The Carpenter’s Masterpiece


a child's drawingMy older brother and sister were wonderful artists. By the time I reached the age of six or seven, I somehow knew that they were artists … and that I was not. Their artwork has progressed and so has mine. I have realized that my main form of artistic expression is words rather than pictures. But during a phase of experimenting with sketching, when I was 17 or so, I showed my mom my greatest masterpiece up to that point. She looked at it and smiled. “Do you remember when you used to cry because your brother and sister drew pictures you wished you could draw?”

She recalled a time that I wished I could draw something they had copied, and I couldn’t do it. I grew frustrated, crumpled a picture smudged with tears, and threw it away.

I don’t recall that incident. Probably a good thing. But I do remember looking up to them, their art. Wishing I could draw like that. I used the same paper, the same pencil colors and crayons. Why was their work so lovely when mine was so amateur?

I did not understand and stayed away from creativity for a long time. I put aside my art book and picked up a writing book instead … but only years later.

Of course, now I can see that many things take time to come to fruition. Even now I wouldn’t say that I see fruit, yet I know my passion lies in writing. And as an artist – at least of words – my greatest inspiration lies in other works of art. Music, most often; photos, drawings, dance – people choosing to express the depth of their soul through arts of various form and style.

I envision a sculptor, a painter, a builder, standing with bare, raw material before them, knowing what they want to create and that it will only be a matter of time before it is done. Perhaps they don’t know exactly what difficulties they will face in their building. Various things come into play – the weather for a house builder. They pray for the rain to stay away during certain stages of construction. The artist prays for inspiration, that their hands will be sure as they move.

But their material is in front of them and they are familiar with it. They know what they want to create and they are sure of themselves and their abilities. The painter does not grow frustrated with his brush, crack it in half, crumple up the paper and throw it away. The sculptor does not push aside the piece of wood when he is only half done. They know that with perseverance and time, their masterpiece will be complete.

I see a Carpenter who put aside His work of building simple piece of wood structures in order to work with His hands and heart to draw out the very souls of men.

It was then as it is now.

He sees the raw materials of our lives. He sees the laughter and the tears, the frustrations, the anger, the sorrows, the misunderstandings. The hopes and dreams that shattered and scattered. But He does not grow angry. His work is sure and steady, his hands adept. Perhaps the things with which He has to work – the souls of men, of you and me, are not always pliable in His hands.

Often we look up in misunderstanding and sorrow, in weariness at the moldings and the makings and cry out, “Why have you made me thus?” Still He continues to work the perfect work He knows His creation will become. For He makes everything beautiful in its time. We might ask for a little more color, for a greater variety of materials, for a bit of time outside the workshop … or a bit more time in the workshop when we are set aside to weather. Still His hands are steady and sure, His movements deft, His knowledge infinite of what He wants to accomplish within us – the works of His hands.

All creation declares what can be made, what we can become, if only we choose to stop and listen and believe in the works of His hands.

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Writing through the Search


forest pathSo many times we write of a door that was closed … only once it is opened. We only write of the seeking … once we have found. Of the searching once we know what it is we’re looking for. But it’s hard to write while in the midst of a search, in the midst of the silence.

Is it because I don’t know if I will find it? Is it because I’m afraid of looking like I don’t know what I’m looking for? Or even what I have found? Perhaps it is the fear of appearing unsure, that I don’t have it all together.

For so long my life had such a strong sense of purpose. And it does still, but at times, I can’t help but feeling as though I’m missing something. Not missing out on something, but actually missing something.

Is it an end in the road? Is it a curve? Is it a completely different road I’m meant to take? Or am I simply meant to continue on this path?

Somehow I feel this is what I am meant to do, so I continue walking. But there is no brilliant burst of sun in the grey sky. No moments of perfect clarity, with birds taking flight before of my eyes, or seeing the last leaf fall from a tree in a magical manner.

No songs or symphonic crescendo. Just a gentle near silence. Nearly, but not quite. This defines, in part, my journey these past months. Not silent, but no words or message clear enough to hear.

The Bible says something to the effect of, “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” That’s the verse that came to mind when I began my walk, wondering why at times he seems so distant.

Perhaps I have not really searched, not with all my heart. Or perhaps my eyes have not been opened. Am I waiting for something? For God? Is He waiting on me? Is it a little bit of both? Neither?

All I can say for sure is that it is part of the journey, and as long as the path continues to stretch before me, it is my destiny, my part, to walk forward. I am sure moments of brilliant clarity will burst through the gray. I am also sure that for the most part, I will gaze at life – past and present – through murky glass, not even considering future.

But I also know that I am not alone. And the One who walks beside me has a plan. A purpose. And as long as I trust in this, I can know it is not about the destination, the finding, the end of the search. So much is about the journey, and the One who walks with me each step of the way.

I’m Teaching!


Teacher in front of blackboardWriting comes naturally to me. Too naturally, sometimes. I’ll be in the middle of a situation or discussion (don’t worry, not with you) and a concept will start forming and I’ll begin to compose in my mind. I’m working on a separate blog post about that issue, but in short, writing is not a challenge for me.

Teaching is another matter.

I’ve been tutoring and involved in home schooling since I was 16. That’s generally a one-on-one experience. Two or three students at most, and they’re usually under the age of 12. In other words, they don’t expect too much. They’re forgiving and though they might remember (and remind me of) something I flubbed, they don’t hold it against me.

At the start of the year, while reading a book on writing, the author suggested trying one’s hand at teaching, perhaps at writer’s conferences or local adult education centers. That’s not for me, was my first response.

But the idea refused to let go of me, so I began to consider it. What do I have to offer? What could I teach? I came up with more than a couple topics:

  • Blogging
  • Working from Home
  • Editing
  • Creative Writing
  • Purpose

“Hey, maybe I can do this!” I hesitantly mentioned it to my husband, not because I thought he would disagree, but because I had a feeling he would encourage me. I needed someone to talk me out of this crazy idea. Standing up in front of … people!

My high school days rushed into my head. Speech class. Trembling, blushing, stumbling over words even when I had my papers right in front of me. Even in college, my heart beating faster when I know I’ll be expected to present something in front of class. At social gatherings, if more than a couple people tune into what I’m saying, an eraser wipes my words out of my brain and I find myself pausing, blinking, and failing at whatever I’m trying to verbalize.

Sure enough, my husband was completely supportive of the idea. So I put together a couple course proposals for community education and sent them off to Clovis Adult Education. And got a reply immediately! Within a week, I was going through the application process to become a course instructor. It took some time getting all that worked out: resume, reference letters, TB test, fingerprinting. That was the easy part.

Yesterday was the other part. The main part. Teaching.

I arrived early. Just in case. For the record, it was a good idea. The projector had been left on and overheated, so I had to get another projector brought into the room and connected to my laptop.

Power point … check.

Course attendees began to arrive. I managed to smile and greeted the first few, and exchange a few words. Then more came. Once more than five or so people were in the room, I began to shuffle through my papers. I needed something to hold on to. Something to center me. Ten people … watching, waiting. I remembered reading that the average person would rather have a tooth pulled than speak in front of people.

You can do this.

And I did. I might have fumbled over my presentation on blogging. I might have said “Uh” more than a couple times. And I did rush through that power point a lot more quickly than I had planned to.

But I did it! I taught a class. And I plan to teach more … a lot more (I’ve signed up to teach four courses this fall). As with everything else, it’s a learning experience. A small step, I know, but a huge one for me, and I’m so glad I took it. I’m grateful for the support of all those who encouraged me along the way and told me I could do it.

The other day, in a small group get-together, a friend prayed for me. Every week, I had been updating them on the progress in my teaching plan. He thanked God for the passion that I had in teaching. Passion? For writing, definitely. But teaching? I began to think about it, and realized that what he said was true. Just because it doesn’t come naturally and I’m nervous about it doesn’t mean that I can’t have a passion for it.

I realized, as I listened to the attendees’ ideas and vision for creating a blog, that I have an awesome opportunity. To walk someone through the process, show them how to do it and how to get the most out of it, so they can fulfill that vision they have. Whether it’s a ministry-related blog, a travel blog, a legal blog, or a photography blog, it’s going to be someone’s hopes and dreams and thoughts and words, out there for the world to see.Who knows how far something like that can go?

Playing this small part of showing someone how to do something and then stepping back and seeing what they can come up with and how far they can go with it … I guess that’s part of what teaching is all about. And yes, I could have a passion for something like this. Now to prepare for the next class!

[Have you taken a step recently towards something you thought you couldn’t do? Or is there something you’re thinking about and not sure that you can or should try it? I would love to hear about it and encourage you that if I can teach a class, you can take that step! You can fulfill your dream.]

The Edge of the Wind


The air moves

In ways strange

It doesn’t explain

The winds change

From gentle to gale

From rushing to ripple

And I feel the urge

To clean out my house

Or my heart

Or even to disappear

Into the wind

And let it carry me

Far

A mountaintop perhaps

Or even a star

I can’t track the movement

Of the wind

Its cycles and cold fronts

Colliding with heat

Piling cumulus over nimbus

And stratus beneath cirrus

All I know is the rain

And the magic scent

Of sky before it falls

A smell like the sound of skittering leaves

Whispering the approach of a storm

This wind change

Will it be a storm

A calm

Perhaps a little bit of both

Settling and stirring me

At the same time

I don’t know

And at times

All I can do is close my eyes

To better feel the change

Skirting the edge of the wind

Not to Death


In the English class I’m taking, after reading and discussing “The Crucible” for our essays, we watched the movie. I remember when the movie came out. I didn’t watch it then.

When I watched it in class, of course I knew what to expect as the story line and dialogue was almost identical to the play by Arthur Miller.

But the end was a little different, and I’d have to say I enjoyed the ending of the movie more than the book. It showed how the perspectives of the townspeople had changed, if only slightly. And it showed three characters who remained fearless to the end.

And that’s when I wrote this short poem (yes, in the middle of class):

What happens when you know
You go
Not to death
But life

Then death is not
A thing
To fear

No shadow
No valley
No tunnel
Endless, dark

But hope waits
At the end
And light
This is why

When you know
You go
Not to death
But life

There is no fear
But clear
And open eyes

Six New Year’s Resolutions


better connection

In my last post, I mentioned that I was working on my New Year’s resolutions. Drafting them up, they look something like this:

1.       Disconnect to Reconnect

In Colorado, I saw a neat little flyer. It stood out to me. It said, “There is no wi-fi in nature. But we’re sure you’ll find a better connection.”

As I’ve been praying about the New Year, I feel that I should to take a break from blogging and Facebooking. I’ve heard it takes about six weeks to build a new habit or to break an old one. So I’ll be going offline at the beginning of the year, for roughly 40 days, to disconnect from some things in order to connect (or reconnect) with others … and hopefully regain perspective of the most important things.

I’ll be available through email because I can’t go offline completely; my writing/editing work is all online. Just letting go of those “extras” for a while.

2.       Cultivate Real Communication

With Facebook and other social media, it is easy to maintain surface relationships, to see “what’s going on” but actually have no idea what is really happening in someone’s life or heart. Marjorie Holmes, in I’ve Got to Talk to Somebody, God, writes:

“Today there is so little genuine communication. The very push and pressure of living among so many people has driven us deeper inside ourselves. There, despite all the talk that swirls around us, we are locked in a lonely prison. It is a … place for our own protection, yet a place of anxieties and fears, where the loneliness can be intolerable, unless we find God there.”

I think it is a place, also, from which we need to reach out to others, not connecting on the surface, but listening, learning, and being there for each other through real communication.

That’s a resolution I have this year. Not sure exactly how to go about it, which is one of the reasons I’m disconnecting for a while, in hopes of reconnecting with a different perspective. Hopefully a more meaningful one.

3.       Find Direction in Writing

Another reason I don’t plan to post on my blogs for the next while is to figure out what it is I want to say … or more importantly, what God wants me to say. When I feel rushed or pressured to write, what comes out is often not the best of what there is to say or write, because the best of things take time.

I know this is going against advice from writing classes and connecting through social media. They say that to create a presence, you need to post regularly, at least once a week, and try to do it on the same day every week. I don’t know if I’ve ever kept up with that, and I don’t know if I ever will.

But right now, I know that I shouldn’t be even trying. Because if there is no heart and soul behind it, even the best and most tried-and-true technique will fall flat. I need to work a little more on the heart and soul right now.

4.       Make Progress in Long-term Goals

This probably starts with figuring out what some of those goals are. Mark Batterson, in his best-selling book The Circle Maker, discusses the importance of having life goals on a variety of themes – family, influence, experiential, physical. He writes:

“Setting a goal creates structural tension in your brain, which will seek to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be, who you are and who you want to become. If you don’t set goals, your mind will become stagnant. Goal setting is good stewardship of your right-brain imagination. It’s also great for your prayer life.”

I plan to make progress in figuring out some of those goals and mapping a way, perhaps through prayer, to reach them.

5.       Keep a Proper Balance in Life (especially in busy times)

I make time for the things I have to do. When I have classes, I wake up before six on the days I have to be on time for class. I stay up late the night before an assignment is due studying or writing in order to get a good grade in class.

But it’s so easy to neglect the things I don’t have to do, even though I know it’s a bad idea in the long run. Things like exercise, or prayer, or reading the Bible, or studying about writing, or spending time with my kids. Each one of those things gets relegated to back burner during busy times. Before I realize it, a season has gone by without exercise, or I can’t remember the last time I sat on the floor with the kids and played a board game.

I know this is a subjective and vague resolution, partly because I don’t yet have a plan, and partly because even if I did have a plan, I wouldn’t want to post it. Because … well, you know what they say about those “greatest plans of mice and men.” And also because things change; needs change according to the cycles of life and schedules of life.

6.       Create Space

I planned to have only five New Year’s resolutions, but I added this one last minute, after finishing a book titled Gift from the Sea.

Sometimes the best we can do is figure out where we’re going and what we’re meant to do here and now. Next month or next year might bring a whole different slew of responsibilities or requirements.

But I want to get it right. I don’t want to feel like I’m missing something important or leaving something behind, or going too fast that I end up forgetting the most important things. I want to create space in my life (and our lives are just so busy these days). In Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes:

“It is only framed in space that beauty blooms. Only in space are events and objects and people unique and significant—and therefore beautiful. … My life … lacks this quality of significance and therefore of beauty, because there is so little empty space. The space is scribbled on; the time has been filled. There are so few empty pages in my engagement pad, or empty hours in the day, or empty rooms in my life in which to stand alone and find myself.”

I saw myself in those words. So little empty space. I don’t want that. I don’t want to miss the significance in moments and people because I am going too fast to stop and notice them. My final resolution is to create those spaces on a regular basis. I’m not sure exactly how just yet.

Maybe by going slower. Or stopping completely at times. Minimizing the “extras” in my life. Or just being conscious of the need to have that space. I just placed a shell on my writing desk, my own “gift from the sea” to help me remember the need for space.

This is going to be my last post for a while. But I look forward to connecting with you again soon, and would love to hear from you … your resolutions and your hopes for the New Year. Your prayers and wishes.

Happy New Year!