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Then there is writing…

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I enjoyed writing one of my last posts on writing. I have another thought about writing so I am writing about writing again. Whew…that was a lot of “writing’s.”

I tend to be more of a protagonist but I have this annoyingly overwhelming part of me that is very antagonistic.  In an almost sick kind of way I like being the antagonist. I remember learning about the characters of writing in a Literature of the Bible class in college. It was at the University of Maryland, although I wasn’t in Maryland, I was in Okinawa, Japan. I like the way this writer explains the roles of an antagonist and protagonist. Basically, I am just saying that my personality which is both fighter and peacemaker is what I want to express in my writing and I liken it to the antagonist and protagonist roles in literature.

Side bar: There is something to be said about the richness of University coursework as compared to a community college. Not only am I speaking as a student who attended both but I currently work in an advising capacity at the local community college and appreciate the work we do.  I remember it was the first writing class that I really learned about the elements of literature. Adding this sidebar is one thing I remember learning. And even though its not exactly fitting in this type of writing, I am still doing it anyway; why, because I am a rule breaker and an antagonist.

I don’t like reading all writing, there is a part of me that appreciates all writing because I think I am writer. But in effort to not offend I will refrain from expressing what writing I don’t like.

Let’s just say, I think writing should be real and raw, I think non-fiction writing should stir up and draw out the reader. It should resonate in the soul of the reader. We don’t always have to relate to the experience of the writer but good non-fiction writing should serve as a reminder that all man kind has the same struggles. Most “devotionals” I read don’t do that, they share their struggle superficially and all spiritually (yes that was antagonistic), ask a series of surface level questions in an attempt for you the reader to summarize what you read but not quite reach your heart – their isn’t this soulish exchange through summarizing, it doesn’t address the heart’s cry!

I feel frustrated about the amount of written work on parenting, marriage, friendship, etc and yet we are still screwed up. We put so much emphasis on obedience and “spirituality” that we forget relationship and end up carnal Christians. We spend so much time on doctrine and theology that we forget the simplicity of love and the realness of pain. We miss all the barriers, wrong thinking, familiar patterns we learned in our childhood, that we are not free rather we walk around with this heavy yoke around our necks making Christianity look like drudgery!

At first, I spent a lot of time blaming “the church” and I still do because I believe its still the stumbling block to many coming to Christ. But I also see that it has more to do with the weight, or expectation that I put on people since “they have been Christians for blank amount of years” or because they are the “Pastor.” When I remove that expectation from the equation I am left with nothing more than another human being just like me with different gifts and roles to play in the church. I know the Bible says that those who teach Scripture will be held accountable and pastors for how they managed their flock and I do respect that and give credence to that but at some point I have to let them be people.

When reading what Pastors, Preachers, or leaders in the church write its easy to forget (partly their own fault I think) that they too have issues! They too have to wake every morning and choose to love the difficult person in their life.

Writing is risky especially when you speak of those you care about! As Yancy said of Buechner, at some point its about you writing from your perspective, rather than writing to tell someone else’s story. In this post, I am referencing other areas not exactly related to family secrets as Buechner we referencing but its still the same concept, my Pastor might read this and feel uncomfortable because my perspective involves him indirectly, just like my Mom read my story about her recommending I get an abortion.

My writing brings out or should I say let’s me freely be the protagonist and antagonist in my perspective of life. While the war within is real; I don’t want to offend, I want peace. Part of me wants to be quiet and careful, but I want to write. I do hope to encourage someone out there to be real about what they see, believe or feel – the good, bad and ugly! Writing to me is the place where the writer and reader connect on a soul level and share something common.

 

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Changed the Title to Mutual Submission

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Was thinking about submission. It really has a bad rap and I think, unfortunately, at the hands of those who are called to demonstrate it’s beauty – marriages.

My husband and I had a one night get away to Jacksonville. We often combine business with a little time away. St. Augustine is our favorite place in Florida. There is something about this old, spooky town. At the last minute, after plans fell through with friends he presented stopping in St. Augustine. I replied with a “most definitely” and so we did.

We decided on a place to eat, he picked Cellar 6, a quaint, cool and candle lit space, hence the name, cellar, because it feels like one. Of course they display on the second floor, viewed from the dining room, a huge cellar filled with wines from all over the world and some quite expensive.

20150306_185010I had the yummiest filet, cooked just right, full of flavor and so tender, not to mention the presentation. We enjoyed dinner in between the text messages from our social 12 year old trying to schedule her plans that included being with a friend home alone for the first time.

I am sure you are thinking by now what this has to do with submission, but I am getting there.

Our families are very close and the girls have known each other since they were babies. But we have some different views on parenting. Not so different that we aren’t like-minded, just see some areas of parenting differently, especially with regard to this stage of the game.

Normally, I will either approach my husband about the plans in question with the feudal assumption that he will say no; or I will just make a decision withholding information in effort to parent my daughter how I see fit.

This time, I felt the liberty, shall we say, to let the chips fall where they may. But this isn’t just because I have become a more “submissive wife.” Herein lies my very point before I tell you the rest of the story. Mutual respect and submission truly should characterize godly marriages. I don’t think when the Bible tells husbands to love their wives and wives respect your husbands that it means the wife isn’t respected or the husband isn’t loved for that matter.

Respect is simple. Yet I’ve struggled with it, and not just in marriage. In the military I recall only respecting a person because of their positional authority. Because they were my “supervisor” I had to respect the position, even when the person was not respectable, and at times I didn’t even do that. But that helped make a distinction for me especially with men in authority over me.

I realize now why the discrepancies in matters of respect – positional verses personal – are so challenging to me. It started with my father and mother – their marriage.

For my marriage, it wasn’t just about one thing that one person did to create mutual love and respect. It was about doing many things towards building mutual love and respect.

There was no formula, like simply “respecting my husband” that brought the freedom and care to our marriage. I feel truly blessed that God has so beautifully redeemed the hurtful, broken places in my life that affected my relationships with many including my husband.

This time instead of feudal thoughts, I felt more trust, more mutual respect when our daughter’s plan was presented. There was a moment of awkward silence that was uncomfortable and I realize there will still be times that I don’t agree or like the answer but that doesn’t mean I don’t respect him. It means that I can freely share my view, opinion and perspective on the matter, be heard, and if we don’t agree then we air on the side of deference until we come to mutual ground.

I don’t feel that by submitting or deferring to him I am any less of a person, in fact, I think often times it takes the bigger person to defer; and I don’t think it will always be me, the wife, that defers. Not only do I recall times that I expressed what I felt should happen, he submitted and it went well but of course there have been times that I submitted when I didn’t agree and it was for the better.

We decided together, after expressing our concerns, to allow her to “hang” with her friend even if that meant them being home alone for a time. We let her know our rules and the consequences of breaking them. And for the record we have been around this mountain and just about every time our eldest son (her older brother) did anything, he was caught, and in that I have reassurance (evil laugh).

After dinner, we learned that my favorite fudge place had changed locations. So in freezing and windy weather for which I was not prepared jacket wise, we quickly walked down St. George street through the nooks and neighborhoods of St. Augustine. We finally arrived at Fudge Buckets, now called something else. All I wanted was their yummy orange and cream fudge that tastes like those orangesicle popsicles and thankfully they had it and I was happy and cold!

The fudge was a sweet reward, literally, for trusting my husband’s heart in this situation. The result was more mutual respect and a happy 12 year old!

 

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Writing About Writing

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I am an INFJ. Yep you got it, those are my results from the Myer-Briggs personality test. I am not so inclined to be with people, really, and I know that sounds mean. But I think that’s why I love words. The irony of this though is that my primary love language is quality time. I know… funny right! Well actually I think it’s really awesome – its kind of like the checks and balances of the judicial system – I actually feel somewhat balanced in what seems to be a dilemma!

This post isn’t about personality tests or love languages. It’s about my writing. I am still reading Soul Survivor, currently on the chapter about Frederick Buechner. I was so moved by this chapter that I must write.

At last Buechner had found a voice for his nonfiction. He need not be a theologian like his teachers at Union. He need not be a preacher of sermons. He could simply fashion stories and meaning out of the material of his own life, just as he already did in his fiction…all of them convey Buechner’s personal voice, his deliberate mining of subterranean strata for a hidden message of God. Like a beachcomber, he goes over and over the same patch of sand, seeking buried treasure.

That’s it. I don’t want to write devotions and I don’t want to sound preachy. I just want to tell you about my life, from my perspective, what I see of God, nature, and people. I just want to listen to my life, all the happenings of the day, connect the dots of that day to a prior one, and pull it all together to find meaning.

As a learner, with strengths in ideation and connectedness I am constantly observing the world around me, compiling my ideas about people and God to connect them together intuitively to eventually express in writing.

Knowing my strengths, personality traits and how I feel loved empowers me but I still have trouble with shyness, putting my stuff out there for the whole world to see, literally!

Every writer must overcome shyness, putting out of mind the fear that we are being arrogant by thrusting ourselves upon you the reader, and egotistical assuming our words are worth your time. Why should you care about what I have to say? What right have I to impose myself on you?

That is exactly what I think.

In fact, I have a recent experience that exemplifies this well. I try to send an email out regularly to a few ladies who are part of my small group. We are studying the Names of God, so I like to stir us up a little and share a little something from the current “Name” we are studying. Well, I began my email in the normal fashion until I felt the Spirit prompting me to say something different. I wasn’t a fan at all about this prompting. So I began typing, starting with almost the same words quoted above, “you may not even read this or care to but I am going to say what I feel I should anyway.” It turns out one of the women woke up at 4 AM a few nights later and read the email and it was exactly what she needed to hear to pray herself back to sleep! That is so God!

It is one thing to spill your own secrets, and quite another to spill someone else’s. Several times Buechner and I have discussed the occupational hazards of writing, especially the unavoidable wounds we inflict on people close to us.

This was exactly my initial reasoning for dismissing the slightest thought of writing my story. My story involves a lot of people, a lot of people who may not want “their business in the streets.” But I do remember when I began and as I look back at my second post, these were my exact words: don’t want to impose.

For this reason only late in his career did Buechner dredge up certain family secrets…Out of consideration for his mother, who jealously guarded family secrets, Buechner did not write directly of his father’s suicide for decades…Finally Buechner decided that he had as much right to tell his father’s story as his mother had to tell of her husband’s story and his memoirs began to probe the family tragedy.

I concluded that I had a story to tell from my perspective, fully aware I could wound some in the process, I took the risk and started writing. I have no regrets.

Why do we do it, we writers?…I think we do it because each of us has nothing else to offer than a living point of view that differentiates us from every other person on this planet. We must tell our stories to someone.

All quotes come Soul Survivor, by Phillip Yancey.

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Notes to Self for 2015

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I know we’re already in 2015 but that’s why I think my timing to write this is ideal because all the New Years resolution blog posts, status updates and tweets about new goals has decreased so now is the perfect time to reflect on the remainder of 2015.

First note to self: The greatest things come from the hardest places. And as much as I hate acknowledging this, its certainly easier to acknowledge in the quieter, sweeter times. Most of the hardest places in my life are being restored into beautiful places that I wouldn’t change for anything!

I am going to be in the present starting today is my second note to self. I just witnessed Xaviar (my first born, adult son) propose to his girlfriend on January 1st actually! When I think of their sweet relationship and all the ups and downs this quote from one of my favorite rappers (yep you heard it right, I listen to rap!) comes to mind: “it takes a moment to make a memory but a lifetime to forget it.” Whether good or bad, every moment is made up of choices. The marriage commitment was never intended to be broken, rather intended to demonstrate the greatest of loves. So I will be their biggest fan as they journey into new and exciting ground.  But while remaining committed to the future, I am learning this past year that being in the today is so cliche we forget it.

My third note to self comes from the experience of buying our first house: Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:10) I get that to some people this is the American dream we chase and its all a lie but for me it was representative of another place that God restored to me (more on this but for another time). Certainly I don’t put my hope in the house, or don’t think I am so hung up on earthly treasures that I am not willing to walk away should the Lord call us to that but I do know that God used this “dream come true” to heal my heart. Funny though, as we speak, we are actually buying our second house, just two short years later and I would say indeed this house is my “dream come true”.

It is true that you will NEVER go wrong waiting on God.

Words of wisdom from one of my mentors during a dark time: “walking though hard places with hard people demands holy resignation” is my fourth note to self. Waiting on a persons stubborn, hard heart to come around is so painful.

ForgivenessResigning alone is not godly. Love is proactive and intentional. But when resigning is holy I would say its where in submission we say, “Lord, I am not in control of when that person comes around or what that person does, I am angry and hurt, yes, but only you can turn their heart of stone into a heart of fleshI am going to carry on with my day knowing what I am responsible for and wait on you to convict and change that person’s heart.” 

One more thing to add to this, love and especially in the context of a difficult marriage, but any relationship really, I don’t think always means quietness. Loving confrontation is necessary. In order to break unhealthy, or ungodly cycles we have to be willing to see and call the baggage what it is. Sometimes, everyone involved is not so willing.

Perfect place for the fifth and final note to self: I am only responsible for how I respond. This has been a long learning process for me, one which I am pretty sure I am still working on. Growing up, somewhere along the way, I internalized I was on my own and the world and everyone in it was against me. I had to carry my own and as a result shut down mostly and resisted love in every way. The sick part is that I actually wanted to be loved. And it is Love that softens and restores us back to who we are.

In this process, I resented love, feared man, and controlled everything and everyone around me in order to keep everything at a safe distance. I made judgments using words like never and always. I will never let someone…, I always let…, I always have to…, They never…

Eventually, through the “hardest places” I would discover that God uses people to love us, and that created in his image we are relational at our core – created for intimacy with people and him. Love is sincere, I had to be real about what I felt, what hurt, and my view or perspective along with the choices I made because I am responsible for how I respond to life – no excuses. Even though some of it may be the result of a difficult childhood, I am an adult now, I am responsible for what I do with what happened then and what is happening now.

When what happens now is the result of what happened then, I must own that fact or hurt I am faced with, and do something about it, if its in my power to do so. If not then I must espouse the holy resignation attitude and wait on the Lord to work out his perfect plans and purposes.

Not sure where to conclude, maybe my last parting thought…I know these “notes to self” will be challenged by the enemy and God. I give all praise to my Creator because he knows my frame and has called me and us all to carry a cross. I do pray we are found faithful in the cross we bear.