Hello, Friends!

It’s Katie’s day to write, and we’re all over at the new site, fivepaperbirds.wordpress.com– remember?

You’ll come, won’t you?

Today’s ticket is good for at least a chuckle… promise.

 

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Catherine Fruisen*

by Catherine Fruisen

This website has been in transition for a several months. It began as baaaaa.com, a collection of 800-word essays, written by an endless list of contributors. That was fabulous. Tricky, however, for a working suburban mom—me—to maintain. The site transitioned into a more manageable group of five, who work share maintenance responsibilities. My friends Katie Mulder, Margie Boswell Miller, Jean Foster Akin and Vikki Carr de los Reyes agreed to take part, with occasional guests who are also good friends. We became, temporarily, heartland. We knew we wouldn’t be here for long.

Loyal followers, you are loved, appreciated, and highly valued. Thanks for sticking with us. The sad news is that this site will expire on July 17. The good news is, that gives you almost a month to click this link and follow us to our new home: five paper birds.

In the words of Katie Mulder, we are “going simple, starting fresh, working on our story-telling and story-living,” as five paper birds. Fly on over. There’s not much to see yet, but there will be, soon enough.

__________

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. ~ C. S. Lewis

Jean*

by Jean Foster Akin

*
My father was a gentle man. He wore a suit to work and he spoke softly. He took us all to Mass every Sunday. He was quick to smile. He used to take naps, and when it was time for him to get up, my twin sister and I would climb up on the bed and kiss his cheeks and poke at him, and a few times we combed his hair and clipped colorful plastic barrettes into it—he “slept” through all this and waited until we were totally lost in giggles before he’d suddenly lurch up and growl playfully, startling us into happy shrieks.

One of my earliest memories of him is feeling his arms around me as I lay against his shoulder and he sat in a kitchen chair near the warm stove. I had problems with ear infections when a baby and toddler, and Daddy would sit with me by the stove and keep me nice and warm, and sway slowly when I cried. It is a fuzzy memory. I do not see his face, I just feel that strong shoulder and smell his aftershave and the Camel cigarettes in his breast pocket. It is the scent of protection and love, as comforting as incense burned in church.

We lived in Upstate New York, and his mother lived in Michigan. He wrote her a letter every week (that was back when a letter was written on paper with a pen, and all the sentences were complete sentences. When a mistake was made, it stayed, and no one rushed through describing emotions by writing “LOL”). He took my mother and us kids to museums, on boat rides along the Hudson River, on day trips to Vermont, up to Canada, to Long Island, into the Adirondacks. When my Nana Murphy would come visiting in the fall, he took us all “leafing.” Nana loved to see the changing colors of autumn. He would always—always always—stop at Howard Johnson’s to buy us all ice cream some time on those outings. Nana would try to pay for the ice cream cones and she wouldn’t like that my father had his wallet out too. “Now, Ken. I want you to put that wallet away,” she would say firmly. He adored his mother-in-law. She adored him. I’ll always remember how she treated him as she would a beloved son and he treated her with the respect and love of a son for his mother. I don’t remember who paid for the ice cream.

He became very ill when I was four years old. He ended up in surgery one night and the doctors told my mother later that his heart had stopped while they were operating. He told us that he remembered rising up over the doctors’ heads. He could hear them talking excitedly, but he no longer cared what they said or did. He was dying and it was okay, even though he was only in his early forties. Overhead, a dark curtain was pulled back, and a brilliant light shone beyond it. He felt immense delight. Then the light was gone, the doctors were standing over him, pounding on his chest, dragging him back, dragging him back. He told us later how disappointed he had felt at that moment, his rib broken and his heart pounding, looking into his doctor’s relieved eyes. He said he would never be afraid to die again.

As I grew, we talked about words. He loved them. I loved them. He and my mother found a huge manual typewriter for me when I was in my early teens because they knew I wanted to be a writer. If I had ever dropped that typewriter it would have broken my foot for sure and put a big dent in the floor, but it was the most amazing thing to me at the time—it was a tangible message from them to me: “We believe in you.” It was a big chunky piece of clack-clack-clacking encouragement from them.

They are both gone now, my mom and dad, and I miss them. Father’s Day is this weekend, so I am especially thinking of him this week. If you’re lucky enough to still have your dad around, make sure you grab round the neck on Sunday and kiss him like you mean it. Tell him what a big sweetheart he is. Some day, you’ll be glad to have the memory of his embarrassed smile, his blush.

margie*

by Margie Boswell Miller

A few weeks ago, my husband was out of town and the girls and I went to an annual outdoor river festival.  The sun was out and the day was warm and we wandered through the swollen crowd past rides and booths, stages and tents.  The whole of the city seemed to be there.

Walking slowly, we bought confetti eggs, picked up a free Disney poster, and shared a Lemon Chill.  Sarah waited in line for a balloon animal, and Elizabeth tried her hand at archery.  Small fish tattoos and state maps were handed out by the Parks and Rec Department, and the girls navigated a maze while I sat on a shaded hay bale until they came out together, laughing.  And then we came to the rides.

“You can each choose one,” I said, wincing at the posted prices.  They studied the myriad choices and discussed whether or not one or another had already been tried at different venues.  Elizabeth finally declared:  “The Ferris wheel, Mama.”

I nodded, and scrambled to purchase more coupons.  As the girls stood in line, I waited at the gate and watched them slowly move toward the front, holding hands, my two little girls of 8 and 6.  I doubted the decision to let them ride alone, yet remained rooted in place.  When the big wheel stopped, the operator, a shifty looking guy with a cigarette, asked how many.  I raised my hand and called, “They’re two and they’re together.”  He nodded, and opened the door to an empty car.  And with perfect timing two other sisters, just older, were placed in the car with them and the door closed.

The wheel began to turn, and the metal ride creaked into the sky.  As the girls photodrew farther and farther away from me, I noticed the shabby, flaking paint on the machine’s welded, outstretched arms, recalled the awful, fatal Ferris wheel accident at the 1955 State Fair, and fervently began to pray.  But after an eternity to me and the blink of an eye to them, the ride slowed to a stop and they exited safely while waxing lyrical about the experience.  We laughed, joined hands, and left the park.

The shuttle that carried us to our car passed an accident on the road, and behind me someone muttered, “Vehicle-pedestrian.”  Though I chose not to draw the scene to girls’ attention, we subsequently found ourselves inching slowly past the ambulance, fire engine, and police car on the way home.  I explained, as gently as I could, what it appeared had happened.

After a short silence, Sarah said, “Let’s pray for that man.”

She brought me figuratively to my knees.  How easy it is, I thought, to pray for my own but yet doubt it sustains others.   I teach my children prayer is always heard, and yet internally murmur it won’t make a difference, which was my immediate, gut-level response on that busy street on a fading, sun-dappled afternoon.

So we prayed right then for the unknown man, whose condition I do not even now know.  We also prayed for his family, for the ambulance EMTs, for the doctors and nurses that would treat him, and for those who stood nearby, watching the scene unfold.

Every evening the girls and I do a small devotional and I give thanks; for the gift of their waking each morning and their simple return to my arms after a ride on a Ferris wheel.  They laugh at my silliness.  But before we conclude, I ask if they want to pray for anyone.

“The man in the street,” says Sarah.

There is a story in the Bible in which Jesus, coming down from the mountain, is approached by a father who asks Him to heal his son.  “Everything is possible for him who believes,” Jesus said and gently accedes to the father’s request.  And though I know neither the circumstances nor fate of the accident of that late Sunday afternoon, I apprehend the response of the father to whom Jesus spoke centuries ago.

“I do believe,” the father said.  “(But) help me overcome my unbelief!”

As I bow my head and reach for the girls’ hands for prayer, I cling to His promise:  Everything is possible.

Though even as yet, I cry: Help me overcome my unbelief.

vikki*

by Vikki de los Reyes

I am a teacher.

Growing up, I had very high regard for them.

I remember my teacher “Mr. Will.” He made a great impression on me during my elementary school days at School for Exceptional Children-Special Education (SEC-SPED). Really really, I am not making up my school’s name. It was a public school for kids with special needs. The kids in the school ranged from those with mental disability to those with above average IQs. It was also the school for people of any age who were deaf and the blind. The kids in my class had high aptitude for science and math. We were  called “Fast Learners.” (This was a very long time ago and let’s just say, I wish my IQ at a young age had maintained itself. Sadly, I feel it did not. I blame pollution, obviously.)

It was a very interesting place to go to school. The school had classes for the blind, the deaf, kids with specific learning disabilities and kids in wheelchairs. We all had special needs. I was a hyperactive child and aside from aptitude on science and math, I had very high aptitude for being friendly and conversing comfortably with adults. Once, in a conversation with a blind person, he told me his story. As a young child, he was able to see. He contracted a very high fever and got really sick… and then he could not see anymore. I later learned that measles blindness is the leading cause of blindness among children in developing countries.

Mr. Will was not a regular teacher in my school. He was the father of one of the smartest kids in the class who was a few years ahead of me. Even though he never went to college and he was just a farmer, Mr. Will loved to read science books. He began his career as an educator by teaching tutorial science classes in our school. He had coarse hands, stained teeth, and a sun-burnt, wrinkly face. Not a typical-looking science teacher, I suppose. But, he got my interest and attention… a very important tool when teaching a hyperactive girl (who had bouts of attention deficit as well). I found his story humbling. Here he was, teaching, but had not been educated in an academic setting. That was powerful to me. He was full of passion; he loved teaching science. He was so generous in sharing what he learned from his books. He would bring books and books on science to school. I also enjoyed the summer class scientific experiments that he led. He mentored one of my classmates in an experiment that helped get rid of pests in his farm. Their experiment was recognized internationally. Will was a Rock Star to my 10-year old self.

I appreciate such mentors in life.

A teacher can be a mentor and a coach. A mentor provides an advisory relationship with students  and acts as a wise and trusted guide, while a coach is someone dedicated to helping others achieve their goals by developing their decision-making skills.

For the past few years, I’ve been a mentor and a coach to field epidemiologists. It’s a privilege, really. I teach my students applied epidemiology with major competencies in outbreak investigations, disease surveillance, and health program evaluation.  The disciplines include actual conduct of outbreak investigations and disease surveillance. Sometimes, several revisions for a scientific paper are needed. I think that’s why I can relate to Catherine‘s and Jean‘s recent posts on revisions.

“Revision is not cleaning up after the party; revision is the party! That’s the fun of it, making it right, getting the best words in the best order.” ~ William Matthews

Also, my gift is exhortation. I’m a Paul(a). Only, I want to please people. Striving for excellence while simultaneously making sure my students like me is an inner turmoil. It bothers me when people don’t like me. I get uncomfortable (I know–it’s *my* issue).  I know my students probably hate me by the 10th draft of their report, but I want them to do their best and be their best, so I push them. I keep reminding them of our motto, “Integrity and Excellence in Field Epidemiology.”  We are in the cutting edge of public health. Mistakes are not allowed. No, not really. In fact, we always test our assumptions. If anything, we prepare to be wrong.

I aim for a good legacy. To be a teacher who made an impact, who did her best with the opportunities that she had. I hope to be generous with my time, and give it as a gift. As a mentor, I hope to help people achieve their goals. Just like Mr. Will.

Sometimes I talk to my former ten-year-old self. “Yes. Be wide-eyed, little girl. Take in the world’s goodness and don’t forget that feeling of gratitude. Life is messy and hard. But, you will have moments of deep gladness, too. You will have the opportunity to be generous with the time and the gifts that you have. You will have the opportunity to love.”

o(✿) (✿◡‿◡) o (◡‿◡✿) o (✿◡‿◡) o (◡‿◡✿) o (✿◡‿◡) o (◡‿◡✿) (✿)o

“The signs and wonders that the most High God has worked for me I am pleased to recount.” Daniel 4:2 NRSV

Katie Mulder*

by Katie Mulder

Growing up? Always noise in my house. Not from people- there were only four of us, including my parents, and we weren’t a chatty family. But, there was a constant backdrop of music or the news or an old black and white film filling in empty spaces around teenage angst and hard-working parents. Music to wake us up on Saturday mornings, music in the garage, news during dinner. The radio and the tv were always on. Well into my college years, I could not fall asleep without the tv. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve watched (or heard) When Harry Met Sally. There is still nothing better to me than a Saturday nap with squeaky shoes on a college basketball court in the background.

Psalm

Now, I write on my computer. I lead an on-line support group for moms of special-needs kiddos. I fill out doctors’ forms online and I email Curt to find out what he wants for dinner. I text my conscience in Texas and ask her when it’s appropriate to run away (never, without her) and I search Google for honey chicken recipes. I charge my Kindle and wait for new books to download while I forward photos of my kids (usually asleep in awkward positions) to my parents. I edit photos digitally and save them for a (someday) family album. I look up tomorrow’s weather and Ry’s class pictures from her last field trip… all on the computer. I reorganize my Netflix queue and make a grocery list… on the computer. I pay my bills and I update the family calendar… on the computer. I watch Cosby Show reruns and crime shows and English brilliance after the kids have gone to bed… “to relax.”

Hear me: I love my computer, my phone, my tv. I love the quiet noise that tethers me- on my own terms– to the world outside of this farm. But the quiet noise has become loud and bossy of late. It grew from comfortable background static to aggressive intermission music where you can’t really hear the person next to you.  I was nodding and keeping up with the conversation, but barely. The soundtrack had taken over the story.

And, I was a wreck.

Job

Somewhere in the chaos of the last 2 months, I tuned out. I have no idea how, really. I’ve been trying for years… but something finally clicked and I simply walked away.

What does that look like for me?

I unsubscribed from the super-blogs… the blogs with thousands of readers and hundreds of comments. The ones who have never talked to me, who do not share life- in any personal form– with me. Not because they’re bad- quite the contrary. They’re huge and lovely and… overwhelming. If I have to be picky, and I think I do, I don’t have room for them right now.

I also unsubscribed from a bunch of crafting blogs and sites that are simply out of my reach right now. I have a 6-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a 1-year-old. Sewing and knitting, while personal loves of mine, are not on the daily agenda.  I do not need to troll Pinterest or my ‘favorites’ file to be reminded that I am (as Margie says) in the weeds right now. There is no sewing in the weeds. There is reading while stirring gravy and there is writing while waiting for the school bus to to arrive… but there is not everything. And that’s ok. The weeds are high but temporary. In another season, there will be room for endless inspiration and group sew-alongs and pattern sales. Now? I don’t need those reminders flooding my inbox right now.

I stopped watching Law & Order reruns at 4pm when I was folding laundry. My brain… my brain moves too fast and rarely shuts off.  It forgets that tv is not real. I do so love stories. I love books and essays and movies. But I have to be careful with what I’m filling the spaces with. Too much bad-guy-deviant-desperate-world-too-close-for-comfort, even with a good ending, leads me down a dark and narrow road. It’s dark enough here in the weeds. I don’t need to block out more sun.

I started hesitantly answering ‘yes’ to my husband’s post-kid-bedtime requests of ‘come for a walk with me,’ ride the tractor with me,’ ‘sit with me while I work.’ My instinct and habit is to use that precious time for reading or emails or reruns. Now some of that time is filled with… us.

I stopped answering every email within seconds of receipt.  I turned off the speakers on my computer so I wouldn’t be informed of new mail and comments immediately. I started closing my computer every time I walked away from it.

I turned off NPR news and started reading while making dinner.

I have never been less-informed, less-in-contact, or more available than I am right now.

Romans

It’s not silent.

It’s intentionally filtered. 

It’s completely new and life-changing for me.

Saying ‘no,’ in my care-free world, used to imply that that particular something was bad. Turns out, there are LOTS of good things out there. SO very many good things. I just can’t do all of them at the same time. I can’t even do a LOT of them at the same time. I have to pick and choose. It’s not permanent. I get to change my mind.

This process of fading out the noise, of taking everything off the shelves and doing some inventory, has opened up a whole new dialogue between me and my God. A ‘what’s True and Good and Necessary here?’ kind of conversation. Sometimes, His answer is, “Um, not a whole lot.” It’s been humbling, to say the least.

I’ve learned silence is preferred to noise, that gaps in time are to be left alone, and that I am healthier when I am less instead of more.

Now, to remember that every day.

Amen and may it be so.

Marsha Marks*

by heartland guest author, Marsha Marks

I love the Bible verse from the 23rd Psalm that says, “He restores my soul.”  If you’ve ever restored furniture you know how much work is involved, how much sanding (and sometimes gluing back together) is involved to restore the piece to way it looked when the creator first set it out from his shop. I like to think of God like that, as the great restorer of me, restoring the parts of me that other people have damaged or kicked in or bruised.

When I was a child, about 4 years old, my mom (who was a just a teenager) married a man who was into destroying souls by abusing little children. I was one of those children. When I was 9 years old, I finally told a teacher what was going on. I would have told sooner, but he had taken me to the garage and skinned my pet bunny alive in front of me. Then he told me he would do the same to my baby sister if I ever told on him. He held up my 4-month-old baby sister, who was screaming her head off. So, I kept quiet to protect her.

But, when I was 9 I told anyway. The teacher at school told the principal and they called a conference with my parents (this was long ago — now they would call county aid,) and at that conference the stepfather from hell said I was lying… that I told tall tales for attention. But, after that conference, he never touched me again.

However, as I grew into an adult, the fear that I had developed because of his abuse stayed with me, stuffed down into a place that I was afraid to visit, until I was 43 and he died.  I went to a therapist then because as soon as I heard of his death a song began to play in my head. I recognized that the song was being sung in the voice I had as a little child: “Ding dong the witch is dead, the wicked witch, the wicked witch. Ding dong the wicked witch is dead.” I told the therapist everything — and then I showed the therapist some of my cartoon drawings.  I showed him four cartoon characters and told him they were based on different people in my life, like my sisters etc.  He said, “I think they are all you.”  And in that moment, I knew he was right. I knew when I was 9 years old (and had finally stopped the bad guy from hurting me), that my personality wasn’t whole, like it is now; it was fragmented into four distinct characters: one very strong character who was a protector, one sweet character, one popular character, and one character that loved the law and loved enforcing it.

The therapist helped me to see that I was a victim when I was a child, but that my tragedy was not my identity.  I continued to write for and draw my cartoon characters all the rest of my adult life, and all the while I was growing in my faith in God.

But one thing in my faith bothered me. I could understand how God could work all things together for good, and that he allowed some awful things – but I could not understand how he could work what had been done to me as a child together for good. How could he possibly use child abuse so bad that my little personality had to split to handle the stress? I had no idea. Then recently my first book of cartoon characters came out. People are telling me they are blessed by these characters, and I’m thinking, maybe — just maybe — when God restores my soul, he recycles all the damage into something good.

You be the judge. You can download my eBook based on these characters at Amazon.com: Lambu looks at the Bible.  Click the blue title “Lambu Looks at the Bible, by Marsha Marks” below the hearts at the top of this web page (right above this post) to see samples from the book. Enjoy! ♥

P259-LTPP0259109273JCP-4*

by Jean Foster Akin

I was 24 when I married this sweetheart of a guy I met at work, and after several devastating miscarriages, I gave birth to a healthy son. I was twenty-seven. Six years later, we adopted a little five year-old girl from the Caribbean. I’d been married 9 years by then, and, strangely, I loved the man more than I had the day he turned his hazel eyes on me and asked me to marry him.

I planned boys’ paint ball parties, girls’ tea-and-crumpets parties, camping trips, days at the beach, and I wrote whenever I could. I looked forward to sitting with my husband on the back porch at night after the children were asleep, watching the stars move and knowing it was us who were moving, not the stars. It was us, sitting on a spinning blue ball.

Shucking Corn

My college girlfriends, who had gone on to be professionals-married-to-professionals, sighed at my contentedness and gave me sad faces, telling me that I was “wasting” my life washing dishes and keeping house. They didn’t understand the concept that “to everything there is a season,” and that I was made to mother. Sometimes, neither did I. “You need to be doing something with your life,” they instructed me. Something? Why, I was regularly spending 20 minutes getting action figures like Woody, Buzz Lightyear, G.I. Joe, and Spiderman out of their packages and into my son’s grateful hands; Barbie was rarely out of her box in under 30 minutes, much to my daughter’s chagrin. And then it took another half hour getting Barbie out of her skimpy mini-skirt and into a fluffy, ankle-length evening gown, threading her pointy hands with those sharp outstretched thumbs through the narrow lace sleeves. There’s Doctor Barbie, Horse Riding Club Barbie, Teacher Barbie, and many more, but regardless of what the package says, Barbie always comes in the box dressed like Street-Walker Barbie. Any mom who has ever remedied that while making a daughter happy has accomplished this thing called “doing something.

Off to Picnic

We also accomplished something on the Day of the Wasps. Dean was outside mowing the lawn, the children were outside playing ball with our puppy, I was inside mopping the kitchen floor. Suddenly I heard high-pitched screaming and Dean shouting: “Run! Run!” In seconds my family burst through the kitchen door followed by the angry ground wasps that Dean had disturbed with the mower. I jumped into the fray with my husband, frantically slapping wasps off our children’s heads, off the wailing puppy, releasing more malevolent buzzing into the air.  Our young son feinted this way and that, stomping wasps dead with his sneakered feet. My husband stripped off his clothes, leaving on only the minimum (in order to maintain some modicum of parental dignity) while releasing the wasps from the rest of his clothing and swatting at the stinging insects that were menacing his children. Our daughter, reverting in her terror to her mother-tongue, screamed a mixture of French, Spanish, and pure gibberish while dancing in place. It was a scene of chaos, and, when it was over and the enemy had been vanquished, we all stood there in the suddenly silent kitchen, listening to our battle-weary panting. Dean and I looked at each other then, and struck with thoughts of the antics we had all just engaged in, burst into laughter that the children couldn’t understand. When two kids in love become parents, they develop strange hormones that allow them to run into a swarm of bees to save their children from pain. Sure, it’s heroic, but it often looks pretty ridiculous.

I wanted to write books from an early age. Children disrupted my writing schedule, but as Anne Tyler once said: “It seems to me that since I had children, I’ve grown richer and deeper. They may have slowed down my writing for a while, but when I did write, I had more of a self to speak from.” More grey hair. More heartache. More joy. More anxiety. More love. And yes, Anne, more of a self to speak from.

Boating in Vermont

The adoption failed; for all intents and purposes it failed. But the rest of us are here. I am married to a strong, principled, protective man, one who can still make me laugh—25 years after we said “I do”—till the tears run down my face. Our son has kept the Faith. His life stretches out before him, filled with great possibilities, filled with some uncertainties. There will be moments of spirit-lifting excitement for him and for us. There will be moments of heartbreaking sorrow (because there always are). But we will be there for each other; we will get each other through.

I am a wife and a mother. I am a writer too. I will always love to write…and I will always love “wasting” my life with these people.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY.

Margie Miller*

by Margie Boswell Miller

Recently, my six-year-old daughter Sarah put her arms around my neck and said, “I’ve had a hard day.” I quietly held her and stroked her hair. Then she pulled back, put my face in her hands and said, “And you have too, Mom.”

Stunned by her awareness, I could only nod and whisper, “Thank you.” Simply the fact that she noticed began to mend some of the broken parts that were drifting, edges jagged, within my heart. The rift of damaged relationship and the sorrow-based anger with which I respond reveals the vast imperfection that is me, the me I like to pretend doesn’t exist but who, like a shadow in sunlight, is inescapably present.

Years ago, a friend said, “You are a situational-based person.” When I asked what he meant he said I entered situations believing they should be certain ways, and when they weren’t, I perceived them as flawed. “No I don’t!” I laughed. “You have got to be joking,” and vehemently denied his characterization. For weeks, nay years, I shook my head and thought, “He just doesn’t know me.”

Later, I moved and married and had children and all the while fashioned ideals around how it would be. Marriage would be blissful and supportive. My children would be responsible, happy, and well-adjusted. My home would be clean; not perfect, but – assuredly – clean.

Until the times it went off the rails.

It’s the big and the little things that do it: The loss of a parent, or the frustration of finding – and buying – a house on which two people agree. Differing opinions about what makes a dinner good, and bickering over whose job it is to pay the car insurance. It is full containers of plastic wrap/aluminum foil/paper napkins spread across the kitchen floor by a toddler, and the months stretching into years without nearly enough sleep because the sensitive second baby’s lactose intolerance remains undiagnosed for far too long. It is ear infections and strep and pinkeye; allergies, seasonal colds, and unexpected trips to the ER. It is stress and worry and exhaustion, and the inability to express oneself without tears. It is the months-long unmopped floor.

On Sunday evening, my husband and I walked into church and sank into the pew in silence. We were worn with tension and misunderstanding. I mentally reviewed the day that had turned from shared purpose to one of cross purposes. The light fell upon us from the large stained glass window, and the seats began to fill. The lights dimmed slightly and we stood and started to sing.

As the music rose and our voices with it, clarity and gratitude swept over me. For it is in this place that I can be tired, and worn down, and messy. It is in this place that I can admit failure without shame. And in this place my faults are known, and I am loved even so.

I am grateful beyond measure for this faith in which perfection is neither expected nor required. In which I am not expected to do, but to accept. In which redemption is the happy ending, that situational expectation, I so often seek in this world.

I am grateful I can turn to the author of creation who, instead of accusing, takes my face in his hands and says, “I know you’ve had a hard day.”

I bowed my head and whispered, “Thank you.”

And with an ever gentle shift, the broken and jagged pieces of my heart softly began to mend.

IMG_1948

vikki*

by Vikki Carr de los Reyes

Dear Reader, have I shared with you that Catherine had me at mashed potatoes? From that point on I became a fan of her work. When she asked, do you write ever?, she got me into writing better (my ever wish) and writing more (my ever want). I became a student. When we started working on some creative projects together, I became an ally. It all started with becoming friends, of course.

For the past 2 years, I enjoyed reading posts at this site (which used to be baaaaa.com) and engaging with the authors. I was honored to contribute a few. A community of trust, inspiration and comfort was built. These bleats were really good for my soul. I have a feeling it was good for you, too. I just remembered Seth Godin’s book, Tribes. He defined a tribe as a group of people connected to each other by an idea. That the group only needs two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate. I think Catherine has become an excellent Tribe Leader.

When initial plans about some changes at baaaaa came up, I thought a change might do the site good. It’s the bright side of needing to replace something so dear, isn’t it? It means the hunt begins again. A reboot might not be so bad, right? So I thought, “Neat-o! I wonder what baaaaa 2.0 will look like this time.”  

I would love to be involved somehow. I would be perfectly happy to be a cheerleader for those trying the writing life. I can be counted on to give my comments in the posts.

But, Catherine had a more extreme idea of baaaaa 2.0. She invited me to share ownership of the site. I have to be honest, to be a regular contributor is not exactly my idea of involvement. I have been asked to write alongside QUALITY writers, and I am amazed.

Dear Reader, there’s a reason why I don’t promote my own personal blog. I have always felt it was never good enough to be promoted as #amwriting, to a wider audience. I know, right? It’s always an issue with me. I am picky. I share my blog only with friends. Friends with whom I feel safe enough to share my rawness. Friends who just love to read.

“A young writer is like a young horse. The basic gaits must be developed before too much perfection is required.  Just as we would not give over valuable young horse to just anybody to train, we must not give over our work to just anybody to critique. We must write from love and we must choose those to read us who read from love: the love of words.” ~ Julia Cameron, The Right To Write

Thankfully (for all), I am not the only one here at heartland. We’re a total of five. The other ladies who share this ownership have been kindred to me.

Katie had me at I want; She needs; He knows. I know you like that. Margie’s Yet is worthy of print, and her sweet visits to my blog are a delight. I met Jean via a cute and sweet comment thread. What a pleasure to engage with these ladies on any topic!  I’m a huge fan of their work. We have become friends, but that was no surprise, as my initial encounter with each prepared me to like them very much. What a QUALITY bunch of girls! Loverlies, indeed.

To encourage me further to continue to participate here, Catherine reminded of the Grace feature. You like that word, Grace, don’t you? Grace means, undeserved kindness.    Writers here are promised, from the group, grace.

So, here is my state. I am honored. I am excited. I will share my interests. I will communicate. I will trust my fellow contributors to take me under their wings.  I am eager to journey with them, the loverlies.

Isn’t that exciting? Everyone in the Tribe can be a leader and spread the idea that we share a common interest and a way to communicate.

Dear Reader, you shall read stories of women who face struggles and problems in life but also of hope, love and peace. Stories that find we are not people who always respond correctly in life… That we are weak and sinful in nature… that we are not finished products… that we try to be realistic in our way of life. You shall find a tribe committed to follow the One whose life ended on the cross.

Dear Reader, you will read of our need to rely on YOU daily.

Through this tribe, we hope to be a friend and bring friends who will encourage and support our relationship with You.

o (✿) (✿◡‿◡) o (◡‿◡✿) o (✿◡‿◡) o (◡‿◡✿) o (✿◡‿◡) o (◡‿◡✿) (✿)o

“Sing to God a brand-new song.

He’s made a world of wonders!” 

                                   ~  Psalm 98:1, The Message

Heartland (formerly baaaaa.com) is a writing group shared by Katie Mulder, Margie Miller, Jean Foster Akin, Vikki Carr de los Reyes, and Catherine Fruisen.

Jean’s Blog

Katie’s Blog

Margie’s Blog

Catherine’s Blog

Vikki’s Blog

Lambu Looks at the Bible

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