In case you missed it, earlier this week, a writer friend, Josh Mosey, hosted me on his blog. I wrote on the topic of giving your creativity a little lift when the well is running dry.

Make sure you go check out the post at his site,

Sneak peak: I talk about one of my new favorite hobbies that has nothing to do with words and lots to do with creativity. You'll want in on it.

Up toward the Heavens
By Rachel E. Watson

I step my toe over a vine and I wrap my arm 
round a branch, swinging myself
upward, higher toward the unassailable height
of the heavens.

I flick my face at a group of leaves 
and they care too little to even 
flap back at me, until a sudden
wind king forces them forward,
then they bow and rise like 
fans in a stadium commanded to wave,
like the tide ordered by the moon to ebb and flow.

This thought shifts to that and before I know it,
dinnertime is here. I’ve whiled away a whole day
doing very little but tree-climbing 
and leaf-watching.

What a thing of beauty I am.
What a collector of beauty my soul is.

© Copyright Rachel E. Watson 2015
The Barr Brothers

The song I am writing about today is by Montreal, Quebec, folk quartet The Barr Brothers. It's called "Lord, I Just Can't Keep from Crying."

I find that title funny because, if you're like me, you won't feel at all like crying when you're done listening to this roaring anthem. You'll feel pure catharsis, blues and rock style, and it will put your blue-jeans-and-sneakers-bedecked self back on the road to feeling ready to tackle life's challenges.

It's true the song starts with some whiney notes, like all good blues songs do. But the rock kicks in at 0:29, and the volume cranks up, the dancing begins, and we party onward. Let's give these guys a hand for getting us out of self-pity mode and into our dancing shoes with a song that is edge to edge a whine ballad.

See if you can spot how they do it, and where:

Lord, I Just Can't Keep From Crying

The Barr Brothers

My mamma often told me, angels bonded your life away,
She said I would accomplish, but trust in God and pray,
I come on the King's Highway, I'm travelin' everyday.

But I just can't keep from cryin' sometimes,
No I just can't keep from cryin' sometimes,
When my heart is full of sorrow,
When my eyes fill with tears,
Well I just can't keep from cryin' sometimes.

My mother, she's in glory, thank God I'm on my way.
Father, he's gone too, and sister she could not stay,
I'm trusting Him everyday, to bear my burdens away.

But I just can't keep from cryin' sometimes,
Oh I just can't keep from cryin' sometimes,
When my heart is full of sorrow,
And my eyes are filled of tears,
Well I just can't keep from cryin' sometimes.

I thought when you first left, I'd grieved for a little while,
Soon it all would be over, and I'd journey on with a smile,
But the thought as I get older, I think of what I told her.
'Cause I'm on the King's Highway, travelling everyday/

But I just can't keep from cryin' sometimes,
No I just can't keep from cryin' sometimes,
When my heart is full of sorrow,
And my eyes fill with tears,
I just can't keep from cryin' sometimes.

I usually post my own poetry on the blog on Fridays.

But, today I thought I would take the opportunity to do something a little different and post work by the celebrated American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. I had the honor to quote her work in a college play in which I performed in 2005. (That's another story for another day.)

Here's the poem of hers that caught my eye today:

"Love Is Not All," by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

Isn't that sly? Throwing that last line in to twist the rest on its head.

What say you? Do you think she means love actually is everything? Or is she building a case that it's something but not everything? Are there other options to consider?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Authorities found her body on Sunday, the day before I was to start a new job working in her department at Calvin College, where she served as a student worker. She was going to be a junior this fall.

Those she worked with were devastated. And yet, the job must go on. What a cruel reality. It's a reality all co-workers must face when one of their own dies.

It reminded me of the summer of 2012, when my MLive co-workers and I found out after the Fourth of July weekend that our former boss, Andy Angelo, had died suddenly of pulmonary disease at the age of 55. Few of us had even known he was sick; it happened so suddenly. And then we had to carry on with work. While grieving.

His death affected hundreds of people. Folks he had mentored at The Press. People in the community he had served. Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association friends. People at Circle Theatre, where he'd donated time, money and invested in friendships. On and on and on.

The song below captures some of how I felt the days we had to get through work while trying to make sense of Andy's loss.

I said the song captured some of how I felt, because even though I did feel sad, I never felt truly hopeless.

I believe Andy is in a better place. 

I believe he went to heaven, and he's waiting for us there, still doing his thing, serving others and brightening people's lives. 

Except now, he's getting his full reward.

And I believe Chase is there getting her full reward, too.

That doesn't mean life in the meantime will be easy for any of their loved ones, though. Here are prayers for strength for all of us they left behind:

May you feel the loving arms of the Savior wrap around you if you are experiencing grief for any reason, now or in the future.

I Am a Tree
By Rachel E. Watson

I am a cat, graceful and fluid.
I am a cow, sagging and old.
I am a dog, facing the ground,
hinged in the middle, hung by my limbs.

I am a cobra, cunning and low.
I am a gumby, dangling and free.
I am a cross, I am a prayer, 
I am a swan, diving with flare.

I am a monkey, with a flat back.
I am a gumby, rinse and repeat.
I am unleashing my animal heat.
I am a warrior sparing the room 
my judgment, my glance, 
and my weapon of choice:
the seething sound of my voice.

I am a triangle, tinkling with sweat,
I am a pyramid, poised and pointed.
I am a half-moon dancer, 
held up by toenails 
pinned to the sky.

I am a tree, strong and tall, 
quivering with life, passion
and not quite ready to fall.

I am a dancer, a sideways prancer.
I am a monolith, an unmovable mountain.
I am sinking to the floor, 
rooted by my sit bones,
resting on the ground.

I am a pretzel,
bending and twisting,
releasing all tension.

I am a corpse. 
I am asleep. 
I am at peace.

Rachel E. Watson © 2015.

It's no secret I've been going through a hard time lately. I've blogged about anxiety, depression and mood disorder symptoms, and I've taken blogging breaks here and there to replenish my reserves.

What exactly was I doing during those breaks?

Well, as I mentioned in a July 15 post, one of the main things I was doing was listening to music. Not just any music, but specific types that I knew would do my brain good. I named four of them in the July 15 blog post.

Here are three more:

1. Classical music. On my Pandora station, I've been listening to Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Sergey Rachmaninov and Claude Debussy. In my car, I listen to Johannes Brahms and a mix of Romantic period composers from a CD I got as a graduation gift from a family friend a long time ago.

Here's my favorite Bach piece:

2. Bards. Singer-songwriters or bands with lyrics that grab hold of my brain and shake all the lies out. That's what good songwriters do. I'm thinking of Bob Dylan, Warren Zevon, Brandi Carlile, The Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons and Ryan Montbleau.

Here's a Ryan Montbleau song, for those of you who haven't heard his songwriting:

3. Soundtracks. I kid you not, one of the best ways to rise up from a low point is through singing or humming along with Disney soundtracks or other animated film songs. Fantasia is basically all classical music. The Aladdin soundtrack is compulsively singable. And my favorite ... of all time .. is the Anastasia soundtrack, with hits like "Once Upon a December," "Learn to Do It," and "In the Dark of the Night."

Here's the album's first track, "A Rumor in St. Petersburg":

Read more of my blog posts about music here.

The other day, I was minding my own business filling out paperwork in our backyard under a large maple tree. And nutshells rained down on me.

"It must have been a windy day," you might say. It was completely calm.

Not only that, but I was sitting under a maple. If you know your trees, you know maples do not produce nuts.

About 30 shells fell on my head, my shoulders and my lap, but none beyond the quilt rectangle on which I sat. I was suspicious.

So I looked up and saw a gleeful little squirrel perched far above me in the solid upper branches of the maple.

Here is where I sat when the squirrel started chucking nutshells at me

As soon as I looked at him, he looked straight into my eye and chucked another nutshell onto my head.

I couldn't help laughing, even though my shirt was dotted with sticky, half-chewed nut goo.

Later that day, I returned to the memory of the nut-chucking squirrel. Something shifted in my brain.

I've been tempted to view God like He's a squirrel in a maple tree, chucking problems my way.

First depression, then anxiety, then a mood disorder. Treatment. Meds. Avoidance of substances that interact with the meds.

Is any of that God's fault? If I really believe, like I so boldly and publicly declared a few weeks ago on this blog, that God is the Triune Creator of the Universe, why do I fall back on a belief that He is out to get me?

Doesn't it stand to reason He loves me, one of His children, created in His image?

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1)

What if I start looking at those nuts being chucked my way as opportunities for growth? As a rain of  blessings?

What if each nutshell is an opportunity to help others who are suffering like I am?

[God] comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Looking at the nutshells from that perspective totally brightened my mind that day, and I'm still feeling it.

What about you? How do you view the nutshells of life? What are the problems thrown your way? What are the resulting opportunities for you to bless others?

Bring the Light with You
By Rachel E. Watson

When a pile of paperwork calls your name
on a Friday morning,
if you have the freedom,
take the work outside and let the birds
and summer air provide your deep focus
while your pen stays busy.

When a stack of bills needs paying,
unlock the front door,
ignoring the creatures
who try to get in or out,
and pay the bills on your glider
or folding chair
next to the mailbox,
under the blue-gold sky.

When framed art
in a gallery far away
from home calls your name,
bring the outdoors with you.
Carry every memory of the horizon
you've ever made, and put it in your pocket
while your eyes hop from landscape
to still life to starry midnight vista.

You'll remember each sun-swept plain
each green-light storm
and pink-smooched dusk
as you search each painting
for the beauty you know in nature.

Answer each summons.
And bring the rays
of mid-morning
for illumination
along the midnight way.

Ever heard of jazz singer Madeleine Peyroux? Imagine a modern-day Billie Holiday, except French-American, and you've got a handle on what her voice and music sound like.

I was listening to a Spotify playlist called "Evening Unwind" a few weeks back, and her cover of Leonard Cohen's "Blue Alert" came on. I had never heard her voice, but I was instantly entranced. I was bewitched in a similar way by Rachael Yamagata in 2007, when I stumbled across her cover of Joni Mitchell's "River" on one of my Pandora stations.

After I finally had time to research Peyroux, I realized instantly why her music captivates me. The influences she cites include Bessie Smith, Johnny Mercer, Billie Holiday (no surprise there), Patsy Cline, Bob Dylan and Edith Piaf. Some of the great singers and singer-songwriters.

The song I'd like to share today is Peyroux's cover of "Summer Wind," by Johnny Mercer and Heinz Meier. It feels fresh and fragrant, just like a summer wind should be.

    "The Summer Wind" 

    By Leonard Cohen
    Performed by Madeleine Peyroux

    The summer wind
    Came blowing in
    From across the sea
    It lingered there
    So warm and fair
    To walk with me
    All summer long
    We sang a song
    And strolled on golden sand
    Two sweethearts
    And the summer wind
    Like painted kites
    Those days and nights
    Went flyin by
    The world was new
    Beneath a blue
    Umbrella sky
    Then softer than
    A piper man
    One day it called to you
    And I lost you
    To the summer wind
    The autumn wind
    And the winter wind
    Have come and gone
    And still the days
    Those lonely days
    Go on and on
    And guess who sighs her lullabies
    Through nights that never end
    My fickle friend
    The summer wind
    The summer wind

I hope her performance of the song is as enchanting for you as it was for me.

Read more of my blog posts about music here.

This quote is today's call to action: Go have yourself an adventure.

In my particular faith tradition, Sundays are for resting. I always thought that meant taking naps. Not even kidding. I now understand it's a broader concept. It's about resting from work and restoring the soul.

And where does the soul head when it wants restoration? Out into nature.

If you're looking for me the next several Sundays, I'll be out in the wild. Soaking up creation. Embracing play.

Go forth and do likewise!

A wedding party stopped 10 feet from my beach blanket and set up camp to pose for photographs.

The bride and groom seemed a sibling pair, with identical creamy brown skin, chestnut eyes and thick, chocolate-coffee hair.

She wore a flowing A-line mocha-colored silk dress, with a lace netting overlay that rose to a full lace bodice. The bodice cut away into a princess neckline beneath. It was capped by a translucent upper netting edged with white-cream flashing at her throat and across her shoulders.

The groom was tall, broad-shouldered, and sported his three-piece suit with casual aplomb, hands in pockets and shod toes digging into sand.

A flawless couple. My brain knows the "flawless" state has not fully existed since The Garden. But sometimes, I catch glimpses of moments that really could not be more beautiful. This was one such moment.

As the photographers lined up the six pairs of maids and men with the bride and groom front and center, they all gathered their poise and held it in one hand, preparing for The Jump.

The Jump is a years-old trend in wedding photos. It's where everyone lines up in landscape mode and the women hold tightly to errant skirts and bouquets in preparation for liftoff.

Then, the moment comes.

"One, two, three: JUMP!" The photographer yells over the surging Lake Michigan tide.

The party jumps, and the photographer snaps the shutter. One, two, three photographs.

Everyone in the party catches the air and grasps it for a split-second, suspended in time and buoyed by joy.

Then, gravity pulls hard. Instantly, the moment crashes downward.

Each moment is impermanent, breakable, fresh, dying, then dead. And each one holds the joy of a lifespan.

This is why we chase after experiences and document them in pictures: We can only ever live moment by moment, even when we travel forward or backward in worry and regret.

We need to experience all the moments. We need to feel and communicate the emotional responses they bring.

If we just let time pass, or if we actively stifle our feelings, we are robbing ourselves and ignoring the reason for which we were created.

What do you think that reason is? 

I'll leave you in this fragile moment to ponder your life's snapshots. The ones behind you, the ones happening now, and all the ones to come.

Carpe diem! Seize the day.
I colored this drawing recently.

For me, music has always been a superhighway of emotion and beauty. It also has been one of my primary coping skills for tough times. 

I recently read an article by a moods expert who said it's best to listen to "mood-incongruent music" — music that conveys emotions opposite from your own — when you are trying to cope.

I see wisdom in that. There's a bit of mood-incongruent music on my list below. 

Overall, though, I try to notice my senses and pay attention to what soothes and irritates them. 

Maybe sad music is what you need when you're sad, to help you know you're not alone. Or, maybe you've been stuffing your anger, and now you need a productive outlet. Angry music could help.

I don't typically listen to metal or hard rock music when I'm feeling down or anxious, because the dissonance and high-pitched electronic tones grate against my eardrums and aggravate my irritability. But maybe your eardrums like those sounds. If so, mindfully harness that liking to help you process your emotions.

Without further ado, here are the four main types of music that help me through tough times:

1. Hymns and sacred songs 

I was cleaning out my car — another coping skill — and I found a Fernando Ortega CD I thought I'd lost forever: "The Shadow of Your Wings: Hymns and Sacred Songs" (2006).

Here's one of my favorites from that album:

It's so simple and beautiful. It's the prayer I imagine God praying over me when I'm feeling anxious. 

2. Brandi Carlile

I've blogged about her music for years. For you longtime readers, it will come as no surprise that she makes one of my lists again.

Here's a Brandi Carlile song that helps me cry when I need to: "Downpour":

3. Johnny Cash

While I don't own any of his music, (I know! Get me some!) I love the darker stuff he wrote later in life, as well as the hymn-like songs and the fun-loving tunes.

Here's "Folsom Prison Blues," which I classify as a happy tune, even though it's about prison:

4. Edith Piaf

Sometimes, when my brain feels like scrambled eggs, but I still need to function/work/do chores, it's good to listen to music that has no lyrics — or lyrics I don't fully understand, because they're in a foreign language.

For this, I turn to Edith Piaf, 1915-1963, who was a French cabaret singer. Her strong, dominant vocals overshadow my moods. Her bold, march-style music helps me focus and gives me a boost of mental energy when I need it.

Here's Edith Piaf's "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien":

Your turn. What are some songs you'd put on your list of coping tunes?

Read more of my blog posts about music here.

I've been riding through a rough stretch. The difficulty has included a range of normal life stressors + mental health issues + insomnia.

Many of you have experienced similar tough times. Trouble has a way of finding us, doesn't it?

Here are four coping skills I've learned that could help you, too:

1. Cut social media ties for a time. If you are in a battle for sanity, you don't need to be on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, etc. It's hard to avoid comparing your life's messiness to other people's highlight reels. So don't. Even if you are a writer, artist, business owner, etc., you CAN take a break. Decide how long you need off. Then cut the cord.

This was the "away message" I posted on Facebook before I unplugged.

2. Try your hand at art projects. You might find yourself at a loss for words during a tough time. So don't talk or write. Make art. It helps.

I drew a face, then made a frame. Then I took photos of my shadow looming over the drawing.

3. Spend more time with animals. I love equine animals (horses, ponies and donkeys), cats of all kinds, and the gentler breeds of dogs. Why do I love hanging out with animals? Because they don't judge, they are excellent listeners, and they are So. Fricking. Adorable. If your heart is heavy, animals will take a load off it.

Here I am greeting a sweet pony named Applejack.

4. Hang out with friends old and new. Old friends know you well, and they can speak into your life with honesty, grace and love. New friends know almost nothing, so you're free to talk to them about other things besides The Big Thing, a.k.a. your rough patch. I'm blessed to have old and new friends, and both groups have turned out to be agents of healing in my life. 

Me and a dear friend, Meredith, celebrating our birthdays.

Your turn. What are some of your coping skills for hard times?

"The Birds Gather for Band Practice"

A poem by Rachel E. Watson, inspired by The Beatles, Stephen Crane, and my own dear backyard birds.

The birds have gathered for band practice,
in the branches of our backyard.
We are their landlords only
while they tune and fiddle,
scrape and screech.

A close listen lets me know
they all sing different songs.
“Will they agree on a set list
at some point?” I wonder to myself
while my husband thumbs his life of Crane.

I watch the pine grosbeak straddle a branch,
and I pretend he balances a cello
between his spindly feet,
drawing the bow as he calls to his fellows
to give him middle C.

Next tree over, the orange-crowned warbler
deftly belts out the note, takes a bow
and hops from bottom to top
of the stately aged oak tree
to collect the grosbeak’s thanks.

I see a plain old robin competing for attention,
repeating, re-bleating her top-heavy tune
to an uncaring chorus of finches,
swallows, wrens and woodpeckers –
witnesses all to a cacophony of crowing.

The night closes in and the birds seem to notice,
taking to wing and rushing around,
as if packing their instruments,
saying harried, final goodbyes,
and heading for the home road.

The blackbird picks up the song they dropped,
lending them a metronome to leave by.
He vows to stay in that tree
and artfully close the cadence
of the backyard birds’ band practice.

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” — Anais Nin

Courage. That’s the thing we need in order to exercise our creativity. Right?

Walk and talk for a long moment with me. If you are anxious, worried or fearful (they’re synonyms, in my book, but you may disagree) — will you work to exercise your gifts? Probably not.

I know that now. Finally. I have accepted it after years of wrestling with my anxiety, doubt, depression, fear, shame and guilt.

I am finally in a place where I can stop, slow down, and breathe. I can listen to the voices of positivity and affirmation around me.

When I was tangled up in “my anxious ball of yarn,” as a dear friend put it to me plainly, I could not listen to anyone, or at least not to the people closest to me. Would not.

Now, I am feeling better. Not fixed or problem-free. I doubt I will ever be “fixed” or “problem-free.” Not here on Planet Earth, this crazy-stupid-awesome-beautiful-fun-joyful-scary place.

But I can take heart. I can grip the hands extended. I can reread all the letters, notes and cards of encouragement shared with me over the years that I read at the time but didn’t absorb.

I can write my stories without fear of failure, shame or disappointing the people around me.

Because what, ultimately, matters? In this battle for courageous creativity, what matters most, to me, is Freedom. Joy. Sight. The ability to communicate clearly and powerfully, whether in writing or verbally, without breaking out into hives and having to wear turtlenecks and scarves to hide my pain and anxiety.

Because hiding is not what I need. Freedom, courage and joy are what I need.

I am starting to believe your voices, friends. Keep speaking to me. Keep listening. Keep trusting me to work through this in my own time, my own way.

Your input isn’t going to be the thing that gets me through this, though. I will listen and receive it with joy, as much as I can. But I need to begin listening to my own voice now. I have been suppressing it for far too long in a false effort to achieve daily survival.

The phrase “false effort” sounds like self-judgment, but it’s a strong, powerful descriptor of the truth as I experience it. I have believed lots of lies about you, me, the world in which we live, and The One who created it.

From a very early age, people in my life saw my pain and were trying to help me work through it. And I could not, would not, receive help.

Why? I am sure there are a lot of factors, including heredity, environment, brain development, brain chemistry, personality (I am a very intuitive, sensitive woman), and spirituality.

That last one especially. I believed God was the cause of my problems for far too long.

You may still agree God is the cause of your problems. You may deny He exists at all. But listen to me. I am 10, 598 days old. Know I am saying this in a gentle and honest tone: You, too, can have freedom from believing a lie about God.

He is not out to get you, if He exists, which, believe me, I understand you might not accept. I have trouble grasping it myself. I fear what it will mean for my life if I affirm it.

But look, there’s that word again. Fear! What a way to live! It’s not a way. It’s a coping mechanism.

In the Gospel of John, the fourth book about Jesus in the New Testament, Jesus says, “I Am The Way, The Truth and The Life.”

As I step into that statement and move around inside it, looking at it from all angles, examining its corners and rough edges, I realize one thing: He is right. I have been looking for a Way Out. I have been looking for Truth with a capital T. And I have been looking for a Life of Abundance.

Nothing I have sought or tried has given me any sort of peace, rest or answers.  I am finally at a place where I am ready for peace, rest and answers. I have decided to try trusting God.

I suspect He will deliver. Almost everyone I know in West Michigan believes He will. Eventually. Deliver. In. Some. Way.

  • C.S. Lewis (eventually) believed it, after years of questioning and doubting. 
  • G.K. Chesterton was convinced.  
  • George Washington wrestled and found a form of God he could accept. 
  • J.E.B. Stuart was devout and articulate in his written prayers and letters. 
  • Robert E. Lee had trouble understanding God because of death and destruction. But He loved Him anyway. 
  • Maya Angelou's poetry and personal writings clearly show a heart turned toward God despite unspeakable levels of trauma. 
  • Flannery O’Connor was a lifelong doubter who rolled around inside Catholicism and prayed eloquently, fervently and honestly, grasping the truth tightly with both hands. 
  • Louisa May Alcott wanted to believe God but felt she couldn’t. Transcendentalism was too powerful an influence, and it appealed to her deeply. 
  • L.M. Montgomery often tried to find and love God but was distracted by the abuse from her preacher husband. 
  • A.N. Wilson rejected the idea of God for years as an agnostic but finally came around. 
  • So did J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote the words above, "Not all who wander are lost." 
  • Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens built careers by destroying the evidence they saw in order to persuade others there is no possible way The Way could be true. 
  • Folks like Ken Ham, John Piper and Albert Mohler have pieces of The Truth. But they have put up blinders to the rest, and, I believe, distort the parts they know.  
  • Honest seekers like Rob Bell, Rachel Held Evans and Scot McKnight have made it their public mission to unhook The Church Universal from its warped presentation of The Gospel. 
  • Pope Francis has tied the Vatican to a chair until the bishops and cardinals will listen to his voice of sanity, reason and compassion. The voice that traveled from humble roots in Argentina to sit in the world's most powerful chair is spreading healing to the whole world by washing the feet of lowly travelers.
  • Jesus Christ represents the purest form of love that ever walked the Earth. His stories, writings, actions, words, group of friends and followers -- they all prove clearly to me He was not just a witty guy, a good prophet or an articulate and kind teacher. He was all of those things. And He IS -- STILL -- the Son of God, and He walks the streets of the heavenly realms waiting for the day when we will all finally get what He was all about. His mission was one of compassion and life-change everywhere He went. His voice accepts instead of condemning. He erases fear by spreading love and truth. 

I believe this body of evidence all points to one place: The Cross. It points to Father God’s creation of the universe. It reminds us of His Son Jesus’ death and resurrection to atone for all of the lies, fear and guilt we heap upon ourselves and one another. It illustrates The Holy Spirit’s still small voice, whispering truth and waiting for us to invite Him inside so we may receive His Power to carry out the will of the Father and Son.

Where else could the evidence lead? I don’t see other options, and I wonder if I really need other options. I am willing to give it a shot.

I embraced the Spirit’s power in December in a Women’s Bible study at Ada Bible Church, finally trusting, just enough, that He wasn’t a mystical force or a weird and silly lie.

I trusted Him just enough to let Him inside. He started to move around, looking at me from all angles, considering my corners and rough edges.

This week, I realized the Holy Spirit is the only One who has enough power to take that examination of the truth about me and do something with it.

I can leave it in His hands. I don’t have to worry He won’t get it right. I can accept the power courage gives me, and I can walk back to my computer, back into my house, back into my friends', neighbors' and some former co-workers’ lives, without being afraid of disappointing them. Without being afraid at all. Of anything.

Hold me to it, friends. Please hold me to it.

May the triune God bless you with His great love and His mighty, peace-filling presence. Amen.

You know that thing where Facebook can be really weird? I have a story about that.

I scrolled through old Facebook messages recently in order to mute and archive them.

I face a deadline this week, and I want to make sure I reach it. A lot rides on it – in my own head, at least – although God probably knows better than I do. (“Gee, thanks, Rach, for the vote of confidence,” God says … probably …)

For reals: God knows what is going to happen with the deadline and whether my effort will come to fruition. He knows whether I will enter a new stage after it passes.

But, I don’t know the outcome yet. And I have a lot of work to do in all areas of life right now. Especially grieving.

In case no one has mentioned this to you or in case you haven’t experienced loss yourself, let me enlighten you: Grief is painful. Getting through it takes hard work. You have to make a lot of conscious choices. There is a sort of who, what, when, where and how process to follow, but it isn’t often linear. Many people do not know grief has five unruly stages but there is a process to follow to help bring healing. It's called self-kindness and self-awareness. And we don't usually get there alone.

This idea of stages resonates with me as a writer and journalist. I understand words are unwieldy. And so are emotions.

Right now, in this stage, you are reading this to find out how to grieve, privately, on social media. Specifically on Facebook, The Big One.

I don't have all the answers. I hope to share three helpful steps today. You will discover more.

To grieve privately on Facebook:

1. Let yourself look at your old Facebook messages. Do it when you have time, not when someone is expecting something from you or when you owe yourself something else. Set aside time when you won’t be interrupted. Minimize distractions. Go through your list of messages.

2. Archive your outdated chats. Go into the “See All” messages mode. There is a scroll bar on the left side of the page. It shows your recent conversations in a list. Next to each name/group of names in the thread, on the right, there is a small black “x.” It appears when you hover over it with the cursor. The “x” is a powerful tool. Pressing the “x” will wave a magic wand over the thread. It doesn’t delete it; it just saves it out of sight. It “archives” the message. You can find it later if you want to keep it.

3. Archive as many as you can handle. I did this for a practical reason the other day – cutting down on notifications – and I found myself blown away by the emotions that welled up. I saw threads from two people – one an uncle and one a mentor – who died within the past three years but have "alive" social profiles. I saw threads from friends who have exited my life for various reasons but are alive in the flesh. I saw TONS of family threads. I saw my best friends’ names pop up as I kept hitting the “x” without pausing between page loads. It was a cathartic experience. I cried. Alone. In my study.

Archiving these chats became a new way to look at my life. I began to see my grief is real. It is there, underneath my difficult-to-achieve functionality. It is not bad or good, it just IS. And in order to deal with it, I have to notice it.

I also noticed I have a lot more friends than I sometimes realize. It’s a big support network.

Hopefully, noticing this will lead to the final stage of grief: acceptance.

Read about the Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross "five stages of grief" model here.

I would love to find out whether you plan to try or already tried this practice of archiving old Facebook chats. If so, what did you learn? Did anything surprise you? Did you rediscover something you already knew? If so, congratulate yourself. Give yourself a hug. You, my friend, are the Holy Grail of personhood. You are Self-Aware.

I look forward to bonding over our shared griefs and joys. Life can knock us down. But because we live on this planet, and we aren't islands, we ought to help each other up. It's the least we can do.

I often blog on mental health issues. Read posts on depression here and anxiety here.

Dear friends and readers,

Today is my birthday; I have officially entered the last year of my 20s.

Well, depending on who you ask. Because I know people who say -- and I tend to agree with them -- that you are always technically at least a year older than your numeric age.

This is because you spend nine months gestating and a full year post-partum before you are given the numeric age of "1 year old."

So I'm either 29 or 30 and nine months. Let that simmer in your stew pot.

Anyway, I'm feeling very grateful this weekend. For all of you readers. For my husband and family. For my little cat and my big cat. For my house, neighborhood, town, state, country and world. For my dear friends, all of whom are very creative and intelligent people.

I am so blessed to "know" you all. Some of you I haven't met officially, but you're faithful readers and that matters to me a great deal.

Thank you.

Thank you for being a part of my full, rich life. I cannot tell you how pleased I am to be your writer friend.

For some of you, I might be the only person you know who is a writer.

For others, I am just one among dozens or hundreds of committed writer friends.

Either way, I want you to know I am both serious and light-hearted about my job, and I will share that with you in every blog post.

Serious: I understand that being a writer is a complex, demanding and rewarding job, full of opportunities to build others up or tear them down. I want to choose life and compassion as my default pattern rather than criticism and destruction. You may hold me accountable to that.

Light-hearted: I continually reach for laughter as my favorite practice. It helps me experience joy. It helps me heal.

I try not to take myself too seriously, and I'd be tickled if you wouldn't take me too seriously, either.

I'm a playful person. I like to have a good time. I like to make people laugh.

I am often silly when I hang out with my closest confidantes. I bwa-ha-ha and guffaw just as much as the next person.

I adore improv and comedy writing. Some of my favorite people -- famous and less-famous -- employ humor, parody and satire to convey the truth as they experience it. Jon Stewart, Steve Martin, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Mindy Kaling, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Stella Gibbons, Bill Bryson, Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Fallon, Sharon Garlough Brown, Lorilee Craker, Susie Finkbeiner, Michael Karpus, Adam Forrest, Pam Elmore, Rickey Ainsworth, Matthew Jensen, Mark Lago, the list goes from outstanding, famous celebrities to local writers to incredible friends who likely would describe themselves as "regular people."

But are they just regular people? They aren't to me. You aren't to me. You are special. Creative. Endearing.

Thank you for being a blog reader o' mine. I owe ya a cold beer and a big hug.

Rachel E. Watson
This fly is The Devil. Just look how he rubs his legs together in glee, taunting you.

Here are four tried-and-true ways to attempt human-on-fly murder. The effort will help preserve your precious #writing #sanity:

1) Grab a fly-swatter and chase the cheeky offender madly about your apartment/house. But it probably won't die. You are a #writer, not an #athlete.

2) Kiss your whole day of #writing goodbye. Head to the store and buy The Electronic Bug Zapper Racket. Proceed to spend the afternoon on a customer service hotline trying to figure out how it works. You are a #writer, not an #engineer.

3) With primal patience, trap the fly between the window pane and the screen. Make sure you put the fly into a window that's in a different room from the one in which you are writing. That way, you won't be able to hear it buzz, and it won't kill your #writing buzz.

This is not a round room. It has corners. You might hurt yourself. Get a round room.

4) If all else fails, shut yourself in a round room with no access to sharp objects or windows. The fly won't follow you, because round rooms are for the desperately disturbed, and flies aren't at all disturbed. They are rather pleased with themselves.

Prediction: Flies will one day drive YOU nuts. Especially if you are a #writer.

What drives you bonkers in the meantime, pals? Lay all your #petpeeves on me in the comments. 
Brandi Carlile

On a sunny and gorgeous Friday afternoon a couple weeks ago, I regained an appreciation for Brandi Carlile's song "Caroline."

Why? Because I spent a couple hours at a park with my precious 7-month-old niece, Emmy. Carlile wrote the song about her niece, Caroline, and recorded it with the legendary Elton John, whose fingers skip happily over the keys and infuse the song with life and joy. 

I love the song even more now that I'm an aunt, an experience I hadn't yet had when it was released on Carlile's 2009 album "Give Up the Ghost."

Now, six years later, I have three nieces and a nephew on my Watson side of the family, and four nieces and three nephews on my husband's side of the family. And I have a new appreciation for lines like this gem: "But I've seen things so beautiful / All around this broken world / That pale in comparison to you."

Nieces and nephews are a blessing from God. I pray that all of you readers will someday get to experience the joy of watching wee loved ones grow up.

In the meantime, here's the song:

"Caroline," by Brandi Carlile

I woke up long after dawn
20 years had come and gone
I know when it changed for me
A day in June you came to me
I've seen through someone else's eyes
With nothin' on the other side
Every motel, every town
Pieces scattered all around

Promises that I can't be
Someone's heart that I can't keep
Days so long I couldn't speak
Roads so rocky I can't sleep
But I've seen things so beautiful
All around this broken world
That pale in comparison to you

Caroline I'm on my way back home to you
Can't imagine what I'm goin' through
without you by my side
It's been a long long time
Oh won't you say a prayer for me
I hope you will remember me
You're always on my mind

I have seen the canyon lands
Crooked lines like in your hands
You'd swear the earth was split in two
I wouldn't lie I promise you
That I have seen it, you will too
You could not believe if not for
photographs I took for you, Caroline
They've built towers to the sky
It hurts sometimes to watch them try
They run themselves into the ground
But I know you will love them
and their city lights and city sounds
There's beauty in the struggle
Anytime I feel it get me down
I see you smiling

Caroline, I'm on my way back home to you
Can't imagine what I'm goin' through
Without you by my side
It's been a long long time
Oh won't you say a prayer for me
I hope you will remember me
You're always on my mind
My Caroline

Now I have seen things in the sky
Stars and lights and birds and I
I've been rocky mountain high
And told them all about you
Because you are still the only thing
That constantly amazes me
I love the road and I've been blessed
But I love you best

Caroline, I'm on my way back home to you
Can't imagine what I'm goin' through
Without you by my side
It's been a long long time
Oh won't you say a prayer for me
I hope you will remember me
You're always on my mind
You were always on my mind
My Caroline

I finished this book about two weeks ago and gave it five stars out of five on Goodreads. I'm still processing it. Still remembering the characters' struggles and still learning from the insights they experienced on their journeys.

It's a one-of-a-kind novel that's part fiction, part spiritual retreat manual, part Bible study experience.

The four protagonists are Meg, Hannah, Charissa and Mara. They each are carrying burdens that have become too much for them to bear, although they don't all know it yet. The women find out through various channels about a sacred journey retreat that has helped friends of theirs release baggage and experience peace. With much reluctance, each of the four women sign up for the eight-week class, and they end up sitting at the same table and becoming friends.

Meg Crane is a recent empty-nester single mom of 46 who is alone in a big Victorian home she inherited from her parents, haunted by memories about her recently deceased angry, critical mother. She is weighed down by her many phobias and insecurities, trapped in the grief of her past.

Hannah Shepley is a single, 39-year-old associate pastor who is given a forced nine-month sabbatical from pastoral duties, because, as her lead pastor puts it, she needs to learn to "disentangle her personal and professional identities." She has spent her whole life avoiding her problems and pain by helping others through theirs. She is the classic "fixer."

Mara Garrison is a 50-year-old mother of three, haunted by a lifetime of rejection, who believes she's never been wanted. She is married to an unkind man who doesn't love her, and she buries her sorrows in comfort food and reality TV. What she really wants is peace, rest and someone to love her.

Charissa Sinclair is a 26-year-old Ph.D. candidate studying English literature at a small Christian university, a big fish in a little pond. She is a statuesque beauty with an adoring husband, doting parents and the respect of all her peers. She is Miss Perfect and she lives for The Right Answer. But when she embarks on the sacred journey, she finds herself suddenly without answers.

I found myself drawn most powerfully to the struggles of Hannah, the fixer, and Charissa, the perfectionist. They are "just fine" in their own minds. They don't need help. They don't even believe they have needs. This was me for so many years. It was an emotional and life-giving experience to travel with Hannah and Charissa as they gradually came to the end of self-sufficiency and realized they did need help, grace and love, and that it was OK to have those needs.

If you see yourself in any of the four archetypes of this novel, I highly recommend you read it. There's hope in the healing process. There's life in the sacred journey toward God.

Read more of my book reviews here.
Let’s be honest. It’s hard to be self-motivated some days. It’s hard to stay on task and stick to goals. In fact, this week I've had three days in a row where I've fallen short of the writing goals I set for myself. Part of it is health-related and part of it is due to other life circumstances.

I am trying to give myself grace. I’m trying to keep in mind that I'm still developing my techniques for staying on task. After all, I've only been a full-time writer for a few months.

Five tips

Isn't life as a writer/creative type — or worker from home of any kind — better when we can share our tips and insights? In that spirit, here are five things you can do that will help you stay focused and avoid procrastination:

1. Use a separate room of the house to write in — one with a door you can shut so you can't see the mess or distractions in the rest of the house.

2. Write your to-do list the night before, then rewrite it in order of importance in the morning.

3. Stick with the to-do list. And every time you fall into a rabbit hole of distraction, redirect yourself by looking at the list.

4. Set yourself a timer for when it’s time to eat lunch and when it’s time to get back to work. I wish I didn't have to do this. But I know that I will either forget to eat, or get distracted while I am eating and start doing other things besides getting back to writing. 

5. Remember to cut yourself some slack. You aren't perfect. Show yourself the same grace others extend to you when you mess up.

Share your tips

What are some of your techniques and tips for staying on task? I would love to hear them in the comments below.

It's been my pleasure to track the musical evolution of one of my old college pals, singer-songwriter and piano rock artist Zach Vinson.

Vinson's third solo album, "How We Spend Our Days" officially releases today. And it's good.

I've been absorbing its sounds and letting them rattle around inside my head for a few weeks now.

The six-song album is full of wisdom and poetry about love, life, family and Vinson's Wisconsin roots. The melodies compel me to dance fast and slow, to upbeat, piano-driven "You're the One," to the gentle, acoustic guitar strains of "A Simple Verse," to the contemplative, yet joyful rock 'n' roll of "Home."

I have to admit I wasn't prepared for the heavier electric and bass guitar rock elements on the track 4, "Something About the Way," as Vinson's first two albums leaned more to the pop side of the pop/rock spectrum. But the good news is, Vinson has the musical ability to flow from one set of sounds to another with skill and ease.

My favorite song on the album is "A Simple Verse." It's the essence of marital affection. Words fail. Just listen and appreciate its simple beauty.

"A Simple Verse"

I wanted to write a simple verse,
Something not feeling too rehearsed,
To remind you that in good times and in worse,
I am not leaving.

Cause this year's been different than before.
The row's we've dug run far beneath the floor,
And most days I'm the one who's keeping score
And I am not winning.

Is there a way to know everything?
Each bit of your pain,
Each memory you've seen?
Is there a way two can be one
and the same?

I wanted to write a simple song,
A melody in your head while I'm gone,
To hold to when you just cannot hold on.
I'm gone, but I'm not leaving.

Cause you and I are different than before
And your wrinkled smile lines hint at something more,
Something gleaming, something leaping at the core
Hiding inside you.

Is there is a way to know everything?
Each bit of your pain, each memory you see?
Is there a way two can be one
and the same?

I wanted to write a simple verse,
Something not feeling too rehearsed,
To remind you that in good times and in worse,
I am not leaving.

Zach Vinson's music

If you like the song I shared, you can buy Zach Vinson's third album, "How We Spend Our Days," as well as his two previous albums, "The Streets Will Turn to Streams" and "Cracked Open," at his website. To get updates about Vinson's shows and future album releases. "Like" his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter.

Read more of my blog posts about music here.

“The Cloak, The Clasp, The Wolf” (2012), author Trevor Denning’s modern retelling of the classic fairytale “Little Red Riding Hood,” is a well-paced, riveting read.

 Denning’s self-published short story, available on Amazon, takes us on a midnight journey alongside a mountain community’s herbalist healer, Rose. She’s fetched from her home on the cusp of a storm by a small boy named Gabby Lewis to help his ailing Gramma Fletcher in a cabin up the mountain.

Rose stops at a tavern along the way to solicit help, but the men passing a jug there seemingly are too gripped by fear of the full moon and stormy weather to answer her call for help.

So Rose treks to the cabin alone, wrapped in her red cape and stalked by — you’ll have to read the story to find out what — or who.

When I dove into this tale, I was concerned the Appalachian dialect would slow me down. Happily, that wasn't so. I found the plain speech and mountain idioms were endearing and kept me solidly immersed in the hill folks’ world.

I also appreciated Denning’s choice to weave flashbacks together with vivid details about Rose’s trek up the mountainside.

Readers will find this particular Red Riding Hood is no shrinking violet. She blends common sense with a guarded, instinctively suspicious attitude, unlike the tripping, clueless Riding Hood in other versions of the classic. How fitting for a woman raised in a harsh climate, where survival often depends on strength of arm and sharpness of wit.

I’d heartily recommend this short story (Amazon Digital Services, 21 pages) to anyone looking for a clever revival of an old favorite.

Before I go to bed each night, I make the next day’s to-do list. It’s usually a laughably ambitious one, like “write three blog posts + a poem + do research + catch up on reading everything in my newsfeed + clean the whole house + go to the laundromat + see the doctor + grocery shop + read a book."

The to-do list is an essential exercise nonetheless. It’s how I stay on top of my full-time writing job.

What often happens the next morning, though? I procrastinate. And la dee da, it’s 10 a.m., and I haven't started writing yet.

My most productive writing hours are in the morning, when my brain is fresh. (I also can write in the late evening, but that’s a post for another day.)

BUT, sometimes little ol’ perfectionist me gets scared by the more daunting tasks in my writing life: prewriting or writing my work-in-progress. Research. Ripping up the shitty first draft and diving into draft two. Writing good blog posts. Writing pitches and proposals for new projects.

It’s all quite terrifying. What if I mess up? So I procrastinate. Like so:

1. I putz around in my kitchen, washing counters, planning meals or dumping out the coffee grounds and starting a new cuppa joe. Hum dee dum, this is fun.

2. I ignore the priority list and start doing little tasks at the bottom of the list. Promote or re-promote my latest blog post? Yeah, that’s easy! Of course I'll do that first.

3. I get sidetracked with paying bills. Yikes, the license plate tabs need renewing! Yikes, my doctor bill is almost due! I HAVE TO PAY BILLS NOW! Even though I don’t.

4. I start tidying up the living room. This book stack should be organized better. My hubs folded the couch blanket the wrong way after we watched a show last night; let me fix that. I know. Like I said. Perfectionist.

5. I listen to that shiny new folk-rock album I ordered last week. What? This is research for my next music review blog post, riiiiiiight? Yes, but it doesn't have to be done right now.

Share your thoughts

Do any of you fellow creative types struggle with procrastination? If so, I'd love to hear your funny stories or tips for getting back on track. 

I'll share my own tips in a follow-up blog post next Friday.

Because redirection is essential if we're going to write the next Great American Novel. ;)