world and things that brought me to a new place in the world. I read things that resonated with my soul and things that ripped my patched together theology from my hands, dismantled it and left me with only the purest pieces. I read things that utterly changed every part of me - chipping away at the rough edges while moulding and reshaping the best, truest parts of my soul.

Yep, reading is to blame.

So here's the deal. I'm going to start writing again. The Next Book has become The New Book and its imperfectly beautiful. It's everything I never knew I needed to say about the things that matter most to me. I'll blog too. I'm not sure what will come out of me here but I will be real and vulnerable because you are My People. You are here because there is something about these random words that you identify with. I will remember that. I will trust you. I will share with you. I will invite you to join me on this journey.

One of the first things I want to share is something I've read recently. It's Sarah Bessey's new book Out of Sorts that was released today. I am part of her launch team which means I got an advanced copy of this gem. Let me tell you, I devoured it in two days and have spent the past month going back and savouring it slowly. I will write reviews and more blog posts about this book in the coming weeks but for now I want to offer you this one line from the book that has turned my world upside down …

I hope we all live like we are loved.

It was this idea that propelled my wandering, wondering heart into this new space. If I really believed that I am loved - loved by my friends, loved by my family, loved by my husband, loved by my Jesus - how would that change how I interacted with the world? How would that change how I spoke? What I wrote about? How I love others? If I lived as if all this love was true, what would my life look like?

I have no answers for you. My well loved life is different from yours. Yours will occur in the spaces you dwell, with the people you love, in the community God has placed you. I can't describe your well loved life - only you can dream it for yourself. I just want you to ask yourself that question. What would your life, your relationships look like if you believed you are loved? How would you flourish in this well loved life? How would you love if you believed you are loved?

Ask. Ponder. Dream.

And live as though you are loved … because you are.

You are loved.
You are cherished.
You are treasured.
You are valued.
You are adored.
You are loved.
You are.

God is a lovesick parent over you.
~Jen Hatmaker