Is your life going exactly as you expected it would? Same here. Maybe that’s not a bad thing.

Not what I expected BOOK 8 teaser HORIZONTAL

I hate surprises, procrastination, and not knowing how things will work out. So I plan for every contingency and emergency, and STILL God finds the one (or likely millions) of scenarios I didn’t anticipate and throws that one at me leaving me to think, “Why didn’t I see that coming?!”

And that sums up life, I’ve realized.

How many of you are living exactly as you expected you would? With all your family, financial, and employment goals achieved?

Yeah, same here.

Yet how many of you, if given the opportunity, would go back and reverse all the unexpected twists in your life?

I used to think I would, but now I realize I wouldn’t. Everything good and bad and perplexing has worked to shape me into the person I am right now, and I like who I might finally become.

The unexpected is good, in a long, roundabout way.

Speaking of the unexpected, I’ve heard back from a lot of you about the ending of Book 8. So far no one has said, “That’s exactly what I thought would happen.” (Which is a huge relief because I did NOT want to write a predictable story!)

To be honest, a lot of how the story went caught me off-guard as well. Trying to avoid a spoiler here, but about Lemuel and Perrin? That smacked me upside the head and added an unexpected layer of insight and depth that I didn’t know was coming. I didn’t set out to write the story that way, and that’s why writing this has been so darn fun.

Nor did I expect how eagerly you snatched up the book when it came out. You threw The Last Day to “Bestseller” status–thank you!

Best Selling Book 8 24 hours after release

I’m also happy to report that The Last Day is now available in paperback for $16.65, and for free on Smashwords. In fact, the ENTIRE SERIES is on Smashwords and for free!

I never expected to write this series, never expected to find so many new friends as readers, and never expected to have a little bit of success.

I guess being surprised every now and then is acceptable.

Book 5 teaser–Avalanche on a sunny day

Ever have one of those days/weeks/years, where you were hoping for a sunny day, but instead were buried under a ton of freezing cold snow?

Why is it so hard, on those avalanche days, to remember the snow is only a temporary condition? That the financial/medical/emotional/housing crisis that consumes you today will eventually melt away, and you’ll be left in sunshine? At least, eventually.

High Polish Tatra mountains

And there’s no St. Bernard in sight . . .

This is one of those avalanche months for me: our employment isn’t where it needs to be to sustain us, we’ve had some flooding disasters in our basement requiring repairs and replacements (our deductible is so high we’ll have to cover it ourselves), and for the past week my very healthy and active adult son has been in and out of the ER battling a high fever and various infections, and no one can pinpoint the cause, despite the many expensive tests they’ve run. And, because he was just released from active duty in the army and doesn’t have a job yet, he doesn’t currently have health insurance. I was reminded of that fact when I went to pick up his prescription this morning. Bizarrely, a month ago, his younger brother, on an LDS mission in Oklahoma/Texas, came down with viral meningitis and was hospitalized for five days, with daily treatments for another week. (I need an extended warranty on my adult sons; theirs is expiring, I fear.) Pile on top of all that some personal epic failures where I handled some problems poorly this week, and I feel like I’m suffocating.

Sometimes I think part of the reason I’m encountering these avalanches is because I’m so close to finishing Book 5–Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti. There are principles and ideals in this book that have weighed heavily on my mind for literally decades, and I didn’t know how to share them until I began this series. Getting this book out feels very important. I’m still plugging along at it, when I find a few minutes here and there, getting all the thousands of remaining details fixed and nailed into place, but without the usual joy I experience when I’m close to releasing a book. I apologize to it each day when I sit down to my laptop that I’m editing with a dull heart.

Which, in a way, I know is stupid; downright stupid! We’ve faced greater challenges before! Years ago we lost a home, had to live with relatives, and were even homeless for a time! We spent four months living in a condemned house! (It was torn down after we moved out; rumor has it someone kicked the foundation and it fell on its own.)

We’ve weathered job losses, financial disasters, car accidents, and emotional distress, and lived to chuckle about it. Sunny days returned!

So why, oh why, is it so hard to remember those sunny days–sunny weeks and even months–on avalanche days? Why do we frequently sit down in despair certain that this time there’ll be no deliverance? That the months and even years it’ll take to come back from this latest disaster will be the ones that finish us off for good?

Why can’t I remember, for example, that less than a year after we lost our house, we were able to purchase a brand new one for an incredibly low price? And when we sold it five years later, the profits wiped out another debt we’d been carrying for years?

IMG_0670

This was my front yard two weeks ago. A week later it was 75 degrees.

Today I’m trying to remember those sunny days, ones that were suddenly so hot and bright that the remaining snows vanished before the day was over, and I found myself breathing easier.

Today I’m trying to remember that while sometimes winter holds on, and on, and on, I can’t ever remember a year when spring and summer didn’t come. They do, eventually. Never as soon as we want them to, but the sunny days do return.

Eventually.

In the meantime, I need to quit my brooding and find a shovel . . .

 

(By the way– I still have some free magnets and book marks to give away! Just send me your mailing address, and I’ll send you my thanks for your support. If you want last year’s magnets too, let me know in the message below. I have a couple left.)

 

4 reasons to purge the phrase “I’m so busy!”

It’s the battle cry of our generation: “Oh, I am sooo busy!”

Find someone who isn’t busy. I dare you.
Everyone is.
And I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a terrible line. 

We pull out this phrase for a variety of reasons–maybe proudly or in an attempt to garner sympathy. Maybe as an excuse for some failure, or maybe even as a proclamation of our worth.
But all of these reasons are, to be brutally honest, quite lame.
We wear our busyness as a crown of self-imposed honor, and it’s time to chuck that crown.

  1. We’re not as busy as we think we are.

“Too busy” is a relative term, just like “a great bargain” and “delicious tofu.” What one person claims as “busy” may be another person’s “slow” day.

Our lives, while often very cluttered, are actually simpler than we realize once we get some perspective. For example, watch an episode of “Call the Midwife” to see just how labor-intensive—and even terrifying—life used to be in the “idyllic” 1950s, or read this account of a pioneer woman in the 1840s:

“Drusilla Hendricks had most of the responsibility for taking care of the family, including her husband who was left an invalid after being wounded in the Battle at Crooked River. ‘I had to lift [my husband] at least fifty times a day, and in doing so I had to strain every nerve,’ she recalled. With five children under the age of ten, this young mother tried to survive . . . by taking in boarders, tending a garden, milking cows, feeding livestock, maintaining her home, and preparing the family’s daily need for food and clothing.”
(Women of Nauvoo, Holzapfel and Holzapfel: Bookcraft, 1992; pg. 35)

(I read that passage while sitting on my cozy bed nibbling on a chocolate gluten-free cupcake which I had been “busy” baking earlier.)

Drusilla wasn’t an exception. Read this about “typical” frontier life:

“In the frontier community of Nauvoo, women made soap and candles, both long and tiring chores. They spun thread and weaved cloth to make clothing and even worked at shoe making. A wringer and a washboard always stood nearby. For clothing to be very clean, the white things were boiled with homemade soap, making wash day a day-long affair. Care of animals often fell to women; they built fences, took care of the ‘kitchen garden,’ and helped in the fields, all this while pregnant about thirty percent of the time.” (Ibid. pg. 36)

(After reading this, I guiltily tossed in another load of laundry, dropped in some store-bought detergent, turned a few buttons, and walked away.)

  1. No one likes a martyr.

Sorry, but whining about busyness is terribly uncomfortable to listen to. Claiming to be “too busy” sets you squarely in martyr territory, and while friends and family may croon and say, “Oh, you really are!” inside they’re anxious for the conversation to be over so they can get away from you.

Or so they can ruminate internally that their lives are so much busier than yours, you little sissy.

Think about this uncomfortable question: why do we feel the need to brag /complain about our busyness? What are hoping to get out of it?

These words, spoken by a dear old man back in 2002, have haunted me for over a decade:

Sometimes we feel that the busier we are, the more important we are—as though our busyness defines our worth.
We can spend a lifetime whirling about at a feverish pace, checking off list after list of things that in the end really don’t matter.
~Joseph B. Wirthlin

Are we claiming “busyness” because we’re desperate to prove our worth? Maybe.

Consider these words:

Isn’t it true that we often get so busy? And, sad to say, we even wear our busyness as a badge of honor, as though being busy, by itself, was an accomplishment or sign of a superior life.
Is it?
I think of our Lord and Exemplar, Jesus Christ, and His short life among the people of Galilee and Jerusalem. I have tried to imagine Him bustling between meetings or multitasking to get a list of urgent things accomplished.
I can’t see it.
Instead I see the compassionate and caring Son of God purposefully living each day.
~Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Ouch.

If even Jesus Christ was never “too busy,” I shouldn’t be either.

  1. “Too busy” is a lame excuse. 

Yes, this suggestion is even more uncomfortable than accusing one of playing the martyr, but claiming that we’re “just too busy” may be a way of rationalizing away why we didn’t do something we knew we should.

I confess I’m guilty of this, because it’s just so darn easy to get away with it. I’m frequently “too busy” to drive an hour and a half to visit my parents in their assisted living center more than a few times a year. (They both have dementia and Alzheimer’s so what was the point, anyway?) Yet when my mother suffered a series of strokes last year, and was slowly dying, somehow I found the time to drive down and sit by her side every day and/or night for five days until she finally passed.

I wasn’t too busy to watch her die, and that week alone made me re-analyze my every claim of “too busy.”

  1. “Too busy” suggests we have lost control of our lives.

Being too busy—if  we really are (seriously, watch “Call the Midwife”!)—means that we’ve let too many activities, or obligations, or hobbies, or distractions clutter our days.
It may mean that we can’t prioritize what’s most important each day.
It may mean we don’t have the bravery or honesty to say, “I am unable or I don’t want to do x, y, or z.”
It may mean we don’t have the discipline to shut off whatever electronic gadget is sucking away our time.

What we think is a reasonable, viable excuse may actually be a confession of immaturity.

Now, I’m not saying that we don’t have a lot to do in our lives—we do. There are constant demands on our attention. Why, even as I’m typing this up I’ve stopped twice to change my 3-year-old’s clothes (mysteriously, he keeps getting wet by his 11-year-old brother innocently holding a hose, and is now wearing his fourth set of clothes since this morning), chatted half a dozen times with my kids, discussed weekend plans with my husband three times, gave permission to a teenager to make popcorn, filled my 3-year-old’s cuppy, and that was in the space of maybe an hour.

However, I’m trying to strike from my vocabulary the phrase, “I’m so busy,” although I likely let it slip once or twice as in, “Sweety, I’m a bit busy right now . . .”

Instead, I’m trying this, (at least on everyone else): “My life is so full! Awesomely full!” im too busy

Notice the shift in tone and attitude?

Fullness is completeness.

Being full is usually a good thing (except in the water balloon that my three-year-old brought in the house. Clothing change #5. Another load of laundry which will take me all of five minutes to run.).

Having a full life suggests that nearly every element in my life is there because of my choice. I have CHOSEN this life.

All of us, unless we’re slaves (and I’m not being flippant here: I mean true, cruel slavery, and not something you claim you are to your preteens’ many activities) have chosen our lives to be as they are. Even in the most difficult of circumstances, we still have choices. Rarely are we ever forced into one course of action, and while the options before us may not be ideal, we still have a choice.

For example, at one point last year I was busy working two part-time jobs and running a small Etsy shop. I could have quit one of the jobs, but that would have meant finding another way to pay the power bill which would have meant . . . getting yet another job.

I was tempted to grumble at how hard my husband and I were both working for what felt like only a couple of bucks an hour, but we were working, and slowly improving our circumstances. Instead of complaining that my life was “too busy” to do what I really wanted to do—edit my books or get maybe six hours of sleep—I chose instead to be grateful that I wasn’t just sitting on the couch reading movie descriptions on Netflix (and wondering when the next season of “Call the Midwife” will finally arrive).

I had things to do, obligations to fulfill, people who needed me, and I realized how much I appreciated being needed.

However, I’m not advocating taking on more than we can reasonably handle. That’s where we need to be mature enough to objectively evaluate our lives and say, when necessary, “No, I’m sorry. I can’t organize the Little League luncheon or make party favors for fifty people.” Otherwise we still become martyrs who have taken on too much and eventually have a total breakdown.

Additionally, we frequently have several good things we need to do at the same time, and that’s where prioritizing comes in. Deciding which to do can be difficult, and who to tell “I just can’t do that for you.” But someone once told me that “Other people’s needs should always come first.”

I knew a man who told his son that he had to skip watching him play ball that evening because their neighbor’s sprinkler system was geysering into the neighbor’s basement, and the dad wanted to go help. He said, “It was good for my son to see that I was putting aside something that I thought was important–watching him play ball–for something which really was.” While his son was initially disappointed that his dad was “too busy,” when he saw the flooding mess he offered to skip his game and help as well. Suddenly he was “too busy” to play ball, because he was doing something better.

Living a “busy” life is frequently drudgery. But living a “full” life is marvelous. The sense of I’ve accomplished something good for my family and others is, I think, the purpose of life. What would be worse than no one wanting my help, my advice, or my labor?

So don’t complain/brag about being “too busy.” It’s an awesomely full life!

And really, what would be worse than an awesomely full life?
An awfully empty life.