Writing in the present

Last week I shared how I realized about a year ago that I had always been curious about language and how I began setting aside time and space to write. Well, I wouldn’t have believed it if you had told me, but after a couple months pursuing time to write led to this blog. I knew it would take courage for me to share my writing and I needed some accountability in the discipline of making time for it.

What started out as a discipline and then something I shared with friends and family allowed me to begin to see themes and patterns in my writing. Still when people asked me: What do you write about? I had no idea how to answer. A natural question to “I’m spending time writing” yet the verbal lover was speechless.

I had more ideas than I had focus to pursue, so I tried to be patient and enjoy the process… and I did! Writing consistently has been therapeutic for my soul and eventually, I started working on a book. I had written various pieces and submitted them here and there in an effort to persist, but suddenly, words and ideas were taking shape and I felt compelled to write them.

I began writing the non-fiction book in April and wrote steadily for four months. I have a complete outline for ten chapters and I’m up to 24, 000 words. I took a break at the end of summer and haven’t had the enthusiasm to continue the last few months, but again, I’m letting it develop on its own timeline.

Meanwhile, I have renewed enthusiasm for the start of the blog’s second year and a clarity of focus for the direction it’s headed in. I streamlined all my posts (past and future) into three categories and added a page announcing that I’m available for freelance work.

I still have more ideas up my sleeve than time to act on them, but for the moment, I’m working on establishing the blog’s direction, a presence on social media and pursuing freelance work, locally and online.

You can help! Do you know anyone who would be encouraged by reading this blog? How about a business that needs copywriting services? Spread the word!

Writing in the past

My family likes to tease me: “She was born talking,” they’d say. I was verbal at months and by kindergarten, when asked if I could count to 100 yet, there may have been some concern that I wouldn’t stop counting.

Sometime in elementary school, I started a cousins newsletter. My dad’s siblings were spread in five states and our every other year beach trips seemed far away. I wanted a way for the family to stay in touch, so I requested that each Hiteshew family send news of their latest happenings as well as jokes to share.

Now this was prior to facebook and other social media so the family had to actually snail mail me! Then each quarter I’d put all the family news into a template I created and send a copy to each household. It was fun, and it was work that I eventually gave up.

In high school, I loved my English classes, eventually taking AP, and also helped with the yearbook. I also took Latin and French which introduced me to language as both an art and a science. In college, I entered pre-law, quickly switched to undeclared and then briefly considered JMU’s School of Media Arts and Design. I sometimes wonder if I should have persisted in this a bit longer as some of the technological skills would be helpful now, but I took one news writing class and hated how brief my sentences were encouraged to be!

Where was the opportunity to use big words and creativity? To analyze the depths of literature? Hello, English department. Sure, I’ll take French too. Reading and writing in two languages sounds great. Add on a translation minor, why not? During a translation internship my senior year, I wrote an article that was published in the American Translators Association newsletter.

After graduation, I did some freelance translating work as well as work as a project manager, editing and overseeing translation and brand name analysis projects. It was interesting work and the opportunity to meet people worldwide was incredible, but I was working 60-80 hours/week and I felt like I was missing out on life.

I also realized for the first time that not everyone liked kids nor enjoyed being around them. I mean, this was actually news to me; I was surprised! I remembered my Papa’s (maternal grandfather’s) suggestions that perhaps I would be a teacher one day and I suddenly wondered how he knew me better than I knew myself.

I decided to go to graduate school for a Masters in Teaching and during that year did A LOT of writing. Since then, most of my writing has been curriculum-related, whether I’ve been creating lesson plans for myself or others, or training others how to practically implement a plan.

Turns out I’ve always loved language and literacy. Speaking, listening, reading, writing… these elements even lie behind my curiousity about early childhood and the primary years. How do humans develop the ability to use language? is a question that fascinates me.

About a year ago, I realized that I wanted to pursue writing again for myself because I missed spending time reading, thinking, writing like I did in college. I had no idea what pursuing writing meant, but I started setting aside time and space…

Next week: Writing in the present

 

Why we need Rest as a Rhythm (chapter 2, part 1)

I missed chapter 1! Read here

In chapter 2 of Rest, Keri shares how performance experts have noticed that tennis games between top performers are usually won based on how effectively players use their time in between points. So, rather than one player having more perfect strokes, the game is often determined based on routines that allow one player to recover better during the seconds between. Does that surprise you?

Similarly, Keri shares her husband’s perspective on what happens to muscles when they are at work and in rest: “When you work to failure, the muscle fibers actually break down… Then when you rest, blood flows into the muscles and they rebuild themselves.” Did you know that your muscles have to rest in order to grow?

Growing mental strength works similarly. By taking risks, you actually re-train your brain in the face of fear. So every time Jeremy and I climb we are exercising not only physically, but also engaging our mind in fear-fighting and problem-solving.

Keri suggests that soul rest is equally necessary for growth. She says many of us “are never fully engaged, and we never take time to disengage.” Keeping Sabbath is about living life to almost the point of “muscle failure” and then stopping to rest. Because we stop, we can go fully.

At first, stopping to rest seems like it will make us busier, but then we realize that it feels like a luxury and it is indeed a gift. It is “actually the secret to getting more done, to understanding and living our true priorities, to enjoying our lives, and to experiencing the presence of God.” What do you think? Would you be willing to rest in order to be more productive?

If you are curious to learn more, read chapter 2 of Keri Wyatt Kent’s book Rest, available here. Join us next week for chapter 2, part 2!

Resources: Personality, Behavior & Communication

Personality tests. They are all a bit different and I’ve taken a handful over the years. I went ahead and compiled a list of the ones I’ve taken here, along with a brief description and some links.

If you are just getting started, I’d recommend the first two. If you find these interesting and want to read more, #3 is a discussion in how the first two connect. I’d recommend #4 for a work or team setting, #5 if you work in a church or parachurch setting and #6 for anyone who wants to learn more about communication and relating in general.

  1. Four temperaments – click here to read a Christian perspective on 4 temps
  2. Meyers-Briggs type – probably the most well-known, 16 possibilities from a combination of your preferences for focus, taking in information, making decisions, and structure.  Take the free version
  3. Temperament-Type connection #1 – Keirsey and in chart form
  4. Disc – focuses more on behavior style, often used to help people communicate how to work and relate with others – free version
  5. Apestministry style – free version
  6. Life Languagescommunication style, this is the only one I was unable to find a free version for

Which of the above tests have you taken? Which would you recommend? Are there others you have taken or would recommend?

 

Biblical Sabbath (chapter 1)

If you missed last week’s introduction to this book discussion, read here. If you’re ready for discussion of chapter 1, keep reading below…

So what does the Bible say about Sabbath?

Rabbis & Law

The beginning of the first chapter of Rest explains that in ancient Jewish culture, rabbis typically began an apprenticeship of sorts under a rabbi whose teachings they were familiar with and shared. Every now and then, a rabbi would come along who had his own interpretation of the ancient laws and he would use verbage, such as “You have heard it said… but I tell you.” A rabbi who spoke in this way, like Jesus, was said to “speak with authority” and would have caught people’s attention because such a teacher would be saying new things about old ideas.

When someone followed a rabbi’s teaching they were said to be “taking up that rabbi’s yoke.” Jesus described his yoke as “easy,” yet He seemed to hold people to a higher standard of the law, while acknowledging it was impossible to keep. He also claimed that He fulfilled the law (Mt. 5:17).

New Rabbi, New Sabbath Law: Freedom

How did Jesus describe the Sabbath? He said it was “holy,” set apart, and He said it was “made for people,” not the other way around. What did Jesus do on the Sabbath? On the Sabbath, we see Jesus teaching in the synagogue, walking in a grain field defending the disciples choice to help themselves to a snack, healing people and eating with people.

Kent says that Jesus kept Sabbath, not as culture expected him to, but with great freedom and that if we want to take up his yoke, we too will both keep the Sabbath and live in freedom. Do those two ideas sound opposing?  They did to me at first too! She suggests that Jesus viewed the Sabbath as an opportunity to restore and reconnect people physically and spiritually.

If you are curious to learn more, read chapter 1 of Keri Wyatt Kent’s book Rest, available here. Join us next week for chapter 2, part 1!

Washed in the Word

Get Washed

The insights from today’s post are taken from a chapter in John Ortberg’s book The Life You’ve Always Wanted. They were an encouragement to me and something I’m constantly needing to remember so I hope this post will clarify some vocabulary and encourages your heart as well.

The phrase “washed in the word” always seemed vague and unclear to me until I read it in context in Ortberg’s book. The phrase comes from Ephesians 5 where it says husbands are to to imitate Christ who “cleansed” His bride, the church “by the washing of water with the word.” Weird.

I mean, I get the importance of the Word, but what does it have to do with washing? Ortberg boiled it down to the quite literal and it was a lightbulb moment. He asks why do we wash something and what happens if we don’t?

So often, we think we have to clean ourselves up so we can go to confession, attend church, read a Bible. Ortberg says the reason we come to God is the exact opposite – because we need Him to cleanse us! He says our minds our full of everything other than truth – dirt and darkness.

The effects of getting washed

When we read the Word, it cleanses our thoughts and our hearts. It reminds us to “seek his kingdom first.” A concept Ortberg describes as purity of heart or “a singleness of purpose and focus that gives consistency to [one’s] choices and commitments.”

In contrast to this, Ortberg references James’ description of “a life of divided loyalties” or double-mindedness. He contrasts single-mindedness as being connected to simplicity, while double-mindedness is connected to multiplicity and duplicity. He defines multiplicity as “ambivalence – pulled and pushed… we both desire intimacy with God and flee from it,” and he defines duplicity is “falseness… a discrepancy between the reasons we give… and the real reasons.”

These are the thoughts we all battle and he suggests the way to recalibrate, to re-orient is simpler than we think. It is not about what we do or don’t do, rather it is about bringing what needs to be washed to the only One who is completely Pure. As He washes us with His Word, we are slowly being transformed. Just like a plate with crumbs returns to its original shine when rinsed, the more regularly we dirty a plate, the more often we need to wash it!

Dallas Willard in his book The Divine Conspiracy says that people rarely think the God of the Bible has any relevance to our real lives. Either it is silly or incovenient or impractical or… there are few who consider the possibility that God’s words are what brings life to us and our world, and that therefore, it impacts every aspect of our daily lives. As a song by Tenth Avenue North says, “only you can make me new.”

The Divine Conspiracy, a book review

Disciples. Apprentices. Students. Learners.

Does that mean there is curriculum? A training manual?

In his book, The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard asks such questions and suggests that a lack of understanding of Jesus as teacher is plaguing the church and culture today. It’s long and deep, and I’m just getting started, but I’m excited to hear a fresh and candid voice on discipleship. I also love that Willard takes his ideas and applies them in practical ways, i.e. if [this] is true, then how does this truth actually impact my day-to-day?

 

Rest: an introduction

Are you in need of rest? I don’t just mean a little sleep; I mean soul rest. Join us for a Tuesday book discussion:

Why this book?

Today we begin discussing a book by Keri Wyatt Kent entitled Rest. Rest was the first of Kent’s books I read and it made a lasting impact on me. I was initially interested in reading it because I was longing to incorporate more rest into my life and I had no idea how.

Specifically, I wanted to learn more about the Jewish and Christian ideas of Sabbath. How was it originally intended to be practiced, and is there any relevance to our current time and place? The introduction and subtitle of the book is “Living in Sabbath Simplicity,” suggesting that Sabbath rest is part of a rhythm of a simple life. That thought sounded appealing to me then, and I have returned to the book since whenever I need a reminder why rest is important or help making rest happen.

What is Sabbath rest?

In the introduction, Kent says that Sabbath is both a command and a spiritual practice. Like other practices, her goal is not perfect implementation, but to share how practicing Sabbath led her to encounter God and changed her life. She suggests that the rest and recreation that come with Sabbath actually re-create us.

Kent emphasizes the idea that the practice of keeping the Sabbath is a journey. My own experience of practicing rest has also been something that I am continually growing in. There are many questions connected to the idea of Sabbath-keeping so Kent’s is one example that I have found helpful to me, personally.

For Keri and her family, Sabbath is a “day which almost always includes some activity, yet remains a respite from hurry and chaos. A day when we focus on one another instead of on our to-do lists. Still, we never have perfect Sundays. Thank God. Because often, what I need to rest from most is my perfectionism.” I’m still working out what Sabbath means for me, and Jeremy and I are growing in our understanding of it together, but we practice Sabbath on Saturdays. What comes to your mind when you think of the word Sabbath?

Share with us in a comment below! If you are interested in reading the book along with our discussion, you can order it here or check your local library. Then join us next Tuesday for a look at the first chapter and a Biblical perspective of Sabbath.

 

Five books in five words

Here are five books I’m currently reading in a variety of genres and a one word summary:

  1. Life of Pi by Yann Martel (fiction) – hilarious
  2. The Magnolia Story by Chip & Joanna Gaines with Mark Dagostino (biography) – inspiring
  3. A Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard (nonfiction, discipleship) – relevant
  4. More than Words by Phillip Yancey (a collection of essays by writers on writings that shaped their faith) – diverse
  5. Sent Together by Brad Watson (gospel, community, mission) – practical

Care to share a book you’re reading and a one word description?