Posted in Books, Deep Thoughts

Banned Books Week

We the people of the United States of America have proclaimed for centuries that God has given us and the rest of humanity certain unalienable rights, rights that our forefathers outlined in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution and Bill of Rights. These rights include freedom of speech and press, but I believe that the freedom to read is an unspoken inclusion, one that our forefathers didn’t think to include because it seemed obvious. That’s my theory, anyway. In the land of the free and the home of the brave, it seems like a no-brainer that the freedom to read anything and everything, no matter who you are or where you live, is a freedom to be appreciated and protected. And yet, those who came to the New World in search of freedom started banning books before we were even a nation of our own. Continue reading “Banned Books Week”

(30)

Posted in Deep Thoughts, Life in General

Blessed be Your Name

Almost exactly two years ago to the day, I remember singing through tears. It was a Sunday, and I had chosen to sing “Blessed Be Your Name” at church that day. In two weeks, I would be having a complete hysterectomy. Chris and I had tried everything we could to have children, but my body was poisoning itself and we couldn’t put the surgery off any longer. I was only twenty-six. Having to come to terms with the fact that I would never feel a life growing inside of me, that I would never see how my features and Chris’s would mingle in the face of our child, was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

The bridge of the song I sang that morning said: “You give and take away. My heart will choose to say, ‘Lord, blessed be Your name.’” And even though it was intensely painful, I meant those words with all of my heart. God had seen us through hard times before: when Chris was diagnosed with cancer for the second time, when we quit our jobs to do music ministry only to come back home to a frozen job market and no idea how to pay our bills, and through countless other smaller hardships, God was right there with us. Now, we’re not perfect; Chris and I both got pretty mad at Him when Chris had to go through the cancer nightmare a second time. But we learned from that. We knew that God hadn’t struck him down with cancer, but that it was just a part of living in a fallen world. We realized that we missed out on deepening our relationship with God during that time in our lives, because our anger built a wall between us and Him. Because of this, we vowed to try our hardest never to shut Him out again just because we were suffering. And so far, we haven’t.

Back to the song. When I was singing this song, I knew I was entering into a “take away” period of my life. But I knew that God was right there with me, and that He mourned with me, so my heart truly did choose to say, “Lord, blessed be Your name.” Ecclesiastes says that He makes beauty from ashes, and I decided to believe that He would somehow do that for us. He’s a big God, far bigger than infertility. And if having kids wasn’t in the cards for us, I was sure that God still had big plans for our lives.

Fast-forward to this past Sunday. Once again, I was singing “Blessed Be Your Name” at church, and once again I was struggling to sing through tears. I still meant every word of the song, and sang it with every fiber of my being. But this time, instead of mourning, I was praising. I feel like we’re leaving the “take away” period and entering into a period of blessing. We never thought we would be able to afford adoption, so we had decided to just be the best aunt and uncle we could be. But God started speaking into our hearts, leading us to become certified foster/adoptive parents through the state, even though we feel no call to become foster parents. And if you’re not going to foster or adopt a teenager, the certification seems almost worthless. However, a family member has decided that he wants to cover the cost of private adoption for us, and because of the certification we received we already have a home study ready and waiting. We never dared hope we’d be able to adopt a baby, but it’s seeming more likely and more real everyday. The possibility of getting to experience first steps and first words is exciting beyond words. No, nothing is final or set in stone, but I feel more hopeful than I have since my surgery. I trust that God is working on a miracle for us.

Lord, blessed be Your name!

(14)

Posted in Books, Deep Thoughts

The Bible

Holman Study Bible: NKJV Edition, Jacketed HardcoverHolman Study Bible: NKJV Edition, Jacketed Hardcover by Anonymous
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For the first time in my life, I actually stuck to a New Year’s Resolution. January 1st of 2016 I vowed to read my Bible all the way through by December 31st. I’ve made that same vow almost every year for the past twenty years (holy crap, I’m getting old!), but I’ve never succeeded. I’ve read every page before, but never all within twelve months. But 2016 was my year! I managed to read through the Bible in a year for the first time in my life. And with a day to spare, no less!

I don’t feel that I can really give the Bible a review. What I can do is tell you what it means to me. I was raised on a diet of Bible stories from before I could separate the meaning of the words from my mama’s soothing voice. Scripture has been there for me since I became a Christian when I was six years old. I remember waking up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat from a bad dream. Flipping open my Bible to a Psalm never failed to drive away my nightmares. When I got made fun of in school or went through a breakup, the Bible was my refuge. As I got older and went through hard times, when my husband was diagnosed with cancer for the second time, when we found out that we would never be able to have children, I found God’s comfort in its pages. I have never had to go through life alone, and that is all due to Jesus, who I was introduced to through this book.

The Bible is a mosaic, housing between its covers everything from poetry to prophecy, epic battles to the ultimate Sacrifice. Is it hard to read? Sometimes. I struggle with the genealogies and laws as much as the next person. But anytime the Bible is approached with an open heart and mind, God speaks. My granny was the daughter of a moonshiner, and was forced to drop out of school in the second grade. She never truly learned to read or write. But somehow, she cold pick up her Bible and read without stumbling over a single word, because she believed that God was bigger than her illiteracy. And He proved Himself to her and to me, time and time again, through the pages of His Word. It’s God’s love letter to us, and I will never take my easy access to it for granted.

View all my reviews

(5)

Posted in Deep Thoughts, Life in General

Mailbox Miracle

Mailbox
Have you ever burst into spontaneous laughter and dancing in front of your mailbox on a Wednesday afternoon? Pretty specific, I know. It’s a weird question. But it’s something I experienced today, and it was pretty stinking amazing.

It’s been three months since our last pay check. Chris was working for family, and there was a rough patch financially, so he and the other men in my family who had been working up north came home to wait. Whenever we talked about applying for other jobs, we felt like God was telling us to wait. So we waited. After all, we had a good bit saved for a rainy day. We would enjoy the holidays and reevaluate.

Well, the holidays are over. Reevaluation has begun, and we finally feel like God is releasing our reins bit by bit. Today we started tentatively dipping our toes back in the job search pool. Because, that savings account we had built up? We’re raking the bottom. And it’s kind of scary. We’re trying to trust God, we really are. But after we pay our bills this month, we’re broke.

Or so we thought until we came home today. Sitting in our mailbox was a letter from the bank, telling us that we had an overage of funds in our escrow account. Attached to that letter was a check. We would have been thankful for any size check, but this check just so happens to be for roughly the amount of our bills for this month.

I squealed, y’all. I think I scared the dogs. I jumped and twirled and would’ve full-on danced if I hadn’t almost busted my butt sliding across the rocks on our road. I laughed and then I almost cried. I know that God is our Provider. And, like I said before, I’ve been trying my best to trust Him. But that trust was starting to falter. So I guess He decided to slap me upside the head today with a blatant reminder of His faithfulness. Because getting a check that close to the amount we need when we’re so close to the bottom of our barrel? That’s no coincidence. That’s God.

He gave us a mailbox miracle.

(50)

Posted in Deep Thoughts, Life in General

Take me to church.

Going to church when I have a sore throat is always interesting. I usually play guitar and sing a song every service. I love getting to sing, getting to use a gift God’s given me to lead others to His throne in worship. But when I’m coughing violently and my words come out as a croak, it’s a day for me to step back. Hacking my way through a hymn is no way to lead worship.

Usually, sitting in the back of the church and watching the service go on without me makes me sad. I need to feel needed. But my mind was in a better place today. I remembered that I’m there for God, not for people, no matter how much I enjoy their company. And God loves me, and I believe that He appreciates it when I’m using my gifts to honor Him, but He doesn’t need me.

So today, I did something I haven’t done in a long time; I gave myself the freedom to sit on the back pew of our little church and simply enjoy. I watched my family pouring themselves into their instruments as they played hymns. I let the words sink into my mind instead of simply singing from memory. I heard the sincerity in the voice of the German woman who just started attending as she sang “Word of God, Speak.” My husband played guitar and sang, his voice and face as angelic as they were the day we met; he still makes my heart mushy. My brother sang a song he wrote with passion and power, and his newfound skill playing piano astonishes me. Bro. Dwayne preached with openness and honesty and fervency. And all of it, every note played and word spoken, was aimed in the proper direction.

We’re a family. We laugh together and cry together and find way too many excuses to eat together. And we need to fellowship, we really do. Jesus commanded it. But church is about more than us. It’s about Him. Sometimes I need a scratchy throat and a day on the back pew to remind me.

(8)

Posted in Deep Thoughts, Life in General

The World According to Jiminy

ae17559ff4520555ba4e3f7e2c5ee297-3

Crickets chirp outside my window, muffled by a pane of glass. Is their song simply a product of nature, males rubbing their wings together rapidly in hopes that the sound they produce will prove irresistible to the lady crickets? That’s what science and common sense suggest. But could they be telling stories? The telling of human tales began as oral tradition. Who are we to say that crickets and coyotes and owls aren’t passing down their own folklore under the cover of darkness, outside of the understanding of human minds? Perhaps crickets are telling their offspring the story of their ancestor who braved Times Square, or the folk hero who helped a puppet become a real boy. Maybe they are telling tales that we’ve never heard and never will. Or maybe their chirps are simple mating calls. But since the image of crickets gathered around in the darkness listening to the chirping folk tales of an elder makes me smile, I’ll tuck it into a corner of my mind and pull it out when I hear them through my window. If I listen long enough, maybe I’ll catch a story.

(3)

Posted in Deep Thoughts, Life in General

August thoughts on writing, part 2

More musings on writing from the month of August.

VI.
There is nothing more powerful than a story. Certain stories stay with you long after you turn the final page or the credits have rolled. A child learns the easiest through listening to tales as they are spun. Jesus taught in parables. Our own histories become stories in our minds as we soften or sharpen the pains and joys of the past. There are often truths that are much easier to view through fiction than they are through the harshness of reality. Stories shape us, squeezing our hearts or making us laugh or grabbing us hard around the throat. They show us both who we are and who we want to be. The best stories give us the courage to try. We all have a story to tell, each completely unique. Never underestimate the importance of your own.

VII.
My heart is saddened for the girl I used to be. Today I read a story (Broken Castle) I wrote eighteen months ago when I was going through a chemically-induced menopause that caused a deep depression. I couldn’t even read, which had always been my solace from pain. My mind had truly felt like it was breaking. So I wrote about it. I wrote of a woman trapped inside her mind, shattering herself as she tried to break free. It was one of the saddest things I’ve ever read. I can’t believe that something that dark came from my mind. The setting and names were fictional, but it was my deepest fear that what I wrote would happen to me. I wrote in hopes that I could purge the fear. It was one of the last things I wrote for over a year. It hurt me to read it today, but I’m so glad I found it. And I’m so glad I wrote it. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have such tangible proof of how far I’ve come. There were battles that I thought I was losing while I was in their midst, but now I can see just how victorious I’ve been. God has brought me so far. The work put in to healing me definitely shows. So even though the story is heartbreaking, I’ll keep it as a reminder to myself of where I used to be.

VIII.
My mind is wiped clean. I can form no original thought. I feel as though my mind has been rebooted without my permission, restored to factory settings. How can I create when I have no blueprint in mind? I can’t stand stream-of-consciousness, and I pray to God that’s not what this is. I scan again for signs of life, but my brain is non-responsive. How do authors write day after day, year after year, without ever running out of things to say and stories to tell? I’m sure that my tales are still somewhere in here, but all of my characters have gone to sleep. So I guess I will, too. Goodnight, brain. Hope you’re more helpful tomorrow.

IX.
What am I supposed to do when my mind’s too excited to think? I try to tame my thoughts into submission, but it bounces around in a game of anticipation pinball. I get to see my husband in less than 24 hours! It’s been far too long since our lips got to meet in their favorite hello. Did I pack everything? Did I set my alarm? Did I deliver keys and plants and take out trash so everything will smell right when I return? Check check and check. Nothing left to do but fly. Now, if only I can will myself to sleep so that 4 am comes sooner. Hopefully tomorrow I find time to write in the midst of airport chaos and jumping into the arms of my best friend. I hate that I produced nothing of worth today, but obviously my mind isn’t upset enough to help me out. But at least a few words wound up on a page. So I’ll shut the laptop down, pack it up, and hope that I can shut down soon, too.

X.
Frantic scratchings of scattered thoughts. Time is limited and I feel the pressure. But if not now, when today will I press my fingers into keys to let my musings breathe? I’m flying to see my love, neglected for too long. Our minds are heavy with the unknown. The ability to focus has left me completely. I want to add to my fiction, but my own life presses too strongly for me to hear the cries of my characters. But while I have a few minutes, I’ll see how their lives are playing out, and help them take shape if I can. Better than worrying over things out of my sight and beyond my control.

(3)

Posted in Deep Thoughts, Life in General

August thoughts on writing, part 1

I wrote these in August, when I was just starting to get in the habit of writing everyday, even when I could think of nothing to write about except, well, writing.

I.
Why is writing so hard? My mind swims with stories until I sit down to write, at which point my characters develop a stifling shyness and run to the back corners of my brain where the unreachable memories of dreams dwell. No amount of coaxing moves them from their hiding. Maybe with enough practice their fear will leave as mine does, and they will approach my fingers with ease.

II.
Words flow so much easier at night. Does inspiration flow more freely from distant stars than it does from our nearest one? The darkness cocoons its subjects in a velvet embrace much opposed to sunlight’s harsh realism. Imperfections aren’t hidden, but are instead given a mysterious loveliness all their own. You can hear yourself think thoughts that the August sun blots out. Doubts and fears drift into the shadows, leaving you free to dream bigger dreams in the darkness. Becoming what you’ve always longed to be doesn’t seem so impossible when the moon smiles back at you.

III.
Why did I wait so long to set my fingers free? Why has the thought of writing terrified me for so long? Did I doubt my ability to enthrall, or simply find myself unworthy? There are hundreds of books on how to be a writer. I own a dozen of them. But if I read every tome ever penned about the craft of writing, none of them will help me in the least if I never put pen to page or fingers to keys. I can always learn more about grammar and the other building blocks of language, but I have to be willing to risk putting them together in my own design if I’m ever going to build. Even if I only erect a cottage next to the castles left by others, should I not construct with the best tools and my whole heart, pouring my sweat and life into it from foundation to finish? Even if only those I love ever dwell there, even if it never houses the masses or kings, should I not furnish it to invite and comfort? What makes one person’s voice more worthy of being heard? Are the worlds that exist in the minds of the lowly any less real than those already known? Even if those worlds always remain private, even if the only ones to ever hear my voice are family and friends, the inhabitants of my mind deserve to live and breathe and move. And so they will.

IV.
My well is dry. My day was long and full and exhausting. This is the first time I’ve been alone since I jerked awake when my phone rang this morning. I’ve enjoyed my time with others, I really have. I wouldn’t undo any of the laughter with Mama today or with Megan tonight. But this habit of writing that I’m so desperately trying to develop? How can I keep it when my brain has switched off before I have a moment to purge its thoughts? This jotting of a fatigued mind is about as useful as trying to wring water from a dry sponge, but at least it was something. I can sleep with no guilt. So, good night self. Try again tomorrow.

V.
I sit here burning the midnight oil once more. Why is it so easy to put off the act that I long for? I spend my evenings hiding within the worlds of others instead of crafting my own. Eliot measured his life in coffee spoons; I measure mine in episodes. It is just so much easier to enjoy the fictions created by others than it is to carve out your own. My imagination houses countless blocks of stone waiting to be sculpted. I have the same chisels at my disposal that have been used by a multitude of artists before me. But I am much more comfortable spending my days in the galleries of literature and my nights in the museums of the silver screen than I am in my studio, staring into the stone and seeking out the faces I am meant to free. I keep sneaking in at night, chipping away by candlelight, working up the courage to hew by the light of the sun. Maybe the faces I seek to free are simply not ready for such brightness.

(2)

Posted in Deep Thoughts, Life in General

No More Excuses

It’s been more than two weeks since I’ve written a single word. I have plenty of excuses. I’ve been in a tremendous amount of pain from the weather and various other things, and when I’m in this amount of pain I can’t even think well enough to read most of the time. So how can I be expected to write? I’ve had doctors’ appointments and MRIs and have been introduced into the painful world that is physical therapy in hopes that I can be fixed. I’ve been trying to be a good girl and do the at-home therapy they’ve given me even when my hips and shoulders hurt so viciously that I develop migraines and just want to be left alone in silence and darkness. I’ve been exhausted. And when ever I do have a good day, I’m running around trying to catch up on everything that I let slide during my bad days.

But all of those things are just what I said before: excuses. None of them, pain or busyness or exhaustion or fogginess of mind are a real reason not to write. I’ve been making excuses like I have for years. I’ve always wanted to write, but at the same time writing terrifies me. I’m so afraid that I won’t be good at it that I make excuses to not even try. I thought that creating this blog would stop that, that it would give me some sort of incentive or responsibility to write everyday, but obviously that hasn’t been the case. I’m still just as afraid of writing as I was when I was trying to write straight fiction. Because I still don’t feel good enough.

But, even if I’m not good enough, even if no one ever reads this but myself and my family, I owe it to myself to try. I would rather try and fail than just give up because I’m afraid. So, if you do happen upon this site and read these words, thank you. Thank you for taking the time to see what someone you’ve probably never met has to say about mostly trivial things. And if, by chance, you happened to be a too-terrified-to-truely-aspire writer as well, drop me a line. Maybe we can help each other. If I find things you’ve written, I’ll be sure to let you know that you’re wonderful, talented, and should never stop trying to reach your dream. Everyone deserves to be encouraged and believe in themselves. And that’s what I’m going to try my best to do.

(104)