Listening

How much do you listen?

I try to listen, and to listen well. There is something beautiful about one person communicating their experience to another, the one trying so hard to put their life into words and the other trying so hard to understand the person simply as who they are, without bringing any of their own problems or ideas into the act of listening. There is something beautiful about sitting down to write, stilling myself enough to listen well. Some days that is difficult, days like today when I want to rush and go do other, more concrete things and maybe avoid a few of my sins and problems that are still bouncing around in my head and in my soul. But still I write. Still I listen, or try to.

No one listens perfectly. Faced with the same God, we each see something different–for who can see God in entirety? Faced with inspiration, experience, we each take that and try to fit words to it in different ways: different techniques, different goals, different styles. For me, writing is all about listening, and listening well.

Listen well, and share your small experience.

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Celebrate (Five Minute Friday)

 

I’ve been following Five Minute Friday for a while, trying to get up the courage to do the freewrite and link my blog up. Expose it to the world. Today being the day is reason enough to celebrate! Not sure where the courage came from–except I am, of course, for my God is the source of all good things. That is another reason to celebrate. There are so many.

Even as there also are so many to not celebrate. Reasons, that is. The world is hard and broken and full of sin and sh*t like child prostitution and shootings and children being arrested for clocks and so much more. How do we celebrate in the midst of that?

We celebrate by looking forward, looking up. It may feel premature to celebrate what isn’t totally here yet, but Jesus came. Already here. Not yet. We celebrate by being Christ to others, fighting against that sin and darkness. Maybe by sitting with someone in their darkness. Maybe by doing nothing. God’s funny like that.


And that’s my Five Minute Friday for today. Worth it.

Reflections on Reading, Lately

I used to be an absolutely voracious reader–in some ways I still am, when I give myself the chance, but I often don’t. Readings for school are overwhelming and draining, and sometimes take away all desire to read anything. Reading gives me ideas for my own writing, in a bad, all-consuming kind of way; reading changes my whole writing style if I allowed myself to become completely absorbed in the writing and style and world.

And that is my favorite way to read. I want to enter into another world, totally and completely. I want to enter into a world that inspires, that forces me to think and ponder and look for God in unexpected places. And in some ways that’s the root of why I haven’t read much lately: I have high expectations, and I’m afraid that those expectations won’t be met when I pick up a book I’ve never read before. I don’t want to waste my time on something that isn’t good.

I’m not entirely sure when the shift happened, when I realized that this was an utterly asinine reason to stop reading. But I’ve been reading, these past three weeks, and it’s been beautiful.

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis This has always been one of my favorite Narnia novels–it’s just so clearly applicable to real life, day-in and day-out, unlike some of the more epic, battle-filled novels. I read this all in one day when I went home, where I have my nice copy of Narnia, which includes all the original illustrations. It was the first time in a long time that I’ve allowed myself to sink into a novel, utterly be absorbed by what’s happening and the world that’s being painted.

The Girl on the Road by Monica Byrne I picked this out of the library, based on the fact that it was a sci-fi book written by a woman and set in Africa. It’s intriguing: it’s set in the near-future, when the center of culture has moved to Africa and Asia and global warming is an acknowledged fact. The world-building is amazing. I still haven’t finished it; rather, I’ve been slowly savoring (by which I mean reading before I go to bed, forcing myself to put it down when I’ve read an hour longer than I meant to).

The Preaching Life by Barbara Brown Taylor Yes, it’s about preaching, but it’s also about the Christian life, and it’s beautifully written. Taylor writes vividly, full of Christian hope and joy but also achingly ????. I finished the first half, various essays on her own Christian life, all in one sitting, when I walked to the park last weekend. It was like drinking when I was dying of thirst; even when I felt full of insights and emotions and words, I couldn’t put it down. I’ve been using the second half, a collection of sermons, as part of my devotional practice this week.

Nameless book I read most of it while I was home and of course didn’t take note of the title, because I had no intention of writing this post at the time. It was a collection of short essays about established writers’ first experience of reading–not necessarily reading individual words so much as their first realization that reading is magical, reading is something that can show you whole new worlds. It was a great one to read as I was getting back into reading myself.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver It’s heartbreaking and beautifully written and I’ve been reading it every chance I get.

Time

There’s so much I’d like to do with my life, and only so much time in which to do it: read through my monstrous TBR pile, publish, write the books I’ve planned, spend time with friends and family, make crafts I’ve planned or half-finished. I have so many dreams, and yet my time seems to get swallowed up doing other things. Things like Netflix bingeing, reading every link that comes up on my Facebook or Twitter feed, or playing stupid games on my tablet.

Is this really what I want to be doing with my life?

I’d much rather look back and say, “I put all of my energy into writing my books, into becoming the best writer possible, into becoming the best child of God possible,” than say, “I played every level of that game and beat my high score every week!” I want to do worthwhile things with my time, things that glorify God, things that make the world better, things that bring joy to myself and others.

I’m not sure how to switch gears. Things are so bad right now that I get on my tablet first thing in the morning and last thing before bed, to take a break, to get ready to do something, just because I’m bored… There are so many better ways I could be using my time.

I’ve been trying to consciously resist the urge to pop open my tablet whenever I’m bored. But habits are hard to break. I’m not sure what my next step is; every bad habit I develop I seem to find a different way to break, because nothing that’s worked before worked again. My brain is an odd place.

I want to live to the fullest, one day–one moment–at a time. For me, that doesn’t necessarily mean a life full of extraordinary experiences. It means more living a life full of the things that are important: God, friends, family, writing. A life full of serving God, serving others, hard work, honesty. Things that aren’t easy, unlike checking Facebook every five minutes. That’s the epitome of easy.

I need to find a way to pick what’s important over what’s easy. I’ve started here, and now I’m going to go do it some more, one moment at a time.

Discovering Joy

I haven’t been writing much lately, as you can see. In one way, this is a source of deep sorrow; my soul cries out for that experience again. But I’ve discovered so many other sources of joy, sources that have crowded out writing: the joy of food, cooked and savored and eaten with others; the joy of summer evening walks; the joy of late-night conversations, when the walls seem to come down and you’re mutually vulnerable and forgiving; the joys of spending time with friends, to leisurely have a cup of tea or a meal or watch a movie together; the joys of moving through life slowly, stopping to watch a butterfly or examine a flower or admire a beautiful old building.

I need to start writing again. I have several projects in the works, deadlines starting to loom, but it has been an amazing few weeks. I’ve learned to savor, to slow down, to enjoy things I’ve never made time for before. I love discovering joy in unexpected places!