Writing through Covid-19

The other night (actually it was the wee hours of the morning) I added a plot twist to chapter 13 of my 2nd draft. It felt good to throw my characters a curveball and imagine how they might react. We’re all living in a plot twist right now and we’re all facing our own reactions to that.

I live in a small town but I’m not far away from the mighty Mayo Clinic of Minnesota. The virus is here. And since I’ve only been practicing my social distancing for about 1 week I need to stay in for 1 more week before I could develop my own symptoms if I contracted the virus. However, since my husband is still going to work and seeing a handful of people he still carries more of a risk (not to mention his grocery haul from earlier this week).

I tend to react emotionally to things. I feel the weight of the burdens around me very easily. I can imagine myself in all the worst case scenarios and it really throws my mood into a mud pile. I worry about my loved ones, especially the older ones and the more vulnerable ones. That said, I am very okay with shutting myself in during this if it means it helps reduce patients and save lives. But we miss people. We miss feeling carefree. And right now we don’t know when the light at the end of the tunnel will appear.

I’ve experienced all the emotions: fear, anger, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, depression, overwhelm etc… and it fluctuates easily.

In just the last few days what I have found to be helpful is: GET OFF THE INTERNET. The more I read or hear about the news the less hopeful and more anxious I feel. I am constantly distracted and am not pouring myself out to my kids who I am home with all the time. GET OUTSIDE. That’s been hard when it is cold and rainy or snowy. I’ve been praying for good weather or just opportunities to get out even if it’s short or a drive through the countryside. WRITE. Giving my characters a plot twist in a high intensity chapter was oddly satisfying. As an author of a fiction book I at least have some control over what goes on in my made up story. It’s a roundabout way of coping with real life.

When it comes down to it though what I am praying for is revival. I want to see God grow the church (the global church!) when people can’t go to church. Oh the irony! What if that’s His plan all along? I also want revival in my own heart. I want to have a bolder faith, a fearless faith, a hope-filled faith. My constant battle with anxiety is to change my thinking from ‘what-if’ to ‘even-if’. From there, if I can take those ‘even-if’ phrases and put them out of my mind, trusting that God will supply my every need WHEN I need it and I can live in the moment of every day. Right now my days are focused on my kids, our home, and each other. If that ever changes I trust that God will get me through whatever will happen next.

I hope you can utilize this time to dig into the word more (as I hope to do). I invite you to livestream a church service (or a few, hey why not!?) and open your heart to the Lord. Let Him guide you and speak to your heart. Maybe He’s got a plan for you in this. Maybe He will reveal Himself to you and the saving power of Jesus’ death on the cross and you will no longer have anything to fear.

In other news…about my novel. This whole pandemic has been terribly distracting. However, the fact that I’ve been distracted has motivated me to hunker down and get more writing done. This is why I spent 10:30-2am writing the other day… yikes. I’ve got a 2nd draft to finish and I am ITCHING for Beta reader feedback!!! I think I’m about 70% through my 2nd draft. I would like to go through and polish a little with one more round of big picture edits. THEN…the betas!

I started an email newsletter! So…if you follow me here on this blog (which I write in very sporadically it seems) but you definitely want to know how the progress of my book is coming, OR if you are interested in possibly being a beta reader for me soon I would love to have you sign up for my newsletter. I will be writing my very first one soon! I will be sending out monthly updates where I talk about the writing process, my progress, anything exciting coming up, or anything strictly literary related. I promise to keep it fun, light-hearted, and brief.

To sign up for my writing newsletter visit this page.

https://mailchi.mp/b620029dda9c/jessicadenyse

In all of this COVID craziness I’m thankful to have writing as an outlet.

If I may, let me share a couple of resources that I have found incredibly helpful during this time:

Living on the Edge – March 20th broadcast

5 Things to Remember When Coronavirus Cancels Your Life – incredible article chalk full of amazing C.S. Lewis and Tolkien quotes.

MEGA list of online resources for parents – by our own City Moms Blog.

Praying blessings over you today! Thanks to all the healthcare workers, delivery workers, grocery workers, teachers, legislatures, scientists, pastors and more who are working above and beyond what is typical.

I finished the first draft!

I’m not sure how it happened but I wrote “The End” last week. It felt like it would never happen. I have spent the last 9 months writing very sporadically. I guess it’s my book baby? To be honest, I wasn’t expecting this stage would come in January of 2020. The ending just flew out of me all of a sudden in the last two weeks.

I rewrote and added onto the beginning too. So I think I have crossed the 50k word milestone, which feels major (even though that’s considered a small book).

There are parts of the draft I feel really proud of. Other parts, however, I basically wrote a glorified outline. So there’s a lot of work to be done. But I am very excited about being in the editing phase, finally.

I pushed myself away from editing so I could just finish the draft. Some writers like to do that and others edit as they go. I found myself wanting to edit as I went but told myself not to. Right now I feel good about that decision. My ‘glorified outline’ of a draft is a complete story – a complete thought. Now that the creative thinking regarding plot and character arcs is over, I can spend my creative thinking on the actual writing. How does it read? What doesn’t make sense because I was writing it at 11:30pm and half asleep?

I’m hoping to go through and revise/edit the entire book rather quickly so that the story is just a little more polished. Once I do that I will go through it again more slowly, maybe one chapter at a time or one page at a time and be really ruthless.

After I feel good about the editing I have done on my own I will seek the feedback of beta readers! I’m equally excited and scared about that phase.

Even though there’s so much to be done and I know the process won’t be easy or fast I am so happy that I’ve completed a draft. It just makes it feel so much more real. I’ve had a dream to be a published author since I was maybe in 6th grade?! And I’m on that road (hopefully self-publishing but I could change my mind)!

Fighting Artistic Discouragement

Hello friends! I apologize for the wonkiness of my website. I don’t really know what I’m doing but I’m doing my best. Sorry if it looks weird HA.

It’s NanoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month!). I am loosely participating. I am using it as a motivator and encouragement to continue working on my first draft of my debut novel. It’s been a while since I’ve worked on it and getting back into it has me a little nervous. I am taking the advice ‘just write’ and not get hung up over how bad it is. I know my writing right now is bad because I’m not trying very hard to make it great! LOL. Why am I writing then? I’m writing this draft as just getting the story out. Once the whole story is laid out I will then go back, re-read, cut-out/add, edit etc… and repeat that process probably many times.

I’m also still working towards what next steps to take with my single. I keep getting stuck. It is easy for me to feel discouraged and then I start to doubt. On a day when I am feeling discouraged about the process I listen to the song and I get nit-picky about how it could be better. On a good day when I am feeling hopeful and excited about prospects and full of ideas I listen to it and think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. It’s a weird place to be as an artist to have such different views of what you produce on any given day.

I thought I would share what I need and what’s next…at least what I think is next.

I have a vision in my head for what the music video should or could be like. I can picture most of it. So then I write down my ideas as if I am scripting the song. Line by line, what would happen? Then I tried to draw pictures of what I envisioned. I LOVE art and I love painting but the reason I like painting FURNITURE and not canvass is because I don’t have great technical or professional skills when it comes to freehand drawing from my imagination.

So I need a collaboration partner, an artist, a friend. I need someone who can catch my vision and help me storyboard a music video. Any ideas?

Once I have a really clear vision for a music video THEN I can move forward with planning the actual shoot (working with a videographer and finding a location etc etc…)

There is a lot that goes into this than I thought there would be.

I am not going to quit though. I am not going to get scared about the unknown. I am going to trust in the Lord. This whole thing is even a thing because God put something on my heart and I believe He has called me down this path.

So I will keep trying, keep knocking on doors, keep praying, and keep waiting, until the next step is more clear and I can move forward. I’m not giving up on this.

Working on Priorities and Anxiety

Things I am working on: priorities, seeing God in the mundane, experiencing Jesus in the mundane, worshiping God in the mundane.

Also, anxiety is a big struggle for me. I worry about big things and small things and sometimes it manifests physiologically. Sometimes my anxiety clouds my focus on Christ and I need to dig deep for the truth and refresh my heart and mind by His grace.

Read, pray, sing worship music. His grace covers my anxiety, it covers my disordered priorities, it covers me.

I pray that I can get to a point in my homemaking journey that I can enjoy each task purely because I am experiencing Jesus in it, not because I want to make someone else happy and not because it gives me an excuse to crank up my ‘cleaning music playlist’ (which is mostly Disney songs). Do your work in me, Lord.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6:25-34

Scrub your floor

My flip-flops smacked where my kids dripped watermelon juice from last night’s dinner and play-dough was caked to the floor. It was long over-due for a scrub and would be an embarrassment if company came over to see. So I got my bucket and scrubber, got down on my hands and knees and started to scrub out all the neglected grime.

I got sweaty and determined to make it clean. Then I realized something. I have neglected my dirty heart in the same way. I felt almost a primal urge to scrub harder as I watched the colorful markings lift away.

When we are sealed as children of God, He does not ‘let us go’ in the same way I was willing to let my floor go. He will scrub out my sin no matter how much soap or water or elbow grease it takes. It might take a while but He persists for His children. He wants us to be holy so that we can be with Him.

The conviction in my heart over my sin overwhelmed me as I scrubbed and scrubbed. Bubbles covered the floor and I prayed for God to scrub out my sin, even when it caused sweat and tears and pain.

Then I wondered and imagined… if Jesus were to enter into my home at that moment while I was bent over my floor with my disgusting scrubber, what would he do? Would he find my state appalling or be disappointed or would he say something?

No, Jesus would get down on his hands and knees, right next to me, and would scrub my floor with me.

Why do I know he would respond like that? Because he, being the son of God, submitted himself to the most shameful of deaths for that time and endured not only physical pain but spiritual and emotional turmoil, all to save His people so we can experience a Holy, good, merciful, Father God. That, right there friends, is WHO I scrub my floor for and why it gave me joy. My chore became an act of worship and that’s exactly what He wanted me to realize in that moment.

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Summer Update

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a blog post here, which makes me sad. But I’ve found I’ve had very little energy to give to blog posts for the last couple of months.

Summer is in full swing and between a slew of graduation parties, end of year programs, family gatherings, travel plans, birthdays, swim lessons, etc… I have just been trying to stay focused on my family and enjoying the summer season while it lasts.

I have been trying to participate in #campnanowrimo this July which is a month-long writing sprint where you try to write a novel in a month. I’ve never participated in this online writing challenge before but it’s been good to help motivate me to add to my word count.

Even this challenge though is challenging to keep up with. It’s hard to find any kind of devoted time to accomplish something like write a book when being a full-time mom to three young kids. I know that even if I set unrealistic goals that I do not meet, progress is still progress, and I can’t put the same kind of expectations on myself that a full-time writer can.

My word-count is passed 30k and I’m on chapter 10 right now which is great. I’ve received feedback from my first two chapters from a few people which was so incredibly helpful. I know my first draft is going to suck and I’ve accepted that. My writing right now is not good… but this process is just getting the story out of my head and onto the computer screen. It’s about getting the story organized, developed, and having a plan. Once the first draft is done I can re-read, re-write, embellish, fill it out, make it pretty etc… and that’s just not the phase I’m in right now which is totally okay.

As for the song – it’s been recorded and I am waiting to schedule a time to add some choral/back-up singers for a couple of parts. I am loosely planning to have the song ready for release with a video sometime before October! We’ll see how things go with that.

I waffle between projects too… some days I get excited about the writing of the book and other days I get excited about the song (particularly the creation of a video to go along with it). I can’t just stick with one thing very long, I end up switching it up and my projects take turns.

Come August though I’m hoping to take a step away from writing and focus on reading (reading for pleasure, inspiration, and self-enrichment) as well as planning my homeschool year.

So… hopefully I can get a good chunk of writing done in these last two-ish weeks of July! WAA.

What are you working on this summer?

A Song

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.

Victor Hugo

I have always loved music and singing and when I was a kid I wrote a lot of poetry and would try to make up songs to go with the poems. But I haven’t done anything like that in years. Well, I’ve had this tune (and even some of the words) in my head since I was a pre-teen. I always thought it was catchy and fun and could make a great song and never forgot that melody. A few months ago inspiration hit and I no longer had just an old idea for a chorus I suddenly had an entire song.

I can’t really explain how this happened. The words flowed and the verses and a bridge just evolved. I would hum or sing it while washing dishes and jot down lyric ideas late at night when I should have been sleeping or at random times while out places on my notes app.

I awkwardly plunked the notes out on my little keyboard (because I can’t even play the piano) and then one day I recorded myself singing it with my phone and then nervously sent the video clip to some friends who are musicians.

From then on this process of producing ‘a single’ has gone very smoothly so far. I feel like I have absolutely no idea what I am doing but thankfully my friends know music engineering and have been amazing to work with.

I am getting so excited to share this song with the world. But I don’t want to share too much because I want it to speak for itself. With this tune in my head and words that just spilled out I could feel deep down in my bones that God was going to do something with this song. It’s exactly like Victor Hugo’s quote. It is impossible for me to be silent.

Up until recently, I’ve actually felt extremely shy and afraid about singing this way. I am 100% comfortable singing in choirs (which I haven’t done since high school but I loved it!) and I’ve sang solos in musical theater (again, not since high school) and I’ve had the joy to sing occasionally on our church worship team. But most, if not all, of that singing was sung with my ‘head voice’. I like to call it my choir voice.

But, the kind of singing that really moves me, and the voice I use for when I really want to pour my soul into it, is my chest voice. This is also called a belting voice. For whatever reason, I’ve been afraid to sing in front of other people using this voice, even though it’s my favorite style of singing.

I actually think singing in front of my kids since their births have helped me get more comfortable singing in front of others. I don’t really fear their judgment because they might not know yet what is supposed to sound good. Except for when one of them asks, “Mom can you stop singing already!?” then I feel self-conscience again. Hah.

But I’ve been wondering why God would put this desire in me, a desire that has recently gotten stronger? Is singing/songwriting a way I could bring glory to God? And when I randomly decided to give this old song idea a little bit of time, it was like I was receiving a big resounding YES.

So, right now, I’ve sung my song in front of a few friends and my hubby and kids. I was still nervous. But I’ve been seeking the Lord in the process of stripping away my silly fears and just focusing on doing what I believe I’m being called to do.

The song has been arranged and recorded but there are a few adjustments yet to be made. I can’t believe how FUN this process has been.

What I am seeking the Lord for next in this is a videographer. We (me and the music team/friends I’ve been working with) feel that this song would be best shared and more powerful with a nicely produced music video.

It’s a bit out of my comfort zone (but again a lot of this has been!) but I really am hoping and praying for the right videographer to work with for this project.

So, here’s how you can help: subscribe to my blog or follow me on one of my social media accounts so I can update you about the progress AND more importantly: share this blog post with your friends and help me spread the word. For anyone interested I can share privately a little more detail. I just want to plan a big reveal/release for everyone when it’s all done.

If you are a videographer and I’ve piqued your curiosity you can email me at jessica @ kartis . online

Thank you so much for reading this!

I have to give some shoutouts now and thank all the people who’ve been a part of this:
My husband and kids, Ian, Elizabeth, Doug, Milo & Rachel – you know who you are. You all rock.

‘God Sightings’ Amidst Travel Drama: Part 2

So I was in the depths of despair at the airport gate. I had to calm down and start figuring out what I was going to do next. Many phone calls later I found myself sitting in the airport I was supposed to be flying out of waiting for my sister to pick me up again.

My only option was to wait until the following day and catch the same flight again. It’s not easy to find alternative flights out of a place like Hawaii… they only do so many a day. So, I spent one more night at my sister’s place and then headed to the airport the next morning a good four and a half hours early this time!

When I landed in San Francisco I was supposed to be switching airlines and making a connecting flight to Minneapolis. Well, that flight was’t happening again until Sunday (it was Friday). So, I waited at the airport and had planned to attempt to fly standby for a different airline which would take me to Dallas and then to Minneapolis. This gate was busy but there were a few open seats on the plane. I had no idea what kind of chances I had of getting on that plane were. I just knew I wanted to get home and the sooner the better.

As an anxious mom missing her kids and flying alone, sitting at that gate waiting to find out if I would make it on or not was agonizing. And sure enough… I did not get on.

It was then around midnight in San Francisco. I was so worked up and anxious that I wasn’t feeling tired. Plus, on Hawaiian time it was only a few hours earlier. I ended up walking around the airport, finding random quiet places to sit and read. Then I went to a coffee shop that was open all night and got a salad and a tea at 2:00am. Bless my dad who was awake during the night in Minnesota texting me and encouraging me when everyone else I knew was sleeping. I did some more reading and then when Nick was waking up I talked to him on the phone about everything that happened.

At about 4:30am I started calling hotels. But see… you don’t check into a hotel room at 5am with no notice… you have to pay for that night, so technically speaking I was needing two nights! I was getting tired and wanted to get out of the airport. I called several hotels nearby, explained my situation and none of them had open rooms or would let me check in that early.

So, I picked a hotel… and I just booked for the next night knowing that I had about 10 hours before I “technically” was supposed to check in. After I booked and paid for the room I got the airport shuttle to the hotel and showed up at the front desk.

I told the guy at the front desk, “I know I’m not supposed to check in this early but I just had to get out of the airport. I am happy to hang out in the lobby here and wait for a room to open up if something becomes available before my check in time.”

He replied, “Don’t tell anyone… but we have a room with a King size bed on the 8th floor open, here ya go.” And he handed me a room key, right then and there – at 5:30am! I swear he was an angel sent from above. I almost started crying!

“Wow. Thank you so much. You have no idea how thankful I am. This is the first thing that’s gone right in the last 2 days!” is what I said back.

In the midst of my distress, my agonizing to be home with my family, my exhaustion and loneliness, God gave me a nice big hotel room on the 8th floor with a view of the Bay for the price of 1 night that I got to check into 10 hours early.

I burst into tears just weeping and praising God for his provision in taking care of me. I felt humiliated that I had been so distraught and upset over the turn of events and I hadn’t been resting in God’s sovereignty the way I should have. I will never forget that moment I cuddled into the waffle robe after taking a hot shower and sank into that delicious bed thinking how undeserved I was of that gift, thinking how God orchestrated all of it just to take care of me.

I slept like a rock and went to bed around 6 in the morning. I woke up around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. I was still tired and felt like I could sleep more. However, I knew this was an opportunity to see a little bit of San Francisco while I was there. So I got ready and took a Lyft ride to the city.

The next few hours were so fun and exciting. My Lyft drivers were all very friendly and informative. The architecture and sights of the city and the bay were stunning. I got to see the Golden Gate Bridge, a beautiful Cathedral, and have a virtual guided tour of the Fairmont Hotel! (Also, huge thank you to my cousin who unknowingly became another instrument and blessing of God’s provision for me that day!) It was a joy to get a short but sweet taste of life and culture and the beauty of San Francisco.

After sleeping that night for only like 2 hours (jet lagged maybe?) I headed back to the airport… again like 4 hours early (when nothing was open yet! Anxious much!?) and awaited my second (or was it third?) chance to get home. It was Sunday morning, Mother’s Day. I was the first person to get checked in at the airline gate and the last one to get on the plane. But I did get on that plane. The airline agent chuckled at me as he recognized me from checking in at 4:00am sharp and then I saw him wave a friendly goodbye to me as I sat in my window seat.

The flight was okay. I tried to sleep but it was hard to get comfortable. But when that plane landed I felt so much relief and couldn’t wait to see Nick and the kids. I got to see Nick first as he met me at the airport. Then we went to my parents house where we reunited with the kids. We hugged, I cried, and we talked and then we napped. Then we went home.

God certainly grew my faith in some unexpected ways during this trip. What was supposed to be a fun, relaxing memory ended up being much more. Even though it was rough to experience and I hope nothing like that ever happens again, there was beauty in the chaos and God showed up so many times.