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, trying to establish a business and looking for work in the meantime.

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.

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. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

My Baby

I haven’t worked on my book as much this week as I have in weeks previous and in this case I don’t regret that decision at all. I have had something very important come up. My institutionalized son is projected to come home at the end of April, and that’s more important than getting the book done quickly. This week, instead of working on the book, I have been working on a GoFundMe campaign formy son because the work that needs doing for him to come home is both urgent and expensive.

There were some modifications that I was supposed to make to my home, which I had the manpower and probably the funding to do. But as people prepared for the initial modifications, we came across an urgent problem that needs fixing before the modifications can be done, turning a $1,500 job into a much bigger job. Whether or not there will be more surprises in this is yet to be seen. The work that needs to be done is urgent, and we have just a few days really to raise the funds.

There have been applications for funding made, whether or not those will be approved is something that I do not know. What I do know is that I am not going to sit idly by in the meantime, especially when I have people on standby that are willing to donate the entire cost of the labor. Along with this comes a whole wave of emotions, such as feeling unworthy to have people care about me and my family so much that they would take time out of their own busy lives to try to solve a problem for me when it isn’t their problem. It’s scary and I don’t know how to respond because somehow “thank-you” just doesn’t seem good enough. But right now that’s about all I am in the position to be able to give in return. It’s really scary to be in a vulnerable position and have people care so much, at least, it is for me, because it is an unbridled display of love and sometimes love scares me because I’m not sure I know how to give love in return even though I love these people.

I have tried in this situation to not plaster on the blog or on Facebook the things that happened that betrayed me, the losses I have suffered, because it wouldn’t have been profitable. All I can say is that I hope nobody is ever faced with the same set of circumstances I was handed. My life is so completely different than it was six months ago, and I have to say that despite everything it is better and that God knows what he is doing, and I trust him that he still knows what he is doing. I am hoping that seeing as I have volunteers willing to do the work that God will also provide the funding because it is something totally beyond my capability to provide, and I’ve been seeing my God provide in amazing ways these last few months. This situation is huge and scary and very emotional, but I have been learning that God is bigger than all of that. 

If you would like to contribute to the campaign to bring my son home, please check out the GoFundMe campaign where you can see some pictures and read more about him.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Lent 1.1 (Redemption)

Since the beginning of Lent, I have done some amazing reading and just finished a very powerful, redemptive book titled “Found: A Story of Questions, Grace and Everyday Prayer” by Micha Boyett. I read it in two days and had tears in my eyes when I was done. I even called a friend to rave about the book almost the minute I put it down. It’s one I’m going to read again almost immediately, at a much slower pace, savoring every moment. It was so ordinary and yet so sacred that I couldn’t even glean great quotes out of it to share on my Facebook status, which is unusual for me when I’m reading a great book.

I can tell that this Lenten season is going to be huge for me, I’ve already learned so much. I keep using the word redemptive, and I truly believe that if I continue to being open to learn, that this will be a redemptive season for me, which totally makes sense when I realize that after Lent comes Easter, when we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. The resurrection is what makes all of this possible. The resurrection is why grace exists. The resurrection is a promise of life when there should be death. God has spent the last six months uprooting my entire life, leaving nothing untouched. A lot of dreams and plans for the future have died, in many ways I have died to an old way of life, and yet I have the promise of the resurrection. God will resurrect these things because using the bad and the ugly and the downright horrible things in life and turning them around for good is what God is all about. Which is why the word redemptive fits, and this is a redemptive book.

As I work on my own book, Micha Boyett’s book is something I am glad I read during the writing process. Seeing as I am writing a memoir about faith, I have been reading a lot of memoirs about faith, particularly new releases such as this one, because I’m trying to make my book relevant to the current market, because after all that is how to sell a book. The process of writing requires as much or more time spent reading as it does writing for me, because reading helps to inspire my own work. I am glad to have read such a redemptive memoir because I hope that mine will be powerful and redemptive also. This particular book was a very positive memoir even though it was about an ordinary woman like me, a mom trying to recognize her value in the world and her value to God. Perhaps that was even part of its value. I’m not expecting the next memoir on my list to be as positive in tone as this one, but that doesn’t mean it’s not relevant, and I could be wrong about it. The next book on the list is also a brand new release that I pre-ordered called “Girl and the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future” by Elizabeth Esther. I guess I will see where that book takes me.