Monday, November 26, 2007

Blogs are Like Notebooks

When artist Gail Nadeau cared for her mother (who was descending into dementia), Gail kept a notebook. She drew and painted and wrote. She molded something from the experience even as the experience itself shaped her.

She used the simple power of the notebook, to accept and process life's realities.

Like Gail, I keep notebooks. I have a general one, for the miscellaneous pieces of my life. I have one just for my experience in the outdoor Secret Place. I have a purple prayer notebook that could get more use.

And then I have blogs. Approximately three of them (I'll explain this number sometime soon, for those of you who might contend otherwise.)

Three blogs. Seedlings. Green Inventions Central, on stewardship and health. And now a new one, that I hope will get more use than the traditional notebook sitting on my counter... Love Notes to Yahweh, a blog on prayer and devotion.

When I broke the news to my spouse, about the new blog, he shook his head in mock woe. "You're addicted."

"No," I said. "Blogs are like notebooks."

It is true that blogs can be addictive. But blogs can also be notebooks. Places to accept and process life's realities, in community.

(Side note on this... I currently have the comments turned on at Love Notes to Yahweh, but I'm struggling with the question of whether this is the best choice— both because of the blog's content and time management issues. Creative recommendations, Anyone?)

The Notebook Series photo by Gail Nadeau. Used (again) by permission. Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Naming It

Field Grass


That was the name of the murdered child in Toni Morrison's disturbing novel Beloved. Of course, there's great irony in the name. Is a child, murdered by her mother to save her from enslavement, truly beloved? On the other hand, isn't it a strangely brave act of love to put that child away from worldly danger? These odd, contradictory thoughts come together in the name: Beloved.

In the bible, names are also points of tension, irony, paradox. Gideon is called "mighty warrior" when he is nothing of the sort. Abraham is called "father of a multitude" while he is simply an old man without a son. Mary is hailed "blessed among women" when indeed she will watch her son die upon a tree (cursed, says Deuteronomy 21:23, is the man hung on a tree).

We each have names. Family names. God-given names. Maybe we are living in our names and they are making sense, or maybe there is tension, irony, and paradox.

What's your name and how is it feeling today?

Leaning Field Grass photo by J Barkat. Used by permission. Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.


LL's latest talk Beloved Child

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Charity Among the Thorns

Thorn Berry

Life is so hard. Beauty and thorns side by side. Sometimes inextricably linked.

Our beautiful friend Charity had to go into the hospital this morning, with a fever of 103 and a great deal of stomach pain. There may be an infection in her abdominal lining.

On morphine now, going through a CT scan...

Could you pray for her if you think of it? Pray for our beautiful friend, who is walking a hard path, through the thorns.

UPDATE, Nov 16:

This news about Charity (thank you, Shelly, for providing it)...

"Thanks for posting the prayer request. I know it means a lot to Char and she feels so comforted and loved...The CT scan showed some sort of fluid filled sac on/in the lining of the abdomen. They are thinking it is either an abscess or hematoma, but, it is a big pocket of infection. At this point, due to its location, they do not want to drain it. So, they have started Charity on IV antibiotics and she is on a morphine pump as she is in significant pain at this time."

UPDATE, Nov 18:

I talked to Charity today. She was remarkably spirited, promising me she's coming to Calvin this spring to get her copy of SC signed. I was overtaken by her optimism and by the sweet spirits of her mom and dad (mom answered the phone and fooled me with a Charity-sound-alike voice; dad sent his love because I guess he comes here sometimes now and has come to know me. I remarked to Charity that her illness has had the oddly blessed affect of joining people from around the nation, people who otherwise would never have known each other!)

It turns out that Charity has a staph infection in her bloodstream (though not the most virulent form of staph, which is good). Also, doctors are more convinced that the abdominal issue is an abscess. Tests run today should help solve the riddle.

GAME PLAN, Nov 18:

I know that some of you are quite concerned for our friend and want to know how to pray. Charity cherishes your prayers and only wishes she had more energy to thank everyone who has been so kind with gifts, help, phone calls, emails (she gets almost 30 calls per day and about 15 personal visits per day!)

If you wish to continue helping Charity with the blessing of your prayers, you'll now be able to find this post through the sidebar link "Concerns for prayer". I'll put updates here when she can't communicate with you herself (she keeps trying to do a post of her own, but she loses energy before she can manage to). Thanks, All, for your interest and encouragements.

UPDATE, Nov 19:

This, from Charity's friend Shelly: "FINALLY - GOOD NEWS!!!! Charity does NOT have a staph infection!!! (It's a weird, convoluted story with the end result being - no staph!). PRAISE THE LORD!!! She had a drain inserted today because the infection in her abdomen was not going away, so the drain will remain until the infection is cleared up. She will be in the hospital another day or two until they determine what the infection is and are able to put her on appropriate antibiotics for that. They have postponed radiation and chemo until the infection is cleared up. SO, something wonderful to be thankful for this Thanksgiving week."

UPDATE, Nov 21:

Thanks to Kelly, for this news about Charity: "hello everyone! i spoke with charity tonight and she should be headed to her mother's. She's still been dealing with nausea and she said she is on every possible medication she could possibly be on for that. She will start back up with chemo next thurs and friday. She was a little discouraged when i talked with her tonight and she said it would be okay for me to share this. She's having some difficulty with mental clarity, which has been challenging for her. It's been hard for her to remember details and we all know how much she LOVES details. She's been on a lot of medication, which makes her sleepy. She's been having pretty vivid dreams and having a hard time discerning what's a dream and what's reality. It's been challenging for her as well when the doctors come and give info because she's uncertain if she's remembering the right details. Please pray for mental clarity for her and patience in the process.

UPDATE, Nov 30

Thanks to Kelly for this little bit of good news... "Charity started her second round of chemo yesterday. She is tolerating it much better thus far because they have changed some things around with her medications, etc. That is a huge praise! They admitted her this time and will give her the chemo at a slower pace, so it will take longer this time. She should be finished receiving all the chemo around midnight tonight. Please continue to pray that she would tolerate it well and have minimal nausea. If all goes well, she should be headed back home saturday morning. I think she's experiencing a lot of relief today because physically she's feeling pretty well. Thanks everyone!"

UPDATE, Jan 30

This in from Kelly. Thank you! ...

"Charity will begin her 5th round of chemo tomorrow. She'll be in the hospital until saturday morning. Overall, she's done well with the treatments. Certainly she has her bad days, but has been able to work and do some of the "normal" things of life.

Initially, the doctor told her she would have 6 treatments total. Now he thinks he may have her do an additional 2 treatments. The doctor is actually very encouarged by her progress, but just wants to make sure to get all. Since she hasn't had a lot of adverse affects from the chemo (besides feeling crummy), he thinks it would be a good idea to do the extra treatments and that her body can handle it. However, he hasn't made the final decision as of yet. Please pray for wisdom for her doctor in whether or not she needs the 2 extra treatments and for charity to trust in the Lord regardless."

on LL's new prayer blog: Twice Given
here on Seedlings: Lament: a "virtual scrapbook" of love and support
Charity for Charity

Thorn photo by J Barkat. Used by permission.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Writing our Childhoods

Child on Path

Today I had to speak on a verse from Ephesians 5, "therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children." One of the stories I told in this talk, Beloved Child, gives a little more flesh to a hard incident I mention in Stone Crossings.

That's part of the beauty of writing for different times and places. We can move in at different angles, in different lights. We can take a story from our past and find new pieces to share.

So we find that Flannery O'Connor was right: anyone who survived his childhood has enough material to write about for a lifetime. We simply need to put a new twist on the old, old stories.

Child on the Path photo, by J Barkat. Used by permission. O'Connor reference is from Mystery and Manners, p.84. Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

What's a Writer to Do?

Yes, that's my book cover (as Marcus always says, shameless self promotion). Anyway the book has me thinking, "What's a writer to do?" Or, to put it another way, why in the world do we writers write?

When I was halfway through writing Stone Crossings, I almost gave up. I could no longer answer that question, of why I was writing. I was tired, disillusioned, wordless, ready to quit.

I even told God so. "I can't write! I can't teach!" I complained silently, as I opened the fridge to find some consolation. Upon going back to the dining room to absorb that consolation, I saw my bible, open to this passage from Isaiah 50:4...

The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens— wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.

What's a writer to do. Sustain others? Listen? Be teachable?

Howard Gardner, in his book Changing Minds, suggests that effective leaders should not be "reluctant to share their own visions, putting forth their own answers to fundamental questions about life, death, the meaning of the past, the prospects of the future." (p.108)

Somehow, I think this also applies to the writer. What's a writer to do? Sustain others, listen, be teachable, yes. And put forth answers to fundamental questions, yes. As for this writer, I hope the answers aren't just mine, but rather my Teacher's too.

Book cover photo, courtesy InterVarsity Press. Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Charity for Charity

Ivy Up Close

I like this photo of the ivy, up close. We feel differently when we lean in, look at the details, breathe within the same space as another living thing.

Tonight, I'm thinking we have a special chance to lean into the space of a friend. Just to be with her, through our gifts. See, I asked a simple question over on Charity's blog. I asked if she is missing work due to the chemotherapy treatments, and therefore missing pay. She graciously told me yes. A friend of hers who I've been in contact with behind the scenes also emailed me when she saw the comment. Here's what she said...

"We have taken action and set up the following... The account is called the Charity Singleton Fund at Forum Credit Union. The account # is 2010792. Donations can be mailed to PO Box 50738, Indianapolis, IN 46250-0738. Questions can be directed to Forum at 800.382.5414."

I did not ask Charity if we could come in close like this. I know her too well. So I'm just telling you. And trusting that in her sleepiness she'll forgive me for caring and for leaning in, and for letting you know how you can too, if you happen to feel compelled.

(Oh, and if you have more gifts of words, I know she's needing those right now too. Remember, I'll link your posts into the Lament post "scrapbook" if you share in this way.)

Ivy Up Close photo, by L.L. Barkat.


Carl's Take 10 For Charity
LL's Charity Among the Thorns (updates, for prayer)
LL's Lament:
a "virtual scrapbook" of love and support