Oh Write Thirty

Is it just me, or is time kind of stampeding on? From the moment I turned forty, I feel like I’m constantly sprinting after time and yelling, “Slow DOWN, for the love!”

As soon as I saw that clock tick over to 12:01 a.m., January first, I was struck by one thought: I haven’t been diligent about focusing on my dream this past year.

Opportunity is knocking.

I am not fully prepared.

One doesn’t simply crack open the door for Opportunity.

Amiright?

It’s in the still quiet moments when I hear The Dream Giver whispering into my ear and heart. He seems to have to whisper the same word time and again: “Focus, child.”

I’m hanging onto that word and letting it drive me for 2015.

Over and over again, no matter how well-intentioned I am, I find myself running down rabbit trails. Some, are necessary. The project that my Autism Spectrum Disordered child has looming over his head becomes too big for him and begs further breaking down before we all break down. Those kind of unforeseen circumstances are the unavoidable trails.

But, then, there are the ones I step down willingly. The research for a pending trip become fodder for vacation dreaming. And poof! A week’s worth of days are spent using my writing time for Internet Surfing time.

That’s not even the kind of ten I like to hang!

I would never have described myself as one who needs help with direction, in the past. My life as a Second Grade Teacher, before children, dictated a routine. It demanded organization. It fostered creativity within the bounds of structure.

This past decade-and-a-half, though, God has shifted my life. It has been more about living moment-by-moment, based on the ever-changing needs of the ones I care for.

Looking back on the year of preparation that I had in 2014, I realize that the rabbit holes were awfully dark. It’s hard to write or create in the dark.

And, I’m not a rabbit.

Zeroing in on a word that will drive me, in this new year, isn’t something I intended to do. After all, I was all about being intentional in 2013. And I wasn’t all that…intentional. Then, in 2014, I thought much about pursue. But, rabbit holes!

So, here I sit, staring at the number2-0-1-5 and thinking, “Isn’t it time I get serious and focus?”

I can almost hear God doing the exasperated parent sigh. Almost. Although, I’m sure He would never. even.

One of the most beautiful things to come out of taking on the Write 31 Days Challenge last October was seeing how I thrive on routine. I knew that about myself, at one point in time. But, I’d forgotten. Being forced to write some every single day burst open the creative gates. It also kept me honest. Saying I was going to write every day, and then having to show up on Day Whatever without a thing in hand, was a mammoth motivator to stick to it.

Back to the whole idea of focus, I know what I have to do. I work well with a schedule. If it’s looming, I’m moving. That’s where I can start. I’ll choose an Oh Write Thirty time during each day and set my trusty time and just do it! Oh those smart Nike people!

And then, hopefully, the next time I hear Opportunity knocking, I can fling wide that door and welcome It in!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to close out of approximately four vacation destination tabs.

Yes indeedy.

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When to Act on What You Hear

Elvis had it right.

Or, he was definitely on the right track, when he admonished us to provide a “little less conversation, a little more action.”

Now, I know Elvis had his own ideas about what that meant, but I’ve always been a fan of the old adage that “actions speak louder than words.”

Growing up, I had a father that modeled getting out there and making his dreams a reality.  That’s part of my DNA, much like the ocean is.

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that I’ve always been inspired by this verse in the Bible:

Do what God’s teaching says; when you only listen and do nothing, you are fooling yourselves. ”   James 1:22 (NCV)

Another version of this verse urges the reader to “Act on what your hear!” (The Message)

I love that!

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One word that friends often use to describe me, is “doer”. And, usually, it is an accurate depiction. Somehow, someway, I will get in there and just get. it. done.

Not lately.

Recently, I’ve noticed a trend in my talking.

There’s too much of it!

I feel like I’m fast becoming a “hearer” only, and I don’t like it one bit! The label, alone, smacks of inaction. A quality that everything in me dislikes.

Busyness could be blamed.  So, too, could the season of life that I find myself in.

Whatever the reason for my recent lack of action, it grates at my heart.

That heart-irritation has led me down a dark path. I’ve traveled down this path once or twenty times, before. Questions about my abilities pepper my every thought like new leaves in June. “Can you really?”  “Will you ever?”  “What makes you think…”

I detest those questions.

And the Asker.

So, I’ve been spending some extra time in the presence of The One who knows the Truth of me.

The Answerer.

And He’s been telling me something that I’ve never been able to  hear before.

“Let MY actions speak through your words.”

And God’s actions will speak louder than any words I could think about uttering.

With that, He speaks Light into the darkness of my path.  He guides me in Truth and hurries me past those questions.

I can’t tell you how thankful I am.

I’m reminded, once again, that anything “I’ve” ever done is because He has provided what I needed to get it done! Anything that God has allowed me the honor of doing, for His glory, has come about because I’ve been able to hear Him.

Stepping lightly down the last of that dark path, I’ve finally burst into The Light.

It’s there that I’m able to see that my inaction wasn’t due to the foolishness of hearing only.

No.

I’ve been listening pretty intently, of late.

My inaction is more because God hasn’t finished talking to me about where He wants me to step next.

One small Word at a time, I will act on what I hear.

And, I’ll become a hearer and a doer.

Yes indeedy.

When It Isn’t About Failing

I’m listening intently as writer friends spill their hearts about why they haven’t yet pursued their dreams of writing more fully.  And, as I listen, I’m trying to piece together my own reasons.

Slowly, and clearly, mine are emerging.

They aren’t pretty.

Each one feels as though it reveals a deep character flaw.

And, although I’ve never been one to shy away from writing about the hard things, I’ve also never reveled in shining a spotlight on my deepest cracks, either.

As I ask myself what plays a part in the hindrance of my dream of writing, I’m realizing that failing isn’t what worries me. A writer has to accept a certain level of failure with every push of the publishing button.

If, as Flannery O’Connor said, “I write to discover what I know”, then that is surely one of my strongest inhibitors.

My dream of writing is often stifled by my understanding that I don’t know much. I’m not writing, necessarily, for an audience that will “get it”. Although, it is such a beautiful feeling of community and camaraderie when that happens. I’m writing so that, eventually, hopefully, I’ll get it!

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Putting words to feelings and ideas is a deeply personal thing, yes. Writing, and then discovering that I haven’t really got the foggiest idea of this concept I’m trying desperately to type my fingers around, stings.

Pride.

How often my pride has indeed gone before my fall!

Thank you, God, for your grace!

And, while I’m being brutally honest, I’m also learning that a well written piece of writing takes painstaking effort.

And time.

Even if the germ of an idea seems to sprout and easily grow a life of its own, I am still left with the daunting task of fleshing it out. And worse, editing it! And this sometimes takes an immense amount of effort. I’ve often wondered if those moments when the seed of an idea takes root in my mind, but I don’t pursue it on paper are simply laziness on my part.

I am so very thankful for the grace to try again.

I do believe that Ernest Hemingway had it exactly right when he wrote that “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

Indeed. It’s true. Not a one of us will ever arrive at that perfectly crafted body of work. When I leave this earth, it will be for a place that is ruled by The Master Creator, of All Words, Ever.

That means that I don’t have to cling to the hope of getting it right every time I make the time and effort to put pen to paper or type word to screen.  And, there is such freedom in the knowing of that!

For me, it’s not about failing.

It’s about The Grace in the trying.

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This post was written in response to a prompt from my Writers
(In)couraging Writers community group. Visit here to learn more.

Bravery Can Mean Going Belly Up

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Dream chasing and encouraging and fulfillment has taken up plenty of space on this here blog, of mine.

And last month?  Last month, I pursued one dream that I’ve harbored for a mighty long time.  With encouragement poured in from friends and Holy whispers of “you are already enough” ringing in my ears, I entered a writing contest.

If what I write next isn’t The Most Anti-climactic Statement in the history of ever, I might not know what anti-climactic really means.

I didn’t win.

But, but, BUT… I submitted.

And y’all, that was huge. It was a step toward something I’ve been saying I wanted to do out loud for a sweet forever.

And since I didn’t win, I get to share my entry here. With all of you.

You, who keep me on my toes and support the stuffing out of me. (I wish. The stuffing remains.)

My submission may have gone belly up, but my bravery in continuing to pursue The Dream? Alive and kickin’!!!

So, without further ado… my entry into the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition. (And if you want to check out who did win? The winners are here.)

What the Toilet Paper Taught Me

I grew up with a father who lived by the credo that we have ten boxes of Kleenex in the house at all times. I thought this was normal.

Until, that is, I flew the coop and lived on my own for the first time.  My meager wages earned as a substitute teacher, while working as many jobs as possible until I landed my own full-time teaching job, barely covered one box of tissues – let alone ten! The idea of stockpiling Kleenex was laughable.

Years went by and I got the job, met a man, and started buying tissues ten boxes at a time. It only took two years of marriage and a visit from my in-laws for me to learn that this was normal to other people, too. Just, not always with tissues.

My husband’s parents live only a few hours away from us. One particular weekend, very soon after buying our first home, they made plans to visit and see what we’d done with the place.

A cleaning frenzy ensued. My inner Martha Stewart was ablaze in the kitchen, when my husband emerged from the bathroom, distraught.

“Please, TELL ME there is more toilet paper than this one roll,” he begged.

I mistakenly thought that reminding him that his parents would only be visiting for a few short hours would calm his agitated state.

Wrong!

“We DO have more than just this roll, though, right?” he pleaded again.

My choice of marital mate now fully in question, I reminded him, a little less gently this time, that his parents would only be visiting for four hours! And, while I don’t know how others’ bathroom experiences usually work, one double roll of toilet paper would probably suffice for four people in that short amount of time.

I shared this with him, jokingly.

This was a grave error on my part.

He slipped on his shoes, grabbed his keys and headed for the door. “I’m going to run out and buy us a six-pack. Just in case,” he announced. He looked pale.

At that moment, I understood.  I knew what this was. This was the Kleenex manifesto, only with toilet paper.

I explained that there was no need, as I had bought a twelve pack, double-rolls no less, the day before.

Those words worked better than any aphrodisiac. He strode over, looked deeply into my eyes, and proclaimed that I really was the one for him.

Two very important lessons were learned that day. One, I had clearly married a version of my father.  And two, my husband’s affections could be bought.

With toilet paper.

Lessons from Chasing a Dream

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Are you a Chaser yet?  I’ve seen a few you out there, reaching high for your kite tails, being fearless.  Or, a little less boldly, but in all faith, walking onto that next step, trusting that it’s there.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, hop over here and check out Rae’s Kite Project. I joined up with this amazing group of women to become a Chaser almost 2 months ago. And, although I’ve been chasing this kite tail of my Dream for the last 5 weeks in front of you, in the form of this series, lots of ground was covered beforehand.  Trust me when I tell you, there will be plenty more chasing to come.  (Would it be too much to ask that I get into slightly better shape from all the Chasing???)  In fact, below you will find a picture of how I will be spending the next phase of this Chasing of my dream.

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I wanted to close out this series by sharing a couple of realizations that I’ve had along the way.

1) You are NEVER to old to chase your dreams! You see, when I began, I wondered if my age was a hindrance. Humor me here, would you?  I know 40 something-or-other isn’t old.  In fact, I feel more like a bouncy 28-year-old,  minus the bouncy, most days of the week.  True story! But, I’ve taken note that many of the writers and dream chasers that I most admire are quite a bit younger than I am. And that began to bother me. And made me question whether I was 4 kinds of crazy to attempt this venture in the first place.  I know now that that right there is hogwash!  Who says you can’t be 40ish when you finally start chasing your dream?  Or 50ish, 70ish, or 90ish, for that matter? Lordy – do I really need to revisit how old Sarah and Abraham were when they finally realized their dream, in Isaac’s birth?  Do I?

2) Sometimes it takes a 2 x 4 to get you moving in the right direction! I wish I were kidding.  You know how your mom (or your aunt or your grampa) told you, when you were 9, that you had the most creative mind and they just knew that you were going to be a brilliant _____________ (fill in the blank there, folks) someday?  And then, in high school, you had The Moment.  You know the one.  You study something in some class and everything in you wakes up and you know! You know that this interests you.  And you find yourself having a conversation with a high school teacher who sees something in you.  But you’re just not sure. You’re young, you think to yourself.  What if there’s something else you are supposed to do?  And then, you have another conversation in college or graduate school or in your first job.  You have a mentor who sees something amazing in you.  “It’s a gift”, they say.  And you think, maybe, just maybe, all of these people have known what you could not acknowledge. You blink, and you are on the brink of your 40th birthday and many Someone’s who love you finally corner you and say something to the effect of, “When, for the love of all the gifting God has given you, are you going to DO SOMETHING with this?” And you find yourself rubbing the back of your head and thinking, “Surely that 2 x 4 wouldn’t have been quite so painful 20 years ago???”

3) Never underestimate the power of a community of like-minded Dream Chasers! It never ceases to amaze me how powerfully affecting an encouraging word can be. Especially if that word comes from someone who gets your heart.  Or from ones who are running alongside you in that same field of dreams, chasing their own kite tails with all of their might.  You suddenly find yourself next to one who is stopping to catch her breath; and she lifts you up with one gracious yet unexpected push, for while she is down, maybe she can help you up.  Oh, how I thank each one of those friends.  They are everywhere.  Virtual or in real life, it doesn’t matter.  If I can encourage you, may I have that honor?  For there are far too many who’ve taken the time to do so for me.

And so, here we are, at the end of this series. But as for me, I’m still at the beginning of this Chasing.  And I couldn’t be more thrilled.  (If nothing else, that gives me more time to get into shape from all the Chasing, right?!)

Proverbs 16:9 tells us that “we can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”  And I’m resting sure in that as I go forward.  Oh yes indeedy!

Thank you for joining me on this journey.  If you missed any of the other parts in this series, I’ve linked them in the list below.  Some of you reading are some of the very encouragers that I mentioned in #3 above.  Thank you.  A hundred thank-you’s would not be enough.

Chasing a Dream – Part 2

 

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Chasing a dream requires bravery. For some folks, that bravery comes in the form of Ice Cream Therapy. Ahem. Bravery truly comes, though, from The Source of all courage. We are reminded in 2 Timothy 1:7 that “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
 
I believe that. Do you? We aren’t meant to be cowering in a corner over the possibility of failure. Nor are we meant to be shy with the gifts that others (and probably even ourselves) have identified in us. Maybe your dream (the one that always uses the gifts that are unique to you!) just needs to be whispered to with the love of Grace. The Grace that doesn’t care about the failing or succeeding; but cares only for the trying and the trusting.
 
We are meant to boldly walk forward, one step at a time, be it ever so tiny, toward all that God has for us. Our abilities? Our strength? Any self-discipline we can muster? It’s all from a God who loves us so. And God knows you. And me. Oh yes He does! And He wisely knows how best to help us tweak our individual gifts and use them for His glory.
 
 
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I’d just bet that when we get lit from within with that ember of a dream that has ignited into a full-blown fire, God is up there smiling so widely. I imagine the angels are doing Holy fistpumps as we come suddenly discover what it is that we were meant to do. And when we get the courage to ask God for our next steps, He will give them.
 
And then? Stand back World! This is when it gets crazy exciting. When our God-given gifts collide with our God-given bravery, everything changes.
 
I want to be in that place of not worrying over the possibility of falling flat on my face in failure. I’m clinging to the hope of success. (Maybe with a little Ice Cream Therapy thrown in for good measure?)
 
 
Won’t you join me?

 

Chasing a Dream -Part One

 

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I’ve joined forces with a lovely, talented, and creative group of folks who, for the next 2 months, will be chasing kite tails.  What’s that now, you might ask? Think of a dream like a kite. Chasing that dream requires first grabbing a hold of that kite tail, right?  Right!

 

God’s been laying a fair amount of groundwork for me to do some major dream-chasing this past year. I’ve realized that before my bucket’s been kicked, I have some dreams that need pursuing. I’ve been working, and working hard, y’all, on identifying exactly which dreams are God-given and which ones are, ahem, hair-brained.  (What does that phrase even mean?) 

 

Over the course of this past year, I’ve prayed, brainstormed, networked, prayed, researched, and have I mentioned that I’ve prayed the tar right out of some of my dreams. Unfortunately, I’ve received quite a loud “NO!” on one or three. Actually, the door hit me on the way out, where one of them was concerned, but that’s fine by me.  I’ve never felt the burn of the refining fire more than I have in this past year. I look at it a little like a doctor’s diagnosis in that you have to weed out the things that it’s not in order to figure out what it is.

 
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I think Christopher Reeve said all that I’ve been feeling lately, about dreams, close to perfectly:

 

“So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.”

 

Do you have dreams that are just beginning to kindle? Is there a little ember in there that needs to be fanned and encouraged to ignite? I believe, with every fiber of my being, that God gives us dreams. Sometimes, he plants them deep within our hearts and no amount of work on our part can bring them about until He determines the time and place. Others, more obvious dreams, seem to stem from some natural talent or gifting that others see in us, encourage in us, or grow in us. Then, there are dreams that seem to allude us time and again. They beg to be caught hold of, but we just can’t figure out which steps are necessary to help reach them.

 

Where are you in that tangled up kite tail?

 

Let’s make this week the start of a dream-chasing journey together; I want to encourage you to chase after a dream. Maybe, that means acknowledging to just one other person that you actually have one. Or, maybe you know exactly what dream you harbor in your heart, you just need some encouragement to begin the chase. And possibly, like me, you are oh-so-aware of, and chasing hard after that dream, already.

 

“For Nothing is impossible with God”
Luke 1:37

 

Remember the old Nike motto “Just Do It!”? It’s time. Whether that means it’s time for you to dig in to God’s word and seek out what He might have in store for you, or that it’s time for you to start getting some wise counsel for how to pursue your dream, or even that it’s finally time to take that first step off the ledge – trusting that God is going to show you exactly where to step next. Whatever it is for you, do it.

 

Chasing a kite is always more fun with friends. If you’d like to learn more about The Kite Project, click here. Because, the more the merrier. Yes indeedy!