Monday, June 28, 2010
The kids are out of school.
The kids are out of school.
The kids are out of school.
The kids are out of school.
Toys strewn from basement to attic.
The kids are out of school.
Obnoxious cartoons and video games from dawn to dusk.
The kids are out of school.
Why is the sandbox now on the kitchen floor?
The kids are out of school.
Other people go on vacation. We don’t.
The kids are out of school.
I still need to write.
The kids are out of school.
You get the idea.
For me summer is not about relaxation, renewal, or enjoyment. It’s about endurance. Every day by 3 PM, I’m sweating, gritting my teeth, and telling myself, “You’re going to make it. You’re going to make it.”
Make it to what, you ask?
The daily finish line. Bedtime, of course.
Recently one of my boys asked me why we have to sleep all night. The implication in his question was clear—I can think of much better uses of my time, Mom.
So can I, honestly. If I didn’t have to sleep, I could write all night long. Goodness knows, I’m not getting any writing done during the day.
I told my son that God knew our bodies and minds would need to rest, so He designed nighttime and sleep for that purpose.
My son responded with, “I wish God hadn’t made nighttime. Sometimes I get scared at nighttime.”
I can relate. No, I’m not afraid of monsters under my bed, or in my closet, or in the dresser, or in the hall, or in the bathroom, or in the spare room. But far too often I use the time God made for renewal to stress about my problems, all the things I didn’t get done, and the reality of facing another frustrating day tomorrow.
No wonder I hate summertime.
But even if I choose to be angry and resentful and miserable with the nighttime God has provided, He still allows my body the rest it needs. I go to sleep. I can’t help it. After all, I’m exhausted. And even though I’ve been a bratty, complaining child, God renews my brain and my body. It’s a miracle really.
Even if every day this summer is filled with loud, squabbling boys and my endless attempts to entertain, distract, or maybe just muffle them fail, there will still be bedtime. There will still be sleep. Renewal was designed by God and is worked into our biology. Whether or not we agree to it, acknowledge it, or purposely plan for it, renewal will happen. And I’m so thankful.
And now, I must bring this post to a close.
The kids are out of school.
Evangeline Denmark has storytelling on her heart and in her blood. The daughter of novelist, Donita K. Paul, Evangeline grew up living and breathing good stories. She has co-authored two children’s books which are under contract with Waterbrook Press and also writes adult fiction. Evangeline is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers, serving as chapter secretary.
Friday, June 25, 2010
I find myself continually in a state of renewal with my Lord. I get on the right path spending time in the Word and journaling, but next thing I know I'm too busy, getting up too late in the morning or just totally distracted. Then one day I find myself searching for the Lord and not finding him. Oh, I know he's always there and it is me who gets lost not him. And that is where I've been for the past couple of months, lost.
I find when I'm in that dark place I try to fill the void with other things like food or shopping or television. But none of those things work and after all these years you would think I would know that. We humans are so hard headed at times I don't know why He puts up with us. He has to smile a knowing smile when he sees us darting about from one thing to the next trying to fill the emptiness and knowing it is Him we need and knowing one day soon we will return.
Amazing as it is I did not find the word renewal in my Strong's Concordance, but instead found regeneration, which directed me to scripture on renewal. In Nave's Topical Bible reference I found the definition of regeneration. It is the new birth, the inner recreating of fallen human nature by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit. It changes human disposition from godlessness, lawlessness, rebellion, self-seeking, and unbelief to a desire to love and serve God.
I couldn't have said it better myself. Isn't that what I've been doing when I find myself wrapped up in a world of me and not of Him. I've been rebellious and self-seeking trying to find something to make me feel better, when what I need is Him. Only in Him will I ever find true renewal and regeneration. He renewed me with his saving grace through Christ Jesus and he continues to renew me daily through his love and mercy.
I found a number of references in scripture referring to renewal or rebirth and the one that struck me the strongest was Titus 3:3-5
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
~Prayer – Refreshes and renews the spirit.
~Food – When you have low blood sugar, there is nothing like food to renew.
~Music – When agitated or mad, praise music can calm, refocus and renew.
~Crafts – I love doing things with my hands. The act of doing something creative with my hand helps unlock and renew my writing world.
~Writing – One of the most renewing things to my writing is writing. When a scene just flows and seems to write itself, I am renewed from the previous day’s writing struggles.
~Reading – Brings new story ideas or gives an insight into an existing story or character.
~Cats – Just sitting with one of my many cats sitting on my lap purring (the cat, not me) is renewing. Or cracking up at watching them run around acting like total spazzes over a twisty-tie. Cats are so weird. I love them.
~Daydreaming – Letting currents characters run wild in scenes that will never be in the book, or meeting new characters and spending time with them.
~A new story idea – Maybe that is not so much renewing as energizing.
~A deep slow breath – Ah, that feels good.
But as I have just spent nearly two weeks with a terrible sore throat (I mean strep throat sore with no antibiotics to make it get better because it’s not strep), so I didn’t get much sleep the past two weeks. It reminded me that one thing that renews like no other and is the foundation of the others is SLEEP. Pure, restful, deep, carefree sleep. Zzzzzz.
Friday, June 18, 2010
I was a gangly fourteen-year-old when I climbed my first mountain. Mount Huron, one of Colorado’s “fourteeners.” Climbing a mountain wasn’t really something I wanted to do. I was on a backpacking trip with my youth group and our guides woke us up in the middle of the night, told us to bundle up, get our water and our flashlights, and meet them in the center of our camp. We did, grumbling the whole way. The grumbles turned into passionate protests when they explained that we were going to climb a mountain. In the dark.
It had already been a rough day. We’d hiked over two ridges, and my muscles were sore. Earlier that day, on a particularly rocky section of the trail, the sole of my hiking boot broke off. So all I had left were my cool, pink tennis shoes. With terrible traction.
Though I pleaded my case, our guides didn’t back down. They basically told me to go or be left behind. Alone. With the bears. Since that wasn’t my idea of a good time either, I started out with the rest of the group.
I’d never felt so tired. My legs hurt, my head hurt, my eyes hurt. The only thing guiding my steps was the small, circular beam from my flashlight. As we started through a boulder field about three-fourths of the way through our journey, I dropped my flashlight. It bounced down the slope and my world went dark. I sat on a rock and cried. It was too hard. It hurt too much. I was too scared. I wanted to give up. But I didn’t. After a while, I prayed, I picked myself up, and I continued the journey—albeit very slowly—until I’d reached the top.
I’ve come to the conclusion that our fullest moments in life—the best times of refreshment—usually come after a long, arduous struggle. All the way up that mountain, I’d carried the burdens of resentment and fear. I couldn’t see where I was going. The world was dark and I was weary. But I kept hiking. And when I clawed my way up the last section of the peak right as the sunrise bled across the sky, all of those burdens disappeared. Refreshment rushed in and I only felt free.
When I think of living life to the fullest, when I think about refreshment, I always remember how I felt standing on the peak of Mount Huron. I’ve climbed many mountains since then—literally and figuratively. And after I conquer each one, I know exactly what Jesus was talking about in John 10:10. Life to the full—the life that He promises—is a life of both surrender and freedom. If you surrender to His will and hike through the rough spots, if you persevere and hold onto Him tight, you will most assuredly experience His refreshing sovereignty on the mountaintop.
A lifelong storyteller, Sara Richardson is passionate about communicating reasons for hope. Previously she has been an advertising copywriter, an Internet communications manager, and a whitewater rafting guide. In addition to writing fiction, Sara has published nonfiction articles in parenting and family magazines. As a member of MOPS International, Sara enjoys speaking to moms’ groups. She earned a master’s degree in journalism from Regent University. Visit her at www.hopetolife.com
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
As writers, it can be really easy to fall into that same mode of setting aside the book or story we've been working on so we can join in with the outdoor stuff everyone else is doing.
As my pastor says, "Show me where Jesus did that."
Jesus never took a day off. Even when He went to the temple, He was either teaching, reading Scripture, or tossing over tables. When He went to a wedding, He turned water into wine. When He took a trip to Samaria, He got a woman and a whole town saved. A journey into the badlands resulted in a demoniac being restored and a herd of pigs jumping over a cliff. And although a long day of preaching turned into a picnic with over 5,000 of His closest friends, the preaching came first. A storm was calmed during a jaunt across a lake, fish were caught during a visit to the seaside, and a woman was healed during a walk through town.
When we focus on God's calling in our lives, we see opportunities to minister no matter where we go, no matter what season of the year it is. As writers, the story is still there, inside, waiting to come out, whether it's July or January.
Here are some ideas to help you renew your creativity and your passion to write:
-- Allow the words to pour forth during this relaxing season.
-- Encourage the stories by visiting new places.
-- Flesh out the characters in your stories by doing some people watching.
-- Expand your knowledge by taking a course.
-- Try writing something in a new genre or a new form, such as poetry or song.
-- Renew your creativity by trying out new recipes and new seasonal foods.
Creativity flourishes and grows as we use it more, as we compel it to interject itself into our stories, as we feed our senses with smell, touch, taste, sound, and sight. Enjoy the summer, but instead of using the summer as an excuse to put aside the hard work of writing, use it to grow your stories.
Friday, June 11, 2010
But alas, we aren't super-computers, iPads, or Blackberries. We're people. And frankly, we wear out. Get tired. Give out.
What we need is to be refreshed. Like a cool drink of water after a long hike. Or a swim in crisp, blue lake after spending hours working in the hot sun.
What refreshes you?
This picture is an ideal illustration of refreshment to me. It was taken at the Matanuska glacier in Alaska when we lived there. One look at the mountains, glacier, and beauty in that photograph and my mind and soul are refreshed. I imagine it is the view out my window as I work.
But what about when you are bogged down by the tasks of the day, the deadlines looming, or overwhelmed by the path you must travel? Kayla and I are in the middle of Revisions on our first book together, No Safe Haven. And of course, life has a way of happening. We've had scads of wonderful company, swim events, and projects. Now, I'm beginning to feel the press of the task in front of me. So as we work and head for the finish line, I look at this next picture a lot.
It's a great cover isn't it? But more than that - it's a reminder, a refresher if you will of all the other people working behind the scenes to help make it happen. So even though Kayla and I may work in the office alone for hours on end, our faces glued to the computer screen as we revise, we are not actually alone in this process. And as tired as we may get, we know there is an end in sight. A time when that cover will actually encase this beloved manuscript, like a present wrapped for Christmas.
What are other ways you can be renewed and refreshed by the simple things around you? A hug from a friend, or loved one. A glance at the birds flying in the air, or the beauty of flowers. A smile. A kiss. An email. A good book.
I think the main point is to find the time to refresh. Even if it's a glance at a picture, or taking the time to savor a cup of coffee. We may not be able to refresh ourselves as rapidly as technology, but we can definitely do it better :)
This blog was a refreshment to me, so guess what? It's back to work I go...
Kimberley Woodhouse is a wife, mother, author, and musician with a quick wit and positive outlook despite difficult circumstances. She's also the President of the Colorado Springs ACFW chapter. A popular speaker, she’s shared at more than 700 venues across the country. Kimberley and her family's story have garnered national media attention for many years, but most recently her family was chosen for ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, The Montel Williams Show, and Discovery Health channel’s Mystery ER which premiered in 2008. Her story, Welcome Home: Our Family’s Journey to Extreme Joy, is available now from Tyndale House Publishers. And be watching - Coming in March 2011 NO SAFE HAVEN is the first book in a three-book series set in Alaska, written with daughter Kayla from B&H Publishers. Kimberley lives, writes, and homeschools in Colorado with her husband of eighteen years and their two children in their truly “extreme” home.
Check out Kim's Website to order her books!
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Even without the teaching, the setting of this conference is filled with renewal. The grandeur of the mountains is totally awesome on this property just north of the Garden of the Gods. Big Horn sheep and wild turkeys are common sights. It is a wonderful place for rest and renewal.
This conference was different than most because it was more a workshop with classes, time to write using what was learned in the classes, fun, and fellowship. There was less pressure than normal because there are no pitches or meetings with editors and agents. Mentors Angela Hunt, Nancy Rue, Kathryn Mackel, and James Scott Bell lead the teaching and bonding sessions. During the general sessions, the mentors talked about re-inspiration, re-newal, re-birth, and re-charge. Below are a few of my notes from Nancy Rue talking on renewal.
New can be a fresh, new slate; something delightful.
New can be uncomfortable; like trying to make friends in a new town or getting use to a new home.
Therefore, we don’t always want to renew. Renewing is a choice. To be a great writer or an effective Christian we must renew.
As discussed in the story of the meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus, the Lord tells us we have to be reborn; we have to be made new.
Renewing as a writer can be going to conferences, talking to other writers, buying a laptop, etc. But you’re not a writer until you write.
As I write this, I realize the describing the process of renewal is even more difficult than living it.
For those who are interested, the dates of this conference for next year are June 12-15.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Last year several members of my online critique group had our first week-long retreat at critique partner Kim Vogel Sawyer's home in Kansas. We had so much fun talking writing, doing research (which is more like play!), and having sweet fellowship. So we decided to do it again this year.
One of our group of four was unable to make it this time, so we felt like a three-legged cat (a description borrowed from Connie Stevens). A little awkward and missing a limb.
After another travel adventure for me (go here to read all about it), I finally made it in a day and a half late. Still our days were packed, working (writing/editing) in the mornings, researching/playing in the afternoons, and relaxing by Kim's pool in the evenings. Saturday, Kim had a booksigning at a bookstore's booth at Wichita's homeschooling convention. Connie and I went along to keep her company and to explore the various displays to find some research materials. We didn't buy anything, but I stumbled across long-time good friends manning one of the curriculum press booths. What a bonus for me!
When I flew back to Phoenix—where hubby is still working in over 100-degree heat—I came away from Kim's refreshed, with a renewed sense of purpose for my editing and writing.
Time spent with friends, whether they write or not, is always good for renewing us spiritually and emotionally.
And now I'm looking forward to getting back to Colorado where I can enjoy another source of renewal and refreshment for me—our cabin located at 9000 ft. in the mountains.
Monday, June 7, 2010
As you read this, I will be on my way to renewal, which for me translates to camping. All year long, I sit in my cluttered little office and stare at a computer screen. But when the weather begins to warm, my soul knows it will be set free for a season.
The poet comes out in me when I view God’s nature. I’ve compared a valley to God’s thumbprint and a mountain meadow to His sanctuary. If ever I feel dry and wordless, I simply return to His creation for my creativity.
Psalm 104 is a beautiful chapter on our creative God.
1 Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD my God, You are very great:
You are clothed with honor and majesty,
2 Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment,
Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain.
3 He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters,
Who makes the clouds His chariot,
Who walks on the wings of the wind,
4 Who makes His angels spirits,
His ministers a flame of fire.
5 You who laid the foundations of the earth,
So that it should not be moved forever,
6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
The waters stood above the mountains.
7 At Your rebuke they fled;
At the voice of Your thunder they hastened away.
8 They went up over the mountains;
They went down into the valleys,
To the place which You founded for them.
9 You have set a boundary that they may not pass over,
That they may not return to cover the earth.
10 He sends the springs into the valleys;
They flow among the hills.
11 They give drink to every beast of the field;
The wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 By them the birds of the heavens have their home;
They sing among the branches.
13 He waters the hills from His upper chambers;
The earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works.
14 He causes the grass to grow for the cattle,
And vegetation for the service of man,
That he may bring forth food from the earth,
15 And wine that makes glad the heart of man,
Oil to make his face shine,
And bread which strengthens man’s heart.
16 The trees of the LORD are full of sap,
The cedars of Lebanon which He planted,
17 Where the birds make their nests;
The stork has her home in the fir trees.
18 The high hills are for the wild goats;
The cliffs are a refuge for the rock badgers.[a]
19 He appointed the moon for seasons;
The sun knows its going down.
20 You make darkness, and it is night,
In which all the beasts of the forest creep about.
21 The young lions roar after their prey,
And seek their food from God.
22 When the sun rises, they gather together
And lie down in their dens.
23 Man goes out to his work
And to his labor until the evening.
24 O LORD, how manifold are Your works!
In wisdom You have made them all.
The earth is full of Your possessions—
25 This great and wide sea,
In which are innumerable teeming things,
Living things both small and great.
26 There the ships sail about;
There is that Leviathan
Which You have made to play there.
27 These all wait for You,
That You may give them their food in due season.
28 What You give them they gather in;
You open Your hand, they are filled with good.
29 You hide Your face, they are troubled;
You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.
30 You send forth Your Spirit, they are created;
And You renew the face of the earth.
31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
May the LORD rejoice in His works.
32 He looks on the earth, and it trembles;
He touches the hills, and they smoke.
33 I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
34 May my meditation be sweet to Him;
I will be glad in the LORD.
35 May sinners be consumed from the earth,
And the wicked be no more.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
Praise the LORD!
Kathleen E. Kovach is an award winning author, leader of the local critique group JOY Writers, and the Rocky Mountain Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. A mom and grandmother, she lives in northeast Colorado with her husband of over three decades. Visit her online: www.craftcinema.blogspot.com, www.kathleenekovach.blogspot.com, www.KathleenEKovach.com.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
June's topic of the month on the Inkwell is "Renewing Creativity." As I thought about my own struggles with the creative process, I realized I've fought to renew creativity when renewal wasn't needed. Creativity wasn't dead, it was just resting. Some writing stalls just require patience and germination time.
Germination is the process in which a plant bursts from a seed and becomes a sprout. It first spends time underneath the ground collecting nutrients. If left dry, it will never sprout, but if it is safe in a dark, quiet environment and given plenty of water, a root miraculously breaks from the seed. Soon the skin splits and smaller roots and leaves emerge. With enough sunshine and water, a mature sunflower plant produces brilliant yellow blossoms complete with a rich brown center.
Writing, too, needs germination time. I once heard Anne Lamont, author of the famed writing book Bird by Bird, speak. Of all the wonderful, insightful comments she made, the one with the greatest take home value for this writer was: "If you're going to be an artist, you have to stare out the window."
How freeing! My artistic soul craves long, quiet retreats. Sometimes they include praise music and a journal. Other times, like yesterday, my retreat is an afternoon alone with Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy and the Pride and Prejudice mini-series. When I can I like to stroll a mountain trail and breathe in the sweet pine scent. Often my retreats include a novel or Bible study. Sometimes the best retreat is simply being still, musing about life, whispering with God, and watching fresh green-leaved branches dance in a cobalt sky.
For an artist, these staring out the window times--times when our emotions are stirred, beauty is inhaled, and our thoughts allowed to wander and ponder--are germination times. They are the safe place that causes something that barely exists, like an idea or a thought, to expand from its small existence to something much greater. We often don't even know it is happening. But then we're loading the dishwasher or brushing our teeth and we realize a new plot line has formed, a character has been birthed, or that we possess a new devotional insight that has to be expressed.
And this happens because our creative seeds were allowed to germinate, safe from our fretting, prodding, and pushing. We gave ourselves permission to stare out the window.
When huge yellow faces brightened my weather-beaten fence last year, I was amazed at how their fresh loveliness took something worn and sad and made it beautiful. With enough resting, enough prayer--enough staring out the window--I dare believe our writing will reach the barren, beaten down places of the soul and call forth its beauty once again.
A writer, speaker, and homeschooling mother of four, Paula Moldenhauer is passionate about God’s grace and intimacy with Jesus. Her website, Soul Scents, offers a free weekly devotional, and you can visit her blog at GraceReign. Paula serves as president of HIS Writers, the north Denver ACFW chapter. A devoted Pride and Prejudice fan, she loves good conversation, peppermint ice cream, and walking barefoot. Her greatest desire is to be close enough to Jesus to live His fragrance.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
The conference debate. Do I go to this conference or that conference? Or not at all.
~~After all I haven’t had anything published.
~~I’m between contracts.
~~I don’t have anything to show an editor or agent.
~~I’m not ready.
These and many other excuses keep writers from conferences. I don’t know that anyone is actually ready for their first conference. I know I wasn’t. I don’t know that you can be ready for a conference until you’ve been to one to see what they’re about and get a feel for them.
Going to a first conference prepares you for the second which prepares you for the third and fourth and so on. At each conference you learn and are more prepared for the next one.
Conferences are more than just about going to workshops to learn and hunting that elusive contract. They are about connecting with people. Connecting with other writers, making new friends. Friends that make you do things you may not be ready for.
My trip to conferenceland started with a friend who made me take the first step to get us in a crit group. One thing led to another and I was in another crit group with someone who told me about a conference. I was so green and unprepared to go to a conference, but I went and met a woman who told me about better conference that she said I had to go to. I went. I was still very green and didn’t know much.
My new friend was there and sat at a table with a particular editor that she knew I needed to talk to. Then she abandoned me. I was scared to death. Somehow I managed to say enough intelligible words that the editor told me to make an appointment with her. Eventually that editor gave me a contract for my first book.
Conferences aren’t always about writing either. Some conferences I’ve been to the Lord has taught me some life and spiritual lessons. Sometimes going to a conference is about reaching out to another person with help or encouragement.
You never know what road the Lord will lead you down, what twists and turns there will be on your journey, but if you don’t journey, you will never get there.
So ready or not, go for it and see what the Lord wants to teach you.