Why Writing in Community is Like Life Support

Five years ago this last January I jumped into the Christian blogosphere, sending my little pieces of bread out on to the invisible waters of the internet.  I didn’t know what I didn’t know, thank goodness! If I had, perhaps I would have never started. Of course then I would have missed the rich gift of community that I found in the process. Many of those pieces of bread have returned to me in remarkable ways in these five short years, not the least of which are you my dear readers.

Oh, You Too?!

One day shortly after I launched Three Way Light I was reading around the web and found a kindred soul, Kimberlee Conway Ireton, whose blog I liked very much. The header photo at the top of her page made me swoon–ooooh, a book lover. What I found resonated deeply with me on many levels—her writing about the need for quiet and solitude, contemplative practices and her penchant for classic literature.  When I clicked on the ‘About’ tab on her blog (I was doing a lot of ‘About’ clicking then), I nearly jumped out of my chair when I discovered she lived in Seattle.  So do I! (well, close-ish) She lived in Fresno, CA, for many years (so did I!).

After reading Kimberlee’s blogposts throughout that first year, leaving my weekly comments, I made up my mind to reach out and introduce myself. Because that’s what I do–connect with complete strangers to make my world a little smaller.

Kimberlee responded, inviting me to come to her house for tea and writing talk; I was overjoyed to do so, as you never know how people will respond when you’re extroverting all over the place. (And Kimberlee is (ahem) an introvert.) Her four children, including 2 year old twins, kept her home schooling days full—the older children were 7 and 9 at the time–but she didn’t mind letting me interrupt their flow for the day. We hit it off immediately and vowed to keep in touch. Our tea time visits turned into picnics in various Seattle parks, then visits to their Home School co op, she and the kids came to my house, and so on.  Our age difference didn’t matter. We had found community.

Writing is lonely work. Writing in community, though, can make it easier.

Hatching a Dream

On one of those Seattle Saturday picnics, K and I hatched a dream of having a small Christian Writer’s Retreat here in the Pacific Northwest. Every conference or workshop or writing retreat we found for bloggers was somewhere else (usually across the country) and cost a bucket full of money.

What if we facilitated a Writer’s Retreat ourselves? Well, what if? It turns out she had been having the same dream.

In 2015 we held our first writer’s retreat, an intimate gathering centered around the theme of ‘Dwell’–in the Cascade Mountains of Washington. The following year, the theme was ‘Abide.’ The work we did writing poetry, playing with words and singing was life-changing for all of us—not the least of which were the Attendees.  (You can read about our 2015 retreat here and 2016 here.)

After Abide happened those who came had a deep desire to stay in touch—some of the Retreatants were from as far away as Ohio, Colorado and Virginia. This is why God made the internet.  I took that little spark, turned it into a plan and Glory Writers was born.

Glory Writers is a little community on Facebook (less than 40 of us) who share inspiration, encouragement, questions or information each week. There are opportunities to talk about our work, whether a blog post or a poem or a paragraph and let the rest of the group read along. Some of us share our works in progress, art journaling, art shows or writing books. We have also been known to talk about socks. (But you’d have to visit Glory Writers to find out more about that, so consider yourself invited. Look for Glory Writers on Facebook. The group says ‘closed’ but all you have to do is knock on the door.)

The Miracle Grows

As a result of my little jump into the internet five years ago, then reaching out to a stranger, pursuing the shared passion of leading writer’s retreats, starting a writer’s group online, well, here’s what God has done through connecting, encouraging and communicating:

One of the folks who came across the country to our Writer’s Retreat last year is my beautiful  (now) in real life friend Denise. She is originally from Jamaica and currently lives in Virginia, by way of Kansas. You can’t get farther away from Jamaica than Kansas.

During a ‘happenstance’ conversation one day in our Glory Writer’s group, a new member from South Africa of all places, Aliyah, connected with Denise and found a kindred connection, too. A mini-community was born half way around the world.

Since that time Denise has done two podcast interviews with Aliyah and I have to tell you, hearing each of their lilting accents is reason alone to take time to listen. (Their first interview across the airwaves was ‘Culture and the Christian Writer–so good!) Denise posted this on our Glory Writers page the other day: I don’t think I could have done that interview a year ago. Interacting with GW has done much to help me grow in some of my perspectives and in confidence; not always comfy but necessary, (and that’s not tiny, btw.)

That’s enough ‘bread’ for me right there to feed my soul. It began because I was looking for community and connection in my writing journey. Then I risked reaching out to a complete stranger, connecting the dots of the worldwide web, and God reached into my life in miraculous ways.

Where Have You Found Community?

Donald Miller says that we are all wired for connection and relationships with one another and with God.  You know that, don’t you?

There are a number of wonderful communities on the web, groups gathered around a shared interest, who encourage and inspire each other, with this constant reminder–you are not alone. These are some of my favorites:

  • For moms, there is the website Kindred Mom ‘Flourishing in Motherhood’
  • For poetry lovers, there’s Tweetspeak Poetry ‘the best in poetry and poetic things’
  • There’s the Consilium Blog hosted by Diane Bailey ‘A community of purpose and grace for wise women’
  • And a cheerleader community for faith writers if there ever was one–Hope*Writers.

So tell me, where have you found community–in real life or on the web?

I would love to hear. 

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.

Start Small, Start Now

Yes, here I am on a Wednesday, writing a little something for you, dear readers.

I’ll keep it short–my random brain is considering a quarterly newsletter communique to stay in touch. In keeping with my ‘start small.start now’ mantra for the New Year–what practices will move you towards who God has made you to be?–I’m extending my reach with another writing avenue beyond this blog.

doubts-declarations

 

Tentatively titled, “Random Acts of Writing-the Miraculous to Mundane,” my newsletter will be a wrap up of life, faith and leftovers, so to speak, from my non-linear brain. Random Acts will also be an extension of the thoughts on “Glory Writers” our online Facebook group, sharing words to encourage, inform and uplift along with thoughts on writing, life and faith.

(By the way, if you’d like to join Glory Writers, just knock on the door. Glory Writers–Putting Faith into Words–is facilitated by myself and Emily Allen. From the description:

“Glory Writers–A vibrant community for Christian writers to find connection, inspiration & information about all aspects of writing, blogging & publishing. This group is a catalyst for encouraging and growing writers of faith from where they are to where they want to be, through weekly opportunities for sharing writing projects, questions and comments and Monday Facebook live videos.
Come join us!”  
We’re a closed group, but would love to welcome you.)

So, would you like to receive such a compendium? Perhaps your friends would? Let me know in the Comments by leaving your email address and I’ll add you to the list.

First issue–March 15th–woohoo!

 

What to Do When You’re Distracted

“I had more freedom now and I had to feel my way into it, see which barriers had fallen and which still were up… I couldn’t be satisfied until I knew the boundaries and where the openings were, if any.”   Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow, c. 2000

~~~~~~~~~~~~

When Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction…But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it,” I think He meant the words more as a protection than anything else. A protection and a promise. (Matthew 7:13,14)

I am very easily distracted, especially by other folks’ words. If there are conversations going on around me while I’m trying to listen to a friend, I have a hard time focusing. And when I have too many words—virtual or on paper, it’s almost as difficult to concentrate or hear. (I recently donated two enormous shopping bags of books to Goodwill because it was too “noisy” in my living room.)

In the wake of the recent Presidential election, I almost let the weight of All the Words crush me. Everyone had an opinion or argument, even fellow believers. Especially fellow believers.

dsci0003

Besides being easily distracted, I have a knack for people-pleasing and being easily influenced. I began engaging in online conversations just to have my say or prove my point. In the process, I almost forgot who I was and what God has called me to.

Of course, our enemy would like nothing better than for us to engage in conversations that add no fruit to our lives or further God’s kingdom. Distractions can be helpful in accomplishing this. Those verbal pathways don’t have to be evil or dangerous, but if they’re not part of my journey, I don’t need to be going there.  Continue reading

My Favorite Things, {Vol. Two} a.k.a. The Middle Pages


Lake Union Dock, Seattle, photo by the author
‘My Favorite Things’–sporadic gathering of posts you may have missed because they’re buried in The Middle Pages. You know what I mean, eight pages into the ‘A’ Section of the paper you find a story you think belongs on the Front Page.  “Why is that buried there? I almost missed it!” Well, you’re in luck.
 Here are few thoughtful gleanings from the virtual pages of the interwebs. Enjoy!
~~~~~~~~~~

1. Sometimes in the writerly world one feels bereft of energy and vision.  Does my voice really matter? Author Kimberlee Conway Ireton says yes. We write (well, she writes) for three powerful reasons:
Becoming Ourselves

2. I had grandiose plans to dive intentionally into God’s Word this year. You know, with a plan….then my friend Christy Tennant Krispin, who blogs at ‘Coffee Stains on My Bible’, came up with 52 Weeks of Wisdom.  I can’t quite keep up with her, but maybe you can? 
Christy’s Weekly Wisdom

3.  Ashley Hales is a little busy–four kids, blogging–at Circling the Story, oh, and a husband who’s starting a new church.  ‘Quiet time’ is not to be found–so she finds Jesus when she’s dancing.  This post for The Mudroom Blog made me smile. 
What if Presence is the Only Revelation You Need?

4.  Kelly Greer and I met at the Faith and Culture Conference in Oregon two years ago and have been communicating virtually ever since. A bout with cancer kept her world sidelined for a while but now she’s jumping back in to blogging.  Kelly is one of our Glory Writers (come visit our Facebook page!)  Here is her guest post for Diane Bailey:  
Hello from the other side of the calendar

5. This post by Esther Emery for the Mudroom had me weeping in the library. Sometimes only your soul knows what’s buried deep, then someone’s words undo it all….

“I’ve been carried by revelations these last six years. God came for me with a long arm, like Jesus calling. I wasn’t asking in any way that felt to me like asking. I mean, I was asking, come to think of it, pretty desperately. But I was asking for knowledge that I could control. I was not asking for this other kind of knowledge, the kind that comes in backwards and tells you things that you don’t believe.”
What Revelation has to do with the Cheshire Cat (and other things I didn’t know)

~~~~~~~~~~
Linking with Missional Women for Faith-Filled Fridays