Birthday Blessings

flowers
Photo Credit: Flowers by Just4You

Today is my 29th birthday, and I can’t think of a better way to spend it than sitting here at my favorite breakfast place writing, reflecting, and thanking God for the blessings of the past year. Here’s a recap of how my personal and professional lives have converged (and diverged) over the past twelve months—showing me how God takes a very personal interest in the mundane details of my life.

Last Summer

I was fretting over what I saw as conflicting desires, including the desire to write, teach, and (though I didn’t much tell anyone), have a baby. God started to drop things into place when Paul Coneff of Straight 2 the Heart ministries asked me to help him write his first book, The Hidden Half of the Gospel. During July of last year, I was also starting to write my master’s thesis (eventually 100 pages), which was a perfect warm-up for the book-length project I was taking on. Now busy with writing, I tabled my internal baby discussion for the time being.

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Last Fall

I was still working fervently on my two writing projects, but there came pausing points in both works, during which time I was left with nothing to do but finally start writing what was in my heart. Four notebooks and one month later, I had the rough draft of my memoir and the beginnings of this blog down on paper—both would wait for January for further development.

I looked around one day on campus and asked myself if this student life was what I wanted for five to eight more years. I didn’t see how that life would allow me to be the parent I knew I’d want to be—if we decided to have kids.

One day in October, while writing a paper for my last graduate class, I broke down at my computer and finally faced the truth: I was tired of this solitary student life; I wanted something more. I called my husband in tears and he came home early that day to take me on a walk-and-talk through the local state park. As I unknowingly acquired poison ivy, it was a relief to hear myself finally saying words I had been repressing for a long time: I want to have kids (this was a fun scene to write for my memoir).

In December I completed my master’s program and sent out two graduate applications—one MFA, and one PhD—just in case we didn’t conceive, and just in case God still wanted me in graduate school.

girl on bench

Last Winter

I did not get into either of the grad programs I applied to, which told me that was not God’s plan for me right now. I went off birth control in January, began this blog, and started officially calling myself a writer.

I spent the early months of the year feeling lonely and a bit depressed—now I was alone in our big house all day long, getting to write, yes, but without the promise of much people time during my days. I started really missing my family in Minnesota, whom I hadn’t seen since the previous June. I also realized I had been taking my husband for granted for most of our eight years of marriage—putting him on the back burner as I worked on emotional issues, self-improvement, and career development. I decided to be more family oriented.

Around the same time, God also brought many friends into my life to help alleviate my loneliness. This told me that God could meet my need for people contact with or without a baby.

Amanda and me

Last Spring

In May, when I wasn’t expecting it, I found out I was five weeks pregnant. Yay! We had a fun time surprising our family with the announcement, as most hadn’t been reading this blog and didn’t know we were trying. I rededicated my efforts to finishing my memoir “before thirty,” and now I also vowed to try to finish before baby.

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Currently

I have just returned from two weeks in Minnesota—probably my last trip to see my family before baby comes in January (I am four months along today). While in Minnesota I attended my ten-year class reunion and felt additional closure about God’s plans for my life. Though visiting Minnesota always makes me wistful, I clearly saw God’s wisdom in moving me away almost nine years ago. Visits back home used to be hard—brought painful memories—but more and more they bring happiness. Now, my husband and I are talking about getting a summer house in MN in a few years—which prospect fills my heart with joy.

My memoir is going well, and I have made contact with a favorite author of mine, Trish Ryan, who has agreed to consult on my book in late August to help me prepare it for publication (my hubby is giving me a “loan” because I told him it would be a good investment!). This fall I will be searching for an agent and/or publisher as I prepare for this baby’s arrival—and hopefully this winter I will have both a healthy baby and a manuscript headed for publication. The healthy baby is more important, of course—the book would just be a bonus. Regardless of how long it takes to get the memoir published, The Hidden Half of the Gospel will be published long before my next birthday—showing me that God heard my “before thirty” prayer six months ago.

It is 10:10 as I finish writing this, and my dentist’s office just texted, “Happy Birthday, I hope you have many reasons to smile today!” I am happy to say, “Yes, I do!” Today, I am smiling about my immediate future that will consist largely of family time, writing time, and more Minnesota time—and that doesn’t even compare to my eternal future!

Thank you, Lord, for taking such a personal interest in the mundane details of my life. Today I praise you for how you care about my heart’s desires and how you’ve led, not just for the past year, but for the past twenty-nine years.

The Writing Life

It’s one thing to tell people you like to write. It’s another thing entirely to tell them you’re a “writer.” To illustrate, recently I’ve listed “freelance writer” on my resume. However, I still have trouble telling people that’s what I am. Apparently I’m somewhat embarrassed admitting to a lifestyle that has historically been the butt of jokes, scorn, and ridicule.

What the Stereotypes Say
snoopytyping

Writers themselves (ourselves?) make fun of the profession and perpetuate the stereotypes. You know, those tropes about sitting in a secluded place drinking coffee, frittering away time, professing to be “doing” something, but not getting much done at all. Sadly, even if we’re doing stuff, a lot of us hardly make enough money at it to pay the bills. (I’m certainly not there yet!)

Why We Do It

We live a life of poverty to continue a craft that may never yield monetary gain. Yes, it’s true: We could make more mowing lawns or babysitting. And yet, writers will tell you, we continue writing because we “love” it.

How We Do It—For “Fun”

A lot of writers have had to sneak writing into their lives by logging late night or early morning hours. Was it William Faulkner, or  Don Delillo (or maybe even Fitzgerald?), who wrote while manning his position as a night guard in a boiler room? I remember that from one of my lit. classes, but regardless of who it was, the point is that writing takes sacrifice. And I love the story of Samuel Johnson writing Rasselas in “one week of evenings” because he had to pay his mother’s health bills. Interesting that he knew he’d make money at his craft—but maybe times were kinder to writers in the eighteenth century.

Indeed, today some professionals advise that the only way to find enough time is to “steal it” from something else in your life (I remember reading this tidbit in Writer’s Market). But maybe this advice is mainly for those who have to support themselves and their families with other means.

How We Do It—For a Job

For my part, when I taught fulltime, I could never take that advice. Summer breaks were about the only time I could devote to writing—because the rest of the time I just didn’t have the energy (I guess starting a Master’s degree didn’t help).

But maybe the reason I couldn’t write while also holding a separate, fulltime job has more to do with my personality than anything else. Unlike other “side” writers, I found I just couldn’t multitask  without going a little crazy. I’m an all “all or nothing” kind of a gal, so writing sandwiched in between fulltime work responsibilities and family time didn’t work.

For me, then, the only solution was to make writing my fulltime job.

Lucky, blessed me! The Lord has made this possible. Sometimes I actually feel guilty that I can stay home and write. That I can sleep in until whenever (though I try to be up by 6:30 or 7). I feel guilty that I can have a leisurely breakfast and devotional—even exercise if I want—before starting “work” for the day. But, not one to make light of a divine gift, that is what I do most days…and I love it!

Some Differences Between Writing and Other Jobs

I don’t hurry through the mornings like I did when working a “real” job. First, I ground myself in Scripture and prayer and quiet time. Then, I’m ready to write. A pretty cushy life, some would say.

Yes, it is. But I think it has to be this way if I, Lindsey Gendke, hope to produce significantly and consistently. My writing, I like to think, is not top-of-the-head, hurried, or flippant. It is reflective. It grows out of being a slow-moving, reflective person, and also from cultivating slow-moving and reflective habits.

For me

Writing is cultivating quiet, and spending time alone.

Writing is thinking and reflecting, moving slowly and deliberately through life, and refusing busyness and activity just for activity’s sake.

Writing is seeing and saying what non-writers miss.

Writing is shaping reality and fueling imagination.

Writing is intimate—asking the reader to listen, without speaking.

Writing says what one could never otherwise say without interruption.

Writing is becoming bold in way that is impossible when speaking.

Writing is a lifestyle.

I know most don’t have the opportunity to live such a life, and that’s okay. My hope is just maybe, through reading my writing, others can begin to slow down and reflect, just a little more. In today’s hyper-fast-paced world, I don’t see how that could be a bad thing.

To the writers out there: Do you find that writing is more like a lifestyle, or a side activity? Can the two ever really be separated?

*Note: I got my title from Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life, in case you’re interested in a good book on this topic.