Open Letter to the Generations Before Me

The following is for the blog tour of Emily Wierenga’s memoir Making It Home. Did you know Emily has provided blog prompts?

Here are Emily’s blog prompts 14 and 15:

14. How would you encourage a woman who feels unnoticed, left out, or no longer relevant as she grows older?

15. How can the older generation encourage the younger generation to stay focused on God’s peace, identity and purpose through multiple life changes and seasons?

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Dear Christ followers of the generations before me:

I once overheard someone ask a woman in her twenties, “Are you going to the women’s mini-retreat?”

“Nah,” the twenty-something replied, “It’s just going to be a bunch of old ladies.”

This young woman came to church dressed in classy leather boots and neatly arranged, fashionable clothing. Her hair was expertly highlighted and curled, her makeup applied with a model’s know-how. Her dad was an influential leader in the church. When she threw a party, all the other young and younger ladies wanted an invitation. She landed a go-getter job that could easily extend into a prestigious career. She volunteered in the children’s ministry and was popular with kids and teens.

These are the girls and teens who heard her say, essentially, that she’s too cool to hang with the old ladies.

I wish that twenty-something woman and those girls and teens would be intentional about getting to know you. I wish they knew Amelia Sorensen, the woman in her eighties who taught my husband’s Sunday school when he was in first grade and invited families with teenagers over for a home-cooked meal. I wish they knew Hal DeMooy, the man who modeled daily Bible reading and encouraged the young to do the same—or Jim Downing, the Pearl Harbor survivor who, at age 102 and counting, is mentoring teens. I wish they knew the python-slaying Egelers.

I wish they knew the value of interacting with you, the generations who came before. Because if they don’t, they miss out on a chance to be rich—like passing by a cave of precious metals and walking away without mining it.

Get all the advice and instruction you can,
so you will be wise the rest of your life.

(Proverbs 19:20)

Your white hair and wrinkles represent decades refined and lived out under God’s grace, like nuggets and flakes of gold. You have the advantageous perspective of looking back on the same years and experiences younger generations still look forward to. You have already seen, perhaps multiple times, the same struggles and blessings I am experiencing right now.

I once sat on a panel to answer a local MOPS group’s questions about parenting. The young moms asked questions like, “What can you do when the kids don’t eat?” and “What if you and your husband don’t agree on the kids’ discipline?” and “How do you educate the child about ‘stranger danger’ and still encourage them to treat strangers kindly?” All of the questions were narrowed down to one person’s specific situation.

It occurred to me that a single answer could address every concern brought to the table:

You.

You are the answer that would provide a custom solution not only for every young mom but even for that individual’s pinpointed question at that Q&A.

So I encouraged those moms leaning forward and eagerly asking questions of the panel before them:

Find a mentor. Or several mentors.

Then I told them I get together with Jill once a month and Jean once a week. My senior year in college, when I was a newlywed navigating the new relationship with my husband’s parents, I pursued Mary to ask about her in-law relationships. I call Linda when I’m having a parenting crisis. When I was a new mom, I turned to Miriam, the Byrnes, Paula, and others. One day a few years ago I called Dorothy and asked, “I need help with marriage. Could I come over?”

“Sure, dear. When would you like to come?”

“What time do you get up in the morning?” I asked. I was there at seven a.m. the next day.

Richard Peck, Newbery-winning YA author and former high school teacher, agrees with me that we need you. He makes sure an elderly character appears in each of his novels:

I need them. Young readers need them more. The old folks are there in the novels as counterbalances. They provide wisdom and seasoning won only through long lifetimes, and compassion unavailable from the peer group. They offer alternatives in the accelerating battle between parents and children, and glimpses of the problems and sorrows of old age for a young generation fixated on their own.

– Richard Peck, Invitations to the World (New York: Dial Books, 2002), 26-27

We need you, and we need to pursue relationships with you. I’ve asked myself, How could I draw out wisdom from the older women around me? How do I mine wisdom from the quiet ones? What questions should I ask? What steps of relationship should I take? More than once, I’ve started by asking you for a recipe in hopes that it will lead to deeper friendship.

Though good advice lies deep within the heart,
a person with understanding will draw it out.

(Proverbs 20:5)

And then you remind me that every person is both young and old, so I ask myself questions as an older woman, too: What young person could I reach out to today? How can I be winsome and inviting to the young? What can I learn from the young?

Thank you for welcoming me into your lives. What would we do without you who have gone before?

With deep gratitude and appreciation,
Monica

5 Steps to Make a Sentence Curve (or Vary Your Sentence Length)

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Do a quick internet search and you’ll find several articles advising you to vary sentence length in your writing. I’m simply offering a visual tool to help writers implement that advice.

Read my article, 5 Steps to Make a Sentence Curve, at Charity Singleton Craig’s column How to Bring Words to Life.

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Photo credit: see bottom of the article at How to Bring Words to Life

Why the Copyright Page Is One of the Best in My Book

[November 16, 2015 UPDATE: Paperback now available.]

Today is launch day for my book, Behold the Beauty: An Invitation to Bible Reading!

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To celebrate launch day, I would like to feature the book’s . . .

[drum roll]

. . . copyright page.

Check out Amazon’s “Look inside” preview, and here’s what you’ll see on the copyright page:

“For information about special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact Fistbump Media Special Sales at sales@fistbumpmedia.com.”

When the print version becomes available [UPDATE: paperback now available!], perhaps you or your pastor, small group leader, or other ministry leader would like to have multiple copies. It’s a little book (< 100 pages) and therefore might be ideal for church newcomer packets or gift bags, church libraries, small group studies, Sunday school classes, or other ministry handouts.

Send an e-mail to sales@fistbumpmedia.com for more info on discounted bulk orders!

Would you share this information with your pastor, church leader, small group, MOPS, campus ministry, other ministry leaders, and your local library? Most importantly, would you please pray that Behold the Beauty readers would grow in knowing God better and hungering for His Word?

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Photo credit: Steve Jurvetson, via Flickr Creative Commons

Behold the Beauty Facebook page

Launch Day for Behold the Beauty: Oct. 13, 2015

My book, Behold the Beauty: An Invitation to Bible Reading, releases on October 13. That’s this Tuesday!

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I will be sharing more information soon. For now, I invite you to take a look at the book’s Facebook page.

Sign-ups for my monthly newsletter will also be available soon. This will include book updates, free subscriber-only resources, and thoughts on the writing life.

Some details:

– Published by BibleDude Press

– Endorsed by Cynthia Hyle Bezek, Jennifer Dukes Lee, and John Blase

– Discounts for bulk orders available

Thank you for the support and encouragement you have shown! More coming soon.

How Crossbeams Values Every Person

Crossbeams Building Toy

In real-world engineering, there is no MVP. A team isn’t a true team if one “best” worker shoulders 80 percent of the load, leaving others’ work optional, insignificant, or less influential.

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Teamwork means no one is the star player (“It’s all hanging on me”) whose sole performance makes or breaks a project. Real teamwork means the project depends on every team member. Similarly, real teamwork means no one can claim to be irrelevant—no excuses for flaking out or disengaging (“I don’t need to do much. I’m not needed here anyway.”).

True teamwork means every member’s contribution is not only helpful but necessary. The game hangs on everyone’s play.

Two misconceptions about teamwork and community:

Falsehood #1: “I’m more important than the others. We can do without them.”

. . . and the flipside:

Falsehood #2: “I’m less important than the others. They can do without me.”

In Christian community, too, there is no MVP.

It’s easy to see how putting others down can damage a team. But putting yourself down is just as damaging. In fact, the Bible addresses that issue first.

Antidote for Falsehood #2:

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. . . . Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body?

– 1 Corinthians 12:12-16, NLT (emphasis added)

Antidote for Falsehood #1:

If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.

– 1 Corinthians 12:12-21, NLT (emphasis added)

You are needed. You . . . and you . . . and you . . . are needed.

Crossbeams teaches this.

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Charles Sharman, Crossbeams inventor, created a Team Build concept for several large designs.

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Last week, members of the local library’s MiniMasterminds STEM club accomplished the Crossbeams Team Build for the Saturn V (pronounced “Saturn Five”), the rocket that took us to the moon.

Each child built one of twelve modules.

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We collected the completed rocket sections . . .

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. . . and connected all twelve modules. Once the builders (and the adults who accompanied them!) realized how big the finished rocket would be, you could hear the room stirring in increasing excitement.

“Wow, do you realize how huge this thing is going to be?!”

“I told you this was going to be really cool!”

“This is gonna be taller than I am!”

“Taller than the tallest person here!”

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The end result was seven and a half feet tall.

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It takes the fastest Crossbeams builder about two and a half hours to build the Saturn V by himself. But in this Team Build, twelve beginners who had never seen Crossbeams before finished it in 75 minutes.

Discussion questions concluded the event. Some were:

Q: How can beginners beat the fastest Crossbeams builder?

“We all did it together!”

Q: How did your own part look compared the completed rocket?

“Mine was pretty big, and looked pretty cool, but it was way cooler to see the full rocket at the end.”

Q: How important was your part in building the rocket?

“Very important. . . . The rocket wouldn’t have worked without every part.”

Team Builds by Crossbeams, made by a company named after the Golden Rule, emphasize teamwork, the importance of everyone, and a well-engineered end-product everyone can be proud of.

———-

For further reading:

The Crossbeams Team Build Concept (includes Team Builds Instructor’s Guide)

Seven:Twelve Engineering, the company behind Crossbeams

A summary of a previous Team Build event: Eiffel Tower (includes video)

The Story Behind Crossbeams

What sets Crossbeams apart?

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Photo credits for the Saturn V Team Build event: Pikes Peak Library District, Rockrimmon Branch

Book Review (sort of): Wild in the Hollow, by Amber C. Haines

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I don’t know if it’s because Amber C. Haines is a poet, or because reading this book is a little like breaking open a pomegranate and exposing ripe seeds clustered in their hollows, the red of their juices lingering as stains on your fingers after you bring out the fruit—but this memoir, Wild in the Hollow, calls for something other than the typical way I do a book review. Instead, I’m sharing twelve found poems taken from Amber’s words (including page references to the book).

What is a found poem? The Academy of American Poets defines it:

Found poems take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems. The literary equivalent of a collage, found poetry is often made from newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, or even other poems.

A pure found poem consists exclusively of outside texts: the words of the poem remain as they were found, with few additions or omissions. Decisions of form, such as where to break a line, are left to the poet.

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1. From pages 49-51:
It didn’t take me long to see how different I was in the church

So tidy and clean
the church so aware of how it looked.

No one talked about brokenness. I did my best
to look good enough for the keeping, but—

How broken I was. How I didn’t fit. It seemed the rest
of the church had healed up good. Either that

or no one knew how to grieve
the stories, the rumbles of despair. Most days I thought

I would drown. Fresh in the memory of wild back roads
I walked in and asked, “Will you love me now?”

—–

2. From page 54:
My mamaw

She rocked in her chair.
She told me secrets. We became
so close in our brokenness, spoke
in secret language before she slipped away
into her real life. Her confessions
unified us, her perfect love for me
cast out fear.

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3. From page 54:
So much hammered doctrine

was an effort to control,
to harness the Holy Spirit so we could feel
better about ourselves—
a measuring stick superimposed into
the very hand of God.

—–

4. From page 56:
What is Scripture?

What is Scripture if
it doesn’t pour in,
transform,
and then
flow out from the depths,
especially
as love?

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5. From page 57:
I wish I had known

The depravity of man is only
the realization of the hollow,
the need. Depravity
should only imply that we
can be filled
with God.

—–

6. From page 58:
Mercy

Isn’t it sometimes
God’s mercy
that we crash?

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7. From page 111:
Friendship Beginning

a long, silent pause
like an orchestra
before the music begins

like a cellist holding position
with the bow hovering
just above the strings

—–

8. From page 141:
A Word of Truth

Do not forget
that the Spirit of God
indwells you.

And just like that,
the ash blew over, and I began
to burn.

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9. From page 173:
Repentance

a sorrow
a recognized need
a change of mind, the turning point
a place of release
a place to go

—–

10. From page 173:
After Repentance

obedience
moving forward
into righteousness, peace, joy
propelling the kingdom of God

—–

11. From page 186:
Good News

Isn’t brokenness
the fertile ground for the seed
of hope? We are weak ones, but
this is not bad news.

—–

12. From page 197:
In this one moment

I have seen my children
run naked and wild. I have seen them
without a drop of shame.

Book Review: Dancing Priest, by Glynn Young

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I find greatest satisfaction in a novel when it inspires me with admirable (but not flawless) characters, and when it makes an internal connection. As author John Green has been quoted,”Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.” Glynn Young’s Dancing Priest wins on both counts—and this novel was so riveting that it kept me up way past bedtime. Immersed in its multiple layers that reach into the histories and current lives of Michael Kent, Sarah Hughes, the people who are and become part of their lives, and the geographical settings of Edinburgh, London, Athens, San Francisco, L.A., and Santa Barbara, I couldn’t put the book down.

The story of Michael Kent—student at Edinburgh, Olympic cyclist, then Anglican priest assigned to a San Francisco church—shows, unadorned, his steadfastness, integrity, and seemingly foolish love toward others. All this comes through without hiding or sanitizing his struggles. If you carry an enthusiasm for cycling, you will especially appreciate this book. But, cycling fan or not, you may find that Michael Kent’s life in Dancing Priest feels a bit like a cycling race: fast pace, determination, struggle, exhilaration, team dynamics, defeat, victory, gratification at crossing the finish line. This story challenged me to persevere in pain, love those who are against me, extend a hand to others in distress, practice art and exercise any God-given abilities, and deepen relationships with those I love. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, A Light Shining.

Best of Community: When Your “Yes” Holds You Back

Positive Thoughts, Mr Glen

Several years ago a mentor told me, “Potential does not equal calling.”

“It doesn’t?” I replied, puzzled. Because if I’m not supposed to take on a new task, why did God give me the ability? Why all these golden opportunities if I’m just supposed to say no?

She then gave Jesus as an example . . .

——–

This week marks the last week for many editors at The High Calling. Many thanks to them for their excellent work in making community and connections over the years. I am honored that they chose one of my articles as part of their “Best of Community” highlights. Read the full article at The High Calling: When Your “Yes” Holds You Back.

Photo credit: Glen Scott, via Flickr Creative Commons

5 Reasons to Go to Storytime (even if you don’t have children)

Preschool Storytime at Tully

The librarians did it. You could say they’re the reason I became a writer. Every Friday morning at 10:30, I took my infant son to the Rockrimmon library for storytime. The sweet red-headed Laura was my favorite children’s librarian, but I considered them all genius-fairies who knew everything about books and children and could protect my child the rest of his life from all possible disasters and minor scrapes.

But really, they simply knew how to choose good picture books and read them out loud to half a dozen or a few dozen children and their mothers sitting cross-legged on the carpet. . . .

———-

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I’m delighted and honored to be a guest contributor for Charity Singleton Craig’s column “How to Bring Words to Life.” Please continue reading How to Bring Words to Life: 5 Reasons to Go Storytime (even if you don’t have children). Hope to see you there!

Photo credit via the article at Charity Singleton Craig: How to Bring Words to Life (scroll to bottom)

Cold Shoulder / Silent Treatment

Giving the lens the cold shoulder

I know how to give the most vicious, wicked “cold shoulder” and “silent treatment” (CS/ST). I activate CS/ST when someone does something to upset me. Sometimes, the people on the receiving end are caught off guard because they have no clue why I am upset with them. This bewilderment makes CS/ST especially effective in its caustic damage. Also, CS/ST makes me feel powerful. I indulge in a crazed, cruel pleasure in hurting people.

The above paragraph is a confession. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed” (James 5:16). I’m confessing to you and every person with access to the World Wide Web how malicious I have been and still can be.

***

I have many job titles: teacher, editor, budget manager, house cleaner. Chauffeur is one of my favorite titles. I don’t consider driving my sons to their various activities a tedious chore but a pleasure. I actually like taking them to art school or the library or track practice.

“Don’t worry if practice runs late,” I tell my son. “I always have a book with me, so I’ll read in the car.” I have even dropped him off at an hour-long event and stayed there, taking advantage of a full hour of reading or writing time, instead of going home.

But in one case, I gave him 12:15 as a firm pick-up time. He misunderstood and thought I meant I’d be there at 12:15 but, as in other cases, would read a book and wait if he ran late.

Not only did I have no book, but my other son was with me, and we had other errands to run in a short time. At 12:45, after waiting and working myself up to a fuming (but silent) rage, I went into the building to get him.

He had no idea.

I activated my CS/ST at full throttle.

He tried pleasantly chatting about his time with the teachers at the event. I answered curtly: “Oh.”

We went to drop off recycles. I opened the door to get the recycles out of the trunk, and he said, “Do you want me to help?”

I pretended not to hear him and shut the car door without reply. Silent treatment. Caustic.

Next stop: Goodwill, to discard unwanted books and clothes. The same thing happened there: “Should I get out and help?” he asked.

Cold shoulder. Icy silence.

Final stop: pick up Dad after his soccer game at the park. The game was not yet over when we arrived, so the poor kid was trapped in close quarters with his mother emanating shock waves of malice. I am an expert in CS/ST tactics.

How could I have been so cruel to my own child? If he were two or three years old instead of a high school senior, he would have been traumatized and in need of counseling. Not until hours later did I explain why I was angry. Not until days later did I finally apologize and repent.

When my husband and I married, we spoke our own vows in addition to the traditional ones (for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health). One of our custom vows: “To be honest and open with one another in an attitude of love and humility.”

In other words, don’t hold grudges. Talk it through instead.

Ann Kroeker recently offered her readers 6 Questions to Ask Yourself. Question #3 is “How do I need to change?”

I need to change by shedding my CS/ST habit and the deranged satisfaction I get from the “power” it gives me. There is far more power in love and humility.

What is the opposite of Cold Shoulder? Leaning toward the person in conflict. Pressing past cruelty’s false sense of superiority and control. Asking myself, as a friend advised, “What’s really important here?” Putting the relationship before my selfishness.

What is the opposite of Silent Treatment? Quick communication about what’s bothering me. Being honest and open, with an attitude of love and humility.

God, help me to change.

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Click to tweet: There is far more power in love and humility.

For The High Calling community writing theme: Reconciliation at Work. UPDATE: This post was featured at The High Calling.

Also, don’t miss Glynn Young’s perspective on Change at The High Calling.

Photo credit: Juhan Sonin via Flickr Creative Commons