A Wrecked Perspective

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thanks

“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Recently, on a day like any other, my three kids and I set out for an evening of gymnastics and Kenpo practice, with a potential coffee stop squeezed in. The smell of mint wafted from my older daughter’s tea mug. The youngest girl crunched on a carrot as if it were her last meal, and my boy pretended to finish homework (I saw him tuck a toy in the jacket of his Gi before leaving the house).

We sat in the left turning lane behind a line of cars, underneath a partly cloudy sky. Tires screeched. Metal crunched. We lunged forward. Slammed backward. I screamed.

My pulse pounded in my ears, and I couldn’t hear anything else for a moment. The surge of adrenaline made me dizzy. I couldn’t believe I’d been hit, or that my kids were in the car.

I turned to them. “Is everybody okay?” They were shocked, but otherwise unharmed. Praise God.

I got out, shaking, and walked to the car responsible, its front end demolished. Behind the deployed airbag sat a young man wearing a dazed look of dread.

“Are you all right?” I asked.

He looked himself over and nodded, though he didn’t seem entirely sure. “Can I drive?” He pointed at a parking lot. Smoke drifted up from the remains of his hood, fluid poured beneath it.

“No. You should probably get out.”

By the time the ordeal ended, the police, a fire truck, and the boy’s parents and sister had arrived on the scene, and a tow truck was on its way to haul off the totaled car. I pulled my Chevy Suburban (a vehicle I shamelessly endorse) onto the road with minor rear-end damage.

Before leaving, I’d assured the boy and his family, “We’re fine. No one is hurt. It’s not the end of the world.” But for that eighteen year old, I could tell his world was crashing fast. He looked distraught, despite his parents and sister loving on him and stressing how much they cared about him and not the car.

I wanted to comfort him myself, pull him in a hug, wipe his tears and make certain he understood that the wreck, as horrible as it seemed now, would be just a memory someday. But he’d had enough trauma. The last thing he needed was some stranger bear-hugging and petting him.

He saw the totaled car and cried over what that meant for his family. What it would cost them. How they would replace it. He didn’t consider their joy over the fact that their son had walked away from a thousand pounds of crumpled metal unscathed.

But I did. And it made me look at my own kids, my own life, my own set of problems, my own trove of joys. And it made me thankful.

Thankful that even though my son and I have a homework showdown every afternoon, he’s come home safe every afternoon. Thankful that although my daughter’s already showing signs of adolescent attitude, I get to kiss her sleeping face every night when she looks most like an angel.

Thankful because, while my edits are taking much longer than I intended, they’re getting done, and I’ve got somewhere to send them. Thankful that no matter what the day brings–good or bad–I’m loved from on high by One who suffered and died for me.

Sometimes it takes a crisis to wreck our negative perspectives; to take our eyes off all that’s wrong with the world and refocus them to see the joy, the love, the good.

I regretted not saying all I wanted to comfort the young driver before I left. I’m thankful his driver information comes with an address where I can send a card of encouragement. I can only hope I don’t look like a stalker when it arrives.

Your turn: What are you thankful for?

The Goodness of God

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womanheart I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. ~Psalm 27:13

It was Valentine’s Day, 2009. The NBA All-Star festivities were taking place in Phoenix, and my husband Jon and I decided it would be fun to go as a family. We excited our twins, then three-years-old, with the promise of a fun-filled evening of basketball, cheering, and endless snacking.

We figured we’d buy tickets at the arena, since All-Star events never look sold out. But this event had. And the people selling tickets on the street were selling them at face value or higher.

$300. Each.

We’ve taught our kids about God from infancy. Trust Him. He loves you. Pray about everything. Know that He hears you.

And though we model these admonitions in their presence, praying about the tickets didn’t occur to Jon or me as we talked about a plan B.

“But, Dad.” Our daughter grabbed his face between her little hands and turned it toward the entrance. “We want to go in there.”

“We don’t have tickets, baby.”

“But we didn’t ask God yet. You said we could ask God anything.”

And so ask Him we did. Not two minutes after “amen,” a young man approached. “Do you guys need a ticket? I have an extra one.”

“How much?” Jon asked.

“Here you go.” The guy handed over the ticket, shook Jon’s hand and walked away. We received the rest of the tickets within minutes, all for the same price: free.

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We had a wonderful time that night, and praised God for His goodness.

But sometimes the answer to prayer is no. Like the time I lost my third child to miscarriage, or when we lost my mother-in-law to leukemia sixteen months after her diagnosis.

Even in those instances, as painful as they were, God remained faithful, loving, and good. Because His goodness isn’t contingent on how He answers prayer, or even that He answers prayer. His goodness is one of His many unending, never-changing attributes.

A “yes” to our prayers is a byproduct of that goodness. A “no,” a byproduct of His wisdom. For He knows the plans He has for us, even when we don’t.

Divine admittance to a basketball game wasn’t a monumental life event, but it was definitely an eye-opening one. It affirmed that God cares about the trivial and the major, because He cares about us.

We can trust Him, knowing that He loves us. We can pray about everything, knowing that He hears us. And we can enjoy peace that passes understanding, knowing that the God we serve is good.

Your turn: In what way(s) has God wowed you with His goodness?

Happy and Prosperous 2015!

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2014-12-28-McCauleyMcCauleys-202A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. ~Proverbs 16:9

It’s the second week of the new year, and I hope you are still as excited about your goals and resolutions as you were at the beginning. I know I am.

2014 ended with the blessed commotion of travel, family, laughter, and lots of food. The new year started with a flu-like illness that put me out of commission for the better part of a week. At least now I don’t have to work off holiday pounds, just keep them off :-).

My goals for 2015 aren’t lofty, but they’re ambitious enough to stretch me and leave me a little daunted. Good thing I started the year with Christine Caine’s Undaunted: Daring to do what God calls you to do, a book I highly recommend.

Now I’m ready to excel in areas of faith, family, and of course fiction. While I’m currently doing more editing than writing at the moment, I am committed to finishing a third novel by September of this year. My biggest writing goal for this year is to acquire agent representation.

For my precious family, the goal is to continue to make time in our busy schedules to be present with each other. Cooking and reading together, as well as more dinners around the kitchen table, are just some of the ways we plan to stay connected.

A dear friend and I are committed to going even deeper with God this year, and are starting a Romans Bible study through Precept Ministries by Kay Arthur. The workbook looks intense, and I’m excited to get started.

Though fitness is a goal I added to my list with a grim scowl on my face (because I despise anything remotely resembling organized exercise), I am committed to exercising regularly this year. With three young children to take care of, I need to take care of myself, and that includes heart health from elevated heart rates, bone health from bearing weights, and yada-scowl-yada.

So that pretty much sums up my outlook for 2015 on a grand scale. I’ve got my plans broken down into doable chunks so that I don’t get overwhelmed by the lot of it. And I’m leaving room for the Lord to interrupt where He will, because at the end of each day it’s all about Him anyway.

So what about you? I’d love to hear what your plans are for this year, and how 2015 is going for you so far. Whatever this year holds, I pray it brings you closer to God and walking the path He designed specifically for you.

From my family to yours, Happy New Year!

The Nearness of God

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The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. -Psalm 34:18

nearness to God

This will be our first Christmas without my mother-in-law. For some it will be a first Christmas without a spouse, a sibling, a friend, or a child. For others it will be the second Christmas, or the third, maybe more.

Whatever your grief, know that God has not forgotten you. May His love surround you in such a way that you know without a doubt He is near.

Blessings and prayers from my family to yours.

~Tanara

Moving Right Along

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oneway

 

Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you.
Proverbs 4:25

Not too long ago I was alerted to a new comment on one of my old blog posts.

I had to read my entry for context before responding, and found myself frowning. At the time that post was written, I had a thing for semicolons.

What started out as a harmless reply attempt turned into a critique and edit session. I whipped that thing into shape, replied, and was just about to sign out, when the link to another old post caught my attention.

Hmm. What’s this one look like?

I pulled it up and rolled my eyes, asking, “Tanara, could, you, possibly, add, one, more, comma?” The actual writing? Don’t ask.

That one ground into presentable submission, I attacked a few others. Some of them were so bad they fought back.

Though my schedule’s already packed, I convinced myself something had to be done. But before I could commence Operation Edit a Hundred Blog Posts, the following verse came to remembrance:

“Behold, I will do a new thing, shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” 
Isaiah 43:19

As an unpublished novelist, it’s tempting to make sure every public word I’ve written lives up to my ever-increasing standards for writing. It may seem a worthy endeavor, but at the end of the day it’s simply a prideful attempt at perfectionism.

To learn and write new things, looking forward and not behind, is to let God guide and grow me.

He won’t make roads in the wilderness and rivers in the desert if I choose to camp there with my own little pickax and water bucket. And I can’t move forward if I keep tinkering with what’s done and over with.

Should I edit my novels? Of course. Year-old blog posts? No.

Glimpses into my writing past should result in praise for what God’s done since.

The foundations of a road have been laid, a riverbed hewn, a writer made better and growing still.

A writer determined to keep moving right along.

Your turn: When are you tempted to dwell in the past? What helps you to move forward?

The Write Kind of Life

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IMG_9213.JPG
Writing is a solitary business.

Sure, lots of people do it. But when it’s time to put words to page, the writer is often isolated behind four walls.

We talk to ourselves. We get talked to by inspirational quotes we’ve framed, tacked, or taped all around the writing den, not to mention characters we’ve made up.

We stare into space. Drum fingers. Type. Delete. Backspace. Rewrite.

Minutes pass into hours. Hours produce hundreds of words, maybe thousands. Or not.

And we do this, enjoying or enduring it, day in and day out.

Alone.

Yet there are things that bind us. Little constants, partaken of or adhered to by writers, that act as invisible dots. From that keyboard clacking in the cubbyhole of an office, to the one tap-tap-tapping from the lounge chair on the beach.

A sip of something hot and steaming between paragraphs.

A nibble on sweet treats at the close of a scene.

A dip into the pages of someone else’s book while we break from writing our own.

Coffee. Chocolate. Chai.

#anwriting to #amreading.

Word counts. Daily goals. Settings. Arcs. Plot points. Characters. Dark moments. Platform.

These things take the solitary, isolated writer and give her a place among thousands of sisters and brothers who live the writer life.

The write kind of life. And we dare not trade it.

Your turn: What are your favorite things about the community you belong to in your line of work?

When the Odd Bird Flies

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oddbird

Odd bird.

It’s an expression my family uses for something or someone who strikes us as unusual. The context can be positive, such as a quirky or endearing oddity; or it can be of the don’t-make-eye-contact variety.

A bird of the former type attends my daughter’s gymnastics school. She’s tall and pale, all angles and elbows. A haunting beauty if I ever saw one. Glance at her slumped shoulders and ducked head, and it’s obvious she doesn’t think so.

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14

Each week I watch her practice, this swan in the making. I have never seen a cartwheel so awkward. When her legs are in the air, she pulls them in almost like a frog’s, as if she’s not quite sure how to manage their full length, and maybe doesn’t want to bring attention to how long they are. Her tumbles and rolls are just as unbalanced.

Despite her weaknesses, before every maneuver her eyes light with a fierce sort of determination, as if in her head she’s saying, “I know I’m not good at this, but I will be.”

And for just a moment, that few seconds before she has to run down the mat, or hop up on the beam, or climb the rope, she folds out of her ball of insecurity and self-consciousness. She squares her shoulders, clenches her fists, takes a deep, shaky breath, and that little beauty puts her all into it.

Her finish is clumsy. She looks down, probably not wanting to see the response to what she presumes is failure. Still she gets back in line and gives it another go. And each week she gets a little better.

Watching her moves me. I can’t help thinking that maybe when the Father watches many of us, including me, He sees what I see in her: fear of failure, fear of being seen failing, insecurity over what we must look like to others when we put ourselves out there and finish clumsy, doubt that we’ll ever succeed despite how much effort we put into it.

And yet we don’t give up, because something inside won’t let us. Maybe it’s the fire burning within that speaks to the purpose of our creation, or maybe our Creator Himself, who knows the plans He has for our lives and spurs us gently onward.

“He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

Writing is hard. Parenting is hard. Marriage, friendship, art, work. Life.

Everything we endeavor to do well can be laden with periods of ungainly tumbles and uncoordinated leaps. We fall, trip, bruise–and look as odd as a six-legged horse in the process. But like the little gymnast, we shake it off and do it again.

Because birds don’t fly on the ground.

Odd birds are only odd for a time, enduring momentary setbacks and temporary failures as we flap about. One day we’ll take flight, soaring high to all that God has called us to for His glory alone.

Right now we’re just strengthening our wings.

Gone Fishing, Author Style

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This was originally posted on 11/09/2013. It’s that time of year again…

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As a child, I fished with my father. Dark, quiet nights, sometimes nothing but the calm sound of water lapping the bank, or the buzz of mosquitoes testing the perimeter of whatever insect repellent we wore. It’s been a long time since we’ve done that.

Lately, however, those memories are rushing back. Memories of fish too large for my lanky little arms, fighting against me, tugging so hard on the line I feared a time or two that I’d be pulled in instead of the fish being pulled out.

Memories of determination, refusing to give up; of reeling in those bullish fish.

The cause of these memories? National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and this commitment I’ve made to the program to have 50,000 words by the end of November; the side bet I’ve waged with myself to hit 80,000.

Striving to meet an ambitious daily word count–against all odds and come what may–is like fishing for words that are fighting to stay in the water.

Some days inspiration sleeps in. Creativity goes MIA. Skill leaves a “Be Back Later” sign on the door. And the words are left to swim amuck in an unsupervised pool of mockery and defiance; determined not to be hooked, refusing to be tamed.

I’d really rather not fight with the slippery suckers. Especially when the house is asleep, coffee’s lukewarm, and I’m getting a series of teasing tugs on my line with no bites.

Searching, straining, desperate for words, it gets tempting to just cut the line. Reel it in empty. Fish again another day. Maybe.

But to do that–to give up–is to get pulled in.

When I fished with my father I never got pulled in.

Strained a few muscles. Got mud on my knees. Suffered scrapes.

On the flip side my muscles grew stronger, my stance firm.

I didn’t quit then. I won’t quit now. One day, one word, one catch at a time.

Going fishing. Be back soon. <3

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. ~ Galatians 6:9 NKJV

What We All Need and Almost Never Get

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sleeping woman

For many of us it seems the more rest we need, the less we get. Between taking care of my family, actively seeking the Lord, and trying to launch a writing career, (plus all my other projects and obligations) getting sufficient rest can be as far-fetched as finding out that book I’ve never pitched has been miraculously contracted for a movie deal. (Who says you can’t dream wide awake?)

But I know I need to rest well if I’m to accomplish my goals and take care of my responsibilities with excellence. Resting well is not just sleeping, but a series of decisions that affect sleep and the quality of our days while we’re awake. Fortunately, the word for what we all need and almost never get, serves as an acronym for how to get it:

Resist the urge to take on more than you can accomplish. I’ve been known to say yes to things I didn’t have the time, the resources–and sometimes the desire–to do. Even when I did say no, my hesitation would be pounced upon and a yes wrestled out of me. I’ve learned (and am still learning) to be firm in declining requests that I just don’t have the capacity to meet. It frees me to focus on the more important tasks, and saves me the embarrassment of having my husband follow right behind me to scratch my name off a volunteer list I just signed. (That has happened.)

Expect setbacks. Ever heard of a backup plan, plan B, or the alternate route? Those phrases exist because plans–no matter how meticulous we are in making them–get interrupted. When I went to the ACFW conference last month I had hoped to return home with a couple of proposal requests to work on. Instead I came home with a request for a proposal and a request for a full manuscript. Great deviation from the plan, right? Amazing. Only I came home to a son with pneumonia. I couldn’t take care of him the way I needed to without setting some healthy expectations for how soon I could submit my materials. It’s tempting to forego rest when there’s a hitch in the agenda. And if it’s for a night or two, I don’t think there’s any harm in that. But when we find ourselves getting just three to four hours of sleep on average, it’s time to make some schedule changes. Exhaustion breeds sloppiness. Consistent exhaustion is a health hazard.

Set aside quiet time. Again, rest is not all about sleep. It’s also about peace of mind and a restoring of the soul. For me this means prayer, or just stealing away to the place where I pray most often. I know when I go there, I’ll get some uninterrupted time to myself (except for the time when my youngest came in, misread my humble posture and hopped on my back with the command to “Giddyup!”)

Trust in the Lord. God doesn’t call us to sleep our days away, but He does call us to rest in Him, and to leave room for Him to show up in our endeavors. When we cram our days with activity, obligation, and busyness–and never give our bodies and minds the time to recoup energy spent, or our spirits the means to refuel in God’s presence or through His word–we are in a sense putting trust in our own efforts.

And God, who alone never sleeps, commands us to take time to be still.

Your turn: How do you manage getting the rest you need in the midst of all your obligations?

 

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