Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tuesday Tidbit: Your stories serve an important purpose

Your story is important. God can use it to help shape the lives of your children, grandchildren, great-grands, and anyone else who reads your story, including the “spiritual” children God has given you. Not all of us have children, but we all have “spiritual” children who look up to us and model their lives after ours—more than we realize.

You know from personal experience
how powerful other people’s stories can be.
Many of them inspired you,
opened new worlds,
sent you in different and better directions,
and made you who you are today.

Believe this:
Your story can impact readers
in the same way.

Pray for God’s help in writing it.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Do you think of yourself as an ordained writer?

You’re writing a memoir. Is it a hobby? A pastime? Something you do in your leisure time?

If so, I encourage you to view your writing as a ministry. A sacred project. A high and holy calling.

Eugene Peterson suggests that the church should ordain writers in the way they ordain pastors. 

“There are never enough storytellers,” he says. “There are a lot of people who want to write stories but they don’t want to go through the discipline, the agony, the immersion in life it requires…. I think writing is one of the sacred callings. I wish, in fact, that the church would ordain writers the way they ordain pastors….”

 Is that a new thought to you?

If so, make time to answer this question:

How different would your writing be
if you saw yourself as ordained to tell your story?

Can you—will you—consider yourself
ordained to tell your story?
Will you believe you have a sacred, holy calling
to write your story?
I hope so.

We writers, like pastors, need God’s help to carry out our jobs.

We need His help to improve our skills—through classes, workshops, conferences, critique groups, and books and blogs by pros.

We need His help to be disciplined, committed, persevering writers.

We need His help to finish our manuscripts and publish them.

And to do all that, we need His encouragement, so here are verses to cheer you on:

  • Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. (Galatians 6:4, The Message)
  • See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord. (Colossians 4:17)
  • I want to suggest that you finish what you started to do…. Let your enthusiastic idea at the start be equaled by your realistic action now. (2 Corinthians 8:10-11, The Living Bible)

I pray you'll hear God’s voice while he helps you "remember the wonders he has done" (1 Chronicles 16:12), those important things he wants you to tell others. I also pray you’ll find the time necessary to write.

Remember, what you write on any given day does not need to be perfect. Just get it in writing, and edit and polish it later. When your story is the best you can make it, be sure to give it away!

“We become obsessed with our words. We become caught up in the euphoric high of stringing 90,000 words together into a manuscript. And we forget the Orator of these words. Whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, these are not your words. This is not just your passion…. Do you take time to hit your knees before you write? Because this isn’t about you and what you can do. It’s about what God can do through you as His vessel. Do you dedicate your writing time—no matter how small or large that might be—to your Creator? Without Him, there would be no you. No you to write these words and stories only you can write….” (emphasis mine)

Pray! And write!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tuesday Tidbit: Don’t miss this opportunity to become a better writer!

Amber Lea Starfire, at Writing Through Life, has begun her new Reading for Writers series, focused on memoir, beginning with Beryl Markham’s West with the Night.

Amber’s goal is to help us read like writers
in order to make us better writers.

Participants discuss tone, voice, pace, structure, the writer’s style, and word choices.

I encourage you to read the book and participate. Markham’s writing style is one of my favorites—I often read her passages several times to take in the beauty and art of her words.

She’s a master wordsmith.

Ernest Hemingway said of West with the Night, “Written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer…. [Markham] can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves as writers….”

From the back cover: Markham’s “storytelling easily earns her a place on the shelf with contemporaries (and friends) such as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Isak Dinesen. West with the Night is one of the world’s great adventure stories, a true classic of twentieth-century literature.”

Even if you don’t read the book, I hope you’ll read Amber’s weekly blog posts and take part in the discussions that follow. Don’t miss this opportunity to enjoy a masterpiece as well as to grow as a writer.

Click on Amber’s post for this week,

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Pinpoint the “So what?” in your memoir

In writing your memoir, pinpoint the “So what?” of key events—the crises, victories, surprises, and discoveries.

Ponder this: Your memoir is about happenings that impacted you: you lost your job—or after overcoming obstacles, you landed the job of your dreams; your house burned down; you made the college varsity team; your child died; you survived cancer.

After you’ve written a rough draft of a vignette, ask yourself: 
  • Why was that event so important to me?
  • Why does this memory stand out when I’ve forgotten so many others?
  • How did the event change me?

In other words, So what?

Memoir involves: 
  • pondering,
  • exploring,
  • unraveling,
  • reflecting,
  • examining,
  • untangling,
  • mulling over,
  • analyzing,
  • musing,
  • sorting out.

Peel off layers one by one until you can answer these questions:

How do you see the experience now, in retrospect?

What was going on beneath the surface?

If the event had not happened, how would your values, goals, perspectives, and relationships be different?

And, if your memoir has a spiritual dimension, how was God:
  • orchestrating,
  • managing,
  • directing,
  • holding the reins,
  • choreographing,
  • and arranging the details,
  • to carry out His best plans for your life?

Connect the dots: To what new place did God lead you? How did He shake you up, change your mind, melt your heart, revise your goals, and make a new person of you?

“Many memoir writers in workshops I’ve taught,” writes Victoria Costello, “encounter trouble with the reflective voice.… If this is a stumbling block for you, here are some phrases that can help ease you into a reflective voice: 

Here are additional reflective phrases you can use:
  • I couldn't have put it into words back then, but now...
  • It would be years before I understood that...
  • I didn't understand it at the time, but...
  • When I remember those events, I...
  • If only I'd known back then that...
  • Ten years later I would ask myself...

Search your heart
for the deeper lessons
within your stories.
Only then can you pass on
those treasures
to your readers.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Tuesday Tidbit: If you lack confidence, courage, and discipline to write

“Many beginning writers believe
the writing process requires great confidence
and unfaltering courage.

I’ve learned the writer’s journey requires
the ability to admit we’re not brave
or altogether perfect.

As Christian writers, we fare well
if we possess the wisdom to ask God
for the strength and discipline needed
to buckle down
and type the words He gives us.”

Thursday, February 2, 2017

What do you need to remember?

Upside down.

Inside out.

I had turned my heart and my dreams upside down and inside out in order to say “yes” to God and move to Africa, far from my kids—and from future grandchildren I was sure would join our family soon.

Originally I had strongly resisted the move but over time, God helped me believe His dreams for me were better than my dreams, so my husband Dave and I set out for Africa—I was willing to go even though my heart felt shredded.

After only four months on African soil, I’d fallen in love with the place and her people, and Dave and I eagerly embraced our new ministries.

And then it happened.

We received word our first grandchild was on the way. The news ripped open my recently-healed wound and broke my heart: I didn’t want to miss out on knowing and enjoying my grandchild!

Suddenly I doubted, I questioned: Why, God, did You have to send me so far from home?

But then I remembered.

With a leaden, hammering heart, I took a deep breath and remembered:

I had given God many months to clarify whether He wanted us to move to Africa, and He said “yes.”  Only “yes.”

And I remembered:

On our way to Africa, we had spent a few days in England in an old World War II barracks. A poster in our dorm room displayed Psalm 126:5-6, “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping…will return with songs of joy.”

I pondered those words at length because I didn’t know what they meant for me specifically, but I did understand about tears—I had shed so on my way to Africa because I couldn’t see our kids, and now our new grandbaby, for four long years.

But what about tears turning to joy? Could I believe it? Would I believe it? Would I believe that God could turn my tears into joy?

I thought about it for a couple of days and then, there in our dark little barracks room in England, I stood before that poster and told God I’d give Him time to show me songs of joy in Africa. (from Grandma’s Letters from Africa, Chapter 3)

Four months later in Nairobi, with news of my first grandbaby, I did what Priscilla Shirer said: I raised my hands in surrender to my God, trusting Him for His best outcome for my life and that of my kids and grandkids.

I lifted my heart to God and recommitted myself to living where He placed me and to the role He had for me in Africa as well as in His larger agenda.

I told God, yet again, that I’d give Him time to turn my tears to joy.

Some of you have had heartachesall because you said “yes” to God and His purposes. Initially you had set out with conviction and enthusiasm, but then something happened and turned your world upside down, and maybe you questioned God and doubted your decision to go where He pointed you.

What do you need to remember today?

Think back on your conversations with God—and write about them.

Remember how He confirmed His direction for your life—and write about it.

Remember what you committed to Him, and remember the Bible verses that inspired you to make that commitment—and write about all that.

Remember your joy in setting out—and write about it.

Remember all the ways God walked hand in hand with you when you stumbled through rough spots, through dread-filled times, through your anguish—and write about it.

Remember raising your hands in surrender to God, trusting Him for His best outcome for your life—and write about it.

And remember the ways He brought you to a new and good place—and write about all of that.

And take joy in your writing!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tuesday Tidbit: If your life's not a “perfect, bright-shining example,” should you write a memoir?

Sooo...... Your life isn't a "perfect, bright-shining example," in the words of Oswald Chambers.

In case you need a reminder, 
no one's life is a "perfect, bright-shining example." 
We've all messed up, time after time after time. 

That's why God's grace is so important! 

Make a conscious decision: 
Write stories that celebrate the mercy 
and grace and kindness 
God has given you!