The Glorious Muddle
glimpses of grace in the messiness of life

March 22, 2017

Saying “No” to Doing it All

water-2071240_960_720Do you ever try to do it all, and in the process, never complete anything? Or never do anything well?

I had to give up on the idea of doing everything a long time ago. I like to think of myself as relatively competent and interested, even enthusiastic, about lots of different areas. It killed me to let go.

Rather than keep attempting to do a whole pile of things so-so, I decided to concentrate on a few things. Maybe then something would turn out well-done.

In a lifetime, perhaps you can do it all, but not at any one time. There are seasons where you focus on one aspect of life or another, but in order to do that, something else has to give.

You have to say “no” to some things so you can say “yes” to the things that are most important to you at that season of your life.

I had to re-learn this lesson recently. During most of the 3½ years I worked on my graduate degree, I tried to keep doing all the same things I had been doing before. I just squeezed in class time (with a long commute) and homework time on top of my full-time job, my full-time life, and everything else.

At first, the only things I let go were sleeping and cleaning the house. The second thing wasn’t hard to let slide at all.

When I decided I’d better double up on my courses if I wanted to finish before dementia set in, I realized my ship would sink unless something drastic happened. I started throwing ballast overboard, just grabbing stuff and heaving it. I said “no” to all kinds of things, out of desperation.

I had to give up things I liked doing. I ditched good things for better things, at least better for the season I found myself in.

And I said “yes” to finishing my degree and writing a novel.

This is what I learned:  Before you cram more things into your stuffed-to-the-gills schedule, you have to take something out. Something besides sleep.

When I relaxed my expectation to blog every week, I felt free. But now that I’m trying to add it back in, I find I’ve gotten out of the habit. And it’s hard to go back.

Maybe you already discovered you can’t do everything, but how do you decide what to keep and what to ditch? And then how do you do it in such a way that you’re not stressed-out and unapproachable?

Jesus never rushed but he completed his task. He finished the work. He walked everywhere, and talked with people along the way. Just imagining that lifestyle makes me feel refreshed. People never felt second place to his agenda.

Once when his disciples were exhausted, he invited them to rest. “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” That invitation is open to us, too, every day.

Saying “yes” to spending time alone with Jesus gives back to us. It never takes away.

When Jesus say a large crowd gather, he felt compassion for them. He willingly postponed the planned R & R. The result was 5,000 being fed with five loaves and two fish. It was all that the disciples had to offer, but it was enough. (Mark 6)

I tried to picture how I might respond if someone interfered with my plans. Would I be willing to submit my agenda to the Lord’s plans for me on any given day?

What about you? Are you interruptible?

When you’re meeting with someone, do you look at your watch or other people around you, or do you focus on the person you’re with and their needs?

Sometimes I’m so stressed with my growing To-Do list that I don’t notice God trying to rearrange my day. I get frustrated with interruptions, but some of them may be divine appointments.

I need to learn the difference of what to say “no” to, so that I can say “yes” to the things that matter.

 

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March 10, 2017

One of the Hardest Questions: Do You Like Me?

Last week, I had to bury my pride and allow an invitation to be sent to all my friends and acquaintances, asking them, “Do you like Taryn R. Hutchison?”

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I felt like I was transported back to junior high. Facebook morphed into the friend I dispatched to ask a certain boy’s pal to find out if that boy liked me. As in, really liked me?

My pre-teen insecurity returned as I waited to see if anyone might respond.

I prepared myself for no responses at all. I didn’t know which would be harder: apathy or outrage.

It’s a difficult question to ask. Sometimes it’s easier not to know.

Hard enough if the question was, “Do you like Taryn’s writing, or should she just give it up?”

But people were asked if they like me. That’s personal. More personal than love.

Like vs. Love

Love reflects the person who does the loving. Families love. God loves. No matter what.

The character of the lover is what matters. If it’s truly unconditional, my actions don’t change that.

But like? That’s based on the one being liked. It’s conditional. I can mess that up.

I constructed a fantasy world where I’m well-liked by everyone, and I’m comfortable there. Why shatter dreams with cold statistics?

Would you want to know?

Thankfully, many friends said, “Yes!” or at least a timid and non-committal “yeah, OK, whatever,” sans exclamation point.

It all counts. I now identify with Sally Field when she won the Oscar and exclaimed, “You like me! You really like me!”

Commitment

Before I popped the question, I felt comfortable enough. I had a beautiful website, preserved in its pristine glory just for me and a handful of others to see. And don’t forget my social media platform of 1,800 friends. That seemed pretty good for a low-tech 60-year-old. Now I’m told that’s measly.

I learned that friendship isn’t enough. My friends needed to declare themselves.  Facebook transformed itself into my father this time, demanding my “friends” state their intentions toward me. They needed to commit.

What’s the big deal? I mean, I had not one, but two Facebook pages for my book. I sporadically posted in English on one. Even less frequently, I wrote in broken Romanian that probably no Romanian could understand on the other.

It never occurred to me that I might actually write more than the one book someday.

Courtship

But I have written another book. And because of that, I’m pursuing agent-types to dazzle them with my charming self so they’ll help bring it to life. I’m into full courting mode. And I’m not above begging.

So, I drummed up my courage and allowed you to be asked. Again, images of a pimply-faced junior high guy, voice cracking, dialing his girl’s number on the telephone (OK, I already said I’m 60, didn’t I?) to ask her on a date danced in my head.

And now I have another question, much more serious. Now that I’m trying to woo an agent in hopes that they will woo a publisher, I need more than friends.

Engagement – The Bottom Line

ring-542318_960_720What matters, I find now, is engagement. That over-used current buzz word. (If you stick around me very long, you’ll know how vehemently I dislike, and refuse to use, the ever-changing array of buzz words).

To me, engagement means one thing. Betrothal. And I’m a married woman.

Will You Marry Me?

It turns out that the number of people who are your friends or followers is insignificant. The benchmark is the number who actually read what you write and respond to it. I need readers (friends!) who are engaged with me. This shows up when you do one or all of the following:

CLICK

LIKE

SHARE

Babies

So, I merged my two Facebook pages into a brand new author page (@tarynthewriter). Just in time for my babies to be born.

First comes the release of Everbloom–which includes a piece I wrote–on April 25th. (More on that very soon.) And well before my novel gets published.

That’s right. My novel! I promise to tell you more about that in the near future. I expect a very long pregnancy for this birth. Think elephant gestation.

For now, I’m asking you to please engage with me. CLICK, LIKE, SHARE.

  • Click on my website.
  • Like my FB page.
  • Share my blog posts.

Thank you! And by the way, I like you, too.

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March 8, 2017

Speak Out for the Voiceless

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Today, March 8, millions of women around the world will observe a day set aside just for them.

It’s called International Women’s Day, and it began in the U.S. But most American women don’t commemorate it. Some don’t even know it exists.

International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate and honor women.

The first Women’s Day, held in New York in 1909, marked the one-year anniversary of the Garment Workers’ Strike. In the years following, the day started to become global. Women in Western Europe joined Americans to fight for one cause. Women’s suffrage.

But during the decades following 1917, although the scope had changed to  an international Women’s Day, most people associated it with Communist countries. Russia and Eastern Europe celebrated International Women’s Day as a national holiday during the Cold War.

When I lived in Eastern Europe in the 1990s, International Women’s Day had morphed into a combination Valentine’s Day/Mother’s Day. It is the culmination of a week celebrating women and spring, beginning every year on March 1.

Rather than single out sweethearts and mothers, excluding other women, people give flowers and gifts to all the women who are important to them. I love the inclusiveness of the day!

Today, it’s observed as a national holiday in many countries around the globe. And in recent years, it has begun to return to its roots. Roots of social justice for the oppressed.

The United Nations considers International Women’s Day:

“a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.”

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International Women’s Day is an opportunity to stand up for the oppressed.

Women in much of the world don’t feel like celebrating. They are trapped in lifestyles where they’re unable to provide the necessities of life for themselves or their dependent children. Flowers and chocolates can’t begin to touch their gaping needs.

They are the most vulnerable among us.

Regardless of whether you are male or female, Republican or Democrat, whatever religion you profess or don’t profess, all decent people should be appalled by the plight of many women and children around the world.

Poverty. Sex trafficking. Physical violence. Sexual abuse. Child labor. Education denied to girls.

The International Justice Mission states that today more than 45 million people are enslaved  worldwide. According to the U.S. State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, bringing 32 billion dollars to the predators. Of those trafficked, 80% are female and half are children.

Many women cannot speak out or stand up for themselves. We have to be their voice.

Let’s join together for one cause. To end trafficking.

People who love God should lead the charge. God is a “father of the fatherless and a defender of widows.” (Psalm 68:5).

What about us?

Asaph, one of the temple singers, tells us how we should live in Psalm 82:3:

“Defend the poor and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy.”

How do we do that?

Do you know girls and women who are poor?

What about fatherless orphans?

Is anyone in your community afflicted?

Are there needy people nearby?

Oppressed people are all around us, if we only open our eyes to see them. Let’s go a step further than seeing their need. Let’s ask God to open our hearts.

Defend them. Do justice to them.

For practical ideas, check out the International Justice Mission.

 

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March 6, 2017

Old Friends Relive a Shared History

My weekend with writing friends, wonderful as it was, quickly became overshadowed the very next weekend. This time, I flew to Orlando (a better place to visit in February than Chicago). This time, I was with friends from Romania.

Eight American women, my former teammates who served in Romania right after Communism fell, reunited for four days.

We had not been in the same place together for 22 years.

pink-herons-1980396_960_720Old friends can pick up where they left off.

People asked if we had fun. Yes! We laughed hard. A lot. The decades apart melted away.

But fun? There has to be a better word. Because it was so much more.

All I can think of is the Romanian word: nemaipomenit. It means it can’t be spoken. There are no words to describe our time together.

It was important. Healing. Valuable. A highlight of my life.

Do you have friends like that?

Old friends can go deep quickly.

We talked non-stop. Each woman had enough time to share her life since 1995, followed by a time of prayer for her.

At times it felt heavy. We cried more than we laughed. We cried rivers of tears – but healing tears. There’s a lot of collective pain in that group. I think my life has been the easiest, yet I’ve experienced loss, too. Unexpected tears spilled out from me when it was my turn.

After our weekend ended, I squeezed in a couple of hours with another dear friend, one I met back in 1986 on my first international project. That trip to Yugoslavia changed my life and redirected the course of it. This friend has also experienced her share of hurt.

When I got on the plane, I felt like a limp rag, twisted and wrung hard, every drop of water released.

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Old friends can share their souls.

On a soul level, we got nekkid together. We have shared experiences that we don’t have in common with anyone else in the whole world, except for the few of our tribe who couldn’t be present, whose absences were felt.

Others just can’t comprehend it. We couldn’t either, before we arrived, a clueless bunch of naïve young Americans,  excited and hopeful. We lived in a place and time that felt other-wordly.

God called us to follow him to a people that he embedded so deeply in our hearts that when we left, we felt fragmented. We trusted him to provide what we needed to remain during dark and difficult days.

And yet we experienced unspeakable joy in seeing people who’d never heard of Jesus trust him. We bore fruit that remained, and bore fruit, which bore fruit … continuing on to this day. The joy offset the darkness.

After all these years, and all the pain, each of us still walks with God, still loves Him, and still wants to be used by him. Amazing! One friend said she’s learned to trust his heart in her grief. Our love for him is much deeper now. It’s more complete, more realistic.

Old friends can love realistically.

Survival in Romania in the early 1990s took all our emotional energy. We had nothing left over to keep up the facades we’d learn to construct before we moved overseas. We saw each other as we were. Our true selves.

We saw each other at our worst, but much more than that, we saw each other at our best. Our noblest and most inspiring. Our love for one another was authentic. Based on truth. Isn’t that what we all long for?

J. I. Packer describes the way God loves us:

“There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me.”

flamingo-2077754_960_720Old friends can bless our lives.

I believe we spend our lives searching for friends who love us like that. I’ve found some. They are gold. And I have hope that new friends will turn into gold some day. My life is blessed.

When you share history with friends, it isn’t stagnant. History is living. It continues to grow. It changes and deepens over the years.

These friends are more precious to me than gold. They are friends for eternity.

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February 28, 2017

New Friends Write a New Story

I’ve been home for a week now after two back-to-back weekends away. Both weekends were spent with groups of friends. Both are the kind of friendships that give back. That nourish my soul.

But that’s where the similarities end. The first weekend was with new friends, while I share a significant history with the second group. (More on that later.)

New friends require risk.

Is it hard for you to drum up the emotional energy to meet new people?

Do you hate small talk?

Feel like you already have too many friends to possibly keep up with?

I can answer “yes” to each of those questions. And yet I’ve found that even if you stay in the same place, you can’t avoid having to step out and start over with someone new.

Life is filled with new people coming up to the edges of your life. In your neighborhood. Your workplace. Your church. And once you invite them to enter inside, you might marvel at what you would have missed if you never did.

You have to take that first step. Be willing to take a risk.

With new friends, you turn over a fresh page. You write a new story, one that’s full of promise. Sometimes it becomes clear early on that these new friends are keepers. That you want to finish writing the book with them.

New friends can be worth it.safe_imageThe 60 or so women during my first weekend away are keepers. I’d only met a handful of them once, a couple of years before. With most of them, I had to start from scratch.

It helped that we already have much in common. We are all writers. We’re all members of Redbud Writing Guild, an international community of women who write to influence culture and faith.

We met for a retreat on a Hogwarts-style campus in Chicago. Messages from fellow Buds inspired me and the worship spoke to my soul. I loved every second of it and I’m so thankful I went.

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New friends can help us grow.

As writers, we talked openly about our fears. But writers aren’t the only ones who struggle with fear and insecurity and doubt. Maybe you can relate.

You feel things deeply and you want to speak or write or do only what’s true. But there’s always a risk when you care what people think of you. 

You feel weak and don’t know how you can continue, or how you could ever be useful. Yet if you acknowledge your weakness, those weak places can be turned into something beautiful that highlights Christ’s strength.

You’re often tempted to give in, to quit, to silence your voice. It’s just too hard to keep going. But if you do continue on, God can use you–your gifts and your presence–to bless other people.

If you’re a writer, your calling is one of words. You need to listen to receive those words. His words are like honey, sweet to the taste, lasting forever and never going bad.

“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty.” Jeremiah 15:16

Even if you don’t write, if you’re a Christ-follower, the one necessary thing is to let Jesus’s words sink deep into your heart. Mary found that best part when she sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his word. (Luke 10:38-42). Nobody can take that away from you. Ever.

It takes courage to step out and make new friends.

It takes courage to pass along the Lord’s words.

But it’s worth it.

redbud-widget-red1Coming Soon (from my new friends)

Every month, my guild publishes The Redbud Post online. On April 25th, the first-ever Redbud book, Everbloom, will be released! Stay tuned here for more info. I’m honored that one of my essays will be included with such a stellar group of writers.

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