Sunday, March 02, 2008

8 years of LFH

Tomorrow morning I need to get up early and finish up my Letter from Harrisburg column for March. Yes, it should technically have been done on Friday, the end of the month, but my editor is nice about letting me send it in on the first of the month or after the weekend.

I just realized I have been writing this column for 8 years now.

It has been quite a journey--surprising, gratifying, humbling, and frustrating. And fun.

I still put off writing it to the last minute, and then kick myself for not starting two weeks earlier. I still threaten to myself and everyone who will listen that I am just going to QUIT. I mean this is just TORTURE to come up with something to write about and then to sit here and squeeze words out my fingers onto the keyboard and into the computer by the hour and I've had ENOUGH and I've said everything there is to say and it's time I QUIT.

And then suddenly I'm done, and I hit "send" and feel euphoric, and then when I see my name in print and know that theoretically 100,000 people could read this, I just glow with pride and gratification. And when I get fan mail, I am so vain you don't want to live with me.

The column has branched out to two books, numerous email forwards, and monthly speaking engagements.

Many times I am asked how I ever got started, and I always say, "Well, it was a God thing." Because it was.

If you were looking for a columnist for Eugene, Oregon, one of the most left-leaning, unorthodox, unchurched cities in the country, you simply would not go looking among the Mennonite grass fields of Harrisburg for a conservative non-political minister's wife with a bunch of children.

That winter I had impulsively sent in a story for the Register-Guard's weekly "Write On" feature, where anyone in the community can contribute, and they actually printed it. I sent a copy to my friend Ilva, who had been after me for years to do more writing. Ilva wrote to the editor the equivalent of, "This was really good and you should feature this writer regularly." The editor "happened" to be a new guy who was looking for some new material, and he read Ilva's letter and decided to call me up and ask if I'd write once a month.

So that was that. Despite my monthly threats to just quit, I figure I'll keep this up until God closes the door. Which could be any time, really, freelance columnists being expendable at an editor's whim.

Meanwhile, I have to get up in the morning and crank out another 600 words, and you won't want to be in my way, and in my mind I will threaten to just QUIT, and if God's mercy extends to me once again the words will squeeze out one by one and I will hit the send button and breathe that indescribable sigh of relief.

Quote of the Day:
"You have come into my house on many Sunday mornings. You don't know me, but I know you. I have felt a connection to you for years. I grew up in Oregon and attended rural schools. I remember going to Harrisburg to play my clarinet when I was in elementary school. I remember our sports teams playing in Harrisburg sometimes when I was in high school."
--"Carole", in a typical fan letter


  1. For all those times you thought of quitting, thanks for not following through. I appreciate your commitment to continue with the "dreaded' task, even though I think you really do enjoy it!1 I know I always look forward to reading the column, and I'm sure there are many others who feel the same way.
    God bless you and your family (even when they need to tread softly)!!

  2. Well, anonymous, I just sent off the column 5 minutes ago, and I realized I enjoyed the last half hour of the process, when things finally jelled.

  3. There'd be an outcry if you quit or got "canned". So I'm glad you haven't.

    I hope the event to help Kenyans went well. We were already committed elsewhere on the weekend, but I appreciated the info.

    And thanks again for speaking to my class. :o)

  4. Oh please don't quit....I've come to depend on you. You have become a friend although we haven't met in person. As to Eugene being "unchurched", perhaps it is, but a year and a half ago we moved from Florence to be nearer the church we were attending in Eugene; driving 130 miles round trip most Sundays. You are an important part of the culture of Eugene!

  5. Dear, dear Dorcas... I thank God for you. I feel like crying and it is all for the good reasons that women and friends cry, too. And besides I don't need a good reason to cry. BUT, I have had enormous joy and satisfaction from cheering you on from afar, hearing of your success, your's just been wonderful. Just the bit of writing I've done.. I have a taste of the grind and gristle that goes into such projects...but it is worth it. Come for a cup of something so we can chat.~ Ilva

  6. I had no idea my mom had her hand in this. We are both proud of you, I think! I'm glad you do it; we all benefit from it.