Water along the Way

Teaching this past week was hard. Today I spontaneously ended up at a women’s retreat with Rosa Marie that included a 20-minute writing workshop and an afternoon hike. Here’s a window to my soul, and the way I felt the Lord speak to me this morning.

I’ve placed puddles all around you. Walk along in the aftermath of the rain pouring into the holes in your own pores. I’m filling them up. You think you have face planted. You think that you should wallow in a muddy 3 foot circle of stagnant, dirtied water. But I let you fall into that place so that I can pick you back up out of it. So that the next puddle that comes along is not unfamiliar to you.

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A Sampling

I am reading, all the time. I try to change the environment up a little bit – the corner nook chair in my room; an eno hammock next to the creek, discreetly tucked behind the freshman dorm; my iron bench on the back quad (my name is not on it, but it is very much mine; kind of like Sheldon and his spot on the couch); the rocking chair on the porch of the Chaplain’s Office; those gloriously comfortable couches on the third floor of the library; and, for particularly dull readings, an equally boring and hard desk.

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Walking With Jessica is only half-a-year old now, but I have loved being able to share my experiences with readers. I only have one major beef with my new hobby – life keeps going, and the blogs are not being written. Playing catch up is overwhelming to me. Compared to my packed college semesters, I have exponentially more free time in these lazier August days of part-time work, fruit smoothies, books, and Charleston humidity. With an abundance of fun opportunities or the companionship of a summer page-turner, I also have less diligence. Almost daily, instead of actually sitting down and writing, I find myself thinking, “Dang it’s really been a while since I blogged.” I have experienced so many adventures and revelations this summer that I have wanted to process and tell you about. Instead I have delighted in my alarm clock-less mornings, grownup play dates, and hours of reading.
I once read that “You’re only a writer if you write every day.” Though I enjoy writing, I don’t call myself a writer – not yet, anyway. Still though, I initially disagreed with the argument. Every single day? That takes some serious diligence. And, come on, everyone needs rest. Teachers take the whole summer off, but they still call themselves teachers. I’ve realized that the quote is only wrong when taken literally. What it’s really pushing for is consistency. Writers, like athletes and musicians, must be dedicated to practicing. You have to be willing to do it even when you are not in the “mood” for it.
I already try to do this with two other disciplines: exercise and quiet time. I may not run or go to a gym class every day, but it’s rare that I’ll spend more than two or three days without physical activity. While I gain strength and feel good now, it’s also the best health insurance policy for the future. Sadly, my morning time with Jesus is not quite as regimented, but it is never altogether abandoned. Studying scripture, listening to the Lord, continually getting to know His character and unbounded love for His children – it’s always rewarding.
I want writing to be the same way. I want to improve, and that takes practice, which, logically, requires time I must carve from my life. I want to do it consistently so that I’m not guilty about missing opportunities to relay a story or lesson. Selfishly, I also want  to remember what has happened in my own life. This isn’t torture for me; writing is something I enjoy. The most I have ever written in a short time period was during the travel writing May term in Cambodia. It was a lot of time in front of the laptop, but my writing drastically improved. With daily practice and peer review, the words I wanted came faster, and I began really playing with language and rhetoric.
If you have visited this blog hoping for a new post lately, sorry to disappoint. But sigh no longer, for consistency is coming. I’m not guaranteeing a post or two every week, but I’m aiming for it. Besides, I’ve got plenty of topics. Allow me to momentarily utilize my love for lists.
Jessica’s Unwritten Blogs
  • Pillow Fight
  • Guacamole Lessons
  • Cove Creek 2013
  • Sheep
  • It’s Here! Elizabeth Ervin Website
  • Thirty Years of the Red Sash
  • $250
  • Waiting
  • Beneath Your Beautiful
  • Unbroken: Dignity
  • Mountain Biking
  • So Long, Sister
  • Internship: To Be?
  • My Secret to Productivity
I doubt they’ll all be written. Hopefully posting these topics holds me to some accountability, though. If you’re particularly curious about one, let me know, and it will have a higher likelihood of coming to Word document fruition.  Also, I leave for Italy in a little over two weeks. Eek! This I do promise – I will include you on my study abroad adventures. No half-month MIAs. Get ready. First post, “So Long, Sister” will probably be up tomorrow.

Welcome, Friends

Back in November, I went on a “Shootin’ and Stompin'” weekend jaunt to the outskirts of Southwest Virginia. Damascus may not be as well-known as its namesake in Israel, but it has its own signature heritage. Two of my friends shared their hometown in two fitting activities of the area – skeet shooting and flat-footing.

It didn’t take long to discover that I am not a good shot. Tim explained the logistics of skeet as I ventured up to the shooting range for the first time, awkwardly toting a large gun under my arm. Stand like this, turn off the safety, say “Pull” and I’ll release the pigeon. Take some time to align the gun with the skeet. Then pull the trigger.

Okay, let’s go. I got this.. yeah, in theory I totally did.

I stand, I turn the safety off. “Pull”BANG! Every time the trap released a clay pigeon, an eternity seemed to pass before I pulled the trigger. In reality, I was uncomfortable, had no experience, and shot immediately after the orange flying saucer was launched. Some people are motivated by a challenge like that. To me, hitting those moving targets in the sky seemed unconquerable. I just felt like a failure. Standing around the fire, I complained about how shooting guns and missing the target was no fun at all.

Janie rebuked me. “Jessica, you just don’t like doing something you’re not naturally good at the first time you try.”

She caught me, and she was right. A lot of people there were pretty good with guns. That night, as I eagerly hit the floor on the opening song, it took a little more courage for them to try out their dancing feet and stomp around to some live mountain music.

I tell you this story because of a truth I was reminded of. Ever since childhood, I have been afraid of failure and judgment. I hate not being good at things, and often, I would rather not try at all than feel like a fool. My perfectionism can be so inhibiting. It’s why you don’t see me playing a sport now; I never would try as a kid. Irrational as it may be, this fear is a primary reason I have never begun a blog either. Putting your writing out there for anyone to read intimidates me, and the lies begin flowing. What about my voice? I feel like it changes depending on my audience. Who is my audience? My writing won’t be good enough. I can’t do this. But I am an English major, for crying out loud. I better be able to write a little bit. I’ve got funny stories to tell, travel memoirs to remember, and God questions to mull over. They’re all different, but they’re coming from the same person, so I guess they will be from the same blog.

So thank you, Janie Foster, for calling me out on my fears and helping me set this blog up. It was a good Friday night, friend.

I am almost finished reading the first Lord of the Rings book. This quote is from it, and I think it’s a good reflection of this blogging venture I’m about to begin, as well as the constant call to step outside of comfort and share the Gospel. Blogging seems petty in comparison.

“This is the hour of the Shire-folk, when they arise from their quiet fields to shake the towers and the counsels of the Great.”

Here I go, stepping out of my Mt. Pleasant/Roanoke Shire. In the next year, I have a lot of adventures ahead of me – flights to Bermuda, Cambodia, and Italy have already been booked. A semester in DC will follow in the fall, and I don’t know how my journey will unfold after that. I am certain of this, though: it will. Life will keep on going, and I will walk with it in fullness and freedom. No matter the physical distance, I want my friends to be able to walk by my side. I’m off, venturing into unknown cyber and real-world territory. I hope you will join me.