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Am I crazy or what?  I don’t need Daylight Savings Time.  I need Sanity Savings Time. For those of you who may not be aware, November is National Novel Writing Month. It comes with it a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in 31 days.  You can participate with hundreds of other writers at NaNoWriMo online where you enter your daily word count, get lots of encouragement and follow others who are doing the same thing.

My decision to accept the challenge came just like everything else I say yes to – jump in there impulsively and wonder why later. Now that I’ve begun, I’m analyzing whether this is even possible. I have to admit I skimmed over the 50,000 word part when I first read about NaNoWriMo. But now my brain has led me to the point of realizing the expectation is 1,613 words a day.

Actually I can’t figure on a whole day in which to accomplish the 1,613 words. At least eight hours of my day are spent at work, not writing.  At least one hour of my day is spent in bible study and scripture reading, not writing. Another two or three hours of my day are spent in activities with family, church, and friends, not writing. Then there’s housework, cooking, driving, sleeping, showering, dressing, talking on the phone, eating, etc, etc. – not writing.

But, here’s the amazing part of this post – after two days I have actually written 4,527 words! That’s well over the average daily count and it’s a miracle.  When did I do it?  I have no idea.  I squeezed a few minutes from my lunch break.  I put down my fiction novel for the time being. I wrote while watching a movie with my husband. I wrote during some really early morning hours. I’m pretty pumped after two days.

How do we ever accomplish the things we pack onto our ridiculous schedules? By sheer determination, organization and teeth gritting tenacity, that’s how.

I’m watching my children do the impossible balancing of schedules with kids in school and extracurricular activities. I see things happening at church because already busy people commit and get busier. It is true that the more people have on their plate the more they seem to accomplish.  They are the people who can’t seem to say no and always seem to squeeze it in. They get much done but they sacrifice much at the same time.

There is a balance – I just haven’t quite found it yet. There are so many things I want to do and I’m not getting any younger. On the other hand, my body doesn’t always cooperate with my ambition. It keeps demanding rest and nourishment.

My brain is still running at full speed it seems because the ideas keep flowing. On the other hand it doesn’t always retain the stuff it needs to for as long as it should. A lot of my creativity can be found laying in the wake of where I have been. I had a great idea but by the time I get to the place where I can write it down it’s gone.

I’m not averse to slowing down a little. On the other hand, the minute I slow down I fall asleep. I hate that.

All this rambling is just to ask this question – can I do it? Can I write 50,000 words in 31 days? Probably. Will I have to sacrifice something else to get it done? Probably. Am I ready to reprioritize my whole life and cut back on activities? Probably not. Am I going to wear myself out periodically? Most definitely.

But my great goal is to have this on my epitath after I die:   With God’s help, she finally got everything done.

Lord, you establish peace for us;
    all that we have accomplished you have done for us.  Isaiah 26:12

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This morning I looked out my office window to see the first deer of the season snacking on a big birch tree just a few feet away.  Gentle, graceful creatures with soft gray hides and inquisitive eyes, they always brighten my day.   I am blessed to work in a facility that is surrounded by meticulous landscaping, about a hundred trees and a scattering of wildlife that often frequent the area.  As pleasant as the arrival of  deer is, the sad thing is it signals the nearness of winter.

Winter is not my favorite season by a long way.  I hate being cold.  But winter scenery is another matter.  I do love the beauty of billowy clouds, snow on the evergreen, even the bare tree branches against an azure sky.  I love the first sign of twinkle lights in  windows and the first sound of Christmas carols on the radio.

What I don’t like is coming to work in the dark and leaving work in the dark.  I vote against bitter wind, sleet and below zero temperatures.  I’d like to ban storms or at least limit their visits to when I’m already cuddled in front of the pellet stove with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book.

Alas, every season, every activity, every hobby contains the good parts and the bad parts.  I’m a writer. It’s what I love to do.  I love the light bulb burst of a new idea and I love the furious flow of words from my brain to the paper or computer screen.  I don’t love writer’s block, editing for the tenth time or getting to the middle of a great manuscript and finding myself at a loss of where to go next. If only writing were fun and productive all the time.  Or for that matter, parenting, cooking, working, teaching, reading and so on and so on.

Jesus certainly faced the same challenges in His life on earth.  I would guess He loved the opportunity to heal but didn’t care for the moments when healing didn’t happen because of someone’s lack of faith.  I’ll bet he loved spending time with his closest friends and followers, but hated the moments when it seemed they hadn’t learned a thing from Him; when they questioned who He really was and failed to accept the power in His very name.

Today I spoke with a friend who is really under attack right now and it’s no surprise.  She has had a renewal of faith and is on fire with hope, enthusiasm and joy.  I don’t imagine satan likes that much.  So, he’s out to shake her up.  She’s finding herself in the not so likeable part of the Christian walk.  It’s a reminder that there’s work to do to stay focused and motivated through the ups and downs of life.  Here’s the workout program.  Repeat as often as necessary until you feel those spiritual muscles bulging.

1)  From a  kneeling position, inhale deeply, exhale and pray.  Pray early, pray late, pray always.  Pray when it’s going well and when it’s not.  This will build strength within.

2)  From a sitting position, lift your Bible as often as possible and read.  This will strengthen your mind and your resolve.

3)  Spread your arms wide and reach out to others.  This will strengthen your commitment and build your confidence.

4)  Ask others to join your fitness club.  Ask them to pray with you, talk with you, share with you, commiserate with you and praise God with you.  This will build up your joy and inner peace.

And remember this – if you weren’t on the right path, satan wouldn’t pay you a bit of attention.  He doesn’t care what you’re doing as long as you aren’t doing what God wants you to do.  He doesn’t have a plan for your life.  He just wants to make sure you aren’t following God’s plan for your life.  A good exercise program like the one above will keep him from achieving his goal.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord Himself is the Rock eternal.  Isaiah 26:3-4

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Something kind of cool happened on Sunday and I was surprised by how much it boosted my confidence.  A guest pastor remarked on my introduction to worship, asking me where I found the piece that I had shared.  Before I could say anything two members of my church family who were standing nearby chimed in at the same time, “She didn’t find it.  She wrote it.  She’s a writer.”

The pastor’s response was, “You need to get that published.”

Of course getting published has been my goal for several years.  I still have moments of wondering if it will ever happen.  But being recognized as a writer by others really gave me a high.  I kept relishing those words over and over the rest of the day.

Isn’t that our goal as writers, to be recognized for what we do without having to come right out and announce it?  In fact, isn’t that anyone’s goal?  Spend time with children and have someone recognize you as a teacher?  Serve a great meal and have someone recognize you as a chef?  Hum an impromptu tune and have someone recognize you as a singer?

The ultimate flattery is having people see in you what you’ve set your heart on becoming.

The best model of this concept is Jesus.  He touched the infirm in a way that caused people to see Him as a healer.  He spoke the words that led people to call him teacher.  He walked in such a way that people followed, acknowledging Him as a leader.  And He died in such a way that people recognized Him as Messiah.

You can tell people anything you want but they won’t necessarily be convinced.  Show them through your daily actions and they will not only recognize you for what you are, they will also call it out to others.  Writer, friend, Christian – not titles I can put on myself.  Only when others put those labels on me do they have true meaning.

We need to work harder at living the role and not so hard at telling the role.  Hey – I believe that is the theme song of a writer – show don’t tell.

We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. 2 Cor 6:6

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I’m sitting at my desk looking out my huge window on a very dreary day.  It’s not storming, it’s overcast.  It’s not pouring rain, it’s a light drizzle.  It’s not dark but it’s not light either.  It’s gray.  It’s one of those days when your interests and emotions are not stirred in the least.

Bright sunshine always makes me long to get out in it, walk or garden or jump on the motorcycle.  Raging storms always send me into action repairing damage, bolstering up, hunkering down.  But days like today – they are uninspiring.  I don’t know what I want to do.

Life is so like that, isn’t it? There are good days when I want to shout and sing.  I have more energy than I can harness.  I want to have fun, accomplish things, be with people, sweep – anything that means movement.  There are stormy days of crisis when I have no choice but to jump to action. I find myself forced into fighting back, pushing through, climbing out.

But many of my days are like today, just days when nothing happens to fuel my fire. I don’t want to make plans for lunch.  I don’t want to think about the evening activities.  There’s just nothing that sounds appealing when surrounded by gray.  Even writing is hard because so much of my inspiration comes from my environment and no one wants a scene depicting a day with no extremes. I would call this a not bad, not good, middle of the road, no reason to get excited about anything day.

Here’s the scary thing about blah days.  On bright and beautiful days I am inspired to pick up my cross and follow Him.  In the midst of a big storm I am committed to pick up my cross and follow Him.  But on gray days, like everything else, I don’t want to pick up anything or follow anyone. 

I wonder if David’s day was gray when he let his army go to war without him and in his listlessness found himself pacing his roof top.  I wonder if gray days were the ones where Solomon looked beyond the borders and saw more color in foreign women.  Scary thoughts.

A gray day plan is critical if I am to keep myself on the narrow road, fully focused on moving forward and not sideways, or worse yet, standing still.

1)   Find purpose in every day. I must choose actions even on gray days that lead me forward.  Reach out to someone, pray about something, focus on a scripture, clean something, write something – do something I can look back on and feel good about.  Prov 16:3  Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.  Prov 3:6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

2)    In a world of overstimulation, remember that God calls me to commit and to be diligent every day no matter the weather.  Col 3:23  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as if working for the Lord and not for men. 

3)    Give thanks even when it’s not exciting.  1 Thess 5:18  Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

4)    Remember glorious sunshine of past days that set my feet to dancing.  And remember raging storms that strengthened my grip on His mighty hand.  I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.  I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds. 

In case you’re interested, my plan for lunch today includes my umbrella, my sweater and my Bible.

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The annual Memorial Day trek to decorate graves with my brother and sister has come and gone. We faithfully visited the long list of buried ancestors, most of who we never actually knew.  My dad’s dad started the tradition and my dad drummed the mission of honoring our history into us.

For years my dad led the charge and narrated the day with stories about Aunt Evelyn and Great Grandpa George, of babies who died tragically and patriarchs who lived long event filled lives, and of the boy who got hit by the ice truck.  We listened but we didn’t write it down.  We always planned to, but time got away from us.  My dad is gone now and with him the details of lives that formed the roots of who we are.

So we find ourselves wandering the rows, pooling the bits and pieces we have, laughing, remembering and wishing we’d listened better.  We thought they were just stories. Now we know better.  Now we know they were the brush strokes on our life canvas.  It mattered that Genevieve’s toddler died of pneumonia and she never had another child.  My dad carried that little bit of sadness with him.  It mattered that one of Walter’s boys went bad and died in a gunfight with police. My dad carried that lesson in making right choices.  It matters that one of dad’s cousins whose name we can’t ever remember ran in front of an ice truck and was killed. My dad carried the reality of how tentative life is from that day forward.

Those pieces and more made up the man who passed on to us the integrity and compassion, sense of humor, passion and everything else that makes my siblings and I who we are today. These are the things we will pass on to our offspring and they will pass to theirs, if we keep the stories going.

Here’s the real tragedy in these ramblings.  I am a writer and I didn’t write the stories!  I used to think writing the next great fiction novel was the most important thing.  Now I know that it is writing the real stories, capturing the true seemingly unimportant details of a life – because my dad’s memories are my history. My present will become the memories that are my children’s history.  And on it goes – the oil painting that is never finished; the canvas that changes layer upon layer, the colors ever deeper and richer.

God knew it. He included in His divine Word stories of generation after generation, stories of dying young and making right and wrong choices, of being heroes and failures, of a father’s traditions being passed on to his sons. He made sure the stories were written down.  He made sure they were shared.  There is a lesson in every one. Just like the lessons hidden in my dad’s simple retelling of the life events buried beneath the headstones. 

Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.  Joel 1:2-4

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I was feeling my recurring frustration the other day over never having enough time to keep up on all I have to do, want to do and need to do.

Time is such a slippery commodity. Great plans can be sabotaged by the wasting of it. Great things can happen in a fraction of it. And great regret can be felt at the passing of it. My thoughts led me to how God values time. A few amazing contrasts came to mind.

God created the world in just six days. What a glorious, monstrous accomplishment in such a short time, right?

The Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years. There is nothing noteworthy that they accomplished other than the passing of an entire generation. What an incredible waste of a very long period of time.

Jonah was in the whale’s belly for three days – a short time compared to many events recorded in the Bible. But I would guess that for Jonah those three days felt like an eternity.

Jesus ministered for three short years and yet was able to completely alter the course of history while accomplishing a direct route to eternal life. In the end, when you examine His prayers, He never asked for more time. He used the time He was allowed to complete the task He was assigned.

We all have the same number of minutes in a day, the same number of days in a week and weeks in a year. We get to make the choice whether to wander around like the Israelites, veer off course like Jonah, or make the best use of the time we have like Jesus.

As a Christian those choices apply to my ministry.  As a writer those choices apply to my writing. As a wife, mother, grandmother, Human Resource Director – for every role I play, the same choices are before me.

God, in His infinite and perfect wisdom, gave each of us enough time in this lifetime regardless of how long the lifetime lasts. And, praise the Lord, we won’t have to worry about time in the next because it’s infinite.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. Ecclesiastes 3:1

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Another rejection letter from a publisher, another disappointment, another talk to self about not giving up.  It’s a typical day in the life of a writer.  Still, each time bruises and causes a little soreness for a while.

I know the manuscript is good and I believe in it passionately.  My pep talk to myself reminds me that it just wasn’t right for this particular publisher.  I tell myself it’s an opportunity for improvement.  I remind myself that many well read books out there have a history of rejection.  Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected 140 times.  Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected 30 times and he actually threw it in the trash but his wife rescued it.  Gone With The Wind was rejected 38 times.  It’s a tough industry.

When you are a writer, you can’t not write.  There’s always a story, a poem, a novel clawing to get out.  Although publication may be the writer’s dream, I don’t believe it is the writer’s soul deep goal.  The true, passionate longing of the writer is the pouring out of words, ideas, creative thoughts. 

As a Christian, I would equate writing with prayer.  The prayer warrior pours out her soul to God.  We know the prayer is good, we’ve put our best effort into it and we submit it to God, hoping to get the answer we want.  But that doesn’t always happen.  Often times it’s not the right fit with God’s plan just like a manuscript might not be the right fit for the publisher’s list at that time.

I honestly believe that while getting a prayer answered in the way we desire is our dream, conversation with God is our ultimate, soul deep goal.  We pray because we need to pour out our hearts to God.  We know He’s in charge.  We know He knows what’s going on.  And we know He has the right answer.  Our humanness makes us want to suggest a solution to our need.  Our spiritual side realizes we are being presumptuous.

Our job as a writer is to keep the words flowing, to believe passionately in what we write, to trust the agent or the publisher to evaluate our manuscript fairly and to accept the answer and move on.   Our job as Christians is to keep the communication lines open, to trust in God’s timing and God’s wisdom, and to accept His answers and move forward.

There is one great difference between writing and prayer of course.  I’ve never ever received a rejection letter from God!

Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!  Psalm 66:20

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