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Inspiration | Mary Biever | One Writing Mother
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Best Burnout of My Life

Twenty-nine days ago, I felt called to begin to write a book. At 3 a.m.

My instincts guide me well, so I dragged myself out of bed that morning and started writing. First, I lit a new candle and put praise music on Pandora. Then the writing began. Words poured out of me such that one Saturday, I wrote 5 hours without stopping.

One friend of mine told me I was writing because of Crazypause (special condition for female writers in midlife crisis).  It didn’t matter to me what you called it – the writing has consumed my soul. As I’ve gotten up at least 1 to 2 hours early for the past month, the writing keeps flowing, by that candle’s light, with music, every morning.

Four weeks and 61,000 words later, I just finished the first draft of the book.

Twenty-eight years ago, in the one and only creative writing class I took, my teacher told me, “You don’t have what it takes to be a writer or a student. I know because of my lifetime of teaching experience.”

Then I told her, “You don’t have what it takes to be a teacher. I know because I had to sit through your class.”

Maybe I was right, but it wasn’t a savvy response to give someone who grades your work. Maybe today, I proved her wrong.

Some of the stories are rewrites. For the past 8 years, as I’ve written, I’ve thrown stories into a file named Mustard Seed Manuscript, in a holding pattern until I saw how to use them.

My new candle is nearly burned out. Each time I light it to begin writing, I almost burn my hand.  To celebrate finishing step 1 today, I bought a new candle for the editing process. One candle may be finished, but my desire to write keeps burning.

Once I turned that light loose to shine, my writing won’t fit back under the basket.

Now I know, because I’ve lived and seen a lifetime of stories waiting to be told.

The Red Hugh of Irish Eyes in Ireland

[Donegal Castle. County Donegal, Ireland] (LOC)photo © 1890 The Library of Congress | more info (via: Wylio)
Last of the Irish chieftains to stand against the Brits, Red Hugh O’Donnell is an unsung hero, unknown to most Americans.

He’s prime material for an action adventure epic, which Hollywood has yet to make.

Son of Hugh Roe and Inghe Dub O’Donnell of Donegal County, Red Hugh was captured by the British when he was only 14 years old and was thrown into the prison tower of Dublin Castle. The Brits thought if they grabbed O’Donnell’s son, they could suppress rebellion. Inghe was desperate to save her son. She paid a ransom equivalent to 300,000 pounds and offered the Brits a prisoner exchange: 25 Spanish survivors of the Spanish Armada. The Brits accepted her offer, took her money and then took the Spaniards prisoner, beheading them. Then the Brits reneged and still kept Red Hugh.

The prison tower was not a country club prison but a place where men’s minds and bodies were broken. But not Red Hugh’s.  It was Christmas night, 1591, when the 20-year-old Red Hugh escaped with two young friends. They had to flee by foot across Ireland, for Donegal was in the northwestern corner of the Isle. Subjected to snowstorms and bitter cold, one of Red Hugh’s friends died from exposure during the escape. Red Hugh survived, but had to have his big toes amputated because of frostbite.

The next year, Red Hugh assumed the role of chieftain of the O’Donnell clan and fighting forces. His years of imprisonment trained him well to fight hard against the Brits. If you would like to read more about Red Hugh, Bethlehem Books sells a biography about him. (I sell Bethlehem Books on a fee basis –  no commission).

What does this have to do with St. Patrick’s Day and me? Twenty-four years ago on St. Patrick’s Day, I ventured through Donegal and Donegal Castle. My family tree includes O’Donnell’s. John O’Donnell, a one-legged sailor, fled to America after the O’Donnells suffered a final defeat at the hands of the British.

Mixing an Irish O’Donnell with a Scottish Wallace in my family tree means no two days are ever the same and I very much value freedom.

Not a bad legacy.

Erin Go Bragh!

Water, Water Everywhere

The new Borehole/Well in Mvungutiphoto © 2007 khym54 | more info (via: Wylio)
I can’t throw a bucket down a well the right way to pull it back up with a pail full of water. If I had been in charge, Jack and Jill never would have made it up the hill.

A lifetime ago, when I was a child, I visited my grandparents in the foothills of the Ozarks. My mother had grown up in a log cabin, and when I was little, her parents still drew their water from a well. That meant daily trips to the well to fetch in water for cooking and cleaning. It didn’t matter whether it was hot, cold, icy, or raining. If you wanted drinking water, you fetched it from the well.

Their well tapped into a natural spring, and the water was the coldest, freshest, clearest tasting water I’ve ever had. That made it worth it. Almost. As long as someone else could throw that dang bucket down the well to get it.

Evansville is under a boil advisory for its water. Our inconvenience is we draw it from the tap and boil it for 5 minutes to make it safe for drinking and cooking. We can still shower and run laundry.

How my grandparents would have enjoyed living with my current inconvenience.

One of every 6 people on the planet still struggles to get clean water.  In developing countries, 80% of their illnesses are related to lack of access to good water.

Last fall, my son’s youth group raised money through the Water Project to help. A donation of $10 can make a huge difference. Wells can also be sponsored. A well in the Sudan or Sierra Leon costs $4,500.  In Kenya or Uganda, it costs $6,500.

A club can take a Water Challenge to raise money towards a well and then track progress of their well and its building.

Imagine what would happen if everyone in Evansville donated $1 for each of the 3 days of our boil order. How many lives could we save and change?

How to Succeed Without Being an Expert

physics for kids: powerful rocket engines on a windy day may not be a good ideaphoto © 2010 woodleywonderworks | more info (via: Wylio)

You don’t have to be an all-around top-notch expert to be successful….if you work with talented, smart people.

Last night at 4-H Tech Club, I was reminded of this.  At this year’s planning meeting, Mark, another leader, suggested we do a hands-on rockets workshop. In the past, we had done workshops on building  rockets and the physics behind them. He suggested a different approach: get a simple rocket for each kid in the club and have each of them build it together. Then at the next meeting, launch them. Then, every kid in the club will have experienced a build and a launch.

Sounded good to me.

One challenge though. I’m an organizer but know nothing about how to build a rocket. And I surely didn’t know how to help 20+ kids, from grades 3 through 12, all build rockets at the same time. Others would need to carry the ball.

Success lesson 1: find smart people who work hard

Mark researched how and what types of rockets to buy. He figured out the best options.

Success lesson 2: don’t micromanage those smart people

Throughout the process, Mark asked for input at key points.

Success lesson 3: careful money management lets you experiment

Our 4-H Tech Club has been careful with every dime of its 3 year existence.  The members are frugal with their dues.  Last year, when we accepted donations from sponsors, we designated them to go towards education. Those donations paid for last night’s rockets. 

Success lesson 4: ask for help when needed

Mark said we needed to find adult team leaders to break the club into smaller groups. So I put out the word to our parents and leaders and said a quiet prayer we would get the help we needed.  The night of the workshop, we divided 20+ kids in 5 small groups.  The club’s top officers, all teens, registered members as they came in, assigned them to groups, and gave them rocket kits.

Each group had an adult team leader and a teen assistant. Our adult helpers included our county’s rockets superintendent, along with a web designer, software programmer, accountant, engineering professor, and middle school math teacher with an engineering background.

Success lesson 5: thank those involved

Last night, twenty members, from ages 9 to 16, built 20 rockets in 2 hours.

This is my thank you

  • to Mark for having a vision and making it a success,
  • to the other leaders and parents who encouraged and helped as needed, and
  • to our members for being a great team.

I’m looking forward to next month’s rocket launch!

Last night’s roll call question for members was where they would like to venture in a rocket. Answers included New Zealand, Pluto, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn. I hope we help our members realize that they can build their dreams, launch their rockets, and go after their dreams.

A Christian Who Pranks

“Mary, you’re different than I imagined,” a new friend noted as we shared coffee. “I thought you would be quiet.”

There was a time he would have been right.  As a young child, I filled a place in the perfect family photo op on Sunday morning: perfectly curled hair, church hat, dress, patent shoes, lacy anklets, and lacy gloves complete with a corsage at Easter. We could go to hell and back on the drive to church, pull into the parking lot, and I could give a big smile without letting a soul know what had just been screamed at me. Yes, I behaved from sheer terror of the consequences. On the outside – inside I treasured mischievous thoughts that kept me sane.

Later, when the reign of terror ended, I ventured from the church and God. I could do better than hypocrisy and Sunday morning straightjackets.

Mary Biever, International Woman of Mystery

Eventually, with the love of a good husband, I discovered it was possible to go to church sometimes dressed up and sometimes not, be real, and love God while keeping my sense of humor. When my son gave me mongo pink sunglasses as a prank Mother’s Day gift, I wore them. In public.

When I read where Jesus says there are many mansions in his Father’s house, I breathe a sign of relief. Surely one of those houses is a funhouse. If so, I hope there’s a room where they shoot off fireworks.

I wonder sometimes whether my knack for pranks is a talent or a cross to bear. If God created kangaroos with pouches and knew what He was doing, then surely He did the same with my humor.

Whatever happens in life, lyrics from a gospel song or show tune will play in my head. Sometimes, I sing them out loud, sometimes in public, to the chagrin of my children.

Life can be hard. Laughter and a song to sing can be a gift from God to make the tough stuff easier. As Auntie Mame said when she lost everything in the Depression, sometimes we need a little Christmas now.

How can you use your humor to make life easier for you, your friends and family? And encourage your friends to nurture their own humor? Here’s my take from Godspell‘s “All for the Best”… What’s yours?

Writing By Dawn’s Early Light

Graphic provided by Mystfren Designs

A candle is lit, Pandora is playing praise music, and the lights are out. 

Is it a date with my husband? No….it’s a date with God I’ve been making every early morning the past week. I pray.  God listens. I listen.  God answers. I write. 

Before dawn’s early light, I can’t get distracted. Because it’s dark, I can’t look around the room and think of all the things I’ve not done on my to do list. My Pandora Praise station responds to what I need like Bumblebee does in Transformers. Whatever I need to hear, it plays. 

What am I doing this for and why? 

Last fall, I met Cheryl Mochau, author of He Knew I Would Tell. God told her to write a book. She asked Him how she was supposed to fit writing a book into her schedule. The next morning, she woke an hour early, realized He was providing her time to write, and she began. 

Last month, I felt God’s urging me to write a book. It was to be a book of encouragement, telling how we can overcome adversity and turn it to good. 

Yes, I’ve written blogs and magazine columns for 10 years. My 5 year personal plan includes writing a book, after my kids go to college. 

We shared coffee last week, and I asked Cheryl how she published her book.  I told her my concern was time and maybe I should ask God to show me when. 

“He might answer you,” she jokingly cautioned. 

“If He wakes me up tomorrow morning, I’ll post on your Facebook wall so you know,” I answered. 

The next morning I woke at 3 a.m. I prayed for an hour, asking God to show me what to do. By 4 a.m., I knew I had to write. Out came the candle and music.  As I listened, the words flowed. Every morning since then, I’ve awakened early – before my alarm – and written. 

Genesis 50:20 inspires me. Whatever our challenge we face, God can use it for good to help others.  

I write because I’m happy. I write because I’m free. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. 

The tentative book title? 

He Uses It For Good 

(Thanks to Mystfren Designs for providing the candle graphic. Mystfren provides digital graphics and designs for web, print, and t-shirts.)

Risk Your Song!

Imitation may be a great form of flattery. It’s safe and easy to repeat what others say.

Problem is- if you do that too long, no one is going to listen to you. They have heard it before.  Their attention shifts when a shiny new toy appears on the horizon.

In Walk the Line, we see Johnny Cash singing a popular song when he gets his chance to audition. And he nearly blows his shot. He sings a popular song everyone sings. He’s told to sing the one song he would sing if he knew he only had a short time to live – his one song.

Johnny tentatively begins and with each note, he grows in confidence. It’s like when you watch a baby learning to walk and you see a steadier gate with each step. He sings “Folsom Prison Blues.”

“Folsom Prison Blues” is an ironic choice; as he sings Prison Blues, he frees himself to use his own voice and sing his own song. And when he is real, it’s easier for those around him to join in and be real too.

We each have our own song. You are the only person on the planet who has ever had or ever will have YOUR song! The notes of our song draw upon our laughter, sorrows, and everything in between. What made Johnny’s music special is he drew upon the depths of his heart, the good and the bad, and threw them into his music. Every note he sings resounds with authenticity. We know he sings who he is.

We all have our hidden tragedies – the times when our hearts break and we struggle to recover. Don’t let the bad stuff get you down. Use it to add a layer of compassion and understanding to all you do when times are good. Or not so good.

Is it scary? Yep.

When you risk your own song, you discover the one thing you were made to do with your life.

Each verse of your song will make the now, the past, and the future all a great present.

If it’s too big a leap to risk your song before crowds, start in the shower. Then with a few trusted encouragers – either friends or family. If you don’t know encouragers, find some.

No matter where you are in life, it’s never too late to begin.

Risk your song!

Where’s Your Call to Action?

Great movies, like great sales campaigns, include a call to action. This video shows how universal that call is. Whatever we do, wherever we go, there will come a time when we don’t just chat or think but do.

There is a time to relax and dream, but there is also a time to get out there and go for it. In battle, it’s victory.  In business, it’s the call to the action. 

At some point, we go for the sale.

Our call to action doesn’t have to be loud and brash like movies when they inspire thousands. But it has to happen.

Imagine a war movie where the hero tells everyone, “I’m glad you’re here. Let’s give a big cheer, hold hands, and sing kum-ba-yah.” Instead, the hero tells all to go out and do their jobs.

What can we learn from their calls to battle to apply to our calls to action?

  • Know your audience and build strong relationships with them.
  • Make sure your call answers audience questions. Make sure you help them solve their problems.
  • Give your audience credit for having brains and ability. 21st century sales mean the crud detectors are on. Customers know when they are pandered or patronized.
  • Don’t bang customers on the head with a call to action but do make it easy for them to decide to do business with you, to talk with you, and to hire you.

What’s the most important point?

Have you had something you’ve wanted to do but haven’t had the nerve to try? Watch this video and go for it!

Woulda and might don’t get things done. Doing and does do.  Make your shot. Maybe it will hit, and maybe it will miss. But the shot never made is a guaranteed miss.

Clap! Fight! Rock the world! Be who you were made to be and do the one thing you are made to do with your life!

Spawn Day?

As soon as I read what my teen had written as a birthday greeting on a friend’s Facebook wall, I nearly collapsed to the floor in a combo grand mal seizure/stroke.

“Happy spawn day.”

Where did he come up with this? What was he thinking? Then the dreaded:

What will other parents think when THEY read what MY kid wrote on Facebook?

I dashed to the intercom and paged Richard, “Get here right NOW!! Emergency!”

He raced up the stairs to find out what catastrophe had struck. “Look at that post! Talk to your son right now and get him to delete it. I can’t talk to him about spawning!”

He read it and told me, “Spawn means something different to a gamer. In video games, when you get a new life, it’s a spawn day. The status if fine. I’m not talking to him.”

So it ended. I resigned myself that all the other parents who know nothing about gaming would congratulate themselves that they were doing a better parenting job than the Bievers.

But then I got to thinking.

Don’t we want spawn days in life? If a spawn day is like a second chance day, then I’m glad to get them when I can. Maybe I can’t undo every mistake of the past.  Consequences last a lifetime.

However, I can forgive the problems of the past and make peace with them and spawn a new outlook in the present. Even if the same problems hit that have hit hundreds of times before, I can resolve to look at and repond to them differently.

When I change me and make who I am right now more giving and forgiving, I can change my whole world.

Which reminds me of a lesson I taught teens over and over again when I used to teach religious education classes on Sunday mornings:

God gives us room for second chances. No matter how badly we mess up, He’ll be there to listen and love us when we’re ready to ask.

I know I’ve made more than my share of mistakes. Even so, I got the chance to begin now, reinvent myself, and build a better life.

Thank God.

Today is my Spawn Day. It can be yours too – if you decide to make it happen.

Here’s to second chances! Cheers!

Find Your Sunshine

I’ve learned a lot about chickens in the last 2 years since my daughter started raising them. They may be dumb clucks, but they’ve taught me a lot about life.

Today’s lesson: find your sunshine.

We have 5 hens, and they are a nervous lot. Anything that disrupts their world stops their laying of eggs. We’re just beginning to get eggs again after a 6-week hiatus.

Chickens don’t stop laying eggs in the winter because it’s cold. They stop because there isn’t enough sunshine, and the days aren’t long enough to get their sunshine quota in. Hens lay eggs best when there are 14 hours of sunshine a day. We don’t use artificial light sources in the winter, so we don’t get many eggs until the days are longer. This week, we got 3 eggs.  When the days are longer, we’ll probably start getting about 22 a week. (And with a teen-aged son, they all get eaten.

I could learn something from those birds. Sometimes I get so “in the zone,” the tunnel where work is completed and obstacles are overcome, that I forget to look for the sunshine.

What makes your sun shine? Is it more daylight? Time with your family? What brings you back to the you that you really are?

Find your sunshine. Spend some time in it. I guarantee that if you do, you’ll start laying more and better eggs. Maybe one of them will even be golden!

Off to find my own sunshine.  Where did you find yours?

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