Car Monastery

Spring is busy! In the midst of a busy time, I seek moments for feeding my spirit.

What’s been keeping me busy? Our new puppy Mufasa, who was in the local paper. I’ve been writing: I wrote 10,000 words in April for my memoir. I’ll be part of the Mizzou Campus Author’s Event on May 17, Jesse Hall.

We’re getting ready for a milestone celebration. My son will graduate May 22 and attend Mizzou this fall.

blessing
We blessed and celebrated our high school seniors at Broadway Christian Church April 24. Pastor Nick and Kahlea gave each graduate a prayer journal and a phone battery charger (to remind them to “plug into the Holy Spirit” and get energized!)

 

Beyond the keyboard, my fingers have been flying getting my final crochet projects ready for the annual art show. I invite you to come to the MU Staff Arts & Crafts Showcase Grand Opening May 24 from noon to 1 p.m., Stotler Lounge in Memorial Union.

I have to find my spirituality in the nooks and crannies of my life.

Car Monastery

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We live in the country and commute to work. We’re in the car 12+ hours a week.

I don’t have time to go away to a fabulous monastery in the mountains so my retreat looks like the inside of 1998 Toyota Camry (grey with a few coffee stains). I’ve written about how the structure of a spiritually centered life appeals to me in Nun vs. Couch Lady. Our commute time is perfect for reminding us why we’re here (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

We have three parts to our morning spiritual practice.

My husband and I exchange three things that we’re grateful for. Sometimes they are simple, such as “sunlight, hot coffee and silly animals.” Sometimes they are deep, “our health, scholarships for our son and 20 years of marriage together.”

The temptation to dwell on “Woe is me” lurks constantly. It would be easy to get dragged down by a $1,300 car repair bill or the broken clothes dryer (air-dried towels are very crunchy). I have to fight envy. The habit of looking for blessings keeps us buoyant.

We sing a song together. We sing the same song. Some days we rasp it out, some days we succeed in harmony. It doesn’t matter. We just need to sing.

I read a daily devotional out loud while he drives. We hear stories from believers from all over the world and we have a new prayer focus every morning.

These practices don’t take much time, but they start our day off with an attitude of thankfulness and faith.

A side effect of time in our car monastery? I feel happier in spite of crunchy towels.

What can you add as a reminder to sing, give thanks and pray inside the edges of your own busy schedule?

May this week bring you unexpected blessings and sweet moments of connection! ❤

 

National Puppy Day

IMG_20160309_195316Yesterday was National Puppy Day.

It was the best National Puppy Day ever for me, because I have a puppy!

I’ve had the puppy for about a month.

In January after we lost our beloved dog, Mercy, I wanted a puppy so much that I couldn’t think about anything else.

My husband said, “I think a puppy might overwhelm us. Maybe we should wait until summer after D [our son] graduates.”

I scoffed. How could one puppy overwhelm us?

All we have to do is work full-time, commute, get our son though the last months of high school and take care of our other 6 animals.

What would be overwhelming about a puppy, especially a tiny Chihuahua mixed breed puppy?

What’s fun about puppies

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Here’s what’s fun about puppies! They are small, untrained dogs! So they have all the needs of dogs with some bonus aspects.

Such as, you get to teach them housebreaking. I know why it’s called housebreaking. Because your back breaks cleaning up the house.

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Our new little guy is named Mufasa. He’s got an incredible story that I’ve told you about. We are crazy for him.

He seems to be crazy for us. And sometimes, just crazy!

We live in a single-wide trailer, 15 feet wide and 65 feet long. For those of you unfamiliar with today’s modern mobile home lifestyle, it means our home is skinny enough to go down the highway. It is long like a bowling alley.

Mufasa likes to go to the far end, turn around and then run as fast as dogly possible through the length of the house and bounce off the couch so he flies. Then he goes again.

As you can visualize, this is wildly entertaining. So entertaining, that it makes watching a movie difficult.

We’ve given up watching our Netflix and now we watch Mufasa.

Sometimes I like to quote my husband back to him in these moments, “Remember how you said, ‘I think a puppy might overwhelm us.’ And then I said, ‘I don’t think a puppy would overwhelm us.’”

More fun puppy facts

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Another amusing fun fact about puppies is that they teeth just like babies. Except somehow I don’t remember going through as many chew toys with my son!

I’m not surprised that Mufasa struggles to understand the difference between what is his for chewing and what is ours. Ours, for not chewing. If you had itchy teeth and you had to choose between a soft leather shoe and a knobby plastic fish that is “scent-infused with salmon,” what would you pick? So I don’t blame him one bit.

He did choose the one pair of shoes that didn’t belong to us. They belonged to my son’s new girlfriend. So we went shoe-shopping this weekend.

The incredible toy box of Mr. Mufasa

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Sticks: classic toy

We have a huge selection of dog toys. I even have a toy box I put them in. We have a soft rabbit, a crinkly baboon, a rainbow worm, a salmon-scented knobby plastic fish that looks so vaguely obscene from a distance I usually crop it out in photos (if you really want to see it, I included it in the photoshow below), two rubber Kongs, a grey mouse, a red rubber toy, something Himalayan made from yak’s milk and two knotted ropes.

Every evening, I put the toy box down for Mufasa. He puts his whole head in and shakes it around in the toys. He can’t believe his luck. We like to run a small family gambling ring on which he will choose first. I often win with my baboon bet. But knobby fish and Himalayan yak milk stick make a strong showing.

We went to the store yesterday to buy more kibble. We bought five-star food, because it’s Mufasa. My husband said, “Do you realize we spent more on the animals’ food than on our own groceries this week?”

We got home and I fixed dinner for all of us. I snuck some chicken from our people dinner into the dogs’ bowls, because it was National Puppy Day.

But if you’ve learned anything about me, you know I celebrate National Puppy Day every day!

Story of Mufasa: dog-eared but valuable

What is a dog’s life worth?
Nothing?
Hours of time and thousands of dollars?
Or something else?

The beginning

People are mean. Do you agree? I’ll tell you a story.

The Chihuahua puppy had no home. He was left to starve in the streets of Kansas City. He had a thin dull coat. He shook from the cold with winter coming. He shuffled and hurried and huddled along the concrete walls hungry and alone. His ribs grew sharp and gaunt. His eyes crusted over. He was afraid.

People are mean. They turn away from need. They leave the little ones alone in the cold to fade and go hungry. They walk past suffering.

The middle

People are kind. Do you agree? I’ll tell you a story.

A woman took pity and trapped the Chihuahua puppy. A rescue organization called Paws Crossed Inc. (on Facebook) reached out to her and offered to take care of him.

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Nettie, Mufasa’s foster mom, gets some puppy kisses 

Nettie, a volunteer with Paws Crossed took him in as her foster puppy. She fed him and he got his strength back. Within a week he transformed into a lively, tail-wagging puppy. She put a sweater on him when it was cold. His coat took on a shine. He ran with joy.

She named him Mufasa. She showed him love.

He came when she called him.

Then as he was getting stronger, they brought him for medical care.

Bad news. He had a fatal heart condition. He survived starvation, cold and the streets, but now he wouldn’t make it without surgery.

The surgery would cost thousands of dollars.

Paws Crossed started fundraising to save him. People donated for him to get the surgery. The vets at Mizzou fixed his heart so he could have a long life.

People are kind. They give lavishly and freely. They see suffering and offer healing. They open their homes. They teach the little ones what love is.

A second beginning

We were looking for a new second dog to live with Cookie, our Chihuahua mix. We lost our beloved Mercy in January.

We looked at a  beautiful, bossy female dog with blue eyes, a chocolate coat and a faraway look. She wasn’t the one. Another bossy female wouldn’t be a good match for our current bossy female.

We looked at a young hound (Vincent, so sweet! someone should adopt him). He wasn’t the one. Too big to be a good match for our Chihuahua mix.

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The photo I saw that made me apply. Courtesy of Paws Crossed Inc.

My friend, Kristen, sent me the link to Mufasa. Ears for days. A happy look. Friendly with other Chihuahuas.

He was the one! I applied for him. Then I wrote my husband an email: “What do you think of this dog? I applied for him.” Yes, that is how strongly I felt. I couldn’t wait!

I learned his story that I am telling you now.

We also learned he still has a problem. He’s so active running around that it’s hard to get a clear photo of him!

We picked him up on Saturday.

People are mean.

People are kind.

What is a dog’s life worth?

Is it worth nothing? Is a dog a piece of trash scuttling along the streets in the cold?

Is it worth thousands? Is a dog a symbol that brings out the best of our power to give, to care and to heal?

Is a dog’s life worth this and more?

Is a dog’s life worth a lifetime commitment? Yes, I say, yes.

60-Second Sanctuary is here!

My book, 60-Second Sanctuary, launches today! If you’d like a copy, please buy one now for $6 on Amazon.

dtp_7139330_USER_CONTENT_0This book grew out of my book from last fall, Creative Women’s Devotional (also on Amazon). People told me, “I liked your book, even though I don’t crochet,” or “I liked your book, even though I’m not Christian,” or “I liked your book, even though I’m not a woman! 😀 ”

After visiting with readers like this, I felt the need to write a devotional that connected us to the Spirit in a quick and open-ended way.

In my new book, 60-Second Sanctuary, every single devotion only takes a moment to practice. If you are busy but feel a longing to strengthen your creative and spiritual side, this book is made for you!

I would like to give a special thanks to my endorsers, Nick Larson and Jenny McGee, who wrote these words about my book.

“We all have but a few minutes a day. I know as a young parent and busy pastor that I often have the urge to ignore enriching my creative side because I feel too busy. Genevieve’s 60-Second Sanctuary is a fantastic tool to help focus my creative God spark and is such a grounded, plausible, inspirational tool that can make an impact in your life.”

—Nick Larson, associate pastor at Broadway Christian Church
and co-author of Never Pray Again

 

 

“I highly recommend these daily devotions because they bring you right to the heart of God. You can’t help but have a spiritual and creative transformation as you journey through this book.”

—Jenny McGee, abstract painter, Azulbyjennymcgee.com

I want to thank my family. My son, Derek, who is only in high school, both photographed and designed the cover. He’s way too talented for one person. If you need photos in the CoMo area, contact him. My husband, Logan, was master tea-maker and cheerleader.

❤ Thank you to the many friends and readers who encourage me with notes, gifts, meals, hugs, prayers and squeals when they see me. I love you! You keep me going more than you know!

Tonight (Wednesday) from 6:30 to 9 p.m. (central) I am having an online book launch party on Facebook if you’re interested. What’s an online book launch party? I will post some behind-the-scenes photos of my inspiration, show an excerpt of my raw writing and generally celebrate this happy day! What do I need to do at an online book party? Nothing! Like and comment if you want. Using an event is a way for me to talk about the book to my friends who want to hear about it and not add clutter to the main news feed for friends who aren’t interested. So if you like book stuff, then please join!

As always, God bless you today and always. Wherever the Spirit is leading you, I hope you will follow and find your next adventure. This book has been an adventure for me with ups and downs but a worthwhile journey. I know now I can travel lighter as I work on my next book (a short story memoir about yarn things!)

PS—I hope you’ll let me know how you like 60-Second Sanctuary! If you find it helpful, would you please leave a review on Amazon or on your social media? I’m an indie author and every mention helps the book find its way to new readers. Thanks! ❤

3 ways my failure as a go-go dancer will help you succeed

(This was a speech I gave today for my Downtown Toastmasters club.)

I was a failure. As a go-go dancer.

It was 1994 in San Francisco. I’ll tell you my story and you’ll learn to

  • Know your context
  • Bring your audience
  • Recognize the value of failure

These were the days before the internet. We found out about rooms for rent, music shows and go-go dance contests through colored flyers stapled to telephone poles.

The flyer said, Go-go dance contest: dance for a minute. Winner gets $50 prize!

$50 in a minute! I worked in a dog kennel under a freeway overpass making $7 an hour. I could work brushing dogs, brushing dogs’ teeth and hosing dog poop for 7 hours and not make $50.

I thought, “Perfect! I have the outfit!”

IMG_20160114_102642I owned authentic 1970s white vinyl go-go dance boots and a 1970s orange mini dress. I got them both at the Bargain Barn in Santa Cruz, California, where people stood outside in a clump until a bell rang. Then we all rushed in. Stuff was dumped willy-nilly on tables. In my mind, it defines the word frenzy. When I found the white vinyl go-go boots in my size, I felt it was destiny.

You know how they say, “Dress the part,” or “Clothes make the man” or “Fake it til you make it”? These clichés don’t apply to go-go dancing. You can look like a go-go dancer and not be able to do it. Case in point.

I have fast eyes. I am a speed reader. I have fast enough hands. I type 60 words per minute. I have slow legs. I walk a 20-minute mile.

I had taken my slow legs to a single dance class in 1992. It was hip hop. I stood at the back of the room and watched everyone do quick stylish moves.

You would think that remembering my failure in the back of the room as a dance class would have dissuaded me from dancing on a stage in a spotlight…but no.

The night of the contest I went to the bar. It was a place that was campy and chic without looking like it was trying too hard. If people were drinking American mainstream beer, it was because they were doing it to be ironic. Today I would call the bar hipster.

I gathered with the other women and one man in drag. The DJ told us the rules. One minute each and applause would decide the winner.

Immediately I stuck out. Everyone else except for the man in drag was wearing jeans and a white t-shirt or tank top. I was the only one in white vinyl go-go boots.

The music started and the first contestant took the stage. She did some slow gyrations to a popular love song at the time.

I was in trouble. I had imagined 1970s upbeat go-go music, not 7th grade slow dance music.

My turn came. I flailed my arms and stomped in place in an attempt to combine my personal awkwardness, my severe self-consciousness, my single class of hip hop dance training and my love for the retro 1970s into one spectacular dance routine against a slow sexy 1990s song as the soundtrack.

My minute was over.

The audience stared at me. The DJ grimaced as she looked at me and goaded the audience, “C’mon people, clap for the poor thing!”

Three or four people clapped out of deference to her rather than praise of my skills.

So I didn’t win.

The next day I was cleaning kennels with my coworker and I told her about my humiliating failure. She said, “F- that. You gotta bring your own crowd with you. I would have clapped for you. Anyone who knows you would have clapped for you. Next time you want to go-go dance, you call me and I will be there for you.”

How lucky am I? All my life I have had people around me who will holler for me. The line between adventurous and foolish is thin. But I’ve always had encouragement to try new adventures.

Now you’ve learned that you need to

  • Know your context
  • Bring your audience

moments_D430CC90-ECEB-4331-9414-185AC833F72AMy last lesson is to recognize the value in failure. It’s true I’m an awful go-go dancer: untrained and uncomfortable in thrift store 1970s white vinyl go-go boots. I stood alone while a DJ pressured people for pity claps, but I got something out of it. This experience in the 1990s is material for my speech today, my tenth advanced speech that earns me an Advanced Communicator Bronze award.

In closing, learn from me and

  • Know your context
  • Bring your audience
  • Recognize the value of failure

Keep in mind that I’m your friend. When you enter your next go-go dance contest, I will holler and whoop and clap for you.

I know what it’s like. I’ve been there.

 

Three years a bloggin’

Happy third anniversary, Light to grow in! I started this blog three years ago.

I started it while I was in a leadership development class at the University of Missouri where I work called Chancellor’s Emerging Leaders Program. One part of the class included doing a LEADS assessment where you have peers, superiors, clients and mentors rate you and give you feedback. You also rate yourself.

Does that sound like a terrifying grown-up-style popularity contest?

I found the experience illuminating. I consider myself a small person in the world although I am six feet tall. After reading the comments and looking at the results of the LEADS assessment in late 2012, I learned about what I am like to experience as a person. I recognized I could contribute more and use my abilities to inspire and encourage.

I chose writing as my method.

I started this blog as a writing practice. I had few expectations. Knowing what I know now, I might have named this blog something that doesn’t compete so much with the “grow light” search traffic.

That same year I started the blog, I was part of a collaborative book with two friends, Six Doors to the Seventh Dimension.

Last year, I wrote a book called Creative Women’s Devotional. Thank you for making this book a success! Hearing from you about how the book has affected you or a friend strengthens me and keeps me writing.

This year, I have another devotional book, this one more open-ended and focused on creativity, coming soon! I will have it ready for Lent, which is early this year and starts on February 10.

Self-knowledge deepens our ability to give in ways that make sense for who we are. I still feel like a small person, but my fingers are faster than ever making words.

I struggle with doubts all the time. What am I doing? Why am I doing what I am doing? Is this how God is guiding me or have I become selfish and vain?

I put these doubts in my writing, as you know.

I appreciate all the kindness I find here on this blog from you, my beloved readers. I appreciate the deep honesty as you share your own stories in the comments, emails or catching me after church or a Toastmaster’s meeting.

What sort of writing would you like to see here for 2016? I’m open to your suggestions! Let me know in the comments!

Until next time, God bless you. May this year bring you new adventures, new places and new ways of seeing yourself so you use your gifts in a world that sorely needs them.

How little I care about Christmas

Carefree Christmas started this year. It wasn’t on purpose. I didn’t know it was going to happen. I’ll start from the beginning.

As a kid, I knew Stressful Christmas.

Christmas is portrayed as a family-oriented holiday about homecoming and gathering around the table. Ours were more like a day of weeping behind a slammed door.

My mom struggled with her mental health issues. Limited daylight hours and cheerful songs in every store made this time of the year worse for her. Tell depressed people they should be feeling joy when it’s dismal and dark out. You might as well spit in their faces while you are at it.

I was about 16 when my parents separated and I was on my own. Then it was the time of Outsider Christmas.

I worked at a movie theater. I appreciated the distraction of working on the holiday. Some of the ushers wore Santa hats. The fake red fleece didn’t match the terrible stiff brown polyester jackets they had to wear, but the hats added a sense of the season.

Because I didn’t have a family to return to, I often was a caretaker for friends’ homes on Christmas while they went home.

I remember Santa Cruz under the palm trees and feeling the ocean breeze. I used to walk in the middle of the street as I went from one friend’s house to the next. The streets were empty, no traffic, everyone tucked in their homes. It was the one day of the year in this tourist town I felt I owned it. I was the only one out, walking, wandering.

I entered the silent homes, watered the plants and filled up the cat bowls. As I stood and looked out their windows, I imagined I would always be alone on Christmas. (I was full of these sorts of dramatic thoughts in my 20s.)

Then I got married and had a baby. It started the phase of Memorable, Modest Christmas.

It had to be memorable because I had a child and I wanted him to have all the happy memories I didn’t.

It had to be modest because we never knew when a job loss was around the corner. I didn’t want him to have a big Christmas one year and then a small (sad) Christmas the next.

It’s a lot of pressure to make Memorable, Modest Christmas. I concerned myself with small details that seemed largely important. For example, we had to have a chocolate orange that you whacked and broke into separate pieces. If the stockings didn’t have chocolate oranges come Christmas morning, it WAS NOT CHRISTMAS.

Sometimes they were hard to find and we drove from store to store. But darn it! We would have chocolate oranges.

I find it impossible to force myself to be happy. Even if the holiday is supposed to be happy. I cannot make myself feel it. But I felt that pressure of every other person delighting in the day that is December 25. Every other (not dysfunctional) family making memories that they would treasure for years to come.

And then there was me, stressed out, trying to be happy and make Christmas memorable and yet still modest.

Fortunately, my son survived my conflicted holiday attitude. He’s 18 now. As far as I am concerned, my job as Master Memory Maker (while still keeping it modest and replicable) is over.

I’ve never been so happy and relaxed at Christmas. I’m not worried about anything. I don’t care. I love the songs, the food, the cards, the lights, the parties and the gifts. But I don’t need them.

I was walking through the store with my husband the other day.

“Oh, look, chocolate oranges!” I said.

We stopped at the display.

“Should we get them?” he said.

“No, we don’t have to,” I said. “I don’t need them this year.”

He gave me a look to make sure that the pod people hadn’t snatched me up in replacement. I smiled back.

“Weird, isn’t it? But I’m just not worried about it,” I said.

We walked out of the store, without chocolate oranges, but with a sense of acceptance.

Christmas can be a lot of things depending on where you are in life. I hope yours is happy enough. But if it’s not, Dec. 26 will come soon enough.

Much love to you all!