David C. Hughes, Writer

“For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your JOY will be complete." –Deuteronomy 16:15

Archive for the tag “The Writing Life”

Reset (2015-10-13 Daily)

I had high hopes. Hours before my family set course for Houston that afternoon, I’d packed both notebooks, stuffed my duffel bag full of reading material, tossed in at least five pens, and threw in fourteen pages containing 47 blog post ideas with supporting material to develop. Eight days at sea! I thought joyfully. Eight days to re-embrace my writing, re-awaken my creativity, and re-ignite my passion. Eight days sitting in a lounge chair on the Lido deck between two bars and two swimming pools, surrounded by fellow revelers enjoying the tropical breezes, fruity rum drinks, and gentle Caribbean waves. “I’m a writer!” I’d declare when people asked me what I did. “I write children’s picture books and Christian inspirational material.” This is what life is all about!

I’d deliberately left my computer in its bag, tucked underneath my desk at home. Bringing enough pens and paper to last me the week, I had packed with the intention of reconnecting with the “old way” of writing—actually dragging the tip of a pen across the lines of a notebook to produce practically unreadable but blissfully fulfilling chicken scratch on the paper. I eagerly anticipated rebuilding the callous on my right middle finger and re-strengthening my wrist muscles. As we closed the garage door and prayed over the house, I looked forward to producing several fresh blog posts and maybe a short story or two while riding high on the gentle swells of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Such were my noble intentions.

Before we pulled out of the driveway, I had a pep talk with Mary and Hannah. “This vacation is an opportunity to reset,” I said, hoping I’d packed enough pens to last the entire trip. “Over the next week I’m really going to make an effort to live in the moment, like Jesus said we should do.” Lately we’d all gotten a bit . . . grumpy with each other, and I hoped this cruise—our first one, in celebration of our tenth wedding anniversary—would provide the chance to just relax and enjoy each day as it came. We’d all be on island time, after all! Little did I realize my intentions could not have been any further away from my words than Siberia is from Chile.

The moment we opened our stateroom door and stowed our bags, my duffel filled with books, journals, pens, and good intentions got tossed into the corner. And there it sat for eight days and seven nights, wilting from neglect and humidity while Mary, Hannah, and I embraced the true meaning of island time. For the first time in months, maybe years, I turned off my phone and locked it in the tiny safe until the day before we arrived back in Galveston.

Carnival Oceanside Room

I forgot about work. I forgot about home. I forgot about writing. For the first twelve hours onboard the cruise ship I caught myself pawing at my left front pocket for my cell phone, but by the second day I’d broken a habit formed since Apple invented the iPhone. And for the next week I walked around the ship and explored three foreign countries with nothing in my pocket but an empty sunglass case and a handkerchief. How freeing!

Relaxing on the Carnival Freedom

It didn’t take long to get caught up into the ship’s laissez faire atmosphere as we met new people, ate new foods, and tried new offerings from the shipboard bars. I sampled braised ox tongue for the first time (and loved it!), ate Mongolian barbecue with calamari, and devoured green eggs and ham (seriously, the eggs were green) at the Dr. Seuss breakfast for Hannah. We kissed stingrays, watched hermit crab races, and poked around ancient Mayan ruins. Mary got her jewelry fix in Cozumel, and Hannah finally got to swim with the dolphins on Grand Cayman Island. We attended a comedy show, watched a “close-up” magician pull off some amazing illusions, and learned how to make animals out of bath towels.

Towel Monkey

During our shore excursion to the San Gervasio Archeological Zone in Cozumel, we met a lady named Kathy who was traveling by herself that day. After we disembarked, we invited her to walk with our family as the tour guide herded us two-by-two down the crowded pier and through the bustling streets to the bus terminal. We spent the day with her, only saying goodbye so Mary and Hannah could explore the local jewelry shops in Puerta Maya. Later that evening we reconnected onboard. Kathy, a retired school teacher who’d been given the extra responsibility of teaching children creative writing during her career, asked me if I’d been doing any journaling about our experiences. “I haven’t written a word,” I admitted. And I hadn’t. And it sure felt . . . good.

Why good? Because I’d gotten caught up in the cruising atmosphere and had actually relaxed. I’d gotten swept up by the fun and had actually let go. I’d put aside worry and was actually immersed in living moment-by-moment. For years—no, decades!—I’d struggled with Jesus’ commands in Matthew 6, especially the clincher: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34 NIV®). Worry had almost killed me, not once, but twice. Literally. Controlling it was, therefore, essential. But even after all these years I still don’t feel like I’ve completely mastered it. I needed a reset, a shift, a concrete example of what it means to “let go and let God.” The cruise did it for me.

Thank God I’d practiced what I’d preached to my wife and daughter before we left for the trip. Thank God I’d relinquished my ninja-writing intentions and left my journals lying in the corner of the stateroom. Thank God I’d reset. Oh, and the name of our ship? It was the Carnival Freedom. Couldn’t have picked a better ship to get our cruising feet wet. Or to demonstrate Matthew 6 so profoundly. To paraphrase Katy Perry: “I let it go and I liked it.”

Carnival Freedom

 

 

Copyright © 2015 by David C Hughes

Just for Fun (2015-09-02 Daily)

I take myself way too seriously . . . .  Even though our family’s motto is “Live. Laugh. Love,” and our catch phrase is “Have fun,” it seems lately I’ve laid aside my wardrobe of mirth and frivolity and donned a straitjacket fashioned from the chainmail of solemnity. Okay, okay, dramatic overwriting aside, it appears I’ve lost touch with my inner child. While he’s out playing in the dirt somewhere, or catching toads, or throwing rocks at sparrows, the outer adult has allowed himself to be caught up in the rigidity, busyness, and gravity of the world. But what did King David say? “Through the praise of children and infants / you have established a stronghold against your enemies, / to silence the foe and the avenger” (Psalm 8:2 NIV®). And Jesus scolded the disciples when they tried to keep the people from bringing kids to Him so He could pray over them. “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,” He said, “for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14 NIV®).

So what is it about the praise of children that so effectively establishes that stronghold against the enemy? Why did Jesus say “the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these?” Children trust absolutely, yes. They laugh and romp and play, of course. But I think the real key to the kingdom is the undiminished joy of living life moment-by-moment. Joie de vivre as they say in Quebec! Or in New Orleans, Laissez les bon temps roulez! Laughter is the praise of children, and who can remain down and out when that glee pierces your heart and puts life back into proper perspective?

For years after Hannah was born I made a concerted effort to allow myself to be a kid again. I reveled in making up silly songs, loved reading kids picture books (even without Hannah being present), and looked forward to weaving brand new stories during car rides. I got down on the floor and built towns out of Lincoln Logs and skyscrapers out of Legos. We made up knock-knock jokes and corny riddles that caused Mary to snort. But over the past several months it seems my sense of fun’s been sidelined by an overdose of worldly cares, from money woes to anger about the Government’s implementation of asinine public policies to nervousness about terrorism. These petty worries have piled onto my jollity and executed an immaculate Pumphandle Powerslam. But I’m never down for the count.

While I salivated after taking delivery of my 10,000W gas powered generator, Hannah drooled over the box it came in. “Dad, can you open the box now so I can have it?” she asked. Over and over and over again. When I finally got to it, Hannah hovered around me like a fruit fly buzzing around a glass of wine.

“I may have to cut open one of the sides,” I cautioned. “The generator’s too heavy to lift out.” She whimpered a bit but watched with restrained anticipation as I popped the lid and sliced the corners of the crate.

“Wow! It’s a garage!” she exclaimed.

After I slid the 240 pound machine out of the carton and off the pallet, I carried her “garage” into the house and sicked her on it. She spent hours—no, days!—creating forts and hidey holes and various secret dwelling places with that box. Using additional material newly arrived from a furniture delivery, she built a porte cochère and tried to build a covered hallway. She even invented a lock for her door by weaving a piece of nylon rope through four holes, two on one flap, two on the other. “Try to open my door,” she called from inside her secret hideout. I grabbed the rope but the door wouldn’t open. “Now try it,” she said. I tugged the lock and the doors swung open.  She giggled in delight.

Joy, Forts

One bright cool morning I stepped onto the back porch to breathe in God’s glory and found Hannah crouched under the prickly pear, building a contraption out of cardboard and bamboo skewers. “Look at my fire pit, Dad!” she called, smiling big. “We can toast marshmallows over it when I get it done.” I told her the whole fire pit would burn up if we tried to light a fire on it, but she continued building, undeterred. Later she constructed a fort out of cholla cactus sticks, three porch chairs, and two beach towels, and spent another hour trying to coax our border collie to hang out in there with her.

Joy, Forts

Observing Hannah play opened my eyes to just how far I’d let myself drift away from joy’s center, how danged serious and depressed I’d become over the past few months. Her intensity and focus on the moment—not a millisecond before it or after it—reminded me of an experience I’d had sitting on a hard plastic bench at the mall. While Mary shopped, I parked my butt in the kids’ corral and watched Hannah, shoeless, laughing, and squealing, romp around on the squishy foam playground. Hannah and the other kids frolicked unabashed, unashamed, not caring a wit about what other people thought about them, they were just little bundles of pure joy experiencing each moment immersed in their interaction and imagination. They worshiped God by being what He created them to be—His children.

King David wrote, in Psalm 16:5-11 (NIV ®):

 

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;

    you make my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

    surely I have a delightful inheritance.

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;

    even at night my heart instructs me.

I keep my eyes always on the Lord.

    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;

    my body also will rest secure,

because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,

    nor will you let your faithful one see decay.

You make known to me the path of life;

    you will fill me with joy in your presence,

    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

 

Eternal pleasures are derived by keeping ourselves centered in God’s holy presence and living life moment-by-moment, as children do. We give Him the glory and He rains down His gladness. We immerse ourselves in His reality and He never leaves our side. We praise Him and His sovereignty and He smacks the enemy upside the head. “This day is holy to our Lord,” said Nehemiah. “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10b NIV®). Now where’d that inner child run off to? I’ve got a rubber band, a paper wad, and a toilet paper tube. Wonder what kind of trouble we can get into this time . . . .

Joy, Angel

 

 

Copyright © 2015 by David C Hughes

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