Waiting on 9-11

life

It’s a page turner, ain’t it?

Every day we write ourselves a book. Life is a book, unpredictable. Sometimes we get so anxious, wondering what’s going to happen next, we push it and try to skip forward to the end.

Nope, don’t do it. Wait. Read every page. Every page. Examine it. Ponder it. Reflect upon it. Tomorrow will be here soon enough. If it’s not here, then we won’t have to worry about it, will we?

You’ve done that before, right? Skipped the pages because you couldn’t wait to find out? I bet you had to go back and re-read so that you could understand what was going on.

Me too.

Every day is a new story with pertinent information that will help us understand tomorrow, so don’t go so fast. Reflect. If you skip the details and rush the end, you may miss the significance.

I have had a terrible time focusing the last couple of years. I haven’t been able to read anything but road signs. Sometimes I even miss them. I tried to explain my trouble to the cop who clocked me going 35 in a 15-mph speed zone.

Nobody told me that’s what the new sign meant. I should have paid attention to the details so I didn’t have to pay the triple-digit ticket.

I teach three dual-enrollment college classes. For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about remembering an event and creating a narrative.

My students lead the class, and one of them drew a diagram of a dramatic arc on the page. She explained the importance of providing the background details, setting the stage, adding the conflict, reaching a turning point and, finally, coming to a conclusion.

Those elements are the essence of life, each day. Each day is a brand new story.

But the main lesson I sought to teach my kiddos is that whatever they choose to write about, their story has to have the MAIN thing. That thing is significance.

All day long today on 9-11, I’ve been waiting for something to happen. My anxiety levels are at high alert.

I’m ready to turn the page, skip to the end.

I can’t. And it doesn’t matter anyway. I’m not in control of anything but myself. I can’t change anyone but me, and I can’t stop the world.

If I were to skip to the end, I would miss out on the details. I would miss out on how this page prepares me for the next. I would miss out on the significance.

I believe in serendipity, fortunate accidents, but I can’t predict them. I just have to deal with them when they happen.

I also believe everything happens for a reason and that all things work positively for those who love God and who are part of His plan.

It’s not up to us to change his plans. I do think we should be wise and reflective and think about what is happening in our lives. There’s a reason for it, you know, a purpose, leading up to something important.

Remember every story goes through a dramatic arc; every day is a story. What is the significance?

People are motivated by many things. Not to sound cliché, but I am motivated by one thing–love. Love is the significance of my life story. Even though I don’t understand why or how things happen–yet, I do know that I know love.

And no matter what happens today, 9-11, or any other day, I have known love.

But the story is NOT over yet. I’m not skipping pages. I will wait patiently so that when I get to the end I will understand all the details.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE
Today is 9-11. What emotions surged through your soul? Did you experience fear, regret, grief, relief, anxiety, etc? Why? What is happening in your life story? Reflect upon these questions. Please add a comment or two if you have time. I encourage you to write in your journal as documentation of your existence on this day in history. It’s always interesting to go back months or years later to see how you have changed.

WORDS OF WISDOM
“EMILY: “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?”
STAGE MANAGER: “No. Saints and poets maybe…they do some.”

“Now there are some things we all know, but we don’t take’m out and look at’m very often. We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars… everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.”
Our Town by Thornton Wilder

MUSIC NOTES
In life I know there is lots of grief / But your love is my relief. / Tears in my eyes burn, tears in my eyes burn / While I’m waiting, while I’m waiting for my turn.
“Waiting in Vain,” by Annie Lennox, featured in the movie Serendipity

LOOK AND SEE CYBER SERENDIPITEE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QP27pp5NwM

FINAL THOUGHT

serendipitydestinyhumble

Fix

pink stars

Take me back

To the child who feared everything that wasn’t to be feared

But feared nothing that had the power to destroy the world

Take me back

To the moment when emptiness and disappointment

Erased everything but the wrong answer

Take me back

To a closed door with no lock

When too much time was spent looking for the key

Take me back

To a place when courage rose up like a phoenix

Before raging fear brought it down

Make me believe

That God isn’t cruel

That God understands

That God made the puzzle and can make the pieces fit

Make me believe

That love is honest

And what is honest is not evil

And what is evil will not prevail

Make me believe

That all things happen for a reason

And reason is and always will be

Even if forever begins tomorrow and not today

If suns collide and pink stars fall and the world becomes unplugged

I will stand in my dimension and wait

My mind whispering honest

Words few have the ability to hear

What your Facebook posts really mean

FACEBOOK

I would love to see a study that clocked the number of hours people spent watching TV compared to the number of hours they spent trolling and creeping on social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest.

Don Henley sang, “I make my living off the evening news / Just give me something-something I can use / People love it when you lose / They love dirty laundry.”

But who needs the evening news? We all know the stories are tainted by the media conglomerates that control the release of information to the public.

We want our information fast and furious. Who cares if it’s true? We want to know about our next door neighbor, our cousin’s best friend, and our kid’s homeroom teacher.

Now THAT’S entertainment.

We’re both voyeurs and exhibitionists. Everybody wants his or her fifteen minutes of fame. Thank you YouTube. Thank you Facebook. Now we can live life any way we wanna, even if it’s all in our heads.

Now that we no longer live IRL (in real life), our patterns of socialization have changed.

How do we fit in? Who have we become? How do we reveal ourselves to the world? We don’t speak in sentences anymore. Our communication has reverted back to symbols, quite honestly not so far removed from the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Our symbols are, of course, more advanced, thanks to the easy transfer of images through cyber space. The posting of poignant, witty, vulgar, religious, whimsical, or romantic sayings convey a deeper message.

What is it we’re really trying to say?

WHAT YOUR FB POSTS REALLY MEAN

Even though our social media connects us to the world, we’re still ALONE. We need human interaction. Posts like these convey that we’re hurting. We have forgotten how to say it in words.

1

The conglomerate media outlets have brainwashed women and men to believe that beauty is limited to certain sizes. We know it isn’t true, but we have to remind ourselves. Yet, even though we post these pics, there is still a part of us that believes the lie is truth.

2

Christians should not be ashamed of Jesus. They SHOUT his name over cyberspace. But some of them whisper it in their actions with people who don’t believe the way they do.  Somehow, by posting these pics, these Christians feel redeemed.

3

We are surrounded by people, but we still feel alone. When we post these pics, we hope to draw someone into our lives. We may be afraid to admit it, but part of us thirsts for belonging.

4

Again, the post below reflects our reaching out for affirmation.

5

Heartbreak is universal. But in our fast-paced, cyber world, we are afraid to trust, so instead of wearing our feelings on our sleeves, we post them on our statuses. It doesn’t matter if the person who hurts us sees them. Posting helps us digest and own our feelings.

6

Passive aggressive behavior isn’t just for IRL. We can’t handle conflict, so we say it on Facebook.

7

All of our friends are busy posting. We don’t want to impose on others, so instead of turning to a counselor or a self help book, we find a quote that reassures us that everything is going to be okay.

8

When we can’t say it aloud, we post it in a picture.

9

We know the truth. But does the truth matter anymore?

10

Nothing to fear but fear itself

Pottery 2012 009

On a scale of 1-10, how afraid are you to try something new?

Oh, I’m sure most of you are quite courageous, but when it comes right down to it, if you really want to know how brave you are, measure your progress compared to your procrastination.

I have always been the artsy type. I got my first guitar at about age 12. As an elementary school student, I entered water color paintings in the country fair—and won. My all-time favorite class in high school was Mr. Jimmy “Grouch” Jones’ art class. I learned how to make pottery and to make torn-paper mosaics and to how sketch. I loved every minute of it. And you know I love to write and take photos.

But last year when I received a gift certificate to paint pottery, I was THRILLED, but I was scared. I wanted to paint, but I didn’t want to fail. So I put off going until I was sure I was ready. I waited and waited and waited until the day before the gift certificate expired. I went on my birthday. I figured it would be the PERFECT time to go.

I was so nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. I went by myself on my birthday, my personal vacation. (Well, after my dentist appointment.)

When I get nervous, I turn into a total geek-clutz-dork-goof ball. So when I pulled into the parking lot in front of the studio, I was extremely timid about parking. I pulled into a space, but then I wasn’t sure if I was in the handicapped spot, so I backed out. I got out and checked and changed my mind. Then I pulled back in. I got nervous again and pulled back out. Then I thought I had better be on the safe side, so I decided to back into a regular space behind me, so I did. But I parked crooked, so I got out and had to check the lines and pull back in again. It was insane.

By the time I worked up the courage to get out of the truck and go to the door, I was a nervous wreck.

I had wanted to go to the studio since the first day it opened. I imagined my pottery would be the most beautifully painted of the bunch. I have a knack. But when I actually stepped inside, I froze. I didn’t know what to do. There were children and adults of all ages doing their thing. And then there was me.

I explained to the young girl in charge that I was new and didn’t know what to do. She gave me the run down. Pick a piece, go to the paint station, sit down and paint. Easy enough.

Not.

I mean I am the queen of indecision. I didn’t know what to paint. A vase? A box? A picture frame? I chose a plate that was a triangle because it was shaped like a guitar pick, and I wanted a music themed piece. Perfect choice, so I thought.

I noticed everyone around me had water and a palette. I did not. I saw some water on a table. I took it. Later I would find out I stole someone else’s water. I played dumb. Well, I pretended to play dumb. I really was dumb.

And the table I chose had very few brushes, just big ole fat brushes. And there was no little palette. So I went to the young lady and explained my plight. She told me the palettes were at the paint station. Well, duh. My bad.

Then I sat there staring at the colors of paint. And sat there. And sat there. And sat there. Finally, the girl came over to me and whispered, “You know, you don’t have to wait on me to tell you that you can get the paint. You can go by yourself.”

I knew that. I just didn’t know what colors to chose. I wanted it to be PERFECT. I blushed and told her I was just having a hard time deciding. I finally moved to the paint station and began transporting bottles of paint to my table.

I was in trouble again. She came back. “Please don’t take the bottles to your table. Other customers have to use them. Just put the paint in your palette.”

Oh, why does life have to be so complicated?

When I started to paint, I realized that I could not draw a guitar on my plate with the big fat brushes. I had no choice. I had no pencil. I did the best I could.

Everything would have been fine except the two people next to me were apparently pottery painting experts. Penguins. SHE was painting a penguin on her plate, and SHE had a pencil to draw hers out first. Meticulous little lines. Step by step. HE watched her every move and applauded her technique. Me?I was slapping paint on left and right. I tried to paint notes, but they didn’t look right, so I painted over them.

Nothing looked right, so I slapped on more paint. And more paint. And more paint. Good thing it dried quickly.

But SHE was really making me feel like that total geek-clutz-dork-goof ball I tried not to be. And HE, her date, boyfriend, or significant other, whatever, was critiquing her every brush stroke as if she were the next Van Gogh.

“Do you think my penguin’s foot is too close to the edge? Should I bring the other one down?” And he came back with some artsy, fartsy detailed description of what she could do with her brush. Yeah. Good thing she didn’t ask me.

I just slapped on more paint. When I finally did all I could do, I had to get out of there.

I wanted to exit gracefully, but I never do anything gracefully. My purse got caught on the chair, and I dragged it across the studio to the register. At least I didn’t break my plate.

The girl looked thankful I was leaving. “Christmas eve,” she said. “That’s when your piece will be ready.”

I hated to leave it, truth be told. Despite how ugly I felt my pitiful attempt at painting was, I had done my best. I hated to leave it in someone else’s hands.

But on Christmas eve, I traveled back to the Boro to pick it up. I prayed that I for once I would not make a spectacle of myself. Everything else had gone wrong during my first-time painting. When I got out of the truck, I was careful not to trip.

But there was one problem. I was so nervous about not coming across as a total doofus, I went into the wrong store—the painting store, not the pottery store. I was so confused. Nothing looked the same. And there wasn’t any pottery anywhere. Well, duh. At least the lady working there didn’t catch on to my faux pas. I covered myself and asked a genuine question that I really had been pondering for some time. When do painting classes begin?

I found my way to the pottery store, and without further incidence I picked up my piece. I had to face the same girl, but she was sweet and told me I wouldn’t be so nervous next time.

At least I didn’t drop my plate before I made it back home.

Sure, it’s not a masterpiece. The paint isn’t even, and the guitar looks as if a toddler painted it. But I accomplished something. I overcame my fear. I had a little fun.

So what is it that YOU are putting off? What are you afraid to try? I challenge you to take the first step for the new year.

Tell me about it.

Pottery 2012 004

These are a few pottery pieces I made from scratch when I was in high school

and during my first years teaching.

Pottery 2012 008Pottery 2012 007

I was thinking Bob Marley

Okay, so it’s 2 a.m., and I’m still awake. Not tomorrow but the next day, I am expected to show up at my job at a “respectable” hour and resume my “normal” activities, and I suppose the powers that be will expect me to wear clothes. Not that I’m not wearing clothes right now. I do make a habit of wearing clothes. However, I suppose I will have to wear something somewhat professional. I’m not sure wearing shorts, flip flops and a Memphis tee is considered acceptable.

One of the reasons why I have been unable to sleep is because I HAD to finish the book The Heart’s Journey Home by Jen Stephens. If you’re looking for a great read with characters that you will welcome into your heart, then this is the book for you. The plot is well crafted with twists and turns that made me feel both angsty and satisfied.  I won’t give away too many details because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but let me whet your appetite.

Have you ever felt as though your faith has dwindled to almost nothing? Have you ever felt as though you are ABSOLUTELY SURE what God’s plan is for your life, only to discover that the plan you’ve been banking on isn’t God’s plan at all? Jen’s characters suffer these moments of doubt—and trust me, the book is built on a foundation of reality. If you aren’t already going through exactly what these characters are going through, you can probably relate to similar circumstances. What I really like about this book is the way the author gently weaves in Truth that speaks directly to the reader’s spirit. This book spoke to my spirit!

Being a rogue English teacher, I adore playing with words and literary elements. I like themes. I like quotes, and I like Biblical allusions. I have found that certain periods of my life rest on particular themes. The past few weeks I’ve been dealing with courage and stepping out in faith. Someone told me that if you don’t like your life, change it. So that’s what I’ve been doing, trying to overcome some fears and to improve my quality of living. In fact, I have done some pretty bold things in the past three weeks, things I would have never done during any other period of my life. (Trust me, all of these activities have a G rating. G as in God approved.) However, this week I have felt as though the plug has been pulled on all my enthusiasm. I’m not sure why.

I used to be a major American Idol fan. One of my all-time favorite “Idols” is Jason Castro. What can I say? His spirit and personality are so adorable. His dreadlocks are so adorable. And I personally really, really like his singing. During one performance, Jason apparently felt a surge of boldness and chose to sing an unconventional song, “I Shot the Sheriff” by Bob Marley. An indignant Simon Cowell blasted Jason on his choice of song. Speaking in his most pretentious voice, Simon asked Jason, “What were you thinking?”  Jason replied with his signature smile, “I was thinking Bob Marley.”

Good answer. Jason exercised his freedom to sing what he felt moved to sing. That’s how I’ve felt during the past few weeks. I’ve experienced the freedom to be myself. But looking back now at all the so-out-of character G-approved things I’ve done, I can only ask myself, “What were YOU thinking?” Honestly, I really was thinking Bob Marley.  The funny thing is I even have the tee shirt to prove it. On Saturday one of my newspaper students gave me a tie-dyed tee with the words “One Love” on the back.

One of the crazy, out of character things I’ve done recently is to write a book and start a blog and write about the book in the blog, not knowing what—if anything—will ever come about as the result of my efforts. I feel like Peter, who tried walking on the water. We know what happened to him. I can relate. Here’s the conversation I had with myself: “Dude, I think I want to write a book. I can write a book. I have faith. I’m just going to walk right on out there and write that book.” And I did! I went to Starbucks with my trusty laptop and settled into a corner, and with Bob Marley serenading me in the background, I wrote a book. Then I finished a book. And then I realized, “What am I going to do with this book?” I have no publishing house, no editor, no agent. And then, like Peter, I found myself standing out there on the water with no life jacket. Here’s a revelation. I can’t swim!

So I asked myself, “What were you thinking?”  I feel pretty sure that’s what Peter asked himself, but I don’t think his answer was “I was thinking Bob Marley.” But Pete and I share a similar problem in that both of us took our eyes off the source of our faith and ability—Jesus. There was NOTHING Peter could do to make himself stay upright. There’s nothing I can do to make this publishing dream float. This is a God thing. So there.

Have you taken a step of faith lately and are now asking yourself, “What were you thinking?”

I have a couple of suggestions that might help. One, find a copy of The Heart’s Journey Home. Read it. You may find answers woven within the pages. I did. Two, share your thoughts here. You may help others who are going through similar situations and you might reap some much needed prayer.

Close enough for rock ‘n’ roll

 “If you are not doing what you love, you are wasting your time.”  ~ Billy Joel

Many, many years ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was a very shy and timid little thing who worked really, really hard at holding back an extremely adventurous spirit.  I was the princess of self discipline. I mastered the art of being nondescript, boring and bland.  It’s easy being unnoticed if you put a little effort into it. (If you’re unnoticed, you’ll never have to experience rejection.) I will admit there were times when my corpus collosum had difficulty mediating the arguments between my practical left brain Miss Logic and my creative right brain Miss Impetuous, but it wasn’t always like that.

There was a time when I was a little kid when I was free to be whatever I wanted to be, a writer, a musician, an artist, a photographer. If it had anything to do with creativity, I was into it. I had an unbelievable passion for music. The one thing I wanted most of all was a guitar, and when I discovered my first cheap acoustic under the tree one Christmas morn, I thought my life was complete. My parents found me a guitar teacher, and I learned the fundamentals of…bluegrass. Nope, it wasn’t the rock music I preferred, but it was music. And even today I enjoy bluegrass.

As I became a teenager, I knew very little about God, and I tried to do everything myself. It didn’t take me long to figure out I wasn’t perfect. That’s bad news for a perfectionist. I became very self conscious, and I avoided taking a risk. I wanted to take band and play drums in junior high, but an acquaintance talked me out of it. Miss Logic chimed in. “Why, do you want to do that? Girls can’t be drummers. Act like a lady.” Miss Logic also told me girls don’t play guitar.

By the time I entered high school, I was a closet guitar player and a great admirer of drummers. Miss Logic kept my passion hidden until my senior year until my friends talked me into trying out for the color guard. How the shyest girl in the senior class ever made the flag corps, I’ll never know. But it was serendipitous event because through band I re-discovered music. I also discovered a group of people in a real band (rock and roll….shh, don’t tell Miss Logic), and they let me tag along. One of these rock and rollers even taught me a little bit on guitar and another was so kind to lend me his sticks, and I was forever hooked even though Miss Logic has tried to hold me back ever since.

But the best thing that ever happened was the encouragement of our band director, who could see through my fear to my love of music. During this time we had perhaps the best drummers in all of the world—I still believe that. And every now and then, I would sneak their sticks and mallets and play some of the easier pieces while they were sneaking away into some sort of trouble, which they were prone to do. (Drummers, you gotta love ‘em.) Eventually, however, our director caught on and encouraged me to play. He must have hog-tied Miss Logic so that Miss Impetuous could experience the joy that music brings.

 What is the point of his left brain-right brain rambling, you might ask?

My point is simple. We all have left brain and right brain traits. Far too often, however, we allow our logic and practicality to lord over our creative instincts, and we miss out on of the most wonderful aspects of our human nature. Our Creator made us in His image. There is a creative part within us, and we shouldn’t let fear keep us from enjoying that gift. Fear is NOT from God.

I will forever be grateful to our band director and to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Drum Section for their encouragement. I have never forgotten that feeling, and it has been my mission as a teacher to encourage all my students to explore their talents, to conquer their fears. The best reward a teacher can experience is  to see a student realize his or her own potential.

Though many years have passed since high school, I still hang on to my love of music—and Miss Impetuous still battles with Miss Logic. But I have decided it’s time I walk boldly into the creative unknown and taste what the Lord has in store. In the last month God has placed wonderful people in my life, encouraging me in my love of music and my love of writing. I have tasted, and I can tell you, yes, the Lord is good. So good I can barely comprehend it.

But I also want to say that the key word here is encouragement. I could take this gift of encouragement and just hold on to it. But that’s not how it’s supposed to be. I have to share what has been given to me. My dreams may not come true, at least in the way I imagine, but I know I will always find joy in encouraging others as they purse their dreams.

How about you?