What Infertility has Taught Us

 

The Lord, in his wisdom and goodness, gives each and every one of us tailor made struggles to help us grown in holiness. Infertility is one of those struggles for me and several women I know. Even women who are able to have children struggle with not getting to have as many as they like, miscarriages, and difficult pregnancies. Our goal is not happiness, it’s holiness in our individual circumstances.

One of the other ladies in my church who struggles with infertility approached me with the idea of writing down lessons she’d learned through this very personal and private trial. I offered to share what she had to say on my blog in the hopes of encouraging others. From that sprang the idea of adding my own lessons and that of another woman I know in another church who also deals with this.

Here are 15 things that the Lord has taught us:

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Leslie Stice

1. I am not in control. I know this seems obvious but I have friends who are teachers and can plan to have all their children in the summer time when they are already off. I get frustrated when I can’t do the same and I have to remind myself of who is in control. I know I’m ultimately mad at God for the situation I’m in and I don’t like that. I think my plans are the best when in fact God knows what is best for me. “A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9  

I know God’s plan for my life is better because “… all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

2. Our ultimate call to life is not to get married, get a 3 bedroom 2 bath home, and have kids. You can be blessed with those things in this life but Psalm 1 describes a blessed man in this way, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.” Our ultimate calling is to love and serve God in this life. We are to strive to be more Christ-like and to “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” Colossians 3:2.

It might feel as though you aren’t as blessed when you don’t have a spouse or kids. It doesn’t make you any less of a person if you aren’t married or don’t have kids. Some people make it seem like there’s something wrong with you if you aren’t married or don’t have kids and they try make things “right” for you. I feel sorry for Hannah because she was provoked by Peninnah for years.

The Bible doesn’t talk less about women who were barren nor does it say that they are being punished in some way. When these feelings come about or people say things that make me feel like there’s something wrong with me, I remind myself of the truth.

3. My sin and discontentment not only affects me but also my husband and vice versa. We both want kids so it’s a struggle for both of us to not have any. We don’t like seeing each other sad or disappointed and sometimes we feel like we failed each other. We have to remind ourselves of number 1 and 2 and realize that discontentment can sneak up in any season of your life.

4. A blessing of not having kids is that my husband and I can serve our church in ways we couldn’t if we had kids. We are trying to use this time to serve our church more.

5. Finally, God uses the trials of this life to bring us to our knees. He wants us to pray. I pray that God will be merciful to me and forgive me of my unbelief. James says it well, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” James 1:2-8

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Abby Jones

1. Idol Factory: I can make an idol out of anything, even something good like having children. It’s easy to look at others who have what you’ve always dreamed of having, and create a scenario in your mind of ultimate happiness: I’d just be happy if I had kids.

You build up this chief goal and the next thing you know, it’s your god. This leads to bitterness and discontentedness because your god isn’t meeting your desires.

Infertility has caused me to wrestle with worshiping other gods and put me on my guard. Even good and right blessings can be turned into idols if we don’t protect ourselves with truth.

2. God’s Goodness: Infertility has forced me to deal with the issue of God’s goodness. Do I trust God is good? Do I trust God is good when I don’t have children? Do I trust God is good when others have multiple children and seem so fertile and I don’t and I’m not? Do I trust God when I get asked again about having children both by people I know and perfect strangers? Do I believe God is good when empirical data suggests otherwise? See 8.

3. Hope: Does my salvation and standing before God depend on having children? No. Am I outside the Kingdom in my childlessness? No. In heaven we won’t even be married! Am I outside God’s will for my life? No.

See, God never promised me anything but to make me more like Christ and all the blessings that entails. Has God used infertility to bring me closer to him? Yes. Has he used it to loosen my death-grip on this earth? Yes. My hope isn’t in having children. It’s in Christ’s death and resurrection. Even if I was to have children, they wouldn’t be my hope.

The Lord helped me push past that dream and cling ever more to him: my true hope. He kept his promise to use everything for my good.

4. Contentment: Infertility could breed bitterness, or by God’s grace contentment. After many tears, many prayers, and much thought, God gave me a certain amount of contentedness in this area. This was a hard, long battle.

He used my infertility to crush idols, challenge my trust in his goodness, turned my eyes to heaven, and in all that he has given me peace. This in turn has produced:

5. Tenderness: I know what it is to want something with an inexpressible desire. I know what it is to have to set a good dream at Jesus’ feet and trust that its lack of fulfillment is good for me. I know what it is to go to another baby shower, or congratulate another woman on her pregnancy, while trying to hold back the tears. I know the “bitter watches of the night”, the discouragement, sense of failure, and even disgrace. All of this makes me gentler with the struggles of others. You never know the fight someone is engaged in, so you go gently. You talk softly. You watch your words. Infertility has taught me tenderness.

 

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Paige Giarrizzo

1. Christ is My All in All. Infertility is teaching me that Christ is My All in All. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is all I need. Infertility is teaching me that Christ is my only hope, my only strength, my only joy. He is the giver of life, the opener and closer of the womb. Apart from Him, there is nothing. Before infertility, I knew this in my mind but through infertility, God has continually brought me back to Himself. I’m learning He is all I need. His grace is sufficient. When I suffer, I know that Jesus suffered more intensely than I ever will. When I’m lonely, I know that He, the incarnate God, has experienced loneliness greater than I will ever know. Hebrews 4:14 tells us that Christ sympathizes with our every weakness and we can call on Him in our time of need. I’m so thankful for that truth, because infertility has taught me that I am completely reliant on Him for everything.

2. I Need the Church. Infertility is teaching me that I need the local church. Where would I be without the body of Christ? Throughout this infertility journey, Christ is teaching me to truly love His bride. I have been overwhelmed by the love of others who have come alongside me with encouragement, fervent prayer, help, and exhortation. I’ve had people who I don’t know that well tell me that they are praying for us regularly. I’ve even been surprised to find out that dear brothers and sisters in other churches in other states are also remembering us in their prayers. What a blessing this has been! The church has comforted me as they have been comforted. The church has mourned with me as I mourn, with literal tears and weeping, and they have also rejoiced with me as I have rejoiced. My friendships have deepened, my love for Christ has been strengthened, and God has used me to encourage others as I have been encouraged.

3. It’s Not About Me. Infertility is teaching me that it’s not about me. Growing up, I dreamed only of two things: getting married and being a mother. Like many children do, my sister and I used to love to play house. As the older sister, I was always the mother, of course; my sister was the father, much to her chagrin. And we always had lots of children. As a high school student on career “dress up” day, I dressed up like a mother. (Well actually I dressed up like Santa Clause to be funny, but I reasoned that Santa and a mother were pretty much the same thing!) The plan seemed simple. Find a spouse. Have kids. Easy. David and I met in high school and were married in our earlier twenties. The plan was coming together nicely. But God. He had other plans. It wasn’t long into our marriage until we realized things were not going quite as planned. I literally thought we would get pregnant the first month we officially “tried.” But the months turned into years, and our plans, we felt, were crumbling before us.  Through this time we are learning over and over again that it is not about us. We have celebrated many new babies over these years, but never our own. And we are learning, it’s not about us. We are learning to die to self, to rejoice with others, to seek Christ above all. His ways are higher than our ways and the secret things belong to Him. It’s not about me. It’s about Him.

4. Gratitude. Infertility is teaching me to be grateful for what God has given me. We so often focus on the things God is withholding, rather than on the good gifts God has already given. Infertility is teaching me to count my blessings. I am thankful God called me at a young age to follow Him, sparing me years of heartache and searching. I am thankful for God’s gift of a godly husband and a beautiful 10+ year marriage. I am thankful for a wonderful church with a plurality of elders who seek to follow God’s Word. I am thankful for many friends and family members who are in Christ and stand beside me in joy and in pain. I am learning to be grateful, even for the seemingly small gifts God has given. He is showing me that everything I have is because of Him and nothing I have is my own.

5. Vulnerability. Infertility is teaching me vulnerability. I have always had a difficult time developing deeper connections with others and had attributed this to “shyness” or my lack of conversational skills. My circle of friends was very small and I rarely took the time to develop significant relationships outside of this circle, not because I didn’t want to get to know others but because I didn’t want others to get to know me. My insecurities, thoughts, and feelings would be too exposed with too many. However, infertility is teaching me that I’m not the only one with insecurities, heartache, despair, loneliness, joys, and struggles. As I am learning to be more open with others, to share details about my life and what God is doing in these details, I am getting to know many others who experience the same things I experience and who enjoy talking to someone who can relate. Infertility is teaching me to let down my defenses, to show others who I really am, and in turn to develop deeper, meaningful relationships in Christ.

2 cor 4.16-18

Infertility is a pain you carry around for many years. It affects both spouses. It can make you feel on the outside of life looking in. But, God has used it mightily to bless and sanctify me and these two dear sisters. We hope that by sharing basically the same things in so many different words, we can be an encouragement to other couples, to those who are single, to those who are lonely. God is good. He can be trusted. He keeps his word.


Being a Childless Wife

Happy Mother’s Day (A Happy and Sad Article)


 

World-Building Wonders – Unborns in the Metaphysical World

I participated in a Friday Series on World-building. Here’s your peek behind the curtain of my world.

Write Inside Out

Welcome to another installment of World-Building Wonders! Find a Friday escape into an author’s awesome world — and worldview! Today’s featured author is Abby Jones.

What if? What if aborted children lived on somewhere else? What if they got to experience life in a different world? These are the questions that inspired my world-building.

There is nothing more heart wrenching to me than the idea of abortion. Millions of children who never get to experience all the joys of life. Millions of children who never get to find out who they are, have friends, play, laugh, struggle, stand, endure, fight, love, or have children of their own.

This is the driving force of my world-building. I created a place where aborted kids are given a chance to live. Now, granted, the world I made for them isn’t the nicest place at the moment because conflict is necessary, but…

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Christ’s Victory On Behalf Of My Grandmother

My husband’s Grandmother passed away this week at 101. I’m so blessed to have known her. She was the sweetest woman in the world and always so happy to see us all. For the last few years of her life all she’s wanted is to go home to be with the Lord. That prayer was answered this week. My husband wrote a few thoughts and I thought I’d share them with y’all:

Rod Of Iron

My Grandmother died at 101 just the other night. She died in her sleep, as my Dad hoped she would.

She was a sweet woman who loved her family. Her greatest joy  in life was her children and her husband. Anyone who spent a few minutes with her would realize this quickly. She spoke about them, she remembered them even at 101.

She was, most importantly, a precious disciple of Christ. Her faith never waivered. She was true to the end. It was evident in the way she spoke that she did not fear death, but understood the Teaching. Jesus Christ has conquered Death. This life is not our home. The Father has prepared a mansion for his children. As with every believer, this is my Grandmother’s truest legacy. My Grandmother’s confession was simple, but most profound – “I want to go home.”

The meaning behind these words is where…

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Interview: Chaplain’s Wife Rhonda Joyner (Part 2)

Last month I posted Part 1 of Rhonda Joyner’s interview. Rhonda is the wife of Patrick, ARBCA’s Chaplain to the Navy. In part 2 we get learn more specifics about the life of a Chaplain wife, tours, future plans, persecution, and how ARBCA works to support them. Again, if you have any questions you’d like to ask Rhonda please comment below or on my FaceBook page. I will be finishing up with her in one more short interview probably after Christmas.


 

Rhonda Joyner

Rhonda Joyner

3) You use the term tour a lot, can you explain what that means for us civilians and how long a tour is?

Well, the term ‘tour’ is an old military term. It means several things. When someone says they served 3 tours in Iraq, that means they deployed there 3 times. When I say our next tour is in Texas, that means that’s our next duty station, and our whole family will move there.

For the Navy, you usually rotate back and forth between ‘sea duty’ and ‘shore duty’. This means the Marine or Sailor changes jobs every 2-3 years. This will involve moving to a different base, usually. Some bases are large enough to change jobs (billets or duty station) and stay at the same base. Sea duty is typically 2 years long (2 ½ years with marines) and means that the sailor is operational and can or will deploy (with Marines or on a ship/submarine). Shore duty is typically 3 years long and you would be in a non-operational billet. You might volunteer to deploy, but you would not expect to deploy on shore duty.

In Patrick’s case, he has had only 1 shore duty in his career, as most of the Marine billets are operational. (The Navy provides chaplains for the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.) A non-operational chaplain billet would often involve preaching at the base chapel or serving at the hospital or a training command like boot camp. When a Navy chaplain is in an operational billet, he goes where his unit goes. So a chaplain to the Marines, like Patrick, deploys with ‘his’ Marines, trains with ‘his’ Marines, stands duty, goes where they go and physically trains the same way. (65 pushups, 85 sit-ups, each event under 2 minutes, and a 1.5 mile run under 9 ½ min.) When we began this interview, he was serving with 2nd Marine Infantry Regiment here at Camp Lejuene. Patrick was promoted in September to Navy Commander, which is the equivalent to Lt. Colonel in the Marines. At that time he moved to 10th Marine Artillery Regiment here at Camp Lejeune. This was an example of changing billets (jobs) while still at the same base. This regiment has 2 battalions of about 1200 Marines. Patrick supervises, mentors, and provides support for the battalion chaplains, while counseling and ministering to his own regimental headquarters ‘flock’ of about 500 Marines and Sailors of all ranks. He just returned from 2 weeks out in the field on artillery and training exercises, in tents with MREs. (Meals Ready to Eat…yum…not)

Chaplain Joyner heading off to work or deployment.

Chaplain Joyner heading off to work on deployment.

4) How do you manage while Patrick is on tours that take him away from the family for extended periods of time?

By God’s grace and power! There would be no other way. God gives me His strength and I am so thankful. The times that I struggle, are the times when I have not made myself available to access His strength and power. I try daily to ask for wisdom and ask to be wrapped in His righteousness. God has apparently gifted me with a personality or attitude in life that allows me to help our family thrive in this expeditionary lifestyle. Like Paul in Philippians 4, I claim those verses and try always to practice being content and teach my children to choose contentment, realizing God puts us in a place or position for a reason and we should be about his Kingdom living while we are there. I have loved our lifestyle and expect to miss it!

Practically, some of the management while Patrick is away looks like holding him up in our family as still parenting, by asking, “What would Papa do or say?” Or with encouragement, “Papa will be so proud of you!” I talk of him constantly to our children to keep him daily ‘with us’.  I pray and read scripture even more when he is gone. We continue with our evening family worship. Email has been helpful to stay in daily contact. The children and I can still ‘talk’ to him, ask questions or even play chess by email. He calls when he can, and he tries to time those calls to be able to pray with us over the speaker phone to start our day or end our day. He sends updates that include the sermons he preaches so we can hear them too. (He offers worship services at different times and days when deployed, to help as many men be able to attend as possible.) Especially when we had toddlers we kept his picture scrolling on the computer screen and we also have tapes he made of himself reading all the Psalms and Proverbs so that we still have his voice reading us these daily scriptures. He also recorded himself reading books and would strum his guitar for us to turn the pages.

We have other deployed wives and children over during deployments and continue to practice hospitality regularly. I usually offer a time of fellowship and study for the Marine wives whose husbands are also deployed. We have more child/teenage hospitality during this time as well. We travel to see Grandparents. We carry on, and we embrace our family motto: HOLD FAST! (Phil 2:16, Rom 12:9, 1 Thess 5:21)

Home from Afghanistan!

Home from Afghanistan!

5) Was it difficult having him deployed during the 1st Gulf War? Did that change you and your relationship in any way when he came home? (If this is too personal a question, no problem.)

The most difficult part of Patrick’s deployment to the 1st Gulf War (as a nuclear submarine officer), was the strong, constant ‘out of the loop’ feeling he experienced and to deal with the desire he had to be physically present and caring for his family as our protector, yet not being able to.  It was very hard on him to hear on the phone (when we got to talk on the phone) about life going on back home without him. Phone calls, while encouraging to me, where less so for him for that reason. No personal computers back then!

For the deployed, there are no days off and no opportunity to be intimately involved in the lives of those loved ones closest to you. While often, for the wife or family left at home more opportunities open up for them to have fellowship with friends, family, church, or military unit as a way to make the time pass quickly and keep their spirits up. If a wife doesn’t think about it (which I didn’t the first time), it could unintentionally sound to the deployed husband like they are missing out, and that their absence has not made much impact.  Of course, this is far from the truth. But, it remains a difficult balance to communicate with the husband that on the one hand, their family is safe, healthy, strong and doing well, while on the other hand making sure they understand how much they are missed and loved, that nothing is ‘just right’ with them gone, and that they are loved more than ever.

One issue to deal with is during deployments the wife necessarily is the family leader and decision maker, and so in the days after the husband’s return, it is very important for her to hand that responsibility back to her husband and for him to accept it. With that said, the biggest development in mine and Patrick’s relationship through deployments and long work hours has been to make us very jealous of our time together, both as husband and wife back during those first deployments, and now as a family.  Patrick was originally a submarine officer and was gone more than he was home during our first 4-5 years of marriage. This caused us to consider very carefully any invitation or activity and weigh it against time spent together.

Another benefit of deployments and this expeditionary lifestyle has been to strengthen our marriage and family relationships. It can also break your marriage, but for us, clinging to God to use these times to grow us in him and with each other, we are definitely stronger. We’ve had many more homecomings and honeymoons than most people! For which I am most thankful! Our relationship stays more vibrant. We learn quickly not to take each other for granted, because we may only have today. Of course that is a lesson for everyone. We have passed this on to our children and they have mostly depended on each other for their best friendships. We do everything together as a family. We are the Joyner Crew and we move and act as a team, in ministry, in fun and in work. You will most often see us together. We enjoy each other immensely and cherish our time together.

6) Does Patrick plan to retire from the military? What are your plans after Patrick retires?

Yes, Patrick plans to retire from the military. Patrick’s heart is a pastor’s heart, and he wants to pastor a church again. This would be a good place to correct a possible misconception. Pastor friends or others have periodically responded to Patrick’s desire to pastor after the military, as, “so you will be getting back into ministry”. No. He has never left the ministry so how could he ‘get back into it’. He has spent 17 years of his life in ministry to the military and their families, counseling, sharing the gospel, planning and executing charitable humanitarian work of the ship’s crew along the west coast of Africa to orphans and schools, spoken and preached at countless memorial services and national day of prayer services, doing marriage counseling, funerals, doing casualty assistance calls to tell families their husband, son or father has been killed, prison visits, suicide prevention, preaching, leading countless bible studies and book studies, all as the parish pastor to the command with which he serves. He prayerfully hopes to continue this work in a local church and community of the Lord’s choosing.

7) Is it helpful to be an ARBCA Chaplain?

We have much more prayer support and are closer to congregations than many mission sending organizations and than we ever experienced before our ARBCA endorsement. We greatly appreciate the emphasis on church-sent missionaries and the personal relationship, accountability and prayer support that connection has fostered.  ARBCA represents us theologically and also provides protection and representation ecclesiastically concerning issues that arise in the chaplain ministry.

                Follow Up Question: Is there anything we as the churches can do to help you more?

We have been very pleased with the encouraging support we have received from churches. There is not typically much emphasis or interest in Chaplain ministry, but we have some very faithful ARBCA women’s missionary groups that are faithful prayer warriors for us, faithful to send us cards and care packages to our college students and we feel their love. Churches sometimes donate money to purchase books for the studies and for Patrick to give away. Patrick has preached and shared about his ministry periodically when churches have invited him to speak. Our family enjoys developing these relationships face to face and are thankful for these opportunities to thank congregations for their prayers and to include them in what Patrick and our family are doing. We have heard from many churches that they pray regularly for us through the prayer guides ARBCA provides, and we are very thankful for this support. Prayer is the work!

8) Do you deal with or face any persecution?

Patrick says, “It is professionally unpopular to be exclusive with the gospel, just like any pastor, particularly as regards trinitarian religion. All chaplains can still preach without restriction.  Praying in Christ’s name sometimes bothers chaplains more than others. They believe it is a sign of immaturity to pray in the name of Christ.  This has not been an issue in the Marines, like it sometimes is on the Navy side. Only about twice has someone voiced their offense at my prayers in Christ’s name. How it affects your career professionally depends on who is present and what they decide to do about it.  Much more often, people have said they appreciated that I actually prayed in the name of Christ.”

                Follow Up Question: How receptive is the typical Marine/Sailor to the Gospel?

Again from Patrick, “In the Marines, where I have spent all but one Chaplain tour, pride, machismo, and a pay check often make them less receptive to the gospel as they don’t perceive a need. Most have never heard the gospel. Most have had events in their lives that harden them, but there are certainly those who are receptive. I am there for them, and also invest much time and discipleship mentoring young men as well as younger chaplains. It is very rewarding to work in the trenches.”

9) Are any of your children planning on following in Patrick’s footsteps by joining the military?

Our oldest son, William, did look a bit into the military and our commanding general offered to nominate him for the Naval Academy but he really felt God calling him into missions, particularly in Mongolia.
So, “Yes” some of our children do expect to follow in their father’s footsteps, but in ministry rather than the military!

…For by my God I can leap over a wall… Ps 18:29

A new Joyner added to the Family.

A new Joyner added to the Family.


 

I appreciate Rhonda’s willingness to be open about her life, both the struggles and the beauties, in this interview. Getting to know both Rhonda and Sharon has helped me be better equipped to pray for them and their husbands. It has helped me to see that godly women are godly women in any setting the Lord puts them in. I’m encouraged to keep my own hand to the plow in my life by seeing them busy about their own.

Interview: Chaplain’s Wife Rhonda Joyner (Part 1)

Earlier in the year, I had the great privilege of interviewing Sharon Galyon, wife of James Galyon, ARBCA’s Air Force Chaplin. We had a wonderful time catching up over coffee and I learned so much about how to pray for them and the work that they do. Today, I’m sharing Part 1 of my interview with Rhonda Joyner, wife of  Patrick Joyner, ARBCA’s Navy Chaplin serving the Marines. I’m so thankful for Rhonda’s willingness to make time for me and all my readers in the middle of her busy schedule, but I’m even more thankful for the new friend I have found in her.


Rhonda Joyner

Rhonda Joyner

1) Can you give me a brief account of your salvation, and a bit of family history, i.e. marriage, kids, Patrick becoming a Chaplain?

I was blessed to grow up in a Christian family with a long Christian heritage. My Baptist parents led me to the Lord as an elementary student and I was baptized in our Southern Baptist congregation in Ward, AR. They modeled mission and charity and volunteer work both in church and the community, taught me the importance of daily devotions, bible reading and prayer, taught me to be an active, responsible church member and to give to others both time and money. They taught me to always rely on the Lord and look to Him for everything: needs, comfort, encouragement, security and safety, a future husband, decision making, etc.

I received a Bachelor of Science degree from Ouachita Baptist University (’87) in Arkansas and a Master’s of Science from Memphis State University (’89) in Tennessee. While in Memphis, God providentially brought Patrick into my life. We met, singing in the choir at Bellevue Baptist church. This is indeed Providential because my hometown at the time happily numbered about 800, my college about 1500 and now I was in a huge city in a huge school attending a church of about 20,000 coming from a church of about 40! Ephesians 3:20-21 came to new importance and meaning to me through this. I was quite biased about ‘city folk’ and to my surprise God gave me in Patrick an outstanding (and good looking) Eagle Scout, avid outdoorsman, fearless leader and most importantly, the most Godly earnest young man I had ever met.

God used the teaching of Proverbs in my girls college class at church to turn the tide of my career seeking, ladder climbing, doctoral plans so that by the time Patrick proposed and sought a wife who would be a stay at home mother to their eventual children, my spiritual journey had prepared me, just in time (as God always is), to joyfully and wholeheartedly assent.

Patrick and I courted for a month before he left for Officer Candidate School in Rhode Island for 4 months, fulfilling his training obligations to become a Naval Submarine officer. We were engaged when he returned for 3 months, then he left for Nuclear Power School for 6 months and we were married the week after that! Once aboard his assigned sub at Portsmouth NH Naval shipyard he deployed for months at a time so that for the first 5 years of our courtship and marriage we were apart more than we had been together. This was a very good way to get to know the really important parts of a person and their thoughts and solidified the priority we have of making the most of the time we do have together, to this day.

Patrick was the Christian lay leader on board our submarine, leading bible studies, prayer times and one on one outreach. During this time as we grew in our faith as a couple, God began working on  him, drawing him to a calling of full time ministry. He was ordained as a deacon in our local Baptist church and we both were very active in several capacities at church. With the birth of our firstborn, William Dawson, in 1993, Patrick fulfilled his first tour of duty and left the military to seek seminary training with the idea of possibly returning as a chaplain in the future.

During Patrick’s 2 years as plant engineer in Mississippi our twin daughters were born (Audrey Grace and Jordan Lee, 1995), he was ordained into the ministry followed by a move to Fort Worth, TX for full time MDiv studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where our next two children were born (Maggie Elisabeth 1998, Noah Patrick 1999, giving us 5 in 6 years). It was also during this time that we came to understand and embrace the doctrines of grace taught in the Bible. The next two years were spent pastoring a small church in AR and as that ministry came to a close, God used many closed doors and difficult circumstances to move us back to the Navy as a chaplain (2001) where He clearly has used Patrick as His hands and feet in ministry. Patrick has a passion for mentoring young men and young chaplains or ministers. Several he has mentored have gone on into ministry or are working toward that end. He does not prefer the administration of duties from a desk, but ‘boots on the ground’ ministry in the spaces where his marines or sailors are, providing studies and counseling, a ministry of presence by being there and being available, preaching at chapel as he has opportunity, etc.

Our first chaplain tour was Cherry Point Naval Air Station, NC where we had our first miscarriage, followed by our 6th born child, LaurelAnna Chandler (2004). The next tour in Virginia brought us our 7th child, Mary M’Cheyne (2006) at the ‘ripe old age’ for me, of 41! Her middle name is after Robert Murray M’Cheyne, the godly young Scottish minister of old. (All our children have a bible name and a family name, until Mary. We had used all the Grandma’s names on LaurelAnna, so we moved on to faithful ministers! William’s name describes Christ so that’s how we count his ‘bible name’. Each name has the meaning we have taught the children to live up to as well.)

With the birth of each of our 7 children we have intentionally desired and striven to stand on the shoulders of our parents and mentors taking the best from them and adding to it as God has grown us, and we teach our children that we hope they will do the same, standing on our shoulders and adding the wisdom and ways God grows them in as well, through the coming generations.

While at Providence Baptist church (now West Suffolk Baptist Church) in Virginia, Patrick was an elder and that year the church was admitted to ARBCA. Patrick had desired for some time to be endorsed by an association which was more aligned with and better reflected his doctrine of ministry, outreach, teaching and worship, so it was a tremendous blessing and perfect timing to become ARBCA’s first military chaplain.

The Joyner Family

The Joyner Family

2) How long has Patrick been a Chaplain? Does your family enjoy being a military family? Do you have any official functions and/or duties as a Chaplain’s wife?

Patrick served 6 years as a submarine officer, including several patrol deployments as well as deploying to the 1st Gulf War in Iraq. He has served 13 years as a chaplain for a total of 19 years to date, and has 2 deployed tours: to Africa with a destroyer squadron and Afghanistan with 2nd Marine Regiment. (Navy Chaplains serve the Navy, Coast Guard and Marines.)

I love my life. I love being anywhere with my husband and family. I have enjoyed moving every 2-3 years and always look forward to the next place and seeing a new part of the country, meeting new folks, worshiping in different churches. We have been married 25 years, moved 17 times in 10 states, attended 15 churches and chapels, collecting children, friends, and spiritual growth along the way.

Homeschooling has been icing on the cake as we can finish and start, break and resume at any time, around our moves and planning travels when others are in school. Our family is large enough to just take our friends with us, and then add some new friends in the new place. Our family literally does almost everything together so obviously we really enjoy each other’s company. Our children perform music together, play sports together, are church musicians together, study together, share rooms together, cook and watch movies together, camp and backpack, even run and win races together.

I will admit that our moves were easier on the children when they were younger than it has been on our teenagers these last couple of moves. But they have never complained and always embrace what God has next for us, trusting Him and building contentment. (Phil 4, my favorite chapter) Our children are proud to be a part of the military community and are very patriotic, doing much volunteer work with Wounded Warriors and each regiment or battalion that we have been a part of. They say the main con to it all is moving from friends and teams when you are a teenager, and not having the ‘hometown’ feel of longevity in one place. We have always tried to make it a priority for them to spend time with grandparents and cousins to keep those ties strong and stabilizing, promoting the importance of heritage and family. Patrick looks forward to settling down in one place someday and will not miss the moving!

As a Chaplain’s wife my functions are typically unofficial, as any pastor’s wife duties might be. Currently I do have an official function as a 2nd Marine Regiment Command Team Advisor. This role involves giving input on family readiness issues and events in our regiment as a ‘seasoned spouse’ along with a young married spouse, the rest of the commanding officers including Chap. Joyner, the Sergeant Major and enlisted team leaders.

Typically, at a duty station I join in with the other chaplain wives for bible studies, socials or volunteer work in addition to my responsibilities at church. Sometimes I have been involved with the OSC, Officer Spouses Club. On this tour, I prayerfully made the decision to volunteer with the regiment spouses instead of the chaplain wives, while continuing to work in different areas at church including mentoring young mothers and ‘new to homeschooling’ moms. (only so many hours in a day)

Often it is hard for stay at home moms to have an outlet for ministry to non-believers or non ‘church friends’. I volunteer work alongside the family readiness officer and other volunteer spouses planning events for the regiment families, doing potluck meals for the single marines in the barracks, calling family members, wives or parents of marines to share information or check on them during deployment. Our children volunteer for most of these events as well. Some things they have done with me include giving out Christian books to the marines, decorating their rooms and providing goodie bags upon their return from deployment, greeting marines at homecoming who do not have family present. I also make sure that new parents or families with a sick parent get meals, and during deployment I led a devotional fellowship time addressing marriage, parenting or deployment related issues.

We have raised our family to be a team, and since we are Navy, we go by ‘The Joyner Crew’. Our motto is Hold Fast and our theme song is Be Thou My Vision. We enjoy the expeditionary lifestyle for the most part, seeing it biblically as an example to be ready for wherever the Lord sends you, learning to be content and live joyfully where we are, not holding ‘things’ too tightly.

I have endeavored to teach my children (and other young military wives) that as a family, we are an intimate part of my husband/their father’s ministry. This would be true if he had a secular job as well. Everything we do to come alongside him builds him up and like Proverbs 31, also builds his reputation ‘at the city gate’. Wherever Patrick works, they know his family and thereby know him better, because we are around volunteering, helping, cheering at unit physical training events and being a part in whatever way we can. Another huge way we do this is also by the ministry of hospitality which we all take part in liberally, regularly having folks in our home and including them in our nightly evening family worship.

Chaplain Patrick Joyner preaching at Camp Leatherneck.

Chaplain Patrick Joyner preaching at Camp Leatherneck.


 

In Part 2 we will talk about Patrick working with ARBCA and how this busy Mom handles life when Patrick is on gone on Tours. If you have any questions you would like to ask Rhonda please comment below and let me know!

 

 

Guest Post: Rob Akers on Blogging

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Rob, with only mild kicking and screaming, agreed to be the last guest blogger talking about why they blog. I can understand the fear of being the last one in a row of excellent writers, but I trusted Rob and that trust wasn’t unfounded. On his blog, Rob shares personal thoughts, which are always amusing, and he also shares the story of his time in the Middle East. I found Rob through a mutual respect for our men and women in uniform and have enjoyed reading his posts. Now he’s asked me to do the first Alpha Reading on his novel. I have his permission to bleed all over it. I took him at his word.  He may regret it later, but it’s too late for that!

Rob is a husband and father residing in Culloden, West Virginia. An airline pilot by trade, he served twelve years in the West Virginia Air National Guard at the rank of Major. He deployed to Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan among other foreign nations and earned multiple medals including three Air Medals, four Aerial Achievement Medals and two Meritorious Service Medals. He is a freelance writer for the Putnam Herald-Dispatch and the online magazine The Magill Review. He hosts his own blog and has been published in a collection of works including the Words for Warriors Project. He is working to complete his first fictional novel.

Check his work out!

Next week will be the last installment of this series where I will talk about why I blog. But for now, enjoy Rob’s thoughts.


 

Hey Y’all,

If you are thinking that the usual link to Abby’s Gentle and Quiet World took you to a strange place, don’t be alarmed. This is only a temporary phenomenon that will soon be replaced again by the quiet and wonderful musings of the beautiful soul that is Abby. Unfortunately, Abby made a poor decision; she invited me to take control of the airwaves for the day. Let the record state that she approached me, offering me a seat at the motherboard of one of the most wonderfully peaceful places on the internet. Initially, I declined the invitation. But she persisted and we all know how a persistent woman can get what she wants. Is that called preaching to the choir or saying it like it is?

Abby told me that she wanted a man’s perspective on blogging. I always welcome comments from a professional and Josh is the walking embodiment of a professional writer. But Josh likes to wear those little biker shorts while pedaling his mountain bike in the hills of Colorado. I know from experience that it is really tough to be a man while wearing spandex. That is what my friends said when they caught me walking down Bourbon Street, dressed in a fishnet shirt and biker shorts. My friend, Mercedes kept calling me “En Fuego.” I still don’t know what that means and this is a story that I probably should cut short.

My point is that I refused Abby’s request to write this article because I didn’t want to be responsible for leaving man smell in the boutique. She said that potpourri and candles work wonders. Then I asked what does an audience of respectable women want to hear? She said just to be myself and we all see where that took us. I asked what could possibly go wrong. She said that y’all would immediately know that my wife is a lady of honor, full of the Spirit, compassion, integrity and that you would bless her soul. Out of excuses and ideas, I took a double dose of testosterone, a cycle of steroids and a shot of Five Hour Energy before I summoned up the courage to say yes. Ladies, strap in tight and hold on because we are going behind the curtain.

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The topic is why do I blog? The easy answer would be because I have something to say. But that isn’t true. I don’t feel like I have to express myself to be happy and complete. In fact, I prefer to sit out of the spotlight and throw verbal rocks at those in the public eye. In times past, I served as an Air Force pilot. Returning from the Middle East, my wife and another lady were interviewed by the local news station while they waited for us to land. They agreed to allow the cameraman to follow them, record the reunion and then interview my friend and myself for the nightly news. When I stepped off the airplane, my wife ran up and gave me a huge hug and kiss. I didn’t mind that by the way. Out of the corner of my closed eyes, I felt the presence of a stranger.

I came unglued yelling at the cameraman and reporter. I told them that they were not allowed to film me and if they didn’t turn off the camera immediately I would break it. As I remember it, the words came out a in a hostile tone smothered with inappropriate language. I have embarrassed my wife before and since but the possibility of being filmed never entered my mind as the ideal start to the reunion. They did stop filming us and walked away. My friend and his wife had center stage for the one minute segment on the local news station. It turned out to be very cheesy, we all laughed later. The moral of this story is that I really don’t want to be on TV. I really don’t want to write for the local newspaper, I don’t want to be a blogger and I don’t want to be famous. I could be perfectly happy living a quiet life, staying in my little cocoon, raising my kids, working nights for my airline, watching TV during the day, doing fantasy football and never venturing out into the public arena.

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Why would anyone do something they don’t want to do? I am a seasoned veteran of life having lived out all seven of the deadly sins to their fullest extent. All I learned after twenty years of excess is that the allure of sin nearly turned me into a dead beat, ex-husband. Fortunately, my wife is a lady of extreme forgiveness and understanding. In the last ten years, I have tried to replace hate with love. It is a hard way to live and I am by no means a finished product. But I began to recognize that love is the path to true happiness. It is the path to forgiveness and to healing. When my life came crashing down, someone told me the secret. The Bible verse Matthew 22:37-40 held the key behind my future life and to my blogging/writing career. I urge you to read it for yourself, I interpret it to say; Love God with all you got and love every human on the planet the way you would like to be loved.

I don’t write for me, I write for others. If you read my blog you might think the main goal of my writing is to write stories about my life in the Middle East. But those stories are for my kids. They are too young to understand today but they should know about the guy that would become their dad. I occasionally write about the novel that I am working on. But the purpose of that novel is to honor the men and women who keep us safe and to serve as a fictional example of how we should deal with evil. That answer is with Love, by the way. I write for the local newspaper. But the articles I write tell the story of the local community in a way that honors and encourages us all. I write for The Magill Review but I write to bring a different perspective that goes much deeper than what we would find in any mainstream news publication. I accept invitations to do guest articles on friend’s sites. But that Abby invited me in and gave me the run of the place. Sometimes smart people do dumb things. Ha Ha!

I am still the same fun loving guy that is documented in the stories above. But now the lenses that I view the world are colored by love. Yes, I still like my music loud and inappropriate. Yes, I am prone to an off color comment in the wrong company. I do get a kick out of the look I get when I say the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong people. I don’t enjoy the elbow from my wife and her reminder that I am out of control. But I can’t help if people don’t get my extremely sarcastic, gallows worthy humor. I built a reputation and an aviation career on the fact that if you give me an inch, I will take a mile.

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I will leave you with this. When you come across the guy or gal who doesn’t quite fit in with what is going on in your world. Don’t be surprised if they throw out an unsuitable comment that hangs in the air like a floater in the punch bowl. Just redirect them like you would your five year old. But sometimes you can’t stop a guy like me because his mission to bring a shot of reality to your life. There is a chance that he is doing it because he likes rattling the cage or maybe he is doing it because he wants you to have a greater appreciation of your husband. In either case, never let him know he is irritating you because that is the best form of encouragement. Sometimes all you can do is accept him because even a knucklehead needs love and acceptance. And sometimes, your example can teach that knucklehead to love and accept others. We are all works in progress and when given a chance, that scoundrel might turn into someone that you can trust when life veers off the tracks and will surprise you with a wonderfully positive outlook when times are tough.

I want to thank Abby for the invite and access to all you wonderful folks. Once again she proves that she is a lady that walks the walk. At my heart, I am a writer of fiction. One of the stories I told is 100% true and the other is complete fiction created at 01:30 AM. Choose wisely.

On my site, I always sign off with this phrase: Until next time, keep on rockin. I truly hope there is a next time because I have enjoyed the trip behind the curtain. I hope you did too. Faith, Hope and Love to all.


I think Rob’s article was the most interesting of all my guest posts…if that’s the right word. 😉 Actually, I really enjoyed the fact that he took the more humorous point of view. Again, we see another take on blogging, and we get some good advice: Write for others. Josh said this same thing in his article. Notice the beauty of writing? Josh said it one way while Rob said it another, both made a good point. We are here to love and serve one another. Your blog should be no different even if the themes are as diverse as the guest posters I’ve featured this month. Thank you for reading. Next week I’ll answer the question as our last article on the issue.

Check out the other Guest Posts here:

Heather FitzGerald

Deanna Brown

Raelea Hiller

Josh Magill

 

 

 

Guest Post: Josh Magill on Blogging

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This month’s Guest Posts have taken us from one end of the spectrum to the other. We’ve seen bloggers who blog to prepare the world for their novel, to share the lessons they’ve learned as a caretaker, and to just get their work out to readers. We’ve learned about building platforms, carrying our Christianity out into the blogging world, and been reminded that writers need to write – get that faucet turned on. Today, we hear from a professional blogger: Josh Magill.

Josh manages and juggles the Magill Review. He let’s me throw articles at him once a month about writing. Josh has been my first experience working with deadlines, an editor, and having my articles included in a monthly rotation. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to writing for a paper or magazine. The experience has been great and Josh is super easy to please. I first met Josh through the monthly Atom and Eve article which takes a less holy and more sarcastic look at science. I then joined the Tim Higgelmottham story project. After getting  positive feedback on an article I wrote about outlining, which Josh shared on the Magill Review, he invited me to do a monthly article for him. The rest is history. 🙂

Next Tuesday, I’ll feature my last Guest Blogger: Rob Akers.

And now, Josh Magill:

 


Writing Blogs Need a Point (They aren’t Journals)

I hate the word ‘blog.’

I shudder when I hear it—an ick that quakes my body from the inside, deep-down where my soul hides from the ugly parts of life—because the word takes me to a time I once thought I knew what I was doing on the internet. It takes me to a time when I thought I understood writing. I thought writing was about me.

Don’t misunderstand, writing is about the writer and their thoughts, but by the time it bumbles out into the world the writing becomes more about the reader and what they will feel as the words encroach upon their lives. In the movie Finding Forrester, there is a question posed which always helped me consider the reader when writing: “Why is it that the words that we write for ourselves are always so much better than the words that we write for others?”

It’s a great question and one I never understood until my first attempt at blogging back in 2002. I prefer to use the term ‘website’ because it seems so much more professional. Ironically, when writers treat their online writing locations as websites versus a blog, the reader sees a tremendous difference in the level of writing and respect for the reader. Both are much more positive and it is definitely much more tolerable to read because hopefully there is a point to the writing. When a writer wastes my time (the reader) by not having a point, they lose me. Though many will tell you they read to relax or get lost in another world, the fact is that most readers want to learn or feel something from what they read. They don’t want that final word to pass without feeling edified and enlightened, feeling as though they are changed in some way, feeling refreshed or exhausted.

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Allow me explain. As a boy, I would tell funny anecdotes to family and friends. They were simple stories that often made my aunts and uncles laugh. I thought I was a good comedian, but it was the way I told the story—the inflection in my voice, the motions I made with my face, hands, and body. It was the pauses at the right times or the lift in my voice during the climax of the story. In truth, I was a storyteller, but it wasn’t about me. It was about them—the listeners. I watched their reactions as I spoke and tailored my delivery. If the reaction wasn’t enough or what I had hoped for, then I gave a little more of the story, the intimate or embarrassing parts. I found that is what the listener wanted—the “juicy” parts, the parts they could relate to but were too ashamed to share themselves.

When I starting writing essays in college, I shared the uncomfortable and painful episodes in my life, and people loved them. Readers guffawed and gasped at my life because they had been there, too. I took to the University newspaper as a columnist, sharing the strangeness of being a newlywed and an older college student, and in 2002 (while still in college) I launched my first blog. I must say that not only did it fail; it seemed to turn away some long-time friends because it came off know-it-all and preachy. I bashed the poor fans of the football team, the girl down at the convenience store, the unpatriotic and lazy students. It wasn’t long before life got in the way of my writing and I shut down the blog because it wasn’t successful (in my opinion).

StoryTeller

So what made me start up The Magill Review (my website) in late 2012? It goes back to that question from Finding Forrester: Why is it that the words that we write for ourselves are always so much better than the words we write for others?

It’s because we care about ourselves, but do we care about our readers—their lives, their families, their marriages, their feelings? Simply … No! We write for ourselves and if the reader doesn’t get it or is bored with our daily “journal” entries on our blog, then it’s because they just don’t understand writing and writers, right? Wrong! Our job as writers is to help them understand by “showing, not telling,” by infusing the story with life.

Again, indulge me. I grew up in the Deep South, specifically the hills of North Georgia. This is a place where old-timers enjoy cornering a young person to tell them the real stories of the Civil War (what they call the War of Northern Aggression), stories that have interesting twists, stories that end differently than history books, but then you see the sly grin creep across the old-timers face like a well-worn wrinkle and you realize where fiction began and why so many great storytellers came from The South. You understand that trying to debate the authenticity of the tale will only allow the old man to embellish more, allowing him to drag you into a world where the South triumphs or an account of the medal bestowed upon his grandfather by General Robert E. Lee that you dare not dispute.

The understanding and the legend of southern heritage is theirs to keep, and anyone that tries to change that is a “damned Yankee” that has been indoctrinated with lies about history. Yet, one thing both Yankees and Southerners usually agree on is that a good story comes from the soul. To tell the real story, to entangle the reader in a world where they want to take another step forward, the writer must give of their soul. It cannot hide from the ugly incidents of life because in doing so it never learns and will lose out on the wonderful chapters and friends around them.

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And so it was with my second attempt at a blog (blech, I mean website). If I was to make this not about me, but about the readers, then I could not make the site all my writing. It had to include more writers, some professional and polished, some new and learning. I invited others and they came. The Magill Review blossomed and continues to do so, and most of the writing is not mine. I did not allow rants (that is for Facebook) or humdrum writing about a writer’s day that did not have a point (again, for Facebook or your mother).

Instead, I worked with writers like Melissa Fry Beasley and Mike Linaweaver to post beautiful poems, or best-selling author Jennifer Youngblood to add a touch of The South with her “Confessions of a Southerner” column. Richard Eaker gave me the idea to start a collaborative story (100 words at a time) with 15 other writers, and it was his idea for the beginning that made the character Tim Higgelmottham come alive. I was lucky enough to have Rob Akers, Mark Rossi and Abby Jones all decide to write ongoing columns for the website, as well as others that write occasionally. And when I wrote the series I affectionately call “The Fat Chronicles,” my cousin Jacob Finch helped by sharing his successes and struggles during our Fluff to Buff Challenge.

All these writers are passionate and soulful. They share everything with the reader because they care about them. We want to write for the reader as if we are writing for ourselves, holding nothing back, sharing even the embarrassing and painful moments of our lives. Do this at your blog and it will be a success no matter how many visitors come each day.


 

This is a refreshing take on blogging. I think many valuable blogs are more journalistic, but if it’s out in public it needs to be professional. We often forget this with the growing ease of publishing ourselves. I also found Josh’s thoughts to be helpful because we live in a very ‘me’ centered society where we often hear only about how important we are as the writer. The writer must never forget the reader, ever. If you want to be read, you must remember to include the reader. They’re part of the story as well. I hope you enjoyed Josh’s thoughts on blogging…website-ing…hummmm. 🙂 Remember, keep it professional and tell a great story!

To read the previous guest posts follow the links:

Heather FitzGerald

Deanna Brown

Raelea Hiller

 

Guest Post: Raelea Hiller on Blogging

I started out with Heather Fitzgerald talking about blogging as a way to build a platform for an upcoming novel, then I featured Deanna Brown who talked about blogging as a way to share a personal story or journey. Today, I’m featuring a young writer, Raelea Hiller, who is going to share her blogging story with you. For Raelea, blogging is all about sharing who she is. Her story combines elements of both Heather’s and Deanna’s. She is a beautiful writer and I look forward to many years of reading her doddles, poems, and hopefully a full length novel. Check out her blog here. Read some of her poetry, check out some pits and pieces of her upcoming story, and even get a few peaks at some of her art work. This is one talented young lady! But, more than that, she’s a good friend.

Next Tuesday, I’ll feature Josh Magill who blogs more like a paper editor.

And now, Raelea Hiller:


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First, I’d like to thank Abby for inviting me to guest post on her blog. A new adventurer in the world of blogging, I was excited but also rather daunted by the task. Abby can testify to the fact that I tried to pick her brain concerning what to write about specifically, but, like a good blog host, she only smiled and refused to give me any particulars, other than “just write about why you blog.” Why do I blog? Such a simple, unassuming, and straightforward question… but not really. I could give you the short answer. Actually, let’s start there—it’s as good a place as any to begin. I blog because Abby told me to.

Abby heads up a writing group, whose members meet up on a monthly basis for goodies, coffee, writer accountability, a good old-fashioned gab, and sage writer-wisdom from Abby herself. The first time I attended, she spoke about blogging as way to gain exposure, connect with other bloggers, and receive feedback. I took her words to heart, and jumped in headfirst. And by headfirst, I mean that I dove off the edge of the cliff without so much as a pair of arm-floaties, straight into the torrential cascade pouring over the edge, praying fervently that there would be a nice deep pool at the bottom and no jagged rocks. The Starlit Forest is the first blog I’ve created. Why a starlit forest? Because I am a wood elf (or maybe a dryad) at heart. Because I spent my childhood pouring over old tales about Robin Hood and his band of merry men. Because the beauty of a starry night sky fills me with wonder and awe. And because there is something tranquil, peaceful, and a trifle melancholy about branching silhouettes stretched out against a dazzling masterpiece of light.

Made You ThinkBut back to the main question: why do I blog? I began blogging initially as a way to share my poetry—to get my work out into the open. It was hard at first. Because, let’s be honest, it’s difficult to take a little piece of your soul and dish it up on a platter for everyone to see and peck at. There was a horrible, deep-seated fear in my heart that no one would like my writing and that no one would want to read it. But do you know what? One of the most beautiful and encouraging things about blogging is that you discover you are not alone. Pause for a moment, and just think about how utterly glorious that thought is. You are not alone. You are not the only wacky, quirky, odd, creative soul in the universe. There are others as well—others who are ready and willing to process, contemplate, and reflect upon the barrage of creative matter you spew forth into the wide vastness of the universe. I began blogging as a way to gain exposure and to share my work, but that is no longer the only reason I blog. I also blog to keep myself accountable, to energize myself, and to keep my creative spark alight.

TypewriterI don’t have to tell you that writing is hard work. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. In many ways, the idea of writing is simple (like the unassuming subject of this blog post). As Ernest Hemingway so aptly put it, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” But the truth is, the simplest and most uncomplicated things are often the most challenging. It takes dedication and commitment to write and to keep writing. And that is exactly why I blog—because it keeps me accountable. A commitment to blog a certain number of times a week is also a commitment to brainstorm a certain number of times a week, and commitment to write almost every single day. Do you want to excel in writing? Then write. Write every single day, if you can. It doesn’t have to be genius level; just write about the little things. Describe the patchwork of blue sky behind the latticed branches of the tree on your front lawn. Write about the insufferable eternity of waiting in the 10 items or less lane at the grocery store, when the woman in front of you clearly has 32 items. Record the conversation you had with your best friend—the one that left you both wheezing and with cramped sides from laughing so hard. Explore the endless sea of faces as you walk from one class to the next. Notice the laugh lines crinkling at the corners of your father’s eyes. Recount what it felt like to lay under the vast and glorious night sky, the Milky Way a stripe of brilliant light framed by sharp mountain peaks. Listen to the chattering and merry voices of the stream, as it leaps from rock to rock, dashing away, speeding ever onward to the turquoise lake below. There are stories everywhere, if you will only pause a moment and take the time to notice them. Write. Write every single day. Pour out your soul in words and lines—even if you’re afraid that you’re not much good at writing. Even if you think your work is rubbish, and are afraid that no one else will ever want to read it. Write your bit of rubbish—explore a thousand ideas, and then explore a thousand more. You’re afraid your work is rubbish? All creatives are possessed by the same innate fear, so don’t let that stop you. Write.

Louis L'AmourAfter all, if you want a nice cool glass of water, you can’t get it by just staring at the faucet. You have to turn the faucet on. Go ahead. Twist both handles all the way, till you’re afraid you might fracture the chrome plating and tear the very handles themselves out of their sockets. Let the torrent of water gush out. It might be downright tepid at first but, sooner or later, if you let it run long enough, that water will grow cool and refreshing. If you want to be a writer, you must write. Let the ideas spew out, and write them down as they do. Why do I blog? I blog because I claim the title of writer—because blogging forces me to write, even on the days when I don’t feel like writing. I blog because it keeps the tap turned on, keeps the ideas flowing, and stretches me to assemble those ideas in ways I never imagined possible. Blogging reminds me how much I love writing, it reminds me that I am not alone, it keeps my creative spark lit, and it provides a way to share that little corner of my soul with others. And that, my friend, is why I blog.


Again, the main thrust of the advice from bloggers is Write!  And if this article doesn’t set your britches on fire, I don’t know what will. One thing Raelea keeps me constantly encouraged in is to write beautifully. We’re both Tolkien geeks and I think Tolkien must have believed in writing with beauty. I hope you enjoyed Raelea’s thoughts and found a bit of inspiration for your own blogging.

Guest Post: Deanna Brown on Blogging

Continuing with my short series on blogging, I invited Deanna Brown, blogger on Strokeman’s Woman, to share why she blogs. Her story is very different from Heather’s, who I featured last week. Where Heather’s rose up from a need to build a platform for her YA series, Deanna’s rose up from a need to share her story about her husband’s stroke.  This is just a small example of how diverse blogging can be. I strongly recommend reading Deanna’s story from the beginning. While it is trying to the heart, it is encouraging to the soul.

Join me again next Tuesday for yet another perspective on blogging.

And now, Deanna Brown:


10246307_10152336478428190_944043745655855663_nMy husband had a fairly massive stroke about 3 years ago. In my efforts to help him in his quest for recovery, I began to read books that had been written by stroke survivors who had regained some semblance of their lives through hard work and determination. The problem was that my husband didn’t have determination, and he wasn’t willing to do the hard work. No amount of encouraging, nagging, cajoling, begging, bargaining or screaming (yes, sometimes I screamed) was going to make him do what he didn’t want to do.

As I read those books, I began to read between the lines at what was not being said. I began to wonder if their spouses had a different take on how things went. And I began to yearn for someone who had a similar experience to mine to write a book about how they managed to navigate through difficult decisions. I’m not saying that book isn’t out there, but I didn’t find it.

So I began to write a blog “under the radar.” If I was going to be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted anyone I knew to be reading it. And I sure didn’t want my identity easily found out. I told my sisters, and my very inner circle of friends. My goal was to speak the truth about all the many struggles I was having. I also wanted to give whatever wisdom I gained along the way that might help someone else in the same situation. I hoped to be able to do this with a fair smattering of humor. As I received encouragement and assurances from my inner circle, I began to share with more people, until I finally had the nerve to put my name on my “about me” page, and to begin sharing my posts on Facebook.

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When I started blogging, my husband was still cognitively impaired enough to have no interest in what I was doing with the time between his calls for help. But I knew there might come a day when he would want to know. Besides that, I knew that I had a responsibility as a Christian to do my best to speak God’s Truth in the midst of my frank accounting. I realized that anonymity, did not give me license to be disrespectful or a poor representative of the Kingdom. As with any other endeavor, blogging must be approached with a tremendous amount of self-government. If I was careful to keep these parameters in mind, I didn’t have to fear people “finding me out.” Having said that, I must also confess to sharing things that would be beyond the comfort of my very private husband. This has been the fine line on which I have balanced.

The experts in the blogging world talk about a process called, “finding your voice.” This process is accomplished primarily through consistent and regular writing, and a personal assessment of what it is you want to say to the world, and how it is you want to say it. In a way, I have developed two voices on my blog. On the one hand, my story as a caregiver has developed into a spiritual journey in which I find biblical application to the struggles I have experienced. Early on, when I was writing about the most difficult days, I found that it was too hard to stay there in the pain and grief for long. As a result I started taking a break from “The Story” to spend some time remembering better days under the category “Moments to Remember.” While both my “voices” would be considered memoir, one of them is of a more serious bent, while the other is an outlet for recalling times and places that make me smile, or laugh out loud.

I have sometimes approached blogging as a possible moneymaker. I have also approached it as a place to build an audience for a future book. I have detoured into writing competitions, and following bloggers who make a living teaching others how to have a successful blog. I have found that for me these things take the joy out of blogging. If I spend too much time worrying about what my audience wants to read, or what I can do to bring more people to my site, it starts to feel like homework and deadlines. Consequently, I have concluded that I do not want to make blogging a means to a writing career. My goal is twofold. First, writing about my experiences as a caregiver helps me to cope with the difficulties I face. It is a way for my brain to process the events, and to apply what I have been taught in terms of biblical application. In conjunction with that, it is my desire to help others as they struggle with the difficult providences of this life. I want to encourage other caregivers, but if what I write is biblically sound, then there should be elements of it that apply to people whose struggles are not the same as mine.

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If I were to give advice to someone wanting to start a blog, I would tell her to just start writing. Even a few minutes a day is better than trying to write all day once in a while (and here is where I should say, “Do as I say, not as I do”). The daily exercise of writing awakens that creative part of the brain that will help you to have a better product in the long run. I would tell him to write what he knows and loves, instead of trying to write about things that are not a part of his experience. In the blogosphere, a pretender is recognized a mile away. I would remind her that blogging is a public forum, and anything published in cyberspace, no matter how tight the security, is subject to be exposed to the world. I would encourage him to exercise biblical self-discipline to all aspects of the blog; the writing, the stats, the comments, etc. As with every other occupation we pursue, there is opportunity for much good, and opportunity for idolatry and abuse. Finally, I would encourage her not to sweat the haters. I feared that I would have commenters who would criticize me for making the choices I made, sharing things I shouldn’t, or believing the things I believe. Instead, I found that people appreciate my honesty, and sympathize with my difficult journey. That’s not to say you can’t find an argument if you go looking for one.

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This is my story. What is yours? I have found that there are as many reasons for starting a blog as there are bloggers. There is a world full of possibilities. It’s a simple thing, really. Just start.


 

Writers write. Deanna’s reasons for writing are very different than Heather’s reasons, yet they both blog. I appreciated her encouragement to just get started writing, to be honest, and to practice the same self-control online that we attempt in ‘real life’. There is no point in our Christian walk were we get to stop walking. I’ve been encouraged by Deanna’s blog for a long time now, and hope you will read, comment, and follow her.

You can also check out my Guest Post for Deanna where I talk about humility.

 

 

Guest Post: Heather FitzGerald on Blogging

A while back I was asked by a couple of my fellow writers in my writing group to share some thoughts on blogging. So, I invited a few close friends to share their blogging stories. We all blog for different, yet similar, reasons which I hope will showcase the diversity of blogging. Their thoughts will be featured here over the next few weeks , and then I’ll share my own blogging story.

First up, Heather FitzGerald from the Tethered Together Blog:


 

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Thank you, Abby, for sharing some of your personal cyber-space with me today! I’m grateful that you would like to hear a little about why I blog, because it also makes me stop and take inventory of my commitment.

There are a lot of experts out there in Writing Land that weigh in on how to effectively reach a potential audience. These are people with more notches in their belts—or rather—more ISBN numbers registered to their name, than me. Although I had a blog for five years prior to my new one, I never considered that blog a serious endeavor as a writer. That was a mistake which I’m learning to correct after listening to many podcasts and webinars from said experts. Blogs should be the heartbeat of a writer’s life.

You’d think I could have put two and two together. My old blog was an eclectic mix of curriculum and book reviews, personal experiences with autism, and even politics. By God’s grace—haphazard experiment that it was—a certain author who’s book I reviewed contacted me and asked if I was a writer. Author Susan Marlow saw something in me and took time to connect and encourage me.

That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship that allowed me to be mentored by an amazing writer and professional editor who would cheer me on, point out my writing pitfalls (I had no idea how much I liked the word “just”), and even edit a draft of my novel, The Tethered World, that will be published soon.

All of these wonderful repercussions happened because I fumbled around on the internet with a blog. Somehow I still failed to see the importance of maintaining it and cultivating a relationship with my readers and/or other bloggers.

BLOGPart of the reason that regular blogging activity fell by the wayside was that, with four busy, homeschooled kids, I only had so much time to squeeze my creative juices. I chose to use that time working on my book. But in hindsight, it would have been wise to recognize that opportunities only come along when you put yourself out there where the opportunities exist.

Fast forward four years and about seven drafts of my novel and it’s time to look for a publisher and how to go about marketing this YA fantasy of mine. Another writer pointed me to The Best Seller Society and I paid for a months worth of book marketing seminars and listened to everything that I could. It became painfully obvious (and rather comforting) to learn that major or minor publishing houses all expect you to be the major marketer of your book. (Comforting because—since I was not going the agent route, and therefore would not be considered by a big publishing house—I’d have the same amount of legwork to do for my book. A bigger publisher would not be the key to finding my audience).

Through webinars on The Best Seller Society I was introduced to other successful authors and what worked for them. I started to hear about creating a “tribe” and learning that, for a new author, an internet presence is NOT an option. And I didn’t just need a blog . . . I needed a platform.

These revelations made me rethink my old blog that only occasionally gasped for air and floundered about the internet. It was the antithesis of “platform.” It became clear that if I was to be serious about writing novels, I needed to be as serious about maintaining a blog.

Another important component for marketing, that these experts stressed, was a website for my upcoming book. (And let me add, for any of you that may be a few steps behind me in this process: ‘they’ say it is important to get a website and a blog in place BEFORE your book is published—nay, before you even land a publisher! A publisher will actually look to see what kind of following you have in place). I found myself in the throes of a huge learning curve . . . centered around technology.

Not exactly one of my strengths.

So....how do I turn this thing on?

So….how do I turn this thing on?

But I dove in and embraced the nuts and bolts of building a marketing presence because I don’t want to merely publish my book, I’d like for more than a few people to read it! So, I set about building my website through Wix. I found it to be the most user-intuitive for a visual person like myself.

The next step was to get my blog running. Per instructions from those in the know, the blog would be a part, or page, of my book’s website (because the book would naturally be the crux of my platform). This is where I hit a wall. How long can I blog about an imaginary land full of dragons and Nephilim? In theory I could blog about fantasy, but the Talking Heads all agreed that it was best to connect the blog to one’s book and its unique audience. They are the ones that will love what you write . . . right?

Hmmm. I was in a quandary. My audience: teens. Their interests: social media . . . not following blogs. Besides the obvious lack of subject matter if I based my blog on my book (remember, this is an indefinite blog . . . how many years can I write about a land that will be summed up in a trilogy?), I asked around and felt like I wouldn’t have an audience that would pay much attention to my book’s blog due to the age group.

It all sounded too limiting. (Though I did begin a fun, fake blog that one of the minor characters in my book writes. I think readers will get a kick out of connecting to this character in such a way. The main character, Sadie Larcen, also has a Pinterest that readers may follow). <—–These ideas are a way to get the social-media-driven teens to interact with my story. At least, that is my hope, once the book arrives.

It hit me that all of the experts from these podcasts and webinars were non-fiction authors that had some sort of first-hand experience to share. Connecting their book on, let’s say, ‘domestic violence’, to a blog that continually offered support and stories about this subject, could go on as long as fallen man continued to act like the unredeemed sinners that they are. Having a blog as an extension of a non-fiction subject was a natural flow. Their platform is built-in by virtue of their expertise.

What’s a fantasy writer to do? After praying and considering all the angles, I felt like I should begin a new blog with a platform that was unique but less specific than “homeschoolers, trolls, leprechauns, and gnomes,” or something along those lines.

light-bulb-momentAt this time, by divine grace, someone loaned me Madeleine L’Engle’s book Walking on Water. It was poignant, thought-provoking, and made me want to hone my gift to display God’s glory and be a glistening thread in the creative tapestry woven by the Creator. I bought my own copy so I could properly mark it up. It held such beautiful truths (though I didn’t always agree with her theology) that I felt compelled to share what I was reading with others that loved to create as well.

That’s when the main thrust of my new tetheredtogetherblog began to take on flesh. The “platform” I landed on would be a way to connect with other lovers of words. Beginning with Walking on Water, and moving on to other inspiring works from those that have gone before me in the writing world, my blog would be a sort of writer’s devotional that would keep me learning at the feet of great authors and allow me to share things that inspire or challenge me with others.

This premise denotes longevity. I hope to be an author with longevity. To garner the trust of an audience takes time. There are so many blogs out there, it must be a patient person’s undertaking. A serious writer needs to be a tortoise, not a hare. I love the verse in Five for Fighting’s song, “Slice.” It says:

 “Have you read my blog today?

Three hundred million little USAs.

Your doorstep is just a click away.

We’ll get together one of these days.”

That is a perfect word snapshot of the blogosphere, isn’t it? There are a multitude of voices vying for attention and it’s our job as writers to give readers something worth reading. Repeatedly.

It’s not always polished, not always witty, not always timely, but if my posts are consistent and born out of a desire to serve, to inspire, and to glorify the Giver of all good gifts then I feel my blog will, God willing, make it in the long run. After a few months of being up and running, I’m seeing new followers pop up. I’ve enjoyed the interaction of readers and getting acquainted with other bloggers. I look forward to seeing how maintaining this blog will keep me challenged and pressing onward and upward in my creative endeavors.

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Thank you, Abby, for allowing me to share my blog experience with your followers today! I must say that having a friend like you, oh Prolific One, is an inspiration and a challenge. You are always posting such edifying, fun, or thoughtful blogs that I love to read. Thankfully, I’m not very competitive and do not feel compelled to try to keep up with your rate of frequency!


 

I hope you found some good insight and information on why writers blog. I also hope you go visit, follow, and comment on Heather’s blog. It seems like I might have gained a new nickname–Oh Prolific One–which I shall endeavor to live up to! Heather’s thoughts have made me think about a website for my own books once I get a little further down the publishing path. Thank you, Heather, for the heads up!

You can also check out my Guest Post for Heather about writing darker themed stories.