Monday, September 26, 2011

When Life Imitates Art

The entertainment industry is full of stories that glamorize life and give us the message that it is all about us.  I veer away from that kind of 'entertainment' whenever possible and instead seek out uplifting stories, stories that inspire or sometimes just head for a good old fashioned romantic comedy--but nothing raunchy.  It is hard to find that kind of positive entertainment.  But when my movie and theater experiences start to connect with me in a deep way, I need to take notice.  That is what happened to me this past weekend.

First of all, I went to see 'The Diary of Anne Frank' where a friend of mine was performing.  I wasn't particularly drawn to the story.  I knew it would be moving and sad.  But I support my friends in this way whenever possible.  It is a small way I can invest in them.  I ended up taking my 14-year old son with me as well so he could write an essay for school.  It lent itself to some good conversation.

Besides the horrific story about the treatment of Jews by Hitler and Anne Frank's dismal existence living in hiding, what struck me most about this story was about her writing.  Anne Frank kept a diary that was later used as the basis for the books, movies and plays about her ordeal.  She received the diary for her 13th birthday just before the family went into hiding.  Initially she wrote that she kept the diary as a way to get things off her chest and never imagined that anyone would ever be interested in reading it.  While in hiding she heard a radio broadcast announcing that diaries and other important documents would be gathered after the war to preserve for future generations.  That was when she started to think like a writer and began the process of re-writing her diary to publish as a novel.  Of course she never got to see that happen, but she pursued her dream despite the uncertainty of her circumstances.

Why does this strike me so much?  Because over the past year, I have had two areas of writing that have come alive in me.  One is my journaling.  So much has happened to me this year, that if I didn't journal about it I know my mind would lose it.  It is pivotal, life changing stuff.  The second piece of writing that I have done is correspondence with a family in Spain.  Each step of the way God has lead me to communicate with this family about what has transpired, to encourage one another and to pray for one another.  The friendship and miracles that have occurred as a result of this connection is amazing.  Like Anne Frank, I know that these pieces of writing are the basis for a book. 

The other movie I saw was 'Secretariat', about the horse who won the Triple Crown in 1973.  It is another real-life story, but this one is very uplifting.  It is about pursuing something that you believe in.  For me, what was so inspirational was that it was a woman, Penny Chenery, who did all this and she did it later in life.  She had amazing courage in the face of potential devastating financial losses and defeat.  She was pursuing something against all odds.  There is a tender scene toward the end of the movie when everything is on the line and she is privately talking to Secretariat at the stables.  She tells the horse that tomorrow's results don't really matter and that she has already won the race--referring to following her dream.  That is what writing is to me.

So I have a sense that viewing these 'theatrical events' at this time in my life was intended to give me a message.  God can and does use even these kinds of venues to speak to us.  That is because the Holy Spirit is always with us.  It is up to us if we want to listen and follow His leading.  This is totally new territory for me to navigate.  But that's the way God operates.  I know that if I wasn't being stretched, that I would just chalk it up to doing this on my own.  My goal in all of this is not to become famous, but to be used by God.  If He is in it, it will happen--in His timing and in His way.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

It Takes Courage

I finally got around to seeing the movie, 'The Help' last week.  When I saw the previews for it earlier in the summer, the thing that hit me most was the story about Skeeter's desire to be a writer.  Even from the trailer when you hear Skeeter receiving advice on the phone from an editor, you can sense that this was going to be a gripping story.  The editor told Skeeter to write about something that disturbs her--particularily if it bothers no one else.  And for me that is the foundational plot of this movie--taking the courage to do something that no one else will do.

Skeeter's courage is initially based on her desire to write and get a job in New York.  Throughout the movie though you sense that her courage is fueled by her desire to expose the unfair treatment of the black household help in Jackson, Mississippi around the time of the Civil Rights Movement.  Aibileen is Skeeter's primary source for her interviews.  When Skeeter asks her why she is willing to participate, after initially declining,  Aibileen says 'God'. 

The Help is a very moving story interspersed with humor and some tearful moments.  It is a story about redemption, following our heart and not letting our desire to be accepted or belong dictate what we do or believe.  It is much like our walk with Christ--or what a walk is supposed to look like.  God gives us the Holy Spirit to take those bold steps of courage.  It is up to us whether we will follow Him down a road that may seem scary or uncertain.

As I left the movie, the line that stood out most to me was when Skeeter's mother told her that sometimes courage skips a generation (referring to her own inability to not cave in to peer pressure).  Then she tells Skeeter that she is proud of her.  I felt a sense of God's love for me when I heard those words. 

I can't exactly say that courage skipped a generation in my family.  After the death of my mother this year one thing I have learned is that although she was mentally ill, she did have courage.  She persevered through years of psychiatric treatment.  Unfortunately I didn't see it in those terms until recently.  Her courage and her faith has inspired me to be courageous too. 

So as I start down this path of writing that God has placed in my heart, I will cling to His voice telling me that I am His beloved Daughter and that He is proud of me.  That is where my courage comes from.  What about you?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What's in a name?

I am welcoming myself to the world of blogging.  It is something I have wanted to do for a few years, but just never got 'around to it'.  So why now?  Well, that can be best answered by saying that I have recently decided to take my writing more seriously.  I am in the process of exploring the 'right' avenue for it so this seemed like a logical next step.  And thanks to a friend of mine who also has an interest in writing and who shared her blog with me, I decided to take the plunge. 

So what's in a name?  Having the right name can make all the difference in the world--in some circles, anyway.  It can lead to your being accepted or rejected by the 'in' crowd.  Whatever kind of first impression you leave on people you meet can also label you with a 'name'--either good or bad.  I have been on the receiving end of some harsh name-calling as a child that definitely left me hating my name.  Unfortunately those verbal wounds took a long time to heal. 

Now I love my name.  It is a beautiful part of my identity.  I know there is no one like me.  I know that God uniquely and divinely created me--He knit me together in my mother's womb. (Psalm 139:13) 

So when it came to naming my blog, I wanted a name that would serve as a unique marker for this season of my journey.  Lots of names came to mind.  But it seems that I'm not the only person coming up with 'clever' names for their blog: Thinking Out Loud, Illuminate, Light the Way, A Changed Life, A Life Transformed and other similar iterations were all taken.

When I think of the events of the last year, one of the many thoughts I have is how God has been 'making me bold'.  He has been my guiding light through thick and thin.  He has nudged me each step of the way--out of my comfort zone and stretching me to do some very bold things.  In light of all that He has done for me and in me, I can't help but acknowledge that in the name of my blog.  For without His Presence in my life, none of these things would be possible.  (Phil. 4:13)

I am forever grateful that He is Making Me Bold.