Do I Have The Write Stuff?

 

photo by venturegalleries.com

photo by venturegalleries.com

I’m at a writers’ conference. A dream I’ve had for awhile.

I’m scared half out of my mind.

There are agents here, looking for new talent to snap up. Publishers seeking new books to acquire. Authors who’ve been there, done that and have the published books and contracts to prove it.

What am I doing here?

I’ve been writing since I was a kid. Stories. Poems. Many were outlandish leaps of imagination. Some merely snapshots from my world. Reading and writing have been outlets for me. Chances to step away from reality.

This conference is a logical next step. I’ve been working on a book for some time. Three of them, actually. A children’s book about heroes that grew from a title my son created. A fantasy based on a script that’s been playing out in my head. And a non-fiction book which stemmed from a comment Debbie made in the fourth grade.

Inspiration comes in many guises.

I’ve become more comfortable with my writing. I’ve learned a lot in the last year. Became a member of an online guild where folks could submit one page of their manuscript and get it critiqued and tightened.

Without having to have anyone look at you. No fears of seeing dissatisfied faces or “I could have done better than that” expressions.

So why am I here, where everyone is seeing me and my work?

Writing is a lot like giving birth. (Take my word for it, men.) You work for nine plus months, doing everything you can to produce the healthiest baby possible. And when that child is born, imagine everyone critiquing your baby. “Kind of a conehead, isn’t he?” “Why’s she so wrinkled?” “I’m sure she’ll pretty up in a week or so. Or more.”  “Looks aren’t everything, you know. He’s probably going to be really smart.”

It’s hard having folks critique what I’ve labored over.

Unlike modifying children, I can learn and modify my writing. Improve my craft. Work a little harder at getting better.

Right now I feel a little paralyzed. I’m surrounded by talent, and it’s got me questioning if I have any.

Fear shows up at the worst possible times. Undermining confidence. Fear causes me to question what I know to be true and can often loom larger than the truth in my heart.

Fear is a weapon of the enemy of our souls. Used to take us out when we’re accomplishing what God has called us to do. To sabotage our purposefulness. To threaten our dreams and goals.

Fear is not from God.

I know that. I’ve experienced victory over that. But when fear shows up, it’s a smack in the face that takes me by surprise. It’s there. Waiting. Ready to knock me off my feet.

Fear doesn’t take anything away from God, who He is, His power. If I think about it, it should cause me to run into the arms of the One who is my Place of Safety.

I’m not always thinking.

I’m going to be mindful about my writing. Use it for something–Someone–more than just me. Not be afraid of what others may say.

So there, fear. I’m going to write on.

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Who Knew I’d Care About Goodbyes?

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We hadn’t expected it. Didn’t think it could happen.

Cruise friends.

John and I had different perspectives going into this cruise. My introverted husband, who’d just gotten back from ten days overseas, had a lot on his mind, a lot of work to catch up on, and a sense of exhaustion.

I’m more the extrovert, but I went into this adventure with a lot on my plate and a sense of pressure for things that had to be done.

Neither of us was looking to have deep conversations with anyone other than each other.unnamed-11

Yet that was the gift of this trip.

We were assigned tables the first night. Having never done this before, and being rule followers–when it suits us–we sat down with three couples we’d never met.

Jim and Mary from Illinois, Doug and Joelle from Minnesota and Dave and Connie from New Jersey.

Four different couples with four very different life experiences.

The first night we got bare bones stories. Kids, jobs, a little bit of background, a little bit of the unique.

unnamed-10Day two we gravitated to the same table. Didn’t know there was a choice. But these people drew us in. Made us want to be with them.

Day three one of the couples was with friends on the cruise. More time to focus on the few.

We moved around the table each night, sitting next to different couples. Talking across a table of eight in a dining room filled with 1,000 people makes conversation a bit of a challenge. Sitting next to new friends alleviated anyone feeling left out.

Day four we were three couples again. Digging deeper. Hearing hearts.unnamed-9

Day five we were all back together. Talking like we were all from the same neighborhood. We’d established common ground that embraced all of us. Similar hearts and values.

An unexpected extra in the midst of a new adventure.

At a time where social media takes away much of the eye-to-eye conversations that have often been the building blocks of deep relationships, having the opportunity to engage with new people with no expectations was quite amazing. No agendas. No predetermined view of one another. No need to worry about wording or filters because we’re new to each other. A relaxed environment, time to talk, opportunity to listen.

I find it so easy to rush. To hurry from one thing to another. Allowing my busyness to direct conversation–or limit it. In the middle of a large body of water as we moved from place to place, folks weren’t going anywhere. There was a willingness to “be”.

Our last night together felt like we were parting from old friends. We shared emails and numbers, desiring to stay connected.

These people touched my life. Their stories impacted me. I’m better for having been with them.

God didn’t make any of us islands. To hunker down in our little worlds and only engage with others from a distance. Those relationships have value. But speaking face to face with another person allows me to listen with intent, not doing something else, hearing intonation, watching facial features.

Being with others grows me. Helps me value others. Better.

Even in the middle of the ocean.

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Whatever Floats Your Boat Best

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John and I’ve never been people who’ve craved cruising.

My husband has issues with motion sickness. He had visions of being poised over the porcelain throne for hours on end. My issues had more to do with a wild imagination and the Titanic.

My brain defaults to gruesome special effects.

We had some generous-hearted friends who gifted us with a cruise with Family Life Ministry called Love Like You Mean It. An opportunity to spend days in the middle of a large body of water without a lot of media connection. Great input. Time to process. To just be together.

With 2,600 of our closest friends.

We gratefully accepted.

And I began to dream of cruise liners sinking like a rock.

That’s not been the case. It’s been a wonderful experience, exceeding expectations exponentially.

I did find it interesting that the first thing that happened once we boarded was they took us through a lifeboat drill.

Folks learned from the Titanic.unnamed-4

We were all assigned to muster stations. Places on the deck where the lifeboats are located, numbered clearly, with personnel to assist us in case of an emergency.

We were lined up, had our ship badges scanned. All of us were required to go to a particular set of lifeboats. They went through the drill of how to put the life vests on. Assured us of the sufficiency of provisions in each boat. Food, water and radios.

We weren’t going to be in the north Atlantic. We were cruising down the Mississippi, headed into the Gulf of Mexico. Out of New Orleans. There was an excellent chance that, if something horrible happened, no one would die of hypothermia. No icebergs.

After the drill, I stood at the railing as we slowly moved away from shore. We’d be back in days. Nobody seemed to think twice about the leaving. The adventure awaited.

We moved further into the middle of the Mississippi River. Tugboats on both sides. Staring intently into the murky water I wondered what fish below the surface might find me a tasty morsel should I happen to go over the side.

Weird brain.

There’ve been all kinds of precautions taken and preparations made to insure this would be as safe and enjoyable an experience as possible.

We’re well taken care of.

If I don’t believe it, I’m going to spend the whole cruise in fear. Apprehensive about every little shake and deviation in the ride. Fear will trump fun. It’ll steal any joy in the experience I may have.

Much like what happens in my walk with Jesus.

Walking this life with Jesus as my constant Companion gives me a sense of security and hope. In spite of the challenges life can throw at me.

If I question His power over the darkness of this world, His goodness at work in my life no matter what I’m going through, His sufficiency to be enough no matter what my circumstances, I’ll live in fear.

I’ll go through times of sorrow and grief. Loss and hard challenges. He’s not bothered by my questions, doubts or anger.

He’s great enough to be my Lifeboat.

And anyone else who wants to hitch a ride.

 

 

Beastie Bites The Dust

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I knew she wasn’t long for my world.

We’re finally putting Beastie out of her misery. Donating her to an organization that wants to practice car repairs. It’s all she’s good for now.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my little blue Corolla. She’s been a faithful vehicle. Getting me from point A to point B successfully.

Car years must be different than people years. More like dog years. She looks to be 80 instead of thirteen.

She was good looking with low mileage when we got her. A spry four-year-old in people years. She was the newest car we’d had in a long while.

Her age began to be an issue. Peeling paint. Broken off door handle. She shook as if she had Parkinson’s.

All good things come to an end. I’ve been whiney about driving a derelict for a bit. Not really complaining, but letting my  husband know this was not a sustainable ride.

Enter Beauty. A 2013 Toyota Highlander with only 48,000 miles under her belt. She’s shiny with a complete paint unnamed-4job. Accelerates well. Great alignment.

She doesn’t shimmy down the road.

I was terrified the first time I drove her. It’s been awhile since I drove something that looked this good. Not making jokes about my Florida-sunburned car. Or that she could Zumba better than me. I just knew I was going to be in an accident. I parked so far out in the parking lot no one would even consider pulling in next to me.

No bumps. No dings. No problem.

There was something about driving Beastie that took away a lot of pressure.

My Christian life is like this. Being a follower of Jesus, I have a new life. A redeemed life. The old life has passed away.

That’s how God sees it.

For me, the old way of life–doing things to please me, satisfy my agenda–is not so much gone. Just on the back burner.

I don’t have to live that way anymore. I’ve got the power of the risen Jesus living in me. And he allows me to do things with a new perspective.

When I choose to follow Him.

In reality, my old life was comfortable. Full of dings from bad choices, scrapes from pushing my way too often. Paint was chipping because of not living the way I was made to live.

I default to the old me. A lot. Where bad attitudes, snarky comments and entitled behavior define me more than the redeemed person Jesus has made me.

What’s so appealing about the old me? The new me is more content, hopeful and focused on what counts.

The old me is comfortable. A known quantity. I slip into her like my hand in a comfortable glove. The new me requires diligence, alertness, recognition that I can’t pull this life off by myself.

Effort.

Jesus gets that. He’s the One who provided this new me, this new vehicle for doing life.

And if I get a ding? Or in an accident with the new me?

He’s the best insurance policy for hope and heaven anyone could ask for.

Shame On Me

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I’m a true law-abiding citizen.

Most of the time.

I’ll freely admit to taking liberties with the speed limits on several roads.

Many roads.

Posted speeds are suggestions. I operate under the belief that if you go over the speed limit by 9, you’re still operating within appropriate parameters.

In my defense, I pretty much go with the flow. I’m intentional about not being the fastest car on the road.

I drive a little fast. Doesn’t everybody?

When I run into those flashing speed limit signs that show my current speed, however, I have issues. Isn’t it enough to remind me what the appropriate speed limit is without posting how fast I’m going–and everyone around me? As if the sign is attempting to shame me in front of others.

It obviously doesn’t bother me enough to change my driving habits. If I felt actual shame, I’d slow down. Not be bothered by how fast everyone was whipping around me. I’d be doing the right thing, making the better choice.

This is where I get into trouble. There are times I justify in my mind why I’m choosing to do something I know is not quite right. I’m not robbing a bank or holding someone at gun point. It’s more like telling a white lie so I won’t hurt someone’s feelings. Gossiping with a friend about another person because I’ve got some juicy information to share. Choosing to withhold information because I don’t want to get in trouble.

I can justify my actions because they’re no big deal. Nobody is really the wiser. None of these choices are earth shattering, life ending or character destroying.

They’re just wrong.

It’s me pushing the envelope. Taking something too far because I’m quite certain I can get away with it. No one will really get hurt.

The problem is that if I can justify a little bad choice now, how long will it be before I’m justifying much bigger bad choices? What will it take for me to say enough is enough?

Often, it’s getting caught.

One speeding ticket. Getting caught in the lie. Having the person find out I gossiped about them and losing the relationship. Finding out the information I withheld could have helped someone, and instead someone was hurt.

I had a teacher years ago who used to say, “An error is so much worse than a mistake.” I never understood what she meant.

I do now.

An error is a miscalculation, not thinking through a situation soundly. A mistake is an accident waiting to happen.

Errors escalate. Moving from bad choice A to bad choice B is a small error. In no time, if I’m not careful, I’m at bad choice P. An action or attitude I’d never have chosen in the beginning.

The human condition. Escalating bad choices.

I got caught by Jesus. He saw my actions and attitudes and called them what they were–sin.

Then He died for them. Cleaning my slate with an eternal swipe of love. And bloodied nails driven deep into His sinless hands and feet.

No shame here.

Just really grateful I got caught.

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