Thursday, February 14, 2013

On Doubt...

Written for a writing ecourse taught by Elora Ramirez (you should take it) ;)

Doubt /daʊt/  

v. to be uncertain about; consider questionable or unlikely; hesitate to believe. to distrust.
n. a feeling of uncertainty about the truth, reality, or nature of something.  distrust.

You can’t do it. What are you thinking? No one is going to read that. A writer? Really? It’s not good. It’s dumb. What you write isn't important enough. Hers is SO much better than yours. You know you’re not going to finish so why even bother starting? Just stop now before you embarrass yourself.

Did you think I was talking to you? Funny how the things we wouldn't dream of telling a friend, much less a stranger, are words we don’t even think twice about telling ourselves. On a daily basis. Constantly.

This is the third fourth attempt I've made at writing this. I still have no idea exactly what it is I'll say to you. What could I possibly have to say that would encourage? That would help you push through whatever doubts you're feeling about this process of writing. This process of leaving pieces of yourself on a page, and hoping like hell that you don't sound like a complete ass when you finally muster up the courage to finally do it. But when you finally do, you will be your own worst critic and the doubting voice inside my head will be the doubting voice inside your head. You will compare yourself to others who are writing similar things and doubt that what you have to say is as valuable, as worthy, as intelligent.

The sucky thing about doubt is even when not actively berating ourselves, the doubt is still there. A constant pulling at the back of your mind waiting to grab hold of the first positive thought, or idea, and yank it back into the mire of distrust and disbelief. It’s a living, breathing, writhing tangle of distraction and discouragement keeping you from doing, from being, from creating.

But, y'all, here's the thing. We all have doubts. Whether you've written 1000 words or 500,000 words you will continue to have doubts. Let me say that again. It doesn't matter how long you've been writing. It doesn't matter how many words you've written. It doesn't matter if you're writing fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a play. Every single writer doubts their story. And if they say they don't, then they're flat-out lying.

So what do you do? How do you push through to do the work?

Surround yourself with like-minded people. I don't mean people who agree with everything you say, or people who even necessarily have the same beliefs as you, but people who are walking the path you are. People who will encourage, empathize, and even tell you you're crazypants. I have a tight-knit group of indie author pals whom I dearly love that I'm in daily contact with in one form or another, and it is essential to my creative soul. You guys have that now with this class. Hang on to that, because no one will understand that side of you as well as another writer.

Go to a conference. Seriously. Here you will once again be surrounded by like-minded people, and be energized, and filled to over-flowing. This happened to me last year at the UtopYA conference in Nashville where author Myra McEntire shared her story and this...

You are uniquely you, and no one else can tell your story the way you can, so keep writing. You can do it!

What doubts are keeping you from telling the story you should tell? Write them down and share them with your group.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Of Fishes and Loaves...

35 When it was already quite late, His disciples came to Him and said, “This place is desolate and it is already quite late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But He answered them, “You give them something to eat!” And they said to Him, “Shall we go and spend two hundred denarii on bread and give them something to eat?” 38 And He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go look!” And when they found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 And He commanded them all to sit down by groups on the green grass. 40 They sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties.41 And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them; and He divided up the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and they picked up twelve full baskets of the broken pieces, and also of the fish. 44 There were five thousand men who ate the loaves. 
- Mark 6:35-44 

The past year I have held on to hope that God will bring this dream to realization. I have prayed, fasted, and pleaded for Him to show me how all of the puzzle pieces will come together when I only see a blurry shadow of the bigger picture. I am not savvy enough or wealthy enough to make a way to France, buy a multi-room house, turn it into a bed & breakfast, and make it a sustainable business.

What’s more is, I struggle with issues of approval. I tend to think rather lowly of myself. Whether it is from mommy/daddy issues, bullying in grade school, or being a college dropout, the root of it is sin. I struggle with sin, and I doubt that God can use me to lead well and impact others for the Kingdom.

Many times, I feel as though I am the least intelligent person in the house. I have mentally referred to the Chateau Sursi (our B&B) team as “the chef, the authors… and Brad” because so often I feel as though I bring nothing to the table. Funnily enough, and Self flagellation aside (see what I did there?), much of this is true.

You see in the scripture above, the disciples were a lot like me. After a long day in a desolate place, they wanted Jesus to send the people away to go and buy food because he had been preaching and healing all day. Jesus’ response was “YOU feed them.”

The disciples immediately began taking inventory of what they had. They determined that they did not have enough money to buy food for everyone. So Jesus asks what food they have and they came up with 2 small fish and 5 thin barley loaves.

Jesus then calls them to seat the multitude in eating groups of fifties and hundreds, and tells them to begin distributing food. Again, they only had 2 small fish and 5 thin barley loaves, not even enough to feed themselves… but they responded in obedience.

I don't have to imagine the doubts and thoughts that went through their heads as they grasped to understand and even try to make things work because they are the same doubts that reverberate with me today. Yet after all was said and done, everyone had their fill and there was food left over.

The disciples were not capable of feeding the masses. In fact, it is likely the people also had no idea of the miracle that happened that day. This miracle was for the sake of the faith of the disciples and their call to obedience.

I am able to take some comfort in knowing that I am not the smartest, most capable person in the house. I don’t have to be. Jesus has called me to move my family, nuclear and newly extended, to France where we will host people from all over the world to come and find rest while we love them as fiercely as God empowers us. We will distribute our fish and loaves, as Jesus supplies from His provision.

Lord I believe, but help me in my unbelief.
- Brad

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rinse and Repeat

Last year on this very date, I posted a 13 Reasons Why... for our anniversary. I like this idea a lot and so each year will continue to add to the list. So this year FOURTEEN reasons why i love and adore my hubs:

  • He never complains or nags about my less than stellar housekeeping (laundry is a curse from hades)
  • He is musically talented; I always said I'd marry a guy who could play an instrument. It was kind of a deal breaker if he didn't :)
  • He's not embarrassed by public displays of affection
  • He's my best friend in the whole entire world.
  • He loves our boys
  • He's ridiculously quick witted and makes me laugh
  • He doesn't pick at me (much) for my strange nonsensical quirks (like hating tomatoes but loving caprese salad)
  • He listens to me
  • He sings duets with me on road trips--even ones from GLEE
  • He knows me and Loves me; nothing better than that
  • He LOVES Jesus
  • He geeks out over Doctor Who with me
  • He makes sure that as an introvert I get time to myself to recharge.
  • He is an exhorter

"Today I will marry my best friend. The one I laugh with, live for, dream with, love." 

Blarney Castle, Ireland 2011~Long-awaited honeymoon

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The McLachlin family...

This is my best bud in the world, Earl, and his beautiful family. We have, literally, been through thick and thin since just after high school. We have certainly come a long way since late night drag racing, early morning Waffle House raids, and random youthful mayhem!






McLachlin11 by Brad Self Photography

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


After a nearly 24 hour travel day we finally made it home to Austin.  There is NOTHING like sleeping in your own bed after being away and I wish I had been able to enjoy it for longer than 5 hours.  It seems my internal clock thought 11:45am Ireland time was the right time to wake up meaning 5:45am here.  Doh!  I'm sure we'll have more to share over the next couple of days but here are a few pics taken by me (Brad wants to edit his before posting any).

Kinnity, Co. Offaly, Ireland

Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare, Ireland
N27, scenic route to Cliffs of Moher

Kilronan Castle, Ballyfarnon, CO. Roscommon, Ireland On the  road heading towards Waterford

I have never been more in awe of God as creator than I was during this trip.  There were times I was so overwhelmed by the beauty my breath would catch. I felt the bigness of who He is more in Ireland than anywhere else I've ever been and was so humbled by it that I wanted to weep.  The pictures don't come close to doing it justice but hopefully they give you an idea of how amazing the scenery is.

We also spent some time in "historic" Dublin, called Temple Bar and found this great pub called The Quays where there was live, traditional Irish music.  It was so much fun and the duo was really talented.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

On the Road to France... pt. 3

Roberto and his wife, Elena, are awesome. That sentence was actually written about 5 times, each more sappy than the previous one. So, I will just say they are awesome! Seriously.

Before officially meeting him, I had seen Roberto around church from time to time. You can't miss him. He really stands out in a crowd. Every time I see him, he always has a smile on his face and is talking passionately about some new recipe he is trying out. Even more, he always seems to have a group of 5-6 people around him, trying to talk with him about this and that. My son, Quinn, loves him to pieces!

I had never met Elena before we joined Leo's group. She is one of the sweetest, least pretentious people I know. She complements Roberto well. Their love for the Lord and each other is displayed for all to see, and I love them both dearly, though I have only known them for a few months. This friendship has never felt forced. We have all just fallen into a groove that seems to have been cut specifically for us. It just won't be the same if we're not all doing life together in France.

That being said, we went to Roberto's house with a map of France to pray over it, to dream about what could be, to see how each other is feeling led. So far, we all seem to be on the same page. Roberto is a natural at planning the "breakfast" side of the business. We talked about sustainable food, growing our own animals, fruits, and vegetables. The ladies committed to hospital corners and folding of fitted sheets. That's when I was told that I'll be in charge of the "bed" side of the business (Leo refers to me as Bed and Roberto as Breakfast. HA!)and let me tell you, I was suddenly in that dream where you're standing on stage in front of a full house and you suddenly realize that not only have you forgotten your lines, you never even saw the script in the first place!

In one evening of dreaming and scheming, suddenly, I'm looking for the brake pedal. Let me be clear, I... CAN'T... HOTEL!! I've stayed at the Holiday Inn a few times, but I couldn't tell you the first thing about booking guests, managing reservations, managing a hospitality staff, balancing books, managing laundry service (I can't even manage my OWN laundry!). So I do what one always does when they're looking for information they don't have. I Googled it.

I started looking for B&B management software. I found a software company that seemed to have good reviews. I read their testimonials and discovered that one of the properties is only about 5 minutes from my apartment. So, I called them and left a voicemail saying I'd like to talk with them about running a B&B. Yeah, they haven't called me back.

My dad called me on my birthday which, in itself, is amazing. I told him about our mission and he suggested I look at the local college. I thought, "What a great idea!" Sure enough, the local college offers both a certification and an associate's degree in Hospitality Management. There's only one problem... I have NEVER been a great student.

I'm not kidding, I slept through Algebra class in high school. Some of you may remember that. In fact, Coach Westmoreland sent me to Mr. Bell's office for snoring... in Study Hall. I woke up in History class one day and Coach Saxon was writing on my face with my own pen! To this day, I'm not sure that I passed my classes so much as my teachers just didn't want to deal with my snoring and desk drool for another year. So yeah, college is probably not my best option, but it did get me to thinking. What if I found a local B&B that will let me intern (volunteer) on weekends for 6 months to a year and learn the business. What if I apprenticed as an innkeeper? I have ALWAYS learned best in a hands-on environment. My friend, Earl, constantly tells me how freakishly quickly I can pick up on anything that I take a genuine interest in: music, computers, automechanics, vocational ministry, customer service, sales. God seems to have gifted me with some crazy aptitude skills.

Anywho, my wife and I were visiting with some other friends, the Coleman's. We have become THAT couple who cannot stop annoying you about the thing that has us all switched on. (I promise you, we WILL bore you with all the details of our mission in France when we see you next!) We laid out the vision, from beginning to end. I told them how I am looking for an inn to apprentice with and Mrs. Coleman stopped me to tell me that they had stayed at a bed and breakfast just outside of Fredericksburg recently. She told me how it is also a ministry for church pastors to come and be ministered to and that the owners are looking for folks to come and help them run the business! She is going to introduce us via email and see if we can make this happen.

So there you have it. You know almost as much as we do. We have looked at properties for sale. We have sent inquiries on a couple properties and have received responses from mortgage companies and realtors who are eager to meet us. The 4 of us will be embarking on a vision trip over Spring Break.

Our only ask at this time is that you be in prayer for us.

- Pray that we do not become so wrapped up in the business that we let the true heart of the mission, the ministry, become lost.

- Pray that God will continue to make our next steps as obvious as they have been. Seriously. I'm not bright enough to see subtle hints. I need neon signs and burning bushes.

- Pray that the 4 of us continue to be knit together in unity for this mission.

- Most of all, pray that we continue to seek God's will in all of this.

If you're reading this, it is because God is calling you to hold us accountable. Stop us and ask us how things are going, where our hearts are, what our next steps are. He may also be calling you to serve with us as a summer/winter intern. He may be showing you that when He calls YOU into the mission field, that He is providing a place for you to come and rest, to be loved, to be heard, and to be encouraged.

Make no mistake though, if you are His, you are being called to something greater than yourself and He will lead you every step of the way.

All praise and glory be to God!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On the Road to France... pt. 2

So there we were, wrestling with thoughts of organizing a house church, struggling with our own frailties and shortcomings, convinced that we may not be hearing God correctly. Certainly, we are survivors of messy ministries. Truthfully, ministry is very messy because it involves messy people who come with their own baggage, vices, and weaknesses. We are a broken, selfish creation in need of redemption.

In light of this uncomfortable revelation, I reverted back to the only response I knew. I tried to reinvent and recreate myself in order to lone ranger this ministry into existence. Why not open a bed and breakfast? I could go to culinary school, become a chef, run a successful inn that would fund a lay counseling ministry for missionaries who need to get away from it all!

I watched Food Network (food PORN!) every chance I got. I studied up on various cooking techniques. I attended cooking classes which were actually cleverly re-branded, live infomercials. (Thank you very little, Williams Sonoma!) I subscribed to various YouTube channels that taught multiple cooking techniques, but what intrigued me most were pastries. Yes, I thought, I will become a pastry chef. I will learn my trade well, apprentice in a bakery downtown, honing my craft to perfection, and carry this ministry on the back of sugar sculptures and chocolate truffles.

Then, I screwed up a pan of biscuits and discovered that I hate baking. Why hello, Square One! Oh, you knew I would be back? How... awkward.

To say the very least, I felt a bit jaded and definitely dejected.

Before long, France had become a backburner dream. I would only think about it every so often. I continued to pray about it and for various missionaries who were steadily heading into the mission field. Several friends and familiar faces that I saw in person at church on Sundays began popping up on bulletin boards instead. Their time had come to answer God's calling. I must admit, I felt a bit melancholy because I had been given a glimpse of a wonderful calling and the only answer I was hearing from my prayers was, "Not yet..."

Fast forward to August 2011. We joined a missional community with some friends from a previous group that had split. The very first night, our discussion topic was "What Has God Called You To?" So I threw down my elevator pitch for the respite care ministry in France.

One of the men in the group, Leo, got up to make a phone call while another, Roberto (a chef, no less), playfully asked how I felt about taking a house chef with us. Polite smile from me as a signal to move on to someone else. However, Leo wasn't ready to let me off the hook.

"Seriously, how would you feel about taking a whole team of people with you?"

The silence in the room roared in my ears. I honestly hadn't considered actually asking anyone to GO with us. Sure, some folks had told Heather and me that they wanted to be involved in the ministry SOMEHOW, but no one had actually been so bold as to challenge us to form a team BEFORE we went to France. I stammered out some pathetic "I don't know. I never thought about it," milquetoast response, but make no mistake. This dormant stone started to slowly roll and shed its moss of complacency.

I don't remember what anyone else said in group. I was reeling from the fact that God had just spoken to me through Leo. We are supposed to take a team with us. We don't have to do this alone! We don't have to have all the answers!

After group, Leo told me he had called his dad who is part of a sending organization (sending missionaries, that is) and suggested that when we're ready, we should talk to his dad. Puzzle pieces were beginning to fall into place.

A couple weeks later, I went to visit Roberto at his job. He took some time out to sit and talk with me. I couldn't help myself. I started relaying to him all the foolish plans I had considered about this ministry, how it would've been cool to make it self-sustaining by funding it from a bed and breakfast. I never saw the sucker punch that came next.

"Why can't you?"
"Why can't I what?"
"Why can't you fund it with a bed and breakfast?"

That began an interesting discussion of creating a self-sustaining restaurant with various farm animals and fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs that we could grow ourselves. It was fun to dream and easy to talk about. After all, it was all only hypothetical until the text message I received from Roberto 2 weeks later:

"So do you think France is ready for me? We want to talk more with y'all about your plans."

(to be continued...)