anxiety, healing, moving on, When a Woman Finds Her Voice, writing

Why I’m Afraid to Write My Story

I’ve been procrastinating, which is unlike me. I’ve decided that this is the year to tell my story, but I want to communicate it with redemption and hope. As I was trying to figure out why I felt so anxious whenever I thought of writing recently, I came up with this (probably partial) list of fears. Can you relate?

I’m afraid I’ll be minimalized—again. I’m afraid my parents will disapprove of what I choose to say. I’m afraid others (kids, friends, family, strangers) will disapprove of what I choose to say. I’m afraid I’ll be told my story doesn’t matter. I’m afraid to relive some of the really hard parts of my story. I’m afraid people will think I’m not a good writer. I’m afraid I won’t come up with the right words. I’m afraid I won’t be able to craft the story with redemption and hope. I’m afraid I’ll have to do marketing and all that stuff that makes my brain hurt and makes me feel inadequate. 

I’m afraid people will say what happened to me wasn’t that bad. I’m afraid to be vulnerable because I don’t want to get hurt again/more. I’m afraid to dream. I’m afraid to hope. I’m afraid to believe that I could actually write something helpful that people would want to read (never mind the fact that part of my day job title includes the word writer). I’m afraid I’ve only got one word for how I made it through some of the toughest spots: God. I’m afraid I don’t know how to incorporate all the elements properly. I’m afraid I’ll fail. I’m afraid it won’t be perfect.

There are nowhere near 365 “I’m afraid” statements there, yet God has provided 365 different verses in the Bible to address fear. A bunch of them are found in the book of Joshua as he was setting out to do a new thing. Over and over, God tells him, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 ESV). Like Joshua, I feel as if I’m setting out to do a new thing (telling pieces of my story). Like Joshua, I feel as if I need daily strength and encouragement not to be afraid. 

David also knew all about being in situations where fear was a normal response, yet he reacted like this: 

“In God, whose word I praise,

in God I have put my trust;

I shall not be afraid.

What can mere man do to me?”

Psalm 56:4 (NASB)

Turns out, “mere men” can do quite a bit, but it’s not permanent. Their words are not as powerful as the words of the Almighty God who promises to “redeem the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned” (Psalm 34:22 ESV).

In the end, that’s what I’ve got to cling to: God. He’s been there all along, and He’s certainly not going to fail me now. 

grief, healing, lessons learned, moving on, reinventing

If I Don’t Say It . . .

If I don’t say it, it’s not true. If I don’t say it, it didn’t happen. If I don’t say it, I can sweep it under the carpet. Right? As much as my reticent Scottish ancestry would like to believe that, it’s not accurate. Feelings can only be suppressed for so long; events happen whether or not I verbalize them. 

This past two years (more like seven), so many things have happened that I don’t want to acknowledge. But I’ve learned that acknowledgment and acceptance don’t necessarily equal approval.

By accepting that certain things ARE, I free my heart to figure out how to live with their realities without losing my mind.

But how on earth do you accept losing your second chance at love, your health, your finances, your job, your church, and your dreams for your family? Prayer, prayer, and more prayer! Then . . .

You get up, dress up, and show up! You put one foot in front of the other. You cry. And you cry some more. 

Then you dry your tears and do the next thing. But the thing about crying is not allowing yourself to wallow indefinitely. So many bitter people wallow forever and never get through. They are stuck in the Fire Swamp of despair—like the quicksand in Princess Bride, but without hero Westly. 

Whatever you do, don’t keep it all bottled inside! From experience, I can tell you that doesn’t work. Forty-eight years is a long time to keep a stiff upper lip. When you keep it bottled up, it bubbles over—”out of the abundance of the heart, [her] mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). And that’s just not a pretty sound.

Feelings have to be traveled through. There is no around. Going through does not mean getting stuck in them, though. It means processing those feelings, so you can heal. Healing comes from going through, not from stuffing. 

David struggled with this very issue when he was being pursued relentlessly by his enemies. He was honest with the Lord about his emotions, but he didn’t stay there. Many of the psalms document David’s struggle with accepting the hard stuff of life. One of my favorites is Psalm 79. David begins by telling God what others have done against him. Then he lets the Lord know what he’s feeling. “How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever?” (v. 5). He is honest with God about his feelings; he doesn’t keep them bottled up inside. Rather, he gives them over to the Creator of feelings who knows best how to soothe them. He next asks for help: 

“Help us, O God of our salvation,
    for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
    for your name’s sake! (v. 9).

But the real sermon in this psalm is the last verse. David gives thanks to the Lord WHILE he’s in the middle of his mess. That’s what we need to do, too.

For me, writing is often the way through hard stuff and its accompanying emotions. What’s your way through the quagmire of messy life?

about me

I’m Baaaack!

IMG_20151008_201953_794I’ve missed this space! This past week, I’ve been thinking that I needed to get back into regular, personal writing for several reasons.

First of all, I need to get all this hot mess out of my head! I’ve heard fiction authors say that they have no idea how a story is going to end up until they actually write it. I think that’s true to an extent for non-fiction writing as well. I may have a vague idea of my feelings, but I often find myself surprised by their depth and/or direction when I read what I’ve written in my journal. Of course, this space is a bit less spontaneous, but when I listed out some possible blog topics yesterday, I came up with well over 30! My goal was to come up with 7, so that tells me I have quite a bit to share with you all.

Second of all, I teach writing for a living, and I discovered that I haven’t been practicing what I preach. I tell my students that writing becomes easier the more they just do it and that writing well, while an art, does take practice. I tell them that all employers—and life in general—require effective and efficient communication. Like other skills, writing can become rusty if not done on a regular basis. Here comes the oil can.

Third of all, I’ve been thinking of ways to supplement my adjunct professor’s salary, and decided that freelance writing, which I have done already, would certainly fit the bill. But if I want to write stuff that people want to read—and pay for!—then I need to get myself back into the game. While I loved writing for the homeschool market previously, I was never able to make (much) money from it, and frankly, as a single mom, I need to maximize my earning potential within my current time constraints. So, part of the public writing I hope to do in the next few weeks will be exploring new topics that fit within these parameters.

Let me know what kinds of stuff you’d like to read here in this space as well as what kinds of content you’d be willing to pay to read (in other venues).

Uncategorized

I Graduated!

Where have I been? What have I been up to? Where am I going from here? Well, here are a few answers.

The most exciting news of this past spring is that I finally finished my master’s in English degree from East Carolina University! YAY!! It took three reeeaaaaallllyyyy lllllooooooooonnnngggg years, but it was worth it (at least, I hope it will be!). I already have a part-time job as an adjunct English professor at our local community college, which I love. However, I really need a full-time job now, so I’m busy looking for one.

Where else am I headed? Well, I’ve decided to keep this blog as is for now and continue posting homeschool and organizational stuff as well as reviews here. I’ve started a new blog, too, to talk about the rest of what happened to me this past year. It’s called Just Bethany: Reinventing Myself. Feel free to check it out.

homeschool, lessons learned, writing

Be In Style: Say Thank You

 Is it just me, or are thank you notes (the paper kind you hold in your hand) becoming obsolete? Are they following the dwindling number of friendly letters and Christmas letters and cards that used to stuff our mailboxes? Well, my mum (she’s Canadian, but I thought the southern phrase more apropos for the title) taught me to acknowledge every gift with a handwritten thank you note. If your techno-kids balk, here are some inspirations to help reinstate the good old-fashioned thank you note.

1. Don’t restrict Thanksgiving to a single day or month. On the contrary, the fact that Thanksgiving comes exactly a month before the day when kids get overloaded with new toys, books, and electronic gadgets should prime them for even more thankfulness.

2. Someone—grandparent, aunt, sibling, parent—took the time to pick out a special gift for each child in your home. The least a child can do in return is to take the time to handwrite note acknowledging appreciation for the gift and for the thought that went into its purchase.

3. Yes, grandparents know that little Jimmy just loved the Tonka truck, but writing a thank you note is kind of like saying “I love you.” You know it, but it’s still nice to hear frequently.

4. The Bible leads the way in encouraging thankful attitudes. “Offer to God thanksgiving” (Psalm 50:14a NJKV). “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name” (Psalm 100:4, NKJV). “Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20 NKJV).

5. You can count writing thank you notes as a school project! Just look at all the subjects you’ll cover: grammar (proper letter forms and written grammar), handwriting, art (if they design their own), spelling, and etiquette (it is good manners to write thank you notes).

6. Let’s face it: the kids will be looking for something to do in between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The novelty of the new toys will wear off about two days after they’re opened and writing thank you notes can help fill in the time gap before you’re ready to jump back into formal lessons in January.

7. Many children enjoy designing their own cards or drawing pictures. The recipients will enjoy seeing those pictures and cards on their refrigerators. This works especially well with children who are too young to write complete sentences; they can draw pictures of themselves playing with their new toys.

How many ways can you say thank you? Shukran Gazillan, Thoinks, Moite! Wado, Xie_Xie, Merci, Danke sehr, Mahalo, Köszönöm, Grazie, Cheers, Salamat, Spasiba, Tapadh Leat, Gracias a todos, Tesekkurler, Thanks y’all! (Other languages courtesy of e-Tailers Digest.)

(It’s a repost because I have to remind my own kids to write Christmas thank you notes every year, and I’m sure you do, too!)

learning styles, organization, writing

Blog Posts Organized the Simple Way

It happened again. You had a great idea for a blog post, so you scrawled it on a sticky note. The toddler found it and colored over it, then the teenager helpfully threw it out. Or, you managed to remember the idea long enough to put it at the bottom of a messy list buried somewhere on your dining room table. After the kids go to bed, in the 5 minutes before you collapse, you decide to sit down and tap out a blog post. You drum your fingers on the edge of your laptop for a few minutes, thinking, then you finally find your crumpled list, complete with peanut butter.

That’s great, but then you see the next topic on the list and you just do not have in mind to write about that right now. So, you scribble out that and squeeze in a new idea. While you’re at it, you decide to jot down a few more thoughts for blog articles somewhere on the page. By the time you get around to actually writing, you’re down to three minutes before collapse.
writing calendar
There is a better way! I used to do the above process until I came across this nifty monthly dry-erase board at Office Max (maybe? or maybe it was Staples?) for $2. I didn’t really need another calendar, but I was sure that I needed that little dry-erase board! It has a string hanger, or it can lean against a wall (or bookshelf). It’s light and not too large. It’s also double sided; the other side is blank for notes and I’ve posted my yearly goals there.

Anyway, I decided to use my new find for my writing command center. In addition to blogging, I write for several magazines and websites; I write reviews, and I’m taking grad school classes with multiple papers due. I chose to use a different color dry erase marker for each place I write for, but you could color code your topics or just use one color. First I write in when my fixed due dates are for magazines, websites, and school. Some of those get repurposed as blog posts, which I note on my board. Then I fill in the blanks with other ideas.

I’ve chosen to blog only twice a week [usually]; with my other responsibilities, I can’t take on more than that usually. Whatever your schedule is, stick to it as much as possible so your readers know what to expect.

If an unexpected review or topic pops up, I just erase & rewrite. No mess, no crumpled paper, no missing sticky note. I can see at a glance what I have planned for the month and what I still need to work on; a check mark beside the title means it’s already written and ready to go.

No $, no dry erase board? Print out a generic monthly calendar from your computer and use pencil.

Q4U: How do you organize your blog posts?

Uncategorized

Thank You Notes are Always in Style

  Is it just me, or are thank you notes (the paper kind you hold in your hand) becoming obsolete? Are they following the dwindling number of friendly letters and Christmas letters and cards that used to stuff our mailboxes? Well, my mum (she’s Canadian, but I thought the southern phrase more apropos for the title) taught me to acknowledge every gift with a handwritten thank you note. If your techno-kids balk, here are some inspirations to help reinstate the good old-fashioned thank you note.

1. Don’t restrict Thanksgiving to a single day or month. On the contrary, the fact that Thanksgiving comes exactly a month before the day when kids get overloaded with new toys, books, and electronic gadgets should prime them for even more thankfulness.

2. Someone—grandparent, aunt, sibling, parent—took the time to pick out a special gift for each child in your home. The least a child can do in return is to take the time to handwrite note acknowledging appreciation for the gift and for the thought that went into its purchase.

3. Yes, grandparents know that little Jimmy just loved the Tonka truck, but writing a thank you note is kind of like saying “I love you.” You know it, but it’s still nice to hear frequently.

4. The Bible leads the way in encouraging thankful attitudes. “Offer to God thanksgiving” (Psalm 50:14a NJKV). “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name” (Psalm 100:4, NKJV). “Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20 NKJV).

5. You can count writing thank you notes as a school project! Just look at all the subjects you’ll cover: grammar (proper letter forms and written grammar), handwriting, art (if they design their own), spelling, and etiquette (it is good manners to write thank you notes).

6. Let’s face it: the kids will be looking for something to do in between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The novelty of the new toys will wear off about two days after they’re opened and writing thank you notes can help fill in the time gap before you’re ready to jump back into formal lessons in January.

7. Many children enjoy designing their own cards or drawing pictures. The recipients will enjoy seeing those pictures and cards on their refrigerators. This works especially well with children who are too young to write complete sentences; they can draw pictures of themselves playing with their new toys.

How many ways can you say thank you? Shukran Gazillan, Thoinks, Moite! Wado, Xie_Xie, Merci, Danke sehr, Mahalo, Köszönöm, Grazie, Cheers, Salamat, Spasiba, Tapadh Leat, Gracias a todos, Tesekkurler, Thanks y’all! (Other languages courtesy of e-Tailers Digest.)


(It’s a repost because I have to remind my own kids to write Christmas thank you notes every year, and I’m sure you do, too!)

Uncategorized

My Daughter, the Writer

I am proud to announce that my daughter, Mercia Dragonslayer (no, that’s not what her birth certificate says!), is a guest blogger over at Write It Sideways! Please check out her wonderful tips for NaNoWriMo, 5 Ways to Avoid One-Month Insanity. I’m so proud of her!! Check out her blog, Slaying Dragons, for all sorts of fun and crazy writing and drawing ideas.

Uncategorized

500 Writing Prompts for Kids: First Grade through Fifth Grade (review)


500 Writing Prompts for Kids is chock full of open-ended questions that will stimulate kids’ imaginations in no time. They’ll be having so much fun that they won’t even notice they’re writing paragraphs. The prompts, in 10 different categories, can be used for journal exercises, classroom activities, extra credit projects, writing tests, poems, songs, adding to art, or just about anything else.

What a fabulous tool for homeschool teachers or classroom teachers (grades 1-5)! “They” (you know, those unnamed experts) say that the more kids write–about anything–the better their writing skills become. Cohen’s e-book takes away the “But I don’t know what to write about!” issue. 500 prompts go a looong way. I love the fact that he also provides a creative ideas for using the writing prompts.


CONTEST: The author is hosting a giveaway of a $50 Amazon gift card (plus another $50 gift card if the book gets in the Top 500 in sales on Amazon). His goal is to have at least 25 reviews of his new book (of which I am 1),  and anybody who comments on the review with their e-mail address will be entered into the giveaway. One lucky winner from all of the entries (or two if the book crests the top 500) would receive the $50 gift card.

THE FINE PRINT: I am NOT personally giving away a $50 Amazon gift card. You will be ENTERED into a DRAWING to win the $50 gift card from the AUTHOR. And, he wants you to leave your email address in with your comment here on my blog. Questions? Let me know!

This e-book was provided to me by the author, Bryan Cohen, for free in exchange for a review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Bethany