Friday, January 24, 2014

So anyway, my poetry manuscript is GOING TO BE PUBLISHED!

Yeah, it's no biggie. I've only been waiting for this since I was fifteen years old.

I've only submitted manuscripts of my poetry to publishers about half a dozen times within the past 25 years, but the closest I've ever come was receiving an "Honorable Mention" in a chapbook contest that was about six years ago, but it came without publishing. Of course I was thankful for the nod of encouragement, so the following year I submitted to yet another contest and did not receive anything but a rejection letter. After that, I wasn't able to go through the work and frustration again, so I stuck to just writing poems, figuring it wasn't God's will for me to have a chapbook. Ever.

I can't remember how it came about, but sometime last year, I found out that Finishing Line Press was holding a chapbook contest. I went to their website and was excited to read that even if your manuscript didn't place, it would be considered for publication. I knew about Finishing Line Press because many talented poets I know have had their chapbooks published by them. Even though the possibility of being rejected again was huge, I figured, why the hell not? It's not like I'm busy with anything, and this will give me something creative to do besides playing Scrabble on Facebook.

In case you are not familiar with the term, Writer's Digest defines a chapbook as "a small collection of poetry, generally no more than 40 pages, that often centers on a specific theme... It’s typically saddle-stitched (like a pamphlet or magazine) and is a format well suited to smaller print-runs." It's how most poets start out: a few chapbooks, and if you're good, then eventually a full length collection is published.

The work of putting my manuscript together for the contest was as much thrilling as it was depressing. I read through files, years of poetry, and in the end, I found only 30 poems that were maybe, just possibly worthy of being in a collection. So I edited and edited, cut, scrapped and rearranged words and stanzas like a collage of photographs.

When I finally had everything printed out and ready to mail, I prayed. I said something like this, "Lord, I know writing poetry is a gift that You have given me, and some of my poems have been very good, but I know that most people entering this contest are far more talented than I am. So, I've decided to leave the end result up to you, and since I will most likely be rejected, please help me to not get too depressed when I get the 'thanks, but no thanks' results."

Months went by, and I mean so many months that I actually forgot about the contest -well, that could  have a little to do with all the drugs I am on- but then, on the afternoon of January 12th, I woke up, had my chai tea and talked with the Big Guy, and got around to checking my e-mail and there was something from Finishing Line Press, with the subject reading, "CHAPBOOK ACCEPTANCE: water unto light". A few days later I got this in the mail:

Ever since, I have had moments of elation, anxiety, frustration, fear, joy, anger and just plain freaking-the-hell-out -but that emotional struggle I will cover in my next blog. In the meanwhile, please thank God with me, because He is the one who has made this happen! YAAAAH!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

expect more errors (a late new year post)

As I began to write this entry, a little window popped up on my computer screen that read something like, "Error: Possible problem with your *allgreek2me file. Expect more errors."

I had to smile, because "Expect more errors" has been a significant part of what God has been trying to teach me this past year of 2013. Come to think of it, it wouldn't be a bad idea if I were to have that line tattooed on the back of my hand for an excruciating five or six hours in every color available until the truth and pain and dye mixed with my blood, traveled up to my skull, and inscribed itself deep in my brain. Then, maybe I'd no longer be surprised when errors occur in my life, because, for some strange reason, I continue to be taken aback when something goes terribly wrong.

Take today, for instance: it was supposed to be a good day, and by today I mean yesterday (I live in the world of nocturnals). The night before (which would be your morning) I planned on going to bed early, just like I plan to do every night, but once again, I tragically failed. You'd think changing a sleeping schedule wouldn't be so hard, but it's extremely complicated, trust me. Some people have judged me as being irresponsible because of my sleeping routine, but it's not like I'm up partying or anything, I just have issues in nearly every part of my human being, and late nights are a symptom of the sickness.

Whenever I try to change my strange sleeping symptom --or any of my other unusual symptoms-- my deep down "error" resists with all it's got. It goes something like this: I take my sleeping medication a few hours before I normally do, hoping I might actually be able to wake up before sunset, but hell no, that little pill gives me the middle finger while sliding all the way down my throat. I can almost hear it laughing, "Ain't gonna happen, loser!" Then, I end up staying awake until dawn, 'til sleep finally finds me.

When I do wake up, and I mean like every time, it is always with pain. Lots of pain. (Jeez this is a happy blog!) So every afternoon or early evening when I wake, I get up, take three different prescription pills (two for pain, plus one muscle relaxer) then I go back into my bed and wait 20 minutes until some of the pain has faded and I can moan my way down the hall.

Last night and today, I attempted my useless approach to normalcy once again: I was going to go to bed before dawn, wake up before 4pm, and get out of the house to have a lovely dinner-and-a-movie with my husband, because, you see, we haven't even gone out to celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary, which was on November 19th, 2013!

But this is life with chronic disorders and pain, which I might be able to accept, if it weren't for the times when I have a couple of days with minimal pain or bother, and the thought occurs, "Hey, I am getting better! I may just be an almost-nearly-normal-girl now!" Oh, but give it a day or two, and  HOLY HELL that damn rug gets pulled out from under me and I'm right back to Heather's-depressing-life-as-a-near-shut-in with my ass on the same old pain-relief cushion, with the same old heating pad, sitting at the same computer, going to the same websites while the television is on some boring channel, like Home and Garden, and my husband is kindly waiting on me. There's usually a dog snuggled beside me though, which is nice.

Over this past year, I have been seeing a true-Godsend-of-a-Christian-counselor, and with her, God has helped me to see that even in this chronic-disorder-almost-useless-life: I am blessed. I am seriously blessed. I can't list the hundreds of ways, but my favorite are my bend-over-backwards, loving husband, my sweet and delightful son, our wonderful dogs and pretty house, my dear supportive mom, my friends, and how all of our needs are always provided for. For no particular reason, God continues to shower His love upon my family and I.

For this coming year of 2014, one of my main prayers is that God will help me to not freak out or become disheartened when those windows of error pop up in my life, but instead, learn to say "God, you are good. You are in control, and even with all these errors, I am still blessed. Thank you."

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Pissed-off Posts and Core Values

Last night, one of my close friends pointed out that there are times my Facebook posts scare people. She explained that many of my posts seem to contradict the person that she and my other friends know me to be: kind, non-judgmental and encouraging --which I hope is true.

After I thought about what she said, I acknowledged that I really do love people, and because I am an INFP personality (according to Meyers-Briggs tests) I honestly care about people, and long for them to know and experience the true, liberating and uplifting Love of God.

INFP's are considered "healers" but also "idealists." My personality type has strong, core values and beliefs, and although the majority of the time we are happy and serene, when our values or beliefs are met with opposition, we become... well, let's just call it passionate, although scary may also be a correct term.

Since INFP's are introverts who spend a good deal of time reading and reflecting on the human condition, you can only imagine the many articles, blogs, videos and comments on the internet that make me outraged on a daily basis!

I have gotten better though, believe it or not, as years have taught me to choose my battles. I bite my proverbial tongue far more than I comment or post.

Oh-but-for-goodness-sake the things I come across that enrage me the most come from rotten, untruthful, deceitful theology --the very kind of lies disguised as biblical truths that I was once burdened with, and suffered horribly in my faith as a result!

So today I decided to make a short list of some of my core beliefs and values, and after you read them, perhaps you will understand why I post the kind of passionate, scary, and hopefully challenging things that I do on Facebook.

What I believe:

- The Trinity is LOVE.

- The Trinity loves ALL creation with an incredible passion that no one cannot fully comprehend.

- Jesus redeemed ALL of creation on the cross, so that ALL of creation will be resurrected in perfect, glorified form to live eternally on the New Earth. (Col 1:20)

- Christians are called to LOVE and to be examples of LOVE by LOVING with the LOVE of Jesus, who is LOVE.

- Christians must remember that it is the LOVE of the Trinity that first drew us, and that same LOVE is what draws others.

- Christians cannot, and should not, expect non-Christians to live like Christians.

- Christians cannot pick and choose scriptures to fit their agenda. If Christians are going to make homosexuality an issue, then they better make equal issues of divorce and obesity.

- It is a sin for "Christians" to use guilt, fear, shame or wrath to make "converts."

- In Christ there is neither male nor female, therefore, women should be given any/all roles that are currently available to men in The Body of Christ.

- The letters in the Bible were written for a particular people in a particular culture, and must be read in that context.

- Our Creator ADORES animals and the earth (calling it "good"), and as Christians, we are called to be stewards of the earth/ministers of reconciliation to all creation. This should be reflected in what we choose to eat, wear, purchase, and how we treat the environment.

- Christians should not attempt to come up with reasons for why Christians suffer apart from the many New Testament scriptures that confirm we suffer because Christ suffered, and that in our suffering we receive God's comfort, and that our suffering is not in vain, but has value and glory in the New Earth to come.

-Christians should never ever invalidate another believer's suffering by claiming that their lack of faith is withholding God's healing. (Invalidation is a form of psychological abuse.)

-The most helpful, loving thing a Christian can do for anyone who is suffering, in any kind of way, is to be compassionate and supportive. Do not preach, do not tell them how they should feel or view their situation.

-Even as much as I do not like it: God is in control of all things. According to Job, Satan cannot do anything without God's permission, so all good and bad things are under His control, and we should not EVER try to explain WHY. All we can do is trust He is for us and loves us.

- It is a lie to believe that "God cannot stand in the presence of sin". Sin never was and never will be more powerful than God. If the Accuser aka Satan stands day and night before the throne of God accusing the brethren, then God can totally be in the presence of sin.


- Christians, myself included, do not have all the answers, and that's okay.

This is not a complete list by far (aren't you glad) but as long as people keep posting articles and "inspirational" images (with just a pinch of guilt) contrary to my list above, then I'm going to keep on spreading my passionate, scary and challenging posts on Facebook.

Like I said, I honestly long for people to know the true love of the Trinity, and my passionate posts may not reach many people, but it is my hope that in someway my posts will help un-do the hateful, judgmental and condemning lies about God that well-meaning, but deceived people, toss like yeast in the dough of cyberspace.