More than Words at Stake


seeing what is sacred

Books in a way are sacraments that make the communion between an author and a reader possible. The white paper and black ink are the means through which one heart is revealed to another. But the paper and the words are merely the elements of the sacrament. What is sacred is the heart that writes the book and the heart that sits in silent communion to take and read what has been written.

The words that are read are small, waferlike things. But sometimes, on some page, God humbles Himself to come through some of those words and touch the reader’s heart. It is not the words that are sacred but God who is sacred . . . and the person to whom He comes.

In a sermon C. S. Lewis once said that next to the Blessed Sacrament our neighbor is the holiest thing presented to our senses. Most of us, though, are oblivious to that holiness except at rare moments …

“The awe that we sense or ought to sense when standing in the presence of a human being is a moment of intuition for the likeness of God which is concealed in his essence,” wrote the Jewish scholar Abraham Heschel. “Not only man; even inanimate things stand in relation to the Creator. The secrets of every being is the divine care and concern that are invested in it. Something sacred is at stake in every event.”

Something sacred.

At stake.

In every event.

A sobering thought, if it’s true. And if it’s true, it changes everything. Every moment of our day, every day of our life. Every dinner with the family, every breakfast with a stranger. – Ken Gire, in “Seeing What is Sacred”

 

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A Year is Ending


It has been a busy year.

It was a rare day in January. My husband was actually home for the day. He was sick and resting in bed when I got an email. After reading it, I told my husband sadly that my one of my favorite authors – Ken Gire, who I consider a sort of writing mentor – would be attending the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference in May. I had been blessed with a scholarship to attend the previous year, and knew there wasn’t a chance I could do that again.

“Why don’t we make a family trip out of it?” Dan suggested in his spontaneous way. I jumped at the idea. We discussed the details and within an hour I had reserved our stay (for four months down the line) and determined that I needed to finish at least one novel to present to prospective agents/publishers by the time the conference rolled around.

It took two months to complete the draft – 77,777 words – which my husband read as I was writing as my first novel critique. Over the next month, another five people critiqued it and I completed the third draft at two in the morning, May 14. The week leading up to that time had been busy with college finals, packing for the journey, and constructing a poorly written book proposal – but finally, fours hours after I printed out that proposal, our family of five (and my dad too) were on the road, headed to Colorado.

In mid-March, Dan had another inspiration: figure out the logistics of moving into a house. We had spend our first year after moving to California with my parents – September 2010 to August 2011 – and then moved into a two-bedroom apartment, which though cozy was splitting at some of its seams, and my temperament at the close quarters during the winter was fraying around the edges. A house sounded like quite a plan indeed.

It seemed, however, as we began the search for a house, that everyone else had the same idea we did. As soon as a house appeared on the market, it was snatched up, and each one was more expensive than the one before. Interest rates were at an all-time low, but housing prices were starting to rise, and fast. We looked at house after house and made a few offers, none of which came through.

Then, in early May, we saw the house. You know, when you get that feeling? That says, “This is just right” but you don’t want to get your hopes up because you know it’s impossible for it to come through? Especially when houses that were less expensive (and needed a whole lot of TLC) were beyond our reach. But we prayed about it and decided to make an offer. It was funny because, as we left that house after seeing it for the first time, I felt like we were leaving something important behind and I just kept praying, “Lord, keep it for us if it’s Your will; if not, we know You have something better.” But this one definitely felt different than the ones before. For some reason, it already felt like home. An empty, newly painted and carpeted, waiting-for-us-to-claim-it home.

We had to wait for a few things before we would hear back on our offer. So with that up in the air, we made the trip to Colorado. And it was awesome! Days filled with workshops and general sessions, with meeting writers and aspiring authors, with feeling God’s Spirit moving in the lives of people He had called to write … and of course enjoying time with my husband and the kids and my dad – hiking around the Rockies, experiencing nature up close and personal and being amazed by its sheer magnificence.

On the 20-hour drive home – which we split up into two days – I got the idea of starting a new blog, on purpose and meaning, which I launched in the first week of June. I think I have been more consistent in posting for this, my fourth blog, than the others, especially since it has a different theme each day. But overall, blogging has been a big focus for me this past year and I’ve probably done more blogging than long-term writing (well, except for nanowrimo, which is another story altogether).

During our week-long journey, the prospect of coming home to a new home was exciting. Well, by the joining of events that all together are nothing short of miraculous, we got the house. As soon as we unpacked from the trip, we began packing for the move. One month after making it home from Colorado was our big “move day” – June 22. We spent the next couple weeks between the two places, setting up the house and cleaning up the apartment.

In the first week of August, my sister and her three kids moved in with us. A week later, my fall semester began, with a full class load. A week after that, Jessica and Allen started school, along with their cousin, Jenna. Tuesdays and Thursdays, I attended college and picked the kids up from school on my way home. Wednesdays and Fridays, I taught Aiden and Keira – his cousin – at home, as neither of them are old enough for school yet.  My sister took care of them on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Mondays, everyone was home and the activity and energy level rose exponentially for every family member present.

During November, I attempted nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) for the first time. The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. I didn’t reach that goal, but enjoyed the experience and believe I learned some things from it, but have yet to reflect on those things.

The semester ended on December 12th, and the kids’ Christmas break began midday on December 17th. I had one Tuesday and half a Thursday without classes and without kids. I didn’t know what to do with myself.

The fact is it’s been a busy year. I feel like the number of moments I’ve had to just stop and reflect and think … and be … could be counted on one hand.

It has been no less busy for Daniel. He has been juggling two jobs in the midst of setting up sprinkler systems and building garage shelves and laying cement in the back yard and planting trees … and doing all those things that have turned this house into a home (it really has been a lot).

We celebrated our tenth anniversary in September with a weekend trip to the hills. It was awesome to get away for a couple days while my sister and parents looked after the kids. And even more awesome to have been married for ten years. Every year is getting better.

Also in September, Jessica turned nine. She is halfway through fifth grade, and taking piano classes. She loves to read and beat me in a summertime contest of number-of-pages read.

The month before that, Allen turned seven. He is in third grade and also taking piano. His artwork amazes me and it is astounding what he can come up with.

Aiden, the youngest, will be five in March. His fascination is still anything to do with a motor and wheels. The bigger and louder the better (as long as it’s not a vacuum cleaner). He loves to learn and do new things, as long as it doesn’t become tedious.

And here we stand, on the verge of the New Year, or as I prayed last night, “with the New Year around the corner,” to which Aiden responded, “I didn’t know that we were on a bus” and Jessica checked around the corner of the hallway just to make sure.

Reflecting on the events of this past year, I am amazed at all God has done. At this time last year, taking a family trip across a few states had not even been a consideration. Moving into a three-bedroom house with a covered patio was a nice idea, but definitely not something we had been planning for. But God had, and I guess that’s what really makes the difference.

Since the semester ended a couple weeks back, I have been trying to take time just to think and pray. I’ve also picked up some books on personal, spiritual growth, as well as some books on writing and publishing. I know the New Year is not going to give me or anyone in my family a bunch of time in which to take our breaths and regain focus.

But one thing I know is that I don’t want to lose sight of the things that are most important in the midst of the myriad of things that are, yes, important, but perhaps not most important. With that in mind, I’ve been thinking about a few New Year’s resolutions … coming soon.

My New Year’s Resolution


the soul is like a birdIt’s that time of the year once more – when we’ve reached the end of that horse- or scenic-themed wall calendar and prepare to hang up a new one.

When we try to wrap our brains around the fact that, yes, the year actually is over, and wonder where exactly it went because it flew by so quickly.

When our thoughts turn to resolutions and goals for the New Year.

A friend of mine just wrote on his Facebook page that he began one of his resolutions in October and reached his goal by the end of the year. I will try to keep that in mind for 2013. But as I did not have that foresight, here I am at the end of 2012 thinking about my New Year’s resolutions.

There are the usual … eat more healthy food and less junk food, exercise more, finish all cookies and pies by 11:59 pm so that I don’t break the resolution due to a sugar and gluten infested home, etc.

But New Year’s resolutions need to be more than just weight loss and exercise goals, I think … something that outlines growth of the soul.

During this past summer I began to read a book titled Between Heaven and Earth, by Ken Gire. The introduction follows:

Between heaven and earth lies the firmament of our prayers. In one sense, the firmament is ethereal as air. In another sense, it is substantial as atmosphere. In a sense, it is a mere wisp of who we are. In another sense, it is rich with the elements of life, gritty with the dust of our humanity.

Within this ever-changing sky funnels a maelstrom of faith and doubt. Turbulent at times. Galing with emotion. Wild and windswept and full of fury. A swirling vortex of questions, arguments, and confusion.

But that is not all there is to the weather of the heart.

There are calm days, too. Serene as a sunset. A tinting of thankfulness on the horizon. A billowing of praise. And, thank God, for most of us, there are more blue skies than storms.

Some … prayers have been sighed into the heat of day. Others have been shivered into the cold loneliness of night. Together, they make up the atmosphere.

And together they celebrate an intimate God.

A God who listened and spoke, cleaving all of human history with a word.

Immanuel.

God with us.

Prayer is, I think, an expression of our deepest longing. Unspoken syllables tearfully ascending an expansive sky. Snowflaking into a word. Something beautiful from heaven, coming down.

Glistening with grace and truth. Settling on our shoulders. Touching us with wonder. And love. And hope.

Immanuel.

Perhaps it is more than a name.

Perhaps in the firmament between heaven and earth

            It is both a prayer

                        And an answer to prayer.

It took me a few months to read through the book, and it was a journey of sorts, as I sat on my balcony on quieter mornings, or curled up in the corner of the couch to fit in a few pages on busier days.

The book, contains thoughts on prayer, and prayers from various walks of life and perspectives. I felt a stirring in my heart as I read, of the need to make prayer more a part of my life. Yet the hope hasn’t quite taken off in my life as I would have hoped it would. Not quite the eagle soaring life of prayer I envisioned as I read. So I will start in the New Year with perhaps a fledgling resolution: yes, to pray.

More specifically, to quiet my heart long enough to listen and feel that stirring in my heart of someone to pray for.

My New Year’s resolution is to pray for someone every day, someone that is in a way a part of my life, whoever comes to mind as I stop and listen and pray. It is, in a way, a hope to give a little of myself in a way that will matter. A way to say thank you to those who have touched my life in some way.

The prayer might be in my heart one day, or spoken aloud the next. It might be a verse, or a whole Psalm. I might write a note to the person, or post a prayer on this or my other blog. Or it might just be a prayer offered up in silence, trusting God to answer the prayer in His time and way.

Prayer is a mysterious thing, as Ken wrote above. It is ethereal and heavenly, yet at times answered in surprising, miraculous, and tangible ways.

So if   you see more posts on prayer, or more prayers in this blog, or my writing or parenting blog, this is the reason.

It is my New Year’s resolution … one that I pray to keep all year long.

Just a Number?


When I was a young teen, a band released an album with the title of, “Age is Just a Number.” I think it was by the artist Four Non Blondes, but if I’m wrong about that, (or about the title itself) blame it on my “old age.”

I just turned thirty.

When in my early twenties, a co-worker of mine was nearing her thirtieth birthday. She went through some psycho-somatic form of depression for a month before, and I think a month or two afterward as well.

The way I think of it is, there will always be people older than you, and there will always be people younger than you.

Why get depressed over an age just because it has a zero at the end, or has a certain stigma (societal or otherwise) attached to it?

The other day a friend told me that thirty is a good age. She said you have enough experience under your belt to start being wiser, but you’re young enough to still enjoy it. All I could say was, “I certainly hope so,” – about both the wisdom and the enjoyment.

I guess I’ll find out.

The wisdom definitely did not fill my mind the moment I woke up this morning. But perhaps (and hopefully) I have gleaned a bit from the past few decades of experience.

Let’s see.

If I had any advice to give people in the few decades I just completed, it would probably be something like this:

To those still in their first decade (aka children) …

Don’t let anyone try to make you grow up faster than you have to, including yourself. You have all the rest of your life to be a “grown up,” an adult. Enjoy being a kid.

To those in their second decade (aka teenagers) …

Don’t let society tell you how long you need to act like a teenager before you start knowing who you are and what you want to be. These days, in some cultures, it seems they’ve extended it to 35 years old or so in some cultures.

I was 11 when I knew what I was called to do. It took a little longer for me to figure myself out, but I’ve come to realize that’s okay.

And don’t think that someone can’t understand you just because they’re “too old.” Age is just a number, remember? There are those who’ve lived long enough to have a few things to share, and it just might do good to take time to listen to what they have to say.

To those in their 20s…

If you find that your emotions, your thoughts, and even your mental state at times go through greater upheaval than in your teen years, don’t worry.

I’ve discovered that the most difficult and intense times in my life come right before some kind of resolution or breakthrough, and that it’s “all part of growing up.”

And to all of you in your 30s…

Watch out everybody, here I come.

I’m thirty, and I know it’s going to be the best year yet.