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Posts Tagged ‘New Year’

better connection

In my last post, I mentioned that I was working on my New Year’s resolutions. Drafting them up, they look something like this:

1.       Disconnect to Reconnect

In Colorado, I saw a neat little flyer. It stood out to me. It said, “There is no wi-fi in nature. But we’re sure you’ll find a better connection.”

As I’ve been praying about the New Year, I feel that I should to take a break from blogging and Facebooking. I’ve heard it takes about six weeks to build a new habit or to break an old one. So I’ll be going offline at the beginning of the year, for roughly 40 days, to disconnect from some things in order to connect (or reconnect) with others … and hopefully regain perspective of the most important things.

I’ll be available through email because I can’t go offline completely; my writing/editing work is all online. Just letting go of those “extras” for a while.

2.       Cultivate Real Communication

With Facebook and other social media, it is easy to maintain surface relationships, to see “what’s going on” but actually have no idea what is really happening in someone’s life or heart. Marjorie Holmes, in I’ve Got to Talk to Somebody, God, writes:

“Today there is so little genuine communication. The very push and pressure of living among so many people has driven us deeper inside ourselves. There, despite all the talk that swirls around us, we are locked in a lonely prison. It is a … place for our own protection, yet a place of anxieties and fears, where the loneliness can be intolerable, unless we find God there.”

I think it is a place, also, from which we need to reach out to others, not connecting on the surface, but listening, learning, and being there for each other through real communication.

That’s a resolution I have this year. Not sure exactly how to go about it, which is one of the reasons I’m disconnecting for a while, in hopes of reconnecting with a different perspective. Hopefully a more meaningful one.

3.       Find Direction in Writing

Another reason I don’t plan to post on my blogs for the next while is to figure out what it is I want to say … or more importantly, what God wants me to say. When I feel rushed or pressured to write, what comes out is often not the best of what there is to say or write, because the best of things take time.

I know this is going against advice from writing classes and connecting through social media. They say that to create a presence, you need to post regularly, at least once a week, and try to do it on the same day every week. I don’t know if I’ve ever kept up with that, and I don’t know if I ever will.

But right now, I know that I shouldn’t be even trying. Because if there is no heart and soul behind it, even the best and most tried-and-true technique will fall flat. I need to work a little more on the heart and soul right now.

4.       Make Progress in Long-term Goals

This probably starts with figuring out what some of those goals are. Mark Batterson, in his best-selling book The Circle Maker, discusses the importance of having life goals on a variety of themes – family, influence, experiential, physical. He writes:

“Setting a goal creates structural tension in your brain, which will seek to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be, who you are and who you want to become. If you don’t set goals, your mind will become stagnant. Goal setting is good stewardship of your right-brain imagination. It’s also great for your prayer life.”

I plan to make progress in figuring out some of those goals and mapping a way, perhaps through prayer, to reach them.

5.       Keep a Proper Balance in Life (especially in busy times)

I make time for the things I have to do. When I have classes, I wake up before six on the days I have to be on time for class. I stay up late the night before an assignment is due studying or writing in order to get a good grade in class.

But it’s so easy to neglect the things I don’t have to do, even though I know it’s a bad idea in the long run. Things like exercise, or prayer, or reading the Bible, or studying about writing, or spending time with my kids. Each one of those things gets relegated to back burner during busy times. Before I realize it, a season has gone by without exercise, or I can’t remember the last time I sat on the floor with the kids and played a board game.

I know this is a subjective and vague resolution, partly because I don’t yet have a plan, and partly because even if I did have a plan, I wouldn’t want to post it. Because … well, you know what they say about those “greatest plans of mice and men.” And also because things change; needs change according to the cycles of life and schedules of life.

6.       Create Space

I planned to have only five New Year’s resolutions, but I added this one last minute, after finishing a book titled Gift from the Sea.

Sometimes the best we can do is figure out where we’re going and what we’re meant to do here and now. Next month or next year might bring a whole different slew of responsibilities or requirements.

But I want to get it right. I don’t want to feel like I’m missing something important or leaving something behind, or going too fast that I end up forgetting the most important things. I want to create space in my life (and our lives are just so busy these days). In Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes:

“It is only framed in space that beauty blooms. Only in space are events and objects and people unique and significant—and therefore beautiful. … My life … lacks this quality of significance and therefore of beauty, because there is so little empty space. The space is scribbled on; the time has been filled. There are so few empty pages in my engagement pad, or empty hours in the day, or empty rooms in my life in which to stand alone and find myself.”

I saw myself in those words. So little empty space. I don’t want that. I don’t want to miss the significance in moments and people because I am going too fast to stop and notice them. My final resolution is to create those spaces on a regular basis. I’m not sure exactly how just yet.

Maybe by going slower. Or stopping completely at times. Minimizing the “extras” in my life. Or just being conscious of the need to have that space. I just placed a shell on my writing desk, my own “gift from the sea” to help me remember the need for space.

This is going to be my last post for a while. But I look forward to connecting with you again soon, and would love to hear from you … your resolutions and your hopes for the New Year. Your prayers and wishes.

Happy New Year!

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It has been a busy year.

It was a rare day in January. My husband was actually home for the day. He was sick and resting in bed when I got an email. After reading it, I told my husband sadly that my one of my favorite authors – Ken Gire, who I consider a sort of writing mentor – would be attending the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference in May. I had been blessed with a scholarship to attend the previous year, and knew there wasn’t a chance I could do that again.

“Why don’t we make a family trip out of it?” Dan suggested in his spontaneous way. I jumped at the idea. We discussed the details and within an hour I had reserved our stay (for four months down the line) and determined that I needed to finish at least one novel to present to prospective agents/publishers by the time the conference rolled around.

It took two months to complete the draft – 77,777 words – which my husband read as I was writing as my first novel critique. Over the next month, another five people critiqued it and I completed the third draft at two in the morning, May 14. The week leading up to that time had been busy with college finals, packing for the journey, and constructing a poorly written book proposal – but finally, fours hours after I printed out that proposal, our family of five (and my dad too) were on the road, headed to Colorado.

In mid-March, Dan had another inspiration: figure out the logistics of moving into a house. We had spend our first year after moving to California with my parents – September 2010 to August 2011 – and then moved into a two-bedroom apartment, which though cozy was splitting at some of its seams, and my temperament at the close quarters during the winter was fraying around the edges. A house sounded like quite a plan indeed.

It seemed, however, as we began the search for a house, that everyone else had the same idea we did. As soon as a house appeared on the market, it was snatched up, and each one was more expensive than the one before. Interest rates were at an all-time low, but housing prices were starting to rise, and fast. We looked at house after house and made a few offers, none of which came through.

Then, in early May, we saw the house. You know, when you get that feeling? That says, “This is just right” but you don’t want to get your hopes up because you know it’s impossible for it to come through? Especially when houses that were less expensive (and needed a whole lot of TLC) were beyond our reach. But we prayed about it and decided to make an offer. It was funny because, as we left that house after seeing it for the first time, I felt like we were leaving something important behind and I just kept praying, “Lord, keep it for us if it’s Your will; if not, we know You have something better.” But this one definitely felt different than the ones before. For some reason, it already felt like home. An empty, newly painted and carpeted, waiting-for-us-to-claim-it home.

We had to wait for a few things before we would hear back on our offer. So with that up in the air, we made the trip to Colorado. And it was awesome! Days filled with workshops and general sessions, with meeting writers and aspiring authors, with feeling God’s Spirit moving in the lives of people He had called to write … and of course enjoying time with my husband and the kids and my dad – hiking around the Rockies, experiencing nature up close and personal and being amazed by its sheer magnificence.

On the 20-hour drive home – which we split up into two days – I got the idea of starting a new blog, on purpose and meaning, which I launched in the first week of June. I think I have been more consistent in posting for this, my fourth blog, than the others, especially since it has a different theme each day. But overall, blogging has been a big focus for me this past year and I’ve probably done more blogging than long-term writing (well, except for nanowrimo, which is another story altogether).

During our week-long journey, the prospect of coming home to a new home was exciting. Well, by the joining of events that all together are nothing short of miraculous, we got the house. As soon as we unpacked from the trip, we began packing for the move. One month after making it home from Colorado was our big “move day” – June 22. We spent the next couple weeks between the two places, setting up the house and cleaning up the apartment.

In the first week of August, my sister and her three kids moved in with us. A week later, my fall semester began, with a full class load. A week after that, Jessica and Allen started school, along with their cousin, Jenna. Tuesdays and Thursdays, I attended college and picked the kids up from school on my way home. Wednesdays and Fridays, I taught Aiden and Keira – his cousin – at home, as neither of them are old enough for school yet.  My sister took care of them on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Mondays, everyone was home and the activity and energy level rose exponentially for every family member present.

During November, I attempted nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) for the first time. The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. I didn’t reach that goal, but enjoyed the experience and believe I learned some things from it, but have yet to reflect on those things.

The semester ended on December 12th, and the kids’ Christmas break began midday on December 17th. I had one Tuesday and half a Thursday without classes and without kids. I didn’t know what to do with myself.

The fact is it’s been a busy year. I feel like the number of moments I’ve had to just stop and reflect and think … and be … could be counted on one hand.

It has been no less busy for Daniel. He has been juggling two jobs in the midst of setting up sprinkler systems and building garage shelves and laying cement in the back yard and planting trees … and doing all those things that have turned this house into a home (it really has been a lot).

We celebrated our tenth anniversary in September with a weekend trip to the hills. It was awesome to get away for a couple days while my sister and parents looked after the kids. And even more awesome to have been married for ten years. Every year is getting better.

Also in September, Jessica turned nine. She is halfway through fifth grade, and taking piano classes. She loves to read and beat me in a summertime contest of number-of-pages read.

The month before that, Allen turned seven. He is in third grade and also taking piano. His artwork amazes me and it is astounding what he can come up with.

Aiden, the youngest, will be five in March. His fascination is still anything to do with a motor and wheels. The bigger and louder the better (as long as it’s not a vacuum cleaner). He loves to learn and do new things, as long as it doesn’t become tedious.

And here we stand, on the verge of the New Year, or as I prayed last night, “with the New Year around the corner,” to which Aiden responded, “I didn’t know that we were on a bus” and Jessica checked around the corner of the hallway just to make sure.

Reflecting on the events of this past year, I am amazed at all God has done. At this time last year, taking a family trip across a few states had not even been a consideration. Moving into a three-bedroom house with a covered patio was a nice idea, but definitely not something we had been planning for. But God had, and I guess that’s what really makes the difference.

Since the semester ended a couple weeks back, I have been trying to take time just to think and pray. I’ve also picked up some books on personal, spiritual growth, as well as some books on writing and publishing. I know the New Year is not going to give me or anyone in my family a bunch of time in which to take our breaths and regain focus.

But one thing I know is that I don’t want to lose sight of the things that are most important in the midst of the myriad of things that are, yes, important, but perhaps not most important. With that in mind, I’ve been thinking about a few New Year’s resolutions … coming soon.

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the soul is like a birdIt’s that time of the year once more – when we’ve reached the end of that horse- or scenic-themed wall calendar and prepare to hang up a new one.

When we try to wrap our brains around the fact that, yes, the year actually is over, and wonder where exactly it went because it flew by so quickly.

When our thoughts turn to resolutions and goals for the New Year.

A friend of mine just wrote on his Facebook page that he began one of his resolutions in October and reached his goal by the end of the year. I will try to keep that in mind for 2013. But as I did not have that foresight, here I am at the end of 2012 thinking about my New Year’s resolutions.

There are the usual … eat more healthy food and less junk food, exercise more, finish all cookies and pies by 11:59 pm so that I don’t break the resolution due to a sugar and gluten infested home, etc.

But New Year’s resolutions need to be more than just weight loss and exercise goals, I think … something that outlines growth of the soul.

During this past summer I began to read a book titled Between Heaven and Earth, by Ken Gire. The introduction follows:

Between heaven and earth lies the firmament of our prayers. In one sense, the firmament is ethereal as air. In another sense, it is substantial as atmosphere. In a sense, it is a mere wisp of who we are. In another sense, it is rich with the elements of life, gritty with the dust of our humanity.

Within this ever-changing sky funnels a maelstrom of faith and doubt. Turbulent at times. Galing with emotion. Wild and windswept and full of fury. A swirling vortex of questions, arguments, and confusion.

But that is not all there is to the weather of the heart.

There are calm days, too. Serene as a sunset. A tinting of thankfulness on the horizon. A billowing of praise. And, thank God, for most of us, there are more blue skies than storms.

Some … prayers have been sighed into the heat of day. Others have been shivered into the cold loneliness of night. Together, they make up the atmosphere.

And together they celebrate an intimate God.

A God who listened and spoke, cleaving all of human history with a word.

Immanuel.

God with us.

Prayer is, I think, an expression of our deepest longing. Unspoken syllables tearfully ascending an expansive sky. Snowflaking into a word. Something beautiful from heaven, coming down.

Glistening with grace and truth. Settling on our shoulders. Touching us with wonder. And love. And hope.

Immanuel.

Perhaps it is more than a name.

Perhaps in the firmament between heaven and earth

            It is both a prayer

                        And an answer to prayer.

It took me a few months to read through the book, and it was a journey of sorts, as I sat on my balcony on quieter mornings, or curled up in the corner of the couch to fit in a few pages on busier days.

The book, contains thoughts on prayer, and prayers from various walks of life and perspectives. I felt a stirring in my heart as I read, of the need to make prayer more a part of my life. Yet the hope hasn’t quite taken off in my life as I would have hoped it would. Not quite the eagle soaring life of prayer I envisioned as I read. So I will start in the New Year with perhaps a fledgling resolution: yes, to pray.

More specifically, to quiet my heart long enough to listen and feel that stirring in my heart of someone to pray for.

My New Year’s resolution is to pray for someone every day, someone that is in a way a part of my life, whoever comes to mind as I stop and listen and pray. It is, in a way, a hope to give a little of myself in a way that will matter. A way to say thank you to those who have touched my life in some way.

The prayer might be in my heart one day, or spoken aloud the next. It might be a verse, or a whole Psalm. I might write a note to the person, or post a prayer on this or my other blog. Or it might just be a prayer offered up in silence, trusting God to answer the prayer in His time and way.

Prayer is a mysterious thing, as Ken wrote above. It is ethereal and heavenly, yet at times answered in surprising, miraculous, and tangible ways.

So if   you see more posts on prayer, or more prayers in this blog, or my writing or parenting blog, this is the reason.

It is my New Year’s resolution … one that I pray to keep all year long.

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It’s the first of February, 2011. Time for some resolutions!having fun with son in leaves

 

Whatever happened to January first, and New Years resolutions? Well, it went something like this.

 

It was December 31st, so I sat with my two older kids. We talked about all the things that had happened in the past year, outlining highlights or bigger things that we had done. They told me the things they were most thankful for and I wrote them down. We then discussed the year ahead, and any goals and hopes they had in relation to it. They each chose some things they would like to do or learn or accomplish in the New Year. They each thought of and chose their own verse that they would like to claim as they ask God for help in the upcoming year.

 

That evening, New Years Eve, we met together—mommy and daddy, grandma and grandpa and the three children. It was then that I realized I had not really thought of and decided on my own goals and prayer for the New Year. I was busy helping the kids get theirs together that I didn’t take time to stop and think about my own.

 

In pondering it, I realize there are a thousand-and-one things I would like to do; some of them I am even working towards already. As an idea person with an overactive mind, I often have to balance a bit of practicality in there; otherwise I would be constantly rushing from one idea to the next, without having enough time for any of them. I would probably avoid prioritizing and end up wasting a good amount of time. Don’t get me wrong; it’s all good stuff. No offense to those who enjoy such things, but I couldn’t imagine spending even five minutes on Farmville or an instant in Mafia Wars; video games make me feel like my brain cells are oozing out even faster than they do on a normal day; I relax in front of a movie maybe every couple of weeks, if that. Yes, the things I would love to have time for are good things, like finally getting around to writing those books that I have in my mind (at least half a dozen at the present time); there are a couple of languages I would like to learn; I would love to study more on a bunch of topics. So if it’s good stuff, then what’s the problem? Well, there’s that good old quote that always makes us feel there’s more to reach for:

 

“Good, better, best. Never let it rest until your good is better and your better, best.”

 

The thing is, I know what my best is. At the end of the year, if I don’t learn a single new phrase in another language, or even write a word toward my new book (one of them), or study any of the topics on my mind…if there’s one thing I would like to be able to say that I accomplished, it is this:

 

I was a mother, a parent, a wife. I took time for my family and put them first, before any other favored projects or to-do’s. I took time to play with the children and have fun. I noticed the times that were opportunities to teach them, not only reading and writing and mathematics, but also important values such as sharing, positive thinking, and true friendship. I helped them take a few more steps towards eventual independence, but I’m still holding their hands until they are ready to let go. I pointed them towards Someone who will always be able to hold their hands and lead them no matter where they go or what they do as they grow older. I was a mother, a parent…the most important job there could be, and I enjoyed helping to build a family.

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The China Doll

china doll plantWhen my brother was 13, he had an unusual hobby. We called it dumpster diving. A nearby apartment complex housed college students from around the country, and at the end of the school year the students would discard everything they didn’t want to haul home with them, including quite a few items that still had some value. My brother capitalized on the opportunity.

One day, he brought home a China Doll plant, which he gave to me. My mom, who has a green thumb, said it was a good find. I moved it to my room, and would set it out on the front porch every few days for some sunshine. After I’d had the plant for a few months, its leaves started drooping and then falling off. Within a couple of weeks, there were no leaves left. When I asked my mom what was wrong, she said it might have gone into hibernation. A plant without leaves held no interest for me, so I put it in the back yard with my mom’s other potted plants. It stayed there for quite some time, leafless and forlorn.

One day my mom brought a plant to my room. Yes, it was my China Doll, and there were tiny sprouts at the tips of its branches. Over the next weeks, the sprouts grew into new shoots and leaves, and eventually my plant was in full bloom again. This cycle continued over the years.

I eventually moved away from home and left the China Doll with my mom and her green thumb. In one letter my mom wrote: “I thought your China Doll had finally died. I almost tossed it, but you know how I hate to throw away a plant. I waited a while and sure enough, it grew back fuller than ever.”

The following spring I went to visit my mom. She had more time for gardening now that most of her kids had moved away, and the back yard was beautiful, full of aromatic rose bushes and flower-covered arbors and trellises. There on the porch, transplanted into a bigger pot, sat my China Doll. It was at least four feet tall.

They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. That China Doll will always hold a special place in my heart, not because I’m sentimental about a plant, but because it taught me to hope.

As I begin the New Year, some things seem to be hibernating—a few dreams and goals—but with the sunshine of God’s love, the water of His Word, and a little of His tender loving care, they will blossom in His good time. If He causes a simple plant to begin anew and grow stronger year by year, how much more can we expect Him to do for us, whom He loves dearly and for whom He created all the rest?

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