The Writing Life

I’m trying to settle back into real life after the amazing adventure fellow Scriblerian Linda Samaritoni and I embarked uponScribcolumn
last week attending the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Conference in Nashville. And I have to tell you it’s kind of lonely, real life that is. Oh I came back to a family happy to have me home, an exciting 4th birthday party for our grandson, and even overnight guests we don’t get to see often enough.

But you see, all of these people are what we in the ACFW refer to as “normals”. They aren’t writers. They don’t continually participate in an alternate universe inside their heads. They don’t carry on conversations with very real, yet ultimately imaginary people. At least most of them don’t. They don’t dissect every motive and response and conversation in every TV show and movie they view. And boy, do they wish the writers—the “non-normals”—in their life would chuck that annoying habit.

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Linda and I at the ACFW Conference Gala

Writers are a unique breed. We know our brains work differently than do “normal” brains. We accept that fact and try to convince our head-scratching family and friends to accept us as GOD made us, all the while realizing they probably never will truly “get” us.  

Back to the conference adventure. My mind was literally racing in a hundred different directions as Linda and I headed south. The myriad details of life had piled especially deep in my brain for weeks. I wondered if I’d have the ability to put all of that stuff aside and be fully present at the conference. I’d so looked forward to being with my writing friends and soaking up the classes, the workshops, the writerly atmosphere, but I worried I’d be too strung out on the daily-life-grind to immerse myself in the conference experience.

I needn’t have worried. Even as I scanned familiar faces across the expansive Omni hotel lobby, my mind began to settle in. Within hours, I was home. Not small-town-Indiana home, but at home with my fellow writing community.DSCF8745

I’ve said it probably fifty times in the last five to seven years since I got serious about writing, “There’s nothing like being with other writers.” Absolutely nothing in the world. I tell those new to the writing life to snatch every second of “writer time” because there’s nothing like surrounding yourself with people who get what it’s like to be a writer. Being with folks whose brains functions as yours does, well, it’s tough for even a writer to describe how amazing that is.

I came home from the conference armed with answers to specific questions and direction for my publishing journey and determination for pushing my YA series out of the “still working on it” phase, where it’s been languishing for years, and into the “publishing phase”. But in order to accomplish that, it’s time to move past the “missing my writing friends” stage and forge ahead.

I’m reminded that we weren’t intended to do this thing called life alone. Not one of us was meant to navigate this world in a solitary fashion. We need each during the gut-wrenching times as well as the over-the-moon celebrations. We crave the camaraderie of friends and family in the doldrums of daily life as much as we do in the moments, both joyous and grievous, that steal away our breath. We’re wired to walk this road in tandem with others.

In the crazy busyness that surrounds most of us, it’s easy to ignore the longing of our soul for those deep connections. I challenge you to make time to embrace the connections in your life, to nurture the relationships that feed your soul’s cravings. Let others lighten your load as you help to shoulder their burdens. Don’t try to be strong or tough and do this life alone.

We Scriblerians do this life together thing quite well despite the many miles that separate us. I hope each of you finds a niche where you can be yourself with fellow travelers. 

Call Beth a “cheerleader for abstinence”!  She’s passionate about saving sex for marriage and believes strongly in accountability and mentoring as crucial tools to success in postponing physical intimacy until marriage.  She’s equally as passionate about “renewed waiting”. Because SEX is worth waiting for. YOU are worth waiting for. She’d love to hear from you! Comment here OR email her at waitingmatters@gmail.com. And connect with her on Facebook at Beth Steury, Author.

 

The Making of a Family: The Proof of GOD’s Intervention

ScribcolumnI have always known that I was adopted as an infant. Same with my three younger brothers.

Before  we could truly grasp what it meant to be “adopted”, we knew we had been adopted. Seriously, my youngest brother who endured surgery for a double hernia at the age of two and two-thirds months, thought his surgery scars were from being adopted. His older and wiser siblings who knew all about this adoption stuff tried to correct his faulty thinking but to no avail. We finally gave up, deciding he’d figure it out eventually.

Our understanding of adoption came from this book, read to us continuously from the day we became part of our adoptive parents’ family. I promise you, “read continuously” is not an exaggeration. I’m certain I could recite the book by a very young age.

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When I searched for the book by title, the first books I found were not the familiar plain green cover I remembered so well. Knowing the book had to be on the elderly side, I feared I wouldn’t be able to find it. But I persevered and further digging uncovered an earlier edition that looked exactly as I remembered.

Talk about a trip down memory lane! The illustrations, the characters’ names, even the look of the print were all so familiar. In my mind I could see myself “reading” the story to the brother next in line behind me when we were something like 3 and 1 1/2 years of age.

By the time brother #2 came along, the book was in tatters and had to be replaced. One of the revised covers I discovered seems a little familiar so I’m wondering if the replacement book had that cover. But the copy I’ll always and forever remember is the one above.

While our parents’ chose to receive no information about our birth parents, they felt it was important that each of us be aware of our adoption, and the fact that they wanted us very, very, very much. Hence the reading of the “The Chosen Baby” time and again.

Four days after I penned my  last “slice of life” post, I discovered a rather intriguing fact about my past. A fact my adoptive parents’ knew all along but chose not to relay to me as a child who might not receive the news well. I understand that. A child’s ability to sift through information and to reason is unpredictable at best. I also get why they struggled with  the question, “So, when DO we tell her?” after I became an adult.

 It seems I was left on the doorstep of a residence in a small, Midwest town in the wee morning hours of a cold November day in 1963. Wrapped in a man’s black wool shirt and a blanket, I was approximately 3 days old, having not been born in a hospital. I was 20 in. long, weighed 5 lbs. 12 oz., and found to be in good health.

Talk about a “slice of real life”! In the less than three weeks I’ve known this bit of information, my mind has been spinning. I’ve already embarked on a journey to see what I can learn about my biological beginnings.

If this story doesn’t testify to GOD’s intervention in my life, I can’t imagine a more fitting example. I never had feelings of abandonment or shame concerning my adoption. I always assumed whomever gave birth to me didn’t feel capable of caring for me, so she/he/they chose to allow someone else to raise me.

GOD knew a young couple several counties away desperately wanted a family, and HE put the pieces of the puzzle together. And HE put the pieces together again three other times to create our family of six.

I’ll keep you updated on my journey in future columns.

UPDATE from last time. Remember how my early twenty-something son relayed news of a really-not-so-good-kind while I was writing the “They Need a Mom…” post–the one about letting young adults figure stuff out of on their own? While I’d love to report that things on that front have been resolved —you have no idea how much I’d love to be able to report that–alas, it is not so. Still, I know GOD is in control. This mama is continuing to pray GOD’s power and presence over the situation and to trust in HIS plan.

Call Beth a “cheerleader for abstinence”!  She’s passionate about saving sex for marriage and believes strongly in accountability and mentoring as crucial tools to success in postponing physical intimacy until marriage.  She’s equally as passionate about “renewed waiting”. Because SEX is worth waiting for. YOU are worth waiting for. She’d love to hear from you! Comment here OR email her at waitingmatters@gmail.com. And connect with her on Facebook at Beth Steury, Author.

They need a mom…

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I love it when the happenings of daily life spur a moment of reflection, induce a time of introspection, or launch a fresh prospective. That’s why I’ll be wrapping my Scriblerian column posts around the daily happenings of real life.

Sometimes the insights will focus on one of my great passions: challenging young people to save sex for marriage OR commit to “renewed waiting”, both themes of my “Waiting Matters…Because YOU Matter” blog. Some “slices” will ponder the many complexities of parenting. Others will seek to understand this great big GOD we serve. And some “slices”   will be of a very random nature. I might even on occasion share a recipe for pie. Yum

Today’s slice comes from the real world of parenting.

A couple weeks back, as I made the first swath across the front yard with the mower, several young men piled out of a couple of vehicles at the neighbor’s house. Cars continued to arrive, bringing more 18 to 21-year-old guys. Soon the sidewalk was littered with duffel bags and coolers, and a hefty pile of personal gear assumed space on the street behind an SUV-type vehicle.

“Must be having some kind of party,” I murmured turning the mower around for yet another swipe toward the garage. Then I remembered—the young man who’d moved in several months before was getting married the next weekend. “Must be having an overnight bachelor’s party,” I surmised. (Yes, I routinely talk to myself while mowing!)

cars coolersA cluster of guys gathered behind the open hatch of the SUV. Their heads dropped in the direction of the piled high baggage then raised and turned toward the open hatch of the vehicle. A brave young man attempted to stuff another bag into the already full cargo space. Arms folded against t-shirt-clad chests as his effort wedged in one more bag but failed at getting in a second. Then the head scratching began. Literal fingers repeatedly grazing temples as their heads continued the see-saw motion between the pile on the street and the open hatch.

I laughed out loud and announced, “They need a mom.” Everyone knows Moms are great at packing. And she’d make the stumped males realize all the luggage didn’t have to fit in one vehicle. Because all of them wouldn’t fit into one vehicle.  Yep, a mom to swoop in and save the day. That’s what they needed.

My snickering ceased as a serious thought formed and then consumed my mind. Not this time.

A mom to fix their dilemma was not what these young men needed. It was time they learned to figure things out on their own.

I breathed a prayer for safety and wise decision-making on their guys’ weekend. I lifted the soon-to-be-wed couple in prayer as well.

I continued to mow, checking in on them and shaking my head at their slow progress.  A couple more guys arrived as I finished the front and side yards. Luggage still remained scattered about. Although I really wanted to lend just a few minutes of my well-honed packing skills to them, I refrained and instead headed to the backyard.

Later, when I came around the house to get a drink, they were all gone. A few extra vehicles remained but none of the baggage. The street seemed strangely quiet after the hour-long ordeal of preparing for their weekend adventure.

Any one of their moms could have whipped the situation into shape with room to spare. But moms and dads won’t always be around to fix things, to save the day, for these young men. Packing for a weekend away is crazy minor compared to the major stuff these young adults will have to handle in the years ahead.

It’s a truth we all know yet most of us resist it. We have to let our kids do things on their own, make decision and mistakes, then figure out what the next step is. They have to learn to get back up, dust themselves off and keep going.

Cars again lined the street on Sunday evening as the guys returned from their weekend adventure. The unloading process went much quicker than the loading process, and soon they were on their way, none the worse I’m sure for the haphazard packing that accompanied their adventure.

As I’m writing this post, considering how to tie it all together, I get a text from my early-twenty-something son. “Can you talk now?” I answer yes, and a second later he calls with news of the really-not-so-good-kind. I promise I’m not making this up. Any of it.

He shares the very adult-world situation he’s facing, not because he wants us to fix it–he’s very independent–but just because he thought we should know.

The truth is we can’t fix it. And that’s tough for my “fixer-mom” personality to accept. Really tough.

I’m sad, angry, and frustrated that he’s facing this unexpected situation, but I’m happy and proud his call wasn’t in the least about Mom and Dad fixing it.

Anyone who thinks parenting is tough when the kids are little will not want to hear that parenting the YA crowd is far tougher. You find yourself longing for the days when a skinned knee or missing blankie were the biggest crises of the day. Parenting young adults definitely falls in the category of life situations that ramp up a person’s prayer life.

How thankful I am that we serve a Mighty GOD, and I know I can trust HIM with this and every other situation in my life.

Until next time… Praying GOD’s power and presence over my son’s situation, and peace over this mom’s heart.

Call Beth a “cheerleader for abstinence”!  She’s passionate about waiting for marriage and believes strongly in accountability and mentoring as crucial tools to success in saving sex for marriage.  She’s equally as passionate about “renewed waiting”. Because SEX is worth waiting for. YOU are worth waiting for. She’d love to hear from you! Comment here OR email her at waitingmatters@gmail.com.

The Full Experience

With narrowed eyes and the appropriately scrunched eyebrows, my husband questioned why on a 91 degree day I insisted on leaving my passenger side van window down. Rather than seal out the summer heat thereby allowing the air conditioner to effectively cool the sun-baked interior, I had chosen to keep my window in the all-the-way-open position and hang my arm through the opening.

“I want to get the full experience,” I shared, answering his inquiry before it became vocal.

His eyes narrowed further into slits. “The what?”

“The full outdoors experience. Now let’s drive around.”

“Mm hmm…” Head shaking slightly, he shifted into reverse, and we proceeded to meander through Cataract Falls State Recreation Area.

To feast our eyes on the peaceful, serene setting. And take in the sounds of nature that filtered in through that open window. It would have been a shame to miss the birds’ chirping or the insects’ buzzing or the rabbits’ scurrying through the brush. And the falls. A closed window would have blocked out the cadence of the water cascading over the rocks.

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Traversing as close to the waterfalls as my unreliable legs allowed us to go and taking a brief hike along the wooded bank had left us sweat-covered and hot. Still, I wanted to soak up more of the outdoors even if only through the eighteen square inch opening in the side of the van.

Because that’s what a person does when on vacation. Soak up the things that are different from the every day routine of life.

When we’d inched our way along the last of the paved drives, we headed for the exiDSCF8473t. As we turned on to the road, I pushed the control to roll up the window.

“Thought you wanted the full experience,” my husband quipped, an ornery smirk tugging at his mouth.

I adjusted the air conditioning vent to blow more fully on my still sweaty face. “I did and we got it, now hush.”

Share one of your own “full experience moments” from this summer!

Words of wisdom to my 16-year-old self…

In keeping with the recent theme of advising our younger self, I’ve penned some words of wisdom to my 16-year-old self.

Dear me,

I know you want a boyfriend NOW. I understand you’re worried a great guy may never come along for you. Honestly, you should lighten up about that. A lot of things in your life are really good—focus on that. It’s not the end of the world that you don’t have a boyfriend right now.

I can tell you with 100%dating picture certainty that a great guy is on his way and soon. He’s a keeper for sure. So just be patient. I know that’s never been your best quality. In fact, if you could make “chilling out” more of a priority, that would be awesome. You’re too much of a worrier. I know the term “GOD’s got this” means nothing to you now, but HE does have this and that and everything else. HE so totally knows what HE’s doing. Learn to trust
more, worry less, and roll with the punches.

 You know how it bugs you that you’re not part of the “in” crowd? You have friends, sure, but you’re not popular. Well, if that’s one of the things you can learn to “chill” about, that would be best because things in that department don’t get better.  Oh, some of the snobbish folk eventually get neck cramps from hoisting their noses so far in the air. Er… I mean they outgrow the tendency to look down on everyone. But that doesn’t happen until you’re, you know, ancient, like in your mid to late thirties. 

Eventually the whole popularity thing becomes less important to you. You mostly get over being bothered by them. But that’s a lot of years of letting them get under your skin, so I suggest you get over it NOW. Just focus on being the best “you” you can be and don’t worry about anyone else.

too slow clock

And you know how you feel like time moves so slowly and you’re always wishing this or that would hurry up and get here? Well, stop that right now! Stop wishing your life away. Live in and enjoy every moment as it comes. Please trust me on this one. Time is moving at exactly the pace it is supposed to.

 

 

Back to being who you are. You need to believe in yourself more. GOD’s given you abilities and qualities that HE wants and needs you to use. Don’t sell yourself short. In fact if you could spend some time building your confidence, it will serve you well in the decades to come when you have a tendency to shrink back from challenges that you should embrace. So yeah, take a course or read a book. Do something to boost that level of confidence because there’s a whole world waiting out there for you.

Most Sincerely,

Your much older and wiser self

How do you feel when you think back on the person you were at 16?

 

 

 

Come on, Stretch Those Writerly Brains

I believe in stretching myself as a writer. You know, attempting things that are outside of my comfort zone, tackling things I said I’d never do because “that would be boring … or hard … or ‘not my thing’.”

So in addition to fiction, which I thought was my “thing” but is the “thing” I’ve had the least success with so far, I also host a blog themed around abstinence and renewed abstinence. I write feature articles for a local magazine based on interviews with business owners. I provide web content in the form of weekly blog posts and monthly newsletters for businesses via their account with a marketing firm. I rewrite the basic information for business websites. And on occasion I edit articles written by others.

I noted, repeatedly, that I had no interest in interviewing people like my friend Kayleen does. None at all. But I’ve met so many interesting folks and discovered several “hidden treasures” among the businesses I visited.

I moaned at the thought of researching and writing articles on subjects about which I had little to no interest. Blech… But I’ve learned so much along the way. Many things that will benefit me when I begin marketing my own fiction in what I hope is the not-too-far future.

And because this is National Poetry month, I have challenged myself to compose poetry—one of my very least favorite forms of writing–for you, our faithful Scriblerian followers.

In the past, again to expand my writing skills, I have written poems for special occasions. I once attempted to write a poem each week related to the Sunday School class I taught. “It will be good for me,” I reasoned. That lasted two weeks. Well, actually one and a half as I couldn’t make it through the second round.

So without further ado, I present my poem–

In Honor of Spring

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Roses are red,

Violets are blue.

But the tulips of spring,

How they make my heart sing.

The grass is so green,

And my, how it grows.

So cool and so soft

Against my bare little toes.

The warmth of the sun

Surrounds the fertile earth.

As the wonders of spring

Fill us each with such mirth.

A confession I must make

Although it pains me so.

Only the tallest part

Of the lawn did I mow.

The day had been long and

Twas already past seven.

My bones were so weary

To rest–that would be heaven.

I’ll finish the job

Before the grass is knee high.

I promise I will

About that I would not lie.

Should anyone be wondering, this is not my attempt to prepare for Chip MacGregor’s famous Bad Poetry Contest held each May.

I challenge you to write a hasty poem, spend fifteen minutes max on it, and share it in the comments. Are you up to the challenge?

When This Life Ends

It’s been a rough couple of weeks in my hometown as recent events have driven home in stark reality the brevity of life.

Despite a diagnosis of bone cancer and through the rigors of the treatment that followed, Mrs. B. continued to teach 7th grade Science. When chemotherapy left her weak and exhausted, she persevered—even when she needed crutches to navigate the middle grade hallways. Over time she improved, grew stronger. And then a sudden respiratory virus hit her hard and she was gone.  The students she’d poured herself into, who’d cheered her on through her battle with cancer were devastated.file3291233869663.jpg
His prognosis good, M the custodian was scheduled to return to work in
seven days, following recuperation from a successful surgery to remove a tumor. His kindhearted, always-ready-to-lend-a-helping-hand presence had been missed at the school. Students and co-workers alike eagerly awaited his return. But his recovery was halted, forever, when complications from a blood clot ended his life.

Just one week after Mrs. B.’s unexpected passing. Again, students and staff struggled to understand and cope with the death of a mentor, a friend.

Miss S. was fun and lively. A 16-year-old, unashamed, committed follower of Christ. As she and her family came to grips with the recent diagnosis of a complex, chronic illness, she remained steadfast in her faith. And then a case of influenza turned deadly, and her too-short life came to an abrupt close. Waves of shock and grief swept through the community, hitting especially hard and heavy on her teen-aged friends and co-workers.

A mere eleven days after Custodian M’s sudden sojourn into eternity, the community gasped at yet another life cut short unexpectedly.

While we claim to grasp the reality that death is just a heartbeat away for any of us, actually, deep down, we expect life to go on and on. To not be snuffed out too early, too soon, or when we’re least expecting it.

Which is always because we never really anticipate or want death to come calling.

Except when we do expect it. And even accept it. .

Via Facebook I am, in a very backseat way, journeying through the last days of a 26-year-old cystic fibrosis patient’s life. His mom and I have an online, we’re-both-cf-moms-and-both-writers kind of relationship. Although I’ve never met any of them, their situation has impacted me deeply.

Both he and his family know he’s “end stage”. They’ve tended to the details that accompany this process of dying. The answering of “advanced directive” questions. The pointed inquiries about funeral and burial wishes. The tedious but necessary banking details. They gathered the family for an unforgettable day of togetherness complete with sibling and entire family pics.

And now they wait.P1050051

So many things about this situation have me exclaiming, “Wow…”

This guy is one astoundingly brave, mature, faith-filled young man.

DH remains upbeat, injecting humor into these truly life-and-death moments, repeatedly insisting that his family not be sad as his life nears the end. He’s oh so ready to trade his disease-ridden body for a heavenly one that will never tire or be ill.

He’s anxious to go home.

This family is incredibly inspiring and courageous.

They are not shaking their fists, railing against the fact that their second born child and beloved sibling will soon depart. They’ve accepted that soon this bold young man’s physical presence will no longer fill their home.

They know that this “end” is not final.

Their faith in GOD is rock-solid, and they credit HIS power and presence for sustaining them through this monumental experience. Their hope in HIM and HIS promises are stalwart. They rejoice in the promise of heaven and of spending eternity together. They long for their son and brother to be whole and pain-free.

And so they wait for GOD to take him home.

When the reality that this earthly life is simply practice for the next life—the one without end—is fully grasped, there is a profound peace and comfort that mingles with and surrounds and soothes the deep pain of loss.

Rest in peace, Mrs. B…. M the custodian…Miss S. May GOD’s peace and comfort surround your family and friends as they adjust to life without your physical presence.

And DH, may GOD continue to hold you and your family in the palm of HIS hand as you journey toward your heavenly home.