Monday, August 24, 2009

Tammi's Take on "Julie and Julia"

I must confess. I don't go to very many movies, but I'd been anxious to see Julie and Julia since the first time I saw a preview back in July. A film about a wannabe writer who blogs? They had me at the trailer! I finally got to go last weekend, and I'm so glad I did. Like a scrumptious meal, it was well worth the wait.

Though not a foodie, I am a self professed girly girl who loves a good chick flick, and for me this one had many of the irresistible ingredients that make me want to buy the DVD as soon as it's released: Shabby Chic decorating (reminiscent of Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail, also by Nora Ephron), a really sweet guy (as in personality and eye candy), and a plot that takes the writer along on two women's journeys toward personal and professional fulfillment. The bonus? Though there is some strong language and there are a few sensual scenes (rated PG 13), the former is mild by today's standards, and the latter is between married couples (no nudity) who actually adore and are committed to one another, flaws and all. How rare, refreshing and truly romantic is that?

The movie is based on the autobiographical novel by Julie Powell about her real-life as a government secretary by day/aspiring author by night. Julie feels her life, and especially her writing career, is dull and bland so she decides to literally spice it up by cooking through Julia Child's classic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julie's Julie/Julia Project involves her doing just that during the course of a year while whipping up a daily blog about her ambitious culinary endeavours. All 527 of them.

Cooking had always been a hobby for Julie, and was something she was relatively good at, but following 9/11, it had begun to serve as a de-stresser from her job dealing with the tragedy's aftermath. When she takes on her 365 day project, her pastime evolves into a passion. Much like her invisible mentor, American icon Julia Child, prior to discovering the joy of cooking, Julie's life lacked direction. The goal of cooking and writing about it provides both women with much needed purpose. And more than a pinch of that missing zest.

These heroines live out their cooking/writing destinies five decades and an ocean apart, and both do so in two of the world's most fascinating metropolises (Julie in 21st century New York City and Julia in Paris during the 1950s), yet they are drawn closely together by their parallel projects. Viewers are treated to insightful glimpses into each woman's trials and triumphs in their relationships with friends, coworkers, colleagues, family members and spouses. We see not only the differences and similarities between two women with similar names, we see the commonality of the female experience - trying to find our place in/leave our mark on this great big world. With a healthy and liberal dash of humor and a sprinkling of McCarthy era political intrigue stirred into the mix, Julie and Julia serves up a delectable winning recipe and makes it a movie de resistance!

One of the things I love most about the movie is how it demonstrates how having a project or goal to focus on can be powerful.

For both women discovering a gift and then fully exploring its potential, changes their lives. Cooking allowed them to channel their creativity. Writing allowed them to share what they learned from it with the world.

Near the end of the movie Julie tearfully says, "Julia saved me." I can relate. For two and a half years following a malicious divorce and custody battle initiated by my abusive ex-husband, I was without creative purpose. The time I could have spent writing was wasted being angry, bitter and depressed. Last year, I picked up my pen/ laptop again. ; - ). In many ways writing saved me. But I know it wasn't the gift of writing that saved me, it was the Giver of writing that did. He saved me from my sins when His Son died on the cross for me. He saved me from myself when He restored my desire to write. Writing allowed me to channel all of my self-destructive hurt and pain from my abusive marriage into something positive. It allowed me to redeem it. It also restored the joy of my salvation and my joie de vive!

What are your God given gifts? Are you using and sharing them to glorify Him? No matter where you are in life - content and fulfilled, bored and restless, or in a personal/professional malaise - if you tap into the creative resources He's placed within all of us (writing, cooking, sewing, singing, playing an instrument, painting, photography, scrap booking, party planning, decorating, gardening, and the list could go on and on), if you savor and cultivate them, then channel them into a project for His purposes (i.e. encouraging and teaching others, pointing to the Creator of all things beautiful, extending hospitality, creating memories for loved ones, meeting the needs of those less fortunate than you), like Julie and Julia, and like me, you may be amazed at the feast of blessings He prepares for you.

~Truly, Tammi

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Divine Connections

I must confess. I love Joel Osteen. I had never been a televangelist fan (except for occasionally watching Billy Graham with my great aunt, Bertie), but I started watching Joel last August when circumstances prevented me from being able to attend church services. One show and I was hooked.

Some may disagree with his 'prosperity gospel' preaching style, but as for me, the proof is in the pudding. I started speaking favor over my life that day, and favor is what I've been receiving ever since.

One area of favor Joel often speaks about is Divine Connections.

I've wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl. I was the weird one in class who bubbled with delight when the teacher would instruct us to "Get out a blank piece of paper", which usually meant either a pop quiz or an essay. As a good student I didn't mind the former, but the latter was the kind of stuff I lived for.
At any rate, I never minded speaking in public either, and I loved to sing. Somewhere along the way, God showed me that I'd have a ministry where all three of these passions would be tied together.

As a teacher and special music singer at church, I got to do all three on a small scale, speaking and singing at weddings and women's gatherings and working on my novel in the summer, but the dream of being published eluded me. I finally thought it was within my grasp six years ago when I quit teaching to be home with two surprise babies. I was doing a pretty good job of balancing my homemaking and writing jobs when my 'wasband' pulled the plug on it all.

I went from writing every day to not writing a word for almost two years. Then in August of last year, the same weekend that I watched Joel for the first time, I attended a writing conference and my writing life has never been the same.

As you may be learning from previous posts, I'm long winded, so I'll list the Divine Connections I've made since then:

1. Editor of a major publication took an interest in me at above conference and offered to hold me accountable to working on my novel by emailing her my progress. She also did some unsolicited editing free of charge.
2. My friend is a friend of Greg Akers and put me in touch with Ginger Akers (Extreme Makeover: Home Edition recipients), which led to my first published article.
2. Searched for a writing coach and found the only one in my state who was located two neighborhoods over. She was impressed with my writing and edited a manuscript for submission free of charge.
3. Searched for a writing group and found one that meets in the area where I work and with which above agent is connected. Leader of the group invited me to an Erin Campbell Ministries event.
4. Attended above event and was interested in singing for them. Without knowing who I was, Erin asked me to sing a line of a song for her, which led to me singing and speaking at her events.
5. Received first article acceptance, wrote one article for Inspired Women Magazine, then days later, publisher gave me my own column!
6. Met a woman at above writing group whose husband is on the board for Citizens Against Domestic Violence. She put me in contact with group, which led to me writing for their newsletter.
7. Sang at my first Erin Campbell Ministries event and was asked to speak/sing at two others. And the son of someone connected with the event is going to make a music demo of me singing - for free!
8. Last but maybe most special of all is that He has blessed me with new friendships and restored others I thought were lost forever. In trying to hone my writing skills and networking to meet other writers (through writing groups, conferences and Facebook) I'm connected with sisters in Christ again.

That didn't really shorten my post, but my point in sharing all that is not to take any credit for myself but to point it all to Him, to whom it is due.

When my marriage ended so abruptly, I couldn't understand why. Now I get it. Someone recently told me that God wasn't going to prosper my writing while I was in it. Like the Egyptian children, I was in bondage yet I was fearful of leaving the familiar.
And all along God wanted to deliver me into a land flowing with milk and honey!

Also, the circumstances surrounding my divorce and the custody battle give me plenty of writing material. My mess has become my message.

No matter how bleak and desolate your situation, there is HOPE in HIM because He has a plan for your life. I'm proof of it. Actually, I guess you could say I'm the pudding.

Joel's critics and naysayers can believe what they like. Joel and I know different. The God we serve has blessed me Divine Connections to enable His message to be heard.

All glory and praise be unto Him!

~Truly, Tammi

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Measure of a Moment

I became a mom at the ripe old age of twenty-one. I knew I was a young mother, but I didn't know how much I didn't know. I became a mom the second and third times in my mid-thirties. Yes, became a mom. Thirteen years between babies is a lot of time to learn some lessons about motherhood. And by the way, hindsight really is 20/20.

Juggling a child, college and a career was daunting, so I postponed the latter. It wasn't a gut -wrenching decision. By twenty-three I'd earned an Interior Design degree and landed a job in a prestigious showroom, but I didn't have the intestinal fortitude to confront my boss about stealing my clients. Besides, I secretly loved the idea of staying home with my daughter. I say secretly because there was opposition to this "outdated" concept, even in my Christian circle.

Three glorious years raced by while I earned my teaching degree, then we celebrated a mother-daughter first day of school- hers in Kindergarten and mine as a teacher down the hall at small Christian school. I was living my working mother dream: riding to and from school with her and sharing everything in between together, while doing what I considered full-time ministry. How many women ever have that kind of opportunity? Looking back I see that I was part of a small blessed minority, but I didn't really appreciate it.

I thought I understood how precious that time was, but now that it's over, I realize every moment was immensely valuable. Childhood is a time to give them roots and wings. The roots keep them tethered to your heart after they've flown away.

In eighth grade my daughter rode the bus for the first time because I was home with her newborn sister. Surprise! Nineteen months later their brother was born. Double Surprise!

The plan was that I'd stay home until the youngest started school and then resume teaching. My 'wasband' changed the plan by filing for divorce and custody when my son was eleven months. Triple Surprise!

After my whirlwind return to the workforce, I won custody and worked my way up into my dream job as a childcare center administrator. The blessing? For the last two years my kids and I have gotten to share every day together.

But this precious time is drawing to a close. As a new school year approaches, my heart aches because that first surprise baby is starting kindergarten.

I write this on a Friday when I'm usually at work. I requested extended parenting time for ten consecutive days without the children having visitation with their father so that I can be at home with them. Like I'd always planned to be. Next week is the last that my babies will be in my center with me, with each other. But I'm not complaining. I cheated the divorce. It didn't completely rob us. We had two years together and we've got ten more days.

I must confess, becoming a wise mom has taught me to appreciate and treasure the fleeting measure of every moment.

~Truly, Tammi