Friday, April 26, 2013

Laughing with Happy Friends and the Writing Journey

If you live in the Northeast Georgia area, I'll be at the Festival of Authors in Lavonia, Georgia tomorrow, Saturday April 27. I'll be signing books from 10 until 1 in the Gazebo downtown or in the Depot if raining. Would love to see you there.

One of my great joys has been seeing various members of our writing group reach goals toward which they’d long worked. Some laboring on screenplays or novels have made progress, and we celebrate their advancement toward long-term success. For those penning nonfiction, we applaud their courage when they muster the courage to press send on an article or devotion, and then have the privilege of rejoicing with them when a piece makes it to print.

To that end, a member of our group, Mary Hansford, recently received news her article, “A Blessed Bee Sting,” was accepted for a national publication, Guidepost’s Angels on Earth Magazine.
 
When she first read her article to us, we knew it was something special, and obviously, the editors at Angels on Earth did too. Just out in the May/June edition, you may read it online here. 

“Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down” (Romans 12:15 The Message).  It’s a privilege to travel with other writers who have similar dreams to mine. We gather, share life, talk about our writing, and pray together. We rejoice over acceptances, grieve over rejections, and encourage one another to keep going when the fulfillment of dreams is deferred.

Through all of this, God works.

The writing path is most often a long and rocky one, but it’s a much better journey when we share it with friends. So, if God’s ignited a passion to be a writer in your heart, find a group with whom you can navigate the sometimes murky literary waters.

From my favorite of all writing mentors, Madeleine L’Engle: “…it takes time and energy and considerable pain to give birth to even the most minor of stories. The life of the artist is as much a life of discipline as that of the physician or the missionary. It makes incredibly austere and difficult demands. Are you willing to make the sacrifice? Don’t’ worry if you’re not. There’s nothing wrong in being a Sunday painter. Not everyone who writes is called on to make this work a vocation; but if you feel that you are called, than I can promise you great joy as well as conflict and pain.”

Whatever your calling, just know the joys as well as the sorrows are more blessed in the company of others.



Writers Maria, Paula, Mary, Carole, and Beverly




 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

When terror makes you want to hide


I left my computer about noon yesterday to work on a project in the studio out back. Last night when I came inside, I learned the sad news about the terrorist attack during the Boston Marathon. Our prayers here go up for all those touched by this tragedy, but especially those families who’ve lost loved ones or have someone fighting for their lives.

Years ago, my husband and I, along with our children, spent three summers ministering in a camp near Boston. In our time there, we came to love the people of the north shore, and only weeks before the events of September 11, 2001, we walked the Freedom Trail in Boston. With images of sites integral to this nation’s birth fresh in our minds, we found the freedom those places symbolized under attack one morning in September.

Acts of terror always seek to take away our freedom.

Yesterday, I tried to get the studio to a place where I could do some writing out there. Unused since last summer, it’d accumulated all manner of junk, and I prepared to put a fresh coat of paint on the walls.

When I heard about what happened during the marathon, the Lord brought to mind what my daughter, during a difficult time in her life, painted high on one of the studio’s rafters.
 
 

The Latin, “Et lux in tenebris lucet.”

It means, “Light shines in the darkness.”

Freedom is a light in the darkness. As fear tries to steal away our ability to gather in stadiums and cheer on our favorite team, to enjoy music in large venues, and to run marathons on bright spring days, we must not cower behind fortress walls, but determine in our hearts that the torch of liberty will continue to shine.

But how?

The apostle John wrote, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).

In The Message, we find this translation, “The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out” (John 1:5).
 
Many families face the darkest time in their lives today. A shadow falls over the city of Boston itself, but there’s a light no darkness can put out--that inextinguishable light that is God.

The “Life-Light” Jesus knows a thing or two about dark places. Because he spent three days in a pitch-black tomb and rose resplendent, he enables us to live above fear. Yes, just as after previous terrorist attacks, we’ll be more cautious, we’ll cringe a bit during fly-over’s at football games, we’ll stand in long security lines at airports, and we’ll pray more, but we’ll also live as people who won’t let fear win.

I didn’t paint over my daughter’s writing today. I painted around it. Because when darkness threatens, I’ll see it and be reminded, “Et lux in tenebris lucet.”

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wayfaring strangers and news that shakes us


Cedar waxwings fluttered in the pear tree and waded in the birdbath.

I grabbed my camera.



 

Apparently, the birds merely stop off here on the way from parts further south before migrating to northern nesting grounds in May.

A day or so later, I’m in the car with my college age son.

“Mom, I want you to hear something.” He often shares from his current musical interests—most recently leaning toward purely electronic music.

“So, what are we hearing today?”

“Johnny Cash.”

Didn’t see that one coming.

Evidently, he’d inherited a bit of his mom’s eclectic musical tastes.

He pressed a button on his iphone, and a playlist began.

We toured Folsom Prison, walked the line, heard from a boy named Sue, and went to Jackson with Cash’s beloved wife, June Carter Cash.

The song that grabbed me, though, was “I Am a Poor Wayfaring Stranger.”

When news shakes us, like that of this past weekend, it helps to remember that much like my cedar waxwings, and the wayfaring stranger, we are indeed just passing through.

The piercing ache of loss, the tyranny of “if onlys,” and the seemingly unanswerable questions will give way to a jubilation not subject to the brokenness of this life.
 
The apostle Paul said it well, “…we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies!” (2Corinthians 5:1-5 The Message) .

The suicide death of a friend years ago almost put me under, too. How the pain must sear to lose a child that way. For two years I obsessed on the "Why?" and stumbled through barely able to keep going.  Over time, God showed me I didn't have all the pieces to find or even understand the answer to that question this side of heaven. He enabled me finally to unclench my fists and let it go.
 
I didn't think anything good would ever come of those lonely, hard days, but as I look back, I see it was during that time God confirmed His call on my life to write. In fact, I believe God used the writing to help me find the healing I needed.
 
It's way above my paygrade to even make a guess what God would do through horrific tragedy, but I know it will be something mighty.  A part of this could be to bring forth the truth that anyone, any family can deal with mental illness--hopefully minimizing the stigma so that precious souls don't have to suffer their whole lives in silence.
 
So thankful for this dear woman and this grace filled writer who are honest about their own struggles with depression and offer many hope.
 
I'm going there to meet my Savior
To sing his praise forever more
I'm just a-going over Jordan
I'm just a-going over home

We are in many ways Cash's wayfaring strangers. But while we’re here, we keep alert for those laboring under heavy loads, and know that even this side of Jordan, God is at work to minister in ways beyond our understanding to bring joy in the midst of suffering.

Prayers going up for the Warrens and others families grieving a similar loss.

More on this woman's ontinuing struggle

Thursday, April 4, 2013

When it seems all the beauty is falling down.


Rain moving in, so late yesterday I captured a neighbor’s stunning ornamental cherry tree, because I knew, the forecast deluge would shear the blooms from the tree.



 
Sure enough in a steady downpour this morning, the ground grows pink from a blanket of petals.

So, I’m talking to my daughter about a fender-bender she was involved in yesterday--the verdict  on the ticket amount yet to be determined as well as other fallout like insurance rates.

“So much money gone.” She splits her time between school and a part time job and laments the hard earned money draining away.

Petals falling down.

 A quote from this incomparable writer comes to mind again, “Can it be that, that which seems to oppose the will of God actually is used of Him to accomplish the will of God? That which seems evil only seems so because of perspective, the way the eyes see the shadows. Above the clouds, light never stops shining.”

Can it be?

As we look across life at all the petals falling down—the dreams derailed, lives seemingly cut short, relationships shattered, sicknesses borne, and financial reversals, we study hard the words in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

All things?

All things.
 
No one was injured in the accident yesterday, and that is worth an infinite number of ticket amounts. In fact, the cars were barely damaged. Another praise going up.

What we often don’t know is how God works behind the scenes in this situation and others, and we may never know in this life. As we continually offer our prayers, we trust that what God has allowed, God intends to use.

If my neighbor’s tree were a fruit bearing cherry tree rather than an ornamental one, next we'd see tiny cherries forming. Fruit follows falling petals. So for us, if we cling to God in a deluge, we’ll find fruit follows.

The rain pelts the roof right now, but as one beauty fades, it gives way to another of green leaves and lush grass made full by the mulch of all the petals fallen down. 

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