Write Your Heart Out

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My earliest memory is of my second birthday. Mom and Dad gave me a shiny red pedal car. I can’t describe the joy I felt at having my very own car, I must have been glowing. I climbed inside to take it for a spin, only to find my feet didn’t touch the pedals, but I that was okay, I knew I would grow into it.

“I’ll trade it for a tricycle,” Dad said, and Mom agreed.

“No! I don’t want a trike, I want the car, my legs will grow,” I thought, but for some reason, I didn’t tell Dad. I was terribly disappointed when he took the car away.

That positive attitude has stuck with me all my life.

If I want to do it, I find a way to make it work. But even though I have confidence in myself, it hasn’t been easy for me to be confident in how others perceive me. I have always worried that others will think I’m silly for believing myself capable of a thing.

When my first marriage ended in divorce, I felt as if everyone looked down on me.

Even God. I focused on my failures. Though I condemned myself, and thought God could no longer use me, I still prayed and read my Bible daily. Then one day God spoke to my heart, “Martha, I never intended for you or anyone else to divorce, but no one is perfect, including you.

I still love you, and have a plan for you.”

That day, I know for sure I glowed with happiness, as tears of joy ran down my cheeks. The words of Psalm 139 that I was so familiar with, took on new meaning as I read them that day. And today, as I read the psalm again, I am assured that God knows everything there is to know about me. He knows all my thoughts, my  plans, my desires, and my fears.

God knows me better than I know myself, and He accepts me as I am.

Several years ago God gave me a desire to write. I had always used writing as a learning tool, but this was different. Now I was writing with purpose. I asked God to show me what He wanted me to learn as I read my Bible each morning…and I wrote. I found myself writing bits and pieces of my thoughts and my life. I poured my stories out on the page, a little at a time.

This isn’t a Bible study,” I scolded myself, “This is about me.”

But it seemed God was saying to me, “You’re writing what I want you to, just keep writing.” So I did. An amazing thing happened. As I read my writings, I saw the protagonist, the main character of those stories, through different eyes. As she shared her heart, I related to her. I understood her. I accepted her.

As I began to understand myself, I found my writing voice.

I quit shaming myself and instead, asked God to show me how to use my experiences to help others. My mission statement is “helping others find their passion by sharing my own.”  I propose to do this by accepting and encouraging others any way I can. If you haven’t already done it, I want to encourage you to do as I did, and—

Write Your Heart Out!

by Martha Jane Curtis

How Best to Deal with Black Friday Traditions

Retail Stores spend months preparing for Black Friday. Many began with the tally of sells from the previous year. Executives count the profits, then subtract the cost. After much study of what worked and what did not, they begin to plan special sales for the following year. Decisions are made months before the sales are announced to the public. Orders to suppliers are placed well in advance.

Shoppers begin making lists of things they hope to find on the sale ads Black Friday when they fulfill their traditions and spend all their cash and max out their credit cards. Some begin immediately after shopping the previous year, making plans to beat the crowds to the bargains and to save more money for next year’s sales.

Retail Stores evaluate their employee force and determine how many new hires are needed to take care of the busy days between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. Physical ads are printed, virtual ads made ready, and e-mails prepared to send to subscribers.

Shoppers get anxious for the special shopping day about the time Halloween costumes hit the stores. The weekend before Thanksgiving, the biggest concern is to get a peek at the Black Friday sales flyers and determine what to spend their money or max their credit on rather than how best to express thanks for what they already have.

Retail Stores send out ads and e-mails announcing sales.

Shoppers make lists, map routes and put on their running shoes.

Retail Stores fill the aisles of stores with sale items and wrap them with plastic so no one gets a head start.

Shoppers run through the store in mobs, trampling all who get in their way.

Retail Stores employees cut the plastic that protects the stacks of merchandise and run for cover, hoping to escape the stampeding shoppers.
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Shoppers wander through the store for hours filling shopping carts with bargains, fighting for the last one the shelf, wait in check out lines for an hour or more to turn their paychecks over to a weary cashier, then finally return home to crash, exhausted on the couch.

How I Prepare for Black Friday
The weekend before Thanksgiving I begin my own preparations for Black Friday. Here is what I do:

1. Make a list of things to take to Thanksgiving Dinner at mom’s.
2. Make a menu for two weeks of meals for my household.
3. Inventory pantry, fridge and freezer for supplies needed for these meals.
4. Shop on Monday for the items on my list.
5. Tuesday, check to see that I have sufficient office supplies for two weeks of writing and make any last minute purchases.
6. Wednesday, finish preparations for Thanksgiving Dinner.
7. Spend Thanksgiving Day with family.
8. Go home and prepare to hibernate and write for the next two weeks.

Traditions are powerful motivators. I shopped the Black Friday sales for several years before deciding the best place for me was at home during this mad rush for bargains, figuring if an item wasn’t available after the rush was over, I could do without it, cheaper price or not. Over the years, my family has done away with a few things that were once traditional and added a few things we considered worthwhile to replace them.

Watch my posts for the next few weeks to see the changes we have made in our family traditions. While you wait, I would love to hear from you. How do you feel about Black Friday? Do you fight the crowds for the bargains?

Baby Steps to Blogging—Part 4—Don’t Let Delays Discourage You

No matter how hard I try to write my post ahead of time, life finds a way to thwart my efforts. It’s not just late posts that cause me grief. No matter what my plan, how early I get out of bed, or leave for an appointment, I seem to be just a little late.

This has always been a source of embarrassment for me. I have obligated myself to post a new section to my Baby Steps to Blogging series each Thursday. I work on it throughout the week, with big plans to have it ready to post Thursday morning.

This goal has not once been met by me. In fact, most Thursdays, by the time my post is finished  and submitted, the date on it is not Thursdayat all–but Friday. Three a.m. is still Thursday night to me. It won’t be Friday until I go to bed and get up the next morning.

As I hit the publish button, whether it’s 3:00 a.m. or not, relief floods over me. I view the published page and look at the calendar of my posts, hoping it will say Thursday, but no… it shows Friday as the published day. Sigh. But then I think, “This is nothing new for me. It’s the story of my life.”

Each time, this thought goes through my head, “Give it up. Let the series end. You look silly. This is embarrassing!” But, each time, after nursing the discouragement for awhile, I answer those thoughts: “You cannot give up! You have a purpose and you are going to stick with it. Quitters never win. You are not a quitter. You are going to win!” So I suck it up and continue on, pledging to myself to do better next week.

 

Do you ever feel like quitting?

Have you stopped believing in yourself?

Have you come to the conclusion that it’s no use to try?

 

Yes, YES, and YES!!! I have done all three—more than once. In fact, I am more consistent in doing this than I am in blogging. Discouragement has a sleeping bag behind my couch and a towel in my bathroom.

I have two things to say about this:

WINNERS NEVER QUIT!

QUITTERS NEVER WIN!

When you find yourself thinking these derogatory thoughts, stop them where they start. You can do this! Remember the old cliche, “Better Late Than Never?” Some of my best work was done after I gave up, but somehow I coaxed myself into taking one small step—a baby step. In fact, that is what I did with this post.

All this week I had jury duty. Wednesday my fellow jurors and I spent eleven hours in the court room with just a few short breaks. We tried for three and a half hours to agree on a verdict. The vote was nine to three for a not guilty. Finally we progressed to eleven to one. It was so close– then it reverted back to nine to three. The case finally ended in a mistrial.

I am still exhausted from the long hours spent in the courtroom. Today I tried to play catchup, but there just weren’t enough hours. I was tempted to skip this post. When I looked at the clock and knew I’d never get it done before midnight, I would just write an apology for not posting Part 4 of the series along with a short explanation of why.

I took that baby step. Next I decided to at least give Part 4 a name so I could come back to it tomorrow and write it. Then, miraculously, one baby step at a time, I managed to write the post. I will publish it in a few minutes.

Yes, it is late. No,my post is not what I planned it to be. But I succeeded because I didn’t give up. I took one baby step at a time. This post, that I didn’t expect to be able to write tonight, is finished.

Seeing it finished is encouraging to me. I hope you can somehow find encouragement in it, too.

Don’t quit, but rather, take one baby step, then another, and another until you make it through the field of discouragement and on to meet your goal of success.

 

Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you have been encouraged by this post. Don’t give up. Keep on writing.

Martha Jane Curtis, author of Baby Steps to Blogging.

 

For the Love of Reading–Because I Am a Writer

From the time I was in 2nd grade I read every book I could get my hands on. I would rather read than sleep—so often, that is just what I did. 

By the time I was in junior high I had a flashlight and a battery charger—before rechargeable batteries were made. I never planned to read all night, but just until I came to a stopping place. If the chapter ended in suspense, I had to go on to the next, and the next…until the end, or until all my batteries were dead.

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Despite my good intentions, when I finished one book, I often picked up another and continued reading.The question I am trying to answer is, “what made me open that second book and continue reading hours past my bedtime? Was it because the first book was not satisfying and I wanted to read a good one? Or was it because the one I just finished was so good that I didn’t want it to end?

I persisted to do this on occasion even after I was grown and married.

My first two children were born 17 months apart. I had no time for reading, but the books didn’t understand. They sat there on the shelf calling my name. To shut them up I put them in boxes and carried them to the shed 100 feet or so behind the house.


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My children are grown and married now, and I have once again found reading to be habit forming. Now I not only try to figure out why that is, but also how I can instill that same desire into the readers of my own stories. Instead of finding the answer, I again find myself staying up way into the night, not reading, but writing, then guiltily sneaking into bed next to my husband just before the soft light of dawn seeps in around the bedroom curtains.I write for the love of writing, just as I read for the love of reading. Both are addicting. Maybe I have found the answer to my question after all—I love to write because I love to read, and I love to read—Because I am a writer.

Teacher or Writer–Which are You?

I attended my first writer’s conference on May 19, 2012 at the invitation of my writer friend.  At the time I did not consider myself a writer, but it sounded like fun. It was a one day conference held at a Church in Cushing,Oklahoma. Donna Goodrich was the only speaker. I learned many things that would come in handy

IF I WAS A WRITER, THAT IS!

Donna taught things like:

  • How to find interesting topics to write about.
  • It is importance to use proper grammar and punctuation.
  • If you use something written by someone else, give them credit for it.
  • Construct good titles for your stories and books.
  • How to prepare your manuscript for publishing.

I learned all this and much more at that conference. In fact,

I found it to be quite interesting, 

but I was not a writer.

Since that time I began attending a group for writers in Tulsa. 

I learned many things that would be helpful if I ever did decide to become a writer.
Speakers kept talking about being called to write.

I wasn’t comfortable applying that tag to myself. 

I had many things I wanted to share with my children and the children I taught in Vacation Bible School each summer and others with whom I associated.  I home-schooled my daughter from preschool until she graduated high school except for a year and a half in the middle. I even taught my grandsons for two years. 

So you see, I was a teacher, not a writer.
I found myself writing daily. I wrote school lessons and Bible lessons and plays. I wrote a program for a three day home-school history learning activity called “Wagon Train Camp”. I wrote pages of notes every morning as I read my Bible and studied. I often thought how great it would be if I could share what I had learned with others. 

But I was still just a teacher, not a writer.
One day as I browsed through my Facebook feed, I noticed there were many posts complaining about the condition of our economy and talking about what our government officials should be doing and not doing. That day I began writing a post of my own. The subject of my post was that we as Christians need to quit griping to each other and start praying. The only way for our nation to remain Christian, is for us to be truly Christian and spend time on our knees praying for our nation and its leaders.

 As I wrote, I realized what a small audience my post would have with my barely more than one hundred Facebook friends. It needed a bigger audience to have the impact I had planned for it, so I created a blog on which to post it. A blog still had limits, I realized, but it was a start in the right direction. The more I thought about the thousands I wanted to reach with this message,

the more inadequate I felt as “just a teacher”. 

I wanted the message God had given me to impact the world, not just those who were within the sound of my voice or who would read my measly Facebook page.

It was then that I felt the gentle whispering of the Holy Spirit, “How many more people do you think you can teach through writing?”

 You can reach the world through writing!

Then I understood. God had been preparing me all along to write for Him. I am still teaching, but I am doing it through writing. I have the opportunity to share what God has given me with the whole world.

Because… I AM a Writer.

First posted on marthajanecurtis.com