Saturday, March 23, 2013

Ode to the Un-poetic Soul


Reading poetry is NOT my favorite pastime.  I think it is because the reader has to analyze, probe, ponder, and investigate the meaning of each poem written.  It feels at times like a surgery of literature… ripping a part each stanza and dissecting word by word in search of the meaning.  I just want the author to say what he or she means to say plainly.  No extra brain power needed in reading it.  I am a deep thinker, but not when it comes to poetry.  It takes too much work for me. 

In reading the poetry for this section, I found a new appreciation for poetry.  One author I read really jumped out to me because he was an artist of sorts with his words.  As I read, it was almost like the scene unfolded before me on a white canvas.  When I finished the last sentence, the picture was complete.  The poetic artist I am speaking of is William Carlos Williams. 

One of my assignments during this session was to compare two of this author’s poems.  In reading the short poems chosen, I couldn’t imagine coming up with 200 + words to explain my understanding of what I read.  But, as I read them over and over again a picture began to form in my mind.  I imagined myself looking at a painting on the wall taking in the whole scene.  It was telling a story.  I could see it!  Imagine that… me getting poetry.  Unbelievable!  This is what I read….

 
The Red Wheelbarrow
so much depends                                                  
upon
 
a red wheel
barrow
 
glazed with rain
water
 
beside the white
chickens
 

 
*This one I imagined a picture of an old farm house with barn, shed, chicken coop, etc… Country living at its best!   I also imagined an elderly man dressed in overalls working hard to keep his farm afloat.  My husband grew up on a farm and had “farm chores” he had to do every day.  It sounded fun and exciting to this city gal, but probably not if you had to live it out on a daily basis.


Here is the other poem I read…
 
This Is Just to Say
 

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
 
and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast
 
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.

*This one I think would be an awesome commercial.  A man comes in the house after a long day of work.  No one is home yet.  His wife and kids are gone.  He is famished.  He looks in the fridge hoping for something to tide him over until dinner.  He sees the plums sitting there all pretty seemingly set aside for a purpose, but he cannot control his stomach.  Temptation wins and he probably thinks… “forgiveness is better than permission in this instance.”
 

Have you ever done that before?  Acted on the understanding that “forgiveness is better than permission” in any instance?  What happened?  Sometimes it ends well other times there are consequences to be paid.  I imagine in this poem that the man’s wife smiled, kissed her husband on the cheek, and offered a forgiving sigh.
 
I guess I shouldn’t write poetry off entirely…. at least not yet.  Just like reading anything, I need to find author’s I click with and settle into a poetry reading groove.  Happy reading!
 
 
Living to leave a legacy,
Julie

Friday, March 15, 2013

When is it okay to lie?

I remember reading “Adventures of Huck Finn” at the beginning of my semester with American Literature and really enjoying it.  As I was completing my assignments and finishing up discussion questions, one question bothered me.  It read…
 
Huck lies or avoids telling the truth on several occasions.  Why does he lie?  How do you feel about his behavior?

 
This was a part of my answer…
 
I don’t like the fact that he lies, but it seems like it is his way of doing things.  He dodges the truth often to keep out of trouble.  He seems like he feels telling the truth would only make things worse in the long run.  This has worked for him well so far so he continues his pack of lies just to survive.

 
I am not a big fan of lying.  In fact I dislike it SO much that my husband and I have made it a point as parents to really emphasize the importance of always telling the truth with our boys.  Lying breaks trust and trust is hard to earn back once it is broken.

Because I don’t want to lie to my kids in any way we take a different approach with the holidays.  We have chosen to never “pretend” when it comes to Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy…
 
Our approach was simple as the kids were little.  We simply avoided the subject and waited until they were old enough to ask.  It didn’t take long.  When they asked we explained that other families liked to “pretend” with their kids.  It was their special tradition. 

We went out of our way to make sure we didn’t interfere with anyone else’s traditions.  This is just what we chose to do.  We emphasized that it wasn’t their place to “tell” any kid the truth.  When the time was right, their parents would tell them.  We NEVER had a problem with them telling anyone after all of these years (my boys are teens now).

Some people told us years ago that we might regret our decision to forfeit the game of “pretending” over the holidays, but we never have so far.  We have started some of our own creative traditions as a result which have made the holidays even more special.  We have shared with our boys the various historical accounts about Santa and traditions celebrated around the world, but he is not the focus of the season for our family.

Truth is important to us.  I will not lie for the sake of lying or because everyone else is doing it.  I want the words I speak to count for something.  I don’t ever want anyone to question or doubt whether I am speaking the truth or not.  I want them to know me as a person of truth.


We are endeavoring to teach our boys the value of truth as teenagers which has been interesting.  One thinks if you ask them something like… “Have you brushed your teeth?” that if he doesn’t answer, he hasn’t lied and there are no consequences for his actions.  The other thinks you can say whatever you want at times and say, “I’m just teasing” and it isn’t a lie.  These are interesting concepts.  What is the difference between teasing and lying?  Can not telling the whole truth be considered a lie?  Hmmm…. something to think about.

In reading Huck Finn it seemed like he only really lied when he was protecting someone else or trying to stay out of trouble.  So, when is it okay to lie?  As a Christian I tend to filter everything through the lens of the question, what would God think about this?

 I believe that if some situation would arise that would make it difficult to tell the truth that God would provide a “way of escape” out of the situation.  I can take it or stick with my opportunity to fudge the truth.  I can’t say I have always chosen the “way of escape” God has provided, but I have learned how to see that escape path easier now through experience.  I have learned over the years the value of honesty and the consequences of not sticking with the truth.
 

1 Corinthians 10:13 says…
“The only temptation that has come to you is that which everyone has. But you can trust God, who will not permit you to be tempted more than you can stand. But when you are tempted, he will also give you a way to escape so that you will be able to stand it.” (NCV)
 
The next time YOU are faced with the opportunity to lie, look for “a way of escape.”  Think about whether their might be a truthful alternative to using a lie to deal with a particular problem.  When it comes to lying we need to remember:
 
~ the truth ALWAYS comes out eventually
~ once you break trust it’s hard to earn back
~ word gets around pretty quickly who can and can’t be trusted
 
For Huck Finn lying was a way of life, what will it be for you?
 

Living to leave a legacy,

Julie

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Toxic Heart

       I read a book recently called  "Red Badge of Courage” by Stephen Crane.  It was about a young man, named Henry, who enlisted for war and the journey he took in becoming a man.  At the beginning of the story he is very na├»ve to war and its devastation.  At one point he even retreats leaving his comrades on their own to defend their honor. 

I noticed as the story continued that Henry’s heart started to change.  It hardened.  It filled with anger and rage.  It seemed poisoned by its surroundings and circumstances.  It became so toxic that others started to notice.  “Are you okay, Henry?”  One of his closest friends was concerned.  When Henry retreated, it wasn’t just a physical event.  He retreated in his heart as well.  The guilt overwhelmed him.  Roots were growing inside of him.  Roots of resentment, anger, un-forgiveness, and hatred were taking over his heart and making it toxic.

Have you ever met someone with a toxic heart?  The circumstances or surroundings of their life had poisoned them.  Bad things happen, unfortunate events sweep in and shake us to the core of our being, and things happen that are beyond our control.  Life is messy and unpredictable.  But in the midst of the chaos, we have a choice.  We can keep moving forward or retreat.  The choice is ours.  When we begin to retreat we open the door up for our hearts to become polluted and filled with toxin.

 
Toxic can be defined as…

Poisonous, harmful or deadly, capable of causing injury or death

 
In reading the definition of toxic, we see that long term this can be deadly and it’s dangerous to allow the fruit of a toxic heart to linger in our lives.  It’s got to go!

A toxic heart can be recognized by the words that come out of its mouth.  Henry had a religious background.  His mom had strong convictions.  It says in the book that,She had had certain ways of expression that told him that her statements on the subject came from deep conviction” (Ch. 1).  She also said after he enlisted, “The Lord’s will be done, Henry” (Ch. 1).  He was raised in a home where certain values and principles were held tightly and expressed freely.

Henry had to recognize what was in him as he spoke from a toxic heart.  How could he miss the changes occurring on the outside of him? Some times living too close to the problem can blind us to the truth. 

I have heard a scripture in the Bible before that helps clarify this point.
Luke 6:45 says “…for the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (NIV)


What comes out of our mouths helps others see what is in our hearts! Interesting… I don’t know about you, but I have good and bad days when it comes to what comes out of my mouth.  I don’t know that this scripture is speaking of our off days, but what is deep down inside of us on a daily basis.  It’s what is at the core of who we are.

 
I am honest enough to say I have suffered from a toxic heart before.  I have allowed offenses by others and the circumstances of life to pollute my heart.  It consumed me, polluted my speech, and changed my personality.  Poison spewed from my mouth as I spoke splattering on those around me.  I was becoming the very thing I detested.  It was only with God’s help that I was able to be free. 

I have a question for you.  It’s a personal one.  Do you have any destructive roots growing in your heart?  Could your heart be toxic?  What is the flavor of your conversation when you speak?  Is it sweet or sour?   Living with a toxic heart is dangerous.  I encourage you to ask a friend or family member today if they have noticed any changes in you lately.  The ability to be free from this is entirely up to you.  I dare you to choose freedom today!

Living to leave a legacy,

Julie

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Live YOUR Dash

Recently while I was away on a trip I heard this poem and it pricked my heart.


The Dash
By Linda Ellis copyright 1996


I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone,
from the beginning…to the end.




He noted that first came the date of her birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years
.


For that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
know what that little line is worth.


For it matters not, how much we own,
the cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.


So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.


If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.


And be less quick to anger
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before.


If we treat each other with respect
and more often wear a smile,
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.


So, when your eulogy is being read,
with your life’s actions to rehash…
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent YOUR dash?


 
Wow!  What a concept!  Living for the dash…. What will we do with the life we have been given?  I want mine to count for something.  I want to leave behind a legacy to pass on for generations to come.  I want my life to make a difference for good.  What will you do with your dash?  The choice is entirely up to you.

Living to leave a legacy,
Julie

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Hello Blogosphere!

I thought I would share a brief bio about me to catch you all up.   I have been married for almost 20 years and have two pre-teen boys (see picture posted here when they were younger).  I love my family and my God.  I work part time in childcare and help an elderly lady twice a month.  I am also recovering from an autoimmune disease I have struggled with for the past seven years.  It's called Myasthenia Gravis and it weakens my muscles.  At its worst I was bedridden for three months until my doctor could regulate it.  I struggle at times with double vision, weakenss in walking, talking, eating, etc.. My husband has been amazing taking care of me and the boys through all of the ups and downs.  At my best I was able to complete the Mini-marathon 5K.  It was awesome!  I did it to prove to myself that I could do anything with God's help and I did.  Currently the disease is almost into remission, however I have been struggling with side-effects to my medications.  They are more like nagging frustrations to me.

I am taking American Lit. to fulfill a requirement to finish my degree.  When I am finished I will officially have my B.A. in Biblical Studies.  Yay!!!!  This is a big deal for me because I have been trying to do this for years.  Many things have kept me from it of course... kids, finances, sickness, time to do it, etc...   I LOVE to write and reading is a part of it, but I have never really enjoyed reading American Literature.  I like this course because I am required to read selections and authors I wouldn't normally choose for myself.  It has been very enlightening.

Blogging is not foreign to me.  I have another blog I started when I was suffering from a really bad flare up.  My old symptoms came back with a fierce vengance and I dropped almost 75 pounds in less than six months because I could hardly eat or drink anything.  I wanted to have something else to focus on while I struggled through.  My other blog focuses on how I pushed through my struggles, my family, and encouraging thoughts from the Bible.  If you want to look at it you can find it at:  www.leavingalegacyonline.com.  It is more like a record of my journey to getting well.  I am also working on writing a book.  I want to take all the wasted years being sick and use them for good.  The book will be a Bible Study on the life of Joseph using my life experiences to draw parallels.  It's not done yet, but it has been a great positive focus for me while being sick.  I want to call it, "Surviving Life's Mud Puddles."  The picture above is something I might want to use for the cover.  That picture alone has a story of its own.  That's for sure!

Thank you for reading!  I am looking forward to sharing all of my "literary after thoughts" with you.

Julie