It’s been a few months since I’ve posted a blog — in case anyone is keeping track.  The primary reason this well has been dry is that I have been in the final editing stages of my new book — Begin Again, Believe Again: Embracing the Courage to Love With Abandon — which will be published by Zondervan in October, 2010.  Everytime I finish a book I am certain that I will never have a single word to write again, and I want to run and hide from the words that I have just written.  After my first book, Bravehearts, was published, every time I saw a copy in a bookstore I would hide it behind other titles on the shelf.  Anne Lamott describes the paradox of desperately wanting to write and desperately fearing that someone will actually read what you write, “The obsessing may keep you awake, or  the self-loathing may cause you to fall into a narcoleptic coma . . . .” 

Lamott continues, “We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are.  Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason they write so very little.  But we do.  We have so much we want to say and figure out.”  As I began work on this soon-to-be-published book I thought back to my first book Bravehearts — a book I wrote in 2000 about relationships.  I thought I had a lot to say and that there was a lot I was figuring out.  I didn’t know that I was only at the beginning of this strange and wonderful experience of writing that really teaches us more of what we don’t have to say and still need to figure out.  In 2001 my husband told me that he was lonely (I was busy writing books about relationships), that he’d found a soul mate, and that he wanted a divorce.  My family broke into a million pieces that all of the counseling and wisdom in the world could not put back together again.  I know it’s a familiar story to many — and a painful one.

I relapsed in my alcoholism.  I wrote about that in my last book, The Last Addiction.  I hurt and scared a lot of people — including me.  My son got depressed and tried marijuana.  He told me it gave him a little peace.  I wrote about that in Mom, Everyone Else Does!  My daughter became a cheerleader, got straight A’s, and was voted most likely to uphold the Christian values of her Christian middle school.  I wrote a lot of stories about her in the Hand-in-Hand parenting books.  Eight years later she told me that she thought she was an alcoholic.  My best friend of over ten years told me that she was choosing another path that put distance in our relationship.  My church split and dear friends chose sides away from each other.

I think what writing has helped me figure out is that there is no happily-ever-after guarantee in relationships.  Just to put your heart at rest a bit — my ex-husband and I learned how to partner well in some parenting dilemmas, my son is in his senior year of college — hoping to go on to Law School, and my daughter will celebrate 2 years of sobriety this month.  But the truth remains that we all have relationships that falter.  We all have conflicts that we don’t know how to resolve.  We all have children who go a different direction at times than we originally dreamed of for them.  We all have friends who promise to be there for us and then forget to invite us to their birthday parties.  We all get lonely. 

And we are all tempted to give up. 

Beginning again requires the humility to acknowledge that we don’t have a clue as to what we really want, but God (the Beginning and Ending of every story) remains steadfast in His commitment to use our longing for relationships to bring us to what we most deeply want — Him. 

Beginning again surrenders to the story — a story that often takes two steps forward and three steps back — knowing that in this begin again, believe again story we find Jesus.  We encounter the One whose names are Grace, Mercy, Compassion, Truth, Hope, and Love.  We rest in the One who is the Plot — the meaning of our stories — beginning, middle, and end. 

Beginning again requires believing relentlessly that if we had all the wisdom and power of God and could truly see the scope of our entire lives, we would choose exactly the path that we’ve been on — because the end of that path is Jesus.

St. Frances de Sales wrote, “There is no better way to attain the spiritual life than by beginning again.”  Beginning again can seem overwhelming when our dreams have been shattered, our plans thwarted, and our hearts broken.  I am discovering that beginning again often starts with something simple . . . .

*  I call a friend that I haven’t talked to for weeks, confronting my own shame at allowing the friendship to lapse, and discover that she’s been feeling the same way!

* I make a budget and plan again to give again and save again.

*I say, “Yes, Rachel,” I will come to your boot camp and start moving again.

*I write a thank you note for Christmas gifts from last year.

*I tell my parents, my children, and my friends the things I love about them.

*I listen with expectant hope to love songs on the radio.

*I buy vegetables at Whole Foods and plan to cook.

*I re-start the journal I re-started last Fall with a commitment to record evidence of God’s care for me every day.

*I begin . . . again.

One of my favorite artists is Brian Andreas.  I have a piece of his art in my family room.  On it he has written, “Anyone can slay dragons, but waking up every morning and loving the world all over again . . . That’s what takes a real hero.”

I’d love to hear about your re-starts!

“And we, who with unveiled faces (showing every bruise, mark, wrinkle, and scar) all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness, with ever increasing glory . . . ” (2 Corinthians 3:18).