Delete

Today I spent some time cleaning out the folders of my email account. It’s a job I’ve needed to do for at least a couple years, yet never seemed to get to.

As I sorted through my pile of online folders, I had to laugh at the scraps I found: order receipts from 2009, forwards I tucked away and promptly forgot, a note from my aunt about who was to bring what to Thanksgiving dinner in 2010. Seeing as how my sweet aunt now spends her thanksgivings in heaven, I decided to keep this one…

At any rate, as I reorganized, purged, and deleted this random stack emails, I knew there was one folder that lurked amongst the others. A folder I’ve avoided, ignored, and pretended to forget for all of six years. A folder I didn’t know what to do with.

For several minutes I sat and stared at my computer. I knew a series of five emails waited inside this folder, and I also knew that with just a few clicks I could transport myself to the spring of 2007 and a tangled web of memories that were made between me and the girl who, at the time, was my very best friend.

My goodness, how I loved this girl? I loved the way she laughed. I loved the way she made me laugh. I loved the way she brightened a room, just by walking into it. I loved the way she opened her heart and let me in, and took up a deep and lasting residence within mine. I loved the way she forced me to try new things, scary things, like Thai food and skinny jeans, and how a trip to T.J. Maxx was never the same without her.

More than anything, I loved sharing my life with her. Whether it was a weeknight dinner, a fight with my husband, or a conversation over coffee about God, or relationships, or our wildest dreams, there was nothing off limits between us. We were real, we were honest, we were at home with one another, and ‘friend’ seems too small a word to express what this girl was to me.

It’s not within the scope of this blog to relay what happened between us. All I will say is that my friend started traveling down a road that I couldn’t follow. Toward the end of our relationship, email became the only form of contact I had with her and it was through this series of emails that I fought for her and our relationship. In the end, it wasn’t enough. We parted ways and moved on in different directions.

Six years. Five emails. One gut wrenching end to a friendship I thought would last forever. I tapped my finger on the edge of my keyboard and considered what to do.

With just one click, I could delete these emails and send them into the void where they can never again open the wound that lingers. Or, I could click SAVE and hold onto to the last words I ever wrote to her. The words that, just like our friendship, gave everything and held nothing back.

In my heart, I knew the truth. These emails can never bring her back. They can’t change anything or prove anything. In reality, the only they can do is clutter up my inbox and make me really sad.

“It’s time,” I heard the still, small voice whisper. “It’s time to let them go.”

With His voice came a realization: the emails aren’t what matters. In the aftermath of this broken relationship all that matters, all I really need to hold onto is the truth and the knowledge that I loved her. I loved her when our relationship was bliss, and I loved her when it was broken. I love her still.

I moved the cursor and clicked, DELETE.

Wouldn’t it be nice if relationships came with their own DELETE buttons? Wouldn’t it be nice to hover a little arrow over the bad times, the hurt, the painful memories, and with one little click, erase them from our hearts?

If only…

Sweet friend, if you’re struggling in the wake of a broken relationship might I encourage you to allow your heart the time and chance to grieve the hurt and the loss. Remember that which was good and right and be thankful for what you were given. Trust not the lies, the memories, or the wishes for what might have been, but trust God and His ways, His plans.

When the still, small voice urges you that, “It’s time to let go,” might I encourage you to listen?

Let go. Click delete. Clean out the things that no longer matter, hold onto the things that do, and remember that His ways, His plans are always, always perfect. Remember that someday, this too, will be refreshed, restored, redeemed.

Birthday Gifts (A Message from the Archives)

Happy Wednesday, Sweet Friends!

Today is my Tenley’s second birthday, and while my family celebrates her special day, I can’t help but look back to last year and remember, afresh, what God has done to grow and mend my mother’s heart.

After Tenley’s difficult delivery left me in a struggle with loss, depression and sadness, God prompted me to write about everything I was feeling. Believe me, I didn’t want too, but His promptings eventually became unavoidable and, in the end, the words I poured onto the pages of my journal evolved into the four part series that started this blog.  

I share this now, because it is a testiment to what God has done for me, and to what I know He longs to do for all of us. I hope you enjoy this mid-week post and no matter what you face this week, I hope that you, too, can find for yourself a gift worth celebrating.

Birthday Gifts ~ Originally Posted on October 7, 2012

With all the amazing truth God has shown me over the last few weeks, I thought for sure I was ready to tackle Tenley’s first birthday. “I think I’ve finally come to terms with Tenley’s big day,” I told my friend, Amanda. Kindly, Amanda simply smiled her “We’ll See” smile and opted not to argue.

I’m thankful to have a friend, like Amanda who sometimes knows me better than I know myself. In the days that followed, it didn’t take long for me to realize that God and I still had some work to do.

Two days before Tenley’s birthday, my emotional dam broke open. After arguing with my husband over something insignificant, I found myself angry and upset. To my surprise this petty argument was all it took for my defenses to crumble. Pent up tears started to fall, slowly at first for the frustration I felt towards Chris, then quickly for my heart’s true ache. Before I knew it I found myself weeping for the unavoidable arrival of Tenley’s birthday and for all the longing I have felt this year.

“God, why?” I asked. “After all you have taught me, why do I still feel this way? Why do I still feel so deeply upset?”

“Because it’s not just about Tenley, and it’s not just about the day she was born,” He gently replied.

Suddenly, I realized through God’s tender reply, that all the grief I have been feeling over Tenley’s birthday and the loss of a natural delivery is not just about these recent experiences. Rather, this grief is old and lasting.

It’s about the time in high school when I didn’t make the basketball team. It’s about the time I failed to finish my first marathon. It’s about my decision to not finish college and the book it’s taken me five years (and counting) to finish. This grief is about all my significant failures. It’s about each and every time I’ve felt defeated or have failed to accomplish something precious and important.

Finally, the nagging ache in my heart made sense. Some of these experiences happened to me when I was very young, and all of them have awaited their chance to be tended by God’s loving care for a long, long time. In a sweet instant, in my very own water to wine miracle, my tears turned into laughter, and for the first time in 363 days of sorting through the desires of my heart I felt at peace.

For so long now, I have looked at this season of desire, loss, and sadness as something I had to get over, as something I had to let go. By validating my feelings of grief, I also feel that God is showing me that these experiences are not something I have to let go or get over. They are a part of me, a part of who I am. Each and every one of them has shaped me, formed me. How could I let them go?

Rather than dwelling on them, rather than staying here, stuck in grief, I must, by God’s grace and guidance keep going. I must continue to bring the aches of my heart to God. I must find my security and comfort in Him and His truth. I must allow myself the grace to grieve my losses, defeats, and failures. And I must continue to desire, to trust in the plans He has for me, and sow the seeds He plants in my heart.

Throughout the scriptures God instructs His people to set up memorial stones as a testimony to the way He has worked and provided for those He calls His own.  Tenley has grown a lot this year, but sometimes I wonder if I have grown even more. This growth has only been possible through God’s work in my life, and I feel the need to remember this year, to testify about what He has done.

As Tenley’s birthday arrives, I will hold her, love her, and cherish her. With every smile, every kiss, every hug, every chance to watch her sleep, every second lost in her deep blue eyes, I will remember my year of desire, loss, and growth. Tenley is my memorial stone, my testimony and sign of what God has done in my life and in my heart.

When the time comes, I’ll lean in close to Tenley’s cheek and help her blow out her first birthday candle. As I watch her eyes grow wide with the excitement and joy only a birthday can bring, I will give honest thanks in my heart to God, creator of desire and healer of hearts, for all I have been given: A beautiful daughter. A mended heart. Two precious gifts worth celebrating.

Thank you for remembering and celebrating with me. I’ll be back on Sunday with a fresh post and the winner of last week’s give-a-way.

HELP!

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 ESV

A few weeks ago my husband called in the middle of the afternoon to let me know he would be working late.

This isn’t an unusual occurrence. As the owner of his own rental company, my husband, for the most part, is a one man band, and late nights are par for the course.

While my husband was scheduled to work late, I was scheduled to be at writing group, but in order for that to happen I needed to find someone to watch my girls.

As many of you probably know, finding a last minute babysitter is not always an easy task. Both sets of grandparents were out of town, my regular, go-to-babysitter wasn’t available, and my lovely writing group friends were expecting me to meet them in just a few short hours.

One possibility remained: my brother-in-law, Jeff, and his wife Crystal. Jeff and Crystal recently moved to our area and prior to this occasion I had never had the need to ask them to babysit, especially on such short notice.

For several minutes the following debate played out inside my head:

Hopeful Me: “Just call them, you don’t know until you ask…”

Doubtful Me: “Oh, don’t bother them; they’re not going to want to do that…”

Hopeful Me: “But if it were the other way around, you’d be happy to watch Zach…”

Doubtful Me: “It’s too late; the girls at group will understand if I can’t make it. I really don’t want to be a nuisance. Besides, they probably already have plans…”

Hopeful Me: “Yes, your writing group friends would understand, but you love writing group, you look forward to it all week, isn’t it worth fighting for? Isn’t it worth swallowing your pride and asking for help?”

In the end, the hopeful me won out and I gave my brother-in-law a call. To my surprise, he and Crystal were happy to watch my girls. Together, Jeff and Crystal, their son Zach, and my girls, had a blast while I was gone.

What a blessing it was, to find that my cry for help did not result in a frustrating situation, but in joy and a chance to experience community.

This week I found myself, once again, in need of help yet struggling to ask for it.

On Friday, we discovered a leak in our basement which left us without running water for several days. It’s funny how interesting life becomes when you can’t shower, wash dishes, or do laundry.

Enter my awesome friends Juli and Amanda. Juli, my neighbor, was more than happy for my family to come over for a shower, and Amanda, my sweet friend, was incredibly willing to swing by my house and pick up my laundry so that we could have clean clothes.

“If you could just wash them,” I said to Amanda as she loaded her backseat with my dirty laundry, “I’ll be glad to come pick them up when their done. I still have a dryer after all, there’s no sense in you taking your time to dry and fold everything.”

Amanda smiled and humored me, “Okay,” she said. Three hours later she returned with all my laundry, washed, dried, and folded.

I wanted to share these stories, in part, to brag on my amazing family and friends. But also because I wanted to pose a question: why is it so hard to ask for help?

The answer may be different for each of us. Perhaps it’s pride, or maybe a reluctance to give up control. Maybe it’s fear of being a nuisance or the belief that we can manage on our own. 

Whatever it is that keeps you from asking for help, may I (gently) encourage you to get over it? Whatever it is, don’t let it get in your way. Don’t let it get in the way of blessing, in the way of community, in the way of loving one another.

When troubles lurk and needs mount like piles of dirty laundry, it’s important to remember that God never intended for us to maneuver through life alone. Rather, He calls all of us to bear one another’s burdens.

Tonight I’m heading off to writing group, my husband is home to watch the girls, my laundry is clean, and our water is back to normal. I am thankful for each of these things, but more than anything, I am thankful for my family and friends.

I am thankful for their willingness to help me, and I am thankful for the opportunities I have to help them in return.

When our hearts are focused on community rather than pride…on each other rather than ourselves…the love of God is what flows, as freely as running water.

Fall In Love

Today marks a very exciting day in my life, the date of my first blog post.

For a whole year, I have been writing and posting, and you, my sweet readers, have been visiting me at my “online home,” www.onceuponawriter.com.

Whether this is your first time reading or you like to stop by and visit weekly, I just want to take this chance to say, “thank you.” This year, this blog, and your comments have meant so much to me…literally…nothing short of a miracle.

As I look back, I have no doubt that God planted this task/goal/dream of writing a weekly blog in my heart to teach me about His ways and His love. These weekly writings have changed my life. I have fallen in love with writing and I have fallen in love with Him all over again. He’s written me a love story, and I hope and trust it will never end.

With this in mind, I’m ready to celebrate and I’d love for you to join me.

I am working hard to prepare fresh ideas for my site that I hope to launch this fall. A few of these ideas include:

  • A new, mid-week post
  • Fun resources
  • An awesome ministry spotlight

And, to kick it all off, I’m doing my first ever give-away!!! (Details below)

To say the least my heart is full of thanks, gratitude and love.

If you’ve read my posts, chances are good you already know how much I love the fall. To celebrate this love, to celebrate this season and to celebrate my “Blog-iversary,” I’d like to challenge you to make this a season for falling in love. In love with beauty. In love with adventure. In love with God.

Because when I get right down to it, I know this is what my blog, my writing, my walk with God are all about. The falling in love and the filling of my heart with beauty, adventure, and the love of my savior.

I long to live by my pen. I long to write of the heart. Because everyday spent with the King really is a fairy tale.

Won’t you join me? Are you ready? Let’s fall in love…

20 Ways to Fall in Love This Season

1)      Start your day by reading a favorite verse or a passage from a favorite devotional (My recent favorite is One Thousand Gifts Devotional by Ann Voskamp)

2)      Pull out your wedding vows and repeat them with your spouse

3)      Flip through a photo album or scrapbook of friends and/or family

4)      Re-read an old journal. Consider the ways He works, the ways He moves, the ways He answers prayer

5)      Re-read your favorite love story (Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers is one of my all-time favorites)

6)      Take time to write, paint, create, build, bake, or sing your own sort of love story

7)      Start a gratitude journal. If you already keep a journal of this sort, take some time to look through it. Re-count the ways He loves.

8)      Give something away

9)      Go on a color tour, a walk or drive through a patchwork of autumn trees

10)   Hug your kids, grandkids, nieces, or nephews (big or small.) Listen close to sound their voices, get lost in the magic of child-like laughter

11)   Make a memory: apple picking, pumpkin carving, a surprise get-a-way

12)   Compile a playlist of your favorite love songs, as you listen, consider the words and how they echo His love

13)   Take cookies, muffins, or flowers to a friend, a neighbor, a nursing home

14)   Find a need and fill it

15)   Find a vase and fill it, too

16)   Send a text, an email, a card to friend in need of encouragement

17)   Hunt for beauty, find it in places obvious and places unexpected

18)   Do something that scares you

19)   Revisit a favorite movie, because all stories speak of His-story (Les, Miserables, The Notebook, Becoming Jane, and P.S. I Love You are a few of my favorites)

20)   When the crisp chill of autumn fills your lungs, when the warmth of a pumpkin spice latte warms your hands, when the sun catches a branch of golden leaves just right and fills your heart with joy, with awestruck wonder, remember that this is for you. All of it, for you. The love story of a savior.

Will you keep the list going? I’d love to hear from you. What are your ideas for falling in love this season? How has God romanced your heart recently or in the past?

Leave me a comment below and your name will be entered for a chance to win at $25.00 Barnes & Noble Gift card. The perfect gift to help you purchase a new devotional, love story, journal, or warm beverage of your choice.

I told you I was ready to celebrate! The winner will be chosen by random drawing next Sunday, so be sure to check back and see if you won.

Thanks again, sweet friends.

May your fall be happy, your heart full.

 

The Time To Love

Today was one of those days. Around 1:00 this afternoon my husband and I got into an argument that lasted the rest of the day.

What started as a disagreement quickly turned into an afternoon and evening of cold shoulders and awkward avoidance of each other.

When bedtime came, I crumbled. I didn’t want to go to bed angry; I wanted peace. Yet, at the same time, I wasn’t ready to lay down my pride. Needless to say, with both of us being tired, weary and emotionally drained, this wasn’t a good combination.

Hurt, frustrated and getting nowhere, I left my husband alone so that he could go to sleep and considered going to bed in another room.

I knew I needed to spend time with God, to pray through the situation between me and my husband, but somehow my prayers fell flat. I didn’t know what to say, or rather, I didn’t know how to be honest with myself or with God.

I didn’t want to admit the fact, that maybe I was wrong, that maybe my pride was keeping me from making a sincere and honest apology. No, I wanted to focus on Chris, and all the things he did to hurt me, the things he said, the ways he misunderstood.

For several minutes I continued to pray, but nothing seemed to help. Whatever truth God was trying to show me was obviously not getting through my wall of blame and pride.

In the end, something must have softened my heart because I decided to sleep in our room.  As I slipped into my side of the bed and reached for my phone something caught my eye.

12:07

September 11

There on my phone in bright-white numbers, a sobering reminder.

In that moment my heart changed. My hurt, my frustration, my anger faded swiftly away in comparison to my memories of that fateful day.

For a moment I let my mind wander to that day, twelve years ago. In my mind’s eye I tried to imagine all the husbands and wives who went to work on that Tuesday morning, never to return home. I pictured the goodbye kisses, the smiles and waves exchanged as coffee, and jackets, and briefcases were grabbed on the way out the door.

And I know there must have been some who left in anger. Who left with hurt, and arguments, and issues that weren’t resolved. With issues that would never be resolved.

I imagined what it would be like to spend the last precious moments with the one you love in anger.  I imagined what it would be like to have the one you love snatched away, gone forever.

And I thought to myself, what if? What if the day that lies before me, carries my own 9/11? What if this is the day in which, the one I love, the one I share my life with, will never come home.

Because the truth is, the people that lost their lives on 9/11, and the people who lost their loved ones, had no idea what was coming…and neither do we.

As the sun dawns each morning, we have no promise of what the day will bring forth, whether it will end in triumph or tragedy.

As my wall of pride crumbled, I finally heard God’s voice break through, there to me in the darkness. In my darkness. And what He said was, “Love.”

And I knew it sure, that in this world of terrorist attacks and cancer, of drunk drivers and road rage, of accidents and suicide, I do not have time to fight, but only time to love.

To love.

To look long into the eyes of my beloved and know that he is mine I am his.

To spend my life honoring our vows, treating him as the king of my heart and my home.

To swallow my pride, and tear down my walls, and humble myself to ground zero, to the washing of feet if necessary.

To say, “I’m sorry,” and mean it, not just because I seek peace, but because I know that true peace will never come without true repentance.

To say, “I love you,” once, twice, a thousand times a day, in a thousand different ways so that when, and if, 9/11 comes he will know and I will know that we lived and loved well and that we did not take for granted the time that we were given.

Sweet friends, may this sacred day live on in our hearts, in our homes, in our lives, as a reminder of those who were lost, as a reminder of those who were heroes, as a reminder that this day, this moment, this right-now, is the time to cherish what we have…and who we have. That this is the time to love.