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!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The perfect think

I think that thinking too much can be dangerous. As can thinking too little.

Too much and we can turn out thoughts into circles, unproductive and dizzy. When thoughts swirl in circles, they become confused, distorted, changed. Logic loses its stickiness and doubt, posing as level-thinking-can run rampant in the middle. We spin and spin and go nowhere.

Too little and our minds never stretch past the expanse of possibility. Complacency, whether fed by fear or laziness, can breed mental, spiritual, and emotional atrophy. Thinking too little robs us from self-discovery and growth.

So how do we find the right balance of thinking? A place where healthy analysis leads to positive understanding and action?

I don't know.

Sorry if you were hoping for an answer. This is my latest quest. I tend to overthink things. Then I find my thoughts are invaded by doubts and fears and justifications. Emotions, like anger, frustration, and embarrassment, can feed on my overactive thoughts. Then comes the inability to move, to act. I am paralyzed by the options, the avenues my overthinking engrave in my mind.

I want to find that perfect balance. The place where I consider something fully, prayerfully, decide on a course of action, then move forward, fearless and without regret.

But how?

I must resist the urge to overthink this. Oh the irony.

So here is what I will do.

Stop thinking about it.

Stop thinking about why I said that dumb thing when I was in a group of friends. Why my latest book was rejected by a publisher. Why raising an adoptive child is difficult. Why I stink at making dinner. Why I care what other people think. Why I can freely forgive most people, but there are four people that I can't seem to.

I have thought about these things, and many others, so much that the dizzying and dangerous conclusion to each one comes down to the same answer: Because I am not good enough.

And this is a tragedy of overthinking. We think and think and think until we come up with an answer that satisfies our mind, an answer that can't be argued with, an answer--a truth--that explains everything.

For some, it is that they are victims and life and everyone in it is out to get them. For others it is the opposite, that life is good but the fault lies within themselves.

Neither is wholly accurate.

And again we are looking at balance. Trying to find the perfect think.

So, I am going to stop, or try hard to, swinging too far to one side or another, like a pendulum pushed by an outside force.

I'm going to find that place in the middle, where my thoughts can sway just enough to see clearly and act wisely.

I'll stop assigning blame so much and start finding solutions. I'll stop letting fear spin me in circles and start standing still with courage. I'll stop worrying about opinions and start looking more for truth.

And maybe I'll even set a timer. Seriously. Like, give myself ten minutes to think about an issue, then go and cleanse my mind with an audiobook or This is Us or Lost. You know, to break the cycle. No binging, of course, because that could lead to not thinking enough because I don't want that either.

The most important element of the perfect think is who you invite into your thinking.

Satan would have you overthink until you are in a state of frenzied, miserable paralysis. He'd have you justify your way out of good relationships and opportunities. He'd have you think your way into addiction and self-loathing.


God, however, wants you to think, to learn, to long for knowledge and answers. Not confusion or distortion. But truth.

I find that when my overthinking begins to take hold, it's often because I took the "we" out of God.

God is not a solo kind of guy. There is always a "we" or an "us" with Him. There is no selfish agenda, no lone purpose. He is in me and I'm in Him. We are a we. And sometimes I forget that and pull and I. Like when I overthink.

I need to keep in mind, when there are serious things to think about, to invite Him into my mind and heart and process, trusting that, if I listen to Him, He can be the ultimate sounding board, temper my enthusiasm and crazy, and heal my yearning soul.

That, to me, sounds like the perfect think.

That, and a bunch of chocolate.

Word Prompt stories--random but super fun!

I attended a writers retreat last week where I participated in a fun activity, lovingly called "Word Wars." Someone reads a random prompt, and we have three minutes to come up write something.

I thought I'd share a few of mine here. No literary masterpieces, but I had a lot of fun.

Prompt: If we were all forced to wear a warning label, what would yours say?

Go away, I say shyly, while hiding my sign
I pull my coat over to hide the tin shine
Though labels we all have, I’m nervous for mine.
It’s different than others, I woefully resign.

I read all their labels, each one seems to fit.
“Liar” and “Fraud” and “I want to quit”
And “Smotherer” and “Hugger” and “Artistic Guru.”
And “Happy” and “Lucky” and a “Gifted” one too.

But I can’t show them mine. Mine I can’t let them see.
For it’s different… but not. It’s about who is “me.”
Who I am, what I do, what is brimming inside.
And I wonder to myself why I feel I should hide.

It’s not “Angry” or “Violent” or “Mysterious”, no.
It’s not “Neurotic” or “Crazy”. But it’s all part of it, you know.

I am nothing and everything, and all in between
My sign is all of them. Here’s what I mean.

It could say all the above and then a bit more,
It could say “Poet” or “Learning” or even “Care-worn”.
Or “Giving” and “Loving” and “Dark and Demure”
Even “Courage “and “Daring” and “Sharing” for sure.

It’s something and everything and all I can be
So I hold my sign up proudly for all to see me.
It means “Risk-taker” “Creator” and even “Fighter”.

My sign is one single word. It says “Writer.”

Prompt: Empty rooms in the attic for rent

The wood creaked beneath her feet as she gingerly stepped into the attic. The smell of mold and forgotten times spoke loudly, as if she was an old friend returning.

A wooden hobby horse sat in the corner, heavy and alone. Light through the window reached down, touching its nose.

A finger run across it’s back made a trail through the dust.

Empty and cold, the room was full of lives past and lives future.

“I’ll take it,” she said.

And the horse began to rock.

Prompt: “And then suddenly she turned off her emotions”

Nothing. I have nothing to say. Nothing to feel. They tell me they remember the day I stopped talking. But I only remember the day I stopped feeling.

Before the incident, as Mother calls it, my mouth ran like a waterfall in the spring. Then, it happened. The world crashed. I crashed, exploding and imploding, screaming and pulling and pushing and caving in on myself. Anything to get away.

Then, suddenly I had to do it. I needed escape the smell and the feel and the sound. That crashing, terrible sound. I was alone. They were gone. And my emotions left with them.

Prompt: So that’s what you are, he whispered in awe

“She’s bossy and needy,” the young husband said,
“I can’t get her whines out of my head.”

The wise man nodded as the young man spoke,
“Do you love her,” the man asked the bloke

“Of course I do,” the other man glared
“if I didn’t I wouldn’t look past all I’ve shared.”

“Part of that’s true. But you’re missing a piece.
But what you’re not doing is seeing her whole,”

Her hair is brown and her eyes are brown
I know my wife her smile her frown.”

You see with your eyes, and these might be true
But you don’t see with your heart, it might surprise you.

The young husband returned to his wife late that night
With a decision to change the source of his sight

He handed her a baby and blew hair from her face
And said, “I’m tired. I’ll heat up your plate.”

“Wait” he said as he grabbed her hand
And looked at her eyes, discovering new land.
In them he saw all her joy and her pain
He saw her laughter and love unfeigned
Her dedication and worth, her value and meekness
He see who she was, and his knees felt their weakness

“so that’s who you are,” he whispered in awe
At the woman he loved, magnificent and all

Prompt: Unrequited love

Barb looked at Scott longingly. Like a hungry panda looks at an ice cream cone in the Asian summer heat. He was the captain of the chess/soccer/Nintendo team and she was a lonely super model. He could never want her. Still, still, still, still, still. She wanted him . A lot. Like a lot a lot. So one day Barb wrote Scott a letter and it said,
Dear Scott. I love you. I don’t want to bush around the beat (for you see, Barb had colloquial dyslexia). Loving you is breaking me to the core. And I want you to kow if you could love me back. Could you would you love me? Would be as hard a needle going through a camel’s back?”

She handed the letter to Scott one day after his foozeball practice, He wiped his hands on his black unitard and read it slowly. Because she had written in Hungarian and he had to get a translator to help. Finally he looked up with tears running down his cheek. Or, actually just a single tear (because that’s what Ann loves to hear) and said, “Barb, I cannot love you. My love belongs to one another.”

Barb wept and said, “Who” who who who who who who who who who who who who (Because she has as stutter) could you love more than I?

Prompt: A vessel that takes you somewhere else

This will be a great idea, said Frank.

Heather looked at him with rolling eyes, or, more aptly put she looked at him after her she rolled her eyes because you can’t really look at someone while you’re rolling your eyes. But I digress.

“Being on this vessel is how we can get somewhere that isn’t here. And don’t we want to go there.” Mused Frank.

“But your ideas are never good, Frank.” Sighed Heather

“They are. Tell me when they aren’t.”

“Like the time you thought we should roller skate on the beach. Like, on the actual beach. Or that time you wanted to sing karaoke.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that.”

“There is when it’s at Grandma Bee’s funeral.”

“I’ll give you that you that one. But what about the time I picked the winning lottery numbers?”

Heather rubbed her 5 billion-dollar wedding ring. “That was a good idea.”

They smiled at each other as she followed him onto the Titanic….

Prompt: Eye contact two people seeing one another for the first time

In the Land of Triple Sue wanted a dipple
She ate the dipple and wanted more

Sue went to the store to buy a dipple more
And there she was something that made her heart sore

A pair of eyes green and sage
Or maybe hazel, she couldn’t gauge
They were wide and enticing
Like cucumbers a slicing

And she stared more and more
And more and more and more

Until three past awkward
Then she spoke Knockward
Which was the language of the land.

“Whom might might might you be?
Was the question in row of three,
But the eyes kept looking doe-aly.”

Sue blinked three blinks and asked again
“Will you answer me please, tell me when?”
Your eyes are so deep and familiar too
I feel like I know you. I do, I do.”

The eyes finally blinked then turned sky blue.
And the voice said, “You do, Sue” It said, “Because I am you.”

Prompt: Nature extremists take over the government

It was chilly in the war room that day. The general sat at the head of the table, looking undaunted, though there was fear in his eyes.

“Today is a cold day,” he said with a shiver. He eyed to the private to adjust the thermostat.

“it’s a sad day,” he said with a cough. “Extremists have taken over the government and made some demands.”

“But,” said Hayley from the corner of the long table.

“No buts” he barked. “We don’t have time for a discussion. We must give in to their demands, or at least act like we are, if we are to win this war.”

“But Sir,” Haley pleaded again.

 He stood to yell, but kept in his seat, shaking.  It was so cold.

Then Haley finally yelled. “But Sir, the extremists are Nature extremists sir. Not nudists extremists.

The general gave an awkward cough before he pulled his folder in front of him and dismissed the others from the room first.

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