Tag Archives: perseverance

Writer’s block?

I’m in a sort of writing limbo these days. I feel this urge to write all the time, every day, like a craving for chocolate.  The difference is that writing requires too much effort on my part, whereas eating chocolate is just easy and divine.

I’m not sure why this has become such a struggle for me. I blame it partly on the fact that the magazine I usually try to submit devotions to every couple of months still has not released their theme questions, which makes it really hard to write pointedly about any of their scheduled topics.  Every time I check their website, I hope those questions will be there to spark some inspiration. But alas, only the theme titles are given, which are sometimes rather vague.  And so, when I have these good intentions of starting a draft, I let myself go back to Facebook and recipe browsing and don’t get any writing done at all.

Then there’s the obvious problem: time.  As a mom of a toddler, I don’t have an abundance of free time like I used to.  I can’t binge-watch Gilmore Girls for six hours anymore.  I can’t lounge in a recliner reading chick lit for long.  I can’t spend half the day shopping for nothing in particular.  The days I’m not working are dictated mainly by my son’s schedule and needs.  Yes, my husband is there too, but even with the two of us, there’s still no shortage of things to be done at any given moment.  The two hours or so when he naps each afternoon are a godsend, but they fly by too quickly.  Do I spend that time working out?  Do I make some healthy freezer meals ahead of time (something on my mind with a new baby on the way in just a few weeks)?  Do I take a nap? Do I run errands, clean house, do laundry, call my mom?

All of these are valid reasons not to do something, but not really excuses. Yes, I am pretty busy every day, but there is still time left over when I could be writing.  Even twenty minutes a day would be beneficial, and I would feel like I’m getting somewhere.  I tend to choose exercise, or cooking, or reading, or just watching zombie movies and Doctor Who with the hubs, rather than writing.

The other major reason for my laziness is that I can’t seem to narrow down what I want to write about.  My blog isn’t for income, it doesn’t have to follow any set format or quotas, it’s just for me.  Yet, I always wonder what would grab the most interest for readers.  Even though I only have a handful of followers, and a few Facebook friends who sometimes read what I share, I definitely care what they think.  I care what you think, if you’re kind enough to be reading this right now.

I want to write something that matters.  Maybe not to a lot of people.  I’m okay with that.  I’m okay with reaching a small audience, but I still want my words to matter to people in it.  I want to take the time necessary to home the right words for what I try to convey.

The thing that paralyzes me the most is this insecurity about what I have to say.  Daily, thoughts flit through my head, ideas for new blog posts, but then I second-guess myself.  Who really needs another article about gaining patience with toddlers?  Or another complaint about the state of public education today?  Or another commentary on the weather, or another devotion on perseverance through trials, or another recipe for zucchini-carrot-flaxseed muffins?  Who cares about my memories of my two brothers as we grew up?  Who needs to read about my son’s milestones, or how nervous I am getting about baby #2’s impending arrival?

Yep, I don’t quite have a handle on where I want to fit in the blogging world.  It shouldn’t matter to me this much; I should stick to writing what I know and if I feel led to share it, to do so.  But the little voice in my head keeps holding me back.

Who knows? Perhaps I will get up the nerve to publish this piece, despite its rambling nature.  I think I’m not alone in this struggle.  Regardless of how insignificant our work as creative people may be, we still yearn for meaning and purpose in what we create.

Wishing each of you a safe space in which to express whatever your creative little hearts desire…

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Beyond comfortable

So I’m on currently on a “put myself in uncomfortable situations” kick.  Not sure what brought this on, but twice now in a week I’ve willingly done something that makes me feel…awkward.  Anxious.  Out of place.

First was the staff dance that teachers and other adults in my school perform every year at the Homecoming assembly.  Yeah, I’m not big on dancing-at least not in that situation.  I’m all for shakin’ it on the dance floor at a wedding, but the teacher dance has always been an activity I avoid like the plague.  Making a fool of myself in front of the whole student body is not my thing.  I figure, I probably embarrass myself unintentionally during class at least once a day anyway, so why add to the humiliation by doing so on purpose?

It was so sweet being on maternity leave last year at Homecoming time, so I didn’t have to deal with it at all.  Almost every other year of my career, I was in charge of Student Council, which meant I was basically in charge of ALL of Homecoming.  I figured that, plus fall cross-country coaching, should excuse me from pressure to participate in anything else.

Anyway…back to the point.  I’m attempting to do the teacher dance this year.  I still, admittedly, have zero desire to do it, but here are a few reasons that override what I want.

Sometimes, as teachers, it’s good to let students see our goofy side.  It opens up conversation and builds connections.  Plus, I’m no longer a coach or club sponsor, so I do feel I ought to be involved in something in the Homecoming festivities.  And the biggest reason for making a fool of myself  in a dance routine?  It’s important to step outside of our “comfort zone” once in awhile.  Students are required to do stuff they hate, stuff that doesn’t interest them, stuff that terrifies them, on a regular basis.  Some are uncomfortable with reading, or group work, or tests, or speeches, or artwork, but they have to try all of these at one point or another.  Everybody has to go along with something they dislike from time to time, whether for work or relationships or general life-sustenance.

Doing this dance is my feeble attempt to show students that they shouldn’t be content just doing what comes easily or naturally to them.  There’s value and purpose in venturing beyond those things.  You never know where that first step into uncharted territory may lead.  You might discover a hidden talent or passion.  You might create a new friendship.  You might gain opportunities you never even knew existed.

For me, this is just one brief dance routine with coworkers, which I don’t expect to enjoy, but it’s yet another tiny step towards a braver me.  Heck, I was petrified of public speaking when I began teaching, but I did it anyway.  I found that once I got to know the kids, it wasn’t public speaking at all.  It was simply sharing subjects I love with others.  It still scares me an awful lot, but that’s nothing compared to the fear I had thirteen years ago.  There have been some rather amazing experiences and moments with my students.  Having the courage to face my fears is what brought me into those magical moments.

So, even if I look like Elaine from Seinfeld when we perform in a few weeks, it’ll be okay.  I’ll know why I’m doing it, and I’ll attempt to hold on to a shred of dignity (but I confess, I plan to be well-disguised the second we step onto that gym floor!).

Here’s to trying what isn’t easy!  After all, how many worthwhile things in life ever are?

The Long Winter

The long winter.

Besides being a beloved, dog-eared title from my childhood (yay for Laura Ingalls Wilder’s romanticized accounts of prairie life!), this is what many of us in the U.S. are experiencing this year.

The cold and snow and drifting snow and wind chills and ice and all that fun stuff we associate with winter have been relentless.  Groundhog Day, I’m pretty sure Punxsutawney Phil just laughed when citizens hopefully awaited his prediction for the end of winter.  “Are you kidding? You think this mess is actually going to be over soon?”  No way.

More than any other year, I’ve been so thankful that my husband doesn’t really trust me to use the snowblower, so he gets to clear our driveway and the neighbor’s every time we get blasted by yet more of the stuff.

No matter where you live, it seems like all of us have toughened up this winter.  Whatever we were used to before, this has been so much worse.  It’s all relative, of course.  I remember chuckling in college when my roommate thought we would get out of school due to an inch of snow.  After all, that’s how it was for her in Chattanooga.  She said they even used to share one snowplow with a neighboring town, so roads were never cleared very promptly.  What a disappointment Wheaton must have been weather-wise for her…

Where I live in northern Illinois, we experienced wind chills as low as -40 to -50 several times this year.  After those days, a temp of ten degrees Fahrenheit seemed like a heat wave.  You find yourself adjusting what you consider to be “normal”.  Even -10 didn’t feel so terrible compared to those frigid and lonely days.

Many of us have been saying for weeks now, enough is enough!  Give it a rest, winter!  We can hardly wait for spring’s arrival, with its warm sunshine and the ability to go outdoors without a hat and gloves again.  Parents of young children are dying to just send the kids out to play in the yard to burn off some of their endless supply of energy.

It isn’t the only time in our lives we’ve anxiously awaited a season’s end.  We’ve all been through seasons that seem interminable. It’s not the good times that ever feel like they last forever, though.  No, it’s the trials, the illnesses, the times of unemployment and fear and grief and loneliness that always hang on so much longer than we ever imagined they could.

We think, it isn’t fair.  I’ve been through enough heartache already, so I deserve a break by now.

Maybe you’ve been single for so many years despite fervent prayers and efforts to “find the right person” and to “be the right person”.

Maybe the cancer treatments just aren’t working.  The pain, exhaustion, fear, and financial strain are pushing you far beyond your limits.

Maybe you’ve been out of a job for months and still can’t find anything.  Regardless of your valuable skills, the job hunt is leading you nowhere.

Every one of us could name dozens of times in our lives when the difficulties felt as though they might never end.  I think of friends with multi-year engagements.  Friends wading through years of bureaucratic red tape before the adoption can be finalized.  Friends having no luck in the job market.  Friends waiting to meet the person they’ll marry.  Friends beaten down by discouragement, frustration, and heartache.

I think the hardest part of any waiting season is not knowing exactly when it’ll be over.  I remember being single all through college and most of my twenties and thinking it would be so much easier to enjoy singlehood if I knew how long it would last.  Sure, there were tons of benefits to being single, but at the time, it was hard to appreciate them because I was too worried about if and when I would ever get married.

In terms of our literal winter, obviously we know that spring is eventually coming.  It just might seem a bit later than usual because of the unusually ferocious nature of this winter.

Perhaps not all of our trials and waiting periods are destined to have a wonderful ending.  Some of us will never see our hoped-for outcome.  Perhaps that’s okay.

The writer of Hebrews put it so eloquently:

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1.  We have to trust that God knows what he is doing, and that he loves us through it all.

“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:3. Winter has wearied us, that’s for sure.

Don’t give up.  Persevere through whatever difficult season you’re facing today.  Know that there is hope.  Spring will come again.

Writer’s block

I’m stuck.  Only five days into NaBloPoMo and I am already anxious about what to write next.

Too many subjects floating around in my brain.  Travel.  Christian community.  Teaching.  Running. Parenting.  Family.  Music.  How do I decide which ones to pursue?  This month is largely about finding my voice and my passion, so maybe it’s okay if I try all of these topics at one point or another.

Another problem: I’ve been reading other blogs that interest me and that triggers the evil comparison game.  These people all write more creatively, more poignantly, about more exciting issues than I do.  Surely someone else has already said what I’m going to say, and they’ve probably said it better.  I wonder, why bother?

I feel paralyzed by my feelings of inadequacy, my lack of vision, my fear of failure.

Is there anything I can bring to this online community of readers, writers, and thinkers?  Is it worth it, even if what I have to say is ordinary?  Even if it’s all been said before?  As King Solomon noted, “everything is meaningless–like chasing the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:17).

This blog-a-day endeavor will have its high and low points, and I’m going to persevere.   Although “writing books is endless, and much study wears you out” (Eccl. 12:12), I think there is value in this goal.  There’s value in setting out to do something and following through.  Considering my most recent post was on unfinished business, I have an obligation to myself to complete this task.

So if you’re reading this, I hope you’ll be patient with my fumbling attempts at transparency and truth.  I hope you’ll extend me a little grace as I figure it out.