Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Sting of Criticism – by Heidi McLaughlin



The art instructor paced back and forth and glanced at my painting.  Each time she walked by I was thrilled and encouraged by what I accomplished in such a short time. I was amazed how just the right sculpted brush strokes could makes trees come alive and the reflection on water appear so brilliant.  By the third day in this art class my enthusiasm peaked as I saw my potential as an artist increasing by the moment. Then the instructor stopped at my easel and called the rest of the class to come over and stand around my painting. My cheeks were flushed with pride as I waited for her words of praise.

Like a needle thrusting a balloon, her words shattered my illusions of grandeur. “Class, this is what you do NOT do.” She then proceeded to destroy all my hard work and creativity that had flowed out of my spirit in the last three days. It was more than that. Instead of doing it with kindness in a private moment, she humiliated me in front of my peers and shattered my courage. She left me defeated, questioning my self-esteem and I wanting to quit.

A courageous resolution rose up in me and I went back the next day to try again. I was not going to let one woman’s opinion diminish my passion and creativity.  Yes, she had valuable comments but they were expressed with the intent to crush and not build up.  What I took away from that ghastly encounter actually improved my paintings and prepared me to have thicker skin for more criticism ahead.

As an international speaker and author, I have heard and experienced painful criticism.  When I put myself out there with my words, actions and opinions, they don’t always line up with other people’s expectations. To overcome these crippling offenses and embrace all that I know God has called me to do, I filter criticism this way:

  •  Who is saying it and what is their motive?  Is this coming from a place of wanting to help me or put me down?  Is it jealousy? Is it helpful? Do I respect that person’s opinion? 
  •  Most criticism holds value.  Even when I left a room in tears or felt I could never walk onto a platform again, I always learned something new about myself.
  • Criticism does not define me. I am God’s beloved and: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6 NIV).

·        If criticism is filtered in a healthy and productive way, it helps sharpen “iron on iron” and is part of the transformation process to make us more into the image of Jesus Christ.

The years following my painful art class experience, I tool several College courses and produced many beautiful pieces of art.  What I didn’t realize is that God was preparing my passion for creativity, beauty and meaning to make a difference in this world through writing and speaking to women all across the world.  Isn’t God’s plan always so wonderful and perfect?   


Heidi McLaughlin lives in the beautiful vineyards of the Okanagan Valley in Kelowna, British Columbia. She is married to Pastor Jack and they have a wonderful, eclectic blended family of 5 children and 9 grandchildren. When Heidi is not working, she loves to curl up with a great book, or golf and laugh with her husband and special friends. 
Her new book RESTLESS FOR MORE: Fulfillment in Unexpected Places will be released June 23, 2016
You can reach her at: www.heartconnection.ca




Tuesday, May 17, 2016

How high is the High Road? BY SUSAN HARRIS

When it rains in the countryside where I live, one could take the high road to avoid flooding that is certain on the roads in the low-lying areas. But I’m not referring to the path described by geographic elevation.

The phrase “take the high road” is ascribed to American origin, and means  “to approach an endeavour or problem in a fashion that is above pettiness, to travel the moral high ground, to behave decently”.

Noble callings! Our natural instinct is to defend, to retaliate, to give her “a piece of our minds” (hmm, what percentage remains?).  Taking the high road is not easy as a person consciously chooses not to make a defense of himself, and this noble act itself becomes an object of criticism.

Long before America came into existence, our Lord disclosed His noble standard to the prophet Isaiah. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8,9 (KJV) He identifies the high road, His Way, and that it is superior to our lower ways.

David writes in Psalm 18:30. “As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him. (KJV). The question of whose way is better, nay perfect, is established (and it’s not my way.)

A prophecy of the millennium echoes, “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:21 (KJV) The Lord seeks to deliver us from contrary ways that goes against His perfect will for our maturing. 
  
The conclusion - 
  • ·      There is a higher way.
  • ·      That way is perfect.
  • ·      We are asked to walk in that way.

 I can approach an endeavour or problem in a fashion that is above pettiness. I can travel the moral high ground. I can behave decently. It may be an uphill climb. It may be tiring. It always has a treasure at the top. 

It taking the high road easy? No.
Is taking the high road doable? Maybe
Is taking the high road a choice? Yes.


SUSAN HARRIS, author of nine books, is pulled back by Grace as she navigates the high road.  https://www.facebook.com/SusanHarrisAuthor/

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Life--A Grab Bag by Ruth Smith Meyer

This month I’m using a blog from way back and revising it to suit my present life.   That’s because this past week or two have held such a wide variety of experiences and the subject just seemed to fit.


Although I haven’t seen them recently, I remember the local drug store of my childhood having “Grab Bags” in an aisle bin for a modest price.  You couldn’t see what was in the brown paper bags before purchasing them; you just had to hope there may be some things you really, really wanted.  A few times, I couldn’t resist the temptation.  There usually was at least one item with which I was delighted. Some were okay, but not something I would normally have purchased, but still useful, and some items I hardly knew what I could do with-even a disappointment. Yet they had all come in one bag.

The past week or two sometimes have felt like one of those grab bags--holding quite a variety of components that tried to wreak havoc with my equilibrium. 

 Among the goodies—warm thoughts and actions conferred on me for Mother’s Day from both parts of my family. Those included beautiful words, cards flowers, a teddy bear from a granddaughter who thinks everyone should have one of those to hug, a nice family dinner and two dozen beautiful roses from a son-in-law who feels more like a son.  I also had a deeply satisfying day with Paul’s three daughters as we worked at dividing the contents of a few rooms. A daughter and grandson showed up on a Saturday afternoon to help with some heavier cleaning that had been weighing on my mind.  Another daughter did me the favor of driving me to a speaking engagement in Toronto. And perhaps most satisfying was bringing together another cantata for our choir to sing at Christmas; sorting through the beautiful music we have sung in the past, finding a theme and writing narration that would tie it all together to let the listeners know that The Light will Come.

The okay? The days are getting longer but have remained on the cool side.  To me this is not all bad, for I prefer cooler rather than hot.  However the spring is advancing, flowers have begun to bloom, the birds are tending their nests, summer will come. Although my days, my house and my life still feel lonely, I am adjusting and slowly, but surely finding a new way of life.

The items I think I could have done without? A hip and leg are keeping me awake with pain and unable to be as active as I am used to being. All the news of tragedy in the world. The forest fires in Fort McMurry make my heart bleed for those who have been affected, for the firemen and workers fighting the inferno, for the mothers who see their sons and daughters going into danger in order to help others. The news of more deaths of people in the prime of life, some older spouses left alone after a life-time of love, and several afflicted with Lou Gerig’s disease facing a long slow decline and increasing inability to communicate. Then there is the burial of my husband’s remains today. I have definitely not looked forward to this rite which was delayed for four full months after his death.  It seems like having to revisit my initial grief—like pulling a scab off a wound way before the needed healing has fully taken place. Being the kind of person who is carried through the immediate crisis by adrenalin and the full realization only dawns on me gradually weeks after, this seems like a bad time to have to attend to this task—the adrenalin is gone.



Some would say as in the grab bag, life is a bit of a gamble.  There is no doubt; life certainly is a mixed bag.  What a difference though when one has a deeply grounded faith in Someone Who has the world in His hands!  It helps us believe there is purpose in each one of those grab bag items, even if that purpose may be concealed at the moment. Let us not cast away or push any one of them aside, but reach out with open hands, seek out the opportunity for growth, understanding and deeper relationships that each presents and ask that Someone for help when we are perplexed.   


  

Ruth Smith Meyer most of the time enjoys discovering God's faithfulness as she faces the adventures in her life.  She thanks God for the privilege of speaking to different audiences on different subjects and discussing the contents of her books with her readers.  Visit her at ruthsmithmeyer. com.  









Tuesday, May 10, 2016

My Grand Experiment by Bobbi Junior

I am not one who seeks the limelight. Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with seeking centre stage, especially when we have such a wonderful message to share with the world.

It's just not for me.

I did give it my best effort during my first few years as a serious writer. Agents and publishers, queries and synopsises, guesting and launching, tweeting and tooting.. I read and learned, signed up, joined up, and followed up… I tried it all.


My conclusion? I am an unasbashed combination of reluctance and stubbornness.  My writerly friends helped me come up with an appropriate logo for my brand – a Beige Amoeba.

I'm fine with that! Let me chat with people one on one, let me e-mail on a personal level. But after a couple years of journeying through the reverberations of a published book on a hot topic, I have with relief accepted the fact that while I am compelled to write, I am not compelled to speak, to market myself, or to promote my work.

And I know I’m not alone.

That settled, I now had a problem.

I had completed another book.

What do you do with a manuscript when you refuse to engage in any of the publication routes?




Stubborn? Yes. But I’m also pragmatic. If When The Bough Breaks needed to get out there, I believed the Lord would find a way, and he did. At a writers' conference a presenter uttered the magic word.

SERIALIZATION!

Did you know that Charles Dickens published The Pick Wick Papers by instalments in his local paper? Harriet Beecher Stowe did the same with Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

If it worked for them, why not for me? I already had a blog and 27 followers. I was off to a great start.

I announced my plan on TWG’s Facebook page. Friend NJ Lindquist sent a timely article giving cautions with this sort of publication. I weighed my plan against its points of concern. No worries. Chapters were already short, so suitable for blog posts. The book wasn’t evolving as I posted. It was already complete and had been professionally edited by friend and writer, Patricia Anne Elford, so no chance of veering outside the plan.

In the blogging world, pictures are important. Fellow writer and artist, Ramona Furst teamed with me to create a distinctive original image for each chapter.



Best of all, marketing could be left to God.

THE PROCESS
I spent a morning formatting and scheduling the first dozen chapters to go out every Saturday. Within a few weeks my e-mail list had more than doubled (Well, yeah, I started with 27 subscribers. But now I’m up to 60+. For a reluctant self-promoter, this is success.)

I share each new chapter on Facebook, others share it as well. When the Bough Breaks is available to the cyber audience as the Lord chooses.

An unexpected joy comes from the fact that people can comment on each chapter, in the moment. Some have e-mailed privately to share their own experience. For me, that camaraderie is a blessing.

So there you have it. Publication by instalments. For an introvert who wants nothing to do with marketing, but wants the story out there in the public realm, it’s a perfect solution. As for finding the right reader, our Lord can direct people to my blog as he pleases. That’s works for me.


Bobbi’s new book, When The Bough Breaks tells of the 1985 loss of a much wanted baby in. Published chapters and other publications are listed on her website www.bobbijunior.com. 









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