Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Strength in Numbers/DONNA MANN

Writing can be an isolated effort. Even when plotting a novel or writing a devotional in a busy cafĂ©, a writer can feel separated from the activities and discussion happening around them. Great achievements can be realized when writing in a solitary environment.  

Moving past being alone in that initial creative time, entering the world of support can be invigorating.  Being a member of The Word Guild has given opportunity to stretch and test new ground.  New friends in the midst of many members gives me reading material, options and new ideas.

Learning to write in a group is another way to enjoy support. Angel Hope Publishing (Glynis Belec) sent me an email to join a team of writers accepting the challenge of writing about grief. This topic suggests aloneness. But, the invitation was different in that six writers would contribute to the same book about the same topic, but with individual experiences. My first involvement in an anthology proved to be an encouraging and empowering time as we shared with each other.

Recently I enrolled in Marcia Laycock’s Devotionals of Distinction and attempted to fit my
assignments (written in isolation) into weekly reflections during the season of lent. From my keyboard, to Marcia then to Heidi and Sara for a read, before taking the work to two tables of participants and a Facebook group of “Meeting Jesus on the Roads Through Lent” proved to be an excellent process. About twenty people will contribute weekly to these reflections before the final week. Yes, the work becomes stronger than if I had continued to work in isolation.

I cherish my writer’s group where we write and meet monthly to read our work to one another. First written in isolation, probably in a quiet room with only our thoughts now banter for space on the paper. Secondly it is read and critiqued in the presence of others. What we had begun as putting our words together as mind to hand to paper now turns into a collaborative effort as members of the group begin to fill in the blanks.
 
It is here that ideas often take root and words rush to express and define concepts. Different perspectives surface and viewpoints begin to tease for recognition. This part of the process opens the heart of the story and we stand back to watch as it begins to stand alone on its own merit without interpretation.

Growth becomes evident in the writer’s mind. Expansion of words, sentences and paragraphs fill out the story offering images, scent and sound. No, it’s not a different story. It began to live and claim its own space on the paper.

 "cord of three strands is not quickly broken" (Ecclesiastes 4:12 NIV).

Blessings
Donna
Check out donnamann.org for writeplus and other surprises.


 Do you have your copy? Book Launch May 7th, 2017
Come and meet all the authors.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Turning Points in Life


I had plans. . . . expectations. . . dreams.
They crumbled as I listened to the doctor's words. . ..
Your baby has a five percent chance to live.
If she lives she has a five percent chance to ever walk, a five percent chance to talk or do anything else.


With the doctor's devastating words echoing through my mind I began a journey I had not prepared for. I entered the unfamiliar world of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
My lay in a coma with machines breathing for her, monitoring her vital signs, her heart and her body temperature while tubes provided nourishment and medications.

Helplessly I watched. Tears flowed freely. The 5%, 5%, 5% pounded out the plans for easily integrating a fourth child into our family. How did this happen? Why? No one seemed to have answers to these questions.

I stood beside her incubator on the second day feeling helpless and devastated. A huge turning point happened in my life in the next few moments. As I closed my eyes and begged God one more time for a miracle, He spoke to me. 
  
First it appeared that my Bible had opened to Philippians 4:6,7. I read these verses:

"Do not be anxious for anything but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace that transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." (NIV)

Then He asked me, "Do you trust me and believe I can heal your daughter completely and instantly?"

My affirmative answer came without hesitation.

 He asked a second time, "Do you trust me to heal her a little at a time by giving the doctors the insight they need?"

Again I did not hesitate, "Yes Lord I have been asking and hoping for your touch on her life."

A third time God questioned me, "Will you still trust me if I heal your daughter by taking her home to heaven?"

I paused before answering, "Forgive me for my lack of thankfulness. You have given us a beautiful daughter and never promised how long she would be with us. I know you love me. I know you love her more than I ever could. God she is yours. I pray that you will give me strength and grow my trust and faith."

In that turning point I felt the peace of God wrap around me like a warm blanket. I opened my eyes and nothing had changed except in my heart.

 God continued to work on my heart, teaching me valuable lessons that have stuck with me since that Plan B turning point. The first one, one that I still struggle with is patience. Waiting on God's timing and plans instead of my own. On the third day she woke up but had lost her voice and her sucking reflex.


I began to learn another lesson – one that I am also still working on. I began to remember to be grateful and celebrate each small step.

On that third day I celebrated getting to hold my baby for the first time and that she was breathing on her own.
On the sixth day I chose to celebrate that she was strong enough to have a CT scan even as the doctor's words, "There is so much swelling we can not pinpoint the areas that are damaged or the amount of damage." caused fear to flutter in my heart.

On day eight the doctor told me, "I do not know why I am able to tell you this. It is medially impossible but you can take your baby home today."


I have been on this journey for over thirty-four years. It has been filled with many medical appointments, health crisis, physical, occupational and speech therapy sessions. Specialists have told us over the years that everything she can do is medically impossible giving us a huge reason to celebrate and also to give God the glory. I received the miracle I so desperately hoped for that first day even though it has taken over three decades and it has never looked like what I expected.


 I have often found myself in  Plan B situations when life takes unexpected detours from my original plan. There have also been many turning points in my life. Yet this one stands out so clearly and I am often reminded of it  my plans, dreams and expectations disintegrate. But God remains the same and I know that trusting Him does not mean an escape from reality or problems yet hope born from a faith and trust in God changes how I see myself and what I value. What turning point in your life stands out from all the rest? What lessons on hope, faith and trust did it help you learn? 



 Carol Harrison is a speaker, author and storyteller who lives in Saskatoon, SK with her husband and youngest daughter. She enjoys sharing messages to encourage others in the tough times of life. 
www.carolscorner.ca

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Confessions of a Type A Christian


Does waiting in a long line kill you; figuratively speaking?
Are you a perfectionist, overachiever, workaholic, or all of the above?
Do you hate wasting time?
Do you often talk over and interrupt people in order to rush the conversation?
Is everything urgent?
These general characteristics describe a typical Type ‘A’ personality.
I’m embarrassed to say, that I have to answer, “Yes, yes, and resounding, yes,” to all these questions. What about you?
I know that God created me and is aware of all my natural tendencies, I also know that..."Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” [i]
I wonder what that conversation consists of when Christ is advocating for me.

Devine help is available for my frantic need to accelerate. Christ told us, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”[ii]
There it is.   So why do I continue to rush right past my quiet-time spot, head for the coffee machine, climb the stairs to my office,  pick up my to-do list, quickly scan multiple emails, wince as I observe a busy week of calendar appointments, and dive headlong into another hectic day? I try to fight my own battles and juggle priorities in my own strength; all of which causes me to suffer high levels of stress and feelings of defeat.
I say, “I’ll just finish this one task, and then I’ll take time for my devotions.” 
Prayer, for people like me, feels like an interruption instead of a privilege. When I do stop to pray and read the word, I have difficulty not thinking about my long list of current commitments.
I recently was sharing the theme of this blog at my bible study. I asked my group, “How can I finish the article, because awareness is only half of the solution?” Our bible study hostess, a wise and spunky 92 year old woman, said, “Tell them, ‘To be continued.’”
So I will continue to ask our Heavenly Father for the discipline and consistency to stop my frantic ways and look for opportunities to worship and listen to HIS voice.
"Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."[iii]

I’d love to hear from others who struggle with these tendencies.



[i] Romans 9:34b NLT
[ii] Matthew 7:7-8 NLT
[iii] Psalm 46:10 NASV


Carol Ford’s is a co-author of As the Ink Flows: Devotions to Inspire Christian Writers & Speakers and has short story in Hot Apple Cider with Cinnamon. She is a career coach and speaker. 
https://carolfordassociates.wordpress.com/
[i] https://www.facebook.com/As-the-Ink-Flows-Devotions-to-Inspire-Christian-Writers-Speakers-831092453662406/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
[ii] https://www.amazon.ca/s/ref=nb_sb_noss/165-2734665-4045514?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=as+the+ink+flows

Friday, March 17, 2017

Parallels of St. Patrick's Day

The simple wild three-leaf clover. Wearing green. Corn beef and cabbage. Beer and cheer. (I've never tasted beer - and don't intend to- but I love corn beef.) These are but a few symbols associated with the Irish tradition, St Patrick’s Day , celebrated today in honour of St. Patrick who died fifteen hundred and fifty-five years ago.  

Photo credit by Rattikankeawpun of Free Digital Photos
The boy Patrick (birth name Maewyn www.gpb.org/education/origins-of-st-patricks-day) was a British lad who was kidnapped at age 16 and brought to to Ireland, where among other things, he tended sheep in the rugged, chilly mountainside.  Eventually he escaped to France where he converted to Christianity, returning to Ireland as a missionary to share the good news with the people who had enslaved him. Patrick used a simple object lesson to explain the Trinity to a people who found it difficult to conceive “three in one”. The common three-leaf shamrock attached a single stem clearly  illustrated the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He attained the status of bishop while alive, and that of patron saint after his death. There is a lot more surrounding St. Patrick, myths and legends which may be challenged, an influence that is undisputed.

I couldn’t help but notice some parallels of St. Patrick’s and  what is found in the Bible. Like with David the shepherd boy who went on to be king and a man after God’s heart. The shamrock was as ordinary as the lily of the valley that Jesus referenced in being worry-free. The heart-shaped leaf that conveyed the Heart of the Father to the hearts of the people. Forgiveness and reconciliation to a people who could have seen as less than worthy. And how the celebrations extends beyond the Irish, embraced by the “gentiles” of anyone who wants to celebrate. Even if it’s just that one happens to like corn beef a lot.

(This blog was originally posted on March 17, 2016)




SUSAN HARRIS  is an author, speaker and teacher.  http://susanharris.ca

Monday, March 13, 2017

Blessings and Challenges—Carolyn R. Wilker




This past week our youngest daughter gave birth to a baby boy, the first boy in four grandchildren for my husband and me. The baby appears healthy, and his parents are doing well, if only a little tired from being up at night for feedings and learning the care of a new baby, their first child. To be sure, there is much to learn, from breast feeding, and keeping him comfortable to his overall care. My daughter was glad for a spare arm the third night home so that she could attend to another important matter. During the time I was there, her husband announced his need for a nap, for he has been as attentive to the baby’s care as our daughter. It was good to see that. They’d celebrate a little along the way, first with grandparents and then with individual family members, those closest to them. Other visits, they determined, would wait awhile until they’d settled in to life with their firstborn. They were grateful, as well, for a dinner they didn't have to prepare for the next evening.


Holding my new grandson



The night before our grandchild's birth, was the scheduled Toastmasters Area 62 speech contest night. After winning my club contest in the International Speech contest, the first place competitor goes on to compete against other Toastmaster club members in our area. I didn’t know as I prepared for that evening whether I’d go in with anticipation of the baby’s birth or the news of the birth. Either way my daughter and son-in-law said I should go ahead and compete that evening. It turned out baby wasn’t quite ready to make his appearance that night and so I went with anticipation. At the end of the night, coming in second, fellow club members congratulated me on my speech. To one of them I said, “Three times a charm?” Maybe not quite a charm, but I had done my best yet in stiff competition. Fellow Energetics club member, Scott, won his contest in the Evaluation Speech that same night, and he goes on to the division level and my worthy competitor goes on too. Much preparation and practice goes into such a contest to know the speech well and to deliver it well. As well, no small amount of healthy anticipation and sweat.

Second place is still good


Also this past week, our book group celebrated the printing of Good Grief People that we'd been working on since last spring. We held the book in our hands, and revelled in its completion over coffee/tea and a bit of lunch at a coffee shop at a point midway from our homes. We addressed the launch that we’d booked for a date in early May, and other ways we’d promote the book to our potential readers. As challenging as it was to write our stories and dig deeper to the emotional level, we hope it will be a blessing to those who grieve and feel alone. We’d poured ourselves into the writing, critiquing and editing as well as proofreading, and the publisher/writer sweat a few buckets in the formatting of the manuscript until finally all was well and the book went to print. And so that meeting was a celebration of  all the the work as well as preparing for the next step.

celebrating the book's completion, minus one author for whom we're raising our cup, or a thumbs-up

our book


Three significant times this week, I said, “Thank you” to God, for the safe delivery of our grandson, for the culmination of the contest and performing well, and for the completed book. For all three, there was thankfulness and blessings, and for all three were challenges. We know that God is with us in the challenges as well as the celebrations, and it’s important to acknowledge that God goes with us, if not before us, each of those times. Again, “Thank you,  God.”


 
Carolyn R. Wilker, author and editor



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