Thursday, December 14, 2017

Dreaming of a black Christmas?

Let me share an excerpt with you from my almost-ready-to-publish memoir. The scene takes place on a mission center, Lomalinda (pretty hill), in South America during our family's first December there.

Following up on our December 5 post about sensory details, notice the details I included. (Sensory details: What do you see, hear, taste, smell, and feel?)

Lomalinda was into the dry season with clear clean blue skies and hardly a wisp of a cloud. Daytime temperatures soared to over 100 degrees in the shade—cruel, withering. The green scent of rainy season had given way to the spicy fragrance of sun-dried grasses. Immense stretches of emerald disappeared, leaving the grasslands stiff and bleached and simmering under unrelenting equatorial sun. Leaves browned and fell. Even my favorite tree dropped its leaves—the young one with delicate fern-like leaves. 
Muddy paths and single-lane tracks turned rock-hard and, with use, changed to dust. Yards and airstrips and open fields turned to dust, too. 
From sunrise to sundown, a stiff wind blew across the llanos (plains), a gift from God because it offered a little relief from the heat. On the other hand, we had to use rocks and paperweights and other heavy objects to keep papers from blowing away. Dust blew through jalousied windows and into homes and offices and settled on our counters and furniture and in cracks and crannies and on our necks and in our armpits and up our noses. 
… The parched wind gave us a break from the profuse sweating we endured in rainy season so, in that way, it was a friend, but it could also be a foe. 
 One blistering afternoon, Dr. Altig hollered through our screen door, “Call for help! We have a fire!” Across the road, flames leaped and smoke billowed….

That year, our family’s first there, we learned December traditionally was a time of wildfires in and around Lomalinda, leaving acres of black ashes. Shortly after that day’s fire, the following happened:

One day I walked a sun-cracked track and that celestial fireball cooked my skin and the smell of charred grassland swirled in the breeze. The school principal puttered up to me on her red motorbike and smiled, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!” 
Pris watched me for a few seconds and then laughed—my face had betrayed my thoughts. I had to bite my tongue to keep from blurting out, This looks like Christmas? You’ve gotta be kidding! 
To me, Christmas looks like frost-covered evergreens, and snowflakes, and frozen puddles. Heavy coats, scarves, mittens, boots. Runny noses. Sledding. Ice skating. Swags of cedar and pine and holly tied with red ribbons. 
I learned a lesson that hot, dry day. “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” means different things to different people. To most Lomalinda-ites, especially kids, a blistering wind, sun-bleached landscape, charred fields, and a whiff of ashes signaled we’d soon celebrate Christmas. Folks enjoyed saying, “I’m dreaming of a black Christmas.”

What could I do to make this piece better? 
I welcome your critique in the comments below.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tuesday Tidbit: What the amazing process of writing reveals

"What is your journey," Rebecca S. Ramsey asks those writing a memoir, "the big change you experienced that you want to share with the world?"

Remember: Memoir is about change, transformation. What new person did you become because of your experience?

Rebecca continues, "What were the little struggles and big struggles that got you from the beginning to the end?" 

She admits the answers to those questions weren't clear when she began writing her new memoir published last month, The Holy Eclair: Signs and Wonders from an Accidental Pilgrimage.

So how did she figure out that change—that transformation, renovation—in her life? 

After much work (writing The Holy Eclaire took ten years), she discovered that writing helped her answer those questions. Something about the process of writing helped her reflect on her transformationa vital part of writing memoir.

So give yourself time to discover your story and write it
even if it takes ten years like it did for Rebecca.
Within the process of writing,
and search for answers.

They are there.

Don't give up before you find them.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tuesday Tidbit: Your Christmas stories need sensory details

Be sure to include sensory details in your Christmas stories.

Sensory details: What do you see, hear, taste, smell, and feel?

Why are sensory details so important? What's the big deal?

You want to draw readers into your stories. Let them experience what you experienced. Sensory details can do thatthey can draw your reader right in beside you. 

During these weeks leading up to Christmas, even if you're too busy to write, pay attention to the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and textures of the season. Jot them down so you can use them later when you do have time to write.

What sensory details will you include in your holiday stories?

Maybe these: the sight of the northern lights, the sound of shoveling snow off the sidewalk, the taste of fruitcake, the scent of a pine Christmas tree, and the texture of a woolen scarf.

Or maybe your sensory details include palm trees, sandy beaches, saltwater on your skin, the smell of smoky barbecues, the taste of gingerbread.

Your Christmas details are unique. Find words for them so your readers can relive your past holidays with you.

And have fun writing!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

You have all this evidence: Write about it!

You can't see God's hands or face or look into His eyes.

You can't take a photo of Him or of His promises, but God does give evidence of His involvement in your life.

He gives tangible evidence of His love, His power to help, His creation, protection, guidance, and forgiveness. He gives perceptible evidence when He answers your prayers.

"God has blessed his peoplejust look at the evidence!" (2 Chronicles 31:10b, The Message).

God ". . . never left them without evidence of himself and his goodness" (Acts 14:17, NLT).

"There's no end to what has happened to youit's beyond speech, beyond knowledge. The evidence of Christ has been clearly verified in your lives" (1 Corinthians 1:4, The Message).

"Everyone will see this. No one can miss it—unavoidable, indisputable evidence that I, God, personally did this...." (Isaiah 41:20).

This is important: Remember . . . that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced . . . the Lord, . . . his majesty, his mighty hand.... It was not your children who saw what he did for you in the desert until you arrived at this place...." (Deuteronomy 11:2-7, NIV).

Do you grasp what these words mean? They mean you have a story that only you can share.

"You have all this evidence confirmed by your own eyes and ears. Shouldn't you be talking about it...? (Isaiah 48:6, The Message).

You need to write your stories!
If you don't write them, someone else might try,
but only you know the whole, accurate story.

What "unavoidable, indisputable evidence" do you have that God has acted on your behalf?

Maybe He helped you with a financial need.

Perhaps He caused someone to notice and help when you were in danger.

Maybe God sent someone to sit with you and pray for you when you were desperately ill or brokenhearted or frightened.

This listyour list—goes on and on....

Writing stories of God's involvement in your life will strengthen your faith—for today and for the future, whatever it holds.

Writing your stories will also strengthen your readers' faith.
Who knows what they'll face in their lives?
God can use your stories to prepare them,
and mature them,
and use them,
and bless them.

Let's write our stories so that this can be said of you and me:

"Our children will hear about the wonders of the Lord.
His righteous acts will be told to those yet unborn.
They will hear about everything he has done."
(Psalm 22:30-31, NLT)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Tuesday Tidbit: Celebrate God’s grace upon grace

Make time to remember:  
  • God’s blessings, one after another,
  • His favor,
  • His grace on your behalf,
  • His mercy,
  • and gifts,
  • heaped upon you—all because of the abundance of God’s grace.

And when you have remembered, write them into your memoir. Create a memoir that's a celebration of God!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tuesday Tidbit: Praise and Thanksgiving

Write your memoir to carry out these verses: 

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
Who can list all the great things He has done?
Who can ever praise Him half enough?
Psalm 106:1-2

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thanksgiving memories: Who spurred you on?

Thanksgiving is a time to remember those who have encouraged you, believed in you, and spurred you on.

It’s a time to recognize people who trained you, challenged you, and influenced the direction of your life.

At this Thanksgiving time, think back: Who taught you about integrity and hard work and self-discipline?

Who inspired you spiritually and modeled what genuine faith looks like?

Who helped you find your way through the dark—took you by the hand, kept you moving forward, step by step, toward the light?

Who inspired you to become the very best you, to become all God intended for you to be?

Look back over the years
and recognize that
God Himself placed those people in your life.
When they touched you,
they were reaching out in God’s name,
extending His hand,
smiling His smile,
speaking His words of hope and peace.

That’s one of the ways that He,
in His unfailing love,
leads His own.
(Exodus 15:13)

Who comes to mind when you read these words?

You have stories about those key people in your life,
and only you can write them.
Those stories are important.

Someone else needs to read those stories.
Through them,
God can use you to touch others,
to reach out in His name,
extend His hand,
smile His smile,
speak His words of hope and peace.

That’s one of the ways that He,
in His unfailing love,
leads His own.
(Exodus 15:13)

Connect your story with God’s story—
not as a hobby,
but as a ministry.