A Thanksgiving Parade of Blessings

I started Thanksgiving with a Facebook post thanking God and my mom for being the two ever-present forces in my life over the last year, which has been year of change to say the least. It set off a cascade of thoughts about everything I’m thankful for because of or in spite of all the changes. I thought about the “little things” that weren’t so little to my mind, heart and spirit.

  • My friend of almost-a-lifetime, Wayne, took a day off and drove for three hours to hang out with me and do nothing more than have a three-hour lunch in a Mexican restaurant, then drive three hours home.
  • My eldest child will be 18 this week and will graduate from high school in the spring. One of her college application essays focused on how she considers being “on The Spectrum” not a disability, but a blessing.
  • My youngest child, all of 11, loves to do and to go and to experience. This year, she learned to swim. Because I can’t, I had a heart attack every time the instructor took the kids into the 10-foot end of the pool. May she be the explorer that I struggled to be.
  • My professional partner-in-creativity Caryn, with her amazing artistic talent, I am grateful for simply because I get to work with her. Ditto for all of the other terrific people on staff at Epworth United Methodist Church who teach the children, lead the youth, run the office, arrange for classes, balance the books, answer the phones, and nurture the spirits.
  • Being diagnosed with situational depression and anxiety might seem like a strange thing for which to be grateful, but it was the gift of empathy. I kept my head above water enough to recognize the problem, to assess how I felt without judging, to be willing to talk to someone, and to know that eventually I would be okay. And I recognize that there are many people who cannot keep their heads above water, who fight for emotional air, and who are not okay. I have been given a taste of it; I am not drowning in it. The experience calls me to those with invisible injuries, emotional injuries, internal brokenness.
  • I am thankful for the friends who understood when I cancelled plans at the last minute because the anxiety was too much, and I’m thankful they still love me.
  • A wrong turn in a hospital corridor…total God moment.
  • I was given the gift of holding the hand of a dying friend. She opened her eyes, smiled at me, and said “thank you”.
  • Two years almost to the day since God called me to ordained ministry, I was accepted to Methodist Theological School of Ohio. I’ll begin working on my Master of Divinity next fall.
  • My eldest child (see above) has been accepted to one university, and has an application pending at another. She will start her Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice when I start my MDiv.
  • I spent my 46th birthday away from home. After hanging out with my awesome cousin and his fabulous wife on Friday night, I attended the Write in the Country writing retreat at The Red Maple Inn on Saturday. That night, I had dinner with five amazing women writers at a bistro we stumbled across in the wilds of Geauga County. We reconvened for more laughs over a big, homemade country breakfast the next morning. In spite of car trouble that kept me panicky for the 3 hour drive home, I would not have traded that weekend for anything. I laughed, ate, slept, learned, and inhaled radiant fall color and sunshine.

We often think about the tangibles – food, clothing, shelter, etc – that we are thankful for during Thanksgiving, Christmas, the New Year, and other celebratory holidays. What are intangibles for which you give thanks this year? What moments and experiences left you changed?

 

Motivation

For about 6 months, I’ve been thinking, “Y’know, I really ought to dust off my blog and start writing again.”

Several things lit a fire under me to finally get going.

First, I participated in the Spring Western Reserve Writers Conference at Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, OH back in March. As one of the “editors in residence”, I got to meet and talk with very creative writers with great book ideas and a metric ton of determination. As I sat in on the mystery writers workshop, I remembered all the fun “partial manuscripts” languishing on my hard drive. A single thought crossed my mind…

When did I stop being a writer?

Something inside me deflated a little.

I think life just took over. It wasn’t that I didn’t have any “sacred space” in my day for writing…I didn’t have any “sacred space” in my day – period! Not for writing, devotionals, exercise, or, for that matter, sleep.

And honestly, it’s not that I don’t write. I write media releases for my new-ish job (I’ve actually had the job almost a year) and I write articles for newsletters. But I also write prayers, meditations, devotionals, and sermons. I’ve tried to write a young-adult mystery, an adult romantic suspense novel, and inspirational women’s fiction. The good ideas flowed freely…for about two days. I’m still in love with the concepts and characters, but maybe this just isn’t the right venue for right now.

Second, after more than a year away from the blogosphere, I finally felt like I knew what I needed to say. As I wrote in the News Flash! area of the blog, I think I stopped writing not because I had run out of things to say, but because I didn’t know how to say them. I’ve been through a lot of personal stuff over the last two years. All of it part of some kind of divine conspiracy. I’m not ashamed to talk about it, but I wanted to be sensitive to my family’s needs and also recognize that while I’m not uncomfortable with some of the topics, others are. However, many times the only way to remove the stigma of a topic is to expose it to the light of day. I caught myself diluting a sermon this weekend because I didn’t want to make someone uncomfortable. As a result, the sermon lost some of its potential impact.

The details of my hiatus will emerge in time and with as much grace and sensitivity as I can allow. But it’s all “life stuff” that people go through every day. Many people experience it and cannot dig their way out because they feel alone. If I can encourage ONE person through something I’ve experienced, then it was worth it.

Third, my dear friend Tara McKinney of Tara McKinney Photography manifests fabulous fashion and creative portraiture. Any fantastical soul image or impression you have percolating inside you, Tara can create. My personal dream is to have her photograph me replicating the painting “Flaming June”. But I digress…

Tara is a champion of beauty, and driving home the fact that all of us are beautiful “as is”. There’s no such thing as perfection. Everyone’s got a flaw somewhere or something they’d love to change about themselves, but Tara sees everyone’s beauty. Any size, shape, color, or age.

She created a portrait of a simply dressed woman who seemed to be emerging from the rocks. Tara asked me to write something to go with the photo – prose or poetry.

When I studied the portrait, all I could think of was “diamond in the rough”. So I wrote a free verse poem to go with the image. It was a lot of fun – a great creative exercise – and it got the creative juices flowing.

I was a little surprise when Tara contacted me about a week ago and said she had a 12-image series she’d submitted for Obscurae Magazine. Would I be interested in writing something to go with the images? With three days till deadline?

Um, sure, yeah, okay. I love a challenge!

“Imperfectly Perfect”, Tara’s series, was not only accepted to the magazine, but selected as the cover photo story. And I got to ride into publication on her creative coattails. 🙂

However, part of that package included providing a link to my web site or blog. I’m a professional writer (technically) but I don’t normally write for projects like this (although I find I enjoy it – a lot!). I no longer have a professional web site because I closed my editing shop more than a year ago…I just do it on the side. And this blog had been dormant for more than a year…

But Tara’s success led me to dust it off partially so they’d have a URL to use for the story, and because….well, it’s just time to write again.

My personal pain and conflict is only a recent memory and sometimes I feel as broken as the porcelain dolls scrutinized through her lens. But I don’t want to be afraid to tell the stories. I’m a story-teller. Always have been.

Thanks, Tara, for the invitation to the Mad Hatter’s tea party.

Reader Appreciation and the Power of Story

Let’s end June with a bit of fun!

I’ve been honored with a Reader Appreciation Award by author and blogger Michael Rupured. You really should read the wit and wisdom of his blog My Glass House. I’m not just saying that because I had the honor of editing two of his manuscripts: Until Thanksgiving, a wonderful work of romantic fiction, and his memoir Glass Houses, that illustrates in vivid color that it’s never too late to discover your truth and start again, and that in a crowded world it only takes a handful of the right people to shape a life. Michael’s a fabulous storyteller and his blog is an appetizer. The main course is coming.

Like Michael, I realize awards like these aren’t Pulitzers, but there are so many bloggers out there who write from the heart, write well, and tell stories of importance. We read each other’s entries, like them, share them, and support them. It’s hard to blog to change the world, but nothing says we can’t create a few ripples. I love and appreciate every award I’ve been given, and I try to pay it forward every chance I can.

Paying it forward is one of the stipulations of the Reader Appreciation Award – and you’ll find those recognitions below. I chose five individuals I’ve only begun following recently, and I hope you’ll check them out as well.

Having a little Q&A is one of the stipulations too. And again, like Michael said in his blog, if anyone wants to know anything about me, they just have to ask. But here we go…

1.   What is your favorite color?   Orange – from mimosas to sunsets to pumpkins. Construction barrels? Not so much.

2.  What is your favorite animal?   The South American Harpy Eagle. I saw one up close a few years ago…well, as close as one can get without becoming a snack…and I looked into its eyes. I understood at that moment why some cultures worship animals. Even in captivity, it radiated enormous power and dignity.

3. What is your favorite non-alcoholic drink?   Regular ol’ brewed coffee with half & half.

4. Facebook or Twitter?  I don’t have a Twitter account…but I’m not sure Facebook is a favorite hangout anymore either. Mostly because they keep messing with a good thing. I keep in touch with friends and family around the world though, and that’s a good thing.

5. Favorite pattern?  The tartan of the Isle of Skye

6. Do you prefer getting or giving presents?  Giving! Especially when I can give one for no reason at all.

7. Favorite number?  139. Psalm 139 changed how I viewed myself – my physical self and my better self.

8.  Favorite day of the week?  Friday! There’s a whooole weekend ahead!

9. Favorite flower?   Any that are growing in wild abundance. Picking one favorite is tough. Sunflowers are high on the list, so are zinnias and bachelor buttons.

10. What is your passion?   Storytelling. I enjoy sharing stories – verbally and in writing. I love helping other people tell their stories as well, whether it’s set on another planet or in their own backyard. Not everyone will have a best-seller that’s optioned to Lucasfilms or Warner Brothers…

But that does not make the story any less important. I had a memoir writing instructor tell me once, “Because you remembered, it deserves to be told.” The same could apply to fiction – because you imagined it, it deserves to be told.

On that note, I have five blog nominees to share…and a special kudo for a young writer who turned her NaNoWriMo effort into her first book at the age of eleven.

My fellow bloggers:

And a special Reader Appreciation Award for Hannah F., whose book Woodlands Fight will soon be available on CreateSpace. I know I appreciated being able to read it! And I know you have an excellent future ahead of you!

Write like your heart’s on fire…