One of the recurring themes woven throughout the book I wrote with my friend, Wendy, is the idea that life ebbs and flows, and with each changing season we find ourselves facing new joys and new challenges.
When Wendy and I wrote Life Creative, I had just given birth to my fourth born, a cherubic little baby with gigantic princess eyes, and a precious disposition. Because my other three children were older, the newborn phase was completely different that fourth time around.
I actually had some space in my days thanks to school schedules, nap schedules, and a general rock star quality to life that year.
But alas, Wendy and I were on to something when we wrote the following words:
“As the ocean ebbs and flows with the pull of the tide, so do a mother’s days, pulling away for a time, then gathering back close to the shore of family life. It’s not always easy. In fact, it is anything but easy. Constantly riding the waves of change, high and low tide, looking for our rhythm. Sometimes this in-and-out pull happens gently, while other times we crash like the white-capped waves. And through it all we learn to practice our unique artistic gifts like a spiritual discipline. These are the moments when we learn to drop anchor.” Life Creative, 2016
Once gain, the ebb and flow of life has brought with it a new phase – one that has me feeling less like a rock star and more like a psychotic squirrel on crack.
My cherubic baby has morphed into a wily toddler overnight, still with the gigantic princess eyes, of course. Only now those eyes of hers stare at you with a mischievous gleam, which can be quite unnerving at 3:00 in the morning.
She’s discovered that she can climb from her crib, and with this discovery a whole new world has opened up that she didn’t know existed. It’s also revealed something about her that my husband and I didn’t know until now:
Our daughter is a ninja.
She has an ability to pull herself out of bed and walk out of her room in absolute silence, so stealthy that when we wake to find her by our bed, or turn the corner to find her standing completely still in the dark, we nearly jump out of skin.
This new phase has turned an already crazy phase of life into a crazy and unpredictable phase of life.
Between our sports/homeschool/middle school/church/travel/ninja-toddler schedule, I have less time than ever before in which to work.
For many years, this little corner of the internet was the place where I worked out how I saw the world. It was my place to share thoughts, share funny stories, share heartaches, and to keep a record of our crazy life.
But the world has changed, blogging has changed, and my season of life has changed, and I need to be more careful with my quiet moments, which I’m mining out like gold right now.
Many of you who get these posts delivered directly to your mailbox signed up for this thanks to one of my book launches last year. Some of you are fiction lovers and are likely confused by the writer girl with her ninja toddler.
Others are creatives who, like me, have precious few quiet moments in your day, and you need to be judicious with where you spend those. So what to do with the writer girl and her ninja toddler?
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“I just love the way the world looks upside down.”
She said the words with a sigh, her mouth turned up in just the hint of a smile. I glanced at her long enough to see that she wasn’t looking at me, but rather up at the sky. She wasn’t really talking to me at all. She was just stating a fact.
She loves the way the world looks upside down.
As I prepare to head out to a writer’s conference tomorrow, I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking about platform. What does it mean, and can I really stand on one with any amount of emotional stability?
It dawned on me when Tia spoke those honest words that I feel so much like her. I love the way the world looks upside down. I love the way it looks on my computer screen. I love the tapped out rhythm of life that echoes across the keyboard. I love the way the world looks when I’m writing.
Because stories are my upside down.
It’s a beautiful thing to embrace the world as one was meant to see it; whimsical and bright – the world is a fascinating place when turned upside down.
You see, I am the girl on the platform, spinning her way around the stage, and finally feeling warmed by the Light that illuminates the space in front of me. No longer concerned with the applause of the auditorium, I find myself increasingly fascinated with the world as He created me to see it – all topsy turvy.
It’s not always easy, though. I still forget at times to focus on the Light, and instead I strain my eyes toward the seats, wishing there were more listening. I’m not so secure that I’ve forgotten the desire to be seen and heard.
But when I allow myself to simply love what I do for no other reason than I was made to do it, then the Light fills in the dark places once again. Because I love the way the world looks upside down.
Maybe you’re standing on an empty stage, gazing into an empty auditorium, and you’re feeling lost and confused. Maybe the world is to right side up for you right now.
Can I offer a few words of advice?
1.) Know you have a story to tell
Your story is unique, and it’s a story that only you can tell. Maybe there are others around you telling flashy stories. Maybe they have a bigger stage, and wider audience. But they don’t have your story. They couldn’t. Only you hold that story.
So tell it.
2.) Know how you love to see the world
This is akin to finding your voice. How do you love to see the world? What is upside down for you?
Are you a Bible teacher? Then give us scripture laden wisdom, and make us crave the Word.
Are you a humorist? Then tell us a funny story, and make us laugh out loud.
Are you a story teller? Then tell us a story, and make us long for more.
Find your voice, and show us the world from your vantage point. Because the world is waiting to hear from you.
3.) Know that you’re there to reveal the Light
I heard a story once of Billy Graham. As he ascended the stairs to the stage at one of his famous rallies, the cheers and applause from the crowd below reached a deafening level. Stepping before the podium, the humble man held up his hand, and a hush fell over the group.
“God shares His Glory with no man,” Mr. Graham said, and then bowed his head to pray.
When you ascend the steps of your platform and you take to the stage, no matter how big or small your audience, remember that you’re there to reveal the Light. You’re there for them to see and feel the warmth of the Light. Because that story you have to tell?
He gave it to you. And He shares His glory with no man.
There was a little girl I once knew whose entire life was an empty stage, and she knew in her heart she was the one meant to fill that space. The hall echoed with waiting spectators, but she couldn’t see who they were, for the glare of the spotlight left her blinded. So she shielded her eyes and stood center stage, waiting for her cue.
She waited a long time, and the more she focused on the auditorium, the better she was able to block the glare of the spotlight until it sort of faded into her periphery. That was when she realized – the seats were all empty.
She stood on a barren stage, in an empty performance hall, with nothing but a spotlight to keep her warm. How terribly downcast she felt about the whole ordeal.
Dejection tried to push in, but the girl quickly convinced herself that she had only to begin performing, and then people would come watch her. So she started, loud and bold.
“COME LOOK AT ME!” She cried out in her most dramatic voice, each word inflected with a sense of purpose.
“YOU WANT TO WATCH ME, BECAUSE I WAS MADE FOR THIS! THIS IS MY STAGE! ISN’T IT GRAND?”
And a few people trickled in. Some sat in the front row – they were her family – and they clapped the loudest and most enthusiastically. She liked that.
A few more came, and the girl squinted through the spotlight to see a seat fill up here and there, and so she raised her voice again.
“I WAS MADE FOR THIS STAGE! IT’S MINE! I WANT TO BE UP HERE, SO IT MUST BE MEANT FOR ME!”
As she shouted her monologue, more people came, but some also left. It seemed they were a fickle crowd, willing to come and go, and so the girl pulled back and looked around. And that’s when she noticed hers wasn’t the only stage in the room. In fact, the auditorium was filled with stages.
Some were quite large, much more so than the girl’s. And the ones who stood on those large stages had lights, and music. Some had lasers, and even back up dancers. The girl felt very small and inadequate next to those large stages.
But there were others, she noticed, who had smaller stages than her own. Some of those on the small stages stood nearly motionless with arms pinned to their sides, timidly speaking, their whispers drowned in the noise.
But some on the small stages spoke quite eloquently, and the girl noticed that people were listening and watching those speakers. They were illuminated by nothing more that the spotlight, and she felt compelled to incline her ear toward these strong speakers on the small stages.
The girl looked back out toward her own audience, and suddenly realized they all looked bored. Well, all of them except those sitting in the front row. They always looked proud.
And then the girl couldn’t remember her story, or why she stood on that stage in the first place. So she sat down, put her head in her hands, and began to weep. No longer a girl, she had grown into a woman, and she found that being on the stage wasn’t where she wanted to be. She was tired of trying to be heard.
She wanted to be in the audience, comfortably choosing which speaker to follow. So she pushed to her feet, and decided to leave.
Only she couldn’t leave, for the stage had grown around her. It wasn’t a cage, but she found there were no steps on which to descend. She was meant to stay up there. But why? And for what?
Turning circles on the platform, the girl tried to make sense of it all. Finally, she turned back toward the audience, but she couldn’t see them, the glare of the spotlight having grown increasingly bright. For a brief moment, she quit looking for the people and allowed herself to be warmed by the light. And that’s when she knew.
The stage wasn’t hers – it never had been.
And the story wasn’t really hers to tell. All of it belonged to the Light, and in the Light. She wasn’t there to be seen, but to reveal the Light. The audience wasn’t warmed by her performance, or her words – they were warmed by the Light alone.
So she stepped forward, this time more humbly, and with much more trepidation. Lifting her chin, she turned her face toward the Light, and with a smile she held her hands wide.
“Come see this Light,” she cried, in a hushed and hallowed voice. “I was made to show you this Light. Isn’t it Grand? This Light is for you, too.”