On Being a Writer: Engage (Chapter 9)

I’m joining with the online discussion group that Kate Motaung is hosting on her blog Heading Home, based on the book On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts, by Ann Krocker & Charity Singleton Craig. Today’s chapter is Engage, with the discussion on interacting with other writers, artists, and others who support my writing.

“Hello, Anne…. Sure, I’d love to come over for lunch.” And such would begin another day of interacting with a dear friend and fellow writer. In my early days of writing, Anne and I spent many hours together, as she showed me ways to cut away content that wasn’t needed, or she helped me find a better way to say what I was trying to get across. With her help, I was able to send in my first article to a national magazine and it was accepted for publication and needed very little editing once they received it. During that season, my husband and I also attended to Christian Writers’ Workshops, which were very enlightening. The kind of interaction discussed in this chapter was an important part of my life.

Forward about fifteen years. Because of multiple chronic illnesses and constant pain, I no longer drive. Anne is also unable to drive to my home. So any fellowship with Anne or any other writers is very limited. With my husband’s busy schedule as he takes contract video production jobs for clients to pay our bills, and uses every free moment working on pre-production for his first full-length Christian movie, time for visiting outside our home is almost non-existent. Any support and input I now receive from other writers or creative people (other than my husband) is usually by phone or online. Seasons change, and with God’s help we learn to adjust to the changes. But I want to encourage my sisters in this writing group to make every effort to find at least one or two fellow writers to interact with. It makes writing much better when you have input from other writers.

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Tuesday at Ten {What I love most about myself}

What do I love most about myself?  I love the truth that I am a new creation in Christ, that God is working in my life changing me into the image of His Son. Because He lives in my heart, I am a different person.

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In the natural, I am a very moody person – just ask my husband what I was like when we first got married forty-two years ago. But after many years of walking with Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I am not nearly as moody. I’m being transformed into the image of Christ, and He is not moody.

In the natural, I’m a worrier. But as a growing Christian, I’ve learned that worry doesn’t change my tomorrows, it only empties today of the strength I need to walk wisely. I’m being transformed into the image of my Savior in this area also.

In the natural, I am a person who focuses on my circumstances. But after my years of walking with Jesus, I’ve learned that focusing on my circumstances only makes me depressed. If I turn my eyes upward onto my Lord, I can walk through any difficult situation and be at peace. In this area too, I’m being transformed into the image of Christ.

In the natural, I’m a person who always asks why. Why is this happening to me? Why hasn’t our special-needs son been healed? Why did You heal my husband’s back, but I still live with back pain daily? But I’ve learned that God usually answers such questions with, “Trust Me.” And I’m learning to do that. Again, I’m being transformed into the image of Jesus, who always walked in trust and obedience to the will of the heavenly Father.

These are just a few areas where I’ve seen God working in my life during the last forty-four years, since I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I definitely haven’t arrived – I still have more growing to do in each of these areas and in others as well. But as John Newton, the writer of the Christian hymn Amazing Grace, said:

I am not what I ought to be,
I am not what I want to be,
I am not what I hope to be in another world,
But still I am not what I used to be,
And by the grace of God,
I am what I am.

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John Newton spent much of his life as a slave trader. But after he came to know Jesus Christ as his Savior, he was a different person. He said that the beloved hymn Amazing Grace was the story of his life. It is also the story of my life. As a churched person, I believed in Jesus, but I had not surrendered my life to Him. When I made Jesus my Lord and Savior, God by His grace began the life-long process of changing me, of transforming me into the image of the Son of God.

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Discover: When I Write, I Find Myself (Chapter 8)

I’m joining with the online discussion group that Kate Motaung is hosting on her blog Heading Home, based on the book On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts, by Ann Krocker & Charity Singleton Craig. Today’s chapter is Discover.

I do two main types of writing, some in a journal that only I will read, and some in a blog or article that will be published for others to see. For me, finding myself through writing mostly applies to the writing I do for myself, in my journal.

When I’m struggling with something, such as the rapid decline in my health over the past few months, journaling is a healthy release. Often, writing about what is going on, applying Scripture to my situation, helps me understand what I need to do. In essence, by journaling, I bring the Lord Jesus Christ into my situation, giving me a clearer view of how I need to respond.

Let me give an example. Tomorrow, I’ll receive the results on an MRI on my cervical spine that was done last week. My doctor ordered the test because I’ve had frequent headaches, increased back pain, and numbness in my right foot since a pain injection in my cervical spine two months ago. Tomorrow, I meet with my doctor to go over the results, and this morning I was feeling anxious.

Today turned out to be a good day, because I took the time to bring God into the picture. I reminded myself that He already knows the results, and He will give me wisdom in any choices that need to be made. This process helps me to “discover myself” as God wants me to be, helping me see the situation from His perspective.

When I’m writing for other eyes to see, the process of bringing my emotions under control and bringing God into the situation has already been completed. The inner battle has been won, and I can write from a place of victory to encourage others who may be facing similar circumstances.

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On Being a Writer: Send (Chapter 6)

I’m joining with the online discussion group that Kate Motaung is hosting on her blog Heading Home, based on the book On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts, by Ann Krocker & Charity Singleton Craig. Today’s chapter is Send.    

The very first article I sent to a magazine was published, which was encouraging but also set me up for great discouragement when the first rejection letter came. I needed the advice given in today’s post: “Get up, dust yourself off, and keep writing,” but I didn’t respond that way. I did send in a few more queries, but when the rejection letters continued to come in I gave up. That was over ten years ago, and I haven’t send in an idea for an article since then.

About two months ago, I felt the Lord telling me it’s time to start writing again. I realized I needed to develop my rusty writing skills, so I started the process by doing a weekly blog post. The writer’s market has changed a lot in the last ten years, so I also am using some of my writing time learning about some of the online publications. I recognize that sending in query letters to publications will be the next step I need to take, and I commit to take this step with fear and trembling.

When I’ll take this step of sending queries or stories for publication is still uncertain. I’m working on story-telling skills right now, to give my articles a hook that will make the readers want to know what comes next. I feel like I have so much more to learn, but I also think I’m making progress.  And I believe writing for publication – beyond the few people who read my blog posts – is in my future.  I’m asking the Lord to show me when the time is right to make this leap forward, and until then I’m focusing on the lessons I’m learning now. I know if I don’t quit, I’ll eventually get to the point where my writing goals will be fulfilled!

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Five Minute Friday – Yes!

It’s Five Minute Friday, and I’m joining Kate Motaung and all the FMF friends in writing on a one word prompt for five minutes – no editing or polishing, just write and then link up with others. Today’s prompt word is Yes.

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Yes – a little word with a big meaning, when we use it in reference to our relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Yes – to anything and everything He asks. Isn’t that what Lordship means? He makes the choices and we do what He asks.

I wish this was as easy to do as it is to write. So often, saying Yes to the Lord means saying No to my will, to my desires. But if He truly is Lord, I must die to self and walk in obedience to His revealed will. The longer I walk with Him, the clearer that becomes. And the clearer it is that I can’t do it in my own strength. But the Holy Spirit that lives within us, if we are born-again Christians, gives us the power and grace to obey. We choose to walk in obedience because we love Jesus, and the Holy Spirit makes it possible. Such a simple description of what it really is to be a Spirit-filled, Spirit-led believer in Jesus!

On Being a Writer: Write (Chapter 5)

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I’m joining with the online discussion group that Kate Motaung is hosting on her blog Heading Home, based on the book On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts, by Ann Krocker & Charity Singleton Craig. Today’s chapter is Write.

I have enjoyed writing since I was in college, but until about fifteen years ago I wrote strictly for myself, doing journal entries almost daily. Now, I consider writing a calling, something that is a part of God’s plan for my life. A few months ago, I set a goal of writing at least one blog entry per week. I see this as a first step in developing my writing skills. Eventually, I plan to write some articles for magazines, something I did several years ago but stopped when circumstances left me almost no time to write. But my ultimate goal is to write a book, sharing some of the lessons that God has taught me through having a special needs child (now an adult) and losing our first child when our vehicle was hit by a drunk driver. That accident left me with many fractures, severe osteoarthritis, neuropathy, and a long list of other orthopedic and neurological problems.

My main personal struggles and frustrations when it comes to writing regularly come from my physical limitations. As a sufferer of numerous chronic illnesses, pain is a part of my daily life. I also tire easily, and often need to rest for a couple hours in the afternoon. When I combine this with my responsibility as the bookkeeper for my husband’s home-based video production business, as well as other family and household tasks demanding my attention, time for writing is limited. At times, I’ve found myself sitting up in bed doing a blog entry because it’s due and I’m in the midst of a flare-up of one of my chronic illnesses.

With all of this in mind, I’ve set a goal of writing (including the study and preparation needed to complete an article) for three afternoons each week. About two afternoons a week, I have a doctor’s appointment, so those weeks I only have two afternoons for writing. With so little time available, I need to use my writing time wisely, or my blog posts will be few.

On the afternoons that I have reserved for writing, I’ve run into another problem. I noticed I was becoming so focused on my writing that other tasks weren’t getting done. For example, I would put in a load of laundry in the morning, and realize at bedtime that the clothes were still in the washer.  I would also sit in the chair where I write for hours without a break, which only agravates my health problems. So I’ve started using the Pomodoro Technique and scheduling in five minute breaks every half hour. As I get up and walk around the house, or take a brief walk outside, I’m able to concentrate better when I come back to my writing task. And when walking around the house, I notice the jobs I was forgetting to finish.

On Being a Writer: Notice (Chapter 4)

I’m joining with the online discussion group that Kate Motaung is hosting on her blog Heading Home, based on the book On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts, by Ann Krocker & Charity Singleton Craig. Today’s chapter is Notice.

Learning to notice my surroundings is one of my weakest writing skills, one I need to work hard to develop. So this morning, after reading Chapter 4, I purposely took a short walk outside and exercised this skill. I noticed something that I’ve failed to observe before.

First, let me explain. I live with chronic pain, and walking isn’t easy for me. Using a walker, being in ever-increasing pain when I’m walking or standing, these tend to distract me from concentrating on my surroundings. It requires extra effort, which I usually chose not to give. But this morning, I was determined to be observant.

The first thing that caught my eye as I walked down the ramp and into our yard was the vine growing on our fence. At first it looked like an eyesore, something that was dead and needed to be pulled down.

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But then I looked closer. What at first glance appeared to be a dead vine had evidence of life. When I drew close, I noticed some healthy green leaves and pretty orange flowers. I saw that the vine wasn’t really dead afterall. It may need some pruning, but we don’t need to tear it down and throw it away.

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As I looked at the healthy leaves and flowers, a spiritual application came to mind. How often do we look at our lives as sons and daughters of God, and wonder why we keep failing? Where is the spiritual fruit in our lives? Are we really Christians? Could it be that we just need pruning, so we can grow in our walk with the Lord? This reminds me of Jesus’ words in John 15:1-5.

‬‬”I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
‭‭(John‬ ‭15:1-5‬ ‭NASB)‬‬

The vine growing on our fence doesn’t look healthy, but with some careful pruning it has a future. Likewise, we may not be as spiritually healthy as we desire to be. But if the true vine, Jesus, lives in our hearts, we can be assured that He won’t give up on us and throw us away. As long as we abide in Jesus, trusting in Him to do the needed work within us and not thinking we can change ourselves, we can live in the assurance that He will complete the work He has begun in us (Philippians 1:5).  The process will include some pruning, but we can trust that the Master Gardener will only cut away the things in our lives that are hindering us in our walk with Him.