What trophies from past accomplishments are on your shelves?
I have recently staked out a spot in our house, complete with windows and bookshelves, to be my very own writing nook. I L-O-V-E it! I’ve placed a handful of photos of my favorite places and people on the corner of my desk. I painted the walls a lovely smoky, pale lilac and one square with white board paint, so I can dry erase writing ideas at will. I’ve set my cool pottery coaster in place, so my coffee cup always has a home.
But in order to claim this space, I had to clean.
I had to dig through existing cupboards and go through baskets and file organizers in my previous writing space, a.k.a. the corner of our living room. I found everything from paper clips to business cards of people I don’t remember meeting, from an array of neon sticky notes and magazine images to old plaques and certificates. It was simple to put binder clips in the little organizer on my desk and to recycle hand scribbled notes for articles, blogs and books I’ve already written. But there was this stack of awards from my past that perplexed me. How long had I kept them? Better yet, why?
When I leased shopping malls a new store, like J.Crew, was like a merit badge of worth in my career.
As I lugged the load of metal and wood and paper to the garbage can, I laughed. There was something extremely freeing about no longer being tied by measurements of how many dollars of clothes I sold (my short career as a manager at the Limited) or how many square feet I’d leased (my longer career in shopping mall development). There was a time when those stats, and the status that went with them, were extremely important to me. But those things are irrelevant now, so I pitched them with a hearty heave.
And the next day, I stumbled across this passage:
The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. ~Philippians 3:7-9 MSG
And yes, I giggled at the mention of dog dung in the Bible, then marveled, how liberating it felt to let go of past credentials. But my trip to the garbage was easy. I’m no longer trying to sell the most wool coats or trying to convince J. Crew to come into all of the malls I lease. I’m happy I can let go of the past, but it’s a piece of cake, since those things aren’t relevant to me anymore.
What’s harder is the here and now.
I have two new novels releasing next month. Will I be able to consider my rank on Amazon insignificant? Will I be able to let less than glowing reviews (everybody gets some) slide off my back? I hope so. I’m praying I won’t get tied up in those numbers or any other worldly measures, for that matter. But it isn’t always easy. Today, I’m mentally throwing away earthly labels claiming how good I was or wasn’t. And I’m praying I can keep carrying more bags of garbage out to the curb.
How about you? What’s the craziest old trophy you have sitting around?
Push the button to reset your 2013 goals
When I’m in yoga class standing on one leg with my arms above my head and I wobble, I hear my instructor call out “reset”.
What does reset mean? Merriam Webster defines it as to set again or anew.
If you lose your balance in yoga, you reset. If you lose your balance in life, you can also reset.
We are now almost four weeks into 2013. How’s it going so far? We love to set goals and make resolutions and plan out calendars and workouts and vacations and to do lists when January 1st rolls round. But frequently we set goals and make plans that are out of our reach, below our capabilities or just plain silly. Sometimes we set awesome goals, but find excuses not to attain them. Sometimes life happens and our goals must change.
Goals are important, critical to growth, actually. They’re how we get from here to there, but they are also fluid and need constant revising.
For me, I’ll be celebrating Christmas on Ground Hog’s Day. That wasn’t the plan. It didn’t make any of my lists, but due to family medical emergencies, February is when we can all get together.
I am thrilled, giddy, honored, humbled and blessed to announce the first two books in my latest series will release in April. I didn’t know have this information on January 1. This exciting news changes all of my writing goals for the year. I need to focus on the release of those two titles. I need to shelve rewriting a novel I was working on and instead start writing the third book in this series. All fab stuff, but...
Blessed to share the book cover for my newest novel to release in April, It's Complicated.
How about you? Has anything happened to change your plans? If you’re an athlete an injury could switch you from developing new skills to rehabilitating. If your family is moving, you might change your focus from organizing your closet to how to decorate your new bedroom. Those 25 sit ups a day might be easier than you thought, or it might turn out it was taking on more than you could handle to assume you could practice your electric keyboard a whole hour every day.
How are you doing? Are you off balance? Have the wrong foot forward? Did something arise in your life that changes everything? Is something easier than you thought challenging you to push yourself harder? Are you facing the wrong direction? Or are you further ahead than planned? It's okay to change your original plan.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!
I’d love to hear how you’re pushing the reset button and starting anew.
The glass pyramids imitating the outside of the Louvre, hallmarking the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
“I can begin again.” New Year’s Day by U2
I spent New Year’s Day 2013 soaking in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
Barely visible amidst Elvis’ outlandish purple Cadillac with “EP” blazed on every seat cushion, tire and door (no lie), John Lennon’s neon green silk Sergeant Pepper’s uniform and Katy Perry’s memorable peppermint dress were my two favorite artifacts in the multi level, glass pyramid of a museum (a copy of the Louvre in Paris).
Elvis Presley's purple Cadillac
My favorites weren’t bright or shiny or glitzy or even psychedelic, like all the items I believe rock stars own and save and cherish. They were small and flat and plain. They were rejection letters.
John Lennon's Sergeant Peppers uniform
As a writer I get my share of rejection letters. You might think looking at others’ rejections would be torture. But, actually it’s the opposite. You see, these weren’t random rejection letters written to bands you’ve never heard of like Carl and the Crazies or the Keyboard Lizards, these were rejection letters written to U2.
In 1979 RSO sent a letter to P. Hewson, Bono’s real name, stating the demo tape he mailed “titled U2 is not suitable for us at present". The letter was written on Bono’s 19th birthday. I hope he got a decent cake.
Katy Perry in her peppermint dress
Around the same time Arista Records sent U2 a form rejection letter, the kind they sent to hundreds of bands with just a preprinted signature, and without details of why the band was being turned down.
But those rejections did not make U2 quit. It gave them fodder to begin again. To make another tape, to send it to another label, to try again.
One year later, Island Records signed U2. They went on to become one of the biggest selling bands in the world. Over 7.2 million fans attended U2’s 360 Tour, more than any other fans attending any other tour - ever. U2 has won more Grammy awards than any other band, ever. 22.
U2 the band with the most Grammy awards of any band, ever.
But what if Bono and the boys had listened to RSO or Arista? What if they took those rejections as signs they didn’t have what it takes? That they weren’t good enough? That their sound wouldn’t resonate? That they should give up?
What hill are you climbing today? Who’s told you “no” recently? What roadblocks are you encountering?
What if instead of listening to the negativity, you tried one more time – took the SAT or LSAT one more time to improve your score, auditioned for one more play, ran one more race, applied to one more internship or job, sent one more song to a record label?
Hills are rarely easy to climb. Sometimes they reveal themselves as careening mountains.
But the view from the top of the mountain is glorious.
I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He lift me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay
I will sing, sing a new song
Psalm 40 by King David and revamped by U2 in their song “40”
What new song can you sing today? Where can you begin again?
You can't measure your personal growth with a tape measure - so how can you measure your growth in the new year?
Remember a time when someone said that to you? It typically happens when you see family you haven’t seen for a while - like over the holidays. How about “you look so grown up!”
And then you get spun around like a sweater off the rack at Nordstrom’s and feel like you’re on display for everyone in the room to examine your growth or grown-upedness. It used to make me uncomfortable with the sudden attention everyone turned to me, make me roll my eyes or look the down. But at some point I stopped growing, physically. And now, it’s rude for someone to say I look older or bigger.
But I hope I haven’t stopped growing. I hope I never will.
I want to speak French more fluently in 2013 - what are some of your goals?
In 2013 I want to grow. I want to grow so much it’s visible. I want to grow in my faith and in my writing. I want to speak French more fluently and learn some new healthy, tasty, not overly complicated recipes. I want to learn how to rock a killer headstand in yoga.
How do I start? Well, I just did. I wrote down some goals, some places in my life I want to grow. Next, I need to be more specific. How am I going to amp up my faith? What writing projects do I want to tackle in 2013? When do I want them to be completed? Who do I want to reach through them? How many recipes do I want to learn how to make each month? How much time a week am I able and willing to spend on my passé parfait? By when should I be able to do that headstand, and for how long should I be able to hold the pose?
Now, the action. What can I do today, this week, before Christmas break is over to launch these plans for growing into reality? How about you?
Growing is an integral part of being. It is our way of getting closer to the best versions of ourselves.
There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears. Philippians 1:6
God will start this work, but it’s our job to keep at it. How about you? Where would you like to grow in 2013? How are you going to tackle it?
The beautiful Bethany Jett, author of the soon to be released The Cinderella Rule, invited me to join her and other authors as we share what we're writing, and why you'll want to read it.
Bethany and I share loves of writing, fashion, Christ, chocolate, kissing and the shoes on the cover of her new book. Check them out, you’ll see why.
The Cinderella Rule by Bethany Jett - A Young Woman's Guide to Happily Ever After
What am I writing? I’m working on a new series revolving around four women rooming together at a fictitious college. Clearly the story lines for a series are endless with the ups and downs, trials and triumphs of living away from home for the first time and navigating around the college scene. But that’s all I can tell you for now. I’ll let your imaginations run wild and share with you soon more information on titles, characters, plots and release dates.
Why am I writing this series? First, I live in a college town, Oxford, Ohio, home of Miami University. College girls surround me. I’m friends with many of them. I hear their stories, their dilemmas, their fears and their hopes. I wanted to capture this time of life full of uncertainty and potential for them and other girls like them. Second, my college years were a critical time of my life. I fell from my faith. I made mistakes, some big and some small. I had a blast in college, made amazing, lasting friendships and met the love of my life, my hubby, in spite of myself. You see, I also doubted myself. I tried too hard to be accepted. I did many things I regret. I lost the essence of who God created me to be during those years. I long to share what I’ve learned about loving myself more and worrying about what others think less with the college girls of today and tomorrow. I want to share with them how beautifully and wonderfully they were created and urge them to not pay attention to what everyone else is trying to achieve, but instead strive to be the best versions of themselves.
What actors would I have play my characters? Well, there are four girls and without revealing too much about their personalities I think Dakota Fanning, Vanessa Hudgens, Anna Popplewell and Ellen Page would make the perfect representations of the room mates.
Dakota Fanning and Vanessa Hudgens
Who represents me? Amanda Luedeke of MacGregor Literary. She is brilliant and sharp and pushes me to write better and explore new options.
What other books in this genre compare? Girls in Pants by Ann Brashares, Forever in Blue by Ann Brashares, Bloomberg Place Series by Melody Carlson, Mixed Bags by Melody CarlsonSome amazing authors you should check out, if you haven’t already:
Laura Kurk Anderson – YA fiction – Glass Girl
Stephanie Morrill – YA fiction – The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt Series
Jennifer Murgia – YA Fiction – Angel Star, Lemniscate
So, how about you? What are you reading this month? What projects are you working on? I’d love to hear. Leave a comment below.
Oscar Pistorious a.k.a. The Blade Runner competes in the 2012 Olympics with two amputated legs.
With the Olympics at the forefront of everyone’s minds and screens, we are filled with visions of young athletes overcoming impossible odds, training and working and sweating and crying and clawing and sacrificing and praying their ways to finding their dreams.
What’s your dream? To what ends would you go to achieve it?
I know it’s not easy. There are roadblocks at every turn. Hurdles and obstacles like:
It’s never been done before. I’m not strong enough. It’s a tough road. It’s not practical. When I’m older. If I was younger. I’ve never been formally trained. I’m not tall enough. I’m too tall. I don’t have enough money. I’m so busy. I don’t know how I’d get there. I’m exhausted. I don’t know anyone who does that kind of thing. I don’t even know where to start.
ENOUGH! Or to use one of my favorite Italian words - BASTA!
You could spend the rest of your life coming up with excuses why you never chased your dreams.
You could think of all the things you’re going to do today, tomorrow, before the Olympics are over to launch them into a reality.
Oscar (Oz) Pistorious, aka The Blade Runner, is a double amputee. He plays rugby, water polo and tennis with prosthetics – unbelievable. But what is even more miraculous is OZ will be the first double amputee to run in the Olympics. Let me say that again. He had both of his legs amputated below the knee when he was a baby, yet he is running in the 2012 Olympics.
He will be competing in both the 400-meter and 4 x 400 meter races for his native South Africa. Oz’s motto is. “You're not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are able by the abilities you have." It’s no wonder his last name rhymes with victorious.
In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Romans 8:37
What abilities to you have?
How are you going to use them today?
Brandi Chastain celebrating the U.S. Women's win in the 1999 World Cup
Last summer, while checking into our hotel in Dresden, Germany I had the treat of meeting soccer legend, Brandi Chastain. She had her hair pulled into a ponytail was wearing a gray t-shirt, navy blue athletic shorts and cleats. She was kicking a pink Nike soccer ball in the hotel lobby. Yes, in the lobby. She is the woman known for kicking the winning penalty kick to win the U.S. Women’s National team the World Cup in 1999. She was in Dresden to be one of the lead ESPN announcers for the World Cup, speaking to tens of thousands of television viewers for two weeks straight.
When I asked Brandi what advice she had for young people who wanted to be soccer stars, she said,
“Do it everyday. Kick it, pass it, dribble it, every day. When I was young, I kicked the ball against the side of the house for an hour every day. I got to know the ball so well, and how it would bounce off the house and where it would go if I tapped it a certain way and how to kick it back if it came to me a certain way, that when I was on the field, when I was in a game, I never had to think. I knew exactly what to do.”
The same is true for whatever it is you want to achieve in life.
For writers, like me, it means writing something every day. Stephen King says it in his book, On Writing. Anne LaMott says it in Bird by Bird. Do it everyday. That doesn’t have to be writing five chapters of my next novel. It could be a blog or a character sketch or a review of someone else’s work. But each day, I need to be conscious of word choice, descriptions, rhythms and flows of words.
You want to learn how to cook? Chef up a meal every day. It could be scrambled eggs or a grilled cheese sandwich, but if you do it everyday, you’ll figure out too much salt makes your eggs taste like potato chips and how long to let your grilled cheese sizzle to get the cheese to melt to a perfect gooey consistency.
If you want to get closer to God, read a chapter of the Bible every day and contemplate it. I promise you’ll get closer to Him.
No matter what instrument you play, your instructor will ask you to practice every day. Play your scales. Work on the hardest part of your piece. Soon your ears will know the difference between a C sharp and a B flat. Your fingers will know how to move along the keys of a piano or the frets of a guitar.
If your goal is to become a teacher, explain something to someone every day. It could be how to take care of a tortoise or how to French braid hair or plant pansies, or anything, but the more you practice explaining things to people, the better you’ll be at it. I promise.
So, get going. Today, tomorrow and the day after that – do your thing. As Dr. Seuss said, “You’re off to great places, today is your day.” Today can be your day. You just need to get started.
What can you do on a daily basis to help you achieve your dream?
Control. We all want it. We all strive for it. Whether it is
control over what grade we get in a class, what we eat for dinner, what
projects we’ll be assigned at work, how a relationship will work, what channel
we’re watching – we want to be able to call the shots, make the decisions, have
a say in how and why and when.
Today was the first snowfall of the year. I woke up to a majestic
world frosted in pure white icing. With the beauty came the crisp, cold air,
fresh and pure, seemingly cleansing my lungs as I stepped out of the garage and
The drive uptown to fetch my morning coffee usually takes me five
minutes, only three when the college students are gone for Christmas break. But
this morning the roads were slick. Cars inched along the roads, even though the
dusting of snow was barely an inch deep. I drove cautiously, in no hurry,
nothing I had to rush to get to, taking in the spectacular
A few minutes later, venti Italian roast with a shot of chocolate
in hand, I got back in my car. I took a sip of the dark, rich warmth and turned
the key. At the first stop sign my antilock brakes ground and squealed and
crunched under my foot, but my car did not stop. I kept going right through the
stop sign, even though I’d only been cruising at about seven miles an hour.
Thankfully, our college town is all but deserted while the students are away,
and no other cars were in sight.
But, I didn’t stop.
I wanted to stop. I tried to stop. I did all of the things I
normally do to stop. And yet, my car didn’t stop. I was not in control. I
whispered a prayer of thanks that there were no other cars around, that despite
me driving through a stop sign no one was hurt. I then turned off the side
road, back towards the main road, hoping for smoother sailing. But, as I
turned, my car fishtailed, zigging and zagging across both lanes of the small
street. Again, there were no cars in my way. No one was hurt. But, this was
another strong reminder that I AM NOT IN CONTROL.
As a new year begins, I always make a list of goals for the year
– things I plan on working to accomplish in the upcoming 365 days. I know this
is an important exercise. It is critical to be intentional on how I spend my
time or else my time gets spent for me. It is helpful for me to look out twelve
months to see the potential the year has, to think of ways I can stretch my
faith, my mind, my body, my relationships, my writing in the coming year. Just
like I need to have a full tank of gas, air in my tires, directions to where
I’m going and the key to my car to make it go, I need a plan for my life and my
time. I need to drive the speed limit, stay on the right side of the road, and
step on the brake when there is a stop sign, or else there would be accidents.
People would get hurt. There would be danger and chaos.
God wants me to plan and work and strive as if it all depends on
But, sometimes I step on the brake and I don’t stop. Sometimes,
despite my lists and goals and plans, He has something else in mind. He needs me
to remember, that in the end, it all depends on Him.