To South Africa with Love

Friends who live in South Africa stayed in our home recently. The last one left last night, and they will head back across the ocean in a short while. It was a sweet, if crowded, time of relearning about the world and discovering, once again, how similar people are no matter where they live. We were reminded that true friends are like canned goods. They keep.

Having others in my home is stretching, though. Even if they don’t mean to, our guests (and we’ve had many) hold a mirror in front of me. They cause me to notice my routines, my “must-haves” and quirks, in new ways. The fact that we have to have music playing during every meal? That’s not normal, turns out. Our multiple-pots-of-coffee mornings where even the teenagers imbibe like addicts? Different. The way I fold underwear. The fact that I fold underwear.

It can be a little uncomfortable to see myself and my habits through someone else’s eyes. This is not necessarily because I’m doing things wrong, but because I thought I knew myself well. Turns out, I’m often on autopilot. I fail to notice things. I can be a little (lot?) blind, sometimes…

Like a good spring cleaning, letting others into my personal space can bring on a life audit. It’s easier to discern which things I want to keep and which I could possibly let go when I’ve lived up close with someone who does things differently. It produces growth, which, yes, can be painful. But the alternative is stagnation and status quo. I’m not interested in those.

So I’m thankful for the last ten days for several reasons, among them the chance to see myself and my loved-ones more clearly.

Thanks, South Africa. Until next time.

Love > Art

My sister blew in to town this week. She’s one of my best friends, and I’m always happy when I get to see her. At the same time, I got my manuscript back from my agent. She had some ideas about things I should tweak to make my story stronger. Also, she wants me to up my mileage on social media (not something that comes naturally to me).

In other words, I have work to do.

But my sister lives hours away, and I don’t get to see her and my nieces and nephew very often. I don’t want to miss a minute with them.

This is how it always is: God gives me little opportunities to choose the most important thing in any given moment. Sometimes I choose the wrong thing. Sometimes I’m selfish or short-sighted. But this week I chose my sister, and I’m not sorry. It doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about my manuscript the whole time she’s been here because I sure as heck have. It just means I’ve been able to see things more clearly this time. I’ve been able to focus on what’s most valuable right now.

Writing is important, but people are more important. No amount of writing about people can make up for not actually loving them. So I chose the real characters in my life. And I chose to live a story instead of write one. This week, anyway.

The End.

My Own Cheerleader

I hope all of you had a restful holiday season. For Christians, it’s the time when we reflect on the lengths God was willing to go to in order to begin undoing the horror of this world. For others, it’s simply a time to hang with family and friends and eat a lot. In any case, it’s a time many of usĀ want to enjoy but are secretly glad when it’s over. Because routines.

I mentioned before that I made the foolish choice to work on novel edits all through the month of December because I’d promised an agent I’d send her a full manuscript after the first of the year. It was a stressful and hard thing to do, and sometimes I had to set the work aside in order to really be with the people I love (without that glazed look in my eye).

Stuff happened in December, too, that threatened to derail my editing–things that had nothing to do with Christmas. For one, my beloved Frodo hurt his eye pretty bad and we had to rush to the vet on Christmas Eve. He sustained permanent damage. I cried. My novel languished.

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But I finished the draft today. I saved the last chapter on the computer, swallowed the lump in my throat and tucked it away. I need to savor this moment because no one cares about it but me. Also, I need to celebrate this accomplishment because I could send it to the aforementioned agent and she might very well say, “That’s nice. Not for me.”

The joy could evaporate with a single email, and then I will have to regroup. When the sting wears away.

So I’m not rushing. I’m sitting with this quiet joy for as long as it lasts.

P.S. Happy New Year.