Author: JC Beichner

My Heart Can’t Tell Time

Cassie Jean

Broken, my heart can’t tell time and emptiness stretches out before me like a deserted road.

Mundane landscapes and an insatiable thirst force me to question my original destination and how I became so lost and found in her presence.

Perfectly formed and heavenly sent with a purpose far greater than the ache in my chest will allow me to grasp.

Bring the storms, the next monsoon that will tear the shingles from my roof and perhaps I will forget for a moment until it is quiet again.

Let me face it all now from my place in the mud and grime, and then from absolute surrender I may rise again.

J. C. Beichner

Forever Friend

Thank you Gerri, for being our “forever friend” for always reminding us of our magic. Thank you for giving us the courage to shine God’s light into every dark corner of this fallen world. Thank you for inspiring us to be healers and peacemakers, and for reminding us that it starts first and foremost in our own hearts. Thank you for teaching us to “love them anyways” despite our broken hearts and broken promises. Thank you for not letting us forget that bad moods, rainy days and any type of suffering or loss only made us more Christ like. You taught us that every moment of life was a moment of higher education and a chance to be present to God’s beautiful creation alive within us and around us. Thank you for teaching us to smile without reservation, to be joyful in the face of persecution and courageous despite staggering odds. Your life is a legacy of love, you brought us closer to Christ and shined a light into our lives that will never be extinguished. Thank you my dearest friend, thank you for your every gift that your presence was in my life. Thank you for sharing this journey with me and thank you for never letting me forget that in God all things are possible. I love you more. See you in my dreams… Jen xoxo

Gerri Vansuch Galiffa 11/25/45 – 02/04/15

 

My Heart’s Rest

My heart’s rest is found where water flows. 

Bones settle and thoughts swirl and languish in halftime.

Murky motivations lose their importance,

outnumbered and made ambiguous by the sheer volume and abundance of grace.

The mass exodus of anxieties, a new commitment of hope,       Moving_water

everything renewed in the baptism of what was, what may be and what I must let go.

All is released, and surrendered into the water’s roar.

Significance found in the silt; the flotsam and jetsam.

History relinquished in the realization that we are never alone.

Sweet gratitude and peace spill forth, and mercy is found where His waters flow.

J. C. Beichner

 

Beautiful Imperfection

One of the most amazing things about being a Christian is that you don’t have to be perfect. As Jesus hung on the cross Good Friday hundreds of years ago, he was not alone. His cross was placed between two other men who were being crucified for being thieves. The man we now know as the “good thief” said to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “This day you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus did not hesitate to forgive this man, a man who by his own admission said he deserved to hang there for his deeds, and recognized that Jesus did not. He humbled himself before the Lord and Jesus immediately forgave him. This is our God.

This is our God that loves us more than all of our mistakes. This is our God that sees all of our imperfections and finds us beautiful. This is our God that sent His only begotten Son to die for us so that we could have eternal life with him. This is our God.

It is so easy in this life to forget who claimed us, who saved us from ourselves. What Jesus did for love. In our baptism we are called to remember, we are called to love one another as He loved us. We are called to serve one another as He served us. We are called to forgive as He forgives us. Without hesitation, without condition we are asked to love one another and pardon every trespass. This is how we are called to die to ourselves and rise in Him.

During Lent, as Catholics we are asked every year to look at the things we allow to come in between us and our relationship with God. We are called to push these things or these behaviors aside and commit ourselves more fully to Christ. To let these hindrances die so that we can rise anew in Him. Some of us give up simple things like sweets or fast food and replace them with attending daily mass or reading more scripture. This year I intended to give up sweets, I also attempted to give up alcohol but it seemed trite, and neither spoke to my heart or made me feel closer to God. They actually made me feel foolish like, “Is that the best you can do?” I knew I needed to dig deeper, I knew that if I was going to get to know God better during Lent I had to give up more. What I needed to give up was being hard on myself. What I needed to give up, was beating myself up for all the ways that I think I fall short. What I needed to add to my life this Lent was a new daily practice of loving myself as Jesus loves me.

The most dangerous prayer they say you can pray is, “Lord, make me uncomfortable. Make my life so uncomfortable, Lord, that I become solely dependent on you.” Dangerous indeed. When we are uncomfortable, when we are confronted with overwhelming personal strife or when we face obstacles that we never imagined we would face in this life, we are uncomfortable. In these times, we drop to our knees or we scream at the heavens, “Why? Why me Lord?” But the world is the world and here we are learning to navigate through imperfection and bad choices. Illness and tragedy, all of these are used for His good. So many saints have come before us. So many ordinary people suffer so much more and yet they have the faith to persevere through the storms and still draw closer to God. They find that through their trials, through their experience that they are closest to God, most like Jesus, in their suffering. Everything is stripped away, and in their nakedness and vulnerability they find gratitude. They have gratitude for the eternal salvation that is the legacy of Jesus.

One of my favorite books on following Jesus Christ is called Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman. The title refers to the difference in being a fan of Jesus or being a true follower. Being a fan is easy, its like being a fair-weather friend. You buy the bumper sticker, you wear the cross but you don’t let His ways really infiltrate your life. When it’s convenient you are all about Jesus. Being a follower means setting your life aside; it is difficult and requires sacrifice. Being a follower is about complete surrender of all your crap over and over to Him on a daily basis. As a follower, as a believer, you have to admit that you are a hopeless mess most of the time even though you are trying to make it look like you have it all together. Not A Fan confronts the complacency and resignation in our faith and in our worship. To summarize one of my favorite quotes from the book, Idleman writes that Jesus isn’t calling us to perfection, He is calling us to authenticity.

There is more room for God to show up in imperfection than perfection.

The one thing I knew I had to do more of between Ash Wednesday and Easter was write. I knew that this was where God really wanted me to focus my love for Him because He had found a way to clear my calendar during Lent with foot surgery. No more gym or dance fitness for awhile, let alone just walking normally. Nothing tests your love of yourself and God more than an injury or an illness. I am not always a good steward of my gifts. God gave me the gift of creative writing, of imagination and storytelling and often times I do not write because I do not feel worthy of the incredible gift that I have been given. In one way or another I think we all have a gift or gifts that we struggle with in this way. We know it is our gift because it is our light to the world, it is how people see Jesus in us. Through this window of beauty and grace we find our truth in Him, we know who we are and why we are here. I promised myself that I would write one blog article every week during Lent. Well, it’s Good Friday and technically Lent is over and after posting this blog I will owe my commitment two more entries by Sunday. I missed the mark…or did I?

Less might be more. Matthew Kelly an incredible Catholic writer and speaker said, “Faith is the courage to accept acceptance.” I have written more in the past 40 days than I have in a long time. I have listened more closely to God’s voice in my life and I have prayed more fervently than in days past. I know Jesus loves me, no matter how I succeed or fail. I know that He loves me for all my faults and mistakes. I know He understands why I am not always a good steward of my gifts, He can also hear the dark voice in my head that tries to tell me that I am not enough. But His love is stronger.photo (2)

I know I am forgiven. I also know that I don’t have to fear what lies ahead of me or what I have left behind because He holds it all in His hands, it all belongs to Him. I belong to Him and I want to be proof of His promise. This is the source of my joy. This is the peace I have come to know, and this is how I can smile all the time and be authentically happy. This is why I try to live heaven on earth and be more of a follower than a fan. My redeemer lives.

J. C. Beichner

Do You See Signs

I believe in miracles. I believe we are all living in God’s individual plan for our lives. We have free will yet He is always with us to inspire, protect and create divinity in our choices. Some choices we make are good for us and for others, and some choices we make are wrong and we hurt ourselves and others in our missteps. God uses our worst moments for His good; teaching us the Gospel through our lives, using our lives to teach others about His promise of forgiveness and love. This is what I believe.

His grace is what we are always searching for, confirmation of His love and devotion to us manifest in our lives. But do we always see and receive Him? His peace is always available to us but how open are we from day to day, from moment to moment to see God in the ordinary? To see Jesus in one another? We say that we believe in miracles but do our lives testify this truth?

healing_of_the_blind_man_jekelAt church, as part of our journey towards Easter we recently reflected on the Gospel of John, specifically John 9:1-41. This is the story of how Jesus gave sight to a man born blind. Jesus mixed his own spit with dirt from the ground and put the mixture on the man’s eyes, then told him to go wash. When the man washed his eyes clean he found he could suddenly see for the first time in his life. Definitely a miracle, yet the people living in community with this man who had known him their entire lives questioned whether or not it was the same blind man they had always known. These people, his neighbors, were not willing or ready to accept Jesus’ healing in his life. He became an outcast to them, an impostor of himself and the miracle a fraud because of their limited vision. Some might say his life became more complicated! The once blind man could now see, and He saw before him the Messiah, God’s love manifested in the world despite what was popular.

This powerful scripture teaches us endless lessons on following Jesus and living in faith. It is a testament to the many ways Jesus can heal our lives when we become His, when we choose Him. When we choose to trust Him with our life. We see things with new eyes like the blind man, we receive a divine clarity, we begin to see with our hearts more than our minds, and we surrender our understandings for His. He created us in His image but it is up to us to trust His love, mercy and grace at work in our lives. As followers this is our leap of faith.

This scripture also reminds us that following Jesus will be one of the most difficult and trying endeavors of our entire life. The vulnerability of body and spirit that it takes to embrace Jesus Christ and God the Father challenges everything that this world would have us believe to be the truth; that we alone control our destiny, that there is no higher power, no here after, no love that endures past the life expectancy of the human shells of flesh and bone that we inhabit. Our faith, our denial of ego for the Holy Spirit scares people, giving our lives over to God in faith tests world conformity. People may mock you and accuse you of being a lemming; following a crowd that tells you what to believe and think, yet true peace in this life, the freedom from fear and the finality of death and division are only available through Jesus Christ.

Acknowledging God’s grace at work in our lives often becomes the looking glass for which we then see the abundance of all His blessings. We are able to find gratitude for the little things, we slow down, appreciating our families and friends more and our need for fame and wealth less. Recognizing Jesus in simple triumphs. Our sight is restored, and through our hearts we find ourselves marveling in gratitude over the selflessness of a spouse or a friend, an unexpected gesture of love from a child, the beauty of a breath taking sunset or a butterfly alight on our shoulder. Life is more beautiful.

This love of Christ at work in me finds me giddy just sitting in a dark movie theatre with my husband about to watch movie on an unexpected imagesafternoon date. Simple moments become signs of great affection. My husband and I love going to the movies together and I never want to take it for granted. I’m so thankful for this quiet time we get to spend together that takes us away from our busy schedules and the depressing daily news, allowing us to escape into art. Every movie a story, a lesson or a ride into the fantastic possibilities of the world around us. The plot themes ever universal; man vs. man, man against the world, man against himself. Will he win, will he see? Will he find a way to overcome and defeat the dark forces working against him or that which he is battling within himself? Not many movies venture very far from these timeless conflicts.

One of our favorite movies of all time is “Signs.” Whenever it comes on TV we have to stop and watch it. It was released in 2002 and was written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan starring Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix. “Signs” is about a Reverend named Graham Hess who loses his faith after his wife is tragically killed, but it is also a sci-fi thriller that explores how ordinary folks like the Rev. Hess and his family respond to extraordinary circumstances. The movie was poorly reviewed and you can find critical reviews of the story line but I loved it. I find that if a story has heart I can more easily overlook other parts of the plot that may be lacking. I hope you will investigate it for yourself. Here is a quote from the character Rev. Graham Hess from one of my favorite scenes from the movie:

“People break down into two groups. When they experience something lucky, group number one sees it as more than luck, more than coincidence. They see it as a sign, evidence, that there is someone up there, watching out for them. Group number two sees it as just pure luck. Just a happy turn of chance. I’m sure the people in group number two are looking at those fourteen lights in a very suspicious way. For them, the situation is a fifty-fifty. Could be bad, could be good. But deep down, they feel that whatever happens, they’re on their own. And that fills them with fear. Yeah, there are those people. But there’s a whole lot of people in group number one. When they see those fourteen lights, they’re looking at a miracle. And deep down, they feel that whatever’s going to happen, there will be someone there to help them. And that fills them with hope. See what you have to ask yourself is what kind of person are you? Are you the kind that sees signs, that sees miracles? Or do you believe that people just get lucky? Or, look at the question this way: Is it possible that there are no coincidences?”

Which group are you in?

J. C. Beichner

 

Take A Deep Breath In

To say I resist quiet time is an understatment. It is difficult to keep up with me when my to-do list is long and my calendar is full. I thrive on social interaction and service opportunities. My family and friends are sometimes hard pressed to nail me down for a telephone conversation that isn’t happening on the way to church or on the way home. Not every day is like this but when many of them are and I don’t take the time to get quiet it all becomes too much and then I am forced to lay low, cocoon and do nothing for a few hours or even a few days. I have to stop and find my center or I should say, let my center find me.

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We run our lives far too often like a race, feeling and being motivated by the sense that if we just get all of these pressing things done or checked off our list we will then be able to take a deep breath. We become caught up in this world’s idea of success and forget that God is in every breath we take, even the shallow ones.

Why do we run? What do we hope to find or accomplish in chasing down the last item on our to-do list each day? Is it our worth? Is our sense of belonging and value tied to keeping up with the Jones’? Why is it so easy for us to forget that we were created in God’s image? No matter how we falter or please in this life, He loves us just the way we are; broken and beautiful, hopeless and perfectly flawed, lost yet always found worthy.

In our baptism we are claimed by Jesus Christ, washed in His living water, never to be thirsty again. Yet our mouths once again become dry when we take our eyes off of Him, quickly we become dehydrated and tattered by the demands and perceived pressures of this world. Our seeking, our running, it is our thirsting for Him.

Staying engaged in this never-ending tightrope walk disconnects us from God; we no longer see the benefit of slowing down and making time for Him in prayer or solitude. Darkness prevails as we find ourselves worn thin and depleted of compassion, patience and understanding. Making time for His love in our lives is the very food that feeds us. Taking time out to appreciate and sit in gratitude for all our blessings creates more blessings. This competition we participate in pushes God’s love away, and shifts our focus. We begin to think we do not need anybody’s help, we turn away from God and our community convinced we could go it alone. We take our eyes off the abundance in our lives and allow the critical inner eye to convince us we do not have enough, we are not enough. Ignoring the warning signs of our hearts, we find ourselves drained, standing in contradiction to why we serve.

The irony of it all is that we are actually in search of God’s love and mercy. The mercy we cannot earn, the grace that cannot be bought, bartered or found at the end of a to-do list. When we take the time to breath Him in, accepting His refuge, we find that every obstacle faced also has a blessing and a reward. It’s hard to grasp sometimes, but when we rest as Christian disciples we rest in the knowledge of His infinite love for us; an eternal salvation that can only be found in Him. The cost is never greater than we can bear because He has already faced the taxman, paid the price and bore the cost for us. Love is our pursuit, and to be loved by God we only need to stand still and let Him draw close and we are renewed.

J. C. Beichner

Oh How He Loves Us

In our darkest moments, God confounds us with the most unexpected grace. I am awed by the mysteries of His love and how just when I think He has not heard my cries and I’ve fallen into the complacency of self pity, He shows me a miracle. It always reminds me of the scripture that inspired the beautiful song, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”

“Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26)

“His eye is on the sparrow, Oh yes, I know. He watches over me.”

Oh how He loves us…

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On this day last year one of my closest friends, Joyce O’Connor was losing her battle with cancer. She was in the hospital and little did we know that she would be gone in 10 short days. I was visiting her room, and it was just the two of us, sitting together, talking and enjoying each other’s company. My underlying concern, the pain that I was smiling through, was the reality that the moments we were sharing could possibly be our last.

Suddenly, Joyce looked up at the TV in her room, which I hadn’t even realized was on, and said, “Look!” as she grabbed her remote and started turning up the volume. The image Joyce was drawing my attention to was a live picture of white smoke coming from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel in Saint Peter’s square. We stared in wonder and then together we began to rejoice. We had a new pope. We were tickled to share that historic moment together, it made us cry and we held hands for awhile. I was in awe of her. Joyce was an angel in my life long before she left this world. Her courageous heart, her faith and hope imbued into every moment, the love she exuded so generously for others was an inspiration. There we sat; she a cradle Catholic and I, a convert; whooping and hollering in a hospital room.

The Sunday after Joyce passed away was Holy Week and Pope Francis proclaimed at Passion Sunday services in Rome “that a Christian can never be sad, never give way to discouragement. Ours is not a joy that comes from having many possessions but from having encountered a person, Jesus, from knowing, with him, that we are never alone, even at difficult moments, even when our life’s journey comes up against problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable, and there are so many of them.”

Everyday we are led into the desert. Everyday, numerous times during the day, we are challenged by adversity, and in our struggles we are tempted to forsake God, test Him, deny Him. Keeping our eyes on the cross and not giving into to the earthly voice that mocks us and our belief, is task enough in one day to bring forth such a weariness that would not allow for much else to be accomplished. Slaying these dragons and giants of grief and despair that threaten to pull us under the weight of our sorrow and shame is exhausting. We are at times so overwhelmed that when we do stop to take a hard look around, we are dumbfounded to explain how we fell into the pit of victimhood and complaint.

Monsters of self, those dark voices in our heads, would have us believe that we are not worthy of the eternal love that only our Savior Jesus Christ can extend. A love that in a breath can erase and lift from our yolks the weight of every misstep, transgression and assault on righteousness we have ever perpetrated against the goodness of God.

People will argue, fight and raise their voices, yelling, screaming at you in His name to try and convince you that this amazing love is not available to every wounded heart. They will try and package His grace with terms and conditions, limited warranties and quantities. But God’s love and mercy are infinite, not knowable in the measures of this life and His grace more abundant still. Yet we must seek Him. Our part is to surrender to His will in our lives, dedicate ourselves to loving His people, where-ever they are at, no matter how they struggle to still the rage of darkness in their life or overcome the most impossible obstacles.

We are in it together, expectant and full of hope in hospital rooms and church pews and not unlike Jesus in the desert with the devil, we too have the gift of the Holy Spirit and we have each other.

He fashioned us to be of comfort. Collectively called to serve each other as He has served us, out oflove, this is our worthiest pursuit. The fight, the task that is never ending. We are called to bring hope to the hopeless, love to the unloved, and demonstrate His grace to those who believe they are not worthy to receive it. Striving in obedience to be holy and steadfast as we are tested daily in our personal desert.

Those are the places where life would have us believe we will be left alone, desolate without food, without drink, without rescue. But just when all seems lost, we approach the well; trying to rub our eyes clean of the sand and sweat, the Holy Spirit stirs. Jesus is at the well with us and His living water and manna from heaven, clear our vision and cool the heat of day that has burned our skin.

Miracles abound. In a perfect moment of love, a bright flashing of grace, we are once again reminded of who we are and to whom our heart belongs. We are His, and oh how He loves us.

J. C. Beichner

No More Sleepless Nights

The other night I had a dream about my dad. My dad has been dead for more than 30 years and I haven’t had a significant dream about him in more than 20 years. I woke up crying as iIMG_4801f I had actually just seen him and was reminded in a rush of how it felt to be in his presence again. It was a miracle. I had been praying for such a dream to come.

I believe these dreams, the vivid ones that we wake from in tears, are visits,brief reunions in the moments between our falling to sleep and our waking. In our dreams, where all things are possible and at the same time inexplicable, we can somehow be reunited with those we miss so desperately that at times life is often difficult to endure without them. Maybe you doubt that there is such a thin veil between our life and death, and maybe this world has convinced you that your doubt is more tangible than your instincts that tell you in your sleep that love never dies and our souls indeed go on forever. I do believe this is the case with every fiber of my being and the fact that I can wake from such a dream more comforted than I was the night before; I am now only more convinced, its a true gift from God.

In my dream I was at my father’s office, in my pajamas I wore to bed, disheveled and frantic to get my dad’s attention and tell him how much I loved him and how I could help him run his business. I was entirely anxious and definitely was in a space that my time in which to convince him and complete what I was there to do was indeed limited. I needed to find a way to make him stay, find a way to make our time last.  For some reason I felt if I could prove to him that I could run his business that might seal the deal. There were faceless people working about his office seemingly unaware of the commotion I was creating but in no way judging my presence. Every so often I would start to cry in the middle of my pleadings because at some level I knew his death was past tense, inevitable. My dad, when I got his attention, was smiling which he was attempting to hide, like he couldn’t help but enjoy seeing me all worked up. He didn’t speak but his face expressed, “Honey, I’m right here. What are you so upset about? I have always been right here and I am completely aware of what you are capable of, there is nothing you have to prove to me.” But he didn’t say a word and he allowed me to continue to follow him around the office.

Finally, I was standing in front of his desk, which was nothing like the one I remember from his office when he was still alive. He had me listen to a client’s phone message and then asked me, “How would you help them?” I told him and he listened attentively. Then it was suddenly no longer important, and I was sitting across the desk from him and telling him how he needed to take better care of himself for me, because I didn’t want to lose him, as if somehow his death was now avoidable. Then he interrupted me and showed me a foot that had been operated on, it seemed to appear on his desk out of nowhere as such things do and are only possible in a dream because they are scenes that make no sense. I stared at the foot and I asked, “Did you have foot surgery dad? You know I’m having a problem with my foot and might be having foot surgery.” I got the overwhelming sense, although no words were exchanged, that he knew all about it. Then he leaned back in his desk chair and smiled big at me and said, “For you honey, I’ll go on a diet tomorrow.” I then woke up, realized it was a dream and immediately started to cry.

I spent the rest of my morning deep in thought and gratitude to God for my dream, my visit and how my heart understood it all. In processing my experience, my feelings within the dream and it’s symbolism it seemed to me my father was inferring in numerous ways that he is always with me but also very busy working where he is at, in heaven. He seemed to be trying to tell me to slow down and relax; be unaffected by the world’s drama, remember you are not of this world, you know better than to worry and stress, you are a child of God.

It took me awhile to get my head around the image of the injured foot and then several hours after I woke up it hit me right between the eyes. He wanted me to know that he knew about the most recent events in my life, nothing escaped him and it was all going to be alright and that was exactly how I felt.

J. C. Beichner

 

Abundance

While talking with a friend the other night, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. It felt bright and warm like stepping into the sun after being in an over air conditioned room for too long. My friend is a writer too, a soul sister to be sure. She is older than me, with children and grandchildren, but our dreams are the same and our journey ever so intertwined. When I am frustrated or lonely for inspiration, she is there. My friend.Friendship is the greatest gift we ever give to another person, yet sometimes we find ourselves in the vacuum of life and it feels like work or just one more thing taking up the time that we don’t have left in our day. I hate that pressured feeling. The feeling of “have to.” Whether it’s in my work, around the house or in my relationships. It’s steeped in ego and only speaks of scarcity.Sometimes, when I feel that pressure of items not checked off my “to do” list, I stop myself and focus on the word “abundance” and the fact that I truly believe that everything happens in God’s perfect timing. Then I exhale and continue on. I want to notice, really see, the abundance in each and every day, every moment and every loved ones’ face but it takes practice.

Recently, I came to an understanding with my body that exercising is an absolute necessity. I now enjoy going to the gym. No really, I do. Another dear friend of mine teaches kick boxing at our gym and we also attend Zumba classes together which are a blast! Both classes are heavy cardio, which demand that you effectively breathe lots of air in and out, very quickly if you wish to survive either class. For whatever reason, I often find myself holding my breath. In light of the fact that breathing is the most natural un-thinking thing we do as human beings; I over think it!

Halfway through a class, I end up turning bright red and sweating profusely so much so that when I run errands after the gym and don’t touch base with my husband, he fears I may have passed out in class and pictures me surrounded by women in skimpy workout clothes shaking their heads at my limp body lying on the floor and saying, “She was so young, if only she breathed more often.”

So as I workout, I try to make myself more aware of my breathing as to not become totally heat exhausted. Then, it suddenly dawns on me that I am not exercising in “abundance.” I obviously have some strange fear that there is not enough air in the room or less faith that I can follow the instructor and breathe at the same time. Why? Because despite my best efforts, like everyone else, God-fearing or not, we succumb to “there is not enough for everybody” rather than “because of everybody, there is enough.”

It’s all fear, a lack of love in some way, shape or form. I am familiar with all this, as in my writing, when I momentarily freak out and worry about not having enough time or taking too much time, to finish my book or other projects.

I am so glad that I have lived enough to know how incredibly off base all of that nonsense truly is in comparison to what we are all capable of if only we commit ourselves to what is possible. There is enough.

“Abundance” is my one word meditation and prayer to God everyday for myself and for all those that I love. It’s my simple way of telling myself “I can go on,” “I will get there and I am doing just fine.”

Everything, of course, is easier said than done and sometimes “abundance” is elusive, so I have to start with “gratitude.” I begin by counting all the ways I am blessed. Blessed with a loving spouse, amazing friends, a project I love working on, the ability to exercise, fresh air to breath (sigh), food on my table and a heart and mind that is open and ready to receive.

The next time you speak to a friend, complete a project or just enjoy a great movie, stop for a moment and bask in the glow of your appreciation for whatever it is, and you will find with just a small dose of self-awareness, that you have landed yourself somewhere between gratitude and abundance.

“Autumn is wisdom, the breath between what was and what lies ahead.”

J. C. Beichner

 

 

Just the Edge of the Map

Over the past several months I have been continuously editing and revising my civil war novel. Yes, the same one I wrote in 52 days from beginning to end in the spring of 2008.

Writing a novel of any sort is no small task but a task I do recommend to almost every one I meet who is interested in writing. Why? Because it is an amazing learning experience to say the least. Writing this novel has been both a pleasure and a chore but there is no way to measure how much I have learned about myself not to mention the craft of writing itself.

Last month, I joyously submitted my work thus far to an amazing professional editor and after he read my novel twice through we had an almost 4 hour editorial review. It was fantastic. Much of what he had to say confirmed my creative instincts that I am on the right path. As a novice writer, this review alone could be chalked up to a huge success. We discussed every aspect of the story, from my characters, to plot structure, themes and our combined ideas for revision. The positive chemistry of our thoughts on how to make this story the very best it can be completely exceeded my expectations.

Now a month later my mind is all over the place and some days it is a struggle to get myself into my desk chair. Don’t get me wrong the ideas are coming, I have written tons of notes and I have spent a lot of time under my “thinking tree” day dreaming myself back into different aspects of my story and trying not to get anxious when I am doing more thinking than writing. Like everything else in life it is all in one’s approach to the task that you find success or failure. Some people might imagine that when you find an editor the job of writing the book is mostly done and you are on the down hill slide just around the corner to publication. Yes and no. What I am discovering is revision and editing are just the edge of the map and the most important time of all for me to hold fast to my dream.

Sitting for hours and hours on end creating an alternate universe of fiction in what sometimes feels like solitary confinement with just my laptop, IPod, thoughts and of course my faith has been both an amazing privilege and a frightening prospect. I never imagined this is where my life would lead me. All of you who know me personally can attest to the fact I am a true people person and I’m sure you could easily imagine that sometimes the hardest part of writing for me is taking my self out of the daily grind, away from phone calls, emails and everything social. It is quite difficult sometimes, however, an even bigger challenge which may seem cliché is trying to stay positive, motivated and determined that one day this story, this novel, will actually be in print for all to read.

Negativity is indeed the wicked step-sister who whispers in your ear while you scrub the floor dreaming about the Ball. Self doubt inevitably rears its ugly head and you have to take a break and refocus. When the doldrums strike, I feel as though this pursuit is delusional, self centered and arrogant and I should give it all up and use my free time for volunteer work or just cleaning out my closet. Anne Lamont said in her writing memoir Bird by Bird “the other voices are banshees and drunken monkeys.”

Without fail, I soon realize I could never be as happy doing something else as I have found myself to be in writing. When I am writing in the zone, my story flowing effortlessly, it occurs to me that if I could encourage one other person to pursue their own dreams based on the determination of my own, than I am truly doing the work for which God himself gifted me to do.

What I do know is there is no winning without facing a challenger. You can not be the champion if you are unopposed. Therefore we all must face the “I cant’s” and “You never will’s…” and remember to to fortify our dreams with loving, supportive friends and family that will only multiply our positive energy whenever we share our progress or triumphs.

(My fortifications? You all know who you are, you received an email that brought you here to read this blog and I thank God for each and every one of you every day.)

A dear friend of mine always reminds me when I lose sight of things that light cannot exist without dark. Halting the procrastination, I sit back down in my desk chair and I am again at a positive jumping off point. “Butt in chair” re-motivates me and I begin to notice that the time between lost and found is getting shorter as I continue to practice following my heart rather than my head.

It sounds a bit corny I know but our heart is where the deep identity of our soul resides in my own humble opinion. I have come to believe that our heart and soul are forever fighting against our ego mind to reveal to us who we are and what is possible despite the chaos and negativity coursing through the backdrops of our lives. Our egos can bring forward the most pounding criticisms of our past mistakes. Regrets and self-loathing that will suffocate us if we allow the dark hum too much time on the stage. For me, every muddied dark point and every sparkling shining moment of our lives make up all that we are during each and every moment of every day (whether we are consciously aware of it or not).

I believe there can be a balance and I think that is what we were sent here to practice. I find it sometimes when I am writing and it feels like perfection. Other people find it in a spread sheet or behind the wheel of a truck. Not unlike a painting, a masterpiece in the works; we are slowly coming together with each brushstroke. Light colors, dark colors, a tapestry of all that we have been and will be. The kicker is that we DO get to choose the brushes, the canvas and of course all the colors. We do not have to be victims of an assembly line. It is entirely up to us what essence of ourselves we want to spotlight or hold up to scrutiny.

My heart led me to start writing a few years ago and I walked through a doorway into more than I thought was possible in my life. Along the way I have discovered enormous blessings in self discovery, love and friendship all because I was willing to step outside of my comfort zone.

Now I just have to stay the course. I still have so much work to do and I could easily focus on my short comings and lost time but for today, at this moment, I choose not to and I hope that will be enough to silence the “banshees and drunken monkeys”.

J. C. Beichner