The Day I Became a Writer

It’s been 30 years since my 8th grade year of school.

I was probably a lot like any other 13 year old girl, growing up in rural north Louisiana, concerned mostly with things happening at school (such as which girl liked which boy) and homework than I was about anything else that might be happening in the world. Whitney Houston’s latest song or the most recent episode of The Cosby Show were far more interesting than what was being reported on the evening news.  While I knew enough to recognize the names of important world leaders such as President Ronald Reagan, the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher or Russia’s Mikhail Gorbachev, I didn’t really see how what they did affected me or why I should be concerned with events on a grander scale than my small hometown.

But all of that changed one late January day in 1986. Looking back, I realize now, I was never the same again.

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Challenger_Launch

January 28, 1986.

Millions of Americans, including thousands of school children, watched the Space Shuttle Challenger lift-off, carrying with it America’s first civilian teach into space.

Seventy-three seconds later, the shuttle exploded.

Those who watched, whether in Florida or elsewhere via TV screens, stared, transfixed by the plumes of white smoke mixed with traces of red against the backdrop of beautiful blue sky.

Seconds passed by. News announcers stuttered. Disbelief and shock slowly turned to horror.

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Where were you when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded?

I don’t know with exact certainty. School, no doubt, but as to which class or teacher I guess I’ve long forgotten. Honestly, though, if people were talking about it at school I didn’t listen or know.

I do recall after school that day feeling mildly annoyed that there was nothing on TV except breaking news reports about a space shuttle, but I snapped it off without ever sitting down to listen.

Minutes later, the phone rang. I answered and heard my friend’s voice on the other end:

Paige, have you heard? The space shuttle exploded! All of the astronauts were killed!

challenger

The news hit me as if a bombshell had detonated right there in my bedroom. Surely not! I couldn’t believe her words … and yet, as I slowly switched the TV back on, I could see for myself that my friend was right. As the images replayed again and again, I stared at the TV screen, trying to make sense of what I was seeing.

Seven astronauts smiling and waving to the small group of family and friends as they walked toward their waiting spacecraft. The giant white shuttle, pointed heavenward. The gradual lifting of the shuttle. The white trail of smoke against the brilliant blue winter sky. The explosion. One trail of smoke turned into two, before fading completely into the atmosphere.

I felt sick to my stomach, yet I was unable to turn my face away from the TV. All I wanted was for the story to be false, for it all to be a big mistake, for the newscasters to announce that somehow all the  astronauts survived.

But it was true. The shuttle exploded, leaving nothing behind but the shock and grief.  The entire nation mourned.

I was 13 years old …  and it was the first time I can ever recall being emotionally affected by a national tragedy.

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January 29, 1986

Class, today’s writing assignment is to write about yesterday’s tragedy with the Space Shuttle Challenger. You can choose whether to write a factual record of the event factually or write down your emotional reaction to what happened.

My 8th grade English teacher gave out the assignment, and for a long time the only sound to be heard was that of pencils scratching across loose leaf paper. I don’t recall whether or not these essays were turned in that day or if we spent several days editing those first drafts. Perhaps this was a bigger graded assignment, or maybe it was just counted as a daily activity and checked for completion. Some of the details of that school morning are now lost to me.

But I do remember the time I spent writing, how it felt to put all of my emotions down on that white sheet of paper. I wrote about being able to see a tiny bit of every American on board that shuttle … whites, blacks, Asians, men and women, a teacher, even a man with the last name Smith.

As I wrote about the sorrow of the tragedy, I came to realize that as Americans we all lost something on that awful morning.

I also realized something I never knew before. Writing can be cathartic to the soul.

A week or so later, my English teacher, Mrs. Swayze, announced that a small number of the essays written about the Challenger tragedy would be published in our tiny school’s newspaper. Mine was one of those essays chosen. It was the first time when something I wrote was published and read by others. I recall the comments I received from friends and even other teachers at the school, telling me how they felt comforted by the words I had written.

Another realization occurred for until then I never knew how gratifying it was to have others identify and relate to my own thoughts just by reading my words. Writing, I realized, was a way to connect with others.

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Somewhere, among all the boxes where I’ve packed up the scraps and pieces of my childhood, there remains a copy of that old school newspaper. Every five or six years, I will happen across it as I search for something else I know must be tossed in with the boxes of school yearbooks and 4-H ribbons and other items that tell the story of who I was before I grew into an adult.

Whenever I do, I always take a moment to pause and reread that essay. Tears well up in my eyes as I am transported back to that January so long ago, remembering the hours I sat watching the tragedy replayed on the TV screen and the scribbling of my pencil as I tried to write about that deep, sorrowful pain and what it meant to me and to my nation.

January 28, 1986 was a day of national tragedy. It was a day when I grew up just a little bit more, realizing for the first time that world events affected me as an individual and as an American citizen.

IT ALSO HAPPENED TO BE THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY WHEN I BECAME A WRITER.

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And He who sits on the Throne said … “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”     ~Revelation 21:5

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Introducing …

Please allow me a moment to introduce my new blog!

Hormonally Speaking

Now before you get worried and start to fret about whether or not you’ll still get updates whenever I randomly post something new or will need to go follow me at some new internet address, please understand my new blog is completely separate from this one. They are very different.

Tales from the Laundry Room is my personal blog, where I write about my marriage, my adventures in raising five teens and tweens, my experiences as a foster mom to two rambunctious toddlers, my dreams and goals and aspirations. Basically, I write about my life … and usually I connect it back to what God is teaching me through it. Naturally, I hope you’ll stay right here with me as I continue to randomly write about whatever happens to be on my mind.

Hormonally Speaking is not a random blog.  In fact, it is a blog where I write for a  specific audience (women) about a determined topic (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome).

Perhaps you have a few questions you’d like to ask. Maybe the first one is:

What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome anyway?

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, shortened PCOS, is a hormonal disorder.  (Now you know where I got the name for my blog!) It’s the leading cause of infertility among women, but also comes with a host of other symptoms.  Here’s a rather short list:

  • weight-gain/inability to lose weight
  • absence of ovulation
  • irregular menstrual cycles
  • miscarriage
  • problems with breast feeding
  • male pattern hair growth
  • male pattern baldness
  • skin issues (severe acne, psoriasis, skin tags, etc)
  • higher risk for heart disease, Type II diabetes, and certain cancers

There is no cure for PCOS, and in general the medical community tends to treat individual symptoms rather than the whole patient.

Which leads me to question #2 …

Why do you need a whole blog dedicated to PCOS? Why not just write about it here on this blog?

The short answer is that I’m writing a book about my personal experiences  with PCOS, and I want to be able to engage with my audience and get to know them in a way that might not happen here with a wider audience.

The longer answer is that women who have PCOS deal with a lot of issues. Many of the symptoms chip away at a woman’s femininity.

For example, a woman with PCOS might have a difficult time getting pregnant. If she does, she might have a problem with maintaining that pregnancy. Hopefully that won’t happen and she will give birth. However, then she might discover that she cannot breastfeed her baby. It’s a real struggle many women face.

Another example might be a  woman with enough hair on her upper lip to grow a fuller mustache than her husband, yet she also has a receding hairline. How embarrassing! Yet there are many women who spend tons of money just on trying to hide the fact that they are going bald and have hair growing in places it shouldn’t.

Those are issues I want to address, openly and frankly, with my readers. But if I tried to write about those topics here at Tales from the Laundry Room, I might be tempted to hold back my thoughts and feelings on these issues. Emotionally, it’s very hard to discuss these issues. I already feel insecure and embarrassed talking about it in this post, much less if I wanted to go more in-depth on these issues. However, if I were writing to a targeted group of women who are likely to have had many of the same thoughts and feelings and emotions I have experienced, then it will be easier for me to open up and share my personal story.

And my story is important. It’s the reason I believe God called me to write a book about PCOS. You see, I don’t have a medical degree or special insider information about treating PCOS. But I do know the Creator personally, the very One who fashioned each one of us in the womb. And I know that knowing Him is the only way to find true self-worth. So you can see, being able to truly open up and share my heart is essential if I want to be an encourager to other women with PCOS.

The more I thought about trying to mesh the two purposes, the more I realized I simply needed two separate blogs, which is why I decided to make a brand-new blog dedicated to the topic of PCOS. Two blogs; two purposes. I’ll certainly continue to write on both.

The third question you might wish to ask me is perhaps this:

Well, if your new blog isn’t going to interfere with your writing on this blog, then why should I care?

Well, I mentioned earlier that PCOS is the leading cause of infertility for women. In fact, it’s so common that anywhere from 1-3 out of every 10 women has it, and many are undiagnosed.

Stop and think about that statistic for a moment.

Anywhere from 10% to 30% of women child-bearing age or older, suffer from this hormonal disorder.

That’s a lot of women! And what that means is that chances are extremely likely that you know a lady with PCOS. Perhaps it is your sister, your aunt, your next-door neighbor.

Here’s how you can help, both the lady you know with PCOS and me. Introduce them to my new blog. It’s so easy to share the links on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. I would appreciate it so very much!

I love this blog and my readers here. Tales from the Laundry Room has taught me quite a bit about the art of writing, the fun of engaging with my readers, and the importance of knowing my audience. I do not plan to abandon this blog at all. Rather, I hope each of my blogs will help me continue to grow as a professional author, and I’m looking forward to a long future of blogging at Tales from the Laundry Room.

Again, thanks for being a faithful reader … and thanks in advance for sharing Hormonally Speaking with your friends and family!

 

The Day I Became a Writer


Challenger_Launch

January 28, 1986.

Millions of Americans watch horror as the Space Shuttle Challenger explodes 1 minute and 13 seconds after lift-off.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was the winter of my 8th grade year. I was more concerned with my jr. high life of school, homework and which girl liked which boy than I was with anything else. I listened to Whitney Houston and watched Family Ties or The Cosby Show, and only barely paid attention to what the nightly news reported about President Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev and other leaders might be doing around the world.

But all of that changed on the day the Challenger exploded.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I recall coming home from school and feeling mildly annoyed that nothing was on TV except breaking news reports. I never sat down to listen to what the latest world tragedy might be. I just dashed off to my bedroom to start my homework.

It wasn’t long before a friend called me.

Paige, have you heard? A space shuttle exploded! It killed all the astronauts, including the one that was a teacher!

challenger

Overwhelmed with feelings of guilt, I could barely concentrate on what my friend was telling me. Moments later I hung up the phone, switched the TV back on and watched the images replay again and again. The group of seven astronauts smiling and waving to the small group of family and friends as they walked toward the shuttle. The giant white shuttle, pointed heavenward. The gradual lifting of the shuttle leaving behind a white trail of smoke against the brilliant blue winter sky. The explosion causing one trail to turn into two.

I felt sick to my stomach, yet I was unable to turn my face away from the TV. All I wanted was for the story to be false, for it all to be a big mistake, for the astronauts to have somehow survived the explosion.

But it was true. The shuttle exploded, leaving nothing behind but the shock and grief.  The entire nation mourned.

I was 13 years old …  and it was the first time I can ever recall being emotionally affected by a national tragedy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

January 29, 1986

Class, today’s writing assignment is to write about yesterday’s tragedy with the Space Shuttle Challenger. You can record the event or write down your reaction.

My 8th grade English teacher gave out the assignment, and for a long time nothing could be heard but pencils scratching across loose leaf paper. I don’t recall whether or not these essays were turned in that day or if we spent several days editing those first drafts. I don’t recall if it was intended as a bigger graded assignment, or if it was just counted as a daily activity and checked for completion.

But I do remember the time I spent writing that day, and how I wrote about being able to see a bit of every American on board that shuttle … whites, blacks, Asians, men, women and even a teacher. I wrote about the sorrow of the tragedy, and how as Americans we all lost something on that awful morning.

Up until then, I never knew writing could be cathartic to the soul.

A week or so later, Mrs. Swayze announced that a small number of the essays written about the Challenger tragedy would be published in our tiny school’s newspaper. Mine was one of the essays chosen. It was the first time when something I wrote was published and read by others. I recall the comments I received from friends and even other teachers at the school, telling me how they felt comforted by the words I had written.

Up until then, I never knew how gratifying it was to have readers who found a measure of enjoyment or got some sort of pleasure from reading my thoughts.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Somewhere, among all the boxes where I’ve packed up the scraps and pieces of my childhood, there remains a copy of that old school newspaper. Every five or six years, I will happen across it as I search for something else I know must be tossed in with the boxes of school yearbooks and 4-H ribbons and other items that tell the story of who I was before I grew into an adult.

Whenever I do, I always take a moment to pause and reread that essay. Tears well up in my eyes as I am transported back to that January so long ago, remembering the hours I sat watching the tragedy replayed on the TV screen and the scribbling of my pencil as I tried to write about that deep, sorrowful pain and what it meant to me and to my nation.

January 28, 1986 was a day of national tragedy and sorrow. It was a day when I grew up just a little bit more, realizing for the first time that world events affected me as an individual and as an American citizen.

It also happened to be the day before the day when I became a writer.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And He who sits on the Throne said … “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”     ~Revelation 21:5

Megan Writes … a guest post of sorts

Woo-Hoo! Not only are we celebrating a Sweet Sixteen birthday today, but now we have double reason to eat some cake.  My step-daughter Megan just got some amazing news.

She is the 3rd place winner in the annual Louisiana Writes Youth Writing Contest!

How wonderfully crazy is that?!  Yes, we are just a tad bit excited around here.

Megan has won first place in our local library’s Writes of Spring Youth Writing Contest for the past two years running, and she won second place the year prior to that.  This year, one of the librarians asked us to send in her entry to the state youth writing competition, so we did not really thinking she had much of a chance to place in such a large contest.

Boy, were we wrong!

When that letter arrived in the afternoon mail, there was some squealing going on at our place! I bet the neighbors thought we had lost our minds over here … but we were just doing a little celebrating over Megan’s success!

Megan with her letter of congratulations.
Megan with her letter of congratulations.

In early November, Megan will have the opportunity to attend the Louisiana Book Fest, where she will receive a medal, a certificate from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and an anthology of all the winning entries from the contest (which had over 900 stories and essays from children in grades K-12 from all around the state of Louisiana).

Since I am bragging on my young author, I thought I’d share her essay with you.  Enjoy!

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My Painful Tonsils

by Megan Hamilton (Non-fiction Essay, 5th/6th grade division)

Have you ever been in a painful situation when the pain must get worse before it can get better? I have. This is the story of how I learned painful situations often bring about something good.

All my life I had enormous tonsils. Whenever I would get a bad sore throat, my dad would take me to the doctor. At every single visit, Dr. Scott would say, “Wow! Those tonsils are as big as ping-pong balls!”

The spring I turned twelve, my stepmom took me to see Dr. Scott for my yearly checkup. During the exam, he again commented on my large tonsils.   My stepmom mentioned her concern because I complained of sore throats so much. “You do have lots of sore throats,” Dr. Scott agreed. “Perhaps you should see an ENT.”

That was the last thing I wanted to do, so I prayed my tonsils would be miraculously smaller. But when I met my new ENT, Dr. Barry, for the first time, I noticed his calm personality. All of my fears vanished away.

Dr. Barry asked me many questions about my past, such as how often my throat hurt and whether I had allergies. Then he said, “Now I’m going to ask an important question. Is today a normal day for you?”

I nodded yes.

Dr. Barry cheerfully said, “Open wide.” A moment later he added, “If today is a normal day for you, then your tonsils are definitely not normal size.” At that very moment, I knew exactly what was coming my way – surgery!

Once the surgery was scheduled, I had a lot of questions. “Will it hurt? Will I be awake for it? Will I have to stay overnight in the hospital?” For the next three weeks, my parents patiently answered my questions, reassuring me a tonsillectomy was the best thing to help me feel better.

Before long, it was surgery day. The night before I had packed a bag of comforting items, and bathed with special pre-surgical soap. I was physically ready to have my tonsils removed, but inside I was a nervous wreck!

I had to be at the hospital very early. When I checked, I received a special bracelet to wear, before being taken to a pre-op room where lots of nurses bustled about. One of them put an IV in my hand. That hurt! I was glad I didn’t cry.

Dr. Barry came before the surgery to tell me all the details, like how long the surgery would take. I felt reassured when he told me I wouldn’t remember any of it. An anesthesiologist came to give me medicine. I got very drowsy, although I do remember a nurse rolling my bed to the operating room, placing a mask over my face, and asking me to count to 100. “One. Two. Three.” I counted.

The next thing I knew, I was waking up from a deep sleep. A nurse gave me ice chips for my throat. Soon, my parents walked into the recovery room, and my face lit up!

Before my surgery, my parents took me shopping for special foods, like popsicles and ice cream. I made sure that our freezer was stocked with my favorite green popsicles. I figured the best part of having my tonsils removed was going to be all those treats! Unfortunately, after surgery I didn’t want anything to eat. My throat hurt so bad it felt like swallowing razors. After a week of green popsicles, I wished I would never see another one!

Each day it seemed like the pain got worse. All of my siblings were outside riding bikes in the summer sun, while I was stuck inside with a throat that hurt worse than ever. It was so unfair!

One day, I noticed my throat felt better, and in a few more days I forgot all about the surgery pain. But the really amazing day was when realized I never even thought about my throat at all anymore! For years, my throat had hurt. I never realized just how bad until the pain was gone.

I hate pain. Yet, I learned a big lesson from my tonsillectomy: Sometimes pain is necessary if you want to feel better.

BUT …

I just checked. There are five unpublished (and unfinished) blog posts in my queue. Most of them have a title, along with a short paragraph, maybe two. Nothing more. Just random ideas, barely starting to shape up into something worth sharing.

Not five minutes ago, I sat with my laptop in front of me, gazing at the blog posts waiting to be written. Surprisingly, my main emotion wasn’t guilt, though if I am honest there was this small pang of guilt starting welling up. But I swallowed hard a time or two, and soon enough it all settled down again as I forced myself to remember that writing is not my only job.

My last post was published on July 15th. I haven’t managed to write another full blog post since, though I promise it isn’t for lack of wanting to write. Trust me … I want to write! 

BUT

 

Isn’t there always a “but?”

I laughed right there because this is something I always caution my children about doing.  Whenever I reprimand them for neglecting a chore, they want to respond with, “But Mom …”   I shake my head, hold up my hand, and say, “There’s always a “but” to stop you from doing what you know you should be doing. It’s your job to not let the “buts” get in the way.”

Let me just go ahead and say it:  The BUTS have been getting in my way!

It doesn’t even matter what the buts are or why they are preventing me from writing. Sometimes, but not always, our excuses are valid. It’s what I wrote about in my last post about having Blogger’s Guilt. (By the way, that post was deemed “share worthy” by Faithful Bloggers and featured on their website! Here’s a link to view it there:  http://faithfulbloggers.com/struggling-with-bloggers-guilt/)

BUT … truthfully, most of the buts I’ve been using lately have been more because of my own laziness. I’m out of the blogging habit and I’ve grown complacent in regards to my desire to be diligent about writing for God.

It’s been a strange summer in my home. The typical schedule and routine has been thrown so far off course I don’t even know how to get us back on track. And yet here we are at the end of summer vacation and starting to ease back into a life of order. Homeschooling is back underway as of this morning. My summer babysitting job is drawing to a close at the end of this week, as well. No more camps. No more overnight visits with friends and family, especially on week nights. It’s time to get back into the daily grind.

And that includes me, too! In addition to all of my other jobs as wife, mom and teacher, I am planning to return to a diligent routine of writing every day. Not only because I desire to get back into my regular writing schedule, BUT because I need to write daily as it helps me focus on all of the things God has called me to do in my life.

Did you notice it? There was another BUT … and it’s actually a good but, because not all buts are bad.

but-meubles-electromenager-saint-herblain-1309252625

Do you know what my favorite BUT is? It’s in the Bible, located in Ephesians chapter 2. To really get the wonderful effect of this BUT, you have to read the verses 1-3 before you get to the verse with the BUT.

Here are a couple of key points from verses 1-3:

You were dead in your trespasses and sins … (verse 1)

 … we were by nature children of wrath … (verse 3)

In other words, like all other humans born on this planet, I am prone to being bad. My very heart leans toward self-centered, wrong behaviors.  (If you are a parent, you realize you didn’t have to teach your baby to hit or bite or throw a screaming fit. You did, however, have to teach how your child how to share and how to use manners and how to be kind to others.)

As much as I try, I cannot be perfectly good … not even on my best day.

Now comes my favorite part, verses 4 and 5:

BUT God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!

God knows I cannot be good on my own. I can try and try, and still will fall short of His perfection. So He made a way for me through Jesus Christ.

Trust me … this is the best BUT ever!

My life is never going to be perfect. I’m going to struggle with doing what I know is good and right, and being selfish. I’m probably going to give into a temptation of some sort, if not later on tonight then tomorrow for certain.

It’s only because of the “BUT” God has offered that I have hope to live a life on this earth that is worth living … as well as the hope heaven’s perfection in the next life.

This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. ~Romans 5:5

If you haven’t accepted God’s offer, I hope you will take the time to consider it. I’d love to tell you more about how this wonderful BUT can change your life, just as it has changed mine.

Blogger’s Guilt

It’s hard not to feel guilty.

Following the A-to-Z Blog Challenge I took during the month of April, my new goal for this blog was to publish a post two or three times each week.  But I’ve failed … miserably.

Truthfully, I think about writing on my blog every single day. In fact, it’s never that far from my mind.  Writing is a cathartic hobby for me, a pleasure which never feels much like work. Because of this, I am always eager to find a few moments in which to sit down and write.

It’s actually finding those few moments that is so very hard.

Image from Pixabay
Image from Pixabay

Ten days ago, three of my five children returned home from Germany. I’ve loved having a loud, chaotic house again.  Cooking for a tribe, tackling Mt. Laundry each morning, sorting out disputes, being the chauffeur to five people who apparently have busier schedules and more places to go than myself … it’s all part of the fun and games and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Two weeks ago, the baby I keep each weekday decided to begin to use her walking skills on a regular basis. Suddenly, everything has changed! “Miss E”  is able to quickly get into a lot of things she is not supposed to get into … and I’m remembering things about toddlerhood I had long forgotten. Whew! There really is no sitting down with a toddler in the house! These little people are work, and nap times are just as much for moms as they are for the sweet child.

Most days I am trying to figure out how to fit in time to read my Bible and exercise, much less have time for personal hobbies. My daily schedule isn’t filled with vast amounts of free time. Just like everyone else on the planet, I’ve only got 24 hours a day. The hours are limited, and I’ve got to use them wisely.

It’s during seasons like this I must remember there will be days when writing, even if it is writing for God, must take a backseat on my priority list.

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Last week, I came across this lovely blog post:  Seven Reasons Bloggers Don’t Blog.

I can relate to all seven reasons given by the author of that freeing blog post.  (1) I do not want to post fluffy content on my blog. (2) My biggest desire is to  write encouraging and helpful words for my audience.  (3) Writing is tiring, and time consuming.  (4) The 40% of me that is somewhat introverted needs time to quietly process life before I can write about it publicly.  (5) I’m writing a book …  but I’m only about halfway through the first two chapters. I am discovering it is a painfully slow process to write a book.  (6) Big and wonderful things are happening in life.  My family is preparing to become a foster family. I’m excited and scared and very busy with getting my home ready to take on another child. (7) Finally the biggest reason of all … blogging is not living.

I love my blog. I love to write. But my biggest responsibility is to be the godly wife and mom God has called me to be.

I realize that according to the experts, if I am to ever have a “real” career as a writer, I need to have a platform, build an audience of 5000 or more readers,  and post three or four times a week on my blog. But I’m not there. I admit that many days I wish I was because I think I’d love nothing more than a fantastic contract with some big name Christian publishing house and a couple of books on the shelves  down at the nearest Lifeway Book Store.

Yes, God called me to write … but He simply asked me to write for Him, not for a publishing house or for a set of standards that He didn’t give to me. So that’s what I am going to do … write for God.

And He also asked me to be a wife and helpmeet to my husband Jon.  God called me to be a mother to five wonderful teens and tweens, who are growing up so quickly. They won’t be home with me for very much longer before they leave to start their own lives. God asked me and my family to open our home and share His love and our lives with children I don’t yet know through fostering.  He asked me to be a good neighbor to the lady next door who is dying, and to be a listening friend in real life, not just on the computer screen.

I’ve got just one life to live. While writing and blogging is very much a part of my life, it’s not all that I do. And so today, I’m setting down the guilt I put upon myself for not blogging on some made-up schedule. I’m laying aside the burden I’ve carried around for the past two and a half months for not keeping up with an insane blogging schedule, as well as tending to the realities of my life.

Instead, I’m asking the Lord to help me be faithful to do all He requires of me for today, and nothing more. I pray a lot of those days include writing for God.  I think they will.

But whether they do or whether they don’t, I’m done with “Blogger’s Guilt.”

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  ~John 8:36

Fears

Another post combining assignments from Writing 101. This time I am completing assignment 17 (addressing one of your worst fears) along with assignment 19 (an unedited free write of at least 400 words).  

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When I was eight or nine years old, there was a scary incidence which involved me getting caught in a strong current while swimming with a friend. Actually, we were on the underside of a barge-type party boat, holding onto the metal frame and talking in the cool shade it provided. The barge was on the river, anchored but with the motor idling. No parents or other adults were with us, aware of what we were doing. In my memory, it also seems as if it might have been lightly raining as well, which was why we were perhaps underneath the barge, but of this I remain uncertain. However, one thing is always crystal clear in that memory:  I knew my parents would have disapproved of the activity in which I was participating.  Yet I was there … unable to say no to my friend, feeling guilty, but participating anyway.

At some point in the afternoon, my hands slipped off the metal frame, and I found myself trapped in a current. Although I knew how to swim relatively well in a safe pool, I wasn’t skilled at river swimming and I didn’t know how to get out of the current. Suddenly, I realized I was being pulled toward the motor of the barge. In that moment, I recall how everything moved in slow-motion. I never felt frightened, though I rightfully should have been.  Rather it was more like watching a movie of someone else instead of the feeling of impending danger being directed toward myself.

To this day, I don’t recall if anyone, including me,  shouted or screamed. I don’t remember who reached out and pulled me from the current, or whether I thanked them afterwards.  All I remember was the intense relief that washed over me.  I wasn’t going to be caught in my disobedience.

To this day, I have a fear of being caught in the act of doing something terribly wrong. I suppose as far as fears go it isn’t such a bad one to have. After all, it’s kept me from a lot of trouble and heartache over the years.

The older I get, the more I struggle with the fear of obedience rather than the fear of disobedience. Not obedience to parents or laws or even traditional morals. I’m talking about obedience to God, particularly the sort of obedience in which He asks us to do something hard and unexpected. I fear God asking me to do something I don’t want to do, something big and scary that might cause me some discomfort or a change in the lifestyle I’ve grown accustomed to living.

For years, I toyed with the idea of adoption. It was more talk than anything, a sort of respect and love for those I knew who adopted and a desire to follow in their footsteps. Even as a single mother, I expressed a desire and a longing to adopt a child, always imagining a special needs child from a foreign land. After Jon and I married, the topic came up for discussion more than once, but we were never on the same page.

A couple of months ago, Jon called me and suggested we find a way to go to a local Wait No More Conference, sponsored by Focus on the Family. All either of us knew was that it was for families interested in adoption or foster care. Obviously, I was mainly interested in adoption and Jon was still highly skeptical of both.

And yet, by the time the day was over, Jon and I were both on the same page … foster care with the option to adopt.

Let me be frank … obedience in this situation scares me to no end. The mere idea of bringing a child, one who has suffered so much, into our home. I’m sure any questions or concerns you can think of, I’ve already thought of and more. Jon and I constantly check our motives.

Up until about two months ago, I never really gave foster care much of a thought. I didn’t hear of it within my social realms or talk with others who were into fostering children. But once I began to hear God calling out to me, fostering is everywhere. I’ve met other bloggers who foster, became aware of former foster children in my own church, and even discovered a church in my community with a ministry geared toward foster families.

The most amazing part is how in a relatively short time Jon and I have gone from being divided and uncertain regarding God’s desires for our family to being united and certain of what God is showing us to do.  Our hearts and our home are opened to His plan for our family, and very likely one day soon, perhaps even by the end of the summer, there will be more than just the seven of us living here.

I’m sure there will be plenty of hard moments as a foster mother. My eyes are wide-open. And I’m a bit scared of the entire proposition, if the truth be told.

And yet, in the end, I am far more fearful of being disobedient to God than of being faithful to follow through in obedience to His calling for my life.

I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments. Psalm 199:60

Spring Ridge Sundays: A Writing 101 Assignment

This blog post is based on two different assignments from the Blogging University Writing 101 Course. I’m combining Assignments 14 and 15.

The first assignment was to open the nearest book to page 29, pick a word that jumps out at you and write a letter to someone regarding the thoughts or ideas that you got from the word. I chose the word horses from page 29 of These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

The second assignment was to imagine that an event which shaped my life and worldview was being cancelled forever, and write about how it made me feel. I chose to write about Spring Ridge Sunday. Part family reunion and part church homecoming service, Spring Ridge Sunday is a real even held the first Sunday of each May in the rural hills of Catahoula Parish, Louisiana. Though the tiny one room church doesn’t have regular services any more (and hasn’t since the 1940’s), the ancestors of those original members still come and fill the pews to sing, pray and gather in worship on that one Sunday each spring. Every year I look forward to attending as a way to connect my daily faith to the legacy of  God’s faithfulness throughout the generations. (Psalm 119:90) I cannot imagine my little world without Spring Ridge Sunday.

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Brooke,

I suppose you’ve heard the news by now.

Can you imagine beginning the month of May without Spring Ridge Sunday? How can that possibly be?

I suppose I can count on one hand the years I’ve spent the first Sunday of May some place other than Spring Ridge Baptist Church. It’s simply always been a part of my life.

Do you remember the spring we all had the chickenpox? Mother wouldn’t let us go that year. Who could blame her? All of us were still covered in spots which were in various stages of healing. You and I were as mad as the proverbial wet hen. We begged and pleaded, but Mama stood her ground. It was one of the few years we stayed home from the annual Spring Ridge church services.

Hard wood benches. Humid Louisiana springs. Swatting at flies and fanning with the old cardboard fans provided. What was it that made us love Spring Ridge Sunday so much?

Fascination with the old outhouse? Maybe at some point. For a few years I felt sort of like Laura Ingalls Wilder, as though I had stepped back in time. The lack of indoor plumbing was  … well, it gave me an appreciation for more modern conveniences. Thankfully, the charm soon lost all appeal.

Ma’s chicken and dumplings? Oh, definitely! You could only get that particular delicacy three times a year. Spring Ridge Sunday, Papaw’s birthday and Harvest Day Homecoming Service. I can still taste the deliciousness of those dumplings.  I guess it was more than just the chicken pie though. Seeing all that food spread out on the make-shift tables, piling plates high with food, sitting on lawn chairs, visiting with people who I wouldn’t see for another year. Dinner-on-the-grounds was certainly a Spring Ridge Sunday highlight, but not the real reason behind the event.

The sermons? Some years the sermons were encouraging. Other years … well, not so much. I still laugh every time I think about that poor preacher who couldn’t find his text. He flipped all over his Bible, and never did land on the verse he promised to read aloud. Part of the fun each year was guessing what sort of preacher might show up to share God’s word with us. But that certainly wasn’t the reason I wanted to attend those once-a-year church services.

The history behind the service? Well, certainly there are some interesting stories to come out of that small church in the middle of the piney woods. Do you recall how Ma used to tell of the horses neighing whenever they heard the congregation begin to sing the words to the parting hymn, God Be With Us ‘Til We Meet Again? Still, just history itself isn’t reason to go back to Spring Ridge again and again, year after year.

The people? Oh, I love so many people who came to Spring Ridge. It was as much a family reunion as it was homecoming church service. But there were just as many unfamiliar faces in the crowds, people I didn’t know and never found the time to meet personally. The ones I really cared about I could always find other ways of keeping in touch rather than continuing to drive 20 miles into the rural hillside of north Louisiana on a particular Sunday in May.

So what is it that made Spring Ridge Sunday so special? Why continue to travel the dirt roads to the old one-room church house, year after year? Why does it feel so wrong to know Spring Ridge has been cancelled forever?

To the best of my reasoning, it has to do with my favorite part of Spring Ridge Sundays … the recognition of the original families who attended the old church. It’s the same each year. As the old church roll is called, those who have returned stand up when they hear the names of those who came before them. Some names are called and no one stands. But not for Jim McGuffee and Minnie Belle Allbritton. The wooden floorboards shake as half the crowd rustles to their feet, paying homage to the faith of two simple people, husband and wife, who raised their children to love the Lord.

The Bible is clear. You can’t get to heaven on the coat tails of your parents or grandparents.  And yet God is promises to show love for a thousand generations to those who love Him and His ways (Exodus 20:6).

This is the reason I love Spring Ridge Sunday. It’s a reminder of God’s promises. It’s a reminder of where my family has come, that I am who I am because someone who lived long before me decided to love God … and because of that decision, I have come to know a personal Lord and Savior as well.

Oh, I know. The cancellation of Spring Ridge Sunday won’t change any of those things. It certainly won’t change my relationship with Jesus Christ or my personal faith in God.

 

Still, I know every first Sunday in May, I’ll pause and give thanks to the generations before mine who loved the Lord. My our generation do the same for those who will follow us.

your loving sister,

Paige

My dad and son Nathan sitting on one of the pews in the old Spring Ridge Baptist Church.
My dad and son Nathan and daughter Julia sitting on one of the pews in the old Spring Ridge Baptist Church. (circa 2007)

 

Song of My Heart (Writing 101, Day 3)

Captured.

It’s the best word to describe my feelings upon hearing “Worthy of Worship” the first time.  I felt a strong desire to draw myself fully into the act of praising my Savior.

I had recently moved to a new town.  To paraphrase Dickens, this particular season of my life could be described as both the best of times and the worst of times. The reality of divorce and single “mommy hood” was quite overwhelming, and yet I never felt God’s presence more.  Finding God in that hard place made me want to praise Him more. I desired to learn to live my life as an act of worship.

With the move, everything about life became unfamiliar.  Constructing new routines is hard, and even things I normally love and look forward to doing (like church attendance) became more of a challenge. While I loved my new church, often I felt alone in the congregation, not quite at home or comfortable.

Sunday after Sunday, my children and I sat towards the back of the sanctuary. And most weeks, I just asked God to give me the strength to get back to church the following Sunday morning. I wanted to be there, and yet nothing was harder than going to a place where I didn’t completely fit in, at least not yet.

One Sunday morning towards the beginning of the service, the pianist began to play familiar intro to “Worthy of Worship.” Everyone in the congregation was seated. The music minister did not ask us to stand as we began to sing.  Along with everyone else, I sang, enjoying the beauty of the music and the sound of the words.  I certainly felt like I was worshiping God … until the lady on the pew directly in front of me suddenly stood up.

“Why on earth is she standing?” I thought.

I looked around. Everyone else was still seated. No one seemed to be concerned about the lone lady standing. But I certainly was.

While I’m not exactly shy by nature, I do not like to attract attention to myself, especially attention for doing something which might be considered unorthodox or strange or even out of the box. If the truth be told, deep inside I felt ashamed for this lady, who stood when everyone else was seated. I even felt like she was drawing attention to me. I just wanted her to sit back down, so that I could go on worshipping God.

“You can continue to sit here and sing, or you can stand and worship.”

The words were audible, as if the person on the pew behind me had leaned forward and whispered them into my ear. Yet even as I heard them I realized no one near me had spoken. No one else around me heard them either. I knew instantly this was the sound of God’s voice. Though I had heard Him speak to me many times before, I was still surprised to hear His voice again.

My stomach did flips. I felt a little dizzy. For the briefest of moments, I was paralyzed. The Holy Spirit had just given me a choice:  continue to sit and sing, or stand in worship.

Suddenly I found myself standing. Immediately tears began to flow down my cheeks.  I don’t recall if I even sang the words, or if I simply stood … but what I realized as the song came to an end is what I assumed was worshipping God wasn’t even close.

Each time I hear the song Worthy of Worship, I am reminded of the moment I first tasted true worship of my Savior, completely surrendered in my heart, my mind and my soul to Him.

And I am reminded of the wonderful someday when I will get to stand before His throne (or fall face down) and worship at His feet.

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This writing 101 prompt was to write about the three most important songs in your life. However, as I am already behind on the daily assignments (by two days), I figured I would just write about the one song. There are so many others which have personal meaning to me. Maybe I will save those for future posts.

What about you? What song (or songs) have been important in your life?

Is there a particular song God has used to teach you how to worship?

A Room With a View (Writing 101, Day 2)

I’ve never had a room with a view. 

Photo by Sarah McKellen of McKellen-Messiniaki Properties
Photo by Sarah McKellen of McKellen-Messiniaki Properties

My childhood bedroom looked out over our front yard, which faced the main highway running through the rural town where my family lived.  I recall there used to be a large pine tree close to the road, but at some point it was cut down. My brother and sister and I loved playing around the pieces of wood for several weeks afterward.

Across the highway were the houses of our neighbors. Occasionally we would get permission to walk across the road to pay a visit, but generally my parents expected us to keep to our side of the highway.

I don’t think my parents cared whether or not my bedroom had a lovely view. My parents were far more concerned with teaching me right from wrong, who God was, and how to live a life pleasing to Him.

My childhood wasn’t about having a room with a view. It was about getting a God-view.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. ~Proverbs 3: 5-6

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College dorms do not generally offer much of a view either.

Once, I lived in a dorm in which my room came with a balcony. It looked over a large parking lot. In the end, the balcony was rather pointless. I could have used the extra space inside my room instead of on the outside.

I suppose college was never about the scenery anyway. After all, most college towns are fairly typical with their clusters of fast food restaurants and coffee shops, campus book stores, large brick classroom buildings, and of course dormitories.

The eye-opening experience for me was not the physical view of my world, but rather beginning to understand exactly how many different world views (or mindsets) there are in the world. Growing up in a tiny village (population 600) in the Bible Belt had certainly given me a strong understanding of my own worldview, which was then (and still is) decidedly Christian. When I left for college, for the first time I was interacting with people on a regular basis who did not look at the world through the same lens as me.

Looking back on those days, I can see how my own Biblical worldview was challenged, which forced me for the first time in my life to dig down into the beliefs my parents had passed on to me and decide for myself whether or not I wasn’t to continue to accept them as truths.

College wasn’t at all about having a room with a view. It was more deciding on my personal life-view.

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word. ~Psalm 119: 114

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I’ve lived in so many homes as an adult, I’ve lost count of where they all were and how long I lived in each place.  Most of those were nondescript brick homes in little subdivisions, but I’ve also spent my fair share of time living in apartments, duplexes and even for a short while in a tiny rental mobile home in a trailer park.

Once I lived in a home far out in the country, with fifteen large pine trees in the front yard. Other than the pine trees, there wasn’t much to see except for the occasional squirrel.

Another time I lived in a very old duplex on an army base in Seaside, California (close to Monterey). If it wasn’t too foggy, which most of the time it was, I could catch a small glimpse of the Monterey Bay out of the corner of my living room window. But mostly, I could just see all of the other drab military houses farther down the hill from where my home was located.

Even the home I live in now isn’t one in a particularly beautiful place. Not to say I dislike where I live. Quite the opposite. I have great neighbors.  And the location of my home couldn’t be better. It’s within a five or ten minute drive of nearly every place I go on a regular basis. It’s not perfect … but then, is any home?

I’ve decided I like living here.  Some days I have to decide it more than others.

 

After moving some 17 times in 20 years and calling five different states home, I’ve learned the location of my home has very little to do with my personal happiness.

In adulthood I have learned to be content with where God has placed me  … even if I don’t particularly like the view.

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. ~Philippians 4:11

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But one day I will have a room with a view … a fabulous, marvelous, completely unimaginable view. It will be my forever view.

Already, I anticipate that day. God says the streets will be of gold, the waters like crystal, and the city gates made of pearl. Jesus has gone there to prepare my home.  Once my time on earth is done, I will live for eternity in the presence of God.

What a view that shall be!

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”  ~1 Corinthians 2:9