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Thursday, July 30, 2009

I Was a Fifth Grade Plagiarist...

...or so it was alleged. Here's the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth -- so help me God:

When I was in the fifth grade, my teacher gave my class a poetry writing assignment. When she passed out the graded assignments, my poem was not graded. Written at the top of my paper, in big red letters, were the words "SEE ME".

When I went to see her she said, "Where did you copy this from?"

I had done nothing wrong, but her accusation scared me a little. I cowered and squeaked a reply. "From my head."

"Well," she said, waving me off, "when I find this poem, you're getting an F."

That poem had indeed come from my head, but it never occured to me, until adulthood, to be flattered by the fact that she thought my poem was that good. At some point during that school year, my paper was uncerimoniously returned to me with an "A" written at the top.

A good teacher might have apologized and said, "your writing is good - maybe we should try to develop it further" or "keep writing, I think you could do something with this." Even a simple "good job" would have been nice. But my paper just appeared among a stack of papers, and no words were ever spoken about it.

It was, however, the conception of something deep inside of me that wouldn't start to spread it's wings until almost thirty years later.

(pause) - *I can't believe I'm embarrasing myself like this, but see the bottom of this post to read my 5th grade poem.*

Even though I have never loved my writing, I have always loved to write... for myself. I have always had notebooks filled with poems, short stories, and journaling shoved into the nooks and crannies around my house. What had been conceived in childhood had been growing for thirty years, but I had no intention of ever letting it leave the nest. It was for my eyes only.

But then, God got in the middle of things.

I was saved in my late twenties, and it took a few years after that, but my writing began to shift. God was filling me with stories and ideas, and I soon realized that what I was writing was no longer for my eyes only. Then fear set in. I had no idea how to write for other people.

My vocabulary was weak, my language skills clumsy. Why would God call me to do this?

But I am obedient, so I did what anyone in my position might do. I began writing a novel. Yeah, I just jumped right in the deep end, knowing I couldn't swim. If nothing else, it would prove to God that I couldn't do what He was calling me to do.

My novel was, and still is, halfway through and yes, it was REALLY bad. But it showed me something I didn't expect. There was potential there. If I could just develop this and brush up on that and fine tune a few things here and there... but how?

I had decided on a writing program, but for two years God kept closing the doors to the one I had planned to take. I used that time to study grammar and strengthen my vocabulary. At the end of that second year, God closed that same door one more time, and I began to get frustrated -- maybe God didn't really want me to write.

One night, after meeting with my writer's group at Books-A-Million, I decided to pick up a writing magazine. I grabbed a Writer's Digest and sat down right there in the store and started reading it. I came to an ad for the Christian Writer's Guild. I had never heard of it before, but I had an attack of Holy Ghost bumps that instant and knew God was telling me something.

I spent a week learning everything I could about the CWG, and in that time God opened the doors wide for me to start the writing program. Then I knew, all at once, why He had been shutting doors for two years. The secular program I had planned to attend wasn't where He wanted me. He wanted me intensly focused on Christian writing - something I would have missed in the secular program.

We've all heard the saying, "God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called." Well, that is definitely me. I am so completely a work in progress, but He is doing something amazing in me. I know because I have never been so at peace with any other task He has ever given me.

As soon as I started the Apprentice program at the CWG, I studied the scripture below during my quiet time. Anytime I become unsure of my abilities, I jump full force into this verse and I know God's got me covered:

To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. – 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

For humor purposes, here is my 5th grade poem that caused all the trouble. It's been in my head for years, and reading it written, I'm thinking my 5th grade teacher may not have been the sharpest tool in the shed.


Way up high, high in the sky
There flies a lovely butterfly

Yellow, orange, black, and red
Once a caterpillar, now has fled.

The prettiest one that you should see
Should be the one you choose for me.

But if it should fly a long, long way
We could just go outside and play

Until it returns, soon again, someday.


  1. Melissa O in DC said...

    I love this! The poem is great. Your teacher was wrong to not admit her mistake to you directly rather than just putting an A on your paper. When I read it, I see the butterflies and I hear a child's voice in my head saying the words. Keep it coming!!

  2. Vonnie said...

    *smile* Thanks for sharing this story! Isn't it great how God works in our lives?

    (tsk, tsk..for that teacher...she should have taken the time to apologize and encourage you do more!)

    I love that quote: "God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called." I hadn't heard that before. I love it...I need it.


  3. Lori Stanley Roeleveld said...

    Karen, I believe that just as the struggle of the butterfly to emerge from the cocoon gives it strength to fly, the writer's struggle to find the courage to write and give voice to what God has placed in her heart gives her the strength to her work. Thank you for your words.

  4. Stephanie Faris said...

    We're all works in progress. Even after we're published. It's frustrating to be accused of something you didn't do, though. Once in fourth grade I had a similar thing happen...the teacher wrote that it sounded like a Judy Blume book. I'd never read Judy Blume at that point.

  5. Anonymous said...

    Okay, I'm kind of freaking out after reading this post. My journey into the world of writing is oh so similar, freakishly similar actually. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being obedient to God's call in your life and being a source of encouragement for the rest of us. Your boldness and passion are very transparent when you write and it keeps me reading. Keep it up and God Bless!

  6. Jerome said...

    Your write-up is so enlightening. We know from experience that behind every cloud there is the sunshine. The same thing happened to you in your fifth grade. After seeing the dark cloud, if you had given up writing, you could not come so far.

    Please keep up the positive work you have been doing. Through writing you can reach thousands of people at a time. This is a great gift of God. So, use it well.

  7. Warren Baldwin said...

    Clicked here from Truth4TheJourney.

    This is an excellent poem for a 5th grader. Rhymes, but it also has progression of thought to it, as well.

    I made an 8th grade teacher mad with a writing assignment on "end of the summer." My point - I didn't want to return to school. In retrospect I guess the piece was pretty good - why else would he get made?

    Keep up the writing!