I love you, Ariel Gore

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She showed up for me.

We never met in person, but her words knew me.  I feel my face smile chapter after chapter of Ariel Gore’s book How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead.  My eyes enlarge and my head nods each page turn.

Is this what it’s like when a writer encourages the deep inner being of another writer?

Yes.

Ariel,  thank you.

Around page 79 an unexpected tear escapes and a memory flashes through my brain.  I remember the day no one showed up.  Not a soul.  Every other college student had parents, grandparents, maybe aunts and uncles too.  Dang.

The ceremony is held in a red brick colonial style building with tall windows trimmed in white.  The large room has plenty of chairs, food that I am too scared to touch, and lemonade that I dare to enjoy.  I am thirsty.  My writing professors say hello and are pulled away because other people’s people want to meet them.  I find a seat in an empty row on a green cushioned chair with a straight backrest made of metal painted white.

While today that scene cuts me a bit, I assure you that on the actual day I am joyful and feel justice is about to be announced.  I am 22 years old and delighted.

“This year’s Best Graduating Senior Writer goes to…Glenna S. Edwards for her submission Bertha.”

I make my way to receive the certificate and $500 check.  Only on rewind do I remember the surprised audience members whose faces turn to question that the alone girl is a winner.  The money is a bonus compared to the certificate that I want most.  I need someone to say I am a good writer.  And they do out loud and on paper.  Boom!

This was the vengeance I longed for because four years earlier at a smaller scale spring time writers event, no one said anything.

That was high school.  Back when I participate in many extracurriculars, but the only award I ever hope for is the Golden Pen award.  A plaque hangs in the English department where the new winner’s name will be engraved.

Sitting in the cafeteria listening for the announcement, my 18-year-old mind practices being a good loser.  The only other candidate who might win deserves the prize too.  I will remain kind and congratulate her then run home to lament.

I also practice remaining calm and gracious if I do win.  I will not jump up and down though my legs may try to betray me.

The other possible winner may throw a fit.  She has a reputation.  She has publicly wailed sometimes when things did not go her way.  I try to remember her personal story about how her mom didn’t know she was pregnant until she went to the hospital for extreme food poisoning but came home with a baby.  For reasons I do not fully understand while in my youth, her tale helps me be patient with Miss Could-Make-A-Scene.

The teacher says into the microphone, “Thank you for coming tonight.  This concludes our evening.”

What?!  They must have forgotten.  I see the other candidate ask about the Golden Pen.  The teacher pretends not to hear.  We all go home never to know exactly why the 1990 Golden Pen is not awarded.

My adult self has multiple guesses why 1990 was skipped.  And I remain thankful 1994 happened.

To my writer friends, read Ariel Gore’s book How To Become A Famous Writer Before You’re Dead.  It is encouragement served all you can eat buffet style.

To be fair to those who knew me in 1994, I didn’t know to ask for representation.  I realize now why the obvious choices didn’t jump at the chance.  Me becoming a writer terrified blue-collar adults around me.

To Ariel, I promise never to use the word p_ _ _ _ _ _ _ mentioned on page 82.  I get it.

Much love & peace to all readers & dreamers.  oxox

Signature GSE

Permission

My mind, body, and soul have been confused since mid-February.  I laid down my superpowers.

That is when I let go of working four jobs simultaneously.  The same week Hubby finished his last day at work never to work a full time job again.  Meanwhile our house is for sale, and we are responsible to help one of our close family members who struggles with mental illness.

Oh, and my nearly new laptop broke.  Boo!

Somehow with three less boss supervisions to schedule per month I thought I would jump into a writing routine.

Nope.  I found myself instead grieving the losses and challenges our family faces.  I enjoy my new job, yet could not make the turn to be disciplined with writing during evenings and weekends.  With the size of my household to-do list, free time is debatable anyway.

Then there is the ever present internal fight for gratitude.  I wrestle with the fact things could be worse, way worse.  I tell myself:  Enjoy right now.  Count the blessings even when the challenges feel like too much.

So I rested and watched winter play out its final weeks.  I wondered when would I feel like digging into my passion?  Afterall, I have not one, but two manuscripts that need attention!  Do I dare say who need attention?  I sense the writing files need me to breathe life into them.  They will walk upright alive.

Worse, I received unexpected feedback from more than one friend that I don’t seem available or as connected as they thought I would be after the job shift.  Don’t I have more time for them now?  Haven’t the number of hours in a week expanded for me somehow? [No, it’s the same number of hours, Ladies.]

Some folks thought I would be more fun perhaps.  I am flat emotionally.  Even if I go through the motions to return texts, friends may pick up that my vibe is “off”.

I became quiet.  I said no to multiple social outings.  I don’t want to be that person who struggles all the time.  I have less and less to say out loud.  Besides, a realtor might request a showing any minute.  I better stay close to home to swish a toilet or run the vacuum–this home in which I can no longer fully relax.

At times I dream of moving far away.  Montana, Florida, Oregon, a random place with no expectations.  I could take my troubles elsewhere.

Fortunately kindness and encouragement arrive from various people in surprising ways too.  Cookies baked by a neighbor for our open house.  A box of positive intentions to read one note at a time.  Patience.  Laughter.  Forgiveness.  Someone asking if there are ways for her to be a good friend to me right now.  All good things.

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Leveling up to a new reality is not instantaneous.  I need time to adjust.

I cling to daily Bible verses, but I do not communicate well with God or anyone other than maybe Hubby right now.  Perhaps I’m in the eye of the storm or this is the whole Footprints poem with one set of footprints at the moment.

I follow strong women on Instagram. What would authors Elizabeth Gilbert and Glennon Doyle do to self-care through this, I ponder?  They are unapologetic in their processing.

Then Lysa Terkuerst makes the Word of God light up on my cell phone.  She’s been through trying times.

And how about the young woman at my church who is blogging her heart out?  She’s cool and fun to watch grow deeper into adulthood.  Or my 100 miles consecutive running friend with a book coming out later this year.  Love you, Kelly!  I am still in awe that Kelly played on her high school football team.  Shout out for writing consistency Brieanna Arsenault and K. A. Wypych!  I am inspired by you weekly!

What emerged in my brain a couple days ago is that I dwell in what I should be doing rather than what I desire to do.  And there’s too many should-be-doings.  As a wife and mother maybe it is time I recover from some of that.  I could be cooking, cleaning, and gosh darn organizing every hour of the day.  Or I can give myself permission to write.  Permission to take a time out.  Permission to rest.  Permission to be me.

Permission to say no as long as I need to say no.  Permission to say yes to the right things for right now.

Permission is a different way of thinking for me.  It is a shift in my perspective.

Permission means releasing the coulda shoulda woulda pressures.  I can choose and then not think about the decision again.  I have permission to let the chips fall where they fall.

Permission means I get a vote.  Permission means I don’t constantly worry about everyone else’s needs before I do something for me.  Permission might seem selfish.  And I have permission to let go of that concern.

There are people I admire who give themselves permission freely without thoughts of repercussions.  I love them and don’t judge them.  I have permission to do the same.

I have permission to dial direct in my prayers and say more than early morning, “Hold me and ease me out of this bed, Father.  That’s all I’ve got to say today.”  I have permission to recognize seasons of life.  I have permission to pray all the things and seek the path I know He imprinted on my heart long ago.

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As a matter of fact, I have permission to open the screen door, listen to the rain, and write life into my novels.  Right now.

CPR in progress.

Love always,

Signature GSE

P.S.  What do you have permission to do?  How are you managing the seasons of life?

 

 

 

I’ll Tell You First

I ponder who to call.

The friend who will cheer for the dream despite disappointment?  The problem solving friend?  The friend who will wallow in the sadness with me for a few minutes?  The friend who will say what I want to hear?

Stars are visible in the night sky.  I drive silent.  The Holy Spirit touches my heart and I sense a, “How about you tell Me first?”

This leads me to ask myself, How many times do I tell God last?  

Answer:  Often.

This time I choose differently.  I turn off the car and sit in the driveway to converse with our Creator before approaching the threshold into house chores, next day work prep, mom, wife, and caregiver roles.

Dear God,

The publisher that stayed in touch since June and seemed to seriously consider my manuscript finally sent the decision email.  I’m sad, Lord.  She’s passing.  I really thought she was the person to take next steps with me.  Please show me what to do going forward.  I surrender to Your will for this book.  Amen.”

One thing I’ve learned especially in the last two years is that every time I am perplexed the best choice is to surrender.  Immediately.

What to do will become clear soon.  For now I will be still and listen.

Exodus 14:14. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.

Love,

Signature GSE

 

Welcome to Our Mess

Sweet Baby Jesus, I think with 100% praise and 0% sarcasm.

In the same moment when I’m both on the bathroom floor at under the toilet rim level and inside the sink cabinet level, I see the ancient WD-40 can.  Maybe I have seen the idea written on a meme or maybe someone wise mentioned it along the way, but I suddenly know exactly what I can do with said can.

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First, I spray the rusty cabinet hinges.  The doors adjust into their appropriate spots and squeak sounds disappear.  Second, I spray under the toilet rim, wait, add bleach to the bowl, and scrub.  Stubborn stains that I missed in past weekly scrubs begin to melt away.  It’s a toilet gunk miracle.

And all this happened after a friend installed new sink faucets.  Gasp!  He may have seen the gunk pre-miracle.  It also took place in the mostly off-limits for 20 years master bathroom.  Guests don’t go there.

But now they do.  In this challenging time for our family we’ve learned to be open.  There’s not a single off-limits room now.   Every step of the way has been about surrender.

Being honest with friends and strangers has led to more love than we could have imagined.  People who love Jesus also found room to care about us.

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One of my work philosophies is to meet people where they are without judgement and with listening ears.  In recent weeks that same kindness has been reflected back to us.  I see it in soft eyes and busy hands.  We are down to packing, moving what’s left of our furniture, carpet installation and a thorough cleaning.  This is doable.  Thanks will never be enough.  For my praying friends, please pray us through to the other side.   Our bodies and minds are weary, but God’s love is strong.

Psalm 31:1-5  In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame;
    deliver me in your righteousness.  Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.  Since you are my rock and my fortress,
    for the sake of your name lead and guide me.  Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.  Into your hands I commit my spirit;
    deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

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3 Songs of Surrender

And then the fridge broke.  Dear God, I can not handle one more thing breaking.

Quickly the Holy Spirit reminds me that this is a first world problem.  We go a week with the contents gone and the refrigerator doors open.  I surrender this too, Lord.  Take it please.  I have nothing left in my brain to solve this challenge.

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In a moment that reminds me there are no coincidences, I run into friends from a past small group at church.  Within 50 hours the fridge is fixed.  Hallelujah.  I continue other house projects with volunteer help as it is available.  Hubby has an extra tough week physically.  ALS seems to have lows and lower lows, then levels out.  There’s a pattern I can’t identify, but I know the clock ticks and we need to move to a more accessible home soon.  I look forward to the day when I can see him rest easier in a new environment.

I listen to music while painting.  Worship is powerful.  It is my battle cry and my surrender prayer.  Here are 3 songs that I listen to most through the brush strokes:

1. Who You Say I Am – Hillsong Worship.  When I feel like I have failed, this song reminds me I am a child of God, chosen, not forsaken.  While watching church online I share with Hubby, “I’m sorry.  We were blessed to work with almost 7,000 kids and families in the last 15 years, and maybe this work has been a failure for our own family.  It’s my fault.”  He kindly answers, “How do you know it’s failed?  Maybe not.”  God is bigger than what my limited view can see.  bitmoji-20181002082758_15385264950172. It Is Well – Kristene DiMarco & Bethel Music.  No matter what happens “through it all my Eyes are on You, through it all it is well…and it is well with me.”  “This mountain that is in front of me will be thrown into the sea.”  “The waves and wind still know His name.”  “So let go my soul and trust in Him.”

3. No Longer Slaves – Jonathan David & Bethel Music.  Fear and spackle are frequent companions these days.  This song reminds me “Love has called my name”.  “I am surrounded by the arms of the Father”.  “Let us sing freedom”.  Fear is not welcome, but it is a daily fight.

There are miracles in process all around me.  My angst is cast onto the Father continuously.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalm 34:18

I can not explain the miracles and help that has shown up but for the grace of God.  To Him we give the glory.  One day we may list out these miracles for you.  To those who have literally been the hands and feet of Jesus, we thank you.  And thanks is not enough.

We carry on in the home stretch marking things off the to-do list along the way. 20181029_064305

When times are tough, what are your songs of surrender?  What keeps you going?  Do you have a worship battle plan?

3 Thoughts About ACE Scores

Uh, that got my attention, I paused during an online training this week.  I better get my act together.

The screen said that people with an ACE score of 6 or higher are more likely to die 2 decades prior to people with lower scores.  ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences.  I’ve known for a couple of years now that my score is an 8.

3 thoughts:

1.  I am astonished by the number of people who don’t know about the ACE study.  Here is a link to learn more and to take the quick test:  https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/03/02/387007941/take-the-ace-quiz-and-learn-what-it-does-and-doesnt-mean

2.  Share this information with friends, family, and co-workers so that they will know about ACEs too.  This can be helpful as people learn to address or heal personal wounds.

3.  Lead with love.  People may carry pain around without realizing it.  Perhaps you are the kind, patient person that someone needs today.

It’s the weekend and I am house project focused.  Our goal is to have the house on the market by November 10.  I look forward to a calmer way of life in a few months.  With the ACE score reminder I know my mind and body need a better pace in my adult life.  My stress level has been too high for too long.  I am beginning to understand that taking care of me is an acceptable priority.

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3 John 1:2 ~ Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.

Take care of you,

Signature GSE

Whistle Stop For Self Care

I saw the train at the top of the hill on two previous trips.

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Once again I head toward Cleveland to take a class.  Surely I could stop at “that exit with the train restaurant” this go round.

But by the time I finish home duties Thursday there is no way I can make the trip before midnight.  Shucks, no train.  Hmmm, if I can slip away from the class right away the next day…then maybe.  I need to return through Cincinnati before President Trump shuts down the road with his evening visit, and I need to get home to prep walls for paint and visitors.

Post learning on Friday I slip away asap and head to the location I find via Google:  Buckeye Express Diner.

Alone and near giddy, I drive up the hill.  I ration 30 minutes.  I need a late lunch and I crave minutes of peaceful adventure.

“First time?” The man at the counter asks.

I scan the menu posted on the wall and place my order before finding a seat in the train.  There is a juke box and TV screen.  I opt to look out the window.  I take time for slow breaths.  I attempt mindfulness.

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My server is sweet and attentive.  I wonder if people like her know how their random kindness is extra appreciated these days while I am tired and putting together the puzzle pieces of a home move.

The food is good.  Yum!  I eat half of it.  It is just enough.

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Time’s up.  I am reminded as I exit that there are more good things in the future.  There is special seating (with permission) in the caboose area.  I make a goal to sit there next time.

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Love,

Signature GSE

 

 

Not Forsaken

Is that a trick question? I wondered.

The Wells Fargo operator had asked, “Is this a time of hardship?”  I didn’t understand why she asked at first, but then realized it was because I paid the October mortgage bill on the last day of the grace period.  For me I felt like we were winning–aka, no penalty. The mortgage company sees this differently than I do.

A month ago I wondered how in the world we would get the house ready to sell.  Hubby’s muscles have left us.  The 16yo has to be taught how to do every odd job plus has homework.  The 20yo is 1526 miles away with the Air Force.  I have multiple jobs.  We gave most of our money away over the years doing the ministry I thought God asked me to do.  The clock is ticking.  We have one asset, the house, and it needs to go in order to start over.

Help comes from unexpected places.  Someone I work with said she’s been reading scripture and decided she would get people together to help.  Two miracle gift cards showed up to help purchase paint.

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I prepped the house as best I could and busy friends took time to help me move furniture around and patched a ceiling hole.  A neighbor and co-worker helped me sell other furniture and miscellaneous items to make room and to assist with the cost of more paint and supplies.

October 13 came and I had little idea who would come.  I thanked God in advance for whatever muscles that would arrive.

First, dear friends near my age came along with a 32yo new dad who could choose to be anywhere but chose to paint with purpose.

Around mid-day two young guys arrived.  I thought they were going to be disappointed that the basketball goal was already sold the hour prior.  “We’re here to paint,” they said.  When one took off his sweatshirt and out popped an arm with Jesus’ face tattooed on his muscles, my tears were unavoidable.  I knew right then miracles are happening.  The hands and feet of Jesus are present.

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As the weekend progressed people came for different reasons.  Some said they want to give back because their life has been better lately.  Some because of their love for the Lord.  One couple came partly because familial ALS is in their family too.  I began to pass out house keys like candy.

One young man looked deep into my soul, sized up the situation, asked me to list out the projects that scare me, and promised he’d stay by my side until the jobs are done like he would for his own mother.  He’s 26 and has a lot of carpentry, plumbing, etc. skills.  Wow. Wow.  Wow.

We’ve been full steam ahead with volunteers ever since.  I’d love to say some of their names, but I haven’t asked for permission.  I do my best to thank them personally.

On Tuesday night I went with my best friend since birth to see Hillsong.  I had no idea how I could stand on my sore feet and I stressed internally that I should be home working.

During the song I Am Who You Say I Am God mushed my heart like Playdough.  In a prayerful time I felt the Holy Spirit tell me, “You answered the call.  You gave up a lot.  You never let go of the house or lifestyle, and you’re going to have to let go of that now too.  It will hurt.  And you will go on.”

Like the song says:

I am chosen, Not forsaken

I am who You say I am

You are for me, Not against me

…I am a child of God.

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The castle I painted for our sons is gone, covered by “falling snow” white semi-gloss.  We are packing for a new adventure.  I am struck how the answer is “surrender” every time I am perplexed.  I look forward to sharing the manuscript Surrender on the Trail with readers one day.  As it turns out the trail was merely the beginning of what I am learning about surrender.

Love,

Signature GSE

P.S.  Thank you to new and old friends from Springdale Nazarene Church and SNC Norwood who took time to help our family.  May you be blessed abundantly.

Put The Dream Out There

What is the dream or idea that rolls around in your head?

This week I had an opportunity to present on the topic Developing Youth Led Prevention (of substance abuse primarily).  I got to know my audience by asking key “show of hands” questions and then shared a tool kit of my favorite go-to resources.

I dared to add to the list an equation I created based on years of successful Prevention work.  I call it the Edwards’ Effectiveness Formula.  The self doubt part of me wondered if I have any right to apply math to social entrepreneur work.  Who am I anyway?!  And then my more confident side thought about how people often ask me how I retain young people in our programs, how we accomplish community improvement tasks year after year which led me to think, Why not?!

With my hands in the air like I just don’t care I shared the formula:

E = R (EB/F)

Or, said in detail, Level of Effectiveness equals Evidence Based Program divided by Fidelity times Quality of Relationship(s).  Each of these variables can be measured and are, I find, an essential part of the process when working with young people.  I was open with attendees that it’s a theory I’m testing.  When I saw multiple people start scribbling notes in response to the reveal, I knew that the formula made sense to them too.  It was a cool moment of risk and reward.

What is the dream you would battle nerves to share in a room of 75 or more people?

Let’s say the dreams out loud.  I’ll tell you mine:

  1. Publish book Surrender on the Trail.
  2. Speak with women at events across the country.
  3. Publish another book called Martha’s Daughter.
  4. Go to grad school.
  5. Live in a country with an education system that supports the whole child including positive mental health and life resiliency skills.

Please share your dream(s) too.  I’d love to hear from the waves of your heart!

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What You Do Matters button is from the DC Holocaust Museum. Artist button is from Sparklezilla.com.

 

 

 

Dear Ed Sheeran

Before sunrise Hubby stumbles across the bedroom and kindly whisper mumbles, “Good morning.”

My response is internal, I don’t like mornings and I hate ALS.  I need your body to help me with this blankety blank moving sale and I know you can’t physically share the load.  I speak nothing.  To be fair, he helped in the ways he could yesterday.  I’m grumpy and tired from weeks of prep in a house with a to-do list that has gotten away from us.  ALS has stolen the feeling of team chores over the years.  The playbook has shifted.  Team means new things now.

My mind wanders to the letter I had wanted to write Ed Sheeran a while back.  I planned to say, “Wow.  You sing the most perfect lyrics for our marriage in the song “Thinking Out Loud”.  Please meet us in Pompano Beach, FL on our 25th anniversary weekend, bring a guitar, and sing that to us on the beach.  Just once please.  That would be cool.”

I pull back my inner crazy lady and did not send such correspondence.

On Saturday of our trip we figure out the mechanics of getting us both on the sand.  Once settled, YouTube plays the Ed Sheeran song.  Then we listen to the ocean waves for hours shaded by an umbrella.  That was my favorite day.

Sunday he rests and I suggest we do dinner out to officially celebrate.  Monday could be another rest day before navigating the airport with a wheelchair Tuesday.  Oh, the things I’ve learned.  For instance, there are indoor hills, PeopleIndoor hills.  Pacing ourselves is important in the approach to such phenomenon.

We arrive at public parking for the restaurant 5 minutes before our reservation.  The parking meter doesn’t work.  It’s humid.  The restaurant is across the street and upstairs.  We see there is an elevator down the road.  I clumsily pay through their online app.  I wonder if I look pretty.  We gals can fit 100 thoughts or more into such moments, can’t we?

As we roll to the crosswalk, we hear music.  The beginning chords play “Thinking Out Loud”.  Hubby says it’s a popular song so no surprise.  But in my head I’m like, The Universe got my letter!  Thanks, Ed.  Thanks, God.

The words follow us all the way to the restaurant.  The patio overlooks a boat dock.  Our table has a sunset view.  It is a lovely evening.

Peace & love,

Signature GSE

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When your legs don’t work like they used to before
And I can’t sweep you off of your feet
Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love
Will your eyes still smile from your cheeks

And darling I will be loving you till we’re 70
And baby my heart could still fall as hard at 23
And I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe just the touch of a hand
Oh me I fall in love with you every single day
And I just wanna tell you I am

So honey now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
I’m thinking out loud
That maybe we found love right where we are

When my hair’s all gone and my memory fades
And the crowds don’t remember my name
When my hands don’t play the strings the same way
I know you will still love me the same

‘Cause honey your soul could never grow old, it’s evergreen
And baby your smile’s forever in my mind and memory
I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe it’s all part of a plan
I just keep on making the same mistakes
Hoping that you’ll understand

But baby now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
Thinking out loud
That maybe we found love right where we are

So baby now

Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Oh darling, place your head on my beating heart
I’m thinking out loud
That maybe we found love right where we are
Oh maybe we found love right where we are
And we found love right where we are