*Quote from Proofs and Theories: Essays on Poetry by Louise Gluck.
Once I begin a poem, it absorbs me completely. I stay with it hour after hour; sometimes rewriting it long after I thought it was finished. The poem, it seems to me, sometimes takes some years of growing; I am able to come back to those first attempts and have an understanding of what the poem was to become. The poem ages, evolves, and goes through shifts over a long period of time, just like I do in my everyday life. Understanding our own work takes a very long time.
I began to write poetry as an undergraduate BFA student at Slippery Rock University of PA in the mid-80s. My first poetry publications appeared in Ginger Hill Literary Journal, published by the English Department. I was a fine arts major in painting, but English literature was a passion, too. I took so many English courses that it qualified me for entrance into the grad program after I received my BFA. I was in love with words and images!
In graduate school at West Virginia University, While I worked on my MFA in Painting, I continued writing poetry and I was reading a lot of poetry and saw that poetry is an art form. My perspective is quite different because of my Fine Arts background. My poems appeared in The Daily Athenian in Morgantown, WV. Modern and post-modernist poetry was influencing my life every day. My painting and printmaking was growing from the ideas I was reading in poetry. contemporary poetry was my lighthouse, and the more I was swimming towards it, the more I realized it was moving away as I wrote – I had to work hard to try to get to it, to capture images and words on the pages and the canvases. I had begun learning how to capture the senses in my work with words.
I did the unthinkable – I chose to accept BOTH of the offers in English and in Fine Arts programs. I actually did BOTH Graduate Programs at the same time. My higher education would be a hybrid of the pursuit of poetry and studio work!
While pursuing the MFA (the Terminal Degree in Fine Arts studio work) in painting, I started working on a MA in English at Slippery Rock University of PA – doing graduate work in 2 different disciplines at 2 different universities and in 2 different states – simultaneously.
The state slogan for WV is “Almost Heaven.”
But I was actually IN Heaven.
I am a Ranaissance woman who would continue to embrace the Humanities, follow my passions in Fine Arts and Literature. I knew I would never dig a deep hole down into only one genre, but I would pursue a hybrid path that was my own creation. I was truly a Post -Modern disciple!
Prepare for the Muse
As I write this essay, nearly 3 decades later,
I am still working to get the words right.
I struggle to evoke the senses that describe
what I portray in the poem.
My Process: GREAT IDEAS
Make a Writing Space for yourself. Mine is in a room that steps down off of my kitchen. It is a room dedicated to be my Writing Space. I like to work with the radio on most of the time. The radio is in my kitchen so I can have music but not so close as to be a distraction.
Organize your Writing Space. This area is your personal private place to do your work. Make sure it is not an area shared by anyone else. Be firm and declare this room or space to be only for you. Don’t give in to any demands for anyone else to use it in any way. Organize it to suit your intentions and needs.
No Cluttering Permitted in your Writing Space. You need a peaceful space and any cluttering will be a distraction to you. Clean your space and organize it and make sure it stays this way. I believe a cluttered mind is reflected by aa messy and disorganized Writing Space.
Ask yourself, “How does my life want to be lived?” I like to check with my “inner feelings” to be sure I am doing what my spirit really wants to do. With so many voices in our ears, we need to stop often to have a check on our “inner feeling
I walk my dogs in the woods every day. Often, I hear a flock of crows overhead. Our thoughts can be like those crow sounds: loud and demanding. If we follow all those thoughts, our day can turn into a hot mess and nothing gets done. So stop and realize we need quietness and a “check in” with those quiet and still leadings that we have – our intuition.
“Set your pen to paper and live for poetry! Dwell in its wondrous city, whole and
full-hearted.” Sheila Bender
Find 1 or 2 writers you like a lot.
Read their work and write about what you like about that work in your journal.
Begin to search out their work so you can find common themes and quotes that have influenced you. Your chosen writers will become YOUR MENTORS.
A number of years ago, this was my list:
William Carlos Williams
Ranier Maria Rilke
(Today, I’ve added others on my list – b t this post is about our beginnings. We can talk about my literary mentors another day.)
Article and Photography by Lynda McKinney Lambert.
Copyright, June10, 2017. Lynda McKinney Lambert. All rights reserved.
I’ve been cleaning and organizing my office. It’s a room in my home, just off the kitchen where I sit to write everything that ends up in my books, stories, poems, website and blogs.
Why there? I have “profound sight loss. ” This room holds the high tech equipment I must use to write, make art, “see” and communicate with others around the world. Here is where I speak with YOU, on a very good day. Thank your for visiting with me today.
An enormous part of my world is housed in this room. A life filled with creating visual art and writing – all my archives are here.
Everything has to be in order and easy to find when I need it. I’ve been working for an entire week to get this room organized – and that means I’ve had to sort through mountains of “things.” I’ve made some exciting discoveries this week as I have been working here.
Just today, I found a notebook where I wrote some things I wanted to remember, years ago when I could still see. I wrote notes on the work of Ranier maria Rilke.
This reflection from Rilke is perfect for today:
“Finding a thing is always enjoyable; a moment before, it wasn’t yet there.”
For each guest blogger, I ask just one question. “What is on your mind?”
My guests are free to write about whatever they want to say in response to my invitation. Thank you, Tara, for your essay , “The Embraced Life.”
The Embraced Life
We have all been given an extraordinary gift, and this gift that is precious and wonderful beyond understanding and measure is life.
Life: the journey it weaves into a complex tapestry
as we travel on our paths.
Life: the joys and heartaches, the laughter and tears, the expected and unknown, the blessings and the curses are mingled together to mold and shape us as our years grown in number.
Life is the most sacred and incredible gift that we will ever be given, and we must do everything in our power to honor and cherish this incredible blessing. Living an embraced life is just one example of how we can make the most of the precious gift that has been bestowed upon us.
So, what is an “embraced life,”
and how to we live in such a way?
It is important to first acknowledge the definition of what it means to “embrace.”
One definition of embrace is to hold tightly and lovingly, which is something that we should definitely practice in our lives.
Another definition of embrace is to enthusiastically accept or support something. An embraced life is engaging in both of these practices: to hold on tightly and lovingly, and to enthusiastically accept and support things that come our way.
The “embraced life” is one in which you practice love, kindness, acceptance and support during whatever trials or triumphs are placed in your path of life. The embraced life embraces all things: the good, the bad, and the in between.
The only thing certain about the precious gift of life is that it is not certain. No matter your age, health, or status there are no guarantees in life. Your time on this Earth, the precious gift of your life, can expire at any moment. There are no guarantees. Your plans may fall exactly into place, or your plans may go totally awry. You may travel smoothly along your path, or you may travel a path that is full of mountains and curves and bumps. The one certain thing about life is that you can never be certain of what lies ahead. When you live an embraced life, you cherish and live life to the fullest embracing whatever comes into your path. This helps the uncertain, the unexpected, to become more tolerable and manageable.
We are human, and we are not created or born to be perfect. We may strive for perfection, but we are not divine, and therefore are imperfect. We are imperfect, flawed, chaotic, beautiful disasters of creation entrusted with life as a precious gift. The embraced life allows us to embrace ourselves as imperfect, as continual works of progress along our paths. Our stories have yet to be written. We were not finished yesterday, and we are not finished today, and our story will still remain unfinished for an undetermined amount of tomorrows until we take our last breath. Only then will our story be realized in its entirety. When we lead an embraced life, it adds flavor, strength, and character to our story.
It is easy to embrace the good things, the joys, the blessings, and the triumphs in our life. We encounter those things to give us a taste of sweetness, and fulfillment, and satisfaction. These happy moments bring us peace and light in the dark, scary, and difficult moments in our lives. The embraced life recognizes that the blessings always outweigh the burdens. Repeat this: the blessings always outweigh the burdens. Always. Even when it seems that there is no light, no peace, no joy to be found, it is during those times that we cling to, and draw from, the happiness, joy and blessings that we have been given in our lives. As we cling to the good, the light and the peaceful blessings, it enables us to travel the rough patches with grace and strength.
When we are experiencing the dark, overgrown, troubling parts of our path in life, it is easy to wish things were different, to wish for better days, to wish for greener grass and a smoother road to travel on. It is our nature to wish for those things during hard times. We are not perfect. We are not built to handle everything perfectly and with grace all of the time. When you live an embraced life, you embrace the dark, rough, and troublesome times. You embrace these times with as much support, acceptance, and love as you embrace the happy times of light and peace. Wishing for better days, better times, and better things is futile. When you embrace the bad, as well as the good, it will bring you abundance beyond your wildest imagination.
The concept of living an embraced life is something that I have witnessed in action, an ideal brought to fruition, as I have watched my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles growing up. I have witnessed by many excellent living examples what it means to live an embraced life. On my own path, I have done my best to lead by the example that I have been given by my family, to lead an embraced life. The practice of living an embraced life has been particularly beneficial to me in the past few years as my husband and I have experienced several ups and downs in our family, especially with our medically complex, special needs daughter Elizabeth. We have had to learn to embrace the good with the bad, the trials and the triumphs, and the blessings and the burdens along our path together. I can say for certainty that we did not plan for, expect, or anticipate any of the challenges we have faced, especially with our daughter, but by leading an embraced life to the best of our abilities, we have definitely witnessed miracles. Above all, through all of the uncertainty, we are certain that the blessings outweigh the burdens.
I challenge you to live an embraced life.
Live the life you’ve always dreamed of and always imagined. Live life to the fullest. Create something every day. In each day, embrace the triumphs and trials, the blessings and curses, the beautiful and the ugly moments. Embrace it all. Embrace the life you’ve been given, the path that you travel, the blessings and the precious gift of life. It is yours to live. It is yours to embrace. It is your gift. Cherish it, live an embraced life and remember that the blessings outweigh the burdens. Always.
Tara Bly Hackwelder is a stay-at-home mom for her two children Celtan (age 5) and Elizabeth (Age 2). She recently left her teaching career behind to become a full time caregiver for Elizabeth, who has many rare and complicated medical and special needs. Tara and her family live in Butler, PA, and she is a native of Chicora, PA.
Tara’s Professional Background:
B.A. in Psychology from The Pennsylvania State University with minors in history and journalism.
She has also earned a M.A. in Sociology from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania an
M.Ed. from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania.
Tara has worked as an adjunct professor teaching social science courses, as a social worker, teacher, and in many other capacities as an advocate for special needs and minority populations.
Lynda authors two blogs on writing, the humanities, arts, and faith.
She is a freelance writer and her poetry and essays appear in numerous books and literary journals. She is a retired professor of fine arts and humanities and she exhibits her fiber arts in exhibitions worldwide.
Currently, Lynda has two books in development for publication in late 2016.
This week is our HAPPY SCANdalous BIRTHDAY Celebration
ONE YEAR of publishing essays is a landmark so let’s CELEBRATE!.
Let’s take a LOOK BACK to what I was thinking about one year ago as I wrote the first blog article on the new blog.
The FIRST article I wrote and published is
“When I Begin my Day with Mozart.”
I did not know at the time I wrote it that it would launch my writing into a new career. One year later I am a “freelance writer.”
The essay was published in LIGHT Magazine, Sept/October issue, 2015. This magazine is published by Christian Record, PO Box 6097, Lincoln, NB 68596. (I will post the original essay below my comments here so you can read it.)
Some STATS on Scandalous-Recollections at the one year anniversary:
Most popular post this first year is “Kaleidoscope: Collecting Patterns of Light and Dreams.” 777 views
I wrote this story, originally, as a GUEST BLOGGER, for Amy Bovaird’s blog.
How many visitors did we have in the first twelve months? 1,308 visitors
How many VIEWS did my posts have? 2,247 views
Essay: When I Begin my Day with Mozart
(First published on November 11, 2014)
I put the morning coffee on to brew and then reached for a CD of Mozart’s Violin Sonata in B flat. After I carefully placed it in the CD player. pushed the “play” button on the remote and my Bose player began filling the kitchen with music. The soft, slow opening lines of the Largo – Allegro began. I listened. A piano and a violin began to gracefully move me to listen closely to this composition, written centuries ago. The lyrical melody begins and I close my eyes awhile before I continue writing my essay. There is something compelling about Mozart’s music; it gently urges me to stop whatever I am doing. The music takes me back in time – but not the time in the Eighteenth century when the music was first performed for a royal audience. It is my own time, near the end of the Twentieth century when the music of Mozart became a core element in my personal life. While listening to this music, my mind is taken on a journey far away from this present chilly, gray November day. My musings create layers of memories.
As I begin writing the opening thoughts of this essay, I enjoy my cup of fresh coffee. I spiced it up with some hazelnut creamer. The days and years of past times come visiting me once again as I slowly recall my first exciting days in Austria. Yes! It was just Mozart and me.
When Mozart first performed this original composition on April 29, 1784, in Vienna, there was a surprising bit of information that came out of the original performance. It’s a unique story that lies behind the music I am listening to today. In the audience, that day was Emperor Joseph II. As Mozart played the piano, the Emperor made a shocking discovery. He had eventually noticed that Mozart was actually looking at blank sheets of “music” instead of the traditional written music that a musician would use. It turns out that Mozart did not have time to copy the composition that was in his mind. He had to play it from his memory and did not want the audience to know he had no actual sheet music. Therefore, He put the blank sheets on the piano and began to play that day. You can read about this and other interesting facts about Mozart by visiting this link
My first trip to Europe was in the summer of 1991. The trip was a gift I gave myself to celebrate a goal I had completed in May. I finished my MFA degree at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV. Soon after my graduation, I arrived in Salzburg, Austria at the beginning. My arrival was just in time to join in the celebration festivities for the 200th anniversary of Mozart’s death. My month-long visit was filled with special art exhibitions in palaces and museums, all focused on some aspect of Mozart’s life or his music. I attended as many concerts as I could, and viewed special exhibits of art that month. OH, I was hooked on Mozart! I walked through his birth house, and death house, and stood inside the churches where he performed for masses. I attended the Mozart Mass at the Dom du Salzburg and basked in the sweet aroma of swirling, smoky incense as the priests entered the sanctuary. I even found the grave sites of his family members and his wife, Costanza. Like most tourists, I purchased the famous Mozart candy, Mozart t-shirts and sent out lots of Mozart postcards to all my friends and family.
I know you must want to know what took me there that month. I had enrolled in a drawing class that was taught by a former professor. We students were in classes Monday through Thursday mornings. I was so excited to be there and was prolific in my art adventure. I created a body of work on the theme of Mozart’s death and music. I wrote continuously as I traveled and viewed exhibitions and listened to concerts. I made many ink sketches on white paper. I chose to do all the artworks black and white. The works on paper would make it easier for me to transport them back to the US. After I returned back home, I put my work together and it became a traveling art exhibition. The mixed-media works on paper appeared in museums and galleries. I called my show,“Memory of a Requiem.”
Ten years after my first trip, some of my poems, sketches, and reflections from that experience were crafted into a book, “Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage.” The book was published by KotaPress.
Prior to the trip to Austria, I was in graduate school pursuing my MFA degree. I worked diligently during those two intense years doing research, creating art, and teaching. At times, I was so exhausted from working days and nights. When I went back to my apartment for a rest and some meals, I often refreshed my mind by listening to Mozart’s music. I was particularly drawn to his Requiem Mass because it echoed my own weariness. My visit to the city of Mozart’s birth and death was a natural choice.
While in Austria, I made an intention for my own life. I realized that I fell in love with Austria, the artworks, architecture, the people I met, and the music of the masterful composers who lived in Austria over the centuries. I intended to order my life in such a way that I would spend my summers there every year. Of course, I had no idea how that would happen, or if it could happen, but I knew it would be the life I would choose to live.
Eventually, my own professional teaching career began when I accepted a tenure-track position at Geneva College, a private college in western Pennsylvania. This was just five years after I had visited Austria for the first time as a student myself. As a new Professor of Fine Arts and Humanities, I quickly realized there was no study program for students that provided the opportunity to study in Austria or Germany. I proposed to create such a course and the following year I was back in the city I love, with students of my own. This was the first of many years that I would have the joy of bringing students to Austria every summer. I taught a course called, “Drawing and Writing in Salzburg.”
My students came from across America
to work in a studio in a small village in the Alps.
Most days, we met early in the morning and then traveled somewhere to draw and write at the different places we explored. It was a dream that became my reality. I had the joy of sharing this magnificent country with my students every summer for a month-long sojourn. On long weekends, we traveled together through Germany, Czech Republic, and Italy. We climbed mountains; we stood on a mountain peak and gazed down in amazement at the eagles lying beneath us. On one such sunny afternoon, I locked arms with one of the students and we skipped down a high Alpine path. We stopped only when we ran out of energy and we bent over double, laughing together, gasping for breath. We wrote poems and stories in our journals; we wrote about our own experiences. Art was the focus of all we did. We created drawings and paintings in our morning studio and took our sketchbooks and journals to the streets and mountain pathways. Together, we trekked our way through the new places we found. Later, our sketchbooks and journals would provide us with information and memories to work with once we were back home and working on new projects.
Gradually, over the years, I began to realize that the seeds of what we love become the life we live when we set our intentions in that direction. On that first visit, I had set something in motion that would become my life journey at a later time. It would be years, though, before I would understand it all.
Now, sitting here in my office typing up this essay, I listen closely as the final piece of music comes to a conclusion. The piano and the violin have been playing together as I write. Each instrument is strong and one never overpowers the other – they are a good match!
If you would like to enjoy this lovely work of art by Mozart, you can listen to it here:
The Violin Sonata continues and I listen to the rapid notes of the piano moving of playfully through the house in what seems like a race with the violin. I can envision a spring afternoon in an Alpine meadow. At other moments, the violin and piano seem to me to be romping in the sunshine, chasing each other about on the lawn of a Bavarian castle, or around a formal rose garden in the city. . At times, if sounds like the piano takes the lead, yet, this is not the case. The violin weaves through the many notes and in the end they are one. I listen as applause breaks out immediately as the piano and violin strike the final note together.
This day will take me on other, more mundane journeys as I walk my dogs, care for my cats, take my husband to the hospital for a check-up, and edit this essay tonight. At special moments throughout my day, I just might hear a few bars of Mozart’s Violin Sonata in B flat Oh, I hope so! Oh, I hope…at the end of this day the music and I are on the same note.
Essay by Lynda McKinney Lambert. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.
This photo of Donna W. Hill with her guide dog, Hunter in ” Glowing Mist in the Redwoods” is by Rich Hill
It was 1954. A four-year-old girl with blond banana curls was in the living room. The house was quiet. Her parents were at work; her brother and grandmother in the backyard. She felt relieved to be alone. She didn’t know, nor would she for 14 years, that she was already legally blind.
The voice startled her. She stopped breathing, her ears scanning the house. But, it wasn’t necessary. She had felt the message settle into her spirit.
“You are here to do something important involving music.”
What did it mean? She instinctively took it as an anointing from God, though one with a disquieting lack of detail.
That four-year-old was yours truly, and at sixty-five, that message still puzzles, intrigues and guides me. Initially, I assumed it meant that I was to become famous for my music. I didn’t share the experience, but I begged my parents to get me an accordion.
“You’re too small.”
Always a literalist, I was amused in second grade when — instead of the “massively-huge” accordion” — they bought me a piano . I progressed quickly, my nose on the brightly lit book, developing my memorization skills.
A Rude Awakening
Later that fall, I was selected for the Christmas concert. I was sure my ship had arrived. I was, however, wildly mistaken. I soon realized that there would be major obstacles.
“Go up to the top row of the risers.”
I was in the auditorium for our first rehearsal. I didn’t know what risers were, but I was soon on a contraption that shook and rattled with no way to steady myself. I didn’t understand how tunnel vision impacted my balance, and neither did anyone else.
Almost instantly, the director ordered me down, dismissing me from the group. She wouldn’t give me a few minutes to work it out or let me stand on the floor. The lesson wasn’t lost on me; although my voice was good enough, something more important about me wasn’t.
That spring, my teacher took my workbook away, despite my above average grades. She wasn’t comfortable watching me struggle to read. The other shoe dropped the following fall. I was placed in “Special Class,” where only first-grade large-print books awaited me. The thrust of my education was to fulfill the tiniest assignments, after which I was encouraged to play with pre-school toys.
My ophthalmologist was outraged. I was removed from “Special Class” and placed into a normal third grade class. The teacher, displeased with the placement, delighted in allowing open bullying of me and punished the girl who read me the questions from the board.
A Mission Slipping Away
By sixth grade, my vision was worsening, and piano music was far more complicated. My ability to memorize it was at a breaking point. I did what I thought any self-respecting twelve-year-old would do. I quit.
How was I supposed to interpret what I had heard in the living room? For the first (and far from the last) time, I considered the possibility that it could have merely been the ravings of a deranged mind.
In Search of a Miracle
Had God changed His mind? Or, perhaps, I needed to do something else first. If so, I knew what that was — get normal sight. It was obviously impossible to be successful without it.
Years before hearing televangelists discuss healing, I somehow knew I had to believe it would happen. Every morning for months, before I opened my eyes, I thanked God for restoring my sight, imagining the bright and detailed world that awaited me. My eyes, however, opened to dimness and confusion.
Progress and Compromise
At fourteen, I was devastated without music in my life. I asked for and received a guitar. Though I was too shy to share them, I started writing songs, beginning the inexorable link in my life between music and language.
In Junior High and High School, the bullying became more physical. The increase in work coupled with declining central vision necessitated a prioritizing of my work — literature and science were in; history and math out. Braille and recorded books were never discussed. I was legally blind in a world where it was more important to read and navigate with your eyes, regardless of how many mistakes you made, how much time it took, how sick you got or how many other things fell by the wayside, than to learn nonvisual skills.
The overt bullying stopped when I entered college. Nevertheless, I had lost the reading vision in my better eye that summer and was ill-equipped to take full advantage of the college experience. For the first time, however, I used recorded books and readers.
Reawakening the Dream
After graduation, I tried to make up the deficit. I trained with my first guide dog and learned Braille. I would pursue my dream of being a self-supporting musician — initially, as a street performer in Philadelphia’s Suburban Station.
I had my own apartment, kept an organic garden complete with a compost pile, baked whole grain bread and made everything from soup and tomato sauce to pesto and spanakopita. I started performing at schools, churches and other venues. I wanted my audiences to have a comfortable experience with a blind person and learn a bit about how we do things. I released two albums — “Rainbow Colors” and “Harvest.”
“If I had healed you back then,” said the same voice, “You would have never known that blindness didn’t have to limit you.”
While recording my third album, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After treatment, Rich and I married, and I finished the project. Just as “The Last Straw” was coming out, I found another cancerous lump. The drain on our energy and finances prompted a change in plans.
What about my mission? Had I done what I was supposed to do? Perhaps it had something to do with the many small contacts I’d had over the years. Maybe it was the man who wore out his copy of “Rainbow Colors” while recovering from an auto accident. Maybe it was one of the thousands of kids who had seen my school programs. I was well aware by then that we are all here to do something important. putting forth our best efforts and walking in love is the greatest, most difficult and most rewarding mission.
I didn’t give up. Blind people still aren’t being welcomed with open arms. Education, digital accessibility and unemployment remain major problems. I learned to use a computer with text-to-speech software to pursue another dream. In an effort to promote acceptance among the general public, my novel The Heart of Applebutter Hill was designed to allow the reader an intimate look into the mind of a blind teenager, embroiled in an exciting adventure. And, the music angle? Abigail’s a shy songwriter.
Donna’s novel The Heart of Applebutter Hill, an educator-recommended diversity and anti-bullying classroom resource for middle school and older readers, is available in print, eBook versions and accessible formats for readers with print disabilities. For more information and to follow Donna’s blog, visit:
Visual artist and author, Lynda McKinney Lambert, lost most of her eyesight due to
Ischemic Optic Neuropathy in 2007
Topics discussed on this video:
Diagnosis and finding help
Treatment and Rehabilitation Services
Begin your Personal adjustment
Recover a functional and creative life
Find your own path after sight loss
Seek answers from your own past – your Timeline
Change your life for successful transition to your next step
Regardless of any situation or challenge you will face at any time, remember there is a way OUT. You may veel like you are locked in, secluded, alone, or trapped. Remember, YOU are NOT any of those conditions. You have CHOICES you can make and those choices will take you in a better direction.
The KEY is to ELIMINATE HESITATION – Grab that EXIT SIGN
LOOK around for your WAY OUT, and go for it.
Do it NOW.
Look for your EXIT SIGN!
“The more you are challenged the more you change.”
Lynda McKinney Lambert
Lynda McKinney Lambert. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.
You can read Little Steps #1, 2, and 3 by clicking on the links below.
Introducing my GUEST BLOGGER for May – Beckie Horter
I am delighted to feature a writer I met a number of years ago when she attended the college where I taught. Beckie is a graduate of Geneva College, Beaver Falls, PA. We reconnected recently and she wrote this GUEST BLOG ARTICLE exclusively for SCANdalous! And, here she is……
United by Stories
Our hearts were made for stories. Fearfully and wonderfully made, said the Psalmist. And it’s true: we were built for giving and receiving stories as a means of soul sustenance. It’s the gift of truth told, lessons learned, and humor offered to lighten the daily load.
I’ve been noticing the power of stories latelyas I spend time with my 86-year-old mother. Her short-term memory is terrible. But her capacity for long ago stories lives on. She remembers days on the farm, walking to school, and what an old woman wore on the beach in 1950—a full slip instead of a bathing suit. Scandalous!
Those are the best conversations to have with her…she’s comforted by those tales. They are real to her and part of who she is. Just as all our experiences become part of who we are and what we share with the world.
“I like a good story, well told. That is why I am sometimes forced to tell them myself,” said Mark Twain.
I can relate! Even though I am shy and introverted—not the bold speaker Mark Twain was—I am often called upon to tell a story. One girlfriend, after I haven’t seen her for a while, will sit me down and say, “Tell me stories!” She wants to know what’s new, of course, but she wants it told in an interesting way.
I am happy to oblige. Telling stories, either on the page or in a small group, brings joy and unity. It takes us on a journey even while we remain perfectly still. Our minds join together for a time, and we imagine scenes and sounds, and smells and tastes that go along with the narrative being told.
When it came time for class plays, I always volunteered to be the narrator. Others wanted to have a big speaking role and fought to be the main character, but I wanted to tell the story. Because the narrator had the scoop. They kept everyone together, brought the story up to speed, and answered all the questions in the end.
I think Garrison Keillor, a modern-day storyteller, would agree. “Be as crazy as you want to be,” he said. “Just let me tell about it.”
Where do we get this impulse? This need to tell stories?
I believe it comes directly from God. He is the giver of all good things, including stories and imaginations. God’s Word is laden with memorable stories, and it was Jesus’ first choice for teaching the people.
Consider the parable.
“A farmer went out to sow his seed,” begins the parable of the sower in Luke 8. From this teaching, we understand that the seed is the Word of God, and there are four types of soil—or hearts—the Word can fall on. Shallow soil, rocky soil, thorny soil, and good soil. In the end, only the good soil, or the heart that has been properly prepared, is the one that will yield a crop for eternal life.
We may conclude from this story that three-fourths of the time the Word is shared, it will not have lasting effect. Wow! So we are not to be discouraged when we don’t see change. Jesus told us that the devil will snatch it away, that some will believe for a time and then fall away, and others will give way to worry, riches and pleasures. This is a cautionary tale, too. We want to have good soil and avoid the pitfalls Jesus warns of.
We get all that from the mental picture of a farmer, seed, soil, thorns, rocks, etc. But, of course, it represents so much more! The truth that we are built for eternal life seeps into our hearts like a healing balm. We instinctively know it’s right. And it quiets the longing inside us.
A great teacher will always incorporate a story along with the lesson.
Stories work better than lectures.
Our defenses are down and our hearts are open.
And while the points in a lecture quickly fade, a story imprints our memory.
So, as summer kicks off this week, I’m hoping to build my story collection by making new memories. To journey down the road a bit and see new sights, notice something different, talk to a stranger, laugh about a situation, and then come home and tell the story.
Maybe you’ll do the same!
*** Beckie Horter is a Christian blogger and devotions editor for Proverbs 31 Ministries.
After receiving her B.A. in Writing from Geneva College, Beckie worked as a correspondent for the Allegheny Times. There she covered government meetings and wrote feature articles. Telling stories and loving it! She went on to proofread for the paper until a retina condition erased most of her central vision leaving her partially blind.
Following a period of adjustment and seeking the Lord’s will, Beckie once again returned to her passion of writing—albeit slowly. God showed her how to use her remaining vision and continues to open doors to spread His message of hope.
A theme she often explores on her blog,This Abiding Walk, is how God works through the brokenness of our lives. Although the subject matter can be quite serious, Beckie gives her readers comic relief and writes in a truthful and thoughtful way. Read more by Beckie Horter by visiting her blog:
Most recently, she’s been delighted to become re-acquainted with her former drawing professor, the colorful Lynda Lambert! These two find that God works in unusual ways. And they are both enjoying the journey!
“For behold, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
Song of Solomon 2:11-12 ~
Patti and I walked down the old, narrow stone path on an April afternoon in the 1950s. Our pastel plaid dresses fluttered slightly in the soft afternoon breeze. We removed our cotton sweaters, draped them carelessly over our arm for the journey back home. Like most days in April in western Pennsylvania it had been raining in the morning that day. A few hours later, the day took a turn and now it had warmed up significantly since our early morning walk to school. We felt happy because there was not a rain cloud in sight as we took our time walking along our familiar path. Now we meandered at an easy pace in the opposite direction. School was over for the day and there was no reason to walk faster. We walked a short distance and then we were standing beside a large field. The aroma coming from the thick blanket of woods violets slowed us down even more as we scanned the field. In a moment, without speaking to each other, we stepped lightly between the moistened deep green leaves that flourished in thick patches of weeds and flowers. We were absorbed at the moment, bent over the deep blue-violet blossoms and reached out to gather some dainty flowers. One by one, we snapped the fragile, slender stems of the violets. While we picked our violets with our right hand, we placed each one in the grasp of our left hand. Our bear arms were hot as the late afternoon sunshine turned our pale skin bright pink. When our left had could hold no more violets, we stepped away from the field and continued our walk home where our Mother was waiting for us to return we came into the 1920s frame house through the back door with our fists full of violets, she was delighted with our small gifts. She went to her cupboard, got out two small glass jelly jars and put the bouquets in water to keep them fresh. Our floral gifts remained on the windowsill in our kitchen.
This year I set my intentions on observing small details in nature. The landscape is changing continuously.
I see crystal drops of dew on tender new leaves in the meadow. They are sprinkled with transparent silvery diamonds. Another turn, and I am walking beside a field of dewy dark green leaves with little periwinkle flowers peeking through the moisture.
I felt the velvet softness of Sumac branches. I looked at layers of last autumn’s leaves intermingled with shoots of new grass, and budding Hyacinths Along the stone walk, I observed the red stalks of Peony bushes forging upwards through the moist earth. Oh, Yes! It’s Spring!
All these thoughts bring me to think about the beauty I have seen in a kaleidoscope. The word “kaleidoscope” has Greek roots. It means “a form beautiful to see.” I am compelled to ask you…
“When is the last time you have had a kaleidoscope in your hands with one eye focused through the small round window?”
“Do you recall the vivid colors, ever-changing shapes, as you slightly moved your hand around the barrel of the kaleidoscope?”
You give it a small twist and all the shapes fall into new pictures. Hidden fragments inside the instrument create numerous symmetrical, abstract pictures. Envision the world such as you have seen in a kaleidoscope!
Could you describe what you feel as the colors dance and flow over the mirror images inside? And did you know that inside the kaleidoscope are tiny, ordinary objects such as buttons, stones, chips and fragments – every illusion you enjoyed viewing is merely a collection of ordinary little things someone gathered and put inside with mirrors set at 60 degree angles
It has been over six decades since I picked wild violets with my sister in a rural farmer’s field. I realize my faith in God still works in the same way it did when I was a child gathering God’s little presents. Just a small twist takes us to a new landscape.
Big things make headline news, are celebrated and sought after. There is no mention of the ache we have in our inner being and the feeling that something is just not right. Oh, I know that yearning that whispers from deep inside my body. Could it be that once again I have walked on that familiar pathway that led me to places where I was not called by God to be? There is always a sense of discomfort and painful stumbling blocks to be experienced when we are outside of his will or his calling, for our life. Fortunately, we can turn around, retrace our steps back to where we need to be and get our direction going once again. That is the good news – we can change direction!
Sitting in silence, being calm, listening for God’s still, small voice takes us to his glory. Small treasures surround us When I sit down and spend time alone with him, in silence, I experience transformation. I turn another bend, there is a shift in perspective, and those little gifts are reflected by the mirrored light of his countenance. I am transformed yet again, by small gifts.
God works just like that!
The longer we look at him, the more our faith grows. Each turn we take towards him opens up a new landscape that shows us insight into his character. I approach quietly. Slowly, I realized the rain has stopped. I tilted my head towards the sky, listened for the songs of the circling birds as they hover above the tall trees; it is happening again. Something new. My feet are damp from the spring shower. Just another small turn of the kaleidoscope – yes! I can see it now.
Copyright, 2015. Lynda McKinney Lambert. May 9, 2015. All rights reserved.
Written for publication by Amy Bovaird. April 24, 2015. With much gratitude for the kind invitation to write for Amy’s Adventures Blog. Thank you!