The Journey From Now To Not Yet

photo by Simson Petrol on unsplash

I know where I want to go. It’s whether or not I’ll make it that I can’t guarantee.

I’m a woman of many words. I fill journals quickly and have run out of places to store them. They’ve spilled over into John’s space–not good.

For years I’ve wanted to use those words to write books. Books I have in my head with characters I plainly see. Situations I visualize on paper that bring emotional responses from me. Plot themes that fill me with passion.

And I want to share them with the world at large.

That’s the dream.

I just returned from my second writers’ conference. Where people who know what they’re doing teach those of us wannabes what they’ve learned.

And bring us to the humbling reality that leaving our day jobs to live off book royalties doesn’t often happen.

I’ve talked to many people who feel they have a story inside. Something they’d like to share with others, whatever the tale or message may be. Bringing it to the page in a readable way is a herculean task.

We heard from New York Times best-selling author, Tosca Lee, that she worked diligently on writing and rewriting her first book for nine years.

She’s never finished it. She refers to it as the book that’ll kill her.

An idea’s been stuck in my head for a long time. I began crafting it over three years ago. The characters who populate my imaginary world are more familiar to me than some of my friends. Merely because of time spent with them.

I don’t even like all of them. Some I’ve grown to despise.

The story flows through my mind like a movie stuck on repeat. I see the gaps, the problems, the places that don’t work.

But I like the story enough to want to write it. To see if it could be published.

There’ve been times when I’ve been afraid to dream. The stakes are too high, the possibilities too small. The cost to me seems unacceptably high.

With no guarantee.

It’s work. Especially fitting it into my work schedule. Finding bits of time here and chunks there to plow through and complete what I’ve begun.

I’ll not stop dreaming.

I feel sad for generations coming up. So many seem fearful of dreaming. Of putting themselves out there and working hard for what they believe they can accomplish. Values have changed over the years, and what was expected when I was a kid isn’t the norm today.

Jesus made us to dream. He’s invested Himself into each of us in ways many haven’t yet discovered. He’s given us talents and a story to work with that shapes who we are.

He takes great pleasure in our individuality and uniqueness.

I’m here now, ready to pursue this passion. Give it my best shot.

I may fail.

Jesus isn’t asking me to be the best author ever. There will always be someone better than me. But He is asking me to do the best I can do, with Him and for Him.

Makes the journey a lot more enjoyable.

photo by Amador Loureiro on unsplash.





Fuzzy Lenses Make It Hard To See

I don’t think about how I see things. I just look.

I traveled to Chicago with my husband to celebrate Mom’s life with a memorial that family and friends could share in. A time of fun memories and sad realities that make up each of our lives.

Mom was no exception.

It was a grey, sleety day. The sky couldn’t figure out whether it wanted to snow or rain. A cold, miserable combination that this Florida gal found to be over-the-top uncomfortable. But it reflected the somberness of my heart as we converged to say a final farewell to Mom.

We gathered as family. All four siblings, close family members. We toasted Mom and joked how she’d have been holding a scotch on the rocks. No twist.

There aren’t many in Mom’s family left. But they all came out, plus friends who knew our family, to honor her and encourage us.

It’s funny how one person can appear so different to a variety of people based on our perceptions and stories. I knew Mom was a fun-loving gal, but as a daughter, I sometimes missed the woman in light of her “mom-ness”. Peers saw her through a different lens. Older family members had different context. As a daughter, she was my initial role model of womanhood, marriage and relationships.

She was not a conventional mother. Working at seeing her through the eyes of others helped me grasp a better picture of who she was.

One lens that was particularly fascinating to look through was Mom’s own. She had a small journal with thoughts and ideas she’d written as a young adult that captured much of who she was. Her love for dancing was echoed in her desire to collect dance cards. Her bold spirit was shown in her yearning for adventures and chances to go places and do things as she got older. She wasn’t content with mediocre. As my brother well-stated it, she always shot for the gold and refused to settle for silver.

She traveled to New Orleans on a river boat with a friend. Had such a good time, she called her boss at the end of her vacation and told him she was staying another week. He said it was fine–though I doubt a different response would have mattered.

She volunteered at the USO and danced at gatherings with service men as they were getting ready to deploy. Her smile and humor had to have smoothed over momentary anxiety.

When she got her first adult job, she saved for a mink coat. A depression-era child, she knew what she wanted. And wasn’t afraid to work for it.

I wish I’d known her as a peer. I think we’d have been really good friends.

People aren’t easy. We’re unique, made intentionally by God who knows everything about us. He doesn’t make mistakes. We need to see people as they’re intended to be seen–through God’s eyes, with appreciation for our differences and acknowledgement that diversity is an amazing gift to us all.

Seeing Mom with new eyes? That’s God’s gift to me.

Valuing the legacy of a Mom who was different? That’s my gift to her and her memory.








Ashes and Dust

It’s hard to imagine someone’s life reduced to a box the size of a loaf of bread.

Mom made her wishes known–she wanted to be cremated. It’s what she’d chosen to do with Dad, and it made more sense to her than buying a plot.

This isn’t an argument I will pursue. Some believe a casket and burial are the only way to go. Others tout cremation as what must happen because we’re running out of space to put folks who are no longer living.

My thinking is once dead, the person is gone. These bodies weren’t made to last forever.

Mom’s remains were delivered to my sister’s home. Packaged in plastic and secured in a cherry wood container, it came with her name in several places on the container.

They had guaranteed us it was Mom.

Not that I was concerned. Mom is no longer with us. Physical death is something that will happen to all of us, and her body gave out after a long run. God informs us that we began as dust and to dust we’ll return.

What was hard was to imagine all that Mom was contained in that small wooden box.

We’re all bigger than a bread box.

Mom was a character. Her personality was often larger than life, reflected by that line that Patrick Swayze says at the end of “Dirty Dancing“: “No one puts Baby in the corner.”

Mom was a force to be reckoned with. Never a wallflower, never one to hold back her opinions, she was outspoken at a time when women weren’t often given the floor. She made herself and her ideas known. She was fearless, choosing not to back down from challenges.

Mom and I often knocked heads; our relationship often felt uncomfortable. The older I’ve gotten, though, the more I’ve realized it has more to do with me being like her.

Not anything I’d have admitted when I was younger.

What she left me was a legacy of courage and possibility. A sense of adventure and fun.

And here I thought we just didn’t get along.

As people it’s easy to be confined and defined by what we’ve done wrong. By our mistakes. It was, too often, easy for me to dismiss Mom as not really caring about the person I was. Because I wasn’t the person I thought she wanted me to be.

I believe she saw herself in me. Some of it was good; some not so good.

We’ve all got potential to be more than the limits our minds and fears give us. If we give ourselves the freedom to believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing God who made us intentionally in love, we have His power to pursue dreams greater than our perceived limitations.

Mom learned that. She grew in appreciation of the person God had made her to be.

I’ve often hesitated to try things for fear I’d look foolish or fail. True character and success aren’t a lack of failure; it’s how we proceed forward after we pick ourselves up.

Nobody wants to be put in a corner.




Where’s The Love?

photo by Jesse Goll on unsplash

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day.

Who knew?

I’ve been a bit preoccupied with other things: Mom’s passing, the birth of a couple of grandsons, life that doesn’t slow down at my request. Legitimate reasons.

I’ve never, to my knowledge, forgotten a holiday.

Granted this isn’t one of my favorites. It’s not as unlikeable as Halloween, but it’s right up there. When my girls were younger, the years they didn’t have boyfriends made the holiday unbearable. No one to send them a carnation at school. No expectations of romantic dinners or other memorable dates.

Just a day that emphasized how they didn’t have someone special.

When we were younger, classroom lists went home from school to make sure everyone in class got a valentine from every other person in class. We’d buy those boxes of mass-produced cards and carefully fill them out to give the classmates. Gayle and I always had to send the same cards. If she wanted Disney princess Valentine cards, I’d want Marvel Comic cards–and we’d end up with the same generic cards filled with flowers.

Nobody was ever left out. Everyone got a card.

Feeling left out on Valentine’s Day is an internalized statement that there’s something unlovable about me.

When I began dating the man I’d eventually marry, he generously gave me flowers. Especially on Valentine’s Day.

I felt incredibly special.

My friends on my dorm floor would look longingly at these flowers. Some had boyfriends. Not many got flowers. My excitement was dulled by what my friends didn’t experience.

I felt their sadness at not being loved well.

The older I’ve gotten, the less I enjoy Valentine’s Day. Not because of its commercialism or its unrealistic focus on romantic love. It’s more that it’s a poke that there are many who don’t feel loved.

Needing to be known and loved are significant issues we all deal with. The truth is we can’t be genuinely loved unless we’re authentically known.

I enjoy the idea of romantic love. My favorite movies are romantic comedies. Where boy meets girl, they overcome ridiculous odds–which may be each other–to fall passionately in love by the end of the movie. Blissful happiness. It’s what makes romance so appealing.

Real love is work. It’s not basing my relationships on feelings but on the choice to put someone else’s needs before mine. To consider someone else’s desires as more important than my own. Not demanding my way but caring more for what the other person wants.

It’s why the most powerful love story of all time is Jesus dying for us on the cross. He did the work of sacrificing His best out of love for us. Doing the work we couldn’t do for ourselves.

He didn’t have to do that. He took our mess upon His shoulders so we could be redeemed. Our messy brokenness covered by His perfect goodness.

That’s love. Selfless. Unconditional. Not a love I can ever lose once I have it.

I’m not complaining about Valentine’s Day. As a holiday with a positive focus.

After all, all we need is love.

photo by Jamie Street on unsplash




I’m Gonna Wash That Pain Right Out Of My Heart

It’s been a heck of a couple of weeks.

We’ve been gone a lot, for a variety of reasons. Things around the house didn’t get done. Cleaning–that tawdry-toilet syndrome that comes from neglected focus; refrigerator surprise–the green things that were never meant to be green; trash–the stuff that didn’t get taken to the curb that now has scented the garage in an unsavory way.

Our car was looking like we’d gone mudding in it.

No time to wash it ourselves, and frankly no desire to do so, we chose to take it to the carwash. John’s invested in a monthly deal so we can keep our car in better shape than our last one had been.

The carwash experience was enlightening. We’d had gross things on the car, and as the multi-colored soap and funky strips of whatever material bathed and wiped the surface, what the car was supposed to look like was revealed.

It was quick. What would have taken me at least an hour to do was accomplished in under five minutes. Including the wait.

We went in one side dirty and messy. We came out the other side shiny and clean.

I wish my life could look like that.

I’ve lived in–and have raised my kids–in a culture of instant gratification. Where you don’t have to wait for anything for long. Amazon has redefined shopping. Social media has reconstructed connections with people. Snail mail and delivery in six to eight weeks are things of the past. And if something isn’t available immediately, I’ll opt for something else.

Waiting and working through stuff isn’t fun.

Dealing with the loss of my mom is something I’d like to do quickly. I want to do it well, but I don’t want to have to dwell on the pain. One and done.

Grief doesn’t ever work that way.

Loss isn’t something you plan for. Death becomes an uninvited guest for all of us. For some, it’s timely. For others, it’s intrusive.

When Mom died, I had many thoughts about how her life and death affected me. I’d be laughing one minute about some unplanned stunt she’d pulled–like an impromptu trip to the Milwaukee Zoo which ended in a four-hour bottleneck of traffic just to return home–to crying about the loss of her never seeing her great grandsons.

Grief hurts. It’s a reminder that I have no control over this life. That my days are numbered–just like everyone else’s.  Death is as much about life as is birth.

There’s a beauty in living in the present with no regrets. Taking time to talk to those I care for. Making time to be present with those who matter to me. Not putting things ahead of people. Allowing time for grief.

Jesus made us to live together. Relationship came first. Stuff and clutter came as a result of our disobedience. We’re intended to value each other because He values us.

Mom’s loss isn’t something that will fade quickly. Learning to embrace loss is as important as learning to value each day.

I can’t wash that hurt out of my heart.

I don’t really want to. It helps me recognize what really matters.