Instead of coziness and festivity, my holiday season brought cold, hard challenges. A sudden death, (a tribute to my precious mother can be viewed at the following link: http://laconnerweeklynews.com/main.asp?SectionID=7&SubSectionID=33&ArticleID=1559&TM=41702.54), unforeseen travel and expenses, illnesses in the family leading to hospital stays, a long term writing/work project I’d invested in unexpectedly terminated… Long story short, in the span of a month it felt like undergoing a series of swift firm stomach punches. Stress finally knocked me off my feet with vertigo, and I was reeling adrift, like a storm-tossed vessel desperately in need of recovery.
Strangely enough, vertigo, although an awful sensation, was a blessing. It forced me to keep still, and through it I heard God’s voice through the currents of commotion. He addressed a particular scripture. “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’" (Revelation 21:5).
Realization smacked me that I’m in a time of transformation. So, too, those nearest me with altering decisions yet to be made. The words of Vladimir Nabokov have come to mind. “Transformation… Transformation is a marvelous thing. I am thinking especially of the transformation of butterflies. Though wonderful to watch, transformation…is not a particularly pleasant process for the subject involved.”
For me, the New Year came in not with a jubilant bang but a hushed dawning. The following writer expressed a sentiment better than could I:
So, as 2018 wraps around you, may you embrace each day. Find something to be grateful for each morning as you rise to face the trials life brings. Troubles are a part of our existence. They will always come and go. But with intention, sometimes just by donning in a moment a humble spirit of thanksgiving, we can endure and expand hope to greater proportions.
Here it is, the last day of January, and ever since the beginning of the New Year, I’ve witnessed many people talk about wrapping 2017 around a single word. What one word will be your emblematic motto?
I’ve always had a Biblical verse as the theme for an oncoming twelve months, never a single word. After pondering, I finally deliberated that my word is Onward. I don’t have new plans for this year, per se, but I have pre-set plans that, unless the Good Lord deems otherwise, I intend to accomplish. So…onward I go. My word just happens to coincide with my verse for this year: “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3
To help inspire me, I’ve posted near my desk a recent drawing my son did. It’s a ten-second sketch, but speaks volumes of how he sees me. How I interpret, anyway. In the rough outline, I see most of all, diligence. Diligence is a part of my name…literally, my birth name means diligent harvester. And back in the day, a few I’d toured with didn’t call me “Tenacious Tessa” for nothing. All of this is a part of me still, and accompanies my present word for a 2017 focus, Onward.
Another word has snuck up, however; more like hammering me in the head everywhere I turn. That is, Meekness. It’s a word definition I seem drawn to, yet hear very little about in this day of narcissistic society. The world tends to interpret meekness as weakness or wimpy. Truth is it takes more strength to hold your tongue when you want to give a what-for, to exhibit kindness regardless of circumstance, and to portray leadership partnered with humility, a humble leader, putting others first. When I recently heard a sermon by Mark Hoffman/2RC on the topic of meekness, I learned a perfect definition for the word. Meekness is “Strength under control.” That is definitely something for which I wish to wrap not only my year but also my entire life around.
Okay, so maybe I have two words this year. To sum it up, I strongly desire to have a year of pressing onward with meekness. How about you? What might be your word?
Ahead of me in a store’s checkout line, a conversational clerk asked two young women, sisters perhaps, “What do you do?”
One bubbly answered, “I’m an interior decorator.” While the other in contrast sardonically responded, “I’m a writer, it’s complicated.”
I chuckled under my breath. Because I am a writer, I know “it’s complicated” could mean a variety of things maybe even all of the following. 1) It’s difficult to make a living as a writer though it’s your number one passion, 2) carving out a niche sometimes seems impossible, 3) the world doesn’t take you seriously until you have enough titles or experience for proof (especially true if you work from home), 4) you relate to people better with written words rather than spoken and so keep outward responses uninviting and compact, and 5) you don’t just “do” writing you eat, sleep, and breathe it.
“What do you do?” is a loaded question for a writer, especially a novelist. The answer is equally loaded. Everything you experience in life is fodder to process for potential stories. There is no vacation from writing; it is not a 9 to 5 job. Even on vacation, you are thinking about the next stage of your plot. Not to mention, the oddity of the profession can creep in, threatening to expose the fact that you’re not always aware of speaking aloud dialogue in public places by make-believe characters from whom you never want to part. That’s messed up. And perfectly acceptable. The rest of the world may never understand.
Writers don’t just do. They are. So be.
The deeper the darkness, the deeper the awareness of grace.
From where has God brought you?
A writer, I often prefer stepping away from safely bubbled literature into something rawer, more tragic and real. Drawn to the psychological divergence of the night season, it's not quite the night season of temporary circumstances - but the powerful light near the end that beckons. Light appears brighter as you step from the shadows. Grasp that light tightly with newfound gratitude...I do every time.
There is a sacred purpose for everything, even literature bordering a darker side. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. What then? Within this framework, one can hear HIS voice distinctly calling, “Child, come home,” whispering, “child, be healed,” shouting, “Child, I forgive you.” This is the way, walk ye in it…
From where has God brought you?
The deeper the darkness, the deeper the awareness of Grace.
There is a natural order in the societal ring of life, even when it comes to purpose. When a person can rid themselves of a prideful heart and venture forward with a humble spirit, the journey becomes a little less arduous and a little more joyful. In my craft, I am better than a few others. Many more are better than me. Yet I shouldn’t fret about this pecking order, for my Creator said, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart….." (Jeremiah 1:5). In essence, he chose me for a particular task and to fulfill a specific role while on this earth. The Almighty knows what he’s doing. Yet at times, it’s also my human nature to be touched in varying degrees with inferiority or the idea that I’m not measuring up. If we put forth all our effort then leave the rest to Providence, he will fill us up the rest of the way thus enabling us to do exactly what we’re supposed to do. For me, while reaching out from a purpose-driven existence, I find in this thought process the ability to let go, relax about what everybody else is doing and be free to just be.
Several times, recently, I’ve been asked: “Why not share some pictures of your son on Facebook?” While I had in the past and still might do so on an infrequent occasion, I simply don’t wish to share my daily life with the entire world. To be a “friend” on social media means that we could have some things in common, might follow each other due to career paths, special interest groups, etc. But truth be told, a small percentage are people I truly know, are related to, or trust with my most precious treasure, my family.
I love this life, the diverse concepts, and the interesting people in it. It’s fun to connect! We can learn a thing or two about and from each other. But I’m not going to splatter much news on the internet about my family, or when I or my son sneezes.
Here’s something that humorously puts it into perspective. A friend shared the following with me, so I’m sharing it with you in the rare case you haven’t already seen it. Things posted on social media have a way of circulating in ways of which you might not even be aware – so, be wary! I’ve discovered some of my own author profile pictures having been unknowingly copied and used for certain non-writing advertising sites in other countries. (Regarding our children, we should be especially vigilant). So here I am sharing this popular short passage for which I don’t even know whom to give proper credit. I thank the “nameless” author for proving my point.
MAKING FRIENDS OUTSIDE of FACEBOOK
I am trying to make friends outside of Facebook while applying the same principles. So every day, I go along the street and tell passersby what I have eaten, how I feel, what I have done the night before, and what I will do after; I give them pictures of my family, my dog and me gardening and spending time in my pool. I also listen to their conversations and I tell them I love them. AND IT WORKS! I already have 3 people following me: 2 police officers and a psychiatrist!
As someone who has traveled a lot in previous years, it’s hard not to compare to the experience it is today. Flying isn't what it used to be. In years past, I found it to be fun, even relaxing, before upped expenses (fees for a carry-on, come on!), hyper security where you don’t know until the last second (or when someone shouts at you) whether you've been shuffled into the line to remove your shoes and reveal your electronics (as if you’re not juggling enough) or the section where you can keep everything in place. Such confusion where things can change overnight (thanks again, terrorists), and now we have the newly added Ebola pre-screening (oh, joy). Someone just has to sniffle and my growing eyes zoom in to deeply scrutinize the condition of my co-traveler.
When I had toured with a music and dance ensemble, our road manager – a regular den mother – prepared for us individual treat bags created with care, special treats reminiscent of childhood. I've come a long way since then. From spoiled to cutthroat. No longer able to take snack bags, food, or bottled water through security (not to mention more than a button of toothpaste), one is forced to purchase those items on the other side of security (if you get there). This is something akin to a movie theater experience, the privilege of highly inflated food service once “you’re in.”
Oh, I remember some my first class experiences fondly. Freedom to spread out or curl up in a big seat, a much-too-hot moist towelette I never knew what to do with. Meals! Remember when we got those? I now fly on a coach-only airline with festival seating because my former preferred airlines, one-by-one, have dropped from my expectations list. And because my now favorite airline seems to prove the most consistent keeper of schedule, doesn't charge exorbitant rates, the cabin crew is ALWAYS chipper, helpful, and downright entertaining (I bet this is how a few stand-up comedians got their start). This isn't a plug for a particular airline with a name consisting of two cardinal directions put together, one of them being “South,” but a fact that causes all the mounted tension before boarding the plane seem to melt. So if you have to fly…
When I’m safely back home in the comfort of an oversized living room chair where I sink into the cushions like an exhale, I decide, strangely, that I’d like to travel again. This time, visit another country. Select a book, open the cover. Mental travel… Ah, flying is better than it used to be.
Some authors know right away in what genre they’ll write and the audience for whom they’ll work hard to prepare manuscripts. I admire those authors who stick with one heading, for I've always had trouble classifying my writing…a little this, a little that. When a particular interview gave me fodder for a little on-the-spot transformation (talk about impromptu), what I had planned to say was never said, yet the things I hadn't planned to say seemed to have already been spoken.
“What do you write?” the inquirer asked.
Something more categorically concrete should have come out of my mouth, such as romance, or political intrigue, or fantasy, but before I could formulate those thoughts the answer readily answered for me. It was already there. “I write forgiveness.”
“What does that mean? Who do you write for?”
Forgiveness literature is something that spans across all of humanity, regardless of where we tread in life. In that sense, I suppose I write for everyone. At the same time, I don’t think I write for everyone. My books wouldn't appeal to someone, say, who only wants fiction like their eggs, light and fluffy—not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Whatever the genre, the common thread for my writing is forgiveness. Forgiveness brings healing. That’s my focal point. There is much in this world that is broken. I don’t know why but I see it so much of the time, awareness that things, situations, people are hurting or distressed. Things need fixed. Forgiveness is like a fragrant balm that lingers, constantly reminding me that without it there would be no classification. Without it I’m not sure I’d write romance, or political intrigue, or fantasy, or anything at all. I write forgiveness fiction. The rest works itself out.
“People forgiven much are called to forgive much.”
“When we forgive…we free ourselves.”
—Pastor Brad Brinson
I want a t-shirt that says “I HAVE ISSUES.” It would serve as part of the 7 Steps to Humanity program. Geared especially for those in the political arena, for I've come to learn that politics is the Great Evil (late bloomer, I know…). Politics can turn the most mild-mannered, soft-spoken individual into Chief Butthead (apologies first to my dear mother for my use of the “B” word then to everyone else for behaving like one).
It’s like this. The next time you start to make a politically charged statement that has the potential to offend and/or hurt others, one might just point to the shirt, a silent reminder that you’re stepping out of bounds, and vice versa. I’ll be the first (hand raised) to commit to wearing one. This proposal could be a remedy for the shame of having to apologize to gobs of people or burying your head in the sand. A solution to save our society from dystopia. Think about it. We all wear the shirts and we become better, more conscientious people. People who value, respect, and uphold all humankind, regardless of background, race, sides, and conditions. We understand each other. We’re all in this together. Now imagine a sea of I HAVE ISSUES in Congress. Wow. Talk about humility. Simple, right?
It would never work.
The wish to purge my life of anything unused seems to have grown. In fact, the older I get the stronger the desire. With a fresh new season finally here, so is my amped version of “spring cleaning.” Some might already call me a sort of minimalist. I dislike untidiness. I have but a few boxes of keepsakes. Mostly, I don’t like to hang onto things – unless they’re books – and I don’t care for storage. Yet I could stand to give away more: items that swallow up space and weigh a person down. I’m fond of space. Minimalism is not completely what I’m living, but it’s something I fancy.
These days I find I’m reflecting much about certain friends from way back when, a painter and a musician, each successful in their chosen field, who had married and chose an uncluttered life. Instead of getting swept up in accessible opulence they held simplicity in high esteem. I truly valued visits and dinners at their place, not only for their exuberant friendship but for their lifestyle that left an impression on me.
With unencumbered style, these friends of mine enjoyed a unique yet modest home, along with a small selection of fine things, each item carefully chosen and having its proper place. Everything had a purpose and if something lost its purpose they got rid of it. Even their studios accommodating artwork and instruments reflected organization and tidiness. I suppose the only lavishness rested in the privacy they held behind a tree-lined buffer. For other than a few rows of fruit trees, a path through the forest, and a small yet lush vegetable garden, the spread of acreage was untamed, tucked away from the public, and magnificent.
My mind churns today as I think about them, my minimalist friends. I should have followed their example a little more closely over the years. But, if I can start at one little corner and work my way out, perhaps I can achieve what’s true to my inner nature. The prime notion here is that bigger isn't better and accumulation of “stuff” isn't all that important. People are. Relationships, events, making memories…taking pleasure in the moment, in the satisfaction of just existing. Spring has arrived. Enjoy the simplicity.