Tuesday, May 31, 2011

From A 2 Z: Be Still

Several years ago, Mt. St. Helens created quite a stir when she began releasing steam and ash. We were told there was no current danger of another eruption, in fact, the "burps" were the mountain's way of releasing pressure in a much less destructive way. This was exciting for me, who hadn't been quite born yet for the 1980 eruption, but now was able to see plums of steam and ash from my own bedroom window.

My family made the couple of hour drive up to the Johntson Observetory to see the mountian close up. I scurried around taking pictures. It wasn't until we were back in the car headed toward home that I realized... I'd been so busy capturing the moment forever that I'd forgotten to just be still and enjoy the display of God's mighty creation.

I have a distinct memory as a young child of coming accross my mom sitting on the couch with her eyes closed. Now, I understood that she was a busy lady, homeschooling three young girls, taking care of the house, and helping with the home business. She deserved a rest! I leaned against her knees and offered helpfully, "Would you like me to bring you a book?" She smiled. "No, thanks, I'm just resting."

This was where things got puzzling for me. How could she want to just sit there? Even now in my late 20s when I'm so sick and need lots of rest, I rarely do nothing. To me, resting is sleeping, reading, watching a movie, surfing FaceBook, or maybe quietly sitting outdoors to enjoy nature. Thankfully I can usually turn my busy brain off fairly easily when it's time to sleep, but even that is doing something—sleeping! Even my sleep is not calm. Because of my sleep disorder I rarely get the restorative deep sleep, but instead spend my time tossing and turning in light sleep or experiencing vivid dreams in REM sleep.

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; Ps. 37:7a

So it is that one of the negatives of my bubbly personality is that it's difficult for me to just be still before the Lord. This year I've been doing the "read the Bible in a year" program and for the first time in my adulthood I've been succcessful in reading everyday for several months straight. I've always had an easy time praying, singing praises, and chatting with God throughout the day. But just being, just listening and communing, that is more difficult for me.

So this week I'm challenging myself, and challenging you, to set aside some time to just be still with the Lord. Selah.

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! Ps. 48:10

Check out more B blogs on Patty's blog: http://www.pattywysong.com/

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A 2 Z: Acknowledgement and Acceptance

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I don’t blog often. I’m not the only blogger with this problem, so recently my friend Patty issued a challenge to her blogging friends called “From A 2 Z for U & Me.” The goal is to write one post a week with a letter of the alphabet as a idea generator. Obviously this week is A. (check out other A posts from the Linky tool on Patty's blog)

My fiction mind immediately thought of a fantasy short story about a young pregnant lady who lives in a culture that expects all first-born children to be given a name starting with A to honor the god of fertility and prosperity, Aath. This woman is learning about another god, whom her friend claims is the only True God. She is torn. If she goes against tradition and turns to this God then she and her baby could be shunned and face starvation, but if she honors the god Aath that turns out to be false, could the consequences be even worse?

I have the first page written and fully intended to have the whole thing finished by now, but alas, my fatigue is flaring at the most inopportune time, as usual. Having a muddled brain that feels doped up on sleep meds (even though it’s been weeks since I’ve had any) is hardly fertile ground to grow fiction.

However, even if I did have the story finished, I wouldn’t post it here. I’ve been trying to get some of my short stories published in some of the more well-known and well-paying children’s magazines like Cobblestone, Cricket, and Highlights. I’ve gotten several hand-written letters back with my rejection notices, saying that they loved the story and to please send in more—unpublished ones. So I think I will stop posting most of my stories online here or on FaithWriters before sending them in, and see if that helps my stories actually get accepted for publication. Sorry. ;-)

So that leaves me to think of another A theme for this week. Two words that keep coming to mind are acceptance and acknowledgement. I long ago accepted the fact that I’ll have serious health issues the rest of my life. But I’ve had this nagging feeling that something more is wrong than “just” the diagnoses I currently have. I’ve seen several specialists recently and they all agree that I have particularly severe symptoms, but none have any idea why. Maybe it’s just that my body is sensitive, but maybe it is something mysterious hiding in the background.

I’ve been analyzing (another a word!) why it’s important to me to keep digging. Of course there is the obvious reason that if the doctors know exactly what is going on, then they are that much better equipped to help me. But when it comes down to it, most of the things I’m wondering about are not much more easily treated than what I have already.

I’ve been wondering how much my desire for other people’s acknowledgement and acceptance of my limitations plays into this. If I have a disease name that the general public knows is very disabling, then when I say what I have then there is easy acceptance and understanding of my limitations. As it is, my main disease of Fibromyalgia affects everyone so differently that those who have heard of it may have a completely different idea of what it means than how it actually affects my body, and the other people haven’t ever heard of it anyway.

I do think that is only a small part of my desire to keep investigating my body’s dysfunctions, and the most important reason is to be accurately treating what I really have, but it has made me think. How often do we humans look for acknowledgement or acceptance in odd places? The name given my disease and the response that triggers from others does not change what my body is experiencing. The fact that someone else looks at me and sees a normal-looking lady and perhaps sees me do an activity in which I seem to function fine does not mean that I’m not experiencing pain or fatigue, or that even if I function fine then, that I won’t crash for three days after the event.

In the same way, if someone looks at us and thinks we aren’t good enough, or aren’t pretty enough, or aren’t ______ (fill in the blank with whatever inadequacy you struggle with), does it change anything? Our feelings, if we let it, but it does not change who we are inside. That brings two important truths.

The first is that the only acknowledgement and acceptance that really matters is what we get from God. He created us. He knows every weakness, every limitation, every strength, and every skill better than we know it ourselves. And even with that knowledge, He accepts us. He loves and cares about each detail of our lives, about each up and down, each frustration and thrill no matter how minor or major. That is the truth we hang onto, no matter how any misunderstanding person treats us in this world.

The second important thing is that we as Christians should give that acceptance and care to each other. Yes, be brave enough to gently point out sins, but care enough to really know and support each other. Care enough to love no matter what flawed package the other comes wrapped in. Take the time to listen and try to understand what day to day life is like for our brothers and sisters, so that we can support, pray for, and encourage them that much more effectively.

I’m so very grateful to be surrounded by so many people who do put this into practice. As I mentioned in my last post, the church I’ve been at for the last year is amazing, and so often everyone seems to know just what to say and just how to pray for me. That’s because they’ve cared enough to get to know me, and I’ve opened up to let them, and to give support in return. My family and friends are also very supportive.

I will continue to look for answers to my health, because right now I feel that’s being a good steward of my body. On June 9th I have an MRI to help rule out MS. I finally have a primary care doctor, neurologist, and cardiologist who do care and are trying, even if they don’t have all the answers. But I will not look to diagnoses labels for a path to acceptance and understanding from those around me. I don’t need it for that. I already have that in perfect form from my Heavenly Father, and in imperfect but still good form from my family and friends.

And that’s plenty enough.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Talents for the Lord

A few days ago I was chatting with my nieces and mentioned that I'd written a rough draft of a novel, and was working on editing and rewriting the next draft.

Niece 1: You're allowed to do that?
Me: Yes, all books that have ever been published have been re-written by the author many, many times. I'll bet a lot of books have been rewritten ten times!
Niece 2: Wow, I don't think I'd ever want to be a writer, then.

Her sentiments echoed what I've been thinking for several weeks. Life would be much easier if I wasn't a writer. I could go to work, interpreting a few hours a week, drag myself home, and just be able to rest. No concerns about having enough energy to think of a clever string of words, finding enough brain power to figure out how good or bad an older set of words were....

Yet, I can't stop writing. For short times when I'm especially sick or busy, yes, but the fact remains that God made me a writer. That's part of who I am, deep inside my soul. And a certain energy and satisfaction beyond anything else is created when I do what God has called me and given me the talent to do.

My interpreting work schedule this term has me in more pain than usual, but I've still managed to get a bit done on my writing projects. I tried Script Frenzy this month—trying to write 100 pages of a script in April. I didn't make the goal, only got 49 pages written, but now have a half a screenplay done. Sign Your Love is about a college girl who suddenly finds out she is the only living relative of a half sister she didn't know existed. She must decide whether to take custody of a child who is only six years old—and deaf.

We've also started the writing process on the next Peculiar People book, the orphan plane project. The story is a twist on the real-life orphan trains in the 1800s who sent children from the inner-cities out west, in hopes they'd find a better chance at life. Our book is set in the future and the children are being sent to live on a space station. We have fifteen contributing authors from four different countries. I'm excited to add an additional feature to this book—illustrations! I have about seven artists who will be doing a black and white drawing for each story.

As far as non-writing news goes, last week my church had a women's event with a "Bride of Christ" theme. One of the activities was having a bunch of the young ladies model the older women's wedding dresses. A few months ago one of my grandma's friends called to ask me to model her vintage dress. At her wedding, she wore my Grandma Wiley's veil and my great-aunt was one of the bridesmaids. It was special to be a part of that bit of history. The dress is about sixty-five-years old and was originally a pure white. Though it's hard to tell in this picture, it's now aged to a lovely deep champagne color.

I began attending this church, Evergreen Bible Church, almost a year ago now. At first I was only there temporarily, to fill in for an interpreter who was in the hospital. But I'd been between ministries at my former church and fell in love with this church, so felt the Lord encouraging me to stay. The people are very supportive—not just "Sunday friends" but people who care all during the week. Pastor Toby always takes time to see how I'm doing and feels like "my pastor." It's also a blessing to be able to use my skills in the church's Deaf Ministry. We have a few Deaf people attending, and hope the Lord will grow it more. One thing I especially love is that this isn't a ministry the church decided to start one day, but is something the Lord very clearly started, when a Deaf woman began attending the church before an interpreted service had even been set up.

A couple months ago I had the honor of sharing my testimony with the church about God getting me through the interpreting program despite all my physical limitations making it humanly impossible. Normally I feel comfortable on the stage speaking, but for some reason I was particularly nervous. Perhaps because it was such a personal topic. You can watch my testimony on this YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldVYYaBIau0