Year of promise

Anyone remember the children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? In the book, everything seems to go wrong for Alexander, from the petty to the annoying to the plain not good: he wakes up with chewing gum in his hair, there is no dessert in his lunch bag, he gets a cavity, he gets soap in his eyes during bath time, he fights with his siblings. He laments that he just wants to move to Australia, sure that no one has bad days in the land Down Under.

At the end of the book, his mother reassures him that everyone has bad days, even those who live in Australia.

Sometimes I feel like 2016 was just one terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

AlexanderLike all new years, it started out with promise: fresh dreams, reaffirming goals to accomplish in the next 12 months, plans to travel, make lifestyle changes, etc. And for a while, it seemed like everything was going well. But, as they say, LIFE happened.

It seemed like every day seemed to bring new frustrations, things that hampered the accomplishment of goals, old enemies that didn’t want to stay down. Doubts of my future as a mother. As a writer. Loss. It sometimes felt like nothing was going right.

And that’s just on the personal side. Worldwide,  it seemed like 2016  was the beginning of the End Times: every other day the news was full of violence and death, hate and prejudice, cruelty and evil. The US election cycle was particularly vitriolic, and the outcome remains so.

I’m an eternal optimist, and try to see the good in every situation. But by the end of 2016, I was ready to throw in the towel. It didn’t help that my husband got sick over Christmas, I got sick shortly after, and my beloved dog Bazinga suffered some burns in a cooking accident. It felt like 2016 was just kicking me while I was down, and I felt myself crying out to God, “What did I do wrong? Why is all of this bad stuff happening?”

As Anne Shirley says, I was having a “Jonah Day,” only it felt like a Jonah year.

I’m sure Jonah thought he was having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day when he was swallowed by the whale. He hung out in a fish’s belly for three whole days. In Jonah’s case, he suffered because he didn’t heed God’s commands. But in the case of Job, he didn’t do anything wrong. He suffered because God knew that no matter what Satan threw at his trusted servant, he would withstand it. And after losing everything and still not cursing Him, God doubly blessed Job for being a good and faithful servant.

Good momentsI’m not like Job. I definitely haven’t lost everything, and my 2016 was certainly not as bad as it could have been. But even if it had, that’s no excuse for me to whine and complain and give up. The Bible promises us that “In all things God works together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) I might not be able to see the big picture of what God is doing in my life, and I might not EVER be able to, but I cling to the promise that something good is happening all along.

And you know what? When I think about it, there were some pretty great moments in 2016: wonderful times hanging out with my family, hearing some pretty incredible music from my symphony, some breakthroughs in my writing, brainstorming with a wonderful group of writers and friends, joining the church choir and rediscovering my love of singing. Gaining a niece. Making new friends. Renewing old friendships.  Learning to lean on God in the hard times as well as the good.

So, instead of making a new year’s resolution or choosing my “one word” for the year, I’ve decided to do something even simpler: focus on the good that I CAN see. For every week this year, I’m going to write down at least one thing good that happened in my life that week in my journal. The first week of January, it was praying in the new year together with my husband. Last week, it was the sense of accomplishment on a video I produced for work. This week, I’ve already included the very long phone call I had with one of my best friends on Sunday night.

No matter what 2017 holds, good or bad, I’d rather focus on the good and make it a year of promise.

 

ANOTHER NEW YEAR? GREAT . . . .

I always approach reading each day’s Inkspirational Messages blog with excitement, and, I admit it, a bit of trepidation. Why? Because I know that while they all make me smile, they also make me THINK. 

I’m saying that like thinking is a BAD thing? Well, it’s not, but sometimes it FEELS like a bad thing. Especially when you start stepping on toes—particularly MINE! 

Goals, resolutions . . . these have always been scary to me, because, like some captain_jack_sparrowof you have said, many times they’re destined for disappointment. When I think of goals and resolutions, I prefer to think of them like the Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean) approach to the pirate code. “They’re more like guidelines, really.”  

But then I get to the nitty-gritty. What am I afraid of? Why do I approach my life’s call the way I do? What is my purpose? Can I really DO this ?

writingAfter reading Kim’s blog the other day, I was finally, after about three weeks of writing little to NOTHING, inspired to write what was on my heart. What was on my heart was a spirit of fearfulness. The only way to face it was to do what a writer does—pour it out on paper.

 

FEAR

I have this friend who knows me better than I know myself.
She’s not someone I really like to hang out with,
But she’s always there, hovering in the background, making herself comfortable

When I’m having a good day, she’s standing there, arms crossed, ready to argue
That it’s NOT really a good day, after all.
She’ll give me that “look,” that tells me I’ve got it wrong all over again.
She doesn’t say anything on those days,
But simply shakes her head in disdain as my heart fills with doubt.

Why do I put up with her?
Why do I call her “friend?”
Why don’t I just call a halt to this out-of control relationship?

Because she’s me.
She’s that part of me that never REALLY thinks I can do it.
That is always afraid “they” will find out I’m a fraud.
That I’m not really as good as “they” say I am.

Her name is fear, also known as self-doubt,
Also known as insecurity, also known as defeat.

How can I overcome this part of me?
Can I pray it through? Yes.
Can I count on God to take this annoying little voice away? Yes.

Then why is she still here?
Because I keep calling her back.
I keep on reaching out to her,
Just in case she’s all I have when all is said and done.

So, I continue to nurture her.
I send her away,
Only to have her face flash in my mind at the most inopportune moments.
I don’t let her win;
But I don’t make her lose, either.

Fear.
What am I afraid of?
At times, pretty much everything.

Are you fearful? I know I am. This is a journey unlike any other I’ve faced before. It threatens to expose the innermost part of me that before now only God has seen. That’s scary. But it’s also the only way I can truly open myself up to God, truly trust and depend on Him, and truly become a usable tool for Him.

May we all, in this year of our LORD 2010, become the tools HE wants us to be.

Job Description

At one time or another, we’ve all browsed through classified ads and read with interest or disbelief the job descriptions.  What about this one?

Requirements:

An overactive Imagination is essential.  The ability to devise devious schemes and twisted plots are an integral part of the job.  A good grasp of written language is an asset.  Daydreaming on the job is not only encouraged, it’s recommended.   Research on exotic locations is to be done in person or online, whatever fits124576820196b0k6 best in the candidate’s budget.  Searches for unique occupations are to be performed and detailed descriptions are expected.  Imaginary friends and foes are invited to join the team, though you may want to rein in their characters unless you want them to wreck havoc with the storyline.  Romance can blossom between two unlikely characters as long as obstacles are thrown in their path. Deadlines are to be respected, though allowance can be made in case of extraordinary circumstances (ex. death).

free_933018Purpose:

To entertain and inspire total strangers for a few hours.

Salary:

Personal satisfaction is a reward in itself.  No earning until the employee submits a sample of his/her work.  In many cases, underpaid and overworked adequately described the average employee, and it is suggested that the employee do not quit his/her day job immediately following contract.

Doesn’t the job description of a writer sound awesome???

I’m not sure how many of the requirements I meet, and I need to work on all of them, except maybe for the daydreaming part, but I still love to write.  So, what are my resolutions for 2010?

The first one is to avoid distractions.  Since avoiding them is nearly impossible with three kids in university and a wedding on the horizon, I’d settle for decreasing the distractions, even if it’s only by a small percentage. Beside, I need to be nice to my poor Clio, my little MAC.  She’s hyperventilating every time I open more than a dozen screens at the same time.

12518000818172R0My second resolution is to find a balance between the amount of time I spend sitting on the couch with Clio and the exercise program I began in the fall. Yes, the wedding is responsible for this new obsession toward health and a new size in dress, but now that I got into the swing of things, I find I miss my daily workout if I skip it. My husband nearly had a heart attack when I went to the hotel gym with him a few weeks back. He said he waited 26 years for this moment… yes, he has one of those senses of humour.

Third resolution, the most important one, is to stay true to myself, to follow my heart. In the end, I could have the most beautiful, seamless prose, but if I don’t like my story, if I don’t love (or love to hate) my characters, if I can’t feel their struggles, then my readers won’t be able, either, and they’ll put the novel down.

Doable

It snowed Sunday. In Arkansas.

Every year, the weather man tells us it’s going to snow and everyone scurries to stock up on groceries. If it snows, it often doesn’t reach the central area where we live. Usually, when everybody else in the United States is getting snow, we get rain. We’ve already had two false alarms and lots of rain this year. But by jukies, there’s snow on the ground. Only an inch, mind you, but still snow. And in Arkansas, an inch shuts things down. Every church in town cancelled services, including ours.

The snow kept falling. Hubby and I took our son for walk in the woods. Later, my son and I walked again with my mom. Kids throughout our area got a reprieve. After a two-week Christmas break, no school on Monday.

All this to say, with life slowed down, I’ve had a lot of time to think about my resolutions for 2010. Every year, I make resolutions. I keep some, but don’t beat myself up about it if I fail. As a result, a few of my resolutions are annual favorites.

A.  Lose weight and exercise more.

I’ve got my handy-dandy weight watchers charts and food all ready. After reading about a treadmill desk and seeing the price, I enlisted the help of my own eight-year-old McGyver. We rigged a desk on the treadmill I already had, at absolutely no cost, with a shelf I found in the closet and some shoestrings. Okay, this was months ago, and I’ve only used it a few times, but if school ever starts again, I plan to read my daily blogs while treadmilling for an hour on weekdays. Doable.

B.  Rely more fully on God.

Since getting a book contract, I definitely rely more fully on God. Doable.

C.  Meet my deadlines.

Book 2 in my series is finished. All I have to do is revise, spruce up, and tighten my timeline. Since receiving my content review for book 1, I’ve learned I stink with timelines. I had the timeline all worked out in my head, I just didn’t get it on the paper, leaving the reader lost. I have the month of January to make book 2 shine, with a timeline readers can follow, and turn it in on time. Doable.

Book 3 scares the pants off of me. My deadline is in June and I already finished the chapter by chapter synopsis. Sounds okay, I know the story, and I’ve got six months. Right? Wrong! I have to use January to polish book 2, so I won’t actually begin book 3 until February. Then I’ve got two more edits to go through on book 1, one in January. And I want to have book 3 done by mid-April, so I can put it aside, clear my mind and revise, spruce, and tighten in May, so I can turn it in by June. So, I figure with the other edits still pending and life interruptions, I’ve got February and March to write book 3. Yikes!

I know it’s doable. I wrote a book in three weeks without a synopsis once. But, it’s different knowing I have to write this book by a certain time, and it has to be good. So, what’s a new author to do? Rely more fully on God. Doable.

D.  Don’t stress over deadlines and edits.

After reading resolution C, it’s obvious I’ve already failed this one only five days into the New Year. So, what should I do? Rely more fully on God. Ahhh, that’s doable.

Once I gave it to Him, I wrote the first chapter of book 3 a few nights ago. Hmm, anybody see a pattern here? I think all I need is resolution B.

And if any of my editors should happen upon this blog, I’m okay. Really. I have mega help from God. “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.” Phillipians 4:13.