October 11, 2015

Thankful to Write Poetically by Connie Inglis

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To be honest, I have not yet had many experiences in my writing life. I still feel like a newbie in all this. It was only just over a year ago when I actually said these words: "I am a poet." I am becoming more and more comfortable with that and get so exhilarated when I write poetry. And I am so thankful God has opened that creative side of me and that I always find Him there.
That being said, I have realized just in the last couple of months that I am not a fiction novelist and I don't think I ever will be one. This revelation surprised me--at first I didn't want to even acknowledge it. You see, ever since I was a little girl, I have dreamed of writing a novel and have always carried a few plot ideas in my head. But I am taking an Advanced Fiction course right now and am already struggling with my first assignment: to write the first chapter of a fiction novel. I've started but none of it comes easy. Last week I heard my inner voice say, "I'd much rather be writing a poem." Where did THAT come from? And what do I do with it? So, I started pondering what that was all about.

At first, I was bummed. Did my dream of being a novelist just take a major fall out the window? I was somewhat confused...but then God affirmed that voice through a different window. I've been reading Sage Cohen's book, The Productive Writer. She is the voice of an author who wondered about her writing as a poet and so I listened. Early in the book she talks about finding your platform, that she had never considered that "poetry was platform worthy. Poetry was poetry, and I loved it and I read it and I wrote it -- but what was I going to say to the world about it?" A light came on when I realized that this was me and that this was God showing up with the right book from the right author at the right time to give me the right perspective. After that, I read the book through fresh eyes--through the eyes of a poet.

I cannot explain how emotional this epiphany was for me--my soul was soaring and free, liberated to follow its true passion. I am not sure what's going to happen with my writing course, (I wish the university offered upper-level poetry courses but they don't) but I'm not fretting. God will help me with it I know, because He has proven to be faithful. So I trust.

And today, of all days, I am thankful: Thankful for a family that supports me in my writing; Thankful for InScribe and my writers' group that are always so encouraging; Thankful for God's guidance and direction in the past and in the future; Thankful for a country where I can write and share freely through the written word.

God reminds me daily that He is and will be with me as I pursue this passion. Every time I am inspired to write a poem, I know this to be true. Just a few mornings ago, an unusually warm fall morning, I was sitting outside on my deck with my morning coffee and heard a chickadee singing beautifully in my plum tree. I couldn't see it. It was hiding. But I could hear it and could feel the joy of its song. And then an old nursery rhyme came to mind:

"I'm hiding, I'm hiding
And no one knows where;
For all they can see is my
Toes and my hair..."

And then I thought about hiding and that I too was hiding, but not in the same sense as that bird. I am hiding in Jesus. So, I changed the words and even put it to a tune but for now, I'll just share the poem.

I'm Hiding, I'm Hiding

I'm hiding, I'm hiding and I'll tell you where,
In the sweet arms of Jesus, you'll find me there;
Come seek and hide with me, under His care,
I'm hiding, I'm hiding, I'll tell you where.

I'm hiding, I'm hiding, under His care,
With storms all around me, Jesus is there;
He holds me gently, He hears my prayer,
I'm hiding, I'm hiding, under His care.

I'm hiding, I'm hiding, come hide with me there,
For Jesus He loves you, He'll hear your prayer,
In trials and troubles, Your burden He'll bear,
We'll be hiding, sweet hiding, under His care.

October 10, 2015

Thanks to God by Sharon Espeseth

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You may recall that in June 2014 my husband and I downsized and sold our dream home. We continued to downsize while living in a rental place that didn't suit us. During that period, my husband had a mini stroke, and I had a bout of depression. This June we downsized further and moved into a half duplex that is peaceful and more suitable for us. During the actual move, Hank was hospitalized, but our kids moved us anyway. Hank came home to our new place that seemed calm in comparison to our previous manor.

Recently, Ruth Snyder, president and fellow InScriber, created a poster of a few verses from Psalm 107. This chapter begins with, "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever." The Psalmist admonishes those who have been redeemed by the Lord from the hand of the foe to tell their story.

For about the next 25 verses of this chapter, we read of people enduring tribulations, storms, and illness. We see the Lord come to their rescue and they are encouraged to give thanks. In verse 28, we read, ". . . They cried out to the Lord in their trouble and he brought them out of their distress."

Hank and I had called out to God, and we believe he delivered from a stressful situation. I had faith that we would find the right place. Our neighbours, rather new friends brought us a copy of an online ad for this duplex. Things started falling into place.

Further in Psalms 107, we read, "(God) had stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven." For the present and near future, this home will be our "desired haven."

Our half duplex, only two-years old, is right for us. Our new home requires less work and upkeep. Hank and I feel more at home, and I am comfortable writing here. Not everything is in perfect order yet, but we are thankful to have landed well. As the Psalmist continues, "Let (us) give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for (us)."

A couple months back, InScribe bloggers were discussing a report on our summer writing. For accountability purposes, I can say I have done the following writerly activities--

1.  keeping up with my InScribe blog.

2.  trying 25-minute writing sessions with some success.

Writing for 25 minutes

3.  enjoying morning writing sessions with a writing friend at the lake

4.  daily Bible readings and devotions

5.  reading and commenting on InScribe Writers Online

6.  entering a few Word Challenges. (Thank you, Glynis Belec.)

7.  submitting to a few contests. Just when I thought I had lost my writing flow, I was awarded
     first in the InScribe Fall Contest in Creative Non-fiction. I am thankful for the great
     encouragement this award brought me after a dry spell.

8.  reading books that survived downsizing

9.  editing for a writing friend and a family member who is working on her master's degree

10.  attending InScribe Fall Conference

C. S. Lewis has said, "Faith is the art of holding onto things in spite of your changing mood and circumstances." With God's help and grace, I'm trying to relinquish control and trust God even in the tough times.

Saint Pius of Pietrelcina says, "You ought to ask our Lord for just one thing: to love him. All the rest should be thanksgiving."

The old Swedish hymn, "Tack, O Gud," has always been part of my life. Here is a YouTube English version of the song, www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdkzqL4GV_goriginally written in Swedish by August Ludvig Storm in 1891. This man's expression of faith is still valid today.

October 09, 2015

From Tears to Shouts of Joy - Shirley S. Tye

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Daily stress slowly built up and became uncontrollable, plunging me into the darkness of depression for three years (1997 to 2000).  By the time I realized my tears were more than the blues, I had slid into the quagmire of desolation.  Besides the feeling of overwhelming sadness that draped on my shoulders like a heavy dark cloak with a large hood covering my head, hampering my view, almost suffocating me, I was always exhausted with very low energy, and yet I suffered with insomnia.  Panic attacks struck anytime, anywhere, with screaming and wailing.  Other symptoms were weakened concentration and memory.  When I turned to my Bible for consolation, I’d read and re-read one short verse over and over without ability to focus or to remember it even after immediately reading it.  I’d fall exhausted into my bed to toss and turn, and weep the night away.  

God seemed far away; a fine vapor that once had form.  I wondered if He even existed anymore.  Hope was a thin worn thread.  Even human touch failed to give comfort.  A hug felt distant and unreal.  I felt totally isolated from people as if I were in a deep narrow muddy pit, surrounded by darkness and demons.  From the depths of the pit, I’d look up in search of a light but my eyes were greeted with more darkness. I feared I’d never recover.  A sense of pending doom and destruction weighed in the air.  I had fears of losing my mind and spending the remainder of my life in a straight jacket, sitting in a corner of a padded cell, segregated from the world.  Since I couldn’t feel God’s presence, I hoped He’d at least hear me.  In anguish I prayed for relief, for healing, not to be forgotten and left alone forever. 

There was one Bible verse to which I clung.  Every night I read Psalm 4:8; “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.” (KJV)  Finally, a verse I could focus on and remember!  The thought of sleeping in peace and being safe comforted me.  I clung with the little remaining strength I had to that verse. 

Although, my heart told me that God had forsaken me because I could not feel His presence, my head said He was with me because He promised in His Word that He’d “never leave or forsake me” (Hebrews 13:5).  I thanked Him for that many times throughout the depression.

Today, I am alive, healthy, and strong (physically and mentally) with the days of darkness far behind me because God kept His promises.  He has filled my mouth with laughter and my lips with shouts of joy!  (Job 8:21) Hallelujah!

October 08, 2015

Letting Go and Giving Thanks by Karma Pratt

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Giving thanks in all circumstances is not something that has come naturally to me. As I've grown as a Christ follower, I've slowly let go of old feelings and beliefs. I've experienced a softening around the edges, and allowed God's grace to sink deep into my bones, transforming me from the inside out. This process of becoming has turned thanksgiving  into a permanent fixture rather than an optional "when I feel like it" approach to life.

Part of God's work in my life has been to guide me in letting go of my need to control outcomes. This has helped tremendously when it comes to giving thanks in all circumstance. I have become a "recovering know-it-all", as Sarah Bessey writes in her book Out of Sorts. In the past I always felt I knew the best way in every circumstance; it was my way after all! Believing that I was in control, and succumbing to stress and anxiety whenever things weren't going according to plan - these were some of my go-to beliefs that got me through my days. Those days seemed more like nightmares at times!

Having children effectively cured me from my know-it-all-ness. No longer could I be certain of anything in life. My tiny humans set their own schedules from the beginning, and, when my expectations and their needs collided, their best interests always took precedence over mine.

God is so good! He knew exactly what motivation I needed to look past myself and grow a heart that desires to put others' needs before my own. In serving others, I am ultimately serving God. He started with lessons learned through family relationships, and has continued to expand and refine my heart to help and serve in other ways. He paved the way so I could see the blessings even when things weren't going "my way". In the words of singer/songwriter, David Bracken, he "scaled me down".

My touchstone Scripture verse is:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.
~ Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust and thanksgiving go hand in hand. The more we trust God with every part of our lives, the more freely we offer our thanks with joy.

Truth exemplified: I do most of my writing in the evening after the kids are in bed. I value my creative down time, and do my best to protect it from interruptions. Last night, however, I was interrupted by a sick child with a sore throat. He needed comfort and cuddles more than I needed to stay connected to my computer.

So, I let go of my plan, washed it away along with everything else in the day, secure in the knowledge that God had me exactly where He wanted me in that moment. I gave thanks for the opportunity to provide the comfort and reassurance my son needed, and trusted that the writing would happen as it was meant to. Learning to let go has been one of the greatest gifts God has given me. It's one of the ways He's helping shape my life as a writer. It's my prayer that we may all learn to let go, and become truth bearers, not for our benefit, but for the benefit and glory of God.

What have you had to let go of in your writing journey?

October 07, 2015

No Pain No Gain – Ramona Heikel

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It wasn’t the rejection that got to me.  Although it’s a disappointment, rejection tells me I have more to learn, and need more practice writing.  It was the feel of the rejection that led me take drastic measures.

I’d spent a few years writing a novel and studying the specifics of a very particular market.  I had probably spent six months just checking off the publisher’s unusually long and detailed list of requirements for every aspect of the characters, plot, word length, setting, dialogue and manuscript formatting.  (You know what I’m talking about!)  When I thought it was perfect in every way I submitted it, waited the requisite three to six months and then received a short email saying it wasn’t what they were looking for.

Now I’ve received loads of rejections for manuscripts I’ve submitted.  I’d always learned from them, been inspired to correct my mistakes, revised and resubmitted.  But this one felt different.  It was as if I stood at the door offering a precious gift of my time, energy and heart, and without a word, my offering was knocked to the ground, the door was slammed shut, and the bang reverberated in the silence.

Yes, I understand that editors are busy and certainly can’t respond personally and specifically in every rejection letter.  But some of the largest publishing houses in the world have responded to my submissions with professionalism, respect, courtesy and at least a short phrase of explanation for their refusal.  So perhaps I’d been spoiled up until then and now had finally experienced one of the more typical responses.

But then I had another unpleasant revelation.  After I dusted myself off and sat back down at the keyboard, I realized my novel was so tailor-made for that one unique market that I couldn’t actually revise and resubmit it anywhere else. 

All that work for all those years wasted?  And I couldn’t even learn from it?  What good was that?

So that was the pain.  Now for the gain.

If that’s the way the industry was going to treat its novice novel writers, I was going to have to find a more practical way to hone my writing skills.  It just so happened that just a few months prior, my writing group had invited one of our members to speak about her experiences writing for magazines.  For our purely novel-writing group, this was almost unheard of.  But as I recalled this workshop, I decided to look into writing shorter pieces.

I returned to my Writer’s Market and scanned the magazine categories.  None of them interested me…until I came upon the children’s magazines!  How could I have I missed that genre?  I worked with kids at my job, I still cherished all my own (and my sons’) children’s books, taught Sunday school, and had even submitted my poems to a children’s magazine when I was a child.  So, I found the Institute for Children’s Literature and signed up for their course.  And there began a new world of possibilities, providing some of my greatest writing enjoyment and success.

I still re-read my novels and will work on them again one day.  Looking back, I can add that experience to my growing list of times when God has used something painful to bring about a significant change for the better.  It’s so true: we actually can, by faith, give thanks in everything!

Posted by Ramona