Why Rear View Mirrors are Better Than Windshields

“The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,

Shining ever brighter till the full light of day.”

Proverbs 4:18

When I began this year, God gave me a word–“adjust.” Last year I spent time ‘abiding’, year before that it was ‘dwell’ (very similar) and the year before that, my word was ‘fit’–how does what I’m doing in my walk with Jesus fit with what He says?

When I heard the Holy Spirit say “adjust,” I had the sense that I’d be moving in a particular direction–writing a book this year–but as I was moving God would have to make some course corrections.

About the same time, our pastor’s New Year’s message was from the book of Nehemiah about the rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem. The rebuilding task was overwhelming, but Nehemiah was undeterred. As a result of that word, “start small, start now” became my mantra. I couldn’t make overnight changes in any of the areas I wanted to see growth or movement–my health, my writing, my spiritual walk–none of it. But I could see change over time.

At the end of each day, I document what little steps have been taken in those areas on my “foursquare.” Some days I write one or two things down, some days it’s blank. The areas of growth have changed over time as well, now one of the square says “heart & soul”, one says “body”, one says, “writing” and one says, “spirit.” It’s not a journal so much as it’s a recorder.

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Little by little, there’s progress.

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I’ve also been documenting the progress of the perennial flowerbed out in our yard—one photo a month since January, on the 20th day of the month.

I had the idea because, come June, no one would ever believe that the explosion of greenery and color that is my flowerbed was once an empty spot of soggy, blank dirt. I would like to encourage myself along the way that one, something beautiful WILL grow out of that unsightly rectangle and two, it will take some time.

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This first photo makes it glaringly clear just what a ‘winter view’ is in my Seattle suburb—with no foliage on shrubs and trees, you can see miles away. Of course, the shades of gray, brown and silver bark in front of me leave me with an impatient ache. They’re hard on the eyes; I long for them to bloom.

But I need to wait a good six months.

The next month, February, I chose a different angle, illustrating the size of the bed, and giving one the impression with my rake propped against the bird feeder, that I was actually working out in the mud. Smile. There are a few suggestions of greenery against the dirt, but they are only suggestions, an ounce of earth being displaced by life.

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You’ll notice the Yellowtwig Dogwood shows up nicely against the monochrome background of the greenbelt. There is hope in the color of those bare branches, a bit of golden against the sky when we’re desperate for something to keep us going.

A few days ago I took Month Number Three’s photo—March.

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Can you see the gradual growth, the mini fireworks sprouting from the dirt? When I stand back and look from this perspective I can see a difference from last month’s photo-something is happening! Look at all the yellow–forsythia! And, if you were able to get up close, you’d see new leaves curling out in the asters and clematis at the base of that dried up piece of driftwood by the gazebo bird feeder.

You have to look closely, though.

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I am always learning lessons from my garden—long, slow lessons about life.

Right now I’m preoccupied with writing a book. I told you about that last week and God’s gentle (not) way of getting my attention in the process so I could readjust my expectations.

I am reminded again that anything difficult, beautiful or creative requires three things—work, attention and time.

I cannot expect to be finished with the process unless I put in the time and attend to God’s words to me along the way. And I need to remember that although I am bounded by the constraints of the rising and setting of the sun each day, God is not. He sees the end from the beginning all at once. He knows where we’ll be….maybe we need to pay attention to the getting there rather than the being there.

Maybe you’re working through something like that now—a challenge or promise or project that is taking a frustratingly much longer amount of time to bring any progress.

May I encourage you? Rather than looking at the emptiness outside your window every day (figuratively speaking) check once a week or once a month or once a quarter and ask God, “How are things going now? How about now?” Or, “God, please give me patience for this process.”

You may find when you look back at the end that whatever was preoccupying your thoughts or worrying you went more quickly than expected. And some day you’ll look out your kitchen window at the vines and shoots and branches spilling all over the back patch of dirt and wonder, “Wow, how did those flowers come up?”

A lot of work, paying attention, and giving things time. God’s time.

~*~*~*~

For what are you waiting on God? Share in the comments.

 

“Writing a Book is Easy” (said no one. ever.)

When I set out from home last week, Sunday to be exact, I’d been crowing to all who would listen, “I’m going away for a week to write the first draft of my book.” As if…..as if that can be done. But God is so good–we just don’t know what we don’t know. Whether it’s, “Hey, let’s paint the living room this weekend,” “Honey, let’s take that hike. It’s totally easy.” “Wow, I think I’ll go back to school/get a job now that my children are older,” and other idealistic statements.

Or maybe that’s just me.

stained glass, GrunewaldThis week away at the lovely Grunewald Guild in the Cascade Mountains of Washington, has been eye-opening, to say the least. (The bridge photo in the header was taken here at Grunewald last Fall).

Here are seven things I’ve learned I’m learning:

  1. Life and Jesus will get in the way (in a good way).
  2. You planned to write a rough draft of your book but you’re the rough draft
  3. Never write in the same room you’re sleeping in. A table along one wall does not a study make
  4. You will have to recalibrate your expectations several times using not GPS, but Jesus PS.
  5. Sometimes being productive means lots of prayers going up rather than print on the page.
  6. Trust the process. Give it time. God’s not in a hurry. The book idea was His anyway—all you have to do is give Him your pen.
  7. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not God.

 

Why Creation is a Messy Process

It all began with my suitcase.

I recently returned from a five day trip to Texas to see family and friends and attend a writer’s conference in the Austin area. I packed way too many clothes and shoes. And books. (One always miscalculates the amount of ‘free time’ to read while on a trip.) In fact, when I checked into our airport in Seattle, my suitcase was three pounds overweight. I had to do some quick reshuffling to manage everything. Sigh. Out with the laptop, out with the pillow (yes, I travel with my pillow). Out with the shoes. Buy new shopping bag to sling over my shoulder. Sigh again.

Besides gleaning some nuggets of truth from the folks I heard at the three- day conference, I also began mentally gleaning my wardrobe. Weird, I know, but God often uses my physical life as an object lesson to illustrate what he’s doing inside me.

One of the gifts of getting older is finding out what you like and don’t like, what you love and what you can live without. Not only with words but in this case, with my wardrobe. I was processing new discoveries about ways of looking at my writing, adding them to the mix of my current mindset, but my mind was over-full. My overflowing suitcase matched my over-stuffed mind.

Some things needed to go to make room for these new ideas.

One of the conference speakers relayed the ideas of looking at our writing through orientation, disorientation and reorientation. I love learning about words and their root meaning. When I got home I looked up the word ‘orient’–from the Latin, ‘oriens’ meaning ‘rising sun’. When we are facing ourselves in the right direction—towards the Son—Jesus—things feel right. But when God is doing something new we feel disoriented.

We often dislike the feeling of being disoriented, so we try to pass over it too quickly to eliminate the uneasy feelings. But God is often there in the mess. In fact, He is always there in the mess. Maybe we need to take time to process and work through what’s there so we can learn from it.

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I returned from my trip on a Saturday evening. The next day I thought about rushing off to church to be with family and friends in worship. But something pulled me towards dealing with my overstuffed suitcase. I needed to get rid of some of my clothes; most of my clothes. My husband kissed me goodbye and left me to my project.20170219_154157

I was determined to go through two closets (two!) and two dressers (seriously?), keep what I knew I loved and would wear again and get rid of all the rest.The process took me most of that day and little of the next. By the time I finished I had two big plastic blue Ikea bags full to the brim.

It’s hard to explain how much lighter I felt. Not only did I have more room in my closets, I could actually see what I had.  Clearly I don’t need anything new to wear, what I have now is the ability to put things together in a new way that feels right to me. I felt reoriented, creative.

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Creation is like that, whether we’re writing a poem, planting a garden or building a piece of furniture. It often begins with the mess of feeling disoriented while things are undone and all over the place. Stuff needs to be moved around, thrown out, cut down, laid all over the floor.

I think we need the disorientation process more than we know. The song ‘Simple Gifts’ has the lines about ‘turning, turning, til we come out right.’ Our lives are a continual turning towards the Son to see what needs changing, throwing away, cutting back. When we embrace the disorientation process we’re better able to see what new and beautiful creations God has to give through us.

What mess is God calling you to make today? What have you gone through that’s led to something new? Please share in the comments.

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Simple Gifts” is a Shaker song written and composed in 1848 by Elder Joseph Brackett. You can hear Judy Collins singing it here.

Why Slow Starts are Best (or, Typing as Therapy)

“For who knows how,
Better than he that taught us first to Plough,
To guide our Mind and Pens for his Design?
And he makes base things usher in Divine.”
John Bunyan, the Author’s Apology for His Book, Pilgrim’s Progress

I wrote at the beginning of this year about starting small, starting now when leaning into God’s promises, those urgings from his Spirit that draw us closer to His purpose and plans for our lives. It is easy to become intimidated when we consider those God thoughts, wonder if the change He’s spoken of will ever come to pass. Perhaps it is a ministry gifting you’re pondering. Perhaps it is a story to write, a book that’s inside you, a change you want to see in your personal life. How do we help those come to pass? Or is it more of a partnership?

‘Starting small, starting now’ came from a message at church of the story of Nehemiah and his people rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, one brick at a time. Our pastor’s encouragement was to move slowly and faithfully in the direction God has called us, trusting God while our dreams are fulfilled.

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I just returned from a five day trip to Texas for a writer’s festival at a small Baptist college in a small Texas town. It was a delight for my soul to soak up some sunshine after the chill of the mornings, bask in the fun of making music and connecting with folks who are dear to my heart. There were opportunities to grow in my writing as well and be inspired by the words of other gifted folks.

When I returned home to the much wetter, cooler Pacific Northwest, I couldn’t wait to get outside to check the growth in the garden. My world is anchored by the seasons; I recently decided I like winter best. Why? Because all that gray, blank space gives my mind room to ponder. Because I enjoy watching the sometimes infinitesimal growth of the garlic as it spikes bright green towards the sky. The clematis begins to sport buds on the dead looking vine, the asters begin to poke magenta gray sprouts into the soaking soil.

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It’s easier to see growth in empty spaces, to appreciate the subtle and slow of sweetpeas returning or the forsythia threatening to pop, a tulip’s leaves curl through the dirt.

I snapped this photo and realized–God’s promises to grow us in our gifts and in His graces depend not on our efforts but on His creation. The life of a bulb or flower or shrub is inside, invisible. Under the ground, in the bare stalks of the tree or sleeping before bursting into tulips or crocus.  How that happens is a miracle every single Spring.

So, too, are the promises of God. When He speaks a word about changing you inside or gifting you with His creation to share with others–in a song, a story, a poem or a painting–the birth of it always lies in His power to give life.  The challenge we face is in the making room (clearing the soil), letting go (lifting our pruning shears or pens to the sky) and resting (while the seed grows).

When Your Words Match Your Life

The origin of the word ‘journal’ is from Old French–“jornel” meaning ‘daily.’ In Latin the word is ‘diurnalis’, prompting our English word ‘diary.’ A journal is “a record of daily events, a day book, a ship’s log.” People, myself included, used to ‘keep’ a journal, a place to collect important events, timely thoughts, the occasional prayer, challenges and triumphs. The word, like so many once-nouns, has turned into a verb; now people talk about ‘journaling.’ This action word, a practice of daily writing, is a tool that helps us find out what we think when we put pen or pencil to paper.

When I began journaling about 20 years ago I noticed each year there was a theme to my work. In the last 5-8 years God has dropped a word into my spirit in the last days of the year as a frame for the year ahead. Not an audible voice of course, but sort of a whisper, “this will be the word that centers you.”

I didn’t know people chose a word for the year until I began blogging. Then I thought, “So that’s what God’s been up to.”  I noticed the sticky notes adorning the inside leaf of each one. I’d written words like, “fit” and “anchor”, “abide” or “dwell”. Those were the easy words. Then there was “surrender” (for two years), then “stretch” (which seems a lot like ‘surrender’ by the way).

The last week of 2016 I heard “adjust” one Sunday morning in church. Just like that. Again, not an audible voice, but inside in my knower. “Adjust.” After two years of ‘surrender’, this felt a little more gentle.

When I thought the word over, I sensed God saying, “I’m leading you in a particular direction with your work and your words and your reach, but stay close to me, because I’m going to help you adjust as you go.”

In that same message our pastor reminded us, “God only steers cars that are moving.” In other words, if you’re not sure about a direction or an idea or a plan, just start going. If you need a course-correction, God will gently help you adjust.

I looked up the word when I got home. “Adjust”–from the Latin, ‘ad’ to and ‘juxta’ near. Keeping moving more near where you’re supposed to be going. In other words, “As you’re heading in the right direction, I’ll help you get closer to what you’re called to be, to who I’ve made you.” God is a gentle speaker and for that I am grateful.

This is undoubtedly a year of adjustment. Fresh on the heals of the recent inauguration, I have some huge adjustments to make. On a large, national scale I have to move closer to a new way of looking at the office of the President, at the person of the President, at the performance of the President. I’m praying that things work out for all of us, but only time will tell.

Much closer to home I have to adjust to a no less earth-shattering adjustment–my oldest grandson will be 14 years old on January 24th. That seems impossible because, of course, he was just born the other day. You know what I mean.

I have a poem in my journal from the day Hanan was born, about the unfolding of his life from a neat little package. His life as a child was just beginning, my new identity as a Nana had also just begun.

Five years ago this week my blog was ‘born’; Hanan turned nine the same week. In the summer months preceding that we’d gone on a hike up to Multnomah Falls outside Portland, OR. It was grueling, long climb up one switchback after another in the hot July sun. I wanted to give up our walk many times and muttered my misgivings.

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Small footbridge on hike up to Multnomah Falls

The 8 1/2 year old Hanan said, “But Nana, if you want to see something awesome, you have to never give up.” I’m reminded of that often when I think about my daily ‘hikes’ through this thing we call life.

So we end where we began. The word “journey” is closely related to “journal”. Middle English, “journeia day’s travel, Latin “diurnus”, of a day, i.e. to travel from one place to another in the span of a day. Where I go each day always ends up on the pages of my journals as I’ve journeyed through this life, adjusting as I go. Always welcoming my Heavenly Father’s course-correction. (Well maybe not always.) 

Nevertheless, I want to keep moving like the water in that rushing stream, directed by God-dug channels, held in by banks of God’s choosing along the way.

Psalm 45:1 says in The Message Bible,

My heart bursts its banks,
    spilling beauty and goodness.
I pour it out in a poem to the king,
    shaping the river into words:

As I journey through this life, adjusted by my Father, my journals will continue to be a place to pour out my poems to the king, “shaping the river into words.”

What about you?

On Keeping Words-Notebooks, Quotebooks & Journals

               “His view of truth was such that he would have accepted no distinction between ‘spiritual’ and secular’. He saw no conflict between his Christian convictions and his interests in science and philosophy. All true knowledge leads to divinity.”   Iain Murray, “Jonathan Edwards, A New Biography”

Whenever I visit the Thrift Store I head to the book section first with an eye out for old children’s books and classic literature.  I have found many treasures that way, the most recent being a very slim volume written by Natalie Babbitt (her very first book, 1969) called “The Search for Delicious.” Although it’s hardly a classic, Delicious does have a fairy tale feel with some timeless themes.

Babbitt begins the story of a king and queen fighting over a definition of the word ‘delicious’. The King is writing a dictionary and is stuck on the letter ‘D’ because no one in the castle, his wife in particular, can agree on what is delicious.

Twelve-year-old squire Gaylen is shortly dispatched to travel across the Kingdom, polling its citizens to record their thoughts and opinions in his notebook. The King hopes to reach a consensus of meaning and thereby restore peace to the Kingdom. Gaylen sets off on his horse Marrow with little more than a pen, a notebook and food for the journey.

Gaylen’s task takes him far and wide, leading him to some very strange encounters, a bit of adventure and not a few brushes with disaster. In the end, everyone in the kingdom agrees on the meaning of the word ‘delicious’, Gaylen learns how to be brave and harmony is restored.

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I enjoy saving and savoring words—new words, old words, your words.  Although I am not endeavoring to write a dictionary, I have quotebooks and notebooks of varying shapes and sizes containing all manner of language within their covers.

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Words with more than one meaning—like ‘make’ and ‘take’ or ‘pitch’ and ‘frequency’–all go in my ‘Defining Moments’ journal. (I got the idea from Kel Rohlf, who wrote a little volume on words and their meaning, devotional style.)

I have a small Moleskine of other words that are new to me, the meaning of which I have yet to learn, set aside for my own dictionary work. Words like ‘mimesis’ and ‘amanuensis’ via the book I’m reading for the season—“Waiting on the Word—a Poem a Day for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany” by Malcolm Guite.

How the Things we Keep, Keep Us

May 12, 1974

“Dearest Jody,

I’m writing you today to say, “I’m glad I’m your mom.”

I am now, and always have been, so proud of you, Jo. Can’t remember a single moments’ “trouble” that you’ve ever been in or any periods of anxiety that you have caused. Sure there were minutes of panic…like the time Colleen hit you with the baseball bat. But so far as the really important things like your character and independence and industriousness are concerned, you’ve never caused me any doubts.

With much love, Mom”

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As a newly retired teacher—first Fall without students—woohoo!—I can FINALLY get to some gargantuan projects that I’ve wanted to tackle for like ever. Seriously; we’ve lived in our house almost 24 years—that’s over half of the time I’ve been married.

One such task was culling through almost a lifetimes’ worth (well, since I was 18) of old letters I’ve saved.

What a treasure trove it has yielded–sparks of memory fanned into flame, words from the the past that have fluttered across my vision, sadness and melancholy and sweet joy all rolled into one.   It has been a sobering experience, actually.

The process took about three weeks. Boxes everywhere, piles of old letters threatening to topple and spill, pounds and pounds of ‘who in the world is this card from?’ and “who is Katie and why do I need this Valentine from 2nd grade?” ending up in the Recycle Bin. A very satisfying activity, especially when I downsized my paper estate to two medium sized boxes.

I love to write and send cards and letters. Still. And better still is the joy and pleasure of receiving a handwritten letter in the mail; it’s like finding a sweet surprise.  Saving and keeping old (and new) cards and letters is preserving the bedrock of the past. A bedrock of shared history, a running record of highs and lows and in betweens—the events that make up the everything that is our life.

I have letters my husband wrote when we were first courting, then engaged.  He is effusive in his love for me and his love for Jesus (I think He loved Jesus more—still does).  There are intimations of some of the challenges we faced back then in our Jesus People days, but nothing fazed him. He was a little starry eyed (I’m sure I was, too.)

The most precious letters are those from my mother who died over 30 years ago. Reading her thoughts was a bittersweet experience. Sweet because I didn’t remember all the kind things she’d said to me (like those above), but bitter because of course, she’s gone.  I think my grandchildren will enjoy getting to know their Great Grandma Helen a little bit when they read her letters, too, someday.

How to Hear God’s Voice (& maybe your own)

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Site of ‘Dwell’ Retreat–Grunewald Guild, Leavenworth WA–Textiles Room

The weekend of October 16-18, 2016, was a Heaven-come-to-earth occasion at ‘Dwell’, an intimate (5 of us) Writer’s Retreat co-led with my friend Kimberlee Ireton. We ‘Glory Writers’ camped in Psalm 37 for the weekend, particularly verses 3-7, and meditated on all those verbs–‘Trust’ ‘Delight’ ‘Commit’ ‘Rest’ and the tough-to-do ‘Fret not.’

“Dwell” means to stay where you are so you can hear what you need. Here’s what I heard when I returned home.

Pushing the patio chair into place undercover, I scan the deck for my little table. I want to sit a while and take advantage of the peace and quiet to listen. Not read my Bible, read a book, look at my phone, just sit with my journal and pay attention to what I hear, what I see, what my heart wants to tell me.

 But I need my footstool first.  My legs are too short to touch the decking and I can’t relax ‘til my feet are in place. Ah, there it is hidden under the plastic tablecloth out of the rain.

Now I’m settled. My eyes train on the birds at our feeders. I grin at their acrobatic antics, bouncing marionette-like from feeder to tree, swooping like jets coming in for a landing. I’m quite certain the only reason God created birds was to delight us and him.

Instead of writing anything, I begin to read the lines I penned over the past year; little conversations with Jesus and I show up on the page. ‘Aha’s’ are circled or highlighted, questions I pondered and the answer that came after it are underlined. There are pencil scratchings in the margin, messages from the Spirit of God right to my soul.
Someone asked the question recently, “What is saving your life right now?”
And here’s what I have to say–the spiritual practice of listening, stopping to hear God’s voice to me, and hear my own voice.  This is what I know:

    • When you give God room to speak (see ‘Dwell’ above) He will
    • When God gives you ‘food’ to eat, He might use it to feed others
    • But it will be in your voice and your view from where you stand

Part of my conversations with Jesus lately have been about story—mine, in particular.  My random thoughts run all over and it’s hard to rein them in.

"Vanna, I Have no Vowels" & why we need Words with Friends

My four siblings and I were raised by a scrappy, resourceful mom who loved words. Dad was around, too; he was into crossword puzzles–the Sunday New York Times. In ink–and taught us to play Scrabble.
When my mom wanted to keep the five of us out of her hair, she’d grab 5 small slips of paper, write a jumble of letters on each one and hand it to us with a, “Go figure out this word!” to give her a few moments of peace.
My siblings and I have been playing word games ever since.
Words with Friends is the online/phone app of choice now that we’re separated by many miles, some of us, and it provides a platform of connection around our love of puzzles and vocabulary.
     Even though I am the oldest child, I am by no means the sharpest pencil in the box. My four brothers and sisters regularly beat the pants off me in the game (my English degree is worthless).  Until this week—woohoo—I’m ahead of one of my sisters by 100 points.
Why? Because, as she said in her accompanying WWF message, “I have no vowels, Vanna.”  (I threw her a couple of ‘o’s in the word ‘snook’ to set her up. Let’s see if I keep the lead.)
Sometimes we just need some vowels in our lives to play words with friends.
———-
     In the space of less than a week I had the chance to do just that, connect with my people over words.
     I made a whirlwind trip from my home in the Seattle area to Vancouver/Portland where I planned to meet up with 3 different friends for lunch, coffee and dinner AND squeeze in a visit to see my son and his family and my five grands.
     First on my crowded dance card was lunch with the lovely Elizabeth Stewart—who blogs at Just Following Jesus (link on my sidebar under ‘Glory Writers’). Elizabeth and I carpooled to the Faith and Culture Conference in 2014 and have been friends ever since, online and in real life.
     After a delicious St. Patrick’s Day lunch, she tricked me into going on a walk along the Columbia River. (It was no trick—she’s just in better shape than I am). Our fellowship along the path on the beautiful Spring day was a balm to my soul.  A holy heart-to-heart where we shared life and ministry and words. (Elizabeth and her husband pastor a church–the ministry part is who she IS.)
     When our time came to an end, I headed across the river for an early dinner reunion with Cornelia Becker Seigneur, Founder of the Faith and Culture Writer’s Conference in Portland. I attended FCWC in 2014 and jumped in as Volunteer Coordinator last year. (you can read my post about that experience here.)
     Our team’s time of planning spanned an entire year and I ended up doing extra duty (with the amazing Bethany Jackson) when Cornelia was in a horrific accident from which she is still recovering.
     The bonds I have with Cornelia run deep and I’ve been looking forward to the day when I could visit her again in person. Almost one year since the conference, our lives and schedules finally allowed us to sit down at Happy Hour before we headed off to the Writer’s Connection meeting later in the evening.
     Over cilantro-laced tostadas, Cornelia and I reaffirmed we are kindred spirits, both committed to encouraging other Christian writers in their gifts, connecting people with each other to see them grow and communicating via our blogs in our little corners of the internet.
     “Hey,” I said, “we’re midwives!” (look for the book title some day….) She clasped my hands and agreed.
There is nothing like this kind of friendship—deep and holy; I am forever grateful to God for it.
     When we finished our meal I caravanned behind her to our writer’s meeting; there were some nervous butterflies about the occasion. I would be reuniting with other friends, attendees and committee members from FCWC as well as sharing a five minute ‘Inspiration’ message.
     There was less than 24 hours to prep for this, so I was a little verklempt. The Holy Spirit helped me pour some words out that had been ruminating for a while and they all came together.
     My little message reiterated the importance of sharing our small but extravagant offerings right in our corner of the world. Whatever our internet reach, the scope of our voice doesn’t matter-small is often Very Good in the blogosphere. Our extravagant sacrifices—like the woman’s anointing of Jesus’ feet—are never wasted.

     The sentiments shared by another team member echoed our speaker’s—Paul Pastor—author of “The Face of the Deep.” Paul was sure the two of us had somehow read his little green notebook prior to the meeting—there was such a seamless fit of God’s message to all of us.

Paul Pastor reading from his book about the Holy Spirit,
“The Face of the Deep”
   It was good to be among friends—excited/nervous/happy—and hear of the ways Jesus was living through people’s work. We were also ministered to–Paul is a gifted and anointed storyteller! From Lyla in the motorized wheelchair to Linda with her poems ‘only five people might read’ it made for an exhausting but encouraging day.
    The next morning I met another long distance friend for coffee—Carol—a writer who lived in the area and is part of Glory Writers.
This is the first time Carol and I had sat down for a heart-to-heart and the time went by way too fast. We talked about writing—practical stuff, dreams we have, avenues we’re pursuing—but when I drove away my heart sang. Words and writing brought us together but the fellowship was the greatest gift.
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     Closer to home is my bosom friend Kimberlee Conway Ireton. I first ‘met’ Kimberlee online when I began blogging four and half years ago and was delighted to find she lived near me. Yippee! Because I was brand new to blogging and faith writing I wanted to connect and ask her a million questions.
     There was also a chance to give some encouragement to this new mom and author who was juggling life with 2 year old twins and a 6 and 9 year old. I’ve had the opportunity to do so during lunches, picnics, coffee dates and visits to the park. I adore her kids.
     Kimberlee’s and my friendship has grown over these last three years as we’ve discovered a similar soulful response to the way we share our words and want others to be encouraged in their writing. Out of our shared convictions and commitment to this cause, Kimberlee and I co-lead a writer’s retreat last year called ‘Abide’. Out of THAT retreat came the birthing of Glory Writers, a Facebook group–open to anyone–and a place for ministry and fellowship and sharing words with friends. (click on the GW photo, also on my sidebar).
     Kimberlee and I met for coffee the other night to discuss our upcoming retreat, (“Dwell”–see page tab above), alternating clasping hands and bowing our heads, waving our arms in the air (that would be me) as we poured out our hearts about our dreams, our delights and a couple of dares. We discussed writing, the power and presence of God’s Holy Spirit and we talked soul deep about the books that were speaking to US.
     I have waited over 20 years for a bosom friend like Kimberlee, someone who shares my passions, who understands my tears of joy or my laughter and song. A friend who will grab a book to make a point and announce, “let me read you this,” and I match it with a passage of my own from the book in MY bag.
     The connection is our love of language, our love of the Creator and our love for each other. Because sometimes the words that sing the song in your heart are written and said by someone else.
I’m so grateful to God for my words with friends.  Who are YOUR vowels?
Take heart….it may take a while to find them.
~~~~~~~~~~~

That September Day

  

The soft and subtle glow of the sun sits right side of my shoulder. Bumper by bumper, we move at a close and constant pace while I relish the music washing over me. Grateful to not be harried and hurrying homeward,  I turn up the volume and conduct the air while I make the most of the slow wheels, asphalt-wise.

The twang of guitar, the soft snare and notes weave together, while a piano taps out a tune as if played by a nimble kitten.  A single voice enters the song, sending me back to a time when my mother sang these very same words. That was a long time ago, but the words are just as poignant today.
I wonder at my fellow drivers, if they’ll shake their heads while I agitate the air in time with the song.  I am moved, inside and out. Broadway lyrics are often deep, deep wells if you listen outside the lines.
                                Try to remember the kind of September
                                When life was slow and oh, so mellow.
                                Try to remember the kind of September
                                When grass was green and grain so yellow.
                                Try to remember the kind of September
                                When you were a young and callow fellow,
                                Try to remember
                                And if you remember
                                Then follow…
And while the world is remembering, as it should, that September Day, I would like to argue that it is good to remember simpler times, happier times, whole-er times. 
 Any September….the kind where the joy of the first day of school and crisp plaid dresses and black and white oxford shoes heralded the season ahead.  The season of fall and school carnivals and hide-and-seek and bike rides and roller skating.
The Septembers where neighbors herded and fed each others’ children, shared swimming pools and picnics, phone lines and fenceline conversations. 
 
At least that’s what I remember. And maybe your world has that kind of joy in it; I rejoice with you, for it is more and more rare. I daresay you are aware of that and praise God for it often.
Why sing? Why remember? 
Because our right here/right now world is tenuous and taut and fraught with fear. But there is a just-as-real and unseen world all around us, a kingdom where those Septembers and Mays and Januarys are beautiful, peopled with whole and happy citizens. 
Try to remember when life was so tender
That no one wept except the willow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
That dreams were kept beside your pillow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
That love was an ember about to billow.
Try to remember, and if you remember,
Then follow.
     So, in this right here/right now life we move forward because of faith—faith in what we know can be so. Faith that remembers how our God is with is, was with us, and will be with us in all of our Septembers.
     Not because there is no pain or horror or violence, but because there is a healer and a helper and a holder. And we can sing along with rich and full musical lines that help us remember.
                    Deep in December, it’s nice to remember,
                    Although you know the snow will follow.
                    Deep in December, it’s nice to remember,
                    Without a hurt the heart is hollow.
                    Deep in December, it’s nice to remember,
                    The fire of September that made us mellow.
                    Deep in December, our hearts should remember
                    And follow.
Let’s sing to each other. Let’s remember. Let’s follow.
~~~~~~~~~~
I have written about the experience of living through September 11th with my daughter Leah when we were visiting New York City.  I wanted to share this today because my mother died on September 11th. In 1984. And she loved to sing.
“Try to Remember” is from the Broadway musical, The Fantasticks, 1960.
I was singing along with Josh Groban’s recording from his ‘Stages’ album, cranked up loud. 
Very loud.