Why NaNoWriMo Now?

So we are two days before NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) officially begins, November 1st. Then the insanity commences.

It’s my first year attempting to write 50 000 words in 30 days. Why am I doing this crazy thing in the middle of one of the busiest times of the year? (We’re only about seven weeks off Christmas, right?)

It’s doesn’t appear to make sense, I know, but last year I thought about it. This year I AM DOING THIS THANG.

Usually if I’ve thought about something like this for any length of time, it’s because deep down, I really want to do it. In the past, I would make excuses not to, justify them and feel let down and disappointed in myself because I didn’t do what I really wanted to do, deep down in my soul. That’s all changed. I now listen to my soul whisperings. And it’s telling me to do this wild, crazy thing.

I like a challenge but I used to run from them too, even though I’d be drawn in. Again I’d make excuses and justify why I couldn’t. I am done with justifications on why I can’t.  Like the Little Red Engine, my motto is “I think I can, I think I can.”

Another reason for attempting this little project? It’s my dream. Why not chase it now? I have no other answer but “Yes”.

Since I have no writing deadlines or projects in the immediate future. Except for this one: 50 000 words in 30 days.

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Also, I believe God is leading me into this adventure, saying “Follow me. This is the next step.” I know, right? Why would he lead me into this adventure that seems so frivolous? It’s my experience that God doesn’t always lead in what we would term rational ways. He is radical and we follow Him radically. Do you have similar experiences?

I also love the philosophy of NaNoWriMo. Quantity not quality. It’s not as bad as it sounds. The idea is to get the story told and worry about perfecting it (rewriting) later. Just get the ideas down on the page. The first draft. It’s for your eyes only. This is how I write. Fast and with a lot of mistakes. I form the idea and then go back and make it work. A friend gave me this advice a long time ago and I find it works for me.

Chris Baty, the founder of National Novel Writing Month, called it “exuberant imperfection.” He writes in his book, “It dictates that the best way to tackle daunting, paralysis-inducing challenges is to give yourself permission to make mistakes, and then go ahead and make them.” (p. 38, No Plot? No Problem) He goes on to make even more sense, “By giving yourself the gift of imperfection, you tap into the realms of intuition and imagination that your hypercritical brain normally censors. (p.39)

So true! I’m eager to see what comes out of this month of intense writing!

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Baty also addresses the fear. Fear is what has kept me from attempting this in the past. Fear I couldn’t tell a story. Fear I wasn’t good enough and didn’t have the talent. Baty writes, “At the first awkward line of prose or botched brushstroke, we hurriedly pack away the art supplies and scamper back to our domains of proficiency.” (p. 38) Don’t we though? I see it in my kids too. They don’t want to try things because they are afraid they’ll make a mistake. Or they think they should have it perfect the first time through. Why do we get like that?

For this time, I’m going to bash that fear of imperfection. Believe me it wins more times than I care to confess, but this once I’m not going to let it take over. I have permission to make mistakes and make it ugly at first.

I’m hoping that the courage to be imperfect is contagious and it catches on in more areas of my life. And maybe with my kids too. That they’ll be able to have fun trying and not worry about outcomes all the time. I think it’s a valuable life lesson.

I’m not alone in this either. I know there are lots of you out there that just need permission to make a mess and have a glorious time doing it. That’s part of what this next month is about. That’s somehow liberating.

The only thing fear is going to do is motivate me to finish the 50 000 words. That’s considered acceptable.  And if for some reason I don’t, I’m still ahead any words I do write.  Win-win.

So starting November 1st, if you see my family, you might want to extend a hand of sympathy to them as they are going to be witnessing the frantic writer/crazy person in first person. My best friends will be pre-made food (not a regular dinner guest at our table), coffee in my Wonder Woman mug and my chiropractor (aching back, headaches and carpel tunnel syndrome all possible in the next 30 days).

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Feel free to encourage, ask my word count (not every day please) and generally give friendly reminders to not give up even when the muse has walked out the door.

NaNoWriMo 2017: 50 000 words in 30 days or BUST. (That’s 1667 words a day for those of you who are challenged mathematically, like myself.)

What crazy dream are you following right now?  

PS: It’s very hard to push the Publish button on this one.  Once done, I’m accountable.  Ahhhhh!

The Life of Un-ease

Recently I travelled to a conference on mothering but quite honestly didn’t come away with too much about being a mom. Not because there wasn’t a lot of good information on mothering and raising the next generation. There was. The speakers and workshops were fabulous. What I heard however was something completely different.

It was an echo of a lesson that has been reverberating through my life the last couple of weeks. The lesson being an answer to a long held question. An answer I’m not sure I want to accept. Because it doesn’t make things easier. At least not my circumstances. That’s what we all want isn’t it, circumstances that are smooth, that slide along the journey of our lives barely making a ripple. I want ease and quiet. Our world in so many ways, tells us we can have it, that easy lifestyle within our grasps, if we only do this and this and this.

We chase after it, this lie of ease. At least I do. It beckons me and I reach and grab, only to lose it again and the chase starts again. Relentless.

Wouldn’t it be better to just face the circumstances?

I’m wondering if our lives have no ripples maybe we’re doing something wrong? The enemy would have us chase after ease because then we are too distracted, running after the wrong thing, to see the truth. Our lives are not supposed to be easy peasy. Following Jesus is not a crutch into an affluent, carefree, prosperous life that many mistakenly believe it is.

Jesus himself tells us this in the gospel of Mark 8:34-37 (MSG)
Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for? (emphasis mine)

This is what I learn from these verses:

1.  We Follow, He Leads. That’s just the way it is. I’d like to say that I want to do that but if I’m really honest, no, I want control. I want to lead. My husband says that I want to lead when we dance. I like to blame it on my dance training but in reality, I want control. So we look good.
2.  We Follow wherever He Leads. “Don’t run from suffering; embrace it.” Most days I want to run from suffering and not follow wherever he leads. I fight Jesus every step of the way. I.Don’t.Want.This. I scream. Do you do this too? I feel like a two-year old. Maybe because I’m acting like one.
3.  He’ll show us how. How to embrace suffering, to stand and face our circumstances. If He shows how to do that, doesn’t that mean that He’s here, beside us, through it all? The suffering, the difficulties, the challenges, the good, the bad?

Whether our circumstances and situations are mothering challenges, marriage challenges, health challenges, work challenges and/or relational challenges, whatever they are, He is there right in the middle of the mess, the frustration, the angst. We don’t have to run away, instead we need to run towards Him and He’ll show us how to live, really live, even in those uneasy, desperate, noisy circumstances.

We can trust Him to stay because He has said He won’t abandon us. We don’t have to chase Him, we just have to grab onto Him or jump into His arms. He’s got us and He’s already gone ahead of us right into what we think is a murky future.

The choice is really up to us. Run after the relentless pursuit of ease only to find in the end, we chased after the wrong thing or face the suffering, the challenges, the difficulties, the unease and know He is right there, navigating us through it it all.

Navigating us through the darkness to a light and a reward. A heavenly reward yes, but today, the prize is Him. Jesus. Following those footsteps enables us to have an intimate, deep relationship with the real deal. But we have to let him lead. We follow into a glorious, loving relationship.

Successful Failures

What happens when you’ve done great things for God, followed what He’s told you to do but in the world’s eyes (including the church) you look like a failure?

Have you ever felt like this?  Have you ever given one hundred percent, and more to God, only to have things tank?

It’s not something we, in the Christian community, like to speak about because it raises some questions, doubts. Why would God do that? It makes no sense to our mortal, small minds. Do I even want to serve a God who would do that? These are not thoughts we are quick to ease into conversations in the church foyer or even over coffee with a good friend. These are doubts we harbour deep inside, sometimes even afraid to whisper them to God, himself.

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No, we like to talk about the blessings that come from obedience and the success stories of following God’s will against all odds. The growing churches, the faith-filled mission trips and the walks of faith that defy all odds. But what if it seemed the odds were not in your favour? Are these stories still considered ones of success?

For the most part, I think many are dismissed as failures, even by those who live them out. We think to ourselves that the results speak for themselves. That our doubts about God and His ways, speaks volumes about failure and little about success.

We see the look people give us, the small shake of the head. “What did they do wrong?” or “What’s wrong with them?”

We begin to fall for those lies. We ask ourselves, “Is it me?”

I think this is a good question to ask ourselves sometimes. We need to do a heart check every once in a while. If, after examining our hearts and motives, asking God to reveal truth, if, after all that, we still would have done the same things because we knew that was what God was asking us to do, than we have an answer. No It’s not me.

Guess what? We are not alone in our successful failures.

I think there are some prophets in the Old Testament, some missionaries and their families and many other Jesus followers who defy the definition of success in today’s world. Jeremiah was thrown into a cistern because people didn’t like what he had to say in Jeremiah 38. He was put into the cistern and “sank into the mud.” Stuck in a pit, sunk in mud. That’s success for you, right? It doesn’t say how long he was down there but if I were Jeremiah, I’d probably be questioning God about my purpose right about then, wouldn’t you?

Was Jeremiah a failure? Not even close.

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We have heard stories of missionaries who have been murdered and we think to ourselves, “What was the point of that?” Does it make them a failure? No.

They were following God’s instructions and direction. It probably didn’t turn out they way they hoped or even prayed for. It wasn’t that they were sinning or disobedient. God had and has other plans. Divine plans that don’t fit with what we think of as success here on planet earth.

In God’s eyes, His servants did exactly what He asked of them. As long as we are obeying God, the outcomes are not our worry. God gave us free choice and so the outcomes lay in God’s hands not ours. All we need to do is keep our eyes on Jesus and follow where He leads us. Even into successful failures because wouldn’t we rather be deemed a failure by the world and be right in God’s will, than have all the success of the world and have sold our souls?

What Have You Learned Lately?

“So many things were impossible, until they weren’t.”
Jennifer Donnelly, Sea Spell

This weekend I’m attending a workshop, hosted by a friend and one of the things she asked us to come prepared to talk about is learning a new skill. Negative Nelly that I am, I thought, “I have not learned anything new.”

Until I thought about it. Just this past weekend, I attended writing workshops at a conference to learn about writing fiction. Fiction has always been off-limits for me. I love to read but the idea of writing a story that I created out of my imagination was terrifying.

Who would read it? Nobody. It would be terrible. I just don’t have that kind of creative magic. This is what I told myself and I believed me.

Writing fiction was an impossibility, a fairy tale. Something I’d dream about as a child. It wasn’t going to happen even though I’ve wanted to tell stories since I can remember.

 

 

As my book, Whole, was published, I began to think about new projects. A little voice kept whispering, “Fiction.”

It was tempting.  As the summer waned, I decided to try. I looked around at creative writing courses but decided I couldn’t go back to school at this time. Then the writing workshops showed up in my email and I excitedly said yes! I felt like God was saying Yes to me, too.  I am cautiously optimistic. I have a lot to learn. Nothing may come of it except personal satisfaction but at least I will have tried.

Am I learning something new? You bet! Why did I sell myself short? Why do you?

Stepping out into the unknown can be scary. I have made every excuse not to get started. Procrastination was a front for fear. I was afraid I couldn’t do it. I was afraid I’d be awful at it. I’d fail. I’d look stupid. We’ve all been there as we set out on a new adventure or journey.

What I’m starting to understand is I’d rather fail at something than regret not trying. It’s a lesson that’s been a long time learning.

I think as we get older we lose the muscle of trying new things. We are too afraid of failure or the consequences of even trying. We settle into our comfy couches and get complacent. How did this happen?

I look at my boys. The things they are passionate about, they act on. Shooting hoops relentlessly in the driveway. Writing and drawing just because they want to. Creating just because they can. Fear doesn’t seem to factor in or maybe it just isn’t allowed to dominate. As adults we need to start exercising those muscles of trying new things again. We need to say Yes! more and then get up and Do. Maybe if we let our desires and our passions have more sway, we’ll create more. We’ll be more content. We’ll learn not just a new skill or reinvigorate an old one but we’ll grow as people too.

We teach our kids these lessons but we stop applying them to ourselves. Why is that? Educating ourselves and creating beauty makes the world a better place. It makes a difference. When we try, it inspires others. I have friends who have gone back to school to get a teacher’s degree or a degree in a dream they put off. They make me want to try. It’s contagious.

What impossible dream sits in your heart, waiting to be released? To be attempted? What do you think you are too old to do? Or too young? What would you do if you had no limitations or obligations?

 

 

Maybe what seems an impossibility is really a matter of trying, of saying Yes! to God so He can say Yes! to you.

Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Matthew 19:26 NLT  

Do you believe it?

When You Feel Lost

I have been fascinated for the last while with the concept of being lost. I think we all feel that way at different times in our lives. It’s not usually a pleasant sensation. Being lost can trigger a host of emotions. Fear, exhilaration, sadness, depression, excitement.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing, being lost. Lessons learned while adrift sometimes stick more than others. For example, if you lose your way going someplace, chances are, once you correct your path, you won’t make the same mistake again. Right?

As I’ve mulled the concept of being lost, I stumbled on some quotes.  Just as there are many emotions involved in being lost, there are also a lot of different ways to think about what being lost means.

Here are a few I like:

Fireheart – why do you cry?
‘Because I am lost,’ she whispered… ‘And I do not know the way.’ ”
p. 281 Sarah J. Maas, Heir of Fire

Sometimes being lost happens because we’ve lost our way. We don’t know whether to go right or left or up or down. Direction is skewed. We may have taken our eyes off Jesus and in doing so, stumbled and lost our bearings. Circumstances aren’t helping matters. They are making things more confusing. Maybe we’ve had to rethink some things and now the ground is shaking beneath us. Our foundation was built on a lie. There are many ways to lose direction and become lost.

“He showed me how to get lost, and then I showed myself how to get found.” p. 367 Gayle Foreman, Just One Day

In this story, the traveller would go to a new city and find an area he did not know, go there and wander. He called it getting lost. At first his friend thought he was crazy but then she saw the miracle and the beauty of it. This is where getting lost is not bad. It’s an adventure. The terrain is new. Foreign. It may not be like we are used to but what’s wrong with that? It’s a chance to grow and open yourself up to new experiences, and expand your horizons. It’s a chance to explore. It’s a challenge and as you navigate your way to being found, you learn some things about yourself.

“ ‘I wasn’t lost. Just because you couldn’t find me doesn’t mean I was lost.’ ” p. 208  Kristen Heitzmann,  The Edge of Recall

There are times when other people think you are lost but you really aren’t. They may question your struggle or your direction. They may think you’re nuts. But you aren’t, you’ve just chosen a different path.

The thing I realized in all these scenarios and many others not mentioned is we are never truly, totally lost.

“Jesus can find you in the darkness.” P. 80 Dee Henderson, The Guardian

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

Even when finding our way seems impossible to us, there is One who never loses sight of us. We are never lost to Him. Ever. No matter what we may have done or not done. No matter where we go. (Psalm 139)

There are many stories in the bible that talk about God seeking out that which is lost. A coin, a sheep and a son for starters. These stories mirror what God is actively doing. He relentlessly seeks us out when we are lost. In all three of the stories, the person who lost something, never gives up. They search until they find it. God will not give up. The price of the life of His Son means that God’s plan is always Search and Rescue.

He is also going to fight for us. If someone is searching for something, he will not be deterred. He will fight for the right to keep searching and he will fight for what he has lost. “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” NIV Exodus 14:14

This was the message to the Israelites as they escaped from Egypt but came up against the Red Sea. The chariots of the Egyptians were chasing them down from behind. But God fought for them.

Yeah, but then they wandered for forty years, you may be thinking. Were they lost? It might seem so but God knew precisely where they were and why there were there. We may not always understand God’s plan. God used those forty years to teach them about himself, what His plans were and that ultimately, He was in control. They were not lost. They were right where they were supposed to be.

Sometimes the shake-up of going astray gives us the jolt we need to awaken to our surroundings.  We are so distracted we need that sharp intake of breath and narrowed focus that realizing we are lost, brings. Jesus knows where we are, but do we? Do we even realize we are lost? Honestly, we don’t.

Ultimately, being lost means that at some point, we have to let go of our pride and accept help. Acknowledging being lost is acknowledging that we are not in control. That in the dark, in the confusion, in the fear, in the challenge of being lost, we need a guide who can find us in the dark and take us to the other side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Middle Space

“There has to be a middle. Without it, nothing can ever truly be a whole. Because it is not just a space between, but also what holds everything together.”
                                                                           – Sarah Dessen,  Just Listen

There’s a prevalent lie today in Christian circles that we have to be “okay.” That we can’t doubt God or question him. That we can’t be mad at him. We can struggle, yes, ask a few whys but it should never get to a fist-shaking and faith-rattling brawl with God.

I tend to disagree. Some of us need to go through that fight as part of our journey. In fact it’s integral to it. It’s working out our faith and relationship with God.

Paul writes to the church in Philippians 2:12:
[ Do Everything Without Grumbling ] Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling

Wrestling with God is one way to work out your salvation.

Journeys have a beginning and an ending. Usually, we are in a hurry to begin, to get going on the adventure. Equally so with the arrival at our destination. No one really likes the middle part, after a bit.

It starts out okay but then someone has to go to the bathroom, gets car sick or lost. Tempers start to flare as boredom or anxiety sets in. “Are we there yet? How much more time?” It’s accompanied by a whine. This is the middle part of a journey. It’s ugly and messy and painful. I know you’ve been there in your mini-van which has started to feel like a clown car with one too many clowns in it. It’s getting uncomfortable. Who hasn’t been there?

Our spiritual journeys aren’t much different for some of us. We go through bursts of enthusiasm and vision at the start, only to stumble through the middle part. The waiting. The boredom. The fear and frustration. The feeling lost and directionless. The anger. We struggle with the suffocation of questions and doubts. The feeling that we can’t take One.More.Thing.

We’re spoiling for a fight. We start to wrestle with God.

Sometimes the church and followers of Jesus have a hard time with those of us who fight with God. There’s a slight air of disapproval. A purse of the lips. That’s a human perspective. I believe God can handle our grappling with Him. There’s nothing we throw at Him that He hasn’t already seen coming. He is our safest “opponent.”

Jeremiah certainly doesn’t make any bones about his complaint with God in Jeremiah 15:18.
Why then does my suffering continue?
    Why is my wound so incurable?
Your help seems as uncertain as a seasonal brook,
    like a spring that has gone dry.”

He echoes my own lament. He’s not the only one.

In Genesis chapter 32, starting at verse 22, Jacob physically wrestled all night with God. He came away from that fight with a blessing and a limp. And a new identity. No longer Jacob, but Israel, which means “God fights”. Interesting that, isn’t it?

I’ve always felt like I was less of a Christian because I was a fighter. Feisty. Not sure I would have survived if I hadn’t been. I have battled with God. Many times. I understand where these guys are coming from and I’m thankful their matches are right there in ink on the pages of the Bible.

If you find yourself locking horns with God today, don’t back down. He has the answers and He is truth. There are times we struggle with God and who He is to figure out the truth – about Him, about ourselves. It might take all night but don’t give up because someone gave you a disapproving “hrumph”. Seriously.

Jacob came away from that night better than he was before it. He met God face to face. We do too when we engage in combat with God. You can’t fight blindfolded or if you are hiding. For some of us, it’s the only way we let Him in close enough that He can grab hold of us.

Struggle, wrestle, fight, call it whatever, but it’s a part of our middle.
Not the entirety. The journey is full of ups and downs and good and bad. All those things combined, including the wrestling, make us who we are. Moulds us into the whole. It is the middle part that strengthens and deepens our relationship with God. James says it in his book in the first chapter.

Dear brothers and sisters,[a] when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4 NLT

So when testing and trials come and you find yourself wrestling with God, remember you are in good company. Don’t pretend it’s not happening or you’re too spiritual for that kind of thing. God can take it. He’ll see you through.

Don’t give up and believe the lies that keep you from the truth. That takes the fight right out of you before the battle begins. It’s what the enemy wants. For you to give up. So don’t. Fight. Fight to get to the other side. Fight for the truth and fight for your relationship with God.

When we get to our eternal destination, it’s our middle that holds the beginning and the end together and it has God’s fingerprints all over it, glueing it together, creating our whole.

Why People Win Over Achievement

“I’m learning over and over again that connection heals me more than achievement ever could.” Shauna Niequist

Often times we believe when our dreams come true, everything else will fall into place. That we’ll be content, happy. That we’ll be the person we want to be. Finally.

The shocking truth is it doesn’t happen, Even remotely. Because if you’ve attached your emotional health, your worth to achievement then you are sitting on a rocky foundation. It will be shaken at the first criticism or self-doubt.

With success and achievement come the whispers that you can do more. Be more. It will never be enough, especially if we believe we aren’t enough to begin with.

Why? Because we’ve attached ourselves to a black hole that can never be fed enough. There will always be someone better, faster and smarter. There will always be another level to conquer. Another award to win. It’s become all about us. It’s a ton of pressure.

I’ve been thinking about Shauna Niequist’s quote since I read it a week ago. It was in my Overcomer study on Philippians by Margaret Feinberg.

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Niequist is right but I don’t really want to admit it. It’s a bitterly hard pill to swallow for this introvert and recovering people hater to admit that we need each other. It’s one of the hardest struggles I have in ministry. Sometimes I drift to the “dark side” and think ministry would be so much better if not for the people. We might actually get God’s work done. Oh yeah, that’s right, God’s work is people. Shoot.

Why is connection, key to healing and not achievement? Because it is through people we get glimpses of God, His love for us and his acceptance of us. Achievements, success, more money, awards are momentarily great but they can’t do what people do. Love us. As we are. Achievement always demands more. That we be more. Do more. Acquire more.

Connection is relational. It only requires we engage. That doesn’t necessarily mean talk either. Sometimes it means just listening for our benefit or someone else’s.

 

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Connection is spiritual. I totally believe in kindred spirits. But I also believe connecting to someone totally different than you can be equally as rewarding.

It’s spiritual because it comes from God, who created us for relationship. It also points us back to God.  He’s the only relationship that can totally heal us.  He uses other people to help us down that road and direct us back to him but He is the true physician.  He gifts us with other people and the connection they bring to our hearts.

People who genuinely love us let us be who we are, while at the same time they inspire us to be better. It’s not the same as achievement. They love us even if we hadn’t written a book, got a promotion, won a race. It will never matter what we do. It only matters that we be.

Love. Acceptance. Understanding. Kindness. These are a few of the building blocks to health and healing. Kids who are loved, accepted, and are understood and grow up in a kind environment, usually grow into healthy adults. For those of us who missed out on those things, as adults we can still do ourselves a favour and learn to love, accept and understand ourselves. Be kind to ourselves. It’s never too late to grow into the person we want to be.

If we in return show love, acceptance, understanding and kindness, they can help us on the road to healing. Every time we choose to give them away, we become more of who we were meant to be and that is healthy. If I make the effort to join in and be a part of a group, instead of hiding, I find that my heart gets lighter and my mood better. (Usually 🙂 Knowing you did the right thing too, can certainly make a difference in feeling better about yourself.

How did I learn this? In community. Of. Course.

In many different communities; a course that helped me deal with anxiety, many different churches, MOPS, family and friends. My life is richer because of them all. The awards and accomplishments have added to it too as well as the failures but they fade, the friendships, the love do not.

Maybe I’ll take that pill with a little bit of jam!