Buzzing with bees
In the sun ‘neath the trees
Scent so divine
Its beauty is Thine
It’s been three weeks since I went to the Faith & Culture Writers Conference in Portland, Oregon. I’ve been meaning to write this post ever since, but with the NaPoWriMo challenge and other responsibilities I just didn’t have time.
But I’m glad I waited, because if I’d written this post two weeks ago I probably would have simply listed bullet points of what some of the speakers said. While that may be useful and interesting, because they said a lot of profound stuff, it wouldn’t get to the heart of what I learned. In the past few days, I’ve been pondering what I truly learned from my conference experience and that’s what I want to share today.
First, I learned to listen to God’s nudges to do something even if it makes no sense. He has a plan and blessings will ensue if I am obedient.
The first day of the conference I wasn’t sure which breakout session to attend during the first set of breakouts. I had tentatively decided ahead of time to attend one that I thought I should go to and that looked interesting. But that morning I felt a strong nudge to attend a session titled Christ-Centered Editing led by Leanne Sype. It seemed ridiculous to me because I know about editing. At work, I live and breathe editing, am familiar with style guides and grammar resources, and know the importance of having someone else edit your writing. But the nudge was strong so I went with it.
It didn’t take me long into the session to realize I was in the right place. Leanne was a wonderful presenter who talked not about the mechanics of editing, but rather about a number of books she had the privilege to edit. The titles of those books spoke to me. Her focus on Christ-centered big-picture editing of those books was spot on.
Leanne talked about not writing or editing to sound like someone else who is a great writer, but rather to find my own God-given voice. It requires surrender to Christ when I write, staying tuned to Christ so my nature voice will emerge in my writing. In my notes I wrote, “Organized, linear, logical is my voice.” Turns out this is what I needed to hear.
The real blessings from my obedience to that nudge came later. Blessing one was when, in a session by Bob Welch the next day, Leanne sat next to me and we had a wonderful conversation. I found out she was a delightful person with fears and insecurities, just like me.
Then, the following week when I received my score sheets for the essay contest, I discovered that she was one of my judges. She gave me awesome, encouraging feedback and a good score. She affirmed that my organized, linear, and logical way of writing resonated with someone and was an encouragement to trust God. Her feedback, coupled with the less-than-positive scores and feedback of the other two judges, reminded me that my writing, my voice, will not resonate with everyone. But God will take my writing where it will be an encouragement and those who flat-out don’t connect with my writing shouldn’t discourage me from writing what God wants me to say.
Second, I learned to listen to God’s nudges to do something even if I really don’t want to do it. When I registered for the conference, I signed up to meet with an editor from a mid-sized publishing house. I had a plan to pitch to him a daily devotional on being fearless. I began working on the book proposal, but I struggled with writer’s block.
God began nudging me to pitch a different book—my memoir. I did not want to write my memoir, at least not yet, and I told God so. The nudges continued and my conversation with God about the subject ended with “Fine, I’ll write a book proposal!” I sat down at my computer to work on that book proposal and the words fairly flew onto the page.
I was still conflicted because the publishing house I had the editor-appointment with doesn’t publish memoirs; they do a lot of devotionals and other types of books, but not memoirs. I decided I would just talk to the editor about the two projects and get his feedback, without expecting him to have any interest in either book. But as I prayed for direction, I felt uneasy about this plan. I knew the editor was at the conference with the hope of finding a new book idea that he could get behind, and I would be wasting his time just seeking advice.
The Tuesday before the conference, as I prayed, I felt a new nudge. “You could sign up for a second appointment with another editor or agent,” the Lord said. So that’s what I did. I signed up to meet with an agent, who I later learned specialized in memoirs.
The blessing came when the editor and the agent independently suggested that I combine the two proposals. The editor told me that daily devotionals are not selling that great these days, perhaps because there are so many on the market. However, a book about overcoming fear written in a memoir style would fit into a popular trend. Then he told me to email him a revised book proposal for a book along those lines. (There was more to his suggestion, but I don’t want to reveal too much about my current book idea just yet.)
If I had walked into the appointment with the agent with only the devotional proposal, I don’t think the current book idea or the editor’s offer to consider my book proposal would have happened. Because I was obedient to God’s nudge to write a proposal for my memoir even though I didn’t want to, I was blessed by this new direction and opportunity.
There is more that I learned at the conference, but this blog post is already long enough. Perhaps I’ll share more another day.
It’s Day 30 of NaPoWriMo. I’ve written 30 poems in 30 days, and I’ve read many more poems. In celebration of the month coming to an end I wrote an irregular ode to all the poetry I’ve written and read.
An Ode to Poetry
O poetry, you make me laugh
you cause a chuckle to escape my lips
when written by one with a sense of humor
maybe even a chuckle and a half
if the poet who writes your daring words
winnows away the boring chaff
and uses to his advantage a gaffe
O poetry, you often cause a tear
to press against my eyeballs
ready to fall any moment I fear
when a poet writes on a topic dear
and if her writing is especially skillful
it’s possible you’ll find me bawling
if you lend an ear
and I’m touched by the words I hear
O poetry, how you make me think
between my life and another’s is a link
simply from words on a page, a small bit of ink
a connection is made, not there before
a bond of creativity and awe
fostering a desire our glasses to clink
O poetry, you change my mood
you make me crabby if you are lewd
even though I’m not a prude
yet sometimes you are my sunshine
when happiness and mirth you do exude
O poetry, sometimes you bore me
when you’re filled with trite clichés
but please don’t take it personally
I love you nonetheless
It’s Day 29 of NaPoWriMo. I have mixed feelings about the month of celebrating poetry coming to an end. On the one hand, it’s good to have the motivation to write every day. On the other hand, some days it’s nice to not feel compelled to write. Today I’m hanging onto the one hand, and I’m completing a poem that was inspired by a Facebook post I saw yesterday. It’s off-prompt, but that’s okay.
Kind Words and Iron Doors
A Turkish proverb says
Kind words will unlock
an iron door
Often this is true
and so we ought
to speak kind words
always willing to open
an iron door and let peace in
But some doors
iron or otherwise
are sealed from the inside
by bitterness and hatred
so strong even the kindest words
won’t make them budge
These doors to the heart
can only be opened
by forgiveness from within
by the occupant’s choice
to step outside
into a world of grace and peace
5/21/15: Shared for dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night.
The prompt for Day 28 of NaPoWriMo is to write about bridges, either real, imaginary, or metaphorical. I decided to write about my favorite bridge.
The Bridge You Built
The ravine between me and You
is deep and wide and long
I pine here on the far side
quite enchanted by Your song
I have no way to get across
to rest peacefully where You are
I cannot even go around
the journey’s much too far
So You built a bridge for me
You stretched Your arms out wide
So when it’s time for me to cross
I will rest eternally on the other side
The Day 27 prompt at the NaPoWriMo site is to write a hay(na)ku, another short form poem I’ve never heard of. But I do love short form poetry, especially in the final days of a 30-day poetry challenge. Here’s my timely poem, a hay(na)ku time seven.
earth is quaking
dead and dying
temples all destroyed
may heaven rescue
send aid workers
hearts are broken
may God rebuild
The Day 26 prompt at NaPoWriMo today (where incidentally my post of yesterday was featured) is to write a persona poem, which is a poem in the voice of someone else. I chose to write in the voice of John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, and who penned the Gospel of John, 3 epistles, and Revelation.
My Simple Life
Mine was a simple life
Catching fish with my dad and brother
Going to the synagogue on the Sabbath
Always honoring my dear sweet mother
Along comes this Nazarene
He wants James and me to be fishers of men
I don’t really understand quite what he means
Yet we drop everything to follow him then
Life is still simple, but not the same
We follow him as he teaches us about God
The Pharisees and Priests don’t like him at all
They try to trick him, call him a fraud
But the miracles he performs
Make me believe he’s Messiah
He fed 5,000, calmed a storm, healed the sick
He must be the one foretold by Jeremiah
All the prophets predicted
He would come to rescue us one day
I can’t hardly believe it’s happening in my time
After Israel for centuries from God did stray
When I saw him transform
On the mountain he became a magnificent light
Peter and James saw it too, we were frightened
We knew we had seen a glorious sight
I trust him with my life
He calls me the disciple whom he does love
Even when I vie for first place in his band
Of disciples who sometimes push and shove
Now he tells us he’s the lamb
Fulfilling the Passover his body is given
We don’t understand what he’s saying
That through him all our sins are forgiven
He prays in the garden
Where we often come to pray together
But this prayer is different, such anguish
Still we fall asleep, lulled by the weather
He’s arrested and we flee
By the Sanhedrin he’s unfairly and illegally tried
Handed over to the Romans for punishment
And Pilate decrees he be unjustly crucified
I stood at the cross
Bewildered by this unexpected turn of events
As he prays for the Father to forgive them
Not one among the Sanhedrin repents
They thought that it was over
They buried him in a borrowed garden tomb
But he promised he’d return and he did
He left the grave like a baby from the womb
After he appeared to us
He returned to his heavenly throne
Then he sent us the great Counselor
As he promised not to leave us alone
Many years later on Patmos
In exile I am given a vision of his grace
He will come again to rescue his people
All sin, pain, and tears he will erase
The prompt Day 25 of NaPoWriMo is to write a Clerihew, which I had never heard of before. But I thought I’d try it. Even though they are apparently usually written about famous people, the prompt gave permission to write about someone not famous. So I decided to write it about someone I believe will be famous someday as an animator.
My favorite son
He replies wryly
“But I’m your only”
She hates purple
my favorite color
or maybe it’s because
her coveted role
as baby of the family
Who knows why
I only know
it’s hard to be resented
for something you can’t control
Yet I must let it go
love her more than
I love purple
isn’t my favorite anymore)