The Work of Your Hands

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It doesn’t get old, cutting the strip of tape on the box and pulling up the flaps, scrunching up the layer of packing paper off the top to reveal stacks of your book.

Your book.

The one you cried over, stressed over, almost gave up on but didn’t. Careful as can be, you wrap your fingers around the spine of one and lift it up. The cover is even more beautiful than it looked in the email the publisher sent, the texture is more pleasing. Without thinking, you hold the book against your heart, embracing the story that came from such a depth in you.

There’s nothing like it, holding your story. The work of your hands.

My friend and fellow author Jennifer Lamont Leo recently opened the box containing her first published novel.

Untitled design (12) You’re the Cream in My Coffee (which released on Thursday) is a purely delightful book. I should know, I had the pleasure and honor of endorsing it. I do believe that you, dear friend, would very much enjoy it.

When I saw this picture of Jennifer on Facebook, I got all misty eyed, thinking of how she must be feeling. The absolute and dizzying joy, the relief, the excitement. I mean, look at her face! Can’t you feel her delight?

I know I can. And it makes me so very happy for her.

I don’t know what your “thing” is. Maybe it’s running marathons or knitting baby blankets. Perhaps you’re a musician or an accountant or a web designer or a poet. Whatever it is  you do, I hope there are moments of joy in the doing.

Sure, there are moments which find you with head on desk and a heart full of doubts. There are times when you feel the exact opposite of joy. You probably feel worn down to the core some days.

But I hope there are other days when you look at the work of your hands and marvel. Not so much at what you have created. More at what a pleasure it is to have that work to do. Because it was work given to you by the One who crafted you in His hand.

And when you sit in awe, holding the work of your hands, remember this:

When the Creator, the Father God formed you, I have no doubt that He held you and felt the joy of having you as His own.

He delighted in the work of His hands.

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Jennifer has very generously provided a give-away of her debut novel You’re the Cream in My Coffee! Just complete the action steps in the Rafflecopter link to get more entries into the drawing. I’ll announce the winner next week! Feel free to share this post so your friends can enter, too! 

NOTE: This giveaway is only for those living in United States. If you happen to live outside the US of A, the ebook version is just $1.99. Thanks for understanding.

Click here to enter! a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Remember This

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We went for one last swim in the river the night before school started. The kids ran into the water at top speed, tripping over their own feet and falling into clumsy dives, splashing for all they were worth.

They did underwater headstands and skipped stones (which ended up being more like plunking them out into the middle of the river). They competed in swimming races and built wonders out of wet sand.

I stood, waist deep, watching all they were doing. I felt like Mary, pondering and collecting in my heart that which these children of mine do.

“Mom! Watch this!”

“Did you see that?”

“Look what I found!”

I watched, I saw, I looked. And I told myself over and over, “Remember this, remember this, remember this”.

Remember the hike through the woods where we found the baby snakes and the bright green frog. And even remember the bee stings and the hugs and kisses that followed.

Remember the trip to Wisconsin where we ate lunch overlooking the polar bears and the way your girl’s eyes grew round at the opportunity. Remember the museums and the walks and the gardens. And remember how the boys still hold your hand because they want to be near.

Remember the books read together. New ones and classics. Remember the talks you had after reading, the lessons you all learned together about what it means to be human and family and friends.

Remember this. Remember this. Remember this.

And don’t forget the sweetness of being told you’re loved by a sincere eight year old. Remember the way you marvel at your (nearly) ten year old’s courage. Soak into your memory the way your children speak of Jesus with such assurance and confidence.

And commit to memory how really, really good life can be even in the noise of our culture and the tugging at our attention. Even in tragedy and pain, an edge of beauty often contrasts with the darkness. Sometimes that lovely edge is made of the memories of  long snuggles and shared giggles.

Remember this.

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Grandma Moses, Late Starts, and Joy in the Work

SusieFinkbeiner.com

The other day my family and I visited the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison, Wisconsin. We saw art from Bouguereau, Picasso, Calder, and ancient pottery and coins from Rome.

We also saw quite a few nudes which caused one of my 8 year old boys to declare that the art museum was a “plaza of nightmares”.

Ah, buddy.

On a mission to avoid a room with life sized naked lady statues in a circle, I lead the kids to a dim hallway lined with paintings. We looked at each and discussed the materials used, the era in which it was created, the style.

Then I turned and gasped. There in front of me was a painting by an artist I greatly admire. MTE1ODA0OTcxNzMxOTQ0OTcz

Grandma Moses. (Can we just take a moment to reflect on how adorable she is?)

It’s not her work that I admire so much. I like her paintings just fine, but her craft isn’t what endears her to me. It’s her story and her words that make me love her.

Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until she was 78 years old.

Let that sink in a minute. 78 years old.

And she became one of America’s most famous folk artists.

Do you want to know what she said about her late-found art?

“If I hadn’t started painting, I would have raised chickens.”

Seriously. Adorable, right?

I wonder if she’d have found as much satisfaction in the raising of chickens as she did in the painting. Part of me thinks she may have found pleasure in work, whether it be spreading feed or paint.

Soon my lazy and restful summer will end, school will begin and so will my new novel. My mornings will be a rush of getting kids ready for the day and out the door and dropped off at school where they’ll work hard at learning. While they’re gone, I’ll be tapping away at my keyboard, creating a story. Then, afternoon will be me getting the kids, helping them with homework, making dinner, cleaning (maybe), getting them to bed, and working on the novel while they’re asleep.

So. Much. Work.

But I intend to find joy in it. Satisfaction. Pleasure. At the end of each day I want to shut my eyes with the knowledge that I did my best and with the hope that I brought Glory to my Creator even if in a small and imperfect way. If for some reason I can’t see that in the day I spent, I have the hope of a fresh start in the morning.

And, like Grandma Moses, as the years go I hope to be able to say,

“I look back on my life like a good day’s work, it was done and I am satisfied with it.”

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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.