You’ve heard the stories of writerly folks who say they were born with a pencil and notebook in-hand. There are folks who can’t not write born aplenty. Well, I wasn’t born in that manner; I was born in the middle of Montana, in the middle of winter, to a woman who was her daddy’s right-hand ranching gal, and I reckon if I came outta the womb totin’ a notebook, you’d already know me because it woulda been on the news. Or printed in the National Enquirer.
Or at least whispered about over fences.
“Say, Sally, did you hear about that dark-haired baby born to that blonde gal? Yep, she got all tangled up in the birthing canal with a spiral notebook,” said Mrs. King.
“No way,” said Mrs. Nosey-Rosy.
“Yes, way. They had to call in Doc Get the Spirals Outta Me to extrapolate the baby and her ratty notebook.”
“Ugh, what’s the world coming to?”
“I don’t know. Her pages were only covered in run-on sentences, comma splices, typos, and baby drool; unlike when my Stephen was born, his pages were covered in best-selling stories.”
“Yep, that dark-haired baby girl don’t have a chance.”
Anyway, you get the idea. Right? I mean, I’ve been writing ever since I could scratch words with a pencil, but nothing earth shattering. Weird little stories from a very active imagination. Poetry born out of teenage angst. News articles as a high school journalist wannabe. Opinion pieces as a high school newspaper editor. Sports stories as a college journalism student. Then. I dropped journalism because the professor irked me and itched me worse than a pair of woolen underwear in August. Yikes.
I set aside my journals and spiral notebooks for hi-lighters and college texts and assorted athletic taping/injury assessing/rehabilitation skills. Then after college I couldn’t find a job so I left my husband in our new state and returned to our college town and took up a seat in law school. Then. One of my professors told me, “Look here Darlene, you obviously know how to write. But, you just can’t write briefs worth a hill of beans. Yes, you earned that D grade.” Yikes.
To make a long story short, I stuck it out for a while. Long enough to push some woman up against the hallowed law school hallway wall when she suggested I left my husband to pursue law and men. Long enough to realize I woulda been great in the courtroom, but stinky bad at all the finite details of being a lawyer. Long enough to know I coulda done it if I wanted to. Long enough to know I didn’t want to.
(FYI: I didn’t leave my husband. I just went to law school. Then I left law school and went home to where my heart was.)
Fast-forward several years. My husband and I came to know the Lord whilst I was pregnant with our son. About five years later, when the economy dove into the dumpster, my family was tossed about on the ensuing waves of relocation that included new jobs, house sales, and long-term family separations.
Thank heavens for God’s perfect timing – because how do folks do it without the Lord God Almighty at the helm?
Pray for the Fish, a fine song by country crooner, Randy Travis, sure as shootin’ could be/should be/is my Christian life theme song. I mean, really, when the pastor plunged me under and the sins rolled off, it’s a good thing we were in the church’s indoor dunk tank instead in the river – because I reckon all manner of fish woulda been floppin’ to shore in futile fishy efforts to survive their unexpected, toxic sin-bath.
Yikes for the fish.
Yay for me.
Thanks be to God Almighty.
He washed my sins away. He made me new. He gave me a heart that’s wired to chase after Him. Oh yeah, just like you, sometimes that wiring goes wonky, while at other times it simply shorts out. And boy-howdy, when a connection (or two or three) corrodes and I’m reduced to a befuddled miry mess of a woman, I go through the painful process of asking God to scrape the filth away, yet again. And again.
Thankfully He does it.
Each and every stinkin’ time I get stuck in the gunk and decide to slip outta my boots and make a dash for the wide, worldly, wacked out way, He points my shoulders, focuses my mind, and rattles my heart back toward the narrow way that leads to His gate. His way.
My synapses fire true.
My cylinders run smooth.
No foolin’, He does this because He loves me. And you, you, too. He does it for you. And if you don’t yet know Him, He knows you and He wants you to give it up buckaroos. Reach for the sky and give your life to Him.
~ ~ ~ ~
God’s timing is perfect. And amazing. Now pay attention folks, ‘cause I’m gonna rattle fast for a minute…
One day before news of massive lay-offs at my husband’s pulp mill, I started reading Shiloh Autumn. This novel is a historical Christian fiction tale about the events following the collapse of the cotton market in 1931. Tyndale House Publishers released it in 2006 (following a 1996 release by Thomas Nelson Publishers). In a nutshell, the characters endured so much loss, yet persevered – by the grace and strength of God. A fine example for what my family was about to literally face with our Relocation Saga.
(come up for air)
We moved four times in two years. My husband actually moved six times because with each new job (there were two), he moved ahead of us. Me, the kiddo, and our motley crew of critters stayed behind each time to sell the ole ranchola. Two home sales in the crappy economy. Blah, blah, blah. There is a whole lot more to this story, but hang on, I’m getting to a point here.
(come up for air)
I read a lot and scratched words about a lot of the trials and struggles and funnies because…
“As for all those leather-bound volumes? Books defined those things she saw close-up and felt and knew to be true about her life. Black pint in white paper gave a voice to her inner self, asked questions she had not known to ask, held up a mirror to reflect her soul.”
Thoene, Bodie, and Brock. Shiloh Autumn.
Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2006.
I wrote on a laptop, on a desktop computer, in journals, on paper plates, on napkins, on brown paper bags. The words, like my sins, flowed outta me. One day I sent off a bit o’ the writing to a friend. She edited it, sent it back, and suggested I write a memoir. A what? What in the billy-bob-halla-ballou is a memoir? Isn’t that something that old people who’ve had a gold-lined life write so folks remember just how great they are?
“Uh, no, miss Darlene,” she told me different. She told me to do it. Or at least think long and hard about doing it.
So I did.
Then I decided not to do anything about it.
(come up for air)
Then I signed up for Mary DeMuth’s writerly guidance that she gave through her website. One week later, I got an email that she was letting that site go in order to pursue her writing more fully. I thought for sure this was a sign for me not to write.
She linked a writing contest.
I thought maybe-baby then I forgot about it when my husband got hurt. I got distracted. And then I heard about the contest again. So I said why in the blazes not give it a whirl.
This way I can see (1) what I need to have and (2) what I need to do and (3) what I need to know in order to write a real book proposal; ya know, for when I’m ready to give a solid whack at actually writing a book.
(come up for air)
I did in five days what most with-it folks had months and months to do. I called another friend and begged her advice because quite frankly, I know not what I’m doing. Not to be remiss, a few other ladies helped me too — these gals gave advice and editing skills… miss G, (& miss G’s sis, miss J) miss P, and another miss J. I don’t swing in literary trees, heck, I don’t even sit underneath their branches. I just blabber on and sometimes do it on paper and/or on a screen. And I need a lot of help. A load of help, actually.
Some thirty days after the contest deadline, the phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number and I thought it was a telemarketer so as the caller rattled on, for the most part, I ignored her and continued to hang laundry on the line. Then she said something about Re:Write and was I coming to the conference?
Uh, no. Too much money. Not enough time. Too much to do at home with firewood, and putting up produce, and homeschool, and all manner of other whatnots.
Then she told me my submission was in the top thirty. I stopped. And listened. Then streams of sweat poured outta my pits. Ugh, that was gross. Anyway, I was excited. Wow. Neato-mosquito and all that jive.
Still, I decided not to go to the conference. (see reasons above)
Yesterday (Sept. 5), I checked the Re:Write site for an update on the top ten and I saw my name on the blasted screen. I yelped. My son gave me so many high-tens that my hands went numb. Then my phone rang. Miss Esther from Re:Write and the Fedd Agency called to tell me I was one of the ten finalists. Again with the rivers of sweat. It’s a good thing nobody could see or smell that action. Some folks blush, some folks faint, some folks perspire, well, I reckon I just sweat rivers.
(come up for air– well, not too much ’cause one never knows how much olfactory detail a computer screen picks up)
Anyway, the day before yesterday, I started the very same book that I had read at the outset of our Relocation Saga, Shiloh Autumn. The book is published by Tyndale. The non-fiction writerly contest was sponsored by Re:Write and Tyndale. And like that novel, the book I proposed is about my family’s struggles through a turd-fest economy.
In addition, during my family’s Relocation Saga, I saw time and again how God used events of my sin past to help prepare me for that journey. Even though He washed me squeaky clean in the baptismal dunk tank, I still carried remnants of who and how I was before I met Jesus Christ.
And when I became a believer, I wondered what in the world I was to do with who I was before. How could God use all that wretchedness to glorify Him today?
Enter the memoir.
So, even though I know not a thing about writing books, the publishing industry, the world of the literarily inclined, I made it this far, buckaroos. Thank you for reading my stuff, encouraging me, guiding me, and telling me not to quit writing. (Because the day I got that first call last week, I had decided to close shop. Stop with the word bleeding. And just immerse myself in the real world and stay outta the writerly world.)
He had other plans.
~ ~ ~ ~
“As for all those leather-bound volumes? Books defined those things she saw close-up and felt and knew to be true about her life. Black pint in white paper gave
a voice to her inner self,
asked questions she had not known to ask,
held up a mirror to reflect her soul.
… It was for this reason that the bookshelves in her parlor were crammed full, and
still there was not room enough
to hold it all.”
Thoene, Bodie, and Brock. Shiloh Autumn. Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2006.
And do ya wanna know something else that is terrifically God-grande about this week? Tomorrow, Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise, The High Calling will run a bit I wrote about the simple life status of my family’s hearts and mind, all a result of our Relocation Saga.
In His timing.
In His way.
‘Cause He is God.
This piece would not be complete without a big ole YEEEEHHHHHAAAWWW buckaroos!
* photo credit: me. SimplyDarlene.