Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
I imagine, from God’s perspective (holiness), we are even worse than E Coli and syphilis. We are more hideous than mange and athlete’s foot. We are nastier than Black Death and anthrax. But He refuses to see us that way. When He looks at us, He sees His son. He sees Jesus who came to pay the price for all of our nastiness.
So I imagine that we will be placing an order for some of these nasties pretty soon. I am going to do my best to look on these critters with my kids’ eyes. I will view them as cute, loveable, and worthy.
The way my God sees me.
Friday, March 27, 2009
During the four hour drive home, we saw plenty of road signs and it got me thinking about directions. I remember how often I was fooled by these freeway signs when I was a kid. Especially the "next right" ones. "Ocean beaches -- next right." It should really say, "next right and another two hours driving west." "Mount Rainier -- next right." Yes, take a right and keep on going east. Ever since I was tiny, I've been annoyed by this false advertising. I used to beg my parents, "Let's stop at the beach -- the sign says it's right over there!"
"Next right" should mean that you drive off of the freeway and into a parking lot. It should be more like those dining ahead signs that list several area restaurants. You know if you see those signs that the restaurants listed will be within a few blocks of the exit, not another two hours away.
Over the past few weeks I've been reading a lot of blogs from published writers and from various agents. It's opened my eyes to what a writing career will really mean for my future, should I achieve it. I may picture myself typing away at a computer, carefully crafting engaging stories and mailing them off to publishing houses. Apparently, that's far from reality. It seems as if most of these authors must spend a large portion of their time marketing themselves and their work. They blog, travel extensively, do radio interviews, book club visits, speak at retreats, classroom visits, teach at numerous conferences and attend book signings. I'm a little overwhelmed by the idea. Is this my future? Do I really want this?
I imagine the road sign on my life: "Writing career, next right." And I'm left wondering, next right and then what?
Last night I cracked open my bible looking for some answers. A ticket fell from the pages. I picked it up and smiled when I read the words printed on it: "God has a dream for your life." It was from the Women of Faith Conference a few years ago. This ticket might not qualify as the "inspired word of God," but it definitely felt like a message.
Maybe I don't know what I'm in for or where I am going. I may not even have the map. But, in reality, I'm not the one at the wheel. It's time to sit back and enjoy the scenery.
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. Jeremiah 29:11-12.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
- Don't fear; for I am with you; don't be dismayed for I am Your God; I will strengthen you; I will help you . . . Isaiah 41:10
- . . . Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil. 1:6
and especially this one:
- The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it. 1 Thes. 5:24.
He has called, He is faithful and He will do it! It's not about me and what I can or can't do. It's about Him and what He will do. It might not be what I expect or what I want, but I know that His plans are the best. There's that trust again! Better not lose that in the mess, again.
Those verses did a pretty good job of "spring cleaning" for me today. I can take a deep breath and remember to trust. It's not all up to me.
Now, if I can just find that pesky toy in my son's room.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Just in case you weren't aware -- I've been editing, rewriting and generally tearing apart the first 20 pages of Shaken in order to get it ready to send ahead to the critique panel at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. It has to be there by the 30th, and I really didn't want to be the "bottom" of the stack. But thanks to my dear, sweet hubbie who entertained the kiddos all weekend, it's done! And in the mail!
Now, to get on to all of the other stuff I need to do to get ready... Let's see, here's my tentative list:
- Write out and practice a 25 word pitch.
- Research the editors/agents/authors I should make a point to meet.
- Figure out what in the world a "one sheet" is and decide whether or not I need one.
- Read & critique the first 20 pages from the others in my critique group.
- Pack (duh).
- Decide which workshops I want to attend.
- Pray that my business cards arrive in time.
- Oh, yeah, on that note, pray in general about the conference (move this to #1).
- Find out if I need to pack bedding and towels.
- Buy some shoes that work for all of these: say "spring" instead of "winter," comfy, sturdy, can get wet, professional, and match every outfit I have.
- Read all of my mentor's books and blog entries.
- Get the next 80 pages of Shaken to match the first 20.
- and... rest, pray and relax (while still caring for my family) so I don't collapse in exhaustion before the conference ever begins.
Tonight I finish my "happy dance."
Sunday, March 22, 2009
I’m weary and need rest.
Perhaps I’ll hear Your heart beat
with my cheek against Your chest.
If You would, for just a while,
let me feel Your warm embrace
and, looking up, with searching eyes,
see the glory of Your face.
Your arms, so strong and tender,
surround my weary soul,
giving rest and peace and comfort,
to fill my empty bowl.
Renewed once more, You
set me down on lower ground.
I’m ready to go on with life
refreshed by what I’ve found.
And now, my heart remembers
Your promise to the blessed,
“Come unto Me, you weary,
And I will give you rest”.
Friday, March 20, 2009
You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.
I read this quote, scrawled on a whiteboard, the first time I walked into a weight watchers meeting, in October of 2007. I was full of doubts. "This will never work. Why am I here?"
I was there because after watching my mother-in-law die from complications related to her type II diabetes, I was ready to change the way I was living.
This quote made me think. What was keeping me from losing weight? Was it that I didn't want it badly enough? No. It was that I didn't want to give up my "caterpillar" ways. I liked eating whatever I wanted. I liked not exercising. It worked for me. But, I wanted to fly, too. I decided that, yes, I wanted it so much that I was willing to make sacrifices.
The program worked well for me. I lost 55 pounds in about a year. So far, I have kept it off. I still think about that quote frequently.
Today, out of curiousity, I went looking for the source of the quote. I was surprised to learn that it actually comes from a favorite book of mine, Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus. In the story, two caterpillars try to reach the top of a pillar of caterpillars by using any means necessary. As caterpillars, they are drawn to the sky, but don't know another way to reach it. They eventually discover that reaching the top doesn't actually get them anywhere. One of the caterpillars forms a cocoon and becomes a butterfly. She finds the other and tries to explain to him what he needs to do to reach the sky.
One day, while Stripe was almost at the top of the caterpillar pilar, he saw a beautiful yellow butterfly. Stripe admired the yellow butterfly who flew with beautiful wings and joined the earth to the heavens. The butterfly flew towards Stripe and told him "Stripe, I am your friend Yellow and like me, you are meant to become a butterfly. Butterflies drink only nectars from the flowers and carries the seeds of love from one flower to another. Without butterflies the world would soon have few flowers."
Stripe gasped, "It can't be true! How can I believe there's a butterfly inside me when all I see is a fuzzy worm?"
"Tell me how can I become a butterfly ?" Stripe asked pensively.
"YOU MUST WANT TO FLY SO MUCH THAT YOU ARE WILLING TO GIVE UP BEING A CATERPILLAR."
It's a beautiful book and has such a great Christian message: We have to be willing to give up our "selves" in order to put on Christ. When we pass into the next life, we think of it as death, but it's more like the transformation of the caterpillar into the butterfly. It's becoming what we were meant to be. But when we look at ourselves now, it's hard to imagine giving up being the caterpillar.
Two years ago, I went to a women's retreat where Christian author Robin Jones Gunn spoke. Our theme was "Taking Flight." Robin taught us that God sometimes gives us a "calling" that seems beyond us, too difficult to imagine. But that He can give us the strength to accomplish it. But we must be willing to spread our wings and reach for the sky. Just like the story, Hope for the Flowers, we have to want to fly so much that we are willing to give up the safe road.
My quest to get Shaken published is my newest attempt to spread my wings. It's taking me far from my comfort zone and stretching me beyond what I thought I could do. But it's worth it. I'm willing to give up being a secure caterpillar, if it means I can fly with the butterflies.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
So, yesterday we sat down and walked through the book from beginning to end, discussing her thoughts. I could tell she was a little nervous about offending me. But, I was part of a critique group for years and I am used to having people critique my work. That was not a problem. She had great suggestions and caught numerous typos and missing commas. It never matters how many times a writer looks at their work, some of those little mistakes always seem to make it through.
But there were some big issues, too. These issues have to do with my narrator’s age, timing and “tenses” (present/past, etc). I knew immediately that she was right (is right, will be right, has been right...). I have major work to do – my words, not hers. And I want to do it. I am thankful for her insight.
Now, as I stare my laptop screen, I am mulling over how to go about doing this.
Revising is a lot like ironing, I’ve learned. I’m not very good at ironing. I can be diligently working on one wrinkle, only to have two or three more appear because of what I’m doing. I just read a great discussion on revision where the author remembered feeling like the “train was about to go off the cliff.” I’m feeling more like I have a loose thread in my favorite sweater. What do I do? If I pull on it, the whole thing might unravel around me, leaving me standing there in my underwear. (Oh, great. I’m going to have THAT dream tonight!) And yet, I can’t leave it alone.
My mom is a knitter. She knits these amazing Scandinavian-style wool sweaters. She will work on them, painstakingly, for weeks or months. Then she discovers a flaw and starts ripping out stitches -- sometimes back nearly to the beginning.
“No one will SEE that!” I yelp. “Don’t rip it all out!”
Her answer is always the same. “I will see it."
That’s what revision is all about. I want this book to be the best it possibly can be. I will rip it out and redo it as many times as it takes. But right now, as I sit here with the loose end in my hands, I am fighting a sinking feeling in my stomach. Can I really do this?
No I can’t. But, as my character learns near the end of Shaken -- God can. After He was done creating, He stood back and looked at it, saying “It is good.” I can’t do that. Not yet. But with His help, maybe I will be able to soon.
So here I sit with the yarn in my hands. I guess it's time to fold those hands in prayer. Then I start tugging.
Friday, March 13, 2009
In my closet I have shoeboxes full of bad photographs from my old 35 mm camera. The good ones made the album, the rest are tucked into a box. I couldn't just throw them out for some reason. So they are hidden, but not forgotten.
It struck me today that maybe God has a digital camera. He sees all of our moments -- the good, the bad, the wart-and-muck covered ugly. But it seems like all we have to do is ask, and *poof* our worst moments are deleted. I'd like to think he files our great moments in a beautiful scrapbook that he will show us someday. So when we do some good for someone (hug our sister) -- keep. Have a moment of doubt (blurry shot) -- delete. Watch tv instead of doing our quiet time (closed eyes) -- delete. Shake our fist at God (sneer at camera) -- delete. Pray with our kids -- keep. Sing a song of praise -- keep. Pray for a friend -- keep. Smile at someone on the street -- keep.
Those bad moments are not tucked away in a shoebox in God's closet. They're not sitting in a file somewhere in His computer. They are gone. Cleaned forever.
My prayer for the day is that I can add a shot or two to my (God's) scrapbook today.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Yesterday I wrote how my mischevious son came to accept Jesus at a young age because the idea of sin and punishment made perfect sense to him. He understood the gift that Jesus had given him by taking the punishment in his place.
So, fast forward a few years... I overhear my now son trying to explain the same concept to his four-year-old sister, who was refusing to have anything to do with it. I distracted my budding young evangelist and told him that this was really more of Mom or Dad's responsibility, but that we appreciated his efforts. "But, Mom!" he said, earnestly. "She won't listen!"
Later, I found a quiet moment to sit down with her privately. We had the same discussion that her brother and I had years earlier. I was ready. I knew what to say this time. I explained about sin and bad choices. I told her the wonderful gift Jesus had given us by taking our punishment for us. I told her how simple it was to receive this precious gift.
She looked up at me with big blue eyes. "But, Mommy," she said. "I never do anything wrong!"
I stumbled backwards in my mind. Of course she did things wrong. We all do things wrong. But as hard as I thought about it, I couldn't come up with a concrete example of something she'd done recently.
My daughter is far from perfect (except in my eyes), but one thing she has always been is obedient. She is so obedient that I occasionally fear for her future. Unlike her brother, she only had to go to timeout maybe once or twice. She was the perfect example of a "good girl."
I had been much the same as a kid. I rarely got in trouble. I had older brothers who did all that for me. I saw how they were punished and I chose to avoid it. I understood God's love the same way I understand my parent's love. That was always clear to me. But the whole sin/punishment, grace and mercy stuff? That had to wait until I was older and braver and began to make my own stumbling mistakes.
I've always related to the story of the "rich young ruler" described in Matthew 19. The man had done everything right, kept all the commandments since he was young. But when he pressed Jesus on how he could assure himself a spot in heaven, Jesus answered him "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (Matt 19:21). The man goes away dejected and Jesus says that it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven.
I don't really think Jesus was talking about earthly riches here. I like how He said, "if you want to be perfect..." I think He was saying that if we don't feel our need for Him, it makes it harder for us to accept Him. Those who are poor obviously feel need. Those who make lots of mistakes, feel need. But those who are obedient by nature sometimes have difficulty understanding this need. Why do we need forgiveness if we aren't all that bad in comparison to others?
The truth is, we are bad in comparison to perfection. God doesn't distinguish between big whopper sins like murder, robbery or cheating on your spouse and the little things like refusing to help someone you see in need. We are all sinful. It doesn't matter who we compare ourselves with, we still fall short of what God intended for us. But it is harder for some of us, the "good girls/boys" to understand that.
A person suffering from a simple sinus infection feels terrible and goes to the doctor for help. Another person may have an insidious cancer growing deep within and not know until it is too advanced to treat. This is why my five year old son recognized his need for forgiveness at such a young age, but my daughter, the good girl, didn't understand. Sometimes our sin nature is so far buried that it takes time for us to discover it.
Thankfully, Jesus is patient with us. When we finally recognize that need, He is ready to swoop in and pick us up in His strong arms. Our sin is never so "far advanced" that He cannot remove it. Whether a person is five or 105, it doesn't matter. It's always the right time. So whether we are "bad" or "good" or somewhere in between, after we've accepted what Jesus has done for us, we are all "perfect" in our Father's eyes. There is no greater gift than that.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Friday, March 6, 2009
Maybe yours is too.
When people try to teach me things, whether that be in school, bible study, well-meaning advice -- whatever -- I have locks. "NO!" I think. "I won't be swayed!" I might politely listen, but words often bounce off. Like one of those door-to-door evangelists knocking on my locked front door.
But if something comes to me in the form of music or story, it sneaks in my back door.
A song can touch my heart like nothing else. Maybe because it seems so harmless. No one is really trying to "teach" me anything, it's just a song. But my heart swells and I go with it.
A story is much the same. Years ago, I took a college class from Christian author Walt Wangerin. He was teaching us about how the stories of the old testament shaped who the Jewish people were and what they became. He said, when we hear a story, we "dwell within the story, become the story." So, when Jewish children heard about Joseph, the favored son, they became like Joseph.
Much in the same way, when I was a kid reading Caddie Woodlawn, I absorbed her qualities. If my parents had said, "you should be brave and do what's right" I might or might not have listened. But if Caddie Woodlawn did things that way, it sneaked in my back door and became part of me. That is one of the reasons that I take writing for children so seriously. It's a huge responsibility. We need to make sure we're feeding our kids good stuff and not garbage.
I don't think that's just true for kids, either. I've learned recently that my spiritual back door is still wide open. Today I was listening to music while working on revisions to Shaken. Two songs popped up on my ipod that spoke to my heart. One I listen to every time I start writing. It's by a group called Mercy Me and is called, "Word of God, Speak." It goes like this:
I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's OK
The last thing I need is to be heard
But to hear what You would say
Sometimes I am overwhelmed with self doubt about my writing. "Who would want to read this?" I think to myself. "This is terrible. I'm going to make a fool of myself." I listen to this song (let it in my back door) to remind myself that it's not about what I want to say. It's about letting God speak through me. I hope that doesn't sound arrogant. I mean it humbly. I am not assuming God is speaking through me, I am praying that He will.
Another song came on today that spoke to my heart, quietly letting itself into the back door like a familiar friend who doesn't even need to knock. It was "Legacy" by Nichole Nordeman
I don't mind if you've got something nice to say about me
And I enjoy an accolade like the rest
And you could take my picture and hang it in a gallery
Of all the Who's Who's and So-and-So's
That used to be the best at such and such
It wouldn't matter much
I won't lie, it feels alright to see your name in lights
We all need an "Atta boy" or "Atta girl"
But in the end I'd like to hang my hat on more besides
The temporary trappings of this world
I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love?
Did I point to You enough?
To make a mark on things
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace
Who blessed Your name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy
I must admit, one reason I write is to someday see my name on the cover of a book. I think that would be awesome. I'm sure I will stand an inch taller when that happens. (Notice I say "when," ever the optimist.) But, I am trying to let this song take over my heart. A book isn't forever. It gets remaindered. It grows old and the pages fall out -- or are replaced by blogs and "kindles." But I am praying that I can remember that my writing isn't for me. It's for Him.
That back door was open today. The song spoke to my heart.
How is your back door?
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Rev 3:20