Take All the Time You Need

Dave may have over-planted our front yard garden. In winter, he dug up all the plants and bulbs between the three white rose bushes. He put in new trim, amended the soil, and planted (or replanted) up to 100 bulbs – ranunculus, gladiolas, calla lilies, and dahlias.

The ranunculus emerged first, confirming our hope that their growth would stagger, one flower variety after another. This week the lilies and glads are beginning to open. We have in the past had dahlias blooming into fall. 

Meanwhile, we had a backyard surprise. A few winters ago, we planted a spent amaryllis bulb in an unused pot of soil … then forgot it. Last year it sprouted a few leaves, but no flowers. Then this year, over this month, above and below its green arch of leaves we have enjoyed one gorgeous red bloom after another.

Things take their own time.

Like my kids. One went from average to above average reader over a few first grade weeks, while the other taught himself to read in preschool. At their own pace they both became strong readers.

Like life. Slow and steady wins the race, though I would often like to speed things up. I would like all the details to fall into place, neat and organized, right now thank you very much. Maybe you relate.

Ecclesiastes reminds us: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” As we come into summer, and slowly emerge from a strangely prolonged life season, it’s a good time to reflect.

Where do you invest time?
What pursuits are taking their sweet time?
How can you relax into the process?
What surprises would you love to see?

Patience, friends. Things take their own time. Take all the time you need.

To be honest, Dave may have over-planted the garden. But that just makes it easier for me to snip a whole bouquet to bring inside.

New Shoes

At one point, I couldn’t imagine wearing out two-plus pairs of shoes per year. Now each day begins with pavement pounding.

My junior high mile run time was slower than my current walking mile time. I loved school and books and writing, but hated PE. I snail-crawled my way through the mile “run,” followed by the humiliation of having to call out my time when the teacher took roll. Cue every teen movie scene of PE humiliation – like that, except worse, because it was me.

It occurs to me that no one ever attempted to help me find joy in movement. Maybe I wouldn’t have been receptive, but it’s so clear to me now that joy was the missing ingredient.

Raise your hand if you find humiliation motivating. Now raise your hand if joy motivates you. I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

Joy in movement now comes from fresh air and sunshine. Cleansing breaths and increased energy. Front yard flowers and waving neighbors. The company of my trotting dogs, tails wagging. Watching my miles stack up day by day, week by month, more miles so far this year than last year. I only compare to myself, the way it should be.

I’m still not sure I can run a mile. But I can run from this sidewalk crack to that silver Honda hatchback. I can run from St. Monica Church to the intersection of Canyon and Sanders. I can run many stretches of many miles, and all those steps – walking and running – add up.

Sure, some days exercise still feels like a chore. We all have to perform mundane tasks, like topping up the gas tank, picking up dog poop, washing dishes after a homemade lasagna, taxes. Still, those might be the pauses between the meaningful endeavors, and even there we can find ways to add joy.

Friends, if you find yourself slogging through an activity day after day, joyless, take it as a cue to evaluate what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. And if for whatever reason you believe that God has required something of you that you find joyless, then you have two options: either you haven’t yet found a joy-filled way of approaching that practice, or God hasn’t asked it of you.

Jesus came to bring joy, and anything worth doing is worth doing joyfully. I’m wishing you joy today in whatever you do.

Let’s share: how has adding joy changed your perspective on an everyday activity? Also, any tips on breaking in new shoes without turning my feet into raw meat will be most appreciated!

Know Your Why

Besides caring for myself, my guys, and our small menagerie, I invest myself in writing.

Why? I write to encourage those who read my words.

I write to encourage…

Your heart
Your faith and practice
Your health and wholeness
Your pursuit of lifelong learning
Your commitment to justice and right action
Your creativity – even if you think you don’t have any

I write to encourage you to witness the wonder and beauty of life.
I write to encourage you to live more fully. 
I write to encourage you to see the miracles in the mundane.

I’m grateful you’re here. Let’s encourage one another.

Also, some exciting news:

My article, “Five Prayer Styles to Refresh Your Joy,” will be included in The Joyful Life Magazine’s summer issue, now available for pre-order.

The issue will be REST-themed, perfect for summer as you make space to rest and seek refreshment in your life.

Other contents will include:
* Rest Doesn’t Have to Be Productive
* 10 Truths to Tell Yourself Every Day
* Learning How to Fight: Rules of Engagement in Marital Conflict
* Decluttering Don’ts
* And tips on planting succulents and 5 bruschetta recipes

And let me tell you this: the spring issue, CREATE (on sale now), is the first issue of this magazine I’ve held in my hands. To be honest, calling it a “magazine” is something of a misnomer, though calling it a “periodical” sounds too weighty and academic. It is stunningly beautiful, printed on quality paper, with gorgeous photography and page layout showcasing thoughtful and practical articles alike. It’s not inexpensive, but it’s worth it.

Plus you’ll get to read my words, and I had a lot of fun writing this article.

Pre-order now!

I Write…

To know what I think
To work through what I don’t yet know
To know and be known, to love and be loved
To acknowledge my feelings

To organize the chaos and cultivate inner order
To connect the dots and create meaning
To notice
To bear witness

To remember the past and record the present for the sake of the future
To reframe
To practice soul care

To prepare for words that must be spoken
To shed words that must never be spoken

To nurture my inner child
To tune in to my inner wisdom
To laugh alongside my inner jester
To listen to my spirit listening to the Spirit

To fulfill my purpose
To play
To pray
To imagine and to dream

To process pain
To understand
To forgive
To celebrate

To dig deeper
To plant seeds of beauty
To grow

To share encouragement and hope, faith and love
To speak truth
To take necessary risks
To become my best self

To leave a trail of breadcrumbs
To wander in the wilderness
To find my way home

I write for all of these reasons, and more. I write because I cannot not write.

I write because I am a writer.

This is Day 2 of 5 on Risk & Reward. Join me on Instagram for more.

Cover Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Questions & More Questions

It rarely happens, but my words have stopped flowing. Not entirely, as I have experienced sudden word-gushes that burst in one direction or another. But the regular flow of words that lands in daily 20 minute journaling sessions and twice-weekly blog posts and daily social media posts…that flow has dammed up, leaving only trickles seeping into the muddy river bed.

For the last year-ish, I have been writing and editing a book. Recently, I have been crafting a book proposal that leads me to make more edits. I have written a guest blog post (coming soon) and a couple of articles that I’ve submitted to magazines; one was rejected (still a win, as I heard back from an actual editor that I was on the right track), the other is pending. I have joined two small writing groups in which we offer mutual encouragement and editorial suggestions, and I am taking another writing class for the next six weeks. All good for my writing and my soul, and would be better yet if I could actually get down to writing.

I suspect I’m distracted, so many good word-related options before me that I’m not sure where to start. Or the energy of being in editorial mode has redirected the flow. Or I may be suffering from a minor case of burn out. In any case, I hope it’s temporary.

I wonder: might you, dear readers, help me unbrick the dam and let loose my words?

What would you like to read? How might I serve you with my writing?

I write about a variety of topics on this blog. I’ll list a few, and some questions, and I welcome your questions.

Christian faith & practice. Everything I am and do starts with my love for Jesus. While Christianity might be my heart’s first language, I try to write in such a way that if you are new to faith or even wary of Christian faith, you will still find encouragement here. Something of a misfit in any circle, I’m in a particularly misfitted stretch of my spiritual journey, a place I never anticipated being. Still, my lifetime of faith whispers that I might be in this place so that, now or later, I will be able to guide others on similar paths.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Health & wellness. I am a vegetarian (leaning vegan-ish). I walk my dogs every day. I’m big on encouragement – Yay, YOU! – and self-care, including taking consistent, gentle care of our whole beings: physical, mental, spiritual, and social. I believe we have to get past the societal taboos surrounding mental health issues in order to be well and love one another well. Gratitude, the pursuit of joy, and time outdoors keep me grounded. And all of this flows from my belief that God created us and everything we see. That life is a gift we get to unwrap and enjoy every single day. That we have the responsibility to care not just for our own wellness, but for the wellness of others, including our planet.

Image by Sathish kumar Periyasamy from Pixabay

Creativity. Creativity could fall under health & wellness since I consider it essential for my self-care, but I write about it enough to make it its own category. Clearly, I create through writing. I also read voraciously, indulging in others’ storytelling gifts. Not an “artist,” I cling to the belief that creativity is good for everybody. That we all have an inner child who longs to express herself. That the product matters less than the process. That creative play adds joyful luster to our lives. Again, my emphasis on creativity finds its source in honoring the Creator.

Image by edith lüthi from Pixabay

Alright, your turn: have these topics and questions stirred anything up for you? What questions do you have? Jot them in the comments below or send me an email: sivricketts@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Cover Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Setting Goals & Making Progress

I don’t make resolutions, but I do set goals.

Hmm, aren’t “resolutions” and “goals” two words for the same thing?

Resolutions: a firm decision to do or not do something.
Goals: the object of a person’s effort; an aim or desired result.

So, yes, “resolutions” and “goals” may be interchangeable. Maybe I’m mincing words, engaging in a little word play. But word play is exactly how I spend a lot of my time and effort. Word play works for me, and when it comes to making progress, it might work for you, too.

I choose my words carefully, and science validates just why this matters. Researchers studying people who made resolutions found that among those who worded their resolutions positively (“I want to start running”), 59% stuck to it. Among those who worded their resolutions negatively (“I want to quit watching so much TV”), only 47% stuck to it.

Another study of people similarly motivated to improve their habits found that those who set goals stuck to them at a rate of 42%, while just 4% of those who had vague intentions saw improvement.

https://www.instagram.com/holstee/

What we say and how we say it can help us make progress. 

The word “resolutions” strikes my ears negatively. “Firm decision” also feels harsh. “Aim or desired result,” however, feels positive. I’m choosing positive words to effect positive change.

Last year I made a Not 20 for 2020 list of goals, including aims such as drinking more water and completing several writing projects. While I didn’t manage everything on my list (too many goals, some unmeasurable), I crushed my water goal and surprised myself with my writing progress. Setting positive intentions set me on a course to develop healthy habits.

This year I made a simple chart with fewer goals and a box for every day of the month. I stuck it in my planner where I will see it everyday. Most of my goals are meant to be achieved daily, like walking; some I intend to fit in a few times a week, like yoga. But I can already see progress in every area as I check off my boxes day after day.

Because progress, not perfection, is the goal. Progress = positive. Perfection = unattainable. Again, I’m emphasizing the positives in words and actions. I won’t check off every box every day, but as I check off most boxes most days I know I’m heading in the right direction.

Image by M. H. from Pixabay

This is Day 2 of a 7-day writing challenge with Hope*Writers. Today’s prompt is Progress. Follow my Instagram for more.

Cover image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Word Play & Dog Walks: Fun-Ambulist

As a writer, I am a total geek for fun words. I have fond memories of spelling and vocabulary lessons as far back as elementary school; also, some not-so-fond memories when, because I was such an avid reader and therefore exposed to oh so many words, my spelling words were marked incorrect because I wrote the alternate rather than teacher-approved spelling – for example, theatre as opposed to theater. Both correct, only one the right answer.

I also have a quirky memory of being in the children’s section of our local library, seated at a tiny table covered with books I had cherry picked from many shelves. I may have been seven years old. An older girl sat down across from me and commented on my book stack. She couldn’t believe I could read the books in front of me. She picked up a biography with the word “colonel” in the title and demanded I read it aloud. I pronounced it properly: “kernel.” She laughed triumphantly, and insisted that I sound it out: “It should be col-on-el, not kernel,” she snickered. I silently stared back at her, proud of myself, pitying her.

Because I enjoy words, I often subscribe to vocabulary emails. Recently I began receiving daily emails from School of Word Play. I don’t actually remember signing up for this list, but so far it has chucked some playful words in my direction. Words like “funambulist.”

I hadn’t encountered “funambulist” before. It looks like fun-ambulist, and I thought it might be someone who walks for fun…like me. However, the correct pronunciation is fyoo-nam-byuh-list and the definition is a tight-rope walker…absolutely never will be me. [The “fun” comes from the French or Latin funis, or rope].

Let’s go, boys!

Still, it’s been making me laugh on my many, many dog walks to think of myself as a fun-ambulist, as a fun-walker, strolling along with our three funny dogs. A neighbor recently hollered at us from her jog on the other side of the road that seeing us with our entourage, our dog-tourage, makes her laugh. In the best way, I assume. We are quite the pack.

Most days Guy and I walk together. When he’s unavailable, I do two “laps” of the neighborhood, taking the two younger dogs first before returning home to swap the middle dog for the older one; the Power Puppy needs more than all the exercise we can give him, so he gets to trot along on both laps.

Power Puppy likes to hold the Old Lady’s leash

Walking these dogs has been one of the great joys of my life in this strange year. I have walked and prayed, walked and ruminated, walked and ranted (to myself), walked and pondered, walked and noticed, walked and wondered, walked and meditated, walked until I’d burned out whatever frustration the day has presented, walked until I’d paced myself back into being present and peaceful.

What’s been adding life (and laughter) to your life in this strange year?

More painted rocks I noticed on a recent walk

Speaking of word play, last night I wrote a list-poem that made me laugh…

Boring Words
Just
Very
That
Really
Right
Stuff-Thing
Then

Exhilarating Words
(The) Whimsical
Funambulist
Futz(ed and)
Lollygag(ged, then tumbled)
Catawampus(, causing a thudding)
Brouhaha (for the)
Nincompoop (spectator below)

Following the Words: Scattered

One evening I heard myself say to my husband, “I feel scattered.” I went on to explain just a few of the dizzying directions in which my brain was spinning:

the books I’m reading–to study the author’s writing style, to challenge myself to learn about life from a different perspective, to unwind before bed;

my writing projects–the few side gigs that pay a few pennies, the assignments that stretch me, my commitment to post on my blog regularly, the personal projects I’m trying to take to the next level;

my thoughts and feelings about the divided state of our country, the political and racial strife stirring up people on the streets but also changing friendships and affecting families, the election, and oh, let’s not forget that we’re in the midst of a pandemic and I have never in my life spent this much time at home;

and the intensely personal thoughts and feelings about the ways in which my sons are struggling through distance learning and the coincidence of their developmental stages with this strange time in history, and my mom’s declining health and how her children are coming together…and not.

In other words, it’s a lot. Everybody’s dealing with a lot right now, but this is my heap of extra to pitchfork my way through in search of a needle to stitch together a patchwork quilt of goodness.

The next morning, as the foggy mental fatigue continued to hang heavy on me, I did what I do: I started writing. I decided to follow the word scattered, to listen to the images it offered and what they had to say to me.

I feel scattered…
…like the multicolored metallic glitter confetti strewn across the parquet wood-tile floor of my teenage bedroom after I tore open a belated birthday card…
No, not that bright.

…like the dots and frizzles of crepe-paper ribbons launched from the midnight canon on New Year’s Eve in Times Square, paper melting and colors bleeding into sludgy snow drifts, ground into the treads of shuffling boots and sneakers and spiked by the impractical inches of sparkly high heels impaling the neon dark dawn of another cold year…
No, not that wasted.

…like the wild ping and ding and plonk and buzz and whap-slap of pinballs bouncing and banging a dizzying hypotrochoid roulette through an arcade game…
No, not that loud.

…like fire ash twisting in the late-summer breeze, tangling with the twigs of sunlight creeping through the apocalyptic orange smoke sky, impossibly snowing grey soot on our white roses…
No, not that tragic.

…like the crisp underfoot crunch of fallen autumn leaves carpeting the ground, sun yellow, rusty red, burnt orange, vibrant and colorful and withered, contributing their seasonal decay decoration to the loamy compost which will energize more life to burst forth from the ground…
Yes, organic potential, scattered like that.

Not the best piece of writing I’ve produced, but that wasn’t the point. The process itself was helpful. For a time I lost myself in playing with words and images. It felt freeing to be able to see, and then reject, what scattered could but didn’t mean to me: no, not wasted like crepe paper confetti on New Year’s Eve, or loud like pinball machines in an arcade. Not bright, not tragic.

But yes, scattered like fallen leaves, natural, not artificial, still scattered, but promising. Each factor in the multiplicity of ideas and anxieties boggling my brain and soul might come together for exponential growth. Some thoughts, like those fallen leaves, will crumble into dust and blow away on the breeze–not everything needs to lead to something or even mean something–but others may contribute to the rise of something new.

Though feeling scattered remains uncomfortable, the process of following the words led me to hope. And for that, I am grateful.

Cover Image by Martina Janochová from Pixabay

Getting Crafty: Working and Playing with Creativity

Do you have a craft, a skill you exercise regularly to make something?
Do you consider yourself crafty, making things for fun or profit?

Yes, I know, “crafty” also means deceptive, but that’s not this post.

My craft is writing. I work at it diligently most days of the week. I employ different techniques depending on the time of day, the day of the week, or the purpose of the writing.

I journal, more like a brain dump of everything on my mind and heart.
I blog, intentionally putting together words to encourage others.
I write letters, sending a little sunshine via the USPS.
I write prayers and Bible studies to connect with God.
I write to work through my thoughts and feelings on various issues.
I write notes and reviews about books I’ve read.
I write for organizations and individuals who pay me to write for them.

I practice writing. I read good writing, fiction and non, to learn from others. I take writing classes (a new class begins tonight – eek, I’m both excited and anxious).

And sometimes I need to do something differently crafty to differently spark my creativity.

Occasionally over the last year, I’ve spent a Sunday afternoon creating a collage. Just for fun, just for me, just because.

I set a timer for 20 minutes and quick-cut scraps from a colorful magazine I’ve read. I look for colors, words, images that grab me for whatever reason. When the timer beeps, I shuffle the cut pieces, looking for connections. Sometimes colors work together. Other times, words bump up against words to create new meaning. I trim edges and shuffle some more. And then I grab a glue stick and a piece of paper to use as a foundation and arrange the snippets into something new.

It’s not rocket science. I’m not attempting to win an art prize. I’m just having fun. And sometimes, fun matters most. It breathes fresh life into my lungs and returns me to my writing craft with new things to say.

In the comments, tell me a little something about your craft. Or tag someone whose pursuit of their craft you admire.

This is Day 2 of a 7 Day Writing Challenge with Hope*Writers. Follow me on Instagram for more.

Lent 2020: See What We Can Do

“Look!…See what we can do with our very own hands!” They were quite pleased with themselves.
But God wasn’t pleased with them…. They were trying to live without him, but God knew that wouldn’t make them happy or safe or anything.

God gave us bright brains and capable hands and put us in groups to accomplish life together. And we need to remember that He is the source of all good things, including all of our creative abilities.

We may not be building the Tower of Babel, but we do stuff all day long. Lots of intricate, complicated, amazing things. Have we lost sight of God in the process? Better question: How do we keep sight of God in the process?

When people got cocky and tried to build a tower to heaven, a tower that would speak volumes about their abilities rather than God’s provision, God gave them the gift of languages. Quite a gift, and also a confusing problem, especially in the beginning.

Communication still gets confusing. We often communicate ineffectively, and it gets in the way of our ability to accomplish things.

However, when we look to God for His plans. When we seek to honor Him rather than ourselves. When we honor one another and the beautiful gifts they are to us and to the world. Then, I believe, God will make clear our communication and we will work together to do all the amazing things He has dreamed for us.

 

During Lent 2020, I’m reading and reflecting on The Jesus Storybook Bible. If you don’t already have it, I highly recommend it. You can purchase it here. Please note: as an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases.