Cure for a Writing Party Hangover

In case it isn’t obvious, this is only my second post in the month of November.  So what in the world is going on?  Well, I’ve been asking myself that for several days.  At first I felt like the internet needed me to be quiet for a few days so that there might be enough white space for people to process things other than 31 Days of Advent in October.

When it came time to put thoughts into words, sentences, paragraphs and posts again, and I struggled to do it, it dawned on me I am experiencing what I have decided to call a Writing Party Hangover.  Another blogger, Emily Freeman, recently posted that every year in October she writes for 31 days straight and then finds that she has nothing to say in November.  Well, I am experiencing something completely different.  I have so many thoughts swirling around in my head, it’s like a three-ring circus in here…in fact, it’s like a three-ring circus plus clowns and jugglers circling the perimeter, plus little kids on a sugar high squealing with delight and I think I heard a train whistle.  And they are all vying for my attention.

Elephant Trail

Sometimes writing, for me, is like giving those thoughts a safe place to land.  With the Writing Party Hangover it’s been really hard to just pick one thought, help it land onto the virtual page and then let it become a more fully developed idea.  But in some sense I don’t think this space is necessarily for completely developed ideas, more like ideas in process.

So, this morning I decided to break up my routine to help me look at things differently and hopefully get some of this circus of thoughts out of my head (now there’s a title for a post – Circus of Thoughts or Head Circus or How to Get the Circus Out of Your Head).   See what I mean?  It’s just a big mess in here.  God bless everyone who has actually tried to have a face-to-face conversation with me lately.

Hopefully unplugging from technology, being quiet, and working in a different room will shake some things loose for me and something coherent may come together.  Or not.  They say identifying the problem is the first step towards solving it.

Amen.

Looking Back on 31 Days (or Clueless and Loving It!)

Last week as the 31 Days of Advent in October series was coming to an end I realized I was so engrossed in writing it that I hadn’t had a chance to discuss it.  You may be thinking, “Wow, what an odd thing to say Kim.  In writing it weren’t you discussing it?”  Well, the writing of it is one thing, but the experience of the process is something completely different.  And it turns out I think I have a lot to say about the experience.

Just in case you have no idea what I am talking about you can check it out here and here.  But I just completed a 31 Day writing challenge over at The Nester’s online home.  For the past several years she has invited bloggers to write for 31 days straight about the same topic in the month of October as a way of building an online community, encouraging others in their blogging journey, and to help bloggers remember why it is they signed up for this writing life.

Last October, for the second year in a row, I read The Nester’s 31 Day invitation and subsequent series and really longed to join in what looked like a Big Fun Writing Party.  But alas, I had no blog and therefore, no way to join the party.  Until of course it finally occurred to me that all I needed was a name for my blog, $10 (or whatever it was) to register the domain name, and an afternoon to set everything up through WordPress.  And just like that, on a cold afternoon in January, on my big red couch in my living room, Gracefullyunraveled – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly was born.

So the couple of months leading up to October 2013 the question loomed in the back of my mind, are you going to do it?  Are you going to join the writing party?  The truth is I waffled back and forth for several weeks because I had a couple of big commitments (at least big for me) already lined up and I was feeling a little overwhelmed by the idea of writing about the same topic EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR 31 STRAIGHT DAYS.  I wasn’t sure if I could do it.

Apparently it all worked out because here I am writing this post on October 31st (even though it will publish in a week), my last post in the series went live this morning at 6:00 a.m. and here are some of my initial reflections on this journey:

1)     I loved this experience from beginning to end!  I was concerned that if I made the “commitment” to participate that at some point it might become drudgery, but it never did.  Some of the posts were a little more difficult to develop, but it was never drudgery.  Sitting down to write each post was such a joy because I didn’t have to struggle to make anything fit.  As I read each advent selections I could see lots of different strands that I could pull and follow and respond to.  Ann’s book, The Greatest Gift, is so rich that I could probably go through this exercise multiple times and write completely different responses each time. (Please, please, GET THIS BOOK before December 1st…it was life changing for me and every bit as important as One Thousand Gifts, also by Ann Voskamp.)

2)     Even if no one else ever read any of my posts except me it was worth every second of it.  The process of writing each post ministered to me in a deep way.  When I say the process I mean reading each day’s selection, internalizing it, and then articulating a response.  I wept through almost all of them as God convinced me personally of His coming just for my heart.  And that He’s been coming for me since before the beginning.  I am tearing up now thinking about it.  The only struggle was that sometimes there just didn’t seem to be words adequate to articulate the work going on in my heart.

3)      As I thought about this post I considered including a link to my favorite ones in the series.  The problem is I LOVED EVERY SINGLE POST.  Of course they weren’t perfect and given more time I could have done a much better job editing and polishing them, but each one of them had a unique and necessary thing to speak to the series as a whole and I couldn’t choose any of them over the others.

4)      This experience confirmed to me that art inspires art.  My posts came directly from my personal conversations with the Lord about another artist’s work.  My responses were different than Ann Voskamp’s, but they were certainly inspired by hers.  And they were also inspired by MANY other things I’ve read and experienced over the last few years – One Thousand Gifts, Grace for the Good Girl, several books of the Bible, my Advanced Discipleship Training (ADT) class, all of my classmates in ADT.  I am still thinking about this and I actually believe it’s a very important point.  I think it speaks to our need for community on many levels.  I have heard other writers say that when they experience a “dry season” they realize it is because they are not reading and/or engaging in their life enough.  I am sure all of them will be glad to know that now I also agree. 🙂

5)      The end product, meaning each post, was less important to me than the process of creating it.  That actually surprised me.  I came to this conclusion when I realized that every time someone said they liked my post or gave me encouragement (which I really needed and was very grateful for because this was a huge endeavor for me), I said “Thank you”, but I found myself wanting to talk about how that particular post had developed.  I just couldn’t figure out a way to say that to anyone without sounding like I wanted to talk about myself.  🙂 (I tend to overuse emoticons when I feel awkward about something I’ve just written, but I think I am the only one who didn’t know that about myself.)

6)      One of the best things about this journey was dialoguing with the Lord about each of the posts and allowing the post to be an expression of my union with Him.  I know that sounds sort of mystical and I don’t mean for it to, but I am not sure how else to say it.  I was openly using a jumping off point from Ann Voskamp’s, The Greatest Gift, but chewing on each writing selection,  internalizing the message and then spinning it back out into each post for others to consume, enjoy (or even reject) was a very personal expression of something the Lord and I were doing together.

7)      This point is going to sound crazy, but in the interest of full disclosure, I feel that to exclude this one would be dishonest.  I loved the 31 Days journey so much that I am a bit concerned/afraid/worried/scared to death that the next blog writing project (which I have in mind, but will talk about later) won’t be as good or amazing in terms of process or end product.  😦 I know this is completely irrational…and will probably sound even more crazy when I share the idea for the next topic here in this space.  (I have said it before, but it bears repeating, I often think my role in life is to provide the comic relief for the rest of you.)

I may have more to share but these are my initial thoughts.  I am a firm believer in the idea that as we move through the events of our lives we have absolutely no clue as to their significance until some time has passed and we gain more context and perspective.  So here’s to being clueless and loving it!

31 Days of Advent in October :: Day 31!

Photo Credit: Sophie Pope

Photo Credit: Sophie Pope

After writing about the coming of Christ every day for an entire month, I have to say I feel a bit like celebrating–not in what I have done, but in what the coming of the Word Made Flesh has done in me and in the world.

Won’t you celebrate with me?  What better words to end this Advent series with than those of Isaac Watts:

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let all their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness,
And wonders of his love,
And wonders of his love,
And wonders of his love.

Grace.

31 Days of Advent in October :: Day 30

Photo Credit: Sophie Pope

Photo Credit: Sophie Pope

The Greatest Gift
Reading Selection for December 25th
“Today”

Luke 2: 13-15  (NLT)13 “Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 ‘Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.’

15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.'”

The angel tells the shepherds, “…peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”  Jehovah Shalom the God Who is Peace was pleased to come to us, to come for us, to come in us.

Love was pleased to come for us.  It wasn’t drudgery.  It wasn’t a last ditch effort of a reluctant Savior.  It wasn’t the act of an exasperated Father to say, “I told you so.”  He was pleased to come for us.  To rescue us.  To deliver us. To restore us.  To save us.  Us, the broken, sinful, forgotten and hurt.  Us, the one’s with nothing to offer, nothing to give, but our own filthy rags.

Us, the beloved creation of Creator God.

I love this line from “Hark the Herald Angel Sings,”

“Veil’d in flesh, the Godhead see;
Hail, th’incarnate Deity:
Pleased, as man, with men to dwell,”

He was pleased to come, as a man, for you and for me.

Advent is here.  He has come, for you.  He’s standing at the door of your own version of a stable, will you let Him in?  Don’t worry about the smell.  Don’t worry about the animal dung.  The straw all over the floor’s just fine too.  He doesn’t need a place to sit.  He’s not interested in the pretense or the view.  He’s come just for you.  He’s pleased to be here.

Receive Him.

And if you need words to celebrate His arrival, maybe these by Charles Wesley will help:

Hark! the herald angels sing, –
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.”
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’ angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem.”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!

Christ, by highest heav’n adored:
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the favored one.
 Veil’d in flesh, the Godhead see;
 Hail, th’incarnate Deity:
Pleased, as man, with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel!
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!

Hail! the heav’n-born Prince of peace!
Hail! the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die:
 Born to raise the sone of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!

31 Days of Advent in October :: Day 29

Photo Credit: Sophie Pope

Photo Credit: Sophie Pope

The Greatest Gift
Reading Selection for December 24th
“God in the Manger”

Luke 2:7 (NLT)“She [Mary]…laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.”

All of God in a woman; in a baby; in a manger; on a Cross; within us.  Is it possible for all of Divinity to dwell in all of our humanity?  It defies imagination.  It defies logic.  It defies all human reason.  Love like this cannot be pictured or concluded.  It had to be demonstrated.  It had to express Itself in the only possible explanation, a miracle.

Love, unconditional, heaven and earth-moving Love, creation-inspiring Love, could not stay Home and watch from afar.  Love was compelled to act.  Love was compelled to move.  Love came down to us.   Love was the only Way.  Love is the only Way.

In all of our imagining; in all of our logic and reason, we couldn’t get to Love.  He came to us.  Divine Love wrapped Himself in our humanity, made Himself vulnerable to us, submitted Himself to our care, and embraced us as His own.

Ann Voskamp writes on page 246,

“Rejected at the inn, holy God comes in small to where you feel rejected and small.  God is with you now.  Wherever you are–in a soundless cry or hidden brokenness or in your ache–God always wants to be with you.  You are not ever left alone in this.  We are never left alone in this; God is with us.

     “This is Love you can’t comprehend.  You can only feel and touch this kind.  There, in the place where you feel rejected, you can be touched by God.  There, in the places you feel small, you can touch God.  He came in the flesh.”

Advent is here, Love has come.  Can you make room for Love right where you are?

31 Days of Advent in October :: Day 28

Photo Credit: Sophie Pope

Photo Credit: Sophie Pope

The Greatest Gift
Reading Selection for December 23rd (Again)
“God with Us”

Matthew 1:20b – 21 (NLT) – [Angel to Joseph] “For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’”

This particular reading selection was so powerful for me that I couldn’t move past it too quickly.  It deserved two days of response.  It really deserves much more…

Ann Voskamp writes so beautifully on pages 234 – 235, “God can’t stay away.  This is the love story that has been coming for you since the beginning…He is the God who is so for us that He can’t stay away from us…the God who so likes us, the God who is so for us that He is the God who chooses to be with us…He disarms Himself of heaven so that you can take Him in arms on earth…He comes as a baby because He’s done with the barriers.  He comes vulnerable because He knows the only way to intimacy with you is through vulnerability with you.  You can’t get to intimacy except through the door of vulnerability…What religion ever had a god that wanted such intimacy with us that He came with such vulnerability to us?” [Emphasis mine]

“He comes as a baby because He’s done with barriers.”  Do you hear that?  Say it out loud to yourself, “God is done with barriers!”  He wants nothing less than all of us.  And He brings nothing less than all of Himself to us.  No more fig leaves of shame, no more hiding, no more running, no more pretending, no more fear, no more performing.  Only receiving.  Only believing.  Only resting.  Only abiding in Love.

From the moment in the Garden when Adam and Eve ate the fruit, when sin entered in, He’s been coming for us.  He’s never taken His eye off the prize.  His desire has never waned and He’s never missed an opportunity to Love.  He holds back nothing from His beloved.  On page 233 Ann writes, “God always gives God…We can always have as much of God as we want.”

We on the other hand, have been too worried about the right and the wrong of it all when the Truth is the point is the Life and death of us all.  We’ve always misunderstood what was at stake.  Instead of looking for Him, we’ve been looking to be right, on our own terms.  The pursued has pursued everything except Life.

Advent, His coming, is Life.  To choose anything else is death.

In this season, in this moment He’s coming for you.  How much of the infinite God of Love do you want?

31 Days of Advent in October :: Day 27

Photo Credit: Sophie Pope

Photo Credit: Sophie Pope

The Greatest Gift
Reading Selection for December 23rd
“God with Us”

Matthew 1:18 – 21 (NLT)18This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.  19Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.  20As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. ‘Joseph, son of David,’ the angel said, ‘do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’”

In yesterday’s post I discussed how saying ‘Yes’ to God, may be simple, but isn’t always easy.  Making room for God doesn’t always mean a nice and tidy story.  Opening yourself up to the Divine and being willing for God to birth new and wonderful things in life can be extremely messy and painful.  And not just for you.

In this story of Mary the mother of Jesus, there’s a completely innocent bystander—Joseph.  She said ‘Yes’ to God after she’d already said ‘Yes’ to Joseph.  But this story isn’t just about God in Flesh coming through a woman for His people.  He had handpicked Joseph too.  He was coming for Joseph.

Remember those verses in this series that demonstrated just how God had very specifically chosen the lineage of Christ?  Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Rahab, Ruth, David—this line of foreigners, liars, cheaters, prostitutes and adulterers.  Joseph was the end of the line before Jesus.  He was chosen by God to care for the one God was coming through.

Chosen by God, and he almost said no.

The verses above tell us that Joseph was a good man.  He was going to obey the Law and put away his pregnant-out-of-wedlock fiancée, but he wasn’t going to humiliate her before their entire community.  He was going to break things off quietly.  He was going to say no because that’s what right, proper religious folk in his day would do.  Proper religious people of God.

But then an angel appeared to him and gave him a different way of looking at things.  The angel reminded him of who he was, a man of royal blood, a son of David, a descendant of kings.  He spoke straight to the concern on Joseph’s mind—fear.  Scripture doesn’t tell us, but I believe if fear is the emotion the angel addressed it’s the emotion that was overwhelming Joseph.

Fear caused him to almost say no to Jesus, the God of his Salvation.  Fear always causes us to miss God with Us.  But God with Us, Perfect Love, casts aside all fear.  But we must say yes to Love, Himself.

What about us?  In this season of Advent, in this every single day-ness of Advent, can we lay aside our right, religious perspective and see how God might be birthing Life right here in new and unexpected ways?  Is the fear of punishment going to keep us from God with Us?  Is the wrongness of our circumstances going to cause us to remain blind to the Righteousness that comes for us in every moment?

All is grace.  Every moment is Advent.