Broken concrete prayers and dreams

Abandoned concrete factory mechanism

I keep my journal next to my bed. In the morning, I write down my dreams.

Sometimes my dreams seem real.

Some dreams I use as a source of wisdom.

Here is a recent one.

Abandoned concrete factory mechanism
Abandoned concrete factory mechanism by Diacritica (Own work) CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

I dreamt I was driving a movie star to an event. He was famous, protected and padded in luxury and wealth.

We drove with the doors locked and the windows shut.

It was the future. Most cities were wrecks of chaos and inequality. People scrambled over broken chunks of concrete for scraps.

Everyone lived in fear. The fear bred competition. Competition meant some would be winners but most would be losers.

I told the movie star, “Your fame isn’t what matters. What is most valuable is your ability to appreciate the ordinary. You can relate to everyone if you are ordinary. You see the worth in a typical day. Enough to drink and eat. A friend to talk to. A roof and clothes. Freedom. Not just freedom, but the freedom to be kind.”

I dropped him off and joined a group gathering for lunch.

They asked me to say the blessing before we ate.

“Lord, I pray for healing. Everyone here knows someone who needs healing. Make us whole. Give us strength to get through the days—and especially through the nights. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.”

Sometimes my dreams seem real.

Some dreams I use as a source of wisdom.

What is most valuable is your ability to appreciate the ordinary.

Lord, I pray for healing.

A sketch before the dream

Miko the horse next to the painted barn door horse

Are you like me, feeling like you want to hibernate? It’s getting dark early. The glory that was fall color is changing to bare leaves. We had frost this morning. I’ve already heard Christmas music, and it’s not even Halloween.

I love this season, and I find it depressing. In that tension between delight and depression, I sigh. There’s a part of me that relishes my melancholy, the same side that might wander the moors if I lived where there were moors.

But, speaking honestly between you and me, would I be motivated enough to get out and wander moors? Sounds too damp. The reality is I am more like this woman who plans to stay under a blanket for all of winter.

With moor-wandering out, I will stick to staying cozy and remind myself that my life is wonderful, even when it seems too cold and dark to be getting out of bed every morning.

Miko the horse next to the painted barn door horse

Before I created the life I have today, I had to dream it. I made sketches in my journal of my ideal life. There was a family and a dog and a horse. First came the dog. Then marriage and the baby. Then we bought enough land where a horse could live.

I couldn’t get a horse right away so I made a sketch of my dream. A painting, really. I painted a horse on the door of the barn. Every day, I saw it and thought to myself, Someday a horse will live here.

Now I have not only a horse, but a pony! And hay in the barn—the best feeling of security I know. When I open the barn door and smell the fresh green scent of alfalfa, I feel secure we’ll make it through winter.

I believe you have to nourish your dreams for them to grow strong.

In the beginning, your dream might not be fully fleshed out. It might be just a hint.

Make a sketch or a painting of your goal: your future horse, your novel cover, what you want your life to look like. Put up a picture where you will see it daily.

You might not be able to make your dream come true right away, but you can give yourself the essence of your dream.

Feed your dream.

Windswept Miko

Horsey Selfie

Horsey Selfie

Blessing

Lord, remind us to dream more when
we enter darker times.
Turn our hearts to you when
we feel lost.
Keep us close as we travel through hills and valleys.

Tell me your thoughts!

What seed of a dream are you planting now?

30 days to a better book

Photo by Michael Maggs, Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Michael Maggs, Wikimedia Commons

I’ve been reading books on drugs.

And looking online about how to keep sheep.

I carry a small notebook in my purse. Last night, I took it out at the restaurant and wrote, “She is so large that she can’t cross her arms. She has to settle for crossing her hands and tucking them beneath her wrists because of her width.”

Drugs? Sheep? Scribbling notes about strangers in fast food places? What could be going on?

I only have a few weeks to research drugs, sheep and characters before I start writing my first fiction novel in November for National Novel Writing Month!

Known affectionately as NaNoWriMo, or NaNo, this month requires writing about 1,700 words daily for a final word count of 50,000. It’s a community event open to everyone. Interested? Check out the NaNo site and join me! (There’s even a NaNo prep page).

Why do NaNo?

nano logoWhy would thousands of writers push themselves to produce so much in so little time? It’s fun to try! Even if someone doesn’t make the word count, any words written are more than existed before.

As my longtime readers know, I have two drafts of my memoir done, thanks to NaNo. Neither of them satisfies me.

My husband, Logan, suggested I practice pure fiction as a way to learn the craft of a novel-length story. After more practice, the next draft of the memoir might be easier to wrangle.

As I come from a poetry background where I think in a handful of words, a fictional story sounded like a good challenge for me.

Foxhunting_in_Wooded_Country

Like the first time at a foxhunt, my trusty horse of imagination ripples in anticipation. The dogs are baying. The horns will blow. Come November first, we gallop.

During November, you’ll have a front-row seat for my first time writing fiction and be able to see my excerpts here. There might be sheep…or dragons.

Ready for the adventure with me?

Blessing

Lord, today you offer us new things to try.
Stories waiting to be written,
dances waiting to be danced,
fabric waiting to be quilted.

Cause our minds to see what could be
and our hearts to dare to do it.

Tell me your thoughts!

What fresh challenge awaits you?

How to thrive after a midlife crisis

With my brother and sister and a birthday cake

With my brother and sister and a birthday cakeToday’s my birthday! I thank God for the gift of my life.

I don’t always recognize what a gift it is. Ten years ago, I asked, “What am I doing with my life?”

I was hungry to learn. I read self-improvement books from the library, one after the other. I don’t remember which author offered this idea, but it stuck with me:

A plant doesn’t grow by positive thoughts. It has to receive light and water while planted in good soil.

This thought made me realize that it wasn’t enough to change my attitude. I needed to change my environment. I applied—multiple times—and found a job at the University of Missouri. It has been my place to thrive professionally for the past ten years.

These are the five things that helped me over my mid-life crisis.

Lead yourself and learn

Become the leader of your own life; have a vision. Where do you want to be? It’s up to you to guide your life where you want it to go.

I wrote down a description of what I wanted to be—a PR specialist—and that is close to what I do today.

I furthered my education and got my master’s degree. My degree helped me professionally and personally. I made friends in grad school I treasure to this day.

Decide on your destination, and lead yourself there.

Keep your eye on where you want to be, not on what is stopping you

I explored my vision and kept my eye on it.

My years of riding lessons make for great life lessons. When you’re riding horses over jumps, you can’t look at the jump. You look where you want to go. If you look down at the jump, you won’t get over it. I can hear the yell of my riding instructor, “Why are you looking at the ground? Is that where you want to be? Eyes up! Look where you are going!”

Keep your eye on your destination. If you keep your eye on the obstacle, you will feel overcome by its size.

There is no obstacle you can’t find a way around. Keep your eyes up!

Feel everything

Change involves discomfort. It hurts to grow and let go of old attachments or familiar ways of living. There is no escape from our feelings if we want to come out the other side.

I believe God reaches us most easily when we are at our lowest and most broken. That’s when we realize how much we need God and others. As social creatures, we can never be independent. We have to live in love and in community. The past ten years tested me. I lost a high school friend and my brother to suicide, and my mother to lung cancer.

I let grief change me; I gave myself over to mourning. The feelings were a wall of cold water crashing on me. My skin felt numb and raw at the same time. My eyes hurt from too much crying; my lids were made of sandpaper. I could go from angry to melancholy to blank to hysterical laughter all in the same five minutes.

As I grieved, I prayed to God with an intensity that I wished would never end. I felt an answer in a new-found closeness to the holy presence. Christ healed my heart.

I believe you are never alone in your suffering. Peace will come. Hard times will change you for the good if you let them. Keep breathing.

Go for it

Go for what you want!

It might not turn out. I’ve had some failures! With failure, you have a story to tell. Failure is easier than regret.

I took a risk to try writing publicly in 2013 on this blog, now I’m a published author. Thank you, my beloved readers, for being a part of this adventure!

Nurture a heart of gratitude

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

I give thanks for turning 45 today!

People complain about aging. I tell you, to be alive at any age is a blessing. When I think of my beloved ones who haven’t reached the age I am today, I know growing older is a blessing. We might gain an ache or two along with our wisdom, but life is precious, joyful and holy.

Have you noticed how older people appreciate the moments? There is such happiness in seeing the beauty of small things: a child’s smile, the way an iridescent blue fly drinks from a horse water trough, snuggling with your spouse in the morning before you have to get up, watching snow fall, playing string with a cat, the sound of waves on the beach.

May God bless me to be an old woman. I’m going to make a great one—puttering around to make hot tea with a small dog underfoot! I might stick my finger in my 80th birthday cake and help myself to the icing before it’s served…

How to stay motivated mid-project

lightLast week, I mentioned my process for starting new projects.

Beginnings have their own momentum. The middle of a project can bring the doldrums. During my two and a half years in grad school, my first year was skateboard ride down a hill. So exciting! New faculty! New friends! New projects! It was all exclamations points!!! Then came the third semester, the middle of five semesters total for me before graduation.

Due dates seemed too soon. The workload seemed too heavy. The glamour of the beginning had worn off. The syllabus seemed like a hard boss with no mercy. The exclamation points were gone. It was one | wall | after | another |.

Do you know that feeling? The initial thrill is gone, but you’re still far from completion.

Here are 7 ways I used to keep myself motivated.

Accept that you’re not in control

Sometimes you can’t pick the work that needs to be done. The syllabus or your job demand what they need, not what you want to do. As the serenity prayer suggests, accept what is out of your control with as much grace as you can. With any meaningful project, you will have to slog through some unpleasant parts. I love having a pony. Do I love mucking? But pony poop is part of pony having, so every weekend, I grab my rake.

Accept that you’re in control

This is like the second part of the serenity prayer. What can you own about the project you’re doing? Even in tight deadline situations, you can choose little things to make your work easier. Is there a photo you can post next to the computer that cheers you up? Do you have a favorite color rake?

Bribe yourself to get through short tasks

I broke my project into tiny tasks that could be completed in 10 or 20 minutes, and thought up prizes for myself as rewards. It might be having a cup of tea, making toast with extra butter and jam, painting my nails, calling a friend, watching TV or taking a bath.

Pick prizes that will bolster you, but not take too much work or money.

Get silly

It helps to bring back a sense of play to your work. Put on energizing music and dance around. When I was building my web portfolio for grad school, I also built a spoof website in parallel.

Get competitive

Find someone who is doing the same thing that you are, and make a friendly competition of it. Who will do it first?

Realize the desire to quit will not last

I once read that hunger pains only last 20 minutes. If someone was dieting and could wait the 20 minutes, the discomfort would go away.

I think this is true of many of our desires. Our desire to quit is a short-term discomfort. If you can remind yourself that you will feel better about the project soon, it helps propel you past the sticking point.

Ask for help

Tell your loved ones that you are glum and need motivation. They will remind you what a good job you’re doing, and shower you with attention. You can ask them with help staying on track.

Remember, you can always tell God you’re struggling and ask for guidance.

Keep praying, keep working and keep looking to the day when you accomplish your goal!

But, Gen, what about the memoir?

Speaking of being in the middle of projects, thank you for those who have stopped me to ask how the memoir is going. I love you for asking. It means the world to me that I will have supportive readers when I have it finished.

As I looked over my memoir this summer, and prayed about it, I recognized a hard truth. My memoir in its current written form isn’t honest enough, funny enough or well written enough for my liking. I left my childhood with chronic emotional pain that took me years to heal. I don’t want to impose my story on others so the end result is depressing. For the moment, I’m letting the memoir rest until I decide whether I want to try writing it a third time from a completely fresh start, or rewrite the draft I have with more honesty and humor.

Update on the newest writing project

Meanwhile, my new project continues, and I would love your feedback as I flesh it out!!! (Still in the exclamation phase!)

Here’s my pitch.

My book, the Creative Women’s Devotional, helps women who are doing crafts to transform their hobby into a spiritual practice. An uplifting gift for moms and grandmas who are Christian crafters, it offers stories, blessings and suggestions all looped together with God’s love.

This will be a book that I build through blogging. The final book will have additional content not found on the blog, and offer the convenience of one place for 40 devotionals.

How does this sound to you as a book idea?

Do you think I should open it up for more types of craft? Originally I was thinking knitting and crochet, plus quilting and possibly scrapbooking. I am most familiar with knitting and crochet. I would need to use others’ expertise to speak about quilting and scrap booking.

What do you think would make it more interesting, more entertaining, stronger or more inspiring?

Blessing

Lord, thank you for staying with us when
we lose our way.

You are the tree giving us shade when
we need to rest.

You are the mountain calling us higher when
we need to stand back up and keep climbing.

May our work be done for your glory.
Energize us, focus us and guide us
on your way.

Tell me your thoughts!

What projects have you had that started strong but lagged in the middle?

My process for starting new projects

Family car rideThis week, I was riding in the car with my family and bouncing ideas off them. It’s a great thing to live in the country, because we always have plenty of time in the car, upwards of an hour and a half a day. Conversations happen in the car that wouldn’t happen anywhere else.

I recently received a CAFNR staff enrichment award to start an online class this week, How to Blog a Book (seats still open if you want to be my classmate) with Nina Amir. (Thank you, CAFNR!) I wanted to find a book project idea to use in the class which is where my family came in. During the impromptu road trip brainstorm, they helped me narrow my focus from 99 ideas to one.

This is my process for growing a tiny, wild idea into something more substantial. If you have a little seed of a dream, follow these steps to water it into fruition!

Breathe, pray and bring yourself back to your body

When I’m spending time in the mental world of ideas and possibilities, it helps to take a deep breath, settle into myself and spend some time in prayer. Not every idea is a good one! Checking in is the first step to see if I should weed the idea out, or move on.

Talk about it with my trusted people

The next step is to visit with the people I love and find out what they think. They know me and what I’m capable of. Again, some ideas are better left as ideas only (like, giving our pony free rein to run our household). When they get excited about something I’m thinking about, then I know it’s a green light. Having support at the early stage of a project keeps me steady and accountable.

Avoid the smashers

You know the ones who say no, call things stupid and come up with a list of 100 reasons why your project is bad? Stay away from them. They will poison an idea before it’s strong enough to take any negativity.

Get on the internet

Whatever I might consider, I can find something similar online. It pays to do some research and see what others are doing. My project might be different, but I can still find comparisons. For example, is there a market for crocheted chicken hats? How about crocheted hats for chickens?

Get educated

If I don’t already know what I need to for my project to be successful, it’s time to hit the books. The library, the internet, people you know and local educational centers can help fill in the gaps.

Get clear on my purpose

Why am I pursuing the project? Is it a callingor a pastime? Is it worthy? Am I doing it for my self-growth? For the good of the world? For entertainment? For making money to put bananas on the table? To create a happy home for ponies?? A clear purpose is the cornerstone for all the later work that needs to be done.

Control my doubts

When doubts start to drizzle on my enthusiasm for a new project, it helps to go back to my earlier steps: praying, talking to my trusted people and getting clear on my purpose. This areacontrolling my doubtsis my biggest challenge!

Go for it!

Now is the time for action. Our ideas only become real through us!

(PS—It was a fun and productive car ride. I am looking forward to telling you more about my blog-to-book project as it unfolds this summer!)

Blessing

Lord, thank for the generous people who support
our ideas and believe in us when we are unsure.

Open our eyes to encourage those who are scared
to take the first step.

Tell me your thoughts!

What is a new project that you’re thinking about? Or that you’ve already started? How do you go from idea to reality?

Put your dream in motion!

What is your dream? Take a moment and see it in your mind’s eye. What does it look like?

Movies instead of snapshots

You might see yourself sitting on a beach, standing at the altar to be married or getting an award. I had a dream of living in the country and having my own horse.

But after that moment, what next?

Too often we dream in snapshots, seeing only a static picture of what we want. Make your dream a movie. Visualize your future in depth, detail and motion. Using your imagination to its fullest will help make your vision a reality.

Passive fantasy, active dream

Fantasies are flat and demand nothing of us. Fantasies allow you to sit. Fantasies fulfill us for a moment.

A dream motivates us to pursue it. There’s an irresistible nature. Even if you want to forget, your heart keeps reminding you. If your dream doesn’t pull you toward it, then you’ve got the wrong dream.

Like a brave retriever goes after a stick in a lake, we must dive in and swim toward the dream. Quit the shore and the old ideas of shouldn’t, can’t, impossible. We must leave the solid sand under our feet and paddle out.

Depth and motion

I didn’t give enough depth to my dream. Life is always changing. Powerful dreams should incorporate change.

When I dreamed of a horse, did I imagine paying the vet bills? Did I imagine bringing buckets of hot water from the bathtub out to the pasture in 20 degree weather in a February night to soak his abscessed hoof?

Flesh it out. More than just a flat picture of a horse, imagine how the barn both fills and empties of hay. Imagine how the horse both nickers at the sight of you and needs to have his stall mucked. Imagine the warmth of his neck under your palm and the weight of his hoof on your boot.

When you think of living your dream, how will you feel? What will you wear and eat in your new reality? What sounds do you hear? Look around and imagine the details of your surroundings. Give breath to your vision and picture yourself breathing, talking and moving.

Effective visualization builds belief that you can change your life. As you become more comfortable with your dream, it starts to feel more real.

Your future is coming to meet you

We are people of possibilities. You can make choices and decide how you want your life to be. It starts with a vision of what you want. Make your idea more than a flat, still picture. Add motion and sound.

Your dream is galloping toward you. See it coming closer. Turn your dream into a movie, and then into reality!

I invite your comments!