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.
One brief hour on one afternoon and the future suddenly shone ahead. I could almost see it.~From Gone by Min Kym
Rain spills down the window pane, sounding comfort on a winter afternoon, the pale light offering subtle beauty like a Camille Corot landscape. I sip a glass of red wine and nibble dark chocolate. Savor a lit candle. I've been reading since nine this morning. It's now five in the afternoon. An introvert's best day.
I think about the New Year. I feel like a child, hoping, hoping, hoping for good things. I say to myself, "This last year wasn't the most hospitable. So many losses and sadness. It's a good thing all that melancholy wasn't on my radar when I peered out over the horizon this time last year. Not knowing can be a good thing."
We slipped into the booth, our faces flushed with laughter after visiting the "Ugly Christmas Sweater" store. A Christmas tree twinkled in the corner of The Darling Oyster, a quaint downtown restaurant where my good friend and I unpacked our library of memories in the candlelit ambiance. He and I worked together over ten years ago doing HIV prevention work. He moved to DC and opened a private counseling practice. I cannot begin to imagine the number of people he has touched with his intense compassion and poignant acceptance of persons who suffer. My friend showed me a photo of he and several other members of his church gathered around a dying congregant. "The pastor asked me to lead in worship. I sang 'Alleluia' over him; we laid hands on him and prayed." As I gazed at the photo, I realized everyone was smiling, including the man in hospice, his hand raised in victory. Then my friend, fixed his eyes on mine and listened to my life, never judging, never shaming. Listening. Hearing. Nodding. The Darling Oyster like a sanctuary.
Being with my friend caused me to realize anew how precious life is. How ephemeral. In that spirit, I want to offer sincere thanks to you, my dear readers, for allowing me into your lives over these weeks and years through the blog posts. With so many words flying over the internet each day, you choose to read mine. There is really not a greater honor you could pay a writer. Like a chef who prepares a sumptuous meal, she wants people to savor and enjoy her creations. Thank you for sitting at my table. Your fellowship is welcomed, and I am humbled.
I realize many of you are at different places in your lives, so I send this Christmas prayer, inspired by Psalms 8,16, 18, 37 and 62 from The Passion Translation...
One of the essential paradoxes of Advent: that while we wait for God, we are with God all along, that while we need to be reassured of God's arrival of our homecoming, we are already at home. While we wait we have to have trust, to have faith, but it is God's grace that gives us that faith. As with all spiritual knowledge, two things are true, and equally true at once. The mind can't grasp paradox; it is the knowledge of the soul.~Michelle Blake
Last year as I sat on the cusp of 2019, I wrote that it seemed as if I'd arrived in new territory, a geography with landscapes to explore. Pathways to follow. Now as the year winds to a close, I sit in contemplation, waiting for Christmas, reviewing the past year, looking toward the one yet to unfold. I suppose what has surprised me, but shouldn't, is the coexistence of shadow and light in the land I've traversed. Others journeying with me have inspired endurance in the long stretches of desert. I think of my two sisters, one experiencing the sudden death of her husband, the other's husband suffering loss of health. With tear-stained faces, they have looked to the future, believing that God is the restorer of souls. Their faith has been that light. My two daughters lost their father. Gone in an instant. Their tear-streaked faces look forward as well. They mourn and have hope simultaneously. Their strength undergirds my own faith. More light in the shadows. Others I've met on the trail, saw their dreams unravel and decided to believe that God had not abandoned them. Artist friends continued to create, even with no tangible rewards, content to be remain hidden. Alone and together. Joy and sadness. Hard and soft. Laughter and tears. Opposites co-mingling. Inevitable paradox, this side of eternity.
Long before I wrote stories, I listened for stories. Listening for them is more acute than listening to them. I suppose it's an early form of participation in what goes on. Listening children know stories are there. When their elders sit and begin, children are just waiting and hoping for one to come out, like a mouse from its hole.~Eudora Welty, short story writer
Each week I receive an email from StoryCorps. The audio is typically less than five minutes. Individuals from all walks of life share their personal narratives about discovering love, transcending loss, surviviving hardship and finding strength. I never fail to identify with these minute slices of human experience.
This morning I awakened bleary-eyed and coughing. Giovanni said I'd snored most of the night, my nose stuffed up with the indignities of a cold. I peered out my window and looked up to observe shifting stacks of clouds scudding along the winter sky. The dreariness seemed to inspire a kind of panic and anxiety about the future and thoughts of overwhelm. I felt tempted to feel sorry for myself, but resisted. I could choose to remember what was true about my life. I continued to gaze at the sky and whispered to myself, "Jesus is my peace. He offers me calm that the world cannot produce. I will step into that radiant territory. I'd come to Him heavily laden, and He'd taken the burden of panic and anxiety from me, exchanging that darkness for rest and grace, reiterating once again that He has overcome the world. I remembered, too, that He always goes ahead of me and creates provision, over-supply and favor where there is need and longing. I'd written a new narrative for the day.
Soft front. Strong back. Wild heart.~Brené Brown
I'd sit in the wingback chair by the span of windows in the living room of the home I grew up in. I'd stare at the painting on the wall and collect myself after battling through a day in high school. My mother was near, but didn't force me to talk about my day. She sensed I needed time to process the reality that I faced each day--that I truly fit nowhere. Even though I was seemingly "everywhere" an adolescent should aspire to--a talented flute player in the band, a leader in my church youth group, an honor roll student. I felt more "belonging" sitting in that chair processing my life than I felt anywhere else. I did not have the insight then to know that as I sat before the painting and sifted through the day, my mother's comforting presence hovering around me, I was discovering that belonging to myself was perhaps a key to the paradox that I belonged everywhere and nowhere.
Fast forward decades, and I'm driving around town running errands and listening to NPR. Brené Brown, researcher and storyteller who has been studying shame, vulnerability, courage and other social science topics for more than 15 years, is discussing the time she heard Maya Angelou on a Bill Moyers interview in 1973. Ms. Angelou stated during that interview, "You are only free when you realize you belong no place--you belong every place--no place at all.The price is high.The reward is great." Ms. Brown went on to say that she never really understood what this statement meant until one day she was going through her invitations to speak. One group stated they could not hire her for their faith-based event "because I cussed too much." Another group stated she would have to cut out references to her faith if she accepted their offer to speak. "I finally got what Ms. Angelou was talking about--I fit nowhere and I fit everywhere." Ms Brown elaborated, "We confuse belonging with fitting in, but the truth is that belonging is just in our heart, and when we belong to ourselves and believe in ourselves above all else, we belong everywhere and nowhere."