Sunday, August 10, 2014

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Monday, August 4, 2014

What The Future Holds

What does my future hold?
Bestselling author?
Public speaker?
Political activist?
Eccentric artist?
Quiet Christian?

Who knows the plans that God has laid out for me; I know I don't.

I do wonder though, what does my future hold. At times I feel like such a late bloomer. Life interfered with me and set my goals back further and further. Then those goals changed and new dreams emerged; and with these new dreams I feel at times bewildered and oftentimes dazed.

My writing career is slow to start. I'm not sure if there are people out there who heard of me or know about my book. Why would they take a chance on something I wrote? Why would anyone want to share it? Self doubt only makes me feel small and insignificant.

I read other blogs, at times am envious of the following they have, even though I know I shouldn't be. They are structured and efficient, but I don't like to be confined to a certain topic. To me I love speaking about whatever pops into my head. Maybe compared to other writers who have degrees, are involved with ministry, are abundant in their activities, I seem small and insignificant. In the eyes of God, though, I am never insignificant.

I wake up each morning with a smile, and sometimes a cat curled by side. After staggering down the hall and into the kitchen, I'm able to make myself a cup of coffee. I look out my window at the green grass, the full trees, and whistle good morning to my parakeets. I feed the cat and she head butts me in her loving way. Eventually my husband and son rise. Our day begins. What do we do? Who knows. Life is funny that way with us. I write a little, play on the internet, watch television, read, collect my son's school supplies together, plan out a video to produce, go to the store, take a walk, and call my mom. Each day is a variation of that list.

As I look back at that paragraph I realize this: I don't want to be a public speaker. I don't want to be a political activist. I don't want to be an eccentric artist. I don't want to be a bestselling author.

I don't want to be a quiet Christian.

And if I am not wanting to be a quiet Christian, then it's possible that God will make me one of those things on the list. Isn't it funny how our dreams, when they are realized at last, line up perfectly with God's plans?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

When It's Put Onto Your Heart

No photos for this blog. Not this time. Only words can tell this story.

Have you ever realized that through all your pomp and posturing that you have never truly forgave someone? Sure, you said you did, maybe even acted as if you did, but deep down you realized that it was a facade?

It just happened to me.

Years ago I connected with a neighboring town author. Her book was released a month after mine. When it became a free Kindle download that week of release, I was excited to read it since I didn't have the money to purchase books. The book started well--a literary look into a golden memory of an age; but, that's where it stopped for me.

I quickly disliked the character; I felt her research lacking; the symbolism at times had no literary motive.

I know about that lifestyle and the Native American history because that is my heritage. My grandmother lived it; as did my mother. I sat by their sides many a day listening to the life they had back then. My dad taught me about the prejudices against Native Americans and "half-breeds". He tried to hide his lineage because of it. I lived deep in the country most of my life and knew animal behaviour (literally had panthers in the backyard).

After reading, I didn't give the book a bad review. I likened it to To Kill a Mockingbird; but I highlighted the faults. It was not a book for me; but it was a good, secular literary work. I posted this review to my Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and account; plus, I posted it to my personal blog...just as I did all other books I read.

A week or so later the author sent me a Facebook message:
"Hi, Daphne. I just realized you were the person who has been writing such seething reviews about <book title> everywhere. Wow. Did you know...<deleted to protect author and her work>...and it is in the book to symbolize deeper literary themes. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy the book. It's not a happy read and it doesn't have a fairytale ending, so it's certainly not for everyone (nothing is). But I'm working so very hard as a debut novelist. I don't really understand your efforts to shoot down my work so broadly and viciously...especially as you're reaching out to me personally as if we're on the same side in this world. I do, however, greatly appreciate you comparing it to To Kill a of my favorite reads, so I'll just focus on that. Best of luck with your writing career my friend. Happy Sunday."

I wanted to defend myself. Even though I left college with a 4.0 GPA and excelled in literary and sociological studies, her message had me feeling like a dumb, hick-town girl.

I remained silent. I immediately defriended her. When she hit the bestseller list, I was flabbergasted. Then I learned, "top 100 free Kindle download" of the New York Times and USA Today. She claimed bestseller alright, but to me it was dubious and devious.

When I reached out to libraries, book clubs, and indie stores in nearby towns I was blocked, ignored, or declined. This author made her name not only through her book, but first through the university and through book clubs; even so far as literary magazines.

Avenues closed to me. I struggled, she soared. And I wondered...did she...?

I reached out through loops and social media to other authors, but never could make friends, but she did.

Suddenly I was the lonely, poor, nerdy girl in high school while she was the rich, popular girl with all the friends.

I told myself to ignore it and to follow God's path. I forgave her. I wished her the best. I shook the dust from my sandals...or so I thought.

When I moved to Iowa, I visited a book store. There in my face was her book! Mine nowhere to be seen, but hers made it here to Iowa. Oh, well, I'll just ignore it. Only one copy, yes? I'll make my connections.

But as I reached out to authors in this area and surrounding areas I realized, she's "friends" with them, too.

I'm never to escape her and her "message" to me.

And that was the crux.

She made me feel lowly. She holds a degree, I don't. She worked at an university, I worked retail. She has money, I don't. She...I. She...I.

I had to stop comparing myself. Yes, she hit a nerve within me, hurt me terribly.

I must remember: I'm following God's path. I do not follow the world. I follow His Word and His commandments, not the world's social norms and trends. It is Him in whom I place my trust, not another person's opinion or comment.

To heal and move forward, I learned last night that I must forgive, to truly forgive. Does she deserve it? No, but neither do I.

So to that author back in Mississippi: I forgive you--and I mean it this time. And I pray that God will bless you as you follow the path He placed before you.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Family I Left Behind

Photo courtesy of Nathan Self
One thing about leaving an area to live in another is the family you leave behind.

It isn't my extended family of cousins. It isn't my mother, who plans to follow me to Iowa, or my sister, who decided to stay, and her children or my in-laws that I feel as though I am leaving behind.

It's the family that has left before me.

Some left many years ago. A couple were recent.

Photo courtesy of Nathan Self
My grandpa, Willie Gant, died when I was three, but I have many memories of him. Although he was my mother's stepfather, Papaw Gant claimed me as his own. I was his birthday present, born on July 8th. He used to buy me presents or recondition toys he found in the junkyard. I still have the felt faced babydoll and red ceramic piggy bank. My fondest memory was when he lived outside Brandon, MS and when we went to visit, he would take me out to the chicken coop. He would open the door to the coop and in I would go to chase the chickens. With one eye on me and another on the trailer door, he let me play. Before my grandma could peek out the door, he had me back outside the coop throwing feed to the chickens. When grandma closed the door, back in I went. Papaw was the love of my life back then. About twenty years later, my grandma died. So many memories of watching baseballs games on television and betting on who would win: the Mets or the Cardinals or the Braves. Some many nights asleep on the couch listening to her conversations with my mom that lasted way into the night. Family games at the table during Thanksgiving. Watching her crochet blankets for the grandchildren to shopping with her after a doctor's visit, Grandma shared so many things in life with me. She taught me how to play rummy. She shared my love of animals. She taught me how to grow beautiful plants, although that quickly became a talent that was not mine.
Photo courtesy of Nathan Self
Although many of my cousins do not remember her, Aunt Jeanette was a woman who I thought was beautiful. Her smile was infectious. She loved my mother and often visited us while we lived in the country. Sometimes we went to visit her down in Ocean Springs, MS. It was there where I had my first dip in the ocean. I clung to my father, fearful that a shark was going to eat me (I was only four). At night I watch television while she and mom talked or watched her lamp and its mesmerizing raindrops. To this day I still look for a lamp like hers. She died when I was eight and life seemed to changed after that.

Photo courtesy of Nathan Self
My Aunt Puddin was my mother's sister, Mary Jane Davis who married my dad's uncle, Steve McGregory. Yeah, imagine explaining that to people, a great uncle who was also my uncle. Throughout my life I spent days and nights with Aunt Puddin and Uncle Steve, playing with my cousins, sneaking down the hall and peering around the corners to watch movies we shouldn't have seen. My mom and Aunt Puddin fought during their childhood and sometimes while adults, but it made our small family seem larger. She was my beloved aunt and I can still hear her voice today. One of the reasons why I dedicated my last two chapters in my devotional (30 Days: A Devotional Memoir) to her.

Photo courtesy of Nathan Self
 This was a part of my life that taught me how to live. He taught me what it meant to be loved and how to love. Although the marriage was short-lived, the mark he left on everyone's heart lives forever. My boys emulate his teachings. Jimmy was a man of God who taught much more than earthly love, he showed the world how to love as God intended...with an open heart. As a fireman, he risked his life for others and he sacrificed without thought to protect those who needed him.

Photo courtesy of Nathan Self
My dad, Gary Dennis Tutor, was more than just a dad or a husband or a brother or a son. He was the most amazing man alive. It was his love, never spoken but always shown, that kept me believing in dreams. He wanted the world for me, but to me Daddy was my world. I never wanted to disappoint him. I never wanted to be away from him. Even when I married, I was always just a hop and a skip away from him. I spent so much time around him that I grew to love the smell of motor oil and grease, the feel of sawdust, and the aroma of a newly built house. He wasn't popular or well known, but when he died the funereal home overflowed with people whose lives he touched. My dad was a simple country boy who would drop anything to help another. Life seems empty at times without him around. He taught us all so much and so many memories flood my mind that the pain of his passing sears into me; but even though I dream of him from time to time, I know that someday I will get to see him again.

As I leave the home and say goodbye to the house that my dad built from foundation up, I remember one thing. He built his dream: his family and his house. He would have wanted me to build my dream, too.

They left before me. They already said goodbye. I leave only their markers behind and look forward to a new day in a new land.

A life's journey to a dream....