Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hannah

                A couple of days ago, I started reading 1st and 2nd Samuel in the Old Testament.  I want to use King David in my perseverance through story project.  Hannah’s story is at the beginning of the first book.  The story will not leave my thoughts.  I couldn’t get past the thought that she asked God to give her a baby even though she knew she would give that baby up at the age of about three.  I couldn’t wrap my head around that.  Three is when my children became more interesting.  Yes, I loved them as babies, but each new age they reached, I would have more and more fun with them.  And yes, I love the teen years.
                Finally, I blurted out the question to my husband.  Why would Hannah ask for a baby only to give the baby away? 
My ever patient husband said, “I gave our children to God when they were born.”
                “Well, I did too, but I still kept them.”  Years after our last child was born we talked about how the first Sunday after they came home from the hospital each of us dedicated our children to God silently without ever telling the other.  Yes, later we baptized them, but we dedicated the earlier.
                “But I will be very happy if they become priests.”  His logical approach was killing me.
                “Yes, but not give them to a priest when they are three.”
                We continued to discuss the fact that Hannah lived in a different time and place.  The honor she would receive from having a son study under a priest would be phenomenal.  I went back and read the story again and paid special attention to her prayer to God.  Hannah suffered at the hands of the other wife.  She had many children while Hannah had none.  I can imagine the undermining words the other wife would say to her.  Hannah’s status in the family would be so much lower because she didn’t have children.  Even in today’s society, people are looked at differently for not having children.  Mean things are said.  By God giving Hannah a child, her life would indeed get better even when she gave the baby to the priest Eli. 
                As I continued to read the story, I learned Hannah did go visit her son as he grew up.  She was also given three more sons and two daughters for her honoring God.  I love the story.  I now understand better why she gave up her son.  I would love it if my children became priests and nuns.  I also thank God that I get to keep them until they are young adults.  I am not so sure I would be as strong as Hannah and give them up any sooner.
                Blessings to you all.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Music Heals

                I am not sure when I fell in love with music.  As a child, I remember listening to my uncle play his guitar and singing.  My grandparents and parents had organs with numbered keys that I played.  My aunt played the piano as did my cousins.  I loved all of it.  In fourth grade, I took guitar lessons and in fifth grade I started my band education with the clarinet.  After that, I played bass clarinet, oboe, trumpet, baritone, and piano.  I sang in the choir for school and for church.  I love attending concerts and listening to my iPod at various levels of sound.
                When I am in a bad mood, the best thing to do is to put on my music and sing like I am a rock star!  All my life I have had a theme song.  The song changes with the years, but there is usually one.  I have been wondering what it is at the moment.  It is a bit fuzzy.  I think it is a combo of Abba’s “I Have a Dream” and Francesca Battistelli’s “This is the Stuff.”  When I doubt my writing, I listen to Abba and if things are going wrong, I listen to Francesca.  I mean really, how can you be in a bad mood if words are pouring out of you, your head is bopping, and your body is swaying?  I definitely can’t.
                Music helps me through my pain from fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.  I am working on a writing project about how to persevere while suffering either from mental or physical pain.  Music doesn’t take away pain, but it can distract you to give you blissful moments of peace.  I haven’t done any research yet, but I have come across articles about music helping the elderly and using it for therapy.  I love the idea.
                Last night as I was reading about King David for a writing project, I came across an exciting section.  King Saul hadn’t been listening to God so “The spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and he was tormented by an evil spirit sent by the Lord” 1 Samuel 16:14.  Saul was going through some serious self-induced suffering.  One of Saul’s servants recommended he send for a harpist.  He took the suggestion.  “Whenever the spirit from God seized Saul, David would take the harp and play, and Saul would be relieved and feel better, for the evil spirit would leave him” 1 Samuel 16:23.
                I do have to mention that it is a bit disturbing that God sent the evil spirit which really is a topic for a different blog.  But for thousands of years, people have used music to heal.  Before King David became King, he healed King Saul with his music.  Today I know I will have a great day even with my daughter going into surgery (simple tooth stuff).  I have listened to my music and this evening I get the pleasure of attending a concert at our local high school.  Of course, my son will be my favorite of all the musicians playing.  He plays a wicked (I mean this in the good sense) tenor and baritone saxophones.  So go out and listen to some music.  Right now I have Toby Mac playing.
                Blessings to you all.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Rejection

                Walking into my meeting with agent Jeff, I didn’t know what to expect.  The times I pitched before, the agent only knew my name.  A month ago, I sent my material to Jeff.  He read my entire proposal and first two chapters of my project.  I was also nervous.  Imagine!  Shaking hands, we introduced ourselves.  He leafed through a pile of papers and pushed them towards me.  “Please pull your material out.”  He wasn’t even organized.  At least I could blame my hesitation on nerves and being an armature writer.  He has decades of experience.  I pulled out my pages and handed them to him.
                “What makes you an expert on suffering?  What are your qualifications?” His ton of disapproval enveloped the room.
                I listed my “qualifications” in my proposal but I humored him.  “I have watched those around me suffer as I myself have suffered.”
                “Are you a psychologist?” 
                “No.”  This completely threw me because I listed my degree. 
                “You don’t have the authority to write a project like this.  You can’t compete with someone with a PHD.”
                I have never intended to compete with doctors.  My goal is to write about stories and how through these stories we can learn skills to apply to our lives helping us still lead lives of purpose while in great amounts of physical, mental, or emotional pain.  I have always believed we can learn from literature.  Now I want to connect the dots.
                As we continued to talk, I felt smaller and less significant because I have no big initials behind my name.  Yet, I sat taller because I knew he was not the agent for me.  He seemed highly offended I pitched to him a piece with Christian stories in them.  He shook his head in disbelief at my idea of discussing that Eve and Adam suffered.  (Yes, there is a huge debate on if there even was an Adam and Eve, but remember I am working with story.)  Of course they suffered.  They physically were torn away from God.  They lost both their sons.  They most definitely suffered.
                Once we started talking about my autoimmune diseases, he said I am qualified to write about my experiences of suffering and the process I went through to turn my situation into something positive.  I needed to write a personal narrative, but I had to stay away from family topics.  He also stated I needed to find a Christian publisher.  Hum, why did he have religion as a category on his web-site then?
                I will admit that he did say one thing useful.  He stated my writing was choppy.  I most certainly agree.  Transitions have always been a downfall for me.  I also struggle to express exactly what I am trying to say with topics that are so close to my heart.  I also rush at times when I feel the need to just get it done.  I know these things.  In actuality, I shouldn’t have pitched this project, but at the time, I really had no other options.  I damned the torpedoes and I now know his publishing company is not for me.
                My aunt asked if his life has been “sunshine and roses.”  I actually think he suffers.  He mentioned that he believed some people are unable to be happy due to genes.  I don’t buy that.  Yes, chemical imbalances can cause depression.  I had this happen to me after two pregnancies.  I also think the way we are raised can play a part in how we deal with suffering, but with all of this, we can learn to overcome the obstacles of suffering.  He made a comment that if a person is happy they won’t strive for anything.  I disagree.  I am very happy; yet, I strive everyday to become a better writer.  So, really, I think his belief system is about as different as one can be from mine.  In fact, I suspect he may enjoy suffering to use it as a catalyst to propel him further.  At any rate, he is not the agent for me. 
Amazingly, I was quite humored by the entire meeting.  I came out of the classroom feeling good with myself for trying.  However, though I didn’t really like Jeff or think all he said had merit, I am still left with the typical doubts I have when being rejected.  Will anyone ever say I have what it takes to publish?  Am I wasting my time?  A college student just left my house.  He was here to have me edit his paper and I fear that I did it wrong.  Writing is such a fickle undertaking.  As one agent said, “I hate dogs.  If you have dog in your story, I will reject it.”  How do you stay sane with that kind of rejection? 
God is standing over my shoulder cheering me on.  He knows Jeff isn’t the right person to partner up with for this project.  I can stay sane with Him helping me along the way.  When I start to feel blocked, He will give my husband or one of my readers (family and friends) the right words to keep me working.  In fact, one suggested I put some Bailey’s in my coffee.  I think I will do just that.
While thinking about this small event in my life and the project, a new direction for my story unfolded.  I had named the book The Positive in Suffering.  I didn’t like it, but that is what came to me when I sent the proposal.  The new idea is Finding Perseverance through Story.  I love this so much better.  Instead of concentrating on the negativity of suffering, I will focus on perseverance despite suffering.  Yes, this had always been the plan, but the focus of the title is so much clearer.  Thank you Lord!!!
Blessing to you all.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Quote from Merlyn

                Last night, as I was reading myself to sleep, I came across this quote.  “The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something.  That is the only thing that never fails.” By T.H. White, The Once and Future King, page 171.  The reason Merlyn says this is to help young Arthur get over his moping that his friend Kay is becoming a knight and leaving him behind.  I think Merlyn is spot on.
                When I medically retired from the military, losing my job, and needing to recuperate, I knew if I didn’t do something new I would become depressed or sad.  I loved my job.  I loved my life.  I was being left behind by my colleagues.  I didn’t want to be at home 24/7, but I also knew home is exactly where I needed to be to start feeling better and be able to be the mom I used to be before my health problems entered my life.  I turned to music.  Growing up, I loved choir and band.  I played five different instruments.  For years I had talked about learning the piano, so I found an instructor and started learning.  Lessons not only taught me a new skill (well, not quite a skill) but it also gave me a place to go every week and a goal to work towards.  I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy my first ten months of retirement.  Learning can help us through the rough times.
                Blessings to you all.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Politics

                “When joy is elusive, we must actively seek it out.  We must put ourselves with people and things that bring us delight,” Julia Cameron, Finding Water, page 131.  I read this section while in a very bad mood.  “Joy is elusive.”  Really, I had a great day.  I finally finished my paragraph outline for a book proposal, a friend volunteered to be interviewed for said book, and another friend offered to introduce me to three writer friends of hers.  A very good day.  Why the bad mood?  My husband kept snapping at me and my son sported the “I know that mom” attitude.  Oh, and did I mention the presidential debate and all the fallout?
                Politics do not bring me joy.  They drive me crazy.  Yesterday afternoon I watched an hour of the debate.  My nerves started stretching taunt.  I went onto facebook and my nerves started snapping at the disparaging posts about both Mitt Romney and President Obama.  (At first I just saw the ones against Romney.  I am very sensitive to this for some reason.  Looking at it logically, both sides were being bashed.)  My patience snapped when the family started their negativity as well.
                Where does this fit into the path to holiness?  One comment I read talked something about how frightening Romney’s facial expressions were.  Really?  We are not to judge others by their looks but by their heart.  During the debate, I saw two men who are standing by their ideals to make the United States a better place.  Another post claimed Romney lied 38 times in 28 minutes.  (This could have been a news article but please don’t get me started on the press.)  Again all the negativity?  If people actually stated the good ideas either candidate has for the next 4 years, I might start listening with an open heart instead of frustration.
                I am not the most politically minded, but I didn’t hear Romney lie.  Granted, the stats he spoke of, I don’t know if they are correct, but I don’t know that Obama’s are either.  Instead, I listened to each man’s plans to bring to the table.  Yes, I like what Romney said better, but that doesn’t mean I am going to trash talk Obama.  He has been our Commander in Chief for almost 4 years.  Romney served as a governor.  Both men deserve our respect not our bashing.
                In my state, we have two men running for the same political office.  I can’t stand either of them.  Why?  All they do is throw punches at their opponent.  Neither of them address the issues because they are too busy pointing fingers.  I think I will vote for myself instead.
                I am a conservative Republican.  I still try to listen to the issues, but I almost always vote the party line.  I didn’t vote for President Obama, but I still hoped and prayed for him when he entered office.  As a Republican woman who paid her own way through college by joining the military and working three jobs, I didn’t have money.  We lived paycheck to paycheck.  Those were miserable days and solidified my belief in hard work.  Unfortunately, I forget the days growing up poor.  I have harsh thoughts about government assistance. 
A couple of weeks ago, I listened to the video of Romney going off about the 47% who don’t pay taxes.  I thought it spot on.  My democratic friend was horrified at his attitude bringing up her days as a child.  Wow, that was a blow to me.  We grew up together.  Our families received commodity cheese.  How could I forget that in those 47% are struggling families, senior citizens, and the disabled?  Granted, I do believe there are also the lazy slackers.  I do know they exist because I am related to some of them who go off about how they shouldn’t have to pay taxes ….  The system isn’t perfect.  Neither are our politicians. 
My political beliefs tend to be very harsh.  I need my liberal Democratic friends to remind me to be softer.  I don’t need them to be negative.  People, we need to come together as United States citizens.  Both sides need to work together bringing all the ideas to the table.  We need to treat each other as Jesus would with respect, love, dignity, and forgiveness.  We are the body of Christ.  I see the Democrats as the right hand and the Republicans as the left hand.  It takes both to build a strong product.
So, what brings me joy after a politically emotional day?  Writing.  I wrote most of this free hand last night to let off steam.  I also traveled about ten miles to another community to join my sisters as we prepare for our retreat weekend.  I find joy in them.  I also enjoy scripture.  We read from Colossians.  The last verse brought tears to my eyes.  “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Col 3:17.  And yes, this also means on facebook.
Blessings to you all.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Beautiful Gifts

                Life brings forth beautiful gifts.  Daily tasks turn into meaningful adventures that only God’s hands can divine.  Traveling down His path I am so very blessed every moment of the day, but special moments ring a truth stronger than any bell crafted on earth. 
I have thus been blessed on one simple trip to the public library.  My daughter’s Girl Scout troop has been given the opportunity to work with a potter in our small community.  When I heard about the place, I was very excited.  I have always wanted to learn how to do this art form.  We have a school which I looked into years ago, but the price is very expensive, too expensive for a mere hobby.  In fact, they may not even let regular people learn at their establishment.  A few years ago, I learned a friend from church threw clay and decided to open a business.  She put out feelers to have a class, but due to time restraints the idea fell to the wayside.  Recently, I learned of another area which is willing to teach the girls a little about pottery.  Secretly in my heart, I am hoping I can work with some clay as well. 
As Juniors, there is no pottery badge for the girls to earn, but we can make our own badge.  Going to the potters’ guild is not enough for the badge, so I started working on finding things the girls could learn.  At the library I found a number of books with beautiful pictures that they can peruse through.  I found a kids book about different simple items they can make in a short amount of time.  They can draw out a couple of ideas before we go.  I also happened upon a children’s book to read to them.  With my treasures in hand, I came home and forgot about them. 
While cleaning up and organizing, I saw the children’s book and thought I should probably read it to myself before I read it to the girls.  The story is quite deceptive in the simple words that float along the page.  By the time I finished, excitement raced through my heart.  The story is true.  The potter Dave lived in the 1800’s in the Carolina’s.  He had no last name.  Amazingly, he not only knew the trade of pottery but he also knew how to read and write.  Why is this so amazing?  He was a slave.  At some point in his life, he lost his leg.  One of the other slaves than ran the pottery wheel pedal as he made the pots.  Balancing on one leg, he threw 60 pounds of clay to make the pots larger than 20 gallons, sometimes as big as 40 gallons.  He truly was a master of his trade.  If this was not enough, he engraved his own poetry onto the pots.  All of this knowledge leaves me breathless just to be a part of it for one short story which I can share with little girls.
Many people may think I am “geeking” out about a minor event.  This could be true.  Anything historical pre Civil War can do this to me.  Add art and an underdog and I am hooked almost breaking out in a cold sweat.  But look at the beauty in the events: first, the opportunity to expose the girls to pottery; second, finding a children’s book to read from the public library; and third, having the main character be from my favorite era in history.  I did a quick look at Amazon.  I stopped after 60 titles popped up with the search words pottery, children.  God lined all of this up for me to be blessed by beauty.  Many people may see this as random events, but I will continue to feel the love of God’s arms wrapping around me in this small occurrence in my life.
Blessing to you all.