Friday, August 31, 2012

Hmm, What Would You Do with This…


I have a hobby I’m not sure I’ve told you about.
I transform furniture. There’s something exhilarating and therapeutic about the process for me. Painting. Sanding. Creating newness from something old.

I have an idea of what I’d like to do with this. But today I want to know…what would you do with it?
 


*I also don't think I've shared how I'm infatuated with the color blue.
**Later today I’ll share my plans. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Spend Limited Time with These Eight People


We are to love all people. I know this. You know this. But I’m not aware of a command that says pour all our time and energy into people that drain the living daylights out of us. Truth is to do so is just plain unhealthy. It robs us of time better spent on those who are more likely to motivate us and prod us toward the reason we’re here in the first place. You can’t get time back. It matters how we use up our minutes.
All this said, I’ve given some thought to some folks we might want to consider minimizing our minutes with:

The Blamer
Everything is someone else’s fault. (Little brother to The Complainer.)

The Victim
Life, in all its unfairness, has dumped on me. Wah. (Brother to The Blamer.)

The Excuse Maker
That’s not my project or problem or property or possession... Besides, I’m too busy cleaning out my ears. (The Victim’s best friend.)

The Discourager
Why bother? It’s not worth it. You just don’t have what it takes. (Mom of The Victim.)

The Complainer
Life is always a dull brown or gray. This person could find a way to rip apart a rainbow. (Cousin to The Blamer.)

The Eternally Bored One 
(The Complainer’s neighbor.) Nothing worth engaging with. No real valuable way to spend my time. Waste it away.
The Gossip

Should carry a sign that says, “Willing to talk behind backs for free.” Thinks it is building her up. Instead, she looks like a fool. (Girlfriend to The Bored.)
The Taker

Mine. Mine. And more mine. Talk. Talk. Talk. Dump. Vent. Bleh. (Trains The Victim’s dog.)

And there you have it in the land of toxic. Crazy how they’re all related, eh?
This list serves as a great self-check for me. It’s natural to slip into any one of these behaviors. But it’s dangerous and it bleeds into our relationships. On more than one occasion I’ve learned the hard way after spending far too much time concentrating on individuals with these traits. Now I’m more discerning about how I invest my time—and in whom.

Can you think of another example of a life-draining behavior?

*There’s a difference between going through a difficult season and embodying one of these traits for years. I’m a strong believer in coming along side others to help them out of the pit. But when it gets to the point where they want you to bring your belongings and live down there with them, you’ve hit a crucial point. Do you let them drag you in the pit with them or not?

**photo by stock.XCHNG

 

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Unexplainable Nature of Resiliency


I’ve woven threads of resiliency into every single one of my protagonists, but I’m certain I’ll explore the unexplainable nature of this enigmatic human behavior at greater lengths in a future novel.
My mom and I have hour-long conversations on the topic. And I gravitate toward reading any book bestowing this theme.

Resiliency.
Why do some people bounce back while others give in to a state of dwindling despair?

I’m finding UNBROKEN, the harrowing account of an Olympian turned WWII crash survivor turned POW, near impossible to put down. And I keep playing one question over in my mind.
As an Olympic runner

Over a month at sea following his plane crash, haunted by sharks, blisters slicing open his skin, and hunger difficult to conceptualize
Enduring repeated cruel physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional brutality from those in charge of the POW camps

What made Louis Zamperini go on?
I’ve encountered rough seasons when I’ve felt emotionally, mentally, and spiritually pummeled, but nothing to the extent of what I’m reading. There’s no doubt I’m one hundred percent inspired by Zamperini’s persistence and resiliency. I recognize a flicker of it in myself. It’s that fight thing I’ve got going on whenever I sense I’m being dragged under. The incurable optimist in me bursting from the depths.

I can’t answer in entirety why Zamperini survived—what cultivated the fight in him. Most certainly it’s tied into resiliency.
I can say for me it always comes back to a little thing called faith. That “little thing” that has won over all fear and hopelessness in my life yesterday, today, and forever. That’s where the will to go on lives for me.

My desire is to broach thoughts about resiliency with you today. Read the following two passages from UNBROKEN. (This specific scene reflects on the extended time the three soldiers spent at sea in the aftermath of their plane crash.)

“Mac’s resignation seemed to paralyze him, and the less he participated in their efforts to survive, the more he slipped. Though he did the least, as the days passed, it was he who faded the most. Louie and Phil’s optimism, and Mac’s hopelessness, were becoming self-fulfilling.”

 “Though they both knew that they were in an extremely serious situation, both had the ability to warn fear away from their thoughts*, focusing instead on how to survive and reassuring themselves that things would work out. It remains a mystery why these three young men, veterans of the same training and the same crash, differed so radically in their perceptions of their plight. Maybe the difference was biological; some men may be wired for optimism, others for doubt…” (*bold mine)
Tell me what you’re thinking. What does it take to make someone resilient? Have you bumped up against the unexplainable nature of resiliency?

*photo by stock.XCHNG

 

 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Who is This Woman?


Thought we’d play a little today.
What can you tell me about this woman—Annie Edson Taylor?

As you make your guesses and comment I’ll provide the fascinating details I’ve discovered about her throughout the day (and let you know the resource where I got them).
Now have at it. Tell me who she is.

Here’s a huge clue to get you started…

 

*I’ll continue with Moving Thoughts Friday questions sometime in September

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

8 Indicators a Novel Idea Possesses Staying Power


I’ve admitted to you before how frequently I come up with new story ideas.
But not all seeds have what it takes to root and develop into a beautiful potted plot. I wrote a post about how I whittle my ideas down as a process of testing them to see if they’ll make it over the long haul here.

Today I’m highlighting eight indicators an idea is strong enough to last:
Relevance Factor

Is there something about the theme, subject matter, or main conflict that evokes immediate recognition, feeling, or resonance in our contemporary culture? In the news? A well-known event? Something I’m intrigued to learn more about (a must)?

Head Talk
When characters start playing out conversations in my mind I’m inclined to reach for a pen and start taking notes. This also occurs a little later in the plotting stages and tends to signal to me a loyalty to move ahead. It’s a major score for a writer. Yes, my characters will talk to me.

Plot Twists & Conflict Flourish
Plans for directions the novel could take begin to jut off like streaming estuaries as opposed to dry up like cracks in the desert. Love when this happens!

That First Date Feeling
I reach the point where I’m so fascinated I want to ask a million questions. I must know more.

Wake up Excited
To unravel the story.

Can’t Sleep Excited
To unravel story. Enter pen and paper by my bed for middle of the night jottings.

Depth Potential
Does this idea have the potential to stir up something deep within me? If so, I explore it further. If not, I shut it down.

Off the Charts Empathy
This is one of my favorite stages of writing—when my main character becomes “alive” and I begin to “feel” what she’s feeling. I know a novel has what it takes to stick around if my protagonist is churning this kind of reaction in me.

It seems like not much has staying power these days. Technology changes faster than I can finish this sente… Loyalty is hard to come by. But I’m loyal through and through. I’m also discerning. It pays when I evaluate the stories that are worth my time and energy.

How do you assess whether something has staying power in your life?

*photo by stock.XCHNG

Friday, August 17, 2012

My Summer Theme Song


Mixing it up a little by taking a hiatus from Moving Thoughts Fridays. I’m planning some fun Friday posts.
I’ll lead with the song that got me through this summer


 Ever find yourself more than a little addicted to a song?

*I’ll be offline on Monday. See you Wednesday!
**If I gave anyone flashbacks from Olympic gymnastics, you’re welcome. Cool to watch!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

8 Ways to Lead a Less Lemming Life


Say that ten times fast.
Seriously though, I’m a huge advocate of people tapping into their God-given talents and living them out with exuberance. It can get mighty tricky to do this if we’re spending our valuable time trying to do as so and so says and live as such and such does.

We all fall prey to this behavior. Must have a Facebook fan page. Pinterest is the new black. Man, those jeans make her look good. Where can I snag a pair of those? What, I’m not a good mom if I don’t have each of my kids enrolled in at least three activities?
How do we break the cycle? How do we become intentional about not parading off the cliff? How do we lead a less lemming life?

8 Ways. Here. Now.
Remember Our Assignment

Mystery of the earth solved. We’re here for one reason—to glorify God. What does that look like? What the heck does that mean in your life? Well how the heck should I know. That’s part of the assignment, figuring out what that does look like in your life. (Major hint: Not to get too kumbaya on you, but I guarantee it will always start with, continue with, and come back to love.)
Pay Attention to Our Footsteps

The past matters. We’re wise to learn from it. It’s worth it to pay attention to where we’ve been as it carries the potential to strongly influence where we’re headed.
Make Sure We’re Well Fed

Desperate and hunger-starved souls are quick to follow any crowd if there’s hope of being fed. Dive off that cliff? Well, golly sure.
Let Go of the Guy in Front

No coattails coasting here. Pave your own way. Create a path. Bushwhack if necessary. Don’t expect someone else to pull you along. Or ignore this advice and have him pull you right off the cliff with him. Your choice.
Appreciate the Scenery

You’ll be less likely to jump if you’re taking in the beauty all around you. The sky. The vast surging ocean. You’ll trust your instincts. Discern with a sharp assessment of the situation. Hard to constantly compare our walk to another’s when we’re constantly looking up with a spirit of gratitude.
Don’t Be Afraid to Step Out of Line

Take risks.
Shake Your Groove Thang Every Once in Awhile

Get in the practice of being bold. Jut a hip out every so often. See how it feels when your body jiggles to the music inside your head. Then shake, shake, shake senora. I happen to believe this is one of the steps on the road to learning how to glorify God. I also happen to believe He’s thrilled to watch us dance and move to the music he planted inside our souls.
Learn at Every Turn

It takes a long time to reach the edge of the cliff. Larry Lemming taught us the value of gathering food back there. Lisa Lemming revealed how essential it is to go against our natural instincts toward solidarity and to stick together when she got eaten by that wild animal. Llama Lemming taught us not to spit on other lemmings (ever). Okay, this post is taking an odd turn. Time to wrap up.
There’s a reason you’re here. A significance. That thing you do. That specific way you make others feel. If you’re still trying to figure out the path you need to take here’s the best piece of advice I’ve ever read…

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord.” Jer. 29:13  (NIV)
or put another way

“When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.”  Jer. 29:13 (Msg)

And if you happen to leap with the rest of them off the cliff, truth is, God’s arms are wider than the ocean. He’s a good catcher too. He’ll put you back up on solid ground to learn this all over again.

Which less lemming way spoke to you most today?
 
*note that the “mass suicide” of lemmings is actually a misconception, but hey, it made for a creative post idea so I went with it

**photo by stock.XCHNG








Monday, August 13, 2012

Collecting Stories


I’ve always liked the idea of collecting spoons. Haven’t pursued that with fervor yet. I do own over a dozen Willow Tree figurines. My mom and I got into a groove of exchanging those for years. I’ve pretty much maxed out my collection.
It hit me the other day. I don’t actually collect anything physical—anything I can hold in my hands.

What I really collect...stories.
I’m building a library inside my brain.

It’s not actual books I enjoy having in my possession, as I take out many books from the library and tend to give my books away readily.
It’s the stories.

And every single story has a way of fueling my love of writing.
That library—the one I’m building inside my brain reminds me of the infamous line, “If you build it they will come.”

My Field of Dreams lives inside my own characters, characters stitched together from my experiences, my robust and sometimes stubbornly present imagination. My Field of Dreams is fashioned from the hundreds of stories embedded in the depths of my memory and make up. I carry these influences with me everywhere. They alter my perception, increase my will to empathize, and encourage my passion of communicating through the art of story.

The lush benefits of reading and writing are so intricately intertwined it’s oftentimes difficult to discern which invigorates me more.
But make no mistake. This is no chicken and egg, which came first conundrum.

Reading came first.
Writing was born out of my love of reading—the powerful force, the electric charge that strums the soul when a character comes alive with felt relevance for the reader.

Nothing I hold in my hands has the potential to do what only stories are meant to.
Are you building a library inside your brain? Do you collect anything of great significance to you?

Friday, August 10, 2012

This is my 600th post


After 600 posts (no reposts) I think I’ve finally (temporarily) run out of words.

No list of eight. No Moving Thoughts Friday question. Nothing plucked randomly from the endless cavern inside my brain.

This means…

You’re on.

Take it away.

Today is your post. Own it.

Fill in the words that I can’t seem to find.
 
*photos by stock.XCHNG (I realize none of them have significance for 6 or 600. Hey, I tried. And they’re purdy.)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Causes of Career Atrophy

Here’s a question…when you go to the zoo and walk by the gorilla exhibit what are you hoping to see? Probably not the band or troop catching some Zzz’s. Conked out.

Nope, you want them in action. You want them at their playful best.
There are ways we become sleeping gorillas in our chosen careers—ways we’re at risk of atrophying our message and impact.

Today I’m going to swing around the vines of just a few…
Letting Rejection Reign

Ever seen a baboon turn its back to you? Sort of funny to watch, but not very entertaining. If we allow rejection to seep into our souls, let it influence us, encouraging us to turn our backs on the industry and the professionals involved, we’re letting it win. And we’re not all that fun to watch in the process. No one likes a pouter.
Neglecting to Set Goals & Allowing Set Goals to Slide

It’s an accountability system. It works. Stick with it. If it’s difficult to remember the last time you created a goal sheet, well today is a fine day to begin anew.
Focusing on the Wrong Things

This is the monkey staring at the kid banging on the glass. Kids, don’t bang on the glass. It’s mean and it makes monkeys look at the wrong thing. Throws their whole world out of whack.
Isolation Station

A thumb-twiddling gorilla gets pretty boring to observe. Not near the same excitement and community potential that comes with gathering around other baboons.
Paying Attention to Discouraging Voices

Remember the kid banging on the glass? Behind him is his mom saying things like, “Look how red his butt is” and “How ugly.” You’re beautiful. You know it. We know it. Ignore the mom with the Fran Drescher voice. Carry on, monkey. Carry on.
Losing Sight of the Big Picture/Long Haul Approach

You belong in the jungle. Just because you’re stuck behind a glass enclosure now does not mean that you’re not meant for bigger things. You’ll break out. I can see it in that sneaky grin, the blueprints you stash behind your pile of leaves, and every time you bulk up your arms by swinging like a circus acrobat. You’re jungle bound, baby.
Validation Station

Here’s the monkey throwing bananas, performing twirls, and undulating like a mad monkey to get the laughs. But while screaming, “Like me, like me” in monkey talk the poor guy has to know it’s a short show. And unless he loves what he’s doing the reality is the clapping stops, the cheering ends. People walk on. Banana throwing needs to be an inbred love. Because suddenly the crowd is in an alligator mood.

Falling Out of Love with the Craft
What’s one of the most fascinating behaviors to witness in monkeys and gorillas? Their grooming. They devote such care in to plucking out miniature mites. It’s noticeable when we stop caring for the craft. Everything gets itchier. For us. For our readers. Mite-y uncomfortable (ba dum dum).

So, let’s not be caught sleeping gorillas. Let’s throw bananas. Make amusing noises. And band together.
And while I’d love to claim writing isn’t monkey business, sometimes it is. Time to get your monkey on.

Can you think of other causes of career atrophy? Any other fun monkey-related thoughts?

*Oh, and I know a gorilla is not a monkey, but an ape. But it was too much fun to smash all these monkey types together.
**photo by stock.XCHNG


Monday, August 6, 2012

Wrestling with Feeling Small

I recently began reading The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb. Since I was a child I’ve had a fascination with all things P.T. Barnum. The book snagged my attention.  Though the main character stands only two feet, eight inches tall, I’m finding I have far more in common with her than I could ever have imagined.

There’s a memorable scene where Mercy Lavinia “Vinnie” Warren Bump is reflecting on when, as children her siblings scratched all their names in the bark of a tree. Creeping myrtle and tall grasses have grown over where her name had been etched.
She describes the feeling:

“It was as if a shadow had fallen over just me, while the rest of the world remained illuminated by bright sunlight. At that moment I felt hidden from all eyes; looking at my name, covered over by weeds, I saw how easily it could disappear forever. I saw how easily I could be forgotten, compared to my brothers and sister, compared to everyone else, everyone who was taller, more noticeable, more visible to the rest of the world. I did not want to be forgotten. More than that, I wanted, desperately—I fell to my knees and began to tear out the weeds, the vines, by their very roots—to be remembered. I wanted my name to be known, beyond this tree, this hill, this pasture, this town.”
Earlier in the book Mercy depicts how she decided to pose herself in the classroom the first time her students would see her:

“I was standing calmly in the middle of the room. I did not to attempt to hide my size by staying behind my desk or perching upon any kind of platform. I simply stood there, as dignified, as tall, as I could possibly make myself appear.”
I’ve been through all kinds of wrestling lately. Faith wrestling. Wrestling that is prevalent during painful spiritual growth. Wrestling that comes before and after surrender.

But I viscerally feel, and keenly identify with Mercy Lavinia “Vinnie” Warren Bump’s pendulum emotions. I want my stories out there. I sometimes stand as tall as I can in hopes I’ll be noticed. But there are times I feel dust mote small.
The scene when she’s looking at her name in the tree bark ends like this…

“My hands were stained green. But my name was now plainly visible…My fierce desire soon faded away into the twilight…and I saw the warm, beckoning lights of home twinkle on, one by one, as Mama began to light the lamps, which shone, at that moment, more brightly than the faint stars on the horizon…so I was content to turn around and return home, content with what I knew was waiting for me there.”
This brings a verse to mind.

“Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of ‘the brightest and the best’ among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these ‘nobodies’ to expose the hollow pretensions of the ‘somebodies’?...Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ.” 1 Cor. 27: 30 (Msg)

And so it is.
There’s hope for all of us who wrestle with feeling small—hope that He will lead us to do BIG things for Him, in Him, and through Him.

Has a book stirred deep thoughts in you lately? Do you ever wrestle with feeling small?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Moving Thoughts Friday


Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It’s my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

If you could say one thing to yourself and believe it assuredly starting today and every day in the future, what would you say?

*photos by stock.XCHNG

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Out & About


I’m excited to be out & about this week. Yesterday, I loved having a guest post at Lisa Jordan’s place (Sickness & Health: Before the Vows). And today I’m thrilled to be featured on PW Creighton’s blog (Putting the Hurt on to Create a Compelling Page-Turner).

Would love for you to swing by!