Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Evening Class by Rose McCormick Brandon

I stood at the library counter to check out a book by one of my favorite fiction authors.

“Did you know Maeve Binchy died?” the woman at the desk asked.

I hadn’t heard. As happens when favourite authors die, I felt a twinge of personal loss. No more quirky Irish characters tripping through Dublin’s streets with the threads of Maeve’s stories unwinding behind them. I expressed my regret to the librarian who was pleased to find someone to share her grief.

“I went to Dublin to visit my brother,” she said. “When I was there someone pointed out Maeve’s house to me. I saw her sitting in her study at a window that looked out on the Irish Sea.” 

A writer engaged in the business of writing – a treasured sight.

Our private memorial ended and I left the library with Binchy’s book, “Evening Class,” tucked under my arm. In the story, several unlikely Irish people enroll in a night class to learn Italian.

My reading of the book coincided with the beginning of my own evening class.

At the first class, I asked my students, “What is it that you want to write?”

Each person had a story to tell. I had expected that. What surprised me was the intense tragedy of their stories. Three of them had faced life-altering traumas. For them, the time had come to put those experiences in publishable form.

After that first evening class, sorrow for their sufferings kept me awake.

At our second meeting, students read early drafts aloud. In worshipful voices, they told of transforming experiences. Each had been to a corner of hell and found God there. They had poured their pain onto the page.

Now, they struggled to transition to the miracle phase of their stories.

Unlike Maeve Binchy’s humorous class my little gathering’s atmosphere hummed with holiness because the Writer of Redemption Stories sat at our work table.

A twenty-something wrote about a bleak night in the city’s downtown core that became a turning point. She wrote of God healing her from addictions. Her sufferings as a child would make most people turn to drink and drugs. Today, she’s sober and at peace. She wept as she read her story. The rest of us wept with her.

The intersection where our stories collide with God’s story is called Grace. Grace overlooks our dependencies, takes pity on our sufferings, reaches into the darkness that shrouds and rescues us. Grace hugs the unhuggable. Grace sees the crying child within and doesn't judge by outward behaviour. People need the grace stories my evening class is producing. Readers' hearts will ache and rejoice when they see God’s byline embedded in these stories.

If you met them, the darlings in my evening class, you wouldn't believe where they've been. You might gape as I almost did when one by one they read their stories.

Maeve Binchy's Evening Class is made up of off-beat characters who entertain me. I love the lilt of their language, their odd approach to life. But they are fictional. My evening class consists of real people who have waded through darkness, endured pain to get to the place where their God stories shine. They’re willing to relive the suffering, which is what they must do to write their stories.

Why would they willingly wade back into the sorrow? So the world will know that Jesus is still writing grace stories.

Nothing surpasses the power of the personal story to impact lives. Our testimonies begin long before we become aware of them and they will continue long after we’ve left earth . . . if we write them.
Rose McCormick Brandon is the author of four books: Promises of Home - Stories of Canada's British Home Children, One Good Word Makes all the Difference, He Loves Me Not He Loves Me (with Sandra Nunn), Vanished (with Shirley Brown). Her articles, personal experiences, short stories and devotionals are published in many periodicals in Canada, U.S. and Australia. Visit her blogs: Listening to my Hair Grow and Promises of Home (Stories of Canada's British Home Children). Purchase her books at her website, Writing from he Heart.
Contact Rose McCormick Brandon at rosembrandon@yahoo.ca



Peter Black said...

Love it! Thanks Rose. I read this with an increasingly uplifted heart and raised gaze.
Grace . . . it's such a charming sound. Sorrow turned to joy. Tears of suffering and trauma transmogrified by grace into tears of gratitude.~~+~~

Linda Jonasson said...

Great post, Rose! I love Maeve Binchy and one of my favourites is Evening Class. Glad to hear that you have your own evening class. It sounds like you have the makings of some future authors!

Rose McCormick Brandon said...

Thank you Peter. Teaching this writing class was a special joy for me. You know, sometimes we're going about our normal everyday lives, and we land in a place where God's presence surprises us. That's how this evening class was for me.

David Kitz said...

Wow what a wonderful post, Rose. I was blessed by His grace!

fudge4ever said...

The world needs to hear more of these kinds of stories!
Pam Mytroen

Erin Unger said...

What a beautiful post! I'm so thankful for God's grace.

Rose McCormick Brandon said...

Writing the stories of God's grace is an important mission. We can tell our stories - but the memory of our telling won't last too long after we're gone from the planet. If we write our stories and get them into the hands of others, they will last for a few generations. In telling our grace stories, we're telling His story.

Kathleen Gibson said...

Rose...thank you for this affirmation of something I also find -- that in the telling of the human story, we click the shutter on grace. You are a consummate story-teller yourself, and your students are blessed to sit under you.

Glynis said...

"Why would they willingly wade back into the sorrow? So the world will know that Jesus is still writing grace stories." I love these lines. So meaningful, just like this entire post, Rose. Lovely and honouring to writer, reader and, ultimately, the One who gives grace. Well done.

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