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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

"I Don't Know Where You Get This From"

It was fifteen years ago this September and I was standing in Pearson International Airport surrounded by fourteen of my closest friends and family.  The day had finally come, I was headed for Africa.

As my friends hugged me and told me they'd miss me, we cried and I wondered if I wasn't losing my mind.

Then it came to say good-bye to my Dad.  We had had some painful years between us since the loss of my mother and his wife.  Finding our way without her, my anger often found its way toward him.  But those days were behind us, I had said my apologies and we were on solid ground.

As I approached him, he opened his familiar arms and embraced me in one of his bear hugs that momentarily squeezes the air from my lungs.  Then, pulling away he put his hands on my shoulders and said, "I have no idea where you get this from".

The truth was I didn't either.  He and my mother had done very little traveling in their thirty four years together.  Six children puts a bit of a damper on the travel budget.  Not to mention my mothers fear of highways, bi-ways and most modes of transportation.

The thing that drove me to Africa was a desire to leave no page unturned, to leave no dreams left un-lived, no regrets. I was also going out of a desire to help, to save, to make a difference in peoples lives.

As I sit here, drumming up memories and spinning them together into something I hope people will want to read, I took a break and scrolled through Facebook and stared at my Dad's picture that is currently my profile picture.  It was taken the year I was born, 1972.  He had just been accepted to the Fire Department as a paid employee after being a volunteer.  I look at his kind eyes, the same colour as mine, the ones that I only had to meet for a moment when I wanted something.  He couldn't say no.

But more than just the memories of the soft hearted Dad I have been blessed to have all these years, I'm struck by something he said just a few months ago.  The doctor assigned to his case came for her first visit and she wanted to get to know him.  She asked questions about his family, his life and his career, and what gave him life.  His answer to that came quickly, 'Helping people.  If someone needs help, I want to be there'.

So Dad, fifteen years later I can give you the answer to that question in the airport.  Who do I get it from Dad?  The need to do what I believe in because I know it will help others?

I get it from you.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Just Start Writing

For the past ten or eleven years since I came back from Africa, my Dad has been encouraging me to write a book about our time in Africa.  Shaking a finger at me, hand on my shoulder, big brown eyes looking straight into mine he'd say,
'You need to write, just start, before you forget'.

'I know, I know' I would say.  But then I wouldn't.

Then my husband hopped on the bandwagon with him.  The two of them tag teaming me and cheering me on.

'You need to write, Jen.  Just start', my husband would say.

But do I have what it takes?  Do I have the stuff, the courage and the ability to write a book? Not to mention I cringe just saying it, it feels...arrogant saying I'm writing a book, or worse yet my 'memoirs' which sounds like I should be saying it while wearing a smoking jacket holding a pipe and speaking with a posh English accent.

Aside from my lacking confidence, there's also the issue that writing my story isn't just a collection of interesting monkey tales of our journey into the jungle.  There's a much bigger picture involved. What took me to Africa in the first place is a big part of the story, and the journey I was on before, during and after are all part of it.

The scary thing is that it involves not only digging into my less than 'Christian' history, but it also means putting it on paper and then hopefully getting it published.  Like letting the world read my diary.  Gulp.
I could face judgment, ridicule and more.

So why do it?

Firstly, because I feel that not only are my Dad and my husband pressing me to do it, now God is in on it too.

'Just start writing,' He said when I took my concerns and fears and doubts about this idea to Him.

Secondly because if my story speaks to even one person who feels the way I did, who's making the kind of choices I made, if it causes them to think that maybe they are worthy of so much more; the unconditional love of a saviour, then it's worth all of that risk and more.

Lastly, because I want my Dad to know that I took his advice, that I'm going to go for it and see where it leads.

So I have started to 'just write' as often as I can.  Tapping away at my keyboard as the Lord brings memories, thoughts and feelings to mind.  When I get a quiet half an hour without kids, as I sit with my Dad, I just write.

I've amassed over 5,000 words so far, a prologue and three chapters.  A drop in the bucket.

It's a daunting task to say the very least and it means revisiting some sleeping dogs that I would like to leave snoring and some painful memories that cause tears to blur my eyes as I type.

But, as I have been encouraged by my Dad, my husband and my heavenly father, I will 'just start writing'.