Thursday, December 31, 2015

You are important to God

You are important to God. Yes, you!

Some people are skeptical about that. Some doubt God considers them important. Are you one of them?

I used to be.

For decades I assumed I was as significant as one grain of sand on all the ocean’s beaches.

When I was young, I imagined that if someone in heaven were to nudge God and point down to earth and say, “There’s that little Linda,” God might say something like, “Oh, yes, that freckled one, the lefty with curly hair.”

I suspected, however, that He’d be so busy taking care of all the other little specks of sand that I’d get lost in the crowd.

I’ll never forget when, decades later, I read Psalm 139:13-17. The message changed my life. From that moment on I never, ever felt like a mere grain of sand.

Read it for yourself because it’s not just about me—it’s all about you, too:

You [God] made all the delicate,
inner parts of my body
and knit me together in
my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—
how well I know it.
You watched me
as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together
in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
(Psalm 139:13-17, NLT)

The first time I took in those words, my heart cried out, “Such thoughts are too wonderful for me!” (Psalm 139:6)

Look at this ultrasound of my grand-niece, Anna. It captures God at work—God knitting Anna together in her mother’s womb in utter seclusionjust like the Psalm described.

Now look (below) at this picture of Anna at about age four. (Isn’t she a beauty?!)

In His marvelous workmanship, God had already determined Anna’s eye color, skin tone, height, and talents—and He was making it happen.

God’s holy hands crafted Anna’s hair texture, nose shape, toe length, fingernail shape, and tooth enamel.

With loving attention, He created Anna’s soul, her heart, and her most charming personality.

In divine complexity, He has planned the moments and days of Anna’s life. He knows the calendar pages of her life.

Friends, with the same intimate knowledge and love, God created you. 

With holy hands, He determined your appearance, your attributes, your soul. You are the precious work of His hands. With delight, God created you with a unique purpose for your generation.

“He says you are a work of art, a masterpiece.
When He made you,
He placed you in the perfect setting,
gave you the desired appearance, abilities,
temperament, gifts, strengths,
and yes, weaknesses.

When you were born He said,
Look at you! You are just what I had in mind—
just right for your place in My story.
I have a great storyline already planned….”
(from Living the Story, by Judy Douglas; emphasis mine)

The more you grasp, and accept, how important you are to God, the better you can write stories in your memoir about what He has done in your life and—of great importance—the better you can share with your children, grandchildren, and all your readers that they are important to God.

Remember, your stories can: 

  • help shape your readers’ faith, 
  • define their identity in God, 
  • and feel secure in their place in your family.

Write stories to help them grasp they are not mere accidents. God intricately created them and planned for them from the beginning.

Write stories to impress upon your kids and grandkids and great-grands that they are important to God.

Write stories to let them know their lives are sacred.

Write stories to let them know they’re God’s masterpieces.

Tell them God treasures them.

Impress upon them they’re God’s workmanship, created deliberately by Him (Ephesians 2:10).

Your memoir could change your readers’ lives.
Believe it.
Ask God to help you write.

Determine that in 2016, you will write those stories!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tuesday Tidbit: Deliberate exploration

Jesus said,

tell your family
has done
for you.'

Luke 8:39

What has God done for you in the past?

What things might you have overlooked?

Make time to 
deliberately explore
what God has done for you.

Take all the time you need.

to write stories
about those things
and include them
in your memoir.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Thursday, December 17, 2015

What fun December details might your readers not know about you?

What fun December details might your readers (kids, grandkids, great-grands, friends, colleagues) not know about you? 

Here’s a fun way to mine those gems: Do you remember our “Where Are You From?” exercise? It’s a deliciously fun writing project—but it’s much more than that!

Based on a poem by George Ella Lyon, your “Where I’m From” sheds light on “the sources of your unique you-ness that you’d never considered before,” according to the website.

And you must know what that means: Your “Where I’m From” is valuable memoir material. It can add richness and pizzazz and personality to your stories.  

Lyon’s online template suggests you write “Where I’m From” something like this:

“I am from _____ (specific ordinary item), from ______ (product name) and _______.

“I am from the ______ (home description … adjective, adjective, sensory detail).

“I am from the ______ (plant, flower, natural item.…)

“I am from _______ (family tradition) and ________ (family trait), from _______ (name of family member) .…

“From __________ (something you were told as a child).…”

.… and so on. (Read more at this link.)

For example, Lyon’s poem begins this way:

“I am from clothespins, from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.…
I am from the forsythia bush
the Dutch elm.…”

I propose you make a unique “Where I’m From” specifically for your December stories—maybe as an introduction or a prologue.

Use Lyon’s template as a jumping-off spot, but feel free to soar way beyond it: Branch out in new directions.

List such December things as:

  • song lyrics,
  • weather,
  • tastes,
  • smells,
  • sights,
  • sounds,
  • textures,
  • traditions.

Add activities: Did you go ice skating? Make gingerbread houses? Go to The Nutcracker?

Did your parents or grandparents read you a special story every Christmas?

Did mistletoe play an important role in your December stories?

Here’s a fun idea: Include holiday fashion trends from various eras in your life.

Consider writing several December lists: one for early childhood, one for your teen years, one for young adulthood, and so on.

My “Where I’m From” December stories capture deep-freeze winters in eastern Washington State, Christmas Eve ferry rides in western Washington, and one Christmas in Washington, DC.

They include Salvation Army bells and fireplace smoke in crisp night air. And hot chocolate with candy cane stir sticks. Gag gifts and laughter. Bayberry candles. Cordial cherries and newborn babies. And Christmas carols, lots of Christmas carols.

My nine Christmases on the equator, however, were much different: Three of those Christmases included temperatures of 104 degrees, hot winds, wildfires, and ashes heavy in the air. Melting Jello salad carried to Christmas dinner at the home of relative strangers. Being “home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”

My Christmas list does not include lefse, lutfisk, or herring, but for some people, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without them. How about you?

Some of my friends and relatives celebrate Hanukah rather than Christmas. Maybe you do, too. If so, what flavors, songs, traditions, and stories will be on your “Where I’m From” list?

Give this some thought: What kinds of December details might your readers (kids, grandkids, great-grands) never guess about you? 

This is a busy time of year so maybe you can simply make a list of snippets to remind yourself later.

Then, when the time is right, create your own “Where I’m From” specifically for your December stories, and have loads of fun! 

(Warning: This can be addicting!)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Tuesday Tidbit: Christmas memories for your memoir

How was your childhood Christmas different from that of your kids and grandkids?

Did you spend hours going through the Sears Christmas catalog?

Did you ask Santa for a cap gun? Or a transistor radio? Or a poodle skirt?

I remember asking Santa for a walking doll. Does anyone out there remember walking dolls?

Was someone in your family sick on Christmas? Did your doctor make a house call?

What were your favorite Christmas movies?

What unique Christmas traditions did your family carry out?

Did you and your family get all dressed up in fancy clothes for Christmas?

Who typically joined you for Christmas? Or did you usually travel to someone else’s home?

Did your family take Christmas pictures with a camera that used flash bulbs or flash cubes? Were the pictures black and white?

Capture the smells of Christmas, and the sounds, sights, tastes, and textures of Christmas.

Because your childhood Christmas was so different from that of your kids and grandkids, such details will invite readers to experience your Christmases past.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Looking for gifts? Forget about malls, Internet, and catalogs

“… Memoir, or ‘life’—is reserved for famous people or for people who have done something wild, woeful or really odd to write about,” writes Patrick T. Reardon .

You can sense the sadness in his heart when he says that “everyday people aren’t approached for their life stories.”

But wait! Writing life stories and memoirs is for everyday people!

Reardon eventually figured that out. Memoir is not for only “famous people or those who have done something wild, woeful or really odd.”

Once he figured that out, Reardon asked his family to write stories and give them to him for Christmas. (You can read more about it here.)

He says to you and to me during this busy Christmas season:

Forget about the mall.
Forget about the Internet.
Forget about catalogs.
Give your father or mother
or sister or brother
or anyone close to you
something from the heart.
Give your [memoir, your] ‘life.’”

That's the best kind of Christmas gift you can give!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Tuesday Tidbit: "What if Christmas..."

H.M. Brock artist, not in copyright

"Then the Grinch thought of something 
he hadn't before!
What if Christmas, he thought,
didn't come from a store.
What if Christmas...
means a bit more!"

Dr. Seuss, 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

What are mass murders doing to our children and grandchildren?

Mass killings in Paris, Colorado Springs, and, a few hours ago, in San Bernardino bring tears to my eyes.

My heart grieves for victims’ loved ones and for the wounded, especially those in critical condition.

I grieve for our cities and schools and neighborhoods and nation.

We’ve witnessed too many bloodbaths. According to the Washington Post, the mass shooting in San Bernardino was only one of two yesterday in the U.S., and the 355th of 2015. And it was “at least the third mass shooting since the rampage in Colorado Springs last Friday.”

Way too many of us are staggering beneath the weight of those grave events in our nation and world.

Such disasters leave us shattered even if they don’t happen in our own neighborhoods. They leave adultsand childrenshaken.  Dazed. Scared.

I grieve for our young people.

What are mass murders doing to our children and grandchildren?

We can’t keep them from hearing news reports. They’ll hear one way or another, and most schools nowadays conduct regular drills to prepare for violent intruders—and even the drills conjure up terrifying what-ifs. Little kids (and even big kids), traumatized with worry, ask:

“Will something like that happen in my neighborhood?”

“If my mommy and daddy are killed, who will take care of me?”

“What if something like that happens at my school? Will I die?”

Those are crushing loads for young people to bear.

How can you help young ones in your family?

Mr. Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in the world.” (Fred Rogers)

Think of those helpers, those special people: law enforcement and emergency personnel, community leaders, clergy, medical professionals, good Samaritans, teachers, and so many more.

How can you comfort your young ones like Mr. Rogers’ mother comforted him? What stories can you tell your kids and grandkids and great-grands that will calm, encourage, and help them trust God?  

Write vignettes for your memoir, stories that show how you or others dealt with frightful experiences, threats, war, or violence.

Write stories about the kind of helpers Fred Rogers’ mother spoke of.

Write stories that will teach young people to pray and to watch for God’s answers.

Write stories of God’s help and His healing afterward. Include Bible verses and God’s promises.

Pray for God’s help
in writing your stories—
stories that will give readers
and hope
and courage
and strong faith.

Perhaps one day
they’ll say words similar to
Mr. Rogers’ words,
something like:
To this day I remember
my mother’s/father’s/
and I am always comforted….”

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tuesday Tidbit: Your memoir’s December details

What is the taste of December? Does December make a sound? What is the feel of December? The temperatures? The textures? The smells? The colors?

In some parts of the world, December is a time of frigid temperatures and snow and ice. I’ve spent many Decembers in such a climate.

For three years, though, I endured Decembers with daytime highs of over 100 degrees and, from sunup ‘til sundown, a stiff hot wind blew across parched grasslands. It was a season of wildfires so the sight of blackened savannahs and the smell of ash signaled December. At such times, locals said, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!”

If one of your memoir’s vignettes is set in December, briefly capture the scene for your readers by including a few sensory details (sight, smell, sound, taste, and feel).

If you’ll do that, you’ll be inviting readers to experience your story with you.

There you have it:
This week’s Tuesday Tidbit,
your 15 seconds of inspiration.