jumping on the abundance-believing train.

Abundance.

It’s not a word I use every day, and it’s not something I’m prone to thinking about – in fact, oftentimes, it’s easier for me to live in the opposite camp of scarcity.

There’s not any food in this house. 

I don’t have anything to say. 

There’s not enough time in the day. 

I’ll never be as good a writer/speaker/mother/friend/fill-in-the-blank as her. 

And so it goes.

I begin to believe in the never’s and the not good enough’s.

I begin to believe that scarcity is all there is to life, to creativity, to faith, and to me.

Photo cred: Flickr Creative Commons, Jim Mitchell.
Photo cred: Flickr Creative Commons, Jim Mitchell.

But lately, a war has been rising against scarcity. My friend Abby is devoting a whole month to scarcity’s lies. Elizabeth Gilbert talked about it a couple weeks ago at a Q & A for her new book, Big Magic. Jen Hatmaker recently wrote about it in For the Loveand let’s be honest, Jesus is quite the fan of letting people know that there’s room for everyone at the table.

So when am I going to actually believe it?

When are you and I, and him and her, and us and them, and all of the humans in the world actually going to join in believing that there’s room for us? That who we are right now is enough, that our gifts and talents and uniquely special us-ness is not only wanted but needed? When are we going to believe that there’s room for all of us?

Oftentimes I doubt my words.

I call myself a writer, but when I don’t have an agent, and I don’t have a book contract, and I still haven’t finished my manuscript, the devil of scarcity begins to creep its way in. I get so caught up in the ongoing conversation in my head – the one that’s plagued with doubt and worry and lies of not being good enough – that I think that’s the end of the story. I wonder if I’ve made a mistake, stepping into this world of words, and I begin to believe that the door’s already slammed shut, that all the books of this world have already been written, that there isn’t room enough for me.

But there is.

There’s room at the table for you and for me, for him and for her, and for us and for them, and – again, again, again – for all of the humans in the world.  

So, I’m beginning to trust in abundance, and I’m beginning to believe that this abundance happens on its own time and in its own rhythm. I don’t know if the manuscript I’m writing right now will actually, technically be picked up by a publisher and brought to the presses, but I do know that it’s brought about a whole lot of healing for me. I do know that it’s taught me to write beyond what is comfortable, to craft a story that is not merely 800 words in length, but 80 times 800 words in length. And I do know that there are a whole lot of stories and a hoard of books hidden within me.

I know this because I know abundance.

And frankly, the abundance-believing train is a whole lot more fun to ride than the decrepit scarcity wagon. 

Don’t you think?

For reals: abundance vs. scarcity. What do you think? Share, share, share!

rituals: saying no (suzanne burden).

Well friends, welcome back! I do hope you enjoyed last week’s #rituals FLASHMOB, and if you haven’t already checked it out, head back to read the words of Addie, Aleah, Kari and Jen. For now, we’re back as regularly scheduled, and this week I’ve got the lovely Suzanne Burden here with us. Suzanne is another friend of mine from the Redbud Writers Guild, and her words ring so, so true for me. Even if it’s hard, there is so much power in saying “no.” Enjoy her ritual.

Flickr Creative Commons: Walt Stoneburner
Flickr Creative Commons: Walt Stoneburner

“Moving on from ___________” read the subject line in my email.

You can do this, I assure myself.

Historically, I don’t like to quit things.

I am an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs personality scale—and let me tell you, we can get things done. Consider it a function of our sheer stick-to-itiveness when we feel passionate about something.

(Read: we can’t always let opportunities, things, jobs, or people go when the timing is right.)

(And also: it could be that rituals just might help us say no more effectively.)

So I sent the email. After several years, a recent statement on the organization’s values and beliefs helped me to realize our philosophies were no longer the same. I had become “not the best fit,” and I needed to move on. I mentioned how thankful I was for the opportunity.

Coincidentally, this morning a coauthor and I dropped—as in, ceased—a publishing project I’ve been working on for a year and a half. We ourselves received a lot of “nos” and then a “we’d like to change it to this” that just didn’t work. I cannot even count the hours and emotion that went into what appears to be a failure, but at the moment, is a clear redirection. It may resurrect itself in a different season, but for now, I am being called to put the lid on all that effort. I do so with a mixture of relief, sadness and anticipation.

Dr. Henry Cloud calls them “necessary endings” in his book of the same title:

“Although we need [necessary endings] for good results to happen in life and for bad situations to be resolved, the reality is that most of us humans often avoid them or botch them.” (p. 9)

I am tired of being afraid of confrontation, of fearing that a new opportunity will not come along, of dreading saying something wrong so that I never say anything at all.

Without “nos” I cannot truly say “yes” to this one wild and precious life of which the poet Mary Oliver writes.

And so I am saying “no” a lot these days. I am praying, not lengthy prayers, but Lord, help me do the next right thing. To say yes to the good, and a firm, even glad “no” to the not-best.

In the process, I am learning that healthy people in our lives are often so grateful when we say no with intention and grace. They are often relieved. You see, our nos redirect them, too, and hopefully into a better scenario, a better relationship, a better fit.

I have realized that my ritual involves prayer, discussion with a close friend or mentor and checking myself physically for whether a situation inspires passion, anxiety or passivity in me. I am listening to my body’s response. I invite God to speak to me and I listen to the emotions called forth through my unique personality, gifts and experiences.

Why do I feel anxiety in the pit of my stomach or tension in my shoulders? Will this contribute to my wholeness and flourishing and that of others? Does it align with who I am, not what will please someone else?

When the no feels right, sometimes the words are simple and don’t require too much thought, and I try to offer them in the moment without regret: no, but thank you for asking. Other times, an explanation is needed, and then the next phase of the ritual kicks in.

Check in with the other party. Confirm my thought and prayer process in this decision. Kindly and firmly offer my no. Wish the person the very best in their endeavor and their mission and wellbeing in life.

If it is a significant “no,” like the one I experienced today, I will soothe myself with a bit of chocolate or a walk. I will journal. I will pray a prayer of release, my hands turned upward. I let the “no” flutter past without fanfare, catching the breeze and blowing away, that I might be fully present for the next “yes.”

Saying no is one of the most important rituals I can practice if I am to start again with joy: a moving on, an open door, a new chapter. My mind clears, empty of the weight of less-than-best commitments, and I wonder, like a small child peeking around the corner, “What’s next?”

My eyes peeled, my heart opening, I am nearly ready for the “yes.”

suzanneburdenSuzanne Burden lives in the Indiana heartland, where she enjoys her husband’s mad cooking skills and the benefits of living in a city where she knows her neighbors and can always find a parking space. She agrees wholly with CS Lewis when he writes: “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” Suzanne is the coauthor of Reclaiming Eve: The Identity and Calling of Women in the Kingdom of God and can be found at her blog or on twitterIt’s Cara again – so, here’s a question for you: how today do you need to let your yes be yes and your no be no? Even more, how did Suzanne’s words inspire you to say no? Leave her some love!

rituals: when i am a regular (addie zierman).

Well, it’s the last day of the #rituals FLASHMOB (exclamation point), and I for one, have loved the time leaning into lives, hearing the stories, learning the hearts. And to finish up this week’s gift, we have writer, blogger and speaker Addie Zierman, or one I call a seamless weaver of poetry & prose. I’ve been a fan of Addie’s since her first book came out, and loved then getting to know the real deal when we roomed together at last year’s Festival of Faith & Writing. Enjoy her ritual!

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On days when my kids are elsewhere, I drive 0.7 miles to The Bean Coffee & Wine Cafe, order a medium light roast in a mug while chatting with Jess or Emily or whoever’s barista-ing that morning, and settle in at the table by the window to write.

Mostly now, I don’t even have to order; they see me and grab the mug and begin to fill it up. “How’s the writing?” they ask, and I tell them about the new deadline or the new edits…or, if it’s a bad day, I quickly change the subject.

I am a Regular — a title that I covet more than almost any other that I’ve earned — and this is my ritual.

Of course, there are a million places in my own home that I could write if I wanted to.

I could close the door to my bedroom and sprawl on the bed with my laptop. I could sit on the red couch by the bookshelves or at the kitchen table. I could go way, way down stairs to the cave-like guest room and burrow under the covers of that guest bed like a gopher.

Recently, my youngest decided to move into his big brother’s room. They sleep together now on bunk beds, and I’ve commandeered the rejected bedroom for an office, complete with an inspiration board and a small desk facing the window, looking out over our pond. I can sit there and work, and I can look out at the ducks cutting across the water.

I could write in that office. I should write in that office…and sometimes I do.

But the house buzzes with all the things I really ought to be doing. From the kitchen table, I can hear the dishes taunting me from the sink — Wash us. Wash us. From my bed, I have a front-row seat to the overflowing hamper in the closet, and sitting on the couch, I keep glancing past my computer at the floor that needs to be vacuumed. Not only vacuumed but carpet-cleaned. I wonder if I should rent a carpet cleaner? From there, it’s a short jump to pricing them online and Pinterest-ing carpet cleaning solution.

Even in my office, I get distracted by the windows that need washing, the kids’ artwork that needs to be scanned and filed, the letters that need to be posted.

So I’ve made a habit of going to The Bean instead.

The Bean, where the two old farmers come in every morning to have a cup of coffee together. Where they nod at me and grunt hello, and then they sit across from one another with their mugs, talking in low voices.

The Bean, where the pastor from the charismatic church down the road comes to work on his sermon and where the quiet Asian kid with a long ponytail works on his Mac and where pods of women pull tables together for book clubs.

Every so often, I end up there on the morning that the Andover Cycling Club shows up, sweaty and Spandex-ed and raucous after a long ride.

I have logged hundreds of hours writing at The Bean. I know most of the staff by name; the other Regulars, I mostly know by face. None of it is particularly intimate, and it’s not what we traditionally think of when we talk about friendship. But just being there among them makes me feel braver, healthier, less alone.

After all, there is so much about writing that is lonely. It is the most solitary thing, to crawl up inside your own memory and imagination and try to commit it all to paper. At the Bean, my earbuds pump music into my brain as I work, and I am given wide berth and wide smiles and free refills and the most stunningly simple kind of support.

The night I received the first, daunting batch of edits for my most recent draft, I went to the Bean to drink wine and sob in the corner, and the server on duty refilled my glass inconspicuously and never said a word about it. When the next batch of edits came through, they brought a bottle of wine to my table in a bucket of ice — an overpayment for the copy of my first book that I’d given the owner.

These are precious moments to me — gems on a string.

But just as important are all the average, regular days. The days I pull into the parking lot, order the coffee, settle into my table. The days when nothing particularly special happens except fingers on computer keys, words on a blank screen, good coffee sipped from a big, ceramic mug. Nods from the farmers. Hello’s from the baristas. The small rituals that are building me, day by day, into a writer.

Addie Zierman Official Author PhotoAddie Zierman is a writer, blogger and speaker. She has an MFA from Hamline University and is the author of When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love and Starting Over. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and two sons and blogs regularly at addiezierman.comIt’s Cara again: doesn’t this make you want to head to your local coffee shop and make that place (and those people) your ritual? Well, it does me. Encourage Addie by leaving a comment. (Contest is now closed).

the gift of space (#wholemama).

Last weekend I was given a gift – the gift of gifts, in my opinion – to get away for the weekend and simply hole up with my words.

It came after a whirlwind of spring activities, when the HBH (Hot Black Husband) had been traveling for work and I’d traveled out of state with our two boys by myself. I’d realized, even though I really, really love my sons, ages three and ten months, and even though I really, really love my husband, a grudge had birthed within me.

I looked at his boarding pass and said something like, “Honey, you are so lucky you’ll be able to fly by yourself to Dallas and back, without small children crawling over you, all by your lonesome. You’ll be able to get at least two books read, just on flights alone – I mean, are you excited for time away or what?!”

He looked at me perplexingly, not understanding how “work trip” could equal quality time by himself, and that’s when I realized: I’m envious of him. I am jealous of the time he’ll spend away from his family, because even though traveling is hard, he’ll be able to refuel and reload. Forty-eight hours away – sleeping in his own bed, eating what he wants to eat, and being valued in his work – will help him rediscover who he is as a human apart from his role as father.

So I booked a weekend of my own, here:

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Going into it, I didn’t know what to expect. Ten, fifteen years ago, had you invited me to spend a weekend away by myself, without a friend in sight, I would have balked at the idea. Eat in a restaurant all by my lonesome? No way. Hole up with just my laptop and a stack of books to occupy my time? Uh-uh.

A Seven on the Enneagram and an extrovert at heart, I wondered how my insides would react to not being around people, to not having someone to converse with for all the big and little moments.

I wondered what it would be like to be all alone, to get to know myself all over again when no one else is there to provide affirmation of your being.

For me, I didn’t book it as a spa weekend, but I went into it with the purpose of sitting with my words. I needed time to let loose tangled phrases, to free and invite to paper paragraphs inside. I needed to give proper space to the process of being still and letting my fingers tell the story that’s already living within.

I also mused aloud whether I’d miss my boys too much – or really, whether they’d miss me too much. But even in thinking that, I realized by holding on too tight to the reigns of motherhood, I wasn’t giving my husband the opportunity to fully step into his role as their father.

At the heart of it, I realized I didn’t trust the man I love as one who is more-than-capable and more-than-able to be all they need for an entire weekend.

And friends, that’s when I’ll repeat to you the first thing I said in this post: the weekend away was the gift of gifts.

When we are given the time and space to breathe, we more fully discover who we are and who we were meant to be. We discover that we’re funny and we make ourselves laugh. We find that there’s still healing that needs to take place, but this time, we don’t shy away from it.

This time we dive right in, reacquainting ourselves with the Spirit and with ourselves, experiencing a new side to God and to ourselves as we lap up buckets of shalom.

So, what would it be for you? What could it be for you?

I realize that for you, it might be just a morning away or a full Saturday to let loose and roam. It might be creating a space within your house, a corner that’s all yours, or it might mean creating space within your every day.

And when you finally carve out that space, the beauty is that you’re free to enter into the space however you choose. Because wherever you go and whatever you do, know that you’re not actually alone – you’re merely inviting the Already-Present One to further make room in your life that day.

So, what’s stopping you?

Let’s push for space, for each other and for ourselves, for the ones we love and for those we fight for. And friends, let’s then receive the gift of space.

Don’t worry, there’s more! Mostly more ways for you to dive in and participate with the #wholemama movement. Head on over to Esther’s blog to read more and learn more and absorb more as well.  Otherwise, I’m curious: how do you create and celebrate SPACE in your life? Do tell!

Whole Mama

everything I ever needed to know in parenting…

This is how it happened: I’d been invited to lunch. And not only was it a lunch where Real Live Food was involved (which tends to be a draw for me), but it featured a tableful of female writers, of women seeking to find the balance between heart and passion, motherhood and creativity.

We sat at Bronwyn’s dining room table, homemade bread in the center and bubbly, steaming bowls of soup before us. Children screamed in the background and Lesley bounced her new baby boy on her lap, shushing and cooing and sprinkling him with love. One by one, updates were given and questions were asked; dreams were whispered and ideas were birthed.

I talked a bit here and there, but mostly, like water to sponge, I soaked up their camaraderie. I questioned whether I fit in then and would fit in in the future. And I listened, intently, closely, scrutinizing their interactions to see if I was one of them, to figure out if I could belong.

And that’s when it happened: as I sought validation, advice spewed forth.

“Cara, you should connect with Tim Fall. He loves women in ministry.”

The woman who spoke abruptly corrected herself, clarifying that Tim, a married, faithful Christian man, had a heart for promoting male and female writers alike.

“He’ll be your biggest fan,” one of them said. And that was all I needed to hear…

Friends, we haven’t even GOTTEN to the wisdom portion yet! There’s more, there’s more! Want to read about how the Barnabas of the Blogosphere became my biggest fan AND provided me with oodles and oodles of parenting wisdom? Click here to read the rest of my guest post for him. Otherwise, what’s some of the best parenting advice you’ve ever received?

how blogging has made me a better writer.

The Gift of Writing

I never set out to be a blogger.

In fact, were you to ask me over steaming cup of tea if I’m a blogger, I’d probably hem and haw, unable to answer a simple yes to your even simpler question.

I’m a blogger who writes, I’d probably say to you.

When I first left the traditional workforce to pursue a career in writing and speaking, I held the belief that bloggers weren’t real writers. Bloggers were in a camp all their own—quickly, sloppily pushing out information; competing for clicks and tweets and reposts; attending blogging conferences instead of writing conferences, learning how to Get More, Be More and Achieve More in the online world.

Blogging, I believed, wasn’t about the art. It was about pushing sloppy mimicry into the world. It was the opposite of creating, far from what I saw myself doing and achieving and being as a writer.

But things have come a long way in the online world and no matter what we call ourselves, blogging is part of being a writer. Blogging is writing. And as I look back on my relationship with blogging I can honestly say that it has made me a better writer. Here’s what blogging has taught me:

1. Consistency is key. 

Writing is a daily exercise. I can’t expect to magically be able to play Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” if I haven’t sat down on a piano bench in years. Likewise, an intrinsic motivation exists in blogging, knowing that a small pack of people wait to read my words. But it’s not just consistency in frequency that matters – it’s consistency in voice and in caliber.

Click here to read seven more ways that blogging has made me a better writer.

Otherwise, if you’re a writer-blogger, what have you learned along the way?  More importantly, is there a difference between writing and blogging?  Are we all the same species?  Am I one of ….them?!

a letter to you, young writer.

Dear Writer,

You just celebrated your 22nd birthday. You’re set to finish up school in just another month or two, and with major in hand, you’ve declared to yourself and to the world around you that writing is in your bones. When you sit down at your laptop or pull that worn journal out of your bag, a calming happens. Your eyes stare at the blank space before you, but they’re not actually looking at anything in particular. They’re simply giving the rest of your body permission to enter in to the moment, to join in what’s to come. If corneas could breathe, they’re breathing a sigh of relief, for they know that truth and clarity and vision aren’t far behind. And soon, after you let your fingers do the talking, all the different parts of you will heave a collective thank you. Because writing is how you best process and think and communicate not only with your insides, but also with the world around you.

April Killingsworth

And friend, this will never change for you and about you. Always, always you will be on a journey of discovering who you are and how you relate to the world around you through words. Chances are, you’ve always been like this. You remember penning that first story in the third grade, the one about the magical tree house in your backyard. You secretly did a little happy dance when your professor declared she believed not in bi-weekly tests, but end-of-term research papers. To this day, you can’t pass a bookstore without popping in for a glance, a whiff, a refueling to soul. And you know what? The nerd in me applauds the nerd in you because, quite frankly, the world needs more people like us.

So don’t be an astrophysicist when you’re supposed to be a writer. Don’t get your degree in business administration when all your heart wants to do is sit down in the comfy chair, and morph together the already-existent words and phrases and commas making their home in your mind. Don’t make excuses for the gift that’s been birthed within you.

For that’s exactly what it is: a gift.

And you, my friend, have been given the gift of words. So guard it wisely and believe in it steadfastly. Even if you experience rejection. Even if you feel like a failure. Even if you don’t get the shares and the likes and the tweets you think you deserve, because you’re not writing for them. You’re writing for you, you’re writing to honor the gift you’ve been given.

So believe it. Believe it and receive it and relish in after the whirlwind of graduation day sets in, and after doors of opportunity open and close and open again. Remind yourself of your gift when you’ve forgotten it’s there, and when you’ve said yes to other opportunities and jobs – because this is a gift that cannot be returned. Sure, your gift will need a tune-up every once in a while if it’s not properly exercised, but gifts don’t go away. Gifts remain with us, pecking away at our insides until we let them loose, until we set them free.

From one writer to another, I salute thee with words and with phrases and with a shower of effervescent letters galore. The sacred gift in me honors the sacred gift in you – might we not neglect this perfect present.

With love,

C.

So, what about you?  If you’re a writer, young or old, have you acknowledged your GIFT?  Have you applauded the beautiful, perfect, genius way you were created, because it’s YOURS to give the world?  In this with you (and cheering you on).  Also, one last question: can corneas breathe?