"God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform..." William Cowper

Monday, July 26, 2010

Lessons from Horton

Sighed Mayzie, a lazy bird hatching an egg:
"I'm tired and I'm bored
And I've kinks in my leg
From sitting, just sitting here day after day.
It's work! How I hate it!
I'd much rather play!
I'd take a vacation, fly off for a rest
If I could find someone to stay on my nest!
If I could find someone, I'd fly away--free...."

Then Horton, the Elephant, passed by her tree.

And so Horton's journey begins. In this Dr. Seuss classic, Horton Hatches the Egg, Mayzie leaves the care of her only egg to a one-ton elephant, Horton. She then flies off on a never-ending vacation. Despite many obstacles, Horton proves "faithful, one hundred per cent."

The message packed in this book isn't just for children.

I constantly find myself drifting toward Mayzie's mindset. I'm tired of the work I've given myself, frustrated at the writing that just isn't flowing from my fingertips to my computer, or bored at the sometimes monotonous job of being a stay-at-home mother. And my oh my, do I have more than a few kinks in my legs from that ten-mile run yesterday. Mayzie, I hear you, girl. I could use a vacation, too.

Yet when I read this story with my kids, it's not Mayzie I long to be like--it's the big old elephant. Horton stands firm in the promise he's made to Mayzie. If Horton is this faithful to an irresponsible bird, how much more should I be faithful to God, my family, and the desires He has placed on my heart?

The root word of faithful is 'aman, meaning believe. Believe in what? I suppose that depends. Horton believed in his promise. I choose to believe in God's promises and His blessing upon my life. But blessing doesn't always pour out unimpeded. It requires a lot of work and prayer, and maybe a little wrestling. That's right, I said wrestling.

When Jacob wrestles with God in the book of Genesis, God bestows a token of blessing upon him in the form of a name change. He renames Jacob, Israel, roughly translated "you never give up and always believe God's promises." The blessing didn't just come, Jacob had to work for it. He persevered.

Wrestling is not a sport for wimps, and surely not a sport for birds like Mayzie. Like Jacob, I think many of us find ourselves wrestling a blessing from God. Are we up to the challenge? Are we willing to persevere? Surely our rewards will be great.

What was Horton's reward? I won't give it away, but I will tell you that something very surprising was in that egg!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

At the Starting Line

Thanks to my new trusty stopwatch, I know that last week I ran 6 miles in 52 minutes, 44 seconds. Not too shabby.

Now the bad news. That same reliable stopwatch reported a time of 64 minutes, 34 seconds during my 7-mile run this past Saturday. Ugh. I'd like to blame this last rather lacking time on the heat and humidity level at 83%, or the fact that I neglected to bring a drink with me, or that black cat that deliberately crossed my path on mile 5 (;0). But no sense spewing out excuses like raindrops during a 3-year drought--it wasn't the best run. And yet without that stopwatch to push me, I'd wager a bet my time would have been a lot worse.

Other items I find useful for my marathon training?
-2 good pairs of sneakers
-2 bags of frozen peas (for icing those aching knees)
-vitamins, including glucosamine pills--again, for those pesky knees
-lightweight running clothes and of course the ever-important sports bra (God may not have been feeling especially generous the day He fashioned my upper hemisphere, but I'm determined to take care of it)
-a training schedule. I got mine at http://www.marathonrookie.com/. It requires 4 workouts per week--2 intense, longer runs, and 2 recovery workouts with shorter mileage.

Writing a novel requires a few tools, also. I like to think of my laptop as my main support--the sneakers, if you will--of my writing. Sure, I could write with a pen and paper, and still often do, but it's kind of like running barefoot; I feel free for a little bit, but soon realize I can't keep up with my thoughts or the technological world without some serious blood and blisters.

The schedule is a must for me. Finding consistent, quiet time to write can be a big challenge, but I'm more productive if I adhere to certain times of writing. Early morning while my family is sleeping, or after lunch when my kids are having their quiet--I use that word loosely--time work best for me. Like my running schedule, I also try to give myself "rest" days. Tearing myself away from my WIP allows me to come back to it with fresh eyes and new ideas.

I liken my stopwatch to my critique group. They keep me accountable and on target. They push me to write my best. Although at times, they've played another role: that bag of frozen peas, soothing my frustrations and mending my soul when I feel discouraged.

ACFW? They're my running clothes--well, you can't show up to a race naked, can you? They've given me confidence and support to pursue this dream of mine. Without this group, I would have given up long ago.

Now, for the essential classes and resources. Like my vitamins, I take plenty of them. They keep me strong and help me learn as a writer. Every month, ACFW offers a different online course to cater to the many aspects of writing a novel. In addition to these classes, I've read many books on the craft of writing. Here are some I highly recommend:
Writing for the Soul by Jerry Jenkins
Stein on Writing by Sol Stein
How to Grow a Novel by Sol Stein
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

On my "to read" list:
Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
Getting into Character by Brandilyn Collins
Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon

Also handy, Sally Stuart's Christian Writers' Market Guide, or 2010 Writer's Market by Robert Lee Brewer.

Did I miss anything important? Runners? Writers?

As a side note, on the writing front, I did a mini sprint these last two weeks. I'm about 3/4 of the way through my revisions. Then, they'll go to my critique group and they'll be more--you guessed it--revisions. Like that 7-mile discouraging run, there have been many times over these past months that I thought "What in the world am I thinking? I can't really do this."

No, I can't do any of this, I realize. At least by myself. And that's when I fall on my knees and hand it all over to the Big Guy. He'll handle it better than I ever could.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Encouraging News

I stumbled out of bed this morning to look at the results of a contest I entered last month. Low and behold, I won! What encouragement! It's called OUT OF THE SLUSHPILE, Novel Journey's Fifteen Minutes of Fame Contest and truthfully, it's more like finaling in a bigger contest that will have twelve finalists when all said and done. It sounds like there weren't loads of entries, but I'm not going to let that deter my joy. After all, it is one more thing I can add to my bio. If you want to learn more about the contest or read my entry (the first chapter of my manuscript), here's the link.
Take care, and God bless!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Family First

With all this lofty talk about dreams and goals, I feel a tug of reality pulling at my shirt. Literally. It's my youngest son, Noah. He wants me to help him find his toy screwdriver. Another day, another interruption. Or is it? What's really the disturbance here? The more I think on it, I realize it's not my four-year-old after all, but me, myself, and my backward priorities.

I'm constantly checking my heart for this kind of attitude--the attitude that says my family is an interruption. Sounds horrible, I know, but I think we all do it at one time or another. Is writing more important than my family? Is running a marathon? You can bet your bottom dollar it isn't. One of the greatest gifts God has given me is my husband and two sons. They need to come before my own aspirations. When they don't, I become the cranky, self-absorbed mother who nobody, including myself, likes to be around. It's a juggling act. What's a girl to do?

Well, between dishes, laundry (would you believe I put my husband's wallet through the wash this morning?), refereeing disagreements between my four and five-year-old, preparing meals, cleaning, figuring out tax payments for my husband's construction company, and finding quality time with each member of my family, it's definitely hard to find time for myself. I have to wake at least an hour earlier than the rest of my family in order to run or spend some time on my computer. I take my laptop to the playground and type in a most uncomfortable cross-legged position on a blanket while the kids play. I don't watch much television. I don't wash whites separately. Instead of reading Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell, I'm reading James and the Giant Peach with my boys. Is it worth it? Of course! Is it easy? No way!

My selfish side rears its ugly head all too often. I try hard to remind myself that as much as I love my pretend characters, they are certainly not real. My family is. They matter more to me than all my dreams combined. They are my ultimate WIP (work-in-progress), and I thank my Creator for them everyday.

How about you? Any advice? How do you consciously put your family first throughout your busy day?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Happy Fourth!

Happy Fourth of July! I love history--in fact, my WIP is set during WWII. Here's a few interesting Fourth of July facts I found at http://www.star-telegram.com/. Enjoy the weekend!

1) John Hancock was the only person to sign the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Most of the 56 men who signed did so Aug. 2. The youngest man to sign was Edward Rutledge, who was 26. The oldest was Benjamin Franklin, who was 70. Also, two future presidents signed: John Adams, the nation's second president, and Thomas Jefferson, the third president.

2) There were two Boston tea parties. You probably know about the one that occurred Dec. 16, 1773, but did you know about the repeat performance March 7, 1774? The two tea parties cost the British the equivalent of $3 million in today's currency.

3) Did you know that there were women in the Continental Army? Among them was Mary Ludwig Hays, who replaced her husband after he was wounded at the Battle of Monmouth in 1778, and Margaret Corbin, who was wounded -- and her husband killed -- at the Battle of Harlem Heights in 1776.

4) An estimated 2.5 million people lived in America in July 1776. Today, an estimated 309 million people call this nation home.