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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Reflections on a 30-Day Writing Challenge: Part II

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.

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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!

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Reflections on a 30-Day Writing Challenge: Part I

Warning: This post is about writing (and so are the two posts that will follow this one). If that’s not for you, I understand. I guess this one’s for me. 😉 I wanted to document all the cool connections I’ve made this month in relation to the writing process. Okay, maybe it’s for you, too. You be the judge.

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We were told to leave work. To go home and wait for directions on how we would teach from a distance. “Shelter in place,” they said. Everything turned upside down because of the arrival of COVID-19. However, not long after that crazy first week, I saw a post on the Higher Purpose Writers Facebook page that read, “There are 4 weeks until April 20. Every day, can we check in and write at least a little?”.  It was just what I needed to shake me out of my shock. It gave me something to do when, at the time, everything seemed out of my control. It sounded like something fun.

Being able to check in nearly every day just to say, “I’m writing! Are you writing?” was so helpful, and honestly I would not have been so unusually committed without that continuity of encouragement. Many thanks to Mick Silva, who is the encourager extraordinaire behind the posts on the Higher Purpose Writers page.  It is a thoughtful place, where one can find insight on the mind of a writer and be reminded of why we write.

Now here we are on Day 30! I can hardly believe it. I don’t want to forget this last month of writing, and I’m actually sad that the challenge has come to an end. It has been one of the few bright spots in a COVID-19-ruled world. It’s not like I will stop writing on Day 31, but I have enjoyed the check-ins, the countdowns, and the daily reflections shared which helped me know I wasn’t alone in the struggles and joys of writing.

Startlingly, I’ve written more in the last 30 days than I’ve written in the last two years. Even though there were days this last month when my writing made me feel like a lost kitten stranded on a remote island, overall I found a steady joy begin to grow inside of me like no other. Just as the reliable daily watering of a plant, along with necessary sunshine, will cause it to reach toward the sky as it flourishes due to routine care, I believe that I’ve grown in much the same way because of the frequency of the writing. Before, I just wrote when I felt like it. Now, I’ve been writing consistently. It has really made a big difference for me in such a relatively short time.

As each day passed, I slowly discovered an eager anticipation when arriving at the keyboard, even when I had no idea what I would produce that day. I found myself feeling satisfied instead of petrified when I accomplished either a blog post or a brainstorming session or—something I’d seldom ever done–an attempt to edit something I wrote. So the more I wrote, the more of that enthusiasm and fulfillment I experienced…even when what I wrote wasn’t that great.

So for the next three days, to commemorate Day 30 of the 30-Day Writing Challenge inspired by Higher Purpose Writers, I’m sharing 30 things I learned about writing during that time…and, more so, what I learned about myself in the process. Yes, 30. I know…it’s a lot. I’m breaking all the rules. This should be a series or something. Okay, actually, it will be. I’ll break it up into three parts for you.

Here we go:

30 Things I Learned While Writing for 30 Days (Part I)

#1) I’ve learned that I’m a night writer and that will probably never change, no matter how hard I try. Yep. For this lady, mornings are for slow wake-ups. The brain just isn’t ready for writing when the sun makes her daily debut. Unless it’s a Saturday and there is a cappuccino involved. In a real mug. With a chocolate croissant.

#2) I’ve learned that when I’m going through deep emotions, those are the days I am too numb to write. These past 30 days have been tough. I’ve experienced loss on many levels. Loss of my proximity to my students and colleagues, whom I enjoy. Loss of my ability to go wherever I choose. Loss of scheduled events I was so looking forward to. Loss of hearing my friends’ laughter as we gather in the same room. Add to that the increased technology, which is a blessing and a curse. Unfortunately, I happened to see something this week that I never ever thought I would see…because of evil people lurking the internet. I was wrecked by it. I couldn’t write for two days. I just couldn’t. When we have days like that, when our hearts are troubled more than we can bear…when we need some time to recover…it’s okay to step back from the writing and take a break.

#3) I’ve learned that I can separate work time from writing time. I write at night, so it doesn’t interfere with my work. I used to tell myself that I was too exhausted after work to write. That there was no way by the time dinner was done and darkness had come that I would ever have the stamina to switch my brain from work mode to writing mode. But I see now, that is an excuse. During the quarantine, I’ve been just as exhausted (if not more, because of the added emotional stress) and just as busy. The difference has been that, in writing each evening, I’ve been so desperate to get my mind off of the news and the worry and the heartbreak that writing has actually become my getaway from it all. Now that it’s been established as such, it’s something I believe I will continue to look forward to. 

#4) I’ve learned that physical movement is a catalyst for inspiration. I cannot even begin to tell you what walking each day has done for me in regards to writing. It is the most amazing thing. Before a walk I will feel stuck and stagnant, my thoughts a three-day-old broken washing machine with water still in the drum. But once I get to walking, my mind starts to get moving, too, and my imagination kicks back into the spin cycle. It is the coolest phenomenon.

#5) I’ve learned that it’s okay if I don’t write every single day at the same time. I used to think that if I were to write every day, then I would have to write at the same time each day. If I didn’t do that, then forget it. It’s all over. I’m not sure where I got that in my head, but it stuck. Maybe it’s the perfectionism. I have also realized that it is likely impossible to write every single day without missing one or two days (or even three or four) here and there. Life happens, emotions happen. Missing days are just….going to happen! We need to give ourselves some grace and just get back to it ASAP. But the key IS getting back to it…ASAP!

#6) I’ve learned that when I walk away from my writing, it will still be there when I return to it. As you can guess from #5, I used to be all or nothing. I’d start writing a blog post and spend hours at a time on it. I would make myself finish and publish it in one sitting. Because I am a forgetful person, I would have a terrible fear that if I were to stop and go do something else or—heaven forbid, wait until the next day to continue—then I would lose all my momentum and flow and it just wouldn’t be the same the next time I returned to it. I’ve been playing around with that this month and to my relief that just hasn’t happened the way I thought it would. I think I’ve found that sometimes, because I’ve taken time to let my thoughts simmer, it’s actually a good thing to wait or stretch the process out.

 #7) I’ve learned that I’m starting to be more open-minded when it comes to editing. Ugh, this part. I hate this part. I’ve been so stubborn, just wanting to leave sentences and paragraphs as they are. I think I’m just being a) lazy or b) overwhelmed because I start thinking, Just how much change are we talking about here? But since I am walking away more from it and giving things time, I find myself cutting sentences or rearranging words with more relish when I do revisit what I’ve left undone. Even in this post series, which I’ve been working on for a few days. Shocking, I know. You’d probably never guess I’d edited any of it. It’s as long as Les Miserables. Yet my printed pages bleed with my earnest little editing attempts.

#8) All that to say, I’ve learned that less is more. As writing becomes a part of my regular daily routine, I’ve been realizing a lot of things in regard to this such as 1) most people don’t have time to sift through a bunch of sentences that could be left out in order to get to the heart of the topic, 2) I sometimes go off on tangents and need to reign them in, and 3) I’m wanting to play with fewer words rather than long wordy sentences to see if that makes more of an impact. 

#9) I’ve learned to start letting go of perfection when it comes to writing. Well, almost. The actual writing part and wanting the page to be perfect is something I definitely still struggle with. Perfectionism strikes in other areas of writing, too. For example, I was afraid to hire a writing coach in the past, thinking I wasn’t good enough or hadn’t written enough. Hello! The very definition of a coach is “to train or instruct”.  In writing more consistently, I’ve realized that I don’t want to let perfectionism derail me from my writing goals.

#10) I’ve learned that I still have so much on my heart to share in the hopes of helping others find light out of darkness.  I pray that I will become more equipped to do so. It’s such a risk to share your whole heart…especially the broken parts. I love my life. But no matter how “good” a person’s life may seem, we all have a little bit of broken in there, don’t we? Or a lot. It depends on who we are. Sharing that helps others. But we have to be brave. I want the best for everyone. I’m a fixer. I can’t help it. I just need to remember there is a Fixer who is better at that than I will ever be.

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So that’s my first ten! Come back next time for the next ten…and then the next! The best is yet to come.

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More Dancing, Please

You know that saying, “Dance like no one is watching”? Literally, right now no one is watching. I know this because I pretty much danced the whole way home during The Walk Up the Hill today, and not a single quarantined soul saw me. I think.

But you know what? At this point, I really don’t care if they did.

I’ve been frustrated, stressed out, sad, and missing life as it was before the world turned upside down. I’m always trying to look on the bright side, but some days it’s just a hard battle no matter how sunny you are. Life gets that way.

One of the things that has helped these past few weeks are our walks. We head out when all is still, the crickets tuning up for their evening chorus…the light breeze chilly enough for long sleeves. I often watch my husband and try to figure out what’s on his mind as he treks a few hundred yards ahead of me.

I know he misses golf. He doesn’t talk about the loss of his stress-relieving pastime, but I can tell by the way he sometimes skips the sidewalk in the narrow park and marches through the cool, thick grass alongside it…as if pretending he’s once again heading down his Sunday fairway, toward the green. Our happy yellow dog trots right beside him. Nothing’s changed for the dog. Except she’s getting more walks now, so all is right in her world.

But nothing feels right in mine. Unless I take the time to really think on what I can be thankful for. Unless I have the pleasure of being stopped by a friendly neighbor on my way to the mailbox, and we have a longer than usual six-feet-apart chat in real life. Real life! No screens or miles between us. Unless I find myself tutoring a smiley student or two in a video conference while clutching my Christmas gift teacher mug that says “Best Teacher Ever” and is full of my homemade chai tea latte, which makes me feel like I am almost holding a Starbucks in my hand and almost in my classroom. Almost.

We say we are safe in our homes, we say we are doing our part to save lives, we say things could be worse–how dare we complain–but the reality is that our community is distanced, our activities are no longer scheduled, and that takes a very real toll on our emotions.

I am not a runner, but tonight I wanted to break into a full sprint. I didn’t want to hurt myself, so instead…I danced. I didn’t care if I looked like a fool. But no one was watching anyway.  And it helped that is was nearly dark. The streets were silent, with no cars passing by on the newly paved road…the houses were all tucked away with their people, as if calling it an early night and heading to bed. The sun had barely settled in itself. Not even my husband who was ahead of me knew that I was groovin’.

The walking is good for us. The fresh air is an amazing feeling when you’ve been stuck to a computer screen for hours all day. And it is when I walk that I start to forget all of my struggles and all of my worries. It is when I begin to brainstorm creative ideas….it is when I begin to daydream of better days.

The walking is good, but the dancing is better. Dancing is like a gift to the stars, as they show up to their cozy, indigo theater seats one by one. Dancing is a better representation of your soul rather than simply plodding along with one foot in front of the other. When life feels grim, it’s the music that has the power to unlock your tension which begins the life-giving movement and fills your body with new energy and delight. It’s in the dance that we discover the freedom to feel.

My walk didn’t start out that way. I was as grumpy as a bear woken up out of an early hibernation when we first set out. But about halfway through (I’m sure there’s some science in this having to do with endorphins or something), a new song came on through my earbuds and I rebelliously decided to smile and bust a move right there on the sidewalk in front of an audience of none.

By the time I got home, my frown had disappeared and I felt a little closer to content than I had all day.

So I’m going to try to remember this dancing day. And I might just do more of it.

But don’t tell anyone.

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Photo by Josh Willink from Pexels

 

Let Go of Worrying About What Others Think of You

Our thoughts are strong and powerful. More than we even realize. We don’t often enough give them credit. I’ve been told I think too deeply. That can be good and bad, depending on the thoughts. I love much, and I worry much.

I’m working on the worrying, and I have to say I’ve improved…but still it creeps in now and then when I least suspect it. Used to be, I’d worry about my health. To the point of distraction.

These days, I’ve been worrying too much about what people think. Always trying to predict how they’ll react…from every angle.

So it made me wonder how you are. Do you worry about what others think of you? Of your actions, words, decisions…I could go on and on.

I’m not up to writing today because I’m feeling under the weather, but I was thinking on this worrying what other people think thing and when I opened my medicine cabinet tonight a note I had taped inside caught my eye.

It seemed just the thing to share with you, in case you spend too much time worrying about what others think of you, too. Let’s not let that rob our joy. There are too many other good things to think on, too many spectacular wonders and life-giving thoughts we could focus on.

So from my little medicine cabinet to your heart, here is a list of reminders I wrote down a few years ago after listening to a podcast of Trish Blackwell’s. Her podcast is called The Confidence Podcast, and her book Insecurity Detox is one of my favorite books. My notes here are from her podcast episode #262: 5 Simple Ways to Stop Caring What Other People Think.

The statements below from the show are what I wrote down to tape inside my medicine cabinet to remind myself of how important it is to remember that I need to focus on knowing my worth for who I am, instead of trying to base it on who I think I should be in order to please everyone else. For a list in it’s entirety and to listen to the podcast, you can click here.

  • I am loved and I have value.
  • It’s okay for people to disagree with me or not like me…
  • God made me as I am, and has given me a story…
  • People liking me or not liking me has nothing to do with my value…
  • I choose to spend my emotional and mental energy on things that bring me joy….

Simple, yet profound. If you find yourself stuck in that worry cycle, too, I hope this is helpful for you to remember, as well.

While I continue to rest now, I’ll be spending my energy on dreaming of the glorious lavender fields under a pink sky in the Cotswolds of England. Because that is one of many things that will bring me joy. What do you think on that brings you joy?

Sweet dreams to you.

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Photo by David Bartus from Pexels

Keep Going

You. The one who keeps trying, even when things get hard? This one’s for you.

Totally impressed am I when you keep showing up and persevering. When so many other people are convinced they can’t, you say,  “Well, hang on a minute…maybe I can.”

When I was in high school, my grades were not what my mom wanted them to be. One evening after she came home from work, she came into my room with a box and said, “This is what you’re doing this weekend. And you’re taking notes.”

A feeling of dread washed over me as I glanced from her face, tight with determination, to the box that lay on my bed. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what was inside.

“Notes?” I stammered. I couldn’t be bothered with those back then. When I sat in the classroom each day, my mind was filled with daydreams of the New Kids on the Block. Who had time for notes?

I took my headphones off and set my Walkman on the mauve and forest green floral bedspread. Lifting the brown cardboard flaps, I peered cautiously into the box.

When I looked back up, eyes like steel were waiting for my reaction. Stifling my groan, I knew better than to argue. So I sighed and agreed that in the morning I would start watching the entire VHS series of Where There’s a Will There’s an “A”…a seminar on how to take notes and get good grades.

Good grief. 

That series wasn’t a miracle in the making. I’m not sure my mom got a good return on her investment. Okay, wait, I need to be nice to myself. I did complete college…eventually. 

The one thing I do remember about that punishment is the title on those tapes. That alone ended up being very valuable to me because, even now, while there might not always be an “A” in the outcome of things, I do believe that, as the old saying goes, where there’s a will there will often be a way. A way through that difficult thing. The first step is to try. And the next step is to keep trying. Until it gets done.

That weekend in high school wasn’t my only experience of not being allowed to quit trying my best. I’ve had to pick myself up and keep going many times, even while dealing with parts of my life that were just. plain. hard. Things haven’t always been roses and fairy tales. I wasn’t allowed to give up, so I get a little peeved sometimes when others do.

Of course, there are always exceptions, and I have no idea what it is like to live someone else’s life.

On the flip side, I can’t stand if someone judges me when they haven’t walked in my shoes. Everyone has a different level of tolerance, a different history, and a different set of capabilities. I am not unsympathetic to that. There are still times when I give up, too.

There are those of us who have also had to work really hard to change our beliefs about ourselves, so that we can move forward and persevere to the best of our ability. None of us are perfect, nor will we ever be. Once we realize that, the trying gets easier.

So tonight, before I go to bed and dream of New Kids on the Block the vacation my husband and I will get to take once the COVID-19 quarantine has been lifted, I just want to say to those of you who see tough things to tackle yet you don’t back down from them…Bravo. 🙂

Seriously. I am so inspired by you. By all of you who might be shakin’ in your boots and want to throw up your hands and say, “Forget. This.”, but you keep going. It might be pain you have to deal with, it might be low confidence, it might be trying to understand or do something you have never done before. Yet….you get it done.

Rest is good. Reviewing our options is great. Reconsidering our negative thoughts is even better.

At the end of the day, if we’ve tried our best and have done all we can, we can go to sleep with a sense of pride and accomplishment which is worth putting one foot in front of the other every single time.

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Make Room for Joy

I know you had a rough day today. You’ve been trying so hard to stay positive, and that takes a lot of energy. Sometimes we get determined, though, to retreat our little turtle heads inside of our little turtle shells, and no matter how much knocking goes on to try to get us to come out, we just. don’t. want to—-Right? I’ve had days like that, too.

But I can’t to go to sleep tonight until I share with you this…

It will pass, that heavy thing. Some way, somehow…it will.

That great big world out there is waiting patiently for you to discover its brilliance once again. Those cotton candy clouds and that radiant shining sun that you loved to watch? They’ll be there for you when you’re ready.

Sometimes we feel imprisoned by what we feel we can’t do, but we are not prisoners. We have so much to be thankful for…a roof, water, heat, technology, books, memories…the ability to breathe. Even for those who may not have a backyard or a window to open, even for those who may not be able to go for a walk…nothing can incarcerate the imagination…nothing can snatch hope away…unless we let it.

Don’t let it. 

Create! Innovate! Choose to look for the good. You have a mind that can be original and smart, so use it. Look around and see all that is there for you. Look, and see the gifts you’ve been given. Give in to gratitude, and hang on tightly to hope.

Hope does not disappoint.

Unless you let it disappoint you.

Don’t let  it. 

You are stronger than that. You can do hard things. We can have our moments of sadness, and we will have journeys with grief riding along in our pockets. There’s room for that. But Joy is where the power lies, so let’s make even more room for that.

Hold on.

And I’m going to knock on that shell just one more time to say…watch Some Good News. 🙂 It just might help turn that frown upside down.

 

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Easter At Home: Rejoice!

Today, I’ve got a list of 7 things you can do at home to celebrate Easter, and even some things for the kids! 🙂

If you’re worried or sad about not being able to go to church this weekend, I understand. But remember this:

God is with us wherever we are.

You may be depressed that your egg hunt won’t be the same, or that you may not wear that special Easter dress to mark the occasion. Instead, we’ll be watching church through our computer screens and singing worship songs in our living rooms, which will be very…different. Just remember, God loves you no matter what you are wearing and He is excited that you’re celebrating his son Jesus no matter where you may be.

God is with us wherever we go.

Church is important to Christians. Absolutely. It’s where we go to worship together as a body of believers, where we learn more about what the Bible says, and where we go to be supportive of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  But in times like these, during the COVID-19 crisis, do not fret because we can’t be there together in the same room right now. We can worship God and praise Him at any time, from any place.

I can say with confidence that He knows exactly what is going on in our world, and He understands why our Easter won’t look the way we are used to.

We needn’t worry because…He is with us wherever we go.

So while you’re at home on Easter Sunday…rejoice as you normally would, in your heart and with your soul. We humans like to keep to our traditions as much as possible, though, so if you need some ideas of how to celebrate Easter without leaving your home, I’ve got a list for you.

Here are 7 things you can do to celebrate Easter from home:

#1) Read the Easter passage in the Bible. It can be found in Matthew 28:1-20, Mark 16:1-20, Luke 24:1-53, or John 20:1-31 .To read or listen to these passages, click on the name of the book in red that you’d like to go to. Better still, go back a little further or read the whole book of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John for the entire account of Jesus’s life on earth, including the time when Jesus died on the cross three days before Easter.

#2) Pray to God, thanking Him for Jesus and His sacrifice for our sins. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 6:23. If you haven’t yet done so, ask Jesus into your heart and believe in Him, as He is the only way to eternal life.  Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” -John 14:16.

#3) Pray for your loved ones, your community, your country, the world…and anything else that might be burdening your heart today.  Wow. We have a lot to pray for these days. Many people out there need our prayers. Beyond thanking and praising God, praying is a means to communicate with Him….asking for wisdom, comfort, healing, or specific needs. Sometimes you don’t know the words to say, but God hears your heart. He knows what you need.

#4) Sing!

  • Click here for Good Housekeeping’s list of 20 Best Easter Songs–Worship Music for Easter Sunday

#5) For the kids 🙂 :

#6) Easter meal ideas….click here for 87 of them from Country Living.

#7) Watch an Easter service online. If you need some links for that, here is one for South Valley Community Church and here is one for Twin Lakes Church, both in California but can be viewed anywhere.

Have a blessed Easter! Stay safe, be well, and fear not. God is with us….always.

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“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:9

A Playlist to Cheer You

Are you ready for some music? 🙂 I didn’t think it would take me all day to do this. But it did. Typically, I am a night writer. Yet here I am, and here I’ve been since this morning…searching for songs that I hope you will find encouraging and uplifting.

As I write this, the sun is finally peeking through the heavy gray clouds that have been my company all day long. Except, this music has been my sunshine despite the clouds, so I hope it does the same for you, as well.

I had a tough minute a few moments ago, when I thought these links wouldn’t post and all my day’s work would be for nothing. Then, by some miracle, it seems to have worked out after all. So, I’m just going to post what I’ve got before it’s all lost…except I originally had a section of songs that were meant to help you remember how amazing you are…but I guess that’s for another post. I look forward to that!

Also, just to warn you…this is kind of an eclectic mix.

Enjoy! 🙂

If you want a song to help free your worries:

 

If you want to dance:

 

 

If you want songs to shore up your courage:

 

 

If you want some beautiful music for your wake up:

 

 

If you want music for stretching:

 

If you want to pretend your traveling:

 

If you’re feeling patriotic:

 

 

If you want some tunes while cooking:

 

If you want music to write to:

 

 

If you want to praise God:

 

If you want music to help you sleep:

 

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Let’s Take the Time to Say Thank You

How do you feel when someone tells you thank you? Usually, you feel good, right? A warm glow blossoms inside of you, and you’re pleased that you were able to help someone. Some of us are humble and feel funny when we’re told thank you, but don’t let that stop you from doing the right thing. People need your kindness, so keep at it. 🙂

On the flip side, the world needs the thankers, too. I realized this today when the pest control service technician stopped by our house for his regular service call. My crazy, yellow lab puppy was loose in the house and trying like a wild monkey to get out the front door when I opened it. Because of the shelter in place and social distancing that is in effect, the technician stood a safe distance away, but because of the dog I held the door open a crack and talked through two inches of space. I didn’t even see his face.

He was very polite and friendly, as always. Because of the unusual times, I got to thinking as I closed the door that his day must be pretty lonely. I imagined him driving from house to house, not encountering many friendly smiles (or any faces at all) as people are likely not even opening their doors during this time.

At one point during his service call, I saw out the window that this young man, who looked like he was just starting out in the working world, stopped for a moment on our ghost town of a street and made an effort to greet a little gray and white striped neighborhood cat. She is always making her rounds in our court, looking for a warm car to hide under or a black bird to chase. I’m not sure who she belongs to, but she looks like she could use a friend.

The cat stopped and faced him, and when he spoke to her she swished her long tail back and forth, a friendly little flag that seemed to say, “Good morning to you, too”. The tech took a few more steps forward and knelt down and leaned his arm out a bit. I watched as the cat inched forward cautiously, and then she moved just a little bit closer until they finally connected. She let him pet her, and he took his time doing so. It seemed this little act brought him some joy and even a little peace. You know how you can just tell sometimes? I could just tell, even from a distance.

When they finally parted, she sashayed over to another house and the technician finished up his job then left on his way to another house, as well. I was glad that little cat was able to give him some connection today, a little something to put a smile on his face in these strange and lonely weeks.

After he left, I recalled how many years we’ve had pest control service from this company, and how each technician we’ve had over the years has always been very polite, professional, and friendly. I was so glad for their sake that they have the kind of job that would allow them to keep working during the COVID-19 pandemic. And I thought about how, in typical times before the shelter in place, I would be so hurried that I would barely say hello or often missed their service call altogether because of my own work hours or crazy busy schedule.

So I picked up my phone and sent an email to the company, mentioning the technician’s name and telling them he did a great job and that I just wanted to say thank you. It took maybe three minutes. Three minutes that I couldn’t seem to spare in the last fourteen years.

Later in the day, I received an email back from a customer service representative. They were over the moon and thrilled that they received some kind words today. They couldn’t wait to forward my email to their supervisors and to the technician so that he would get the credit he deserved. Can you imagine, working in customer service? I bet it is a department that gets nothing but complaints and requests and little thanks is probably given. I think, in the future, I will take the three minutes it takes to send a nice email once in awhile, even after we are done sheltering in place.

People need to be recognized. They need to know they matter. We have the power to help our fellow human beings by recognizing them, applauding them, and thanking them whenever it’s due. I know many of you already do this. It was good for me to be reminded of it today.

I tell this story not to applaud myself for doing something kind, but to hopefully encourage anyone who is reading this (including myself) to take a little extra time to think of who might be out there doing something good or doing something right who could be thanked…and maybe hasn’t been thanked in awhile.

There are a lot of essential workers being thanked right now. They are amazing, and have always been essential. It’s nice to see that they are no longer being taken for granted. Many heartfelt thanks to all of them. If you, like me, are also looking for someone to thank, that’d be a good place for us to start.

Thank you for your time today.

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