FRAGMENTS

“There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.” ~ Anais Nin

Fragments

My friend, Kate Jones offered to take some pictures for me in trying to keep with my blog quote on Fragments … More so than ever, I realize how our search for truth comes fragment by fragment, like a mosaic. Or perhaps, we come to understand truth deeper and deeper, layer upon layer as we live our lives, as we incorporate our experiences, and as we go through the varied seasons of this wondrous life.

Thank you Kate for encapsulating the mosaic of life so beautifully in these lovely pictures. I thought about tacking on quotes for each one, but I’ve decided they stand better alone.

You can see more of Kate’s lovely work on her website: www.katieroophotography.com

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Building a House

We are in the throws of building our house. We’ve hired electricians, plumbers, and someone to put up siding and now someone to help with the roofing (which is our next major feat).

I haven’t been blogging nearly enough and that’s because we’re out on the land ALL day, EVERY day. It’s been absolutely exhausting and wonderful. I can’t wait to move into my house – which won’t be finished when we move in … but it’ll be ours to finish and build and grow into and invite people to come and stay in. (You are officially invited.)

A couple days ago, after mentioning I wanted to get some chickens, the plumber told me his mom has to get rid of her hens and he offered them to me. Eight hens and a rooster. If the rooster’s too grumpy, he’ll become our Sunday dinner and we’ll buy another. I’ll keep you posted.

We’ve been cooking in our barn (Or should I say, I’ve been cooking in the barn and last week the kids and I picked very very green apples and I made my first pie of the season. I have to say I don’t recommend early picking — makes for some tart pie!

IMG_2613Here are some more shots of the house in progress. Keep us in your prayers. We’ve got a lot to do and we need to do it by the end of March. Move in day is approaching.

IMG_2590 IMG_2572 IMG_2615And  … tomorrow my friend, Kate Jones, is going to post some of her photography for us. Actually, I’m going to post it, but she took the pictures. I asked her to come up with something for my quote on Fragments … and what she did is so cool and so perfect. I can’t wait to share.

Talk to you tomorrow!

Much Love,

Tina

A Remarkable Age

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Lucas turned nine on February 8. It took us a few days but we finally had a party for him, with a scavenger hunt, pizzas, prizes, and lots of boy fun.

He’s my son. The one who catches the emotional vibe in any room anytime. The one who will realize late in the morning that he didn’t ask me how I slept and he’ll suddenly say: “How did you sleep mom, I forgot to ask you. Sorry about that.” He is always kind, thoughtful, and very excited about anything to do with The Lord of the Rings.

Two years ago we decided to move to Chile – my husband’s homeland. Our reasons were multiple and varied and ever since we made that life altering decision, our lives have been startlingly different. They’ve been incredibly stressful and nomadic, and filled with lots of ups and downs.

I have pushed my children and asked them to bear up under hard circumstances – situations that make my heart beat faster and my eyes well up with tears if I think too much about them. They’ve borne it all with a courage and grace that stuns and humbles me. We have some tears now and then, but for the most part there’s joy and confidence, and an ability to adjust to their surroundings that I find quite noteworthy.

At Lucas’s party, I watched as the boys trekked around the land solving my badly written clues and I adored listening to Lucas lead them in his new language that he flows in a out of with unruffled ease. He roams our thirty acres, picks blackberries, shoots his arrow, swims, plays soccer, and still sleep with his prized blanket and his five favorite stuffed animals.

He is at that sacred interim between little boy and big boy – where he sees both worlds and is beginning to cross over from one into the other, and yet, still lavishes in the joy of being little.

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He and my dad went on a drive the other day and got completely lost high in the back hills of Temuco. At the top of the rolling mountains, Lucas gazed out and in complete seriousness told my dad there could be dwarves living underneath them. His hero is Legolas, but he has lots of admiration for the dwarves. Gimli Gloin and Balin are very important to him.

I realize as my children grow older, my son becomes more and more a mystery to me. I understand him as my son, but he is boy and will one day be a man and these last few days I felt that shift, the slow turning that reveals while we are similar, we are also different.

I used to hope for lots of things for my children but this long season of change and transition has sifted things down for me. The superfluous and extraneous are more evident than they were before and I see with greater insight the areas I would like my children to be strong in. I want my children to be courageous, to be kind and thoughtful, to see the hurting pass by and notice them, I want my kids to be resilient and assertive. And I want them to feel safe and secure in their parents’ love, and in our belief that they can go forward despite hardship.

Unfortunately, most of these characteristics must be modeled in order to be learned. And so it falls to me and my husband and to the other adults in their lives to be consistent examples, to show with our lives what courage and resilience looks like, what it means to press into hard circumstances instead of running from them, and if I want my kids to notice the hurting, it would behoove me to notice them myself and not pass by on the other side, but rather stop and do what I can.

Character does not appear out of nowhere, it’s something we cultivate and grow inside of us over time. When we go through difficult and trying seasons, this is when we have the greatest opportunity for growth. It’s on the other side of that particular season that we will see the fruit – the patience, the kindness, the ability to see and feel other people’s pain in new and startling ways, the resilience and fortitude we long for, the self-control that has always alluded us is somehow there now, and of course there’s the hope that doesn’t disappoint, because it’s hope birthed and bred in the midst of trial.

As Rodrigo starts roofing our new home this evening, and as my dad finishes the structural part of the house these last days of his visit and as we hire our electrician and plumber and someone to put up the siding … I see with my eyes that I am coming to the other side. The days of being nomadic and being a lonely pilgrim are coming to an end. For me and for my children. What we have hoped for is made manifest before me …and it is wondrous indeed.

Tell me about a time when you made it through a long season of something and saw yourself transformed through the process. I’d love to hear.

Much Love,

Tina

 

 

On Healing my Finger and Clarity

On Wednesday morning last week, I went in for my weekly unwrapping. He took off my bandages. It was the first time in three weeks I could stomach my hand. I didn’t see stars. He said it was time for rehabilitation and that I could shower with my finger, and try to bend it. (It’s very stiff.)

“Can I type?” I asked him. It’s all I wanted to know. Can I write? On the computer.

“You can try, but I don’t think you’ll be able to,” he said.

“But if I can, it won’t hurt my finger?”

“No. You can try. But I don’t think you’ll be able to.”

I thanked him. He’s been pretty nice doctor. Doesn’t believe in painkillers but he’s nice. I had to twist his arm for narcotics the first week out of surgery. I told him there was no way I was going home without something harder than Tylenol. He reluctantly acquiesced.

The kids and I went back to the house, I took off my wrap, sat down at my computer and opened the new novel I was working on before the beam incident and picked up exactly where I left off. I couldn’t type for long. But I typed.

The next day I did the same thing only I typed some more. The next day – the same.

This morning, there’s less tingling and it hurts less every day.

It’s easy to doubt who we are and very easy to doubt what we’re supposed to be doing with our lives and our time, especially if what we’re doing is risky. I have doubts about my writing daily. Sometimes hourly. It’s hard to self-promote. It’s hard to market one’s own work. I like to promote others – not myself. In this business though, I don’t have a choice. If I’m going to publish, I have to tell people about my book.

And every time my agent sends the news about another rejection I doubt what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. Shouldn’t I be doing something easier? Maybe all these rejections mean I suck. Shouldn’t this be easier if it were what I was supposed to be doing? It’s not. It’s hard. Most days those thoughts fly across my mind – I think I better do something different.

On the days when rejections are all I see, I say it out loud to myself. I’m going to quit. It’s too much.

And then one day, out of the blue, my little ring finger on my left hand gets busted up and I have to have surgery. Everything changes. The doctor said he might have to cut the tip of my finger off and all of life became as clear as a fresh summer morning after a rain fall.

Tears streamed down my face. I was lying on my back holding up my wrapped finger. “Doctor, before we go into surgery can I tell you something?” I could barely talk.

“Yes.” He paused before leaving the room.

“I’m left-handed.”

“They told me.”

“And, I’m a writer, Doctor. I write.”

“I’ll do my best,” he said.

They wheeled me back a few hours later to surgery and I got emotional, started crying. The whole thing was emotional – another country, shock, my finger hurt, my kids were crying before I left my room.

The surgery room was sterile, that damn robe barely covered my body and I felt exposed, lots of men and bright lights. They didn’t knock me out, so I could hear everything and had to work extra hard against a panic attack. I even asked the doctor for something to calm me down and he said – “No, I need you to calm yourself down, please.”

Okay, then.

Clarity. I prayed and thanked God I hadn’t lost my hand. And then asked him to save the tip of my finger. I want to write. Even if only for myself. I am a writer.

Clarity. It doesn’t matter if I’m good or bad. Not really. Not in the way I think it does. I write because I love to write. My task is to write the very best I can in the moment – the rest of it is out of my hands. (excuse the pun) Is it hard to deal with rejection? Absolutely. Am I tempted to write in a corner and bury my work? Yes. Every day. Will I? No. Because we write to share. We write to give.

There are so many things that are out of my control. There are a few within it. I get to choose what to do with the couple of hours of free time in the morning or in the evening before I go to bed. I can choose to get up early every day and write a thousand words. I can still choose to type. Nail or no nail – I can move my finger. I have a hand. W and S. Those are important letters.

Clarity. I am a writer.

Tell me about a moment of clarity.

Much Love,

Tina

 

Home Progress

It’s been difficult with my left hand out of commission.  It takes longer to do almost everything.  However, the pain is better and I am encouraged.

Here are some pictures of my home – in progress, and a couple pictures of Saturday’s trip to the beach.  I’m amazed at all they’ve done.  And thankful.

Much Love,

Tina

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Top Ten Reads of 2013

Most of you know I love to read.  I read daily.  I’m always carrying a book around with me – I read in the grocery line if it’s long enough, I read on the bus, on the airplanes, on the sidewalk, in bed, standing up, lying down…I just really like to read.  And truthfully, no one told me I should read.  As a child, I watched my parents read, and at some point I came across a couple of books that moved me, and I wanted to find more.  It’s been that way ever since.  This year, I read less books than ever but re-read Gilead four times.  I’m not sure why I read it over and over, except to say there are lines in that book that met me in my deepest parts and to read them only once seemed a waste.  So, I kept going back to it.  I read it again just last week.  Here are some of the others I read and deeply enjoyed.

1. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
This is a YA WWII thriller.  It takes place in France and England and in Scotland.  It’s about girl spies — and I loved it.  I couldn’t put it down.  I stopped breathing a few times and grabbed the kleenex at the end, grabbed the kleenex in a few other places too.  I thought about it days after I closed the cover and still wonder how in the world Elizabeth Wein pulled off such a brilliant plot.

2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I like John Green and have read a couple other books he’s written, but this one far surpassed his other novels.  It’s brilliant.  It’s sad, funny, witty, and profound.  It’s about two high school kids – one with terminal cancer.  The Fault in Our Stars is one of the best love stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.  I decided to read it a few months back when I noticed Shannon Hale (an author I like) highly recommended it.  I cried.

3. Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott
I’ve written on this book more than once on my blog.  I read it three times in 2013 and will probably read it again. Gentle, kind, witty, honest, and full of hope.

4. Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris
A friend in Chile handed me this book one night and said I might like it.  I devoured it.  It’s a book of essays about spiritual sloth.  It’s filled with rich insights about the spiritual life and the importance of discipline, of reflection, and of staying the course even when our emotions would tell us otherwise.  Kathleen Norris spends time with the Benedictine Monks and in particular, helped me see the importance of reading through the Psalms – over and over – even when reading scripture might feel like eating dry toast without the butter.

5. Gilead By Marilynn Robinson
For most of my life, I read a book, enjoy it, and never look back.  There are few I have read twice.  There are an exceptional few that I’ve read more than twice.  Gilead is now in its own category.  I’ve read it more than five times.  I can’t quite explain why this is so.  It touches me.  It’s reflective, generous, filled with insights on the human condition and our capacity to love and be loved, on our ability to open our hearts to life, and to change and grow.

6. When I was a Child I Read Books By Marilynn Robinson
It’s a compilation of essays.  She’s a deep thinker, that’s for sure.  And she lives out her faith in such an authentic way, I can’t help but want to read everything she’s written.  This is her newest book – and I read it in a week.  I plan on reading it again this year.

7. The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
A few years ago, I read Olive Kitteridge and was mesmerized.  Elizabeth Strout spends years writing her books and it’s obvious.  There isn’t a word in the wrong place and the honesty and depth in each character startles me.  It’s almost uncomfortable.  This novel is very good.  If you liked Empire Falls or The Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo, you’ll probably enjoy The Burgess Boys.  It’s about family – and how family can drive us crazy and push every button we have, and yet, when family calls, we show up.  It’s also about America’s changing demographic and a growing immigrant community in Maine.  

8. Still Writing by Dani Shapiro
I waited almost daily for this book’s release date.  Dani Shapiro is a favorite.  And this book is one to savor, especially if you’re a writer, or a creative sort.

9. Blue Nights by Joan Didion
Joan Didion is incredible.  I read her stuff just for the direct and seamless sentence structure, and to read someone so willingly honest.

10. A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle
My mom mailed me this book – and I relished every word.

These are the books I remember enjoying.  There are many others … I deeply enjoyed. I liked The People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, and I enjoyed some novels by Polly Horvath this year, I read some articles that I distinctly remember, and some blogs that I love.  I’ll keep sharing.  However, this is the list of the top ten – off the top of my head – books I loved in 2013.

Much Love,

Tina

 

On Building

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We found out we were missing an entire wall on our foundation – one that went straight through the center of the house to hold up the second floor.  Yesterday, that’s what they worked on.  They built the wall.  A rather important piece.

We all know the foundation is the most important part of the house.  Build a bad foundation and you’ve got problems for years.  Build a good foundation and you can breathe easy at night.  If we had built my house without the wall … my second floor would have caved in during the first major windstorm.  Scary thought.

Suffice it to say, I’m glad they built the wall and I’m overjoyed they’re here.

IMG_2391 IMG_2395I’ll be posting pictures of the progress — They’re moving fast people.  They’ve got a house to build.

Coming soon …  What I learned in 2013 and … Top Ten Favorite Books.

Much Love,

Tina

On Why I Don’t Need a Christmas Tree

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We got back to Chile a few weeks ago. The weather has been in the 80′s every single day.   We are staying at Rodrigo’s aunt and uncle’s house. They don’t put up a Christmas tree anymore.  Too commercial they say.  They told us we could put up a tree if we wanted.

I thought about it.  What does this entail?

It entails buying some plastic green thing at the Wal-Mart down the road and putting it up in a living area that honestly has no room for a tree.  And it entails me going to our storage unit and digging through boxes in very hot hot weather for our ornaments.  I’m not feeling it.  What it feels like to me is is July.  That’s probably because it is July in South America in the sense of summer and winter solstice on a globe.

At first, I felt like I should go and get the tree for my kids.  In my deepest parts I was convinced that their whole lives would be ruined if I didn’t give them their magical Christmas tree and put up all the ornaments and lights and bring out Santa and make five dozen cookies with them to decorate.  The whole concept was bewildering and absolutely overwhelming to me.  But, I was mustering up the energy – because I truly thought my kids needed it.

Then, I thought about it for a few more minutes.  What in the world is my problem?  Why would I ever think my children’s lives would be ruined if they didn’t have a Christmas tree for one year?  Why should our lives be good or bad because of one holiday season?

Because I live in a Sentimental, NOSTALGIC Hallmark Card, that’s why.

Then, I thought about it for a few more minutes and considered the weightier things of this life.  We have food.  We are warm.  We have thirty acres that my kids go play at every single day. We just went on a five week trip to the Unites States where they got lavished and lavished in love.  It was cold.  They saw some Christmas lights.  They saw their Uncle Daniel dress up like a crazy Santa Claus and pull out gifts for them.  My mother gave them Christmas presents.  They laugh every day.  They play all day long.  They know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are loved by many many people.  And they know that God loves them.  They know this because they’ve heard that God loves them like every single day of their lives since they were born.  They probably hear these words in their sleep now.

So, after my few minutes of reflection, I decided one Christmas without a tree was not going to break the memory bank of their lives.  We aren’t a Hallmark Card.  We live real human lives for goodness’ sake.

Then, after a little more reflection I had to ask myself, if Christmas was just about the tree for me?  Or is it … about a little babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger?  If Christmas isn’t Christmas without my big tree and my lights and cookies and egg nog (I have to admit I really miss the egg nog) … then what in the world is wrong with me?  Christmas is not some sentimental nostalgic holiday.  It’s a day set aside to remember something.

That God came near.  Immanuel.

So this year – I’m doing it different.  My family is doing it different.

I highly recommend doing Christmas unplugged one year out of your life … it’s the most liberating thing I’ve done in a long time.  It’s like fasting.  When we fast from food, we realize there’s more to life than our appetites and cravings … there’s so much more.  And fasting from the commercialized hustle and bustle of Christmas season is just as freeing.

We won’t do this every year.  But for 2013, I couldn’t be more pleased.

Much Love,

Tina

 

In the Boat

IMG_2249When I was in the Seattle a few weeks ago, we went to the zoo.  A whole bunch of us.  And had a marvelous day.  And we asked the kids to get in this little boat called Los Amigos so we could take a picture.  It was like herding cats.  They all scrambled in and out and in and out and finally we took the picture.  Aren’t they beautiful?  Their lives are all strung together with love and memories and their mama’s friendships and lots of distance between them.

A lot happens in life that is beyond our control.  A lot happens that takes us by surprise, that whips our heads up and we catch our breath and try to remember how to keep breathing.  We ask lots of questions in those moments, in those seasons, during those times.  We wonder why or how something could be, how it could have gone that way…

I had dinner with a good friend of mine a few weeks back and we reflected on something that happened in her life during this last year.  It had been a hard hard season for her.  I lifted my eyes and asked quietly,  ”What do you think that was all about?”

She swallowed, thought for a moment. “I think it was just a big hard storm that we needed to get through.”

Sometimes there aren’t a lot of explanations for why or what something is all about.  And it’s not always important — at least not in that way.  What’s important is staying in the boat with your friends and being present to each other. Together.  My boat is filled with kind and good people.  And they may not be able to take the storms away, or make the wind stop howling… but I sure am glad they’re there.

Much Love ,

Tina

 

Unexpected Answers

We arrived home to a hot and beautiful emerging summer, which is much better than arriving in the middle of winter.  We’ve spent the week visiting friends, working on the land, and getting things organized for the people who are coming to help build my house.

First, my dad wrote with his flight information.  He’s coming for two months!  And I was overjoyed.  Then, he wrote to tell me his good friend bought tickets for him and his wife to come down and build for a month.  At that point I had no words.

Rodrigo’s been working for weeks and weeks on the house and now he’s going to have help.  And not just one person, but three people are coming to help.

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Some of you probably remember about six months ago how we were screaming at the darkness, trying to come up with ways to get our house built.  And help was not to be had.  It was time to wait and pray and wait and pray and learn to hope.  Life is filled with those seasons where we are stuck in some middle place, waiting and praying, waiting and praying, thinking God forgot our phone number or forgot our address – and then from one day to the next everything changes.  It actually, makes me think of Christmas.  People waited lots of years for Jesus to be born.  And then from one day to the next, he was here – and now, everything is different.

I wrote As Waters Gone By a few years ago and spent a whole lot of time in the waiting room.  During my years in the waiting room, I wrote three other full length novels.  One of them, my agent is currently trying to sell – to no avail.  We’ll see.  Another, I wrote for my kids and it takes place in Nicaragua.  One day, I’ll give it to all my nieces and nephews as a gift, because their names are in it too.  And another book – which shall remain nameless – has sat in a file on my desktop for over three years.  Full-length.  It’s been in the waiting room.  It’s rough and prickly, and probably the most vulnerable thing I’ve ever attempted to write.  And that’s why it’s been in a file, hidden away.  However, after a conversation with my friend and fellow writer, Janalyn Voigt, I decided it was time to pull it out and think through the story.

I’ve had some hurdles, some problems with the content and the characters and haven’t known how to navigate through them.  So, I’ve waited.  And waited.  And waited.  In part from fear, in part from something harder to name.

For a long time, I wondered if the story was not meant to become a book.  However, the other day, after a lengthy pondering session, some of the answers came to me.  In a flash.  And I know what to do with it.  At least, for now.

All this to say — sometimes waiting feels like we’re losing time.  It feels like life is moving along and there won’t be room to jump into the conversation, or we’ll miss the meal, or we’ll miss what’s really supposed to be ours.  And you have to discern if you’re waiting because you’re afraid, or you’re waiting because it’s not time yet.  If it’s out of fear … press into the fear and move through it.  If it’s because it’s not time – wait.  Do the hard work of waiting.

The fullness of time is an interesting concept.  One worth studying.

Sometimes, many pieces need to converge at the exact moment and it’s in our best interest to cultivate patience and endurance, to be steady in the waiting.  So that – when it all converges – it works.  Seamlessly.

My dad’s friend of almost thirty years was sitting at the breakfast table with him and offered to come help him build our house.  They hadn’t seen each other for over a decade.  There was no manipulating, coercing, or begging.  Just a simple offer.  And we said… YES!

Are you in the waiting room?  Are you in a season where you wonder if God lost your email address?  I’d love to hear about it.  Some of you on my trip to Seattle shared that you read my blog but never comment … PLEASE comment.  It’s so much more fun when we do this in community.

Much Love,

Tina

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