Nothing Fuzzy About It

This weekend I did something I rarely do: I spoke. In public. Such is my overwhelming discomfort at public speaking that I even have a hard time typing it.

Now my blood pressure is going up. Someone grab a paper bag.

You might be wondering why I put myself in that position, knowing in advance how I felt about it. The reason is, I hoped it would be helpful for the girls I was speaking to. My testimony (fancy Christian term for ‘the circumstances surrounding your journey to Christ’) involves lots of issues that people that age are either going through or have friends who are going through, and it was my hope that sharing my story would bring them hope.

It went spectacularly well. There were quite a few people praying for me and, according to the group leaders I spoke with afterward, my story touched a chord with the people it needed to.

As you can imagine, I spent a lot of time thinking about my story in the week leading up to Saturday. It got me thinking about the term “Born Again Christian.”

I’d always thought this term sounded fuzzy and nice, but now that I think about it for a moment I realize it’s anything but. Birth is difficult for everybody. As a mother who’s been fortunate enough to give birth to two children, I can attest to this. It was tough both times. But not just for me.

If you do any research into birth at all, you’ll find that babies have a lot of work to do when they’re born. Taking that first breath, figuring out how to operate in a world that is the polar opposite of everything they’ve ever known. Poor buggers are tired after just a few minutes of that.

I realized it’s kind of the same when you accept Christ, especially if you’ve spent a good portion of your life not believing. There’s nothing fuzzy about it. Up is down, left is right. It’s hard work.

So that was my big revelation this weekend. I think it’s funny that the talk I gave was supposed to be for the benefit of the girls and instead I’m the one who walked away with a new realization. Oops.

What Love Looks Like

Being an ambitious person is a funny thing. It’s a lot like climbing an escalator at a pace roughly equivalent to the rate at which the stairs turn around and start over again. You keep moving forward but you never reach the top because you’re not sure what you’d do if you ever got there.

Wes, bless his heart, knows and loves this about me. He knew it before we had kids, and he really knows it now as I keep taking on more and more projects that keep me busy and slightly stressed out and sometimes make it hard for me to sleep at night.

It’s possible I’d be a better mother if I didn’t have so much going on. I don’t write when the kids are awake, but I have been known to be preoccupied if I’m puzzling through a predicament or more annoyed than usual if I’m interrupted when the kids are supposed to be napping but, for whatever reason, aren’t.

Then again, if I ignored this drive to write write write and focused all this ambition instead on my kids, I doubt very much whether that would be a good thing either. I’m not sure my kids deserve the brunt of my ambition before they’ve even had a chance to develop their own.

I asked Wes the other night if he regretted encouraging me to quit my job so I could pursue writing. Writing is an expensive hobby, and I’d probably be a little easier to live with if I wasn’t constantly tackling bigger, more complex projects.

He looked surprised and replied that no, he didn’t regret it. “You’re a writer,” he said. “That’s what you are. I could never regret encouraging you to be who you are.”

And that, ladies and gentleman, is what love looks like.

Eh, I Never Was Good At Being On a Break Anyway

I’m not very good at relaxing. Wes used to have a hard time with this when we first got married. We’d be packing for a vacation and I’d be like, “So, what are we gonna do on vacation?”

He’d say, “Relax.”

And I’d be like, “That sounds great! So what does that look like?”

He’d usually give me a confused look and say, “Like relaxing. Doing nothing. Taking it easy. You know, relaxing.”

At which point we’d both realize we were in no way speaking the same language.

The reason I bring this up is that I’m supposed to be relaxing right now. I finished the first draft of my next novel a couple weeks ago, an accomplishment brought about by much stress and hard work. It was two months of harrowing suspense and the whole point of the next few weeks was supposed to be me taking it easy and bringing my blood pressure down a few points.

But you know what happens when I relax? I get bored. And then I eat. All the things.

Lucky for me, a friend of mine who has spent the past six years battling cancer in the most heroic way I’ve ever seen asked for help putting a book together the other day. He’s been blogging for eleven years and wants to put his posts together into a book that will tell his story. He asked for some help on Facebook yesterday and before you can say, “But hey, aren’t you supposed to be taking a break?” I volunteered to help.

Insert obligatory "Friends" joke here.

Insert obligatory “Friends” joke here.

He did me the very great honor of letting me help him, so that’s what I’ll be working on for the next few weeks. I’ve never put an anthology together before, but this will be a labor of love and I can’t wait to dig in.

This is a biiiiiig project though. We’re talking 1,900 pages of content that I’ll be sifting through, organizing, and putting together in such a way that tells his story as best it can.

Wish me luck!

Steeped in Attitude

I was invited out to coffee by a new friend last weekend, a very nice fellow writer with an interest in North Korea. She’d seen me prattling on about the good ol’ DPRK on Twitter and asked me if I’d like to meet up sometime.

It ended up being a really interesting conversation. She’s American, but has family from Korea and talking to her about North Korea was eye opening in many ways.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway I got from the conversation was when we were talking about North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un. I made a joke (that was not really a joke) about how he’s the only fat person in North Korea and how that makes me so sad. That he can be living large (literally) while the people he’s responsible for starve.

I got the impression from her that she didn’t appreciate my joke, though she didn’t say anything right out loud about it. She’s no fan of North Korea’s fearless leader, but I think the disrespect was unwelcome. I felt chagrined at my lack of respect and brought it up, and we started talking about respect in America. Or, rather, lack of it.

It’s interesting how we’ve made a culture of disrespect. It doesn’t really matter who we’re making fun of (I can think of only a couple things that are verboten to mock). If we can, we will.

One thing I was wondering about, though, was what is it about Kim Jong Un that is so easily mockable? Is it the fact that making fun of him in his country is enough to send you to one of many prison camps? (Prison camps that his government continues to deny exist even though they’re plainly visible in satellite photos) Is it the fact that his country vilifies us even while it takes our food aid? Is it the over-the-top propaganda that reads like Mad Libs?

Personally, I think it’s the foreignness of it all. I think the idea of a country that forbids its citizens from having opinions contrary to one guy is anathema to most Americans. But, it could also be the Mad Libs propaganda.

Either way, the conversation was illuminating. It gave me pause to try to examine my own behavior in a different way. To look at making fun of Kim Jong Un as something weird instead of something expected.

I think this is the value of traveling and meeting people from other cultures. There’s a real danger, I think, in becoming too steeped in one attitude.

Giveaways and whatnot

This is just a little update to let Brooke, Delisa, and all my newfound Goodreads friends know that I paid a (costly) visit to the post office today and shipped your books today. I shipped eleven books in total…Whew!

This won’t be the last time I offer free books, so don’t despair. Keep checking in with me here and on Facebook or Twitter.

For those of you who won, congrats! I hope you enjoy taking a tour of my brain.