faith, God

Taco Tuesday – Say Hola to Author, Traci Rhodes



Hi friends!

As many of you know from Facebook, I’m taking a very strict social media fast through the Spring to crank out a new book. It seems a bit illogical. Writers need to build up a platform! I know this. But God seemed to whisper to me, “Andrea, get off the merry go round and get rooted. Stop marketing and worrying about strategy. Just write. You need this time. Your family needs this time. You will get back on later when the time is right.”

So I took the very hard plunge and stepped off. (And it’s felt A. May. Zing.)

That said, I had this interview lined up and I couldn’t go off into that gentle good night of silence without posting it. I started following this writer on Twitter (she is a bright spot in a sea of crazy online voices) and I had to find out more about her book coming out this Spring. If you’re like me – someone who enjoys a great read and is interested in things of faith – you won’t want to miss this interview.

Partnered with Church Publishing Inc., her book Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost is her church story, along with those of a few of her friends. Together they explore church traditions and discover the pleasure of finding more of Jesus over and over again.. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot of this author in the next few years.

Traci Rhodes

Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost, Coming Spring 2020

1) Where are you from and where do you live now?

I grew up on a piece of land outside a rural farming town outside of Kansas City, Missouri. Moved to Michigan when I got married, and we now live on a piece of land outside a rural farming town outside Grand Rapids. In many ways, it feels full circle.

2) What do you do for a living? 

I don’t work outside the home. My days are spent writing and building up my author’s platform. I also hold a number of community volunteer positions; I serve as women’s ministry coordinator at my church, am on the local school board and teach Bible study and Sunday School.

3) What influenced you to write a book?

When I started my blog, tracesoffaith,  in 2014, I worked with a friend on getting the site and social media pages set up. At the time, I shared with her I was comfortable writing blog post-sized articles but couldn’t imagine ever having a topic that would fill a whole book. Over the years of writing blog posts, I discovered I had a real passion for writing about church. More and more, this was the topic I felt led to explore and discuss. Fast forward to 2016, I was attending a conference called Festival of Faith & Writing. That’s where the blog posts I’d already written, the books I was reading and the conversations I was having, came together into a book idea.

4) Have you always wanted to write?

My mom saved the first story I remember writing, from second grade. It’s a whimsical tale about two elves who are unable to have children, but then the wife gets pregnant and they live happily ever after. I’ve learned, if you’re a writer, that’s who you are. Most of my adult life, I thought publishing a book was out of reach for me. I barely pursued it because it seemed like too much of a challenge. Social media has changed the way we can get ourselves noticed. I was able to build an audience organically rather than wait to be discovered. I have always written in one capacity or another, and this gave me the audience I needed to secure an agent and eventually a publisher.

5) What is your marketing strategy and how important is this for writers who are publishing their first books?

I’m not very good at strategy. Like I mentioned above, social media offers us an endless audience. At first I targeted people who knew me. Friends from home, my women’s ministry ladies, other faith writers, etc. Over time, and as I honed in on a the topic of church, I discovered readers interested in that. We all know of a few instant success stories but in my experience, these are rare exceptions. Identify what you could talk/write about for hours and find people who want to discuss that same thing. Accept that it’s going to take time and effort, but consistency and persistence do pay off.

6) What was the most difficult part about writing your book?

My book is narrative nonfiction, and largely my church story, so the writing came pretty easily. The biggest challenge for me was knowing what to do with the book idea. I had a ton to learn about writing a proposal, finding beta readers and finding an agent. The publishing mechanics were the most challenging for me.

7) What was the most fun about writing your book? 

My favorite kind of writing is story-driven. If I’m reading a book and they get to quoting statistics or lots and lots of other people, I get irritated. Tell me stories to get your point across! This was, by the way, Jesus’ preferred method of teaching. My book is one big story (very few stats or quotes) and I loved the process of thinking through my past to retell the details of my church experiences. I often refer to writing as turning on a faucet. At first you get an idea and the water trickles. Then it goes full force and you remember details you’d not thought about in a long time. The writing process is addictive.

8) How did you go from “ticked off” to “happily” ticked off? (Basically, how did you use any of your challenges to motivate you to move ahead?)

The biggest hurdle I had was my anonymity in the publishing world. I had met a few author friends but no one who was willing to contact their agent about me. I didn’t have a tragic story or an issue with church. I wanted to promote learning from one another in an ecumenical way. That’s a slow work. For a long time I heard God whisper in my spirit, “Trust the process.” So I did.

Another piece of advice that kept me motivated was when a writer shared a bit of advice in a FB group about rejections. She challenged writers to aim for 100 rejections a year. Magazine publications, guest posts, book proposals, you name it. When you receive a rejection letter, it’s getting you closer to your goal of 100 that year. It was a change of perspective that was huge for me. Rejection is going to happen and I had to find a way to become comfortable with it. (PS I’ve never gotten close to 100 rejections in a year.)

9) Give a shout out to a few bloggers or writers who have influenced you the most.

Lauren Winner will always top my list. Reading her books circa 2000 caused an awakening in me. There were other people out there having a legitimate church experience, worshiping Jesus in an entirely other way than me. Lauren made me want to meet them.

My friendship with Phoebe Mikhail, (beingincommunity.com) is one of the greatest blogging gifts I have received thus far. We met online, I don’t even remember how, and she has been a wonderful resource in my exploration of the Orthodox tradition. She grew up Coptic Orthodox and is married to a Priest. We have a mutual love for the Church and had the opportunity to meet in person this summer. Our main topic of conversation, writing about our faith, of course! Phoebe just released her first book, Putting Joy Into Practice, this spring.

The blogging world has introduced me to so many other writers. Seth Haines, Shawn Smucker, Ed Cyzewski, Jerusalem Greer, Scott Cairns, Sarah Bessey. They’re all doing exciting things in faith writing and have yet to hit any NYT bestseller lists, but they’re on my bestseller list.

Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost is my heart. When Jesus prayed that we would be one as he and the father are one (John 17) I believe he meant it. The more I consider the things we focus on, the fighting we do, I wonder if some Christians even care about unity. As I look back on my church experience, and those of twelve other individuals I invited to write excerpts in the book, I see a well-represented Church. Many traditions had a profound influence on my faith journey, not just the one I happened to call “mine.”

Further, I’m doing some reading on church history and past ecumenical efforts. It should come as no surprise (but it did surprise me a little) that Christians have been having major discussions (often more organized councils) about the finer details of Christian theology since the day Jesus ascended into the heavens. God knew this would be the case, yet he asked us to be the church, the bride of Christ. How can we do that? Toward the end of the book, I refer to an ancient document called The Apostle’s Creed. Maybe, maybe this can help us take a step forward. At the heart of ecumenism though, what I have found to be essential is a listening ear and an open mind. What if the ways we’re worshiping Jesus aren’t by and large wrong but merely different? Where must we agree and where can we agree to disagree?

Oh, how I long for my book to be a conversation starter. I want long-time Christians, especially those who have only been in one or two traditions, to consider how other traditions do things. I want groups to share stories about their own church experiences, learn from one another, visit churches and bring new practices into their own local body. I want to awaken a holy curiosity. I want men and women to fall in love with Jesus more and more through the Church.

11) Does faith play a role in your writing? If so, how?

It’s in every tap of the keyboard for me. My audience is first and always God, but also the church, my teacher is Jesus Christ, my guide is the Holy Spirit. I know some faith writers can write about other things and you can see a faith influence. I write more as a Bible teacher, a voice to the church.

12) When we meet in person for tacos, what food item would you bring and why? 

Salsa because I can my own and it’s amazing. Also guacamole because it’s a favorite.

For more information on Traci, visit her website Traces of Faith. In it you can find blogs, a chance to pre-order her book and some truly great conversations on faith and practice.

See ya’ll in the Spring!

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook.

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education, faith, God, self improvement, spirituality, Uncategorized, writing

Where Are You, God? It’s Me, Andrea

I love our church hospitality, in particular the coffee urinals!

I sat down to write a post about Magic Church today, only to find that there was an active shooter at a garlic festival not terribly far from me in Gilroy.

Really? Is this what we have come to? Slaying people at forums whose sole purpose is to eat stinky veggies and forget worries for at least one day?

I know that violence has been going on forever in so many communities. I know that guns and crime and poverty isn’t new. But what IS newer and newer is lack of community. We spend more time on phones than with real people. It’s easy to be up on the latest trends but not notice that people are slipping away from us slowly from lack of contact with others.

I suppose this lack of connection that I sometimes feel in my own life makes me enjoy Magic Church even more than someone who has a big extended family in and out of their life on a daily basis. I can’t get enough of the rag tag worship team, the bell choir in their white gloves ringing in a new holiday or a modern hymn, or today’s post-church luau.

I don’t understand the world lately, but I do know one thing: When we lose our connection to people – even the ones that bother us down to our core – we lose humanity. And when that happens, we get the idea that maybe taking a machine gun and killing innocent people is a better idea than facing our own wounds and healing.

I beg of all of you, this Sunday night, to consider talking to someone in the grocery store. Offer a kind word to your neighbor – even the one that chats too much or uses you for too much flour. Call your mother tomorrow (Yes, Mom, I’ll call you) and stop worrying about shit that doesn’t matter. It’s the shit in our lives that DO matter. Find a community you can heal in.

And if nothing else, you heard it from me: You are loved. You are valuable. You are going to be okay. You are worth a banquet of nurturing. Yup, even the good glasses!

Leave a Comment

You can also like my page, Happily Ticked Off, or join my female only closed Facebook Group, Happily Ticked Off, where we trudge toward happiness one step at a time (focusing on solution, humor and God.)

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook.

God, Jesus, meditation, parenting, writing

God Bless the Broken Road… That Led Me Back to You. And Polka Dot Jellies

Something in me has always wanted more than what is achievable in 24 hours. I want more time writing, more time eating, more time working and more time with family. And then (here’s the real fun part) it’s still not enough.

I believe, my friends, this is what you call an addiction. The antidote to this hamster wheel of delusion is simple. It requires being more present. Executing on this action, however, is less than easy, for it requires an absolute stake into the heart of a belief structure. It means acknowledgement that said belief structure is no longer working. And for me, my friends, that structure is none other than OMTS: One More Thing Syndrome.

“No, dear, you cannot Ebay and Clean Out Someone’s House for $20/hr AND write your blog and finish rewrites to that screenplay. KILL THE BEAST OF DELUSION!”

Like most people who hit bottom with their addictions, my OMTS came to a crashing halt on Saturday afternoon. I had been up since 6am to run a garage sell for a friend. As if it wasn’t enough incomprehensible demoralization that we did not sell one single item in three hours (nope, no one wanted used Halloween items from 1987 that looked like pumpkins on acid) her neighbor made a quick 20 bucks by just walking over, dropping off an old wheelchair, and going back into her house to watch Downton Abbey. Now whose the winner in this scenario? Ding ding ding! It wasn’t me!

I could have gotten pissed off, but in a way, I was secretly relieved for the clarity. How many ring around the rosy’s selling other people’s used items will it take for me to heal from OMTS? How much time spent driving to the post office to drop off packages for folks in other zip codes that could have been spent reading the rest of the Narnia series with my son or learning to sew with my daughter in the most precious zip code of all – the present?

Yesterday, with the sun beating into my car and stress building up about having to clean out Great Grandma Stella’s mobile home later in the day, I got it. I didn’t hear God speaking to me in a loud voice, but it was my very spirit that had finally surrendered and was gracious enough to make itself crystal clear.

“Enough,” it whispered. “How long before you put a stake into the fear of ‘I am not making enough?’ and just remember to ‘become enough because God is enough.’ ”

And so I made a promise to both my sweet husband and our sponsor couple: NO MORE SIDE GIGS.

No more extra income helping people move but costing me a fortune in burn out.

No more Ebay listings that give no return on my spiritual path.

For the rest of the summer – outside of taking care of myself and my very sweet family – I will spend my free time writing and writing only.

Today was the first day of this new routine, and it was beautiful. It was a day spent singing with my daughter at church as well as delivering a message. (Who knew I had something to say to a church full of people? A small church, but never-the-less, people didn’t freak out or grow tails.)

It was a day remembering last night’s visit to Great Grandma Stella who was so happy to see us at her door she cried tears of gratitude. (As well as told us that she thought her legs looked “pretty damn sexy for a 98-year-old.”)

It was an afternoon drive home from my communication class with Rex to talk a bit more about what I need to do to get my writing off the ground while subbing. (Guess what people! It doesn’t involve OTMS!!!! Nope, extras that don’t matter have got to go!)

Mostly it was a day of peace. Because in surrendering the happy shiny marbles that ultimately lead to nothing, I am making room for God to work diamonds of true meaning in my life.

I am not where I want to be, but I am grateful for the wisdom and willingness to keep on pressing on toward what matters most.

Oh, and although I am no longer allowing myself to flip crap on Ebay, I did purchase these beauties for myself at a thrift store yesterday. I saw them in between waiting for coffee at In and Out Burger and my son happily sorting through a bin of vintage Scooby Doo DVDs. It’s not every day that a pair of pink jellies in size 10, for ten bucks, comes my way.

I had to.

Don’t judge.

Leave a Comment!

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook.

Coaching and Wellness, faith, Jesus, self improvement, writing

Motivation Monday – A Business Plan!

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Swinging on a Star

Yesterday at church Pastor Craig talked about Elijah and Elisha. I can’t lie – I still don’t remember what the story was about other than the focus was on overwhelm, panic and what oh what to do hand ringing/sigh/oy vey when one is at an impasse.

My little ears perked up when he mentioned this particular theme so I wrote down his main 3 points. As it turns out, he put the same 3 points up on the screen moments later. He doesn’t normally map out his messages visually, so I took this as yet another sign that I’m a total narcissist everything is about me of synchronicity that God was showing up where I needed him most by making Himself more than clear… several times in a row.

I’m not sure how to say this in Hebrew, but I believe the translation is: “Wake up, Dumbass! I’m trying to tell you something!” (And for anyone who knows me you KNOW I’m ready for some direction.)

I am certain you’re all dying to know what Pastor Craig’s 3 take-aways are, so I’ll put them up for you right here:

  1. Ask for help
  2. Be persistent
  3. Just move forward even if you don’t know what the results will be  
    sss              (image source: Google)

Let it Unfold!

This last part hit me hardest because I like to say I’m a risk taker, but in reality, my risks are small. Not unlike boys at a high school dance waiting to move into the center of the floor and ask someone to sway to a slow song, they are often calculated, sometimes over-analyzed and often swirled in a good dose of fear. Oh, yeah, I can say I have faith to walk into a new public school every day as a sub, but it doesn’t take all that much faith to sign up for a job where you know you are going to get milk cartons thrown at your noggin by entitled pre-teens a paycheck if you just show up, shut your mouth and don’t manhandle the middle schoolers. (Quiet, Tuskany.) Nope, real faith for me is trusting in the talents I know God has designed me with: My words, my love of people, my belief in transformation and my faith. 

Along the lines of putting a stake in the ground and just moving forward (Dear, God, Andrea, just move the Beexxxp!!!! forward) I made a decision last week to pursue my Masters in Education at the end of next school year if, and only if, the writing showed no signs of making consistent higher income.

But to have a higher income, I need to choose a path. So… ladies and gentlemen… I finally chose a path. Roll out out the red carpets this has only been four years in the making!!!!

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I will write a book a year for three years and do all the necessary marketing to make it happen. I can do this while subbing! This is reasonable!!!!!

But to make that happen, I must have a business plan.

So today, for two hours, I began creating one.

And here’s something pretty shocking: I didn’t poop out a first draft and call it done. I gave it time. I’ll give it more time this whole week. And then on Monday of next week I will execute. (This will include items like a sweeter looking blog, as well as a home to house all my scripts, articles and current book which, um, never was properly marketed.)

Sidenote: Do you know to have a book sell you have to actually have a game plan and move on that game plan? Who knew???

In addition to a beginning business plan, I also gave my most recent project an hour and defended it with my life. No phones, no emails, no texts, no Facebooking, no “Oh, wow, that is the cutest puppy across the street I MUST GO SAY HELLO and then resent my kids and friends for wanting to spend time with me when I pissed all my work time away on asking the dog’s owner about the pros and cons of her Birkenstalk footgear and if she thought Sherlock was worth all the hype.”

OH MY GOD I GOT SO MUCH DONE!

Like that last point in Pastor Craig’s message, I don’t know where today’s project will land. But I do know that in taking the next indicated step a path will be made clear.

Plus I was in such a good mood all day, despite still having to work a small side job, making dinner and driving teenagers clear across town TWICE (plus falling on my butt in front of someone’s driveway like a drunk penguin) that I just didn’t have time to get into fear.

The Takeaway

My life will inform my writing (faith and joy) not the other way around (ego). And man, that feels amazing.  It makes me so happy I could spit.

Ptuyyyy! Okay, I just did spit. For good luck. Not because I totally just had a cherry seed stuck in my mouth.

Leave a Comment:

What is motivating you? If nothing, and you’re upset about it, are you willing to take a less calculated risk and put something down on paper or here in a comment? What do you have to lose other than your misery and frustration?

Until next time,

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook.

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faith, God, Jesus, parenting, Uncategorized

You Can Manage and Control Something, but You Can’t Enjoy It at the Same Time. (Yeah, Let That Sink In.)

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My daughter got up early today to join me at Magic Church. I call it Magic Church because for the past six months I’ve been attending this 125 person community that all believes different things about the Gospel. Some are married, some are divorced, some are gay and married, some are gay and single. Not everyone believes in the same path to God but all believe in one thing: Letting each other figure it out the best way we can.

I’ve struggled with certain elements of right wing religion for a while, so the freedom to breathe for this A-personality control freak has been nothing other than MAGIC. Even with my doubts on some of progressive Christianity’s approach, I feel in my gut such a joy and peace. From the moment I step under the oak trees my soul whispers, “I am home. I am safe.”

The inner Evangelical in me is not too happy with this concept. With big hair and long nails (with her purse matching her shoes) she finger wags, “This is blasphemy! You need JAYSUS! That’s where the healing is!”

The only problem with Evangelical Annie’s proclamation is that such advice has not turned out to be the case. The healing has not come in the form of dogma and a one-way scripture reading ticket. Transformation, like a flower emerging from a bud, has come with colorful questions and the fragrant ability to share my story with honesty and transparency. I have found the only requirement to a beautiful garden of peace is to ask the master gardener, God himself, to show me who he is in a way I can understand. No control games. No strings attached. (Ding ding ding! He’s shown up every single time. Like a true gentleman, he never barges in without me asking, but once invited, boy does he wine and dine me! That Holy Spirit is such a cheeky one.)

Control + My Kids = Bad Move

This same concept of control has been very true with my kids. In the past I attempted to manage and control them to fit my exact specifications of how they should behave (from healthcare to grooming and study choices) but I could not enjoy easy relationship. To quote Sam, Rex and my mentor, “Control is never loving.” How true that statement was for me and my kids. Our relationship was fraught with tension, hurts and inevitable rebellion. It was only in relinquishing my need to be in charge that freedom came in. And in that freedom, a beautiful connection and bond formed.

Side note: I am not talking about letting go of stuff that matters. Serious bodily injury or outright defiance? Not happening. But if they don’t want to change their pillows every other day, despite my concern that their face could be clearer if they did so, I let it go. I’d rather have a kid with a few pimples who is happy with themselves than a brow beaten acne free teenager who begrudgingly complies. And if it means that much to me, I can just change the damn sheets myself. Some days I do just that. But most days I look at it, sigh, and refill my coffee cup. That seems more reasonable. (Oh, and do I change my own pillow every other day despite my acne? Oooh, snap! Not so much. Moving on.)

Today in church, when my daughter rolled into my pew in the back right hand corner, one kid after another smashed their way into her row like little spiritual sardines. “Pip!” they shouted. “I want a piggy back ride after service!”

Later, when Pastor Craig announced that the kids approach the front of the sanctuary for Children’s Hour (Ages 13 and under) Pip went right up there with the kids. She’s almost 15, but it didn’t matter. Flanked by kids on both side of her, she joined the Jesus mosh pit, participated in the message, and marched right out the door with them to Sunday School.

I bring this up because none of it was planned, but it was perfectly acceptable. No need to argue over technicalities. It just was. Magic.

The fact that my son was at my previous church and my husband was home washing the car? No big deal. Lack of worry about this less than ideal set up? Magic!

The old Andrea would have been in despair over such a fractured family. The new Andrea knows that every one of us gets to be spiritually fed the way we need it.

I won’t lie. I sometimes see the families with matching tee shirts and Bible verses from my old church and think, “Man, where did I go wrong?” But these days I’m mostly seeing where I went right:

  • Not sweating the small stuff to allow space for God’s miracles to manifest
  • Allowing humor to replace critical comments and sarcasm
  • Opening up our home to friends and family regardless of perfectly cleaned floors
  • Choosing to live with older cars and furniture so that newer belief structures could replace antiquated fears (fears that served only to root me in shame and second guessing)

Some of you might feel very differently than I do about this subject, and that’s okay. All I know is that the world sometimes feels very very unsafe. But in my little neck of the world, at least at this very moment with my daughter still swimming at her new church friend’s house and a belly full of pizza just hand delivered by Rex, my universe feels so full of joy and gratitude that I can only refer to it like I refer to my church: Magic.

Like the Jesus I follow who I believe died not just for me but for all of us, it only took dying to my old ideas of management and control to find it.

Might have taken 49 years to figure it out, but that’s better than nothing.

Friends, I wish you joy, peace, love and the ability to let go of managing every little thing that doesn’t matter so you can truly enjoy what does this week.

Until next time,

Andrea

PS: I picked up quite a few new readers this week. Glad to have you on board! You are so welcome here! Leave a comment so we can get to know ya.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook.

books

education, faith, God, parenting, teenagers, writing

Grades, Schmades, and the Art of Privacy with Teenagers

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Okay, so I didn’t post my chapter for Writing Wednesday so stay tuned this Wednesday instead! Sigh.

My sweet friend, Amelia, always reminds me, “Andrea, you don’t have to be so hard on yourself.” And I agree. But I always get disappointed when I don’t keep my word here. I figure If I can’t keep my word to myself, life will keep it’s word to me in the form of doing what I don’t want to do for the rest of my life which, currently, is taking the recurrent theme of not knowing what I want to do for the rest of my life. It’s a fun internal loop that has been going on for the past 5 years. And as joyous as circling the “What Now?” drain is, I also think sticking to a schedule is not such a bad idea.

And no coffee after 3PM.

And not eating an entire bag of Skinny Pop every day and wondering why I gained ten pounds.

Lucky for me, summer is here and I have gotten back into my daily hikes. While I am not a fan of getting off my butt and doing something that does not involved writing, reading or drinking copious amounts of caffeine, there is such a joy and beauty in meeting up with my two teacher friends and smelling the hills. Plus, along with calorie counting, I’ve lost about five pounds, so that’s something to celebrate!

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Walking in these hills reminds me a lot of my parenting journey as of late. I need to prepare and stretch because there’s plenty of uphill climbs. But if I spend all my time complaining, fretting about the tough stuff and just sticking to the trails I know (such as “I’m Always Right Mountain” and “This Way or You Are a Failure Pass”) I’ll miss the beauty that is all around me… the quiet times in the car on the way to each of their summer classes where I hear about everything from Mean Girl Animatics (Pip’s choice) to Stink’s Youtube fan base (a gaggle of 10 year olds) who are writing him for an update to his Scratch based video game, “Dawn’s Journey.” Plus there’s been so many more words between us that have dramatically altered my way of interacting with them.

I originally wrote a post detailing specifically what such a conversation recently looked like, but I deleted it. It’s not that I wrote something so terrible, but I felt compelled to erase it based on previous requests from my kids that I don’t share their personal details on my site. That’s so hard for this mama – especially as an ex Babycenter blogger who made my living for years exploiting and making fun of my kids sharing the joys of parenting. But in the end, I must honor their decision to keep their private lives private. More to the point, I respect it. No people pleasers in this house! (Well, except for ME, but I’m working on that. Better stated, God is working on that for me. I just need to surrender every single day. And on days when that’s too difficult, I surrender by the hour, by the minute and by the second. Because as long as I think I’m in charge, life is going to suck. It just is.)

And so, please accept this alternate ending in the form of a quote that I sent to one of my teens after they made a decision to back out of a commitment that was not right for them.

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As I continue to walk the paths of my own journey, may I remember the same. And may you remember also!

Here’s to all of us remembering that we are not what we do, but who we are, that matters most.

Here’s to more questions, less criticizing.

Here’s to more faith and less fear.

And here’s to enjoying the beauty that exists all around us, uphill climbs and all.

Talk to you Sunday!

Leave a Comment! I Love to Hear From You All! (Even you, Mom. And Tuskany. Ahem. And thank you, Irish Mama, for your kindness always! I love you!)

Andrea

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook.

books

 

faith, God, Jesus, parenting, Tourettes, writing

When Life Happens For You, Everything Changes

Yes ss.jpg

Today at church Pastor Craig spoke about shame and pain. I honestly don’t remember the passage he read from in Romans, but in a nutshell, he spoke about how hard times don’t have to define us. Instead, these hard times can be used for good when we are transformed and then reach down to help someone else.

I found him in the cake and coffee line and I told him I had an edit to his sermon. At this point an elderly lady in the congregation took her leave (“Oh, Lord, it’s going to get sassy now!”) but Pastor Craig just stood there smiling. It’s what I love about him most. He’s comfortable enough with God, and himself, that he can listen… truly listen…. to other’s viewpoints without being offended. At our progressive church, it’s actually welcomed. (Both the listening and the questioning. It’s like my 12 step minus the drunk-a-logs!)

Me: “I like what you said about shame transforming, but I feel what could have been added is a piece on acceptance.”

Craig: “Go on,” he said.

Me: “I feel that people suffer a lot because they don’t admit that what is going on in the first place is not working… or that they are out of options… or have just hit bottom. If they could just accept it, then they could grieve it, give it to God, and then the beautiful work of healing could begin.”

He just smiled and nodded his head. “I couldn’t agree more,” he said.

A few years ago the idea of questioning a passage of scripture would have made me feel like a heathen. Now it feels the more I question the more welcome I am. It’s kind of like my 12 step group. If someone says, “I drank a few glasses of wine and now I’m here” people smile and offer them a cup of coffee. But if someone says, “I drank two six packs a night, had four DUIs and danced naked at my daughter’s quinceanera” raucous laughter peals out. The worse the story the better the welcome.

The deeper the death of ego the higher the resurrection of the better self.

Such radical honesty is a refreshing way to heal… to just be oneself and know one is welcome anyway. No right or wrong. Just honest truth about where one finds oneself.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like feeling transparent and raw. I don’t like admitting that I don’t know everything. That sometimes my husband and I still fight about the stupidest stuff. That my son’s tics sometimes hit my ear drums and I just want silence. Blessed quiet. That I worry about my kids going to college or that I’m almost 50 and see yet another wrinkle creeping in. Oh my God! I can’t stop time! I can’t stop inherited conditions! Why am I not over it  yet?! Suffering suffering angst and grrrr!!!!

And yet, when I just surrender that I don’t have to have it all figured out…. That I’m not perfect, nor is my husband… that my son is doing just fine with his little noises and my kids are perfectly content with their lot in life…. that it’s just me with my ego and my hopes and my not yet fulfilled dreams not trusting God… I can then do what I should have done from the very beginning. I can tell God I am scared and sad. And when I do, the funny thing is, I feel relief. And then, like Pastor Craig talked about, I can let God in to fill the places that no one ever could in the first place. Not my husband or a non-ticking kid or script being sold or a full scholarship for my kids to Harvard.

Happiness is not when things are better.

Happiness is right now in the mess and the chaos and the unanswered questions and just knowing that I don’t need to have all the answers because God does.

When I remember that hard things life doesn’t happen to me but they happen for me to let go and let God transform my pea sized mind from negativity to absolute acceptance, life is so incredibly beautiful I could just die.

Or, at least at this very moment, go to bed. Fathers Day kicked my ass this year.

What Do You Need to Surrender to Be Happy? I’d Love to Know Leave a Comment

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. )

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

books

 

faith, God, Jesus, parenting, spirituality, Uncategorized, writing

When You Know Someone’s Story Things Change

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In December I switched from an Evangelical church to an open and affirming congregation that allows me to address doubts and concerns I’ve had for many many years.

It wasn’t an easy transition for me. I came from a background where everything I was supposed to believe was rolled out like a red carpet for me. I only needed to dance.

I’m an awkward dancer. I’m six foot tall and my husband isn’t a party guy. I’d often find myself alone on the carpet trying to figure out the beat of the songs. When the kids came along, we’d ring-around-the-rosy every Sunday and be appeased with doughnuts and life groups, but in the end, I felt exhausted from my shimmying to something that I thought I was supposed to get but just didn’t.

When I started opening my mouth about my questions, I was shocked to find many people on the carpet had the same ones as I did, but they chose to accept what worked and moved on. I have zero disrespect for these people, it’s just not me. I am not one to go with the flow if I’m not comfortable. I had to, in the end, quietly leave. Much to my inner narcissist’s surprise, there was no banner shouting “Andrea has left the building!” Nope, not even a phone call or an email. I was either that much of a disappointment or not important enough. Either way, it was an immense relief. (If not a bit terrifying. Now what?)

My New Building

No one was more shocked than I was to find that at my new tiny church God showed up even more strongly than he had before. I felt a sense of peace and belonging I had not felt in years. It’s a place where, in true Rachel Held Evan’s style, we all are called to the communion table. We don’t have an agenda to push. We have only God’s love and grace to receive.

rachel

This kind of message seems radical and hippy dippy to many more conservative folk. But to me, it reminds me of Jesus: a rebellious conviction to love everyone. (Unfortunately this kind of acceptance got him killed. But I get it. He was no longer able to live with the hypocrites. And that goes for me being able to live with my dual personality of wanting to fit a mold I just wasn’t cut out for.)

Getting clean with who I was felt so refreshing. But I had been warned about this kind of serenity before from my more conservative church: “It’s the devil.” And yet, having done an immense amount of spiritual work through 12 step, I knew this simply wasn’t true. In my 12 step, it is crystal clear that to not live a life of honesty and integrity is to drink, and to drink for many is to die. I was not willing to die in body or spirit. Instead, I chose surrender.

The Power of Surrender

I could go on and on about the power of surrender and what that means to an over-thinker like myself, but in a nutshell it means: I am not God, neither are you, how about we just lay down or guns and admit we don’t know everything? How about we let go and trust that each person has a God of their understanding to guide them to make decisions for themselves?

For me that is Jesus. But until he shows up at my door with a cappuccino and a doughnut, I’m not willing to tell all my other friends of faith that they are 100% wrong in who their higher power is and aren’t going to heaven “until they know the truth.” The path to destruction might be wide, and the road to salvation might be narrow, but that simply cannot be true of our hearts. Hell is happening NOW, with our minds too narrow and our compassion not wide enough. People are dying. People aren’t getting the healthcare they need. People are being sent to prison for making heart wrenching decisions for their children.

Surrender also means listening. In joining a new church, I asked question after question of my gay pastor. “How do you reconcile your sexuality with the Bible? How do you keep from creating a God of your own understanding?” These open questions and resulting communication was both scary and transforming. But in the mystery, like driving through fog, light came at the other side. In being patient in the dark, I felt more of God’s all encompassing love than I ever felt listening to straight up theology.

It also meant asking my friends about their feelings on abortion. I heard story after story about why they did, or did not, choose to terminate a pregnancy. Instead of feeling judgment or elation, I was led right back to surrender. And in doing so, I was overwhelmed again and again with the idea of dignity: That a woman must decide for herself what she can or cannot live with. That her life, and others’ lives, are as valuable as the one in their womb. And as painful as that is for me to admit to my inner evangelical, it’s what I believe now to be true. No one – especially a rich white man – gets to decide this.

I am not writing this to convince you on what you should or should not do with your life and your votes, especially if you disagree with me. But I am writing to you to consider asking yourself the very tough questions that I began asking myself a few years ago:

  • If your child came to you and told you he or she was gay, would you pound them with theology and Bible verses or would you wrap them in your arms and tell them you love them?
  • Do you really believe that everything written in that Bible is 100% without error? Because if you do, you have a lot of explaining to do. And if that explaining makes sense to you only from a place where, in our society today, straight white people win, would you consider that maybe, just maybe, it’s possible you are wanting to interpret something that best fits your view of the world versus real people with real struggles and needs?
  • Do you truly think that God stopped talking 2000 years ago when the Bible was shut and that we can’t possibly see God in people and situations outside the book of Revelation?
  • If your 16-year-old daughter comes to you pregnant, are you willing to tell her that she must have this child or face prison time?

None of these questions are comfortable, but they are real. Is our God big enough to handle them and have us talk to others with dignity and respect? Mine is. And for that I’m so grateful.

Conversations

I am being clear with you all because, like my decision to leave a conservative church, I can’t live with pretending to be someone I’m not. While on one hand I can’t stand what the internet has done to our culture (the polarization, the vamping, the lurking) I also am in acceptance of the fact that it’s not going away anytime soon. And so, with that in mind, I felt it important to be have my virtual life match up with my human life. Unlike the Andrea of old, who might have done this out of defense or wanting to fit in, the Andrea of now is doing it from a place of transparency and truth. Right or wrong, this is who I am. Maybe you are in a place I was and need to know that someone else is out there.

Consider this your virtual red carpet to dance in the unknown. To rub shoulders with other people and ask about their stories. To make decisions based on real human beings with hearts, not just theology, and begin to trust your journey.

Services at my new church start at 10. Perhaps you’ll join me at the table.

The Table reminds us that, as brothers and sisters adopted into God’s family and invited to God’s banquet, we’re stuck with each other; we’re family. We might as well make peace. The Table teaches us that, ultimately, faith isn’t about being right or good or in agreement. Faith is about feeding and being fed. – Rachel Held Evans

Happily Ticked Off Tip #53:  When you get to know someone’s story, your heart transforms your head and not the other way around. Every time.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

(Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

books

 

God, Jesus, meditation, spirituality, Uncategorized

Coming Home… Literally (A Resurrection Spiritual Experience)

As many of you know, I’ve struggled for years to find my higher power. I have wrestled with the guilt of not fitting into an evangelical mold that I thought was going to save me. But I had misplaced religion with faith. I had misplaced fear of not being good enough with an impossible Biblical task list.

I have many friends who promise me that Jesus is the answer to feeling good enough. I adore them and their strong foundation for living. But for me, it took letting go of a Biblical model, and a good dose of 12 step, to get serenity. I don’t apologize for this. I’m just being honest.

I have solidly landed in the place of Anne Lamott meets Lin Manuel Miranda when it comes to my faith and, well, I couldn’t be more grateful. That said, the Evangelical devil still sometimes shouts at me. It comes in the form of angry shame poking at me:

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Acck! Run! Shut down your brain and just believe! Because, no, cults aren’t started like that, right?

Scary as that shame can feel, I can’t do the “Must Do’s” anymore to fit into some Christian design for living that only one group of people adhere to. There’s other interpretations. I’m not such a pile of poo for leaning toward those. That said, I’m not ready to give up Jesus. He still calls me. In fact, when I pray to him, and I comb the scriptures and his messages, I see nothing about hard core “Must Do’s.” I do, however, see a hell of a lot of love and acceptance. Yeah, filling up on that feels amazing. (It’s either that or a tube of Trader Joe’s Ho Ho’s. Jesus is better for my figure.)

 

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“This concept of yours? That’s not love, that’s wishful thinking to create a God based on your human understanding,” many of my church friends have told me. “That’s you wanting to play God.”

Comments like that had me second guessing myself, but I trudged ahead with my new found peace anyway. My serenity must have irritated a friend of mine, because when I told her about my new found contentment she remarked, “Of course you feel relaxed. That’s exactly where the devil wants you.”

Side Note: When someone is struggling with something spiritual, telling them that they are falling into the clutches of Satan’s evil grip is not particularly helpful.

Last week felt particularly stressful. Between burying my husband’s father, some work shake ups, and being alone with my thoughts for an entire week while on vacation (oh yeah, this over-thinker sure knows how to do Spring Break!) I was pretty uncomfortable. That’s when I had a life changing conversation with my sponsor, Rosa. She reminded me to stop thinking and start praying. Specifically, “Pray that God shows you in a way you can understand.”

This was on Wednesday.

I started praying… really praying... every day. When I’d feel guilt or shame for bucking the system, I’d pray, “God please show me in a way I can understand.”

And then something incredible happened.

On Sunday I brought my friend Annie my new church. She brought a friend, Tina. Both had never attended services there.

As a reminder, this is a church I had attended as a little girl. I have had dreams about it for years. I could literally smell the pepper trees and feel the calming presence of God from the old school chapel. In those times of quiet, and in my dreams, I could almost hear the words, “Go home… go home…” so I finally did. For the past 3 months, despite feeling like a rebel without a clue, I kept going home. I felt safe there. It felt right. And on Easter I knew why.

When Tina asked me why I drove to this church instead of staying closer to home, I told her the above story.

Tina: “Where did you live as a little girl?”

Me: “Woodland Park.”

Tina: “I live in Woodland Park. What street did you live on?”

Me: “Martinez.”

Tina: “I live on Martinez.”

In my gut I knew before she even asked the last question.

Tina: “What house #?”

Me: “21309”

Tina: “That’s MY house!”

It was then, truly then, that I knew I had heard from the God of my understanding. All those peacocks… all those many eyes of God… I had finally listened. I found home. Literally. And for that amazing experience, on Easter Sunday no less, I am so grateful and humbled.

What Length Are You Willing to Go to Find Your Resurrection Story?

Happily Ticked Off Tip #43:  Careful about asking God to show you in a way you can understand. He just might… and it’s unbelievable! Be ready!

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

books

faith, spirituality, writing

The One Spiritual Truth that Will Set You Free

 

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So much has happened this week, it’s become apparent that sometimes the only thing to do, in no particular order, includes:

  • Get up a wee bit earlier to meditate and not rush.
  • Find new places on the way to work to do one’s business.
  • Thank said gas station owner for use of facility. If it’s a Starbucks, be grateful you only deposited a piece of yourself and not an additional $5.00 on a drink that would only make you search yet again for a place to do one’s business.
  • Not overthink everything (Are you on time? Do you have a plan? Are you flexible? If so, let the overflowing art sink go for one more day.)
  • Buy a notepad and try to stay current with tasks.
  • Don’t look at the end result. Just put one foot in front of the other.
  • Practice gratitude.
  • Get your nails done with your daughter.

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Today I did the Call to Offering at church. This basically meant I tell a bit of my story and ask for money. In the past I would be worried about such an event as this: What would people think? I’m so new! Am I being hypocritical? After all, I’m not exactly throwing down hundred dollar bills in the offering plate myself.

But when an unexpected death occurs – both in body (last week – someone from my hubby’s side) and in soul (my own over the past few years) you start to realize that true resurrection comes in dying to self and becoming the person God intended you to be, not the person you thought you were supposed to be.

Don Miguel Ruiz writes an amazing book about breaking the four contracts we unconsciously sign that set us up for a lifetime of suffering.

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The book is a one day read and has transformative nuggets of truth that have been life changing for me.

This book aside, dying to self can also often mean not having all the answers.

It means honoring myself where I can with rest (14 hours snooze Friday night? That’s me!)

It means stating some ground rules with love to not sink in exhaustion Hi School Secretary. I’d love it if for one week you don’t schedule me to cover other classes during my conference time. When she responds back with It’s because you’re a sub You gently stand your ground. I’m a long term sub through June. I’m really at less of an advantage than a teacher because I don’t have a real lesson plan yet. I truly need the time to prep. And then you smile, because this particular secretary is super nice and just doing her job.

And, to be a decent human, you add on, If you must schedule me, though, I get it. Just asking.

And then when you inevitably get the call to sub, you thank God you have a fancy Chulux (it’s the bastard child of a Keurig), brew a cup of java, and head out to the bungalow clear across campus.

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And you do this because at the bottom of all your hard earned faith is a cosmic nugget that you will share with said readers that will transform their frustration to acceptance. To put it bluntly, it’s the one spiritual truth that will set every single human on earth free.

Zero Fucks Given.

You’re welcome.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #18: Zero Fucks Given is an attitude that allows you to surrender to God’s will for your life. It’s like the red carpet for the spiritual set.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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