Monday, December 31, 2012

2013: That's What He Said

Doesn't my theme sound, well, less than holy this year?

I got an inkling of my theme way back at the beginning of 2012, when I was focusing on Mary. Something inside me stirred and continued stirring as the year flew past. Then I got an Amazon Vine email that contained Shane Claiborne's newest book, Red-Letter Revolution: What if Jesus Really Meant What He Said?

I adore Shane and have been convicted and spurred on to change by his books in the past. They are eye-openers, to say the least. The title of his newest spoke to that stirring in my soul, the part of me fed up with "Church" and all of the craziness that is modern Christianity. I have embraced my inner skeptic and allowed myself to question and wrestle with my faith (or lack thereof) as this year drew to a close. I have felt torn open, laid bare, rubbed raw. I have asked myself if I could narrow my religion down, nail it to my heart with only the words of Christ.

What if I quit worrying about things Jesus never spoke of and focus entirely on the things He actually said? Even before seeing Shane's new book title, I was fairly certain 2013's theme would be focused on Jesus, on the actions He commanded and the lessons He taught. It seems fitting, doesn't it? To pass simply from a year about Mary to a year about Jesus. She has, in essence, birthed him inside of me this year. Focusing on Mary helped me to focus on Jesus, to imagine her vast love for Him, her tenderness as she nursed and swaddled Him, her pain when He was taken away.

I want to know Jesus as intimately as Mary knew Him. I want to actually live with Him within me, as Mary did for those nine months. Can I serve Him as she served Him? Can I follow Him as she followed Him, even if that means kneeling at the foot of a cross, losing everything I was certain could not be lost? Can I serve Him even when I feel betrayed by Him, as Mary must have felt when He said to the crowd, "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?" How her heart must have broken in that moment. Can I bare that?

In 2013, I want to learn to live with Jesus' words and also with His silence. So it is the year of That's What He Said or, if you'd prefer a holier wording, it is 2013: The Red-Letter Year.

Happy New Year, friends. God's blessing be upon you in whatever it may bring.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

And I Read: 2012 Edition

In January...

I drove to Oxford to hang out with the beautiful Joshilyn.
I did 30 random acts of kindness to celebrate my 30th birthday.
There was a TweetSpeak Twitter party (so much fun!).
I worked on A Library for Valentine (children's time travel story).
I dreamed about going to college with Darth Vader and Voldemort.
Gratitude for Martin Luther King Jr filled me to overflowing.
I wrote about James Durbin and chatted with his wife.

And I read...

Wit's End by Karen Joy Fowler*
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
If You Ask Me by Betty White*
Trespassers Will be Baptized by Elizabeth Emerson Hancock
The Giver by Lois Lowry*~ (reread)
Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
This Book is Overdue by Marilyn Johnson*
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
Anne's House of Dreams by L. M. Montgomery*
The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo~
The Passion of Mary-Margaret by Lisa Samson
The Postcard by Tony Abbot*~

In February...

I taught an essay class and led a teen book club for our homeschool co-op.
My magic library story continued to grow.
I contemplated The Emerald City in a spiritual manner.
Sue Monk Kidd actually read an essay I wrote, inspired by one of her books.
The boys and I read poems in honor of Black History Month.
Eliza (1-year-old) called me on the phone. ;)

And I read...

A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson
Further Chronicles of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery*
Creeker by Linda Scott Derosier (reread)
The Silent Boy by Lois Lowry*~
The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan~
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (book group selection)
Artemis Fowl by Eion Colfer*~
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling (reread)~
The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht
Still by Lauren F. Winner

In March...

I contemplated Holland vs Italy.
I dressed up and went to the Hunger Games midnight premiere.
One of our (therapy) cats, Pocus, died. It was rough on all of us.
David went on a trip to Boston, Rhode Island, Maine, and some other places.
A few agents requested material.
I actively sought "happy" songs.
I discovered Honey Maple Nut ice cream. *swoon*
My sister announced baby #2 was on the way.

And I read...

The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit (book group selection)~
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin*
Heat by Mike Lupica*~
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
The Higher Power of Lucky by SusanPatron
A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck

In April...

Dental work, Dental work, Dental work.
I started writing the Tornado book.
Haydn and I spent a day caring for newborn kittens (not ours).
A stomach bug made the rounds.
I started making small dietary changes.
We tested Haydn for food intolerances.
I fell in love with G. K. Chesterton.
I posted a poem (almost) everyday for National Poetry Month.

And I read...

Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman
Story of the World: Vol I by Susan Wise Bauer"~
Temple Grandin by Sy Montgomery~
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman (reread)

In May...

Haydn's food intolerance test revealed a gluten issue. :(
I made Haydn yummy gluten-free doughnuts for Sunday mornings.
I also made my very first gluten-free pizza.
I asked my Random House reader to reveal their identity, but they didn't do so.
Haydn created a new Discworld in his bedroom.
More dental work.
I finished the first draft of my Tornado book.
Haydn pitched for his baseball team.
David's baseball team made it to the playoffs.

And I read...

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett
Who Was Eleanor Roosevelt by Gare Thompson~
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster~
Inheritance by Christopher Paolini*~
Gold by Chris Cleave
Showing Mary by Renita J. Weems
Sing a Song of Tuna Fish by Esme Raji Codell~
Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult

In June...

I had an epiphany regarding legalism.
A Haydn-approved gluten-free bread recipe was found at least.
The boys and I played Life Zapped a lot.
I signed with Jacques, my wonderful agent.
That one deserves a lot of happy exclamation marks.
Like this: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I spent a week in SC, visiting family and friends.
I saw my sister, Candy, and her family for the first time in years.
I met two of my nephews for the first time.
The boys and I attended my godson's birthday party.
Haydn played in an All-Star baseball tournament (his first).

And I read...

How They Croaked by Georgia Bragg~
Starcross by Philip Reeve*~
Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle*~
The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter*~
The Declaration by Gemma Malley*~
Gluten-Free Girl by Shauna James Ahern
Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder

In July...

Jacques began sending Tornado to editors.
I struggled to love the Church despite her failings.
Corey preached a revival in Vaughan, MS.
We were loved on and cared for by the wonderful members of that church.
I went on a mission trip to Seattle with a group of teens.
I just happened to finish reading Mary on Mary's feast day.
I successfully baked homemade bread.

And I read...

Martin the Warrior by Brian Jacques*~
The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards
Mary, Called Magdalene by Margaret George
Bad Apple by T. R. Burns~
Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

In August...

We spent a lot of time at parks with homeschool friends.
I started doodling scripture in my art journal.
My nephew, Tyrus, was born.
I made dairy free ice cream for Haydn.
Girlchild moved in with us.
90s music dominated my speakers.
A possible book contract dangled before me.
Haydn was briefly taken off his main medication.
It was not pretty.
Haydn was put back on his main medication.
David started walking to school.

And I read...

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings
A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck*~
Thrall by Natasha Trethawey
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (reread)
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery~
Joy for Beginners by Erica Bauermeister
Who Was Mark Twain by April Jones Prince~
As I Wake by Elizabeth Scott
Saving Ruth by Zoe Fishman

In September...

Haydn began using Spelling City.
We went to Gulf Shores, where Corey spoke for a retreat.
I spent a ton of time working on Tornado revisions.
We drove to AL for Granddaddy's 88th birthday party.
Girlchild earned her GED with high test scores.
We attended an owl talk at the library.
Homeschool co-op got under way for fall.

And I read...

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling*~ (reread)
Revolutionary Poet by Maryann N. Weidt~
Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham*~
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Home by Marilynne Robinson (book group selection)
Theodore Boone: The Abduction by John Grisham*~
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg~
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

In October...

There was a homeschool field trip to see wolves.
I fell a bit in love with the wolves.
Daddy sent Carrie and me candy corn Oreos.
I started working on Christmas gifts.
I took a C. S. Lewis class at church.
We watched a LOT of Dr. Who.
My small group girls helped at The Birthing Project.
We had Trunk or Treat at church.
Haydn dressed as Dr. Who and David went as Harry Potter.
Granddaddy passed away while Corey held his hand.

And I read...

Miracle on 49th Street by Mike Lupica*~
The Windows of Heaven by Ron Rozelle
Surprised by Joy by C. S. Lewis
Half-Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer*~
I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett

In November...

Leila and I spent a week in Indiana.
I started a new book project.
Corey attended his last seminary class!!!
Generous friends gave David a piano. (WOW)
Kentucky hired a new head football coach.
I went to a lovely book group meeting.

And I read...

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold (book group selection)
Happiness Sold Separately by Lolly Winston
In Defense of Sanity by G. K. Chesterton"
Game Changers: Book 1 by Mike Lupica~
Reflections on the Psalms by C. S. Lewis
The Shadows by Jacqueline West*

In December...

Girlchild moved out.
I got a Keurig!
My homesickness has become palpable.
Corey turned in his last papers.
That previously dangling carrot of a book contract disappeared.
I guest blogged at Middle Places.

And I read...

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
A Little House Christmas by Laura Ingalls Wilder~
Hate List by Jennifer Brown
Through the Year with Mary by Karen Edmisten"
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling*~
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells*~
Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson*~
Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson*~
Julia Gillian and the Art of Knowing by Alison McGhee
A Light in the Window by Jan Karon
Calli Be Gold by Michele Weber Hurwitz
The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni
The World's Last Night and Other Essays by C. S. Lewis

Total: 99

*audio book
"read from over a period of months or the entire year
~read or listened to with my kids

Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday Felicities

Friday Felicities

Big warm Kentucky sweatshirt
The boys happy about gifts
Time spent with family
Texts that make me laugh
Doctor Who t-shirt
Writing a story for fun, just for fun.
Being able to do something special that touches someone else's heart
A ton of new books for Christmas
Watching the Hobbit with Haydn
Christmas cards galore
Video of Eliza playing with her tea set

2012 - Year of Mary, Let it Be

2012 is drawing to a close as I sit by a river in Tennessee. I was here last weekend as well, when the world didn't end. It's becoming a tradition. Back in May of 2011, when the "rapture" was set to occur, I was sitting here as well, sipping coffee, writing in my journal, watching ripples on the river water. In a way, this peaceful place is the perfect setting for my theme wrap-up.

2012 was my year of Mary. Is my year of Mary, since 2013 hasn't quite broken the horizon yet. Last year, at around this time, I felt certain God wanted me to focus on Mary this year. I haven't taken up praying to Mary, but I have pondered her life and how she lived it. I've turned "Let it be" into a mantra, a phrase I repeat inside my mind, praying that Jesus will help me to mean it. Saying "Let it be" is easy enough, but actually letting it be, is a whole other ballgame.

I left my Holy Family out all year, sitting quietly on a bookshelf, a wooden labyrinth behind Mary and Joseph and their sweet little baby. I used a daily devotion book called Through the Year with Mary, and there were some delicious little nuggets of truth and insight to be found amid the pages. I read a book called Showing Mary, and I highly recommend it.

Summer sent me on an unexpected detour, a side trip to visit a different Mary. First, I signed with a literary agent, and discovered Margaret George to be one of his other authors. I really enjoyed Memoirs of Cleopatra when I was in college, so I decided to read another of her fictional biographies. I chose Mary Called Magdalene, and I was plunged into a world different from my own but somehow very familiar as well. I found myself looking at Jesus in a brand new light, really thinking about his teachings and what he might have meant by so many controversial statements.

In the middle of reading Margaret's tale of Mary, I boarded an airplane and made a pilgrimage to Seattle, where my husband and I led a group of teenagers and a couple of other adults into the heart of homeless ministry. The shelter where we served? It was called Mary's Place. The church where we worshipped with many of those women? It was named for Mary as well. I felt God so near that week in Seattle.

The second half of the year has included some disappointments, some failings. I wonder if Mary felt like a failure when her son was executed. I don't believe for a minute that she knew or expected how his story would end, or seem to end. She said, "Let it be," but torture and death weren't the events she agreed to. Were they? Maybe, on that final day, Mary felt like a failure, just as I've felt lately. It would only be three days before she knew He was alive again, before He revealed that part of His divinely ordered plan. I'm clinging to that bit of hope, the chance that my current feelings of failure will be somehow transformed. Maybe, by this time next year, I will see my mistakes and rejections as seeds, their limbs already stretching to the sky, their buds almost ready to blossom.

As 2013 approaches and my Year of Mary fades silently away, I am saying again, even knowing how weak my heart feels, Let it be, Lord, let it be.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sunday Poem: Gifts

What gifts do I bring?

In place of gold,
I offer the black-hole vacuum
of my all-consuming
How can I give,
never pausing
in my want?

In place of frankincense,
I come into his house,
into his heart,
smelling of this broken world.
I open empty hands,
hands too clean,
too smooth.
My hands do not smell
of God's work
for God's people.

In place of myrrh,
I bring fear,
a desperate gaping need
to never die, to never
feel weak.
I can anoint him only
with pleas to keep me safe,
keep safe the others
that I love.

I am no king and no wise woman.
I am only a broken
struggling to rise above
so I can offer Jesus
anything at all.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday Poem: Desert

I'm terrified of living
in this desert.
I am cacti,
reaching my prickly arms
skyward, begging,
oh Jesus,
let it rain.

This desert in my heart,
this Israel,
cannot be the promised land,
the place I'm intended
to live forever.

These words I'm tripping
over, these beliefs
that choke my air
and leave me
These words are not
my manna.

My heart feels fear;
I am afraid
Israel will always be
a drought inside
my soul, a place
I cannot ever

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

This Holy Story

I love this holy story,
this broken image of a woman
shattered reputation scattered,
saved from stoning by a man
willing to see God's hand
in a hopeless moment, a faithless wife.
He didn't let her go, this man,
and another holy story falls,
words written in loose sand.

I love this woman's story,
her cloth robe worn thin by
so many eyes, so many hearts,
so many generations born and held
in her arms, her God
alive and suckling at her breast.
The man who reconciled
and the baby sent to reconcile
a world.

I love this mother's story.
She is heart and womb and blood,
milk, and flesh, and mud,
human birthed and breathing,
humility of the humblest kind
covering a royal throne.
Mary, here, advent of Christ
His home.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sunday Poem: Steam

John the Baptizer,
standing and dancing
in the river, in the
Jordan, and maybe
he's exactly what I need,
exactly who I need
to listen to.

Maybe I need harsh
words like fire,
words to burn
my doubts away.
Maybe I need
to dive into the river,
the fiery words
in water, steam,
the truth in them almost
smoking all around me, ash.

John the Baptizer,
dancing at the river's bend,
stop me in my tracks,
that I repent.
Steam me in the water.
Cook me through.
Invite me in
to swim with you.

Invite me in
and help me see
past all this doubt.
Baptize me with water
and offer me up
to the one who comes
in fire.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Currently: the Bleak December

Current Books: I just finished The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. It reminded me a bit of Rebecca, of Manderly. It took me forever to read it though. I have been so distracted by so many things lately. Now I am reading Hate List by Jennifer Brown. It is really good, but doing nothing for my jumpiness. I'm not sure why I've been so jumpy lately.

Current Playlist: Well, my new book centers around a girl named Wyn, and she happens to be an Aerosmith nut, so there's lots of Aerosmith being played around here, especially when I'm cooking.

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: Little Debbie cakes. I've knocked so much junk food from my diet, but suddenly I can't get enough Oatmeal Cream pies or Swiss Cake Rolls.

Current Colors: Kentucky blue. I got a new coat in that pretty color.

Current Fetish: Keurig. Corey got me one for Christmas, but the box showed up with Keurig written all over it, so the surprise was spoiled. I love it though. I want to try the chai latte k-cups. He also got me a reusable k-cup. I will mostly use that.

Current Food: There's leftover taco soup in the fridge.

Current Drink: Coffee with sweet cream and sugar.

Current Favorite Favorite: Text conversations with my sister. The older we get, the more and more I like her and enjoy her friendship. I hope my boys feel that way about each other someday.

Current Wishlist: K-cups, Amazon giftcards, an XL long sleeved Little Women shirt from Out of Print Clothing, a new Kindle case...

Current Needs: More dental work. Always always always more dental work. And I need to relax and let the process happen with my writing.

Current Triumph: It's not my triumph, but I'm really excited about Corey finishing seminary, and doing so with an amazing GPA. For myself, I'm excited to have passed the 20,000 word mark on the first draft of a new novel.

Current Bane-of-my-Existence: Waiting. Waiting on a few really specific things. I need to relax and let the process happen in multiple areas of my life.

Current Indulgence: Did I mention the Little Debbies? Yeah, well, that. Also, going back to sleep after getting David up for school. I only sleep about an hour before getting up and starting school with Haydn, but I should probably just stay awake in the first place.

Current Mood: Pensive.

Current #1 Blessing: COREY FINISHED SCHOOL!

Current Outfit: jeans, a dark purple long-sleeved shirt, tennis shoes.

Current Link: This website has the best t-shirts.

Current Quote: "Everything will be okay in the end, and if it isn't okay it isn't the end."

Current Photo:

Title taken from "The Raven" by Edgar Allen Poe:

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.Eagerly I wished the morrow; — vainly I had sought to borrowFrom my books surcease of sorrow — sorrow for the lost Lenore —For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore —Nameless here for evermore.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

M Div Done: In Which I Celebrate

Five and a half years ago, my husband started the seminary journey. He'd already been in youth ministry for around a decade, but he had not taken the seminary route. Instead, he had a Christian Education degree from Huntingdon College. He had put off seminary when his first wife became pregnant with their daughter. After a pretty rough few years, we were together and had started our family. We decided it was time for him to go back to school.

When Corey began working toward his M. Div, we had a two and a half year old and a four and a half year old. We were living in Brandon, MS, and Corey was working two jobs. He was the youth minister at a church we loved and also spoke to high schoolers about making their college decisions and succeeding in that area of their lives. Adding seminary on top of this was difficult, but we made adjustments.

In the years between then and now, so much has happened. I love lists. There is just something about precise bullet points. They make me feel organized. So here we go... things that have happened in the course of Corey earning his Masters of Divinity:

  • I went to work full-time
  • Haydn started school
  • I quit working full-time
  • Corey accepted a ministry position in Tupelo
  • He was able to drop his second job (Thank you FUMC!)
  • David started school
  • Haydn was diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome
  • and Asperger's (High-Functioning Autism)
  • and ADHD 
  • We chose to pull Haydn from public school and teach him at home
  • My sister got married and had two babies
  • Corey's parents retired to a beautiful home in Tennessee
  • I lost 2 uncles to cancer
  • David has made it to 3rd grade with nearly perfect grades
  • Corey's grandfather passed away
  • I wrote a bunch of books
  • I signed with a literary agent

There are other things, but this list gives you a pretty good idea of how much life has changed in the years Corey spent in seminary, driving to and from Memphis once or twice weekly for the last five and a half years.

Our journey is, by no means, at an end. For Corey, there's still more papers and interviews and ceremonies before he is officially ordained as an Elder in the United Methodist Church. For me, who knows how many more rejections will come, how many books I will write before the right book finds the right editor at the right time. Haydn is blossoming in the homeschool environment, but he certainly has a way to go. Still, after two years of therapy, we're reaching a place where I believe he will be okay. He can function in this world when it's time for him to do it on his own.

But, for today, here we are, at an ending that seemed never-coming over the last few years. My boys can't remember life before seminary. My husband has been up until three in the morning writing papers and studying theology for so long... who knows when his body clock will find its new normal. It's good to be at the end. Sometimes endings are sad, but this one is happy.

Very very happy.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sunday Poem: Most Broken

What if Mary didn't want
her child to be special?
Maybe she did,
in the beginning,
when the word had only just
become flesh,
but didn't her heart break
when he turned his family
away amid the crowd?
Wasn't her heart pierced
as with a sword just as
the man at the Temple foretold?
Did she not, in that split
second when he met her eyes
and gave her John
wish she could take back her words,
Let it be?
Let this be?
Let this horror, this nightmare,
this ending of her soul's beginning,
this death...
Let it be?

Could I ever be the mother
you are, Mary?
Can I ever look at my son 
at his most broken and abandoned 
and say
yes, Lord,

Let it be.


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