PAUSE FOR THOUGHT

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Photograph by Robert Lowman Photography

Between lengthy holiday festivities, ice, snow, flu, and working, it feels like the Near Year of 2017 hasn’t really begun, yet hear we are into February already. Once things began to slow down and get back to normal, I had a chance to think and review.

I attended a writers’ meeting in which the speaker advised that we had certain things we writers had to do every day to get and keep our readers interested. Like get all blogging done at specific times of the week or month, constantly ensuring our writing quality is at its peak. We are to stay on top of our social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linked-In. We are also to prepare for writing conferences and study the speakers, editors, agents and costs before registering. We writers are also required to keep our newsletters up to date and flowing to our various readerships on a consistent basis. All of this ON TOP of writing our manuscripts – also ensuring the quality of our writing at all phases.

While listening to this speaker and taking notes, a thought occurred: When am I supposed to have time to get all of this done? Not like I don’t have any other commitments. I went home and made a list of what my responsibilities are.

My doctor has requested that I take better care of my body by drinking eight glasses of water per day, and exercise, or at least walk, 20 minutes a day. I should prepare only healthy meals three times a day, plus two healthy snacks, including my daily allowance of fruits and vegetables, as well as count my calories. Then I am to get eight hours of sleep per night.

I am responsible for my day job, which entails eight hours a day, plus a one-hour commute each way. Once I receive my paycheck, I am to pay my bills in a timely manner, balance the checkbook, and keep track of investments and 401k to see that they are performing as expected.

The house is to be properly maintained, and then whatever breaks is fixed accurately and within my budget. And then there are the household chores to be done: dishes to be washed and put up, laundry to be washed, dried, folded or hung up in the closet. There is also dusting, vacuuming, beds to be made, bathrooms cleaned, floors swept and mopped, and trash to be sorted for recycling before being taken out on a certain day.

Upon coming home, I check the mailbox and organize what is important and throw away the rest. It is imperative that I file away proper records and bills, especially for tax preparation. If this not handled correctly, headaches and frustration will abound, causing further delays and stress.

My car is to be well maintained, and any and all repairs to be completed correctly, and again, within my budget.

As I currently have two dogs and a cat, they must be properly watered and fed to remain healthy, plus the regular trips to the vet and pet stores.

And last, but certainly not least, are my family and friends. I am to keep track of all birthdays and prepare for such. And let us not forget there are major holidays, such as Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I am to spend quality time with my husband and children, which is not easy because we are empty nesters, and our “kids” barely live in the same state as us.

After reviewing the list, I sat back and sighed heavily. “When do I work on my manuscript?” I asked aloud. “What or who shall I give up?”

A little voice in the back of my head said softly, “In the time it took you to drive to/from and attend the meeting, then later put together this list, you could have been working on your manuscript.

HMMMMM!

LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE BEFORE MEN

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Photograph by Robert Lowman

 

MATTHEW 5:14-16

14: Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.

15: Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light onto all that are in the house.

16: Let you light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father, which is in heaven.

What a weekend I recently had! Saturday morning I attended a writing workshop in Lawrenceville, Georgia; dinner Saturday night with my children and grandchildren. Sunday morning I was in church with my son and his family, and Sunday afternoon I shared ice cream and conversation with my daughter and son-in-law. Late Sunday afternoon I arrived home to my loving spouse, two dogs and cat.

After hugs and kisses were exchanged, and I emptied my suitcase, I took a moment to sit down, relax and reflect. I thought about my weekend, how different it was from my usual stay-at-home, recharge-my-batteries weekend. I reflected on how much fun it was going to a new place, seeing acquaintances and meeting new people at the writing workshop, then laughing and sharing with my family, attending a different church service, and finally home. I think I did more that weekend than I had all month.

The minister had spoken that morning about the Light of God shining through everyone who remained in His house; everyone has a story to tell, sharing with the community our knowledge and faith; that we are worthy – and very much loved. God desires everyone to stay close to Him, to spread his love and good works.

However, I didn’t feel very blessed, worthy, or much loved, at that point. I have been working on a novel for several years, and getting nowhere. Everything I wrote had to be re-written, and not just once or twice. I had been working on the last chapter, and it was AWFUL! (still is!) My BETA readers wouldn’t get back in touch with me. Doubts and frustration abound. I began to wonder, “Who did I think I was?”  Why am I even trying?

However, the minister’s words kept running through my mind – giveth light onto all that are in the house. Dark corners were suddenly lit, and my thoughts and beliefs of don’t even think about writing and no one will ever read or care were suddenly thrown to the side.  I understood that my writing was a gift from God, that my writing was confirmed.  I may not be the best, and most people will never read my words.

This is who I am, and this is what I was meant to do.

And so I picked up my last chapter and looked at it hopelessly. Once again, those negative voices tried to break through. I take a huge breath, let it out slowly, and understand this is just part of the process. I continue putting my words on paper and meeting with my writing critique groups.  It’s a very slow and drawn out process. I feel as if I am moving three steps forward and two steps back, but at least I’m heading in the right direction.  Besides, look how far I’ve already come!

With many blessings already bestowed before us, and many more coming, I’m anxious to see this through to see the end results.

 

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Photograph by Robert Lowman

 

 

 

Lighting the Path of My Writing Journey

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Photograph by Robert Lowman

Genesis 1:3: And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Genesis 1:4: God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness.

 

 

My writing “career” began inauspiciously enough in high school, where I wrote poetry for the school newspaper. My senior year, I was banned for turning in “risqué” material.

Throughout college, I wrote articles for university newspapers. After graduation, I wrote profiles for different magazines on CEO’ and business owners, while caring for my spouse and two children.

Until my marriage fell apart.

For the first time in my life, I found myself on my own, alone and frightened; a divorced empty nester with only three dogs for companionship. My friends and relatives advised me to get back to my personal interests.

While cleaning out a closet one day, I found a plastic bin shoved in the back corner. Pulling the box, I opened it to find old file folders and envelopes. My literary efforts from the past!  My curriculum vitae, published magazine articles, and an award-winning short story. Thrilled with my new-found treasure, I dug deeper into the bin and discovered an historical romance novel begun when my daughter was a toddler, a horror story from high school, and story ideas and snippets from years gone by. I hugged these to my chest and laughed out loud. The dogs looked at me as if I had gone mad.

Writing was my personal interest!

I surveyed the messy piles before me and wondered how on earth I could renew my writing. Then I remembered a local newspaper I had thrown in the trash. Unfolding the paper, I found the ad for the Christian Author’s Guild.

With trepidation, I went to the next Monday night meeting, where I found nearly everyone there was an accomplished author. These people encouraged me, wanted to see me published, and genuinely wanted to assist in every way possible. I swallowed my fears and joined that night.

Several weeks later, I turned in my first five pages for the fiction critique group, and dreaded that my words would be judged. How bad was my writing? Would they laugh at me? Would they tear my story apart? Would they tear me apart?

They did not! I took the session for what it was – a group of writers looking over my work and making suggestions on getting it published. They liked my story and suggested changes to get it submitted. I walked out of the meeting with hope and joy in my heart.

I was also encouraged to join more than one writing group and get different perspectives on my words. At first I felt I was cheating on The Guild, but I understand that now there are more eyes on my work, more conferences to attend and therefore more opportunities for publishing.

That was over three years ago, and yes, I have since published. My goal is to keep writing and keep publishing, and these groups help tremendously, not only with critiquing, but with information on the newest technology and changing publishing rules. While not every group is a Christian group, every member is a cheerleader for other writers, and each member is expected to write. Period.

Through these groups, I understand now that my talent comes from God. The more I use my talent, the more I please God. The more I please God, the closer I come to His light.

Now that I have come out of the darkness of loneliness and despair and into the Light of God, I have a greater understanding of who I am and what God has intended for me.

The point is to keep “plotting” along.

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The Light of God Shines through Stained Glass Windows

For centuries, the beautiful stained glass windows found in most churches have been made from broken bits of colored glass put together by skilled artisans to make pictures that tell colorful stories. When the sun shines through these finished works of art, the vibrant colors and light shine bright for all the world to see.

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Photograph by Robert Lowman

 

As Christians, each of us is like those stained glass windows. We all have been broken, hurt by the events of life and the struggle for survival. We have turned into broken bits of our former selves that have a story to tell. Once we are put back together by the loving, artful hand of God, the light of Christ shines through us for all to see.

During Yuletide, when the beautifully-colored Christmas lights and decorated trees brighten our homes, it’s easy to spread the Light of Christ. The joy and excitement of the birth of Savior is bursting within us.

However, as Christians, it’s the every day, every season, that we must let His light shine through us. As St. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:3 (The Message, 2002) “Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it, not with ink, but with God’s living spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives – and we publish it.

If we Christians as a whole let the vibrant colors and light of Christ shine through us every day, like a stained-glass window, imagine how bright and far the light of Christ would shine!

As a writer, it is my goal to let the Light of God shine through me and onto the world through my words. I thought this would be a great way to start my writing life.

He is the Light of the world. Let His light shine through each of you every day, every season.