My hope is to offer encouragement to writers as well as those who simply love to read. You will find eclectic snippets here—news of projects I’m working on, comments regarding books I enjoy, favorite authors, quotes, and reflections regarding my own experiences. I especially like to write about my dreams—those parables in the night seasons. Symbols and metaphors delight and intrigue me. You will find them here.
This week I watched a movie, Collateral Beauty. Will Smith plays a successful advertising executive who is sidelined by grief when his six-year-old daughter dies. He is rendered almost silent by sadness, speaking to few people, separated from his wife, and letting his business go. He begins writing letters to "time," "death" and "love." His colleagues find a creative way for him to receive responses from each of these concepts, and he begins to find his way back from the anger and helplessness. At one point he is challenged to consider the theory of "collateral beauty." In other words, pondering the idea that there could be a possibility of finding beauty in something as ugly as the death of a six-year-old.
Is it possible?
God might be found in brushing the dog. God might be found in scrubbing the sink. God might be found in doing a load of laundry...God is in the concrete facts of our life. The leap of a young dog is a joyous prayer.~Julia Cameron (From Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance)
It is a brilliant day, blue and fresh. The River Birch tree branches just outside my window are bobbing softly, a gentle breeze caressing their leafy arms. The sun is not too warm. Yet I feel as if I'm suffering an anxiety hangover. Just yesterday a very different weather picture filled my window, the River Birch boughs bent mercilessly by tropical force winds as Hurricane Irma marched across the southeast. I'd spent the last few days preparing for her arrival--calling forty plus clients at work, alerting them to the clinic's guidelines in case of evacuation. I heard their fretting and sighs of concern, the maelstrom of "what ifs." Who could blame them? This hurricane season has been pummeling millions of people all over the south. Finally, though, all were called, and I could move on to preparing my own home. There is always ambivalence regarding evacuation, but there was no mandatory order from the governor to leave, so Giovanni and I decided to stay. We packed up the important documents, moved my car to higher ground in a downtown parking garage, lugged all the outside furniture inside the garage, all the potted plants as well. Anything could be a projectile. Then we waited.
The winds came and flooding commenced all over the city, the storm surge higher even than last year's Hurricane Matthew. We were fortunate, with no damage, and only about thirty minutes without power.
And so why do I feel as if I'm standing on the edge ready to fall into an abyss? Perhaps it's because there is another hurricane brewing in the Atlantic. I heard that it might be heading our way. But if I stare into this chasm too long, surely I'll be sucked into more anxiety. I must begin walking backwards away from the edge. But how?
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...