Are your pictures worth a thousand words?

The expression “a picture is worth a thousand words” means if the picture tells the story, there is no need for words. While for some pictures this is true, I propose sometimes a photo warrants a thousand words. How about your family photos? Do you date them, identify the people in them, or describe the event that inspired it? How do you ensure those precious memories will endure?

As a young girl, I remember that every time I visited my grandmother’s house, I would pore over the basketful of family photos. I loved looking at those old pictures of my dad, uncles, and cousins. I learned the stories behind them from my grandma. Years ago, we retrieved a very old photo album from my husband’s family. It contained numerous old, black and white pictures of ancestors long passed. The problem; not one person was identified! It might as well have been a book of strangers. It was meaningless to us. This raises the question: How will future generations view your photos?

What are you doing with your priceless pictures? Are they residing on your phone? Have you downloaded them to your computer, or uploaded them to the cloud? If so, are they searchable? Maybe you’ve even printed them in a photobook. Great! If not, how will those irreplaceable family memories be preserved?

I intend for our grandchildren to know their ancestors and their stories, so my husband and I have committed to producing a family legacy book, complete with genealogies, photos, and family heritage stories. It’s our way of leaving a legacy of faith for the next generation. What records of your life stories and photos will you leave behind? I encourage you to make these pictures and the precious memories associated with them available to your loved ones. 

Your pictures represent stories that need telling—a written narrative that will last for generations to come. If you don’t have time to produce a photo book, consider writing a letter. I recently presented a workshop entitled, Family Snapshot Letter, with The Whole Story Source team. The idea was for people to select a photo and write a heartfelt letter to a person in the photo or to someone about the photo. It turned out to be an emotionally powerful event. Since then, I’ve committed to writing an accompanying letter with every special occasion card I send. You can create your own family tradition by writing legacy letters to your loved ones. These can be cherished now and discovered later by future generations!

Have you got mail?

This blog post was originally published to The Whole Story Source—Legacy Letters on May 30, 2019.

Do you like to receive mail? I do. Recently, I opened the mailbox to find what looked like a handwritten card. Unfortunately, the machine generated note invited me to learn more about prearranging my cremation! Most of us still get letters once a year at Christmastime—what are often referred to as brag letters. Before modern technology and social media, news and information from friends and family were often sent as a letter. Years later, these letters become precious keepsakes. Unfortunately, handwritten letters have nearly become obsolete.

These days, if I want to know what’s happening with my family, I have to go to their social media page. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s impersonal. And because I never developed the habit of regularly checking the site, I find it a bit frustrating when the rest of the world knows what’s happening with my kids before I do!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-technology. When text messaging became popular, I surprised my kids with how hip I was. My daughter exclaimed to her friends, “I got a text message from my mom.” It was either a pleasant surprise or a horrified response to an invasion of her privacy! Advancements in technology allow us to communicate at lightning speeds with people near and far.

Recently, my son said, “Mom, some girl in Ethiopia is trying to contact you via Facebook messaging, she says you’re her godmother.” My mind raced back to our time serving there. Yes, I was godmother to the daughter of some dear Ethiopian friends. That was nineteen years ago and Ebbisee would now be 17 years old. Her father died shortly after we left, and her mother managed to raise three kids in difficult economic circumstances. We had a great online reunion, but I really owe Ebbisee a tangible letter telling her how I remember her family and the qualities I admired about her father.

Letters can be read over and over again, savored when you sit down, or discovered again at a later date.

I like the convenience of sending a text without having to bother someone with a phone call. Or shooting a quick message to my kids. But rarely do I sign, Love Mom, anymore. At least I could do that with an email. Instead it’s all kissy face and heart icons. I may post a picture of a special family event on social media, but we need to realize that our heartfelt messages will end up buried at the bottom of numerous other posts, never to be retrieved again. Our heartfelt thoughts and precious memories need to be communicated in a more permanent form.

I’m suggesting it’s time to revive the lost art of letter writing. People tend to save letters. They can be read over and over, savored when you sit down with a cup of coffee, or discovered again at some later date. The next time you send a text, post, or email consider sending it in the form of a letter. Your recipient will be delighted!

Be sure to check out the letter-writing event on the News and Events page.

Block Buster #2: Three tips for finding time to write

What should you take time to do?

Is finding time to write your biggest obstacle to writing regular blogs, finishing that novel, or getting started on the title you have in mind? Have you announced you are going to write a book and are now embarrassed by your lack of progress? Here are some tips to try.

It happens to everybody
OK, I’m embarrassed too. Interesting that I should be writing on this topic when it’s been weeks since I wrote my last blog! First of all I’d say to both of us, “Get over it.” Let’s not allow our past performance to paralyze our future. Let’s make progress.

FCWC

I could use the excuse that I was improving my craft. Since writing Writer’s Block Buster #1 post, I attended the Florida Christian Writers Conference. It was great and I met a lot of wonderful people who were generous in sharing their knowledge. If you get a chance, you should attend a writer’s conference near you or not near you! It will fire up your creative juices or just give you a kick in the pants, which is what I need from time to time. After forgiving yourself for not writing, take a look at your schedule to see if it reflects your priorities.

Tip #1. Schedule according to priorities

What your schedule tells about your priorities
Consider your activities of the past week. Did you find time to write? If not, discover what consumes your time. For the next week, keep a log of how you spend your time. Note what activities took priority. Maybe these are more important than writing right now. Or maybe you might discover you are not doing what you want to do at all. You are in reactionary mode.

Fire in bones

What your emotions tell about your priorities
If your story is like a fire shut up in your bones and finding time to write seems impossible, you may notice you are a little grumpier than normal. If requests for your time leave you feeling resentful or even a little angry, it may be an unconscious reaction to your goals being blocked. Examine your heart and determine what you are longing to do. Then make it a priority on your schedule and guard it from interruptions. Be intentional.

Tip #2. Schedule writing zones

How do you find time in a busy schedule?
I’ll say it again, it’s about priorities—making time to do the things you love. It’s interesting all the ways we describe time as if we really had control of it: spend time, waste time, save time, take time. We can’t really make more time, but we can plan what to do with it.

Mark your calendar
Go back to your schedule. Take a typical week or month and block out three different time zones—maybe use colored highlighters. First, cross out all the regularly scheduled activities that you can’t change like your time at work, church, or regularly-scheduled meetings—indicate these as your “no” zones. Next, highlight activities that you have control over. Some of these you can choose not to do or do at another time of the day or month. Label these as your “maybe” zones and use them for writing every chance you get. Finally, look at what is discretionary time—your unplanned time—this is your “go” zones. Put these on your calendar as writing appointments with yourself that you cannot break.

Tip #3. Write at your optimal time

If you have the luxury, arrange your schedule so that you write when you are most creative. If you are a morning person, get up earlier or see if you can adjust your schedule such as moving your gym time to after work. If you are a night owl who comes to life after 8:00 pm, resist the urge to turn on the TV, surf the internet, or check Facebook. I suggest you use your less creative times for editing and rewriting. I think you get the idea.

Your turn
Please use the comments section to share what works best for you!
Write on!

Kathy

Writer’s Block Buster #1

What should you take time to do?

My last blog addressed the importance of establishing momentum to keep your writing flowing. Momentum isn’t something that can be conjured up. It comes from diligently practicing good writing habits. This is the first in a series of writer’s-block buster habits designed to get you unstuck, on track, and in the flow!

Writer’s Block Buster #1. Know your reason for writing

No doubt, you have heard people say it’s important to know your “why” for writing. Likely they mean determining whether you are writing for personal expression or writing for market trends. In this Writer’s Block Buster, I’m suggesting that our “why” goes deeper than we think. I’m talking about searching your heart to understand what inspires you to write, because knowing this will likely keep you motivated to write.

Know what inspires you to write
Recently, I was introduced to the book, Find Your Why: A practical guide for discovering purpose for you and your team, by Simon Sinek with David Mead and Peter Docker (New York, NY: Penguin Random House, LLC, 2017). While this book isn’t about writing, I think completing the seemingly simple exercise of writing your WHY STATEMENT may help you explore your purpose, and as a result, your motivations. It goes like this: TO________________SO THAT_____________. In the first blank, write your contribution to the lives of others and in the second blank, write the impact that contribution makes. Try it—it’s harder than you think! Maybe you will start with multiple statements until you see a repeating theme that will help you hone it to a single one.

Face it, it’s unlikely we will write a bestseller that will make enough money to support us for the rest of our lives. So why write? Maybe you write because you take pleasure in it or hope that in the reading of it, someone’s life might be a least briefly changed for the better. Try to articulate your motivation by writing a WHY STATEMENT for your reader. Maybe something like this: Because of your message, what do you want your reader to do that contributes in a positive way to their own life or someone else’s? By the way, it doesn’t have to be nonfiction or a self-help message to do that! Even fiction may transport someone to a place that, at least temporarily, delights or excites them.

Being convinced your reason for writing is important should be a big motivator! Also in considering your why, identify your target audience how you want to appeal to them: to uplift, educate, inform, or entertain. Maybe your reason is more personal: to express your thoughts or creativity, or leave a historical record for someone to discover in the future. Determine your writing is important and necessary and just write, write, write!

For whose glory do you write?
Sometimes we fantasize about our book being published and becoming a recognized author and sought-after speaker—to be known. Maybe even to be in the spotlight. There are many valid reasons for writing, but it is most satisfying for me is when the underlying motivation is for the glory of God.

I have noticed that as humans, we seek to answer three basic questions about ourselves: (1) Am I significant? (2) Does my life matter? and (3) Where do I belong? The Bible tells us that (1) we are significant to God and he loves as his very own child, (2) we have a purpose in life that is part of his plan, and that as people of faith, (3) we are part of God’s family and heirs to his kingdom. I find answering these questions from a biblical perspective is empowering.

Children of God

But sometimes our egos get in the way and we are tempted to want our names to be great rather than God’s. We seek to answer these questions in selfish ways. The answers might look like this: (1) our significance comes from popularity, power, or wealth, (2) our purpose is guided by self-recognition or perhaps greed, and (3) we belong to groups that are popular or powerful in order to give us identity. I suggest that when you find your true answers to these questions, you will find your why. I am always surprised that when I seek to first bring God glory, he shows up to inspire my writing!

Make it a habit!
Whatever your reason for writing, be absolutely convinced of your why and it’s impact. Make it a habit of continually reminding yourself of the importance of your writing. Then just do it and don’t be discouraged!

Write On!
Kathy

Get Your Momentum Going and Flowing

Waterfall flow

Have you got your writing momentum flowing? Are you consistent in your writing habits? What keeps you at it? There are so many good writers out there and likely, if you’re reading this, you are one of them. You’ve probably realized that writers don’t become authors by intending to write a book, or announcing they are going to write a book—it takes diligence. If you are a blog writer, all your followers know when you are MIA. How would describe your progress as a writer? If you’re like me, you might need some help.

I feel a little sheepish addressing a topic of momentum after you haven’t heard from me for a while. I was recovering from hip replacement surgery in December and illness in January. You would think I’d be itching to get back at writing, but the truth is, I’ve lost my momentum! Today, I opened the book I’m currently working on.Scrivener plugOnce again, I argued with the doubt demons and reminded myself of all the good reasons I should continue. Still uninspired, I did what I so often do—I edit what I’ve already written. How many times have I done that??? Stop that Kathy! Oh, don’t get me wrong, my writing needs editing, but it is not moving my story forward!

What keeps your momentum going? Momentum isn’t something that can be conjured up. It comes from diligently practicing good writing habits that keep you in the flow. I make the most progress when I just plow ahead even if the direction isn’t perfectly clear or my words aren’t perfectly right. If I just begin, the Holy Spirit has a chance to guide me. It’s thrilling when the words that come from my fingers surprise me. That alone should inspire me! Speaking of inspiration, in I Timothy 4:15, Paul writes to Timothy, “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.” Paul is encouraging Timothy to continue in his faith by practicing it. If you are a writer, be diligent in your writing habits so you can make progress and improve yourself as a writer. The world needs to hear from you!

What should you take time to do?Is your momentum is waning? Do you need to develop good writing habits? Watch for my next blog series called: “Writer’s Block Busters.” As you read these, I hope you will participate by responding and sharing the ideas that have worked for you. So be thinking about what you’d like to add and share it in the comments section.

I can’t wait to talk to you next time! Meanwhile: write on!

Kathy

Harnessing time to do what you love

What should you take time to do?-3

Notice how we talk about time—we spend time, waste time, save time, take time—all suggesting we have control over time!

Judging by the number of times I’ve heard people say, “I don’t have enough time,” it sounds like there is a universal shortage of it. How do we get more?

We have the talents and skills to make many things, but we can’t make more time. So, the real question is: “How do we use the time we have in the most fulfilling way?”

If you were given a month free of responsibilities how would you be spending your time?

Do what you love

If you were given a month free of responsibilities how would you be spending your time? Does your response inform what your priorities should be? Even amidst your busy daily activities, if you are not taking some time for doing what you love, you’re probably not a very happy camper. In fact, if you find you are slightly agitated on a daily basis, it may be a sign that something is blocking you from doing what you may only subconsciously believe you should be doing. Your values are trying to tell you something.

At this point in my life, I strongly desire to write down legacy information for the next generation to enjoy reading and to possibly learn from my life lessons. I know that if I’m not making time for writing in my weekly routine, every request of my time becomes an irritation. That all changes when I’m doing what I know I should be. Then I am much more flexible, accommodating, and joyful. What about you? What should you be making time for?

Harnessing time

While we cannot manufacture more time, there are at least a couple ways we might be able to better handle what we do have. I want to talk about two of these today: setting priorities and scheduling.

Practices reveal priorities

At the beginning of the day, my first priority is to turn to God. He is the only one who can control time—partly because he is outside the time-space continuum and mostly because he’s God! Notice what 1 Peter 3:8 says about God and time: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” Clearly, God has time for everyone and everything! How can we tap in?

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” 1 Peter 3:8

Ordering time

Throughout the Bible, we see God measuring things. Measurements set boundaries. For humans, time is measured by days and nights, months, years, and a lifetime. Within those boundaries, we can order our time by setting priorities—making time for what’s important. and by putting them on the calendar— taking time to do them.

Making the most of your time

Do you have tricks and strategies for making the most of your time? Do you schedule time to do the things you love? I’d like to hear them! Here are a few that work for me:

  • By rising early in the morning, I can avoid interruptions and spend time with God meditating on his Word. When I take time to make this my first priority, God seems to make up for it in other ways. For example: maybe I arrive at a solution or idea sooner rather than agonizing over it for hours. Or a client serendipitously reschedules an appointment freeing up an already packed schedule.
  • Next, I intentionally schedule doing things that I want to do. For me, it is being with grandchildren or taking time for writing or having coffee with a friend. If I have a big project I’m working on, I break it into small deadlines and try my best to meet them.
  • I make appointments with myself putting them on the calendar. I have done this with writing days. I set up a consistent day of the week to write, put it on the calendar like an appointment, and protect it from interruptions! When another invitation comes you can say, “Oh sorry, I have another appointment scheduled at that time.”
  • When up against a deadline, I used to worry myself into a migraine. Now, I use this little trick. While I’m working, I’m telling myself: “There is enough time, there is enough time.” It serves two purposes: 1. It reminds me to relax and, 2. Somehow miraculously, there is always enough time!

Living in the moment

I know that I am going to hear from my friends who are constantly reminding me to be in the moment! OK, I tend to be a planner and when something interferes with my schedule, it throws me off a little. I’m trying to be flexible! I applaud those of you who can savor every moment! Are you someone that in whatever circumstance, you find an opportunity for enjoyment and appreciation? You have something to teach me!

What are your tips and tricks for making the most of time? What are you taking time to do that you love? I want to hear from you. Leave me a comment!

Write On!
Kathy

P.S. Coming Soon: Writer’s Block Busters

Since writing is something I should be making time for, my next blog series addresses What should you take time to do?breaking through writer’s blocks (both physically and mentally). In the next few weeks, I’ll be blogging on “Eight Writer’s Block Busters.” If you have some tips that work for you, please share them in the comments area! We will all thank you! 

 

Why do you write?

LegacyThe other day my grown daughter commented, “Mom, you are always writing for someone else, why don’t you write for your family?” She proceeded to remind me about some children’s books I had started years ago when she was growing up. Since then, her words keep ringing in my ears. It got me questioning, “Why am I writing?” How about you?

Why do you write? Who do you want to read your words? It’s not an easy answer. It takes some soul searching. I pondered, “Am I seeking recognition from others?” Or to feel good about myself because I made someone else feel good?” The truth is, there are far more people that will forget who I am than those who will remember me. But to my family, I’m pretty important. Especially to my young, impressionable grandchildren! I am blessed! You are important too!

In this busy world, we strive to make a name for ourselves, to make our lives matter. While you may not know it yet, your life already matters. It matters now and for generations that will come after you. Your children’s children, and their children may want to know what you were like. They will seek to glean what they can learn from your life, your struggles, your successes, your values, your faith. They will wonder what qualities or characteristics of yours are similar to theirs. Your life, good or bad, is a great teacher.

LucyMy husband has a journal from his great grandmother, Lucy, who lived from 1878 to 1960. It is entitled: “Seventy Years of Living.” It is profoundly interesting reading about what life was like, but not nearly as interesting as the lessons we learned from her life and the characteristics I see present in her great, great grandson! We learned of a young couple who were intent on building a farm and a lifestyle. They were entrepreneur types always expanding at great financial risk. Unfortunately, they borrowed rather than saved to have the things they thought they needed. They were particularly impressed with the latest and greatest inventions of the time—like a flush toilet for example! Dean’s great uncle, the oldest of the children, complained he’d have to run upstairs and refill it with water every time anyone flushed! Funny? Not so very much. They lost the farm. But they endured and that’s the real lesson.

LucyJournalExerptOn another occasion, we were cleaning out his grandmother’s attic and discovered a gorgeous family photo album. As we looked through the obviously well-preserved document of history, nameless faces stared back. Not a single photo was named or dated. It was meaningless to us! It might as well have been a book of strangers! We passed it on to another relative who didn’t know them either. Our children will never know who from that side of the family they might resemble. Please, label your pictures! Someone will appreciate it one day.

What legacy are you leaving? What treasures of knowledge are you passing forward? Are you being intentional about making a historical record? If so, don’t leave it as a file in your computer! Who is going to search through that thing to find your treasures after you pass? Print out those stories. Never mind if you don’t have archival paper! My husband’s great grandmother Lucy’s journal was a typewritten carbon copy on cheap paper and it’s still holding up! Print it out and pass it out, that’s the way to back up your documents!

Interestingly, the end of Lucy’s journal reads: “But I will do my very best to accept whatever is to be my future, with all the cheerfulness and fortitude possible. I only ask that I may be able to keep what little mentality I have, and care for myself to the end of my days—but I will try to say—Thy will, not mine.” After living a full life having gained and lost, she concluded that was her most important lesson in life was to trust God.

I’ve determined I want to leave a legacy of faith for the next generation. I want my grandchildren, and future great grandchildren to know they have been born into not just a Christian heritage, but into a family that knows and loves God. I want them to know the faithfulness of God in providing for us, of trusting when you can’t see the reason, and our deep love for them even though we don’t know all of them yet! We want them to know we are praying it forward for them. What will future generations read about your life?

Write On!

Psalm78