Deep Breath

I vowed this one would be different.

Last fall was just plain hard, adjusting from being homeschooled my whole life to attending a {huge} community college. From "a big fish in a little pond to a little fish in a big gargantuan, drown-possible pond." I remember on a couple of occasions stating that this word-lover detested, loathed, abhorred one word and one word only: stress.

"That word again. Stressed. Deep breath." - Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

I vowed this one would be different.

...That I would pressure myself less and see Him in the little things like:

#23: being warm and dry as the rain falls like a curtain

#24: surviving the first week and thinking I might just make it the whole semester *smile*

#25: little ones jumping on me

#26: after hours of homework and assigned reading, a minute of prayer and a grin

...That I would be more thankful. After all, there are passels of children around the world longing for an education like the one I'm privileged to receive - why not accept that it is a privilege?

...That I would live more open-handed and free. Cause surrender is freeing.

So I pray to unclench these tight fists that want it my way and my way only...


...that I might live with wide palms. For the strangers who need His poured-out love, for the friends who need a wordless hug, for the God who plops down gifts like raindrops.

So far it has been different. I have been overwhelmed, I have worried...but through it all I take deep breaths, trusting the One who has guided me to this place, who says this is His plan for me: to learn and embrace the struggle of semesters.

#27: love of learning

#28: lots of reading

#29: embracing His faithfulness
  


This one will be different. Because I am different. Because He is faithful.

{Do you count the gifts? Do you notice that the more you count, the more you count? With each post, the number seems to grow!}

The Next Step

I'm one of those writers who doesn't edit as I write. I don't read as I write. I just write. Though someday I may try 50-page edits or reading the scene I wrote the day before in order to dip into the story... right now, the schedule of this busy college sophomore means I speed through putting the first-draft into existence during summers and holidays.

All editing is reserved for schooldays.

So my writing process so far has looked like this:
Part One: first draft

Part Two: edit first draft
Very cut and dry.

Yeah, right.

Earlier this year, I tried ten minutes a night of poring over a Word document, which was great for catching small things and not-so-great for story-editing.

So a week ago I pressed the Print button and felt my eyes growing wider and wider as the machine spit out stack after stack after stack of story.

Whoa, wait a minute, I wrote all that? I thought. And it wasn't even finished yet.

Sobering, really, when you hold your creation in your hands, black letters on clean white sheets.

So I begin the editing process of my first novel. I'm going back over that one so as to give myself time away from the second and because I believe I have a greater perspective about that first story, which is after all the springboard for the second (that wasn't confusing at all).

It may or may not resemble this:


Or this:



Time will tell.

{Grin.}

I'll still be playing my music, though.

The End

The soft strains of music wrap around the room.

My fingers fly over keys, stumbling for the right words to fulfill that insatiable longing for just the right one.

I'm smiling, feeling victorious that I've roped those plot lines into submission and tied everything together in a messy bow. Because even happy endings are never perfect.

Cold shock washes over me.

Wait a minute. Hold on. Now...what...oh my word! Could it be?

Yes, I really did just type The End.



Another story comes to a close, the sequal to the first novel I ever completed. The thrill of accomplishment surges, meshing with the sad awareness that it's over, the story completed, the tale told. It is everything that I had hoped it would grow to become and much, much more.

Yet...

My job is not finished, my task yet unfulfilled.

My grin widens and I sit back with a contented sigh.

I'll let it rest for a while, let the characters I've grown so close to sleep, and move onto other projects, settle into this semester and all the challenges that will bring.

Then comes the next step.

Editing.

Counting the gifts a writer knows...


#17: that startling awareness that accompanies The End

#18: three geese flying across my windshield view

#19: fresh pads of paper, all fresh for note-taking

#20: singing solos in my truck

#21: the excitement of eight-year-olds

#22: peanut butter cookies in Sunday school

Of Tweeting and Blog Buttons


After hearing over and over at the She Speaks writers conference I attended that Twitter is a fabulous resource for writers...I finally decided to join.

So now I'm tweeting!

Also, after having my blog header beautifully redesigned, Julia pointed me to this tutorial which helped me create the button. Would you like to add my button to your blog?



blog

Each Friend...


Some wonderful quotes I've found while pondering friendship...

"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."

~ Anais Nin
 
"A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart, and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words."

~ Unknown
 
"A friend is one who believes in you when you have ceased to believe in yourself."

~ Unknown
 
"The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him, his own."

~ Benjamin Disraeli

Note: I belong to a delightful team of friends. Our devotional blog for young ladies is called Meditations of His Love. You can find many more of my friends in the blogosphere by visiting the Kindred Spirits page.

Special thanks goes to my dear techie-friend Julia, who volunteered to whip up a title for my blog banner/header. Didn't she do a delicious job?

Friends

Image Detail

It was a fellowship of friends that first introduced me to blogging.

It was the absence of friends that catapulted me into a relationship with my Best Friend.

It is the string of words written by friends in blog posts and Facebook statuses that so often point me toward His Word.

It is comments on blog posts that I'm reading when I suddenly realize I can't stop smiling.

It was a friend who taught me how to create banners...

and another who taught me to make my button...

and from yet another who inspired to add a bit of flair in the form of music to my online haven...

And it is yet another community of friends that I join when I count the gifts.

#12: friends (what else?)

#13: the end of summer semester

#14: hearing the clink, click, and clank of the family rising in the morning

#15: the first strains of my favorite hymn

#16: writing to dear ones near and far

Once

Once there was a girl
who fell in love with words. She poured over every crusty old tome and slick new paperback she could find. She delighted in the way words slipped into her mind and worked their way into her heart. A simple joy in the power of story burst into a profusion of beauty deep in her soul.

Once there was a girl
who picked up her pen and found adventure there. By scratching pen across paper, the feats of knights in shining armor, the swashbuckling escapades of lady-pirates, and the struggles of faith were unleashed. The friends she didn't know she had found freedom in the simple stories she scribbled in spare moments.

Once there was a girl
who grew afraid of this passion inside of her for the written word. She listened to lies, she hid in the dark, and she stuffed her dream inside.

Once there was a girl
who found healing in the Savior's promise. Trembling and teary-eyed, she entrusted to Him her broken heart and watched Him work a miracle. He gave her meaning and purpose. He took her loneliness and befriended her. He slashed through all her fears. He wooed her with a love that is beyond fathoming. And He taught her that His timing is perfect.

Once there was a girl 
who decided to dare to dream, all because of the God who called her and made her courageous. She writes now, not only out of the deep love she holds for the craft but out of the yearning to know Him more with every word.

Once there was a girl...

The Destiny of One by Sarah Holman ~ A Book Review

"When was the last time your heart was stirred with a message so sweet and subtle that you nearly shouted with the simplicity of it?

When was the last time you were up at 3AM to read The End?
When was the last time a book drove you to The Book?

The Destiny of One is just such a novel. I highly recommend it for those of you who know just what your destiny is as well as for those who don't have a clue (and also for those who are fighting it, but that's another story)."

I recently had the privilige to announce the upcoming release of my friend Sarah Holman's first book, The Destiny of One. From the day she first told me about this science fiction novel, I was hooked. The book trailer took my breath away (really, watch it).

Then I read it.

It was amazing. I was drawn into Maria's story from page one and the out-of-this-world plot kept me turning the pages. The ending is really a new beginning, as Maria's story has yet to be told in its entirety. I sat back after having finished it with a sigh. This is a awesome book. 

More than her unique writing style, more than the beautiful cover, more than the stellar story and white-knuckled grip you will have on the pages as you flip them to see what's happening next...


...is the message.

"My prayer is that, through reading this story, you will be encouraged and know that God has not abandoned you. He knows the plans He has for you, plans that He made before the world was formed...He knows where He is taking us; we don't have to know the destination; we just have to embrace the journey."

~Sarah Holman, The Destiny of One, Afterword


About the Book


Destiny – it's a word that plagues Maria Morris. What does God want her to do with her life? Should she go to college or does God have other plans for her? When her parents go missing during a business trip, Maria embarks on a quest that will change her life forever. Trying to fight against an overbearing Milky Way Government, Maria travels to earth in search of a lost prince and some crown jewels. Her faith is tested, however, when a new law is passed. Will Maria be able to find her parents and the crown jewels before it's too late? Is she strong enough to stand up for her faith even if it means never seeing her family again? Most of all, will Maria discover her true Destiny?


About the Author


Sarah Holman’s love of writing and her passion for the written word are rooted in many years. Her articles have been featured in many magazines, including Homeschool Enrichment, His Wonders, The Kings Blooming Rose, and more. She posts regularly on her personal blog The Destiny of One and is a founding author of Meditations of His Love, a devotional blog for young women. A homeschool graduate, she lives in central Texas. When not pursuing her passion for writing, she can be found taking long walks, reading, sewing or spending time with her family.


Extras



As If

Maybe because I slept in and my usual quiet-time hour had long since departed...

Maybe because I turned on the laptop before turning my heart to God's truth (like I never, ever do)...

Maybe because I was sleep-deprived, generally cranky, or I (mistakenly) assumed that since I didn't go to Him when I usually do, that it would be one of those days...

Image Detail

As if just because I don't meet Him every morning at the same time, He's not there waiting.

As if just because my schedule was thrown an inch off base, and my plan was scratched through, His plan couldn't be embraced.

As if.

#6: finding Him there waiting always ready to pick up this girl, His daughter, and remind her "As if" / His faithfulness
#7: a brand spanking new journal to fill with wonderings of His Word
#8: the end of summer semester (I made it!)
#9: friend's chats
#10: drawing close to typing The End
#11: verses that make me cry


Of Color-codedness and Conferences

She Speaks Graduate

I organized my bookshelves by color on Sunday afternoon. Strange urge, but I've decided it is way more fun than alphabetical.

The size of my book collection is probably enough to send any ordinary bookshelf toppling, so I'm thankful to have the sturdy one my mama and grandma made for me. (By the way, if you love books, check this out.)

As I organized, I reflected on just how much I like to save things (like books that opened my eyes to a new part of the world or a unique era in history or books that mean a lot to me).

I've written before about saving (when it’s a bad thing and when it’s a good thing) and Tuesday I shared my fresh commitment about living open-handed so as to better receive God’s gifts.

One thing that I'm saving in my heart is the memory of attending the She Speaks 2011 writer's conference.

 It was my first writer’s conference and I was super excited. Despite all of the questions I had for writer friends (and their gracious answers), I was more than a little nervous.

What if it isn't everything that I hope it will be? I thought as the miles flew by and the countdown to arrival ticked off in my brain. What if it is?

***

It was everything that I hoped it would be... from the informative sessions to the mind-blowing reality of being in one room with 650 other women who are all in love with the same man, Jesus Christ, and not fighting about it (I think Micca Campbell said that and if I had to sum up the entire weekend in one sentence, that would be it)! Even though I spent time preparing, nothing could have prepared for me for all that I would learn (I'm so glad I brought a thick notebook), all that I would meet (what wonder!), or the overwhelming sense of knowing that I was surrounded by friends (it was a little taste of heaven).

I attended a workshop called "Perfect Pitch" by Jeannie Burlowski which outlined the nuts and bolts of publisher presentations. I had an appointment with the Writing Spa, where Anne Mateer soon put me right at ease. I learned about devotional writing, magazine writing, and writing a book proposal.

I took lots of notes.

I met a bloggie friend, Sarah. I met Lynn Cowell, author and director of Radical Revolution and my friend, Kristen. It was incredible to meet these people in real life, to be recognized, to be hugged. As my mom pointed out, the moment I walked in the door, the love filling that place was powerful.

"There is no substitute for seeing the life of faith lived out in daily practical ways by a Christian who, at the same time, is prayerfully ready to speak challenging words--even bold words at times." ~Michael Phillips in his novel Escape to Freedom
The best advice I got at She Speaks was that publication doesn't validate your writing, people do (I've leafed through my notebook and can't seem to find where I heard this... maybe I heard it from several sources).

The best lesson I learned was from Ann Voskamp's Saturday night session about thankfulness and counting the gifts (even the ones that don't seem like gifts).

My next goal is to go through my huge conference notebook and find the list of the goals I set while there (I know I wrote them down in the margins but between school, work, and getting back on track after taking that weekend off, I haven't set aside the time to retrieve them and organize).

{So that's how I will end this post, just as I began it...talking about my organizational quirks. :) }

Oh, and I invite you to check out the other posts by She Speaks grads here.

Counting the Gifts

I heard her speak on Saturday. As I write this, I realize that one week has passed already.

Yet her words stick with me still.

I leaned forward in anticipation as I had been doing all day, all weekend long. Leaning forward to soak in the knowledge like a sponge, as someone had prayed that I would. Leaning forward because I had read her words, her heart, and knew.

Knew He would touch me through her.

And I was right.

As I flicked my gaze between the close-up screen and the live view of her standing on the stage, I listened to her dare to live "open-handed" rather than in fear "the notion that God's love ends" or that "His goodness is going to run out."

Because it will never run out.

"When we are in Christ, what can end?"

And because it will never end, keeping a record seems even more beautiful, even more lovely. Goodbyes are so hard, but I will never need to say goodbye to His goodness...so why do it? Why let it slip through my fingers, let my brain cells whisper goodbye without my even realizing it? Why, when I could keep a record of His faithfulness, of His grace?

So I will.

"Open-handed living is the only way to take God's hand." ~ Ann Voskamp

"For I am the Lord who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." Isaiah 41:13

I will live open-handed. And I will clench my fists at times, closed to His grace, to His gifts. Then I will open them again. It will probably be a continuing cycle and a hard one. But a better one than saying goodbye and not remembering tomorrow what He has done today.

I dare to live thankful.

"We were made for this," she said. "To give Him thanks, to give Him glory."

Have you ever had your heart jump in yes?

"The good God is everywhere and provides in everything with love." ~ Maximilian Colbi

Will you dare to join me in counting to 1000 with the many who have already begun? Join the Gratitude Community.


These gifts probably won't be counted on Mondays for the time being, because Mondays are my full days, full of school and work and other things...but really, what better day to reflect on how full is my life because of God's gifts? And also because I'd like to create a consistent schedule for this blog...so look for posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the occasional Saturday.

But most importantly, look for the gifts He so bountifully gives!

#1: a new book to read
#2: sunshine
#3: a to-do list with lots of scratch-through marks
#4: a college schedule (almost) figured out
#5: Bible verses on index cards