What would possess a person to scatter – or, as some versions put it, to cast away — stones? A memory that comes to mind is how I behaved when forced to make garments in grades 7/8 sewing class. I’d start with a glam picture of how the finished item would look (on an idealized, svelte image of myself), cut the pattern, and sew away – until I’d inevitably muck it all up and have to take up the stitch-remover, a nifty little hand tool I ended up using much more than my grandmother’s ancient sewing machine. R-I-P-P-P! would go all the wonky stitches, until the despised garment lay in scattered little pieces on the floor. At which point I’d throw tools, spools, and the whole shebang across the room, screaming with primal rage.
But the project would still be due, and so, being a dutiful student with no money to start fresh, I’d have to gather the pieces and try again. Of course, nothing I made ever turned out like my fantasy version, and when the poor abused garment had finally been hemmed and modelled by the short, unsvelte and unhappy seamstress, the fact remained: I hated sewing. I still do. And I’m so glad we live in a world of ready-made.
Let’s apply the stone-scattering analogy to life. We’ve built something, or tried to, but it’s not working anymore. Whatever downturn our spiritual journey has taken, it’s brought us to the brink. And the mess we’ve made seems unfixable. All we want is to tear it all down and cast the stones in twenty different directions. It feels good afterwards to sit in the rubble and glare at the scattered stones. Maybe it’s their fault (poor hapless stones!) and they deserved to be thrown.
But eventually we realize: this is all I have to work with. It’s time to gather those old stones and start over. Using the same materials but starting from scratch, we might build something completely different this time. Something that fits this new, stripped-down version of ourselves. Something that might transform our frustration and loneliness into a new kind of satisfaction.
For me, gathering stones meant rediscovering the joy of self-expression through poetry.
I wrote a lot of poetry as a child. In fact, I was apparently quite the poetic prodigy at the tender age of seven, according to my father’s recollections (and my father is not one to lavish unmerited praise on anyone). But I abandoned poetry writing, along with other artistic pursuits, when I hit rough waters in my teens. And while I’ve always secretly yearned to be a writer, I wrote little besides journals, classes and study guides during my busy years in the ministry. As my life was collapsing post-HKL, I made scattered efforts at memoir writing, but I was plagued with self-doubt: did I have a story worth telling? If my memoirs were as dark as I felt, would anyone want to read them? Would I only be adding to “the slagheap of mediocrity” — my words from a 2008 journal — in the already-saturated memoir market? (To clarify, there are many brilliant memoirs out there. And there are the others.) And so my self-doubt grew. Anyone who wants to write will recognize that rational, critical little voice inside my head.
But one day the poetry came back. I was driving home from visiting my youngest brother, the “golden child”, as we siblings fondly refer to him, when the lines hit me: “This one got it right” … and a poem was born the following day: a fond, incisive little gem that captured our sibling dynamics just right.
The next day I wrote a poem that started, Restless soul, why do your roam? And I saw that my subconscious was ready to speak. And speak. And speak. For the next many months, a poem revealing my inner life would surface almost every time I sat at my desk. The poems were like birds, alighting each day with a leaf, a flower, a berry, a trinket. I was discovering myself, recovering myself, one poem at a time.
And this I believe: writing poetry saved my life. It floated my boat again. It gave me a healing compassion for myself that had been missing for a long, long time. It helped me see myself in a softer light. It reconnected me to the creativity the Creator had placed in me, before I was even born. It gave me back my voice.
This might seem like my most ambiguous posting, for what am I trying to say? That everyone needs to write poetry? That poetry alone has magic to rescue us?
Of course not. You may not even like poetry. You might feel about poetry as I do about sewing. And that’s fine. But there’s something inside you that wants to come out and play.
I believe each person has his own gift, her own way of connecting to the creativity within. Maybe you already know what arena that is for you. Maybe you have yet to discover and develop it. Maybe you’re already being drawn to whatever new – or rediscovered – pursuit it is that will ultimately rescue you. If you’ve been part of the ministry train so many of us travelled, you probably put your creativity on the back burner, or even in the deep freeze, for as many years as you rode that train. Giving yourself permission to create again, to recreate in the way that moves you most, could be a breakthrough moment. It could be the start of something great.
So take a second look at those stones, and start gathering. They’re all you’ve got to work with. And they won’t move themselves!
Categories: My Story: Turn, Turn, Turn
hello Marilyn I just wanted to say you certainly do have a story that is worth telling and even the dark parts will help those of us who read your posts well my brother called me tonight and told me he has put together some photos of myself my 3 brothers one sister and myparents as I have requested I am a very sentimental person I often wonder where my friends from my high school days are are they happy sad married divorced alive passed away I know God knows her every single one of them are I think I would like to explore Photography a little bit nothing too serious I could start out using my cell phone camera maybe I can capture a few smiles that stop at the eyes some wrinkles in the forehead that we all get as we get older some run down buildings in the inner city I live in and I know if I look really closely you’ll see Jesus in all of it. keep writing Marilyn we really do appreciate you
Thanks, Joe! Your photo ideas sound great — you should definitely follow your instincts with that! I appreciate your thoughts you share on this blog.
Marilyn, I can’t tell you how”cool” it is to see all the comments from people all over the world! So many lives have been touched, and continuing to be, touched by you. God is Awesome!
Joe, as I read Marilyn’s posts I am so very blessed. What’s just as beautiful are people’s comments. As you expose your heart for God and us to see, I can’t help but get on my knees and thank God for the hope that is within you. Your story has certainly touched me. I lost my mom when I was 20 (30 years ago) and I still grieve from time to time. You are most definitely, not alone. What is most important is is to remember and cling to His promises. He has a plan for you:-)
Thank You Jen I appreciate that more than you know
Cool article…I felt the sentence: “I believe each person has his own gift, her own way of connecting to the creativity within.”
I love storytelling, whether in my children’s book or my comedy…I love storytelling. Writing is cathartic for me. Comedy is an awesome release. I have had to face many blocks or counter intentions. Yet, I REALLY know that comedy on a national scale is ONE of my breakthroughs. Great piece. Thank you.
Are you the KC we knew from D.C. in the mid- 90’s? Either way, I’m glad you’ve found your gifts and are dreaming big!!
Hi Marilyn. I have been reading your and Henry’s blogs for a few weeks now. I was baptized in our bathtub in our house in Randburg Johannesburg on Sunday 22 July 1993. There was a ministry conference on in Johannesburg at that time, and yourself and Henry came to my baptism with Annbrigette and Mike and one or two others. I was challenged and inspired by how you had left your homes in USA ( or was it Canada?) to come out to Africa ( I never knew all the details?!!) My memory of the Kretes was ” jogged ” again with the HK letter, and again I was challenged and inspired by the sincerity and courage in calling us all back to glorifying God. Reading your blog has again helped me remember the big picture and how God ( in whatever form we can muster at any specific time) is enough. I love how God uses us without us even knowing it……thank you for allowing yourself to be used by God, I am grateful!!!!!!! Will be praying for you and Henry!!
Wow, Michelle, that’s a blast from the past! I have hazy memories of attending a baptism with the T’s. Henry and I were leading the Pretoria group at that time, We do miss Africa so very, very much! The greater sacrifice for us was LEAVING Africa in ’94 and having to return stateside. It truly broke my heart to leave so many dear friends behind. Thanks for your encouraging comments!
“The poems were like birds, alighting each day with a leaf, a flower, a berry, a trinket.” You do have a wonderful gift with words that paint pictures and the music in their rhythms. (Mixing metaphors haha!) I’m touched on a number of levels by your writing Marilyn, thank you. 🙂
Thanks for the compliment, Emmeline. I do love writing. Hope to get back to blogging after our big move/ sale of house is over.