|Posted by ruthsmithmeyer-com on January 13, 2015 at 2:55 PM||comments (1)|
Anticipation—a new year—standing on the tip of your toes, leaning forward to peer into the uture to see what will happen—does that sound like how you feel at the beginning of 2015?
Thanks to my wonderful children, that describes some of the emotions I have experienced in the past two months. When Birthday #75 rolled around in November, they surprised me by having most of both parts of our blended family come to our church service one morning
then provided a nice meal that we could eat together. With a whole afternoon of relaxed visiting, It warmed my heart that they knew so well what was important to me. However, they informed me that such a milestone was too big to celebrate in one day. They told me that once a month for the whole next year, they were going to do something special for or with me.
My family has already been very supportive of the writing and publishing of my autobiography, Out of the Ordinary. They have given me assistance and promised encouragement to promote it when it comes out in March. But they said their planning goes beyond that.
How nice! I thought I’d just sit back, relax and let it all happen as it came. The first surprise was in December when several of the family took Paul and I to a presentation of the Messiah by London Pro Musica and Orchestra London. St. Paul’s is a wonderful place even though not quite as elegant as Massey Hall where we used to go to hear that wonderful oratory each year when we lived closer. However itthe Messiah was beautifully presented and the words and music, as always, transported my soul to the very gates of heaven. For days, my spirit was lifted and thrilled and I guess it was then I started to lean forward wondering, if my children started out with that, what was coming next?
They’ve told me that they talked over and brainstormed to think what might be on my bucket list. What, I wondered, might they think would be on my list of things I’d still like to accomplish? Would their ideas be the same as mine? Or would they miss the mark and I’d have to try to look pleased?
Just today I learned about January’s gift. When the children were small, we sang a lot and I shared with them the dream that maybe, someday, we could be the Smith Family Singers. The idea seemed to be attractive only to me.
Guess what they told me today? I am to pick out five favourite songs, for they have arranged for an accompanist and for us to get together and be recorded singing those songs! I will then be given a CD so I can continue enjoying the sound of our voices in harmony.
I think they’re on the right track and I feel sure that I won’t have to fake my reactions! What a delight to know that they know me so well and are putting so much effort into pleasing me. I know it stems from their love and I feel so blessed.
That’s why I’m on my toes, leaning forward into the year with anticipation! You can be sure I probably will write about it too!
|Posted by ruthsmithmeyer-com on December 11, 2014 at 8:55 PM||comments (0)|
Writing is a lot like pregnancy and giving birth then watching your child grow.
If you are a parent, you can probably remember when, the time of waiting for the “idea” to get big enough to become actual reality, then after months of carrying the precious little bundle around, watching that first turn from tummy to back, finally sitting without needing a cushion behind the back, learning to crawl with a distinctive move— then your baby took the first step. Granted, it was probably a wobbly, uncertain move from one adult hand to the other, or from one chair to the other. It may have ended with a sudden plop to the floor, but eventually the child learned the freedom and those first days of the new way to get around, was spent walking and walking and walking. You as a parent marveled the independence you saw develop right before your eyes.
Years ago, after having been accused that I remembered too many negative things from my childhood, I began recording my early memories. Those incidents others thought of as negative, I saw only as difficult times when I learned one of life’s lessons, so I recorded those as well. I kept adding to the account as new things came to mind. When I finally acquired a computer, I transferred those memories into a file. Now, adding incidents into the proper time-line became easier. After thirty or so years of this sporadic activity, my children began to urge me to flesh out the narrative with more detail and personal sentiment and make it into a book they could keep and enjoy.
Working on one chapter of my life coincided with my turn to read a piece of writing at our local writer’s group, so I decided to share it with them. Many of them expressed delight with the story and their desire to hear more. When I told them this book was for my family, they insisted that a wider audience would appreciate it.
Suddenly my “baby” took on a different demeanor. I gave it a name, nurtured it along, carrying it with me wherever I went. I fed it with more information, with greater emotion and honest feeling—recognizing truths I hadn’t clearly seen before. I watched as it began to “sit,” on its own merits. The turn-overs and crawling moves happened when I shared small bits in short articles or in my speaking engagements.
A few weeks ago, it took its wobbly first steps to the welcoming hand of an editor. When it gets daring enough to come back to me, I shall do what I can to send it on its way to the publisher, my life story, Out of the Ordinary. Like a mother with her child, I will have some trepidation, wondering if there will be falls and scrapes, but also as a good mother, I will attempt to free it to be who it was meant to be, and hope that it will touch others' lives with joy, with greater understanding of themselves and with courage to share their own life stories and leaning.
Those are the chances you take when you’re a mother—or a writer.
|Posted by ruthsmithmeyer-com on March 24, 2014 at 8:15 PM||comments (6)|
This is the last of the series in Ruth Snyder’s blog hops on writing.( see http://new.inlinkz.com/luwpview.php?id=386505) What a lot of angles we’ve been privileged to absorb as we’ve heard from different writers on six topics.
This one is to be on Works in Progress. UFOs might be another term that could be applied. (Un-Finished Objectives.) There are several I could tell you about, but I will restrict it to two that have claimed quite a bit of work and time, but haven’t quite made it to the publisher. I’m including possible cover photos just to inspire myself and perhaps you too. They may change several times before the books are published.
Out of the Ordinary
takes up much of my writing time these days.
It sometimes takes others to suggest that our own stories would be worth telling. We all grow up with a familiarity to what our life is like—it seems like the norm, because it’s the life we know. There were times in my younger years when I was conscious of being different than many in our community. Sometimes that left me with feelings of envy or wishful thinking, in other situations I recognized the value of having different standards or beliefs. Sometimes I felt odd because of how God made me, sometimes I felt loathe to tell others of my feelings. When I began to share more freely, I often was told, “You should write about that.” Over the years I have kept a file of memories hoping to do something with them. When my children began to beg me to get at it, I began to take it seriously.
Being born into a fairly conservative Mennonite family automatically makes a child a little out of the ordinary, but that is only part of my story. The struggle to come to maturity in a world where my abilities didn’t fit with the culture in which I was raised, the differences in my physical make-up that were not visible to others but never-the-less adversely affected me, my search for God’s direction in my life as I took a broader view, the painful journey when my marriage seemed at an end, the death of my 63 year-old husband and my subsequent hard-to-believe re-marriage six years later are all experiences that although others may have shared, are unique to my journey. Some years ago, I learned that sharing such experiences, can both clarify my own thinking and others may learn and be encouraged in their own passages.
Although the writing flows well as I record my memories, it is possibly one of the more difficult writing tasks I have attempted. The difficulty is in disengaging myself enough to do the kind of editing and arranging that must be done if I want to make if available to others.
is the other project that has been in the making for a long time.
Over the years, serving as worship leader and on the worship committee of our church, I became more and more convinced that the role of the worship leader can have a great impact on the effectiveness of the worship servoceI have put together many dramatic readings, Scripture in the form of readers’ theatre, responsive readings, written calls to worship, prayers for different occasions and topics, and other parts of worship. When people began to ask if they could borrow some of my writings, I thought of putting them in a book to make them more readily available. I’ve worked at it for a long time, trying to figure out the way to compile it to make it most readily available to those searching for such material. I have divided it into sections with a short introduction to each part of the service and its importance. Resources for that part follow, broken down to topics or seasons of the church year. I’m still trying to find a way to cross-reference so other parts of the service for a given topic are easy to find.
A year ago, at our local church, I tested the teaching contents of my hoped-for book in two Friday evening/Saturday morning workshops for Worship Leaders and those interested in doing so. The power-point presentation was followed by practicing effective scripture reading then video-taped sessions of the participants reading scripture. The participants were also given time to create other parts of a service. It was a fun and inspiring time together, with several new people assisting in subsequent services.
Those workshops renewed my enthusiasm to get the book put together. In this electronic age, I think it would be most helpful to have much of the content available on the internet. That will stretch my abilities again. But as a writer, that is a challenge that excites me.
Shh-hh! Don’t tell anyone, but when I look at my age, I realize that these projects can’t take as much time from here on as they have taken so far, or they won’t get done. Guess I’m just going to have to learn to stick to a schedule and keep my nose to the grindstone.
|Posted by ruthsmithmeyer-com on March 9, 2014 at 9:10 PM||comments (7)|
This is the 5th in a series of blogs for Ruth Snyder’s Blog Hop. You can see the others at http://ruthlsnyder.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/my-favourite-genre/
To a dyed-in-the-wool reader, who even read the dictionary with enthusiasm, the question “What is your favorite genre?” poses an insoluble quandary. Which to choose?
As an early teen, I liked good fiction and learned a lot about life and life choices through those imaginary characters who displayed either traits I admired and wanted to follow or those I knew weren’t good role models and therefore didn’t want to emulate. Even the Heidi series,the much maligned Pollyanna, the Anne of Green Gables series, Little Women and Little Men by Louise May Alcott taught me perseverance and the desire to make the best of the situations I encountered. It was the latter that inspired us to dub different areas of our woods, names like Violet Vale and Lady Slipper Glen. Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Mowgli by Rudyard Kipling were captivating for their exotic appeal.
I learned a lot from different eras and different cultures through fiction. I found historical novels an easy way to acquire the facts and aura of times past—much more pleasurable than the history lessons in school where dates seemed to be the most important part of it all. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Les Miserable and The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, Katherine by Anya Seton, Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee to name just a few.
The Robe and the Big Fisherman by Lloyd C. Douglas were among the first Biblical fiction I read, The Red Tent by Anita Diament and Come to Me by Laura Davis among the latest with many more in between.
It is said we learn from our mistakes, but I like to think I learned from mistakes made by those fictional people so that I didn’t have to make quite as many of my own. I still love good fiction for many of the same reasons.
I soon discovered biographies and autobiographies. Those were even more fascinating for they were real people. The honesty of those stories helped me to candidly look at myself—to admit my weaknesses and areas needing growth, and discover, too, my strengths. A Man Named Peter , To Live Again, Something More and Beyond Ourselves by Catherine Marshall, Shadow of the Almighty by Elisabeth Elliot changed my life. Although I can’t recall all the titles any more, books about David Brainerd, William Carey, George Grenfell, Adoniram Judson, David Livingstone, Mary Slessor, Hudson Taylor inspired me to make the most of my life, to utilize my assets and broadened my horizons. The stories about George Washington Carver and Booker T Washington also stirred and stimulated me. In these authentic accounts I again met people of all ages, of different eras, various nationalities, vocations and experiences. Many of them inspired me to stretch my boundaries and try more than I might have tried without.
Many of those books changed my life and continue to as I read more contemporary biographies and autobiographies of people expending their lives for the good of others and in service to God and their fellow human beings.
The longer I think about it, the more titles I recall, but I vividly remember the life lessons I’ve learned through the books I’ve read and the difference they have made in my understanding of people—those who are much like me and those much different from my own experience.
Probably the best gift all that reading has given me is an open heart and mind to whoever I meet, no matter who they are, where they come from, how they look or act, whether they are celebrities or people who live in the streets, I always wonder what brought them to the present station or circumstance in life. I’d like to know their stories.
I’d love to hear from you what books have influenced your lives.
It stands to reason that with a varied taste in reading, my writing follows suit. I really didn't have any intention on starting out with a novel, but my first published books turned out to be that genre. Next came a children's book and now I'm working on a memoir and worship leader's guide with prayers, calls to worship, dramatic readings and such. Who knows what other genres may be persued if God continues to give me life and mental health and abilities?
|Posted by ruthsmithmeyer-com on February 24, 2014 at 4:10 PM||comments (4)|
Here is the next subject of Ruth Snyder's blog hop. Go to her site to read the recommendations of other authors.
You want to write? You have the inner urge to record the thoughts that burst into your brain like the sun popping from behind a cloud? You dream of seeing those thoughts in print where others can read and be inspired? What do you have to do to make your dream come true?
Much as I wish, I don’t have all the answers. But I can give you a few hints.
• Start! Yes, just start. Grab a pen or pencil and paper—or if you’ve been propelled into the technical world, your lap-top, ipad or any of those easy-breezy new implements.
• Write what comes to mind in whatever form it may want to take. Although I enjoyed my writing assignments in elementary/public school, I got my first writing experience in composing letters to pen-pals—thirty-six of them as a teenager—and I wrote to every one of them at least once a month. They weren’t just one-page notes, either. Those persevering pen pals had seven or eight pages of observations and details of my life and to peruse each month. Composing a letter that people actually want to read and look forward to, takes practice and forethought. I enjoyed thinking What words can I use so that the reader will feel included in the scene I’m describing? Letters to the editor are another place you to express opinions and voice your values.
• When you’re ready to spread your wings in a larger scene, give your writing a little more scrutiny. Again, write what comes to you. Get it on paper. Use the “Hot Pen” method I’ve mentioned before. Don’t worry about grammar or if you’re saying everything you need to say. You can go back and add or change later, but for now get it out, let it flow. Your words may flow so freely it feels as though they were hardly from you, that God must have given you the words to write. That may be so, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can’t edit your work because he gave them to you. He may have inspired you, but you want to make sure that your writing conveys those thoughts in the very best way. He will be pleased rather than annoyed at the thought you put into it and the changes you make to improve the organization and flow. Go over it, editing as you go, changing words that don’t quite fit to something that says it better. (Use your thesaurus) Do the same for words that are repetitive. Most of us have a few favourite words that we use far too often. If they’re necessary find another to substitute, but often they’re not even needed. (One of mine is “some” You can’t imagine how often I used it in places I didn’t need it at all!)
• Get a trusted friend who is good at grammar and English to read it over and give suggestions. As the writer, you know what you were thinking. Another reader can tell you if you are clear or whether you need to explain more. They may be able to point out your favorite, over-used words. If you have them, do a word search and uncover all of them, deciding as you go whether to delete, change or leave as is.
• Good first opportunities may be newspaper reports or columns. If you belong to an organization looking for more members or community awareness, and live in an area that has a small-town weekly, they will often welcome an account of your activities. That may be good public relations for your home and school, your 4-H club, gardening club, womens group, weight-loss group or any number of such organizations. Again, don’t let it be a dry account of activities, but make it so interesting and descriptive that people will wish they could be part of it. My Keen-agers Korner about the activities at our Seniors Day Centre was read for miles around. Once when shopping in the city, a sales clerk, when she saw my address, said, “Oh that’s where the Keenagers are from!” I asked how she knew about them. “My parents live in your area, and I always read the local paper when I visit, because it sounds as though those seniors have a lot of fun. It almost makes me wish I was old enough to go.”
• There are avenues for small projects such as memoirs meant only for family members. That too, can be very satisfying for a writer and most certainly a gift to your offspring! Mixbook or something similar can include pictures and stories that will become an heirloom.
• A larger vista where you can spread your wings is magazine articles. Don’t aim for the biggest ones right away. Try smaller ones until you get the feel of it. Rejections shouldn’t discourage your desire to write. Even the best of authors experience or have experienced rejection Read the guidelines to make sure your writing fits the magazine. You’re not going to sell an article on the art of raising good horses in a magazine on family life—unless you artfully compare the horses to children or mates!
• If you want to write a book, you’ll need a good editor. That involves some cost, but a good editor can make a real difference in the success of the book.
o Choose a publisher that prints material like your writing.
o Send a query letter before you send your book. Many books are being written these days and publishing companies print only a small number each year. So you need to be prepared to wait.
o Probably one of the best ways is attend a writers’ conference like WRITE! Canada. There you will have opportunity to meet publishers, editors and agents personally. Meeting you face-to-face drastically improves your chance of getting their attention. If you show a sample of your writing and are passionate in telling them about the topic, they may even request you to send it to them.
o Another avenue is self-publishing, but you need to do a lot of research to understand exactly what they offer—what they will do for you and what is your responsibility. Find someone who has gone that route and inquire about what questions you need to ask, and how satisfied they were with the process. Word Alive in Winnipeg also has a distributing arm which is helpful. I had good success with them, but if I had it to do all over again, I would ask even more questions. I would repeat back to them, my understanding so that they could tell me if I heard it right.
• Enter contests. This can be a little intimidating, but very good experience. Most contests also will give you feedback telling you the strengths of your writing and where you can improve. Don’t let your feelings be hurt by losing—take those suggestions and weigh them, talk them over with other writers and try to incorporate them in your writing.
• It’s good to try for awards, but aim higher—aim for rewards. The rewards come when you write something which inspires another to overcome, to live their best or when your writing brings such enjoyment that your readers ask for more.
• Probably the best advice for anyone who wants to get serious about their writing is to find a writer’s group. At my first WRITE! Canada, I was so inspired and enthused and wanted to go home and get at it. However I recognized right away that having a few like-minded people would be a real benefit. At an after-meal pause when we were invited to share, I rose and asked if there were other writers in my area who would like such a group. One dear lady came to me afterward and there were a few others who expressed interest to her, so we began to meet monthly. Each time, two people read a story, poem or part of a book they have or are writing. The readers bring enough copies for everyone in the group. We have critique guidelines. Some work alone and others pair up to critique those writings. The next meeting we present the critiques. At first it felt scary to hear all the suggestions for changing the face of our “babies,” but soon realized how helpful it was to improve our writing. Now we all look forward to hearing what the others have to offer. We know that we still are in charge. We need to take only those suggestions that seem right to us. I dare to say that our reader’s group and the critiques that we receive there is probably why many of our members have been published.
So get started, take every opportunity to practice and hone your art to the finest of which you are capable. Try new avenues, share however you can. Keep going and let the joy of writing fill your life. You can do it!
|Posted by ruthsmithmeyer-com on February 11, 2014 at 12:30 AM||comments (6)|
This is another blog in the series under Ruth Snyder's Blog Hop:
Ellie Schwartz enters the story of Not Easily Broken as a pink-cheeked, starry-eyed thirteen year-old getting the house ready for the visit of her sister Regina’s fiancé. A year later, her chestnut curls pinned up in an adult style, bedecked in a light, apple-green frock, and still starry-eyed, she acts as bridesmaid in her sister’s marriage to John Kurtz.
In the next seven years, Ellie matures into an enthusiastic, strong-minded young woman, and becomes engaged to be married to an equally ambitious young man. Her family has perceived that when she lifts her chin in the midst of a test or argument, that her stubbornness has been roused. They may as well sit back and watch her meet the challenge and solve the dilemma, for she will do it in her own way.
That’s when Ellie’s world brings sudden and drastic changes. That determination is confronted with a challenge that not many face. After the death of her sister in child birth, her parents order her to break her engagement to her beau and marry John Kurtz so that their two granddaughters will remain in the family. She is aghast at the thought and pleads for sanity. In the face of their unrelenting determination, there seems to be no alternative. Ellie realizes she has the choice of holding on to resentment and despair or accepting the challenge and making the most of it.
With heart-rending sadness, she breaks her engagement to Gerhard and with John’s acceptance to her parents plan, gradually sets her mind to make the marriage the best she can make it. She needs to learn simultaneously to let go of Gerhard, begin to appreciate then tentatively love John, all the while adjusting to being mother to her two nieces. She learns to lean on God and trust him to bring into being a love of their own. More than once, when her heart fills with despair, she can be seen taking a deep breath, raising her chin and proceeding with determination. Her spirit still retains the enthusiasm and strength of character but she also becomes increasingly gentle and joyful. A new son is born and adds a new perspective to the marriage of Ellie and John.
Just when life’s circumstances become settled and relaxed, Ellie and her family are thrown into another agonizing catastrophe that brings more trial and adversity than Ellie thinks she can handle. Living with her through this new anguish, one is amazed at the clarity of her purpose in supporting her children while finding her own way through yet another life-changing challenge. With their mother’s shining example, the girls mature into responsible young women, her son finds his way. Ellie herself opens her life and heart to new joys.
Ellie certainly lives a life that can be an example to others going through difficulties life throws at them, and find a way to make stumbling blocks into stepping stones.
|Posted by ruthsmithmeyer-com on January 26, 2014 at 9:25 PM||comments (0)|
The last two blogs are as part of a bloghop organized by Ruth Snyder http//ruthlsnyder.com. You will find a variety of writing topics by writers from different parts of the world. I'm still learning about linking up with other sites, but if you check out Ruth's site, you'll find an interesting array of ideas.
|Posted by ruthsmithmeyer-com on January 26, 2014 at 8:35 PM||comments (4)|
Writing! What tools do I, as a writer, use? Contemplating this question, I first thought of a potter, with a lump of clay. The basic ingredients of a story, but shapeless, without form—that’s often how a story starts—just that basic idea plopped in the middle of the wheel in some dark recesses of my brain. Then the wheel starts turning and as it gains speed the power of the movement is transferred to that lump of clay and the Hands that guide me begin to be form it into a recognizable shape of either utility or beauty and perhaps some of both. Unlike an ordinary piece of clay, the story begins to become a living, breathing thing.
Before the process can start, I need to budget my time—make some definite time commitment. Taking a week at a time at a cottage, in a motel room or house-sitting for friends can speed the process immeasurably. When that is impossible, it’s helpful to shut off my telephone and close my door. A bit of music or white noise in the background, for me, is a necessary tool as well. My computer really gets the wheel turning, the idea to take form. When my hands rest on the keys, it seems as though the words automatically start seeping out through my fingers. That’s when it’s good to use the hot-pen method. Keep writing, don’t pay too much attention to grammar or filling in descriptions—get the story told. If I have to leave it for a time, I always read over the last several chapters to get back into the swing before resuming. If I’m unsure of a time period or sequence of events, I often stop awhile to look up the information I need, but then get right back at it. My thesaurus and dictionary are never far from my right hand even in this initial stage. Bible Gateway is another shaping tool that I use to contour my writing.
When the first draft is completed, it’s time for the tools in the subtitle. Reading the story over I see how it flows, but have my imaginary medical assistant ready to hand me the scalpel to cut out the unnecessary parts, (and that can cause excruciating pain) or to move parts around to where they fit better.
I need that scalpel to cut out my favorite, over-used words. In my first novel, I must have cut out at least a hundred repetitions of “some.” It seems every other object or emotion I mentioned was preceded by “some.”
I need clamps to keep the cuts from bleeding too much into other parts of the story, or to shut off vital parts until they can be rerouted. I’m far too apt to want to tell the whole story right away instead of letting it develop throughout—giving the outcome that happened much later, thus spoiling the anticipation and element of surprise.
Of course I need sutures to stitch together the resituated parts, fill in descriptions and emotions, and give voice to the parts where I assume people know what I am thinking. I also need to sew up the sections so they don’t carry on and on with unimportant drivel. Sometimes, like many weaver of words, I am tempted to add more details when the story really is done.
These are just some of the tools I use in writing. There are probably many more but they’ll have to wait until another blog, when something I am doing brings them to mind.
|Posted by ruthsmithmeyer-com on January 13, 2014 at 9:15 AM||comments (11)|
When I was in school I found it exciting at exam time, to be handed a few pages of foolscap, and a list of questions to test my retention of the knowledge that had been imparted to me in the most recent school term. I don’t even know if they have foolscap any more, but that extra-long sheet of paper, was exhilarating to me. Even in its emptiness, it was full of challenging possibilities.
The beginning of another year is like a new page. Endless possibilities present themselves. As a writer, I am looking forward to fulfilling some goals. Some of my aims are brought forward from last year, for my targets were thwarted by my husband’s unexpected medical problems which didn’t allow for a concentrated writing project. Oh, I did write shorter items, but my main objective wasn’t met.
This year, having had good news about the effectiveness of the new cancer drug my husband has been on, and the difference it has made in his overall feelings of well-being, I am hopeful that I can realize my goal—writing the story of my life.
For some years, I have been keeping a file on my memories. Of course they don’t come in a neatly ordered sequence, but the computer has made it easy to enter little slices as they come to me, into their approximate space on my time line. The recollection has brought joy to my days, often growth and new understanding, and at times healing as I write them into my growing file. After the publication of my novels, my family has been encouraging me to put those into a book. That idea gave me the courage to share little vignettes with my writing group. Their response and eagerness to hear, read and critique more of them, gave me extra impetus to really work on it.
For some time I’ve been wrestling with what should be the focus of my book. There are various possibilities.
• A collection of short stories not necessarily with connections to the one before or one after and perhaps no logical progression from one to the next.
• An account of my struggle to feel valued as a woman even if my strengths were more fitting for a male in the culture in which I grew up.
• A narrative about my faith journey from a conservative Mennonite upbringing to a different understanding of Christian life.
• The experiences as a child and on into adulthood that made me feel different and not neatly fitting into the role that was expected of me.
• For awhile, I thought of Out of the Ordinary as a title and therefore as a focus.
• Now I’m wavering between that and Stepping Stones focusing on using the difficulties, the differences, the hurting times,(the stumbling blocks) as stepping stones.
If I had time, I could perhaps make several books out of the different ages and stages of my life, but realistically my time is limited. Considering that it has taken me eight years since my last big project to get this book written, I’d better try to combine much of it in one book.
I know that I want to share these memories and life experiences with my children and grandchildren, but I also want to write it for a wider audience so that hopefully others may see themselves in some of my struggles and perhaps identify with me enough that the reading could inspire them, and encourage them to use their personal stumbling blocks as stepping stones.
In the past week, I’ve been reading and re-reading, moving things around and writing additional memories. Those are the beginning steps toward the goal of publishing by the end of the year—hopefully in time for Christmas.
|Posted by ruthsmithmeyer-com on December 19, 2013 at 10:10 AM||comments (0)|
I was moved to tears this morning. We were reading Galatians 4:1-7 as recommended by REJOICE!, our daily devotional magazine. It talks about the laws that the Jewish people followed thinking that could save them. (We too are apt to follow and try to do those things that we think will earn us points with God. A flash-back reminded me of a time in my life when I was bound by that ritual.)
“But when the right time came, the time God decided on,” says verse 4, “he sent his Son, born of a woman, born as a Jew, to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so he could adopt us as his very own sons.” (My heart leapt in gladness and glowed with warmth at God’s mercy.)
The scripture continues in verse 6, “And because we are his sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, so now we can rightly speak of God as our dear Father.” Wow! If that isn’t grace, I don’t know what is! My heart was already full of gratitude, saying “Oh my Father, my dear Father!”
Then I read Leonard Beechy’s comments on the scripture. He described Rembrandt’s painting The Return of the Prodigal Son, which captures the moment the son throws himself on his father’s mercy and is ready to tell him he is no longer worthy to be called his son, but the father is so caught up in finally having his son back, his eyes shut, holding his son closely to his heart. Beechy says the father is “completely absorbed in the embrace of his precious son.”
That moved my heart too, but the next sentence really got to me. “We too are inclined to approach God with our failings and frailties as though we were slaves ready to scrape, beg, and bargain.” That’s when tears sprang to my eyes and choked me up so I could hardly continue reading.
Yes, God has asked us to confess our sins to keep our lives clear of debris and to free us to live victorious and able to serve with joy. How often, though, when I confess a failure in my life, do I remember all those other times I have failed or done wrong, and I wonder if God isn’t tired of hearing me come again, with my dysfunction and yet another confession. I can’t believe that God wouldn’t remember all those times. But Beechy says, “God will have none of it. Before we can even begin, God gathers us into loving arms, receiving us completely and joyfully. Each time we come, God has prepared for the meeting.”
I too often forget that Jesus came, lived, died and rose again so that I can be cleansed from “all unrighteousness.” My human mind can’t conceive the fact that if I confess my sin, it is wiped away. God can no longer see it. He sees only the blood-washed me; the cleansed and made pure me. He sees me only as his beloved child, his heart glad that I’ve come once more into his embrace. Beechy says, “In the eternal Now of the fullness of time, you come into God’s presence as nothing less than God’s beloved child, eternally welcomed, eternally embraced.”
At this time of year, when we remember Jesus’ coming to earth as a babe in a lowly manger, if we stop in our busy, frantic rush, we can see all that he gave up to live as a human among humans. We need to remember the purpose for which he came. To forget that, is like ignoring a precious gift someone has given us—forgetting to open it, or opening it and setting it aside, never thanking the giver. It’s an open affront to a gracious giver.
Rather, let us bring joy to a loving Father, coming into his open arms and leaning against his breast. Let us come home to that eternal welcome and embrace and soak up the love he’s so ready to give us. Joy to the world, the Lord is come!