Friday, August 29, 2014

Onward Ho!

With The House of Mercy, I didn't set out with any goal, other than to write a story - a good story, the sort of story that I want to read. "The How" of The House of Mercy is a blog-post for another time, but let it suffice for me to say that I wrote the first sort-of-kind-of draft (though should I even call it that, as it was so different - practically unrecognizable - from the final draft?) about ten or twelve years before the Lord led me to publish the novel. Until a few years ago, I had no end goal in sight ... I just picked away at the storyline, adding here and there, changing this bit and that. Eventually, by God's grace, it was finished, in almost-final-draft form, without me really needing to set daily or weekly or monthly goals for myself in order to do it.

That's not so much the case with my writing at present. For years, I've kept a file on my computer with story and character ideas, like a gardener storing away seed packets for her spring garden. When I look forward to these ideas blossoming within my writing, I'm filled with joy and delight. Yet the hard work of tilling the soil, dropping the seeds in just the right places, watering and feeding the tender plants lies before me yet - oh, so long it seems! - before I see the full or results of much hard labor.

Yet now, as August turns into September, my story-garden ripens. And grows...

The story I've been telling you about - "the Geranium story" - I thought I would be finished with the rough draft last week; I also thought it would be a "short novel," running about 70,000 words. {My "rough drafts" aren't that rough. I take a little more time with them and then have less revisions to do.}

Then, around last Wednesday, I passed 70,000 words and knew the story hadn't finished. {I actually have the ending basically done. It's the middle that needs some filling... rather like a donut, stories taste better with jelly or frosting stuffed inside them. :-)}

So I reset my goal: Finish the story this week. I write between 2,000 and 3,500 words a day, depriving myself of all forms of carrot cake unless I do so {just kidding}. So I figured, "the geranium story" can't have more than 10,000 words left, can it? I have the rest plotted out already...

Guess what? Yesterday, I hit 78,000 words. And the story isn't finished. Not yet.

But soon. Very soon indeed.

Thank you, friends, for covering my writing {and me} in your prayers.

Onward ho! I see the camp in the near distance...

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Midnight Special {A Writing Update}

Folks, as the Justice of the Peace said in that fabulous Little House on the Prairie episode, "This is going to be the midnight special: short and sweet." :-)

{If you haven't seen this episode, I highly recommend it makes it to the top of your to-watch list.}

Did I meet my goal?

Yes! :-) Praise the Lord, I wrote slightly over my word-count goal that I set at the beginning of August ... Right now, my draft of "The Geranium Story" runs at just over 70,000 words. {This is a working title only.} Funny, I thought this story would just make it into novella territory {20,000 words}, but a couple of wonderful characters appeared one day and twisted things around a bit -- well, quite a lot, actually!

Is this first draft done?

Not quite. When I set that word-count goal, I thought that it would finish the first draft. It didn't, and that's okay because I think we're getting a richer and fuller story as a result. However, stories should always leave you wanting a little more/should always let your imagination fill in some gaps ... so my best guess right now? The final first draft will rest around 80,000. So, there's another bit to write yet, but I know pretty much where all of that writing will go. {The basic ending is already done, so this is filler.}


What is this story about?

Overall? It's about how God works all things in this fallen, oh-so-sinful world together for the good of those who love Him ... and about how He longs to bring His people to Himself.


What's next?

Well, I'm finishing up this first draft, then weeding through it to ensure basic consistency with names and ages. {They've changed a couple of times!} Then, it goes off to my beta-readers {a fancy name for non-professional proofreaders}. Then I revise again. And again. And again. :-) From there? Off to be published, Lord willing and the crick don't rise.

Thank you, dear readers, who pray for me and my writing ... May our Lord be pleased with it, and may He use it to minister to His people.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Cutting Out the Middle Man

"The child sees things as the Father means him to see them, as he thought of them when he uttered them. For God is not only the Father of the child, but of the childhood that constitutes him a child, therefore the childness is of the divine nature."

-George MacDonald

{The Prayer - William-Adolphe Bouguereau}

I have a 21-month-old niece who lives in the same house as I do. Her name is Debbie. Recently, she has just begun talking. Our conversations recently have gone something like this - I've noticed the pattern:

{example 1}
Me: Did you do a big poo-poo?
Debbie: Big-big. Jesus. helps.
Me: Jesus helped you?
Debbie: Okay! {her "yes"}

{example 2}
Me: Auntie needs to put ointment on Mr. P's eyeballs. {Mr. P is my pug, with whom Debbie "helps" me.}
Debbie: Boo-boo. P. Eyeballs!
Me: He needs his medicine, doesn't he?
Debbie: Jesus. Better!
Me: Jesus will make his eyeballs better?
Debbie: Okay!

{example 3}
Me: The flowers are so pretty.
Debbie: Pretty-pretty. {similar to the mouse in Cinderella!}
Me: Who makes the flowers grow?
Debbie: Jesus!

And so on... and on... and on. :-)

You know, often the word "simple" garners a poor reputation. But I, for one, desire the simple faith of the child. Debbie sees all around her - everyday body functions, healing, flowers growing - as coming directly from Jesus. She doesn't dispute the "secondary causes," but they don't make a difference in her calculations.

Whether Mr. P gets medicine or not, to Debbie, the healing comes straight from Jesus, as directly as it did for the woman who touched His garment. {Mark 5:25-29}

Whether her grammy puts extra effort into the flowerbeds or not is of no real concern to Debbie; the growing comes from the hand of Christ.

Whether her intestines induced her "poo-poo -- big-big!" or not? What does it matter? Jesus is the One who caused it.

If a butterfly hatches from its cocoon, Debbie knows - believes completely that Jesus gave it wings.

I would like to cut those secondary causes out of my calculations {I didn't say out of my knowledge}, for I often {in my heart} consider them of more bearing on the situation than the Jesus Who bid the waters to be still. And Who {still} sees every sparrow fall.

What about you, dear readers?

Friday, August 1, 2014

I Don't Want a Half-Full Glass

"Do you see the glass as half-empty or half-full?"

"He's a glass-half-full kind of guy."

"She's just so joyful ... She always see the glass as half-full, you know?"

The tired, watery comparison makes me wrinkle my nose.

It irks me, especially since my favorite Winnie-the-Pooh character is Eeyore and one of my favorite Chronicles of Narnia character is Puddleglum the Marshwiggle {who shows us, btw, that real faith doesn't always come packaged in positivity}.

It annoys me because, my dear friends, life doesn't usually come enrobed in a bubble of dreams-come-true. And if it does, that bubble often pops.

It frustrates me because merely trying to "think positively" causes us to put our trust - our hope - our joy in things.

And things fall apart, as Yeats reminds us.

And when things fall apart, half-full people fall apart, too, or they put on a happy face, scrambling to put a positive, "joyful" spin on the situation.

Glass-half-empty people fall into deep despair, or grit their teeth and bear the situation {for which they prepared in advance ;-)}.

And I wonder, was Jesus a "half-full" or a "half-empty" Man?

Did He try to put a positive spin on each bad situation He encountered? Did He put on his "happy face" and refuse to "be negative?"

I don't think He looked at life with either perspective. Nope, He brings in a third view. For in Psalm 23, we read:

"My cup runs over."

Like the psalmist He inspired, Jesus' eyes were not fixed on the situation, on the cup itself. His eyes were fixed on His Shepherd. He trusted in Him, not in the level of the contents of a vessel {i.e. the outward circumstances}. Jesus' situation was as bad as a man's could get:

He was born to die.
And He knew it.
And He didn't deny it or try to portray that end positively.
{Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane by Arkhip Kuindzhi}

Over this end, He weeps tears and sweats blood. No positive spin there. To try to put one on it would be to deny the horror of the Cross.

And yet, His cup "runs over."
Because He knew it was not the end.

Because He knows that "goodness and mercy will follow Him all the days of His life and He will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." {Psalm 23, my own adaption}

His overflowing cup of joy didn't result from looking at His situation, declaring it promising and hopeful. That would be foolish for Him ... and it's foolish for us, too.

Rather He recognized that His "light affliction" worked for Him a "far exceeding and eternal weight of glory." {2 Corinthians 4:17 nkjv}He recognized the terrible circumstances - "the valley of the shadow of death" referenced earlier in Psalm 23 - and yet declared His hope which would not be disappointed. For He hoped in the Living God, who was His exceeding great reward {Genesis 15:1}. Not Who gave "exceeding great rewards," but Who actually was His reward.

So shall we not trust in Him, hope in Him, believing that He will indeed, regardless of all things appearing to the contrary at times, cause our eternal cup to run over? That He will cause goodness and mercy to follow us all the days of our lives - not to walk right next to us, perhaps, but to follow? And that we will indeed dwell in the house of our Lord forever?

"My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips."

May His goodness and mercy follow you this weekend, dear readers, as you fix your eyes fast on Him. {And may your cup overflow.}