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I recently came across the following quote sometimes attributed to motivational speaker Tony Robbins: “If you do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always gotten.”

The quote resonates with me, because I am preparing to launch a new book the same way I launched the previous two, yet expecting it to sell better than they did. How can I honestly expect anything different if my plan of action is the same as it was? Or if I don’t really have a plan? Obviously, I desperately need to redirect the process this time.

              photo credit to pixabay.com

If my expectations aren’t being met, if my goals go unachieved, then something has to change.

How will I go about making the necessary changes?

  1. Become aware of the problem. In other words, stop pretending it’s not there. Stop denying.
  2. Decide what I want to accomplish. What are my goals? My expectations?
  3. Decide when I want to accomplish my goals.
  4. Decide how to meet these goals. This may take a bit more effort to break down, but this might be a good time to put the SMART method into action. I was reminded of this at an InScribe WorDshop I attended in Saskatoon this spring, in a workshop led by Sally Meadows, who expanded the acronym to SMARTER:

S — Specific

M— Measurable

A— Actionable

R— Risky (discomfort can be a catalyst for growth)

T— Time-keyed

E— Exciting

R— Relevant

  1. And one more thing. I need to make myself accountable to someone, at regular intervals. I need to reassess my progress from time to time. And I need that objective viewpoint to encourage me forward.

               photo credit to pixabay.com

Even if the changes I make are small, the outcome will improve. And life is for learning.

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I belong to a writing group that meets twice a month. It’s great to talk shop, critique the pieces members have sent out ahead of time, and discuss in a group the ideas we have concerning the submissions. We learn as much from critiquing as from submitting.

Our group holds a workshop every year, supported by the Saskatchewan Writer’s Guild, of which most of us are members. This year’s guest asked what we did in and with the community to make people aware of our existence and to promote the art of writing. We were silent as we looked around the table at each other. We meet regularly, but don’t reach far beyond that. The presenter encouraged us to become more visible and active in our area.

“Let’s host a coffeehouse,” suggested one of our members. “We can each present a short reading and invite people from the area.”

The event was organized and advertised, and the people came. Not a lot, but more than just the readers and their families. A good beginning.

image credit pixabay.com

We invited a local businessman/musician to play guitar and sing for us, which added to the ambiance, and each of us read a short piece from our work. Of course, there was coffee and snacks as well. At the end of the evening, the emcee, not a member of our group, announced that this was the first “annual” writer’s workshop, and the audience applauded. Those who had never heard of us before, or didn’t know who “we” were, said they were looking forward to next year’s offering, and would bring others with them. We, as members, felt supported and positive.

Not every community needs the same kind of event, but if you are part of a writing group, it’s good to create a way others can hear about you and offer interest and support. Why not set up a short program and put the coffee on?

image credit pixabay.com

 

 

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In my younger years, I had many role models, people I admired and looked up to. Usually, they were—in my estimation—older than I, smarter, morally admirable, and unfailingly kind.

As I grew older, I was often disappointed by these people. Either they acted in a manner unfitting for them, or they spoke unkindly to me or someone I cared about, or they turned out not to be as confident as I thought they were.

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I realize now that I held people up as examples when I shouldn’t have, but at the time, I needed someone to model myself after, people who shared certain expectations and beliefs I had for myself. I know now that while attempting to withhold judgment on others, I still must take care to evaluate the lives of those I set up to emulate.

Looking at it from the other side, how many times have I come up short in the eyes of others who may have held me up as an example? We don’t always keep this in mind when we act, or speak.

We can’t live to please everyone, but we can certainly aim to live within the values we claim to hold. My dad used to say, jokingly, “Don’t do what I do; do what I tell you.” But if we truly care about our example and our values, we will attempt to live accordingly. (Dad did a great job, by the way; one of my best role models.)

I still have people in my life who I value highly enough to emulate, but the only way I can think of to live it out myself is to follow the only unfailing example I know: Jesus. A perfect man who is also God Almighty. Others can and do inspire me. Others motivate me. But they can also disappoint. Jesus is the only one who doesn’t let me down. I don’t always understand his ways, but I know they are true and right and good. And I’m so thankful that he gives us the example to follow.

What reflection do we see in life’s mirror?

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Last night we listened to a short devotional podcast about a horse that ran in the Preakness Stakes and won against all odds, in spite of a stumble. The jockey clung to the horse’s neck, thinking every moment might be his last in a fatal fall. But he hung on and the horse kept running. If either the jockey or the horse had given up, they would never have won the race, and might well have been severely injured or killed.

The podcast reminded me of an incident in my life from at least fifteen years ago. We had invited friends over, and *Rose and I, both horse-lovers, decided to go for a ride. I hadn’t been riding much in the previous years, so my skills and flexibility had declined. Use it or lose it! But we had a lovely start to the trek across recently harvested fields bordered by shrubs in their autumnal glory.

However, when we turned out horses back to the yard, mine decided to run directly home, as fast as he could. He disregarded my tugs on the reins, so I grabbed one rein to turn him in a circle. My attempt was successful in slowing him down from his headlong dash, but in the meanwhile, I had unseated myself and begun to slip from the saddle. My arms and legs were quaking with the effort of holding on, and I considered just letting go and falling to the soft earth. But then I thought of the repercussions of such a decision: the ground might not be as soft as it looked, I might fall underneath instead of beside the hooves, I might land wrong and break an arm…

The short version of the story is that I decided I could not risk a fall. As difficult as it was to hang on, I did. *Rose managed to grab my horse’s bridle and hold him while I pulled myself upright, still shaking in every muscle.

Life can be a headlong dash, and often we are tempted to take an easy way out, too tired or discouraged to hang on. But if we consider the implications of letting go, they are often worse than the current struggle. With the love and encouragement of friends—and the odd blogger—and faith in the God who has it all planned, we can persevere, hang on, finish the race.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race,

I have kept the faith…”

2 Timothy 4:7 NIV

*name has been changed

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One spring day some years ago, while I was having a morning devotional and prayer time, a certain friend came to mind, and I felt I should drop in on her. To be honest, dropping in on people is not something I do often. But “they say” that if you hear the voice of God’s Spirit in your heart and ignore it, it will start to diminish. If you hear and obey, your recognition of the heart voice will gain strength. I decided to go.

When I entered the house of my friend and told her of the prompting I’d felt, she started to cry. She was going through a trial with one of her children that we had gone through with one of ours, and I was able to share my heart with her, pray with her, and assure her that in time, all would work out. Which it did.

Yesterday, I met a woman at church whom I had not met before. I introduced myself and we had a nice conversation, after which she invited me to come to her home for tea sometime. I called and arranged a time for later that week. Being an introvert who loves to stay home, I knew I had to do it immediately or I never would. I was already second-guessing my decision, trying to justify a way out. I mentioned it to my dear husband, and he said, “You should go.” A book I was reading included a similar instance that paralleled mine, and another book I was reviewing also suggested the same. Go.

I went. We had a nice chat over tea and found we were spiritual sisters. We may never be close friends, but I had obeyed the voice in my spirit.

The point is not so much the outcome, which isn’t in my hands anyway, but our willingness to obey the voice of God and follow through, to be involved in God’s ministry in this world, even in a small way.

I’m not always in tune with God’s promptings, nor do I always obey. But when I do, I feel joy that only comes from a growing relationship with my Savior. I pray the same for you.

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My last remaining aunt passed away yesterday (at the time of this writing). She was my mom’s youngest sister at 88, but her health wasn’t good. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it always is. This passing. This finality.

The past few years have reduced the family generation above me to nothing. My dad’s been gone for twenty-five years, and even though he came from a large family, all his siblings and their spouses are also deceased.

Marg – Mom (2), Erna (5), Mary (1) Beth (4), Kay (3)

My mom was the second-born of five. The eldest passed a number of years before Mom, the third in line was next, but Mom carried on quite happily until her 95thyear. She passed beginning of November 2017, then her next youngest sister went in December, and her youngest sib left us this January.

And that’s it. The older generation is no more.

My brother and I spoke of this recently. “Everybody’s dying,” he said. I agreed, and added that our generation is next in line. It’s a sobering thought.

Aging is a process best understood, unfortunately, when our time is nearly up! Most of us find a comfortable age and continue to “live there” as long as our bodies allow us to deceive ourselves. Suddenly we are old, and have no idea how it happened.

There are several ways to handle this issue of mortality:

— ignore it…but it won’t go away

— embrace it…but you will age more quickly (I aged a lot when Mom lived with us her last year)

— gain a balanced perspective…we were not made for this world only

To further explain the third option, this life is short, and for many people on this earth, very difficult. I’ve been blessed with love and “more-than-enough” my whole life, and yet I can find things to complain about. But the point is, this life is only a training ground, a weeding out, if you will, for eternity.

Three generations: daughter Wendy, me, Mom

We were made for Eden, but we goofed it up big-time. Then the One who created us had mercy and took our punishment for our sin by sending His only Son—that’s Jesus—so we could be free from the penalty for our failure. And now, IF we accept His unmerited gift of grace, we can look forward to eternity in heaven as a reward for accepting mercy. How cool is that?

Yes, the journey may be unfamiliar, even frightening, but the destination will be worth it all.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes.

There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,

for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21:4

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(Spoiler alert)

Every once in a while, I pull away from my genre fiction and read something literary. It’s a challenge, because I avoid dystopic stories if I can help it. The world is in enough trouble without pretending it’s worse. That’s my take.

I picked up All the Light We Cannot See at the local thrift store for $2 and started in on it. I will admit it took me weeks to finish; I kept putting it down and reading something easier. But the story pulled me back in every time I picked it up.

In a nutshell, it’s about a blind girl, Marie-Laure, and her father from Paris who go to live with his brother in a place called Saint-Malo during the war. Marie-Laure’s father, who works in a museum, carries with him a precious jewel that some people say is a curse. As long as the carrier keeps it, he or she will not die, but their loved ones will find trouble/death.

The other main character is Werner, who with his sister, Jutta, are orphans in Germany. Because of his innate skill with radios, Werner is enrolled in a Nazi technical school and eventually uses his training in locating hidden radios.

The story follows these two characters and those in their lives throughout the war, a dismal and dangerous existence. Chapters alternate between the two stories, and inevitably, they link for the space of a day or two.

This story is gripping, well-written, tight and moving, but not happily-ever-after. The problem I have with reading over 500 pages, only to have one of the characters blown up in one sentence, near the end, is one of great frustration and sadness. Do I wish I’d never read it? Possibly. It’s haunting, and that can be painful. But perhaps the reminder of what people experience in war and how it changes them—for better or for worse—is necessary from time to time.

This is a highly acclaimed book, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, so if that is incentive enough, give it a read.

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