blogging

Wanting less

Not my drawer - but it could be!

Blogging is a vulnerable act of radical writing. Never underestimate how terrifying it is to bare your soul for anyone who happens to put in the right search words to Google. This is one of those vulnerable posts where those of you who know me may snicker to yourselves and make some snide comments. Go ahead: I’m going to deserve it!

But I have also learned that stating something publicly is often the tipping point to dredging up the determination to follow through. So…

I finally figured out that I am happier when I am traveling, in some ways, because my world fits in my backpack and my suitcase. On rare trips there may be a tote bag. That’s it. No bookshelves, no clutter piles, not laundry piles, no corners in out-of-the-way rooms waiting for me, condemning me. It’s a lesson I had better take to heart. If there’s one thing I’ve learned its that God often speaks in those inner longings of your heart, the half-heard and half-feared whispers.

I need less stuff.

Other people need more stuff.

I need to spend more time and money helping the other people get the stuff they need just to live.

Another truth in establishing any new habit — and less stuff would truly be a new habit — is to smart with a small victory. I’m combining these two habits and blogging my first challenge. Hopefully in a few days I will also blog my first victory.

Challenge

I will clean out my makeup drawer and reduce it to only what I usually shove in my travel bag for a longish trip. Then I will only replace those items (when they are used up), not add to their number.

That’s it. Nothing profound today, just a glimpse of where my life is.

Bonus: This is a quick post I found on how to actually clean out the makeup drawer. Why reinvent the wheel? http://www.luuux.com/node/2930066

Vulnerability

Have you ever read your child’s first attempts at writing out loud while they watched? I remember the girls: their little tongues would stick out of their mouths as if they were feeling all over again the angst of getting the words just right. It was hard work for them to stand and listen as I read their words. On their faces would flicker first pride then embarrassment. I remember well standing in their little places, too, as my writing was read out for all to hear. I remember one time when a card I’d worked on for two days was labelled as “Forgot to buy a real card?” It conditioned me to not be vulnerable with my writing. For heaven’s sake, the reasoning went, don’t let family read our writing. Strangers are much kinder.

Hence, blogging. It’s generally a much kinder platform for writers like me who use the stuff of life to springboard their thoughts.

And now the point: I need to apologize to you, my bloggy readers. You see, I’ve not been vulnerable with you. Especially since, roughly, November of last year. I’m afraid to write what I really feel, because I know that there are new “family members” reading every word. Some of them aren’t even really family, but they count. Doing some soul-searching at why I refuse to blog even though the posts are running constantly through my head, that’s the best answer I can come up with.

But I miss my blog friends. I miss the fellowship of writers and the daily push to see the world with different eyes. So I’ve decided to be honest, vulnerable. I will start by telling you (and them) what’s holding me back.

Last November my oldest daughter, Kylie, was found via facebook by her birth family. Her older sister found her first, followed by a host of other new relatives. Some day I will write about that experience (please hold me accountable!), but let me just say that I love the relatives we have found. Ashley, if you are reading this, you are precious to me. But writing for this new crowd? Intimidating! And now, we do this again. Last week my youngest daughter, Jillian, was found on facebook by HER birth family. Here we grow again! David and I have loved getting to know these new family members and putting puzzle pieces of Jillian’s life together. I just don’t know exactly how to process all this without writing about it!

And oh yes, there are others of you out there who intimidate me just a bit: relatives who live with my mom at Dowling Park, high school friends, even (just sometimes) my in-laws and my husband! Sometimes I love the idea of an anonymous blog.

But today I was reminded why I write. A comment on an older post (My Father’s House) reminded me that sometimes the things I have to say reach into another person’s heart and resonate there. This is a crazy journey in the Kingdom that we are all on, and traveling together makes the journey so much more worthwhile. So it’s back to writing I go.

If you read this my dear bloggy friends, would you mind sending me a comment to encourage me to keep going? Hearing from you will build accountability and — hopefully — freedom. Of course, if you’d rather I hush up, please feel free to say that, too!!!

Looking forward to hearing from you…

Bloggy Link Love: what I am reading

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You will be the same person five years from now except for the places you go, people you meet and information you read. Wow. Good reminder to be intentional with your reading! Having said that, I thought I’d let you sample a few of the “nuggets” in my own personal Google blog reader today!

From my friend Ed Bahler comes this interesting discussion of mega churches. As I am firmly entrenched in Christ Fellowship, which qualifies for but really dislikes that label of mega church, I found this interesting.

We were wrong!

We believed young people would be turned off be the boomer generation mega church. Small churches and incarnational coffee shop gatherings would provide the soul conversations and authentic relationships they longed for.

However, a recent study by Warren Bird at Leadership Network and Scott Thumma at the Hartford Institute reveals that:

66% of mega church attenders are younger than 45 versus 33% for other protestant churches.
The average age for mega church attenders is 40 versus 53 for other protestant churches.
18% of mega church attenders are under  24 versus 5% for other protestant churches.
The startling fact is mega churches appear to be magnets for the younger, well educated crowd while smaller protestant churches attract the boomer crowd and their parents.

But why?

What about those soul conversations and authentic relationships?

We know they prosper best when we are sacrificing for a common purpose together. And that shared sacrifice nurtures spiritual growth as well. Young people are drawn to purposeful relationships and spiritual growth. And mega churches are leveraging their people, financial resources, voice in the community, and leadership skills to make those activities happen.

Any church can mobilize their people and create these remarkable bonding and spiritual growth opportunities. However, it appears mega churches are learning to leverage their resources better than most.

Does that surprise you like it does me?

Ed’s blog can be found here.

Jeff Shinnabarger always makes me think. Here is one of his posts from a recent trip to Guatemala, and some stunning photography.

Her feet were ashy, beaten up, swollen, and storied. Can you imagine being 60 years old and working in no shoes. Imagine the narration her feet could give. A widow and a grandmother of 7 children. She has no home, but she does have a family. Her husband died thirty years ago in the civil way. Her face had a wrinkle for every hard time in her life. We built the house in 4 hours and she lived for 30 years without it. We communicated through 3 translations to understand her thoughts. He daughter was overjoyed with tears about her “big new house.” Meanwhile, most of our personal beds wouldn’t even fit through the door. We are called to care for the widows, now we have a glimpse of why we should. They are souls that comprehend grace more than we could ever imagine. The lives of widows are ones that care for others and none care for them. They are selfless expressions of love. We are selfish. They are hero’s. Meet our new widow friend and her feet: Candelaria.

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My friend Laura Anne Mackay, in Scotland (aka Brunette Koala and @KoalainScotland) posted this curiosity-satisfying post about Starbucks in Scotland. Go here to finish reading it and see the pictures!

Those of you who follow the @koalainscotland twitter feed will probably know that every Friday morning Sarah or myself will stop into our local Starbucks to buy Cinnamon Swirls.

@irishwings and his wife were wanting to see what Starbucks in Scotland looks like, and trust me there are many here in Edinburgh – but this one is one of my favourite to visit.

I love to check in with the blog associated with Neue magazine. There was recently an interesting article on prayer. Here is the paragraph that caught my eye.

I think a wonderful application of the word gap is Generation Applying Prayer. Each generation needs to look at their own time and find out what is pleasing to God about how they are living and what needs to be changed. How does the generation and the times we live in measure up to the Word of God? Whatever deterioration of our society we see becomes our prayer assignment.

Long-time favorite and teaching pastor at Christ Fellowship, John Maxwell had these thoughts to share on a recent blog post. Read the whole article afterward…it’s worth it!

1. Expose Yourself to Good Input

Good thinkers always prime the pump of ideas. They always look for things to get the thinking process started, because what you put in always impacts what comes out.

Read books, review trade magazines, listen to CDs, and spend time with good thinkers. And when something intrigues you-whether it’s someone else’s idea or the seed of an idea that you’ve come up with yourself-keep it in front of you. Put it in writing and keep it somewhere in a favorite place to stimulate your thinking.

Michael Hyatt writes on a broad range of subjects. Recently he was hunting for a pair of shoes and ended up writing an amazing post about exceeding expectations. Here is a snippet, but — again — go read the original later!

This entire experience exceeded my expectations. I had already been spoiled by other online retailers like Amazon. But this took the customer experience to an entirely new level. The personal attention to detail was surprising and unexpected. As I have written about previously, this is one of the keys to generating wow experiences.

In today’s environment, you cannot ignore the details. Taken together, they create the customer experience. Over time, the customer may forget the specifics, but he will remember how the interaction made him feel. And that feeling will guide his future loyalties and buying decisions

The future of Coffee Shop Journal

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I am in a post-Maxwellian overload. If you’ve been to any major thought-provoking conference, you know what I mean. Ideas are pouring past my poor brain faster than I have time or energy to write them down. Now some of that  may be due to caffeine overload (probably is!), but not all. This Maxwell conference has impacted me more than others I’ve been to, perhaps because the emphasis was less on leadership and more on personal goals and — quite obviously — dreams. I can actually imagine some bosses who took their teams to the conference being nervous. “Dreams? I’m not sure I want my team dreaming. I think I want them working. For me.” It is a tension: inspire people to turn their dreams into concrete reality vs. inspire people to lead others in the work to which they’ve been called. Or signed up for. Dilemma. David and I, in fact, took our top level employee with us. I can’t wait to see what dreams he has, though I certainly hope they include us!!!

So today I am dreaming over Coffee Shop Journal, and my other blog (rarely updated) Dancing Thru her Daddy’s World. I originally separated the two because Dancing had a personal focus while Coffee Shop — theoretically — has a more missional (caffeinated missional…ooh…new description of who I am!) approach. But over time, as you all know, who I am and where I go has seeped into Coffee Shop while Dancing has waited patiently in the corner.

Here, my readers, is my question for you. And for once I need you to pause and comment for feedback, if you would. Should these two blogs be combined or continue their separate lives? Should Coffee Shop remain as focused as this scatterbrained person can make it? Or would you like to have the personal posts mixed in? Today David and I were sitting at a lovely waterway cafe by the intracoastal waterway. I wanted to write about it. But it’s really a Dancing post, not a Coffee Shop post. I’m a woman in conflict!

Another interesting side-effect of the conference is that I have picked up my old-school, handwritten, doodled in and loved journal again. For the past year I’ve not been using it, but today I can’t leave it alone. There  are some things that just don’t fit into a digital world, aren’t there. I’ll be intrigued to see how the journaling finds its way into my writing. It always does, in the end.

So help me out, those of you who care…give me a little feedback while I’m still in this super-productive, hyper-creative, change-the-world mood.

And a final word of warning: don’t attend a Maxwell Conference days before you need to be utterly practical because you are throwing a welcome-home-newly-married-couple party for 40 people!

Practice creativity

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Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking. The Voice was and is God. This celestial Voice remained ever present with the Creator, His speech shaped the entire cosmos. Immersed in the practice of creating, all things that exist were birthed in Him. His breath filled all things with a living, breathing light — light that thrives in the depths of darkness, blazing through murky bottoms. It cannot, and will not, be quenched.

– John 1:1-5, the Voice translation

This powerful opening of the book of John stopped me in my tracks yesterday. Once upon a time, you see, I used to purposely set aside time to be creative. I painted (badly), I drew (better), I wrote, I decorated. Way back I even wrote a newsletter called HomeLight (a newsletter — for those of you who may not know — was like a hardcopy of a blog. Only slower. And much harder to produce.) in which I encouraged women (and the two men, both relatives, who would read it!) how to be creative. I thrived on new ideas. Then I grew up. Last year, when pressures seemed to be more real and urgent.

What so impacted me in these verses, so startled me that my life may need to take a right hand turn in direction, was the phrase “Immersed in the practice of creating, all things that exist were birthed in him.” The practice of creating. If it’s going to exist, it needs to be birthed. Creativity isn’t going to burst forth fully blown. It must be practiced. With intention.

Be like me, God says, immersed in the practice of creating.

I am at the verge of a new stage of life, and God calls me to create it. If it will exist, it needs to be spoken into existence. By me. These verses mean that there is a call on our lives to not accept the daily routine, to stand up and begin the work of creating. Create space, create time, create beauty and art (even if that means hanging other people’s art!). Begin again the work. These verses give me permission, imperative, to arrange and rearrange.

Be like me, God says, immersed in the practice of creating.

Coffee Shop Journal gets a new style!

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Coffee Shop Journal is trying out a new style! What do you think?

David and I are not finished tweaking the re-design, but I couldn’t wait to “live in the new space” for awhile. I’d love to hear your comments as we work through this process, so please comment and register your opinion. At the moment, these are some things that I’m pondering:

  • I don’t have enough coffee here! My java-loving heart wants to see some more coffee cups or coffee beans or something. Working on that.
  • More color? On the other hand, white is clean.
  • What do you think of the font and the font size? Is it readable? This was one of my pet peeves on my last design, so I want to get it right.

Happy Birthday, Coffee Shop Journal. Enjoy stepping out in style!

Coffee Shop News

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Hello everyone! I’ve missed you! I deliberately took most of Easter week off from the blog in order to practice the concept of Sabbath, resting, allowing God to speak into a space of time and energy. But I’m back and brimming with tidbits that don’t fit into whole posts. So enjoy the chatter around the coffee shop today.

  • Last year I went to a conference called Q. At the time, I knew Q was having an impact on my life, but a year later I’m amazed at the shift in my perspectives and attitudes. Perhaps the most fulfilling result of Q has been all the internet friends who I either met there for the first time or met subsequently through our blogs and twitters and facebooks. One of my first tablemates at Q, Lawrence Tom (or LT)  is an American Born Chinese Pastor. We’ve stayed in touch over the year, and his faith encourages me to keep stretching. Today he posted a twitter about a NY Times article that profiles homeless people selling papers as a way to pull themselves up. It seems to me that this topic keeps popping into my life, though I’m not sure why! Anyway, it is an interesting article.
  • Speaking of Street Roots and my short conversation with George, you can read their response to my visit on their blog here.
  • My friend Melody from Seattle told me that you can buy the new Starbucks Via instant coffee from Costco now, at a cheaper price than in the stores. Of course, those of us not in Seattle have not seen Via in the stores yet, though you can order it online at Starbucks.
  • I’ve got a backlog of posts swirling in my mind for the next week or so. Sneak preview? Easter Changes Everything at Christ Fellowship; I traveled to Seattle to make the pilgrimage to the mother ship of Starbucks; Connections with family in the northwest; running on a treadmill reminded me that someone is always watching…there are others, but that will do for now!
  • Finally, while I was distracted traveling and spring breaking etc., I completely skipped over the one year anniversary of Coffee Shop Journal!!!! Wow! I’m still in love with the day to day interaction out in the blogosphere, so I’m predicting more anniversaries to come. I think that will need to be a post in and of itself. But I also think one year needs celebrating. Maybe a blog redesign?

That’s all for this post-Easter Monday afternoon. For one brief moment in time it is quiet in the house, with no distractions. I’m going to soak it in and listen to the sound of the warm clothes in the dryer and the coffee pot brewing me some Bella Vista. Life is so good.

Where does your blog fall in the rankings?

I’ve been pondering my bloggy life today. There are weeks when it feels like each day I have something really important to share. I can’t hardly wait to write! And then there are times when I have a few days in a row when nothing really jumps out at me. Some days I feel incredibly coffee-ish, and other days it’s the community that sparks my imagination. Some days I just wonder how you all put up with me! (And I think this day is one of them!).

Tonight I’ve been reading one of my favorite blogs, the Tall Skinny Kiwi. He published a post about the top 60 Christian bloggers. Now as soon as there’s a “Top…” type of post, my heart thumps and I actually begin to feel competitive. I wonder how I can break into that group, or get this ranking, or link here or there. There’s a real bloggy celebrity culture that is alluring once in awhile.

Until.

Until I remember that my life is not my own. It’s bought and paid for already, and whatever use it is depends on God, not me. I remember the amazing people that I have already met through blogging, and the friendships that are growing over the days and weeks as we read each other’s posts. I remember how the blogs on the top of the heap have inspired me, led me, taught me, reprimanded me, held me accountable. They need to continue to do that for other people! So rather than let my competitive edge begin to rear its head, I approached this list as a resource for more great reading and growth in my own spirit.

Digging down into Tall Skinny Kiwi I read this paragraph from a 2007 post on blogging tips. It seemed to capture my heart tonight, so I decided to share it.

15. Don’t Love To Be First.
Coming first in the Google race can be an idol and it can also be inappropriate if someone else should be there. Sometimes its good NOT to be number one. There is a place for getting your post found and perhaps your post deserves that waterfront location on the search engine results BUT there is also a place for allowing others to be first or in control of their own story. I hope that you will find yourself on top of the hill during 2007 to say the things God has put on your heart. But I also hope you have the wisdom and constraint to bow out of the rankings and push others up above yourself. You don’t always have to be first. Don’t be like Diotrephes, who loved to be first (3 John 1:19) but rather mimic John the Baptist who decided to decrease so that Christ might increase.
Or in the words of George Whitefield, “May the name of Whitefield perish, but Christ be glorified.”

To all my bloggy heroes…thank you for all the amazing work you do! And to all my precious bloggy friends (you know who you are, y’all), thank you for speaking God’s words into my life and walking through the ups and downs of life in the real world. Even when we only meet in the cyber world!

What blogs do I read?

I thought it would be fun to take a tour of some of my cyber friends. A little link love for a change. I know it’s weird to call people I’ve never met friends, but I do. Here are some of mine, and what I have learned from them.

Boo Mama writes a fun, lighthearted and zippy blog.

  • What I’ve learned from Boo Mama: be yourself! People enjoy your personality, miss Boo Mama, and that’s what keeps them coming back and back and back.

Big John Scott is a friend from my Q conference back in April. Nope…never met him! Well, not strictly true. I did ‘Bump’ into him at the door when he was acting as badge checker and bouncer.

  • What I’ve learned from John: even “professional” ministers have to be intentional at connecting with people. John is a master at staying culturally literate, meeting people in his community, and — especially — walking through life with the people he calls friend.

Biscuet is an American living in China.

  • What I’ve learned from Biscuet: his blog title says it all. “I live in China. I teach. I blog. I love people.” I’ve enjoyed following Biscuet as he teaches English, gives tours of apartments, adapts to life in a foreign country. I love seeing the impact of his life multiply.

Catalyst Space/Catablog is the official blog for the Catalyst Conference.

  • What I’ve learned from Catalyst Space: if there is a trend in church-world, Catalyst finds it and presents it. Presents it well. Go here to find Christmas presents, conferences, speakers and podcasts.

From the Stack on my Desk is written by Larry, another Q guy. Nope, haven’t met him either.

  • What I’ve learned from Larry: it isn’t enough to take information in. You have to apply what you have learned to your own life, your own church, your own community. Reading Larry’s life has inspired me to live mine with more accountability.

Bring on the Joy is one of the blogs of a group of people in Edinburgh, Scotland. I met them through Duncan, who writes a brand new blog called Fourth Space. He used to write one of my favorites, What’s Your Point, Caller, but recently changed focuses. Anyway, Bring on the Joy has inspired me.

  • What I’ve learned from Bring on the Joy: add value to the people in your life. She is always willing to jump in on a conversation on a friend’s blog, give encouragement, ask advice and generally be real. I love the attitude that BOTJ shows in her writing and commenting.

Musings of a Koala is another blog from the same group. Love them!

  • What I’ve learned from Brunette Koala: live your life on purpose. All of it has a purpose, and God is willing to reveal it if you search long enough. Walking with BK through that journey has taught me so much that I would have missed if she were not my friend.

An Unfinished work is a new friend of mine. I’m still discovering her, but so far am thrilled and challenged!

  • What I’ve learned from Dianne: be encouraging, be honest and learn to look at life in a new way.

Oh, there are so many more. I have posted links to some of them before, and will post more links again, but for now you have a nice little sampling!