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.

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

Almost Beyond Belief


Why do we tend to fear

Things we do not understand

Like love and God

And sometimes life itself

So big they are

So often out of hand

Throwing them aside is easier

Than taking a chance

Somehow

Beyond all knowing, I think

He cares

He understands

The questions, the fears

Even the choice, sometimes, to disbelieve

It’s hard, God knows

Only He knows just how hard

Life, and love, can be

Our hearts full of joy and pain

And loss and questions why

Sometimes

I think, almost beyond belief

He smiles, and loves

In spite of it all

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!

Here I Go Again


This, my original blog, hasn’t received a lot of attention lately (from me) due to my focus on my newest writing project, A Purposed Life. For some reason, though, I’m thinking it’s about time to start writing in here again. As is often the case, even as I write, I’m still not sure what the focus will be … but I know it will come.

I started a new semester of classes today, 13 units. It’s my fifth semester at college; the four previous semesters I’ve taken between seven and ten units, and I’ve survived … more or less. I’m leaning towards blogging about classes and college, classmates and credits, etc. over the next little while, since it will take up a fair bit of my life for at least another year.

The thing is, up until now I was hesitant to write about being “back in school.” As a writer and editor, I wondered, What would people think if they saw I don’t even have a degree yet? How’s that supposed to help my credibility? It’s not that I’ve misled clients about my educational background. If anyone asked (and few did), I just told them the truth.

I was homeschooled and graduated from high school at 14 with a 4.0 GPA. From the time I was 12 I knew I my life was meant to be lived in service to God and others, so once I finished high school, I went straight into full-time service. I felt the “call to India” at 15, moved there at 16, lived and worked there for the next 12 years, and started a family over that same period of time.

We moved back to California three years ago, and after about six months, I started getting the feeling that maybe I should continue that education I forfeited in exchange for experience. It’s a decision I will never regret, because the things God has blessed me with on the road I’ve taken are unmatchable. I might not have gone the usual route of: school, college, work, marriage, family. In my case, the order was mixed around a bit, but that’s okay.

Now I’m 30 (turning 31 in five days), a wife and work-from-home mother of three, an aspiring author, and a full-time student. And life has never been better. Because when you know God is leading you, even when things are hazy or hectic, misty or muffled for a time … the skies always clear and you figure out He’s known the way all along.

So over the next little while, I’ll be writing a bit about my college experiences and insights (and fumbles and blunders), and maybe posting some of my writing assignments (I’ve got over 15 of them this semester). You’re welcome to come along on the journey.

Any parenting posts I write will still be on my parenting blog, http://positiveparentingblog.wordpress.com/ and of course, posts and quotes on writing can be found on my writing blog: https://awordfitlywritten.wordpress.com/

Life Is Short … Sleep Less


Baby Jessica sleepingI’ve always loved sleep … A lot. It’s like one of life’s pure joys.

I hate that fuzzy, grumpy feeling that comes with being tired.

The toughest part about becoming a mom, for me, was the broken sleep, and the fact that for the first few months of her life, Jessica Rose didn’t fall asleep before two am.

The first tell tale sign of pregnancy I always had—and the worst to deal with, even more so than four months of perpetual queasiness—was a constant state of fatigue.

I remember reading, in one of the books in my mom’s vast ‘library,’ that a pregnant woman resting is burning more energy than someone climbing a mountain.  During the times I was pregnant, I had no doubt about that fact.

 

Last night, my son woke me not long after midnight. He had a bad dream and kept me up for the next hour or so as I tried to comfort him, sing to him, pray with him and reason with him.

Today, as soon as I woke up, my first thoughts were, “I’m definitely going to nap today.”

I didn’t.

I tried, but couldn’t. Maybe too much caffeine running through my system.

But more than that was the thought that struck my mind.

One of those weird thoughts that, in my case, unfortunately kept me from slumber.

The thought?

How would I be spending my days if I knew my time on earth was short?

Oh gee. I mean, I know we’re supposed to live each day as if it’s our last and all that, but who really does?

So I started to think about it.

And decided against a nap.

Got better things to do.

Actually, I’ve heard that as people get older, like when they enter their “golden years” they start to sleep less. They wake up earlier or stay up later. My father-in-law, who is in his late 70s, wakes up at 2:30 every morning, spends hours in prayer, and then sleeps for a little while before waking up with everyone else for the day.

Is it a sense that they no longer have “all the time in the world” and a desire – maybe even subconscious – to get the most out of the time they have left?

How would I live if I knew my time was short?

For one, I’d spend more quality time with my kids. Yes, I’m with them 24/7, more or less, but how much of that time is creating lasting memories and some sort of progress and growth in their minds and hearts? Definitely less than 24/7.

I’d also get my writing in some sort of sense-making order, so that if I don’t have the opportunity to finish it, at least I could auction the ideas off to other writers.

There is that logo from somewhere that states, “Life is Short. Play Hard.” Come to think of it, I think I’d need to live by: “Life is Short. Sleep Less.”

Something else I would do is to find a way to tell as many people as possible that they are loved.

That their life has purpose.

And that it’s a beautiful one.

What could be better than living with a sense of purpose and destiny, knowing that you are loved? No matter how short or long our lives on earth, living with meaning, living for love, and living knowing that the best is yet to come – I can’t imagine a better life than that.