relinquishing the default button

During my teen years, I would head to the public library to

check out back issues of SEVENTEEN magazine.

I rarely made eye contact with one particular librarian as she once arched her

eyebrows in my direction, lowered them long enough to view my selections

and inquired,

“Just how old are you?”

She might have called me “missy” but I don’t recall.

I quickly added a birthday and said, “15.”

My eyes would devour every detail of what most teenage age girls considered

the gospel truth.

Some articles were of minor interest to me and others I didn’t comprehend.

I did understand acne and although it wasn’t a major problem, a brief article

about this dreaded plight drew my attention.

In the margin with bold type contained the answer to my misery.

“Pimples seldom occur past age 21”.

21 seemed a universe away but it gave me a pursuit.

One day these breakouts would be

game. set. match. over.

Because SEVENTEEN magazine tells the truth.

Until I reached 22 and 25 and now at 49,

I know the falsehood of that bold print statement.

The grains in an hourglass fall through space,

collecting in heaps but their mass cannot bury

all things hard and inconvenient.

I was reminded of this truth in my life this past weekend while attending

the Faith and Culture Writers Conference.

I believe the Father loves me and knows me.

Yet I forget He knows my frame, my desires and my ways.

He knows even after my year of brave, walking into a crowd of

hundreds is not my sweet spot.

He knows I never want to impose or intrude or thrust myself upon

another even if it comes wrapped up in a writing treasure named Deidra.

The One who knows my name and every ounce of my frailty and

tendencies decided to take care of business before the conference

had even begun.

As I was standing in line to check-in to my room, I found myself behind

Cornelia, conference founder extraordinaire.

We embrace and she introduces

me to Phil Long, a stellar poet who wowed us last year.

He exits the lobby to find his room and suddenly there is Deidra Riggs.

Cornelia introduces us, we hug and exchange small talk.

I could tell she was weary from her trek across states and time zones

and she was gracious to ask me more questions than

I ventured to ask in return.

How tender of God to provide an introduction in natural surroundings

because he knows we are both just two travelers

pulling rolling suitcases.

He whisperers,

See what I can do, Helen?

It’s not two steaming mugs at a

Starbucks but it will do.

And it did.

The breakouts I deal with at 49 are ones

I clearly thought would be laid to rest by now.

They are contained in a tiny box I check

when asked,

“Do you want this to be your default mode?”

The box repeats,

I am not enough.

I am different.

I will not be included.

In any setting, I allow my eyes to inspect a room of people

and count how many I would term the life of the party.

My default is to open my trick or treat bag like Charlie Brown

and declare,

“I got a rock called calm.”

Can I tell you how often I have rejected being calm?

For too long, I have said no thank you to the way God

has carved my soul.

Can I also tell you how often God and other people met me

in the calm this weekend?

Too many times to write in this post.

As I wrote in the beginning, I poured over SEVENTEEN

magazine.

But I subscribed to ‘Teen magazine.

One day, I decided to write a letter to the editor.

I told him that I had been a  subscriber for years and

I was considering canceling my subscription because I could

not follow the hair or make-up advice.

There was no one pictured within the magazine covers who bore

any resemblance to me.

How was I to know what type of make-up to wear when my eyes

were not blue or green and I didn’t have freckles?

I had an afro and not straight hair.

This was my quiet and calm rebellion.

Several issues later there were two African-American

identical twin sisters featured as models in the magazine.

I am confident mine was not the only complaint.

Perhaps it never occurred to them that two models of color

who looked exactly the same was not completely

solving the problem.

It was a step in a better direction but it also provided

me with unexpected instruction.

I will never learn who I am in the pages of a magazine.

I can’t understand beauty by someone else’s standard.

None of us are identical.

I still forget.

I still look at glossy covers and book deals and Facebook likes

as the indicator or final word in worthiness.

God guides me under his wing

and His love displays how I have

mistakenly read the wrong script.

My friend Pam, was to be at the writers conference

and a guest panelist but was unable to attend.

She asked via Instagram if I would consider writing about

the conference.

This week, I would like to share a collection of

thoughts and quotes from some of the speakers.

You might believe semicolons, plot lines and

agents are the only topics at a writers conference.

You might be tempted to take the week off from this

blog.

I would encourage you to wander back and see if you might discover

yourself right along with me.

This past weekend

we talked about

faith, life and fears.

We shared tales of

rejection, messes and passions.

We admitted our dreams are good

and the need to be brave in writing

down our stories.

United we witnessed the power in proudly calling ourselves writers.

A book deal doesn’t define calling.

We all need to know who we are.

Won’t you join me this week?

.

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8 thoughts on “relinquishing the default button

  1. Felicia Gaskins says:

    Dear Helen, You know that I will be so excited to read the blog this week and every week. I had forgotten about your letter to the editor. Who knew that calm is another word for brave. Love you Mor

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ashley you have been such a steadfast welcome with your hugs, smiles and joyous prompt in belonging. Blessed by your comments…so very much.

    Like

  3. Bunny Peterson says:

    What a joy to read these wise insights from the child I recall once built sand castles with my baby in a trailer park sandbox; the child who now closely resembles the lovely, wise and calm woman who modeled this character, your mother.
    I await your next message with eager anticipation.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. OH Mrs. Peterson (I have to call you that because it is how I was raised),
    It’s too early to cry but yet I am. What precious memories I have of your family visits when
    I was growing up. Shannon and I could have looked any more different but we were the same in love and spirit. So blessed to have you drop by for a visit. xoxo

    Like

  5. Hey Helen!
    So bummed you and I didn’t get to carpool and go together and have long conversations on the drive there and back….NEXT YEAR! I’m glad you blogged some thoughts. YAY!

    Loved how you said this:

    “I still look at glossy covers and book deals and Facebook likes

    as the indicator or final word in worthiness.

    God guides me under his wing

    and His love displays how I have

    mistakenly read the wrong script.”

    It is so true, a writer’s occupational hazard to measure our influence and reader responses against other writers and bloggers. It has been one of the single most effective means of discouragement in my blogging/writing life. I have had to surrender time and time again and to just write/blog what seems right to Me and trust that who’s meant to read it will read it. I don’t get to be a rockstar writer with a Big Publisher. This disappointment of not breaking into big publishing was huge for me. Nearly shut me completely down as a writer. Why bother, I lamented? What’s the point of writing if I can ‘t get published?

    But over time and with a bit of healing from the Healer of hearts, I realized what was echoed at the conference as I read and relished all the tweets that were flying out of there over the weekend: I am called to write. Not be published. Writing is what makes me a writer. Being published is the extra stuff, not the point.

    So I am encouraged once again by my sister and brother writers who write from the soul to continue on the writing path, write with authenticity and vulnerability, and let the writing path take care of itself.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pam!
    Truly you sum up the heart of the conference in your words.
    We need your truth, your stories, your perspective and your experiences taken down by your hand.
    Blessed to walk this writing road with you as we grapple with the same struggles and come to the
    same conclusion that we are called to write. ‘Nuf said!
    I hope we can carpool to a writers connection many times before the next conference.
    Praying for you my dear!

    Like

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