Sandpaper Hearts

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Over ten years ago my fiance and I were sitting in the pastor’s office for premarital counseling. We were barely in our twenties, trying to finish college degrees and find part-time jobs that would pay the rent for married student housing after the wedding. After passing us folders filled with questionnaires and devotions on marriage, the pastor cleared his throat and said, “Let’s start with this. A good marriage is like sandpaper. God will use your spouse to smooth out the rough edges in your character if you let Him.” I thought that was a nice metaphor, but we were still in the honeymoon phase of our relationship. I had no idea what it really meant.

Our first argument was about the bathroom towels. One evening he came out of the bathroom and said, “Okay, you have got to stop.”

“Huh?”

“You’re hanging the towels wrong.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The towels in the bathroom!”

“Uhh…”

I was hanging the towels “wrong”. They were supposed to be hung on the bar so the folded edge faced the door. I stared at my new husband carefully creasing and smoothing our green bath towels and wondered for a moment if he’d lost his mind.

“Hubby, you’re lucky I’ve hung them up at all, much less thought about which direction the fold faces.”

“You can’t keep doing this! It’s wrong!”

After a good ten minutes of exasperated explanation on his part and incredulous laughter on mine, we came to a compromise of folding the towels in thirds so that no matter how I hung them, a creased edge would face the door. It was my first scrape against my husband’s need for order and orderliness, and I caught a glimpse of what the pastor meant about sandpaper. It took us almost eight years to realize he was so picky about the towels because he was in the middle of Officer Candidate School where they had to make every room identical right down to the towels in the bathroom. I still fold the towels in thirds.

After ten years of marriage, there have been countless other scuffs and scratches. I’m a chatterbox while my hubby can go for hours without speaking. He is a calm even-keeled man who rarely gets angry. I’m easily excited, easily discouraged, and easily irritated. He likes to buy presents and treat me and our children to trips, meals, and other fun things. My friends tease me about my gargantuan collection of unused gift cards and my unspent Christmas money from 2014. I’m barely on time or late to every appointment. He’s fifteen minutes early. Every argument or problem has exposed rough places.

Because of my husband I realized I’m a really bad listener.

Because of him I have had to apologize for laziness more times than I can count.

Because of him I know just how arrogant I am and how much I need to learn humility.

Because of him I have seen how my complaining made good jobs bad, bad jobs worse, and miserable situations almost unbearable.

Because of him I was convicted that my temper wasn’t truly under control, no matter how much I claimed it was.

Because of him I have seen how ugly my heart can be.

I’m grateful.

After ten years we don’t look like we did when we met in the lobby of the men’s dorm as juniors, outside or inside. We have more wrinkles, gray hair, and scars. Our sandpaper hearts have been scraping against each other, scouring and scrubbing until we both have tender, even raw places in our souls. But this isn’t the cold unfeeling process of entropy. We are being shaped by the hand of the Carpenter, and the coming glory is worth the discomfort.

 “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” -2 Corinthians 4:16-18

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Beginning My Return Voyage After Eight Months

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I revisited my Mars novel. The process involved the novel on a pdf on our e-reader, a composition notebook, and a pen. I read what I wrote and jotted notes on what needed to be fixed. I got to chapter 8 before I simply had to fix the mistakes and started editing. I am glad for the self-imposed time off from writing and editing. I’m glad I left Mars in its own orbit while I entertained other flights of fancy. I needed the brain break.

If you recall my post from a few months ago, I imagine you may be wondering, “Did you fix your plot problem?!?”

Yes, but my husband gets all the credit.

Caleb is deeply invested in me finishing this story because a) he is tired of me complaining that I’m not done writing it, and b) he really wants to know my finalized ending. He knows the plot about as well as I do. He’s seen my notes and knows the back stories of the characters and the history of the world I’m creating. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that he suggested the solution to my thorny plot problem. It was obvious and simple. Brilliant, really. It saved my favorite character from extinction and kept his back story 99.99% intact.

It took me several weeks to warm up to the solution because I didn’t want to make that return flight to Mars. I acknowledged it was a lovely idea, but I just did not want to write. I was content to make notes about anoxic zones and species of fish in the Gulf of Mexico. I hadn’t written a word since October last year, and I was fine with continuing that trend. It wasn’t until Caleb pushed me to read through my novel “just to remember where you were” that I wanted to fix the book. I wanted to start writing again.

Life is very busy right now and will only get busier. I don’t expect to finish it soon. It might be another five years. It might be six months. But I know I can finish it. I want to finish it. That is huge.

Prayers for discipline and inspiration would be appreciated.

Sorry about my friend here. She’s a little slow…

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I have a book review for The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I owe everyone an update on my AeroGarden (long overdue. The basil is huge!). I have updates on my wordcount, random musings, and a bazillion other odd items.

None of which are complete.

I apologize. Expect at least the book review next week. I’d promise the AeroGarden pictures, but it’s annoying to try to upload all the pictures and get the formatting to look pretty.

I work full time. Fiddling with formatting does not pay the bills, therefore it does not have priority. 🙂

Creativity and Self

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I remember a self-portrait I saw at a friend’s senior art exhibit several years ago. I was struck by how much it truly looked like her. I immediately recognized her eyes and smile, but the bright swirling colors in soft brushstrokes captured her joy and sweetness. The blues and purples made me feel the deep peace she had found in her faith. It was a visual representation of her new life in Christ, and it made me smile. It was her, inside and out.

A few days ago I saw another friend’s creative work that reflected some of his painful experiences. It portrayed some very raw emotions, and though some of it was played for laughs, I winced. I teared up. And I admired him for putting his memories on display in hopes that someone else might learn from it.

It takes courage to put a piece of yourself on the page, the canvas, or the screen. You invite criticism and derision. It’s something I think about on a daily basis when I work on my novel. The characters are made up, but some of the stories and situations reflect experiences I’ve had. I don’t know what my friends and family will think when they read it someday. Will they recognize those bits and pieces?

I’m not sure I could even tell you what parts are me. Someone else reading it might actually be better at figuring that out, simply because they have some distance. I know I’m in there somewhere and that people who know me will recognize me. To be honest, I’d rather they just enjoyed the story. But I also know from every English class I ever took that what gives a story its power is the person telling it. Part of the point of the written word is seeing the world through another’s unique perspective. You can’t separate the author from the work, no matter how much I would like to.

I don’t know if I’ve got the guts for this.