the well of providence is deep ... it is the buckets we bring to it that are small ... Mary Webb

Saturday, June 30, 2012

here's your sign

"Here's your sign."

It's not what you expect in church, certainly not in the "Joys and Concerns" order of the service.

Unless you are a part of Eccles United Methodist Church, located deep within the Hell Hole Swamp community of Lowcountry, South Carolina.

I took my sign, handed to me by Diane Thomas, one of my fellow congregants, and noted the twinkle in her eye.  It was a 10 x 5 inch piece of white foam board strung with a piece of beige twine end to end, making it clear that the sign was to be worn.  On the sign were four handwritten words, double lined with black and various other accent colors.

It read, "Sharon is under construction."

I looked up at my husband, Bill, who already had his sign hung around his neck and displayed across his chest, and at the other seventeen attending members in process of hanging their signs.  Everyone was smiling.  A few words were shared here and there as Diane continued crisscrossing the aisle handing each individual their sign.  I understood that we were wearing these signs for the duration.

Neither the content of the sign nor the sign itself, really, were the subject of the sermon that day nor did it coordinate with the range of songs we sing every Sunday.  It was a tribute to our pastor, Bill Burke and his wife, Judy, who were leaving us to journey on in their service to others. 

"Bill has always said we are a work in progress," Diane announced before initiating the newest Eccles UMC ritual - the hanging of the sign.  Of all of the words Bill gave us over his eight years of ministry, these rang truest in that moment.  Though we did not speak of it again - there were other last minute exhortations and ways of saying goodbye to come and go - we were in agreement in the wearing of the sign throughout our service that we have been and still are "under construction."

I have been a part of this small, lovely, cinder block church of twenty pews seating an average of fifteen members for about seven years now, and I am only just beginning to understand the depth at which service is valued and relationships are formed.  Though in many ways I am still an observer more than a participant, that says more about me than it does about the warmth with which I am embraced without fail each time I join in the activities and services of the Eccles UMC community.

I marvel at this and at the magnitude of ministry that flows from the service of so few.  In my short time, I have watched mostly as these men and women created a meal service to people who are elderly and shut off physically from attending church, a "My Father's Food Pantry" ministry to the surrounding community, a weekly soup kitchen, and in collaboration with several other church communities, a free medical clinic for the uninsured.  Fifteen members ... FIFTEEN members ... what, I wonder, could we all do in service to others if we simply joined together in this kind of effort?

Our closing hymn was a fairly new one for us, "A Hymn of Promise," and its first verse was instructive:

In the bulb there is a flower, in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there's a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

Singing these words, tears flowing freely down my cheeks (and I suspect others), I felt in  part as though we were experiencing a Winter's death, saying goodbye to one season that we might welcome another, a Spring yet unrevealed.  

It seemed appropriate suddenly, even more so, that as we sang through our tears, we also wore signs of assurance across our hearts.

We are still "under construction," and for this I am so very grateful.

Friday, June 22, 2012

picking up my pen again!

One thing about a blog, or a goal, or a promise is that you can always start again.


Well, I am counting on it.  I believe that even two years later, I can still pick up my pen again and that this time, I might just stick with it.

It's not that I haven't been writing all along.  I've taken a few writing courses, and I've written brochures and newsletters and grants and websites for a nonprofit organization I direct.

I have written MANY stories in my head, but everyone says that's not really writing.

I am not so sure ...

If it were not for the writing that goes on in my head, I would never find my way back here ... to the white screen or page.  One thing I have come to believe is that a writer truly does write because of an inner drive.  We are beckoned, compelled and thank goodness, LOVED back to our writer selves by a force unseen but nevertheless steady in its summons.

It is why I am here again today.  Why I am going to try something new, at least for me.

Rather than start several blogs as I did before, I am going to write here exclusively.  Look to the labels, please, and see if an area in which I am blogging interests you.

The point is to pick up my pen again, yes?

Saturday, August 14, 2010


I just read a blog  by Chip MacGregor titled Metaphors, Collaborations...and a Story.

Chip is a literary agent, and I read his blog regularly.  I learn about the craft of writing, strategies for earning a living while and through writing, tips on setting up the business of writing, and publishing.  Though I wouldn't know him nor he me if we crossed on the same street, I think of Chip as a first name friend which is a little odd but also oddly okay with me and Chip as well, I imagine.

Today, it was the story that got me.

I don't think many writers come to this lifelong and often lonely work without a certain amount of idealism.  We want to make a difference, point to a new way of perceiving, shift, even for just a moment, the paradigm from what seems current to what seems possible.

Reading the story of how Sherwood Anderson mentored others, how his choice to invest in others influenced a whole century of writing, makes me feel a little melancholy with awe.  I'm fairly certain he didn't plan to have such an impact.  He was more likely just passing on what had been given to him.  Paying it forward to use a more modern turn of phrase.

I am grateful that there are others who are answering the call to mentor new writers. 

Chip MacGregor, for example. 

Friday, July 16, 2010


I love to read blogs, particularly writing and publishing blogs.  I like reading about the experiences of other writers, and I particularly like learning the tricks of the publishing trade.  Publishing is an alien world to me, and I have come to appreciate the openness with which many literary agents and bloggers share their expertise with publishing hopefuls like me.

I don't, however, like to comment on blogs.

It isn't because I have nothing to say.  I have plenty of thoughtful, reflective, funny, engaging, and even wise things to say (as I tell myself when I am dreaming about writing).  Yet as every true introvert knows, once you enter the crowded room, even if the crowded room looks like 235 comments from other readers, your well-prepared ideas and reflections leave you standing open-mouthed.  

One of my favorite blogs, Write To Done, had a guest post earlier this week from the A-List Blogger Club, a group of blogging experts who have formed a club to mentor new blog writers.  Guest writer Mary Jaksch of Goodlife ZEN offered readers a scholarship of $20 a month to join.  All that is required is to write a response in the comment section that convinces the A-List Blogger Club that you are one of the top five people who deserve it.

How loaded is that?  First I have to believe I am good enough (who ever believes that?).  Then I have to enter that "crowded room" and push past my natural tendency to quiet myself, to listen rather than speak.  All this before my response even begins to pass whatever invisible hoops the A-List Blogger Club has in mind when selecting the scholarship recipients. 

I'm not complaining here.  As a blogger, I so appreciate the very few who have commented on my words.  I go back and read them again and again, so I can only imagine how encouraging it is to those who get so many comments.  Good for them, I say.

I'm just trying to think through the resistance.  My solution today is to just write my thoughts here instead, and to seriously consider just paying the fee and joining the club.  I bet they can help.

A very wise young woman once told me that the best way to work a room is to go to one person at a time and start a conversation.  Maybe I'll try that too.

And I just want to point out that this is the first time I have ever named myself as a blogger.  Just saying ... progress slips right up on us when we aren't looking.

Monday, July 5, 2010

the value of community

I am an author.

I am an author, a writer who has not written for a month.

There is a blank page.  It is patient. It never beckons or berates.  It waits for words.

I circle and touch and retreat and forget and remember and circle again.

It waits ... I rationalize.

I got a job.  A great job.  A job that makes me smile as I drive the 40 miles one way each day to get there.  A job that is only part-time (supposedly) and should give me plenty of time to write.

I've been busy with other things also.  My grandson thought it was a great idea to have a cookout one Sunday after church.  This idea became a weekend ritual for the grandchildren ... swimming in the pool and pouring themselves out of the water to feast on hotdogs, fresh cucumbers and cantelope from the garden, and cupcakes. 

These things take time. 

Time from writing.

I don't think busyness is the culprit here.  I think instead the difference may be that my writing group has not met in a month.  Not since our author reading in fact, and I miss them. 

I miss thinking about writing after hearing interesting, curious events described in their stories each week.  I miss the sense of having a deadline to finish a story.  Not that anyone in my writing group cares if I miss a deadline, but because they so appreciate what I bring to our reading table and encourage me to bring more.  I miss the conversation before and after our meetings, and I miss thinking about what each of them might bring next to educate, entertain and inspire.  Will it be an adventurous sailing story?  Or an unexpected epiphany teased from the memory of one's past?  Or simple entertainment in the telling of interactions with plants, animals, and human beings in yards, homes, parking lots, road trips, nail salons and myriad other settings? 

Thankfully, my writing community is reuniting again this week.

Shhh ... it feels a bit like a secret we shouldn't tell, but we are gathering again this week to receive copies of the first printing of our new book, Scenes from the Rear View Mirror.

We are authors, and we have written a book, the first of many we will publish either in partnership with one another or individually as we continue to follow our writing dreams.

I look forward to seeing the completed book, but most of all I look forward to seeing these women who by chance became my writing partners.  For this community, I am beyond grateful.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

i am an author

Friday night, I attended my first author's reading.

And I was on the program as an author.

Let's just sit with this a moment.

Okay, so it was a gathering of my Creating Memoirs writing class members and their families and friends.  And, yes, we were reading stories that we wrote as students in our class.

Still, for the first time, I felt like an author.  I introduced myself as a writer.  I read my story with confidence, and people clapped when I was finished.  Isn't that what happens at author's readings?  One of my fellow writing colleagues noted how powerful it is to name things, and I agree.

I am an author, and I am blessed.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

i've been writing

I think I may have found my genre.

And perhaps my voice.

Each week as I attend this new memoir writing class, as I listen to the stories of others, and as I write my own stories, I feel more and more settled, content, directed, home.

I think that it is entirely possible that the reason I have been struggling so much with writing fiction is because what I really want to write about is me.

I find this revelation a little funny and slightly egotistial.

Am I that self-absorbed?  Is my ego so large that I think others might be interested in reading about my life?  Do these questions come as truth?  Or do they come from the "one" who has haunted my every pursuit with taunts of "Who Do You Think You Are?".

Well, as they say, the proof is in the pudding, and the "proof" is that since I've started this class I have rewritten two stories and written first drafts of two new stories.  This is a watershed experience compared to the laborious albeit dedicated progress I was making before discovering this genre.

And my writing group's response to my first story was that it was "poetic".

I like this. 

I like the writing.  I like the encouragement.  I appreciate my teacher, Tonya McGue, who has given her time to nurture small voices like mine.

Selah ...