Giving thanks

I love teaching teens how to write. One, it gives me an excuse to indulge myself and write about topics I wouldn’t ordinarily. And, two, I love it when they are proud of what they’ve written and want me to read it.

While it’s fun to be indulgent, the greatest rewards with writing—and anything else—come with giving to others. Friday at school I changed up the game plan, so instead of having my students write about themselves, I told them to use their words to bless others, to tell one of their teachers why they are thankful that their lives have crossed. I don’t know what the students wrote, but I hope their words made a positive difference.

I noticed on Facebook that people have been counting down to Thanksgiving by naming a new reason each day as to why they’re thankful.

I haven’t joined in the game, but I’ve done a lot of soul searching.

I have to confess. I’m not jealous, but every time I read what these Facebook writers say, I find myself wanting more. Or less. I guess it depends on how you look at life.

I want MORE of a closer relationship with God but less ritual. I don’t want to go to church to fill my schedule with committee meetings, play practices, and parties. I want more God.

I want MORE love, not necessarily on the receiving end but on the giving end. I want the fulfillment that comes with giving a part of yourself to others. But in today’s world, people are suspicious. They think there’s a catch so they put up walls to ward off manipulation. I don’t want or need anything in return except maybe for people to accept without feeling obligated to give anything back.

I want MORE Jesus but less middle-man. Facebook has been come our new town hall, our new beauty shop or barber shop, our new front porch where people go to sit a spell and just talk. I don’t dislike that people talk about Jesus on Facebook, but I don’t like the posts that say, “If you love Jesus, share this photo.” I don’t think he’d appreciate that.

I want MORE philanthropy and less chalkboard. I find myself questioning my motives whenever I do something unselfish. Am I tallying up my goodness to pass myself off as a “good” person, or can I do good without telling a soul?

I want MORE thanksgiving and less regret. We make mistakes. We face disappointments. We get hurt. I want to put aside all of those things. I want to be happy for the moment, for a moment is sometimes all we have.

So with that being said, I’ll try to catch up with my Facebook friends and add my five reasons why I’m thankful this season.

  • I’m thankful for creativity. If God didn’t orchestrate creativity, our five senses would be useless. I don’t want to take for granted all the beauty that surrounds me.
  • I’m thankful for serendipity, that God allows us to think with the mind of a child so that our hearts can leap a little when we discover something wonderful, that we don’t succumb to sarcasm and take for granted the wonder in life.
  • I’m thankful to be a mother, that I can nurture and protect.
  • I’m thankful for friends who allow me to let down my guard and who let down theirs without thinking I have ulterior motives.
  • I’m thankful for family, who gave me part of themselves so that I can carry part of them wherever I go.

(Okay, maybe I don’t do math so well, but I can’t leave out this one:  I’m thankful for you for reading my blog and for offering me encouragement. You’ve changed my life in a good way. I hope I can help change yours.)

Merry Christmas 2011

Last January I wanted to find the perfect snow day picture. I think I came pretty close. The barn and the trees covered with snow paint a picture of peace and serenity.

I wanted to write the perfect Christmas blog, but I couldn’t find the perfect words. These will have to do.

A couple of days ago I made a quick trip to a convenience store to buy some cleaning supplies. I couldn’t tell if the woman in front was older or younger than me, but her eyes told me she had lived a hard life.

I was in a hurry, but the lady wanted to talk. “Today has been a bad day,” she said to the cashier. The cashier said nothing but scanned and bagged the items.

“My mother died today.”

All of a sudden it didn’t matter to me that I was in a hurry. The cashier looked up with empathy and muttered, “I’m sorry to hear that.”

I knew I had to say something. I felt this woman’s pain even though we had never met before. I told her my parents had died recently and that I was so, so sorry that she had to go through such a difficult time. I didn’t have anything else to offer her except a sincere heart that said I cared.

“Yeah, no one’s ever died on me,” she said. We stared at each other for a few seconds. I just kept telling her I was so sorry. Then the cashier handed the woman her bag. The woman and I looked at each other again, but I was out of words. My heart hurt for her.

“Merry Christmas,” she said and walked out the door. I never saw her again.

I believe with all my heart that people’s paths cross for a reason. Some people call it divine appointments. God lets me call it serendipity. I hope that my simple, imperfect words comforted the lady who had just lost her mother. She needed to tell someone. I didn’t do much, but I was there. All I had to offer was a sincere heart.

The last blog I wrote was all about my obsession for shopping, but the truth is material things really mean nothing to me. I wrote the blog because it seems everywhere I turn everyone seems so perfect, especially at Christmas.

People throw on their cloaks of piety and perfection and mask their true natures. They give handouts of grace and mercy to the unfortunate. Once Christmas is over, however, they take off their cloaks and then wrap themselves in self righteousness. The grace and mercy go back in the attic until next season.

The most important gift anyone can receive at Christmas or any other time is love, specifically Christ’s love, but nonbelievers turn away from the gift because they don’t feel worthy of receiving it.

I don’t know about you, but people who demand perfection make me uncomfortable. Sometimes believers come across that way. I hope no one thinks I think I’m perfect. I am far, far from the target.

But what I do know is that God loves imperfect people, and He can make the impossible happen. Even when we make bad decisions, He can choreograph life so that we can get back on track and be happy again.

I always wanted to be a writer, but teaching wasn’t my original plan. Yet through teaching I have met my audience, the teens for whom I want to write, and I have learned from them, and I’ve learned to love them.

Christmas day is coming to a close, and I still haven’t found the perfect words. I simply am not perfect. I don’t say the perfect thing at the perfect time, but God has given me this heart that loves like crazy.

So that’s it, all I have to offer, just a few imperfect words and a very sincere heart.

Merry Christmas.

Walk this way

Public domain photo

I’m not a world famous novelist or journalist. I’m just a simple person. I love God. I love people, especially those who feel unloved, and I want to be an encourager. I write from the heart. But the last three weeks have been so hard that I haven’t felt like writing anything at all, especially anything good or positive.

I shared my dilemma with my journalism students. We often talk about our personal writing struggles. They suggested I use my writing to work through my frustrations. I want to use my words to bless, not curse.

Then one of them suggested I write about Steven Tyler—a frequent topic in our random media discussions. He’s bad…in kind of a good sort of way.

Okay, I’ll confess. I like Steven Tyler. REALLY like. REALLY, REALLY like.

And so not to alarm my “normal” conservative family members and friends, please allow me to indulge in my infatuation from within an American Idol context. Yes, some of his Aerosmith lyrics are crudely suggestive. And yes, while I am adamant supporter of the First Amendment, I cringe when I think about how Aerosmith pushed for funding for federal funding of an explicit art exhibit in 1992. But let’s stick to this context—American Idol. Other than his occasional bleeps, Mr. Tyler is actually a pretty cool dude on the show.

There are two main reasons why Steven Tyler strikes a chord with me.

(Side note:  Despite what some of you might think, I won’t begin by talking about his hair—although I do like his long hair…and his feathers. It took me a while to believe he was actually wearing feathers, but that’s what they are, actual feathers in the form of hair extensions. Don’t believe me? Check out this salon that specializes in them.)

But I digress. Let’s get back to the point of this blog—two reasons why I like Steven Tyler on American Idol.

THE MINOR

The twinkle in Steven’s eyes suggests he’s a mixture of mischief and spontaneity, which if you know anything about me at all you know this is my kind of person. Steven makes the show more interesting. (Some days it’s all I can do to appear the calm, subdued English teacher. But what fun would life be if I didn’t talk my past a security guard into Fenway Park during the off season or if I didn’t accidentally find myself staring at a shiny badge during the middle of drug sting while searching for boxes for a move to a new apartment–just a couple of stories from previous blogs, I think.)

Steven Tyler doesn’t care what other people think. He wears what he wants to wear, he unleashes a quirky sense of humor the audience may or may not get, and he encourages whomever he pleases. In other words, he doesn’t give into the peer pressure of downing contestants just because Randy thinks they’re pitchy. And despite the gibes of his band mates, he followed the decision to do something “normal” like appear on a mainstream TV show.

THE MAJOR

Despite his outrageous rock n’ roll persona, Steven Taylor exudes compassion. He stole my heart the moment he knelt down beside the wheelchair of Chris Medina’s finance,  kissing and hugging her while reminding her how special she is. I also like the fact that, unlike Simon Cowell, Steven applauds the gospel roots of the contestants rather than showing contempt for their faith. Of course, Steven did grow up singing in a Presbyterian church choir.  He gets it. He has even voiced that he “gets it.” I wonder why he wandered away.

So in the context of American Idol, Steven Tyler is no longer the self-centered rock star with the ego-induced attitude. He appears the kindest and most humble of them all. Of course, Steven Tyler is on stage. He shows us what we want to see. We’re all on stage, aren’t we? Only God knows what’s really inside—good or bad.

I’m a public servant, a teacher. I’m on stage every day. Even when I’m sick with a fever or coping with the death of a loved one, I do my best to give my best performance. I shell out hundreds of dollars each year to equip my classroom or to buy things for a child who needs the help. I come in early and stay late and give away my time to someone else’s children. And not once have I ever raised my voice or said any child was “bad.”

My audience isn’t always so kind. Some of them take the term public servant and interpret it as “whipping boy.” They hurl hateful words at us teachers without regard for what it does to us emotionally. We’re the ones punished—or bullied—when their young princes and princesses don’t “make the grade”—literally now days.

What has all of that got to do with Steven Tyler, you ask?

Not much, really.

But on those days when my heart is too heavy to pour out anything good, on those days when the bullies make me their whipping boy, on those days  when I need a miniature vacation—an escape, I can point my remote to American Idol. I can pretend the American dream really can come true, I can listen to great music, and I can see the twinkle in Steven Tyler’s eye. It’s contagious. Before I know it, I’ve got one in my own.

And when I am heart is so heavy with grief and disappointment, I can do something goofy by writing about ceiling ninjas, pirates, or Steven Tyler. Maybe I can make someone smile—or even myself. Life is mean. We have to fight back if we’re going to help others get out of it alive.

And by alive, I do mean make it to eternity. Fighting back means using words to bless, not curse. Fighting back means trying to find the good in people, even when all they have to show is the bad.

Fighting back means not giving into peer pressure, the kind kids go through when they choose to go on a church retreat instead of a party…or the kind adults go through when they refuse to gossip during prayer meetings when their friends bring up so-called “needs.”

Fighting back means letting go of the ego and, instead, offering compassion. Fighting back means standing up to the bullies out there.

Fighting back also means letting go of the fear of being who God has called you to be. I just hope I don’t develop a taste for locusts and wild honey. But I sure do like Steven Tyler’s hair.

Don’t be surprised if the next time you see me I’m wearing feathers in mine.

9-11 and Reckless Abandon

I was bouncing on and off Twitter when I saw a tweet from Ellen Hopkins that challenged writers to blog about our freedoms. Actually, I had been thinking about doing so already, but I was a bit hesitant because I have a strong conviction that I should use my words to bless, not to curse. Not that I would ever use my blog to curse, but we all know how easily words can be misconstrued. How ironic I should say that considering this blog is about transparency.

Transparency? The word is probably not what you would consider when you think of 9-11 and freedom, but I am thankful that I have the God-given right—and I do mean God-given—to be transparent –to be me, to not worry about whether I measure up to somebody else’s perception of  who I should be. I am who I am. God gave me free will. However, I willingly gave up the right to make decisions for myself because I wanted an omnipotent God of infinite love to tell me what is best for my life. Not everyone has made that decision.

If I am doing what I’m supposed to be doing, that is keeping a close, daily dialogue with my creator, then I shouldn’t worry that I will compromise my integrity. Am I tempted? Of course. Do I mess up? Sadly, yes. We all do. It’s easy to turn a deaf ear to the still small voice when there’s something we want that doesn’t fit in with God’s current plan. But if we return to our daily, never ceasing dialogue, then we will do what it takes to make our relationship right again.

When I grew up, I thought that for people to become Christians, they had to dress a certain way, wear their hair a certain way, talk a certain way, listen to certain types of music. This perception became quite confusing to me after several people professing to be Christian contradicted one other with their rules. Who was right, I often wondered. Then I went straight to the source—the Bible—and found the answer. God is right. God doesn’t place an emphasis on the outward appearance. He goes straight to the heart.

What matters most to God is love.

So my blog about transparency could just as easily be a blog about love. The freedom I am most thankful for is my freedom to love with reckless abandon. And I do.

I am a people person. I don’t think I can survive, or at least thrive, unless I’m around people. If I don’t have the freedom to be myself around people, I wither. A part of me dies. I think what I have loved most about being a teacher is that I can love my kids with reckless abandon, my God-given right.

I’m glad that God wove a creative spirit in my soul. I’m glad He made me quirky, unique. I’m glad He allows me the freedom to appreciate the music that Joe Walsh, Stevie Ray Vaughn, the Black Crows and Sheryl Crow create. I’m glad that God allowed me to follow His team, the Red Sox with Dustin Pedroia, Tek, Youk and all my other favorites. I don’t know if these people (or their fans) have made the decision to trade their free will for God’s guidance, but if they happen to make bad decisions that don’t honor God, I can’t condemn them. That’s not my place. They have free will. I can love them with reckless abandon, not caring what those who will judge will say.

And loving them doesn’t mean that I have to condone their actions or hang out with them if they are in a place where I could be led astray. I can appreciate the gifts God has given them. God is the giver of all good things. And I can open wide my heart to them and love them with reckless abandon.

I think most of us are well aware of the controversial burning issue that was once proposed for 9-11. I just have one question: Where was the love in that plan?

People have free will to choose which house they will serve. It is not the human being’s job to force other people into believing what the Bible says. The Bible doesn’t instruct Christians to hate their enemies. Don’t get me wrong. There is a time, a season, to draw the line, to establish a boundary. If people use their free will to decide to cross the boundary, then they should expect consequences.

To love means to respect people for whom they are and to respect the choices that God allowed them to make—even if we don’t like them. To love means to grant people the freedom to be transparent, to be who they really are without inappropriate censure or disrespect.

I am thankful for my freedom of transparency. I’m glad that God has reassured me that I can wear my tee shirts, jeans and flip flops, I can play my guitar—loud if want, amplified on some occasions, I can write my Young Adult fiction, I can respect and learn from all people, even those who do not share my Christian beliefs. I can do all these things with reckless abandon—without worrying about other people’s perceptions—their perceptions don’t matter, not really.

God knows what’s in my heart, He knows my motivations and God is in control.

For those of us who have failed

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket–safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”  ~  C. S. Lewis

Man, this quote gets to me. You might say it even changed me. I used to have a quick fix to any emotional let down. I shut down. And I shut out. I wouldn’t let anything (or anybody) in, and I wouldn’t let anything out—especially love.

I always thought if you allowed yourself to be vulnerable you made yourself weak. I always thought that if you never allowed yourself to be vulnerable you could never get hurt. But if you don’t allow yourself to become vulnerable, you can never love, not really—or be loved.

Love comes with a price. When you give it away, you risk opening yourself up so that others can see the real you underneath the surface. It’s impossible to love with abandon, without tearing down the walls, without making yourself vulnerable.

Loving someone or something unconditionally means you are give away your most valuable possession, your heart. You have to go into it knowing that your heart may be taken for granted. But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t love behind a brick wall. You have stand in the open and risk being wounded.

I’ve always been a runner, not a fighter. In the past whenever my heart was wounded, I didn’t stick around, hoping it would be mended. I preferred a clandestine, under-the-radar rescue mission. I got in, got out, grabbing up the shattered pieces and disappearing, if not physically, emotionally.

But maybe retreat is not the best idea.

Maybe meeting and overcoming each obstacle head on by the most efficient method is the best way to approach the pain that comes with vulnerability. Maybe our scraped and bruised hearts (and egos) will eventually make us stronger so that we can be more useful to others.

It takes a strong person to love unconditionally, to love without expecting anything in return. I’m not just talking about romantic love. I’m talking about the love one has for family members, for friends and even for the craft of writing or the craft of creating music.

Can a person really love writing or creating music?  Maybe. It’s a different kind of love, if you can call it love. I don’t know what else you might call it, but if it’s not love, it’s almost a supernatural state that’s as close as you can get to love.

Those of us who are passionate about creating art pursue our passion as naturally as we breathe. When we write and allow others to read it, for example, we give away part of ourselves. We take a risk. When our writing doesn’t come across as we hoped that it might or if it doesn’t get the results we envisioned, our reflex instinct may be to shut down, to retreat, to give up.

But we’ve got to remind ourselves that the risk is worth the sacrifice. Today I had to be the bearer of bad news to members of my journalism staff. My wonderful, creative, amazing students unveiled their ideas—and I had to tell them that they could do better.

I despised the words as I was speaking them. I saw the hurt in their eyes. I recognized it. I’ve been there—recently and many, many times in the past. But I know something they don’t. I can see the potential they have locked away. I know that if they could see the potential that I see within them they wouldn’t be happy with mediocre either. Tomorrow my goal is to help them find their treasures. They may have to dig for them. Writing doesn’t always come easy. You have to work for the good stuff.

I just hope they aren’t so discouraged that they lose hope. I’ve been there too. I’ve wanted to give up and lock away my desire to write because the criticism was almost too tough for me to bear. Lewis’s words inspire me to think of what might happen should we choose to keep the words locked away in our hearts.

“But in that casket–safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” 

Of course, Lewis is talking about love. But for those of us who see writing as God’s gift to us, a talent we’ve been given, surely it is a sin for us to keep our writing locked away, hiding behind our selfish and cowardly attempts at remaining invulnerable. Let us consider the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:24-30).

 24“Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

 26“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

 28” ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

It is my prayer that if you are a beginning writer, artist, songwriter or musician who is afraid to use the talent that God has given you, especially if your first attempts have not been perfect, that you will find the courage to walk by faith, to run the race, fight the fight, so that God can use your ability for His purpose.

Construction ahead!

As a journalism teacher and a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several Christian and general market publications, I have a passion for encouraging young Christian journalists to boldly accept their leadership roles as Guardians of the Truth. Thank you for visiting my blog. Please take this opportunity to interact with other Christian journalists, advisers and readers by telling us more about yourself. 

I am in the process of revamping this blog. Your ideas and PRAYERS are welcome!

Starting in August, every week at SERENDIPITEEBLOG.COM readers can look forward to valuable resources to help them both in the classroom and in their personal Christian journeys. While the Internet offers a vast variety of journalism resources, my goal is to include specific resources that target the needs of young Christian writers who desire to share the truth without compromise. Possible topics include the following:

  • Personal testimonies of student journalists and advisers
  • Spotlights on student journalists, journalism staffs and advisers
  • Writing and design tips
  • Story ideas
  • Discussions pertaining to current events and ethics
  • Pointers for getting published in Christian and general markets
  • Links to blogs of writing experts
  • Links to blogs of student journalists and student fiction writers
  • Team-building techniques for student editors and advisers
  • Author interviews
  • Songwriter interviews
  • Plus, contests and FREEBIES!

In addition to my work as a high school teacher and a freelance writer, I have recently completed my first YA novel, The Edge, which will hopefully launch a series.

 Brief synopsis

High school journalist TJ Westbrook, a Memphis transplant and parkour (PK) enthusiast, is obsessed with finding the story that will change his life. He enlists the help of fellow journalist Megan Crosslin. Megan knows a lot about PK too, just not parkour. She’s a preacher’s kid with an obsession of her own, TJ Westbrook. On his journey to journalistic fame, TJ stalks a blues legend and befriends a real-life superhero. But when he and Megan crash an underage drinking party, TJ realizes being a guardian of the truth requires more than a sense of adventure. He secretly records incriminating evidence of the quarterback’s father handing out beer to underage teens, including three seniors who die later that night in an alcohol-related automobile accident. TJ and Megan find themselves standing on the edge of truth. What will they do with the story that can change the lives of everyone at Edgewood?

 It is my hope that SERENDIPITEEBLOG.COM will serve as a launch pad for young Christians and their mentors to meet and to share ideas. I welcome your comments and the links to your blogs. Together we can make a positive impact on our culture.

 Thanks again for visiting,

Teresa “Tee” Lockhart

 Credentials

  • Certified Journalism Instructor by the Journalism Education Association
  • Middle Tennessee Scholastic Journalism Teacher of the Year
  • Tennessee High School Press Association Journalism Teacher of the Year
  • Outstanding Teacher of the Humanities
  • Tennessee Regional Teacher of the Year

 Member

  • American Christian Fiction Writers
  • Middle Tennessee Christian Writers
  • Romance Writers of America
  • Tennessee Writers Alliance
  • Christian Educators International
  • Journalism Education Association
  • Tennessee High School Press Association
  • Quill and Scroll

Bonnaroo, naked people and writing

Analogies. English teachers love ‘em. High school students butcher ‘em. There’s a lot you can learn from analogies, the good, the bad and the ugly. Maybe you can’t recall the definition of an analogy. Maybe it was just too long ago since you had your last English class, 30 years for some of you, 30 days for others. An analogy is a comparison. Here are a few of the WORST possible analogies as collected by the Washington Post.

  • Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.
  • Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.
  • John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
  • The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.
  • The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

(For more check out www.innocentenglish.com.)

I think I shall add to this list of the worst:  Writing is a whole lot like Bonnaroo.

Well, it is for me anyway. You see, with writing—as with Bonnaroo—one MUST be prepared for the adventure before one embarks. I have learned the hard way with both. One MUST be prepared.

Over the last few years I have helped here and there with the Bonnaroo ministry. I spent hours and hours and hours preparing a free publication that might be of service to our visitors, and occasionally I have worked in a service area, handing out items such as cold drinks, toiletries, and food to weary festival attendees. I really like talking to people, and everyone has always been very nice, so my Bonnaroo experiences have always been pleasant. But last year was a different story. Last year I wanted to slip in the festival itself and catch the last few minutes of a band playing on the main stage. Should not have been a problem. I’ve been inside before. But there was one problem. I was not prepared for last year’s inside experience.

For starters we were driving our truck on a road swimming with pedestrians. The traffic flow had to keep moving, had to keep moving. Keep moving. Those are the key words. My husband stressed those words. “When I stop, get out fast. I’ve got to keep moving. ” When we reached the designated area, I did not want to make him mad. I leapt out of the truck and kept moving. It wasn’t until he was out of my sight that I realized I had left my cell phone in the car. I had no means of contacting him. But I ventured forth to find the music.

I made it there with no problem. I saw the last five or ten minutes of the show. But as I left, I realized I had no idea how to get out, so I proceeded to follow the masses and ended up in a place I did not recognize. My sense of direction isn’t what it should be.  The sun had set by now, and I was officially in panic mode. I was stepping over people, dodging people, fearful that I would never see my family again. Then from out of no where I felt something hit me right on the derrière. My first thought was that my husband had brought my child into the den of sin and our son had popped his mom, just being silly. I was mistaken. When I turned around, I stared into the face of a rather scary looking red-headed stranger who simply said, “Hey, lady. Looked like you needed that.”

In the words of my students, I officially freaked out at that point. I ran. Through the people. By the people. Over the people. Behind the people. I covered all the prepositions. It didn’t matter. I kept moving. I was praying like crazy that God would get me back to safety because I was totally lost and turned around. Within seconds of my prayer one of my former newspaper students saw me and recognized my panic look. After I promised him I had not sampled the balloons, brownies or bongs, he lent me his phone and showed me the way out.

Moral of the story: I was not prepared for the adventure. 

This year I opted to spend the night at Bonnaroo, working late in the service area, helping people in need. I was prepared, prayed up and ready to go. I did not get lost. However, my group did have an unforgettable encounter with naked people who approached us for help. I am generally the shyest person in the group. I blush at the mention of the word derrière. My husband is the talker, but oddly he didn’t say a word—he left the conversation all to me. And I made my way through it without giggling, snorting or passing out due to extreme embarrassment.

So how does this fit in with writing? 

Many of you are starting school. Though you may be in denial now, I can promise you one of those crazy teachers will ask you to write something. Prepare. Don’t wing it. Spare yourself the embarrassment. As for you Edge staff members, you will start your writing journey on Tuesday. If there is anything I want you to learn, it is that you must prepare before you write. We talked about researching the topic. I also want you to research the style. I don’t know how many students I have had in the past who have tried to write a sports story or a review or a news story without having studied the craft. Read, read, read. If you don’t know what good writing looks like, how do you to expect to produce it? Go find what you want to write and read it! 

I want to write YA fiction. So guess what I will do this year?  Read, read, read. I’m depending on all of my staff members to give me a heads up on their favorite reads. Don’t let me slack up. Hold me accountable.

As for those of you who have already graduated, you too have an assignment. Perhaps you have always wanted to get a poem or short story published. What are you waiting for? Chop, chop. Prepare. Check out the Writer’s Market. Google the next writer conference. Pursue your dream.

Some of you have the gift of encouragement. Maybe God will use your writing in a special way by prompting you to add an encouraging note in an e-mail, a Facebook message or a text. How will you know what to say? Prepare. Pray and look for God’s divine appointment. He even makes those possible in Cyberland.

Some people call it serendipity. We know what it really is.

Let’s roll with it!

Having just finished my first YA novel, I’m chomping at the bit, ready to roll. I know I have to wait on God’s timing, but I have to admit I’m a little bit antsy. I have a hard time being still. (Yes, I can see a God message in this.) But what do you do when you’ve spent a year living with these characters, taking them everywhere you go and going to many of the places they visit in their own adventures?  I’m lonely. I’m ready to go on another adventure.

As I was doing preparation work for my novel, I found a great book by Sebastien Foucan, titled Free Running: The Urban Landscape Is Your Playground. The main character in my book is a free runner, or more accurately, a traceur, which, technically is not the same as free running but is close. Mr. Foucan taught me a great deal about TJ’s life and his attitude toward life.  I also learned serendipitiously a great deal about the Christian life–although this book by no means deals with Christianity or any other religion. It is a book about parkour, the art of moving through one’s environment as smoothly as possibily and overcoming whatever obstacles show up in one’s path–physical or mental.

I recommend this book if you’re needing encouragement even if parkour and free running are not for you. Here are a few tips that have inspired me.

1.  Don’t compete.  Do what we’re supposed to do without comparing ourselves to others.

2. Possession is illusion. The writer points out nothing on this planet is permanent. He says “don’t attach your happiness and success to a specific person or place.”  We have to continue on when these are gone. Wow. Christians, did you hear that? God is the true source of our joy–nothing else.

3. Be a participant, not a spectator.

4. Enjoy the journey.

5. There are risks everywhere.

TJ’s obsession with parkour has influenced my entire family. My younger son wants to do back flips off walls and to jump over everything. My older son says he would like to be a traceur. My husband recorded the MTV Ultimate Parkour. And what about me? I wanted to keep up with TJ, so I decided to try my own version of free running. I made it around the block and to the mailbox. Okay, maybe I’m not there yet, but I’m pushing toward a postitive attitude toward every mental obstacle I encounter. That counts for something, right?

 “Être fort pour être utile.”  That’s the traceur’s motto. You’ve got to be strong to be useful, especially to others.

Be strong everybody! ~ Ephesians 6:10