Monday, March 28, 2016

Players With No Lines

In the past eight years, I've written four full-length plays, six one-acts, and a boatload of skits, which have all been performed before relatively good-sized audiences. So, I suppose I could call myself a playwright. I still don't quite feel comfortable assuming that label, though. Just looking at those numbers – and remembering the conversation I had with a friend about a year before this binge began in which I stated emphatically that "I am not a writer" – I don't feel like I can really take credit for much of that. This has been a God thing. Every time I sat down to write another drama for somebody, I wondered if this would be the day that the spigot would run dry and God's work would be done in that area of my life.

However, I bring up my play-writing experience because it explains why I think I reacted so strongly to a quote I read in an article a while back. The author was referring to a book about prayer by Paul Miller (which is now on my gift list – Mother's Day is coming up, and my birthday is in August, ahem). Here is the quote that stuck with me:

When we have a praying life, we become aware of and enter into the story God is weaving in our lives. . . . Prayer is not the center of this book. Getting to know a person, God, is the center. . . . We are actors in his drama, listening for our lines, quieting our hearts so we can hear the voice of the Playwright. . . If you are going to enter this divine dance we call prayer, you have to surrender your desire to be in control . . .

God is the playwright. He writes the script of our lives. Our job is to "listen for our lines" so we can submit to his storyline.

That listening can be a challenging task, however. I don't know how many times I've wished I had an actual printed script in hand, with my lines and stage directions written out for me. The Playwright's voice is difficult to hear some days.

But I recall certain times in my writing when a character kind of took over the script – not in a bad way or spooky way. I mean, I created a character, and then I created a situation that the character would be in, and from that point, the lines and stage directions seemed to create themselves. I was almost taking dictation as I wrote – I simply copied down what that character would naturally say and do in that situation. Only if I had a twist to insert for the sake of my greater theme did I inject myself as playwright again. But that often wasn't even necessary; if my characters and situation were set up well, the drama wrote itself.

And I'm wondering now if that isn't something like what the Great Playwright does. He creates us . . . more than that, He continually RE-creates us, if we put ourselves in His hands to do so. He orchestrates the situations around us, a profoundly complex choreography of plotlines and conflicts and climaxes that all promote his general theme. And at some point, when we have submitted to His molding and will, He no longer needs to feed us lines. We can improvise, based on who He has made us and where He has placed us. We do what is natural to us.

So, we don't need to be so worried about saying the right things or doing the right things . . . we just need to be worried about being the right person, being the person God is re-creating us to be. And we know who that person is by knowing who Christ is.

Get to know Him intimately, and the rest falls into place. Know Him well enough to know that you can safely give Him control. That's doable. That's a manageable goal when the world is falling apart around me. Just know the Playwright. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Conquering My Fear. Kind Of.

Root canal.

Are you quaking in your boots? The term epitomizes a horrible experience – how many times have you heard someone say, "I'd rather have a root canal than blah blah blah . . . "

I've had some pretty awful dental experiences in my past. I have terrible memories of my mother holding me down in the dentist's office while they tried to pull three stubborn teeth that weren't coming out on their own. It took hours. They would get one out and we'd all take a break before starting in on the other. And the main problem was that nobody believed me when I said I could still feel all this!!

I finally got a dentist in Hutchinson who told me that when I get nervous, my adrenaline neutralizes the novocaine.  He had to give me two or three times as much as his other patients to keep me numb. Finally! Someone who believed me! He recommended, when I moved, that I never again settle for any dentist who wouldn't give me enough meds to really numb me.

And I haven't. Dr. Ringler empowered me. When my first dentist in New Jersey sat back disgusted at my continual yelps while he tried to drill in my mouth and said, "Well, just what exactly do you want me to DO for you?" I left and found another dentist. (I wish I'd said to him, "I want you to stop patronizing me like I'm a child who doesn't know the difference between pain and pressure!!" But I didn't have quite that much courage yet. Walking out was a big enough deal at the time.)

So, surely it's understandable how scared I was going to see an endodontist last week for a scan to see what needed to be done with tooth #21. And surely you can sympathize when he said "root canal and surgical procedure" . . . and that he could do the procedure right then . . . and I started to freak out internally.

Because I knew I should do it. It had to be done or I'd lose the tooth (which is an option I considered, believe me, but they said that would be even more painful and expensive). I was on spring break, so I had no reason not to just get it done immediately. If I waited, I would just work myself up into more of a panic about it. Better to get it over with.

But I started to cry when I told the endodontist to go ahead. And I was embarrassed at my tears. Forty-seven-year-old woman! The tears just came – I couldn't stop them. I couldn't believe how terrified I was of the potential pain.

The procedure ended up taking forty-five minutes longer than they said because an instrument broke off inside my mouth and they had trouble getting it out (good grief – that WOULD happen to me). Fortunately, I was on nitrous oxide and completely oblivious. Gotta love nitrous oxide.

The good news? I didn't even hurt the next morning. Hallelujah, Thine the glory.

The bad news? A week later, I'm hurting and my gums are swollen. Gotta call the endodontist about that. Ugh.

The worst news? My bill. Good grief.

Monday, March 14, 2016

On Writing and Thinking and Adulting

So, it's been quite a while since I posted. And I'm sitting here trying to figure out exactly why.

I know in the last couple weeks, it had to do with my laptop. It's kinda dead. Kinda. The battery won't charge, only it's not the battery; it's the place where the charger cord connects. I've been borrowing my daughter's laptop for a week or two now, and so I try not to take it from her any more than necessary because she's being really sweet about it.

Before that, I think it was the play she was in. Well, not "in" -- she was the stage manager for The Importance of Being Earnest. Stage manager means she runs the whole show at performances, and she did a great job. I was so proud of her. But the run of a show is a crazy busy time, and I didn't get to my blog then.

Beyond that, though, frankly, I just haven't known what to write about. And that's kind of unusual for me. I always can come up with something to say. And that's been one of the reasons for keeping up this blog . . . to make myself keep thinking about things that matter and trying to communicate those thoughts to people.

I come up with thoughts during the week. The election process gives me all sorts of fodder to write about. Church and Sunday School usually inspire thoughts. Stuff happens in school, and during homeschool, etc. etc. But I don't ever seem to have the time . . . or inclination . . . or computer access . . . to sit and type those thoughts up when they occur to me. And when Monday morning rolls around, I'm dry as a bone. Tired and just forcing one step in front of the other to get started on my morning.

My sleep problems may be a factor. I've noted that my cpap machine doesn't seem to be fitting very well anymore.

General busy-ness is a factor, also. My to-do list is quite long right now. And most of the items on that list are mental items -- things I need to sit and think about. Lesson plans. School plans for next year. Drama plans for summer and fall. Writing gigs. Homeschool plans for my daughter. Oh, the thinks I must think.

Think time requires big chunks of time. And it puts me in a mood -- a self-absorbed, living-in-my-brain mood. And I don't feel like communicating with anyone about anything, unless it is directly connected with my current think.

So, anyway, my apologies for isolating myself from you (if any of you noticed or missed me!). This is spring break, so maybe I'll get caught up on my thinks and writes and have stuff to say when the week's over. I know others of you have spring break this week also. Enjoy your time, and head back to life refreshed next Monday!

For the rest of you who are adulting this week without a spring break, good for you. The world needs more adults. Might you consider jumping into the presidential race?