Guest Post: On being a writer

I am excited today to introduce a dear friend of mine, Rebekah at We Live Inspired! She is writing a guest post on today’s 31 Days of Journaling Prompts series that I am hosting this month. She is truly a sweet and thoughtful woman with a beautiful heart for homeless and feral cats, and I am blessed to call her my friend. Please welcome her today and take a moment to stop by her blog to read more of her writing. 
 

A warm Hello to Tonya’s Readers at Nearly Missed It!  My name is Rebekah and I started a website/blog called “We Live Inspired!” just a few months ago.  I am so blessed to have met Tonya through a 5 minute Friday exercise that we both participate in through this cool online community!  She is a kind and caring person 🙂  I am guest posting on one of Tonya’s word prompts today on the word “writing” (thank you Tonya for having me).

Let me start out by saying that writing is such a vast activity that it can mean many things to many people.  Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, it is a practice that can build self-awareness and also be therapeutic (not to mention fun!).  For myself, I think writing came from a love of books and parents who constantly exposed me to the written word from a very young age.  If you would like to read more about my bookish beginnings check out a little something I wrote called the “Book Nook” HERE.

Since my website name is We Live Inspired!  I would like to start my post today by hopefully offering some inspiration to you, the reader.  I believe every one of us has something unique to offer the world.  It doesn’t matter if you are a literary genius, or if you feel that you don’t have writing talent, you still have a story my friend.  Whether you choose to share your words with the world, or keep them to yourself- your life itself (be it exciting or mundane) is a story.

I recently have started reading the Bible from the beginning and am currently in Exodus.  God must have been speaking to me today, because after hearing the word Tonya wanted me to write about, I opened up my bible app to where I left off yesterday, Exodus 4:10, and immediately felt a message coming across that ties in with this topic.  I would like to share it with you.  God was speaking to Moses.  He wanted to use Moses as His spokesperson for the very important task of leading His people out of Egypt.  Moses did not feel worthy because he didn’t think he had the talent to perform the task at hand.

Exodus 4:10 (NLT) says: But Moses pleaded with the Lord, ” O Lord, I’m not very good with words.  I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me.  I get tongue tied and my words got tangled.”  If you go back to Exodus 3, you will see Moses protesting some more with God, saying “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh, Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?”. How many of us have felt this way before?  I know I have.  While writing has been a dream and a passion of mine since childhood, there are times in this new blogging venture of mine when I have thought, “Who am I Lord, that people would want to hear the words I write?”  There are so many bloggers and writers in the world that it’s easy to feel lost in a crowd and ask “Who am I?”.  In response to Moses God says, ” Who makes a person’s mouth?  Who decides whether people speak or don’t speak, hear or don’t hear, see or do not see?  Is it not I, the Lord?”  Then He tells Moses to go forth with it because He will be with Moses as he speaks and will instruct him in what to say.

Speaking and writing are similar.  One is done on paper or computer, and one is just verbalized, but it’s still the same thing.  Knowing the right “words” to say.  You may be like a Moses and think that what you have to say is not as good as the next guy, but you shouldn’t underestimate the power of your own unique words.   Your words could make someone laugh, or inspire them to try something new, encourage them, make them feel less alone, help them understand themselves better, or offer them a new perspective they could have never thought of on their own.  Words are a powerful thing!  Maybe God will even use you to “lead his people out of Egypt” (in the metaphorical sense…meaning leading people out of oppression or bondage and freeing them with your words) by speaking through you.  I know I have been touched in one of these ways many times in reading other blogs, books, etc.

Not that I am a writing expert or anything, but I do have 4 major tips that have helped shape me as a writer.  Number one is read, read, read.  I think that reading a wide variety of things helps us to learn new words (expanding our vocabulary) and writing styles, gather inspiration, and find our unique niche.  Since I was very young I have read everything from comedic books, to fantasy fiction (like Harry Potter for example), romance novels, classic literature, philosophy, self-help books, Christian devotionals, art books, and tons of famous poetry type books (I think the poetry is what shaped me most, because I tend to write flowery or in a poetic way a lot).  The wider the variety the more you learn and the easier it is to find your niche of course!

Number 2 is just as important if not more important- Never compare yourself to others (I know, easier said than done right?) It’s helpful to learn from others and tweak things to become a better writer, but you don’t want to be a carbon copy of someone else.  You want to develop your own unique voice.  In fact when I first created my blog, I purposely did not look at or read other blogs (minus one friend I know outside of blogging) so I would maintain a pure vision.  (ok so maybe I am a bit OCD on that, but that is what works for me 🙂 )

Number 3 is to get to know yourself really well.  You need quiet time of reflection to get to know yourself better, so I suggest some type of journaling.  As far as keeping a journal goes, ANYONE can do that!  As I mentioned earlier, you don’t have to share your words with the world to be a writer. Private writing has many advantages for you.  There are even different types of journals you can keep- for example a dream journal to record the dreams you have at night, a regular everyday events journal recording your daily life, a feelings journal to help yourself work through different life things, and one of my favorites-a Gratitude Journal.   All of these forms of writing can help you to get to know yourself better ,  provide a safe and therapeutic way to purge yourself of negative emotions that would otherwise build up (not healthy!), and maybe even spark some creativity in you!  Writing can be like a form of meditation- very cathartic.  Sometimes writing can even be life changing-as in the case of my particular experience in keeping a Gratitude Journal (click on those words to read about that).  Bonus: Studies have even shown journal writing to be an effective tool in treating anxiety and depression!

Last but not least Number 4: Be an observer.  Taking time to notice things-the beauty in nature, animals, how you interact with the world, and observing people and places around you can help.   I know that observing everyday things and God are my biggest sources of inspiration!

Writing can be as simple as starting a journal for your private use, blogging or even the old fashioned art of letter writing.  So you see, you don’t have to be a professional writer to reap the benefits or have fun with it.  🙂

This post ended up way different than originally intended! I started out writing more about my own journey through writing and then God inspired something totally new through that verse I read today.  Maybe I wasn’t meant to talk about myself so much today, but to share something that may be of use to you, the reader.  If I could leave you with the overall message I learned from today’s writing, it would be that God believes in you.  He believes your voice is important!

Blessings~Rebekah

Have you ever had a “Moses” complex?  What are your favorite things to write about?

Rebekah lives in Michigan where she loves spending time with her family, her fiance Matt, and all of her animal friends.  She donates some of her time to help a homeless, feral cat issue in her neighborhood, knits prayer shawls for people in need, and has worked with a “going green” wellness company from home (for the past 4.5 yrs) where she educates people on getting rid of toxins and helps other women make an extra income from home.  She lives to create and also sells her paintings, artwork, and hand knit creations on the side.  She has recently decided to revisit her childhood dreams of becoming an author or artist one day by starting a blog called “We Live Inspired!” , where she shares her inspirational stories (including those of the cat colony), artwork, photography, & some poetry, along with tips, recipes, and other fun stuff to inspire creative living in her readers.  She would love to sell giftable items using her art and also get a couple of fun books published in the future!  Among other things, she enjoys having themed tea parties with friends, singing and playing her acoustic guitar (but mostly just for her own enjoyment), laughing & being goofy, and spending time in God’s creation (nature).
Rebekah can be found at We Live Inspired!, Facebook and Twitter

 

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31 Days of Journaling Prompts: Writing

Day 25: Writing

Today’s journaling prompt was supposed to be about Health, but I had some serious writer’s block when it came to that topic for a couple of different reasons. One is that I just wasn’t feeling the words flow out of my head and into my fingertips. Another reason is that I feel that I’ve already covered the topic of Health through a couple of other days this month, like Motivation and Exercise. Besides, what else can I say about the subject?

I struggled for a couple of days on what to write about. I really enjoyed writing about what the seasons mean to me, so I guess it was kind of a let down to go from excited writing to dreaded writing. I toyed with a couple of ideas, including addiction, extended family and more about gardening. Finally, I came up with Writing. Why not write about what writing means to me?

My mom has been commented recently on my posts. She has always enjoyed reading what I write and likes to talk about how I would write several sentences for spelling word definitions when only a few words were necessary. For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed reading, with the exception of high school and college when SO MUCH READING was required.

When I was in elementary school, I decided that E.B. White hadn’t told the complete story of Charlotte, and I was determined that I was the one to complete that story. Another boy in my class agreed to be my artist. I wish I knew what happened to that story that we put together. Charlotte’s Web is still one of my favorite books.

A few years later when I was around 12, I wrote a series of short stories based on the same group of characters. It started out being similar to The Babysitters Club (LOVED those books at that age!) but evolved into a little more than just a repeat of Ann M. Martin’s work. I think I wrote 12 or 13 ‘books’ in that series. A few friends in my class would read them, and at that age, I just knew that I would get them published someday. I’m pretty sure that they are all still at my parent’s house…somewhere!

Sometime around junior high, I lost that sense of creativity and imagination, or maybe I just matured and that creativity and imagination changed with age. I continued to read some, but with so much required reading over the next several years I didn’t read much for pleasure again until after I graduated from college. My writing during that time had ceased beyond the writing required for school.

Off and on over the years, I have kept various diaries. With the internet becoming more mainstream, in 2002 I looked for an online diary and eventually discovered LiveJournal. Back then, you had to be invited by an existing user to get an account on LiveJournal, and there were only a certain number of people one could invite, so you had to invite your friends carefully so you didn’t waste those invite codes. I wrote regularly in LiveJournal for about 5 years, making lots of friends and also meeting the guy who would become my husband several years later. I still have a LiveJournal account but my writing there has lost it’s frequency, especially now that I am writing publicly now.

The dream of becoming a published author has come and gone several times over the years, but for the last several years it’s been gone. While I deeply enjoy this form of creativity, I have no real desire at this time to be published, have a career in writing or pen a novel. I fear that if writing ever became a job for me that I would lose interest in it all together. I also lack confidence that there are many people who want to read what I have to say, and I would end up disappointed.

So here I am. Blogging and private journaling is what works for me. I enjoy reading comments that other people post and love knowing that someone has taken the time to read my words, but most of all this is my creative outlet, and this is what works for me. And you know what? I guess I am published, because every time I end a blog post, I click the Publish button. That’s really all I need right now.

“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.” – Graham Greene

What is your creative outlet? Do you have dreams of being a published author? 

Read more about the 31 Days of Journaling Prompts
Today’s recommended 31 Day Blogger: 31 Days To Change One Habit @ Random Reporter

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31 Days of Journaling Prompts: Summer

Day 24: Summer

Over four days, I’m going to write about my thoughts on each of the seasons. I’ve written about Fall, Winter and Spring, so Summer is the last season in which to write. The cat’s out of the bag that Spring is my favorite season, but I’m pretty sure that when I was still school that summer was my favorite season because of the summer break between school years.

My dad worked a lot when we were growing up with both a full time job and the National Guard. Our summer vacations were usually spent wherever my dad’s summer camp with the National Guard was. He wasn’t an officer, but he was ranked high enough that he could stay off post at night in a motel nearby so that we could have dinner with him. A few years his summer camp was at Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I have some very fond memories of Mississippi summers in Hattiesburg, Camp Shelby and nearby Gulfport and Biloxi. I have a not-so-fond memory of a summer afternoon in Mississippi when my brother went missing (spoiler: he was found, safe and sound!). During a couple of these trips to Mississippi, I talked my parents into taking us to New Orleans. As a pre-teen, I was fascinated by the city. I haven’t been back to any of these areas as an adult but should probably add that to the list of places I want to (re) visit some day.

While growing up, we didn’t have central heat and air in the house, so I remember at least one summer (maybe two) when I was around 12 or 13, my parents had bought a used camper. My dad hooked it up to the power, and my brother spent most of the summer in the cooled camper, both day and night. I think we only took the camper out once or twice to the campground, but I have no doubt that my parents got their money’s worth out of it with Matthew and me playing in it.

The summer when I was 14, my parents opted to skip a summer vacation and bought an above ground swimming pool instead. Over the years, we had a few of those cheap pools you can get at WalMart, but that year they invested in one of the good ones. That would have been around 1991, but that pool is still standing today. They’ve replaced the liner a few times, as well as the filter and steps and whatnot, but the sides have stood strong, and we’re still enjoying that “summer vacation” to this day. Well, not today since it’s too cold, but you know what I mean.

When I first started this post, I wasn’t sure I would have enough to write, but now I feel like I could keep going, talking about trips to Opryland, playing outside with my cousins, trips to visit my parent’s friends in Florida (and visiting Disney!). We might not have had a lot of money when I was a kid, but Summer seems to be where a lot of happy memories were made with my family. There’s a lot that could be learned from that statement.

“People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.” – Anton Chekhov 

What’s a memorable summer vacation for you? Have you ever had a Staycation that turned out awesome?

Read more about the 31 Days of Journaling Prompts
Today’s recommended 31 Day Blogger: 31 Days of Social Media @ Gretchen Louise

 

31 Days of Journaling Prompts: Spring

Day 23: Spring

Over four days, I’m going to write about my thoughts on each of the seasons. Yesterday I wrote about Winter, and the day before that I wrote about Fall. Both days I mentioned that neither are my favorite season. Did you guess that maybe Spring is my favorite season? Well, you guessed correctly!

I love Spring because of all the new beginnings in nature remind me that our lives have seasons, too. Sometimes in life there’s miserable heat like Summer, then changes like Fall cold and dark like Winter, but then Spring rolls around to give us a fresh start. There’s almost always opportunities in life for a do-over or a restart, and if it doesn’t fall exactly like that then we can always learn from our past so that we’ll be better prepared for the future.

For about as long as I can remember, I have loved Spring, especially when it starts warming up and the color returns to the earth. I am usually in a much better spirit when Spring arrives, and I often start wanting to do more. A few years here and there, I have planted a small garden, and this year was one of those years. I love cooking with fresh herbs, so my dad helped me transplant some sage and rosemary that I had grown at my parents house a couple of years ago, then I added some dill, cilantro, oregano, thyme and basil to my garden this year. I live in a suburb with very little land, but my dad built me some boxes for square foot gardening, which made it a bit easier to weed and not take up too much space. I also grew some tomatoes, banana peppers and tried to grow some bell peppers (that never really grew before the bugs attacked them). Dad also got me two cabbage plants that I didn’t think were going to make it, but just in the past couple of weeks with the weather cooling, I think they might end up producing. I’m already looking forward to seeing what green I can add to my garden next year!

With Spring, we get all the beautiful flowers blossoming and showing us their beauty. The previous owners of our house planted a couple of irises and daffodils that grow in front of my house. Tennessee is more known for purple irises (our state flower), but our irises are a beautiful white. Forsynthia bushes with their bright yellow flowers are another favorite of mine. Seriously, I could go on and on about my favorite flowers!

What’s your favorite part of Spring? Do you plant a garden or flowers where you live? 

“Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!”” – Robin Williams 

Read more about the 31 Days of Journaling Prompts
Today’s recommended 31 Day Blogger: 31 Days of Organizing Fun @ Organizing Made Fun

31 Days of Journaling Prompts: Winter

Day 22: Winter

Over four days, I’m going to write about my thoughts on each of the seasons. Yesterday I wrote about Fall and mentioned that it’s not my favorite season. If you came here today to see if Winter is my favorite season, then you won’t find that. Sorry! You’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see if perhaps it’s Spring.

With the potential of snow, the holidays, my birthday and my anniversary occurring in Winter, you’d think it would be my favorite season. I do love Winter for all those reasons and more, but I’m not a fan of the cold and the lack of humidity in the air that causes my hair to frizz and my fingers to zap from static. So I don’t hate it or anything!

In Middle Tennessee, we don’t get much snow in the Winter, and when we do get a snow day it’s usually just here for one day, maybe less. As much as I love snow, I’m glad to live in an area that doesn’t get frequent snow that lasts for days or weeks. To be honest, I’ve never really been to an area during Winter where there was a lot of snow, but I hear that those areas are usually much better prepared to clear the roads than we are in Nashville. Seriously, the entire city, county and state close down if there’s snow on the streets. Maybe it’s the perfect excuse for a day to play in the beautiful, white, fluffy stuff, but we REALLY don’t like driving in it. There’s a few snow plows, and they will throw out the salt on the major roads, but we all panic and just cannot drive in the stuff. Laugh if you want, because non-southerners have been for decades. We’re content with the way we are.

My parents live in the country on 26 acres of land surrounded by big trees. It’s gorgeous out there when it snows! The trees are all covered in glistening ice, and the hills roll like a white wonderland. But do you know what’s best about being at their house when it snows more than a dusting? Redneck Sledding! Years ago, my parents bought a heavy duty sled, but there’s really not a big enough hill to sled down, so my dad tied the sled to the back of his truck with some thick ropes, and pulled us through the fields. It’s pretty much an understatement for me to say that it’s some of the most fun I’ve ever had! I laugh and giggle and belly roll watching and participating in this rarely occurring event. My mom will even get out there and sled with us, and the dogs chase us around the field until their short, little legs tire out.

I have lots of awesome memories in Winter, including the snow days we might get once or twice a year, my birthday in February, and as of this year I’ll have my anniversary to my wonderful husband to celebrate at the end of February. Winter also has those snuggle-up-on-the-couch moments, as well as Christmas that makes for great memories, too.

What’s the best thing about Winter for you? Do you have some momentous memories of Winter? 

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” ― Edith Sitwell

Read more about the 31 Days of Journaling Prompts
Today’s recommended 31 Day Blogger: 31 Days To Redeeming Christmas @ Little Juan on the Prairie

31 Days of Journaling Prompts: Fall

Day 21: Fall

Over the next four days, I’m going to write about my thoughts on each of the seasons. I’m starting with Fall because it’s the season we are currently in, but it’s not my favorite season. What a bummer way to start, huh? I was initially going to write about why I Fall isn’t my favorite season, but I don’t want to be all negative about it, because there are still plenty of things about fall to like.

My absolute favorite is watching the leaves make their color changes and bless us with their beauty. If you’re in the Nashville area, I highly encourage you to take a drive down Highway 840 from I-65 in Franklin to the Almaville Road exit before you get to I-24 in Murfreesboro. That stretch of miles is one of the most beautiful to see this time of year, because the land in that area is still heavily wooded with rolling hills of open land filled with some of the most beautiful trees I’ve seen. It’s one of my favorite drives this time of year.

I feel blessed to live in an area where the change of seasons is noticeable. As much as I wanted to complain about about how it’s cold in the morning but warm in the afternoon in the Fall in Tennessee, deep down I love that it’s that way. We have a pretty awesome variety of weather that really isn’t one extreme or the other any time of year. I once heard someone refer to Florida’s seasons as being Summer and January. It’s funny but true!

Fall is also the fun time of year to plan outdoor activities after being stuck inside all summer standing over the cool air vents. This is usually when I see a lot of charity walks and runs so that people don’t pass out from heat exhaustion. There’s also Fall festivals most weekends. Yesterday I took my Little Sister to a local farm where we went through a corn maze and picked out pumpkins to take home while enjoying the cool, crisp air of the morning. When we left, she said, “That was awesome!”

So while Fall may not be my favorite season, I will admit that it’s my second favorite season. There’s just so much beauty this time of year to dismiss it and see only the negative aspects.

What do you like about Fall? Do you usually decorate pumpkins?

“Bittersweet October. The mellow, messy, leaf-kicking, perfect pause between the opposing miseries of summer and winter.” – Carol Bishop Hipps

Read more about the 31 Days of Journaling Prompts
Today’s recommended 31 Day Blogger: 31 Days to Savour The Season @ The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking

 

31 Days of Journaling Prompts: Cooking

Day 20: Cooking

Continuing on yesterday’s Confessions post, I must confess that I enjoy cooking most of the time. The caveat to the “most of the time” reference is that there are those times after a long day where cooking is the last thing that I want to do, but luckily that doesn’t happen on a regular basis. I don’t, however enjoy spending a lot of time preparing a meal. I tend to stick to simple recipes and usually double the recipe (or more) so that we have leftovers for the next night or for the freezer. Since I usually cook just for David and myself, it’s easier for me to cook for 4 or 6 and save the rest.

Earlier this year, David and I had a cooking day where we prepared enough dinners for an entire month. It’s an understatement for me to say that it was a lot of hard work. We spent at least 5 hours in the kitchen that day and were completely exhausted by the end of it. It ended up being worth it, and we’ve talked about doing it again, but so far it hasn’t happened. To prepare for the big cooking day, we invested in a FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer and has turned out to be one of our smartest purchases. While we haven’t had another cooking day to plan an entire month’s worth of meals, I do tend to freeze the extra meals now instead of eating leftovers for days and days because we don’t want to waste food. I can only handle eating the same leftovers once or twice before I am ready to move onto something else. Pulling a meal out of the freezer helps on those days when I don’t want to cook after a long day.

Another long-time favorite of mine is slow cooking, and with the invention of the slow cooker liners that I discovered a few years ago, I’m definitely more likely to use the slow cooker now. There’s a ton of recipes on the internet for slow cooker recipes, and I love discovering new ones. There’s usually not too much prep that goes into a slow cooker meal, because it’s usually as simple as dropping in the ingredients and turning it on. The slow cooker liners are a bit costly but sure beat scrubbing the baked on caked on mess that comes with cooking food in a hot bowl all day long.

My favorite part of cooking is discovering new recipes. I’m a sucker for a cookbook or recipe website. I’m always looking for ways to mix it up and try something different. Plus, I have to admit that it can be fun to see what David’s reaction is to new foods. He’s not one to eat many vegetables, so I have to sneak them in sometimes. It’s pretty awesome when he’s surprised that he likes something that he wasn’t sure he would.

I’m not one to post recipes often, because I usually get my recipes from someone else and either follow them precisely or change them up slightly to fit my own tastes. However, what good is a post about cooking without one of my tried and true favorite recipes? I found this recipe several years ago in the coupon section of the paper. I’ve made this recipe so many times that I don’t even have to look at the recipe anymore but luckily found it online.

Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup

Ingredients

1 pkg Mahatma Red Beans and Rice Mix
1 1/2 lbs cooked chicken, diced
2 tsp chili powder
2 cans (14 1/2 oz. each) diced tomatoes, undrained
3 cups chicken broth
Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
tortilla chips, crushed

Directions

Prepare rice mix according to package directions. Meanwhile, toss chicken with chili powder. Combine undrained tomatoes and chicken broth in large saucepan. Bring to a boil; add chicken. Reduce heat and cook 7 minutes. Add prepared rice mix; heat through. Spoon into bowls. Top with cheese and tortilla chips.

Tonya’s Tips

  • I try to always use Mahatma Red Beans and Rice unless I can’t find it in the store. Zatarain’s will work in a pinch.
  • I cook the red beans and rice in the microwave.
  • I have made this recipe in the slow cooker, but be aware that the rice will expand so much that it becomes a bit mushy. It was still delicious that night and the next night for leftovers!
  • I am not a fan of using canned chicken, but it can work in this recipe.
  • I usually use a Mexican blend of shredded cheese.
  • I add garlic, but I add garlic to most non-sweet recipes, as I confessed yesterday.
  • Recipe found at http://www.mahatmarice.com/en-us/recipes/286/EasyChickenTortillaSoup.aspx

Do you enjoy cooking? What’s your go-to recipe? 

“I think careful cooking is love, don’t you? The loveliest thing you can cook for someone who’s close to you is about as nice a valentine as you can give.” – Julia Child 

Read more about the 31 Days of Journaling Prompts

Today’s recommended 31 Day Bloggers:
31 Days of Freezer Cooking @ Good (Cheap) Eats  
31 Days of Slow Cooking Deliciousness @ With Elephant Grace