Painting Your Portrait

I once knew a girl who was an accessory. This twenty-one year old memory surfaced this morning as I ran through the squishy ground near my home, swirls of hardening mud from our recent flood beneath my feet.

The contrast was startling: A storm can mix the earth together, spit it out and make it look like a newly painted canvas, but when a storm is finished with a human? The scars always find cracks to grow through.

Her dad needed to appear like a family man to one of his clients, so he brought his daughter to the theater with them—a highly anticipated movie in which to delight. But the experience wasn’t meant for the daughter to take part. It was a shiny lie. She sat in the seat, surrounded by the darkness of her father’s ambition. It was her only memory of going to the movies with her dad.

She developed emotional problems. A low self-esteem—all the symptoms for immediate family members of workaholics.

I worked at the boarding school where her parents shipped her to. A true introvert, she was stuffed into a roomful of bunk beds, and suffered almost as much from lack of space as she did being separated from the parents who didn’t take the time to raise her.

On more than one occasion, I broke the rules and let her slip into a private spot for some breathing room. I’m in the same needs-space club, I get it. Determined to finish the program and get back home, she always reappeared at the right time. But, as she attended regular counseling, strict discipline, and held to a high behavioral standard, what she didn’t understand was that her dad was an addict and the problem wasn’t hers to fix.

The American dream comes with a high cost, friends.

Workaholism is called the best-dressed addiction for a reason, luring everyone from the career-driven to supermoms. Don’t let anyone ever guilt you into biting off more than you can chew. A few quality projects is better than a hundred rushed ones. Feel free to park the mini van and give yourself some breathing room, ladies. In fact, if you don’t chill you will suffer, your spouse will suffer, and your kids will suffer as much or more than families of alcoholics.

I don’t like losing my momentum, but I can’t help but pause my run to take a few photos. My eyes open wider with the question again. How can the land look so freshly renovated after a storm tears it to bits, but a human cannot?

While the same spirit that runs through the earth runs through us, provides us with the same oxygen and infuses us with the same minerals, humans were given the ability to make decisions. We were given souls.

We aren’t just torn down and re-formed like a patch of earth is, we were given wills and internal moral codes to navigate with. Choices. And it’s never all about the individual. We all feel the responses of the ones closest to us in this beautifully ravaged landscape.

I pass a stagnant puddle. It stinks. Bad. Complacency is no good either. When I was a young child and wasn’t ready to give up swimming when late August rolled around, I swam in stagnant creek water. I developed sores all over my scalp that sent me to the dermatologist. It’s the same with humans. Keeping your talents to yourself produces rot.

Without hard work and adversity, a creek can’t grow and bring water to the thirsty. But too much and it floods homes and drowns the living.

But it’s okay to lose momentum sometimes. The bubbling of a creek is soothing and beautiful. It’s okay to slow down and make less money. I just bought my kids an armful of school clothes from discount stores. They’ll learn the gift of balance (eventually), and their peers will learn to deal. Designer labels, for us, is nothing but a siren’s song.

Rest. Enjoy your family.

Did you see those details in the landscape today?

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Things I Learn From My Dog

My dog can sense earthquakes in our neighboring state of California. Tail in-between legs, bark at the ready, she shifts into high alert as if every flap of wing or roar of an engine electrifies her. She’s protective, and determines to catch every single unsettling current until the threat is gone.
She runs laps. Not one or two, but intermittent laps around the yard in between dinner, TV time & bedtime stories. She’ll do this for one day, or several days, working until the earthquake passes. On nights like these, I can hear her dog door flapping throughout the night as she makes her rounds.
Finally, she’ll collapse and rest.
It reminds me of the days when my mind spins like a broken record, catching on all those ideas that jump track.
On into the night, a mish-mash of unfinished files to sort out.

So, the next morning, I don’t nap—I do like Bella does and I run. I go to the gym and hit the treadmill, then I pop on the elliptical. Finally, I take on the weight machines until I’m exhausted.
Now I can get to work. I pull the good ideas from my mind and sort them out on paper, or the computer screen. I work until I feel the tide shift. I don’t always see it, but I feel it. That’s the spot where faith thrives, in the unseen realm where I’m beyond my limits.
Then I can rest.
It’s not real rest until you’ve worked with everything you’ve got. Until you’ve unwrapped your God-given gifts and covered your space of the world with them. The outcome is not up to us, it’s up to God. Our job is to just do our thing.


My daughter was recently diagnosed with a recipe for anything: a possible concussion, a strange virus, or dehydration. She had hit her head twice the day I picked her up from a slumber party—the week I had finished my latest batch of edits. Fun, and many frenzied weeks of school had exhausted her; work had exhausted me. Doctor’s orders were to rest. Chloe slept late for three days, lingering in a haze for the remainder of her awake time, and napping like she had run laps for a half century.
Rest: what we don’t do enough of, which is why I skipped my blog last week.

You’re disturbing my rest

Experts say to stay on top of things you must be in constant motion; that if you don’t make yourself stand above the fray you won’t make a difference in this world. That no one will hear you.
But rest softened Choe’s edge, and she and Noah enjoyed their playtime together again. To make her feel better, Noah shaved off several locks of his hair, and slathered on his Daddy’s deodorant to make her laugh. Laughter all the way to school—the product of rest.
We miss God’s touch when we fix our eyes to the front of the crowd. For your Tuesday, Here are a few beautiful pauses within the thick of motion.

Back Porch Sittin’

While on break from writing chapter 15 a few days ago, Bella and I reclined on the patio. Just me, my dog and the intoxicating autumn sun. The day was mellow-warm, and a cool breeze lulled my overstimulated mind.

Spider webs cascaded through every corner of the yard, in between patio chairs; woven above the long pipes of the wind chimes. I belsafrowned—I had killed two spiders in my kids shower last night. It is October, the month of scary creatures. Instantly, I think of the two dominating the news right now, then push that thought away.

The breeze carried a thread of silk into the sky, all silvery and graceful. I admired their constructors’ perseverance—they build and rebuild webs until their time to weave is done. Despite us two-legged creatures who plough through their homes and take out their family members “just in case” they find their ways into our shoes or beds to bite us, they never stop construction. Underneath our chairs, from pillar to pillar where we walk through each day, from neighbor’s yard to neighbor’s yard, building bridges between us all whether we like their methods or not.

Metaphors reign all over my backyard—such is the curse of a writer’s imagination. I see them everywhere—in chapter 15, the news. It’s all one giant web, concealing who the good guys really are.

What I most want to do is to drown out the noise and just enjoy the autumn sun. How about you? Do you need to rest? Why don’t you join me on my virtual patio, and we’ll build a bridge or two? Turn off the debates, take off your shoes and sit awhile. Want to see the Darwin’s Bark spider in action? Have a seat and enjoy this miracle.


Last week was Spring Break and it was anything but restful. Of all the weeks to be pressed to work a little harder to meet deadlines, it had to be the week my kids were free from their own. Exhausted before I had finished, I packed my kids in the car and we headed to my mom’s place where WiFi doesn’t exist and acres of land spread before us. My kids ran like rabbits on sugar and I pulled a chair under the sun to soak up some light.

It was a nice beak, but not quite enough. We headed back home and I dug into work again. While preparing for my writers group, I found an old blog that showed me what I had been missing.

It wasn’t the blog itself, but the photos. This is one of our trees. Resting.

100_2663Wintertime is when creation pulls in its blooms for a nap. The creatures nestle inside their burrows, even the colors fade into sleep until spring.

When the land has rested, it blooms again. It doesn’t run itself ragged like we do, feeling guilt from the smallest of breaks. It’s so easy to go and go until we burn out and then go some more.

Creation goes until its flame is the most beautiful. And then it rests a while.


By the time it’s ready to go again, it lacks nothing. Its even able to give shade to those who may need it.


And it becomes so renewed, it reflects the joy of others that surround it.


 Pouring your best work into the world requires seasons of rest. Have a blessed week.



“Uh huh, I know how that is, Pounce.” I give the old tiger striped thing a nod and watch him stare at the sunspot. He snuggled next to it as it shone over the patch of wall and dusty plant, but after all his efforts it wouldn’t move to his spot on the floor. After he pawed it, nudged it with his head, he sauntered to my bed still soaked in morning shade and fell asleep.
I wanted a moment too. Hot tea and uninterrupted silence to wake, pray, and charge up for what the day brings. Like Pounce, I try grabbing for that comfort, but the house erupts early, before I can open my eyes and I find myself without my sunspot. My body jerks to life like a cold car engine and sputters, reeling in the chaos before I’m ready to go.100_2286
After dropping my daughter off at school, I find a cartoon for Noah. I can’t tell you how Sesame Street and Curious George bless me with an hour and a half of time to get a few things done. Of course, every couple minutes brings an interruption, every commercial break brings who knows—a full body tackle from a rowdy little boy, a temper tantrum, a “Mommy, I need…”
I find Pounce asleep on my bed. His aging frame has shrunk, his paws no longer twitch in his sleep from dream adventures – he just stays curled in a fuzzy ball, waiting for his sun.
The light creeps down the wall, finding the floor when Curious George comes on. Pounce doesn’t know it, but the sun is coming, still shining, still doing its job as he sleeps. The moment I wait for is coming too. The Son I crave never sleeps. When I sit down to write, when I scrub the oatmeal off neon bowls, He comes. Sometimes, when He hasn’t given me that moment to sit, He stays at my side shining on my boy that is rowdy, but…healthy. He shines on those dirty dishes that soak in the filth so easily, but hold all the food we need. He illuminates the small things that rob me of rest, but when I take a moment to be where He wants me, I find they’re blessings. And I can rest in the Son that never fades.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2

What do you do when that thing you want seems unreachable? Tell us in the comments.