Something Fun for January 2021–Writing Tips for You

Happy New Years Eve! I have something fun I’m doing on Facebook with my much underused author page.

Here’s what I posted, and feel free to join me if you need encouragement in January:

I thought I’d use my author page to encourage your writing in 2021–at least for the month of January. I LOVE coaching writers! I’ll provide a tip and a question both intended to develop your writing goals.

Tip: Write down your favorite story to tell about your life. Usually, it’s a treasured memory—a single beautiful moment. Why do you like to tell it? What happens to readers when they read it? Great novels and nonfiction often stem from single moments.
Question: By this time in your life, what have you become an expert in? Think broadly. This expertise grants you great authority to write. You can tell me your expertise in the comments. Be proud of yourself. Some are experts in time-management, grief, gardening, listening, waiting, singing, baking, parenting, failing, walking, resting. . .

On New Years Day, I’ll ask for your book idea for 2021!! Eeek!!!


Make It In the Morning

I’ve said this before: Do the hard things when you know you have the energy for it. If your best hours are in the morning, do your writing, cooking, or planning then. Don’t wait till the afternoon slump.

As I age, I realize I have limited energy during the day. By 3:00 PM, I’m ready to get in my pajamas! 4:00 PM? Maybe I have energy to go for a walk, ready, or tidy up. But by 5:00 PM? If I haven’t already prepped dinner, I’m the one saying, “Who wants to order pizza?” But all this changed this year because I decided to make dinner in the morning or around lunchtime. I’m serious! If you want to enjoy your afternoon and early evening, either prep everything for dinner in the morning, or make the entire meal so you just have to pull it out of the fridge and heat it up.

I remember this today when my daughter and I decided to make the stuffed spinach shells at 9:00 AM. Why not? Sure, the whole house smelled like garlic and tomato sauce when maybe I would have preferred coffee and cinnamon oatmeal, but the benefits far outweighed the costs. Now, I enjoy a late afternoon of a clean kitchen and plenty of time to relax in my pajamas if I want. I’ll pull out the stuffed shells and let them bake peacefully.

If you haven’t discovered the wisdom of making dinner after breakfast, try it on the days when you know you’ll be zapped of energy by afternoon.



Adding to the Good

This morning’s Greystone Devotion spoke to my heart when it mentioned bringing goodness into the lives of others. I thought about the people in my life and what it would mean to bring goodness to them today. Whom might I encourage? Who needs a gift? Who needs prayer? I ask God to help me bring good to those around me.

Am I adding goodness here? I love the question! I love thinking of our purpose as adding good wherever we are.



Simple Everyday Prayers that Change Everything

I find myself lingering over Psalm 141:3-4. What a beautiful psalm to pray back to the Lord! What I notice is David’s seemingly simple prayer request that actually changes everything about the day and our whole lives if we consider it deeply. He asks God for this:

Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil, to take part in wicked deeds. . . 

Essentially, it’s this: Help me speak the right words. Help me want godly things.

Can you imagine a day in which everything you spoke was the right thing? A day when your words didn’t cause harm or confusion? When you didn’t speak in anger? When you didn’t gossip or lead others into any kind of wrong thinking? Imagine living a day where your words brought life and healing and joy. Imagine a day where you were more silent before the Lord than you have ever been. I think David knew his weaknesses here; he asks God to guard his words and keep watch over his mouth.

But what’s next? He prays to want the right things in life. What a marvelous, powerful prayer indeed. I pray this for my daughters, my students, and my husband. I pray this for myself. I pray that ungodly things suddenly seem boring and harmful and even disgusting. I pray instead that we are drawn to beautiful, godly activities, behaviors, and thoughts. Help us want this, Lord.

Help me speak the right words. Help me want godly things.




Two New Recipes to Try

This week, we’re trying these two new recipes. As the long winter days continue during the pandemic, it’s nice to look forward to new things–even if they involve jackfruit and cauliflower.

First, a jackfruit curry. Yum! It’s adventurous, strange, and fun to try.

Next, a cauliflower bake: We do love cauliflower in our family!

If we like a new recipe, we print it out and place it in a plastic sleeve to go into our official family recipe binder. To make it into the binder, we have to love a recipe. We have to want to make it again. We have to give it a 10 out of 10. It’s fun to try new recipes, rate them, and build a great collection of recipes.

If you need some ideas to make the winter months fun, try to add in a few new, strange recipes.




It May Take Longer. And You’ll Need Support.

We still go on our neighborhood “loops”–the mile walk that we sometimes do 5 times a day. But with snow, ice, and bitter cold temperatures (feels like 5 degrees today), we remind ourselves of the motto, “There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing.”

So we bundle up. And with the ice? We take it so slow. And we have to hold on to one another (mostly so I don’t slip).

I think life is like this sometimes: You’re still on your journey forward, but during some seasons, things take longer. It’s a time to go slowly. And you need to hold onto someone to get by. This is true of challenging and confusing seasons of life. But step by step, you still press on.


Even More Awe on Christmas

I learn something my sister heard from her pastor during their Christmas Eve service about the baby Jesus last night. Read this article called “Signs for the Shepherds” to be even more amazed about the Christmas story. 

Essentially, I learned why it was a sign that Jesus was in a manger wrapped in cloths. What would make that a sign to the shepherds? Why would they worship a baby in cloths in a manger? It has everything to do with the shepherds raising flocks of sheep. From this flock, the priests would discover their unblemished, sacrificial lamb for the sin offering. The article explains:

When the lamb was born and if it was without blemish, it was immediately wrapped in strips of cloth made from old priestly underwear. The purpose was to make sure the lamb would stay unblemished. The priest would then put the lamb in a manger to keep it safe from getting trampled.

When the shepherds came to find the baby in the manger, the baby in the cloths, the baby in the place of the sacrificial, unblemished lamb, they bowed down in worship. They were worshipping the Lamb of God! The sign was the manger and the cloths. They knew what it meant, and they worshipped.





The Gifts For You

This morning I woke up thinking about all the good gifts God gives. If your Christmas looks sparse this year, maybe this will encourage your heart. I tried to remember the times in scripture you hear about God’s gifts. Besides the obvious gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit to serve others, Paul’s tell us about even more: he writes about the “indescribable gift” of God’s surpassing grace in 2 Corinthians 9:14-15. I then think about Peter telling people for the first time in Acts about this marvelous “gift of the Holy Spirit.” I found the word again in Romans where Paul describes the “abundant provision” of the “gift of righteousness.” Finally, I think of John’s stunning vision in Revelation where he writes, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life (Revelation 22: 17).

Each day, we open these abundant and indescribable gifts of grace, of the indwelling Holy Spirit, and righteousness.


A Walking Song: A New Road or Secret Gate

I recently thought about the Tolkien’s “Walking Songs” that hobbits sing as they walk. In one Walking Song, we hear this:

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate

I love the hope in this song. I love the sense of nearing adventure, of mystery, of newness. I love approaching the day like a corner I’m rounding. I open my eyes to new roads and secret gates.


Finding Others (Or Else We’re Plum Trees)

Guess what? My beautiful, glorious plumcot tree that I grew from a seed and planted in the spring will not produce fruit on its own. I need another plum tree of a different variety to cross-pollinate with my tree. In other words, my plum tree is what farmers call “self-unfruitful.”

Self-unfruitful. Have you ever heard the phrase?

I repeat: This tree will not bear fruit alone.

And I understand now that neither can we. We are as self-unfruitful as a plum tree.

In August, I tucked a few plumcot seeds in my fridge in a damp paper towel I then placed in a little bag. I checked them a few days ago. They were already sending out roots! (Normally, this takes 6 months, so my seeds sprouted early; these seeds have a “chilling requirement” which is why I place them in the refrigerator.) My daughter who knows everything about plants told me it was time. They wanted to be planted and needed sun since a little green popped out of one seed. So I planted. I watered.

And today? This:

In springtime, I’ll plant my second plum tree. And I’ll remember God knows we cannot bear fruit alone. We need others to aid our journey, to provide the cross-pollination of ideas, to fertilize our dreams with their energy and wisdom. We must find others of a different variety–older or younger and from a different background. We must find others who can stand beside us and support us. Without them, we are as self-unfruitful as a plum tree.

Sure we can grow tall and green and very beautiful. Others might even admire us. But we won’t bear any fruit that will last without one another and most importantly, without Jesus who says “apart from me you can do nothing.” I find Him afresh and look for others to journey beside me. And I wonder if–rather than looking at my own fruitfulness–I consider how God wants me to stand beside others and serve as their pollinator.