Monday, July 14, 2014

The Six Senses of Life Overseas

Nothing ever prepares you for arriving in the dark of night on a new continent. There isn't enough cultural sensitivity classes, language training or dining at a hole in the wall ethnic restaurant in your city that can prepare you for the way your life will change.

Go ahead and embrace that truth. You can have all the training and orientation in the world, but stepping foot on the soil of your new overseas home will challenge and change you in ways that you will only understand once you are there. 

You can't fully prepare your senses. 

Prepare your senses to be ravished in the country to where you are headed. Take in the sights and sounds because too soon they will become commonplace.

I'm over at Velvet Ashes today sharing about how to experience life in your over new overseas home with all six of your senses. Yes, six senses. The sixth might be the most important.

Photo Credit: D-Stanley via Compfight cc

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Breaking My Break {A Blog Hop}

I know, I know, I am on a “break”. To quote Ross Gellar from Friends “We were on a break!” Sorry I am cheating, but for good reason.

Sometimes you break your break for something too good to pass up.

A few weeks ago  my friend and kindred spirit Alia invited me to a little blog hop among writers. To join the blog hop I simply had to answer four questions about my writing and share with my readers a few of my very favorite authors around this online world.

Once I read through the questions I knew it would be a great way to pair a bit of blogging with my off-line work to refine my personal writing. So here I am to share my answers and some of my favorites wordsmiths with you!

Alia invited me which I count as a true honor. Ya’ll, I met Alia a couple of years ago when I coerced her into joining The Nester for her yearly 31 Days link-up. We both decided to wade into the crazy deep waters of posting every day for a month. That was all it took and we realized that we were kindred spirits and writing soul-sisters. Also, I’m reasonably sure neither of us made it through the 31 Days with a perfect record. Since then we’ve gotten to share a real life couch a couple of times and I adore her more and more with every chance we get to share life.

Oh and by the by Alia is one of my favorite writers on the whole worldwide web. Her writing draws you in and is the kind of beautiful which finds you gazing inward for God’s fingerprints on your own life- the really messy beautiful kind. I’m grateful for her and the way that she writes her story and somehow teaches us about our own. It is a gift. She is a gift. Sheesh, I love her and the words she weaves.

Here are my answers to your burning writing questions...ok, that is overstating, but here are my answers none the less! 

What am I writing or working on?
My most recent project began as an exercise in retreating from the weekly/daily pressure to blog and publish. God has been chiseling on my heart to help me prioritize the dreams and demands of this season of my life as well as value rest in my daily life. One thing His heart surgery has brought to the surface is the desire to write and grow my online space with a dream to one day be published in print.

Taking time to refine my skills as a writer is the first step toward my goals. I am currently taking a blog break and daily working on the mechanics and flow of my writing. This involves a lot of writing, listening to and reading other writers.

I’ve already seen the benefits of this focused time and the result is a growing collection of my thoughts on rest and solitude. I hope to catalog these thoughts into a e-book to be available when I re-launch my online presence.

A writer’s greatest skill is observation. It is summer time which is a wonderful time to get outside and observe nature as well as slow down to really look and listen to the people that matter to us most. This time of focused rest is allowing me to really relax into the practice of observing the world around me in a more intent way.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? 
When I read my own writing I have a hard time determining which genre it falls under. As a mother and Christ follower it would be easy for me to try and align myself as being a “Christian mommy blogger” (which MANY of my dear and amazing mama-writer friends are!) but the label really doesn’t suit me very well.

I definitely do not feel like your typical blogger. Blogging for me is the medium, but the technical end and other parts of blogging aren’t super life giving for me. I like to say that I am a writer who blogs not a blogger who writes.

My writing tends toward the lyric end of styles and I’ve been known to capitulate between storytelling, politics and metaphor all in one post. There are a few others that write in the same strain, but I differ because I really take a look at my now- motherhood, faith, marriage, current events, etc..- with a real eye to the past. Amazingly enough I am often able to emerge with real, concrete practical ways to move forward in a messy world. I’ve realized my skill is not typical of storytellers in my genre and it’s part of my writing I am eager to grow.

My unique story as a child who was orphaned by the age of twelve colors much of the way I see my day to day as an adult. The experiences of my childhood have made me unafraid to face issues of loss and faith head-on in my writing. Although I’m writing about my day to day life and how God intersects all of those things I am also processing my past. I believe that most people do this in there day to day lives and it is one of the reasons that folks resonate with my writing style.

Why do I write what I do?
I remember my high school English teacher telling me that I had a gift with words. I shrugged it off at the time and continued my romance with words, but always with a wistful, “I wish I could write.” I never really took her seriously.

In fact during my “college years”- the years everyone else was in college and I was working at a camp- I lived with a dear friend and eloquent songwriter. She once asked me if I wrote. I nodded no because in my mind, compared to her, I didn’t.

Upon the encouragement of my husband I began pressing into writing as a way to process my past, particularly the death of my mother. In secret I set up a blog and began to share my writing. “Share” is probably an overstatement because it was a year and a half before anyone saw my blog. I happened upon the world of blogging and connected with some other writers whose work challenged me to push forward in my writing journey.

My writing is still a way to process my past, but it has also become a way to process my present. In fact I would argue that the two, past and present, are so inter-related that you can’t write about one without the other.

The birth of my daughter and my entrance into motherhood has made me a better writer and has allowed me to see my own mother with new eyes. I find the greatest depth of writing when I delve into the stories that have formed my life.

I write about motherhood, loss, faith and the messiness of life lived in broken but beautiful world because that is what I know. You won’t find me writing fiction (though I love a good read and admire fiction writers) because I’ve never been able to make up anything more real than the stuff of real life.

How does my writing process work?
Does it work? That is a question I am asking myself right now.

I have a gift for extemporaneous writing. I discovered this as a part of Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday challenge. If you give me a topic on nearly anything I can write you at least a few paragraphs.

I never really stop writing. My mind is constantly going and in writing mode looking for a story and perspective in all things, but I don't always take the time to pen my thoughts. I never realized that this was a unique way of thinking until I talked to someone who had a much more analytical mind. That was one of the key moments that me realize that I was a writer. The title of "Writer" has always felt elusive and reserved for a select few to me, but once I recognized my voice and talent I knew that I truly deserved the moniker. 

The place that I start with writing is always a core idea. Sometimes these ideas are scrawled on the back of receipts or typed up in Evernote as reminders. It is important for me that I capture my thoughts in the moment so that I can try my best to pick up from that point when I sit down to write. From that core I write until I have extinguished my words on the topic or find a natural stopping place. I try and save edits for the end, but I am a notoriously bad editor. It is a discipline for me to sit and read over every line with attention to detail and mis-types.

A great companion to my writing is music and I try and have a soundtrack playing to provide a rhythm to the process. Below is just one of the many soundtracks that I love to spin words too.

As a toddler mom with a lot of responsibilities my writing time has to be found in the cracks and margin of my day. That means a bit here and there in the early morning, afternoon (read as naptime) and late evening.

The biggest thing a writer can do for his/her writing is to simply make time to do it. My writing is best and grows the most when I am regularly refining and looking to others for encouragement and wisdom along the way. My process is imperfect- along with everything else in my life- but somehow God keeps using it and for that I am humbled and wholeheartedly grateful.

 Now to introduce you to a few of my friends...

The encouragement of other writers in my life has been invaluable to my growth. Most of those writers I have found here in this online space. These women write brave and tell their stories with beauty and hope in their own unique way. It is my deep joy to introduce you to a few of my writer friends.

Karina Allen a devoted follower of Jesus and you can find her on her blog For His Name and His Renown. She is from New Orleans, Louisianna, but has lived in Baton Rouge for the past 15 years. Karina loves singing, writing, reading, acting and dancing.  She is a contributing writer for (in)courage, Satisfaction Through Christ and Hashtag Hope. She loves teaching and mentoring the next generation, serving and missions. Karina loves the local church especially her own, Healing Place Church. She loves her Pastors and friends and considers them family.  She absolutely loves concerts, conferences and retreats! But the most important thing to her is that she lives out Isaiah 26:8 and her prayer is "May everything I do be for His name and His renown."

Karina is a sweetheart with shining faith! I got a message from her the other day and I have never heard someone so happy to be sitting in traffic. The joy of the Lord just exudes from her. She loves to share that joy and it comes through in her writing and her relentless faith in a great big God who knows us and calls us His own.

Karrilee Aggett is a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. She is a writer, reader, pray-er, photographer, artist, beach lover, laugh seeker...serving God to the best of her ability. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and nearly grown girlie. She is passionate about diving in deeper with the Lord and inviting others to discover His love for them. Her life message is...Speak Life. Be Love. Shine On. Karrilee loves to share her heart and what the Lord is speaking to her over at Abiding Love, Abounding Grace.

Karrilee is an encourager extraordinaire. Over the past couple of years she has left me comments on this blog that have spoke true courage into my life as a writer. She also happens to be a beautiful artist and gifted writer herself. I met her in person at Allume last year and even though she is a quiet soul off-line (at least in a conference setting) she speaks loudly with her intentional love and focus on others.

Holly Barrett is a Christ-follower, minister, speaker, writer, mother and YaYa from NC. Her passion is connecting people with Jesus and sharing her life’s message of God’s redemption. An extreme extrovert, Holly loves people and currently ministers to young adults as a Program Director for The Crossnore School in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of NC. Next to Jesus, Holly’s greatest loves are her precious grandbabies and their parents who proudly serve our country in the US Air Force and US Army. A social media addict, Holly blogs at Reclaiming a Redeemed Life and you can also find her on Twitter and Facebook

I met Holly through Five Minute Friday and turns out she is a Carolina girl too! In fact she lives right up the mountain from me in the hills of North Carolina! Small world! A couple of months ago we met face to face at a little lunch we had with a couple of other bloggers up in Boone, NC. She is such a sweet encouragement to me and we're determined to share a cup of real life tea soon!
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