Christmas Spirit

“Scrooge.”Cmas spirit

“Hum-bug.”

“Get in the Christmas Spirit.”

I’m sure we’ve all heard those phrases whether said to us or to others. But, I ask you; what is the Christmas Spirit?

Is it putting up a tree? Decorating the house/office? Baking? Purchasing or making gifts for others? What is it?

It’s December 8th and to be honest, I haven’t thought much about Christmas, yet. Our children are all adults, but, when they were little, I went all out–baking, decorating, trips to various Christmas themed events, and reading an advent story each night.

The older I get (and next week that will happen, too) the more I wonder, “[What is] Christmas really all about, Charlie Brown?”

Christmas

We, Christians, celebrate Christ’s birth at Christmas time. What a wonderful, exciting time! Yet, it has become so . . . can I use the word “jaded?” . . .

“. . . the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) Is this what the Christmas Spirit is truly about?

I believe so. If we look at Christ’s examples, we see love along with forgiving of our sins or “go and sin no more” command. God sent His Son to walk among us. I have a hard time comprehending the enormity of it all in my little human mind. It is truly an awe inspiring event.

What if we lived out the Christmas Spirit all year long? What if we loved others, were patient with others as much as we are at this time of year. What if we strove for peace in our relationships with others. What if we served without expectation of getting something in return.

Gift giving, baking, decorating, Christmas trees, and family traditions are never a bad thing. If that is your “thing” then that is super! But, if not, that is perfectly okay, too. Let’s cut one another some slack. The world has become super judgmental, over-sensitive, and just plain rude. Let’s combat that with kindness, love, and joy. (trust me, I’m preaching to the myself, too!)

I think Jesus would love that for His birthday this year and for the years to come!

 

Finish Line In View

I did it. I participated in NaNoWriMo and finished a 50,000+ word first draft novel. It’s an ugly little thing, yet, it’s my first ugly little thing I’ve ever finish. what-is-nanowrimo

The process taught me many things about myself. (see previous post) Some days the words flowed, other days–it was a downright struggle. And, sometimes ‘life’ likes to get in the way and hamper goals.

But, I’m ever so thankful for a friend, (looking at you, Julie) who has been down this road and is a published author, giving me the push I needed. I’m also thankful for all of my friends who knew I was going down this road. Thanks for not allowing me to quit. Accountability apparently needs to be my friend.

Then there is Thanksgiving. I mean, really? I’d like to know why the creators of NaNoWriMo thought November was a good month. I basically worked ahead so I could take that day off. Cheating? Nah, just creatively thinking ahead. Take that, creators!

Speaking of Thanksgiving, it was a dark, stormy night. Just kidding, for real it was a good day, except for the pesky beginnings of a cold. While people jumped out of bed the next day running to the stores for Black Friday deals, I awoke without a voice.

This “cold” progressively got worse ruining a perfectly good weekend, I might add. Monday found me calling in to work sick, still without a voice and my employer barely understood me . . . oops. Tuesday I awoke determined to “power through” and go to work. I mean I just finished 50,000+ words, I could do this. Tuesday was a dark day. Wednesday, still no voice, I went to work but by noon I decided I wouldn’t come back after lunch. I squeaked my way through a conversation at my doctor’s office only to be told no appointment until Monday. “But, Urgent Care is open until 8:00 p.m.” If she could have only seen the daggers I was shooting at her through the phone because yes, I’ll go to urgent care and spend 2x or 3x as much money than I would have if you would have just given me and hubs an appointment with our doctor!!

Don’t even get me started on our health care system right now. Trust me.

So, because our insurance is not good at all, (oh and that is another subject you would be wise not to engage me in conversation) we were torn about going to urgent care. For about a minute. We were both miserable. Did you notice I said ‘we’? Yeah, Hubs woke up with the same thing on Thanksgiving Day. Yup, sharing is caring and all that. Today, Thursday if you are keeping count, finds both of us home trying to get rid of this thing. Fun times.

Anyway, I’m not sure why I just told you all about that besides I’m on two different medications and maybe those cause me to babble on more than usual. Maybe. Probably. I have no idea. Or maybe I haven’t been able to talk much above a whisper since Thanksgiving and I’m trying to make up my verbal word count. Yep, going with that one.

To come full circle on this post, I’m putting away said first draft until January. It will give me a chance to look at it again with fresh eyes and perhaps love it more than I love it now. Which would be a miracle because we are not on speaking terms right now.

And, maybe have my voice back by then . . .

Are you a start-it-and-not-finish-it person like me or an I-have-goals-here-me-roar type of person? What is one thing you’ve finished and have been surprised on the outcome?

Ten Days In

Ten days with participating with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) has me all  . . .

ahh

It’s a lot of words y’all. 1,667 words a day might not seem like much . . . UNTIL you try it! Yet, ten days in I won’t let that word count goal beat me. I need to complete it. I’ve allowed myself to give up on too many things.

What has participating with NaNoWriMo taught me so far? And, God’s teaching me a few things as well . . . 

  1. It’s a lot of words
  2. Writing is hard work
  3. Perfectionism (is that the reason for not completing things in the past? Hmmm) and I fight. All. The. Time.
  4. When a novice writes this quickly sentence structure/grammar is downright embarrassing.
  5. “This is a first draft, this is a first draft, this is a first draft,” runs constantly through my mind when I want to highlight and delete every written word when #3 haunts me.
  6. I can take time for me and not feel guilty when I’m working on this goal, yet, why do I feel guilty taking time for me when I NEED rest?
  7. Focus is a muscle I’m constantly **squirrel** building.
  8. There is something gratifying when the word count is past the daily goal.
  9. The name may change but the character remains the same. Yes, even though I have a list of character names and characteristics, one character has had a name change but I have no idea where in the story it switched. Last name started out as Grady and has now become Brady. I think the character didn’t like his last name and changed it. Yup, that’s it.
  10. I need to go write. That daily word count won’t write itself.

Dear Blog,

I know I’ve been ignoring you lately. But, life. Life keeps moving quickly leaving me to only want to rest and think. And, sometimes sharing thoughts with you is confusing and painful so I take steps away from you. And, there are people who need my attention and care (and chauffeur skillz) right now.

It’s not you. It’s me.

And, to add insult to injury, I will be even quieter. It’s not like I don’t want to talk with you. I hate to tell you this as you’ll question our love . . . there is someone else. I’m sorry! (hands blog a tissue)

There s a story in my mind that won’t let go. People in my life pushing (I need it) me to write. People who try to convince me God has given me a passion for a reason. (jury is still out on that one) And so as blind faith goes, I will write.

But, dear Blog, those old thoughts from forever and a-day-ago rush in my mind. Those thoughts are rude and pushy. Comparison, “I’m not good enough”, and “just one more thing I can fail at” thoughts.  And, let’s not talk about distractions. Always so much to do. Always the internet. Always a show to watch, a book to read. (I know, I’ve lectured myself on those last two “reasons”)

So, you see, dear Blog, it really is me. Me trying to convince my 50 year-old-self that it isn’t too late in life. But, I KNOW God is good and perfect and whatever this obedience He is calling me to will be worth it.

I am a Child of the God Most High. He is singing over me with love. He has my picture on His refrigerator telling His Angels, “Look at her. This one loves me. This one longs to bring me glory. Yet, she is scared. Watch her as she learns it is okay to fail, or what she believes is failing, and get up. But, her so-called failures? Oh, they will be turned in to something glorious. Just as I have planned all along.”

For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Esther 4:14 (ESV)

Take a few naps, Blog, and I’ll be back before you know it.

Pain

First, how can it be October 21st already? When you find out how to slow down time, let me know.

Second, I belong to a writing group and are given three words to choose from to write a piece for the next meeting. For the longest time I couldn’t decide which word to use. I mulled over it for weeks until finally the word “pain”, one of the three words, would not get out of my mind. I mean who really wants to write about pain?

So, here it goes . . .

Pain — a four-letter word. It can hit unexpectedly sucking life-giving breath away. Wondering if you’ll ever breathe normally again. Pain can creep in quietly and gently until it becomes as annoying as clanging bell.

Physical pain.
Emotional pain
Mental pain.
Spiritual pain.

As a vivid memory for each of those pains enters the mind, each of us has a story to tell. The pain story as individual as we.

Pain is fickle. From the worst-of-the-worst to fight-or-flight.

Yet for all of its annoyance, on the other side of pain is often where healing truly begins. It’s where fingers of faith find the hem of the life-giving God. In the clinging–rest.

 

A Gentle Whisper

As a person in our Sunday School class read 1 Kings 19 today, I was struck in a new way by a story I’ve heard many times.

I seem to be in a stage of tiredness and overwhelmed easily. And, that is where we seem to find Elijah – mentally and spiritually tired.

Elijah worked hard for the Lord. He was so in-tuned with God and God with him. Elijah was faithful and obedient. Yet. Yet, I feel he was exhausted and needed time away to reconnect with God. To revive the passion. To just be.

Have you ever felt like that? (I’m talking to you, women!)

In chapter 18, Elijah had just proven God’s existence as the one and only God. And, then Elijah’s life was threatened in chapter 19 (yes, that escalated quickly). Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. He ended up in the wilderness crying out to God, “I’ve had enough, Lord. Take my life…”

Yep, how many times have I said that myself? (except for the take my life part) Life seems to be like that…when it rains it pours to the point of “I’ve had enough!”

Elijah (like most men) fell asleep. An angel woke him up and provided food for him as he was going on a field trip. God knew Elijah needed some time of renewal and had a spot picked out for him — the mountain of God. And, like any good man would do, he found a cave on that mountain and spent the night…probably snoring the night away.

After this, we read of Elijah’s melt down. He basically told God what he already knew. And, God answered him . . .

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

I Kings 19:11-13

Can we talk about these verses? Did you catch it? God wasn’t in the big ‘things’. He was in “a gentle whisper”. We, humans, seem to focus on the big. We seem to focus on the big things and feel inadequate when we don’t live up to the big in our minds.  (a great book about the small is Church of the Small Things)

But, with God and Elijah, they met each other in the small. In Beth Guckenberger’s book, Start With Amen, she talks about the Hebrew word of “gentle whisper” or in some versions, “a still small voice” is kol d’mama de kah. (page 26) The author used the example of a mother and a newborn child. A mom snuggling close to the newborn and making quiet sounds to him. The newborn response with his own sounds of communication. Neither know what the other is saying but in the close intimacy of the moment, it doesn’t really matter. The proximity and intimacy is enough. “Connection is being forged through these gentle whispers.”

page 27: “The Lord was expressing to Elijah that he is not always found in the big demonstrations . . . I will find him in this intimate exchange where his face is drawn close to mine and all others are now blurred out. This is where his voice is the clearest and where I’ll be near enough to hear him address my heart’s concern.”

I can just imagine Elijah experiencing the wind, earthquake, and fire. Sitting in the cave and just thinking, “Nah, that’s not him yet.” And, then the gentle whisper. I imagine the tiny hairs on his neck and arms raising. I imagine a slight smile as he stood to walk out of the cave thinking, There He is.

God knew Elijah needed time away. Away from the work. Away from distractions. Away from people. Away to renew. Away to refresh. Away to regain the passion for his calling. And, Elijah knew that gentle whisper was the connection he didn’t know he craved until that moment.

May we recognized the small and connect with God through His gentle whispers.

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Church Of The Small Things Review

bigmama_booklp-v4_03Church of the Small Things by, Big Mama herself, Melanie Shankle, takes the reader on a journey of the small things. Small, ordinary, and what we could possible consider boring things.

How many of us have heard the cry, “Dream Big!” Well, I don’t know about you but that honestly freaks me out when I think about it. I mean, can we talk about the pressure? If-you-need-me-I’ll-be-over-in-the-corner-rocking-in-a-fetal-position-singing-“Jesus loves me” kind of freaked out.  (I may have hyperventilated a little bit just typing that)

But, what if we realized, and believed, a smile, holding the door open for a mom of littles, helping an older person reach for a just out of reach item in the store, or packing lunch for another person is just as important as the big?

Author Melanie Shankle’s humor blended with truths, and a list of ten lessons learned at the end of almost every chapter make it a joyful read. Shoot, her dogs, Mabel and Piper even bless the readers with a haiku or two. That in of itself is a worth the price of admission.

I laughed, I cried, it moved me, Bob. (high-five if you grew up with your kiddos watching Veggie Tales)

Like most authors, Shankle put out a call for live bodies to be a part of her launch team and street team. I made the latter team. *Spoiler Alert and Disclaimer: I received a free PDF of the book from the author for an honest review…and if you couldn’t tell, this is an honest review.*

When the PDF showed up, I couldn’t wait to tear into it. There are so many wonderful quotes. Here are a few of the serious…

“Life is more about how he [God] uses us to make a difference to the people who cross our paths, even while we are just going about our normal, sometimes boring, lives. ”

“We are in God’s will when we wake up with the willingness to go wherever he leads that day, to seek him in the ordinary, and to love and influence the people around us. Sometimes that can look a whole lot like packing a lunch.”

“I believe God wants us to walk out on the waters of our faith and calls us to things that are greater and deeper than any of our fears.”

“When we open ourselves up to the life God has for us, it probably isn’t going to look like what we had planned, and it isn’t always going to feel safe, but it will be infinitely better because it’s a life filled with purpose.

I know, right?!

Now go. Go do yourself a favor and purchase the book! And, if you are still on the fence, there is a sample that will push you over to the right side.