2016 Christmas Tidings
December 4, 2016
Life comes at us fast, doesn't it? It also disrupts our carefully laid plans. As I finished writing my previous newsletter in March of this year, I was anticipating a new season of life. Now it's already December--almost seven months to the day after my official retirement from the classroom. That day in May was pretty exciting. Last paper graded, final exams given, nice retirement luncheon enjoyed, Commencement ceremony ended, office cleared out, keys turned in, and, finally, summer was off and running.
I was absolutely giddy over the thought of having no more papers to grade, which meant I would have endless stretches of time to devote to my long-neglected manuscript for novel #9. I would dig back into it, first reacquainting myself with the nine or ten chapters I had written two whole years earlier, then pushing it along one easy-flowing chapter at a time until I reached that satisfied "ahhh" of completion. Every writer understands that feeling. It doesn't mean all the loose ends are tied up, of course. That would be false to the vision of genuine realistic fiction, which attempts to capture life as it really is. But back to the "ahhh" feeling--it's different for every novelist. Some like to nudge the plot closer to a fairly tidy ending whereas others leave so many messy threads dangling that the author seems to be making provision for five or six sequels. But for every writer there comes a point at which the work feels finished.
Well, all of that to say I'm nowhere close to that "ahhh" feeling with this manuscript. Life came along to halt my progress once again. Well, no, that's a very worldly way to put it. It wasn't just Cold, Indifferent, Impersonal, Random "Life" that came along, but rather God's Intentional, Purposeful, Custom-Made Plan for Me. The details are unimportant--to you, not to me--but that moment of conflict is something we all deal with at some point: What? I don't get to do what I want to do when I want to do it? But I've waited so long, and I've worked so hard to earn this time for myself! And in the midst of my wallowing and writhing, God simply answers, "Be still. Trust me. Do this instead of that."
So at present I bear some unexpected cares of life, with the full knowledge that this is what I'm supposed to do for now. That "full knowledge" doesn't always translate into a perfectly serene, selfless attitude, but even as I fall short on a regular basis, I know God is teaching me, molding me, holding me, bringing me a little closer to my own "ahhh" of completion. Every person who reads this knows about the cares of life. Mine are not outstandingly, horribly unique. If I named them specifically, you would all say, "Oh, yes, those old things. I know at least two dozen people dealing with things like that right now."
Someday I hope to get back to a regular schedule for writing and finish that book, but in the meantime I have other work to do--literal work with my hands but also the interior kind that involves submission and forgiveness and reassessment and love and sacrifice and healing and growing. Most of that second kind will be God's work, of course. I couldn't begin to do it without his power and daily grace.
And finally, an offer, for what it's worth. I have a box of books--my last novel, To See the Moon Again--that I purchased for a book event a couple of months ago. There were about 20 left over, and I would love to get them out of my house. I'd be happy to mail an autographed copy for $12 to anybody who might be interested in using it as a Christmas gift. Just contact me with your mailing address, and I'll try to get it out within a day or two of hearing from you. And if it's after Christmas by the time you read this, I'll still be glad to do it.
Have a blessed Christmas and New Year!