Permission to Rest

Permission to

The plan was to start writing the first draft of a novel this summer. I’d write hard and fast so that, by fall, I’d be able to get to editing. I felt the stress and pressure of needing to get going on this book, due March 1.

The plan was to go full boar.

But here I am, summer nearly spent, and I’ve not written more than a chapter of the book.

You know what? I’m okay with that. I feel good about that.

In these months of rest I’ve had the leisure to spend long afternoons reading with my kids. I’ve had luxurious jaunts through the sprinkler and rides on the swings. Time has been free and easy, just right for spontaneous get togethers with friends or long conversations with my daughter. We’ve enjoyed swims in the lake and  fireworks and baseball games.

And I’ve not been the slightest bit rushed to get back to the writing. I’ve not been in a hurry. I’ve not felt anxious.

I’ve given myself permission to rest.

In just a few weeks I’ll get back to writing (once the kids are in school). On September 6 I’ll get up early (yowch), drop the kids off at school (sigh), and find a quiet place to tap away on A Song of Home, the last novel in the Pearl Spence series. I’ll work hard, hard, hard to get the story down and right and to do it justice. I’ll have to say “no” a lot and ignore social media a little. I’ll be all in.

But not now. Now is a time for me to breathe easy, to let this story grow in my dreams and my heart before it gets hurled on the page.

Now is a time of rest.

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How about you? When have you had a time of rest? What is it you do to relax and breathe? I’d love to hear from you. It’s been so long! Seven months have flown by without a Susie blog here. Thank you for allowing me time to let this field lay fallow. I told myself that I wouldn’t start blogging again until I missed it. Well, here we are. I’ll be blogging here on Mondays and will start posting video blogs on YouTube soon. 

 

 

A letter to my 19 year old self

Hey, Happy Birthday.

You’re me half a lifetime ago. I’m 38 now. It seems old to you, I know. But it’s gone by in a snap for me.

So much happens to you before you become me. You have a lot of really great days. You accomplish quite a few things. You fail more than you succeed (believe me, one day you’ll be okay with it). There are more than a few surprises coming your way (both good and bad).

Right now the world seems wide open to you. Your dreams are big, huge, multi-colored beauties. You dream audaciously.

Most of those dreams will fall away. It will hurt when they go, but they have to in order for other dreams to rise to the surface.

Don’t be afraid to let go. It frees up your heart and your hands for what’s coming.

I remember our 19th birthday. You think you have life pretty well figured out. You’re set. All you can see if happiness.

I hate to tell you this, but you’re in for a rough couple years. There will be days when you feel completely alone. On those days, remember that you are loved. You’ll think that God is done with you. He isn’t. Oh, trust me. He isn’t. You’ll wonder if you’re strong enough to forgive. You are, but you’ll need to keep remembering Jesus as you forgive not once or twice but over and over again.

You’re going to mess up some. You’ll do stupid things. Say hurtful words. Damage relationships. You won’t just stumble. You’ll full on topple end over end.

Nope. I can’t tell you what choices you shouldn’t make. I won’t tell you who to avoid. You have to go through all of that to become me.

What I can say is this: Remember grace.

Remember grace.

Oh. And I will tell you another thing. Buy stock in L’Oreal. You’ll be buying enough hair dye in the future to keep that company thriving.

Enjoy being young. It doesn’t last long.

Don’t dread 30. It’s the best decade yet.

Stop hating your body. Life is far more than jean size and smooth skin.

Don’t listen when someone tells you you’re too sensitive. Sensitivity is your super power.

Keep your heart open to love.

And remember grace.

Starbucks, Hard and Fast Work, Chatty Friends

IMG_20131022_125932I showed up at Starbucks for my dose of caffeine. My intention was to start working, hard and fast, first thing. 8:00 am on a Monday morning.

It was going to set the frantic pace for this week.

And I was going to start with a wonderfully profound blog post.

But then a few friends walked in.

They sat at the table next to me, letting me do a few things while we chatted.

We caught up, talked about our weekends, what sermon we heard at church, talked about watermelon (yes, really…watermelon).

Now it’s 9:11 am and I’m just starting to get to work.

But I don’t feel anxious about it. Not one bit. In fact, I realize how much I needed that hour to gab with a few of my friends.

I’m choosing to give myself a little grace. I’m choosing to see the slower-than-expected start as a gift. I’m deciding to be grateful for how this morning turned out to be different than I expected.

Sometimes we need to allow for a breather. Especially at the beginning of the week.

I hope you find a chance for a breath today. Sometimes when we get so caught up in our busy-ness we forget to live.

 

 

 

My Least Favorite Presidential Candidate

I have a love/hate relationship with election years. You may not know this about me (because I refuse to enter political discussions online or in person) but I am intrigued by our government. Most specifically, I can’t get enough of those silly little politicians.

There isn’t a debate I won’t watch (both parties). I read articles and follow up with certain people who are running. I spy on other people’s Facebook debates. To say that I’m an informed voter is a bit of an understatement.

In this election cycle I have my favorite. And, no, I’m not going to tell you who it is. My mama taught me it was something to keep close to the sleeve, your political leanings. But I do have a favorite.

I also, however, have my least favorite. And I mean this candidate falls all the way to the bottom of my list, not just of politicians but of almost everyone. I cannot stand that candidate. My blood boils, hackles raise, teeth grind at any news of this person.

If I knew that person in real life I would do everything I possibly could to avoid him/her.

This morning I was thinking about this unnamed presidential hopeful and realized how close I was to actually hating him/her.

Hate.

Real hate.

Oh, how it stung to realize that. Doggone it. I am not called to hate. I’m commanded against it.

In fact, I’m supposed to love that person.

Dang it all.

And I’m supposed to pray for that person.

(Kicks at the ground) But I don’t wanna.

And I’m supposed to find a way to bless that person.

(eye roll) Do I have to?

Shoot.

But what about what he/she said about __________________?

Still. Love.

What about when he/she did _________________________?

Love. Yup. Love.

Okay. What about the time he/she mocked ____________________?

You know the answer. Love.

But…but…but…

Nope. Sorry. No excuses. Just love.

Does that mean I don’t stand up for what’s right? No. But it also doesn’t mean I demonize him/her. Can I call out the wrong he/she does? Absolutely. But I don’t get to debase him/her. Christ does not allow for me to dismiss him/her.

And why not?

Because this person – this human I don’t like and most decidedly do not agree with – was created in the image of the same Father God who created me. Because this person – this human who says hurtful, venomous things – is loved by Christ every bit as much as I am.

I am to love and pray for this person – this human who makes me feel rage I’m not comfortable with – who has a purpose and potential to serve God (whether he/she chooses to or not) just like I do.

And because this person – this human who is near the top of my least favorite list – is  beloved of God.

You know what? It doesn’t matter how I feel about him/her or if it’s fair that he/she is afforded love. My job is to pray and love.

Yowch.

 

And so today I start a routine of praying for this person. Not against this person (like I may or may not have been doing the past six months). And I’m praying that I can come to a place of loving him/her.

This is going to be hard. Somedays it might make me angry.

But I’m going to try my best.

 

 

In Celebration of Good Enough

wp-1452089613268.jpg Hands up in you’re a perfectionist.

I see ya. Yup, you, too. And over there.

You know, there are those who might be surprised to see my hand waving in the air like I just don’t care. I mean, I do care.  A lot.

I’m a perfectionist. Of course I care. A lot.

See, I’m a perfectionist in the way that, if I can’t do something absolutely amazingly and wonderfully, and PERFECTLY, I just don’t want to do it at all. Maybe that’s why I’m not the world’s best housekeeper…hm.

My perfectionism serves me well in my writing. It pushes me to be better, to offer my very best, to keep improving.

However, my perfectionism hinders me in a lot of other ways.

There have been times when I haven’t invited friends over because I didn’t think I’d ever get my house perfectly clean. I used to beat myself up over performances when I didn’t hit every single note perfectly. I’ve avoided trying new things because it took the risk of showing that I’m not perfectly good at everything.

It’s often not enough for me to try to be perfect. I usually want other people to think I’m perfect, too.

 

The problem? I’m totally not perfect.

The problem? I am a mere mortal with limitations.

Sometimes, in some things, I need to be content with Good Enough.

Hear me, please, not in a dismissive, slack off way. But in a “I did my best and can give no more of myself” kind of way.

When a friend comes over and sees that I haven’t gotten that cobweb in the corner, it’s okay. I vacuumed and scooped the poop out of the litter box. Good enough.

When I’ve played the keyboard at church and did my very best to hit the right keys even though my nervous fingers bumped the wrong ones a few times, I still put my heart into serving others and worshipping God. Good enough.

When I serve dinner on paper plates every night for a full week, but those dinners had all the important elements (including a veggie). Good enough.

When I falter under the temptation of the chocolate chips in the cupboard, but I also had an extra handful of spinach at lunch (without ranch). Good enough.

When I don’t know what to say to comfort a friend, but am wise enough to know that a hug speaks plenty. Good enough.

When I’m doing what I can with what I’ve got and trying my very best to hear what God has to say (even though sometimes His voice is so soft I have to strain to listen). Good. Enough.

It’s grace that I give myself. To do what I’m able to and let go of what is beyond me. To put my time and energy into the tasks that God has enabled me to do and to allow myself to sit back and imagine Him looking at my efforts.

And I imagine Him smiling in the way that fathers do and taking my small gifts and saying, “Good enough.”

 

 

On fitting more reading into your life

Read More Books

I read a lot. Like a lot, a lot. Part of that is because I don’t watch a ton of TV (never seen Downton Abbey…I know, I know). Also, I just truly enjoy the art of a well written story.

Still. I read a lot. And some of my friends ask me how I squeeze it all in. When I tell them, “I make time”, sometimes they think they just can’t do that.

Well, maybe you can.

Here are 5 ways to fit more reading into your life. From me to you.

 

1. ALWAYS carry a book with you: Wherever you go, take a book. Keep wpid-img_20150603_160207.jpgone in your car or purse or laptop case. Have an ereading app installed on your device and loaded with good books. You never know when you’ll find a minute here or there to read a little. Always – and I mean ALWAYS – have a book with you. BONUS: it makes you look cool and brainy.

2. Find what literature keeps you reading: Figure out what stories you can’t wait to come back to, read them. Or what poetry pulls at your heart or what essays grab your attention. Try different things, different genres. What excites you as a reader? Read that! BONUS: You’ll be developing your taste and your voice in the process.

3. Join/Start a book club: Book clubs are great accountability. I mean, who wants to show up for the treats just to admit that they haven’t finished the book? Join a book club or, if you can’t find one, start one with a few friends. It doesn’t have to be huge and it doesn’t have to meet every month. You’ll be surprised how meaningful it is to share a love for good literature. BONUS: The snacks! Oh, all the book club snacks!

4. Take advantage of every opportunity: Remember #1? Always have that book. And see how many opportunities you can take advantage of to read. In the line at the grocery store, waiting to pick up your kid from soccer practice, while the sauce is stewing (just don’t get the book too close to open flame). Pretend that it’s a game of how often you can pick up that book and read a paragraph! BONUS: You won’t be so irked when someone takes 15 items through the 12 item limit line.

IMG_20140615_0637285. Set goals and keep track: I set a reading goal each year. I enter that goal into Goodreads.com and update my account each time I finish a book. It’s fun to see how many books/pages I’ve read as I’m going through the year. I also fill a shelf with the books I finish and post a photo to Instagram. It’s fulfilling to share recommendations to friends and promote the work of writers I greatly admire. BONUS: At the end of the year you can celebrate your accomplishments! It’s a year long read-a-thon! Have fun!

So…how do you find/make time to read? What are you reading now? I’m always up for a recommendation! 

My Review of A Cup of Dust by Susie Finkbeiner

My good friend and fellow writer, Bob Evenhouse, reviewed A Cup of Dust on his blog. He said nice things. You can go ahead and check out what he thought of the novel!

PART-TIME NOVEL

I sincerely apologize to Susie Finkbeiner and anyone else who read the unedited post yesterday! Here is the do-over review of her latest book, A Cup of Dust.

One thing I love about living in Grand Rapids, Michigan is the vibrant writing community. Agents, publishing professionals, bloggers, online entrepreneurs, and writers of all sorts reside in this great town.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to one of these fine Grand Rapidians Susie Finkbeiner and review her new book.

51MVQM1vdTL__SX321_BO1,204,203,200_I cannot remember when and where I met Susie. I know it was a few years ago probably around the time my writers group launched the first Jot Conference. At that time she had published one book and was writing another. Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of reading A Cup of Dust, her latest novel.

A Cup of Dust was birthed out of Susie’s love of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes…

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