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Veg Day

My first serious attempt at a short story is a lovely little tale that has been years in the making. Just ask any of my students. The inspiration comes from a teaching device I use to explain ‘the twist’, an important tool for writers of all genres. Without too many spoilers, the story is about a knight who races across a rickety rope bridge to a tower where a dragon holds a princess hostage. Only, when he gets there, the knight discovers that the dragon is the hostage and the princess is the fire-breathing villain.

There never seemed to be enough story there to write until I sat down and tried. Then I met Fenn, the heir to a line of hapless adventurers, and his sister Clementine. The dynamic of a brother-sister relationship was a LOT of fun to play with. Throw in each one’s motivations & limitations and I found myself falling in love. So when the short story was complete (just in time for the annual Writers’ Digest fiction competition), I couldn’t end the characters’ adventures. Fenn and Clem were only just beginning.

And so it is that on this fine Friday, I find myself pulled into the continuing adventures of these new friends. Things are turned around this week. Thursday became my dedicated writing day leaving Friday to become my sole veg opportunity. While Urban Dictionary offers a less than glowing description of the word veg (“state of being vegetable-like: unmoving and slowly degenerating”), I firmly believe in its value. A day to recoup your resources and let your brain wander where it will. A time for restoration of your soul, body, mind, or all three.

Blog Bonus Feature: A lot of my veg days have turned into writing days–but I only undertake writing that feels like fun. So, for example, you would never find me editing on a veg day. If I write today, it will be because Fenn and Clem are too irresistible. Or, perhaps, more irresistible than the couch.

For me, veg days usually involve a lot of quiet and solitude. I pamper the introvert that gets ignored in the priorities of the daily grind. And if I miss a veg day? Oh I notice it–in my attitude, my energy, and my spirit. God certainly had it right when He orchestrated a Sabbath.

So, sweet & faithful readers who keep looking for my inconsistent posts, that’s my advice to you this week. Carve out a little time to be a vegetable. Find a little quiet for your spirit, a little nourishment for your mind, a little restoration for your body. You won’t regret it.

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After a weekend of being completely absorbed in the writing world, I returned to ‘real life’ on Monday–hoping that being a paralegal (while a fabulous job, it can’t compare to writing) is a short lived profession. One of the many benefits of a three-day work week is the ability to turn my focus back to writing on my extended weekend and still get one solid day of rest. Today, that rest is given to my sweet niece. Since she was born two Decembers ago, I’ve been doing all the things with her I would want to do with my own daughter, from trips to the bounce house, to dog-watching at the park, to pulling out all the old toys.

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Come on. Isn’t she darling?

Those toys bring back all kinds of nostalgia. They were my first imaginative companions, the best teachers of creativity and story telling, the most patient of friends. With them I wove countless story lines and learned to practice character development, not to mention how to tie all those characters and story lines together. It is my joy and my delight to pass the skills (and toys) onto the next generation.

So, for today, I’ll immerse myself in sharing the wonder of imagination with family. And tomorrow, I will be back to the wonderful world of writing.

I’ve been blessed with an abundance of gifts. Creativity and a general intelligence have led me to excel in writing and music and speaking and business and oh so much more. I’ve always felt a little guilty for those gifts because I can’t possibly put them all to use at the same time. I feel the pressure every day to pour myself out and, even when I do, I still have a talent or two that didn’t get used. By not using my gifts I assumed I was putting them on the shelf to accumulate dust or being the man who received one talent and buried it (see Matthew 25:14-30) instead of doing something useful that would earn his master interest. But I’m wondering now if I’ve been looking at things upside-down.

For the last fifteen months music, in the form of worship leading, has taken precedence over writing (as evidenced by the postponed release of Rise of the Dark Sprite). Five weeks ago, I set down the guitar. I’ve set down a lot of things lately–but more on that another time.

It was a hard decision, perhaps one of the hardest of my life. Worship leading fulfilled so many parts of me, satisfying deep needs to minister to others and to celebrate the goodness of God. I miss it profoundly. In the five weeks since I said goodbye to my church I haven’t touched my guitar, either out of a deep sadness or a perpetual busyness. Probably a combination of the two. And, yes, I have been feeling a little guilty for not sharing my gifts as a musician and worship leader with a church who needs it.

But then I got to thinking…

What if my talents are like a deck-building game? Bear with me here. We’re nerds in this family. We save the world from super-villains over the holidays; hit every premiere weekend for Marvel movies; own the extended version of anything involving Middle Earth; and planned our vacation around seeing the new Star Wars move in IMAX. So it should come as no surprise to you that we delved right into a deck-building game based on The Fellowship of the Ring. The purpose of the game is to buy cards, worth abilities and victory points, that then go into your deck. Each round you deal yourself five cards, use them, and put them away to be re-dealt later. One round I’ll be wielding Legolas Greenleaf’s bow like a young Katniss Everdeen and the next I’ll have moved into defensive position with Boromir’s shield. I get five, usually awesome, cards per turn and it is up to me to put them to good use.

Now, back to my point. Perhaps my life is like a deck of cards. Each year I add a few new weapons to my arsenal (maybe a new passion for the banjo–that would be cool), and deal myself out a hand of talents. In 2015, the focus was worship leading and a new job. In 2016, I hope my focus will be writing and healing (surprise, surprise, when you have Lyme’s disease apparently you can’t work 80 hours a week). It’s not that I’m letting my God-given talent for song-writing and worship leading go to waste this year. It’s that He has handed me different cards. If I put them to waste, shame on me. But if I spend 2016 playing a great game with Legolas’ bow and choose not to pine for Boromir’s shield, then I think I will have done well.

Seasons

Writing is a joy like no other. And after nearly a decade of dedication (I’m twenty-three now; I was fourteen when I finished Issym–my first book), it is still full of surprises. I sit down at the keyboard with no concept of what I want to say and yet words, beautiful, important words, come flowing out. And they ease the ache in my soul.

I’ve come face-to-face (yet again) with the reality that seasons end. Good, wonderful, God-blessed seasons do not last forever. That’s why they are called ‘seasons’ after all. So I’m closing some chapters in my life, most notably with my resignation from my beloved coastal church. Working six days a week and commuting over wintry coastal roads for early morning worship practice is no longer a viable lifestyle. And while I am disappointed beyond measure, I’m also supremely confident that God orchestrated this decision and so it is good.

He has been showing me the value of finishing well. Not focusing (for once in my over-achieving life) on what is to come, but instead focusing on doing the last few weeks of this season to the very best of my ability. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I’m a major Eiffel Tower nerd. I’ve always been struck by how it was built to be temporary. Knowing that his creation was doomed for destruction, Gustave Eiffel still poured blood, sweat, tears, and inspiration into the now iconic tower! He wasn’t daunted by the certainty his creation was temporary. He finished well. And so will I.

12278732_10207210957488957_8617144566751611846_nAs for the holidays, we’ve had a few less Christmas movies or mass-baking evenings than the usual season, but we’ve still had lots of fun. Who knew it could be cold on Christmas Tree Day even without snow? And who knew how FREAKING TALENTED my brother-in-law and I are at picking out Christmas trees. (Isn’t it a beaut?)12219417_10207199026510690_5196170164171381163_n

We’ve celebrated a few less birthdays than usual too, thanks to cases of pneumonia and a deer that made contact with our family van. But the 12274458_10207199026950701_7812799157813826790_ncelebrations we have pulled off have been awesome, from flame-filled nights at the local hibachi to an entourage of people taking dear niece Evelyn to Build-A-Bear for Year 1 of a running tradition. (The writer in me couldn’t help but stick a note inside.) Yes, my niece–who surprised us all with a month early arrival–has reached the age of one going on thirty. Intelligent, persuasive, and highly verbal, she is already turning my world upside-down in all the right ways. I can’t wait to spend Christmas with that sweet little soul.

Overall I’m settling into a new skin–one that’s a bit less afraid of the telephone and far more confident in glasses and even more determined to keep on writing. One that is learning to let go and still savor every second of every season I’m in.  A few months back I wrote a song for my church and I think I’ll close with it here:

Verse 1: There is time for celebration. There is time for tears. You’re the God Who holds me through it all. You’re the God Who holds us through it all

Chorus: Hallelujah to the King of majesty. To the One Who calls me friend. Hallelujah to the One Who conquered the grave. And is coming back again.

Verse 2: The past, the present, and the future, Can overwhelm the soul. But You say “Do not fear for I am near”.

Verse 3: You are trustworthy; You are faithful. You number the hairs on my head. How can it be that You would love me through it all? How can it be that You would love us through it all?

Bridge: You are good, You are good, You are good. You are faithful and sure. For everything there is a season. In every season You are Lord.

 

 

 

Tales Of Merriment

I’ve got to say. I’m happy.

It has been a bizarre season and I have been very busy, stretching myself thin on too many projects all of great importance. But I’m happy. Really, really happy.

And not just because the holidays are coming or because the projects are finished, but because I SURVIVED. I survived the first three months of transition into a new job, juggling a six-day work week, the completion of a new book, and so, so much more. I’d like to take credit for all the success of this season, but that isn’t even close to true. It’s all God. I was the terrified girl who wanted to revert to hermit mode. God was the faithful One Who saw me through.

front cover image 2So about that new book… It’s called the Tales of Merriment and it contains three short stories featuring characters from The Orion Records and The Xsardis Chronicles, along with a sample from The Rise of the Dark Sprite (the next book in The Orion Records). I love these stories, all for different reasons. They are bittersweet, with moments of levity and moments of seriousness. And one isn’t even a Christmas story. But I adore this collection. For its representation of hope in the face of loss. I could go on, but I don’t want to spoil anything for you, so I’ll stop there.

As for the holidays, they have indeed arrived. My week contains three, which include Pie Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Tree Day. Of those three, I’d rank them: 1) Christmas Tree Day, 2) Pie Day, and 3) Thanksgiving, although Pie Day very nearly outranks Tree Day this year. Because making pies equates to time singing Christmas carols with my dear Sister Kate, who happens to be dearly missed. Family is a precious thing.

Whatever you do this week, may it be merry and bright; may it become your own tale of merriment.

Reawaken

I’ve been crunching numbers in the last-ditch effort to find another way. With my new job responsibilities and my fuller understanding of publishing, I recognize my role in Rebirth Publishing has to change. For months, I have been prayerfully contemplating a major change. But I’m not down for the count yet. Sometimes, you need to work smarter, not harder.

And that is exactly what I’ve set about. I’m reawakening (which, when you think about it, is kind of poetic. ‘Rebirth’, after all, is synonymous with ‘reawaken’). And in that reawakening I am discovering a new self. This 23-year-old leader of Rebirth Publishing doesn’t have the same time or energy or carefree enthusiasm that the 17-year-old founder did. But what 23-me has is resources, smarts, experience, and savvy. I’ll put all of those to work for me instead.

17-me was passionate and hard nosed and hopelessly hopeful. 23-me is more tempered. I know my limitations. And, for a while, understanding those limitations caused me a potent concoction of shame and fear. (When you’re looking at your own flaws, it’s easy to throw up your hands and say, “I can’t!”) But I’ve learned a thing or two along life’s journey. Instead of fighting my limitations, I’ll lean into my strengths. While its true that God’s “power is made perfect in weakness”, it is also true that He made me with certain talents, inclinations, and strengths to use for His glory.

For years I’ve told students across the country not to be afraid to do big things (or small things) now, not to wait to write the book or record the song or join the team or bake the cookies or start the non-profit. I’ve been telling them not to let their limitations stop them; to focus, instead, on the talents God gave them. Who knew I was the one that needed that message? But if Rebirth Publishing is a company calling for reawakening, it only makes sense that this reawakening should start with me.

Will you join me?

Roots

12039619_801074946669870_4257282269312714570_nSometimes you just need the solace of friendship. Of bringing homemade coffee to your sister’s place and having her make cinnamon rolls. Of watching Mulan while cuddling her baby. Of facing big decisions together so you don’t feel so alone. Of celebrating life and sweetness. Of choosing to be still.

And this Saturday was all that and more.

It felt like the old days, when we both had the time to go shopping and the money to buy fast food and the energy to talk through movies (instead of falling asleep to them). I put so much weight on moving forward that I forget that, every great once and a while, you can go backwards instead. It is possible to recapture the roots of friendship and family. And in those roots is strength beyond measure.

Treasure your roots, friends, as I do mine.