Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Love of Tractors

I am obsessed with tractors these days. And diggers. I would love to see an excavator in real life, but for now am content with pictures in books and on-line. Boy, am I ever excited when I see a backhoe loader -- two scoops in one.

My love of heavy machinery is quite recent, but probably predictable to most mothers of sons. See, John loves to play with anything with wheels -- cars, trains, trucks, and tractors. And I love John, and so I want to help John indulge in his vehicular love. So now I keep my eyes alert for construction sites when we're out in the car. Michael and I search on-line for pictures and videos to watch with John. I just bought him a couple of truck picture books to go along with the ones from the library.

I am getting a much greater appreciation for trucks -- partly out of exposure to them, but mostly because John loves them.

Last night Michael and I read 1 John 4, and one verse struck me as counter-intuitive: "If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen" (v. 20). Hmmm, isn't it easier to love perfect, distant, God than your brother, who is imperfect and in your face, pushing your buttons and all?

But perhaps it's like loving tractors -- which are lovable to me because John loves them, I love John, and so I love what John loves. Similarly: God loves all of his children. If I love him, I will love who he loves. And, of course (here's where the tractor analogy breaks down, if it hasn't already), "love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God" (4:7).

Pictures from visiting construction at Richland with John:

recent picture of John:

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Why write?

I had been really excited about writing, especially about writing my story of having postpartum depression. Then, at the writers' conference, I kept hearing -- don't write your story. Stores don't buy them. Nobody wants to read them.

Since then, I haven't wanted to write. I don't see the point in writing just for information -- what's the fun of that? I want to write about my experiences, insights, struggles, because that's what I have to offer that is unique and valuable, just as I learn from others' experiences, insights and struggles. So, to hear that what I most want to write and most value is something that is not wanted, makes me feel angry.

For whom am I writing?

If I am writing for the adoring millions, the Oprah’s Book Club denizens, then I probably will be rebuffed, rejected, no, not even rejected but simply overlooked. I don’t exist to them. And that's ok.

Am I writing for a publisher, an editor? Someone to like my work, approve of it, approve of me? I am sure before I begin that what I write will not be good enough for them. My internal editor protects me from harm – by silencing me, stuffing me in a box. It's not working for me.

Can I just write for me? Write about whatever I want to say? And in writing for me, write for God, who wants me to use my gifts and to discover new truths, actively by looking deep within myself, and to share them.

In writing my desire to be known and loved clash with my fear of rejection. It is a risky business.

Write what you know.

Write what you need to know.

I have to trust that if I write what I need to write, something good will come of it.

Write what has fed you.

And just maybe, another hungry person will be fed, too.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Adventures in Trust

I recently went to a writers' conference in Marshall, Texas, and met with an editor from a publishing company to discuss the book I've been working on about my experience with postpartum depression. I worked hard on the book chapter I sent him in advance and on a synopsis of the book I brought to the conference. By the day before the conference, I was finished writing, and my most pressing concern was deciding what to wear, especially to meet with the editor.

At my moms-and-boys playgroup, I got input from my friends and finalized this crucial decision. I went home and laid out two outfits: casually dressy, comfortably professional writer-ish clothes. No need to pack them in my suitcase, where they would get crushed. I would drive in my t-shirt and shorts and change at the motel before going to the conference. In other words, I had it all planned out.

Soon afterwards, I packed the car and left. An hour and a half later, I realized that I was halfway to Marshall and had everything except the clothes I had planned to wear.

For a moment, I was quite distressed. Then, I realized: This is an adventure. God does not want me to wear my t-shirt and shorts to this conference, I am quite sure, so he has a plan. I grew excited wondering how God would provide, because I had no idea how it would work out. It seemed unlikely that Marshall would have much to offer, sartorially speaking, and I did not have much time to shop. I drove past the exit for Tyler, where I knew there were plenty of stores but not close to the highway.

Around Kilgore, I saw a sign for Walmart, 3 miles from the highway. One of my friends in the playgroup that morning had been wearing a cute little tennis outfit. When I commented on it, she said she'd gotten it from Walmart. I figured it was worth a try.

The Kilgore Walmart is far nicer than our nearby Walmart: bright, big, inviting, and they had cute clothes, cheap. It didn't take me long to find two nice tops and a pair of black pants. I'll be happy to wear them again. Yea, God. He really came through.

The next morning, I met with the editor and he slammed my book idea. "We don't publish autobiographies unless they're of famous people -- stores don't buy them," he said. "Rewrite your chapter to focus on postpartum depression, not your experience of it." I argued with him about it -- probably not the best way to respond, but I felt so disappointed.

I've spent several months working on this book. I had it all planned out. I don't want to write a different book. Now I don't know how it will work out. I feel rather more discouraged than excited to see what will happen. It's easy to trust God with clothes; will I also trust him with the book? "Be anxious for nothing." I am sure that God wants me to comfort others with the comfort I received while I was depressed. Now I am working on looking at this unexpected turn as an adventure, an opportunity for God to lead me in better ways. God's ways are always much more humbling than my plans. In his Plan, humility is much more important than success.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Cloud of Witnesses Just Got a Little Bigger

Kay died at 2:30 this morning. She had been in the hospital this time a little over a week, and suddenly started to decline on Sunday.

Kay was a member of my Al-Anon group. From my first meetings, I noticed Kay because she was always knitting or crocheting something: a scarf, or a blanket for a grandchild. When I was pregnant she made John a tiny cap, white with blue hearts.

"Like Dorcas," Michael said.

Kay was diagnosed with lung cancer a few months ago. She underwent radiation and chemotherapy. Always small, she lost weight. She wore cute knitted caps a friend made for her.

Kay handled cancer with dignity and grace, more than I'd ever seen in her before. It sounds like a cliche, but she emanated peace. She didn't complain. She didn't seem worried about death. She trusted God. I was sure that she would not recover simply because it was so clear that God was preparing her for heaven. "To live is Christ, and to die is gain."

Kay told her husband on Sunday that she was ready to die.

Kay's son, his wife (pregnant) and their two sons drove down here from Wisconsin. They left on Sunday and drove straight through.

I visited Kay in the hospital yesterday afternoon. Visitors are not allowed in the ICU between 2 and 4 but the nurse let us in anyway. I knew Kay had lost consciousness, but it was still a shock to see her, lying with her eyes mostly but not completely shut, labored breathing with an oxygen mask over her face. Her glasses were still on her face. Another friend and I each touched her head, short gunmetal gray hair, and prayed for her. I kept stroking her hair and trying to stop. I didn't want it to bother her. I thanked God for his faithfulness to Kay and prayed that she would soon enter his Kingdom.

"I think she could hear us," my friend said.

In one of my seminary classes, our professor encouraged us to pray that we will end our lives strong. Many Christian leaders haven't, he said.

Kay did.

I am sorry now that I didn't take more time to talk to Kay about what God was doing in her these last few months. And now she's gone.

But I know that she and Dorcas and God only knows who else are now fully alive for the first time and cheering on the rest of us.

Thank you, Lord, for the life of Kay. Please comfort her family.