Since it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged, I want to share some of the lessons I’ve been learning these last six months. The first two lessons are random. The last three are more specific to my current journey in following Jesus in writing.
#1: MY CHILDREN USE THE “STALKER” APP MORE THAN I DO.
In the fall, I downloaded a new-to-me app called Life 360. It allows you to view your family members on a map, communicate with them, and receive alerts when your loved ones arrive at home, school or work. Our family affectionately calls it “the Stalker App”.
Although I haven’t set up any alerts, I love knowing where my people are without having to ask them all the time. What I didn’t realize it how much my kids would also enjoy “stalking” me.
You know what they say … a family that stalks each other, stays together … or something like that.
#2: I HAD NO IDEA HOW DIFFICULT IT WOULD BE TO BE THE PARENT OF A TEENAGER.
Ok, now I get it. Having a teenager is HARD. But what I wasn’t expecting was for part of the difficult to be because of ME.
In all honestly, before I had a teen, I would roll my eyes on the inside when I heard other moms talk about their kids being their friend. I would think to myself, “Buck up, lady. Your daughter doesn’t need a friend. She needs a parent.”
I’m sorry. I get it now.
Hello, my name is Carrie, and sometimes I have a hard time remembering that I’m the parent (and not a really cool, mature non-teenager teenager … because wasn’t I just in high school a few years ago?)
For example: I have to remind myself that while my daughter’s friends might not mind chatting it up with me from time to time, I’m still the mom, not one of the girls. Therefore, I should try to engage accordingly … Like go do the laundry instead of giggling on the couch all afternoon.
These are hard things when you like the people your children are becoming (and the friends they choose).
#3: A FRIEND WHO IS WILLING TO ASK THE TOUGH QUESTIONS IS AN INVALUABLE GIFT. (AND ONE WELL-TIMED QUESTION CAN CHANGE EVERYTHING.)
Sitting across the table at Starbucks, my friend turned our conversation to my current writing project – the Mother/Daughter Bible study I was working on. At the time of our conversation, I was in the thick of content for week five of this six-week study.
“Can I ask you a question? Are you even enjoying writing right now? I mean, isn’t this supposed to be your favorite part of writing books, the actual writing part?”
The question was loaded, and she knew it, but she asked it anyway. This is the gift of a friend who knows and loves you well.
She paused for my response, and I dropped my head. Her question sounded remarkably close to a question that came via text from another friend just a week or two before: “Why do you think you’re struggling so much this time? Do you think you should stop writing?”
Before I could even answer her question, the tears came.
After she got up to get me a tissue (aka: a Starbucks napkin), she asked, “Why can’t you just stop?”
My friend’s question was well-timed. And, she was right. Yes. This is supposed to be my favorite part.
The last five months of writing had been rough. Although I was loving the content, the actual writing process of this study felt like a chore, definitely not a joy. But to stop now??? How does one stop when you’re this close to the finish line?
I’m not a big fan of crying in Starbucks (or anywhere, actually), but the tears kept coming. “Tell me what you’re feeling.”
My only answer, “Relief.”
#4: I KNOW WHAT WRITING WITH JOY FEELS LIKE. (AND THIS ISN’T IT.)
It was as if my friend’s question gave me permission to finally be honest with myself.
I DO know what writing with joy feels like, and what I was doing wasn’t it. So, in that moment, I decided to stop.
But first, I needed to cry it out.
I needed cry out all the feelings of being a quitter – of being a failure – of wasting so much time. I had to cry out the worry of what people would think and the disappointment of letting them down. And, I needed to cry out the pride of being wrong.
But after all of that, all I felt was relief.
Looking back now, I can recognize that I’ve been here before. I know there’s a difference between hard (because God is stretching and teaching me) and hard (because I’m carrying something God never asked me to carry.) For the last five months, I’d been carrying something (in the form of a study) that I was never meant to carry.
That morning in Starbucks, I laid it down.
#5: “LOOK FOR ARROWS, NOT ANSWERS.”
Walking out of Starbucks that day I knew I was no longer writing that Mother/Daughter study, but what now? I didn’t know.
For the next week, I gave myself time to rest, all the while hoping my “what next” would come. It didn’t. I then spent a good part of the next week resisting the urge to just get back to work.
By Wednesday of my third week, sans writing, I set out for a long walk, ear buds in, ready to catch up on some podcasts. Up first – my favorite podcast – The Next Right Thing, by Emily P. Freeman. The title of that week’s episode … “Look for Arrows (Not Answers).”
In her introductory statements, Emily says, “God often gives a faint vision of things before they ever come to be. It’s not a full form. It’s more of a shadow, not focused or clear. It doesn’t come with steps or money or sure things. But it does come with hope, and that’s what keeps you going in the fog.”
And then she closed with, “If you have a big question mark hanging out in your soul, perhaps your next right thing is to take a break from your frantic search for answers and look around for the arrows instead.”
In that moment, her words felt like a cold cup of water to a parched mouth on a scorching hot day. Her advice was for me: start paying attention to arrows.
For the next couple of weeks, I wrote down anything that could be an arrow, however faint it might be. And in following them, I’ve found what I believe is my next right thing: not a study, but a devotional for women.
TWO BOOKS WORTH READING
If you’re looking for a great read, I recommend one of these.
“Jan Johnson offers seventeen characteristics of Jesus that help you experience spiritual formation in a fresh way. Each chapter takes a deeper look at particular, underrated qualities in Jesus. By knowing him better, you naturally become more like him.”
I’m in the middle of this one right now, and I’m already making plans to read it again. This book is contemplative and beautiful and making me love Jesus more with every page.
“Part theology of incarnation, part stroll through fields and forest, Humble Roots reveals how cultivating humility—not scheduling or increased productivity—leads to true peace. By remembering who you are and Who you aren’t, you can discover afresh your need for God and the rest that comes from belonging to Him.”
This is another book I will come back to again and again. It is so beautifully and thoughtfully written – I loved every part of it.
That’s all I have for now. As always, I’d love to hear from you.
What have you been learning lately? And, do you have any book recommendations for me?