Fasting Avoidance

I read about this fast the other day, and God has been nagging me since then about writing a post about it. As I said in my last post, I am the queen of avoiding an unpleasant situation. If I am uncomfortable in any way or don’t know what’s going to happen, I have the potential to react badly. So, I thought I would go further into that today.

Actually, now that I think about it, the title of this piece could be changed to Fasting Avoidance and Control. These are both things that I use to make myself think I have the illusion of control over my life. And, “illusion it is,” or at least it should be. For those of us who believe that Jesus is our Lord and Savior, He should be the one who is in control of our lives, not us. But, we don’t let go of that easily, or at least, I don’t. We fight and claw to maintain the illusion that we have some good in us though Scripture is clear that there is not and that we are all in need of a Savior.

Couple that with someone who suffers from depression and anxiety, and one could see that my whole make-up might be considered a recipe for disaster. Actually, I have a story I want to share from my own life that illustrates this clearly. It happened six years ago. I had been invited to a conference by a friend. This conference stated we would have an encounter with Jesus during the weekend, but did not give a lot of details about what would happen. (as was their right) I debated with myself over a couple of weeks about going because I don’t like not knowing what’s going to happen, but I finally decided it might be good for me. I went to the meeting place where we would take a bus to go to the conference center. Many women were there, but I only knew a few of them. Everyone else seemed to be fine with meeting new people, but I was terrified when my friend left me and said she would see me out there. I went to the bus with the other women and saw other people clapping and cheering for me. (Did I mention I didn’t like attention being focused on me either? I didn’t and still don’t.)

We left the place where we had met to go to the conference center, and I cried on and off the whole way there. I didn’t like the way this weekend was starting. When we got there, I was able to eat dinner, but the feelings of panic and fear returned every time I had to be around a group of people in a small space. By the end of the first evening, even though I had enjoyed the worship and the lesson, I was exhausted from the panic, anxiety, and being in a place I had never been with a group of people I mostly didn’t know. The next morning my friend asked me if I wanted to go home as that was an option. I wanted to go home, but, on the other hand, I wanted to stay too. I was a woman who was almost 50, and I was ashamed that I couldn’t handle this level of uncertainty. So, I took a deep breath and stayed. The people who were running things made sure I was either at the front or at the back of a crowd so my chances of having a panic attack were less. It ended up being a good weekend for myself and my faith, and I was glad I went.

But, I haven’t been back since, and I have to wonder why. There were many reasons besides avoidance, all of which were valid. In the six years between that situation and now, I had done many brave things including going to Honduras on a mission trip one summer with a plan to go back again this coming summer. But, there have also been things I’ve completely avoided which have affected my relationships with other people and being taught and encouraged in my faith.

With all that, I wonder if I have ever embraced the mystery of my faith and not just side-stepped it. In recent years, I believe I have taken steps in that direction, but I know I can’t say I have fully arrived. Not until I make a deliberate choice to walk in a direction I don’t want to walk in because God has asked me to. So, for that reason. I am fasting from avoidance today, and I invited you to as well.

God bless you all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fasting Regret

For Lent this year, I’ve decided to go through the book 40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole again. I went through this book last year and learned a lot. I wasn’t sure if there would be anything new for me to learn this year, but I’m a few days into it, and things feel different. Between reading this book and the book Praying Women by Sheila Walsh, my understanding of prayer and its impact on my life has jumped four-fold. In the midst of thinking about regret and the other topics in Chole’s book, I hope to come out on the other side of this season with a better understanding of faith and how being a Christian really does matter in my life.

So, regret. Why is it so tough to let go of it? I think regret leeches over into the new life we’re hoping to have. I read the response I wrote in the book last year, and it brought back memories some of which were painful to read, but some that showed where I was now as compared to last year. I’ve become more and more aware that Jesus meets me in the darker places, the places where I’m not sure how to move on. What Lent does is help me move through those darker places to the celebration of Easter, to Jesus’ resurrection.

I do have regrets in how I’ve lived my life. I think all of us do. What I’ve done with them mostly is carry them with me in the hope that I can avoid making the same mistakes again. I have rarely directly addressed the situations that caused the regrets. There are two reasons for this. One, I’ve never learned how to manage conflict well. Two, my fear of being rejected is great.

But, in the last few months, I have learned some things and am continuing to learn things about my faith that are helping with my prayer life and will help as I struggle to let go of regret. It’s not me. It’s not me at all. What I mean by that is Jesus needs to come first in our lives. Before spouse, before children, before extended family, before friends, and even before our Christian brothers and sisters. Jesus is first, and therefore, we should not expect or want to maintain control over our lives. One of the first songs Carrie Underwood sang entitled “Jesus Take the Wheel”  illustrates this vividly. This is also illustrated in Scripture. John 3:30 says, “He must become greater; I must become less.” Of course, I’ve listened to this song and read this verse many times, but it has become clearer to me what it means in the last few months. Control and the release of it. Let me explain. I’ve been praying for a situation, a situation that has caused me great grief and sorrow. And every time I’ve prayed, I’ve wanted it solved so “life would get back to normal”. God doesn’t want me to pray that way. He wants me to pray so He would be glorified whether the situation is resolved in my lifetime or whether it is resolved in eternity. This is a hard thing for me and contradicts most of what I’ve ever heard about prayer. But, it’s what God wants from my prayer life and from the things I regret and try to hold onto.

I wonder something else about the things I regret and try to control. I wonder if I take the regrets I have over certain situations or people and attempt to maintain control by avoiding them. And, if this is true, have I truly let go of the regret. I weave a delicate web, I think. But, it’s important for me to consider these questions if I want to live a life with God coming first and me coming second. Do I get involved with every situation or ministry that’s available, or is it okay to hold back sometimes? And, if I hold back, am I holding back because I have regrets about the past or the people, or am I holding back because it’s not something God has called me to? Those are hard questions for me to answer. I would like to think I’ve moved beyond the situations or the people who have caused me regret. And, to a point, I think I have. But, when I avoid something or someone for fear of being hurt again, I’m not so sure. So, I know I have more work to do–in ceding control to my Lord and Savior and in being engaged in a Christian community.

So, I come back to regret and my need to fast from it. How, I ask myself? It comes back around to what is said in Scripture, specifically in Lamentations 3. Verses 22-24 say this, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'” I’m especially attracted to the part where it says his compassions are “new every morning.” We get a new start every day, all of us. Fasting regret is possible, and I pray we can all know God’s love and forgiveness. I begin this today. Will you join me?

God bless you all!

My Artistic Toolkit

I’ve spent this past week being inspired by the questions in my 52 Pep Talks for Writers book by Grant Faulkner, the executive director of National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. I’ve talked about and participated in this organization’s events. They’re actually the group that inspired me to get back into writing so when I bought this book last year, I knew it would be useful for me going forward. The prompt that inspired me this past week and which I’m going to delve into further today is this one. “What is an art form you rarely engage in, but have respect for? What similarities do you see between it and your writing? What differences? Pursue it and notice how your writing is enhanced by your practice.”

I’ll start with the first question. There are two art forms I have engaged in before and really enjoyed. But, I haven’t engaged in either of them since the new year began. The first is using markers to color in those adult coloring books that are all the rage. I know this seems very basic and probably something more for children, but it spoke into my writing when I was doing it. Trying to decide what colors to use to make the pictures and the words on the pages stand out helped me to visualize the pictures my words were creating in other people’s minds. It’s a skill, I’ve read, that is important to authors of all abilities. When I color, my mind drifts, and the words seem to come more easily. As far as differences go, any art form that creates pictures that can be seen instead of imagined is very different from the creative pursuit called writing. While I know people can interpret any kind of portrait or painting differently, the ability to see the colors and the finished product on the paper or canvas is a different exercise than using the imaginations we all have to create the pictures in our minds like we do when we read our books or stories. I’ve been thinking I need to get back to this pursuit and seeing the benefits written in black and white might be the impetus I need to do so.

The other art form I rarely engage in now, but have the utmost respect for is crocheting or knitting. Crocheting was the one I learned, but both of them are similar enough that I felt like I should mention both. I especially like the pretty colors of the yarn and the way they can be arranged into patterns. This art form is more difficult than coloring, or at least I found it so, but I was able to make some small things I was pleased with. It helped with my writing in similar ways too. When I got to where I could do the simple stitches at a reasonable speed, I was able to come up with ideas for my stories while I created something that someone else would find useful. I was able to expand the creative parts of my mind while crocheting, and I experienced a time of expanded creativity.

But, it got harder, and I think that’s why I gave it up. I wasn’t able to create the potholders or pretty blankets I saw other people crocheting, and it was hard for me to see other art forms being preferred as gifts than the writing that was my offering. So, I gave up pursuing other forms of art so I could work on getting better at my writing. That was what made it different for me and made me think I couldn’t pursue other forms of art.

I’ve changed my mind now though. I’ve gained more confidence in myself since I gave up practicing the other forms of art. I know that having a wide variety of items in my toolkit can only help me in my quest to become a better writer. So, I’m going to start pursuing them again, at least one of them anyway, And I would encourage those of you who are writers to do the same with other forms of art that intrigue you.

Have a great day, all!

What Happened to Love in the Christian Church?

I discussed this at length in my journal earlier, but the topic won’t let me go. Of course, it could also have something to do with the fact that Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. So, I thought this would be a good topic to explore in the blog. I decided to take it, run with it, and see what happens.

As I said, it’s almost Valentine’s Day, and anything media-related is full of ads for the perfect gift for your romantic partner. To a lesser extent, there are also valentines for your child to pass out in class and gifts for you to give to your family. It’s another media-hyped holiday to get us to spend our hard-earned money in the name of love.

But, love…that’s an important thing. God loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on a cross for us and be resurrected three days later. It’s the basis for this faith we practice as stated in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” So, we should know. We should know how we’re supposed to love people.

What’s happened then? What’s happened that’s made it so hard to state and show love in the Christian church? There are many reasons the first of which involves sin nature as if you didn’t know I was going to say that.  🙂 When the Fall happened, when Adam and Eve sinned and were forced out of the Garden of Eden, everything that God had made was perverted including love. It’s why Jesus had to come here and die for us. He was the only One unselfish enough whose sacrifice God would accept. Humans make it hard and are hard to love, and sin nature has made them that way.

That’s why we, who are Christians, need the Holy Spirit in our lives to help us love. Having the Holy Spirit in our lives is the only way we can love others. His presence is the only way we can love through the selfishness, the brokenness, and the impatience we all show on a daily basis. Some of us are better at expressing this than others, but we can all be better. How are we going to attract the world to Jesus if we are no better than the world? Not very well, I think.

Then, there’s the way the English language has mangled love. Speakers of this language only have one word to describe this feeling–love. And, I think we can all definitely say that the feelings we have toward our romantic partners are different than the feelings we have toward a piece of apple pie and everything in-between. At least, mine are different. 🙂 Couple that with sin nature, and you can see all the problems that could come with saying ‘I love you.’ to our Christian brothers and sisters. Even with all of the qualifiers which I can’t stand anyway. (Especially with the sex trafficking that’s going on worldwide.)

But, we need to try–to express love and to show love, and to do that, I thought it would be helpful to define the ‘types of love’ that exist in the ancient Greek language. They had more than one word for love which, I think, might be helpful in how we think of love.

The first kind is eros, and this resembles what we, in the West, think of as romantic love. The kind of love that Valentine’s Day is meant to celebrate. This word comes from the word erotas which is ‘intimate love’ and which represents sexuality. But, as I said earlier, this is NOT the only way we’re supposed to love.

The second kind of love is philia. This, in today’s terms, represents something like brotherly love. It shows loyalty, sacrifice, and appreciation. More of a familial or close friend kind of love, if you would, where people would take care of each other and show love to each other because of the kind of relationship they had.

There is nothing wrong with either of these kinds of love. In fact, I would argue that God knows they exist and that they help us build bonds with each other which are necessary and helpful in this fallen world. But, and this is a big but, these are NOT the only kinds of love we should have. It’s the third kind of love that represents what Jesus did for us on the cross and how He wants us to love each other. The word is agape. A word that any of us who have been Christians for a while are probably familiar with. It means universal love, charity or altruism essentially a love that we give freely to others regardless of the relationship we have with them. This represents how God wants us to love and how He wants us to show Him to the world. We need to love this way in our churches first though, and this is where, I believe, we are sorely lacking. How can we love the world if we can’t even show love or express love in the church?

So, on this Valentine’s Day, I issue a challenge. Let’s take time to show love in the way God wants us to. I think we’ll all be glad we did.

God bless you all!

 

Word of the Month – Believe

The calendar has turned from January to February which means it’s time for a new word of the month. Last month I talked about discipline and how I was working on retraining my brain to focus on my words and what I wanted to do with them. I wanted to make it clear to you all, but mostly to myself, that discipline was necessary to be a writer. This month I want to switch direction and talk about what the word believe means to me in my quest to write the best words I can write. Believe. It’s an easy word to write, but oh so hard to put into practice when I’m referring to myself. My hope is I can do it justice for my February word of the month.

There are many definitions of this word. The first one is “accept (something) as true; feel sure of the truth of.” Another one is to “accept the statement of (someone) as true.” A third is to “have faith especially religious faith.” The fourth, and I believe the truest part of what I want to say, is to “feel sure that (someone) is capable of a particular action.” For me, that action would be writing. If you read my post last week, you know that belief in myself is a very hard thing for me. To me, everyone else seems to accomplish their goals effortlessly while I have to slog and wade through mud to accomplish even the smallest part of what I want to do. I can accept the truth of my faith. I can accept other people’s statements as true, but when I am called to believe in myself as a writer, I struggle.

The struggle is the same when I consider the noun belief as opposed to the verbal form believe. The definitions are similar, but the way belief is defined is not as active as the definition for the word believe. (Yes, I do know that verbs are supposed to show action, but I do have a point for this.) Here is the first definition. Belief is “an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.” It can also be defined as “trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something.” I don’t understand how or why I can hold strong beliefs in my faith or in other people, but not be able to hold them in myself.

I think it might be because I’m afraid. Afraid of being rejected by my closest family and friends. Afraid of getting slammed against a wall and told that I’m a horrible writer. Told that I would be better if I just gave up any notion that I ever had of publishing my words or my stories.

I believe this is why I need to have the more active form of the word as my word of the month. It will help me to gain strength in my chosen craft and confidence to defeat all the negative things said about my writing. If I can say ‘I believe I’m a writer,’ for twenty-eight days in a row, I will be much further along on the path to believing this is something I can do and do well.

I wish that same belief on all of us who are writers and creators this month.

God bless you all!

An Act of Defiance: Changed Laws or Changed Hearts

When I first had the idea to write this a few days ago, I wasn’t going to do it. What I had on my mind was a big part of my heart, and there was no way I was going to reveal this to y’all. It wasn’t worth the shame. But then I read the prompt in my writing book and decided to share the deepest parts of my story, very few of which I’ve shared with anyone. First, let me share the prompt itself. “Reflect on those moments where people have dismissed or disrespected your writing pursuits. Did you shrink? Did you defer? Did you become silent? Think about ways to rebel–to defy the expectations they’re setting for you. Commit the crime of being yourself.” (52 Pep Talks for Writers, Grant Faulkner) While this seems to only be a writing prompt, I will also be discussing my life story because they’re intertwined–my life and my writing–to a point where they can’t be separated.

So, what started this line of thought, or should I say when did it start? It happened a few days ago. January 22. I woke up thinking there was something important about the date. I considered it over breakfast and while I was scrolling social media, but the only thing I could come up with was that people I know had birthdays that day. Later on, I saw it. January 22, 2020, was the 47th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing the right of a woman to have an abortion in the United States. There were postings on the upcoming March for Life as well as articles about making sure abortion remained legal for anyone who wanted it.

I have a funny relationship with Roe v. Wade. Let me first say that I have never had an abortion and firmly believe that abortion is the killing of an unborn baby. A part of my Christian faith, so to speak. But, and this is a big but, despite all that, I’m not an activist on changing the law. I’m not someone who gets into arguments about the law, and I’m definitely not someone who makes nasty comments towards those who have had abortions. I ask myself why. Why wouldn’t I get involved in something that I say is so important to my faith? I can tell you why. Changed laws don’t reflect changed hearts, and I truly believe changed hearts is what God wants from us first.

I was born a few years before Roe v. Wade to teenage parents. They did all the right things. They didn’t try and abort me (in a back-alley fashion), and they got married. Now, there are many people who would say I should stop right there. Everything about my existence was done in the “Christian” way, and I have nothing to complain about. Don’t get me wrong. I do appreciate that I am here. Psalm 139 is one of my favorite psalms, and it tells me that God has a plan for my life no matter how I came to be. At the same time though…at the same time, I grew up thinking I was someone else’s mistake. I didn’t feel loved and valued as a person which has colored my outlook on life. I had a hard time believing God loved me when I came to faith as a teenager, and I still have a hard time today believing God’s love translates into love from my Christian brothers and sisters.

That’s why I have a hard time believing that changing laws will result in changed hearts. Even if the Supreme Court decision making abortion legal was rescinded, there would still be poverty (along with a whole host of other things). There would still be families who struggle to get by, and there would be shame. Shame placed on a child who doesn’t deserve it. Shame placed on a family because of their mistakes. I don’t believe God wants this. I believe He would rather see us make abortion unnecessary than to have a child be thought of as someone’s mistake rather than the precious little soul they are.

Now, I want to circle back to the prompt I quoted at the beginning of this post. Because I have internalized being someone’s mistake, it’s hard for me to think of my writing as something worth reading. Anything I have to contribute, really. I stare at a crowd and wonder what I have to contribute. The things I try aren’t noticed, or they’re just noticed as an aside. Then, I become silent. If my writing or the other things I try and do aren’t noticed, what’s the worth in using my voice?

Then, I come to the last sentence of the prompt and realized that’s where my answer lies. “Think about ways to rebel–to defy the expectations they’re setting for you.” I also look at the title of this pep talk, “Creativity as an Act of Defiance”. I need to defy the expectations of my background and of my psyche. I do have something to say. People might not like it. My closest friends and family might not like it. I might lose friends and family because of what I say. I might even lose Christian brothers and sisters. Who am I kidding? I’ve already lost Christian brothers and sisters. But, it’s who I am, and it’s who God wants me to be. Writing my thoughts and stories is the only way towards the most authentic expression of myself.

So, I write as an act of defiance. I write to change hearts and not laws. I write because God wants me to write, and I write because it’s how God made me. I hope all of you who write can find the reason you write today.

God bless you all!

 

Feeding the Muse

Last fall I went to a writer’s workshop in my hometown. I gained many tidbits of information to add to my burgeoning knowledge of all the different facets of writing, but that’s not what I want to talk about today. No, I want to talk about  the book I received at said workshop and the most recent chapter I’ve read out of said book. When I was at the workship, I was surprised to hear from the author or librarian (I can’t remember which.) that we would be getting something to take home. I looked over at the selection of books, and she further said that the workshop had been funded by a grant from a big company. After the workshop was over, I went to the table and picked out a book by Ray Bradbury called Zen in the Art of Writing. It’s a compilation of several of his essays about writing, and it has been wonderful so far. I’ve had takeaways I wouldn’t have otherwise had, and it’s taken me some places I wouldn’t have otherwise gone. Sounds remarkable, right? That’s today’s topic though based on my take of Bradbury’s “How to Keep and Feed a Muse”.

The muse is a funny thing. I’ve heard it described as the place where all great story ideas come from, and I’ve also heard people denying the existence of a muse (that stories are only written through blood, sweat, and tears). These are also the same people, I believe, who deny the existence of writer’s block and that anything can be written if you put the right amount of work into it. But, all of us who write need a place to get our ideas from, and that’s where I believe the idea of a muse formed.

Bradbury knew this well. In the chapter I mentioned earlier, he talks about all the different ways he feeds his muse. To him, the muse is represented by our very being, and it was fascinating to hear all the ways he nourished his being and mined it for story ideas. He talks about listening intently to all of the story-tellers in his life and how they made events and scenes real to him. Pieces of thsoe stories made their way to what I would call his muse, and he was able to deepen his reservoir of writing ideas.

He also talks about the experiences in his own life and how they led him down the path of more and varied story ideas. I think we, as writers, tend to forget that each of us has unique and particular circumstances that add to any story we’re writing. Bradbury didn’t though. He writes of making lists of nouns in previous chapters. I found that one particularly fascinating and put it in my bank of knowledge to try when I’m stuck for a story idea.

Another thing he speaks about is the reading and research we do and how we should read things we wouldn’t normally read. He says these forms of writing can stimulate areas of the creative brain not normally stimulated. It made sense to me so I decided to try it the other day with a graphic novel I received as a Christmas present. I’m also going to eventually try it with poetry and essays as these are forms of writing I read rarely. This writing, as well as the novels and short stories I normally read, should keep my writing muse well-supplied for years to come.

And, with that, I thought of the approaches I have to my writing and the excitement that comes with each. Because, Bradbury talks about that too. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I can see his point. I believe this excitement can show up in our stories and make them even better. So, over the past few days, I’ve taken the pains to be more observant. First, with the graphic novel I started reading. It stirred pictures in my own head of how I can make the scenes in my book more vivid to my readeres.

Second, with the walks I’ve taken. There is a tree outside of my apartment that reminds me of Halloween with its hulking shape and the amount of leaves it carries in the spring, summer, and fall. The lake on the property reminds me of drifting away to a new world every time I see it.

Finally, with the bread I’ve baked. The smells I’ve experienced and the decisions I’ve made during preparation time have helped me learn different ways of verbalizing the five senses in my writing.

It doesn’t take a whole lot to become more observant, and between that and remembering that our muses are functions of who we all are and our experiences, we can take pains to make sure our muses are always fed.

May we all be inspired by our muses in 2020!

 

Inspiration

I read a question earlier about what inspires me to write and thought I would write a short piece detailing my reasons. First, let me state the reasons that were written in the prompt. Is my writing a desire to create lyrical prose, to escape this world, or to explore my inner world? I think a combination of the last two reasons is what inspires me to write. My world is so normal, and I feel insignificant a lot of the time like I’m not important to people. I want to write about characters who are important, who save the day and the planet. They start off insignificant and then become heroes to those around them. I want them to be recognized as valuable and important people who make sure that all around them who are also insignificant are recognized as valuable and important. That recognition, of course, does not happen in our society, or even in the Christian church, so that’s one of the main reasons I want to escape this world through my writing and write about a better world.

I believe exploring my inner world is a natural extension of the first reason so I’m throwing that out there as well. I want the world to be better so I make-up worlds which then need to come out of my head and be written down on paper so I won’t lose the world or the thoughts leading to it. I’m at my happiest when I’m writing about my inner world and describing the ways it can be better than the world I’m currently living in.

I also feel like writing is a big way for me to redeem my past. That is what brings me back to my book and other things I’m writing after a long time away. I’ve used my circumstances to block my writing time for way too long, and this is what I’m hoping to change in 2020. I’m capable of achieving my goals even with four people and a dog in the house, and it’s about time I proved it.

Another part of the prompt said I should write about the last time inspiration hit and how it came about. It was last fall when I noticed the listing for a short story contest. It said to write a story about why the United States hadn’t been back to the moon in fifty years. Any reason, any scenario. But, history had to stay the same. A light dawned. I could fit my character and her desire to be a pilot/astronaut right into it since women were still being discriminated against in the late ’60s and early ’70s. A story started forming in my head. I was able to write over 27,000 words of it during NaNoWriMo. Where I fell down though was in the planning and execution of it. I didn’t flesh out the outline enough which is why the words stopped. I’ve been able to get back to it now and am combining my writing with reading and research to make sure I get the details right because I want this story to be a good story.

Finally, what makes me come back to writing on the worst days? What makes me sit down and write when times are bad? When I write bad times down, they stay on the page. They communicate my thoughts and feelings, and I gain the courage to live another day. I don’t say that lightly. My feelings of insignificance diminish with every word I write down. The stories I write show other people slaying their demons which helps me, and someday others, I hope, to slay their own demons and make this world a much better place.

 

Word of the Month – Discipline

As I’ve been debating on where I want to take my writing life and this blog, in particular, in 2020, I’ve come back to a concept that’s been popular for the last few years. The concept is to pick a “word of the year” that represents what the person hopes to achieve during the year. I do see the wisdom in it though. By thinking of a word for the year, a person can think of how they want their year to go and choose accordingly. But, I decided to take the concept a step further. I have many things I wish to work on this year, and I thought dividing my words into monthly emphases would be a better idea. It also will give me an automatic blog topic for the first blog of each month. So, with all that said, my word for January is discipline, and my post today will explain how I decided on this word and what I want to do with it during this month.

First, the word discipline has two different connotations–one negative and one positive. The definition of the negative connotation of the word is this. Discipline is “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.” While I believe in the practice of discipline to train people on how to act in society, this is not quite what I had in mind when I chose discipline as my first word of the month. No, I had a more positive connotation of the word in mind. Nowadays, it’s hard to think of the positive aspects of discipline since we hear so much about the negative ones. But, positive is what I was thinking of, and here is the definition. Discipline is training ourselves to do something in a controlled and habitual way. And this is where I thought I needed to begin as I start working on what I want to accomplish in 2020.

I started writing the list of things I want to do in my planner and was surprised by the number of components it had. Most of them had to do with my writing–finishing my novel, posting regularly in this blog, writing in my journal, and writing more stories. Then, there are the activities that go with my writing such as reading and research and the classes and workshops. It looked intimidating without a plan.

I also wrote down my goals for the other parts of my life such as self-care, spending time with family and friends. and the most important part of my life–my faith practice. I want to let God’s voice lead me in all the aspects of my life; in my writing, in the places I go to serve Him, and in the things I do for Him. It’s my desire to reflect Him and who He is to me with everything I do in this life.

This takes discipline which is why I chose the word. I need to train myself physically, mentally, and spiritually as I write, as I practice my faith, and as I live for Him. Training my brain to focus on the tasks I want to accomplish instead of letting myself be distracted with what the world thinks I need to do. It is hard though. So hard to have discipline in my life though I can see the benefits once I learn and apply it. Being disciplined about working towards my goals will do nothing but help me, and help us all, as we move forward in 2020.

God bless you all today!

Be a Noticer

This week I was going to write about the birthday I had over the weekend and how it felt to be a year older. But, instead, I decided to write about noticing instead. It’s been on my heart and mind.

Noticing other people. It’s not wired in us, is it? Except for when they’re interfering in our business or keeping us from where we want to go. We find it hard to pay attention to other people when they’re speaking because we’re thinking of the next thing we want to say and forget learning what another person is interested in if it doesn’t interest us. It’s not worth our time. Then, we wonder why we’re lonely and seem to have few or no friends.

I’ve written about feeling lonely and feeling like I haven’t found my tribe before, and it’s not a pleasant feeling. To think I could only talk about the weather with someone or the latest football score has been disheartening.

But, then I started thinking about the people who notice in my life and thought I would tell you some of their stories today. The first one is my husband. We’ve been married for over twenty-five years, and he’s surprised me with almost every gift he has given me. Yes, I have made lists for my birthday and for Christmas, and he has gotten me some of those gifts. But, it never fails. He’ll notice something in a store that I touch six months before the occasion, and inevitably, it ends up in my pile on Christmas morning. He notices me and the kind of person I am, and I am grateful. I was especially grateful that he bought me an All-Access Pass to Master Class last year which I used to take several classes from well-known authors. I learned so much and was glad he continued it for this coming year.

Another person in my life who notices me is someone who I have known since college. She is one of my best friends, and I consider her an adopted mom. It’s been over thirty years since I first met her, and there are many stories I could tell you. But, I want to focus on one that happened just this week. She sent me a birthday card which she usually does near my birthday. The card had this written in it. “I can’t wait to read your novel.” I felt so validated. I don’t have many people in my life that acknowledge my writing efforts, and sometimes I just don’t feel understood. It’s a “me” thing, I assure you. So, to have her do that made me feel so good.

So, with this on my mind, I decided to make a point of trying this myself. If being noticed made me feel this good, imagine what it could for someone else. At the end of Thanksgiving weekend, the residents of where I live were asked not to bring any more garbage to the dumpster. It was broken, and it would take a few days for someone to come and fix it. Of course, no one listened. Everyone wanted to get rid of their trash from Thanksgiving. Anyway, I had just bought a few Christmas cookie mixes and decided to mix up a batch for our maintenance crew. They would be the ones who would clean up the mess, and I wanted to make sure they knew they were appreciated. I didn’t think a whole lot about it though. It was just…something that felt natural. I also knew I might not get any kind of response. But, I did it anyway. And I think I felt just as good if not better than the young men who received those cookies. They, and the job they did, had been noticed, something we all long for.

I also spent some time with my birthday buddy during the weekend of our birthday. She is a young lady at my church whose birthday is on the same day as mine. She, her mother, and I went to the mall, and I felt joy in noticing the little things she liked. We went up and down escalators, explored stores, and talked about the toys she had bought. It was a great afternoon! (Thank you, Jenny and Ivy!)

Finally, I want to say this. Make an effort to be a noticer. Notice when someone is happy and when someone is sad. Notice, and don’t try to fix it. Just be there. I believe that’s the way Jesus wants us to be present and to show His love to others in our sphere of influence.

God bless you all!

PS–I wrote this last week, but haven’t been able to get it posted before now because of computer problems. Thanks for reading!