Monthly Archives: April 2012

april in pictures

a few phone photos from instagram that capture some of what april has looked like at our house . . .

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lanterns are one of my loves. this one is newly acquired and sitting in the middle of our dining room table. beautiful with a candle. the metal and wood are such a unique combination.

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also love this lantern. it’s a great example of the local pottery. my mom purchased this for me when she was here for elle’s birth. it’s a treasure. have begun lighting a little tea light in it every night. exotic. romantic.

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this is one of lane’s best looks: hair pulled up in two knobs on top of her head with hot pink roses adorning. i truly can’t believe how much she is changing. from a baby to a girl . . . she is a beauty.

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had some moments of swirling recently. the howling monkeys were at it again, telling me that there isn’t enough . . . ever. i’m biting back with my pink amore mug. when they start in, i pour myself some coffee (with heavy whipping cream, of course) into the pink amore mug. i’m reminded of love–that i’m actually surrounded by love. the pink amore mug is the small spiritual discipline of tuning out and tuning in.

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steve and luke grow more and more in love with each other. this captures it. perfectly.

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a dozen or so painted camels have graced bahrain. lots of extra little moments around the island in celebration of formula 1 last week. my favorite, which i couldn’t get a photo of due to location, is painted pepto pink with white wings and a white unicorn horn. amazing. they are all gussied up uniquely. a feast. a gallery exhibit prancing around town.

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my view from one of the main intersections in bahrain. loved the vibrancy of the bahrain flags with the grand mosque behind.

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a beautiful collection of shells luke has dug up for me. he has such an eye for natural beauty. always has. love that about him and that he can’t help but bring me treasures every time he walks outside.

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and, the littlest. smiling without end, these days. love her in this bright yellow. like the sunlight that she is.

how about you? what has your april included? any unique moments of beauty?

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review of still: notes on a mid-faith crisis by lauren winner

Still opens with a quote from John Updike: “He wonders if he’s lying. If he is, he is hung in the middle of nowhere, and the thought hollows him.” This line sets the stage for the “middles” Winner will be exploring, specifically the middle—the no-man’s-land—of faith that she has unexpectedly and undesirably found herself in.

She says that she has “arrived at a middle” after the death of her mother and her divorce. Disoriented and wandering, Winner writes her way through the passage back to some kind of sure ground when all she had considered sure was lost.

In a word, Winner is brilliant and will make you smarter for reading this book. Her intentionality with language, her respect for her craft, her subtle choices—all of this nuance is poetic and also academic and also accessible.

I don’t know how she pulls all that off exactly, but it is a rare gift. The kind of thing that doesn’t just happen. An author connects with a reader in the ways that Winner has through skill, intuition, and lots and lots of revision. At least that last one is what I’m choosing to believe.

I so resonated with her interaction with poets throughout the book. Just loved. The language of poetry is so aching and I love that. As I talked about in a previous post, we access something very profound when we read something or watch something or see something that puts us in touch with our longing. Anne Sexton, Emily Dickinson . . . these are some of the poets Winner spends time with that help her translate her longing. And, by proxy, ours as well.

The first two sections of the book follow the calendar, loosely, from Thanksgiving to Easter—a technique that works so well. Then, in the last section, the chronological organization drops off and we are brought through a series of  moments, the lights coming on for Winner slowly through different means. All of this worked for me.

One of my very favorite sections was the author Q&A after the book officially ends. I was totally enthralled. Winner talks about how she made key decision in the writing of the book—how she decided to structure the book (I paid especially close attention here because I’m wrestling through some of the same questions in my own proposal), what she omitted and why, her muses, her thoughts on genre. Much more than an afterthought, this interview will appeal especially to fellow writers looking to see into Winner’s choices with the material.

The book is melancholy, to be sure. Yet it is also hopeful in very real and one-foot-in-front-of-the other sorts of ways.

Also, the entire book, I wanted to become Episcopalian.

This book is the perfect choice for someone who needs a companion in the middle ground, the gray, the soup. (In other words, all of us.) Winner is an honest and inspiring guide out of the pitch-black darkness.

Five stars.

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the pulse of this new day

Reading . . . Do the Work: Overcome Resistance and Get Out of Your Own Way by Steven Pressfield. My agent read this recently (actually it was probably more like a year ago, but that’s not the point) and tweeted out some completely amazing excerpts and I put it on my reading list. Picking it up now, as I’m working on my proposal, and so appreciating Pressfield’s discussion on the Resistance we all face when we’re trying to birth something new, see something through. A must read for anyone trying to do soul work and feeling like the universe is conspiring against you. Also, just finished Lauren Winner’s Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, which was incredibly beautiful and worthy of a post all to itself. So stay tuned for that.

Contemplating . . . our next tour. Where will we be? How will I handle getting the news? What is on the horizon for this pirate and gypsy? Praying for a non-hysterical spirit about the whole thing. Hoping, for the pirate’s sake, these prayers will be answered. Will keep you posted with any news. As of now, contemplating, waiting.

Watching . . . American Idol and feeling mostly obsessed with it. Not only is it my weekly fix of Americana but it is also just undoing to be so thoroughly entertained (with a couple of exceptions, of course). Love Josh. Missing DeAndre (wasn’t he so beautiful?). And still, LOVE JOSH. Who’s your money on?

Using . . . TRESemme dry shampoo these days with enormous gratitude to whoever thought up this genius product. I cannot wash my hair every day at this stage of life, so the dry shampoo has been salvation. Run, don’t walk, to your nearest Target (oh, how I miss Target).

Eating . . . at a very fun new local find, Block 338. Not that any of you Stateside readers will probably ever get to visit it, but 338 has a beautiful garden, lanterns, and an amazing happy hour. So nice to find a place here where we can sit outside. When Steve and I have a babysitter, this is where we’ve been heading lately. Also, their charcuterie plate is one of our favorite ways to eat and has inspired us to pick up some meats, cheeses, olives, et al and enjoy our patio before the summer sizzle hits. Let’s be honest, half price prosecco is also a draw.

Loving . . . the Skinnygirl Smoothers n’ Shapers from Bethenny Frankel . . . this product in particular. So helpful after baby (and after all the dinners at 338). What I love is that it’s not too tight. Just right. FYI, I ordered a size M and it is perfect. You’re welcome.

Celebrating . . . two months with Elle and her decision, early on, to be a sleeper. A party in her honor! Also celebrating our official summit of the Mt. Everest of potty training with L&L. Whew, that was a haul!

Embracing . . . abundance. Believing God has given me enough. And also, more than enough.

Rejecting . . . the deficit mentality that keeps whispering failure in my ear.

Praying . . . for a family member who has a big set of circumstances and needs a breakthrough, a miracle. God, could you PLEASE come through? Even in your through-the-side-door kind of way? Surprise us with your answer and your plan. Amen.

What’s happening with you? Answer one of the above for yourself!

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longing

I have been turning over the topic of longing lately . . .

Longing in my journey through these early days, and now early years, of motherhood. Longing as a universal, and yet deeply vulnerable, human posture—no matter the life stage, the specifics.

I’ve been going back through all the writing I’ve done over the last three years, the writing I’ve created since becoming a mother. I see in this particular season of writing a quality similar to someone who is pounding a treadmill. Someone who needs to sweat out something.

Pages upon pages of a woman looking to make peace with all that has been gained and all that has been lost and, also, how the toxic voices have shown up in swarms to give their two cents. I read about a woman, myself, suffering from all kinds of angst, looking a little desperate at times.

I go back and read and, between the lines, I can hear my own longing . . .

A longing to be free from the toxic voices of shame.

A longing to be alive and awake instead of numb.

A longing to love, accept, and even companion myself—to be gentle and compassionate.

A longing to feel space again, to feel as though I’m not suffocating under the weight of this new role.

A longing to create.

A longing to be seen.

A longing for a child after loss.

A longing to believe that my faith does, somehow, make a difference in the angst.

A longing to chase beauty instead of glamour.

A longing to find my voice again, or to know it when I hear it.

A longing to grieve the fantasies I have been holding onto about what life would or wouldn’t look like and accept this moment, today.

A longing to breathe.

A longing for clarity in a complicated world—what to choose when the choices are endless.

A longing to be connected to people who understand all this and don’t just try to fix it or explain it away.

A longing for home—wherever/whatever that is anymore.

A longing for ease instead of angst.

A longing for nourishing worship, corporately and individually.

A longing for meaning and not just activity.

A longing for joy—pure joy.

This list could go on and on and on.

I have looked into the eyes of others who I know are feeling these same longings. And I have seen how rarely we know what to do with the intensity of such low aches. One of my therapies, of course, has been writing. Additionally, my band of gypsies back in San Diego. Slivers of great beauty amidst the barren desert-times here in Bahrain. The truths of 12-step . . .

What has become very clear to me—one of the few things that has become clear to me—is that our longing can either lead us to ruin or recovery. Life or death.

I have felt deadened in this past season. And I have also tasted the flavor of full life. Sometimes, strangely, the highest high is followed by the lowest low.

The deadening has often been the result of what I’m choosing to believe about myself, which directly impacts what I’m choosing to believe about God and others. The deadening has also come at the hands of believing life will always feel the way it feels in this exact moment. Instead of remembering that things tend to look better with a little space and rest.

The flavorful living has arrived through, usually, the smallest moments (when I have so often been looking for, waiting for, the huge parade): the right book at the right time, companionship, laughing, creative expression, a little rest, music, an email.

God inhabiting our longings with us, not swooping down and relieving us of them. Perhaps longing as the greatest gift God has given us, though entirely inconvenient to be so undone at times. This is what I’m thinking about right now . . . how I can manage the intensity of the longings and turn toward recovery instead of the wooing waters of ruin.

What have you been longing for?

How are you handling the longing?

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Tributaries

As I’ve mentioned, I’m currently working on the proposal for my second book. A book proposal is a detailed account of what you will write, before you’ve actually all the way written it. You take this mass of material you’ve composed over a period of time, say a year or more, and you try to whittle it or carve it. You try to see the sculpture that’s lurking there in the stone. But that makes the process sound pretty, and it’s not. It’s a slog. It’s trying to create a masterpiece out of a mess.

As I’ve also mentioned, I had a BABY! #3, actually. Not sure if you heard. And as you might imagine, a not quite 7 week old and three year old twins are not known for creating oodles of calming space for me to explore my creative soul. Shocking, I know.

The last seven weeks have been filled with a great beauty, one that I didn’t want to rush. I wanted to enjoy the time my mom and Jamie were here, enjoy the time my mother-in-law was here, gaze at Elle, snuggle L&L, rest when possible. Also drink a little prosecco as able.

This week, I am returning to the proposal. And here’s the point of this post: Sometimes—actually, if I’m honest, all the time—I get lured into thinking that my kids are standing in the way of my productivity. Or, to be more PC, my “life stage” is interrupting my soul’s work.

And then, I realize something very, very important. One of the most vital parts of creative work is the magic of the subconscious. My subconscious can solve problems in my work that my conscious mind can only sit and strangle-hold. Having three children forces me to back away from the work, give it some air, let the whole thing breathe. My “life stage” requires that I take a break. And that, magically, allows my subconscious to kick in. So that when I am making dinner, my mind is working. When I am changing a diaper, my mind is working.

And all of a sudden, huge gaps in the proposal have been filled. Clarity received. Ideas spun from thin air. Concepts fleshed out. All this without ever opening my laptop. I just keep a pen and paper in reach or my phone and get down whatever comes to me when it comes to me.

I wonder if my “life stage” is actually—newsflash—an indispensable component of my creative work. Is it possible that my best ideas could arrive while I’m changing a diaper? That elusive clarity waiting for me as we play at the park? Is it possible that the best way to solve a problem is to back away and let it breathe instead of strangling the darn thing to death? Is it possible?

Is it also possible that God is right here with me, creating tributaries between my vocation as mother and my vocation as writer? Perhaps a mutual filling, one pouring into the other and flowing right back again.

Maybe the thing that seems to be in the way is the very thing providing a way. Maybe.

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