Silent No More (I Hope)

broken pencilI haven’t written in a while.  Not REALLY written.  I’ve posted a couple of things that really resonated with me, that were (are) pertinent to where my head has been these past few months, but nothing really from me.  My husband has said on a number of occasions that I need to get back to writing, and he’s right.  It sustains me, revives me, and most of all, it’s an outlet for my thoughts that are otherwise being shared with him in the middle of the night when he would rather sleep.

tumblr_mbwn4qH6uI1qdfyefo1_1280I have felt the weight of writer’s block for a while, and I’ve wondered…a lot…why it has suffocated my desire to write for so long.  Especially since I know that the longer I go, the harder it is to start back again, and the more of an unspoken (and unwritten) victory there is for silence.  I do not want the silence to win.

The annual Blogging A-Z Challenge took place this month, and sadly I was unable to participate…for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was starting out the month of April quite sick.  But beyond that, and beyond feeling wholly uninspired to write for the past several months, I have been practicing the piano like a fiend.  It’s a good thing, and unlike the practice sessions of my childhood, where I would count the minutes until the required time had elapsed, I have to keep a close eye on the time now or I will blow by appointments, school pick up, and the like because my head is so immersed in the music.  Never in my life did I anticipate this…not just an enjoyment of the work, but a craving to get at it and stay at it until the music is mastered.  (And if you are a musician, you know the music is rarely ever “mastered,” just prepared enough for public consumption.  There is always room for improvement.)

music_image001All this is a preamble to say that never in my life did I think I would play for church…and by play, I mean lead the music from the piano.  Not only did I not anticipate that eventuality, but (more importantly) I did not anticipate enjoying it.  Seriously, I have a fairly well developed case of stage fright, and the thought of actually speaking in front of a group gives me jitters and cold sweats, far beyond the normal performance nerves that I have always had.  I was a bit terrified to take this on, even on this temporary basis, because of fears that I would screw up enormously (I have), make lots of obvious mistakes (I have), constantly battle nerves (I do), and ultimately be a distraction to the worship service.  Never did I think I would love it, but I do…as long as I never have to speak up front. I’m serious!

5142-music-ppt-background-violin-key-sheet-music-ppt-backgrounds-violinWhat makes it great goes miles beyond being able to play beautiful music.  Though in and of itself, that would be enough, it’s getting to work with fellow musicians, willing of heart to share their musical gifts to the glory of God, that makes this an experience I am treasuring.  There is no way to adequately thank them for their willingness, not only to share their gifts, but to put in extra practice time and deal with my (more often than not) last minute changes.  I love conversing in the language of music with fellow speakers, I love tweaking the performance of hymns so we work together better, and I love accompanying other musicians who are glorifying God with their voices and instruments.

I will miss it when it is over, but not in a sad way.  It’s a lot of work…great work, if you can get it, but work nonetheless.  It takes a great deal of time, and though I enjoy every moment of the time I am putting in, I know I can’t devote adequate time and pursue expanding our family.  We have been seeking to adopt a child for so very long, to have a sibling for our son (who desires it so very much).  This gig has been a glorious respite to the waiting, waiting, waiting for our second child  And we’re still waiting…somewhat impatiently…to see where God will lead us in our search.

brother_james_air-preview

The Lord’s my shepherd, I’ll not want…

So I will revel for the next couple of months in the glorious music I am blessed and honored to play each Sunday.  I will soak in the beauty of the melodies and the love of God that pours forth in the words.  When I am finished, my family and I will worship God from our pew, and hopefully sooner than later, we will worship as a family of four.

Advertisements

The Mirror Moment

Or What I Need (and Want) to Do, but Have Not Yet Succeeded in Doing

********************
Matthew 18:35:  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Mark 11:25:  And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Luke 6:37:  “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;

Luke 17:3-4:  Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

1 John 1:9:  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

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

cs-lewis on forgiveness

C.S. Lewis talks at length about forgiveness, and what it means to really forgive.  It is a task much more significant and difficult than simply uttering the words “I forgive you.”  It is a radical action, like love, that when done with the same desire and fervency that God has shown, wholly reconciles the relationship.  It is not forgetting, but putting it in the past and leaving it there.

I had a mirror held up to my face heart over the holidays, and realized that I have become that which I hate most.  I seek forgiveness from Christ for the most inexcusable in me, yet I have not done this for others.  I seek reconciliation and redemption from Christ, but I have not offered this to others.  I ask for God’s mercy and grace in my life, but I am reluctant unwilling to spare even a measure of it for others, even those who have granted me an undue portion.

cs lewis obeying godWhat do you do when you realize that all the navel-gazing in the world…that which you thought would give you a release from the bitterness, anger and frustration that has plagued you for so long…does so only minimally, but has the very real consequence of hurting others more than helping yourself?  When the mirror was held up and I saw SAW, I realized the bill of goods that I’d been sold…and believed.  In the effort to make others see, really SEE, I failed to see for myself.  And what I see…finally…is this:  I can not claim forgiveness for myself until I am willing to forgive trespasses against me.  I can not be reconciled to Christ unless I am willing to be reconciled with those in my earthly life.  With my family and friends.

forgive others

And it is HARD.  I have had this crutch, this safety net of anger & pain, for so long that to try and break it down is unbelievably daunting.  Tim Keller talks in Counterfeit Gods about how we don’t realize what becomes a false god to us until we recognize that we have made it more important than God Himself.  Why can’t I trust God to protect my heart?  I know He will.  Why can’t I rely on God to show me the way to redemption?  He always does.  Why can’t I lay at His feet the shackles of hostility, bitterness, pain, grief, anger, frustration, worry…and know that He is bigger than all of those barriers, that He is more than enough, and that He has only been waiting for me to cast aside my counterfeit god and truly rest in Him?

I hate being vulnerable.  I hate being in a position to be attacked, vilified, and ridiculed.  I hate feeling as though knowledge about me constitutes ammunition that can be used on me later.  There is a sense of protection in putting things out into the world in writing, so that I can say what I need want to say without immediate repercussion.  So I have taken the easy road.  I have written about the litany of hurts and slights in my life.  I have wallowed.  And I have hurt others.  I have made targets of people in a manner that allowed (I thought) for as little consequence as possible.  Except that now it is out there, and the bell can not be un-rung.

no-new-years-resolutionsI stopped making New Year’s Resolutions many years ago.  What was the point?  We all start the new year with expectations that it will be different from last year, and from the year before that.  2013 was no different for me…I started the year with no list of things to do better, no list of changes to make, no list of goals to meet (other than to try for the gazillionth time to read at least 100 books).  Then came the mirror moment that reflected how empty my soul has become, because I keep digging at the bottom instead of turning around and letting God fill me up.  I am tired.  I am tired of only partially trusting God, and in still thinking that I have to do the heavy lifting in my life.  I am tired of propping myself up with grudges and grievances.  rather than laying them down at His feet and moving on.  I am tired of what so much navel-gazing has rendered in me…which is nothing.  I am tired of being empty.

Here are my resolutions for 2013…a very different lot than had I made them 17 days ago:

  • Make God the biggest part of my life, rather than the grudges I have held onto for so long.
  • Think of others before myself, care for others before myself, serve others before myself.
  • FORGIVE.  My single, biggest impediment to quieting the personal demons, and to reconciling relationships that have been hurt by my inability unwillingness to forgive.
  • Understand that forgiveness is both an action and a process.  Do it daily, sincerely, and continuously.
  • Read my Bible every day.  Let it infuse me, and change me.
  • Stop making excuses.
  • Be joyful always.  In fact, do just as 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us:  16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

be silentPractically speaking, this means the blog will change.  A number of posts will go private, and I will not publish them again.  I have hurt and angered others by writing them, and that stops now.  I will not publish new posts airing grievances against others.  If I can’t find a way to focus my thoughts in an uplifting way that points no fingers, it will not go live.  I want to do something better with my time and my passion.

reconciliation-lizbydesignDoes it seem strange to look at this chain of events and thank God for the crushing blow of clarity?  Sometimes – MANY times – it takes exactly that to get it.  How many times do I need the mirror to be held up before I realize my brokenness is by my own hand, and I am crushed by the weight of my own sin?  I don’t know…I’ll let you know…this year…as I let Him help me out of this spiritual, mental & emotional pit I have dug for myself.

I believe, Lord.  I truly believe.  Please help me to take it to heart and live it out.

Regina Brett’s 45 life lessons and 5 to grow on | cleveland.com

To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me.

It is the most-requested column I’ve ever written. My odometer rolls over to 50 this week, so here’s an update:

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.

8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.

16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.

17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.

18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.

19. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Overprepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: “In five years, will this matter?”

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.

35. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

36. Growing old beats the alternative – dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.

38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

41. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

42. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.

43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

45. The best is yet to come.

46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

48. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

49. Yield.

50. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.

To reach this Plain Dealer columnist:

rbrett@plaind.com, 216-999-6328

via Regina Brett’s 45 life lessons and 5 to grow on | cleveland.com.

Why We Blog (a survey)

I found it at Every Book & Cranny, who found it over at Jillian’s blog, who found out about a survey on “Why we blog” that’s been revived by Trish, who originally found it at State of Denmark.  (Have I credited everyone?)   Anyway, I love surveys, and it sounds fun, and I haven’t done this one, so…  Why not?

WHY I BLOG

1.  How long have you been blogging?
I can’t remember if I created my blog in 2007 or 2008, but I might have posted one or two entries during that time.  I was certainly enamored with the idea of blogging at the time, but had other focuses, so it languished.

2.  Why did you start blogging?
Initially I thought I’d blog as a way of journaling my thoughts, notwithstanding the fact that I have never – never – journaled.  So, big fail.  I got serious about it when I decided to start blogging my book reviews (after posting them exclusively on Goodreads for a couple of years), because I wanted to increase both my audience and feedback for the books I read.  That was the key, because I’m passionate about what I read, and it just sort of took off from there.  When my book posts started overwhelming my personal blog, I moved them over to Bookish Nerd, and I now maintain two blogs.  The beautiful result is that I write now more than I ever have, on both blogs, because I finally found my focus.  Books are a passion, and I love to share my thoughts about what I’m reading, and about books in general.  But life is a passion too, and once I stopped focusing on journaling and just focused on writing, the words came tumbling out.

3.  What have you found to be the benefits of blogging?
The biggest benefit by far is having an outlet.  I don’t internalize my thoughts or keep my husband up at midnight because I need to mentally download on him.  I channel more & more often on the blog.  My husband reads it, and supports my writing, but it also allows me some great feedback from others, which is a huge blessing to me.  I have found a lot of mental & emotional peace in being able ot write my thoughts down, press publish, and feel as though I have laid a burden down.  For my my book blog, the benefit has been an increased literary conversation, both in the blogosphere & in my daily life.  It is really great to be able to dialog with others about what I have read & loved, and a lovely result of that is find that people come to me to give & get book recommendations, which means they respect my taste.  That is a HUGE compliment!

4.  How many times per week do you post an entry?
Probably 2-3 times per week.  It depends on how busy I am, what I’m reading, and (most of all) what I encounter on a daily basis as I interact with friends & family.  There are days when inspiration is literally around every corner, and that makes for some fun writing.

5.  How many different blogs do you read on a regular basis?
I have no idea, but I’m sure it’s a lot.  I’m subscribed to probably 30-4o through WordPress, and then another 30-40 on Blogger.  I scan them regularly & read the things that jump out at me  There are probably 20 or so where I read every post.

6.  Do you comment on other peoples’ blogs?
Not always, but I am trying to make it a more regular thing, because I know how much I value feedback.  It’s great to have something you write validated by your readers, and there is a bonus of increased traffic to my own blog that is very much appreciated.

7.  Do you keep track of how many visitors you have?  If so, are you satisfied with your numbers?
I do keep track, and I am pretty stoked when I get new followers, or I get several comments on a piece, because it means people like what I’m writing.  It’s very motivating to continue.

8.  Do you ever regret a post that you wrote?
NEVER.  I have never regreted as single word, and likely never will.  I post what is on my heart – good, bad, or ugly – and in the event that it is of a sensitive enough nature that it might hurt feelings in ways I do not intent, then I password protect it so I can monitor who reads it.  I don’t censor what I write because of the potential for unhappy readers, but I do censor how I write it and how accessible I make it.  My goal is to communicate, not to hurt people, and while the latter can not always be avoided, it can be ameliorated somewhat by a password protection.

9.  Do you think your audience has a true sense of who you are based on your blog?
On my personal blog, I think that as I continue to write, a clearer and clearer picture emerges of who I am.  On my book blog, my personal taste in literature is obvious, but my personal character is not overtly evident.

10.  Do you blog under your real name?
Yes.  Absolutely.

11.  Are there topics you would never blog about?
No.  Nothing is off limits, but when topics are controversial, I take extra time to make sure I am writing in a thoughtful and diplomatic way.  Unless, of course, I am specifically seeking a satirical or sarcastic tone, which is something I do from time to time.  On those posts, reader beware!

12.  What is the theme / topic of your blog?
Anything goes on my personal blog, and books books books (specifically, general fiction) on my book blog.

13.  Do you have more than one blog?
Yep – this one and Bookish Nerd.  I hope you will visit both!

Thanks for reading!

Old Thoughts

Over the course of the past four months, as I have been unpacking from our July move, I have run across a number of things that have absolutely surprised me.  It’s not unusual, I suppose, to forget that you actually own some things, especially if they’ve been across the country in another house for a year.  However, it’s a weird thing to unpack and find a writing assignment from fifteen years ago (October 1995 to be exact), tucked into I can’t even remember what.  Weird & interesting.  Apparently the assignment was to write three reflections, each on a different day, on what literacy meant to me.  Here’s what I wrote:

Reflection #1 (October 1, 1995) – Hymn of Thanksgiving

I believe I was a junior in high school when I wrote this piece, or perhaps it was between my junior and senior years.  My piano teacher was conducting a music theory workshop, and we had to write little snippets of music from time to time.  I think the first part came to me during a session devoted to writing.  However, we were to continue with it (or write something new – I don’t recall) for the next week.  As usual, I left it until the last minute, and it was in the car driving to my lesson that the second part fell into place in my head.  I kept rethinking it over & over so I wouldn’t forget it, and quickly wrote it down when I arrived.  Amazing that a little ditty could happen that easily, make sense, and follow composition rules for voicing four part harmony.

It occurs to me now, as I look again at my tune, that though it is rough on the edges and really quite simple, it demonstrates a level of knowledge that many people don’t have access to.  I was lucky to be able to study music throughout my whole life, and to have an example to follow in my mother.  I have become a more well-rounded and culturally literate individual from the rewarding experience of playing the piano.  My scope of knowledge and understanding is wider and deeper than those who don’t have contact and experience with the arts.  Music in itself opens up a whole new language, as well as a magnificent display of beauty throughout history, to those fortunate enough (and susceptible enough) to its grasp.  I feel unbelievably fortunate to have had a mother who, once I started, insisted that I always continue toward my musical goals.

Reflection #2 (October 3, 1995) – Ed Kilbourne

How ironic that a virtual unknown in the musical community could write a song that so perfectly conveys the polarity within the educational community.  (Note on 11-4-11…I did not realize at the time that this was a cover, and that the original song was penned by Harry Chapin, which renders my “literacy” of 1995 quite a bit less defined than I thought it was.  Ha!  Anyway…)   On the one side are those who stay with the familiar, the comfortable, the “right way” of doing things.  On the other are the people, students and teachers alike, who crave and encourage creativity, risk-taking, and individuality.  In my opinion – and oh, I do have opinions – how can a person who takes no risks, who stays within the norms, who does not take time to develop fresh and vibrant ideas and thoughts, be considered a fully literate person as it is defined today?  By defining literacy as not only the ability to read and write, but also the capacity to think critically, formulate ideas, move away from the familiar into uncharted territory of thought and development, exercise creative license, make sound decisions both academically and otherwise, I must come to the conclusion that restricting anyone from any part of literacy (at any age) puts him/her at a disadvantage.  It also breaks spirits and instills fear in even the bravest of people.  Just look at the little boy in the song:  by not allowing him to express himself and his thoughts as he sees fit, the teacher has effectively squelched his confidence in his ideas, superimposing her own as “right.”  If we as teachers operate in this way, we turn out robots rather than movers and shakers.  If we discourage creativity and original thought, we turn out students capable only of copying what has been done before.  In essence, we impede their literacy because of a few of the new, untried and different.

As I develop my teaching strategies and skills, I want to keep this song as a reminde of what not to do.  I’m not interested in creating intellectual clones, but instead free thinkers with visions and the ability to make visions into realities.  That, to me, demonstrates literacy.

Reflection #3 (October 10, 1995) – Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

My tattered and worn copy of Huck Finn is a testament to the number of times it has been read.  The binding is torn and the pages are falling out, but it is still one of the most precious books I own – not because it was a gift (it wasn’t) or because it was the first book I read (it wasn’t).  It is precious because it was written to reflect the history, both good and bad, of our nation.  It demostrantes Twain’s understanding of and revulsion toward racism and bigotry.  He was literate, not just as a writer and speaker, but also as a historian and as an American.  He understood the repercussions of slavery, and how the seeds of prejudice could lead to hatred and violence.  Yet he also bought into the system because it was the only system he knew.  Regardless, he did not let it stop him from forcibly voicing his opinions through his literature.  He demonstrates in Huck Finn an understanding of the language, the dialect, the heart, the soul and the mind of America.  He is not afraid to engage in the perplexing, and often morally difficult, issues of breaking the law, friendship and honor.  He uses his knowledge of the English language and American History to weave a magnetic tale that pounds home moral and ethical dilemmas, yet refrains from using didactic ploys to accentuate his point.

I often wonder if Twain knew the adage that says if we forget history, we are doomed to repeat it.  Even if he didn’t, his historical perspective is a good catalyst for talking and writing about the issues of today, if not to chagne the way society thinks, then at the very least to remember what has happened.  This is a small part of what literacy is all about.

So, in November 2011, I read over these roughly written reflections, and while I cringe a little (ok…a lot) at some of the language I used, at my obviously shallow knowledge of history, at my youthful perspective, and at my overblown sense of how literate I was, I am gratified that there are small traces in those thoughts of who I am today.  At this more seasoned point in my life, I realize that true literacy much less an issue of knowledge, and much more an issue of understanding how much you don’t know…and (perhaps) making conscious efforts to fill the gaps.

I hope I always have the desire and the ability to chase those portals of knowledge, and to fill to overflowing the fissures in my literacy.