Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Starting to Write

I have people all the time tell me they have wanted to write a book. They dreamed about it, sat down to start, got distracted with life, and eventually quit altogether. This isn't an exhaustive list, but here are a few places that you can land that might help.

Rachelle Gardner is a publishing agent and super down to earth. I find her advice helpful and not pretentious. She seems to rally behind the author and not just the next buck to be made.
She has a great post titled, "Sometimes you Fail, and it Sucks."  For an author, that's always an applicable blog title.

She also has some great links here

Lucid Books is the publishing company that I used...and loved. Their blog always has some practical tips on writing, publishing, reading, and selling effectively. This post titled, "Mastering the Art of Writing," that has several great resources linked up. They also have a helpful post called, "7 Tips to Improve your Writing."

Most of what they write is easy to put into practice and makes you think through your writing/publishing process.

I gave props to Anne Lamott's book, "Bird by Bird," in this post. It will spark creativity and give you some handles for starting the writing process.


Douglas Wilson's Wordsmithy is a quick easy read. He explains the power of words and how to use them most efficiently. I found this helpful in my intentionality with word choice. 

I could link up hundreds of helpful sites and resources, but at the bottom of all of this is to answer these two questions:

If so, what excuse are you currently using as to why you haven't started?

What fear is whispering to you?

I've chronicled a bit of my writing process at "How the Heck did you have Time?"

People often tell me that they want to write. My advice every time is...then start writing. Everyday, write something. Tell your fear to back off and start writing.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

It's Gonna Rain and Grace in a Chinese Computer Store

For the last few months, it's been much easier (and if I'm honest, much more comfortable) to put on complaining, frustration, resentment, and judgement. 

The people in the apartment below us have been drilling non-stop 8 am-6 pm everyday. 

Our electricity goes out several times an hour.

We currently have no hot water. 

On Monday, I will be getting in a taxi, a bus, an airplane, and a subway to simply pick up my daughter's ADHD medicine. 

You see, complaining is easy. And sometimes it seems justified, especially living overseas. Usually  my complaining comes because I am comparing my life here to what things would look like in the States (or at least as I've contrived them in my head.)

In America:

 People don't destroy and then rebuild their apartments while others are still living there. 

You don't share electricity with the local grocery store.

There is always hot water.

I drive through at CVS and pick up medicine in my air-conditioned car. 
You see where this is going. God's words to "Put on...compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, love, peace, thankfulness..." don't give me an out because of where I'm living or what situation I find myself floundering in. Paul asks of us to purposefully put these things on because he knows that if we don't, we will pick up the nearest pair of comfortable jeans in the form of complaining and ungratefulness. Those are secure friends that justify our desires and lusts of every sort. This has to be a conscience act of putting on holiness. 

It's gonna rain. Let's just all own this together. It's gonna rain. Life is going to splash you in the face, dizzying our focus and crippling our ability to stand upright. It's going to swipe at us from the side, buckling our faith in goodness. The rains will slowly fall for so long that we no longer understand what it looks like to be dry. And we become accustomed to being so bound in our own lives that freedom simply becomes wishful thinking.

I picture putting on the clothes of holiness as these umbrellas. Pauses of grace and allow us to keep walking from rainstorm to drizzle to fog to typhoon. When we put on thankfulness, we hear our kids asking why God made water instead of complaining that it's not hot. When we wake up and find peace, we can light a candle and allow the family to eat like frontiers instead of sighing about the electricity again.  

Pauses of grace.

They allow us to breathe.

They give us a moment to wipe our ragged, tired, wet hair out of our eyes so that we can see what's ahead instead of habitually putting one foot in front of the other. 

They remind us that gray clouds do eventually blow through and it's in those moments that we find ourselves even more grateful for the soft touches of the sun.

They allow us to look heavenward and remind us that we aren't forgotten down here. That in wearing compassionate hearts and patient words, we are among holy moments.

The rain is a guarantee, the pauses of grace are the gift.

One moment of grace happened yesterday as we were shopping for a computer cord. As this song came on...I paused. Wondering why on earth Chris Tomlin was playing in a Chinese computer store, I smiled. Hubs and I thanked God for the 3-minute moment of remembering that grace will find us, we just have to be willing to see.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Thailand Vacay

I'm not even going to commentate on all of these because there are 27 pictures. Just know that anytime you give me awesome women, thailand, and a croc wearing Spider-Man, that a good time was had. 

Can you read the tired all over my face? I traveled with the kids by myself and decided it was a good idea to do the dentist and immunizations for all of them before Daddy got there. Hence the fatigue and the 30 oz. Thai milk tea I'm about to consume. 

This was Makaria's first time at the beach. The sand freaked her out at first, but she is in love with the water. This girl swam from dawn to dusk. 

At some point before college, I'm going to have to break it to Kesed that people in America don't wear swim caps. Ever.

This was the eating area. It was 15 seconds from the beach. Perfect.

Our sweet friend broke her arm the night before we left for vacation. She was a trooper though. 

We love this family. I love sitting around the dinner table with them, thankful that their kids are in my kid's lives. The same goes with the parents. We just love them.

The only time we left the resort was to take a trip around the islands. Monkey Island was the first stop. 
These monkeys freaked me out. A friend told me about a random strain of hepatitis that we were sure to contract, so already I was panicky about them jumping on us. 

When you have a child who's afro requires gel, the attacking monkeys will try to eat her scalp. I was not ready for that. 

They all thought it was hilarious and asked to do it again. Everyone...except for me.

This is the most relaxed position I've seen him in for a long time. It's a "post PhD" pose.

We have vacationed with this family several times and every time we walk away refreshed, encouraged, and excited about the Lord. And I will say, vacationing with another family is a gamble. But with these guys it's a good choice every time. 

And I leave you with this. Do I not look totally thrilled to be wearing a muddy, hepatitis carrying, greedy little monkey. Thrilled. To. No. End.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Language Learning as a Mom

I haven't had formal Chinese tutoring in 4 years. I would love to add that into my day, but my body always demands me to do things like sleep and eat. Crazy, I know. For this season, I'm having to get creative on how to not only keep my  language from atrophying, but to try and add new vocabulary on a consistent basis. I would LOVE to hear from others who have had to maintain a second language on the go. So moms, please chime in!

Here are a few things I've done and a few that others have told me about that I have had all intention of doing, but just didn't. I'm a gung ho starter and a pathetically horrible finisher.

1. Online Learning. Listen to things like Chinese Pod. This is my favorite. They have beginner, intermediate, upper intermediate, and advanced lessons that you can listen to on an ipod. They start with a 5-6 minute dialogue and then talk about the new vocabulary or cultural issues in each dialogue. The whole lesson is not more than 20 minutes. They have more resources than you'll know what to do with. In theory, I listen to this when I run. "When I run..." is the key to that sentence. But you could put these on in the house and let your kids listen to most of them. Or put it on while cooking dinner or folding clothes. A few others that people have used are:

IMandarin Pod,
Hello Mandarin, 
CSL Pod.

2. Househelpers and College Students. If you  have a house helper, talk to them when you go into the kitchen to grab water, chat at lunch with her, ask her a question about her family. All these 2-3 minute conversations keep Chinese from being buried too deep into your brain. If you don't have a househelper, have a college student come over once a week and play with your kids. You can sit with them, listen, and join in the conversation. Most college girls, at least in China, love being around foreign kids. And if you throw them a bone with a few English words here and there, they won't mind coming back on a consistent basis. Even when these college girls can speak English, try to speak Chinese with them.

3. Characters. Oh buddy...characters. Learning Chinese characters feels like getting bangs. At first you feel excited, trendy, and totally in charge. Then, day 2, when you have to do your own hair. You feel sweaty, frustrated, and you give up by just putting a hat on. At least...that's how I feel when it comes to characters-frustrated and surrendered.

My husband uses these flash cards: Anki  As you study, you gauge how difficult that word was to remember. The harder the word for you, the more often you will see it in the course of the week. There are also:
Chinese Flash Cards,
Semanda (for kids and beginners),
a long list of apps,
Skritter (popular app that's simple, clear, has example sentences, user friendly),

Mental Case (syncs with Skritter. Includes speaking and listening applications)

Another great tool is the Pleco app with OCR. Pleco is an all-incompassing app that you can write words, use several dictionaries, look up via the pinyin, and tons more. Within Pleco is an add-on feature  called OCR that recognizes characters as you point your phone over and capture the image.

This post has a great explanation of how it all works. 

 Here are a few others:

* When you find yourself needing to find out how to say things like, "Desperate Housewives," in Chinese (yes, unfortunately, this does happen), just type it into Baidu and it will link you up with the Chinese. It's kind of a Chinese Google, but works great for finding more pop culture types of vocabulary. But you will need to use this word to convince your Chinese college friends that all Americans don't live this way...because they think we do.

*My favorite online dictionary is NCIKU. I know there are lots, but we like the thoroughness of this one. It gives the pinyin, example sentences, how to write the character, pronunciation, and more.

*Label things in your house with Chinese characters.

*Actually not throw out those advertisements that young people hand you as you walk down the street. Keep them and look through for simple words like pork, broom, or cabbage.

*Make it a game for you and your kids. Take 50 characters and put them into a scene of some type. Maybe a waterfall or a long path. Once you hit the end, your last character opens up to a surprise for you and the kids.

*When you text friends (even ones who can speak English) use Chinese characters. If you turn your phone onto the setting where the characters are automatically linked together, you'll be amazed at what you'll learn. You'll also avoid accidentally asking your friend to marry you.

*Watch Chinese cartoons with your kids.

Whew. That's overwhelming. The biggest thing I would add too is DON'T COMPARE. Not to your husband, that college student that's been in China for 3 months, or to other wives you might know. It will rob your joy. Every time.

Keep at it. Remain steady. It's gonna be worth it.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Hair Vote. I really do need help...

Ok, let's pretend that picking out a haircut is not a ridiculous first world problem. 
Let's also pretend that hubs and I have never had a full blown argument concerning the length of my hair. I know we aren't alone, because this is one of my most read posts on this here blog. But for us, this is a touchy subject. He doesn't want him to look at the back of my head and confuse me for a man. 

I need hair help. I have to head to Hong Kong in a few weeks and I'm going to try and get a haircut while I'm there. 

Sarah Jessica Parker and I have similar face shapes. Sarah Jessica Parker and I do NOT have similar arm muscles, waist lines, stunning legs, or thigh circumferences. But we do have the same face shape. I'm ownin' that much. 

I'm thinking of these three. Disregard highlights, pink lights, and skin color. I won't color anything, although I would love to be a large black woman who sings in a gospel choir. 


I need pretty easy. The whole 5 kids, homeschooling, living in China thing gives me approximately 27 seconds a day to do my hair. 



If my husband didn't have fairly strong opinions on the matter, my hair would look like this:

I love this hair cut. The only downfall to this one is that it feels like with a short cut, you really do need to wear makeup and earrings. Is it just me?

Ok, seriously, which one should I go with? Or am I totally crazy and these will all look ridiculous on me?!

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Follow Jesus. Be Yourself. Love Others.

I took the Grip Berkman personality profile a few weeks ago. On a scale that measured sympathy and warmth, I received a 2.


Out of 100.

When I first read that I thought, "Perfect. Two of the characteristics of both a Christian and a female and I scored a 2."


My husband and I started processing me failing the score in niceness. He assured me that I'm not a monster, but that I could manage to show a little feminine emotion every once in awhile. Imagine a husband saying that I should actually show more emotion. I've struggled with this for a long time because I am just not a sweet person. I don't see myself as mean (but I could be wrong on that too), but I've never been labeled as 'sweet'. I have friends who are just plain sweet and I'm sure I drive them all crazy.

They do things like hold your hand and scrunch up their eyebrows when you tell them you've had a bad day.

They call you precious and use doilies.

They have tea parties with their daughters and patiently braid their hair, all the time humming the theme song to "Little House on the Prairie." These kinds of people absolutely blow my mind.

I simply cannot muster that type of sweetness. There are times that I've actually doubted my walk with the Lord because I don't seem to fit into most things geared towards woman.

I'd rather be watching the football game than in the kitchen talking about manicures.

But one of the things I'm realizing is that this is straight up the way God has made me. Now, what I do with that is a different thing. I can choose to isolate myself and allow the cynical side to tear people down. I can smirk at the MOPS moms meeting right outside my office when they wear sparkly overalls. I can walk into a women's conference and not learn a single thing because I'm too busy making fun of the speakers.

Unfortunately, all of these things have happened before.

The flip side to my non-emotion is that I can be fairly objective and direct when needed. I don't panic in an emergency and I don't usually cater to peer pressure. Certainly I have tons of things to learn still, but I think as I get older, I am beginning to understand that apart from the fruits of the spirit and things commanded in Scripture, there is a lot of flex area the Lord has given us in terms of personalities. There are differences in personality that don't necessarily mean one of them is the most godly.

I'm not sure the point of all of this. It's sunny outside and I'm avoiding doing things like cooking dinner. I want to tell the women out there that they might not want to vote for Sarah Palin or cook gluten-free. Maybe 56 pairs of Tom's shoes isn't for you. Being a trendy Christian doesn't make you a godlier woman. It just makes you trendy.

God created you with a uniqueness that this world needs. Allow yourself to be transformed by the Word, but not by what you think other people are expecting you to be. The tricky part is when there are personalities that need refining. I don't want this post to be a license for us to tell others, "Stick it. This is just how I am!" We need remain humble, teachable, and thankful that God created us each individually.

Follow Jesus.

Be yourself.

Love others.

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