Random by Design

I don’t like missing events to which I’ve made a commitment. Case in point, our writers group meets once a month, and tonight was the scheduled meeting night. Unfortunately, we weren’t sure if we’d be able to make it because my wife was slammed at work, and she was unable to leave at the necessary time in order for us to make it to our meeting by 7:00 PM. In addition to that, there was the overwhelming feeling of exhaustion from a ragged work day and what has been an even more ragged work week. I was on the fence, and definitely leaning in the direction of missing the meeting.

Then I received a text from daughter.

“Can we hang out this afternoon? It feels like forever since I’ve seen you. Maybe we can grab a bite?”

How can I say no to the young woman who owns my heart. The fact she lives with her mother and has a fairly busy social and extra-curricular schedule means daddy/daughter time is very much at a premium.

I picked her up and we headed to a restaurant for dinner. On the way she filled me in on her current assignment for English class. She has to write a short story about a dystopian society, and she didn’t know where to begin. To further complicate matters, her best friend had a great plot for her story, and my daughter was starting to fret about being able to do her project.

We kicked around some thoughts. She quickly rejected my initial ideas, and I quickly realized the other story lines I was coming up with were actually regurgitated plots from movies and novels. “Wait. That’s the plot to Serenity. Oops. I’m pretty sure that’s Brave New World. Ugh. I think I just combined The Hunger Games with Divergent.”

Back and forth we went. Each step forward was followed by two steps back. The only tension she’d have in her narrative was the retelling of our dinner encounter. I decided to call my wife.

“Are you on your way home?”

“Yes, why?”

“I’m at dinner with Natalie and I can use your help.”

<confused silence> “Um. Okay. With what?”

I explained what we were working on and where we were. She was only five minutes away.

Upon my wife’s arrival, I could see the look of excited relief on my daughter’s face. My wife, who has been consuming books at an amazing pace over the last several years, is particularly fond of YA, dystopian stories. She and Natalie quickly kicked the brainstorming session into high gear. Within minutes, they developed a working plot, characters, and an overall feel for the story. The excitement my daughter was exuding was tangible.

Although I contributed with key ideas here and there, it was the Natalie and Lee show (NataLee?). More importantly, it was so awesome to see them both come together and bond over a moment like they did. To see the look of admiration in my daughter’s eyes coupled with the sincere willingness on the part of my wife to be a positive and helpful resource to her step-daughter was simply beautiful.

Beautifully Random

I like to think that coincidence is God showing off, and it’s no coincidence we missed our meeting this evening. The sequence of events that made tonight possible may appear random, but I am convinced they are of His design. I love my writing group, and I’ve learned so much from them over the past couple of years, but I wouldn’t trade tonight’s memories for the world.

Fellowship and Inspiration

I love my writers group. Every month, Lee and I trek down to Brandon to enjoy in the community and fellowship that is Brandon Christian Writers. The group is so supportive, and every time we meet I learn something new about writing, publishing, editing, etc. And the talent that is displayed as we share and critique each other’s work is astounding.

We had a great meeting this evening, and it left me feeling inspired and eager to write. I feel I’ve been slacking as of late, and this image pretty much sums up of what I need to remind myself daily.

 

Image found via Pinterest via funeralformyfat.tumblr.com
Image found via Pinterest via funeralformyfat.tumblr.com

 

Friendly Friday – Rick Christensen

It’s a known fact. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. In life, the chapters we write often occur as we travel between differing points in our lives. Some journeys are shorter than others, almost none of them a proverbial straight line.

I often refer to my belief in God as my faith journey. I have set out to walk in faith toward Him, every day hoping to be or do a little better than the day before. Sometimes my faith journey finds me on my own in a dialogue with God. Other times, it’s a walk shared with others, be it through church, charity events, or just simple fellowship.

Lee and I attend meetings of a writer’s group once a month. Brandon Christian Writers has been a wonderful experience for both of us as it’s energized our writing and creative thinking process. It has also introduced us to so many wonderful and talented people, and I would like to take a moment to introduce one of them to you.

Rick Christensen is a dear friend whom I’ve come to know through both his writing as well as our conversations. Although we’re at different stages in our lives, we’ve shared similar paths. We talk about how we’re both on our faith journey, oftentimes apparently walking side by side as we talk about the struggles and challenges we face every day. We both have a love for writing, as well as a desire to grow towards Christ.

This is very evident in Rick’s writing. His words and tone have a delicateness to them, and they are such a joy to consume. Rick calls it gentle witnessing when he shares in his blog Discovering and Sharing Grace his daily experiences with regards to his relationship with God. What I love most about Rick’s writing is that it’s never preacher or verbose. Rather, it’s open and honest stories, metaphors, and anecdotes that tell how he connects with God every day.

Rick has compiled his work into a book, and he was also recently featured in the Tampa Tribune. I hope you take a moment to check out his blog and his book. After all, who doesn’t want a little more grace in their life?

“Walk with the wise and become wise.” – Proverbs 13:20

Rick Christensen

Follow the Leader

Tonight was meeting night for our writers group, and we had a wonderful guest speaker in Suzanne Woods Fisher. Suzanne is an accomplished, bestselling, and award-winning author of ‘The Stoney Ridge Seasons’ series and ‘The Lancaster County Secrets’ series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace.

The best part of Suzanne’s presentation was the genuine joy she displays when she talks about writing. Even though she is a professional writer, it clear to see that she writes for the love of the craft. And her number one advice: Take a risk in accepting your calling.

That line really stuck with me, and it reminded me how I shouldn’t be afraid or reluctant about the writing project I’ve had in a drawer for over a year now. I’ve been afraid of the challenge. I’ve been afraid of the subject matter. I’ve been afraid of diving head first into the deep end of the pool.

Suzanne’s message tonight was what I needed in order to get out if first gear. I hope I can follow her example and take small steps – one at a time – to greatness.

Please visit Suzanne online at http://www.suzannewoodsfisher.com

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Reflections and Projections: A Look Back and Ahead

I don’t want this to be another typical New Year’s Day blog, full of resolutions forgotten by February or empty promises I make to myself. I also don’t want this to be a long diatribe year-in-review of 2013, either.

So, instead, I think I am just going to use this post as a sort of mental scrapbook for all the awesome things Lee and I were able to share in 2013, and as a wish-list of what we want to do in 2014. The central theme: gratitude. Yes, Lee and I had some tough moments last year, but they all pail in comparison to the plethora of blessings we were given.

So as we look forward to the year ahead, most of us with the clean-slate optimism of “this is my year to be great”, keep in mind the following:

  • You ARE great.
  • There is no such thing as perfection. All we can hope to do is be better today than we were yesterday.
  • “Be happy in the moment. That’s enough. Each moment is all we need. Not more.” – Mother Teresa

2013 Gratitude List

My Kids
  • Natalie’s continued success with club and middle school soccer
  • Daniel’s participation in Odyssey of the Mind and Math Bowl
  • Daniel attending Camp Gilead and Busch Gardens Camp
  • Chaperoning Natalie to Howl O’Scream
  • Kids spending the week with us over the summer and then again while their mom was traveling
  • Cheering on Wiregrass High School girls basketball with Natalie
  • Their overall good health and well being
Church / Faith
Music Concerts
Friends
  • My 40th birthday celebration
  • Beer nights with the guys
  • Weddings (Patricia & Adam, Tracey & Matt, Leslie Ann & Graham, Stacey & Sanjay)
  • Leigh S. moving back to Florida
  • Dinner nights (Jeff & Ellen, George & Ashley, Stephen & Lindsey, Warren & Gwen, Mark & Renee, Alyson & Tom, Jamie & Jamey, Jeff & Lindsey)
  • Super Bowl and college football parties
  • East coast trips to Casa de Smith
Lee

I am probably overlooking several events and people, and for that I am sorry. I guess it’s a good problem to have when your life is so full of blessings that it’s hard to keep track of them all.

As for 2014, Lee and I have some very lofty financial and lifestyle goals. We want to reduce debt by sticking to a strict budget, and also lose weight by trying the Fast Metabolism Diet. Both will take a serious amount of discipline and determination, but they work hand-in-hand given we spent about three times as much going out to dinner in 2013 than we did on groceries.

We also plan/hope to take Lee’s nephew to Cancun when he graduates from high school in May, and then travel back to Mexico in the late summer to visit my family in Puebla and spread my father’s ashes in his hometown. It will be 10 years in September that my father passed away.

Personally, I want to ensure one post to my blog per day. That’s not to say I will be writing every day. Rather, I want to make sure I add something – be it a written post, a photo, a funny YouTube video: something – to my blog every day.

Through it all, Lee and I know that God will direct us where He wants us to go. I know my faith walk saw amazing growth in 2013, and I pray that it continues to expand in this new year. I wish you all the best with your goals, dreams, and ambitions for this year.

“For nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:37

Blessings

208/365 The Write Stuff

Even though it’s waaaaayyyyyy across town for us, Lee and I are members of the Brandon Christian Writers. To use their words, BCW is “a place for Christian writers of all genres to gather for fellowship, encouragement, and learning.”

The other members are all so very friendly, constructive, and inviting, and Lee and I always leave the monthly meeting reinvigorated to write.

Regardless of your trade, profession, craft, or hobby, if you want to get more out of it, I invite you to find a group in your area that is devoted to what you do. It’s in sharing and experiencing together both the successes and failures that we truly learn. And as my college marketing professor used to say, “If you’re not learning, you’re dying.”