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.

Shine Your Light [GIVEAWAY]

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About a month ago I drove to Des Moines. The trees had started turning at home, so I was looking forward to the drive north, assuming the trees along the highway would be even more vibrant and colorful than the ones I’d seen so far this year.

My assumptions were correct, and both sides of I-35 showed off hillsides full of happy little Bob Ross trees in my favorite fall colors. But, as much as I love yellows and oranges and even pale greens, the shade that made me smile uncontrollably was red. Always the red trees, catching my eye and making me say [again], “Ooh, look, Annalyn!”

The red trees – at least in my area – tend to be the small ones. But their rich color means they can’t possibly be overlooked. And when they happen to grow together, in a group? Wow!

We’d spotted a few bright red-leafed trees when we drove under an overpass. As we came out the other side and began driving around a curve, my breath caught in my throat. A couple dozen smallish red trees were growing on the hill next to the highway, and it looked like the earth was on fire.

It was beautiful.

And as soon as those trees faded from my rearview mirror, I grabbed the notebook out of the passenger seat and started scribbling. Yes, while driving. But though I knew the image of the fiery trees would stay with me, I didn’t want to forget the thoughts that had blazed across my heart as I gazed at them.

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Those trees might have been – for the most part – small, but they were mighty. They grew with confidence and, in a sea of relative sameness, they shone with vibrancy and richness. They were lovely on their own, drawing my eye and making me smile. But together? Together, they were awesome. No, not awesome as in, really super cool. But they were AWE-some, AWE-inspiring. They lit up the land and my heart.

They didn’t just shine; they burned and blazed, brilliantly.

And they made me think of the verse in Philippians that talks of us shining brightly:

Do everything without complaining and arguing,
so that no one can criticize you.
Live clean, innocent lives as children of God,
shining like bright lights in a world
full of crooked and perverse people.
- Philippians 2:15

I use the beginning of that verse often with Annalyn, reminding her to quit arguing. But when I read this chapter again recently, I’m the one who was reminded. I remembered the larger context of Paul’s request for Christ followers to live peaceably, “loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose,” as he says earlier in chapter 2.

When we stand strong in our faith – not in judgment, not in superiority or self-righteousness, but in love, in service, in humility – those of us who love and follow Jesus stand out from the crowd just like those red-leafed trees. And I believe that’s beautiful to God, and maybe He grins a little bit when He sees it, just like I did on my drive to Iowa.

But when we stand together? Agreeing wholeheartedly on what truly matters, supporting one another in love despite our differences, loving and serving as One Body? Well, then we outshine even the most brilliant copse of autumn trees!

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Have you seen the new Everlasting Light collection at DaySpring? It’s gorgeous. The collection includes home decor, jewelry and artwork – and it is all so warm, so lovely. [When I first got a sneak peek this summer, I truly did say, “I want ALL THE THINGS!”] So far I’ve only gotten a couple of “the things,” but I am really in love with them.

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First of all, I’m excited to have a gold necklace (the one on the left). With silver being all the rage these past few years, I have amassed a decent collection of non-gold pieces. But sometimes something a bit warmer would look better, and now I have it. Both the bracelet and the necklace remind me to shine my light (AND the gold works with my warm-tone outfits).

Next up on my Everlasting Light wish list are the candlesticks and this art print:

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(Although the Shine Your Light pillow, the world map canvas and a couple other art prints aren’t far behind. I told you – Want. All. the Things!)

GIVEAWAY:

While I can’t give YOU all the things any more than I can get them for myself, I CAN give one lovely reader $50 to spend in DaySpring’s Everlasting Light collection! Simply visit the site and come back to tell me (in a comment) which item you’d most like.

So the winner can use that coupon code with the AH-MAZE-ING sales DaySpring is having, I’ll randomly choose a winner after the giveaway closes at midnight CST on Friday, November 21. So, quick, go enter now!

{Photo source for top photo and second photo. Also, this post includes affiliate links and I did receive product from DaySpring. All opinions are, as always, my own.}

Enough Moments

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Last Friday was a really bad day.

I made light of it on Facebook, calling it a no good, horrible, very bad day. But it’s more accurate, more honest to say it was the kind of day that wore me down, that pushed me to the edge and then pushed me one foot farther. It was a day that made me mad and made me sad and did both with such vehemence I really started wondering what Friday had against me. It was a day I was glad to see end when I finally met my pillow near midnight.

But it wasn’t all bad.

A couple days removed from that painful day, I have a bit more perspective. As my piercing headache faded, so did my stress fog. It abated enough to remember that Friday wasn’t the worst thing to ever happen to me after all.

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Today I was in the car with Mark. I was feeling extra super nice and let him turn the radio to the sports talk station. I wasn’t really paying attention, but one of the men being interviewed caught my attention as he talked about football strategy and statistics. (Because, of course. How could that NOT hold my interest?)

He said that a team doesn’t have to win for three and a half hours, that they don’t have to win for four full quarters. He said a team just has to win enough moments.

You just have to win enough moments.

 
His point was that a football team doesn’t have to be flawless from the toin coss to the last buzzer of the fourth quarter. It simply has to win enough moments to do better than the other team.

As the subject changed on the radio, I scrambled to open up the notebook app on my phone, asking Mark, “Wait! Who was that? Who is that guy?” and he wondered, “What are you doing? Why do you care?”

Like I told him, I don’t give a rip about football strategy, but that guy had a good point about life.

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We don’t have to be perfect; we just have to win enough moments. Our lives don’t have to be flawless; we just need to pay attention to those winning moments.

When I think back to Friday (yes, all the way back to Friday), I remember that I did actually win a few moments.

  • I woke up before Annalyn, actually getting dressed before she even rolled out of bed.
  • There for about 47 seconds, my house was pretty well picked up. (I won’t say “clean,” because it wasn’t. But it was picked up, and that was a huge improvement.)
  • I had fun spending the evening with the sweet girls my friends are fostering while they went to a wedding.
  • I managed to get to the store and get ingredients for us to have personalized English muffin pizzas for dinner. And cookies. From the bakery.
  • After her tantrum (and the consequences that followed), Annalyn felt guilty enough that she couldn’t sleep. (I count this as a win because evidence that the Lord is still working on her heart gives me hope despite the disobedience and disrespect we’ve been fighting for months.)
  • When I sent up a distress flag on Facebook, asking for emergency computer help, a former co-worker was kind enough to stop his Friday night and walk me through a solution.
  • Baby giggles. (Is there a better winning moment than THAT?)

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Friday was a really bad day. AWFUL. But you know what? I’ll take it anyway, because in the end, I won enough moments.

What moments have you won recently?

 
I’m linking up to my friend Kristin’s carnival called Three Word Wednesday. (My three words are Win Enough Moments!)

Praying with Joy

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I thank my God every time I remember you.
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy
because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,
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.
Philippians 1:3-6

Photo source

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This post is part of a 31 Days series. Make sure you don’t miss a single post by subscribing to this blog. Once you confirm your email subscription, you’ll be entered into an exclusive weekly drawing [during the month of October] for a Daily Grace pitcher from DaySpring.

Finding Peace in the Process {Guest Post}

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I didn’t dream of being a mom. I just assumed I would eventually have kids.

A people-pleasing, first-born child, I was a good student who went to college and never changed my major. I interned and worked as a news reporter – just as my print journalism degree would have me do. I married my college boyfriend and we started our life together. I went through life as I assumed lives were supposed to be lived.

Then one day in December 2004, I realized the birth control pills I was taking regularly were preventing God from having his way with my family. Like every stereotypical young, American couple, we decided we were “ready” to have a baby. My husband Greg was already ready and was just waiting – quite patiently, I might add – for me to want a family.

My time table was a good one. I had the sequence of events figured out and inked on the calendar.  But nothing was going according to plan.

But, really, all that control I was scared to death to give up is like a big pile of lemons. Sometimes it looks pretty, but it’s often sour. Life was giving me lemons, and I struggled to make lemonade.

Nearly two years went by and for various reasons we were still childless. Yes, I cried out to God when friends announced pregnancies: “I told you I was ready!” There they were, sipping on their lemonade while I stared at the pile of lemons I was just making bigger.

The waiting made me weary. The medicine that helped me ovulate made me cranky. The whole season put a strain on my marriage.

I just wanted to have a baby.

That was the next step in life, in my plan.

But it wasn’t the next step in my life as God saw it. It’s a long story, one I tell in my new ebook, “Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family.” But I did eventually become a mom, never expecting adoption to be our story.

But it’s a story I tell over and over again because it’s the one that changed me. It’s the journey on which I learned to do something with those lemons. It’s when I learned how to make lemonade.

Adoption built my faith and gave me a family. And surrendering to God was refreshing, like drinking that lemonade made directly from that large, intrusive pile of lemons.

On my journey to motherhood, I learned what the peace that passes all understanding really means and how God really does work together all things for his good. I have a testimony of God’s faithfulness – something I wouldn’t trade for getting my own way when I thought I knew what was best.

Peace in the Process

Kristin Hill Taylor tells about becoming and being a mom after the hard season of infertility in “Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family,” which is available at Amazon. She believes in taking road trips, living in community, and seeking God as the author of every story – many of which she shares at www.kristinhilltaylor.com. She lives in Murray, Kentucky, with her college sweetheart husband and their two kids.

{Photo source}

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This post is part of a 31 Days series. Make sure you don’t miss a single post by subscribing to this blog. Once you confirm your email subscription, you’ll be entered into an exclusive weekly drawing [during the month of October] for a Daily Grace pitcher from DaySpring.