Encouragement for a Discouraged Author

As an author, I have certainseal of approvally experienced my ups and downs, disappointments and joys.  From five-star reviews to a one star scathing review a year ago from a Satanist who read my book and “hated it”.  I know, I know…it’s a “duh moment”; of course a Satanist would hate my books that are Christ-centred but still it’s tough to have someone trash a book that I’ve spent so much time and energy on.  Every author, no matter how famous and well-known you are, will experience a bad review.  It’s inescapable.

But this week has been an unforgettable week for me personally as an author, and I can honestly say I had nothing to do with it, it was all God. 

It started out with an email from Literary Classics saying my book, Love the Wounded, had received a five-star review and the “Seal of Approval” from them. Literary Classics is “an organization dedicated to furthering excellence in  children’s and young adult literature, takes great pride in its role to help promote classic literature which appeals to youth, while educating and encouraging positive values in the impressionable young minds of future generations.”   To learn more about Literary Classics, you may visit their website at www.clcawards.org or www.childrensliteraryclassics.com

This recognition came right out of the blue for me.  I was shocked, humbled and honoured and immediately I praised God because it was only last week I had begged God to give me some kind of “sign” that He still wanted me to write because I was so discouraged about it all that I was seriously considering giving up writing entirely and getting a “real” job.

I received another email that very same day, from a man in Saudi Arabia.  He had read my story, “Do Angels Wear Glasses?” in the Chicken Soup for the Soul book: Parenthood.  He said the story, “touched my heart and soothed my soul in a very positive way” and just wanted to write to me and tell me that.  How cool is that?

But I have found that God always speaks to me in threes.  Don’t ask me why.  I’m like Peter, I guess.  (John 21:1-25)

I received an email yesterday from a blog writer whom I had never met, who said he thought my writing was “great” and he wanted to feature my books on his Facebook page.  I was flattered, I’ve had my books featured on lots of Facebook pages before, but I had no idea the exposure THIS page would give them.  What Christians Want to Know is wildly popular and has a HUGE fan audience with 146 K followers.  Within minutes of my books being posted on the page there were a hundred “likes” and shares.

Things like this don’t just happen by accident or coincidence…

So today, I am praising God for encouraging a discouraged author.

 

 

 

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Empty Nest Lessons – First Week

imagesMy husband and I have been empty nesters now for one week.

Unlike other empty nesters we’ve talked to over the past week, we have not been jumping for joy, nor have we been immediately renovating bedrooms to make spaces that are suited to our new lifestyle (and to discourage children from moving home)…no, we’ve been quietly contemplative about this new “season” in our life.  We haven’t quite embraced it yet, but we haven’t been depressed either.

Now don’t get me wrong…I LOVE each and every one of my children, even the son and son-in-law, who spend more time in my fridge than they do talking to me :)  I adore my two girls, even though the youngest one still has what I would call a condemned bedroom and bathroom that still needs her attention before I will call her officially moved out; and the oldest one still sneaks snacks from my cupboard after each visit.  She gets away with it because she is only weeks away from delivering our second grandbaby :)

Still, it is decidedly pleasant to have the house to ourselves, my husband and I, and to enjoy the peace and quiet that comes with having an empty nest (house).

Here are a few things my husband and I have discovered over this past week:

* We are no longer confined to a set schedule each day.  (We can eat when we want to, and we can eat what we want to.)  My menu was always catering to children’s likes and dislikes, now we can eat foods we like that they would have turned their noses up at.

* We can watch T.V. shows that we like rather than watch their shows all the time.

* We can have uninterrupted conversations and lately we’ve even had conversations that were NOT about the children!

* We can keep a neater house without clothes, and shoes littering the entranceway and unwashed dishes piled up in the sink.

* We reminisce about all the ways our children bring us joy rather than focus on rebelliousness and past activities that may have brought us grief.  Selective memories I guess, and they’re all good!

* When the children call or text or show up unexpectedly, it’s like a special event.  I enjoy every precious moment with them and look forward to the next time I hear from them.

But the biggest thing we’ve learned this past week, is that we wish we could have figured all of this out when the kids were growing up…

After all:

We made the schedules not the kids.

The T.V. shows we watched together were not as important as spending precious time with them.

Interrupted conversations meant there were always teachable moments.

A cluttered house meant a house that was well-lived in.

We spent an inordinate amount of time fretting over rebelliousness rather than focussing on pure joy.

And lastly, our children were then, and always will be our gifts from God to enjoy and cherish for a lifetime!

 

 

 

Indulgences

If you will indulge me…

It’s been a very topsy-turvy summer.  My “baby” turns eighteen in a few days, and I am feeling the throes of “letting go” once again and letting the last of my children fly fromEmpty Nest the safety and confinement of the nest into the world.  You know what that means, don’t you?…

Empty Nest Syndrome

Well, not sure it’s appropriate to be called a syndrome yet, but I am certainly feeling the emptiness of the house with just my husband and I rattling around in it.  We moved our youngest into seminary residence last night and even though she only lives minutes from our home, every time I walk by her room, I feel a pang of loss.

We bought this acreage and house, just north of Cochrane, Alberta, when my son was only a toddler, and my oldest daughter was just a child.  Our baby was born a year after and this house has, for close to twenty years, been filled with birthday party celebrations, pool parties, and youth activities.  It seems so silent all of a sudden.

Someone said to me that once the kids move out I’ll have plenty of time to write.  Wow.  I wish I could feel some comfort from that statement, but I haven’t been able to write all summer.  Oh, I blog a bit but my heart hasn’t been into sitting down and completing that manuscript that beckons to me every once in a while, taunting me with its incompleteness.

And amazingly to say…I’m okay with it.

As a Christian, and a writer, but mostly a Mom, I  know that there is a “season for everything”.  I have to adapt to this next season of life for me now without kids in the house everyday.  I plan on taking a couple of months to establish a new routine, a new normality if you will, for my days.  Certainly that manuscript may be added onto in the months ahead but right now the focus is connecting with my husband like I did “BC” (Before Children), and settling into my new empty nest role gracefully.

Thankfully my kids know that they are just a text message away from their Mama, and my baby even has my permission to bring over her laundry weekly and I’ll even wash it all for her; I won’t even grumble about it.

Wow, things really HAVE changed!

 

Tattoo or not to Tattoo

As a youth leader I have run into my share of ink.  Literally.  At a Summer Youth Camp several years ago, we were playing a game on the field and I, in my wisdom, thought I could take away a large “globe” ball (about the size of a small house), from a young man who was determined to run over the “old” lady with it.  He won.  However, as I was crashing to the ground I noticed as he waved his arms in victory, a ginormous-sized tattoo on his arm.  It was spectacularly colourful, but the skull and cross bone symbol was somewhat disconcerting at a Christian youth camp.

As a youth leader, I was sometimes privy to whispered conversations amongst some youth who were thinking about getting “inked”.  My students have always known how I feel about tattoos….I’m not a fan.  When one young man added an eyebrow piercing to his recently inked body, I wished I could have been a fly on thRegret Nothinge wall at his father’s house.  His conservative father was going to be in for quite a shock.

My own son wanted a tattoo for years.  When he turned sixteen, he begged to have one.  I said, “No”.  My son respected me enough to wait until he was nineteen and then had a large angel-wing with a cross tattooed over his shoulder blades.  His favorite scripture verse Phil. 4:13 was inked on a banner draped around the cross.  As much as I wasn’t pleased with the idea of his getting the tattoo in the first place, I had to admire the beautiful artistry of the design AND I remarked that now that he had forever emblazoned Phil. 4:13 on his body, he better LIVE the verse everyday: “I can do all things through Him Who gives me strength.”

My niece has several tattoos, my daughter’s friends have tattoos and try as I might to convince her otherwise, my youngest daughter would like to get a tattoo one day.

As a Christian, I was curious to see what scripture says about tattoos:  For more information please go to these very informative articles: http://christianity.about.com/od/faqhelpdesk/f/tattoochristian.htm  and Tattoos and the Bible.  The Bible says in Leviticus 19:28, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead, and do not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the Lord.”  However, if we look at this verse in context, this was one of many examples of God telling His chosen people to not participate in the pagan customs of the day.  God’s people were to be set apart and not participate in rituals or festivities that were for the most part idol worship.  In verse 26, they were also told, “Do not eat meat that has not been drained of its blood,” and verse 27, “Do not trim off the hair on your temples or trim your beards.”  These are Old Testament laws that we must agree, that in today’s society, Christians no longer strictly adhere to.  Truth be told, I am happy that we shave and eat non-kosher food.  I am not the least bit worried that I am breaking any biblical laws by doing so.

That said, I agree with the writers of both articles that say that getting a tattoo probably falls under one of those “disputable matters” from Romans 14.  The Bible is not clear about whether it’s right or wrong in a New Testament church, but it does fall to the person contemplating getting a tattoo to decide carefully what their personal motivation is in getting one.

I am convinced that most people getting tattoos do so to get noticed…especially from the opposite sex.  It is a form of adornment.  It is meant to attract not repel.  Some get tattoos for cosmetic reasons and there are others who ink their bodies in remembrance of something or someone.  A Christian getting a tattoo must ask whether this will bring glory to God.  Is it a form of rebellion?  Will it cause dissention in a family?

Many people say, “It is MY body, I can do with it what I want.”  Johnny Depp is quoted as saying, ““My body is my journal, and my tattoos are my story.”  As Paul says in I Corinthians 6:12, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you.”  Christians know that their body is not their own but bought with a price.  (1 Corinthians 6:20).

Tattoos are permanent and every individual must decide whether or not the tattoo over time is ultimately “good” for them.

I would be interested in your thoughts.

Good Friends

A couple of weekends ago I had the pleasure of spending time with some of my closest friends from high school.  The “Babes of ’58” as we call ourselves (because we were all born that year), decided to reunite for the first time in 2008 at a resort in Osooyoos, B.C.  It marked the first time we had all been together since high school.  Tracy came from California, Tanya, Paddy and Jean drove from Victoria and I trekked west from Alberta.  We vowed after that momentous trip to meet up every five years to celebrate our birthdays and to celebrate our friendship.

I have known Paddy and Tracy since grade five and I hadn’t done the math before but that means we’ve been friends for forty-five years!  Forty-five years!!  My first memory of Paddy is drawing on erasers, putting tacks (for wheels) on them and pretending they were little cars for our little troll dolls we brought to school to play with at recess time.  Jump to grade twelve when I was barely passing algebra and Paddy patiently walking me through algorithms and equations so I could pass the course and graduate.  In high school Paddy was, in her words, “painfully shy” but around her friends she sparkled, and her laugh and her quirky sense of humour was brilliantly refreshing.  Today, married nearly thirty-four years with two grown children, Paddy continues to sparkle!

Tracy was the “welcoming committee” when I came to a new school in 1968, in grade five.  As the “new kid”, I didn’t fit it ANYWHERE with the other kids who had all gone to kindergarten together, and to say I felt ostracized and alone those first few weeks was a drastic understatement until I met Tracy.  Outgoing and personable, Tracy decided to befriend me and helped me adjust to the new environment.  Jump ahead to high school, I played soccer, and floor hockey with Tracy.  We laugh about it now but I still bear the scars on my ankle when she and I faced off to start a game, and she inadvertently tapped her wooden hockey stick across my ankle!  Today, living in California, she is happily married and has two grown children.

I met Tanya in grade nine and oftentimes in high school I wondered why such a talented, athletic girl would “hang out” with me, an awkward, non-athletic girl.  Tanya convinced me to join the Senior Girl’s soccer team even though I was a less than stellar player.  She was a prankster and to this day I still remember the look on our Vice Principal’s face when he found dissected perch in the school’s drinking fountains thanks to Tanya.  Today, she and her husband and their two grown sons run a large dairy farm near Duncan on Vancouver Island.

Jean and I became close friends in grade nine.  It is Jean I thank for taking me to church for the first time and demonstrating what it means to walk with the Lord.  I have blogged about THE CARD that we have exchanged for so many, many years.  Jean and I were lab partners in high school and due to a slight miscalculation (probably my fault) of flammable liquids overflowing onto our bunsen burner during a science experiment, Jean has the distinction of setting the school on fire.  Of course, it wasn’t the entire school, but with all the commotion and subsequent panic that ensued with fire alarms being pulled and panicked high schoolers running for the doors, well, it became a legendary event for our graduating class to recall years later.  Today, Jean has three grown children and has been happily married for twenty-three years.

Although Tracy could not join us this year, Paddy, Jean, Tanya and I met in Fairmont and spent a weekend reminiscing about our high school days, catching up on our present lives and planning ahead to our next Babes Trip.  Time ticks by too quickly sometimes, but for a few days we were sixteen again, if not in body, certainly in mind.  I have been more than blessed by their friendships these many, many years.  Distance has not been an obstacle for us to remain close.  We have journeyed life’s road together, through health events, births and deaths, joys and sorrows.  As the clock steadily ticks on, some of the laugh lines so prevalent on my face can be attributed to our times together.  Our friendship is not defined by age.  We are defined by ageless friendship.

Friendship

Hell or High Water Aftermath

Stampede 101 is over.  The million dollar rodeo and Rangeland Chuck Wagon races declared their champions yesterday and it was somehow fitting that Jason Glass from High River won the $100,000.00 prize in the Rangeland Derby.  While the majority of people attended the fairgrounds, or watched the event on T.V., countless others were in High River helping people clean out their homes after the flood.  There is no celebrating yet in that devastated community.

We decided to drive around the city this weekend to survey the flood damaged areas.  Having lived inOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Redwood Meadows we were of course curious to see the community and that of Bragg Creek where I taught preschool for years.  Shock is the only word to describe the aftermath of the flood.  The Elbow River cut a whole new path for itself through both communities.  My husband drove me around Calgary to point out some of the worst hit areas there.  Again, shocking to see the damage, but so encouraging to see how the City has, in a relatively short amount of time, made repairs and for all intents and purposes it’s “business as usual”.

Perhaps the thing I saw yesterday that impacted me the most was not even flood-related.  It was seeing an empty lot with a chain link fence around it on 84th St. N.W. in Bowness: a big sign reading: “Future multi-family development”.  How hard to see the yard that my husband and I had once lovingly tended, and no trace of the tiny 700 square foot house we had lived in shortly after we were married; our very first home, torn down and an empty lot the only thing left there except a multitude of memories.

Why was I saddened to see it?  We had not lived there in years.  After we moved, our emotional attachment to the house and what once was should be over, right?  I thought about how things never stay the same, time marches on, as it should, and we should either embrace or adapt to the changes created with the passing of time.

I couldn’t help compare what I was seeing there, to what so many, many people will face in the weeks and months ahead as they rebuild, replace and restore what was taken from them in the flood.  Parked there on the street where our little house once stood, I asked my husband if he thought Calgary and Bragg Creek and even High River would ever get over the flood and be the “same” again.  “Yes,” he said, “and no.”  I had tears in my eyes as we drove away from that little empty lot in Bowness.  Truer words were never spoken.

PennyWare

I received a wonderful surprise in the mail the other day!  My very own personalized “Pennyware” bracelet!

I wrote a blog several months back entitled “No More Pennies from Heaven” about the demise of the Canadian penny and it really struck a chord with one reader.  Penny Allen, aptly named don’t you think? :) emailed me and said she was saddened that the penny would no longer be in circulation and she wanted to thank me personally for writing a blog that had touched her heart in such a profound way.

A budding jeweler, Penny lives in British Columbia and has turned her passion for pennies into a little business where she creates jewelry out of the little coins.  She asked me to list a few years that are particularly meaningful to me in my lifetime, and my birthdate as well and then she fashioned my own unique and most meaningful PennyWare bracelet.

PennyWare

My own personalized PennyWare bracelet.

Along with the bracelet, Penny also sent along a letter that described the coins in great detail:

“The beads are carnelian, which is an alternate birthstone for August, (my birth month).  “Carnelian is an uplifting yet stabilizing stone, and an excellent all round healing stone.  It has high energy and is great for restoring drive and energy.  Carnelian can release stress and trauma and can be worn for confidence, courage and protection from harm’.

Re: your pennies: 1979 (the year I was married), 1984 (birth of my oldest daughter), 1992 (birth of my son), 1995 (birth of my youngest daughter), are all 98% copper, the remainder being zinc and tin.  2001 (the year of my battle with cancer), and 2011 (the year my first grandchild was born), are either steel or nickel with a copper plating of 4.5%.  1984, 1992 and 1995 are 12-sided, which the government issued from 1982 – 1996 to help the visually impaired identify the coins (why they didn’t continue that is beyond me), ” she quips.

“The 1992 coin is a commemorative edition celebrating Canada’s 125th birthday – the date reads 1867 – 1992.  I did not include a penny from your birth year because it would have made the bracelet too long, and I thought the other years were the most important ones to you.”  (She was right!)

“You can shine up pennies several ways, a paste of salt and vinegar works quite well as does one of those jewelry cleaning cloths you get for polishing silver.

Very best wishes for your happiness.”

Penny

Penny is just starting out on this new jewelry-making venture for now, but if you are interested in getting your own PennyWare jewelry, contact Penny at misspenn@shaw.ca for all the information and cost.  She makes earrings and bracelets and necklaces as seen by the photos below:

PennyWare PennyWare 2PennyWare 4

As for me, I want to thank her so much for a “penny” bracelet that I will always cherish!