Starting Again

GAH! Has it really been 15 days since I did my daily writing practice? I should probably rename this blog “Writing Project 300.” It just doesn’t quite have the same ring as “Writing Project 365.”

I think the hardest part (for me) of picking something back up after I’ve slacked off for awhile is just knowing where to begin. That, and fighting the urge to explain make excuses for my long absence. I’ve been toying with the idea of implementing a blogging schedule (writing about certain topics on certain days), just to eliminate some of the work of deciding what to write each day. My two ongoing weekly projects right now are the Stay Awake Challenge (Seriously need to do some catch-up-work with that! Sheesh!), and my chapter-by-chapter review of Unrooted Childhoods. I’d like to start writing and sharing some more poetry, so maybe one day a week for that?

Here are a few other random ideas that may find their way into future blog posts:

  • a series of posts on “the work of a missionary,” focusing on some of the aspects of mission work that aren’t quite as glamorous as “seeking and saving the lost,” or “telling others about Jesus,” but just as vital and necessary.
  • James Bond and the objectification of women — We finished our marathon the other night, which means I have now seen every James Bond film ever made (24 to be exact). So, I feel semi-qualified to write a post like this!
  • I promised to share the experience of getting my Ecuadorian driver’s license, which I finally accomplished today  — yay, me!
  • My sis and I are in the middle of watching the third season of “Downton Abbey,” and I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say about that when it’s over. (Confession: I already know what happens in the end, thanks to Facebook, but I’ll wait to share my opinions until I’ve actually seen the whole thing.)
  • Maybe I’ll buckle down and finally write my kids’ birth stories.

So, did I whet your appetite for more?

It’s good to be back here!

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Scattered

Sometimes, when I write, it flows easily.

Other times, not so much.

I have been staring at my screen for over 10 minutes without writing a single word. It’s not “writer’s block” in the sense that my mind is a blank. On the contrary, I have so many different thoughts swirling around in my head that I don’t know where to begin, or which one to focus on tonight, for this blog post.

I suppose it’s more a problem of organization. When I can’t organize my thoughts well, I can’t write well. When I can’t focus on one thing at a time, I can’t get organized. I feel scattered right now. I need to collect myself and my thoughts, but I’m not sure where to begin.

What do you do when you’re feeling scattered? Are you a list-maker? An exerciser? A cleaner? A music listener? A nap-taker? A crafter? A pray-er? What helps you order your muddled thoughts and reclaim inner tranquility?

Time for a Check-up!

I can’t believe February is already over!

Since I am 2 months into the Writing Project 365, I thought it was time for a little self-evaluation. I started out strong in the month of January with 30 posts in 31 days (only missed one day!), but in February, I slacked off a bit and only wrote 16 posts in 28 days. I hope I can get back on track with daily writing in March.

I am also 5 weeks into the Stay Awake Challenge (still have some catch-up work to do there)… and thought I would evaluate how I’m doing on each challenge so far:

  • Sleep – Um, not so great. Still staying up too late. Last night, I was asleep by 10:45, and I felt great this morning! But that was the earliest I had gone to bed in several nights. I definitely need to be more intentional about this!
  • Start where you are – Trying to see my life more as a process, a journey. Trying to walk that fine line between being content with where I am right now (and not fighting or denying my feelings) and striving to improve, to get better. It’s a delicate balance.
  • Set intentions – Haven’t done very much of this, mostly because I can’t seem to remember to do it! Like most other habits, it probably just takes time to develop.
  • Rise early – Doing a bit better with this. Alex being in school 3 days a week is really going to help with this, since I need to be up and have him ready to go out the door by 7:15. I’m thinking about starting to set my alarm clock for 6:00, not 6:30, to give me a half hour of true Quiet Time before they wake up.
  • Unplug – Doing better at monitoring my own computer time. My kids’ screen time is now being curtailed more than it was (another side benefit of Alex being in school 3 days per week).

I like what both these projects are teaching me — about discipline and the importance of practicing a little every day if you want to get better at something, about “waking up” and savoring life rather than just wandering around in a daze all day. I like that I’m doing something just for me every day. I like that I have a place to share some of the thoughts rattling around in my brain. And I LOVE when people comment, either on the blog or on Facebook, or to me personally, and let me know that they get it, they understand, they have some of the same thoughts, feelings, doubts, fears.

I like knowing I am not alone.

Stay-at-home motherhood can be very isolating. So can being a first-year missionary, living in a new country, learning to speak a new language. This space allows me to reach out to a virtual community, to make connections, to be heard and understood. This is why I write. Oh, sure, it would be nice to be one of those bloggers who could actually make money with her blog, but at the end of the day, it’s the desire to be real, to know others and allow them to know me that keeps me writing.

Taking the Stay Awake Challenge

When I first started this little experiment a month ago, I really wasn’t sure the direction it would take. I didn’t want to assign myself a topic to write about for the entire year because I thought that would be too restrictive. I didn’t want to follow a series of writing prompts for the same reason. I wanted the freedom to follow my heart in choosing what to write about each day, and while I enjoy that freedom for the most part, there are also days when I sit down to write and have no idea what I’m going to write about.

But a few weeks ago, I discovered the Stay Awake Challenge on Awesomely Awake, one of the blogs I read. You can go read all the details about the challenge here and join in if you would like. Basically, it is a once-a-week thing. (I can do a prompt once a week… that still leaves six days for free-writing.) Each week, a writing prompt is posted along with some photography tips and suggestions. (Cool! Combines two things I want to get better at this year!) But beyond that, I love the whole idea of the challenge, which is to be mindful, to be present, in short to stay awake!

I have been ruminating a lot on the concept of choosing a word or a theme for my life for the year. There is a website, My One Word, and even a book by the same name, which detail the process of choosing your word and then living it for the year. I am intrigued. Since I have foregone New Year’s resolutions for several years now, this seems a viable alternative that would still give my life focus and direction.

And I already know what I want my word to be for 2013: Be Present (Yes, I know, it’s really two words. Get over it.)

I spend a lot of time either feeling sad and regretful and guilty about the past or worried and fearful about the future. I feel like I’m missing a lot of my life right now because I’m not fully present in it. It’s like living underwater. I look at my kids and I think, I want to be here for them, I want to enjoy them right now, at whatever both-frustrating-and-delightful stage they happen to be in. I don’t want to look back when they’re 18 and realize, I missed it. I missed it all because I wasn’t fully present in the days as they were happening. I want to wake up and really experience my life, the joy and the pain together, because I think I’m starting to realize that you can’t anesthetize yourself against the one and still expect to feel the other.

So. Be Present. My word (okay, two) for 2013. And it fits pretty well with the Stay Awake Challenge, which is one reason I decided to give it a go. Since I’m a little late to the party, I’ll be using the next few days to catch up.

Dusting Off the Camera

When Rusty goes on his trips out to the jungle, he usually takes our little point-and-shoot camera with him. He prefers something small both for the sake of space and for the fact that it is less likely to be damaged than a big fancy camera (and if it is, it’s less expensive to replace). We bought this camera about 2 years ago, and since then, have used it almost exclusively, so our very nice Canon Digital Rebel DSLR camera has gotten almost no use.

Normally, when Rusty is away with the camera, I just don’t take any pictures, or I use my camera phone to take quick shots to post on Facebook. I have not traditionally been the photographer in our family. Rusty takes the pictures, and I scrapbook or blog them! But I have been thinking a lot about that nice DSLR just sitting in a bag, and what a shame that it isn’t getting any use. And really, what is more of a shame is that neither of us knows enough about cameras and photography to use it to its full potential and take pictures using anything other than the auto-modes.

I would love to learn to be a better photographer. I am in awe of some of the pictures I see on blogs around the web. And so, another of my goals for this year is to become more familiar with our camera and all its settings, to experiment with it, and generally to just take more — a lot more — pictures. I’m not an artist (as in, I don’t draw or paint), but I think I can see photography becoming part of my creative expression. I wish there were a class I could take, but for now, I think I will have to just teach myself through trial and error and maybe some Internet tutorials.

So, I got the camera out the other day. And charged up the battery. And found the software and installed it on my laptop (and then spent the better part of an evening trying to figure out how to get my computer and the camera to communicate so I could download the pictures we took at Christmas). And then today, I actually used the camera to take some pictures of Benjamin. I’m not sure how they turned out because I haven’t downloaded them to my computer yet, but it was fun! And it was a first step.

P.S. If anyone reading this know of a good website or online class for those wanting to move beyond the basics of DSLR camera use, I would love to hear about it. You can leave your tips in the comments.

Poetry and Creativity

One thing that I’m kind of hoping this habit of daily writing will do is free me up to be more creative. I feel like most of what I write these days is more utilitarian in nature. It’s like the missionary version of technical writing. I write our newsletters. I update our family blog. This week, I’ve been working on our year-end report, trying to condense our first year in Ecuador into a few pages for our sponsoring and supporting churches. I don’t mind doing these things, and it’s one way I feel like I can help and support Rusty, even when I’m spending most of my days at home with the kids. But creative writing has really fallen by the wayside in the past decade or so. And this is the kind of writing that I always dreamed about doing.

In high school, I wrote a lot of poetry. Most of it was probably not very good, filled with overused clichés and teen angst. However, there were a few pieces that I still think had real potential. I was taking a creative writing class and writing a lot — not just poetry; we experimented with all forms of creative writing. We were required to keep a daily idea journal, and I was constantly scribbling in it. And then I went off to college. And I got busy with life and making friends and and my classes, which did not include creative writing. (And, by the way, does anyone really have time for creative pursuits in college? I don’t remember even reading a book that wasn’t required or assigned for 4 whole years.) I was still dabbling in poetry from time to time, but then I got my heart broken. And after that, I just stopped altogether. For several years.

I’ve tried to return to poetry from time to time over the last few years, but it never quite “flowed” like it did before. I even started a private journal online at Penzu about a year and a half ago, in an attempt to create a space that would function as a collection point for my creative ideas and thoughts, a kind of online “idea journal,” like the one I kept in high school. I have written in it exactly one time.

I still have hopes that I will start to make good use of the Penzu journal, so I don’t intend for this blog to replace it as my “idea journal,” but I am hoping that the discipline of daily writing will help me stretch some of my creative muscles that have atrophied through years of disuse. And I may continue to do as I did yesterday and share poetry and other more “creative” pieces from time to time.

A Psalm of Integration

O God, you are my refuge and my source. Who can compare with you?

You are unchanging and ever present and I bless your holy name.

I have seen the beauty of your handiwork

in swift sunsets over the African savannah,

in the delicate cherry blossoms of a Japanese spring,

in the fragrant evergreen forests of Oregon,

in lonely, windswept stretches of Portuguese coastline,

and now in the majestic Andes mountains of Ecuador,

and I open my mouth to speak your praises.

You have blessed me in my being with my sisters this week and soothed my spirit through your love.

You have helped me to

laugh with new friends,

to be vulnerable, even when it was painful,

and to rest, truly rest, in your presence.

I want to praise you with my life, serve you with my whole being, but I am weak and needy.

Forgive me when I resist your call on my life, and give me the courage and the strength to open my heart yet again to a new home, a new people, a new language, a new ministry.

I submit to your loving hand and offer you all my sweet memories, all my unresolved grief, all my paralyzing fears, all my unfulfilled dreams, and all my aching longings…

Because you alone can integrate all the disjointed parts of my life, weaving them into a one-piece tapestry, and making me whole again.

— written at the CCC Conference in Brazil, October, 2012