“Writing a Book is Easy” (said no one. ever.)

When I set out from home last week, Sunday to be exact, I’d been crowing to all who would listen, “I’m going away for a week to write the first draft of my book.” As if…..as if that can be done. But God is so good–we just don’t know what we don’t know. Whether it’s, “Hey, let’s paint the living room this weekend,” “Honey, let’s take that hike. It’s totally easy.” “Wow, I think I’ll go back to school/get a job now that my children are older,” and other idealistic statements.

Or maybe that’s just me.

stained glass, GrunewaldThis week away at the lovely Grunewald Guild in the Cascade Mountains of Washington, has been eye-opening, to say the least. (The bridge photo in the header was taken here at Grunewald last Fall).

Here are seven things I’ve learned I’m learning:

  1. Life and Jesus will get in the way (in a good way).
  2. You planned to write a rough draft of your book but you’re the rough draft
  3. Never write in the same room you’re sleeping in. A table along one wall does not a study make
  4. You will have to recalibrate your expectations several times using not GPS, but Jesus PS.
  5. Sometimes being productive means lots of prayers going up rather than print on the page.
  6. Trust the process. Give it time. God’s not in a hurry. The book idea was His anyway—all you have to do is give Him your pen.
  7. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not God.

 

When Your Workout Includes Wait Training

I want to fly these dumbbells

up, down, up, down

quick! The momentum of each

lift rising at my side pushing past

perhaps what’s safe or wise

in the name of what? Speed

or yes, the checklist-exercise-

done! When I slow instead,

face the window and raise

these weighted arms slow,

slow, slow-up; slow, slow, slow-

down-the strain increases but the

work muscle-wise is longer lasting.

I feel the wait and wonder if speed

is highly overrated. Aware of the

answer, I rest into the process

lifting again, lowering at my leisure.

Repeat.Relax.Rest.Return.

And find a lesson in these weights,

an exercise written over taut skin,

reaching to my soul.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’m heading to the Cascade Mountains of Washington for a weeklong writing project (first draft of my little book!). I covet your prayers for this process–I’d like to speed it up, but God keeps reminding me He’s with me while I wait on Him for the words.

Why Creation is a Messy Process

It all began with my suitcase.

I recently returned from a five day trip to Texas to see family and friends and attend a writer’s conference in the Austin area. I packed way too many clothes and shoes. And books. (One always miscalculates the amount of ‘free time’ to read while on a trip.) In fact, when I checked into our airport in Seattle, my suitcase was three pounds overweight. I had to do some quick reshuffling to manage everything. Sigh. Out with the laptop, out with the pillow (yes, I travel with my pillow). Out with the shoes. Buy new shopping bag to sling over my shoulder. Sigh again.

Besides gleaning some nuggets of truth from the folks I heard at the three- day conference, I also began mentally gleaning my wardrobe. Weird, I know, but God often uses my physical life as an object lesson to illustrate what he’s doing inside me.

One of the gifts of getting older is finding out what you like and don’t like, what you love and what you can live without. Not only with words but in this case, with my wardrobe. I was processing new discoveries about ways of looking at my writing, adding them to the mix of my current mindset, but my mind was over-full. My overflowing suitcase matched my over-stuffed mind.

Some things needed to go to make room for these new ideas.

One of the conference speakers relayed the ideas of looking at our writing through orientation, disorientation and reorientation. I love learning about words and their root meaning. When I got home I looked up the word ‘orient’–from the Latin, ‘oriens’ meaning ‘rising sun’. When we are facing ourselves in the right direction—towards the Son—Jesus—things feel right. But when God is doing something new we feel disoriented.

We often dislike the feeling of being disoriented, so we try to pass over it too quickly to eliminate the uneasy feelings. But God is often there in the mess. In fact, He is always there in the mess. Maybe we need to take time to process and work through what’s there so we can learn from it.

******

I returned from my trip on a Saturday evening. The next day I thought about rushing off to church to be with family and friends in worship. But something pulled me towards dealing with my overstuffed suitcase. I needed to get rid of some of my clothes; most of my clothes. My husband kissed me goodbye and left me to my project.20170219_154157

I was determined to go through two closets (two!) and two dressers (seriously?), keep what I knew I loved and would wear again and get rid of all the rest.The process took me most of that day and little of the next. By the time I finished I had two big plastic blue Ikea bags full to the brim.

It’s hard to explain how much lighter I felt. Not only did I have more room in my closets, I could actually see what I had.  Clearly I don’t need anything new to wear, what I have now is the ability to put things together in a new way that feels right to me. I felt reoriented, creative.

*******  

Creation is like that, whether we’re writing a poem, planting a garden or building a piece of furniture. It often begins with the mess of feeling disoriented while things are undone and all over the place. Stuff needs to be moved around, thrown out, cut down, laid all over the floor.

I think we need the disorientation process more than we know. The song ‘Simple Gifts’ has the lines about ‘turning, turning, til we come out right.’ Our lives are a continual turning towards the Son to see what needs changing, throwing away, cutting back. When we embrace the disorientation process we’re better able to see what new and beautiful creations God has to give through us.

What mess is God calling you to make today? What have you gone through that’s led to something new? Please share in the comments.

_ _ _ _ _

Simple Gifts” is a Shaker song written and composed in 1848 by Elder Joseph Brackett. You can hear Judy Collins singing it here.

* * *  linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee for Tell His Story

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What Really Matters {it’s not the envelope}

The snow comes, unexpected like

grace after a fall (yours, mine,

ours) a quiet wool covering missteps,

mistakes, messes.

This white-soft gift leaves an expanse

of peace, pulling my eyes away from the

ground, these humble, human feet,

to the misty, gray horizon.

Heart now centered, sheltered, still

while Creation whispers my thanks.

****

I don’t know about you, but this Monday morning leaves me feeling a little undone. Did you watch the Oscars? Did you see the mess-up at the end, the snafu that has never happened before with the envelope announcing Best Picture being the wrong one? How would you like to be the person that did that? 

I’ve other things on my mind–a convalescing husband who’s post-surgery demands are taxing my self-centered flesh, a messy kitchen, incomplete projects, inside & out.

I’m in the middle of living through being disoriented. The root of the word ‘orient’ is from the Latin-‘oriens’, meaning rising sun. Well, of course. When I turn my heart and mind and self towards the East, towards the rising sun–Jesus–I can see things in the right perspective. I feel oriented again.

I don’t like to live with being disoriented, but that’s where I am right now. I’m grateful for God’s word and presence that keeps me looking up in the right direction, shining light on what really matters.

Where are you today? Feeling oriented, disoriented or are you in the middle of reorienting?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments.

Why Slow Starts are Best (or, Typing as Therapy)

“For who knows how,
Better than he that taught us first to Plough,
To guide our Mind and Pens for his Design?
And he makes base things usher in Divine.”
John Bunyan, the Author’s Apology for His Book, Pilgrim’s Progress

I wrote at the beginning of this year about starting small, starting now when leaning into God’s promises, those urgings from his Spirit that draw us closer to His purpose and plans for our lives. It is easy to become intimidated when we consider those God thoughts, wonder if the change He’s spoken of will ever come to pass. Perhaps it is a ministry gifting you’re pondering. Perhaps it is a story to write, a book that’s inside you, a change you want to see in your personal life. How do we help those come to pass? Or is it more of a partnership?

‘Starting small, starting now’ came from a message at church of the story of Nehemiah and his people rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, one brick at a time. Our pastor’s encouragement was to move slowly and faithfully in the direction God has called us, trusting God while our dreams are fulfilled.

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I just returned from a five day trip to Texas for a writer’s festival at a small Baptist college in a small Texas town. It was a delight for my soul to soak up some sunshine after the chill of the mornings, bask in the fun of making music and connecting with folks who are dear to my heart. There were opportunities to grow in my writing as well and be inspired by the words of other gifted folks.

When I returned home to the much wetter, cooler Pacific Northwest, I couldn’t wait to get outside to check the growth in the garden. My world is anchored by the seasons; I recently decided I like winter best. Why? Because all that gray, blank space gives my mind room to ponder. Because I enjoy watching the sometimes infinitesimal growth of the garlic as it spikes bright green towards the sky. The clematis begins to sport buds on the dead looking vine, the asters begin to poke magenta gray sprouts into the soaking soil.

tulips-february-2017

It’s easier to see growth in empty spaces, to appreciate the subtle and slow of sweetpeas returning or the forsythia threatening to pop, a tulip’s leaves curl through the dirt.

I snapped this photo and realized–God’s promises to grow us in our gifts and in His graces depend not on our efforts but on His creation. The life of a bulb or flower or shrub is inside, invisible. Under the ground, in the bare stalks of the tree or sleeping before bursting into tulips or crocus.  How that happens is a miracle every single Spring.

So, too, are the promises of God. When He speaks a word about changing you inside or gifting you with His creation to share with others–in a song, a story, a poem or a painting–the birth of it always lies in His power to give life.  The challenge we face is in the making room (clearing the soil), letting go (lifting our pruning shears or pens to the sky) and resting (while the seed grows). Continue reading