Earth And Sea And Sky

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My shell art is almost complete.

It took me almost a year to collect enough shells from the bay. You craft-wise people would probably ask, “Why didn’t you simply go to the craft store to get your shells?”

I looked at those bags of shells in the store, and told myself, no. I want shells that represent my new locale. So I went down to the bay every week and searched for just the right shells.

Bruce is not into home-made art. He tolerates my need to occasionally paint, or sew, or construct something…

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So my “art” will hang in my office. The walls are getting crowded, and the only reasonable space left is behind the computer.

Which is good, because my shell art will remind me of the sea, how I prayed for forty (yes, literally) years before God answered my prayer to live by the ocean again, how the waves and the wind and the salt air settle my mind on the greatness of my God…

how He has established nature’s rhythms: light and dark, high tide and low tide, the arc of the sun, of the moon, the currents of air and the drifting of clouds,

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and below, the swell of the deep.

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Never mind that the art is not perfect. It’s there to say, “You are where you’ve always dreamed about. God brought you here.”

Where’s The Sand?

 

“Where’s the sand?” the child asked his mother, with a tone of indignation.

I was standing  on the pebbly shore of Bellingham’s bayIMG_1007

along with a couple of other contemplative visitors.

I heard the mother try to explain that this beach wasn’t like the beaches down south in Oregon or California, but it’s a beach, just the same.

The kid wasn’t convinced.

I don’t blame him. He probably thought he’d have miles of sandy beach to run, dig his bare toes in and squish them about, spread a beach towel and build a sand castle, play tag with the surf.

I’m the same way. My Father gives me wonderful promises in His Word. I get so excited. My mind conceives a beautiful picture of what my life will look like…according to what I believe God has promised.

Then the real deal happens. What?!

“But God, You said….”

Did God really say? Or did I take God’s Word as  my prisoner, and magic-wand a Biblical reality well-suited to my temporal wishes, shrink-wrapped to fit my tiny mind, my ego, my comfort, my own exaltation?

The kid at the beach understood—in his limited, youthful mind—that sand is the thing you find by the ocean.

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But one also finds smooth rocks, and drift wood, various kinds of delightful shells, tiny scuttling crabs, screaming gulls, carried aloft on moist sea breezes, islands in the mist, sunlight and shadows, big and small sea vessels, frothy waves, laughing children.

So much more than mere sand.

Do I understand that, too?

A Deadline Before I’m Drugged

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I’ve gone through a couple of major surgeries before.

And what follows is at least a week of swallowing pain pills.

And not being too productive.

A couple of weeks ago I signed a contract for one of my romance novels. I’m waiting to receive edits.

Which will require a sharp, alert brain.

Who knows how long it will be before the edits come and then I’ll have to bury my nose in my laptop.

I’m currently working on another novel. 12,000 more words to go. I want this manuscript wrapped up before I start edits for the contracted novel.

The question is: can I get ‘er done in the two remaining weeks before my surgery?

It’s about 1000 words per day. It ought to be do-able.

If.

That is always the urgent word for me. “If.”

If I don’t fritter my time by watching too much news. If I can efficiently do my errands and chores. If some crisis doesn’t happen between now and then. If my insomnia doesn’t make me a zombie the next morning.

It can be done.

The problem is me. It’s my endless distractions and making choices that lead me away from my writerly quest.

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And it’s my blasted neck—the reason for my upcoming surgery—and the pain that won’t let me sit for more than ten minutes before I have to get up and run around the house, waving my arms, stretching my neck muscles, drinking something hot—I don’t know why this helps, but it does—and rolling my back on the giant exercise ball.

I’m going to make myself accountable to y’all. By next Thursday I’d like to be able to report to you that I’ve written another 6000 words.

I’m asking for your prayers. And for a safe and successful outcome for my surgery, please. (August 30th)

Thank you and God bless you!

I Delight In People

The other day, I decided that it was just too good a day to write indoors.

I packed up my laptop and other stuff and headed for Marine Park, in south Bellingham.

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On my way, I stopped off at the Amtrak station and got a coffee and watched travelers, tried to take a selfie—which I’ve never done— all the while feeling terrified self-conscious, and hoping no one smirked at the sight of an old woman taking a selfie.

The sun was bright so I’m squinting like crazy in this photo.

After about 500 words, I moved on to the park itself.

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I love to watch children at the beach. They find “treasures” most of us would plug our noses at.

Like this cute little boy who found a dead crab. He’s so excited, and on his way to show and tell his parents and siblings all about crabs. Oh, how I remember those days of innocent exploration and exuberance over tiny creatures, and rocks, and waves.

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I did 500 more words, and, as if God were sending me a bonus for my productivity, a freight train rolled through on the tracks adjacent to the park.

I love trains. And apparently, others do, too, because about twenty of us lined up along the iron fence to count the railroad cars as they lumbered and screeched around the bend.

115 cars.

What skill, what knowledge to build a freight train! And how does the conductor safely move that long vehicle through miles and miles of track? The massiveness of the train, the blast of its ear-shattering horn, the squeal of metal on metal, the rush of air as it passes, the places it’s been and the places it will go: I love trains!

Close by, a young man also watched the train.

I returned to my shady picnic bench under a huge—and I do mean huge—maple tree.

Later, a shadow made me look up at the tree. The same young man who had watched the train had climbed into the lowest branches of the maple. Carrying a long, nylon strap, he wound it, logger style, around branches to help him climb higher.

He moved confidently among the branches, like a modern-day Tarzan.

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He kept exploring the largest branches. What was he doing?

But when he wrapped that nylon strap around one of the branches that extended horizontally, I got a horrible thought.

I shouted up to him in a friendly voice, “You’re not planning to hang yourself, are you?”

He laughed and said no. Then he turned and smiled, his handsome face radiant. “How’s your day going?”

I said “Wonderful, it’s beautiful day and I’m being very productive with my writing.”

“That’s what I’m planning to do in a few minutes.”

In another five minutes, he had hauled up a hammock and strapped it between the inside boughs of the maple tree. Wow, what a great idea. Now, if only I could be twenty-two again and have the agility to climb like that athletic young man.

I didn’t have the nerve to ask him what he was writing. Kind of wish I had, now.

My writing, the little boy’s exploration,

mothers watching their children, sailboats slicing through the cold waters of the Sound,

couples kayaking, people—childlike—watching a train,

the young tree-climber, preparing his writing studio for the day.

Thinking, expressing, exploring, observing, building.

I came home refreshed and filled with thankfulness for everyday human activity, and for God, Who has given us so many capabilities, among the chief: the capacity for enjoyment.

 

 

 

I Didn’t Give Up

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I’m so excited about my publishing contract with Anaiah Press. Since signing the contract a few days ago, I’ve been thinking about the years that led up to this happy event.

Baby Writer

I started writing in the year 2000.

But I didn’t write seriously until 2007. That was the year of my first big writer’s conference.

It’s where I learned that writing a novel is different from writing a good non-fiction article, or biography, or whatever.

It’s different, my professional critiquers at the conference told me. Instructors helped me understand what I needed to do to become a novelist.

I joined writer’s groups, critique groups, went to writing seminars, studied books on writing, practiced, got more small items published. (If you’re curious, see my “books” page.)

In 2009 I attended my first American Christian Fiction Writers annual conference. That year it was in Denver, a town only fifty miles away from my Estes Park home.

I didn’t know more than a handful of people at the conference, so I determined to make the most of  meal times in the packed hall by sitting at different tables. I brought along a small note pad and, over coffee and dessert, asked each of the writers at the table about their publishing journey and what advice they could offer me.

The most valuable piece of advice came from an older woman who had recently published three novels. She said:

“The only reason I’m published and the rest of my critique members are not is that I didn’t give up.”

I didn’t give up. That phrase has since become my mantra. I’m sure every novelist can relate.

We conceive and gestate and birth our “babies,” while sequestered in spaces carved out for the creation process, trying to ignore the urgent calls of our lazy nature to “write tomorrow.” We research, type and delete, edit and re-edit, get critiqued, talk to agents and editors.

We finally hit “send.” Then we wait and wait and wait.

Most of the time, we hear nothing. Our hearts die a little with each rejection. But if we remember, “I didn’t give up,” we square our jaws and jump back into the quest for a publisher.

I’m Going To Give Up

This was absolutely, positively going to be the last year of my writing career, I told the Lord. There are so many other good things I could be doing with my time. “Dear Jesus, please guide me. Let me know whether I should continue, or give up writing.”

And then Anaiah Press invited me to sign a contract for one of my novels.

Praise the Lord! Thank You, Jesus!

Thank You, Jesus, that You let me have that little God-appointment with the writer at the ACFW conference.

“I didn’t give up,” she said.

I’ve got four other novels, ready, waiting in the wings, and more “babies” to birth later this year.

I won’t give up on them, either.

 

Ten Reasons We Pray

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Prayer is perhaps the most worshipful thing we do.

It says to God:

  1. “I look to You because I am Your child.”
  2. “I recognize that I am spiritually poor, unable to make a change in my heart, or the heart of another.”
  3. “I recognize my human physical frailty.”
  4. “You are the God who cares.”
  5. “You are great and good.”
  6. “You are all powerful, much more powerful than my enemies.”
  7. “You have a plan that is eternal, Your thoughts are higher than my thoughts.
  8. “I trust  You.”
  9. “I can approach You with my intercessions because of what Jesus did for me on the cross.”
  10. “I love You.”

We can depend on our Heavenly Father for His …

Provision

Protection

Power

Plan

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I love the Psalms. Many of them, written by King David, begin with a complaint or a plea for God’s help.

I love the Psalmist’s honesty. He does not couch his words with false piety. He states his problem, then calls on God to bring about justice.

I hope you read the following Psalm and reflect on it today. The key phrase for Psalm 43 is “put your hope in God.”

Psalm 43 (from the NIV Bible):

“Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; rescue me from deceitful and wicked men. You are God my stronghold. Have You rejected me? Why must I go about mourning, 0ppressed by the enemy?

Send forth Your light and Your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to the place where You dwell. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight.

I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed with me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”

If that’s not worship, I don’t know what is!

Keep on Prayin’

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my son and in-laws praying

Next Tuesday morning I will begin leading a group of women in prayer.

I won’t be a teacher, or a lecturer, or preacher.

I won’t even be an expert on prayer. Gosh, I am only a kindergartner in the K-12 educational process of learning about prayer.

I know that, through prayer, my loving Father has done these things for me:

provided and protected,

taught and encouraged,

counseled,

answered,

comforted and assured,

confirmed and affirmed

moved

demonstrated,

healed,

saved,

empowered,

communicated.

 

I hope that, when you pray, you don’t just pray all by yourself. That’s great. But we need to join together with other Christians to pray. Not just on Sunday. Any time you can.

I am hoping that the women who come next week to our hour of prayer continue to come, week by week. Jesus told a parable about persevering in prayer. (Luke 18: 1-8)

I can’t remember who said it—I think it was Martin Luther—but the quote stuck in my mind: “Prayer is not the preparation for the work. Prayer is the work.”

Prayer is not something we throw out to the winds, hoping God will catch our drift.

Prayer is an intimate and mighty exercise of our deepest yearnings for our Father’s intervention.

I have seen God’s answers to short-term prayers.

And the Lord has graciously answered prayers I prayed for forty or more years.

Some of God’s answers have been hard to take: a death rather than a physical healing; a divorce rather than restoration; a lost job rather than a promotion.

But we know that God is good. That He does indeed have a plan for us, individually, and for the world. That his plan involved the death of His Son.

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And that His plan for us is eternal life.

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In my research of materials for our prayer meeting, I came across some wonderful quotes from great people of faith on the subject of prayer.

I hope the following words encourage you:

“We can do nothing without prayer. All things can be done by importunate prayer. It surmounts or removes all obstacles, overcomes every resisting force—and gains its end in the face of invisible hindrances.” (E.M. Bounds)

“When human reason has exhausted every possibility, the children can go to their Father and receive all they need. For only when you have become utterly dependent upon prayer and faith, only when all human possibilities have been exhausted, can you begin to reckon that God will intervene and work His miracles.” Basilea Schlink

“Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayer and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:18 NIV Bible)

Keep on prayin’!

 

 

 

Seeking the Creator in nature and the arts

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