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. 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Why Waiting Matters {and a quiet announcement}

True confession—I am a very impulsive person.  On the DISC personality test** I score as a High “I”—impetuous, impulsive, intuitive and easily influenced.

By the grace of God and years of practice I have learned how to not blurt out everything I think all at once. Strike that—I am learning.

Being still and quiet are also a job of work for me, practices I’ve been very intentional about for the past few years. I am desperate to hear God’s voice and listening for Him to speak takes significant effort.

But the greatest area of growth for me is learning to wait on God for my our good ideas to pan out. Hardest thing ever. When I receive an idea for something it is very difficult to understand that good things take time. And if the inspiration is truly a God-idea, not just a good idea, waiting is a wise choice.

I’m also a global learner; I process many, many thoughts all at once,  like the spokes of a wheel going out from the center. I think of it as my God-dependent mind being in the middle and all my scattered, happening-at-the-same-time thoughts circling on the outside.

Given my all-at-once information processing and do-it-right-now mindset you can clearly see why “slow down, take your time, think first” don’t always come naturally to me.

It’s pretty clear I’m not the only who struggles with this. Our society has normalized, not patience, but speed and hurry. We want what we want and we want it now.  This is not because we have developed such short attention spans, which is true to a point, but because we’re willing to settle for so little.

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I’ve been spending some time in Psalm 46 the last week or so, meditating on several verses, particularly the familiar v. 10, “Be still and know that I am God.”  Or, as the Amplified Bible puts it, “Let be and be still, and know—recognize and understand—that I am God.”

Here’s what I noticed: how many times the author says, “Selah.”  “Selah” is a musical term which means in the Hebrew ‘suspension {of music}, pause.’  THREE TIMES in this very short Psalm we read, “Selah”, pause, slow down, pay attention, think about this, these words are important.

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I am in a waiting mode right now, albeit an active waiting mode, because I am writing a book. I’ll tell you more about it in the coming months (or you can email me for the book synopsis). I am learning why waiting is worth it.

Launching a book into the world is a huge feat, as many of you know. I have to finish my book proposal by Jan. 31st, have it reviewed, begin writing the book, send the manuscript to an editor (scary!), incorporate edits, work on marketing, choose a cover, get it published and voila! you’ll have it in your hands.

By October. That’s ten months from now. However.

The process provides the time to tell the world about the book, to build anticipation and suspense, so when you finally hold a copy in your hands you’ll say, “This was worth waiting for.” Sort of like the Academy Awards but without the gowns.

Here’s the thing: I want the end product to be the best it can be so I’m willing to invest the time it takes to do it right.

I can skimp on costs for this book-to-be: cover and content, accelerate the production effort, neglect to market it, etc. etc. all in the name of getting my words out there sooner. End result? I’d be settling for second best. I want something beautiful, well done and a work that makes God look good, so I’m choosing to ‘selah’ early and often on this book journey.

Will you join me in the waiting. I’m counting on it.


**if you want to know more about the DISC assessment, click HERE

 

How Not to Be Intimidated by this Great Big Year

For someone who considers herself a writer (I do. I am.) it amuses me and surprises others when I announce, if asked, that I’m not interested in writing a book. Well except maybe my memoir–isn’t everyone writing a memoir? 

But writing an actual book? No. I know how much time and effort goes into such an endeavor–why would I opt for that?

Except that well, maybe I am. The book idea literally dropped into my brain the other night after the long ride home from a Christmas visit to my son’s. I had a few Deep Thoughts while traveling in the car, a reflective time of our four days together, but I had no idea my thoughts would turn into anything. When I sat down to download my thoughts on paper I ended up with an outline, chapter sections, an introduction and marketing plan.

I’m sure every author starts in such an inspired fashion. Of course the hard part, the seemingly impossible part, is to finish the job with the perspiration part, to misquote Einstein.

But this post is not about the book idea but the idea of a book. Those are two different things.

For everything we do begins with an idea. And it’s the DOING that sometimes keeps us from even beginning.

Our pastor’s message last Sunday was about Nehemiah’s rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. Prodded by a broken heart for the condition of God’s city, Nehemiah asked for permission from the King to return to Judah and assess the situation. He began the task alone under cover of dark, surveying the project and noting what needed to be done.

After Nehemiah gathered the information, he returned to the King and asked to begin the work. Permission was granted; Nehemiah solicited help and commenced building, stone by stone, day by day. And 52 days later they were done.

The point of the message: Start Small. Start Now.

Perhaps the progress you seek will take more than 52 days; it may be more like 52 weeks. Life changing work usually takes little lifetimes. But that shouldn’t frighten you from taking the first step.

What is your small step?

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!
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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)

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Linking with Missional Women for Faith-Filled Fridays