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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I Don’t Know

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The mother settles the baby on her hip and smiles at her three-year-old daughter, snug in the grasp of one hand. We’re waiting on drinks at a local coffee shop, and her expression is filled with joy at the children filling her arms and clearly, her heart.

The little girl’s head presses into the mother’s sundress, shyness at the bustling crowd all over her small, round face. The mother leans down, reassures her with a few whispered words. Baby boy, perhaps three or four months old, shoves a chubby fist into his mouth and stares at me with big, dark eyes.

I smile, wink at him, enjoying fresh new life and remembering. Looking at my own two children, their heads matching mine in height and their growing, strong bodies.

I remember the busy, tiny, difficult years, when one of them was always, in some way, connected to me physically.

I gaze at the little girl clinging to her mother, at her cherubic face. Because I know that feeling. I know that tight little hand-held love, and my heart tweaks because it is just a memory now.

But there are things this mother knows, already, that I don’t know.

Because she and her children are black, and her daughter and son will face looks and attitudes and prejudice that stubbornly lingers in creased crevices of the human heart, squelching grace and growing hatred.

Because while I know the grip of tiny hands, the feel of a child’s breath on my cheek, I don’t know the grip of racism, the tidal wave of terror that one of my sons will be taken down just because he’s reaching for a wallet and his skin is the color of the dark earth we’re ALL fashioned from by our Maker’s hands.

What I know is the grip of God’s grace. God’s word. All created equal, all sinners in need of grace by a Savior who is color-blind.

I hope she does, too.

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He pulls up beside my truck at a red light. His broad shoulders are slumped and one hand grips the steering wheel, the other checks his phone. Without seeing his eyes I know the weight of the world lingers over him like a heavy cloak.

He glances my way, assessing, always aware of his surroundings.

There’s a ring on his finger, and I wonder…does this burdened man have children, a family at home? A wife praying for his safety?

Because he’s a police officer. And his squad car is shiny new and decked out with thick bars in the back seat and a computer and gadgets throughout, but his face is simply weary.

How can he not be thinking of it?

Last night.

Five fellow officers down.

A dear friend works in law enforcement, and through the years he’s shared snippets of the thankless, difficult, frightening situations and angry perpetrators he’s dealt with. His wife has called, texted to pray for her husband while he’s on midnight suicide calls and SWAT team drug busts in the middle of the woods.

The light changes, and the police officer pulls forward. I do, too, and we merge onto I-75 until the shiny squad car melds into traffic.

Minutes later a red sports car flies past, driving at least eight-five. The noise and sudden motion shocks me amidst the steady-flowing interstate.

I glare at the speeding car then glance at my boys in the back seat, grumble at the reckless driver’s irresponsible weaving.

Then I see the squad car a few hundred yards ahead.

And the red car sees him, too, and slows to what the law allows. Seventy-five, like me? For the next ten miles, the racing red car impatiently glides along beside the squad car.

Just by the officer’s presence.

And I’m grateful for it.

I don’t know the pressure, the hatred, the stress that law enforcement officers deal with daily. I know they’re not perfect because none of  us are perfect.

But I know God’s grace, and that its grip saves lives. Redeems lives. Believes in each one.

I hope the burdened officer does, too.

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After the shootings last week, my heart was so very heavy, just aching, for the pain in our country. For the deep and wide rift that should be closing but still widens. I’ve prayed about what to write, what to contribute to the thousands of words and opinions already out there.

I don’t know the black mother’s fear for her children’s lives, or the police officer’s daily burdens or the dangers his job entails.

But I DO know–I am certain– that Jesus is the only Way to peace.

I hope you do, too.

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