Short, sweet, and to the point. Very German, some would say. And I expect they would be right. Mary Catherine was my maternal grandmother, and had been Grandfather Rilling’s helpmate and companion for nearly 30 years at the time of this writing. Not to mention the mother of his three children. Talk about dedicated! Doesn’t she deserve more than a “To Mary Catherine”?
It was his way, and their way. Not effervescent, not ebullient, not over-flowing, but spare. And what they had, they gave first to the church. Not only Dr. Rilling but also his wife. I imagine the life of the wife of a pastor would be spent at functions and entertaining guests, keeping the kids quiet because “father is working” and generally managing the household so he could attend to “bigger” things.
How different those times were 🙂 When women’s rights debates hadn’t set us to quarreling about the harder task, the bigger contribution, the working in or out of the home. But this dedication, to his wife, certainly signifies to whom – apart from God – he felt indebted.
These days, book dedications are generally more than a name; they are accompanied by a description or a reason why this (or these) were foundational or inspirational or set the tone for the writing of this book. Today there is enumeration that books of that day didn’t have, not because it wasn’t deserved, but because it wasn’t the practice. The name was enough.
And so, as I enter this book, I take this under advisement. It is is my tendency to look through the eyes of my own age and evaluate according to the standards of my day. I want to read, “to My Sweet MC” … “who supported me completely” or “whose dedication to our family has ….”.
Looking back through my “today” eyes, I might be dismissive and prone to judge unfairly. I can hardly help myself because, after all, I do bring me with me whenever I read. And with me comes what I know, what I’ve done, whom I’ve met, what I’ve heard and read, what I’ve been taught and the many layers of cultural biases of my day and age. I don’t apologize for this. But I must recognize it and try to suspend it, or at least apply it responsibly.
Was Dr. Rilling being dismissive to dedicate such a book, the collection of his lifelong work, just “To MARY CATHERINE”? I don’t think so. As I look back into his time, through softened lenses, I read the dedication more like the simple card you attach to a beautifully wrapped gift. Dear Mary Catherine, this is for you.
And so it is with gift cards. I just needed to look at this one through the eyes of love, which seek to understand by standing for a moment in the other one’s shoes. Big shoes, these would have been. Plenty of room for me, the little girl trying on Grandpa’s big wingtips, clonking and stumbling about just trying to keep my balance.
That I hope to do as I advance through these pages.
On the 13th of January, my book was released. It’s titled, Fit2Finish: Keeping Your Soccer Players in the Game. No, I didn’t self publish. There is actually a publisher out there who believed in me and believed in my message enough to work with me to get this into print. Thank you, Morgan James, Publishing, for getting it into stores and into e-format so people can take a look at my work and decide for themselves whether it’s worth buying.
Here’s the KC part: when you publish a book, people are really happy for you. They congratulate you on your accomplishment, celebrate you on Facebook and Twitter and generally make a big deal about you.
“It must feel good,” they say, “to have arrived!”
And for a moment, it does. The moment when you open your box of shiny new books and look at your name on the cover, it feels very satisfying. But then the delivery truck arrives with the cases and cases of books needing selling. You thank the nice man who helped hoist your crate into your garage. You thank the kind neighbor who helped form the brigade to heave the cartons into your basement. You stack them neatly out of the way, waiting for the orders to roll in, so these books can go flying out the door!
But they don’t, because who knows about them? Who knows you? Who are you anyway?
When the glitter fades you are left seated on the throne of your unsold books, or perhaps buried by that very pile of books. The ones that were meant to be your “contribution to the world!” your “gift to all those families” the “saving grace for all those kids.”
Well-wishers glance in your direction and smile. “Good luck,” they say, as they depart for more important things and to attend to more pressing matters. They don’t say but I hear, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill.” (James 2:16)* The words spoken to a brother or sister in need who lacks the necessities of life, while (we) go along (our) way, failing to supply it.
Faith doesn’t work without the works.
How very poignant this message is to me now. My dearest of friends – the ones who truly believe in me – show me their faith, not with casual mentions or polite congratulations, but by showing up and sharing the work. They have purchased books, shared them with friends, connected me with resources, and generally spread the good word.
I am responsible for that book. Inspired by my friends’ belief, I continue to work for the good of those who are dearly loved by the One who inclined me to write the book. Sale or no sale, He still gets His word in edgewise. “Don’t let up. This is My work you are doing.”
Faith in your story isn’t enough. You have to be out there telling it. Books don’t sell themselves, you know!
*God-nod: I was inclined to share the idea of this post but I couldn’t quite recall where the Bible story was. I opened my copy of The Upper Room this morning, and there was the verse, inspiring a powerful meditation by another author.
I tell people, actually my daughter does, that I am writing a book. (That’s her way of being proud of me.) People are usually interested in this. I/we get several responses:
- Oh, what you are writing about?
- Oh, can I read it?
- Oh, can we be the first in line to buy it? (ah, Shangri-La!)
But very often I get the response, “Oh, I would like to write a book.” I’m never quite sure how to respond to that. I think people have expertise they’d like to pass along or a story they’d like to tell. Perhaps all of us have this compulsion in some form or other. But what enamors us about writing a book? And indeed, what puts the stars in our eyes? The endpoint, seeing my words and my story in print, is indeed a tempting and lofty goal. But writing it…that’s the hurdle.
The first thing I want to say to them is, oh, are you a writer? By this I probably mean ‘have you been published.’ I stop short of saying ‘are you a writer, too?’ Because me, I am just learning to write. I wonder which comes first, the learning or the writing nature?
These interactions remind me a bit of the goal-setting sessions I had with my new little travel soccer players. (10 years old or so) The most enthusiastic and confident would say, “My goal is to score 3 goals (or more) per game.” Now, our team only scored 2 goals the whole game – on very good days – so I stifled the grin and said, “Wow. That would be great. What would you need to work on to do that?”
And that’s the issue with writing a book. First, one must learn the skill. And see if it’s fun, inspiring, or at least attracts you to the task. See if others connect with what you write. And even then, to stay the course is hard. As Lois Lowry said to her child audience in a webinar I heard yesterday, “It takes a long time to write a book.” And she is a gifted, gifted writer with an amazing imagination and 40-some published books.
When people tell me they’d like to write a book, I know it’s like little Sierra who wanted to score 3 goals per game. They have a dream and call it a goal. Even when it’s specific, measurable, reachable, etc. ….one still must slug through the steps toward it. And they are hard. We’re not good at them yet. And even when we get better, there are no guarantees.
We humans like to skip to the happy ending. Let me just jump right to Easter and skip all that Good Friday stuff. Scourging and flogging and crucifying? Pfft. Who needs it?
We do. We need to sit in the hard stuff. Work out the kinks. Negotiate with the difficult people – even and especially when they are us. We need the Passion before the Resurrection. Because in it, we discover the power in us: the ability, the aptitude, the strength of character. Perhaps it’s mostly the fortitude – enduring the daily grind and the perspective it offers. The view of the dirt at our feet as we step.
I am getting to know the protagonist in my story. We are becoming friends, perhaps closer than friends. Perhaps she is my daughter and all the daughters I have adopted along the way. It is to them I write this story. For them. Perhaps one day it will be a book.