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

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Dangerous Life of a Writer

Being a writer can be dangerous, at least for those of us who don't have jobs outside the house. With both my sons in school for a full day, I couldn't wait to spend endless hours holing myself up inside the house with my computer and my characters. I wouldn't let anything distract me. I'd live in my own little fantasy world where I could take delight in playing God, creating stories. Or so I thought...

The thing about being a writer is that no matter how much of an introvert you are, there comes a time when you need to live in the real world. For the sake of our own stories, and for the sake of our writing. How can we write believable characters into a world which we don't experience ourselves?

This was hard for me. I planned to venture out only for groceries and Bible study while my kids were at school. I like being alone. I didn't think I needed other people. A notice came home from school asking for parents to volunteer an hour or two a week at the school library. I signed up every other week for each of my sons' classes. Nothing so hard about being with like-minded mothers who love their children, right?

So there. I'd do my good deed for the week and still have plenty of time left over to write. Especially Tuesdays. They're practically sacred. No laundry, housework, groceries, Bible study...zilch. Just my morning run and then me and my computer for six glorious hours. Or so I thought....

I mentioned in my last post that I'm reading Donald Miller's "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years." Miller delves into the idea of living a better story, one that will satisfy not only ourselves, but God. As I read this book I felt God nudging me to do more. Now I'm not saying God is looking for works, I don't believe He is. But I do believe He's looking at my heart. As I read Miller's book, a strange thing happened. I found myself wanting to do more with the majority of my week than sit in front of my computer. Sure, God may have called me to write, but hasn't He also called me to serve? To live a more meaningful story?

I thought of a soup kitchen I bring food to every so often. A hot, windowless basement/kitchen that serves hundreds of meals a day. Now, besides being slightly claustrophobic, I hate sweating. I can usually only stand this bodily function when I'm running outdoors and a refreshing shower waits for me within forty minutes of said sweating. I'm a bit of a germaphobe--don't care to be around even my husband when he hasn't taken a shower within the past twenty hours. I know I sound awful, but I'm trying to portray how difficult the idea of volunteering at a soup kitchen was for me. Quite likely, I'd have to rub elbows with sweaty people, many who may not have seen a shower in a week.

But once again, I felt God nudging me, changing my heart. Did Jesus care about such petty things when He came to save us? Did He only hang out with people who thought just like Him, agreed with everything He said? And what does all this say about my own heart? I didn't want to look much closer.

I called the soup kitchen and spoke to a pleasant-sounding woman who informed me that they couldn't use me on Mondays. But Tuesdays...well, they really needed someone then.

Huh. Of course, it would be Tuesdays. I told her I'd think about it, which I did (along with a good dose of prayer). I rearranged my schedule and called her back the next day, committing four hours on Tuesday.

This may be out of my comfort zone. I don't know how I'll do. But I know that more than anything else, I want to live my life for God. I want to live a meaningful story, experience more than my own small world. This is one way to do that.

So tomorrow I will venture into the city, into that small, stuffy, windowless basement. I will put aside myself. I will think of others. And I will try, with all my heart, to be Jesus to every single person I meet. Because truly, that is the only meaningful story I will ever live.

What have you done that was outside your comfort zone? What were the results?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My Next 30 Years

I sit down to write this post on the last night of my 29th year. My 30th birthday is tomorrow and I'm deep in contemplation over life. Sounds heavy, doesn't it? But it's not merely my age. I'm reading Donald Miller's "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years." In it, he talks about what each of us say with our lives, what kind of story we're telling the world--telling God. That prodded me to think about my first thirty years, about what kind of story I'm telling.

Hmmm...they were wonderful, these last 10,950 days. Particularly this last decade when I married my hubby and birthed two amazing sons. I became a Christian and I discovered my passion for writing. But as I think back on them, I have to admit my first thirty years were primarily about me. Where do I want to go to school? What career do I want? What husband do I want? How many children do I want?

I want my next thirty years to tell a different story. I want to push open the walls of my small world, find out what it takes to write a meaningful story. I want to think about others more than I think about myself.

I want to live my life for Jesus.

I want God to come first in my life, not be someone I allow to tag along for convenience. I want my spirit to look different than it did a year ago, five years ago, ten years ago. When my last day on this earth is up, what story do I want to share with my Maker?

I'm still working on those answers. I've made one change already, which I will be blogging more about on Monday. Until then, may you make your story a satisfying one. Have a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Can Happiness Be Bought?

I'm not much of a television watcher and my local Christian radio station doesn't play commercials, so I've been away from the majority of advertisements for several years now. Yesterday I set out to paint my boys' bedroom. They picked two shades of blue and I looked forward to surprising them when they got off the bus that afternoon. I tuned the radio to a country station and turned up the volume. I love to sing at the top of my lungs when I'm alone in the house. I picked up my paintbrush, dipped it in smooth blue paint, and set out on what would be a four hour journey.

I sang. I prayed. I thought about what the kids would say when they got home. I squealed when I accidentally knocked the roller against the ceiling. And I listened to commercials. The same ones, over and over. I don't know if it was the paint fumes or the informed voices that caught me up in a quiet, contemplative state, but those advertisements succeeded in capturing my attention.

So, in the four-plus hours I listened to the radio, I discovered what is important to our culture. Food. Coffee. Cars. Sex. Medication. Entertainment.

Each commercial was trying to prove something: we can be happier if we buy the product they advertised. Now I know many of you reading this would tell me this is nothing new, but yesterday it was new--to me. I'd blocked it for so long that the self-absorbed, material personality of our culture shocked me a bit. I thought about all the starving children in the world and I felt guilty for thinking so much about material things, things that do not matter to my survival.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't think any of these things in themselves are bad. But I do think it's easier than we think to fall prey to the mighty advertising voices. So what I'm wondering is...can happiness be bought?

My husband and I are renovating our house. Lots of money is going into this endeavor and in the end, yes, I believe I will be happier with my home. I bought a bagel at Dunkin' Donuts the other day. Cinnamon-raisin with cream cheese. Mmmmmm. Yup, it made me happy.

This has to be wrong. Or there has to be a line. But where is it? What do you think? Can happiness be bought?

Monday, September 12, 2011

When the Bad Outweighs the Good

Last night, after the kids were tucked in bed, my husband and I watched a documentary on 9/11. Tons of live footage, both inside and outside the World Trade Centers. I was in a Hunger Affairs class in college when I first learned of the plane that crashed into one of the towers. Watching this documentary brought me back ten years.

I brushed my teeth last night with a burdened soul. Human beings are capable of doing awful things to one another. And I'm not excluding myself. I've said hurtful words, possessed a bitter attitude, thought wicked thoughts I wish to bury twenty feet below.

I checked on my children one last time for the night. Their little chests rise and fall with deep sleep and I remember another piece of bad news I learned earlier in the day. A former acquaintance arrested for child pornography. My heart literally hurts.

As I snuggled beneath the sheets, I turned on my Kindle. I usually read fiction before bed, but this night my need for hope and truth overpowered my need for a good, made-up story. I clicked on the Bible and the page automatically popped up to where I'd left off in Luke: the birth of Jesus.

One sentence was all it took for my soul to lighten, for hope to come sweeping in, for whispers of truth to echo around the champers of my heart. A single passage in God's Word once again righted my world.

God knew. He knew our hopelessness. He knew our weakness, and still loved us. He planned for it and saved us. This is not the end.

Thank you, God.

What do you do when bad news threatens to consume your thoughts?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Missing Conference

The ACFW Conference is in exactly two weeks and begins on my thirtieth birthday. For that reason alone I assumed I was destined to go.

But it's not to be so.

I'm going to miss seeing the friends I made last year, especially you--Melanie, Melissa, Sarah, Britt, and Karin. I'm going to miss the classes, meeting my favorite authors, and even forging friendships in purgatory (the place where you wait for your appointments).

I can remember the excitement and my heart nearly throbs, and I wonder if the right decision has been made. Then I turn to God and find His peace. His Will be done.

For all who are going, may God bless you and your writing. I'll be praying for you. Sarah, if you happen to read this, I'll be watching your acceptance speech from home!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

New Beginnings

For what feels like the first time in six years, the house is quiet.

Quiet. Peaceful. No small footprints stain my clean floor. The toys are in their place. The bathroom hand towel is relatively dry. No squabbling over a special Lego. It's what I've longed for, and yet a part of me feels incomplete.

I thought I'd love this, and a part of me does. But a part of me also hates it.

For the first time, both my boys are in school...the entire day. I shed tears at the thought of Noah, my youngest, getting on the bus this morning. He slid toward a window seat, his little fingers frantically wiping off the fog on the bus window so that he could wave at his father and I, a big smile plastered to his face. It's enough to break my heart, and yet I can't help but be excited at this new chapter in my life.

I've been asked a certain question several times over the past few months: "What are you going to do with yourself?"

I've spouted off answers.

"Finally get some serious exercising in."

"Oh, I'll keep busy with Dan's business."

Or the ever vague, "I think I'll just take a breather after these last six years."

While every answer is true, rarely do I admit what is heavy on my heart. My spirit is filled with excitement to have a long chunk of quiet, uninterrupted time to create. To write. The time has come to set some serious goals. No excuses. Just do it.

And so while I type away in my quiet home, I'm filled with inspiration and wondering if the desires God's placed in my heart will ever bear fruit. But still...I'm going to miss those little arms around my waist midday.

Good thing for me the bus will be back in forty minutes. :)