Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Struggling

I always desire a vibrant relationship with God, and in my book “The Girl With the Grace Tattoo” I discuss how that relationship has changed and how much better things are now. But even though things are better now, there are still times that I struggle and I feel so far away. This is what it has been like lately, I think part of the problem is just exhaustion. I’m working on the book, my college homework, working for a minimum of three hours a day on the fundraiser for my son, trying to establish a business and looking for work in the meantime, and meeting the needs of and spending time with my other three children, two of whom also have special needs.

Things have been a little discouraging lately I suppose, and I’ve been working hard to change how I think about things and how I respond to discouraging events. I’m determined to keep on keeping on. Maybe I have subconsciously blamed God for these circumstances. But the biggest thing is that I have felt mostly discouraged and restless. For the past few days I have spent time praying that God would just show me his presence in all of this, and that he would give me something that would improve my relationship with him.

Tonight I opened a little prayer book, and when I read the Bible verse on the page I had opened to randomly just to skim, I knew this was my answer and my encouragement. ‘But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep, I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear through tens of thousands assail me on every side.’ Psalm 3:3-6 NIV. It’s ironic that I read this and that it was so much comfort to me because my counsellor has been strongly encouraging me to read the Psalms. And I have been looking for prayers to recite (not that I can’t pray my own, I do pray my own, I also enjoy reciting prayers).

The Psalms show some deep and honest communication with God. I tend to skip over them a lot in favor of reading from the New Testament because I guess it seems more applicable to my life because it is written for New Testament Christians. But the Bible says that all of the Scriptures are profitable to us. From this particular Psalm tonight I realized that when I pray, God hears me and he answers me. It is he that sustains me, and I’m learning that a whole lot right now with no income, no employment or prospective employment, a pending divorce, etc. Looking back I can see all the amazing ways that God has provided for me and sustained my family and I during these difficult times. I also realized it doesn’t matter if it seems like the world is against me, because even if that is true (and it probably isn’t, it just seems like it at times) that God is FOR me. And so I don’t really suppose it matters who else hates me, or spreads gossip and lies that does so much damage and causes so much hurt, it doesn’t matter the few who have chosen to act like bullies towards me, it doesn’t matter if things don’t work out the way I want them to, God is still for me, and that’s really awesome. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Style

Throughout the process of writing my first book, “The Girl With the Grace Tattoo”, I have had many decisions to make regarding style. Seeing as it is my first book, I feel like the tone and style of this book will set the tone for my writing career. It is important that my own style and voice be clearly seen in my first book. There are several chapters I have that I have reworked several times thinking that I wanted to change the style in which they were written, but in the end I came back to the original idea which was each chapter being a short personal essay.

I am good at essay writing, I can make persuasive arguments, I made good grades in most of my college papers, in fact I redeemed a few not so good papers by how well they were written rather than content and the professors said as much. I also enjoy essay writing; I’m one of the college students that actually did learn a lot by preparing essays. The essays in my book are not going to be academic essays, because I want regular people to be able to read, understand and enjoy them, and the book still is technically a memoir, which is why I choose to call them personal essays. I am hoping that this also creates interest in my book because the style sets it apart from most memoirs that it would be competing in the marketplace with. My essay writing style is distinctive and those who are at all familiar with my writing can tell an essay that I have written when the read it before they even take notice of the by-line.

This means that I do quote from a lot of sources, which I believe not only adds credibility to the book but also relevance and for those who read the same way I do, a list of books to read after mine if any of the quotes and ideas that I quote from interest them. Anyone who writes a decent book does a lot of research in order to write that book, and the essay format allows me a way to share some of that research easily. It helps people engage with the set topic in a far more meaningful way than with my words alone.

Since I started working on the book I worked on a chapter at a time, not in order of how I want them to appear, but with whatever topic appealed to me or was on my mind at the time out of the topics I had selected to write about. But in the last few days I have done a lot of work on the order of the chapters and I have started to craft the actual book, which means that I have to work on the introduction and then start working the chapters in order because that will help me to make more profitable use of my time. I want my book to be awesome, so I’m going to write it in my best style and hope that others enjoy reading it as much as I am enjoying writing it.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Thoughts on Fundraising Efforts - Part 2


It's a lot harder than I thought it might be to set up a fundraiser, especially when I really want people to pay attention to it. I thought that I had the writing skills that I needed, and then found out that I evidently did not. I've received valuable feedback from those who told me what I could do to make it better. There are so many decisions to make when writing, but each kind of writing generally has different kinds of decisions associated with it. This fundraiser is quickly showing me where some of the gaps in my own writing are. 

Apparently I’m not good at writing something compelling enough to go viral on social media, and that’s what I need here and it’s also the goal with my blogging. I need to learn how to write pieces that will go viral.

This fundraiser is very personal, after all this is my son that I am trying to raise the money for, and I’ve been disappointed that my skill level in writing has failed me in making this particular piece go viral. For me it doesn’t matter how good anything I’ve written before this has been, when it comes down to it, the one time my writing truly matters and could truly change something, and my skills have fallen short. Not only have my skills fallen short but I feel frozen and still not able to figure out where I went wrong so I can fix it, and that is the worst part for me.

All of this is interesting because at first I doubted my choice to undertake my honors year in writing or communications. I’m actually considering going back to communications for my master’s and even looking into local graduate schools to do it, unless the university I’m currently at were willing to make me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Not that it’s a bad university, but studying by distance has its shortcomings, and it also means that my talents or lack thereof are not being showcased locally, making employment options harder. I have to wonder if I did a master’s degree through a local college and therefore did a local internship, whether that might help rather than hinder my employment options. As much as I would like to stay with my current school, I also want to be employable as soon as possible. I’m in a rough spot as far as that goes retail stores and fast food places don’t want to hire me because I have a college degree but other more professional places don’t want to hire me because I “only” have a Bachelor’s degree. To be honest right now the whole entire situation frustrates me and makes me wonder if I’ll be employable even with that master’s degree, or with the doctorate degree.

What is even worse are those who encourage me to give up on my post graduate career to “focus on being a mom”. Part of the reason I am pursing a post-graduate career (and I fully intend to get a Ph.D) is that as a single mom I don’t want to spend the rest of my life working at the corner store, struggling to make ends meet for me and my four children. I don’t want to rely on child support payments; I don’t want to rely on social security payments. I want to be a great mom and a professional. And I want a Ph.D because the college experience has been life changing and also spiritually enlightening and I want to continue down that path.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Thoughts on Fundraising Efforts - Part 1

There have been so many thoughts in my head about the campaign for my son Jebediah. Sometimes I feel hopeful that we can raise the money because we already raised so much, until I remember that the same donor donated a major chunk of what has already been donated. Which of course that is great, but I know that if I got more people to “share” the campaign, it would get more exposure and maybe it could be successful. But the campaign isn’t drama, a meme or fluff, and I’m not a well-known person, so that all works against me, because people will share meme’s, drama and fluff all the day long. I’m not sure I can blame others for not sharing, though, is it something I would share?

This campaign has taught me a lot, part of that has been about caring for the little guy who is just trying to navigate their life. It’s taught me that causes and charities are trendy and if people can put on a big show about a cause, they will do so, it doesn’t mean they care about the cause. I have reached out to autism groups and charities, not only have I received no response, but most groups, major groups such as Autism Speaks, etc. have gone as far as to delete my request for shares. I haven’t even asked for them to help fund the project, just to display it on their page for others to share.

I was at the gas station the other day, and a woman came and begged me for money for gas to get somewhere a few hours away. I didn’t even have enough money to fill my tank. I get hit up for cash a minimum of half the time that I am that particular gas station pumping gas, it’s right by the interstate and when I get to the interstate there are more often than not people with cardboard signs wanting money for gas or food or whatever. On Sunday, I was in a bad mood but I was nice and told her I was sorry and I didn’t have any cash, but I still thought uncharitable thoughts towards the woman, internally accusing her of trying to cheat me out of my cash that is very hard for me to come by. But like me, she could have just been a regular person in a bad situation who had run out of money and desperately needed to be in a different situation.

To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have given that lady any money that day even if I had had it, not because I was worried about what she would do with it, but because I already felt badly about myself. I have given people cash for gas before, stopped to hand the homeless a bag of food that I went into the store and brought just for them, or handed some cash out the window. I’ve even stopped to talk to and spend time with the homeless when I was without a car and walked to work.

This campaign has caused me to have to evaluate my own prejudices and consider what I do and do not do on a daily basis in regards to helping those in a less fortunate situation than myself. The situation I am in right now is pretty crappy and it’s embarrassing to ask for help and it’s discouraging that things aren’t working out the way that I want them to, either with the campaign or with getting stable employment, but it has taught me several things about  my own judgment of others and made me evaluate how I treat others. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Bio (The Beginning of the Long Version)

I’m part of the one percent. The one percent of people who according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, show up as INFJ, which means that I am special and a rare gem. Well, that is what I would like to think, anyway. The truth is that I’ve always struggled with thinking of myself as special, despite how many people might tell me that. I suffer from a major deficit in self-esteem. I self-identify as a Jesus hippie and yes I totally did just make that up. All these labels are cool if you are a psychologist or a psychology major, but if you aren’t, I’m going to go into a better description for you (which means that I’m tired of the info I currently have as my profile info on the blog and my Facebook and so I am going to write a new bio).

Basically I tend to get passionate about things that I really believe in, spirituality and values are important to me. I tend to live in my head a lot as in I am constantly thinking, have been told that I think too deeply, and I cannot shut my brain down at night when I go to bed. I relate to God most in the intellectual, enjoy hanging out with people who stimulate me either intellectually or artistically. My star sign is Pisces which unsurprisingly to me has a water element, and let’s just say that “The Astrology Bible’s” description of my personality type is also pretty accurate. I get passionate about things and want to take action and do something, and am extremely frustrated when my fibromyalgia decides it doesn’t want to let me.

I only have a few close friends although there are so many people I like, for me I use up so much energy in the few relationships that there isn’t a lot left with which to offer to anyone else. So if I don’t claim that you are a friend of mine, please don’t be disappointed, because I probably do like you, my brain just can’t process how to maintain a whole heap of relationships at once. I tend to fall on the liberal side of the pendulum when it comes to Christianity and politics, although I attend a church that tends to fall on the conservative side of both. For many that doesn’t even make sense, but for me, learning to function as the Kingdom of God and the body of Christ requires unity, especially among people I disagree with, and besides all that, my church are my family and God lead me to them and blessed me with them and I’m not going to walk out on family just because we might think differently on some issues. My church is a major theme in my life simply because they are my family.

Sometimes I wonder if any of this stuff is important to my writing, but then I realize that it’s very important because it informs my writing. When my book releases, the style and the content will have come from deep inside of me, and this is part of who I am deep inside. It’s why it has been so important to me to figure it all out. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Sobriety

“We can be sober in our thinking and participate in God’s effort to love the world.” Miller, 2012, p. 16. As a person in addiction recovery, I’m familiar with the concept of sobriety, but I never connected the idea of sobriety to my thoughts, but it definitely makes sense. The theme of thought sobriety really goes along with everything that I have been learning lately, and that the only person I can change and control is myself (that’s part of twelve step teachings too).

I know many other people know this, but for me it is revolutionary: I can only control myself, I cannot control how others treat me, whether or not they abuse me, or what stories they tell about me behind my back. So instead of fighting back in childish, vindictive and passive-aggressive ways, I can utilize some self-control and choose to respond with love, grace and mercy. The serenity prayer is a huge part of twelve-step meetings, the prayer that says “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. I’ve really started appreciating this prayer and praying it much more often.

The truth is that there are plenty of things that I cannot change, things that have happened to me, and I need to accept those things as part of life and then move on. The things that I can change are things that I need to work on changing, and right now one of the things that I am working on changing is my thoughts, because thoughts are very powerful. It takes a lot of wisdom to realize the difference between the things I can and cannot change. Philippians 4:8 also gives a list of guidelines for thought sobriety. “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditation on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse”. Philippians 4:8 The Message.

So when someone makes a snide comment toward me I can choose to ignore it and let God take care of it or I can choose to make a big deal out of it and in doing so, act in ways that I shouldn’t. When someone is rude to me I can take it personally or I can realize that their rudeness is their problem, and maybe then I can even muster up some compassion to try to help the rude person have a better day. For me this requires huge changes in my life, I have to purposely change many things in the way that I think. I really wish that this was something I got the concept of before my marriage fell apart, because perhaps things could have been different then.

In my own personal development, I am my own worst enemy. It is time to change that.

Reference:

Miller, D 2012 ‘Storyline 2.0: finding your subplot in God’s story’, Storyline 2.0, Portland, Oregon. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Jamberry

I used to be somewhat suspicious of people who got involved with home businesses of the type where you purchase a kit and then sell products for the company and they pay you a commission, and there have been some which I have gotten involved in which didn’t work out to well for me. It’s not the kind of thing that I want to make a career out of, but lately I have been looking into some more opportunities, some that would be unique to me and my personality. There are actually a few companies I am looking into taking the plunge with; a big part of it for me is having fun doing something that I enjoy with products that I would use and enjoy. With that in mind I have joined the Jamberry team, because Jamberry fascinates me and I think it is a great idea.

I’ve heard all about not having too many irons in the fire, because I’m also working on my book The Girl With the Grace Tattoo which I am going to keep working on until it is as amazing as I want it to be, but the thing is that there is nothing wrong with having your income coming in from several sources, in fact it could be a darn good idea. I’m not getting involved in lots of different things because I’m unable to commit to one certain thing, I’m trying to make money and enjoy doing it. I enjoy being able to sell products that I enjoy, especially if, in the case of my book, those products happen to be mine.

I’ve been chasing a traditional career for a long time now, and while I would like one of those the reality is that with three out of four of my children having special needs, and one of those three having major special needs, and being a single mom, that really isn’t a realistic goal. So here I am, almost thirty years old, continuing my education so that I can pursue a Ph.D., writing a book when many have told me not to bother because that doesn’t make a living, getting involved with selling products that I like and use, volunteering with skills I went to college for, and doing the mom thing. It’s a fast-paced life but I enjoy that aspect of it. I want to be a professional, but I want to pursue my own interests. So far God hasn’t provided me with a traditional career, maybe that’s not his plan and maybe it is one day, but right now it is not.

My book is my most important project; it’s the one I’m the most personally invested in and the one that means the most to me. Even if I didn’t do any of these other things, I would still keep working on the book. It’s the thing that truly makes me come alive, it’s the talent that God has given to me and I’m not going to go bury it like those dudes in Jesus’ parable. But God has also given me other talents and other interests and I guess it is time to see where they go.