Here amongst the words

words

I no longer feel the need to crowd conversations with noise and unnecessary words. I am quieter than I was a few years ago. I have learnt that words are more than the sum of their parts. They are layered with meaning. Personal histories ride on their telling, they are infused with tone and seeped in buried significance.

But not for One. The creator of words uses them with a skill and grace that leaves me breathless. His words are a terrifying knife that slices through all pretence (mine) and they are the easing in of a new day.

 

There is no exaggeration in His words. When He speaks forgiveness over me. There is forgiveness. When He says I am holy and blameless. Then it is so.

 

I need a return to the simple, uncomplicated words of truth. The cornerstone words.

Oh the internet! The internet tells me that I need to engage in arguments over complementarianism and same sex marriages.  That I should write open letters to John Piper and Mark Driscoll. But that is for a different person. I want to write open letters to those who have forgotten the simple things. I want tired hearts to know that there is love and grace abounding and overflowing. That God’s words are a safe place to run to and find a home in.

God’s words breathe life where there is death and peace where there is confusion.  The God I know is generous and kind, and so He is with words. There is an entire book of them to delight and tempt us. And there is the gentle breeze of His Spirit speaking words of truth and grace into our ever in-need hearts.

Here amongst these simple words is where my deep sigh is.  This is where I stop and dwell. I need to spend more time with these simple luminous words…holy, forgiven, loved, His.

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To write is to remember

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To create is to remember. It is to reach down into our souls and bring forth something from the depths of who we are and what we are. It is to remember why we were created and who created us. It is to remember the truth of life and love. It is to remember that life is full of shadows and light. It is to remember the story of who we are.

Words on a page, scribbled in haste, between laundry and school runs, embody a grace and honesty that is only found in the process of putting pen to paper. Those hurried words are the truest form of my flooded heart and ceaseless thoughts.

I think of my favourite writers. Of Mary Oliver, Thomas Merton and CS Lewis. I envy their sharpness and their ability to pour words out from the depths of themselves and mould them into true and raw reflections of their heart.

We are only fully human and fully alive when we find that ‘thing’ that draws out our creativity and our heart. That ‘thing’ that allows us to fully express who are and what we are. My ‘thing’ is words.

And what grace that we have a God that celebrates beauty in all its forms and whispers to us of colour and new life and new ways.

To create is to remember. To remember who we are and our stories. To create is to write a new story, the next story, of who we were created to be.

Writing the next story is grace itself. It is enough in itself.

And so that is the great challenge. To keep writing my story, to keep putting words on paper, hurried and unseen, messy and misspelt. But my words and my story.

 

Tell me what your ‘thing’ is’?

 

 

 

Lesson Learnt

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I have made a rookie mistake (again). I have read too many blogs. I have compared myself too much.  And the simplest and most destructive thing has happened. I have stopped writing. I have stopped making time for words. Comparison is not only the thief of joy (who said that?) but it extinguishes confidence and becomes the loud voice of doubt and discouragement.  Ugh.

And so I have stripped my blog reading list. I have culled it right back to the blogs that regularly delight and inspire me and have deleted those that make me feel like I am a great big failure for not having a book written and published (or about to be).  

And I have learnt that great lesson that all the writers I love and appreciate proclaim – write and write and write. Every. Single. Day.

 

At my table

 

table

The table is long. Made from worn, dented wood, its scars whispering tales of the countless meals it has served and conversations it has witnessed.

The table is heaving with plates of cheese and meat. A pyramid of bread sits precariously in the centre, threatening to tumble down upon the candles and flowers. Terracotta dishes swim with milky black olives shimmering in olive oil.  Bottles of wine litter the table, in easy reach.  This table sings of generosity and decadence.

Candles flicker and dance on the breeze that sneaks in as the doors are opened.

The guests are arriving.

Invitations have gone far and wide, welcoming many to this meal.

 

I sit at the centre and smile as my guests walk in. Some confidant and sure, others shy and surprised to find themselves at this table.  Some are noticeably and dismayingly absent.

Conversations bubble and wine is poured. Laughter flutters and flits up and down the table.

Down one end of the table there comes a consensus. I put my wine glass down and consider their suggestion. ‘No thank you.’ I whisper. ‘I like my words just the way they are, tumbling, heartfelt and mine. I choose my words, not yours’.  Their stares carry disappointment and disbelief to my heart. I bow my head and thank them for coming.

To my left someone clears their throat and moves to the edge of their seat.

‘This is what you should do’. Confidant, certain, sure. ‘Let me give you a list…’  He pulls out a pen.

‘No thank you’.

‘But I’m a professional. I could really help you.’

‘No thank you’.

The chair scrapes the floor as it is pushed back in incredulity.

I hear my phone trill from under the table. I surreptitiously look down.

A text.

From one of my dearest.

‘There is a little hope. More test to be done. Please pray.’

Conversations swim around me, the air is thick with words and laughter. I search for a reassuring smile or word among those at the table.

My phone trills again.

Another text.

From another of my nearest.

‘We have driven all day. To say goodbye. Grief is our companion’.

Deep sadness descends, like mist into a valley. I am lost in a cloud of sadness and disappointment.  It dulls the voices and faces of my guests and leaves me breathless.  I reach out for a hand that is not there.

For a long time I sit and let the noise of my guests swirl around me.

I can’t see my hands in my lap, spread out, offering my wordless prayers to the mist.

There is sudden movement in the air, slight but perceptible.  Like someone has opened the door and slid into the room unannounced and undetected.

There is the lightest pressure on my shoulder and breath on my cheek.

‘You invited the wrong people to your table’.

The hand I have waited for reaches down and takes mine, pulling me out of my seat.

‘Next time you will send fewer invitations. Next time there will be dancing. Next time I will sit next to you and hold your hand’.

 

 

Words

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In the never-ending attempt to be clever and witty and relevant (God forbid), I think I have lost some of the life giving grace that writing generously offers me.

And today that is what I need.

I need the life giving, soul lifting, breathe of words. I need time to sit and let the words tumble out. And in the pouring forth will come the sorting and the clarity. And, hopefully, rest.

Earlier this week I had a conversation with a friend about coincidences and ‘the favour of the universe’.  I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe in orchestrated moments and a greater plan being worked.  A plan that is beyond my understanding.

This grand idea of mine has been tested.

I know that it will take more than a blog post or words to make sense of the valleys of life.

But, for now, words will have to do.

I will strive for clarity and I will commit to wading through the waves of emotions and words that are tumbling around me.  I will rest here amongst these words.

 

And I will take these simple words and offer them to the Great Author, hoping that they will be enough.

words of grace and beauty

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As an exercise in deciphering ‘my voice’ and what influences me, I have been thinking about my favourite books and writers.  It is a curious thing to sit down and explore why you are attracted to particular books and authors. It is awfully revealing.

I tend to have an ever rotating list of ‘5 favourite books’. There is never just one all time, overshadowing favourite (‘The Secret History’ is coming close though, it has been in my ‘top 5’ list for the last 5 years).  So my current top 5 books are as follows:

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (East of Eden is also BRILLIANT)

The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, Vol 2

Dialogues with Silence, Thomas Merton

Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates

Honourable mention (as I take it off my shelf on such a regular basis and refer to it so often), Beyond Words by Fredrick Buechner.

 

Favourite authors are easier for me to identify, John Steinbeck, Mary Oliver, and Thomas Merton are all high on the list. As are Ruth Jones and James Corden who wrote the TV series ‘Gavin and Stacey’. Ernest Hemingway, Robert Graves and Leo Tolsty, they all rate highly too.

I like writers who discuss the shadows and the light, who see beauty in the everyday and acknowledge that life is complicated and layered but it can also be tedious. They use words well and with grace and effect.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, The Lighthouse by Alison Moore, Stasiland by Anna Funder and The Stories of John Cheever all do this – they are gritty, unswerving in their honesty and at times devastating. They explore moments which are wrapped in lightness and bathed in heartache.

I love themes of beauty and truth found in dark and hard places.

I appreciate good words, used well, but simply.

I’m not sure how this currently effects what or how I write. But it does ring true that I desire that same kind of simplicity and grace with words that these writers have. I want to translate life into words that people resonate with and recgonise. I want truth and beauty to chase away the dull and ordinary.

Here is some of what I have to live up to! –

‘All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.’ Ernest Hemingway

‘There’s more beauty in truth, even if it is dreadful beauty.’ John Steinbeck, East of Eden

‘Beauty is rarely soft or consolatory. Quite the contrary. Genuine beauty is always quite alarming.’ Donna Tartt, The Secret History

‘There is nothing wrong with the love of Beauty. But Beauty – unless she is wed to something more meaningful – is always superficial’. Donna Tartt, The Secret History

‘Listen–are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?’ Mary Oliver

finding your voice

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The other day after I was feeling overwhelmed by ‘this whole writing thing‘ I realised that at the core of this issue were these questions:

Does the world need my voice?

Does the world need another blog?

Do we really need to have another ‘wanna be writer’?

Does anyone really need or want to read my words?

And here’s the thing – the answer might be no to the last 3, and that’s fine. But, does the world need my voice?

Yes it does.

In whatever small way it comes out, everyone’s voice and story is important.  I need to write my words and my stories, my way, in my voice.  And what ever form your voice takes, the world needs your voice too.

Whether you paint, draw, sing, write, knit, dance or garden, your voice is necessary and valuable.

And so the only responsible thing to do is to work towards discovering what ‘my voice’ sounds like.  Stripping back the layers of expectations, mimicry, and fear and listening to the words that are chasing each other to get on the page.

 

Jeff Goins has a great list of tips for wherever you are on the writing journey. There is lots of practical advice and encouragement to be found here.

Goins has a 10 steps to finding your voice‘ exercise that I am going to attempt, some of which I might share here (Q4. Jot down at least five books, articles, or blogs you like to read. Spend some time examining them. How are they alike? How are they different? What about how they’re written intrigues you?), some of which I probably won’t (Q1. Describe yourself in three adjectives.)!!