Lonely in Church

Countless people feel trapped and lonely in church. I felt that way in a spiritually vibrant mega church of over 3,000. Though I knew that Jesus accepted imperfect me, I struggled to meet church expectations. My need for acceptance and belonging propelled me into a never-good-enough mentality that warped my relationship with Jesus and the people I cared about.

Many struggling believers with similar experiences are leaving church reluctant to return, yet desiring community and closeness with God. Others forsake their faith in church resolving never to return. Some even forsake their faith in God. These are the people to whom I tell my story.

The book I have written is an uncommon coming of age tale about an agnostic Jewish woman who, though so withdrawn as a child her parents thought she might be autistic, finds a voice in Jesus Christ.


A New Rhythm

At the age of 19, bored and broke after five months in England,  I enrolled at Laney Community College as a Communication Graphics major. And because we had a piano — my stepfather’s old upright piano moved in with him–I also took a piano class. At the time, I didn’t know that my piano teacher was one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s most prominent musicians and recording artists, and it probably wouldn’t have much mattered if I had. Mr. Edwin Kelly wrapped his arms around me as mentor and friend and in doing so, launched a lonely young woman into one of the most significant times in my life.

When Ed placed his big, broad, hands onto the keyboard, his fingers produced a smooth and syncopated sound that made something in me come alive. Jazz!

My world soon  revolved around the college music crowd, the rich subculture of jazz. I had new friends, people who shared my passion for music, people I looked up to. My new friends taught me how to feel the music. They taught me how to relax and let rhythms carry me like a wave. They taught me how to move away from the written note, to improvise, to take chances with new sound.

Learning to relax with the rhythms of my life would be a much greater challenge in the years to come.

When Love Hurts

Five years ago today, Skyler, my first Westie, turned 15.  Three days from today five years ago, he slipped into doggie heaven where forever he happily lifts his leg on every upright object, pushes basketball and soccer balls with his nose, attacks heavenly dishwashers, and romps with his buddies. I like to think that he might even rest upon Genevieve’s heavenly lap.

I sure do miss them both. My friend, Genevieve, died seven years ago. She was much too young, vibrant, and important to have died prematurely of a rare and violent cancer. To lose a beloved friend, whether human or pet, leaves within my heart, a throbbing emptiness.

Sure, I make new friends, but I miss the old. Even though other precious friends fill me in their own unique ways, they do not fill the place that Genevieve left. Even though I adore my new Westie, he is not Skyler.

Had I known in advance the pain love brings, would I still love? Yes! Didn’t Lord Tenneyson, the poet, say something along the line of “I’d rather love and loose than to never love at all”?  To me, the grieving, the unavoidable grieving that accompanies love is worth the loving.

What about God?

Is the grieving worth the loving to God? Does he grieve when those he loves leave him? Even though other precious people fill his heart in their own unique ways, do they fill the place created for someone else? Hmm, that’s big. But then, so is God.

So is love.

Me and Skyler at 14 years old.

Wanna Be Writer (repost)

In all the books I’ve ever read about writing, real writers establish a regular writing time and place. And during this time, in this place, they write. They don’t read email, organize files, research, or stare at a blank screen. They write.

I consider myself a real writer. I have a regular time and place to write. Mornings work best for me, usually after my quiet time and first cup of coffee. I’ve tried to write upon awakening, but that venture is entirely too ambitious. Thinking first thing in the morning gives me a headache. If you knew me or ever saw me first thing in the morning, you would know exactly what I’m talking about. You would feel sorry for me. Marsha in the morning is not a pretty sight. But give me an hour of silence and coffee, and viola, I’m ready to sit down at my computer.

Here in my little family room, sun rising, dogs snoozing, coffee reheated, I write. Whether good or lousy writing, for the next few hours, thoughts become words on a computer screen. During this time, I will take a break to watch the Dog Whisperer, grab a snack or a cup of tea, throw in a load of laundry, then return to writing. My dishes and dusting, husband, children, and dogs are neglected, but I have accomplished something great. I said it. Whatever it is, I said it. 

Now to confess. It doesn’t always happen that way. Some mornings, migraine-headache pain suffocates my creativity. Some mornings, I have other obligations like appointments and my paying job. Then there is the unexpected minor emergency: a family crisis, an unplanned doctor appointment, someone at the door, the dryer buzzes mid thought, fleas. One little thing after another knocks my good intentions into the afternoon or the next day.

So, just like you, I don’t always stick to my schedule. Or maybe you do stick to your schedule. Maybe you are a real writer. Maybe I just call myself a real writer but in all honesty and in spite of writing 66,000+ words/five drafts/seven years intergrating general life into my writing life, I’ve gotta admit that I’m really just a wannabe.

The Job of Writing

“Finding an agent is just like looking for a job…It’s better to sign with the right agent then to just sign with the first interested one because it’s stressful to not have an agent. A good agent is worth the wait and a bad agent is worse than not having one”
 Margo Candela From interview by awalls (Word Hustler).
 I love this quote because it validates not only my writing, but also every step I take towards becoming a career writer (writing, research, rewriting, establishing a book-support team, rewriting, building a platform, honing my public-speaking skills, rewriting, talking about myself and my book to strangers, explaining to my husband why I spend so much time and emotion on an endeavor that isn’t earning a wage, seeking an agent, rewriting, and etc.).
So, even though my writing is not generating an income, I approach writing like a paying job. Actually, right now, I’m the one who is paying. I’m paying my dues like artists before me.
 Writing gets lonely sometimes, especially when people whose opinions matter don’t quite “get it.” Never-the-less, whether people “get it” or not, I am compelled to keep on writing. My agent is out there and I look forward to meeting him/her someday. Meanwhile, I keep on writing, rewriting, etc.
Thank you Margo Candela!


A Book is Born: Gestation

I’m gestating. Obviously at 58, I’m not pregnant in the usual way, but something living grows within me. An idea, conceived as a five-page essay in a college writing class, has taken on a life of its own. Since that writing class, the idea has developed into a 200-page (and growing) story that fills my waking hours and comes to bed with me at night. It moves. It kicks. It goads me. It invigorates and exhausts me. I cannot escape it. Nor do I want to.


Last night, fireworks freaked Beeker out for the first time in his five-year-old life. I was already asleep when Jerry opened the bedroom door and a frantic Westie clawed his way up into my bed. His heart was beating rapidly and hard. Normally, a brave and  independent fellow who prefers sleeping in his crate to sharing my bed, he slept by my side for the remainder of the night.

Fireworks had never bothered him before, so what was different about last night? Maybe some neighbors threw those obnoxious, illegal bottle rockets. My first Westie, Skyler, was fine with fireworks until the neighbor boys set bottle rockets off near his kennel one day before the 4th of July. After that incident, Skyler became a total weenie whenever a firework went off. The day I knew he was deaf was the day he looked at me unflinchingly and wagged his tail as a firecracker exploded in a nearby yard. Unaware that the thing he feared surrounded him, he existed contentedly to his quiet world.

Sometimes, we human types turn a deaf ear to a reality that threatens our contented place; i.e., we pretend an uncomfortable or scary thing or situation does not exist even though we know it exists – a rich dessert when your cholesterol is dangerously high, a drink before driving, sharing your faith, that push he gave you, sex without commitment, ignoring a religious leader’s sin.

Think about it. Is there something you are willing to ignore because you don’t want to loose your contented place? I know that struggle. I have plugged my conscience with proverbial earplugs upon numerous occasions. Like my normally brave and independent Westie, I can be a weenie when the firecrackers go off. But I want to be strong and courageous in the Lord Jesus Christ!

Do you want to be strong and courageous? Take out those earplugs and face those fireworks in 2011.