Saturday, January 24, 2009

Journey, Concluded

I’m sorry life got in the way the last two days and I didn’t get to post more installments of “Journey.” I will post the rest of it now.

The sections about the body and the Bible came to me fairly easily when I first worked on the piece. The one that follows about the Companion didn’t come together for me until much later. It took considerably more effort—not so much because of the truths in it but from trying to make it follow the pattern of the previous two.

The last section, I think, is my favorite. None of us know when it will be our time to slip beyond that window, and sometimes thinking about it can bring unease. I hope when my time comes for that, I will have lived so that I can face it peacefully and with assurance and that those I leave behind will be able to accept it the same way. So without further ado, here is the rest of my piece about “Journey.”

My companion for the Journey is a Comforter sweet, the Spirit of Truth, the Breath of God.
Though spirit, He is a person.
Though invisible, He is ever with me.
Though quenchable, He cannot be extinguished.

This Holy Companion for my journey both …
guides me and redirects me, comforts me and convicts me,
reassures me and prays for me in my weaknesses.

Sometimes He is grieved by my failures, sometimes heartened by my progress.
Sometimes He sustains me in the depths, sometimes challenges me to new heights.

Through every twist and turn of my journey,
over every mountain top, through every valley,
my Companion has been at my side,
my Map has been steady and true,
and my vehicle has stood by me.
Someday, at a moment chosen before the foundation of the world,
my vehicle of clay will reach the end of its tether.
Then the eagle will fold its wings, the tortoise draw into its shell.
I will step beyond the bridge and slip beyond my window in time—into forever.
© 1996 Esther Moneysmith Gross

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Journey 2

As an introduction to the next installment of my “Journey” piece, I could become a theologian and expound on the history, authenticity, and utter trustworthiness of God’s Word, but this is neither the time nor the place. I will simply say that this journey of my life wouldn’t be complete without the Bible. Our world today is trying to diminish its importance and its influence in our lives, but we’ve read the end of the book. We know that those efforts will not, in the end, succeed.

Nevertheless and inevitably, my theology comes through, and that’s just fine. I should go through and make a list of the references involved in case anyone should ask me for them. Good project.

My map for this journey is a Body of Truth, a Holy Book, a Divine Blueprint.
Though heaven’s wisdom, it is earth’s compass.
Though history, it unveils eternity.
Though authored by many, its Author was one.

This Divine Blueprint for my journey both …
cheers me and chides me, strengthens me and humbles me, comforts me and challenges me.

Sometimes it is a sword piercing my soul; sometimes a balm dispersing my tears.
Sometimes it is living water quenching my thirst; sometimes food nourishing my soul.
© Copyright 1996 Esther Moneysmith Gross

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I am not a poet, though I have written a handful of poems over the years—one about seagulls, one about determination, and other miscellaneous. The events of this past weekend stirred up the memory of a free-verse time thing I wrote in 1996.

My parents were missionaries in Africa in the ‘30s and ‘40s, and my siblings and I spent our childhoods on that side of the pond. Our dad came of age at the beginning of the Great Depression, so he never had any formal or trade education beyond high school. But that didn’t stop him. If he had the vision for something, he found a way of making it happen, with a crew of African workers or without—whether it was build a large home from scratch (“scratch” meaning making the bricks from a termite anthill to cutting the logs from felled trees, to adding electricity and running water personally installed), or whether it was seeing that his wife got a piano in Central Africa, even if he had to rebuild the whole inside following its travel traumas.

Another thing Daddy did was to carry equipment to Africa to take movies, and that brings us back to the events of the past weekend. Those movies are old now, old 16mm stuff. Last fall the family pooled some resources to have them digitized. Since my sister and I are the only ones left who “were there” and could tell for sure what was being seen, we had to do something about that, so last Saturday, with the help of her son/my nephew, we recorded three hours of narration to the movies. Then we allowed him to “interview” us for another two hours about the lives of our parents and others who are already gone. Sunday we spent at least a couple more hours coming up with as many names as we could of people in the old family photo books from 1925-about 1934. (Pictures and all are on his computer now.)

Talk about journeys into the past! I suppose it is not surprising that such journeys spur mental forays into the future—however brief those have to be. What will they say about me when I am gone? When I was awake in the night again last night, I was reminded of the “Journey” piece that I wrote more than a decade ago, and I knew it was time to get it out again. It is long, so I’m going to present it in installments, with another one tomorrow and at least two days after that. I call it simply “Journey.”

My life is a journey through a window of time,
a window in eternity custom designed for me
by the Master of the Universe.

In omnipotence He directed the beginning.
His omniscience has seen the end.
With magnificent omnipresence
He is lovingly orchestrating every moment in between.

The strands of humanity that are me were woven together by Him—
uniquely, purposefully, to make me who He wanted me to be.

My vehicle for this journey is a body of flesh, an earthen vessel, a jar of clay.
Though mortal, it birthed my immortal soul.
Though earthbound, it gives me eyes to see heaven.
Though temporal, it is my bridge to eternity.

This physical vehicle of my journey is both …
tough and fragile, complex and simple, dependable and unpredictable.

Sometimes it soars like an eagle, sometimes plods like a tortoise.
Sometimes it is exhilarated with vision, sometimes weighed down with the struggle.
~~ ©Copyright 1996 Esther Moneysmith Gross

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Show, Don't Tell

The now popular phrase “show and tell” originated in kindergartens decades ago with youngsters bringing to class something they wanted to share with their classmates. The child stands in front of the group, holds up what he or she brought, and tells about it. The idea, at this most basic level, is to give beginning scholars experience in communication.

Today the advice in written communication, at least in fiction writing, is “show, don’t tell.” In today’s world, where so much communication—not just television but video games and now even cell phones—happens in visual images, wordy descriptions are out. The long passages of description common a century ago rarely cut it with today’s readers. They don’t have time for them, and even if they did, they wouldn’t have the patience. Today we want to see things, experience things, not just have someone tell us about them.

This is one of the areas in which I have had to learn new writing skills. Show, don’t tell. Instead of saying “It was really cold out outside,” I write that “when Agnes Baldwin stepped out of the Wells’ Corner Market, the biting wind took her breath away. She gave her scarf an extra toss around her face….” Instead of just telling that Agnes is shocked to learn that Tony is dead, I show her reaction with “Agnes’s hand went to her mouth. “Oh, Sharon—no! When? How—?”

Another way this applies is that we try not to simply tell who said something. “He said . . . she said” is passé. More effective is showing the speaker doing something. Sharon set her teacup down . . . Chris went to the sink to wash his hands . . . Chris leaned against the counter and studied her. Where the cup is or the fact that Chris washed his hands or leaned against the counter aren’t actions crucial to the plot, but they help the reader visualize the scene as well as hearing the spoken words that accompany the actions.

Of course there are still times we need “tell.” Otherwise, our books would so large we couldn’t lift them. The writer’s challenge is to discern which is which—which needs to be made vivid by showing and which contributes better to the advancement of the story by being presented in an overview.

I’m still learning. My friend Linda is better at this than I am, and she helps by pointing out when I’ve neglected to show. Then it falls to me as the author to determine if that phrase needs to be reworded, or if it is one where actions need to be summarized.

Show, don’t tell. Who would have guessed in when I taught second grade fresh out of college?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Dreams, a Broken Tooth, and Jalapeño Pumkin Pie

Yesterday was our monthly local writers meeting at a Panera Bread. When I go to those meetings, my husband likes me to bring home two of Panera’s wonderful cinnamon crunch bagels for our Sunday morning breakfast. Yesterday, in addition, I picked up for myself two small, hard, sourdough rolls. I munched on one of them as I drove home and put the other in a plastic zip bag when I got here.

For some unknown reason, I woke up around 2:30 this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. After a while, I got up, turned on the computer, and wrote a first draft of the blog that I will post tomorrow. In time I went back to bed but didn’t stay long because I got to coughing again. At some point of my in and out, my husband stirred enough for me to request that, should I drop off to sleep a any point, please don’t wake me up. He mumbled something about its being Sunday, but we didn’t argue about it. Eventually I got to settle back in bed, and I drifted into a sound sleep with one of the most fascinating dreams I’ve ever had.

In it, I had been up during the night and finally managed to fall asleep again. When I awoke, a number of family members were around, including my mother-in-law (who died in 2005). I learned they had all been to church and back while I slept. I was incredulous. I never sleep in. I told about the only time I ever slept through Sunday school and church—when I arrived home after a 52-hour trip back from the other side of the world (absolutely true). I wanted to know when we were going to eat—I was starving because I hadn’t had any breakfast. Oh, but we were waiting for others to arrive, including Ron and Judy.

We were standing at the top of the hill watching for them to drive up when I slowly opened my eyes—and was shocked to discover I was in my bed and it was daylight. I could hear Fred shaving. He had made his coffee and eaten his bagel. We were to leave for church in twenty-five minutes. At times like this I am glad for the boarding school experience that taught me how to dress quickly (anyone late for breakfast had to sing a solo). Of course I hadn’t had any breakfast (sound familiar?). I started to get out my bagel, but it was too big to deal with in a hurry. Then I saw the hard roll. Perfect.

The trouble is, if you want hard rolls to stay hard and crisp overnight, you need to store then in a paper bag, not a plastic one, but I didn’t stop to remember that yesterday. My roll was definitely chewy, but I sliced it, buttered it, and chomped away as I got ready for church. I was aware that in my hurry I wasn’t chewing as thoroughly as I might. When we got in the car, I made an awful discovery. I had snapped the front off a molar on that roll—and apparently swallowed it! Thankfully, it has a nice solid filling that comprised the center of the tooth; that was still in place, as well as the back, and I feel no pain. Guess where I’ll be going this week and what I’ll be doing with some of that extra Christmas money? So it has been an interesting day. Maybe worth writing about in my blog?

I didn’t know it wasn’t over yet.

We baked a frozen pumpkin pie, and Fred decided to have a piece of last evening’s homemade pizza before his piece of pie. He was done before I started, and I took just pie because of the sore throat that’s been bothering me for days. The first two-thirds of my piece was delicious, but suddenly my mouth started burning. If you know me, you know I don’t do spicy, or picante, except in small doses. Now my whole mouth was on fire, including the sore throat. I tried drinking. It didn’t help. I wanted my money back on that pie! But how could a pumpkin pie get jalapeño in it?

My logical husband came up with a question. Did I reuse his small plate for my pie? Y-e-ess. Of course, that was it! He likes to add red pepper flakes to his pizza—and you can figure out the rest. Needless to say, I won’t forget this day for a while—and that doesn’t even count the fact that we are finishing our third whole day without Internet access!