At the author reading I attended this weekend I heard two bits of fabulous advice. One of them I’m saving for another post – it was just so lovely and affirming. The one that most applies to me (and probably you if you write at all) is this one:
He doesn’t believe in writer’s block.
OK – I like that. When an audience member asked him if he has ever faced writer’s block and how he handled it, he simply replied that if he doesn’t feel like writing he reads. A finalist for the National Book Award in 2008, he claims he has never missed a deadline following this advice. He has also never taken a creative writing class, which both irks me and thrills me. My English major advisor assured me this is often the case: the best writers are readers – they study writing by reading what and how others have written.
I know this is true for me when it comes to academic papers. When I feel stuck or don’t know where to start it usually means I don’t have enough information to craft a thesis idea out of. If I read for a while I almost always strike upon a brilliant (or at least satisfactory) idea.
So from now on, if I don’t have anything to post here, I might just copy a passage from a favorite book and call it a day. Afterall, you need to work on your writing as well! We’ll do it together.
Most of you know I’m finishing my English degree online. I’m married with four kids, a dog, and a full-time job. Oh, and I live in the middle of nowhere. Finishing this degree on campus was not even an option. I’m so thankful for the opportunity that I have to finish my degree in the hours after my kids go to bed and in all the other spaces I can find in the day (and the night and the afternoon and . . . )
My experience going back to school online has been so positive, that I didn’t even know I was missing something – until this weekend. I convinced Seren to jump in the car with me and make a road trip to a Verbal Arts Festival at my university, which turns out to be only about 2 1/2 hours away. As I sat at a long table in a charming cafe on Saturday afternoon, I got to chat with my advisor over chicken salads and a Diet Coke. Up until this weekend I had only known these professors through email and online course management systems. Sitting across from her at lunch I was able to admire her elegant silver hair and charming smile.
I didn’t only meet professors, either. One of my classmates came all the way from California! Meeting the actual person behind a Facebook profile is like the difference between the photograph of the menu item and the food itself actually sitting on a hot plate in front of you. It may not be exactly what you were expecting, but it is always more satisfying to be able to touch it, smell it, and taste it. I savored every moment with these friends.
When former socialite Margaret Hale (from Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South) meets common factory workers Nicolas and Betsy Higgins she says she finds a reason to enjoy her new town because she has found a “human connection.” This is how I felt about my education this weekend. Luckily, I’ve always enjoyed my online studies, but now I feel so much more connected to them!
Try taking each one of the Ten Commandments and framing them as something to do instead of something not to do. Only two of the commandments do not use the word NOT anyway, the one about honoring the Sabbath and the one about honoring your parents. Refresh your memory on the other commandments here.
For example: “You shall not commit adultery.” What would be the DO of this commandment? If we aren’t supposed to commit adultery than what are we supposed to do? Love our spouse? Keep ourselves sexually pure? Interesting, huh? It kind of raises the stakes a little.
I think this might be part of what Jesus was doing when he said he came to fulfill the Law not abolish it. Remember, he summed up all these commandments by telling us to 1) love God and 2) love our neighbor. Do’s. Unfortunately, a lot of us think being a good Christian is more about what don’t do than about what we do. The reality is that just not murdering really isn’t enough anymore. Now Jesus expects us to love each other – even our enemies!
So what do we have to DO? Look at that list and make a new one. What will you DO today?
1. You get to see where you came from. I turned 34 on Friday and realized that I remember when my mother was 34 years old. But instead of making me depressed, I actually felt better. I mean, my mom is loving her life right now. Her kids are grown, her grandkids are cute, and she’s pursing her dream of writing professionally. At 34, I see I’ve got a lot to look forward to.
2. You get to see where your going. Dan was gone on my actual birthday. We celebrated the night before and I made plans for a pizza/movie night with the kids. The funny thing was how the kids kept trying to make the night special. I didn’t have cake, so Jesse wanted to put candles in my dessert pizza. None of my gifts had been wrapped since Dan took me shopping and my mom gave me money. This didn’t seem right to Ada. She wrapped up a tube of lip gloss that was ALMOST full and threw in a small package of SweeTarts. At 34, I see I’ve got a lot to look forward to.
3. You get really fun stuff. Gold earrings (from Mom’s money) mean I can wear earrings again – I have very sensitive ears which translates to needing more than $10 to buy earrings! A stylish gray scarf, coordinating gray pants (think Audrey Hepburn), and a night out with my husband means I’m recharged and refreshed. 3/4 a tube of pink glitter lipgloss means I’m the best-loved 34 year-old in my house! : )
Ever played the Seven Word Wisdom challenge? I read about it this week in some homework but found an old contest explaining the rules here.
For example, the author of a book on proper diet and nutrition writes, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
To play, you simply condense your wisdom into seven words using a 2-3-2 word sequence. Three short sentences. Here’s another one concerning food: “Eat pie. Very good pie. Not often.”
My challenge to you is to write a Seven Word Wisdom on the topic of fashion. Remember the mini-conference for teenage girls I mentioned earlier this week? Think of them as your audience and describe in seven words your philosophy on clothes and fashion.
Here’s my entry: Stay current. Keep it simple. Be modest.
Come on! Everyone play; I need the material!
My husband’s younger brother visited this week, thrilling my children and giving my husband a longed for piece of home. It was actually his brothers that I met first. They won me over with their boyish sweetness and made everything super easy for Dan! His Dad and Mom and sister were pretty great, too; I knew them all before I knew Dan.
Last week one of my Bible College students referred to the time before she made solid decisions to live as a Christian as the time when Jesus courted her. That made a lot of sense to me. Do you remember those days before you actually made up your mind to associate yourself as God’s? How did Jesus court you?
For me, it was by showing me His family, the Church. I grew up in a wonderful Christian home and a great Bible believing church. My parents’ friends demonstrated lives of true faith in many different forms: as professionals, as missionaries, as ministers, and as everyday people just trying to do right. None of them were perfect, of course, but they loved me and they loved God and I knew that. It was like God was showing me how great this family could be if I wanted in.
Dan’s family did the same thing, wooing me with their affection for each other and their interest in me. Now Dan and I are hopefully building the same kind of culture in our home, a place where other people want to be.
It is an analogy I had never considered: the way God courts us. Can you think of anything that God did before you started living as a Christian that looking back you would consider an act of courtship? How did God win your heart?
A friend of mine is putting together a fashion show for the teenage girls she works with this week. She is using this Scripture from The Message as her theme and I think it is great spiritual food for thought today. Unpacking this passage in this translation could keep me busy for weeks! I love the Bible.
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.