Hello! I’m still taking a break from the blog, but I wanted to pop in to tell you about an awesome book. Have you ever wanted to tell your story, but maybe you weren’t sure… More
“What are you doing?” the blinking cursor on the white screen questioned me. “What are you hoping to accomplish with this writing stuff?”
At lightning speed, I bit my lip and tapped out my defiant response in Times New Roman:
“I don’t know, but I’m not going to quit.”
The slim black line of the cursor waited patiently next to the last period. Time was of no importance to it. It could blink all day and all night, waiting. I stared at my foolish sentence, feeling my bravado weakening. Nothing was happening. No words would come forth. I’ve been learning this often happens to writers. I wonder if they call it “writer’s block” to compare it to a block of ice, frozen and unyielding.
I could stop. No one would know if I didn’t write today. My eyes squinted with determination, and a memory of a day in 8th grade announced itself in my mind. A day I’ve regretted for decades.
Thinking back, I could see my 13-year-old self sitting on the bleachers in a school gym that smelled like a mixture of sweat and old basketballs. Every open door teamed up in silent resolve to get the stink out. Even though it was Fall, the Central Valley summer heat hadn’t left yet, which didn’t help matters.
The boys were in motion on the court, and the unfamiliar chorus of squeaky tennis shoes scraping against the gym floor was intimidating. Would I be able to move quick enough to make that sound with my Reeboks? I sat among a large group of girls while we waited for the boys to finish their turn. We were all there to try out for the junior high volleyball teams.
“Hey, Josh wanted me to give this to you.”
I looked up, surprised. A blond girl I didn’t know yet was walking toward me wearing the same P.E. clothes the rest of us had on—gray shorts and a cobalt blue T-shirt with the school’s name in bright yellow letters. Somehow an outfit that made me look frumpy turned out really cute on her. A matching ribbon was tied around her ponytail. It bounced up and down with each step. Her bright green gum peeked through her teeth as she smiled. Her blue eyes held excited secrets.
She held a tiny white bundle in her hand. I looked closer and saw it was lined notebook paper that had been folded a billion times over until it formed a small, thick triangle. It was the standard structure for passing notes in class. My heart sped up a bit.
By the time my eyes left the note in her hand to look up at her face again, she had already moved on to the girl sitting a few feet away from me. The beautiful one who had the long straight hair and the perfect shiny lip gloss. She was in my science class. I envied her Esprit backpack and the way she got along with all the boys so effortlessly. Back then, I was an expert at having crushes on boys from a distance, but I didn’t have a clue how to talk to them. Looking in the other direction, I pretended I never once thought that note was for me.
Trying not to be obvious, I pulled at the hem of my shorts, hoping to hide another inch or two of my chubbiness. Hoping to hide entirely. I was sure I’d never be like them. What was I doing here? I wasn’t very active. It took all my energy just to walk the two blocks to school each day. In the short time I’d been there, I’d seen these two girls all over the track working hard every day to train and stay fit. It took me sixteen minutes to run the mile last week. That was nearly twice the time they could run it. But I really enjoyed when we played volleyball in P.E. There was a certain satisfaction in serving the ball and watching it soar over the net.
If I made this team, it wouldn’t be like soccer in second grade…when I quit the team after the third practice because I hurt my ankle (which recovered in a week). And nobody in this town would know about my sixth grade year at my old school when I was written up in the newspaper as “the losing pitcher” for the softball team. I didn’t have to mention that we didn’t win a single game that season…did I? I mean, softball…volleyball….totally different, right?
An extra gaggle of girls entered the gym as the boys left for the locker room. Scores of girls. All there for try-outs. In that moment, I decided it was over. I didn’t stand a chance against all of them. Resigned, I stood up when the coach asked us to gather around and followed the crowd. But when it came time to play for a spot on the team, my effort was little to none. My ambition was put on the shelf. And not among the trophies.
At the end of the next day, when the new team list was posted in the locker room, I wasn’t surprised at all when my name wasn’t on it. Beneath my lashes, I watched the two girls from the day before jump up and down in a victorious hug, hair ribbons celebrating, too. The walk home was slow and full of sighs as I clutched my science books to my chest thinking of what went wrong. I was too this, too that. I was sure I wasn’t good enough, and well, technically, I wasn’t. I never tried out for any sport again.
It wasn’t until many years later that I realized what went wrong.
- I didn’t prepare.
- I didn’t practice.
- I gave up before I even started because I compared myself to others.
When it came to ambition, I fouled out. I just went in there on a whim, hoping to succeed without putting in the hard work. Those girls made the team, but they deserved it. They didn’t make it because of their pretty looks and their cute style. Now that I’m older, I realize they weren’t perfect–because none of us are–but the difference between them and myself was this: they worked for it.
Yeah, maybe they had opportunities I didn’t have. Maybe they had older siblings to help them learn or maybe they had lessons to improve. Maybe they played volleyball on the beach every summer on family vacations. But my adult self knows this: where there is a will to learn, there is a way to make it happen. It might not look the same as everyone else, but it’s possible in some form. Our choices are everything. It takes courage and some cleverness to figure out the way there. It’s also important to not compare ourselves with other people who are (or who have been) on the same path. Each of us is unique in great and small ways.
So now, my ambition is simply to keep writing. I don’t really know where it will take me. I don’t necessarily need to write a book. But my main goal is to improve as a writer and connect with others through writing. It takes a lot of courage for most writers to show up each day and write what’s on their heart…to write about pieces of their lives. Or to overcome the perfectionist in them that shouts, “This isn’t good enough!”. There have been times when I’m tempted to throw in the towel. But that memory of those volleyball tryouts often crowds in when I’m so close to logging out of my blog or my Google Drive without getting words on the page. In this, I choose to not foul out on my ambition.
I’m thankful to have that tough memory to cheer me on. Because this time around, for however long it takes I hope to do what I can to prepare, practice, and not give up before I even begin. Now, if only I could transition this will power into my exercise and nutrition lifestyle, that would be fantastic. 😉
What are you hoping to achieve? Whatever it is, I truly wish you all the best. For so many of us, it’s not always easy to stick with it…but I believe with my whole heart that if you put your mind to it you will get there. We will get there.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” -Phillipians 4:13
I should eat, I thought. I’ll regret it if I don’t. So I pulled out the eggs, the friendly spinach, and some easy oatmeal and got to work. Well, I did stop for just a minute to turn on the music. Nothing much gets done without the music. The raw green spinach leaves jumped into the warm pan to cozy up with a little rosemary and garlic olive oil.
As I stirred the greens, my ears caught the story of the song. The singer sang of love and how their memories were kept in a photograph, a place where hearts were ”never broken” and where time stays frozen. My smile started small at the idea of it, then grew in salute to the fellow encourager. And I say encourager because to label us idealists might break my heart. An encourager can see potential in what others may see as impossible.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if love could save the world right now amidst all of the pain, chaos, and uncertainty?
I find myself searching for answers, so lately I’ve been up to my ears in books. Books about writing. Books about teaching. Recipe books—because my cooking still needs some help. Books about becoming a better me. Books about anti-racism. Of course, there are the books that take my mind away from all of the above, even if just for a little while….the fiction, the make-believe. It’s been a season of books.
I sat down to eat my breakfast, squinting a bit against the morning sunlight through the open window. Looking out, I laughed out loud as I noticed a small grey and white striped cat with a big swashbuckling tail arguing with a pesky bird who kept swooping down at it from a low place in the sky. They were both squawking and hopping in the middle of the otherwise quiet cul-de-sac. That cat must’ve got into the bird’s business again. I wondered if maybe they could learn to be friends. I’m sure it’s possible. Anything is possible, right? With love…
When I finished eating, I got up and rinsed off my plate. The water was as mild as the summer morning, and a new song came on. The tune was catchy, and one I’d never heard before. As I processed the words in my mind, I smiled again. It must be one of those mornings when everything is lining up. All this love stuff. Just the other day on Facebook live I listened to a conversation with Dr. Clarence Jones, who played a role in some pretty amazing history, speak about events going on today and the thing he kept coming back to was…love. Redemptive love. Soul love. I stared out the window above the sink and focused on the new song.
“Love can change the world in a moment, but what do I know?” Ed Sheeran sings from my little speaker propped up on the kitchen counter. From his heart to my house. Isn’t it amazing how songs can travel from so far? Yet we connect with them as if they were born right here in our hearts. I get it…I mean, really, what do I know?
Leaving the music on, I turned and walked into the room where I like to write. With a day free from work, I sorted through the pile of books I could read today. I thought about how lucky I was to have a pile of books. The libraries must be so lonely right now. I picked up one book and then another. Hmm…this one? No. That one? Maybe.
Still undecided, I turned toward my favorite reading chair. It waited for me beneath the window. Golden sunlight would be my lamp. On the wide, curved arm I spied a rather large and familiar book which I knew held 1,809 pages. The spine was terribly damaged from being read over and over for thirty years, even though I’ve been careful. Last night, I set it on my chair to remind myself to revisit it again soon…because it had been awhile. With a Facebook check, a Zoom workshop, taking care of the dog, and breakfast, I’d already forgotten about it this morning. It’s easy for me to forget. Because you know, we fill life up with all these things we feel like we have to do. In order to pay the bills. Or to improve. Or to distract ourselves.
Looking at the big book on my chair, I remembered that it’s the best book I’ve got. It’s got it all in one place. Personal development, action, drama, comedy, and best of all…love. Man, I did have love on the brain. Seriously, though, when my mind does the swirly thing and starts spinning with the what-ifs and what-abouts, there really is no other book than this one that squashes all that. Every time, it guides me back to the truth and the reason for everything. The last time I opened it, I had begun reading about a king from history named Solomon. He’s known for his wisdom. I could use some of that right now. Okay, always.
The greatest love story is all throughout the pages of that great book. Love for me and love for you. It also talks about loving everyone, even those we disagree with. Even loving those who don’t like us. That’s not easy, as we well know. Not easy, but not impossible. That’s why I’m not giving up on this love stuff. It’s the real deal. It can heal. Let’s give it and receive it now more than ever. Just like the One who loves us.
I sat down, ran my hand slowly over the cover and then made that my first choice for today’s reading—the Bible. I wanted to be reminded of the Love. It’s not fleeting. It’s eternal. Sometimes it’s a process that we wait on with patient urgency. Sometimes it’s a call to immediate action. Love will meet you when you’re ready for it; sometimes it will find you when you think you’re not. I may forget again and read something else tomorrow, but one thing is for sure: it will always be there, waiting tenderly…calling on my heart.
The songs in the kitchen have been moving along as I write this. I can’t help but appreciate the words I hear right now as they drift down the hallway and reach my ears. “Love is more precious than gold,” Chris Stapleton’s voice croons confidently, “…I got love enough to spare. That makes me a millionaire.”
May you be rich in Love, friends.
“…Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” -Colossians 3:12-15
A few Wednesdays ago, joy came out of nowhere and surprised me. I was at an outdoor yoga class with my friend. It was just after sunrise. I hadn’t yet heard about George Floyd. Our mats lay on a grassy space above still, sleepy vineyards. We began to move. I lifted my arms, reaching up as far as I could, all the way to my fingertips. A row of young olive trees behind us also stretched toward the brilliant blue sky. A pair of long-necked geese honked “Good morning!” over our heads as they crossed high above the rows of grape vines. I looked upward and watched in contented silence as they continued their flight past the husky golden rays of the newborn sun.
Twice I nearly burst out laughing, the bubbles of happiness rising inside of me. My hopeful heart ached to dance and play with nature. The sun comforted me with its gentle warmth. I breathed in deeply then pushed all the air out as hard as I could. Whoosh! I felt the frustration of the last three months leave my lungs. With each inhale and exhale, my blood awakened in my veins as it traveled from head to toe. The glorious simplicity of the rhythm of life amazed me in that moment.
On that morning, I had a hard time staying within the speed limit while driving home from class. The joy in my heart was inspiring, and I hoped to write about it before starting the work day so I could share it with you. Maybe I could try to rebuild the scene so that you might be able to experience the joy, too. My favorite snuggly chair was waiting for me, so I sat and placed my Chromebook on my lap. I decided to check the news first.
Honestly, I rarely check the news. Mostly because I don’t like biased news sources that I feel have hidden—or not so hidden—agendas. Whether it’s the left or the right, they blatantly air their opinions and persuasions. No matter what my political party is, I want news without interjection. But the world cannot be ignored. So it was two days late on that Wednesday morning that I learned about George Floyd, and saw his horrific death on the screen before me. In a heartbeat, all of my giddiness left. As it should. I still can’t get the image out of my mind.
When it was time for yoga a few days later, I was still troubled as I drove up the hill.
“I’m sad today…I was up all night…” I texted my friend before I left the house to meet her for our class. “Just wanted to give you a heads up if I’m quieter than usual. Feeling reflective and prayerful this morning.” I knew she’d understand. When I arrived, the sun wasn’t shining. All around us was a distant, gray fog. The birdsong was oddly quiet, muffled, and it was unusually cold for late May. As if the earth knew and mourned with us.
I lay my forehead on my yoga mat and began the deep slow breaths, thinking of George Floyd who could breathe no more. I didn’t know the circumstances, but it just didn’t seem right. The whole scene flashed again in my mind of that man’s knee on his neck. The officer’s intentional, slow movements… Closing my eyes, a quiet guttural sound escaped from my throat as I grieved the life of a stranger that was so casually taken away. Over what? It didn’t look at all like self-defense. It certainly didn’t look like a humane way to detain someone. I was filled with indignation.
The majority of police officers in our country surely would not condone what happened to George Floyd, and I’ve seen responses to confirm that. The officers I know stood ready to protect my students on our campus several years ago while an armed criminal hid in the nearby neighborhood. What would’ve happened if they weren’t there to call? I thought of the police officers over in Gilroy last summer who ran toward a shooter while the patrons of the Garlic Festival fled from the bullets. How much more death would there have been had those officers not been there to risk their lives for the people?
My own heart, it still aches now. For all of it. For everyone. Cities destroyed, people hurt and killed. Obviously, we need to work toward a solution to this too-old problem and at the same time realize that it will take time. But it shouldn’t take so much time!
The time that has passed between now and that Wednesday has been…I don’t even have the words to explain well enough all that has been on my mind. I have failed in coming here to this space because my thoughts have been such a whirlwind. A dozen blog post drafts have been started and abandoned in the last two weeks or so. I’ve been trying to put off my own thoughts for awhile, and instead listen and learn.
The roller coaster of emotion has been at full speed. Sadness one day, anger the next. Confusion. Love. Resolve. Love. Heartbreak. Love. It all keeps coming back to love. I want the world to know more of it. I want the world to feel all of the love from anyone who is willing to give it. I know it is out there. It just needs to be found and cultivated…nurtured. In some cases, it needs to be taught, the love. It’s not a naive thing, love. It’s a powerful thing.
Love is not just holding hands and singing songs. Love is action, and it can be in many forms. Love is being respectful to all people. Love is educating ourselves and celebrating our cultural differences. Love is registering to vote in the country you live in so that you can be part of change for the better. Love is teaching your children that no one race is better than the other. Love is listening. Love is giving a consequence for crimes against humanity. Love is peacefully protesting what is unjust. Love is casting aside fear to stand up for what is right. Love is creating something healing for those who are hurting. She’s a tough one, love is. Love requires forward motion, courage, and hope—not destruction and chaos.
We need connection. With everyone. To continue walking in love and learning each other’s hearts. To be brave and reach out. To listen and acknowledge. To maintain our integrity, not bypass justice, and lift up respect. To communicate and follow what is right. But most of all, to love one another as we were meant to do…in whatever way we each feel called to show it. I believe that Martin Luther King, Jr. meant what he said in the video below, that “hate destroys the hater as well as the hated.” Love is no small thing. It’s a powerful thing. And we have that power within us.
I’ve been thinking about overthinking. Over and over…because I’m an overthinker, too.
Yes, we feel like concrete statues stuck in our thinking while the swarm of immediate action-takers buzz on by us.
But the thing is, not every body and every mind was designed to be the same. You are you. I am me. That’s the beauty of our existence. Uniquely able to take action on a dream at our own pace and no one else’s.
So, hey, let’s think on this:
Our time is the right time when it’s God’s time.
There’s nothing wrong with a lot of thinking… unless it keeps us from the doing. And that won’t do at all. Keep on thinking, but lock up those doubts and worries and then throw away the key.
That dream is knocking loudly on your heart for a reason, my friend. Did you give up on it? I hope not. It’s time to get back in the groove. I’m rooting for you. And for me, too.
What wonders will I find today? The heavy wooden door resists, barely allowing me in as I push on the rounded brass handle. Despite the effort, I know I am welcome here and nod a greeting to the young clerk with the black glasses. He was the one who helped me find that one about the violinist in Nashville, set in the late 1800s. He glances up from his cash register and waves a quick hello.
I step further inside and breathe in the scent of paper and coffee. An espresso machine to the far left noisily chugs away. The rich aroma is hard to resist. Cappuccino is my candy, but I’m on a mission.
The coolness of the air conditioner reaches my flushed cheeks, giving immediate relief from the heat wave outside. My arms fall at my sides, the outside world fades away, and my shoulders relax as my hazel gaze sweeps across the cavernous room. A small graces my lips, and my heart skips a beat before it begins to race with anticipation. The books are everywhere, and they call to me.
Familiar carpet, thick and stoic, stretches down the wide center aisle all the way to the back wall as if awaiting royalty. Slowly, I let my bright pink flip-flops guide me in the direction of their choice. I’m not worried about where they will lead me first. Before leaving, I will step leisurely, contentedly, into every section of these cherished four walls. The only hard decision will be which book to purchase today out of the thousands laid before me. My budget whispers a reminder that there can be only one. But before I face that inevitable dilemma, I will enjoy every moment in this bookshop.
On the way to the first row of tall shelves to be explored, my fingers dance to a slow rhythm over spines and covers of books that tease me from their place on shelf ends. Pictures and words splash around to get my attention. Just a few paces in, I find myself stopping in front of a particular book that calls to me like fireworks on the 4th of July. The front of it is hot pink, same as my shoes. A blonde, fit woman with a wide, confident smile—everything my opposite—cheers me on to take a look inside the pages. What I find takes my breath away. Stories I can relate to are waiting for me inside. Truths about myself that are loving and God-breathed, not critical and full of doubt as I am so used to thinking. A helper wrapped up between two hundred and eighty-eight unique pages.
Keeping it with me, I continue to browse the store like a lazy bumblebee with a busy mind, stopping here and there for a quick fix of sweet nectar. But I already know that the one I hold onto will be the winner. It’s the one I need most today. Most often it is fiction that saves me from the stress and anxiety that life brings, but sometimes my heart needs clear-cut, straightforward facts in order to continue to heal and thrive. It’s hard to pick just one, but I know without a doubt that I’ll be back for more.
Gratitude overwhelms me. Sincere, amazed gratitude. Humbling gratitude. The kind that causes me to weep with thanksgiving over my eggs and toast at the breakfast table while I try, ineptly, to explain how grateful I am to be loved by God. The kind that doesn’t come often enough. How moved I am to remember the point in time leading up to when Jesus rescued me. And how He rescues me still.
How could I ever forget that? Has He been patiently waiting for me to recognize all that I’ve missed the mark on lately? Thank you, Lord, for showing me once again. May I never lose sight of You.
As I approach the autumn of my life,
When I long to hold on to the summer of my existence
To remain…to explore…to inspire…to love…
When spring is what I long to return to—
Back when all things were blossoming and new—
I find now that I have no choice, really,
Than to drop the phone, to close the screen,
To take the time to reflect upon all that led me here…
To this moment in my years, to read His words of grace once more
And fall to my knees, breathless, as I remember how unworthy I was…am…
But it is by His grace I have been saved through faith in Christ alone–
It’s nothing I earned; it’s all a gift….
A wondrous, humbling offering of Love—
Not demanded, not deserved.
Despite my wretchedness, still I am loved…
For who I was, for who I am, for who I will become.
And who am I, to gain such a gift?
How glad I am in knowing
That even if I cannot adequately express to anyone
The love and thankfulness I feel for my Redeemer,
God can decode every single grapheme of gratitude
Etched across the memoir of my heart.
And that is all I need,
As this heart still beats, rejoicing.
For neither autumn, nor summer, nor spring,
Nor even the winter of my life, when it debuts, too,
Can outdo the agenda of God and the glories of Heaven.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” -Ephesians 2:8-9
This is a time when I am restricted from a lot of the things I feel my heart must do. The things I love or the things I hope to some day experience have to be put on hold due to social distancing and the recommendation to stay home as much as possible. In some ways, nothing’s changed in this regard too much…quarantine or not, my job would keep me away from my wanderlust anyway, at least until summer.
To keep my heart entertained, I’ve started a list things I feel I must do when the opportunity comes once again. This is not an exhausted list. As long as the quarantine lasts, I will come back and add to it. It’s a dreamy catalog of happiness sought and joy remembered…continued from all the heart-musts I hope to do—some never done before, some hopefully repeated. There really are no rules….just the things God has put on my heart to someday experience with wonder. I thank Him for that.
- Gaze at the stars from the summit of a mountain
- Attend an outdoor concert while sitting on the lawn
- Watch a sudden downpour of heavy rain from the inside of a car
- Share an evening with the fireflies
- Drive from the the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean
- Sing along at a dueling piano bar (I have a terrible voice, but what does it matter?)
- Drink a huge cafe mocha at Red House Cafe in Pacific Grove on a foggy coastal morning (in a real mug or whatever they call it)
- See the northern lights—will this ever happen?
- Return to the Isle of Skye
- Visit the New York Public Library
Will I really do these things? Or see some of these things again? I hope so. So far, the northern lights and fireflies have been elusive…I must be looking in all the wrong places. But in the meantime, it’s nice to dream.
What are some of your heart-musts?
When I envision a writer starting a new project, I imagine it is similar to a mountain climber who begins a climb. They stand in the valley at the base of a tall, granite mountain, steep and rugged. The summit is barely in view, thousands of feet above them, mingling with the clouds, but visible enough to fuel the climber’s hope. Their goal, that accomplishment, waits eagerly at the pinnacle, and is promised to those who can endure.
It is not easy for many to get there, for while there may be amazing experiences along the way and incredible, joyous views, they must undergo a jagged, arduous journey. It takes time and patience. It takes thought and planning. Some are beginners, some are advanced. Many are somewhere in between. Even the advanced climbers need some motivation to get to the top. The same goes with writers.
It is difficult for one person to reach for a goal alone. There are some who do well on their own, their internal motivation and drive is enough to get them to accomplish what many others give up on. There are those, however, who don’t altogether give up, but they take longer to reach the end of their climb. It’s not that they don’t want to. They just find themselves encountering obstacles along the way.
Such as the falling rocks of criticism. Trying to break through the suffocating snow avalanches of doubt. Navigating through deep, dark crevasses of insecurity. Then, for some, there are inevitable slips because of excuses. These can sometimes cause them to lose their footing completely, and they have to find a way to renew their hold on the rope and climb onward and upward once more. Climbers and writers alike must persevere through tough elements in order to finish the journey.
They both know that once they reach the top, it will be worth the struggle. The sweat and the tears, the need to dig deep and muster all of their strength will pay off because the view from the top is worth the suffering. All the conditioning, all the practice, all the preparation was meant to help you through it.
With some writers, though—with special writers—reaching their goal is not about fame or fortune or pride. The swell of happiness that comes when they’ve finished what they’ve set out to do stems from this: that through their completed work, they may just have provided a way for others to be helped or encouraged by what they wrote. Even in fiction, this is possible, for through characters in story we can relate or are influenced.
As much as a writer may have researched and prepared for their piece, as talented with words as they may be, there is one extremely important element that is needed by so many who are trying to get through their projects word by word, and that is encouragement.
Writers need continuous encouragement, just as mountain climbers must keep looking up so that they can see how close they are to reaching the top. Many writers have such a hard time seeing the finish line. It is essential to have that boost of cheer and the knowledge that someone believes in them. The reminder from someone who cares that God is also in their corner, rooting for them with every word put onto the page, is often times what it takes to help them get it done.
Because sometimes writers lose sight of that along the way. They start to look down from where they are hanging precariously on the side of the mountain, and are dizzied by the distance they’ve climbed so far…so the what ifs and worries begin to accumulate, and their handle on the rope threatens to weaken. They may start to feel as if they aren’t good enough. They may start to lose their courage in sharing their heart.
So if you know a writer, please continue to encourage them. If that’s your kind of thing. 🙂 And if you are a writer, keep going! You’ve got this.
Tonight, I will not write here.
There’ll be no posts for you.
Because an urgent matter has come up
That I must take the time to tend to.
There are twenty-three little people out there
That I used to see every week day,
But now, we meet in video conferencing—
Mostly “Mute” as they hear what I say.
We try to stay positive as best we can
With stars for improvement and smiles;
They use all their grit as they, too, work from home,
But it’s hard to learn across all the miles.
I’m noticing those smiles are drooping a bit—
They miss class, the playground, and friends;
It’s been over a month in Quarantineland…
And they wonder when all this will end.
So instead of writing to you tonight,
I’m taking a little blog rest
To pen them a letter for real “snail” mail,
And help put those worries to rest.
I’ll also include a good dose of cheer
For those sweet little 8-year-old minds—
A pep talk, I feel, is just what they need,
And inside will be kindness, they’ll find.
As their teacher, I hope you will please excuse
My absence for just this one night,
Because I won’t sleep a single wink
‘Til my heart gets that priority right.
At last, we’ve reached the final round of 30 things I learned during a recent 30-Day Writing Challenge. It was started over in the Facebook group, Higher Purpose Writers last month and led by Mick Silva. If you are a writer in need of encouragement, check it out. It’s a great place for thinkers, too. There’s also a Higher Purpose Writers blog, which I’ve found very useful since starting this writing journey. Thanks again, Mick. 🙂 This challenge was awesome.
My overall confidence in sharing these 30 things with all of you is like a wild roller coaster. I suspect it may feel like that for awhile. For example, I did not like writing Part II, but I felt it was important to be honest and try to give a reflection that covered all the bases. Overall, it has been fun to share with you these bits of insight that I had while forming a new habit.
Essentially, I don’t have a group of writers in my town that I’m a part of so it’s just me here typing away, and I imagine there are a lot of you writers who are also on your own…especially during the quarantine. So I thought it would be nice to share my writing thoughts in case you go through similar struggles and joys in writing.
I’ve saved my top ten favorites for my final ten, and I thank you for taking the time to stop by and take a look. 🙂
30 Things I Learned While Writing for 30 Days (continued)
#21) I’ve learned that ideas come to me at the most inconvenient times. Okay, I already knew that. 🙂 Doing dishes (hands are busy). On a walk (no paper). Driving (Danger, Robin!). In the shower (Can I get a whiteboard in there?). During a conversation with someone (don’t tell anyone I said that). Yikes!
#22) I’ve learned that music is necessary for setting the mood, and it is a source of inspiration when I am stuck. At least, it is for me. Oh, my imagination when I hear music. Of any kind. Once I press “Play” , I am in another world altogether. It evokes such feelings and ideas and scenarios. It could be encouraging, sad, angry, romantic, grumpy, strengthening….you name it. When I can’t think of a thing to write, like the walking, it’s the music that will stir in me ideas for writing. In my deep, dark mysterious heart the music is what liberates the dreary. It’s what nourishes my soul in the best of ways, so I can’t see at all how I would ever write without it.
#23) I’ve learned that nature also helps me tune in to my thoughts and imagination. Oh, I love this one, too. Few things are better, right? Dust meets dust. We are all connected. I love how being outside magnifies all of my senses, and I find myself wondering about why that noisy, wild animal chose that house to squall near every evening at dusk. Is it a peacock, is it a bobcat, is it a sick rooster? Then my mind wonders about the family who lives near by and what is their life like and do they like the noisy animal? Are they friends with it? Where did they come from? It’s super fun. Sometimes, just the simplicity of the breeze on the leaves of the trees brings back memories or daydreams.
Today when I walked, the essence of sun-warmed blossoms drifted under my nose, and I couldn’t rightly tell if it was jasmine or honeysuckle or a shy gardenia bush, but I was instantly taken back to college summer nights in the Central Valley. Later, a woodpecker gave a glorious show while drilling into the telephone pole. I stopped in my tracks and laughed out loud. I’m currently reading Charlotte’s Web to my class, so I suppose the animals make me think of stories more than ever these days.
#24) I’ve learned that I crave connection through my writing, and I consider my readers as my friends. The more frequently I’ve written, I’ve been noticing that I’m starting to write as if I am speaking to a friend. And the thing is, I really feel that I am. Several of my readers I know personally, and they are often on my mind when I write. Sometimes, I find myself writing something intended for just one person, yet it feels universal. When I am writing really super late at night, I imagine I am writing to that other soul out there across the continent who also can’t sleep because their mind is also troubled, like mine…or maybe other times they are bursting with joy, like me. It’s a neat thing, that. An invisible bond of fellowship.
#25) I’ve learned that my husband doesn’t feel neglected when I disappear to another room to write for long periods of time. Maybe I am lucky with this guy? How do I know he doesn’t feel neglected? I straight up asked him yesterday, and he straight up said no. Good to know! I also don’t have kids, so that is probably helpful for when it comes time to sit down and write. No distractions. My yellow Lab doesn’t like being neglected, though. That is for certain!
#26) I’ve learned that writing might be part of my legacy. I’ve always felt that since I will not have a generation after me, a book may be what I leave behind. I teach, I am a teacher, and I know many amazing teachers that students will remember forever. But me? Not so sure. My students are super young and…I don’t know. This is a tough one for me to talk about. Because of schedules, curriculum, and pressure to get things done in time, I seldom have time to really talk with my students. They know my heart, but I’m not sure they really know my story.
It dawned on me with the new distance learning this month that now we have even less time to talk. It’s inspired me to perhaps try my hand at my story. Or some kind of story that will remain long after I’m gone. When I leave this earth someday, my blog will eventually expire. Most people have stories they pass on to their children and grandchildren…maybe I have one that other people’s children and grandchildren would enjoy or find helpful once they’re grown up. That would be really…nice.
#27) I’ve learned that during the times when I don’t feel like writing, God will lead me through it. In the last 30 days, there have been times when I have stared at the blank white screen late into the night because I’m exhausted from learning all about distance learning or from trying to help families navigate paper packets and figure out video conferencing. Other times, I’m trying to not fall asleep as I think, “Well, Robin, what are you going to write about tonight?”. But the coolest thing happens: I pray, then I think and I pray a little more…and I remember God is rooting for me, and eventually it gets done. I’m so thankful for that.
#28) I’ve learned that when I quiet myself enough, God urges me to seek Him in my writing. Honestly, until this last month I never prayed before I sat down to write. But I’ve found myself doing so more and more. I think COVID-19 is what started that. I feel less worried now, but at the beginning of the crisis there came a time when I couldn’t even watch the news because it would put me in a tailspin of fret. All the people who were getting sick and dying was shocking and heartbreaking. So I began to pray before I wrote in order to quiet my mind and find stillness. I wanted God with me when I wrote because I knew that faith in Him and belief that He has got this covered—this pandemic—would win out over fear. He commands us not to be afraid. In the stillness, in the prayer, His presence is a warm comforting blanket of love even on the coldest most fearful night. That new practice of prayer before my fingers hit the keyboard is probably one of the most important things I’ve learned to do when it comes to my writing.
#29) I’ve learned that I want more than ever to please the Lord with what I write, rather than please people with what I write. Through all that I’ve learned while writing for the last 30 days, a truth was confirmed in my heart. I want to forget the blog stats. I know with everything in me that I will continue to write how Jesus loves us. I will continue to write about coming back to the heart of worship. I will never stop writing about how the Lord, and not myself, has carried me through storm after storm. Like when He carried me through the near decade of being gripped with anxiety. Like when He carried me through a childhood that was lonely and confusing and sometimes I felt forsaken, but time and time again He rescued me from the loneliness. Like when He carried me through the ache and misery of hoping for a child, but blessed me with a strong spirit to come out the other side of that, still without children, yet full of joy and spunk in spite of it. Like how He carries me now as I battle what other people think of my decisions and actions and words. I will not compromise writing about how He is with me…with us.
#30) I’ve learned that, as long as I am able, I want to keep writing. Good writer or bad writer, there’s something I’m supposed to do with it. I just don’t know what yet. It might just be this blog.. If that’s the Plan, that’s the plan. God knows where I’m going…and I’ll try my best to listen to His direction along the way. The 30 day challenge is over, but the writing doesn’t stop here. It’s only just begun.
Isn’t it amazing? All of these wonderful things learned from a new habit. I imagine each one of these as a strong piece of vibrantly colored glass, each one it’s own brilliant hue—a stained glass garden of emeralds, rubies, sapphires—and when you put them all together, they form a unique picture framed with inspiration which will be imprinted in my brain so that I will remember these things for years to come…a scene of hope and help and the makings of a writer’s heart.
Before you go, I have to tell you something. If you’re a writer, don’t give up. If it’s on your heart to keep writing, you keep at it. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how new you are, you just hang in there. And when you find yourself plugging along and good things start to come of it, celebrate! God gave you a gift and it’s okay to rejoice with Him that you have done this thing for Him. Jesus was the master storyteller. He wants you in His writing club if that’s what brings you joy. He wants you to tell your story if that’s what relieves your pain. He wants you to inform and inspire people if your expertise, the gift He’s given you, will help them through this life that is so unpredictable and often just plain hard. You can do this thing. Believe it.