The Blog Pile’s Final Post

This is the last post on The Blog Pile. But don’t be sad; this is a good thing.

We need to focus on other projects, so The Blog Pile will shut down in a few weeks.

That doesn’t mean we’re not writing anymore, we are. It’s just that our work won’t appear here. Follow each of us on our own blogs:

We so appreciate you for following us on The Blog Pile; we are honored. And we look forward to connecting with you on our individual blogs in the future.

Thank you

The Unlikely Book on My Reading List

By Jennifer Allen

Jennifer Allen: writer, blogger, wife, and momI closed the book and held it to my chest. After three weeks immersed in the pages of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand I was both sad and happy for the story of Louie Zamperini to come to an end.

When I started reading this book it wasn’t what I expected. For some reason I thought it was a fiction novel set in World War II. I realized right away this wasn’t the case. Rather than historical fiction, Unbroken is a very real account of an American POW, a biography of an American hero.

While I love historical fiction my typical reading preferences do not gravitate toward history books, particularly those that tell the gruesome details of war and the soldiers who fight them. That’s more my husband’s department, and for years I’ve been content to leave this difficult and heavy reading up to him.

But there was something about Louie, something about Unbroken that I couldn’t let go. This story, albeit hard to read, is the closest I’ll ever come to understanding the price that was paid for my freedom.

If an American hero like Louie was brave enough, resilient enough, strong enough to endure the story captured in this book, the very least I can do is take the time to read his-story.

It seems nothing short of scandalous. That I can sit on my couch, comfortable and cozy on a cold winter night, with food in my fridge and a roof over my head and read the story of a man who lost everything in order to protect my freedom.

Books like Unbroken, movies like American Sniper are hard to read, hard to watch, but I think there is an importance to these stories all Americans should make room for in their hearts, their minds, their lives. How else do we avoid taking the truth of our history for granted? How else do we avoid forgetting? How else do we avoid turning a blind eye to what is still being done on our behalf to keep us safe, to keep us free?

If you’re like me, and books or movies about war aren’t your thing, might I encourage you to check one out? Take the time to set aside your normal book of choice and engage in the stories of men and women who have given their lives so that we can live our lives in safety and in freedom.

And when you’re done, I hope you’ll take that unlikely book on your reading list and hold it close to your chest. A little more grateful. A little more aware. A little more willing to thank the veteran you see next week at the store.

A little more willing to keep on reading. Because these stories are more than stories.

They are relics of our history, bought with blood, too precious to be forgotten. They are links into the battle against evil, being fought for us right now, too real to be taken for granted.

Waiting for Sand: A Lesson in Patience

By Peter DeHaan

Author Peter DeHaan

Peter DeHaan

I understand the phrase “pounding sand” to be a reference to a futile activity, but “waiting for sand” was a new one to me.

Once, while awaiting takeoff of a small commuter plane, we endured a lengthy and unexpected delay. Finally the explanation was given.

The plane was “unbalanced” and we were light in the tail section. To correct this they needed to add weight in the back and were waiting for bags of sand to be delivered and loaded onto the plane. We were “waiting for sand.”

Now if this weight imbalance was a safety issue, then I welcome the delay. However, if this was done merely to make the plane fly more aerodynamically in order to save fuel, then I’m a bit miffed. Because of this delay, I missed my connecting flight, as I’m sure was the case with many of my fellow travelers who had even tighter connections then me.

As a result, I understand “waiting for sand” to mean a needless and unwarranted delay. “Waiting for sand,” seems to be the norm in the airline industry.

Sometimes my relationship with God seems like I’m “waiting for sand.” Fortunately I trust God to have my best interests in mind. I may not like it when God says to wait, but I’m okay with it.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.

The Boot…and Our Life “Boot”

By Sally Stap

Author Sally StapThe well-worn boot had settled into an artistic display with layers of cobwebs connecting it to a nearby picture and walls. How long had it been on the shelf of the Genoa Bar, Nevada’s oldest thirst station, established in 1853? Cobwebs stretched from the boot to a poster dated 1964. Really? It had to only have been “growing” for fifty-one years of the drinking station’s one hundred sixty two year history!

A brown broken bottle sat beside it, grey with years of undisturbed dust coating it. How long had this little display been uninterrupted? With customers in and out of the business for year after year, with the tables and bar regularly wiped clean. The cobwebs been left to grow and build upon each other. How had it been viewed but never disturbed? When someone set that boot on the shelf did they know that it would sit undisturbed for over fifty years?

the old boot on the shelfWho had worn that boot? Who worked hard to purchase what were perhaps their only new shoes in life? Boots that spent hours in the dust and heat of the nearby ranches? Where was its mate? What boots had followed for that cowboy; and were they as comfortable? How had that one lone boot ended up as part of a display in a western bar? And one that wasn’t a traditional cowboy boot?

How often do we leave parts of our lives, hearts, and relationships on the shelf for years without attention? How often do we become separated by those who seemed to be the other shoe? How many people have had to learn to live with one boot – symbolically in life? How many lives have been repurposed from a hard working ranch boot to a display in a bar? That seems to be a pretty dramatic repurpose, in my opinion.

Like that old, frozen-in-time boot, how many parts of life do we leave on the shelf for later? How often do we postpone change; avoid things that need attention; procrastinate reading a book – but instead choose to spend our time on meaningless activities? (TV or Candy Crush)

How often do we leave our relationship with God on the shelf? How often do we say, “Someday I will get around to spending more time with God and more time in His word? But tonight I’m too tired and I’ll be too rushed in the morning.”

How often do we live in our own boot without recognizing that God is in a perfectly matched boot right at our side?

On the other hand, how often do we leave things on the shelf to accumulate dust and cobwebs when they are past their useful life? What is a useful life? When should we let go of things in our lives that we continue to cling to?

The dusty boot on the shelf gave me quite a few things to think about. . . how about you? It raised more questions than it provided answers. I’ll keep pondering.

When Anxiety Makes Your Mind Run Wild

By Jennifer Allen

Jennifer Allen: writer, blogger, wife, and momI could tell by his side of the conversation that I was not going to like what my husband was about to tell me. He hung up the phone and proceeded to inform me that a company he recently rented equipment to was ready for him to come do a pick-up.

“I have to be there tomorrow at noon,” he said.

“But we have to take Beth to the airport tomorrow,” I said as my stomach started to tangle into a great big knot.

“You’re right,” he said. “Looks like you’ll have to get her there by yourself.”

Make that two knots…

I have this little thing I like to call “1-94 Anxiety.” It’s not that I don’t love to drive, I do. But driving by myself, in the middle of winter, with two small children, a nine-month pregnant belly, and my husband hours away, is not my cup of tea.

I know, at least on some level, this is nothing I can’t handle…but…

But…what if something were to happen?

What if we had an accident? A flat tire?

What if I ended up stranded?

I pictured myself traipsing through snow with two young children behind me. I pictured myself trying to fix a flat tire with a belly as round as beach ball, and stretchers loading all three of us into an ambulance parked beside our mangled van.

Anxiety and fear can do this, make our imaginations run wild. They can paint a vivid reality, a clear-cut future, that hasn’t even happened.

When we fail to take thoughts like these captive we set ourselves up for all kinds of stress, all kinds of worry, fear, and torture for something that isn’t true. For a future that doesn’t exist.

Instead of allowing our anxieties and imaginations to rule our thoughts, God wants us to stay close to Him. To come to Him with all our fears, anxiety, and doubts and trust that we could never be more loved, never be more safe and secure than we are with Him.

This is what’s real. This is the future we have. A future, a reality, where God is present and always by our side. He loves us. And because He loves us we have nothing to fear.

In the end, my husband was able to get up early, do his pick-up, and get home in time to go with us to the airport. God worked everything out in perfect detail. All I really needed to do, all along, was trust in Him.

So how about you? What makes you anxious? What fuels your imagination to run wild in all the wrong ways? What scares you or looms in your future?

Instead of letting your imagination run wild with all that could wrong, let your imagination run wild into the arms of Jesus. Into all that is good, and true, and right.

With Him you can face anything…I-94 included.

 

Things Don’t Always Go As Planned

By Peter DeHaan

Author Peter DeHaanFor the past five months my wife and I have been building a house. Actually, we’ve been watching someone else build a house for us. Though there were times I wanted to help, I suspect they would have charged more if I tried.

The early stages clipped by quickly: digging the basement, pouring footings and basement walls, framing the house, putting on the roof, roughing in the mechanical systems, adding insulation, and installing drywall. We enjoyed stopping by each night to see the progress and snap pictures to chronicle the birth of our home.

Then things slowed down. They warned us this would happen. Some days saw no progress and occasionally a whole week would march past with seemingly little to show for the passage of time. Much of this was normal, but some resulted from delays in shipping critically needed product, exacerbated by the holidays.

Added to the delays were inevitable cost overruns. While a few of these were our doing, most were not. It seems a quote is merely a guideline for intent, the possibility of what may occur – or not. At present, we’re about 5 percent over budget, which is made all the worse since our starting point was higher than originally conceived when the project was hatched.

Then there are deviations from design, instigated by well-intended construction folk. Some of these were out of necessity, others were spontaneous decisions that worked out well, but a few were contrary to our wishes, with displeasing results. Of course there were also instances where the reality of construction didn’t match what we envisioned from the black and white lines on the two-dimensional blueprint.

While we hoped to move in this weekend, the building inspector had other ideas, pointing out two minor items he objected to. We sigh, we wait, and we pray for approval.

Building a house is a lot like life. Though we have a general direction, we aren’t in control. Things can cost more, take additional time, and may not end up as expected – regardless of the degree of planning and our attention to detail.

Whether building a house or living life, things don’t always go as planned. We are not in charge, and we can’t dictate the outcome, but we move forward in faith, confident the results will work out – and they will, for our house and our life.

The Identity Crisis of Blogging: What is our purpose?

By Sally Stap

Author Sally StapHow does a blog (technically the blogger) identify its audience? When is the target scope too broad or too narrow? How does each blog find its audience in the blogosphere? Some are by writers who write for other writers. Some are specific to a disease, a cause, or a population. Some are content-driven based on the mood of the writer. Some are inspirational with the blogger sharing a bit of wisdom and an observation about the world or their beliefs. I have two blogs and guest post on TheBlogPile each month. Sometimes I take a moment – or five – to think about what and why I am writing.

The first blog I established was www.smilingagainbook.com. When publishing a book, I learned the importance of social media. I learned that I needed to establish a “platform” for book exposure. So, when my book, Smiling Again: Coming Back to Life and Faith After Brain Surgery, was published, I became a reluctant blogger. Of course, it isn’t popular to write entry after entry that says “buy my book,” so I had to figure out why anyone would want to read anything I wrote. At first it was short little blips from my book, or a few lines of what I had experienced. However, after posting for a while I have established loyal readers in the Acoustic neuroma brain tumor world. I’ve found my posts keep getting longer and longer. I feel that, for this blog I have found my voice even though technically I’m breaking blog length rules. I know my purpose is contributing to the acoustic neuroma community.

My entries have gotten numerous comments from people who seemed to really benefit from what I wrote. Really? I’m blown away that anyone wants to read my writing, let alone what I, at times, consider redundant points. However, the brain tumor club welcomes unwilling members daily. There, unfortunately, is a continual flow of newly diagnosed people with questions. There are also recently treated and longtime survivors with chronic health issues. I’m not fixing anything in anyone’s life, but I’m giving people a feeling of not being alone on a tough journey.

Occasionally, people will take a bit of exception to the focus of one of my posts. It has been pointed out that what I write about isn’t limited to one type of brain tumor patient, or even to brain tumors at all. While I agree, does that mean that I should broaden my writing to more general health and life issues? My decision has been no, and hope that anyone who finds my blog and benefits from it will return regardless of their situation. If someone buys a book, that’s great, but that’s a one-time purchase. What I have gained is more than a book sale, but a connection with another person in this very impersonal and electronic world.

My second blog is www.sallystap.com, a blog I established to be “non-brain tumor stuff.” Well, okay, that is pretty broad! I write observations about life. I write about my faith in God on this more personal blog. I am not disciplined about new posts because I write when I feel like it, which is never a good deadline to give a writer. At the same time, I wonder who will find it, benefit, and why. What is my purpose in building a readership? I could say future books, but it’s actually my desire for community. When someone reads something that I wrote and gives me feedback, it makes me feel connected. If someone says, “You wrote what I feel but haven’t ever been able to put words into,” I feel accomplished. What will my voice be on this blog? Only time will tell what my purpose is with this blog.

TheBlogPile, which this post was actually written for, is “An anthology blog of Christian authors.” Several individuals post monthly, unless a month slips by here or there. We have been discussing the readership of this blog and are trying to determine a direction. Are we writing to promote writing? Are we writing to share our Christian beliefs? Or are we writing something in the hopes it will draw people to our individual blogs? We have Christian in the title but have agreed we don’t want to sound preachy – which is a word that I’m continually struggling with when determining what and how to write. What is our purpose? Which direction should we take if any different from the current one?

In the blog world we measure success by the number of subscribers and frequency of comments. There are statistics that tell us how many times a page was clicked. We get caught up in questions of value and purpose. We get more spam comments that need to be discarded than valid ones. We are willing to sort through the junk to get a few gems and affirmation back. Comments that tell us what we are writing is making a difference for even one person.

Sometimes when I get caught up in the definition of “success” as a blogger, I focus more on our purpose in life. We are here to honor God and to seek his wisdom. We are here to commune with each other and not to count statistics.

God is the blogger of the universe. He knows each one of us. He is focused on an individual relationship with each “reader.” I’m guessing he isn’t checking statistics. He’s measuring the closeness with which we hold our beliefs. He is not measuring how many trials we each face, but how we traverse them. He isn’t measuring the number of worries we have, but how well we hand them over to Him. Can you imagine how many “spam” prayers He gets? He listens for our individual heartfelt voice in the crowd, ready to make a difference in our lives.

What We Really Need to Make this Year New

By Jennifer Allen

Jennifer Allen: writer, blogger, wife, and momI had such high hopes for this week. After an amazing holiday season I planned to get back to my daily writing routine and homeschool schedule, to pack away Christmas, to unpack the box of baby clothes waiting anxiously in the basement. I planned to fix healthy meals and start my family’s new year with a healthy lifestyle.

Easy-peasy, right? After all, it’s the New Year. Every thing seems hopeful. Everything seems bright.

Well, as the week bumped along I didn’t get back to my writing.

I have yet to do my lesson plans and get back to school.

Christmas boxes fill my hallway.

The nursery closet sits unnervingly empty while that box of clothes remains neglected in the basement.

And I’ve fallen off the health-food bandwagon more times than I can count.

As I sit to write this blog and look back over the week I can’t think of a single thing I managed to accomplish.

And I don’t feel hopeful, I don’t feel bright. I feel discouraged and sick in my heart.

Just before Christmas I read a blog post about our longing for the ideal and how we sometimes get so wrapped up in wanting things to be perfect we miss the truth that the very first Christmas and Jesus’ life here on earth was anything but perfect, anything but ideal.

While this is an important truth to remember before Christmas, I am finding myself returning to it again and again at the start of this new year.

When it gets right down to it, ideal is what I long for, so often more than Christ.

And isn’t this the problem? When we long for the ideal we don’t have more than we long for the ideal Savior we do have, we miss the grace that exists all around us.

We miss the grace that He is enough…even when we’re not.

We miss the grace that He is our strength…even when we’re weak.

We miss the grace that He supplies beauty…even in our mess.

When I consider how discouraged I feel at the start of this new year I know this is not what God wants for me. I know this isn’t what God wants for any of His children when we fall short of our own expectations.

Instead of feeling discouraged over what we can’t or haven’t accomplished He wants us to draw close to who He is and remember what He can accomplish in us. In our failings, our weakness, our mess.

So if you’re like me, a little discouraged at the start of this new year, why not make a new resolution. A resolution to forget the ideal, to forget the discouragement, and remember the God who makes all things new.

Every year.

Every week.

Every morning.

Every moment we choose to turn to Him and find all we’ve ever longed for.

Which is Better, Setting Goals or Making New Year’s Resolutions?

By Peter DeHaan

Author Peter DeHaan

Author Peter DeHaan

Although I avoid making New Year’s resolutions, I do set annual goals. What’s the difference? Maybe nothing; maybe everything. To me, resolutions are akin to wishful thinking, with low expectation for success. Goals are concrete, with stated action and quantifiable results.

I don’t think I’ve ever made a New Year’s resolution. If I discover something about myself I want to change, I set about making the adjustment right away. Delaying change until January first makes no sense.

However, every year I do set annual goals. I write them down and may even share them with friends. Throughout the year, I work towards achieving those goals. Sometimes my goals morph into something else and other times they become irrelevant along the way, but I take each one as far as I can by December 31.

At the end of each year I look back with a sense of accomplishment over the goals I’ve reached, while not wallowing in remorse over the ones I’ve missed. Never once have I achieved every annual goal and never once have I failed at them all.

This year was a rough year. Life took an unexpected turn soon after the New Year began, and my goals necessarily assumed a lessor priority. Even though it was one of my worst showings ever, I still accomplished two of my six goals.

However, other people shun goal setting, but they always make New Year’s resolutions. Just as I dismiss resolutions, they dismiss goals with equal disdain. Just as I embrace goals, they embrace resolutions with equal fervor.

Maybe the difference between goal setting and resolutions is just semantics, but maybe the difference is one of substance. I don’t know.

What I do know is that, whether it’s a goal or a resolution, we need to do what we can to accomplish the result we want and then look to God for help with what is out of our control.

With him, we have a much better chance for success than without him.

Top 10 Posts for 2014

Here are the ten most popular posts on The Blog Pile for 2014.

The comments are still open, so feel free to add to the discussion.

  1. I’ve Got Nothing…
  2. Lighting Our Path
  3. Polish Your Memories
  4. Muscle Memory
  5. I Am a Writer
  6. Five Kernels of Corn
  7. That Darned Need to Know Basis
  8. Thoughts About Moving: Do You Leave Home or Take it With You?
  9. Life’s Balance: Actually Is A Balance
  10. 20 Things to Do Before the End of Summer

Which one is your favorite?