Category Archives: Writers Group 2010

‘Practice Getting Old’ Writers Group—03/31/10 #2 (unedited)

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Poem about wearing purple and red hats when we are old.

(Notes: We’ve no money for butter. Practice a little now so that when I am old people won’t be surprised.)

I’ve been practicing ‘being old’ for a long time. Even when I was in my mid teen years I was practicing being old. I loved to listen to Elevator Music. Not all the time but often enough that my best friend Debbie (who now calls herself Deb) shrugged and scoffed when she got in my car….’change the radio station, not that Elevator crap again.’

By 19 I was spending most evenings sitting with a stack of magazines clipping recipes and eating the appropriate snack with my mother (popcorn by the fire in winter, ice-cream with the breeze coming in the back window in the summer).

As a newly married woman I still behaved like an older woman. I wanted to picnic in the shade rather than hike to see a waterfall. Unfortunately I tamed the man I married who would have rather hiked than lounge and now he is 50+ pounds heavier reflecting our ‘old’ lifestyle.

I’ve been several years without hair color now. You have no idea how excited I was when I found a book entitled ‘Going Gray’. There really is something so freeing about not covering, hiding or pretending to be any younger than I really am.

There are several areas of my life that are only now open to the possibility of aging appropriately. This last year has been a battleground for me with the concept of productivity. But I am learning to live, breath and experience this life of love more spontaneously as I have stepped off of the treadmill of busy-ness. It’s a daily struggle. Every new pleasure I allow myself sparks a new vision of how this could turn into a job or a ministry. I can’t help but think of the other women that would love to experience the art classes, writers groups, girlfriend getaways to the beach, silent retreats, and walks in the neighborhood ending with a glass of wine on the back patio. Some days I don’t get a single chore done, unless you count feeding myself a chore.

I like getting old. I’ve been preparing for it my whole life. I’m glad I practiced these wonderous old lady practices gradually. It might have been a shock otherwise.

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‘Song of a Soul’ Writers Group—03/31/10 #1 (unedited)

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Prompt: Close your eyes, look at the whole of your life, think of moments you could see God’s hand at work.

Second Chapter of Acts was playing on my cd player. Not the chapter from the Bible, the singing group from the 70’s. Hymns sung by two women and a man in beautiful harmony, albeit very outdated. That’s the funny thing about Hymns though, they never really seem to be outdated.

I was home alone and cleaning the house so I turned the music up loud enough to hear from every corner of it’s 2400 square feet. I was sometimes singing along and sometimes focused on what I was doing and then all of a sudden I heard myself singing aloud familiar words but it seemed like I had never heard them before. “Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee, How great Thou art….”. I paused and looked out the second story window and saw the squirrel hole near the top of one of the large oak trees on our property there in suburban Austin, TX. Two young squirrels were scurring in and out in what appeared to be a game of hide and seek. The sky was light blue with a few fluffy clouds drifting by, the clouds always seemed to be going somewhere in Texas. And then I listened again to the words of that chorus in the context of the verses but more importantly in the context of my life.

I had become increasingly aware of my soul. The deepest part of me. The weekly counseling sessions, sometimes with my husband but often without him, were training me to examine what was going on inside me. Unfortunately most of what I found was quite discouraging. I found excruciating pain that I had tried to tell myself was just ‘the way life is’. Damage done by those who had vowed to love me, inadvertent harm by those who really did want to give me the best they had but found themselves unable to follow through. And the hardest to face; the self-inflicted wounds of a stubborn woman desperate to remain independent.

This counselor was the last attempt to make sense of my failed Christian experience. I couldn’t deny there was a God and it made sense that He sent His Son and left His written Word but it didn’t ‘work’ for me. I had failed to figure it out or obey the guidelines well enough to have that abundant life it professed to provide. I was just starting to have some hope that it wasn’t Christianity that had failed me but that I had really falsely understood the message. Months of facing all the ugly, negative truth were leading me to seeing how great the need really was to find and experience God. I was listening and singing along to the old Hymns cd largely to try to reinforce what I hoped was true but not sure I experienced.

That’s when those words hit me like a ton of bricks. ‘Then sings my SOUL….’ Not my voice, not my mind, not my heart even. My soul. The tears started to pour from my eyes. My soul had indeed been singing out to me, so faintly at times I didn’t hear it but my soul was trying to tell me but more importantly Him….How great Thou art. I couldn’t deny it, I couldn’t run from it. Maybe it’s true that all those years ago the prayers of a nine year old little girl opened the door to the Spirit of God and He was there deep inside all along. Maybe that explains the conviction and torment as I tried to go my own way. The people who crossed my path at just the right time to remind be there is hope, there is reason to persevere.

This moment alone in my house, on my knees picking up toys, eyes turned toward the sky was a turning point. He is there deep inside whispering through my groans, reminding me of His goodness and His presence, proclaiming His greatness. The moments are rare but they are little tastes of the banquet to come when I no longer have to walk by faith but will have full sight of the One who loves me and will never let me go.

‘Useful’ Writers Group 3/24/10 #2 (unedited)

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Writers Group—03/24/10

(Prompt ‘The Bridge Poem’ from Teaching with Fire’)

(Notes: Seeing, touching, both sides Sick of filling in all those gaps, Sick of ______, Being useful)

Why is it so important for me to useful? The ever-present demand in my soul to have a purpose compels me to find a way to live. Ever searching, ever wondering…is this enough? I’ll be 50 years old this June and I’m still wondering what I will be when I grow up.

There have been simpler times. Not easy but simple. I chose to be a Mother, I didn’t have any career aspirations or marketable skills I had to abandon to pour myself into that role so for many years ‘Mother’ was at the center of my identity. The only questions surrounding that stage of life had to do with balance. I understood the basic concept of adjusting the mask that drops from the airplane ceiling with oxygen flowing through it on my own face before trying to help anyone around me, so I took care of myself fairly well most of the time. But it was hard to venture out into the area of pleasure. As the children became more self-sufficient and I had more disposable time to decide how to use every day, the struggle grew. Do I do what I think I’m supposed to do or do what I want? Do I even know what I really want? So much of what I think I want stems from that damn compulsion to feel purposeful, to be useful.

Everywhere I turn there are people happy to tell me how I can best be useful to them or to the universe. Part of me wants to have someone answer this question for me and of course part of me wants to be free to decide myself. There’s the rub. I am free, in fact responsible to answer the question. No one else really knows. Those who have true integrity admit they are wrestling with the question for themselves, how could they possibly answer if for me.

Is it possible that what my soul deeply wants is to love? Not so much by being useful, for that so often leads to manipulating or ‘helping’ others do what I think they should do. If all the law and the prophets are wrapped up in Loving God and loving others is there a way to live that out without pressure? By faith I believe my deepest heart, now a heart of flesh not stone…made first in the Image of God but hardened through sin and then remade to be gradually conformed into the Image of Christ. If love is to guide me I’m sure there will be times of usefulness, but if usefulness is the goal it’s possible to live that out without love at all. I should know, I nearly killed my marriage and destroyed my son with that kind of goal.

Writers Group 3/24/10 #1 (unedited)

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I’m late to Writer’s Group so I will need to write about whatever comes to mind.

I made it. It would have been easy to just skip it (again). I’m not sure what goes on inside as I make decisions about how I spend my time. Something keeps me from fully pursuing what I want.

I want to write, I want to be a writer.  I don’t know why. I don’t even know if it’s a good thing. No, I do know it’s a good thing, I’m just not sure why I want it. The motive may not be good.

But that’s not what’s on my mind today. Today the question is…why do I sabotage the development of my own dreams? I could have checked to see if the address to the church was in my GPS before I raced out of the door. I didn’t have a choice about the two phone calls that interrupted my morning but I did mismanage the hours before that.

This is life. I’m not going to beat myself up for missing the first assignment. It takes a lot for me to get here and I’m here. And I’m writing. If I had stayed home I probably wouldn’t be writing. The facebook/twitter thing is definitely keeping me from accomplishing as much as I’d like to but even today I can see the positives from putting tidbits of my life online. My last status post was ‘I’m getting ready to go to my Writer’s Group in Menlo Park. Did I just admit that?!!!’ Funny thing, it’s been so long since I attended I even wrote the wrong city.

As I was loading the car a friend called after reading the status update. As she asked about the Writer’s Group I realized I had forgotten the name and address of where I was going. My dear friend got on her computer and looked up the address (after much verbal debate with myself – ‘is it Cupertino, Sunnyvale – NO – Mt. View! That’s it! Presbyterian Church in Mountain View.’   ‘I used to live near there I can tell you how to get there!’ she said. ‘That’s ok just give me the address, I’ll punch it into the GPS at the next stoplight that way I can get off of the phone.’  All I need is to get a ticket on top of everything else. I couldn’t find my blue tooth in the rush this morning. And it’s a good thing because I saw four Highway Patrol cars on 85 as I drove here. I’m also glad I didn’t speed – the cost of the ticket plus the time it would have taken to pull over and get it would have really discouraged me.

I’m really curious to hear what the first prompt was but I really am ok with having written my own story as I get back into the routine of writing – at least once a week.

Next step, get the lap top out – my hand hurts from writing.

Writers Group 2/17/10 #2 Photographs & Memories (unedited)

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Feb. 17 Prompt #2 “Begin with ‘All I have left is this photograph…'”

All I have left from my childhood are these photographs. My memory of the events are clouded by the stories that have been retold. I’m not sure if I actually remember them or if I remember the pictures in my mind I developed to illustrate the narratives I heard.

Memory is a funny thing. It’s not a perfect imprint of the events. Several family members tell the stories differently. Maybe if we all sat together and took turns telling the stories the way we remembered them we could piece together the truth.

At some level I suppose it doesn’t matter. The exact words that were spoken or the precise actions that were taken may not be as important as the way we felt with each other.

The photos can help with that. Looking at the photographs evoke a feeling. Flashes of memory come crashing in. Some stories are told with humor. We laugh now about how I walked home crossing a busy highway while my uncle took a nap. We even laugh about my tricycle adventure around the block and being escorted home by the fire truck.

But sometimes looking at the photos brings tears. Tears not so much about painful memories but sorry over the loss of childhood. The loss of innocence. There are even tears of sorrow over how much joy and pleasure was experienced in that childhood and yet it wasn’t enough. It doesn’t seem to matter now. It wasn’t enough to guarantee happiness for the next generation of children.

The more I think about it, the more I realize it isn’t true. The photographs are not the only thing left from that childhood. The child is still there deep inside, living in an adult body looking for the same things she searched for back then.

Writers Group 2/17/10 #1 ‘Phone Call Test’ (unedited)

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Feb. 17 Prompt #1 ” The phone is ringing, you answer and instantly know, this will not be a short conversation”

It was an ordinary day. She wasn’t thinking anything out of the ordinary. The day to day concerns of running the house consumed her. What will we have for lunch? Will I do chores or enjoy the peace and quiet while the baby takes his nap?

Then the phone rings, “Hello” with a distracted smile. “Hi, is this Lisa?” “Yes it is”, still smiling. “This is Matt….Matt Johnson.” Her mind races, the smile disappears. After all these years, why is he calling? she wonders. “How are you?”  “Good, good…how about you?” “Ok….”

Breathe Lisa…just relax and breathe. Don’t assume the worst. Maybe he has important news about a mutual friend from college. There must be a logical reason he is calling.

After briefly catching up on the last twenty years, the conversation turns more personal. “I still think about you all the time” he says testing the waters. Even in the confusion and stress of this surprise phone call she knows that is ridiculous. They only dated a few months and the relationship was so shallow, dominated by physical attraction and youthful idealism. “Does your wife know you are calling me?” “No.”

It’s stirring and flattering to know he has been remembering her fondly but the truth….she must cling to the truth. “Well it was great hearing how God has been working in your life all these years, it’s fun reconnecting but if you can’t tell your wife about us talking on the phone I’d prefer you didn’t call me again. My husband and I have been through a lot of hard years. God has mercifully restored and enriched our lives. I won’t do anything to jeopardize our life together.”

For weeks after this call she fought the battle over the truth. Whatever he was going through and thought he felt, it wasn’t love. The past was based on foolish lust. Her prayers for him were that he could see the truth – that life would not be better with another woman, that God could meet him in his troubled marriage and draw him to Himself in a rich new way. And she continued to fight the lies in her mind. To be wanted by another man would not fill her heart.