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From the Peak of Round-to-it Mountain: Can’t I Just Sit Here and Enjoy the View?

6 Apr

Happy April!

I’ve missed you all so much. It’s hard to believe this page has been dormant more than three weeks, because it seems more like three months. I must admit, I approached this page with trepidation today, a little worried you may have found another blogger to spend your time with. I can’t say I blame you.

bootleg

Yep. I’m a trend setter! (In my defense, it looks a lot better when I stand…)

Do I start with an apology? An explanation?  A wild story about being imprisoned by the fashion police for wearing white ankle socks with short jeans? This last, sadly, could happen, as I keep my ankle socks closest to the front of the drawer (think lazy, pre-coffee dressing in the dark because it’s too early for major wattage) AND, all my jeans are too short, because longer ones tend to run wide, so I usually have to choose between the cinched trash bag look or the awkward strip of bare calf.

But no. My reason for ignoring my writing is much less dramatic, and much more pitiful than a prison stint in fashion jail.

You see, I’ve allowed busyness to rule my schedule rather than try to tame it with actual scheduling.

Why is this pitiful, you might ask? Well, because I’ve learned this particular lesson approximately seven thousand times now, and one might expect that at some point I would actually apply it to my lifestyle, but I can’t seem to get there.

From what I’ve learned, I apparently lack two critical talents required in the struggle to prevent busyness: a “no” button, and math skills. I love to help. I can help. I want to help. So, I tend to accept most requests for assistance. However, if I had an inkling as to how math really works, I might not so frequently accept a six-day project and pencil it in for Tuesday, or agree to a two-day edit when I’m leaving for the weekend.

Nor would I accept someone’s estimate that the piece they’re about to send me for editing is “not too long.” In my world, that phrase implies, say, an article explaining why, for the love of PETE, my no-longer-go-to dictionary has decided to change the definition of “literally” to include “figuratively.” (Not enough blank paper here to express my hidden emotions on that topic, so I’ll respectfully not approach the soap box.) However, I’m quickly learning that some folks think of “long” as the Oxford English Dictionary, and thereby, all other documents “short” by comparison. I’ve even annoyed people by not getting through their “short,” 150-page dissertation on the same day they sent it to me.

All this to say, I’m sorry I’ve been away, but my days have been ridiculously filled, and some of my nights even worse. At one point I became so busy, I actually wrote “Wash Hair” on my schedule, fearing it wouldn’t get done otherwise.

Yet learning has occurred. Let me tell you four other tidbits of wisdom I’ve acquired in the past three weeks.

best yes

It’s on the floor beside the desk because this is “To Do” Stack Number Two.

First, I will never finish it all. I find it particularly funny that my copy of the book “The Best Yes,” by Lysa TerKeurst, which teaches us to make wise, purposeful decisions for our time, is buried under a pile of paperwork I’m trying to work my way through. That’s akin to being notified by the library that your book on time management is overdue. However, I can accomplish more than I thought I could in a day (not that I really want to know that, for obvious reasons).

Second, my family is fantastic. They gave me space when I needed it, and gallantly ignored the increasing clutter and dust bunny piles throughout the house (although the jury’s still out as to whether they even noticed those – he who sees must take up the broom and all…) My husband, in particular, showed great empathy and support, mostly by letting me vent and not trying to “fix” my mess. He, too, had some trying schedules during this time. I will from here forward carry with me the sweet memory of one night after a particularly exhausting day, when both my husband and I settled down well after 10 p.m., realizing neither of us had eaten. He quickly boiled some pasta and coated it in parmesan cheese, and we nibbled sleepily while we watched nothing on television, then fell asleep, head-to-head, bowls in hand.

Third, I love (and need) to write more than I knew. I may edit well, and I can appreciate that this is where my bread and butter lies, but when I go too long without writing, my world becomes bleak and I become bleaker still. Creating gives me energy. It’s the gift God gave me for His purposes, but I often treat it like a “nice-to-have” instead of an assignment. Besides, spending all my time on other people’s creations makes me feel like a kid stuck inside during recess. I’m vowing here and now to put my own oxygen mask on regularly, so I can better serve others.

Finally, I’ve learned, again, that this is not the way God designed me to be. While all the projects I worked on over the past month were good, and I believe have the potential to DO good, I must learn to say no. God made us because He delights in us, pure and simple. To me, that means he enjoys watching me, so why would I want to spend my time frantically scurrying from task to task when I could be delighting in Him back? There are tasks He has set in front of me, specifically for me to do. They are all sitting on that “Best Yes” pile, and I’ll bet I’d be much less frenzied working on any one of them.

By God’s math, one can travel farther by slowing down, accomplish more by doing less, and live more fully by choosing simplicity over abundance.

Now that’s some math even I can appreciate.

——-

You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. — Haggai 1:9

Grandpa’s Laugh

6 Mar

I met Jerry L. Fitzsimmons, Sr. under unusual circumstances. I’d been engaged to his son for less than a week and we’d been driving through Kansas on our way to McCook, Nebraska in our ’66 Mustang to meet his grandparents. From there, we planned to drive to Denver to meet his parents.

We never made it to McCook.

Instead, we hit black ice in Hayes, Kansas and my fiancé was hospitalized in a tiny clinic in nearby Colby. His parents arrived in Colby the next morning, just as young Jerry was being loaded into a plane for emergency transport . . . back to Denver.

So, I got to know my future in-laws by myself, on the drive to Denver. I ended up staying with them at their house for the remainder of my 30-day leave, visiting my fiancé at the hospital every day and bringing home reports for them at night. They visited their son when they could, but the day-to-day pressures of life and raising two small children at the time seemed to tug at their time.

I hit it off with Jerry, Sr. right away, not knowing the extent of his brokenness. His son had never expounded on the depths of the chasm between the two of them, only telling me they’d had a “rough time” in his teens. I called him Grandpa and Old Man from the start, long before we even knew if his son would survive, or if we would, indeed, marry and actually make him a grandpa.

During those 30 days, Grandpa and I bonded. I could make him laugh, and I enjoyed doing so, because his laugh was deep and booming. He never said “yes,” but instead said, “that’s exactly right,” which tickled my ear for some reason. We spent hours each night chatting and laughing. During those 30 days, I never saw him drink to excess. Nor did I see evidence of the bridges he’d burned between himself and his children, or the extent to which they’d continue to burn.

The choices Grandpa made over the next 10-15 years would pull him even further from his “first” family, as he and Grandma divorced. Over those years, my by-then husband still didn’t discuss the chasm, and we rarely seemed to have time to visit. Only recently have the wounds between them begun to heal.

Granpa and the boys3

An old and rare photo of all my boys

In the years to follow, there were a few visits, stops during cross-country treks, “as long as we’re in the area,” but never specific trips to see him. And he came to see us in Virginia at least twice that I recall. All those visits were way too short. From those few moments spread out over 35 years, I must now draw all my memories of him. I already regret that I haven’t more, but we each chose, first through stubbornness and then through inaction, not to be closer. Because of that, his grandsons missed out on what could have been a sweet relationship. So did we.

Now, Grandpa’s laugh has been silenced. I’ll miss it tremendously, and will do everything in my power to remember the way it sounds, because it’s all I have.

Grudges and hurt feelings are tools that the world uses to keep us from enjoying love in its purest form, particularly among family. I think the greatest sadness to that truth is that restored relationships are often even more sweet than those with people we’ve loved freely all along, and so often we miss that. However, it takes tremendous courage to take that first step. While I’m glad, for my husband’s sake that he took that step, I will always mourn the years they lost.

I truly hope Grandpa left this world knowing that we do love him, that although we only understand a small bit of the battle he fought, we hold no grudge, and that, in our hearts, his booming laugh lives on.

Peace to you, Old Man. I pray you’ve found what you were searching for.

————–

 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. — Ephesians 4:32

Temporary Derailment: A Writer’s Nightmare

16 Feb

All is well now, although I have had to come to grips with a set-back of my own making. Here is an attempt at poetry to explain my absence. No more details needed…

Hard Drive Not Found

Hundreds of children, locked in the grains of a glimmering silver disk.

A plastic prison, inaccessible forever.

I brought them into the world, the scraps, the snippets, the draft chapters.

I toyed with them, entertained them, nurtured them.

Quotes, verses, hints, ideas, set aside to simmer.

Opening lines.

Inspiration.

All gone.

Think, think! I scream. There must be a way!

Capture them! Bring them back!

Character.

Aura.

Anything.

Finding only darkness.

And an awareness—they existed.

I used to ship the wee ones off to the mainland monthly.

I didn’t trust the airways, you see.

But I danced into the holiday season, a neglectful parent.

NaNoWriMo.

NoMo.

My children.

Do they ache for me the way I ache for them?

“I told you so,” said the world.
datanotfound

New Year, New Page, New Start

1 Jan

On this, the seventh day of Christmas, I received a most precious gift, as did you.

I stayed in bed this morning as long as I could, savoring the opening of it the way one unwraps a much-anticipated present—instead of tearing into the wrapping, I glided my metaphorical finger just under point where the paper overlaps and I nudged the tape until it released its hold.

Then I pulled back the wrap and lingered over the newness of it all, inhaling the scent of promise and potential.

It is here.

sunriseThe new year has dawned like a magnificent sunrise over an expansive ocean, with a freshness of clean linen, the newness of a tightly folded flower bud, and the secrecy of a locked treasure chest. I’m giddy over the endless possibilities of what lies ahead.

In my heart, I’m staring in wonder at a book that contains 365 blank pages, and my heart can only smile.

Right now, the pages are unstained, unblemished in any way. I haven’t hurt anyone with my sarcasm all year. I haven’t said any words I cannot take back. I haven’t judged someone for being different. I haven’t broken a promise to a friend, or missed an opportunity to put aside my work to take a long walk with my husband.

At this moment, anything is possible.

In time, the pages will fill, some with heartache, others with joy and victory. I pray for more of the latter but understand it’s not my decision, just as I also know that, when the year ends, page after page will contain absolutely nothing—a chronicle of hours burned up on mindless tasks.

I resolve to turn the pages more purposefully this year. I pray I can record at the end of each day that I smiled more, laughed more, and loved more on that day’s page than on the one before it. I pray this year my focus is not on how I can better myself, but on how I can make life better for others. Forgive those who hurt me, reignite waning friendships, write encouragement for others. What does that mean, exactly? I have no idea, but I’m sure I’ll learn.

This year I will write a book, see more family, and meet new people. It’s going to be a blast.

How about you? What do you hope to put on your blank pages? Imagine the unimaginable with me, would you? Set your sights on the seemingly unattainable and laugh, because you can do it. Believe and make that first mark on the pristine page.

For no yearning is too big, no dream impossible on this, the first day.

—-

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! — 2 Corinthians 5:17

NaNoWriMo a No-Go…for now

17 Nov

I’m calling it A Hope Deferred because failure sounds so permanent.

More than two weeks into National Novel Writing Month have flown by with a whoosh, leaving me staring at my keyboard in puzzlement, wondering . . .

What the heck happened?

Not much, I’ll tell you that. I worked, as is evident by my blurry eyes and the onset of carpal tunnel. However, I worked on projects for others, and not myself. Somehow, the moment I committed my time to novel writing, nearly a year’s worth of “on-hold” commitments jumped out of the woodwork and into my email box. All worthy projects. Fulfilling work. Some even paying jobs. I like paying jobs.

nanomofail

The words are all in my head; I just have to write them down…

But none of which left time for novel writing. I tried, dutifully sitting down every morning and typing until the official start of my work day. I hoped to at least initiate some forward progress so that when the commitments ebbed I could catch up.

Word count? Again, not much. Let’s just say I stopped counting at 5,000 words.

My consolation: they’re good words, if I do say so myself. They’re only seeds right now, but they might grow to become part of something quite impressive. So far, I’ve crafted an opening scene, set up for twists and turns, established two solid characters and researched until I thought I’d burst from excess knowledge. Go ahead, ask me anything:

Can you unbuckle a seatbelt upside-down with your right hand? No. Can you suffer a concussion in a car accident, even when the air bag inflates? Yes. Does fog occur in Oklahoma? Yes. How many years does it take to become a doctor? 14 on average. How many artillery courses can a Marine go through at Fort Sill? Three. How does all this tie in? That’s for me to plot and you to find out.

If I ever finish writing the book, that is.

I’ve learned a lot though. First, because of all the research, writing fiction is harder than it looks. Many people have told me that, but I didn’t listen. Let’s just say I have a lot of experience filling out “official forms” and so believed writing fiction would come naturally. Anyway, I understand now that readers are willing to suspend belief to journey through the pages with me, but if the road takes them to that place of “not likely,” I’m going to lose them—roadside corn stands in February, hurricanes in Pittsburgh, a balanced budget in California—and they might not return. So, that slows me down a bit.

Second, writing fiction is a lot more fun than I expected. I’m holding a literary Gumby and I have the power to make him stand like a hero or I can split his legs into a heart shape over his head so he falls, quite awkwardly, into his soup. Bwa ha ha ha! It’s a scary responsibility—roller-coaster scary, not Cujo scary. Sometimes, just to mess with my characters, I’ll take one or two of them down a road they’d NEVER travel, just to see how long it takes before they stop, mid-sentence, and look at me with their hands on their hips and that unsportsmanlike “you-give-me-a-pink-holster-and-I’m-out-of-here” look. Geesh. As if I’d leave that in there. So, allowing my ADD side to play around slows me down some as well.

However, the primary tidbit of wisdom I’ve acquired is that I’m not going to make my goal. By the time I finish the side work in front of me, the Christmas season will be in full swing and I won’t be able to focus at all. So, rather than stuffing my work into a pity pantry and stomping off, I’ll just reiterate what I thought from the start: November is a silly month to write a novel. I’m hereby taking my novel-writing plan off the map of standard expectation and announcing that MY NaNoWriMo is January. Bring on the snow, lock me up, and send in a sandwich every few days–I’ll be fine.

To my fellow writers who are sticking it out, my hat is off to you. May your days be filled with inspiration and your fingers fly across the keyboard. Keep writing so I can live vicariously through your success until it’s my turn.

And my turn will come. Of this I’m certain.

——-

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. — Proverbs 16:9

NaNoWriMo: Will Words Escape Me?

1 Nov

“If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been
written yet, then you must write it.” —
Toni Morrison

November is National Novel Writing Month. I have no idea why, just go with me on this. Anyway, this is a writers’ challenge which suggests that if we commit to writing 1,667 words every day (11,660 per week), we’ll have written a 50,000-word novel by the end of the month.

That is not to say it will be a marketable novel, but certainly will form the framework for a novel that might become a decent read after we’ve edited it five or ten times.

Frankly, November is quite possibly the worst month to dedicate to such a writing feat. Aside from Veterans Day weekend, Thanksgiving week and all the prep that entails, and the looming leaf-raking weekend I won’t be able to dodge, I’m editing three projects, I’m on the hook to write two stories (and quite possibly four) this month, and I have family commitments out the wazoo—some of which I’m actually looking forward to.

I mean, why not February? My work load is nearly nil and I stay indoors the entire month of February.

Which is why, every November, when I feel that familiar tug to join the 300,000+ writers out there who are taking the pledge, I take one look at my over-filled plate defer the dream yet again. In some ways, I’m a lot like that young career-minded couple trying to decide when to have that baby…it’s never the perfect time.

Which is why, this year, I say NO!

To the deferment, that is.

I want in.

halloween-candy

The common denominator behind all my fantastic and awful ideas.

Because I don’t want to push the dream aside any more. I want to push myself instead. Many other reasons lie behind my decision to take on this challenge, some of which are a tad complicated. For one, there’s a giant bucket of leftover Halloween candy on the kitchen table, and I never make rational decisions when stuffed with chocolate.

For another, I’m yearning to write something of my own. Although I absolutely love ghost writing, and I hope to go back to it at some point, I keep wondering what I could accomplish from scratch if I tried.  I am working on a serious, semi-factual book, but it requires tons of reading and research, and, at some point, interviews with family members. It’s so personal, though, that I consider it actual work, while NaNoWriMo is supposed to be fun.

For another, there are people in my head just begging me to bring them to life. The racket they’re making up there keeps me awake at night. Well, that and the Halloween candy I keep snitching at bedtime. (Yes, I started in as soon as we purchased it—doesn’t everyone?)  For the most part, my head characters are patiently waiting their turn. But not Angus. I’ve had Angus, the truck driver, on hold for nearly a year. He’s up there right now, leaning on his horn, pulling the lollypop from his red-bearded face to howl (accompanyied by his border collie side-kick), “I ain’t gettin’ any younger here, lassie!” You see, Angus REALLY wants to me to help him get to know Katy, a single mom who works the customer service counter at the grocery store, but I keep letting the air out of his tires so he has to stay put. Alas, it’s still not his turn.

Instead, this November, a young Marine sergeant who has been languishing in a corner of my brain nursing a bottle of Coors gets to learn why his grandmother had to die in the tornado. Yes, I think I’d like to let him find out. Primarily because I’d like to know, too.

Finally, I’m making this commitment because the consequences of failure dawned on me the other day: What’s the worst that can happen? I might only finish half a novel by the month’s end? What a travesty that would be! Basically, there’s no way to lose here.

Am I worried? To be honest, I’m terrified. I’ve been talking about writing my own novel for many years. I feel as if this time I have no net beneath me. I cannot blame my success or failure on someone else’s lack of storytelling. It’s all me, baby.

And if I don’t have what it takes?

If my story has no point?

If it’s not entertaining?

If I can’t think of a satisfying ending?

So be it. I have to at least try. I take comfort in young Solomon’s plight after his father, King David, gave him the kingdom and with it, the responsibility to build God’s temple. Considering that this was a temple that even David, a man after God’s own heart, hadn’t been deemed qualified to build, it must have looked like a daunting task to Solomon, and it would be the first task of his new kingship, not something he could work up to. Solomon asked for wisdom and plowed forward. I shall do the same.

I will write you all a weekly update, and I promise to fess up if I miss the mark. Or all the marks. I don’t know whether 11,669 words a week are possible, considering I won’t be writing Tuesdays and Sundays. Now, I’m not a math whiz, but this brings my 1,667 daily goal to, um…divide this, carry that…well, um way more than 1,667 a day, but I’ll try.

Hold me to this, please. If you see me out and about (which you shouldn’t since I’ll be chained here), please ask me how it’s going. If nothing else, my urge to avoid your collective inquiries might keep me in my chair.

Right next to this annoying bowl of Halloween candy… which we will definitely have to refill soon.

_______________

David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished. –1 Chron 28:20

 

A Story is Born: From the Remnants Just Released

12 Sep

It’s official!

Today Cathy Schrader and I released “From the Remnants, A Story of Light and Hope.

bookcover

Click on Book Cover to Order! …And thank you. 🙂

It is the true story of Cathy’s journey from heart-shattering brokeness to a place of healing and purpose.

This book is for anyone whose faith in God has been tested by the sudden and unexplainable loss of a loved one. Although we all race through life understanding its inherit brevity, we sometimes take for granted the days we’re given to share with those we love. We choose our paths based on what we expect they hold for us. However, God, in his sovereign mercy, knowing infinitely more about our journey than we do ourselves, sometimes allows devastation in our lives by calling our loved one to Himself sooner than we could have predicted, turning those paths into dead-end roads, and thereby prompting that age-old question:

Why, God?

This book responds with the age-old answer:

We don’t know.

Because we’re not God.

However, sometimes, if we press forward through the anger and pain, and we resolve to retain our faith despite the apparent senselessness of it all, we can catch a glimpse of the larger picture—an aerial view, so to speak—of our lives and purpose through His eyes.

This vision may not, and probably won’t heal the scars of our suffering, but it’s not supposed to. Those scars brought us to the place we are, to a place of awareness that we are not the author of our own destiny, but that we can walk with the One who is. And when we walk with Him, we can know we’re on the course he intended for us to travel. Only then can we truly receive the joy and peace He has placed along the way.

I invite you to walk briefly along Cathy’s path, and to discover as she did, that God’s ways are not our ways, but when we trust him, they tend to be just a tad better…

Blessings and Happy Reading!

———————————————————-

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or imagine, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:19-21