LIFE: Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

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It’s always a little exciting when someone you know writes a book AND gets it published. A longtime friend of mine, Steve Lange, is that person. I was given the amazing privilege of getting to read his novel, Breathing Room, even before it was released. Ultimately, when the Breathing Room Three-Part E-book Series was released on Amazon Kindle last year, all three became #1 bestsellers!

Breathing Room follows Jack and Patricia Christopher and their six sons over the course of two decades. It is the tale of a family searching for a haven that will provide relief from the seemingly unending struggles that oppress them. Intermixed with the tragedies, their story is woven together with moments of humor and tenderness. This novel is loosely based on the author’s own experiences growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

By the second chapter I was hooked and found myself in a perpetual state of wondering what would happen next. This book is real and raw and the experience of reading it leaves you feeling sympathetic toward each and every character. Whereas most stories tend to have a clear distinction between those who are “good” and those who are “evil,” Breathing Room portrays a family of flawed, yet utterly human individuals that the reader easily identifies with. I came to care for the Christopher family as I joined them in their quest for a place to breathe, an end to the tragedies that seemed to wash over them with the predictability of the ocean tides.

There are certain books that, as you read them, you can envision the film version. Breathing Room is one of those books, not an action packed blockbuster, but a slow moving, family drama that draws you in and leaves you with a sense of loss when it is over.

At times while I was reading Breathing Room I gasped as I remembered my own eleven year ordeal searching for a place to breathe, waiting for the feeling of imminent disaster to pass. I recall experiencing something akin to a feeling of relief when disaster did occur because the stress of wondering when it would come was finally over. For anyone who has experienced that longing for a place of shelter from the storms raging around them, or who has ever hoped for something more than limping cautiously through every day, Breathing Room is for you.

Breathing Room reminds us even in our darkest moments, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that  Hope is not dead.

Hope is never dead.

Breathing Room is releasing today (June 20, 2015) in print. I hope you will take a moment to explore whether Breathing Room is a book you might enjoy. Here are all the Breathing Room links you will ever need.

Links to Breathing Room the Book/Ebook

Facebook Page

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Email: Stevenlangebooks@gmail.com

Mailing Address: PO Box 3254 Harvey Cedars NJ, 08008

I was in no way, shape or form compensated for this review. All opinions are most assuredly my own. 🙂

This post was originally posted in April 2014. I have updated it with the news of the release of the print book.

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Joy in the Noise

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I send them off with a “Walk fast” and “Don’t be grouchy.” At last, there is silence. But these first few moments of quietness as I watch them walk to the street corner are merely an illusion.

The truth is, if I were to lock myself in my bedroom and hide my head under my pillow, silence would be as illusive then as if I were to seek it in a Bombay train station.

The main culprit is my internal assistant, AKA – my brain. And I talk to myself. A lot. Much to my children’s chagrin. For years my daughter thought I was talking to Jesus. Actually, I’m just working things out in my head.

While I am working them out, I like to walk our local bike path and just be quiet. No iTunes, or audio books – just me and my brain in the “silence.” I talk to God for a while. I think. I blog in my head. Here too, the silence is an illusion just as it is in my home, or car, or church or anywhere else. A whole day of duties awaits me and the internal assistant is an expert at keeping my mind a step ahead, preparing me.

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Though I labor, she is never satisfied. After the cleaning and shopping and Halloween Bingo playing and more cleaning and office work and dinner out and more Halloween Bingo, I LONG for silence and solitude. I bundle the children off to the upstairs and say, “Stay.”

The truth is,  I am raising four girl humans and they talk. A lot. Usually at the same time. Sometimes they get annoyed that a sister is talking at the same time as them. Then they whine. Then they stop talking because they are whining because they want to be talking.

My head spins like a Bingo cage.

I become aggressive in my search for silence. From a floor away I still hear their shrill tones raised in play (?) argument (?) It won’t be long until I hear, “MOM!” cried out from the top of the stairs.

Do they need me? Doubtful. They just want to know I’m around.

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I occasionally wonder if the silence I seek is even out there. Would I need to be stranded on a boat alone in the middle of the ocean for weeks and weeks with no sound save the lapping of the waves against my raft to find the silence? Would the internal assistant finally use her vacation days? I wonder.

I wonder what I would find in the silence.

I wonder if I am capable of silence. I’m not talking about survival. This is Life. This is living. It’s parenting, providing, creating, building relationships, resting, loving.  I think about what would have to occur for me to find a place where my mind was free to be silent, were it possible. Would I give up conversations in the car with my children – the place where the most significant and meaningful discussions in our family occur? Would I give up nights of Halloween Bingo when I should be cleaning or working (or blogging) to find it?

At what cost would I obtain this illusive silence?

I imagine it would be more than I am willing to sacrifice. The joy in the midst of the noise sustains me.

This is life. This is a journey. I suppose I must walk a little faster and try not to be grouchy along the way…

TuesdayI was inspired to write this post for Tuesday at Ten. Prompt word: Silence. This post was difficult for me to write, I had to push myself to make it happen and that’s not bad. Reflecting on silence helped me obtain a smidgen of clarity in my usually cluttered mind to focus, not just on what inspires me and flows outward all on its own, but to work with minimal inspiration and create something that is still me. Whew.

10 Things I Don’t Say

I recently read an interesting blog article,

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You can find the original article here. I found it thought provoking, mainly because my own experience is much different from the author’s.

(Spoiler: It’s never crossed my mind to say (or think) most of these – fear of judgment or not.)

1. “Your words hurt.” I have never experienced a person saying something to me in regard to my single parent state that was intentionally mean or hurtful. I have been saddened and hurt by words, but the intention behind the words was never hurtful. Words that hurt, hurt because they touch an open wound. A “Daddy-Daughter Dance” is a lovely thing, but when your daughter doesn’t have a Daddy to attend with, those words hurt, even though the words themselves were never ever intended for that purpose.

2. “We will freak out if you ever refer to our kids as ‘baggage.’”   No one has ever referred to my children as “baggage.” Ever. People really say that to single parents?

However, I do agree with the dating piece of the author’s point, and I would/will say this. Don’t date me if you are unsure of the “whole kids thing. Just. Don’t.

3. “We’re not rich.” Ha! I doubt that anyone even assumes that we are. And I do not receive child support.

4. “There will always be some “drama” with our kid’s other parent, if they’re around.” My children’s other parent is not around, so our drama level is way low.

5. “We feel isolated and lonely.” This is a hard one. Yes, absolutely, Single Moms are in a world of their own. I agree that connecting with like moms, single or married is key. News flash, there are married  moms out there who feel isolated and lonely. I’m thankful to work in an office with my parents and brother; if I didn’t, I would definitely feel more isolated and lonelier. But, I also believe isolation and loneliness are situations that, under most circumstances, we can change. Conclusion: Occasionally, on a cold, dark night I have felt isolated and lonely, but in the warm light of day, it rarely crosses my mind.

6. “We worry constantly that we aren’t doing a good enough job.” Absolutely not. I don’t worry, and definitely not about this. The reason: I have Christ in my life and He loves my children even more than I do. How could I worry about my  job of raising them when I have the God of the Universe sticking it out and walking with me? I trust Him. Worry is futile.

7. “We aren’t very much fun.” Huh. How many married people with children are super fun? Really. Come on, be honest. By our mid-thirties we’re already falling asleep on the couch in the middle of our favorite show. We can’t go out for coffee because it keeps us awake and we can’t drink wine because it knocks us out. This is not a single parent thing. This is a parent thing. Kids wear us out and it doesn’t matter if there are 1 or 2 or 10 parents. You know it’s true. However, I’m definitely still fun.

8. “We don’t have a strong sense of ‘self'” Yes, I do. I’m a Mother. 😉  I think I covered this in my recent post 1%. Or 5.

9. “Long before our kids could understand adult conversation, we talked to them like they could.”  I have no idea if this is true. How would I? I have no way of knowing whether I would talk in the same manner to my children if I were still married or not. I’m kind of at a loss here.

10. “Someone complimenting our kid means the world to us.” Yes. Yes. And YES! Wait, doesn’t every  parent feel this way?

Yet, In all honestly, I think it does mean more to single parents. On this point, I agree whole-heartedly with the author of the article. I think #10 is a gauge with which we can measure how well things are going in #6 . When nice things are relayed to us about our children we get a sense that:

They really are turning out OK.

Being raised by only one parent isn’t scarring them for life.

They are well-adjusted and kind and happy.

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I suppose every parenting journey, married, single or other, is unique. The paths of our lives rarely lead where we expected. I latch on to the joy that is found in the brief moments that build our days. Eventually, they will build a lifetime.

cwj 3Isn’t that exactly what this blog is all about?

I’ve been a single parent of four children for three & a half years.

 

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Dana’s Story

The following was written by my dear cousin and life-long friend Dana. She shared it yesterday on Facebook and I asked her if she wouldn’t mind me sharing it here at Clothed with Joy. She agreed.

Dana embodies being clothed with joy more than anyone I have ever met.

When you read this brief summary of her story you will catch a glimpse of what I mean. I came into Dana’s life three years after she was born, but from my early teen years we were always together (except for the brief period of time when she stole the love of my life at my thirteenth birthday party – but whatever. I’m over it. 😉 )  I can tell you from the point of view of a first hand account that she has sugarcoated much of the agony (yes agony – I was there, I saw it on her face) she experienced during her first 21 years.

Here is her story:

This morning, as I was praying with my kids on the way to school, I was convicted by the shallowness of my own prayer even before the final “Amen.” Here’s a recap. Help my kids to be nice. Help them to pass their tests. Help my husband and kids to be healthy. Help us all to be happy. I used fancier words, but the message was clear. God, I want everything to be neat and tidy; no struggles, please. Seriously?

42 years ago, I was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that usually hits kids under the age of 5. Devastating news for my parents at the time? Absolutely. Over the next 17 years, my mom and I spent countless hours together in doctors offices and hospitals. The end result? A genuine, honest, real relationship between me and my mom right smack through my teenage years and into adulthood. What mom doesn’t want that?

At age 14, I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis and was the proud owner of big ugly back brace. Some of the perks? I got to shop in the boys department at JC Penneys and wear hideous baggy pants with elastic waists. Despite the brace, the curve continued to get worse and I had back surgery at Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia. The hospital was full of girls with scoliosis and boys with broken necks. It would make for a cool love story if that was where Dennis and I met, but it wasn’t. The whole experience did, however, give me a real life look into the lives of these other kids. They were kids just like me. Many of them confined to wheelchairs, but their hopes and dreams were often just the same as mine.

That big clunky back brace may have made guys run in the opposite direction, but it little by little prepared my heart to one day run into Dennis’ arms, paralyzed or not. The cancer may have taken away my ability to get pregnant, but it carved a space in my heart for adoption and two precious children the Lord knew would one day call me “Mom.” So here’s to the end of praying for a struggle-free life and a renewed desire to pray for the Lord to use whatever struggles He allows to touch our family, for our good and His glory!

I love you my beautiful friend. I'm so thankful for the example you are.

I love you my beautiful friend. I’m so thankful for the example you are.

This is Who I Am

I’ve never been in love with my “About” page and actually changing it has been on my to-do list for a some time. This post will be edited to become the New, Improved ABOUT Page.

This is who I am.

mom 1I am a Mother. From my earliest childhood memories all I really wanted to be was a Mom. Four days after my first wedding anniversary that is exactly what I became. Four little girls call me “Mommy,” and I can’t imagine life any other way, and hey, without them, what would I have to blog about?

I am a Treasure Hunter. I have loved adventure since before I can remember. One fateful day on a 4th grade field trip to UPenn’s Art & Archaeology Museum I decided that I would become an Archaeologist when I grew up. Twelve years later on a rainy day in May I held a degree in Classical & Near Eastern Archaeology. By that point, I had come to realize that I loved people more than I loved dead civilizations and I became a missionary instead. Archaeology did, however, take me all over the world.camel I’ve traveled by plane, ship, boat, bus, taxi and camel-drawn cart and experienced enough adventure for two lifetimes. These days I don’t venture too far from home but I will always be a Treasure Hunter, that illusive beach shell and the local yard sale treasures are always waiting to be discovered. And once in a while, in a magical moment of inspiration, I even find treasure in a string of words.

I am a Go Getter. A Make-it-Happen-er. How many 9 year old’s decide their college major and actually stick with it? Yeah, that’s me. If I set my mind to it, I make it happen.

I am a Wanna-be Survivor Contestant. It’s not about the money. It’s never about the money. It’s about surviving.  Sadly, I fear I would have hygiene related issues – would they let me bring a small mirror and tweezers along? Reality show contestant or not –

I am a Survivor. That may be a tale for another day.

This is who I am. I am all these things and more.

I am one who writes.  I write with no agenda. I write simply, and for no other reason than I am compelled to write. I write because I am compelled. I write with the hope that something I have written would cause my Reader to depart from this silly little blog with a smile on their face. I write to touch a chord in a Reader’s heart and to give hope to those who have little or none. I write to bring light to the dark places.

I am one who writes because my life has already been written by the Hand of the Creator and I hope that somewhere in the midst of these feeble written (often ridiculous) words, He would be visible to those with eyes to see.

I have no goal or prize in sight, I write simply to write and display to the world my Clothing of Joy.

psalm 66

This is who I am.

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I Steal.

I have a confession to make. I steal.

It only happens in the Spring, and I’m not sure its technically stealing, but I’m pretty sure if I got caught by the First Presbyterian Church people (yes, I’m stealing from the Presbyterians), they would not be amused.

It’s lilacs. I can’t resist them. When I see bushes and bushes and bushes of blooming lilacs I just need to break off a few fragrant flowering buds and sneak them into my car. I try to choose lovely lavender bunches from the deep recesses of the bush, ones that wouldn’t be noticed anyway. I would never steal any other flower, like roses or tulips*, from someone’s property. I scold my children for plucking daisies and petunias. I believe planted, outdoor flowers are meant to be enjoyed in their designated planting grounds.

But oh, lilacs. They make me do crazy things.

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*except for that one incident in college

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Creating Memories

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Writing is such a weird thing.

I find the various facets and sides of myself curious and unexpected at times.

I tend to write “lite” on this, my very own, blog and “heavy” when writing for someone else, such as Moms of Faith. However, this weekend’s post for MoF is a bit more on the lighter side, maybe a facet left of the serious and right of the humorous?

Creating Memories was written because over the course of my life I’ve found our family “traditions” to have had a positive impact on our family dynamic. I come from a non-drama family that enjoys being together and WHAT A BLESSING! I pray the same for my own children and I strongly believe that being intentional when creating family memories or traditions has a huge impact on creating a joyful family.

Who doesn’t want to give their child wonderful memories to remember for a lifetime?

Link here: Creating Memories

Joy Inducing

The word is: Paint

I invested a lot of my High School years into art. I loved (still love) art. Yet, after four years I came to the sad conclusion that the internal creativeness that I believe is required for an artist to produce art was not present inside of me. I could imitate art but that wasn’t enough for me to consider pursuing it.

Twenty years later I discovered the key to unlocking the creativity in my heart. Repurposing.  I love to repurpose objects from the past and make them useful again for a new generation.

I’m a very practical person. I feel the most creative when my art can be used in some way. It’s why I love to bake and cook. Crochet. And especially create repurposed items to wear or for the home.

Recently I’ve been painting with my words. In the same way as the art I create with my hands, I want my words to be useful. To have purpose. I want the picture that I paint with my words to produce something in the reader. I want them to induce JOY.

Health

Healing

Laughter

Hope

Companionship

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I paint with my words.

 

5minutefriday

This post was written for 5 minute friday – click for link.

Defining: WRITER

 

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The Word is: Writer

Would I introduce myself to others as a “Writer?”

I think about this a lot. I am self employed and I wear so many hats that it would be easy to throw that description in there as well. However, I would never refer to myself as a “Writer,” rather, I would say, I write for a couple blogs.

If I were creating my resume, I would feel comfortable putting the word “Writer” on there to describe myself and my abilities because it is true and I have the work to back it. Also, plenty of people consider themselves “Writers” because they’ve written novels and books and articles – it doesn’t even matter if they are published. I am fine with that, if someone considers themselves a writer – who am I to question it?

However – for myself – I would not feel comfortable calling myself a “writer” unless I got paid for it.

The first time I receive an amount of money for something I’ve written I will proudly and with great joy stand up and say: I am a Writer.

What do you think constitutes a Writer?

5minutefriday

 

A to Z Challenge: Defining Writer  (pushing it – I know. 😉 )

 

This post was written for 5 minute friday – click for link.