So, I was always a sucker in times past for making resolutions. And then not following through. So then I started making goals, which I still do. I feel they're easier to track and follow through, but also adjust as you need to.
But lately, I've heard a lot of people talking about picking a word for the year. And that really intrigued me. What would be my word for 2021?
I started thinking about last year. Two words stuck out to me. GROW and LEARN.
I did a lot of growing in 2020. Growing as a Christian, growing as a writer, and growing in contentment. I also learned so much. I learned a lot about myself.
I learned that I can survive without all the extra stuff. That missing out on the traditions (though hard) was not the end of the world. I And though I still missed getting out, I learned I really am happy to be a homebody, even after weeks. I learned a lot about myself as a writer. I do better with a deadline or a tangible goal. And I CAN stick with something until I finish it, and even make myself get up early in the mornings to do it. I learned that I can be happy and content in whatever state I am. I learned to be thankful for small blessings, like a healthy family and times of rest.
So that brings me to 2021. What could my word be for this year? Well, true to form, I couldn't pick just one word. There were so many that ran through my head. PURPOSE. INTENTION. PERSEVERE. FAITH. HOPE.
Finally, I narrowed it down to just 2.
My number one word for 2021 is (drumroll, please...) FOCUS.
One of my flaws, especially in recent years, is my lack of focus in several areas of my life: my relationship with God, my writing, my teaching, even in the day-to-day stuff like housekeeping. I knew it was high time to get in control of my mind and my daydreams and start focusing. What is it I really want to accomplish this year? That becomes my focus.
Which leads to my next word. FORWARD. Now that I know what I want to focus on, I am making my action steps to move forward in those goals. What do I need to do or change about my life to see my goals come to pass?
I've been spending most of this month working on my goals and making a plan of action. I've picked 5 goals for this year. Each goal is broken down into several action steps. I won't share all them here, but here's a few examples.
1. Sign on with a publisher
Action steps: Finish my current edits on my work-in-progress
Attend 2 upcoming writers conferences and meet with an agent
Build my writing platform (like this blog or my Instagram following)
2. Develop better time management skills
Action steps: Plan out my day, week, month, year
Set goals and FOCUS (see what I did there) on the important ones
Designate days for certain tasks
Be flexible when needed
So, I've got my focus, made a plan, and now I'm ready to move forward. And now that I've shared these with you, you can help hold me accountable! I'm feeling pretty good already about what this year holds for me and my goals.
What about you? Are you picking a word (or two) for the year? Do you have goals for 2021? I'd love to hear about them! Share them in the comments. I read them!
In the meantime, here are three words I like to use every time I sign off here. Whether in the middle of an old strenuous year, or at the start of a new uncertain one, remember, dear friends, where we are:
IN HIS GRIP!
It's the start of a new year, so how about something new to start off my 2021 blog posts? Please welcome my friend and fellow author Hannah Colvin! She has graciously accepted my invitation to guest blog this month.
Hannah Mae loves all things mysterious, adventurous, and epic. When she isn’t teaching tap or church cleaning, you’ll likely find her cooking or writing. She’s a video game reviewer for ChristCenteredGamer. She’s the aspiring author of her first upcoming book, Celestial. She’s also the proud owner of her own blog, FlyingFaith, but most importantly, she’s a redeemed daughter of Jesus Christ and dedicated student of His Word.
Hannah is also one of my beta readers for my current work in progress (WIP) and let me tell you this lady is sharp! She points things out about my own characters and plot that get me thinking deeper about the story I want to tell.
I've had the great pleasure of being a beta reader (her very SLOW beta reader, I'm afraid...) for her supernatural novel, Celestial, and let me just say Wow! Wait until you read this! I also highly recommend her blog at www.flyingfaith.org.
So, without further ado, here is Hannah's blog post!
Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Hi, everyone! And thank you, Crystal, for inviting me here!
Welp, here we are. 2020 has come and gone, and 2021 is here. Everyone is eager for a fresh start. Many pray the next 365 days won’t be another dumpster fire (as some so eloquently put it), but fresh starts can be funny things, can’t they. They all certainly start out the same. They feel good. The possibilities seem limitless, yet their endings are ever unpredictable. Every beginning can veer where you don’t want it to. For happy outcomes aren’t guaranteed.
In many ways, though, I’m often eager for a beginning. Whether that be a new dance to choreograph; a new story to draft; or a new game to review; I always feel like I’m a blackboard wiped clean of the old chalk. However, if I were totally honest with myself, there is one ‘fresh start’ I’m apprehensive about if that time should ever arrive: entering another intimate relationship.
I’ve been single for near my whole life. Not that I’m complaining. I’m happy as a single. I’m living the full life Christ intended for me as a single. Besides, I was never the romantic type anyway. Still, in the secret corner of my heart, I admit that I do desire it. It’s just too bad godly men are hard to come by, and the ones that are around just aren’t interested in me. I’ve watched my friends marry one by one through the years. It used to be my older friends. Then it’s friends my age. Now, friends near a decade younger than me are tying the knot too. It becomes emotionally taxing to wait this long. I sometimes quietly wondered what it would take. Was there something about me that guys just didn’t find appealing? Was I too much of an oddball to be wanted? Too strong-willed? Too spirited? Not classically ‘feminine’ enough? It’s gotten to a point where I’ve considered the possibility that God didn’t intend me for married life at all. I have no way of knowing that for sure, but it’s crossed my mind more than once.
Then came that day. That new ‘beginning’ I prayed for arrived. A young godly man that I had grown feelings for stepped forward and asked my father for permission. For the first time, I tasted what I had long been denied. Somebody wanted me - truly wanted me. I was awash in overwhelming thankfulness to God. ‘After all these years,’ I thought, ‘The Lord made the wait more than worth it.’ The following months were wonderful. I loved my boyfriend unconditionally, faults and all, and I dedicated myself to becoming his helpmate and all that entails.
Then the floor dropped from under me. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say that the man I hoped and prayed for all those years crushed my heart. Turns out he didn’t mean all the things he had been saying to me. He admitted he didn’t consider me attractive without dress and makeup. He didn’t care for my personality either. Still, I was ready to work it out, but then it boiled down to this. All that he really loved was my spiritual maturity, yet that was what ended up driving him away. He asked me to cross a line I couldn’t cross. He wanted me to trust his spiritual ‘intuition’ rather than the Bible. Forced to choose between him or the Word, I chose the Word. The man I loved then left the relationship, and I had to let him go. Suddenly, all those old doubts I had about myself from before rushed back in full force.
Now, I don’t want to paint a black picture of my former boyfriend. He’s still a caring Christian. I don’t think he meant to hurt me. In all honesty, I think he pursued me without really knowing what he wanted himself. Then after he didn’t find what he sought for in me, he felt guilty and found his ‘out’. Of course, that doesn’t help me feel any better. Because, once again, I find myself undesired and unwanted. You can probably see why I’m now wary at the idea of another relationship (not that I have any prospects to speak of anyway). To enter intimacy is to give your heart freely. To give your heart freely is to give someone else ample ability to smash it. Potential for hurt couldn’t be higher. Thus, I keep asking myself, ‘If another man comes, would you love him enough to set yourself up for the same hurt again?’.
Most probably wouldn’t blame me if I got bitter with God for answering my prayers with what some might dub a ‘cruel joke’. How could He let my ‘beginning’ wither to such an awful end? But then again, did it truly end? I’m still here. I’m breathing, living life. God’s strength is my strength. In fact, I now experience His greater love far more richly than ever before. For I know, more deeply now than ever, that despite what men do or don’t see in me, He sees me. He made me. He died for me. He rose again for me, lives in me and is coming back for me. As far as I’m concerned, Christ’s love outmatches a million affectionate men, and He’s pushing me towards the greater destinies He designed me for.
My life didn’t end with my boyfriend anymore than our lives ended with a bad year like 2020. What was 2020 but a stepping stone? You see, we ‘choose’ our endings based on what we decide will define us. That could be a spouse, a job, a possession, or a particular year. If it fails you or is taken from you, it really feels like ‘The End’, doesn’t it? But it doesn’t have to be. Set your minds on the fallible, and you’ll be disappointed. But set your minds on the infallible, well, then you’ll continually look past circumstance towards something everlasting. Your nasty outcomes will cease to be dead ends. They’re now mere bumps on a bigger journey. For if Jesus defines your ending, you can be sure it’ll be a happy one. New boyfriend or not, new year or not, Jesus is trustworthy to secure us a future worth the sacrifices we make for Him. For if our place in His kingdom is certain, we can be sure that in the tale He’s written us into, we’re only in the middle. And believe you me. It’s a real page-turner.
1 Peter 1:3-5, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."
What do you do when your “perfect” holiday isn’t going as it should?
When it takes more energy than you have just to make it good?
When your family is separated by distant hearts or long miles,
And all you can feel is tears, instead of smiles?
When you look for that perfect gift that just doesn’t exist
Or your fudge just won’t set right no matter how you persist.
When your favorite movies don’t make you want more,
And the books don’t move you like they all did before.
When the music falls flat and the bells just don’t ring,
And you just aren’t feeling the songs that you sing.
When the parties and services fail to fill you with joy
And your heart is too burdened to laugh and enjoy.
Your car breaks down, and your washer quits too.
Your water goes out, and you think your boss hates you.
When all your expectations of a perfect Christmas fall through,
How can you celebrate? What more can you do?
First, STOP with all the stuff of the season.
Remember the meaning, the source, and the reason.
It’s not the shopping or baking or watching or singing.
It’s not the tree lights or eggnog or bells sweetly ringing.
It’s the babe who was born, our Lord, King and Savior.
This tiny sweet boy, asleep in a manger.
His first Christmas fell short too, in most every way.
His room was a stable, his bed made of hay.
No parties or bows to celebrate the birth
Of the Master and Creator over all of the earth.
Yet He came anyway, to save His creation,
To live and to serve, then die for the nations.
But He rose again in triumph and glory
So that we could be saved and tell others the story.
The babe in a manger, born one starry night,
Now a king full of glory and power and might.
So, if your Christmas is full of hurt and sadness
May this message fill your heart with joy and gladness.
That first imperfect Christmas
Was made perfect because of Jesus.
No gift will ever be better than the One God has given,
His Son, wrapped in flesh, come down straight from Heaven.
No song will ever be sweeter than the one angels sang:
“Glory to God in the highest,” their praises rang.
Christmas still comes to those who will seek,
To the lonely, the sad, the lost, and the meek.
May you accept His gift of love and salvation
And let your heart be aglow in perfect celebration.
I am seeking a meaningful Christmas this year. What do I mean by that? A Christmas that is full of meaning (of course) and light and renewal.
I need that, especially in 2020. I need a soul-cleansing, heart-mending holiday. I need a time of joy and growth and hope. I need to feel secure in something that will not change, regardless of the uncertainty and collapse of society, government, and mankind.
The message and meaning of Christmas does not change. Its purpose and promise cannot be shaken, no matter how much my personal life and the world around me quakes.
It doesn't matter what happens now. It doesn't matter what they say. It doesn't matter what they tell us is true or false. Jesus was still born as a tiny babe to a virgin and her obedient husband. He was still worshipped and glorified by angels on high. He was declared to humble shepherds who had to go see Him for themselves. He was still visited by wise men from the east, bearing gifts fitting a King. He still came. It happened. Nothing in this present day can change that.
And that's why I can still celebrate Christmas, even in a time of chaos and change. What a comforting thought that in the last few weeks of a turbulent year of tests and challenges and hardships, we can stop and remember that first Christmas and what it's all about. We can be reminded that this life--in all its brokenness--is not what it's all about.
Christmas will always be Christmas. Even stripped of its social gatherings, family traditions, and holiday shopping, the meaning is still there. In fact, this year we might see the light of its meaning shining even brighter than in past years, because we may not have as many distractions.
So let's take advantage of this time. Slow down. Take a breath. Reflect on what it's all about. Let it cleanse your soul and renew your spirit.
I'd love to know what makes a meaningful Christmas for you! Comment below what makes your Christmas a time of joy.
Thanks for stopping by and spending a few minutes with me during this busy month. May we experience a season full of peace and renewal...
In His Grip!
Life's been going so smoothly lately.
My days at school are so productive. My students have been calm, ready to learn and listen. My family is healthy and COVID is fading away. The election is over and the country's moving forward in unity. And I met the most wonderful--
Then the alarm goes off. And it's back to reality.
Can I be honest with you? Lately, my life has seen none of those things. School has been hectic and stressful. The kids are either wired up or missing school due to quarantine. COVID has hit my family in the last two weeks. The election...well, I'm not going there.
And no, I haven't met the most wonderful anyone.
So let's get real for a little bit. How's life been? Are you okay? Can we all just take in a deep breath? And don't forget to let it out.
I admit, I've had my moments. I woke up one morning last week feeling very discouraged and frustrated. I just wanted to stay in bed all day. I spent some time venting my feelings in my journal. (Yes, I'm one of those people who have journals!) Then I got up and faced the day. And you know what? After getting dressed and having some breakfast, chatting with Holly for a bit, I found that I was okay.
My situation hadn't changed, but my attitude had. I don't want to miss out on what this life has to offer (even in 2020!) by walking in the mulligrubs. (Not sure that's spelled right, but you get the idea.)
This Thanksgiving is going to look different for my family. We currently have two members who have just gotten over COVID, and two who have it now. (Holly and I are still holding out!) Because of work obligations, Holly and I are trying very hard to keep COVID out of our house. And because, I'll be honest, I'm a wimp and I don't want to get sick. Or tested. *shudders*
So, we'll be cooking in two different houses and swapping food in a socially distant manner. It's not ideal. It's not our first choice of how to spend the day. But Mom was determined to celebrate Thanksgiving and after all the options were considered, this seemed the best.
And you know what? I can't bring myself to be upset about this. I love my times with my families, especially over the holidays. Nothing brings me more job than sitting down to eat together or watch a special movie or play a game or just sit around and enjoy a good visit.
But how can I make a fuss over not getting my way this year? A lot of families are separated this week. I have several longtime friends who are facing their first Thanksgiving without a loved one. My family is still here, still safe. We can get together anytime.
Thanksgiving is a state of mind. Not a ritual. Yes, we get together for our meals and with our families. But if it's a little disrupted, we can still be thankful. We've all faced inconveniences, disappointments, setbacks, and losses this year, no matter how small or how large. It's not easy, and it's okay to feel all the emotions. But let's not forget to give thanks.
David thanked God for His lovingkindness in the midst of his distress.
Paul and Silas praised God in prison, after being beaten and put in stocks.
Jesus glorified God just hours before being arrested.
Let's find some good in this holiday. Let's make the best of it. And let's encourage one another. Everyone is struggling, but we don't want anyone to struggle alone. Reach out and check on your friends and neighbors with a phone call or conversation across the fence. Give someone a smile.
Maybe your holiday looks different this year, too. Drop a comment below and tell me about it! We're all in this together. (Cue coordinated dancing and clapping? From High School Musical? No? OK, moving on.)
Love you guys! Remember, God's still in control. Even when we can't see or feel it, He's got this. And He's got us...
In His Grip!!
Oh, goodness, it’s been so long since I’ve written. My apologies!
October is a crazy busy month to be teaching. Picture day. End of first quarter assessments. Parent/Teacher conferences. Ongoing trainings and observations. A lot of other things that escape my mind right now… Anyway, take my word for it. It’s a hectic time in the school year. And this year it’s all layered with social distancing, seating charts, virtual classrooms, extra sanitizing, close contact tracing, quarantine, etc. etc. Fortunately, my class has stayed healthy and our building is working hard to keep school open.
But even with all the craziness, I love October. There’s something about these fall months that give me all the cozy vibes. Even now, while writing this, I’m ensconced in a comfy hoodie, chowing down on caramel apples, with a cup of steaming vanilla caramel coffee on hand. Even my doggie is all curled up in his little bed. All I’m missing is the crackling fireplace and a fuzzy blanket. (Do fuzzy socks count?) I’m also reading one of my favorite childhood stories, Anne of Green Gables, which gives me ALL the cozy feels.
Did you know that November is National Novel Writing Month? Thanks to a yearly writing challenge (NanoWrimo) I’m gearing up to start a brand new project. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I’ve never done this challenge before, but a lot of other authors have (including my sister, Emily, who’s an old pro at this by now!) so I’m taking it on this year. Between editing and plotting a couple other projects, I’ve not written anything new in a while, so I’m excited! I plan to update my progress on my Instagram and Facebook pages, so be sure to check back often to see how it’s going! (And maybe give me a cheer every now and then to keep me going!)
I’ve discovered a wonderful community of authors and readers on Instagram and many of us are doing Nano this year. Everyone is so encouraging and inspiring. It’s like a whole new family of people who understand you and believe in you, even if they’ve never met you. It’s been wonderful to step into this warm, inviting group of people.
I also have to give a shout out to my other sister, Holly. She’s always so supportive and respectful of my writing time. Whereas other may not take this “hobby” or “passion” or “fantasy” of mine seriously, she knows how important it is to me and she gets it. If I want to skip watching Waltons for the night and eat dinner in my room to work on some edits, she’s fine with that. When I’m trying to do too much or getting overwhelmed, she’s my voice of reason to get me back on track and making the most of my times. Nano would not happen this year if I didn’t have her support and help.
Having a support system for any kind of dream or pursuit is so important. No one can succeed alone. We all need someone in our corner. Who’s on your team, pushing you and encouraging you to keep going? Or maybe there’s someone who needs you on their team. Let’s all strive to be the one to build others up. Be that voice of encouragement to someone who is feeling let down by their dreams.
We all have dreams. What’s yours? Maybe you’re the one who needs to hear this, so let me say it:
YOU CAN DO IT!
I believe in you, and I’m praying for you. May something in this raw, awkward mess of words touch you, embolden you, and inspire you to reach for your dreams. God bless all of you, and thank you for staying with me on this journey.
In His Grip!
If you enjoy reading speculative fiction, be sure to give these ladies' books a try! I haven't had the pleasure of reading all their books (yet!) but what I have read and what I do know about them just makes me want to read more!
I am excited to be part of the cover reveal for Go Teen Writers: Write Your Novel by Stephanie Morrill, Jill Williamson, and Shannon Dittemore. If you’re new to writing or struggle to finish books all the way to the end, this book is for you. Here’s the book description:
You have a story to tell, don’t you? Or maybe you simply want to try your hand at fiction writing. Perhaps you’ve given it your best effort, but simply didn’t have enough tools in your tool box to finish that first draft. Wherever you’re at with this novel-writing thing, popular bloggers Stephanie Morrill, Jill Williamson, and Shannon Dittemore totally understand.
They know it’s hard to finish a first draft. To stay motivated until the end. To feel like a “real” writer. They know because they’ve been there too.
In Go Teen Writers: Write Your Novel, you’ll learn:
There’s no doubt about it. Learning to write a novel from beginning to end is a challenge. But with this book as your guide, you’ll see that when you’re in possession of the right tools, you’re capable of finishing what you start. You’ll be empowered and encouraged—as if you had a writing coach (or three!) sitting alongside you.
To learn more or preorder, go to: GoTeenWriters.com/WriteYourNovel
How is quarantine/social distancing/lockdown/etc. treating you these days? Are you back at work or still at home? Are you isolated from family and friends, or starting to venture out some?
This summer has been...strange. No, let me correct myself. This YEAR has been strange. Strange and challenging and exhausting and tough and... Okay, you get the point.
I have to admit, I was a little worried back in March when the lockdown first started. What would this isolation do to my state of mind? Stuck at home with little to no access to other people, with the exception of limited socialization with my immediate family. And worse, I had no children or spouse at home to distract me, fill my days, and make me feel needed.
It was just me. (Well, and my sister, but that's not quite the same. And she totally agrees!)
I braced myself for boredom and restlessness, which would eventually lead to discouragement and depression. And I did experience some of that. Especially when I realized that the single community was all but overlooked during the pandemic. Programs and organizations and individuals reached out to the families, children, elderly, and the unemployed. And rightly so! But I saw very few references to the single men and women who were facing the pandemic alone. Be honest. How many of you made a point of checking in with your single friends and neighbors during the lockdown? Just to let them know they had not been forgotten. I'm not trying to scold or put a guilt trip on anyone. But let's remember that EVERYONE needs to hear a friendly voice every now and then. Please check in with your single friends, co-workers, family members, etc. Please get in touch with those single moms and dads who need to hear from other adults.
But I digress from the subject of my post. The silver lining.
Yes, I did get down in spirit during the lockdown. But God was with me. And something good came out of all this stress and isolation.
My writing dream was reborn. Thanks to the extra time at home, I was able to do more writing this year than I have done in a LOOONG time! Thanks to events going virtual, I got access to 4 writers' conferences and several online sessions and classes that fueled the fire to be published again. And thanks to those conferences, I came across some wonderful groups who have encouraged me in this writing journey. I have come to know several kind, generous Christian authors who treat me with respect and caring, and accept me as a fellow writer, though I have not had a book published in over a decade.
Having this dream reborn did wonders for my morale. I did not dread each day. I had a purpose, a goal. Something God first placed within me years and years ago, but I allowed it to be stifled by the lack of time, confidence, and motivation.
But no more. I am writing again. With school starting, my time is not as free as before, but I'm not letting that stop me. I may not be able to write as much, but I will keep writing. And I am SO excited to soon start sharing with you what has been pouring from me these past few months!
I don't say all this to brag or boast. I hope that you will take the time through these challenging times to rekindle an old dream. It's not too late.
One author I recently started following has a phrase I absolutely love. She says we need to "respect our dream." No matter what the dream is.
So, what's your dream? Do you respect it enough to pursue it? Or do you just put it on the shelf with a sigh and say, "Maybe someday?" Well, stop it. Take it off the shelf and decide if it's something you really want. Take the time to learn about it, grow in it, educate yourself. If you decide it's not something you want to pursue anymore, that's okay, too!
While I do not make light of the devastating effects COVID-19 has had on our nation, I do appreciate the silver linings that have come from it. Small little gifts that God extends to help us keep going. Like a reawakening of a lifelong dream.
If you are a single (or even if you're married!) and feeling low in spirit, please reach out to someone. Send me an email. You don't have to face these hard times alone. I will pray with you and for you.
And if you know a single who might need a word of encouragement, please reach out to them. Let them know they haven't been forgotten. Or you can send me their mailing address and I will send them a card and a little gift to hopefully brighten their day.
Thanks for your time, and I hope you are all staying happy, safe, and healthy.
In His Grip!
First of, let me point out, my idea of “happy and healthy” may look different than yours. And that’s okay. We’re all unique vessels with different cracks and purposes and needs.
But, with the headlines screaming at us everyday, an intense election looming, and ongoing pandemic concerns, we all need to take care of ourselves, mentally, spiritually, physically—you name it. So, I thought I’d share what I’ve been doing for myself to stay afloat in these turbulent waves.
In my opinion, staying physically healthy is almost as important as staying emotionally stable. If our bodies break down, it can lead to emotional breakdowns as well. Our self-image suffers. We get discouraged and frustrated, and eventually give up.
And we don’t want that.
During the statewide and district-wide shutdown earlier this summer, I determined I was not going to lose control of my eating habits. I refused to drown my boredom in sugar and salt (just to regret it later). I kept plenty of healthy alternatives on hand: fruits and veggies, nuts, cheese, yogurt. I cooked most of my meals myself, rather than eating fast food. I cut back on soda.
But, I also didn’t deprive myself, either. If I was in the mood for chocolate, I’d allow myself some chocolate (especially if I’d eaten pretty clean the rest of the day). For me, to give something up completely is to set myself up for failure. I can’t permanently give up freshly baked chocolate chip cookies! 😋 So, I just make them with a few reduced-sugar tweaks. Rather than cutting something I really like from my diet, I just cut back. Then I can still feel good about my eating choices, but still indulge myself once in a while.
I don’t know about you, but I also feel good when I stay physically active. This summer that was more important than ever, since I couldn’t get out as much. So I exercised more. I rode my stationary bike. I started doing crunches, weight lifts, and calf raises. I took lots of walks up my parents long driveway. And it felt good!
If I let myself, I could get very bored, discouraged, restless, and depressed this summer. Summer was supposed to be fun and adventure and vacation and time with friends and family. And as a single woman, I didn’t even have the blessing of a family to keep my busy and engaged. I couldn’t afford to let myself slip down in the dumps like that.
So, I kept my mind busy. I gave myself a “to-do” list. My list consisted of chores around the house, extra projects I wanted to get done, leisurely activities, special errands, writing projects, physical activities, etc. And I didn’t make myself do everything on the list every day. That would’ve been hard and a great set-up for failure again. Instead, I told myself to do a certain number of things on my list every day. And to try to do each item at least three times a week. This not only set me up for success, it also kept me busy. And I went to bed feeling good about the things I accomplished.
For me, reading is the answer to all my problems! I can’t imagine not liking to read. I mean, how much you miss by not immersing yourself into a whole different world and getting to know a whole new cast of characters. Reading is my happy place, so I did a lot of it. And I mean, a LOT! It kept my mind distracted and sometimes even motivated and inspired me.
Maybe reading isn’t your happy place. (But, seriously, why not??) But I’m sure you have something that you love to do. Music, crafting, cooking, camping, scrapbooking, crocheting, swimming, hiking, etc. etc. The options are limitless! Find your happy place. And do it!
I wanted to take advantage of the (more than usual) quiet times I had, so I spent more time deepening my relationship with God. I read, studied, and memorized Scripture. I read books on Christian living. I watched the online church services. And went back to the building when it was feasible. I changed my prayer routine so I could make our time together more meaningful. I spent more time talking to Him. And listening.
And you know what I found? He was ALWAYS there.
Honestly, when I took care of the physical, mental, and spiritual parts of me, my emotional state was in much better shape. When my body, mind, and spirit felt good, my overall emotional well-being was in much better health.
Makes sense, right? Take care of the whole you, not just one part.
A Few Don’ts:
Don’t get caught up in social media drama. I had to remove myself from Facebook more than once this summer. I found myself getting very frustrated and upset over things being said, and I just didn’t need that kind of discouragement, so I let it go.
Don’t get caught up in worry. Easier said than done, right? When I caught myself worrying, I shifted my thinking to something else. ANYTHING else. A new book. Finding a healthy recipe. Sending a message of encouragement to someone else. Immersing myself in the Word. Listening to music. Praying more. It’s not easy, and I’m no expert on ways to keep from worrying. But believe me, worry will do nothing for your state of happiness and health.
Don’t get caught up on nitpicking the other side. Recent trends brought out the ugly side of people, I’m afraid. I saw people poke fun, demean, and name call, just because someone didn’t agree with them. Come on. I know we all have our stances and opinions. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But cutting down “the other side” is not going to improve your state of mind. It’s just going to clutter it with negativity. And besides that, your name calling and insults might be buffeting the mental and emotional health of someone else.
Just be cool. And don’t do it.
These are difficult times we’re living in, and sometimes we need to step back and take inventory of our health and we’ll-being. Take care of yourselves, my friends. The whole you. I hope my practices at least spark some ideas of how you could better look out for your mind, body, and spirit. I hope my words motivate you to make the most of where you’re at now, despite what’s going on around you. I hope you all stay happy and healthy...
In His Grip!
So, last week I gave you a peek into one of my geek sides. This week, allow me to indulge that geek side of me even further. (Wow. There are a lot of -eek words in these two sentences...)
The Realm Makers Fantasy Writing Conference!
First of all, a little background:
I have been wanting for YEARS to attend a fiction writers' conference, but due to expenses and travel, I was never able to work it out. I set a goal for myself that by the time I reached the age of *muffled voice* I would make it. And time was running out.
OK, a few years back, I did make it to a small conference in Cape Girardeau (Does anyone else have to always look up the spelling for this city?? Or is that just me?) And it was a pretty good experience and I walked away with some good tools. But, because it wasn't a Christian conference, I felt a bit empty. I couldn't help but wonder, what was the point of writing a good story if it didn't reflect in some way (directly or indirectly) the greatest story ever told? The presenters and attendees were nonchalant about profanity, sex scenes, etc. etc. I decided I didn't really want to be a part of that. So, I determined to immerse myself in the Christian writing world.
And this year, it was going to happen! The American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Association was holding their conference in...wait for it...St. Louis! Practically my back yard! I was so excited. This conference is a big deal. I would get to rub elbows with some great authors and even discuss MY story with a few experts in the field. A writer's dream.
And then...COVID 19 happened. And the conference was cancelled.
To say I was disappointed is an understatement. My ONE chance, and it was taken from me.
But, that wasn't the end. I found out that Realm Makers was going online!
What's Realm Makers?
Hold on. Let me back up first. In my own writing and research, I found that there was very little market for Christian speculative fiction. (Speculative fiction being fantasy, science fiction, dystopian, etc. Anything paranormal.) And there were very few agents and publishers willing to represent them. At any rate, it was hard to find them. For a long time, the Christian market was not quite ready for speculative fiction. And, unfortunately, I LOVE fantasy.
Enter Realm Makers! My sister, Emily, introduced me a few years ago. This is a place where Christian lovers of the speculative writing genre can meet and support one another. Here we could find resources to improve our craft and the best publishers, agents, editors, etc. All with a Christian perspective
Of course, their conference this year was also interrupted by the pandemic, so they went virtual. Which meant I could attend!
This was PERFECT! And even though I missed the opportunity to be a part of it physically, it was SO worth the time and money.
OK, now that I've given the back story, let me get into my 5 reasons why I loved it.
1. It was virtual.
There's a couple reasons why I loved this. First, I could be a part of it, regardless of where it was based. Otherwise, I would've missed out. Again.
Another reason is that I am EXTREMELY introverted and reserved. I don't do well in new, crowded settings and it's hard for me to open up to strangers. This was the perfect opportunity for me to get my feet wet, while protecting myself.
2. I'm a geek. (There's that word again.)
I have friends who enjoy fantasy/sci-fi movies. But they're not really big fans. Or they're fans of watching this genre, but not necessarily reading it.
This weekend I was surrounded (virtually, of course) with people who loved it all: books AND movies. I mentioned last week that I never watched the current hit shows when I was a kid. Well, I still don't. So, when I get together with co-workers or friends who all discuss the latest blockbuster movie or series, I rarely had anything to say about them.
But these were people after my own heart. These were people who had visited Narnia and Middle Earth. They had cheered the EPIC sword fight in The Princess Bride. They flew through a galaxy far, far away. They spoke a language I understood. Sigh...
3. The positive attitudes
The very first night, when the keynote speaker was supposed to start, there was a glitch in technology.
They did get it up and going for that speech, but continued to have a few issues throughout the weekend.
And I never heard (or...read, actually) one word of complaint. Everyone-attendees, hosts, presenters, technicians-was SO patient and encouraging. It was wonderful just to sit back and watch all the wonderful and fun conversations happening on chat while we waited for things to start rolling. That would be hard to find in other programs.
4. The Christian aspect
In the Cape conference I went to, the people were friendly, yes. They were helpful. And I don't regret going. But it was not unusual for a curse word to slip. Or for a crude plot point to be discussed or even read out loud.
It just didn't settle well with me. I didn't dislike these people, and they certainly have the freedom to believe what they want.
But in THIS conference, people prayed. Scripture was quoted. People were encouraged and inspired to live out their faith and present it (subtly or obviously) in our writing. Prayer requests were given. Attendees openly talked about their churches and their faith. Without fear of being attacked or ridiculed or "cancelled."
It was wonderfully refreshing.
5. It was inspiring!
From the opening keynote speaker's description of this real world being God's beautiful, fantastical story and we are all privileged to be a part of it. AND we get to write our own versions of His story, hopefully in a way that would inspire other people to want to be better people in this world.
To the closing keynote speaker's account of being told (by a teacher!) to find another dream, because she would never be a real writer. Despite that discouraging start, she persevered and years later was able to look us in the eye (I'm telling you, she looked right past that webcam into my eyes!), declared her name, and state that she was a REAL writer. And then finished with, "And so are you."
And to every presenter in between. Their encouragement. Their patience. Their knowledge and experience they were willing to share with us. The authors who built us up and believed in us that we, too, could see our dreams fulfilled.
I walked away inspired! My faith in myself was renewed. My drive to resume my writing, believing that I could do it, was recharged. I wanted to be among these people and share my own story.
And someday, I will!
OK, I know I said five reasons, but I have to add one more.
6. It was FUN!
Can't wait to do it again sometime! Hopefully in person, because now, I'm ready to take that risk.
By the way, the ACFW conference was also moved to online streaming, so I will get to be a part of THAT one in September! That's two conferences before my *muffled voice* -th birthday! Which means, I will have met my goal twice!
I wish I could share pictures, but, unfortunately there are none. But I hope this gives you a little taste of what I felt this weekend.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I gotta get back to writing.
In the meantime, stay safe and happy...
In His Grip!