We, Who Think “Too Much”

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.

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The Bookshop

Summer 2016

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.

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Patient Grace

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.

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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.

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“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

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Heart-Musts: #1-10

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.

  1. Gaze at the stars from the summit of a mountain
  2. Attend an outdoor concert while sitting on the lawn
  3. Watch a sudden downpour of heavy rain from the inside of a car
  4. Share an evening with the fireflies
  5. Drive from the the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean
  6. Sing along at a dueling piano bar (I have a terrible voice, but what does it matter?)
  7. 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)
  8. See the northern lights—will this ever happen?
  9. Return to the Isle of Skye
  10. 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?

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The Writer’s Climb

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.

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Urgent Priorities of the Heart

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.

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Reflections on a 30-Day Writing Challenge: Part III

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. 

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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.

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