Thursday, June 16, 2016

Summertime

SUMMER. For teachers (and substitute teachers), summer is always highly anticipated. However, I have not even accomplished half of what I've set out to do, and summer's nearly half over.



My tendency is to beat myself up over this. Why do I insist on doing that? Every time. Every day. 

So, today I'll write a list of things I have accomplished, and one in progress, just to see where I am at the moment.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Brazen by Leeana Tankersley

Don't tell Leeana, but I do not feel brazen. At all.


In fact, it's the subtitle of the book Brazen that reached out and grabbed me: "The Courage to Find the You That's Been Hiding." Yes. YES. That's me.

I've been a fan of Leeana Tankersley for a while now. In fact, I just realized  I wrote about her first book, Found Art, as a part of a blog tour six years ago. Then we worked together over at Wives of Faith for several years, she as columnist, me as (grateful) editor.

You can imagine how excited I was to hear about this book. I signed up for the tour as fast as I could, and the book arrived just as I was finishing Looking for Lovely, feeling a bit tender. I wish I could say this book soothed my heart, but it has continued to prod at the tender places instead. (This is how the Lord works on me--over and over and over again with the same message till I get the point.)

So what is the point? That I need to learn more about how to be and to listen, rather than do and accomplish. At least, that's where I am at the moment.

Brazen explores the idea of being brazen: without shame, without artifice, being honest and open and real and vulnerable before God, and learning how to recognize "soul bullies," those inner voices that are not of God but to which we listen. The prose is, as always, poetic and lovely, gentle but firm.

I'm still working my way through the book at this writing, because Leeana's book is so rich and full of wisdom, it's impossible to read quickly (or without a pen or highlighter in hand!).

Each chapter has a "reflection and expression" prompt that I'm responding to in my journal. It also has a "brazen board" suggestion for artists; Leeana describes it as a "storyboard for your soul" (I'm not doing that just yet).

I think reading this book right on the heels of the Lovely book was actually good. I believe these books are twins, in a way: sisters from different mothers, challenging and comforting, encouraging and pointing straight to Jesus.

I'll keep reading, and you go get a copy, okay?

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Disclaimer

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review and help in promoting the book. No affiliate links are included here. The photo used in this post is my own.

Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs

Annie F. Downs is probably one of the most conversational writers I've ever read. Internal monologue? Check. Questions? Check. Answers? Sometimes in the form of more questions. Check.

Enter her latest book, Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that Matter.
Photo courtesy of Matthew Hernandez @mdez

Looking for Lovely sounded like a great book for me. Collecting moments? Yes. Loveliness everywhere? Yes, please. I'm still in awe that not only did my copy of the book come in an envelope complete with party confetti, it's signed by the author!


It's like a party!

And then I started reading. And it was hard.

I'm not sure why this book was such a difficult read for me. Is it because so much of it touched the tender parts of my heart? Because I completely related to the self-loathing and pain and "broken crazy" Annie Downs describes?

Yes. Yes, I think, to all of the above and more.


 It has become even harder for me in recent years to believe in the deepest parts of me that I am truly worthy of the love of God - of the sacrifice of Christ - of the calling of the Holy Spirit. Years of rejection and self-doubt have caused me to brush off compliments and think it's all for you and none for me. I am not awesome. I am not worthy. Yet, the Word of God says otherwise, doesn't it? Yes, ma'am, it does.

Hence, my struggle.

Enter Downs and her lovely teal and confetti-sprinkled book that begins with pain and talking about quitting and beauty and something she calls "broken crazy" - a phrase that is just general enough of a descriptor to be completely identifiable - and you have a perfect storm of Pattie tears.

Music and painting nails and nature walks and traveling around the world. These are the lovely things. These are moments for Annie; may we find our moments too.




I recommend this book to women, mostly, but to anyone looking for lovely in the pain and brokenness of life. For it is in the brokenness that light shines through - and stained glass can be formed from pieces - and mosaics can be designed from shards - and our perfectly imperfect selves can allow the light of Jesus to shine through and be glorified.


This book is a lovely follow-up to Emily P. Freeman's Simply Tuesday from last year. Where Emily's book is about finding beauty in the ordinary, Annie's book is more about finding beauty in our painful situations.


Annie's own prayer for her book is found here.

To learn more about the book you can go to the book's website here.
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Disclaimer:

No affiliate links are included. I was given an advance reader copy from the author and her publisher in exchange for my honest review and promotion of the book. Except for the first photo, all other photos are my own.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Looking for Lovely Preorder Goodies

 www.lookingforlovelybook.com 

One week from today, I will be posting two separate book reviews for two wonderful books by two women I greatly admire: Looking for Lovely and Brazen.

For today, here is a promotional preview for all the preorder goodies you can get for Annie F. Downs's book Looking for Lovely. You can access the website by clicking the graphic or here: www.lookingforlovelybook.com

It's spring break here, so I should get to writing...

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Where did January go?

No, really.

Where did it go?



I am sitting here on a Saturday morning, typing between coughing fits (Yes, I went to the doctor. Yes, I have bronchitis, so yes, meds and I am drinking lots of water.), incredulous that I haven't written much at all since November.

I have been journaling a bit more, which is good for me personally. But even that has gone by the wayside in favor of more time with my family and more time reading. I still have the burning in my heart to write a book, and I have been jotting down ideas and thoughts toward that topic and those things to explore.

I have also been working. Ten months ago when we learned we were moving to Georgia, I started the process of applying for a teaching license and filing applications with both the high school where my daughter attends and the colleges in the area. Now I am working as a substitute teacher in her school, and twice now I've had long-term assignments. This has taken all of my previous online writing time and channeled those energies into the classroom. It's funny to me that several people have asked me if I want to teach. It's more that I feel I have to. It's not perfect, peaceful, or always fun, but it's where I feel most purposeful.

One thing I must address is this: My work with Wives of Faith (www.wivesoffaith.org) is complete. The ministry closed its doors last week, and so ends my seven years of online ministry with that wonderful group of ladies. You can follow Sara Horn for more info about her ministry, which I hope to continue to support with my friendship and my love for her and her books.

As for a "one word 2016" - I never got one, so I'm not too worried anymore about whether or not I'll get one. Maybe it's "teach" or "work" or even "don't stress out so much, for the love!"

I have several books to review in coming weeks that I haven't gotten to yet (major apologies to the authors! I have been talking them up on social media and in my friendship circles, I promise!), so I will be posting book reviews.

So...what's new with you? How's 2016 for you? Are you sick of political stuff yet? :)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

And...it's a bust.

And...it's a bust. I wasn't able to finish even the first few chapters of my novel this year.

I'm continuing to see that writing nonfiction is more my thing than fiction. But what really threw me was the long-term substitute teaching position that fell into my lap without any warning the second week of November.

I just might not have what it takes to finish a book, after all. I guess time will tell.

2015's NaNoWriMo is a bust, but I'll still keep reading and writing and book reviewing here at Fresh-Brewed Writer as long as I am able.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

National Novel Writing Month 2015



And now...fiction. I'll be working on a novel during the month of November. We'll see if I actually finish this year!

In Conclusion: 31 Days of Friendship


“I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Even though I've written about friendship for an entire month, I feel as if there is more to say. It's interesting that on September 30, I wondered if I'd have enough for 31 full days--and now that it's October 31 I still have several other stories and topics I haven't even touched.

As I conclude my series, I'd like to offer a list the characteristics of a good friendship.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Day 30: What does the Bible say? Part 5 {31 Days of Friendship}



For this last entry into the "What does the Bible Say about Friendship" miniseries in my #31daysoffriendship series for the Write 31 Days challenge, I would like to talk about Jesus.

When I was a child growing up in a Christian home and going to church, we sang many songs about Jesus being our friend. I'm not really sure I knew what it meant until I felt Him in a more real sense, in college and in sad times, when I was going through some of the situations I've described in this series with friendships, and during my parents' divorce.

The Gospels tell us about Jesus's disciples (there were 12), his closest friends or the "inner circle" of best friends (there were 3), Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha, and of course the group that traveled with Him and His disciples as he preached and taught about His Father (unnumbered and many were unnamed, but we know they were present).

There are many analyses out there about the friendship model Jesus set for us: have a circle of friends, a tighter circle of confidantes, an adopted family of friends. The list could go on and on. But I wonder sometimes if it isn't supposed to be that complicated.

Here is what Jesus says in John 15:

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
Love first. Love God first, then love each other, and joy will abound. Pretty simple.

This is my last Bible-related post, and it's going to be online late after a busy week. So maybe as I write this with a tired brain and a full heart, I'm feeling a bit sentimental about ending this series on my blog about friendship. I wonder if we worry about friendships too much. Maybe we need to spend more of our time cultivating our friendship with Jesus, with His Father, more than with others first. If we let the friends be our primary focus, maybe that is missing the point. Let's put our focus on Jesus, and on learning God's Word, and cultivating that relationship first, before we worry about whether or not Jane* likes us or if we should invite her for coffee, or whatever. I know that the Lord will lead me where He wants me, and He has often placed people in my path (oh who am I kidding, every day I exit my house I talk to people outside my social circle!). He has provided me with friends before, and He will do so again. He already has for me here.

Tomorrow will be my wrap-up post about my friendship series. I hope you'll join me, and if you've enjoyed my musings on friendship, I hope you'll let me know - or better yet, share with one of your friends.



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*Jane Austen nicknames are used in this series, and all month I never used Jane. So here she is!

Mini-series on What does the Bible Say about Friendship?
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

To read the introductory post for this #write31days series, click here.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Day 29: Being a Good Friend {31 Days of Friendship}


It might seem weird that I am concluding with this topic, but for me it feels as if I'm coming full-circle after a long journey through the memories I've sorted through this month.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Day 27: Sandpaper Friends {31 Days of Friendship}


As iron sharpens iron,
    so a friend sharpens a friend.


We need people in our lives who challenge us, test us, and spur us on to action. To be better than we are alone. To be smoother.

There are a few people I meet and with whom I interact who are irritating. They rub me the wrong way, if you will. You know the kind I mean. They get the smartphone upgrade a year before you're eligible. Their kids are smarter and more talented than yours--and you know because they are great at the humble brag. Their hair never looks grey. They get to go on vacation to exotic locations, while your "vacation," such as it is, is more of a staycation. Or, they might even score one more point than you on the ACT. I call them "sandpaper friends."

So the ACT reference might seem out of place, but this really happened to me. My friend Lucy* was a high school friend. We bonded through our shared love of youth choir and boys. She was a very good friend to me, don't get me wrong. She never broke a confidence or gossiped, or meant to hurt me. But without any effort at all, she one-upped me every time I turned around. (Or at least it felt that way.) The last straw that made me truly cry in my room for awhile was her ACT score one point higher than mine. I thought I was doomed to mediocrity because I couldn't get a higher score. (Later years would prove that I had a pretty dang good score on my own, but when my point of reference was this friend, I had a hard time seeing myself objectively.)

Sandpaper friends are in our lives for a reason. They are there to sharpen us and to smooth out our splinters--all by rubbing the rough parts away. I have had several sandpaper friends: in church, at the dance studio, even online. I used to get really upset about these women and their irritating ways--but now I call them my spiritual sandpaper. If we believe God plans our lives and places us together with others for specific reasons, then perhaps I need to be open to the possibility that the reason may very well be my own spiritual growth and edification. I have learned to try to look at the positive side of having sandpaper friends, looking toward how I can encourage them, perhaps help them, and learn from them.

So what about my friend Lucy Steele? Well, she continued to beat me at everything; her class rank was 12, mine was 13; she got something in front of her cum laude at college graduation, while I got a plain old cum laude; I went on to earn a master's, she got an MD. I became a teacher, and she became a doctor. But you know what? We're still friends 30 years later. We are both serving Christ and we're both happy in our own situations. Who could ask for anything more, really?

Oh yeah, smooth edges. I have those now.


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* Name has been changed. I'm using Austenian pseudonyms for this series. Lucy Steele was a sandpaper friend to Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility. Not that this particular friend has tried to lay prior claim to the man I loved, as Lucy did to Elinor with Edward...but you get the idea. Plus this friend's real-life name has two syllables too.


To read the introductory post for this #write31days series, click here.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Day 26: Imbalance in Friendship {31 Days of Friendship}

Yesterday in my Friendship Quotation Sunday post, I included this gem from Jane Austen:
 "There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves; it is not my nature." - Jane Austen
This quotation describes me to a T.
With my friends, I am loyal and giving. Always have been, always will be. And most of the time, my friends are the same with me. Here's an example:

Pictured is my friend Emma* whom I've written about before. This photo is from a mall on one of our "meet ya halfway" trips to see each other one of the summers I lived on the other side of the state while my husband began his new job, wherever he was at the time. She is my very best friend, and whenever we can we meet each other halfway. It's been that way since college days.

Having a friend who always gives to us can be great. Having a friend who gives, and to whom we can give, is even better. But having to be the one who gives all the time, over and over again, can be so very tiring. It's exhausting emotionally and spiritually, isn't it? In my own best and longest-lasting friendships, it's been a lot of give and take. Sometimes, though, it feels imbalanced. And that's when I check my feelings for the truth.

On my very first introductory post, someone wrote a comment that she felt imbalance in her friendships. I can identify. Emma and I have this joke that we both can't be going through a rough patch at the same time, or else we're in trouble! When we were a threesome (and we have been in with different other ladies over the past 30-plus years we've known each other), we say that we hope if she and I are both having difficult days, that our third person is able to be positive for the two of us!

This brings to mind the verses from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
Amen, amen.

So what do you do if you're the one constantly giving, giving, giving--or you feel that way? First, pray about it. Then, I would suggest that you stop and think about it as objectively as you can. (This can be difficult if you're feeling hurt or emotional.) Is it true that you're always the one giving, or does it just feel like it? Sometimes our feelings are deceiving--and that is saying a lot from someone who really does go with her gut quite often. Try and keep track in your journal, or make a note in your planner, each time you contact your friend. This will give you a visual to see if it really is one-sided. If so, I'd suggest pulling back a bit from that friendship and again, keep track of it. Not that you're keeping evidence against the person; you're merely tracking if your emotions are an accurate assessment of the situation. If you indeed are the only one keeping the friendship going, you could talk to the friend. If the friendship isn't healthy, I suggest pulling back and see what happens. Sometimes, the friendship will revive. Sometimes, it will fade away. Only time will tell.

And sometimes, life throws some wild pitches. During those really hard times, there will indeed be an imbalance. But if it's a true friendship, it will even out eventually. I firmly believe that.

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* Name has been changed. I'm using Austenian pseudonyms for this series. Emma Woodhouse from Jane Austen's Emma is one of my favorites. Not that this particular friend has tried to regulate my life as Emma did with Harriet, but you know, favorite friends get favorite Austen names.


To read the introductory post for this #write31days series, click here.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Day 25: Friendship Quotations Part 4 {31 Days of Friendship}


"There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves; it is not my nature." - Jane Austen

"The only thing to do is to hug one's friends tight and do one's job." - Edith Wharton

"Real friends are those who, when you've made a fool of yourself, don't feel that you've done a permanent job." - Erwin T. Randall

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To read the introductory post for this #write31days series, click here.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Day 24: I Want to Be Your Friend {31 Days of Friendship}


Our family moves around quite a bit. With each move I must consciously make the choice to be openhearted, to be friends with women I don’t yet know, and to allow myself to know the sweet peace of safe community among sisters in Christ.

One of my most precious friendship experiences came to me at a time when I least expected it.