On how to survive this constant fray.

It was quiet that day.

Mid-day.

Sun high.

Scorching.

Humidity as thick as the shame the woman felt.

That’s why she went to the well, after all.

No one else would be there.

No one cat-calling. No one spitting at her feet. No one turning the other way to avoid her. No one carrying invisible signs that read “slut,” or “worthless,” or worse.

There were no crowds.

To be sure, the man who met her there created and moved crowds on occasion. But when he really wanted to change a life, he picked a time no one would notice, except of course for the one who needed him most.

He looked in her eyes–first time anyone had done that in a long time. It unnerved her, that deep, gentle stare.

She had to turn away.

But he refused to leave. 

I’m talking about Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman. (Click to read about it in John, chapter 4.)

And I want to be more like that.

No shouting. No name-calling. No talking over people who think differently from me. No turning the other way to the hurt and shame of others.

I fail.

A lot.

Especially these days, when fury seems like the new standard, the resting posture of so many of us.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence I felt led to make 2 Corinthians 10:5 my memory verse for the second half of January. I need to take every thought captive more than ever. And I’m learning I have to get drastic to do so. I took all social media applications off my phone. I made a pact with myself to check it once a day, twice at the most, but only for messages–not to scroll and fall into the fray. I figure anyone who really needs to get ahold of me knows my email or my phone number, and that’s enough. It’ll have to be. This isn’t something everyone should or even wants to do. But for me, well, I’m finding that the more time that passes with this new quiet, this new posture, the more I feel peace re-entering my heart.

The less connected I am to the world, the more re-connected I am to Him.

(This is the great conundrum of course–how to be in the world, but not of the world; how to reach out without falling in. All we can do is try to find a balance the best we can, with the Lord’s help.)

I wonder what we’ll have to say for ourselves in five, ten, twenty years.

I hope we’ll be able to say we were kind in spite of the times; that we were still able to hear the birds singing in the morning; that we still noticed the small green spears of crocuses and daffodils emerging this spring; that we held banners of love high above signs of hate; that our children were able to watch us and learn swords of grace and mercy work best against hate.

I hope.

I sure hope.

I know for sure I can’t do it by reading and listening to the soundbites and the news feeds and the home pages anymore.  And I can’t do it at all without turning my focus, my eyes, and my heart on him, the man at the well.

Like I said, I fail. And I will again, because I’m human, and because it’s hard not to hear constant, deafening outrage.

But there is a voice calling, even and still in this wilderness,

and it’s filled with words like those found in Philippians 4:8-9:

Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart. The things which you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things in daily life, and the God who is the source of peace and well-being will be with you.

The source of peace.

The source of well-being.

Center your mind.

Implant them in your heart.

That’s my prayer for me first, since I fail at this worse than anyone I know.

It’s my prayer for you, too.

And maybe…maybe…something good will bloom out of these dark times after all.

did you ever scribble in the margins?

did you ever–
while the teacher lectured
and your high school crush sat across the room
and the class brown-noser took notes like his life depended on it
–scribble in the margins?

did you ever
when you got stuck sitting next to the class nitwit
glance at the brilliant doodles
crowding his wide ruled paper
notebook abandoned
on his desk after he got sent (((again))) to the principal’s office?

in the space between fine crafted outlines and
the edge
of the paper did you ever
find
yourself?

cuz’ they have it all wrong in kindergarten. inside the lines is for sissies.

*****

“[Jesus] said ‘Follow me’ and ended up with a lot of losers. And these losers ended up, through no virtue or talent of their own, becoming saints. Jesus wasn’t after the best but the worst.” ~Eugene Peterson

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How do you spell relief? Thoughts on the eve of publication.

pregnant-belly2R-E-L-E-A-S-E.

That’s how I spell relief.

Lots of folks are asking, so I figured I’d talk about how I’m feeling about my book’s debut, which happens in five short days.

Of course I’m excited.

Of course I’m thrilled.

Of course I am on my knees with gratitude when I consider how many twists and turns this manuscript has taken and the years which have passed from conception to publication.

But today, I feel relieved.

The editing is done–all umpteen rounds of it.

The cold dinners, on-your-own dinners, lame dinners, and lack of dinners my family have suffered as I struggled to keep my head above the water during the months of hard work have subsided–some. (I’ve never been the best at cooking multi-course family dinners anyway. Family dinners, yes. But too often, Pop-Tarts have counted as a main course.)

Blank expressions on my face because my brain is functioning, thinking, working in a whole other dimension called Storyland rather than being present in real life have been replaced with … um … well … blank expressions. Because my brain feels is blank. I’ve got nothin’.

Fur balls (from my three goldens who are currently all blowing their coats) are being consistently swept, the lizard is getting fed, and I even wiped down a baseboard or two the other day.

I am not lamenting the process. I love the writing. I even enjoy the editing. And I never, ever take how far I’ve come for granted. Not for a second. But I am plum wore out, people. I’m not kidding when I say I feel as if I’ve been pregnant with this sucker for eight long years. The last two years of editing have felt like a constant series of Braxton Hicks, a push and pull of what to cut and what to add, what to celebrate about the publishing industry, and what to shrug off of my too-thin skin. I dream about commas and ellipses, type-os and plot outlines. I wake up nauseous thinking about a scene I forgot to add or a scene I worry I shouldn’t have left in. I’ve been waddling around with the heavy expectation that everyone in the whole entire world is going to hate my book, and on Sunday, March 2, my Amazon ratings are going to consist of thousands of little, tiny, one-star beratings.

But overall, relief for me is release. The book is what it is, the best I could do at this time in my career. All of my heart. All of my tears. And the truth is, just like a real child, the story is–and always was–in God’s hands.

The funny ridiculous thing is, just like I told my husband 15 minutes after the 22 hours of labor and emergency procedures with my first born son, I want to do it all again.

Surely this means I am a crazy person.

Lucky for me, on my desk this very moment sets the biggest 3-ring binder ever known to man. The binder holds 283 pages of my second novel, which, in its current developmental stage, thoroughly and completely and overwhelmingly sucks. I have three months to fix it. 6-8 months of edits after that. And in the spring of 2015, it’s due to emerge from the womb of literary incubation just like this one.

After that, I’ll be relieved.

And then, I’ll want to do it again.

And again.

And again.