reading-a-book-in-winter

I’ve been thinking a lot about how the ebb and flow of scarcity versus abundance affects my entire life. This is a mind-set we’re taught to put on from an early age—one of those subtle rules we assign meaning to in some way or another, whether it’s scarcity-thinking of finances, possessions, time, friendships . . . it truly devours and gnaws away at us, to the point where abundance is always an arm’s length away.

I’ve been freelancing now for a few weeks, and I’ve been blown away by the abundance of projects and work I wasn’t anticipating. It’s been so nice, and honestly, I didn’t expect this cushion. Now that I have it so soon, however, my grip tightens. What if it’s not enough in a month—four months? It’s feast or famine. What if, just before I take a breath and know I’ve officially settled into this transition, something is taken away? These past few weeks have been a dream. When will the other shoe drop?

Scarcity-Thinking Steals Joy

I think people pursuing ambition always have to fight away the monster of scarcity-thinking. It steals joy and replaces it with fear and anxiety. A scarcity mind-set is carved out of a purely physical perspective, even if it’s just time on this earth and not having enough of it. Being a freelancer full time again means I’m trying to figure out those healthy boundaries of work and life, and while being protective of my time is a necessary step, it’s easy to peer through the lens of “only.” I only have this much time to spend with friends. How will I manage my time? If I have all of these editing projects now, I’ll only have a few to work on later. What will I do then?

In My Reading Life

I’ve even noticed the scarcity mind-set creeping into my reading life. Not having enough time to read means I’m paralyzed from picking up my next book, even when I try to make time for myself. There’s always something different—something better—I should be spending my time on. I’m a reader who reads when relaxed, not a reader who reads to relax. I have to feel as though I’m in a place of abundance—spiritually, mentally, emotionally—before I can really dig in, quiet my brain, and enjoy a good book.

While reflecting on this word only, I remember Jesus feeding the five thousand (Matthew 14:13-21). The disciples know what scarcity looks like.

“‘We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,’ they answered” (Matthew 14:17).

But what happened? Jesus gave thanks and broke the loaves. He gave them to the disciples to scatter among the people, and “they all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over” (Matthew 14: 20-21).

The Abundance Mind-set

Jesus came to give abundant life (John 10:10), and I can put on an abundance mind-set because of his generosity—trusting that even the leftovers of the abundance of Jesus are far greater than the scarcity the world offers. I don’t have to worry or be frustrated, and what’s more: I don’t have to scrap the bottom of the barrel. I can dare greatly, and I can rest—even in the possibility of failure and falling. There’s freedom to fail when you aren’t clawing for a false security. And when we aren’t afraid to fail, we can be vulnerable, creative, joyful, generous, and alive.

goodbye-cake-coworkers-last-day-at-work

My coworkers made this amazing cake for me on my last day (all my favorite things).

I quit my job. This is a terrifying sentence to write, but I also feel electric. A year and a half ago, I devoted 100 percent of my time to freelance work, and I loved it. I had the dizzy, hopeful feeling that exciting new projects and experiences were waiting just around the corner.

Then, to my surprise (and delight!), one freelance gig turned into a full-time job. I worked at a leading digital marketing company as a client content editor, and I loved the work. I loved my team. I still love my content team; they are all such lovely, passionate, hilarious, wonderful people. We became a family, and I will miss them something fierce.

But as summer was coming to a close, I felt the tug of freelance on my heart. I missed everything about it: setting my own schedule, working from home, working with authors, editing manuscripts, abiding by The Chicago Manual of Style. . . .  so, so much. Sure, I’ve continued with freelance projects on the side, but weeknights and weekends weren’t cutting it. It was too difficult to work full time and give authors, publishers, or editorial agencies my full attention.

One morning, walking our lazy hound dog, I told my husband how much I missed book editing and how I’ve had to say no to so many projects I genuinely wanted to say yes to. He encouraged me to consider freelancing again, and once I got the itch to do it, I couldn’t ignore it.

So here I am! If you’ve been a part of my editing career in any capacity, I want to thank you—even if it was just encouragement from the sidelines. I didn’t have much to lose when I jumped into my freelance editorial business years ago. It felt as though I were jumping into my skin, getting into a new rhythm that would never leave me.

And now, with such a wonderful career on the line, I will admit this to you: it’s scary. I had a lot to let go of to make this decision; and in some ways, I feel more as though I’m jumping out of my skin. But it’s right. It’s time to stretch.

I hope you’ll join me as I make room for what will grow.

write-hard-and-clear-about-what-hurts

Perhaps the greatest thing I ever learned about writing came from my parents when I was young. Just five years old, I’d moved with my twin sister, brother, and parents to North Carolina. In those first few weeks, we saw the world through new child eyes. North Carolina was hilly; it was greener and quieter than where we lived in California or Iowa. One afternoon, when my father drove us on those small town streets, he asked my mother if the kids had ever seen roadkill. I don’t remember her words, but I imagine she scrunched up her nose and shook her head laughing.

My father always did strange things when he drove, some of which I did not realize was odd until later. He was notorious for being the “turtle snatcher” on the road; he would pull over any time a turtle crossed the street—even on a highway—and pick up that turtle, knowing nothing about him, and run to the other side of the road, returning him to safety. My brother and sister and I would cheer in the back seat, hooting and clapping because our father was a hero.

PEERING INSIDE

On this particular day, he slowly pulled off to the side of the road, and we all piled out of the car and walked toward the quiet place in the middle of the street where a dead possum lay squished.

“Look at his guts!” Cooper said with wide eyes. He cooed more about the patch of fur or skin or whatever it was detached and strung from the body.

“Eww!” We laughed and could not get enough. “Look at his eyes!” I squealed.

OBSERVING EVERYTHING

What was it when it was alive? What shape was it when it romped around in the night time; how did it sway? And look! Look at the tire marks, and the bleeding red that looked sticky. The texture looked soggy and wet, but still rough. A dark stain of red and a gash around his snout where teeth must have been—a gummy abyss—taunted me to look closer; a puddle of blood trailed where the car dragged his mangled body.

I tried to touch it before my mother grabbed my hands. Cooper crouched low and I followed his move, because we both loved gross things and he was my older brother. I moved when he moved.

“That’s a big red hole!” I said with my hands on my hips, examining the open flesh as if I were a doctor ready to hand out a prescription or solemnly declare his death to loved ones, shaking my head. My sister stood quiet and shy, perhaps being the only appropriately silent one of the family.

“Okay, now you’ve seen roadkill. Let’s get back in the car,” my mother said. My brother and I lingered longer than the rest, because we had something to prove. Finally, they dragged us back, and we continued on with our day.

THE UNCENSORED WRITING LIFE

When I think about this day, I think about writing. We have to look closely at open wounds and stop what we’re doing to experience something new. I am learning that a life of writing is an uncensored life. We cannot write what we observe by leaving out the gruesome details. We need to dissect the details every day and walk right up to something dead and look it in the eyes to see what life is like.

When we write about the things that scare us or make us cringe, we have to write the truth. To write the truth, we have to dig up what’s dark, and we cannot control where our writing goes or we will have dull writing.

When you write about your grandmother who had cancer, you have to write about the way her wounds looked, how her mouth sores changed the shape of her dry, bleeding lips when she talked—no matter how painful.

When we write about the pain of death or fear or the realities that we face in a desperate world, we cannot censor it. We cannot cheapen the physical descriptions of things because we are afraid to write them.

I have much to learn about this, but I am thankful to have parents who wanted us to see for ourselves what roadkill looked like—among other things—who let us peer over something dreadful with gaping mouths and ask what it looked like once, what it sounded like once.

But more than this, we must remember as writers that we are given opportunities to inwardly walk through life, seeing what we might not wish to see, but knowing that it gives us eyes to write and words to paint.

coffee-and-stories

Redemptive narratives are a lot like falling in love. 

Sometimes you are here with me, and I dream you up out of my conscious mind, as if the gears are turning to put together old bones. Nothing makes sense until it does, and then we’re flying, together, promising never to leave anything behind. And sometimes you return slowly, seamlessly making yourself known beyond the sleep and hum of everyday life.

I meet you in other worlds, in other people, in the eyes of my dog and I can’t quite place you until I’m in this closed off space—alone. You steal what’s left but it doesn’t feel like stealing; it feels sweet and worthy because you remember the good with the hurt. You weave together what’s forgotten and moments that make us hollow or whole.

You are a time traveler who revisits our dying days and our vibrant ones, and you make it easier to sleep when we don’t know the difference. Sometimes you are stubborn and I cannot recall your words. But you always forgive and you always tell the truth. You are resilient. You make it all worth living even when it’s not or even when it feels too far away to tell, because that’s how narrative begins and that’s how it will always end.

You spin together splendor behind what our eyes can see, and it points to one rich truth, one ruthlessly magnificent detail in which planets and atoms revolve. You are the sound of the bells I follow that leads to redemption. With eyes open or closed, you unfold it all.