Hey Writer, You Have Something to Say

October 2018 jjhWriter, you know it. Deep in your core, you know. There is a storyline, a character, or a message—something you’ve just got to share. Sometimes you scribble the words on a napkin or a scrap of paper. Other times you hurry to record them in an audio note so you won’t forget. There’s something about those thoughts.

The words mean something, or you wouldn’t rush to save them. They have value because they’re a fresh plot twist, they communicate significant thoughts, or the turn of phrase is unique and sweet. Isn’t it amazing that our creativity is boundless and blossoms over and over in special moments? We love it when it comes in the quiet, but we’ll pull over on the commute or holler at Siri half a dozen times to get the reminder right. We are writers, for sure!

Think about it. Something inside your mind and heart is hidden but won’t rest until it’s revealed. Why do you think that is? I think it’s because an audience needs it. The words know it, and you know it.

Writer, you’ve got something to say. It’s an engaging storyline or a meaningful message. And the process is life-transforming for you, the writer, and your audience.

So, what will you do with that? Will you be bold and put the words down for your audience to read, or will you keep the art hidden within? Will you proclaim or procrastinate? The choice is yours.

You have something to say. And it matters.

What will you do with that? I’d love to hear what you have to say. Comment below!

~Jennifer

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Hey Writer, What Do You Need?

I wasn’t looking. Something happened. I wrote several posts, titled them, and then a theme showed up when I looked back. The titles all started with the same word and had a certain “feel” to them. Have you noticed? It was so obvious I added a category in the sidebar (see “Writers Series”).Writers, What Do You Need? (apple, books)

If it’s a theme and I’m going to be known for it, let’s call it out. Sometimes I put on the “teacher hat” when I sit down to the keyboard. This doesn’t surprise anyone who knows me well, and it certainly doesn’t surprise the boys I schooled at home for most of their lives. *grin* I’m a teacher-type person. I own it.

I’m perfectly aware I won’t have answers to every writerly thing, but I’m really curious—what is it that you, writer, find to be your biggest challenge? What is it the writing community most needs? What should we be talking about?

Inquiring minds want to know. (I definitely do!) If you’ll take a few seconds to share your biggest writing struggle, I promise I will read it. I’ll read each and every one and try to respond personally! I may share your struggle, or I may think about the ways I can offer support and encouragement. Just know you’ll be heard (uh, read!), and I’ll respond.

Are you willing?

Comment below or send me a quick e-mail (whatever makes you feel comfortable). I want to hear what’s on your mind and heart. I want to know what makes you as a writer think or pause.

Thanks for engaging!

~Jennifer

Hey Writer, Lift Heavy Things

It’s mid-morning. I sat down to enjoy my some quiet creative time, and do you know what happened? Nothing. I sat down, buckled my seat belt, turned the key, and—Writers, Lift, Coffee cup

Silence.

Sometimes I imagine my brain cells lined up, waiting for the barista to get a move on. The sad thing is, I think they think I’m the barista! (Surely they know I’m not the dependable one for a fabulous cuppa before 10 AM!) I digress.

What’s my point? Simply this: writers talk about “the block” like it’s some kind of enormous object that drops from the sky and flattens them. (Now I imagine an ACME anvil and a coyote. You too?) The truth is, I don’t think the block is nearly as big or heavy as we might think. I like to think with the right “lever” we can move heavy things. So, what kind of lever do we need?

Writing. Just writing. Stream of consciousness. Haiku. A limerick. A brief character sketch. A few minutes’ work on a piece of dialogue. The lever, whatever form it takes, is personal to the writer. The lever is the tool a writer uses to refresh her raison d’être (reason for being).

Every writer needs to know there is a message waiting to be shared, that it’s important, and she needs to tell it. Writing needs to be partly creative and play (yes, even in business writing). Writing, in all its forms, is significant. And craft. And play.

Writer, when you feel stuck, the breakthrough is coming. Pick up your “pen” for a little playtime. Here’s what the process might look like for you.

Choose a tool. Choose something you really want to do and unrelated to the “chore” that needs to be done. Think about the writing genre or style you fell in love with, the kind of writing that makes you laugh, or the reason you began writing.

Set a timer. Limit the exercise to a few minutes to refresh your writing soul. If you’ve got extended time, great. Some of us need to return to our “real world” with real deadlines.

Write freely! There’s no judgment or evaluation of the writing sample when you’re finished, though you may decide to keep it as a springboard for later use.

I hope these ideas give you thoughts on breaking your barriers to writing. Try a tool. And seriously, if you write a Haiku, you simply have to share in the comments below! I’m dying to read a poem or two.

I was feeling a little blocked, so I wrote something about writing. Look at that!

All the best to you as you write today!

~Jennifer

Hey Writer, Mind the Margin

Speed. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? A drawn-out sigh escapes when the laptop takes longer than a few seconds to boot. Four minutes is forever when the microwave turntable holds a potato. Red lights are always too long as we hustle from one thing to another in our booked-solid schedule. Once upon a time the drive was precious thinking time—creative, playful, plot twist and storyline exploration time—it’s nothing like it was. Rush hour traffic stole it all away, then the rush hours’ intensity and anxiety bled into every part of the day.

Wait. No, really—wait.

The writer’s mind should be tended, cared for with gentleness and respect. Honestly, this is for writers, but it’s not just about writers. Don’t we all find our RPMs too high every so often, or too often? There’s noticeable wobble happening at a certain point. (Don’t make me out to be a liar. You experience this too, right?)

It starts innocently enough. Where did I leave that _______? Why am I in this room? (I was looking for something.) Ooops! I really meant to be there, but I never got the meeting into my calendar. The deadline is when? You get the picture. My though process gets loose and disorganized; and forgetfulness begins to sprawl, affecting more and more brain cells. When I notice these things, it’s time to take the early warning signs seriously.

Additionally, I find the important, scheduled things in my days are dismissed or overlooked altogether. I have a favorite morning practice that feeds my mind and soul. When I see I’m rushing off without some quiet, focused time in the morning, that’s a  serious sign that I’m living too fast.

Writers are mindful of the margin because there are guidelines for assignments, papers, projects, and contest and publishing submissions. The white space is not only necessary but also clearly directed. The reader’s eye and writer’s mind need white spacend the writer gives the margin a close look when red ink feedback is found there.10 2018 Margin jjhowe

Back to the white space in life. The mind needs margin rest. We like to think we can be high-capacity people with off-the-charts productivity. While hard work is necessary and even recommended six days of the week, rest is critical. I even press for something a little more gentle—white space within the day for your mental, physical, and spiritual well being.

The care and feeding of the mind and soul of a writer should include white space in life. That slow (read: boring) time in the schedule allows for creativity not found in frenetic activity. It feeds the mind, and that feeds the theme paper, creative project, or good words a writer hopes for.

More importantly, the writer’s soul needs tending. The good words flow from the soul that is rested, fed, and well-loved. The writer who leans into the emotional state to create needs a stable soul to share the vital message or story that resides deep inside. To share significant, meaningful content, the writer must have significant, meaningful “stuff” inside. That, my friend, comes from reading and thinking and precious relationships.

In my life that comes from reading life-changing, truth-filled words in my Bible, thinking about how I live my life differently because I read that, and talking about the truths with God and good friends. That fills my soul! I wonder what fills yours.

I hope this helps you begin to plan the margin, the beautiful white space, in your schedule. I’m betting, if it’s not planned, you’ll never fit it in. Nature and schedules abhor a vacuum.

Feeling bold? Share how you plan to adjust your margin below. This could be really helpful for those who struggle to know how to make a schedule that feeds and cares for the body, mind, and soul.

Thanks for reading!

~Jennifer

Hey Writer, There are Solutions for the Professional Without an Office

Show up to your day like a professional or because you are a professional?Show Up_jjhowe blog graphic 09 25 18

Do words make a difference? I say they do. The truth is, you will show up today in some way. Short of staying in your jammies under the covers—you’re showing up to this day. (If you’re hiding under the covers right now, get your sleepy self out of bed, friend!)

Many times the professional who works from home, the coffee shop, or the library is more like a nomad drifting from place to place. Variety is the spice of life, don’t get me wrong, but showing up to your workday probably requires a professional mindset.

Do the clothes make the man? Some say so. Offices have dress codes for a reason. The fashion industry is built on individual expression and filling a personal and emotional niche.

Does environment matter as much as appearance? It may be more important. I work out of several different hidey holes, and they each have their strengths and weaknesses. Lately, I’m less impressed by the opportunities I have to choose from. Sometimes I want quick, unlimited online connection. I may want to choose healthy food choices. And I don’t like scrapping for a quiet space. I can find connectivity, but it may crawl. I can brown bag it in lots of places, but I might have to shift my tech priorities for the day. The library is quiet, but it’s got limitations, too.

So what’s out there these days for the professional looking for a space? People, there is something popping up out there, and you should find one. There businesses offering shared office space (for a small fee). What I’ve found locally is a gem! The Office Clubhouse should be on your radar in Mundelein, but if you’re not local, see what’s near you.

Something changes when we’re willing to take time to go to an office and make a small investment in our work. When we get serious about our work, our work becomes more professional. Having an office “home” means something, too.

Writers and editors, hear me! Once in a while make the small investment. Go to a professional environment where distractions are minimal, the office is yours for the day, and the coffee is a few steps away. Your per diem could be spent easily on breakfast, a coffee, and lunch at a hidey hole. Or, bring your favorite foods, make some coffee at the office space, and work hard and undistracted for the day.

What do you think about these new ventures? Have you taken advantage of one? What was your experience?

~Jennifer

Hey Writer, Feed the Mind

Typewriter_Iván_Melenchón_Serrano_MorguefileHello, beautiful writer friends!

I’ve been thinking about the small steps we might take in our writing journey. The question of the day is this—What am I doing today that will feed my writer soul?

No idea what that might be? Sometimes we forget the building blocks of our writer souls, but I’ve got some ideas. Try some of these:

  • Read something today (learn about craft, storytelling, successful writing strategies; notice the signage around you; try reading an encouraging blog, thread, etc.).
  • Observe the characters surrounding you today (their appearance, mannerisms, obvious emotional states).
  • Observe the environment around you (notice the floor plan, decoration, building materials).
  • Listen closely to the casual dialog that surrounds you (vernacular, tone, communication styles, emotions conveyed).
  • Imagine telling a short story about the moment you’re sitting in right now (find the significance in the moment, even if it seems boring).

Just some thoughts for you today. Remember that you can always think like a writer, even when you’re not actively adding words to the count.

Thanks for stopping by. If you’re feeding your writer soul and mind in a fresh way, share what that is for you. We can all use the encouragement and fresh ideas! Comment below, share at the Facebook page or Tweet away!

~Jennifer

Believing God: Promises Kept

Blog Graphic_ Smoke (orange overlay)Hello, friends. I’m so glad you’ve stopped by to take a peek at what’s new in my little corner of cyberspace. This post is my attempt to share the speaking material I brought to a women’s event last week, though I’m not sure any of it exclusively pertains to women. I think you’ll see why.

The overarching theme for the night was settled: Becoming a Woman Who Walks with Jesus. When I began to think about “walking with Jesus,” I noodled what it might mean to walk with Him, and if there might be significance to the “what” and “how” of that.

My own story includes a sweet moment in time when a friend told me about the “relationship” part of Christianity. Through that conversation I knew Christianity was attending church, but I suspected it was also more than attending church. I knew it was knowing what the Bible said, but I secretly hoped it was also more than knowing what the Bible said.

Twenty-five years ago I didn’t know that being “saved” wasn’t the one-and-done prayer I prayed. I had no idea that life could still be hard after I prayed. And I really didn’t know how sweet that relationship with God could be.

Maybe that’s why, when I thought about this night, one word dominated my mind: Believe. The verses I trust Holy Spirit brought to mind almost immediately and very strongly were the ones about Abraham believing God.

Do you know those verses?

For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness. Romans 4:3 CSB

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Romans 4:18 NIV

So the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness , and he was called God’s friend. James 2:23 CSB

Believing God
What was Abraham believing? He must be believing in the existence of God—and His good, loving heart
. He must have trusted the words he heard—the promises from God
. And he believed in the truth and permanence of both
. Ultimately, he trusted in God’s power to keep the promises.

Let’s talk about Promises…
A promise’s value and worth lies somewhere within the promise itself. Some are better than others. In the Bible some are for specific people (in a place or time). The promises are still good and reveal something to us today about the character and power of God. Some of the promises are for us today, and I think we should pay special attention to those.

Most importantly, a promise is nearly completely dependent upon the one making it! When someone speaks a promise but never makes good on it, we question their integrity or sanity, or both. (Or we question our own for believing the lies so many times, don’t we?)

These aren’t ordinary promises; they are God’s.

Is God a Promise Maker…and Keeper?
For me to trust any of God’s promises, I would want to see what’s true of His character first. If even one was broken, then trust in any of them would be altogether foolish. If God is even a little wishy-washy, I don’t want to trust Him. Period. Who would? Any list of promises I could compile might be full of half-truths, lies, or bait-and-switch moves, right?

So what does the Bible say?

God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Numbers 23:19

Furthermore, the Eternal One of Israel does not lie or change His mind, for He is not man who changes his mind.” 1 Samuel 15:29

…in the hope of eternal life that God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, Titus 1:2

Joshua, who experienced the leadership of Moses, up-close-and-personal, testifies to the promises of God:

Not one good thing that ADONAI had spoken of to the household of Isra’el failed to happen; it all took place. Joshua 21:45 CJB

“Not one good thing.” Every one of the promises was fulfilled. Joshua would know (Numbers 11:28).

God was truthful in in Moses’ time, but what about now? Are the promises for a group of people in a land far away who are long dead and gone?

I’m thankful Paul writes

For however many promises God has made, they all find their “Yes” in connection with him; that is why it is through him that we say the “Amen” when we give glory to God. 21 Moreover, it is God who sets both us and you in firm union with the Messiah; he has anointed us, 22 put his seal on us, and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee for the future. 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 CJB

God’s promise to Abraham
God’s foundational promise to Abraham was made in sacrifice and covenant. In Genesis 15 we notice the “blood path” covenant made. I see that the LORD walked through, but not Abraham. Long story short, only God could keep the promise being made. Making this kind of promise was saying “May it be to me—may I be torn apart and killed as the animals lining the path—if this covenant is broken.” The LORD makes this covenant and is saying, “If you (Abraham) break this covenant, may it be to me, not you.”

God’s Promise to Us
God’s foundational promise of love to us was made on a hill outside Jerusalem on an execution stake. Jesus, the God-man, at the cross is our covenant with God fulfilled.

For it is clear that He [Jesus] does not reach out to help angels, but to help Abraham’s offspring. Therefore He had to be like His brothers in every way, so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:16-17

“May it be to Me…”
Jesus was beaten, torn apart, and killed. For us. That promise was kept.

God said, “I will…” We say, “I believe You” with our all our hearts when we give Him our lives!

We have been given an incredible gift at the cross. The payment for sin is death, and none of us could pay the debt to holy, perfect God. In His great love for us, God has given us a second gift.

The Promise to Help Us
Ultimately, God promised to rescue us, and He did at that execution stake. Yet we still live in this world, as messed up and distorted as it is. But it’s not the end. God promised those who love Jesus a “seal…a guarantee for the future,” Holy Spirit in us.

In our covenant with God, He waits for us ask the Father to show Himself and His love, to be near and present as our Daddy-God. He waits for us to choose Him, to ask Him to intervene, to ask Jesus to forgive and cover our sin, and to ask Holy Spirit to teach, lead, help us moment-by-moment. Out of that relationship with God, through Jesus—we live out of that and have the ability and desire to obey His wise and loving direction.

Friend, the promise of redemption is real, and it’s for everyone. Better yet, we can be sure it was made to us and kept! From Genesis to Revelation, the story is all about one single promise: our redemption.

That begins with an intimate moment with Jesus at the cross and continues every day until we see God face-to-face (when our redemption is complete).

“B-b-b-but, God…”
God makes and keeps promises. In faith on a good day, I can believe that. But I’m human and faith-challenged sometimes. Truthfully, I have a lot in common with “doubting Thomas” (John 20)
 and the desperate father of the boy controlled by a spirit (Mark 9). I can just hear my heart saying the same words—

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24

I ask myself, How would I, or anyone, know I believe His promises? I answer that question differently today than at other times.

Some time ago, I thought listening and repeating truth equaled belief. Now I know truth informs belief, but believing God’s promises is more than that.

Trusting the words I read to be true begins to get at it. But want to be very clear I’m not talking about blind or misplaced faith in the words. Thankfully, as we look closely at Scripture, we can see that studying the whole of the Bible informs the whole of it. Authors agree across the distances of time and space.

Now, living like it’s true—thinking, speaking, and acting according to the belief—that’s when believing the promises has legs!

I find it helpful to remember these things:

God’s promises are written down in the Bible.
God’s character is revealed in the promises He makes and keeps.
His promises to me show His love for me.

What are God’s promises to me?
I’ve been on the hunt for some of God’s individual promises (in addition to the foundational two I fleshed out: the cross and the Spirit). I think I found two kinds of promises.

Some are what I might call “blanket promises” that are gifts.

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9a CSB

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 CSB

The grace and the good work are His to do. Blanket promises sound a little like these two, and they show the beautiful heart of God to us in the things we cannot earn or increase in any way. When you read Scripture, take a close look to see if there is a promise embedded in the passage you’re reading. Is it a gift to you from God?

Then there are the promises we participate in. These are some of my favorites because they speak to the relationship with Him that I desperately need and want to cultivate.

All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. Matthew 11:29 CSB

When I’m in relationship with God through Jesus, I can choose to learn God’s ways (and do them), as Jesus teaches and the Spirit empowers. Then I see there is the promise of rest. I don’t see striving or living up to some imagined expectation. I see relationship leading to a beautiful life.

For me, as one who often strives for so many things (including perfection), this promise of rest means more to me than many others. What does that rest mean to you? When you read, be on the lookout for opportunity to partner with God, knowing He infuses you with all you need.

One Final Thought…
What have we done to the Christianity and its Gospel? An old, broken, distorted view reigns until we understand the truth and reality of the Gospel (which is every redemptive promise God makes to us).

I’ve noticed a new theme when we discuss the Christian life: we do Christianity. We have an unspoken hope to attain some kind of spiritual maturity through the disciplines—all of which are beautiful gifts to cultivate our relationship with God, but are never the things by which we reach relationship with Him.

I’ve also seen a “one-and-done” mindset when it comes to being saved and

I might suggest that we believe God.

Is there a difference? What do you think?

Thanks for reading along. This is a good deal of my talk, with a few additions and minimal eliminations. I’d love to hear what you think!

Below you’ll find the discussion questions made available to the groups that night, too.

Enjoy!

Jennifer

 


Group Questions:

Do I believe God’s promises? Why or why not?

 

God, what are your promises? Which ones can I recall? (Make a list including promises you think you know and the ones you’ve found in Scripture.)

 

Which promises are for me? (List verses, so you can go back to them when you need to.)

 

Verses from tonight:
Abraham: Romans 4:3, 18; James 2:23
Truthful God: Numbers 23:19; Joshua 21:45; 1 Samuel 15:29; Titus 1:2
Abrahamic Covenant: Genesis 15
God’s promises (Jesus and Holy Spirit): 2 Corinthians 1:20-22; Hebrews 2:16-17
“Blanket promises” or gifts: 2 Corinthians 12:9a; Philippians 1:6
Promises we participate in: Matthew 11:29