This is my 200th post on this blog. I started in May of 2017 after I returned home from the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers’ Conference. There, I pitched my memoir to agents and attended sessions on marketing my work. What everyone in the writing world suggested was having a blog so you could provide samples of your writing, grow your readership, and build your ‘platform.’
The first year, I committed to producing two posts per week. Nearing the end of that year, I saw I couldn’t keep up that pace with my part-time research work and the approaching birth of my grandson. But the discipline of cranking out two posts a week had helped me to find my blogger’s voice and see what I loved to write and what readers responded to. During that first year, writing those 100 posts, I often focused on my experience with breast cancer as well as the origin of my solo journeys and how they developed into spiritual pilgrimages.
Since that time, I’ve moved on. Now I weave into posts the things I learned from my cancer experience, which was almost twenty years ago, and apply them to my current struggles. Likewise, remnants of my yearly solo journeys, now a total of sixteen, has provided a rich tapestry of memories and lessons from the people and places in my path.
During this COVID-19 pandemic and our sheltering-at-home, I’ve often thought of my solo journey to Kentucky in 2016. I participated in an artist’s residency at Artcroft outside of Paris, Kentucky, about thirty minutes from Lexington. I’d expected to share the rural farmhouse with other artists for my two-week stay. But when I arrived, I was surprised and disappointed to learn that I would be the only one there. How would I manage, alone, in that quiet place where you only heard a cow mooing in the distance, a tractor on the neighboring farm, or the occasional car passing down the lane?
I felt the urge to get in my car and drive home. But, I’d anticipated that two weeks of writing and exploring a new area and I had no backup plan. Instead, I would accept that the residency was not what I envisioned and make the best of it a moment at the time. That rings with familiarity of my life since mid-March, when we all started the restrictions of physical isolation and I felt the impact of being alone in my house.
At Artcroft, I was reminded of the quiet rhythm of childhood when I spent a week each summer at my Grandma Smith’s. The days were spent on her Harnett county farm doing simple household chores, helping Grandma in her flower garden, and hoping for any visit from a neighbor or church friend to break the boredom. Eventually, I would settle into the routine at Grandma’s and enjoy the time learning the names of her flowers, listening to her read from the Bible, and having time to read my own book when she went to bed early.
Likewise, during that two weeks in the Kentucky farmhouse, I learned to love my days without television, or wifi, or the frequent interruptions of my busy life. I cherished the cool morning air when I looked out for the rabbit who ate breakfast in the backyard, the stillness and open space of silence that allowed me to write with great productivity, and walks just before sunset when I came to appreciate the ‘gloaming’ of that magical light behind the rolling hills of Kentucky.
Over the past year, many of my posts have dealt with the unexpected loss of my marriage. At first, I found it very hard to write because my concentration was disrupted. The one thing I felt I must continue, no matter how hard, was writing my weekly blog post. I felt a connection with you readers and didn’t want to give that up. More than ever, I prayed for God to lead me in what to write each week– especially when I felt such an absence of words.
In my post, “41st Anniversary: Not What I Expected,” I shared my news; It came after the process of telling our sons, our family, and close friends. While I’d known about this change since the end of April, I had to write ‘behind a veil’ until the right time. My posts last May when I went to the Outer Banks on my solo journey, were all written with a very heavy heart. The total dependence on God to keep me going forward was like what I’d felt when I went through cancer and that toxic job that’s the basis of my memoir, He Heard My Voice.
I remember the Psalm that guided me during that time:
“I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”
Psalm 40:1-3 (NIV)
I wanted to thank you all more directly by video. While being recorded is something I would typically run from, I have to let go of my self-consciousness in order to do what I feel led to do.
Kentucky–Writer’s Residency at Artcroft. The Rhythm of the Day
Outer Banks Journey May 2019– Charis Coffee Company: Places in Our Path.
Post about marital separation– 41st Anniversary: Not What I Expected