Guilt and Going On

sunset kw

Key West – 2008

…my faith is so frail and flawed that I fall away over and over again from my God. There are times I feel that He has withdrawn from me, and I have often given Him cause…

So I struggle with my theology of failure and the Noes of God.

from The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle

These words resonate with me. But, I have to think that it isn’t that God has withdrawn from me but that I have withdrawn from Him. That’s not to say He doesn’t have reason to withdraw and leave me in the dust. There is no reason to keep pouring into me. But He does. He gives me more grace. And sometimes I don’t even realize it.

Grace comes to us at different stages in our spiritual pilgrimage, and it accomplishes different effects and evokes different responses. But it is all grace. – Steve Harper

I not only struggle with failure but with guilt and doubt. I long to know confidence. That No from God, His holding back of my confidence, must be for my good. I need to use that No to stay humble, but not to doubt. To draw near and to go on.

Death

crosswick

There never seems to be a right time to cry, and then emotion builds up, and suddenly something inappropriate will cause it to overflow, and there I am with tears uncontrollably welling up at the wrong time and in the wrong place. – from The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle

I am no expert on death. Yet, I have experienced it, as we all have or will. I know those stages of grief are real, yet vary from person to person. L’Engle’s words resonate with me.

When my dad died, I was sad, but assured in the knowledge that he knew the Lord. I was with my mother at his side when he died. Because of financial circumstances in my family, I went to work the following month, while still homeschooling our kids. Our life went full throttle, but about nine months later the sadness hit me. Hard. I struggled with depression, though I’m not sure I put a name on it back then.

About twelve years later, I lost a very dear friend. Debbie and I taught fourth grade together for three years, and remained friends even after I moved away from Winter Haven FL back to my hometown of Jacksonville. When she got cancer, I returned to visit her. Later, I flew to North Carolina to see her, where her parents were taking care of her. I returned there for her funeral. I would sometimes listen to her messages saved on my phone – she would leave me long, drawn out ones that my husband and I would laugh about. I fell apart the day they got erased by the guy at the Verizon store who reset my phone.

Last year, when my best friend, Cathy, died. I grieved, but kept pushing ahead. I knew she, too, was a believer. She was finished with the physical battle she’d fought long and hard against cancer. I made it my mission to keep in touch with her son. I cried. But, one night, about six months later, I lost it. I threw things in the kitchen and sobbed until I was spent.

Providentially, I have a husband who understands. He senses my moods (most of the time), he offers comfort, and he sometimes just lets me be. And he knows, when I throw things, I’m not throwing them at him.

Social Media and Letters and Such #1

crosswick

We may be a global village, but instant communication often isolates us from each other rather than uniting us.  –  from The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle

This profound statement was written in 1977! Now, nearly 40 years later, it is even more true. I have read several articles lately about the detriments of social media, and they are many. Thinking about some of what I’ve read, I ‘d like to break down what L’Engle had to say.

She refers to a global village, which is an oxymoron. A village brings to mind a community of people who are physically close as well as socially. People who know the needs of their neighbors and share many common bonds. Global pertains to the whole world, where, though we may know some of the needs and share interests, we can’t fully enter into the daily groove.  

Little did L’Engle know in 1977 how instant communication would become. How often have we (me included) spouted off on facebook, only to have to go back later and delete, though not always before the words have seared the eyes and hearts of a loved one. Or sent an email that couldn’t be deleted? At least when writing a letter, we have a little more time; time to tear it up before we lick that stamp.  

But, one may wonder, how does instant communication isolate us? It is a weapon, I think, driving us apart by comparison. All the happy vacation pictures, relationship updates, and check-ins. It’s just fuel for the fire of  “I want what they have”, and when we don’t have those things we distance ourselves.  At least that’s my take on it.

You can read other posts inspired by Madeleine L’Engle HERE

Biographical Picks

Looking back on 2016, I was surprised at the number of biographical books I’d read. Here is my list with a brief review of each.

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
Written after his wife died, I would recommend this to anyone grieving. Lewis is brutally honest with his feelings and gives a true window into the soul of someone who loved deeply.

The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle
This is the third out of four of her Crosswick Journals. It takes the reader through the liturgical year, addressing questions of faith and facing old age. Her writing style is lovely. Those of you who read A Wrinkle in Time as a kid must read this series, also.

The Confessions of St. Augustine
Parts were helpful, but some parts were difficult to comprehend. I had to read it very slowly. I enjoyed the biographical parts the best.

More Than Petticoats – Remarkable Georgia Women by Sara Martin
These stories were impressive, and one was of particular interest to me. That was the chapter on Leila Denmark. She is my cousin’s aunt (on her father’s side) and an exceptional woman. She was a pediatrician until the age of 103, and she lived to be 114.

One Writer’s Beginnings – Eudora Welty.
In this autobiography, Mississippi native Welty shares the details of her childhood and influences on her writing.

Dispatches From Pluto : Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta by Richard Grant
British-born Grant writes about the south in such a charming way. I really loved his narrative of life in the delta as seen by an outsider.

There is a lot of variety in these selections. Written from 400-2015, there is something here for everyone.

A Lasting Marriage

lasting

A Lasting Marriage

 

Today’s PAD prompt is Last______. I recently saw a “Spine” poem and remembered what fun they are to compose. The technique is to just choose books from your shelf and put the spines together to form a poem. Like this…

A Lasting Marriage

Once upon a time
Silver wedding
Everyone but thee and me
The thread that runs so true
Joy in the morning
Love and laughter
A circle of quiet
Cuttin’ up
A fine balance
We are still married
Smiles to go

Below I’ve listed all the authors in order.

Debbie Macomber
Maeve Binchy
Ogden Nash
Jesse Stuart
Betty Smith
Marjorie Holmes
Madeleine L’Engle
Craig Marberry
Rohinton Mistry
Garrison Keillor
Jerry Spinelli

 

 

Labor to Shine as Lights

 

wonw

In a book by Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, she quotes from Chekov’s letters: “You must once and for all give up being worried about successes and failures….It’s your duty to go on working steadily day by day, quite quietly, to be prepared …for failures.”

I needed this advice last year when I received a rejection via email. I had submitted three poems to a new literary magazine. I was really hoping that at least ONE might make it. I had two people look over 6-7poems and tell me which ones they thought were best. Evidently the judges weren’t in agreement.

I have since experienced several other “failures”. Is failure to be expected? Yes. Does it hurt? Sure. Is it easy to “…go on working steadily day by day, quite quietly…”? No, unless we stop and realize that this is what we are supposed to do. Life isn’t all about limelights and successes. Contrary to popular belief, spouted by coaches and educators, we can’t all be whatever we want to be. But, we can all labor to shine as lights in the world.

Do all things without complaining and disputing, 1 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.
Philippians 2:14-16

Say Yes to Life

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Madeleine L’Engle, an author of books for children as well as books for adults, once said, “A children’s book must be … a book that says yes to life.” I think this is a profound statement.

I’ve been working off and on for quite a while on a book. It is aimed at middle-grade readers and I want it to be a book that impacts for good.

I was dismayed last year  while I was browsing the covers of some books that had been put out on display for middle schoolers. Now, I don’t mean we have to stay away from every hard subject of life, but one book there was definitely not one that this age group of young teens should be reading. And it wasn’t just the topic, suicide, but it was other things I found as I flipped through the pages; things I don’t even want to write here.

I see no reason kids need to have gutter language and sexual innuendo paraded and applauded. They get enough of that on TV and in the locker room and behind the teacher’s back. Why can’t novels be something uplifting and something to produce better thoughts?

Here are some of my favorite books for middle-grade students:

  • The Watson’s Go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
  • Loser by Jerry Spinelli
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Okay for Now by Gary D.Schmidt
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
  • Gone From These Woods by Donny Bailey Seagraves
  • I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Treviño

What are your thoughts on reading material for middle school?