About Barbara H.

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Book Review: My Father’s House

My Father's House My Father’s House by Rose Chandler Johnson begins with the idyllic childhood of Lily Rose Cates in Georgia. Then her father died when she was sixteen, turning her world upside down. Her mother had been not entirely mentally present for some time, a situation made worse by the death of Lily’s father. A lady who took care of their home, Annie Ruth, became a second mother and the main stabilizing influence in Lily’s life.

Milestones pass – high school graduation, friendships, college. Lily has a couple of part-time jobs she likes, but life is pretty tame. She is invited to visit a cousin’s place in New York City and is absolutely mesmerized by all there is to see and do. One highlight is an encounter with a handsome and charming waiter who asks for her number.

To her joy and surprise, the waiter, Manny, does call – only he’s not a waiter. The restaurant was his family’s, and he was just helping out for a while. He’s actually a driven, high-powered lawyer in Detroit. A telephone romance leads to a proposal and a move for Lily Rose. Some incidents and reactions from Manny make Lily uncomfortable, but she’s in love and her courtship is such a whirlwind, she lets them go.

Their first few days are bliss until Manny has to go back to work, leaving Lily lonely trying to get accustomed not only to a new city, but a new situation, style of home and life, everything. Before long, Manny’s dark side comes out bit by bit. Lily realizes that she can no longer brush off or overlook his actions. Manny has become unpredictable and dangerous, and Lily decides to leave with the help of a friend.

Lily goes back to Georgia to a home of her father’s that she had inherited but had not told Manny about.  She knows Manny will come looking for her, but for a while she has time to heal, stabilize, and rediscover her roots and her faith.

This was a wonderfully told story with a strong sense of place. The description of the Southern setting makes one want to settle in a rocking chair on the porch with a glass of sweet iced tea. I was drawn right in and looked forward to each new chapter, sorrowing with Lily over the loss of her father and her marriage, rejoicing as she grew.

There were a few too many references to Lily and Manny’s intimacy for my tastes, but none of that was explicit, and what was said did make sense in context. Then in the second half of the book, there are a number of instances of an unmarried man and woman staying overnight in a cabin and home. None of the other characters seems to have a problem with that: I would have loved for at least one of them to object. The author prevents anything from happening between them. And there’s an odd incident where Lilly almost seems to be saying she visited her father in heaven in a dream.

But other than those caveats, I thought this was a lovely story.

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Psalms for the Sleepless

Most of us occasionally wake up in the middle of the night and then have a hard time getting back to sleep, but it seems to happen more as we get older. Sometimes I can get right back to sleep after a brief nocturnal trip to the bathroom, but other times I’m awake for a couple of hours. I don’t know what makes the difference. Generally I try keep things quiet, turn the lamp back off as soon as possible, avoid checking my phone, and do whatever else I can to make the atmosphere conducive to sleep. But still I find myself staring into the darkness.

I know some who read if they wake up during the night. Reading on the couch makes me doze off: reading in bed keeps me awake.

I’ve learned that stressing about it only makes it worse. Elisabeth Elliot once said that when she woke up in the night, she could luxuriate: she didn’t have to be up and doing anything else, so she could relax and rest, even if she didn’t get back to sleep. I’ve tried to take that tack, and it helps some.

But sometimes I find myself distressed, even in tears, over my sleeplessness. As it is I struggle with finding the best way to arrange my schedule and get everything done that I want to during the day. A nap sometimes gets me over feeling draggy, but it takes a chunk of time out of my prime work hours. I’d rather sleep when it’s time to sleep, not when I want to be busy doing other things.

Once I dealt with sleeplessness for several Saturday nights in a row…and had trouble staying awake in church the next day. I would plead with God in prayer: “Lord, You know I need sleep. You made me to need sleep. You know the things I need to do tomorrow. I’d really like to stay away in church, and I think You want me to as well. You’ve said you give to your beloved sleep. Why won’t You help me get back to sleep?” I try, instead, to rest in the fact that He does know when I need sleep. I ask Him in the morning to multiply the few hours of sleep like He did the loaves and fishes and make them sufficient for the day ahead. And He does.

Recently I looked up a couple of verses that refer to thinking or praying during the night, and that turned into a Bible study with much more than I bargained for! I primarily searched through Psalms but checked in Job and Proverbs a little, too.

Apparently many Bible people were up in the night. Job said, “When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ But the night is long, and I am full of tossing till the dawn” (Job 7:4). Here’s what some Biblical writers did during their sleepless hours (some of the verses could be used in multiple categories):

Attend to needs

Some got up or stayed awake to attend to urgent tasks.

David vowed, “I will not enter my house or get into my bed, I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob” (Psalm 132:3-5).

One who had gotten himself involved in an unwise pledge was urged to “Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber; save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler” (Proverbs 6:1-5).

“He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame” (Proverbs 10:5).

The Proverbs 31 woman got up “while it was yet night” to prepare food and worked late into the night (Proverbs 31:15, 18).

I just finished a book in which the author told of using late night hours to write because she had trouble falling asleep. My husband has said that he can often get much more work done when he wakes up in the night than when he is in a busy office.

Mourn and seek comfort

Painful or sad thoughts can be kept at bay while we’re busy through the day. But at night, there is nothing else to distract us. Asaph said: “In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah. You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak” (Psalm 77:2-4). David mourned over sin until he found forgiveness (Psalm 6, especially verse 6: “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears” and 32, especially verses 4-5: “For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.'”) It’s good to confess sin as soon as we’re aware of it, but it’s not a bad practice at the end of the day to ask God to search us and show us anything we overlooked.

The psalmist of Psalm 42 mourns because of an enemy (verse 9): “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?'” (verse 3). He remembers past times of praising God in the house of God and admonishes himself, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (verses 5 and 11).

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:4-5).

Meditate

Biblical meditation is not an emptying of the mind but turning something over in your mind.

Psalm 1 says of the blessed man “his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:5-8).

“My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise” (Psalm 119:148).

“I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me“(Psalm 16:7).

“Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent” (Psalm 4:4).

One good example of the process of meditation is Psalm 77. There Asaph was so troubled he could not sleep. But then he reminded himself of God’s character, grace, faithfulness, love, past works and deeds.

Pray

Sometimes when I lament nighttime wakefulness, someone glibly advises me to “just pray.” That makes me feel they don’t understand or aren’t taking into account the problems with wakefulness I mentioned above. On the other hand, though the advice comes across as a little unsympathetic, those hours are a good time for undistracted, heartfelt prayer.

“O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you. Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry! For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol” (Psalm 88:1-3).

“I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words” (Psalm 119:147).

Of course, the mourning and seeking comfort above and singing and praising below are also parts of prayer.

Sing

“By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life” (Psalm 42:8).

“I said, ‘Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.’ Then my spirit made a diligent search” (Psalm 77:6).

One of my favorite posts discussed songs in the night.

Praise

“For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds” (Psalm 149:4-5).

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night” (Psalm 92:1-2).

“Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord!” (Psalm 134:1).

Rest from fear

Like mourning, fear can plague at night. When we’re still and quiet, our thoughts can run rampant. But we can take our thoughts captive and turn them to God’s protection.

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).

“He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day” (Psalm 91:4-5).

“He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night” (Psalm 121:3-6).

In the context of rejoicing in God’s presence with him everywhere (“Where shall I go from your presence?” verse 7), David says, “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,'” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you” (Psalm 139:11-12).

Among the benefits of keeping “sound wisdom and discretion” is this: “If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught” (Proverbs 3:21-26).

Then there are people whose nighttime activities we don’t want to emulate. The adulteress of Proverbs 7 was active at night. “The wicked…plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil” (Psalm 36:3-4) and “they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble” (Proverbs 4:16).

Some people dread night, but God “made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting. You make darkness, and it is night, when all the beasts of the forest creep about. The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God” (Psalm 104:19-21). “Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun” (Psalm 74:16).

It would be a profitable exercise to read some of these psalms in their entirety, maybe one a day, and see in context what the psalmist was troubled about and how he turned his thinking around. I love how so many of the psalmists begin with trouble and anguish, remind themselves and the reader of God’s truth and love, and end up in hope and peace.

Losing sleep in the middle of the night can be frustrating. But if we turn our thoughts to the Lord, those moments can become precious times of fellowship with Him.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday)

Laudable Linkage

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Here’s my latest list of thought-provoking reads:

Women, Don’t Be Weak-minded, HT to True Woman. “I’m grieved every time I see another woman I care about succumb to the latest ‘Christian’ bestseller which, more often that not, is feel-good psychology scantily clad in a few decontextualized Bible verses.” “Critical reading in one thing. But, trying to glean ‘something good’ from an author who denies Christ’s supremacy, man’s depravity, or Scriptural inerrancy is entirely another thing all together and should be avoided.”

How (Not) to Discover Your Spiritual Gifts, HT to Challies.

Five Things I’d Tell My Newlywed Self.

A Slanderous Charge. Far from promoting racial prejudices and stereotypes, the Little House series shows a different side.

I’d Like to Have an Argument, Please, HT to Out of the Ordinary. “In fact, all this opining just makes things worse. You don’t like what someone wrote and it upset you? Shouting your reaction is infantile (mere stimulus-and-response) and, worse, destructive….What we need instead is argument: inference from evidence to clear conclusions. Or, in a more right-brained approach, the setting-out of a compelling alternative.”

And finally, this cracked me up:

Happy Saturday!

Friday’s Fave Five

FFF daisies
It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

Last Friday I had an overflow: this Friday requires a little more thought and searching. But that’s why FFF is such a good exercise.

1. Ladies Life Group, our church ladies’ group meeting, occurs every other month. We had our July meeting over the weekend. I had missed out on ladies’ Bible studies for years because they were held at times I couldn’t come, and I have so enjoyed participating with these dear ladies.

2. Relief. I’ve spent most of this week with a low-grade headache. It wasn’t constant or debilitating, but it left me feeling definitely below par. It’s been gradually lessening and as of this writing, I feel almost normal again.

3. Timothy’s imagination. My four-year-old grandson wanted to dress in his Cat Boy costume (a character from the PJ Masks TV show) when his family came over, and he had it all worked out in his mind how it would go: Granddad would say, “Cat Boy! Where’s Timothy?” It played out pretty much like he imagined it! Such fun, and a delight to me.

4. Fresh-cut grass makes me sneezy, but I love the way it looks.

5. New growth. We planted two crepe myrtles…was it two years ago? One flourished and is probably eight feet tall. The other, right in front of the house, put out leaves and grew a little, but just wasn’t faring well. Actually, nothing we have planted in that spot has thrived. But just today (Thursday), I noticed flowers on it! And it has grown a lot since spring. So maybe there’s hope for it after all.

Happy Friday!

Book Review: Looking Into You

Looking Into YouIn Looking Into You by Chris Fabry, Paige Redwine is an English professor at a college in Nashville. Only her parents know her secret: some twenty years before, she became pregnant and placed her baby for adoption at the insistence of her parents. Told that the father of her baby died, Paige had no choice but to go on with her life. But she feels stuck: she’s supposed to be finishing her dissertation on a mother’s love in literature, but she can’t seem to make progress. She also feels stuck in a relationship with a nice man who wants to be more than friends, but she can’t seem to move forward.

Then one day a coworker tells her about a documentary she saw about a nursing home’s residents and workers (told in Every Waking Moment). Among the nursing home staff was a girl in her twenties who had been placed for adoption but ended up being passed through the system. The girl had nystagmus, which caused her eyes to move rapidly, and when overwhelmed she made a typing motion with her hands. She wasn’t very expressive, but she had an unusual way with the residents, especially those who couldn’t or didn’t communicate. Paige is jolted when she learns the girl’s name: Treha, the unusual name she had purposefully given the baby she had placed for adoption.

Shaken, Paige finds and watches the documentary. But even now, knowing where her daughter is and what she has been through, Paige is hesitant to reach out. But then, “indecision made the decision” for her: suddenly Treha shows up as a student in one of Paige’s classes, unaware that Paige is her mother.

The point of view switches back and forth between Paige and Treha, and also occasionally to Miriam, Treha’s boss at the nursing home. I enjoyed seeing both sides as mother and daughter learn to overcome their fears to reach out and have a crash course in mother-daughter relationships. I’m glad Fabry didn’t paint this too rosy: every relationship has its rough spots, and both women had a lot to learn in relating to one another. “Grace allows you to see yourself in light of the past, not in the shadow of it.”

This book drew me in right away, and the ordeals of both women touched my heart. I think this book could be read as a stand-alone – I had forgotten much of Every Waking Moment when I started this book. But I’d recommend them both.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books,  Literary Musing Monday)

Book Review: The Song of Sadie Sparrow

In The Song of Sadie Sparrow by Kitty Foth-Regner, Sadie’s assisted living facility could no longer meet her needs, so her daughter found a lovely new nursing home. Sadie feels sad and neglected by her daughter, but soon she makes friends with the other residents and staff and gets involved in the activities.

Meg Vogel is in her fifties and ready for a new start in life. Her husband recently passed away from cancer, and she closed down the freelance copywriting business she’d had to neglect during her business. She’s hired at Sadie’s nursing home to assist the activities director, her special project being the use of her writing and interview skills to compile biographies of the residents.

Elise Chapelle is the daughter of one of the residents, Charles. She had quit her job as a teacher to take care of her father, but now that he is in a nursing home, she wonders what to do with her life. She takes a writing class that involves setting up a web site.

These three women from different generations form a friendship though Elise is a Christian and Meg is an atheist. Meg is particularly antagonistic towards Christians because her husband became one near the end of his life, and she felt his new religion and views took him further away from her. She’s fairly sarcastic in any kind of religious conversation, but she genuinely likes the other ladies.

I enjoyed a view of life from inside a nursing home. My own mother-in-law’s experiences in a nursing home not nearly as nice as this one were mostly negative, but her early assisted living experiences sound like they could have fit in with this book. One common theme in all of these places is the neglect of many of the residents by their too-busy families.

But this is not just a story about a nursing home: it’s a story of faith.

Kitty’s experiences inform the book as she was once an atheist (her story is told in Heaven Without Her) and she spent much time in a nursing home first visiting her mother and then volunteering. Her web site, Everlasting Place, hosts two blogs: Eternal Eyes: A Blog About Forever and Golden Years: A Blog About the Elderly. A neat interview with the author about this book is here.

Special thanks to the author for sending me a copy of her book.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Literary Musing Monday)

Doing or Don’t-ing?

The Christian community I was once part of seemed to emphasize what we as Christians don’t do. We don’t dress like that. We don’t listen to that kind of music. We don’t watch those programs. We don’t play those games. We don’t use that kind of language. Any new fad was viewed with suspicion and placed on the “don’t” list.

During part of this time I had a job in retail sales. I wanted to be a good testimony. I definitely stood out as I politely said no to invitations to places I didn’t feel comfortable going with my coworkers, as I quietly absented myself from certain conversations, as my style of dress was noticeably different from that of others. They knew I didn’t do a number of things: some were even kindly protective of me, careful not to put me in situations where I might be uncomfortable. I couldn’t help but wonder, however, what these actions (or inactions) indicated to my coworkers and customers. They knew I was “religious.” But could they tell the difference between me and an adherent of any number of other religions? They saw my standards, but did they see my Jesus?

The Bible does have a lot to say about what we should not do. God’s command for our holiness filters down into every part of our lives, and our love for Him does influence our choices of dress and entertainment. We need to understand what things are wrong. We need to realize we’re innately drawn towards wrong. Paul said, “if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet'” (Romans 7:7). It’s important to remember the Bible’s warnings against sin. Some people fall off-balance by minimizing or even overlooking the “don’ts” in the name of love and positivity or an effort to be inoffensive.

But the Bible doesn’t stop with a list of “don’ts.” “So flee youthful passions,” 2 Timothy 2:22 says. But it goes on to say, “and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

Colossians 3:5-9 tells us to “ Put to death ” or “put away” “sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry….anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another.” The reasons given: “on account of these the wrath of God is coming” and though “you too once walked” in them, “you have put off the old self with its practices.

But then verses 10-17 continue: “...and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Ephesians 4:17-32 has similar instructions to “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (verses 22-24). We trade lying for truth (v. 25), stealing for honest work (v. 28), corrupt talk for edifying words (v. 29). We don’t let anger linger (v. 26), and we replace bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice with kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness “as God in Christ forgave you” (vv. 31-32).

We’re not aiming just for “positive thinking”: we’re seeking a balanced focus. “Putting on the new” not only keeps us balanced, but it actually helps us put off the old. We have known of preachers who have fallen into sexual sin after years of preaching against it. Surely a number of factors contributed to their fall, but one may have been an undue focus on the forbidden. Erwin Lutzer shared a helpful illustration in How to Say No to a Stubborn Habit: if someone tells you not to think of the number eight – suddenly that’s all you can think about. The more you try not to think about it, the more it fills your mind. But if you start thinking of other numbers or working equations, you’re distracted from eight. Likewise, if I try to diet by repeating to myself, “Don’t eat chocolate cake,” my mind is filled with chocolate cake and I am likely to give in and have some. But if I turn my thoughts toward other things I can eat, chocolate cake lessens it’s hold on me, and now I can focus on the positive, on what I can do rather than what I can’t. Years ago I read in a forgotten source about “chastity meetings.” The author didn’t elaborate, but evidently these meetings were held to help young people make a decision to pursue purity. His wise advice was, “Have your chastity meetings, but then go on to another subject.” If every single week these young people were warned about sexual sin and urged to avoid it, their thoughts would be filled with it just like mine would be with the chocolate cake I needed to avoid.

Concentrating on “doing” rather than just on “don’t-ing” not only helps us avoid sin and pursue good, but it presents a better testimony. If all we talk about is what we don’t do, we sound either curmudgeonly or self-righteous. Pursuing the positive also creates joy in Christ rather than mourning what we can’t do.

But we don’t follow a list of impossible good works in order to gain favor or rack up points with God. We focus on these good traits not to become righteous but to demonstrate that God has changed us and made us righteous. The Ephesians passage mentioned above says the goal is to  “attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (verse 13). It also says we effect these transformations by being “renewed in the spirit of [our] minds (v. 23) and because that’s the way we have learned Christ (vv. 20-21). Romans 12:2 tells us “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Colossians 3:10 tells us our “new self…is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

We learn to reflect our Savior by beholding Him: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). He works these changes in us as we behold Him in His Word, as we study Him and get to know Him better. 

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Porch Stories, Faith on Fire)

Writing thoughts and questions

The writer’s conference I attended last March became a catalyst to take my writing off the back burner and make it a priority. I had a list of ideas for further writing, but one topic most on my heart and the most developed so far: encouraging women to read the Bible and dealing with some of the problems (distractions, busy schedules, etc.) that keep us from God’s Word. Different sources I’ve consulted say that a non-fiction book should total somewhere between 30,000-50,000 words. I have 24,000 so far!

One of my biggest writing roadblocks was making time. Every piece of writing advice I have seen says to make a schedule to write and keep your writing time sacred. But that just doesn’t work in my situation with caring for my mother-in-law at home, having caregivers and hospice people coming in and out (never knowing quite when some of them will be here), having a son working at home and taking online classes at home, and a husband who started working some days from home just about the time I decided to focus on writing. I was distressed for a while, but I knew that if God wanted me to write now, He’d help me find or make a way. Finally the idea came to focus on my writing as much as possible when my husband is away from home and then to spend the time he is here working on my household tasks. Even though this schedule isn’t the same each week. it has helped me make more progress with less stress than the hit or miss style I was working under before.

Several weeks ago I submitted a guest post to a particular site. The site owner sent back several helpful editorial suggestions. Sometimes writing just flows, and sometimes almost every word is a struggle. This was one of the latter times. I spent more than two weeks of my available writing time revising. The end result was immensely better than what I had sent originally sent in, but I was discouraged that the process was so laborious and took so much time. If a 1,000-word blog post took that much time, how long is it going to take me to finish a book? Around that time I came across a blog post on What 20 Famous Authors Had to Say About Rewriting. A couple of samples that most spoke to me:

Books aren’t written – they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it. ~Michael Crichton

More than a half, maybe as much as two-thirds of my life as a writer is rewriting. I wouldn’t say I have a talent that’s special. It strikes me that I have an unusual kind of stamina. ~John Irving

I have rewritten–often several times–every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers. ~Vladimir Nabokov

Those and other sources I read encouraged me that rewriting is just a part of the process.

I’ve had moments of thinking, “I love this! I want to do more!” and other moments of, “What was I thinking? Who am I kidding?” But, from what I have read, those roller coaster feelings are pretty normal.

I had also started following some blogs and Twitter accounts for writers. While they were helpful in many ways, I got discouraged after a while reading every single day “Here are 20 things you MUST do or you’ll never be a successful writer.” So I cut back on some of those. There is still a lot I need to learn, but I am taking it in smaller doses and working on a bit at a time. I’ve started a Pinterest board for articles and memes about writing.

I’ve also been wrestling with some of the following issues:

  • What name to use. There is already an author by my name who writes on water birth (something I know nothing about). Should I just use my name and trust that readers won’t mix us up? Or should I include my middle or maiden name or initial? I asked Facebook friends, and no one cared for the middle initial, but they were split pretty evenly between adding my middle or maiden name. I’m not crazy about using a three-word name, but it might be best.
  • Everything I read says an author needs an online presence, a platform, before submitting a manuscript for publication. Publishers want to make sure you have something of an audience already. At some point I’ll make a separate author Facebook page, and I will probably use my Twitter account as is, since I don’t use it for much now except linking blog posts. But I wonder if I should create a new blog or use this one. On one hand, though this blog isn’t viral by any means, I do have some readers. I’d hate to start over with a new blog. On the other hand, when I started blogging, blogs were more informal and neighborly. I love my little hodgepodge blog, but I wonder if a “professional” blog would work better for an author platform. I would probably still keep this as a personal blog.
  • What should I do about book reviews? I write them because I love talking about what I have read and want to share these books with others, who hopefully will love them, too. And while I am not nitpicky or hypercritical, I want to be honest if a book contain problems (mainly bad language, risque scenes, or iffy theology, but sometimes poor writing). Some of you have told me that you buy books based on my reviews, so I want to be especially careful that I am not steering anyone into problem areas without at least a heads-up. But would it seem unprofessional as a writer to criticize another author’s work? I once read a particular new book based on the recommendation of a favorite author, and the writing was some of the worst I had encountered. I felt I had been deceived and wondered if all authors recommended each other’s books unreservedly. I couldn’t honestly do that, but maybe the solution is just not to mention the books I have problems with.   If I kept this as a personal blog, I would probably continue with book reviews as I do them now. If I transformed this into a writer blog, I might create a separate book review blog.
  • For tax purposes, do writers file as self-employed, or do they form a company (an LLC, my husband suggests, but I have only a vague idea what that even is. One more thing to learn…)
  • If I “crowdsource” and ask for opinions or ideas on a blog or Facebook page, and I use one of the ideas suggested, do I owe the person who suggested it anything other than a mention in the book’s acknowledgements? For instance, the title I had always wanted to use for this book has been used by someone else recently. The editor who critiqued the few pages of my manuscript at the writer’s conference did not like the alternate title I came up with. I’ve jotted down some other ideas, but nothing really grabs me yet. I’d love to get some feedback, but if I ask for it in a public way, I’m not sure what the implications are. Perhaps if I present it as a contest, and offer the winner a free copy of the book (or something), that would be sufficient?
  • If you quote from someone’s blog, do you need to ask them first, or just attribute them properly?
  • What about those quotes all over the Internet from famous people that you can’t find a source for? They’re just recorded in lists of quotes, but further searching doesn’t reveal an original source. Can they be referred to just as “as quoted by C. H. Spurgeon” on this site?
  • I’d love to find a critique group of not just new writers in the same boat I am, but with experienced authors as well. A couple of authors who were at the writer’s conference are involved in Word Weavers, and they have a local branch. So that might be a possibility, though there is a fee. Both the critique at the writer’s conference and the editorial suggestions I mentioned in regard to my guest post have shown me how valuable it is to have a more experienced person’s eyes to take a look at my writing and provide feedback.

So those are some of the “behind the scenes” thoughts and issues I’ve been grappling with on the writer’s front. Some answers I can probably find with a little more research; others I just need to ponder a while. If you have any thoughts about anything I’ve written here, I’d love to hear them!

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday)

Friday’s Fave Five

FFF daisiesIt’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

Some Fridays, it takes time and thought to come up with five good points from the previous week. Other times it is hard to contain the blessings into just five points. This week I have the latter good problem.

1. Jim’s mom turned 90.

I went to a party supply store specifically to look for plates and candles with “90” on them, but all they had was a package of black napkins! So we improvised. I don’t know if she quite understood the hoopla, but I hope she enjoyed it. A bonus: I had ordered a couple of hospital-type nightgowns from a place not known for its speedy delivery, and I was afraid they wouldn’t get here in time for her birthday. But they did!

2. Time off and a lunch date. Jim took time off work on Monday and Tuesday and got a number of things done around the house, mostly in the garage. The garage looks really nice now! We went out for a lunch date Tuesday. We tried a new restaurant and ended up not liking it (too-loud music and soggy, lukewarm food), but enjoyed the outing and time together.

3. Independence Day! Though our country has its flaws, I still think it’s the best in the world, and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else (no offense to friends from others countries – I hope you feel the same way about yours). We had quite the feast, and even got to see a few fireworks in the distance from our front yard.

4. Not losing AC. After a loud clap of thunder during a storm, our air conditioning was still blowing air, but not cold air. My husband checked fuses and other issues, but couldn’t find a fixable problem, so we were resigned to calling an AC serviceman out the next day. Thankfully ceiling fans in a few rooms kept the temperatures manageable. By the next morning, the AC seemed to be back to normal on its own without a service call and has been working fine ever since.

5. Sunday lunch. For various reasons, my son and daughter-in-law ended up not being able to make it to their church last Sunday morning. They came over to our house and made lunch. It’s such a nice feeling to come home and have a meal already in process. We enjoyed a good visit.

Bonus: Jim and I watched “The Book Thief.” Wonderful movie, without the profanity of the book (unless it was in some of the German words I couldn’t understand)

And that wraps up our full week. Happy Friday!

 

Free Indeed

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Glorious Freedom

by Haldor Lillenas

Once I was bound by sin’s galling fetters,
Chained like a slave, I struggled in vain;
But I received a glorious freedom,
When Jesus broke my fetters in twain.

* Refrain:
Glorious freedom, wonderful freedom,
No more in chains of sin I repine!
Jesus the glorious Emancipator,
Now and forever He shall be mine.

Freedom from all the carnal affections,
Freedom from envy, hatred and strife;
Freedom from vain and worldly ambitions,
Freedom from all that saddened my life.

Freedom from pride and all sinful follies,
Freedom from love and glitter of gold;
Freedom from evil, temper, and anger,
Glorious freedom, rapture untold.

Freedom from fear with all of its torments,
Freedom from care with all of its pain;
Freedom in Christ, my blessed Redeemer,
He who has rent my fetters in twain.

John 8:32, 3: And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.