Monday, January 30, 2017

Writers' Retreat: March 18, 2017


Savor a day focusing on your work and identity as a writer. 

Reconnect with the reasons for your art, the source of your words. 

Network with other writers and gain insight on integrating writing into your everyday life. 

Author, Editor and Writing Teacher, Andi Cumbo-Floyd will lead a retreat for writers of all skill sets.  

When: Saturday, March 18th 

Time: 9:00 - 4:00

Location: A spacious 100 year old farm house in Boiling Springs, PA

Cost: $45 

10 Spaces Available

Registration deadline: Monday, March 13th 

Includes:

     * Two free-writing sessions

     * Craft-talk on goal-setting and motivation   

     * A brief workshop experience giving and receiving feedback
     
     * Homemade lunch
     
     * Opportunities to network

Get away for a day and enjoy the mountains in scenic Boiling Springs, PA.  Visit the chickens, snuggle with a cat by the wood stove or sneak away to enjoy the silence of the Little House.  Our goal is for you to leave the day refreshed and encouraged in your writing life.  

Questions?  Contact Kelly at Chripczuk.Kelly@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

Reserve your spot via Paypal: 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Relish (To Enjoy Greatly)


Relish verb 
1. to enjoy greatly
synonyms: enjoy, delight in, love, adore, take pleasure in, rejoice in, appreciate, savor, revel in, luxuriate in, glory in

The world outside was an old gray dishrag, wet and dripping, on the day I met a writer friend for coffee.  Settling in, we shared our mutual hatred of January, the way it feels like it always has five weeks at least or seven. 

“February is ok,” she said. “By February I at least have hope that March will be nicer.”

This writer is a friend of a friend and has attended several of the local writing events I’ve offered.  Each time we meet, we talk like people who don’t know each other well, but would like to know each other better.  

Near the end of one event, as we stood talking, she said something I've mulled over for months.  She had been asking what I was up to now that all of my kids are in school and when I fumbled for a response she said something like, “I think it takes a good year for a woman to recover after her kids start school.”  That one sentence stuck with me and offered much needed permission as I begin the process of reemergence after years of being fully consumed by a hectic home life.     

Over coffee last week we each talked about our works in progress and writing plans for the future.  She’s just finished revisions on her first novel, is wading into a second, and looking for an agent.  I told her how I’d written a rough draft of a memoir last spring and, in the midst of it, realized I didn’t have any idea what I was doing.  So I stopped working on the memoir and started writing Chicken Scratch: Stories of Love, Risk & Poultry

“You know how, if you were going to sew a wedding dress, you would first sew a mock-up of the pattern out of cheaper material, to make sure you understood how to do it?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, nodding.

“That’s what Chicken Scratch was supposed to be, a chance to try the process,” I explained.

“Well, it worked out well,” she said.

The thing is, writing and publishing Chicken Scratch taught me a lot about publishing, but it didn’t teach my how to write a memoir and that’s where I find myself stuck now.  “I’m not really sure what I’m doing next,” I said.

 “Well, you did a lot - writing and publishing that book in a very short period of time.  Maybe you just need to relish that,” she suggested.  Registering my blank stare, she asked, “Have you done that?”

In my imagination, the word relish hung between us like some gorgeous, ripe fruit swaying on a low-hanging branch.  Relish is a rich word, luxurious like dark chocolate and red wine.  The act of relishing, though, is utterly foreign to me.  The act of relishing sits like caviar on a cracker – I don’t know what to do with it, don’t know if I even want to try.

“No,” I said, “I haven’t.”  Then, I added, “I don’t know how to.  I’m a worker bee, always on to the next thing.”

With that, our conversation shifts again to future plans, but the word 'relish' stays with me for days; sticky, like a trace of honey in my mind.  Looking it up to write about it today, I see that to relish is to love, to delight in, enjoy and rejoice and it occurs to me that, although the word relish may not appear in the Bible, it's synonyms sure do.  

A quick glance at the Psalms, or at Jesus for that matter, reveals that people of God are to be skilled in the art of relishing - biblical writers delight in the Lord, in God's word, in creation.  We are to be people who know how to enjoy the goodness of this earthly life.  Without the ability to relish the good, how will we ever adequately recognize and confront the bad? 

When it comes to "relishing" I have, some work cut out for me, which suits this worker bee just fine.  The invitation now is to look and listen for the doorways of delight, the moments when I can open my hands, my heart, to the goodness of what is and has been done.  And by doing so, I will be buoyed to begin whatever new work the future holds.     

If you liked this post, you may also like Enjoy! Tales of Waitressing, Chaplaincy & Motherhood.



Friday, January 27, 2017

Bedtime Prayers: A Resource for Tired People



Bedtime prayers are an important but often lacking part of our evening routine.  I want to leave my kids, each night, with a bigger view of God and a deeper sense of their at-home-ness in God, but that's a tall order at 8 pm on even the best of days.  Throw in a headache, a sibling-on-sibling fight, or even the pressing need to get back downstairs ASAP to catch up on the latest Netflix binge, and the task becomes nearly impossible.  

Here are three prayers I found from various prayer books around the world that I plan to print and post in our kids' rooms to use when bedtime stumps me (as well as one cut and pasted right out of the New Testament itself).  


*   *   *

Lord it is night. The night is for stillness. Let us be still in the presence of God. It is night after a long day. What has been done has been done; what has not been done has not been done. Let it be. The night is dark. Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives rest in you. The night is quiet. Let the quietness of your peace enfold us, all dear to us, and all who have no peace. The night heralds the dawn. Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities. In your name we pray. Amen. (New Zealand Prayer Book)

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer)

To you before the close of day, Creator of all things, we pray that, in your saving constancy, our guard and keeper you would be. Save us from troubled, restless sleep; from all ill dreams your children keep. So calm our minds that fears may cease and rested bodies wake in peace. A healthy life we ask of you: the fire of love in us renew, and when the dawn new light will bring, your praise and glory we shall sing. Almighty Father, hear our cry through Jesus Christ, our Lord, most high, Whom with the Spirit we adore forever and for evermore. Amen. (Canadian Prayer Book)

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.  I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)


*   *   *

How do you handle bedtime prayers?  Let me know in the comments below!  

Monday, January 23, 2017

Do What You Know (#SmallWonder Link-up)


I came into January with a head full of ideas - changes I wanted to make - and a vision of how I would move forward to maintain momentum on my recently published book and build audience for possible future books.  It all seemed clear and very exciting in a big-picture sort of way.  

Then, I started breaking it down into nuts and bolts and got stuck on how to move forward.  I knew a writing project I wanted to produce, but despite my showing up at the page, day after day, it wasn't coming.  I had visions of a new website and new business cards, but didn't know how to make the decisions necessary to move ahead while still keeping all of my other plates spinning.  

Added to my lack of momentum was the typical January need for a post-Christmas re-boot and a few new added time commitments.  Then the kids got sick one-by-one and now the cat too needs to go to the vet for a nasty head cold.  

In the middle of it all I've been feeling the stress of big plans and little progress building in me like a pressure cooker.  No progress I do make feels quite like enough compared to what I have yet to complete.  

This morning things came to a head, thanks to an accidental pot of decaf coffee and an extra nap after the kids hit the buses.  Suddenly I found the space to accept what I've known for some time now - I was putting off what I did know while waiting to figure out what I didn't and, in the process, I was losing steam and direction.  It was all so counter-productive.  

Do what you know, I thought, and let the rest go.    

What I do know is that I'm ready to be done hosting the #SmallWonder link-up.  I'm so grateful for those of you who've faithfully gathered and participated in this little community - thank you for journeying with me.  I've known #SmallWonder was coming to a close for some time and was hoping to make a smoother transition into some new things I have in the works, but, like I said, sometimes you have to do what you know first in order to build momentum to do the next thing and the next.  

I hope you'll all keeping coming around to say hi and I look forward to continuing to visit your blogs. I still believe, more than ever, in the power of small things to communicate the grace and love of God and that our capacity to be moved to wonder is a key to living in full humanity.  

So, here's to one last link-up - our 100th!  And if you have a word or two to share about what this community has meant in the comments, I'd really appreciate it!  Also, my plan is to continue to post here twice a week - likely on Monday and Thursday - so stop by for news, updates and to connect.  Or, sign up for my newsletter to keep on top of upcoming events and changes. 

*   *   *



Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  

What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  

That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  

While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.  Thanks for being part of our community!  


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Fear is a Fox (#SmallWonder Link-Up)

(This isn't the fox I drew, but rather one I found online to work from - isn't it charming delightful?)

Last week I started work on a painting I planned to give to a friend.  Standing at the old sink in the Little House (where my office is) I covered a small, square, wooden canvas with a mixture of turquoise and dark purple paint and left it to dry.  The next day I added one or two more layers of the same colors.  I liked the combination and was happy, so far, with my little project. 

(This, often, is the beginning of the problem.)   

Next I played with some tulle netting, painting over it like a stencil to add layers of texture and depth.  Now I liked the painting even more and the more I liked it, the more my progress slowed.  

Love for what was made me hesitant to move toward what might be. 

But the painting was nowhere near complete.  With the background finished, it was time to add an image and words.  I already had words in mind and thought a fox would be a fitting image, so I looked online for a few samples to work from.  With luck, I easily found a sketch I loved.  I printed it and prepped my canvas board with a glossy gel layer that would preserve and protect the background while also allowing me to ‘erase’ my drawing at any point if I made a mistake.

Then my progress stalled for several days.  I loved the background, loved the fox, but I was afraid to mess up either one.  I was afraid to start, afraid to try, even though the gel coating meant I could begin again at any time.

I hemmed and hawed, I set my work aside and did not look the sly fox in the eye.

//

Maybe it wouldn’t be worth writing about if it wasn’t such a common occurrence – the way fear creeps in, cloaked in perfectionism and I, a creature of habit and instinct, caught between fight and flight, freeze like a deer in headlights. 

Again, maybe it wouldn’t be much if it hadn’t happened also last week when it came to updating my book files, and if success updating the print files had (as it should have) given way to confidence to deal with the e-book files.  Instead, each step ran up against (and temporarily stalled out in the face of) its own wall of fear.

I see this pattern again and again in my creativity and, if I’m honest, in my life.  I prefer the known to the unknown, even when the known is not particularly good, but especially if the known is good and filled with delight. 

How much time, how much energy, do I waste in this fearful pause? 

Why do I fail to believe that the grace of one step might carry over into the next? 

Maybe I need to become like the desert monk, Abba Paul, who worked all year long weaving baskets only to burn them and begin again each year - maybe I need to learn again and again the art of detachment, the gift of faith beyond sight.

//

I talked with a college student about this the other night, one who’s currently taking a drawing class.  We trotted together across the cold, dark campus on our way to a Bible study and I confessed how fear had me frozen.

“It’s ridiculous,” I said. “What am I so afraid of?  Especially when I could just erase it, just paint over it and start the whole thing over?”

She offered no answer, but confessed to witnessing the same tendency in herself and we continued through the crisp winter night together until we reached our destination – a small house aglow with warmth and light.

//

The next day, having voiced my fears aloud into the frigid night air, I pulled the fox from its lair beneath a stack of papers on the kitchen counter and looked it in the eye.  With a white gel pen, I sketched the outline on my canvas first, then filled in the fur.  I kept a bowl of water and q-tips nearby for erasing mistakes, but truth be told, I got it on the first try and barely erased a line.  Then, emboldened by success, I added low-lights in midnight blue to bring the fox alive. 

I was happy with the drawing, happy with my success.

Yet, I stopped, again, frozen in the face of the next step - hand lettering the words.  How would I space them?  What fonts should I employ?

I set the work aside, because now I was even more invested, had even more to risk, even more to lose.  Against the purple and blue background, the white fox sparkled silver and fixed me with its shining eye.  

//

Every wall of fear has a door.  The door cracks open, for me, when I recognize fear as an invitation to examine my own intrinsic attachment and perfectionism.  

Now, when the wall rises up in front of me, I imagine stretching out my empty hand and opening the door.  On the other side stands the fox, staring.  Then, in a flash of beauty, she turns and runs off into the night. 

Every day that I create something, I bump up against fear’s wall.  And, faster now, I hear the fox's sly whisper, “Look for the door.”   

How do you experience and deal with fear in your creative life?  In your faith life?

*   *   *



Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  

What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  

That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  

While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.  Thanks for being part of our community!  

Monday, January 9, 2017

We Are Held (#SmallWonder Link-Up)


(I'm still seeking and finding my writing rhythm for this new year, so today I'm again sharing one from the archives.  This post was written back in 2013 when my twins were just about 18 months old. The image above is of a plate my husband and the twins picked up for me at a (indoor!) yard sale over the weekend.  I love the swirl of it and the image in the middle reminds me of a child in the womb.) 

*   *   *

I sat in the living room last week rocking my poor, sick, sleeping boy and watched while his twin brother explored a small wooden chair.  He walked diligently to the book basket, chose a board book, then toddled quickly over to the chair.  Placing the book on the chair, he lifted one little knee and, after maneuvering the book to make room, pulled himself up and turned, settling into a seated position with a look of great satisfaction. 


There he sat, fuzzy-headed and plump, like a ripe peach, his short legs sticking out straight in front of him.  Glancing at me with a look of triumph, he opened his book and “read” briefly and with great volume.  Then, with a swift movement, he slipped himself off of the chair, and ran back to the books shelf where he made another reading selection.  

Back to the chair he went, repeating the whole process again and again with a different book in hand each time, as though neither “Trucks” nor “Things That Go” could scratch his literary itch. 

Stand, climb, turn and sit, his movements went.  Then, repeat.  

Sitting and standing are new pleasures for him.  And the act of doing so with a book in hand in a little wooden chair just his size makes the act all the more pleasurable.  

He repeats the movements - standing and sitting - over and over again and I imaging he's swirling the feeling of it all around inside of his little body, memorizing each sensation until at last the feeling fades to ordinary, like so many other firsts tasted and mastered in his short eighteen months.
*   *   *
Speaking of standing and sitting, a strange thing has happened several times now during my monthly retreat.  At some point during a moment of silent stillness or quiet conversation, I find myself acutely aware of the reality that the chair I am sitting in is holding me. 
Every time we sit, we are being held. 

But most of us, most of the time, have stopped feeling it.

*   *   *
Earlier this week, I sat in the pediatrician’s office with the same sick child whose limbs hung limp as he fought a raging fever.  Between the bustle of nurse and doctor, in the midst of the bright light and noise, he slumped against me - his belly to mine, his heavy head pressed, un-moving against my chest.  

My boy's fine, blond hair was damp with sweat and his cheeks blazed red with heat.  His eyes watered and breath came in short pants.  Against my chest, his small mouth hung open and saliva pooled and overflowed. 

He smelled like sweaty, sick, baby.  Or maybe I smelled.  Holding him there as the minutes passed, I lost sight of where he stopped and I began.  

At one point he raised his flushed head, squinting his eyes in discomfort and I noticed that the whole front of me, two t-shirts thick, was soaked through with spit.  Still, I pulled him back into me, curving my body like a hammock to hold him.  I rocked and sang and he he hung on for dear life between the Dr.'s probing exam and tests for the flu and strep throat. 

*   *   *
I turned my body into a living, breathing home for my child in the Dr's office that day.  Later, I wondered if God doesn’t also do this for us.

Maybe God also curves, bending into a mighty ocean of a lap, a wide, swinging hammock of rest that holds us, not just when we're aware of it, but all the time.  Maybe we're just so used to being held, we no longer feel it any more.  Or maybe we believe we're too big, too smelly with our own sickness, too Other, to rest in God. 

But, this much I know is true: God holds us, my friends, even when we’ve lost the ability to feel it, even when we’ve outgrown the desire to be held.  God waits like a hammock swinging in the breeze, like a mother’s lap that sways full of life and breath and song. May you find some small moment to climb up again today, to settle in and feel again the Love that holds you, always.         

*   *   *



Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.  

What if we chose to deliberately look for small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God?  

That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  


While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.  Thanks for being part of our community!  

           

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Look for a Child . . .


I ordered Gayle Boss' lovely advent book in mid-December and am still making my slow way through the daily reflections on how different animals endure the long, cold dark of winter.  It seems, to me, to be appropriate reading for the often long, sometimes difficult, month of January.  So, although advent is behind us, I'll keep reading and pondering how all of creation adjusts to survive in adverse conditions.  I did, however, skip ahead to the final reading for Christmas day and found this paragraph so rich that I wanted to share it with you all.  

In the fullness of time, the Christmas story says, a girl gave birth ringed by animals.  She lay the baby in one of their feeding troughs, where animal bodies would warm the air around his fresh-born human body.  Mother and child fell asleep and woke to their chuffs and shuffling hooves, their calls and the shuddering of their hides.  Later sheep herders smelling of dirt, damp wool, and milk crowded into the stable.  Out in the wild night fields these animal men sitting in the dark were the first to get the word.  A baby had been born, they were told, who would show people a way out of their small pinched lives, a way to abandon themselves to the ever-present, unstoppable current of Love that carries all things to radiant wholeness.  To recognize him they should look for a child at home among animals. 

- Gayle Boss in All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings 

May you find yourself adrift in the unstoppable current of Love this year; may you move ever closer to your own radiant wholeness. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Faith For A New Year


What We Need Is Here

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

- Wendell Berry

After a few weeks of quiet here on the blog, I find myself carrying these words into the new year.  What words do you carry to remind you of that which is essential?  

#SmallWonder will be back next Sunday/Monday and I hope to have some exciting news to share.  Want to keep up to date on changes and receive great exclusive content?  Subscribe to my newsletter via the sign-up box on the top right hand column of my blog.