Thursday, May 08, 2008

How not to interview Donald Miller

I met one of my writing heroes today, Donald Miller. The interview went nothing like I thought it would. My goal was to ask pointed questions which would draw out pithy content pertinent to potential articles I had in mind.

It ended up, instead, more like a therapy session. I thanked him for writing To Own A Dragon, and told him I’d spent the last three years trying not to write about my experience, from a female perspective. Then told him I'd started a new career as an agent and felt like I'd been "divinely distracted" and relieved of my responsibility to write it. He laughed, then said “HA, you gotta do it anyway!” He has a great laugh. And very nice eyes.

Then I told him I was pissed off at him for stirring up the voice I’d managed to quiet. The one I’ve managed to drown out and bury while heading different directions with other projects.

He suggested I read the War of Art and get on with it.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

What's it all about, CindyLou?

If I let myself (which I do), I can get really cranky this time of year. Because I live with a burden to use my gifts to glorify God, Christmas can feel to me like nothing more than an interruption to my egotistical endeavors to do something meaningful with my time. The holidays heighten my anxiety because they simultaneously peak my itch to produce something meaningful, yet slow my momentum toward accomplishing anything of real lasting value. I can't even remember what I got for Christmas last year, let alone what I gave anyone.

Like I said, I can get cranky; in fact downright Grinchy about Christmas. Like CindyLou Who, I find myself pondering "but whats it all mean?"

In an act of self-preservation this year, rather than getting all kerbobbled, I tried to exercise intentional gratitude as the blasted day approached. Tried to find and mention one thing I was grateful for each day -- even in the midst of the clutter and chaos of Christmas madness. It helped. I got through it, and actually found myself enjoying the day.

Still, I'm itching to get the tree out. The lights down. The nativity scene packed away. The wreath needles vacuumed off the hearth.

But I'm also in need of some quiet and respite from all the fuss. So, rather than dragging out the ornament boxes and storage tubs this morning, I retreated to my study and sat in my comfy chair to take in a little bible reading with my coffee and enjoy a piece of blue sky hovering out my front window -- the first we've seen in awhile.

I smiled, thinking how blessed I am to have such a peaceful view in spite of the urban setting within which we live. The clematis vines gracing the side of the house show promise of a generous spring bloom. The rocky creek my husband spent the summer creating (in response to my comment that I'd like to have a water feature outside my office window) provides a silvery sight of movement on the otherwise still, brown palette of our forest floor front yard. The remnant of a spider's intricate silk orb which strung all fall between two trees reminds me how fragile home can be for some. And the lovely new curtains framing my view make me feel all toasty inside.

From just from one spot I can list numerous things for which to be grateful. I'm feeling pleased that maybe my gratitude exercise might outlast the season.

Then God goes and tops it all off. Today's entry in my devotional highlights a verse from Solomon and reminds me that sometimes the gardens God plants are intended solely for His enjoyment. Sometimes the patch of soil on which we are asked to reside isn't intended for harvest -- sometimes it's strictly for sowing beauty. Strictly for growing flowers which really have no purpose other than providing something lovely to look at.

What does this have to do with gratitude? Well... even amidst the pain and toil and frustrations which can cause me to recoil from joy, even in light of big picture suffering and sorrow of life; I am reminded that God wants us to notice the pieces of Himself he weaved in between the foundations of the earth. He wants us to delight with Him in the power and the process of Creation; He invites us to participate with him in the privilege of bestowing beauty on his earth -- and in our earthly surroundings.

Rocks, creeks, spider webs -- all of creation shouts for recognition. Draws us into understanding something of our Creator. But it's only when we stop long enough to look that we can really see both views - the inward and outward. The connection between Creator and the art of creating.

Sometimes I wonder if writing is a vain attempt to create something that will outlast my endless efforts to keep my house in order. Honestly, I often wonder how purposeful it is to perpetually pick up and put things away. Wash and fold. Clean and declutter. Sweep and Scrub. I wish I was someone who could sit down in the middle of a mess and play with my son. Work on my novel. Get lost in a book. But I'm not. I have a hard time relaxing when domestic duties call.

But maybe instead of grumbling about picking up my husband's socks for the umpteenth time, scrubbing pee from the bathroom floor or unloading the dishwasher -- none of which I'd rather be doing than reading or writing -- I need to remember that maintaining my home is part of the creation process, too. And that someday all the fun that goes into making and enjoying a home won't be accompanied by the drudgerous responsibilities that go along with maintaining it.

Someday -- like that moment on Christmas Eve when all is done and the lights are twinkling and the fire is warm and the house is clean and table is ready for a feast on the morrow -- Peace will prevail. Our hearts will finally be full. Creation will have sighed it's final turn of season. And we'll be back in the garden with Christ himself, thankful that Christmas came after all.

Maybe, CindyLou, that's what Christmas is all about.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Wondering what happened...

In the world's perspective, often we are told there are two types of people. Those who make things happen and those who wonder what happened.

Lately, I'm in the second camp - and glad of it. A recent devlelopment in my writing career has left me both shaking my head in a state of befuddled humilty and lifting it in a prayer of gratitude.

Seems all the while I've been plodding along, meeting deadlines, keeping my eye peeled for writing opportunities, saying yes whenever I believed God's leading, and no when not, He has been preparing an opportunity for me beyond my imagining. In a way, I guess I have been making things happen by remaining faithful to my craft and calling -- even when it's been frustrating and tedious. But that's as far as I'll go in taking credit for what God has been preparing all along.

In looking back over the chapters of my writing career, I'm confident I am the right person for the job, but still humbled by the possibilities of this new opportunity, and thankful for and to the individual who offered me it.

Stay tuned and I'll keep you posted when the time is right.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Edge of the Cave

Wednesday of this week I was home working on meeting several writing deadlines so I could move on to everything else I needed to do before leaving on a two week family road-trip including stops in San Francisco, Legoland (Carlsbad), Anaheim and finally Folsom Lake, California for my friend Heidi's son Josh's wedding.

Then Glenn called.

"You know how Labri's been sick for the past couple weeks?" Labri is Heidi's just-turned twelve year-old daughter.

I've known Heidi for over 20 years, though Glenn sees her nearly everyday since he works with her.

"No, I didn't know." He probably thought he'd told me, but in typical guy fashion, he hadn't.

"Well, Heidi took Labri to the doctor and they admitted her to Doernbecher for some tests." I knew by the tone in his voice that something horrible was dangling at the end of his words.


"She has a tumor. On her brain stem."

After I hung up and my heart stopped pounding in my ears, I got up from my chair and took a shower. I prayed for wisdom. I begged God to help us know what to do, what to say, where to be.

Eli got off the bus. I fixed him a snack and felt thankful he doesn't quite understand yet how unsafe life can be. Then I disappeared into my office to email and call everyone I knew who also knew Heidi and ask for their prayers. And I stayed close to Eli while I waited for Glenn to come home.

When he did, I went into the bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed to pray, but I couldn't help recalling the period of time ten years ago when we'd gotten the news that our daughter might not survive to birth, or if she did, would be born with severe disabilities.

I remembered what it felt like to have the world crash down around you without warning. To feel as if time is moving ahead and leaving you stuck in the mire of fear, terror, dread.

I dropped my head in my hands and sobbed a mother's tears for my friend.

That's when I realized that so far, none of my thoughts or prayers had been for Labri. They'd all been for and about Heidi. About the reality of what the next several months will bring for her.

"How does a mother do this?" I asked Glenn when he came into the room to find me.

He replied through his own tears, as if I'd really expected him to have the answer, "I don't know."

"Have you thought maybe we should cancel our trip so you can stay on top of things at the office?"

"I'm thinking about it," Glenn said.

"I don't know what to do. Should I call her? When you talked to her did she say she'd call? Do you think it would be best to be there, or to give them space?"

"Yeah, probably."

Space, we agreed. Time for their family to learn how to process the news, to learn how to balance on their new, stuck feet. That's the right thing to do, we resolved.

So we went to Costco instead.

We picked up a few ready made meals and took them to the house where Ted--Labri's uncle -- was staying with Heidi and Rick's three other pre-teens. We listened to him tell us how he punched the dashboard of his car when he heard the news.

I attempted to make order of the pile of laundry on the dining room table, and we told Ted to call us if he needed relief.

Then we went home and tucked Eli in, together. We prayed with Eli who asked Jesus to make the tumor go away. To make it not be the bad kind.

After tucking Eli in we looked (against our better judgement) on the internet, searching with the little information we had, for what the prognosis might be.

If you Google brain stem tumor you'll discover the news is not good. At all. But there are some levels of "bad" that allow you to hold out hope. At least for a little while.

Thursday Morning.

Ted called and told us tests showed it was the baddest of the bad kind. And that they were starting treatment right away.

Glenn went to the office. Their employees needed to know.

I tried to write, but had a hard time concentrating.

By mid morning I gave up and went outside. The sun felt good on my face, but made me mad.
It occured to me that my other friends were probably looking forward to the promise of a few days of sunshine, running errands, shopping for Mother's day cards and wondering where they were going for brunch on Sunday.

And that my friend Heidi was holding herself, and probably the rest of her family, together while they reeled and dodged and tried to make sense of the words coming from the mouths of of doctors.

I felt compelled to find her, to stand next to her and let her know I would tarry in the darkness with her. But, better sense convinced me to give her space. Reason told me she would call when and if she needed me.

I sent her a text message to let her know we are here when she needs us. It didn't seem like enough. Like anything.

I returned to my tasks, and tried to work, but was paralyzed by the notion that I was being dis-loyal. That I had no right to try and keep moving forward.

So I went back outside, grabbing my latest read, Traveling Mercies and scooted my chair into the shade. I flipped to my bookmark and began the next chapter, titled Hearthcake.

Just as I was wondering what to do for my friend, how to help her, where to be, I stumbled over Lamott's words and fell into the realization that I'd also been wondering if God knew what was going on down here.

I dare you to read it and tell me He isn't present during times like this...

An ache of homesickness came over me, for our old life before Sam's blood got funky, for the sweet funcional surface of that life, for all the stuff and routine that hold me together, or at least that I believe hold me together. That's the place I like to think of as reality. Maybe it's full of lusts and hormones and yearnings for more, more, more, and maybe it is all about clutching and holding and tightness, but I just love it to pieces and it was where I wanted to be.

Instead, everything felt so ominous, dark and frightening, as if we were hiding from someone in a cave. I suddenly remembered the cave where the prophet Elijah hung out while waiting to be either killed by Ahab or saved by God. An angel had come to him earlier as he sat in the desert under a broom tree, and the angel had given him a message. First the angel told him he should eat. This is one of my favorite moments in the Bible, God as Jesish mother: Elijah, eat something! The angel said he should eat, and then rest, and then retire to the cave and wait for further instructions. The angel promised that the Lord would be passing by there soon.

So this is what Elihah did. He ate hearthcakes and drank a jug of water and then went to wait in the cave for the word of the Lord. First he heard a howling gale, but he didn't go to the mouth of the cave because he knew that such loudness wasn't God, "and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantel and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him." The voice told him God's will for him, what he must do to save himself and God's people, and this of course is exactly what Elijah proceeded to do.

A paragraph later, Anne continues ...

I remembered then that the people I know with sick children have had most of [their] bulwarks stripped away, and when this happens, they were left with a lot of spirit, when they were lucky, or suicidal depression. Often both: I've been watching our friends pass through the latter and survive with spirit and mostly enormous dignity. These friends had been pushed down into the depths so entirely that it left them wide open and hopeless. Then their best friends would come by, and that would help them hook into something besides their own terror. Their friend's love turned out to be the sound of God at the mouth of the cave, a breeze to sustain and help guide them.

I called Glenn and told him he needed to come home, that I was going to be with Heidi.

He told me he'd just gotten off the phone with Holly (Heidi's twin sister) and Heidi wanted us to come, but there were so many people there it would be better to wait.

So many people? What were all those people doing there?

I went to sleep that night thinking of howling winds.

~ ~ ~

Holly called Friday afternoon and left a message saying it would be good time for us to go to the hospital. That Labri wanted to see us. That they were now only letting family come. And we were family.

We dropped Eli off at a friend's house and drove up the windy hillside road to Doernbecher behind a stretch Hummer limo. It pulled into the parking lot of the Chart House.

"Prom night," I told Glenn.

He choked back a sob.

"What?" I asked.

"Labri will probably never go to the prom..."

Again, I realized all my thoughts were with Heidi. That I still hadn't considered Labri's losses, really.

But that all changed when we walked into her room and I looked into the pale face and wobbly eyes of the beautiful little girl who'd been born on May day a dozen years ago...

~ ~ ~

Our visit with Labri was precious. When I can, I'll return and continue in an additional post...

Monday, May 07, 2007


My husband isn't much of a reader.

At times I find this appalling. At others, a great relief. For what if he knew what I was attempting by placing my own silly strings of words together? What if he understood the pointless difficulty of the hours I spend whittling at a mountain with a spoon when I could be doing something useful like learning to boil eggs.

His ignorance, my bliss.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Out of the mouth of Oswald

Waiting to hear on my submitted book proposal and receiving requests and opportunities to help others with their work.

I am so tempted to ask "Hey God, what about my work?" Especially today, for some reason. Then I read this from Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest...

"Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all." Philippians 2:17

Are you willing to be offered for the work of the faithful - to pour out your life blood as a libation on the sacrifice of the faith of others? Or do you say - "I am not going to be offered up just yet, I do not want God to choose my work. I want to choose the scenery of my own sacrifice; I want to have the right kind of people watching and saying, 'Well done.'

It is one thing to go on the lonely way with dignified heroism, but quite another thing if the line mapped out for you by God means being a door-mat under other people's feet. Suppose God wants to teach you to say, "I know how to be abased" - are you ready to be offered up like that? Are you ready to be not so much as a drop in a bucket - to be so hopelessly insignificant that you are never thought of again in connection with the life you served? Are you willing to spend and be spent; not seeking to be ministered unto, but to minister? Some saints cannot do menial work and remain saints because it is beneath their dignity.

How does God do it? Keeping me humble could be a full time job, it seems. Yet, I know that he is busily doing the same for countless others.

A drop in the bucket, indeed.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Word I wish I'd written ...

Maybe redemption has stories to tell
Maybe forgiveness is right where you fell
Where can you run to escape from yourself?
Where you gonna go?
Where you gonna go?
Salvation is here....

These words remind me that the act of receiving redemption from my past is the purpose of my present, but only reflects a glint of my future.

(I did write those words, for what it's worth...)