Sunday, December 30, 2012

Is your tree out on the curb?

It is better to finish something than to start it.
It is better to be gentle and patient than to be proud and impatient.
(Ecclesiastes 7:8 Easy-to-Read Version)

A lot of people have told me that they have taken all their Christmas decorations down and have put them away until next year. “Yup,” they say, “We put the tree up the day after Thanksgiving and take it down the day after Christmas.”

Not in my house. First of all, I can’t imagine getting any decorating done right after Thanksgiving. I tend to procrastinate about everything, so it does seem as though I just finished decorating. Plus, since going to a fake tree last year, what’s the hurry? It’s not shedding any needles.

In reality, though, now that Christmas Day has passed and the shopping and wrapping (and unwrapping) and Christmas cookie baking are over with, I just want to sit back and enjoy my house. I want to curl up in a blanket on the couch and gaze at the lights on the tree or study the snow falling in the snow globes. And mostly I just want to take a few breaths and reflect on the season.

Christmas isn’t over in one day. If we can decorate for Christmas a month early, why can’t we leave the decorations up all year? Or at least keep the season in our hearts all year. Instead of saying, “It’s a relief when Christmas is over” we should be saying “Christmas has just begun.”
Lord, God, forgive us when we forget the reason for the season. Thank You for sending Your Son in the form of an innocent baby. Let us keep Him in our hearts each and every day. Amen 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Good will to men

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!
I know. Christmas is over. Or is it? Maybe if we celebrated the spirit of Christmas everyday, we would have peace on earth. 
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Christmas Day, 1864)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

What did Mary say? What would you say?

 Then Mary said,

“I praise the Lord with all my heart.
 I am very happy because God is my Savior.
I am not important,
 but he has shown his care for me, his lowly servant.
From now until the end of time,
 people will remember how much God blessed me.
Yes, the Powerful One has done great things for me.
His name is very holy.
He always gives mercy
 to those who worship him.
 He reached out his arm and showed his power.
 He scattered those who are proud and think great things about themselves.
 He brought down rulers from their thrones
 and raised up the humble people.
 He filled the hungry with good things,
 but he sent the rich away with nothing.
 God has helped Israel—the people he chose to serve him.
 He did not forget his promise to give us his mercy.
 He has done what he promised to our ancestors,
 to Abraham and his children forever.”
Luke 1:46-55
Easy-to-Read Version

After the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she would be the mother of Jesus, the young woman hurried to see her cousin Elizabeth who also was pregnant. I can picture the two of them sharing their amazing stories and wondering why God had picked them. Mary finally praises God with the song above. I guess God knew what He was doing when He chose Mary. What would you have said to this news?

“Really, God? The masses might stone me for getting pregnant without being married. And you know I really can’t afford this right now. Joseph, my fiancé, just isn’t making that much money building furniture. Can you wait until the economy is better? And you know with Elizabeth getting pregnant in her old age, do you really think I should have a baby so close in age to hers? I really don’t want to take the attention away from her. And you know, God, I am awful young. A baby is just going to ruin my figure forever.”

Yup, we all have excuses, don’t we? Good thing Mary didn’t.  

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Last Thank You

If you have been reading my blog faithfully the last few weeks, you noticed that I have been dedicating each post to one of the people or groups who helped in any way to get my book to where it is. And where is that book? It will be released tomorrow! Yeah! And I couldn't have done it without all the support from so many of you.

Last night, I was going to write about the last person on my list. Well, that blog post didn't happen because I spent the night on the couch catching up on TV with that person.
To my husband, Himey, I wouldn't be where I am today without you, and I wouldn't even be the proud Momma of Dino the Wonder Dog. You are the wind beneath my wings.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

All in God's Time

A few weeks ago, I fell into this pattern of thanking everyone who is listed in the acknowledgements section of my book. Time is running out. The book will be released very soon. Who do I have left to thank?

Last week I wrote about the Green Lake Christian Writers Conference. I arrived at the conference this past August feeling the usual excitement. Five days to rejoin old friends, delve into better writing, experience speakers bring tears to our eyes from both joy and sorrow.

Sunday afternoon, I checked in at the desk and was informed that my reservation was in order but that there wasn’t a registration folder in my name. I told the woman not worry, I knew where I was going and what I was doing (for a change). A while later, when I ran into Jan, the conference chairman, I asked if she had an extra folder for me. She said they were all out and she apologized profusely, promising she would have one made up for me. I again said, don’t worry about it.

Sometime that evening, Jan presented me with my freshly stocked folder. Being the obedient conference attendee that I always am, I scanned through the papers. Nothing new, it appeared the schedule would be the same as the one I had been emailed earlier in the week and I didn’t pay any more attention to it.

Until Tuesday.

During our evening session, Jan reminded everyone of the speaker at 1:30 the following afternoon. Jeremiah Zeiset, from LifeSentence Publishing, was going to be speaking on effectively publishing and marketing your heart’s work. She said that his bio was on a separate sheet of paper in our packets. Hmm? I thought, I hadn’t seen anything on him in my folder. I rifled through my papers again. Nothing.

I leaned over and asked the woman next to me if I could read her bio on Jeremiah. With great trepidation, I read the information on the young man and his publishing company. I looked up at the ceiling and asked, “God, why did you keep this from me until now?”

God smiled down and simply said, “In My time”. And so, even though my book was already written, that was the beginning of the journey which “A Time for Every Purpose Under Heaven” had to travel to publication.

When I met Jeremiah the next day, I was pretty sure I saw God looking through the window, nodding His head. The rest, as they say, is history.

Jeremiah has been absolutely wonderful to work with. I wish I would have met the rest of his staff. Sheila Wilkinson, my editor, did a terrific job shaping my random words into sentences. So many times when I was reading her edits, I said to myself, “duh, why didn’t I catch that mistake? I know better grammar than that. I can’t believe I wrote that sentence that way.” Ruth, who did the final proofread, must have taken out or put in a million commas. Who can keep track of all that punctuation! And all the other little things that we never notice when things are written correctly, but which jump off the page when they are wrong. And Amber, whoever you are, you took my one random picture and turned it into a beautiful cover. I have had more people remark on what an awesome cover it is. 

I hope that I got your names right. And I am sure that there are more people on the Life Sentence staff who have worked on my baby. Thank you all. Like I already said, I’m sorry that I didn’t get to meet you all. But maybe someday we will, in God’s time.  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

What can you possibly give?

Honor God with everything you own;
    give him the first and the best.  Proverbs 3:9 The Message

I love the song, The Little Drummer Boy. I picture the poor little boy looking around at his meager Earthly possessions, the ragged clothes he wore, a tattered blanket which he wrapped around him as he slept at night, and his drum. Surely the infant lying in the manger wouldn’t want his clothes or his blanket and if he gave the baby his drum, his livelihood, the boy would have no means to earn a living, he wouldn’t be able to feed himself. But maybe, the boy said to himself, maybe I can play my drum for the newborn king.

It reminds me of the parable of the woman who only gave two mites as her offering at the temple. To the wealthy men around her, it looked as if she had given so very little. But Jesus knew that she had given everything she had.

The amount of our offering isn’t what matters. What we should give to God is our very best, whether it is our money, our possessions, our time or our talents. Look at what He gave us? His very own Son.  

This Christmas season, when you are finished with your shopping – or have just given up on buying all the presents on your list – think about giving to the church or charity of your choice. If you are plum out of money right now, give your time or talents. Someone out there needs you.

And in your prayers, don’t forget the families suffering in Connecticut. 

Some of the charities I support. 

Compassion International   I sponsor a little girl in India through Compassion. I also witnessed two of their projects when I was in Kenya. They totally do what they claim - rescuing children from poverty in Jesus' name.

HEART  This is the organization that I worked with while I was in Kenya. You should check them out and see the work that Vickie is continuing to do.

CSI Ministries - Kenya  This is the organization that Dave and Jen Bell are working with now in Kenya. They were our Team leaders when I went to Africa, and I know where their hearts are and that any money you donate is going directly to help the orphans they work with.

Kinship  If you want your time and money to help out kids closer to home, get involved with a group like Kinship, if they are in your community, or Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Spend just a few hours a week making a difference in the life of a kid; you may be the only positive adult role model that child has.

Life Promotions Life Promotions is the group that puts on Lifest. But Lifest is just the party at the end of their year, the rest of the time they are reaching out to youth across the country, instilling them with hope.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"Do Over"

A few weeks ago, the movie "City Slickers" was on our TV. I have seen it many times, so didn't sit down to take it in again. As usual, I had other things to do. I did however, as I passed through the living room, pick up a few gleanings.

Don't we all have things in our lives which we wish we could do over? Mistakes we made? We think that if we only would have done things differently, everything would have turned out better. I feel that way about a lot of the mistakes I have made. How would my life be different had I not dropped out of college? Would my life be better if I hadn't married my first husband? Why did I move to Colorado? Why did I move back to Wisconsin?

All those episodes though pale in comparison when I think of how I raised my kids. Oh, I wasn't a horrible abusive parent. But I yelled at them a lot more than I should have. And I was gone more than I should have been. If I had to do it all over again, I would have spent more time with Nick and Val, been more patient with them, taken them more places, praised them more and criticized them less. Somehow, no doubt through the grace of God, Nick and Val turned out pretty good. Each day I am more and more proud of them. I look at our lives and think that I have more to thank them for than they have to thank me for.

In this blog, I have been thanking various people who have helped me create my memoir of my trip to Africa. That trip would have never happened without Nick and Val, and this blog would have never happened without them, thus the book certainly wouldn't have been written without them.

And my "best day"? Every day. Because at least once every day  I think of my son and daughter and I find my smile.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Why we need to bond with other writers

In the spring of 2010, my co-worker Ron told me about a writer’s conference he was going to in California that fall. He knew that I liked to write as he had been following this blog. He said that I should think about going to a writer’s conference and he shared the information on the one he was going to.

I knew that a plane ticket to California was not in my budget, but it did start me thinking. Back in the early 1990’s I had belonged to a local writers group and remembered that at one time someone there had mentioned a writers conference in Green Lake. I could drive to Green Lake. I went on line and checked it out.

Who would have ever guessed where that would lead? I’ve attended the Green Lake Christian Writers Conference for the past three years. Not only have I acquired a myriad of skills, I’ve made wonderful new friends and rediscovered the beautiful Green Lake Conference Center. GLCWC has opened so many doors for me. I’ve made so many connections, grown so much in my faith, taken way too many pictures.

Had I not attended the conference this past August, I never would have discovered my publisher, Life Sentence Publishing.

It never fails to amaze me the plans that God has in each of our lives. Who knew? Who could have imagined that one simple conversation with a co-worker would lead me to having my book published? Only God can orchestrate those kinds of things.

So, to all of my fantastic friends from GLCWC, who are too numerous to mention here, thank you so much for bringing me to where I am right (write) now. 

My first year, 2010, I was part of Mary Pierce's class. We were always serious. It was here that I wrote one of the final scenes of my book. The woman on the far right, Lisa Klarner, has just published her book.

 I was in Cynthia Ruchti's class on writing longer fiction in 2011. Cynthia is such a dear woman. She holds God so close to her heart.

This year I was back in Mary Pierce's class. Yes, and once again we stuck to business and hardly had any fun. Until the night of the banquet that is. You truly had to be there. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A baby is born

 The angel said to her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, because God is very pleased with you. Listen! You will become pregnant and have a baby boy. You will name him Jesus. He will be great. People will call him the Son of the Most High God, and the Lord God will make him king like his ancestor David. He will rule over the people of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:30-33 Easy to Read Bible

Finally after three years of writing, two months of endless revising, and a lifetime of dreaming, I can hold my book in my hands. What will the next few months bring for my baby? Will it sell? Will it receive good reviews? And in the coming years, will people still discover it on line and purchase it? Will it remain on people’s bookshelves, collecting dust, or will it be decomposing in the landfill? 

There was another baby born two thousand years and I wonder what his mother’s thoughts were. Will my baby be different from the other children? Will he make friends? Will people like him? What will his future bring? What does it mean to be the Son of God?

Within the next few weeks, my book – my baby – will be sent out into the world to be read by at least a few people. My dream would be for it to make a difference in those people’s lives. 

And Mary’s baby? Look at the difference he made in the lives of millions of people. Look at the difference he continues to make in the world all around us. Do you think Mary had any idea of what her baby would do for this world?  

Thank You, Lord, for sending us Your Son in the form of an innocent baby. Thank You for coming into our world and for saving us. All praise and glory goes to You. Amen

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Three Amigas

“Some days are diamonds, some days are stones.” Today was rather a stone. And on days like this only a good friend can get you through.

I’ve been writing the last week or two about the people I have thanked in the acknowledgement section of my book. Tonight I show my appreciation to three women, each very different and each offering something totally different as far as friendship and support. Looking back, I see that I have told you about two of them.

Phyllis has been a dear friend for close to twenty years. A lot of people still are friends with someone from college, but Phyllis was my sister’s friend from college. Strange how we have been drawn into each other’s lives. Especially since she lives 275 miles away. But distance can’t keep a good friendship down.

Denise also lives a few miles away and I also only see her a few times a year. But again, friendship is about so much more than minutes and miles. Denise was one of my first blog supporters and she has had no qualms about telling others about it. She believes in me, and even if we don’t always agree, we always come back for more.

Finally, let me introduce you to Doris. I referred to her in my last post; she is one of the founding members of our Tuesday morning Bible Study. I’ve worked with her for twelve years, lots of ups and downs. Lots of co-workers have come and gone in that time. Sometimes I want to cling to Doris as the only certainty at my place of employment. But then she would remind me that there is only one Person to cling to. And I would turn around and tell her the same thing. On days like today, when not much seems to make sense, Doris, turn it over to God, cling to Him as the one sure thing.
Believe it or not, ladies, as I write this, the book that you each inspired in your own way is sitting next to me, taunting me. Waiting for me to call up my publisher to give the all-clear to release the book. I can’t wait for you each to have your own copy.  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tuesday Mornings with . . .

I can’t remember when it started, but it has to be five or six years ago. One of the doctors that I work with and another co-worker go to the Northwoods Vineyard Church here in our town. They asked their pastor if he could join them in starting a Bible study at the clinic where we work. Tuesday mornings at seven was the chosen time.

I maybe wake up fairly early every morning, but I really don’t like talking to anyone or even seeing anyone for at least a couple hours after crawling out of bed. I used to be quite the grouch at work when I first arrived. But I knew that God would get me through those Tuesday mornings and that I would learn to be a morning person.

I still can’t say I’m a morning person, and though I can smile and converse, I can’t honestly say that I think too deeply. But I have managed to make it to Bible Study many Tuesday mornings.

We have gone through five or six books of the Bible and studied three or four other books on living the Christian life. The group has fluctuated over the years, averaging from four to ten people. Many people have come and gone as their schedules and other outside factors have come along. It seems that when someone drops out there is always someone else who starts coming.

We open and close each week with prayer and the discussion in between often veers from the book we are supposedly studying. If anyone has a particular need, we will spend the time encouraging them and praying with them. Or we might spend an entire hour on one Bible verse or even one word. It never fails to amaze me how rich the Bible is, each verse, each word means something. Definitely a book which the writer should study for writing tips.

But that’s not the real reason I included a thank you to this group in the acknowledgements of my book. It is a rare thing in this society to be able to openly share your faith with others and even more rare to share your fears and doubts. The members of our Bible Study have supported me and strengthened my faith more than words can say. I’ve been reminded through that group, time and time again, that God is always near.

 Thank you, guys, and thank you God, for bringing us all together.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

It's all part of God's Plan

“I say this because I know the plans that I have for you.” This message is from the Lord. “I have good plans for you. I don’t plan to hurt you. I plan to give you hope and a good future.” Jeremiah 29:11Easy-to-Read Version

Here it is December already. I’ve been thinking of what I was going to blog about on Sundays this month, what Christmas theme I was going to use. So I went back to last year’s December blogs and see that I really out did myself. I wrote about Christmas three times a week for a whole month. And I had a theme for not only Sundays, but for Thursdays too. I can’t keep up with that kind of stuff this year. I have had so much going on the last two months that I am completely brain-dead. I should be in a coma.

But you know, no matter what I write about, it seems that for whatever reason, God blesses it. I don’t want to sound all sure of myself or overconfident. It really is not me. When God decided over seven years ago that He wanted me to go on that mission trip to Kenya, I never imagined it would turn out this way, that He would totally guide me to write a book about my experience and that He would send this fantastic publisher to me and that so much of this book would fall into place.

It is all in His plans, not mine. Just like sending His Son to us on the first Christmas. It is beyond our control, all we can do is follow God’s plan.

Lord, God Heavenly Father, there is no way that I could ever praise You enough. I am nothing without You. You follow me, You guide me, You care for me, You love me unconditionally. You have granted me everything that my heart desires. Amen

Saturday, December 1, 2012

My Baby's Feet: A Book Review

I don’t usually post on Saturdays. I also don’t usually write book reviews. No matter how much I like a book, I never know how to describe it in more than a few lines without repeating the whole story. But I am going to give this a shot, and maybe down the road, I’ll review a few more books. There are a lot of good books out there which aren’t getting much recognition. We will just have to see how this goes.

“My Baby’s Feet”, written by Shelia M. Luck, is published by Life SentencePublishing, the same place which is doing my book. The description of the book sounded pretty good and I wanted to see how the books put out by Life Sentence Publishing look, so I ordered it.

In 1975, Sheila had an abortion. At the time it seemed the only option for the seventeen- year-old. Abortion was, and still is, legal and it was, and still is, the choice many teen-age girls and young women make to deal with a difficult situation. It took Sheila many years to come to terms with what she had done. At first she had herself convinced that it was no big deal; that she hadn’t aborted a baby, that it had just been a lump of tissue. But she couldn’t erase the feelings she carried around. She couldn’t put it behind her.

(And this is where I get stuck writing a book review. How much more should I tell you and if I don’t tell you anymore, how do I wrap this thing up? Maybe I need to find an on-line book review class.)

Anyway, I do want to tell you that Sheila shares all of her emotional pain. I ached for her as I read the pages. This book would be so helpful to anyone struggling with abortion and would be just as helpful for anyone who has made any difficult decision which they now regret.  

“My Baby’s Feet” is available on the Life Sentence Publishing website as well as