What Should I Write?

November is the 7 year anniversary of my starting this blog. I’ve talked about it on here before, I was at the After Eve Women’s Conference at my church where I heard Jen Hatmaker and Shauna Niequist speak for the first time. The biggest take-away from that experience was this: “If you have a dream, if there is something in your heart you have always wanted to do, DO IT. Stop waiting for it to be the “right time” because it’s never the right time and you are not getting any younger.” Can’t you just hear either of them saying this to a group of young women? LOL

Well my dream is to write. I have had this dream my whole life. I have always needed to write for my previous jobs, so in a sense I did/do write, but I had never really written for me until I started this blog. And I started it because of the exhortation received at After Eve. But for many years as I continued working in a spokesperson role, I never had the full freedom to write FOR ME because what I said would always reflect back on my employer in one way or the other. I am good (IMHO) at speaking on behalf of others, but really have not grown in my ability to write on behalf of me.

I’ve been thinking about this a whole lot lately. I feel like I still have something left in me to achieve from a writing perspective. I just don’t really know what it is. I have asked God a million times and I still am not sure that he has given me a specific direction on what to write.

This compelling urge to write, coupled with an extreme vagueness on what my topic should be, has left me paralyzed. This blog is all over the place and there is no real focus. I’ve given myself permission to just let that be as I try out different topics and styles trying to find one that fits. But I still don’t think I’ve found it.

So today as I pondered these things, I thought I would present the question here and see if those who actually still read the few things I do write had some input on this.

What do you think that I should write?

I am feeling really vulnerable putting this out there like this.  Honestly, this scares the fool out of me. I am afraid of what you will say (or won’t say) and I am afraid of being real about my struggles with this. But the fact is that fears — lots of them — are the reasons why I stay stagnant but the fear of regret is becoming stronger than the fears holding me back. I think I am now at a place where I am ready to face those fears and try to pursue writing beyond the hodgepodge, inconsistent, self-indulgent stuff I’ve been posting here.

I participate in a Bible study at my church called “Chase” by Jennie Allen. We are studying the life of King David in the Old Testament. It is really powerful and each week the questions are very thought-provoking; the kind of questions that really make you think and sometimes make you feel uncomfortable answering truthfully.

Today’s question was: If you were to meet God tomorrow, what would you regret?

At the time, I couldn’t come up with an answer, probably because I was too afraid to face it.  But this afternoon as I found myself with a few quiet moments (nap time, hooray!) I spent time reflecting on this question and here is what I came up with:

Today at Bible study, the question was “if you met God tomorrow what would you regret?” well that’s easy: Writing. I write all the time for my own enjoyment but I do have a dream to do more with my writing, and (gasp) perhaps bring in some added income to our family. I dream that my words would influence others in a positive way, that my words would validate and inspire hope in others. My biggest fear in writing is being “wrong” and being criticized. I do not receive criticism well and I don’t want to cause confusion or be misunderstood. Those are huge obstacles for me. I keep searching all my life for this “thing” that will be “my” thing. My calling. My purpose. If I met God tomorrow I would probably regret that I didn’t take the time to figure that out and actually do something significant with this talent/skill/dream that has always been in my heart. 

And not long after that, I had the idea to write this blog post and ask those of you who read my blog what YOU think about all of this.

I really do want feedback of any and all kinds. If you prefer to email me privately please do at annielauriewalters{at}gmail-dot-com. I am eager to receive your thoughts on this ever-vexing question: What Should I Write??

 

 

 

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Aslan is on the move

I just love this quote from C.S. Lewis’s “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”. It’s probably one of my most favorite literature quotes of all time. There is something so powerful and exciting and hard to really wrap my arms around entirely within the context and the feel of a very short sentence that, for me, is packed full of both meaning and mystery.

It’s 3 am and lately this is the hour I’ve done my best thinking and writing. My littlest one wakes me to feed and while he dreams so do I… Big, God inspired dreams that only God can bring at 3 am.

In this season of life, it’s so easy to be distracted by the negative… By the challenges…

But that’s what’s so absolutely awesome about our dear Aslan… He is always on the move.He is never distracted. He is never worried. He never even sleeps. He doesn’t have to. While we dream, whether awake or asleep, He is always always always on the move.

This Spirit, of hopeful mystery that does not disappoint, thinks it best to speak to me and inspire me in these wee hours caring for wee ones. And all I can think is that Aslan is on the move.

I pray that mysterious hope fills my heart and mind when sleep and rest do not…When I type my stories with one thumb in the middle of the dark because in this season that’s the best time for stories to be recorded.

Not just the idea, but the TRUTH, that my wonderful, powerful Aslan is always on the move, will always be enough to help me rise and keep hoping and dreaming and believing that, because of Him, I am enough and because of Him, I will do even greater things.

I will never know what it is about 3 am that inspires me so. But I am certain Aslan is behind it. And I’m so excited to see where He is moving me and you and us.

aslan

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Growing Up GOP

40

Today I came across a New York Times article titled, “Why Teenagers Today May Grow Up Conservative.” I found these observations to be quite legitimate and wanted to share how my own personal experience reflects these findings.

I was born in 1977. When I was 8 years old, I wrote my first letter to the Reagan White House. I was in the second grade at the time but I was not writing for a school assignment. I had a question about how the government works and my family encouraged me to write. I received a huge pack of info and will never forget the impact that made on my little 8-year-old heart and mind. A few years later, I remember learning about term limits and feeling so scared when I realized Reagan wouldn’t be our president forever. The only way I could make sense of this was to campaign for George H.W. Bush because if he served with President Reagan than he obviously should be the next president. And by campaign I mean sticking Bush/Quayle 88 stickers on my trapper keeper.

August 1996, I was packing my bags preparing to return to Union University as a rising sophomore when I first heard Elizabeth Dole speak. She was addressing the Republican National Convention on behalf of her husband Bob (of course).  I remember being so moved by her words but more so by her presence. She began her speech by saying,

“Now, you know, tradition is that speakers at the Republican National Convention remain at this very imposing podium. But tonight I’d like to break with tradition for two reasons — one, I’m going to be speaking to friends, and secondly, I’m going to be speaking about the man I love. And it’s just a lot more comfortable for me to do that down here with you.”

As a young woman, a conservative, and admittedly idealistic 19-year-old college student, you can imagine the impression she made on me. The whole time she was speaking I kept thinking, “what a classy lady. I want to be like her one day.” Little did I know at the time that, in only a few short years, I would be working in the U.S. Senate and attend the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, not to mention passing Senator Elizabeth Dole in the halls of Congress on a regular basis.

The next stop on my journey was the year 2000. Y2K had failed to destroy the world and I was back in Memphis after a brief stint as a one-man-band TV news reporter in suburban Atlanta. It was a typical sweltering August day when I got a postcard inviting me to a campaign stop for presidential candidate George W. Bush — only two miles from my parents house in Bartlett. Of course I went and I was so incredibly fired up by the experience that I emailed my friend Jay from Union who was working for our Congressman, Ed Bryant, and asked him if he knew of any jobs in Washington. It just so happened that our senior U.S. Senator Fred Thompson had an entry-level position open. A few weeks later, I’m on a flight to DC and on September 11, 2000 I began my nearly 8 year career working on Capitol Hill.

To bring it all full circle, I was working on the Hill when President Reagan passed away. It was one of the highlights of my time in DC, to have the opportunity to participate in several memorial services and events to celebrate the life and legacy of a leader who I so admired and respected, even from such a young age.

I do not come from an overtly political family. We never went to fundraisers or campaign events or anything like that. We are hard-working, military and war veterans, public school retirees and small business owners who believe the best way to order life is God, Family, Country. You work hard and you earn your way… this was the essence of being American. Yet it is upon this foundation that my exposure, experiences and interactions with conservative republican ideology significantly shaped, not only my future voting decisions, but the trajectory of my career and where I would spend the majority of my adult life thus far. After reading the above referenced New York Times article, you can see the that author’s observations played out in my own life.

Certainly there are other factors involved in shaping the political ideology of an individual, much more so a generation. But as a late 30’s Gen-X-er, mother to (nearly) three children all under age 3, I can’t help but think about how the landscape will look as my children become aware of the world around them and how the cultural majority will influence their own ideologies whether I agree with that influence or not. I am especially curious to see what becomes of the oft analyzed and mystified “Millennial’s” and how they will (or won’t) leave a lasting mark that shapes the political views of my own little brood.

Reading this article was a refreshing reminder that, while there is nothing new under the sun, it is also true that the times are always changing and shifting. Events both predictable and completely out of our control all play a large part in shaping both political ideologies and public opinion. It will be interesting to review these observations 10 years from now and see if history does in fact repeat itself, as it so reliably has since the beginning.  

“The only constant is change” – Heraclitus of Ephesus (535-475 BC)

Posted in Life as I Know It | Leave a comment

Lent, Fasting and Me

Nearly two months in to 2014 and this is my first post. I am very pleased to tell you that I have been busy reading my chronological Bible as I indicated my intention to do in my last post of 2013. I have read through Genesis, Job and Exodus along with John 1 (alongside Genesis 1) and a few Psalms spattered in here and there. So far its been great. I am very glad to discover this chronological reading of the Bible. It is the fresh perspective I needed to bring these readings to life, especially the tough “books of Law.” I start Leviticus tomorrow. Pray for me.

I have several ideas for blogs whirling around in my mind, alas I have not made time to write. I really enjoyed my “month of writing” last November and I thought it would spur me on to continue writing regularly. It didn’t. I haven’t. But I hope that is about to change.

Growing up Southern Baptist in West Tennessee, I never really knew much about observing Lent. I scarcely recall seeing anyone with ash on their forehead until I moved to Washington, DC. Ash Wednesday on Capitol Hill is probably a bigger day for St. Joseph’s than Christmas or Easter Sunday combined. My first Ash Wednesday on the Hill, I was so fascinated by all the people around me who, apparently, observed Lent. I actually felt I was in the minority because I didn’t have the cross of ash swiped across my brow. This naturally led to some investigating and educating on my part, to learn more about Ash Wednesday, Lent and what it all had to do with Easter.

In my investigating, I began to understand that many of my friends — particularly the non-Catholics/Episcopalians — observed Lent as a way to practice fasting and focus on eternal things leading up to Holy Week and Easter.  In my religious tradition, the teaching on fasting was as scarce as fasting itself. So over the last 10 or so years I have researched this important Christian discipline. I practiced it a few times surrounding my mission trips, but I suppose I am not supposed to tell you that since our fasting should be done in secret (Matthew 6:16-18).

Nonetheless, I have never practiced a fast longer than a day at most (sundown to sundown). I have wanted to. I have prayed about it. But I never did it. At one point I thought I should be “led” to fast, and while the Bible does not expressly command Christians to fast; I am not sure that we should wait on specific “leading” to do what appears to be a beneficial thing for all Christians to do. Fasting and prayer went hand-in-hand for Jesus, and if my goal, as his disciple, is to follow his ways, then perhaps I need to examine why I don’t already practice this spiritual discipline, rather than wonder “if” I should.

I recently read the book “7” by Jen Hatmaker. According to her website, “7” is the true story of how Jen took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence. In other words, she fasted for 7 months, each month fasting from a different area of excess including: media, stress, possessions, shopping, food, clothes, and waste. The book is a journal of her experiences with this fast.

Talk about a page-turner! I read “7” in about 2 days because I had to know how it ended :) I now plan to go back and reread it slowly and deliberately, and discuss it with some women who are much wiser than me! However, in the process of reading “7” among other things God has been teaching me, I have decided to do a fast of my own.

Aligning with Lent, I will fast from social media until Easter Sunday. Social media meaning all of it: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and, yes, even this blog. At first I thought that eliminating social media from my life may actually enable me to actually do some writing! And I hope that is some of the “fruit” of this time, but as I prayed about it I am certain that God was saying, to really do this in a powerful way, I need to fast from all of it, including the blog. So if writing does come out of this fast, the posts will come after Easter.

Despite Matthew 6:16-18, I am telling you that I am fasting, largely because I don’t want folks to think I fell off the face of the earth. The fact that I would even write that is indicative of the necessity of this fast, as if the world would even notice my voice removed from the online conversation.

Social media is amazing and wonderful and its the standard for how we share information. I am not hating on it and I am not leaving it forever. I am fasting from it because I want to take some time to focus on the most important relationship I have: my relationship with God through Jesus Christ. And when I return to social media, my prayer is that I will return with clear boundaries in place to ensure that I do not allow this to become a dominate force in my life. If we are honest, I think that we can all relate to times when Facebook takes over our life. It sounds pathetic, but its true and its a temptation that all of us will face if we haven’t already.

I know this is not an original concept. I am one in a very long line of many who have taken a social media “break” so I know I am in good company here. But for me, I am at a point where I want to go deeper in my walk with the Lord. Reading “7” really challenged me. I may even consider following her example and fasting from other areas of excess in the coming months. But to start, I knew without a doubt that my BIGGEST area of excess is social media. I recently had this thought, that one day when I stand before the Lord, he may look at me and say, “Really AnnieLaurie? Really?? You spent THAT MUCH TIME on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc etc etc” at the expense of other things that have much more value — especially “in real life” relationships and experiences.

So we will see how this fast goes. As I said, I begin the fast with Lent on Wednesday, March 5 and will continue through Easter Sunday. I really really hope that this time of quieting my mind from all the noise results in many new blog entries. But my primary focus during this fast will be on enriching my relationship with the Lord, and if that includes writing than I will be a very happy girl!

Have any of you fasted like this? Any tips for a beginner? :) Let me know!

Lent

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My Focus for 2014

I began 2013 committing to focus on one word for the year: Believe. This turned into Believing God and a secondary focus on God’s Promises. I set out to scour the Bible to learn about God’s promises and how I could rightly apply those promises to my life. This was, in a way, my mission statement for the year.

As 2013 comes to a close I realize that, while I have learned much and been given many opportunities to “Believe God,” I still have so, so much to learn… about the Bible. In my pursuit of God’s promises I realized that I really have only scratched the surface of the depth and breadth of the Word of God. Perhaps one will never come to the end of this depth but I have come to realize (admit) that, despite my pride, I really don’t know the scriptures as well as I think. Why does this matter?

Some of the other insights gleaned from this year of Believing God, include a proper instruction and total conviction of the living and active power of the Word. As a believer in Jesus, God’s word is the most valuable asset in which to invest my time and on which to build my life. I think that I have done the best I could up until now. I have memorized verses, I have read chapters of the Bible, some verses are highlighted and others are underlined. I have definitely spent alot of time over the years of my life studying the Bible. But I have never read it all. I still have so much to learn.

Furthermore, and I have said this on the blog before, the biggest insight of this year is that the entire Bible is a promise. All of it. A promise of redemption, forgiveness, salvation, freedom, eternal life and more, if there could even be more than those. So for me, what started as a quest to know God’s Promises turned into a realization that, in order to best understand God’s Promises I must obtain a clearer and firmer understanding of the entirety of his Word.

So my focus for 2014 is going to be on God’s Word. Its a broad topic for sure. But I am thrilled about it because I will learn SO MUCH along the way. I am especially looking forward to obtaining a deeper connection and personal application to the concepts of mercy and grace found all throughout the Bible.

To help me in this new quest, for Christmas my husband gave me four extremely valuable resources to get me deeper into my study. I am going to read the Bible chronologically using a method called Read the Bible for Life, written by Dr. George Guthrie, a professor from my alma mater, Union University.  I am so excited to dive into a chronological reading of scripture. The readings are thematically chronological, for example I wont read the entire book of Psalms at once, the Psalms will be placed in chronological order as their context applies to other books of the Bible. I probably didn’t do a great job of explaining that but I hope it makes sense.

So I got the book explaining the method, the Bible laid out in chronological order, the year long reading plan, and the workbook designed to assist the reader in a deeper study of the daily reading.

What I love about this plan is that it lasts all year, unlike other Bible studies that typically only last 8-12 weeks; its all laid out and ready, all I have to do is make the time to read it. The daily readings are not dated like other year-long reading plans so I wont feel super stressed if the calendar doesn’t match up with the day I am on in my reading because lets face it, I am going to fall behind a bit. There is no way around that one, I have baby, a toddler and even more surprises to come in 2014.

So my hope is that this time next year I am celebrating something I’ve never been able to complete in my life: reading through the entire Bible. I can’t wait to discover all the richness that awaits!

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

But Jesus answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Joshua 1:8

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

 

Posted in Believe, God, God's Promises, One Word 365 | 4 Comments

Goals

Well, October is gone and I did not write for 31 days. I did good though. I did better than I thought I would and better than I did last year. Despite failing to write for 31 days, I am still proud of what I accomplished. I learned alot about myself through putting together these posts. I also realized that, in order for me to be a “better blogger” I *do* need to write every day. Even if I don’t post every day, I still need to spend time writing each day. I still have many great posts on deck that I wrote last month, they just weren’t ready to post. Writing each day helps me be better and gives me lots of content to work with. Moving forward I do plan on posting more regularly to this blog, it just wont be every day :) We will see what I eventually work up to, but for now three times a week feels like a good goal.

I also enjoyed the freedom of writing about whatever I wanted. I stopped worrying about writing for a niche or on a specific topic. I know that is what good bloggers “do” but for me it was more important to just get some words out there and lets face it, I named this blog “My Living Canvas” because I didn’t want to be boxed into a certain topic. Each day my canvas is clean, just waiting for me to add something to it and I need to freedom to let the words go where they want to go.

So that’s it. #31Days of Life as I Know it may be complete, but for me it was the jump-start I needed to fall back in love with writing. So in that case, I did reach my goal and I am proud of what I’ve accomplished.

 

Posted in Life as I Know It | 2 Comments

Yes

I am coming out of a very long season of No. Ever since I became a parent I pretty much said no to everything that had nothing to do with my successfully transitioning to parenthood. That was a little over 2 years ago. But many other things happened in the last two years. Not only did we have 2 children, we moved three times, Brian started working in ministry, I stopped working full time, our annual household income decreased by nearly 70% as we transitioned into our new roles, and I now live far enough away from the friendships I had developed over the years that my friends actually want to bring an overnight bag when they visit. And these are just the biggies.

In hindsight I can honestly say that I have been in a fog. That’s the only way I really know how to describe it. I have friends in my life who met me while I was in the fog. As of late they’ve commented on how I have really changed. I say, no, you’re just getting to know the real me.

About this time last year I decided that it was time for me to come out of my cocoon. LucyKate was nearly a year old, I was finally getting a consistent 8 hours of sleep again, and it was painfully obvious to me that I desperately needed to make some friends. I have a ton of great friends all over the area, but the large majority of them live at minimum a 35 minute commute from me. So I joined two mom’s groups: a Bible study for moms called “Mothering Matters” and Mothers Of PreSchoolers aka MOPS.

At the time of my joining these groups, deep in my heart, my number one goal was attendance. I didn’t really care if I came prepared, participated, or shared a thing about myself I just knew I needed to form the discipline of getting myself out of my house and connected to some other like-minded women in a similar life stage as me. So I joined, and I showed up. And then I got pregnant with #2 which made my goal of just showing up even more challenging.

Praise God that is one goal I didn’t abandon. Fast forward one year later and I am still in both of these groups. I am serving in a small role at MOPS working on our monthly newsletter as well as being challenged to step outside my comfort zone in other areas of leadership that I typically avoid (like leading a devotion for 30 women). MOPS has been great for me, I have enjoyed meeting new people, getting to know some acquaintances better, and even being reunited with a dear friend who was in my first women’s Bible study through Frontline 10 years ago when we were still single gals:) One of the best parts about saying Yes to MOPS has been getting to know more women at my church. I’ve gone to McLean Bible Church for 11 years but now that we are a church with different campus in locations around town, starting at a new campus can feel alot like starting at a brand new church. Ive only been attending my current campus for two years. And MOPS has played an instrumental role in helping me meet other women.

Going to these gatherings is the highlight of my weeks, especially my Mothering Matters Bible study. The group is different from MOPS in that we meet in the mornings each week for Bible study while MOPS is every other Tuesday evening, without kids, and is more of a program with various elements/speaker/craft etc. Many have asked me the difference between the two so I thought it was worth explaining.

My Mothering Matters group recently started studying the book Multiply by Francis Chan and David Platt. This study couldn’t be more well timed for me and where I am right now coming out of my “fog.” The study focuses on Jesus’ command to his followers to go make disciples. The content is challenging and convicting in a way that my heart desperately needed. The discussions we have in our group about each chapter have been both inspired and inspiring. The best part is seeing how God is at work in each of our lives, recognizing that and encouraging one-another in that has been restorative and life-giving to me and I am so thankful for these women.

For the first time in literally YEARS I feel like I have some momentum. Something inside me is continually propelling me forward. For years I felt  strangely stagnant and stale, simply surviving the days. But since the fall began it is clear to me and to others around me who have told me so that God is doing a new thing in me. And I couldn’t be more excited.

I just think back to that small yes, the decision and simple goal to just show up to MOPS and Mothering Matters, and how in such a short period of time I find myself now with all this momentum, moving forward in life, toward God and growing in meaningful community with other believers. Its an exciting season and it all started with one small yes.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
Isaiah 43:19

This post is one of several in the series “31 Days of Life as I Know It.” Click here to see a list of all posts in the series.

Posted in 31 Days of Life as I Know It, Courage | 2 Comments