31 December 2009

A Yearly Update

A year ago today, I wrote about my word for 2009.  "Enough," I said, "means that there's breathing space, room to be tired and stop striving, stop feeling like I should be doing more, being more, becoming more."

And this has been a year of enough.

Dave and I have had enough each month to live on. In fact, given our fairly simple lifestyle, we've had more than enough and we've been able to save. I found a place of balance between work, home, and my own heart, a place where I could be satisfied with "less than perfect" in each place while still pursuing my goals in each one. I even managed to get it through my head that I am, in fact, a human being and that, since God made me that way, He must not expect me to do everything that it sometimes seemed like I should do.

In some ways, 2009 has actually been a year of abundance. "Abundant normalcy" is what I've taken to calling it, at least in my own head. Not much out of the ordinary has happened. Most days, I've gone to work, gone to the gym, foraged some dinner, and spent a little time with Dave before falling asleep so I could wake up and do the same again. But along the way, I've found treasures in that. There's something about routine, even when it fills life with things to do, that opens up space for the mind and heart to grow. I don't understand it, but I know it's true.

Some highlights of our abundant normalcy:
  • Finding our favorite easy dinners. Homemade pizza, chicken with brown rice and vegetables, soup and tuna sandwiches, rice and veggie cassarole
  • Watching TV with Dave. Allowing our minds to rest while we spend time together offers great blessing. 
  • Waking up together. I hate the mornings where Dave leaves early, because there's no one to roll over and hold when I wake up.
  • Working out. There's not much better for me than 30 minutes a day spent sweating. I think it keeps me sane, some weeks.
  • Starting my own business. Early last year (I think this was it), I walked away from writing as a career. Not as a practice, but as a career. At the end of the summer, I felt called to pursue commercial writing again, and found doors opening. At this point, it's a solid part-time gig that may turn into something more, and I love it.
  • Our little home. It's a quirky apartment in a building that looks so much like the ones on either side that people have trouble finding it sometimes, but over the past year it's become home. Maybe it's the things we've added to make it look like home, but I prefer to think it's how we've learned to live and love here.
  • Our marriage. This was the year where Dave and I transitioned from being newlyweds into . . . well, into whatever comes next. I can't give you a date or a time when the metamorphosis occurred, but occur it did. Being married feels normal now, and I love that.
  • Quiet rhythms. Five minutes to pray here, ten to clean over here, and thirty to read, if I'm lucky, over here. Not much changes in a few minutes a day, but a year of rhythms is good for the soul, and a lot can change in five minutes and five minutes and five minutes and . . .
Standing where I am now, looking back over 2009 feels odd, like I'm waving goodbye to a little quiet lake among the mountains, one that most people don't know about, where I was invited to dig and and rest for a while, and where I'm now leaving.

Leaving, you may ask? Why leaving?

Ah, 2010. It's going to be an interesting year, a year where this abundantly normal state that I've come to find as enough and more than enough is going to get ripped up like a piece of old carpet. And who knows what will replace it?

To start with, one of these days we're going to have a baby. I mean "one of these days" quite literally--it looks like she won't be Daddy's little tax break, but our girlie will be here before February 1. Though maybe she's an example of the abundantly normal, too . . . I mean, how ordinary is it to have a baby? And yet what a special little gift we'll be unwrapping here in the next month!

On top of that, Dave is losing his job at the end of June. That's both exhilarating and unnerving. It frees us up to do so many things, mostly things that I don't think we would have done with the safety and security of a job with benefits keeping us here. On the other hand, the possibilities and lack of concrete direction can be overwhelming. We've wanted to move for so long, to live and quest and serve in so many ways, and now that we have the chance we keep looking at each other and asking Where? and To do what? and How will we have health insurance? It's sort of like going over the edge when you're rappelling--sheer thrill and sheer terror so mixed together you couldn't distill them if you tried.

Trust, God whispers, and hope.  And I do, though I also grieve the loss of this for Dave and for me and for our family. We're trying to stand against the winds with open hands, not forcing things but ready to receive what's there and bring it into our lives and our selves.

So, I don't know what 2010 has to bring, but I know it's not the ordinariness of 2009 and I'm sure it's going to be an adventure. As a great character in a great story once said when told that something would be an adventure, "Applying Father's definition of an adventure being a series of unlooked-for and uncomfortable events, Theo guessed that it would be."

Here we go!

14 September 2009

Waiting With Clenched Fists

"God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait."
-John Milton, On His Blindness 


I found these words a little over a year ago, when I spent the weekend with three wonderful women (Kirsten is the only one who still blogs regularly).

So much has happened since then, and yet I still find myself in this period of waiting. I see people around me being given significant tasks to do in the Kingdom of God. These people aren't very different from me: same age, same education, similar emotional and spiritual maturity levels. In fact, the only consistent difference I can find is that they are not me.

It's not that I don't see things I'd love to do, jobs that I could take and make my own and love and squeeze and call 'George.' It's that now is not that time for them.

I don't know how I know that, except I do. When I'm tempted to think that it's my own fear telling me to wait, all the doors of opportunity close. They don't slam, but they dissipate, like a morning mist as the sun rises. I can go so far, getting training and even degrees, but every step I try to take forward gets diverted. I'm left trying to grasp a handful of sand and wondering why there's nothing left in my hand when I open it.

It's frustrating. On the worst days, I ask God, "Do you want me? Am I somehow merely decorative in your Kingdom?" And all He does is smile at me. What in the world does that mean?

So I keep waiting, walking and waiting, because we have to move forward in life, through time if nothing else. One foot goes in front of the other, and I hope there's a culmination somewhere along the line.

I hope because I know Him, because even His decorations have a purpose.

03 September 2009

Just a quick note to say . . .

I've realized that part of the reason I don't post on this blog anymore is that I'm not sure what it's about, anymore. I'm not sure what belongs here and what doesn't, or what I want to share in this space. While I'm figuring this out, I've started another blog, tracking Dave's and my journey into new convictions and therefore new actions concerning what we eat and how we get it. Check it out if that sounds interesting to you. It's not much to look at, just now, but looks can be deceiving.

(This isn't to say that I won't be posting here, just that I'm currently posting a lot more over there . . . you know, for those of you who worry that I'm going to quit blogging or something!)

29 August 2009

Update, in no particular order

Well, it's been a while. Since I posted anything meaningful, I mean. So here are some updates, in no particular order.

1. The baby is growing. I feel her move pretty frequently and I can usually tell when she's awake and when she's asleep, because she's squirmy when she's awake! Now that I can feel her, it all seems a lot more real. Well, the baby stuff we're acquiring helps a lot, too! We don't have a name for her yet. At this point, I'm just hoping to have one for her before she's born. I had an ultrasound a couple of weeks ago and everything they could see looked good, but she was so wiggly that they couldn't get all the measurements they needed so I have another one in a couple more weeks. She's 20 weeks tomorrow, which makes her half a baby (Dave keeps saying, "Which half?")

2. Work is pretty stressful right now, though I will say that the satisfaction of seeing this new program that I've worked on for MONTHS now actually get started. Now, if only the details would smooth themselves out. For those of you who remember, it's nothing like my first semester in this job! Much, much better.

3. I'm becoming more and more interested in eating naturally and, as much as possible, locally. Living in my particular section of Los Angeles actually makes that fairly difficult. In fact, I've looked and looked for a blog of someone living here who does something similar, but I haven't had any luck! Dave and I are just at the beginning of this journey, I think . . . not doing a whole lot about it, yet, partly because there's not much we can do and partly because of our individual tirednesses, but partly because we want to make changes deliberately and fit them into our lives in a way that's sustainable, and that's even more difficult. But I think it's where we're headed.

4. Most of you know that I went to the Glen Workshop put on by Image Magazine at the end of July and beginning of August. It was quite the experience. Overall, very positive, though my tiredness made it hard for me to take advantage of everything I wanted to. But I met great people, had a critique group that really "clicked" and felt like I got some good feedback on my writing.

5. I'm not writing a whole lot, just now. Darn tiredness. I can blame the baby for that, right? But I am writing some, bits and pieces here and there. Keeping my feet wet, I guess, until I can fathom doing it with some kind of regularity again.

6. I feel like I've pretty much said goodbye to Dave for the semester. It's not that bad, but with his 40 hours of work, 3 classes, and 3-4 intense workouts every week, our time has gone from relaxed and lingering to hurried and intense. Life is a transition, I guess. And it will be worth it in the spring, when he only takes one class and can be around to learn to parent with me.

7. Speaking of Dave, his new workout routine (check out CrossFit) is helping so much! He's this close (see my fingers almost touching) to his fitness goals and so excited to finally be seeing some progress again. This brings us one step closer to his military chaplaincy goal.

Overall, I am well. Things are well. Life is full, and God is good.

22 August 2009

No, I haven't given up blogging

I'm just tired. And busy. And more tired. And the words that used to flow for this place now come slowly and it feels like I have to pull them out of my gut letter by letter. Mostly, I think I'm tired. Growing a baby is more work than it seems it should be...not to mention growing a mama.

06 July 2009

Check It Out!

I don't do this very often, but I've been bowled over by an artist and I have to share.

Have you heard of Nikki McClure? She does things with construction paper and an x-acto knive that I can't even begin to fathom. I bought this on a whim the other day, because it was so beautiful I couldn't fathom not getting it as soon as possible and being inspired forever.

When I got it today, I checked out some of the rest of Nikki's work and just had one word . . . wow. She even made a (and Joelle might kill me for this) BABY BOOK that I like, as well as this, which you'll just have to look at because I can't even describe it. Can we say, hello, baby shower?

I love Nikki's focus on community and and the simplicity, rhythm, and hidden beauty of daily life.

In case you're as impressed as I am, here is the homepage for Nikki's store and below are few (or maybe more than that) of my faves.

Disappear

Mama & Baby Posters
Several gorgeous posters
More beauty

02 July 2009

Not a Mommy Blog

I keep trying to write about this baby, and I can't. I don't know why, but the words don't come. Maybe I'm just not a Mommy Blogger, or maybe this isn't a mommy blog, or maybe I'm just too darn tired from growing this little squib to string words together about what I'm thinking and feeling. So here's some completely unorganized thoughts about the baby and parenting and life in general, in no particular, coherent order.

1) We call the baby Squib (from Harry Potter . . . we're fairly sure it won't do magic), Squiblet, Osito (little bear), Little One, Littlest, Small One, The Child (or, when I'm trying to tell Dave that his baby is hungry again, "Your Child"), and The Baby. We'll come up with more conventional names once we know the gender, but that's not until August and I refuse to call our child "it" until then.

2) Pregnancy is, so far, much less fun than I had been given to understand. I'm not sick in the puking sort of way, but I've had at least 4 different infections in the last month, some of which I've never even heard of before. The immune system needs to kick it into gear, here, or I might be nuts by January. Also, my stomach doesn't like being pregnant. I don't think you want any more details on that. And I'm tired. They told me I'd be tired when I got pregnant, but I had no idea how true that would be. I think I've watched more television in the last month than in the year before that. Yuck.

3) Pregnancy is definitely a chance to trust God more. Ideally, pregnant women don't take medicine, especially during the first trimester. Um, yeah. All those infections? Required medicines to get over . . . some of which could hurt the baby. But there's not much of a choice, because the infections will amost definitely hurt the baby if I don't treat them. So I take the meds and hope for the best, but it's been hard. God knows, though, and more importantly to me, he knew before he made this baby that my body would struggle to adjust and that I'd require drugs, and he still chose life for this little one. That's what I rely on, when I swallow the pills and hope for the best. People tell me that most of parenthood is like this. Yikes.

4) Expectant mothers get sick of talking about being pregnant, or at least I do. Sure, it's important to me, and near the front of my mind much of the time, but it's not the only thing going on in my life. I'm still me, back here behind the pregnancy veil. I know people are trying to show me how much they care and how excited they are for us, and I appreciate that so much, but sometimes I feel like the rest of me is just supposed to disappear. (If you've asked me about the baby recently, please don't feel bad--I only posted this because I couldn't think of anyone who I know reads this who has made me feel that way. It's mostly when acquaintences ask, "How are you?" and mean, "How's the baby?" or people who don't usually talk to me feel like I should share all my pregnancy details with them. Um . . . no.)

5) Sarah's Pregnancy FAQ, in no particular order: No, I don't know if I'll continue working after the baby comes. Yes, I'm still exercising, though I'm careful of my heartrate. Yes, I still wear heels and eat soft cheese, salmon, tuna, and lunch meat. No, I don't have an exact due date yet. I've grown out of some of my clothes but many still fit. No, the baby will not have its own room, at least, not from the get-go. And no, the idea of making a nursery doesn't make my heart go pitter-patter. No, I don't think I want your carseat/breast pump/stroller/2-year-old toys/crib/etc., not yet. Thanks for offering, but I haven't decided what I want yet, but I know I'll keep it minimal, and I'll let you know if I want yours. Yes, I still loathe the terms "bump watch" and "preggo," though "preggers" is starting to grow on me. No, Dave and I haven't talked about parenting styles yet. I think we'll figure it out as we go along. And yes, we're going to find out whether we're having a boy or a girl, mostly for our own sanity. No, I don't really plan to do a baby book, but I do have a journal that I'll give my child someday, if he or she wants it. Yes, I realize that's strange but pregnancy journals are so cutesy they make me want to gag.

I think that's it. If I missed a question that burns at you, let me know and I'll do my best.

6) I don't have any deeper thoughts that are ready to share yet. Things come up, but I'm pondering them in my heart for a while yet. Lately, my mind seems to chug along at about 75% capacity which makes daily life liveable but deep thoughts extremely slow.

7) I don't think I mentioned this here, but I'm going to the Glen Workshop at the end of July. It's basically a combination retreat and seminar for creative types, and I'll be doing the fiction seminar. I'm excited, though I hope I have a little more energy by then. Yay!!

Grow Baby, Grow!!

*returns to gestating assiduously* (Yes, I stole that phrase. If you can tell me where from, I'll buy you coffee if we ever meet IRL.)

08 June 2009

Without further ado . . .

. . . I'm pregnant! Sometime in the middle of January, Dave and I are going to have a wee one. Little Winfrey is about 8 weeks old and seems to be doing well. We got to see the heartbeat on ultrasound last week and it was so special!!

As for me (because that's almost always the next question), I'm doing ok. I don't have morning sickness to speak of, but I'm more tired than I had ever thought something currently less than two inches long could make me, and my immune system isn't at its best (apparently, it's not supposed to be . . . the things they never tell you about pregnancy!). That tiredness is part of why I haven't been around here much, but I wanted to share our news!

09 May 2009

The Big Blog Birthday Bash

Here it is! I hope you all enjoy it.

A couple of notes on the video before I post it:

  1. It's long. I cut it off at 45 minutes and that's without answering all of the questions. That was as long as I could take staring into my computer and talking to myself.
  2. There's a chunk in the middle where the lips don't quite match the words. I used the built-in camera on my computer and the computer started overheating and so some of the video is a little screwy. All of the audio is there, as far as I can tell, so if that drives you crazy you can just listen to the middle part.
Now, without further ado, the video:


The Big Blog Birthday Bash from Sarah Winfrey on Vimeo.

08 May 2009

Better late than never...

So the birthday video is going to take a bit more time than I'd expected as I've not done anything like this before and apparently it takes longer than I'd thought. But it's coming!

28 April 2009

Dreams Redux

Thanks to everyone for the great thoughts on my last post.

Having done some more thinking and mucking around in my head, I'm realizing that this is more of an issue of head vs. heart than it is about me not knowing what the answers are to what we should make of our dreams and what that means about following them.

My head, I think, agrees with much of what you all said. I especially felt like Heather's comment reflects where my head is at (I won't recap it here because she said she's posting about it on Friday, but you can check the comments on the last post to read it). When I think of things this way, God is like a military commander who trusts his ground commanders: He says that we have to strive for certain objectives but he gives us a lot of freedom as to how to go about them. I think that he might have a more specific will for certain individuals in certain situations, but he reveals that in a special way, in those situations.

I think this is definitely the way I feel about writing (as an example of one of my dreams). So many writers say that God has called them to write, specifically, and I haven't had that experience. I don't feel like God has told me to stop writing, or not to write. Instead, writing is something that I love and find important and pursue and use to convey truth about God and this world. I could probably do that in other ways, but this is the one that works for me, right now.

The hitch is this: I may write and write and write and never, ever be published the way I want to be. While learning to write well as a goal in and of itself has become much more important to me over the last several months, I'd be a terrible liar if I said that I never hope to have some of my work published. It seems inherent to writing to want publication: if you think you're saying something important, don't you almost always want to be able to share it with others?

But here's the kicker: if I felt like my dream came directly from God (instead of as a product of my choices, even though I want to ), I would feel like I had a much greater chance of success of seeing publication than I do if it's just me. God acts so definitively and pointedly in favor of the things he specifically wants (I'm thinking about all the battles he helped Israel win that they should have lost). With God not only on my side, but on the sidelines instead of in the bleachers or watching at home on TV, writing is safer. Everything else I want to pursue is safer too.

So my heart wants my dreams to come straight from God. If they do, what could there possibly be to worry about? If they don't--if they're from me, even if I'm choosing to follow His objectives as best I possibly can, lots of things can go wrong. These things, mind you, could have nothing to do with me, my motives, desires, etc.

As a corollary to all of this, I struggle more with my dreams when they're not specifically God/Christian oriented. To keep on the writing example, God doesn't show up explicitly in everything I write. Sometimes I write to take readers on an emotional journey and not necessarily to introduce them to God directly. While I don't think that's bad (a single piece of literature cannot, after all, encompass every aspect of life well), and while I know that part of living a truly Christian life is seeking excellence (or awesomeness ;) ) in everything we do, I wonder if I should be turning these works into something else . . . even when the only way I can think of to make them more explicitly Christian also makes them cheesy as cheesy can be, and I don't think God wants me to make my work BAD in order to tack his name onto it.

In the end, I want to be safe. I want my dreams all wrapped up in their nice little packages, ready to be unrolled as soon as I commit myself to them, as soon as I'm good enough to be the person who receives them. While I know that it's not like that, my heart is so afraid. And that's where I struggle--my head says that what my heart wants isn't true, my heart panics, and tries to explain itself in words my head can understand. That's never a good thing: hearts work best when they use their own syntax.

24 April 2009

Around We Go: Dreams and Other Flying Things

So, I haven't been around much. When you see (below) where my mind has been, lately, you'll either understand or wish I was still gone ;)

This isn't the kind of post I like to post. I'd much rather post epiphanies, or at least things that I have all together (or that make me look like I have it all together), not musings on issues that run deep and don't seem easily resolved. That said, here's what's on my mind (let's see if I can make it make sense to someone other than me).

I’ve been fighting with my dreams lately. There are things that I want to pursue and I’m struggling to discern whether they’re from God, from my own soul in response to God, from my own soul in response to the world, from a dark part of my own soul that’s trying to look good. I’m so afraid that they’re not from him, that they’re only things that will distract me from him, in fact, and that following them is only going to lead to confusion. I’m afraid that I’m being selfish, that I should stick in there and fight it out and give up my dreams for the sake of other things.

In the process of all of this, I’ve discovered quite a few questions and almost no answers. If the story about the girl and her kite was my right-brain way of asking these questions, consider this post my left-brain's answer to that.

It's hard for me to be struggling with this. I’d love to jump on the “follow your dreams” bandwagon (Is that a bandwagon? It certainly feels like it from where I stand, but it’s hard to tell…). But I have this little niggling thing in the back of my mind that tells me I need to think about it some more, need to feel about it so that when I do jump into something, I can jump in with my whole self.

So I’m pondering whether following our dreams is good. I’m wondering how much I should abandon/risk to follow my own dreams, and a lot of that is based on whether or not I believe those dreams are good.

*Please know that what follows is A LOT. It’s heavy and convoluted and confusing (or, at least, it feels all of those ways to me). If you’d rather not read or don’t have anything to say, I understand.

When I talk about following dreams, I’m not talking extreme dream-following, doing things that might get you killed, sacrificing your family, etc. I think it’s pretty clear that things like that aren’t right unless there are some pretty compelling circumstances. I’m talking about more run-of-the-mill dreams (are there such a thing as run-of-the-mill dreams?)—for the purpose of this conversation, things that don’t involve jumping from high places to low ones (with paraphernalia, of course), moving to countries where people like to shoot each other (though that one’s debatable), yada and etc.

Here are some of the questions that come up when I think about all of this (This all formatted much easier in Word...when I pasted it in here, I lost my whole hierarchy and I can't get Blogger to recreate it...I hope this still makes sense):
  • How do we practice self-denial and simultaneously follow our dreams? It seems like there’s something inherently selfish about ME following MY dreams, even if I dream of something incredibly humanitarian. It’s MY dream to give this to you, and so I am fulfilled by helping you. Am I doing it for me or for you? And what if I have a different sort of dream—one that’s not inherently humanitarian? What if I dream of opening a knitting store or having a web-run business that supports my family? Those aren’t evil things, but I’m definitely following MY own leading toward something I think will fulfill ME when I do it. And I look around this world and think that there’s a lot of goods greater than me being personally fulfilled. Should I suborn my dreams to those greater goods?
  • I’ve heard that the things we’re supposed to give up are those things that keep us from following our dreams—the fears, etc. We have to be willing to look silly, stupid, etc. to do the things that we want to do with our lives. I only sort-of buy this. It only works if we know that God wants us to pursue our dreams, that they are somehow ordained by him.
  • That brings me to another question: where do our dreams come from? Are they from God, involved somehow in the particular way each one of us reflects his image, implanted in us when we’re given life and made in his image (Another way to say this would be, “Are our dreams unique missions from God, the pursuing of which will directly move us more and more toward becoming the individuals he created us to be)? Or are they generated by our own souls, as we respond uniquely to both the image of God in us and the world where we find ourselves? Or, are they our own answers to what we see when we look around and try to figure out what would make us happy (in other words, are they idols, things we would sacrifice a lot to have but that won’t make us happy in the end)?
  • I really want to believe that our dreams are from God—it doesn’t matter to me in which of the above ways, as long as they are things that come from him and go back to him. I like this—I want it to be true. But I keep running into problems with it.
  • If pursuing our dreams is what God wants for us and doing so makes us more and more the people he created us to be, then what do we make of people who can’t pursue dreams, or who maybe are too focused on survival to even think about dreams. I’m thinking of refugees, people who have been through major trauma and spend the rest of their lives recovering, people who live in deepest poverty and it’s all they can do to survive, let alone dream. Do these people just never get to become the people God wants them to be? Is that a privilege of the wealthy, those of us with the time, energy, and psychological resources to dream and follow those dreams?
  • This doesn’t seem true—often, it seems like people who have less financially or who struggle through life know God the best, or at least know him well. What does this say about the role of dreams and pursuing them.
  • If pursuing our dreams is what God wants for us and doing so makes us more and more the people he wants us to be, then what do we make of people whose dreams fail? Are they just never going to become that person God wants them to be? I don't think that's right. Were they not good enough? Don't like that, either. Did they miss God’s call on their life and chase a wrong path? I don't even necessarily think this is true--I think that sin and evil can thwart even a good dream and God might allow that, for whatever reason. But, then, how do we account for sin and evil when it comes to dreams?
  • I come back to the selfish thing again here. I don’t think God wants us to be selfish, and so many dreams are selfish. Even the ones that offer good to the world are usually done first for the well-being of the do-er, not for the people who get the good as a sort of by-product.
  • What is the role of safety and responsibility in all of this? I’ve heard great stories about people who quit their jobs to follow a dream and end up happy, healthy, and whole. But I’ve also heard stories about people who quit and whose dreams fail, who then have to somehow pick up the pieces not just for themselves but for their whole families and move on. It’s great to say that there’s really no such thing as safety and that each of our first responsibility is to ourselves and the dreams in our hearts, but the truth is that there are things that are more safe than others. How much risk is acceptable? How much is too much? Does it depend on the kind of dream it is (like, it might be acceptable to risk more if my dream is to take the Gospel somewhere but not so much if my dream is to write books or start a business)?
  • These concerns seem to particularly come into play when you start talking about people with families. It’s one thing to say, “I’m going to rise my own life/health/mind/well-being/stability/whatever,” but completely another to risk those for other people, especially children but also spouses, parents, etc.
As you can probably see, I've been making myself a little crazy about all of this, going round after round with my own mind and heart on these issues. At the back of it all, I keep wondering if I'm thinking about things so much because I don't want to have to go after something. But the minute I think about going after something, all of these things pop up again. So many of my deepest personal doubts and struggles touch these issues that I'm not sure I even feel qualified to discern whether it's what I'm wanting that's harmful or staying where I am that would do the most damage, but who else is going to do it for me? Thus I'm walking in, wading through, hoping that I recognize truth when I see and that it stomps on all the lies.

08 April 2009

You're Invited . . .

I just had a fabulous idea while I was in the shower. Well, I don't know how it will turn out, but it seems fabulous right now.

In 29 days, I turn 30. This afternoon, through some sorta related but mostly unrelated thoughts, I started thinking about what that means to me, what my twenties and my teens and all the years before now meant, and how I feel and think about it all. As I thought, I realized that what I'd really like to do is be interviewed about all of this (I think that's the lazy girl's way out--if it's an interview, I don't really have to organize it all!).

Now, I don't have anyone to interview me, and part of the fun is not only answering the questions, but asking them and recording them and all that. I thought about thinking up the questions I want to answer and interviewing myself, but that's not nearly as much fun as a community project. Besides, so many of the people who I'd love to celebrate with are people who I only or mainly know online (that's y'all). So, I'm issuing an official invitation for you to come to my Online Interview Birthday Party (you're invited even if you know me in offline life, too!).

To celebrate with me, all you have to do is ask a question. I'm up for almost any questions, whether they're helpful-in-reflecting-on-30-questions, silly questions, dumb questions, funny questions, sad questions, any questions at all that you'd like me to answer, just leave them in the comments.

Sometime around the first of May, I'll sit down with all the questions and figure out how I want to answer them (writing? video podcast? audio podcast?). Somewhere around my birthday, I'll post the answers here, in whatever form they take.

I don't promise to answer every single question, but I will do my best to get to all of them. Inappropriate questions will not only not get answered, they'll be deleted from my comment list (Do I even need to say that here?). I'll probably add some questions of my own, and if nobody plays along, I'll come up with the whole list.

What do you think? Fabulous, right?

12 March 2009

Enough

**Sorry for the repeat...Blogger published this out of order. No idea why.

Once upon a time, there lived a little girl who wanted to fly. For her whole life, or at least as much of it as she could remember, people had told her she should fly. It was her birthright, they said, and there was no good reason why she shouldn't fly if she just worked hard enough.

The little girl felt so excited when she talked to these people. Her dream seemed within her grasp--all she had to do was become good enough, smart enough, and strong enough, and she would fly away to soar with the birds through the sunset and into morning.

As she grew a little, the girl began to be troubled about her dream. Flying seemed so hard. The sky seemed so far away and she felt so heavy. She looked around her and saw other people, sometimes the same ones who told her she should fly. They had worked really hard, even harder than she was working, and they couldn't fly. How hard must it be, then, to actually rise above the earth?

It seemed too hard to do all on her own, and so the little girl hatched a plan. One night, she took the sheet off her bed and made it into her special flying sheet. Now, she had a real way to fly. Some day, when the wind was just right, when she'd perfected her running and jumping, she would grab all four corners of the sheet, run from one end of her yard to another, jump, and the wind would carry her away.

The girl became obsessed with her plan. During the day, she practiced running and jumping and she stared at the sky, waiting for just the right wind. At night, she dreamed of flying, practicing cartwheels and flips in her dreams.

Slowly, the girl got stronger. She ran faster and jumped higher. She learned to read the wind, so she'd know when hers was coming. Her heart pounded when she thought about how close the day must be, her flying day.

And then, the moment came. The girl felt the wind change and knew she had the strength to run and jump and take off to see the world. She ran inside to get her sheet.

When she came back out, she saw a man standing in her backyard. Though she'd never seen him before, he wasn't a stranger.

"Jesus," she said, "what are you doing here? Have you come to see me fly?"

She felt so excited. Jesus loved her enough to come and watch the thing happen that she'd worked so hard to achieve. He smiled at her, and she smiled back.

"Give me your sheet," he said, still smiling. He raised his hands to take it from her.

Her smile fell off her face.

"What?"

"Give me your sheet," he said again.

She looked at the sheet in her hands.

"But if I give you this, I can't fly! And I've dreamed of flying all my life. And I've worked so hard," she said.

"Give me your sheet," he said.

The girl didn't know quite what was going on, but she pulled her sheet and held it all in her arms.

"No," she said. "I want to fly."

Jesus let his hands drop and walked toward her. She smiled, sure she'd won. He reached out and touched her sheet. Somehow, she knew he wouldn't just take it, not like that, so she let him.

"Give me your sheet," he said.

"But how will I fly?" she asked.

"Maybe you won't," he said.

"But I've only ever wanted to fly."

"What if there's something better than flying?"

"What do you mean?"

"What if there's something better than flying?"

"There's nothing better than flying."

"Have you seen the world? Have you see what is above and beyond this world? How do you know there's nothing better than flying?"

She pondered for a minute.

"I don't know. But I've always wanted to fly," she said.

"Give me your sheet."

"If I give it to you, will I get one of these better things? Am I trading this sheet for something better?"

"I can't tell you that."

"Why not? I know I can fly, if I run and jump right now. Why would I give you this sheet?"

"Give me your sheet," he said.

The girl didn't know what to do. She loved Jesus, and she thought Jesus loved her. She certainly didn't want to fly away from him. But she wanted to fly.

"Will you fly with me?" she asked.

"Give me your sheet," he said.

His eyes somehow made her not angry, even though she wanted to hate him. She kept looking into them, like she couldn't stop. Slowly, the girl dropped the sheet, all but one little corner. Jesus gathered it up into his arms and moved to take the last bit. She clenched her fingers around it. He tugged, but she held on. Her fingers turned white and ached with the force of her holding, but she couldn't bring herself to let go.

"Give me your sheet," he said.

"But if I give you this, I have nothing. Do you hear me? Nothing!"

He gestured around him.

"What about this?" he asked.

"What about what?"

"All of this."

She looked around her. Everything looked the same as it always had--her house, the yard where she practiced and played, the fences with neighbors' houses on the other side.

She looked back at Jesus.

"I don't want this," she said. "I want to fly."

"But you have this," he said.

"But I want to fly."

"Why do you want to fly?"

"I want to go places and see things. I want to meet important people and talk to them. I want to do all those things that nobody else gets to do. I want to be somebody."

"Who are you here?"

"I'm nobody. I'm like everyone else, like my parents and my brothers and sisters and my friends."

"You're somebody here."

"What?"

"You're somebody here."

The girl looked around her. She wanted to believe him, but she still wasn't sure. To be somebody here, now, that would really be something. Almost nobody was somebody here. Jesus tugged at the sheet.

"I can't let it go," she said. "I want to fly."

"Do you want to let go?"

She looked at the ground and scrubbed her foot against a tuft of grass.

"Yes," she said. "If I am somebody here, I want to let go. Yes."

He began to pull, harder than he'd pulled before. She found herself pulling back, unable to do anything else and still not entirely willing to let go. He pulled harder and harder, tugging against her. Their tug-of-war felt like an all-out battle.

Finally, Jesus gave one long, last tug, harder than anything he'd done before. The girl felt her hands loosen, her grip suddenly and violently torn. She saw Jesus with the sheet, the whole sheet, and she felt her heart panic.

Before she could even begin to feel the panic, though, she saw Jesus unfurl the sheet. He held it in one hand and let its length whip in the breeze. Then, in a moment that forever after played through her mind in slow motion, he let the sheet go. The wind caught it and carried it up, over their heads, even over the houses.

The girl cried out, once. It felt like her heart was being ripped out. If only...if only she was attached to that sheet, she'd be flying like she always dreamed. Her heart swelled, then drained out in tears down her face.

Before she knew it, she realized Jesus was next to her. In the next second, she was in his arms, crying out her fury at him, to him. It shouldn't have made any sense except it did, and she was crying too hard to think very much.

After a long while, she finished crying. Oh, there might be more tears another day, but she'd cried all she could for that day. She looked up and saw Jesus gazing down at her. His eyes had never lost their gentleness, not even in the midst of that great tug-of-war.

"Why, Jesus," she asked. "Why did you take my sheet?"

"Could I hold you when you were holding that sheet?"

She scrunched up her nose and thought for a minute.

"I guess not," she said.

"That sheet came between you and me," he said, "and I can't ever let anything do that."

10 March 2009

Mary DeMuth's Daisy Chain


Daisy Chain is Mary DeMuth's new novel, and I've had the pleasure of reading it already. Since others have covered the plot, characters, etc. and done very well with those (and because I'm tired this week), I'm not going to get into them here except to say that Daisy Chain is about a little girl, Daisy Marie Chance, who disappears and her friend, Jed, who thinks it's his fault. Click some of the links below to find out more about the story. Anyway, I'm not sure it's quite right to call my thoughts here a "review," but here are some of my musings on the book.
  • Best: Daisy Chain is a great example of Christian fiction that gets outside the box. It's not easy, or nice, or happy, or any of the things that we've come to associate with Christian fiction. The lives Mary portrays here are messy . . . possibly even messier than our own, and in that mess, they are true. I loved that about the book.
  • Worst: Some of the symbolism is heavy-handed (like vultures, or Daisy's hair clips). When I encountered these images, I felt taken out of the story, like I remembered I was reading a book and was no longer transported into Defiance, TX. These symbols also made it seem like the book couldn't decide if it was for a literary audience or a popular one. Yes, I know it's possible to participate in both, but these images seemed like they were trying to make a popular book into a literary one and so felt jarring to the reader. Luckily, they popped up rarely and it was easy for me to get back into the story when I passed the image.
  • Writing: I loved Mary's writing. Her words made the reading seem effortless. In fact, I didn't feel like I read, for the most part, but like I walked alongside her characters. I read the book faster than I often do, and felt surprised when I looked down that first evening to find myself halfway through! I didn't read by flashlight like some had to, but I definitely wanted to finish!
  • Thoughtful: For me, this book brought up a lot of questions about what should and should not be portrayed in Christian fiction and what our responsibility is a Christian artists when we're portraying a hurt, broken world. There are parts of this book that were incredibly difficult to read because of the pain they portrayed. Were these parts necessary to the story? I think so (the novel is the first of a three-part series, so it's a little hard to tell what's necessary and what isn't at this point). Does that make them acceptable? I struggle with that. I don't have any answers, but the book definitely made me think.
  • Deep: Mary definitely has a grasp on the fact that no one is perfectly good or perfectly bad, but we're all these eclectic mixes of right, wrong, good, bad, and everything in between. I hated admitting that Jed's dad, Hap, could be right, but it was so clearly true. Again, a place where this book is true.
  • Annoying: I realize that, in the practical word of publishing, it would be difficult (if not impossible) to publish all three parts of this trilogy at once. However, it really bugged me that we didn't get to finish the story (partially because of reasons I list in my disclaimer below--it would have been easier for me to sleep after finishing had I known the end).
  • Disclaimer: I feel like I should say, for the purpose of transparency and objectivity about this review, that one part of the book hit me in a particularly vulnerable place. Several years ago, I had an intense experience of God. Over the two nights following, I felt like I fought evil in my sleep. Mostly, I had horrible half-waking dreams where I couldn't stop awful things from happening and couldn't get anyone to help me. After one dream, I woke fully and, though I faced the wall, I felt sure that an evil man was standing over my bed. I couldn't see his face; he was all shadows. I prayed, and then I turned around and no one was there, but I felt sure someone, something, had been. This ties to Daisy Chain because there's a creepy man who we only ever see standing, just standing, nothing else. As soon as I read about him, I felt transported back to my bed that night. It felt so intense that I had trouble falling to sleep while I was reading and for a couple of nights after. Honestly, it was hard to keep reading, even though I wanted to know what happened, and all of this probably made the book seem darker to me than it might to others.
Overall, I highly suggest this book, but don't jump into it thinking it's going to be easy or make you smile. It might make you truly happy, though...

For more on Daisy Chain, check out:
5 Minutes for Books
A Peek at My Bookshelf
A Spacious Place
Actual Unretouched Photo
Along the Way
Amy Storms
Ashley Weis
Aspire2 Blog
Awesome God . . . Ordinary Girl
blah-blah-blog
Blame it on the Loud Mouth Gene
Blog Tour Spot
Bluebonnet in the Snow
Book Nook Club
BookingIt
Bookworm’s Nook
Bound to His Heart
Callapidder Days
Camy’s Loft
Canadian Prairie Writer
Carla’s Writing Cafe
CommuniKate
Cyndy Salzmann
Declaring His Marvelous Work
dreamers of the day
Edgewise
Faith Fuel
Faith of a Single Mom
Fictionary
Five Bazillion and One
Giving Up on Perfect
Heading Home
Healthy Spirituality
Home-Steeped Hope
i don’t believe in grammar
it wasn’t me

Janell Rardon’s Blog
Just Pure Lovely
J’s Spot
Kindred Heart Writers
Krellfish
Leap of Faith
Life is one daily adventure
Lift My Noise
Lighthouse Academy
Literary Discoveries
Literary Fangirl
L’Chaim
Margaret Daley
Mari’s Morning Room
My Life Message
Paper Bridges
Partners in Prayer for Our Prodigal
Pix-N-Pens
Positive Moms
Prayerfully Penned
Rachel Hauck
Refresh My Soul
Reviews by Donna
Sarah Winfrey
Scraps and Snippets
See Ya On the Net
Simplifying Motherhood
Sips ‘n Cups Cafe
Sky-High View
The Gospel Writer
The Journey of Writer Danica Favorite
The March to Freedom
The Serial Writings of Robin Shope
The View From Here
The Writing Road
Whosoever Will Outreach Ministry
Wild Words . . . Photos and Fine Art
Wisdom Walk
Word Vessel
Write by Faith

05 March 2009

An Offering

For LL Barkat's poetry invitation this week: part poem, part essay, part vignette. It's very much confused and only about half what I wanted it to be, but I love it. It's like a baby: not nearly fully grown but beautiful nonetheless.

******************************************

I went searching for grace among sea grass and dunes. Polished glass pebbles called me forward until I could see my face in placid water's stillness. Gulls called, waves ripped, and I waved to sea-turtles swimming by. If only I could come back, I could grasp grace here.

I went searching for grace among pine trees and flowers. Meadows beckoned and I followed twisty path to their heights. Peaceful wind ruffled my hair: a father's hand; great trees surrounded and kept safe: giant arms to encircle and protect. If I could live in this place, I could grip grace here.

I went searching for grace in high alpine places, beyond the trees near the sky. I climbed. Little grasses poked their way through the soil to stand, inch-high and proud. Tiny, tiny flowers showed their faces on impossible-to-pick short stems. If I could reach high enough, I could grab grace here.

I returned home without grace, so almost-but-not-quite that tears crept out when I thought of it. Grace wasn't mine, to grasp, grip, or grab. It taunted me, calling me forward, then elusive; I was left with if-only and long, lonely tears through the night.

Morning came. With it came light-joy, pouring over distant mountains and feeding night-chilled sand beneath my feet. I opened my arms and it fed me, too. Grace here. Grace unexpected. Grace near.

23 February 2009

I'm in a weird place right now.

For the first time in ages, writing isn't so urgent to me. I first wrote that it isn't so important to me, but that's not true. It's important to me that I write, to make sense of my world through words, and that I put those words on paper. Writing helps me stop and focus long enough on something that I can meditate on it and figure out what's going on in my heart and what I want to do in response to that.

I guess I could say that publication isn't so urgent for me, either. It's still a goal, still out there as something that I am pursuing and will continue to pursue, but I've realized that I'll still have a life I like even if I never have a novel published. Even if I'm not good enough, don't have enough time, find that I hate the whole process, God has given me a life that I want to live. There's nothing to prove, nothing to win, no value that I have or don't have based on whether or not someone likes what I write enough to put it in book form.

And most days, I believe that.

Writing is a particular instance of something I'm trying to do on a much greater basis right now. It's all part of my meditations on "enough."

I've spent so much time living in the future--hoping for things, thinking about how much better my life would be if I had more, if things were different, if I were more important, had a wider audience, could say the things that I think matter to people who could actually change. I've wanted to be chosen, gifted, talented, recognized, wanted, valued, and respected in ways that aren't present in my current life, and so I've looked to the future as not only the place where I get all those things, but as the place where I am finally living, finally someone of value, finally someone who matters.

That's all a load of crap.

The truth is that I tend to think that I'm not living the life I would have chosen if I'd been given a cafeteria and been able to pick and choose every element, but I don't know that. Maybe I did stand in that cafeteria with God, one day, looking at the possibilities and choosing which ones represented what I really wanted my life to be about. And even if that didn't happen, this is the life God has given me: this apartment, this job, this husband, these friends. There has to be value in living this life, in making choices in this context, and not just trying to get out of it and into one that I like better.

It's hard to be normal. It's harder than I'd ever thought. I thought normal was what happened when you didn't try to do anything else. But normal is it's own version of special, with it's own struggles, hardships, joys and graces. Sometimes, I'm ashamed to be normal, ashamed that I haven't made myself into something more or that I haven't been specially asked to do something important and out-of-the-ordinary. But I fight that shame because it's also a bunch of crap.

I also don't feel so much of a need to talk about my life. I live it, and I try to love it. It's not that I don't want all of you to know what's going on with me, but more that I'm spending more time living and less time sorting it all out into blog-length bits. Overall, I think that's a good thing, though I miss being around here more. And it means that my posts (like this one) are a little more garbled than I'm used to, because I haven't put them together like I used to. But it feels good to focus on living on not on thinking. Don't get me wrong...I still think, and I think thinking is good. But I think I've thought myself into a corner in some areas and I want to get out of those. And I'm willing to be an infrequent blogger who writes disconnected posts if that's what it takes!

04 February 2009

Life is not all about forward motion

Manna, meat,
and the stuffed,
astonished faces
of Israel.
Bread of heaven
sustaining always,
if need be.
Does that mean
we'll be here
forever?

Stuck in a
darkish place.
I close my eyes and see
more dark.
Hidden behind
enveloping hands,
so close I could touch
if only I could see.

Solace and
loneliness,
so close, in the
dark and silent night.
More manna
makes sense
or is the answer
in the wandering?

28 January 2009

Reading for life

As I start to rewrite my novel, I've been thinking a lot about the reading I've done over the years, why I've done it, and what I've gotten from it. Honestly, I've been trying to motivate myself to start over. I mention it on the other blog in the link above, but starting over is hard...it's hard to remember that the work I've done so far still means something, even though I've found a better way to say it all.

But back to reading. I always figured that I read to escape, to give my mind something to do, to create worlds and friends in my head when I didn't like the world around me and didn't feel like I had any friends. But I've been reading The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner. She talks about how most writers read, and many started reading because the world didn't satisfy, because they wanted to understand things that weren't explained to them and wanted to know how people functioned and how life worked beyond their experience.

That's totally me!

I mean, I read for all those other reasons, too. But reading has given me so much more than escape, so much more than people to populate my world when the real relationships didn't work or didn't satisfy. I could make a list of the things that reading has given me, but it would go on forever. I'm more intuitive, more big-picture, more interested in psychology and sociology and spiritual growth, more mature, more understanding, more intelligent, more insightful, more creative, more connected to the middle of who I am because of books. I credit a lot of my emotional maturity to the fact that I read and experienced many characters' growth along with them, even before I'd experienced that particular type of growth for myself. I credit a lot of my good decision making to experiencing poor decision making and its consequences through characters. I credit some of my faith to watching God work in different characters lives and experiencing, with them, the ups and downs of that relationship.**

Powerful things, these books. Powerful enough to make me say that I want to try again, to keep writing in hopes that someday I can touch someone the way my heart has been touched so many times.



**On a side note, I've begun to hope that the characters who have touched my life in these ways and so many others are somehow alive in heaven. Maybe it's a pipe dream, maybe I'm totally off the wall, but maybe not. And how cool would that be for an artist, to know that God not only leg him create something on paper, but that his creation has somehow been given life. Please God? Could the real people and the book-people somehow live together?

23 January 2009

Dearest, Darling Novel

I've been thinking about this post for weeks but haven't put it up yet, at least in part because The Sinus Infection That Doesn't Die seems to have taken up residence in my head and I would swear that it seeps into my brain. Oozes, maybe.

A few...days? weeks?...ago, LL Barkat posted this, where she features a letter to her being-born book. It fed her mind and her writing and allowed her to come back to it with different eyes. Since then, I've written several letters to my first-drafted novel, and this is a conglomeration of all of them. I'd hoped to find, in the writing of these letters, what wasn't working about the book, because my intuition told me something had broken and I didn't know what. I did figure out the problem, and I'd like to think the letters contributed at least a bit.

Dearest Novel,

I love you. I feel like I need to say that straight out, so I don't forget it in the wandering, confused place I feel like we've entered in the last several days. Because it is confusing to know that I love you and also that something isn't working. I feel like I've almost abandoned you, like the temptation is to leave behind what doesn't work and find something that does. But the truth is, no matter where I go from here, something will always be unfinished if I let you languish in this state. I'll look at you out of the corner of my eye, pretending not to see but really seeing nothing else, and I'll always wonder what might have been.

I don't like wondering what might have been. This dislike seems to have served me well thus far, having played a key role in netting me, at the very least, a husband. So I trust it again, and plug away at looking you square in the face and finding a shape that fits both what you've become and what I want to say, through you, to the world. You will be finished, someday, even if it's only so I can point to you and say, "That? That was my first novel," and beam with pride.

So I'll sit with you, if that's what it takes, though I don't promise a terribly high tolerance for banging my head on the wall. I'll sit with you and try to figure out how to put the pieces together a different way. I'll walk around and around you, looking at all the angles until I find one that works. And then I'll rebuild, if I have to, or at least rearrange, until the pieces fall together in a different way.

This process feels like one big game of pickup sticks, that most frustrating and odious of games, or maybe Jenga, which was always a lot more fun. Either way, I want to pull from you what is unnecessary, what doesn't work, and leave in place your core, your weight-bearing walls. Of those, I'll tear down what I have to, though I'd rather not bring the whole house down on my head.

Off we go, then, on this journey into...well, into wherever we're going. I suppose you're going to tell me that it wouldn't be nearly as much fun if I knew where we'd end up and, begrudgingly, I'll agree. So let's go, already. Let us away!

Yours,
SGW

20 January 2009

I know...ya'll were hoping for a real post. And there's one coming, just as soon as I can figure out how to get the words out. Meanwhile, I posted about my good news over at sarahwinfrey.com. More details when I have them.