For awhile now, I’ve been thinking about how I can make this blog more focused and intentional. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to encourage, but my process has always been to just… More
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.
Welcome back to the second part of this three part series on what I learned about writing (and myself as a writer) after taking part in a 30-Day Writing Challenge, which was encouraged over at the Higher Purpose Writers Facebook page. In Part I, I shared the first of 30 things I learned from my experience with this challenge.
This was a new accomplishment for me. Never before had I focused on my writing on a daily, consistent basis for such a long period of time. Cheers to that!
As a blogger, it would be hard not to learn some things through this experience that are related to my blog itself. Some of my list has to do with that, and the other part of my list has to do with what I’ve learned about people in this last month. What do they like to read? How have they encouraged me? How does the reader, like you, inspire me or challenge me?
But first, let’s start with diving in to more about…me. LOL Hope you don’t mind! 🙂
This is torture. Why did I do this?
30 Things I Learned While Writing for 30 Days (continued)
#11) I’ve learned that it’s about me, but it’s not about me. Since I’m not writing fiction and I don’t want to write about others without their permission, much of what I have to go on is my own life experience. This is torture for me. Who wants to show up each day and share painful or embarrassing parts of their lives? The hardest part for me in writing is having to share about myself. But my hope is that through my stories someone else may feel more accepted or understood or less alone, and little by little that hope in me is becoming greater than my fear. And anyway, it’s ultimately about the One who created us.
#12) I’ve learned that the more I write, the less I fear publishing my posts. I hold back. I constantly hem and haw over what I share. Should I share this? No, that is too deep…Um, I can’t talk about so and so…There is no way I’m sharing that. Even with the content I’ve put on this blog since the day it came to be, I worry about what gets put “out there”. And what I’ve put out there so far is just the tip of the iceberg. But the more I’ve been writing, and the more feedback I’m getting, the more I realize that there are people who relate to what I share. Blogging consistently keeps that knowledge alive and helps gain confidence, so I’ve been feeling a little braver each time.
#13) I’ve learned that I need help to become a better writer. I want feedback on my writing like a hummingbird wants a big fat mosquito covered in nectar. It’s not that I want someone to come along and tell me I’m doing a great job. Okay, that would be lovely, but let’s be real. I want constructive criticism. I want to learn. I want my words to be ripped up and tossed out and mixed up, and then I ache to learn how to put them all back together again in such a way that will truly touch my readers’ hearts. There’s something I want them to know and, if I don’t write well, I fear I’ll miss the mark completely. We’re never too old to learn!
#14) I’ve learned to stop looking at my blog stats as a measure of success and, instead, use them as feedback to gain more insight into the interests of my readers. For me, blog stats are like that awful cough syrup my mom forced me to take as a kid whenever I was sick. Remember those plastic tubular medicine spoons? Ugh. There are a lot of ways I can keep track of the traffic on the blog through the stats. Typically, I avoid it whenever possible, like I have for the last year. But in this last month I’ve been paying attention because I’ve been curious. What are readers out there looking for? Am I providing it? What I have discovered so far perplexes me: the posts I’ve written that I don’t like so much, the readers seem to like those the most. The ones I love, they don’t respond to. At all. I’m still puzzling that out, and I’m probably not going to like the answer.
#15) I’ve learned that right now people don’t want melancholia. They are searching for hope, joy, and honest tips on how to get through this COVID-19 crisis. Here’s an example: Fifteen days ago I wrote a post called Struggling, then a few days later I posted one called What Are You Missing?. The titles don’t sound all that cheerful, do they? I’ve been finding that I tend to write about something I’m having a hard time with, and by the end of my post I’ll reveal how I look for the triumph that comes from the struggle. A couple of days after those, I posted one that was nothing but happy. It was called Some Good Stuff. My blog views that day quadrupled. As soon as I started writing about the struggles again, the stats went so low they were less than what they started out to be. That was enlightening. Oh, and here’s the kicker—Some Good Stuff didn’t even have any of my writing. I was just super excited to share a new video series, Some Good News, to help cheer people up. 🙂
#16) I’ve learned that even though people are searching for “happy”, there are still times when readers crave comfort and encouragement. I think it’s important to recognize that life will bring us hard times, but we have the ability to seek beyond our troubles and face our burdens head on with courage. In the last month, one of the most popular posts was What Will Tomorrow Bring? In it, I wrote about what I was choosing to look forward to despite the world being in a very scary state. I still remember the night I wrote that. I had to dig very deep to think of what I could look forward to the next day. It’s my hope it encouraged people to do the same.
#17) I’ve learned that the more I mention Jesus, the lower the stats are. I can’t wrap my head around that. That’s the part that hurts the most for me. Jesus, well, He’s my friend. He saved my life. Sure, it’s a little painful when viewers reject me and my thoughts, but if they reject them because Jesus has been mentioned it’s a dagger through the heart. I’ve been told my writing is too preachy. I don’t really know how to fix that. I think the answer might be to tell more of a story instead of whatever it is I do now.
#18) I’ve learned that I have no desire to market myself. If I ever do finish a book and it comes time to do that kind of stuff, I think I need to hire a friend to do it. I am not comfortable with that at all. I cringe when it comes to sharing a new post on Facebook. I go through the strangest experience with that every time. So I’m getting braver at posting on the blog, but posting a blog post on Facebook is even worse for me. I put it on Facebook, then I’ll take it off a few minutes later! LOL Then I’ll pray for courage and then put it back on Facebook. Does anyone else go through this?? It’s awful. Can we just skip it?
#19) I’ve learned that my peeps haven’t given up on me. We all need cheerleaders, don’t we? I have this amazing small group of bible study friends who, when I first told them two years ago that I wanted to write a book, they nodded their heads eagerly and exclaimed with excitement. As if, like, I would actually do it. I told them this because I’d heard if you say something out loud to people, then you’re more likely to actually accomplish it. When I said it, I don’t know if they noticed, but my face was flushed and my voice shook and my knees were knocking. I didn’t actually believe I would do this thing. I’m still not sure I do. But those ladies, some of them actually read my blog! And I love them even more for it because it always seems like just when I think about taking it down, when I’m thinking to myself, What are you doing? No one cares about what you write! , all of a sudden a comment will pop up or a text or an email from one of my people—these awesome bible study friends—and they’ll tell me how much they enjoyed one of the posts. So then I think, Well, I can’t stop then can I…if it brings them joy? In writing almost daily over the last couple of weeks, many of them have contacted me with that sweet encouragement, and it has meant so much.
#20) I’ve learned that I want to do less blogging and write a story. How do I know this? It keeps coming back to me. There was a quote shared on the Higher Purpose Writers page during the challenge that my mind will not be freed of. After reading it, I kept thinking on it for days because, at the time, the words didn’t make sense to me. I kept thinking…what does that mean? On my walks, I’d wonder about it and the words would flash in my mind, without ceasing. Like that oil change light that comes on in your car when you keep thinking I don’t have time for this, so you put it off for as long as you can…but in the back of your mind you know that the motor will seize up, and you won’t be able to move forward until you deal with it. A story, write a story. But what story? All I know is that I’m all over the place with this blog, Encourage Your Heart. In writing more this last month, I find that I’m starting to long for a Beginning, Middle, and End.
Thank you for joining me again! Tomorrow I’ll have the last of my list of 30. I’ve left my favorites for the end. Hope to see you there!