Discovering and playing and building in this little corner of the world to document my writing life. I'm glad you're here. {If you want to receive updates via email, sign up below.}

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Friday, October 31, 2014

Five Minute Friday {Leave}

{Go}


"LEAVE me alone!" These words are becoming a regular part of the sounds around our house. I don't like them. I don't believe them. He doesn't believe them either.

Yet they still roll right off of his tongue, travel through his teeth and flick off his lips.

"LEAVE me alone!"

There are days when I want to yell them right back. When my ears are ringing and my heart is stinging and I think about how life might be so much easier if I did just that -- LEAVE him alone.

He glares and spats the words again. "LEAVE me alone!"

I've never walked away. I stay close and wait him out. I scoot closer. Brush his shoulder. Rub his back. Eventually he turns to me, hugs me, and one more time I confirm that this is forever. I'm not going anywhere. I'm here forever.

But what if it's time to also show him that I love him enough to respect his request. (Even if it is said in the most disrespectful of ways.)

"Don't yo' ears work? LEAVE me alone!" I'm standing in his bedroom doorway, trying to figure out what to do. Trying to figure out when he's going to accept that he belongs in this family. Wondering what else can be done to prove that we are glad he's part of our forever; to affirm that he belongs.

Walk away, my heart says. I squeeze my eyes, not wanting to hurt him more.

"See you don't want to look at me. LEAVE me alone!" His voice screeches. It sends shivers like nails on a chalkboard.

Trust me, walk away, says the sweet spirit of the One who loves him more than I do.

I turn and walk away.

"About time you LEAVE me alone." He screeches louder. I walk down the steps, through the house, and collapse on the chair.

His sobs grow louder and louder. My heart cracks because I know he doesn't mean the words. Because I know he's hurt. Because I know he's testing whether I mean it when I say forever.

I keep my eyes closed and rock in the chair. Back and forth. Back and forth. His sobs spatter through the house, louder and louder. He's gasping for air. He's sputtering.

And I rock. Trusting he will be okay. Trusting this will help him know forever.

He's still sobbing. My heart cracks because he is hurt and a momma is supposed to make her son feel safe. I rock and tears well in my still closed eyes.

I'm not sure if I can just leave him alone. It's been 14 minutes and 54 seconds...55...56...57...

The footsteps tromp down the stairs. The sobs get louder. The footsteps shuffle through the house, following my same path. The sobs sputter dripping on the toes of my socks. His face is soaked and swollen. His eyes are slits and the tears spill out, never ending.

He chokes, but still pushes the words out. "I...didn't...mean...to...LEAVE."

I open my arms and he collapses in my lap. His swollen face tucks under my chin and his legs spill off my lap, feet touching the floor. "I know it," I assure him.

You belong. You belong. You belong.

I whisper these two words over and over again.

You belong. You belong. You belong.

And we rock.

You belong. You belong. You belong.

The sobs subside. He holds on too tight, hurting my waist.

You belong. You belong. You belong.

And I believe that he isn't too old to heal from a history of having to leave behind families and places and treasures of a too young boy.

I believe he's not too old to find out forever isn't a myth.
Because we will never leave him.
 
{Stop}


Join Five Minute Friday here.

In January 2013, we brought home our son when he was 7 years old. It is a romanticized version of adoption that orphans heal the moment they cross the threshold of a loving home. It takes months, years, sometimes even a lifetime to overcome the harsh history of being an orphan.

This story is a celebration, a victory, that brings us one step closer to healing. It is our mantra: One step closer to healing. We believe our children will heal in childhood. This means we will accept each fit and argument and horrific test of our promise of forever as one step closer to healing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Put Out Into Deep {Coffee for Your Heart}





I've been thinking about Peter, the fisherman. Do you know how he moved on from being the fisherman? I like to imagine that it was at the end of an ordinary fishing day, although it might have been a bad day. His boat was empty and he was washing his nets when Jesus asked him to take him out on the water, a little ways from the land.

Peter did and Jesus taught the crowd from the boat. When he finished speaking, he said to Peter, "Put out into deep and let down your nets for a catch."

An eye roll isn't caught in the holy text, but I wouldn't be surprised if that's what Peter did. He had already been out and it wasn't a good fishing day. In fact, it was a long day. Peter respoded, "Master, we toil all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets."

So Peter tossed his nets out in the deep. They were filled with so many fish that the nets began breaking. They collected enough fish to fill two boats and the boats threatened to sink from the weight of the fish.

When Peter saw the catch, he fell at Jesus' knees. Peter was astonished and he knew he didn't deserve the abundant catch.

And it was right here that Jesus changed Peter's life. At the end of a a long day at work there was a miracle and an abundant catch. Peter didn't feel worthy. Jesus looked at Peter, maybe even cupped his hand around his jaw, and said, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men."

And do you know what Peter did? In that moment he left his old life as a fisherman and picked up a brand life path.

I'm moved by the way Jesus tells Peter to put the nets out in the deep. It's a long shot. It doesn't make sense. It's beyond the parameters of a good fishing spot. Yet Peter does it anyway. He casts out his net into the deep. And because Jesus is lavish, there are so many fish the nets are tearing and the boats are sinking.

Peter's obedience is rewarded. He learns to trust Jesus, even when Peter "knows better."

I'm moved even more by the way Jesus takes who Peter was -- a fisherman -- and uses it as a building block, as a knowledge base, as a way to launch him into a new calling. In essence, Jesus is saying, "You know fishing, so take what you know and fish for men."

Today might be an ordinary day, just like Peter's day, starting out just like any other day. It might even be an ugly day, a day when you're not sure you're cut out for the work before you. That's okay. Because whatever you are right now, God plans to use it to launch you into whatever is next. It might not be right now or next week or next year. It might be many years from now, but it's all part of a bigger picture.

And that makes it all worth tossing caution into the deep and following God with rapid obedience.



 

Today I'm linking up with Holley Gerth for Coffee for Your Heart. It's a link-up where you pour a little encouragement out with your words and then share it with the rest of the community. Even if you don't try it, hop over an enjoy a little encouragement for your soul.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Learning to Reach Out




We need each other. Yet when things get hard we pull away. We draw in. We hunker down.


We are living in a world where we have plenty of followers and few friends. Mass amounts of likes and few conversations. Our Twitter feeds are constant in our palms, keeping our phones awake and our hearts numb. Instagram lets us peek inside lives, but no one sees inside our hearts.

We appear connected, yet feel alone. Even worse, we believe everyone else is connected except for us. It's true across generations. Lives are falling apart. Women are worn. Teens are tattered.  Grandmothers are weary.

And why doesn't God make a difference?

Maybe He does, by creating us to need each other. When we pull away, we lose perspective. We can hide behind connections that keep us disconnected.

What happens if instead of pulling away, we decide to strive side by side? We aren't made to do this alone. We are made to work together, not neglecting to meet together. We are made to strive side by side for the faith of the gospel. We are made to encourage one another -- and all the more. We are made for our joy to be full through loving one another; to cling to what is good; to shine in the world.

What happens if we learn to reach out instead? If we pause after saying hello and let a conversation unfold. If we send a handwritten note. If we stop checking the time. What if we decide to linger rather than rush; to speak in love; to stop sleepwalking through life?

It's time to open our eyes wide and build each other up. To worry less about the number of followers and more about following the One who makes a difference...
when we let Him.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

CELEBRATE This Week: LIV


I'm glad you are here to celebrate! Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter.

**New Change** 
Starting next week, I'll post the Celebrate This Week post on Friday night at 10(ish).  This way if you are like Colby and Friday works better for you to celebrate, then you can. Let's look at it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits, add your link. Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.

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Purpose.
I'm celebrating purpose. It makes all the difference to a writer. I've finally accepted a shift in the primary purpose of my writing life. There's a new look around here to show this inside change on the outside.
  1. Purpose is powerful and without it, choosing a topic, considering your audience, and crafting the words become difficult.
  2. It's okay to have more than one purpose. It's not okay to feel torn and unsure of your purpose.
  3. I feel like I've been given a big shiny gift with a glittery ribbon tied around it. I get to encourage celebration and wrap words around stories of adoption and faith. Making me giddy is the fact that I still have time to clack some words about teaching writers or coaching teachers. I didn't realize how much energy having an unclear purpose zapped from my writing life.
  4. I finally put words to my decision to close comments. It goes back to purpose. (I have decided to leave comments open on the Celebrate This posts, in order to continue to be part of this community.)
Invite a friend to celebrate this week. Share your link below!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Five Minute Friday {Dare}

{Go}


There is enough room for you, if you dare to step on in.
You are welcomed, if you dare to say hello.
Your voice matters, if you dare to speak the truth.
Your story makes a difference, if you dare to scribble some words.

Sometimes the world seems so big and you seem so small. You can't believe for one minute there is space for you in the great big space of the world.

Your playing small will not serve the big God of the universe. Your believing your story has already been lived and someone else can tell it better anyway, doesn't make life any less of a risk.

Because you were made to live, to live big, big and bright. You were made to shine with that dream you've discovered, that dream you want to grasp. It is within reach.

If only you dare.

{Stop}

Join Five Minute Friday here.



A note about comments:
Recently I made the decision to close comments on my posts. As a long-time blogger (since 2005) who is fueled by comments, this is not a decision made lightly. It is not because I don't value you as a reader, but rather to help myself stay true to the reason I'm writing -- to make sense of the world & to give my story. In order to to give an untainted gift, I have decided to close comments in order to prevent myself from writing for what I can get (comments) and to protect my writing for what I can give.

You matter to me and I value our interactions! Please consider subscribing to this blog by adding your email below the header. I can also be found interacting on Twitter (@ruth_ayres) and maybe someday I'll figure out how to make Facebook a regular part of my online existence! Instagram is my very favorite social media, but I'm still considering whether I should make the visual stories of my family public.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Love is a Choice

This necklace from Elsie serves as a reminder to choose love.

Love is a choice.

There are days when the choice to love is much more difficult (and a whole lot less appealing) than the choice to be annoyed or turn my back or just give up. Sometimes the choice to love is the harder choice.

Let love be genuine.
Abhor what is evil.
Cling fast to what is good.

Paul inked these sacred words in Romans 12. The truth of the matter is genuine love is hard. It's a breathe in and breathe out choice over and over and over. But the rest of the truth is I am never, not-ever, sorry when I choose love.

I think Paul was talking about celebration when he wrote, Cling fast to what is good. It's about holding tight to the good -- finding the celebration in the thick of the trouble -- and clinging fast, with white knuckles.

It's celebration that saves.

Chances are, right now there's a relationship in your life that's hard. We're human and it's inevitable that there is a person (maybe a spouse or maybe a daughter or maybe a friend or maybe someone else) who is hard to love. There's someone like that right now in my life. And tomorrow there will be someone and next week there will be someone. We are called to love. If I let love be genuine, then I find the celebrations...

And I cling fast to what is good.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Living with a Radical Faith


I earned myself a speeding ticket yesterday.

Zipping along a beautiful stretch of road that winds between two lakes, there's a small town with a bait shop, a church, and a speed trap. As I'm reciting the scripture I'm trying to memorize and admiring the crisp sky, I spot a state trooper in the church parking lot.

I hit my brakes, glance at my speedometer, and pull over at the same time he pulls out and turns on his swirly lights.

He didn't say hello, even though I did. I handed over my license and registration. He turned on his heel and headed back to his car.

Five years ago I got a ticket in this exact same spot. I know better.

And yet, there I was in the exact same place.

When the officer returned with the ticket, I made sure to look him in the eyes. He told me the speed he clocked me at, and I tipped my head, drawing my eyebrows together. He wasn't correct. I was going at least 10 miles faster. It still was 19 miles over the posted speed.

I nodded, acknowledging his directions, and said, "Thank you."

I opened my wallet to return my driver's licensed and added, "Have a good afternoon."

The words were genuine, but I doubt he heard them. He was already walking back to his car. I couldn't stop myself from thinking how he was one grumpy officer.

Circumstances shouldn't have led me to be the kind one in this exchange. After all, it wasn't like he was the one who now had to pay a ticket instead of buying a new pair of cute boots.

Maybe I wasn't in the exact same place after all.

As I relayed the story to a friend, she said, "Wow! What a nice police officer. Over 20 would have led you to more points on your license and been a big deal to insurance. You're really lucky."

Her perspective helped turn mine.

Paul writes: For God works in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing... This is the scripture I was learning to memorize when I was pulled over.

I could see the irony, rolling my eyes: Now do this one thing without grumbling.

The ticket is meaningless in the grand scheme of things. My response, however, holds great purpose. I might have been the only person, all day, all week, all month, who said thank you. I may have been the first one in a long time to look him in the eyes.

If I've decided to live this life for all I'm worth with a radical faith, then it's these moments of irony that give me a chance to live out my beliefs.  Just because it was rotten to be caught in a speed trap, doesn't mean that I can't still be used to make the world a better place.

(I just won't be doing it with new boots!)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Love Not Control


When I was an undergrad, I had a professor who encouraged us to use positive reinforcement for classroom management. He suggested to look for a student who was doing the right thing and say, "I like how Johnny is standing in line," or "I like the way Johnny is sitting quietly," or "Thank you, Johnny, for keeping your hands to yourself."


I piped up (it was before my filter was securely in place like it is most of the time now) and said, "Yeah and then everyone wants to beat up Johnny."

I remember the professor paused and then asked me if I'd "say more about that."

I glanced up from the doodles in the margin of my notebook. I didn't realize I said anything interesting. The professor wasn't mad or offended, rather, he appeared curious.

I went on to explain how there are more important things to do in a day than to control behavior. By using sound instructional practices, building respectful relationships with students, and focusing on purposeful and worthwhile experiences students will be engaged. As engagement and respect increase discipline issues decrease. Then we don't have to manipulate or shame students into behaving.

"You're right," he said.

I adjusted my rose colored glasses. A few months later I stood in my own classroom. Although I made more than my share of mistakes that year, I'm grateful a public penal discipline system wasn't among them.

Although my filter is now secure, my convictions are not any less than they were all those years ago in undergrad. I like to think we've evolved as educators. Sixteen years later I shouldn't be fighting the battle of public discipline systems. (And just because they're on a SmartBoard doesn't make them any better.)

I have four children. Collectively, they have been subjected to 18 public penal discipline systems. They have fallen off of apple trees, moved down stoplights, pulled sticks, flipped cards, dropped stars, and lost maps. They have dealt with collecting cones and avoiding alligators.

I think it is also safe to say in our house we deal with behaviors that are a tad more drastic than other families. This is part of life when you have children who have hard histories without you. The thing is we've never asked our children to chart their choices or pull a stick.

Yet, they've unlearned severe behaviors and have relearned appropriate and courteous behaviors. They've maintained (and even regained) their dignity. We made a choice to help our kids find intrinsic motivation for doing the right thing rather than being manipulated into compliance.

That's not to say there aren't consequences. There are. Just ask any of them. They'll tell you: "All choices have consequences. When you make a pleasant choice, pleasant things come your way. If you don't, then it's not fun."

Controlling behavior wasn't the most important thing we did when we adopted our older children. Loving them was. We didn't want them to behave out of fear or shame. We wanted them to behave because it was worth it, because they made the choice to do the right thing. They learned to behave because they learned we loved them.

They tested our love. You don't need to know the gory details of the tests. Let's just suffice it to say that I know hard behaviors. I also know behavior can be relearned. New habits can form.

Our kids learned to control their own behavior because they were respected and trusted.

They are still learning. (Aren't we all?)

I just wish they were given the dignity in their classrooms that they've been given at home. I can't help to think of all of the kids who aren't given dignity at home. Shouldn't school be a place every child is treated with dignity? This will happen when all teachers trust and respect kids to do the right thing, rather than humiliating them into compliance.

I wish all children were loved more the controlled. This is how we change the world.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Personal Landmarks

Last month I listened to Beth Moore speak. She anchored our day with a word:
Landmark.

It was her expectation for the day to be a landmark in each person's life. It would be a point we would define as significant.

This was true for me. I felt commissioned to connect women of all ages and stories to one another so they could strive side by side for the faith of the gospel. Although a little unsure what that might look like, the work before me has become more clear. With the help of many, we have started a women's bible study in my town. I am leading the Fall round of Sunathleo (a Greek word meaning to strive side by side) as we study Philippians.



October 18th was another Landmark

I presented alongside Bill Bass, Colby Sharp, and Franki Sibberson. Going into the day I felt tattered and worn. I wondered if I even belonged.

Click here to see our work together.

I've been lost in my writing life. Rather than thinking of myself as lost, perhaps I should just think of it as being on a journey to find my identity as a writer. It's been a journey through dark woods and towering trees. There were patches of cold twisting through even darker and scarier trees. Dense vegetation and thick fog crept in, nearly suffocating me. It hasn't been a fun journey.

But today, presenting with people who believe in me and an audience filled with colleagues and friends who inspire me, the fog lifted a little. During dinner with Christy, she helped me see things more accurately. 

Even Andy noticed. When he asked me what I planned to do with Saturday night, I didn't groan or grumble. I smiled and said, "Write."

"Have you written three nights in a row?"

I nodded. "Tonight will make four."

"Does it feel good to be writing again?"

Yes.

It feels good to be found, to step out of the dark fog and to see a little more clearly. It feels good to notice what has hindered me, to extend a little grace to my writer self, and to define my next steps.

I am a writer because I put words on the page. When I don't write, I'm not anchored and drift away. Those woods are still too close. They will gladly swallow up my story.

I'm a writer who writes --
  • 15 minutes each day on her current story.
  • Blog posts about gritty celebration.
  • Articles about teaching writers.
  • And, just maybe, chapters about enticing writers.
September 13th is a landmark that will define the point when I realized my purpose (for this leg of the journey) is to connect women from all ages and stories so they can strive side by side and celebrate. 

October 18th is a landmark that will forever reminded me that writing is nonnegotiable. My story matters, whether it comes in the canister of being a teacher of writers or in some other identity. Either way, it matters.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

CELEBRATE This Week: LIII


I'm glad you are here to celebrate! Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter.
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Today I get to work alongside Bill Bass, Colby Sharp, and Franki Sibberson as we share our current thinking about teaching readers and writers. I barely slept last night; I'm so excited. 
 
I hope you will join the conversation too! Follow #allwrite14 on Twitter.

For the link-up today, please add your link in the comments.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

CELEBRATE This Week: LII


I'm glad you are here to celebrate! Share a link to your blog post below and/or use #celebratelu to share celebrations on Twitter.
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I celebrate slowing down. The world likes to tell me that I should do more. I'm learning this isn't always a Truth. The world likes to tell me if I'm not doing everything, then I'm not enough.

As a mother to four children, a wife, and an educator there is always more to do. There is always something I should have, need to, or gotta do.

I'm celebrating the Truth that it is okay to slow down.

Our slowing down looks like:
13 year old slumber party.
10 year old sleep over at Mimi & Papa's house.
The girls volunteering all day on Saturday with Mimi and Papa at their church.
The boys going to their first cub scout camp out.
A visit with a friend.
Teaching Sunday School.
Peewee football.
A visit with another friend.

And me, well, I took a nap.

It's true. I had 45 minutes alone in the house. It was earmarked for writing and instead, I napped.

I am a terrible napper. Terrible.

But, this was restoration. It was a gift, a reminder that it is okay to slow down.

And for this, I celebrate.

Share yours below!