Not so sure I agree with this month’s quote from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. “The fountain of perpetual peace flows there” is from his poem, “Hymn to the Night.” So many people have trouble sleeping at night for a whole host of reasons. Sleeplessness is thankfully very rare for me. If my mind hasn’t quieted down at bedtime, the reader and writer in me acts. I read some light-hearted fiction or a spiritually comforting passage. And I keep a piece of paper and pen on my nightstand to document anything that pops into my mind—even if I wake during the night. It can sometimes be challenging to read what I wrote in the dark. But writing does get the thoughts out of my mind and into a physical medium. Just what I need to slip back to sleep.
“Let nothing disturb thee,
Nothing affright thee;
All things are passing”
This, from Longfellow’s translation of “Santa Teresa’s Book-mark” continues to comfort.
Just finished reading “Wired For Story” by Lisa Cron. This book has found a place in my top three books for writers. Lisa links scientific knowledge of the human brain with specific techniques writers can use (and avoid) to make their stories what our brains want. As an avid reader and a writer, I found this fascinating.
“The farmers grew impatient, but a few
Confessed their error, and would not complain;
For, after all, the best thing one can do
When it is raining, is to let it rain.”
From “Tales of a Wayside Inn” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I found this fragile slip of paper in some ancestor belongings. The words belong to Wilferd Arlan Peterson, an American author. His words remind me as I step increasingly into public spaces to not always be in such a hurry.
Slow me down, Lord
Amidst the confusion of my day, give me the calmness of the everlasting hills. Teach me the art of taking minute vacations… of slowing down to look at a flower, to chat with a friend, to pat a dog, to read from a good book. Remind me to look upward at the towering oak, and know that it grew tall and strong because it grew slowly and well. Slow me down, Lord.
“All that inhabit this great earth,
Whatever be their rank or worth,
Are kindred and allied by birth,
And made of the same clay.”
These lines from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Keramos”, were written almost 150 years ago. They remind me of what I fundamentally believe about my fellow humans: we are one human race, and God desires us to be molded more into His image as we live our lives.
As the melting snow reveals my garden soil, I think about tilling—working the soil to help seeds grow and produce. Tilling is deep cultivation (6-10” deep). Tilling disturbs and breaks up the settled soil, enables the mixing in of new material, makes planting seeds easier, and helps control weeds. But too much tilling reduces the fertility of the soil. And so it is with my mind. I use my senses, especially reading to break up assumptions, enable new ideas to mix in and grow, and weed out untruths. As with my produce garden, the garden of my mind needs periodic tilling.
“Not in word alone, but in deed, to love one another!”
From “Evangeline” poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
These lines from Longfellow paraphrase what my ESV bible states in 1 John 3:18: “…let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” And this reminds me of a basic rule of writing you may have heard from an English teacher: “Show, don’t tell.” It’s harder to demonstrate love than to simply state it. But the effort can make love more meaningful. How to do that? Well, I’ll offer a portion of the wedding vow I wrote to my husband. Confession; my inspiration came from I Corinthians 13:4-7.
“I promise to:
Be patient with you,
Care for you,
Be kind to you,
Encourage and support you,
Be polite to you,
Be honest with you,
Trust you completely,
Be totally loyal to you,
Carry hope with you in all that we face.”
“Labour with what zeal we will,
Something still remains undone;
Something uncompleted still
Waits the rising of the sun.”
From the “Something Left Undone” poem by Longfellow
My favorite bread recipe requires only a minute of kneading (easy on my arthritic hands), uses a half cup of beer (helping the yeast and adding flavor), and yields dough that is OK with sitting around unattended for 18 hours (easy on my schedule). I mix the ingredients after supper and we have fresh bread with our meal the following evening. For most of two days, the bread sits undone, uncompleted. But, all the while, the dough is working, pacing itself, using the ingredients to produce a delicious result. I strive to use my ingredients, my talents and gifts, pacing myself as I work. What are my gifts? What I love to do. What I’m good at. What draws me in and makes time fly!
This is a first. I’ve never reused a previous blog post. But these are extraordinary times. Many times this past week I’ve been asked how I manage to keep calm within all the craziness in the world. My “secret” really isn’t a secret at all. It’s written in a book that has been preserved over thousands of years. I readily share my strategy—even dedicated my November 1 post to this “secret”. So, due to recent requests, here’s my November 1 post… again.
Hard times. I’m often asked how I make it through hard times. My history includes divorce, death (spouse, parents, friends, sister, grandchild in the womb), cancer, and decades of caregiving that included repeated life and death medical situations with both positive and devastating outcomes. Very recently I experienced another difficult time with, thankfully, a positive outcome.
My secret to successfully moving through difficulties? 1. Foundation. Have a relationship with God before the hard times hit. I’m talking more than belief, more than faith. A relationship like you have with a close friend. Learn about Him. Talk to Him. Listen to Him. 2. Focus. I keep close to God as I move through the struggles. I do this by reading my Bible – my Heavenly Father’s letters to me – and meditating and praying. 3. Fall. Release control and allow myself to be held by God. Trust God. Fall into the arms of Jesus, and let Him support and guide as He brings me and my concerns to the Father.
I can’t control the outcome, but I can control the FOUNDATION on which I stand, my mental FOCUS, and the decision to do a trust FALL to the only One who can be fully trusted.