Happy Four Year Blog-iversary

Well it just few right by me in all the October madness!

My little ole blog turned four a couple of weeks ago!  And every year I write a top five post recapping the adventures of the prior year.  For last year’s THIRD blog-iversary, as a way to celebrate, I gave a way a copy of my book, Learning to Lead, to anyone who commented on the post or subscribed to the blog (that little “subscribe by email” line over there on the right hand side), so I thought I’d do that again today!  Who knows, maybe book number two will be ready to go to press by the big five year anniversary.  If this year has taught me anything, it’s that you NEVER can tell!

There are several ways I’ve tried to figure out a Top Five list – the posts that meant the most to me or the posts that got the most traffic – but it always ends up being a bit of a mix.  So here goes:

Number 5:  What Up With The Ankle Strap One of the top three highest ranking posts of the year caught me completely off guard.  Fashion Fridays always get a fair amount of traffic, but I looked at my top posts and this cracked me up.  Y’all, it’s because it’s true!  Ankle straps are not flattering.  Yet they are EVERYWHERE.  What up?

Number 4: Working Moms Battlefield: Drinking  Oh, I have to tell you, I did not want to put this on the list.  I wrote a four part series last year right after my third blog-iversary and it got a lot of traffic but no one more than this post on drinking.  There are two reasons I’d rather not revisit this post right now.  One, I haven’t figured it out.  You’d think after all that self-awareness I’d have the solution.  But unfortunately, no.  The other reason why is because I got some mean comments on this series.  It’s one thing to write about battles you’ve conquered and have people say mean things, but it’s a whole other set of hurt to have people attack you when you’re in the middle of the struggle.  Ick.  Regardless, there may be someone who needs to see this post.

Number 3: Erasing Mistakes of the PastI loved writing this post.  It made me go dig up unflattering photos of myself having triplets.  Which actually made me smile.  And it got more traffic than any other post I wrote this year.  I hope that’s because it resonated with women and reminded us all that are scars are marks of life having being lived not something to erase.

Number 2:  My Annual Rant About What America Is Doing To Our Girls.  You know I have one of these every year!  This year, the uber shorty-shorts set ME OFF when trying to shop for little bit who was FOUR!!!  Turns out, I’m not the only one.  And luckily, I got lots of great recommendations and there are stores I won’t frequent now.  Mercy.  Soap box alert.

Number 1:  It Was Ten Years Ago TodayI love my family.  I love celebrating my anniversaries on this blog and celebrating the kids birthdays on this blog, but this post was particularly special to me.  I got to walk down memory lane to the night I first met my husband.  That night at Mucky Duck.  And everything that came after.   One song’s been stuck in my head all weekend – Christina Perri’s A Thousand Years.  There’s a line that says, And all along I’ve believed I would find you, Time has brought your heart to me, I’ve loved you for a thousand years, I’ll love you for a thousand more.  That about sums it up.

There were lots of other posts that taught me something new.  I thoroughly enjoyed doing the Gideon study by Priscilla Shirer – you can find it on my Bible Studies tab.  I enjoyed debuting Leadership Tuesdays as it helped me research many of the speeches I gave this year and developed new material for my book – you can find those on the Leadership tab.  I love Fashion Fridays and always get the most fun ideas from my friends to whom I am eternally indebted for letting me come to their closets and take them on fashion missions.

But most of all, I love the people.  I heard Sophie Hudson speak at Allume, and she said the friendships were the best thing the Internet ever brought her.  Boy is that the truth.  I have found such rich community with fellow bloggers and my sweet readers that I feel incredibly grateful to have this little corner of the Internet to have community instead of conflict.

On What Allume Was This Year For Me

Last year, I went to a conference called Allume for the first time.  It’s a weekend full of over 400 women who love God and also happen to blog.  I was scared to death.  I knew some women from the wild and wooly Internet, but I’d never met anyone in person.  And I was going to share a room with two of these random bloggers (women whom my husband may or may not have wondered aloud might kill me).

This year was different.  This year not only did I know several people from in real life, but a number of them had actually stayed at my home in April for the God-Sized Dream planning retreat.

This year also felt different because last year at this time God was about to kick off one of the craziest and most wonderful (but also busiest) years of my life, while this year God has been calling me to step back.  So I had no agenda other than to hang out with some girlfriends.

But I picked up some things over the weekend, some of which I’ll blog more about later because I’m only just now touching the surface of what I might do with these ideas:

1.  From our very first keynote Thursday night, Logan Wolfram set the tone that we are called to love neighbors and literally open the doors to our homes to welcome people.  I met two women who inspired me to buy a picnic table for our front yard and start monthly entertaining people who live on my street because up to this point I’ve been a pretty invisible neighbor and that’s just no way to live.

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2.  From the incredibly hospitable Shauna Niequist, we were charged to have people leave feeling better about themselves than they do about you.

3.  I received several confirmations that I am being called to a season of quiet, including from The Nester who reminded us that rest is not a reward for finishing.

4. The vivacious and hysterical Annie Downs had me captivated.  Despite my hesitation of how I can help the generation, Annie was adamant, The women behind you deserve you now!

5.  The author of the beautiful new book, Breathing Room, Leeana Tankersley, connected to all of us who hover on the brink of crashing during hard times.  She warns, If we’re not offering ourselves hospitality, then it’s difficult to authentically offer it to others. 

Most of all, Allume was about my girlfriends.  The people I love.  The people who get this crazy blogging thing and develop deep relationships over the vast ocean of the Internet.  My friend Delonna calls our pack her tribe, and I couldn’t put it any better.  This weekend was about uninterrupted time with these amazing women.

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The Space In Between

The fog settled around the mountains and the rain drizzled.

Despite the weather, the small plane lifted and bumped up beyond the clouds.

Sitting above the propeller, I heard little above the roar and stared out the window.

I sat there, captivated, in the space in between.

The space above the water and the land and the mountaintops.  The space through the clouds.  The space below the heavens.

The breathtaking, soul-stilling, space in between. 

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I had a lot of posts already half written for today.  After nine days away in the vastness of Alaska.  A post about our rainy fishing trip.  A post about what you discover in sleeplessness.  A number of posts from insight I picked up from the multiple books I read over long flights and airport waiting areas.  And yet when I sat down to write any number of them, and they will get written, all I heard in my head was the space in between.

It was more than the ventures over mountain ranges.  It was nine days away from home.  From my personal cell phone.  From my family.  From my daily job routine.  From my outside commitments and community.

It was space in between.  And I’ve learned a lot.  I am craving less.  Less on my calendar, more with my four people.  Less in my home, more space to breath.  Less frenzy, more quiet.  But I’m processing it all.

So I’ll have more.  I think.  We’ll see.

Monday’s Verdict: You Are The Best

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It’s Monday morning.

And I wanted you to hear this, first thing.

You are remarkable.  You are the best.  You are extraordinary.

They don’t know you.

Those “theys” out there that say the things that hurt your heart and wound your soul and threaten to derail you.

They do not know how smart you are.  They don’t get to see your wisdom, your humor, your life, your joy, your endurance, your commitment, your strength, your loyalty, your spectacular-ness.

You may have had “theys” detailing your deficiencies for years now or maybe you only just stumbled upon an attack upon your worth.

You may have “theys” from your family or your work or your ‘friends’ or your neighbors, but “they” do not know you.

We know you.

We would run out of adjectives telling you why and how you are the best.

But it’s Monday morning.  And I want you to know it.  I want you to believe it, deep down. 

So whatever pronouncements you walk around with today, walk around with that.  A knowledge that you are loved and appreciated and gifted and tremendous and beautiful and funny and interesting and insightful and capable and talented and really just the best.  Anything and everything else is just noise.

I hate that the attacks come.  In all shapes and sizes.  I hate that they make you doubt who you are and what you can do.

But we, the we who know you, do not doubt that you are the best for one single second.

 

*  I have had a sea of dear friends this past week walk in the shadow of criticism.  I know the shadow well.  I have walked under it and will again.  If you have been told anything that undervalues who you are, I hope that you will reject it this Monday morning and start fresh.  Don’t let that person or statements define you.  Defy their perception and keep going.  Be brave.  I’m praying for you this morning. 

The Bayou Boat

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It wasn’t an impressive boat when it was purchased in 1971.

All these decades later, it bore the scars of the hurricanes it survived and fishing trips it endured and children spotting alligators from its bow.

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The battered metal leaked a bit and the beams that ran the short distance between starboard and port displayed stains and dents and faded stickers.  The stern housed a small engine that had been replaced over the years with a bit more power but the cracked oars had survived.

We all piled into the aging hull as we do most weekends at the farm.  Littles in life jackets, men with fishing nets and poles, and women with bug spray and juice boxes.

As we eased out of Long Mary Marsh, the little boat picked up speed and the bow tipped up out of the water.  The chatter stopped and our breaths caught.  The wind blew our hair wildly and the water splattered up the sides.

I closed my eyes.  The wind rushed and water bounced.  I could have been on a yacht.  Except, I decided, this was better.

The blowing breezes cut the heat of the summer air and washed over us without any barrier.  The littles dipped their fingers into the bayou waters as the men warned of ‘gators nipping near.  We could explore small inlets and outlets and bayou fingers in a way impossible with a polished giant boat.  As the motor cut to enter no wake zones, we could hear every sound from the sparrows to the cicadas to the splash of the mullet.

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The tall marsh grasses swayed on either side as the water seeping into the grasses seeping into the sky made a seamless picture.  A landscape only a Heavenly Artist could have drawn.  A vision so spectacular that it stilled even the children.  Everyone exhaled.  The power of the bayou and untouched artistry surrounding us released the tension and hurry that normally arrest our city days.

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The bayou boat moved on.  The rows of lost cypress trees transformed into lush green richness dipping into the waters as we ventured out past the bridge.  The family patriarch steered on and shouted out to the son, our young family’s patriarch, where to boy?  He answered back, anywhere, because that was what we all felt.  Steer us anywhere.  Every turn brought more of the same – sounds and beauty and peace and an intimate connection to nature.

We went on that way for some time until we began to burn and the gas began to drain and the boat’s passengers reluctantly turned their faces toward the farm dock.

It is often the most battered and smallest boat that provides the rider the closest view of God.  No such spiritual experience could have been had wrapped in a fancy yacht, insulated by lacquered surroundings high above the water.

The age and scars of the boat only proved its worth.  It held long tenure in the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast and survived to bring another generation of eyes out to the glory and greatness of the marsh grasses and pelicans and alligators and redfish and dead Cypress trees and crab traps.

Your vantage point may feel small or scarred or aged or inadequate, but it is through that lens that God can reveal His unfiltered beauty.