What Daydreaming & Clearance Racks Taught Me about Myself & God: A Mini-Memoir & a Book Giveaway

This post is my story. Not all or even most of it but…a survey of sorts.

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Growing up, my mind was often elsewhere. Distracted and pensive, I pondered big questions and entertained a thousand thoughts.

I gave pretend speeches in my head to no one in particular.

On road trips, I stared out the car window at landscapes and homes and old barns, unfolding stories of people and places and imagining myself in these stories. I dreamed of faraway places. Beautiful places.

I noticed things. Always, the noticing. The earrings she wore with that dress. The mint-green pumps she sported with the diamond cut-outs on the toes. The way shades of purple are breathtaking with green. His furrowed-brow, their fake smiles, her thinly-veiled pain.

At times my crazy insides had a way of becoming too big for my body to hold. When that happened, I turned to spiral notebooks and loose-leaf pages, spilling my words and my tears and just getting it out. I wasn’t consistent but I realized that spilling my soul onto paper was therapeutic.

My family will tell you I’m the most resourceful one of the bunch. Growing up, I’d stride out the door for school in clearance-rack jeans, an oversized V-neck sweater of my dad’s, and a paisley scarf-turned-belt borrowed from my mom’s church coat. My friends let me pick out their clothes, fix their hair, and do their make-up.

I loved finding beauty — all kinds of beauty — in sparse and unlikely places.

I felt more shy than I appeared. Friends were usually plentiful. Finding common ground with most anyone came naturally for me. I wasn’t a clown but I made my friends laugh. When we played Truth or Dare, I always picked the dare and they always knew I’d do it.

People came to me with their problems. Sometimes they even scribbled down what I said. World-changing information like exactly what phrases they should use when breaking up with their boyfriends.

Since the 5th grade I’d planned to go to law school and eventually become a judge. My role model was Sandra Day O’Connor. I had a deep admiration for strong, ground-breaking women of influence.

With this in mind, I majored in Political Science, Economics, and History. I was student body president of my small-ish university. I accomplished far less than I thought I would in this role. As it turned out, affecting change was harder than it looked and one needed more than a suggestion box mounted on the wall of the school cafeteria. Also, giving speeches was mildly terrifying even though I tried not to show it.

I took the LSAT during my senior year. And then I panicked. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to law school or practice law or decide anyone’s cases. By that point I had enough sense to know that being a wife and mom would not be so compatible with the ambitious career goals I’d chosen. I wasn’t sure that my goals were even “me.” That was part of the turmoil; I wasn’t sure who I was but I was willing to wait and find out.

In the waiting, I married a charming young man. Content to be his wife and inspired by all the new wedding cookbooks and saucepans, I made yummy meals in our shoebox apartment while he went to graduate school.

 

This was partial consolation for my long days at the worst job I ever had, working at a bank. Apparently I am bad at counting money while also making small-talk with strangers. Like, terrible.

Restless but inspired, I went back to school a couple of years into marriage. I fell in love with American history and the brilliant scholars who taught me and the most eclectic array of friends I’ve ever had. Teaching felt as easy as breathing. I loved the world of ideas. I loved making meaning of people, places, and events of the past.

Though I was okay with research, what I really enjoyed was writing. One of my favorite professors agreed to direct me. He said I had a natural gift with words.

But I didn’t believe him. His books won some of the most prestigious awards in the field but that didn’t matter. I thought of a hundred ways I had inadvertently fooled him. I convinced myself that his opinion of me was a fluke.

I feared my own desire to be good at this and ran the other way.

Academic life and the liberal arts were a good fit for me, but I often wished for more time to be creative in “artsy” ways. I found myself decorating the house and taking study breaks around the Target clearance racks while procrastinating serious research.

Fast forward through three babies, a teaching career, juggling life as a working-mom, some crazy hard years, becoming a stay-at-home mom and my early days homeschooling my kids.

Though I knew I had much for which to be thankful, somewhere in my mid-thirties I had an “identity crisis.” I know, it sounds so cliché. But as I looked back on my life and the seemingly circuitous routes I’d taken, I didn’t know who I was. I felt like I was a little bit of everything.

I longed for a “label” {strange as that sounds} but life wouldn’t hand me one. I wanted to know what  uniqueness I could offer the world. {Besides a plate full of contradiction, crazy, and thrift-store accessories.}

I wondered how a creative soul like me got mixed up with Political Science and Economics majors. And though I finally landed on “History Professor” as a career choice, it still seemed a bit odd to be doing something traditionally reserved for aging white men with bad clothes and questionable social skills. I guess I’ve never fit the stereotype of anything I’ve ever done, which left me feeling like a misfit.

I’m still not sure why it took me so long to embrace myself as a writer or to believe someone when they told me I was good at something. Even now, I usually can’t bring myself to say, “I’m a writer.” Instead I’ll say something like, “I enjoy writing.”

I discounted certain gifts like having a knack for putting outfits together out of cast-offs or seeing beauty in a heap of junk or being able to bargain shop like nobody’s business or arranging art on a wall in five minutes.

I didn’t think much of the fact that I’ve always had a diverse group of friends and never found anyone exactly like myself and am sort of a peacemaker who has a way of bringing people together despite their differences.

But I’m beginning to see a larger picture.

I’m beginning to have eyes that don’t discount anything, eyes that survey the patterns of my past and find clues to who I am, hints at how I was made, and arrows that point toward possibilities for the future. 

The person I’ve been all along has come out in a million little ways over the past 40 years.

The girl who daydreamed and pondered big thoughts? She still does. She makes meaning of everything from motherhood to mascara and she writes it down. She’s been doing this for years. Her own words teach her things. They point her to perspective. As it turns out, words are part of her worship.

The pretend speeches in her head? They spilled out of her mouth throughout ten years of teaching college students about the beauty and tragedies of our history. They spill out of her mouth even today as she mothers her children and teaches them about everything from God to cooking to getting along with others. {They are an even worse audience than her college students, what with the eye-rolling and tossing a football in the air while she’s trying to give a speech.} They spill out over café tables and in meetings and through series she writes about issues that are important to her.

She’ll never be the Supreme Court Justice she dreamed of but she still has a way of seeing multiple sides of complex issues and persuading others to open their hearts to grace and their minds to new ideas.

The knack for throwing together clothes and accessories? Well, she’s often invited into the closets of friends and asked to tell them what to keep, what to toss, and how to combine pieces they already own.

She still procrastinates important but “mundane” things like laundry and paying bills because she’s too busy hanging pretty things on her walls and rearranging furniture and spray-painting junk from thrift stores and scribbling down errant thoughts.

Women continue to come to her for things. She offers the words she has with friends, strangers, and strangers-turned-friends via e-mail and blog comments and coffee dates.

She still struggles with toning down her own ambitions for the good of her family. Being a truly-devoted wife and mom hasn’t been the most natural thing for her. But she loves the man who calls her wife and the kids who call her mom. Loves them like crazy. She knows this husband and these kids need her and she also knows that she needs them in ways she’s only beginning to appreciate.

Sometimes real life saves us from the things we think we want. And though she doesn’t feel wonderfully equipped, she wants the everyday art she lives with her family to be the truest offering of her hands and heart.

As for the noticing, she does this as much as she ever has. The noticing shows up in a million little ways and often finds its way into this space. The art of writing is one of her bravest pursuits. She doubts her words, motives, and abilities. She overthinks everything. She’s still shy on the inside and gets sweaty every time she publishes anything. But she does it anyway. She makes her art because she can’t not make it.

Thanks for joining me here, for responding with your own stories and thanks and “me toos.” Your kindred words and spirits are gifts to me.

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That’s a survey of my own story, the many ways that my past intersects with my present and teaches me about my God-given design and hints at how my Creator intends use me in this world.

Let’s talk about you, about all of us.

  • What would happen if you looked back at the patterns and looked within for the gifts and looked forward toward possibility and looked up to the Creator who says, Yes. I made you for this. Go and come alive and let me show you all the ways I can shine through you?
  • What would happen if you saw your scars not as baggage but as offering?
  • What would happen if you saw your professions as teachers, bankers, and mothers not as jobs or roles but as “art?”

 

I’ll tell you what would happen. You’d be living as an artist in the most beautifully authentic ways and you’d come alive in the process.

Set aside your traditional ideas of artists as painters and poets. Embrace a new definition, one that includes you.

I’d like to give away a book that just might give you the permission you didn’t know you were waiting for to make art with your life.

A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily Freeman

It’s time to uncover the shape of your soul, turn down the voice of the inner critic, and move into the world with the courage to be who you most deeply are. Creating a life of meaning is not about finding that one great thing you were made to do, it’s about knowing the one great God you were made to glorify–in a million little ways.

Friends, you know that I’m a reader. I get excited about books. I’ve recommended many awesome reads over the years.

But this book? It’s a game-changer.

Just writing about it right now, I’m grabbing for the Kleenex. It is the most beautiful, freeing, grace-filled message. I finished the book on a Saturday night, nestled my head deep into the pillow, wiped tears that came from I don’t know where, and peacefully drifted off to sleep.

This book is like a wake-up call and a lullaby.

I know that sounds crazy but that’s what it is to me. Emily’s voice is both sure and gentle, as it always is. She’s one of my favorite writers and favorite people.

Most of all, this book is Truth. You may think that a book like this makes the message all about you and your big self, that it’s spiritually-cloaked narcissism.

Not at all.

This book is about God. It’s about his glory, not ours.

Every moment is packed with artistic possibility because, as an image bearer with a job to do, there is potential to reveal the glory of God in every circumstance, no matter how I feel, who I’m with, what my hands hold, or what’s gone wrong. God with us lives within us. And he will come out through us in a million little ways.

This book is about the body of Christ.

Everyone has their own unique passions as well as their distinct burdens. We are responsible to pay attention to what moves us and respond in faith. The body of Christ grows when each member gives what they have to give–that applies not only to our gifting but also to our burdens.

This book is about setting us free from fear and pride so that we may glorify God with the uniqueness of our lives, with everything from the soup we stir to the speeches we make.

Personally, it’s come at a time in my life when I feel like I’m beginning to break through some walls of doubt and insecurity. Courage and acceptance inspire me to embrace design and desire instead of denying or running away from these things.

I want to give everyone a copy of this book. I can’t exactly do that, but I can give away one.

And guess what? Emily signed it for you.

Just leave a comment and be sure to include your e-mail address so I can contact you. Example: scooperalamode{at}gmail{dot}com.

If you’re a real-life friend and you read this on Facebook or if you receive the posts via e-mail, you’ll have to click over to the actual blog and leave a comment there.

You can tell me anything: why you’d love to win the book, the “art” in your own life, or your dreams of doing something that is courageously you. Anything. 

I’ll announce a winner next Monday.

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This post linked up at Emily’s Freeman’s “We Will Make Art” Post. {She’s doing a big giveaway over there so check it out.}

we will make art

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Comments

  1. says

    Wow, this book sounds great. I’d love to read it, because I wonder sometimes how all the experiences of my life have prepared me for making my art. Your story is inspiring!

    Jessie

  2. says

    Oh, this book! I’ve been wanting to read it since I read it’s first description.

    I am at a place where I’m thinking (a lot) about what my next step is, and I’m struggling to be brave about it. It’s something I dreamed of, planned for, and was educated in, but I’ve never taken the steps to move forward with it. Honestly, I’m completely scared and not feeling courageous at all, but the urging and dreaming are there. And the pull is strong! It’s my “art” and I know my entire life has prepared me for it. But how to move forward? Ahhh!

  3. says

    …and we are all grateful and blessed that she is finally listening and writing! Your post is inspiring! Time to figure out and DO what God created me for. I have some ideas but feel like I’ve lost sight of who I am somewhere along the road. I would love to win this book. Leighninger@att.net

  4. says

    I’m so glad that you have ‘found’ your label. You ARE an excellent writer and you often write what I need for that season.
    I have Emily’s book on my Kindle and it is truly how you’ve described it. If I’m selected to win your giveaway I know exactly who will receive it. What a blessing you are to many. mrsladybug8(at)gmail(dot)com.
    Hugs

  5. says

    Your words are a gift to us, thank you for sharing! I would LOVE this book. It’s on my Christmas wish list…and after reading all the reviews, and Emily’s 31 series I can think of 5 people I want to give the book to without reading it myself! The laundry always piles up in my house …but I always find time to create in my kitchen. It’s always been this way. As a girl I remember my mom giving me the choice to cook or clean as we prepared for company ….it was a no brainier. I took cooking classes in college, just because they seemed to be the perfect elective. Now, in the holy mothering mundane, I’m starting to notice, I really really enjoy creating in my kitchen. renee.royal@gmail.com

  6. says

    I am laughing out loud sometimes when I read you b/c we have some funny things in common. Like in 5th grade, I was Sandra Day O’Conner for Halloween. And yes, I wanted to go to law school. But no, I didn’t go. I was afraid. I did then want to be a history teacher. My dad told me not to do that b/c it didn’t pay well enough (even though that’s what he did for a few years). So I went to business school and I’m still not sure why. I get told all the time by friends and family that I am “so creative”. I don’t believe them and I always say, “No, I’m not. I just know how to use the internet.” I have a huge under the bed storage container filled with notebooks of my writing from over the years. I would love to read this book…

    • says

      Poor yod……colus can really bring you down can't they? I haope you feel better soon. xLove the simplicity of your card by the way.Sharon x

  7. says

    {Comment from MeMe who had trouble commenting.}

    I told you that “words are your friends.” I love how you put into such lovely words the thoughts and feelings that putter around in my head and heart. You remind me of a beautiful butterfly emerging from your cocoon and living the life God meant for you, blessing all those you happen to touch with the flitting wings of your friendship and words of wisdom. I am excited to read Emily’s book to learn more about how to get from cocoon to butterfly…I know it involves lots of fighting against the constraints that come in the forms of doubt, insecurity, and fear…that’s me at this point in time! Thank you for how you make me think and not just accept the status quo.

  8. says

    {Comment from Rebecca who had trouble commenting.}

    Well, Marian, I attempted to leave a comment on your blog, but in keeping with the kind of day I’ve had, Google is not letting me log in! What I tried to say there was that for someone who has had a horrible day in a job with which she’s stuck at present just to keep a roof over the head, and feeling battered and beaten down a little more every day, your words resonated more than you could ever imagine!!!!

    • says

      Coatuntrlagions on your weight loss success George!I myself have just finished reading the Truth about abs manual and now am working towards losing 20 pounds in the next 3 months! All the best in the new year!

  9. says

    Marian – I am always made to think when I read your posts….made to realize I am not the only one who thinks/acts like I do….that moms all over feel the same as I. Thanks for sharing from your thought…..I hope to get a hold of this book soon!!!
    kkmjbook@hotmail.com

Trackbacks

  1. […] And it is actually a perfect book to read right now as we’re knee-deep in the routines of laundry and dinner, carpool and work. This book challenges the notion that only the painters and the poets are the real artists, that only the creatives can offer beauty into the world. The truth is, we’re all artists. We all have something lovely and unique to offer the world whether we’re folding the clothes or stirring the soup or teaching the students. Just writing these words makes me want to pick it up and read it again. {You can read my review of it here.} […]

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