Anatomy of Winning

It’s the last weekend in October, Halloween is just around the corner and then November One.  I’m not much of a Halloween person.  November One is what I’m really gearing up for.  It’s the start of National Novel Writing Month, affectionally nicknamed, NaNoWriMo.  I’m a WriMo.  

I entered the challenge last year and won, meaning I wrote fifty thousand words in thirty days.  Actually less then thirty because cutting a deadline too close, makes me queasy.  So I wrote more than the allotted sixteen hundred words a day.  

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Also, I had no excuse.  I didn’t work outside the home so a two thousand word count was doable.

2018 is a completely different story and my courage is faltering as the start of NaNoWriMo looms.  This year I’m employed outside the home part-time and I’m working with an editor on last year’s book.  This may not seem like much to those of you who work full-time and still manage to eek out the fifty-thousand word count.  Kudos to you!  For this writer, it’s going to take all my energy not to have a melt-down.  I know this about myself.

One big concern is creating a new story and editing and rewriting a different one.  It’s like jumping in and out of different realities.  This may cause some neurosis on my part.  Consider yourself warned.

The other challenge is the genre I chose to write.  A fractured fairy tale.  I’ve read many but haven’t written anything like it.  As I started to contemplate ideas I decided, why not?  Not because it’s going to be easy but precisely because it’s going to be the exact opposite.  I’m a masochist so by all means, why don’t I just jump right in?

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Why do we take on these ludicrous feats?  Why bother with a self-imposed torturous contest?  I’m asking myself that as I take my sanity temperature and run through all my doubts.  

Along with the impending deadline of November One, that bully, fear, is stalking me.  His hot breath searing my neck.  But the hideous creep has underestimated me.

This year, I’m so done with being beaten up by thugs.  So I’m digging in my heels and thrusting out my chin.  You think you’re going to make me cower in a corner?  

I refuse.  Not only am I going to write about a protagonist who overcomes, I’m going to be one in my own real life story.  Doubt and fear will not dictate what I do or don’t do.

Like any heroine worth her salt, I have a plan. Organization is key.  Pre-planning and prep is my weapon of choice.  Telling people you are setting off on this adventure or some other scheme is a good motivator to achieving that daily word count.  Or end up looking like a fool. I don’t want that.

Like any authentic heroine, I will have to battle my demons.  Nothing of value is learned if it’s handed to you on a silver platter.  There will be distress, crisis and chaos.  My brain knows this but the rest of me is blissfully ignorant of the upcoming battle.  The brutes of this particular tale are fatigue, fear and time.  

Who are yours?  

How do we overcome these sneaky, manipulative cads?  Stick to the plan. Oh, and bring along some cheerleaders who will help you grind through to victory.   

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I may be the one writing, but behind every writer, every hero of any story, is a group of people who help us reach our destination.  We might think we are alone or we might pride ourselves on being self-reliant but these are lies.  Remembering this is key to success.

It is naive to expect all wins and no losses.  There are going to be off days when my characters go on hiatus or the roof leaks at home.  Paralysis caused by fear is going to threaten to still my fingers on the keyboard.  Meals still need to be made even if it’s cereal and life goes on.  The only thing that counts on these days when the pressure of my enemy’s knee against my should blades feels like an anvil on my chest, is to shove the perp off and get back up.  It’s in the rising up and pressing on that we are victors.

 

These are the things I’m going to try and remember in the upcoming month.  What about you?  What challenge are you facing in the upcoming days, weeks or months?  What do you need to remember to help you win? If nothing else, I hope you remember you aren’t alone, and get back up when you get knocked down.

When The World Changes

Do you remember a time when you entered a new phase in life?  Suddenly you felt like you were living on another planet?  I remember bringing my second son home from the hospital on New Year’s Eve Day, happy to be home but as my twenty-two month buzzed around me, oblivious to the new baby, I wondered where I’d left my sanity and what planet was I on? 

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I love my boys but the reality was that my world had changed drastically since I’d left my house two days earlier.  The old one had been busy but this one felt chaotic and I could feel resistance rising up in me. Adapting to change wasn’t, and still isn’t, my specialty.   

Have you ever had a similar experience?

It happens over and over in life, doesn’t it? Seasons change. Kids grow up.  We have losses and gains.  Our family is in the midst of big changes in almost everyone’s lives.  What planet did I just land on?  It’s no longer familiar and I feel resistance rising.  Fear grips my heart.  The unknown taunts me.  Excitement fills me as the promise of new things take hold.  It’s confusing, isn’t it?

How do we find our legs in this gravity-less new world?  

An anchor.  We need an anchor to hold us true and steady.  Honestly, I don’t think I need one.  I can stay on course, I tell myself, only to discover I’ve drifted.  The longer we let ourselves wander, the harder it is to get back.  

An anchor will hold us.  We don’t have to work to stay in place.  We are tethered.    If we spin off into space, that cord will draw us back. 

That’s who Jesus is.  He’s our anchor.  If we let him anchor us, the world doesn’t stop spinning by but we do.  We are held fast in the chaos.

He also gives us room to roam but if we get too far he gives us a tug, reminding us he is there.  

It’s our choice whether we decide to hold to him, our anchor, or cut him loose. I’m finding for myself, that as the world gets crazier, an anchor is a necessity.  I am not reliable or consistent enough to keep myself firm but God is.  

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.           Heb 11:1

When We Choose Not To Be Kind

Sometimes we know better but we choose to do it anyway.  We choose to be mean over loving.  We choose to indulge the injury rather than offer grace.  We choose darkness over light.  I say choose because it is a choice.

I’m ashamed to admit that I have done this. Too. Often.

One instance stands out in my mind.  Maybe because I see a visual reminder every now and then.  It makes me cringe.

A few years ago, I chose self-righteous indignation over grace.  There was a child who was one of those kids who had the word TROUBLE written all over them.  At least that’s what I saw.  I did not want her around my kids.  She was a number of years older than them.  She was sneaky and manipulative.  I had every right to protect my kids from her but at the same time I didn’t do it in a way that was kind or gracious.  

I wrote her off as a LOST CAUSE.  She knew she had done some things I didn’t like and she wasn’t welcome.  She stopped coming by.

I still see her around.  I don’t know much about her but it appears I wasn’t far off on my prediction.  I take no pleasure in this.  Instead, it makes me wonder what would have happened if I had handled things a little differently.  

Instead of seeing TROUBLE, what if I’d looked closer and saw GRACE.  Instead of writing her off as a LOST CAUSE, I saw that she was, instead, a LOST GIRL.  What if I’d looked at her and saw how Christ saw me.  He saw a LOST GIRL who He offered GRACE to.  I wasn’t TROUBLE to Him.  He saw the potential of what could be.  He still does.  

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That’s how He sees this girl.  It’s how I should have seen her back then.  

I wonder too, what would be different today, if back then, I’d offered her friendship and  safety instead of being a mama bear with a snarl.

Do we need to protect our kids?  Absolutely.  I’m not saying we stop protecting them.  I’m not talking about abusive relationships here, either.  

But I think there are times we can protect them but still offer grace and love to the ones we are protecting them from.  Especially when it comes to kids and teens who bully, who have terrible home lives and who just need someone to believe in them.  Sometimes those kids don’t know any better and need someone to show them a better way.

We can still be kind but firm.  

We can still be loving but put in rules and boundaries.  I think some kids are just crying out for these simple things today because the world is so confusing.

We can still be gracious and say no.  

We have a choice to be kind to those in our circles of influence.  We think it really doesn’t matter but we can never know the ripple effect of just one small act of kindness.  One smile.  One grace given.  Even if we are in disagreement or trying to protect loved ones.

Would this girl’s life be any different today?  I have no idea.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But I will never know because I made a choice not to be kind.  

Two Seconds

A little housekeeping first.  So… I took an unofficial break from the blog and now it’s the end of the summer.  I had meant to blog but then I got caught up revising the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo last November which was so much fun.  The third draft is complete and I am trying to figure out what’s next for this writing journey.  But that’s for another time.  For now here’s a new post.

The days are shorter.  There’s a been a northerly breeze the last few days.  (I’m not complaining!) I’m not sure where the last two months flew to.  It’s been a summer filled with both good and bad.  But on Wednesday morning it came to a crashing halt shortly after 8 am.  A house blew up a street over from us.  We heard it.  We felt it and then we watched black smoke over the trees as the sound of sirens, many of them, filled the air.  

 

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From our front porch.

We were saddened to hear of one death and one critically injured.  The house was obliterated and the two beside it, damaged.  Most of the street was evacuated for at least a day if not more.  

I’ve walked that street right past those houses, many days over the last seven years.  It had become rote.

On Wednesday morning, in the time I thought someone in our house slammed a door so hard it reverberated  (that’s what is sounded like where I was in the house), people’s lives changed.  How long does it take to slam a door?  A second?  Or two?

Death pounced, in that time.  Someone was horribly injured.  Homelessness became a reality.  Stuff was gone.  What if it happened to me?  To you?

I think I’m still in shock because I can’t process it all.  I keep coming back to a question that’s been rolling around in my head for the last few days, even before this terrible event in our neighourhood.  

What kind of person do I want to be?

I know you’re thinking what does that have to do with a house blowing up?  I know it doesn’t seem to make sense.  Let me explain.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that the news is full of hate these days.  People don’t hesitate to obliterate one another on social media, all the while accusing the other person of being intolerant and hateful.  But the sad fact is, both parties are guilty of what they are accusing the other of doing.  We see it in our everyday lives at work, as we run errands and maybe even in our own families.  In a world full of haters, it’s easy to become one.  I know, because the last couple of years, I have found it much easier to hate than to be kind, to be loving and to offer grace.  To offer forgiveness.  

Who do I want to be?  A hater or someone who offers kindness and grace?  

Some of you may be thinking, This is a no-brainer!  But if you’ve been betrayed enough, wounded enough, you know it’s not that simple.

I read this on Monday from Paul David Tripp’s New Morning Mercies, a daily devotional.   

“I understand why people, after experiencing the hurt and disappointment that so often mars our relationships, decide to live in isolation or in a comfortable collection of terminally casual relationships.”   (August 20th devotional)

Sound familiar?  Are we becoming this person?  I am.  Our relationships are a daily online check in.  We keep real people at arm’s length only doling out what we want them to know.  We never dig deeper and neither do they.    

Tripp goes on to say something we all know as followers of Jesus but we conveniently forget.  “…for the believer, relationships are not a lifestyle option.”  

Ouch. 

Real flesh and blood relationships.  Not a status check where we exaggerate and make things look good.  Posting highlights of our lives and even making the low points look positive.  This is not what God meant when He called us to be fishers of people.  (Did you think that was just for the disciples?  Maybe pastors?)

Jesus lived life out loud with twelve men and many other followers.  But mainly it was the twelve.  From that twelve he had best friend status with three.  Peter, James and John. (Does this model make anyone else think of a church?  Congregation, leadership team and trusted few. Hmmm)  

He lived with these men, day in and day out, through persecution, through exhaustion, through the highs of miracles.  Through ministry.  Man that’s hard.  If Jesus did it, why would God expect any less from us?

Some days I wish he would because I’d be a great Christian if I could opt out of the human experience of relationships!  But he doesn’t.  That leads me back to two seconds of time.  If two seconds could change your world, what kind of person would you want to be going into that kind of disaster? Coming out the other side? People who walk through the hardships of life with grace and faith both in God and in relationships, fill me with inspiration and peace.  Their grace and faith trails behind them, leaving a pleasant aroma. Does this make sense?  

And if you didn’t come out this side of heaven, what kind of legacy would you want to leave behind?  Hate.  Love.  It can’t be both.

Two seconds.

 

 

Paul David Tripp’s book is a great devotional if you are looking for one to read.  I’d highly recommend it.

Tripp, Paul David.  New Morning Mercies; A Daily Gospel Devotional.  Published 2014.  Crossway Pubishers, Wheaton, Ill.

The Art of Gift Giving

Have you ever received a perfect gift?  One that was uniquely thought of for just you?  That made you feel like you were known?  Seen?  That someone took the time to think about you?

It has nothing to do with money.  It has everything to do with the thought and consideration that went into the gift.

I recently received a gift like that.  The person put a lot of planning and thought into the gift and how the gift was delivered.  She made a “book” with the cover of one of my favourite authors, to house the gift that incorporated reading and dance.  I loved it.   I appreciated her thoughtfulness.  I felt seen and known.  It was a priceless gift at a turbulent time.

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I love gifts.  In church speak, it’s one of my love languages.  A long time ago, I  worked in a high end pewter gift store in Ottawa and Toronto.  We had a gifts for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and graduations.  I learned a lot about gift giving and gift givers.  

In today’s fast paced world, the art of gift giving is becoming extinct.  We don’t have time to slow down and stop and think about gifts anymore.  For some of us, gift giving is not something we are especially good at.  Things can be complicated.  I get that.  But even if we are more of a gift card person or money person, we can still make the time to buy a gift card from a store the person likes or to buy things they love.  We can take the time to get or make a nice card, add some candy or chocolate to adorn it if that’s what the person likes.  Gift giving is about the other person not us.  The art of gift giving makes the person receiving the gift feel special.  

The bonus?  The gift giver gets the pleasure of seeing the gift enjoyed, which is a special experience all on it’s own.

The art of gift giving mirrors the one who gives us good gifts.  

So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.  Matt 7:11 NLT

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, with whom there is no change or shifting shadow.  James 1:17

The ultimate Gift Giver gives us good gifts because He is good and as James says, He never changes.  His goodness remains.  Even in the hard times.  I saw that first hand recently.  In difficult circumstances, God laid out some good gifts to help us through.  Gifts that were uniquely garnered to me (and my family).  He didn’t change the circumstances but He did let me know He saw me, He knows me, and He loves me.  He did it through those gifts.  Even though I doubted Him.  Even though I was mad at Him.  But He is good and He never changes.  Our doubts, our anger, our questions do not affect His character.  Or His love for us.  He offers us grace upon grace. 

From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.    John 1:16 NLT

As the Ultimate Gift Giver, God gave us the most perfect gift of all that none of us deserved.  His Son.  Jesus was the ultimate gift to a world that rejected him and still does. But He was given for all of us.  Freely.  Graciously and with deep love.  He is the perfect gift.  All we have to do is receive Him and then enjoy Him as we get to know Him.

As an added note, I realize that sometimes we give good gifts that are not well received for whatever reason.  God certainly understands that.  I want to remind you that the onus of that lies with the person receiving the gift.  As the gift giver, you’ve done all you can.  But don’t let that stop you from continuing to give good gifts to others.  You may never know the blessings that come from them in this lifetime but God does.  And one day you will too.  Keep giving good gifts.

From Ruins to Peace

You know the feeling.  That sinking feeling that comes when something is not where it’s supposed to be.

While writing my book Whole, I lost a completed chapter.  It disappeared into cyber space, never to be seen again.  It was my chapter on Esther, and I must admit I was pretty pleased with it.  It also represented hours of work.  And it was gone.  

At that point I wanted to quit.  I felt defeated.  But my friend and my husband cheered me on and so I got back up and started again.  In the end, it was a better chapter than the one it replaced.  

I tell you this because quite often we get to the point where we are enjoying smooth sailing in our lives and then the unthinkable happens. That sinking feeling rises up from deep within us. Disaster strikes, sickness sets in or the downward spiral just gets out of control.  Whatever it is, instead of enjoying the fruits of our labours, we are looking at ruins.  Instead of a forward momentum, we feel like we are moving backwards.    

I’ve been reading the book of Haggai in the Old Testament and it’s got a good word for those of us who feel like this today.  Who are looking at rebuilding and quite frankly feel like quitting more than anything.

In the book of Haggai, chapter two, God’s temple has been destroyed and has sat in ruins.  His people have been running about making sure their own needs and lives are running smoothly while God’s house sits in disarray.  The dust blowing through the abandoned site.  He wasn’t happy with his people and He tells them to get to work and rebuild.   

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He exhorts them to not be timid or hold back because He is with them.  “I’m living and breathing among you right now.  Don’t be timid.  Don’t hold back.”  (vs.5 Message)  

He tells them he’ll supply everything they need because “I own the silver, I own the gold.” (v. 8 Message)  

When we are staring at the ruins of what used to be glory, we can tend to forget about God. Maybe that’s the reason we are staring at a pile of rubble.  We’ve removed God from His rightful place and glory.  But He is God and He wants His rightful place in the centre of our lives.  He wants us to remember Him and put Him first.  Why?   Because he is living and breathing amongst us.  We may feel defeated and dead but the God of Angel Armies, as he is identified in this passage, is alive, ready to fight for us.  We need to put down our idols and see Him.   

Not only is He with us but He owns everything so we don’t need to be timid or afraid about getting back up, following wherever he is leading.  Our circumstances may not change, but we can expect great things of our God.  We can expect His glory.  We can count on His faithfulness to see us through whatever ruins we need to navigate, rebuild.

But that’s not all He says to those unruly people of His!  God then promises the Israelites, in verse 9;  ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”  Haggai 2:9 NIV

When we come to the place where all we see is ruins in our lives and we need to rebuild, we can remember He is with us.  He will supply what we need because he owns it all.  And he will take those ruins and make it even better than before.  And in that place of rebuilt ruins, He will bring peace.

Getting Rid of the Cluttered Mind

Has this ever happened to you?

I was out with a friend the other night and as we got up from our table at the coffee shop, I frantically was feeling my pockets for my keys.  I couldn’t find them and I said, “Where are my keys?!!!”  

My friend just looked at me.  Then she smiled.  “I drove you.”

I just stared at her, as my panic faded.  Oh yeah. How did I forget that?   

My friend told me what I already knew.  There’s so much going on and my mind can only deal with so much.  It’s cluttered.  You’ve been there, right?  I’m not the only one.

The TO DO, TO GO and WHAT HAPPENS NEXT lists are endless and our finite minds can only juggle so much.  So on the brink of summer vacation, I’m ready for things to slow down.  I mentioned rest in my last post as part of change that is happening in our family at the moment.  We are at a crossroads but with the gift of a rest as we wait on the Lord.  

So although I will be working for the summer, the rest of the household are not.  I’ve been thinking about how to rest so that we come out of this time refreshed and renewed.  On the path to health. 

I’ve come up with a few ideas.  These may be of help to you as you think about your vacation time this summer.  Or hopefully they will prompt you to come up with your own ideas of what kind of rest works for you.  These are mine:

  1. Perspective.  Although I’ll be working part-time throughout the summer, my job is pretty low key which I love.  I work in a place I love with books and get paid to do it.  Can it get much better?  For me, that’s a resounding no.  So I’m going to remind myself of that, every day I go to work when the rest of them are sleeping in or hanging out at home.  I am also going to remind myself that in a way, my job is a rest from the work of being a stay-at-home mom for the last number of years.  It’s so nice to let my husband take care of all the requests, chores and dinner prep, a few days a week.  He is more than happy to do so.  In fact, if I’d ever gotten a real job when the boys were young, he would have been the stay-at-home parent and been quite happy doing it.  Now he gets a chance to do it as he rests at home, out of the work place.  
  2. Say yes.  I’m going to say yes more than no.  When it’s appropriate and within my realm of doing so.  For many years now, I’ve said no more than yes.  Mostly to myself.  It’s been a mode of self-preservation and protection.  It means I don’t have to deal.  It lets me hide.  But I miss out on a lot.  Does it mean I’m going to go crazy and say yes to everything?  No.  But it might mean I go out with my family more instead of letting just the boys go.  It might mean I buy that London Fog once in a while.  It might mean leaving the comfy couch and my book for something else.  Or on the flip side, I give myself permission to stay there on said comfy couch some days because I’m tired.  Without the guilt.
  3. “Live in the moment.”  My husband and I have been talking about this lately.  He brought it up one day after a chat with his coach.  I thought it was baloney until he actually practiced it with real results.  It got me thinking.  I realized how much I live in my head.  I think about what has to get done next and where I have to be.  I daydream what I’d love to be doing instead of where I am at the present moment.   I’m hoping living in the present will help me say yes more.  I”m wondering if it will  make me more in tune to God’s voice.  Instead of worrying about the past or future, I’ll be focused on the here and now, open to a nudge or a quiet whisper.  I haven’t been in that spot for too long.
  4. Rest. Read. Rite.  Okay so it should be write but I couldn’t resist.  The three R’s for me this summer are these.  These things bring me life.  They make me excited.  So I will continue to do them but perhaps in more healthy ways.

Resting can be more than sleeping or lounging in a chair.  For some of us, rest embodies some ZZZ’s and a cozy place to sit.  A blanket.  For others, rest comes in different forms.  Rest is anything that brings your soul to life.  That makes it sing.  That restores your body and mind.  Doing the things we love can bring peace which is essential to rest.  It is an inside out rejuvenation of our mind and bodies.  For me, if I can find even a portion of what I’ve listed during this period of rest, then I’m heading in the right direction towards restoration.  

And remembering that my friend drove me to the  coffee shop.  

What about you?  What brings you rest?