Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Off the Path

My dear friend and writing partner, Betsy Dornbusch, has a post up at her blog on finding your own path. Now, if you know me at all you may be a little surprised when you read her post that we are friends... but we are. It is a testimony to the depth and richness of the creative life that not only do we write together, we write together really well! At least, I think so.

Anyway, her post made me think about just how far off track I've gotten lately. As I said in my comment on her blog,

"I am so far off my own path right now I might as well be in China. I don't even know myself any more, and I don't know if it's my poor work/sleep habits, the meds I'm on, or my complete lack of religious life lately. But I gotta find me again somehow."

To show how sidetracked I've gotten, I searched through my archives for this little tidbit I wrote back in 2006, when I was just starting to write again after a decade-long haitus. My son was little and I was struggling to stay on top of things as a SAHM and Mothers of Preschoolers group leader. I was very close to the Lord, which was one of the blessings that comes with being in ministry and not having to work outside the home.

Here is the piece. I want to find this Christine again. Not that I want to be in the same place I was then, but I want my heart to be in the same state of tender obedience.


Stand and Wait

In Greek mythology there is a character named Sisyphus who was punished by the gods.  His punishment was to spend eternity pushing a boulder up a mountain each day, only to have it roll back down again at night.

I can’t help wondering what Sisyphus would rather have been doing with his time and energy.  Perhaps he was a composer, making symphonies in his head that he never could write down.  Or a statesman musing on the problems of Greek society, unable to tell anyone his ideas.  Perhaps he was a philosopher like Socrates, or a poet like Homer.  We’ll never know.

I’ve been identifying a lot with Sisyphus lately.  It seems that this task of being a stay-at-home mom is a boulder I’m pushing day after day, with no time to do anything for myself.  I feel as if my God-given talents are being wasted; that my creative energies are being sacrificed.  Although I know that being a Christian wife and mother is one the greatest things I can do for the Kingdom of God, it feels as if I’m not really doing anything substantial for Him.

There are people who say “Well, if you want to do something, then you just have to make the time to do it.  If you want it badly enough, you’ll find a way.”  That’s a fine sentiment, but the ugly truth is that there are only so many hours in the day and I only have so much energy.  If I focus my efforts on something creative, then something else always suffers, and I end up doing damage control with my family or a big push to catch up on my chores.  I know I can’t do it all.

Nevertheless, I am inspired when I recall the words of the great poet, John Milton.  At the end of his life he became blind, and could no longer write down his own poems but had to dictate them to aides.  One of them, titled “On His Blindness” includes the line “They also serve who only stand and wait.”  He was talking about serving God by waiting upon Him, the way a servant does, standing at attention, willing and obedient, until called upon.


Let me just close by adding that whenever I pray about this curse of a creative mind, asking God why he burdened me with it, the Holy Spirit reminds me again that my time is coming. "Just wait."

I have some really good content at my old blog, Christine's Cottage. I may post some "best of" content in the future. There's a lot on there about this book I'm *still* writing.


  1. To me you sound as frustrated then as you do now. Creativity is a gift, not a curse. Maybe your path needs to take you to acceptance of every part of you. Every part, no matter how much in conflict they are with each other.

    I spent a lot of time working out all the disparaging facets of my personality and in the end it came down to acceptance of all of it. (This isn't something you and I have talked about, I think you might be surprised by who I was before 10 years ago. I was extremely meek and insecure. ) I shed the guilt (I finally figured out that guilt serves no purpose but to paralyze us), the insecurity (also paralyzing), and embraced life and myself. Some of that was saying fuck it, yeah. A lot of it was saying fuck the past. I left behind who I was and sought who I am meant to be. I prayed. I thought. I wrote. I partied. I talked to friends. I blogged and tested out the true facets anonymously. I flirted. I played and loved and shoved myself out of my comfort zone. I ate right.

    Everyone in my life resisted. Every. Single. Person.

    But I pushed on, caught up in a sort of desperate faith that not only would Christ help me, but that I had no choice. And here, now, ten years later, I am happier and more myself than ever before, and my relationships are all much improved. Incidentally, Carlin followed my lead a few years later (after being the greatest resister for years) and now he is in a similar place.

    I have a friend who is a psychiatrist. She says research has proved we can truly think ourselves happy. If you force yourself to be happy at first, consciously decide at all times to think positively, with love and acceptance, you will physically change the way your neurons fire. I described a little of what I did and she told me it's clear I made a physical change in my brain. It doesn't even take that long, either.

  2. It's not a question of acceptance of who I am, it's a question of acceptance of my circumstances.

    I must work. I must take care of my family. My duty first and foremost, is to those two things. I have been doing a really shameful job of both. Really. Shameful. With nothing to show for it creatively, either.

    And to get back in touch with God. I haven't had a real prayer life since I started working a year ago. All this busyness and stress and frustration has driven me away from God rather than towards him.

    And that's where the waiting comes in... trusting HIM to show me how to make the time in my schedule if I put other things first, rather than fretting and and complaining. Trusting HIM to give me the opportunities if I am faithful in other areas.

    Like saying "Fuck the's time to go to bed." :p

  3. Incidentally, I wonder if the "just wait" philosophy might be a fundamental difference between your version of faith and mine.

    God tells me to "Just do it."

    But as I said in the post:

    Many paths, my friend.

  4. He IS telling me to do it, Betsy. Which is causing me no end of fits, believe me.

    Because I can't figure out HOW to do it.

    But when I talk about waiting, I mean waiting for that season when I can write full time and really make it my vocation, not a hobby I struggle to squeeze in.

  5. The other thing I don't understand is why the whole illness thing happened. I was ALL SET to finish the book... I had that unexpected meeting with that editor at the GLHV writer's conference in March. I was practically forced into it, totally unprepared, not expecting to remotely catch her interest and she wanted a full.

    I was flabbergasted. So I thought if I worked really hard I could polish it up in a few weeks. And I get knocked down by this horrible, horrible illness for two whole months. You know I'm still struggling with aftereffects. So I'm like, "What, God, was THAT about?"

    I still don't know. Is it a sign that I shouldn't try to submit to this editor, is it Satan trying to block me from my purpose, is it just random stuff that happens...??? No clue.

  6. Well, I don't believe in Satan, so I don't have answers for you in that regard.

    I think random stuff happens. I think going round and round trying to figure out WHY just makes us spin our wheels. Instead, focus on what you want to do and do it. Maybe you can spend 10 minutes on the book one day. Well, that's 10 minutes you spent. Better than zero.

    I've spent some time working out why the threads have become important to me, and mostly it's taught me how to write romantic relationships and how to torture our characters. (even more) Two things I desperately needed. You're a master at throwing up roadblocks and complications, you're not afraid to devastate your characters and exploit their weaknesses, and I'm learning every time we play.

    Incidentally, I didn't say all that to mean you should take my path, just to illustrate my own. Just to be clear... :)

  7. Yes, I know, Bets. :D But I also anticipate writing for eternity in Heaven. This is just practice for my real future.

    Thank you for your very kind words. I know our online experiment has helped me grow enormously. I have taken risks I would never have taken otherwise. Now I just have to figure out how to translate all I've learned into my "real" writing.

  8. Gahhh, I hope I have better things to do in Heaven than WRITE! That might actually be more like...hell... (shudder)

  9. I've been having a real hard time over the past year with all of this. Finding the time to write without the whole guilt of not spending time with my family or not doing my "chores." I don't have a job at the moment, okay, one client, but still. The whole guilt thing is a horrible burden that hangs over me at times and all it does is cripple my creativity.
    I think I'm finally over the whole regret thing of not starting sooner, why didn't I do things differently mindset. I had to just deal and move forward.
    It's strange how things come about and each blockade is something we have to figure out and get around. Whether we let it beat us down or we overcome it and push forward.
    I don't know the answer. I'm sorry I can't help more. All I can say is I understand what you are saying because I've been at this point recently and you will get through it. I don't know how. Things will show themselves.
    I'm sure I totally sound crazy.
    What I'm learning is take things one step at a time and things will become clear.

  10. Hi Christine! I appreciate your comment, because I know you have a couple of little ones now, don't you? At least I only have one guy and he's growing up fast. Hang in there! And maybe I'll actually get to meet you one of these days... I don't think I'm going to the West Chester pub crawl thing. I don't crawl very well.

    Betsy, the idea is that in Heaven every day will be like your best writing day ever! The words will just flow with divine inspiration, perfect from the first draft....Ahhh!


I apologize for the word verification. I hate it, but the spammers made me do it.