Archives for February 2008

Win-Win Situations

I got to spend part of the day yesterday with my long-time friend Jeneal. Since she just recently moved, we both travel quite a distance now to attend our monthly writers group. It’s a win-win situation. We get inspired and trained in our craft in the evening but squeeze in some girlfriend time during the day. Since we both missed the December meeting and Jeneal missed the January meeting, yesterday really hit the spot. I actually had to restrain myself from squealing when I met up with her at the local Barnes & Noble :)

Not only is Jeneal my dear friend, but she is my critique partner as well. Pretty amazing really. God blessed me with her friendship many years before we started sharing an interest in writing. Now our friendship is sweeter because of our bond as writers, and our writing relationship is sweeter because of our friendship. Another win-win situation!

This past year I’ve been learning that a critique partner or group is absolutely essential for writers. A set of fresh and objective eyes can catch all kinds of mistakes (punctuation errors, wrong words, repeated words or phrases, awkward sounding sentences, etc.) as well as make suggestions on how to make a piece stronger and better. Yes, writers need a thick skin. Having problems pointed out is not always a fun process, but it definitely produces a better end result as we weigh the input and refine the work.

Jeneal and I have helped each other with critiques time and again — and I’m not just talking about our writing. Our solid friendship allows us to speak freely with each other about other areas of our lives, too. We can say things like “Do you really think that’s a good idea?” or “Maybe you could try this instead…” If one of us points something out to the other, we know it’s coming from a spirit of love, and we treasure the advice. I’m lucky to have a few friendships like that.

What about some of you? Comment and tell me how critique is valuable in your work and if you have someone who is serving you in that capacity (yes, it’s a service!). Or possibly you are the one providing critique. I’d like to hear about how someone’s advice has helped or is helping you.

Think for a moment, too, about your friendships. Do you enjoy a close friendship where you can freely give and receive advice? If not, why not make it a goal to develop one. Everyone needs this kind of win-win situation in their lives. Be prepared, though — you may have to restrain yourself from squealing sometime at your favorite meeting spot :)

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17

*My photo

Going "Splat"

Up for a little more basketball talk? We didn’t get to see our local college teams play this weekend, but we still worked in some basketball. Late Friday afternoon, we made a trip down to see our nephew Cody (taller kid front and center above) play on his 5th grade team.

Cody’s team beat their opponents handily, and yes, I whooped and hollered when Cody made a basket :) A few heads turned to see who the crazy lady was cheering for Cody, but I didn’t care. I needed to be extra loud since it will probably be the only game of his I get to see this season.

We arrived late and missed the first few minutes of play, but after spotting the rest of the family and getting seated, we could tell right away we were in for a totally different kind of ball than what we’re used to seeing at the college games :) Every few seconds, boys seemed to hit the floor. A few simply fell while running down the court, several got their feet tangled up with other players, and some would go down as a group. One collision sent four or five of them to the floor at once.

Their little bodies made such awful splats. I gasped more than once. Thank goodness, Cody stayed on his feet the entire time we were there. My sister Carolyn assured me that this was normal — that they fall all the time. When I pointed out blatant traveling and fouls that that the officials seemed to be blind to, she offered more assurance. “They can’t call everything. We’d be here all night. They have to pick and choose what they call.” Good point.

Even though this isn’t the first year of basketball for most of these boys, they’re still very much in the learning and skill developing stage of the game. What’s exciting, though, is that in between the falls, fouls, and travels, they made some great plays. Steals, lay-ups, good blocking, teamwork — we saw it all. And one day, some of these same boys could be the ones on college teams making the slick plays and slam dunks.

Whether in basketball or life in general, acquiring new skills and attempting new things just can’t be done without making plenty of mistakes along the way. Can anyone relate? I know I can. I remember going “splat” many times throughout my life :)

Let’s not let the fear of making mistakes keep us from growing and learning new things. Trying to master computer stuff and our new digital camera keeps me making my share of mistakes — but I’m also learning and improving all the time. Kind of like some 5th grade boys I saw the other night… How about you? Attempting anything new lately? Remember, going “splat” is to be expected. Just keep trying.

“…we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galations 6:9b

*My photo

Cheer On!

1509146427_c8a460c84b_zMany Wednesday and Saturday evenings during the winter find me and Don cheering on our local community college girls and guys basketball teams. Well, I cheer anyway. Don doesn’t get too excited, just a little clapping here and there. That’s okay, though. I make enough noise for both of us.

It’s probably a carryover from my high school pep club days. We wore uniforms, had our own special section at home games, rode the bus to “away” games, and “screamed our guts out” (an expression of the day) every Friday night. I’ve considerably toned my behavior down since then :), but I still love to whoop and holler and “oh, yeah!” at all the appropriate moments during the games we attend now.

This past Saturday night, the gym rocked as our biggest rival tried to defeat us on our home court (they beat us a few weeks ago when we played there). Our guys, usually conference champs who go on to nationals, have suffered several losses this season, but they weren’t about to let a long-time rival beat them at home. With home court advantage and a few hundred fans cheering them on, they outlasted this year’s conference leader and gave us all plenty to whoop and holler about. You know, edge of your seat excitement the whole game through. It was great.

Coaches and players everywhere will testify to the difference fans can make. Players are spurred on by the roar of the crowd. They thrive on the support. Sometimes the only thing that keeps tired athletes going are the shouts cheering them on that they hear from coaches, teammates, and, yes, their fans in the stands.

We all need that kind of encouragement in our own lives, don’t we? We need someone cheering us on. Think of the challenges you’ve faced over the years. Did someone’s encouraging words, faithful prayers, or exhortation to “hang in there” help you achieve your goals or see the challenges through to the end?

The support of family and friends has helped me time and again, but most recently, it has helped me persevere with my writing. Everytime someone shows an interest or tells me they’ve enjoyed something I’ve written or rejoices with me when something is published, I’m strengthened and encouraged to stick with it. Many of you have acted as my cheering section — thanks so much.

Let’s be watching for those who may need our support. Let’s be ready to be cheerleaders. If you’re the one who needs a little encouragement right now, consider yourself encouraged. May God strengthen and uphold you with His mighty power.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Flickr photo by echobase_2000, Creative Commons License

Whose Time Is It Anyway?

It happens to everybody. The frustration of lost time. Whether it’s projects or chores not going as planned and taking more time than anticipated or mistakes, delays, and interruptions actually stealing our time away, most of us deal with this challenge on a regular basis. The question becomes, “How do we handle it?”

I, for one, usually let myself get too irritated. Just the other day, I went from cool, calm, and collected to plenty aggravated after getting my mother-in-law to her doctor’s appointment just to find out that the doctor wasn’t in that day. Come to find out, someone had called and left a message with the wrong person.

On the surface, this may not seem like a big deal. But when you look at the bigger picture (this is just one of four doctors I have to take Don’s mom to see, we would have yet another appointment now, I already had medical appointments on two other days that week, plus it was only 23 degrees outside), it’s easy to see why aggravation was my natural response. I just hope I didn’t show it too much.

My mother-in-law’s easy-come, easy-go attitude about it all helped me keep my reaction in check. She had already been to the hospital three times that week for infusions and absolutely hated getting out in the cold, but she still managed an “oh well, it happens” kind of response. In fact, I should have been more upset for her sake than my own, but I’m afraid my feelings were more selfish than that. I hate to admit it, but it’s true.

Part of my frustration over lost time is probably just due to the way I’m wired. I’m a goal-oriented, organized, structured kind of gal. Flexibility is not my strong suit. (Okay, I can hear the “amens” from those of you who know me well!) Since rolling with the punches doesn’t come naturally for me, it takes conscious effort on my part when I’m met with these kinds of frustrating situations.

When my day isn’t going as planned, I try to remember a phrase from Psalm 31:15 that says “My times are in your hands…” Also in Jack Hayford’s book Praise in the Presence of God (which is a compilation of excerpts of his other books and is, by the way, on my list of “Books That Will Bless”), he suggests starting each day by saying something like “Lord, this day is Yours, and so am I.”

So now, I put both of those things together. Before ever getting out of bed, I try to start my day with the right attitude by praying, “Lord, this day is Yours, and so am I. My times are in Your hands.” It really does help me trust my day to the Lord and give my time to Him. I just need some reminders as the day goes on :)

**If you forgot to check for the winner of The Sweet Giveaway, check out the Happy Valentine’s post below to see who is in chocolate heaven :)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day to all — but especially to our Sweet Giveaway winner! The winner of the Godiva gift card is… Kelli!! Congratulations, Kelli! Can’t beat winning some chocolate for Valentine’s Day, huh? :) As for the rest of us, let’s keep our fingers crossed, and maybe we’ll get to enjoy a sweet chocolate surprise sometime over the next few days, too. (It doesn’t hurt to dream, does it?!)

I hope Valentine’s Day holds something special for each and every one of you. Maybe something memorable, something unexpected. Maybe a card, a gift, or even some treasured words of love. And whatever comes your way this Valentine’s Day, may you be not only a recipient but a giver as well.

As you think about love in the next day or two, consider these familiar words from a chapter in the Bible known as the love chapter. Try not to read over them too quickly. Instead, consider them with fresh eyes:

“If I speak in tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal…if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing…Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…” 1 Corinthians 13:1-2; 4-8a

May you love and be loved this Valentine’s Day!

*Flickr photo by Muffet