Inspired by Artism

31 May

Today I’m going to tell you about one of the most inspirational people I know. His name is Joey Frye, and his story, although I know very few day-to-day details, is one of victory and hope that could teach us all how to live better lives.

Because we live more than an hour apart, Joey and I have only met face-to-face about ten times, and most of those when he was quite young. Much of what I know about him I’ve learned through his amazing mom and through his art. His mom and I worked together for 12 years, from the time she learned about his Asperger’s Syndrome (a high-functioning region of the Autism spectrum) through his high school graduation.

Joey is an artist of rare quality, and an entrepreneur. His paintings are pure, unusual, and delightful. He specializes in creating visual word puns (house fly, a scholar ship, etc.) and in pulling all the positive elements of a person’s life into one beautiful tribute.

Now, Joey has three things going for him right off the bat that make Asperger’s merely a part of his personality and not a hampering distinction.

First, he has fantastic parents, who have always nurtured, encouraged, and championed his abilities. They didn’t shelter him from the harsh realities of life, despite the heartache that occasionally came with it. He attended public school and learned early on that not everyone is nice. They did, however, teach Joey to believe in himself and to search for joy in times of frustration. Some might argue they did such a good job that humility is not part of his vocabulary. (“Why Joey, you’re an amazing artist!” … “Yeah, I know.”)  But his confidence is irresistible, and it has made him quite popular. He was voted homecoming king in his senior year of high school, and last year he was a guest of honor at the Virginia House of Delegates, introduced on the floor by Republican Delegate Margaret B. Ransone. Add to that, last week Joey, now 22, graduated from Germanna College magna cum laude with a Certificate of Fine Arts.

ArtismChristmasSecond, Joey has great faith in God. His faith is pure and childlike, which, as we’ve all been instructed, is the best type of faith. He is not afraid to pose questions to his online friends, challenging them to truly assess what they believe and what they believe is possible. Thanks to Joey, I fully expect to see dinosaurs in Heaven. In one of my favorites of his works, Joey painted a manger scene in which the Christ child (a snowman, of course) is flanked by two cheerful puppies who look suspiciously like Cricket (but why not?). Moreover, I believe Joey can see how God has turned his Asperger’s into a gift and take joy in the way it enables him to view the world differently.

Third, Joey has great joy for life. This emanates from all he does, from celebrating Steve Irwin’s birthday to going to the beach for a weekend. He’s all in, and it transfers to his art. Joey does with paint what I have always tried to do with words—create whimsical pictures of life to help people find the joy that is always available to us.

artismIt is my great hope to make enough in my own business to commission a Joey Frye painting. I’ve actually made that a personal goal, for 2020. In the meantime, I will continue to purchase his greeting cards and promote his art whenever I can. (Check out Joey’s business at http://www.facebook.com/artismbyjoey.)

Which brings me to my point: Joey’s FIRST ART EXHIBIT! If you are looking for something to do tomorrow, June 1st, and in light of the gorgeous weather in the forecast, I recommend taking a day trip to Bowling Green, to the Sidney E. King Arts Center (121 N Main St) to see some of his work from 1-4 p.m. You will NOT be disappointed, and you might find yourself with a new, jubilant, inspirational friend.

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Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. –Romans 15:13

Wild About Waxwings

20 May

In the 20-plus years we’ve lived at this house, my husband and I have hosted thousands of birds in our backyard aviary All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet-and-Oasis. We enjoy marking off  the species listed in the Birds of Northern Virginia manual that stop by for a snack and quick chat. Some even repay our seedy hospitality by chirping out a tune or two.

Quite often (and just a few days ago, as a matter of fact), I flip through the manual’s pages, amazed at the many birds we’ve seen. Then I come to the page of that beautiful cedar waxwing and say to my husband, “Just once I’d like to see one of these beauties. Why don’t they ever come here?”

I say all this to bring us to Friday morning, which started as a particularly grumpy day for me. After a sleepless night, I left my bed grudgingly and stomped downstairs, as if the universe owed me something now and I was going to grumble until I got it. Alas, bad moods are less effective when one is alone, but I didn’t let that didn’t hamper my pity party.

There was a text message on my phone from a creditor, thanking me for making my  latest payment.  Bah. As if I had any choice. I stewed for a moment. Rather than be thankful that we made sufficient money this month to pay all bills, I chose to grumble that we had nothing left over.

With a heavy sigh, I made some coffee and settled down with my daily devotional, pretty much daring God to mess with my surliness. So, He did.

I read about God’s unlimited resources—His vast abundance, and His desire to lavish abundance on me.

Naturally, I mumbled under my breath, “Well then, O Mighty Abundant One, how about you lavish me with a little more cash, then? ‘Cause that’s what I’d like to see in abundance.”

God and I have this running gag about my sarcasm. I can’t not serve it up, and He can’t not turn it around. I should know by now.

Since no bag of bills fell in my lap, and still feeling quite sorry for my sleepy self, I trudged upstairs to dress for the day.

For some reason, I felt drawn to open the blinds that covered the bathroom window, which is not something I typically do in the mornings. Outside there seemed to be a to-do in the mulberry tree, so I opened the window . . . to the most unusual concert—a twittering frenzy like nothing I’d never heard before. Without my glasses, however, all I could see was that the mulberry tree appeared to be moving.

Race downstairs for my glasses. Race back upstairs where I can shut the door on the cat so he won’t jump out the bathroom window.

strip1bThe tree was alive with birds! On nearly every branch, twittering and leaping away as they tugged at ripened mulberries.

Race downstairs for my binoculars. Race back up, past a now-disgruntled cat who just knows something is going on.

Cedar waxwings! Not one, but at least 50 or 60, putting away mulberries like they’re going out of style, which, technically they were, because that poor tree was sacrificing all it had. The berries were larger than their beaks, yet they’d tip back their heads and swallow them down in one gulp.

Race downstairs past grumpy kitty to grab the camera and long-range lens. Race back up, fighting to close the door against his protests.

Now I can really get a good look.

They were lovely—smooth gray and cranberry pink feathers with yellow and red tips, pudgy yellow bellies, and that adorable little mask. What’s more, unlike those mean ol’ blue jays that insist on hanging around, they were nice to each other, not pushing to get berries for themselves, but passing them to those without, and they sang the entire time, this sweet, twittering song, as if the work were some sort of treat.

On more than one occasion, I caught two of these precious sweeties passing a berry back and forth, as if to say,

“Please, I insist, you have this” and,

“Oh, I couldn’t,—after you,” then,

“Oh, I wouldn’t dream of it. Take it for yourself.”

They’d pass it six or ten times before one would give a, “don’t mind if I do” shrug and tip back his head.

strip3My cup runneth over. It was all I hoped for and more—so much more. I spent the next 30 minutes hanging out the bathroom window snapping photos like a mom at a first-grade recital. I caught myself laughing a few times, and thanking God for this demonstration of—oh, dear—real abundance.

That’s when I got it. A verse from the morning’s reading ran through my head, the second half of John 10:10: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

It’s not about the money. Sure, I’d love to have something extra at the end of the month, and go out to dinner more often. But this experience, 30 minutes of reveling amid the beauty and the chatter, 30 minutes of pure gratitude and joy, 30 minutes that made me late for work and care not a lick. This was life. Abundant life.

On both Saturday and Sunday mornings, as berries continued to ripen, the waxwings returned. I spent time each day on my deck watching them through binoculars and chatting with God about His creativity. (Those red tips on their wings are actually a wax-like secretion from the berries, so I read.) I find it fascinating that, rather than just give us “a bird,” God chose to make so many variations.

I’m rather certain God never meant for me to have a lot of money. But I’m equally certain He wants me to live in abundance. He wants me to look for Him as the source of my joy. That’s not always easy, but it’s quite rewarding whenever I get it right.

This Monday morning, we’re down to 10 or so waxwings left, as the tree’s resources have nearly been exhausted, but I do believe I enjoyed that gift to the fullest.

It occurs to me, these same birds likely stop by every spring, but until this year I’ve never noticed. How many other wonders are occurring right under my nose that I just never notice? What about you? Is God trying to show you something? Let’s keep our eyes open today and be on the look-out, just in case.

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You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. –Psalm 16:11

Pining for Something Sweet—Minus the Earworm

6 May

Yesterday, I found myself in Salem, Va., waking along a busy highway called Electric Road. Thanks to ADD, my brain needed only to see one street sign before dredging an oldie but a goodie from the depths of my internal stockpile of washed up hits. I started chanting the first line of an Eddy Grant hit from the early 80s. . . we’re talking from way back, like when MTV played music. You know the same line that I do, I’ll bet:

electricRd2“De dudum rock it, pum pum, Electric Avenue, and then we’ll take it higher!”

Those are all the words I know. And now it’s in your head, too, you’re welcome very much.

So, back to my story. I’d originally intended to walk just around the corner from my hotel, to that coffee shop I noticed nearby on one of my recent trips. No, not one of those high falutin’ Seattle-based coffee shops that make me feel inept as both a customer and decision-maker. I’m talking about the blue-collar shop, the one American runs on, the one found on every New England intersection that is not occupied by a Cumbuhlin’ Fahms. The one that USED to make a syrupy sweet drink called a Coffee Coolatta™.

“It’s just around the corner,” I said to myself. “A walk would do you good.”

Of course, that was just around the driving corner. I wound up trekking more than a mile before I spotted the familiar brown and orange logo. Nobody should ever have to travel that long with an 80s-era earworm lodged in their brain, particularly one to which they’ve retained so few lyrics.  By the time I crossed the store’s threshold, I’d repeated the phrase at least 400 times: “De dudum rock it, pum, pum, Electric Avenue, and then we’ll take it higher!”

Oh, for the love of PETE, help me remember another line!

I asked the apparently bored young man behind the counter for a Coffee Coolatta™ and received a blank stare that nearly made me step back outside to double-check that I wasn’t in the Seattle shop.

“Coolattas™ are fruit flavored,” he said. “Do you want one of those?”

“N-No,” I stammered. “I wanted coffee. Like they make it in New England, you know, a sugary frozen slush?”

“So, a frozen coffee.”

I nodded, unsure. He made me a frozen coffee. It tasted okay, but it wasn’t the same sticky-sweet creamy goodness I remembered. Still, I’d come too far to not enjoy it, so I shrugged and gave him a nod. Yes, I should have just walked away, but remember that I have ADD. I couldn’t resist asking,

“Hey, do people come in here singing Electric Avenue?”

More staring.

“You know, de dudum rock it, pum pum, Electric Avenue . . .”

He pointed at the door. It was more a plea than a command.

I couldn’t NOT finish. “. . . and then we’ll take it higher!” (If you don’t share my earworm by now, I’m clearly not doing it right.)

I de-dudum-rocked it back to the hotel, sipping my coffee-flavored ice throughout another 400 mental repetitions of the now-detestable ditty. Naturally, as soon as I settled into my room and logged onto the world wide web, I typed “Electric Avenue” into a search engine so I could learn the next line. Alas, I learned more than I wanted to. It’s a rather depressing song about 1981 rioting in the UK. On reflection, my brain likely forgot the words on purpose. I should trust my subconscious instincts more often.

So, what have I learned from this experience?

Firstly, Salem, Va. has way fewer intersections than Massachusetts, and even fewer embellished with the standard coffee establishments to which I’ve become accustomed. Translation: next time, drive around the corner.

Secondly, after additional research, I’ve learned the Coffee Coolatta™ has been off the menu since 2017 (which says something about both my craving frequency and the speed of light at which my life is flying past). This delicious concoction has apparently fallen victim to the sugar police state. The current Coolatta™ family is now considered “cosmic,” and consists of sugar-flavored fruit pulp that is no better for consumers than the original. Gotta love the way adding fruit makes everything okay though.

dunkin2

Ahhhhhh, life is good again.

Thirdly, although there’s no going back again, apparently, there’s nothing like an ordinary hot coffee to set things right again ( yes, I gave the joint a second chance in the morning).

Finally, rioting aside, Electric Avenue ranks right up there with John Jacob Jinglehimer Schmidt for earworms that just won’t die.

And I’m quite curious. Which one are you humming right now?

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If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it. — Proverbs 25:16

In the Closet of My Discontent

20 Feb

I’m unexpectedly home today and not sick OR tired. Giving thanks for four inches of snow and a forecast of icy coating. Since we live on a hill and I love my car, I purposed early to not leave the house.

So, what to do with a few glorious hours of serendipitous unscheduled time? Well, for the most part, I’ve straddled the line between laziness and “round-to-it” chores, like washing the Christmas tree skirt that has been in our laundry room for weeks. Had it not been for today’s snow, that thing might have sat there until summer.

The down-side of such an accomplishment is that now I’ll have to scale the pile of boxes and plastic Christmas bins looking for one with enough room to store yet another item. This, my friends, is no simple task.

When we moved here twenty years ago, the Christmas closet was fairly empty—a tree, some lights, a few linens, and a manger scene. Since then we’ve acquired a lovely 15-building winter village, a huge bin filled with only garland, two crates of wrapping paper, bows, and gift boxes, snowmen of all shapes and sizes, Jim Shore angels and who-knows-what else. In fact, now we couldn’t even wedge a Charlie Brown tree in there. Wait; bad example. There IS one, in the back somewhere, right beside the fishnet-stocking-covered leg lamp (because every Christmas scene needs the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window).

ChristmasCloset

And that’s just the front row!

I stared for a while at the overstuffed storage space, struck by how easily gradual acquisitions can overwhelm an otherwise simplified life. I’ve never placed great value on possessions, except those with sentimental ties. Yet every year I get closer to hoarder-dom.

However, crammed into this colorful cubby is a small black box (See it on the top left?) that contains all that really matters—ornaments we’ve acquired over the years that tell the story of my family. From the cheap plastic banner proclaiming our “First Christmas together, 1985” to the fragile white star made of salt crystals from the Bonneville Salt Flats that commemorates a recent trip across country, everything in this box is another brush stroke in the Fitzsimmons family painting. Some are reminders of people we love who have passed away, others help us re-live shared adventures, and still others recall two boys now grown, but when I hold them, I hear giggles from long ago.

If we ever have to “Bug Out” (a military term involving a fan blade and some unpleasant substance), my husband will snag his pre-packed bug-out-bin filled with food, batteries, and survival gear. Since my job is to run upstairs and grab the fireproof document safe, he must also ensure the black Christmas box makes it into the car. It’s his most important mission. Depending on how many flames are licking the house, I might not let him into the car until I see that box go in first.

I tell you all this because I’m pondering these days what downsizing would be like. We’re going to move again, not soon, but likely within the next five or six years. Across town, across the state, out to the coast, who knows? Someplace quiet and writer-like. For now, though, I’m starting to see my house as one big overstuffed closet and wondering what the heck happened.

When we married, we lived in a tiny, two-story, four-room townhouse. My husband brought with him a bed he’d purchased in Colorado and I contributed a hope chest filled with glassware I’d amassed on a military tour in Okinawa. Our dining room table was a cardboard box. Every pay day, we’d purchase a polished plank and two-to-four matching wooden legs—the next addition to the book case that held our roughly 15-inch-wide television and my growing collection of must-have novels.

That was it. And we were happy. Well, not with the place, which was a filthy hole that we left after about six months, but we didn’t pine for “stuff.” We just acquired it. Lots of it.

MeasuringCups

What is the measure of a man who cooks?

We now have ceramic bowls for every season, tables in every corner, and measuring cups for every purpose (and then some). I kid you not on that last one. (I must be very, very, careful not to whine here because my husband is a fantastic cook and he loves to do it, which is the opposite of me. I could survive without him, but only because I like fruit.) I’m just pointing out that in our kitchen, one entire cabinet exists to hold measuring cups of varied size and purpose. He uses them all. He notices when a cup goes missing. One managed to migrate to the garage workbench a few years back and find a purpose down there, so my dear chef actually purchased another to replace it. If we downsize, I may have to coax him into Pyrex Anonymous until life settles a bit.

I’m hereby appealing to the already downsized generation and asking for your advice, your tips, your wisdom. Do I part with one item each month or rip all non-essentials out of my life like a giant Band-Aid with a massive yard sale? Is there a logical way to assess what I “need” when it all seems useful? And how does one even begin to part with books? My books are my friends! Why is this so hard?

And perhaps the most perplexing question, if I succeed, how do I keep from re-filling the void? I’m serious about this. Not so serious I won’t go antiquing next chance I get, but serious enough to maybe not buy any more large items . . . although I’ve always thought a spinning wheel would look neat on the fireplace hearth . . .

So that’s it. Everything must go. Or, almost everything. Or some things. Perhaps I could start with the Christmas closet. Sometime this year. Or next. I’m sure I can find a few items in there I don’t use . . .

I’m keeping the leg lamp.

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But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” — Luke 12:20

Lauding a Literary Lexicon

18 Jan

NOTE to non-writers: The following blog is apt to bore you to blubbery. It’s not just serious; it’s also instructive. Proceed at risk of infusing your daily rumination time with minutiae. Don’t accuse me later of not presaging disgruntlement.

After having so much fun with last week’s blog, I’ve decided to pay close attention to the national observance lists throughout the year, and I’m delighted to learn that . . .

Today is National Thesaurus Day!

In other words (heh, heh, see what I did there?), it’s a perfect day to whine, babble, drone, pratter, blather, gabble, instruct folks about thesaurus abuse. I spent 12 potentially good years of my life editing papers written by brilliant analysts, many of whom, unable to be content in said brilliance, believed they had to stupefy their readers with writing embellished to the point of obscufating their work into a state of puffery.

Much of this obscufation (no, these aren’t words, but variations on “obscurity” that I learned from those same analysts and am clinging to), was the result of Thesaurus abuse. In fact, I still remember my favorite sentence from that era: “Exploits of their loins have persisted since the middle ages.” Sadly, I cannot seem to remember nor translate to you the original thought behind this monstrosity, but I do remember the crestfallen face of the analyst when I scratched it out.

You see, the thesaurus is a perfectly good, sound, suitable, reliable, obedient tool until misused, at which point, its use can cost a writer his credibility. Its purpose is not to make your words more impressive, but to make them (and your message) more clear.

Therefore, we must follow steps to be responsible thesaurusers, steps that I shall now outline, sketch, silhouette, delineate, summarize and pontificate about.

  1. Question your motivation before clicking that “synonym” pull-down.
  2. Select the word you think you want.
  3. Look that word up.
  4. Repeat steps above until you find the perfect word or concede your original is just fine.

Motivation: Upon being inspired to consult your thesaurus, first ask yourself, “Why must I?” If your goal is to impress your readers with your brilliance, then answer yourself, “You mustn’t.” If it’s because your original word isn’t sexy enough, the answer is again, “no.” However, if the word in question falls short of accurate, OR if you are repeating the same term too many times, yes, click that pull-down.

thesaurus

That’s right, I’m engraving a blog post!

Selection: Again, sexy isn’t the goal (which is how I arrived at “obedient tool” above, in case you missed that.) There are as many wrong words in your pull-down lists as right. I don’t necessarily advocate shying away from new words, because part of the joy of reading lies in adding to one’s vocabulary. However, there’s a lot to say for keeping it simple, AND knowing one’s audience. I recently edited a book for my good buddy Brent, who insisted on using “countenance” where most humans would say “face” (approximately 20 times in the book). Yes, the words mean the same thing, but most people today would trip over it. It’s the kind of word that halts a reader, which I liken to poking a stick at him while he’s trying to read.

So, your chosen word must be pertinent, which brings us to . . .

Look it up: You don’t even need to switch to the dictionary. Feed your chosen utterance into the thesaurus. If the words on the new list are even further away from your intended meaning, let it go. This seems to be where some writers stumble. They fall in love with the sound or feel of a word and the way it livens up a sentence (as in, “A grin lit up her countenance.” RESIST, I say, plead, beg, beseech implore you!  The reading world DOES actually care. (I’m not sure my buddy Brent agrees with me, but he did heed my advice. When he’s a best-selling author and asks me to introduce him for some momentous award presentation, I plan to chide him for his stilted vocabulary.)

Repeat: Search only for a limited time and then just continue writing. Sometimes the word just isn’t there. If you’re like me, you’ll concede in favor of the Diminishing Returns formula (Passion ÷ Deadline = Sanity) and settle for something close. Then, after publication, and usually around 2 a.m., the perfect word will leap into your brain. That’s okay, really. I’ve learned that I’m actually the only person who notices. I can say with certainty, nobody has ever approached me after reading my prose and said, “You know, there’s a better word for that.” Keep your sanity. Make your deadline.

So that’s that. I hope this is helpful advice. As an editor, I urge you to treat your thesaurus as a valued employee. Recognize its potential but don’t overwork it.

I leave you with two final words of caution, derived from another great sentence in a past work of brilliance: “The nation’s non-metal resources include limestone, marble, anthracites, and various types of cola.”

  1. Not all soda is cola.
  2. If you make me laugh. You may end up in a blog post.

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Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. – Philippians 3:12

 

Of Pantsers and Peculiar People

10 Jan

Trying something new this week, so I’m asking you to bear with me, and tell me in the comments whether this works. It’s called being a Pantser. Apparently, some writers take a long time to organize their thoughts in an effort to enhance the clarity of their message. Others, pantsers, write by the seat of their pants. This concept scares the dickens out of me, but it could hold merit for someone who can’t find solid blocks of time to map out plans. Rather than test this concept on my work-in-progress, I’ll toss my blog to the guinea pig arena and see what truffles out.

For starters, I have no message today. Most of my blog articles are born after days or weeks of mulling certain situations or challenges. Today, however, I turn to the internet for ideas, and search for January National Observance.

Holy Guacamole! There are a LOT of national observances in January. And, depending on which links I click, the observances are different! Now some make sense. For example, it’s National Get Organized Month, and Soup/Crockpot Month, and Tea Month, all of which I can understand. It’s also National Mail Order Gardening Month, Radon Action Month, and California Dried Plum Digestive Month. Yowzer, now that’s something that could put me off blogging for another year.

Before I continue (welcome to the ADD mind), I’m distracted by my curiosity and I ask, by what authority are such events ordained?  I searched a bit and found that, while there is an official listing of national observances kept by the Library of Congress, it’s way more boring than the unofficial lists that grow on their own accord. So, we’ll stick with unofficial.

Then, as the ADD pulled me further down one unofficial source, I learn that the daily observances are far more interesting. I’m sad to learn I’ve missed Festival of Sleep Day (Jan. 3). I could have really devoted myself to that one. I’m also elated to learn that today is both One Day We’ll Look Back at This and Laugh Day and National Peculiar People Day.

Eureka! I’ve found my pantzer blog, because I can honor both with one story about a man who was both peculiar to me and the instigator behind my own sense of humor, as well as a fine example of how we can look back on bad days and still smile: My dad.

My dad was the only person I’ve ever known to get his ear stuck in the car door. Near as we can figure, he dropped his keys as the door was closing and leaned down just in time to get pinned. (NOTE: and only children of HIS would have run to get the camera to take pictures of the helpless, red-faced, yelling man before drawing straws to decide which of us would set him free while the others escaped).

Dad fathered nine children, although there’s debate among his offspring about whether he loved his dogs more. He lived in a world of patterns and impulse. Solitaire every night at the kitchen table, always with a bag of pretzels and can of Pepsi at the ready. Popsicle in his favorite chair just before bed. (After he passed, we found stacks of thousands of Popsicle sticks in his work bench area of the basement.) The impulse? Encouraging us to put Pop Rocks in Grandma’s martini, quitting job after job because of perceived slights and offenses, and a willingness to drop everything for a new adventure—once even moving the entire family out of our home and into a houseboat for about three years. He also lived a Walter Mitty-like secret life the nine of us are still shaking our heads over and trying to understand. Perhaps I’ll explain more when I write Mom’s story, but that’s about four years down the road.

Anyway, our tale takes place in the early 70s, at a particularly sad time of my childhood. My mother had been rushed to the hospital in the ninth month of pregnancy. The doctor was telling my father that she had lost the baby. My dad, a retired Marine Private First Class and proud of his ability to adapt to any situation, asked the only question he could.

“Is there anything I can do? For her or for you? I really want to do something.”

The doctor gave what must have been a typical response to such a request:

“We can use some donors. Lots of donors. Why don’t you see if you can round some up.”

My dad was off like a shot. This was something he could act on.

He raced out the emergency room door and was gone for about 20 minutes. To this day I hope my mother was still under sedation while this scene went down, because I cannot imagine anything she might have wanted more than her husband by her side. Then again, she married him, so…

Dad returned, out of breath and panting heavily, holding three rather flat boxes above his head like a championship trophy. He went straight to the nurses’ station and asked that the doctor be paged.

“He’s quite busy sir, perhaps I can help you,” said one of the nurses.

“No, he asked me to do this and I want to let him know I did.”

Take the bus or stop for sugar? Tough choice.

Donors vs Donuts- What’s a few letters?

After another 10-15-minute wait, the doctor appeared, disheveled, bleary eyed, and clearly ready to go off shift. My dad shot to his feet, grabbed the boxes and rushed to greet him.

“Doctor, here they are! There were many to choose from—Jelly-filled, frosted, chocolate—just too many. So I got two of every kind. He shoved the three boxes of donuts into the surprised doctor’s hands, grinning like a three-year-old holding up a piece of artwork.

Shaking the bewildered doctor’s hand, Dad then turned to the nurse and asked for Mom’s room number. “I think I should go back and see how she’s doing.”

Yes, yes, we would look back on that day and laugh. Many times.

Pantser, signing off…

Another New Beginning

2 Jan

Welcome to a new year, a new blog attempt, and, to a small extent, a new Portrait Writer.

I love the promise of a new year. I see the days ahead as a book full of blank pages that God, not I, will fill with joy and personal growth—if I allow Him to. This year, I am determined not to grab the pen from Him so often, and I’m excited to see where it leads.

You see, I learned quite a bit about this wrestling for control last year as I tried to fill the pages in by myself. In fact, 2018 was for me a year of frustration, disappointment, and significant bouts of outright anger, because I wasn’t in control.

I learned a lot last year. If I had to put my finger on two verses that impacted me the most, they would be:

  1. Romans 8:28, which is a common verse, commonly misinterpreted: And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. I cannot stop bad things from happening, or my train from derailing on occasion, but I can trust that God will get me back on track.
  2. Matthew 6:10, which scholars have changed over the years by adding a comma in a most unfortunate place. Consider this, the King James Version: Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. And here is the current, ESV version: Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Just look at those commas. They completely change the emphasis of what we’re praying. I now purposefully say Thy will be done on earth (and when I pray this verse with my congregation in church I’m jarringly off beat).

In summary, I’m learning that God’s will is NOT being done on earth, or we wouldn’t have been asked to pray for it. I’m learning that when evil has its way on earth and in my life, it’s not because God ordained it, but because evil rules this place—for now. However, God’s not surprised and can work that event for good, if I trust His plan.

So I have to concede, despite my optimism, that some of those pristine pages ahead will marred by heartache, self-doubt, and (for me at least) potentially anger-inducing stress because of Satan and his minions. I say potentially, because I’m learning to lean more on Jesus’ response to my situation and to see him as my paraclete instead of an idle bystander. That requires constant reliance on Romans 8:28.

Bannister

The Caps toque only adds to the look, doncha’ think?

 

All of which brings me to this day, and a new beginning for my blog. Some would say I’m a day late, but one of my resolutions for the new year is to give myself more grace. Just yesterday I packed away the boxes of Christmas cards that were never opened, joyful to know I already have cards for next year, and I’m intentionally leaving the garland draped across my entry banister as a reminder that Christmas (or even life) is not about getting it all done.

I don’t usually make resolutions, but this year I have. Let’s call them goals, though, because it leaves room for God’s input:

  1. Knowing that my purpose in God’s kingdom is to write, I will write. My blogs may be short on occasion, but they will be regular. I shall keep my writing time sacred, and I will resume work on a collection of stories about people in our church family. I have a goal of 4,000 words per week. I’m considering putting a word counter at the bottom of my blog each week for accountability purposes, but I’m afraid of the pressure it will place on me to succeed despite my second resolution. . .
  2. I resolve to give myself more grace. Math has never been my best. . ., on the top 10, part of my vocabulary, but I’m learning to accept that I can only do so much in 24 hours. Writing takes dedicated time, as does traveling to Ferrum College to pick up our scholar, working my day job, laundry, grocery shopping, editing jobs, date nights, etc. Last year, there were many days when I actually tried, on occasion, to use all 24 hours available and STILL couldn’t finish. I’ve learned to be content that I’ve done my best. If only I could leave the green garland on my banister all year as a reminder of that. . . Hmmm . . . Let’s just say if you visit my home in July and it’s still there, you’ll know why.
  3. Finally, I will enjoy the way my pages flow. I don’t want to miss the blessings because of my temper tantrums. When I prayed yesterday for a word of knowledge for the year ahead, all I heard was “sacrifice,” (which immediately destroyed my “No Whining” resolution, so you won’t read about that here). But as I prayed, I realized I’ve confused sacrifice with being a doormat. I know my recent bouts of anger stem from knowing I’m letting others direct my path, and I resent it. However, while preparing for this writing yesterday, I came across these words from fellow writer Susan May Warren: “The secret to living your life to its potential is to value the important stuff above your own comfort.” Sacrifice is giving up something good for something better; It’s NOT putting everyone else’s wants before your own. My goal this year is to learn how to discern others’ wants from their needs, so I can love them generously, yet not get so involved in their plans for me that I ignore God’s. I must sacrifice some things to get there. Simple? We shall see.

Each of these points could make an entire blog, so I won’t expound on them here because I know you don’t need that much sleep. I will share a secret here, however. Part of my inability to blog last year was because I worried my words were leaning toward too much of Jesus and might be turning people away, as I have many friends camping in the secular world. I’ve decided this is not my concern. God will keep them reading my blog if He wants them to. Let’s study His words together, shall we?

In a nutshell, God has called me a writer, and so I will write in 2019. I’m glad to have you along for the ride. Tell me in the comments, what has he called you to do in the year to come?

Happy New Year!