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Archive for the ‘Encouragement’ Category

By the time this blog appears live, I will have been and gone to my favourite annual writer’s conference: InScribe. It’s a treat I look forward to every year, and this one’s accessible; I can drive there or ride with a friend.

Conferences are superb confidence boosters, in that our association with other writers helps us to believe we really are writers too.

Conferences are comfortable places for introverts to network! We’re most of us—but certainly not all—introverted types that gather at writing conferences. We spend a lot of our time in solitary, with only our computers as companions, and mostly, we’re okay with that. But from time to time we need more than virtual input. A conference is a time when we can reach out to others who understand our boundaries. Maybe we can find someone who can fill a gap in our writing life: a story editor, a cover designer, a formatter. And just maybe we can fill a gap in someone else’s writing needs as well.

Conferences are memory makers. We meet people we’ve met before and renew our acquaintance. We meet people we’ve never met before, and often our personalities will click. Or we meet people we’ve heard of but never met, and find out they are accessible and normal folks. We feel surrounded by friends of like mind.

If there’s a conference in your area, save up your bucks through the year and take advantage of it. You won’t regret it.

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I’ve visited a couple of local cemeteries recently, because my siblings and I need to choose a memorial marker for our mother. Some people stay as far from graveyards as possible, but I find them restful, at least in broad daylight. The dates and names give wings to my imagination.

Just as the people buried in the churchyard are more than granite engravings, our fictional characters need to be more than life-size cardboard cutouts. The years that lie between birth and death dates are mysteries, untold stories of real people.

One stone marks the life of a wife/mother who died at the age of 22. Why? An accident or illness? What happened to the child? I feel the grief and lay my hand on the stone as I pass.

A large, flat engraving includes details of birthplace, emigration, moves, farm locations, spouse, children. Few are this informative, but it tells the story of an eventful life, well-lived. These details considered important enough to be carved in stone.

Several small graves lie in the shade of the poplars, babies that died at birth or in their early childhood. Stories of unexpected loss and grief.

Ideas come from everywhere, and a cemetery is a tremendous resource. It can also remind us of the fragility of life, the brevity of the time we have to make our mark between two dates.

If you’re looking for writing ideas, inspiration, or perhaps a quiet and meditative walk, visit a cemetery, and remember that:

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants” Psalm 116:15 NIV.

 

 

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Many years ago, about 1994, in fact, I read Linda Hall’s first novel, The Josiah Files. I loved it, but although I’ve forgotten the story by now, I will never forget the strange and unlikely—so I thought then—technology of characters carrying small handheld devices on which they could communicate and read. I wished with all my heart that I could have a device that carried books and could be accessed anywhere, anytime.

Well, what do you know? Last night I was unable to sleep, so I grabbed my iPhone, and with a few clicks, accessed a novel I couldn’t wait to finish. How the world, even my little world, has changed over the past twenty-four years.

 

 

There are varied responses to these innovations in our world:

  1. Some people conceive the ideas that become new technology
  2. Some people embrace these changes
  3. Some people struggle to keep up with the latest tools/programs
  4. Some people choose to ignore the changes
  5. And some refuse to accept or be involved in using technology

I’m definitely not the first type, nor the second. Nor the fifth. You’ll catch me on #4 and then grudgingly moving up to #3 most of the time. Because I really don’t want to be left behind.

In my writing life, I’ve had to accept some changes. One publisher I worked for expected his authors to learn and use social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Scribble, Scrabble, Bing Bong, etc. (Please don’t look up those last three.) Whatever was available, we were expected to go with it. I did my best, eventually settling on Facebook and Twitter, with LinkedIn as a more silent partner. I have to say it was good for me. Stretching is a good thing, and although I have always disliked the phrase “getting out of my comfort zone,” it was a necessary and beneficial exercise.

A couple of years ago, I decided to embrace the independent publishing scenario. It took a lot of research, observation, questioning and faith, but I jumped in and still have my head above water. I think. Just this week, I heard more about a company I’d been interested in but didn’t understand: Ingram Spark. After emailing with friends, I decided to give it a whirl for the sake of one of my oft-neglected goals: book distribution. I now have an account and we’ll see where that leads.

There will always be technological obstacles in our lives, personal and professional, and it’s our choice how we respond. But maybe, just maybe, we will be able to benefit from some new technologies or programs. My personal line: “If technology is a car, I’m hanging onto the back bumper by my fingernails. I can’t let go, because I’ll never catch up again.”

Whatever the next obstacle, I’ll deal with it…or ask for help to understand. Because times will continue to change. I hope you will also keep on learning and experimenting.

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As you already know if you follow my blog, I had a different year in 2017. My mom lived with us for seven months before she passed, and after that I couldn’t seem to engage in my writing. I’ve kept up with my blogs, but my novel plans have languished. I needed to grieve and to heal.

Then two things happened:

  1. My husband and I read a devotional writing this morning (mid-March) that revolved around Ecclesiastes chapter three:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…a time to mourn and a time to dance…” (verses 1 and 4b, NIV).

My mind went to seasons and times, and I realized that I had spent enough time in this season of mourning. Yes, it’s important to mourn, and I will never forget my dear mom, but I think it is time to move ahead.

  1. That same morning, I received a phone call from a dear friend. “My neighbor called me,” she said, “and told me she can’t find your third book in this latest series.”

    from pixabay.com

Hmm. That’s because it’s still in my head and on my heart. It has not yet fully migrated to paper and certainly hasn’t come near publication. I confessed this to my friend and she said, “I thought so. You had told me about your mom, and I told my neighbor. We understand.”

But her words were the kick-in-the-pants I needed to confirm the nudge from Ecclesiastes.

This missive is to inform you, my faithful blog-followers, that I have re-engaged in my novel activities. I have been writing, with paper and pen at the moment, a manuscript that will become the third book in my In Search of Freedom series. I plan to use a somewhat different format, so it’s a challenge, and that’s another reason I’ve been procrastinating. It’s scary to try something new.

If you are a praying person, I could use your prayers. I’ll let you know how it’s going, and please feel free to contact me and ask, or to offer another gentle kick-in-the-pants to keep me motivated.

Thanks for listening, and I wish you a day that matters.

 

 

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It’s called perseverance. That stubborn drive to reach for a goal. Dedication to a cause. Steadfastness. Endurance. Growing in spite of obstacles. Doing our absolute best.

These days of winter here on the prairies continue to drag. Temperatures are cold enough to freeze my brain. My focus shifts like the drifting snow and ideas are elusive. All I really want to do is curl up by the fireplace, wrap myself in a cozy blanket, and read a good book.

But where do those good books come from? They come from persistent writers who push through the dreary times when ideas are hard to pin down. They come through the tenacity of dedicated storytellers. Good books take work and resolve and heart.

Good books require effort, just like good marriages, good parenting, good friendships. All of life requires commitment to make it rich and worth living. But no one is going to do it for us.

I’ve come to the realization that no one is going to pull me along on the path to my goals. I’m the only one who can stretch to attain them. I’m thankful that over the years, God has pushed me in the right direction, helped me find connections, gently reminded me of my responsibility to apply myself to my calling (vocation, mission, passion). That’s because I foster my relationship with him. But the work is up to me.

Whatever your work, I encourage you to put your best into it and keep on keeping on. That’s what it takes to make a better world. I remind myself that God’s creation was never “good enough.” It was purely and simply “good.”

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41xf2woejl-_sx317_bo1204203200_This little book—mine is copyrighted 1961—which I’ve had in my library for many years but never read, has now become an inspiration to me. I  pulled it off the shelf this January, with the hope that it would help me grow as a Christian. In the book, Tozer explores The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life (subtitle).

Chapters include discussion on God’s Infinitude, Wisdom, Omnipotence, Faithfulness, Goodness, Justice, Mercy, and many more, set forth with the idea that these attributes are not separate entities that stand on their own, but that altogether, they form a picture of God as He has chosen to reveal Himself to us through Scripture. (The Scriptures Tozer uses to illustrate his points are listed at the back of the book.)

Some of my favourite quotes from Tozer’s book:

  • “He does not possess [the divine attributes] as qualities; they are how God is as He reveals Himself to His creatures.” (p. 22)
  • “God has a voluntary relation to everything He has made, but He has no necessary relation to anything outside of Himself.” (p. 38)
  • “To believe in Him adds nothing to His perfections; to doubt Him takes nothing away.” (p. 40)
  • “The unbelieving mind would not be convinced by any proof, and the worshiping heart needs none.” (p. 65)
  • “The attributes explain each other and prove that they are but glimpses the mind enjoys of the absolutely perfect Godhead…To magnify any attribute to the exclusion of another is to head straight for one of the dismal swamps of theology…” (p. 85)
  • “Christ walked with men on earth that He might show them what God is like and make known the true nature of God to a race that had wrong ideas about Him…” (p. 90)
  • “To fear and not be afraid—that is the paradox of faith.” (p. 91)
  • “There is nothing in His justice which forbids the exercise of His mercy.” (p. 94)
  • “It is a strange and beautiful eccentricity of the free God that He has allowed His heart to be emotionally identified with men.” (p. 107)
  • “There is freedom to choose which side we shall be on but no freedom to negotiate the results of the choice once it is made.” (p. 119)

The last chapter offers, as the chapter title suggests, the Open Secret of how to grow Christ’s body, the church: Acquaint thyself with God. It must “begin with the individual.” Only as we acquaint and re-acquaint ourselves with God (read: lose some of our preconceived and sometimes false ideas of who He is), will we be able to properly represent Him here on this earth, and serve Him as we should.

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Revisiting Christmas…

One of the highlights of our Christmas season is a visit to our kids in Gem, Alberta, in time for their school Christmas program. Over the years of our grandchildren’s attendance at the school, we’ve managed to take in several of these.

Gem School is a very small rural school, just over twenty students of varied backgrounds. They are divided into two classrooms: grades 1 – 3 with one teacher, and grades 4-6 with another. There is also an educational assistant employed a couple of days a week, and a half-time secretary who doubles as the music teacher. Parents are encouraged to volunteer for various events or to just help out in the classroom. Class pairing—matching students from the first class with students from the second for reading—has been a great success.

When we were at the Gem School program this year (December 2017), we met the new first-classroom teacher, as well as her husband. He told us that as a behavioral consultant for the district, he doesn’t get called to Gem because they don’t need his services. They handle their own issues as a community, as a family.

pixabay.com

Beginning in November, teaching of regular curriculum in Gem School is set to simmer on a side-burner as practices begin for the Christmas program. Each classroom puts on a skit. For many years, these skits have been written by a now-retired teacher and her husband. Many of the jokes relate specifically to certain students or teachers, or even the director of education for the district. Everyone finds them very entertaining.

Students who take music lessons play their instruments in between scenes, and smaller groups sing Christmas songs. The grand finale is a black-light show based on the song: Do You Hear What I Hear? The students do an excellent job of this wonderful production.

Why is this annual Christmas presentation so important? What do the kids learn that makes the time spent so valuable? Here are a few of my observations:

The children:

  1. learn to work together to put on the show
  2. develop self-esteem as they play their parts and sing their songs
  3. learn public speaking skills, including the use of clear and audible voice projection. I could hear every spoken word, even at the back of the long, narrow hall. After this year’s performance, I heard people talking about the boy who never speaks. But he did speak his one- or two-word parts loudly and clearly. Truly a success story.
  4. find out how to work the audience with in-house jokes, humour, and enthusiasm
  5. gain basic play production knowledge: acting skills, acceptable backstage behaviour, onstage movement, positioning of props, presentation of the black-light display
  6. learn to support and encourage each other
  7. strengthen their memorization skills, although it’s not the end of the world if someone forgets a line and needs a cue (this is rare)
  8. learn to adapt when things don’t go exactly as planned, and to enjoy themselves as they learn
  9. develop musical skills
  10. come to appreciate a sense of community within the group
  11. become involved in helping to build props and sew costumes
  12. get to earn a reward, besides the sense of accomplishment. (The day after the program, the Gem School has Pajama Day, where the students all come to school in pajamas, watch the recorded show, and play games.)

During the program, parents and community volunteers take care of lighting, recording, props, and student control. After the program, the students move through the audience talking with people and handing out Christmas oranges. They are obviously pleased with their accomplishments, as well they should be.

One of the welcome aspects of this small school program is the freedom to include a nativity scene in the black-light display. Even though an active debate continues to swirl around the place of religion in schools, I personally am thankful we can preserve the true meaning of Christmas—the birth of Jesus Christ—in the school in Gem. I know this may not be possible forever, but I hope and pray it will be sustained as long as possible.

pixabay.com

I know this phrase has been used before, but I’ll borrow it for the Gem School: They truly have the best Christmas pageant ever! Kudos to all those involved in this production, especially the students.

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