"God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform..." William Cowper

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Poem On My Refrigerator

Somewhere along the last six years, my children have commandeered the refrigerator. Not the inside, of course--although they'd like to do that too--but the outside.

It started with a couple adorable baby pictures. As they got older, I bought those magnetic letters that almost every American family with young children feels they need. I stuck a magnetic Bible verse on the side, in hopes that as they learn to read, a piece of God's Word will embed itself in their hearts.

The other day Noah put up a half-colored picture of a dinosaur. James proudly displayed a paper from kindergarten. Sometimes the fridge gets so crowded, we can't walk by it without knocking papers down.

Yes, it really has become my children's space.

Except for one corner.

Perched high above curious, sticky fingers is a small poem I look at often to remind me of the important things God has placed in my life. This cluttered, disorganized refrigerator won't be forever.

One day I'll miss it.

For life is short, the years rush past.

Little boys grow up so fast.

No longer are they at your side,

Their precious secrets to confide.

The picture books are put away,

There are no more games to play.

No goodnight kisses, no prayers to hear-

That all belongs to yesteryear.

My hands once busy now lie still,

The days are long and hard to fill.

I wish I might go back and do

The little things they asked me to.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Short and Sweet Friday: What Does Your Day Look Like?

Breakfast and bank and praying and groceries and hopefully some writing and buses and homework and baseball and books and praying and hopefully some writing and Lego's...always lots of Lego's.

What does your day look like?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bathroom Graffiti

"Randy loves Liz."

"Justin wuz here."

Sentiments of love, sentiments of hate. Desperation. Some simply expressing a desire to be heard long after they are gone. Others wish to give their tidbit of wisdom, as in this picture. "Wash your hands before and after using the toilet."

We've all seen the typical graffiti on those bathroom stalls. And although I've never been a graffiti offender myself, I suppose I can see the appeal in it...

The author is anonymous, and forever safe from hurtful judgements.

The words will be read.

Unlike a daily newspaper or monthly magazine, these words will last. The writer has successfully left their one small mark on the world.

But do these words matter to the reader? Do they make a difference in even one person's life? Maybe...if you're name is Liz. ;)

As I ponder this, I can't help but realize that all my efforts, all my works--whether they be writing, being a good wife and mother, or helping my neighbor--are nothing but graffiti on a grimy bathroom stall if I'm not giving them over to my Savior. Only He can make them useful in the grand scheme of things.

For this reason, I dig deep into my heart. Deeper than I usually want to. What is my motivation for what I do? For writing? For trying so hard to be a "good" mother? A "good" wife? For helping others?

Sometimes I don't like the answers I get. And if you're not ready for my complete honesty, read no further.

Often I find myself performing these works not for my God--and sometimes not even for others--but for me. My heart can be ugly. I want to look good. I want the best...after all, don't I deserve it?

Bathroom graffiti. All of it.

What I deserve is not what my Savior has given me. He's given me grace. He's given me mercy. I am nothing if it weren't for Him. And when I fall, it's Jesus' arms that catch me and my undeserving efforts.

As I continue to wade through my motivations and seek to be faithful, I have hope that He will use my efforts--even if they are as inconsequential as bathroom graffiti.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Short and Sweet Friday: The Excitement of a Child

As my six-year-old settles down with a book, Thomas and the Jet Engine, I can't help but feel his palpable excitement. For years, letters have made little sense to him. What's the big idea with all those funny symbols? And how can Mommy spend so much time staring at those black-and-white pages...as if they mean something?

But very recently, something has clicked for him: he's beginning to read. And I'm just as enthused as he is.

I think we often take it for granted. How easily a message can be conveyed in a single word, or a single page. How powerful a story can be.

As I watch him read his Thomas book, I remember the first book I learned to read on my own: A Bird Can Fly, So Can I. I still cherish it.

Do you remember the first book you read as a child? or maybe one you simply read over and over again?

Monday, March 14, 2011

How Making a Quilt is Like Writing a Book

I love to quilt. I love to create. I'm one of those odd people who can't just sit and watch television. Or sit and listen to a long sermon. My fingers itch to be busy, whether it's taking notes, or more often than not, quilting. As I begin my third quilt, I'm struck how creating a quilt is similar in many ways to creating a book.

1) Selecting the fabric: All those bolts of beautiful fabric in my local craft store can be intimidating. What colors to use? What pattern to pick? Applique or simple square piecing? And most importantly, what will the end result look like?
Beginning a story is no less daunting. What characters to use? What plot? How should I research, and should I plan each scene or fly by the seat of my pants? And the all important question: what will the end result look like?

2) Cutting and piecing the fabric: It's almost painful to start as I cut the fabric into its proper shape. Did I make the right choices? As I begin to piece, I get caught up in the unexpected beauty I've created. Maybe I do know what I'm doing...
The same is true when I look at that white space beneath the "Chapter One" heading. Is this going to be any good? Is the idea in my head going to form itself into coherent sentences, paragraphs, and chapters? As I throw caution to the wind, I often lose myself to the story. Its potential is heightened in my (the creator's) eyes. Maybe I do know what I'm doing...

3) Those nasty mess ups: I like my corners tidy and my ends to meet. This often means taking out stitches...a lot of them. I'll reevaluate where I went wrong and try again. Maybe all the blocks need to be rearranged. Maybe I should give up on the whole project. I don't. Times like these humble me.
Rewriting is no different. Sometimes a paragraph just doesn't look neat. Sometimes the whole plot needs restructuring. Often that means pulling my hard work apart, word by painful word. Discouragement sets in, and I fight the temptation to call it quits. I don't. Times like these humble me.

4) Quilting: This is my favorite part. I finally tie all of those pieces and layers together with small, careful stitches. I see something useful born in the midst of chaos.
When the editing of a story is finally done, and all the subplots are neatly tied together, I can rejoice in my work. Whether it will be useful or not is yet to be seen, but I would like the think that something special was born in the midst of chaos.

I think anytime we create something, there's not only a vulnerability, but a deep sense of accomplishment that binds us to our work. It is a part of us. I think the Author Of Life had this in mind when He made us. Whether we like it or not, we are bound to Him.
What do you like to create? How does your creation reflect how God made you?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Short and Sweet Friday: Best Ideas

Where are you when your best ideas strike? I'm amazed at how many of my good ideas (not just having to do with a story) come while I'm sleeping. Is it because I'm relaxed that inspiration hits?

Once in awhile I'll get a good idea in the shower, or while I'm exercising. Rarely though, will epiphany strike while I'm cleaning or doing dishes. Never do they come while I'm staring at a blank computer screen. What about you?

Do you have a time or a place that your best ideas make an appearance? And what do you think it is about that place that triggers your brilliant thoughts?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Paper Airplanes

Last month, as I prepared to enter ACFW's Genesis contest, I printed out the first chapter of my new work-in-progress in order to edit directly off the paper, as opposed to the computer. After the rewriting was complete and safely stored in my laptop, I placed the chapter by our woodstove to use as kindling. I didn't give it a second thought...until hubby and the boys decided to put their efforts into perfecting a paper airplane. They didn't need to look far to find the scraps of paper. That's right. Mommy's manuscript.

Page one was a failure. It barely flew across the room. Page two didn't fly straight. Page three, a bent nose after its first run.

I think they achieved perfection around page seven. Page seven sailed effortlessly through the kitchen, into the hallway, and across the boys' room until it was stopped by a wall. Cheers erupted from the men in my house. I couldn't help but laugh.

Well, my husband refused to let a small thing like a wall stand in the way of page seven's potential. Out the back door he went. I didn't think much of it until I saw his intention: attempting to launch page seven in flight over our roof. Granted, we have a small roof, but it was a windy day. And that was my page seven! What if the wind zipped it down the street where a passerby chanced a glance at my vulnerable words--dismembered from the rest of its body?How can anyone be a true judge of a page's value with six pages missing?

I was too late. Prompted by my two laughing, prodding boys, my husband threw page seven up over the roof. It didn't come back. Around he went to the front of the house, boys still whooping and cheering. No airplane in sight.

Page seven was gone.

I didn't make a big deal of it. It was just one page of saved writing, after all. Still, my precious, vulnerable words being sent to the wind gave me a slight feeling of unease. Like all my children weren't safely tucked in for the night.

Why do I feel so vulnerable over a couple hundred words? Why do I feel a need to protect them? Simple. I don't want to fail. I don't want someone--anyone--to judge them unworthy. Yet...what can I gain without the risk?


And so I continue to write. I continue to keep on. I will remain faithful to what God has put on my heart. And if all it is ever good for is paper airplanes, so be it. In this case, it gave my family laughter. Maybe that was God's intention all along.

It wasn't until two weeks after the paper airplane incident that I found page seven fluttering in the breeze beside the front door of my house. I don't know how it survived all the wind, or where it found shelter. But here it was, never far to begin with.

How about you? Can you relate to my feeling of vulnerability--in any way? What are some things you do to force yourself out of your comfort zone?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Short and Sweet Friday: Word Counts

I have a confession to make: I'm not a big fan of word counts. I've always felt them rather...well...restrictive for someone who is suppose to be creative. Nevertheless, I'm attempting to rethink my verdict. I've heard a lot of good things from my critique partners and other writers who've had much success with a daily word count. And I usually do work better with a clear end goal in view.

Still, I'm a little frightened of setting myself up for failure.

What do you think? If you are a writer, how do you handle word counts? Do you have a set number to attain each day? Each week? Each month? If so, would you mind sharing how you've found a word count helpful (or...not so helpful)?