Tag Archives: volunteering

Post from the Past: Still waiting on God?

I have heard people say that God spoke to them audibly. I have never known exactly what to think of that, even though I am sure that God is quite capable of doing anything He feels like doing. A few years ago, however, I had an experience that made me wonder.

I was attending chapel at my college. It was probably the first or second time I had ever been to chapel there. Even though the university had a chapel-attendance policy, I was exempt; I was a commuting student and was rarely on campus during chapel sessions. I don’t remember what the message was about that day, but I remember sitting there in my own little world talking to God. I was asking Him what He wanted for my life. Normally, we see or hear words, but this was a completely different experience. While I didn’t hear an audible voice, I felt the very distinct impression of two specific words: Serve Me.

“Impression” is the only word I can think of that even comes close what I felt. Now as to whether these words came straight from heaven, or whether they were just the culmination of everything that I already knew, I have no idea. But as I was thinking about this experience later, more and more I got the impression that I should have already known the answer. It doesn’t really matter whether God spoke directly to me, or whether I just happened to figure it out in that instant. Either way, I’m absolutely sure what God wants me to do with the rest of my life: serve Him.

Serve Him. Am I being too simplistic? I don’t think so. I guess you could just brush it off as a phrase that you have heard one too many times. Maybe it has lost its meaning to you. But if you will take a moment to consider the implications, I think you will see that those two little words offer a life-changing experience. Taken literally, they have the power to change the life of everyone who comes into contact with you. Those words, acted upon, will function as a stone tossed into the middle of a sea of souls. Whether a large stone or a small one is entirely up to you.

How do I serve Him? One obvious way we can serve Him is by serving others. “…Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:40b.

Why do I think I should have already known the answer?

Because God has already told us to serve. It is not a suggestion, but a standing order. “…but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Galatians 5:13c-14.

Because Jesus is our example. “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45.

Christ’s first miracle as a man occurred because there was a need to be met. John 2:1-11.

The question then, is how can we serve? Find a person with a need and fill it. Find an organization that helps people with needs and volunteer. No act of kindness is too small. The more spontaneous, unexpected, and undeserved it is, the greater impact it will have. If you have an abundance of time or money, start by offering these. If you don’t have either, find ways to consume less of what you do have so that you will have some left over to share with others. What do you think is more effective: knocking on doors and inviting complete strangers to church, or serving someone in the community, stranger or not, and following up with a conversation about Christ? They may even ask you why in the world you are offering your time, money, sweat, etc. This will open the door to explain how your actions are nothing compared to the love of God and the free, undeserved gift of salvation.

When can we serve? Start by cutting out as much television as you possibly can. Remember that everything in this world will be burned up, and that we could be taken off this earth at literally any moment. Get up a little earlier or go to bed a little later. Take a week or a month, and inventory how you spend your time. Try not to worry too much about loss of personal time. Time means nothing to those who have an eternity to look forward to. Any time lost to serving others and spreading the gospel will most certainly be redeemed after you are resurrected. You will be laying up treasure in heaven. Of course, you must still make time for your family: they are your responsibility, and serving them is just as important as serving others.

Do you ever feel like you can’t do anything else without direction from God? Do you feel you have been waiting for years, and you are just tired of waiting? Sometimes I fear that we Christians use “waiting on God” as an excuse. He has already given us direction for our lives. Why do we think we need to wait for a personal word from God, in addition to what He has given us in His Word? Are we waiting for Him to drop an opportunity into our laps? Are we waiting to be the leader of a ministry? Our own ministry? That’s our first mistake. Ministry is about everyone except us. Sometimes, we don’t recognize God’s will because it doesn’t line up with our own will. He wants us working, not sitting around waiting for Him to knock us over the head with an answer that we approve of. I’m not suggesting that we stop waiting on the Lord. He commands us to do that as well. I’m merely suggesting that we do both – obey His commandments, and wait, expecting Him to lead us to the next step.

Challenge: Still waiting on God? All well and good. But in the meantime, obey the call to service.

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Acting Prompts

This post is in response to all of the folks who have landed on my page by searching for acting prompts. First of all, a confession: If you’ve never visited my blog before, you need to know that I am a writer, not an actress. However, when I was younger, I bought a book of acting prompts for the sole purpose of using them and applying what I learned to my writing sessions. I have created dozens of creative writing prompts on this site, and I have suggested that many of them can be used as acting prompts as well. Maybe, maybe not. Like I said, I’m not an actress, so I don’t really know what acting prompts are supposed to be like. (The book I owned of acting prompts is long gone, and I don’t remember a single thing from it.) So why don’t you all let me know? Are these any good for acting prompts? Here are the ones that I think might work (borrowed from my prompt disguised series):

Number 1

ActorsIf you have a work-in-progress: take on the role of your main character, and have a conversation with a friend or an unsuspecting stranger 😉

Take on the viewpoints and attitudes of your character. It would be best to try to get into some sort of discussion in which you do not agree so that your character can defend his position, thus revealing his personality and motivations more fully.

If you don’t have a WIP, then invent a personality or base one on a character from a movie, TV show, or book. The point is, step outside of yourself and become someone else.

Number 2

Take a walk, but pretend you are anywhere but where you are or anyone but whom you are. Try to see your town or neighborhood through fresh eyes, as your character would see it. Try to think your character’s thoughts as you go along. You might notice something you never have before, or find a fascinating new twist for your WIP.

Again, if you don’t have a WIP, then imagine yourself to be any person or character you can come up with.

I tried this once on my son when he was young. We were walking, and he became very tired. So I told him to pretend he had to get medicine to someone who was very sick and waiting for him to arrive. It seems silly, but it gave him the courage to keep walking until we got home.

Number 3

Go somewhere you wouldn’t normally go. Transportation museum? Antique mall? Local baseball game? Think of something that’s out of character for you. Find some inspiration for a story or put a character from your WIP into the setting you just visited.

If you use this as an acting prompt: while you aren’t actually doing any acting, I think it’s important to go places and do things that might be out of character for you, as it broadens your horizons and allows you to think in ways that might be important to the personality you are trying to portray.

Number 4

Remember pretending? It’s that fun thing we did when we were kids. See if you can conjure up a little anxiety or fear as you walk. Is someone following you? What about a ferocious bear (if you’re in the woods)? Or imagine that you are on a mission that you must accomplish at all odds. If you don’t find that information you’re looking for, the whole world is going to suffer! Or maybe you are on your way to meet your favorite person, but you aren’t sure they’re going to show up. What kinds of things can you drum through your brain as you take step after step?

Number 5

Here’s one that I think will be really fun for you. And not only will you be inspiring your muse, but you will also be relieving some guilt at the same time. I’m talking about that guilt that comes along when you’re spending time writing instead of playing with your kids. Are you familiar with it? Well, check this out:

Take a half hour to an hour out of your busy writing schedule to inspire a new character in your story. Only instead of staring at the wall trying to come up with ideas, let your kids do the work. Tell them you want to play a story with them, and ask them how they want it to go, and who they want you to pretend to be. While playing with them, follow all of their leads, no matter how crazy or unbelievable, and just see where their imagination takes you. When nap-time rolls around, spend a few minutes jotting down the ideas that you just gleaned from playing a round of make-believe!

Number 6

Research something you know absolutely nothing about. (For instance, quantum physics has some interesting theories.) Pick up a magazine that you would never have considered buying, and flip through it for inspiration.

I always thought it would be cool to build a science fiction story off of a Popular Science article, for instance. I also know nothing about horses. I wonder what kind of inspiration I could glean from  Equestrian? Or a magazine about outdoor survival? Visit your local library or newsstand, and see where your imagination takes you!

Again, if you use this one as an acting prompt, you can get inside the head of your intended character by reading and learning about the things that interest him.

Number 7

Go to a thrift shop and purchase an outfit, or borrow something from a friend that’s totally out of character for you. Complete the ensemble with accessories and attitudes that complement what you’re wearing. Now, go hang out in places that would attract your alter ego, and test out your new duds. Do people treat you differently? Do you treat them differently or feel any different? Now find a quiet place to relax and write about your experience. Apply it to a character in one of your stories. Actually, you could begin the whole exercise with a specific protagonist/antagonist in mind. Just remember to stay in character as much as possible throughout your little expedition.

Number 8

Mute the television. Based on people’s gestures, make up plots and conversations. (My husband and I do this anyways to avoid contrived stressful scenes while watching reality television shows, such as American Chopper.) Then write about the scenario you created.

PS: Be prepared to laugh a lot!

Number 9

Begin a conversation with the next woman you meet. Be it in line at the grocery store, someone you bump into at the park, etc. Write a story based on what little you learn about her life. Try to remain true to her personality, instead of merely plunking yourself into her situation. If you have a WIP, how would your main character interact with this stranger?

Ok, sorry, but this one involves writing, even if you are using it as an acting prompt.

Number 10

Watch a documentary or a foreign film that you have absolutely no interest in. Give it at least 20 minutes of your life, and see if you can’t learn something new. If interest picks up, watch the whole thing, and expand your horizons a bit! Alternatively, you could watch a movie dealing with a new topic or one that takes place in a different culture, even if the movie itself is American-made.

Use this in the same way you would numbers 3 and 6.

Number 11

Explore ways to volunteer in your area; then choose an opportunity, and spend an afternoon helping out somewhere. Not only will it encourage a caring attitude, and facilitate your development into a better citizen, but it may very well spark a story idea or two. How? Well, you’ll be working with new people, many of whom will show up to help for entirely different reasons – community service, involvement in an organization, a former recipient of the service being provided, etc. They all have a story to tell. And if you are lucky enough to meet the people you are ministering to, even better! On top of all that, you’ll be dropped into the middle of new scenery, new dynamic relationships, and new ways of thinking. Give it a try – even if no stories are forthcoming, you’ll be glad you did!

Use this one for the same purpose as 3, 6, and 10.

Feedback? Are these helpful at all? I’m a bit out of my element here.

 

Serving Others While Waiting on the Lord

God’s Will For Your Life

I remember asking the Lord once, “God, what is it that I should be doing with my life?” I had images of using my unique set of skills to serve Him. Perhaps a ministry that would be truly mine because I was the only one who could do it in just such-and-such a way. Do you know what He answered back to me? Two words, soft and undeniable, settled onto my heart: “Serve Me.” Wow, was I ever falling short.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this moment in my life. It was the first time that God had ever spoken to me directly. (I think because it was the first time I had ever asked Him a direct question…) It certainly changed my way of thinking. Until that point, I had known lots of Christians who were waiting to serve because they were waiting for the right doors to open up for them. They knew what they wanted to do with their lives, but didn’t know how to get from point A to point B. The fact is, we aren’t always called to do what we want. And when we are, we need to take baby steps before landing in a full-blown ministry.

But I need to find something that I can be good at…

Perhaps you are a music director in your community. However, there’s no opening for a choir director at your church, so you can’t find a way to serve. Well, I believe that’s a very limited way of thinking. A problem with some Christians today is that they aren’t looking to serve; they are looking for an easy way to feel good about themselves. Or worse yet, they want to be recognized for their service, like a true Pharisee.

Were you born to lead?

Maybe you are a born leader, but we need to learn to follow before we can learn to lead. Have any of you ever had a manager that didn’t understand your position? Perhaps they had been hired directly out of college and thought they knew everything about everything when in fact they knew nothing because they had never been in your situation? It is impossible to understand true leadership until you have spent some time following.

History Lesson

Here’s a short story from my own life. The last thing I ever wanted to do was accompany. I’ve always said how much I hated it! I did it for a while in college, because it paid. When it came time to accompany the students in their sophomore recitals at our local community college, I was so nervous I wanted to bolt. I actually remember thinking, as I sat at the piano bench, “What are the absolute worst consequences if I just get up and leave right now?” I decided I would never be able to show my face there again, so I stayed.

However, I now accompany the congregation every week during church. And until I found a church of my own, I served others by playing in churches when their pianists were unavailable. It wasn’t easy at first, but it was something I could do while waiting to know what God wanted for my life. And now, the truly funny thing is that I actually enjoy it. Anyone can vacuum or pick up trash on the streets. The idea is to do something while waiting to find your niche.

Challenge yourself today.

Are you doing anything for God? Is your neighbor, who never graduated from high school and who volunteers at the church by cleaning toilets once a week, pleasing God more than you are?

Note: This post is directly tied to Still Waiting on God? and Not Real Good with Words, so if you want to dig deeper into the topic, click through to read more.

Homeschool Empty Nest Part 2

It’s been almost a year since I posted about empty nesting, but I just had another idea today, and thought I would update. I think that volunteering for your local Chamber of Commerce would be a great way to stay busy and benefit your community at the same time. I truly enjoy helping them out, and I get to meet lots of fantastic people and get in on some great events. Our local chamber could always use volunteers, and you can even serve on our committees without being a member. Of course, if you *do* have your own business, and you aren’t a member of your local chamber, you have no idea what you could be missing out on. Personally, I was blown away when I discovered all of the benefits of joining. I guess it’s probably different in every town, but you should probably look into it, if you haven’t already. Happy Homeschooling!

A prompt disguised as volunteering…

Explore ways to volunteer in your area; then choose an opportunity, and spend an afternoon helping out somewhere. Not only does it encourage a helpful attitude, and help you grow into a better citizen, but it may very well spark a story idea or two. How? Well, you’ll be working with new people, many of whom will show up to help for entirely different reasons – community service, involvement in an organization, a former recipient of the service being provided, etc. They all have a story to tell. And if you are lucky enough to meet the people you are helping out, even better! On top of all that, you’ll be dropped into the middle of new scenery, new dynamic relationships, and new ways of thinking. Give it a try – even if no stories are forthcoming, you’ll be glad you did!

Homeschool Empty Nest

Now what?

The other day, someone hit my blog by searching “homeschool empty nest.” I can’t say that I have any personal experience with this (my homeschooled son is only seven), but my heart went out to this searcher, and I thought I would brainstorm some things to help.

I do know a few people who have homeschooled their children, who are now empty nesters. My mother, for instance. Her life has always been all about her children. What does she do when they leave home? Why, she makes her life all about her grandchildren, of course! This week, she has been spending the evenings and nights with my brother and his family, and the days with my sister, who is a brand-new mother herself. She lives with my other sister and her family, and she will be visiting our home later this afternoon. She is very involved in the lives and happiness of her grandchildren, and you can tell how much they love her for it!

Another empty nester I know has opened a bowling alley. I can only assume that she had dreams of doing so before, but she has now found the time as well. Do you have any dreams of owning your own business? Perhaps now is the time!

Some homeschool moms have gone on to teach in private schools. This is something that I am seriously considering for myself. Others go to college and learn a new skill, or begin a new career.

What if you don’t have grandchildren yet? Or what if you wish to remain a keeper at home? What do you do with all of that free time?

I know what I would do: write like crazy! Homeschool moms everywhere could benefit from your knowledge and experience. You’ve already been there and know what the rest of us are facing. You could help us answer questions about routine, curriculum, and college.

If you don’t particularly enjoy writing, perhaps you could think back to your youth. What hobbies and projects did you enjoy as a child? A teenager? A young adult? Perhaps you could get started in photography or refinishing furniture.

What about volunteering? Nursing homes are lonely places and can always benefit from a happy face. What are you good at? Is there anyone who would benefit from your services?

Perhaps you could stay involved with a homeschool coop, and teach Spanish, creative writing, or advanced math. Or maybe they just need someone who will be content to entertain the littles while other classes are meeting.

At any rate, set some goals for yourself, and try to meet them. Where do you want to be in 5 years? 10?

Anyway, these are just a few ideas off the top of my head. Feel free to add your own ideas! If there’s an empty nester out there, please let us know what you did to keep your sanity!

 

Thanks to Grace and Space!

Earlier this month, much earlier (17 days ago), I received the Versatile Blogger Award from Sheila over at Grace and Space. I have been following her blog since reading this post way back in September. Her blog is like a breath of fresh air, and I have enjoyed many a relaxing morning reading her posts. Thank you, Sheila, for your nomination and also for your lovely blog!

As one of the recipients, it is my job to tell you seven things about myself that you perhaps do not know. In addition, I am supposed to nominate new reciepients of the award. Well, I will begin with the nominations:

1. Becoming Martha. This wonderful blog just so happens to be hosted by my brother-in-law’s sister-in-law! It is a great place to find DIY stuff for your kids’ rooms and other great projects. You will not believe the quality of this site. Jen gives us great ideas, and awesome tutorials complete with fabulous pictures. And I’m not just giving you my inflated opinion. The numbers speak for themselves. She has hundreds of followers, and has had over 100,000 page views. Considering that her blog will only be six months old tomorrow, I’m sure you can see why I’m so excited to tell you all about her!

2. Until the Day Dawn. Kimbery inspires me so very much, and I find that the more I read from her, the more I agree with her. Her blog covers just about everything the Christian woman needs. She talks about marriage, children, faith, and homeschooling. She also writes some really nice reviews to keep us abreast of some of the greatest new Christian products on the market. On top of that, she has written several fantastic books herself; they are available on her blog. Check her out – you will love her!

Sorry for the short list. I read a lot of blogs, but don’t want to recommend any that I don’t just absolutely adore!

Of course, I am still reading the blogs I nominated back in October. They are still some of my favorites, so check them out if you have the chance!

Now, for the little-known stuff about me:

1. I love, love, love my homeschool choir. If my employer suddenly ran out of money, I’d beg her to allow me to teach for free! This past semester has been one of the best, and I’m really looking forward to working on new music in January! This has been one of the most balanced classes I’ve ever taught, with 6 young men and 6 young women, and everyone pulling their own weight. Of course, I love my littles too, but my heart is really with the high school choir.

2. Someday, I want to travel the world. Slowly. Maybe spend a year in each country that we decide to visit. But I don’t want to take an extended vacation; I want to actually live in the countries that I visit. Work where the common people work, develop hobbies based on the culture of the place, eat their food, listen to their music, etc. I’d like to actually live on the income that I would make in any given place. Thankfully, my husband agrees that it would be fun, so maybe – someday?

3. I think about eternity a lot. I think about it every time I have to dust or get a hangnail or pick up a hairball (because the day will come when I will no longer have to deal with these things). I think about it when someone hurts my feelings or when I hurt someone else’s (because the day will come when we will understand each other, and we won’t be affected by sin). I think of it every time I meet new Christians or wonder whether someone knows Christ (because we will be together forever and get to know one another more).

4. I am my own worst enemy. I have so many things that I would like to accomplish in my life, but I have trouble finding the motivation to get anything done. Thankfully, I don’t have a problem homeschooling or going to the studio to teach, but anything optional becomes very difficult for me. Sometimes, I will spend an entire month being driven, only to burn myself out, spending the next month doing practically nothing with my life.

5. Someday, I’d like to find the time to volunteer for a hospice organization. Maybe once Ian is a more independent learner and can stay home by himself. I’d like to be there for people at the ends of their lives, to give them someone to talk to about their life experiences or anything else that may be on their minds as they approach that final frontier.

6. I’d like to learn another language. Can you see how this is beginning to turn into a list of New Year’s Resolutions? I can see that I’m wracking my brain too close to January 1st.

7. I’m beginning to wonder how long this body is going to hold out. We are trying so hard to get out of debt, but without any insurance, I wonder how we will handle future medical bills? Or should I just forego doctors and meet our Creator sooner rather than later? So my plan for now, while I am still relatively healthy, is to eat as properly as I can and begin to exercise to stay as healthy for as long as possible.