Thursday, June 26, 2014

Who are you, that you should write your story?

You? Write a book?

You might be asking yourself, “Who am I, that I should write my story? I’m not a Moses, or a David, or a Paul, or an Abraham….”

But wait! Moses killed an Egyptian. Then he hid in the desert for 40 years.

And later, when God told him to confront Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses made all kinds of excuses. He balked and squirmed and wailed, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it” (Exodus 4:13).

Here’s the point: It’s not that Moses was so greatit’s what God did: He enabled Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into the land of milk and honey—and so much more!

Then there’s David, and Paul—it’s easy to think of them as saints, but they really messed up sometimes. Their lives were a mixture of faith and willful disobedience, spiritual successes and failures, yet God used them in mighty ways and continues to do so today. It’s not what David or Paul did, it’s what God did.

Abraham is … one of the most important men in the history of the world. What makes Abraham so important … is not his sterling character (which he did not have), his outstanding intellect (which may have existed but it is not mentioned), his charming personality (he could be pretty annoying) or substantial personal accomplishments (he had few, apart from his pilgrimage to the promised land). What Abraham is remembered for is his faithfulness in obeying God’s call to undertake a long and demanding journey. …It was not so much what Abraham did, but what God did.… In Abraham we see not so much a saint in action; rather, the faithfulness and graciousness of God.… In Abraham we see an ordinary man who is used by God, not because of who Abraham was, but because of who God is.…” (Richard Peace, Spiritual Storytelling).

So, write your storiesnot because of who you are, but because of who God is.

Your stories are important not because of your sterling character, outstanding intellect, charming personality, or personal accomplishments.

Your stories are important not because you’re a saint in action, but because of God’s faithfulness and graciousness.

Like Paul and David and all the rest of us, your life has been a mixture of:
faith and willful disobedience,
belief and unbelief,
hope and hopelessness,
innocence and guilt,
spiritual successes and failures.

Your stories are important because you are saved by God’s grace. Your stories are important because—within His grace—you are His and He is yours.

Take the spotlight off yourself and, instead, focus it on what God has done.

It is not that we think we can do anything of lasting value by ourselves.
Our only power and success come from God.
(2 Corinthians 3:5, NLT)

…Our adequacy is from God.… Therefore, having such a hope,
we use great boldness in our speech [or writing].…
(2 Corinthians 3:5, 12, NAS)

God wants all of us to tell our stories!

Depend on God to make you adequate for this awesome task.

Use heavenly boldness in your writing.

Your stories can help your readers
become all God created them to be.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tuesday Tidbit

Here's your Tuesday Tidbit, 15 seconds of inspiration and blessing!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

That place: Why does it still call to you?

Remember last Thursday’s post? Hiraeth: You’ve probably experienced it.

This William Zinsser quote fits well with it:

Hiraeth is sort of like homesickness, but the English language has no word to precisely describe it.

Hiraeth has to do with a strong attachment to a home-like place and a hankering to return to it. The University of Wales says hiraeth can include “a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness.…”

It pertains to a place (literal or figurative) that mysteriously shaped you and now defines you and still anchors you and lives in you.

A place (literal or figurative) that nurtured your soul and spirit.

A place that still calls you by name and woos you.

Pay special attention to the way you describe that place in your memoir.


Because the better the description, the better your readers will experience—will get to know—the power of your place and enter into your experience with you.

Like Zinsser says, your special place lives on in your mind because it holds, it embraces, an idea—or an experience, or a person—larger than the place itself.

Find that—whatever it is.

Tap into the power of your place by practicing what Priscilla Long calls a “deliberate, ongoing gathering of words and phrases.” She calls that The Lexicon Practice (from her excellent book, The Writer’s Portable Mentor).

Collect words that will let your readers smell, feel, hear, see, and even taste those very special places in your memoir’s stories.

Click here to read my blog post, The power of your place, and see what unique words describe my place. I hope that will inspire you in writing about your place.

In that same blog post, you’ll learn more about Priscilla’s Lexicon Practice. Take her advice—it will be loads of fun.

Also read my blog post, Where are you from? The exercise there will help you describe your special place and era—and it is so fun, it can be addicting!

Follow these tips and your readers will thank you for giving them an enjoyable, vivid reading experience.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tuesday Tidbit

Today we continue with our new Tuesday mini-feature
to inspire you
and to bless you.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hiraeth: You’ve probably experienced it

Hiraeth. I ran across the word on Facebook recently.

I’d never heard of it. Have you?

It’s a Welsh word pronounced HEER-eyeth  (roll the r).

We English speakers don’t have a good word to describe hiraeth, but that has not stopped us from trying to pin it down.  

I’m especially drawn to one aspect of the definition. According to Smith College, “It often translates as ‘homesickness,’ but the actual concept is far more complex. It incorporates an aspect of impossibility: the pining for a home, a person, [or] a figure.…”

Pamela Petro says this of hiraeth: “The best we can do is ‘homesickness,’ but that’s like the difference between hardwood and laminate. Homesickness is hiraeth-lite.… The Portuguese have a word, ‘saudade,’ which is the only true cognate for hiraeth. [One meaning is] ‘the love that stays’ after someone, or something…has gone away.”

The University of Wales says hiraeth can include “a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness.…”

It has to do with a strong attachment to a home-like place and a hankering to return to it.

Hiraeth is
the ache,
the longing,
the restlessness,
the vacuum that demands to be filled.

It is something bigger than ourselves.
It lives in our blood and pulses through our veins.

It buzzes,
it flows,
it shouts,
it whispers.

It calls our names: we recognize the voice,
and it tells us that place is where we belong,
that place, where our roots go down deeper than our own roots.

That is our home of homes.

Val Bethell writes of the sensations and the yearning: “I know the meaning of … ‘Hiraeth.’

Val lived in Wales, facing west, and observed, “I would happily travel west, but north, south or east was too difficult…. The mountains shouted hiraeth, hiraeth! Silently and patiently.

“One day … I was able to obey the call. Eureka! I now know, yes I know what it means. Hiraeth is in the mountains where the wind speaks in many tongues and the buzzards fly on silent wings. It’s the call of my spiritual home, it’s where ancient peoples made their home.…

“Hiraeth—the link with the long-forgotten past, the language of the soul, the call from the inner self. Half forgotten.… It speaks from the rocks, from the earth, from the trees and in the waves.…

“Yes, I hear it.

Do you know that feeling?

If you’ve moved from one place to another, you probably understand hiraeth.

If you’ve lived several decades, you probably know the longing to return to some special place or time in the past—hiraeth.

I know the feeling—the longing for the geographical place I belong. Oh, yes, I know hiraeth.

I’ve lived throughout most of Washington State, a few months in Washington, D.C., three years in South America, eight years in Africa, and six years in Missouri, but always, always, Puget Sound calls my name—north of Seattle, just barely south of the Edmonds ferry dock. Richmond Beach, to be exact—but definitely not the county park

No, I’m talking about the old beach, the beach of my childhood, before the county discovered the place and paved a parking lot and walkways and put a bridge over railroad tracks and fences around boundaries and built fire pits and posted rules. 

No, I’m not talking about that beach—I’m talking about the wild, fresh, free Richmond Beach of my youth. I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you.

That place mysteriously shaped me and defines me and still anchors me. It calls my name. Richmond Beach is where I belong. I am blessed beyond measure that my in-laws live on that very stretch of beach and I get to go home—home!—a couple of times a year. Decades later, the place still nurtures my soul and spirit.

What place (literal or figurative) mysteriously shaped you and now defines you and still anchors you and lives in you?

 What place (literal or figurative) nurtured your soul and spirit?

“No matter where I went, my compass pointed west.
I would always know what time it was in California.”
(Janet Fitch, last line in White Oleander)

Fill in the blanks: “No matter where I went, my compass always pointed ____________. I would always know what time it was in ______________.”

Write your stories!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The power of your story: a reminder

I don’t cry easily, but I sat in front of the TV, tears spilling down my face.

It was Memorial Day weekend, and I was watching PBS’s National Memorial Day Concert. I had no idea what that program would do to me.

You see, on Memorial Day so many of us say, “Let’s honor our service men and women” but we say it almost out of obligation, or maybe out of tradition.

And I picture throngs of men and women all spiffed up in dress uniforms, faces hidden under overhanging hats, and I hear bands playing peppy patriotic music, and the words for our service people are all so generic, so impersonal, so shallow: “Thank you,” we say, “for serving our nation.”

But this year, the story I watched on TV transformed an abstract, generic, impersonal concept—“Thanks to all who have served, fought, and died for our country”—and made it real for me, personal, and, reaching for a tissue, I realized, again, that stories are powerful!

Actor Gary Sinise stood on stage and told John Peck’s account of receiving a severe wound in Iraq from an exploding IED (improvised explosive device): A jagged piece of metal penetrated his brain.

In San Diego, the Marine received treatment for short- and long-term memory loss, an inability to speak or balance himself, and other injuries.

But John was no quitter: He forced himself to recover so he could reenlist.

During that time, he fell in love and married a young lady on Valentine’s Day, 2010.

Two months later, at age 25, John was deployed to Afghanistan. In the Helmand Province, sweeping for IEDs, one exploded. All he remembers is flying through the air, surrounded by dirt and colors and shapes.

The next thing the strong, tall young man knew, he was waking up in a Navy hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. He learned then that he’d been in a medically-induced coma for two months, and “basically found out that I don’t have arms or legs no more,” he said. They’d been blown off by the exploding IED.

John experienced an immense sense of loss and grief and anger—and it was more than he could take in and process.

Soon his bride left him. That was the worst blow, he said. He despaired, hiding himself away in his hospital room.

For months, John was in and out of consciousness.

But eventually he asked himself, “Am I going to live or die?”

And once again Marine Sgt. John Peck determined not to be a quitter. He decided to stop feeling sorry for himself. Deciding to be a happy person, he vowed, “I am going to take back my life one day at a time.”

And he did.

He has endured dozens of surgeries. He wears a prosthetic hook at the end of his left arm and has agreed to be the world’s first quadruple limb transplant patient.

In the meantime, John navigates around his home, cooks his meals, brushes his teeth, sky dives, and scuba dives.

And John Peck learned to laugh again.

And he learned to fall in love again.

Retired Marine Sgt. John Peck is getting married in November.

When I heard the story of just one person, when I listened to John Peck’s story, it changed meThat’s the power of story.

John Peck’s story put flesh and blood and bones and face and heart and personality into the words Memorial Day. It reached right into my heart and broke it, and I bawled my eyes out. His story made me care about him and changed the way I’ll view Memorial Day in the future. That’s the power of story.

Because I heard this one man’s story, I now can say, from the bottom of my heart, “Thank you for serving our nation. Thank you for your bravery. Thank you for the extreme sacrifices you made. You are one of my heroes.”

That’s the power of story.

What about your stories?

Perhaps you want to instill honesty in your children and grandchildren, and a sense of commitment. Maybe you want future generations to live as good citizens and hard workers. You pray they’ll be God-honoring, thoughtful, and generous.

Your job is to take those vague conceptshonesty, commitment, good citizenship, hard work, honoring God, thoughtfulness, and generosity—and write stories that will make them come alive, stories that will make them personal and show them to be attainable.

For example, what story can you write to illustrate the importance of honesty? Who modeled for you what commitment is? How did you learn the importance of being thoughtful and generous? Etc.

They can tenderize our hearts,
make us more civilized,
and challenge us to live and love well.

Believe it!

Keep writing!