How I Learned to Say “Ya’ll”

It’s time for a little Ebenezer raisin’ here, folks.

My soul’s been buckled down, in gear, doing its thing, focused on survival. But the other day I realized it’s been a while since we went dancing. And we have a lot of things to dance about. So pardon me as I recount, for my soul’s sake, a story of how my Jesus loves me? For maybe the music will remind you of something you have to dance about, and we can all enjoy a little shindiggery together.

This is the story of how we came to live in Alabama. It’s time we step back enough to see even the far edges of this miracle.

I have always been afraid of moving cross country. This was not something I labeled my tshirts with, but it was there– a deep down fear. Because, you see, I’ve done my share of moving. Not moving like a military family, that moves constantly–no, I think that if you move that much, you get in the mode a little better. We stayed in places long enough to plant deep roots, and moved just enough to know the horror of it.

First Move

When I was five, my father took a job transfer from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to Raleigh, North Carolina. I was young enough that I don’t remember the hassle of packing up a family of six (my younger sister just 3 months old), or of a three day trek north, following a giant moving van to an apartment we’d never seen. But do I remember leaving behind our beloved backyard, complete with in-ground pool where I’d learned to swim like an otter almost before I could walk. I remember leaving a dear little girlfriend, a man who was like an uncle to us, and an adopted grandma who always gave us birthday cards for the wrong year. I remember leaving the cozy little reading nook Mommy had made for my brother and I in the living room, and the spot on the floor in front of the couch where I’d spelled out my first words.

North Carolina was a foreign land. The dirt was red, the ocean was hours away, and the people talked funny. My older brother and I expressed our resentment of everything being so different by refusing–the entire seven years we lived there–to use the contraction, “ya’ll”. We lived in an apartment for 3 months while we house hunted. Oh, and church shopped. Oh my. The house hunting I remember as a fun family outing, but visiting different churches each Sunday terrified me. All those strange people exercising the right to ‘make us feel welcome’ was torture to my shy, five-year-old self.

And then I remember a day, perhaps three years after the move, we were driving down Hillsborough Rd. on our way home from errands, and someone said, “When we get home” and something clicked into place inside me, and I realized that North Carolina at last felt like home. My stressed-out eight-year-old self relaxed just a tiny bit with the realization that we’d made it through the transition.

We lived in NC four more years. Four glorious years–some of the best of my childhood. We had 1.7 acres–a huge lot for a subdivision in the suburbs of the Capitol. It was mostly woods, and we spent the majority of our free time at least ten feet off the ground. Life was a delicious routine of homeschool, chores, quiet time, play time, family movie nights, music lessons, and seeing our friends at church. We played the Alphabet Game on our way back from the chiropractor’s each week, and got our “Q” on the same Quicky Lube sign every week.

Here We Go Again

And then, as if infected with the Seven Year Itch, my parents planned another move. This time I was old enough to understand what was happening. Old enough and experienced enough to know it would mean goodbyes to old friends, awkward acquaintances with new ones, a complete disruption of routine, and a long journey to find a new familiar.

I was thirteen the year we left NC for Upstate New York. But instead of moving from a home to a house that would become home, we sold most of our belongings and left upper-middle class suburbia to cram into a tipi on the top of a hillside, at the end of a 1/4 mile driveway, off a dirt road, in a rural county that didn’t boast a single shopping mall. (Not that I was addicted to mall shopping, I’m just tryin’ to paint a picture for you.)

I remember nearly every agonizing detail of this move. Teary goodbyes, twelve hours’ dreary driving under an appropriately grey sky into an unknown that was so vast, I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. There was absolutely nothing familiar to anchor to. The driveway to our new home was a slough of half-frozen mud that tried to eat the moving truck. Our only acquaintances were reserved almost-strangers we had only met on our scouting visits North the year before. The weather was inhospitable at best, and menacing at worst.

We lived on the homestead for nine years. It took nearly that long for it to feel like home, and often it felt like it only held that title by default. 

A Heart Shift

In the next ten years, I moved four times, but these were all in-state moves–from my parent’s home to my new husband’s, from one trailer in his parent’s mobile to the next–no relationships cut off or new geography to learn. I maintained a healthy fear of the dreaded cross-country move I had come to expect as an inevitable part of life.

Then, when I was 25, my God touched my heart and mind and released me from a heavy burden of fear–a debilitating level of anxiety that I’d lived with so long, I didn’t know it was there until it was gone. Suddenly I saw change as not a dread stranger, but a friendly possibility. For the first time in my life, I felt like I could move to a whole new place and even enjoy the process of meeting new people and setting up life in new surroundings. This was such a novel idea, I didn’t half trust it, but part of me thought a cross country move actually sounded like a fun adventure.

We Become Gypsies

In 2012, Jeremy’s parents bought a mobile home park in Alabama, of all places.  They had obligations in NY through mid summer, so Jeremy and I headed down to take possession of the park for them by July 1st. We drove our bus and suburban and 3 small children 3 days into the unknown, excited about seeing new places and spending the summer in our beloved bus.

When I stepped out of the car into the driveway of the mobile home park, I thought I was standing in the exhaust from the bus. I looked over and realized I was twenty feet from the bus and the heat hitting me was simply the air. I’d lived up North a long time and had forgotten air could feel this way. Nevertheless, we enjoyed our summer adventure–we met new friends through the blog who led us to a great church in the area, and we made memories on local bike paths and state parks.

We were not at this time planning on relocating. The plan had been:

  1. purchase a park that needs work
  2. do the work
  3. hire manager
  4. move on to next project

But the more time we spent in Alabama, the more we realized that this particular park wouldn’t be ready to hand off to a manager any time soon, and would need full time commitment for the foreseeable future.

The next year was punctuated by multiple 18-hour trips back and forth to New York as Jeremy helped his family manage the business in NY as well as the park in Alabama. Eventually, his parents sold their NY home and officially relocated to Alabama. We watched rather wistfully,  wondering if we would be next, but seeing a lot of obstacles to us leaving NY: there was a business and house to sell, and life-long relationships to part with.

Another Heart Shift

We got through another NY winter–our hardest one yet with Jeremy working seven days a week and me dealing with mold toxicity and the beginning of my 4th pregnancy–and when May came releasing us from ice and the coal business, we couldn’t wait to head south. We had work to do remodeling some homes Jeremy and I owned within the park, so planned to spend another summer in the bus. After a month here, we began to seriously ask ourselves if we should move here. We spent hours discussing it, till suddenly we realized we could weigh pros and cons till we were blue in the face, but we couldn’t see what God could see. So, we prayed a simple prayer–”Lord, guide our hearts.” Within a week we looked at each other and realized the Lord had moved our hearts to Alabama. We wanted to make this our new home.

There were still tons of details and logistics to figure out. Not only did we have a lot of ties in the North, we needed a house down here! We began to take steps toward moving, trusting God would make a way, since we were sure this was where He wanted to take us.

Not soon after, we found a used double wide that I fell in love with. The layout seemed so conducive to life with a young family. We put a down payment on it, and chose a lot in the park to move it too, believing we’d someday call it home.
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At the end of summer we said goodbye to family and the church we’d come to love and headed North with the goal to have a baby and pack up our home. I channeled all my nesting energy into packing while Jeremy worked to complete obligations with the coal business. It was a crazy time, and a crazy plan, but we were buoyed by the scent of adventure and the gut feeling that this was God’s best for us.

Six weeks after Lydia was born, friends and family spent two days helping us load our household goods and tools and machinery from the business into two huge moving trucks. The leaving was not easy–I will admit that. On the last day in NY I said some very hard goodbyes to close friends and by the time the last box was shoved into the trucks, I was wrung dry, emotionally and physically on empty. But when we pulled out of the driveway, I felt a wash of peace and joy. Though we were embarking on a honest-to-goodness, 1000 mile relocation, I had the overwhelming sensation of going home.

Coming Home

The closer we got to Alabama, the more excited I became. And when, our caravan  of five vehicles finally pulled into the park–a place so far from my old home, and yet so blessedly familiar after spending six months of the last two years camping here–I felt a deep, inner ‘clink’ as my body reunited with my heart and all of me felt right at home.

 

 

There was still weeks of hassle and transition–we slept in the bus while we got a trailer ready to be home for us. Then the bus heater quit and we moved into my in-laws for another week until we got heat in our new place. Then it was three weeks of using a chamber pot while they got the septic tank installed. Jeremy still had to make several trips back to NY over the winter and it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t fun to mother four kids single-handedly while my love was miles away. But even in the hardest moments I’ve still smiled when I think how much I used to fear a cross country move, and how, because of the loving care of my Father, the biggest move of my life has been a thrilling adventure.

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I love my new home, our church has surrounded us with love and support, and our family is thriving. I don’t know what the future holds, but this experience has deepened my trust in the Father’s love and encouraged me that whatever the next adventure is, I can embrace it joyfully because He goes before me, He stands behind me, and He walks beside me.

And? I say ‘ya’ll’ now. All the time.

That’s what I’m dancing about…how about you? What did God do this week/month/year/decade that reminded you that He’s a loving Father? I’d love to hear! Leave a comment or link to your blog if it’s a long story..like mine. ;)

Adventure is out there!

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So, this happened this week….the sale went thorough on a darling little double wide we picked out this summer…

In Alabama.

That’s right, peoples.

We’re heading south again and this time it’s gonna be a little more permanent.

I say “a little more” because if you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ve noticed Jeremy and I both have a good dose of wanderlust. We love adventure, so we were pretty excited when we sensed God leading us to move home base to the corner of Alabama we parked the bus on the last two summers.

We love New York, but kinda think the world is too beautiful to live in one place for our whole life. (Don’t you agree?)

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So, this will be our new spot…a private lot within his parent’s trailer park that we’ve been helping manage for 1 1/2 years. A darling little acre or two, in a rural setting, at the tail end of the Appalachian mountains, equal distance between Birmingham and Atlanta.

The list of things we will leave behind is long, many sweet friendships topping the list. But, as Sarah (Plain and Tall) said, “there is always something to miss”. And we are grateful and excited that the Lord is leading us to an area we have some wonderful new friends already, found a church that feels like home, and that promises to be a great place to raise our little family.

We left Alabama this summer with hopes to return by Thanksgiving. This week details finally fell into place so that hope could become a reality.

In other words, WE ARE MOVING IN TWO WEEKS! And I’m up to *here* with packing, and could. Not. Be. More. Excited.

I’m dead serious. I’m loving this. But I’m also in the middle of infant-induced sleep deprivation, with 4 kids, and two weeks to move a household just in time for the holidays, and I’m not above asking for prayers. For grace. For strength. For sleep. :-)

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(Cardboard boxes are starting to pile up in corners in nearly every room…)

Our home in New York will go on the market this month. We have loved this place…the views, the orchard, and the satisfaction of making it ours, but are excited for the next family who will get to call this place home. (Know anyone looking for a 4 bedroom, 2 1/2 bathroom home in the middle of the fingerlakes? :-) Talk to me, people!)

This is an incredible adventure, and I wanna take y’all along with me! I’ll be sharing more details as I find moments here on the blog, but for real time glimpses of our crazy life, I invite you to peek through the window that is my instagram, where moving photos will be tagged with #holdenadventures.

You can also sign up for my monthlyish newsletter where I share personal updates, announcements, and my favorite stories. (Sign up in the right side bar near the top of this page!)

This is gonna be epic.

We survived ski season!

I must shout it from the top of some place very high: “I survived ski season!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

I don’t usually blog about my husband’s absences till after he’s home (that’s wise, dontcha think?) but now that ski season is officially over for us, I can tell you what the last 8 weekends have been like for our family (with pictures of one of them!)

My husband is ski school supervisor for an adaptive ski program at a ski mountain 1 1/2 hours from hour home. This means he helps children and adults enjoy the fun and freedom of the slopes, no matter what their disability. Isn’t that cool? I think he rocks. This also means he leaves at 6am Saturdays and Sundays for the duration of the program, and doesn’t get home till 6 or sometimes 8 that night.

In past years, we have made the effort to join him almost every weekend. This year, because the kids are no longer tiny babies who spend half the day napping in a porta crib in the corner of the ski lodge, and because we were still recovering from our mold problem, we only joined him once. The rest of the time, we cuddled up at home with movies and dad-less dinners (You have those, too, right?) breaking up the monotony by hauling ourselves to church with a challenging ratio of three toddlers to one parent. In the bitter cold.

Fridays lose all their charm as heralds of the weekend during this season, just sayin’.

And yet. And yet. I fully support and embrace what my husband does because:

A) I believe in sharing. Jeremy gives an inestimable gift to the people he give his time to each weekend. Why should I jealously hog his awesomeness to myself?

And,  B) I believe in supporting other’s passions. Jeremy has worked with this program for 14 years–twice as long as we’ve been married. I knew when I married him that our winters would look like this, and I was ok with that and continue to be ok with that because I’m addicted to the light in his eyes when he is embracing his passion. In fact, I began falling in love with him during ski season. (Was it that light in his eyes, or the fact that he would show up to Sunday evening church services still wearing his sexy ski gear? Hmmm. That is a question we will have to explore when I finally get around to writing the rest of our love story. ;))

But yesterday was the last day. The last day that I would watch the clock, serve dinner to the kids on paper plates, glance at the clock again, put on a movie or some wild dancing music for the kids to buy a little more sanity for myself, check my phone to calculate how long it’s been since his “on my way home” text, and finally see lights skim by the dining room windows and yell to myself, to the kids and to the world,

“Daddy’s HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

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Sunday last week we go to join Daddy for a day on the slopes. This is what the lake looks like at 6:30 on a Sunday morning in February. Brrrr.

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It’s not terribly fun to get up at 5:30am (after only 5 hours sleep, mind you) so you have time to make a nourishing breakfast (chocolate chip peanut butter oatmeal muffins, with soaking directions) and pack a family of 5 to leave by 6:30. Seeing the sunrise in this particular little lake-side town made it all worth it, because this is the town in which my man asked me to marry him 7 1/2 years go. ;)

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And this? This moment, watching Seth watch his sister ski? Totally worth it.

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Watching Claire ski down the BIG HILL for the first time? Totally worth it! (her and daddy are second from the bottom in the middle of the slope)

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And then this. Finally Seth gets his first ski lesson. His brother and sister were 18 months and 15 months respectively when they started skiing. Seth is 2 1/2 — it was high time! He asked all day, “I go ‘kiing now?”. At last it was time.

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Stepping into his skis

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“So this is what it feels like!…Now what?”

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We go up the hill so we can go down.

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And this is an even faster way to get up the hill! Already this is a blast for my little monkey.

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Then at last we are doing it…we are skiing!

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Jeremy is such a great teacher…I just fall in love with him all over again every time I watch him ski backward while teaching our kids how to ski.

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After 3 runs down the bunny hill, we only got Seth inside by bribing him with lunch. He just kept repeating “I ready go ‘kiing now!” After lunch a friend took him for 3 more runs. He was the shortest munchkin in the lift line. ;)

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Farewell, ski season. We survived you. We even made some good memories with you. Until next year!

Another Allume Miracle {Or, Two Angles and a Special Book}

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Meet my Allume Angel. Her name is Aurie, and two hours before this photo was taken, we were complete strangers. Now we are not.

Here’s what happened…I was just sitting down to dinner Friday night when I got a phonecall from my husband. He told me that my package–THE package that presented 1 1/2 years of our combined effort and was SUPPOSED to arrive at Allume on Thursday had gotten lost or delayed, or something, and if I wanted to get my hands on the box which contained the FIRST EVER copies of my book in PRINT (can you tell how exciting this is for me?) I would have to go to the UPS warehouse and pick it up myself.

Oh my. That was like telling me if I wanted my books I’d have to learn to scuba dive and fetch them from an undersea cave. Not only did I not have a car, but I’m so directionally challenged I wouldn’t have been able to find it if it was 3 miles away.

I looked around my table. I knew no one local to Harrisburg. In desperation, I turned to my left and said to the gal next to me, who I hardly knew, “I have a problem. My books are here–HERE in Harrisburg, but if I don’t pick them up tonight, I’ll never see them, ’cause UPS will close for the weekend, and I leave town before they open again on Monday! I don’t know what I”m gonna do!”

Oh, but I just happened to be sitting next to Kelly, who just happens to have a creative mind and a can-do attitude.

And Kelly just happened to know someone who was local to Harrisburg.

And that someone just happened to be sitting right over there…and Kelly was more than willing to introduce me, and assured me that this person was just the sort of person who would skip dinner and drive a stranger to pick up a box from UPS.

And she was, and we did.

Aurie grabbed her keys, led me out the parking garage, typed the address into her GPS, we both cheered when we saw we were only 3 miles away, and off we went.

We waited 25 agonizing minutes at the UPS for them to find the box which headquarters said was there, but no one knew quite where. We were hungry, and really hoping we wouldn’t miss Sally Clarksons key note! Phonecalls were exchanged, people went into the warehouse to hunt, I knit my brows and worried, but Aurie kept smiling and inspired me to have just a little more faith.

(I’ll say this for UPS–everyone we had contact with–from my husband on the phone with headquarters, to the ladies running the desk at the warehouse–were very helpful and courteous. Having the box go missing and miss the delivery truck that was to take it to the hotel was just one of those mishaps that happen once in a great while. And it taught me faith. Because, to me, the situation was bleak and impossible. But God)

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But God…Finally delivered this box into my arms, and I held it close on the drive back, and we got back to the ballroom to find that dinner had been delayed, meaning we had not missed the keynote yet, and friends had saved dinner for us–the waiters brought our plates of food out as soon as we got back to our seats–and the evening went on without a hitch.

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And I got my books to Allume in time to have them on the speaker book table. It was surreal, I tell you.

The moment you hold your own, self-published book in your hands is truly amazing. I liken it to holding a newborn baby for the first time. I carried my ebook in my ‘heart’ for a year and a half while it existed in its electronic state. But now I can hold it in my hands.

And I can share it with you. For all of you who have asked, and waited soooo patiently, the print version of Real {Fast} Food is now available on Createspace.  (note: you will not be ordering from me–the books in the story above were just for sale at the conference)

From me to you–My book, all dressed up with real pages and color photos and that pretty cover my man designed. Just in time for Christmas! You can order it HERE.

Merry Christmas!

Friday at Allume {In Which God Breaks Me, Uses Me, and Gets ALL the Glory}

Today was the day. Today I had a chance to share my passion for people-centered blogging and my heart for serving over seeking fame with my blog. If I could just get the words to come out straight, I’d survive.

Oh, plus there was that whole other issue I’d been dealing with all weekend. (If you get my personal newsletter, you know about this already, but here’s a recap for the rest of you…)

Bigger than my fear of messing up my talk, was my fear of totally rocking my talk. Yes, you heard that—I was afraid of success, because I was afraid of pride. Remember last year at Allume? How prideful I had been? And how the Lord had been kneading humility into me ever since? Well, I was plumb terrified that if I succeeded in sharing my message in a cohesive manner—if my talk was at all passable, it would feed that pride I’d been a slave to, and I’d be back where I started—a stuck up snob, thinking of myself more than others.

But God.

But God had a plan. He had hinted of that plan Thursday morning, in the quiet of early morning in my hotel room, chiding me oh-so-gently for my lack of faith, for thinking that I could get back into the pit {of pride} He’d delivered me from, for thinking that I had to manage my own sanctification, for not believing that He had a plan. Some reason, I didn’t trust Him yet, and continued to fear.

Then, Friday at 11 am, just 3 hours before I was supposed to speak, you’ll never guess what happened…

Aunt Flo arrived at Allume.

I saw her step off the elevator (not literally, I’m just trying to make as light of this TMI detail as possible, people!) and I thought,

“No! Not you! Again!” (she’d followed me to Allume last year, too, the annoying relative that she is)

Then I thought,

“Bummer. I really wanted to be pregnant this month.”

Finally, I thought,

“Oh, my gosh, how embarrassing. I’ve been telling everyone I was pregnant. How in the world am I gonna save face after this snafu?”

(whoa, hold it—I didn’t even know that word was in my vocabulary—what’s a snafu??? Just a minute…OK, Merriam Webster says it’s “a situation marked by errors or confusion”. OK, yeah. Perfect word. Carry on…)

How do I describe the next three hours? I spent about half of it crying in my room, with my roomates gathered around me, comforting and praying for me, and the other hour and half trying to gather my wits and compose myself so I would be ready to speak at 2. I totally missed my friend Kristina’s session, managed about 4 bites of lunch, and finally made my way to the room assigned to my talk,  my prepared speech a crumpled wad in one sweaty, shaking fist.

The room was empty when I arrived, but slowly began to fill with the Gideon Band that God had gathered around me that weekend: Diane and Milan, September and Sarah, Jess, Mandy, and Kateri, all from my mastermind group and all with comforting hugs and promises to pray. Then Lisa-Jo arrived—Lisa-Jo, who had spoken such words of affirmation into me Thursday night, telling me how excited she was about the theme of my talk and giving me such a boost of confidence by assuring me she was going to attend. Kris was there, and Jodi, and Dana, and many of the other women I’d connected with already that weekend. I thought, ‘”Why should I be nervous, I’m just going to be speaking to a handful of friends!” But I still was. Because not only did I have a speech to deliver, I had a snafu to confess.

Yes, yes, I’m serious. There would be no attempt to save face. I felt the Lord telling me that my blunder was the perfect story to illustrate one of the key points in my speech—the call to embrace humility as a blogger. It was all there in my notes…

“Embracing humility means not shying away from those moments that show me and however is watching that I’m not the next mommy-blogger-superstar.

Embracing humility means thinking more of other’s needs and less of my own craving for attention and validation.

Embracing humility means seeing myself through God’s eyes—beautiful, worthy, a treasure, but ONLY because of grace.”

So, instead of figuring out a way to mask my blunder, and casually un-tell people about my mistaken pregnancy only if it happened to come up in conversation, I chose to take the grace the Lord heaps up for the humble, to go ahead and just be me, without the masks of having it all together. I could just be me and let Christ fill in the gaps with grace.

So I did. I shared with the women what had happened that morning, and I could tell from the gentle laughter in the room that I wasn’t the only one who’d ever done such a silly thing. I shared with them the choice I had to make: to fight a humiliating moment with more pride, or to embrace the grace to be humble. And I applied it to blogging—to the need to be humble and authentic with our stories, with our mistakes as we learn to navigate the land of tweets and statuses, and with every interaction with our readers and acquaintances. Humility is a key to having a Kingdom impact with your blog.

And some how the words came. It was just as Tricia and September and Jana told me—the Holy Spirit would give me words if I was just obedient to open my mouth.

And here was the mighty deliverance Gideon’s God worked for me that day:

He delivered me from pride, and the fear of pride, by gently bringing me to a place of utter brokenness and inadequacy, and then used me in that broken state to further His kingdom.

See, God totally rocked my talk, friends. And He did it all with a broken vessel who both felt ill-prepared and was an emotional wreck just hours before her talk so that when the words the He wanted said were shared, He got ALL the glory.

And I praise His name. 

It’s still unreal to me that I was a part of this awesome group of men and women–the speakers at Allume 2012. (I’m in the front, second from left–at the feet of Sally Clarkson, Ann Voskamp, and ProBlogger–great place to be!)

Recordings of all of the Allume sessions are at last available for purchase!(I know I told you they’d be free, but I was mistaken. Still, the content is gold, I tell you, pure gold!) I’m totally getting the package for myself for Christmas. Oh, yes. But watch this here blog for more of the content from my talk, which I’ll be making available for my readers in text form—soon!

Oh, and did you like this series of posts about my experiences at Allume? I hope so, because I have one more miracle to tell!

Bus Life in Alabama

Not only did I clean the bus, but I plucked my eyebrows, too. It was the perfect time to do a vlog…

Bus life is life simplified. As you can see, there’s not much room for stuff in the bus. The menu is simplified by the limits of a small fridge and the burns-nearly-everything oven. Days are simplified by the lack of the normal tasks, activities, and outings. Although I don’t feel called to live this simply all the time, it has its benefits and I do enjoy it for a season.

Mornings start with rolling up the bus curtains to let the bright, Alabama sunshine in. I feed the kiddos, make a smoothie for Jeremy (who likes a light breakfast) and then we begin our day.

Sometimes it’s school with the kids first, but this month there’s been more getting outside to enjoy as much of the warm weather as we can before we head south, than staying inside with books. There will be plenty of time for school when we’re all cozied up in our home in NY for the winter.

I have to run to the laundromat several times a week as well as the grocery store (because the bus fridge is so small), so I often run errands in the morning.

In the afternoon, Seth naps on one of the bunks in the back, allowing the rest of us to be in the front of the bus without waking him to easily. (He doesn’t like to fall asleep easily in mommy’s bed–he’d rather play, so I usually have to lay down with him for 15 min. till he passes out. This is nice down time for me). Afternoons are when mommy writes, or joins daddy down at the trailer they’re remodeling. He is putting in flooring, she scrubs and paints.

Jesse and Claire ride their bikes as much as a 6 and 4 year old could possibly want. They also make up all sorts of creative games with tape, sticks, cardboard, and crayons (since mommy, ehem, forgot to pack toys this time around). Their artwork plasters nearly all the available wall space in the bus.

Evenings are the most challenging, as it gets dark by 5pm, so we are all 5 in the bus for 3 hours before you can possibly call it bedtime. We get a little stir crazy sometimes, but an episode of Buck Denver can usually get us through mommy making dinner, and books from the library carry us till bedtime. After children pass out, finally mommy and daddy get a little time to think and relax, maybe watch a grown-up movie, or work on the blog together, or finally get the rest they deserve.

And then it starts all over again. That’s a glimpse into bus life...what part do you think you’d hate or love the most? And did you like my eyebrows???

Enter Wig, Stage Left {and discard that mask}

The first night at Allume, I roomed with my mentor and friend, September, and her fun and funky daughter, Sarah. (Have you noticed I have an appreciation for funkyness? It’s like the highest compliment I give people. “You’re funky. I like you!”)

Sarah brought a friend, as well. Her 3 foot wide afro wig.

I took one look and knew I was gonna be guilty of grand wig theft by the end of the week.

I’m kidding. Sarah promised to share.

The wig thrilled me. I have no idea why. It may take this whole series for me to explain to you—to myself–why the wig was such an important part of my weekend. Why I loved it so much. Why I let so many photographs be taken of me and the wig.

Tonight I loved it because it made me laugh. I was so stressed that my trapezius muscles were were one, taut hunk of burning muscle which literally kept me from getting more than 3 hours of sleep that night, but the wig let me laugh. About wearing it in the smile booth. About how much fun it was to be finally free from a life-long bondage to ‘what will people think?’ and to be able to do crazy things like wear a 3 ft. afro wig in public. I fell asleep Friday night giggling about the wig.

Thursday at Allume is like Christmas. Friends who feel like family start arriving, the halls and rooms are full of joyous reunion, and—you receive your swag bag!

(Gals, if you have ever dreamt of attending Allume, but weren’t sure if it was worth the cost, the swag bag is the final answer. It’s a gorgeous Dayspring tote chock. full. of. goodness. The latest books from the authors you and I love, plus gifts of chocolate, jewelry, even Christmas ornaments from the conference sponsors. The only problem? The women who fly have trouble getting it all back in their luggage. What a terrible problem!)

I actually don’t remember much about the next day-and-a-half leading up to my talk, except one thing: prayer. I know I took a walk with Janelle and another jaunt with Gretchen,Dawn, Hiedi, and Katey that ended with them vowing to never let Trina lead an expedition again (I do hope they eventually found a coffee shop…) Oh, and I remember that awesome pita shop where you created your custom pita and I put pesto on my gyro-style pita…

But I digress. What I was saying was that the highlights of the weekend were when people prayed for me. See, I could have put on the mask of ‘I’m ok, I’m gonna make it, somehow I’ll get through this weekend’ and not revealed to people how insecure, inadequate, and pretty much freaked out I was. But instead the Lord gave me grace to be completely open and utterly needy with everyone I met—and even the ones I hadn’t met yet! And each time I bared my heart, these women fortified me with words of encouragement, faith, and prayer.

  • Kristina, instead of letting me stay up late to practice Wed. night, instead told me everything would be fine, get some rest.
  • September, instead of letting my practice my speech before going to sleep, assured me that the Holy Spirit would give me the words when it was time to speak, and that I should trust.
  • Tricia Goyer (yes, THE Tricia Goyer!), my new roomate who arrived on Thursday, told me the same thing. Both these women do a lot of speaking, so I took great hope from their encouragement.
  • I met Jana who had ‘speaker’ in her list of gifts on her card, and detained her long enough to ask her best speaking tip, and if it was ok to feel so inadequate. You know what she said? Same thing. The Holy Spirit would take over if I was simply willing to be a mouth piece.

Could all these women be wrong? I think not. I dared to hope. But I was still a wreck.

Until I met Emily. Thursday night, in line for dinner, I caught site of a familiar face—Elisa! I had had the privilege over the summer of encouraging her to start her own mastermind group and relaunch her awesome ebook Impact My Life: Biblical Mentoring Simplified (which is on sale right now!), but we’d only ever spoken over the phone. Now here she was in person, and when I finished hugging her, she introduced me to her friend Emily.

There was just something about Emily. She looked familiar to me, though I had never met her before. She just had the look of a friend. And when she found out that I was a wreck (remember, I wore no mask) she asked if she could pray for me.

(I want to be a person who goes to prayer within a minute of meeting a stranger, don’t you?)

And then she asked, “Can I put my hand on you?”

My dear girl. You have no idea how OK I am with you putting your hand on me. Yes, yes—I’m totally OK with the ‘laying on of hands’!

And then sweet Emily from Maine prayed for me in the middle of the bustle and hustle of opening night at Allume, and I testify that I felt a peace surge through me deeper and stronger than anything I’d felt since saying a shaky ‘yes’ to Sarah Mae asking me to speak 8 months before.

I have told everyone who will listen to me in the past month that God grew for me at Allume—that He is way bigger than we think He is. And I believe the reason He was able to increase in my life—to expand outside of the box I had viewed Him in, was because of the prayers of His people on my behalf.

So, I’m just gonna say thanks, right here, to all who prayed for me, and to God, who answers prayer.

Are you ready? The next installment contains the miracle. Friday God pulled a Gideon, and took me along for the ride.

In Which I Crash a Newbie Party {and feel right at home}

The swag packing party continued but it was now nearing dinner time. It had been a long time since this crew had stopped at Taco Bell on the drive down…

{September and her daughter Sarah, Diane and her daughter Milan–and me!}

I had the feeling if I didn’t get something substantial to eat soon, my blood sugar would plummet beyond the point of no return.

Problem.

I knew as soon as I had climbed out of September’s van into the Hotel’s parking area that I was officially, fully, and completely outside of my comfort zone. We were in downtown Harrisburg. Skyscrapers dominated my view of the sky, and I knew if I was going to step outside of the hotel at any time during the weekend, it would only be if I was holding a grown-up’s hand.

But dinner was out there…somewhere. I looked around for someone’s hand to hold. There was Shannon, and a few other friendly faces, talking about going to an Italian place around the corner. Great, I’d hitch a ride with them.

Little did I know that in piggy backing on their dinner plans I was actually presuming to be included in their reservations at a two-fork, upscale Italian eatery with a menu I couldn’t pronounce. They just happened to have a cancellation which made room for little me, and they were so gracious about me joining them, I didn’t even realize till we were all sitting down that this whole dinner had been planned in advance, and that I was crashing a well-planned, pre-allume, newbie get-together!

Funny thing was, despite the fact that I wasn’t technically a newbie anymore, I felt right at home. I well remembered my first Allume, and how much courage it took to be the new girl in a conference full of women who all seemed to know each other and have it all together already. I was carrying my own bundle of nerves this year due to my speaking commitment, and the newness of being at a different hotel. It felt so good to settle my nerves with laughter in the welcoming circle of these sweet women.

And dinner was lovely, too. Shannon even helped me order. Have I mentioned that I love her?

We shared Beef and Cheese Calzone with–get this–Red Onion Marmalade. Oh, and the salad? Had butternut squash in it. I have never had winter squash in a salad. The food was amazing, but the company was even better…

I sat across from Jennifer, which was so fun ’cause I had just watched her husband’s hilariously creative hack on her blog the day before. I felt like I was meeting a celebrity.

Then there was Janelle who I found shares my entrepreneurial interests (she’s just opened a boutique in her town) and my goal to rid my life of perfectionism. She shared with me this quote:

“Perfectionism fosters loneliness and isolation.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Then there was Lindsey, who I knew I would love from the description on her business card, “Christian. Wife. Mom. Weirdness Magnet.”

On my other side was Amanda and Jennifer, two beautiful women with whom I felt an immediate connection, and then around the end of the table, too far for me to talk to, but sharing laughs and business cards with nonetheless, were Katie and Nancy and Rachel, and Jami, and–and, I think I may be forgetting someone, but I’m pleading my fatigue and low blood sugar from having any clearer memories of the group!

Anyway, it was a lovely dinner and really just another way the Lord provided for me and met me in my weakness that weekend. These sweet women reached out to me, the one who should have been relaxed and savvy but wasn’t, and spoke encouragement and affirmation and blessing into my life when I was feeling desperately inadequate.

Gideon’s band was growing. (which, technically, is not what Gideon’s band was supposed to do. I realize I’m stretching the metaphor here folks, but bear with me! lol)

 

Of Pitchers and Torches and Swag

At last. Packing was done. Friends had arrived, connections had been made, and a van of 5 woman were headed down the highway to the Allume conference.

I was giddy. The hardest part was over. Well, the second hardest part. I still had my talk to give on Friday, but the packing and getting on the road had been accomplished. Someone else was driving (thank heavens!) and I could just sit back and start enjoying this weekend I’d anticipated for an entire year.

Me, Shannon, and Teresa in the Smilebooth

The cherry on top? The Allume conference was an opportunity to connect with some of my closest friends from across the country, giving me the opportunity to share my little secret in person.

Yes, friends, I was gonna be really stupid and start telling people I was preggo.

First I told my friends in the van (squeals! cheers! congratulations!). Then I proceeded to tell every. single. person I met at Allume as soon as I got off the elevator.

Oh, my, my, my.

You are getting a glimpse of The IRL Trina that may or may not show up on the blog very often. I’m impulsive. Extreme. And can be very, very silly.

We got to Allume a day early so we could help with the bag stuffing. One of the (million) awesome things about Allume is the Swag Bags. Beautiful DaySpring totes stuffed to the gills with gifts from conference sponsors. Books, chocolate, books, jewelry, books, and more books. What more could a woman ask for? It’s crazy. And it’s also a lot of work. Allume Early Birds arrive on Wednesday and spend hours and hours unpacking the loot, setting it out on tables, then forming an assembly line to fill each of the 400+ bags with the 30+ individual swag items.

It’s really a whole lot of fun.

But I was really struggling. Now I know it was dehydration (I’d lost my water bottle in the van) and fatigue and stress. But at the time, I blamed it on Baby Brain. I couldn’t focus, kept forgetting items for my bag and having to go back through the line to re-stuff, and though I was here, at last, in a room full of people, several of which I knew well and had been so looking forward to being with, I felt overwhelmed. Me! The Extrovert! Felt overwhelmed?

I couldn’t figure me out. I did something I rarely do. OK, never. I retreated. I left the beauty and fun and fellowship of the Packing Party and went back to my room. Alone.

People. I’m still wigging out about this. I never do this. Never retreat from people, or choose to be alone when I’m with friends. People give me energy, friends fill up my soul, God speaks me often most loudly in fellowship.

But I went back to my room and tried the whole introvert thing. *wink* I embraced the quiet, settled in to our room, took a shower, snacked, and still didn’t feel like myself. So, I did what, um, you and I both know I should have done days ago, and pulled out my Bible to actually read the story of Gideon.

Because that was me, people. This was my Gideon moment (OK, one of them). I knew it was alright to not feel myself today. Today didn’t matter. But what about Friday? What if I felt like this on Friday? Completely Brainless and unable to form complete sentences? I had a job to do and I could already sense a complete and utter fail on my part. I felt like Gideon must have, and I decided to see if God had been speaking the story of Gideon to me because He had a gem of truth to plant in me from that story.

It was good. It was right. To finally sit down and obey the nudge to read the story of Gideon all the way through. (Hello—I’d blogged about it and still hadn’t read it) It’s a good story, peoples. I read it and my heart settled down a little bit. I still felt brainless, but I blamed that on Baby Brain. My heart, at least, had a modicum of peace, having had my perspective adjusted a bit closer to God’s view of the battle weekend.

I went back out and jumped into the bag stuffing again, and had a chance to confide in my friend Shannon how ‘off’ I felt, and inadequate, and shared how I feel like the whole weekend I’m ‘pulling a Gideon’ and she said, “That’s great. Break the Pitcher and we’ll see the light, Trina. Don’t worry-all you have to do is break the pitcher and we’ll see the light.”

With those words, Shannon added to my little stockpile of peace, built up my faith in God’s ability to, um, be God, and became the first official recruit of the little band of soldiers God was going to surround me with that weekend, part of His plan for victory. Gideon’s Band.

This is NOT an Announcement {As much as it sounds like one}

I was stressed, people.

My life is full of things that I love, that give me energy, that excite me. But sometimes they all converge to get me really stressed out.

I love travel.

I love our crazy, gypsy, life this year, splitting our time between our home in the Fingerlakes of Upstate NY and a bus parked in a trailer park in Alabama.

I love writing.

I love my blog, and the relationships that have come from this space, and the opportunities it’s opened for ministry and beauty in my life.

I love people.

I didn’t yet know if I liked public speaking, but I did know I was looking forward to all the other hours at Allume, connecting at heart level with old and new friends, celebrating God and the adventure of the writing life.

But October nearly did me in.

Because while I was preparing to attend Allume (making business cards, shopping for a few more outfits to complete my no-brainer wardrobe, gathering little gifts for my roomies and besties)…

…I was also preparing to speak at Allume (writing over 4,000 words on my laptop in stolen moments, rendezvousing with Kristina to practice our talks, reading books on public speaking, watching TED talks for inspiration)…

…And I was also packing our family up to head to Alabama straight from Allume (Making meals for while I was gone, doing laundry, sorting clothes, packing everything I could before I left and leaving comprehensive lists for my husband)

And, because I hadn’t yet learned to trust and rest that God has my back and really does care about the littlest details (I mean, I said I did, but I wasn’t living it), all this stress built and built until my body reacted physically.

What I mean to say is, Aunt Flo delayed her visit, and I missed her note and thought I was pregnant.

Yeah, so on top of everything else on my plate, my raging hormones convinced me that I was also preggo.

Add to the list: make high protein snacks for hotel room. Pack clothes for Alabama in multiple sizes. Try to travel, attend conference, speak, and function with the half-a-brain I always feel like I have when I’m preggo.

Don’t get me wrong. I was really excited to think I was pregnant. But it was all a bit much. I was like, “Really, God? You’ve called me to this conference, and to speak to people, and then You want me to do it with half a brain?”

That’s when God started to speak to me the story of Gideon.

I saw the analogy right away—God called Gideon to do a job, Gideon felt inadequate, but that was OK because God was gonna fight the battle. God chose an inadequate vessel so that in the end, He would get the glory.

I got it. I tried to trust. And went back to my packing.

(Spoiler alert: Sorry to break the suspense of the story, but I do just have to say, for the record, This is not an announcement. I am NOT currently pregnant, nor was I at the time of this story. It was all a miss-understanding between me and Flo. Got it?)