Walking on Sunshine & an Announcement

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A couple weeks ago, Mark had to drive to Denver for work. To distract Annalyn from missing her daddy, I suggested a loud and rowdy dance party (since we have to be so quiet when he’s trying to sleep at home). Of course that meant, “Let It Go” and “Shake It Off.” As the old lady in the group, though, I insisted on my happy song: “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina & the Waves.

I know, it’s not cool to admit that I love that song. But I do. So there. Anyway, I found it on YouTube and while I was confused at the truly bizarre video, Annalyn was just perplexed by the lyrics.

“But what does that MEAN, Mommy? How can you WALK. ON. SUNSHINE???”

——

When I was a senior in high school, I took a dual-credit English class. It’s weird how much I remember about that class, given it was nearly 20 years ago, but lots of moments and lessons stuck with me. The most memorable, though, happened after our first assignment. Our teacher had us draw a slip of paper from a jar; we were to write a one-page essay redefining the word on that paper.

My word was “home,” and I wrote about how my home was not a place or a building; rather, my heart’s home was Mark. We’d been dating for two years then, and apparently I was an expert on love.

Our teacher decided to read some of our essays out loud, and she chose mine for the College English class that met in a different hour than mine. As soon as the bell rang after third hour, my friends from that class found me in the hallway. They told me our teacher had read my essay – and then cried.

Um…what?

Even now it’s weird to me, but then again, I cry all the time and at many awkward, inopportune, inappropriate times. So, who am I to judge?

Aside from some major weirdness (especially when said teacher felt it necessary to explain that she was not crying about what I wrote but simply crying over something personal – like that made it any better), that experience showed me the power of words – and my desire to make a difference in people’s lives with mine.

——

Over the years my dream of making a difference with my words has taken different forms. I’ve written press releases and scripts and ad copy and blog posts and magazine articles and status updates and tweets. (Yikes. Thirteen THOUSAND tweets! And I don’t even LIKE Twitter!)

But as my career and dreams and life have twisted and turned and looped around (and sometimes made me dizzy), one thing has remained steady. I’ve dreamed of writing a book.

I know. Of course I have! I’m a blogger and that’s what bloggers do these days! True. But though my dream is not unique, it is mine. And unlike so many of my brilliant ideas and plans and I-think-this-is-my-callings, it’s stayed firmly lodged in my heart.

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Two years ago I went to the Allume Conference. After a panel called, “So You Wanna Be Published?” I stood in line to speak with a literary agent. I didn’t really have anything big to tell him. Mostly just hello, thank you, and oh yeah, I want to write a book. Though he heard that very same thing from the whole line of women waiting in that conference room, he was gracious and said I should call him.

He. Said. I. Should. Call. Him. WHAT???

Seriously, I did not know what that meant. Did I literally have to pick up the phone? Or could I send a much less-scary email? Did I need to have a proposal written first? I probably did. Yes, I’m sure I did.

And so I didn’t call him. I thought about it a lot. I wrote, “Write proposal,” on all of my to-do lists. For a year.

Long story short (because I have been trying to write this post all week and am not sure I could ever get all the details right for the long story…plus you might not want to read the whole long story if this pretty long story is the short version!), I got up the nerve to email a different agent last fall.

She insisted on a [terrifying] phone call, and once we talked, she asked me to write that full proposal and send it to her. So I did, and it was pretty good. But it wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready. Or something. But after she read it, that agent said that I had a good idea and she liked my writing, but it needed work.

That phone call happened on my birthday last year. I was thankful for the feedback and, even though I was disappointed that she wasn’t in love with every part of my proposal, I knew she was right and I was excited to finally be on the road to writing a book.

But my birthday is one week before Christmas, and I was nine months pregnant. So I made my list of changes to implement to the book proposal…and then the holidays happened. And then the baby happened. And then NOTHING happened.

I was okay with that, although I was back to writing, “Fix proposal,” on my to-do lists. I assumed that once the baby started sleeping more (and I started sleeping more), I’d slowly begin working on that project again.

——

I don’t know how to explain what happened next. After all these years of trying job after project after idea after job, I still hadn’t learned that I couldn’t force God to move. I couldn’t create a miracle. I couldn’t TRY HARD ENOUGH to make my dreams – God-sized or not – come true.

I had to learn to wait on Him. Not just in word but in my heart.

And so, in hindsight I’m not surprised that it was only when I was forced to stop striving and take a breath that God moved. Oh, did He move. In a real, big, amazing way.

The agent I’d been talking with emailed me a couple months after Adrienne was born. She said she had a project to talk to me about, if I had time (what with me having a newborn and all). LIKE I WASN’T GOING TO MAKE TIME.

We talked, and she said that she needed a writer to turn a blog into a book. Basically. (Again, short version here.) (Kind of.)

Sara Frankl, known to many online and off as Gitzen Girl, was a blogger who passed away three years ago. She was an (in)courage writer, a personal friend of mine, and a truly amazing person. And her family wants to continue sharing her message of choosing joy despite your circumstances in book form.

Sara Frankl and me

I’ll tell you lots more about Sara soon, and if you didn’t know her, you can read her blog here.

It’s funny. I’ve been trying to write this post for days. But it’s like the story is just too big for words. And then when I looked back at the post I wrote right before Sara died, I had to laugh when I saw that I’d titled it, “No Words.” I didn’t have words then, either.

But I’m the one helping turn Sara’s blog into a book.

I am co-writing Sara’s book, “Choose Joy: The Decision That Changes Everything,” and it will be published by FaithWords, a part of the Hachette Book Group, in late 2015 or early 2016.

You guys. I am literally shaking and crying as I’m typing those words. I’ve been DYING to tell you about it! And now that I’ve gotten the go-ahead and I’m able to tell you, for real, officially, I am just overwhelmed. Which is not new. I have been overwhelmed since that first phone call and pretty much every day since. The dots God has connected, the grace He has shown me – it’s all too much. I can’t wrap my mind or heart around it (though I hope to soon and tell you all about it). He is just too good.

So. There it is. My big announcement. I was hoping to publish this yesterday, because it was my birthday and it seemed fun to announce something this monumental on my birthday, especially after last year’s birthday brought the hard feedback on that original book proposal.

But, like I said, words are – ironically – not coming easily.

——

This is becoming The Longest Blog Post in the History of Ever, but I wanted to share a couple more things with you. By the way, I really wanted to have some lovely shots of me signing my contract, perhaps with my most important people beside me, like many of my writer friends have done. What I got instead was this:

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Fair enough. That is pretty much my life right now! On to a couple questions you probably don’t have but I’m going to answer anyway:

What does this mean for me?

Well, it means that I am on the verge of tears at almost every waking moment of my days. Re-reading Sara’s words, over and over, and then trying to connect them with my own – on top of not being able to shake this immense feeling of overwhelm at an undeserved gift from God AND the burden of stewarding my friends’ words well – has me feeling pretty raw most the time. Which is okay and, let’s be honest, not all THAT different from my normal.

It also means that I’m panicked a lot. The manuscript is due in March, and that is a tight deadline. The cool part is that I am 100% confident that only God could make that deadline happen – kinda, sorta, JUST LIKE He was the only one who could make this book project happen in the first place.

Because of that looming deadline and the way my schedule plays out, though, I’ve stopped working for (in)courage. I’ll still be a regular contributor, but I’m no longer working part-time behind the scenes on editing and social media.

Lastly, this project doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on my original book idea. It just means that God knew I wouldn’t have the brain and heart space for it in this year or so after having a baby. And maybe I wasn’t ready for that book yet anyway. It’s still on my heart and my mind, so my hope is that it will still happen someday.

What does this mean for you and this blog?

It means that I’ll probably continue blogging sporadically over the next three months – and then come back with a renewed focus in the spring. Sorry! I have scheduled a few posts for the rest of this calendar year – a couple reposts from last December, and a couple fun ones as well. I plan to write a “state of the blog” post in the next couple of weeks, too, but we’ll see how that goes.

Most importantly, this means that I owe you – my friends – a HUGE thank you. Thank you for reading my words all these years, for encouraging me with your comments and emails and likes and shares. Thank you for your kind words and your friendship. Thank you for sticking with me through the sponsored posts and the list posts and the rambling posts and the boring posts. Thank you for being the community that I needed so desperately when I decided to start a blog. Thank you for giving me the courage to say, “I AM going to write a book!”

And this means that over the next year and a half, I’m going to be talking to you more about choosing joy. Sara’s message and mine aren’t all that different, so I’m comfortable writing about choosing hope and joy through the lens of giving up on perfect. I think I’m going to learn a lot through this, and when I do I’m going to want to share it with you. And, of course, when it comes time for that book to get printed on paper and put on shelves, I’m going to talk about it. I might ask you to talk about it if you want. And I’ll try not to be annoying, but I already know that you’re going to love this book. So I’m going to tell you about it. I can’t WAIT to tell you about it!

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As I drove home from shipping my signed contract, I looked down at myself and thought about how glamorous my life is now. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d showered, and I wasn’t sure where that stain on my shirt had come from. My hair is in desperate need of a trim, and my car is so tiny the four of us can barely fit in it. The home I was driving back to still hasn’t sold and we’re still busting at the seams of its tiny walls. And my office is the worn-down cushion of my peeling leather couch in my living room that’s too small for a Christmas tree this year.

But as I pushed buttons, searching for a good radio station, I had to smile when I heard those familiar lyrics. “Now every time I go for the mailbox gotta hold myself down, ’cause I just can’t wait ’til you write me you’re coming around.”

I may not be glamorous, and I may be overwhelmed and nervous. I may take more than 2,000 words to make one little announcement. But I am pretty sure I know what walking on sunshine feels like.

Photos by Jesus Solana, Derek Gavey and Holly Victoria Norval.

Last Chance for $7 DVDs!

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I just ordered the What’s in the Bible Sing Through the Bible DVD for Annalyn. I’m not sure how it will fit into our new tradition of four gifts (something she wants, something she needs, something to wear, something to read) … but I couldn’t resist the sale!

TODAY ONLY, all What’s in the Bible DVDs are just $7. And the Why Do We Call It Christmas? DVD is just $5. (We watched that one Saturday morning, which led me to the realization that we actually watch What’s in the Bible videos more than we watch Frozen. No joke.)

If you have kids, these videos are truly a great, fun way to teach them about the Bible. The puppets are funny, the songs are catchy (SO CATCHY), and each video is packed with information. I learn something every time we watch a new one, actually! Here’s a sneak peek, if you haven’t seen a What’s in the Bible DVD before…

Fun, right? (And, I’m not even kidding. When Annalyn sees Phil Vischer in the videos, she shouts, “PHIL VISCHER!” Like he’s a One Direction singer. Every time. We’re weird here.)

So – buy any of the What’s in the Bible DVDs for $7 each, today only. AND, shipping is free for all U.S. orders. That means, hypothetically, you could get the entire series – 13 videos from Genesis to Revelation – for less than $100. ($91, to be exact.)

Happy shopping!

Monday Morning Notes, vol. 4

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This picture has nothing to do with anything, but something about the sight struck me last week. I was sitting in the pickup line at Annalyn’s school, and as I reached to put the car into drive (finally! we were finally moving!), I glanced out the window. Something about that sad soccer ball sitting there, probably wishing for green grass and warm breezes. It just looks pitiful, doesn’t it?!

I don’t personally long for summer; I’m more of an autumn girl myself. And since it was 60 degrees here yesterday, I can’t very well complain about winter yet, can I?

Like I said, it doesn’t have anything to do with anything. I just liked it. I looked for a fun, festive Christmas shot to share this morning but came up empty.

Unless I go with little bitty Annalyn four Christmases ago…

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Awwww…

ANYWAY.

We had another pretty busy weekend, starting with a sick baby on Friday morning. I realized as soon as she got up that my dreams of a very productive work day were not coming true. The good news/bad news is that I realized after waiting an hour to see a doctor that she just had a cold. Obviously I’m glad it wasn’t something worse, but I kind of wished I’d sent her to the babysitter after all.

Because of course as soon as I texted our babysitter that she was sick, she immediately began acting happy and didn’t stop all day. But then again, it’s not like I can complain about a happy, albeit kinda-sick baby. I really can’t! I mean, look at her:

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It was a mirror! On a door! That’s TWO of her favorite things IN ONE! Yeah, she wasn’t sad to hang out at the doctor’s office all morning at all. Silly baby.

Smitty came over for dinner Friday night. I actually cooked (chicken fajitas), but more impressively, I baked. Earlier in the week, my brother had announced on Facebook that it was National Brownie Day. Well, I couldn’t very well let that go without some fanfare, could I? So I used his recipe for homemade brownies, and they were just as AH-MAZE-ING as they are every single time. (Seriously, if you haven’t tried them, DO IT NOW. You will thank me. Or my brother. I mean, it IS his recipe.)

Saturday was busy all around. Mark went trap shooting, I met friends for lunch, Annalyn had her first piano recital, and the girls and I tried out the new Chick-Fil-A. See what I mean? BUSY.

It was good to see my friends, although it really just reminded me how rarely I get to see them and how much I enjoy being with them. We worked together at a scrapbooking store several years ago, and that may have been the most fun I’ve ever had at a job (and, to be honest, the most money I ever spent at a job) (what was I supposed to do, surrounded by the pretty, pretty papers and armed with an employee discount?). I love those girls and am hoping we follow through on our plans to get together again in a couple months. It’s so much easier to say, “Let’s get together soon,” than it is to make it happen!

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That’s our tree a few years ago. This year’s is a tiny one the baby can’t reach and destroy as easily. I’ll post a picture of that soon!

Last night was another fun meal – dinner with our small group. We’ll take a break from meeting over the holidays, but we wanted to do something fun before the next session starts. Something about sitting around a table creates just as much community as diving into deep spiritual topics prompted by our weekly discussion guide. Not that we don’t learn a lot about each other and God during those discussions. But sharing a meal together – it just prompts deeper, meaningful conversations, doesn’t it?

Although, I also found out that they have their Christmas shopping almost finished while I’m nowhere NEAR that! Yikes! I’m hoping to do the bulk of it this week (online) and next weekend (in-store). Then I’ll still have a few days to wrap it all.

Do you still have Christmas shopping to do?
Who would you love to share a meal with this month?
How do you feel about winter? Tired of it yet?
What was the best part of YOUR weekend?

P.S. Don’t forget…

  • My giveaway of eight great books closes TONIGHT at midnight (CST). I’m told that the Rafflecopter widget doesn’t work well on phones, so you’ll have to open it up on your computer. (It’ll be worth it. These are great reads to enjoy yourself or give as gifts!)
  • Dayspring still has some great sales going on. If you’re looking for beautiful, meaningful gifts, you don’t want to miss these. TODAY is the last day you can get 40% off Christmas gifts and decor with the code CHRISTMAS40. This includes calendars. And everything you order is 30% off with the code 30WISH. Get that discount off your entire order until December 17.

Merry Christmas Book Giveaway

Christmas Book Giveaway 2014

Updated to add…

Congratulations to Jessie Weaver, the winner randomly chosen by the And the Winner Is… plugin!

One of the most fun parts about being friends with lots of book people is that I get to read a lot of great books. In related news, one of the most frustrating parts about living in a small house is that I don’t have room to keep all those books.

And THAT is good news for you!

Today I’m giving away eight of my favorite books from the last couple of years. (Aren’t you glad I don’t have room for a bookshelf in my house?!) Here’s what one lucky reader will receive, just in time for Christmas:

The giveaway will close on Monday, December 15 at midnight CST. So don’t wait; enter now!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post includes affiliate links.

The Stage You Didn’t Warn Me About

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I know Annalyn isn’t that old. And I’m pretty sure I’ve raised her these past seven-plus years. But I do not remember that first 12 months. I really don’t. Every time Adrienne does something new, I’m just shocked. Shocked! And certainly amazed, like any good mom. Annnnnd perplexed, like any first-time mom.

Maybe the problem is that since I’m not a first-time mom this time around I haven’t read any of the books. And I’ve got a backlog of at least six parenting magazines sitting, neglected, in my bathroom. (YES. There.) But whatever is to blame, the fact remains that every new development reminds me that this baby is a mystery to me.

I do figure things out eventually. It just takes me a little longer – to remember, to research, to figure out this tiny person who is completely different than Annalyn as a tiny person (or, you know, the parts I remember).

But recently something has really thrown me for a loop, and I’m just not sure what to do about it.

I’m not talking about her shrieking (oh look! she’s found her voice!) or her looking me straight in the eye and throwing food on the floor (oh look! she’s got a personality!) or her recent fear of baths.

I’m talking about Toddler Brain Fog.

Obviously the foggy brain of pregnancy is to be expected. (We all remember those very educational pregnancy test commercials with the jogging woman who suspects she’s pregnant solely on being “distracted,” right?) And everyone knows the first few weeks…er…months with a newborn cause all sorts of exhaustion- and hormone-induced forgetfulness.

I mean, for months I asked friends repeatedly when – not if, WHEN, darn it! – my brain and former intelligence would return. It went on long enough that I really started wondering if it would! But finally, much later than I expected but still much sooner than never (I told you, I was worried), I started feeling more like myself. Still a tired, harried version of myself. But myself.

But before I could get too comfortable being all smart and productive or enjoy having a personality that seemed somewhat familiar, it happened. The Toddler Brain Fog struck.

I ran into a friend a few weeks ago. We see each other in passing nearly every week at church and pretty much every day on Facebook. But we hadn’t had a chance to really talk for months, and she hadn’t seen Adrienne in that time either. She commented that she couldn’t believe enough time has passed for my newborn to turn into a toddler…and I told her to SHUT UP NOW.

My baby is NOT a toddler. She is a tiny, tiny baby and she will stay cute and snuggly and sweet FOREVER.

Or…not. Because, as it turns out, time doesn’t stop for crazy mothers in denial and that teeny tiny baby of mine IS A TODDLER.

She is on the move, and she will not be stopped. To be clear, she will NOT be stopped – even if you tell her no, shake her shiniest toys at her, pick her up and point her in the other direction. No, ma’am, if she wants to GO TO THERE, she’s gonna GO TO THERE.

(oh look! this one’s strong-willed, too!)

As a result, I have once again been reduced to a blank-staring, fuzzy-brained zombie. Because every brain cell at my disposal is dedicated to monitoring that toddler. And her go-go-Gadget arms that can reach EVERYTHING. And her iron will to open EVERY SINGLE DOOR AND DRAWER ON EARTH. And her unending appetite for ALL THE BAD AND DIRTY THINGS ON THE FLOOR. And if I might have a single brain cell left? It’s all used up trying to remember one more synonym for the word, “no,” because I don’t want to be a “no mom” or dilute the power of the word, “no,” or whatever other reason for not hollering “NO!” at a toddler those magazines in my bathroom explain so well.

Oh, it’s not that bad, you say! Kids are coddled and spoiled and missing immune systems these days, you say! Oh yeah?

You know how those parenting magazines have a monthly feature called something like, “It Happened to Me,” cautionary tales about the shocking and/or stupid ways their children were injured? Have you ever read the one about the mom who took her girls to a play date with an old friend and, while chatting with her friend in the kitchen, kept one perfectly reasonable and responsible eye on her toddler in the living room? And then said toddler pulled A FREAKING CANDLE OFF THE SHELF?

Hi. I’m that mom, and it’s nice to meet you.

The good news is that the candle was one of those non-burning kinds that somehow smells up the room but results in NON-scorching liquid wax. So while my curious monkey toddler smelled like a thousand cinnamon candles for the next couple of days (and that blanket sleeper she was in because CLOTHES ARE HARD was ruined), she wasn’t hurt in the slightest. She didn’t even make a peep. WHEN THE {barely warm} WAX DRIPPED ON HER.

So, suffice it to say that I have become more vigilant in the Watching The Baby Every Second department. Not as much at home because I know where the dangers are here. But when we’re somewhere else, like say, my grandma’s house for Thanksgiving? Well, you might THINK you’re having a conversation with a fully functional adult. But nope. In reality, you are staring at a blank-faced, personality-free zombie mom who is laser-focused on who just gave her baby an entire cookie. Again.

You guys didn’t warn me about this. You didn’t TELL ME!

I’d yell at you some more but I guess I’d better go make sure the outlet covers are secure. Or something. I think that’s what I was going to do, but I’m not sure. I’m feeling a little foggy…