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

DWELL–Retreat Announcement–Join Us?



I’ve been waiting to share this almost-a-secret for two months–ta da!

After last fall’s Abide writing retreat, which Kimberlee Conway Ireton and I both felt was a little glimmer of Heaven, we were very excited to hold another retreat. This one will be different, of course but we’re going to try to keep the same spirit of waiting on God and communing with one another that characterized ‘Abide.’


This September, we’ll be heading back to Grunewald Guild for a weekend of worship, writing, sharing, prayer, and community. Our desire is to create a quiet, relaxed retreat for women writers—space to write and create, to pray and worship, to connect at a heart level with other women writers, and enjoy the beauty of the natural world.
For those who want to be social, there will be plenty of time for connection over meals, over an art activity, and during the sessions. And for those who want to be quiet or alone, there will be lots of time to simply be (or write or hike or sleep)—we are intentionally keeping the retreat slow-paced and contemplative. We want you to come home refreshed and rested and energized for the work ahead.

Our theme for 2016 is ‘Dwell: How does Jesus live through our art?’

We dwell in Christ—and He in us. How then does He live through our art? Over the weekend we will prayerfully consider this question and explore a variety of possible answers.  

Our key Scriptures will focus on Christ indwelling us, and our dwelling in God. 

We’d like to spread wide our narrow embrace to encompass more—more possibility, more creativity, more beauty. More God. We hope and pray that this weekend, like last year’s retreat, will be the beginning of that wider embrace. If you’re interested in joining us, here’s everything you need to know:

WHAT: a weekend of worship, laughter (and maybe some tears), and camaraderie among women writers of faith. Kimberlee will facilitate lectio divina with our Scripture passage, plus a writing activity or two (at least one involving POETRY, of course.) There will perhaps be a guided writing time led by Jody as well.
WHO: YOU, we hope. (Well, and Kimberlee and I 🙂
WHEN Friday, September 9 – Sunday, September 11, 2016
We’ll start around 5 on Friday evening and finish up around noon on Sunday.
WHERE: Grunewald Guild (http://www.grunewaldguild.com/), near Leavenworth, WA

HOW MUCH $$: We have several options for lodging that affect the price. All prices include 5 meals (dinner Friday through brunch on Sunday).
Option 1: Shared room (one roommate): 
            $219 early bird (by March 1); $259 regular (after March 1)
Option 2: Private room (your own slice of silence): 
            $259 early bird (by March 1); $299 regular (after March 1)
Option 3: Dorm-style room (up to roomies; twin beds, 1 bathroom downstairs–rooms are above the Library) $159 early bird (by March 1); $199 regular (after March 1)
All shared and private rooms have a sink in the room. Toilet and showers are shared among all residents on a floor. Towels and bed linens are provided. (Toiletries are not.) Please note there are a limited number of private rooms and limited beds in the dorm. We’ll be handing them out on a first-come, first-served basis. For that matter, there are a limited number of shared rooms, too.
All meals are eaten communally in the Dining Hall in the Main Centrum Building.
We’ve got room for 20 people, friends, so get your registration in ASAP to reserve your spot!

How to sign up: Shoot me an email (heyjode70atyahoo dot com) with your ‘Yes’, along with your name, snail mail and email addresses, phone number, and room preference. I will be setting up a Paypal account this year, so payment will be easy.

Your spot is reserved once we’ve received your email 
AND your payment in full. 
(Keep that early bird deadline of March 1 in mind!)
Please prayerfully consider whether Dwell is a place that God would like to meet you.
It’s not for everyone, but maybe it’s for you?

If you’d like to read more about last year’s time together, 
here are some links from my blog, Three Way Light