{God-sized Dreaming} Of Bumps and Bruises

{God-sized Dreaming} Of Bumps and Bruises

I’m covered in bruises. Literally. I usually sport black and blue marks up and down my thighs. I’m a high-energy, motivated person who likes to get things done. {I like to say I’m naturally caffeinated, but people have called me other things at times, perhaps not so kind.}

So, typically, I can’t be bothered to walk carefully enough to spare my legs the rough kiss of a chair edge or doorknob.  In fact, I broke my thumb a couple of years ago by spinning around in my daughter’s room {no doubt in a rush to do something} and catching the slim edge of her open door precisely on my outstretched thumb pad.

Yes, I hear your collective Ouch! and I appreciate the sympathy.

Just last night, after I’d already begun this post about my crash-happy ways, I smashed my pinkie toe into a corner of kitchen baseboard, hot on the pursuit of a big basket of laundry to hoist upstairs. {I realize a photo of the red lump on my toe would be more apt an illustration here today, but I’m sparing you with what I hope is a more pleasant alternative — a photo of the the lush garden outside the coffee shop where I’m working this morning.}

* * *

Most days, I’m busy, at work bumping into the sharp corners of my life. If I encounter an obstacle, I bash into it straight on, thinking I can force my way through by sheer willpower and brute force.

And, so, while, being on the God-sized Dream Team has opened the door of my private little writing room into the vibrant outdoor tangle of friendship, opportunity, and inspiration — it’s also had me careening into rocks and getting tangled in vines:

  • Because connections and ideas have flourished precisely as time has tightened.
  • Because I can’t get away from the God-given confines of my life in this demanding season of caring for three young kids.
  • Because God calls me to be a stronger, healthier, and more whole person — spiritually, mentally, and physically — as well as pursue my God-sized dream, and these are all the hardest and best things I’ve ever tried to do.

I’m writing this post for the final linkup with Holley Gerth’s God-sized dreamers. We began, way back in January with weekly posts and linkups about our desires for more of what God has for us — our God-sized dreams. This is the check-in post, the one where I tell you how much I’ve learned, how far I’ve come, and where I am in regards to my God-sized dream.

In general terms, I described my dream this way, back in early January:

My God-sized dream is about the words. Written words and heart and faith. That’s where you’ll find me.

And, I still love that dream line, because it describes my overarching goal, no matter what specific form it might take. But, I know you want details, and I won’t disappoint. When I applied for Holley’s team back in late fall 2012, I chose two of many goals — start an Etsy shop and write a children’s picture book.

I did launch the Etsy shop back in late February, and while it’s been slow going getting sales, and I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to grow it, I love the idea of connecting with and inspiring others through God’s words and my photos. I’m so honored to know several of my prints now hang in the homes of friends and family {and, maybe, someday, will in those of strangers too}.

I began the children’s picture book — and I still believe in it — but I’ve come to realize it’s very hard, as an unknown author, to sell a picture book, especially when I’m not an illustrator as well.

So, I’m pursuing another project dear to my heart. It’s a topic I’ve felt strongly about for years, but that I’ve hid from, because it felt too big for me. With the help of a new friend and mentor, I’m dusting that project off and diving in: A few weeks ago, I launched the Spark Moms creativity series on the blog. I want to encourage women — especially moms with young kids — that they can pursue their God-given creativity in ways that will enrich their lives and the lives of others around them.

 * * *

As my time with Holley’s book launch team and my 99 other God-sized dream sisters draws to an official close, I am so grateful for the friendships, the lessons, and the journey. But, I’m also thinking of those hard things it’s had me knocking into, now more than ever.

I’m thinking that I can’t get around, or through, the things that get in my way, no matter how much I crash into them. As much as I bang my head against the fact that I rarely have a moment to myself from 7 am to 10 pm, it doesn’t go away. I just get lumps.

So, I hear God softly, gently, suggest a different route.

  • What if I walk around the obstacles, deliberately, slowly, taking in their measure, considering them?
  • What if I run a hand lovingly over them as I stroll by, saying: This is hard, and it’s in my way, but it’s here for a reason?
  • What if I run my thoughts — and prayers — over these impediments daily?

What has your time considering your own God-sized dream taught you? Are you where you imagined? Or have your goals evolved?

 This post is gladly shared with Holley Gerth’s God-sized Dreamers, Jen’s Soli Deo Gloria, and Laura’s Playdates with God.

{God-sized Dreaming} Egg Money

{God-sized Dreaming} Egg Money

As I approached the little red house with peeling paint, I braced myself. I ducked inside, dodging the feathers and little black-and-white droppings, and approached the roosting boxes. I quickly scooped the unprotected eggs into the basket that hung in the crook of my arm, and hesitated.

A number of hens were firmly ensconced, and I knew I had to check beneath them every day, or we’d end up with old, rotten eggs. {And that wouldn’t be good for my main cash flow: Selling eggs to the health food store in town.} I darted my hand beneath the soft warm feather skirts and got several annoyed pecks for my efforts — along with a few more eggs. Quick enough, I was done, and dashed back out into the sunlight.

I had recently realized I was making a good chunk of change {up to $5 a week — and, in the mid-80s, this was serious cash}. I began to feel as though there were others who might need my money more than me. So, with my mom’s help, we decided to send a big care package to a missionary family affiliated with our church. They had several young kids and lived in Bolivia. We took our time, carefully selecting toys, craft supplies, and more — enough to fill a large box. And, off we shipped it.

I learned early that giving felt good.

* * *

Fast-forward to me, a newly minted college graduate. I landed my first “real” job at a small, rural college, gearing up for its very first capital campaign. I was the campaign writer. I wrote the president’s speeches for fundraising events, the campaign brochure, the campaign video script, and even fundraising letters. I quickly became familiar with the university advancement lingo. Sure, there was talk about estate planning and tax benefits, but we liked to tug at the heartstrings with stories of “the best and brightest” students and their need for scholarships; the need for chairs and fellowships to  “attract and retain” respected faculty members, and, my favorite, the unrestricted gift used for the nebulous but all-important “enhancement of academic excellence.”

As I crafted words designed to motivate donors and inspire them to flip open their checkbooks, something happened to me too. I realized that I liked the idea of the “making a difference” {clichéd or not}. As I read and wrote stories of donors of all stripes, I found myself starting to think: We could do that someday.

Now, a number of years and three kids later, my husband and I haven’t made a single major gift yet, but we do feel strongly about supporting a whole group of organizations, from our church, preschool, and alma maters to a host of small, but worthy charities — most with local ties. We like to know where our money is going and that it isn’t bound up in administration or advertising overhead, but going straight to where it’s needed. It’s also really cool to be able to talk to the founders and hear their enthusiasm and vision firsthand.

English Springer Rescue America

jasper blog

We adopted our flaky but lovable spaniel Jasper through English Springer Rescue America. We give them an annual gift and our daughters have collected money for them in lieu of gifts at past birthday parties. ESRA travels the country over and rescues dogs — our Jasper came from a large puppy mill. They go through a very thorough application and interview process {trust us, we know!} before placing their dogs, to make sure they will have good homes. ESRA also puts dogs in foster homes prior to placement so they can house-break and nurse them back to health {if needed}. This also gives the foster family a good insight into the dog’s personality, further helping to ensure a good placement with a family or individual.

India Mission

india mission

The India Mission isn’t a formal non-profit; it’s an outreach ministry of  my home church, Our Redeemer Lutheran. Two long-time members of our church — the Rajakumars –came home in 1999 from a visit to a remote part of India {where a family member lived} with an idea. Their idea was simple: See if other church members were willing to provide just $25 a month to help fund a medical clinic. The clinic was funded, and the India Mission has grown by leaps and bounds, accomplishing much for this small rural village.

Today, our church’s support has grown to $3,000 a year. {My girls love to put the”give” portion of their weekly allowance into the India Mission collection basket at the back of church.}  The local government now takes responsibility for the medical clinic our church founded, so our support focuses mainly on education. We bumped up teacher salaries by 50% {salaries are incredibly low and as a result, teachers don’t regularly show up to work}, ensuring consistent education. Literacy levels have since gone up from 20 to 90 percent! We’ve helped provide a tram to get children safely to and from school {this was thanks to one teenager in our congregation who single-handedly raised $700}, so they don’t have to be afraid of elephants chasing them — a very real, and frightening prospect in this region.

I just love how our kids’ spare change and members’ generosity translates into much more than its literal sum — pennies transformed into school supplies, dollars into running water, the cost of a dinner out into desks.

Hekima Place

hekima place

I covered a Hekima Place fundraiser at a local restaurant several years back for a community magazine. That’s when I met Kate Fletcher. I  was touched by her story: After her husband died, this Pittsburgh native simply packed up and followed her own God-sized dream — establishing a girls’ home for HIV/AIDS orphans in Kenya. The work Kate does is amazing, and she’s built quite the group of supporters back home. Though I’ve given a bit here and there to Hekima Place, I’d like to do more. But, the best thing I’ve probably done to date  was getting our own God-sized dreamer with a heart for African Orphans, Delonna Gibbs, in touch with Kate and Hekima. Delonna makes beautiful jewelry and other crafty items and gives a chunk of the proceeds to places like Hekima.

How about you? How do you spend your “egg money”? What special causes or organizations are close to your heart?

This post was shared gladly with  Laura’s Playdates with God at The Wellspring, Jennifer Dukes Lee’s Tell His Story, and Holley Gerth’s God-sized Dream Team:

 

(in)RL and the Packing Peanut

(in)RL and the Packing Peanut

Thursday afternoon, as I haul a package into my kitchen and pull the inner box from a sea of packing peanuts, a few fall to the floor. A couple of minutes later, I turn around to see my dog chewing something up.

“He didn’t just eat a packing peanut, did he?” I ask my husband {who works from home and had just come up for his afternoon coffee}.

We quickly realize that our sweet-but-not-so-smart Springer Spaniel has indeed ingested a packing peanut or two.

“Oh, that’s going to mess him up,” my husband predicts.

By Friday morning, it becomes evident the dog is sick, and Googling “what happens when dog eats packing peanut” shoots right to the top of our to-do list. {Evidently, dogs love to eat packing peanuts — and it’s really bad news. Those Styrofoam things just don’t break down, and rarely pass through.}

By Friday night, Jasper is even sicker, and my husband says let’s just wait and see how he feels in the morning.

But, I have a ball of dread lodged in my stomach — it involves thoughts of surgery and vets and major bills — all on Saturday, the day I’m supposed to be hosting a house full of strangers for a women’s mini-conference sponsored by the popular site (in)Courage.

***

inrl gift bags

Saturday morning dawns bright and sunny. Already I’ve gotten a text and a Facebook message from ladies cancelling out of today. {Liz has been pulled out of town to say her goodbyes to her dear grandfather, who just suffered a heart attack and is gravely ill, while Melissa forgot the event and ended up being surprised by her husband with a weekend family getaway.}

My neighbor is coming more than an hour late, because she has inadvertently scheduled a hair appointment for the same time is my (in)RL meetup.

I’ve been thinking it’s strange that none of the six ladies left, who all signed up online, have left any comments on my meetup. I keep posting cheery comments like: “Can’t wait to meet everyone! Don’t forget to bring a business card if you have one!”

But, I keep looking, and no one’s changed their RSVP. And I know the comments I post are coming into my email box, so they should be hitting theirs too.

And, there was so much chit-chat at the beginning too. “Can’t wait to meet everyone!” “Anyone else coming from the North Hills, so we can carpool?” “Can I bring anything?”

My mom’s come in from out of town to help, and we’ve gone through elaborate scheming on how we can get my husband  my dad and the three kids out of the house for about four hours, so we ladies can chat, and eat, and watch the videos in a serene, calm setting.

I’ve carried loads and loads of toys to the basement.

I’ve scoured my house clean.

I’ve arranged flowers.

I’ve laid linens and china plates.

I’ve cooked deep-dish, dark chocolate brownies with my mom, late the night before.

I’ve printed out eleven copies of the (in)RL handouts and rounded up eleven pens.

I’ve ordered eleven gifts bags from Dayspring {props here for their amazing sale/coupon codes for hosts, which made these uber-affordable}.

And, no-one’s coming, I start to realize, as my mom and I finish up the sandwiches in a big flurry, rushing to be done by 10 am.

We slide the trays of turkey and roasted red pepper on focaccia with homemade pesto and provolone and rosemary ham-and-brie sandwiches on baguettes with Dijon and apples slices into the fridge, and it’s 10:15.

No-one is coming, and my stomach sinks, like I’ve just swallowed a thick lump that’s sitting in my stomach and getting more and more leaden by the moment.

Then, my friend Beth pulls up.

And, I’m ashamed to tell her that no-one is coming. I’ve put on this whole big shindig, and all these people signed up and they’re not  coming. They’re just not. I don’t know why. Maybe they forgot. Maybe they thought everyone else would show, and they wouldn’t be missed.

Maybe they thought it was ok to just not show up, even though they said they would.

People get busy, and it’s really easy to not think about the person on the other side of the screen —  packaging up little bags of chocolate-covered almonds and herbal tea and tying ribbons on trays and making things lovely for them.

And, I am angry. Angry and ashamed and hurt. And, that lump sits there in my gut, getting harder and harder by each passing minute.

I know I have friends who wanted to come who are praying for us {like Laura and Jennifer}, and I keep thinking: This is what you wanted, God? Really?

The doorbell rings, and I think it’s my neighbor, Robin, but it’s her mom {who I’d had Robin extend a verbal invite too, but I really wasn’t sure if she’d come}.

inrl viewing

We go back to watching the community keynote, and I find that — despite everything — I just love these stories the ladies have to tell here. And, I love the faces equally — bloggers and authors I’ve come to know — both from afar, reading their posts and books, and from closer, from being a part of Holley Gerth’s God-sized Dream Team {the book launch group of 100 lovely ladies for her latest book, You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream: Opening the Door to All God Has for You}.

There’s Holley herself, and how great is it that she sitting there on the mentor video in her cute dress, with bare feet peeking out?! {These ladies are keeping it real.}

Then, there’s other members of the dream team like Jennifer Camp and Crystal Stine, and so many more — like my new friend, Teri Lynne Underwood, who’s been helping coach me through some projects. It warms my heart to see and hear them.

I see Robin’s mom, Connie, reach for a tissue, and I feel myself well up at some of the raw, real moments these brave women share on screen.

***

It turns out the packing peanut was biodegradable. Jasper woke up Saturday morning, happy, nubbin-wagging {Springers having that adorable stump-tail}, and ready to eat breakfast. Sure, he’d swallowed a nasty lump that aggravated his stomach, but it broke down and left him good as new.

And, I feel my lump loosen and melt away as the event goes on. Robin comes, and we all exchange gift bags and eat good food. We finish the video and sit in the deck, in the vibrant sun, rejoicing in the beautiful day and the excellent company. My mom and Connie share an emotional moment in the kitchen and hug, while we younger ladies are outside. We celebrate Beth, who’s turning 40 this very day, and would’ve spent it at home, alone with her kids {since it’s her husband’s busy season and he has to even work weekends right now}, had I not {strongly} urged her to find a sitter.

Of course, it wasn’t that no-one came, though it felt that way at first. My in-real-life friends came to my (in)RL meetup, and the irony isn’t lost on me.

I’m not entirely sure what God had up His sleeve in making (in)RL totally different than I planned, but I think He wanted to let me know that:

  •  “Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” {Matthew 18:20}, so size doesn’t really matter.
  • We can plan and scheme all we want, but He is sovereign and His plans will prevail.
  • Staying in community in real life is important, and that I shouldn’t have to invite strangers to my house online to “get” this. When was the last time I invited all my girl friends over and made a beautiful meal and gave them gifts and told them what a blessing they were and praised God with them? {I’m too embarrassed to even answer this one.}

(in)RL 2013 for me was nothing like the testimonials I read on (in)Courage or like the video clips from last year where people talk about the amazing new bonds they formed with total strangers, who went on to become new friends.

And, it wasn’t a chance for me to meet and spend more time with the new friends I’ve met online, because none of them could come.

(in)RL 2013 was nothing like I expected, but everything that God wanted it to be. And, I am so grateful.

 

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. If you click through the link and make a purchase, I will earn a small percentage. It’s clicks like these that help keep this site up and running, so thanks!

Of Buds and Boldness

Of Buds and Boldness

I sit in the cold bright, wrapped in my nubby brown cardigan with the tie belt and wide fringed collar, my scuffed Crocs ballet flats propped on the chair in front of me. I listen to praise music in headphones and twine my fingers round my favorite blue mug, cupping its warmth close.

It’s time, after holding God at arms’ length all week. I start writing down some scripture placed on my mind in recent days, but He urges quiet. I close my eyes, feel sun.

forsythia

When I open, I see gray branches crisscrossing sky and lining creek banks and framing railroad tracks. Closer by, I note just one week of warm weather has put the April green in the grass.

Intense and emerald, the yard below is filled with little patches of paler green {which I know are weeds my husband will be pulling and re-seeding by days’ end}, but I think them charming, like little islands around the stronger eddying of the green grass tide.

I’m drawn to the jeweled tree tips, little green gems clustered there. I raise my eyes to the creek banks again and squint. Yes, it’s there too. That palest jade mist thrown over branch etchings.

lilac bud

Soon, I think. Soon, that faint mist will turn verdant-leafy. That timid one-quarter-inch leaf bud will unfurl with startling rapidity into a full-fledged maple leaf, more than 20 times its original bud size.

And, I’m struck by all this potential ready to explode, primed to burst wide open.

****

I whisper Psalm 138:3. When I called, you answered me. You made me bold and stouthearted.

{I’m trying for the first time to memorize a whole passage, and chose a Psalm. I’m on week two, verses 3 and 4.}

Bold and stouthearted aren’t your typical playmates. Bold befriends risky and daring. Takes chances, lives loud. Stouthearted stands practical and solid. No-nonsense and firm.

I’m afraid I can’t say I radiate either quality.

magnolia

I think of Day Three of this week’s Hello Mornings Bible study, Abounding Hope. I read 2 Timothy 1:7, and every time I return to it, I am convicted again.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.

{Again, God points me to the not-timid; to boldness and power.}

Frankly, I don’t do bold. I can do friendly. I can do outgoing. I can even do confident, on most days.

But, bold. Well, I’d much prefer to be the demure bud with potential. The quaint little bundle, tightly held, with just a tiny modest bit of pink showing. The neat, controlled parcel.

But, God calls us to boldness and power — even we don’t think it’s in our DNA. <—Tweet This!

So, I will tiptoe around now, timid bud that I am, but I do so in the knowledge, in the full and wonderful recognition, that I am so close. I am on the verge of bursting wide open into the light of God’s world, adding my own fresh color and beauty.

Are you a bud or a blossom? In what way, could you burst forth into your God-given potential?

*****

This post was inspired by Holley Gerth’s prompt:

“Sometimes we feel alone not because we need to be with others but because God wants to be with us. Our lives are busy — especially when we’re pursuing a dream — and God may want to pull us aside for a bit.” {You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream, Chapter Six}. The most important part of any God-sized dream is the Giver of it. Set aside a particular time this week to be with Him — to pray, journal, take a walk or simply sit quietly and listen.

 

This post was shared gladly with  Laura’s Playdates with God at The Wellspring, Jen’s Soli Deo Gloria at Finding Heaven Today, and Holley Gerth’s God-sized Dream Team:

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. If you click through the link and make a purchase, I will earn a small percentage. It’s clicks like these that help keep this site up and running, so thanks!