Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Laryngitis of the Soul - 3rd in a Series

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
We are headed into deep water, so be prepared? If you think the toddler swimmie you grabbed from the local drug store last summer to keep your youngest afloat will do the job in the days ahead, rethink things now. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

This series is about a writer who contracted laryngitis of the soul and lost her voice. I told you that. I told you professional bloggers with much Google-fu advised me to lose the fraidy cat and rebrand.

I want you to know I admire, respect, and appreciate their advice. Given their understanding of analytics, SEO, and branding, they make a valid point. If I embrace my inner fraidy cat, brands who wander by here may tend to shy away.

In embracing who I am, I diminish my validity and marketability. I may as well have a big ole ‘L’ for loser right across my unprofessional forehead – especially if I miss a comma or two here and there at three in the morning. I get that. I do.
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative 

So, when I left the shores of Captiva behind, wheelbarrow loads of conference speak buried me neck deep. Those words mixed and mingled with where I was in life until I lost my confidence, my courage, and my belief in myself.

I became overwhelmed with the need to do more, better, faster and to master everything at once. The urgency of it all became more than I could bear. I burned out before I really got started.

I mourned privately and lurked on my professional blogging groups. I pinned blog minutia and supported the shiny, spit polished platforms others were creating. 

I thought, “One day, I’ll need this and get back to it. Oh, who am I kidding? At the rate technology changes, by the time I get back to it, this info will be obsolete.”

I had to have weekly immunizations for envy and jealousy as my blogger friends met and exceeded goal after goal while I tried to think of one I could set.

Before I knew it, six months had elapsed while I tried to pretend I was not a writer and that I’d never had a blog to begin with. I don’t mind telling you, it was pure agony.
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

And, in those months of quiet, my private life became even more chaotic. A hard fought for marriage kept slipping more and more out of reach no matter what I prayed, what I did, or who the counselor was this time.

I think I realized how close the end was the first time I heard Christina Aguilera and Great Big World sing, “Say Something”. I can’t remember the last time I cried til that moment.

I don’t think I even cried in the fifty-six numb days between life and death when my courageous, conscious, fully lucid mom lingered on a ventilator.

But that song, that song, reduced me to sobs that would not stop for hours on end. It was as if all the tears I had not cried in almost twenty-five years found their voice on the wings of that song and would no longer be silenced.

And, this my friend is where my story stops being one only writers can identify with and becomes one for any fraidy cat who has had laryngitis of the soul. 

If you know me, you know I am a person of hard fought for, down in the dirt wrestling, sweaty-ugly faith. If you are just meeting me – I’m not one to sugar coat things about my faith. I hope that won’t set you back too much?  

I know there is a God who cares, and I don’t think he is the one that sits on Bette Midler’s ‘distant shore’ watching me with cold indifference.

I do understand the irony when I turn around and say I am not always sure where he is showing up in my story. Shoot, a lot of the time I wonder if he is aware of my story at all. There. I admitted it.

I was having one of those nights of arm wrestling with God. The house was quiet enough to imply my two insomniacs had finally drifted off for good.

The debris of the day was scattered around me like a World War I mine field. Mocking me. Reminding me I had bills to pay, boxes to pack, school to plan, cabinets to paint, one-hundred other things that one person simply could not do alone, and a marriage in the last gasps of death.

The soulful strains of “Say Something” gripped me by the heart, and floods of tears drenched the computer keyboard. I don’t know why I wasn’t electrocuted.

Yes, I know it’s a secular song, but as that song filled the room, I cried out to God. “Look at this mess. Do you see me? DO YOU SEE ME? It’s humanly impossible. Do you see?”

And into that forsaken misery it seemed a whisper filled my heart:

Yes. I see you. I know your circumstances are untrustworthy and have been for as long as you can remember now. I know you cannot depend upon the earthly one who promised to be the most dependable to you in the entire world. I get that. I do. 
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Now I have a question for you. In the midst of everything that is untrustworthy, do you trust me with your untrustworthy circumstances? Do you?”  

Well, I told you this journey was not for the faint of heart and that drug store swim wings were not going to be sufficient. I told you this is a story for anyone who had ever suffered from voice stealing laryngitis of the soul. Believe me now?

I see you, fraidy cat. If you are longing to come in from the cold, you are welcome here. You don’t have to explain a thing. I get you. I do. Love you long and strong. See you soon?

Isaiah 33:2 (ERV)
Lord, be kind to us. We have waited for your help. Give us strength every morning. Save us when we are in trouble.

Click below to follow the series: 
 Part 1 and Part 2   

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

When a Writer Loses Her Voice – Part 2 in a Series

(Stop! Before you do another thing, look to the left and subscribe to the blog? It’s the only way you’ll see all the posts in order of appearance. And, I’ll sleep better tonight if I know I am not alone. Ahhh. There now. That’s better.)

My head was a hurting, spinning mess as I stumbled up onto the shuttle to head home. My heart and soul were in worse shape.

I was torn between two lovers: the desire to use the one thing I have left to earn a living (words) and the drive to be true to who I am and to the one who made me (Christ).

“Can it be that hard,” I wondered, “to figure out who I am in the midst of the expert voices telling me whom I ought to be and how to be me? Oh, why did I ever get so high and mighty as to come to this conference?”  

That’s where this story gets trickier, messier, and, I hope, more compelling. It wasn’t what the ninja bloggers said or how they said it that infected me with laryngitis of the soul.They were just the unwitting petri dishes in which the virus mushroomed and took over. 

The beach slipped away, and my desperation deepened. I drank in the view trying to imprint it all and fortify myself for what was coming.

Past, present, and future swirled in a vortex. I closed my eyes and saw her - a little girl welcoming her parents home from the beach. It was winter and prime shelling season. I dug down deep into the bag anxious to see the treasures hidden there. 

I shrieked, threw down the bag, and jumped away from the warmth of the fireplace. “What’s in that thing?”

My mom chuckled a little and said, “I’m not sure. What happened?”

My fraidy cat was on high alert when I peeped into the bag before I reached. Two starfish had twined tightly around each other. I guess it was their last dying gasp after so many hours without life giving salt water.

The bus jolted, and little girl me was gone again.

I looked over at my California bound friend. Trying to cram a year’s worth of that ‘thing’ between long distance friends into less than an hour’s ride, we exchanged bits and pieces of hurried conversation.

She is brave and beautiful and knows about the broken places when God is up to something that must make sense in Heaven but makes no sense when you are living through Hell.

I wanted to say, “I’m the starfish, and I’m running out of time,” but, time had run out. I hugged her hard wishing osmosis between us would fix my broken places.

And then, I was alone to contemplate my brokenness and the laryngitis of my soul.

If you have come here expecting answers in five-hundred word bullet lists of ten easy items you can check off on your lunch break while you manage your Twitter and paint your nails, it’s time for you to bounce.

Answers to our deepest longings are not stumbled upon in the ADHD fractured musings of our high octane lives.

And, if you know me, you know I do not pounce on and conquer a story before the commercial break. I sneak up on the story from behind and end up taking us where I did not know I was going until we all get there together. I live dangerously like that.

If you get me because I get you, I hope you will come back again soon. Invite a fraidy cat friend you know who has lost her voice and can’t figure out where to find it.

I think I can keep writing if you keep coming back for more.

You may wonder why I end many of my posts by telling fraidy cats they are welcome here. I tell them this is a safe place to come in from the cold.

I do so because it’s hard for fraidy cats to feel welcome in this Pinterest perfect, have-your-best-life-now televangelist drenched world.

You are welcome here. I see you. I pray for you even when I don’t know your name or your fear. I get you. I do.

Click here for #1 in this series and for Part 3.

Ephesians 2:10 (NRSV) For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

If Facebook is where you want to keep track of this community:

1) Go to Facebook and search for Confessions of a Fraidy Cat.
2) Hit ‘like’ on the upper right of the COAFC page, so it registers a check mark.
3) Click on the ‘following’ button right beside it, so it registers a check mark as well.
4) Watch for the COAF posts in your newsfeed. 5) Come check my page if Facebook doesn’t send me to you?

Love you long and strong. See you soon.

A Fraidy Cat Without a Voice

What do you call a writer who lost her voice? I didn’t see it coming, but it didn’t come as a shock either now that I am looking in the rear view mirror of life.

The voice stealer had been circling me at a distance. I could feel him out there like a wolf circling pray in the dark of a winter blizzard. I was edgy. Hyper-vigilant.

I kept moving thinking I’d out run him, and everything would be fine.

It was last year this time. I was on a lovely resort in Florida traipsing around alligator and python infested golf courses in the dark. That’s what friends do when they are lost on a resort in Florida, I guess.

I was with writers and bloggers the likes of Michael Hyatt, and I was a pretender.

I was pretending that life was o.k. and that I was one of them or would be shortly. Months later, a sweet friend from Alberta inboxed me, “I sensed heaviness about you when we were all at Captiva. I knew you were not ok. I am praying for you.”

I made myself scarce while trying to network and connect. It felt like even more of an oxymoron than it sounds.

My marriage was in tatters. I was newly separated and numb. It was hard to put on a pretty, successful face when the whole world felt ugly and cold and scary.

And, I was far from successful at anything. I couldn’t even succeed in my own private life.

A high powered blogger sat down beside me. She keeps a professional distance and seems impatient when dealing with me. I was prepared to give her the needed space to allow me to emerge unscathed.

Courtesy D. Scott
She turned unexpectedly towards me. “You,” she sniffed, “need to stop calling yourself a fraidy cat,” as if I had publicly branded myself with a scarlet ‘F’ for brand failure.

I sank lower in my seat. I don’t remember much of what she said after that. Not that she said much more.

Her words echoed in my ears and mixed with words I had heard a few months earlier from another high powered blogger. You know, the kind who makes more in a month than I made the last year I worked full-time.

“People don’t care about that inspirational stuff you guys write. They want stuff that tells them how to live better cheaper. If you want to make a living, bump the inspirational stuff and write the how to’s.”  (Loosely paraphrased, mind you.)

All those words got mixed up in my head. My throat, my writing throat, got scratchy and dry. The word stealing wolf was upon me.

Courtesy A. Hughes
I was the last appointment for an obviously weary blog consultant widely known for his Google-fu. He makes a substantial living traveling and consulting, and I had finagled five minutes of his time.

I was scared to death. Already quaking because of the other two voices in my head that had made my throat scratchy and dry.
He turned his lack-luster, ‘is it the end of the conference and can I go home now’ eyes to my new web page. The one I still haven’t launched a year later.

His look became quizzical. “This is the best website I’ve seen all day. The absolute best. Hands down. Why do you call yourself a fraidy cat? You, my friend, are certainly no fraidy cat. You need to stop calling yourself that,”

He began to play around with my brand because he has earned the right, with his considerable Google-fu, to do so.

I was even wearier than he – only my weariness had been growing for a life time not just forty-eight hours. So, I smiled a smile as ineffective as worn out dishwater, and said simply, “Oh, but I am.”

And just like that, in the middle of a conference that was supposed
Courtesy D. Ahola
to empower me to blog *more better and enable me to make gobs of money, my voice abandoned me.

(*Apologies to all the grammar nerds for my obvious misuse of language. Take a pill. You’ll survive. I’m sure there are instructions on how to do so on Pinterest.)

If you are a fellow fraidy cat who used to follow me or a new one who has just discovered me, I want you to know – I get you. You don’t have to explain, justify, or qualify.  All fraidy cats are welcome here.

I think I found my voice again. But, I will be a whole lot braver if I don’t have to figure it out on my own. So, would you come back again? Maybe tomorrow? If that’s not too soon? 

If you know me, you know there is more to this story, and I'm not thru telling it.

Love you long and strong. Even when I didn’t have a voice to say so.

Ephesians 2:10 (NRSV)

For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

Find Part 2 here.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

New Homeschooler Panic - Don't Worry!

I'm absolutely thrilled to join the community over at Homeschool Survival as one of Sarah's staff writers.

This month, our emphasis is, as you can probably guess, back to school advice. My column addresses the common issues that bring on panic among newbie homeschoolers.  

I've got 10 tips to help you avoid breathing into a paper bag! Join me there, won't you? To do so, click the link below.

A Note to New Homeschoolers - Don't Panic!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

All You Need to Know to Succeed in Life

A young mom, barely out of her teens, sits with three babies under the age of six. She wilts beneath the withering control of her second baby daddy. It is obvious which ones are his because the little girl cannot escape his soul-killing tirades. Inwardly, I weep.

I watch him and know that he is doing all he knows to do – the pitiful best he can against even more pitiful odds.

They wander near me. I say, “Shush. Shush,” in my most newborn-soothing tone. “You are working so hard to be a good daddy. She is such a sweet little girl. Relax. She is fine. She hasn’t made a peep. Let her breathe. You take a breath too. How long has it been since you simply took a breath?”

Behind him, I see Baby Mamma’s eyes fill and glisten with tears she’s fighting to hold back. “Thank you,” she mouths without a sound.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
The pleading in her eyes says volumes more. All these months later, her desperate, pleading gaze haunts my dreams. And, I wonder, who is telling her what it takes to succeed?

I wish. I wish I could gather them under my wing and listen to their stories. How have they found themselves in this hard pressed life they are living? Who gave them the map that said this way of life was the road to success?

I look around and ponder images of success: the rock and movie stars, YouTube sensations, and techno-wizards. I think of the infamous living life out loud, Kardashian, Honey-Boo-Boo, and 16 and Pregnant style. Is this what success looks like?

Courtesy B. Creasy
If I saw Baby Mamma and Daddy again, I would gather them under my wing and tell them what success really looks like.

1) Success is rarely lived out loud in the pages of tabloids or on the television screen. It happens in the quiet moments of life when no one anywhere is watching.

Micah 6:8 (Message) But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously—take God seriously.

2) Know that you have value beyond anything you can imagine. You are not here by accident. A creator God gave you purpose before he made the world.

c. 1997
Psalm 139: 15-16 (Message) You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.

3) You have a purpose to fulfill. In the history of all mankind, only you can fulfill that mission. You are not a mistake.

Ephesians 2:10 (NET) For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.

4) Even if no one in your life has ever been trustworthy, there is someone you can trust. Be trustworthy because he is trustworthy.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative 
Psalm 37: 3-5 (NRSV) Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.

5) Embrace hard work knowing others will respect you for it. Laziness brings dishonor and robs you of self-respect.

Ephesians 4:28 (Amplified) Let the thief steal no more, but rather let him be industrious, making an honest living with his own hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need. 

Proverbs 6: 6-8 (Message) You lazy fool, look at an ant. Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two. Nobody has to tell it what to do. All summer it stores up food; at harvest it stockpiles provisions.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative 
6) If you won’t do it for someone else, don’t expect it to be done for you. Treat others the way you expect to be treated.

Matthew 7:12 (Message) Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.

7) Love fearlessly and know that if you are fearful, your love is not real.

1 John 4:18 (NASB) There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.

8) Do not be selfish. Recognize selfishness when you see it, and run like your hair is on fire when you do.

Proverbs 23: 6-8 (NASB) Do not eat the bread of a selfish man, or desire his delicacies; For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, “Eat and drink!” But his heart is not with you. You will vomit up the morsel you have eaten, and waste your compliments.

Courtesy A. Squires
9) Know that God gave you the ability to recognize right and wrong. Do what you know is right even if no one else will.

(Amplified Bible) Abstain from evil [shrink from it and keep aloof from it] in whatever form or whatever kind it may be.

10) Be gracious, respectful, and mannerly toward total strangers. Hold doors for young women, mothers, and the elderly. Say thank you. Let the other driver go first in traffic just because. Pay it forward.

Philippians 2:3 (NASB) Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;

Courtesy B. Creasy - 2010
I will always wonder about that young, struggling, not-quite-couple in the doctor’s office. What would you tell them success looks like? 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Living Broken in a World Dying for Authentic Faith

The cry was long, slow, and mournful. It was the kind you hear when a soul is watching and waiting for authenticity it cannot find.

The thread long since faded from Facebook. Yet, it echoes in my heart. A Christian left his sprinkler system running despite a prohibitive county ordinance. He was a serial offender. I winced.

The post dripped with righteous and justifiable sarcasm. And, as Facebook does, one comment invited another.

It was like a train wreck I couldn’t stop watching. I didn’t want to keep reading and being embarrassed by ‘my kind’, but I couldn’t look away.

I watched the stories unfold. I read as far as the one about a high powered, fancy car driving, preacher-man who routinely ran a four-way stop in his community.

Courtesy A. Squires
I smiled wryly thinking about mobsters who got away with murder – until tiny little numbers did them in. It was racketeering, not murder, which unraveled their empires.

I wondered how the offenders would have reacted had they known they were on Facebook display. Would they have been chastened and repentant? Would they have been arrogant and entitled?

What’s the use of living a big, public faith if the Devil is in the details? You see what I mean, right? I wonder how I measure up when others are reconciling my faith.

When I offer up my tattered faith, will it resonate as true and trustworthy? Will I only provide more Facebook fodder for those
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
who are waiting and watching for authenticity? If perfection is required, I’m lost in the noise of failure.

We’ve stitched up the broken places of our life until all that’s left is a rag tag survival quilt. I pull the tatters close like a mother relishing shreds of the last baby blanket left in the house.

There is no sweet smell in which to bury my nose. No corner remains to rub against the weary cheeks of my soul. I look in the mirror, and mocking thoughts echo back.

You. You and your broken life. The legacy of your brokenness will last long after you are gone. Why do you keep trying? Who is this God before whom you weep? Where is he now? Who’s gonna buy the authenticity of your faith? Loser.

The chiding voice says my faith must be spit-polished to shiny perfection for authenticity’s sake. No one in this Photoshopped magazine spread, Pinterest happy world wants to hear about a broken down, weary, sweaty, hard fought for, tenacious faith. N.o.b.o.d.y.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Yet, I look around me at the bloody landscape of a dying world. A world that is clamoring and gasping for spiritual authenticity. Watching so closely they know when we run a four way or leave a sprinkler churning and spinning day after illegal day.

I try to think of someone I know whose life is without pain or crisis. Someone whose life is Pinterest or Kardashian beautiful.

The truth is sobering. I am not alone. Every single Christian I know who is living a life of authentic faith is hurting for one reason or another. None of the wounds are easy fixes. We are all living out our faith in the trenches. Trench warfare is neither easy nor pretty. Nor pinnable.

I wonder who is watching when I am unaware. When the Devil creeps into the details of my life, will a soul gasping for authenticity cry out, “A-ha! I gotcha!” and sit back smug and self-satisfied because I have lived down to his or her lowest expectations?
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

When I tell the truth that faith is work and often yields no immediate reward, will the words resonate in a life giving way? Will the authenticity of my faith take root and grow in someone else’s life?

I am living a broken and imperfect life and faith in the midst of world that is dying for authenticity. If you think you are too broken to be fixed, you are not alone. Walk with me?

Courtesy B. Creasy - 2010
Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I Could Do This All Night (Guest Post - Beth Pensinger)

My dog Daisy has a stubborn streak. You can see it in the defiant lift of her head.

Image Credit - B. Pensinger

Within the confines of our backyard fence, I am boss. She is completely obedient. But when we step out into the wide world, Daisy likes to tune me out.

There was a time when I used to walk her around the neighborhood without a leash. I’m not sure what happened, but the hound in her mutt blood must’ve won out and she started chasing anything with four legs and fur. Needless to say, she’s back under leash arrest. This doesn’t make me happy. I like it when she’s obedient so she can trot freely beside me, sniffing recycle bins and cat poop to her hearts content.

Image Credit - Beth Pensinger
If she takes a #2 while I have her on the leash, I make her sit before I bend down to clean it up. Poo patrol is a nasty business made only worse by Daisy potentially jeopardizing my already klutzy center of gravity. So the other night after she took care of business, I told her to sit.


I tried to imitate a man’s deep voice and barked the command a few more times.

Nada. So I grabbed her by the snout and forced her to lock eyes with mine.

“Sit.” I said through clenched teeth.

The only movement she made was to try to wrestle her face out of my iron grip. I was ahead in the staring competition, but that was about it. Suddenly, I laughed. This was a battle of wills, and I was going to win.

“Oh girl,” I said. “I could do this all night.” Thankfully not long after, she waved her white flag.

I was consumed with the showdown for the remainder of our walk. I am often made aware of scary parallels between me and my dog and me and God. Only I’m Daisy and God takes my place.

Image Credit - Beth Pensinger
In this particular parallel, I think God is happy when I’m obedient so I can trot freely beside Him. He takes no pleasure in placing me under leash arrest. But when I consistently tune Him out, what else can I expect? He knows if I chase the cat, I’ll end up at a very busy and dangerous highway that’s not to be trifled with.

Yet I continue to be stubborn once on the leash. He tells me to do something and I refuse. He locks eyes with mine and we engage in a battle of wills. He repeats His command—hopefully not through clenched teeth—and I look away.

“Oh daughter,” He says. “I could do this all night.”

He’s so right.

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
                                                                                         - Hebrews 12:5-6
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Image Credit - Beth Pensinger
I am so thankful for Beth's friendship, inspiration, and encouragement since meeting her in May of 2012 at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. 

It was my pleasure to help critique her newly published book, Let Me Fall.  She is certainly no dimwit. The story of her journey with God is an engrossing one. 

She has a passion for young women who will identify with the struggles she unravels in this insightful offering. If you or someone you know loves a good Romance novel, this book is probably for you - and not for the reasons you think!  
To visit her blog: click here.

To find her on Facebook: click here.

You'll find her on Twitter: by clicking here.