Lifted Up

Family walks are a way of life in our house. A few times a week–when our boys aren’t at Jui Jitsu–we walk a couple of miles around our neighborhood.

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Since our boys were in diapers, they’ve dealt with walks (not always pleasantly). First they rode in strollers, then they toddled beside us, eventually graduating to walking all on their own.

I grew up taking walks on the steep Connecticut hills, and it was both exercise and family time during my childhood. My parents held hands as we traversed Bradley Lane and called out ‘hellos’ to neighbors through the trees and rocks.

During one of our recent evening walks we noticed a small form in the road, and the traffic was light enough for us to investigate.

“Is that a bird?” One of us asked.

I surely wasn’t leaving a helpless animal in the middle of the road, so I dashed over, my imagination already running through wildlife scenarios. My boys followed, and my husband trailed behind (probably worried the animal would end up returning home with us). 🙂

A young mockingbird trembled in the center of the street, its feathers half adult, half baby fluff. Its large eyes appeared unfocused, the tiny bird dazed in the deepening twilight.

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“What do we do?”

A discussion ensued, with the main question looming: Leave the bird or pick up the bird? It wasn’t a baby, but we weren’t sure if it could fly yet. None of the nearby oak trees arched over the street, and it wasn’t a windy night, so it seemed unlikely the bird had fallen from a nest high in the branches.

We decided to scoop it up and place it near a tree in a neighbor’s yard. My older son volunteered his large, steady hands.

Cole dropped beside the bird. Still dazed, the tiny creature blinked when Cole gently set his palms beneath it like a human scoop. He held the mockingbird for mere moments before it suddenly shot off toward a bougainvillea bush surrounding a tall oak.

In an instant, the fledgling was gone.

Lifted up just enough to revive and fly to safety. We strained to see where he’d gone, and I heaved out relief that he was okay. Safe.

This fleeting family moment stayed with me, much longer than the bird stayed in Cole’s hands, and God’s word came to mind.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.”

(Hebrews 10:23 & 24)

One of the ways I see God’s grace in my life is when He stretches me to think of others. I don’t naturally want to do that–me first, me first is too often the mantra in my head.

But I’m realizing that good things happening to me feels hollow. Good things happening to a dear friend I’ve been praying for? Someone I’ve cupped my hands under and lifted in prayer or with Holy Spirit-inspired encouragement?

Then I stop thinking of myself, and the joy sinks deep.

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If you’re struggling with the Me Firsts (which plagues me often), lift someone else up. It’ll refocus your gaze and provide joy you didn’t expect.

“Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.” (2 Thess. 3:5) 

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Hang On

My older son was born with a desire to get off the ground.

IMG_6520coleropeFrom toddlerhood on, Cole has climbed. And climbed. And climbed higher.

When he was two, we transitioned him out of his crib in order to pass it on to his younger brother Chase, who spent the first couple months of his life sleeping in the pack-n-play. The boys are twenty-one months apart, so sharing furniture, beds, and toys was (is) a way of life.

The first night we moved the crib into Chase’s room, we put a gate in Cole’s bedroom doorway to block Cole in his room. My memories of that first night aren’t clear–probably wiped away from a lack of sleep.

But I do remember that one gate wasn’t enough to restrain our first-born.

Determined to teach Cole to stay in his new bed, we used two gates in his bedroom doorway the second night. We left a couple inches between them, and six-eight inches of daylight above the doubled-up gates. Either way, the gate-wall was at least six feet high.

Trev and I breathed a sigh of relief and settled in for a movie, or maybe an exciting evening of laundry and quiet. It didn’t last. The distinct pitter-patter-clunk-clunk-clunk then pitter-patter, pitter-patter of small feet carried from the hallway. Seconds later a grinning toddler rushed out of the hall and into our great room.

Cole had conquered his first warped (gate) wall at the age of 2 (leaving both gates intact).

He just turned fourteen, and still loves climbing. In fact, we discovered a local gym that offers parkour for kids and adults, and we go often, especially in the summer.

I don’t understand my son’s passion for climbing playground equipment, trees, gazebos, and buildings, but it’s probably the same thing that drives me to create characters and write stories.

 

During our last visit to the parkour place, Cole struggled to get up the biggest warped wall. We hadn’t made it to the parkour place often during the school year; instead he’d been doing different types of workouts at home.

But he set his mind to conquer the fourteen-foot, six-inch black wall and (after four tries), Cole finally made it. Once his fingers found and gripped the top, he hung there for a couple of seconds, relief loosening his taut frame.

IMG_6524cole3Once his grip was secure, the climb up proved easier than the journey to the top.
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All the desire in the world will only get him so far up that daunting obstacle. Cole must prepare beforehand to experience success on the big wall. Had he not been working out and rope and tree climbing in our backyard, he never would’ve made it.

Writing World Parallels:

  1. To reach the top (multi-book publication & readers who beg for more stories), years of preparation are necessary. A burning desire to climb higher with stories is a great foundation, but it takes…
  2. Words. Lots of words. I’m currently writing my seventh manuscript. While a couple of those aren’t fully edited, clean stories, they’re written (birthed during NaNoWriMo). Once I learned the basic foundation of story, POV, entered a few contests, exchanged chapters with critique partners, attended writing conferences, pitched {poorly} to agents, and heard positive feedback from other (respected) writers, I then needed to…
  3. Study the market and learn it not only takes a unique story with strong, clean writing, but also a great hook. What’s the heart of your story? One of the hardest things to grasp and create is a gripping hook.

    What is a hook? It’s the tempting morsel of your story you hand out to readers that (hopefully) draws them closer, for more.

    Readers are like fish. Smart fish. Fish who know authors are out to get them, reel them in, and capture them for the rest of their seagoing lives. But, like any self-respecting fish, readers aren’t caught easily. They aren’t about to surrender themselves to the lure of your story unless you’ve presented them with an irresistible hook. – K.M. Weiland

    IMG_6529 (002)Cole4. I used to wish this journey to publication was shorter. Easier. Less traumatizing and skin-thickening and rejection-gathering. But the <long> period of preparation is the exact foundation we need to climb up the publishing wall and hit that red button of victory.

    Writers, hang on. Keep practicing. Don’t give up! 

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