Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Noise Within the Silence

There has been a long, long span of silence in this little space. Save for my mom's birthday giveaway and the post about Christmas, there has been silence here for 8 whole weeks. That silence has not, however, extended to my heart, and it seems only fair to share with you some of the noise that has been going on inside of me in the past 8+ weeks.

Once upon a time, about four years ago, the ladies from our church had a "Lady's Night" that I attended. We had only been living in Ohio a few short months at the time but I forced myself to go and be sociable. The speaker that night spoke about the story of the Velveteen Rabbit. I don't remember her name or that much about her talk. What I do remember is that afterward she divided us into small groups and we were supposed to share with each other a gift that we felt God had especially given to us. I discovered that night that I found it almost impossible to admit that I had any gifts!

I had some very serious conversations with the Lord in the days that followed, and it was then that I accepted the fact that writing is a gift God gave me and I told Him I would use it. My writing changed a bit after that. I did things like writing for 31 days on subjects and more purposeful types of writing, not so much writing just to write. I let myself begin to dream big dreams...just a little bit. I dreamed of writing things that weren't just for a little old pretend blog. I dreamed of putting words together that were good enough to make lasting impact. I dreamed of writing a book someday.

I only dreamed a little bit; I was never taught to dream big and even the little dreams felt bold and proud and way too daring and braggy to say out loud.

All along this writing way I've had a constant love/hate battle going on with my audience. I've fluctuated between "O my stars, they read my blog??! I am never writing anything again! How can I write that when who knows who all will read it?? What must people really think?!" and "What were my stats on that post? Did I get any more likes? Any comments? Why did that post get so many views and that one so few??" and  "I love that person's input! It is so amazing how you can connect with people you've never met." and "Oh no. That person did not understand me correctly at all! Why am I doing this??" I've loved the growing audience and hated the attention. Loved the input and hated the growing pressure to perform.

I've had a few dry spells before and I took a few small breaks but this last time around has been different. The topic for January had been weighing on my mind and I just couldn't seem to write. So, one day I impulsively said that I would write no more until January and added that I planned to do another 31 day series when I returned.

I fully expected the words to come flowing in a couple of weeks. I was sure that if I knew I didn't have to write, that writing would be the thing I craved. I never once dreamed I could possibly go through two months in silence!

But the words didn't come. I felt no craving; no urgent need to write. 

At first it felt lovely! There was no pressure, no self imposed deadlines, no reason to scour life for good blog post material. I felt free and happy.

As time passed and the words still didn't come, the feelings changed. 

I found myself feeling completely  lost. Who was I without this urge to write? I felt like part of me was missing. What did I have if I had nothing to write? Had my self worth become so tied up in my blog that I couldn't live without it? What was God trying to tell me? What was I to do with all of this? Was it time to stop blogging altogether? 

Then there was the fact that I had left with the promise of a 31 day series when I returned. That somewhere back months ago I had heard God say, "There's your next subject." And I had agreed (however reluctantly) to listen. At least I thought He had said it, now I wasn't at all sure........of anything. 

I struggled along under the weight of all this for weeks. One friend told me, "He will show you." Another said, "Couldn't you just write whenever you want to when you start again? Or just do once a week so you don't have so much pressure?" My husband said "December isn't over, just wait and see what happens." And I said, "No one understands. Not even me." I wandered around aimlessly doing my duties and feeling more and more unsettled until one night I started crying and I couldn't stop.... So I got up and I wrote.

Basically, I wrote out all the things I just told you. Then, I turned my face to His and said, "What do you want to say to me?" 

Before I could be quiet long enough to listen, I felt the words come out - "Because if you want this little old blog and the bit of prestige it's given me, you can't have it." !!!!! Where in the world did that come from???? So that really was it! Well, I had known that all along, of course, but not in quite such a bald faced fashion. 

With many tears, I opened my hands and confessed my pride and my misplaced identity and my desperate hanging on. I still wasn't quite sure what He wanted to say to me but at least I had faced the lion in the closet and admitted my wrongs. 

My heart felt a measure of peace after my confessions but I still found myself searching for answers. Through the course of a couple of conversations, I realized that what I was looking for was impossible. 

It suddenly became clear to me that what I so desperately wanted was a "fix" for my problem; some certain things I could change that would take the struggle away for good. Maybe if I decided that when I returned to blogging I would never check blog stats again; maybe if I didn't write as often; maybe if I only checked for comments once a day; maybe if.... In my heart I knew none of those things would change anything for good. Well then, if there was no magic "fix" to the problem, maybe I should just stop writing. While my hand might be unclenched and laying open now, I knew me way too well!

The fact remained that I had told the Lord I would use the gift He had given. Was that a promise that should be broken?

The wise man at my house drew some word pictures that began to bring my eyes back into focus. Would a father be upset with his daughter's shining eyes if she showed him something pretty she had made for him? Was it wrong for a daughter to delight in winning her father's approval? Would a father expect his daughter to be perfect? Or would he be looking for her to do her best and no matter if she messed up, to pick herself up and try again?

Slowly I began to see that there was not some certain formula I could follow that would somehow fix my struggle. I realized it would have to be a "state-of-being"; a constant awareness of where I am placing my focus and who I am trying to please.

So, here I am. 

Today I am choosing to keep the promise that I made 4 years ago. I am choosing to refocus my eyes on the One who gives the gifts and deserves all the glory. And I am choosing to strive, not for perfection, but for the delight of winning my Father's approval.

I humbly welcome you to join me on this journey.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Now The Party Is Over

We are home after a week of being gone. It was a good week. Not everything went exactly as planned - needing to have your van hauled the last hour of the way after hitting a deer will do that to plans - but I reckon the Lord knew best, after all.

I didn't take nearly as many pictures as I should have. Totally missed the Dutch Blitz game played with gigantic cards on the floor (I have the sore muscles to prove that I was a 'runner' as pathetic as that is to admit!) and plenty of other memorable activities but I'll share some that I have.

One day before the whole gang had gathered, our little family took an excursion to Little Rock. We toured the Clinton Presidential Library...
And felt the need to pose with the flowers blooming in December...
Some people needed instructions on how to stand...
Certain ones thought that picture was hilarious, not sure this one was so much better...
It was fun, at any rate.

We also hiked across the Big Dam Bridge

It turned out to be a gorgeous day after a rain storm in the forenoon!

Once all the Gingrich's had gathered, we enjoyed sister time while our thoughtful sister-in-law and oldest nieces did fun activities with all the children. There was a hike and playing with mamma's old dishes at grandpa's house... 
There was jump roping...
And ping pong...
And an introduction to a new Christmas Eve tradition...

Then there was Christmas day with carefully laid tables...

And delicious food...
And wonderful company to share it with...

There were White Elephant gifts...
And all the hilarity to go with them...
There were games...
And laughter, and talking, and singing...

And then it was time to leave and head back to the real world where responsibilities loom and the daily grind awaits and warm memories linger. Yes, the party is over but not forgotten.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Dear Mom.....and a Winner!

We're home, Mom. 

Home to the grey house with the welcome sign by the door. Home to the old, wooden doors that are hard to close and the piney walls with the familiar pictures hanging on them. Home to the painted cabinets and the silverware drawer that sticks and the white cereal bowls. Home to the toy room with it's scratchy carpet and basket of empty spools and old cupboard stocked with vintage toy dishes and empty containers of all sizes carefully saved for little hands to play with. Home to upstairs bedrooms with electric heaters to keep us cozy along with handmade quilts and knotted comforters.

How can a house be so full of you and yet you are not here, Mom?

The magazines on the end table and the papers in the basket scream your name. Your desk sits silently, letters tucked in their basket, pens waiting quietly in their cup, papers with your handwriting sticky tacked on the wall, all expectantly awaiting your touch. Your Bible lays on the little shelf, your teapot sits on the kitchen stove, the cookie jar has been replenished, though not by your caring hands.

How, how can a house be so full of you and yet you are not here, Mom?

A sadness I thought had long passed sweeps in and tears turn to quiet sobs in the night. How is it that the familiar can hold you close with the warmth of memories, yet stir sadness and tears from deep inside?

Life marches steadily on, Mom. Though sometimes we wish it would stop or feel, at times, that it has, it continues relentlessly onward. In the darkness of nightime, we mourn it's passing; in the light of day, we rejoice in its continued journey and the joy that weaves it's way into the passage of time.

It is Christmas time, and we are home, Mom. The house that is so full of you reminds us keenly of your absence. We miss you. Tears wet our cheeks and a lump settles in our throat but through it all there are threads of joy. There is family and laugher; there is love and warmth. There are new memories to make, new stories to write and a new twinkle in daddy's eye at the mention of a lady in Indiana.

God is good, Mom. I am thankful for the past and the memories with you in them that have shaped and molded my life. The future holds promise of His continued goodness and I am thankful that the story He is writing is not finished yet, and eager to see what surprising chapters He will weave with the darkness and the light.

The house so full of you feels empty without your presence. But how glad I am that you were here, and the memories are sweet!

Love, Bethany

I so enjoyed your comments and participation in celebrating mom's birthday! The only part of a giveaway I don't enjoy is the fact that I can't send every one of you a package. Turns out the winner is someone close to home - Karen Regling, Congratulations! When we get home, you can look forward to an evening at our house with one of our lively discussions and lots of laughter, with maybe a few magic tricks and plenty of jokes sprinkled in along with a brown envelope full of goodies to take home and enjoy!

Merry Christmas to all of you!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Happy Birthday Mom! **Giveaway**

Today would have been my mom's 72nd birthday! For those of you who may not know, in May of 2014 my mom passed away very unexpectedly in her sleep. Last year on her birthday I did a little giveaway in her honor and it was so much fun, I thought I would do it again!

Mom had a heart for people. She wasn't the kind to give big gifts or do big deeds but she quietly slipped encouragement to people through notes and small tokens of her love. Sending notes in the mail was one of her special gifts. Rarely did I get a letter from her that didn't include little notes for each of my children! And usually if she paid someone a visit, it was with a little something in hand to give.

When one of my sisters went to Belize to help with mission work, mom discovered a new love - seeing how much she could pack into small packages to send along with people who were traveling to Belize. She discovered all kinds of tricks to make room for just one more item in her brown envelope!

This year, in honor of my mom, I am stuffing a brown envelope full of goodies to send your way! Inside you will find:
* A copy of my mom's book
* A bag of mom's yummy granola
* A pack of note cards
* A bag of mom's cappuccino mix
* A packet of seeds we saved from my mom's marigolds
* Anything else I decide I can squeeze in ☺

To have a chance at this package showing up in your mailbox? Leave me a comment sharing either a memory of my mom or something special about your mom. The giveaway will be open until December 21, then I will pick a name randomly and see who gets to enjoy a package!

Thank you for helping me celebrate my mom!!