"Write, write, write," he said. Ignore the wind and the waves and write.

Houston's books available from: Your local bookstore, all on-line bookstores or click here at: (Just Dust Publishers)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Last September I volunteered to help a local Christian school with their annual fundraiser. The school development director asked me if I would acquire items and services for the scholarship auction. I cannot remember exactly why I agreed to this. I know I wanted to serve the Lord, Jesus, and my heart had long desired a venue of education that would faithfully center in God’s truth. I was impressed with the world view of Lifegate Christian High School and Middle School, but I wondered if begging for donations from the community was really how God wanted me to spend the hours of my days.

God called me to write. I know this. I stumbled through the logistics of this miss-match of efforts, writing and begging—even for a good cause, and assured myself I would only work with Lifegate a few hours a week, organizing the efforts of many, and continue to write full-time. Didn’t happen. But the lessons I learned while completing the task for Lifegate, will spur me on to more confident writing.

By October I realized that being “Acquisitions Chair” pretty much meant I was it. Parents and staff were busy and volunteers would rather do just about anything before acquisitions. I wrote in the school newsletter that, although I was hoping that the people of the school would be helpful in obtaining items on which to bid, if they couldn’t help, they could at least pray and the “zeal of the Lord” would provide what the school needed to make the auction a success. I remember that the phrase came to mind as I was hastily tapping out the news item for the auction update column.

As I typed, I stopped in mid-stroke. Did I really mean that? That the zeal of the Lord would complete the task? I reviewed the origin of the phrase—Isaiah, I thought. The coming of the Christ to provide out salvation. Yep, I decided. I meant it. I knew He was our only hope in the eternal and in this temporal challenge as well.
The few hours a week became many. My schedule, my house, and my mind became cluttered with tasks to complete, people to talk to, and stuff. Oh, the stuff! Even my car stored boxes and bags of tagged and cellophane covered baskets of trinkets an d treasures. I entered stores and talked to people I never before encountered just to ask for more nick-knacks. Some responded with distain, some with grace, but four times more than both reactions combined, my requests met with bored apathy.

When I wasn’t working actively on acquiring, I dreamed of what could be. Cruises, diamonds, gas grills, and sides of beef. No earthly pleasure was left unconsidered. And when the donations came, I cheered! The things felt like mine, and I rejoiced, even though I began detesting the actual stuff, I felt rich with the satisfaction of the goals being met—our prayers being answered.

I like living in the center of God’s plan. The night of the auction, the school netted almost double the amount they had done in the past. And I realized that God had pulled many people and items together. Living in God's plan gaurantees my efforts as worthwhile.

I'm thinking I want to write with the same focus--looking for God's hand to lead me in His plan. When I first began to write I worried because so little money can be expected in writing. A counselor, Kyle Leitdke, instructed, "Write. Let God worry about publishing,"

Now that I am at the get-it-in-print phase of these books (yes, that's now plural), I consider what efforts I should be making to make this happed. However, if I follow the lesson I have learned with the auction, I realize that God will certainly print these books in His own zeal, not mine.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Stories after midnight

The bad news is I didn't keep my goal of writing from the last post--more bad news, insomnia has returned, caused by too much pain to sleep. The good news? I am writing in the middle of the night!

When I wake with pain in my ankle, knee and/or hip, I try rolling over to change positions first and sometimes return to sleep. I'll give this process about 20 minutes before I stand up (painful at first, but then the pain goes away as long as I stand--sometimes sitting with my feet on the floor will work too.) I'm detailing the process to explain how I came to think of moving a laptop to the kitchen couter. There I can stand and type, removing the physical pain from my body and replacing the frustration of not sleeping with the joy of having quite writing time. If sitting works, I can sit at my desk and sometimes do that, but several nights this last week I wrote for an hour, once an hour and a half, as I stood in the kitchen.

I consider this progress in my writing "career." Also, the night writings inspire me to continue durng the next day, completing a scene or idea and thinking of "what next."

OK. So, I would prefer to return to writing first thing in the morning, and still hope to do so. But mornings sometimes start at 9:30! That's the equivalent of everyone else's noon to me.

Still, I'm feeling on the rise in the writing process. I like the sequel that I am writing better than the first in the "series." (Wow! That feels so presumptuous to say when I am on the 5th chapter of the first sequel.) Still, good to have dreams.

My next short term goal? To complete writing the story through Christmas before Christmas comes in real life--this year!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Back to work!

OK. I'm committing to writing five days a week. It seems counterproductive to do this two days before Thanksgiving. Do I really have the time? I think I want to prove to myself that this can be done regardless of the times in which I live.

I was reading Lewis who was saying the importance of continuing on with one's academic pursuits of truth, even in the middle of a war. It would be so easy to excuse oneself when the world, and closer to home, the walls are crumbling around you, literally.

So, 4 hours minimum, 5 days a week. Lets' see if it can be done.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A second pebble...

From my war satchel of wisdom comes another thought:

I can not achieve the ultimate goal of life, which is, by the way, Life itself.

I used to think I could, should, and definitely would obtain that prize. I thought I deserved it for being so good. People adored me because I was so cute. And all good things would come to me since I was so unjustly mistreated.

When I was about nine I went to Gillespie Pool in our neighborhood of El Cajon, California. My siblings were with me, somewhere, but the pool teamed with all manner of swim-capped girls and buzzed-cut boys, so we were soon separated. Nothing is quite so lonely as a child in an independent crowd of children.

But, I lived many days alone in my mind and now, comfortably developed a game for myself. I would swim across the pool, without stopping, taking as few of breaths as possible. It was a goal. Not a life's goal, but a huge task since I was a new swimmer. I decided to swim in water over my head, since fewer children played there.

I swam hard. One breath, two, then three, then...someone caught me by the ankle. It must be my sister, but I turned to see a teenage boy. I smiled. Did he want to play? Then I saw his face cloud dark with anger. He spit water as he spoke. "Watch where you're going!" He twisted my foot in his two hands, wrenching my ankle.

Searing pain shot from my foot to my knee. Fear and confusion washed over me as I sunk beneath the water. I couldn't get my bearings at first and then struggled to reach the surface. What if he was still there, waiting to hurt me again?

I couldn't remember how to swim. I sunk again and choked on the water as I opened my mouth to cry out from the pain and the humility. I don't know how I made my way to the edge of the pool. I hung from the side,crying mournfully as children screamed with fun around me. I peered from time to time in each direction, wondering if the my attacker would return.

I don't know to this day what happened to that poor kid. Had I unknowingly kicked him in the groin? It was a crowded pool. Maybe someone else did and he thought it me--I can't say. He was too mad for me to think his fury wasn't based on some injustice or harm. But, at the time, I only knew I had been stomped by a big kid--even though I was cute and worthy of his long-suffering.

How quick we are to dismiss our own short-comings.

My efforts to perfect my swimming techniques were trashed. And oddly, no matter the fervency and sober righteousness of my training and goal setting, I actually brought about my own failure--I guess. I mean, maybe there is a man somewhere in the world who lost a testicle in Gillespie Pool that day! Maybe I kicked right by him, totally unaware of the grief I had caused.

Who knows?

But this I do know- We all fall short of the glory of God. And that truth, my dear walking friend,is why I know none of us will reach that ultimate finish line--not wihtout intervention.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Long Hand

I miss writing with a pen.

One time, many years ago, I told a friend that I could not think without a pen in my hand. I long for the days that the inspiration from a stick-in-hand could fill a page, or even just my head, with order and light.

Mrs. Alexander, my composition teacher at Grossmont Junior College, promised we undergrads that if we would order our thoughts on paper, we would benefit from the exercise with clear thinking. Tall, slender, and fashionably dressed, I believed her. As I recall, she would straighten giant-framed, Yves St Lauren glasses on her nose while changeling bracelets danced on her wrist.

I remember, in particular a pale pink dress with a white lace collar. You have to believe someone wearing a white lace collar, after all. And, she was right.

I chose to leave her class for a full-time job managing a sweater store. I hated to leave. She knew that. She asked me why I made that choice. I said my husband was in school and we needed the money. She nodded and said I was a good writer. Then she told me she wouldn't be there next semester as she had cancer.

I'm not sorry I left school to return to work full time, but...sometimes I wonder.

You were a beautiful woman, Mrs. Alexander. Thanks for the tip.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A few smooth, round stones

At Devil's Elbow, a cove on the coast of Oregon, a good-sized stream flows into the Pacific ocean. Drift wood and rocks washed to sea in the river form an apron around the sandy spread of beach. Black, grey and buff colored stones roll in the waves and sand--nature's rock tumbler--until the balls shine round and smooth.

I've often thought of the power of each of these stones. In the right sling shot...
As David walked through his stream, he picked up a few stones like these for use against the enemy.

I've picked up a few bits of figurative ammunition in life myself. Just a few for use against the evil one. Some may be of help to you as you walk, or perhaps be inspiration to gather your own as you wade through the stream. I don't know.

I don't know a lot of things. I prayed when I was young to receive wisdom. This, after I saw Solomon received all the wealth of the world on top of his request for wisdom. I'm guessing my childish motives weren't pure. Never are. Nevertheless I finger a few stones in my ammo bag.

I'll share one with you now.

Know the truth.
Yes, it can be known. No, it is not relative--almost never. Yes, the truth matters, and no, not knowing does not mean it won't hurt you. Truth is. Lies want to be. Time will reveal both. Count on it.

More on this later.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Everyone walks--until they don't

Did you ever see an infant ‘walk’? If a baby is held up with feet dangling and then is lowered until the feet touch a surface, a reflex causes the baby to push-off, as if walking. Of course, the little, curved legs could not hold the weight of the child until much later, but are programmed to walk at birth.

Recently, my elderly mother was given a prescription that requires for her to be in an upright position for her body to be able to able to absorb the calcium of the medicine into her bones. For this reason and others, bodies are made to grow strong when we walk.

From birth to death, we walk. In life one must walk, until one cannot. When this happens, the end of life is typically near. Like being thrown in a lake, one must swim or drown, in the same way, one walks or lies down to die.

I don’t mean to be obvious, and you must realize I am leading to the parallel ‘walks’ we have in heart, mind and soul. Also, and not to be obtuse, these walks don’t simply mimic the physical realm; they converge into one path, one effort, and to one end.

Do you remember many of your dreams? If so, you may regularly find yourself moving down a river or road. Maybe you fly through the sky. All of these symbolic movements typically represent life walk to the dreamer. I’m a civilized sort who began walking down a hall of a house sometime in my twenties (at least, that I can remember) and through the next forty years my dreams return repeatedly to that same house. It is huge and, if I know you at all, I’ve probably seen you in one of the rooms or concert halls. (I told you it was big!)

Our dreams tell us what I am saying; life is a journey, a path, a continuous, non-stop stream of existence. One must walk it since, even if we stand still, the path moves; like the moving sidewalks at the airports. I say this not to urge walkers to fervent strides, but to consider your walk. Either way, unconscious and curled in a ball or dashing through the days, you will reach the end of the walk.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

To those who walk

A doctor told me after a knee surgery five years ago that my life now consisted of taking care of body. “It is a full time job,” he told me. I tried to listen, thinking this was advice more that prophecy. Soon I earned the reputation as ‘the ideal patient’.

A few months later, as my husband, Mark and I prayed, he made this petition, “God, please heal Shelley and remove her pain so she can think of someone besides herself.” I jerked my head up and almost laughed at what I assumed was an unintentional insult, and then I realized his prayer was earnest. He meant no judgment, but the fact remained, my life had become totally inverted.

Five years later, I still repeat the same prayer. Remove my pain that I can refocus on ideas of eternal matter and relationships of worth. However, mostly, I muddle about in the self-absorbed and pain-drug-induced musings of my mind. At the same time, I have come to savor and reflect on the nuggets I gathered when I could walk, literally and figuratively.

Oh, I still can walk a little and do, it’s just not a pretty sight anymore. I also know my inabilities will certainly overcome my abilities someday until I walk no more. However, I do not write with warnings to insure one can continue to walk. That is not the goal, if it were; the tree of life would have been left unguarded. (I’ll explain that later.) No, we will all come not to walk. The goal, then, is to gather gems of value as you do walk so that someday, you rest well. This I know.

Through incidents and recent conversations I am moved to write to those of you who still walk. I can’t imagine having the strength or mind to do so with my current limitations. However, yesterday, my son, Ian counseled me to set small goals, but to move on. This is the goal I have set for today. To write a journal for those of you who still walk.