Called on Purpose

It took me awhile to wrap my head around the theme my church has for this year. It’s not that I don’t understand what Jesus is calling Christians to do. The Great Commission from Matthew 28:19-20 states it plainly. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I also understand the Scriptures my pastor used yesterday, one section of which showed how people were amazed by Jesus and how He found favor with God’s people and then, how people were amazed by the apostles and the wonders and signs they performed. I especially liked the Scripture from Acts which described the first century church. From Acts 2:42-47, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

I’ve always thought the ideal time for the church was when it was first formed. Now though, it is over two thousand years later, and we need to know what God wants for the church in the 21st century. For many years, I considered myself inadequate for God’s calling. I would look at Scriptures like the ones in Titus 2 and tell myself I looked nothing like the women in those Scriptures. I didn’t consider myself a good role model. (still don’t) My interests didn’t lie with anything  having to do with the home. I felt inadequate with the way God made me. There was no way God could have called me for anything on purpose. Not as a follower and especially not as any kind of leader. I loved Jesus, but I didn’t feel like I was any good at anything.

I had to go through that tension to know God made me the way I am for a point and a purpose. He is calling me to show His love in a way that is different from the person on my right and the person on my left. God is calling for me to be a part of a faith family, but He is also calling for me to use the gifts He has given me whether it is in my church or in the world. So, my called on purpose will look different from everyone else’s except for the overarching theme of showing God’s love.

What will that look like for me during the next few months? I’m still planning some things, but I’ve also got some things on my calendar. I’m going to participate in a 5-K walk to end cancer. This is a first for me as an adult. I never thought I would be in good enough shape to participate in a run or a walk, but things have changed since I made physical activity a priority. I’m also going to an anime convention with my son and husband next month. I’m looking forward to becoming more familiar with one of my son’s passions. And finally, I’m going to a writing workshop which is one of my passions. These things don’t even count the times my husband and I will be serving a meal at my son’s campus ministry in the next few weeks.

I look at all the things I wrote in the previous paragraph, and a point is becoming clearer to me. These are all events in my community and not in my church.  Maybe, that is what “called on purpose” really means. 🙂

Have a great day, everyone!

The “True” Definition of Success

Before I go into today’s story, let me issue all the usual disclaimers. Yes, I know there is not one true definition of success. What I write today is my opinion and no one else’s. Success can be gained with the world’s values or with religious values. I could literally talk with twenty people and get twenty different definitions of success. But, today I want to share my own thoughts of success and what it took to get me here.

It begins with my pre-adolescence, a TV show, and an actress and ends many years later with a journey to meet said actress and a realization that, for me, the only “true” way to be successful is to invest in other people like Jesus did. Y’all, adolescence was not kind to me. I was chubby, nerdy, and bullied by other people. I was as far away from being in the “in crowd” in middle school as you could possibly get. I wasn’t interested in boys, and I wasn’t interested in make-up either. I think, even back then, I knew my value wasn’t tied up in those artificial things. I was more interested in the things that mattered and in the world around me. In science fiction and action-adventure. In changing the world around me. But, those things at that time were not the things young girls were interested in. So, I longed for the role model I didn’t have at home.  I had not become a Christian yet so the closest thing I had to role models were my teachers at school and the characters in the books I read.

Enter the TV show and the actress. I was ten the year The Bionic Woman premiered. Watching the first episode, I was spell-bound. Here was a woman on television who was doing all of the things I dreamed of doing. Yes, some of it was cheesy. Yes, some of it reflected the time it was shown in. But, all in all, Jaime Sommers (the main character) taught me that what was important was the content of your character and not what you looked like. Those were important lessons for me to learn between the ages of ten and twelve and even later when I faced constant criticism for what I looked like and for not following the crowd. I admired Lindsay Wagner, the actress who played Jaime, so much and even had a poster of her on the wall of my room for a time.

Fast forward to many, many years later. I was an adult and a Christian who was married and had two children who were teenagers. Adults had poured into me as a new Christian, a teenager, and a young adult. I had learned about the best  and worst things the world had to offer, and it seemed like I had experienced all of them. Now, I’m not trying to say I was perfect. I was far from it. I could be as selfish as the most worldly or the most Christian among us. I had lived a good portion of my life. That year I had the opportunity to go to something called Dragon Con. Many actors, writers, and artists make appearances there. Some are well-known, and others are not. I had recently come back to writing, and as a science fiction, fantasy loving wanna-be author, it was the place to be. Finding out Lindsay Wagner was on the guest list sealed the deal.

So, off to Atlanta I went. At this point, as an adult woman in her 40’s, I knew that actors and the characters they portray were different people. I knew there was a chance that Lindsay Wagner wouldn’t be anything like the character she portrayed all those years ago. But, I also knew I had to say thank you for what she had meant to me. I spent the weekend going to writing workshops, seeing other actors I was interested in, and soaking up the whole experience. I noticed that some of the professionals were more approachable than others and some had very inflated egos. (It cost more money to see them.) Finally, it was time to see Lindsay Wagner. I was so nervous as I stood in line because she was my childhood hero. Finally, I got to the front of the line. She was so kind and very aware of the role model she had been. I said what I wanted to say and received my autograph and picture. It was an amazing experience and showed me that some people were aware of how they influenced others and acted accordingly.

It has been over five years since that experience. Tumultuous years. Years where the American public has become deeply divided. Years where we all have become more selfish. Years where I’ve been sure nothing would ever go right again. But, these years  have also been years where I’ve become part of an interracial church family. Years where I’ve made a deliberate focus to talk to people others wouldn’t talk to. Years where I’ve done my best to use words Jesus would want me to use. I haven’t been successful all of the time. There are people who would testify to this. Human nature and life have knocked me down again and again.

Most importantly though, I’ve worked through a lot of the garbage from my own past. My growth and experiences through this work have brought me to the point I stated at the beginning of this post. The “truest” success people can have is the success of investing in and ministering to other people. In other words, truly listening and being happy for the other people in your life. But, it’s the hardest kind of success to achieve. In fact, I know only a handful of people who are like this in my own life. People who are heart friends. People who don’t let prejudice get in the way. People who are not concerned  with cliques or what the “rules” are in their interactions with other people. People who share joy.

I am a work in progress in this area. There are days when I am at my most selfish and wonder why the “trappings” (money, achievement) of success don’t come to my family. Then, there are days when one of the maintenance guys at my apartment complex corners me and wants to talk about his Christmas because I had talked to him before. There are days when I think no one notices my presence and days when I get a comment or two saying how my writing has touched them. I’ve said my word for this year is “believe”, but perhaps I should add two words to it. Authentic and joy. That’s how I want to live. As someone with authentic joy. Not as the world defines it , but as my faith defines it. For those of us who are Christians, I believe this is the way Jesus wants us to live. And for all of us, it can bring us to the place where we know character counts in how we live. Thankful for all the heroes in my life and for the people who have invested in my life!

Have a great day, everyone!

New Year, New Start

Most of you who follow this blog also follow my blog Write What You Know, and you might be wondering what happened to last Thursday’s post. Wonder no longer. There wasn’t one. I’ve been doing some over the last few weeks about my writing and what I want to happen with it. I realized my focus had been divided. So, as of the other day, all content from Write What You Know has been folded into this blog on this website.

I’m wanting this blog and this website to include all the facets of my life and my writing. Yes, there will continue to be Christian themed posts, but I will also reflect on the writing process and tell stories I hope will be encouraging and inspiring to all of us. Some will be fiction, and some will not. Others will help me process things as I continue to reflect on what God is doing in my life.

Today is my first day of Jeff Goins’ 500 words/day challenge for January. I should end up with more than 500 words/day between my journal writing, blog writing, and story writing, but I’m doing the challenge because I need a kick in the pants to work more on my short story and my book. I’ve been doing more planning than writing, and that needs to stop. Hence, the challenge. I’m also going to submit one of the stories I already have on the computer to a contest. Besides the writing challenge, I would also like to have a goal of submitting something to a contest or for publication once a month so I can start putting myself out there as a writer.

I might keep up with the writing challenge after January to keep myself in writing mode every day or at least every weekday. Some of those words will end up in this blog, but all of them will help me become a better writer.

Have a great day!

Believe

I’ve never been one to follow fads even when I was younger. Don’t believe me? When Princess Diana married Prince Charles in 1981, I didn’t imagine myself having a wedding like theirs. I’ve never wanted to wear the popular trends in clothing or dress my children in them either, for that matter. I’ve worn clothes, or had them wear clothes, when they were younger, that were durable and inexpensive. I’ve also never driven the more expensive cars. Yes, some of that was because I couldn’t afford it, but I didn’t have a preference one way or the other. It wasn’t in my make-up. And finally, I didn’t have the desire to own an expensive home. In fact, my husband and I have talked often about what we would do if we won the lottery (just wishing and dreaming, really), and in none of those dreams has owning an expensive home been mentioned. We have dreamed more of the experiences we could have and the money we could give than anything else.

I say all this to tell you why I’ve never been a trend follower even with things that might be good like having a “word for the year.” Every time I’ve seen it over the last couple of weeks, I’ve felt it was trendy and hokey, and I wanted nothing to do with it. But then, I started getting nudges. Nudges I know now were from the Holy Spirit. It was confirmed when I was at church yesterday when one of the speakers talked about nudges. I had written in my journal on Friday that if I was going to have a “word for the year”, it needed to apply to both my writing and my faith, and I wasn’t sure any one word could do that. I was wrong.

So, with that, I want to introduce my word for 2019. It is BELIEVE. God knows my struggles with believing in myself, my writing, my worth to the people around me especially at church, and my worth as a daughter of God. I often don’t feel like I have a lot to give to anyone so this focus will be a good exercise for me as I move through 2019. When I submit a writing piece and it gets rejected, I will have the courage to move on. When someone doesn’t understand what I’m trying to do and makes fun of it, I will believe in myself enough to not trust that person with my dreams anymore. When someone has a problem with my being authentic, I will have the courage to be authentic anyway. And, when all of these things discourage me from my faith, I will believe and lean on my Lord and Savior for the courage to continue.

I know these are big statements, and I know there will be times I will fail. In fact, when someone asked how they could pray for me yesterday, I wasn’t sure at first how I could verbalize it. (I do better with writing it than talking about it.) I did though (probably was too long-winded), and they told me some words they thought of when they looked at me. Courageous. Authentic. Passionate. Yes, that turns out to be a handy acronym :-), but it was helpful for me too. When I get discouraged, I can tell myself someone believes I’m a CAP. 😉

In all seriousness though, encourage the people around you in 2019 whether they are like you or not, whether they are or aren’t as far along in their faith as you think they should be, or whether they have made hundreds of mistakes to your few. Your kind words may be the only thing that’s keeping them off the sinking ship.

For now, I wish you all a Happy New Year in 2019 and leave you with this visual demonstration of my CAP acronym. Thanks to David and Laura Grady for ministering to me at church yesterday and for the acronym!

Reflection on Goals

On New Year’s Day of this year, I went to a friend’s home and made this poster.. 001

It was a way to look at my goals for the year at a glance and see where I needed to focus on. Since my goal was to develop a writing life, I wasn’t sure how much it would work since this was a visual cue and not a cue with words. I was mistaken.

You can see some of the words on the poster. Inspiration. Organize your writing life. Get organized, be productive. Read. Write. Be read. Have an adventure. Take a chance. Take risks. Work hard. Dream big. Imagination under pressure. Taming the inner critic.

Looking back at the year, I can see where I’ve accomplished many of those things. Even though I’m not published yet, I’ve done things this year that I’ve never done before. I wrote and published blog posts in my other blog, Thriving in Grace, for 100 days straight. I submitted my first stories for possible publication. I entered two contests. I have now established a regular schedule for this blog and my other blog. I’ve taken risks I would never have taken before. Some of them didn’t work out so well, but others did. I’ve learned that I’m allowed to dream even if other people don’t agree with me. I’ve learned that I’m allowed to expand upon the niche others would have me fit in, and if I don’t fit, that’s okay too. I’ve learned that the people who love me the most support me in this new venture and are cheering for me as I type my words. I’ve learned that the words on this poster are not year-ending words, but are words that can move with me into 2019.

I wasn’t going to make a new poster for 2019, but I’ve decided I need to. Even though my goals were not as concrete as say, someone who is making goals for business or homemaking, having this poster in front of me helps me to know that I’m moving forward as a writer even though the concrete goal of publication is yet to come. I encourage you to make your own poster and put it in a place where you can see it. Happy New Year to all!

Have a great day, everyone!

Sacrifice

I sit here on this Christmas Eve wondering what sacrifice really means. Wondering how it truly feels to put the interests of someone else above your own. Wondering how God felt when He sent Jesus to be our Savior. It’s an abstract concept to some. They’ve never seen anyone sacrifice for them. They’ve never been taught to sacrifice for others. But, even if the lessons have been taught, understanding what God did for us at Christmas and at Easter can be hard even for the most giving of us. We think we have to do something to earn the grace spoken of in Ephesians 2:8-9. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” We can’t see this grace so it’s hard to be conscious of it. 

But, we can see other people who claim to be believers. Should we expect to see sacrifice from them? Should we expect them to demonstrate Jesus’ words from John 13:34-35? “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” If people could see this love and willingness to sacrifice in us, it would be easier to see the love God has for us. It would be concrete. But, do they? Do they see this love and willingness to sacrifice in us? Sad to say, more often than not, they don’t. They see people in the church who are just as selfish as people who are not in the church. They see things like the prosperity gospel taught. They see us, and they see nothing different from the world around them.

In case you’re wondering, I count myself in that total. I can be just as selfish as the person who has rejected Jesus or the person who has never heard of Him. I reflect His love imperfectly, if at all. And it’s made me wonder what sacrifice really means. I wonder a lot if you haven’t figured it out already. 🙂 As a writer, the words I write and the words I read have an impact on my life. They help me to understand things that my brain alone has trouble understanding. It’s how I understand the world. Even the TV shows I watch can have this effect if I’ve already been wondering about something. 

With that being said, I want to tell you a story about a TV show that brought me to a deeper understanding of sacrifice. It wasn’t a Christian show, but it still had the same effect. Let me set the stage. I am a fan of science fiction. It shows me a world of  possibilities different from what I see in real life. Anyway, in the last few weeks,  I’ve been watching the most recent season of a particular show which features a group of people who have traveled back in time to save the world. They want to prevent their future from ever happening. Now, they weren’t altruistic all of the time. They did things for their own benefit to protect those they had come to love. They were imperfect just like those of us who are believers, and they had to go through many difficulties in the episodes I watched including death. In the last two episodes, one character was killed because he had prevented a nuclear explosion, and another was killed because she was trying to prevent the bad guys from getting the information inside her head. (Yes, this is the kind of TV I like to watch. 🙂 ) I’m guessing you probably realize the team was in turmoil at this point. Then, the leader of the team said something that has stuck with me through several viewings of the final episode. He had the opportunity to go further back in time to hopefully correct some of the mistakes they had made. When one of the other characters expressed doubts he could do so, he said, “Well, maybe I can give the years back to someone else.” His statement nagged me for a bit, and I had to watch the episode again to get it, like I said. He was willing to live the years again so other people could be happy with no benefit to him. It’s the truest example of sacrifice I had even seen on television. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know those were all scripted words. But, wow! Those characters showed sacrifice to me. From the man who reached for nuclear material without a second thought to the woman who shot herself in the head so the bad guys wouldn’t win to the man who went further back in time, they were all representative of sacrifice to me. I had to think about what this meant in my own life and with my own faith. 

I came up with some things I want to share. For me, sacrifice is standing in the background and letting someone else serve. Sacrifice is accepting you may not matter to some people and loving them anyway. Sacrifice is knowing what you do might not matter until you are gone, but doing it anyway. Sacrifice is being the person you are, the person God made, and only focusing on what He wants and no one else. Sacrifice is accepting His call no matter where it may take you. Sacrifice is giving everything you are to the one who made you. Isn’t that what Jesus did for us? 

Merry Christmas! 

Another Edition of Writing Quotes

It’s been awhile since I’ve written one of these so I thought I would share some of my more recent finds on this post before Christmas. It was August the last time I did a post like this so my finds represent the ways I have changed this fall and what I still hope to do with my writing as time moves on.

I find it interesting that my first quote comes from Shirley Ann Grau. She is an American writer who was born in Louisiana and who spent much of her childhood in the state where I live now, Alabama. She won a Pulitzer Prize for her work The Keepers of the House and published other novels and short stories. This is the quote. “I spend half my time trying to learn the secrets of other writers–to apply them to the expression of my own thoughts.” I feel like I’ve done that this fall through my reading, and I’ve seen it come out in my writing. From what I’ve read about this particular author, I think I need to add some of her work to my reading list to assist me in building my writing skill set. I’m thinking my 2019 reading list is going to be pretty long, but it will be worth it.

The second quote comes from American poet, novelist, and short story writer Sylvia Plath. Her quote resonated with me because of the post I wrote last week about self-doubt (https://writewhatyouknowdotorg.wordpress.com/2018/12/13/writers-doubt-and-self-doubt/) and because of my own experiences with mental illness. Here is the quote. “Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it…The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Yes, I’ve found this to be true. I’ve hesitated about writing things because I’ve wondered what people would think. I’ve hesitated about submitting things because I’ve wondered if it was good enough. But, I can’t. Not anymore. We need to write about the good things and the bad things, the dark things. It’s the only way we can get a full and complete measure of world as it is today. I’m planning to put her novel The Bell Jar on my reading list.

My third quote comes from American writer Amy Tan. I’ve not read any of her work, but I am more familiar with her name because one of her novels was adapted into a film. Her quote also reflects how I feel about writing so I figured it would be a good one to include. “Writing is an extreme privilege, but it’s also a gift. It’s a gift to yourself and it’s a gift of giving a story to someone.” I’ve been told my writing will be a gift to my family after I’m gone–to future generations like grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And, yes, that is certainly true. Of course, my hope is that some people will read my writing while I’m still alive. 🙂

The next quote comes from author Liz Newman who has written a variety of articles for Thrillist mainly covering travel and relationships. She also writes for the websites Bustle and Fatherly. I liked her quote because it talked about believing in yourself which is something I struggle with. “We are important. Our stories are important. Don’t let anyone try and talk you out of telling yours.” I think for a while there I cared about what people thought, and it inhibited me. I want to write authentically from my own experiences like I said earlier. Not to be unkind, but to understand how the world works.

This brings me to my final quote from American novelist, short-story writer, and playwright Edna Ferber. She was also someone I had not heard of, but someone whose work might get added to the reading list. Many of the novels I’ve read this fall have had strong female protagonists. She sounds no different, and I’m looking forward to trying one of her works. Here is her quote before I forget. “Life can’t ever defeat a writer who is in love with writing.” There is so much truth in this statement, and I think it’s something all of us need to remember.

I hope these quotes and my comments have given you food for thought as the end of 2018 approaches.

Have a great day, everyone!

Christmas and December Birthdays

It’s a week until Christmas Eve. Some of us might be about to put up our Christmas decorations and embark on a frantic week of shopping, baking, wrapping, and traveling while others of us have had our decorations up for weeks. We are drinking hot cocoa at night and listening to Christmas music having finished the Christmas shopping weeks before. I know people at all ends of the spectrum. 

In my home, we’ve done it differently each year. Right now, I am looking at a decorated home with many presents under the tree. There’s more left to wrap and just a few small things left to get. I don’t feel rushed, and I’m grateful. I’ve been able to focus on Jesus and the meaning of the season as well as listen to Christmas music. 

But, there’s a part of me that doesn’t feel like Christmas is about to come until after tomorrow. It’s been that way for almost twenty-two years. Let me explain. When I was growing up, more effort had to be put in to planning my birthday parties because, you guessed it, I had a December birthday. And, inevitably, one or more of my friends couldn’t come to my parties over the years because they were going to some Christmas event. I resented that when I was younger, but not so much now, and I’m not complaining now. That’s just how it was. I did learn the importance of one historical event during my growing-up years because of my birthday, and it led to a fascination with anything related to World War 2. Now, when someone asks about my birthday, I tell them I’m a Pearl Harbor baby. If they know their history, they know when my birthday is. 😉 

I say all this to give you background for the next part of the story. When I found out twenty-two years ago that my first child would be born close to Christmas, I decided I would make a point of celebrating his birthday each year and making sure he knew how special he was to me. The years have passed quickly. He will graduate from college in May and start his own life. There is no way I can tell you how proud I am of him. We’ll go out tomorrow night for dinner, have birthday cake, and have him open presents. Celebrate the anniversary of his birth. The conversation among others might be all about Christmas, but there are other important things to celebrate in my home. 

Now, after tomorrow, my focus will be solely on Christmas and the “reason for the season.” (This phrase is almost trite now, but I try to take each word and put meaning and thought behind it when I say it.) I’ve often wondered if God has a problem with my divided focus during the season. Of course, everyone in my family acknowledges the importance of the birth and death of Jesus. It’s part of the faith we all hold, after all. But, it’s important to me that my son doesn’t feel forgotten on his birthday, and, if I’m being honest, I don’t like feeling forgotten on my birthday either. Fortunately, over the years, I have had many friends who have made sure I haven’t felt forgotten on my birthday. My family has also done a good job of making me feel loved. My husband likes to say that he remembers our son and I so well, we forget his birthday at the beginning of January.  Not this year though. He’s just as special as the rest of us. 😉 

But, back to my question. Is God upset with my divided focus during the Christmas season? I don’t think so. My son and I and many more of his children are born during this month. We are all made in His image just like the people born in the other eleven months of the year. And, He loves us all. He loved us enough to send His Son Jesus all those years ago to be born and to die for us. I wrestle with this every day. How could someone love me that much? My heart would be broken if I had to watch my son die like Jesus died. But, he did that for me and for all of you. That’s why I don’t think God minds my divided focus. Because, you see, love doesn’t divide. Love multiplies. May you know the multiplying nature of Jesus’ love during this Christmas season! 

God bless you! 

Writers-Doubt and Self-Doubt

Have you ever been told you can’t do something? Have you ever been told you can’t go somewhere? Have you ever been told you’re not good enough? If you’ve lived just a few years on this planet, you’ve been told all of these. Now, there are some things we should be told not to do especially when we’re young. We shouldn’t cross the street when cars are coming. We shouldn’t touch a hot stove. We shouldn’t yell fire in a crowded movie theater. Those aren’t the kind of things though that I’m talking about today. I’m talking about a young girl revealing a dream to become an astronaut and being told she can’t do it. I’m talking about a teenager wanting to become an engineer and being told she wasn’t good enough. I’m talking about a woman wanting to become a published author and being told she was too old. And I’m talking about all those rejections turning into self-doubt.

Rejection isn’t easy. It can be hard to have our dreams crushed by those we love or by those whose respect we want. It can leach into our minds and make us think we’re incapable of doing anything. It can even make us think our presence isn’t welcome if it gets bad enough. So, self-doubt and its twin insecurity can do some real damage to our psyches.

Since rejection is part of life as a writer, I wasn’t surprised to read that many writers are prone to self-doubt and feeling like frauds. Even writers who are well-established like Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Flannery O’Connor, Franz Kafka, and Stephen Pressfield. I especially liked what Stephen King had to say in a 2014 interview with Rolling Stone. “I’m afraid of failing at whatever story I’m writing–that it won’t come up for me, or that I won’t be able to finish it.” I also liked what Stephen Pressfield had to say. “The more scared we are about our calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

With all of that, I acknowledge that writers-doubt, or self-doubt exists and that people whose names we all know suffer from it. But, is there anything we can do about self-doubt? I don’t have much original advice. Every time I think I’ve defeated self-doubt as a writer or as a person, it has come roaring back and makes me think this world would be a better place without me or without my meager contributions. It’s hard to keep going when you think no one notices, to write your words and to write your stories down. It also makes me want to shut my heart down and not care so much about my writing, about all of it. Because, I realized something the other day. I have very deep-rooted doubts and insecurities about myself as a human being. How did I figure this out? Let me be honest and admit I already knew it to a certain extent. But, I was reading a fiction book, and it got to the point where one of the main characters was having to work through her doubts and insecurities. Of course, the specific circumstances in the book were much different, but when she said she didn’t think she was making a contribution, I said, “Oh my goodness. That’s exactly how I feel right now.” It was a light bulb moment. Other people can have deep-rooted things going on in their psyches that no one else knows about. It was a freeing moment, and I knew what I needed to work on not just with my writing, but with myself too.

It comes back to that not so original advice about writers-doubt which I believe can also apply to self-doubt. First, it’s always going to be there. Like I said before, there are moments it will be gone, but it will always come back. Second, for the writing portion, we need to give ourselves permission to write garbage. We tend to think no one ever fails at writing because no one ever sees the failures. They only see the successes. It’s the same way with real life. How many of us put our failures out there for everyone to see? Not many, I would think. So, when we fail or have our doubts, we think it’s just us. I know I do, and I live with it inside my head. When I fail at writing, when I fail at my faith, when I fail at friendship, when I fail at everything, it’s always just me. That’s why I think the final thing is so important. We need to believe in a truth we can’t see, or have faith. For me, that has a religious connotation because I’m a Christian, but it can stand by itself without the religious component. We need to have faith in our writing and in ourselves. It takes incredible mental strength to do that by ourselves though which is why I want to add this one thing. Find people who believe in you. People who are willing to say they believe in you when you don’t believe in yourself, when you can’t feel it yourself. People who will be your cheerleaders when your insecurities plague you and when you feel like you’re not doing very much. That’s why community is important even though we don’t like to admit it. It’s the way we get strength to keep writing and to go on.

I think we all want that strength. We want to be able to overcome the garbage in our heads from our pasts, to move forward, and to begin healing. With that being said, I want to end this with a quote so we can know it’s all right to care about our writing and about ourselves. From Morgan Snyder, “Whatever you do, don’t shut your heart down. Keep it open. It’s going to be needed.”

Have a great day, everyone!

Inspiration–God-Style

Over twelve years ago now, I met a special lady  online at a homeschool website. Her name was Betty. At first, I had cautious conversations with her and the other ladies on the website. I had just begun homeschooling, and they all sounded so accomplished. I wasn’t sure I would ever do as well as they seemed to have done. She and the other ladies must have talked me down a dozen times during my first year. They were always there on my screen with a word of encouragement. It might seem funny to you, considering someone a friend who could only be seen on a computer screen, but we were all doing something that was considered out of the norm. 

As the years passed, I noticed something different about Betty. She always pointed to Jesus in whatever conversation she was having. And, she took it further than being just a name on a screen. When my mother-in-law passed away suddenly in 2009, she took the lead in having cards and flowers sent, and she called me. I don’t remember how long we talked that day, but our conversation showed her heart, and it left me strength (God’s strength, I know now.) to keep going through the first days of my grief.  Betty was doing all of this while helping her husband fight cancer. She showed up for me then, and I will always be grateful. 

Sadly, the end of the following year saw her husband go to be with Jesus. She showed such amazing strength encouraging all of us–her online friends and her friends in real life. That time though turned out to be a time of tumult for both of us. For me, it was my husband’s surgery and subsequent loss of his job while I was still homeschooling. For her, it was the church not showing up when she was widowed. It still hurts me when I consider those words. How could someone not show up for such an amazing and gentle Christian? But, that is not really for me to consider as it is part of her story and not mine. 

While she was still going through her tumult the following year, she showed up for me again. We had gone out west so my husband could look for work, and we needed a place of respite for a few days. She provided her home, and she wasn’t even there. She had her son let us in, and those few days of rest encouraged all of us.  They took us to the following week when my husband received a job offer on our son’s twelfth birthday to go to Alabama. So, we drove back east to a new city and a new state to begin a new life. 

In the seven years since, a lot has happened to the both of us. I have finished homeschooling both of my sons through high school with one of them almost being done with college. Her children are all grown now as well. There have been job losses and hospital stays for my husband. She had one as well and had to learn to walk again. She also married again to a wonderful man. They’ve lived in two different states. 

Those are the facts, but what I want to talk about now is how she has inspired me. Like I said earlier, she points to Jesus with everything she does. Jesus, not a church.  She’s done what God has told her to do even when people in churches have told her it was impossible. She’s started a ministry to those in the adult entertainment industry, the “least of these” talked about in Scripture. She and her teammates go into the clubs to show the people there the love of Jesus, period. The name of the ministry is Xpose Hope. (https://xposehope.com/), and I would love it if you would explore the website and donate if God so leads you. I’ve also set up a Facebook fundraiser that lasts until the end of this week (https://www.facebook.com/donate/323209931601991/) if you want to go that route. She is reaching people, and she is loving people. People who would not go into a church building otherwise. And with all that, she inspires me. 

Now, I think I know Betty well enough to know she would be humbled by what I’ve written and would still point to Jesus regardless. But, I think you need to know why she specifically inspires me. As I’ve tried to figure out the question of ‘What comes next?’, I’ve felt God calling me to write. So, I’ve written. I’ve written stories, essays, and blog posts. I’m working on a book. It’s not as directly involved with people as Betty’s ministry is, but I’ve worked on getting better at what God has called me to do. My writing hasn’t received a lot of attention yet. I don’t think it’s been well understood. People still look at me oddly when I mention what I’m doing with my post homeschooling life, and it’s a lonely feeling. I’m going against the grain in many ways especially at church. But, I know Betty understands it, and that is why she inspires me. She has encouraged me with my writing, and she has encouraged me with other things I’ve felt called to do. She’s even encouraged me to do things with my callings pointing to Jesus and not to wait until a church says it’s okay. 

All of these things about her life have pointed me to Jesus and have inspired me at the same time. It brought me to an understanding yesterday morning too. Not everyone will understand what God has called me to do. Why should they? It’s my calling not theirs. So, I asked God for peace and not to feel lonely as I continue to consider the question of ‘What comes next?’, and I thanked God for the people He’s put in my life like Betty. 

Praying that God will give us all an idea of His calling and people to encourage us like Betty encourages me. 

God’s blessings on you all today!