Blood Red at Christmas: A Lament for San Bernardino

sanbernardino

An optimistic van hosting a blood drive in a grocery store parking lot called out to me as I passed by in my Subaru; at the same time, I listened to the frantic voices of reporters on the radio as they provided moment-by-moment updates on the shooting in San Bernardino, California. Simultaneously, a call for the gift of blood mingles with the cry of innocent bloodshed. Blood crying out for justice, blood crying out for answers. Blood in California, blood in Paris, blood in Charleston...Blood in every corner of the world.

We hear daily stories of violence, of hatred, of evil. While violence is not a new thing, each life is valuable, making every fresh loss feel as if we've heard about it for the first time.

Listening to the unfolding of this shooting in San Bernardino, a hollow pit burrowed its way deep into my stomach. When I think about all the evil in the world, the temptation is to slip into despair. For many of you who have experienced tragedy, you know that there often are no words to alleviate the pain. Advice-giving, telling you that we understand, offering up religious platitudes - this is not helpful. So how do we adequately express the grief, the agony, the horror? 

What is the appropriate response to such pain?

Two thousand years ago, another major bloodbath against innocent babes occurred. The second chapter in the book of Matthew (found in the New Testament of the Bible) details the story of a king named Herod who ordered the slaughter of little boys in the region surrounding Bethlehem. Infants, toddlers - all boys - two years and younger - put to death by soldiers. Rightly so, a lament is lifted up. The record is as follows:

A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more. (ESV)

Rather than offer up plausible solutions, it seems that making room for grief is the most appropriate response that I can offer up on behalf of yesterday's blood.

San Bernardino, I lament for the loss of life. For the terror. For the loss of innocence. As a member of the human race, I confess that I am prone to anger. I am prone to selfishness. I am prone to pride, to arrogance, to hatred in my heart. I cry out for justice on your behalf.

Today I make room for grief.

If I only make room for grief, then I will be consumed with despair. Along with lamenting, I must also choose to hope. Not hope in how good people are or hope that there will be no more killing. No, the only true words of hope I cling to were written a long time ago:

...Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:3-4 (ESV)

These words don't mean that the tragic events we experience are any less tragic. On the contrary, the more we love, the more opportunity we have to be wounded. What these words do mean to me is that one day, there will be an end to the shedding of blood. No more bombings, no more shootings, no more abuse. No more evil.

Today as I make room for grief, I also make room for hope.

Thinking of San Bernardino today, rather than ramble on, I offer up a simple lament:

A Lament for San Bernardino

Red. Blood red. The crimson blood cries out. The blood screams for justice and asks, "Why?" 
 How long, O Lord? How long must we wait? How long?
I lift my voice, my one and only voice and say, "Return."
You came long ago. You brought Light into the darkness, and now we wait again.
I wait in expectancy. Wait for the wrong to be made right.
Emmanuel, God with us. I cry out for the second coming. I cry out for justice. I cry out for mercy. 

 

 

Written by Heidi Sadler. © 2015 All Rights Reserved. Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

100 Ways to Describe Your Character's Eyes

100 Ways to Describe Your Characters' Eyes

As I have been doing a lot of fiction writing, I have discovered how essential it is to use unique words and phrases to describe my characters. Specifically, I have been looking for new ways to talk about people's eyes. So for all of you writers out there, here are 100 words you can use to describe eyes:

100 Ways to Describe Your Character's Eyes



Hope these are helpful to you. Log back in soon for my next blog, 100 Ways to Say "Went."

3 Tools Every Writer Should Utilize

3toolsforeverywriter

 

After countless hours of writing letters, drafting my novel, and working on other projects, there are several tools I have found to be essential to the writing process. Other than my computer, here are my three favorite writing aids:

1 - Pen and Paper

It's probably pretty obvious that I am a big fan of pen and paper. And while some writers prefer to directly type all of their work into the computer, I have found that there's something organic that happens when I write my initial words out by hand. Thoughts and ideas that I didn't even know were inside start to come out. Sometimes my mind starts moving so quickly that I can't write fast enough to keep up; that's when I begin to consider typing.

2 - Digital Dictation

Sometimes when the words just don't come by hand, I talk out my ideas and hear what I want to say first. This the beauty of a dictation device. I find this especially helpful when I am running around town and just need to get my concepts logged.

With current technology, you can use digital dictation to record your thoughts then simply email the transcribed work to yourself. Most cell phones already have a digital dictaphone app already installed on their notes section. There are, however, a range of apps you can download for free or for minimal cost. (I currently have Dragon Dictation on my cell).

3 - Walks

The third writing aid I use is simply the act of taking walks. I get some of of my best writing done before I write anything down at all. I have also had major insight when I've been cycling or on the treadmill at the gym. In her book If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit, Brenda Ueland has a fantastic chapter with several pages detailing the close connection between physical exertion and good writing. My point: go take a walk.

I hope these are helpful ideas for your writing. Please comment below and share your favorite writing tools.

How to Make People Cry

How To Make People Cry

For some people, crying is a rare event. But for people like me, crying is a typical activity. And because I fall into the weeping crowd, I love it when other people cry -- in a good way, that is.

As I have been in the process of writing my 365 Letters, a common response from recipients has been that the words I sent were so meaningful that it made them cry.

Based on this response, I'm recognizing how much people need to hear words of affirmation. And not just once in a while. Even if we have heard it before, we need to know that we are loved and appreciated. That we are seen and not invisible.

So next time you have a few minutes, write someone a letter detailing what you appreciate about them. It just might make them cry.

-Heidi

The Writer and the Computer Collide

There is a reason why I'm a writer. I like words, and I like stories. 

When it comes to blogging, I understand very little about RSS feeds and html code and domain names. I just like putting words down on paper and sharing them with people.

A month or so ago, when my friend and excellent writer Bethany Martin suggested that I subscribe to my own blog (light bulb going off here!), I realized that the"subscribe" button on my website didn't actually do anything. 

Now I am four months into this endeavor, and I do believe that I have made the proper computer code adjustments so that you can now subscribe to heidibethsadler.com. At least I think you can...Let me know if something doesn't seem to be working. I need all the help I can get.

With much admiration for the computer savvy people out there,

Heidi

Return of the "F" Word

Return of the F Word

If you read "The Notorious 'F' Word," you know that Fear attempts to intimidate my creative spirit.

Well, Fear turned up again when I began receiving letters from people that I have written this year. And while it might seem ridiculous, I took several days to open some of these letters because I, the letter writer, was nervous to read what others might say to me.

Seeing that I am sending letters that I want others to open and enjoy, it has been good for me to be on the receiving end of love. Clearly, I can be one of those people who fear vulnerability and struggles with embracing words of affirmation.

Once I was brave enough to open my letters, I was encouraged by the words that my friends had to say, and I recognized that I didn't need to fear love.

This experience brings me to a realization that we live in a society that tends to be critical. Whether it's movies, books, restaurants, or celebrities, we are constantly critiquing others. 

Because there is so much negativity around us, we tend to assume that others are thinking the worst about us. But what would happen if we created a culture in our homes, in our schools, and workplaces where we were known for being people of encouragement rather than people who criticize? If we expected to be affirmed rather than cut down, we might not fear answering the phone or checking our email or opening letters.

As I think about my own community, it is good to ask myself:

Who can I encourage today? Who can I affirm? Did I encourage or discourage others today?

-Heidi

Perfection or Practice?

Perfection.or.Practice

When I set out to write my 365 Letters at the beginning of this year, that number was significant to me because it communicates a daily practice.

Before I started this project, I recognized that 365 is a lot of letters. While my desire would be to never miss a day of writing, I would likely need a measure of flexibility. The odds that I might get sick or have an incredibly hectic day was a strong possibility. My plan, therefore, has been to double up on letters for those occasional times that I might miss.

Well, this past Saturday was the first day of the year that I missed writing a letter. My husband and I were helping my sister and her family move into a new house, and by the time our evening church ended and I crawled into bed, I had completely forgotten about it.

The next day, when I realized I had not written a letter, my first inclination was to emotionally abuse myself. Words like failure popped up as that achievement part of my personality kicked in.

However, I soon realized what was going on internally and asked myself the question:

"Why am I writing letters to people each day?"

Am I seeking perfection? Or am I developing a lifestyle of blessing people? Is this a law or a way of love?

As I wrote my "make-up" letter, this led me to consider how many other areas of my life would be more enjoyable if I viewed them as practice rather than perfection. I would probably be more consistent with exercise, healthy eating, and creating if I viewed them as lifestyle rather than as a law.

What are the areas in your life that you are developing as a practice? Is this becoming a law or a lifestyle for you?

Fifty-Two Field Trips That Release Creativity

It seems that after encouraging you to take a creative field trip (read Why Adults Need Field Trips Too), it would be helpful to provide you with some specific ideas. Here are fifty-two activities, which gives you a weekly activity for an entire year of fun and creativity.

fifty-two field trips that release creativity

The Arts

 

  • Visit a museum.
  • Attend an orchestra/symphony performance.
  • Take a dance class.
  • Take a cooking class.
  • Listen to a jazz band.
  • Visit an art gallery.
  • Attend the ballet.

  • Take a trip to the zoo.
  • Swim at the pool or a nearby lake.
  • Go on a scavenger hunt. (Check out geocaching.com).
  • Attend a sporting event.
  • Sing karaoke.
  • Go to an arcade. Pay attention to the sounds and flashes, and to the other gamers.

Evoke The Senses
  • Take a yoga class.
  • Treat yourself to a relaxing facial. (Cosmetology schools are often an affordable option).
  • Find a restaurant that serves dinner in various courses. Enjoy each one, savoring the tastes and the atmosphere. (A tapas restaurant could be a good option).

The Local Scene.jpg
  • Stop by a local farmer's market.
  • Peruse a local bookstore.
  • Tour a local farm or vineyard.
  • Go to a high school or college theatrical production.
  • Walk through a cemetery, taking in the names, dates, and landscape.
  • Visit a pet store.
  • Join a drum circle.
  • Tour a nearby factory.
  • Frequent a grocery store known for high quality products and artistic packaging.
  • Peruse a local art store, noting the papers, paints, colors, and materials.
  • Go to a music store and try out the instruments.
  • Attend a comedy improvisation night.
  • Spend an afternoon at the library.
  • Find a Meetup group in your area that has an activity/topic that interests you. (Visit meetup.com for ideas).
  • Go to a rock climbing gym.
  • Attend a cross-cultural event in your city.
  • Visit a local game/hobby store and pick a new puzzle.
  • Have a progressive dinner at restaurants you've never tried. Appetizers at one, main course at another, and dessert at a third.
  • Visit a vintage thrift store.

 

 

 

 

 

  • Take a train ride.
  • Go on a road trip and stop at all the intriguing spots along the way.
  • Ride public transportation and observe the people around you.
  • Visit the nearest river or ocean. Look for rocks, shells, and the like.
  • Go on an overnight camping trip.

TheOutdoors
  • Take a bike ride.
  • Go hiking.
  • Play a round of golf.
  • Walk through a neighborhood known for its architecture and landscape.
  • Go horseback riding.
  • Have a picnic in a park, observing other people and their activities.
  • Go fishing.

FunatHome
  • Watch a movie, focusing on the soundtrack. (Alfred Hitchcock movies are a great pick).
  • Take a day of silence.
  • Play a role playing game with friends.
  • Host a costume party centered around a particular theme (i.e. Gatsby Style, Superheroes, the 70's, etc.).
  • Invite writers, musicians, actors, and painters to share their creations at an art night in your home.

I hope you experience a fresh burst of creativity and share your own field trip ideas with me in the comments below.

Enjoy, Heidi

Why Adults Need Field Trips Too

My dreaded nemesis known as writer's block recently paid me a visit. But rather than be defeated by it, I am choosing to reject the lie that there is no more creativity left in me. There is a natural ebb and flow to such things, and I am confident that a fresh burst is just around the corner.

With all that being said, there are times when we need inspiration, a change of scenery, if you will, in order to get our creative juices flowing. For this reason, I am a firm advocate of field trips.

When I think about field trips, I conjour up images from elementary school: sack lunches, chaperones, and a buddy for the day. Some of my best memories of school are of outings with classmates as we explored museums and farms and pumpkin patches.

Benefits of Field Trips

Why should adults take field trips? I can think of a few reasons:

  • Field trips provide us with creative inspiration.
  • Intentional outings remove us from the daily stress of life, which often blocks creativity.
  • We get to experience the creativity of others and of God.

Guidelines for Adult Field Trips

In my effort to embrace field trips, there are a few tips I've discovered:

  • Bring snacks -- There's nothing worse than getting the hangries (hungry and angry) on an outing.
  • Bring water -- While I have no scientific research to prove it, my creativity is stunted when I am dehydrated.
  • Bring a camera -- Even if you're not going to use your pictures, snapping shots of your outing will give you a visual prompt when you go to create.
  • Be intentional -- Pick an outing that will be stimulating to you. If you're feeling blocked in a particular area, pick an adventure that will stimulate that subject.

Simply put, field trips are fun, and sometimes, we just need to play. 

I hope you will take a creative adventure soon. If you need some ideas, check back tomorrow for my next post, Fifty-Two Field Trips That Release Creativity.

Enjoy, Heidi

What was your favorite field trip as a kid? I'd love to hear in the comments below.

The Notorious "F" Word

It's a four letter word, it starts with the letter "F," and it drastically affects our lives.

Okay, so it's not that "F" word. No, the word I'm thinking of is Fear. A familiar enemy, Fear is a crippling force that steals joy and hinders creativity. 

Recently, I encountered Fear after writing a letter of thanks to someone I didn't know very well. Afterwards, I was concerned that my gesture would seem silly to the other person, and I avoided delivering it for a week. 

Why Do I Fear Vulnerability?

Why do I hold back when I have so much love to give? Why do I fear being vulnerable? 

Pondering this unsent letter has brought to mind other opportunities when I have restrained myself. One of the reasons for this has been due to past rejection. My prior expressions of love have not always been reciprocated; believing that the rejection was my fault, I have held back words of affirmation. 

It's All About Me

In this cycle of Fear, there has been a lot of focus on myself. I am concerned about what others think of me, and I don't want to get hurt.

But what if I switched focus and considered that people who reject my love might do so because they are afraid? What if love scares people, and they reject it when they feel unworthy? When they feel vulnerable?

My Options

Once I acknowledged that Fear was keeping me from delivering this particular letter, there were only three options:

1) I could continue in fear and not deliver it.

2) I could wallow in agony over missed opportunities from the past, which would probably cause me to default back to option one.

3) I could reject fear and deliver it, regardless of the outcome.

With a muster of courage, I chose option three. With nervous steps, I discreetly slipped the letter into the recipient's mailbox and breathed a sigh of relief. Whether my words are received or rejected, I have released another letter of love, and that feels pretty good.

How are you conquering Fear today? How are you releasing love? I'd love to hear in the comments below.

How Reading Screenplays Enhances Creativity

Until Diablo Cody won an Oscar for writing Juno, I didn't really know anything about screenplays. I had read several stage plays before, like Death of a Salesman and A Raisin in the Sun. But once I realized there was this whole other world called screenwriting, I started snatching up every movie script I could find. I read the screenplays to movies like Slumdog Millionaire, Sense & Sensibility, and The Queen.

As I began to read screenplays, I began to think more visually. This is because a script only includes what can be seen or heard on film. No interior monologue, no feelings, no inner turmoil. If it can't be shot by the camera, it can't be in the script. This is because screenwriters show us the story rather than tell it. 

Eventually, I wrote a couple scripts of my own. During this process, I started paying attention to people's facial expressions and to body language. I noticed the trees and the wind and the pedestrians and the bicyclists. I studied architecture and paintings and animals and the blue sky. I began to see the world in a new way.

If you've never read a screenplay before, it's an excellent way to enhance your visual creativity. Even if you aren't an aspiring screenwriter, I'd encourage everyone to read one. Some of the benefits of reading scripts include the following:

  • An entire script can be read in an evening.
  • Screenplays show rather than tell stories.
  • Familiarity with screenplays helps us identify good film writing when we see it.

Next time you have a free evening, pick out one of your favorite movies and get the companion script. Follow along as you watch the movie and see how the writer communicated the story through visual prompts and dialogue. (Many screenplays can be downloaded for free at Daily Script). 

As you enter into the world of screenwriting, I hope you'll comment your thoughts and experiences below.  

-Heidi

What I've Learned From the Fifty Shades' Hype

Fifty SHades of grey Hype

Currently, I'm in the middle of doing research for a novel that addresses the sex trafficking issues in Portland, Oregon, where I live. Ironically, the erotic movie Fifty Shades of Grey is scheduled to release during this process.

I could spend the majority of this post relating the themes of the story and asking you to stay home from the movie. I could discuss how our culture's approach to sexuality contributes to domestic violence and sex trafficking. But rather than reiterate what others have thoroughly addressed (see the excellent Resources below), I'm compelled to ask myself:

What does the hype surrounding Fifty Shades of Grey teach me about myself, and what can I do about it?

What I've Learned

I'm Curious

I'll be honest - when the books first came out, part of me wanted to know what was in them. Thankfully, I heard a few excerpts and watched an interview with the author, which solidified my decision to decline. However, I have to admit that the desire to know things is a temptation. I have to take responsibility for what I have participated in just because my mind is easily drawn to the unknown.

I Battle Fear

In writing this post, I have felt a measure of fear. Fear of being misunderstood, fear of what people might think, fear of being viewed as intolerant. Because my voice might be contrary to the millions saying this story is just fantasy for consenting adults, I am tempted to remain silent and let the "professionals" discuss it.

But at the end of the day, it's okay for me to disagree. If I want others to be honest, then I have to be honest too. Granted, I could avoid this topic, but if I fearfully opt out of the conversation, I miss the opportunity for a respectful, healthy dialogue.

I can exercise my freedom of speech and say that, as a strong woman, I'm offended by any story that would manipulate me into thinking that graphic sexual entertainment is beneficial.

I Am Inconsistent

In this country, women have intense feelings about equality and independence. We advocate for homes without violence. We expect our husbands to be faithful. We see how pornography destroys marriages, and we insist that women be treated as more than sexual objects.

In spite of all this, millions of women have flocked to read this book. By substituting the word erotic, it suddenly doesn't seem so bad. (See Merriam-Webster's simple definition of pornography).

As a woman, this phenomenon forces me to look at the inconsistencies in my own life. When have I acted against my core beliefs so that something doesn't seem quite so bad?

What I Can Do

I Can Value Myself

I've worked with many women in crisis: abused women, women involved in the sex industry, and women facing unplanned pregnancy. Behind a mask of sexual freedom, my conversations with them would often reveal that they had little value for themselves. 

So what can I do to value women? One of the best things I can do is to value myself. This might be as simple as talking well about myself rather than constantly degrading my weight, my skills, my personality...When I value myself, then I am eager to express value for others.

I Can Value Men

Watching the Superbowl, I cringed as the Fifty Shades trailer and a graphic Victoria's Secret commercial graced the screen. It grieves me that my husband, my father, my brother-in-law, my nephew, and my friends can't watch a football game without being subjected to sexual images that exploit women.

While it seems that most of the criticism surrounding this Fifty Shades has focused on the way it degrades women, I'd like to propose that this story is just as offensive to men. Shadowed by fantasy elements, the message to men is that women want to be treated in a violent, controlling manner. How confusing and insulting it must be for good men to see millions of women enthralled with this violent expression dubbed as love.

One of the most loving things I can do for men is to proclaim that all the "tee-heeing" around this movie is a harmful masquerade. The emperor literally has no clothes on, and women need to say so.

I Can Turn Around

I've often been found guilty of falling into the lie, "Well, I've gone this far. I might as well go the rest of the way." In my life, this train of thought can be as subtle as:

  • I didn't exercise on Monday. I suppose I shouldn't bother on Tuesday either, since I already blew it this week.
  • I already ate half the tub of ice cream. Might as well finish it off.
  • I already wasted an hour of my day. I might as well waste the rest of the evening.

Millions who have read Fifty Shades may think seeing the movie is just part of the package deal. But this doesn't have to be the case; we aren't animals who can't control ourselves. Nobody has to see this movie.

Over the years, I've had to throw out magazines, movies, and books because I realized they weren't beneficial. Just because I have the freedom to do something doesn't mean I should, and there's no shame in turning back to the road less traveled.

I Can Create Out of Love

Some time back, I heard the author of Fifty Shades admit that she would be mortified if her kids were to read her work. This disconnect convinces me that anything I create needs to be something I'm comfortable with my parents reading or my nephew hearing. If I can't share my writing with those closest to me, then I probably shouldn't write it in the first place. Whatever I create should be a gift to my friends and family.

The Good News

This is a teachable moment for our society. As individuals, we have the ability to make our own choices, which also means we are free to choose the best path. Thanks for hearing my heart on this difficult topic. Whether you agree or disagree with my insight, I welcome your respectful interaction in the comments below. 

Be loved this Valentine's Day! - Heidi

Resources: 

No Sloppy Kisses

NoSloppyKisses

In response to one of my 365 Letters, I recently had the pleasure of receiving a letter back. This bit of correspondence was from my nephew Malcolm.

Now, because he is only three years old, I assume that one of his parents did the actual handwriting portion; but it was clear from the contents of the letter that he had dictated the words himself. 

Below is some insight that I gained from reading my nephew's letter:

No Sloppy Kisses

Since I have the cutest nephew in the world, I love to show him affection. Apparently, however, there has been a bit of personal space invasion on my end. And I quote:

"I like your hugs, but I don' like your sloppy kisses. Just nice ones."

While we may not agree on the nature of my kisses, the point is that I need to love Malcolm in a way that he can receive. Rather than cram my love down his throat, I need to be respectful of his needs and only sneak in auntie kisses every so often. 

Special Surprises

One specific mention Malcolm made was looking forward to a sleepover at my house. This tells me how important special surprises are for little ones. It reminds me that adults need to schedule special events on their calendar as well. We all need something to look forward to, to hope for, to get us through long days and difficult work weeks. 

Special Note: Malcolm and I did have our sleepover last week, and it was a grand success.

Little Gifts

The last point in Malcolm's letter was to thank me for jelly beans. The first round of jelly beans I gave him was for Easter last year. I'm not sure if this was the first time he'd ever eaten them, but ever since then, jelly beans have been our special treat.

Even though this may not seem like a big deal to me, I'm reminded that kids appreciate special traditions. When I was little, one of my favorite treats was Peanut Buster Parfaits that my dad got me from Dairy Queen. Whether a pile of jelly beans or an ice cream sundae, children show me that simple gifts can be the most precious.

Honoring Children

Watching the news, we see a world that devalues children. We hear stories of abuse and neglect that make us shudder. This leads me to look at me own life and ask: 

How do I honor the little ones in my own community?

One way I'm releasing love and respect to my youngest friends is by including them in my list of letter recipients. Granted, due to their short attention span and smaller vocabulary, these are shorter letters than those addressed to my adult friends. But as I write, I want to communicate that I value them.

While adults may feel that children benefit from us, we are, indeed, the ones who are better because of them.

How can there be too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers?
— Mother Teresa