Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Real Reason I Quit Blogging (And why it's time to start again)

It’s been a long time since I’ve let the strange creatures that tumble and tussle in my writer’s mind out to play in the open air, where everyone can see them.

I could say I’ve been busy, but that’s an excuse.

No author likes to have strange eyes on her WIP—work in progress. She’d rather wait until it’s polished and poised, ready to be seen by the world.

Honestly, I’ve been holding off on writing, not because I have a work in progress, but because I am a work in progress.

I’d like to be “mature and complete, not lacking anything.” I’d like to be an expert on living the perfect life, especially in my relationships. Then I could pen the definitive textbook on dating, love, purity, modesty, engagement, and even “learning how to cook and clean for your future husband.”

I want to be the relationship guru.

I want to write cute, funny, quirky posts about how to be the perfect girlfriend or fiancée or even how to survive as a single person in a dog-eat-dog, boy-meets-girl world. (Or maybe boy-eats-girl, if you're into all those vampire books . . . )

But I’ll never be that perfect sage of all things love and romance. My “guru” booth is on backorder, and they’re fresh out of mountaintops for me to perch on.

Deep down, I know I’ll never have it all together, but it just seems like the best time to give someone else advice is when you know what’s working for you. Yet, most of my days, nothing seems to be working for me in the way I planned. In fact, I’d have a longer post if I wrote about how not to do things. I have plenty of experience there. (Don't you? ;) )

But maybe there’s something in that, more than in all the perfect little tips and how-to advice I could give you.

Something about the rawness of the struggle of a real person draws us to them. The evening after he proposed to me, James asked my recently married best friend for her advice on marriage. She said, “I’ve only been married four months . . . I’m not exactly an expert!”

I still remember James’s simple, yet mind-blowing response. “You’re an expert on the first four months of marriage. No marriage counselor or relationship expert can give us the kind of firsthand account you can.”

And she did. She didn’t have many tweetable quotes or life-altering observations, but she had an amazingly ordinary account of real people in a real marriage who had some very real struggles and trials, but an even stronger commitment to making it work. She didn’t presume to tell us how to live our lives. She just helped us know what to expect, and shared what she’d learned in the process—the hard way—so we might be able to avoid some of those painful lessons.

Today, I’ve realized how wholly inadequate I am to tell, or even suggest to anyone else how they should live their lives. (At times it feels like I’m barely living mine!) I’d be happy if I were just following all the advice in all the posts I’ve written in the past, all the time.

But I’m not. I can’t.

And that scares me. I don’t have all the answers. I’m not the perfect role model. People don’t come for miles to marvel at my wisdom. And deep inside my perfectionist’s heart, I’m afraid to tell others to do what I know I can’t perfectly live up to myself.

Yet I know that I need to write. I need to reach out with whatever I’m going through, if only to ask, “Is it just me, or is there anyone else?”

So I’m blogging again, and there’s only one promise I can make. I can promise to be real. To show you the struggles and failures that go hand in hand with the successes. To show you the grace of God in my life, and how he still brings me back when I take off running in the wrong direction.
I’m a work in progress. But my faithful Author has promised to finish what He started. So I’m picking up my pen keyboard again, and I’d love it if you would join me in exploring this work-in-progress I call my life, even if it doesn’t look like a masterpiece . . . yet.

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Why I Love My Haters (and you should too!)

Today is national "Ignore a Hater Day" (at least, according to Jon Acuff).

So far, today, I haven't had any haters to ignore! (Although, that might be because they're all still in bed at 5:45 AM . . . )

Anyway, on this special day, I thought it would be appropriate to tell you why I love my haters. (But I'm still going to take Jon's advice and ignore them!)


Syllabification: (hat·er)
Pronunciation: /ˈhātər/
a person who criticizes, demeans, contradicts, and hates another person or entity.

One hater is all it takes. One person who always disagrees. Who always criticizes.

You know you have one.

They might as well be kryptonite. A comment from a hater darkens your sunshiny day. You see them on the street and your heart starts to race. You avoid them in person and online. But they seem to appear everywhere.

Sure, you have friends who tell you you're awesome. They like your statuses. They make cute comments on your photos. They send you encouraging notes. You might even have fans who follow you like the paparazzi and brighten your day by screaming "YOU ROCK!" at random intervals. (I wish I had some of those!)

You tell yourself, "Forget the haters! You have encouraging people in your life who validate your dreams!"

But your fans can't validate your dreams like your haters can.

Yes, you read that right.

Let me explain.

A friend from my #STARTwriters group recently got a nasty comment on her blog. She posted it in our Facebook group, and you know what we did? We celebrated! She's making enough of a difference to have haters. That's pretty awesome.

He said mean things and closed with "You're doomed." She responded, "You may be right!" And she left it at that.

That's even more awesome. She disarmed her hater.

The hater unknowingly validated her. She's making enough of a difference to have people who are uncomfortable with her success.

Warning: If you don't have haters, you may not be making a difference.

Jesus said to love your enemies (Matt. 5:44), and Paul quoted this proverb in Romans 12 (which means two smart people both thought it was a good idea!):

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. [22] In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. Proverbs 25:21-22 (NIV)

I've always been cool with the whole "love your enemies" thing, even though it's hard sometimes. I used to think, "Well, Jesus says love the haters, so I guess I should."

But I've recently come to think it's a REALLY AWESOME IDEA!

I'm starting to love--and even LIKE--my haters, because they tell me that I'm taking a stance.

I did horrible on the SAT Essay, even though my grammar and structure were excellent. Why? Because I was trying to be a people pleaser. I wanted to show how both choices could be the right answer. (Ironically, the topic was "Is it Good to Compromise?" I should have gotten bonus points for that irony!) I took both sides of the issue instead of taking a stance and arguing for it with gusto.

No one ever changed the world that way. (And no one ever got a perfect SAT score that way either.)

I'm not telling you to stir up trouble. I'm saying: "Let's challenge the status quo!"

We are called to be peacemakers and to "live in peace with everyone" "as far as it depends on you." (Heb. 12:14, Rom. 12:18).

But Jesus clearly said we would have haters if we were following him:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.  John 15:18-19 (NIV)

Dare to gain some haters.  

Do a chair dance when you get your first one. (Woot, woot, I'm making a difference!)

And then surprise their socks off by loving them in return, or--if they're particularly trollish or antagonistic--simply pull a Jon Acuff Hater Response. It goes something like this: "            ."

That's right. Blank space. It drives them crazy every time.

Finally, remember: You are loved. You are valued. And your worth is never determined by people, whether fans, friends, or haters.

Go shine!

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.  Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

More on haters from Jon Acuff: 2 Questions that Make 99% of All Haters Invisible

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I Should Quit Being a Writer

I'm a writer. 

I probably always have been.

I've been a writer since I got my first Lisa Frank journal and wrote about my giga pet (throwback alert!) in big, sloppy, purple letters.

I've been a writer since Y2K, when I heard a parody of the YMCA song that told people how to prepare for "doomsday," and I decided to write my own book to advise people about what to do, including putting lots of money in the bank so they wouldn't have to worry about losing it. (Hey, I didn't say it was GOOD advice . . . )

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Zimmerman Verdict: Two Facebook Posts that Actually Got it Right

I have nothing to say about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman.

Yesterday I saw my newsfeed blown up with posts about the Zimmerman trial. I considered weighing in, but I realized I couldn’t add anything new–everyone else has already had too much to say.