Where Do You Dwell?

 Where Do You Dwell?

 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

…But mixed His music with my human cry,

Till somewhere from the half-withdrawing wood

Sound of familiar footsteps:  Is it Thou?

Master, where dwelleth Thou?  O speak to me.

And He said, ‘Come and see.’

~ Amy Carmichael “Where Dwelleth Thou?”

dwelingplaceslnest“God’s dwelling place is now among the people and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.”   Revelation 21.3

One word.

In the days preceding the New Year, one word kept clamoring for my attention from surprising places – dwell.

I read it in my psalm for the day “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91.1) I noticed “DWELL” on the masthead of a glossy magazine all about clean living spaces. I uttered it as an admonition to someone – “Don’t dwell on your past mistakes.”

dwellrockerHard not to notice it, so I became curious. And finally turned to God in prayer and whispered, “Okay. Dwell. Please reveal what You want me to learn from this word.”

So as my word-for-the-year marinated in heart and mind, I embraced both meanings of dwell: 1. to live and 2. to focus. It soon became obvious that all too often I live amidst hurry and obligation, dwelling in anxiety and surrounded by noise. And where was my default focus — circumstances, lists, self-preservation, tasks, things?

No more.

Throughout the Bible God calls His people to dwell with Him constantly. He offers us a refuge and shelter and He fills it with a beauty and peace that is restorative. And, best of all, He sends Jesus Christ to dwell in our hearts and make His home with us forever!

Would you like some of that in your life?

DwellonlyFirst we need to acknowledge that God is the only One who can provide such a life for us. Moses, that great wanderer, knew this. God had long ago promised to be with him wherever he journeyed. So even though he was often a stranger in a strange land, Moses was confident in his true dwelling: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90.1-2 NIV)

And this same God invites us to dwell with Him!

In the original language of the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for dwell is yashab which is translated “to dwell, to sit down, to remain.” How can we possibly do this? Sitting down is considered unproductive – we are a culture on the move! Believe me, friend, I know the challenges of making time for close communion with God in prayer and study – that’s why I usually choose one word a day as my devotional focus.

We can do that!

nesteaglebabygoldenAfter all, we have certainly dwelt everywhere else — we give our time and resources to other places, people and projects without a second thought. And all along, God is there with us, offering us His continual presence no matter where our journey might lead.

Do you have a difficult appointment today? He’ll go with you. Do you cry yourself to sleep at night? He’s beside you, holding you close. His constant presence is the greatest gift of all.

Today you can truly “make the Most High your place of residence.” (Psalm 91.9 CEB) You can dwell with a firm knowledge of His presence with you always.

What is the dwelling place God has for you today?

under the mercy, Cindy

dwellingplacescoverrevealMy new book “Dwelling Places – Words to Live in Every Season” is now with the wonderful folks at Abingdon Press, getting all the attention it needs to become a book by June 2016! Would you believe you can pre-order it here? (it comes in hardcover, paperback and kindle)  Thanks for helping us spread the word that dwelling in God’s presence is possible, powerful and peaceful!

©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net
Amazon author site amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 
NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!
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The Original ‘Old Faithful’

The Original ‘Old Faithful’

Lucinda Secrest McDowell

“The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.  The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.”                    Psalm 145:13-14 NIV

old-faithfulThe park ranger promised me it would happen at this exact moment. And as I stood with hundreds of people from all over the world, our long-awaited anticipation was rewarded with a true spectacle.

            Old Faithful.

            The famous geyser at Yellowstone National Park that erupts about every ninety minutes, shooting up as high as 184 feet, lasting as long as five minutes. Without fail.

As I joyfully witnessed the plumes of boiling water and steam bursting skyward in a majestic show of power and beauty, I couldn’t help but think of the original Old Faithful.


           oldfaithfuloldcard The One by whom other forces of nature shrink in importance, no matter how predictable they are. But though God’s faithfulness is constant, it is often surprising. There’s no scheduling His appearance – only that He will be faithful to every promise.

            Perhaps you and I are not unlike those Yellowstone tourists – finding ourselves waiting around, thinking we know exactly how and when God will choose to come through with His power and promise. We have set aside this time in our lives and are ready.  Only, instead of a prompt appearance, we discover that the God of the Universe will not be managed or manipulated. He is:oldfaithfulmikecindy

  • Faithful in putting together families; just not always in the traditional fashion.
  • Faithful in providing financial resources for our needs; but perhaps not all our wants.
  • Faithful in walking beside us through every calamity, though the journey often involves painful detours.

Still, we can rely on His character. Our verse today reminds us not only that God is “faithful in all He does,” and can be trusted to keep His promises.  He will lift us up when we fall and help us stay upright when we wobble.  

When I struggle with faith, I remind myself of the acronym for FAITH I learned so long ago: Forsaking All, I Trust Him.


So grateful for my son Tim’s faithfulness also – and that we could share his life in Montana and Wyoming this summer.

            Where do you need God to be faithful in your life today? Take a moment and write down two areas and then pray over them by singing this familiar hymn.

“Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father; There is no shadow of turning with Thee, Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not, As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be. Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!”  (hymn “Great Is They Faithfulness,” Thomas Chisholm,1923)

under the mercy, Cindy

News Update: As of TODAY you can now register (Early Bird rate) for our next “New England Christian Writers Retreat” held near Boston June 17-19, 2016. Click here for all details.

We are going to have a Blast and Write for the Kingdom. Join us?NECWRwebsitephoto

©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net
Amazon author site amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 
NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!
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Look Up…There’s Help in the Mountains!

Note: Due to my current book deadline, I am only able to post my weekly blog once monthly during July, August, and September. Thanks for staying tuned… 

Look Up…

There’s Help in the Mountains!

 by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

I raise my eyes towards the mountains. Where will my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  Psalm 121.1-2 


My first view of the Grand Tetons! I have no words…

I was not prepared for the awesome splendor of the Grand Teton Mountains.

The pictures on calendars, postcards and paintings paled in comparison to the real deal. Standing in their presence I was totally overwhelmed with the creativity of the “Maker of heaven and earth.”


Eucharisteo – Greek for “Give Thanks!”

Sometimes words are inadequate to describe God’s creation. But as I “raised my eyes towards the mountains” a few came to mind: majestic, formidable, untamable, stately, beautiful, towering, grandeur, unwavering, foundational, life-giving, mammoth and splendid.

And Thanks.

As a child I first fell in love with mountains by spending my summers in the Blue Ridge – now forever known to me as “God’s Country.” But since then I have been privileged to backpack on the Appalachian Trail, rappel in the Adirondacks, ride cable cars up the Swiss Alps, trek through the Scottish Highlands and even enjoy a bit of Rocky Mountain High (I call it ‘altitude sickness’) while speaking in Colorado.

This summer in Grand Teton National Park  I was reminded of John Muir’s words, speaking of National Parks back in 1901:


My son Tim actually climbed The Grand Teton Mountain behind us!

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

Or, to paraphrase the psalmst: “Look to the mountains and receive help from the Lord, their Creator.” The mountains draw our eyes skyward towards the One who is all powerful. “You establish the mountains by Your strength; You are dressed in raw power.” (Psalm 65.6 ) As the soft, white clouds rest on top of the rocky crags and peaks I am reminded of their Maker’s dual character so often contrasted in gentleness and power, mercy and judgment, humanity and divinity.

Today’s familiar words from the psalmist remind us that although we often turn to nature for inspiration and help, it the nature’s creator – God – who provides the help we need.


Mike and Cindy resting at Jenny Lake, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

One outdoorsman captured this variance well: “The wilderness often mirrors so much of what happens inside a man – tough slopes, rough waters, and fierce mountain winds symbolize hard and painful life passages, while clear skies at a peak’s summit, smooth green rivers, and a warm campfire at night symbolize the opposite. The wild is not only a place for physical and emotional renewal. It is one of God’s chosen instruments for coming to grips with what has damaged our souls, so that our spirits can be revitalized and the whole world made new. Whether by prayer and repentance, or by praise and thankfulness.”  (Murray Pura in “Majestic and Wild”)

When David was in distress, he cried out to the God who dwells in His holy mountain. “Send your light and truth—those will guide me! Let them bring me to your holy mountain, to your dwelling place.” (Psalm 43.3 CEB)

Whether or not you can see a majestic mountain today, you are only one cry away from God’s dwelling place.

Look up.

under the mercy, Cindy

©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net
Amazon author site amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 
NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!
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How Much Do You Want Freedom?

Note: Due to my current book deadline, I am only able to post my weekly blog once monthly during July, August, and September. Thanks for staying tuned… 

How Much Do You Want Freedom?

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell

fccinside1It doesn’t exactly look like a place of Total Revolution. Total Transformation. Freedom. Yet it is.

It is completely and utterly white. Puritan. No stained glass windows. No ornate decorations. Just a simple Meetinghouse built in 1761.

And I am standing in the same place that faithful patriots assembled one Sunday afternoon in order to pray before they marched off to Lexington Massachusetts to fight against England for freedom! As I glance around, I am reminded of the great ‘cloud of witnesses’ who have gone before me.

fccinside3My home church is called the First Church of Christ because it was the first church gathered in Connecticut back in 1635. We still worship in the 18th century building and we are still embracing freedom. Are you?

Historian Lois Wieder explains that our forefathers and foremothers likened England’s persecution of her colonies to the Old Testament persecution of the Hebrews by the Egyptians; encouraged their people to enlist and support resistance efforts; and when war actually came, saw divine intervention in all colonial victories. They were serious about freedom!

freemilitia“The Sunday following the Lexington alarm was a busy one in Wethersfield. The Broad Street or First Company of the Sixth Militia regiment prepared to march to Boston. They attended the morning service as a body and sat in the gallery. Dr. Marsh preached and everyone in the church was in tears. Final preparations were made and in the afternoon families and friends gathered in front of the Meetinghouse where Dr. Marsh offered a prayer.”  (from “A Pleasant Land – A Goodly Heritage” by Lois M. Wieder, 1986)

During the Revolutionary War, General George Washington worshiped at my church three times. Sunday, May 20, 1781, was particularly notable because it was during this meeting Washington had with the Count de Rochambeau that the Battle of Yorktown was planned.freegw The following Tuesday the generals and their aides met in Old Wethersfield to hold what has been called ‘the most important conference of the war.’

This Fourth of July week, worshiping in the Meetinghouse was amazing, especially since the whole service was a tribute to our servicemen and women who fought in World War II 70 years ago!  I couldn’t help but wonder ‘Is this the pew where George Washington sat?’ My mind imagined that Sunday when so many of the parishioners were coming for spiritual sustenance before embarking on a journey from which they might never return. Were they excited? Were they exhilarated? They were going to fight for freedom! And they were willing to lay down their lives for freedom if that were required.

St. Paul wrote, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery… You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5.1, 13)

freechainsHow much do you want freedom? And what are you willing to do to throw off chains that bind, so that you might embrace the freedom Christ offers — freedom from anything or anyone who enslaves you?

Paul reminds us yet again in that “Sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” (Romans 6.14) Ahhhh, grace. The gift we don’t deserve and can never earn. And can never lose. The gift that sets us free. From performance; from shame; from paralyzing fear.

freeeagelflagDuring this month of July – Independence Day month – why not ask God to help free you from anything that is binding and preventing you from experiencing the life He wants to offer? Imagine yourself as a patriot – a soldier in the militia – coming to church to pray before you head out in battle to fight for freedom. Thus fortified, you and I can face anything.

Raise your Sword and sing heartily the words of Charles Wesley’s glorious hymn “And Can It Be” with me:

freewomansea“My chains fell off!

My heart was free!

I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Amazing love!

How can it be

That Thou, My God, shouldst die for me?”

under the mercy, Cindy


©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net
Amazon author site amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 
NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!


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Glancing Back & Dreaming Forward

Glancing Back & Dreaming Forward 

Lucinda Secrest McDowell


Gathering with other author/speakers — sisters-who-know-what-my-life-is-like — is one of the perks of professional conferences.

What were you doing this time last year? Is there somewhere you go every year — a professional conference, annual retreat, or vacation spot?

I have discovered that such times can be powerful milestones in our quest for living proactively — both professionally and personally.

But only if we do a bit of what I like to call “glancing back and dreaming forward…”

Would you like a simple tool to help you do this?


Grateful for radio and TV interviews about my book “Live These Words.”

Because I am a professional author and speaker, a significant annual marker for me is the Christian Booksellers Association’s International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) which occurs adjacent to the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA) conference. This year they were in Orlando and I just returned home last night, so privileged to have spent those days with women and men who are committed to communicating Christ to the world. 

In processing the myriad of conversations, connections, education, wisdom and industry news crammed into the last few days, I find it helpful to use this time to review what has happened since we were last together, and to cast a new vision for what will unfold in the days ahead. 


Worship at “Speak Up” annual breakfast.

You can utilize this tool as well, no matter what you do. Just tweak these review questions to fit your own life and profession. 


15 Questions to Ask Since I Was Last Here (at this event, time of year, etc)

  1. What has been my most significant achievement?
  2. What new person did I meet who has begun to speak into my life?
  3. What mistake did I make and how can I prevent that for the future?
  4. What new technology have I incorporated into my life and work?
  5. Which colleagues (other writer/speakers) did I promote and encourage?
  6. What new blogs did I begin following and why will I keep them or move on?
  7. What prayer did God answer and how?
  8. What steps did I take to expand the reach of my ministry/writing/speaking?
  9. What words are emerging as themes for my life and writing/speaking?
  10. What books or lectures are still resonating in my heart and requiring a response?
  11. What has been my best received presentation, blog, book or seminar and why?
  12. How have I taken care of my soul and spiritual life?
  13. What is my current goal between now and this time next year?
  14. What is my most “impossible” prayer?
  15. To whom will I now write/phone a thank you or an encouraging word?

Enjoyed time with two of the Best Women I Know — Carol Kent and Maggie Rowe

What did you discover as you answered these questions? I hope you will agree that glancing back and dreaming forward are good for a Storyteller’s Soul.

Now, I’m off to work on question number 13 which is writing my new book!


Meeting new publishers and sales team!

“Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run;

hurry and scurry put you further behind.”

      (Proverbs 21.5 MSG)

under the mercy, Cindy

©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell
Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net
Amazon author site amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 
NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!


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What Elisabeth Elliot Told Me

 What Elisabeth Elliot Told Me

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell


Elisabeth’s portrait during the time I lived with her

Elisabeth Elliot prayed for years that I would be granted the blessings of husband and children. I was in my thirties when Mike proposed to me near my home in San Francisco, and she happened to be visiting from Boston on her way to India researching the Amy Carmichael biography, so we dropped in at her friend’s home.

            “God answered your prayers – meet my fiancé, Mike!” I exclaimed. What a delightful visit that was and how grateful I am for the privilege of knowing and learning from this remarkable woman of God.

            And now Elisabeth Elliot has passed “through gates of splendor” and is finally Home.

           Upon hearing the news I immediately did 3 things – talked to her daughter and my dear friend Valerie, re-read some of my journals from back when she was my mentor, and then disciplined myself to keep on writing my new book because that’s what she would have urged …


Cindy and Elisabeth 1977

            Many years ago when I was studying at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, I lived with Elisabeth Elliot as her student lodger. By then she had already written 20 books and was well-known for taking her young daughter, Valerie, to live with Auca Indians in Ecuador – the same ones that had speared her husband, Jim Elliot, and four other missionaries to death. By the time I first heard her speak, at ‘Urbana ’76,’ her second husband, Dr. Addison Leitch, had just died of cancer.

            Though I was a disappointment as a housecleaner (her words, not mine) I did pretty well at my other duties – transcribing Jim Elliot’s journals for her current manuscript (on a typewriter), driving her to the airport for frequent speaking engagements and organizing events in her home. We shared many lively breakfast conversations (yes, we did have differing opinions on a few things), hosted hymn sings and dinner parties, and even shoveled out of the Great Blizzard of ’78. I loved her sense of humor, her mimicry and enjoyment of parlor games. I don’t remember there being a television in the house at all.

            We were certainly an odd couple – me with my gushy southern type-A personality and her with her reserved New England demeanor and dry wit. But somehow God brought us together in a friendship that lasted 38 years. As I review my journals from that time so long ago I am amazed at how much of my own Life Story and message was shaped by my exposure to Elisabeth’s teachings during that formative season.

            Reading in my journal about a Sunday dinner I cooked for Elisabeth, her mother and sister, and four of my friends, I treasure the notes from that conversation. Jim, a seminarian from North Carolina, commented that so many people he admired had gone through great suffering. “Do you feel that’s necessary in order to become a man or woman of God?” he asked.


Elisabeth and Valerie 1956

            That evening I scribbled as much of her answer as I could remember in my journal. “She said ‘yes’ she believed we must know the cross in our own lives — Philippians 3.10 ‘that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death…’ That we must suffer for the Lord even though we don’t seek out the suffering, nor do we have anything to do in choosing the fashion it will take. Sometimes this means allowing ourselves to be joyfully inconvenienced, not seeking our own way, but serving others. Daily prayers for another can be an opportunity of laying down our lives for someone else.”

            I remember her warning us that our generation was not prepared to suffer or even be inconvenienced. I wrote “She pointed out that we must learn discipline and submission to authority in order to better be able to submit more wholly to God. Discipline should be exercised in our daily devotions, in our studies and in our love life. We must become responsible for that with which God has entrusted us now so we can be better prepared for all He has in store for us later.”  Do you remember the very first time you heard such powerful and challenging teaching as a young follower of Christ? I was like a sponge, soaking it all in…

           EEjournal This particular journal entry (October 30, 1977) closed with my own lament “Oh! How can I remember all she said – it was so profound. I can’t possibly do it justice writing it down here. But there are at least 2 basic things I want to begin putting into practice right now:

  1. Discipline in all areas, but especially my devotions and studies.
  2. Daily seeking ways to ‘suffer’ for God through discipleship and serving others.”

                Today I find myself way past the age Elisabeth was when I lived with her. I am an older woman of God, utterly dependent on God’s mercy through all my life’s experiences, and yes, suffering. I am also, by God’s grace, a person He uses to touch others through my writing and speaking. I still find that remarkable – that the Creator and Sustainer of the universe would choose me to have even a small part in helping to further His kingdom.


Cindy and Valerie – still friends and writing buddies

            I smile as I read the postcard Elisabeth sent me shortly after she married Lars Gren and moved down to Atlanta while I stayed in her Massachusetts home. I had sent her an article of mine which appeared in the seminary newspaper. “…The parable is very good, I think. Perhaps it would be more effective if a wee shorter in the description of your failure, and a little longer on the remedy. You definitely have a flair for writing. Have you tried to do anything for Christian magazines? Spring is lovely in Georgia, isn’t it? Today I get a NOW hairdo to replace the THEN one….E”

            After my graduation a few years later, Elisabeth spoke strongly into my life concerning God’s call and purpose. “Cindy, God has given you a gift of writing and it is your duty to offer it back to Him.”

And so I do.

           EEbook Once Elisabeth told me that each of us is given only about two major themes/messages and that everything we speak and write about flows from that core. Tonight, reflecting on her life and international influence through her 30 books, Gateway to Joy radio program and many seminars, the messages that resonate most clearly seem to be:

  • Offering our suffering and circumstances to God, knowing that nothing is wasted – laying it on the altar and asking how we can learn and grow through this.
  • Serving others through the discipline of having a my-life-for-yours attitude every time we pray for someone or encounter a God ordained interruption.

              Some years ago Mike and I drove to Boston and took luncheon over to Lars and Elisabeth’s home so that I could say some important things that needed to be said. This was during her final quiet years and though the conversation was somewhat one-sided, it was precious and special and I was gratified that she seemed to remember me.


Cindy and Elisabeth 2009

            This week we will return to Boston for her funeral and say our earthly goodbye along with other friends and family to this remarkable woman.

            Now and in the days ahead many will write and share the legacy of Elisabeth Elliot on their own lives.  I know that I am simply one of thousands whom she touched. And many will mention suffering. I don’t know if it is written in any of her books but one of the most powerful things I remember her telling me was “Suffering is having what you don’t want and wanting what you don’t have.” 

            Maybe you are in a position of suffering today. If so, I hope some of these remembrances will encourage you (as they certainly re-encourage me even in the writing of them) to grasp a firm hold of the God who is always there for us and will guide and provide.

            May I close with the words of a letter Elisabeth Elliot wrote to a very, very young Cindy Secrest back in 1978: “Amy Carmichael of India said ‘all weathers nourish souls.’ It’s true. All situations, all circumstances, all privations and abundances are opportunities to be spiritually nourished – if we respond in faith. This lesson has been laid before me again here. There are things that are not to my liking about the situation, of course. So what! ‘I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content’ (Philippians 4.11). You are dear to me, Cindy. In the will of the Lord we’ll see more of each other. You are in my prayers – keep me in yours, please. Lovingly, Elisabeth”

We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender!

Thine is the battle, Thine shall be the praise;

When passing through the gates of pearly splendor,

Victors, we rest with Thee, through endless days.”

(“We Rest on Thee” hymn by Edith G. Cherry 1895 – sung by Jim Elliot and his companions before they went to meet the Auca Indians in Ecuador 1956)


 under the mercy, Cindy






READ this excellent article in the Wall Street Journal by Elisabeth’s nephew Dr. David Howard 

READ another article that captures some of Elisabeth’s essence.

©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net
Amazon author site amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 
NOTE: Did you enjoy this blog? If so, would you consider entering your email in the above right form and subscribing to it by email? I assure you I won’t overload your in-box, but would love to send you these ‘encouraging words’ each Wednesday. Thanks!
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Is It Time to Share Your Story?

 Is It Time to Share Your Story?

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell   


“So what?”                                                                                                                                      Unfortunately, that may be just the response when you say you want to write a memoir.

Why do you do it anyway?
To communicate a true story. Your story. Or at least part of it.

For a long time, the only people writing memoir were those who were rich, famous or extremely influential. But today anyone can write a memoir – and memoir stories are showing up in blogs, devotionals, and a whole variety of non-fiction books.
Why in the world would people read your memoir?
To gather important lessons, insight and perspective to help in their own personal stories.

Writer Douglas Crow puts it rather bluntly, “Nobody cares about your book. What people truly want is to improve their lives. The only reason someone may find your story interesting is how it relates to them.”

I’d like to encourage you to write your memoir, even if you aren’t rich, famous or particularly influential. Just remember these 3 keys to writing a memoir that people will read:

  1.     Memoirs include a Theme.
    Don’t try to tell your whole life story. Pick one theme and weave stories using that thread. The theme you choose must be universal, yet personal, something others can relate to, even if they have never experienced exactly what you have. Memoir doesn’t work when it’s just a bunch of unrelated stories – there must be something that ties them together. How do you choose which theme? Brainstorm some of the most significant watershed moments in your life. As you do, certain constants will emerge — perseverance over challenges, learning from bad choices, helping the underdog, etc. Remember to include a vital takeaway.
  2.     penjournalMemoirs are Interesting.
    Please don’t give us every single word that every person said when that thing happened to you. Just because it occurred doesn’t make it interesting. But if you use storytelling techniques you can make even the most ordinary everyday incident absolutely fascinating. Just don’t stretch the truth (remember James Frey and Brian Williams…) Use fiction techniques in writing your own non-fiction. And be sure to grab the reader from the very beginning with a great opening scene, perhaps even the pivotal moment of decision. Use dialogue to be vivid in your storytelling.
  3.    Memoirs are Personal, yet Universal.
    A truly good memoir is one we can all connect to in some way. It’s not just your autobiography; it’s about something bigger than just you. What are people going to do after they read it? Are they moved to make a decision, pursue a dream or change a habit? Perhaps the trickiest part of memoir is the personal vulnerability. In memoir, writers are willing to work our way into our readers’ hearts through honest sharing of the hard parts of our story. Honesty is not the same thing as confession (blurting out stuff for shock value.) And you don’t have to include every detail. As Meghan Daum observes, “Honesty means making the reader feel less alone. Honesty is inherently generous. Confession is needy and intrusive.” Pray before you share your story and ask God to help you do it in a redeeming manner.

typewriterkeysAs you write memoir, remember that readers are looking for your story to help them live their story. If we tell our story well, others will discover insight and inspiration valuable to their own lives. For those of us who are followers of Christ, this is the very reason we write, isn’t it?

“Every word You give me is a miracle word — how could I help but obey?  Break open Your words, let the light shine out, let ordinary people see the meaning.” Psalm 119.129-130 MSG

Live your story. Write your story. And embrace your role in God’s great Kingdom Story.

under the mercy, Cindy

Note: If you live in the Hartford CT area, plan to join me this fall for 3 Monday nights as I teach an Adult Education class on Writing Memoir. Stay tuned for details!


©2015 Lucinda Secrest McDowell

Website/Blog www.EncouragingWords.net
Amazon author site amazon.com/author/lucindasecrestmcdowell 
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