Tag Archives: sally stap

Life and Soap Operas

 

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Have you noticed that life is quite different from soap operas? Yet in some ways similar? Life is much less predictable. The premise of soap operas is that something will go wrong with every relationship, person, and circumstance. Happiness is built up only to be eroded by plot twists. Life can kind of be like that, but we are also more capable of learning from our life journeys.

The soap opera viewer becomes attached to characters who reach the ultimate in happiness, only to be dropped into a chasm of disappointment. Happy, content characters make the viewer feel like something is missing in life. Tragic, devastated characters make the viewer feel happy to be in real life. Soap operas are up and down. Happy scenes are filmed to provide flashbacks during trials and tribulations.

Life is also full of ups and downs. However, we seem surprised by things we don’t expect. We assume that life is fair and that we’ll always be happy. When that doesn’t happen, we are let down. Disappointment is a familiar, warm blanket of self-pity you can wrap yourself in while pouting on the couch. Burrowed into cushions and pillows kind of pouting. Ice cream out of the carton pouting. Unable to take another bite because of the sobs and tears disappointment. We fail to see that the downs allow us to grow, lessons allow us to learn, and growth allows us to put things in a better perspective.

A door left ajar on a soap opera means that someone will overhear or walk in on something that nobody wants to be known. Merely by seeing “a door ajar”, the viewer can watch the scene knowing someone is right outside that door. Life provides open doors and closed doors. We need to carefully consider the implications of any door we approach. We don’t have the viewer’s advantage of knowing when we should act or speak differently. We sometimes need reminders that God is omnipresent and sees all we do, think, and feel.

Soap opera music is predictive. It tells you, in case you couldn’t figure it out, whether the scene is happy, amorous, or tragic. When the tune changes, you know the mood will too. Life doesn’t provide a sound track. We have to find within ourselves the desire to continue despite adversity. We must reach inside ourselves and out to others at times for joy. We each make a choice to be happy or sad at times. Other times we need to accept what we feel as legitimate and process the truth.

Soap opera stories cycle with each character through similar plots and circumstances. If you watch one long enough, you will most likely find the characters in hot water just like they were five years ago. Relationships start, end, and reignite. Life takes us in cycles. We think soap operas are silly with their repetitive story lines, but we sometimes fail to see cycles in our own lives that should be broken or behaviors that we need to change. We fail to see how our attitude affect us rather than those who possibly don’t even know we’re holding a grudge.

Soap operas have a sometimes ridiculous ability to rewrite history. Characters can change from one actor to another overnight without explanation. You are supposed to not notice that the tall guy is now short; or the blonde is now a brunette. Children grow at an amazing rate. People die and come back a few years later – always with an explanation of how they didn’t really die when the world thought they did.

Life does not allow us to rewrite history. We have one life to live, seeing life’s possibilities or shortfalls. We have one body that may bring joys or trials. We need to cherish relationships and people in our lives. God is the one consistent writer in our lives, knowing that we will get through each step. He has seen the cycles of humanity. He understands them. Through grace, He still loves us and provides a guiding light through our lives. Through grace, He feels our pains and joys. Unlike characters written in a script, He has created us as real, unique, and promising people who live all the days of our lives.

The Boot…and Our Life “Boot”

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The well-worn boot had settled into an artistic display with layers of cobwebs connecting it to a nearby picture and walls. How long had it been on the shelf of the Genoa Bar, Nevada’s oldest thirst station, established in 1853? Cobwebs stretched from the boot to a poster dated 1964. Really? It had to only have been “growing” for fifty-one years of the drinking station’s one hundred sixty two year history!

A brown broken bottle sat beside it, grey with years of undisturbed dust coating it. How long had this little display been uninterrupted? With customers in and out of the business for year after year, with the tables and bar regularly wiped clean. The cobwebs been left to grow and build upon each other. How had it been viewed but never disturbed? When someone set that boot on the shelf did they know that it would sit undisturbed for over fifty years?

Who had worn that boot? Who worked hard to purchase what were perhaps their only new shoes in life? Boots that spent hours in the dust and heat of the nearby ranches? Where was its mate? What boots had followed for that cowboy; and were they as comfortable? How had that one lone boot ended up as part of a display in a western bar? And one that wasn’t a traditional cowboy boot?

How often do we leave parts of our lives, hearts, and relationships on the shelf for years without attention? How often do we become separated by those who seemed to be the other shoe? How many people have had to learn to live with one boot – symbolically in life? How many lives have been re-purposed from a hard working ranch boot to a display in a bar? That seems to be a pretty dramatic re-purpose, in my opinion.

Like that old, frozen-in-time boot, how many parts of life do we leave on the shelf for later? How often do we postpone change; avoid things that need attention; procrastinate reading a book – but instead choose to spend our time on meaningless activities? (TV or Candy Crush)

How often do we leave our relationship with God on the shelf? How often do we say, “Someday I will get around to spending more time with God and more time in His word? But tonight I’m too tired and I’ll be too rushed in the morning.”

How often do we live in our own boot without recognizing that God is in a perfectly matched boot right at our side?

On the other hand, how often do we leave things on the shelf to accumulate dust and cobwebs when they are past their useful life? What is a useful life? When should we let go of things in our lives that we continue to cling to?

The dusty boot on the shelf gave me quite a few things to think about. . . how about you? It raised more questions than it provided answers. I’ll keep pondering.

The Identity Crisis of Blogging: What is our purpose?

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How does a blog (technically the blogger) identify its audience? When is the target scope too broad or too narrow? How does each blog find its audience in the blogosphere? Some are by writers who write for other writers. Some are specific to a disease, a cause, or a population. Some are content-driven based on the mood of the writer. Some are inspirational with the blogger sharing a bit of wisdom and an observation about the world or their beliefs. I have two blogs and guest post on TheBlogPile each month. Sometimes I take a moment – or five – to think about what and why I am writing.

The first blog I established was www.smilingagainbook.com. When publishing a book, I learned the importance of social media. I learned that I needed to establish a “platform” for book exposure. So, when my book, Smiling Again: Coming Back to Life and Faith After Brain Surgery, was published, I became a reluctant blogger. Of course, it isn’t popular to write entry after entry that says “buy my book,” so I had to figure out why anyone would want to read anything I wrote. At first it was short little blips from my book, or a few lines of what I had experienced. However, after posting for a while I have established loyal readers in the Acoustic neuroma brain tumor world. I’ve found my posts keep getting longer and longer. I feel that, for this blog I have found my voice even though technically I’m breaking blog length rules. I know my purpose is contributing to the acoustic neuroma community.

My entries have gotten numerous comments from people who seemed to really benefit from what I wrote. Really? I’m blown away that anyone wants to read my writing, let alone what I, at times, consider redundant points. However, the brain tumor club welcomes unwilling members daily. There, unfortunately, is a continual flow of newly diagnosed people with questions. There are also recently treated and longtime survivors with chronic health issues. I’m not fixing anything in anyone’s life, but I’m giving people a feeling of not being alone on a tough journey.

Occasionally, people will take a bit of exception to the focus of one of my posts. It has been pointed out that what I write about isn’t limited to one type of brain tumor patient, or even to brain tumors at all. While I agree, does that mean that I should broaden my writing to more general health and life issues? My decision has been no, and hope that anyone who finds my blog and benefits from it will return regardless of their situation. If someone buys a book, that’s great, but that’s a one-time purchase. What I have gained is more than a book sale, but a connection with another person in this very impersonal and electronic world.

My second blog is www.sallystap.com, a blog I established to be “non-brain tumor stuff.” Well, okay, that is pretty broad! I write observations about life. I write about my faith in God on this more personal blog. I am not disciplined about new posts because I write when I feel like it, which is never a good deadline to give a writer. At the same time, I wonder who will find it, benefit, and why. What is my purpose in building a readership? I could say future books, but it’s actually my desire for community. When someone reads something that I wrote and gives me feedback, it makes me feel connected. If someone says, “You wrote what I feel but haven’t ever been able to put words into,” I feel accomplished. What will my voice be on this blog? Only time will tell what my purpose is with this blog.

TheBlogPile, which this post was actually written for, is “An anthology blog of Christian authors.” Several individuals post monthly, unless a month slips by here or there. We have been discussing the readership of this blog and are trying to determine a direction. Are we writing to promote writing? Are we writing to share our Christian beliefs? Or are we writing something in the hopes it will draw people to our individual blogs? We have Christian in the title but have agreed we don’t want to sound preachy – which is a word that I’m continually struggling with when determining what and how to write. What is our purpose? Which direction should we take if any different from the current one?

In the blog world we measure success by the number of subscribers and frequency of comments. There are statistics that tell us how many times a page was clicked. We get caught up in questions of value and purpose. We get more spam comments that need to be discarded than valid ones. We are willing to sort through the junk to get a few gems and affirmation back. Comments that tell us what we are writing is making a difference for even one person.

Sometimes when I get caught up in the definition of “success” as a blogger, I focus more on our purpose in life. We are here to honor God and to seek his wisdom. We are here to commune with each other and not to count statistics.

God is the blogger of the universe. He knows each one of us. He is focused on an individual relationship with each “reader.” I’m guessing he isn’t checking statistics. He’s measuring the closeness with which we hold our beliefs. He is not measuring how many trials we each face, but how we traverse them. He isn’t measuring the number of worries we have, but how well we hand them over to Him. Can you imagine how many “spam” prayers He gets? He listens for our individual heartfelt voice in the crowd, ready to make a difference in our lives.

NOTE: THEBLOGPILE is currently on hiatus, so I’ve moved the posts to here.

I am an Artist

 

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It took me a long time to say the words, “I am a writer” but once I did I was empowered. I am now experiencing the same thing with art. I recently discovered Encaustic Painting, which is working with wax. I’ve been guilty of saying, “I’m not an artist, and can’t draw, but love encaustic.” I’ve decided to correct myself. I am an artist. A beginner at the encaustic art form, but merely the act of “doing” it makes me an artist. I’m not required to be “Professional.” It isn’t necessary to be perfect to create beauty.

Encaustic painting is something I discovered last summer when visiting a friend in Rhode Island. We were wandering around art studios and a picture called out to me. No, I didn’t buy it given the huge size and price, but I was enthralled. The lady at the gallery explained to us that the artist used wax and a blow torch to melt the colors into what was a beautiful picture of frothy waves on the ocean. We wrote down the word “encaustic” because I had never heard of it and wanted to learn.

There is a perfectly good workbench in my basement I don’t do any “work” at, so I repurposed it as my encaustic bench. I ordered supplies and dove in. Encaustic is a form of art that ranges from abstract to detailed and intricate. I’m still on the abstract level and okay with that. As accomplished as I feel after completing a painting, I’m aware there is still more I don’t know than I do. I feel stretched to learn and grow; although I feel productive at the level I am at. I lose myself when I go downstairs to “paint”, which technically means melting wax in strange patterns on paper or wood. I now get what painting therapy gives to one’s soul.

I now own a couple of books, have watched numerous YouTube videos, and am in a Facebook Encaustic Art group. I am in awe of many of the paintings shared by talented and accomplished artists. I’ve even found myself brave enough – and proud enough — to share some of my fledgling pieces. The group is supportive to all skill levels and I feel welcome in the community.

I’ve learned through my painting is that a piece is never done. If I don’t like it, I merely take heat to the painting and remold the wax into a new shape. The parallel to our lives and God’s influence on who we become has not been lost on me. Once the wax is changed, it cannot go back to a previous version but is beautiful in new ways.

A picture is never completed until the artist decides it’s done — me in the case of wax and God in the case of me. Even as we are learning and growing in life, we can produce beauty at whatever skill level we find ourselves. We can know that God, as our artist, takes pride in the shape our lives take.