Thursday Thoughts for Writers~When I Forget to Love

On Thursdays this year, I’ll share thoughts, tips and inspiration for writers.  I’m certainly not an expert, but am simply seeking personal encouragement in this art and want to share with anyone who’s also trying to find their way as a writer.  These short posts will come from books, articles, the Bible, my own thoughts, and other people.  Check back each week or subscribe for new posts.  Please introduce yourself in the comments–I’d love to meet you and hear about your thoughts on writing.

Happy writing!
Leslie 

How do you manage your compulsion to write--being obedient to the call without making it your idol?


I just spent the last hour this morning ignoring my kids and doing “just one more thing” on the computer while my husband got them out of their beds, changed two dirty diapers and prepared breakfast.  An hour later, I finally glanced up to acknowledge that I had checked out and wasn’t being fair to my husband.  This wasn’t the first time in recent weeks that something like this has happened.

Lately, as I’ve thought about what it means to be both a writer and a follower of Jesus, these words have been coming to mind:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
 And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give away all I have and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
1 Corinthians 13:1-3


When I do not write out of love, my words are hollow, empty and meaningless.  

In order to write from a place of love, I must be living a life of love.  I’ve heard from many writers that the best writing comes out of a life well-lived.  According to the God-man who walked on earth, that sort of life comes only when I am loving the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength; and secondly, loving my neighbor as myself (Mat. 22:37-39).  In high school youth group, we were taught to prioritize our life with “J.O.Y.”:  Jesus first, others second, yourself last.  But lately as I’ve been exploring what it means to be a writer, I’ve started to flip my priorities, putting myself first, others second and Jesus dead-last.  

The biblical definition of love is confusing to the rest of the world because we must first admit we are lost, hungry, thirsty, dirty, needy, poor, destitute, and dead before we can know True Love.  And it is out of our gratefulness for that Love that loved us anyway that we are freed to love others and create the art that God has put into our hearts to create.  

Am I letting myself soak in the well of that Love each day, allowing it to seep into every crack and permeate my soul?  Do I write out of a burning heart, like those who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus? I wonder if some days would be better spent sitting and waiting for the Spirit to move me instead of writing a post jabbering on like the clanging cymbal of 1 Corinthians 13?

And how can I hope to write well (i.e. from a life of love) when I am blatantly ignoring my husband or children to put my impulse to write before their needs?  Fortunately my husband hasn’t resented me (too much) yet, but I am still wrestling with wisdom to wiggle writing into the fringes of life rather than allow it to take center stage during this season when I have little ones to love first.

God wants our words to create a symphony and not be a lone clanging cymbal.  He wants us to be everything He created us to be and gain all the gifts of the Spirit that He intended for us to live by.  But His love must be central.  It must be the standard to which every aspect of my life is calibrated.  And when I am loving well, I will be writing well.

What are some ways you have been able to love well/live well AND write well without ignoring your family in the process?     

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Last Post~ White People Are Boring

Next Post~ When We Fear {for Velvet Ashes}


Last Week’s Thoughts for Writers~  The Compulsion to Write 
Find All Previous Thursday Thoughts for Writers here



Linking up with Coffee for Your Heart and While I’m Waiting  and 3D Lessons for Life 
 

The Compulsion to Write~How do you manage your compulsion to write--being obedient to the call without making it your idol?

 
  

White People Are Boring

Though I am as white as they come, most of the time I wish I didn't live in America--or at least didn't live surrounded by other white people.

Though Im as white as they come, most of the time I wish I lived in another country–or at least didn’t live surrounded by other white people.  Having traveled to multiple countries, I find other cultures, ethnicities, exotic foods and customs fascinating.  I especially love collectivist cultures in South America, Africa and Asia where spontaneous visits, eating off the same plates, invitations to family meals and sitting around chatting for hours are the norm, not the exception.  People are not seen as individuals, but draw their identity through being a part of the whole.  Because of this, the church instinctively knows how to move as one unit with more fluidity than we do in the west.

In China, I was close to a young Chinese couple that led a small house church.  When a couple in their group started having martial problems, they didn’t just refer them to a book to read or a counselor to go to, they MOVED IN WITH THEM.  Literally, moved into their house for several weeks to help them work through some of their issues.  Can you imagine something like that happening in western countries?

In Uganda, friends would go out on weekends and visit friend’s homes unannounced.  I remember meeting an African family studying in America at my college and they complained that they just didn’t know how to make friends in a culture that didn’t just “drop in” on each other, but had to plan everything weeks in advance.  In China, it took me weeks of being stood up to realize that I was planning too far in advance (one week).  When I asked my Chinese students when you should ask someone to dinner if you wanted to go on a Saturday, most said Friday–the day before.

Since returning from living in China five years ago, I’ve definitely struggled with some of my motives in wanting to live overseas.  Yes, I felt that God had “called” me overseas and to this day, I am in tears when I hear missionaries share in church or if I see videos meant to inspire people to go.  Just this Sunday a man stood up in church and shared about a short term trip to Ecuador and every part of me wanted to jump on a plane in July–with or without my family–and be there.  But I have also had to wrestle with the fact that I liked being viewed as different, special and radical–both in my own culture and in other cultures.  And I am addicted to adventure, the exotic and the Next Thing.  I live in the tension, wondering if I’m “called” or if I’m just eager for change.  

So instead of looking for ways to go abroad, I’m struggling to be content where I am.  And that means loving the people right here in my city in Colorado, which happen to be 92% white.  But so far many of those boring white people have certainly shocked me.

My first friend after we moved last year is a woman I met at the park.  We connected and since our kids were the same genders and ages, agreed to meet up again sometime.  Though colorful tattoos decorated her arms and back, I didn’t think she was too different from the other women I had seen around.  She mentioned that she and her husband own a martial arts academy, so naturally I googled it and her as soon as I got home.  Turns out before kids she was not only an instructor, but a world champion martial arts competitor.  

One of our neighbors is a stay-at-home dad who is in a band on the side.  A woman at church mentioned she takes snuff when she goes to her in-laws.  Out of a Bible study of 20 women I’m in, over half have lived abroad.  A woman we had over from church yesterday told us about her daughter who is a professional synchronized swimmer.  And I mentioned to two women at a moms’ group that I started a blog and both of them happen to be writers as well.

As I wrote last week about trying to notice people all around me, part of this is realizing that I am making unfair assumptions about people as “boring,” writing them off before I even have a chance to know them.  But what I’m really doing is not building a wall around others, but around myself.  Because I can’t know others well unless I also allow myself to be known.  

“If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also”  (1 John 4:20-21).  

We are called to a life of loving others, no matter their outer appearance.  

So I’m praying for open eyes to see people without prejudice or prejudgement.  I’m striving to be content where I am.   And I’m asking that God help me to see people as He sees them and love them as He does.  Because, truly, no matter what country, culture, race or custom, those who know Jesus are my brothers and sisters, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus…There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26, 28). 

I, not God, am actually the one making the distinctions and declarations, because God Himself looks at us all and simply sees His beloved children.  And I long to see people of all colors (including my own) as He does–full of beauty, life, creativity and His very characteristics.


Do you ever feel like white people are boring?  Do you have any stories of people who have surprised you?

Previous Post~  Monthly Mentionables {January}: Books, Podcasts, Music, Movies, T.V., Recipes & Articles
Next Post~ Thursday Thoughts for Writers: When I Forget to Love

Though I am as white as they come, most of the time I wish I didn't live in America--or at least didn't live surrounded by other white people.

Monthly Mentionables {January}: Books, Podcasts, Music, Movies, T.V., Recipes & Articles

These links and recommendations come from conversations, podcasts and Facebook posts I came across in January. I love lists, so I thought you might enjoy reading about what I stumbled on this month.

These links and recommendations come from conversations, podcasts and Facebook posts I came across in January. I love lists, so I thought you might enjoy reading about what I stumbled on this month.  Add your own in the comments!

Books:
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
I stuck with this even though it took me until about 2/3 of the way through to get into it.  The main reason I did was because the writing is so wonderful that you get caught up in the sheer beauty of the images, even though you don’t feel like they’re actually leading you anywhere.  Not my favorite, but it was certainly worth the read. 

Wild in the Hollow, by Amber C. Haines
This is a memoir of a woman moving from her wild past into womanhood and the way she carries her past into her present.  Boiled down, it is not a new story, but it is so wellwritten that I read it in two days.  Amber studied poetry and it really comes through in the writing.  Her images are startling at times, but their newness brings so much freshness to the way she talks about God and family.  It is a beautiful story.

Podcasts:
Magic Lessons, by Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth Gilbert is like a cheerleader for artists.  Listening to the first two podcasts helped give me permission to pursue this compulsion I’ve had lately to write.  They’re only 20 minutes each and wonderful for anyone who is feeling guilty about pursing art (you’ll stop that).   
Episode 1: Do What Ignites Your Soul 
Episode 2: Cheryl Strayed to Moms: Pursue Your Passions Like a Mofo

This American Life
These two podcasts really got me fired up.  I mean, I wanted to call senators, write letters and jump into protests.  They are about segregation in America and about a few communities that have either chosen or been forced to integrate the schools.  As a child who grew up under forced integration in Tampa, FL, and later was a teacher in a magnet school that bused kids at least an hour out to go to school in a white neighborhood, I found these to be fascinating.  And horrible.  Please, if you listen to anything this year, listen to these two podcasts.  
Part I:  The Problem We All Live With 
Part II:  The Problem We All Live With

Music:
Walk Off the Earth:  Adele, “Hello,” cover
This is thanks to my friend, Roxanne, who posted it on Facebook.  Thanks–I’ve had this song in my head for the past week!  This is a new group to me and I love their creativity.  This one is pretty awesome, too–they all play the same guitar!

Movies:
Infinitely Polar Bear, with Mark Ruffalo
This was a fun indie film about a man who is bi-polar and trying to parent his children while is wife is away getting a degree.  It takes place in the late 70’s, so I kind of felt like I was watching Sesame Street from my childhood years in the 80’s.  It didn’t change my life, but it was heart-warming and entertaining. 

Sisters, with Tiny Fey and Amy Poehler
I’m actually kind of embarrassed to admit that I saw this.  Okay, it was hilarious, but very raunchy.  I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone unless they were on their first girl weekend away in Chicago without kids in four years (like I was;-)  )

T.V.:
Broadchurch
Loving this British mystery series about a murder in a small, beautiful coastal town in England.  Adam says it reminds him a lot of The Killing, which I haven’t seen.  We’re really enjoying the filming, music, pace, acting and scenery. 

Recipes, all from Cookie + Kate:
Spinach Artichoke Lasagna
This is a really unique dish.  Not surprisingly, my son actually gagged when we made him take his obligatory one bite, but don’t let that deter you.  I really liked that it uses cottage cheese instead of ricotta since I’m not a huge ricotta fan.  And the artichokes give it a tangy flavor.  I’d make it again.

Homemade Vegetarian Chili
This was surprisingly good for not having meat.  And it wasn’t too spicy–my one year old even ate it!  It’s a good go-to chili dish.

Thai Red Curry with Vegetables
I was really excited about this one because I love coconut milk, but it was a little disappointing.  It was just missing something.  Can’t say what, but if I make it again, I may add more red curry paste and add the red pepper flakes straight into it while it’s cooking.  My kids didn’t eat it anyway, so I may as well have made it spicy the way we like it.

Healthy Banana Bread!
I almost made another loaf using my regular recipe just in case this was awful, but it was actually really good!  I’m not sure if I would actually call it “healthy,” because it still has a good amount of honey and/or maple syrup (I used half of each), coconut oil and of course I had to add chocolate chips.  But I was pleasantly surprised.  You couldn’t even tell it was 100% whole wheat flour.  I’ll be making this again.

Sweet Corn and Black Bean Tacos
This was probably my favorite of the new recipes I tried this month and as a bonus, my kids actually ate it!  I didn’t trust fresh corn this time of year, so I just let the frozen corn thaw as it marinated and it tasted fine.  I also used whole wheat flour tortillas instead of corn ones because that seemed redundant with the corn filling.  This dish has all my favorite ingredients:  cilantro, lime, corn and feta!  Yum.

Recipe, Food Network:
Lasagna Soup
I made some changes to this one:  Since I don’t like ricotta, I cut up mozzarella cheese sticks and used those instead (delicious after they were warmed by the soup!), I also didn’t top with Parmesan cheese (since I used mozzarella), skipped the cream because I didn’t want it to be so rich, and in the last few minutes of cooking, I put in a few handfuls of fresh spinach to increase the veggie quotient.  So good.  This was delicious and I think it would freeze well, so it would be an easy recipe to double. 

Subscribed to:
Book Bub
Daily list of deals on either free or super cheap ebooks.  Haven’t downloaded any yet, but it seems good so far.

The Skimm
This is a very pared-down version of a daily news update delivered to your email inbox.  I wouldn’t use this as your only news outlet, but it simplifies it enough that it is very easy to understand.  My main complaint is that it reads a little like it’s “news for dummies.”

NY Times morning briefing
Loving this so far.  Just short snippets of news with links to articles if you want to know more.

Articles from the Web:
Aldi is Fixing its Biggest Weakness–and that should terrify Whole Foods

How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe and Winter 2016 Fashion Capsule Wardrobe Project

The Christian Introvert

A Question of Environmental Racism in Flint

“Tragedy” in Flint

Clothing bales and hurting more than we help

Scraping Raisins:
January’s most-visited post:  What Love Looks Like After Five Years of Marriage

New weekly series for writers and artists:  Thursday Thoughts for Writers

Visit my first published article at Velvet Ashes, an online magazine for women serving overseas:  When You Feel Spiritually Dehydrated…Again


What did you come across this month that you’d like to add to the list?


Last Post:  Thursday Thoughts for Writers~The Compulsion to Write
Next Post:  White People Are Boring

Linking up with: Emily P. Freeman and Literacy Musing Mondays and Leigh Kramer

These links and recommendations come from conversations, podcasts and Facebook posts I came across in January. I love lists, so I thought you might enjoy reading about what I stumbled on this month.

 

What I'm Into

Thursday Thoughts for Writers~The Compulsion to Write

On Thursdays this year, I’ll share thoughts, tips and inspiration for writers.  I’m certainly not an expert, but am simply seeking personal encouragement in this art and want to share with anyone who’s also trying to find their way as a writer.  These short posts will come from books, articles, the Bible, my own thoughts, and other people.  Check back each week or subscribe for new posts.  Please introduce yourself in the comments–I’d love to meet you and hear about your thoughts on writing.

Happy writing!
Leslie 

How do you manage your compulsion to write--being obedient to the call without making it your idol?


“Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.  This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night:  must I write?

And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.”

~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet


“Whatever you do, do it with all your heart as in working for the Lord and not for men.”

~Colossians 3:23


Writing is a compulsion, but while it is a calling, I disagree with Rilke that we should build our entire life around it.  If we are followers of Jesus, He is our God, not our art.  Writing, like anything, can easily become an idol.  But just because we don’t worship our art doesn’t mean that we create inferior art.  Instead, it means that we have a more astute understanding of the impulse within human beings to create, because we know the Creator.   So we write in the tension, pouring out our hearts while they are being held by our God.

How do you manage your compulsion to writebeing obedient to the call without making it your idol?

Resources:
In the first two episodes of the podcast, Magic Lessons, Elizabeth Gilbert is a great cheerleader to encourage you to follow-through if you are feeling the urge to write.
Episode 1: Do What Ignites Your Soul
Episode 2: Cheryl Strayed to Moms

Previous Post:  When I Forget to Notice People

Next Post:  Monthly Mentionables {January}: Books, Podcasts, Music, Movies, T.V., Recipes & Articles

Last Week‘s Thursday Thoughts for Writers~Bread and Fish 

The Compulsion to Write~How do you manage your compulsion to write--being obedient to the call without making it your idol?

 
  

When I Forget to Notice People

Lately, I feel like God is reminding me to notice.  Notice detail, notice people, notice Him. Because I haven't been.

Lately, I feel like God is reminding me to notice.

Notice detail, notice people, notice Him. Because I haven’t been. And noticing is a prerequisite to thankfulness, praise, worship and action. I’m bumping along life without recognition, like the blind man who wasn’t completely healed and saw people walking around that looked like trees. I need Jesus to restore my vision completely. Because I have forgotten how to SEE people.

As I reach around my one-year-old strapped to my front, searching for my wallet and watching for my three-year-old who is most likely pulling all the chip bags off the stand or smearing the display case glass with finger prints, it catches me off guard when the cashier behind the counter asks me, “How is your day going?” or “Have you had a good morning?” The first few times this happened after moving to Colorado, I’m sure I just looked at them with my mouth hanging slightly open. Chicago is not an unfriendly city, but perfect strangers didn’t usually ask me such personal questions. How was I supposed to answer?

But the question, though I now realize was not a true venture into how I am feeling at the current moment, rocked me, because I hadn’t even noticed a person was there until they spoke to me. Worse, I would have gone through our entire interaction without even looking them in the eye.

In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis says, “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which,if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

People are eternal.  And every.single.one. is made in the image of God Himself.  So when I don’t see people, I don’t see God.

Lately, I have not only failed to notice strangers, but I have even forgotten to notice the people who are right in front of me–my children and husband.  Now, I believe in rest, alone time, naps and hobbies, but I have begun ignoring my children even during times when I could be fully present with them.  Scrolling Facebook during bath time, texting while I sit with them on the floor, and spacing out when they ask me questions, I spend the day lamely multi-tasking when I would be better off focusing on one activity at a time–mainly, my children.  And I’m missing out.   

And though love is not a fairy tale, how often do I take a second and really gaze into my husband’s eyes?  How often do I think about him during the day or sit and talk with him face-to-face instead of operating in survival mode, ticking off tasks as we work side-by-side?  When did I stop leaving him little love notes or sweet texts?  Have I prayed for him today, yesterday or anytime recently? 

The word I’ve chosen to focus on this year is “enjoy,” which begins with noticing.  When I set aside my phone and to-do lists and intentionally notice people, I can begin to enjoy the people all around me.  

If I would only ACCEPT that the pace of my life right now with two kids under three needs to be slower than I’ve ever been used to, I’ll begin to notice God in the details more than I ever have.  For nature, strangers, friends, family, my children and my husband are really displays of the splendor of God at work all around me.  If I will only take the time to notice. 


Do you notice people?

How do you notice God?

Previous Post:  Things to Be Happy About Chicago
Next Post:  Thursday Thoughts for Writers~The Compulsion to Write

Lately, I feel like God is reminding me to notice.  Notice detail, notice people, notice Him. Because I haven't been.


Things To Be Happy About Chicago

We recently moved away from Chicago and in spite of it being January, I’m feeling nostalgic.  I’ve lived in the Uptown, Andersonville and Edgewater neighborhoods, so this list has a definite north side bent, but here is what I miss most about Chicago:

We recently moved away from Chicago and in spite of it being January, I'm feeling nostalgic.  I've lived in the Uptown, Andersonville and Edgewater neighborhoods, so this list has a definite north side bent, but here is what I miss most about Chicago:



Running along Lake Michigan
The courtyard at Fourth Presbyterian Church across the street from the Hancock building
Chai milkshakes at Kopi Cafe in Andersonville
How excited adults get about the Holiday Train
Artopolis Bakery and Cafe in Greektown
Chinatown:  Lao Sichuan, hot soy milk, Pui Tak, Pho 
The best view in the city being from the women’s bathroom on the second-to-last-floor of the Hancock building
Museums of all kinds
Myopic used book store in Wicker Park
Being able to walk anywhere 
Taking the water taxi
Eavesdropping on actors practicing their lines in coffee shops
The way residents develop solidarity through misery in winter
Neighborhoods:  Andersonville, Lincoln Square, Wicker Park
Being able to check out museum passes for a week from the public libraries
Indie Thai on Broadway 
Parks throughout the city
“Vintage” Chicago apartments with creaky wood floors
A 5 minute wait for an Uber
Margie’s ice cream=best chocolate sauce in the city
Argyle Street
Devon Street 
Aldi
Chicago Park District=super cheap classes for kids
Turning the river green on St. Patrick’s Day
The Chicago Art Institute miniature rooms
Free city water
The way Chicagoans enjoy their summers
Maggianos, Riggatoni D
Lickety Split Custard, the Grasshopper
Lincoln Park Zoo=FREE
Races:  the Hot Chocolate, the Shamrock Shuffle, the Chicago Half Marathon and Full Marathon
High tea at the Drake

We recently moved away from Chicago and in spite of it being January, I'm feeling nostalgic.  I've lived in the Uptown, Andersonville and Edgewater neighborhoods, so this list has a definite north side bent, but here is what I miss most about Chicago:

The theater scene
The Water Tower=one of just a few buildings left standing after the Chicago fire in 1871
M. Henry
How residents avoid Navy Pier
First Free Church in Andersonville
Diversity
Grub Hub
Taking the architectural cruise
Little Free Libraries
Summer sports leagues
Maggie Daley Park downtown 
Cinnamon rolls at Ann Sather
End of the road at Montrose Harbor=best view of the lake and city
Cheap produce stores like Edgewater Produce 
Street musicians at the Jackson stop on the redline
Cafe Babareeba: Bacon-wrapped dates and Sangria
Local coffee shops that do pour-overs and have amazing lattes:  Metropolis, Bow Truss, Intelligentsia, Asado, La Colombe, Ipsento
The “Ipsento Latte” at Ipsento Coffee:  coconut milk, honey, espresso and cayenne pepper
Furnishing your entire apartment through Craigslist
Buying spicy mangos or pork rinds at Montrose beach
Backroom Shakespeare 
Bundling up like a ninja to run in the winter
“A city of small towns”
Good drinking water straight from the tap
Downtown stores:  H & M and Crate & Barrel
Lakeshore Drive=”The Drive” or “LSD”
Authentic ethnic food of all kinds
Getting into Blue Man Group free by volunteering to usher
Christmas time downtown:  lights, Christkindlmarket, Macy’s window display, Frango mints from Macy’s
Garret’s popcorn shop, the “Chicago mix”=chesse + caramel popcorn
Taking the blue line to O’hare or the orange line to Midway
Murals under bridges by the lake 
Finally throwing your Christmas tree out your third floor window apartment in January
Summers:  Summer Dance, free outdoor concerts, movies in the park, neighborhood festivals
Street musicians

We recently moved away from Chicago and in spite of it being January, I'm feeling nostalgic.  I've lived in the Uptown, Andersonville and Edgewater neighborhoods, so this list has a definite north side bent, but here is what I miss most about Chicago:

How everyone has their “tamale man” who sells them out of a cooler on the corner of the street
North side beaches–Foster, Hollywood and Osterman–cleaner and less crowded
The puppet bike 
Hot Tix=half prince tickets 
Ice skating downtown
Free covered parking garages attached to grocery stores
Brilliant summer gardens
Liberals
People-watching on Belmont after midnight
Waving at other runners in the winter
Public transportation to anywhere you need to go 
The color of Lake Michigan on a sunny day as you drive the S-curve on Lakeshore Drive
Gluhwein (hot spiced, mulled wine) in Andersonville in winter
Heaters at bus stop shelters
The way spring’s daffodils and tulips take your breath away
Chicago-style pizza and hot dogs
Wrigley Field & the Cubs (even if you hate baseball)
Cheap parking app:  Spot Hero
The Waterfront Cafe in Edgewater
Running into people you know

 
What do you love about Chicago? 

Previous Post: Thursday Thoughts for Writers~Bread & Fish
Next Post:  When I Forget to Notice People
  

We recently moved away from Chicago and in spite of it being January, I'm feeling nostalgic.  I've lived in the Uptown, Andersonville and Edgewater neighborhoods, so this list has a definite north side bent, but here is what I miss most about Chicago:

Thursday Thoughts for Writers~Bread & Fish

On Thursdays this year, I’ll share thoughts, tips and inspiration for writers.  I’m certainly not an expert, but am simply seeking personal encouragement in this art and want to share with anyone who’s also trying to find their way as a writer.  These short posts will come from books, articles, the Bible, my own thoughts, and other people.  Check back each week or subscribe for new posts.  Please introduce yourself in the comments–I’d love to meet you and hear about your thoughts on writing.

Happy writing!
Leslie 
We as writers are to be like the little boy who offered his lunch of bread and fish to Jesus to do what He would with it.

We as writers are to be like the little boy who offered his lunch of bread and fish to Jesus to do what He would with it.  I’m sure the boy assumed his gift would feed just one other hungry person, for this was all it was meant to feed.  I doubt that he dreamed that his lunch would be multiplied to nourish thousands.

Like this boy, we are to humbly offer our words in faith and not be concerned with how God chooses to use them to bless others.  We write from our depths, trusting Jesus to take our words and use them as He deems fit–whether it be to feed the soul of one person or thousands.  That is not our concern, not really.  Instead, we are called to offer what we have when we have it and let Jesus do the miraculous work of multiplication if that is what He wants to do.

There is peace in that for me today–I do the writing, but God does what He will with it.  It takes the pressure off of self-promotion when I believe that these words of mine are now in His hands, ready to distribute to whomever needs to hear them today or years from now–even if it is just one person.

“He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap.  
Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of a pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things.
Sow your seed in the morning and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good.”
Ecclesiastes 11: 3-6 (NASB)

We are to give our bread and loaves–our words.  And to sow seed and write without being distracted by our statistics or readership.  Because we have no idea what God will do with the simple gift our words when we offer them in faith.


Matt. 14
Luke 9

Do you believe God can use you and your words?  Have you given them to Him and walked away? 

How have you already experienced God using you in surprising ways? 

~~~~~~

Previously on Thursday Thoughts for Writers:
Comparison 

Art & the Alabaster Jar
 

Previous Post~When You Feel Spiritually Dehydrated…Again 
Next Post~Things to Be Happy About Chicago


Linking up with Coffee for Your Heart and Literacy Musing Mondays 

We as writers are to be like the little boy who offered his lunch of bread and fish to Jesus to do what He would with it.


When You Feel Spiritually Dehydrated…Again {for Velvet Ashes}

I shared this over at Velvet Ashes a week ago. Velvet Ashes is an amazing community of women all over the world. Amy Young, one of the co-editors, describes it as :

“More than a blog or a website, the vision is an on-line watering hole—you know, a place to come when you need refreshment, a place where you’ve been out working in the fields and just need a moment to catch your breath, a place to let your guard down, a place to swap jokes or books or prayers, a place to known and be known.”

I have been a part of this community over the past year and though I am not currently living overseas, I feel like I have found “my people.” This is my first article to be published and I am so honored to be able to write for Velvet Ashes.

~~~

I wasn’t allowed to go to church for three years. I lived in a remote area of China with one female teammate that I met with on Sunday mornings. We would take turns planning our “service,” downloading sermons and singing along with Cyberhymnal online. And while I cherish the simplicity of those days, I also remember beginning to feel desperate for community. My soul thirsted for God in a dry and weary land where there was no water (Ps. 63:1).

I eventually took a risk. A precious Chinese mother-figure to me was very involved in the local house church, which was far from “underground.” A large red cross served as a sign for the unregistered meeting place of believers. I often ran along a dried up river that served as a dumping ground for a local dairy factory, right across from the church. So one morning I went on a run, with a stop along the way at the large red cross.

I didn’t understand much of the service, but I recognized the Spirit there. Sitting on tiny wooden benches with handmade quilt covers, the men on one side and the women on the other, I drank in the joyful singing, the passionate sermon and the intimate conversations. I was greeted with crinkly smiles and sparking eyes. My friend introduced me to her friends as if I was her daughter and I felt like I was finally among family in this place where I had felt so isolated and alone.

Out of respect for the rules of my organization and the safety of the Chinese believers, this was my only visit to this oasis in my city. It’s a strange world when going to church is breaking the rules or something to feel guilty about! Tears streamed down my face the first Sunday back in church in the states while I was home for a break, as the waterfall of worship poured over my soul. The wilderness taught me to cherish church like never before.

But for three years, I survived in a dry and weary land where there was no water, spiritually speaking.

How?

…continue reading here at Velvet Ashes.





Previous Post~What Love Looks Like After 5 Years of Marriage

What Love Looks Like After 5 Years of Marriage

My husband and I just celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary and our love is so different from the mushy ideals presented in the fairy tales I loved as a girl.

I’m not sure yet how I feel about having my daughter get into princesses, princes, and fairy tales.  The first princess items made their way into our home recently and to be honest, I inwardly groaned when they did.  This is new to me, so the jury’s still out, but I want my daughter to know what love really looks like.   My husband and I just celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary and our love is so different from the mushy ideals presented in the fairy tales I loved as a girl.

My husband compliments me, but he does not complete me.  He fills in so many voids, but does not meet every desire of my heart.  

Instead, love looks like changing sheets–twice–together at 2 am after your son has vomited all over them.  It is the inordinate delight of having someone make and deliver coffee to you as you sit nursing a baby before the sun has come up.  It is someone who lets you put your icy cold feet on them as you are curled together in a C as you fall asleep.  Love is a husband who eats anything you put in front of him and never makes fun of or criticizes you–ever.  

Love is being told you look beautiful when you can’t remember if you brushed your hair, are not wearing make-up and are certainly wearing the same hoody you wore three out of the last seven days. It is praying and seeking community together.  It is catching each other’s eye across the room when your son says something hilarious and you are trying to be serious and not crack a smile.  

It is having a constant in your life after years of being alone.  My mom reminded me of a time many years ago when I had to sign a heap of paperwork at the hospital and I just started crying and said, “THIS is why I want a husband.  So I don’t have to do all of this by myself!”  I had similar feelings when I had to drag all my luggage with me into airport bathrooms, fill up my gas in -15 degree weather, pay bills, figure out my taxes (I gave up, to be honest–thank you, dad…), and viciously guard my possessions when traveling alone in China.  I prayed for someone who would BE with me in life’s transitions.  Someone I wouldn’t have to explain my complex web of relationships and history to.  A constant would be there for holiday meals and wouldn’t send my host rushing to pull up the “extra” chair because I made our numbers odd. 

Love is in the physical intimacy that you share, though I’ve been shocked by how much NOT like the movies it is.  Hollywood conveniently leaves out the humanizing moments of laughter over surprising bodily noises, mishaps, head and teeth bumps and the aspects that just don’t work, in spite of your aspirations towards creativity.  The movies don’t account for the mess of it all (in so many senses).  But love is in those times, too, imperfect as they are, as they give you an opportunity to connect on bad days and good days.  On days when it feels like the world is going to end and you can’t trust politicians or world leaders to keep you protected, there is comfort in the nearness of another human soul and the closest connection two humans can have.  It is a taste of Eden in a world of chaos.  A vulnerable love that sheds your skin of shame.  That leaves you feeling loved because you are accepted and celebrated in your nakedness.

Love looks like understanding and doing what you can to meet each other’s needs, whether that be for  deep conversation, sex, alone time, or just the need to meet a craving for French Fries or a cup of coffee (even if it means driving 10 miles out of the way).  It is knowing that your husband is an introvert and wants to shut down after an evening with people, but that your wife, an extrovert, will want to chatter away for an hour after you get home.  Love tries to understand that you have different thresholds for people that you need to make allowances for as you schedule your time.

These are the moments I actually longed for when I was single–not the sweep-me-off-my-feet, passionate thrill of love, but the togetherness, the commitment, the security of knowing that someone would love me, respect me and serve me even on the rough days.  Love is having a man to share about my day with and offer to cook me omelets when I am exhausted and standing dejectedly in front of the refrigerator at dinner time.   It is being parents, lovers, friends, partners, co-conspirators, and each other’s greatest fans.  

It is a piece of art made up of a thousand moments recorded, which together tell the story of love.

After five years of marriage, this is what love looks like for us.  We are tired, have made personal sacrifices, put passions on the shelf and are still working on communicating well.  So though life is perhaps not being lived perfectly “happily ever after,” I am sometimes made to feel like a princess in disguise.   

What does love look like for you?  I’d love to hear some real life examples in the comments!

Previous Post:  Thursday Thoughts for Writers~Art & the Alabaster Jar 
Next Post:  When You Feel Spiritually Dehydrated…Again {for Velvet Ashes}

Linking up with A Proverbs 31 Wife and Velvet Ashes

My husband and I just celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary and our love is so different from the mushy ideals presented in the fairy tales I loved as a girl.

 

Thursday Thoughts for Writers~Art & the Alabaster Jar

On Thursdays this year, I’ll share thoughts, tips and inspiration for writers.  I’m certainly not an expert, but am simply seeking personal encouragement in this art and want to share with anyone who’s also trying to find their way as a writer.  These short posts will come from books, articles, the Bible, my own thoughts, and other people.  Check back each week or subscribe for new posts.  Please introduce yourself in the comments–I’d love to meet you and hear about your thoughts on writing.

Happy writing!
Leslie

 

Art & the Alabaster Jar



She tentatively tiptoes into the room, cradling her alabaster jar of perfume, the most expensive item she owns.  She hears whispers and titters as she approaches The Teacher.  He smiles gently, encouraging her as she approaches Him.  Exposing herself to ridicule and criticism after coming out of a life of shame, she continues with what she is compelled to do, breaking and pouring out the jar onto her Lord and then wiping his feet with her hair.  He touches her, and then silences those who protest, commanding respect for what she is doing, for it is beautiful to Him. 

~~~~~~~~

The art that’s put into our heart to create is like this alabaster jar.  As we, like Mary, feel compelled to carry it out into the world at risk of being ostracized, we pour out what’s most valuable to us in an act of extravagant worship.  As we break our jars and offer our words, the scent permeates the page and drifts farther than we could have imagined, as an act of worship unto God Himself.

It would’ve been easier for Mary to pour out her jar privately, protected from the ridicule of others.  But she did so before spectators, just as the writer willingly (or reluctantly?) submits himself or herself to an audience. 

And like David, who insisted that He not present God with an offering that cost him nothing, so was her sacrifice.  And so is ours…if we are brave. The risky words that cost us the most–that make us the most vulnerable–have the most power.  If our breath doesn’t catch a bit before hitting publish or send, I wonder if we’ve put enough at stake.  

The criticism Mary received is similar to what I face as a writer, though it’s often more of a wrestling with my own thoughts:   

Why all this waste? 

Why are you wasting your time when you could be doing something more productive?  When you could be serving your family or at least contributing to the family income? 

But what the world (or our thoughts) calls “waste,” Jesus calls beautiful.  He operates within a different economy.

Let your most important words pour out this week without regard for what other people might think.  Don’t listen to the lies that you are wasting time, money or relationships.  If God is compelling you to write, then write.  Keep pouring yourself out in worship to Jesus Himself–not others–because He calls the sacrifice of your words “beautiful.”

Mat. 26, Mark 14, Luke 7, 2 Sam. 24:24

Do you ever struggle with the feeling that you are wasting your time? 

Do you ever see your writing as an act of worship?

~~~~~~~


Last week’s Thoughts for Writers~Comparison

Previous Post~Goodbye to the Other Leslies
Next Post~What Love Looks Like After 5 Years of Marriage

Linking up with Coffee for Your Heart and 3D Lessons for Life and Tell His Story and Live Free Thursday and Grace and Truth and Faith & Friends  and Velvet Ashes

 

Art & the Alabaster Jar