Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Writer Within

You May Be a Writer If…

You Sit Back at Parties and Create Scenes in Your Head With the People in the Room as Characters
Ever at a boring event where you don’t know the people? Seated at the table where everyone else only speaks Italian? 

You Can’t Help But Mentally “Edit” Facebook Posts
Need I say more?

You Look at Troublesome Moments in Your Life as Possible Tension Points For Your Next Novel
Every life has them and every novel needs them. Not to mention this perspective helps you endure the frustration of the car not starting or the electric going off. 

You Watch a Television Show or Movie, Noting Inciting Incidents, Arcs…and the Resolution of the Story 
Watch the old western series calledWagon Train. The stories are perfectly formed.

You Rewrite Endings to Movies or Books You Wish Had Different Outcomes
All the time. 

You Study People in Line While Waiting to Renew your Driver’s License and Mentally Craft Biographies For Each One
It takes forever! You can actually collect at least five solid character sketches before your turn at the desk.

You Collect Interesting Names of Places and People
Steele Mattingly –an honest to goodness veterinarian in Cincinnati…even though I’ve always thought he should have been a spy.

You Read an Article or Watch a Report on the News and Immediately Think of at Least Two or Three Possible Backstories Leading to the Event
“They don’t know why the man jumped from the train. Police are still investigating…”

You Observe People Waiting for a Plane and Make Up Exciting Future Adventures for Them Based on Their Demeanor, Dress, and Luggage
A young couple on an international flight. She’s dressed up…he’s dressed down. He has a backpack. She has a leather carry-on. His eyes are only on her. Her eyes dart around the room. 

You Refer to Someone Who Disagrees with You as “The Antagonist”
No comment here…I don’t want to get in trouble.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Bucket List

You’ve likely seen the movie with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicolson. Fighting cancer, both men know they have a short time to live so they form an unlikely alliance and set out to do all the things they would like to have accomplished before they die. Interesting. You may even have your own bucket list.

This past summer, my six-year-old granddaughter had it in her heart to see Mount Rushmore. “It’s on my bucket list,” she told me.

 “Exactly what is a bucket list?” I asked her. 

“It’s everything you want to do before you grow up,” she answered solemnly.

That may be a healthier concept. We would likely get more done in our lives if we didn’t put off our dreams to “someday.”

My daughter and son-in-law surprised my youngest granddaughter with a trip to Mount Rushmore. In the picture you cans see the pure joy on her face. (As an aside, she also had the Statue of Liberty on her list. They made sure that happened this past summer as well.)

I can’t say I ever had a “bucket list.” I looked online to see what others consider bucket list worthy. I’ve already had the opportunity to swim with dolphins and been both waterskiing and snow skiing. Tom and I traveled in Europe. We took a cruise down the Nile and traveled by train from Helsinki, Finland to St. Petersburg, Russia. I’ve driven on the Autobahn and tried my hand driving on the left side of the road in Scotland. I even lived in Europe for a while. I’ve had the joy of experiencing many adventures in my life.

Now that I am aging and will likely enter my second childhood at some point, I decided to create my first “bucket list.” All the things I’d like to do before I “grow up.” I may add to it, but I’ll be pretty happy if I get to do these few items.

I’d like to:

Go Whitewater Rafting
Be an Extra in a Movie
Visit Alaska
Take an Excursion Out West on a Conestoga Wagon
Tour Israel

And, oh yeah…one more thing. I’d really like to see Mount Rushmore.

What’s on your list?

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Playing the Birth Order Card to Your Advantage

People often speak of “birth order.” When people speak of family, I often hear them grouse about their position in the family. 

“I was the oldest so I was responsible for all my brothers and sisters. It wasn’t fair.”

“I was the youngest. I never got to do the stuff my brothers and sisters got to do because I was always ‘too little’ or ‘a baby.’”

But the pain and suffering of “the middles” must be the worst. According to them. I can’t actually speak to any of this since I’m an “only.”

Then again, there is one person I’ve known all my life who says she always thought she was the luckiest person in her family because she was…are you ready…the middle. Yep. She was smack dab in the middle of seven, count them, seven children. She had an older sister and a younger sister. She had two older brothers and two younger brothers.

The middle. 

With My Mom 2019
Why did she view herself as lucky? She had the best of both worlds. Mature enough to be included in the activities of the older ones and playful enough to enjoy the younger ones. She enjoyed her big family so much she fully expected to have at least four or five children of her own. It didn’t happen. She had one. One that was full of energy and kept her busy. She counted herself lucky.

She’s my mom. I’m the lucky one.

But this leads me to share a position I’ve long held. I’ve been blessed with three daughters. They are strong, smart, fun, women who are also full of energy. If they run into some issue or discover some flaw, it would be easy to blame their birth order. I hear that stuff from others frequently.

But I contend God places you in a family exactly where you need to be. The experiences you have and the qualities you develop because of your family position are what you need to be the person He intends you to be.

Responsible because you were the oldest? Good. We need responsible people.

Felt left out because you were the youngest? Okay. We need people who can empathize with the disenfranchised.

Always having to work to make things happen because you were a middle? Caring negotiators are scarce. We need you.

I used to think being an only was the worst. But the “only child” brings a different viewpoint and skill set to the table. Independent thinking. And we need that, too.

How did "birth order" make you the person you are today?

Also...this week, is my mom’s birthday. So to all the middles out there…Celebrate!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

A Redirected Life

A Re-Directed Life

I’ve had this notion rolling around in my head for a while now. It is the changing of life’s path. In fact, I spoke to a church group about this very subject in September.

Last month, I wrote a post about the university where I taught closing its doors. I suggested that the students who had to complete their studies elsewhere would be “uniquely qualified” to live in our ever-changing, Plan B world. 

In August, I penned a post about reinventing or refining our lives. It is true. We all must do it. I simply don’t know anyone who is living out Plan A. In fact, I’ve been through so much change I’m not sure I remember Plan A. I may be on Plan D, E, or F by now…I only trust I’m not to Z. Yet.

My youngest daughter and I talk about this. We talk about how change happens and how we respond to it.

Sometimes we change our direction to follow a dream.It is our choice. That’s what happened when I left teaching to become a writer. Writing had been a dream since second grade. When Tom and I decided to retire, I was a professor at Cincinnati Christian University. I could have continued teaching somewhere and was even offered a job to teach online courses. Writing had been something I desired. Retiring afforded me the opportunity to pursue it.

Sometimes we change our direction due to circumstances beyond our control. That’s what happened in 2014, when I had to shift from being Tom’s wife to being his widow. As I shared in one of my talks, learning to live alone is more than learning to change the filter on the furnace. It is learning to live in the quiet. It is learning to live without someone to share your ideas and dreams.

For the students who were left suddenly without a college, it was a scrambling to find a university, pack, locate housing, obtain funding, and fight to transfer as much as they could to their new schools. They rose to the occasion. At the last chapel service, they worshipped the God who will never leave them. They spoke of this change in plans as an opportunity to be like the early church and be “scattered to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.” They modeled resiliency. 

Sometimes God Opens a Door and
We Walk Through It
Sometimes we change our direction because God opens a door and we walk through it.That’s what happened when I accepted the teaching position in Kosovo. I know God would have blessed me even if I hadn’t said yes to the adventure, but I’m so glad I lived in southeast Europe those ten months. It helped me heal from the sudden death of my husband. 

What lies ahead? I have no clue. That’s part of the adventure. A new year… a new decade… a new challenge? All I know is this verse from Philippians 4 “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (v. 13)

What changes have redirected your life?

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Quiet...My 2020 Word for the Year

QUIET…My 2020 Word for the Year

As many of my readers know, I choose a word each year. It’s a practice I picked up from author Debbie Macomber. I don’t always know how it will play out in my life, but that’s part of the fun.

Last year I chose the word “hospitality.” It came from my study of Romans 12 where we are instructed to practice hospitality. It was a great year. I enjoyed having people in my home for breakfasts, dinners, parties, and desserts. I appreciated cooking meals or dishes for others in need and for friends at Bible study. I found myself reaching out to others more. I made new friends. I opted to be more generous. I started a collection of books for women in prison. I visited people who were sick or hurting.

Sure, some of that I would have done anyway, but clinging to the word “hospitality” brought focus to my actions. As I said, it was a great year.

Now a new year looms ahead. I’ve been thinking and praying about the word I would choose. The one that keeps coming to mind is…Quiet.
It’s a scary one for me. I am anything but quiet. What will that mean for me? 
To listen more? 
To lead a quiet life? 
To be still?  

Perhaps I will find time to be more reflective. Perhaps I will guard my calendar so as not to overbook my time. Perhaps I will finish the book I started writing based on a passage in I Thessalonians.

I Thessalonians 4:11-12.
“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

There’s a lot to consider in that quiet life: minding your own business, working with your hands, consistency, respect, independence. 

I don’t know exactly how the word will play out for me. I do know it is a journey worth exploring.

A new decade. A new year. A new word. 

Have you claimed a word for the year? Share your word if you dare. And keep me in the loop. I’m anxious to hear how it works for you.