~Startling Reflections

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It can be difficult to see yourself. Sometimes it’s the reflection in the mirror in front of you; the bitterness staring back at you, the exhaustion showing in the rings and shadows under the eyes, the pain in the firm set jaw.

Sometimes it’s the reflection in an illustration, perhaps given by your pastor or read in a blog post; an illustration that describes you perfectly, often in a way you would rather not think about.

Perhaps even more disconcerting, for an author specifically, would be my most recent experience; a reflection of yourself in your own book characters.

I have written a few characters based after me on purpose, mostly in my older works, so it’s not surprising when they take on my traits. It would be rather surprising (and quite odd) if they didn’t. But it is startling when I begin to recognize parts of my character revealing themselves where I didn’t expect. The conviction that follows when I begin to show how these characteristics need work is usually more than I’m prepared for.

Peter tries to forget reality by burying himself in books. He reads book after book in a desperate attempt to hide from the pain of life. When I decide that reality hurts too much to think about, I start reading so that I can fill my mind with a fictitious reality and forget.

Xavier tries to handle life on his own even though he knows that he can and should turn to the LORD in times of difficulty. Instead, he stuffs down sorrow, anger, and pain, and tries to push on in his own strength. Again, I do the same. Far too often.

Claudette fights submission to authority as if it were an illness. She justifies her actions with claims of adulthood. And… me again.

No, I don’t take my fictional escapades nearly as far or as long as Peter, though I might be tempted. I’m not as vocal or rebellious as Claudette at all, but that’s not through any merit of my own. Xavier and I are pretty close in intensity when we try to stuff things down and handle them on our own. (Though, prayerfully, I am improving and taking things to the LORD more often.)

The conviction doesn’t come so much when I realize that we’re alike, even in flaws. It comes when my character has to face that flaw and deal with it – because I now have to face it as well. What kind of hypocrite would I be if I said that Claudette needs to honor her parents and I don’t? Or that Peter needs to face reality, but I can run from it? Or Xavier is too weak to control life on his own, but I am not? No, if they I have to face it, so do I.

I never imagined that writing a novel could stretch or grow me. Journeys of Four has been difficult at times; painfully difficult. There have been moments when I felt like I was being shred and taken to bits as I worked through Claudius fighting conviction and Christine struggling with her shyness. Where I haven’t shed tears, my heart has cried, prayed, and begged for help at times when I thought I couldn’t take anymore – because it became so personal.

I probably sound crazy. I might be tempted to doubt my sanity if I hadn’t lived it. Regardless, while I sometimes wished I could be the passive outsider while writing, I can now look back and thank the LORD for using the experience to draw me towards Him; to teach me about Him.

I confess to being a little afraid of what I may come across and who I might meet in 24 Days Before Christmas, but, on the other hand, I pray that I am open to see whatever lessons the book might hold. Because, if the LORD wants to use it to grow or teach me something, I certainly don’t want to miss out.

Note: I only just found this post, hidden in one of my notebooks. It was written back in June. 24 Days Before Christmas has since been drafted and typed. But that’s another post, altogether…


To the KING be all the glory!

~You can do it! Keep trying!

I’ve said these word a lot lately. A certain sweet girl kept telling me that she couldn’t conquer while she struggled with reading.

“I can’t do it,” she would say in a defeated tone, setting down her work and letting her shoulders droop.

“Yes, you can do it,” I answered. “I know you can do it. Keep trying!”

She tends to listen, try again, go for awhile, say she can’t, listen to me again, try again – over and over. She is making progress and that is wonderful to watch.

One of the lovely, yet difficult things I’ve discovered about children, is that whatever you preach to them, seems to come back to get you before long. Like the day that I had them practicing gratefulness, then found myself being served my least favorite food for supper.

But that’s another post.

As I said, my continual refrain of late has been to tell them that they can do things, when they want to quit. Nothing really impossible. Just things that require a little more work than they might feel like they can give it. I’ve said it to several children, but especially one, countless times over the last several weeks. As many times as I’ve said it, I should have expected to be tested on it. I didn’t even consider it.

Not until those children decided they wanted to get me up on a bicycle.

I never did learn to ride nor had I ever even owned a bicycle. I tried for about ten minutes when I was eleven, fell off twice, and never tried again. I had few opportunities, yes, but I didn’t take advantage of the ones I had. Honestly, I didn’t want to get hurt or, worse, fail.

The Marr children have been learning to ride lately and they decided that they want me to learn too. I demurred for awhile, but I had told them about my short trial at eleven. They decided that I should learn now. Then, the same sweet girl who struggles with reading, asked, “Don’t you think you can do it, Rebekah? You should try. I think you can!”

What could I say to that? The bicycle still intimidated me, but how could I use that as a sufficient excuse?

So, I went outside, and got up on the bicycle.

Goodness, were those children excited! My stomach dropped when I looked down at the wheels and handlebars. I tried to steady the bike – and failed. Rosy held it steady, while I pedaled. She held on until I got going, then let me on my own.

I had to restart myself about six times in a quarter of an hour or so. I kept going though, not doing too horribly… until I slammed into a post and went flying through the air, before crashing to the ground. Lesson done for the day.

While tempted to quite altogether, the next afternoon, listening to the begging and cheering of my young teachers, I climbed onto the bicycle again. This time, Lizzie held the bike steady.

By the third day of practice, Lizzie could let go entirely, and I could, with some difficulty, get myself going. Today, no one helped me at all, besides begging me to ride and cheering me on. They take great joy in watching me learn to ride.

Hopefully, I’m learning more than how to ride a bicycle. Not only has this been a good reminder to be willing to practice what I preach, it’s also a good personal reminder, that a little extra hard work and perseverance despite difficulties will eventually be rewarded, be with the ability to read anything or ride a bicycle. In the long run, taking an entire minute to sound out a word or putting up with bruises for a few days when you fall off the bike will be rewarded if you keep going in spite of them.

To the KING be all the glory!

~The Impact of a Smile

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I don’t really know a lot of people, but there are some among my friends and acquaintance who have smiles that I love. They don’t know it, because I tend not to mention it, but it’s true. I tend to see a beauty in every genuine smile, but in these individuals, that beauty is exemplified. Often, this means that I can’t help but smile myself, even if the person isn’t looking at me or even knows that I’m watching them.

While I’ve always loved a smile, it was on a difficult day about two-and-a-half years ago, that I was struck by a lesson concerning them.

At the time, my family and I were living in a small house in a rough part of town. My sisters and I always went outdoors in pairs, often accompanied by our dog. Most of our friends were living a ways a way and I missed them sorely. While the LORD was gracious to me during the time that we lived there and I often found blessing to rejoice in, on this particular day the world felt difficult and my heart had grown heavy.

My sister needed to water plants in the front yard, so I went with her. Our house faced a busy main road, the yard separated from the sidewalk only by a short, rod-ironed fence. Vehicles made hundreds of passes everyday, creating a deafening roar, while dozens of people went on foot or by bicycle along the sidewalk.

While my sister watered thirsty plants with the only hose, I stood near the white fence, watching the passersby. Those who walked past me either just gave me a glance or ignored me altogether. Then, a bicyclist came by.

The bicyclist was a man, probably in his mid to late thirties. He had on a white helmet, and like so many others, looked up in time to catch my eye as he passed. Unlike the others, however, he did one thing. He smiled. He gave me a bright, genuine smile.

To my knowledge, I had never met that man before in my life. Never spoke to him; never even seen him. But that smile he gave me in the two seconds before he zipped past me, brightened not only the rest of my day, but the rest of my week. Yet, I wonder if I fully realized the lesson shown to me that day; the lesson revealing the impact of a smile.

The bicyclist likely doesn’t remember me. Of the dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people that he probably saw while riding on that day, I was one person who crossed his line of vision for less than half a minute. Still, I remember him. I remember him as the person the LORD used to bring me some cheer during a rough time.

It doesn’t take long to smile at someone. Sometimes it’s hard. The last thing you want to do is try to look cheerful for someone else. Yet, you don’t know what encouragement you might be passing on. I understand that it’s not always appropriate to smile, but at least think about trying. You just don’t know who might need a little cheering up or why, and it costs nothing.

Whether it’s for a loved one or a complete stranger, consider sharing a smile when you catch their eye. But don’t think about it too long before you act, because all you may have is a ten second window before the opportunity is gone.


To the KING be all the glory!