Thursday, October 25, 2012

Finding My Voice

It's time for Five Minute Friday where a flash mob of writers join to write purely for the joy of the craft and then share their thoughts over at Lisa-Jo's. Today's word?
I used to be quiet. I never voiced an opinion unless I was surrounded by my closest family and friends. For those who know me now, that's hard to believe. For those who knew me then, I speak a little differently now.

There was a time when my friends fought over my voice. One discovered I have a sarcastic edge and did his best to nurse it to health. The other discovered subdued opinions and encouraged them to life.

In college, I overcompensated a bit, sometimes struggling to find that line between blunt and honest while seasoning every word with salt. Turns out that seasoning gave my voice a strength and flavor all its own.

I still don't have it mastered, but I know who made my mouth. I know who gave me a voice, and I know He told me to use it well, all for His glory. So I take delight in using this tool God gave me. I exercise it like any other muscle, making it submissive to the heart of my Father. I want Him to approve. I want to make Him proud.

Some days taste a little salty than others. Other days, it's a little bland. But, I'm constantly learning the balance. Turns out my voice is unique to me. My opinions, my heart, and my thoughts are treasured by the King.

He even gives me words to say when my voice goes silent. I pray my voice finds its source of strength in the One who spoke the world into being. Only then will I truly use this platform effectively.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I Got The Blues - Remembering Haiti

I must confess, my heart is in Haiti this week. Or perhaps it is just consumed with the experience, the people, and the way the Lord worked in my heart back in May.

I went to a country many would deem of no account and put hundreds of faces with a name that has come to mean as much to me as my own. I have a severe case of the Haiti blues.

If there is one thing that I have learned since returning from Haiti it is this: MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY. Be intentional. Live life to the fullest. But what does that look like in a culture that doesn't understand how to slow down?

Life is simple in Haiti.

  • They sit on their front porch or sweep their one room house.
  • Kids run to and fro. Babies sleep or sit on their mother's lap.
  • Livestock runs loose.
  • They make a trip or two to the well, gathering all the needed water for the day. Some sloshes out on the mile long walk back home while they teach their children the correct way to balance the paint bucket on their heads.
  • Teens are no different there. They play pick up games of soccer, have cell phones, flirt with one another, and like to look nice.
But life is simple, uncluttered with the complexity I see in American culture. In Haiti, many families often wonder where their next meal will come from. In America, I wonder what my next big purchase will be.

In Haiti, they see the Lord as Provider. In America, sometimes I don't think He provides enough.

They celebrate a roof over their heads and a one bedroom house. I live in a full-sized house and dream of bigger.

They understand the value of conversation around the front porch. I pop in my headphones and ignore the world.

But a week in this country changed my heart...

- My world lit up with the smile of little Pierre,  suffering from a brain tumor but humming a sweet tune for our ears.
- My heart engaged with the teen as I asked him his vision for Haiti.
- My mind connected with Kinsley as he taught me French and Creole on our long walks.
- My tears fell when we prayed for a teen with cerebral palsy and saw the faith and dedication of his mother, despite the circumstances.
- My hope rose as a girl my age sang the most beautiful worship song in Creole as my team gathered around the porch of her home.

I'll never forget their faces, their stories. And this week, as I pray for 40 of my friends who are serving there faithfully, I selfishly wish I was with them. But, I know I have a job to do here. I know that simplicity can be found in my Dallas life. Time to get busy with the things that matter and discard what doesn't reach to eternity.

Time to develop the heart of a Haitian believer - the knowledge that He is provider, sovereign, and holy in my life!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dream Big - What Are You Waiting For?

No matter how many times I edit my stories or poems, I continually discover typos, misspelled words, and grammatical errors. SO frustrating! I have noticed this many times after the story is published or submitted to a contest.

Last year, I finished my first novel, and I'm currently working on book 2. I edited that first manuscript until I could hardly see black, then I sent it to a professional editor, thinking it was pretty clean.

Yeah right. That would have been too easy.

It came back with even more red marks. Epic fail for this perfectionist. I immediately read through it. What in the world did I miss? Apparently, quite a bit. Amazing what others can see in our lives from a distance that we are unaware of up close and personal.

So, I did another few rounds of edits. By the time the manuscript went to the publishers, I couldn't count how many times I had read that book. I just knew I was tired of it. My agent said that's how she knew it was ready to go. Thank goodness!

Truth is, I poured countless hours, prayers, tears, and laughter into that book. It carries a piece of me that I forced to expand, grow, and spread wings, and fly. From caterpillar to butterfly. But even as I stuck it in the mail, I wondered if I could have done more.

You will never fully be ready for your dreams. One day, they will arrive, and even after all your careful preparation, you will discover how much you have left to learn. Our dreams are journeys. They aren't perfect, they don't happen without hard work, but don't get stuck on the flaws. DIVE IN! Pursue them with all your heart, knowing that they will never be perfect. "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." (Colossians 3:23)

The praise of others often falls short when I continue to look at my work with a critical eye. I see the flaws. It came from my own head and heart, after all. I'm so thankful that the Lord looks at me, knows my flaws, and stamps me COMPLETE in Him. He paid a price for my mistakes, my self-criticism, my controlling nature, and my fear of failure. On the cross, He declared that the need to cling to all those wrong attitudes is FINISHED. Time to stop waiting and move forward in faith in the pursuit of your dreams.

You'll never fully be ready. Just dive in. 

I took the challenge. I finally penned "The End."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Look Beyond The Surface

It's time for Five Minute Friday where a flash mob of writers join to write purely for the joy of it and then share our thoughts over at Lisa-Jo's. Today's word?

I love to people watch. Don't worry, I'm not a creeper. But you learn a lot about the character of a person from their behavior.

For instance, the way they walk tells a story. Fast or slow? Eyes downcast or straight ahead? Posture erect or slumped? Are the engaged with another person in conversation, or do they have headphones in? There is more to people than their appearance. Look below the surface.

This week, I'm learning to take a deeper look not just with the people in my life, but with the Lord. It is in opening my eyes to the world around me that I better understand who He is, and therefore, who I am in Him.

It's fall (although Texas hasn't quite caught on yet), and the leaves are changing color. But no tree is colored like another on the block. No leaf has quite the same pattern. Each stone has a different hue and texture. Each person holds a different image, but all are created in His likeness.

Just like Michelangelo stared at a broken mess of marble and saw the David, so I am working to be aware of what's around me and see deeper. The world is intricate and unique, hand-crafted by a Master Artist. There's too much to see to spend my life in a blur of movement and activities.

I must make the commitment to slow down and look. Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. What lies below the surface? What treasures am I missing in my daily life?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dream Big - Network

Let's make a connection...We never get anywhere on our own. We may think we do, and in reality, it may appear that we conquered mountains in our life with sheer will and determination.

But time to burst your bubble...

You are shaped, influenced, and aided by those who cross your path. Truth be told, you actually get a lot farther up that mountain when others help you.

As a writer, I am dependent on the stories and lives of others to create well-rounded, personal characters. Through connections at my church this past week, I was able to connect with two men who are familiar with the Navy SEALs and ask them questions as I research my character.

Books are beneficial for knowledge, but they don't always capture the heart of a team, profession, or individual. My character is coming to life, and I love watching him develop. I'm thankful for people who are willing to use their passions and areas of influence not only for their own benefit but for the betterment of others and the glory of the One who gifted them in the first place.

In the context of pursuing your dreams, community is important. Utilize your NETWORK. The people in your life are there for a purpose. Help one another be better versions of your current selves. Don't be afraid to use them as a resource for people and places they can reach that you may not have access to.

My pride often gets in the way of asking for help in the pursuit of my dreams. I often feel obligated to make an unrealistic commitment in return, or I don't want to bother that other person. You never know what can happen when you ask. So, take a chance. Ultimately, I hinder or benefit my dreams based solely on my choices.

Make the connection. Build a network, and make sure to return the favor when someone comes calling. Develop an attitude of service toward one another, and you won't go wrong.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Welcome To My World

It's time for Five Minute Friday where a flash mob of writers join to write purely for the joy of it and then share our thoughts over at Lisa-Jo's. Today's word?
It's what I do every Tuesday night at our young adults service. But it's what I'm learning to do every day. It's more than a word.

It's a smile, a conversation. It's remembering some one's name and pronouncing it correctly. It's listening.

It means pushing past immediate feelings to connect with others. Making them feel loved and worthy should be my number one goal. Host well, no matter where I am. Include everyone. Develop a servant's heart.

It's making my home, my office a place where people feel safe and comfortable. It's making my attitudes and actions reflect the One Who desires to welcome people into an eternal family.

Most of all, it's loving when a person is beyond lovable. And listening when I would rather be anywhere else. Because it isn't about me. Never has been. But too often I forget that.

I've been welcomed into too many groups and communities to count. I've learned what it looks like to include, and I've learned what it doesn't look like. I've also learned that it starts with me. I may welcome someone to my day without welcoming them to my life. If I'm not careful, we will share a moment in time and not a life-changing memory. It hinges on my choice to allow them past the surface level smile to my heart. Such a tough thing. I have to welcome them to all of me - my struggles, victories, the people I love most, and my weird quirks.

A welcome is just the beginning of building a deeper bond. And I firmly believe that we weren't created for surface level interactions. May I settle for a deeper welcome - one that makes an impact!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dream Big - Life Motto

You see these lists everywhere. Live, love, life. Dream, believe, achieve. You get the picture. They tend to get a little cheesy and cliche. But I have to be honest, I learned the value of making my own. In one of my classes, my study challenged me to choose a life motto - goals to strive for, an identity. 

So, in no particular order, this is my list. I'm not who I want to be yet, but I'm not where I used to be. I'm surrounded by people who challenge and encourage. One of these days, I'll have these down. Maybe.
Dream Passionately
Crave Adventure
Hope Eternally
Love Deeply
Live Abundantly
Lead Humbly
Serve Whole-Heartedly
Laugh Freely
Believe Completely
Follow Devotedly
Grow Consistently

“To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent people,and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest critics; and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a little better,whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived . . this is to have succeeded.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson 
What does your life say about you? What would you like it to say?

Monday, October 1, 2012

I Write Because...

…I write because I believe the human language brings us all together…
…I write to create something memorable, something beautiful…
…I write to change the world, or at least make an impact…
…I write because it is my way of dreaming…
…I write because people need to know the truth - the reality of life, the universe, and everything…
I write to bring people to life that will never have the chance to breathe
…I write because I want to reassure myself that good things can and do happen….
…I write because I want to have hope…
…I write to give people with no hope something to relate to, something to believe in…
…I write to tell about the ultimate act of love…
…I write because I cannot be silent about my Jesus.
…I write because I want people to have new life in Him…
…I write because I believe He is wonderful…
…I write to share my heart without vocalizing...
…I write because my thoughts sound more eloquent on paper…
…I write because it is my passion…
…I write because I believe it is what my Heavenly Father has called me to do…
…I write to make it possible to stay home with my kids someday, if God so chooses to bless me…
…I write because my mind can’t hold it all in…
…I write because my brain never stops going ninety miles an hour…
…I write because I believe we all have something to say…
…I write because there is something bigger than just me…
…I write to inspire, and to be inspired…
…I write to make something lasting, something worthwhile…
…I write to make sense of what is on my heart…
…I write because it is my way of praying to my Lord…
…I write because I believe we all have a story to tell…
…I write because I believe God can and will use this talent He has blessed me with…
…I write to remember - some things are too important to forget…
…I write to forgive and forget - some things aren’t worth the pain of remembering…
…I write because I believe a picture truly is worth a thousand words (or more)…
…I write because it is the cry of my heart…
…I write to be the voice of those who have lost their voice…
…I write to tell a riveting story…
…I write for my own peace of mind…
…I write because if I don’t a part of me is missing…
…I write to create the perfect prince for every woman - perfect in his imperfections…
…I write to give women a valiant female character to emulate…
…I write to encourage…
…I write to share my struggles in the hopes that someone else can learn from my mistakes and do better…