Sunday, November 11, 2018

Just because we can do it well doesn't always mean we have to do it.

Aside from my current full-length inspirational nonfic and women's fic projects, I've been trying out different writing short things in different genres lately, just to see what I can do and what I like.
I've dabbled in doing interviews for an online magazine, informative articles, sci-fi, poetry, and now, as of last night, a creepy short story. I didn't mean to do it. It just . . . happened. Like, it has a good message, but it's so creepy it creeps me out. Which doesn't say much because I get creeped out easily. Lisa Mangum can tell you that.
But it's good. Surprisingly. good.
But I don't want to write creepy things.
But I've discovered I am good at it.
I've thought about my experience and have asked myself a question: If this is good, then shouldn't I write more of the same genre? I mean, if I discover I am good at something, isn't there some moral obligation to pursue it?
And the answer I've come to is a resounding "no".
I am allllllll for working outside our comfort zone. That's where growth is.
And yes, we are told not to bury our talents.
But, we are not told to take every talent we have and use it in every way we can.
Just as we pick and choose what is good, better, and best in our lives, I think we should do the same with our talents and what we do with them.
And just because we can do something well does not mean we have to do it often. Or at all if it's not healthy for you.
I'm not saying writing creepy things isn't good or healthy. For some, like Mercedes Murdock Yardley, who is a lovely, lovely soul, it is one of the best ways she uses one of her best talents and it fills her and others.
I'm saying that each person is different. What is best for Mercedes makes me need to wear Depends.
What I'm saying is that we shouldn't feel obligated to use the gifts and talents we have in ways that do not make us healhy or happy.
If you have a gift of working with small children but you don't love doing it, then don't do it.
If you have a gift for counseling others but you don't want to be a therapist, don't do it.
If you have a gift for baking but you don't love being in the kitchen all day, don't do it all day.
Yesssssss, I believe we should reach outside of our comfort zones and discover gifts and talents and push ourselves and grow. And yesssss I believe God will ask us to do some things we don't want to do. And yessss I believe that God has given us gifts and talents to discover and use for His glory.
BUT, we are stewards of our time and energy. And it is not a sin to discover/recognize we are good at something we don't particularly enjoy doing and choose not to do.
I've always jokingly told my kids, "Use your powers for good."
If what is in my power isn't good for me or others, I don't have to use it that way.
I think God has given every one of us more talents and gifts than we can nurture and perfect in our lives. He did this, I believe, to allow us to choose the gifts we love and use them for good and to bring us joy, and for His purposes.
Yesssss, there are times God will ask us to use our gifts for things that will be difficult or we might not enjoy. He has His reasons.
But He also expects us to be good stewards of our time and talents. Times and seasons. Choices and accountability. And joy.
So often we focus on alllll the things we can't do well that I think this issue of what to do with alllll the things we can do well gets overlooked.
And lemme just say, it's okay to acknowledge you have talents and gifts and skills and be grateful for them. That is not arrogance or pride. Arrogance or pride is when you use your talents, gifts, and skills to make yourself feel better than others, or use it in any way to compare yourself with others. (insert EZT Benson talk on pride here.)
It is gratitude and love and joy to recognize the gifts we've been given and the things we can do. Humility isn't downplaying how awesome we are because humble people can't be really awesome, or heaven forbid, admit they are. Humility is recognizing where the awesomeness comes from and partnering with God when deciding what to do with it.
I discovered I am good at writing creepy things. This surprised me and even tickled me a bit. I mean, I wrote something REALLY COOL! And it's good. Creepy good. But I don't want to do it more. I've talked with God about it, and after a good conversation with HIm, I'm gonna take this certain talent for this genre, acknowledge it, tell it it's been fun, pat its head, and tuck it into bed. God's good with it and so am I.
Now onto more writing about things that don't make me want to wet the bed.
(Of course, I am going to submit my creepy short story to an online magazine. I mean, just because I don't want to write more doesn't mean I'm going to waste what I've done. That's like realizing you don't love baking after baking a batch of delicious cookies so you don't eat the cookies you just made. Makes no sense.)

Monday, October 22, 2018

Five lessons writing taught me about life.

A few months ago, I received a strong impression to write a booklet on a specific topic. It was a welcome revelation because as far as my writing has gone it has seemed that God has had no real strong feelings that past few years. I know He cares, of course. But as I’ve prayed about what to write in recent years, passing ideas by Him or asking for direction, it’s almost been as though His answer has been, “Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. You could do that. Whatever you feel you want to do is fine with me.”

Not always the answer I want, because honestly, sometimes I want God to tell me what to do. I want Him to give me an idea, who me a direction.  Not because I can’t think of my own ideas. I can. But because there’s a part of me that is perpetually checking and rechecking that I am doing His will, not mine. I want to write what He wants me to write, not what I want to write.

When specific impressions regarding what to write didn’t come, I was concerned and talked with my husband about it. Was I praying wrong? Not being specific enough? Did God not want me to write?

He reminded me of a truth I knew, but somehow had forgotten it applied to me. He said something like, “Maybe God really is okay with whatever you write. Or even write at all.” I have always been a firm believer that God is extremely invested in our lives, that we have a collective purpose and an individual purpose, that all we do is important to Him. So, it had not really occurred to me that there were some things in this life that He could go either way on.

And it was . . . scary. What do you mean, I could write or not write? It’s a huge part of my life. Why wouldn’t He care?

We had many conversations after this one where I’ve come to realize a few things.

First, He does care. But God does not want to, nor intend to, script every moment of our lives. He gave us agency and expects us to use it.

Secondly, He trusts me more than I allowed myself to believe. I think often times the heavens quiet down not because God is far from us, but because we are closer to Him. We don’t need to be told to turn right or left, to wear the purple shirt or blue, to write or not write. We can think and pray and consider and choose what we feel is right for us. Then we can take it to Him for confirmation.

Thirdly, God wants me to be happy. Sometimes we are asked to do hard things because they are the right thing. Because of this, it can be easy to equate righteousness and His will with suffering. Sometimes the right thing is simply choosing what brings us joy.

Fourth, as I considered all of these things, I came to believe that God wasn’t going to tell me what to do in every facet of my life—that I could and should choose for myself, that He did have faith in me, that if writing made me happy, I should do it, and if it didn’t, He’d be okay if I stopped.

But—and this is a really big but—these things only worked if I kept my communication with heaven wide and open and often. Rather than asking Him for constant direction and validation, I realized that if I focused on staying close to Him through obedience and prayer, and I strived to become like Him, that, by default, much of what I wanted was already what He wanted for me. He could give me the space to learn and grow because, even though I stumble, I was stumbling in the right direction.

If I turn my back on Him and fly solely by my own gauges, and decide that God doesn’t care if I keep the commandments or dive off the deep end and leave my family to follow my dream of being a parade dancer in Disneyland, then I could very well get into dangerous territory. I could easily learn to (and love) the quest of “finding my own truth” and “doing whatever I want as long as it isn’t hurting others.” 

The difference is the direction we are facing. It might seem like a spiritual nuance to you, but it is so much more. When we are facing God and moving towards Him, our desire for and ability to choose the life that is best for us grows. We can make choices—even really important ones—without His constant handholding. We can be spiritual grownups as we begin to walk by His side, not in His shadow. And it can bring us joy because we—He and us—are a team, working for the same purpose, the same intention, the same goal. Facing any other direction takes us away from His side and His goal.

I am not saying we don’t need to pray for direction. We should pray to Him in all that we do, everything. But we do not need to be immobilized when specific revelation doesn’t come. It doesn’t mean He is ignoring us, or can’t even hear us. It doesn’t mean He doesn’t care.  Sometimes, it simply means that He knows we can choose for ourselves what He would have chosen for us, and He wants to give us that chance—that freedom to do it.

So, I sat down and had a serious talk with myself about what I wanted to write. I checked my desires and decisions against what I thought He would want for me, then I did it.  And guess what, it brought me joy. And not only that but eventually I received confirmation that He was truly pleased with me and my direction.  I learned my life wasn’t a scripted path I had to follow. Yes, the way to heaven is straight and narrow. But the path can be colorful and filled with things that bring me joy. And He’s okay with that. As long as they accompany me on the path and not lead me from it.

This brings me back to the impression I received a few months ago, and the fifth lesson I learned from writing.

I was plugging along, writing what brought me joy, when, as I mentioned, I received an impression to write something very specific. I welcomed it and begin writing at once. The words came to me easily and joyfully. I knew I was writing what He wanted me to write, and I was happy. I submitted it promptly to my publisher, knowing they would offer to publish it on sight. After all, it was God’s idea and He approved. Why wouldn’t they?

It took them weeks and weeks to discuss the project. Waiting was easy because I knew they’d pick it up.

But they didn’t.

They rejected it, and I was left to ponder about the entire thing. Did I not feel impressed to write it? Was this not the home it was destined for?

After some internal deliberations, I came to realize my fifth lesson: Just because we feel the Spirit guide us to do things, it does not mean the way we hope or think it will end is how it’s going to end up. I’ve been guilty of this in the past, thinking that if I feel impressed to do something, then that confirmation is the same thing as a promise of the outcome. But it’s not a guarantee.

When things don’t turn out according to our expectations, we might question God or doubts ourselves. But the truth is, sometimes He has other plans and needs us to take two steps towards one thing so He can lead us to another. And, sometimes, things just simply don’t work out.

And it’s okay.

That’s what I’ve learned through all of this. Trust God. Keep close to Him and try to be like Him. Choose the best I can what I feel is right and what will bring me joy. Communicate with God every day. And accept what happens.

So, I keep writing. I am prayerful and doing what I can to stay close to God and seeking His guidance. But when it doesn’t seem to come, I step ahead in the confidence I feel He has in me, and keep moving forward towards Him and the things that bring me joy. And it is not only okay. It’s good. Really good.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

I'n gonna do sumfin

I love babies. I love the way they smell and think and play and laugh. I think they are marvelous.

I love how they grow without the burden of caring what others think.

I love how they are curious and brave and keenly aware of their innate needs.

I love how they love to discover and try so hard to do new things.

And I love when they begin to talk and can articulate the workings of their little minds with broken, darling vocabulary.

Sometimes it takes the mindset of a child for an adult to try something new. It takes modeling their curiosity and bravery, the way they don't care about how they look to others, the way they don't fear failure. They way the simply want to do what they want to.

In that spirit, I want to tell you that . . . . I'n gonna do sumfin.

I'm going to do something that I've thought about for a while but have allowed all the grownup thinks and thoughts and fears to keep at bay.

I'n gonna make some bideos.

Yes, you read that right. I'm going to be making videos.

No, it's not a huge announcement.

But for me, it's an exciting-and big-step. It's new and they might be awful and maybe no one will watch or maybe they will and say mean things because they won't be professional-looking and Pinterest worthy.

But I'm going to do it because I want to. I think it could be fun.

So, my good friends, you can expect the first video to be released next week. (Gah! I just committed. Now it's real!)

The video series will be called, "At the Table" as I'll be filming them at my kitchen table. They will be a casual treatment of gospel topics and women's issues. And yes, some men's issues as well.

I love teaching, and this is my way of being able to teach the things I love with you.

For fun, here's a sneak peek at my super short intro. I kinda like it.

See you (or, you see me) literally, next week!

Why Salt & Juniper?

Salt and Juniper. A strange name for a blog, right? Not really. As women who believe in Jesus, we are the salt of the earth (Matthew...

Popular Posts