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Posted on Oct 21, 2013 in Wisdom | 1 comment

A Little Note

 

This morning I decided to do a writing exercise I’ve been thinking about for a few days.  I modified it from a suggestion I found in Julia Cameron’s book, “The Right to Write.”  To gain some perspective on my current situation, I was to write a letter to myself, using my imagination to write it from the perspective of my 88-year old self.  Fifty years from now, what would I want to say to myself at 38-year old?

I like the exercise because I’ve written letters to my younger self, telling her what I wish she would’ve known back then.  Usually the letter is reassuring and encouraging, with a little touch of reprimand.  Don’t worry so much about this or that.  Appreciate this or that more because you’ll miss it when it’s gone.  That kind of thing.

And so I embarked on a new kind of letter this morning.  I’m not going to share it with you here, but I let my imagination run unchecked.  What would it feel like to be in an 88-year old body?  What would my surroundings look like?  What smells would I encounter?  Sights?  Sounds?  Would I have regrets?  Would I have accomplishments I’d be proud of?  What can happen in fifty years?

My 88-year old imagined self was a great-grandmother, presiding over her brood on Thanksgiving Day.  She had achieved her goals.  She was encouraging, and had just an edge of challenge in her voice.  She had slowed down after a long and fruitful life.  She surprised me by immediately challenging my notion that I’m an older mom and might not have the energy to pull off a large family.  She told me I still have plenty of life, strength, and energy and I should tap into all of it.  I have plenty of time to feel old, but that’s not today.

She went on from there, looking back on her accomplishments and what it took to get there.  She reminded me that I have plenty of time to become all that I hope to be.  It was nice to think about things from that viewpoint, reminding myself that God has worked out amazing things in my life already and He isn’t about to stop now.

That’s one reason I love writing.  I never know what I think until I start to write.  Then what comes out tends to surprise me, even make me chuckle or shed a tear.  So I wrote a little note to myself this morning and it’s made my day.

Have you ever done something like that?  Would you consider doing it today?

 

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Posted on Aug 25, 2012 in Fertility, Marriage, Wisdom | 4 comments

Writer’s Block?

Writer’s Block?

The writing muse seems to have taken a little vacation from me in the last several months.  Adjusting to farm life took a back seat to adjusting to pregnancy, and it’s hard to imagine that I’d keep many readers if every post began with an update on the number of times I’ve vomited recently.  I’ve attempted to write on some deeper topics that seem good as I get started, only to shut the computer in frustration and give up when it becomes obvious that my ability to relate the topic to others has somehow been broken.  How do I get back on track with writing my blog?

One of the things I’d really like to do is go back to school for a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Non-Fiction.  The degree would polish my skills and open doors into professional (i.e. PAID) writing.  And as I’ve learned over the years, a little education can go a long way to taking something good about yourself and making it amazing.  Since taking on the new role of mother has most of my attention right now, it’s not a good time to start a degree program.  However, I decided that there’s no reason I shouldn’t pursue an education in the field at my own pace during this time – preparing myself for the day I pay someone to give me feedback on all I’m reading and writing.  So I’ve been slowly reading more and more books on writing.  The subject fascinates me and I want to absorb all I’m learning.  Right now my bookshelf is full of two important subjects:  babies and writing.

A theme I’m finding in my writing books is that whether we are fiction or non-fiction writers, we must learn to write from our own experiences.  Our experiences are the only things we can truly rely on (unless we’re science fiction/fantasy writers).  I always assumed that literary fiction writers had tremendous imaginations and made up everything they wrote, but what their imaginations really do is look at the world around them, circumstances and people and things, and ask, “what if…?”  Then they allow their imaginations to take hold from there.  The details of the books are often fictionalized versions of their own lives and experiences.  (I’m feeling every day like it’s more and more possible for me to actually write literary fiction, although I’ve always felt like it was not my gifting.)

Because we must write from our own experience, it’s no wonder that writers are often full of angst, depressed, frustrated, and confused.  We must write to sort out the mess in our heads, get it down on paper (or screen) and make sense of it all.  By examining our own thoughts and feelings, we are able to make sense of the world.  As we make sense of our world, we relate it to others in a way we hope they will understand and appreciate.  So does that mean that a writer without angst, depression, frustration, or confusion is not much of a writer at all?

That’s the question I’ve been asking myself recently.  Has my world become so smooth, so joyful, so peaceful that I no longer have anything to write about that the world may relate to?

Um.   The answer to that question is a resounding NO.  While aspects of my life that I used to write about no longer fill me with fear and angst, there are new problems that come with every new stage in our lives.  But since my current sorrows involve people I love dearly, it’s hard to know what is appropriate to share and what is not my place.  How do I write about finding out several of my dearest loved ones have cancer, especially when they have chosen to manage their illness privately?  How do I write about the miseries of pregnancy when I’ve wanted for so long to carry a child in my womb – and wanted to be full of grace and beauty in the process?  How do I write about daily frustrations with sorting out married life, adjusting to a new family, and all that goes with it?  Are they my stories to share or is it disrespectful to drag those I love most dearly into such a public forum?

Is it really writer’s block, or is what I’m writing too deeply personal to publish?  Because I HAVE been writing.  It’s that I’ve been unable to share.

Lastly, I’ve been questioning if I want this to turn into a “mommy blog” like so many I follow.  I thoroughly enjoy reading about the joys of motherhood and money-saving tips on raising a family.  I could post more of my favorite recipes and share the information I’ve found on handling extreme pregnancy sickness.  But is that what I want to write about regularly?  The answer is no.  While my experiences inform my writing, and I’m currently experiencing major adjustments as a new wife and expectant mother, my hope is to share nuggets of truth and lead others closer to Christ and a healthy, biblical world view.  That isn’t to say I think my world view is the healthiest, most biblically-centered world view.  But as I grow in my understanding of that concept, my hope is to find a way to communicate it to others.  I have to write from my experiences, so the backdrop of my postings will center around my daily life as a wife and mother, but I’m hoping for something more to come out as well.

The Lord has turned my mourning into dancing, blessed me with all that I wanted and more, and I am grateful.  I want to find a way to share that with the world. In that sharing, my goal is to be respectful and honoring to those who share their lives with me and to earn their trust, so if they ever do show up in one of my blog postings, they will feel blessed.

So for today, I will not write about cancer, the shocking difficulty of this (healthy) pregnancy, or the latest negotiation I’ve had with my husband over what we do or do not need for a baby.  My life is not perfect nor stress-free, and finding my voice in that reality is a struggle.  Please bear with me as I stretch to find new ways to communicate effectively and respectfully.

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Posted on Apr 30, 2012 in Wisdom | 2 comments

On Being Productive

On Being Productive

Earlier this week I had a very productive day.  Laundry was done, dishes were shiny clean and in their proper places, meals were planned and cooked, and I even mopped.  I felt amazing, thankful for a burst of energy and the ability to focus.  The next day I stayed on the couch most of the day.  Chuckling, I found myself thinking, “Well, I made up for yesterday’s productivity today!”  Just as I was about to post that on Facebook, a little voice whispered to me, “What HAVE you done today?”  Hmmm….

I’d been writing, reading, and working on my blog.  The little voice followed up with another question, “Isn’t that what I’ve called you to do?”

Oh.  Yeah.  I forgot about that. 

I have to remind myself that writing is my chosen profession and that job requires a lot of sitting, introspection, and what might appear to others as laziness.  I have to remind myself that right now there isn’t that much house work to do and when it’s done, I’m free to focus on writing.  I need exercise, I need experiences to write about, and of course the house work must be done.  But I’m a writer and taking time to write is NOT wasting time.

It’s my goal to become intentional about SPENDING my time writing and not giving in to the accusing voices that try to tell me my work isn’t legitimate or productive.  It is certainly important to do the work of taking care of my home and husband with excellence, but it is equally important to take the time to do the work I’ve been called to do.

I’m so thankful to God for giving me the time and energy to focus on writing.  There probably won’t always be so much time available to me.  I want to spend the time I have available focusing on this calling I feel so strongly.  I wonder how many of us allow guilt or fear to stop us from focusing on enriching our souls and walking fully into the thing we feel called to do?

Reply to this post and let me know:  What goal do YOU need to make a priority?

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Posted on Apr 10, 2012 in Wisdom | 6 comments

The Writing Life

The Writing Life

In my dreams I always pictured a quiet, peaceful place where I could focus on writing and not feel the pressure of an alarm clock and a boss who wanted me to do things I didn’t care about.  But it was really hard for me to trust that marrying Rick and moving to the country was the right thing to do.  I had my own ideas of what it would take to be a successful writer – specifically living in Nashville, the heart of Christian publishing.  It IS good here though and I think I appreciate it more than most because I’ve been through a lot of challenges.

Almost ten years ago, I went through an extremely difficult time.  I’d decided to go back to school, but it’s amazing that you can’t just decide to go to grad school and poof! Be there in a month!  I couldn’t share with my colleagues or supervisor that I’d be moving because it was too soon.  When I’d accepted the position, the supervisor who hired me had requested that if I ever left, I give her at least six weeks’ notice so she could find someone to replace me.  She had retired and I didn’t have a similar agreement with the new supervisor, but I felt it was important to keep my promise.

I had a good track record with the company and knew my position well.  When the new supervisor came in, she had received little training.  Because I was leaving, I tried to be as helpful as possible, attempting to teach her all I could before I left.  My attempt at helpfulness backfired though.  She felt threatened and did all she could to force me to quit.  I couldn’t quit before the last possible minute because I needed to keep making a salary.  I couldn’t get another job for such a short period of time.  So six weeks before I was to move, I turned in my letter of resignation.  My supervisor tried to let me go immediately, but her supervisor refused to let her do so.  So I braced myself to just grin and bear it.

Infuriated that she wasn’t able to tell me not to come back, she did all she could to make those last several weeks miserable.  For example, she gave me a large planning calendar from the previous year and had me use white out and black pen to do the tedious work of making it into a blank calendar for the upcoming year!  If I left my office for any reason, she met me to ask where I was going.  No one else in the department could speak to me.  If they tried, she asked them what they needed and how she could help them.  She grilled them privately, asking if they’d spoken to me on the phone after hours and what we’d discussed.  Then to top it all off, she told my coworkers I had said terrible things about them.  I couldn’t defend myself because they weren’t allowed to speak to me.  People I had worked with closely and considered dear friends had to either reject me or suffer the same fate.  I was heartsick.

The only way I kept my sanity and made it through was by singing praise songs to the Lord.  I sat at my desk every day and very, very quietly sang my praise to God.  I gritted my teeth, determined to be above reproach.  I spoke kindly to her and kept away from my colleagues so as not to incite her against them.  When I got home at night, I pulled out my journal and wrote.  I poured out all my feelings and prayed for God to help me.

After four weeks, I received my freedom.  I would be paid for those last two weeks and my personnel file would reflect that I left on good terms, but I didn’t have to go into the office.  Relieved, I gathered up my things, walked around the building and said goodbye to a few people I’d worked with for so long, and got the heck out of there.

During those last two weeks at home, which were really a blessing because I needed time to pack, I wrote and I wrote and I wrote.  I had to get all the stress and frustration I’d been under OUT in some sort of positive way.  I filled notebooks with reflections, lessons learned, angry outbursts of “no fair!”, and so much more.

As painful as that time in my life was, it’s the time I look back on as the beautiful revelation.  Singing praise to God and writing got me through that terrible time.  It allowed me to see that God had called me to write.  I’d always been a writer, but making that my vocation hadn’t occurred to me.  I decided during that terrible time that writing was what I wanted to do.  That was it.

Years of healing followed while I was in seminary.  God used that place to pour soothing balm into the cracks in my soul.  The work problems had come on the heels of a broken engagement and those two years in seminary gave me a chance to breathe and heal.  I wrote nearly every day – journaling, writing papers, and journaling some more. ( I also learned that my former supervisor was fired after repeatedly submitting other employees to the same abuse.)

I began reading books on the writing life.  How do I turn this passion into a career?  How do I become a better writer?  To my dismay, I kept reading that someone who wants to make a career of writing needs to focus solely on writing.  In order to get better, you have to practice more, read more, edit more.  All that stuff takes time and while you’re getting better, you aren’t getting paid.  As a single woman with a theological education, I wasn’t seeing much hope of ever making enough money to just quit working!

Our first date @The Ryman Auditorium

And then Rick came into my life.  Before we ever got serious, we talked about what I would do if we got married.  He listened while I shared my dreams of becoming a “real” writer.  He understood that marrying me meant his life would often be the subject of my writing.  To my complete amazement, he believed in me.  He supported me.  He encouraged me.  We agreed that if our relationship progressed to marriage, I could be a full-time housewife/writer.  He understood that it might take a long time for me to ever make money as a writer, if I ever did, and he encouraged me anyway.  If you ask him, there’s no question about it:  I will be a successful writer some day.

So I am joyfully living the writing life.  Keeping the house, cooking the meals, and doing the books, among other tasks, compose my day.  And in between those tasks, I write.  I read more books on writing.  I talk to him about writing.  Rick typically reads my blogs before I post them and lets me know what he thinks.  He tells me if there’s a subject he doesn’t want me to write publicly about.  He points out typos and confusing spots where I use the same word too many times.  And he encourages me.

So for now, my job description is freelance writer/editor.  I’ve been submitting articles for consideration to other blogs and magazines and making my new blog a priority.  I’ve also been helping out others who write, providing editing and helping them develop their ideas.

I stand in awe of God, who has led me to this place.  I tried to achieve the things I felt God called me to do in the way I thought was best and failed miserably.  The moment I stopped trying to figure it out myself and followed the path of peace, He gave me the desires of my heart.  He said, “Be still.  Stop struggling.  Wait for My redemption.”  I finally obeyed and can only give glory to God for what He has done.  I’ve even given up my ideas of what kind of writer I need to be for my writing to be successful.  Just having the privilege of living in the age of the internet and knowing I can post on this blog, brings me great joy.  Every one of you who read my blog make me a “real” writer.  Thank you for giving me that gift.

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