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Hello, Readers! We Will Do Better Together.

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Two months ago, I celebrated my four-year blogging anniversary! Today, I’m getting real about blogging and writing. Would you join me for this conversation? I’d love to have you.

Six months ago as I was reflecting on my writing journey, distinct words came to mind.

This isn’t about you anymore.

Those words were so distinct that I wrote them down in my journal with the date. March 22, 2016. I knew EXACTLY what they meant. My writing isn’t ultimately about ME. It’s about YOU, my readers. There’s absolutely NO point in sharing my writing publicly if it’s NOT making a difference in your life as a reader. I’m not putting my writing and my life on display for the fun of it. I’m not putting my writing on display so you can be fully informed of every nook and cranny of my inner life. My intention is to make a difference, to inspire you, and impact you. I want to celebrate joys with you. I want to encourage you as you pursue your dreams and a bold vision for your life. I want you to know you’re not alone in whatever trials and pain you’re facing. I want to journey with you as you navigate the ups and downs of life. I want to sit with you, wherever you are. I want to encourage us to look at life differently. I want us to discover the divine in the daily…together.

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When I started blogging more than four years ago, I thought I’d arrived. Finally, I made this dream come true! Finally, I have a blog! Finally, I get to write on a regular basis! Finally, I get to help people, inspire people, and make a difference! Finally, I get to be creative and artistic! Finally, I have an outlet for sharing my innermost thoughts and feelings that might actually help someone else through life! Finally, I’m writing for others and have a place to call my own!

Yes, I had a vision for my writing, and was well on my way to achieving that vision!

The only problem was that it took nearly FOUR YEARS of writing on this blog for me to get to a good sense of where I’d come from and where I wanted to go.

This isn’t about ME anymore.

In fact, it NEVER was.

If writing is one of my God-given gifts, then that gift is to be used to help others. I know my writing has helped you because of the “likes,” “loves,” comments, emails and messages you’ve sent these past 4 years 2 months. I know my writing has helped you because many of you have shared my posts with others, and many of you have shared your own guest posts on my blog. But I can do better. So much better. It’s time to take this writing to the next level.

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The first weekend of November, I’m going to a writing conference. Actually, it’s a writing WORKSHOP, which means we’re not just going to be LISTENING to words of wisdom about writing, we’re actually going to be WORKING on our writing. We’re actually going to be DEVELOPING a bold vision for our writing, and CREATING a specific plan for helping that vision happen in very real and tangible ways.

So this fall, I’m going to be cracking back open my children’s book series and beginning the proposal, but I’m ALSO going to be making some changes to this blog and my writing as a whole.

This blog, Divine in the Daily, is in need of some major updates. I’m planning on making those updates late fall after the writing conference. If I’m completely honest, those updates might run into the new year. For that reason alone, I want to have a clarified vision for my writing moving forward.

But there’s no need to wait until November to move towards the changes I’m envisioning.

Effective immediately, there will be changes on this blog. Specifically, in the next six weeks, I am going to begin making changes to my writing. From your perspective as a reader, the change might seem slight. I’m not sure yet. But from my perspective as writer, there will be a massive shift in the way I’m thinking about my writing.

Please bear with me as I work through this period. 

Please bear with me as I attempt to grasp more thoroughly and accurately my vision for writing moving forward. If I could show you a picture of where I’m at in my mind, I would. I’m nearly grasping the vision, but I’m also not quite there yet.

I need a little help. 

The writing workshop is going to help quite a bit. I need someone to guide me through a bold vision for my writing. I need someone to help me see my areas of gifting when it comes to writing. I need to process these things through with writers and writing mentors, as we’re seated, pen and paper in hand, trying to determine HOW it is we help others with our words. I need to revisit where we’ve been with this blog, and where we’ve yet to go. I need to piece together my unique areas of gifting, and how I can use those gifts to help you, my readers.

There is something more for us to see.

There is something more for us to discover.

There is more waiting for this blog.

There is more of life to be revealed and lived through the words on this page.

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Charlotte Kennedy


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But the fact remains…

If I leave YOU, my READERS, out of the equation, I will have done us ALL a disservice.

It’s time to invite you into this process as well!

I’ve done two niche reader surveys this past year (one on friendship, the other related to my children’s books), but I haven’t done a general reader survey for almost two years.

It’s time to get to know you again.

It’s time to see where you stand.

It’s time to get your input.

And honestly? Rather than shrinking back from your input, I might be seeking it more often from here on out.

Why?

Because this isn’t about me anymore. 

I always wanted my writing to touch others’ lives, to make a difference. Therefore from my perspective, writing publicly is completely pointless if it doesn’t help others.

Once again, I know my writing has positively impacted your lives. But I also know I can do better.

When one of your comments made me cry in a not-so-good-and-healthy way this summer? Well, that was it for me. Clearly, I’d come at this from the wrong angle. I hadn’t written in a way that helped my readers process the bigger point of pain beyond my own story. I knew exactly what I was trying to say, and I thought it came through loud and clear in my writing, but the truth is, I didn’t go far enough as far as generalizing my learnings. Not okay.

This blog is titled “Divine in the Daily.” As many times as I try to reframe and revision this blog and my writing, I MUST keep coming back to the title. What does Divine in the Daily mean? How can I help us ALL reframe life so we can find the divine in the daily, WHATEVER our daily looks like? So if I decide there’s a lesson to be learned from the PAIN I experienced in real life, I MUST be able to help my readers process the BIGGER POINT of PAIN within the context of the story I’m sharing. I MUST. It’s not an option.

I can do better.

I will do better.

We will do better together.

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With that in mind, dear readers, I would LOVE you to take a SHORT survey for me.

I need your help.

I need your input as we move forward together.

I want to help you. Will you please take a few minutes to help me?

There are four questions in the SURVEY LINKED IN BOLD BELOW…

  1. What hopes and dreams do you have for your life at this moment in time?
  2. What is your biggest struggle?
  3. How has this blog – Divine in the Daily – impacted, influenced or inspired you to date?
  4.  What would you like me to write MORE about?

The end. That’s all I want to know!

Your responses are completely anonymous. To put it simply, when I receive these surveys, I have absolutely NO IDEA who left each response. But please note that I will be using your responses to guide my writing moving forward.

Thank you, friends! I appreciate your help so much. I can’t wait to see what you have to say, and can’t wait for this next chapter in our journey together.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE READER SURVEY CLICK HERE!

Have a blessed weekend!

pinksig

Moms of Girls 2-9 Years Old: I’d Love Your Help!

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My dream to write books began with you, mama.

You, sweet you.

13 1/2 years ago when my first born was just five months old, I cracked open a new book titled Mother Shock: Loving Every (Other) Minute of It by Andrea J. Buchanan. It rocked my world. Andrea’s words spoke to my needs as a new mom, but they also spoke to my needs as a woman. She got it! She understood me! I wasn’t alone in this thing called mothering. Finally, somebody was speaking truth. At that point, I’d been writing in diaries, notebooks and journals for 15 years, but for the first time ever, I understood the healing, transformative power of words on readers. Nobody had written so honestly and tenderly to my heart. Nobody had bared their soul so brutally and beautifully on the page.

I wanted to move people like that. I wanted to touch peoples’ hearts like that. I wanted my words to make a difference in peoples’ lives the way Andrea’s words made a difference in my life. I wanted to write raw and real, tough and tender. I wanted people to know they weren’t alone.

I wanted to write books.

Four years later in the spring of 2007, I set a goal to write ONE book on mothering in my lifetime. In the summer of 2014, that goal morphed a bit. Perhaps I’d write a book on mothering when I was older, wiser, and through the hardest and longest days of motherhood. But now I had a fresh vision for reaching mamas. What if I could impact mamas’ lives and touch mamas’ hearts through children’s books?

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Between January and April of 2016, I spent every Tuesday and Thursday morning writing and editing three children’s books. This summer, I received clear vision for book four! While the first book could certainly stand alone, the books are intended to be part of a series.

BOOK ONE is about being bold and brave. The manuscript is complete! It’s been edited by me numerous times and by my husband two times. Even after all the edits, I still sense something special about this story. Of all four books, I have the most peace about this one. If I had to put it in the hands of an agent, editor or test reader today, I have confidence it would read and resonate well, especially with anyone who’s a parent.

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BOOK TWO is about growing up. This story has been to the chopping block with a major rewrite, and is richer because of it. The manuscript is complete and REFUSES all thoughts of being discarded! As all moms know, there’s an undeniable push and pull when it comes to our babies growing up. This book speaks to the hearts of moms and their girls transitioning from one stage of development to the next.

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BOOK THREE is about becoming comfortable with who we are and fixing broken things. The manuscript is fully written, but is still in rough form. It’s been cut by 900-some words and edited several times through. There’s definitely a book there, but it needs a lot of development before it’s ready. The challenge of this story is piecing together our identity and our brokenness as moms and girls. I’m bound and determined to write this one, even though it’s the most challenging of all four books.

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BOOK FOUR is about dreaming big and was just conceived (unexpectedly) this summer! I’ve jotted a FULL page of notes down, and have a clear vision for what the book is about and the unique way it would be illustrated. At this point, I need time to write the first official draft of the manuscript. With all the notes I’ve taken, it should get off to a solid start! I’m very excited about this book. It’s fun and fresh, and will take the series in a new direction.

So here’s where I stand, friends! I took a break from writing the children’s books this summer because I needed to focus on my three kids and my dad’s lung transplant. This fall, I intend to open those children’s books back up. My goal is to spend a good chunk of time editing books one, two and possibly three with fresh eyes. I also need to write a first draft of book four as long as it’s clear in my mind! After that, I’m going to begin writing the book proposal for the series. A book proposal is a formal document that outlines all the details about the book you’re proposing to write and the audience for whom it’s intended. For children’s book proposals, you must also include the full manuscript of your book, which is why I’ve been working on those so hard! The hope is that someday I will pitch the children’s series to a literary agent, acquisitions editor and/or publisher for consideration.

There is never, ever a guarantee when it comes to getting published. But at this point, I just need to keep moving towards the dream that’s been in my heart for 13 1/2 years! I’m committed to doing my part and determined to make a meaningful difference through the lasting legacy of a book.

Here’s where you come in, mama! I need your help. I dreamed up this children’s book series and wrote books one, two and three with YOU in mind. But before I open those books back up and dive into the next round of heavy work, I want to hear from you!

After all, this series is for you AND your daughters. I want to know who you are. What are your struggles as a woman and a mom? What dreams do you have for your daughter? What dreams do you have for your own life? How else can I KNOW you so I can write FOR you?

The more I know about you, the better I’ll be able to tailor my writing to meet your deepest needs. The more I know about you, the better I’ll be able to touch your heart in a way that’s sweet and tender, bold and beautiful. The more I know about you, the better I’ll be able to write books that meet the developmental needs of your daughter while ALSO meeting your needs as a mama. The more I know about you, the more likely these books will actually land in your home and hands someday.

With all of that in mind, I’d be so honored if you could take a few minutes out of your busy day to complete a survey for me. If you’re a mom of a girl ages 2-9, you’re QUALIFIED to take the survey! Biological mom, adoptive mom, stepmom, foster mom, you ALL qualify as long as you’re mom to a daughter! The survey is 14 questions and completely confidential. I’m hoping for a lot of responses to ensure I get the most accurate picture possible of WHO my readers are as WOMEN, and WHO my readers are as MOMS.

Click the link below to take the survey! Make sure to answer all the way to the end, as each question has been included for a reason. Submit your survey when you’re done! Then please share this blog post with friends who have daughters so they can take the survey and share their perspectives, too!

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY

I’m excited and honored to invite you on this journey. Thank you so much for your time, and for all you do as a mom and woman to make this world a more beautiful place.

greensig

Hello, Readers! We Will Do Better Together. | Divine in the Daily - […] this fall, I’m going to be cracking back open my children’s book series and beginning the proposal, but I’m ALSO going to be making some changes to this blog and my writing as a […]September 23, 2016 – 4:15 pm

I Didn’t Dream Big Enough

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Before I left for my trip to Haiti in February 2014, I grabbed the ridiculously overpriced “Penny For Your Thoughts” journal my husband received at work somewhere along the way. We’d kept it safe in its original packaging on a shelf in our entryway closet for months. Perhaps we’d donate it to a silent auction. Perhaps we’d give it as a gift someday. After all, the price tag said something like $54. Even I, a lover of words, couldn’t imagine why ANY person would pay $54 for a journal. Yes, I grossly underestimated the worth of that journal. When I got to Haiti, I randomly scrawled notes here and there as the mission necessitated. Prayer requests from our two sponsored children. Info about another child we began sponsoring nine months later. An inspiring quote about Compassion International beneficiaries being “sleeping giants.” Notes here and there. As IF I was never going to use that journal again. As IF it was only good for its paper.

One month after I returned from Haiti, I opened that journal back up, turned to the first page, and began by writing insights I gleaned from rereading journals from my past. I was on a blogging break, and desperately needed to figure out where I’d been and where I was going. Nine months later, I stopped working as a speech-language pathologist to focus on writing and photography, and take advantage of time home with my children while they’re still somewhat young. Today, there’s only ONE blank page in that “A Penny For Your Thoughts” journal. I’ve carried it around everywhere, through everything, for the past 2 1/2 years. Who knew?!

I’ve adored that journal. It’s been my companion through days of transition, days of unknown, days of heartache and chaos, and days of dreaming. But the timing couldn’t be more perfect. It’s time for a new journal!

Knowing I was going to be purchasing a new journal soon, I took time to page through my “A Penny For Your Thoughts” journal last week. I’m compelled to share something significant I learned from rereading one of the pages.

Listen, and listen closely because this is profound.

Over the course of the past 4 1/2 years, I’ve learned to dream. I’ve learned to dream BIG DREAMS. 

In all honesty, it’s crossed my mind that I’ve gone mad, or that maybe I’m losing my mind bit by bit. But the truth is, I didn’t dream BIG enough. 

Yes, you heard me right.

I didn’t dream big enough.

The first quarter of that “Penny For Your Thoughts” journal is filled to the brim with dreaming. I allowed myself to go there. In fact, the ultimate purpose of those first pages was to put all my hopes and dreams down on paper. I looked back through the past, tried to piece together the bigger storyline of my life, and used that as a foundation to dream about what the second half of my life could look like. This was an intentional exercise. Nobody was judging me. Nobody was silently critiquing. I didn’t care if my dreams were totally out of line or totally achievable. I just wrote them down as they came to me. Yes, I allowed myself to dream big all over those pages.

Yet even in my grandest and freest state of dreaming, I didn’t dream big enough.

On one side of the journal page, I wrote down my “Big Picture” vision. It’s fairly vague to the naked eye, but still spot on. The vision I have for the second half of my life has never wavered.

Here’s the kicker. I didn’t dream big enough in the details.

On the other side of the journal page, I wrote down all the details of my dream as concisely as I could. There were 10 points. Keep in mind, I thought these were long-term goals, goals I could reach or see the “beginnings of…within the next 4-8 years” if everything went perfectly as planned. As of today, I have already achieved 5 out of 10 of those detailed dreams. I’m working on #6. And I was seriously close to achieving #7, but the outcome was largely out of my control.

Needless to say, reviewing my journal was an incredibly eye-opening exercise.

I didn’t dream big enough!

I didn’t dream big enough.

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So what’s the point of sharing this with you today?

The likelihood is that none of us have ever DREAMED big enough! The likelihood is that none of us have ever BELIEVED enough.

So how do we move from disbelief to belief? How do we get from here to there? How do we move from today to tomorrow? How do we move purposefully and intentionally towards the ultimate vision we have for life? How do we fulfill our God-given purpose here on earth?

Take time.

Sit down.

Get quiet.

Listen to the still small voice.

Think long and hard about WHAT we love, HOW we can best help others, and WHY we’re here.

Dream.

Get quiet again.

Pray.

Dream even BIGGER.

Pray again.

Then mark it all down. Write it. Speak it. Share it. Remember it. Revise as needed. And don’t ever forget.

In the meantime, trust that God works ALL things together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.

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There’s a reason we’re here. Let’s live out every detail, every dream we have for ourselves and best yet, every dream God has planned for us.

I don’t know about you, but I have some work to do. In the next three weeks, I’m going to purchase a new journal. I’m also going to buy a planner. My goal is to write down that vague, but spot on lifelong vision all over again, but this time, I’m dreaming WAY bigger about the details. I’m going over every area of my life, I’m getting still and praying over everything, and I’m not holding back. I’ve dreamed MANY dreams in the past 2 1/2 years that have never been documented anywhere. In the next three weeks, all those great big dreams are going to be written down. I don’t care if they’re crazy or impossible or if everyone would say “Whatever, that’s totally dreaming and never happening.” Then I’m going to take that planner and I’m going to map out my days more intentionally to ensure I’m prioritizing the things I want and need to prioritize.

I’m 40. But If I live as long as my grandfather, I could have another 56+ years of life on earth. It’s time to dig deep and dream bigger. There’s a reason I’m still here. There’s a reason you’re still here.

So how about you?

Do you need to dream a little?

Do you need to dream a little bigger?

Perhaps you need to sit still long enough to hear…

You’re here for a reason.

There’s more in store for you, beloved.

What will it be?

greensig

Wrap up Summer Good and Tidy in Your Tender Heart

It’s been a bit breezier here this week. A slight chill is in the air. Fall’s just around the corner. The annuals are looking worn and torn from the dry, summer heat. Our garden is still vibrant for late August, but plenty of plants are overgrown, beyond bloom, and in need of a hearty prune. The kids have their school supplies. My youngest received a letter from her preschool teacher. Nine days from now, we’ll be operating on a September budget, which will include hot lunches, cold lunches, field trips, and more school clothes and shoes. Yes, we’re in the final days of summer now. I can feel it. I can sense it. I know it in my bones.

When I looked through my photographs from the summer this past weekend, it alerted me that I hadn’t taken nearly enough summer photos of my children. Having taken photographs obsessively since I was 10 years old, there’s a certain threshold in my mind as far as when an occasion has been properly marked or NOT marked with photographs. This summer has NOT been standard by any means, nor has it been properly marked with photographs. This summer’s photographs show a lack of routine, instability, inconsistency paired with utter craziness. Where are the beach photos? Where are the sidewalk chalk photos? Where are the “I love gardening” photos? Where are the fun summer stuff photos? Where are the easy, breezy, airy photographs of kids without a care in the world?

If there’s one thing I’m reliably good for under any circumstance, it’s a photograph. I have my camera with me most all the time, only this summer was a little (lot) crazier than normal, a little (lot) more out-of-routine than normal. My photos reflected what was happening, but they didn’t necessarily reflect what I wanted my children to remember as they paged through the photo albums I need to catch up on someday soon. (Yes, I’m 4 1/2 years behind on those photo albums!)

This morning, two of my children played with a Fisher Price doll house while the third spent an hour or more organizing her school supplies and getting them packed in her backpack. It was a poignant moment, for sure, one that brought tears to my eyes when I stopped long enough to look.

Summer and school.

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I love summer. It’s my favorite season by a landslide. I’m quick to admit to my husband (and hesitant to admit publicly) that I don’t love summer quite as much when it comes to being a mom. I’m torn. I don’t know. I love summer with kids. And I don’t love summer with kids. Part of me longs to treasure this time, these days with my kids while they’re little and somewhat-still little because I know there won’t be many more. But part of me sees the kids bored, longing for friends and routine, stimulation and more interesting things than me and my not-so-fun mom ideas. I’m the kind of mom who’d fully embrace a year-round school schedule with more frequent 2-3 week breaks throughout the year. I’m the kind of mom who’d thrive in a hot, dusty village with kids chasing balls, and moms gathering greens and cooking all day.

Yeah, I diverted a bit. Back on track now. Sorry about that!

So when I teared up over one kid organizing school supplies and two kids playing doll house, I knew I needed to do MORE to wrap up summer good and tidy in my tender heart.

This is the ONLY summer my children will be 4, 11 and 13 years old. There’s no getting this summer back. And it’s not lost on me that five years from now, my oldest will be IN college.

IN COLLEGE…

COLLEGE.

Sometimes this season of littles everywhere feels like forever. But it isn’t long.

I told the kids we were going to do some special things these last two weeks of summer. Some simple summer things. A day at the park. A day at the beach. A picnic. More time outside. Maybe ice cream one random afternoon. I don’t know.

So yes! The plan for today was picnic at the park, a special park we hadn’t gone to this summer. Because sometimes the simplest things in life are the best things.

I loaded the three kids in the car + 1 friend for my daughter. Heck, a good summer day’s never complete unless my oldest daughter brings a friend.

We drove 25 minutes to grab a bag full of sub sandwiches. Then we drove another 5 minutes to the biggest, grandest, most modern park in the area. We ate our subs and chomped on chips at a picnic table, and the kids played their hearts out for an hour, maybe more.

I followed the kids around the playground like only a good mom would, and carried my camera around like only a photographer would. Kids climbed ladders, spun in circles, glided across zip lines, spun in virtual spider webs, and hopped on giant ladybugs. Moms, nannies, child care providers and day camp leaders watched and followed children casually. It felt good. It felt right. It felt like summer. The kids were being kids. And I was being a mom. Just a mom. In summer.

There wasn’t anything glorious, super special or incredibly poignant about that picnic and trip to the park, but it was exactly what we needed.

A little more summer before school starts.

A few more photos to properly mark the occasion, “The Summer of 2016.” 

A few more moments together before those routines start back up again.

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The 13 3/4 year old was the first to say he was ready to go.

The 11-year-old girls followed suit 10 minutes later. “We’re bored. We wanna go home now.”

The 4 year old was much more hesitant to leave the park. “NO! I wanna play more!” But after a while, she was ready to go home, too.

Nobody argued.

Nobody fought.

Everybody ready in their own due time.

As we left the park, my son even said “Thanks for bringing us to the park and getting us lunch, mom.”

This afternoon, he played XBox live with friends and is now outside playing with a neighbor boy. My 11-year-old daughter is playing with her friend. And our neighbor girl just rang the doorbell, asking if my 4-year-old daughter could come out and play. The doll house is out on the porch. There’s an empty water bottle blowing across the driveway. A bunch of boys played football in the neighbor’s yard. A little one rode by on his bike, another on a Hot Wheels. And that little neighbor girl who rang the doorbell? She called me “Maisie’s mother” and asked if I could raise my daughter’s bike seat.

It’s summer here for now.

Summer.

The days are long.

The days are getting shorter.

Can she use my bathroom “really quick?” Can they play water guns on my driveway? Can he balance on the retaining wall running through our garden? Can he ride her bike? Can she hang on your porch? Can they scream, shout and fight? Can they eat an applesauce from our pantry or a popsicle from the neighbor boy?

Yes. It’s summer.

School’s soon enough.

Do whatever you need to do to wrap up summer good and tidy in your tender heart.

pinksig

The Consequences of Letting My Tank Run Dry

Have you ever let your gas tank run so low you could run out of gas at any moment, like the middle of nowhere or the middle of a ridiculously busy highway? Have you ever run low on cash or time, and tried to get away with just $5 or $10 in your gas tank to tie you over? Picture this. It’s nearing end of the month and you’re low on gas budget, so you put $10 in your tank to get you by. But the gas doesn’t get you to the end of the month like you thought it would, so you put in another $5 in hopes THAT will get you to the end of the month. But that $5 doesn’t quite do it either, so you put in ANOTHER $5. Finally, you made it to the end of the month! Phew! This method doesn’t work very well, does it? If you never fill your tank completely, you just keep running out of gas.

Yes, I’m ashamed to report that I’ve experienced these things first hand. I’m the person who tends to run low on gas. I’m the person who’s been stranded on the side of the road twice in the past five years. I’m the person who runs and goes and does until I’ve run myself near dry. I’m unhappy to report that this summer, I’ve run my tank the driest it’s been in a long, long time.

My tank started running dry on May 10, the day after my youngest child’s last day of preschool. Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids. I love my baby girl. But the truth is, she’s a busy extrovert and loves being at preschool. I love my writing, photography editing, and catch all days at home while ALL three kids are in school. I refuse to believe this makes me a “bad mom.” It makes me a real mom, a mom who knows what her kids need for optimal functioning, a woman who loves her kids dearly, but also knows what she needs for optimal functioning.

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Knowing summer was coming and it would be impossible to find writing time of any significance, I stopped working on my books at the end of April. I pushed out four blog posts in June and four blog posts in July, but only published one post in August prior to this one. I worked out once the week of July 4th, and once the week of July 11th. I haven’t worked out since. We’ve made it to some Sunday church services this summer, but not nearly as many as we do during the school year. I’ve been home full-time with three children for 10 weeks, and my youngest was home full-time four weeks before that. Needless to say, my alone time has been lacking. Let me remind you, I’m an introvert. I need a certain amount of time by myself to function properly.

If you know me personally, you know I’m sturdy and steady. My dad used to tell me to “get more excited.” My sister has mentioned that sometimes it annoys her that I’m so calm under pressure, that nothing seems to phase me. The truth is, while I might be sturdy and steady on the outside, I’m taking in EVERY. LITTLE. THING. on the inside. I’m highly sensitive. I notice everything. I feel everything. I internalize EVERYTHING. And I over process EVERYTHING in this wild and crazy brain of mine. If I don’t get time to do what I love on a regular basis- writing, photography, exercise, quiet time with God – I fizzle out. My tank starts emptying.

Unfortunately, this summer, my tank went dry right before my eyes. My tank ran SO DRY that it resulted in public meltdowns not once, but FOUR times over the course of one month.

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June 25: Public Meltdown #1

We were at an out-of-town baseball tournament for my son, staying at a hotel for two nights, with baseball games running across three days. Lots of people. Lots of kids. Lots of socializing. Lots of noise. Lots of money being spent. Lots of games in the super hot sun. Lots of STUFF to haul everywhere. It all came crashing down when I made the trek back to the car because my son ran out of water and needed more. When I brought fresh, cold water bottles to my son, he didn’t thank me. In fact, he barely even acknowledged me. Coach noticed Cooper didn’t say thank you and prompted him to do so. I (quietly) lost it. Tears welled up. A few spilled out. Coach noticed my response and asked “Are you okay? I’m worried about you. Do we need to get you a hotel room and let you be by yourself for the night?” “I just need some time by myself,” I replied, “Thank you, though. It’s very kind of you to notice.” I powered up and watched the game. Later when we returned to the hotel room, my husband watched the kids for a couple hours so I could rest and gather myself. I’d crossed the line and there was no turning back until I filled up my tank a bit. Unfortunately, the emptying happened while we were at a hotel and weekend-long baseball tournament. Fortunately, those two hours filled me up enough to make it through the rest of the night. The next day was better, and the boys won first place in the tournament!

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July 11: Public Meltdown #2

I had a “public” meltdown in front of my parents and my youngest child when there was a massive thunderstorm and the golf tournament in honor of my dad and his upcoming lung transplant was postponed. For some reason, the thunderstorms and postponement TRIGGERED deep emotion; I was mad at God more than I’d ever been in my life. No need to hash over the details; if you want to read about this totally out-of-character response, I blogged about it in this post. Perhaps I should have kept the experience private. I’m still not sure about that day OR the blog post, but one thing’s for sure. My tank was near empty AND I was overwhelmed with a flood of emotions stored up from many years. Not a good combination.

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July 18: Public Meltdown #3

July 18th was the rescheduled golf tournament in honor of my dad. It was sunny and beautiful, the perfectly pleasant weather we expected the week prior. I brought my three kids to my parents’ house for Sunday afternoon, Monday and Tuesday so we’d be free to “do” the tournament in full fashion – every element, every aspect, all the socializing, helping and planning, executing and wrapping up we ever wanted to do. The only problem was that my tank was STILL near dry. I had no capacity to recognize that fact until I was 20 minutes into the golf tournament and realized my husband wasn’t along to support me. We decided he’d stay home and go into work, as he’d already taken the prior Monday off and had a boatload of work to get done. Truth was, I needed him at the tournament that day, and it never once occurred to me until it was too late. The tournament started at 1:00 p.m., just in time for my four year old to become weary and crabby. I was DAUGHTER of the golf tournament’s beneficiary, and was also the official PHOTOGRAPHER for the event, a role I volunteered for excitedly and whole-heartedly. But I was ALSO acting as a “single” mom of three that day….at a big event…at a golf course…where people expect there to be a certain level of peace and quiet. Let’s just say that by the time lunch came around at 3:00 p.m., I was already frazzled and overstimulated. The kids needed this and that, and I barely finished my plate of food. I’ve blanked out the finest of details, but basically I melted down right there at the table in the very busy clubhouse with my mom, my three kids, my mom’s long-time friend, and my parents’ lifelong friends. OVERSTIMULATED was the word. Simply TOO MUCH. Mom and friends sent me away to get a moment by myself. I took my youngest with me because why would I ever expect my mom to watch all three of my kids when she’s wife of the beneficiary and had plenty of guests with whom to connect?

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July 18: Public Meltdown #4

I thought I made it through the worst of that golf tournament, but a couple hours later, I found my tank near empty all over again. This time, it happened on the porch of the clubhouse. A few sets of my parents’ married couple friends were at the tournament, a couple sets I hadn’t seen in a long time. At one point, it was just me, my 4-year-old daughter who was melting down and being uncooperative, and one set of my parents’ friends. I hadn’t seen them in 5, maybe 10 years. They were super nice and super friendly and trying to carry on a reasonable conversation, but I was supposed to be going out on a golf cart to relieve my uncle from hole 11 as he’d been there for hours without a bathroom break and without any lunch, and I was also responsible for my three kids. I hadn’t seen my dad in a long time. And yes, did I mention the lovely parents’ friends who just wanted to have a nice conversation with me, and they hadn’t a clue about the uncle who needed to be relieved or the three children who needed tending or the photography I was supposed to be taking or the meltdown I’d had earlier or the husband who wasn’t here to help me through. And yes, my youngest was freaking out and melting down right there on the porch in the middle of all of this. It was embarrassing and humiliating and made me feel like a fool, but I melted down too. Yep, that’s how low my tank was. They recognized it in a second. I tried to explain what must’ve seemed like the most ridiculous of reasons why I was acting like a blubbery mess, and they said “GO, go, we’ll take care of her. You go, cry if you need to, do what you need to do, but just go for a while.” I was an utter fool. Two meltdowns in one day. Honestly, I didn’t know I needed my husband there until it was way too late.

When your tank is EMPTY or NEAR EMPTY, you need to make every effort to conserve the fuel you have. You need to make every effort to fill that tank back up. You might be able to do it yourself AND you might need some help. It’s easy to think you might be going insane, that you’re finally LOSING IT once and for all. But remember you’re NOT going insane, you’re NOT losing it. Your tank is empty. You need a FILL. Period.

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On July 19th, the day AFTER the fundraising golf tournament, my dad was placed on the national lung transplant registry. He was called with new lungs on July 22nd, had lung transplant surgery on July 23rd, and was discharged from the hospital at noon on August 6th. A series of unfortunate events led to an ambulance ride back to the hospital the morning of August 7th. Dad was admitted to the ICU, and finally discharged on August 14th.

So here I am.

With the exception of hitting a wall one week ago and having to hide in my room for three hours by myself that night, I haven’t had any significant public meltdowns for a month. Wahoo!

But this week, I’ve found myself breathing deeply and intentionally more than once. My tank isn’t empty, but it’s not terribly full either. If I had to estimate my tank’s fullness level, I’d say it’s hovering around 30-40%. Three days ago, I asked my husband to come home early and I went out for a few hours to grab a quick 20-minute dinner followed by a movie. Dinner was rushed and just okay. The movie was GLORIOUS. Absolutely GLORIOUS. My tank filled. A little more than it was before.

Yet the next afternoon, I felt my fuel level dropping again, so I told my near 14-year-old son he needed to watch his sister for a while because I needed a little break. I baked myself four tiny oatmeal cookies and drank iced watermelon Kool-Aid. I wrote for 90 minutes, then we went to the bank and got back-to-school haircuts for the girls. With a little time out and self-care, I made it out and through!

By the grace of God, I’ve kept enough gas in my tank to sustain me ONE DAY AT A TIME this month. Small things fill me and sustain me – a church service, a night at writing group, a few hours by myself, help with child care while I was at the hospital, three meals brought by three very thoughtful friends, a night of good sleep, a healthier choice at mealtime, a bottle of water, a cup of hot tea before bed, planning next steps for my children’s books, scheduling photo shoots, taking a deep breath. ONE DAY AT A TIME is all we really need if we’re honest with ourselves.

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“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” – Matthew 6:34

This, too, shall pass. Tomorrow, we’ll be with family at my near 96-year-old grandpa’s auction sale. Next week, we’re taking a couple days to do a family staycation. In 2 1/2 weeks, my two oldest will be back to school, and I’m going to resume my regular workouts. A couple weeks after that, my youngest will be starting preschool three days a week, and I’ll be able to resume a semi-regular writing schedule. My parents are near and will be needing back-up care for my dad for at least another 2 1/2 months. But with school starting soon, there will be a lot more space, a lot more room to breathe.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow. He will work ALL things together for our good. Empty tanks. Filled tanks. And everything in between.

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