Refreshing Hearts One Sentence At A Time
Walker Memorial Library is pleased to host a homecoming author's breakfast Saturday morning starting at 8am! Have a muffin and visit with HPU alumni and friends, books will be available for purchase, and archival displays will be set up throughout the library featuring these authors and our timeless traditions at HPU.
This Saturday, Howard Payne's homecoming offers a new and unique event and I hope you will join me! I will be there with copies of Sara's Lemonade Stand. Soft cover books will be available for $15. If you already have a book, feel free to stop on by to say hi and grab a muffin....because, muffins. And I'd love to see a friendly face!
Kadee Carder is an up-and-coming author I discovered at National University. Take a look at her delightful new blog, a mix of fiction and inspirational writing. She is just getting started, so I wanted to share her work to help get the word out. Feel free to follow on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up to receive updates on her blog!
Below is a the beginning and a link to an intriguing piece called, "Karen Gillespie's Ordinary Day."
Karen Gillespie was non-descript and usually very chilly. Her brown hair fell in a limp ponytail, and the looser skin around her thin jowls bore those signs of weary surmises, bored frowns, and lackluster people-watching. Perhaps Karen’s most interesting feature was her ability to be somebody different every day. She would flip aside the dainty, lace curtains in her cozy, yellow-walled apartment, and glance at the weather blowing by her window. On the days when trails of sunshine drifted down through the cement and brick walls of the surrounding city elements, she would pick up those wooden pencils labeled, “Karen,” in black permanent marker, and squiggle what seemed to be letters or numbers in some semblance of order in vertical lines upon crisp white papers. She always stacked the papers neatly afterward. On the drearier days when faded, ashen clouds filled the ether surrounding the sidewalks, she would pull out a gray pan and mix a batch of gray elements in a gray bowl to create some sort of buttery-smelling baked goods.
The uneasy queasiness of a Monday morning stirred her to look even closer out of the window, for possibly five seconds longer than she would normally glance. The air outside was clear and crisp, one which the skin did not find too hot or too cold, but Karen tucked her brown knit sweater around her arms tighter. She carried a tray of cookies and muffins upon her arms, a brisk pace to her steps, as she rounded the corner, avoiding the horde of soles and cracks filling the pavement. At one crowded crosswalk she glanced up, with a murmur only any friendly neighboring ears might hear, that, “We ought visit the Empire State Building tomorrow. There’s a chance for rain today.”
Pandering along the walk, a rainbow of shirts and shoes clattered by, and she offered a simple nod or smile to any who might notice. She paused too long in several doorways, stopped to ask several tourists for directions, and slid quarters in expired parking meters, red flags catching her hazel eyes. Pedestrians waited behind her, sighing, lingering slower in their tasks, and tarrying for moments more.
Karen delivered the tray to the gritty back door of a small bakery. A slumped man grabbed the tray with only a short pause and a flick of his brown eyes toward hers. “For this evening,” she stated firmly.
“Are you sure?” his thick hands and accent hesitated.
“Before the day is over. ‘Tis high importance.”
A delivery truck rumbled up behind her, cutting off the sky and effecting a period for Karen to glide by with a ducked head and closed ears. The baker did not prefer her deliveries, but he more often than not allowed them with a sullen nod. He knew she had been leaving a trail behind her today, for tomorrow would change the world.
See the rest at: http://www.kadeecarder.com/2015/10/karen-gillespies-ordinary-day.html
I slept on my head funny last night. I’m not sure how or why or for how long, but today my neck is as stiff as a broomstick and the inside feels like the rough, thick trunk of an old, dead tree. And the kids keep talking, and the tummy keeps gurgling, and the chocolates keep whispering from the cabinet.
When the challenge becomes overbearing, distraction is the key.
If the task seems impossible, you may be looking at the wrong side of it. The art of illusion is a seriously under-discussed ability. Publicists do it all the time, along with magicians, media writers, and politicians. I was recently introduced to this mastermind TV show called The Carbonaro Effect. In it, magician Michael Carbonaro assumes roles in normal jobs and performs the impossible before his unsuspecting audience. He can pull a bowling ball out of a pizza box, create a living being from a 3D printer, fill a whole juice carafe from one orange, pull gluten out of bread, and freeze-dry a dog. He performs these tricks in front of an everyday person, and he or she entirely believes the trick. Seeing is believing, I guess. You and I know that a toilet cannot be pulled out of a flat box, but the moving guy just saw it happen. Carbonaro shipped a kid from Germany to some small-town children’s play eatery, and the delivery guy almost passed out. The toy store clerk ran in terror as the bear she just stuffed began to chase her around the room. I guess I would too. We know it is impossible. But it happened. We saw it happen.
Watching this show has really boggled my mind. What else happens that is impossible, but we believe it because we saw it?
And what do you think we could actually accomplish if we believed in the impossible?
Work smarter, not harder.
I’m all for working smarter and not harder, by golly. When you face that moment where your goal seems too far away, too hard, or just plain impossible, do two things:
Magicians and illusionists languish in distraction to make their tricks a reality. Behind the curtain, somebody is squished into a very small space, someone is moving very fast with precision and skill, and somebody else is getting all the attention. When the going gets tough, put down science and feeling and hope and those gut-twisting nerves, and pick up the illusion that possibly This Thing Can Work.
Illusions occur in many steps, such as: creation, learning, practice, and implementation.
One Is The Loneliest Number: Creation Of The Idea
We’ve started with our goals. We have created the idea and decided to throw ourselves toward it, so we are on the right track! Woo hoo! Holla at ya! High Five! Mic drop!
Pick up the mic, though, cause we aren’t done yet. So.
Take A Look, It’s In A Book: Learning
The harder part comes next, where you have to learn about what you are doing. This helps with distraction, though. If you are changing your eating habits, read up on Why You Are Doing This, and What Can Help. If you are learning a new skill, read up on it, watch videos, flip through picture books, and talk to someone else who knows how to do it. Learn. Use that glorious gray matter! Take some Gingko! Yay for herbs!
Practice, Practice, Practice
Now act. Use that knowledge. This is the even HARDER part! Ugh! Take more Gingko! And like maybe a big swig of……water. Yeah. Water. What was I saying?
Oh yes. You may be wondering, “Hey, she just said that there was a harder part, and then a HARDER part, so where’s the downhill?”
Friend, my friend, o captain, my captain, I’m not sure there’s a downhill or easy part. Life is hard. It’s all hard. What a great fact that we have these other fabulous human beings around us to help distract from it, right? And God knew, he just knew, that we would be challenged, so that’s why he gave us the ability to learn, to appreciate all of the good, and to experience the joy in the success. So take that joy when you make it through another moment, and appreciate that you can retain knowledge, spark creativity in your mind, and implement these abilities. And also, be grateful for illusion. Be grateful you can only see one side of the trick at a time. We might not want to see the other side.
So back to it. We have learned and are moving forward. Now it’s lunch time, and you’re hungry, and you want a flippin’ cheeseburger. But you know you should have a salad and a chicken breast. Buuuuuut.
Illusion. Look past the challenge and instead do the opposite. Here’s where personality adds flavor. Some people can power through. Some can be like, “Psh. I like salad. I think it’s awesome and I can eat it every meal every day, no big deal, yo.” I am not that person. I love muffins. I am short-sighted. I love cheeseburgers. I blame my second child on the cheeseburger thing. When I was recovering in the hospital after that C-Section, I craved like no tomorrow a bacon cheeseburger from Whataburger and the feeling has not let up since. I can always eat a bacon cheeseburger from Whataburger. Nom nom.
Hence and therefore, I am not a power-through-er. Some people can reason and use logic: “I know that this fat bomb is a fat bomb, and therefore I decide to do what is best for myself. And that makes it an easy choice.”
Sometimes I can do this, but I’m somewhat of a wishy-washy person who is highly susceptible to advertising. And cheese. So I need distraction. I need the illusion! Sometimes I need to have someone to shove food at, and then run around the yard twice, and then slug down a cup of water, and then maybe take a shower, before I can sit down and say, “I am totally happy with this chicken breast.” And while I eat it, I watch my favorite TV show or read a fabulous book or write some ridiculous blog about magicians and unicorns.
But I’ve also noticed that while I am distracting myself, I’m not sitting there thinking about how hungry I am, how much I don’t think that I can change, and how much I doubt my abilities. Instead of looking at the challenge, I’m allowing the illusion to work its magic.
Now that we know we can make a choice to put our feelings aside for the moment, then we work on making the skills click. This takes time and patience. This takes meal after meal of choosing what is right. This takes hours of whittling, flossing, painting, writing, twisting, cutting, clipping, running, stretching, or whatever it is that you are trying to do.
I like commas. Commas give us the ability to do a little bit more while we are in the sentence that we are in.
If You’ll Look Over Here At This Hand: The Implementation
Glorying in the illusion also means letting someone or something else take credit for the accomplishment. This part is hard, too, yo! So often I want to get the thumbs up or the high five, but making better decisions for nourishing my body or changing my life to fight against cancer won’t get me melodious applause. Cancer won’t just randomly walk up to me on the street and say with a begrudging arm-cross, “Well, I’ve heard about you." He looks me up and down, fire in his black eyes. "I want nothing to do with you, ma’am, you’re infamous in my town.”
And the road to getting published is not fancy or all that fun. It’s work. It is gritty, and nail-biting, and sweaty, and tear-filled, and late nights and jitters, and heartbreak.
Getting that ideal job, being That Person you want to be, well, the behind-the-scenes work is what makes all the difference. And very often, even when you achieve those goals, The Work itself gets the glory. And that is okay.
It Really Is Like a Box Of Chocolates
I kind of hope you are struggling a little bit today, because I am. I like to struggle with other people, because when we overcome together, we can glory in the strength together as well. And then at the end of our 30 days together, we will have this story that we have woven and can see that even though every moment was not perfect or ideal, it was a part of the story.
And also, I hope you will consider the magic of illusion. Good or bad, necessary or not, it exists because we are too limited to fully see the other side of the trick. But consider that what you hear from others, or even yourself, might not be the entire story.
Then again, what do I know? I slept on my head funny last night.
Her body slackened, the skin crinkling and creasing under the weight of care, absolution, and deciding whether or not she should get up and refill her coffee cup for the third time that morning.
Those green eyes flickered wider, a glimmer of hope sparkling like sugar glitter on the top of a cream cheese frosted cupcake. Yes. Just. Coffee.
Why is the world filled with violence and hate?
See there, some light and easy reading for a Friday morning! Why do people begin their mornings with mumbles and fumbles, with slamming doors and cold feet?
Because of sweeping generalizations.
Happy Fragment Sentence Friday, everybody!
What are sweeping generalizations? Sweeping generalizations are statements that cover a blanket of people without faces, names, specifics, or facts. Sweeping generalizations disregard the singular person and shove her into a crowd of tired clichés. The world is filled with hate! People these days! Why are conservatives so boring, and why are liberals against humanity? Everything is going to burn!
Those statements above are sweeping generalizations, and sweeping generalizations make my blood boil. Sweeping generalizations are often incorrect. I keep repeating the phrase so that you can remember it better and think about it through the day. Many of my students use sweeping generalizations in their writing. Many media outlets and social media platforms unknowingly encourage sweeping generalizations. I quite often find myself thinking in sweeping generalizations. Usually those sweeping generalizations are statements of lost hope, anger, or depression. Sweeping generalizations can be obliterated by using specific facts supported by truthful, unbiased opinion, and detailed discussion.
All truth and hope is found in God, our maker and creator, the great shepherd and keeper, the knower of hearts, the fabulous finder of lost souls. God knows who you are; he made you, he discovered you, he placed you together piece by piece, and knows your deepest, darkest wishes, hopes, and talents. He sees YOU, as well as the masses. He sees YOU, maybe even more than the masses. Maybe there are no such things as masses. Maybe that idea is something mankind has created so we can stand ourselves because we are so limited. Just like time. And lightbulbs. And Jamberry nail wraps.
I sell Jamberry nail wraps. Hey, keep reading. I love ‘em. I love my pretty nails and I love the company. Home Office sends out encouragement emails with a theme for the month. This month is “Find Your Inner Unicorn.”
“We love that our Jamberry Consultants have coined the word "unicorn" to mean their favorite wrap. We decided to play off this word to encourage you to find your inner "unicorn" or your own unique self. Find what makes you unique and use it to set yourself apart or make yourself memorable… Challenge yourself — use this month to find your inner unicorn and embrace it — you never know how memorable it might be to someone” (JamGram, October 2015).
Today I have an answer for all of those questions about the negativity. Forget about everybody else. Put down the remote control, the phone, and yes, even the coffee cup, and embrace The One who sees each person and soul. He is Love, He is Truth, and He is greater than you or I can imagine. He sees you as his unicorn. Maybe that sounds silly. But He made you. So that means something! Because He made you and put you where you are, He can make it awesome. Use that knowledge to embrace individuals you meet, share the gift of love, and your unicorny gift that God has given you. God is bigger than gun control, government conspiracies, mental illness, alcohol, lostness, and stubborn pride.
So on Day Two of our thirty days together, forget about failing, fumbling, falling, or thinking you can’t do this; forget about fear of disillusioned disappointment, and instead look up.
“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand--
when I awake, I am still with you…
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:13-18; 23-24
The way everlasting is a long journey. So we need tools sharpened and at the ready. Do not forget about the masses, do not forget about sweeping generalizations, but for now, focus on The One.
Today we focus on how God can use that unicorn. Go rock it.
Day One of this journey began by waffling between lethargy, doubt, overwhelmed determination, and a pizza.
Day one is supposed to be the first day of a fitness program.
So Day Two.
See, I have all sorts of excuses for why I wanted that pizza. Mainly I was lazy, worn out, tired, and hungry. My HEC was not in check. Hunger kept running around the house, chasing the two little kids, tossing toys about one after the other, pulling the birthday decorations off the walls. Energy twisted her ankle earlier and pulled every muscle in her legs when we were doing jump squats with twenty pounds weights and the instructor asked why she was flopping around on the floor. Cravings kept standing in front of the pantry, seeing if the graham crackers had gone stale yet, and shoving chocolates down her throat because she wasn’t sure how many rejection emails she could take.
And that is why my HEC was out of check, and why we move forward with a kiss into the air and a half-hearted shrug.
You see, I am one self-doubting little person. (Or not so little, as some recent pictures would whisper and nudge, nudge.) I am very shy and have almost zero percent faith in my abilities to do anything more than making a cup of coffee in the morning. I can push a button on the Keurig. So far, I haven’t messed that up.
So when I set off, throwing my pink polka dotted satchel over my shoulder and attempting to whistle any kind of tune, I am very aware of the crowd that is not watching. I’d like to be Someone Respected. I’d like to be Somebody Who Makes A Difference. I’m super awesome at being Someone In The Background. Not sure if that last one can get me where I can to go. But it’s written on a certificate somewhere, so it has to mean something.
This 30 Days that I am starting will be ups and downs, and I know I can do it because I have mostly done it before. Writing about it and inspiring others, well, that is the trick, isn’t it? Because “writing” and the characteristics of it do not seem to be an all-too-respected career. Anybody can write, right? I mean, if you can tweet, then you can write. Waa waa.
I’ve written millions of words in my life but I don’t know if they are doing anything that matters. So what matters? What will ignite a person to hit the “I like that” button or share it? Because I don’t seem to have that figured out. Am I too self-involved? Probably. Do people not share because they think I’m too big for my britches? (I am on the verge, guys, I know, that’s why I wear yoga pants all the time!) Do people not share because they know I’m just a silly old soul who is quirky and awkward at short conversations and says the absolute wrong thing at the wrong time? Am I just not cool enough? Am I not nice enough? Am I not memorable enough?
That’s what the thought process goes like.
Apparently many people have these thoughts, because there are books and books about it. Dang it. Stop it, people!
No, I’m kidding. Just joshing ya. Keep on writing. If you have a talent, pursue it. If you have a goal, lunge toward it. If you have a restless yearning, seek the source.
If the plans are not working out, make different plans.
Perhaps your greatest fault is your beauty, nestled securely beneath your doubts. You have a uniqueness, a gift, which is a source of joy for you. May you claw your way into the dirt and mire to recapture that treasure, and with sweat dripping down your temple, glisten beneath the scathing sun. That gift can only be used by your precious hands and others need to see it. You need to appreciate it. You need to feel connected to your Maker by using that gift.
Maybe you haven’t found it yet, or maybe you are too afraid to seek it, or even think about finding the time to use it.
But when you use that gift, the voices in the background grow dimmer, the light above grows brighter, and the ether begins to tilt in your direction.
Day Two begins tomorrow. We have no guarantee that the journey will last any longer than today, so please, let’s explore the path while we still have time. My daughter will often say, “I’ll do it next time,” like when we were indoor skydiving and she was petrified to enter the chamber for the second whirling ride. Honey, there may not be another time. Sweetpea, this is all we have.
Waffle with me a little bit this evening, and I hope you will check back tomorrow. We can travel together, sharing those last bites of birthday chocolates, and giggle about how stinking delicious Cinnabon coffee creamer tastes. Stand in the light with me. This is what we got, this is what we gain, and these little moments strip away the darkness.
“What you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Courage has genius, power and magic in it;
Only engage, and then the mind grows heated.
Begin it and the work will be completed.”
~ Apples of Gold
The last two months I have had the great honor of acting in Brownwood’s Lyric Theatre’s production of Steel Magnolias. The days were long and wonderful and exhausting. On opening night I came down with a stomach bug that lasted twenty-four hours, thus meaning I had to perform our second night to a full house, with less than zero in my stomach and less than zero feel-goods. But I gave it my all and threw myself on stage with a hope and a lot of prayers. The performance went well, the show went well, and after many tears, laughs, and sweat, we bowed and clapped and had a little party with lots of yummy fried food.
So exciting for you to read about, I know.
But when all is said and done, and birthday week is over and football season has begun, and all the Christmas shops are open and in full swing, I’m ready to take on a new challenge. For thirty days I am going to work towards a goal that I have set, and I would love if you want to join me.
You see, in the strength of the Lord, I can do all things. I stepped into the bright lights with enthusiasm and hopefully few people in the audience could tell that my brain was mostly mush and my energy was entirely false. While I bounced around as the energetic and aloof Annelle, my gut moaned in anguish. But I did it.
So then, what else can we do?
Courage has genius, and power, and magic in it. Let’s be brave.
What can you do for thirty days that will make you better? Do you want to floss consistently every night? Begin walking daily? Do you want to learn Farsi or Spanish or how to be an illusionist or just begin making the bed every day? Do you want to write a novel, master the haiku, learn how to paint, whittle, or drive a motorcycle, or want to learn some new activity, hobby, or skill?
Then please join me. Let’s see what we can do to become A Little Better. I will try to post something encouraging, if not every day, then most days this month. Tomorrow is October 2nd and we will finish on the 31st. Spend the rest of the day picking through your options. Let’s learn together, stay accountable, and track progress!
Please let me know if you are up for the challenge by sharing, liking, or commenting.
Strap on that seatbelt! It’s going to be a fabulous ride!
Any day that I get to write is a good day. I haven’t gotten to write in the last few days because life has been outofhandcrazybusy. I know that maybe I do it to myself, but often, life just happens and everything conflicts in a slow-motioned fast-forward. Life whirls by as I do the slow motion robot on one of those moving sidewalks.
Success is so fleeting, isn’t it? I so often wish I felt more successful: successful at cooking healthy meals, working out, not drinking soda or eating the entire bar of chocolate, successful at writing a good book or having a blog post that gets shared and liked and becomes some kind of instant hit on the interwebs. I saw a picture posted today on my Facebook newsfeed that read, “Do you need a breakthrough?” And then the person posted the caption, “What kind of breakthrough do you need today?” The question and picture made me pause, if only for a moment while I put together lunch, made coffee, threw breakfast cereal in a bowl, cut up a banana, did not trip over any toys strewn about the floor, and brushed my daughter’s hair. The question floated around my head as I drove to work out.
I need a breakthrough.
My memory has been so bad lately and I wonder if it is me, if every mother goes through this, or if it’s the constant flow of movement, caffeine, and stress. Probably yes to all of the above. So as I lay on my bed this afternoon, tears rolling down my cheeks, tired and strung out from tripping over the toys, exhausted from chasing my tornado toddler, falling behind on the paper grading, hot from the sunny day, stressed because stress is causing a memory blockage and I can’t focus for more than twenty seconds on any one topic and I’m supposed to have my lines memorized for a play that I am in and cannot get this darn monologue memorized to save my life and I begin to question the validity of plays and theater and books and basically my existence and profession, and I remember that question: What kind of breakthrough do you need today? Cause, boy, I need a breakthrough. But can you have a breakthrough if you really haven’t been trying to accomplish anything in particular? Breakthroughs come as a result of hard work, effort, and focus. Breakthroughs come from perseverance, digging your fingers into the dirt and finishing that steep climb up the mountain, and pushing through the sweat. But do breakthroughs happen in the middle of a storm or afterwards?
Maybe this is just another day, another nobody writing another nothing composition of words. But writing is how I focus, how I create cosmos, how I figure things out.
Are you in the middle of a nothing day?
Can we share a box of Kleenexes together right now and just sit here for a sec? I’ve got this cold can of A&W Root Beer. I’d give you some but wouldn’t want to share germs so I’ll grab one from the fridge if you want. Or coffee. There’s always coffee around here.
This Sunday, because I have zero to do as a stay-at-home-full-time-working-in-a-play-who-gets-volunteered-a-lot-and-sings-on-Sunday-morning-occasionally-and-just-wants-to-be-writing momma, I am supposed to help lead the lesson on 2 Peter 1:12-21.
It has nothing to do with this.
However, the thought that I needed to work on that lesson made me get off the bed and sit at my computer, where I found a helpful Bible verse.
This morning I read a little Bible story to my daughter heading off for her 4th day of kindergarten. The story was about Joseph, who was sold into slavery, betrayed by his brothers – his family! – thrown into prison, and tested in every kind of way. In all of those moments, those dark, lost, hopeless, sweaty, broken moments, God was with Joseph and was working on a plan with a long-term goal. Joseph had to get to Egypt. He had to learn how to manage his time, his efforts, his talents, his possessions. Joseph had to learn how to focus. Joseph had to learn to use foresight and wisdom to manage a project that would save a nation from starvation. So maybe the best way to get him out of that very comfy position as Daddy’s Favorite With The Fancy Jacket, was to let him struggle. I don’t know. I don’t understand God’s logic most of the time, so I won’t second-guess it, but the scenario has been applicable for me all day today. As a teacher I see a lot of students who have had a rough go of life, dealing with deaths, illnesses, unemployment, suicidal thoughts, abuse, darkness, lost hope, and late homework. As a momma I struggle with not tripping over the ridiculous amount of toys strewn about the house, the full trash cans, the endless making of meals, the instructing of little minds, and the darkness of those poopy diapers. I don’t always understand the need for a gross diaper, but they happen. I don’t always react with grace and mercy when dealing with a slow driver in front of me, or an inconveniently long line at the grocery store, but they happen. I don’t always remember that God has a good plan, and that God is there with me, and cares about those momentous achievements and also those little silly frustrations.
Even as I make these lists with all of these commas, I feel ridiculous in my struggle and tears that I am even fumbling along. Look at Joseph and what he dealt with – imagine sitting in a prison in Egypt, not only abandoned by family but forced away to never look back or be held in a loving or safe embrace, collapsing on the hot, dusty floor, smelling the salty sweat and having no idea what lay before, and understandably trying to forget the past. Did Joseph have a pity party? I hope he did, for even just a few minutes at least. I hope he analyzed his situation and said something to the effect of, “What the heck?!” Did he just have certain measures of perseverance stored up?
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3).
Joseph had it hard, but to be honest, stress, forgetfulness, clumsiness, and exhaustion are all hard factors as well. Somehow, and even though we don’t get the illustrated version of the story, God kept Joseph in perfect peace. Does perfect peace allow for a root beer? And like, a few squares of chocolate?
As much as I do believe my life is just one little life, it has to mean something, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. I’ve got the humility of a giant and the perseverance of a boulder. And any time I forget to use either, I usually find something to trip over or drop, and either one is probably one of the toys strewn about the house. Maybe that all will mean something some day. Maybe it will mean something today, and we can just relate to each other a bit more, and both of us can know that there is someone else struggling just the same, and it is okay to lay it out there on the table.
Struggle. Do it. Face it. Press on. Trust. Claim that perfect peace.
Allow the peace to settle.
Allow the pieces to settle.
My mind isn’t always steadfast, so maybe that should be the breakthrough today. When I know I am found short, quite lacking, I can face the embers and say I truly am doing my best, and my best is showing up to face the fire. Because I’m not alone in the fire. God’s there, and he sees it, and he will grasp my hand in his.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart: I have overcome the world.
If anyone understands having trouble, or hassles, it is me. I’m sitting at my brightly lit computer screen with a ton of programs open, documents needing to be printed, and I can’t print them because the printer uninstalled itself and I have no idea how to fix it. There’s a stack of papers to my left. There’s a stack of papers to my right. There’s a stack of toys, musical instruments, and more papers, and weights on the couch across the room. They are homeless and have taken up residence on that futon. A stack of trash bags and boxes sits by the back door. There are three bags full of stuff that I need to get out of the car. There’s always something to get done, to be accomplished, and there’s always something breaking. In fact, my email window won’t close and there’s a white box just sitting in the middle of my screen that won’t go away. Insert coffee here.
I went to Sunday School this morning. I’d been asked to teach the lesson because the usual teachers weren’t there. In fact, nobody who was usually there showed up. I stood at the window stirring my coffee, about ready to leave and go home, when one couple came in, apologizing for being late. “But hey,” the man said with a smile, “Where two or three gather, there God is with us.” The three of us sat down at the big white, round tables and chatted about some random fun memories and the chaos of 8th grade boys.
After the coffee was sipped, we began the lesson. See, I am an online instructor but I don’t do a lot of Teaching. I read papers and post comments about them, helping students write better. So I was excited and quite nervous, because lately I seem to be fading away in the quiet roar that is 2015. I was excited because this was interesting stuff to be learning – John 16. This is one of the chapters following the Last Supper, where Jesus gives his last important message to the disciples. He ends this chapter with one of the best verses in the Bible: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (33).
I was nervous because I’m just little ol’ me: me who is klutzy, me who is tongue-tied; me who is short and has super-thick glasses; me who hosted an open house to which nobody came; me who sits at a computer trying to write sense into a world of advertisements, fake headlines, and captioned pictures; me who watches Netflix before bed because those characters feel like friends; me who really loves sunshine, movies, great books, and fun walks, and cuddles with my baby girls.
So while I was standing at the window and stirring my coffee, silent thoughts of defeat crept in. The sun shone in through the windows, but the empty room dimmed. Silence reigned, and a solitary, little ol’ someone wondered if it mattered if she existed and what would be the repercussions if she were gone. Nobody would be there to miss her.
Except somebody showed up, just in time.
“Did you notice?” my Bible asks in bold, black print. Did I notice? Did they notice as they walked in? Shake it off, I thought. Let’s begin. I’m so done with this church thing. Nobody cares if I’m here or not. See, having a baby has its challenges, and among them are the time restrictions. Nap time takes a lot of precedence with me because with a disturbed nap is a disturbed night’s sleep, which is a disturbed nap, which is a disturbed night’s sleep, and pretty soon there’s a vicious, grumpy, bleary-eyed cycle. And if I’m at home while baby sleeps, then I certainly can’t be at activities or with groups of people. Which means there are a lot of “No, I can’t do that’s,” and, “Sorry, I have to leave early’s.” And soon nobody notices if you aren’t there, because they expect it. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the cloud hovers lower.
In John 16, Jesus informs his friends and followers that he is leaving them, going back to the One who sent him. He is sending his Counselor to be with them instead. “It is for your good that I am going away,” Jesus tells them (v 7). They don’t understand but instead are consumed with grief. “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear,” Jesus adds (v 12). They pass looks among themselves, confused, hearts wrenching. Well, they wonder, where is he going, and when is he coming back? Is this a quick trip to the mall, or what? He informs them that he is leaving them in good hands, hands that can only be there if he is gone. He is leaving them hands that reach far beyond what one person can grasp, but hands that can touch lives and hearts throughout the ages and among the global population. The men continue to stare at him, mouths agape. Jesus even adds that they will have trouble – they will be kicked out of church, that they will be challenged, that they will be forgotten by their friends and families – and in fact they will even abandon him (v 31). Of course they vehemently shake their heads in bewilderment and denial. They are too full of grief and misery to hear any more from him. And seeing this on their faces, hearing the whispers of their thoughts, he adds, “But take heart! I have overcome the world!”
Matthew Henry is a great commentator and researcher of the Bible. His commentary adds this: “By only looking at that which was against them, and overlooking that which was for them, they were so full of sorrow that there was no room left for joy. It is the common fault and folly of melancholy Christians to dwell only on the dark side of the cloud” (405).
Did you notice? Jesus isn’t here. He’s not at Starbucks, he isn’t knocking on doors in khakis and a tie, and he certainly is not yelling on a street corner holding a sign. However, his Spirit, our great Counselor, has been sent in his place, to wrap our spirits into His. “The Spirit will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you (v13-14)…The Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God (v 27).” The men sitting around Jesus’ table were still perplexed. Henry states, “The notion of Christ’s secular kingdom was so deeply rooted in them. When we think the scripture must be made to agree with the false ideas we have imbibed, no wonder that we complain of its difficulty; but when our reasonings are captured by revelation, that matter becomes easy” (407). As my favorite author stated once, “That’s how things become clear. All of a sudden. And then you realize how obvious they’ve been all along” (Madeleine L’Engle). Here we come to a paradox, and a paradox that makes the difference between life, death, hope, and loss for many people: I am small. I am often wrong. I am only one. But God loves me. Jesus said it right there, in his living, breathing Word. I believe in Him, that he is the truth, that he is hope, that he is love. And he loves me. The same applies to you: you are small. You are one. But God created you, piece by piece, strand of hair by strand of hair, and you matter. You matter simply because God loves you.
This revelation may not seem large, in fact it may seem obtuse and too simple. It may not be the answer you are looking for. Sometimes I sincerely question if it matters if God loves me, because there are a billion other people on the planet as well, so if there’s a billion other dots of dust on the ground, does one even count.
That’s why He is God, and you – and especially I – are not. We are still in the dark. God sees from beginning to end, and he knows your high value. “Wait till God shall reveal even this to us” (Henry, 407).
My questions of value and significance often occur when my little world shifts away from peace. Lately the schedule has been busy and full of lonely, draining hours. There are children to feed and care for, classes to teach, and restless nights. The next few weeks will only hold more of them and that knowledge in itself is a binding force. However, I suppose I ought now to take hold of Jesus’ words to his followers, and as Henry put it, “Being forewarned are forearmed” (405).
“Peace in Christ is the only true peace,” Henry states. This brings comfort and healing. Are you seeking light in the relentless dark? Here He is. This world holds trouble – “Men persecute [Christ followers] because they are so good, and God corrects them because they are no better. So between both they will have trouble” (Henry 410). So indeed, whether you are following the directions or upholding the guidelines, or simply trying to get home with ten sacks full of groceries in the 100 degree heat, there will be trouble. Expect it. And at the same time, know that you are NOT alone. You ARE armed with the knowledge and constant presence of the creator of the universe, if you will but acknowledge your sometimes-silent companion.
“In the midst of the troubles of this world it is the duty and interest of Christ’s disciples to be of good cheer; as sorrowful indeed, in compliance with the temperament of the age, and yet always rejoicing, always cheerful, even in sufferings…’Take heart,’ Jesus says, ‘I have overcome the world.’ Never was there such a conqueror of the world as Christ was, and we ought to be encouraged by it. Christ has overcome the world before us; so that we may look on it as a conquered enemy” (Henry 410). Gather strength, harness it, and unleash those words in your utter weakness.
When the car breaks down, when the five-year-old spills her cup of milk, “when the pieces seem too shattered to gather off the floor” (All Sons & Daughters), when nobody seems to notice if you even exist, this is still the truth. These things are all simple tasks to help you see God’s presence. I’m not always certain of the Why behind those sufferings. We don’t always get that answer. But we do get the warning, and we get the comfort, and we indeed get the Spirit, our Counselor, who links arms with us in the pouring rain. We get the How. How do we bear it? The tools are gathered in a great Book in your suitcase, and can be revealed to you if you ask.
Did you notice? This day can be brighter. Did you notice? You are held and loved. Did you notice? “Where two or three are gathered….” Be one of the two or three, and just show up. Even if showing up means you rush in late, with messy hair. You never know where Church can be held, and you offer utter significance with your presence. Keep waking up. Keep your eyes open and look up. Dwell on the bright side of the cloud. Take heart. In the errands and the chaos, and in the quiet hours, your Almighty offers the universe. He has already overcome it. Now it’s your turn.
Henry, Matthew. The NIV Mtthew Henry Commentary: In One Volume. Edited by Rev. Dr. Leslie F. Church, Zondervan. 1992.
It’s been a while since I just had time to write. It’s been a while since I’ve had time to make my own schedule where my ideas and plans made the priority. It’s been a while since I slept for 8 hours in a row; 10 months at least.
But now I find myself in a season where I have some “time off” from my regular list and I am insisting on making this a season that is purposefully devoid of obligations. Life won’t always be like this, and honestly, I’m not even sure how long I can stick to my newfound goal. But I think I need this, I think I need to have some recovery time, because it has been a long while since I was able to steer my own boat.
I have been able to read two whole novels recently. Can you believe it. I am as shocked as you. I love reading. No, wait, let me add a clause: I love reading good books. Sometimes I read a book that does not fit my style and I think, “Maybe I don’t like reading after all.” Each of us unique human beings has a bent toward a certain style of book or reading, of entertainment, and of mental stimulation. I also love going out to the movies. I also also love to lounge on the couch and watch fun television series. When I can do these activities with someone I love, I am in my element. When my oldest daughter was younger and I’d go visit my mom, around 4:00 PM we would sit down with coffee and watch Gilmore Girls or some other tv series or Hallmark Channel movie while the kiddo slept. For some reason, those are some of my favorite memories. I don’t know why, but they are. And the memories after my kiddoes were born, when my mom and I could sit down with coffee while the babies were sleeping, and watch a show or movie, those are just happy times.
But I digress.
Speaking of digressing, what’s up with the title of this little post. In having conversation with a person here or there, I’ve decided that books fall into two categories (and this can apply to movies as well): guy books and girl books.
Girl books are a bit flowery, lacy, and wordy. Girl books poof with allure, and wade into the story with a casual, jaunty air. There is some flirtation with disaster and intrigue, and often involve a soft, caressing nuzzle of souls searching for love. Girl books often use 100 words when 10-20 will suffice. Sometimes, girl, I ain’t got time for that.
Guy books are explosive with electricity and currents of mayhem. Guy books jump head first into action and mystery, clinging vehemently with a viable force to the writhing plotline. There are usually explosions, and guns, and action of epic proportions. And any friends can be the guys, just like, “Hey, guys, you should read this book.”
These two categories apply to most works of fiction, blogs, lifestyle, and even diet and nutrition books.
Which are you partial to? I usually prefer a guy-style narrative. Particularly with recipe posts on blogs or lifestyle or memoir-type narratives. Wham bam, thank you, man. Just let me get the crucial information and let me be on my way. I find highly annoying the recipe blog posts that begin with a story. Excuse me, I just googled, “Coffee cake,” I did not google, “Ancient and current historical accounts of bloggers who want to share their every memory of making and eating coffee cake for friends at holidays and events.” Girl, like I said, I ain’t got time for that. Gimme the recipe.
I would like to share a quick book review on a quite enjoyable work of fiction. I am not a book reviewer, so I won’t have the fancy, snarky language that book and movie reviewers employ. And I will keep it quick, because that’s how I want to roll.
So traveling back to the “thithers” and “shant’s” was a jostle in the first few chapters. Like a proper Girl book, the beginning is a bit flowery and idealistic, with little description of the characters themselves, other than they are “dashing.” So those first couple of chapters I was hesitant of liking the book, and told myself, “Okay, let’s finish this so we can get to another book.” However, about four chapters in, I was intrigued. The dual plotline is carried out so the reader experiences two sides of a story, and those connect in a captivating climax. There is danger, there is a little murder, there is a lot of whodunit. There is a little flirtation, a little insight into the characters, and a lot of mention of tea, coffee and macaroons. It is a very good middle-of-the-road guy/girl book; enough action to keep the reader in suspense, and some witty repartee among the characters as they travel to foreign locales.
Apparently The Counterfeit Heiress is book 9 of the Lady Emily series, and I definitely want to read the rest of these books!
So, guys and girls, grab this book. It is a very enjoyable read. I assume more females will want to read it, because there are no explosions……….or are there?? Wink.
I come from a family of crafters. My mom and sisters can sew, knit, crochet, cross-stitch and hem and hook and hitch almost any item that would be created with a type of string. I, however, have never been able to catch the fever. I’ve had a minimal desire to pull out my still-in-a-box-after-seven-years sewing machine. The desire was there, but has been put on the back burner pretty much all my life. I’ve made a random item here and there, including a bright yellow trenchcoat for this creepy three foot tall doll my fraternity friends found in college and for some reason kept it around and took it places with us. It needed some clothing, after all.
So here I am, a crackerjack thirty-one-year old who of course needs something else to do. After all, teaching online classes, raising two children as a stay at home mom, and helping out a moms ministry occasionally, are small things that require almost no time or mental capacity. Note my sarcasm.
But there’s that small desire in the back of my mind, the one that says, “You should be able to do this. Your mom can do it. Your sisters can do it. All these other people you know can do it. That Proverbs 31 chick could do it. Come on, pansy! Buck up and make your two girls some fluffy ruffly dresses!” I shake my head at myself, and shrug with a sigh.
Then a friend offers me the chance to whip out my machine with a new group of friends who also want to learn! I’m NOT the only 30-something who doesn’t know a selvage from a serger. We gather materials, meet, and after three three-hour meetings, I have created a shopping bag. Miracle of all miracles! My courage has been gathered, my feathers have been ruffled, and now we must make a baby blanket!! Because a baby blanket should be easy. Because a baby blanket…should…be….easy.
Two hours later, I finished the blanket, older and wiser.
The blanket is still in the dryer, fluffing.
I don’t know who will receive my fancy gift.
Who knew straight lines were so hard to create? Who knew flannel warped so much when moving in a straight line?!
As I was yanking, tugging, sighing, and stitching and unstiching and restitching, flashbacks of my desires to learn the drums, attempts to play the soprano saxophone, ballroom dancing, cheerleading, aerobics instructing, interpretive dancing, basically any time of dancing, and baking cookies from scratch, whirled through my mind. I could list even more activities that were flops. See, I like to try new things. Maybe I get bored easily, I don’t know. I like NEW. I like new food, new flavor, new spice, new scent, new days, new shows, new hairstyles, new shirts, new earrings, new weather, new jokes, new ideas, new products, new projects. I’m not great at sustaining projects. But I can hang in there with the best of them, even when the ship is going under. I never let go, Jack. There are a few activities in which I engage that fuel my passion and duel for my time, and those projects continue on. Like writing. I can write a pretty decent sentence from time to time. Like that one. And that one. Wink.
We are not all meant to star in the same show. Each human is uniquely shaped and gifted. I have my green eyes, you have your blues. I’ve got my shifty blond eyebrows and you’ve got your rosy cheeks. The conclusion to which I am drawing with my projectastrophies are that I don’t have to sew well. I don’t have to be a master housekeeper. I don’t have to be a tasty baker. I don’t have to be The Best At Everything. I don’t even have to know how to do everything. Although that’s another project for another time. Seriously.
For goodness sakes, DO try the new projects. If you want to craft, then grab some string. If you want to build a media room, start comparing projectors. Be not afraid to try new things, for that is where passion begins. If I’m afraid, or if you’re afraid, to advance upon new paths, then any journey will be dark, dreary, and dangerous. But if along the journey you discover that you don’t really like to ride a bicycle, and if you keep falling off the bicycle, and the bicycle makes you mad, then by all means try a scooter, or roller skates, or a motorcycle, or a car, or even just walking. You may be the next greatest Oarsman who was trying to ride in the Tour de France. Put down the bicycle and don’t be afraid to say, “Well, that wasn’t for me.”
As I work with students in online classes, I read all sorts of sentences. I come across writers and I come across let’s-just-step-away-from-the-keyboarders. As a sewer…. Ha ha ha, let’s just enjoy that sentence fragment, eh? My gift is not in sewing. My passion is not in running marathons. My goals are not involved in fixing the innards of computers. But I do care about words, and how fun they are to manipulate. I do dream of finishing my tenth novel with a crowd of readers anxiously awaiting the next juicy morsels for me to deliver to them. I do tip my hat at those who mend, who dance, who bake, who barter, who fix what I cannot.
But I tip my hat with a smile instead of an anxious, thudding heart. I appreciate the stops along the journey that show me I should indeed hone my capabilities instead of pander in the fabric aisle. I will instead follow the pricking of my heart rather than the pricking to my pride. I need to write. Writing intensifies the joy in my life. Writing is a challenge, and writing will never be perfect, and I will never be the perfect writer. But I’m glad I have found my niche. Life is tough when you haven’t found your niche; and I’ve been there, so I know the dull ache. I’ve found my boat, although at times I look longingly toward the shore. Have you found your boat? Or are you still wobbling on the bicycle?
Now, in other news, does anybody want a baby blanket?
But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (1 Corinthians 1:9)
Sara's Lemonade Stand