This was my first-ever published writing — in the “Patterns” issue of alive now! J/F 1985. I wrote this following my mom’s last trip to Colorado before her death in 1983 from a brain tumor. This piece speaks to me today as I prepare the “Living in the Present” issue, J/F 2011.
Yesterday at the top of the Trail Ridge, I was getting really frustrated because Mom was so slow. I had to walk her to the bathroom and wait while she went and washed and dried her hands. I walked out. Dad wanted to go to the gift shop, but Mom wanted to look at the display in the visitors’ center. So I stayed with Mom.
I was so angry because I did not want to see the display — we’ve seen it so many times before — every year the very same display of stuffed tundra birds and pictures and charts. As I watched her walk around and read each display like it was the first time she had read it, it all of a sudden hit me that she might never see it again. Each trip for her could be her last.
The reading of the display, the rituals that we participate in as a family — certain things to be done (mail a postcard to Aunt Eileen from the top of Trail Ridge, read “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”), certain things to be said (“When are we gonna get there?” “Smell that cool mountain air.” “We’ll have these moments to remember.”) — all these things take on new importance as we/she lives every day as a holy one. Mom is the keeper of the ritual right now. In the participation in these family rituals, there is a combination of such pain and joy, such comfort and such vulnerability.
I’ve been so social, soextroverted(!!!) since the beginning of Advent that today felt a little odd. On this day after Epiphany, I felt sort of like — “Where’d everybody go?”
I asked my Facebook friends about life after Advent and here’s some of their collective wisdom:
Bob: Yes, most certainly!!! I think it is something about discipleship.
Micah: Yeah, it’s called Mardi Gras!!!
Pam: I on the other hand think its about sleeping… until the Annunciation wakes you up.
Debbie: Absolutely, there is life after everything!
Ann: Good question.
Lynda: There are wonderful ordinary days which are relaxing and can be spirit filled. I remember our student preacher, Rachel, say in a sermon that God can come in the ordinary days of January as much as in December when we are overwhelmed with it all. Was comforting to me to hear this since I love the quietness of Jan. and Feb.
What about you? Tell me about your life after Advent.
I’ve been “doing Advent” for several weeks — preaching, teaching, answering emails, posting comments on the website, leading workshops and Sunday school. Trying to unclutter my heart, despite having a bit too much to do.
The day I led an Advent retreat for colleagues at the General Board of Discipleship, I was sitting up front while my boss was introducing me. A photographer friend came up beside me and I moved back so she would have a better angle for her picture of my boss. In a few seconds, she moved. I moved back a bit farther. She moved again, and I moved back a few more inches. Finally, I looked at her and she mouthed to me, “I’m trying to get a picture of YOU.” We both laughed. I stopped moving.
When I shared the story with a good friend of mine, she said, “I hope you are still backing up ten years from now.” And I think that was the perfect metaphor for the writer, the servant, the person I want to be. In ten years — or twenty years — I hope I’m still backing up.
The books (The Uncluttered Heart) are being ordered. My calendar is getting full. Must be the season of preparation — for Advent. (Funny that you have to prepare to Prepare.)
We’ve launched the web site for The Uncluttered Heart. Here’s a link to it. At the web site, readers can sign up to receive communications from me during the period that they are reading the book (from Advent — November 29 — through Epiphany — January 6). People can receive a text sometime each day — with a short reminder of the focus of that day. Or they can receive an email that has that same reminder and also a photograph. If readers are so inclined, they can have a conversation about the readings at The Uncluttered Heart web site. I hope you’ll check it out.
I’ll be preaching at West End United Methodist Church on November 29 (the first Sunday in Advent). If you are in Tennessee, come and worship. Services are at 8:45 and 11:00. I’ll be doing a book signing in between.
On Tuesday, December 1, I’m leading a 1/2 day retreat at The Upper Room on the book. If you’d like to join us, you are welcome. The retreat is being opened up to the community in Nashville. We’ll follow the morning retreat with lunch and then we’ll be going out into the community to do service. Contact me or Sherry Elliott if you’d like to participate.
On Wednesday, December 9, you’ll find me at Belmont UMC for their Wednesday night gathering. Or you can join us for Sunday school at Edgehill United Methodist Church during each Sunday in Advent. Judy Smith and I will be leading the classes.
(OK — I’m tired just writing this. Pray for me, ya’ll. I may need some extra help this year to make space in my heart for the coming of the Christ child.)
Ok — It was really a vacation with a book signing thrown in. But I did get to talk about The Uncluttered Heart, pass out some cards, and have a book signing (I even signed a few books). I went to Colorado for the first couple of weeks in September. While I was there, I attended a conference that was carrying my book in the bookstore. (I think that Advent/seasonal books are a bit hard to promote like other books. I mean, who really wants to buy an Advent book in July — or September?)
For any of you who have blogs, write for newspapers or newsletters, etc., if you’d like to review the book or interview me, please shoot me an email – email@example.com. I’ve got books to send to the first 20 who contact me.
Last week the UPS truck came by my house and dropped of a box of my books, The Uncluttered Heart. It was probably best that I didn’t realize what the package was or I might have asked the delivery guy to let me get a picture. <grin>
Since then, I’ve received a beautiful, framed book cover from the Upper Room book department. And I’ve gotten a book signing lined up at SOULfeast at Lake Junaluska in July.
How strange — it’s 98 degrees today in Nashville — and I’m thinking about Advent. I guess it’s never too early to start promoting. So, in the name of shameless self-promotion — be the first to get your book from Amazon or The Upper Room Bookstore. (I’d love it, too, if you feel led to add a customer review to either The Uncluttered Heart or Child of the Light.) Thanks for celebrating with me!
Last week I got a call from my book editor, Rita Collett, who told me my book, The Uncluttered Heart, had come off the press. She had a copy of the book on her desk and I could come and visit it. So — I went for a visit, held the book in my hands, and took a picture of it. It looks great!
When a book is finished with its printing, a few copies come to the publisher. These are precious copies that go to various people and departments — the book editor, head of publishing, production (for their files), etc. The rest of the books are sent to the The Upper Room’s fulfillment center in Georgia. In the meantime, the book is put into inventory. So it’s time for a little more waiting before the book is ready to be released to the general public.
For me, it’s an exciting time — a time of gratitude and personal fulfillment. Thanks to everyone who has had a part in this birth of an Advent resource.
I work in publishing for a living, but it’s still an amazing thing to be working on a book that bears my name (The Uncluttered Heart, Upper Room Books, Fall 2009). The book will be out early this fall for use during Advent of 2009. But the production process for books is a bit long and drawn out. Here’s the journey of The Uncluttered Heart so far.
I was writing the manuscript last summer (2008).
The manuscript was due about a year ahead of its release — Fall 2008. (This is so that the marketing department can understand what the book is about and start to include information about the book in upcoming marketing pieces.)
Right before Christmas 2008, I got to see a bunch of cover designs and was given the opportunity to say which ones I liked or didn’t like. A committee made up of editors and marketing people made the final decision on the cover.
The editor of the book (Rita Collett) started working with the manuscript after the first of the year (January/February 2009).
Rita sent me a couple of rounds of the edited manuscript and questions she wanted me to address, clarifications, etc. I put my “Advent hat” on and tried to remember what I meant last summer when I first wrote those words. (I love having an editor, a person 100% committed to helping my writing be clear and valuable to future readers.)
The cover design is being finalized this month.
Before too long, when all the editing, design, and proofreading has happened, the entire project will be turned over to the production department. These talented folks pick the best printer and watch over the job as it goes through the production process. Sometime in late summer, the books will come off the press and then will start making their way to the warehouse to be available for sale by the time folks are picking out their Advent resources.