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I stepped into today just like pulling-on my favorite fleece sweatpants.  For various reasons, I have not been taking my morning walks this week until today, Friday.  The cool air brushes against my skin and with each step, I think to myself, “It is well.”  Fall’s vibrant reds and yellows delight my eyes and the sounds of birds chirping against the background of chainsaws buzzing through a neighbor’s tree fill my ears.  An early morning thunderstorm washed away any tracks left behind from the day before, making the wooded path feel all the more luscious.  A once dry creek bed gurgles gently.  I stand still in the middle of the path.  In the middle of God’s most beautiful painting.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve felt at the mercy of both planned and unplanned schedules.  Life and obligations coming together all at the same time.  Packages to be mailed, meals to be delivered, prescriptions filled, pills counted and dropped-off at school, all amidst the unplanned – a broken dryer and a stone blocking a saliva gland on one side of my neck.  So, I’ve been moving through the days with one side of my neck swollen-up like a chipmunk storing nuts and hauling laundry back and forth to a most gracious neighbor’s house.  Yes.  My body has been a bit more tired and fragile than usual.  At the same time, though, I am noticing the absence of a most familiar friend – anxiety.

I started noticing the calming of my heart after pushing through the first few weeks of my challenge to write for six-weeks in the raw while taking a writing class at the local Visual Arts center.  You may remember those first few posts written with sweaty hands and a pounding heart.  Fear of just letting go and putting myself out there.  Well, I finished my last class for this course earlier this week which also marks my last totally “raw” post.  With each week and each reading of my work, I noticed my body relaxing and my thoughts less focused on how things sound and more focused on just putting my thoughts down on paper.  I have done this before, in my journal, but never in a context where I have to share what I have written with others.  I’m not really sure whether I am a better writer because of taking this course, but I do believe that I am a more peaceful writer.  I am at peace with where I am in the world.  At my core, I know that I am supposed to create with words, paint and glue.  I don’t know where this need will lead me and for the first time, it is okay just to walk the path without knowing where I will end-up.  It is well with my soul.

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Oh, it’s been one of “those” days here at my household.  Tantrums and drama over homework time, a Pyrex dish shattering on the kitchen floor (Really, I did not throw-it; it slid off the pile of pots and pans drying on the counter!), bad day for the husband at work, and the clothes dryer deciding not make even the hint of warm air.  It now takes a whole day to dry a load of clothes.

Fortunately, the kids are now in bed, I sit with a mug of warm tea beside me and am writing “raw.”  I am so glad that days like these don’t last forever and that I managed to keep myself from coming totally unglued during this afternoons festivities.  Yes, I did yell a few times.  But I also remembered to stop and take breaths.  I prayed at the kitchen counter before going to discuss matters with my girl splayed across her bed upstairs.  And I remembered to apologize to my boy for yelling at him for obsessively asking if I was going to help him finish his homework in the middle of my girl’s melt-down.  Really, does it look like it’s a good time right now?!

It’s all about imperfect progress, right?  This fall, I have been participating in a weekly discussion with a group of wonderful and real ladies around Lysa Terkeurst’s book Unglued.  Oddly, for the first few weeks of this study, things at my house had been pretty “hunky dory,” almost utopia like.  I was gulping in the long periods of rich play between my boy and girl, noting how happy everyone seemed, all the while wondering when the other shoe was going to drop. ‘Cause you know weeks like these can’t last forever!

So, today the other shoe dropped.  Actually, it started the day before when my girl stayed-home sick.  How dare her mess-up my carefully planned week!  Now, I had to cram two days worth of chores and errands into one afternoon!

What I really want to say is that this messiness is real life and it can be hard sometimes.  Downright frustrating.  How nice it was for me to be able to sit in my Unglued book study reflecting on my own unglued moments as if they were a thing of the past.  It’s easy to show joy and calm when life is going along smoothly.  But what about the other times?  How do I find joy in the ugliness?

Well, I am still on the chapter in Unglued where I try to define what kind of “unglued” I am.  I think I tend to be an exploder at home and a stuffer everywhere else.  I haven’t gotten to the part where I learn what to do about my ungluedness; however, I have learned a few things over the past year or so, through the wisdom of my lovely friends and some insightful books.  One, I need to take care of myself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  In general, this task has become easier now that my boy and girl are both in school, but it still can be a challenge.  While some can handle a lot of things on their plates, I recognize and honor my need for quiet and for room in my schedule to create.  Regular quiet-time spent with my Creator and intentional blocks set-aside for art and writing can go a long ways on the emotional and spiritual front.  Physically, I am learning the importance of taking care of my body through regular exercise.  I am not a gym person, but I do enjoy walking and can certainly pop-in a yoga or Pilates DVD on rainy or cold days.  A little endorphin release can definitely keep my mind from coming unglued so quickly.

I still have a way to go with this whole idea of not coming unglued.  Through it all, I want to extend my family the same grace that God shows me.  I am grateful for today.  No, I didn’t enjoy the downward spiral, but I was reminded of all that I have learned and am still learning.  Thank you, God, for granting us new mercies every day!

The girl with the red socks.  She’s the one who kept me from writing last week.  She kept beckoning me to come work on her.  Make my wings!  Put-on my socks!  So, other than the writing that I did in class last week, I chose to focus my creative energies on my girl.

I started this project, The Girl with the Red Socks, last Spring.  Had my girl painted along with a plain blue background and then summer came and it sat on a shelf up until a few weeks ago.  I was so excited to get back into this project because once all the groundwork is laid, things pick-up momentum, ideas start churning, and things really start getting fun.  While I had one idea for making wings, one from a book I had been studying, my art teacher suggested making paper mache wings and boy did they turn-out great!  The process of combining tissue paper, feathers, and glue was quite satisfying…I don’t think I could ever be one who only paints, as I love pulling-in different mediums and watching the texture grow.

The red socks are significant to me as they represent that “wild hair” in me that just wants to color outside the lines sometimes.  While many admire my seemingly serene, relaxed presence, I enjoy knowing that there is more to me than meets the eye.  Yes, I am an introvert, but I do have a lot to say, I just don’t share it with everyone, especially if I have to compete to get a word in edgewise.  That said, I scored this great red wool sweater for $2.oo at the Goodwill, felted it in my washer and dryer and could not wait to put the finishing touches on my girl!

After taking oodles of photos, trying to capture the essence of this project, I realized that my camera lens was on manual focus for a good 3/4 of the photos (I thought things were a bit cloudy!), but I ran-out of time before heading-out to lunch with a girlfriend and did not have the chance to retake them.  I considered retaking them this week so that things would be in better focus, but since I am still in the midst of my “Six Weeks of Raw Writing,” I am excited to share my imperfect work with you…Just in case you can’t read the words on her dress, they say, “Be Yourself!”

Last week, I opened my Bible to Luke and read a few passages, not really sure why I was there.  The passage that my eyes rested on was the one mentioning Zechariah and Elizabeth.  How they were upright citizens and had no children because Elizabeth was barren.  Barren.  This is the word that stuck in my mind.  What does it mean to be barren?

Well, most us know that way back then, women who were barren were considered to be “less than,” unable to produce heirs.  Something must be wrong with them, right?  Can you imagine how it must have felt not to be able to do the one thing that brought your family worth?  I really can relate, to a certain extent, to how Elizabeth must have felt.  For over 3 years, I was one of those “barren” women.  My husband and I tried and tried to start our family only to be met with period after period each month.  I felt empty and alone.  At 30 years old, everyone around me seemed to be knee-deep in diapers and stories about their children.  I was not fulfilled in my career and all I wanted at that time was to become pregnant.  That’s not too much to ask, right?

Well, to this day, I don’t think that God actually caused this long period of infertility, but I do know that He used this barren time in my life to enrich the soil of my soul.  You see, up until this point, I pretty much thought that I had control over most things in my life.  If I wanted a new career, I would go back to school.  If I wanted good grades, I studied hard.  But this one thing, this wanting a child, I could not make it happen on my own efforts and it was devastating!

But God, he’s a wise old fellow. He knew that I needed to turn over the soil in my heart before I would be ready to take-on this parenting thing.  So, I quit my job as a guidance counselor, the one that I had just finished earning a Master’s degree for, and I faced this barren road in front of me, head-on.  And, I can tell you, that the years before actually becoming pregnant were some of the most crucial years of growth in my life.  For the first time, I gave-up control.  I no longer had the identity of teacher/counselor, I was just me and it was okay!  Not only did I start writing for the first-time since college, but I worked as a temp in a variety of offices and then went on to start a home organizing business which I ran until I became PREGNANT with my first child.  I learned how to be okay with the not knowing.  I learned how to share my deepest feelings with those I would not normally share for fear of looking weak.  I learned to take risks.  I learned about being my authentic self.  What better gift to give my children?

So, I want to encourage you, dear ladies, if you are going through a barren time in your life, it will not last forever.  God will use this time to draw you close as you work to turn over the dusty soil around you.  And one day, probably when you least expect it, you will bear fruit again.  Beautiful, juicy, luscious fruit!

I come to the screen this evening feeling like I am writing more of a journal entry than a blog post.  I guess that’s a good thing, but it is so very hard for me.  You see, up until recently when I began this 6-weeks of raw writing, I still had the option to “pretty-up” things when I didn’t like the way they sounded, but now I can no longer hide behind my words.

I came home from my writing class this afternoon just a big bundle of nerves.  This class is actually very layed-back.  It’s not a college course or anything too demanding, but somehow, by the end of each 2 1/2 hours, I leave with my heart pounding in my ears and my chest as tight as a vice grip.  I want to be there.  I need to be there.  And at the same time, it’s driving me crazy listening to the beautiful writing of my classmates!  I swear there are some budding novelists in my midst – mixtures of Jeanette Walls (The Glass Castle), Ann Lamotte, and Maya Angelou all wrapped-up into one.  It’s not that I even feel jealous of their gifts.  I just feel confused.  We are all writing for the same 10-minutes and the images that come from their pens so effortlessly astound me.  Perhaps, with lots of effort and editing, I might be able to come-up with something similar; however, I truly don’t think my mind works in the same manner.  I have all kinds of thoughts and feelings rumbling around in my head demanding to be expressed.  But images and poetry?  They just aren’t there for easy retrieval.

Lest you think I’m having a pity party for myself, really I’m not.  I’m just trying to figure-out why I feel so uptight about this process.  When my husband came home from work, we had a rare few moments by ourselves in which I muttered something about being laced with anxiety over my writing class.  He didn’t say much at first, but came downstairs after changing out of his work clothes and made a comment that totally changed my thinking.  Sometimes, I have to ask myself what it is that I am wanting to get out of my work/my career or I drive myself crazy knowing that I am surrounded by a bunch of geniuses.  I try to focus on what it is that I can offer.  What makes me unique.

That’s it.  I am becoming more aware of the talent around me and wondering what it is that I want to get out of writing.  Do I want pats on the back on what a good writer I am, or do I just want to make a difference?  While I admit, it is nice to receive compliments and to feel stellar, what I really want is to help other women through the sharing of my experiences both in writing and art.  I feel like I have God-sized dreams with mediocre gifts to carry them out.  I suppose there comes a point when we realize where our power runs-out and God steps-in and this is where I am right now.  God doesn’t put desires in our hearts and then just leave us on our own.  I think of Moses and how he tried to argue with God about his less than stellar speaking abilities.  I think of David, the small little guy, who knocked Goliath off his feet with a sling-shot.  These fellows didn’t carry-out God’s will on their own power.  They simply allowed God to work through them.

So, I am accepting that I am where I am right now for a certain reason.  What a comfort it is to know that God uses the weak to do mighty things.


(No better way to say, “Welcome!” than dirty window panes alongside our front door.)

Well, I am on day 2 of my “raw writing project,” and I found myself mentally composing what I wanted to write about over the weekend in anticipation of having to sit-down at the computer today without editing my thoughts.  I have felt this need to write about cleaning lately.  And while I had some funny, quirky thoughts to share with you, I’m not sure what direction my writing will take me this morning.

Last year, when my youngest started kindergarten, I was just looking forward to having longer amounts of time to clean and do chores without having to rush to pick my girl up from preschool.  During that first month after the bus whisked my girl away each morning, I went straight to work, washing clothes, cleaning bathrooms and mopping floors.  And then, I realized that there had to be more to life than keeping a clean house.  Really, I don’t enjoy cleaning all that much.  I like a clean, tidy house, but I don’t like cleaning in its rawest form.  Scrubbing toilets and pushing the mop across the floor just don’t do a lot for me.  Now decluttering, organizing and arranging, I get a little more out of that, as it appeals to my love for aesthetics.  Getting sweaty and dirty, not so much.  Needless to say, after a few months of making cleaning my priority (I am a stay-at-home mom!), I realized it just wasn’t what I wanted to be doing all the time.

(Poopy bird’s nest on our front porch that I’ve meaning to clean-out for over a year now.)

When I really started to listen to these empty parts of my self, I realized that doing things like writing and art would be much more fun and fulfilling.  These are things for which my soul yearned.  So, I had to get past the guilt of feeling like my house should be shining at all times just because I stay-at-home.  Funny how we put ourselves in a box without even realizing it.  What has been working for me since I moved past this guilt, is turning my schedule upside down.  Instead of diving into cleaning in the mornings, I spend this time doing what really feeds my soul and I do it with abandon.  The cleaning gets done, not always perfectly, but it does get done.

Some people might be surprised to hear how much I dislike cleaning, mainly because if you walk in my house, it’s usually pretty neat looking, as long as you don’t look too close.   But, folks, I have dirt here!  I even took pictures to show you.  As I bent over my kitchen floor yesterday afternoon, my girl laughed when I told her I was taking pictures of dirt.  “And you’re going to show them to your friends?!” she asked.  “Yes!”  I said, quite pleased with myself.  I am ready to show you my dirt!  That’s a big thing for me, because I normally want you to at least think I am “perfect,” even though I know I am not.

One day, maybe I will make some money with my writing and art and will be able to pay someone to do some of my dirty work, but for now, it’s just me and I am so happy to have these great kitchen tiles that hide dirt so well!


(The sticky spot on our kitchen floor which I just wiped-up after maybe a week?!)

My writing teacher, Valley, said that someone once told her that unless you feel like you are going to throw-up at least one time every day, you are not challenging yourself.  Well, I don’t relish the feeling of being nauseous for the next 6 weeks during this Six Weeks of Raw Writing project, but I do want to face the challenge.  Right now, I can feel the tension building in my head as my heart quickens at the thought of what I have committed to do.  This is a feeling all too familiar to me – anxiety!

I keep thinking, lately, that my daughter is just me turned inside-out.  My family sometimes asks how we ended-up with a child so outspoken and loud.  My girl is quite the little personality, at least when she is at home.  Like me, she struggles with anxiety on a daily basis and yet, she doesn’t let it get in the way of her sassiness.  I say that with much endearment.  Just like me, my girl seems quiet and angelic when she is in a group situation, especially at school or at church, but when she is really at home with herself, she lets it all hang-out.  If she is unsure of something and wants reassurance, she will ask for reassurance over and over again.  My equivalent of that is to check my e-mail for comments, obsessively, after writing a post.  It’s as if until someone validates my thoughts, my writing, my thoughts don’t exist.  This need for approval is something I want to get past.  I want to just enjoy writing without needing the feedback.  I so admire one of my favorite writers, Anne Voskamp, for actually turning the comment section off on her blog.  Seeing how she has now written a book, One Thousand Gifts, that has been on the NY Times bestseller list for over a year now, I suspect she has received plenty of feedback, but I know that she is not writing to receive pats on the back.  She writes what is on her heart, what God puts on her heart, and by golly, she is changing the world with her words!

My girl is obsessed with picking the scabs from all the bug-bites on her legs – another way that she lets her anxiety hang-out for everyone to see.  Her legs look like battle fields right now and complete strangers will stop and ask what happened to them.  We just sigh and say, “She likes to pick her scabs!”  What else can you say?  It doesn’t seem to bother my girl though.  She just keeps on picking.  Or I guess her need to pick outweighs the need to have scarless legs.  Do I do this on the inside?  Pick at my wounded places over and over?  Revisiting the things that cause me to feel anxious?  Maybe my girl has the right idea.  If you are going to be nervous, just let everyone see.  Then there is nothing to hide.  The worst is already out there.

And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

-Anais Nin

I just finished a post that said exactly what I wanted to say, hit preview, and most of it disappeared.  So timely for this post!  My heart dropped for a second there and then I had to smile at the irony.  That said, I am not going to try to rewrite everything just as I had it written and just go with the flow because that is what this post is all about.

The quote at the beginning of this post pretty much sums-up where I am with my writing right now.  I found this quote in a cute little art stall at a beach art festival (I love those!) this summer and it spoke to me.  Some of you might remember my journey last year with my creative coach Amy.  With her help, I spent most of the Spring months trying to uncover the artist within me, peeling away layers that I had built-up over the years and doing things that were both fun and scary all at the same time.  It was glorious chaos and that is just how I feel right now about my new journey in writing.  I am committing myself to writing without editing my thoughts for the next six-weeks.

I know you must be wondering how this decision came to be, so I will tell you.  Yesterday, I started taking a writing class called, “Finding Your Voice” and came away truly humbled.  While I consider myself to be a decent writer, I listened to my classmates reading their own work and, as one man said, “I [felt] like I needed to take my shoes off because I [was] standing on holy ground.”  These writers wowed me with beautiful imagery, made me laugh with their candidness, and just made me want to hear more.  At the same time, I kept thinking to myself, “Man!  My work is as bland as oatmeal…Pollyanna, here I come!”  I walked away from class yesterday wanting what they had   just like that famous line in When Harry Met Sally, the one in the restaurant, where one customer is watching Sally fake an orgasm right there at the table and she tells the waitress, “I’ll have what she’s having!”

Now, the things I have been writing here over the past year have been truthful and I certainly have revealed bits of myself that you might not have known.  I really am the quiet-natured, kind Kristin that you have come to know.  At the same time, I know that there is a color and texture to my life that I don’t feel has been coming through in my writing.  Somehow, in an effort to look spiritual (and, I really am spiritual), I feel like I’ve edited out parts of the real me.  What I really mean to say is that I am more comfortable showing you my spiritual side, my good girl side, than my imperfect side, the side that can be kind of funny and quirky – dorky!

All that said, for the next six-weeks I plan to write from my heart without editing my thoughts.  The only time I might edit is for grammar or spelling or if I have written something that is just too sensitive to share.  I apologize, in advance, for digressions, repetition, fragments, and anything other than “pretty” writing.  In exchange, I hope to share a little bit more of the real me, behind the scenes, just like we’re sitting across the table sharing over coffee.  I will  write about whatever is going on in my life or I might use a prompt.  If there is something, in particular, that you would like me to write about, throw-it out there in the comment section, and I just might bite!

 

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