A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Some people believe only in coincidences, rather than think God might have some master plan for their life.  I feel sorry for those people. They miss out on so much. Their life is closed to the possibilities God might have in store for them. This past year, with all the doors that have opened to me, feels like a carefully orchestrated plan from above, and if I but remain open to the divine, I expect no less for 2012.

A couple of days ago, I wrote down these words from Mary DeMuth’s memoir, Thin Places:

“I have this little idea that worms its way through my head, that perhaps God is redeeming my father’s writing through my pen. He’s completing my father’s genius in me, but He’s doing it through my own frailty. I’m no genius. I’m a mess half the time. But God’s great work of redemption spans the generations. When I put words to the page, I wonder if my Dad can see me. Does he smile?” (page 70)

I have wondered something similar since my mother’s death. My mother had many talents; among them woodcarving, sewing, painting, and drawing. The writing that she did later in life held the promise of talent as well. I never pictured her as a writer until after her death, though surely anyone who spends months on manuscripts is, indeed, a writer. That she did not live long enough to perfect that talent saddens me. In a couple of weeks I will be teaching a course for a community college, Writing for Publication. While interviewing a woman in her 80’s for the newspaper, I discovered she had written down pages of information in anticipation of our meeting. Without thinking, I gasped at the sight, “Why, you’re a writer!” The woman blushed with pleasure, and told me she had filled notebooks with memories for her children. “Mom writes down everything,” her daughter interjected, “I don’t know what we’ll do with all of it after she is gone.”  I told the daughter I owned a trunk full of my mother’s writing, and I hoped to do something with it someday. Even as I spoke, the image of my mother submitting to publishers and editors was vivid in my mind, and I felt like crying. She had so little published, but she stubbornly persisted. While I’d thrown out one notebook of carefully transcribed rejections, I kept the tangible proof of her continued submissions; the carefully typed drafts that had been mailed out to such places as the Chicken Soup publishers, the ones I have recently had three essays accepted by. My mother possessed the very stubbornness I saw in this woman’s face as she confessed she’d hoped to have something published someday. Her daughter seemed taken aback at this admission; she must have thought her mother’s scribbling had only been intended for the family’s posterity.

“Someone should give you a writing class for a Christmas gift,” I said then, with a meaningful glance at the daughter.  A week later, the woman called me on the pretense of complimenting my article, but the true meaning of the call became apparent when she blurted out, “I’m going to take your class.”  I could literally feel my mother’s smile when I assured the woman it is never too late to get published.

The day after I read Mary DeMuth’s Thin Places, an e-mail arrived in my inbox with a New Year’s challenge from the author. “If God were to give you a picture this year in anticipation for 2012, what would it be?” she asked, and then she shared her picture. It didn’t take me long to come up with a picture to frame my year. In fact, I would have to be blind not to have seen the obvious choice. What photo was on the front of the journal I’d written DeMuth’s quote in? What picture was on the personalized stamps I’d used on two letters that morning?

Where had I been writing most of last winter and early spring? I’d grieved, I’d dreamed, and I’d been inspired at the very table and in the very house where most of my mother’s creativity had flourished. On one of my many trips to my mother’s empty house I’d snapped a photo of my private writing retreat, and the memories of those writing sessions will continue to sustain me in this journey of faith I am taking. For it takes true faith to follow one’s passions and believe there is a future in the world of writing words. “Don’t quit your day job,” I’ve heard as advice given to writers, but writing is my day job. Income from writing, teaching, and public speaking is crucial to my family’s well-being. And as much as I know my hard work in writing and promoting has paid off in filling a 2012 calendar with deadlines, classes, and public speaking, I truly believe none of it could have happened without my faith. I believe God has a plan for me, and I am excited to see where he takes me this year. This photo will be my chosen guide this year.

Because with each article published, with each success, I can look at this photo and know HE is a part of it. HE is with me, and maybe, just maybe, my mother is too.

What do you picture for your life in 2012? Do you have a photo that inspires you?

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