the perfect gift

I can remember a Christmas years ago when I was picking out a gift for a very close friend.  We had grown up together and were like sisters, really.  I knew her so well that it was going to be simple to find just the perfect present for her.

And find it I did.

A lovely peach sweater.

Delighted with my purchase, I could hardly wait until I was able to give it to her.  I wrapped it in traditional Christmas paper, and we planned a time to get together with our husbands and exchange gifts. 

When that time came, we gathered at my friend's home and casually put our boxes under the tree, waiting a bit to open them.

I just knew she was going to love what I had chosen for her.

Later when she and I were ready to open our gifts, we took the ones meant for us from each other and started tearing off the wrapping.  But as I took off the lid off my box, I became instantly confused.  I saw peach.  I saw sweater.  I saw my gift to her in her box to me....??

I panicked and checked the wrapping paper I'd just torn off.  It definitely was NOT the wrapping paper I'd put on....

I looked up and saw the same surprised reaction on her face as we simultaneously pulled identical peach sweaters out of our boxes.

And then we laughed hysterically while our husbands rolled their eyes.

Yes, we knew each other that well.

If two friends can know each other so completely and give each other the same "perfect gift", I realize how much more God, my Creator, knows me and knows how to give me exactly what I need, exactly when I need it.  It may come wrapped as a trial, a joy, or a consequence.  It may be just what I'm hoping for, or something I don't even know that I can't live without yet. But it fits perfect every time, never breaks, never wears out, and lasts for eternity without batteries.

It's designed with me in mind.

And makes me more like Him.

That's definitely a gift that keeps on giving.





























lead me (like) a stray

Last night, we had a stray dog at our back door.  In the twelve years we've lived here, that has never happened; a dog just showing up and hanging around like it had lived here forever.

I noticed it when I heard trash cans being jostled around outside late in the evening.  Our golden retriever Lucy, the rightful owner of the property, had been laying in the family room but now approached the sliding glass door and let out a low growl. With it being dark outside, I had no idea what was on the other side of said door. I turned on the outside light and held my breath.  There standing on the flagstone was the tallest, thinnest, gangliest black lab I'd ever seen.  He looked intently in at me and started to bark because, I presume, I wasn't letting him in.  Shame on me.

After a few minutes- which probably seemed like an eternity to Lucy because at this point she had worn a hole in the carpet spinning excited circles - the lab just flopped down on the patio, made itself comfortable, and looked up at me as if I was expected to make the next move, because he was here to stay.

Something about his assumption that if he made himself at home we would meet all his needs -  even though we didn't know him - made me totally dig this dog.   It was as if he was adopting us, whether we liked it or not.  Fortunately for us, the relationship only lasted about an hour until he packed up and moved along, hopefully home to his real family and dog dish.

Funny how that dog prodded me to think about my relationship with God.  Do I come to Jesus that easily - with the same perfect assurance that if I just flop down and look up, I'll be taken care of ?  There was no pretention with this animal - he didn't clean up or dress up or even bring us a present.  There was just him, just as he was.  And somehow he knew he'd found a safe place.

I thought about that stray canine's eager trust a lot today.  I want to be like that with God; assuming He's always there, assuming He always cares about me, assuming He's always ready to take me in and clean me up a bit - because He is.  I want to practice being in His presence like a gangly stray dog that wasn't worried one bit if he was perfect or not.  He just was.

And that seems like a pretty good way to be.



hope

Sometimes when life is dark and I'm not sure when I'll see the sun again, at just the right moment the sky cracks open a bit; enough so that I can see there's still blue above the clouds and the sun is still shining just the same, no matter what I'm going through. 

And hope is born.

photo credit- Chris Coulton
 
Just like a weed growing in the pavement, hope only needs the tiniest of breaks in the tough times to wiggle up through.  I've always been amazed at what the smallest amount of hope can do; what life it can bring to a soul.  A little goes a long way.
 
That's because -
 
        hope says all is not lost.
 
                   Hope says things will turn around one day.
 
                                 Hope says I'm not forgotten; God has heard me.
 
And that sustains me, especially when the clouds close back up and the blue sky is gone.
 
I'll remember I've felt hope; I'll remember I've seen God.
 
And I'll remember that no matter what, the Son is still shining.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

today

Recalibrate my life, Lord.

Take me in your direction.

Make my focus trusting in You.

Let me not depend on old habits, comfortable escapes, or my usual means of running away.

 
 
Let me step out into something new - something You have formed for me; a safe place to fall, a spot in Your arms where You'll hold me and carry me through.
 
In these times when I can't see around the next bend in the road, take my hand and lead me step by step. 
 
For now, my next step is today. 
 
May I make it count for Your kingdom.
 


excuse me while I wait

It's a dry time.

It's a quiet time.

It's a waiting time.

I'm not sure what's happening, but God is definitely up to something. It's not like me to be without answers.  Without a plan.  Without being able to see way down the path and know what's coming.

But this time I don't.  And after fighting it (and Him) for a while, I realized I needed to stop trying to get out of the arid, lifeless, drab desert and learn from it instead. 

Because I'm in it for a reason.

God has me here to wander for a while in order to teach me something.

And I would be wise to sit at His feet and ask Him what it is.

Things are quiet in my life right now, and the waiting for change seems to go on forever.  Stories and words that longed to pour out my fingers onto this blog have quieted down and become still for a season.  But I'm learning to enjoy it.  To enjoy the break from all the things I did and depended on for happiness, contentedness and life.  To realize I can only, ever depend on Him.

As things get stripped away, only one thing remains.

Jesus.

And He, my friends, is enough.





time to fly

Even though I've often written about my little birds of offspring leaving the nest, this time it's ME who's going.  Tomorrow at 4:30 a.m., I join a team of 7 others to wing our way to Phoenix, AZ and then hop a 6 hour van ride to the middle of nowhere affectionately called Keams Canyon, AZ.  We will be living and working on the Hopi reservation from September 29th until October 7th.  Just like last year, I'll be posting lots of photos and writing about our experience on the trip's blog here, so come on over and join in the adventure!

changing lanes

I'm a terrible merger.

I'm the driver you hate to see coming down the on-ramp because you can tell I'll be entering the highway just as you'll be going by.

And it's not going to be pretty.

I nearly caused two fender benders - or worse - last weekend when I was going to pick up my son from college.  I have to say the other drivers, whom I could have intersected with and sent their insurance premiums sky high, were the nicest, kindest auto operators I have ever had the opportunity to almost-accidentally meet.  They saw my stupidity error, stopped their car from full motion to a dead on halt and waved me on, allowing me to enter the lane I had missed while figuring out if I should be heading north, south, east or west.

I did this twice, mind you.

In one trip.

Drivers, beware. 

This is like my life.   I have my day all planned - heading north after the morning rush hour is over and the living is easy.  I'm tootling along, all smiles, when all of a sudden - WHAM!  Out of nowhere something barrels into my perfectly pre-planned Daytimer road map and throws my entire schedule and, quite possibly, emotional well being off into Never Never Land. 

The smiles are gone. You can be sure I'm laying on the horn, yelling at the intruder to stop, and wondering where on earth THEY learned to drive....Sears????

How dare they come up in my blind spot and just run me off the road.  I had plans. I had a schedule.  I was going somewhere.

But was it where God wanted me to go?

Important question. 

More often than not, when life slams into me it's because I was on the wrong road.  And since I'm usually too stubborn to be swayed by gentle, subtle reminders, Jesus needs to take a 4x4 four-wheel drive offroad vehicle and steer it into my lane to get me to move over onto the right path that will really get me somewhere.

Because He paved it.  Not me.

If I'm wise, I'll stay on the road He puts me on. 

While it's not necessarily straighter, smoother, or less hilly than the lane I was in, the markings are clearer and the way was designed with only me in mind.  It's like a personalized highway.  Beth Coulton Boulevard. I rather like that.

So maybe it's time I let Him drive, throw that Daytimer out the passenger side window, stop navigating and just enjoy the ride.   For once.

Sounds like a plan to me.











why I avoid the important

I've noticed an odd pattern in my behavior. 

It's something that's occurred as I've gotten older.

And it puzzles me every time.

Here's what I do - anytime I have a wonderful, exciting, always-dreamed-of opportunity staring me in the face that needs my input, response or application, I find myself putting it off.  Insteading of sitting down and doing the work of making a little dream come true, I will do anything but by tending to mindless distractions when I should be paying attention to the (wonderful, exciting, always-dreamed-of) opportunity at hand.

This happened the other day when I was working on something online that was just up my alley, but I could hardly sit still or focus on the laptop screen.  At one point in the process, I needed to open another browser window.  Now, most normal people would just sit there and wait during the 4 seconds it takes for that to happen.

My thought process?  "I'm gonna go clean the fridge grill until that page loads." 

That, my friends, is procrastination and avoidance at its best, demonstrated right here in my very own home.

I want to emphasize that this is not drudgery or grunt work, people.  It's applying to sign up for the fun stuff that God and life gives us once in a while.

And I seem to struggle with that.

I wish I could say that it was because my excitement about it won't let me sit still, but that's not the case.  In reality it's due to my anxiety over the fact that if I really go for whatever "it" is,

I might not make it. 

I could fail in a grandiose way. 

I don't know how I'll deal with that if it happens.

And I must remember that that's where I'm making my error.  I only fear failure because I'm putting my hope and trust and value in a thing, a job, an opportunity.....and not a Person.

My worth isn't measured by what I do.

It's measured by Whose I am.

I need to remind myself of this the next time something fun-yet-scary comes along.  Take it, go for it, do it, because I might succeed and if I don't.....well, it's okay to fail.

Either way, I'm secure in Him.

And that gives me the freedom to look those opportunities square in the eye and say -Game ON.




because

It's raining, and I can hear it.

Because the house is quiet.

Because the house is empty, save me (and the dog).

Because.....the one we've raised for 18 years lives away now, a two-day-old freshman at a nearby university.

Finding his way.

Without us.

Because.... our daughter has this very day stepped into the classroom to begin her fall semester of student teaching.  This girl who has wanted nothing else but to be a teacher for as long as she can remember, and who was told more than once along the way she'd never make it.

But made it she did. 

And away she goes.

Because.....our oldest has found his new digs, and plans are in the making for his move from our home in a couple of weeks.  While we don't see him much, it's always nice to know he'll be home at dinnertime and we can catch up on the day.

But we won't be doing that anymore.

The rain is getting louder, and magnifies the silence within.

Children.  It hurts to give them birth, and later, selfishly, it hurts to give them wings and to see them fly.

We raise them to be independent, and get mom-miffed when they are.

Ultimately, they are God's children more than they are mine.  I give them to Him and His watchcare, as He can be with them everywhere and every time, and I cannot.

I must remember that they are safe in the shelter of His wings.

And that's the best place for them to be.

awaiting the storm

There's something magical about waiting for an impending storm.  Well, maybe not Disney magical, but at least interesting.  If it's a snowstorm, it's the thrill of the bread-milk-and-eggs run to the store before the snow starts.  Today, it's more of bring-the-laundry-in-and close-your-car-windows kind of anticipation because it's going to be a thunderstorm or ten to break up the excessive heat we've been having for weeks.  Our thermometers are begging to see their mercury rise only to the low 80's.

So while I'm not running to the store for supplies (and my chocolate stash is in good shape; I checked after the weather report), there is something causing me to hunker down even in the middle of the afternoon; I find myself watching the skies, studying the clouds, and noticing the breeze picking up slightly as soon it will turn to a full scale howling wind.

This is enjoyable and exciting because the storm will be outside my home.

This would not be either of those things if the storm was predicted for inside my home.

That's a whole different kind of weather.

I don't ever get those kind of predictions.  If you've lived a little, you probably don't either.  Those storms come on fast.  They usually start with a lightning strike to the heart and then proceed quickly to gale force winds that take your breath away and rain that pummels at your very core.

They soak you in misery until you feel that you may never be whole and dry again.

They leave you dripping wet, soggy and messy, and you wonder what happened to the sunshine you had been sitting under.

Even though they are unwelcomed precipitation,  I've learned that God uses them.  As a matter of fact, He designs them.  Not for our bad, but for our good.  They bring about the change in the temperature that's needed, that couldn't be accomplished any other way.  They draw us up short and force us to look at our reflection in the puddle that remains long after the showers have passed. 

I am wise when I look fully into what I see.   When I pray and ask to see the me that  God sees.  When I long to align my will and desires with His, which are always ulimately better than my own.

It's worth the rain.  It's worth the thunder.  It's worth the storm.

May God use it for His glory.





what to do when your titanic is sinking

She was a beautiful ship.  I launched her a few years ago, thinking she was ironclad and well constructed.  Hadn't heard from her in a while, so I assumed she was having a safe voyage to her final destination. I always figured no news was good news and I went on about life without giving her a second thought.

Until last Friday.

With one phone call, I found out there was massive devastation aboard ship.  She had sprung a leak about a year ago and unbeknownst to me, she had been filling with water for quite some time now and if she doesn't get fixed soon, she'll go down and take all of us with her.

The person on the other end of the phone told me it's way too late to run a bucket brigade or simply patch holes.

The damage has been done, and the only way to move forward with repairs is by drastically changing course and taking some very deliberate action.

Numbly I hung up the phone, trying to process everything I'd just been blindsided with.

I scrambled for answers.  I clawed for opportunities to make this right.  I grieved over the loss of what I thought was my foolproof design meant to sail the high seas flawlessly with no harm to me or my family. 

For hours, I wondered why God would allow this to happen.

To my perfect life.

When I finally calmed down and stopped crying long enough to listen, God whispered,  "This is by design.  You need this. I'm going to do something in your heart and life that I couldn't do unless I show you how to stop trusting in your own abilities."

Land, ho.

It's hard to learn humility.  It's uncomfortable to see how fallible I really am.  It's not enjoyable to see that any control I feel have is really only an illusion of control.

I am so not the master of my own destiny.  This experience has shown me that.

But on the other hand,

it is good to have my eyes opened.

It is wonderful to have a God who catches me when I fall.

And it is the best thing ever to realize He is doing this because He wants me to be more like Him, lacking nothing in this life.

God says in Jeremiah 29:11 - "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord. "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

God desires to see me through this.   He doesn't leave me to drown, but instead throws me an anchor by showing me a promise in His word.   Once anchored, I can assess the damage with a level head and ask Him how to proceed.

So that's what I'm doing. For now, He's made it clear that it's time to rebuild; it's time for a total makeover.  Things will look different from here on in, but they will look like they should.

Like they were designed by Him instead of me.














my Panera community

This morning I am sitting at Panera Bread to write.  I brought my journal filled with topics and ideas for stories and blog posts, but this experience is just so cool that it is, in and of itself, enough to write about.

Bringing my laptop to a place like this is a very trendy thing to do.  I am not a terribly trendy person so I feel a bit out of my comfort zone, but after my cinnamon crunch bagel with honey almond cream cheese I am convinced this is a lifestyle I could get used to.   Quickly.

As I sit here listening to classical music playing while occupying a private table with Wi-Fi, knowing that good food and drink are just a counter away, I realize this is the life I was destined for. (insert wry smile)

Something about being here makes me feel..... author-y.  Meeting-ish.  Important-like.

Is that why I came?

Good question.

As you might have guessed, my laptop works just fine at home where the food is (almost) free.  I have Pandora on my computer so I can listen to all the classical music I want.  And when my browser opens while I'm sitting in my dining room, I don't get a welcome/login screen that asks me to be considerate and leave the table after 30 minutes if the establishment is busy.

So why am I here?

I've  read that a writer's life can be a very lonely one; quiet, somewhat sequestered, working solo on project after project.   I'm hardly living the writer's life, but this morning I felt a strong need for community, even if they were community I didn't really know.  To my credit, I picked a back table so as not to be noticed, but to at least be here.  With similar others doing similar things.

God created me to crave community.  I cannot do life alone.  Sometimes that community needs to be intimate enough to hold my hand and walk me through a tough spot, but more often than not it just needs to be background noise keeping me company while I do something else.

And some days, like today, I need a cinnamon crunch bagel and classical music thrown in for it to be just what the doctor ordered.

Thanks, Panera.  It was wonderful doing community with you today.  I'm sure you'll see me again soon. 

I think I'm beginning to like trendy.







my security blanket

A fellow blogger from New Zealand, Chris Lovie-Tyler, writes his musings at Distilling Words and recently wrote a guest post for Seven Sentences called "Set Fire To Your Security Blanket."  Take a minute to go read it (it is, after all, only seven sentences).  It's a wonderful post on a unique site.  Click through and check it out.

It got me to thinking about my very own, attached-at-my-hip-and-entire-body security blanket that I had when I was younger.  I was glued to it, always.  My mom used to tell the story of how I would sit at the top of the steps that led to the laundry room, waiting for my blanket to come through the washer and dryer at those times she actually got it away from me long enough to launder it.  To this day, I don't remember its look or smell or feel, but I remember my strong attachment to it. 

It was, for a time, my safest place and very best friend.

As children do, I grew up and time marched on and while I knew we always had my blanket somewhere in the house, it was neatly folded and tucked away - never again needed once it made its departure into our closet.

Over time, I forgot about my blanket.

Until one night in my teenage years I asked my mother about it.

And she told me she had thrown it away.

For a moment, I thought I might die.

We were at a play, and as we were getting our seats and talking amongst ourselves before the curtain opened, somehow in conversation my blanket came up.  Or maybe my mother offered up the information without being asked because she thought I should know.  I can't remember which.

However it came about, I can still recall sitting in my theater seat and hearing the news.  For me, the world stopped for a moment, but the world went on about me, people still laughing and chattering and checking their playbills

while I sat staring straight ahead, feeling as if I'd just lost my first best friend.

It hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks.  Even I was surprised at how much it moved me.

Eventually the feeling passed and the play went on. By the time we exited the theater, I was over the shock and loss and realized that I hadn't needed that tattered old item for years.  (Which is a very good thing because a teenager with a blanket isn't running with the popular crowd.)

And while it had been nice to know that it was somewhere safely stashed away even though I wasn't using it, my blanket and I really were history.  The way we were supposed to be.

Even now, stepping out in any number of ways from what feels secure can bring me right back to that same feeling I had in the theater.  To leave behind what once got me through or pacified me or kept me in a safe place is a scary thing.

But it's the right thing.  It's the only way I'll grow.  And it's the only way I'll learn to rely on God instead of on a security device of my own making.

So here's to no more blankets.  Here's to stepping out where it looks daring and bold with nothing but God's hand to hold on to.   Here's to living life the way it was meant to be lived; as an adventure, a journey, a pathway to heaven.

No secret stash, no faulty safety net just-in-case.

Just me, my God and my dream.

Now that's living.





 





two words i'm glad my dentist never said

A few years ago, I bit into something and as I was chewing, I noticed something extra in my food.

Moments later, one of my teeth was laying in my hand and I could only imagine what my mouth would look like if I smiled.

Horrors.

I ran to the bathroom, grinned, and sure enough, there was a gaping hole just to the right of my front teeth. 

Oh. My. Gosh.

A quick call to the dentist with an explanation got me in the chair just hours later.  He took a look, numbed me up, reclined the chair and went to work. 

As I laid there, I really didn't know what he would be up to inside my jaws.  But I had been going to him for years and trusted him entirely.  And with novacaine, I was pretty deadened to any pain and thought I'd just relax and enjoy the ride.  I felt the usual scraping, a bit of drilling, and then something else I'd never experienced before.  It was something of a cleaning out up in and around the tooth and the surrounding area. 

He did this in a repeated action.  Over and over again.  Without saying a word.

Finally, it hit me. 

I'm having a root canal, I thought. 

And what a wise dentist to have never said those two words to me before he began. 

Had he said that to me upon sitting in his chair, the mere utterance of the phrase would have had me clutching the armrests and saying calming mantras in my mind while gasping for breath, because of the reputation of the words.  But not being told and thinking it would be business as usual kept me relaxed and actually finding what he was doing  - the dreaded root canal - to be not so bad after all.

Smart, smart dentist.

This is why God knows the future and I do not.  We do not need to know what's coming down the pike, because it would mess with our minds.  We just need to know Who to trust because He knows the beginning from the end, and He's got it all under control.  He's brought me this far; I can trust Him to take me the rest of the way. 

I'd rather be in something with a God I trust than on the outside fearing and feeling I'm on my own. 

I know I'll never walk alone.  

And that gets me places.


my fear of fear

I've realized one of my biggest struggles.

It's not fear.

It's my fear of fear.

And that, as Sarah Young in Jesus Calling says, is a monstrous stepchild.

Very true.

So I need to wonder .... am I really afraid of the "thing" I say I am, or am I afraid of the anxiety, fear and trepidation I will feel surrounding it?

My actual mammogram takes only 20 minutes, but my fear lasts a week.  There's the  anxiety before the test, and real fear and trepidation afterward waiting for those results. 

My fear is not of having the test done. 

It's of how I'm going to feel in the time surrounding my appointment.

I have a fear of fear.

The good news is, it doesn't have to be this way.  When I'm afraid like that, when I'm afraid of my fear, it only shows one thing.

I'm not trusting God.

I'm admitting that I don't think He has this.

I'm not exhibiting any reliance on the One who made me and knows me better than I know myself. 

Fear of circumstances and trust in God cannot co-exist. 

My word for 2012 is "fearless".  I'm putting that into action when situations arise that I'd rather not go through or endure.  God is showing me, day by day, that He is able to take my fear and replace it with confidence.  He gives me a new perspective toward the things that spike my feverish anxiety and show me a positive side to stressful situations.

But I must put it in His hands, make a commitment to change my mindset, and live like I believe that

God's got this.

Because He does. 

Every. single. time.

spending time



I have called you to follow Me on a solitary path, making time alone with Me your highest priority and deepest joy.
Sarah Young, Jesus Calling


We are told the opposite.

We live in a world that says busier is better.  Quiet time is a useless commodity where nothing gets done.  Drive and ambition are gods to be worshipped and used as a measuring stick of our worth and success.

We are so wrong.

I will get more done if I spend time with God first and most.  As an added bonus, it's the most restful, relaxed place I've yet to experience.

As if I was finally in the spot I can call home.

Communing with God is like that, because after all

no one knows you better than the One Who made you.

Won't you start this day with Him?


walk with me

Funny.

Our pastor's message in church yesterday ran along the same lines as Friday's post.

The part about how as Christians, we are not spared the bad, hard, nasty things in life,

but we have a God who will walk through them with us.

And that's the part I love.

As he so aptly put it - "God doesn't walk us to the door of the terrible thing and say, "Well, here you go. Good luck walking through the valley of the shadow of death.  I'll meet you on the other side."

Not at all.  Instead, God says,

"We're here.

Take my hand.

Let's walk together."

And He will do that for you every time.

Every human needs that kind of companionship.

Where are you walking with Him today?




post op days

"What happened to the dog?" some of you were asking, and rightly so.

I gave you a canine cliffhanger, and you need to know the rest of the story.

So here it is.

Save her, they did.  After a lengthy surgery and a two day stay at the doggie ER, Lucy came home on Thursday night ensconced in a large, opaque white cone and stitches. 

Both of which she hated. 

Since then, we've ditched the cone and watched her like a hawk to make sure she doesn't go for the stitches.  This includes me sleeping on the couch all night while she sleeps on the tile floor of our family room, the only place she seems to feel comfortable.  This scenario is akin to bringing your newborn home and fearing they will perish under your care unless you velcro them to your body and monitor their every moment.

The fact does not escape me that while I'm sleeping, she could silently and deftly unstitch her stomach quick as you please and we'd be driving back to the vet center in the middle of the night.  But a girl's gotta sleep, so it's a chance I've gotta take.    Cone wearing only results in her taking on a zoned out, statue-like stance complete with loud panting and drooling.  Impossible to sleep through.

That's where we are.  I put my normal daily routine on hold for a few days to concentrate my efforts here on a situation that had me completely out of my comfort zone.  All of a sudden the world revolved around the matter at hand, as any illness' presence commands in animal or human.

So here's to getting back to normal.  To getting back to writing, and to the day's familiar routine. 

See you soon.




all was well, until....

My day yesterday was turning out to be a better-than-average one.  Shopping at Target in the morning, lunch with friends, time to myself, sunshine filled skies...you know.  That kind of day.

Everything was going great.

Until my dog finished eating her dinner at 4:30 pm.

Then things started to go horribly wrong.

My daughter Lauren and I wanted to run out to a local store about five o'clock, but just as we were about to leave, Lucy, our golden retriever, was hunched over trying to cough something up.  Silly dog, she ate too fast again, I thought, and I asked my son to keep an eye on her while we were out.  He gave me a puzzled look as he was not too sure what he was supposed to do with a hacking dog, but agreed to watch her anyway.  Lauren and I left and as we were driving out, my husband was driving in.  Good, I thought.  Someone to check on Lucy.

We headed to Chico's.  Sale items. Could this day get any better?  Laughing and shopping, I happened to check my phone as we left the store.  Seeing a voicemail from my husband, I gave a listen.  His voice was full of concern; he had Lucy in the van on the way to the vet - something wasn't right.  She wouldn't stop choking.

As my husband tells it, he pulled in to the vet's office only to find it closed but the doctor was still there because someone in his office parking lot was stuck and needed a jump for their car. The vet agreed to take a look at our doggie, but by then she seemed to be doing fine; there were no physical symptoms present.  The vet decided to send my husband and dog home but the moment they were to get back in the van, she started choking again.

Now the doctor saw what we had seen and immediately checked her out.  "Something's definitely wrong," he said. "Her stomach is like a rock. You need to get her to the emergency vet services now."

That local store I was in at 5 pm?  It's less than a mile from the vet. I had Lauren drive me straight there.

Once there, I hopped in the van with my husband and very sick dog and away we went, directions in hand from the vet and fear in our throats from what this night could hold.  Once at the center, they took Lucy in for an exam and eventually called us back.  A very kind doctor there informed us what we were facing.

Basically, our dog's life or her death.

Surgery was an option, albeit a costly one, but without it there was no hope; our precious dog would perish.  Tears sprang to our eyes and our mouths went cotton dry as we were tasked with this decision.  Time was of the essence and every minute we took to decide was a minute more of danger for her.  We looked at each other and immediately had our answer. 

Save her.

Upon hearing that, the ER vet got procedures in motion.  She mentioned she was amazed that we got our dog there that quickly from the time this all had started until then.  I thought back through the events of the evening and realized things had aligned perfectly for us to move through the necessary steps from beginning to end swiftly; from me going on that odd shopping errand which put me almost next door to the vet's office, to my husband arriving home just as I was leaving in tag team fashion, to the vet providing a needed jump to a car in his parking lot and still being there for us after hours.

Not coincidences.  God-incidences.

God showed me once again that as Christians, we aren't spared the uncomfortable, unfortunate, troubling times of life.  But in them, He goes before us to pave the way to help us through them, never leaving us alone to figure it out on our own.

God knows what we need and when we need it.  Even when we don't.  Especially when we don't.

He used an event yesterday to blow me away at His timing, His orchestration of events, and His placement of people. 

It only makes me trust Him more.




that slippery slope

                                          

"Mom, your car is rolling."

Four words that no stick shift driver ever wants to hear.

As I spun around it took a moment to see, but sure enough my VW bug was slowly making its way from where I thought I parked it and was now heading for the road and oncoming cars.  I had pulled up the emergency brake when I stopped the car (I clearly remember doing this because I broke a nail in the process) in order to hop out and give my daughter something, but the brake hadn't engaged all the way and currently there was nothing holding my precious buggy back from creeping straight into danger.

I had to act fast.

Fortunately, this was easy to do.  The door was already open from when I got out so I just hopped in and got my foot on the floor brake quick as a snowflake melts in summer and stopped the car.   Problem solved.  Disaster diverted.  Note to self made  to pull up that handbrake harder next time.

And a heartfelt thank you to my daughter who saw what was happening and could let me know my car was about to play in traffic.

Without her eyes on my situation, things would have turned out much worse, and I would now be on the phone with insurance getting estimates for car repairs and calling collision specialists.

Ugh. 

Sometimes in our lives we roll dangerously close to disaster.  That little white lie that gets told because, after all, who will really know; no one gets hurt in the process.  Or the truth that we stretch and bend and manipulate so that we don't get found out or exposed because that would cost us too much in the end.  Maybe it's the lines that we push our toe across to see if there really is any difference between right and wrong, and to test how far we can go before we get caught.

Each time we do this, we get a little bit closer to our own demise.  Be assured that God has his eyes on your situation, and will throw the handbrake if necessary to spare you from the collision course you are on when you don't even know it.  Or perhaps you do know it and would rather He didn't, but that's a bit hard to pull off when you're the child of an omnipotent God.

He just seems to be everywhere, doesn't He?

There's a reason for that.   It's because He knows where you should be going, and He knows the way.  But to get there, you'll have to drop the attitude, humble yourself and do it His way.

The question to ask is, will you?







happy fourth on the third

"Laugh at yourself, but don't ever aim your doubt at yourself. Be bold. When you embark for strange places, don't leave any of yourself safely on shore. Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory." -Alan Alda


I love this quote.  The imagery of not leaving any of ourself safely on shore conjures up the image of a decisive leap, a jump, a decision to do something different - or differently - than we've ever done before.

And that's what makes life exciting.

If I can encourage you to do one thing, it's this - Do whatever you're dreaming. It doesn't have to be big, but to you it will never be small. It's your dream.

You can make a difference.  Even if you feel you're circling the landing strip over and over again and never getting clearance to come on in.  It's in the getting nowhere that character and patience and steadfastness is formed, if only you don't give up.

Never give up.  Always have hope.

Tomorrow we celebrate America's birthday.  This country was formed by boldness; by embarking for a strange place without leaving anyone or anything safely on shore.  That took guts, commitment and resiliency, and a whole lot of not ever giving up.

May you have a wonderful July 4th remembering our heritage, our freedoms, and this great land in which we live.


big ask part two

If you read Friday's post, I said that I would tell you on Monday about my most recent, crazy, out-on-a-limb big ask that I did in response to our 15 Habits challenge a few weeks ago. 

But before that one, here's another small one that worked out in a big way.....

If you're gonna knock, do it loudly

When I first decided I'd like to pursue writing a picture book, I spent some time poking around  networking and reading other picture book authors' blogs to see how they did what they did.

As I was researching, looking and reading, I stumbled across Corey Schwartz's blog.  I say stumbled, but I believe that God directly led me there because the path was rather straight and fast and I didn't do anything spectacular to lead myself to her.

She had a big invitation.

Which married perfectly with my big ask.

Already published, she was stated on her blog that she was looking for someone to collaborate with on her next picture book.  I've already written about this, but I still am blown away by her generosity and awesome spirit, and I knew that I would be crazy not to ask her to let that someone be me.  What did I have to lose?

So I knocked.  Loud.  I made sure she knew who I was and that I was out here and that I wanted to work with her.   She was happy to take me on, we co-authored Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears, Putnam bought it and you can buy it sometime in 2014.  Since then, she's gone on to write more children's books and perhaps she and I will work on another collaboration soon.  Check out her blog here.

Knock where you're not invited...yet

Now, the BIG ask...the one I was talking about earlier.  Well, that one's still an ask-in-progress.  I live next door to the Berenstain's, as in Stan and Jan (you can read about that in this post).  Stan and Jan have both passed away, but their sons Michael and Leo still work in the house and are writing and producing books and continuing the empire.  

I got bold.  I thought now with Jan gone, they might need my some help.

So, I wrote a friendly, professional letter and dropped it in the mail to them (even though it seems odd to snail-mail your neighbor) and offered my services.  I told them of my few credentials but large desire to help out in Bear Country, and let it go at that.

I figured if I never asked, I'd never know.   I have nothing to lose, and quite possibly a lot to gain.

The letter has gone unanswered as of yet.  And that's okay.  Besides thinking they now have a crazy lady for a neighbor, they probably are getting along just fine and can run that kingdom without any help from me.

But if I'd never asked, I'd never know.

And they haven't said yes, but they haven't said no........

I'll wrap up tomorrow with why you should do a big ask if you haven't already.  And if you have, or if you have plans in the making to do so, leave a comment. One random commenter will be chosen to win a free copy of Seth Godin's The Dip . The winner will be announced on Wednesday!

opportunity waits for those who knock

Did you ever think that maybe opportunity was waiting for you to knock on its door?  In his 15 Habits series, Jeff Goins emphasizes two crucial elements to pursuing our God-given gifts and abilities in this world.   They are:                     
 
1. Choose yourself.
2. Make a big ask (filed under "earn patrons").


Let me tell you about a time I did both, and it worked.

When I was a senior in college, the education majors were called to a meeting about student teaching placements. The prof running the meeting told us there was one opportunity for a pair of student teachers to work together in an outdoor education program at a local state park.  My ears perked up. What a cool placement, I thought.  I knew without a doubt I wanted that opportunity, and I wanted it badly. The more he talked about it, the more I wanted it.  The professor told us it would be a lottery drawing of names for those of us who were interested, so after the meeting I grabbed my unsuspecting roomate, made her fill out an entry form along with mine (because hey, she had the car to get us there) and dropped both our names in the basket.

He said he'd be choosing the winners soon.

That wasn't good enough for me. I had to have this placement. 

Every day after that meeting, I made time to stop by the prof's office to let him know how interested my roomate and I were in those outdoor ed spots.  I asked him if he'd chosen the winning students.  "No, not yet" was his reply.  I did this day after day after day.  Around the fifth day, I stopped by as usual, told him (again) how much we wanted to do this, and I'll never forget what he did.  He turned his chair, looked me square in the eye and said, "You know what?  You've been in here every day asking me about this position.  You are the only student who has shown that kind of interest and enthusiasm.  I've just made my decision.  Those spots are yours.  Enjoy."

Sitting here writing this, I still remember the exhilaration I felt as I left his office for the final time that day. 

Now I realize what I'd been doing.

I'd been choosing myself and making a big ask. 

And it worked.

I've recently done another big ask.  I'll tell you about it on Monday.

If you've not done something bold or brazen yet, I encourage you to do so. Make time to do it this weekend.  You must put yourself out there; you have nothing to lose.  And quite possibly a whole lot to gain.

When you've made your big ask, or if you have a big ask you'd like to share, leave a comment below.  One random commenter will be chosen to win a free copy of Seth Godin's The Dip . The winner will be announced on Monday!

Have a great weekend.  And go out on a limb.  I'll see ya there.





why i'm afraid of my own art


I take pictures.  After all that I've learned recently, I should say

I'm a photographer.


But I'm more reluctant to call myself a photographer than a writer.

I have taken thousands of pictures, put some online, but printed and framed just a few.  Once I gave one of my pictures away as a gift but doing that just seemed bold and pretentious (and distracting to me for every time I went to their house...where is it? where is it?).

Even in my own home, if I do print and frame some of my best shots, they stay leaning against a wall or a cabinet somewhere, gathering dust as I just can't bring myself to hang them up.

I noticed this after it happened recently and I just kept moving said unhung, matted and framed photos from room to room, wall to wall, cabinet to cabinet to lean against.   It never dawned on me to actually hang them somewhere.

Why?

Because I'm afraid of what I'll see.  Afraid that I won't like it.  Afraid it won't be good enough. Afraid it won't look like all those gorgeous prints I always long to buy at art shows.  Afraid that looking at my own artwork day after day will only spell

 F-A-I-L-U-R-E.

Fear holds me back.  Fear keeps me prisoner. Fear must be dealt with or it's never going to go away.

I took a step and did things differently today.  I took the prints, dusted off their frames, rearranged some spaces and now they sit on my headboard.  Once they were there, I realized it only took 5 minutes to go from "hide these" to "these look nice here".  It was painless.  But it took me almost a year to get to those 5 minutes.

Fear no more.

Three things I know that you need to know, too.

1. Your work is better than you give yourself credit for.

2. You are always your own worst critic.

3. I'm living proof that it only takes 5 minutes to go from fear to victory.

Find something you made that needs your attention.  Spend time doing whatever you need to so that you can display it proudly, send it off assuredly, or give it away as a gift with honor.

And then come back here and leave a comment telling what those 5 minutes looked like for you. 

I guarantee you're going to like what you see.

they always leave



My mother dropped me off at kindergarten and I didn't think that was very nice of her, but she knew I was ready and would find my way.

Years later she and my dad dropped me off at college and while I couldn't believe they were actually going to leave me there and I cried all the way through my first dinner in the dining hall, they knew I was ready and once again would find my way and be all right. (My mom cried the whole way home Dad later confessed when he heard my dining hall story.)

When my dad walked me down the aisle, I remember feeling shaky and nervous inside, but he knew that together, my new husband and I were ready and would have to navigate our own way through the ins and outs of marriage.  He couldn't do it for me; he could only take me so far and then he had to let go.

When the nurse in the labor and delivery wing didn't even try to stop us and watched as my husband and I took our three-day-old son out of the safety of the hospital and into the precariousness of world, she knew that even though we probably weren't ready, we would figure it out as we went through our days with no sleep and a lot of dirty laundry to do.  She knew she couldn't come with us, and I'm sure she was happy about that. (I wasn't. I would have paid her good money to come live with us for a while.)

And now our 15 Habits of Great Writers challenge has come to an end, and it's as if Jeff has taken all of us by our collective writers' and artists' hands and walked us to the edge of the cliff and told us, "You know what you need to do.  Now go do it.  And you need to jump off this cliff to make it happen."

Gulp.

Thanks, but I'd rather sit on the edge where it feels safe.

On the other hand, if I never jump, I'll never know what it's like to fly on my own.

Jeff did for us what all great leaders and teachers do.  They show us the way, but make us do the work.

For it is, after all, our work.  It's our art, our writing, our creating, our story of who we were meant to be.

No one can do it for us, but we can do it for ourselves.  In fact, we must.

So let's jump on three, shall we?

1, 2, 3.......................................................................

Leave a comment and tell me what that jump looks like for you. Will you be doing something now that you weren't doing before the challenge?

For me, I'll be writing daily.

You?



don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened

Here we are on the final day, Day 15 of the Habits of Great Writers.  This has been a wonderful time of learning, encouragement, and writing.  From reading the comments on the main page , I can tell that I'm not the only one who is sorry to see this challenge end.  It's been like having our own personal writing coach with us each day, pushing us to do better and better.

That's what a great teacher is all about - helping you discover what you already have in you to do, but showing you a way to do it. No magic formula, just steady practice and encouragement and most importantly, helping you push past the "I can't do it" fear.  Jeff has done this for all his participants. 

His last habit was for us writers to be generous, as in giving away our best work for free.  Yep, freeThe more generous the writer, the more endearing it is to those reading.  Makes sense.  And it's the opposite of what you'd expect, so that makes it fun.

He says, "A great writer is selfless. He doesn’t look to his own needs, but finds a way to help others. He’s a servant.  If you’re going to take your writing to the next level — to be truly great — you’re going to have to learn to do the same."

This is a new way of thinking about writing for me, and I like it.  I have no idea what I'm going to do about it yet, but I like it.

It gives me plenty to think about.

And while I'm fairly sure I won't be giving you a trip to Disneyworld or a pony for reading my blog, I'm certain you'll see some changes as I work to include this new habit.

Let me know what you've done or plan to do to be generous, and to give your best work away for free!

amazing


Today we have a party we are hosting.

My youngest graduated from high school a week and a half ago, and it's time to celebrate.

I ran across some pictures this past week while cleaning out a drawer, and found his school pictures from kindergarten, first grade, and some others during his elementary years.  As his sister and I ooh'ed and aah'ed over them, I thought, where did the time go?  Amazing.

When he was about to enter kindergarten, we were in the grocery story one day and as he was sitting in that seat in the cart facing me (he's 6 foot now- how did he ever FIT in that thing?), somewhere near the deli counter I commented to him about how his brother would be going into sixth grade, his sister would be entering fourth, and he would be headed to kindergarten.  Amazing.

He looked up at me with astonishment, reached up and held my chin in his chubby little hands and said to me, "Mommy!  You are going to be all alone!!"

What was causing his fear was causing my joy, and I quickly assured him that Mommy was just over the top fine with this, and I really would be okay.

When I sent him to first grade, we had just moved to our new house (which, if you've been reading, is my old house where I grew up), and I was terrified he wouldn't make it off the bus, up the steps, and to the right classroom without direct guidance by the hand from me.  But I wasn't allowed to go.  And he made it just fine.  Amazing.

Two months from Monday, we will be taking a loaded car down the pike and dropping him off at college.  We'll help him set up his dorm room, make sure he's acclimated, remind him where the dining hall is, and then drive home without him.

Amazing.

Happy graduation party day, Spencer.  Enjoy your day, because it's all about you. We love you with all our hearts and can't wait to see what great things God has in store as you venture out with Him.


branding

Today's challenge?

Branding.

Sorry, but it just doesn't have my passion.

And that's okay.

In his post, Jeff talks about branding, which includes having a platform and identifying what makes you you as a writer so that you're easily recognizable by style, message, voice, and even photo (make sure it's consistent on all sites - very good point).

This is a valid challenge and an integral and necessary part to the writer's life, especially with so many opportunities for an online presence these days.

I'm just not sure where I am in the process, so maybe that's what's causing my malaise about the subject.

Regardless, I'll share with you what little branding I've done thus far....

I changed my domain name in the past year to be my own name- http://www.bethcoulton.com/.  It makes it incredibly uncomplicated to point someone to your blog or website when they can find you by name.  The previous (free) name I had was long, wordy and not simple to remember.  If you're wondering about a domain name, for a simple $10/year with Blogger, you can have your own name in between the www and the dot com.  Go for it- you won't regret it.

My blog used to be called "A Writer's Journey", which I still like.  But I didn't always write about writing (just watch- that's all I'll write about now and wish I kept that blog title).  I changed to a broader-topic name because I had family stories on my blog, devotional anecdotes, humorous happenings, etc.  Chocolate For the Heart came from the fact that I love chocolate, and it always makes me feel good when I eat it (and let's not think beyond that for this moment).  God and His blessings and everyday miracles produce that same good feeling for my soul, thereby giving Him yet another name I call Him by - He's Chocolate For My Heart. ( I'm pretty sure if you look, you'll find that somewhere in between Lord of Lords and Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace.)

As far as voice goes, I try to write like I talk, and I try to keep it real.  I have not found a particular niche except to write what I know, write what's happening around me and relate it to a spiritual truth, and be faithful to what God puts on my heart to put out on my blog.

So that's as far as I've come in the branding of Beth Coulton.

Gee, for not having much to say, I sure had a lot to say.  Some of you will not be surprised by this fact.

Your turn.  Tell me about how you did with today's challenge?

bring on dessert

When I was growing up, after dinner my mom would jokingly say, "For dessert tonight, you can have your choice- no cake or no pie." And as quickly as my appetite would rise upon hearing the word "dessert", it only took a second for my hopes to be dashed, realizing that her choices meant there really was no dessert......unless I wanted leftover green beans or the last snowflake roll.

Ugh.  Not funny, Mom.

Today's challenge is a little bit like that sweet treat being just out of reach unless we actually get up and bake something and put it in the oven.

Or in writer's terms, get it out there for publication.

Jeff puts it this way - "Make no mistake: An artist doesn’t create for accolades. But if you’re going to do work that matters, at some point it’ll need to get noticed in order to have an impact."

So true.  I want my words to make a difference; I want them to challenge and grow people and speak to others' souls. 

But if all they do is sit on my computer, there's no way of that happening.

And as my husband likes to say, you miss 100% of the shots you don't take.

So let's get some stuff out of the oven and onto the table. Bring on dessert. Decide what you can polish up, ship out, and send forth.  Only you know what's ready, and if you don't, pick something and spend some time putting on the icing.

I've done this, and it's worth it.  It involves fear and thrill, which is a great cocktail.

And I don't even drink.

If you would like a second (or third or fourth) pair of eyes, I'd be happy to proofread what you are teetering on the edge about. If you're not sure where to start, I could give you my two cents about that also.  In other words, if I can help push you out of the nest, I'd be happy to do whatever is necessary to help you get going.

Just let me know when you're ready to fly.

so not my style

The words I dreaded hearing from today's challenge - "Take a risk. Write something provocative and stand by it."

I'm about one of the least provocative people you'll ever meet.

I don't pick fights, I avoid confrontation, and I desire everything to be happiness and bliss for me and my family and the general population.

I am such a peacemaker.

This is not to say I don't have opinions, ideas, and ways of thinking that I adhere to come what may.  It's just that I'm a general "let's make sure everyone is happy" kind of person (and that is not necessarily a good thing all the time).

But, I so completely believe in these statements Jeff makes - "Why do we do this (write provocatively)? Because this sets others free. To do the same. To live freely and honestly. So get in our faces; tell us the truth. And watch the ripple effect."

All day I've tried to think of a few things to tell you that would match this challenge. That's what you'll read next. If you don't like what I have to say, I do hope you'll stick around even if we disagree.  And even leave me a comment telling me so.  That's fine by me.  Here goes.

First and foremost, at 50, I've been through a bunch of crap stuff along my life's way and one thing has become the central focus to my very soul and being, and that is the person of Jesus Christ.  I do not believe all roads lead to God. I stand firmly on the belief that there is only one way to heaven, and that is through Jesus.  He is the way, and the only way.  If that makes me narrow minded, then so be it. But that's the basis of who I really am, and I make no apology for it.  No need to.  He's proven Himself over and over again to me.

Secondly, I have struggled my entire life with my weight.  Starting in my childhood, it still plagues me to this day.  It's been a constant, horrible, self-defeating exhausting mental battle that I am only now learning to conquer through different choices, a different way of thinking, and a gym membership. (and by keeping chocolate out of the house.)  But if you want to know what pain I know best, it's the pain of being overweight and the toll that takes on a life.  I could write a book.

Beyond those two things, it gets a little more common- parenting has been difficult, depression has visited our family and done its damage, I've walked through things as a mother I would not wish on my enemy, and I've been spent emotionally more times than not trying to hold it all together for days on end.

But so have a lot of us. 

So if you're still reading, there you have it;  good old provocative me.

Thanks for listening.  Feel free to comment if I've struck gold with you or if you now have a bone to pick with me.

Either way, I'm glad you're here.

I'll keep this brief, maybe.....

Oh, today's challenge post was so timely- Jeff told us it was time to declutter.

Has he met my 21 year old daughter who just came back to live with us between college semesters?

Actually, she didn't bring clutter, but her tsunami of college girl paraphenalia sent everyone shifting like sand and now my office (which consists solely of a long, lovely, black Ikea desk) sits in my bedroom in front of the window.

Not an ideal spot but at least it's a spot.

I have two wire baskets on either end of the desk that are full to the brim, and one pile of equally important documents sitting right next to one of the baskets.  My clutter is very neatly stacked and organized.

But I can't possibly need all this paperwork.

You see, twelve years ago we traded a two-story, development home for a smaller built-by-my-dad-for-his-family ranch home in the quiet country. 

It was a great decision, but sometimes things get a little tight.  Like when the kids grow.

So today and this week I will work towards diminishing those piles because in actuality, they're bugging me a bit.

Jeff also spoke of decluttering our writing, which is a harder task for me to do. Our church secretary used to shudder when I sent her a blurb for the worship guide, because she knew I said in six lines what she needed me to say in two. Or, quite possibly one, thank you very much.

Jeff's writing appealed to me because of his clean, short path to the point.  I thought, wow, this guy really has something to say.  And I could figure out what it was because....he just said it.

After the piles will come less words.

Time to declutter.



share and share alike

It's the first day of (my) summer - school's out and so am I.

To celebrate, today I hit the gym, got a massage (happy Mother's Day to me, thank you sons), and got a pedicure.

Total all-about-me day.

I'm exhausted.

I can't really express this to anyone, mind you, because I would be looked at as if I had two heads.  How can such self indulgence promote such sleepiness? 

I'm not sure, but it did.

So, I will keep this brief and plan on being more refreshed tomorrow.  In keeping with posting about each day's challenge, I wanted to take a moment to write about what we were given to do on Day 10, which is sharing other writers' work with one another.

Here's one blog I'd like to point you to because it has practical advice and teaching.  The emphasis is on children's writing, but the principles can be applied across the board most times.  Take a look - http://www.teachingauthors.com/ .

Enjoy! 



know what you're not


I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter.  James A. Michener

I love this quote, especially considering the source.  It says a lot to those of us who write and it speaks to the fact that what comes out our pencils and pens and keyboards the first time around isn't ever usually our best work.  The real blood, sweat and tears of what we do is in the editing, the fixing, the rewording, the rewriting.  You've got to be willing and able to go more than one round with what you've written. A lot more than one round. 

I've spent some time experimenting with what I write about.  For me, sitting down to write fiction isn't something I do.  I currently don't read fiction, therefore it makes sense that I don't write fiction.  I admire, respect and hold highly those who do, because it's something that I wish I wanted to do.  And maybe someday I will.

Through trial and error, I've discovered where my best writing comes from.  For me it's in the retelling of an event that actually happened or something that I witnessed or experienced, and then putting my own spin on it in any number of ways. That's where I'm most comfortable; that's where I can go to town.  

I'm a non-fiction writer. 

So I would say that while I'm not a very good storyteller, I am a pretty good story reteller.

And sometimes in life, knowing what you're not is just as important as knowing what you are.

I'd love it if you'd leave me a comment and tell me about what you like to write. Fiction? Non-fiction? Fantasy? Humor? Sci fi?

you've got a friend in me


"Great writers connect with other writers."  Jeff Goins

That's what the first part of our Day 9 challenge, making friends, revolves around today - connecting.  Networking.  Getting out there and meeting others in our field, picking their brain and letting them pick ours.  I'm sure that's why they invented Starbucks and Manhatten Bagel - for us writers who need a cool place to hang out with other scribes.  And the food is just a bonus.  I mean, who doesn't like to commiserate and eat/drink?

I can say I've made some friends, one in particular, and you can read about it here.

I continue to seek out, study, and invite myself into other writers' lives whether they want me there or not.  I urge you to do the same, even if you're not into writing.  I guarantee you're into something.  You need to out get out there and start knocking on doors, emailing, Twittering, connecting with other like minds and not being afraid to do so. Hold your head high and assume they want to hear from you unless you hear otherwise (fake it 'til you make it, in other words).   Take it from one who found success that way - you have nothing to lose and possibly everything to gain.

The second part of our command, finding fans and earning patrons, is new territory for me.  Any fan that I may have has come to me just because they happened to like what I wrote. And I consider myself very blessed and fortunate to have them.

But there's been no deliberate fan stalking plotting on my part, and maybe there should be.  Here's Jeff's advice - "Take some time to figure out why people would listen to you, then say what you have to say. Say it boldly, and the fans will come."

There's that world "bold" again. 

I'm sensing a theme.

Let's wrap it up with earning patrons....the definition Jeff states is, "These people — leaders and influencers in your industry — will help you grow your platform and get your message heard...So how do you get their attention?"  One way he recommends is by making a big ask.

Oh.  I just did that, actually, and I'm waiting to hear back.

And to do it I had to be bold.

I challenge you to do the same. 

So come on.  Let's grow bold together. Do one bold act this weekend towards making friends, finding fans or earning patrons.

It might not be easy, it might feel uncomfortable, but the more you do it, the better you'll get at doing it. 

Start big or start small, but start.  Then come back here and tell me about it so I can cheer you on!



starting to build

"There’s a fundamental difference between starting something and actually building it."  Jeff Goins

There's an interesting challenge today on Day 8 of the 15 Habits of Great Writers series.  It's something that I never really thought about before.

A few years ago I started this blog, but not until recently did I begin to build it. There's a difference.

Here's an excerpt from today's challenge - " 'Building' something creatively happens the same way it does in the “real” world - with a lot of sweat and pain and grunting. It’s not easy; if it is, you’re doing it wrong.  So what does this look like when it comes to writing? It means showing up and doing the work, day-in and day-out. If you’re not doing this already, you need to be."

I can honestly say I wasn't building.  I wasn't doing the daily gritty work.

But you can bet I will be now.

My father built our house one cinder block and stone at a time.  He bought the land, but didn't stop there.  He knew he had to continue on; he knew he had to build.  He needed to roll up his sleeves and do the daily, difficult work of building something out of nothing.

I sit in that same home today where I came back to live with my own family.  I often thank my dad for going beyond starting - for building this house. For it's in the building that he's reflected; where I can touch stones that he put into place, see the nails he hammered, sit on the wood floors that he laid.  His handiwork is all over this home, and that to me is a precious memory.

When you build what you've started, no matter what it is, you put your unique imprint on it.  That's what makes it stand out from the others, because it speaks of you.  If you've started, great.  Now go the next step.  Roll up your sleeves and build something out of it.


P.S.  - I'd love to hear about what you're building, so leave a comment and let me know!

ugly can wait


I'd love to write about something ugly, but.....

no time to blog today as my youngest graduates from high school in an hour.

And that's beautiful.

See you tomorrow!

I write, therefore I steal

Today's challenge is a completely new concept for me.  Stealing.

And I love it.

I've never actually stolen in real life. Unless hiding a cookie from the kitchen under your shirt when you're 5 and telling your mom you don't have a cookie under your shirt when she asks you is stealing.

But apparently this is an acceptable practice when it comes to art.  Our fearless leader Jeff tells us - "Give up on your pursuit of originality and genius and just find something that inspires you. Borrow from your friends and heroes and mash it all up into something that looks, feels, and sounds like you."

It's a community event. You don't want to steal from just one person, because that would get a bit obvious and maybe illegal.  So open up your options and steal from a large amount of sources. 

I say all this with a smile, because just taking others' stuff and saying it's ours isn't creative.  It's lazy.

It's the mashup part that makes this artistic stealing work.  The taking of all that comes into our life from a myriad of influences, experiences, memories, hobbies, passions and dreams and forming something new.  Just as human individuals we are the sum of our parents' DNA but not exact replicas of our parents themselves, so our stolen art will result in a wonderful expression of a combination of various inputs that suddenly becomes our own voice, our own contribution that is influenced by some but unlike any other. 

So go forth and steal.  Garner and glean.  Take what you like and leave the rest.

Because, as I've learned today, it's just like the hokey pokey.

That's what it's all about.

ship it

Today's challenge?

"Ship it. Put something out there, anything. Don’t wait; move something forward.
You don’t need to know everything, just the next step. If it’s a big project, you don’t have to finish the whole thing; just finish part of it. But for crying out loud, do something."

Oh how I adore this advice!  It can be so hard to get started - doing anything, really- but once you get rolling, it's a wonderful road.  No matter what road you're on.

Old habits are hard to break; new ones are tough to start.  It takes a little practice and patience, but it's worth it. Whatever you're looking to do - it's best to just do it.

If you remember nothing else from this blog post, please remember what Jeff so wisely said, because I've seen it work over and over again - you don't need to know everything, just the next step.

We often don't begin (anything) because we want to know "this" is going to work out the way we want it to.  (whatever our "this" is). We want to know how the story (literally or figuratively) is going to end.  Will our gym workouts helps us shed the unwanted 25 pounds?  Will all the time invested in my writing turn profitable and eventually get me somewhere besides here?  Will the interview I am about to go on produce a job offer?

We can't know the end. We must begin anyway.

When it comes to writing, I've shipped a few things - blog posts, query letters, picture book manuscripts, and most recently an unsolicited letter to a famous author asking if they need help in their writing empire. (I'll let you know how well that one works out for me if it ever does.)

The more you do it, the easier and more fun it becomes.  Just take that first step. Get creative. Think of it like an invitation list to a party - if you want twenty to attend, you're going to need to invite at least fifty or sixty.  Your first opportunity might not come through so go on to number two.  Just don't quit! Ship a lot.  Be bold!  Don't hold back.  You have nothing to lose and a lot you could possibly gain.

Choose yourself, get out there, and ship it!