Late night Reader-Writer Ramblings

Ann Voskamp said that when she has trouble finding things to write about it’s because she hasn’t been reading enough. When I heard that,  I knew that was one of the reasons why I haven’t been writing much. As much as I know the writing is for my healing, my sanity, my introverted way of getting things off my chest, the truth is my days are full of laundry and refereeing boy-fights and pushing through checklists to get to naptime that I really don’t even want to think when the day is over. I usually do some chores in the evening and watch tv if I can stay awake. Reading feels like a luxury to me; being able to read would mean that I had some time left at the end of the day, that I didn’t fall asleep the minute I laid down on the bed at night. I keep thinking things will change–and they will as the children go older– but I don’t want the bad habits to take root and grow like a creeping vine over my soul.

I was reminded of how writing and reading are good for me (and at the same time unearthing many memories) while cleaning out old notes from college classes. I was amazed at some of the things that I read (and apparently comprehended) and wrote. I must have been a lot smarter back then.

Now I just like to watch crime shows.  I asked The Man one night, what it is about crime shows that makes people want to watch them. There are so many of them on tv nowadays and they are highly addictive. He answered, easily, lucidly—“because people like the truth. In these shows, the truth always comes out in the end.”  He was right; I don’t know why I didn’t think of that.

While that may true and deep, the real reason I was watching tv that night was that I didn’t want to think about what an awful mother I had been that evening. I yelled, I jerked, I spanked the most sensitive of my three children. And I couldn’t take it back. All I could do was beg God’s forgiveness, and my son’s forgiveness and pray that God would help me change this horrible way of dealing with my children. No, I don’t want them to be disobedient…but what can I expect with the way I’ve been acting.

I told myself I should pray instead of watch tv that night. I didn’t. But I am trying to do it more now–I really need it. I have been trying to do nice things for the children to let them know I love them but somehow that is hard for me. I am much better at giving orders than I am at giving gifts. I am very demanding but not very endearing.

So I may not be writing much because I am not reading much. And I may not be loving much because I’m not praying much. My friend reminded me last week not to get too busy–that Satan uses that to keep Christians from living a fulfilled life in God. She’s right. Time to make space for the praying and the reading so that the loving and the writing will come.


The D Word

The word keeps appearing on pages I read about parenting, in my mind when I think about writing, as a shadow across the pages of my to-do lists, over and under my attempts at prayer: Discipline.

Training children takes discipline. All day. Every day.

(My bones are tired just writing those words.)

Writing is a discipline.

I know–people have been telling me this for years.

Getting up early to commune with God when it’s quiet is a discipline.

Yes. And I love it but don’t do it often enough.

Even the educator Charlotte Mason said it: “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”

Discipline always seems to be an area where I fall short. I guess I need more, er, discipline…See?! There’s that word again. The long and short of it is this: If I want my life to amount to anything, I need some measure of discipline. So today I post this and today I pray–

Lord, teach me the secrets of a disciplined life in You. Not a life lived by the letter of the law but by the spirit. Let this disciplined life be immersed in grace and let me discipline myself to keep my eyes fixed on YOU.

Why write?

I’ve started writing the story of garlic–an essay idea that has been on my mind for quite some time. As usual, it started with a particularly vivid memory that would come to my mind quite often–in this case it had to do with garlic. So I began searching my memory for other garlic-related incidents and I realized garlic had a much more prominent place in my life than I had realized. I say this rather tongue-in-cheek and I began to question myself when I started to put these ideas down on paper. Firstly, a title did not readily come to mind–the first sure sign that I had no idea what the point of the essay was going to be. It seemed as though I really had nothing to say. As if teleported back to fiction writing class, I heard Dr Drake’s voice in my head asking that question he always asked when he didn’t like someone’s writing: “What is the story here people?” I began to doubt whether this garlic thing had any deeper significance. Sure, I could find clever words to talk about all my interactions with garlic and could probably even get a couple of laughs out of whoever might read it, but then what would be the value of a piece of clever but shallow writing? I did need to have a point, a reason for writing…

walkingonwaterI remember reading some years ago a book by Madeleine L’Engle called Walking on Water and found the beginnings of some answers to a question that was lurking at the back of my mind as a student majoring in creative writing: Why write? I asked one of my poetry teachers this question with regard to poetry in particular. First of all, not many people read poetry just for leisure reading; it does require some mental effort to digest a good poem and it often takes more than one reading. And second, there were so many poems and stories that had already been written it truly seemed (seems) as though there is “nothing new under the sun” when it comes to literature–how could I produce writing that would be truly original? L’Engle’s book provided me with one possible answer (I don’t have the book with me now, so I can’t quote exactly, but this is the gist of it): the main purpose of writing was for the nourishing and healing of the writer’s own soul. It seemed awfully self-centred and yet it rang true. I didn’t really matter if anyone read my writing or ‘got it’–what mattered was that I wrote, and that I wrote truth, even in fiction.  

In the years since, while I would hesitate to identify myself as a writer, I have seen that writing helps me to stay centered. Even as a Christian, my faith is helped along when I put pen to paper– prayers flow more freely when I have a pen in hand and blank journal before me, experiences take on deeper meaning when I reflect on them in writing, even Bible study comes to life when I write notes and answer questions on paper.

There are purposes for writing that go beyond my self. It can be used by God to encourage or inspire or even rebuke a friend. So I put this skill I have at the Lord’s disposal along with everything else, for Him to use it as He will–for my own soul-nourishment or the nourishment of others. For my part, I am trying to discipline myself to do the writing, just as I must discipline myself to consistently pray, study the Bible, confess my sins, and live out all that He calls me to.

Now I am just beginning to see that garlic can, in fact, symbolize something deeper that has been happening in my life over the course of a number of years. The story of garlic has begun but it’s going to need some time to simmer in the writing pot before it will be served. When it’s ready, I’ll ring the dinner bell.