At the Corner of Hope and Worry

Gushing is about to happen, so brace yourself:)

So, once again I find myself waiting in between books. My life is so different now, it seems. There was a time not so long ago that I would start a book directly after finishing one, so deep and wide was my reservoir of stories. Not so any more. Well, the reservoir is still deep and wide, but I don’t write just anything like I used to.  Now, someone higher than me has a say, so I find myself waiting.  But that’s not the point of this post.

Because I’m waiting, I thought I’d clean out my office closet. It’s been in desperate need for a while, and I’m not the idle type. I like to stay busy or I get bored and sleepy.  And a bored and sleepy Michelle ends up being a grouchy Michelle, and no one likes that, so…  I cleaned.  It’s that or this.

 

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Not. Pretty.  :)

Anyway, I digress.  So, I found a Books-A-Million bag in the bottom of one corner of my closet and I sat down on the couch to go through it.  I don’t know why this weird conglomeration of things was inside it, but there were some real estate magnets, my college school ID, a beautiful card from my hubby, and a few other random things.  Don’t ask me what the heck I was thinking.  It’s anyone’s guess.  But again, not the point.  None of those stopped me in my tracks.  Something DID, though.  It stopped me in my tracks and nearly brought me to my knees in gratitude.  Curious what it was?  Let me show you and then I’ll explain it.

 

Looks kinda random and nonsensical, right?

Not. So.

Before I tell you the significance, let me get my glasses and give you a little history on M. Leighton, Author.  

(I don’t really wear glasses, but I thought of Ben Stein, so here…)

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*Bueller.  Bueller*

Sorry.  Squirrel:)

Okay, so when I began writing, my husband and I had agreed to give me 6 months to make a go of it.  We hadn’t planned for a career change (where the income would be completely unpredictable from month to month, if there was any income at all), so we hadn’t saved much money.  During that initial period, we rolled quarters to pay for gas and we sold some of my broken gold jewelry to buy groceries. Yeah, it had its tough moments.  Worth it, but tough.  During this tough time, however, my amazing husband didn’t complain one time.  Not. Once.  He didn’t even express a single worry. He just had faith.  I might’ve been a little…rockier:) hehe  

I guess one might say that I was at the corner of hope and worry.

Something I’ve done for years to address my concerns, however, was to write out scripture that pertained to what I was worried about and include some that would encourage me.  I made this list (front and back) and would pour over these each day, sometimes more than once, reminding myself why I was making the change and remembering who I was trusting to make it happen.  That’s what you see to the left of the captioned picture.  What you see to the right is a thick stack of notes containing the names of all sorts of agents I queried in those early days.  What I want to tell you about today, however, is what both of those rest upon.  The New York Times for October 14, 2012.

You see, the first time I was blessed enough to have a book hit the NYT, it was on September 9, 2012 with The Wild Ones.  It hit what they call the overflow list, and those don’t appear in the newspaper/printed edition of the list.  My brother-in-law actually scoffed at the legitimacy of having hit the Times simply because my book wasn’t listed in the actual newspaper.  He’s a turd, right?  :D  Well, fast forward a little over a month, and I had another release y’all may have heard of. It was called Down to You and I was informed that it hit the list at #8 for the week of October 14, 2012.  At the time I didn’t realize the list was compiled a week before it showed up in the paper. Long story short, I bought this paper expecting to see it, but it was sadly devoid of any M. Leighton titles.  

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(I love Will Ferrell)

Anyway, I don’t know why I even saved this paper, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence (don’t believe in coincidences myself).  I believe I saved it so I could see it now.  Why?  Because it means more to me NOW than it ever could have at the time. It was a newspaper. One that I thought contained my listing, but didn’t.  Most people would’ve thrown it away.  But I didn’t.  Because there was a purpose for it almost five years later.

That one story headline–AT THE CORNER OF HOPE AND WORRY.  That’s why I’m seeing it now.

That was how my journey began–in that gray place between hope and worry.  I was full of hope that I might one day be able to write books for a living.  My dreams were modest. I only asked that I make enough money to replace my nursing income. That was it. I just wanted to do a job I loved and be able to contribute to our welfare with the proceeds.  I battled a bit of worry, though.  I worried that it wouldn’t happen, I worried about our finances, about what it might be doing to my husband, etc.  But it turned out that my hope was greater than my worry because I quit my job and pursued it wholeheartedly.  And you know what?  God took that one step of faith and He  BLEW. IT. UP.  In a million years, I never dreamed I’d be a NYT bestselling author several times over.  I never dreamed I’d be traveling to book signings where real people would actually want to meet ME.  Lil old nerdy, backward, chatty me. 

But God knew.

It’s funny seeing this now of all times, because in a way I feel like I’m right back where I started–AT THE CORNER OF HOPE AND WORRY.  I still worry about things, even though God has shown up in mighty ways before, but I also still hope.  Boy, do I hope.  And my hope IS stronger than my worry.

I guess I just want to say this:  If you’re at the corner of hope and worry, CHOOSE HOPE.  

We all worry.  We are human.  We’d have to be numb not to ever worry about anything.  No matter how great things are, we still tend to worry because I think a future we can’t see makes us all a little teeny tiny bit nervous.  But we also hope. And I hope that the HOPE far outweighs the worry.  I hope we all look that fear in the face, smile, and then turn on our heel.  Turn away from the fear and toward the hope.  I believe that’s where a lot of our greatest triumphs begin–at the corner of hope and worry.  Turn toward the hope.  That’s what I try to do every single day, and God has never let me down:)

Broken Things

Y’all, I’m broken.

Every day, I see just how broken.

But it’s okay.

It’s okay to be broken.

God uses broken things.

And He’s showing me the beauty of it.

So much beauty.

I saw this picture and I had to share it. It speaks to my heart, to my soul.  Sometimes we never know what we’re made of, what wonderful things are inside of us until we are broken in a few places. Only then can that incredible light shine through.

I’m here to tell you it’s okay to be broken.  We’re all broken in some way.  Embrace your brokenness. Learn from it. Grow from it.  Let it become the place where your own unique beauty shines through.  Broken people cry with you, laugh with you, give the best hugs, and, eventually, give the best advice.  You’ll be stronger for your broken places.  And you’ll be a better source of brightness for the rest of the world.

My Own Worst Enemy

Wanna know who it is?

Me.

I’m sure you guessed that right away. LOL  But it’s true.  9 times out of 10, I am my own worst enemy. 

Over the past months, coming up on two years actually, I’ve struggled with pretty much every existential issue known to man.  People grieve in different ways, and since I don’t do anything else like a normal person, why should I grieve like a normal person? LOL  

Well, I didn’t.

I can 100% say that my grief opened my eyes to a million different things that I needed to see and might not have otherwise.  It’s hard to say that the death of a loved one can benefit the living, but I daresay that it’s almost always true. IF we let it.  In a way, I think it’s a great way to honor those who are gone–to learn and grow and become better people BECAUSE of their life and the loss of it.  I think, in fact, that there may be no greater compliment.  If I could get a glimpse of the lives of my friends and family after I’m gone, and I heard them say that my death brought about amazing changes in their lives, I would consider my life (and my death) a raving success.  Life, death, grief, growth…they’re all strange and mystical things.  

It’s funny how you can be in a tailspin and not really know how much of your life is in disarray until it starts to fall back into proper alignment. I didn’t realize how far I’d drifted out to sea until I stopped looking at the people and things around me and looked back to shore.  I hardly recognized where I was at that point, and had almost no idea how I’d gotten there.  

But I know now.

I know how I got there–here. I let things and people and mistaken priorities pull me, slowly and gently, away from where I belong, where I’m most effective, where I’m most content.  I dipped a toe into dangerous waters and, before I knew it, the undertow had dragged me out to sea.  I’d let the current influence me, but, the thing is, that’s not who I am.  I was meant to swim against the current, not to go along with what everyone else is doing.  I’m unique, as are you, and we each have something individual and valuable to offer, but we can’t find out what that is doing what everyone else is doing, going where everyone else is going. Just because it’s the easy path doesn’t mean it’s the right one.

Before I knew it, I was miles and miles away from my best me.  I never would’ve thought I could drift so far.  I suppose I thought I was so deeply rooted that nothing could drag me from firm ground, but boy was I wrong!  Before I even knew what the heck was happening, my feet were nowhere near solid ground. I was so busy going along that I didn’t recognize I’d gotten a little lost, that I was simply treading water, trying every day to stay afloat and keep my head above water.  Lemme tell ya, that’s both exhausting and ineffective in terms of getting anywhere in life.  LOL  Thankfully, God brought all these realizations to my attention, and not a moment too soon.  When I looked out and saw where I was, I did a little evaluation and assessed my options.  Basically, there were two: I could stay where I was and eventually sink; or I could start swimming back to shore.  

So I started swimming.

And I swam.

And I swam.

And I swam.

And I’m still swimming.

(I know what you’re thinking, because I’m thinking it, too)

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I’m finally headed back to where I should be.  I’m tired. I won’t lie. LOL  But I’m also determined.  And satisfied. And content. I’m happy in that deep and meaningful way that I felt when God was at the helm of my life.  I hate that I took the detour. I hate to fall or to fail, or any variation of either one, but it was worth it.  Even though it wasn’t ideal, I’ll be better for it.  I’ve learned innumerable lessons during this trip, more valuable than I know even at this point. I’d say I’ll be learning from this experience for many, many years to come.  But that’s okay.  If we aren’t learning and growing, we are stagnating and that’s not what I want to do with my life. I want to grow. Flourish. Blossom.  I want to try every day to be a better person, a more supportive sister, a more loyal friend, a bigger believer, and the hard lessons are usually the ones that accomplish the most.  I can say now that I very much look forward to what comes next.  I know I’m in the right place and it will happen at the right time and for the right reasons.  There is much peace to be had in that simple knowledge.  I forgot how much I missed it.

If, like me, you’re just making your way back to shore, welcome home!  And if you’re still adrift, feeling all alone in the dark, turbulent sea, start swimming back in the right direction. It’s easy to get lost sometimes, but shore has a pull, a gravity all its own. It’s like no other. You’ll feel it deep down if you pay close enough attention. Let it guide you, let it bring you back.  Because, as Dorothy said, there’s no place like home:)