Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Master’s House

Dear Cook,

How long has it been since you and the gardener and I came to work in the master’s house?  You have been given specific instructions regarding food and meals, he has been given specific instructions regarding horticulture, and I have been given specific instructions regarding the children. In spite of our different functions, we work in the same house, for the same family and there is a certain code of conduct required of us all: how we treat the family we work for, how we treat each other, and how we present the family when we leave the house. We each do our own parts and adhere to what is expected of us: you cook, he gardens, and I care for the children.

Of course there is the small problem of the butler.  He oversees the smooth running of the household, and while that may occasionally mean getting onto one of the staff if we are lagging behind, he has taken it upon himself more and more to micromanage us.  He insists on us doing every thing his way, even though many of the things he insists on us doing have not been specified by the master.  It seems our butler has forgotten that this is not his house, and he is not the master.

No, he is constantly in the kitchen, directing you which spices to put in your dishes, even though cooking is your function.  When he isn’t in the kitchen, he’s outside, rejecting the color of the flowers the gardener has just planted.  Or if he’s not pestering the two of you, he’s up in the nursery telling me the children should be spending more time on educational pursuits, not just coloring.

It’s sad, because if any one of us dares point out that the master has given us freedom in these areas, he thunders about how we are disrupting the household operations, that we have no respect for his position, and that we must be disloyal to the master.  And we wonder how it is that the butler who oversees the household operations can be so blind to the fact that we all have different functions, and necessarily so.

I guess it all goes back to the fact that this is not his house, and he is not the master. He is every bit the servant that each of us is, and yet he seems to think we cannot access the master and the master’s heart for our distinct areas of the house.  Except we can, and we did, when we were first hired.  The master laid out his expectations for us and our roles in his house, and if he thinks something needs to change, he is more than to come to us directly and speak to us. He may choose to relay something through the butler on occasion, but because the butler cannot always be trusted, we must always verify it is indeed the master speaking.

After all, this is the master’s house.  What he says, goes.

I don’t know about you, or Gardener, but as the nanny, I’m not going to worry about what the butler thinks about my activities with the children.  He is just another servant.  I am the nanny, and the children are my charge from the master. If the butler has any legitimate concerns about my jeopardizing the children’s well-being (and I assure you, he does not), he may take them up with the master.  The master is the only one who can take my charge away.

Until such time as that happens (which I don’t expect it will), I will go on reveling in what the master has given me to do. I advise you and Gardener to do the same. I am certain that is what delights the master more than obsessing over little details that have no bearing on household operations.

Yours Truly,

Nanny

“Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4 NKJV).

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Christian Fiction: To Romance or Not To Romance?

(As I wrote this post, I heard my dad’s voice in the back of my head, “Fiction/books can’t be Christian, Lydia. Only people can.” So, I just want to clarify that I am referring to fiction and books that promote Christian messages).

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the plot dilemmas I faced writing The Field.  At the end of last week, I talked about the redemption of evil dilemma, and today I want to talk about having romance in the plot.

To be honest, I have been feeling rather guilty about including a romantic subplot in The Field at all, because romance in a Christian book is something many people love to hate. (Sarcasm ahead).  After all, isn’t the Christian Romance genre practically emotional pornography for Christian women? Can’t it cause us to stumble? (Okay, I’m done now).  And of course, The Field doesn’t even remotely fall into the Christian Romance genre, so why include a romantic subplot in it at all? Is it really necessary?

Sometimes romance is necessary, and it can indeed be added tastefully to a plot that does not otherwise include romance.

The Field is a book about girls and young women, primarily for girls and young women.  I wanted to deal with some basic choices girls and young women face; relationships and romance being among these.  Honestly, leaving the romantic subplot out would not have hurt the story at all, but I also felt dishonest when it wasn’t there, like I wasn’t being true to the characters it involved. The romance is not pervasive; in fact, if you blink, you could miss it entirely.  And yet, it had to be there because of a real choice many real Christian women have to make at one time or another.

The choice between a relationship and romance (a good thing in the right context, by the way) and following God’s call on our lives.  For all of my realism (because I’m truly not a romantic person at all), it’s still the hardest choice I’ve ever made:  Saying no to one who seemed like the perfect guy (for me, not perfect by any standards) because he couldn’t come with me where God is calling me.  And a character in The Field faces the same choice: the guy or her savior? (As with my other writing dilemma, I’m not going to tell you what she chooses.  You really are going to have to read it yourself).

Still, I think my decision to include a romantic subplot makes The Field more relatable, and I think that can be true in other Christian books as well.  I don’t even think it’s wrong to have a romantic plot in a Christian book, as long as it’s not trivialized.  I think God has given us hearts for epic love stories, and we shouldn’t twist something He intends as good into something bad.

Here’s to romance!

What about you? How do you handle romance as a writer? How do you respond to it as a reader?

 

 

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On The Redemption of Bad Characters

“The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.” ~Miss Prism, The Importance of Being Earnest

Okay, so confession: I first watched The Importance of Being Earnest around a month ago with my family.  Before that time, I had never read or seen the play.  (I know, I know.  I am going to sit myself in a corner just as soon as I finish this). Anyway, this particular quote provoked an unladylike snort (as my sister the Barefoot Hippie Girl likes to say) from me.

On one hand, the idea of a person getting what’s coming to them is incredibly appealing to me. Since that doesn’t happen often in my real world experiences, a big part of me likes this ideal to be upheld in fiction at least.  You know, what goes around, comes around.  Karma. You reap what you sow.  All of that.

On the other hand, where is the redemption, the grace in that?

I really like the TV Show Once Upon a Time.  I mean, I really like it.  The characters are all so human, even the bad ones.  None of them are purely good, and none of them are completely evil.  I think that is the show’s strength (it’s relatable), and it’s also its weakness. The show almost seems to be in denial about the existence of sheer evil – it is too concerned with its villains’ motivations.  I love Regina and how she’s trying, and even Rumpel has his moments,  I just happen to think there is a level of evil that is only motivated by evil itself: straight up evil.

At what point do creators of these characters look at them and determine that enough is enough? That they cannot be redeemed? That they have made an irrevocable, damnable choice that they cannot recover from? How is that decision made?

While writing The Field, I had a character I wanted to destroy at the end.  A character that absolutely, positively had it coming.  But when I came up on the time for this character to be destroyed, I found myself with a dilemma.  Rather than wanting to destroy this character, I wanted this character to find redemption instead,  but because I’m a big believer in grace and mercy.  But what about what this character deserved? What about all of the terrible things this character had done?

I wrestled for a long time before I made a decision about the fate of that character. (No, I’m not going to tell you what I decided. You’re just going to have to read The Field for yourself!) Honestly, I’m still wrestling – not with The Field, but with how I will handle this in my future writing.

So fellow character creators and consumers…

Are there things a character really cannot come back from? What point is that for you?

If there is nothing a character cannot come back from, is there such a thing as absolute evil?

And what are the real life implications of how we deal with redemption and evil in fiction?

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Marvelous Light

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10 NKJV).

He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. (Colossians 1:12b-14 NLT).

For those of you who don’t know, I love to sing, but I’ve been stuck gifted with this range that is really perfect for country music.  I am always looking for praise, worship, and CCM songs within my range.  With the exception of a few Francesca Battistelli songs, I haven’t found much.  I was really excited to find Ellie Holcomb and her song “Marvelous Light.” (Well, all of her songs really, but this is the one I’m learning now).

I’m not who I once was
Defined by all the things I’ve done
Afraid my shame would be exposed
Afraid of really being known
But then you gave my heart a home

So I walked out of the darkness and into the light
From fear of shame into a hope of life
Mercy called my name and right away to fly
Out of the darkness and into the light

With years of keeping secrets safe
Wondering if I could change
Cause when you’re hiding all alone
Your heart can turn into a stone
And that’s not the way I wanted to go

So I walk out of the darkness and into the light
From fear of shame and into a hope of life
Mercy called my name and right away to fly
Out of the darkness an into the light

There’s no place I would rather be
Your light is Marvelous
Your light is Marvelous

You have come to set us free
You are Marvelous
Your light is Marvelous

[lalalalalalalala…]

So I walked out of the darkness an into the light
From fear of shame into a hope of life
Mercy called my name and right away to fly
Out of the darkness an into the light

[lalalalalalalala…]

(Ellie Holcomb)
On Sunday evening, a friend and I were talking about what God is teaching us.  For me, God is teaching me about His marvelous light.
I can live in God’s marvelous light anywhere I am.  When something is “marvelous” it means that it is “good” and “pleasing.”  Honestly, there is not much in my life that I consider good and pleasing – right now, life is mostly just hard.    This light right now is not some happy, fluffy feeling – it’s hardcore exposure in my deepest brokenness, things I didn’t even know were there.
He sheds light on what is causing my pain on the nights I cry on my way home from work or in my bed.  He gets under the surface and shows me what’s really broken.  He sheds light on why I am where I am in random conversations at work.  He shows me why I belong here and not where everyone else thinks I should be.  He sheds light on those moments where I am just breathing in and out, and putting one foot in front of the other.  He uncovers a thirst for passion and excitement and something more than this life.
Frankly, my gut instinct is to bury it all.
If I do that, though, I miss the point: my freedom.
So I fight through the initial pain of this marvelous exposure, because the truth? It sets me free.  And maybe, with time, I’ll be able to sing the la-la-la’s with some conviction.

 

 

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Plot Twist

I’m supposed to be writing a science fiction story, Update.  I say supposed to be because I’ve been kicking the concept around in my mind for the past five months and even have a couple thousand words written, but it’s not gelling.  And when I say it’s not gelling, I mean I have no idea where I’m going with it.

I’m going to set it aside for awhile and focus on something that’s been inside of me for a lot longer than the science fiction story, but (as with The Field) I want to put it in a fiction setting.  I’m not ready to share anything about it yet, just that I’m switching gears from what I have been working on.  I’m putting Update in my pile of things to come back to.

Today seems to be a day for switching gears and plot changes, as I’m also setting Seattle aside for a little while. (No one is more shocked about that than me).  I still want to go, but as I mentioned in my Getting Free post, I’m still dealing with consequences of decisions I made years ago, and there is no easy way out.  It will be at least the end of August next year before I am free to go (anywhere, not just Seattle), unless something miraculous happens.  And I’m not saying it won’t, but in my experience, it’s not likely either, so you know, adjusting my expectations just seems like a better idea than hoping.

So here’s to the next fourteen months.  Here’s to working hard in my jobs and as a writer.  Here’s to putting down roots until I’m transplanted, if I’m ever transplanted.  Here’s to freedom that’s closer than six years ago and two years ago. Here’s to sucking it up and being a robot when I need to just get through the day.  Here’s to not waiting anymore.

The less glamorous side of my wilderness adventure.

 

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If You Like It Put A Label On It

I want to have a serious conversation about the human tendency to size each other up, to try and figure each other out, and to put each other in molds as a way of understanding and relating to each other.  I want to have a serious conversation because it’s a very serious issue.

I do not want to have a conversation about the semantics of this conversation.  I posted an introduction to this topic on Facebook late last week, and the conversation ended up being quibbles over semantics, which vary greatly depending on where an individual is coming from.  I want to be clear: sizing people up, trying to figure people out, and trying to fit people into molds as a way of understanding and relating to them are all synonymous in my experience.  Others may call it labeling or categorizing or something else entirely, but I can assure you, we’re talking about the same thing.  Also, throughout this post, I will use a number of illustrations (possibly hypothetical, possibly not) to help in explaining my point.  In these illustrations, I will clarify my opinions on things, but I’m not interested in having a conversation about my opinions at this time, either.

I want to have a conversation about the problems with sizing people up, trying to figure people out, and putting people into molds as a means of understanding and relating to each other.

First of all, it cannot be done, and you’re kidding yourself if you think it can be.  I am not an assessment that you can categorize by asking a few questions, I am not a mathematical equation that you can solve by following a formula, and I’m not a puzzle piece that you should can search for a place where I fit.  No person is any of these things.  We are all unique individuals, and try as we might, we will never be 100% like anyone else.  By nature, we cannot be categorized, unless we are all a category unto ourselves.

I often describe myself as a libertarian (small “l”) because our nation was founded on small (or limited) government principles, and for that reason, I think small (or limited) government is worth defending.  Unlike many people in the Libertarian party, I am not interested in small (or limited) government because I think people are basically good or are capable of making good decisions for themselves.  From a Biblical and historical perspective, I know that is not the case, and so I do not believe making decisions entirely in favor of small (or limited) government is wise or practical, and I have a wide range of opinion on policy ranging from very liberal to very conservative.

Secondly, using methods of assessment, formula, and mold to try to know someone is extremely restrictive and reductive to that person.  These methods say, “This is where you best fit, so you must go here,” even when it’s not a perfect fit. And let’s face it, there is no perfect fit.   And often those who want to make others fit into certain categories do not take into account growth and change.

According to every assessment, I am an introvert.  I test this way because I am deeply introspective, and value time alone to process circumstances and how I feel about them.  Otherwise, I display the characteristics of an extrovert.  I’m not an outgoing person, but having grown up with seven siblings, I enjoy having people around.  I love getting to know people and building deep relationships with them, but I have no problems with small talk, either.  Regardless of any assessment, I’m not entirely introverted, and I’m not entirely extroverted.  I’m just an introspective people person.

Thirdly, it might prevent you from knowing some really great people because either they identify with categories you don’t like or you’ve placed them in categories you don’t like.  I can’t imagine only getting to know people who prescribe to the same thinking I do. (Not that such a person exists, but you know).  As humans, we need people different from us to help us grow and mature.

I have friends who believe that President Obama needs to take a stronger stance on foreign policy; I personally agree with the President when he says, “Just because you have the best hammer, doesn’t mean every problem is a nail.” We’re all still friends.  I have friends who support same sex marriage; I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman.  We’re (mostly) all still friends. I have friends who are really outgoing, friends who are really shy, friends who are in between, like me, but not. I have friends who put people into categories and find methods of categorization helpful; I know better (hahaha).  We’re still friends. (Might not be after this post, but…) I think variety is the spice of life, and that’s true when it comes to my friendships as well.

You might read this blog (or what I post on FB and Twitter) or have a few conversations with me and come away thinking you know me and what I stand for if you use formulaic methods to assess me.  I’ve had people take issue with my stance on homosexuality, with my stance on sexual abuse in the Church, with my stance on people who work minimum wage jobs, with my not wanting to marry a pastor (which is preference, not even a stance).  People either scan my posts and misunderstand what I’m saying (and often push the conversation in a different direction than it should go), or they do understand but they don’t like it and so they have to make me into something I’m not in order to disagree with me. (HERETIC!!! Ha).

No offense, but you don’t know me.  You know things about me, and maybe that makes you feel comfortable sizing me up or figuring me out or putting me into a mold or labeling me or categorizing me or whatever term for this laziness you can come up with.

You shouldn’t.  It won’t work on me because I don’t fit perfectly into any category.  Even if I align pretty closely with certain categories now, doesn’t mean I can’t change (or haven’t changed for that matter).  And it’s going to keep you from really knowing me, because while I have friends with diverse ideas and opinions, I’m not interested in anyone’s assessment of who I am and what I stand for.

 

 

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Why Am I Dragging My Feet?

I am, you know.  Dragging my feet, that is.

Why?

I’m afraid.  I’m afraid because my life is either going to change or another door is going to slam shut in my face.  And I don’t know which it’s going to be.  I’m afraid because I want change; I’m not sure how much more of the same I can take.  I’m afraid to have another dream die a slow and painful death.  I’m afraid because if things do change, things are really going to change. I’m afraid because change means new and unknown, and I’m a creature of habit.  I’m afraid of how hard this change is going to be; of how this change is going to find me lacking.

But I have to take this step.  This one last step in this season.

So I’m going to take a few deep breaths.  And then I’m going to fix my eyes on Jesus, and I’m going to put one foot in front of the other and go where He leads, wherever that is.

 

Walk on the Water

by Britt Nicole

You look around
It’s staring back at you
Another wave of doubt
Will it pull you under
You wonder

What if I’m overtaken
What if I never make it
What if no one’s there?
Will you hear my prayer?

When you take that first step
Into the unknown
You know that He won’t let you go

[Chorus:]
So what are you waiting for?
What do you have to lose?
Your insecurities try to alter you

You know you’re made for more
So don’t be afraid to move
Your faith is all
It takes in you
You can walk on the water too

So get out
And let your fear fall to the ground
No time to waste
Don’t wait
Don’t you turn around and miss out
Everything you were made for
I know you’re not sure
So you play it safe
Try to run away

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