Relationships — Day Four

 

It’s Day Four of the Southern Cross Novel Challenge…I’m learning something about life from my imaginary friends.

 

 

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Being a Noun Means Nothing Without the Verb

 

My Mouse by mousewords

 

We all identify ourselves with nouns. Like me, for instance. I’m a writer, an artist, and a web designer. I say this quite often, and type it into all my social media bio pages. Everyone knows me by these nouns.

Nouns are great. But I need to remind myself of verbs. Being a web designer doesn’t mean anything unless I design web pages. Saying I’m a writer is meaningless unless I put words on a page. I am those nouns, so one would think that performing the verbs that go with them is second nature to me. It is…when I let it be. But more often than I care to admit, I let myself forget.

Sometimes I fall prey to thinking that the verbs that are most important in my day are the demanding ones. Answer that message. Work on that project. Clean that room. They need to be done by a certain time, so they must be high priority, right? But that’s not always the case. There will always be tasks and “to-do’s” that are deadline-intensive, in the short term. Be assured, there will always be a steady stream of them. When one is dealt with, another will arise to take its place.

On the other hand, the long-term goals—the ones that are really most important—will be there consistently, not moving, not going anywhere. It’s tempting to let them slide down the priority list, simply because they’re always there. But the truth is that they’ll always be there because I’m not doing any verbs toward finishing them.

Long-term goals are kinder and gentler than short-term requirements. Quieter, not so demanding. They sit meekly in the background and await one’s attention. Making them very easy to neglect—there’s no knee-jerk reaction to deal with them, as there is when a short-term shouts at you. And neglect can become a habit. If there’s no unpleasant reaction, no shouting, no chastisement for being neglectful, chances are good one will put off remedying it. You can get used to leaving the quiet things for later…even when they’re really the most important. But they’re usually the most faithful. They’ll wait for your attention.

I know I do this. I get a lot of things “done.” But I don’t do enough towards what’s important. So I need to take a step back every so often. Reorganize my goals. Trim the short-term off the top of the to-do list, remember that taking care of them will not get rid of short-term tasks. Others will take their place, and I will be trapped in an endless cycle of crisis management. While the goals that are most meaningful to me and my future waste away in the background—and may never be achieved.

I don’t want that to happen. So I’ll remind myself to actually perform the verb that comes with my noun.

Writers write. Artists paint. Lovers love.

What verb should you be doing?

 

The Social Media Miracle



Figured Tiger Potpourri 2, originally uploaded by KeithBurtis.

All the events of life pass over the screen of social media–birth and death, joy and sorrow. Milestones are shared by communities of people from all across the globe. And this week is no exception.

Just in time for Valentine’s month, Twitter is witnessing the power of romance! Artist and craftsman Keith Burtis is hoping that “with a bit of tough work, some perseverance, and some social love,” he will be able to purchase an engagement ring for his lovely girlfriend by Friday, February 22nd–two days from now. To achieve this goal, Keith is feverishly turning incredible wood bowls and offering them for sale on his blog. Each work of art is unique, each different type of wood has a personality of its own.

Pictures are worth a thousand words, so I invite you to visit Keith’s blog, read about his Social Media Miracle, and perhaps help to make it happen!

The Three-Letter-Word

 

There is a subject that has been heavy on my heart for many months now. A recent, feeling post by Jesse Loop has reignited it to the point where words are starting to flow out of my heart and through my fingers.

It’s the subject of the “three-letter-word.”

Brains are whirring. I know, mine did. It’s hard to come up with a foul word that only has three letters. A word that makes you wince inwardly at the mental picture it brings up. A word that leaves a bad taste in your mouth when you think of what it means, and how it is used. A word that many people try not to say in polite company. Yes, that bad.

And mousewords is gonna say it on her blog.

God.

The very thought of God has become detestable to many…because of the way He has been portrayed by those who call themselves His people.

Sexual abuse in the name of God. Child abuse in the name of God. Emotional abuse, spousal abuse. Racial discrimination. Religious intolerance.

Too often, the result is that the victim of abuse recoils from the God whose name was used in the justification of unconscionable actions. Others who witness such abuse and discrimination are disgusted by many so-called “Christians.” The righteousness in their souls shrinks away from being associated with such a “God.”

And people are driven away.

So what do I think when I hear someone say that the actions of others have caused them to turn away from God? Do I think, “You’re doomed.” “You must be a bad person, or you couldn’t say that.” “You better repent pretty fast, or there will be hell to pay (literally).”

No.

When someone turns away from God, my heart cries. Not because of the hellish doom they are facing.

Because of the incredible love they are missing.

And God the Father of all cries with me.

The “sinner” is not the person who has been hurt and has turned away from the thought of God out of revulsion for what has been done in God’s name. The sinner is the one who claims to be a Christian, and yet would do something to harm the body or spirit of another.

The damage may be done out of selfish interests, or out of misguided good intentions. Either way, the result is the same.

One is driven away…and that’s not the one who needs to fear for their eternal soul.

So how do I know this? God said it. When one looks at the Bible, words on paper, one finds a very different perspective from what is often taught by people. Clear the air of complicated prose about damnation, and read the words of Jesus. Among many teachers of God’s law, Jesus was not a popular fella. “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them,” the teachers muttered.

In response to that, Jesus told four stories. Stories of ones who had been lost from the fold, missing for some time, caught up in wild living, or consumed by the love of money. In these stories, Jesus portrays God as He is—One who understands the ways of the world, and does whatever it takes to rescue the lost ones. No condemnation from God—He rejoices at the return of the ones He loves.

Which is to say, everyone.

Those who considered themselves experts on God sneered at this perspective. What Jesus said in response to them still holds true today, for anyone who turns the name of God into a three-letter-word.

“You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.”

Those of us who call ourselves Christians, and those of us who have been hurt by ones claiming that name, all need to remember this.

God Himself is really a four-letter-word.

Love.

 

Night of Stars

 

Night deepens. The world sleeps in quietude. Balmy air moves softly–carries the gentle sound of waves touching the shore somewhere beyond.

Humanity stands in the silence, and reaches outward. Soul yearning for what is as deep and real without as what is within. Yearning for purpose, explanation, identity.

Eyes are drawn to the night sky.

The panoply of sky answers in return.

The Pleiades sparkle with ephemeral grace. Sisters, blue diamond jewels on black velvet. A string of precious gems, the garland of queens. Glowing with the ageless wisdom of forever, the peace of eternity. Quiet eyes shining bright with secrets unknown. Hung in the sky as a reminder of the innate beauty of femininity; the inheritance of royalty as daughters of Creation’s King. Beauty to be worn with exultation and fearless joy. Placed in the universe to shine, to glow from the light within. A priceless gift to be treasured by any to whom it is entrusted.

Orion watches over them in the towering night sky. Heroic symbol of manhood, kinetic with action, purest depiction of strength. A very Son of God. The imprint of the Creator is his form. The most beautiful mysteries of the universe dwell within him, shine from him. Expressing hidden fathoms of knowledge, awaiting discovery. His shape spreads across the panoply of sky like that of a man mountain. Overwhelming beside the delicacy of the string of sisters. Yet armed as protector. Strength that rules the night; nobility and kingship that evoke admiration. Honor that saves.

Painted into the canvas of the night by the hand of God. Knowing that yearning within the human soul would draw the eyes upward. Aeons before the question was asked, God answered with stars. Here is the identity of humanity. Grace and strength. Beauty and mystery. Wisdom and knowledge. Thou art made from the stuff of stars. See thy face in the rapture of the heavens, and know that it was painted by the hand that ignited suns at time’s birth.

Know that you are holy.

And your inheritance is as the sons and daughters of Heaven’s King.

 

Bound to Overcome

I’ve had a lot going on in my life, thoughts, and goals just over the past couple of weeks. Not much would show on the surface—but between my ears and behind my eyes, the world is a different place. Maybe because I’m different inside. I know it’s been building for some months now—like the Lord is putting together the puzzle pieces of my life, one day at a time.

This is something I’ve been hoping for, aiming towards, for most of my life. I had an epiphany at age 17, suddenly knew what I wanted to do with my career and life, and started working towards that. A few years (ahem, be polite, don’t run over to my About page) and several setbacks later, I had not progressed very far past those goals. Make that “visibly.” Between the ears and behind the eyes, the world was quite different. But looking at my life from the outside, at a casual glance, not much of that showed through.

For the majority of my young adult years, I lived most of my life inside my head, between my ears, and within a few walls. I was a homeschooled highschooler (personal choice). When I graduated, I was tested at a college level, so I chose to postpone college and dive into the dreams I couldn’t wait to dig at. I spent the next four years living at home with my family, attending business seminars, reading voraciously, and pursuing an advanced art education through studying others’ works and writings. In other words, I homeschooled myself through college, after all.

In the meantime, I was writing. Writing fiction novels and graphic novel scripts. I was drawing, drawing like crazy throughout my days. Doing character design for my graphic novel series, studying comic book publishers so I would know the one I wanted to plug it to. I had my sights set on the independents, because keeping my rights was important to me–I wasn’t writing for the present, I was building the foundation of a future. So I could wait a little, sacrificing present income opportunities in order to invest in a bigger future. For that “income,” I started my own Amway business and did freelance artwork, to tide me over while I wrote. How did that go? Well, let me just say I’m grateful my family let me live at home.

Some of my lack of success was caused by the fact that I was incredibly shy and introverted, trying to build a career in very extroverted fields. But I had that dream—I thrived on inspiration, and let it fuel me forward, even when the shyness made it almost painful to do so. As I look back now on the person I was then, I wonder if I could have made it work, despite my weaknesses? But at the time, I didn’t get the chance.

During my teens and early twenties, my family and I spent ten years as caregivers for my grandparents. My grandmother had dementia, and eventually forgot who we were. My grandfather died unexpectedly from a sudden onset of cancer. There were other hard situations we were overcoming as a family then, too. I learned many things, and grew a lot between the ears, behind the eyes, in those years—things that would never show up in my resume or bank account. They delayed my dreams. But they made me stronger, bolder. Partially because, once you’ve been hurt in certain ways, you stop being afraid of certain things. You lose some sense of self-preservation…you kind of don’t care what happens to you. So you get braver, and bolder.

I moved on with my family (my choice, turned down a graphic design job to do it). I looked at life as a new opportunity—I felt set free from the hurts of the past, and felt I could finally begin achieving my goals for the future. But anyone who thinks they can emerge from an emotionally abusive situation and hit the ground running is deluding themselves. It took a month-long bout with pneumonia and a dance with a nervous breakdown to teach me that.

And yet…I came away from those days, and emerged into a patch of brighter light. Suddenly I was free to return to my dream, and I did, with my whole heart. Back to the writing, back to the drawing. Back to the quibbling freelance work to bring in a bit of income while I lived with my patient family, too; but back to filling my days with creativity and excitement, and plans for a big future.

Enter carbon monoxide poisoning.

This was a setback that not only invaded its presence upon my goal plan, and delayed my dreams yet again; this monster literally stripped me of the ability to achieve my dreams. I forgot my stories. I lost my words. My hands forgot their skill and learned a new weakness, a new tremor that would forever mar my drawing. I was one year away from publishing a fiction novel and was beginning to draw the final draft of a graphic novel when I had to stop, and teach myself how to write and draw all over again.

Starting all over, yet again. When obstacles keep blocking your pathway, over and over, and you have to stop, and start, and stop again, you have a tendency to get tired. When you keep falling face-first into the mud, it gets very hard to see the way ahead. Dreams and faith and hope will carry you far, through many hard times…but Discouragement can be a towering monster. It can overshadow everything. When things get so very dark, the light seems to fade away, and you begin to feel that the darkness is all there is, all there ever will be anymore.

Yet the light is still there—the light of dreams, and hope, and faith. It’s just being obscured for the time being. Somehow, someway, you have to climb up out of the mire and walk past that beast of Discouragement. It’s the only way to see light again. Oh, it tries to walk with you, mark my words—does its very best to keep blocking the light. For me, I actually began doubting the dreams I had held for so many years. I began to doubt the worth of what was between my ears, behind my eyes. And that’s a tough situation, because that was all that I had left in me. Without the dreams? To my eyes, if the dreams weren’t real, then I was nothing.

Enter God.

Not that He wasn’t there the whole time. Until I stand before Him at the end of this life, I probably will not understand the whole meaning behind everything that is in my past. I see glimmers, I get a few things; but some of the “whys” escape me. Somehow I’ve managed to cling to faith through it all. But then again I wonder—is it really so hard to cling to One who is gripping you in an embrace that will never let you go? He’s been there with me the whole time. And now, just when I felt like I couldn’t pick my face up out of the mud one more time, and would lie there and drown in darkness…it’s as if He’s saying, “Let’s turn the lights on.”

I can’t explain it. I don’t understand it. Something has changed. Maybe it’s me. Yes, I’ve been working…imagine trying to scale a sheer mountainside by only using your fingernails. Yeah, that’s how I’ve been working the past couple years. So yes, I have all those years of work that must have been building to something. But they never led anywhere, to my thinking.

Until now. Something has changed. Something is different. Between my ears, behind my eyes, it’s been a long journey. It’s been…violating. It doesn’t feel like there’s much of anything left of me inside…just numbness, blankness, tears. Tears that flow easily at times. And fear…the inheritance of so many years of living life in the shadow. Fear that crouches and waits for the merest weakness to show within me…so that it can snatch my new life away from me. And fear upon fear, I am afraid that it has the power to do so.

But then I realize…there are arms around me. Strong, mighty, powerful arms. There is a vengeful love washing over me, shielding me, forgiving me the weaknesses that make me despise myself. Someone is holding me fiercely, saying the He is carrying me on through. Past the mire that threatens to envelop and smother me. Past the dark beast that wants to claim me. Carrying me forward to that beautiful light, which has been there waiting for me all along. He’s taking the emptiness between my ears, behind my eyes, and filling it with glorious things that I never dared to dream of, and can hardly comprehend. The dreams of my future.

And something is telling me that my future, at very long last, is here.

I’m sorry for the long blog post…but I think I’m moving forward on a new journey. And I must have needed to travel light.