Tuesday, June 16, 2009

writing blogs

Last week Beth Moore posted a blog which was just a little bit about writing and a lot about other fun stuff. I don't have enough time to read blogs on a regular basis - but I keep up with Beth's pretty often. You never know what you'll find there.

Here's what she had to say about writing:

Writing is not for the fainthearted or those with a strong affinity for instant gratification. Or, come to think of it, for those who can't take criticism. It is a hard profession that you only want to take up if you absolutely can't keep from writing to save your life. That reminds me, I read the coolest book recently by Jerry Jenkins called Writing for the Soul and it's penned specifically to writers OR to those who think there might be a writer deep inside somewhere. If that's you, you ought to think about grabbing a copy. I think you'd be so blessed. I read constantly but I can't say I've ever read anything specifically on writing before. I enjoyed it like crazy.

If you really want to write, you might think of tracking down some cactus and pulling up a lawn chair next to it. But not too close in case you doze off. (LittleWomen21 inserts a happy chuckle here) A simple landscape is sometimes best of all. Our little piece of Texas is a great place to write because it's out in the middle of absolutely nowhere...

Comment from the passenger seat: I can't write outside! Even if I were absolutely in the middle of nowhere (and that's not hard to find in Wyoming!), it's too bright outside to see my laptop screen clearly enough!

One of my favorite places to write is coffee shops. That's where I go when I have writer's block. It always helps. But usually I write at home, at the dining room table, or curled up on the sofa with my laptop on a pillow on my lap and a cup of tea close by. I always know I'm making good writing progress when my tea gets cold before I finish it.

Having a famous Christian lady like Beth Moore even just MENTION writing resulted in almost 100 comments about writing from other readers (including me), and I finally got the time to read through the comments, sure that I would find some other Christian writers. And yup, I found a few, including another lady who also is a mom of young children trying to find time to write. Not to mention finding other writing blogs, I also found a bunch of good writing resources. I am including them all here just so I can come back to this post for helpful links.

However, a word of warning (to myself) - "she that spends much time reading about writing will not accomplish much writing." My progress the last few days has slacked off. I haven't even had a chance to incorporate a wonderful new idea I got during one of early morning walks. Idea keywords: Wings and Trees. When the idea popped into my head I was so giddy I nearly started skipping. The fact that it arrived as I was in the midst of my prayers (I try to pray as I walk, at least part of the time), was certainly a little gift from God, right? Not just a distraction. I hope. (when in doubt, just add that to your prayers)

A few other Christian writer's blogs:

And entirely off the subject of writing, discovered this website for evaluating your spiritual gifts,
I'm posting it here too because I don't have time to take the test right now but I want to remember to take it soon!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

grinding teeth

Twice last week I woke up about 3 am with a terrible pain on the left side of my face, including my jaw and ear, right up to my temples. It was weird because once the painkillers wore off, I was just fine: no evidence of an ear infection, or maybe an aggravated tooth... just a vague achiness in my jaw. After the 2nd incidient, I went to see a doctor, and she decided the most likely cause was I have started grinding my teeth and/or clenching my jaw at night while I sleep, thus aggravating the bundle of facial nerves that radiates out from back behind the ear. Her suggestion was to take a painkiller before bed to maybe prevent clenching up, which seems to be working okay. Except my jaw still aches, just a little. So of course now I think I have bone cancer in my jaw. Ha!

But I think the main cause is stress. We continue to be in financial straits - B.'s business is picking up, but the increased physical work also means his old shoulder injury is flaring up and causing him a lot pain, too, and worry (our healthcare "insurance" won't cover it because its a pre-existng condition).

You would think with all the stress of the past few months, I would be praying more, because when I do take the time to pray, to give my burdens over to God, I am so refreshed and strengthened and hopeful. But that's one of the self-defeating things about stress: the stress itself keeps you to preoccupied to take time for the best cure.

More on prayer here shortly, but first, I haven't had a progress update in over a month, so here goes.

Two progress updates: 1) writing 2) Bible read-through and scripture memory

Every couple weeks I have an intense two or three days of working on my novel, and I've gotten a lot done since my last progress report. Currently I am working on chp. 32, but I've skipped around a lot. Actually, I've really been tearing things apart and doing a lot of restructuring. By now I've pretty much given up hope that this would be a fairly straightforward process of just "polishing up" my novel, adding some voice and tightening things up by cutting out some unnecessary scenes. Sure, I'm cutting all right, but I'm discovering in the process of cutting it's requiring a lot more work and new writing to connect things back together again. But it sure gets my imagination into overdrive. How many other jobs/hobbies out there can one say that you genuinely enjoy making more work for yourself?

The hardest part is trying to carve time out here and there to keep working at it. If more than a couple days pass when I don't get time to work on it, then imagination stalls and I lose motivation... which is why my writing has been in fits and spurts instead of a steady daily process.

ALL the writing books I've ever read (lately I re-read one my favorites, Anne Lammott's "Bird by Bird") have recommended that you set aside the same time every day to write, and I just never seem to be able to do that. I've tried at night after the kids are in bed, but sometimes I'm just too exhausted to keep going. Once or twice I've tried early in the morning before kids wake up, but that is time I need to reserve for devotions, to start my day out right. The twins' nap-time is another option, though getting Blaze and Dreamer to have a "quiet time" at the same time the twins are napping isn't always easy, and then there are other temptations like sometimes I'd really like a nap myself! - or read a good book. Or ride a horse. Ah, what discipline is required! - and I've just never been good about keeping to a regular discipline (which is probably another contributor to stress!)

2) Ah, but setting yourself challenges and goals does help: I am, as of this morning, caught-up and on schedule with my Bible read-through. I am almost half-way through (though I continue to skip around a lot).

Thanks to my voice recorder which I listen to on my morning walks, I am keeping up with my scripture memory challenge too. I have been reviewing Galations 2:20, Matthew 9:12-13, Romans 11:33-36, Hebrews 10:35-36, Isaiah 61:1, and Psalm 34:1-6. These are the verses I am currently working on:

Psalm 34:7-10
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.
Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.

Fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Now, back to prayer. Last night I was reading Luke 12, and it really made me stop and sigh, these verses in particular: 31-34

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.
So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else! Store up treasure in heaven! Yet I am mostly satisfied with myself that I am keeping up with a Bible read-through, occasional prayers, memorizing a few scriptures, and talking about how I need to witness more to my parents and co-workers, but never actually doing it.

A couple weeks ago my church's mom's group arranged for swapping child care so we could each spend several hours in uninterrupted prayer. At first I was doubtful, can I really concentrate in prayer for such a length of time? But once I got started, it was wonderful. I went through a list of requests all of us moms had compiled and shared with each other, and in between I sang a few songs as worship. I prayed through a Psalm. At the time my daily reading was in Isaiah, and the Lord gave me these verses, Isaiah 43:10-13, that moved me to tears. I could have continued: I could have gone for another couple hours, at least. It is so wonderful to spend such time with God! I didn't realize how empty I was, until God filled me up. I felt like I could never get stressed again!

Yet here I am back as as I was before, barely giving God attention at all. Everything else has crowded back: rushing through my Bible reading, worrying about bills, juggling work and time with family and trying to squeeze in some writing and reading and riding in between it all. Seek the Kingdom above all else! Ah, that I had more of a heart for God instead of just outward appearance of it.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

a weekend in Virginia

My mom treated me to a wonderful weekend in the mountains of Virginia, and my cousin Greg's wedding. It was a sort of "destination wedding" because they decided to get married at the Homestead, a famous resort in Hot Springs, Virginia, a beautiful little town near the Blue Ridge Mountains. And not only were the guests invited to the wedding, but we were all invited to the rehearsal dinner, to a "welcome parlor" before the wedding, and then a "farewell breakfast" the morning after the wedding.

Here is a shot of the Homestead. The grounds outside were just as immaculate and showy as all the lounges and ballrooms inside!

Here is a shot of the surrounding countryside, and a bit of the gardens - I'd forgotten how impressive rhododendrons and dogwoods are in full bloom!

Here I am standing in front of one of the hot springs pools, adjacent to the Spa Garden where the marriage ceremony took place. Mom and I came back here after the reception and soaked our feet for a good long time.

Here is Mom basking alongside one of the lush gardens.

And of course, a picture of the bride and groom during their first dance in the Crystal ballroom.

A picture of our lavish table and place settings - I have never seen a table so cram-packed with china, silver, cyrstal, flowers, and all sorts of other goodies. I sat between my mom and my cousin Audra.

We stayed in a bed-and-breakfast that had been remodeled from an old mill. One thing I just loved about this part of Virginia was how old everything was. Most of the buildings were from the 1800's, and yet so well taken care of. The Homestead itself was founded in 1766.

On Sunday after the farewell breakfast, Mom and I went for a walk up the lane from our B & B, alongside an old stone wall, graced with fragrant wild roses and shaded by huge old oaks. It is such a different world from the West.

Then we took off for a drive through the mountains. The winding roads were full of blooming mountain laurel and rhodendron. We were oohing and aahing the whole way. We stopped in the small town of Eagle Rock, where my Grandmother was born and lived until she moved to New York in the 1920's. I called a cousin of mine (once removed) who still lives in the area but he was out on his Sunday excursion too.

Next we headed up onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, a beautiful drive along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We had to stop at almost every overlook! We also had to stop and feast on fried green tomtoes at the lodge at Peaks of Otter.

I am including this picture because the stream at the bottom of this ravine reminded me so much of the creek at the back of our farm in West Falls, NY (I lived there from 1991-1994, before moving to Wyoming).

The hillside along this creek was blanketed with mountain laurel, like God had decided to do a bit of His own wedding decorating, too.

On our last day, we decided to take a different route back to the Dulles Airport and we drove through Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia. This is one of the colleges I applied to (and didn't get accepted!), but it was fun to go back and see it again. The University was founded by Thomas Jefferson, and he designed the original campus and many of the buildings. We did a brief walk around the Rotunda with its marble balustraded balconies and colonnaded walkways. The fronts of all the buildings on the campus (even on frat row) have a signature four white columns (but the Rotunda has six columns). Very majestic.

Ahhh... back to the real world now.