Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Mayflower?? You're Kidding!

It has been my impression, in the years I’ve been interested in genealogy, that the gold standard for prestige was if you descended from someone who came over on the Mayflower. That was fine, but it didn’t have anything to do with our family. In 2000 we discovered two ancestors who were involved in the Plymouth Colony during its first twenty-five years, and we figured that was as close as we would get. One of those was Anne Hutchinson, who made her way into the history books and to an expressway in the Bronx, as well as her daughter Susanna, the only one who survived the family massacre by Indians.

This past spring my fellow genealogist in the family, my nephew Matt, discovered a new branch of ancestors that we hadn’t known about. I wrote about them in my July 2 blog entitled Of Roots and Names. You may remember it was a line with the unusual name of Consider Tiffany. Matt has been working hard firming up the research on the line and getting it entered in our database.

This afternoon I was browsing back through the tree, noticing some of the female lines that brought other names into the tree. Suddenly, a name caught my eye. Ruth Brewster. Brewster?? There was a Brewster on the Mayflower. Surely not…. But one click and two generations later there it was – there HE was. Consider Tiffany’s wife Naomi was a great-granddaughter of Ruth Brewster, the grand-daughter of William Brewster who came on the Mayflower! He not only came on the Mayflower, but he became a top leader of the colony.

I’m still shaking my head over it, and fascinating stories are already coming to light…Ruth’s young father losing his first wife and their three children before the Mayflower ever sailed, and William Brewster’s children who came with him on the ship being two boys named Love and Wrestling. Now there are some names for characters in my Tangled Strands story -- NOT.

But I have been seriously thinking, once again, about making name changes to some major characters—thinking about it but not yet generating courage to do it. At least two of the changes need to be made, and I’ve come up with nice family-history names that would work well. But the changes I’m thinking about would be HUGE because they are three of the most prominent names in the story. One family member is still trying to get used to the last such change I made a couple of years ago.

These would be changes to names I started out with forty years ago. Could I adjust to them? Even if I could, what about others who have been closely involved with it in recent times? One thing for sure, if I’m going to do it, I must decide and do it before anyone else reads it. Like an editor or a publisher.

Which brings me to an invitation I already have. But this blog is long enough. I’ll save that for another one. And I'll keep you posted on what I decide about the names.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Waiting Game

No one likes to wait. In our American culture, we have become very bad wait-ers. We honk, we holler, we stew when someone makes us wait. We look for shortcuts and the fastest way to get somewhere or get something done. Just look at what a thriving and integral part of our culture fast food has become. Meanwhile, inventors produce a steady stream of products designed to do things for us faster.

Most of the time, however, our God is not into “fast.” Part of that is because time doesn’t exist for Him. With a thousand years being like a day, waiting as we know it has no meaning for Him. But He does know something about waiting because waiting is one of His special tools. Because He is God, He understands what waiting means to His children. The good news is that, because He is God, He knows exactly how to use the waiting for good.

Writers, especially those of us who aren’t published, know a lot about waiting. We wait while we learn the craft, we wait to find the right critique partner, the right agent, and we wait for responses from publishers. Most of all, we wait for that illusive piece of paper called a contract. Even after that, we wait through all the steps of the publishing process. Finally, we wait for that incredible moment when we hold that published book in our hands.

So why, if God is so powerful and can do anything, even in the blink of an eye, does He elect to make us wait? You know the answer, don’t you? He lets us, makes us, wait because He knows that what He will accomplish in us during that wait is more important, in light of eternity, than whatever it is we are waiting for. When people make us wait, it may or may not have a worthy purpose or outcome, but when God makes us wait, we can be sure that He will have a divine and worthy purpose. God uses waiting to accomplish in us things He knows will deepen our faith and strengthen our character.

Our task is to stay in tune to His voice and to trust that He knows exactly what He is doing.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Oh, Good! A Comment...

I’ve been watching for an opportunity to talk about comments to blogs, and with this last blog, I got one – first a comment (thanks!) and then an opportunity. More than one of you have said you made an attempt to add a comment but didn’t succeed. So you’re made your comments by e-mail, and I much appreciated them. That hasn’t been a problem and still isn’t especially one. However, it could be a problem in the future, so I’d like to see more of us figure out how to do it.

Up until now, I’ve been writing this blog mostly for my friends and for myself, but if publication ever does loom on the horizon, the blog will be a major way to publicize my writing efforts. I’ve even heard that in this age and age some publishers, when they are considering publishing you, they check out what you already have online, whether it’s a blog, an author’s website, a ShoutLife site or other such. From that they not only get a taste of your writing, but they get an idea of how much of a “public platform” you have, how well you are known, and the like.

Right now, looking at my blog, most could only conclude that not very many people know me or are reading my stuff. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not putting pressure on anyone or worrying about this. The same thing happened to me when I tried here and on a couple of friends’ blogs. But I tried a couple more times and got the hang of it.

What you have to have is a Goggle “account” with username and password. If you don’t think you have one, click on “Sign up here” and put in an e-mail. You probably don’t want to use your main one, so open a gmail one or some other free one. It isn’t something anyone but you needs to know. Then choose a password and type it twice also.

Yes, they give you the bit of hassle about copying the letters you see, but that is a precaution so that I don’t get dumped on with tons of automated spam. You do have to give a name, but not your last name. If you want to develop a profile with picture, more fun, but not necessary.

Come on. Be brave. I look forward to hearing from some more of you. I’ll notice—and I’ll reply to you.

Later: for a clearer explanation of all this, check out the long comment written the day I posted this.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Celebrating--and Celebrating

We Americans have become great celebrators. We celebrate birthdays and much more. We celebrate graduations, Christmas, and Fourth of July. We celebrate new jobs, departing coworkers, and the birth of babies. And we celebrate anniversaries.

Last winter when the new 2008 year crept upon us, my husband and I started thinking about the fact that this year would complete fifty years since we got married. Fifty years! Could that really be? Fiftieth anniversary? Wait a minute! Fiftieth anniversaries happen to other people. Fiftieth anniversaries happen to old people. Could it really be happening to us?

Since it was, we figured we were supposed to celebrate somehow, but that idea brought frustration. How could we celebrate? Our children live in three states, but even worse, our friends live all over this country. There was no way to choose a single location that would be adequate and appropriate. Our friends in Nashville are still pretty new and mostly surface friends. Yes, we probably still have friends in Dallas where we lived for twenty years, but they were only one segment of the friends with whom God has blessed over these five decades.

Then it occurred to us (remember we’d never done this before) that maybe it wasn’t necessarily our place to plan a celebration. Maybe it was up to others to do that—and that’s what happened. The anniversary itself was on August 5, but it turns out we have been celebrating all summer. Our dear family members have seen to that.

In June, thanks to the generosity of a daughter and son-in-law, it was a week with our three kids and six grandkids at a lodge in the Smokies. In July it was the cruise to Alaska, deepest thanks to Fred’s sister and husband. The first weekend of August my sister and husband hosted us for a dinner party and an outing to the Blanchard Springs Caverns. Friends were there from as far away as Illinois and family from as far away as Albania. My sister lives in northern Arkansas where, in 1983, we celebrated our 25th anniversary with my parents on their 50th. So it was special to be there in the same place for the actual date.

On the afternoon of the actual date, Fred and I drove home to Nashville. Our favorite habit when traveling is to stop in mid-afternoon for a Dairy Queen blizzard. Would you believe that the DQ on our route that afternoon turned up at exactly three o’clock, the hour of our wedding? When we got home that night, our Nashville family came over with golden balloons to tie on our mailbox and coffee cake for breakfast.

But we weren’t finished. Ten days later when we came out of church Sunday morning, our car was decorated with balloons, crepe paper, and big words on the windows, “Just married 50 years ago.” Strangers at Subway that day were so impressed with our fifty years that they paid for our lunch. It turned out to be the doings of our Nashville family again.

Meanwhile, cards were arriving at home, though it crossed my mind briefly that it didn’t seem like as many cards as we might have expected. Oh, well. Our letter mentioning the anniversary had gone out months before, so it must have slipped some people’s minds by the time the date rolled around. That happens to me all the time.

And we’re still not finished. When we arrived here in Dallas last Sunday, our daughter shocked us with a 3-inch-fat scrapbook full of cards, memories, and pictures from those friends we knew were too scattered to get together. In fact, the cards have come from 22 states and seven foreign countries. So that’s where all the cards were that didn’t arrive at our house! Tomorrow night she is putting on an open house for us, and that may turn out to be another whole story.

Finally, Fred and I have tentative plans for a final hurrah, just the two of us, when during October fall colors we plan to make a trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway in an eleven-year-old convertible.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Walking on Water

This time the reason I haven’t written for a while is because I haven’t been able to settle on what to write. I’ve come up with several possible topics—fear of failure, forty days of prayer for the conference next month, “If you don’t run, you can’t win"—but every time the words have refused to go on the paper.

The idea of that last one, the one about “If you don’t run,” came from the book I’ve been reading in my quiet times recently. I love the title—If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat. I’ve been impressed at all the author, John Ortberg, has been able to come up with out of that one story—everything from “boat potatoes” and all they miss to “God does some of His best work in caves.” A recent focus has been about failure and how God wants us to learn from it, not just bury the pain and keep trucking along blindly without letting the failure make us better.

Ortberg retells a story from the Chariots of Fire movie. Apparently Eric Liddell’s chief competitor was a guy who wasn’t used to losing. In fact, it sounds as if he hadn’t lost in a long time. He was so upset that he exploded to his wife, “I don’t run to take beatings, I run to win! If I can’t win, I won’t run!” To which his wife wisely replied, “If you don’t run, you can’t win.”

All the while I’ve been working on this Tangled Strands story, working on bringing it into the writing styles of today and along the way discovering some story elements that will make it stronger, I’ve had similar thoughts run through my mind. The truth is, all my efforts to polish it and to get it published don’t guarantee that it will get published—but if I don’t make those efforts, it for sure won’t happen. It’s true that Peter’s attention wandered from Jesus to the storm and he started to sink, but the disciples who never got out of the boat (those boat potatoes) never got to experience the thrill of walking on water that Peter did.

If I never see Tangled Strands published, at least I will have tried. In the meantime, I’m learning and growing and keeping my mind agile. I’m enjoying memorable experiences I would never have had otherwise, such as meeting and interacting with well-published authors. I am energized by all of it, and I have the satisfaction of knowing I am doing all that I can to make publication happen. Ah! Now there’s the idea for my next blog!

So if you’ve gotten out of some boat in your life recently, taken on a daunting challenge, good for you. If you’re still clinging to the side of the boat, worrying about what the waves will do to you if make yourself vulnerable to them, then I urge you to take courage. You’ll never experience the exhilaration of walking on water if you keep hanging on to the boat.