The arrogance of worry

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I worry. A lot. I’m pretty sure I inherited the gene from my grandmother. I would have preferred inheriting her ability to make Kaldormer or spritz cookies. I’m really good at consuming them, though, so that should count for something.

The other day, I was listening to the Fernando Ortega song, “Let the Words of My Mouth“. A BEAUTIFUL tribute to verses in Psalm 19 and Philippians 4, it settles across my heart like the first morning rain of summer.

Fernando croons the following:

“Whatever is true
Whatever is pure
Whatever is lovely
Whatever is worthy
Think on these things
Think on these things”

The truth is, I DON’T think on those things. I think about unpaid medical bills, termite damage and needing new windows, the economy, social unrest, government, etc. As I was listening to the song, I realized just how arrogant those thoughts are. As if God isn’t big enough to handle everything. As if I am.

This morning, God fed me with these verses:

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5: 6-7 (NASB)

God WANTS me to cast my worry-gene anxieties on Him. Why? Because He cares for me. He knows what happens to me when I worry (I get sick, which leads to health problems, which lead to doctors and tests, which means I can’t work, which means unpaid medical bills…you get the picture). And when I worry, I can’t be a vessel for Him. I’m too filled up with me so there’s no room for Him.

My life becomes an inward focus that leads to an anxiety-filled outward reflection rather than an upward focus leading to a love-soaked Christ reflection. I sing the arrogance of worry’s mantra of, “Me, me, me”.

The question that kept rolling around me thoughts was: How can He do a good work in me and through me if I’m trying to do all the work myself? Or, even worse, If I’m so sick with worry that I can’t even work!

I need to trust Him to handle, well, all of it. Because He can. Because He cares.  Because God is bigger than ANY worry, especially mine.

I embrace tomorrow with my worry mantra behind me. A new song fills my heart:

As the dawning sun yellows the land,
I will place all my worry in Your mighty hand;

Make me Your vessel, Lord, humble and true,
Decrease me and increase You.
I pray thou would turn the song of me
Into a hymn of praise for Thee.

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We are all just crumpled paper

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Words hurt and heal. They shock and inspire. No matter what, they affect us. Sure, we could don our big girl panties and shout at the top of our lungs, “Sticks and stones…” But we know the truth. Uttering “words will never hurt me” is a bold, unrealistic statement. We can stick out our tongues and throw in  a “Nanny nanny boo boo” or two, pretending we are tough, unaffected. But in the solitude of home, where the playground bullies can’t see us, we allow our hearts to cry and our lips to quiver.

Eons ago, when I was a teacher, I would illustrate the power of words by removing a crisp, clean piece of paper from a spiral.  “This,” I would say, “represents you each morning. An untainted piece of paper. However, we don’t stay that way for long.” I would ask them to shout out the negative words they might hear —either from parents, siblings, friends, or even themselves—before ever stepping into a classroom. With each phrase, I would place a small fold in the paper. They would list the things they would hear throughout the day to weaken their resolve or wound them like paper cuts on freshly scrubbed skin. Once I couldn’t fold the paper anymore, I would then ask them to tell me the positive things they might hear throughout the day. Sadly, most of them couldn’t say very much beyond a teacher calling their name during roll. As they offered their “good” words, I would unfold the paper.  And even then, the memory of the folds still lives in the paper.

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How creased and crumpled is your paper?

When I met Lady Di at our favorite booth on Saturday, we were talking about our week and some of the nastiness we heard from people. We realized just how crumpled we were feeling. But the truth is, I have been guilty (more than I care to admit) of hurting others with my words. I like to keep a folded piece of paper with me to remind me to guard my tongue, for as Proverbs 18:21 tells us, “The tongue can bring death or life.” I’d rather my words be like honey, “sweet to the soul and healthy for the body” (Proverbs 16:24).

When I crawl into a bed at night, sometimes in a million creases from the day, I find solace in words. God’s Word. John 1:1 reminds us that, “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Yes. His Word is elixir for my world-weary soul. My heart leaps for joy for The Word brought me life and a clean piece of paper.

How writing is like dieting

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Confession time: I like food. Especially my hubby’s chicken wings. Someone should seriously erect a monument to them. True story.

I grew up in the Rio Grande Valley in the southernmost tip of Texas. Palm trees, an ocean breeze and pachanga fare wrapped me in ambient splendor. (In case you don’t know, a “pachanga” is a party replete with fajitas, tortillas, pico de gallo, guacamole, frijoles a la charra, and lots of friends and family.) Dieting amidst all that delightful cuisine was a seeming impossibility. And then I went and married a chef. So usually when I say the word diet, I follow it with something cerebral like “shmiet”.

dieting, writing, overwhelmed

Photo by o5com

Yes, dieting can be scary. Daunting. Infuriating. Frustrating. Kind of like writing.

I’ve spent a lot of days fretting over counting calories and counting words, trimming my figure and trimming my novel. After years of juggling these things, I’ve discovered

How writing is like dieting:

  1. It’s something you know you need to do but struggle with starting.
  2. Before you begin, you take stock of the things you need to give up that will stand in the way of achieving your goal.
  3. You set goals. Small, measurable goals to keep you going until you reach the big one.
  4. The first two weeks are the hardest as you adjust to new behavior and eliminate old, bad habits.
  5. Soon, you see a payoff. You gain confidence, get a little stronger.
  6. Within a month to six weeks, you have established new habits, new routines, and you genuinely feel better.
  7. When you reach your goal, you don’t quit. You work to maintain the new life you’ve created and set new goals.

The payoffs for establishing this new life are huge. You will have more energy, be stronger, more motivated, and won’t be the insecure person who embarked on the journey.

Writing, like dieting, is never easy. But nothing worth the reward ever is.

What bad writing habits do you need to lose?

Open the door to your writing life

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What exists behind this door?
Image courtesy of Creative Commons: ezioman

Doors fascinate me. Not just the façade, but what exists behind them, the secrets they house, the lies and truths of what has been and the promise of what’s to come. Life dances behind doors in rhythms fast and slow.

Nobody would call me shy, but I am an introvert. I prefer days curled up in my Barcalounger with a J-Jo (my special-recipe coffee), a good book, and Squeaks to mingling with the cacophonous clamoring of the world. Life behind my door is quiet, and I love it. But how can I be true to myself and my writing if I remain safely ensconced in my comfortable world?

I have to venture beyond my haven to what exists outside of me. To see, smell, taste, touch, and feel. To understand the energy of crumbly bits and discarded gum wrappers.

For many years I kept the door closed on writing. The catalyst for sealing my creativity, imagination, passion, and words in a vault was the unabashed, vulnerable scribbling of my teenage mind – a severed artery upon the page – laid bare to prying, unwelcome eyes.  My angst-ridden musings betrayed me, became a self-inflicting weapon. I bolted that door, hoping and praying I could suffocate the story seedlings.

But passion has a way of growing, smothered or not. I removed the locks and tossed them into the refuse of my past. Each day I embrace words, my words, and breathe in the freshness of an open door.

Don’t be afraid to open the door to your heart. Open the door to your mind. Open the door to your writing life and sway across the page in the brilliant twists, twirls, and tumbles of your pen.

Open the door to your writing life
Photo courtesy Creative Commons: ezioman

How writing is like shopping for a wig

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My sis and I went wig shopping this weekend with my mom. It wasn’t our first time in Judi’s Wigs. That was last July when mom received the news she had stage-three ovarian cancer and would need a minimum of six rounds of chemo. (She received twelve but is cancer-free!) Hair loss was not her (or our) biggest worry, but a concern nonetheless. We perused the selection, pointing out wigs that “looked” like my mom. She didn’t want anything too different from her everyday color and style, because she liked her style and was comfortable with it.

Halfway through the first round of treatments, something switched in mom. The warrior unleashed its “barbaric yawp” upon the world and my now-strong, brave mother was born. Let’s just say, she’s a little sassy. And I like it. She tossed her salt-and-pepper wigs to the back of the closet and opted for red with blond highlights. The first time my dad saw her in it, he said people would think he had a new wife. And honestly, he did.

When she’s wearing that wig, my mom is the person she always wanted to be. Before, her eyes danced the waltz. Now, the tango.

This is my waltzing mom.

Sitting in Judi’s Wigs on Saturday, watching mom try on ten different colors and styles, I realized how much the whole experience is like writing.

  1. When we decide we want to write, we tend to try on styles that fit us, and we work within that framework for awhile.
  2.  The more we write, the brighter our “tyger” burns and breaks through our self-imposed limitations.
  3. We branch out of our comfort zone and try on more daring styles – ones we NEVER thought we’d like.
  4. Then, we see it. That perfect match between style and inner warrior. The match that charges us, changes us, challenges us.
  5. We don the new style with sass, spunk, and charm and our pens dance in new rhythms across the page.
  6. We know, though, that this isn’t it. Because there’s a whole store of styles our there just waiting for us.

This is my sassy mom.

39 IS just a number. Right?

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Last week I celebrated my birthday. Not quite a milestone, but the big four-oh is rapidly approaching. Birthdays tend to put me in a contemplative, reflective trance. Time’s sweet, scary passage bodes its relevance through birthdays rather than a New Year. Resolutions weaken my resolve. But as I celebrate my birth, I think about my life – what I’ve done, where I’ve been, and where I’m going.

Flowers from my dear friend

I sat down with a few dear friends this past weekend, discussing everything from Facebook and perceptions to writing and the beauty of grey.  Our conversations stimulate hours of contemplation, and often prompt an afternoon nap (due to deep conversation overload!). However, this particular day prompted a to-do list. Not the kind of list that sits on a counter collecting dust but the kind that simmers on the heart and mind for years.

My pre-40 list (of the non-bucket variety):

  1. Feel better physically and mentally
  2. Get to Plot Point 2 in my novel
  3. Attend a writing retreat
  4. Strengthen my relationship with God
  5. Write daily (blogging, WIP, journaling)
  6. De-clutter my life and mind (prune away the people and things keeping me from being true to myself and God’s call for me)

I can do this. Forty isn’t that scary…