Bloom Book Club Countdown, Reader Feedback, and Giveaway via (in)courage

I know I’ve already extended an invitation to read Jean Fleming‘s Pursue the Intentional Life with the fun, caring community at Bloom Book Club. Others, too, would make the same invitation. Here’s what some readers (and future readers in the Bloom Book Club) are saying about the book and the author:

“I encountered God on every page.”
– Jennifer Dukes Lee, author of Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval—and Seeing Yourself through God’s Eyes (Tyndale, 2014)

“It’s like she is sitting on the couch across from me and speaking into my life.”
– Deanne Moore

“You’re going to LOVE Jean. You’re going to absolutely love her. . . . She’s aaaamazing.”
– Jessica Turner (Watch the video to hear the way she says (or sings) “amazing.”)

“Jean is my new favorite person—she’s an absolute jewel.”
– Robin Dance, Bloom Book Club Coordinator

“I knew God was getting ready to speak something powerful into my life—I just didn’t know how desperately I needed to hear it … Jean’s stewardship of these ideas culminated in this beautiful book that holds not only wisdom flowering from years of experience and walking with God, but the author’s lovely poetic voice as well.”
– Laura Boggess, author of Playdates with God: Having a Childlike Faith in a Grownup World (forthcoming in fall of 2014)

“I bought this book some time ago after Laura Boggess mentioned it. I hold Jean Fleming in high esteem. I read and was greatly encouraged by her book A Mother’s Heart over 25 years ago and bought many copies over the years to share with other mothers. I know that this study is going to be good.”
– Patricia Hunter

“. . . an author who has mentored me for years . . .”
– Ann Voskamp

Roger and Jean Fleming

Roger and Jean Fleming

Here’s a five-part giveaway and a clear recap of how to join and read along with us: A Great Giveaway for Pursue the Intentional Life! Video 1 (Author Introduction) will be up on Monday, June 3. Hope to see you then.


What You’ll Find in This Book Club

Ideas were plumping. . . .

I most often hear the word stewardship used in regards to money, talents, and time. My husband reminds me to be a good steward of the insights God gives as well.

– Jean Fleming, Pursue the Intentional Life (19, 22).

Ideas, insights—plumping
like grapes still on the vine,
unplucked, untasted.

Come to the grapevine—harvest, eat.
Press, prepare.


Today, (in)courage announced
Bloom Book Club’s summer pick: Pursue the Intentional Life, by Jean Fleming.

The term “book club” can mean so much. I anticipate lively interactions in a warm, caring community. I expect a wide breadth of insights from thoughtful people who will walk alongside and call me higher. I think friendships will begin—and grow.

One of the best parts of this book club: we don’t just read the book. Because of their video interviews, we also get to know the author. Read the book, interact with other readers who want to grow in intentional living, and meet the exuberant and winsome Jean Fleming of The Navigators.

I’m in. You?

Read the Bloom Book Club details at (in)courage.

When the Sherlock Holmes Precept Doesn’t Work

For The High Calling book club on
Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work
by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
This week, Laura Boggess leads our discussion on the introduction through chapter four. Join us!


My son has read the entire collection of Sherlock Holmes stories and told me this quote: “How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”

Holmes was talking about sleuthing—figuring out events that have already happened. If you eliminate all the impossible scenarios, you can narrow it down to just one possible solution. If it was impossible for the guy to come in through the window or the door, he must have come in through the chimney. Mystery solved.

Sure, this worked for the famous fictional sleuthhound figuring out what happened at a crime scene yesterday. But our dear detective assumes (1) we are capable of considering all the possibilities and (2) we know what “possible” contains.

I’ve erred in applying the Sherlock Holmes Precept to the future, or to current circumstances. I consider a difficult situation and count the possible outcomes on my fingers: either A or B will happen. When I get really creative, I can turn up a few more fingers for possibilities C, D, and E. But then, that’s it. All scenarios are bad, and I conclude that I’m in a hopeless situation. There’s no way out.

I think of Martha who said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” I think of the community of Israel saying in the wilderness, “If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt … But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.” It’s a hopeless situation. There’s no way out. My brother is dead. We’re going to starve in this desert.

My wise friend David Brown of The Navigators said, “If you’re choosing between Crummy Option Number One and Crummy Option Number Two … well, God can count to three.”

I count the possible scenarios on my fingers. But God won’t be limited by my Sherlock-Holmes thinking.

It’s elementary: God is more than I know.

A Theory on Rest

How does Tim Keller conclude his book on work? With a section on rest, in a chapter called “New Power for Work.” Brilliant. Perfect.

For The High Calling book club on
Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work
by Timothy Keller
Join us this week as Byron Borger leads us in discussing Part Three: The Gospel and Work. Christian Blog Network

“Spring Break” comes too late for my liking, so every year we take a week off in the winter. A winter break helps to avert the annual spring almost-burnout I used to experience.

Every Febrary or March, we spend a week at Grandma and Grandpa’s. It’s the ideal vacation spot: free lodging; the boys get grandparent time (one highlight is getting to do the horse-poop chores with Grandpa); I get to cook without having to do dishes; and they live near The Black Canyon of the Gunnison, one of my favorite cross-country skiing places. On top of that, Ouray with its Hot Springs pool is only forty minutes away.

On day four of vacation I awoke in my in-laws’ guest bed, always warm with heavy blankets. The grandfather clock ding-donged seven o’clock in the morning. Grandma was making sourdough waffles (I could tell just by the sounds) while our boys played with Lincoln Logs and Legos (again, I could tell by the sounds). Yet in spite of these things, my spirit felt stressed.

This was not supposed to happen. More than halfway through my longed-for winter break, I still felt an inner unrest and stress. Why this restlessness in an ideal setting for rest?

I first went to what is probably the most commonly quoted New Testament passage on rest for the weary:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

(Matthew 11:28-30)

This seems counterintuitive. Jesus said to take His burden and yoke, and then I will find rest? The result of a burden is rest?

Still in mental process, I noticed that my copy of the New American Standard Bible gives a footnote indicating that Jesus was quoting “and you will find rest for your souls” from Jeremiah 6:16.

Thus says the LORD,
“Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths,
Where the good way is, and walk in it;
And you shall find rest for your souls.”

The promise is that I will find rest for my soul if I walk in the right and good way. That is, obedience results in soul-rest. And Jesus’ said His yoke is easy, His burden light. “His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

This explains the paradox that taking Jesus’ burden results in rest (from Matthew 11) and that walking results in rest (from Jeremiah 6:16).

I do notice that neither of these passages gives a formula or recipe for rest. Jesus didn’t say, “To get rest, take my burden” but “Take my burden, and you will find rest.” The Lord, through Jeremiah, didn’t say, “To get rest, walk in the good way” but “Walk in the good way, and you shall find rest.” The difference is a world of difference.

If I make rest a goal that I need to work for, then the rest will never come. If I simply follow Jesus without worrying about rest at all, true rest will follow—because the work was already finished.

In chapter 12, Keller brilliantly speaks of “the rest under the rest.”

The very definition of a Christian is someone who not only admires Jesus, emulates Jesus, and obeys Jesus, but who “rests in the finished work of Christ” instead of his or her own. Remember, God was able to rest in Genesis 2, verses 1-3 only because his creative work was finished. And a Christian is able to rest only because God’s redemptive work is likewise finished in Christ.

– Keller, page 238

Just as our insecurity and desire to chase away (work away) our insignificance is “the work under the work,” driving us to prove ourselves through performance and turning work into an idol, so redemption is “the rest under the rest” which makes healthy work satisfying and true rest possible.

Here are my favorite quotes from the book about Sabbath:

Exodus 20 ties the observance of a Sabbath day to God’s creation. . . . Sabbath is therefore a celebration of our design. (235)

Deuteronomy 5 goes on to tie the observance of Sabbath to God’s redemption. Verse 15 says, “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” . . . Anyone who cannot obey God’s command to observe the Sabbath is a slave, even a self-imposed one. . . . Sabbath is therefore a declaration of our freedom. (236)

We are also to think of Sabbath as an act of trust. . . . To practice Sabbath is a disciplined and faithful way to remember that you are not the one who keeps the world running, who provides for your family, not even the one who keeps your work projects moving forward. (236)

And, to finish off our book club on this book, I’ll share my favorite song about rest. The words are straight out of Matthew 11:28-30. (You’ll find rest just listening!)

Tim Keller’s Reality Checks

For The High Calling book club on
Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work
by Timothy Keller
Join us this week as Tim Watson leads us in discussing Part Two: Problems with Work. Christian Blog Network

I have a few problems. These problems came out when I read Part Two of Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavor. The chapter titles?

Chapter Five: Work Becomes Fruitless
Chapter Six: Work Becomes Pointless
Chapter Seven: Work Becomes Selfish
Chapter Eight: Work Reveals Our Idols

Let’s just go through my Keller-revealed problems (and the corresponding truths) one by one, shall we?

1. I’m human.

Tell me I can’t do everything, or I can’t do something as perfectly as I imagined or planned, and I can get cranky. Downright nasty, even.

I like to operate from a position of strength. I like to think I have a capacity both broad and deep enough to tackle multiple projects and pursuits, each with excellence. I want to read a book a week; wash and hang-dry cloth diapers; make every meal from scratch; create an eighth-grade poetry curriculum for home school; support and attend every church event; and play tennis without ever double-faulting.

But I have bought frozen pizzas (not even on sale), used disposable diapers (gasp!), and skipped Bible study mornings. I never did get around to planning that poetry class. And I always, always double-fault.

Have I let this make me feel a failure? I have, but I shouldn’t have.

In all our work, we will be able to envision far more than we accomplish, both because of a lack of ability and because of resistance in the environment around us.

– Keller, page 90

Reality . . . check.

2. Difficult ≠ Wrong (and Easy ≠ Right).

When things get hard and the road bumpy, sometimes I wonder if I should’ve turned onto a different road.

Reality . . . check.

Just because you cannot realize your highest aspirations in work does not mean you have chosen wrongly, or are not called to your profession, or that you should spend your life looking for the perfect career that is devoid of frustration. . . . You should expect to be regularly frustrated in your work even though you may be in exactly the right vocation. (page 94)

The easy way is not always (or not even usually) the right way. I suspect the apostle Paul and those Old Testament prophets would agree.

3. My Work ≠ Me.

I have confused my work with my identity. Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness by challenging His identity and trying to make Him believe If you can’t do this, you’re not You. The flip side of this kind of temptation: Prove yourself. If you want to prove who you really are, accomplish this (and that, and that).

Reality . . . check. Check. Check.

We either get our name—our defining essence, security, worth, and uniqueness—from what God has done for us (Revelation 2:17), or we make a name through what we can do for ourselves. (page 115)

4. I’ve had pride and forgotten grace.

Often, when I accomplish a task or fill a role successfully, I start to think I am my own sustenance and power.

Reality . . .

You worked with talents you did not earn; they were given to you. . . . Everything you have is a matter of grace. (page 124)


5. I’ve taken on tasks based on guilt.

If guilt is the extent of your motivation, you can be sure it will wear off before long. (page 125)

Enough said. Check.

6. Accepting God’s love and grace makes me more selfless.

I’ve said before that Every Good Endeavor boils down to selflessness. It’s my favorite theme in the book and pops up again and again. And Keller says that the way to be selfless is to receive God’s love and grace. At first this may seem counterintuitive, but it does make sense.

If you see Jesus . . . as a Savior doing these things [saving people through identification and mediation] for you personally, then you will see how valuable you are to him. . . . And ironically, when you see how much you are loved, your work will become far less selfish. (page 127, emphasis mine)

This is God’s reality. This is my reality.


The Best Parenting Credential

For The High Calling book club on
Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work
by Timothy Keller
Join us this week as Glynn Young leads us in discussing Part One: God’s Plan for Work. Christian Blog Network

In last week’s book club discussion I said I would summarize Tim Keller’s Every Good Endeavor in one word: selflessness. I found selflessness again as I read Part One: God’s Plan for Work (chapters 1-4):

Work is one of the ways we make ourselves useful to others, rather than just living a life for ourselves.

Our work further develops, maintains, or repairs the fabric of the world.

God provides purpose for our work by calling us to serve the world.

Our daily work can be a calling only if it is reconceived as God’s assignment to serve others.

… and, my favorite:

We are not to choose jobs and conduct our work to fulfill ourselves and accrue power, for being called by God to do something is empowering enough. We are to see work as a way of service to God and our neighbor.

– Keller, pages 38, 61, 65, 66, 67 (emphasis mine)

Besides selflessness, other concepts resonated as well. Keller mentions that “God left creation with deep untapped potential for cultivation that people were to unlock through their labor” (page 36). That is, my work can tap into the God-created potential for cultivation.

This idea goes hand in hand with my “intrinsic need to be productive” (page 37)—or, to use the word I use more frequently, my need to be fruitful. Yet I’ve gotten so hung up on fruitfulness, desiring it to the point that it has become an idol. (Interestingly, Keller addresses a full chapter (the eighth) on idolatry. But that’s for next week’s discussion.)

All these ideas fit together in my work of parenting, don’t they? God purposely left His creation (my children) undeveloped to a certain degree, in order that His creation (me, the parent) may have the privilege and opportunity of being colaborers with Him (astounding as that is!) to cultivate the children into the people God wants them to grow into. And the purpose of our work is to serve others in love and selflessness (certainly required for a parent who seeks God).

We are to be gardeners who take an active stance toward their charge. They do not leave the land as it is. They rearrange it in order to make it most fruitful, to draw the potentialities for growth and development out of the soil. . . . And that is the pattern for all work. It is creative and assertive.

&ndash Keller, pages 58-59 (emphasis mine)

I like that. One way to work with God to selflessly serve others is to mine our God-given creativity.

But I got into trouble when I got to page 78: “The very best way to be sure you are serving God in your work is to be competent.” I read that, and everything fell apart. Me, a competent parent? I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more incompetent than in bringing up children!

I remember when I was twenty-four and dressed in my only suit, the same one I wore as I job-hunted from one Silicon Valley start-up to another. I had just survived most of an all-day interview complete with grilling technical questions from different groups. Hours later, my last interviewer sat on the other side of a polished conference-room table. Almost done.

Then, in that room with bright, white walls came The Worst Interview Question. “What makes you think you’re qualified for this position?” he asked.

What do I say to that?

“That’s your job to decide,” I answered, and he did decide. I did not get an offer from that company.

Lucky for me, midwives and obstetricians never ask the question “What makes you think you’re qualified to be a mother?” Because once I became one, and the more children I had, and the older they got, the more I thought that the parenting task is above me.

I get overwhelmed. Parenting is a gigantic task much larger than I imagined. Who am I to have spiritual oversight over these three boys? How many times have I felt inadequate as a parent? I feel unfit.

Whenever I feel this inadequacy, I turn to these Scriptures:

For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am.

. . . and my feeling is confirmed: I am unfit to be a mother.

Yet here I am, a mother; three undeniable evidences sit around our dinner table, drink five gallons of milk per week, and throw their dirty socks in the laundry basket. I am, in fact, a mother. This means that God has made me what I am not fit to be. Every time I try to understand that, I can’t, really. God gave me this job, even though I am underqualified. Counterintuitively, this realization that I am unfit to be a parent—strengthens me as a parent. My best parenting credential is God’s grace. “By the grace of God, I am what I am…”

. . . and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

(above quotes are from 1 Corinthians 15:9-10)

The parenting role is overwhelming, but I strive and try harder to be a good parent, even while recognizing that I am a parent only by God’s grace. My efforts and striving only follow in the wake His grace makes. Paradoxically and wonderfully, God’s Word which makes me understand that I am unfit to be a parent is the very same Word that gives me utmost confidence to be a parent.

Maybe feelings of inadequacy can be healthy. They actually give me confidence and better ability, for what is more enabling than God’s grace?

Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

(2 Corinthians 3:5-6)

I Am Not Mrs. Mallard

For The High Calling book club on
Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work
by Timothy Keller
Join us this week as Laura Boggess leads us in discussing the Introduction. Christian Blog Network

Poor girl. Knowing no other way to relieve her anger, she stomped with both feet and all her might. She jumped, knees-to-chest, to give more force to the stomping. She even climbed a few stairs to add some altitude and oomph to her stomps.

This was not a two-year-old in a tantrum. This was a young mother in her late twenties. This was me.

“Slow to anger” was not among my top ten descriptions. But why was I so stompin’ mad?

Our firstborn was on the mellow side. At eighteen months old, he generally obeyed and was often quietly content. But for a several-month period, he would not come when I said to come.

On The Day of the Stomping, I was kneeling at the door with his shoes, ready to put them on him and get in the car to run errands.

“Please come, and I’ll put on your shoes.”

He looked at me, unmoving. My blood, quick to boil, was already bubbling.

Come here,” I repeated. Still he did not come.

I will spare you all the details (except the stomping described above). I became especially angry whenever I said to come and he didn’t—all because of Mrs. Mallard in Make Way for Ducklings.

“Take good care of the ducklings.”

“Don’t you worry,” said Mrs. Mallard. “I know all about bringing up children.” And she did.

She taught them how to swim and dive.

She taught them to walk in a line, to come when they were called, and to keep a safe distance from bikes and scooters and wheels.

When at last she felt perfectly satisfied with them, she said one morning: “Come along, children. Follow me.” Before you could wink an eyelash Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack fell into line, just as they had been taught.

– from Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey

Mrs. Mallard taught them to “come when they were called.” And “before you could wink an eyelash” all the ducklings obeyed, falling into line “just as they had been taught.”

My child would not come when he was called! And he sure didn’t obey immediately like her ducklings did. If Mrs. Mallard can do it, why can’t I? Frustration and anger followed, quick as that eyelash wink.

I wish I had slowed down long enough to say to myself, “Um, hello? You’re comparing yourself to a duck.”

Frankly, I compared myself to real human mothers, too. But for me, I think the bigger problem was that I wanted to look good. That Mrs. Mallard, you know, looks pretty good when her little Jack & Co. are following her in a neat line.


I wouldn’t have yelled at my young children as much as I did had I been more concerned about what they need than about how good (or bad) they made me look as a mother. I needed to view parenting as a calling not for my own benefit but for theirs. I needed selflessness.

When I started reading Timothy Keller’s Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work, I decided to read it in search of ideas on how to be a better mother (for that is currently my vocation, my calling, my work). I approached it as if it were a book on parenting.

Turns out, it is.

If I had to summarize this book in one word, I would pick selflessness. Here are some parts I’ve marked:

…a reappropriation of the idea of a vocation or calling, a return in a new way to the idea of work as a contribution to the good of all and not merely as a means to one’s own advancement. [quoting Robert Bellah]

And so our work can be a calling only if it is reimagined as a mission of service to something beyond merely our own interests.

Thinking of work mainly as a means of self-fulfillment and self-realization slowly crushes a person and…undermines society itself.

When we work, we are…the “fingers of God,” the agents of his providential love for others. This understanding elevates the purpose of work from making a living to loving our neighbor and at the same time releases us from the crushing burden of working primarily to prove ourselves.

– Keller, pages 18-21 (emphases mine).

And that’s just from the Introduction. I’m now about halfway through the book, and Keller’s focus on selflessness remains consistent. This is a parenting book for me.

If I think of my work, my parenting, as a contribution for my children’s good and not a means to my own advancement, as a mission of service instead of self-fulfillment, as a way to love my children instead of proving myself, then I will be more of the mother I should be.

And I do pray that when God says to them, “Follow Me,” they will come when they are called.

On Realistic Caricatures, Charlotte, and God

For The High Calling book club (led by Cheryl Smith this week):
Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me
by Karen Swallow Prior
This week we’re discussing chapters 4-6. Join us! Christian Blog Network

I couldn’t believe what I read.

“You must never set up a wooden Asherah pole beside the altar you build for the Lord your God.”
(Deuteronomy 16:21)

They needed a command for that? Of all kinds of idolatry, that one has got to be the worst. To put an Asherah pole right beside the altar for the Lord?! Such insolence! How audacious!

Those guys I read about in the Bible are grossly idolatrous. It’s ludicrous. I thought of when, under Aaron’s leadership, they melt all their earrings to make a golden calf and then declare it worthy of worship, even saying it led them out of Egypt. Then when Moses calls Aaron on it, Aaron raises his palms, shrugs his shoulders, and says they just threw in the gold and, whaddya know, “out came this calf!” I read a story like this and think, Really?

I thought of King Jeroboam who, similarly, made one golden calf to put in Bethel and another to put in Dan. He, too, told the people these golden bovines are the gods who delivered them out of Egypt.

But most of all I thought of the verse above. How could anyone insult God to His face by worshiping Him on one hand, and on the other hand and at the same time, worship an idol or do something God doesn’t want?

These thoughts came in the space of two or three seconds. I wonder if the Holy Spirit was setting me up, in a way. Because after thinking of Aaron, and Jeroboam, and all those unbelievably idolatrous Israelites, I thought of me.

How many times, and in how many ways, have I done the equivalent of setting up an Asherah pole right next to the altar of God? Have I claimed to love Him above all and, at the same time, desired the love, affirmation, and companionship of people to the point of idolatry? Have I claimed growing intimacy with God as my deepest desire, and yet nurtured greed (which is idolatry)?

What seemed ridiculously ludicrous was actually a lot like reality. What seemed like an unreal exaggeration was a lot like me.

Karen Swallow Prior says about Charles Dickens’ characters in Great Expectations:

They are, paradoxically, realistic caricatures. Dickens’ characters are fanciful and at the same time just like someone you probably know. . . . Wemmick might be said to be the quintessential modern man, and, with closer examination of a character that on the surface seems utterly riduculous, we realize that perhaps he is not so ridiculous after all.

—Prior, pages 59-60.

Caricatures are defined by exaggerated features, yet those exaggerations make the caricature recognizable.

When I read of people whose actions seem ridiculously off-course, I should recognize when they are “just like someone [I] probably know”—just like me. I need the constant realization that God has shown His grace to me, most of all.

And then I can move forward in the hope of that very grace. Last week we talked about Charlotte’s Web in chapter 2:

As she weaves words about Wilbur in her web, Wilbur tries to live up to the meaning of the words. . . . [T]he power of giving something its proper name, in turn, empowers it to become the name it is called.

—Prior, page 42

To me, this sounds a lot like many parts of the Bible. For example, I’ve heard it taught countless times that the biblical meaning of “justified” is “declared righteous.” Here’s another example from Ephesians:

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.

(Ephesians 5:8)

At the same time God says I already am light, He also calls me to live like it. God calls us what we are still becoming. There’s no exaggeration in that.

Tomorrow Won’t Fit into Today

Writing a story is like living one; you can’t
force future moments onto the current
page. You can grasp a dry towel with
moistureless hands, but no water will come
of your wringing, and your skin will chafe.

Soak the cloth
and wait.

I believe a writer can make writing happen, sit down and stir from grass or leaves or snow. But I also believe it takes time to write. Each book I’ve written, in some sense, could not have been written before its time. The white moths were not ready to rise…

There is no hurry. The things we cannot write about today, we will surely find we can write about tomorrow. We should not worry about the process, but simply trust it and move on. After all, we contain fields upon fields of stories we’ve rehearsed over time. We must recognize that these are the ready ones, the now-stories.

– L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, pp.152-153

(For the T.S. Poetry Book Club (hosted by Lyla Lindquist) on Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity & Writing, by L.L. Barkat. Read Lyla’s thoughts and find links to other book club participants here.)

This Mom Needs an Editor

(For the T.S. Poetry Book Club (hosted by Lyla Lindquist) on Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity & Writing, by L.L. Barkat. Read Lyla’s thoughts and find links to other book club participants here.)


In Chapter 20 of Rumors of Water are twelve ways to “strengthen the structure of a work.” I was about to use these ideas to edit one of my works-in-progress but instead found ways to edit my character, my parenting, my teaching.

I’ve said it before: this book is not just about writing. It is about life.

Barkat lists twelve excellent suggestions, but I’ll start with just one.


First drafts:

1. “Why did you keep playing swords inside right after I just told you to do it outside?”

2. “You’ve been doing these ordinal-number problems perfectly the past four lessons. Why can’t you do them all of a sudden?”


Search for pet words and delete them (Are you a the man or a that woman? You might be.)
– Barkat, p.98

After reading the chapter, “Goodbye Purple Clovers: Strengthening Structure” I realized:

I am a why mother.

But now I can take a red pencil to the words and tone of voice that daily come out of my mouth.


1. Stop what I’m doing. Give them my full attention and my eye contact. “Hey guys, did you hear what I just asked you?”

2. “What part of number five do you not understand?”

3. “It’s only been ten minutes since you went for a nap. If you can’t fall asleep, just stay up there for a good, quiet time. I’ll call you when it’s over.”

It’s a small beginning, but maybe in this way I can “strengthen the structure” of my life and character. Another time (soon), I’ll pick up the second bullet point.