Monday, February 27, 2017

The difference a day makes

I'm in a support and recovery program where "one day at a time" and "just for today" are important concepts. And what a difference a day can make!

In recent days, I've been making a pretty detailed list of what I hope to accomplish in that 24 hours. I use it to set goals and to prioritize and reprioritize as the day goes along. Even though I typically end up deciding some of the things are not priorities and can be crossed off the list or moved to another day, overall I think the list has helped me daily to get more done.

Saturday, the list was filled with opportunities and desires that I didn't see how could work out. During my devotional time as I walked on the treadmill before showering and getting on with my day, I read that I could ask God to show me His plans for the day and he would reveal them. It never seems to work that way for me, but I did pray to know, trusting that God would be in control even if it didn't seem clear to me what His plans were.

It doesn't usually happen this was for me, but as the day unfolded, it became crystal clear that God in fact was revealing his plans for the day, equipping me to do my part and blessing me and, I pray, others along the way. Not only did I get the things on my list done, some things came up that most days would have stressed me out, thinking there was no way to add another thing. Instead, step by step, it seemed clear how this would work. And I continued to be energized and blessed, thanking God all along the way. I was aware of a feeling that I like: All things seemed possible.

When I have a day like that, I always hope it will be the start of some consistency in productive days. So, even though Sunday's list again had what looked like too much to do, I was optimistic it would unfold just as gloriously. And maybe it did. But it didn't seem like it. Instead, I was weary and easily distracted. Things didn't fall into place smoothly. Although I got a lot done and much was good, by the end of the day I felt discouraged. It seemed possible things would never really change for the better.

What had happened? I don't know the full answer to that question. But thinking of those "one day at a time" and "just for today" concepts, I realize it's OK to have what might seem like good days and bad days — and possibly sometimes good days that for some reason just don't seem as good. I think that's what happened Sunday. I know I did my best and kept going back to God with prayers of thanksgiving, faith and trust, and to know and do His  will.

I awoke Monday again feeling that all things are possible. It's mid-afternoon, and I feel energized and blessed by opportunities I've had to serve and pray and share and care. Now there is some housework to do, which is part of what threw me off on Sunday. Maybe what wasn't possible yesterday will be today. Regardless, I pray to be aware at the end of the day that it has been good, and that, as always, God is the source of that goodness.

Monday, February 20, 2017

In God's Presence

My exercise in writing continues. Today I do not have the TV on. I've only allotted 30 minutes to write. I've already used some of the time to track down the HTML code for the em dash. How good that makes me feel is proof that I am an editor in addition to a wanna-be writer.

What would be great to write about is this morning's prayer time and then going to visit a dear friend at the hospital. Those words are harder to find, for some reason. The experiences are so positive, but much seems to get lost as I try to capture them in words.

I believe in the power of prayer, and I believe God has called me back to the prayer group at 10 a.m. Mondays at the church. The women who gather there inspire me. I feel humbled, grateful and honored to join them. Today I let the Spirit to move me to end my portion of prayer with the upbeat version of the Doxology: "Praise God from Whom all blessings flow. Praise God all creatures here, below. Alleluia! Alleluia! Praise God the source of all our gifts. Praise Jesus Christ Whose power uplifts. Praise the Spirit — Holy Spirit. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!"

While there, I learned my dear friend Mac was back in the hospital. And the church is closer to the hospital than my house is, so being there made it easy to just go on that little bit farther to visit him. I enjoyed spending time with him and his daughter, and then his wife and another daughter when they arrived. I was grateful to be able to sing a couple of hymns of faith for this couple that I associate with the music ministry at church, even though it has been years since they could  participate. I sang a verse of "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" and two verses of  "Blessed Assurance." Mac had trouble understanding me when I talked, but his steadfast gaze as I sang conveyed complete understanding. Thank you, God, for allowing me to stand in Your presence with this precious family.

My journey to regain my skill and confidence as a writer is part of a larger endeavor to become more aware of and focused on my purpose in life. I believe God is the Author of that purpose and wants to help me know and fulfill it. I believe prayer and relationships with people in His body of believers are essential to this process. I am grateful to finally be acting on opportunities to build and deepen these relationships.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

An exercise in writing

Tonight I am setting aside an hour to write, and something from what I write I will post on the blog.

It's 7 p.m. Sunday. The NBA All-Star Game is about to start. I have it on but don't plan to watch too closely. It's possible Gene will interrupt me so I can watch him work on QuickBooks.

I want to regain confidence in my writing so I can return to writing for pay. Is there a class I need to take to move toward this?

I Googled "how to become a better writer." Ah, yes. That's the ticket. (Although what I really need is how to get back to writing, period. Fortunately, this addresses that, too!)

I found 15 tips from Leo Babauta, a professional writer who blogs about goals, habits, productivity, simplifying and more at

I think the most important one for me is No. 5, and he describes my situation well:

"Just write. If you’ve got blank paper or a blank screen staring at you, it can be intimidating. You might be tempted to go check your email or get a snack. Well, don’t even think about it, mister. Just start writing. Start typing away — it doesn’t matter what you write — and get the fingers moving. Once you get going, you get in the flow of things, and it gets easier. I like to start out by typing things like my name or a headline or something easy like that, and then the juices start flowing and stuff just pours out of me. But the key is to just get going."

That's actually what I'm doing right now ...  (Unlike this next one, which I may not try until Tuesday.)

Probably second most important for me is his No. 6, and I'm sure it will be the hardest for me:

"Eliminate distractions. Writing does not work well with multi-tasking or background noise. It’s best done in quiet, or with some mellow music playing. ... Turn off email or IM notifications, turn off the phone and your cell phone, turn off the TV, and clear off your desk … you can stuff everything in a drawer for now until you have time to sort everything out later … but don’t get into sorting mode now, because it’s writing time! Clear away distractions so you can work without interruption."

Other ideas that resonated:

"Get feedback. You can’t get better in a vacuum. Get someone to read over your stuff — preferably a good writer or editor. Someone who reads a lot, and can give you honest and intelligent feedback. And then listen. Really try to understand the criticism and accept it and use it to improve. ..."

"Put yourself out there. At some point, you’ll need to let others read your writing. Not just the person who you’re allowing to read it, but the general public. ... If you’re already doing a blog, that’s good, but if no one reads it, then you need to find a bigger blog and try to submit a guest post. Putting your writing out in the public can be nerve-wracking, but it is a crucial (if painful) part of every writer’s growth. ..."

Among Babauta's other suggestions:

* Read great writers. (I struggle with this. Maybe I need to also schedule at least 30 minutes a day to read. I don't think I've ever done that.)
* Create a writing ritual. "Whatever works for you, make it a must-do thing every single day. Write for at least 30 minutes, but an hour is even better." (I am working on this. It's been a goal for a couple of weeks, and maybe tonight is the start.)
* Plan.
* Experiment.
* Revise and rewrite.
* Be concise.

I like these ideas and I think they will help. I have to admit I just looked at the clock -- 7:50. Ten more minutes. Then I started trying to find out how to get those two hyphens to be a long dash. I found the instructions, but it didn't work. I guess I'll work more on that tomorrow.

Because:  It's 8 p.m. I'm out of here. But this was good. I am grateful.

Postscript: The next day, I found the HTML code for an em dash in this operation — but did it work? Yes! Yay! (I also see now that I could have copied and pasted an em dash from the "Just write" text I copied and pasted above. But then I would not have learned this code that will be good for me to know.)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

What if it's really OK?

This week I'm aware how sad/pathetic it is that I can't even seem to do unemployment well!

There's really no good reason for me not to be enjoying this time off from work. But I find myself stressing out every day over what to do. And whenever I do that -- get stressed out about what to do -- I typically get nothing done.

All of my strategies for changing this situation seem like good ideas and inspire me for a day, or hour, but before long, they are just another source of discouragement.

I've said it and written it before, but I need to repeat it: What would I do if I really could do whatever I wanted, without any repercussions or without disappointing someone else?

I would relax.
I would write.
I would sing.
I would straighten up my messes.
I would spend more time praying.
I would spend more time helping people.

So, why am I not doing these things? The biggest reasons involve time management and priorities, and what I think others expect or think of me.

I would like to write, but I am a very slow writer. My awareness of how slow I am distracts me from really thinking about and developing what I want to say. My mind wanders to what I think I should be doing instead, but instead of doing that other thing, I get into a mental battle with myself. And there is no peace. I would like to get back into writing for pay, but to do that, first I need to get back to writing. And that's where the struggle is. How do I justify the time it takes to get it going again?

As for singing, I totally don't see how I can justify taking time to work on that.

As for straightening up my messes, I want them straightened up, but I don't know where to start.  And it's another process that when I do start it, the results come very slowly. And I guess I get impatient. I've read a great book with suggestions -- and now it is part of the mess!

Praying -- another thing that I have trouble focusing on, because my mind wanders to the other things I think I need to be doing.

Helping people -- I don't even know where to begin.

The people pleasing part is paralyzing. I don't want to disappoint anyone. But that fear keeps me from doing what I want to do and also what the other person might prefer me to do, and that ends up being a lose-lose situation.

Somehow, I've got to be patient. And I've got to trust God to take care of the people I fear will be disappointed by me being me.


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Still haven't found the write way

I envy people who can write in a way that turns everyday experiences into fun-to-read accounts. Occasionally I have done that, and it gives me a sense of satisfaction. But more often I just write to document something I want to remember. As for why I post it on a blog and sometimes share the link on Facebook, that's less clear to me. It surprises me when people seem to relate to and-or appreciate my fairly simple observations.

On Tuesday, Jan. 31, my Facebook "memories" offered reminders and I hoped inspiration to get me back into a writing routine.

I shared this with one of the "memories," from 2015: This is another timely memory/reminder. I realized yesterday that I need to be setting aside time each day to write. For many years, I have pushed writing to the side, and I often end up frustrated when I can't compose my thoughts on demand in the scrap of time I allow. I'm grateful for this period in which I have time to reconnect with my muse.

My comment went with this 2015 post shared from The Writer's Circle: "If you're going to be a writer, the first essential is to just write.  Do not wait for an idea. Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow."  Louis L'Amour

Here was my comment spurred by a blog post from Jan. 31, 2014, about my struggles as a writer: Ok, this is the last (but will it show up as the first?) of the memories Facebook has resurrected this morning. I've shared a lot on the last day on January in the seven years I've been on Facebook. A lot of it has involved my trials and triumphs as a wannabe passionate and creative person. Today, I will use it as inspiration.

But I didn't even blog that day, and here I am again, scrambling to come up with something -- anything!

I want to schedule a minimum of one hour a day to write. But it seems like I need to get other things done first, so I don't get to it. And I pay a price of frustration. But I will keep trying.