Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Writer Wednesday Book Review: Jesus>Religion by Jefferson Bethke

I just stopped crying. It's a long story but it all started with one simple question from my sister in a not-so-nice tone of voice, What work do you have to do?

I've struggled for years with a fear of not being good enough. Recently, it's been magnified by the relationship with my family. Like I said in my last blog, they treat me as if my work doesn't matter, doesn't count for anything at all because most of the stuff I do, I do for free.

This isn't going to be a blog about all that I do because this blog isn't about me. Like I said, this blog is a review of the book, Jesus > Religion by Jefferson Bethke.

I've always struggled with the fear of not being good enough. Not good enough to my family because I don't have a paying job, not good enough for a guy because I have high standards that include not giving everything away on the first date, not good enough for a job because I've already spent eleven months without a part-time job and still haven't been offered or hired by one since my skill set for a normal job is a bit lacking in the conventional sense of the word. Not good enough for people who decided to walk out of my life or stop making an effort in our friendship. Not good enough for social media because my selfies never get retweeted.

Jefferson Bethke is one creative follower of Jesus I greatly admire and knew that his book would not disappoint. This book made me cry multiple times because with each page, I came closer and closer to leaving a religious mindset behind and came face to face with the real Jesus.

The Jesus who doesn't want what we do but just wants you. According to Bethke, in order to meet Jesus, we have to stop trying to be good enough and just go to him as we are: "I had a feeling of utter quiet and peace. I din't hear those words in my ears, but felt them whispered into the depths of my bones. Immediately, relief and the epiphany that I hadn't surprised God rushed over me. I hadn't caught him off guard. When Jesus went to the cross, he saw all I'll ever be, all I'll ever do, and all I'll ever want outside of him; but he joyfully came and got me. He looked down and said, "I want that one."

Bethke even talks about how there should be no major separation between sacred and secular anymore because everything that God created in this earth is good. (Genesis 1). Therefore, there should be no reason that a Christian always must listen to Christian music or only a select group of secular songs. Everything in art, politics, food, animals, plants, and trees are all good in and of themselves.

Everything we do can be done for the glory of God. It can be anything from writing blogs, making videos, doing PR work, cooking, cleaning, working on cars, being a CNA, being a singer, and even writing stories. All these jobs matter to God. The only thing we must take into consideration is that we shine with a borrowed light that is meant to be a beacon pointing the way back to Jesus and God. For example, Bethke points out that even the moon shines with borrowed brightness.

I'm so grateful that I have Jesus because he sees all that I do and doesn't ever remind me of something else I need to do for him in order to be happy with me, he just loves me. He just pursues me. He just comes and sits with me just the way I am: a creative chick with a destiny for greatness. The only reason I am able to do these things is because all talents come from God. And I'm so grateful for mine, and even more grateful for the fact that no talent is greater than any other. Every talent is a beacon of light pointing back to the Maker of Talents, the Great and Powerful One.

So please check out Jesus>Religion by Jefferson Bethke. It's not at all a waste of your time or like any other Jesus book I've read. If I had to liken it to anything, it's like a letter from an old friend that arrives just in time. One that reads:

I see you.
You matter to me.
I believe in you.
Don't give up.
I love you.

Until next time, remember:" I may not be as tall, as tan, or as talented as someone else, but that's okay. Nobody will ever be a better me. I'm anointed to be me. I'm equipped to be me. Not only that, it's also easy to be me."-Joel Osteen. Be You, Ladies and Gents. Jesus wants you to know that by being YOU, he calls you fearfully and wonderfully made.

Love Times Infinity,
God Bless!
~Just Keep Swimming~

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Writer Wednesday: What It Really Means To Be A Writer

Ok, so here I sit; Starring out at the sun halfway set glinting off the water in my pool, the sounds of nature really speaking to me. It's a weird concept to think about but really does anyone truly know what it's like to live the writer life. I thought, who better to talk about the writer life, than me, a writer.

Being a writer is the greatest job in the world. Half the time, I could be writing this naked and you wouldn't even know. I just made this awkward. I'm sorry. Let me rephrase that. Nine times out of ten, I write these things in the bummiest clothes I own. My spellcheck just said that bummiest wasn't a word so I added it to my computer's dictionary.

Yet, it's the most misunderstood job and the hardest to endure. Why? Because everyone assumes that when a writer is "writing," they are surfing the web, staring off into space, or in my dad's case, looking at porn. I have no personal comment on the third idea but the first two I darn well know I'm guilty of. And the saddest part of the matter is that a lot of young people today don't even read anymore. Apparently, the only thing they read is their social media newsfeed so if you are irrelevant by social media standards, you are irrelevant in their eyes, period.

For example, my family has always misunderstood me when I announced at the age of fourteen that I wanted to be a writer professionally. I heard things like:

There's no money in writing.
You can't just be a writer.
Does that mean you can write all my school papers for me free of charge?

Yet, these things didn't stop me. I've known since I was a young fourteen that writing was going to be the key to my greater destiny, my calling, the job where I could go everyday doing what I love and it would never feel like work.

The problem with the writer life is that, although it seems like a magic act, the job is an incredible amount of hard work and study. Since my creative writing class my freshman year of high school, I have studied the craft because I still don't believe I'm the best writer out there. One day, I will be. And no, it won't be when my book becomes a NYT best-seller. I will consider myself the best at my craft when people stop treating me like being a writer isn't my job.

Sure, my writing hasn't all been published yet or made millions but hey, I'm well on my way. Don't ever throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Every time I sit down to write, I get this feeling of intense butterflies, and if it's a good day of writing, the words just flow, and before I know it, I've written 2000 words.

Yet, the scary part about being a writer is not the writing part at all, but the revision part.

For example, the memoir that I'm currently writing is the most personal piece of writing I've ever worked on yet I constantly am nagged by an inner voice that it's not good enough.

I've let some trusted writing friends and non-writing friends read it through, and I just finished the first draft editing. I ended up cutting a good seven to eight thousand words out of the whole thing.
Granted, my current word count the last time I worked on it was over 67,000 but still, the scary part of writing is getting feedback on your work.

In a recent interview with the Writer Magazine, Ladette Randolph, author of  Leaving the Pink House, a memoir, states that she has "only three enemies: self-pity, false guilt and fear."

I don't always have all the answers but writing is how I make sense of the world. I feel better expressing my thoughts, feelings, and emotions with the world, even if later, I end up getting rejected for those same thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I guess all I can say about being a writer is that writing choose me, I never chose writing. Besides that, I've faced so much rejection in my personal life I guess I owe it to myself to stare rejection in the face on a daily basis and say, No matter what or who approves of my job title, I'm not giving up until one person has their life changed by the words that I write. 

You know what I mean? It's the same reason people save their books from their childhood because those words grabbed them by the shirt collar and spoke to the inner parts of their soul, and at the same time, sung them a lullaby. If, like me, the child suffered socially, then those characters in those books, such as Nancy Drew, Laura Ingalls, or even Peter Hatcher became the friends they wanted so badly to have every day at school in real life.

Now that I'm an adult, people are a little less judgmental in the sense that they judge you because you prefer books over partying. I've found a good group of people who are also word lovers.

Another aspect of every good writer's job is going on random adventures. Last week, the reason there was no blog post was because I was out with my sisters on the open road. To see more of our shenanigans, please Click here.

The day after the road trip, in all spring break spirit, I hit up the beach for a few hours with my sister so I could get a little Vitamin D.

This past weekend I went to see Boys Like Girls in concert so basically I think it is absolutely important for a writer to have a plethora of different experiences in order to write about this thing called life in a natural flowing way.

In essence, writing is much like the red cardinal that was peaking in at me through the screen cage on my patio. As a writer, I become the red cardinal, looking in on the world, and seeing it from multiple angles. The trick is to use just the right words to infuse atmosphere into the story or piece I'm creating; all while keeping my trademark tone of voice that I believe I bring to each and every fetus that is conceived within the confines of my mind and imagination.

Next time you see a writer, please remember to thank them for what they do, no matter if you understand it because one day, you may find yourself in need of the words they arrange like a symphony of sounds on a blank page.

Until next time, remember: "Try to be more yourself, not less yourself. It's a very hard thing to do. I don't want to apologize for being a dorky, nerdy, offbeat person. I'm not looking for the broad path. I'm looking for my path." - Ladette Randolph

Love Times Infinity,
God Bless!

~Just Keep Swimming~

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Joy in Having an Adventurous Spirit

I've recently discovered a dilemma. You see, I really wanted to go to Tampa Pro this year. Why? Well, Tampa Pro is the best skateboard contest I've ever been to. And I say that completely biased but it really is. The sights, the sounds, the smells. It's a skateboard contest that is a thriving atmosphere for inspiring a literary artist like myself. The actual sound of a skateboard's wheels coasting on concrete or wood is music to my ears. Yet, the dilemma I'm facing is not my passion for attending this year's Tampa Pro, but the fact that I have no adventurous friend who wants to attend with me. 

I don't really know why I thought this year would be any different. Over the past two years, I've cut a lot of people out of my life. Yet, this year, I posted a status on social media asking if anyone wanted to go and shockingly, no one wanted to join me. They either already had plans or they just don't care for skateboarding. 

Now I'm not posting this blog in hopes that someone will volunteer to join me. I am even willing to go alone just because I love being at the Skatepark of Tampa during Tampa Pro weekend. It's so colorful, vibrant, exotic. It feels like my home away from home for me.

I even talked to God about it and when I prayed, "I don't know what to do, Lord." He spoke to me through my daily Bible reading:
And with that simple statement, I've let it go. There's always next year, right? :) Plus, I can still watch it in my pjs from home on StreetLeague.com so it's not the end of the world.

Yet, the reason I share this with all of you today is not because I want you to feel bad for me, or feel obliged to take me to the live event, I share this information because I don't entirely need to go to Tampa Pro to feel that as a writer, I've had my little adventure to experience life in order to write about life more naturally. The point I'm about to make is that life with Jesus is always an adventure.

For example, yesterday was National Pancake Day:

My family and I headed out a little after 11 o'clock to get our free short stack of pancakes from IHOP. Because I had trouble sleeping the night before, my dad offered to buy us a pot of coffee for the table. I thought that was really nice of him considering a pot of coffee at IHOP is now almost $3 a person. 
We walked into IHOP to find a slew of people, both waiting outside the restaurant and within the waiting area. Wearing my pink shorts and an old t-shirt claiming "I brought sexy back," I was struggling to even be awake despite that it was near the middle of the day. Once seated, we enjoyed our pancakes and coffee, and donated to the Children's Miracle Network, and left. I thought we were going to head home after that.  I was in for a big surprise.
 Every time I go out with my family, it's "the stops" that stop me from going out with them again. haha. Yesterday was no exception. After IHOP, Dad asked that we make a quick stop within the garden section of K-Mart so we hopped in the car, and headed next door to K-Mart to go look at the flowers. Then, one of Jayde's friends wanted to use her Iphone charger and his phone was about to die while he was busy working, so then there was that stop. Mom then announced we needed to drop some books off at the library and she had to pick up pool chemicals at the pool store. Then, I ended up with another set of books. How does anyone walk into the library or even a bookstore, and not a get a book? :

Before we stopped home and got my sister's charger, we picked up the pool chemicals. While her friend charged his phone, we stopped at the mall so she could get her eyebrows threaded. Then, went back to Steak N' Shake and picked up her charger. 

After all this, we headed home because it was time for lunch.

I asked God for an adventure and he provided one, free of charge. God is so merciful.

This got me thinking, what other adventures would I love to have:

1. I'd love to visit NYC, San Clemente, CA, and Los Angeles for a week at a time.

2. I'd love to just drive and end up sightseeing.

3. I heard there's a cruise that just sails around the world. That sounds interesting. 

4. I want to travel and see every site I studied while minoring in IHT (International Hospitality and Tourism). 

Until next time, remember: To live will be an awfully big adventure. -Peter Pan (J.M. Barrie)

Love Times Infinity,
God Bless!
~Just Keep Swimming~