Archive for the 'Faith Rest' Category

Staycation

Resting: my sketch of our former Redbone, Bear,  asleep

Resting: my sketch of our former Redbone, Bear, asleep

My last post was titled in part,  “Take a Day Off…”

When I wrote it I didn’t realize I was actually going to continue to do it, but that’s what’s happened. Even though I mentioned that I thought the Lord was giving me a vacation — seeing as I’d turned the whole matter of me trying to write and failing, failing, failing, over to Him, and it seemed He was doing nothing, thus it must be a vacation — I guess I didn’t think it would continue to go on. After all, the usual times for a vacation are a week, maybe two. Not a month…

Surely, I thought even as I wrote that last post, I’d been “vacating” long enough  and it was time to get back to work.

Apparently not.  Because I still haven’t been able to get myself to work. I’ve continued to avoid the office and have spent a lot of time reading news and comment stuff on the internet, watching videos on making cards, actually making cards… and just doing the general things around the house and yard that are always there, and could easily take up all my time if I let them.

Internally, however, I continued to fight the whole vacation concept. Or at least to feel guilty about it, as I repeatedly questioned whether I was correctly applying what I’d been learning in Bible class. Maybe I was actually just deluding myself, thinking I could just throw everything out the window like this and and let God do it all. Wasn’t that a bit flakey? After all, as every “Professional writer” knows, if you want to write you must go into the office and force yourself to write. It takes self-discipline, and you must train yourself to do that.  It’s absurd to just “trust the Lord.”

I now think that is the voice of my flesh, which I’ve recently become more and more able to identify. More on this later, but for now though, the fact is, I had already done the “just use self-discipline” thing and it led nowhere.  The only thing left was that I trust the Lord to return the motivation to write, as well as the ideas and the direction the story is to take. Even though He’s taking MUCH longer than I think He should be taking.

Which, of course, means I have to trust Him even more to move me and, as I outlined above, it is very difficult for me to do that. I don’t want to rely on Him. I want to take control and get it done myself.  I have a plan, a timetable that I think is reasonable, and He’s not following it!

Well, yesterday I was doing a search on the Internet for “effects of too many things to do.”  (a subject some friends and I were discussing on Sunday). I didn’t find much on that, but in the course of the search, I did stumble upon an article called, “Recovering from Writer’s Burnout: Steps to Happier Writing.”

Here’s the first paragraph:

Many writers (and other creative people) hit that point eventually: they burn out. They feel tired. They can’t feel any interest in their work, and doing that work becomes harder and harder. “

That was and still is me. Feeling very tired. No interest in the work. I’ve mentioned it before. I kind of like what I’ve done so far, but I can’t think of the right place to go from here, and for some time now it’s all seemed dead. I don’t want to think about it.  When I try, I just confuse myself. Should it be this or that? I can’t decide. If I force the decision I can’t write… Or flip back to the alternative the next day when everything after the bit I’ve written goes blank.

I thought I’d already gone through the whole burnout thing. I thought I’d given myself a break. After all, it’s been six years since I finished The Enclave. Of course, that led right into the caregiving for my mother. And then dealing with her estate and all kinds of family changes — my son leaving home, settling in another state, and getting married, the arrival of our granddaughter… in addition to my own health issues …

All of those things, even the happy events, still intruded into the flow of my writing, sometimes for weeks at a time.  Does that sort of thing contribute to burnout as well? I”m not sure, but I can say from experience that after a while it gets frustrating… I couldn’t remember what I’d decided the last time I’d worked with the material, stuff that had seemed good before the interruption no longer seemed so good… I lost a sense of where I was going exactly…

The article continued in a second paragraph:

“I started to hit the burnout point last year with my freelance writing. Unfortunately, I missed some of the signs and so I continued taking contracts. Eventually I became almost completely burned out — unable to take interest in all but the lightest, most relaxing writing. That’s a terrible place to go if writing is what you’ve wanted to do all of your life.”

Not just wanted to do, but what you’ve actually done. I’ve been writing fiction for over forty years and the drive was always there. Now suddenly, it wasn’t. And since throughout most of that time I believed it was the Lord who was supplying the drive, the desire, the ideas, the guidance… then it must be that for some reason He was withholding it now, and not just something about me. In other words, I don’t think it’s actual “burn out” so much as me stressing out because God hasn’t come through in my time, and so I keep trying to get back in the game when it’s pretty clear He’s been telling me I need to wait.

The biggest reason I can think of for Him to remove the drive, desire and ideas, is to remind me that it really is Him doing it, and not me. Secondary reasons include forcing me to trust Him for all of it and teaching me to put aside the internal shrieking of my control freak sin nature in the process. He’s also making me take a deeper look at ways I’ve always looked at life and self and my work and finding they are not really in line with His ways… Plus, there’s been a huge upheaval and change of direction in how I’m coming to understand the spiritual life overall. And how can one write Christian allegory/analogies if one’s whole perspective on the Christian life is changing?

One of my friends reminded me of the blessedness of winter concept, when the trees are stripped of their leaves and stand bare and gray, seemingly dead. But inside God is doing a work and before long the new life of spring appears…  That He does the same with us.

I know she’s right, and  I think that is what’s happening to me. And part of that includes the fact that God really does want me to have a longer vacation than I think is appropriate.

Because in the above mentioned article, the very first suggestion of what to do for the “burned out” state is “Take a Vacation.”  🙂

Here’s what she has to say:

“There’s one thing that, above all, you should try to do for yourself when you start to burn out. If you can afford to, take a vacation. If you’re still finishing off a contract then take a vacation as soon as it’s over. Be lazy. Sit around the house and read thrillers, mysteries, or something equally pointless and fun. Watch movies. Take lots of walks in the sunshine. Relax. You need to be able to approach the rest of all this [ie, her other suggestions] feeling rested if at all possible.”

So, that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing, even if by default. I haven’t, however, yet allowed myself to read novels, thinking that would be too great a “time consumer”. But having read this, I decided that maybe I really should treat my vacation as a real vacation, so yesterday, I picked up one of the recent Brad Thor novels sitting on my shelf, Full Black, and am now halfway through it! 😀

Update:  I wrote this post in the afternoon, and barely got it done before time for live Bible Class from Lighthouse Bible Church in Florida where Pastor John got up and started talking this very thing!  That we keep thinking there’s something good about us that’s going to get the job done (be more loving, be more self-disciplined) when that’s part of the old self that was crucified on the Cross!  The words and phrases he used were almost direct answers to things I’d thought and wondered about in the course of not just writing the above post, but over many days. It was one of those times when I knew that God was talking directly to me, and reinforcing my conclusion.

Yes, the writing is to come from Him. No, I do not need to try to be “more self-disciplined.” Yes, it is right to wait for Him to lead, and I do know what that feels like. This very post, for example, I believe was the result of His leading and guiding and moving,  because until I started writing it, I wasn’t planning on writing anything at all. I don’t even really know why I accessed my blog in the first place, and initially all I did was check out some of the other blogs I follow. Then suddenly I found myself opening the new post window and the words were flowing.

Here’s a link to the message in case you’re interested. I thought it was pretty phenomenal even aside from the immediate personal connections:

The Activity of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Church Age believers, part 51

Not on Your Own Understanding

Stop it

Another day of two hours of productive work on Sky!  Yay!

I know I’ve written recently about changes I’ve been making — using Freedom, turning off the phone ringers and muting the answering machine, getting to bed on time, keeping stuff picked up and put away — and on the surface perhaps it does seem like those changes in my habits have made the difference.

But truth be told, I really don’t think it’s me and all my plans, but God just enabling me to do it. Slowly but surely He’s been bringing me around to maybe half believing the truth that if I just let Him do it, He will. That I really don’t have to make all these plans and spend my time fretting and figuring and fussing about the future.

One of my favorite verses, one I’ve “claimed” for years is Pro 3:5,6

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”

I thought I understood it, but I’m realizing now that I didn’t really. I would trust Him with a problem, but at the same time, I would often be thinking of how things might turn out, and what I might do to head them off or encourage them… But recently it occurred to me that if I’m supposed to be trusting the Lord with ALL my “system of thinking” as Col. Thieme defined “heart” and NOT relying on my own understanding (which is another way of saying MY thoughts)  then what am I doing trying to figure everything out, trying to imagine every possible exigency and what I can to do handle it?  Well, clearly I’m not trusting Him.

I never saw so clearly in this verse that it’s actually telling me to “Stop It!” when it comes to all my figuring and planning.

So I decided to Stop It. Once I got really clear on the fact that I really wasn’t supposed to do it (because after all, we want to be sensible and responsible and not run off half-cocked like a fool, right?), I just gave it over to Him and boy has He come through. It’s been very cool.

Faster than a Herd of Turtles

"Off like a herd of turtles..."

“Off like a herd of turtles…”

Well, I’m happy to report that I have continued to work regularly on Sky. I did 2 1/2 hours a day last week, and so far 3 hours a day this week. All time I actually spent focused on the work at hand instead of everything else in my periphery.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve done a number of things to help myself be more productive — trying to get to bed earlier; keeping things picked up and put away so I don’t see them when I walk out of the room and thereby get distracted; using Freedom and turning off the phones. And they have helped. But overall, I think I have to chalk this up to the Lord’s doing. I feel different about it all now, and it seems almost effortless to get to work…

But I did have to get to a point of despair when it came to my own efforts and finally just give it all over to Him:  “Here, Lord. I can’t do this. You handle it.”

I finished chapter 6 on Monday and started chapter 7 the next day. Today I continued on Chapter 7 and so far I have 10 pages.  It’s difficult to describe how I work, because it’s pretty chaotic. I have ideas, snatches of conversations collected on various papers, cards and electronic documents. They show up when I’m making notes about what’s to happen next, or when I do nonstops about the work. I also have a sort of outline for the events/incidents that are going to happen.

So what I’ve been doing is just putting those altogether, thinking about the resultant mix, starting to question various elements of that mix, sometimes to answer the questions I posed and from all that to begin to gather and shape the ideas into a coherent narrative.  And it does appear that something interesting is emerging. I’m excited!

Two Steps Forward

…and one step back.

The story of my life, lately.

I had just told one of my friends last Wednesday that I was finally getting fired up about Sky again. I could finally see that it was needing to go in a different direction from the one I had first imagined, and accepting that seemed to open up the door of inspiration again.

Naturally hindrances began the very next day. I had and appointment with the gastroenterologist that morning in preparation for the colonoscopy my oncologist recommended last summer that I have “sooner rather than later.” “Sooner” and “later” being relative terms in light of the ten-year screening intervals experts generally advise. I’m still not completely clear on this, but apparently there is some increased predilection for patients who’ve had endometrial cancer to also develop colon cancer.

Or not, if you’re talking to the gastroenterologist… Anyway, my oncologist recommended it, and I see him next month, so I’m doing it. After the visit I met with the medical assistant to set up the appointment  for the procedure. I wanted one that would coincide with my hubby’s days off, but the only day that worked was out into February. So I took it.

Arriving home I realized it was opening day of javelina season. So I called them back. Well, you can’t talk to the medical assistant who is the only one who does appointments. You have to leave a message.

I hung up and tried calling my hubby. He was away from his desk. Confusion ensued.  I called back and left a rather garbled message that the February appointment was going to be difficult and I’d rather do one that the MA had first assigned me before I started trying to coordinate with hubby’s days off.

After I hung up, hubby called. He suggested a friday two weeks further into February. So I called the office again, and asked the ladies  at the front desk if they could put me through to the MA because I was afraid that she’d listen to the first message I’d left and act on it before she got to the second message with the request for the new, later date.

The receptionist still couldn’t connect me with a live medical assistant but did inform me that the later date would not work because all colonoscopies must occur within 30 days of the consultation. She, however, assured that the MA was indeed checking her voice mail and would return my call soon.

Of course she did not. Somehow the uncertainty of the situation worried my entire afternoon. (Or at least as much of it as there was, what with walking Quigley and doing Bible class.)  Would they fill the earlier spot on the calendar before she got to my message? Would there be no good choices left? Well, really, there weren’t any to start with, so that wasn’t a terribly valid concern.

Nevertheless, every time someone called, I jumped up to answer the phone directly, rather than let the answering machine take it. All fruitless. Finally it was time to walk Q, and even when I returned she still hadn’t called.

Why couldn’t I just let it go and trust the Lord to handle it?

Because it’s just a silly little appointment; why would I take it to the Lord? This was something I was supposed to take care of, because… well… because it was.

It’s one of those areas that feels Right and proper and logical, so you don’t even question it.  Somehow it becomes Imperative that I get the proper appointment, even if I don’t know what that is yet and have no real control over the situation to be able to ensure that I do. Still it feels like somehow I do have control, or should have or if nothing else, just take control and get it done. Thus I usually won’t let the matter go until I’ve got it resolved.

Which means I can use up an afternoon of perfectly good hours that could have been devoted to thinking about writing, and maybe even actually writing, on fretting and fussing and making repeated and futile phone calls. When I should simply put the matter into my Lord’s capable hands and let Him handle it.

Elisabeth Elliot spoke of this in one of her books, (I think it might have been Keep a Quiet Heart)

I realize that nearly all of my trouble with finding out the will of God came because I wanted it too soon. I like to plan. I like to have things mapped out well in advance and uncertainty of any sort puts me on edge.

Perhaps it is for this very reason God has often asked me to wait until the last minute, right up to what looked like the screaming edge before I found out what He wanted me to do.

My acceptance of His timing was a rigorous exercise in trust. I was tempted to charge the Lord with negligence and inattention, like the disciples in the boat in the storm. I would always ask desperately to be shown God’s will in the matter but He never showed me until the time came.

And when it came it was clear as the sunlight. What to do was all mapped out for me exactly, and I had a matter of minutes to make up my mind to do it…”

I can so relate to this. Because all these little details really are something that He wants us to take to Him, to trust Him with. Always. Every day. He’s told us He cares about the sparrows and the flowers so it makes no sense to think He doesn’t care about doctors’ appointments or whatever other detail of daily life has us in a tizzy.

Tizzies are His call to stop and look up and remember. He’s got the hairs on our heads numbered, and the days of our lives as well. Every action, every conversation, every need, ever desire, all of it. It’s only our flesh that keeps thinking it has to do something. That everything depends on it.

So that’s been the lesson for me today. In truth, nothing depends on my flesh, or should, and once I’ve lost my peace because of my misguided attempts at controlling things that are refusing to be controlled, it’s time to step back and let it go.

Cast all your cares on Him, because He cares for you.

Oh, and on the appointment? It took me until Friday to get it resolved, but in the end it was resolved. If only I’d not wasted a day fussing with it.

He is Not a God of Confusion

Sea Voyage: Leaving the Land Behind

I think the thing that most helped me from the discussion on the open ended writing process wasn’t so much doing the process itself, but realizing that what I am doing IS hard, and DOES take a lot of time and I WILL feel chaotic and disoriented, even frustrated with all the choices, but that it is okay. It’s actually the point.

The point of the sea voyage is to leave the old “wrong” ideas behind and find a new vision. New ideas, something based on the old, but not the old.

All that was on Tuesday. On Friday I listened to a Bible class from summer 2011 about how the spiritual gift works. I’ve been slowly working my way through those classes as time allows and it had been awhile since I’d listened to this particular series. I can’t even say why I chose to do it that day, but the content fell right in line with what I had been learning about the writing process. Again I found myself transcribing quotes into my journal.

From my entry last Friday:

(This Lesson from Sunday, July 17, 2011) is speaking directly to me!

“The power that flows through my spiritual gift and the results of its function are up to God.”

In my case “results” can mean what I’m seeing as accomplishment, as acceptable “progress.” So even when I can’t see anything, it’s still Him.

“So what does that leave for us to do? We’re merely to nurture a willingness to do the work (write the story) and be prepared. And to put ourselves in the place where the gift can operate. We let Him pick the right time for its operation.”

Which means for me, when the story “emerges” when things finally begin to come together, whether plotwise or world-buildingwise.

“This is new! This is different! This is not the way you’ve been trained (by the world) from birth to get things done.

 “The results are up to God, not you.”

“Therefore, don’t judge your effectiveness in your spiritual gift by the results. Be faithful to what God has called you to do, whatever it is. Just trust that He knows what He’s doing. Don’t freak out. Don’t get depressed, despairing, thinking that maybe you’re not doing what you’re supposed to. If you’re following the Word of God, hearing the Word of God, and being obedient to it, God’s gonna get you where you need to be.”

This on the surface relates to physical position, like at the corner where there’s a person waiting to hear the Gospel from you. But lately I’ve been reading about writing in terms of a journey – the sea voyage. You set out, leave land behind, get lost, don’t know what you’re doing and then gradually you come to a new land…. God will get you where you need to be.

This all SO applies to my circumstances right now. I’m looking through notes, reading various writings, doing open-ended writings and nonstops… trying to figure out/decide whether to have a more direct parallel to our situation today as a nation ( with other nations in my created world, covert ops, war, military actions… ) or make it a more abstract, even stylistic allegory, without all the grand political arena and dispensational stuff…Except I’ve already started both in the prologue, at least hints… And here I’m conflicted again. I feel like I’m getting nowhere..

But in all this mess I must stop and reflect: God will get me where He wants me to be.

Oh! And another message in today’s lesson:

“God is not a god of confusion. This is a very important principle when it comes to your spiritual gift because there’s a big temptation for them to get out of hand, lead to chaos rather than clarity. And God is all about CLARITY. Making things clear.”

So trust Him to do just that. Trust Him to show you the way you should go and believe that He is, even if it doesn’t look like you think it should look.

One Day At A Time

Well, I’m tired this week. Still getting over a cold I’ve had for over 10 days now. And We had a big weekend — my hubby wanted to throw a party for friends who’d helped him with this Bighorn Sheep Hunt last year, and so I helped. It was an all day affair on Saturday that started at 7am and lasted until 2am the next morning. After a few hours sleep, we started in on the clean up.  I had a nap after that.

Monday I was good — worked on Sky for three hours! — but Tuesday I crashed entirely. Slept almost all day. Watched TV all evening… (Well.. they were the season openers for NCIS and NCIS:LA, so… I’d have watched them anyway. Probably wouldn’t have sat there for VEGAS though…)

Today I was in the blank, wandering around the house staring at things mode. Trying to make sense of the notes I had for Sky, feeling like the entire premise was absurd and fatally flawed and how had I ever thought this was remotely interesting?

So I didn’t work on the next blog post I’d thought to do for my impromptu Light of Eidon week. In fact, I couldn’t even decide which one of several to do.

So I got the idea to go looking again at my early newsletters… the ones I put out right after Eidon released and found this bit from one I put out in April of 2003, written while I was deep into the writing of Book 2: The Shadow Within.

It applies today as surely as it applied nine years ago, and was actually a comfort to me to reread in my current circumstances.

One Day at a Time

I’ve been writing for a long time, and have never been a fast writer. I have always tended to go three steps forward and back up two. Sometimes I have to rewrite and rewrite until I get the thread right, and only then can I go on with the story.

Often I may go for two or three days getting nowhere at all, blank and empty and even indifferent. Then the doors will open, the scenes will emerge and all will be well. Until I hit the next blank spot.

Over the years I have tried setting up various writing schedules according to the generally accepted advice that if you want to complete a big project, you must divide it into increments, then proceed to carry out each increment in its time. I would make up my schedule of how many chapters I wanted to complete over a certain period of time, and determine that I would be professional and disciplined and Just do It! It doesn’t matter if it’s good or not, you just have to write it. Except . . .

I couldn’t.

Never have I managed to keep one schedule. Always I hit a snag, go over the allotted time, then hit another snag and another until the deadline I had set for myself fades into dim memory. I have received much friendly and helpful advice on how to deal with this, but none of it ever works.

Over the last few months, as I contemplated the remaining time I had left before Book 2 (The Shadow Within) is due, I found myself increasingly disturbed that I still hadn’t reached the point where I could sit down, plan out a schedule of work, then embark upon that work and be confident that it would all be done on time.

Throughout all this, the Lord was reminding me that I should be trusting Him about it, but the voice was too still and small, and the message too familiar.

I was too busy thinking about how much time I had left and comparing that with how much work I thought I had left to do. Too busy harassing myself to get to work, to be more disciplined, to force the story out. Too busy getting upset over outside things that came in to steal my time. Too busy beating my head against the wall–for it was all to no avail.

The story wasn’t coming any faster than it ever had. But the idea of stopping that, and giving it all over to Him? How could I do that? To do that would mean losing all control over it.

It wasn’t until I had that last ridiculous thought that I realized how silly I was being. I had no control over it anyway, so what’s the big deal about giving it over to Him?

Clearly I had a choice to make. Was I going to continue to seek to control the what for me is an uncontrollable process, flailing myself for my lack of progress and worrying about what would happen in the months to come when the Lord clearly tells me not to? Was I going to continue refusing to rest in Him, and instead seek to use my own strength and ability (obviously lacking) to handle this?

Cursed (miserable!) is the one who puts her trust in man. Or woman, as the case may be.

Finally, that verse, one I memorized long ago, got through. The light went on and I backed off.

So from here on out it’s one day at a time. I WILL stay out of the future. Whatever progress He gives me, I will accept, without making a fuss about what hasn’t been given. If I fail to concentrate or use my time wisely on any given day, I can have confidence that He knew, way back in eternity past, that I would fail and He took it into account when He made His plan.

If something comes up that diverts my time and energy away from the book, I will remember that it is also part of the plan, and that He has everything under control, knowing precisely how long it will take to make this book what He wants it to be. This is His book, not mine, so He’ll have to see that it gets done in spite of me. (I especially like that part.)

Now, at last, I can rest, knowing that even though I am “dust”, inadequate and weak, He is completely adequate and His strength will be perfected in my weakness. I may bungle my way through my days and the writing of this book, but He who is wise and good and faithful and gracious is at work in me nevertheless. And His Plan is not only perfect, it’s brilliant!

“Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is in the Lord, for he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes.” ~ Jeremiah 17:7

Graced Out in Our Sleep

He gives to His beloved, even in her sleep…

The following is another of the articles I wrote for one of the editions of the email newsletter I used to send out before I started blogging. This one is a little embarrassing, because the things I, myself, wrote, are the things I, myself, still struggle to recall — and more important believe — way more than I’d like to admit.

♦♦♦

 Graced out in Our Sleep (From 2003 Newsletter)

I love the fact that none of this depends on me, that even though I do the work, it really doesn’t depend on me–not the publication, not the awards, none of it.

That’s been the lesson of the year–that I don’t need to get all frantic about getting everything done because my Lord will see that what needs to be done, is done. That the work I do is done for Him, and He will see to its disposition in accordance with HIS plan–and His timing–not mine.

Yet there seems to be this whole hierarchy of activities that we can get caught up in, thinking that if our work isn’t done in time or isn’t good enough or there isn’t enough of it, or whatever, that the whole thing will fail and happiness will elude us.

But true happiness does not spring from success in the world. Success may be stimulating and fun, but it doesn’t last. Because whatever work you accomplish or goal you achieve or award you win, there’ll always come a time when that gets to be old hat and you’ll need another accomplishment or another award.

And yet, as when we’ve lost our keys and go back to look in the same place over and over again, even though we know the keys aren’t there, in the same way we focus on this accomplishment thing. Thinking that if only we can get this next thing, that will provide the lasting satisfaction we crave.

And so we step onto that treadmill of running and working to achieve, getting up early, staying up late, trying to get ahead, looking for that pleasure or satisfaction or sense of contentment we think will be ours if we can just get “It.” Whatever “It” may be.

But it’s a lie and, as David says in the Psalms, it’s vain. True happiness is stable and eternal. It isn’t an emotion, but a state of mind independent of circumstances and arising out of one’s relationship with God.

Every good gift comes from Him, and true contentment lies in our fellowship with Him, in getting to know Him through His word, and seeing His grace and goodness and faithfulness as they work out in our daily lives. It’s believing Him when he says…

“Except the lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for he gives to His beloved even in his sleep. ~ Psalm 127: 1,2


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