Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Joy Of Poetry: Interview with Elizabeth Tero

Do You Love Me?

My Child, do you love Me?
And love Me more than these?
Than all the treasures of this world;
Would from its pleasures flee?

My Child, do you love Me?
Do your relationships
Hold more sway than yours and Mine, 
Cause you away to slip?

My Child, do you love Me?
And would you give them all?
Would you lay them down at My feet,
From your hands let them fall?
My Child, do you love Me?
More than your money's gleam?
More than the things that it can buy,
More than luxury's dream?

My Child, do you love Me?
Are you willing to see
That things may harm, pull you away;
Would you surrendered be?

My Child, do you love Me?
Would you turn from your play?
Turn away from the empty hours
That fill you day by day?

My Child, do you love Me?
Would you give it all up?
Would you trade the world and it's whims,
Drink from Surrender's cup?

My Child, do you love Me?
And love Me more than these?
Would you surrender all the world,
And lose yourself in Me?

~Elizabeth Tero~
August 2, 2015

Poetry is one of the most beautiful forms of language God has given us, which is why I'm thrilled to have my friend, and the craftswoman of the above poem, Elizabeth Tero, join us! In addition to being a gifted poet, Elizabeth is also the owner of SparrowFall Designs, where she provides elegant pen and ink artwork, cards, stationary and much more. Elizabeth, welcome to Honey Rock Hills today!

(Kenzi) First question out of the bag is how long have you been writing poetry?

(Elizabeth) I've been writing poetry for almost thirteen years, but interestingly enough, I didn't even know I wrote more than a scrap or two until about three years ago!

(Kenzi) What are some of the lessons the Lord has taught you through your poetry?

(Elizabeth) I think the main lesson God has taught me (and I'm still learning!) is humility – true humility, not a put on humility that's just my words, but one that's found in my heart as well. The two main areas God has used to teach me humility was in receiving critiques or criticism, and in sharing my poetry.

1) Receiving critiques or criticism – I've had to learn that just because someone says something “against” my work, something that is not  absolutely favorable, or something that hurts, does NOT mean they are attacking me and/or my writings. They are trying to help, and, generally, I have asked them to. If I am not willing to hear or don't really want an honest critique, I should not ask. My hurt has almost always been directly related to pride, whether in my writing ability or my knowledge, both things which I have no claim to.

2) Sharing my poetry – For the longest time I really struggled with sharing my writings. I was afraid they weren't good enough, that people wouldn't appreciate or like them, etc. Any reason I had for not sharing was, again, pride related. God impressed on my heart, though, that He didn't give me this gift just for me, but to help encourage and challenge other Christians. And then, once I did begin sharing, realizing that I must still give all glory to God and remember that I am but a pen in the Hand of the Writer.

(Kenzi) Those are such great lessons for all of us! So what does taking a thought from prose to poetry look like for you? Do you have a “process” you usually follow or does it happen differently with each poem?

(Elizabeth) You know, I don't really have a process or system, other than just starting to write and fitting things to meter! It generally happens in three different ways. Some seem to just flow and I'll hardly be able to get the words down before they escape me, some I have to work hard for: write, scratch, rewrite, re-scratch, move this, switch that, set this aside until later, “What's that word?!”, “Ah!!! I'll never get this one to say it right!”, etc., and some are in between! :)

(Kenzi) As a writer, I can relate to that part of "wordsmithing". :) Let’s talk about your poems. What are your favorite topics to write poems about and why?

(Elizabeth) It's actually not often that I choose a topic. Often my poems just start flowing into my head, or are the result of an interesting point made, one of my random thought processes, or, most often, what God is teaching me. If you look at my poems, it would seem that my favorite topic is surrender! ;) Why? I don't really know the absolute 'why' I write on most of my topics... sometimes it's because it is heavy on my heart, sometimes it is because people will relate to poems written from experience... it really doesn't matter. If God begins giving me a poem, I write! :)

(Kenzi) Every form of writing has its own unique joys and challenges. What part about writing poetry do you especially enjoy and what part do you find most challenging? 

(Elizabeth) I think the thing I enjoy most about poetry is having the possibility of enabling people to think about things from a different perspective, putting a spin on something that seems commonplace or exhausted. I also find great pleasure in being able to say something just the way I envisioned it. The challenge? Having this exciting, different thought, knowing the gist of what I want to say, but not being able to make it fit right in rhythm and rhyme. Those I sometimes have to work especially hard for. I have poems that are three to seven years old that I'll pull out, work on for a bit, and then put them away again to work on later. It can be frustrating, but in the end, it's very rewarding!

(Kenzi) I love the balance your poetry has with its rhythm and rhyme! How do you find the words that express what you want to say, but also rhyme so beautifully?

(Elizabeth) I honestly don't have an answer for that. I really believe it is a gift, because so often, I'll step back from a finished poems and think, “I wrote that?!” God just seems to give me the words. Even the hard ones, because even though I work on them, in the end I'm not exactly sure how I ended up saying what I said. Sometimes I write things that I don't understand, and other people are saying “Wow! What a deep truth!”. That can't be me or my ability... I don't even know what I wrote!

From the technical side, sometimes I have to switch the sentence structure around to put a different word in the rhyming position, or, using a Thesaurus, completely change the word, but keep the meaning.

(Kenzi) Obviously creating beautiful, flowing poetry is a gift from God, but I’m curious if there was anything while you were growing up that sharpened your poetic abilities? Also, do you have any resources you would recommend to a budding poet?

(Elizabeth) When I first began writing, it appeared to be mostly prose style, though looking back, it was more like a string of thought, placed in a poetry form with one or two lines rhyming here and there, or most things rhyming, but had lines that didn't rhyme and stuck out oddly. The rhythm also was stilted. I honestly saw nothing wrong with how I wrote, and was defensive and balked against people's suggestions, because in my head I could create a rhythm and the thoughts made sense. Then, three years ago, a friend came and visited for a couple of weeks. Somehow we got onto the topic of poetry and I made the comment that I had “written a couple”. She asked to see them, so I went and dug them out (and in the process found a total of thirty or forty poems). She looked over them and began pointing out things to change, the two main suggestions being consistent rhyming and meter. Applying those two things completely revolutionized my poetry. 

Resources: I would highly recommend getting both a good thesaurus and rhyming dictionary. Then (though more along the lines of materials and not resources) I would suggest using pen and paper. Why? Okay, so yes, a pencil may work just as well, or even typing it up on the computer. However, with a pen you cannot erase. With both a pencil and a computer, once you erase something, it's pretty much lost forever. With a pen, all you can do is scratch it out, and, while messy, it's always there if you change your mind. Trust me, you won't regret it. Really and truly.

(Kenzi) As you look back over the years you've been writing is there one habit, lesson, or decision that has helped you the most as a poet? And while we’re in hindsight, is anything you wish you would have done differently (started writing earlier, studied poetry more, had more examples, etc.)?

(Elizabeth) Probably the habit that has helped me the most is counting meter. Look here (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meter_(hymn)) for more information on meter. 

Making the decision to let people read my poetry and voice their feedback has also definitely helped. I find the more I keep the past suggestions in mind, the less I have “wrong” in my future pieces. I wish that I would have been more open to receiving suggestions and critique earlier.

(Kenzi) Something else I enjoy about your poems is their titles. What helps you choose such appropriate titles for your poems?

(Elizabeth) I'll sometimes take the first line or see if the poem has one thought that it points to or especially emphasizes. Every once in a while, an entire poem will be built around a thought that ends up being my title!

(Kenzi) We all know that there is a very in-depth technical side to poetry. Our goal is not to tread into those deep waters today, but could you give us a few of the fundamentals of poetry that a beginning poet should keep in mind?

(Elizabeth) Be consistent – if you write free verse, makes sure it remains free verse throughout the entire poem; if you are rhyming, stick to rhyming throughout the whole thing. Don't float between the two! Trust me when I say it doesn't work! Been there, done that! :)

(Kenzi) What defines success for you as a poet?

(Elizabeth) You know, I never really thought of 'success' and 'poetry' going together for me, but when I began sharing my poetry, I found that, for me, success was when people said,  “I needed to hear that.”, “I never thought of it that way; that helped!”, “Wow! That challenged me!”. Success to me, I have come to realize, is seeing God use my poetry to accomplish what I feel His purpose for them is. I have been amazed and humbled by people's responses, and seeing that, if I let Him, God really can use this gift for His glory! Maybe I could make money as a poet – I don't know – but even if I could, I don't think it would make me feel any more successful as a poet, honestly. A poet is successful as a poet because they write poetry, not because they make money.

(Kenzi) A thirteen year old young lady comes up to you and says, “I think God is calling me to write poetry.” What would be the most important advice you would give her?

(Elizabeth) Oh, wow! There could be so much to say here!

1- Be willing to let other people help you. Be open to their suggestions and critiques.

2 – Be humble. God gave you the mind to think and process, the ability to function and write; please don't give yourself the credit!

3 – Know that just because you can write about something well, does not mean you have fully grasped it. Also, realize that things you write may come back and slap you... and, no, you cannot go back and destroy it to make you feel better! :)

Fun Questions :)

(Kenzi) What are a few of your favorite things when you’re not writing poetry?

(Elizabeth) Singing!!! I LOVE to sing! :) Reading, composing, spending time with family and friends, walking and/or observing nature are just a few other things I enjoy.

(Kenzi) Could you share with us how your salvation testimony?

(Elizabeth) I made a profession of faith when I was six years old. Everything was fine for awhile, but then I began to really struggle in my middle teens with doubts about my salvation that continued into my late teens. All my struggles were about my feelings: I didn't feel like a Christian, I didn't feel God working in my life, I felt like a failure, I felt defeated... but then God showed me that it wasn't about what I did or how I felt. It rested on what He did for me, and me placing my faith on that. I finally rested on God's word and His promises and I have come to know such a peace that I had not known for years! Truly, our God is a wonderful Savior!!!

(Kenzi) Life verse and why?

(Elizabeth) I don't have a particular life verse, but probably the most prominent verse in my life would be Isaiah 26:3. God has used it in my life so much; it is applicable to so many areas!

(Kenzi) Tea or coffee drinker?

(Elizabeth) Oh, definitely tea!

(Kenzi) A perfect day for Elizabeth Tero would be...

(Elizabeth) One without over-thinking everything! :)

(Kenzi) Favorite historical era?

(Elizabeth) Hm... Medieval, the Victorian era, Pioneer times...

(Kenzi) Favorite poems or poets?

(Elizabeth)  Hm... not really any poems. There is an excerpt from one that has impacted me.

A little kingdom I possess,
Where thoughts and feelings dwell,
And very hard the task I find
Of governing it well.

I do not ask for any crown
But that which all may win;
Nor try to conquer any world
Except the one within.
~Louisa May Alcott

Poet – I haven't actually read a lot of poetry, but I love old hymns. Francis Ridley Havergal, Fanny Crosby, and Charles Wesley are among my favorites.

(Kenzi) If you change one thing about the world what would it be?

(Elizabeth) Violence – I tend to try to be a peace maker, and my heart hurts when I see all the pain and suffering inflicted on people by fellow mankind. I know Jesus is the only answer and it leads me to pray for my people all the more.

(Kenzi) It's been a joy chatting with you, Elizabeth! Thanks so much for sharing about this beautiful writing form! Any thoughts you would like to share in closing?

(Elizabeth) Remember that we are commanded to do all for the glory of God. You will be the only one who truly knows if you are honestly writing for God's glory or not. The heart behind your writing is what it is – not what people assume it to be. God sees your heart and you cannot hide one motive from Him. Make it your goal to focus on Him. Harsh as it may sound, as a Christian, if you aren't really writing for Him, there really is no point in writing at all, because in the end, it will be counted as nothing.

 Elizabeth Tero is the sixth of twelve children. She loves being part of the family music ministry that has been a major part of her life for the past sixteen or so years. Some of her favorite things to do include singing and composing music, and spending time with her family and friends. She is the owner of her own Etsy shop, SparrowFall Designs, where she sells her pen and ink artwork in various forms of paper goods.

To connect or follow Elizabeth, please visit her on:

Note: Interviews on HRH are for educational purposes only. Some beliefs and views expressed here or in the material of those who are interviewed, may not reflect those held by HRH. As always prove all things and hold fast to what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

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