Tuesday, August 23, 2016

On Letting Yourself Get Interrupted

"Sometimes if I have to write a paper and a friend calls or wants to stop

by, I'll just turn the paper in late. It's just a paper."

I blinked at my friend. Nothing in my life was just anything. Just a paper? Just a deadline? How foolish, I thought. How irresponsible. How borderline-lazy.

Those words were spoken to me and a group of friends several years ago. Back in college. Back when papers were necessary currency to your GPA as well as your intellectual standing with your friends/classmates/competitors.

Back then, I couldn't imagine putting something as important as a paper on hold for a person. I couldn't imagine putting my academic career on the line to make time for a coffee or dinner date.

I'd sing a constant song with how stressed I was or how much I had to get done when one of my friends who was really making an intentional effort to spend time with me asked me to dinner. Again. And again.

My answer to her each time was a personality cocktail of incredulous tension: I don't have time.

To which she replied, you do still have to eat, though, right?

Back to my friend, who was speaking to a group of us. Sharing her wisdom with us in a quiet, safe circle:

"I always want to make time for people," she said. "So I let myself get interrupted."

And so, I carried on my merry way, momentarily baffled by this philosophy on friendship and life in general. Letting myself let go of the temporary in favor of the eternal. Staying up a little later, or all night, if it meant helping a friend get through a fight with her boyfriend at 3 a.m., or accepting a simple coffee date even when my schedule was jam-packed.

(Or at least, the collegiate version of a jam-packed schedule.)

And let me tell you: I don't remember a single paper I turned in. I don't remember the individual grades of each one. I don't remember the tests that wore me down and made me unable to function without a Venti coffee and an energy drink throughout the day.

But, I remember the dinner dates.

I remember my a capella group rehearsals three times a week and weekend performances that we we were all too busy for, but somehow still made time for.

Those moments are what I remember. Those glorious, rose-gold interruptions. Thank God we made time for them. Thank God. Or I would've missed out on one of my fondest seasons without realizing it.

So much of my life as a writer is time spent alone. 

Time spent inflecting. Getting in some face-time with my bright-white screen.

And many writers will tell you to make time for your art. To be diligent. To  prioritize your creativity and your ambition over everything else. Because no one will do it for you.

I do this sometimes. I burrow myself away in a room when all of the extroversion within me would rather be sipping tea with a girlfriend or spending time with my husband that doesn't include plopping on our big red couch and watching Frasier reruns.

It's not really a discipline for me. I know the writing will get done.

But the letting myself get interrupted? In the name of a grieving friend or a discouraged family member? That doesn't get done as often as I'd like.

I do this with my spiritual life, too.

I don't want to be thought of as productive. Well, as only productive. Do I want to be a hard worker? Yes. Do I want to under-promise and over-deliver in my professional and creative life? Of course.

But, I don't want that to have such a stronghold on my life that it's the only adjective that describes who I am. I don't want to be so focused on what I think should matter: money, writing, gaining followers, writing fiction and non-fiction that stacks up in the industry that I forget.

My dreams, my goals might get interrupted. 

Many times I feel like my career, my progress as a human who's been pruned and encouraged and uplifted enough to believe that she's destined to have a big impact on the world around her, is at a stalemate.

But maybe, at this time, in this season, it's simply being interrupted. Interrupted for character growth. Or personal development. Or to simply enjoy.

We are always at risk of being interrupted at the hand of our Creator, our master storyteller. 

How many of us have been surprised by a pregnancy? 

Or swept into a whirlwind of a seasonal shift? 

A move?

An illness?


A car repair?

A new opportunity?

A job failure that pushed you into a new career?

A book deal?

A boyfriend who becomes a husband? 

Our lives might be fraught with interruptions. For better or for worse. And we can choose to invite them in. To let them perform somersaults in our schedules and day-to-days. We can welcome them in, and watch the friendships, the joys, the frustrations, setbacks, surprises and disappointments play out.

Because we put what we thought was important on hold long enough to see the beauty in a life that makes room for interruptions.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

How to Go Deep With the People Around You

 This is the season we've been waiting for.

The season that we've looked forward to since we were children. The nights that we can stay up late, the nights that we can drink cocktails and jet of to whirlwind-far places. The time to live in wide-eyed wonder and freedom.

But here's what happens – at least from what I can tell in my limited experience in adulthood – finding and experiencing true freedom in this season: freedom from stress, job pressure, five-year plans, career goals, career frustrations, schedules, all of it is at best, manageable.

And at its worst? Nearly impossible.

Let me state on the record: I do not have a hard life. I don't have any kids to wrangle, just a few dreams and ideas I have to chase and keep at bay. I have a home, means to pay for things that I need (and what I want). When I need a time-out, I can take it. My husband holds me in his arms and I feel safe and secure. In a lot of ways.

I have a lot of freedoms as an American woman living in this century.

And I need to remember that.

But what I'm beginning to see is how the jobs, the budgets, the hunting for side gigs, the achieving, the mixing, the chaotic fray of working through life is such a distracting. Such a hindrance to freedom.

I'm beginning to see how narrow the road is to heaven. I'm beginning to see how I have a camel-through-the-eye-of-the-needle sort of life.

I'm beginning to see how this life, this wonderful, wholesome, American-dream life is, in spite of all its blessings, brings a colossal hindrance to true community. To really growing relationships with the people around you.

I met one of my favorite people from the internet a few weeks ago.

She is the co-host of a podcast I've grown to adore. And she was just as beautiful and vivacious as I expected her to be. She's the sort of person who travels. A lot.

She just happened to be in the area where I live for a spell, so, as you do when you have the chance to meet someone you truly admire, I invited her for cocktails with a few of my friends. She said yes, and we were thrilled (even if it was only because we offered to buy her a drink).

Our drinks turned to dinner, and dinner turned into shared desserts and dragging our waiter outside to get the perfect Instagram photo together. But, the night stands out to me because our conversation was so rich.

She went deep. Fast. And made me feel like a lazy conversationalist.

Which is fine if you don't have a master's in journalism, and haven't been trained to ask the right, open-ended questions. But, I do. I have. And when I found myself talking about marriage, my dreams, my past, with a one-way stranger, it was a big wake-up call.

I'd been so distracted by the achieving, the dreaming, the doing, the budgeting, the car repairs, dental work, grocery shopping, bills, that I'd forgotten that this life is meant to be enjoyed.

Not only that, but this life is meant to serve and care for others. And one 

of the most important things we can do for our friends is simply listen.

I've been walking through the conversations in my day-to-day like someone who texts and drives. Only really halfway paying attention to something really important.

I've been holding back. I've been fearful. I've been unwilling to go deep because it's time-consuming. Even a little scary. Or it doesn't match my brand. Or I can't make money from it. In a word, selfish.

This person showed me what freedom in Christ truly looks like. She showed me what it's like to have that wonder of the season. The season we've all wished for our whole lives.

The freedom to let go of your distractions, and your moments. 

Maybe not all the way – we're not perfect.

But perhaps enough to go deep with the people you break bread and clink cocktail glasses with.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

I Like My Coffee Like I Like My Life: Regular

We live in a world, it seems, addicted to change.

We chase happiness, fulfillment like children in an Easter egg hunt. Dropping plastic orbs in our baskets and scurrying away to the next, letting them rattle in the bottom of our baskets. Plopping the chocolates into our mouths, unwrapping another as quickly as we can.

Never stopping to be thankful. Always looking for another prize.

This is me at my worst. Collecting points and accolades and resume-boosters like seashells. Entertaining for just a moment, just to turn-over in the palm of my hand, before I send them back.

It's been like this for as long as I can remember. At the start of every new season, every new endeavor, I was ready for the next.

When I was a senior in high school, I couldn't wait to get to college.

When I was a senior in college, I couldn't wait to get plugged into the real world.

When I was single I couldn't wait to date a man who loved me.

When a man who genuinely loved me and proved he could be trusted, I couldn't wait to be engaged to him.

And when he finally popped the question on Thanksgiving Day 2014, I was ecstatically happy for a week or two. And then I was overwhelmed with a longing to be married.

I approach every good season with the same hunger and eagerness:

Well, that was fun. But what's next? What's new?

Let's get on with it, shall we? What's the next level to unlock? 

Always in a spell of growing up, up, and up. Never growing down. Always more. Never less. Never still. Always with an itchy craving for the next season, the next job, the next status update.

I live life looking for the next opportunity to level-up without stopping to track my steps and see how good I have it. How far I've already traveled.

I'm not in an extraordinary season right now.

Not really. Life is wonderful, don't get me wrong. I am loved. I have the bandwidth to love and serve others. This is a life of plenty. This is a life to be thankful for.

But then, there's the hunt. The crawling ache for the next season.

There are obvious tells of what our next season should be to a couple who's been married for an appropriate amount of time. Oh, sweet, life-altering parenthood.

And the answer to the question my husband and I get, mostly from strangers, is when we'll spread our lives into that season. When we'll begin to try to be a part of that fraternity of frazzled, busy and supremely loved people who are parents.

That's the next level, isn't it? That's the next logical step.

And for those of us who like to see change and additions and fun parties and Pinterest boards you wish you could hop into with the help of Mary Poppins, it could be really tempting to jump into it head-first.

All in the name of change. All in the name of keeping life entertaining.

But I'm learning that there is an art to contentedness. There's a discipline here I'm missing.

So for now, I wake up. I pull out a dress from my closet. I kiss my husband goodbye. And then I'm off to the office in my little blue car, tracing the same commute, drinking the same coffee, curly hair pulled into the same, chaotic top-knot for optimum concentration powers (amen?) over and over and over.

I'm trying to embrace the regularity of life. To sit satisfied, humbled and thankful. Without the hustle for more, for the next, for the brighter, the flashier, the shinier.

Resolving to stay the same. For now. As much as I'm able. It's hard. I'm not the best at it. But, like my wise friend, Christen says, I don't want to look back and remember these days as the good old days without realizing that's where we are. Right here, right now.

I'm trying to find the extraordinary in every season. Because at one point, I wished for this season. At one point this place where I've arrived is where I desperately wanted to be.

This is what I know:

Any lot, any toil, any broken-down day I've ever gotten through has come out from under complete surrender. Falling-to-my-knees in the shower moments.

And those moments only happen when I feel stuck. Trapped. Like I've reached the end of my rope. Like nothing is changing. Or challenging. And the only way through is by Christ.

Not by myself. Not by more money. Not by more likes, follows, words on a page, promotions, children. The next season. The next Instagram-worthy career. None of it.

And sometimes surrender feels a whole lot like stopping. And being thankful for this moment. For this day. In all of its glorious normalcy.


Thanks to all of you wonderful, beautiful people who've signed up for my email list and have joined the Prodigal Squad. You guys rock. And for those of you who haven't, we're cool, we're cool ;) There's still time to win a free copy of Shauna Niequist's Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living. I'll be announcing the winner on Instagram tomorrow! Good luck!