Season of Change and How it Relates to the Theme of my NaNo novel

This fall has been a season of change for me and my family. Things are different now. Both of my children are now in college, and I’m no longer homeschooling. My husband and I are now empty nesters though our younger son still lives at home. I’ve spoken of this before. But, what I haven’t spoken of is how different it feels to be in the season as opposed to anticipating it. It hasn’t been easy to find a place where we fit. We’re not actively parenting, and we’re not grandparents yet. (Hopefully, that won’t happen for a while. 🙂 ) I’m trying to launch a freelance writing career and learning how that works in scheduling my days. And I’m learning who I am again and what it is I have to contribute.

When I was considering the topic for this post, all of this and my novel came to mind. In my first post of this month, I spoke of the theme I was hoping to weave throughout the pages of my novel–acceptance of self and love of family. While this is still my theme, thinking about seasons of change has enriched it. If you write, you are familiar with the term “inciting incident.” Here is the definition if you’re not. “The inciting incident is an episode, plot point, or event that hooks the reader into the story. This particular moment is when an event thrusts the protagonist into the main action of the story.” (from It’s what makes the story interesting to readers. Anyway, I’ve already written the inciting incident for my novel, and I was thinking how similar this was to a season of change. My protagonist can’t go back to the way it was before the story began, and I’m not sure she would want to. By the time I’m done writing, I hope to have shown how much she has grown as a person by how much she has changed. I believe that would be a season of change by any definition.

As I’ve thought of how “season of change” has enriched the theme of my novel, I came upon some questions and quotes from one of my writing books. Jennifer Probst had this to say about theme in Write Naked. “Think about what is important to you and what you want readers to remember about your book. What are your characters really fighting for? What do you want to explore?” These are words that bring theme down to its most basic level, and they were some of the many words that made me glad I bought and read Ms. Probst’s book.

I also learned about story theme when I was reading the section about theme. Here is the definition. “The story theme runs on a deeper level, identifying what type of story you like to write. It’s a theme that’s present in your collective works.” (pg. 198, Write Naked, Jennifer Probst) That concept was fascinating to me as well. I’m too new of a writer to know for sure what my story theme is, but I have some ideas. I’ll need to come back to this post at some point and update if I’m right. (After I’ve published a few books, I hope. 🙂 )

In the first paragraph of this post, I wrote of my own season of change. The thing I’ve been most surprised about is that things are actually changing. For some reason, I thought there would be a core of things that would remain the same, but that core has been smaller than I would have thought. I understand the concept of “mid-life crisis” a bit better now and why people go out and do crazy things like buy a sports car. The changes at this time of life have been tumultuous, and it has been hard to breathe. Letting go of the familiar has seemed to be the watchword of people I know who are in this stage of life. The question I need to answer, I think, is whether I need to do the same. Hopefully, writing this book will give me the answers I’m looking for. I hope it does the same for you.

Have a great day, everyone!

The World

Today’s topic wasn’t just random. I believe God planned it down to the littlest detail. Why? Because, in less than twenty-four hours, I will be on a plane to Honduras with a missions team from my church. This trip has been a long time coming. From the time I first expressed interest back in February, getting to go on this trip has been a God thing, pure and simple. There’s no way I would have been able to go on my own. Not from a one-income homeschooling family. But, God worked it out so I know it’s a part of His purpose for my life.

This will be my first time going abroad to do missions work, but I did spend a summer in Maryland when I was a college student. I also took a few one-week mission trips, but it’s the summer trip that has been in my thoughts in recent days. My partner and I worked in the inner-city doing whatever was needed, but mainly, we conducted Backyard Bible Clubs. In my mind’s eye, I see the faces of those children like it was yesterday. They were so excited we had come to where they lived. It was hard work. A lot of times, I was out of my comfort zone, but my youthful self dreamed of changing the world for Jesus. Many times, after that summer, I dreamed of becoming a career missionary.

But, real life intervened, and it’s now thirty-two years later. I wonder, where did that youthful enthusiasm and energy go? What happened to reaching the world for Christ? Oh, I did my best to change my own small corner of the world. I taught school. I married and had my own children. I became their teacher when they were young. I poured into my family. I wonder how much I really changed though. Advocates in the homeschooling community would say I changed a lot for my family, but what did I really do? I’m still working all that out.

We were practicing our faith when our sons were young. Then, we spent time out of the church in their middle years. I’ve written about this before. I became a cynic about the church and the community it’s supposed to offer because of all the bad I had seen. I longed for it still though because God had planted the desire in my heart. Cynicism and longing combined in my heart to make a potent soup.

As I’ve written though, my life has changed over the past six years. Love has come to the forefront, and I have a better understanding of what my faith means. I talk to God often, and He comforts me when the world lets me down. I even have a community that puts up with my weirdness, :-), and that is something, to be sure. I thank God for it every day.

Over the last few years, I’ve been thinking about and planning for what comes next after my children were done with high school. I’ve chronicled many of my thoughts and feelings in this blog. As you know, this is the year. My younger son will start college in the fall. God has been leading me down this writing path. I know that for sure. But, how and in what capacity, I don’t know. I also don’t know what I will do with the time I used to use for homeschooling. And except for my writing, I’m not sure of the path God is leading me on to serve Him. Thinking of that day in August when both of my children will be in college is a blur right now. I don’t know how my days will go or what will be in them.

I think it’s why God led me to this trip. A week away doing work for Him with no distractions, it’s what I need. God will meet me there. The uncertainty and blurriness will disappear, and my life will be changed!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

PS: I will complete this series on 100 Days to Brave when I return. See you on the flip side!

Play Time

I’m sitting at the lake near where we live on this first Monday morning of the rest of my life since retiring from homeschool teaching on Friday. It’s gorgeous down here–just the right hint of cool breeze and very little of the humidity that my area will get increasing amounts of later on in the summer. It’s gorgeous, and it’s peaceful. I can see the breeze moving the water and the top of the trees. I can feel it as it blows through my hair I’ve been growing out. It’s like a kiss from the Holy Spirit.

I’ve come to a realization. I doubt it’s very profound for the rest of you, but it was for me. My life has been full of obligations for the last several years. Obligations of teaching; obligations of taking care of my home; obligations of faith; and obligations of behavior. We all have obligations in our lives, most of them placed by ourselves, but others also expect things of us. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of meeting my obligations, but there hasn’t been a whole lot of time for play. There hasn’t even been time for a vacation. Who takes vacations when they’re paying for a child to get through college? 🙂 I’m not complaining though. As a parent, I would sacrifice anything for my kids.

But, I haven’t had any time off, and it’s affected me–mentally, physically, and spiritually. It’s put me in a pit which I’ve started working my way out of. And part of that work involves self-care, or play. Coincidentally, play is the subject of today’s devotion. I can resonate with this quote from the author as I sit here. “It’s almost like a deep breath on a really hard journey of courage.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs) I’m able to take a deep breath here unlike anywhere else right now. My journey to courage has been hard this spring especially over the last few weeks, and I haven’t taken the time to play or just the time to rest from my obligations. Much as I hate to admit it, worship has even become rote. With that being said, I know I need some renewal.

Sitting down here to write this post has been a good start. Today’s Scripture verse is more meaningful too because I’m sitting in the middle of God’s creation. From Psalm 118:24, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” It feels good to be in the middle of God’s creation and to know that He doesn’t see my sins because of what Jesus did for all of us on the cross. I can praise Him here, and I know it’s a start.

So, this week I’m going to do some self-care. I might not be able to go on a vacation, but I can take a rest from my obligations. I can work on climbing out of the pit and learn how to worship again with freedom and without obligation. May we all be able to see God’s presence in whatever situations we are in today!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Bigger than Myself

With my younger son about to start his final year in our homeschool, I have been thinking more of what I want to do next. More of what kind of legacy I want to leave. For years, it has been what do my children or what does my husband need to the exclusion of what I need.

This has even been true in the church from the activities my children have participated in to the ministries my husband has been involved with. And if I express a need, well, it’s called selfish, if not out loud, then in my own head. So, I have buried my own longings of doing things I’m good at or having a chance to participate in something for Jesus.

People might think my expressing these longings have thrust me toward the feminist camp, or they might think that I’m more of a traditionalist because I’ve stayed at home all of these years, but I don’t think I’m totally either. I’m a daughter of God praying about and looking to see the next thing He wants me to do when this phase of my life is over. I don’t want to be pushed aside because I’m a woman or told to sacrifice something just because I am a woman.

I’ve been struggling with how to voice all of this especially since I don’t want to be selfish either. I want everyone in my family to be doing the work God wants them to do. I watched something earlier on one of my favorite TV shows that has given me a voice to express this longing. It wasn’t a Christian show, but it had a message God wanted to send me.

One of the main characters on this show had been imprisoned with his son, and they were facing death within the next day. This guy was one of the main bad guys, and there was no attempting to gloss over that fact. He was telling his son to kill him in their upcoming fight (which their captors had scheduled) so he would make it out. He wanted his son’s life to count more than his life ever did. I don’t know any parent that could argue with this. He was very convicted of the bad things he had done, but thought that, if his son lived, he could leave something bigger than himself behind. And that was the phrase that leaped out at me–in blinking neon lights. “Bigger than himself.”

That’s what I’m trying to find–something that would leave an impact bigger than myself. Something that would be meaningful to the Kingdom of God. Because, I don’t have that right now. People miss my husband if he’s not at church; they miss my kids if they’re not at church, but they don’t miss me. There are things I would like to be asked to do, but other people are selected over me. Sometimes I feel like I’m the quiet kid shunted over to the corner so people can get the talent the other kids bring–my husband’s ability with the media board, my sons’ youth. I do things to satisfy others, but never myself. I look at these words I just wrote and think to myself, ‘There I go again being selfish. Whatever I want should be at the bottom of the list. Isn’t that what being a good Christian wife and mother is supposed to be? Isn’t that what Jesus calls us to do?’

I’m not sure about the answer to the first question, but I know the unequivocal answer to the second is yes. I think a caveat needs to be added though. There are several verses in Scripture that talk about God’s plans.  Verses such as Proverbs 16:3. “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Then there is Proverbs 20:24 which says, “A person’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand their own way?”

“Directed by the Lord.” When a person’s heart and mind are centered on God in prayer, He can give us longings and desires. That might be considered by some to be a cop-out especially if it’s a woman wanting to make a difference for God, but hear me out. How does a person know they’re supposed to preach? How does someone know they want to develop their musical talent in order to lead worship? What about the person who wants to work with children or teenagers? What about the person who has a talent with numbers? These are all God-given desires that He wants us to act upon. So, how is that any different than someone who is trying to find a ministry focus or a new avenue to leave something of themselves behind? I don’t think it is, but there is an important thing to consider. Are we just doing it for ourselves, or are we wanting to do something that we have prayed about and that will bring glory to our Lord and Savior? If it’s the latter, may I suggest that it is a God-given desire we should do our best to act upon and not let Satan discourage us when he throws obstacles in our way.

And, there is the solution to my struggle. I’m told I do a good job of writing my way through problems to get to a solution. This was a God thing though. 🙂 Right down to the Scriptures I found earlier. So thankful for my God who has given me this writing talent. May we all keep our eyes on Jesus so we will know what He wants us to do!

God’s blessings on you all today!