Faith Writers

Recently I became a member of the Faith Writers community and already I feel very encouraged. They give many opportunities to learn, grow and exchange experience between writers. Two weeks ago, I participated in their weekly Writing Challenge and wrote my first fiction (short) story since high school. The topic was “Googled” and the entry must be between 150 and 750 words long.

Here’s what I submitted–cheating a bit, because I included the suggestions for improvement that fellow Faith Writers gave in their (edifying) comments:

THE ADDICTION

The door flung open, too fast, too noisy. Jessy stumbled into the room, panting and perspiring. For a moment, she just stood there, wild-eyed, confused, not knowing what to do next.

“Hey there! I’m glad you made it. Have a seat.”

The woman in the white shirt who sat at the other side of the room welcomed her, apparently not impressed by her late and loud arrival. About twelve people in a circle stared at her– a many-headed beast that tried to pierce through her shield of shame.

Jessy walked to the only free chair available and sat down. Self-conscious, she avoided to look in those two dozen penetrating eyes. The woman in white spoke again.

“Do you want to share with us why you’re here?”

Jessy looked up, not sure who the woman had addressed. The beast was still staring at her, so she guessed the question was meant for her. Lowering her gaze again, she noticed that one of the brown floor tiles was broken and grey dust had crept into the cracks, forming a crooked finger that pointed in her direction. She wiped her sweaty hand palms at her skirt. The chair on which she was sitting, with it straight back, was uncomfortable. She shifted back and forth, trying to find a better position. The silence was heavy. The beast sat waiting, pushing her with its patience.

Finally, she whispered a hoarse, “I’m Jessy.”

“Hi Jessy,” the beast replied as with one mouth. She cleared her throat, searching for her normal voice that somehow got lost in the mess that she had made of herself. A weird smell entered her nostrils; a sharp, nasty odor–her own fear?–mixed with a delicate, sweet perfume, as from some exotic flower. Then something deep inside of her gathered her thoughts and nudged them towards her voice. She looked at the woman and opened her mouth.

“A couple of days ago, I felt a strange pain, on the left side of my neck.” Her hand went up to touch the sore spot. “My glands were all swollen. I wondered what it could be. I really tried to resist…”

The woman’s nods encouraged her to continue.

“Maybe I should throw away my computer! I managed to do without for more than a day, but yesterday, I lost it. I just had to know. So, there I was at my laptop again, all day and all night, surfing frantically from one website to another, looking up symptoms and diseases, from ‘The doctor knows’ to ‘The patient tells,’ from scientific research to quackery. At the end, I was sure that I had only a couple of weeks left to live. I panicked, preferred to kill myself right away. Somehow, I managed to drive here. I’m desperate. I don’t want this anymore.”

The woman smiled at her. A warm and understanding smile. Jessy then dared to look the beast in the face and identified human beings who radiated compassion. She suddenly realized that every person in this room knew how it feels to be dominated by forces that seem uncontrollable. There was the old lady with the friendly face–she gambled. The big guy, who drank. The beautiful girl with bulimia. The thin man in his fifties–he did drugs. Like her, they used to seek in all the wrong directions whenever they were in need of answers, ways to still the pain, or weapons to fight the fear. They tended to search their way to the light losing themselves in false solutions–devastating deceptions of darkness.

She felt the crippling shame leaving her and took a deep breath to reconquer the space that she had allowed to be occupied with lies. Then she smelled it again: the flowery fragrance, so sweet, so… heavenly. She closed her eyes while she inhaled the perfume and was permeated by a Presence; the Solution to every problem, the Answer to every question. The oppression lifted, as if a huge, sharp claw let go of her soul, her mind.

Jessy locked eyes with every single person in the circle before she admitted, free and unafraid now, “So, I guess that I want to share with you that I’m here, because I… googled.”

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Sunshine Bloggers!

SunshineAwardEaster holiday. No school for our daughter, so we can enjoy her sunny presence all day long. A spring sun brightens up our days after a rainy period. And then, some days ago, I got a message from someone I didn’t know—Mary Collins—that she had nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award! As I had no idea what this meant, I was happy to find Jo’s blog where it’s explained very well.

The Sunshine Blogger Award is a way for bloggers to get to know each other and get other bloggers to link to their website. In a way, it is a friendly, innocent kind of chain letter. Now, I never participate in chain letters, but through Word Press I’ve found so many good writers out there that too few people know. Therefore, I make an exception for this “Award”, simply to cheer on them.

If you accept the Sunshine Blogger Award, you should:
1. Thank the person who nominated you.
2. Name ten things about yourself that others might not know.
3. Pass the award on to ten other bloggers (be sure to show the Sunshine Award logo so they can use it too) and let them know you did.

So… here we go!

First of all, thank you Mary! By the way, I really like your blog where you review books that can inspire people.

Then, the ten things about me that others may not know (but I hope you would like to). Some of them important, others totally trivial—in no specific order.

  1. Since I started writing, about a year ago, the urge to write seems to grow. A day without writing seems a lost day. It’s my prayer that God gives me the ability to write those captivating words that pull people into the place where He can transform their hearts, restore their souls, and illuminate their minds.
  2. Watching my daughter dance during her hip-hop lessons fills me with joy. Actually, watching my daughter always fills me with joy, no matter what she does.
  3. I don’t like house cleaning at all; it seems such a waste of time. Thank God, we get people for dinner quite often, which gives me a good reason to clean the house regularly anyway.
  4. I miss my brother, sister, and their families. They live in the Netherlands, we’re in Italy. I pray that I can go and see them this summer.
  5. I consider it a privilege to serve God in Italy together with my husband. Over the years, we have become a great little team. It fills me with pride when I see him passionately share God’s word with the Italians.
  6. I love Italian food! My absolute favorites are spaghetti alle vongole, melanzane alla parmigiana, and Sicilian cannoli.
  7. Cappuccino–a real Italian one, of course. Can’t start the day without.
  8. When I read a good book, I get so involved in the story that I’m temporarily absent in the real world—to my husband and daughter’s chagrin.
  9. In summer, when it is very hot during the day, I get up early to walk the dogs. I would like to stay in bed a lot longer, but stepping into the delicate light of dawn and the still cool air makes up for the lack of sleep every time.
  10.  My hair isn’t really the color you see on the picture. It used to be, but now it’s grey and… I dye it (there, I said it).

My nominees for the Sunshine Award including the following bloggers, in no specific order:

  1. Wendy Jane at Seasailor https://seasailor.squarespace.com/
  2. Alisa at European Faith Missions http://europeanfaithmissions.wordpress.com/
  3. Tyanne at Lamp on a Stand http://lamponastand.com/
  4. Casey at Create-Relate-Share Jesus http://caseyprince.wordpress.com/
  5. Wendy Lee at Imperfect Superwoman http://imperfectsuperwoman.wordpress.com/
  6. Missy at Getting Real and Drawing near http://missybaroff.wordpress.com/
  7. Connie at Connie Cavanaugh’s Blog http://conniecavanaugh.wordpress.com/
  8. Debra Denis on Losin’ My Religion http://divadthatsme.com/
  9. Truth Sower at http://truthsower.wordpress.com/
  10. Last but certainly not least, Rachel at http://journeymama.com/— I’m reading one of your books right now and I love it…

The Pursuit of Happiness

HAPPINESS

Every Monday, I receive an English newsletter with links to the most important articles on Italian affairs and culture that appeared over the week in the Corriere della Sera, one of the oldest newspapers in Italy. Some time ago, between titles such as “Italian Red Tape” and “Berlusconi’s Two-year Ban Upheld”—nothing new under the sun—my eyes latched on “Italy’s Happiest Cities.”

Happy. The word alone evokes colorful images of laughing people, full of joy, at peace with themselves, loving one another, and walking into a sunny ever-after future. The Happy song by Pharrel Williams is currently topping the charts all over the world with its infectiously enjoyable melody and cheerful words. Who doesn’t want to be happy? I do! I bet you do! The people in this beautiful country called Italy do! Yet, when we ask people how they’re doing, many answer with a bleak, “Si tira avanti.” “I’m dragging myself forward.” Not the typical idea of a happy statement. Italians are unhappy with Italian politics, justice, taxes, and many are not only worried about their future and their kids, but daily struggling to make ends meet.

The title “Italy’s Happiest Cities” carried a positive note, a promise of hope. I followed the link to the article, but soon discovered it wasn’t about real happiness. Instead, it described the ihappy index.

A group of researchers, Voices from the Blogs, analyzed over forty millions of Italian messages twittered in 2013. According to the Voices, the city with the highest ihappy index in 2013 was Genoa, in the north-west of Italy, closely followed by Cagliari on the isle of Sardinia. “Un-ihappy” cities were Milan, Turin, and Naples.

To me, more interesting than these figures are the explanations. What does Italians make happy? Curious, I continued reading. The number one factor influencing ihappiness was… the weather! Italians are rather sad during the winter months, with exception of the Christmas holidays, when they twitter sheer happiness. The index jumps at the arrival of spring. The day of the week is also responsible for important variations and—surprise!—Monday tweets are the saddest of the week. In addition, the geographical position is an important factor; the more south and the closer to the sea, the brighter the tweets. Some events can also explain for variations in ihappiness, such as a new prime minister, a natural disaster, or a soccer match.

Obviously, one can question the representativeness of the Twitter medium and, therefore, the validity of the conclusions. For example, how honest are people in their tweets? Some research has indicated that people tend to be more honest when they text then when they talk. However, have you ever heard about “lies of omission”? Another relevant question is whether people using Twitter in Italy are representative for the whole nation. One website tells us that Twitter penetration in Italy is among the lowest in the world (5%).

Anyway, the Voices from the Blogs don’t pretend that their conclusions represent the entire Italian nation. They clearly state that they consider Tweet contents, nothing more, nothing less. It’s the Corriera della Sera article that suggested more than the research could offer.

Still, I’m a little disappointed about the ihappy factors, which are either trivial (weather, weekdays, soccer) or obvious (politics, disasters). I’m not saying I’m disappointed in the Italian people—actually, I’m pretty sure that Twitter happiness research in any other western country would have similar results, suggesting that our happiness depends on external factors.

But, then again, are we really talking about happiness here? Or just about a temporary glee that fades away over the weekend or pours down the drain with the next rain shower?

Now back to the article, which started with two beautiful sentences (although they misled me in thinking that the topic was real happiness):

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. The words immortalised in the United States Declaration of Independence remind us that the desire to be happy is a fundamental part of everyone’s life.

I (European) didn’t know that the pursuit of happiness was one of the pillars on which the US are founded. In fact, further research taught me that the US Declaration even states that pursuing happiness is one of the unalienable Rights (with a capital R) of every person, which their Creator provided to them. More than beautiful: wonderful. It is clear that now we are talking about more than a superficial “up” in our mood. If it is a God-given right, it must be profound and lasting.

Well, from personal experience, I can confirm.

I have lived many years as an atheist. I was convinced that I had the right to be happy. However, separated from my Creator, I was pursuing happiness from a very egocentric point of view—that is, often at the cost of other people. Furthermore, in my desperate quest for happiness, I sought in all the wrong places and I never found it! Oh yeah, I had my cheerful moments, but most of them were false highs. They did fade away and got poured down the drain. They never lasted. The pit grew deeper and the emptiness bigger, and nothing—no human love, no work, no knowledge, no holiday—could fulfill my longing.

Until I gave my life back to my Creator, and His Spirit joined with mine, filling up the void. Then I discovered what it means to be truly happy: living in the presence of the loving God, in the center of his will for my life. He gave me identity, value, and direction. He fills my life with joyful purpose. I am complete now.

You make know to me the path of life:

In your presence there is fullness of joy;

At your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

                                                           –Psalm 16:11 (ESV)


Interesting links to info about:

  • Honesty on Social Media

http://ignitechannel.com/articles/culture/are-you-more-honest-because-of-social-media/ http://www.businessinsider.com/people-are-more-honest-online-2012-12 http://www.cnet.com/news/are-people-more-honest-when-they-text/ http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-05/uom-ot051612.php

  • The use of Twitter in Italy

http://blog.tagliaerbe.com/2013/11/twitter-italia-vecchi.html http://www.forexinfo.it/twitter-in-italia-2013