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March: A Month of Change

Peonies from my garden, May 2018 [et_pb_section fb_built=”1″ _builder_version=”3.19.15″][et_pb_row _builder_version=”3.19.15″][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”3.19.15″][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.19.15″]

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

In Ohio, many winters are harsh and spill over long into spring. As I write, it is snowing outside — the perfect type of day for a writer. No matter if it is sunny and warming and beginning to feel like spring, or if it is snowing out, March is a month of change. 

March, Month of Change

Many years ago, I read a quote to the effect of Even if we live to be 100 year old, we will have experienced Spring only 100 times. I have written about that quote here. 

I’m a person who loves to witness the miracle of Spring. I marvel at the green shoots poking through the barren earth in March, and I anticipate the flowers that will blossom from the stems in a month or two. I love Spring.

 

Peonies from my garden, May 2018

Peonies from my garden, May 2018

Change in Blog Frequency

Some may have noticed that for the months of January and February 2019, I posted daily blogs, which republished content from the book I wrote in 2007. It was an effort from the heart.

I personally read brief thoughts and devotions each day, from the Bible.com app and from other thinkers like Seth Godin. Both impact my train of thought for the day. I like to spend time to stretch and grow and be inspired to live my best.

The effort in publishing the daily inspirations from my book published in 2007 by Tyndale House was a success. But I have also learned something else during the past two months. The large amount of effort needed to sustain the daily blog is beyond what I am capable of sustaining. I spend much time and energy at my work, at being a mom and a friend, and have to invest myself carefully. This is why I am scaling back.

I will continue to occasionally publish photographs of travels and things that inspire me, and will share them here. And with that, I want to say thank you for your interest, reading, and thoughtful words you’ve shared with me.

Now, to enjoy the season upon us, of change, of miracles, of rebirth. To enjoying one of those 100 springs!

Jennifer

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Gratitude and the Story of This Website Name Change

Jennifer Lyn website

If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living. Gail Sheehy

I love the third week of November. It always contains my favorite day: Thanksgiving. I love a dining room full of everyone I love, together. This week also has my birthday, which, this year, I am celebrating with a goal I have long worked to implement: a website name change.

Jennifer Lyn website

Gratitude and the Story of This Website Name Change

My website began in 2005, and the former website + blog began as it was in 2008. Those days were pioneer days in the website world, and I’ve tried to evolve with it. Since my whole world changed a few years ago when I became a single mom, I had kept the last name I thought I would have forever as part of my website name. But that name does not describe me as an artist, writer, or creative soul. This year seemed like the right year to drop that last name from my creative work.

In 2006, when I bought my first canvas and set of oil paints and brushes, I began signing my paintings with Jennifer Lyn. Almost all of those early paintings are non-existent now, or reside in high shelves inside closets. 🙂 But I still sign my paintings (that I like much more now that I’ve painted a few hundred) with Jennifer Lyn. I don’t really have a reason for it, except that is my given name. Jennifer Lyn is mine. And so, all considered, I have migrated and redirected my former website to https://illuminousstudio.com.

So this is my place now, Jennifer-Lyn.com. I hope you still continue to join me here. And over the coming weeks, I am opening a small store here of products made with my photography and art. I look forward to this, as it’s a dream, too.

Gratitude

Change is never easy. This website domain and site hosting change has taken hours and hours and days to pull off. The site and links are not yet perfect, but they’re getting there. The only way I know to make a change is to prepare, work hard, and take the leap.

I like to think of this change as a new beginning.

This Thanksgiving week, as we say thank you to those who live life with us and make our lives profoundly better, we can also begin anew. That beginning starts by saying thank you, gratitude to the one who has given us so much and life itself, and moving in the direction of positive change that brings us closer to our dreams.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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The Bends in the Road

The winding road along the Croatian Coast, near Bosnia

“A bend in the road is not the end of the road…Unless you fail to make the turn.” – Helen Keller

The winding road along the Croatian Coast, near Bosnia

I love Helen Keller’s quote above. It seems to say exactly what I sometimes have a hard time comprehending about change in life.

So many times, change feels like it’s the end of the road. The end feels final, something to mourn and grieve and perhaps stay stuck on for time to come. Because, when something ends, what will happen next?

We all go through change and instances that feel like the end. But what if sometimes the changes are really a bend in the road? What if we hang on and adjust and steer through the change?

Changes — The Bends in the Road

Recently, I have been through a lot of change.

  • This weekend, we moved my oldest son into a dormitory for his first year of college.
  • Two weeks ago, the team and I decided that after 5 great years, this was the time to let GreatNewBooks.org sunset and posted our final post.
  • My younger two sons are now both in high school and started school a few days ago.

These are all sizeable changes. And somehow, I do find it hard to hang on. But I know that by hanging on, taking care of myself, through prayer and keeping my chin up, these changes will help me to grow and change for the better.

With my oldest at college, I have more time to spend with my younger two. And the time with my oldest, when I do get to see him, will be that much more special. That, and I cannot wait to see where life takes him. I am so proud of him.

With the change of GreatNewBooks, I will (and do) have more time in the margins of my life. GNB has been one of the most wonderful things I have ever been a part of, and with such a great group of women. But between single-momhood, a demanding job I love, and three sons and dear friends I want to have time to be with, there is not much time in the margins for things which refuel me — painting / photography / writing. I am enjoying and looking forward to the fullness of extra time each week.

And with my youngest two in high school, my kiddos are growing up. Soon my youngest will be driving. Yet I love getting to see them become more of who they are meant to be — they are such great young men.

So yes, there are several bends in the road right now, as I am sure there are for you, too. But hold on with me and enjoy the ride. I am confident what is to come will take our breath away with joy.

Catch the joys as they fly!

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Darkness, Perspective, and Light

Storms, Darkness: Praiano, Italy

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” ― Haruki Murakami

About five years ago, I traveled to the Amalfi Coast in Italy. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

Reflections of Capri along the Mediterranean, from Praiano, Italy
Reflections of Capri along the Mediterranean, from Praiano, Italy

From the perch in the village where I stayed, the view looked like the above photograph, and the view from neighboring Positano, below:

A Church high above Positano, and the view of Capri's Faraglioli (Fingers)
A Church high above Positano, and the view of Capri’s Faraglioli (Fingers)

One afternoon, storms rolled in from the sea. The change was drastic.

Dark Seas across the view from Praiano to the Faraglioni and Isle of Capri, Italy
Dark Seas across the view from Praiano to the Faraglioni and Isle of Capri, Italy

 

Storms, Darkness: Praiano, Italy
Storms, Darkness: Praiano, Italy

Once the rain had pelted the dramatic coastline for hours, and the sea surged and crashed into the rocks far below, a stream of light peeked out from the heavy clouds. When the darkness parted, the landscape looked even more beautiful than it had before. Why is that?

Stunning Painting in the Sky, above Capri and the Amalfi Coast, Italy
Stunning Painting in the Sky, above Capri and the Amalfi Coast, Italy

Darkness and Perspective

Storms come. Life isn’t easy. Last week, I wrote using the same quote as the beginning of this post. In a wider view, in the past few weeks, the state of the United States has been dire. The Presidential debate, the shootings, and the riots — all of these have weighed heavy on our hearts. The GreatNewBooks.org team have talked about the difficulties in our country recently. Has it ever been this bad? It’s impossible not to shake our heads and wonder how we have gotten where we are as a nation.

I’m not a political person, and I’m also not one who has an explanation for all the things happening. But I am one who has learned to set my feet on the ground in hard times, root into faith, set my face to the wind, and watch the storm come.

storms
Storms

Storms aren’t pleasant. They’re completely out of our control, and maybe that’s why they’re so uncomfortable — we have no control over what happens. There is no explanation for why a tornado devastates a certain town, or why lightning strikes, much in the same way it’s difficult to make sense of the metaphorical storms which plow their way through our lives, in events big and small, public and personal.

The one thing I do know is that after the storm, we can appreciate beauty much better than we could before the storm. Without darkness, it’s difficult to see the light. There is nothing that has more importance than the task of keeping our lights shining. For it is with the light we’ve kept burning that defines who we are despite the storms.

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Summertime and Big Changes

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly in flight

One day she decided to stop letting her fears hold her back, and from that day on, she flew.

(I love this phrase, which I first saw on House of Belonging and DeAnn Art instagram)

 

It’s summer!

Last week, I was absent from the blog for the week, but this is what I was up to …

Start with a roadtrip, add a car full of loved ones, journey to a place filled with people you love, add a shimmering pool of water, a hot summer sun, goggles and music and lots of fun, and it suddenly feels like summer. Those are the days of life which are the very best.

 

summer photos
Summer photos from my Instagram (@jenniferlynking)

 

This summer has been a mix of time doing the fun things with my boys — time at amusement parks, and basketball games, and fishing and cutting grass and gardening — and preparing for other big changes looming on the horizon.

 

summer photos
More summer photos from my Instagram (@jenniferlynking)

 

Today, I start a new job, my first in corporate America for more than 17 years. I’ll be wearing dresses and jackets and heels for the first time in a long time, and doing things I enjoy doing in a formal environment. I’m excited to combine my love for words and communication and marketing for a corporation with its cutting edge technology.

It is a new adventure.

There is something about summertime and blazing blue skies, and storms which roll in on the horizon. There is comfort in the midst of change to see the sun rise and set each day, regardless of what else goes on around us. There is a hand which holds in balance the uncertainties in our lives, which carries us through to the next breath, the next day, the next season. Faith is what holds me in and through change, and in and through each day. When all else is stripped away, that hand is there still to guide us.

I heard this said about a week ago and it has stuck with me.

“Beautiful girl, you can do hard things.”

Yes.

And the phrase I quoted at the top: “One day she decided to stop letting her fears hold her back, and from that day on, she flew.”

We can fly.

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly in flight
Zebra Swallowtail butterfly in flight

Have a wonderful week filled with the best parts of summer — of loved ones and warm sunshine and the knowledge that you can do hard things!

 

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14 Favorite Quotes on Life and Laughter, Travel, and Daring Greatly

I have always loved inspiring quotes and photographs.

In college, I taped cards from Successories to the side of my dresser–photographs of mountains and paths through enchanting forests, of oceans and eagles soaring, all with quotes to remind me that the goal was somehow bigger than the Calculus problem I struggled to finish. Quotes seem to be a lifeline when I’m stuck with a busy schedule and easily forget the Bigger Goals, when I can hardly see the bigger picture and keep me focused ahead on what is most important…

… Especially in Changing Times

I’m currently working on rewriting my bio on my About page — life is changing for me. My family and I have now lived one whole year back in the US after our four years in Prague. My oldest son is almost finished with his first year of high school and in a week, I’ll have not one, but two teenagers in the house.

Everything is different about life in the US as opposed to life in Europe. One major difference is the intensity in which Americans seem to do all things.

Almost minute by minute, I need to remind myself that busyness does not equal excellence. Busyness leads to burnout. And so I find myself returning to images and quotes which help me to remember what inspires me, what moves me, and what makes me tick.

It seems strange, this passing of time. Laundry and packing lunches, restocking the refrigerator and shuttling my sons to and from their activities fill my days. The most important thing for me during this whirl called American family life is to keep it all in perspective. Too soon, my sons will be grown and the house will be too quiet. It’s important to be present for all the moments — for the basketball games and milestone birthdays, for quiet times of solitude and in loud times of celebration, laughter, and sharing — but it’s also important to remember who we are in the midst of the tangle of modern life.

I need anchors through this swirl of days to keep me close to what matters most — for me: family and friends, writing and reading, creating art and music, and the faith which underpins them all — these are the things I value most.

14 Favorite Quotes on Life and Laughter, Travel, and Daring Greatly

Explore Dream Discover Mark Twain quote at jenniferlynking.com

On Living Well:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” – Carl Sandburg

“There is a rawness and a wonder to life. Pursue it. Hunt for it. Sell out to get it. Don’t listen to the whines of those who have settled for a second-rate life and want you to do the same so they won’t feel guilty. Your goal is not to live long; it’s to live.” -Max Lucado

On Laughter and Friendship:

“It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.” – Dale Carnegie

“I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.” -Audrey Hepburn

“[E]very day you should reach out and touch someone.  People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.  — Maya Angelou

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”― Anaïs Nin

On Daring Greatly:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” -Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States 1901 – 1909

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” -Aristotle

“The winner’s edge is not in gifted birth, in a high IQ, or in talent. The winner’s edge is in the attitude, not aptitude.” -Denis Waitley

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

On Travel, Reading, and Beauty:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” ― Mark Twain

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.” ― George R.R. Martin

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart” ― Helen Keller

RosesSeptember_092012_ 078

Do you have a favorite quote you keep near when times are changing? I’d love to hear it … please leave it in the comments. Thank you!

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On Trying to Be Brave

“Some say fate is beyond our command, but I know better. Our destiny is within us. You just have to be brave enough to see it.”

– Merida, from the recent (excellent) animated movie, Brave

Austrian Alps

Sometimes life calls us to do big things. Most of the time, all we want to do, naturally, is curl up and be comfortable, to settle and do the norm.

I know recently I’ve felt that way, and many times in the past. I’d love to pull up a comfy chair, sink back into the cushions with a cup of great coffee and a book, and stay there, for a long time.

But that won’t work for me, especially right now. My family and I are in the midst of moving back to the US from a four-year assignment abroad in Czech Republic for my husband’s job. Physically, I wouldn’t be able to pull up a chair to sit in because our furniture is in transit in a container on a ship plowing across the Atlantic right now. We’re becoming experts at reading, sleeping, and eating on the floor. Ask any intercontinental expat and they’ll tell you a similar story. It’s how it works … the adjustment to a foreign country, and then back again, takes months. Things are going well, smoothly at times, even, but the whole experience is tough and terrifying. Continue reading On Trying to Be Brave

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The Importance of Home, Especially in Times of Transition

June Gardens

Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than any magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.  -Charles Dickens

Countless acquaintances and many friends have asked how the past month has been, and how my family is handling the huge changes we’re facing moving from Europe back to Ohio in the United States. We lived in Prague, Czech Republic, for nearly four years for my husband’s job. During that time, we grew in so many ways as individuals and as a family. We traveled extensively by car (25 countries), we saw as much and absorbed as much and enjoyed as much as we possibly could. It was a unique phase of life, one of opportunity for which we all are grateful. But now that we are back in the States, I find myself thinking on matters of the heart. I thought I’d share about the transition here …

June gardens

Continue reading The Importance of Home, Especially in Times of Transition

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Authors: 5 Steps to Building Your Own (Professional-Grade) Website

jenniferlynking.com new site homepage

Some may say simple writers may not be able to build their own website, and have it look professional-grade. But I disagree. I think if you can structure a 80 – 100,000 word novel to lure a reader through a story to page 380, and you can bake a cake from a box, then you can build your own beautiful author website. It’s all about making informed choices, asking questions, watching tutorials, and knowing what sort of look you want to have to the Web World.

jenniferlynking.com new site homepage
jenniferlynking.com new site homepage

 

It’s 2011, e-book sales are climbing steadily, and the world increasingly looks to the Web for information, links, and ways to form virtual relationships. If you’re an author, you know you need a website, an inviting home on the web. It’s imperitive. But where do you start (that doesn’t involve selling your car, your dog, your yacht, and your kitchen sink to cover the initial website fees)? That’s where, since I’ve just gone through this process, I’d like to help.

Many web sites are free, like Blogger.com, Typepad, and WordPress.com, Facebook, Tumblr and more. But the drawback is that they also look and act free, and their sites have your content. On the other side of the spectrum, professionally-done websites can cost upwards of $10000 dollars per year to create, run, and maintain (see this testament by publishing house Chairman and author, Michael Hyatt). And while there are more options than ever, I do believe there is a middle ground — an option that doesn’t involve investing huge chunks of money into the process.

Continue reading Authors: 5 Steps to Building Your Own (Professional-Grade) Website

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10 Things I’ve Learned from 2 Years in Prague

Jennifer Lyn King in Prague

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou

 

Two years ago in the middle of a July thunderstorm, I boarded an airplane in New York City with my husband and our three boys, then ages 10, 8, and 6 1/2, knowing I was in for the adventure of my life. Eight hours later, we disembarked in Berlin, Germany, toured the city and filed for Czech visas. And the next day, we crossed by Volkswagen van into Czech Republic, the country that would be our home for the next few years. That day seems like 20 years ago …

Jennifer Lyn King in Prague
me, in Prague, on the Charles Bridge

It’s interesting how travel and seeing and experiencing new things can stretch out the time, expand our minds like balloons, and render us into a different version of ourselves. We’ve seen so many sides to the Expat life (by Expat, I mean Expatriate: “somebody who has moved abroad, a citizen who has left his or her own country to live in another”) that we can now nod and understand when someone new goes through the adjustment. For me, being an expat has blessed my life in so many ways.

Here, a list I’ve made of the top 10 things I’ve learned from 2 years in Prague: Continue reading 10 Things I’ve Learned from 2 Years in Prague