I am SHERlocked (and here’s the No.1 reason why)

 

img_6061I love Sherlock Holmes, but I’m arriving a little late to the party. I never gave the clever consulting detective much thought until a dear friend of mine recommended I check out the BBC television series Sherlock. Minutes into the first episode I knew I was hooked, smitten, irrevocably in love with the characters of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. (And, if you must know, crushing a bit on Benedict Cumberbatch too.)

While awaiting the return of Sherlock I have fed my undying love by reading a few of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories and most recently by trying out another Sherlock TV series, Elementary, this time per my sister’s recommendation. Again I am completely taken with the unfolding story of Sherlock Holmes, and in this case, his crime solving partner Joan Watson.

I wonder, at times, what is it exactly that draws me to these characters, these stories, these shows.

Is it the excellent writing and storytelling? But of course! When I find stuff like this I can’t get enough.

Is it the got-to-find-out-who-killed-who-tension that riddles each Sherlock story? For sure! The curiosity factor alone gets me every time.

Is it the super swoon worthy leading men with their charming accents and turned up collars? Well, I don’t know…maybe… Anyway, moving on.

It’s all of this, to be sure, but more than anything I’ve come to realize it’s the friendship, the relationships, the community portrayed between Sherlock and Watson. More than just a high functioning duo, these guys are friends, allies, brothers.

I love this. So often it seems, this is what pulls me in, what draws me into a story.

 The Lord of the Rings

 Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

 Harry Potter

These are all a few of my very favorites and they are all stories where friendship…true, pure, real deal friendship…lies at the heart and breath and soul of each tale.

Tonight Mr. Wonderful and I watched an episode of Elementary in which Sherlock faced with the decision of leaving his home in New York City to return to his native London. Leaving New York would potentially mean leaving Joan and the support system he had discovered as he recovered from an addiction to heroin. “I have thrived here,” he says to Joan when she asks him what he wants. “Not because of who I am but because of who I have come to know.”

sherlock-quoteI love this quote. It resonated with me in that, Ahhh, that’s so true!…That’s brilliant!… That’s… I’ve got to write that down, sort of way.

When the episode was over I texted the quote to my friend, Jessie. My own version of Watson, Jessie started as my writer friend but grew into so much more. This summer she and her family left their home in Michigan for the wild frontier of Seattle, WA and a brand new ministry there. I miss her desperately. Sometimes so acutely it feels like my arm, or my leg, or some incredibly vital part of me is gone.

This is what you and our writing group have given me, I typed in after the quote. And it’s also what I hope you find in Seattle.

I can see it now ever so clearly. Here in Michigan. In Charlotte, in Virginia. In all the places I’ve lived, in all the places I’ve thrived, friendship, relationships, and community are what made it so. Not me. Never me, but the friends God has brought into my life.

In high school he gave me Mr. Wonderful. He gave me Matt, Jessica, Karly, Mrs. Spalding, Sharon, Brandon, Nikki, Justin, Danny, Brett, Jeff. He gave me Battle Creek Bible Church.

In Charlotte He gave me Sarah. He gave me Beth, Bethany, Cara, Clint, Heather, Hager, Tom, Blues, the Brazelles, the Maugels, the Homans. He gave me our church group, Banyan.

In Virginia he gave me Dave. He gave me Vanessa, Hannah, Jim, Lee, Stacy, Roger. He gave me Evergreen Community Church.

img_6062And in returning home to Michigan, the friendship, the love, it grows and grows. He’s given me Jessie and my writers group and a whole army of writing buddies…so many I can’t even begin to name them all. He’s given me Amanda, Justin, Jeff, Crystal, Barry, Linda, Mike, Jen, Kim, Ashley, and Juli. He’s given us Radiant. He’s given us family.

And I’m thriving like never before because I call these dear ones allies. I call them brothers and sisters. I call them friends.

Each and every one the Watson to my Sherlock.

How Not to Get Caught in the Tradition Trap this Holiday Season

Christmas Tree With PresentsHoliday Season? That’s right, friends! Whether we’re ready for it or not the holidays are upon us. And with the holidays…Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s… comes a mob of traditions.

Trunk-or-treating at Grandma and Grandpa’s church

Aunt Becky’s mac-n-cheese, a Thanksgiving staple

Mr. Wonderful’s Ten Days of Christmas

 Church on Christmas Eve

 Monkey bread on Christmas 

 Chip dip, Catan, and champagne as we ring in the New Year.

 The list is endless and seems only to grow with each passing year.

Each year, before the holiday crazies get going I have a little tradition of my own. Every fall one of my favorite authors, Nicholas Sparks, releases a brand new, tear-jerking novel and my tradition is this: On the day his latest story releases I drive to Barnes & Noble where I find his book waiting for me just inside the door. I browse through several copies savoring the process. I check the pages for crimps and crinkles. I sniff the dizzying new book smell. I pick the perfect one and hold it close to my chest. Next I meander over to the café and order my first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season. Then I sit, sip, and read until my heart’s content or my hubby/kids need me at home.

Christmas LightsThis past Tuesday Nicholas, (because I like to pretend we’re on a first name basis), released his first novel in two years, See Me, and I was bound and ready for a trip to B&N. I planned it out in my mind. Tuesday is story time at our local Barnes & Noble providing the perfect chance for both my girls and me to have some fun.

But then life happened. So much life I can’t even remember what derailed our plans, but no matter, here I am on Saturday afternoon, my tradition still waiting to happen.

And to be honest, while I’m excited to read Nicholas’s new book, and let me just tell you, I always, always, love a good excuse to go to Barnes & Noble, I’m kind of not-that-into-it this year. I’m wondering if it’s time to let go of this tradition.

Maybe it’s because we don’t really have the money right now to spend on a new book I don’t really need. (Want? Heck, yes! Need? Not so much.)

Maybe it’s because it’s been a while since one of Nicholas’s books captivated my heart like his earlier novels did. (Don’t get me wrong, I love all his stories but The Longest Ride doesn’t hold a candle to my all-time favorite, The Notebook.)

And maybe it’s simply because traditions are supposed to serve me, serve us. Never the other way round.

Black FridayThis is what we need to remember as we gear up for the holidays. Traditions can be wonderful things. They bring romance to our lives by drawing us to people, places, and things that make our hearts sing. Traditions encourage us to live outside of the norm, to grab hold of life, and in many cases should be fought for even when they’re inconvenient.

But if we’re not careful, traditions, or rather, the pressure cooker we build around them, can enslave us to patterns, habits, and behaviors that no longer serve a purpose, at least not a healthy one.

Whenever we find ourselves feeling not-that-into a tradition it’s time to take stock and ask ourselves the whys and wherefores behind the tradition in question.

Is it a blessing to us or others?

Does it require time and money we don’t really have?

 What’s the worse that will happen if we decide to do something different?

 Who are we seeking to please?

Depending on the answers to these questions it may be time to let the tradition go. Giving yourself the freedom and permission to do so ushers in peace, and grace, and makes room for other blessings to grow.

I’ve shared this quote before, and I’d like to share it again. It’s so important and needed at the start of the holidays, and I hope it will help you navigate the tradition trap this year:

“Whenever Christmas (Insert: Halloween, Thanksgiving, New Years, Christmas cards, Christmas trees, Black Friday, trick-or-treating, caroling, turkey, pies, decorations, presents, shopping, etc…) begins to burden, it’s a sign that I’ve taken on something of the world and not of Christ.”

~ Ann Voskamp (Insert Mine)

May this be your rule of thumb to keep traditions from ruling you.

This holiday season may you and yours find joy in traditions that whisper His name and freedom from the noise that doesn’t.

~From the Archives

A NaNoWriMo Love Story

english-innIt was the morning of my birthday when Mr. Wonderful walked into our room and asked me if I’d like to sneak away and spend a night at the English Inn.

The English Inn, a lovely and charming bed and breakfast in Eaton Rapids, Michigan has become, throughout the years, one of our very favorites places.

“Are you serious,” I asked, knowing full well that when it comes to matters of sneaking away, Mr. Wonderful is almost always quite serious. (Swoon!)

“Yeah, I’m serious,” he said. “But here’s the thing, some guys just called from Lansing and they need me on a job site first thing Monday morning. I can either get up at 5:00 and drive up from our house or I thought maybe we could check in and stay at the inn Sunday night putting me just a half hour away. I won’t be able to stay with you on Monday, but I thought maybe you could use that time to write until you have to checkout. With your birthday, I thought it just might be perfect. What do you think?”

What do I think??? Let’s bust this joint, Baby…

chaiseQuite honestly, here’s what I think. I think all this was nothing short than God’s birthday gift to me. I know it was and here’s why.

For weeks now I’ve been thinking, daydreaming really, about my secret birthday wish. I’ve been imagining how wonderful it would be to sneak away to the inn either by myself of with Mr. Wonderul for a chance to just sit down and write. No interruptions. No other demands. To be in a place of beauty, a place that inspires me, and place that feels like Jane Austen or some other fairytale creature might just waltz into my room or walk through the woods at any moment. (Not to mention a fireplace and a chaise lounge…squeal!)

For me this is heaven. It’s what I long for… secretly wish for.

But life is busy. It takes time and money to pull that off. It takes babysitters, and planning, and I feel guilty to even ask. So I’ve kept my wish to myself, thinking it just isn’t possible.

But God?

word-swag-english-innGod knows my secrets. He knows my daydreams and the wishes of my heart. And He knows how to surprise and romance me.

This is His way, to delight His beloved with a stunning romance. With a fairytale. A love story.

He knows our hearts! And He delights in granting our wishes.

I don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve Him. And yet He is exactly what I’ve been given.

On my birthday…

And everyday. I’ve been blessed with the greatest of gifts…

A husband who loves me. (Thank you so much, Honey)

Parents who’ll watch my babies at the drop of a hat. (Mom and Dad, you are the best!)

And a Savior who woos and romances me.

I am faint with love.

Three Things to Remember for Gut Check Times Like Now

 

patriotic-flagIt’s gut check time.

 In my house

In my heart

In our country

It all became incredibly real to me this morning. On a cold and rainy Wednesday, in a house dark from low hanging clouds, nothing was going right. Everything around us was crumbling like leaves.

An alarm clock didn’t go off, kids were yelling and fighting, my cold wasn’t going away, his deals weren’t coming through. A dream we’ve all been counting on, hoping for, sat dusty on the shelf.

I had this feeling of holding my breath. An anxious feeling. A deep feeling. A feeling of just wanting everything to come together, fall in place, turn out perfect.

Isn’t perfection what we’re all hoping for, searching for, chasing after?

And aren’t we all sort of holding our breath? 

In a world where we constantly dribble out posts, and blurb out speeches, and rail through our long and thought out arguments of who, and what, and where, and why and, honestly, who cares? I’m tired of the fluff, the Sunday school answers, the witty quips and replies.

Nope. In times like these, I need the real stuff. The good stuff. The stuff that moves me. The stuff that moves mountains.

I need the stuff of God.

For my family this morning

For me this day

For our country at this all important hour 

I need to look up. I want to lean in. I have got to figure out a way to keep pressing on.

So where do we find the stuff of God? How do we hunt for it, chase it down? Of course there are millions of ways but for me, it all keeps coming back to three essentials:

 Prayer

Worship

And The Lord of the Rings

Not expecting that third one? Don’t worry, I’ll explain…

IMG_5648But first: Prayer

I know, I know, the Sunday school answer, right?

But it isn’t right; it’s wrong, so wrong, to feel that way about such an important thing and so reflective of how far we’ve gotten from where we need to be.

That prayer is taken so lightly, resisted so fully, and overlooked so readily is evidence of a heart and a people holding God at arm’s length.

Because prayer is power. It is aligning ourselves directly with the King of Kings. With His throne. With His armies. It is our way of doing combat in a world constantly at war. This is true on the level of our individual hearts, our household, and our world at large, our nation included.

We need prayer. We need to pray. It is vital, and in gut check times like this prayer is how we adjust our focus away from ourselves, away from what is happening, and zero in on His way, His truth, His love.

This is how we look up.

Next up: Worship

Again, I know, we’ve heard it before, and yet worship is the last thing I ever feel like doing because worship is surrender. In order for me to worship Him directly, I have to stop worshiping all the lesser things that have taken up space in my heart. 

It’s so much easier to check out than surrender up a song, a dance, a word of thanks. But when I do? My arms open wide; literally, I can’t keep them in. My knees bend and I fall to the floor. I am physically bowed low and internally overcome. I am filled with nothing less than His presence.

All those lesser things I was worshiping, clinging to, hoping for ebb away as He fills in the blanks, the cracks, and all my broken.

This is how we lean in.

FootprintsAnd press on…

How do we press on? When dreams are put on hold, and hearts are smashed, and our world is so completely screwed up? 

When rulers are wicked? And injustice thrives? And all hope seems lost? 

Enter: The Lord of the Rings

In my family we turn to Hobbits. To Aragorn and Arwen. To our old friend Gandalf and the epic story/struggle of The Lord of the Rings to get our hearts on track. Because in this story, we see our story. In their struggle we see our own. In their victories we remember what ours have been and imagine what future victories could look like.

We remember who we are and Whose we are, and in remembering we find hope. We find the stuff of God.

I know this looks different for everyone. For me it’s LOR and other tried and true movies, books, and stories. For you it may be a song, a picture, a verse, a day at the lake or a walk in the woods. 

You know the stuff. Whatever gets you your heart back. Whatever reminds you who you are (God’s Beloved), what you’re made of (His image, His likeness), who you belong to (Him, the Savoir, the King). That’s what we have to hunt for, return to, fill up on, linger in. 

This is how we press on.

We all want perfect. 

Perfect dreams to come true

Perfect houses to live in

Perfectly behaved children

Perfect love 

Perfect health

Perfect policies

A perfect candidate

IMG_4076It all became incredibly real to me this afternoon. After the turmoil of this morning. After praying with my family and stirring mac-in-cheese to the tune of The Great I Am, after making plans with my man and my girls for a popcorn and Frodo night…

The perfection I want in this life, whether it’s in a perfectly picked-up living room, a perfectly executed day of school, or the dreams I imagine coming perfectly true, none of it is for here. Perfection isn’t for this world. Perfection is for heaven. I am never going to get it perfectly all together. I’m not supposed to.

I can stop holding my breath…

What is for here is Him. HIM! And I can have all of Him I want. But to get to Him I have to look up. I have to lean in. I have to press on. 

Our future is uncertain. Nothing is as it should be. It would be easy to lose hope. 

 And yet? 

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand… 

 All other ground is sinking sand.”*

 

* From the hymn, My Hope is Built on Nothing Less, by Edward Mote

What You Have to Know About Today

 

IMG_5847For God’s Message of Hope…

So what is it about the summer that makes the kids grow?

Clearly, there’s the sun, the sky, the gobs of fresh air. But there’s also the fact that summer was made for childhood, and inherently a child knows they must rise to the occasion. As they rise they have this way of growing like rows of emerald corn. Bright. Tall. Wholesome. Sweet. They stretch to the sky before our eyes.

This summer My Blessing grew into the pureness and fullness of seven. She grew into books and adventure and a love for testing the laws of nature.

God’s Promise grew into one. Leaving baby days behind a little more each day she embraced the wonders of a toddler’s world. She grew into words, and slides, and big attempts, despite her little size, to do just what her sisters do.

And Hope…oh, my Hope Girl As the heat of summer fades, Hope’s days of being four are dipping below the horizon like a shining sliver of orange sun.

Skin to SkinI don’t know what it is about the change from four to five but it gets me every time. It catches my breath and startles me, catching me off guard.

I remember this moment when My Blessing was about to turn five. How the hot arrow of realization struck me and singed my heart with knowing that My Blessing, age four, was about to be gone forever. Never to be seen or known again.

And now here I am with Hope savoring her fourness. Savoring her suckin’ fingers, and golden hair. Her faithful friend Froggy and twirling dresses. Her Barbies, and dolls, and princessy, glittery, has to be every-shade-of-PINK-under-the-sun-things.

Her tiny wisp of a voice.

Her heart that beats for Daddy.

Her half-pint size still not quite too heavy to pick up and squeeze and hold.

And I know these things won’t leave completely as she flutters her wings into five. But five brings us ever closer to that dreaded precipice. To that place and time when Barbies and dolls and dresses that twirl will lose the fight to friends, and make-up, and dresses that twirl boys’ heads.

Tenley HandLast night at bedtime I held her. I snuggled her so close she squeaked. I kissed her all over her face and looked long and deep into her sapphire blue eyes.

“Mommy, what are you doing to me?” She said with half a giggle and half a groan.

“I’m memorizing you,” I said. “I know I’m going to fall head over heels in love with Hope, age five, but boy am I going to miss, My Hope Girl, age four.”

To this she simply smiled, grabbed her Froggy, and rolled over, ready for the sweetest of dreams.

And, sure, she can roll her eyes and shake her head over her crazy mama. (Two gestures of appreciation, I am sure, have only just begun…) Of course she doesn’t get it. She doesn’t understand. But someday….

Someday God’s Message of Hope, age 34, will sit on the edge of a bed. She’ll look long and deep into eyes that look just like her own and she’ll know.

Mama wasn’t crazy. These days ARE fleeting and few.

 Each one a masterpiece, a summer sunset.

 Created, given, and meant to be savored.