Tuesday, January 26, 2016

How to do the impossible


So, what do the Great Wall of China and the length of Africa have in common?

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My sister, Tammy, has walked both of them. Well, not literally, but the equivalent.  In less than three years, she’s covered over 6,000 miles.

I feel tired.

I really do. And I have body parts that hurt, because I recently traveled with her. When you accompany my sister, you are going to walk. So, on arrival at our destination we walked four miles. The next morning, we walked five. That evening four more, and the next morning four more.

If you check out the One Ringing Bell sidebar, you’ll see Tammy there on the cover of a national magazine. She’s a weight loss expert and let me tell you, all that she teaches, she does. I can testify to that fact.

I don’t personally know anyone else who’s achieved what she has. She had to AVERAGE six miles a day, 365 days a year to cover that amount of ground. I don’t know how anyone does that.

Now, I walk our good dog Lucy on a regular basis, but we’re recreational walkers. She stops to sniff a deer track, charge squirrels, and eye the occasional puffed up cat. I probably burn more calories cleaning out the refrigerator than I do walking our dog.

I’m in awe of what my sister has accomplished. And so proud.

It’s nice to know people who have done big things, things that seem impossible, because it inspires us to do the same.

Now, I don’t think my sister woke up one day and said, “I’m going to walk 6,000 miles in three years.”  I imagine the enormity of that goal might have seemed crushing. But I know prayer is a big factor in her life, and she may have prayed, “God, help me.  I’m going to push myself and with your help see what I can accomplish today.”

St. Francis of Assisi said, “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

Your aspiration may not be to walk 6,000 miles, but you long to write a book, or learn a language or to play tennis. Start by doing what’s necessary to reach those goals. Pray and go from there.

And who knows what might happen.

Great Wall of China, here we come.

“Nothing, you see is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37 The Message). 

Related: Celebrating an Anniversary,  From the One Ringing Bell Top Twenty: More                  

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Persevering, come rain or come shine


I’ve been dissolving into a thousand puddles of joy because of reading Jan Karon’s book, Come Rain or Come Shine.

It’s one of her best. Of course, I probably think they’re all her best. But this book is something (hint: it looks like Lace and Dooley might finally tie the knot).

I’ve written before of how she influenced me HERE at "Jan Karon and inspiration"―how much she’s meant to me personally, how she’s inspired my writing and helped me persevere.

But still, I have to tell you, sometimes, I still have questions. Like what do I really do except sit around making up stories?

Then I read a post over at Novel Rocket by Violet Nesdoly about her journey as a reluctant novelist.

She’s experienced some of the same doubts which have culminated in the prayer, “Lord, is this really what you want me to do? A novel is, after all, just entertainment. Couldn’t you give me something less frivolous and more important to write?”

And here’s what she heard from the Lord.

“Entertainment is a huge influence, a mountain of influence in your society. Do not trivialize this work I give you. It is not frivolous or unimportant. Instead of praying for a different job, pray that you would do this one well; that your words would be light on the path to Me in the realm of entertainment.”

 I read these words, and thought again about how much Jan Karon’s stories have meant to me. It’s easy for me to see the value in her stories, but harder for me to see the value in my own. And yet, I know that though my work hardly touches the scope of Karon’s stories, it has merit, because God has called me to this journey.

One of the most exceptional stories of God’s grace to me is I once had an elderly man tell me he’d never read a book in his life but he read Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees and loved it. He thanked me for a wonderful story. I didn’t know the man, but his message touched me deeply. By God’s grace, I helped this one man read his first book for pleasure, and perhaps, he will read more.

Just yesterday, my husband talked to a friend who told him her copies of my books are threadbare from being passed around. A real complement she loved them enough to share. Hopefully, her friends were blessed through reading. I certainly do want my words to be a “light on the path” to God.

If I stop and think, God reminds me of other encouraging stories, as well.

So, I persevere. And hopefully along the way, lives are changed. Maybe even like mine has been through reading Karon’s stories.

Find a copy of Karon’s latest book. Join me in the puddles of joy. And if you’re a writer, let’s persevere together.

Come rain or come shine.

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might . . ." (Ecclesiastes (9:10).


 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

If you’re putting off creating big things and how to do it in fifteen minutes a day


A friend gave me a vintage book for Christmas, the delightful, Turned Funny, by Celestine Sibley. Those of you who live in the south remember the morning paper, The Atlanta Constitution, which later combined with the Atlanta Journal to form the AJC.

Sibley was a reporter with the Constitution and also wrote a daily column. Additionally, she wrote for the Atlanta Magazine, a Sunday insert. Someone told me that she might have written for as many as seven different pennames for the magazine, probably writing a great percentage of the articles that appeared in its pages. So, as you can see, her daily work was demanding.

It doesn’t seem she’d have time for anything else in addition to raising her children. Somehow, though, she managed to turn out twenty-five books.

Seriously.

And it started with a piece of advice she received from a friend to work on a book just fifteen minutes a day. Sibley said it was the best writing advice she ever received.
 

Most writers I know have trouble getting started. We’ll scrub baseboards, clean out the dryer lint trap, organize our sock drawer, anything to avoid beginning work. I don’t understand it either, but I do it. Maybe it’s the fear that we don’t have anything to give, that we’re just imposters. Or maybe, we’re by nature procrastinators. I don’t know, but it’s almost universal.

Other people who long to write a book say they don’t have time. But they have fifteen minutes. Everyone has fifteen minutes. And big things can come when you combine all those fifteen minutes together. Say you’re only able to write a thousand words a week at fifteen minutes a day. If you do the math, you’ll find it adds up to 52,000 words a year. That’s a book, my friend. And that’s what Sibley did.

She took the advice, gave the fifteen minutes a day, and produced a novel. Later for one of her books she combined articles she’d only been paid twenty-five dollars apiece for at the Atlanta Magazine with other stories she wrote into a book called Christmas in Georgia, and it sold so well, it moved her editor to the helm of his publishing house.

She died years ago, but I can still see her face in my mind’s eye above that daily newspaper column. It serves as inspiration to me, that little things add up.

Reminds me of these words, “Do not despise these small beginnings . . .” (Zechariah 4:10 NLT).

So don’t. Make a contract with yourself to spend fifteen minutes a day on a big project and watch it bloom right in front of you. Let me know how you’re doing. I’ll be cheering you on.  

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

On love


Many of my friends choose a word to focus on throughout the coming New Year. Unofficially, if I had to choose a word for 2016, it would be the word love.
 


A wise tentmaker once wrote, “. . . God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him” (Romans 5:8).

God has demonstrated his love for us. Once and for all. He has nothing else to prove. If we have a problem with love, it is in us, not God.

Priscilla Shirer declares, “We don’t need greater faith. We need to understand how great God is.”

The same is true of love. We don’t need more love. We need to understand how big God’s love is for us, for that love is foundational to every other area of our lives. That same tentmaker penned, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (I Corinthians 13:13).

As Christians, we talk about love a lot. But maybe you’re like me, and though you think you have all of this love business worked out in your brain, it’s not all worked out in your heart. Or your life. God has been working on me a very long time in this regard.

Perhaps my dad’s death has pushed me more in this direction. A strong Christian friend told me that as long as her dad was alive she felt everything would be all right. But after he died, she struggled to believe that. It rocked her world. And yes, that’s how I felt, because I knew from experience how much my dad loved me. But when he died, who would fill that place?

Well of course, I know God loves me a gazillion times more than my dad ever could, but the experience of it sometimes lags behind the knowledge of it.

So here’s the preacher’s wife confessing that she needs to walk more fully in the love of God. But, I don’t imagine that I’m alone in this.

This year, 2016, I’m believing my understanding and experience of God’s love for me is going to be greater than I’ve ever experienced before. And I’m putting it out there for everyone else to know about.

I am not an orphan. I am a member of the family of God. You are, too. Join me on this journey of prayer and seeking after Him, as we all grow in the life of being his greatly beloved children.

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