Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Glenn, Fisher, Reynolds, and Moore, what to do when the icons fall

When John Glenn made history by being the first American to orbit the earth in 1962, the mission impressed me so much, for Halloween, I eschewed the girly princess and fairy tale costumes, and instead chose an astronaut uniform. Because of John Glenn, I believed I could actually be an astronaut.

How amazing that when my own children were about the same age I was when Glenn circled the earth the first time, he went into space again as the oldest person to ever do so, a member of the space shuttle Discovery crew.
Me as the astronaut and my sister as Mickey Mouse.
Tall for my age, those cowboy boots helped cover the short pants gap.
My son as the astronaut, but my daughter didn't just wear girly costumes.
 I also have a photo of her as a pirate, one of my favorite pictures.
 
A bit of that childhood aspiration came back, because once more John Glenn was teaching me something and that is we can never let age determine how high we can go.

A decorated World War II and Korea fighter pilot as well as a United States Senator for twenty-four years, He died at 95 on December 8 of last year.

Flags flew at half-mast. We grieved.

Then on December 27, we lost Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher. I cried when I read the news. I saw the first Star Wars, yes, on the big screen when I was in college. Later, when my little son became fascinated with the Star Wars story, Princess Leia began showing up on the den floor, the dining room table, and occasionally even went on vacation with us as a little plastic figure wearing an amazingly detailed replica of her movie attire. I was privy to many of her new adventures above and beyond the ones depicted in the movie.

Who could believe only five days after Carrie’s death, her mother, Debbie Reynolds would die? Debbie Reynolds of Singin’ in the Rain fame, who danced and sang her way alongside Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor in what some have called the best movie musical ever made. At our house, we have laughed ourselves silly many times over a lesser-known movie she made playing opposite Tony Randall oddly called The Mating Game. You can’t watch it and not laugh out loud at the slapstick comedy.

Then last Wednesday, while sitting in a hospital with a family awaiting news of a family member’s surgery, a television played in the background and someone said, “Mary Tyler Moore died.” For just a tiny moment, the earth seemed to pause, as I looked up and saw the news bulletin on the screen. I had just been writing in recent days about Mary’s influence on my life in a book project I’m working on. I called her my seventies “paragon of fashion,” but I’m wondering now, if she’s been that for my whole life. She was even the reason I liked orange for an oh, so brief period. If you know me now, orange is not even on my color wheel.

However, Mary was much more. She inspired a whole generation of women like me, that they could after all life had thrown them really “make it.”  And when things don’t go the way you’d hoped in your life, it’s a good thought to hold on to.

So, in a few short weeks, several iconic figures fell. Although, I may not have been in the same political, spiritual, or ideological camp as these folks, still they had given me much.

As those pillars start toppling, what do folks do who don’t know there is One who will always remain steady in our lives?

When a beloved pastor and mentor planned his move from this town many years ago, it left me and many others devastated. What would we do without him? We had so counted on his wisdom and guidance. However, in his final words of the last service he preached, he gave us these words from Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday and today and forever.”

Those powerful words sustained us in the days and weeks ahead as we realized that we had been clinging to Him because He loved God, and now it was time to cling to God alone.
When the lifelong heroes like John Glenn die and the cultural landscape shifts as it has in the past few weeks, we once more take comfort that there is One who never changes, who is eternal.


Many years later those words became part of Glenn’s social media hashtag: #Godspeedjohnglenn.

So, God Speed John Glenn . . .  and Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds and Mary Tyler Moore.

Thank you for being part of our lives.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

When you're up against impossible, yet again


As I shared last week, I’m deep into writing another book project.

Nonfiction this time.

From everything I read, it’s almost impossible to get a nonfiction book published these days. Many publishers are looking for a person who already has a sizable platform, someone famous, which would translate into mega book sales. I am not anyone famous and actually prefer anonymity in many ways.

Yeah, that word impossible haunts me.

So, why would I write this book?

Because I believe God is leading me to do it.

The messages began last April. Nine months prior, I had written “The End” on a novel on which I was working. That evening, I received a phone call my dad had suffered a stroke. Twenty-two days later, he died, and since then, I had only edited what was already written and kept up with posts on my blog. A hard grieving time, it felt as if someone pulled the plug on all the creativity that drove my fiction. I had worked continuously on a fiction project as either a screenplay or novel for almost ten years.

Now―nothing.

I almost became panicky about it, thinking the work I considered my calling was over.

Then, God began sending dreams and scripture all with a message indicating He was doing something new.

What, I wondered. Did it have anything to do with my writing?

I had absolutely no idea.

I’m keeping the details close for the time being, but in June, I read a humorous nonfiction book from a Christian author I know. As I read, God brought ideas to mind for my own book project―a memoir.

No, no, no, I thought. I have never wanted to write a memoir. First, it’s so difficult to find a publisher for them, and I didn’t want to be that person at writer’s conferences going around saying “I’m writing a book about me.” Most of the folks I meet at conferences are doing just that. Nothing wrong with it and great to have for your kids, but it’s not what I wanted to do.

Additionally, I already have a blog with over 700 posts on it. That’s a whole lot of what I think about a gazillion topics.

However, this new project was a unique perspective from a very narrow period in my life, which made it a little more palatable for me to accept.

I made an appointment with the book’s author to discuss his process while writing the book and found him helpful as well as encouraging when I shared my idea.

Then, I did what I’ve done many times when faced with a situation that seemed impossible, I began―one page at a time.

I worked on it for several months, and then I hit a wall. In order to write this project, I would have to go back through my journals from that period. Even though the struggles noted in those journals are resolved now, still those times were hard to relive. The pain of those difficulties on top of the grief, which I was still experiencing, seemed too much.

 I put the project down.

When the ginormous viral bug hit Jerry and me over Christmas, and I was out of commission for weeks, it gave me time to think once more where I was headed with my writing. The end of December is when I set up writing goals for the next year. What were my goals?

God began bringing this project back to mind.

Dread came over me, but at the same time, God brought a dream back to mind that He gave me weeks earlier. I was in my back yard and a red Chevy Nova was chasing me. I knew when I woke that because Chevy Novas are considered muscle cars, God wanted to give me power, but I was running from it. But power over what?

The truth is probably obvious to you as you read this, but it was quite oblique to me. Then at a speaking engagement, I was sharing this dream just off the cuff with another woman who experiences dreams in the same way I do. “Oh,” she said, “It’s your back yard, so God wants to give you power over your past.” I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it.

Of course. Power over my past. Great, but what in my past? I still didn’t associate it with my writing until I began looking at the writing goals for this year. God wanted me to write this project, and He was already saying He wanted to give me power over my past to do it. He would help me face those journals.

Amazing.

So, I’m on the 1,000 word a day trajectory and then there’s all the editing to do. Most nonfiction books are sold off a proposal, but anything to do with a memoir needs to be finished up front.

I walked into my office the other day and picked up a gift I received from my granddaughter at Grandparent’s day in November. She had made a paperweight for me. Guess what the verse is?

“. . . with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
 

When I received it, I loved the idea of it, but it wasn’t until the past few days it hit me―God had used that sweet girl to send me the message nothing is impossible with Him and that I can write this book. The paperweight is a constant reminder to keep at it.

So, my computer is like another appendage these days. Some folks don’t realize that writers really do work eight, ten, sometimes twelve hours a day. My physical therapist knows it, because my back is such a mess because of the writing I do.

But I am determined. I’m not sharing the details of the project, because someone has said, if we talk too much about our writing, it has a tendency to get away from us, but I’ll keep you updated on my progress. Friends, if I come to mind, would you pray for me regarding this new endeavor?

It will be much appreciated.

If you have an impossible type project facing you, well, we’re in it together. But most importantly, we’re in it with God.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

When you don't know what to do next


I am currently immersed in writing a new project which seems to be using every creative cell in my brain. So, today, I'm pulling a post from the archives, which God is using to speak to me. Hope it helps you, as well.
Sometimes the path seems a little fuzzy.





And we long for definite direction a message in a dove's beak or a sign. 


 
A few days ago in Streams in the Desert, I read an excerpt from F.B. Meyer, “Beloved, whenever you are doubtful as to your course, submit your judgment absolutely to the Spirit of God, and ask him to shut against you every door but the right one… In the meanwhile, continue along the path, which you have been already treading. Abide in the calling in which you are called, unless you are clearly told to do something else.”

Oswald Chambers says, “Do the next thing.”

So, we continue even if the road narrows to a barely discernable trail in a dense wood. We take the next step in the light we have.

It’s good to know that even if our way at times feels like a dead end road to nowhere, across it falls the shadow of two cross members.




Early in last century, Jessie Pounds wrote these lyrics:

I must needs go home by the way of the cross,
There’s no other way but this . . .
The way of the cross leads home.

Jesus goes before us, and his way leads home.

Consoling words for confusing times.

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him… “(Psalm 37:5).

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What to do when you're snowless


The weatherman pointed to the numbers on what I assumed was a green screen. “Two to three inches of frozen precipitation,” he said confidently with a big smile on his face. He seemed trustworthy.

I just love snow.
 
 

So, like others in our area. We battened down the hatches. We made the trip to the grocery store, actually two grocery stores, because that precooked bacon with no nitrites at Trader Joe’s is yummy(they don't even pay me to say that). We added a trip to a big box because I had to stock up on birdseed and suet, too.

I made sure the Styrofoam covers were on the outside faucets and swept the patio so the snow wouldn’t have leaves sticking up through it. I wanted some great pictures.

We fetched the formerly feral Mama Kitty and brought her inside. She was extremely grumpy about being pinned up for days.

Then we waited.

And waited.

I even got up during the night to check outside.

Four flakes and cold rain.

Seriously.

Then for two days, temperatures that would make a polar bear shiver

Snowless.

If I’m going to be cold, I’d like to have something to show for it.

But nature didn’t see it that way this time.

Mama Kitty glared at me. I went out and knocked the ice out of the birdbaths. Disappointment and big sigh.

Perhaps, in a greater way, here at the beginning of the year, you’re experiencing disappointment because you thought things would be different today. You trusted someone who didn’t come through. You’ve gone to great measures to prepare in anticipation of what you thought would happen. But it didn’t.  

Life can be like that.

However, what you choose next can change everything.

Here at the crossroads of dismay and hope, we have to choose hope no matter what. Because the minute we turn in the other direction, it’s a rough road of constant regret.

Yes, you’re probably going to be let down again at some point. On the other hand, who knows what God will do?

So, even though the temps are going to be in the sixties for the next few days, I’m not putting my snow boots and down vest up yet. The biggest snow of my life fell on April 1, so we have plenty of time.

“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us” (Ephesians 3:20-21). 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Your One Ringing Bell January Survival Guide

As I mentioned last week, my husband, Jerry, and I have been trying to get over a bug. Well, bronchitis now. It hasn’t made for a great start to the year. And January is always a challenging time, because I am not a cold weather gal. In fact, I’m very thankful my son and a couple of friends decided to have their birthdays in January to give the month a little happy. When January 1 rolls around, I have to get proactive to fight the cold, dark, often rainy days. It’s easy if your resources are unlimited to book a flight to a tropical island and spend a month basking in the sunshine, but most of us have to figure another way to navigate nature’s nasty nods at the beginning of the year.




Ten suggestions in no way conclusive or in any particular order.

1.       Flowers. If you haven’t already done this, go to a plant nursery and walk around. See what’s blooming and buy it. In my area, that’s probably going to be a camellia, which comes in all kinds of amazing colors. When the ground warms up to the point you don’t need a jack hammer to dig a hole, plant the shrub and look forward to something wonderful blooming in January next year. There’s nothing like having a pink bloom in your yard smiling at you on a gray day. If you live in an apartment or are just not a gardener, go to the grocery store and spend five dollars on a bouquet for your office desk or dining table at home. Best money you’ll spend this month.

2.       Set a creative goal for the month. For me, that often means beginning a new fictional story, which I haven’t done in quite a while. I also plan to complete a couple of paintings this month. When February rolls around, it may have been gray outside, but I’ll have something wonderful to show for the time spent indoors.

3.       While we’re talking about goals, this is a good time to set goals for the year. What do you want to accomplish? Get a list going. Put them on your calendar so they stay before you.

4.       Read a happy book. Or reread a happy book―nothing where someone gets a terminal disease. Anything by Jan Karon usually works. I especially loved her recent Come Rain, or Come Shine. Or read gardening books, if that works for you. If I can’t actually plant flowers, I can dream about what I will plant.

5.       Especially focus on what God is saying. That means keeping his word before you. So, make a point of reading your Bible and devos every day. Keep yourself spiritually strong. I often will jot a verse down and put it over the kitchen sink or on my desk. You’d be surprised how quickly that verse gets commited to memory.

6.       Try to keep the exercise going. Usually there’s at least part of a day that works for Lucy and me to make our rounds.

7.       Go to T.J. Maxx and study the new home furnishings (They do not pay me to say that). I don’t usually buy anything, but I get a few new ideas for how to freshen up what I already have. I can’t tell you how many times that involves spray paint. While reading a Martha Stewart Gardening book, I find she’s a big spray paint gal, too. Even made a couple of Styrofoam garden containers look like burnished copper with the stuff. Brightening the space you live in can help you and your family find a refuge against the cold in more ways than one.

8.       Take a class. My daughter is starting a new oil painting class this month. January is the time new art, gardening, Bible Study etc. classes usually begin, so check online to see who’s offering what. Many classes are very affordable.

9.        Be intentional about setting up lunch dates. It’s a good month to really connect with friends after the blur of December activity.

10.   Finally, put some thought on this particular verse, because I think it helps set the tone for the month. “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse . . .  Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies” (Philippians 4:8-9).
Happy January, anyway!
 

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