Writing through the Search


forest pathSo many times we write of a door that was closed … only once it is opened. We only write of the seeking … once we have found. Of the searching once we know what it is we’re looking for. But it’s hard to write while in the midst of a search, in the midst of the silence.

Is it because I don’t know if I will find it? Is it because I’m afraid of looking like I don’t know what I’m looking for? Or even what I have found? Perhaps it is the fear of appearing unsure, that I don’t have it all together.

For so long my life had such a strong sense of purpose. And it does still, but at times, I can’t help but feeling as though I’m missing something. Not missing out on something, but actually missing something.

Is it an end in the road? Is it a curve? Is it a completely different road I’m meant to take? Or am I simply meant to continue on this path?

Somehow I feel this is what I am meant to do, so I continue walking. But there is no brilliant burst of sun in the grey sky. No moments of perfect clarity, with birds taking flight before of my eyes, or seeing the last leaf fall from a tree in a magical manner.

No songs or symphonic crescendo. Just a gentle near silence. Nearly, but not quite. This defines, in part, my journey these past months. Not silent, but no words or message clear enough to hear.

The Bible says something to the effect of, “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” That’s the verse that came to mind when I began my walk, wondering why at times he seems so distant.

Perhaps I have not really searched, not with all my heart. Or perhaps my eyes have not been opened. Am I waiting for something? For God? Is He waiting on me? Is it a little bit of both? Neither?

All I can say for sure is that it is part of the journey, and as long as the path continues to stretch before me, it is my destiny, my part, to walk forward. I am sure moments of brilliant clarity will burst through the gray. I am also sure that for the most part, I will gaze at life – past and present – through murky glass, not even considering future.

But I also know that I am not alone. And the One who walks beside me has a plan. A purpose. And as long as I trust in this, I can know it is not about the destination, the finding, the end of the search. So much is about the journey, and the One who walks with me each step of the way.

I’m Teaching!


Teacher in front of blackboardWriting comes naturally to me. Too naturally, sometimes. I’ll be in the middle of a situation or discussion (don’t worry, not with you) and a concept will start forming and I’ll begin to compose in my mind. I’m working on a separate blog post about that issue, but in short, writing is not a challenge for me.

Teaching is another matter.

I’ve been tutoring and involved in home schooling since I was 16. That’s generally a one-on-one experience. Two or three students at most, and they’re usually under the age of 12. In other words, they don’t expect too much. They’re forgiving and though they might remember (and remind me of) something I flubbed, they don’t hold it against me.

At the start of the year, while reading a book on writing, the author suggested trying one’s hand at teaching, perhaps at writer’s conferences or local adult education centers. That’s not for me, was my first response.

But the idea refused to let go of me, so I began to consider it. What do I have to offer? What could I teach? I came up with more than a couple topics:

  • Blogging
  • Working from Home
  • Editing
  • Creative Writing
  • Purpose

“Hey, maybe I can do this!” I hesitantly mentioned it to my husband, not because I thought he would disagree, but because I had a feeling he would encourage me. I needed someone to talk me out of this crazy idea. Standing up in front of … people!

My high school days rushed into my head. Speech class. Trembling, blushing, stumbling over words even when I had my papers right in front of me. Even in college, my heart beating faster when I know I’ll be expected to present something in front of class. At social gatherings, if more than a couple people tune into what I’m saying, an eraser wipes my words out of my brain and I find myself pausing, blinking, and failing at whatever I’m trying to verbalize.

Sure enough, my husband was completely supportive of the idea. So I put together a couple course proposals for community education and sent them off to Clovis Adult Education. And got a reply immediately! Within a week, I was going through the application process to become a course instructor. It took some time getting all that worked out: resume, reference letters, TB test, fingerprinting. That was the easy part.

Yesterday was the other part. The main part. Teaching.

I arrived early. Just in case. For the record, it was a good idea. The projector had been left on and overheated, so I had to get another projector brought into the room and connected to my laptop.

Power point … check.

Course attendees began to arrive. I managed to smile and greeted the first few, and exchange a few words. Then more came. Once more than five or so people were in the room, I began to shuffle through my papers. I needed something to hold on to. Something to center me. Ten people … watching, waiting. I remembered reading that the average person would rather have a tooth pulled than speak in front of people.

You can do this.

And I did. I might have fumbled over my presentation on blogging. I might have said “Uh” more than a couple times. And I did rush through that power point a lot more quickly than I had planned to.

But I did it! I taught a class. And I plan to teach more … a lot more (I’ve signed up to teach four courses this fall). As with everything else, it’s a learning experience. A small step, I know, but a huge one for me, and I’m so glad I took it. I’m grateful for the support of all those who encouraged me along the way and told me I could do it.

The other day, in a small group get-together, a friend prayed for me. Every week, I had been updating them on the progress in my teaching plan. He thanked God for the passion that I had in teaching. Passion? For writing, definitely. But teaching? I began to think about it, and realized that what he said was true. Just because it doesn’t come naturally and I’m nervous about it doesn’t mean that I can’t have a passion for it.

I realized, as I listened to the attendees’ ideas and vision for creating a blog, that I have an awesome opportunity. To walk someone through the process, show them how to do it and how to get the most out of it, so they can fulfill that vision they have. Whether it’s a ministry-related blog, a travel blog, a legal blog, or a photography blog, it’s going to be someone’s hopes and dreams and thoughts and words, out there for the world to see.Who knows how far something like that can go?

Playing this small part of showing someone how to do something and then stepping back and seeing what they can come up with and how far they can go with it … I guess that’s part of what teaching is all about. And yes, I could have a passion for something like this. Now to prepare for the next class!

[Have you taken a step recently towards something you thought you couldn’t do? Or is there something you’re thinking about and not sure that you can or should try it? I would love to hear about it and encourage you that if I can teach a class, you can take that step! You can fulfill your dream.]

The Edge of the Wind


The air moves

In ways strange

It doesn’t explain

The winds change

From gentle to gale

From rushing to ripple

And I feel the urge

To clean out my house

Or my heart

Or even to disappear

Into the wind

And let it carry me

Far

A mountaintop perhaps

Or even a star

I can’t track the movement

Of the wind

Its cycles and cold fronts

Colliding with heat

Piling cumulus over nimbus

And stratus beneath cirrus

All I know is the rain

And the magic scent

Of sky before it falls

A smell like the sound of skittering leaves

Whispering the approach of a storm

This wind change

Will it be a storm

A calm

Perhaps a little bit of both

Settling and stirring me

At the same time

I don’t know

And at times

All I can do is close my eyes

To better feel the change

Skirting the edge of the wind

Not to Death


In the English class I’m taking, after reading and discussing “The Crucible” for our essays, we watched the movie. I remember when the movie came out. I didn’t watch it then.

When I watched it in class, of course I knew what to expect as the story line and dialogue was almost identical to the play by Arthur Miller.

But the end was a little different, and I’d have to say I enjoyed the ending of the movie more than the book. It showed how the perspectives of the townspeople had changed, if only slightly. And it showed three characters who remained fearless to the end.

And that’s when I wrote this short poem (yes, in the middle of class):

What happens when you know
You go
Not to death
But life

Then death is not
A thing
To fear

No shadow
No valley
No tunnel
Endless, dark

But hope waits
At the end
And light
This is why

When you know
You go
Not to death
But life

There is no fear
But clear
And open eyes

Six New Year’s Resolutions


better connection

In my last post, I mentioned that I was working on my New Year’s resolutions. Drafting them up, they look something like this:

1.       Disconnect to Reconnect

In Colorado, I saw a neat little flyer. It stood out to me. It said, “There is no wi-fi in nature. But we’re sure you’ll find a better connection.”

As I’ve been praying about the New Year, I feel that I should to take a break from blogging and Facebooking. I’ve heard it takes about six weeks to build a new habit or to break an old one. So I’ll be going offline at the beginning of the year, for roughly 40 days, to disconnect from some things in order to connect (or reconnect) with others … and hopefully regain perspective of the most important things.

I’ll be available through email because I can’t go offline completely; my writing/editing work is all online. Just letting go of those “extras” for a while.

2.       Cultivate Real Communication

With Facebook and other social media, it is easy to maintain surface relationships, to see “what’s going on” but actually have no idea what is really happening in someone’s life or heart. Marjorie Holmes, in I’ve Got to Talk to Somebody, God, writes:

“Today there is so little genuine communication. The very push and pressure of living among so many people has driven us deeper inside ourselves. There, despite all the talk that swirls around us, we are locked in a lonely prison. It is a … place for our own protection, yet a place of anxieties and fears, where the loneliness can be intolerable, unless we find God there.”

I think it is a place, also, from which we need to reach out to others, not connecting on the surface, but listening, learning, and being there for each other through real communication.

That’s a resolution I have this year. Not sure exactly how to go about it, which is one of the reasons I’m disconnecting for a while, in hopes of reconnecting with a different perspective. Hopefully a more meaningful one.

3.       Find Direction in Writing

Another reason I don’t plan to post on my blogs for the next while is to figure out what it is I want to say … or more importantly, what God wants me to say. When I feel rushed or pressured to write, what comes out is often not the best of what there is to say or write, because the best of things take time.

I know this is going against advice from writing classes and connecting through social media. They say that to create a presence, you need to post regularly, at least once a week, and try to do it on the same day every week. I don’t know if I’ve ever kept up with that, and I don’t know if I ever will.

But right now, I know that I shouldn’t be even trying. Because if there is no heart and soul behind it, even the best and most tried-and-true technique will fall flat. I need to work a little more on the heart and soul right now.

4.       Make Progress in Long-term Goals

This probably starts with figuring out what some of those goals are. Mark Batterson, in his best-selling book The Circle Maker, discusses the importance of having life goals on a variety of themes – family, influence, experiential, physical. He writes:

“Setting a goal creates structural tension in your brain, which will seek to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be, who you are and who you want to become. If you don’t set goals, your mind will become stagnant. Goal setting is good stewardship of your right-brain imagination. It’s also great for your prayer life.”

I plan to make progress in figuring out some of those goals and mapping a way, perhaps through prayer, to reach them.

5.       Keep a Proper Balance in Life (especially in busy times)

I make time for the things I have to do. When I have classes, I wake up before six on the days I have to be on time for class. I stay up late the night before an assignment is due studying or writing in order to get a good grade in class.

But it’s so easy to neglect the things I don’t have to do, even though I know it’s a bad idea in the long run. Things like exercise, or prayer, or reading the Bible, or studying about writing, or spending time with my kids. Each one of those things gets relegated to back burner during busy times. Before I realize it, a season has gone by without exercise, or I can’t remember the last time I sat on the floor with the kids and played a board game.

I know this is a subjective and vague resolution, partly because I don’t yet have a plan, and partly because even if I did have a plan, I wouldn’t want to post it. Because … well, you know what they say about those “greatest plans of mice and men.” And also because things change; needs change according to the cycles of life and schedules of life.

6.       Create Space

I planned to have only five New Year’s resolutions, but I added this one last minute, after finishing a book titled Gift from the Sea.

Sometimes the best we can do is figure out where we’re going and what we’re meant to do here and now. Next month or next year might bring a whole different slew of responsibilities or requirements.

But I want to get it right. I don’t want to feel like I’m missing something important or leaving something behind, or going too fast that I end up forgetting the most important things. I want to create space in my life (and our lives are just so busy these days). In Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes:

“It is only framed in space that beauty blooms. Only in space are events and objects and people unique and significant—and therefore beautiful. … My life … lacks this quality of significance and therefore of beauty, because there is so little empty space. The space is scribbled on; the time has been filled. There are so few empty pages in my engagement pad, or empty hours in the day, or empty rooms in my life in which to stand alone and find myself.”

I saw myself in those words. So little empty space. I don’t want that. I don’t want to miss the significance in moments and people because I am going too fast to stop and notice them. My final resolution is to create those spaces on a regular basis. I’m not sure exactly how just yet.

Maybe by going slower. Or stopping completely at times. Minimizing the “extras” in my life. Or just being conscious of the need to have that space. I just placed a shell on my writing desk, my own “gift from the sea” to help me remember the need for space.

This is going to be my last post for a while. But I look forward to connecting with you again soon, and would love to hear from you … your resolutions and your hopes for the New Year. Your prayers and wishes.

Happy New Year!

A Year is Ending


It has been a busy year.

It was a rare day in January. My husband was actually home for the day. He was sick and resting in bed when I got an email. After reading it, I told my husband sadly that my one of my favorite authors – Ken Gire, who I consider a sort of writing mentor – would be attending the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference in May. I had been blessed with a scholarship to attend the previous year, and knew there wasn’t a chance I could do that again.

“Why don’t we make a family trip out of it?” Dan suggested in his spontaneous way. I jumped at the idea. We discussed the details and within an hour I had reserved our stay (for four months down the line) and determined that I needed to finish at least one novel to present to prospective agents/publishers by the time the conference rolled around.

It took two months to complete the draft – 77,777 words – which my husband read as I was writing as my first novel critique. Over the next month, another five people critiqued it and I completed the third draft at two in the morning, May 14. The week leading up to that time had been busy with college finals, packing for the journey, and constructing a poorly written book proposal – but finally, fours hours after I printed out that proposal, our family of five (and my dad too) were on the road, headed to Colorado.

In mid-March, Dan had another inspiration: figure out the logistics of moving into a house. We had spend our first year after moving to California with my parents – September 2010 to August 2011 – and then moved into a two-bedroom apartment, which though cozy was splitting at some of its seams, and my temperament at the close quarters during the winter was fraying around the edges. A house sounded like quite a plan indeed.

It seemed, however, as we began the search for a house, that everyone else had the same idea we did. As soon as a house appeared on the market, it was snatched up, and each one was more expensive than the one before. Interest rates were at an all-time low, but housing prices were starting to rise, and fast. We looked at house after house and made a few offers, none of which came through.

Then, in early May, we saw the house. You know, when you get that feeling? That says, “This is just right” but you don’t want to get your hopes up because you know it’s impossible for it to come through? Especially when houses that were less expensive (and needed a whole lot of TLC) were beyond our reach. But we prayed about it and decided to make an offer. It was funny because, as we left that house after seeing it for the first time, I felt like we were leaving something important behind and I just kept praying, “Lord, keep it for us if it’s Your will; if not, we know You have something better.” But this one definitely felt different than the ones before. For some reason, it already felt like home. An empty, newly painted and carpeted, waiting-for-us-to-claim-it home.

We had to wait for a few things before we would hear back on our offer. So with that up in the air, we made the trip to Colorado. And it was awesome! Days filled with workshops and general sessions, with meeting writers and aspiring authors, with feeling God’s Spirit moving in the lives of people He had called to write … and of course enjoying time with my husband and the kids and my dad – hiking around the Rockies, experiencing nature up close and personal and being amazed by its sheer magnificence.

On the 20-hour drive home – which we split up into two days – I got the idea of starting a new blog, on purpose and meaning, which I launched in the first week of June. I think I have been more consistent in posting for this, my fourth blog, than the others, especially since it has a different theme each day. But overall, blogging has been a big focus for me this past year and I’ve probably done more blogging than long-term writing (well, except for nanowrimo, which is another story altogether).

During our week-long journey, the prospect of coming home to a new home was exciting. Well, by the joining of events that all together are nothing short of miraculous, we got the house. As soon as we unpacked from the trip, we began packing for the move. One month after making it home from Colorado was our big “move day” – June 22. We spent the next couple weeks between the two places, setting up the house and cleaning up the apartment.

In the first week of August, my sister and her three kids moved in with us. A week later, my fall semester began, with a full class load. A week after that, Jessica and Allen started school, along with their cousin, Jenna. Tuesdays and Thursdays, I attended college and picked the kids up from school on my way home. Wednesdays and Fridays, I taught Aiden and Keira – his cousin – at home, as neither of them are old enough for school yet.  My sister took care of them on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Mondays, everyone was home and the activity and energy level rose exponentially for every family member present.

During November, I attempted nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) for the first time. The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. I didn’t reach that goal, but enjoyed the experience and believe I learned some things from it, but have yet to reflect on those things.

The semester ended on December 12th, and the kids’ Christmas break began midday on December 17th. I had one Tuesday and half a Thursday without classes and without kids. I didn’t know what to do with myself.

The fact is it’s been a busy year. I feel like the number of moments I’ve had to just stop and reflect and think … and be … could be counted on one hand.

It has been no less busy for Daniel. He has been juggling two jobs in the midst of setting up sprinkler systems and building garage shelves and laying cement in the back yard and planting trees … and doing all those things that have turned this house into a home (it really has been a lot).

We celebrated our tenth anniversary in September with a weekend trip to the hills. It was awesome to get away for a couple days while my sister and parents looked after the kids. And even more awesome to have been married for ten years. Every year is getting better.

Also in September, Jessica turned nine. She is halfway through fifth grade, and taking piano classes. She loves to read and beat me in a summertime contest of number-of-pages read.

The month before that, Allen turned seven. He is in third grade and also taking piano. His artwork amazes me and it is astounding what he can come up with.

Aiden, the youngest, will be five in March. His fascination is still anything to do with a motor and wheels. The bigger and louder the better (as long as it’s not a vacuum cleaner). He loves to learn and do new things, as long as it doesn’t become tedious.

And here we stand, on the verge of the New Year, or as I prayed last night, “with the New Year around the corner,” to which Aiden responded, “I didn’t know that we were on a bus” and Jessica checked around the corner of the hallway just to make sure.

Reflecting on the events of this past year, I am amazed at all God has done. At this time last year, taking a family trip across a few states had not even been a consideration. Moving into a three-bedroom house with a covered patio was a nice idea, but definitely not something we had been planning for. But God had, and I guess that’s what really makes the difference.

Since the semester ended a couple weeks back, I have been trying to take time just to think and pray. I’ve also picked up some books on personal, spiritual growth, as well as some books on writing and publishing. I know the New Year is not going to give me or anyone in my family a bunch of time in which to take our breaths and regain focus.

But one thing I know is that I don’t want to lose sight of the things that are most important in the midst of the myriad of things that are, yes, important, but perhaps not most important. With that in mind, I’ve been thinking about a few New Year’s resolutions … coming soon.