Saying It Right

Everyone needs a method of expression. Some express through painting, dancing, singing, music, mathematics or simply through speaking to others.

I am good at math, and liked to draw and paint when I was younger. I even liked to dance and sing, but I never tried to be good enough to do it in front of others.

Speaking, now there's a talent that I never had. I always say that God didn't connect my mouth to my brain. Growing up, when I had a thought, I could never express it how it formed in my mind. If anything it came out the opposite of how I intended.

For instance, my grandmother gave me a silver and turquoise ring when I was about eight or nine. Maybe ten. I noticed the price in black marker on the inside said "$10." For a turquoise ring. I thought, "Wow, I expected it to be worth more than that, because it's so beautiful. Grandma got a real good deal on it."

What came out of my mouth: "Wow, this ring was cheap."

Grandma was not impressed, and in fact felt (rightly) insulted. She said, "Well if you think it's cheap, you can give it back."

I was shocked that she got angry, and couldn't understand how I hurt her feelings. After she calmed down, we talked about it, and I was able to explain better what I meant. I also realized how my words hurt her feelings.

There are countless other instances, and even today I find myself eating my feet.

Another instance was in 1st or 2nd grade. All the students took turns reading part of a book out loud. When it came to my turn, I stumbled over the words to the point a boy sitting next to me said, "Don't you know how to read?"

Apparently the teacher noticed as well. She recorded me and called my mom to replay it. She was concerned enough that she believed I needed to be placed in a class for the learning disabled.

My mom put the kibosh on that by saying, "Can my daughter read, and comprehend what she's reading?"

"Yes," the teacher said.

"So she can't read out loud. That's not a learning disability."

My mom didn't tell me any of that until years later, and for a long time, I wondered if something was wrong with me when it came to reading out loud. After a while, I realized it was because my brain was reading faster than my mouth could keep up with. Hence the stumbling. Even today I have to concentrate on making sure my eyes and brain read at the same speed as my mouth. I don't always succeed, and I admit it's frustrating.

I hope no one asks me to do a reading of one of my books if ever I get published.

Writing, on the other hand, for some reason that came easy, even at an early age. Now as I look back, I'm grateful God didn't give me the ability to speak well. It forced me to find another way to express myself, and writing became (and still is) my outlet. Most everything I write, especially when writing from my heart and soul, comes out on paper how my brain envisioned it. That's not to say it doesn't need editing for spelling, grammar, and concision (I tend to ramble), but the meat and bones are there. The best part is I'm rarely misunderstood. Not as often as when I talk anyway.

"The role of the writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say." –Anais Nin

To AC or not to AC

That is the question.

It's not a matter of money (or lack thereof). Nor is it determined by the temperature of the air.

It's how this aging body of mine can't seem to make up it's mind. I'm either cold or breaking out into a hot get-me-out-of-this-sudden-sauna sweat. Every five minutes (not really, but it seems that way).

Still, I have to consider the people around me. Their personal thermostats are working just fine, so to turn on the AC one minute only to turn it off three minutes later in favor of the heater, and then once again complain about it being too hot … Yeah, why share the torture?

I have to remind myself that this is merely the natural progression of aging. It is what it is, and I will simply have to endure.

One thing I am grateful for is I'm not having the typical and severe mood-swings associated with menopause. I hope I never do, because I watched what it did to my mom, and by extension, those around her. It was rather hellish for everyone.

This is my own theory, so you're welcome to give it zero credence if you like, but I think the whole mood-swing thing is purposeful from a survival stand point. When we over-react to things, it's usually a sign of unresolved emotions or conflicts. Those mood swings force us to either face them or fight them, but they need to be resolved one way or another. They can no longer be ignored or suppressed.

Why during menopause, you wonder? Because our body, our mind and our heart simply can't handle the stress and distress we could when we were younger and more resilient.

For instance, I read one reason heart disease increases after menopause is largely due to no more monthly periods. Our bodies tend to hoard iron, because millennia ago, with diseases, infections, and injuries, humans tended to bleed a lot more. Our bodies are designed to hold onto iron so that it can create more blood cells quicker – hence increasing our chances of survival. At least in first-world countries, people live healthier, so they don't bleed as much. When a woman no longer bleeds once a month, iron builds up in the body and can lead to heart troubles.

Add stress to the equation, and our health is further compromised.

While I do have periods of stress in my life, I resolved my larger issues years ago. Because of that my mood-swings – at least so far – have been quite manageable. I can feel them coming on, but before they overwhelm me, I tell myself to stop and ask why I feel like punching someone, or bawl over a toy commercial. When no legitimate reason comes to mind, I know it's hormonal (or lack thereof), and it usually goes away.

I know it's easier said than done. Some of our oldest issues, hurts and scars are the most difficult, especially if they're caused by people who have passed, who want nothing to do with us, or we want nothing to do with them. There are no easy answers, so I can't provide them. I just hope that anyone going through the same thing will stop, consider, and try to at least find a solution.

Putting yourself and those around you through the hell that is menopause isn't worth not trying, and your life could very well depend on it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to turn on the air conditioner.

Christian Hypocrisy

It seems with many today, those two terms are redundant and interchangeable.

No matter what we say or what we do, people will call us hypocrites. For instance, part of our faith requires we help the poor, the orphan and the widow, yet there are countless examples of many Christians who don’t.

We consider adultery and lying sins, yet we support leaders and politicians who have. Scripture warns against gossip, yet how many of us gossip all over the place?

I submit that to be a Christian is to embrace our own hypocrisy. In many ways we can’t have one without the other.

Paul even said (Romans 7:14-25), “So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

“And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”

Christians are required to acknowledge two things: That Jesus is the son of God who died for us, and that we are sinful creatures. As long as we live we will never be sinless. Sure, we try not to sin, and many times we succeed, but as many times as we refrain, we also give in. We simply can’t help ourselves. I still gossip. I envy and covet, and I too often take the Lord’s name in vain. I even hate, which as far as God is concerned, that’s murder (See 1 John 3:15).

Jesus knew this, which is why he told us not to judge (see Matthew 7:1-6). He once convinced a crowd not to stone an adulterous woman by saying, “Let the one who has not sinned throw the first stone.” (See John 8:1-11)

Aside: I don’t think the irony of Jesus being the only one qualified to throw that stone was lost on him.

The problem with people’s perception of Christians these days (sometimes deserved, sometimes not) is that we focus too much on people’s wrong-doings. We appear to forget that Jesus never pointed out a person’s sin without first offering them grace. The adulterous woman is one example, but also the Samaritan woman at the well (see John 4:4-38), and many others, man and woman, rich and poor.

After all, Jesus didn’t walk into my room one day, give me a list of all my horrible thoughts and deeds and say, “Clean all that up first, and then I will forgive you.” Quite the reverse, actually.

Am I a hypocrite? Yes, and worse. But that’s irrelevant, because I still try to be the best person I can be. Not because it’s required for my salvation, but as an expression of my gratitude for Jesus saving me when I wasn’t being the best person I can be. Hell, I’m still not even close, but at least I’m working at it. Either way, it doesn’t erase God’s love, nor his grace.

Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. (Romans 3:18-22)

When The Little Voice Speaks . . .

Listen.

Ignore the one that yells.

One of my favorite scriptures is when Elijah ran to the wilderness to escape from Jezebel’s death threat after God had destroyed 500 of Baal’s prophets.

His own faith had taken a strong hit, and he wanted to die, for he felt as though he had failed the Israelites, and because people sought to kill him anyway.

And [the Lord] said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” – 1 Kings 19:11-13

Almost a year ago now, an agent I spoke to at the ACFW conference wanted me to send the first three chapters of my novels (three of them). After a few months, I heard nothing back. Six months later, still nothing.

Many have suggested that if you don’t hear back within a certain amount of time (unless their submission guidelines say different), it’s appropriate to email said client to verify they received your submission.

After six months I thought, “Perhaps I should send the agent an email.”

But that little voice I learned to trust a long time ago told me not to. So I didn’t. Every few weeks or so, I once again asked myself if I should. Again, the voice said no.

I figured it was God’s way of telling me to forget about it.

I received this email a few hours ago:

Andra,

As we are coming up on conference season, I wanted to thank you so much for allowing me the time to read, research and consider your proposal. Unfortunately, at this time I’m going to pass on offering representation. The concept is strong and I like your writing, but I feel I am not the best agent to take this product forward into the marketplace.

I wish you all the luck on your journey to be published!

When I saw who the email came from, I admit my heart thudded a few times. For five seconds I gleefully entertained the idea that said agent agreed to represent my books.

As you can see, not this time. I still liked the email, though, especially the first half of the last sentence. I responded thusly:

Thank you so much for the response and comments. It’s always nice to hear positive (and negative for that matter) feedback on my writing, so I appreciate you taking the time to do so.

All the best to you and yours.

So was that “still small voice” God’s way of telling me to wait? I think so. Sure it resulted in news I didn’t necessarily want, but at the same time, it’s teaching me patience, and to trust that God’s timing isn’t the same as mine. The fact the agent liked both my concept and my writing gives me a boost of confidence I sorely need. Perhaps that was the point.

I’m Not Tellin’, and You Can’t Make Me

I’ve decided that I’m not going to share when I’ve submitted my short stories to a publication, or when I’ve submitted query letters to literary agents.

For the simple fact, every time I do, it ends up rejected. See, that’s the real problem. It’s not because I haven’t found the right editor or agent, or that my writing is total crap. Nope. It’s that I’m telling you. In short, by sharing with you everything about my so-called publication journey story (read ocassional nightmare), I’m actually jinxing myself. Seems logical, don’t you think? Scientific, even.

From now on, mum’s the word.

Just remember that in the last few days, I may or may not have submitted a query letter and sample pages to an agent or two, and I may or may not have sent a short story or two to a magazine. Or two.

That’s not to say I won’t share the aftermath of each rejection or acceptance. Of course I will. I’m just hoping with this new strategy, I’ll see more acceptances, and as such, prove my theory.

Yeah, I’m not holding my breath, either.

I Had Hoped . . .

To go through the rest of my life with all of my parts.

Alas, this was not to be.

About nine months ago, I experienced pain on the top of my stomach. It only happened at night, and lasted about four-to-five hours. After some research, I discovered that I had classic symptoms for gall stones.

Knowing this, I wasn’t too concerned. It only happened once every six weeks or so. Even so, I did tire of it. Literally, because those nights I got very little sleep. I finally decided to go to the doctor.

Turns out I was right. I had at least one gall stone, one as large as a marble. The next step was to remove said gall bladder via laparoscopic surgery.

This morning, that’s exactly what happened. So now, I am sans gall bladder. The surgery went well. From the time I entered the clinic to when they sent me home was 3-1/2 hours. The worst part for me was processing the anesthesia. My body don’t like it, not one bit. I ended up getting sick on the way home, but that might have also been a combination of the drugs and the fact I only ate a few crackers before they gave me a painkiller in pill form.

I immediately went to bed and slept for about four hours.

The only pain so far is the carbon dioxide in my system. To anyone who’s never had a laparoscopy to remove something from the body, they fill the body with carbon dioxide to better see the organs. They remove as much as they can, but never all of it. It causes pain in the shoulders and neck that no painkiller can touch. It’s something a person simply has to endure. It’s not too bad, and I have been burping a lot. I tell you, my burps have never felt so good.

The surgeon recommended I take a week off from work, three days at least depending on how I feel. I plan to do a lot of writing and reading, but we’ll see. I tend to go a little stir-crazy stuck in the same place for more than two days.

In fact, after I gave birth to Tom, I was supposed to stay in the hospital for three days. After twenty four hours, I begged every nurse and doctor I saw to let me go home early. After another day, they finally decided to let me go. I think they tired of me asking. Squeaky wheel and all that.

My new hope is that no more parts need to be removed from my person. Enduring the removal of one is enough, thank you very much.

The Boring Life And Other Miscellaneous Thoughts

I’ve read multiple articles about how the best way to alleviate writer’s block and keep readers coming back for more is to journal every day. It doesn’t even matter what I write about, just write something, and post at least once a week.

All fine and dandy as far as ideas go, but most of what happens in my life is boring: Oh, look. It didn’t rain again today. And I went to work. I sat at my desk for most of it, except when nature called. Then I went home, and enjoyed snuggling with my son (he’s still young enough that he likes to sit in my lap. I don’t turn him down, because those days are numbered). After that, I struggled with deciding whether or not to go to bed at 10pm or 11pm. I know, such a big decision there. How did I manage? It was difficult, I tell ya.

I can always appreciate (and feel twinges of jealousy), when other writers can make the mundane seem interesting and even humorous, whereas me, it’s a rarity, and I have to work at it when I do give it a try.

One of our nieces is arriving tomorrow to stay with us for about three weeks. I’m looking forward to it, but at the same time, do I really want to subject her to three weeks of my ultra-boring life? The poor girl. Thankfully I’m still going to work while she’s here, and my husband and son are far more entertaining than I am. That’ll save her brain from turning into mush. I hope. If not, I’ll blame it on hubby and son. Think that’ll fly?

Originally I set the dates for her arrival so she’d be here during the 4th of July, since our town goes all-out with fireworks. We’ve never been to the city’s fireworks show, because our neighbors do such a good job. With a severe drought this year, however, all fireworks have been banned. The last time that happened was in 2006. That was still kind of a neat year, because we heard and saw zero fireworks. Everyone abided by the ban, which in some places wouldn’t happen; they’d take the chance that they wouldn’t get caught. I expect the same silence this year, too.

I’ve narrowed my list of potential literary agents to fourteen. I wrote all their statistics (such as if they take simultaneous submissions, what to send along with a query letter, when to expect a response [if any], who they represent, and what types of books they’ve sold recently). The next step is to place them in order of which to solicit first. After that, structure my query and other items to submit to that particular agent. I’m hoping to start sending letters out the first week of July.

Assuming I don’t find some way to procrastinate some more . . . Such as writing silly blog entries like this one.