Unique, Like Everyone Else

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On Friday, I’ll drive thirty six miles to spend five days under the redwoods at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. 

In the spacious dining room, surrounded by friendly faculty and exchanging furtive looks with my writing comrades, I’ll wonder why I’m doing this again. Putting my introverted self out there. Under the scrutiny of professionals. For the third year in a row.

I’ve discovered, with a delicious feeling akin to eating the cherry on top of my toffee coffee sundae, that there are other people in this world unable to stop the ceaseless stories marching through their minds. There are other people who are savvy at the art of ‘people watching’, and don’t care who hears them talking to their story characters (because for goodness sake, they aren’t talking to themselves).

Authors, in all stages of the publishing journey, roam Mount Hermon’s lush campus. Some are multi-published, some (like I was on my first year in attendance) are flabbergasted to find a community of creative, friendly, bookish people who are willing to encourage and pray for someone they just met.

I’ve come back again to be available to help first time attendees, to belly laugh with others who can decipher author speak, “How’s your WIP coming along? Has your ACFW CP taken a look at it?”, and to meet the wonderful writers I’ve only interacted with on-line.

Now I begin preparations, by packing a comfy pair of hiking boots, praying over the critiques I’ll receive, and doing some stretches so I’ll be more flexible when the Lord wants to make revisions in me and my story.

A Sleeve is a Pocket for Your Ace

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Space Up Your Sleeve

Back in the 1500s, pockets weren’t a common addition to ones garments, therefore people kept things hidden in their sleeves. What might you hide up your sleeve in the following roles?

1. A messenger.

2. A magician.

3. A card player.

At times, the delight we feel in hiding something is more glorious than the big reveal. Before everyone else knows what we know, we may savor the obscurity, or daydream about the possible response of the audience during the publishing of our news. A gift, a surprise, a victory. When the letter, the live animal, or the winning card is produced by a shake of the arm or a tug of the fingers, a gasp no doubt escapes the lips of the onlookers. Satisfaction can be found in the concealing, and the exposing of a secret.

My nana, before wheeling through the halls of the assisted living facility where she lived, had a habit of tucking a stack of tissues inside her sleeve. That way, she would be better equipped to absorb sniffles brought on by the pollen-filled spring air, or dab at tears whilst listening to my mom play the piano in the common room. Perhaps the possibility of an encounter with blooming things, or the hoped for appearance of a proud parenting moment might make you rethink what you tuck up your sleeve tomorrow.

Hurts So Good

Flash One :-)

Nowadays, it seems like the predominant reason for getting braces is cosmetic. The adjusting of one’s incisors makes for a more attractive and confident individual. At least that is what we hoped for as a metal mouthed teen, because our parents kept plunking down money with a grimace, and we kept returning to the orthodontist for another round of tightening, twisting, and all around misery.

Straighten Up and Chew Right

Perhaps you, or one of your children, has needed braces for another reason all together. If your bite is uneven, it can cause major discomfort. When teeth don’t line up properly the chewing job doesn’t get done as effectively .

Spiritual Nourishment

To better grip and munch that which nourishes us, we need strong jaw muscles and healthy gums. If we allow the Lord to rearrange that which is out of line, what we bite off can be easier to swallow. He knows our palate, and He’s equipped us with the tools to get the job done.

Open your mouth wide and see if I won’t fill it. You will receive every blessing you can use! Psalms 81:10b TLB

Character Curtain Call

If asked to return for a curtain call, the characters I’m highlighting this week would only do so if it made logical sense to them. If they chose to proceed on stage, they wouldn’t just take a bow and walk away discreetly. The would make their closing remarks with boldness and self-confidence, giving us great clues as to who they are. Can you guess what movie or book character these quotes go with?

  • These five fingers… individually, they’re nothing. But when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold! I could knock your block off!
  • Follow the sultry sound of my voice.
  • Don’t be defeatist, dear. It’s so middle class.
  • Before I do anything I ask myself,  “Would an idiot do that?” And if the answer is yes, I do not do that thing.

Whether stomping through the squares of a comic strip holding others accountable for their actions (Sally of Peanuts), or possessing a sense of bravado on the Scare Floor (Mike Wazowski of Monsters Inc.), the ESTJ personality is focused on productivity. Fully convinced that they’re in the know, they can easily jump to conclusions, sometimes overlooking the feelings and moods of those around them.

From grand English estates (The Dowager Countess of Grantham on Downton Abbey) to confined cubicle spaces (Dwight Schrute of The Office), these decisive supervisor types can be abrupt and adamant in their opinions, many times giving voice to what the rest of us are too afraid to say aloud.

Hard-working, dependable, and responsible, they organize people and projects efficiently, never doubting that others will follow their lead. What they seem to be is what they are.

Do you possess any of these attributes? Can you think of other characters who do?

To Run Naked or Not At All

The Audacity

“Why would I jog naked? I haven’t reached the resolution weight goals I made three weeks ago. HOLD UP, I would never jog naked,” you may be saying.

What if I used the word unhindered rather than naked? What then? Let’s break it down while we peel off some layers.    

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Discard Unnecessary Apparel    

I hike in the coastal mountains near my home with a friend on a weekly basis. Since we set out early in the day, we wear layers of mismatched clothes. After we pass through the cool pockets in the shadowed nooks of the hills, we huff and puff our way up hill. We only pause our constant flow of conversation to catch our breath, or ogle a chartreuse banana slug in the understory.

Of course we never sweat, we glisten. And when we emerge from the forested path to views submerged in warm sunlight, it’s time to expose the lower layers.

Au Naturel

Strip down, start running, and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. -Hebrews 12:1 (MSG)

Off come the dangling accoutrements. Hats and habits that chafe. Scarves that constrict, shoes that blister.

Hot Pursuit

The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer reminds us that what or whom we pursue is the true motivator. Sin will inhibit our progress, and worry will trip us up. But *seeking peace, and *striving for love is made easier when we bare our souls and run unconstrained.

*Psalm 34:4, *1 Corinthians 14:1

Character Spotlight

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  • Who invented a fantasy land of candy inside a factory?

    “A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.”

  • Who, whilst on land or sailing the high seas, sported his tricorn hat with bumbling gallantry?

“Did everyone see that? Because I will *not* be doing it again.”

Prominent Mannerisms

  • Practical and opinionated like Rabbit on Winnie-the-Pooh
  • Bursting in the door, demanding immediate attention like Kramer on Seinfeld.
  • Quick and resourceful like Curious George.

Obvious Intent

  • Jim Halpert creatively squelched boredom and achieved one-upmanship over certain co-workers at The Office.
  • Thomas, on Downton Abbey is always alert, analyzing the intentions of others for his own gain. If anyone dares to manipulate him they’d best watch out, because he’s a master of the game and he’d rather remove the threat than face the humiliation of losing.

“Don’t let ‘em walk all over you. You’ve got to fight your corner. You’re not a victim, don’t let them make you into one.”

Do you see yourself in these ENTP characters? Can you name any fictional females who possess these traits?

Untuck & Discover

Can you do it? Can you intentionally let your tag hang out?

Custom Made Garments

“Step up on the stool,” the seamstress says. “It’s time for some alterations.”

I sigh, knowing his words to be true, but I don’t want to stand still, only pivoting when instructed. The seams at my waistline do strain against the fabric each time I inhale, but surely I can wear this garment a little longer.

“You know you’re always more comfortable with some wiggle room,” he says around the pins protruding from between his lips.

New Vantage Point

My knees wobble from my stationary stance, but then I take in the view, different from up here.

Layers of dust on top of the bookcase and the ceiling fan spread out at eye level. I need to address that grime when this alteration is done. And since I’ll have more room to take a breath, I can dust and sneeze without fear of a tear appearing in my dress.

Bobbing at my elbow is the head of the One who adeptly makes the needed changes in my outfit. The pins prick occasionally, but thoughts of the finished product help squelch most of my impatience. Plus, He’s done this before, and I trust His revision skills.

Garment Maker

Perhaps the Lord fashions garments for us that are too big so we can grow into them. As he approaches for our next alteration, we anticipate our time to be still before him, watching his handiwork take shape. Our trust unfurls with our lengthening hemline, our spiritual muscles have room to expand inside widening sleeves.

On Display

When we finally step down from the stool-after the tedious but enriching experience of lingering underneath His capable hands-we stretch, we take a deep breath and we untuck the label at the back of our collar. The tag, with the name of our Maker upon it, wags in our wake for all to see.

Let’s challenge ourselves to be even more bold, to wear our clothes inside out. Then the watching world will get a glimpse of the skillful seams of the One who *knit us together. 

*Psalm 139:13