Friday, July 31, 2009
--Dr. Alexis Carrel
I am fissured. Each tap, each scrape, and each rasp comes at the risk of crumbling. There are veins of strength flowing beside those of weakness; sometimes shaded so that the eye cannot see nor the hand feel where I am weakest. Will I emerge or will I be resigned to dust?
Betimes, the stone is smoothed, a hand gliding over its surface with infinite care, reverent awe in each touch. Other times there is the harsh crack of wood against metal and slabs of the whole are severed; cut away, never to be rejoined. There are moments of darkness and anguish, fragile marble crushed beneath a frenetic assault.
At a moment, the hewn rock reflects an enduring beauty, a grace that stems from origins unknown. At others, there is the bladed jut of marble, clawed furrows in the streaked, impure surface. It is both masterpiece and monster beneath the twins of sun and shade.
I once believed it was the Master’s hand alone that shaped me. I believed that every nick, every polished gleam was that of His infinite wisdom. I find myself thinking that the Master is, at times, a helpless spectator.
Those times that I am sheared--rock broken to slide away from me and shatter--those times, my hand bears the chisel. Those times, the hammer is wielded with a force so painful it cannot—could never be—His. In that hour, light rends a bruised sky and the torturous thunder is but an echo of struck stone.
It is after the image has been battered by my own hand that the tool is pried from my fingers. It is while I am bowed beneath a weight of my own infliction, the Master toils through an endless night.
In that blushing dawn, I must confront truth. There isn’t a way to hide from the destruction. A despairing thought flickers, What can be left? There is nothing that can be shaped from this broken heap of stone. I raise my eyes, struck to have shamed that great artisan with my imperfect hand.
Before me, emerging from the slashed peaks of my mistakes, is my face. Filtered light dances over a smoothed cheek and a forever-frozen tendril of hair curling over my shoulder. An arm is outstretched, elegant sinews flexed beneath flawless skin. Stone yields to flesh, coaxed from rudimentary elements until it becomes more than veined marble—it becomes both memory and masterpiece. It is more than I am. It is a vision of myself more whole in its unfinished state than I have ever been in a lifetime.
Where I cleaved stone, He made way for the curved slant of my shoulder. Where I scored with the slip of my hand, He smoothed the ridges of my brow. Where I had weakened it most, He gave it strength. Every imperfection vanished under the loving guide of His hand.
In the morning light, He toils there still.
It is only after the harsh planes of my efforts--my rages--are transformed that He stands back. He wraps my fingers around the tools and I protest. What if I should destroy what He has wrought? What if, this time, there can be no way to heal what blow I may deal this soft stone?
With the dust of my reshaping on His skin, He places His hand over mine. “It isn’t finished.”
As morning spills through glass, banishing the last vestiges of darkness, I stand small before the enormity of my future. It is evident, the changes I have made. Yet, like a mantle of warmth, His changes envelope the burgeoning statue and make it beautiful.
I am frightened as I lift my hand to begin anew. Much of the shape of myself is buried beneath the marble. Despite my wreckage, despite His healing of it, there is still so much to do. Though I fear I may destroy what He has saved, I set my hand back against the warming stone. It is not too late to make something of it.
“It isn’t finished.”
Saturday, July 25, 2009
“If you don't feed Facebook, it doesn't feed you.”
THIS POST by Kristi Stevens has been percolating in my brain all day. Kristi is always one to inspire and uplift me and I love to read her stuff (book or blog) because she’s not only talented, but very wise as well.
In order to understand where I’m coming from, I’m going to share a little bit about my thoughts on Kristi. I met her for the first time in June of this year at a writer’s conference. We were part of the same workshop group and I had the lucky pleasure of not just enjoying being in the group with her but of being invited to share an evening with her and some friends. All of us had a great time and, I believe, began to nurture some wonderful, budding friendships.
That night, Kristi shared a story with me that changed my life. You can read part of that story HERE.*
Kristi is a gorgeous person, inside and out, and when I first met her, I was terribly intimidated by her. She’s GORGEOUS. And WAY TALENTED. I’m just very lucky that she gave me a chance to know her better because I found out that gorgeous and talented as she may be, she’s also just a lovely person to be around. She’s funny and witty while also being both wise and intuitive.
Today she wrote a post about distractions and diversions. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about because I’ve wondered if I just have my plate too full. Again, enter Kristi’s wisdom.
While I don’t have all of my own answers, I am ruminating on my solutions. You see, blogger is one of my distractions. I love it. I love reading people’s blogs and getting to know them. I love hearing their stories, sharing their triumphs and setbacks, connecting with people who get me in a huge way, and learning from people who are way smarter than me. But is has taken up a lot of my time.
Having pinpointed this as a “dis-traction”, I’m torn about what to do about it. I really do enjoy reading blogs. I really do love the friendships I’ve formed. Can I go cold-turkey? Do I even want to? Perhaps it’s just an issue of prioritizing and putting things in their proper place. Perhaps I’m not seeing the forest for the trees. Am I feeding my facebook or I am starving my dreams?
There are things I could probably do to save time and keep up the blogging. I could read fewer blogs. I could stop finding new ones. I could leave shorter comments—although I feel not me when I do that. (I work very hard to leave honest, heart-felt comments.) Does any of this matter or do I just think it matters?
I don’t really expect answers and I’m not really asking for advice but I just wanted to share with you, 1- Kristi’s excellent posts, and 2-my thoughts on things. I may be slowing down a bit and I wanted to let you know.
Please know that I enjoy your blogs. I enjoy my friendships with so many of you. There have been stories shared with me that enrich me and make me strive to be a better person. None of this is a reflection on the quality of content on anyone’s blogs—it’s merely me, thinking aloud.
For now, just know that I care and I’m still here.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
“The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one comes from a strong will, and the other comes from a strong won’t.”
--Henry Ward Beecher
I’ve been struggling with a re-write lately and so I turned to The General to whine (because if you can’t whine to your hubby, who can you whine to?). The conversation (via instant messaging) went a little something like this:
Me: I’m having a devil of a time getting back into writing. What’s the matter with me?
TG (The General): The problem with you getting back into writing is that it’s a hard hurdle. Once you haven’t been writing, you have to get back into the writing gear. Often times, when you feel inspired to write, you just sit down and do it, and unknowingly push yourself over that first hurdle.
Me: But this is a re-write
TG: When you’re working on something you’ve already done, you have to force yourself over that hurdle consciously. You should just start writing it. If it doesn’t turn out better, you can always write a story about a man eating waffles.
TG: It’s a story just to get you over your writing slump. Imagine sitting down to breakfast, just to have that syrup smothered waffle leap off the plate and try to suffocate you by adhering itself to your face.
Me: That would be a bit of a problem.
TG: Then imagine the parents walking in and the victim trying to explain why he was rolling around on the floor with a waffle on his face.
Me: That would be a bit of a quandary.
TG: And the reason that dogs really get up on the table is to protect us humans from said waffles.
Me: *bursting into laughter* That’s clever honey!
I love that man. :)
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
My talented friend, Ali Cross, bestowed upon me the Honest Scrap award. A brief word about Ali: She is celebrating her upcoming birthday, she’s a wonderful writer, she homeschools her kids (mommy-of-the-year-award), and she is one of the most genuinely kind people I’ve ever met. You should totally check her out. Thanks, Ali! You’re awesome!
There’s four little requirements to this award and they are:
1. Thank the person who bestowed the award to you, list their blog, and link.So here goes:
2.List 10 honest things about yourself and post a copy of The Honest Scrap Logo on your blog
3. Pass the award on to seven (7) other people whose blogs you find brilliant in their content or design.
4. Notify the bloggers you choose for the award and hopefully they will follow the above requirements also.
1. My name is completely, utterly, and absolutely my name. =] Well, the first two letters are!2. I was once an egregious offender of adverbs. *eyeing number 1*3. I have an excessive fondness for verbosity.4. My byline has been mistaken for that of fictional character Lieutenant (Lt.) Elliot from Stargate SG-1. No, we are not the same. Just ignore that giant rip in the space-time continuum in my office.5. Someone once found one of my posts by doing a Google search for the word: “chloroform.”6. According to my stats, one of my biggest hits to the blog is from a post I kind of regret writing. Irony.7. I don’t like reality TV. Never have. I don’t watch shows like Survivor, The Bachelor/ette, or even American Idol. *gasp!*8. I’m a speed reader.9. I met my spouse when I was 13 years old. We’re coming up on 9 years this August and he’s still my best friend.10. I love my blog friends & followers. You guys are the best!
3. Eowyn5. Tess Hilmo
Thursday, July 9, 2009
“Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God.”
Last night I had the opportunity to help several kids go horse-riding at my parents house. Just before we were getting ready to saddle up, my father turned to me and asked me if I might help him with a particular horse. He said something to the effect of, “You seem to have a way with her and I don’t have to worry about whether or not you can handle her.”
I can’t remember the exact wording he used (oh a faulty mind!) but I remember that it lit something up inside of me and I called out, “Thanks, Dad! That’s like, the best compliment you’ve given me in 3 years!” My dad, clever fellow that he is, said, “It hasn’t been 3 years since I complimented you!” and turned with a smile to go out to the barn. Yes. I love my daddy.
It just felt so good to hear my father say that, to know that in some small way, I did something that made him proud.
So the night went on. We warmed up the horses, got them groomed and saddled, and spent the remainder of the evening helping kids of all ages embrace the beauty and inner-peace that riding a horse brings to a person.
*Side note, here* My dad often quotes this beautiful saying: “There’s something about the outside of a horse that’s good for the inside of a man.” –Sir Winston Churchill
Truer words were never spoken. (Which is also a quote, I’m sure.) I like to change it up a little and say, “The back of a horse is good for the heart of a man.” For me, it is. My heart is lighter, my mind softer, and my breath comes easier after I’ve ridden.
Back to the story: When helping the kiddos to ride, I tried to speak to them as they went ‘round and ‘round; little encouraging thoughts like, “You’re doing great!” or “Boy! You’re a good rider!” or other bits of praise. I find that it helps a kid to feel more relaxed, confident, and in control. This also helps the horse to feel more relaxed, as they are very in tune with a riders emotions.
My own little dudes had come with me to the activity and took their turns on the back of my father’s horses. I felt an enormous swell of pride seeing my children ride. What I had loved as a child, they were loving. Where I had found joy and comfort, they were finding it also. Many tears gathered in my eyes and my chest felt like a hot-air balloon was in there.
It started to get dark and time for the horses to rest. I helped my last charge off of a horse and prepared to lead her back to the barn when I saw one of my little dudes lingering by the round ring, head hung low.
I called out to him, asking what was wrong, thinking that he was disappointed the night was over. He was very quiet and didn’t answer me until I’d walked over, horse in tow, next to him where no one else could hear us. I asked again, “Honey, what’s wrong?”
In a tiny voice, he said, “No one told me I was great, mom.”
Ever seen a balloon pop? It was like that but then it felt like a mountain crashed down inside my heart. I searched my mind, easily able to recall shouting out encouragement and praise to other little kids—but when had I said it to my own son?
I knelt down, right there in the dirt, and took his little face in my hands. “You know what, sweetie? I think you’re great. I am so proud of you. You rode so well and you did such a great job telling that horse when to stop and when to go. You knew just what to do and mommy is so very, very proud of you. You are a great rider.”
In the fading light, I saw a sheen in his beautiful green eyes and he threw his arms around me. He hugged me with both little arms and wrapped both little legs around my waist.
And oh how I understood.
I, myself, had beamed when my father complimented me earlier. I had raced out to the barn to ready that horse because I wanted my father’s praise to be accurate. I worked as hard as I could to deserve what he’d given me because it felt so good to hear him say it. I hoped, in my heart of hearts, that my son felt that same way.
After that, I put my son back up in that saddle and he and I walked the horse around a few more times. This time, my son heard praise from many people; his grandparents, his auntie, and especially from his mother.
I know there are those out there who believe that you can over-praise a child. I know there are those who think that you shouldn’t praise them for something they didn’t do. (I don’t believe this to be the case here, at all!) I guess I just don’t feel the same. I know how it feels to be praised by my parents. I know how it felt to have my son’s joy wrapped literally around me. And considering all the things my children do and have done—it is little enough to tell them how wonderful I think they are.
And my sons have given me the best praise I’ll ever receive--
They made me their mother.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
I use that quote on my business cards because it sums up a lot for me. It also tends to go hand-in-hand with reading, in my case. I can’t manage to live without either of them.
You may have noticed that it’s been a while since I’ve been around. Not a long while, but a while all the same. I’ve been trying to get some work done, enjoying the holidays, spending time with family, and getting caught up on housework. Now that the troopers are out for summer, it means there’s a lot more of the house to worry about. Clean bowls are in short supply. Sanity is in short supply
I’ve been struggling with writing for a while. You see, I went and did a very dumb thing (that offensive grammar not withstanding). I let a critique from someone I didn’t really know and who didn’t have much to do with what I do, affect me. I took it to heart when I should have just taken what I wanted and rolled with the punches. Classic, huh?
Point is, I bought into the lie that I suck. (Oh, the rusty grammar!) I have been believing it even when getting statements to the contrary. I’ve let myself wallow in I-suck-itis and bemoaned my lack-o-talent until The General was about ready to kick my fanny to the curb. Any more whining from me and I think he’d willingly take himself off to war.
So I’ve been bothering my poor spouse, praying, pondering, and willfully ignoring my “itch to write.” The General ended up enlightening me with the suggestion that I just needed to write something that had nothing to do with my WIP’s. Advice heard. Not-so-taken. Until today.
I guess I just needed a spark because over on LDS Publisher, she’s having a contest. Sort of a Christmas-in-July, thing. I don’t write short stories much (especially as I tend to be long-winded) but the idea appealed. It was my little spark.
I had a story in mind that I knew I could tell. It’s been there, lurking in my heart for a long time. I never thought about writing it for writing—just for my family, perhaps down the road. And a strange thing happened.
Now and then, I get this feeling. It starts like a little tingling against the skin. It manages to sink beneath the surface and turns into an electric current. My body hums with anticipation. My mind begins whirring, like actual hamsters are trekkin’ it in their wheels. What I had been praying for, what my husband had encouraged me in—it hit the spot. I needed to write and I needed to remember why I write.
So I cranked it out. It ended up being only 820 words long but each and every one of those words was pulled from the very essence that was me. I remembered how it felt to trust my voice and believe in my ability to use it. There was no monumental fear of destroying a perfect “image” I had created. There wasn’t any pressure to live up to someone else’s expectations. It was just a story—not even my story—and I wanted to tell it no matter who heard it or liked it.
And that felt pretty darn good.
It gave me confidence in myself again. While I hope that people would like this little story, I wasn’t terror stricken by the idea that they wouldn’t. It was just a slice of history and it happened. I have no reason to fear it. I didn’t write it for anyone but myself and in honor of the story itself. It was writers freedom.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it’s bad to want someone to like your stuff (who am I kidding? I LOVE when people like my stuff) I’m just saying that, for me, I occasionally get trapped in the fear that people won’t like it. How silly is that? Why on earth do I put myself through it? Who the heck knows? I don’t even want to dwell on it right now.
I’ve sent it off to my fabulous critique group and once it’s been through the ringer, I think I just may send it off to the contest. I feel excited about that. And you know what else? I feel excited about writing again. It feels good to hear my voice again. I’ve missed it.
Wait. Did that just totally sound like I’m in love with the sound of my own voice?
Go ahead on check out the link for the contest above. The deadline isn’t until August 15th and you may just get a chance to have your story in print by the end of October. What a fun Christmas gift that would be!