I have three small groups of friends. These are close friends, dear to my heart, but ask any one of them what faith means, and their answers will be distinctly different.
The first group sees miracles, God’s hand, in everyday things. He reveals Himself in a hibiscus flower grown into the shape of the cross. Shadows on ancient stone floors become faces of the dead. They get shivers or a deep sense of peace. It is a comforting and heartening belief.
Another group sees rules: fasting on Holy Days, confession before communion. They go to church every week, some of them every day, and urge their children to set examples, to express dismay if their friends stray. They believe this is their duty.
The third group of friends have either lost their faith or are drifting in that direction. They are disillusioned with organized religion and perhaps this is why their beliefs are fluid. They see each situation as unique: what’s wrong in one case may be right in another. They have accepted their children’s decision to live with a significant other because love and commitment are their bottom line. They believe in live and let live. Continue reading
Before a storm there’s an energy in the air, a rushing through leaves and branches, an inevitability that hasn’t yet reached down and touched you here on the ground. Life’s big changes often start like this, but sometimes the seismic shifts in our lives begin with a trickle, a few grains of sand, a small pebble that rolls barely noticed downhill. Life’s busy; you’re hardly aware of the whisper of draining sand, but it continues, slowly, steadily, at the pace of erosion, until suddenly your mountain slides into rubble. I imagine many a dream, a career, and marriage have slid down that mountain, victim to our disregard. Status quo is so much simpler than change. Until you look up and see the boulders falling onto you.
When Jim and I were first married I remember thinking we were too happy, that it couldn’t last. But it did. We weren’t wealthy, but we were blessed with two apt and engaged boys, two bright and inventive girls, and with some major penny pinching, I was able to stay home with them full time. I shopped consignment stores, and refinished furniture, and took our good fortune for granted. Then a pebble bounced from overhead and landed at my feet. We lost our income. Times were tight and jobs were scarce so after a few months of looking for work, we decided to start a business. We faced a lean and nervous year, but strangely, what I felt was a sense of relief. Hardship had finally arrived, but the money problems we faced were the best kind of problem to have.
Then a rock fell. My father was diagnosed with both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, along with the myriad of health problems he already had. I became responsible for his care and finances, as well as his rental properties in another state. Life became physically demanding, but it was the emotional and moral stress that made it harder and harder to crawl out of bed and face the day. What kind of daughter would take her father to court and have him committed? What kind of daughter would obey her father’s wishes and leave him where he was, ill and alone? A bear-sized man who often fell down and couldn’t get up and now wandered, lost and afraid, in his own home? I was the one person he trusted to make the right choice. I did, but it wasn’t easy.
And then the big boulders began to hit.
One by one we come to the door and step in. We’re a motley crew, writers of children’s books, thrillers, southern literary, historical romance. Most of us are southern to the bone, but one of us was born in New Jersey and a couple root for the Red Sox. We don’t agree on much, and that’s the point; one writer’s weakness is another one’s strength. We gather each Wednesday, sometimes as writer, sometimes as editor, and we cut and expand and sharpen and deepen until we’ve done all we need to carry on another week.
What we don’t do is gloss over our critiques. We are writers; we are committed; it is our business. But our conference room is also a kitchen table, so while it’s been the scene of sharp disagreements, it’s also seen its share of hands reached across the table and clasped tight. Writing is like that; you get to know each other quickly and deeply. As Adrian says, it is a naked business.