Reorient

Reorient

Gentle Reader,

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

And the LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the LordSix years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the LORD. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land.

– Exodus 20:8-11; Leviticus 25:1-5 (NKJV)

We all know that hindsight is 20/20.

And we all know that sometimes we choose to learn the hard way.

Last year was one of lostness, bookended by difficulty, filled with doubt.

Relationally: unexpected shifts. Deep wounds that are not yet fully healed.

Politically: exhausting. I don’t know anyone, wherever they land on the issues, who feels energized by the current state of the American system.

Spiritually: an overall sense of boredom. Dryness.

Creatively: instead of rightly celebrating a decade in this world of blogging, humbled by and joyful about sharing this journey with you, I felt shamed by it. Surely by Year Ten an agent, a contract and a traditionally published book would have materialized. Some outward, tangible sign of success.

Mentally: the darkest time in several years. Plagued by both rising anxiety and the fearful numbness of sorrow, anger and bitterness too large and heavy to step away from and objectively address. As I continue to be slow to realize and feel my own emotions, this only dawned on me recently – but it absolutely showed here, in the writing.

Simply, I should have taken the entire year off. Closed the laptop and refused to place any kind of value on comments or statistics. (Difficult to do in the wildness of the internet age, when everyone is a “maker” of some sort and is competing for a even moment’s notice from a vast audience). Trusted that people would still be there to read when I came back. I didn’t, and the writing suffered. Much of what I produced wasn’t great. Nor was it focused on what truly matters, on what I consider my calling and mission to be.

God knows what He’s talking about. Such a blunt, easy concept to grasp. God is God and I am not. Still, after many years of walking this road, I forget. Today I wonder if it’s not the forgetfulness that hurts us more than the outright rebellion. A little step here, a little step there and soon, like the man progressing toward the Celestial City, we’re off track.

Lost.

When God told His people to take a weekly break, He meant it. He understands, far better than we do, the limitations of humanity. It’s not just our bodies that need rest. Our minds, hearts and souls need space, too. Indulge me for a moment; take a deep breath and hold it for a few seconds. Feel your lungs expand and your ribs press against your abdominal muscles. Let that breath out, slowly.

While the admonition to control breathing to calm the brain has been around for ages, only recently has science started uncovering how it works. A 2016 study accidentally stumbled upon the neural circuit in the brainstem that seems to play the key role in the breathing-brain control connection.  The circuit is part of what’s been called the brain’s “breathing pacemaker” because it can be adjusted by altering breathing rhythm (slow, controlled breathing decreases activity in the circuit; fast, erratic breathing increases activity), which in turn influences emotional states. Exactly how this happens is still being researched…

How Breathing Calms Your Brain, And Other Science-Based Benefits Of Controlled Breathing

When God told His people to let the land rest every seven years, He meant it. He understands, far better than we do, the limitations of the soil beneath our feet.

A fallow field is land that a farmer plows but does not cultivate for one or more seasons to allow the field to become more fertile again. The practice of leaving fields fallow dates back to ancient times when farmers realized that using soil over and over again depleted its nutrients. A three-field rotation system was used in medieval times in which one field was always fallow.

Agricultural experts debate whether the practice of fallow fields is necessary in modern farming and, if it is, how often a farmer needs to let a field go fallow. Most, however, agree that the practice at some interval or another is beneficial, and for dryland farming, it is particularly useful. All other factors being equal, fields that lie fallow do tend to produce better crops the next year.

What is a Fallow Field?

God is God and I am not.

That’s the truth.

On the first day of this new year, I reorient myself. This little space and these words belong to Him. My purpose isn’t to get an agent or a contract or a traditionally published book (though I’m sure that I will always want these things). When I write, I write for Him. I seek to learn, know and share His truth.

The other words will fade away. All the positive words of famous authors and of viral bloggers. All the negative words that tear down and obfuscate.

His words, they will not.

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Five Minute Friday: Repeat

Push (1)

Gentle Reader,

Look up the word “crabby” in the dictionary. See my picture. Send me chocolate.

Kate says: repeat.

Go.

I’m working on a second novel. (Yeah, I wrote a first novel. And never advertised it. Because I’m really bad at promoting things. But you can buy it if you want). “Working” may not be the right word, because I haven’t touched it since February. This year has been creatively difficult; there’s a nasty voice inside my head that likes to tell me how much I suck and that I shouldn’t even bother trying to write. It’s been quite loud for months. So the file has lain dormant in my laptop, a symbol of the struggle that I have been losing.

Today I decided I would get back to it. I would ignore the voice. I would push past all the doubt. Clicked on the Scrivener icon. Waited for the project to load. The first chapter appeared on the screen. I read it. Made a change here, a tweak there. Really, it was pretty good. I thought, Well that’s nice. I’ll keep going.

Something seemed off, though. Four chapters sat in the sidebar. I was sure there were more. There was a scene that I distinctly remembered but couldn’t find anywhere.

More clicking and searching led to the recovery of two more completed chapters and several that had been outlined. But the fifth chapter? It’s gone.

Gone.

Cue the urge to throw my laptop across the room.

I searched the backup files. Dug out my external hard drive and opened every existing file. It’s nowhere.

Whhhhhhhhhhyyyyyyyy.

So I get to repeat. Get to go back and do the work again. Maybe that’s okay. Not ideal. Not progression. But okay. Write it once more, Perhaps new ideas will flow. There’s a chance I could have a whole book written here soon.

Even if not, at least I’m writing.

And at least it’s Autumn, whose weather always makes me want to snuggle under a blanket, hot beverage by my side, as I spin a story.

Stop.

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(Late Again) Five Minute Friday: Praise

Creative

Gentle Reader,

I don’t remember what I was doing last Thursday night that meant missing both the chat and writing. Probably sleeping. And so my life motto shall be: “And thus, she slept.”

Kate says: praise.

Go.

I never imagined that I would become an armature music historian, especially not the sort who takes really deep dives into specific bands and time periods. I don’t have any musical ability whatsoever. (Some tell me that I sing well, but I don’t believe them). Nevertheless, here I am, wishing that Mark Lewisohn would hurry up and get the next two volumes of his massive Beatles biographical trilogy written and published because the 800-plus pages of the first book are just that good.

Lewisohn writes about more than the Beatles. He sets them in their context, the grungy, depressed Liverpool of the late 1950s, a major port city whose inhabitants were looked down upon by much of the rest of the country. Yet this place produced an impressive number of bands, all of whom helped to drive rock ‘n’ roll forward in some way.

But we’ve never heard of most of these bands.

Gerry and the Pacemakers?

Rory Storm and the Hurricanes?

Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes?

Or if we have heard of them, we know very little.

The Searchers?

The Merseybeats?

The Rutles? (Please, somebody get this joke).

Our lack of knowledge does not equal these bands lack of worth or talent. I imagine they brought great joy to their listeners. I can picture little clubs all across Liverpool filled with music, dancing and laughter (and not a few fistfights between “Teddy Boys”; this was a rough city in a different era). Of course they all hoped to make it big. They wanted the recording contracts and the big concerts. But it doesn’t really mean anything, it says  nothing about them, that this was never achieved.

Difficult for us to understand in a society built on achievement. If you’re not receiving the praise and adulation of thousands, then who are you, really?

Still you.

Still placed at this exact point on the timeline for a reason.

And in the end, it’s all going to fade, anyway. I realize that that seems defeatist, even nihilistic, but it really isn’t. Knowing that God Himself is the only thing that is going to matter when we’ve sloughed off these mortal shells frees us up to write, paint, make music, build things, tend gardens, design clothes, knit, experiment with recipes…without having to compete. Without having to base our sense of security and self on analytics.

Be creative, even if nobody but Jesus ever applauds.

That is more than enough.

Stop.

Also, my theme song.

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Being for the Benefit of Madam G

Get Back

Gentle Reader,

Thank you, John Lennon. (If you don’t get the reference, please leave this site and go listen to all of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band right now).

Whenever I don’t stick to my self-imposed writing schedule, I have a sense of needing to apologize to you. As if I’ve failed. And I did fail the last two weeks, physically. An out-of-nowhere cold knocked me flat. Then the smoke of annual fires rolled in. The world is a haze of sepia and ash. My garden, vegetables and flowers alike, looks awful, as if it, too, is struggling to breathe.

As I’ve coughed and sniffed and worked to keep my lungs inside my body, I’ve thought a great deal about this blog. Something about this being its tenth year of existence is extremely bothersome to me. Instead of feeling grateful, I am discontented. I think I finally know why, or at least a bit of the why.

For so long I have kept to regular posting. I’ve worked hard to have at least two articles a week appear here, rain or shine. I like routine. I like discipline. I understand the value of both.

But I can’t do it anymore.

Authors always debate how much inspiration really matters. Many, far smarter than I, believe that it’s the grit that counts. You sit down at the same time, every day, and crack on. That has generally been my attitude. No big thing can be achieved without the small, plodding steps.

I am beginning to see, however, that there is value in looseness. Maybe it doesn’t always have to be about schedules and SEOs and striving. Maybe there is wisdom in publishing only when you truly have something to say.

I have a novel that I haven’t touched since February and an idea for another rolling around my head. It’s time to give space and energy to those pursuits.

And so Madam G, for the foreseeable future, will post only when she wants to. It is to her benefit to retreat a little. (That’s a creepy third-person thing there, but I had to reference the title somehow). Participation in Five Minute Friday will continue, because that community means a lot to me and the prompts manage to meld discipline and inspiration in a way that never seems to run to dryness. Newsletters will continue, but in a more sporadic fashion.

I continue to be thankful for and honored by your presence. The fact that more than a handful of you choose to read these words never ceases to amaze. We’ll still see each other. The journey is far from over.

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