One Word 2013: Devotion


I once read that it takes one thousand hours of practice or study to become an expert at anything (such as a musical instrument, for example). That’s a lot of hours. Years, actually. But the point of the writer was that becoming an expert in something (almost anything) is what it takes to be able to not just consume in this world but to be able to contribute as well. I’m interested in that.

My 2013 One Word is Devotion. I’m finally embarking full-time into my graduate career in English. I want to be devoted to my studies.

One of the sports radio guys I listen to on the way to work each morning was talking recently about how successful people never live lives of balance. The top coaches and athletes aren’t balanced. They focus their time and attention on what matters to them – usually winning games or championships.

Graduate school isn’t my championship. I’m excited about it, but it isn’t my life’s deepest desire.

My championship is a life well-lived. I want my husband to feel loved and my kids to be likeable. (That’s one of my famous parenting lines: “I know you don’t like to be disciplined, but I’m trying to help you. I want people to like you. I want you to have friends.”)

Still, I believe devotion means I put in the hours where I want to be an expert: as a parent, a wife, and a student. It goes without saying that every hour of every day I’m practicing to be an expert Jesus follower. Everything else I do fits into that pursuit.

But you can’t be an expert in everything, so I won’t be working on devotion in all areas. I’m not going to shoot for balance in this season because I do want to be an expert in some things. But I can’t be an expert in everything. There are only 24 hours in a day and I sleep during some of them.

The nature of the area in which you are trying to become an expert has a say on the degree of your devotion, too. In my case, the English fellowship is renewable for two years as long as I maintain acceptable progress. That means I need to squeeze all those hours into a short length of time. Parenting is a little different. I have the rest of my life to become that expert. I can spread it out a bit more over the years. (Assuming, of course, acceptable progress.) When Claire was a premature infant with health complications, it required a different kind of devotion from me to become an expert in her care. I didn’t even think about pursuing my degree back then.

These are things I probably won’t be devoted to in this season: cleaning my house, eating vegetarian, running a marathon, or creating enough clever crafts to fill an Etsy store. Worthy pursuits? Absolutely. And maybe I’ll be able to put in a few hours toward some of them, but I won’t be able to become an expert. Not right now.

Maybe in another season.

But this season is about devotion to my studies and to the five people I live with. Naming my devotion helps me prioritize. When someone is devoted to something you don’t have to ask her what it is – you know by watching what she does, where she gives her time, and what makes her smile.

Here’s to a year of Devotion.

One Word: Final UPDATE

It’s update time in the One Word community and, well, mine is kind of crazy.

My One Word for 2012 was Dare. You can review it here, but the main idea for me was to take action on some of my dreams. A direct quote from the post:

I don’t want to keep talking about writing; I want to write something.

I don’t want to keep talking about going to graduate school; I want to apply.

I don’t want to only read over contest guidelines; I want to submit. 

Other words I considered were go or work or do. Dare seemed perfect because to the action it also added the element of bravery.

I wrote it on January 6, 2012. At that point I had already applied to graduate school at Creighton. I didn’t say much about it because I was so afraid I wouldn’t be accepted. I was also afraid I would be accepted. It was one of those things.

In May I found out I had been accepted into the graduate program in English. But I hadn’t received any scholarships or other incentives. It was a long process before Dan and I finally decided to take the leap, follow our long-held dream, and move the family to Omaha, Nebraska (his hometown and the place we had imagined raising our kids together). I would take the opportunity at Creighton by enrolling in one class for the fall semester. We couldn’t possibly afford anymore but we also didn’t think we could afford to miss out on the opportunity altogether.

I wrote this post after my first day of class. I’ve loved every minute since and it’s been an incredible learning opportunity. I was carefully considering which class to sign up for in the upcoming spring semester when I got word that a fellowship might be available and would I even be interested?

Several weeks later I got the final confirmation that I had in fact been awarded a full fellowship to complete my degree. The fellowship includes tuition remission for full-time coursework, a chance to research with the faculty, and a small stipend.

So I think the Dare thing probably worked in this case. Now, don’t forget that I’ve given you the short version here. No pics of me falling asleep in my chair writing papers (oh, wait, I have to tell you something about that too – hold on), no mention of the nights I’ve come home just an hour or so before the kids went to bed, no peek into our bank account that shows signs of big-life-change-itis. But you live life, too. You know all that stuff is part of the package.

I’m both excited and scared to listen for my 2013 word. I’m thinking of going with Easy or Smooth or Cake-like. I’ll keep you posted! Try one yourself this year?

I dare you.

(Right, the other thing. I also found out that the paper I worked so hard on all semester was selected by the College English Association for presentation at their conference this spring in Savannah, Georgia! I know, the good news in this post has officially reaching annoying proportions.)

This Face

This face. My life is made if I can see an expression like this at least now and then. On my children. On my students. On myself.


Dan took this shot of us while we rode Ollie the Trolley on Sunday afternoon during the Wells Fargo Family Festival, a free event that included admission to downtown museums and other special sites. He actually took a ton of shots, he told me, because he was waiting until he could capture this expression.

Isn’t it perfect the way she’s pointing and looking at me as if you say, … well, I don’t know what she’s saying. It was a trolley ride so full of her squeals and exclamations of delight that I’m not even sure what this one referenced exactly. The tall buildings of the downtown? The Christmas lights wrapping the trees? The police horses? Who knows.

Ada had a similar expression while we walked through Joslyn Art Museum for the first time. Awe. Wonder. Amazement. She was surrounded by beauty and she knew it. She didn’t walk by and not notice. She soaked it in. Drank every sip of the excellence and knew it was a fine label, not an ordinary brand.

What a wonderful world that inspires a face like this. It’s an expression that is maybe best summarized by one of my favorite musical characters (Tootie from Meet Me in St. Louis), “It’s the best city in the world! Wasn’t I lucky to be born in my favorite city?!”

Wasn’t I lucky to see this face on Sunday afternoon in Omaha, Nebraska?

Date Night

Way back when we were college students, Dan would occasionally show up outside my classroom door with a hot Milky Way coffee and walk me through the cold to my next class. It was quite charming. And nearly always perfect.

Last night when I stepped out of my grad school night class in Creighton Hall, there he was again. This time he had flowers but his yep-this-just-happened smile was the same.

The kids had plans already with their amazing uncle and aunts so the night was ours to enjoy. (I’m only slightly nervous that allowing the newlyweds extended periods of time with all the nieces and nephews will reduce my chances of getting cute nieces and nephews from them! But it doesn’t stop me from accepting their gifts of childcare, especially for a few precious hours on a Thursday night.)

So after a chain restaurant meal in the Old Market (when funds are limited I’m too Scrooge-y to take a chance on bad food at a hole-in-the-wall local place even though I really want the experience – it’s sad), we decided to just start driving and see what we could find.

We’ve lived here in Omaha now
for almost five months and while there are many things I still wanted to
do, one thing was primary: find Joslyn Castle.

That’s right. We have a castle. But I’d never seen it in person.

So we drove and turned and drove some more until suddenly there we were, in the middle of Midtown, driving up the narrow pathway toward Joslyn Castle. At this point, of course, my fears of breaking some kind of rule kind of got the best of me and I think I might have yelled a little about how they probably don’t let cars get this close or something, but Dan did as usual and proceeded anyway. (Sometimes I really know I married my father.)

It’s the sweetest little gem of a place, really. The castle (mansion might be a more appropriate label, but considering the rest of the houses in the neighborhood in relative terms castle seems about right) sits on a hill smack in the middle of an ordinary midtown neighborhood. Front porches and small garages and swing sets all around. Then suddenly you notice a stone fence that matches the stone in the castle so you know something important is on the other side. You make one turn into a small driveway – that doesn’t look that different from the last driveway you passed – and you’re suddenly driving up to the front doors of a castle! I don’t know for sure, but it seems like growing up in one of those neighborhood houses with a view of castle grounds just over the fence, as near to you as a Walgreens or a Taco Bell, might be enough to make someone believe in magic or at least in the possibility of many good things.

As it happened, I think there was a special event at the Castle because once we made it around the front we saw that a parking lot was full and another nearly half. We parked with a view of the front and Dan pulled out chocolate truffles he had hidden in the back seat.

And it was perfect. Right there in the middle of an ordinary Thursday night.

Welcome to My New Place!


Not literally. Well, sort of. This is an image of my own fireplace in our rental house in Omaha, but my intent here is to welcome you to my new blog design! Even though Dan says I ask about a new blog design all the time, it’s not really true. However, based on a few reasons, we thought it would be a good time to transition.

1. I’m not blogging for the same purpose. I started this blog with the idea of fleshing out a book idea, Rare Rocks. I think I’ve done that. I still love the Rare Rocks title and concept, but I’m tying it up with a bow for now and putting it in the archives. I will still refer to you as Rare Rocks, of course, because that is what we are and what we do, but I chose to give the new blog my name as a title so I can branch out into other topics as well. Which leads to . . .

2. I’m not blogging the same things. I don’t know why the publishers didn’t come knocking down my door, but I forgive them (and maybe it’s because I never sent that proposal?). Anyway, while I enjoyed blogging about spiritual formation, I’m going to just go against the best blogging advice grain and bust this blog open for all kinds of non-focused content. I want to write about my new city, my work, my kids, my reading, my dog, etc. And what, you ask, is the unifying thread of all my new subject ideas (which really aren’t that new)? Right. Me. Basically, I just want to stay in touch with you. Write what I think you’d like to hear about. That’s all. And I was really already doing that. Now I’m just giving myself permission.

3. I’m not blogging with the same frequency. You’ve probably noticed. But I want to be a little more diligent and thought opening up my format might help with that. When we were thinking about a change, it became clear that I just wanted somewhere to write now and then about my life – all of it – and switching things up seemed to accommodate that. I’ll still be boring you with Bible quotes and Victorian literature and cute photos of my kids . . . . wait, that stuff probably wasn’t boring you – that’s why you’re still here and really nothing’s going to change.

. . . . Great, then, carry on!

And welcome to my new place!