Thursday, September 21, 2017

We bought that outfit.

My grandkids live in other states, so I am usually following them on facebook and flickr. Fairly often I show my husband a picture and mention, before I go to the next, "Oh, and we bought her that outfit."  He doesn't care as much, but I love to see the little ones getting use out of something we gave them, something I chose because it was their favorite color or would be easy to play in as they scramble over the playground.  I even keep pictures of clothes I bought for them, because I realized, when they were babies, that I couldn't always remember which outfit I chose.


Sometimes I wonder if God feels a bit the same about some of the gifts he's given me. God likes to see me using them. Perhaps they've been given to me to help someone else and using them is an act of service and obedience.  But maybe they've also been given to bring me joy or comfort or validation.  In any case, employing my gifts celebrates God as giver and acknowledges my appreciation. It helps me feel closer to God.

And maybe God smiles. "I gave her that.  Glad to see she's getting use out of it."

Saturday, August 12, 2017

New School Year

Although it seems incredibly early, schools around here will be starting in a week. I'm wishing all the best for the teachers, students, and families.The photo below shows the grade card of a family member a generation or two back. I can even see his personality in the grades; he was brighter than his daily work reflected, since he tested better than his overall term grades. But maybe the tests proved something to him, since he improved as the year went on. Maybe a good teacher found a way to encourage him!


 

The average teacher spends $600 of their own money to enhance learning in the classroom.  If you go to DonorsChoose.org or AdoptAClassroom.org, you can support them by funding the purchase of supplies or equipment that the school cannot afford.  You can typically choose a project by school location, grade level, subject matter or financial need of the school population.  It's a great way to encourage teachers and students to do their very best in the coming year. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Art in Thread and Dye

I spent the afternoon at the Dairy Barn in Athens, Ohio, an arts center that is currently displaying amazing quilts as fabric art.  I've always admired the traditional patchwork quilt designs, but these artists took the techniques of sewing and quilting to amazing new levels, creating intricate, original pieces as powerful and meaningful as any modern painting or sculpture.  I loved the textures and colors but particularly valued the reflections of the artists and the ideas and experiences they conveyed. They were not afraid to address deeply personal events or strong values.

I wish I could post just one of the works, but no photography was allowed, and I doubt that a photo could do any of the works justice.

The experience reminded me of how much imagination and creative expression mean to me.  I've been consuming a lot of mass market books, TV and music lately.  Maybe it's time I challenged myself as I did when I was younger.  It may not make me much better as a writer. I don't think I'm capable of art; I'll be lucky to tell a decent story. But it does my spirit good to stretch, and that is important, whatever I may "produce" from it.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Challenge Reads

I posted recently about comfort reads.  I also want to pay tribute to the "challenge reads" -- books that shaped my values and my heart for the vulnerable in this world.  One of the earliest and most lasting influences has to be Charles Dickens. His passion for social justice, his mockery of the pompous and selfish, his defense of the underprivileged and his idealism have always moved me.


That Dickens could combine his social vision with such humor and rattling good plots has always amazed me. 

Another powerful author who shaped my values is Camus. In his novel The Plague Camus studies people facing evil, making choices to act in solidarity with others or to protect themselves. He never offers easy or pat answers. Other authors I admire include John Steinbeck, Voltaire, the poets of World War I, and Remarque, author of All Quiet on the Western Front. 

Many of these authors were not Christian, as I am. But their courageous confrontation of the evils of this world and their dedication to calling out the best in their readers resonate in my spirit. I would not want to spend my life only reading safe "Christian" books that may speak well of individual needs for faith or trust in God but refuse to address the injustice, the cruelties, and the failures of this world.  

I don't want to hide away in only books that comfort me. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Comfort Reads

I've seen a lot of references in blogs and articles to the experience of "comfort reading," and I wanted to pay tribute to some of the authors who have written books that brought me the most joy, peace, and comfort. They haven't all been escapist books by any means, although they have often taken me to another world and set me dreaming.  One of the earliest to grip my imagination and hold it through multiple readings was the classic, The Secret Garden. Its combination of mystery, nature, hope for individual positive change and restoration, strong story line and unforgettable characters hooked me for good.

Authors I always turned to include Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Agatha Christie. I devoured Jane Eyre and Catherine Marshall's Christie, different as they may be. For humor I can't get enough of Wodehouse,  Rex Stout, Douglas Adams or The Irish R.M. 

There are plenty of fine writers now, and I keep looking for comfort books that fill my imagination as well as bringing relaxation.  Not sure any can match the classics I've always loved, but it's fun to keep looking.

Monday, June 12, 2017

International Children's Day

June 12 is National Children's Day. It's also called the World Day Against Child Labor. While, as a mother and grandmother, I can celebrate the joys of childhood and its happy memories, as a Christian I also have to think about issues of justice and mercy. Every hour children bear the suffering of violence and injustice in this world, facing abuse, neglect, poverty and labor. According to the International Labour Organization, 168 million children are forced into work, often in dangerous conditions. That represents 100 million boys and 68 million girls. I invite prayers for these children and any contributions that support their protection, nourishment, health care and education.

Here's an old family picture of a protected, happy child.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Word Ladder

I've been working on a certain story off and on for twenty years, often with months or even years between looking at the latest draft. Obviously, its content means a great deal to me. Yet I keep needing to alter at least some element.  With each step, I feel I'm coming closer to its final version.

Today, as I completed the revision that makes me happy for now, I feel as if this story has become a sort of word ladder puzzle.  Do you know the mind challenge?  You've given a word -- such as foal  -- and you have to change one letter at a time until it becomes another word -- such as mare. (I just made that up, so don't strain hard to solve it.  But if you do, let me know.) Usually you have a strictly limited number of steps for the alterations.

I'm glad my writing hasn't been limited to five steps, because I'm well past that. And I'm glad there aren't limits in life, either. I've changed so much in the past years, yet I still feel like me.  Whether it's growth, redirection or even decline, I'm grateful for the push and the grace to change organically and with the time needed to absorb the transformation.