Sunday, December 21, 2014


Since I spent a number of years far from family
a few in South America, more years in Africa
this year I'll take a wee little break from blogging 
to cherish time with kids, grandkids, 
siblings and their families, and parents-in-law.

Have a blessed Christmas season.
See you in the New Year!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Your worst Christmas

Maybe you recall a Christmas that was simply awful—a time you were heartbroken, or homeless, or broke, or far from home, or jilted, or frightened, or sick—a time of anguish and sorrow, and life looked bleak.

You remember it as the worst Christmas ever.

But I’d like to ask you to think again.

Writing a memoir can be such a blessed project: Memoir requires taking long, deep looks at the past. Memoir involves pondering, examining, re-thinking, digging deep and finding gems we might not have known were there.
illustration in public domain

Sometimes what seems to be our biggest disaster or heartache turns out to be a blessingone we couldn’t have received without the difficulty.

Sometimes we think a calamity will destroy us but God is in the midst of our situations and, in the way only He can do it, He turns everything inside out and upside down andinstead of destroying usit makes us stronger and better.

Failures. Tangled messes. Catastrophes. Tragedies. Conflicts. Blows. Adversity. Upheavals. Disasters. Setbacks. Unwelcome surprises.

God can use our deep disappointments to get our attention,
shake us up a little,
clear our heads,
help us see we were putting our hope in something we shouldn’t,
open new doors for us,
give us new perspectives,
tenderize our souls,
and give us fresh starts.
God can do all that.

That’s what Romans 8:28 is all about: 
“…God causes everything to work together 
for the good of those who love God 
and are called according to his purpose for them.” 

A long time ago, H.C. Trumbull told this story:

“The floods washed away home and mill, all the poor man had in the world. But as he stood on the scene of his loss, after the water had subsided, brokenhearted and discouraged, he saw something shining in the bank which the waters had washed bare. ‘It looks like gold,’ he said. It was gold. The flood which had beggared him made him rich. So it is ofttimes in life.” (Quoted by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman, Streams in the Desert, January 20 selection.)

When turn-arounds and relief and solutions eventually come our way, it’s so easy to snatch them, run with them, and never look back. We too easily fail to recognize God’s loving intervention on our behalf, and we fail to recognize the good He has brought to us out of the midst of our hardships.

Take timemake time—to dig through the dirt and ashes of what you thought was your most disastrous Christmas, and mine those bits of gold.  

Search for evidence of God’s healing, new directions He provided for your life, new friends, and new hope.

Pinpoint the ways He strengthened your faith for the future.

Recognize these were all part of God’s unique plan for you and your life.

Gather all those discoveries and write memoir vignettes detailing the ways God was in the midst of your worst Christmas ever.

Write stories about the way He took a disaster or heartache and turned it inside out and upside down and turned it into something good—blessings you couldn’t have received without that difficulty. Instead of destroying you, it made you stronger and better.

If you’ll make time to do that, 
you can receive heaps of blessings.
Give it a try!

Related post:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuesday Tidbit: Christmas details

Here’s your 15 seconds of inspiration, 
your Tuesday Tidbit for this week:

Here’s a way to add richness to your memoir.

During these days leading up to Christmas, note sensory detailsnot just the typical details that everyone thinks of, but unique sensory details relating to your Christmas:

What smells do you associate with Christmas?
What sounds remind you of Christmas?
What feels or textures signify Christmas to you?
What sights do you connect to Christmas?
What tastes go along with Christmas? 

When you write vignettes about Christmas, include a few of these sensory details to add depth and texture for your readers.

If you have Christmas vignettes in rough draft form, look for places to add these sensory details.

Your readers will appreciate the effort you make
to include such details.

Let your readers experience what you 
smelled, heard, felt, saw, and tasted.
That way they can enter into your story with you.

I’m guessing they might even smile and say something like,
“Oh, I remember that…..
But I’d forgotten all about it until I read this story.”

Thursday, December 11, 2014

You are a God-designed link between generations past and future

We will tell our children,
and the generations that come after us,
God-shaped family stories our parents and grandparents
passed down to us.
Let’s not hide them
from our children and grandchildren.
Instead, let’s tell stories of what we have seen God do—
His power and might,
and the glorious and praiseworthy things He has done—
so that we and they will praise Him.
God commanded our ancestors
to teach such things to their children
so they in turn would teach their children
down through the generations.
This is His plan
to help all of us grasp and remember
His deeds and miracles
and live faithfully according to His ways.
Psalm 78:2-7, paraphrased

God established this ingenious plan—to teach our children and grandchildren what we’ve seen Him do—because He knows we’ll benefit if we know, love, and follow His ways.

Instead of preaching do’s and don’ts, tell stories that will help kids and grandkids discover for themselves what’s important.

People resist a holier-than-thou attitude, but they respond well to a story. Stories are powerful.

Your stories can entertain, 
they can cause readers to laugh, 
or cry, 
or maybe both, 
and they’ll remember your stories longer than 
lectures or preaching.

A story is up to twenty-two times more memorable than facts alone,” according to Professor Jennifer Aaker of the Stanford Graduate School of Business.   

Through your stories, 
others can benefit from your experiences: 
Readers can take in the wisdom you learned, 
avoid mistakes you have made, 
and make their own good choices. 
They can navigate through their own difficulties 
and mysteries, 
make sense of their own lives, 
and have a sense of direction for the future. 
Your stories can soften and strengthen hearts, 
pass on hope, 
and offer grace.

Write your stories. They are important!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A remedy if you find yourself among the nine

If you find yourself among “the nine,” you can become “the one” by writing your memoir. Confused? Read on.…

On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus crossed paths with ten lepers—despised, cut off from society and their loved ones, lonely, suffering, and desperate for healing.

They cried out to Jesus, “Have mercy on us!”

And he did. He healed them.

Then they all took off—we can only imagine their joy!—but one man turned around, fell on his knees, and praised God in profound gratitude for being healed of his leprosy.

No doubt Jesus’ heart was moved by the man’s gratitude, but he couldn’t help but wonder, aloud: “Ten men were healed. Where are the nine others? Where is their thanks?

Jesus seems hurt, disappointed, maybe even stunned, by their ingratitude.


How many times have you and I failed to thank God for what He has done for us? So often, when we get through something difficult or scary, we just wheeze, “Whew!” and get on with life. Where’s our gratitude?

Could it be that God is crushed when we fail to thank Him? Hurt? Disappointed in our ingratitude? Maybe even stunned?

Don’t be “one of the nine!” Be the one who made an effort to thank and praise God!


This is where writing your memoir comes in! Write your memoir as a book full of falling on your knees in praise and profound gratitude toward God.

Your memoir can include all kinds of interesting, entertaining, even humorous stories about everyday stuff

childhood escapades,
family times,
falling in love,
raising kids,
health (or poor health),
death of loved ones,
and all of those stories can include gratitude and thanksgiving to God.

So gather up your memories and write your stories!

Related posts:
Humor: Cry, laugh, wait  
Humor: “Like a sneak attack

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tuesday Tidbit: Telling the next generation

Here's your 15 seconds of inspiration for this week,
your Tuesday Tidbit:

This is what SM 101 is all about!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

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.

Who taught you about integrity and hard work and self-discipline?

At this Thanksgiving time, think back: Who inspired you spiritually and modeled what a 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?

This is important:
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.

Who comes to mind when you read these words?

You have stories about key people in your life,
and only you can write them.
Someone needs to read those stories.
Through your stories,
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.

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

Related posts:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Details: a must for your memoir

If you want your readers to enjoy your stories—and keep reading—include sensory details. They add texture and interest and pizzazz—but they do so much more. Sensory details can make your stories come to life.

Your goal is to write so readers connect with you. Invite them to see, feel, hear, taste, and smell what you experienced so they can enter into your story with you. You want your experience to happen all over again for your readers.

Here are a few quotes to inspire you:

“In writing, imagery is the key
that can unlock a reader’s imagination.
When an image is rendered with the right combination of words,
it magically appears in the reader’s mind
like a photograph or a film clip.” 
Melissa Donovan,

“Concentrate your narrative energy on the point of change.…
When your character is in a new place,
or things alter around them,
that’s the point to step back
and fill in the details of their world.”
Hilary Mantel,
(emphasis mine)

“You must recreate how you experienced the places,
people and situations of your life experiences
through the senses.
Where you were and what was happening to you
originally came in through your ears,
 nose, tongue, skin, and eyes.
That is what the reader needs, too,
to experience your world and draw the conclusions you did.…
As writers we must learn to rely on the outer world
for the images a situation provides,
rather than relying on thoughts and summaries. 
Sure, those will come into our writing, at times,
but using them sparingly …
makes them all the more powerful. ”
Sheila Bender,
(emphasis mine)

“If you’re like most writers
the dominant sense is visual.
That’s because most of us write ‘by sight.’
That is, we include what we see and, sometimes,
what we hear.
Rarely what we smell, taste, or feel (as in the sense of touch).
If your writing tends to fall within this ‘mostly sight’ category,
you may fail to engage your readers.
If you want to write vivid memories,
then you must learn to remember vividly
not just see, but smell, taste, feel, and hear those memories.…”
Amber Lea Starfire,
“From Memories to Memoir, Part 3—Remembering Vividly
(emphasis mine)
(See the whole blog post for step-by-step tips on how to remember vividly.)

Related posts about sensory details
December’s details for our memoir: Touch and taste  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tuesday Tidbit: Spotting major flaws in your memoir’s opening

Here’s your 15 seconds of inspiration,
this week’s Tuesday Tidbit:

Prolific author Cecil Murphey said, “I once read more than one hundred of the entries for Christmas Miracles, a compilation book. The major flaw in at least a third of them was that they told us the ending before they told us the story.”

How are you doing on your memoir’s beginning?

Matilda Butler offers brief but oh-so-practical tips on making your memoir’s opening sparkle. Check out her writing prompts at Now It’s Your Turn.

Related posts :

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Let’s tell the next generations, that all will go well with them

Remember, your children were not the ones
who saw and experienced the Lord your God:
His majesty, His greatness, His awesome power.
It was not your children who saw
what he did for you in your desert wilderness
and how He brought you to this place.
No, you saw these things with your own eyes.
Deuteronomy 11:2-7


We’ll tell the next generation
the Lord’s marvelous deeds, His power,
and the wonders He has done,
so the next generation can know, too—
even children not yet born—
and so they in turn will tell their children.
Our purpose, our hope,
is that they’ll put their trust in God
and remember all He has done
and will keep His commands
so that all will go well with them.…
Psalm 78:4b, 6-7; Deuteronomy 12:28

Pray that [God will] fill your good ideas
and acts of faith
with his own energy
so that
it all amounts to something.
2 Thessalonians 1:11, The Message

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Giants? or The Promised Land?

What “giants” have you faced? Did you let them win, or did you decide to be an overcomer?

In writing my second memoir, I’ve discovered that I let giants intimidate me. My first inclination is to run the opposite direction. How about you? Know what I mean?

Remember the story of Caleb and Joshua?

God told Moses to send 12 men into Canaan, the Promised Land, to check it out. When Caleb, Joshua, and their companions returned, they gave it a mixed report: It was a magnificent country, flowing with milk and honey, but defeating the people would be daunting. Their cities were big and fortified, and the people were very powerful—some were even giants. Conquering the land God had promised them would be an enormous, risky undertaking.

But Caleb said, “Let’s go! We can do it!” He recognized the land was God’s gift to them and that He would help them take the land. He was willing to step out in faith and in God’s strength.

But the other men cowered. “We can’t win. They’re stronger than we are. We felt like grasshoppers next to those giants!”

Their fears were contagious—they infected all the Israelites with their pessimism. They feared they could be killed or carried off as slaves. They wept and wailed and complained. Their solution: “Let’s get out of here!”

Their fears rendered them faithless and helpless because they focused on the giants—problems, challenges, and dangers. They focused on how small and weak they were compared to the giants.  Failure was certain. That attitude resulted in double trouble: not only did the Israelites expect defeat: those giants then believed the Israelites were as weak as they thought they were.

Caleb and Joshua said to the doubters, “If God is pleased with us, He will keep us safe and give us the land. Don’t rebel against Him, and don’t be afraid of those giants! With God on our side, we can conquer them.” (See Numbers 13:1-14:9.)

Caleb and Joshua focused on God. In faith, they looked beyond the giants and beyond the Israelites’ weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Their courage was not based on the Israelites strength, but on God’s strength and His promises.

God can do extraordinary things with ordinary human beings who trust Him.

What giants have you faced in the past?

Giants can take many forms: a besetting sin, fear, lying, selfishness, family disputes, financial problems, abuse, conflicts within church congregations, rebellious children, false accusations, a serious illness, or dangerous situations.

Did you set your eyes on the giants, or on God? Did you retreat in defeat, or did you step forward and take possession of your Promised Land?

Write about a time when you focused on the giants, and then write about a time when you focused on God and His help in establishing you in your Promised Land.

While you write, keep in mind the definition of a memoir: Reflect on what God was doing back then, and how you have changed as a result.

What “milk and honey” did you receive as a result of your trust in God? What “milk and honey” would you have missed if you had turned back out of fear and faithlessness?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tuesday tidbit: The pages of your life

Here's your 15 seconds of inspiration,
your Tuesday Tidbit:

Your stories are important.
Future generations need to know them.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

What are you doing with the time you have left?

How are we using the waking hours of our days?

Are we spending time doing something that will last longer than just a few months or years?

Are we investing our hours and talents in something that can outlive us?

Some people drift through life

without pondering deep questions

without wondering about life’s purposes.

It’s easy to get caught up in the here and now: getting to work on time, paying bills, putting money in savings, keeping up with housework and yard work, following our favorite sports teams, and exercising.

And we must do grocery shopping, laundry, meal prep, dishes, and car maintenance.

And we make efforts to raise good kids, and we drive them to soccer games and baseball practices, and maybe we even help coach those teams.

Some of us take Bible studies and volunteer at church and in the community.

And we keep up with friends—Facebook, texting, email, hanging out.

Now, those are good and important things, but living life well is so much more.

Deep down we really want to make a difference. We want to be a blessing, to make a lasting impact that leaves our corner of the world a better place for our family and friends.

We can do that only if we are intentional. And committed. And tenacious.

We must take seriously what Jesus said: “Go back to your family and tell them everything God has done for you” (Luke 8:39).

The Old Testament tells us, “Let each generation tell its children of [God’s] mighty acts; let them proclaim [His] power” (Psalm 145:4).

And of course there’s our theme verse here at SM 101, “Always remember what you’ve seen God do for you and be sure to tell your children and grandchildren!” (Deuteronomy 4:9).

You don’t know how much longer you’ll have to write your stories. I don’t know how much longer I’ll have.

Writing stories for families should be on everyone’s bucket list.

We must to give priority to writing our stories because when we do, we’re investing in the eternal for the sake of our families. There’s no better way to spend our time!

Tony Evans says,

“When you invest your time, talent,
and treasure in the eternal,
your investments have a Divine return.”

That’s our goal—that Divine return. We might not live long enough to see the goal fulfilled, but it’s a worthy goal nevertheless: writing a memoir that will have a Divine return in our family members’ lives.

Love the Lord your God with all
your heart
and your soul
and your strength.
Commit wholeheartedly to
these commands that I give you today.
Impress them upon your children.
Talk about them when you’re at home
and when you’re traveling,
when you’re lying down and when you’re getting up.
Tie them as reminders on your hands
and bind them to your foreheads.
Write them on the doorframes of your houses
and on your gates—so that
you and your children may flourish.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9, Deuteronomy 11:18-20

You are part of a story much bigger than yourself, and God has entrusted you with stories only you can write.

Don’t drift through life.

Writing your memoir will require you to ponder deep questions,

examine God and His Word,

grapple with God’s purposes for your life,

and recognize, maybe for the first time, just how involved God has been—sometimes in miraculous ways, but mostly in everyday ways.

Writing your memoir, and what you uncover in the process, will be among the richest experiences of your life. It can fortify your faith. Writing your memoir is one way to honor God and it will shower blessings upon your readers. It’s a win-win situation!

Brooke Warner observed that “… before a memoir can become a memoir, it’s a seed of an idea—planted into the writer who is available and ready.”

Are you available? Are you ready?

Write your stories!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tuesday Tidbit: “Unnecessary, superfluous, gratuitous content”

Here’s 15 seconds of inspiration,
your Tuesday Tidbit for this week:

Remember what Write Tight is?

"Keep it concise and
don't stuff your sentence with unnecessary,
superfluous, gratuitous content
that smothers your prose,
muddies your intentions,
confuses the reader,
clogs up the page with excess text,
pads out the work with inelegant drivels,
irritates the eye,
examines giraffes,
and renders your point unclear."

~ James Thomas

Check out my earlier post, Write Tight! Enjoy!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Do you know where you’re going with your memoir?

Do you know how your memoir will end?

Throughout the writing of your story, build toward your ending.

As a memoirist, you record more than the details of what happened.  You excavate a story deeper and higher and wider than the immediate story. You uncover a story larger than the story on the surface.

You dig it out—in pieces if you must—but you dig it out.

You build toward the end—where you hold in your hand the treasure you unearthed.

That means that while you write your rough draft, you need at least a vague idea of what that treasure is so you can aim for your ending.

If you can’t figure out what your higher, wider, deeper, larger story is, if you can’t grasp the specifics of the treasure you’re mining, take a couple of minutes to read Dig it out, in pieces if you must.

Give yourself time to ponder and pray about what God has for you within your story. Over time, you can dig through the layers and find that treasure.

Later, when it comes time to craft and polish your ending, refuse to write something anemic and trite with the message that “Everyone lived happily ever after.”

Instead, write a compelling, satisfying end, an end that shows how far you came, how you rose above obstacles, and how you changed.

Write your memoir’s ending in a way that gives readers hope, courage, faith, tenacity, and inspiration for living.  

In one way or another say, “This is the most important lesson I want to leave with you.”

In your finale, take stock of life lessons you learned.

Sum up principles you’ve learned.

Notice how Henri Nouwen summarizes sweeping, vast concepts:

"In the life of a God-centered person, sorrow and joy can exist together. That isn't easy to understand, but when we think about some of our deepest life experiences. . .great sorrow and joy are often seen to be parts of the same experience."

And this from Nouwen:

"Often we discover the joy in the midst of the sorrow. I remember the most painful times in my life as times in which I became aware of a spiritual reality much larger than myself, a reality that allowed me to live the pain with hope. I dare even to say: 'My grief was the place where I found my joy.'"

Use your memoir’s ending to clarify your message for readers:

What do you want them to feel 
when they finish your memoir?

How do you want them to think 
as a result of reading your memoir?

What do you want them to do—
how do you want them to live—
because they read your memoir?

Write your memoir 
not because of who you are, not because you’re so great, 
but because of who God is.