Being for the Benefit of Madam G

Get Back

Gentle Reader,

Thank you, John Lennon. (If you don’t get the reference, please leave this site and go listen to all of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band right now).

Whenever I don’t stick to my self-imposed writing schedule, I have a sense of needing to apologize to you. As if I’ve failed. And I did fail the last two weeks, physically. An out-of-nowhere cold knocked me flat. Then the smoke of annual fires rolled in. The world is a haze of sepia and ash. My garden, vegetables and flowers alike, looks awful, as if it, too, is struggling to breathe.

As I’ve coughed and sniffed and worked to keep my lungs inside my body, I’ve thought a great deal about this blog. Something about this being its tenth year of existence is extremely bothersome to me. Instead of feeling grateful, I am discontented. I think I finally know why, or at least a bit of the why.

For so long I have kept to regular posting. I’ve worked hard to have at least two articles a week appear here, rain or shine. I like routine. I like discipline. I understand the value of both.

But I can’t do it anymore.

Authors always debate how much inspiration really matters. Many, far smarter than I, believe that it’s the grit that counts. You sit down at the same time, every day, and crack on. That has generally been my attitude. No big thing can be achieved without the small, plodding steps.

I am beginning to see, however, that there is value in looseness. Maybe it doesn’t always have to be about schedules and SEOs and striving. Maybe there is wisdom in publishing only when you truly have something to say.

I have a novel that I haven’t touched since February and an idea for another rolling around my head. It’s time to give space and energy to those pursuits.

And so Madam G, for the foreseeable future, will post only when she wants to. It is to her benefit to retreat a little. (That’s a creepy third-person thing there, but I had to reference the title somehow). Participation in Five Minute Friday will continue, because that community means a lot to me and the prompts manage to meld discipline and inspiration in a way that never seems to run to dryness. Newsletters will continue, but in a more sporadic fashion.

I continue to be thankful for and honored by your presence. The fact that more than a handful of you choose to read these words never ceases to amaze. We’ll still see each other. The journey is far from over.

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Five Minute Friday: Vacation

Vacation

Gentle Reader,

My mom is gone this week, visiting family. I’ve been tasked with checking in on her dog, who hates everyone. No, he really does. He’s a Pomeranian, a breed known for fiercely bonding to one human and one human only. That’s exactly what this pipsqueak has done. He’s practically beside himself with grief but he won’t let anyone comfort him. Instead, he tries to bite all of us.

Kate says: vacation.

Go.

We didn’t go on vacation often when I was a child. The money just wasn’t available for stuff like that. So, when my mom sensed that we were all getting tired and stress out, she would declare a “vacation day.” The phone would be unplugged, chores would be ignored, naps were encouraged. We would watch old movies (if my dad got to choose, usually a John Wayne flick) and have picnics on the living room floor. If the “vacation day” occurred during winter, sometimes she would crank up the thermostat so we could all walk around in shorts and pretend that spring, rather than another blizzard, was just around the corner.

I didn’t know it then, but my mom was making the most out of what we had. She found ways to turn cabin fever or the inability to play due to sunburns into something fun. Laying on the floor eating a fudgesicle. Playing checkers with my brother, classical music playing (which prompted us to dramatically narrate our games). On warm, clear nights, sitting on a blanket in the front yard, watching the stars while the crickets chirped and the frogs croaked.

Simple. Unrushed.

What I also didn’t know is that she was actively modeling Sabbath rest. Now, as an adult, it’s extremely important to me to get away from the usual from time to time, even if it’s just by closing off the laptop and refusing to do more than read a book for a few hours. Doing so allows my brain to ooze out my ear, the grotesque phrase that I like to use when I’m feeling overwhelmed and need to disengage. Strangely, and probably by design, some of my best thinking and processing occurs when I’m not focused on anything in particular.

Get away this weekend. You don’t have to go far. You don’t even have to leave your house. Just do something fun and restorative. The options are only as limited as your imagination.

Stop.

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Choose the Quiet

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

…aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands…

– 1 Thessalonians 4:11b (NKJV)

In 2002, Gary Jules covered the Tears for Fears song “Mad World” for the movie Donnie Darko. While I have never seen the film, the soft piano notes at the beginning of the song are instantly recognizable. I know that a quiet, breathy male voice will soon tell his story, a story that doesn’t quite make sense. Of course, with a title like “Mad World,” it’s probably not supposed to make sense.

I find it kinda funny, I find it kinda sad…

Repeated throughout the song, these phrases could be my anthem. I find it funny, as in odd, how the art of reasonable conversation has been lost. I find it sad, too. I find it odd how impossible it is to turn off the noise. Sad, too. Blame social media, blame news organizations, blame whoever and whatever you’d like to blame, but there is no denying the tension that hangs in the air, thick and oppressive.

No denying that our world is, perhaps, a mad place.

And so my verse for the year.

We have to live here. No jumping on a ship bound for Mars. Nothing would be different on Mars, anyway, because we’d be there. The problem is us. We’re stuck with that fact, stuck with each other. Yet we don’t have to live as though this is all there is. We don’t have to maneuver for the best position, the greatest influence, the largest pile of stuff. We don’t have to scrabble and scrape and step on each other. There is a different way.

That way is hēsycházō.

…to keep quiet; to rest, cease from labor; to lead a quiet life, said of those who are not running hither and thither, but stay at home and mind their business; to be silent, i.e. to say nothing, hold one’s peace…

Old / New Testament Greek Lexical Dictionary

Did you know that you can rest? Did you know that it’s okay to have empty spaces on your calendar? Did you know that you don’t have to speak to or about every single issue? Did you know that it’s okay to unplug and unwind?

Did you know that quietness is a command?

God knows more and better than we ever can. How easily we forget this truth. Our minds can’t handle the 24-hours news cycle, which seems to have shrunk to 8 or less. Our hearts can’t handle the constant stress that comparison brings, an inevitability in the age of Facebook and Twitter. Our spirits can’t handle screaming and straining every moment of every day. We are finite. Fragile. Made from the dust that I am constantly working to banish from my home.

Yes, it is true that burying our heads in the sands of denial and ignorance does no good. We are commanded to be quiet, but we are also commanded to be watchful (see Matthew 24:42-44, 25:13). Knowing what is going on is necessary. Making time to engage with the issues of the day is important. This life of faith does not equal mush-brain and hiding. We have to think. We have to learn. We have to grow.

What we don’t have to do is deny our fragility.

Before God made people, He made a garden. He stepped back and looked at everything – mighty trees, dainty flowers, cascading waterfalls. He heard the snuffling of furry creatures and the fluttering of bird’s wings. He paused, took it all in and declared it good.

If God, who has no need for rest, took the time to enjoy the simple beauty of a garden, then who are we to think we can cope with incessant noise?

There is business. There is work. Bills have to be paid and food has to be on the table. Homes must be cared for and jobs must be done well.

There is also the silence of snow falling at midnight. The rise and fall of a dog’s chest as he naps. The feel of a clean pair of socks.

We need space. We need to turn off the computer and tune out the ping of smartphone notifications. For an hour or two. Just long enough to sip coffee and gaze out the front window. Just long enough to gain control over raging emotions and lashing tongues. Just long enough to keep from gossiping. Just long enough to keep from committing to too many things out of guilt or fear. Just long enough to remember that God carries the weight of the world, not us.

We need to choose the quiet.

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Photo Credit: Eduard Militaru

Blown Out

along-the-way-mlsgregg-com

Gentle Reader,

I have been so tired.

It’s been building for a few months.

I had not been able to figure out why.

Then, in a rush, I remembered –

Finished writing a non-fiction book about…you don’t need to know yet. Crafted a book proposal. Self-published a book of poetry. Ran a launch team. Became vegetarian. Took up (mostly) daily exercise. Had a partial hysterectomy. Led a small group. Helped run a women’s retreat. Spoke at a conference. Spent half the year blogging through Zephaniah. 

All of that on top of normal things like work and taking care of a home and being a wife, daughter, sister, friend.

No wonder.

Some people thrive on busy. I do not.

I’m taking a sabbatical.

Be back in the spring.

I’m sure this a blogging sin of some sort. No doubt I’ll see a big dip in stats. May even lose some of you, dear readers. I can’t care about that. My writing voice is roughly equivalent to the first day of strep throat, when you can hardly breathe, let alone speak. I need space and silence.

So Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and all that. May God bless you.

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