My hope is to offer encouragement to writers as well as to those who simply love to read. You will find snippets of things I am working on and special announcements here.
Walking through the parking garage after work last week, I noticed a bumper sticker that brought me comfort. It read: "Love>Fear." Just prior to seeing the sticker, I'd been caught up in my mind with feelings of anxiety. Even though I'd completed the last of my chemotherapy treatments, I felt physically weak and vulnerable. Feeble. The reason I was walking inside the parking garage was because I could no longer walk up more than two flights of stairs before being winded--something I was almost embarrassed to admit. Before cancer, I'd park my car on the eighth floor so I could get the exercise walking up and down the stairs each day. Now, I could only walk downstairs and up only one or two flights. I'd walk those one or two flights, then head to the elevator that took me to whatever floor my car was parked on. As I trudged to my car, I bemoaned my weakness and asked, "What if I never regain strength?" "What if I'm not able to once again find a way to exercise and empower my body?" "What if the cancer comes back and I face chemotherapy again?" "What if I'm not able to work?" "What would I do about health insurance if I couldn't work?" Negative, disempowering thoughts curled out of my mind. Then the bumper sticker interrupted the noxious thinking. A mercy from God, no doubt.
I began to remind myself of how deeply I am loved by God. He had gotten me through the treatments and provided support from countless people who love me. Countless prayers from His army of believers. He'd supplied many good days when I felt well and was able to work productively. I was still consistent with walking, albeit a slower pace. My husband had gone to every medical appointment with me and cooked me boundless healthy food, washed the floors and told me every day that I would make it. My daughters stood by me like rocks of Gibraltar. My sisters and family in Italy regularly checked in with me. Even colleagues surrounded me with good wishes and filling in for me when I couldn't make it to work. Friends sent me texts, emails and letters, brought me flowers--lifelines of encouragement. Yes, love truly overwhelmed fear in my life. When I got to my car I remembered God's supply over this year--His incessant forbearance toward me.
Most times when I've been window shopping I view the beautiful clothing and say, "I could never afford that, it's too expensive--too extravagant." I don't even bother to go into the store and ask the price or try on the piece of clothing. I judge that I'm ineligible for something so lavish. Sometimes I think I have a similar attitude toward the concept of joy in my life. I've often passed up the notion of joy ever being real for me--too much to hope for--I could never expect that kind of life in this chaotic and oppressive world. But there was the time I saw a dress in a store that caught my eye. The dress was my size and the color of poinsettias. I dared to take it to the fitting room. When I pulled it over my head, the fabric fell in perfect folds over my body--the neckline v-shaped, the length halfway down my calves, three quarter-length sleeves. I held the skirt on each side between my fingers and twirled in front of the mirror. I put away the other clothing in my shopping cart. I would take the money I had budgeted and buy this one dress. I walked out of the store knowing I'd laid hold of the best.
I wore that dress often. And every time I did, I felt confident and comfortable. I could move and bend without feeliing bound and ready to take it off the moment I got home. I got compliments every time I wore it.
Is laying hold of joy perhaps like choosing to pay the price for a beautiful garment? I've thought about this question over these last weeks as I've contemplated the topic of joy.
I write often about nurturing creativity. It is a concept close to my heart. When we're creating, life bursts forth. Pleasure. Joy. Lately, I've been watching The Great British Bake Off. Even though I don't like to bake or cook, I enjoy watching what happens as each baker gets his or her assignment from the show's hosts. Each contestant has a different background. They are not professional chefs. But they could be. Most of them work as engineers or teachers or homemakers to earn a living. They bake because they love the art. Upon completion of each assignment, I notice two things each composition has in common. One, their finished projects are beautiful. And two, none of their elaborate designs are perfect. There are always flaws. But perfection is not the point. Actively engaging in the projects is the goal. All creative endeavors usually have these two features in common I know that each of my books contain aspects I'd change if I could go back and do the projects again. Yet, I still love my books. To me they are still beautiful. As I'm nearing the finish line with the rough draft of my fourth book, I again offer a brief excerpt. I write about a question I asked myself while I wrote On A Clear Blue Day. I questioned why I kept going back to the page. Perhaps you will relate as you pursue your creative process. Whether its creating baked goods, writing, painting, singing, gardening, (you fill in the blank), we are never that far from delight when we allow ourselves to create and shrug off perfectionism...
I lay with my left arm outstretched, waiting for the needle stick to numb my skin...so that I could have a permanent IV line placed in my upper arm. It felt like the last straw over the last seven months of treatment for cancer. The technician was thorough as she explained the procedure. I could see her expressive blue eyes above the mask she wore over her mouth. "You know," she said, "Sometimes the body just says no more. And that's what your veins are saying. No more punctures. We've had it. So we're going to give your body a rest, give it a a break. No more sticks. This will be the last one for a while." I appreciated her try for optimism, yet I wasn't sold on the idea of the permanence of a needle in my arm. It felt like another way I was held captive in this journey to prevent the cancer from coming back. In fact, as I continued through the procedure, the technician kept talking. She said, "You know, I think chemotherapy is a lot like being held hostage. You know at some point you'll be released, but you don't know exactly when. It's not only a fight physically, but also psychologically, spiritually and emotionally."
When the insertion of the IV line was over, I looked down at my arm, swathed in a type of fishnet bandage for protection, and thought of the technician's metaphor. "Boy, she was not kidding when she said chemo is a lot like being held hostage." Now I couldn't even take showers anymore. In my head I screamed, "This sucks!" And it does. Yet as I've thought about the place I'm held captive, I can also say in many ways it does not suck.
My husband suggested I give my bicycle to a neighbor who had no transportation. "Priscilla, you haven't ridden the bicycle for over a year. Our neighbor could really use it; I see him walking everywhere." I didn't have much of an argument. I kept thinking that I'd ride the bike someday. I would research the trails at a nearby park, and then I'd go on lots of adventures. I'd buy a helmet. I'd take the bike to the beach. Someday. I'd seen the neighbor too, carrying his back pack, every day walking up and down our street. And still the bike sat in the garage unused. I told my husband, "Give him the bicycle. I'm not going to use it." Every time I saw our neighbor on the bike, I felt good that he was getting some use out of it. But I had a feeling of regret that I'd never made a decision to go on those explorations I'd contemplated, that I'd never bought a helmet and set out to discover new trails.