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The Thief of Joy

I confess that I can be described as an “indifferent housekeeper.” Sadly, I am so ashamed of my house as a disgusting disaster area that I am reluctant to invite people over. I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable, like they need to don a bio-hazard suit in order to enter the door! Whenever folks do visit, I inwardly fret and freak out. I wonder: are they judging me? Do they think that I am a slob? Okay, the truth is that I really am a slob. “The proof is in the pudding,” as they say. More apropos to my situation: the proof is in the slovenly condition of my home.

There is a part of me that constantly nags that I am lazy, that I am an awful wife and mother for not taking better care of the house. I need to develop an organization and cleaning plan and stick to it. I need to get up off of my fat butt and do the chores. Shame on me for being a poor steward of the blessings that God granted to me and my family!

Whence spring these negative self-comments? Perhaps I judge my own housekeeping unfavorably based on my impression of somebody else’s home. I have friends who have beautiful, seemingly well-organized – and, above all – clean homes (Unlike me, they have included hiring a cleaning company in their budget, but I feel that’s just making excuses on my behalf.) The fact of the matter is, I feel that I am not doing my part in maintaining my own home and this stresses me out. In short, I am profoundly unhappy and disappointed in myself.

And don’t get me started on my so-called writing “career.” What career? Ha! I’m not even published yet. As much as I love reading others’ published works, it is not done without a modicum of envy. “Here are folks,” I say to myself, “who have boldly gone out, doggedly pursued their dream to become an author, and succeeded admirably. Meanwhile, what have you accomplished in this vein? Diddly-squat, and you’re not getting any younger.”

As Theodore Roosevelt once so aptly put it: comparison is the thief of joy.

Have you ever had these sort of thoughts about yourself? Not very encouraging or self-affirming, are they? We need to identify this malicious voice – Cathy Fyock calls it “the Bitch” while I call it “the Shrew” – and tell it to shut up and ship out. We don’t have time to dwell in fear of rejection, self-doubt and destructive self-criticism.

As usual, God in His wisdom has some advice for us self-criticizers:

Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.” Galatians 6:4,5 (NIV)

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

Huh. Good point, there. I should stop worrying about all this stuff other people are doing and just do something, myself. Perhaps it won’t silence that nagging shrew in my head – she’s just too stubborn and persistent – but hopefully it will decrease the volume of her voice long enough for me to accomplish something noteworthy in my life. It will take prayer. It will take hard work. I might need an accountability partner to drag me kicking and screaming out of my recliner but I have confidence that if it is God’s will, I will become a published author.

Who knows? With God giving me strength, I might even improve in my efforts at housekeeping.

So, with that in mind, let’s you and me make a deal. I’ll try to be my best “me.” You try to be your best “you.” And while we acknowledge and celebrate others for their virtues and good works, we won’t punish ourselves for not being blessed with their exact set of capabilities and/or success.

What do you think your best “you” would look like? What methods have you used to successfully manage “the Shrew” in your own head? And no, drowning her with alcohol doesn’t count (LOL.)

I hereby formally invite you to comment.

“Cats, thy name is sloth,” or “Cats, the eaters of ambition.”

Justum et tenacem, propositi virum

“A just man, firm in purpose.” – Horace

Last week my husband brought home from the public library a graphic novel version of The Count of Monte Cristo, originally written by Alexandre Dumas. I picked it up, started flipping through it, and realized that although I have read this book before and remembered the plot in general terms I could not even remember the names of the characters. So yesterday I decided to download a free Kindle version and read it again. Right now I am about halfway through it.

I am sure that when I first read the novel, I did not fully appreciate all of the nuances therein, since I believe that at the time I was still a high school student in the state of Teenage Angst. Naturally, I focused on different aspects of the novel then and viewed it through the sophomoric lens of my own limited experiences. I skipped over the parts and details that I didn’t understand, such as references to French history and its notable figures, culture and quotations from the classics. I was reading the book for fun instead of explicating it for class, after all, so I was more interested in what happened to the characters and the overarching theme of the story than I was in “all that other scholarly minutiae.”

At the time, I did not have convenient means at hand for translating phrases rendered in language foreign to me or immediately researching the names dropped in the narrative. For example: What the heck does this French “ma foi” phrase mean that keeps popping up in the dialogue? (Answer: It’s an interjection that translates to “my faith!” and serves the same purpose as saying “my goodness!” “well!” or “indeed!” would in English.)

Praise be to God for the existence of Google and the invention of touch screens!

Much like the double-edged sword, modern technology can be a wonderful blessing as well as a pernicious curse to humankind.

In any event, in reading the Count of Monte Cristo again I am noticing details in the narrative that as a moon-eyed adolescent I previously glossed over. For example, the scene where King Louis XVIII is reading a poem by Horace, which is in Latin. The king occasionally quotes snippets from this piece of classical literature while his courtiers are trying to convince him of a conspiracy staged by the Bonapartists. One of these Latin phrases struck me as particularly significant after I looked it up: justum et tenacem propositi virum. (In English: the just man, firm of purpose.) This is part of a larger exposition that I feel is pertinent:

“The just man, firm of purpose cannot be shaken in his rocklike soul, by the heat of fellow citizens clamouring for what is wrong, nor by the presence of a threatening tyrant.”

What does it mean to be a “just” man? What did Horace mean by it, and for what reason did Dumas include this excerpt? At first glance, this phrase appears to describe the protagonist Edmond Dantes because it resonates so strongly with his activities; I say “appears” because on a deeper level I feel that it is also somewhat ironic. Edmond Dantes is “rocklike” and “firm of purpose” in seeking vengeance on those who have so cruelly wronged him out of base envy and avarice. True, he was innocent of the crime of which he was accused. He was wrongfully imprisoned for over fourteen years, his hopes and dreams for marriage with Mercedes and a career as a ship captain utterly devastated.

In our heart of hearts, don’t we in 2019 still sympathize with Edmond wanting to strike back at his oppressors? We would wish to do the same as he did if we had the means and the motive. Nowadays we say: “Yes, revenge is bad for you, blah blah blah,” and pay lip-service to this sentiment, but in that culture it was expected and a matter of honor that one would seek vengeance for wrongs done to oneself or to those under one’s protection.

The Count of Monte Cristo certainly raises an interesting question: if we had vast wealth of a hidden treasure at our disposal, how would we use it? We might have these grand and altruistic plans to be magnanimous to the less fortunate, but dig a little deeper and you’ll uncover the impulses of the sinful nature – to punish our persecutors in a way that we feel suits the crime.

Because it is Holy Week, in reading of Edmond’s plight I was struck by an odd parallel to Jesus Christ’s trial and wrongful execution. There two similarities: both are “just” – innocent of any crime – and both are firm in purpose. However, in practice the two men are complete opposites.

For the sake of argument, you could claim that Edmond Dantes is “just” because he is not guilty of the charge of which he is accused: treason. In Old Testament fashion, Edmond seeks an eye for an eye when he escapes the Chateau d’If. By law, the guilty should be punished for their crimes. However, Edmond feels that the legal system falls short and cannot touch his enemies, so he takes the role of judge, jury and executioner upon himself. He is consumed by his desire for revenge and determined not to waver from the path he has chosen. But I have to wonder: is dedicating one’s life to the pursuit of revenge the action of a truly “just” man?

And by the end of the book, did Edmond remain firm in his purpose to avenge himself, or would human mercy sway his “rocklike” resolve?

Jesus Christ was also a just man, firm of purpose. He was not shaken from his resolve to complete his mission of mercy – the very antithesis of vengeance. By rights, we as rebellious sinners all deserve to suffer God’s eternal wrath. That would have been justice. But Jesus was punished in our place. No human being could have predicted that. One would expect an angry God to smite his enemies for daring to lay hands on him. Just as Edmond was wrongfully incarcerated, Christ did not deserve to suffer and die on the cross. But He stayed the course, endured the agony, and emerged victorious. A truly just man, truly firm in His purpose.

Happy Easter everyone…or as they would say on Tehara: have a blessed Resurrection Festival.

In Springtime the Cycle is Renewed

Because I started this blog with my writing “journey” in mind, I suppose I ought to say something about it. The series of novels that I am working on is called the Cycle of Tehara (hence the name of this blog.) Within the Cycle of Tehara are several…ish story arcs. Sub-series, if you will. The story arc that I am currently working on is called the Wyldling series. Not particularly clever, but since I haven’t actually published yet I still have time to think of a better name than “series.”

Originally, my magnum opus was a single novel whimsically and incongruously entitled The Grand Illusion (yes, in honor of the song of the same name by Styx) that I began crafting at the tender age of 13. It turns out the joke was on me; I should have called it the Grand Delusion of a Teenage Girl Writing the World’s Longest Novel. Needless to say, the title I had given it had very little to do with the content of the novel, and nothing in common with the Styx song besides the title. The story itself has gone through multiple versions, revisions and expansions since I had the weird dream that spawned it in middle school.

A few months ago, I realized that The Grand Illusion was shaping up to be a grand behemoth of a tome twice as long as Stephen King’s It and The Stand combined. Nobody is going to read a single book so huge it could be used as a doorstop. I was afraid my epic novel – growing longer and longer every year – would be mistaken for the Encyclopedia Bore-tannica or something of that sort. I am no Leo Tolstoy after all. I am not even a Stephen King (wow, can that man churn out books!) So in the past year, I thought that maybe a trilogy would be a better idea. The 3 books into which I chopped up The Grand Illusion were to be called Wyldling Snare, Wyldling Trials, and Wyldling Deliverance. It turns out those three books were probably still too long for the audience I had in mind for them; the story is told from the point of view of 15/16 year olds, so it naturally follows that teenagers and young adults should be my target audience – right?

Currently, the Wyldling Series as I envision it is most likely going to be 5 or 6 books. The major plot points are mapped out for the entire story arc, but I feel that the novel previously known as The Grand Illusion needs a lot of reworking. As I’ve gained life experience and grown as a person, so has my novel. A woman in her fourth decade views things much differently than a 15 year old girl – or at least she should.

Viewed through the lens of the adult that I had become, my characters were behaving in ways that was ridiculous and unrealistic. Even in a fantasy story, certain things have to make sense – like, why is this teenager allowed to venture into forbidden, dangerous territory? Well, I decided that said teenager wasn’t allowed to do this at all, but that in his own mind he had compelling reasons for doing so, even if he was wrong to disobey and suffered the consequences. Besides all that, the protagonist was acting more like a whiny, angsty teenage girl than the battle-trained youth that he was destined to be.

I definitely felt that I needed to develop the villains into more believable characters, too. There had to be feasible motivations for their actions, other than “I’m crazy evil and I want to take over the world, mwahahaha!” or “Hello, I’m a bloodthirsty monster who wants revenge for some random insult the protagonist said to me off-screen.” Villains have to have some redeemable qualities, or at least be relatable as human beings – even if some of them actually are psychopaths and megalomaniacs. Perhaps some of them are merely going along to get along while others have been duped or trapped into following a certain path.

The Wyldling Series features six to eight individual villains/antagonists – depending on how one defines the term – but only five of them appear for significant amounts of time. Two or maybe three of them are killed off by the end of the series – I’m still trying to decide. One of the main villains is eventually “redeemed” and joins the ranks of the “good guys” by the end of the series. Another villain is not identified as such and remains a mystery until a future story arc.

If that sounds confusing, don’t worry. The whole journey is a little confusing to me, too.

I’m still working on the details, and as you know, the devil dwells therein.

God bless, and have a marvelous Holy Week.

Winter, begone with you! Spring is coming! Soon, this iris I planted last year will emerge from the soil…
Could it be that my novel shall also blossom anew?

My thoughts on…Gratitude

 

“When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land that he has given you.” Deuteronomy 8:10

One thing that I am thankful for is that my employer offers a Wellness Program and incentives for their employees to engage in a healthy lifestyle. Periodically throughout the year there are fitness or healthy eating challenges and I participate in pretty much every single one of them. Not only has this program raised awareness regarding my health, but there have been major improvements in my health because of it. I managed to lose almost fifty pounds last year, and I have taken up running – something that I never imagined in a million years that I’d ever do!

This wellness program has expanded beyond fitness challenges, though. Last year there was a journaling challenge that promoted having a positive attitude. The topic was to write down three good things that happened during your day. This year’s journaling challenge also focuses on developing a positive mind-set. Specifically, participants are to journal once a day for five days in a week on – you guessed it – whatever they are grateful for.

Whatever is going on in your life, I believe that gratitude is always a timely topic. Here in the great U.S. of A. we are profoundly blessed with wealth, worldly goods, and boundless opportunities to express and improve ourselves. We have the freedom to worship God in a church of our choice, to worship a different deity entirely, or not to worship a god at all. We have the freedom to speak, write, and otherwise express our opinions (so long as we accept the consequences of doing so). Adults have the freedom to fearlessly cast votes in elections for the political candidate of our choice, or to choose to not vote at all. And that’s just three of our freedoms as Americans, the ones nearest and dearest to my heart. I’ll have to revisit the Constitution sometime soon and refresh my memory.

We, as Americans, have so many freedoms that we take for granted every day. Freedoms for which people fight, shed blood and have died for. And yet, I feel that most privileged Americans (myself included) lose sight of the fact that we have it so good in comparison to people in many other nations around the globe. And guess what? We execute our freedom to express ourselves: we complain, and gripe and moan because someone else out there appears to have a better job, more money, a nicer house, a cooler car, more well-behaved kids, a healthier body etc. & etc.

We (read: I) grouse about not being able to afford to take that dream trip to Alaska. We lament that the budget does not allow for a new laptop computer. We resent having to work an eight to four (because I would rather have more time to write). Or we even whine about lacking the funds to repave our shamefully decrepit driveway (about which I just know the entire neighborhood, maybe even everyone with nicer driveways, is judging me).

However, that’s really just small potatoes.

All the while, there are people out there – in our own communities as well as in other countries – that have a much tougher row to hoe. They may not have a job, or a place to live, or a means of transportation, the ability to adequately provide for their families, or they suffer from a chronic illness or disability. Perhaps a number of these things are happening in their lives simultaneously.

I’d say these folks have earned the right to complain a wee bit. Wouldn’t you?

Well, now that I’ve made you (not to mention, myself) feel guilty for complaining, it is time to look on the bright side of things. Not to sound trite, but it is time for us to count our blessings.

First off, I believe that God graciously provides for everyone, spiritually as well as physically. None of us has earned this; God simply loves us all so much that he has done this. He has given us life, body and soul. He has given us this world to live in and use responsibly, as well as all of our worldly possessions. He has given us talents and abilities to provide for ourselves and for our families in some way financially. He has also given us our families and friends – people who care about us and will take care of us when we need help.

Most importantly, He has given us Jesus Christ, who died for the sake of all sinners – and that means everyone. Because of all Christ has done for us, we have the hope of going to heaven to be with Him after we die, instead of that Other Place.

That is merely the tip of the blessings iceberg. Although, one could argue that Jesus is probably a huge part of that iceberg. Go ahead, now, and make your Titanic jokes. No, seriously. I’d love to hear your Titanic jokes.

In any event, I am sure that you have many things that you are thankful for, as well. Perhaps you don’t believe in Jesus as your savior like I do. That is your right as an American and a human being with free will. I can respect that. I’m sure that you respect my right to be a Christian. Another thing that I am thankful for are people who are not Christian and nonetheless respect the rights of those who are, and do not deride or persecute others for their beliefs. For example, I have a close friend who is an atheist and she is always respectful regarding my faith. I appreciate her friendship and all the moral support she has provided to me in the five years that I’ve known her. I think of her as one of those generous souls who wishes to make the world into a better place. She also has seven cats! And now she knows for sure who she is. 🙂

Wow, this blog post has grown rather long. If you have read along this far, then I am grateful that I’ve managed to hold your attention for this long. I could really go on and on about gratitude and this out of control attitude of American entitlement and all that jazz, but I’m sure you’ve heard it all before from other sources. Wasn’t this was supposed to be a blog primarily about my writing and outer space, or something?

Anyway, I’m going to shut up now. Please send some G-rated comments my way about whatever you are grateful for. More to come next week!

The Journey Begins

Thanks for visiting!

Spring time brings with it new growth, so I though this would be the perfect time to begin a blog. I plan on becoming a published author, and I have been told that having a website and a blog is something that successful authors do. So…here we are.

This is a writer’s blog, so there will definitely be updates about progress on the novels and other projects that I am working on. I might even post my amateurish character sketches. However, I also plan to mention other things, too. These things might include my family, my religious beliefs, events that I’ve attended, and other assorted life adventures.

My intention is to avoid any political ranting and raving, but I might periodically post my own opinions about relevant news that I have heard and social topics that I touch upon in my novels. My goal is to be as inoffensive as possible. I apologize in advance if something I post offends you. Please let me know if this is the case. Communication goes both ways, after all.

You will most likely see quotes from the Bible and my comments on them, so be prepared for that, as well.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. — Ezekiel 36:26 ESV

I thought that one was kind of appropriate, given that I am embarking on a new adventure. Thank you, God, for my new heart. I desperately needed one.

All righty then. Let us all blast off into space, leaving the solar system via our own personal wormhole, passing stars and strange planets (like the ones I drew in MS Paint, below). Let us begin our journey to Tehara, a planet on the other side of the Milky Way galaxy that bears an uncanny resemblance to the planet Earth…

spacelord