Father knows Best–and it’s time we start believing it

My son is 12. (any of the parents of difficult tweens out there, you felt the sympathetic wince that statement elicits)

angry-teen-boy-350Yep, he’s twelve–and it’s been baptism by fire.

You see, he’s our first, and our most difficult. And this year has been hard.

I was a teacher, now am a professor, and I have a graduate degree in Psychology, so I should have been ready for everything this year and this stage were going to unload on me–right?

Sadly, no.

I have been pushed to the limit of my parenting skills and my psychology skills. It’s just been plain hard.

You see, my son is hard-headed (that’s the understatement of the century!) He might only be twelve, but he thinks he knows better than everybody else. And the kid has always known what he’s wanted and has had the stubbornness and tenacity to go after it. The combination of these two traits has been a nightmare.

That was unacceptable behaviour, young man

In one of our most recent battle of the wills, we tried another tact. Instead of addressing Gavin’s behavior (which was mean, spiteful, and disrespectful), we addressed it’s effectiveness.

We pointed out that his approach was not meeting and gaining his objective. In other words,

“You’re not getting what you want when you act this way! So why not change your behavior, and see if that gives you the pay out you’re looking for?!!”

I wish that my son would choose to do the right thing, because it is the right thing. That’s what I want, but sadly, he’s not there–yet.

But when we pointed out that what he considers his shortcut, is not only not a shortcut, but is preventing him from the desired end all together, he finally started paying a little bit of attention.

As I explained to him that my desire is not to hurt him, but to ensure his well being and his happiness…when I explained that we correct his behavior because we see and know more, and that he just needs to trust us, even if he doesn’t see how it makes sense or why it should work that way…I couldn’t help but see the correlation to my own relationship with God.

We know where we want to go. We see what we want.

And we see the quick route–the direct route–to our destination.

But most of the time, that’s not the route we find ourselves on. We find ourselves on what appears to be a circuitous route, one that sometimes seems to go backwards, wanders to rabbit trails, and even sometimes seems to end in dead-ends. Much of my life I have felt like Moses wandering around in the desert, knowing where I need to be, but unable to get there. Or like David, the anointed King of Israel who, instead of ruling as was his right, finds himself moldering in a cave for years.

long-winding-road-p92b_saint_gothard_pass_switzerlandWhen there is a disconnect between the life that is, and the life that we feel like we should be living, we become confused, disgruntled,  angry, and often bitter.

“Why, God? Why?” we rail.

He gives us the dream, He sets our path, but instead of the path leading to our expected destination, we find ourselves in the desert, or hidden in a cave, forgotten, moldering away into anonymity.

I’ve had lots of these moments in my life. Moments when it seems like God stopped listening, stopped caring, and certainly stopped guiding.

But as I talked with Gavin, I was convicted.

That was the child’s response, and I am not a child. It is time to put away childish things.

Just as I am asking Gavin to trust that my way is better, I need to trust that God’s way is better.

Just as I tell my son that I am looking at the big picture that he cannot know, I need to trust that God is seeing the big picture that I cannot see.

This place, where I’m at, this isn’t what I wanted. Or at least, this was not the way I wanted it to be.

I thought I’d be much farther by now.

Next year I turn 40. By 40, I thought I would be established.

I’m not.

I have a fledgling writing career.

I am an associate professor, not a tenured one.

I’m not in the ministry.

My goal to change the world and help people in some large way, has translated into a much smaller sphere of influence than I anticipated.

And it’s taken me almost 40 years to get here.

But, I think I’ve been missing the point.

I’m a writer and a professor, and that’s what I always wanted to be.

And occasionally, God has used me to touch a few, not as a missionary, not in some defined role, but as I rub shoulders with people in my daily life.

waysThe road was not the road I would have chosen, but, I have to believe, it was the road I was meant to take–the road I needed to take. God sees the big picture, the destination and the necessary journey.

It’s time I started giving God the trust He deserves. I need to have faith in a Father who loves me and who knows more, sees more, than I do.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Today is not filler–so why do we treat it as if it is?

I have spent a lot of time lately reflecting the course of my life.

dreamerWhether it is the fact that 40 is quickly approaching (like a Mack truck ready to hit me head on) or whether it is listening to the dreams and aspirations of my students as they neared the end of their high school journey or perhaps it is the reality of my own children who are leaving childhood behind one by one to enter this new world of tween-ness and adolescence–whichever of these is the catalyst, I have found myself reflecting in depth my early dreams, where I thought I would go, and where I instead am, and where it is I want to go from here.

outlineI had a plan, and that plan is most certainly not where I am. I’ve done a lot of things in my life, had a lot of unique experiences. I’ve traveled the world, mothered orphans, taught basic hygiene in remote villages. I’ve had a daughter of my own, loved her unconditionally, and a year later buried her in the cold, hard earth. I have counseled the mentally ill, talked the suicidal down from the ledge, and tried to help the abused piece their lives back together. I’ve taught little children, and big children–and changed a few of them forever. I have done lots of things, but none of these is what I planned to do.

By my own measuring stick of success, I should have been living internationally for a couple of decades by now. Whether Saipan (as we first intended) or China (plan number 2) or somewhere else entirely, I should not have been stateside, living in suburbia. So, despite all I have done, all I have not done weighs heavily on me. The road I was to have taken has not been taken, and with that comes a measure of failure, a sense failed opportunity that begs me to ask, why? Why has my life gotten so off course? Why do I find myself here, when I was supposed to be there? Why does my life today not look how I pictured it oh so many years ago?

I think we all go through these moments and these struggles, and though I am far from having all the answers, I am slowly, over the decades, piecing together an answer with help from many others.

angryThere is a disparity between where I am now, and where I feel I should be. It makes me by turns angry, frustrated, or depressed. Sometimes God Himself takes the brunt of these emotions–why has He allowed this? Why does He not do something? At other times I turn them on myself–what is wrong with me? Am I weak and undisciplined? Can I not hear the voice of God? Or sometimes they turn on fate itself–why is the world against me? Fate has conspired to keep me from my path! Regardless of who I focus this angst on, the reality is that the angst is there, it is real, and at times it is palpable.

I don’t like being angst ridden, and I don’t like not having answers (though I have consigned myself to sometimes not getting them) so I have spent a long time wrestling with the whys, and I think I’m beginning to piece together part of the why.

Patience. It is something that I have always lacked. Why put off for tomorrow what you can do today? (That’s not to say that I don’t have a procrastinating streak a mile wide for the things I don’t want to do)

looking-outI have always struggled with being content in the now. I am a mountain top person. I am always looking ahead for the next mountain to climb. As soon as I get to the top of my current mountain, I am ready to tackle the next one. I am always looking ahead–restless.

It so happens that my son is the same way, and in watching him, I have understood myself better. No matter how good the moment, Gavin is always thinking ahead to the next moment. He seems to lack the capacity to take each moment and get the most out of each of them, because he is not focused in the now, but in the tomorrow. And how much he misses because of it!

As I have watched my son, I have begun to understand what it is I’m doing. I look at my now too often as a filler, something to get through so I can get to the next big moment. And the twenty years since my dreams were derailed, have often been just that to me in a lot of ways–filler.

There is a little book called “Anonymous” by Alicia Britt Chole that I have read and re-read many times over the last few years. I have found myself drawn back to this book in my recent reflections, and I found myself hit anew by several of the things she says:

What grows in that underestimated gap between God’s calling and others’ perceptions, between our true capabilities and our current realities? Most of us struggle if our dreams are delayed one year, let alone twenty! We find God’s pauses perplexing. They seem to be a waste of our potential. When those pauses extend beyond what we can comprehend or explain (say, for instance, three days), we often spiral into self-doubt or second-guessing…Father God is neither care-less nor cause-less with how he spends our lives. When he calls a soul simultaneously to greatness and obscurity, the fruit–if we wait for it–can change the world.

This is a truth that I’m trying to wrap my mind around. The journey in getting somewhere is at least as important as getting there. The journey is what changes me, and makes me into an individual who is capable of doing what I’m supposed to do, and the journey is full of friends and moments that are worth having, that can be life altering.

shepherd-sheepI think of Moses. He had a destiny–to free the Israelites from slavery. He knew his objective, so, one day, he sees an Egyptian beating a slave and he thinks to himself, “This is my opportunity!” and he kills the Egyptian, and in so doing he thinks he will begin the revolution that will free his people–only it didn’t. In fact, instead, he had to flee (what to his mind probably felt like abandoning his people all together–not to mention his destiny) and live in virtual obscurity for the vast majority of his life. He was living in the gap–in the place of disparity between what is, and what he thinks should be.

Were all those years wasted years? They probably often felt that way to Moses. Was Moses wrong about his calling? Absolutely not. But he was wrong about the timing.

There are moments in our lives when we feel like Moses. When we feel as if we have failed our dreams, we have lost our destiny. There are moments in our lives when we look at our now and see nothing but filler–but we’re looking at it the wrong way. There is no such thing as filler–not where God is involved.

Alicia Britt Chole puts it this way:

We have a tendency to think that “main” is out there, not right here. Main is on hold. waiting to appear until after…we finish our education or get married or find that dream job or start a family or resolve that conflict or complete that task or get out of debt or retire or slow down…[but] I hear a gentle whisper from God in my soul: Child, I am the God who waste’s no man’s time. To me, every course in your life is main. 

That rings as true to me. No moment in our lives, no season, is filler. It all has purpose. If we are too busy looking past this moment to the next one, we’re going to miss what it is
we’re supposed to do, see, become…

beautiful-live-moment-wallpaper-favim-com-5205741Embrace your today for what it is–life.

Today, how will you become more than you were yesterday? Today, how will you give back? Today, what is it you need to learn? Today, who needs your help?

As for myself, I’m going to stop looking so much at what I’m not doing, and start looking more at what I can do, right now, right here, in this season of my life.

Hello, I’m Heather and I’m an addict–a book addict that is

booksnifferI love to read. Anyone who knows me knows this. I always have a book in tow–yes, an actual book, no e-readers for me. I love the feel of the new book in my hand, the weight of it on my palm, the slightly stale smell of old paper that wafts up as you open to that first page.

I have a tablet and I’ve tried reading on it…it’s a whole lot easier to slip that into my purse than a clunky old book–but I just can’t make the change, so call me old fashioned, but it’s a book that I take with me while my tablet sits lonely charging on my nightstand while I’m out and about.

Reading is a good thing. A great thing. Even the best thing–most of the time.

downloadYou won’t hear me talk about it often, but reading does have its downside. Sleep deprivation is most certainly one of them. Despite having three decades to learn how to put down a good book at a respectable hour and get some shut-eye, I find myself repeating the same litany to myself that I repeated to my father when I was a child. “One more chapter, just one more chapter and then I must really go to bed.” Will power has never been my strong suit as the thirty extra pounds of baby weight I’m still carrying around after the birth of my last child (she’s almost 7) will show you. I might say the words, just like the younger version of myself said them nightly to my 2b2eb8669559be5e5ad122677879e6b4dad, but just as they were empty promises then, they are empty resolutions today.

Many a day I have found myself before my first hour class leaning heavily on that cup of caffeine to pull back the reading induced fog I find myself in–my own version of the hangover. Who needs alcohol to produce a hangover when you have books right there, on your bookcase beckoning you into their worlds and plenty able to give you the same headache without the unsightly gut (or the trips to the toilet for that matter)–I call that a bargain!

And lack of sleep is not the only downside, oh no!

I consider myself a writer. I write my blog almost weekly, but sometimes I just don’t seem to have the time! Every once in a while I grab a solid hour or two to plug away at my novel, but not nearly enough. I just never seem to have the time!

I’m always complaining about the little time I have to write…and yet I’ve read easily a hundred books this year. I read and I read and I read. Somehow I always find time to read. Hmmm… I think I spy with my little eyes a great, big glaring inconsistency!

The truth is that I believe reading is the single greatest hindrance to my writing career. Yes, I like to blame the kids, and they do keep me eternally busy with their needing quality time and all (really, how dare they!) and all the chauffeuring about to baseball and gymnastics and football and…well you get the idea. And the job, yes, the job! Must blame the job (because what aspiring writer doesn’t find themselves with one of these to actually pay the bills) as it is by far the largest time sucker of them all! And teaching! Well goodness! Of course I don’t have time to write with those piles and piles of essays I have to grade on what feels like an eternal basis! And then there’s the housework, with a family of five, that never ends, always a load to throw in and a kitchen to clean…

True, true, and true, but I still find time to I read.

Woman walking across landscape of clothes

I can ignore the growing pile (no, not pile, the burgeoning mountain would be more accurate, a mountain with an impending rock slide currently…) of laundry. I can ignore the crusting over dishes in the kitchen sink. I can even shoo away my little darlings and tell them that Mommy needs a little quiet time and that I will read them a story later. All this I can do if I am in the throes of a great adventure.

So why? If I love to write so much why do I allow myself to continually get sidetracked by a good book? Wouldn’t that time be better spent writing my own novel?

Well, if I’m completely honest, I do it because I am innately lazy. Yep. There it is. It’s easier to read a world someone else has created than to create one of my own. It takes no real effort on my part. I get a cup of coffee, I curl up in my favorite chair, and I leave my world and all its problems behind without having to lift a finger. It’s wonderful–BUT, I’m beginning to see that it’s kind of like the Matrix. Books keep me in matrix-pods-680x400those little pods, giving me a whole alternate world to live in–I experience incredible things, get to be so many different people, live so many different lives, but the truth is, I’m in a pod and I’m not living at all.

Reason two for allowing myself to get sidetracked? It’s risk free. I’m not putting my ego, my self, my dreams on the line when I read a good book, but I sure as heck am when I write one. I’ve had this dream for thirty years…for thirty years I have wanted this, thought about it, planned it–but what if I’m not good? What if I finish my novel and it sucks toenails? Or, worse yet, what if I finish it, and it is good, but I can’t get anyone to read it? What then?

There is so much to risk when writing your novel. What people don’t often understand about authors is that we are putting our heart and soul out there for the world to see. We are pulling back the curtain so to speak, into our private world, and we’re allowing you to see into our thoughts, our feelings, and our struggles.

But wait a minute…I thought we were talking fiction? Am I saying that fiction isn’t fiction at all, that it really happened.

No, not exactly. I’m going to borrow from Rainbow Rowell’s “Fangirl” for this one, because it sums it up so well.

“I take something that happened to me in 1983, and I make it happen to somebody else in 1943. I pick my life apart that way, try to understand it better by writing straight through it.”

“So everything in your books is true?”

The professor tilted her head and hummed. “Mmmm…yes. And no. Everything starts with a little truth, then I spin my webs around it–sometimes I spin completely away from it. But the point is, I don’t start with nothing (307).”

In other words, yes, it’s us out there, on some level. I don’t care if it’s dystopian or sci-fi, fantasy or historical fiction, the best writers pull from what they know–they are putting themselves on the line, and the risk in that is enormous! The rejection really is personal.

angry-fansSo, with all that to lose, it so much easier, and safer, to pull that new Sophie Kinsella off the shelf and leave my world to my own imagination where it can live safely without being assaulted by the critique of the armchair coach sitting safely on the sidelines telling me what I’m doing wrong and how I should play ball.

So, yes, I love to read, and I gain so very much through the worlds I have walked, but this is me, admitting to you, that I am an addict. I am a book addict–and if I ever want to finish my own book, I must, dear reader, PUT YOURS DOWN.

So, I’m taking the redpill. I want to see to the end of my rabbit hole, even if it “disparages” me (sorry, I just flashed John Cage from ‘Ally McBeal’) in the process.

MatrixBluePillRedPill

You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.Morpheus, to Neo

I’ve got the red pill, and a glass of water…it’s time to stop being a coward. It’s time to see what I’m really made of.

What are you made of?

We all have our escapes–our addictions–our personal “pods.” What are yours? And what are you going to do about them?

Are you going to take the blue pill and continue avoiding the real life that is waiting for you, or do you have the courage–the guts– the gumption–to take the red pill and to find out just how deep your own rabbit hole goes?

Carpe Diem–Seize the day! Or in my case, Seize the pen

feature_799_storyWhen I was a young girl, you were much more likely to find me sitting on a bench or under a tree with a notebook and pencil– or a book–than flirting with the boys or gossiping with the girls. When other girls stayed up late talking on the phone for endless hours, I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning reading my latest binge–historical romance, Agatha Christie, Austen, Elliot, even Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. In fact, my father and I had a little two step that became a tradition of sorts.

“Heather, ” he would call up the stairs to me. “Turn off your light and go to bed. It’s late.”

“Aww…Dad! One more chapter? Please? I’m at a really good part!”

To which my father would always sigh, but relent. “One more chapter, but that’s it, okay?”

And I would always agree, even though he knew, and I knew that he knew, that that one chapter would likely turn into several more and he would be repeating our little verbal dance an hour, and two hours, and even as many as four or five hours later. But he let me. Because this he understood. Most of me, my dad never could really understand me, but this? This I got from him, and this he understood.

My mother, on the other hand, never understood this side of me. I think she genuinely worried about me. She would continually encourage me to call a friend, go out with a boy, to get out and do something, anything, that didn’t have to do with a book. What she never understood was that that held so little appeal to me. What boy could even come close to keeping pace with Mr. Darcy? What friend could equal Dianna Berry?

Girl-writingMy books, and even my own imagination, offered far more than anything my little rural community could offer. So, I was very content to live within the pages of my books, and in the dramas I created in my own mind, until life could keep up with the worlds I had experienced through my fictitious wanderings.

It took a while, but eventually real life did catch up, in all its many joys and horrors, to the worlds between the pages. And I knew exactly what to do when it did. Write.

You see, since I was young, I always wanted to be a writer. I knew I had something inside me worth saying, but in my youth? Any attempts at a novel fell flat. I hadn’t lived enough to have anything to say that was worth reading. So, my only real successes were in poetry and in essays. My poetry was good enough to get published in various anthologies, and my professors always came back with strong praise for my essays, and even my thesis, stating that I was a gifted writer and that I should consider publishing.

I appreciated their affirmation, and believe me, even before they gave it, I considered publishing, but how? How did I take my passion for words, my life experience, and this living, organic thing inside me and make it into an actually story?

paint-colors-bursting-out-of-dress-shirtFor years it has felt like I had this…this…something, living inside of me, not a beast or a monster, but something alive, something waiting to get out, but not yet…it was asleep, it was waiting…for what I didn’t know.

Perhaps I was too busy living life, experiencing it, to put it together into something cohesive. Perhaps there was some deep instinct in me that recognized anything I wrote now would be premature, stillborn.

Whatever the reason, it was dormant. I would blog, I would write the occasional poem, but my novel? It remained a dream on the edge of my consciousness–until about three years ago.

Three years ago I gave birth to an idea, the basic (very basic) concept for the book I am now writing.

So I started to write this fledgling idea. I started it, and stalled, I’d write a little and get bogged down. I’d nail an idea, and then get stuck as if in quicksand, there was no movement, no momentum. There were holes I couldn’t fill. Ideas that just weren’t organic. I eventually abandoned it, saving it for another day.

I moved on to work on the book my husband and I are co-authoring. I started my first YA dystopian novel. And all the while, this idea germinated in the back of my mind, my subconscious taking over. It was there, but I didn’t spend much time mulling it over. It was just there, growing, without my conscious knowledge.

Until about six months ago when it stood up and pounced.

bursting_with_creativity_by_chumpinator-d4lvt3lWhat was an embryo when I put it to bed, woke up as a full grown, fully viable creation. There were no more holes. The concept seemed to grow and expand of its own accord. The something that has been in me, waiting, since I was a child, has decided its time is now, and it flows out of me in an almost effortless stream. What once took plodding, sludging effort, and was oh so agonizingly slow, just…comes.

I am almost forty. This has been my dream for the last thirty years. And I feel this sense of “carpe diem.” I must seize this day, hold on to it. I must let it come now, not later, or it will shrivel, it will die, and I will be back to the mere hope of a dream, not the very real possibility of seeing it to the finish.

So, this is the summer where I give my dream a real chance. I am well aware of the uphill battle ahead of me even if I manage to finish it (no, not manage to, I will finish it by the end of July. No ifs, no excuses). I know that in this world where writers are a dime a dozen getting a work published, or even read, is a battle all its own, but that battle is for tomorrow.

Today, I commit to myself, and I commit to you, fellow reader, that I will write this novel. I will give it a chance to be, to become. Whether it is truly good, whether it has any potential at all, I cannot say for sure. What I do know is that any chance it has, it has now. It’s time is now. I can feel it.

The waiting is done, the moment is now, and I cannot let it pass me by without seeing what this is that is really inside of me.