Monday, June 26, 2017
"Andrea?" Leo's voice floated toward her from the hallway.
Typically, she turned on the light over the front steps before he came home so he could unlock the door without fumbling in the dark. Of course she'd forgotten that too.
Leo draped his suit jacket over a dining chair and came to stand before her. He rested his hands on her knees. She lightly bounced her heels off the cupboard below her. He smiled, leaned in for a kiss.
"I ruined dinner."
She watched his nose wrinkle, then he covered the last two inches between them, claiming his kiss.
"I don't care," he whispered.
"I can't focus today. The whole day," she said emphatically.
"We'll order take out."
He went for a second kiss but she leaned past his face to lay her cheek on his shoulder. She inhaled his scent. Leo wrapped his arms around her waist, lifting her from the countertop. She draped her arms around his neck and pressed her knees against his hips. His muscles tightened to hold her steady while he walked to the sofa. When he laid her down there, she saw a wet circle on his shoulder. She hadn't realized she was crying.
"I left the stove on."
He returned to the kitchen, then back to the sofa a moment later. "You rest. I'll order our food."
Andrea closed her eyes. The resulting darkness was speckled with prismatic lights; beautiful lights she wished she could stop seeing. "I don't know if I can do this," she whispered. Opening one eye, she focused on the framed snapshot of her and Leo hiking Mount Moriah. "I have to do this."
Leo was on the phone, muffled through the walls between here and their bedroom. He'd be changing into jeans and a t-shirt. She remembered the warmth of his chest against hers as he'd carried her from the kitchen; the steadfast beating of his heart. Ba-boom. Ba-boom. Ba-boom. She envied it. Her heart raced and stuttered more every week.
"It's the medication," the doctor always answered with a wave of his hand. The irregular heartbeat; the shaking hands; the pain in her legs; the lights in her vision; the inability to focus her mind; everything had one of two answers: "It's the medication. It's the tumor."
"Are you resting?" Leo called from the bedroom.
"Mmmhmm," she responded, far too quiet for him to hear.
She felt sleep approaching. Each night she welcomed it with a vague thought that it might be perfectly okay if she did not wake up. Come morning, when her eyes opened and she saw Leo on the pillow beside her, she felt overwhelming relief that it had not been her last day. Would that morning sentiment eventually dissipate? This was the question she pondered as she drifted out.
When Andrea woke, moonlight filled the gap in the curtains. It was a spotlight on Leo, slumbering in the leather easy chair beside the sofa. His neck would be sore from the angle of his surrender to sleep. His plate and fork were on the coffee table, empty but for a few bits of rice. A clean fork and knife
were on the table in front of Andrea. Their arrangement suggested a plate had resided between them, until it'd become obvious she wouldn't be roused from her sleep. She knew she'd find it carefully wrapped and stowed in the refrigerator.
Propped against her fork stood a small rectangle of paper with red lettering: the slip from inside Leo's fortune cookie. Andrea picked it up. She stood, slowly, and moved to the shaft of moonlight to see the words he'd wanted her to read.
"A true companion journeys to the same destination, and will carry you when your feet will not."
Andrea clutched the paper in her fist. With a kiss to his forehead, she woke Leo. He stood, lifted her in his arms, and carried her to their bed. She rested her ear on his chest, seeking that reliable rhythm from inside of him. She rubbed her thumb against the soft stubble on his jaw, and prayed she'd wake up again tomorrow.
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
The black ink is still clear on the paper, but the yellowing of its edges has begun. The creases are tearing. It felt a bit delicate in my fingers today.
The lines that fill this page were written by my husband, long before he was my husband. I still remember my awe when he sent me the first two stanzas, a mere two weeks after our first date. If I've ever come close to swooning, that was the moment. Here I was, lingering in the dawn of our coupledom, wading in and testing the waters. Then, he offers this collection of words born in his heart and pulls me under.
Love requires taking chances. It requires wading into deeper waters and losing sight of your former shore. My husband more than anyone else has taught me this. Love also, for me, requires words. Words of beauty and truth. Every time I look at this worn page in the pocket of my purse, I'm thankful my husband understood that from the start.
Thursday, June 1, 2017
Some things have me thinking hard on the matter of life. It started with the suicide bomber cruelly choosing the concert in Manchester as his target and killing twenty-two adults, teens, and children. It continued with the news of the twenty-eight adults and children violently martyred in Egypt when they refused to deny their belief in Christ. Numerous others were injured in these attacks. Countless more were directly affected and traumatized.
And so, I think about life. Life as it is now, in this world in which my husband and I are raising our little children. In the midst of this thinking, I came across that photo. It's a recent one, taken at my kids' first time at a major league baseball game. All I have to do is look at it and I relive that night. We bought the tickets on a whim when we saw a low cost deal for some upcoming games. I was excited, as I always am when I attend a baseball game, but I was also worried. Would the kids enjoy themselves or be overwhelmed by the size and the noise of the place? Would they get bored and whine? Would they complain about having to stay in their seats for too long? Would they be too tired the next day? Typical motherhood worries.
My worry was silenced by their wonder: the wonder on their small faces when we entered the stadium; when the crowd stood clapping for the first time; when the fireworks were lit to celebrate each home run; when my son kept his eyes on the pitcher and batter as I explained a little of the game and he was rewarded with witnessing a hit to the outfield; when the racing sausages and the 7th inning stretch brought everyone to their feet in unity. The pair of them enjoyed every minute. They were thrilled at being part of something so much bigger than themselves.
So many things could have gone wrong. They didn't, but they could have. I think of the dozens of concerts my friends and I have attended from the time we were teenagers to the present without a doubt that we'd arrive back home safely. I think of the pilgrimages we've made to churches and retreats without the looming threat of being attacked for our beliefs. I think of the number of people in that baseball stadium with no thought of whether or not someone might make us a target. So many things could go wrong.
If the fears and worries win, we must withdraw from what is bigger than ourselves. That's what it comes down to, I suppose. Being part of what is bigger than ourselves is at the heart of life, and life cannot be sustained without the heart.
Friday, May 26, 2017
|Photo by Carrie Sue Barnes, Location: Rabbit Bay, Lake Superior|
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
"What was that, ma'am?"
I glance at the cab driver. "Nothing."
"It's alright, ma'am. I talk to myself plenty."
Do what's normal. It's what my aunt advised for after the funeral. After. Everything will be marked as before and after now.
Sliding the clasp of my necklace back behind my tired curls, I whisper at the empty seat beside me, "We'll talk about this at home."
Do what's normal.
Pay the driver.
Nod at the doorman.
Press the elevator button.
It dings its arrival. Is it always that loud? Two others board the elevator with me. Strange since the lobby echoes like a canyon yet I didn't hear them approach.
I grow impatient once the doors close. "I won't sleep in our bed, Ian. I can't."
My fellow passengers turn, chins over shoulders, then lower their eyes to the floor.
The doors open and I exit before speaking again. "The guest bed is comfortable. Don't worry about me." I stop, key in my fist. "Can you worry where you are?"
The breakdown starts in my knees. It will spread to my back and my arms, then my whole body will collapse to the floor. I picture myself curled on the green straw welcome mat in front of the Lancasters' door. "No." Digging the key into my palm, I walk.
"Fine. I'll sleep in the damn bed. Are you happy?"
The question does me in. I shove our door - my door - open and fall down in privacy. When the shaking and the tears pass, I roll to my back; knees up, feet planted. There's a tiny run in my tights that I pull at with my fingernail until it tears over my thigh. I stand and remove my black heels, ruined black tights, and black dress. When I drop the tights in the trash, I linger two seconds before adding the shoes and the dress.
Do what's normal.
"That's why I have to talk to you." Normal is talking to Ian about the day, the news, the basketball game he's watching that I don't care about and the book I'm reading that he doesn't care about.
From the bookshelves, I dump a box of photographs on the carpet. With the pictures spread in a half moon, I survey them without seeing details. I can't endure the details. "Where is it?" I shout a second before my eyes land on it. "Oh, Ian."
My favorite one. I trace my fingertip over his cheek, his mouth. I ache for a kiss. I haven't ached like this since our first years together when we still made love more nights than not.
"We'll talk more tomorrow."
My black bra and panties go in the trash too. The photo goes on his pillow beside me. I fall asleep flat on my back, hands resting one over the other on my stomach, like him.
Monday, May 15, 2017
I told them about a coworker who lately was offering frequent smiles and inquiries into how my day was faring. Occasionally he invited me to join a group of peers for lunch. Sometimes the flirtation was clear but more often he left the impression of straightforward, genuine friendliness. After encountering him each workday, I usually wondered two things: was I assuming too much about his interest and, if not, then why the hell was he interested in me? I'd sit in my chair behind the reception desk, running reports, handling mail, and finding ways to pass the slower hours. He'd walk by to reach our adjacent show room, on his way to fix whatever technical issue had cropped up on one of the machines. Eye contact, smile, small talk or a joke, then the day rolled along.
I consistently turned down the invitations to lunch. I kept the small talk brief. I silently questioned why this guy bothered to talk to me. My skepticism was not because I was clueless - which might have been excusable considering my lack of adult dating experience - but because I was afraid. Oh, how I was afraid. All the seeds for that fear were planted in earlier years, having nothing to do with this man and everything to do with me.
At dinner that night, as we waited for our entrees to arrive, my closest friends listened to me talk about this man. Eventually, one of them interrupted me with a single demand: the next time he invited me to lunch, I had to say yes. I laughed and she asserted the demand more vehemently while the others added their support. They did not relent until I agreed.
I spent the rest of that Saturday evening negotiating with the fears in my head. I spent the remainder of the weekend debating whether or not I hoped my coworker would invite me to lunch just one more time. The following Tuesday I shared a meal with my husband for the first time.
|A couple months after that first lunch date.|
|And 6 1/2 years later.|
Thursday, May 11, 2017
As human beings made by God for life with God, we crave contentment. We long for the peaceful satisfaction that can only come in full when we reach our eternal home. Oh, but how great a share of contentment can be ours now!
We must pursue contentment. The usual take on the matter tends more toward the idea that we have to stop doing, stop moving, stop trying at so many things if we are to experience contentment. Essentially, we must simply do less. We must suspend our pursuits. I am suggesting that we need not suspend, but rather change. Change what we are doing; change what we are moving toward; change what we are trying at if we are to exist in a contented state.
There is great gain in godliness with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world; but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content. - 1 Timothy 6:6-8"Godliness with contentment," i.e. becoming our true, full, made-in-God's-image selves with peaceful and grateful hearts and minds: this is a goal worthy of us all. It requires a purified perspective on life's genuine needs and true purposes.
Pursuing contentment means rooting out the things that detract and distract from contentment. What those things are will vary from person to person, and even change from year to year during the course of life. Right now, for me, the biggest detraction is things, literally. Stuff. Unnecessary belongings taking up the precious space of our family's small home. So, I am pursuing contentment. I am detaching myself from objects. I am realizing what we don't need, or even want. I am letting go and clearing out, and it is a relief. This process is leading me to greater satisfaction with our home and gratefulness for our needs being met. It feeds contentment.
Your pursuit of contentment may look quite different than mine. It could be detaching yourself from damaging relationships. It might involve setting your feet toward a calling that requires the sacrifice of a comfortable (or dissatisfying but secure) job. Maybe it is changing the way you spend your time, or doing whatever is needed to eliminate immoral habits. Maybe it is taking an honest look at how you treat yourself and your body, then altering both your perspective and your actions.
Contentment is blocked by a variety of things but it coexists consistently with three things: detachment, gratitude, and perspective. Cultivate these and contentment will sprout in abundance.
Meanwhile, if you want to feel the contentment as it takes root, I recommend a good rocking chair.
Friday, May 5, 2017
White sundress, soaked and clinging to her tan skin; brown hair disheveled and stuck to her cheeks and neck; she was a mess. She was beautiful. For a moment I couldn't speak.
"You're in a hurry." Her smile held steady as she raised an eyebrow at me.
"Well," I glanced at the black clouds emptying above us.
I stated the obvious, "It's raining pretty hard."
She laughed aloud, tossing her head back and laying a hand on her stomach. The sound warmed me. "It is," she agreed, "and you're as soaked as you can be so what's the point in hurrying?"
I had no answer to this. My eyes fell on the peach, open toed heels she held in one hand. "You aren't exactly dressed for this weather. Where are you coming from?" The question felt rude in this city of strangers who fill the sidewalks and trains together without so much as an effort at eye contact. My curiosity overwhelmed me.
"Maybe it's about where I'm going to," she answered with a wink and another mesmerizing laugh.
For a split second I wondered if she was sober but there was a clarity in her eyes that dismissed the thought.
"I just finished a job interview," I volunteered.
"Did it go well?"
She shrugged. Raindrops bounced off her bare shoulders. I had to stop myself from begging for information - any bit she was willing to offer would do. I'd never had much courage with women. There was too much mystery about them, and this one had more than her fair share. Thus there was no explanation for my continued questions.
"Is it really about where you're going to? Do you need to be somewhere."
"I already am somewhere."
"Will you stop with me for a coffee?"
She cocked her head. "I could. We could have a coffee, maybe a meal. Then a drink at a pub with a band. We could dance."
"Yes," I whispered, wanting all of it.
"Or you could dance with me right now."
"The time we'd spend doing those things, it'd only leave us with a good story. Memorable, but nothing more. I don't know about you but for me the highlight of that story would be the dance before we parted. I've learned to only care about the highlights. Couldn't we just have that dance?"
I reached my hand out, watching it with the sensation of seeing another and not myself. Her slender fingers tucked into mine.
"You should take off your shoes."
I obeyed. The sidewalk was warm under the soles of my feet. I rolled up the cuffs of my pants then pulled my already loosened tie off of my neck and tossed it down with my socks and shoes. I untucked my sopping shirt. All this I did with one hand so I would not have to let go of her fingers with the other.
She took a step closer and her scent reached me with my next breath. Coconut and vanilla were my best guess. Her arm slid around my waist and I rested my hand on the small of her back. We danced as if accompanied by our own private string quartet. When I surprised us both by spinning her out from me then bringing her back, I held in my laughter so I could hear only hers once more.
"That was my highlight," I declared as her laugh quieted.
She kissed my cheek and we parted. I didn't pick up my shoes until I saw her turn the corner and disappear. Then I finished my walk home, my pace slow, my feet bare, and my face lifted, welcoming the rain.
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Curious about the book? It is a historical fiction novel with Christian themes and a rich, multi generation story that will appeal to fans of Lynn Austin, Kate Morton, and Michael Phillips. Below is a bit of summary without giving too much away. Plenty of updates and musings can be found here on my author page. Like and follow if you are so inclined. Every one of you is a blessing on this lengthy adventure of becoming a published fiction author!
Secrets kept for eighty years come to light when Annie Walcott makes her great-granddaughter Laurel Thomas her final confidant. Together they delve into Annie’s memories of her service as a World War I nurse in France. Annie’s experiences challenged her to become a woman of depth and strength as they radically changed the course of her entire life.
Annie’s revelations of love, loss, and courageous sacrifice irreversibly affect Laurel, even bringing her very identity into question. The truth casts a new light on past wounds and unexpected possibilities for the future. Can Laurel discover the transforming power of authentic love and the courage necessary to pursue it?
Thursday, April 20, 2017
Which brings me to Easter. I intended to write a blog for Easter. A few non-coalesced themes floated around my mind. I even told myself it'd be best to write it early and schedule it to post on Easter. Hours and days passed and then the chance was gone. It was Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and now, here I am talking about my unfulfilled intentions.
And it is still Easter.
In the faith I practice and believe in wholeheartedly, we celebrate Easter for a full season. This season happens to be fifty days. Fifty days of joy, of a special call to gratitude for the gift of salvation, and of reflecting inwardly on the great miracle of Easter.
The memory of my sister and the reality that I missed my chance yet didn't miss my chance to write something for you all for Easter has me boarding a train of thought I'll ask you to ride with me. Here it is: could anything possibly be more appropriate to Easter than to consider how what we might assume is missed or finished is far from being so?
An arrest and beating; a turning of the tide of popularity and acceptance; a crucifixion and a grave: all indeed appeared finished.
We forget that our knowledge is partial. We cannot see the full picture or understand the complete, intricate plan. We forget that the shocking empty grave and mystical appearance of the resurrected Christ was not a shock to the One who orchestrated it all. If Easter is teaching me a particular lesson this year it is to never assume that the chance has come and gone to be who I am meant to be and live as I am called to live. The dream, the goal, the change: whatever it might be that you have resigned to past opportunities and assumed must be let go, think again.
The Father above ordained the day of your beginning. Do not concern yourself with identifying endings along the way, or even the final ending He also ordains (which even then will not be a true ending, if grace allows). He gives us our chances in abundance. Some we squander and some we take. Forgive yourself the former and be encouraged by the latter. Then start taking more and squandering less, and leave the rest to God.
Friday, April 14, 2017
We are the cross. The cross to which Jesus was willingly nailed; the cross which he accepted in unconditional love; the cross on which he bled; we are that cross. He united himself to us irrevocably. His mercy is scarred into his hands and feet, His blood covers us as it did the wood of that cross: seeping into it and becoming part of it. We are indelibly marked by his redeeming blood.
We are the cross. The cross that was the source of his suffering yet became his throne; the cross that appeared to shame him yet brought glory; we are that cross. He is enthroned in our hearts. He resides in our souls. Every repented sin becomes a glorifying display of the same mercy that held him to the cross.
We are the cross.
Monday, April 3, 2017
Ten months ago, I could jog half a mile before requiring an interval of walking. Two days ago, I ran a full 10K race.
No walking. No stopping. I ran 6.2 miles. Ten months ago, this accomplishment was not even in my sights. The suggestion of it would have evoked laughter. Yet here I am, able to say I did it and beginning to think about when I might do it again and how much better I could do it the next time around.
What's your "I wonder if I'm capable of this" scenario? You know you have one. Maybe you have more than one.
Here's another of mine: Ten years ago, give or take a few months, I began writing a story. That, in itself, was not a new endeavor. I'd written the starts of several stories. I'd toyed with the idea of writing a book. I lived for 20+ years with the persistent desire to write but without the gumption to pursue it at full tilt. Then ten years ago, I started this story. Unlike with the others, I didn't stop.
After 1 1/2 years, I had a legitimate first draft of a 126,000 word novel. Now I have a book publishing contract for my much revised, thoroughly edited, still imperfect 102,000 word draft of that story.
What's your "maybe someday" endeavor?
Today is someday. So is tomorrow. Whatever the reasons for your waiting, there are reasons to begin.
The incredible thing about trying is the way it snowballs. Efforts made produce belief in possibilities. Goals met give birth to new goals. Pride in accomplishments erodes doubt in yourself.
One of the hardest lessons I had to learn along the routes of both of these accomplishments is I have no idea what I am capable of. None of us do. Persevering toward the finish line of a goal is the only way to chip away at that ignorance. Then, when seemingly impossible goals are reached, a continued awareness that you still don't know your full capabilities will drive you to continue choosing now over leaving it to someday.
Friday, March 24, 2017
Writing Time: 30 minutes
Jealousy. It is nested in my chest.
It is not that I wish her to be otherwise. The night is better for the glow in her eyes. I do not wish it gone. I only wish to know it; to know the release of that laughter and the pleasure of my limbs swaying to the song.
"What are you thinking about?" my husband asks, his face close to my ear so I can hear him.
"Do you see her?" I point my chin in the direction of the woman. "In the blue dress."
He cranes his neck to see. The silver hairs at his temple catch the light of the dimmed sconces behind our table on the perimeter of the dance floor. For a moment I'm transfixed by his profile, then he turns and catches my gaze. He is confused.
"Was I ever like her?" The question is spoken before I can filter it. I expect more confusion. Instead his face is transformed by a broad smile.
He leans in close again. "Even better."
I rest my forehead against his cheek. His stubble is soft; a comforting texture on my skin.
"You still are," I hear him add at the pause between songs.
When I close my eyes, a memory plays like a film projection. My roommate and I walking past the fountain at the center of the university campus. A small congregation of other students, strangers, with a radio blasting and an impromptu dance party coming to life. One of the guys pulling me into the group. Dancing with them until the song ends; laughing through every second.
My husband speaks now and I am startled to realize he is reliving the same memory.
"I'll never forget watching you dance the night before we met. Sitting on the edge of that fountain, seeing you approach. You started singing along to the music. I hoped you'd stop and you did. I hoped you'd dance and you did. I hoped you'd keep laughing and you did."
I finish the familiar commentary. "You hoped I'd sit down to rest on the edge of the fountain and I didn't." I require a deep breath to keep the tears behind the border of my eyelashes.
"You were transcendent."
A sigh falls from my lips. "That girl is a stranger now."
"Not to me." He lifts my chin with his fingertips. "I still see her every day."
Baby blues. Such a trite, pretty name for the darkness I dwell in presently.
"You're still her. You are her and more."
I tuck his words into the deepest corners of my mind, where they are needed. Then I watch the confetti scatter from the hair of the woman in the blue dress.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
- Realize every earthly beauty was made for you but you have not earned any of it. Do you realize the world didn't have to be made beautiful? God could design creation however he pleased. Purely functional might have been the only standard. Beautiful, enjoyable, fun, wondrous, exciting, incredible - God gave creation these aspects for our edification and, most importantly, for us to know Him through creation. He did it for you. He made the colors, textures, scents, and sounds for you. He gave you comprehension of these realities so that you might share in His nature. This He did entirely out of love for you. Encountering your world with this perspective can cast it all in a light that leads to joy.
- Engage now and do so without self-consciousness. We are trained to multi-task; to be efficient and productive. We plan. We prep. We do, do, do. We miss so much. Engage in the present moment as thoroughly as you can manage. My husband has been working on teaching me this for years now. Be present and don't apologize for doing so. A reaction of joy can feel embarrassing, and what a sad statement that is about our accepted mentality! Lose the shame over experiencing joyful wonder at the bits of beauty and goodness that are taken for granted by many people.
- Believe your joy is a gift to others. They need it. Your family, friends, coworkers; the person sitting in the church pew with you; the cashier at the grocery store; the elderly man hobbling past you on the sidewalk; the tired parent handling the kids at the park. All of them need your joy. Your children need you to derive joy from their silliness. Your spouse needs to laugh with you and perhaps be reminded of the beauty shadowed by the daily grind. Your friends need a voice that replaces cynicism with joy. It is no surprise we become numb to the goodness available to us in life. Our senses are battered by harshness at every turn and joy is a healing balm.
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
While I was proud of the woman and her intention though, I was disappointed in the author of the article. Not only disappointed, I was angered. The brief paragraphs written to accompany each successive photo were filled with the same language that I see in every article about a mother's post-partum body.
Damaged. Fix. Ruin. Recover.
The word choices in this and other articles make clear the accepted perspective that a woman's body has been damaged by pregnancy. Her body is flawed now and needs to be fixed. The appearance of her physical form was good before pregnancy and bad now. I have even seen it stated as strongly as saying her body has been ruined. Every bit of body advice post-partum is geared toward recovering your pre-pregnancy form.
It took until my second pregnancy before I fully realized the error of this way of thinking. It bothered me before that, needling at my brain that there was something off. Somewhere along the way my second time around though, it clicked. Plain and simple, if you'll allow me to say so, it's bullshit.
Your body was specially designed to accomplish pregnancy, to carry and deliver a child. Many women are unable to do this since there are many factors that contribute to it occurring, so please, when you are blessed to be one who can and does accomplish this great feat, do not fall into the trap of believing you've ruined your body in the process! Our culture claims that we must teach girls to accept their bodies as they are, to be proud of their figures and not succumb to the pressure of airbrushed supermodel expectations. How can we ever instill in our girls a genuine, lasting respect for their bodies while perpetuating the current attitude toward the changes caused by pregnancy? Pregnancy and birth, while far from the only incredible abilities of a woman's body, are the pinnacle of the unique, amazing design of a woman.
Stop comparing yourself to other mothers whom you think have 'recovered' better than you have after pregnancy. Scoff at those who would label your stretch marks as flaws. Tune out those who wonder why you haven't fixed your abs yet. And please, please, correct those who refer to the physical effects of pregnancy as damage. Aim for health and strength, but do so with your eyes open to the reality that having a child has changed your body just as it changes everything else in life.
Friday, February 24, 2017
I've been saying yes for years. At the start, when it was yet another story idea taking shape in my imagination but this time something caused me to follow through on it. Then the year and a half spent writing the first rough (so, so rough) first draft. Oh, the hours spent and chai teas consumed at Copper Rock coffee house in Appleton! I swear, I need to arrange an author reading there. After the initial rejections from publishers when I naively submitted my barely edited draft to them, I kept saying yes. Through the years of gradual editing and fitting in writing time in tiny, occasional increments, still I said yes. And throughout 2016, when I made it a year of heavily editing the manuscript and learning skills I needed as a writer, I continued saying yes.
Over and over, I said yes because that is the only way to fulfill the dream of your heart. If there's another way, I don't know it. Today, I said yes to a publisher. It's the yes that's waited for me here, biding its time until I showed up to meet it. Each yes led to this one.
Time. We can't hold it. We can't create it. We are directed by it at every turn. Morning/Evening. Day/Night. Early/Late. Hours, minutes, seconds are the context of our lives. I operate in a constant state of 'not enough time.' At any given moment, I could list a handful of things for which I don't have enough time. I suspect a few of you can relate, and for you, I have an announcement: It's a lie.
It's a lie.
You have enough time.
How do I know this? Because God knows better than I do the time I need. How much time I have is not a changeable reality. God is the wise and perfect designer of time and of my personal share of time. So, if we can't change how much time we have and God designed our time perfectly anyway, where are we going wrong? Why at the close of the day are we saturated with the perception of inadequate time?
Because we waste it.
There is a place for entertainment in our lives. It is not, in itself, evil. God made us in His image: capable of both creating and appreciating sources of joy, laughter, deeply provoked thought, and beauty. Like so many aspects of our world, there are options of entertainment that can do good and nurture the mind and spirit, and there are others that will do harm and undermine our call to be the best versions of ourselves. These matters become time wasters when they, even the truly good ones, are given more of our time than they deserve. Measure each entertainment activity honestly: is it at the service of my best self? If not, give it none of your valuable time. If so, give it only a share of time that doesn't infringe on the time deserved by greater things.
Entertainment is so far from being our only time waster. For some people, it is hardly even an issue. The other matter I'd like to highlight is expectations. Oh, the time I waste on expectations! Now, before you think I'm advocating lowering all our standards for how well we do what we do, let me explain.
It is the plague of constant comparison and competition. We see the ideal Pinterest how-to guides; the Facebook posts of family vacations and activities; the hosted parties in spic and span homes; the celebrity glow of perfection reported and printed and photo shopped. We don't witness the trial and error before that blogger posted their picture perfect meal display. We don't hear the fights or know the stresses in the marriages and families on those vacations or participating in planned activities. We don't see the piles of mail and toys and laundry stuffed behind closed doors so the hostess can present a perfect home. We forget the bank accounts, the personal trainers and assistants, and the marketing strategy all contributing to the projected image of professional athletes and gorgeous celebrities.
We are immersed in expectations. Often without even realizing it, we strap on the yoke of earthly perfection and waste our precious time. In our aspirations to be good, successful, and happy, we mistake worldly expectations for worthwhile standards. They are not and never will be synonymous.
Stop sapping your time for other people's approval, or even for your own short lived self-satisfaction. You do not have enough time for that. You do have enough time to be the best version of yourself for you and everyone within your range of influence. You have enough time to live in a manner that glorifies God. You have enough time.
Can you repeat that to yourself? I have enough time. I have enough time because God created my time. I will not give it away to that which isn't worthy of the gift, be it undeserving activities or self-defeating expectations. Lord, I am not short on time. Help me to not be short on wisdom in my time.
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Writing Time: 15 minutes
Every couple went through times like this. That's what she believed. Turmoil was found in every coupling. Sometimes she was tempted to think their particular brand of turmoil could be worse than others but mostly she was confident it was not. It was what their bond, forged in passion and affection and joy, prepared them for.
Here with her ear over his heart, she hoped he still believed likewise. Despite her share in the mistakes and the pain they caused him, she hoped he still believed.
As his breathing slowed into sleep, she wracked her brain for how she could convince him that she was still glad she chose him. He needed to know she was still choosing him. That was the way she'd fallen short so often in these months. Her grandmother's words at her bridal shower all those years ago came back to her.
"Choose each other every day. Above everybody else, choose each other. Even when you're busy or you can't physically be near each other, make sure your hearts are still choosing each other. There are so many things and so many people to choose from. You'll be tempted to let it slide because you already have each other, but you'll only have each other for as long as you keep choosing each other."
In her naive, bridal bliss, the advice seemed quaint. Here, multiple kids, jobs, houses, and sufferings later, she understood.
"I choose you," she whispered into his chest and fell asleep to the rhythm of his heart.
Thursday, January 26, 2017
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Is it not an incredible privilege that we are designed to experience art in such a manner? And not only that we can comprehend the beauty and genius in art while it inspires emotional reactions and provokes new thoughts, but also that we are each unique in our experiences of it. The song I speak of may have little effect on you. The painting or symphony or film you love dearly, I may not like. The favorite novel, the beloved play, the incredible sculpture, or the enthralling music - they are not the same from one to another. We each have our own "songs" that hold ineffable power over us.
Oh, the glory of such variety in both artists and recipients of art.
When I listen to that song I am thankful we are made in the image of the original Artist. We are His finest work, His masterpieces. In turn then every piece of beauty and creativity that comes forth from humanity is an offshoot of His artistry. I hope there is a piece of art, a reflection of His artwork, that has reached you like this song has me. We are each greater for the "songs" that reach our hearts.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
Monday, January 9, 2017
She could not look away from his hands. Wide palms; long, sturdy fingers. Strong. They looked capable of holding her, all of her; something she hadn't thought of a man in years.
Three years and twenty-six days. Cora didn't keep track each day. That stopped during the second year. Every few months though, she added it back up. Numbers were a comfort to her; a steadying force reminding her some things made sense. This didn't begin with her husband's death. It was true since she first learned basic mathematics.
Three years and twenty-six days and suddenly (anything new since his death felt sudden), she was staring at a stranger's hands, thinking of how they would feel holding hers across a restaurant table, or on the small of her back, guiding her through a busy airport. Ordinary tasks of her husband's hands. A stranger. At the gym, no less. What was wrong with her?
"Less than yesterday." That's what her sister Tessa would say. Tessa thought Cora should move on. Cora thought Tessa didn't know what she was talking about.
She made up her mind to switch to a different treadmill in a different row, away from the stranger and his capable hands. Tessa's next question would be, "was he attractive?" Cora realized she couldn't have answered. She'd noticed nothing except his hands.
"It's a start," she heard her sister say in her head.
"It's an ending," she whispered as she began to run.
Friday, January 6, 2017
Thursday, January 5, 2017
Writing Prompt: Red Shirt
Writing Time: 30 minutes
There was a spot of something on her shirt. A speck of food, maybe. It was too small to tell unless he drew closer. Her shirt was red and the spot was gray. Justin looked away. He wasn't about to be accused of staring at Leah's chest because of a tiny spot of who knew what. She would tease him for weeks. He tried to pay attention. She was speaking with as much grim seriousness as her lovely voice allowed.
Leah's voice really was lovely. Justin could not think of a better word. Like she was on the verge of singing every time she spoke. It was distracting, just like that spot on her red blouse.
He moved his eyes to the tumbler of whiskey in front of him. She still filled his peripheral view and the whiskey was only background color to her movements. Lifting her wine glass to her dry lips. Pushing her hair off her cheek. She set her drink down too hard. The wine sloshed up the curve of the glass, a single drop escaping over the top to slide down toward the stem.
"Don't you have any thoughts at all, Justin?"
He didn't admit that. "When have you ever taken my advice?" He said it with a smile that reached neither his eyes nor his tone.
"I'm sure it happened once."
She smiled now. That smile would be the end of him someday. Once it lit her face, he felt desperate to do anything, say anything, to stop it from disappearing.
"You can't leave."
Her mouth abandoned the smile to form a small O of surprise. Justin regretted it instantly. She'd want an explanation.
"It's his dream job. I can't ask him to stay." Leah took another sip of wine.
"I didn't say you should ask him to stay." What was he doing? If the tumbler was empty he might have something to blame. His hand shook when he lifted his still full drink so he set it back down and pressed his fist into the polished wood of the bar.
Her almost-singing voice was sad. Or scared. Justin wasn't sure which but he could not meet her eyes after she said his name that way. It sounded like a rejection wrapped up in a mere six letters, two syllables.
"Are you hungry? Let's order some food."
He shook his head. "I'm hungry."
"Me too," she whispered as she placed her finger tips under his chin to move his face in her direction. They both jumped when her phone rang. She dropped her hand.
"Damn it." He reached his arm around her waist and pulled her to him, more roughly than he intended. She slipped off her barstool and stood, leaning her hip against his knee. Every coherent thought left his head as their lips met. Then one single reality reached him: she was kissing him back. Her hand was on the back of his head. Her smooth skin was warm against his end of day stubble. Justin started to stand as well when she broke the kiss.
Leah stayed in the curve of his arm, her eyes still closed. He held his breath. She laid her palms on his chest and he knew she could feel his heart pounding through his shirt.
"How long have you wanted to do that?"
He laughed quietly, placing a light kiss on her forehead. When she finally opened her eyes, he replied, "May 17, 2002."
Confusion wrinkled her forehead for a moment then she smiled too. "The end of year party in your dorm?"
"The day we met."
"15 years, practically."
Her phone rang again and she stepped toward it. He groaned a little for the loss of her nearness.
"I have to take this." Leah didn't meet his eyes when she said it. She was chewing her lip the way he knew so well; the way she did when there was a decision to be made.