Praise

Words are walls. Sometimes i am finding myself cleaning things rather than writing. Cleaning is very difficult for me. i know that if i can get the words flowing they will eventually break free with the force of the Colorado River at the Boulder Dam.

architecture boulder building canyon

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The force is caught in a quagmire of fear. i am not at all sure what fear holds the words like gelatine that has coagulated and will not pour. i wish that i were not a pitcher filled with praise.

Penitence for the brokenness of my soul warms my nous and like a flame melts my distraction. When i appreciate that everything is a gift, i am set free to glorify God. i want to blame the world. The culture has not refrigerated my soul. i have moved away from the flame of Divine Love. i was the one who focused on the fallen leaves and the grime in the oven.

Grace is so wonderful.  i can turn my attention back on Christ and His love warms my soul. All i need is to stop and praise God.

Glory to the Almighty Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

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Story

Stories move us and drive us. A narrative is often our framework for understanding. When life fails to, “make sense” it is often because we don’t grasp a unifying narrative.

For those of us who are native storytellers most of the stories pass by unrecorded. 

i reminisced about all the stories that have flickered through my head as threads that i did not follow. They were not woven into the fabric of my life. They were left dangling.

i think all writers have these loose ends.

Stories that might have been.

The one who got away is not a man. The one who got away was a Viking…

Write31Days

This will be a challenging October. This blog will hopefully come to life again! For 2017 i am joining the Write31Days power group for the third year. In October 2016 i was about to get married and the last six weeks of a wedding is insane enough on its own, so i skipped the October mayhem. If you are unfamiliar with Write 31 Days 2017 it is a LARGE group of bloggers who all commit to posting every day for the entire month of October. Who needs scary costumes or candy when you are trying to accomplish that?

Since i am restarting this blog i am keeping it simple for this year. After all, what is writing and posting each day for thirty-one days in a row, with the deadline of midnight ticking away to get the lead out of your fingers and get a writer going again? Are we not a group who are infamous for needing deadlines and imminent peril to force us out of our comfort-zones and requiring us to share our writing?

Grammarly and i are entirely aware of the peculiar capitalization rule that i have suddenly forgotten. As i mature in years, faith and marriage (almost 11 months) i have come to realize that i am not the only one who is always sure that they know best. Following the example of Mother Gavrilia, i have begun a practice of keeping my i humble and not capitalizing myself. If i say anything that is any value it will not be because of my brilliance anyway. The practice of making the self the center of one’s thought requires no assistance and the remedy necessitates of extraordinary effort.

i will be joining the FMF team also this year. Check them out here.Five Minute Friday

31 Days themes are thanks to Kate Motaung! For simplicity check them out right here…

  1. worship
  2. tell
  3. create
  4. hope
  5. trust
  6. story
  7. hold
  8. truth
  9. plan
  10. listen
  11. remember
  12. write
  13. invite
  14. try
  15. remain
  16. read
  17. grow
  18. share
  19. brave
  20. discover
  21. give
  22. light
  23. work
  24. revise
  25. because
  26. change
  27. ? (FMF prompt)
  28. connect
  29. follow
  30. refine
  31. rest

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Did You Study Bacon?

On The Bookshelf #2

At the end of October when I linked up with F.M.F. (Five Minute Friday’s) the surprise word was “bacon.” Everyone seemed to be discussing meat. Given my propensity to think unconventionally I originally thought of Francis Bacon (1561-1626). His essays are some of his most popular works. A nice copy graces my bookshelf.

My favorite of the essays is “Of Studies.” It is in describing the virtue and value of studies that Bacon applies his wit to great effect.

Biography.com

Biography.com

Francis Bacon encourages us to, “Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.”

“Some books are to be tasted, others swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested…”

I find that I swallow novels. I chew and digest history and I taste many books before deciding if they will suit me. In fact, essays like Bacon’s are very suitable books to taste.

Forgive the pun, friends, I could not resist.

Do you choose books based upon their popularity, friends’ opinions, theme, genre or availability? I find different criteria suit different purposes. I find a work of history needs more time to chew and digest, while a volume of verse may be consumed in a brief evening.

I am more particular in selecting a work of historical fiction than I am in choosing contemporary fiction. I am not well able to tolerate a poor understanding of the history in a work of historical fiction. A well researched work by an author with a good grasp of the era can be most compelling, while an engaging story and style will make an effective contemporary work alone.

This month I am devoting time to writing my own piece of historical fiction. I am finding that historical fiction can be more challenging to write than historical fact. The need to keep the drama and pace falls squarely upon the shoulders of the novelist, while the scholar can rely upon the fact that history tends to provide its’ own drama.

Simple Pleasures of Life with Cats

Cats. What can I say about these enigmatic creatures that is fresh and new?  My earliest memories are of soft tabby fur and a purr that reverberated through the walls. Cats do not occupy all my time. I don’t write about them. My sister and I  have said for years that I should write a book about cats; what can I say in a blog post?

They may not occupy that much space in my conscious mind but they are as pervasive as air in the history of my world. They have always been present and without air we gasp and die. I’ve spent my whole life living in close communion with cats.

The cat will treat you as you treat them. If you want an animal that will largely look after itself and share your home without demanding much of your life the cat will oblige you. If you worship the ground that they walk upon they will treat you like a god.

I have always treated my cats like close family members. Puff Mae treated me like her own kitten and I treated her as another mother. I learned the location of every little hiding-hole in our home before I could run. I perfected my “run all the way around the room without touching the floor” with such success that as a skinny two-year-old I broke the coffee table. My mother could not understand my explanation for why I had run across the top. “Why would you run across the table?” “I had to Puff Mae was leading me and teaching me.” “What?” “I can already crawl all around the room behind the furniture without your having seeing me. Now I need to learn how to go around the room without having to put my feet on the floor.”  “Are you playing cat games?”, she finally guessed. “They’re games. Didn’t you play them when you were little?” “No. Petesie and I  cuddled and had tea parties. He was a really good cat.”  “You missed a lot, Mommy” “Just stay off the tables.” “But I’ll never make it around the room.”” You are not a cat. You can’t jump as far and you won’t fit. Stay off the tables. Try tea parties.”

Puff Mae was superb at raising little girls. She cooperated with wearing endless clothes but my mother insisted that I not pull doll bonnets down tight on her head and I must never tie (read knot) the bonnet strings. It would be uncomfortable for her ears. She sat, rode, and sprawled in every piece of doll furniture without complaint and even drank water from doll bottles. If I squeezed too fast the water ran into her mouth faster than she could drink and some ran out the other side and down her chin. She would turn her head if I didn’t pour the water in slow enough to drink. They only time she was ever put-out by my high jinks was when I put a “magic ” bottle in her mouth. When she saw what looked like milk decreasing in the bottle, but couldn’t feel any liquid in her mouth she literally jumped out of the doll high-chair and would have nothing to do with that bottle again. Her patience set the course for my life.

Puff Mae

Puff Mae

As an adult I have treated my cats as if they were my  “natural “kittens and they have treated me like the mother. I always have a cat with me in the house. My own cat, Rose follows me around and comes running with my dog to greet me when I come home.  They want to be a part of all that I do. Writing bores my cats, so they regard it as more-or-less nap time. The writing is more if they are sleepy and less if they are not tired.

Each of my cats has had very unique personality. They have all been very intelligent and had definite individual interests. Rose loves to spend time in the kitchen with me when I cook. She knows that she must remain on the floor or the chair. For her it is a time when she has me mainly to herself. She follows me around the room and listens to me as I do my version of a cooking show host for her benefit. My “fur kids” don’t get to eat human food as it is not healthy for them. Rose doesn’t sample the food she “helps” me prepare. The only exception comes in a tiny taste of roast chicken when I am putting the leftovers away. She loves roast chicken so much that she sits and watches it while it roasts. I’m careful to leave the oven light on since she happily waits in front of the oven window. The way she sniffs the air as it cooks is adorable. The look in her eye as she quietly waits by the oven tells me clearly that having my attention and roast chicken is pure bliss to a cat.

Rose

Rose

This post is part of the series A Fresh Look @ Simple Things.

#write31days

Limits to Find Growth

This is post number twelve in the Online Discussion Group hosted by Kate Motaung based on the book, On the Writing Life:12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts, by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig.

“I wish that I had unlimited time and energy.” “I could make this just like you want if I had an unlimited budget.” ” If I had fewer limits on my power I could do more good.” I have read comments like those above more than a few times. We all want more. We want cars that go faster, but we want other drivers to avoid crashing into us. We want other people to be on time though we want to get more done before the next meeting.

As humans we are constantly in a state of tension between our desire for more and the need to live in community with one another.

We want to be unlimited. God has designed us with limits. Personal freedom is a rallying cry. The problem lies in the fact that the freedom of others can directly limit our own.

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Why would God create us with so much creativity, desire and drive if we were not designed to live fully free to do whatever we want? Six year olds could explain the answer. Many sixteen year olds and sixty year olds might have a problem with the simple answer. When we were young we understood that we were not perfect. We all make mistakes. Children have no problem with this concept. They have limits placed upon them at every turn. Although they say, “No” with great alacrity, children grasp that they cannot do it all. As we grow and master more skills our natural tendency is to want the limits removed. An enormous sense of accomplishment is rightly felt when we first ride a bike without training wheels. The joy of a drivers’ license is the elixir of freedom!

All our lives we push at the edges, reaching for more freedom. We grow and expand the limits. This can be very healthy. We develop more creativity as we overcome obstacles. Unbridled freedom can lead to self-destruction, or worse.

This post may seem like a philosophical stretch, but I think it reaches to one of the core problem that we all face. We often view “more” as our birth-right. We don’t like the idea of limitations. We would rather write, take care of family, pay the bills, please ourselves and everyone else simultaneously.

Too often we only accept limits when life lived without them fails.

I think that it is good that we face the unpleasant reality of limitations to our writing head-on. By recognizing early that we are probably not going to be spending a year alone in a cabin in the woods writing is good. I am not sure that a year alone in the woods would be good for most of us anyway.

Personally, I push at the edges of physical limits ceaselessly. Physical illness, caregiving and the restraint of a mere twenty-four hours in ever day are always leaving me with a desire for more.

Faith has slowly taught me that self-sacrifice is the path to true greatness.

If I need to forgo Facebook in order to write, then it will be done. Watching television was disappointing at best. I gave that up and became all the happier for the sacrifice. Some of what we fill our time with is not fulfilling any longer. It is easy to fall into patterns of behavior that don’t really satisfy us.

God who is unlimited, demonstrated the importance of Sabbath rest, by resting on the seventh day. He didn’t need to rest. He limited Himself in order to teach us. More is not always better. The tenet holds true in many areas of life. It can be true in the writing life. We can become better writers by sacrificing other areas of interest to pursue writing and we can become better writers by writing less in some periods. The natural limits may actually be like speed-limits to prevent crashes.

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Rest

This is post number eleven On the Writing Life:12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts, by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig, hosted by Kate Motaung.

One of the discussion questions for this chapter is, “Do you have trouble with rest?” I have perhaps misquoted this slightly in my perennial flurry. I would go back and double-check to ensure that I have the quote verbatim, but I am deliberately leaving it as is since I think it speaks to my underlying difficulty with the concept of rest. If this is not the precise wording of the question, this is the question that I need to find the answer for.

Yes, I have a problem with rest.

I am not referring to my insomnia. I have trouble taking restorative rest because I become sick and am unable to work so often. The truth is supposed to release you, but it looks ugly to me. All my life I have battled chronic illness, so I am always playing catch up. In theory I take breaks. I take plenty of breaks. Being too weak to hold your head up or in extreme pain is not restful, however. As I studied this chapter and read the other posts I was convicted in the strongest possible way. I rarely have time for restorative rest. Honestly, I don’t imagine that any significant change can be made to this scenario. The demands of family alone leave me depleted. I imagine that many moms of young children experience the same challenges no matter how robust their health. Doubtless many others find the same difficulties for a variety of reasons.

  • What comes between you and restorative breaks?
  • What techniques do you employ to keep your creative energy flowing?

What I can change is my attitude and my planning. I had not thought of allowing restorative respite of non-verbal periods in the writing schedule. This I shall attempt in the future. Even brief stops may be useful, and brief stops I can allow myself.

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I love to knit. I find it very relaxing and I can knit when I am too sick to do anything else. Unless I am knitting a complex pattern I find plenty of parts in knitting that I can do while lying down, with my eyes closed. I frequently reserve it for when I am unable to accomplish something more productive. Knitting sometimes contains parts where I do need to check a pattern periodically. My knitting basket happens to hang just beside the chaise where I do my writing. Inspiration is leading me to think that 15 minutes of knitting scheduled every 2 hours of writing might be a good idea. Tiny knitting breaks might give my brain useful reflect periods.

  • Does this sound silly?
  • Would it be wasteful to use precious fully functioning writing time on something as frivolous as knitting?

Finding Myself

This is a post On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts ,by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig; Online Discussion Group sponsored by Kate Motaung, Session 8.
Who will I find in the words? When I read the Word, the Bible, I discover God. I learn who and what love actually is about and why we are all here on this blue ball caught in the sun’s orbit. We are here to learn to live in the Son’s orbit by learning how to love. Just like babies learning to speak and walk we copy the one we love.

I am at the point in life where I look in the mirror and find my mother looking back. When did I start to look so much like her? People tell me my actions remind them of her. I am flattered when that happens. She was my role model growing up.

Who am I imitating? Who do I copy at this stage? Keeping Jesus at the center of my life, my thoughts, my plans, my hopes should lead me further into His orbit. I want to learn true love. Agape love is an action not a feeling. Real love is a choice to put others ahead of myself. It does not depend upon how I feel.

How do I find myself in writing? The truth is, I learn more about myself in my study of Christ. As I process His perfect example of what being a human is all about I see myself more clearly than ever before. St. Paul directed the Corinthians in his first extant letter that now “we know only in part”. We “see in a mirror dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). As I study the Word I catch glimpses of what the world is supposed to be. I see what I am called to become. I need less of myself and more of Jesus. John the Baptist told his disciples of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30. The more I learn to outgrow my self-absorption the more I can grow into who I am meant to be.

It is astounding that the more I learn about how things ought to be the more I learn about who I really am. I grew up unconsciously learning to copy the world. I was never good at conformity. Friends were conversing about followers and leaders. I admitted that somehow I instinctively end up “out of step” with my peers. My mother always quoted Thoreau to me and told me I was, “Marching to the beat of [my] own drummer.” Eventually, I gave up worrying about others loosing step with me. I just try to follow Jesus and keep moving. The wonderful thing I discovered is that there are many others marching along to the same rhythm. The better I learn to keep in step with the Lord, the more I discover that this is who I am supposed to be.

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To see more clearly and recognize the upside-down world for what it really is, I keep reading the Bible, contemplating the Word and for me that means writing about the Word. I process through the method of writing. Isaiah prophesied that the “…Word …shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose.” (Isaiah 55:11). At times the world appears to be a hopeless mess. Staying in the Bible reminds me that love is stronger than hate and good ultimately triumphs over evil. Self-sacrificing love is the road to true success and self-preservation leads to suffering. The meek are actually the strong and the world will be made new. In loosing myself I most truly find myself and in Christ everything broken will be made whole.

S.D.G.

Promoting my own material runs completely counter to my natural inclination and seems to fly in the face of Christians sensibilities. This is one area that I wish I could forget about.

Nevertheless, I occurs to me that there ought to be a difference between me and my work. As a Christian I believe that I am saved by the grace of God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This is true despite the fact that everything I do is not good. Even when I do accomplish a good work it is not by my wisdom, strength or power but by the grace of God. I am capable of no good thing apart from Christ. So, if any bit of my work is good it is because of the blessing of God. It did not come from me. The glory does not belong to me. My work, be it good or bad, is not my possession, like a lamp, but a living thing, like a dog. I can train it. I can send it in a particular direction. I will receive the blame if it digs or defaces my neighbor’s property. But if it should chance to save someone it will not be me that everyone will talk about. Rather, it will be that something so unexpected managed to do a great good.

Pointer

Pointer

Once the words are sent out into the world. They have a life of their own. If I modestly promote the words it is not myself that I draw attention to. The words are about what God has done. They are words that He has given. They are tools to share His love. I love the way Johann Sebastian Bach dedicated his music. He wrote, “Soli Deo Gloria/S.D.G.” or “To the glory of God alone.” I can invite others to come and see what God has done. Stop and reflect on His amazing grace. See His hand print in beauty everywhere. Marvel with me at His incredible love. Share with me the wonder and awe at God, our Creator, Redeemer and the Giver of all good gifts!
This post is part of a series On Being a Writer, by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig, hosted by Kate Motaung.

Rejection

When I was growing up I was not one of the “cool” kids. Writers usually are not the social butterflies who instinctively enter the center of the group. We are generally just on the outside of the group observing and considering. Our reflective nature is suited to the outskirts. This makes us more sensitive to rejection. Unfortunately, rejection is a key component of writing.

We are required to submit pieces of our souls to publishers in hopes that they may be accepted. It is ruthlessly impersonal and yet to the writer it is the most personal experience. This is what makes it so hard for many of us to hit the send button. For the person on the other end it is simply a business decision based on recent publishing and market demand. Knowing that it is not a rejection of one’s self does not make it much easier. It takes enormous courage to share your writing at all. Submitting it for publication is brutal. The greatest success is to keep showing up and to keep sending. The history of publication is filled with bestseller a that were rejected time after time. We keep repeating to ourselves that rejection is not a reflection of our skill. Keeping the faith is an act of heroic stubbornness.

Endless little roadblocks seem to litter the paths of the writer. Even in blogging the travails never cease. I am entering the third week of repeated loss of my home internet access. The simple or the great difficulties can stop us if we believe it is about ourselves. I would give up and try something more accessible if I believed it was about my words reaching an audience. The reason I am committed this time is that I have come to believe that it is not my words that matter. This is about allowing God to use my words to do His will.

Onward I press because I carry a gift in this humble jar of clay. I have met the “light” and I am obligated to shine His light to the best of my ability. My cracks are tools that He can use to get more light out. Fortunately He is an expert in working miracles. So, I’m a day late, submitting this for your approval, dear reader, I am sitting in a hospital waiting room, so I can use the wifi while my sister does physical therapy. I have no idea why this is so complicated, but the One I love must have a plan. So many little things in life can interfere with our desire to tell others about God and His incredible love for mankind. Things are just a bit upside-down right now, including the pic on the link-up. I guess more cracks in the pot lets more light out. God bless you and your day.

This post is part of a series on Kate Motaung’s site for the Writer’s Discussion Group focusing on the book On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts, by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig.