Still At It
By MARIANNE WOOD
Joan Didion is still at it. At age 86 (she’ll be 87 in December), her latest book, published this year, Let Me Tell You What I Mean, is a treasure for those of us who love to write and who love to read. I have enjoyed this book a lot, but I especially love this quote:
“…a writer, (is) a person whose most absorbed and passionate hours are spent arranging words on pieces of paper. And on the same page, she states: “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”
God bless her for putting down what I can safely assume most Spirit of Abilene contributors think and feel about the process of composing, editing, and sending in our gifts of ideas to share with others.
Those gifts, something another secular writer, Elizabeth Gilbert, calls “big magic,” come as inspiration, and if we are quick, Ms. Gilbert says, we can catch them and make something of them. Likewise, we lose them if we fail to capture the beam of light to our creative hearts and minds. This writer’s insight, too, rings of truth for the Christian author and artist.
I hope to encourage each reader and writer to try catching the next bright thought and enjoy playing with words until discovering how it fits in one’s soul. Then share it here with us!
That said, I want to make it clear: I’m still “at it” too!
I’ve had a short sabbatical from formal writing as I have learned a new, quite irregular rhythm because of a family illness. As a result, I’ve slept away from home many times over the last five months. But I’ve kept a journal, enjoying the process that helps me “find out what I’m thinking,…what I want and what I fear.” As a result, I now have a renewed perspective on each of those things.
First, God has taught me that what He means is way more important than anything I could mean, though I get Didion’s point. So, if I constantly work to realign my thinking to match His, my knees are more easily bent and closer to the ground where helping others is not too hard. Second, He has drawn me tight as I have veered into “what I want” and “what I fear” prayers. Third, He has made it clear that He is standing by no matter where I am or what I’m doing. This August, with my sister helping me deliver care in Philadelphia, rains caused the Schuylkill River to come to our Airbnb door. The event forced us to crowd in with the people we came to help, but we all found grace to make the best of it.
On a short vacation in Colorado a week later, high altitude winded me and made me feel unwell. But He was there, too, in the pleasant sounds of the river and the refreshing activities of hiking, reading, and sharing meals with great friends. And He has been gratefully alive in the kindness of others who send texts, emails, who call, come by, and travel with and to meet me!
My extended family, church family, and pals, and some whom I have never met, like most of the “Dawn Prayers” in Midland, enlarge my heart with their kindness to pray over us. Finally, with each trial has come the favor of His presence as He has pulled me back into His arms. May I never forget His tender mercies during the challenges of our daughter’s illness!
Lastly, I’m eager to share the big magic I discovered this morning–a concluding poem based on a simple prompt that came to my mind: find all the r-words in whatever you are reading and put them in verse. Fortunately, I had a pen and paper handy as I read through W. David O. Taylor’s chapter on sadness in Open and Unafraid: The Psalms as a Guide to Life. I call it simply, “Remember.”
Remember Me. I do,
I will do this: love one another-
As You commanded in that room upstairs long ago.
I will recall Your tender mercies,
Day by day-
Pausing to praise You in the shade of my porch.
I will resolve to surrender all,
Realigning my heart-
Each time it’s needed, anywhere.
I will realize Your revelation,
As I see Your justice, faithfulness, forgiveness, kindness, and compassion-
Demonstrated daily, all over the world.
For You are Righteous Redeemer and Friend.
I will rise reminded You remake me,
Rescuing me from my sin tendencies each day.
Thanking you, I lay my requests before You right where I am.
And You will renovate my heart,
Reframing my thinking and residing in my soul.
So I raise my head toward heaven and rejoice!
P.S. I hope many of you will get “at it” soon!
–With thanks, again, to Kathy Strong for edits and suggestions.
Marianne Wood works as an editorial assistant and researcher for Bill Wright
I share your perspective on writing. I find it therapeutic and less costly than counseling! I also love playing with words, phrases, and syntax. My students thought I was crazy–why revise a perfectly acceptable piece of writing?? I will try your “R” exercise soon. Thanks for sharing.