Tuesday at Ten {A Moment I Will Never Forget…}

This post is a part of Tuesday at Ten, the Tuesday blog Link up where Karen posts a prompt phrase and you use that phrase as a part of your writing. This week’s prompt is “A Moment I Will Never Forget.”

I was sitting in a high school Latin classroom, in 1963, and the other students had left for the day. The teacher had offered to tutor me free of charge, because I was really struggling with learning this ancient language, and frankly wondering what I would gain from learning it. She worked with me for a couple hours a week to help me pass this class, but what I remember from this day had nothing to do with Latin. It was the words she said to me, as we took a break from the Latin instruction to watch a special news report on the television. She said, “You’ll never forget where you were on this day when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.” She was right.

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Fifty-two years later, I don’t remember a word of Latin. But I did pass this class, finished high school and college, and went on to be a teacher myself. I don’t even remember the name of this kind Latin teacher who cared enough to spend many hours helping me.  But I definitely do remember this teacher and her words to me on this memorable day. This was a moment I’ll never forget!

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On Being a Writer: Limit (Chapter 12)

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 “Limit – Because I write, I let some things go.”

Limits are something I’m very familiar with, since chronic diseases have forced me to accept many limitations for my own safety. I no longer drive, there are many household responsibilities I need help with, even getting out of most chairs requires my husband’s assistance. But writing is one thing I can do in spite of my physical limitations. I may need to skip a planned writing time occasionally because of a doctor’s appointment or a need to rest when my symptoms are worse than normal, but usually writing is something I CAN do in spite of my limitations.

For several years, I was the primary caregiver for my mother-in-law who suffered from Alzheimer’s. Other responsibilities still needed to be done, but for a season my writing had to be put “on the shelf.” Sitting with Mom, especially when she was at the stage where she was constantly jabbering, made it impossible to work on anything that required focus. But when that season ended a year ago, I slowly began picking up writing again. At first, it was intermittent, but then a few months ago I made a commitment to spend two afternoons per week working on writing. Soon, that became three afternoons per week. The only thing I can honestly say I’ve had to let go to write are spending daytime hours reading emails, checking social media, and playing online games. I’ve allowed for some time in the evenings for these things, but they are no longer a part of my daytime “work” hours.

Life is often about priorities: to do one thing well, we need to give up something else. In the years of homeschooling my daughter, my focus was on doing that job the best I could. When my special-needs son was in a home-bound school program, with a teacher and several therapists coming to the house every week, this became my focal point. And more recently, my efforts were centered on caregiving. It’s up to each of us to determine what assignment God has given us for the current season, and then do our best to fulfill that assignment. I strongly believe that my current assignment is primarily writing, so I am now making it a priority.

On Being a Writer: Rest (Chapter 11)

REST. Yes, this is a need I am well acquainted with.

I woke up this morning at 7:30am, then laid in bed listening to contemporary Christian music for thirty minutes before getting up and dressing. Next, I took the sheets off my bed and put them in the washer. After that, it was time to rest.

Why, you ask, would I need to rest so early in the day? Because I have been diagnosed with a long list of chronic illnesses and live daily with pain. Yet I have to function, to keep my household running and our home reasonably clean. Doing this requires taking at least ten minutes to rest when the pain becomes severe. My day advances in spurts: do a task that requires standing for no more than ten minutes, sit down and work on something else for maybe half an hour, then get back up and do a small housecleaning job for ten minutes. I allow pain – usually in my lower back or neck and shoulders – to tell me when been on my feet long enough, and I then take time to rest.

Resting is an important part of taking care of myself, so that I will have the strength to do the things God has called me to do. And just as my body needs rest because of my chronic illnesses, my mind requires periods of rest so that I can be at my best when I sit down to write. As I schedule times of physical rest into my days, I also schedule times of rest from writing into my weekly plans.

God made the need for rest clear in His Word. First, He set the pattern of working six days then resting on the seventh day, when He rested from the work of creation on the seventh day. For the Jewish people, He established the Sabbath as a day of rest. Apparently the people were thinking a day of rest was good, except when time was limited and crops needed to be harvested, because in Exodus He made it clear that this was not an exception. Even when deadlines loomed ahead, the need of a day of rest was taught.

This Sabbath principle is one I’ve made a part of my life. As Christians, our day of rest is Sunday. My husband and I don’t make this a law we must follow, but with few exceptions we take Sundays as a day of rest from work. On Sundays, I do only essential housework (meal preparation, washing dishes) and I take a break from writing. My husband takes a break from video production and editing, and we make it a goal to spend some time doing something as a family. I also take breaks during my time set aside for writing to get up and walk around or spend a few minutes on something else that needs to be done. At this point, I am not writing every day – my current goal is to publish at least one blog post per week. But if that changes and writing becomes my “full-time job,” I might also need to schedule an occassional week off from writing. And my breaks from writing aren’t necessarily breaks from words – one of my favorite ways to relax is to sit down with a good novel. Since my physical problems require sitting much of the time, this works for me.

Charles Spurgeon, one of the best known preachers of the nineteenth century and and a prolific author, understood the importance of rest. He said, “Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength… It is wisdom to take occasional furlough. In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less.” If Spurgeon accomplished all he did, while still taking time to rest, should we not follow his example. Taking time to rest is wise!

On Being a Writer: Plan (Chapter 10)

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 on planning, on being intentional with our next steps.

I’ve been a planner for as long as I can remember. I can still remember my wedding day. I had all the details on my end worked out ahead of time, so when my soon-to-be mother-in-law and my family wanted to go out to breakfast in the morning, I was ready to go. My fiance, on the other hand, passed up the breakfast invitation, and he has told me since that he was running around until ten minutes before the ceremony trying to get everything on his end set up. Planning ahead is wise.

Concerning my writing, I also have been planning. The thing I’m currently working on is story leads and openings, and as God reveals other weaknesses in my writing, I’ll move onto them. But I know where I’m headed eventually, and I have the steps to get there laid out.

My final goal for my writing is to write a memoir on my life as the mother of a medically fragile and mentally disabled child. But I recognize I’m not even close to handling such a complicated project. So my next step is to continue working on writing skills, while I expand my reader base by posting on a variety of blog link-up sites. After that, I’ll start finding some magazines and online sites that fit my writing style, and begin submitting queries for article ideas. Once I have had a variety of articles published by paying sites, it will probably be time to start on the book that I believe God wants me to write.

Finally, being a planner by nature, there’s a balancing truth I need to remind myself of frequently. Even though I have an idea of where I want to go with my writing, God is the One who is in charge. I make plans, but as I give God control of my writing – and every other area of my life – He has veto power over my plans. As Corrie ten Boom said: “Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.” Planning plus being filled with the Holy Spirit and sensitive to His voice together result in moving forward to complete God’s plans for me as a writer.

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Tuesday at Ten: Hope

It was a busy day. I had a doctor’s appointment, and since I’m not able to drive my husband was taking me. Mitch needed to drive almost forty miles for a contract video shoot once we got back home, and this office had a history of being painfully slow. We had already waited more than an hour beyond the time my scheduled appointment time, and we were getting impatient. But this was an important appointment, one where I was supposed to receive the results of an MRI and learn if it showed the cause of the terrible back pain and headaches I’d been having, so leaving without seeing the doctor wasn’t an option.  So we kept waiting until the doctor finally came in the room. The first thing he told us was that the test results didn’t show what was causing my pain. He made a few suggestions, then we headed for home in the drenching rain, and after helping me get inside my husband rushed to his job.

I was relieved to learn that day, not quite a week ago, that I did not have a spinal fluid leak that would require surgery. But the pain wasn’t any better, and it was easy to give into discouragement. How could I hold onto hope in the midst of these difficult circumstances? I’ve personally prayed for God to heal me, and others have prayed for my healing many times. Are my chronic illnesses and pain just something I’ve need to live with for the rest of my life? Is this my “thorn in the flesh”?

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Commentators have argued for centuries, trying to pinpoint Paul’s thorn in the flesh. Personally, I think Paul may have left his thorn unidentified so believers wouldn’t limit the principle to a specific thing. I also don’t know for sure if physical illness is my thorn or if I’ll have to deal with it for the rest of my life. But I do know that the principle from this passage in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 is applicable to my situation. As I live with chronic illness and pain, I’m leaning on the grace of God, with the confidence that it is enough, and on the power of God, which is more easily seen in the midst of my physical weakness. And I have hope, both that God still is able to heal, and that even if He chooses not to, He will be with me every day. Even if God chooses not to heal my physical body during my days on earth, I know when I am welcomed by Him into eternity, I will be whole physically and every other way. So with that in mind, I keep my eyes on living in a way that is pleasing in His sight, whether I do so in my current physical condition or totally healed.

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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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