Monday, May 2, 2016

Start Planning for an End-of-the-Year Writing Celebration

(Note: This is similar to a previous note that went out to my Email Pals.)

It's not too soon to begin planning for your final writing celebration of the school year. Writing celebrations offer positive energy for student writers, so it is worthwhile to end the year with one. This way students will carry self-confidence and good memories of writing with them throughout the summer and into the following school year.

Primary Writing Celebrations

For the youngest writers, I prefer to have a BEST BOOK EVER celebration! It just so happens that I enjoy launching writing workshop with an invitation to write the BEST BOOK EVER. Check it out...I'm sure you can use it as a springboard for planning an end-of-the-year BEST BOOK EVER celebration. 

If you would like a Celebration Prep Guide, click here to receive a lesson list and timeline to prepare for a Best Book Ever celebration or complete the form below.



Intermediate Writing Celebrations

For older writers, I invite them to complete an end of the year writing reflection and create an anthology.  Students consider four categories and select a project from the school year that meets the following categories.

  • My Favorite...
  • I Learned the Most by Writing...
  • Most Meaningful...
  • I Wish I Had More Time...

Students may select a different piece for each category, or the same piece might fit more than one category. For example, "My Favorite" and "Most Meaningful" might be the same writing project.

If you would like the Year-End Reflection, just complete the form below.

Students can collect their final projects (or print fresh copies if they have their work on a device) to compile an anthology. The reflection will serve as the opening pages to the anthology.

This isn't a project to rush. Plan to spend 5-7 days for students to complete a thoughtful reflection and a meaningful anthology. Depending on time and the students, you may invite them to add different parts to make their anthologies complete. Consider including:
  • A fancy cover
  • Table of Contents
  • Dedication
  • Introduction
  • Back cover with an author bio

The Formal Celebration

During the formal celebration, I prefer to give students an opportunity to share what they have learned as writers throughout the year. Primary students share the BEST BOOK EVER. Older students share the title of the project they selected for one category, their rationale for selection, and the writing project.
With a little forethought, you will put together a stellar final writing celebration. As always, I love to hear from you. Leave a comment and let me know:

  • When will you start preparing for your end of the year writing celebration?
  • What questions or thoughts do you have about an end of the year writing celebration?
Please share pics and comments from your writing celebrations with me on Twitter. Just tag @ruth_ayres.

Friday, April 29, 2016

This is my Story. This is my Psalm. {CELEBRATE This Week: 137}


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. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.

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Last week I delivered the message at my church. It was part of the This is my Story. This is my Psalm. sermon series. It was a privilege and an honor to get to speak about faith and adoption in my home church. 

I was also thrilled to have my friends, Jasmine and Becca, there to encourage me. They are giants of faith and have helped me heal in many ways. Before them I thought I was a really terrible friend. They've shown me so much truth about friendship, and I hope someday it will be the topic of a book. 

If you want to hear my story and my psalm, you can listen here. Just select the link under my name. I claim Psalm 150 -- the last chapter in the book-- as my Psalm. It is a Psalm of pure praise and has the verse: Let everything that has breath praise His name. I tell the stories of our adoptions -- Sam from birth; Hannah and Stephanie from kindergarten and a preschool for children ages 2, 3, and 4 with anger issues; and Jordan, a child I didn't even know we had until we were told to go find him. 

Also, this was delivered without notes. God wanted me to trust Him completely with the words. He is a good Good.

Celebrate with me by sharing your link here.




Friday, April 22, 2016

No homework! {CELEBRATE This Week: 136}

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. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.

*****

The best thing about state standardized testing is no homework.

I'm not a proponent of homework. Kids are in school for hours; there is no reason they should bring work home. Nothing good comes from homework. My kids are not more responsible because they complete a worksheet. They are not more prepared for the world because they are chained to their iPads completing a writing project that has been assigned, but not explained. They are not better off (except they stay out of detention) because they've completed menial tasks for a teacher.

Homework is the instigator of arguments, fits and lies. It is not pleasant. It does not show my kids that I care about their eduction. It is not a pleasant experience.

Even for the compliant children in the house, homework only zaps them of precious free time. Instead of crocheting head warmers for her online business, Hannah sits for hours at the kitchen table plugging and chugging math problems. Instead of heading into the skatepark, Sam waits for everyone else to finish their work. (Sam has mastered taking advantage of "golden moments" in school to complete his work.)

This week we've had a few homework free days. That means --
  • A walk through the yard discovering a new little turtle-friend.
  • Researching turtles to find out what they eat and where they live.
  • This led to a venn diagram to compare and contrast amphibians and reptiles.
  • Making dessert together in the kitchen.
  • Bike rides.
  • A family game of pig on the trampoline.
  • A card game (or two or three).
  • Reading books together -- like the old days.
  • We weren't rushed.
There is nothing good that comes from homework. Children are in school for hours. They work hard. There is no reason to send them home with more work. For the ones who do the homework, the consequences may even be greater than for the children who don't complete their homework.

So where is the celebration in all of this? 

I celebrate tenacity. Children who hold on to their creativity in the midst of all the demands placed on them by school. I celebrate perseverance. I celebrate families who are able to work through the grumble of homework and find time to do enjoyable things together. And I celebrate state testing, because for a couple of weeks there is no homework.

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Have you gotten your copy of JUMP IN: Great Teaching Begins in the Pool? You can get a copy by filling out the form below. If we are already Email Pals (yay!), you can fill out the form to get your free eBook, but you don't have to worry about a double email newsletter in your inbox.

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 Share your celebration!

Friday, April 15, 2016

JUMP IN! {CELEBRATE This Week: 135}


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. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.


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I am so excited to share with you my very first eBook! It might be my favorite thing I've ever written. Not just because it is memory of my friend, Nate, but also because it is a collection of the most important things I know about how to help others write well. It's my secrets to teaching kids to know their stories matter and to use their voices to make the world a better place. I'm excited to share it because it will make teaching writers more manageable and enjoyable.

It's about so much more than teaching writers, though. It's about how sharing stories changes people -- forever. 

I hope you'll take a minute to JUMP IN. Just go here, share your email address with me, and get your copy of JUMP IN: Great Teaching Begins in the Pool. (You can also fill out the form at the bottom of this email.)

I've been imagining you reading this, snuggled under your favorite blanket on your couch, rocking in a chair on your front porch, or maybe with your morning cup of coffee in your spot on the kitchen table. It's a short read that I put my whole heart into.

Then, if the story touches you, will you share it with THREE people who you think would enjoy it? 

Simply send them this link: http://bit.ly/ayresebook. (You can just copy and paste it into an email or text message.)

I'd also like to give a heartfelt thanks to those who were my first readers. Their feedback was critical to the final product. I am grateful and humble for their time and responses. Thank you -- 

Amy Rudd, Angela Faulhaber, Carol Varsalona, Carol Wilcox, Christy Rush-Levine, Erin McGurk, Jen Vincent, Jennifer Laffin, Karen Terlecky, Leanne Carpenter, Leigh Anne Eck, Linda Baie, Lisa Corbett, Mary Helen Gensch, Mary Lynch, Michelle Haseltine, Mona Goodman, Ramona Behnke, Ruth Metcalfe, Shaina Schoof, Tam Hess, Tammy Shultz, Tara Smith, Teresa Bunner, and Terje Akke.


As always, share your celebrations below!



Friday, April 8, 2016

April Snow Brings...{CELEBRATE This Week: 134}


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. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.

***** 

It was a fuzzy sweater and butterfly rain boots kind of day.
I posted this shot on Instagram on the last day of March. The caption read, "It was a fuzzy sweater and butterfly rain boots kind of day. This might be my favorite kind of day."

And it is true, I do love a good grey day. 

We've had a Spring Break filled with grey days and now that the calendar has turned to April, I wonder if it is still truth that I love a good grey day. It is snowing as I write this. The same childhood rhyme that has played in my mind for a lifetime repeats, with a slight twist.

April snow brings...

I pause and consider how to end the line.

April snow brings dinner with friends. I laughed so much with Becca and Lee, and they reminded me how much fun Andy and I have with friends.

April snow brings shopping with the girls. I tried on a pair of shoes that prompted Stephanie to say, "Mom, I think you should ask yourself how often you will really wear those shoes before you buy them."

They are completely adorable and totally frivolous. The black and white gingham next to a butterfly pattern made them perfectly eclectic and the heel was the height I quit wearing once I started teaching.

Hannah said, "What would you wear them with?"

I laughed and said to both of the girls, "The truth is, girls, there are many reasons to buy a pair of shoes."

I decided it was time for the lesson my Grandma Myers taught me and my mom reinforced. "Sometimes, girls, you build an outfit around a perfect pair of shoes. You start at the toe and build up."

Stephanie lifted her eyebrows. "You mean you only wear them with one outfit?"

"To start, and then you get creative. There are lots of things in my closet these will match," I walked to a different mirror and admired the shoes again.

"Seriously, Mom, you really need to ask yourself how often you will wear them."

Instead, I asked myself how much I will enjoy wearing them. The answer landed me a new pair of shoes.
 

April snow brings slogging through the middle.  I've been writing thousands of words each day this week. In addition, I'm moving computers...and platforms. I finally bought a MacBook Pro. I am in awe by how fast and friendly it is.

I'm remembering the middle doesn't have to shackle me. I think the middle is the hardest part. I win when I open my computer. I win when I write a sentence. I win when I say the words out loud, "I am a writer." It is this sequence that then releases me and I'm able to move through the muck of the middle.

April snow brings hope. I know there is sunshine waiting to break through. April snow reminds me the grey days are still some of my favorite.

I'm glad you are here to celebrate! Share your link below.


Friday, April 1, 2016

Soul Restoration {CELEBRATE This Week: 133}

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. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.


******

*****


If you follow me on Instagram, you saw this picture earlier in the week. It was accompanied by the following conversation.

Mom: What's the book club assignment?
Sam: Everyone brings their own book.
Mom: The we decide as a group?
Sam: No. Then everyone reads their own books all snuggled under a blanket. Then the last few minutes we share...and eat cookies. You bring the cookies.
Mom: Then we swap books?
Sam: I don't think you understand. Book club is for people who like reading. We don't need to tell each other what to read. We all have piles of books. It's just time to read together and talk about your book. Get it?
Mom: Got it.
Same: Good. I would hate to make someone not want to read because they have to read something they didn't pick. There's enough of that in school.

(Sometimes the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.)

Sam decided Tuesday evening was book club. I had so much to do. "I'm not sure right now is a good time," I said.

"You signed up," he replied. "Get your book and meet me on the couch."

I sighed and looked at the sink full of soapy bubbles. One popped and another and another. It seemed frivolous to read in the early evening. I had so much to do.

"Mom! Are you coming? It's starting!"

I squeezed the dish rag and clenched my teeth. There's no reason to stress, I repeated the words in my mind, hoping I can believe them. I stretch out on the couch and Sam brings me a quilt. "Scoot over," he says.

I can't believe we still fit on the couch. He opens his book and begins reading. I'm enamored by him. He gave up video games for book club tonight. I almost forget that that I have so much to do.

"You need to read too, Mom," he said, giving me a sideways smile.

I kiss the top of his head and open my book. I turn pages and breathe in and out and tension leaves my muscles. I didn't know I was tense.

This simple action feels like a luxury. I am reading next to my son and it feels like he's just given me an extravagant gift.

Self-restoration doesn't have to be complicated. We simply say YES! in the middle of too much to do.

*****

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Guys! I can't believe how quickly so many of you volunteered to help me out with my new ebook. I'm so excited about this project! It is become infinitely better because of your help. My email pals will get the ebook before anyone else, so if you haven't signed up for my newsletter, right now is a good time! The ebook will be ready next week.

***** 

This Sunday at 8:00 EST, Christy Rush-Levine and I will host the Teach and Celebrate Writers chat. I hope you will join us. Please note: lurking is acceptable. I'd encourage you to say hello at the beginning of the chat, but then feel free to just lurk. I'm always so blessed by #TandCwriters; I know you will be too.


Friday, March 25, 2016

Forever Matters + I Need Some Help {CELEBRATE This Week: 132}

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. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.


******
Jordan turned 11 last week! It was the 4th birthday we've celebrated together. We are over halfway to celebrating more birthdays together than without one another. Time together...it makes a difference. I know it's important how we spend our time together, and it's important how much time we spend together. Sometimes I forget all of those moment pile together to make forever. 

Forever matters. Four birthdays seem like forever to our little man. I'm grateful to get to be his momma. Here's his birthday photo, which actually is a perfect capture of who he is right now. 



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I'm very excited to be rounding the final bend of creating a FREE ebook for my email pals! I'm looking for 20 people who are willing to read and give feedback on it. If you are interested, please let me know in the comments of this post and I'll send you a PDF of it. I'd like to know your thoughts by April 4. (Just for reference, most of my blog posts are around 500 words and the ebook is 1000 words. It's a speedy read.) You guys! I am overwhelmed by your responses to help me...thank you! There are now 20 readers. I'll be sharing the ebook with my email pals, so if you haven't subscribed to my newsletter yet, then please join below.

The first page of the FREE ebook I'm working on.

 *****
As always, I'm glad you are here to celebrate. Happy Easter!

***** 
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Monday, March 21, 2016

Blog Challenge Reflection


Surprised.

This is the emotion that is driving my reflection. This week I've been surprised as I've stepped through the 7-Day Intentional Blogging Challenge hosted by Jeff Goins.

I was surprised I joined. It was a whim, and I invited Jen Vincent to join too. I was surprised she said yes. I was surprised the way we checked-in and encouraged and supported one another many times each day throughout the challenge. I had forgotten how much I need writing buddies throughout the process. This surprised me -- collaboration is one of my core beliefs, and yet as my life journey grew rocky these past few weeks, I retreated. This challenge reminded me of the way writers need each other during challenging times. More importantly, it served as a reminder that people need each other when life gets challenging. I didn't expect this life lesson from a blogging challenge.

It reminds me that writing always gives more than it takes.

I'm surprised at how my thoughts on blogging have expanded. Lately, through a course with Tim Grahl, I've been pushed to be intentional about using my online space to do two things:
  1. Create lasting connections.
  2. Be exceedingly helpful.
I love these goals. I'm unsure how all of the feelings in my heart about why I blog and what this community of teacher-writers means to me can be boiled down to six words, but I 'm glad. I like simplicity. It's a worthy mission and one I've been developing since I first started blogging more than a decade ago. I was surprised how the Intentional Blogging Challenge has supported and encouraged me in this mission, while at the same time gave me new resolve and permission to be someone who creates lasting connections and is exceedingly helpful.

Ultimately, this is my biggest surprise: the permission to emerge as a stronger and more purposeful writer than ever before. For those of you who are long time readers, following me from space to space, watching me walk away from a popular blog and land here, floundering as I learned to write for myself and an audience of One rather than for hits and popularity, you know this is not a slight thing.

Anais Nin's words have been ringing in my mind.


"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."

It is not a slight thing to learn you can blossom again.


*****
{This post is part of a 7-Day Intentional Blogging Challenge hosted by Jeff Goins. For more information and to see what others are writing, check out the invitation and Facebook page.}

Friday, March 18, 2016

Commit to a Pause {CELEBRATE This Week: 131}

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. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.

******
  
I have a favorite hashtag: #hijackedbysam. HijackedbySam is even a tag on this blog, but it only has a single post. I wish #hijackedbysam were in use more often. (Sigh.)

The latest #hijackedbysam post on Instagram.
We were running a little late to an appointment, all piled into the car, and I shoved the keys into the ignition, only they didn't fit. I held them up and said, "Who knew the car keys won't start the van?"

The kids laughed and someone said, "Might as well take the car." So we all tumbled out and scurried to the car. In my rush, I ran into Sam. He fell down and I helped him up. "Why'd you stop?" I asked, dusting off his knees.

"Look at the sky, Mom." I followed his gaze to the west. "Isn't it amazing?"

Did I mention we were late to an appointment? I didn't respond because I was still sorting through what not to say in my mind.

"Just look at it," Sam continued. "It has a line between dark and light. Can I take a picture?"

I wanted to say Absolutely not. We are already late. Get in the car. Instead I took a deep breath and handed over my phone. 

Sam snapped some pictures and slid into the car. "Thanks so much, Mom. I just love these pictures. The sky is rare today. You should put this on Instagram."

"Why don't you post it?"

Sam said, "Great idea! I'll use my hashtag, hijacked by Sam."

Later, at bedtime, Sam said, "I'm glad you waited while I took that picture. It's one that's going to stick with me. Did you see the line between dark and light? And the way the sun rays were stretching out? I think it means something more than just a picture."

I snickered and tucked him in. At the end of the day, after everyone is in bed and the house is almost too-quiet, I took the time to look at the picture he snapped. I paused, soaking in the picture taken from Sam's perspective.

I realized how close I came to missing the sky. What was so important that it seemed like such an ordeal to let Sam take a picture? Did it even matter to the outcome of the day? 

Looking at the picture, I was reminded of the importance of a pause. The more pauses I add into a day, the more chances I have to capture celebration. It is in the pause that I'm able to choose to celebrate. I think the whole wide world would be a place to celebrate if we all committed to pause.

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I hope we've become email pals. I've been playing with my newsletter and have decided to use it as a place to offer stories, tips, and inspiration for teaching writers. This content goes out to my my email pals before it's shared anywhere else. On most Tuesdays, you can expect strategies for teaching writers, delightful stories, or little updates about my writing life.


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*****
Thanks for celebrating!
 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Status Quo? Not Me!

I'm supposed to write about something that will stir a debate. I sent a writing buddy a text and said:
I don't think I can do today's challenge. I don't write to stir trouble.

Her response caught me off guard.
I think you do already...believe it or not! You already stand up and say writing and celebrating doesn't have to be what we think it is.

As much as I tried to remain in my uncontroversial bubble, her words kept swarming me. I asked Andy, "Do you think I'm controversial in my writing? Do I poke at tradition and push conventional beliefs?"

He laughed, nearly choking on his drink. "You have to ask?"

He looked over at me and realized I wasn't joking. This made him laugh again. "You're always pushing people to move out of their comfort zones. You spin these stories that are just ordinary moments that make people smile or soften and then you give a little twist at the end that makes us pause and think about our own lives in a new way. Yeah, you push convention."

"I'm not mean!" I hear the defensiveness in my own voice.

"No, you're not mean. You're also not status quo." He shakes his head again. "Like you don't know it."

I shrugged. "I'm just writing truth."

He laughed, "That's why I love you. You speak the truth, whether people want to hear it or not. You just kind of lay it out, no sugar coating."

This time it was my turn to laugh. "So what are you saying? I have strong beliefs?"

"It's all part of the package," he teased. "Low maintenance, but you say it how you see it."

And this is how I see it:

Everyone has something to celebrate.

I'm a little worn out by all of the complaining and nagging and whining that fills our days. My ears hurt from people wishing their lives were easier, less complicated, or more blessed. I'm tired of hearing about how busy and overwhelmed everyone is -- all of the time.

Because here's the deal:

Every single complaint can be turned into a celebration.

It's all about the perspective. I can complain about the laundry, or I can celebrate having a healthy and active family. I can crab about doing dishes again, or I can celebrate the home cooked, delicious, plentiful meal. I can grumble about the papers, books, iPads, paper airplanes, milk glasses, and back packs on the kitchen table or I can celebrate that the kitchen table is not just a dumping ground, but a gathering place every afternoon.

I turn each complaint inside out all day long. When someone snaps at me, I'm glad they trust me enough to shoulder their frustration and be kind anyway. When I'm cut off while driving, I'm thankful I was paying attention and avoided an accident. When I'm sore from exercising, I'm grateful I had time for an extra mile the night before.

When I choose to celebrate, I no longer have space for complaining. Celebration is my catalyst for caring about others, for being kind, and for making the world a better place. Everyone has something to celebrate. Let's start today!
*****

Join a community who celebrates together every weekend (whether we feel like it or not). Check here for the scoop

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This post is part of a 7-Day Intentional Blogging Challenge hosted by Jeff Goins. For more information and to see what others are writing, check out the invitation and Facebook page

Monday, March 14, 2016

Mantra: Why I Write



I write...

To turn darkness to light. Stories have the power to bring light to the shadows of the world. I write to shine light into the darkness.

To choose celebration over the grit of life. Life is chaotic, and there is always a cause for an alarm. I write in order to pause and shift perspective from stress to joy. This pause allows the words to mold everyday life into a celebration.

To discover genuine stories. Life swirls and the wisps are almost impossible to grasp -- unless I put words to the page. I write to find the genuine stories -- the real and raw moments of life that will slip through my grip and I lose a piece of the beauty life is meant to bring.


To document a radical faith.  As the world pulls and demands, I write to defend and remember the One who is bigger than me. I write to build bits of this and that into a story that reflects Truth.

To play with words. I write because it's fun to play with words, to make them wobble and steady by stacking them on the page.

Mostly, though, I write to inspire others to celebrate their stories, even in the midst of the muddle. Sharing stories is the best way I know to make the world a better place. We soften and learn and rise up because we share stories. We defend and encourage and love more because we share stories. I write so others will want to share their stories. I write so others will live a stronger story. I write because story changes me and him and her and you...and together, we will make the world a better place.

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This post is part of a 7-Day Intentional Blogging Challenge hosted by Jeff Goins. For more information and to see what others are writing, check out the invitation and Facebook page

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Friday, March 11, 2016

Grace is Hard {CELEBRATE This Week: 130}

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. Check out the details hereCelebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.

******

Jordan is typically the last one in the car. No matter how much earlier he starts to get ready, no matter how "completely" ready he is, no matter how many reminders he gets, he is still the last one in the car. Normally he hops out with one shoe barely on and the other in his hand.

He collapses into the backseat of my car. It's already filled with two other bodies. Steph, in the center says, "Sheesh, Jay, watch it!"

"I'm trying!" he snaps back. "It's not like it's easy to put on these shoes when I'm crammed back here."

Stephanie shoves his bag back to his lap.

"Knock it off, Steph," he growls.

"Get your bag on your own side." She crabs back.

"I'm trying to tie my shoes," he says and elbows her.

Of course she elbows him back, and shoves his bag again.

"Will you cut it out?" he raises his voice. "I've gotta get my shoes on."

"You should have done that before you got in the car."

Both of their tempers are on the rise, so I interrupt. "Grace," I say, my voice low. "Extend a little grace."

"You should tell that to him," Stephanie's words are curt.

"I'm saying it to all of us. Grace goes far."

Stephanie kicks Jay's bag. "Keep it on your own side!"

"Grace," I say again.

Jordan tugs on his shoelaces. "You know, Mom, I'd like to have grace, but it's hard."

"Don't I know it," I say.

Hannah laughs. Sam snickers.

"It's. Not. Funny!" Stephanie says, shoving Jay's backpack again.

"See? That's what I mean," Jay says. "Grace is hard. She doesn't even deserve it."

"Neither do you," Stephanie sneers.

Hannah laughs. "That's why it's called grace. None of us deserve it."

I pull into the school drop off lane and the conversation shifts to the predictable lines of sending them off to school.

"I love you, guys." I say. They each kiss me and I know it is not a slight thing. Then I say to each in turn, "Good things are going to happen..."

"To me and through me!" Jay says, stumbling out of the car.

"To me and through me," Stephanie says and rolls her eyes.

"I know, I know," Hannah says.  I lift my eyebrows and she giggles. "To me and through me. I might be too old for this."

"Mom, I need something different," Sam says. "I know good things are going to happen to me and through me. Hearing you say it every morning is annoying."

I kiss his cheek. "Go be a blessing," I say, "And be blessed."

"Good one," he smiles at me.

They walk into the day. I grip the steering wheel and take a deep breath.

Bob Goff via Instagram

Grace is hard. It isn't for the the weak, and it isn't for the undisciplined. Grace is undeserved...and, according to Bob Goff, it leads us home.

That's worth the celebration.

*****
I hope we've become email friends. I've been playing with my newsletter and have decided to use it as a place to offer stories, tips, and inspiration for teaching writers. This content goes out to my my email friends before it's shared anywhere else. On most Tuesdays, you can expect strategies for teaching writers, delightful stories, or little updates about my writing life.


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*****
I'm so happy you celebrate with me. It is true fuel for my soul.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Take a Risk {CELEBRATE This Week: 129}

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. Check out the details here. Celebrate This Week goes live on Friday night around 10(ish). Consider it as a weekend celebration. Whenever it fits in your life, add your link. Please leave a little comment love for the person who links before you.

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A month ago I met my friend, Becca for lunch. She gave me a miniature pot of Gerber Daisies. "They're my favorite!" I said when she handed them to me.

"I know," she said, "And they were too cute not to buy."



I brought them home and put them in my kitchen window sill. (Next to Jaws, Sam's Venus Flytrap.) It was a happy day, lunch with Becca, then celebrating Sam's birthday with a bowling with the buddies party. That morning I talked with my editor about the book and had positive feedback that fueled me for the final leg. I'd made lots of progress with a project at school and was caught up on email. I was on top of the world, feeling good professionally and as a writer, momma, and friend.

Things shifted that night and life became stormy. My flowers remained happy in the window. It was dark week, that first week of February, but my flowers remained a constant reminder of a very good day in a very good life.

They reminded me to live by Truth, not by feelings. 



Then they did the thing all flowers do, the blooms wore out and needed pruned. You might be surprised to know that although I tend words just fine, plants are another story entirely. I have a real black thumb when it comes to flowers...a very black thumb. Once those beautiful blooms droop, there's very little hope of another round making an appearance.

I decided my best case scenario was to keep watering and maybe I could plant it in a summer pot. February was not an easy month. I kept watering the little plant even though I didn't think it mattered. There's no way more blooms would come. It continued to remind me to live by Truth, not by feelings. The truth was the plant needed water. My feelings said nothing would make a difference to make the plant bloom again. I'm destitute when it comes to blooms.

Mid-month, I noticed a peculiar shape in the center of my plant. If I weren't so sure there would never be another bloom, I might have recognized the bud. I kept watering and the bud grew. Soon there were two strong buds shooting up from the center of the plant. Not only was the plant creating new blooms, but I realized I was a different person too, a stronger parent than before.

The storms brewed through the month, but I continued to trust God is good, rather than believing my feelings. I watched the buds grow and was reminded that God is faithful -- He will forever regenerate the old and make new. The old blooms were droopy and worn, and the new were strong and straight.

Near the end of the month, a third bud sprung up on the little flower. It chuckled, reminding me that God is a God of abundance. I've been watching these buds for many days, that have turned to weeks. They keep growing and changing and each day I am sure they are going to burst into a bloom.

The storms can rage and a gentle flower can gain strength. The same is true for us. The winds can howl and the rains pelt and the dark clouds hunker down and we can still grow faith. We can still gain strength.

I couldn't wait for March. The calendar flipped and the grey of February was covered. I brewed my coffee and held the warm mug in my hands. I raised my eyes to the window sill and there, in the early hours of March 1, the buds burst and the petals began to unfold.



Anais Nin's words rang true in my mind: 

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."

 Sometimes we can't trust our feelings. We must keep moving forward by faith because we know the truth of the matter is there is something greater than what we feel or see. We remain faithful and new growth is generated. We keep in step and new life begins to bud. We live well, but it doesn't mean we avoid storms. We believe in a good God, but it doesn't mean we never have heart ache.

A well-lived life is a series of seasons. It is my hope to embrace each one and take the risk to blossom.

*****


Are we email friends yet? I've been playing with my newsletter and have decided to use it as a place to offer stories, tips, and inspiration for teaching writers. This content goes out to my my email friends before it's shared anywhere else. Next week, I'm sharing a small story from my family room floor and tugging a thread to find the way tiny stories lead to big meaning. On most Tuesdays, you can expect strategies for teaching writers, delightful stories, or little updates about my writing life.

Just add your email here and have encouragement for teaching writers delivered right to your inbox!



Send me some inspiration!

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*****

I can't wait to read your celebrations!