Category Archives: Inspiration

Don’t Give Up

Never count me out . . .

I am famously stubborn. My family and friends (and a few frenemies) will attest to that fact. However, the past year was so difficult that I couldn’t think well enough to write. It took all my concentration just to do the things which were required by my jobs.

During the past couple of weeks, I have received encouragement from an unexpected source: my neglected plants.

Last November, I put most of my plants in the garage, but I watered them hardly at all until a week ago. This poor arrowhead philodendron seemed completely lifeless, but look at it now. I cut away all that had died, put it on the back porch, watered it often, and voilà!

The same is true of this poor pothos plant.

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The spider plants are recovering as well.

The fact that I returned the plants to the back and front porches shows that I had not completely given up on them. I hoped there was a spark of life there, so I nurtured it. I gave it what it needed: sunlight and water.

God does that with us. My life verse is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.”

When I am ready to quit, God gives me what I need. He gives me strength. He nurtures me.

II Corinthians 5:7 says, “We live by faith, not by sight.” What a breath-taking statement! Had I gone by the appearance of the plants, I would have thrown them out, thinking they were dead. They weren’t. When I treated them as if they were alive, they revived.

I was like those plants. I was depressed, and I had to fight to plaster a smile on my face, but God is always good. He did not give up on me. He did not let me quit. He’s still working on me.

Another applicable principle is that pruning often helps a plant that looks dead. I cut the dead growth away so that it would not take energy from the plant. John 15:2 says, “”Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”

God pruned me during the past year. I still have things He wants me to do. I have fruit to bear, books to write, music to play, and children to teach.

He isn’t finished with me yet, and He isn’t finished with you either.

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Writing: Work or Inspiration?

Am I a real writer?

writers

 

According to Steven Pressfield:

“There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.”

“Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalize. We don’t tell ourselves, “I’m never going to write my symphony.” Instead we say, “I’m going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.”

Here’s a totally different point of view from Charles Bukowski:

““if you have to sit for hours staring at your computer screen or hunched over your typewriter searching for words, don’t do it.”

“unless it comes out of your soul like a rocket, unless being still would drive you to madness or suicide or murder, don’t do it.”

So who’s right? Do I have to pick one?

Actually, I’ve been in both places. Sometimes I have to force myself to sit down at my computer and write. Other times, the story is fighting to get out.

tasmanian-devil

It reminds me of cleaning house. Most of the time, I have to make myself do it, but if I know company is coming, it’s an act of desperation. I’m the Tasmanian devil, whirling through my house, cleaning everything in my path.

Right now, writing is work. However, when I work at writing, the inspiration comes.

Winter and Writing

Winter has finally come to the South. My husband mowed the leaves in our yard this past Saturday. When we were younger, we raked them a few times, but now he takes the easier route, and mowing the leaves is actually good for the soil.

I brought in all of my porch plants Friday. The temperature was forecast to dip to 31 degrees on Friday night, so I cut back their overgrowth and hauled them into the living room, dining room, and garage. Southerners and plants don’t like weather that’s below freezing. Lizard

This morning, as I looked at my plant-filled house, I noticed a stowaway. A lizard had hitched a ride in on my philodendron basket. Larry will have to catch him and take him back outside, or he’ll starve. My reflexes have never been fast enough to catch a lizard, even if I’d ever wanted to do so. Larry is the champion of lizards, spiders, and crickets. He won’t kill them, because they’re good. My thoughts hop from one thing to another.

This is good writing weather. My mind drifts. It’s too cold to enjoy being outdoors for very long, so I’ll sit at my laptop and work on my latest effort – Understanding Elizabeth. This odd story just keeps winding through my mind. What if Darcy knew beforehand that Elizabeth had overheard him at the Assembly? What if he knew what she thought of him? What if he could change that? What would he pay to change it?

If you could go back and change the course of your life, would you? What would you be willing to pay to do that? If the lizard had understood what it could cost him to hitch that ride, he might not have chosen to hide in my plant. Would you make a different choice if you knew the outcome beforehand?

Stress Less with Thankfulness

My pastor, Dr. Brian Saxon, is preaching a sermon series entitled “Stress Less.” This past Sunday, he chose Philippians 2:14 – “Do everything without grumbling or arguing,” and challenged us to write down every complaint we spoke this week. The idea was that the more we look at the positive rather than the negative, the less stress we put into our lives. We learn to be content (Philippians 4:11 – “For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”)

I made it through the remainder of Sunday by being silent as much as was possible, but Monday afternoon, a less-than-stellar driver pulled in front of me, and as usual, I complained. Loudly. Then I realized that I would have to write it down, so I complained about that. At that point, I laughed at myself.

How human of me.

During this season of Thanksgiving, I hope to be less of a complainer and more of a thankful person. I’m teaching my elementary children the song “Thankful,” made popular by Josh Groban. I nearly cried yesterday as my first graders sang so sweetly, performing the gentle choreography.

Take a few minutes to listen and be thankful for what you have.
Trust me. Things could be much worse.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Books (Episode 13)

Unpacking canned goods at Hope of Lancaster.

Unpacking canned goods at Hope of Lancaster.

It is the best of weeks; it is the busiest of weeks. For one week each year, my church participates in something called The Way. I believe this is the eleventh or twelfth year of this layman-led week of service to our community. When my younger daughter was in the eighth grade, our youth made a mission trip to Charleston to help elderly residents of a neighborhood there with lawn mowing, landscaping, and home repairs. 2014-07-21 19.32.43They came back saying it was wonderful to go to other places and minister, but we should do that in our own community as well. From that vison, one of our men was motivated to start this ministry.
Weeding at the Pregnancy Care Center

Weeding at the Pregnancy Care Center

There are twenty-four different tracks on which people can choose to participate. I lead the media track (still photography), and my team goes to the other twenty-three tracks to shoot pictures and video. We show our work during dinner and at the worship service following track time each night.IMG_0507

Repairing the flooring in the house of a handicapped man

Repairing the flooring in the house of a handicapped man

So far this week, I (or members of my team) have been to the Pregnancy Care construction site, the preschool care, VBS, crafts, worship, culinary, evangelism, PetCare, Hope of Lancaster, Handyman (four locations), Boys Home, creative, International (three locations), Caroline Court, Council on Aging, Jackie’s Place, The Closet, Livi’s Library, Washing Clean, grasscutting, and the hospital. Nearly all of these are service tracks; our members go into the community and build handicapped ramps, repair floors, fix water pipes, play with children, provide school supplies and clothing, organize food distribution centers, wash cars, use their creativity with face painting or manicures, and generally show people that we love them.

DSCF2530“For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” Matthew 25:35-40

Laura Hile's  So Lively a Chase, Mercy's Embrace, Book 2, entertains a hedgehog. Writers keep strange company.

Laura Hile’s
So Lively a Chase, Mercy’s Embrace, Book 2, entertains a hedgehog. Writers keep strange company.

We end these weeks realizing that we have received more blessings than we have given. It really is true that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Of course, I needed a little reading material during down time. Guess what I found?

Easter: Resurrection and New Life

Last week, one of my piano students asked me why we don’t always celebrate Easter on the same date, the same way we celebrate Christmas. As she pointed out, Christmas is always December 25, no matter what day of the week on which that falls, while Easter is always observed on Sunday. Easter-Wallpaper-Background-03

I was happy to have the opportunity to explain that Easter is on Sunday because it was Christ’s resurrection day. Most Christians worship on Sundays rather than Saturdays to remember the day Christ arose. Until that time, everyone observed Saturday (the Sabbath) as their holy day of the week.

Furthermore, according to Wikipedia, the First Council of Nicaea (325) established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon (the Paschal Full Moon) following the March equinox. Ecclesiastically, the equinox is reckoned to be on 21 March (although the astronomical equinox occurs on 20 March in most years), and the “Full Moon” is not necessarily on the astronomically correct date. The date of Easter therefore varies from 22 March to 25 April inclusive. Eastern Christianity bases its calculations on the Julian calendar, whose 21 March corresponds, during the 21st century, to 3 April in the Gregorian calendar, and in which therefore the celebration of Easter varies between 4 April and 8 May. Easter is also linked to the Jewish Passover.

I love this time of the year. Bradford pear trees, dogwood, daffodils, jonquils, irises, and many other plants bloom, making me think of new life. The trees begin to turn a lush green, and our lawns show the first signs of needing mowing.

Sometimes, I need to stop and look around me. I need to appreciate that “all things become new” and “old things are passed away.” Spring is my favorite time of year. There is a promise in the season.

Happy Easter!

Thankful

I love this song written by David Foster, Richard Page, and Carole Bayer Sager, and performed by Josh Groban. I’ve taught the song to my children at the local charter school in which I teach elementary music on Thursday and Fridays. I have 108 students there, in kindergarten through fifth grade. One of my fifth grade boys made an astute observation after we sang the song last week. He said, “I’m so glad we sang that song. People often just jump from Halloween to Christmas and ignore Thanksgiving.” That’s a good bit of wisdom for an eleven-year-old boy.

The Four Freedoms by Norman Rockwell

The Four Freedoms
by Norman Rockwell

People are looking for fun, parties, and gifts, and that’s not what Thanksgiving is about. There are no costumes (except in elementary plays). We don’t exchange gifts. There’s not much money involved. What we spend on the Thanksgiving dinner is about all there is to the holiday, other than spending time with family and having a day off work before the Christmas rush begins on Black Friday.

I’m a huge fan of Norman Rockwell’s work. His Four Freedoms are wonderful, and Freedom From Want has always been one of my favorites. The painting is more about the people than it is about the food.

If I could have anything I wanted this Thanksgiving, I would relive one of the Thanksgivings I had with my parents, siblings, husband, and children. The saying, “You don’t know what you had until it’s gone,” may be trite, but it’s true.

However, when I think of what I have instead of what I’ve lost, I’m very thankful. God has blessed me beyond all imaginings. I’m thankful that I’m healthy (and for the modern medicines that help me stay that way); for my husband, daughters, son-in-law, and my daughter’s godly boyfriend; for extended family, church, friends, and acquaintances; that I have the time to write; for our home, hot water, heat, and air-conditioning; for my five part-time jobs; and for music. Most of all, I’m thankful that God loves me, and I’m thankful for salvation.

For what are you thankful? What inspires in you that attitude of gratitude?