On Claiming a Title

When I graduated Baylor University with a degree in English Professional Writing, I immediately took on the title “writer.” That’s what I wanted to be, that’s the field in which I looked for a job, and so that’s the title I claimed for myself.


That one word feels lofty and even a bit snobbish. Writers are romanticized in movies and television. They are these deep thinkers who live in quirky apartments, and they wear funny sweaters and smoke cigarettes while tapping out the Great American Novel on rusty typewriters.

I don’t know a single writer who does any of those things, by the way.

Photo Courtesy of Tammy Labuda: TammyLabudaPhotography.com

Photo Courtesy of Tammy Labuda: TammyLabudaPhotography.com

Most of us are tapping out our stories in the dark hours of our days – early morning, and late nights make up a world of stories. If you were to come to my house, you’d see that writing takes place in the cracks of life. During lunch break on homeschooling days, and on the rare gymnastics nights that I can slip away for a time and tap the keyboard while my daughter swings the bars.

There aren’t long stretches of time set aside for writing, because that’s just not the nature of my life right now. Someday there may be time for me to dedicate hours a day to my craft, but that day won’t come any time soon. So I fit it in, and I tell myself it’s okay.

Back when I was newly married, living in a small apartment in Frisco, Texas, I set to work proving myself to be a writer. I bought a clunky Toshiba laptop and set it up on the kitchen table, declaring that to be my space to create.

(I even bought myself a typewriter, with visions of romantic nights clicking away at the keys by lamplight. But it turns out that typing on a computer is much more productive, and a whole lot easier. Typewriters make lovely decorations, though.)

I interviewed for writing jobs in those early days, and landed a few freelance positions, and I considered this paying my dues. I ghostwrote a Study Guide, co-authored a devotional, and I wrote weekly newsletters for a local doctor, while also helping him formulate his ideas for a book series.

I did all of this while working on my own book, and I called myself writer, and I meant it. I was a writer because I wrote words.

But no one was reading the words, so I began to question my ability, and I slowly and quietly dropped the title. I began calling myself an editor, instead. I told people I liked to write, which seemed safer because how can you argue with that?

But I no longer felt comfortable calling myself a writer because the litmus test for being a writer seemed beyond what I had accomplished. I wasn’t publishing books, or even e-books. I had a blog, but it was a humor blog, hardly meant to be taken seriously.

Then I went to a conference that changed everything. I sat in on Jeff Goins’ session on writing, and he told us that part of writing is simply accepting the title for yourself. “It all changes when you’re willing to call yourself a writer,” he said.

So I accepted the title once more, and I tried applying it to myself, slowly at first. And then a little more boldly with time, until I finally came to a place where I believed myself to be a writer.

I even wrote an e-book about it.

It was then that I fell back in love with the craft of writing. No longer caught up in what I was and wasn’t doing, I simply learned to love the art. And I learned to better love my family in the midst of the art.

Taking on the title of mom, however, was never a problem for me. I believed in my ability to be a mom, and a good one at that, from the day my first child was born. It just felt so natural.

But being a Writer and a Mom? That’s a hard one. Because it’s hard to be both all at the same time. So I swing back and forth between the two titles, and the Mom title gets more of me, because of course it would!

Here’s the thing, though: I can wear both titles.

I am Mom. And I am a writer. I’m both things, simultaneously, though one outweighs the other in dedicated focused hours.

I’m also wife, daughter, sister, and friend. All of these titles rest upon me, and I’m grateful for them. Though I may wear some titles more naturally, and I may not always give healthy balance to each role, none are diminished or any  less important. I embrace all these titles, without shame.

What are your titles? How are you embracing all that you were made to be, from your mothering to your wife…ing (go with it), to the many, many skills that make up the whole of your being?

What titles can you claim for yourself?

Post Celebration Blues

Do you remember that feeling you got as a kid when a birthday would come and go, or Christmas morning passed in a blur, and suddenly it was all over and you were left feeling a little let down?

It was the post-celebration blues, and they snuck up on you every single time.

The same feeling washes through when you finish writing a book. It’s sort of a day-after, did-that-really-happen kind of feeling that leaves you wringing your hands and wondering what you should do next.

The thing is, there’s still a lot to be done. Just like after a great birthday party, or a memorable Christmas, there is cleaning up to do. A new day dawns, and brings with it a flurry of activity. And yet you find yourself a bit dejected for a few days until the moment finally passes and you can start looking forward to the next celebration.

Wendy and I turned in our manuscript on Tuesday. It’s been an intense couple of weeks as we’ve gone through the book with a fine-tooth comb, pulling out sections that didn’t make sense, or stopped the flow. We’ve done rewrites, and we’ve challenged one another on theological concepts, always pushing each other toward becoming stronger communicators.

We’ve pushed ourselves late into the night, and throughout the day, filling each down moment with editing and sharpening.

And now it’s out of our hands.

Add to the the fact that I turned my novel back into the editor on Sunday night after doing all the rewrites, and you find me here in the corner, feeling like my birthday and Christmas just rolled past me in one giant swoop. I’m a little sad that it’s over.

There’s still so much to be done, obviously, but today I’m simply in that strange aftermath – the waiting period before life kicks back into gear.

Tomorrow my husband celebrates his birthday. He’s had a stressful few months as well, so we’re sneaking away for a few days, just the two of us. We’ll join Matt and Wendy in San Diego, and we’ll celebrate birthdays and finished manuscripts.

And hopefully we’ll sleep, because I’m running on fumes.

I’m not taking my computer with me, and I’m not going to lie – I’ve had a couple of panic attacks today as I’ve thought about leaving it behind. I need to get started on marketing plans, and I need to finish my ebooks. I need to contact people for endorsements, and I have a MOPS talk to prepare.

But if I don’t stop to take a breath, I simply won’t make it to the next goal.

There’s something to be said about stepping back and taking it all in. Just like there’s something to be said about sitting in front of the fireplace the day after Christmas and not diving right into the cleaning and organizing. Memories can’t be made if we don’t stop to digest the moments.

Books won’t be launched if we don’t stop and digest the accomplishment of writing them.


So tomorrow morning, I will drag myself out of bed at O’Dark Thirty (it’s hard to fly from one coast to the other), and I will leave the work behind. It’ll all be waiting for me when I return, no doubt.

I’m going to step away and celebrate the accomplishment of finishing these first steps. This is the time to breathe, to soak it all in, and to not think about what’s next.

So that’s where I’ll be, and that’s what I’ll do. And hopefully I’ll come home relaxed, refreshed, and ready to prepare for the next big celebration. TWO BOOK LAUNCHES!

Happy weekending to you all!

365 Days

I’ve been her mom for 365 days. I’ve been looking at her face, memorizing it daily, locking up all the unique nuances that make her so special for one year. When I close my eyes, I can see her perfectly. I hear her voice, the way she jabbers constantly. She sounds like a turkey half the time, and I know the words.


I know when she’s fussing at me, and when she’s just trying to communicate.


I know that she reserves her smiles for only those times when they are warranted and deserved. She won’t just give a smile away, and she’s endearing for it.


I know her laugh, the way it gets stuck in her throat and comes out a tangled mess of joy.



I know when she’s excited, the way her mouth forms a perfect ‘O’ and her feet kick in anticipation.


I know that she doesn’t care for most foods unless they are fruits. And cake, apparently.


I know that she prefers being awake to sleeping.


I know that she lights up when her big brother comes into the room. He’s her protector, I can already tell.


I know that she gives her sister knowing smiles, like they already share a secret to which the rest of us will never be privy.


I know that her other brother, the one who used to be baby until she came along, is her very favorite playmate.


I’ve learned a lot in 365 days. I’ve found that our family is better as a unit of six. I’ve found that I’m stronger and more capable than I thought as I managed this household with a traveling husband and no grandparents around to help out.


I’ve learned that I really prefer to have grandparents around to help.


I’ve learned that having a baby with older kids is quite lovely. Everyone should try it. *wink*


And above all that I’ve found in these 365 days that I just cannot imagine life without her.

Perfect mother


Today we celebrate Annika, and the joy that it is to calls her ours.


What the…WHAT DID I SAY?!

Life is very full these days. From sun up to sun down, each moment of my day is parceled out in not so generous sums, and I’m slowly working my way to next Thursday when I will release all the strain, shut my eyes, and sleep for four whole days.

Lee and I leave next week for a much needed getaway. We’ve both been under pressure, me with two major book deadlines, and him with a hefty travel schedule. And in between all that we have these four little people who offer heaps of patience and grace (well, three of the four are offering patience. The baby is terribly demanding…).

And so it is that I stumble through each day, moving from one task to the next with little time to stop in between. This has, naturally, led to a bit of distraction, upon which my kids have capitalized and exploited in the most unfair of ways.

It seems they’ve grown quite thrilled with their ability to scare me. Normally it’s not that easy to make me jump because they’re loud, and they’re not really that good at waiting quietly in the shadows. Little giggles give them away, and so I’m usually prepared for their delighted BOO! I feign shock, and we all laugh.


But two things have occurred in the last few weeks: The first is the above mentioned distraction, which has left me vulnerable to attack. I’m all caught up inside my head, constantly sifting through all the thoughts that bounce around inside my overworked brain.

The second is that these kids of mine have become somewhat adept at hiding. I should be proud because they’ve really upped their game. But lately I find myself mumbling each time I round a corner, “If one of you jumps out at me I’m going to drop kick you into tomorrow.”

Mad parenting skillz.


This little game of scare-the-pants-off-mom rose to a whole new level last week when Lee was out of town. After a long day, I put the kids to bed then headed to my bedroom where I spent an hour after bedtime cleaning up, trying to find my floor under all the clothes that had buried it.

Around 10:00, I made my way to the kitchen to grab a drink before closing down the house for the night. Just as I rounded the corner, Sloan stepped out from the shadows with a whispered, “Hey there!”

Friends, I’m not a cuss word kind of girl. In general four letter words do not fit very nicely on my tongue, so I don’t often say them save for very rare occasions. This was one such occasion.

I swung my fist through the air and yelped “AAAAAHHH – Whaaaaaat the H$#@!”

This was the moment that Sloan slid to the floor in laughter while I clutched my chest to make sure my heart started beating again.




These are questions left unanswered. And honestly, I blame his father for everything that is wrong with him, and all the other ones like him.

“Oooooh my gosh, that was SO funny, Mom!” Sloan squealed, rolling on the floor. He sat up and wiped his eyes. “I mean, I literally scared the H-E-L-L out of you!” he laughed.

I tried to brush it off and be all, “Well, I mean ‘Hell’ isn’t really a bad word. It’s a place. A place. It’s a noun, cause it’s a place!”

“Not the way you used it,” he said, cackling now.


Since that day, it appears that the kids are on a quest to make my life a living H-E-L-L by jumping out at me at all times during the day, forcing me to prepare myself each and every time I round a corner. People of the world, I do not have time for these shenanigans!

This morning I got up early and let the dog outside. As I walked back into the house, Landon stepped from behind the curtains. “Hello,” he rasped in his little morning voice, and I screamed bloody murder. It’s really a testament to my INSANE self control that I didn’t end up punching him in the tiny little freckled nose.

He, of course, fell over laughing, then stood back up and wiped his eyes.

“Aw, man,” he said. “I thought I was gonna get you to say the “H” word again. Or maybe even the “SH” word this time.”

Join me next week for my online seminar: How to Be an Awesome Mom in Two Easy Steps.

Be aware that if you see me in public, and I appear to have a nervous tic, it’s because life and my psycho children are all conspiring to make sure I end up in an early grave.

The End.

One Small Box


I both long for it, and resent it. Everything about my life is safe, and for that I am truly thankful. I’m free to move about as I please, and so are my children, and there are moments when I truly, genuinely do not take that for granted.

But there are more moments when I do take it for granted.

Like everyone else, I have been captivated by the photos of a little boy washed ashore. I think about his parents and their longing for safety, and the journey they took that was anything but safe, and my heart breaks because it was just so hard.

I think about the family who recently brought home a little girl from a Chinese orphanage, and they now sit cocooned in their home because they need her to know that they aren’t going to leave her. She’s barely two, but she’s conditioned to believe that everyone leaves, and so they must build trust. And how many children are living that way in this world?

I think of the young woman in Ukraine who spent the last two Christmases with us. She wants family and safety. She wants to be known. She wants life to be easier.

And then I think of my own children swimming in opportunity, and I worry that I’m failing. We have a house bursting with “stuff.” So much stuff. It’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and we have enough clothing to last us at least a month, maybe more, if needed.

Food piles in the pantry and fridge, but still I run to the grocery store almost daily, because I can. And because these people in my house eat like it’s going out of style.

We’ve tried to expose them to the suffering of this world, but as they bicker over who gets to play the PlayStation next, I fear we’ve done a poor job.


We took them to Walmart on Monday armed with a list of needed and necessary items for Syrian refugees. Our sole purpose in the store was to purchase for others, not for ourselves. And yet, in every aisle they asked for something. We reminded them over and over, gently at first, and then with more urgency, that this trip wasn’t about us – it was about suffering people.

But even I had to restrain myself from grabbing a few things for our family while there.

We brought all the items home, and they’re piled in the corner waiting be boxed.

“That’s really not that much stuff,” my oldest said last night as I pulled it all out and began organizing it. “How many refugees are there?”

“Thousands,” I replied. He raised his eyebrows.

“That will only help a couple of people.”

And so it is that my heart constricts again, because this box I’m putting together feels so small. I know that for the three or four people who benefit from it’s content, the gesture won’t be small. But this feels like a single drop of rain in a vast desert. Everything feels so small.

A solitary box fill with clothes and shoes is small.

Bringing “K” into our home for two months is small.

$38/month for our sponsored children is small.

My children live in a world that is bursting with need, and I do know that they’re aware of this – they’re not clueless. Nor are they indifferent to the suffering of others. In fact, when given the opportunity, they are more gracious and giving than I am.

But it all feels so small.

I placed the sweatpants and tennis shoes, socks and underwear in the box, and before closing it up laid my hand on top of it and prayed.

“Lord, multiply this offering so that it isn’t small. This isn’t enough, Father. But it’s something – it’s a start. Make it sufficient, Oh God.”

My one box is small, but it’s something. It’s a start. And maybe if we work together as a collective whole we can make that offering a big one. Like the loaves and the fish, the offering can be made sufficient for the masses.


I tell you these things not to bait you for encouragement, but rather to let you know that I get it – what we have to offer feels small. But a lot of small can equal a big, so maybe we can join forces.

My small box combined with your small donation, and her box, and his donation all come together to clothe and feed the desperate.

My orphan hosting combined with their adoption, and your sponsorship, and their mission trip to paint the orphanage, and build shelving, and offer clothing all work together to show the fatherless of this world that they’re not alone – their lives matter.

Want to be small with me today?


A list of small things you can do to make a big difference:

Provide relief for Syrian Refugees

Sponsor a child through Compassion International

Host a child who needs to see a picture of family this Christmas

Throw a Shoe Cutting Party