Friday, 19 January 2018

Capturing Moments

For me a new year is an open, brand-new journal. A pretty one, because I like pretty. The prettier my journal the harder I try to make each story or poem unique. At year ends, I have a treasure house of my thoughts to read. Sadly, the more recent the journals, the emptier the pages. Somehow, I’ve allowed myself to get off track. My direction and discipline have packed up and left.

I need a plan. One to keep me on track.  I though back over the previous year. My well-intended writing time had been crowded out by other things. Feeling ashamed of myself for allowing this to happen, I asked God to help me in these areas this year.  An element of peace crept into me.

 Then, alas, life set in. 

The phone rang. My son had suffered another medical episode. I grabbed my coat and keys and was out the door in minutes. Hours later, I returned, totally exhausted. My laptop remained on the ottoman right where I left it. The discipline and direction I’m promised myself earlier shriveled up, and I flopped across my bed, only to be woken up a few hours later. My son needed care. This went on for three days. The next three days I flat-lined. Now, six days later, I retrieve my laptop from the ottoman where I’d laid it all those days ago.

Prepared to continue with my thoughts, I re-read what I’d written, but the discipline and direction no longer felt so important or possible. I prayerfully stared at my screen wondering if my writing days were withering. Self pity popped in to join me for a cup of tea. The tea was delightful, and the conversation was all one-sided. Mine. But, as the conversation moved on, little spots of light appeared and grew. Self-pity excused herself for another appointment, and my mind kicked into gear.

I have less control of my life than most people, so direction and discipline can be no more than an illusive dream. Or I can dwell on them and turn into an old hag. But I choose not to. My prayer for this year has changed to, “Lord, help me recognize the small openings in my life in which I can sit and write, and please enable my mind to kick into its writing mode quickly.”

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Word by word

Seek the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path. (Proverbs 3:6)

Prayer for me is a constant awareness of God in my day to day life. When I sit at my desk to write, I know he is with me. Still, it is quite normal for me to begin writing staring at a blank screen, especially if I didn’t leave my latest project in the middle of a scene. When I quit my previous project at such a point, it is easier to get my motor running. Assignments like this, without a lightbulb moment, are very difficult. It takes discipline.

While I stare at the screen, I force my mind and heart to rest, and listen. Although I don’t verbalize my words, I invite God to direct my thoughts. Sometimes a fire erupts and thoughts tumble into my mind faster than my fingers can type them. Thought upon thought, in an orderly manner. But that is rare. Most of the time, a little spark ignites, and as I respond to that thought, another one glows, inviting me to explore it. Other times my mind remains as blank as my screen.

At this point I will reread what others have written on the subject, hoping something will awaken my slumbering brain. If nothing does, I try to change the direction from which I approach the subject. Even doing that, quite often, it is persevering, refusing to give up, squeezing out a thought, one word at a time, all the while wondering if I’m ignorant on a subject I need to write about.

But once I’m finished, and reread what I’ve written, I marvel at how those squeezed out words actually say something. I am humbled, considering how easy it would have been to quit, yet, my Heavenly Father led me down a path on my blank screen I had no idea existed.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Lean or Anorexic

In the last few years, I’ve noticed writing styles have changed. They are now like our society. Life is mad dash from morning to night with little time in between. Less is more, publishing houses insist. Tighten, tighten, tighten. As writers, we are forced to adapt. But is this a good thing?
As a reader, I’m not so sure. Perhaps it’s the countless books I’ve read, or had read to me, over the past sixty-nine years, but I struggle with these new guidelines. My latest peeve, the one that prompted me to write this post, was a book written by four of the most popular writers in Christian fiction. I was excited when I saw the book on Amazon and put it to the top of my reading list. The story had to rock. These authors are as popular as snowflakes in winter.

But shortly into the story, my snowball burst.  Except for the last section, written by an author who delighted me, it was one of the hardest to “keep reading” books I’ve ever read. In the first three sections I felt like I was dangling in that zone between sleep and awake. Nothing anchored me anything or anyone. I remember the characters only because they were the same as those in the final section. Which brings me to my pondering. Where does lean end and anorexic begin?

The first section, that should have anchored me into the story, read like an outline. Whoever’s pov I was in felt like a pine box. Try as I would, I could not find a comfy spot to curl up in and let the story take me to some far and distant land. Instead, I was in a world that sped past me faster than my surroundings when I’m riding the tilt-a-whirl at a local fair.

To be fair, some of the old classics can describe a flower in a field in so much detail, I’ve forgotten why I’m in the field by the time I see exactly what the author saw and felt. And who really cares if it’s a coffee or a tea stain on the white tablecloth, unless it’s a mystery you’re reading. But, fluff gives me an option. Over the years, I’ve become very good at skimming. But in this day and age, that’s not practical either.

What I need is something in between. I want to know my protagonist, where she lives, what she likes, what she doesn’t, and what she wants bad enough to write a book about. I want a subtle description of her that allows me to fill in the blanks with my own imagination. I don’t want a block of white houses described, but if one is brown with a red horseshoe on the door, my interest is peaked.

I understand how age and time can dictate writing styles, but for me, they have gone bi-polar. Older stories tweak my skimming abilities, while many newer ones leave me frustrated because I can’t find the link between the dots. When I find a story that flows like a river, ripple after ripple, around and over obstacles and finishes in a waterfall, my toes curl up in delight, right back to my heels.   

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Every day, all around us, small insignificant events take place. Most go unnoticed,  but others are life changing. God moments, I call them. My interpretation of "be still and know that I am God." 

Ten years ago, my husband, Alex, was diagnosed with cancer and given five months to live. Shock waves shot through our family, neighborhood, and church.

Alex shared his time and resources with everyone. He had a marvelous sense of humor that lightened even the heaviest situations. So many people wanted to say goodbye and spend time with him. The phone rang constantly. Our front entrance became a revolving door. Our daughter came home to help me with Alex’s care.

One day, a month after his diagnosis, our daughter left for the day to spend time with her brother.  By mid afternoon, several friends dropped by, and our daughter phoned, saying she was spending the night at her brother’s. "Unusual," I thought, but realized siblings can comfort each other in a way no one else can. I pushed the unusual from my mind.

I was exhausted, and deep shadows on Alex’s face bore witness to his weariness. With much effort, he pushed out of his recliner saying, I’m going to lie down. Please come with me. I glanced at all the dirty dishes in the kitchen, left behind by constant company, and opened my mouth to ask for fifteen minutes. But my words stopped.

Since it was too painful for Alex to lie down, I collected pillows from the beds around the house and made our bed into a giant recliner. As we snuggled together, warmth flowed through us, much like an electric blanket on a cold winter night, and nothing around us existed. Alex’s pain ebbed. We talked about the fun things we’d done, the places we’d been, the people we’d met, the mistakes we’d made. We laughed about the shenanigans our children had done. The wonderful adults they’d grown to be. Evening turned into night. Still we talked and laughed. With no warning Alex’s mind softened and he returned to Bosnia, where he’d served as a military engineer years ago. I held him until he calmed, then we drifted off to sleep.

The following day, Alex’s pain returned and he was admitted to the hospital. Within hours he was gone, but stories pierced my darkness.

The night before, Alex’s cousins were coming from Edmonton to visit him, but a tire on their car went flat. By the time AMA changed it, it was too late. Friends were coming from Calgary, but a sudden blizzard closed the highway between Calgary and Red Deer. And our daughter chose to spend the night at our son’s home.

Wonderment filled me. God used blizzards and flat tires and sibling love to give Alex and I that last evening by ourselves, to lie down in green pastures. Even now, ten years later, when I find myself in darkness and see no way out, I remember that night and am filled with hope for tomorrow.
Obstacles are those frightful things you see when


take your eyes off your goal.