IMHO, My Heart, Processing

About Parkland, Florida.

Seventeen families are living a nightmare this week. If I stop and think about what these folks are experiencing, it’s overwhelming. Everywhere I look there are reminders of just how much pain my fellow parents are feeling. I had the extreme privilege of hugging my child this morning and it brought me to tears.

Call me crazy if you must, but I’m not ashamed to weep for strangers. If collective sorrow is what it’s going to take to help people heal, change peoples’ hearts for good, motivate us to help hurting people, is crying such a bad thing? And come on, who isn’t crying about the tragic loss of life in what should be the safest of places?

There’s a lot of debate, as there always is after tragedy, about what to do next. The below piece of verse has been nagging at my brain, so I looked it up and found comfort and direction not just in Romans 12:9, but also in the verses that followed:

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Feeling helpless is horrible. We want something to do, a way to act, and act now. We want this because these precious souls, the ones we lost, they matter, and we don’t want them to have been lost in vain. We want to act now because for some of us it feels like the earth has stopped spinning and the sun has turned to coal. Or it would if those had been our kids.

People always say you don’t know what someone is going through until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. I think that kind of cliché does us all a disservice, because it assumes we do not have the capacity for empathy. I don’t know anyone who is incapable of empathizing with others. We just don’t do it as much as we should. I know one thing for sure –  I think we can all imagine all too well what we would feel like if those had been our kids.  And it scares the daylight out of us.

So we grieve. And we get up and we cling to what is good. We bless those who curse us. We make time to put kindness and light and purity back into the world as best we can. If the life, death, and resurrection of Christ has taught us anything, it is that the worst thing to happen is never the last thing that happens. Even though it may not feel like it now, love always wins in the end.

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For Writers, IMHO

Stating the obvious.

When I first decided I was going to make a for-real attempt at writing for a living, I started reading all the advice to new writers I could get my hands on. You know what the underlying thread is in nearly all of them – from award-winning, NYT Best-Selling icons to newbies?

Every single person says the best thing you can do if you want to be a writer is to write every day.

I love love love though that nobody tries to hide the secret sauce. There’s no silver bullet method to getting published. If you talk to a dozen authors, you’ll get a dozen unique stories about their path from idea to shelf, whether they’ve self-pubbed or been picked up by one of the big houses. But you can’t get published if you don’t write.

The killer, of course, is that this is much harder than it sounds.

Life gets in the way. Work. Spouse. Kids. Pets. Plumbing. Illnesses. Miss one day and it snowballs into months in a blink of an eye.

So here’s my advice, as a pre-published author who also happens to freelance copywrite and proofread for a living. If you’ve missed a day (or year), put it behind you. Don’t beat yourself up. Start fresh. Start now. Make an appointment with yourself to write for however long you can, however often you can. And keep that appointment.

For Fun, IMHO, Personal Growth

New Things.

pexels-photo-775779.jpegWell, we made it. A new year! And with the flip of the calendar page comes mystery and possibility and hope for making the next 365 days better than the last.

For some reason, in spite of the potential January brings, I sometimes get overwhelmed by all the excitement and determined energy around me.

In grad school we called this phenomenon “analysis paralysis.” It happens when you overthink a situation to the point of being unable to take logical next steps. You spend so much time thinking about your options until the thought of actually exercising any option and experiencing a possible consequence becomes ridiculous.

 

This failure to make a decision means that eventually, the passage of time makes your decision for you. It means instead of shopping for a good loan and buying a new vehicle to replace an unreliable one, you end up stranded in your hoopty on a busy highway at rush hour. Or it means you pay overtime plus weekend rates for a plumber when you could have sorted out the clogged drain when you first noticed it.

I’ve spent all of January worrying about which resolution to make, which bad habit to correct, what to do with my time. Maybe this is the year that I budget my time better. Or stop procrastinating. Or spend more time doing and less time worrying.  Am I too late to try?

Maybe not. Maybe my New Year starts February 1, when all the other resolvers start to wonder if they really want to stick with their new things.  Maybe I can cut myself some slack and remember that His mercies are new each morning, whether I’ve analyzed them to pieces or not. I can be thankful that grace is never indecisive.

 

 

 

 

IMHO, Personal Growth

99 Days

In my previous career, my employer was a big proponent of the management principle “measure what matters.” They had quantifiable goals for just about everything, from length of employment to number of phone calls the customer care line answered in an hour to how many Facebook ‘likes’ each post received.

It’s been several years since I worked for them, but some of those ideas stuck with me.  This morning, I had a measurement moment when I picked up my phone and a notification caught my eye.

The text was a daily reminder for my Bible In One Year app.  “Good morning, Kell.  Day 99 is waiting for you.” Day 99.  I’ve read the Bible every day for 99 days. That’s a lot of days. I’m on the threshold of 100. Nearly a third of the year I’ve spent each day deliberately with God.

If this sounds like a brag, I’m sorry. It kind of is, and it’s kind of not.

It kind of is a brag because I’m proud to have begun this new habit. My life has changed because of it, and I’m not just saying that. Seriously. I’ll write another post on the measurable ways my life has changed since I started reading the Bible. But for now, I’ll just leave it at I feel genuine joy in my life more often than I used to.

Another thing that’s changed –  I feel physical longing to read the Bible every day.  No matter what else I have going on,  until I’ve read, I feel incomplete. It’s weird. The closest thing I can compare it to is thirst.  I crave my time with the Bible.

Ninety-nine days later I’m the same, but I’m not.  I’m flawed. I’m selfish, arrogant, impatient, envious. But I’m reading about people from history who are just as flawed as me and God loved them. Forgave them. Taught them. Sent His Son to die for them so He could be with them forever.

Ninety-nine days later I’m finding that the more I read, the less alone I feel in the world.  So I want 99 more days. And 99 after that.  Because after all these years, I’m finally learning to measure what really matters, and it’s not Facebook likes.

 

For Fun, IMHO

How to get through the long winter

No, this isn’t a Game of Thrones post. Sorry.

This is yet another post about how my kid amazes me. When we moved from a southern state to one a little further north six (!?!) years ago, I dread spending  long, grey winters indoors.

Until I saw how happy it made my kiddo.

Me:  (wrapping scarf #2 around top of child’s head and ears)  Fifteen minutes. You have fifteen minutes to play, then you come inside and warm up for five minutes.

Kiddo: mmffff  hmm meh hhmmm fmm mm.

Me: What?

Kiddo: (unbundling face) You don’t have to worry.

Me:  Of course I worry.  Frostbite is serious business.

Kiddo: Not for me. I’m part penguin. (grins)

It was that moment when I decided to let go of my worry (within reason) and I’m so glad I did. I watched from the window as a pack of tiny bodies waddled in the snow, flung snowballs with reckless abandon, and, generally speaking, behaved like a bunch of young penguins on an iceberg. My son-of-a-southerner flopped face first into a snowdrift, arms and legs flapping, and scooted across the front yard on his belly. Why? Who cares. It was fun.

Subsequent winters saw us with more snowball fights, snowmen named Jasper who liked jaunty caps, snow alligators, green with food coloring, towering forts and even a three-headed snow hydra.

So, now, I actually kind of look forward to the first big snowfall of winter. When the air is heavy and smells like ice, and you just know when you wake up the world will be clean and quiet with new snowfall. It seems no matter how old my kiddo gets, his face still lights up when he looks out the window at new snow. Maybe he is part penguin.

 

 

IMHO, Personal Growth

About extremes

 

I think it was near the end of fourth grade when my child started incorporating some of the Disney-channelisms into his everyday language.

Everything remotely good that happened, whether it was a bowl of cereal or a three-point basket became  “epic!”

On the other hand, if something didn’t quite work out – a stray dribble of ketchup from the bottle hit the dinner plate –  that was “so much fail.”

It’s all normal, I know.  Kids will pick up expressions from the playground, the classroom, YouTube, and that ilk. They try on different aspects of their personalities like  hats,  trying to see which ones feel the most comfortable.

Maybe it’s a generational thing, but an adjective like ‘epic’ doesn’t pair well with anything other than Homer’s Iliad.  Maybe Star Wars. The noun that follows a word like epic truly needs to demonstrate heroic substance and weight. With all due respect to Kevin Durant, I question whether the most beautifully-executed three-point shots truly qualify as epic. Nor does a simple misstep along the way to the trash bin equal devastating failure.

For a while, I thought maybe these expressions were a byproduct of the hormonal roller-coaster known as puberty. And honestly, at our house, this is probably exactly what it is – a temporary step in the process of our kiddo growing up.

But it seems like everywhere you look, daily events are hyperbolized into life-changers of one extreme or another. I laughed out loud this morning at an advertisement for a cereal that proclaimed This. Is. Everything.  I had no idea honey-sweetened oats were so powerful.

bowl of cereal a.k.a. everything
Everything?

On the one hand, I am a big fan of celebrating everyday joys.  Doing a happy dance when I toss a wad of paper towels from the kitchen table to the trash bin *and make the basket.* My child and I singing at the top of our lungs in the car. Life’s too short to not celebrate whenever you can.

On the other hand, though, when everything is an extreme – either everything or nothing – we lose our ability to appreciate the vast majority of our lives that lie in between.

I think that’s a shame. All those in-between things, the everyday observations that would otherwise go unmentioned in the  novel of my life, are the daily simplicities that sustain us. Because it’s in those little things, my husband’s smile, my child’s yawn, my dog’s snore, those are the things that show me how near God really is all the time. And that, my friends, that is what’s really ‘epic.’

 

 

 

 

IMHO, KidLit

There’s a Book for That

I’ve never been a shoe person.  All my life, I’ve needed just handful of shoes to feel comfortable in any occasion. Need to dress up?  Black pumps.   Exercise?  Sneakers.  Is it summer?  Flip flops.  Winter?  Furry boots.  Have a class?  Plain white flats.  All purpose. No muss, no fuss.

Give me a Scholastic book order form, or a library card, and I’ll show you a smorgasbord of possibilities.  Here’s my latest favorites organized by mood, snackfood and/or weather.

“What is the world coming to? Give me hope, please.”   THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN – Katherine Applegate

“I’ll take two pink cotton candies with a side of ridiculous fun.”  ATTACK OF THE FLUFFY BUNNIES – Andrea Beaty

It’s a small world… and all that….KINGDOM KEEPERS series – Ridley Pearson

Perfect for dreary, chilly afternoons. Blankie plus cocoa plus THE SCREAMING STAIRCASE – Jonathan Stroud

What’s your favorite book when you’re feeling sassy?  I’m kinda digging MacBarnett & Jory John’s THE TERRIBLE TWO.   Let me know what I’ve missed.