"If you write FOR a particular market or FOR a particular editor you will often miss the mark. But if you write because your fingers have danced across the keyboard, because a character has tapped you on the shoulder, because a story has settled in your heart, then even if you never sell it you have done the work you were meant to do. And sometime, dear readers, real magic happens." Jane Yolen

4/30/12

Slow Going

We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through 
faith and patience inherit what has been promised. Hebrews 6:12 NIV

We live in a society of instant gratification. Twenty-four hour news. Microwave ovens. Instant messages. Smart phones. Email. Wireless transmission of everything from money to books. If you want it now, there's a pretty good chance that, somehow, you can have it.

Our kids especially, I think, expect things to happen right away. They're not used to waiting for much of anything. And, to be honest, I'm finding myself becoming more and more this way. I get impatient as I'm waiting for the traffic light to change. I twiddle my thumbs when I sit in a restaurant and wait for the waitress to bring me my food. I check my watch as I anticipate my microwave popcorn. And I get frustrated when my writing and/or editing doesn't flow quickly out my fingers.

But there is great value in taking the time to do something thoroughly. I spent much of this month trying to improve the 30,000 words of a novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo last year. It took me 30 days to write those words (not QUITE instant gratification, but closer than I usually am!). As of today, I've made it through about 7,000 of those words, in basically the same amount of time.

I'll be honest. I've gotten pretty frustrated a couple times with how slow this process is. I have A LOT of work to do to make this manuscript shine. And in this world of instant gratification, maybe I wish I could snap my fingers and make all the fixes I'd need to make it a bestseller (or at least get the attention of an agent).

But if I did, I wouldn't learn. It wouldn't be my journey - my book. That's the problem with instant gratification. We may get what we want - but not necessarily the knowledge we need for improvement - to do better the next time. For when we don't want to put the effort into making something right, we're being lazy - and settling for second best.


There is great value in working hard, taking it slow, and struggling for the things we get. Not that I'm planning to give up my computer and write my novel on a stone tablet or go back to drawing my water from the local river - but I do know that ease isn't always easy in the long run, and instant gratification can just as easily be instant disappointment. And the Lord's timing is always best (and rarely is it "right this moment!").

**

Do you consider yourself a patient person? How do you, in this modern world of fast food, instant messaging, and constant connectivity, slow down and wait on God's timing? Are you often tempted to take the easy way out, even if you know it's not best - or worse is against His will?



Comment below, and/ or stop by Living by Grace and we can chat a bit!


 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

4/27/12

Finds for Fridays: April 27

  Finds for Fridays is my way of sharing some of the wonderful blogs posts I read each week. I am currently following close to 100 blogs and at least scan them as much as I can. Each week, I'll note and "set aside" some posts that especially speak to me for whatever reason. And each Friday that I am able, I'll share them with you. I hope you'll stop by and read the posts, and maybe even follow the blogs if you aren't already. A win-win, right?

And here they are!

I Want Off This Plane! By Elaine Cooper at Reflections in Hindsight (about scary situations and feeling compelled to pray)

Retreat, Rest, and Restoration by Karlene Jacobsen at The Barn Door (about getting away)

Friendships by Verna Mitchell at Jewels of Encouragement (about the best Friend you can have)

Why Writers Should Read II by Mary Vee at The Writers Alley (about the need for flat characters - really!)

Hope you enjoy these posts. Some good stuff up there :)


Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

4/25/12

Vincent's Slow Miracle - Guest Anthony Weber - God Is So Good



Welcome to my Wednesday feature God is So Good. Here I will share stories - true and fiction, mine and others' - of the Lord's presence in the midst of trials, struggles, and difficulties.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33b
I was (almost) desperate for a guest post for today. Had been praying about it for a couple days. Then, a name (and blog!) I'd recently discovered (like this past weekend) came to mind. Found him in FaithWriters Free Reprints, and went to his blog, and found this amazingly encouraging post. Asked if I could use it. He said yes. Praying it blesses you as it did me - AND that it reminds you to look for those slow miracles.

Vincent's Slow Miracle
By Anthony Weber
(reprinted from his blog, with permission)

On Saturday, Sheila brought six-year-old Vincent home from a party and said to me, "Do you realize it was just a year ago we weren't sure this would ever happen?" I had forgotten; she was right.

From as far back as I can remember, Vince always struggled with any kind of boundary. When he was one and two years old, he could not sit in his car seat for more than 10 minutes without screaming.  Trips to Meijers were too long for all of us.  We seldom traveled.  

We took the chance when he was almost two, and we flew South for Christmas to see family.  He screamed there and back.  I was physically ill for a week after our "vacation."  That summer, he began to run onto the road outside our house and stand on it, I guess just waiting for cars.  We fenced in the rest of the backyard and locked the doors of the house, but he still snuck out.  A policeman brought him to our door once; we had no idea he was gone.  How many times over the years did I say to people, "My goal is to get him through this next year alive"?  I wasn't joking.

He wouldn't go outside during the winter until he was five, because  hats and gloves were too restrictive (he still sheds his socks and shoes at a moment's notice).  He refused to color inside lines (not a joke).  

He had no concept of why boundaries existed.
He had no idea that they were meant to protect him.
Two years ago,  we had Vincent tested for autism.  At the time, both his teacher and I saw enough symptoms that we decided a test was in order (he was watching trains for hours; standing in a corner and flapping his hands when upset, etc). The initial test suggested he had Fragile X Syndrome.  I should have known better than to look that up online.  It was not a diagnosis full of hope. 

The second test showed he was not on the autism spectrum, but was instead "developmentally delayed."  I could have told them that. (My favorite moment in this whole process was reading how Vincent got tired of all the tests and crawled under the table, so two adults went under the table with him to finish the test). 

This diagnosis was actually good news.  One well meaning person said she was "praying against the spirit of diagnosis." I had not been aware there was one, and I appreciated her concern, but the reality was that I was relieved.  Sheila and I knew something was wrong; we just didn't know what.  Now we did.  With the right diagnosis comes the proper cure.

A year ago, Vincent was splitting time at two schools because he was "Developmentally Delayed."  In the mornings, he went to class with about 20 other kids with a similar diagnosis.  When he would go to the Christian school where I teach in the afternoons... it didn't go as well.  About the time he completed the DD class and was declared "normal,"  we had to pull him out of school all together and put him into daycare.  

How quickly I have forgotten how sobered we were.  

Just 5 months ago, at a crowded museum in Gatlinburg, I dedicated my entire museum-going experience to watching him.  I lost him three times.  The third time I utterly, completely lost track of him, and in a panic started looking in the closest room.  He was sitting there watching TV, with no idea how disastrous the results could have been.
This "unboundaried" existence has not always translated into "plays well with others."  He could not comprehend social boundaries any better than physical ones.  He would just take stuff from kids, and sometimes hit them, and didn't seem to really care what they thought of him.  
     
On the other hand,  he was amazingly energetic and outgoing, constantly laughing and talking. Most adults who experienced him in small doses thought he was a hoot, but his peers, his parents, his brothers, and his teacher got both barrels. 

This has not been a life without joy.  Vincent is hilarious on his good days, and he loves people and activity.  I have a collection of things he has said that crack me up no matter how many times I read it. 

This year, he started real school.  We spent the first couple weeks on pins and needles, but nothing major blew up.  Then, he won an award for something in chapel - I don't remember what, but frankly, it doesn't matter. 

HE WON AN AWARD. 


Then, he started talking about his friends - they were peers, and they liked him.  One classmate told his mom, "Vincent drives me crazy.  But he's my best friend." 

Vince started actually doing homework without having a meltdown.  
     He tried some foods he never tried before.  
     He told real jokes. 
     He played Monopoly and did not make up his own rules.  
     He fished our goldfish out of the pond (wait..that's a different list...)

     He sat through a whole movie at the theater, unlike the time I literally chased him around the perimeter of the State Theater in Traverse City one unforgettable Saturday morning while Braden calmly watched "The Secret of Nimh."  
      He colors recognizable pictures. 
      He gets invited to parties by genuine friends. 
      He goes; he does not try to open the birthday kid's present. 
      He does not get into a fight or disappear into the backyard.  
      He keeps his fingers out of the cake until the appropriate time.
      
     I know a lot of people face tremendous challenges with their kids that make our experience pale in comparison.  My point is only to note something that may be common to all of us:  after so many years of praying for a change, how easy it is to overlook the slow miracles that God provides. 

**
Anthony Weber is a pastor, high school and college teacher, coach, husband, and father of three boys. He has been a teacher for 14 years (Traverse City Christian School, and recently as an adjunct for Spring Arbor University), a pastor for 9 years, and an occasional construction worker almost all his life. He has published a book on the journey through grief entitled Learning To Jump Again (http://www.learningtojumpagain.com).

Anthony and his wife, Sheila, currently live in Traverse City, Michigan with their three boys, two cats, and a dog named Trixie.  In his spare time, he promotes good athletic programs by prominently displaying Ohio State's logo and trying to keep up with the local Cross Fit maniacs at the gym.
**

Don't you love the idea/concept of slow miracles? I know it grabbed me. And Vincent certainly is one. I can think of several others in my own life too. Bet you can as well. God is SO good!

Do you have a story you'd like to share about God's goodness in your struggles? Drop me an email and we can talk!

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

4/23/12

Missing It

I'm over at the Internet Cafe today, talking about similarities between me and my kids - and between our Heavenly Father and us. Hope you'll stop by and find out how they're Just Like Me
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18 NIV

A few weeks ago, my family entered, for the first time, the wild and wonderful world of AYSO soccer. Several people told us our son was very good at it (from observing him at recess), so we decided to sign him up. So far, he's enjoying it. (and he looks AWFUL cute in his uniform. Don't you think?)

This past Saturday, we had our first away game, maybe 15 minutes from our home. I did a mapquest and then knew just where to go - simple directions, really. So I left the driving directions at home and hopped in the car with the family.  We gave ourselves about twice as much time to get there as we needed - just in case, you know?

I mean, how hard could it be to find a bunch of soccer fields? It's not like they're small. We were on field nine, so there had to be AT LEAST that many, right? Not something you could miss.

And we turned the corner, just beyond where I thought the field was supposed to be, and we saw soccer fields. See? I didn't need the map. We all got out of the car and started heading toward them.

"Excuse me. Where is field nine?" I asked the gentleman standing by a group of young girls in soccer jerseys.

"These soccer fields are lettered. You're at the wrong place."

Long story short, after talking to three different people, we were told the fields WE were looking for were around the corner and across the street. "You can't miss it," one person said.

But we did - and almost missed it once more when we went back with the more specific directions. The fields, it ends up, were a few hundred yards back from the road. And the sign? NOT huge by any stretch of the imagination.

How could anyone say "you can't miss it," we wondered, when the only indication of its existence was an inobtrusive sign? They must have been familiar with the area.

And then I was reminded of Isaiah 53. Why, you ask?

Because I wonder the same thing myself just about every time I read that chapter.
How could anyone read about the suffering servant and NOT see that it referred to Jesus? How could they miss it?
And then I remember that I did the same thing. You see, the answer is simple. If they aren't familiar with the area, i.e. Jesus, no matter how many times they drive past the passage, they won't see Him.

Most of you know I was raised Jewish, and didn't come to Christ until I was in my 30s. I had read Isaiah 53 before I accepted Christ (granted, not many times, but I had), but it didn't have any significance to me. It was only AFTER  I learned about Jesus in the New Testament that this amazing prophecy became clear to me. Along with so many other OT passages that point to my Savior.

We wonder sometimes why folks don't "get" what Jesus is saying: what Christianity is about. How can they miss God's work in nature? In our lives? In world events?

Maybe it's because they don't know about Him - really know. And maybe we need to be the ones to share, so they can stop "missing it."

**
Do you sometimes get frustrated when people don't see and/or acknowledge the Lord in places you so clearly see Him? How can you make those  "God things" clearer to others? Do they need to know Him? Know Him better? Is it easier for you to understand some of the evil in the world when you look at it from this perspective/ What can we do about it?


Comment below, and/ or stop by Living by Grace and we can chat a bit!




Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

4/20/12

Finds for Fridays: April 20

  Finds for Fridays is my way of sharing some of the wonderful blogs posts I read each week. I am currently following close to 100 blogs and at least scan them as much as I can. Each week, I'll note and "set aside" some posts that especially speak to me for whatever reason. And each Friday that I am able, I'll share them with you. I hope you'll stop by and read the posts, and maybe even follow the blogs if you aren't already. A win-win, right?

And here they are!

"Hey! I can write a book!" by Linda Glaz at From The Heart (about perseverance and "how easy" it is to write a book)

Weeding Our Manuscripts Part II: Weed Whacking to Increase Pace By Julia Reffner at The Writers Alley (some EXCELLENT tips)

The Showdown by Billy Coffey at What I Learned Today (about baseball and dads and sons)

The Gift of No by Jennifer Slattery at Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud (about God's direction)

Enjoy these reads - a bit of something for everyone, I think :) Thanks for stopping by :)
 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

4/19/12

I'm at JoE today...


Forgot until I saw the post LOL, or I would have put the notice at the top of my Progressive Interview post. Anyway, I'm over at JoE today, talking about praising the Lord. Stop by and find out When To Worship Him. (and scroll down HERE and check out the progressive interview!)
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

Your Bucket List- A Progressive Interview

My dear friend Patty Wysong has a ministry she calls "Take Flight" on her blog and Facebook, where she helps bloggers with ideas for blog posts and blogging in general. I've participated once or twice before (I think!). If you need blog post fodder, it's a GREAT place to hang out.

Last Thursday, she put out a challenge that I'm taking up today: a progressive interview. A whole bunch of folks put a single interview question at the Take Flight Facebook page, and we went about answering them. And each person posted the answers to THEIR question on their blog, along with a link to the people who answered.

SO - if you go to the links attached to each quote, you can see A DIFFERENT question, and other folks' (including my!) answer to their questions. Fun, eh? Or, just  and check out the folks who have linked up at the bottom of each post.

And without further ado (that was A LOT of ado, eh?), here is my contribution. Please read and enjoy my question (and answers) - and click on the folks' pictures below and check out OTHER interviews!

QUESTION: What's on your bucket list? Name at least two things you'd like to do before you leave earth, and why.

Photo credit (I added the text)
Sharon Clements Srock: A trip to the opal mines in Australia. Opals are my birthstone and I've always been fascinated with their color. Scuba dive. I love to snorkel, but I'd love to take it to the next level. 

Yvonne Blake: I'd like to have my Phoebe novel published (I've been working on it, off and on, for 30 years. It would be nice to see it come to completion.) and I'd like to go to France. (I love the French language, and I'd like to experience some of the culture that I've read so much about.)

Diane Lesire Brandmeyer: Take a train trip to Alaska with my husband. He's been there and wants to go back and share it with me. 

Go to New York City to the button store. I don't know why this is such a big deal to me. I just want to see all of those buttons! I love to sew and buttons that are unique are a bit hard to find where I live.

Valerie Friesen Comer: Hmm. Two items on my bucket list? I'd love to travel to England sometime and steep myself in some history. Where I live in rural BC, Canada, we're still celebrating centennials of when towns were established, etc. I think we don't even have a concept of the many layers history can provide in places where civilization has been in place for thousands of years.

As an author, I'd like to hit the NYT bestseller list someday. Hey, why not dream big? Yes, I'll need to sell more than the novella that's about to be published, but God, my agent, and I are working on that!
 

Linda McQuinn Carlblom: 1. I want to get my three already written books for kids published because I think they'd be a great read for kids and would draw them closer to God. 2. I'd like to go on an overseas mission trip partly for the adventure, but mostly to spread the love of Jesus. 

Donna Winters: Go to Alaska. Go to Hawaii. I'll probably get to those places as a widow since my husband doesn't like to fly. Maybe we could strike it rich and take a boat. He does like boating. Good thing. We're surrounded by lakes here in Michigan. 

Sharon Hoover: I want to live in a geodesic dome on a mountain lake; and I want to publish a novel. :-) P.S. Diana's train trip to Alaska is now on my bucket list, too! 

Janet Sketchley: Go on a river cruise. Probably Europe. Because rivers are cool and the scenery would be amazing. Skydive. I think. Because if I didn't die of fright it'd be awesome. 

Patty Wysong: I think my bucket list is constantly changing. Does that make me fickle? LoL. oh well. One thing that's been on my list for a few years is to go scuba diving somewhere with colorful fish and maybe even some coral. Snorkeling is a suicide mission for me (I end up almost drowning myself *eye roll*) but if I have my air tank I can relax and enjoy it. The colors are stunning, the quiet is soothing, and things are so different down there that I want to just sit and watch. This week's revolving item on my bucket list is either sky diving, or, if I chicken out, going in a wind tunnel. It looks like so much fun, not to mention how it ignites my imagination. And if that doesn't work out out, I'll settle for a few days on a lake somewhere. ;-) Calm, peaceful, safe. =]

Kristi Peifer: I would like to travel to Europe and Australia. I've never been off the continent of North America! I'd also really love to play the parts of Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly! and Maria VonTrapp in The Sound of Music.

Christine Rich: Two things on my bucket list are visiting Israel and Ireland/Scotland.

  And MY answer?  I really, REALLY want to go to the Grand Canyon some day, and to Israel. Grand Canyon just because it sounds so beautiful and awesome - and Israel because of my Jewish background AND coming to Christ - would so love to see the place where the patriarchs - AND my Savior - walked.
Hope you'll check out the linky gadget at Patty's blog, or click through the links on this page to see the other interview topics and questions. Fun stuff, eh??

So, what's on YOUR bucket list?



Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

4/18/12

A Broken Dryer... - God is so Good



Welcome to my Wednesday feature God is So Good. Here I will share stories - true and fiction, mine and others' - of the Lord's presence in the midst of trials, struggles, and difficulties.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33b
Okay - for whatever reason, my brain is on vacation and I am having QUITE a problem writing something new for this series today. SO, I'm gonna share a "little thing" God did for me about a year and a half ago (aka - I'm reposting an old blog post). And I needed this reminder.

Reposted from 8/30/10

A few days ago, our dryer stopped working.

Oh, it still spins, but it doesn't warm up. Not even a little bit. So the clothes, naturally, don't get dry.

Unfortunately, I didn't discover this for sure (yeah, I'm slow) until I had three loads of laundry washed and wet.

So I needed another solution. Now I could have used the clothesline for some of it, but there was some pretty heavy stuff in there that needed more than just air - unless I wanted to wait a week. So I figured I had one other option.

THE LAUNDROMAT
So I checked google, and found out there is one just about two miles from our house (have I mentioned lately how much I LOVE that everything is relatively close to our home?). So I went.

I've been back twice since that day. Besides the regular laundry, that next night our cat puked on our comforter (sorry if that's TMI) - and we were running out of clothes again today.

Each time I got a bit more frustrated and tired of going.

But then I realized something.

For the past  several days, my wonderful, loving, sweet adorable children have been....well...less so. And the noise has been driving me crazy (PLEASE tell me I'm not the only family who goes through this in those weeks right before school starts! Love em, but I'm READY for them to go back). I had just been complaining (yeah - I know I'm not supposed to ::roll::) about my need for peace and quiet with a friend. And she reminded me that in just a few days I'd have it - once the kids were in school.

But God gave it to me early - inside that laundromat. I never would have left the kids home with the hubby unless I had to. And God knew that. So maybe, just maybe, He orchestrated a situation where I needed to do just that. And He gave me some time to recharge.

And those laundromat dryers are amazing. Got three loads of laundry dry in 25 minutes, for less than a dollar. And who won't pay 75 cents for some recharge time - and dry clothes to boot?

So He works EVERY situation for His good. Even a broken dryer.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (and yeah, I know this verse is a lot more profound than what I've shared, but hey - it fits!)
My husband's gonna call someone tomorrow to come fix the dryer. And someone will come - in God's timing. In the meantime, that laundromat isn't so bad. ;)

**
Even when things break (whether it's a dryer or my ability to write something new), God is in it. He is SO good!

Do you have a story you'd like to share about God's goodness in your struggles? Drop me an email and we can talk!

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

4/16/12

The Source of the Sound

Last Friday, I spent about 100 minutes walking, praying, thinking, looking, seeing, and smelling the outdoors alone. My wonderful Prayer Sisters and I met at the Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in the late morning, sat in the cafe and chatted an hour and a half or so, then went off on our own.

Beautiful, isn't it?
And did I ever need it.The noises and activities around me for the past...oh, I dunno...44 years (!!) were piling up a bit, and I needed some time with just me, my brain, and God's creation (and just a bit of man's too).

As I walked along the park's boardwalk and nature trails, I was able to truly relax, look, listen and smell the flora and fauna that surrounded me (the sculptures too - but in all honesty, that was the least intriguing in my opinion).

One thing I heard A LOT of was chirping. And some quacking. And perhaps a bit of cooing. I was clearly surrounded, on most every side sometimes, by birds.
But just because I could hear them didn't mean I could see them.
In fact, most of the time it was the exact opposite. Sure, my gaze caught the occasional bird on a branch, eating off the ground, or flying through the air. For the most part, however, those flying singers were hidden from my view.

And I tried to find them. I looked up into the trees, glancing from every possible direction. I stood for several minutes, trying to follow the sound to its location. But, nine times out of ten (and that's probably generous!), I saw nothing.
THESE I saw

But still, I knew they were there. I never assumed I was hearing things, or that the folks at the gardens had strategically placed speakers with recorded bird noises throughout the gardens, playing them to create the illusion of actual birds. They may have been out of sight, but they were still there.

God's like that sometimes too, isn't He? We don't often see Him with our two eyes, but we know He's there. We can hear Him - through His Word, His voice in our heads, sermons from His ministers. He acts in our lives whether we see (or acknowledge) Him or not.

So remember - even if you don't see Him, He's still around. The evidence is all around us - and it's not a recording.
**
Do you remember to give God the credit for His work in your life, even when you don't see it as such? How often do you "miss" that the Lord is acting just because you don't see Him physically?

Comment below, and/ or stop by Living by Grace and we can chat a bit!

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

4/13/12

Finds for Fridays: April 13

  Finds for Fridays is my way of sharing some of the wonderful blogs posts I read each week. I am currently following close to 100 blogs and at least scan them as much as I can. Each week, I'll note and "set aside" some posts that especially speak to me for whatever reason. And each Friday that I am able, I'll share them with you. I hope you'll stop by and read the posts, and maybe even follow the blogs if you aren't already. A win-win, right?

And here they are!

Can You Ever Lie To Tell The Truth? By Chip MacGregor at his blog (about memoir, truth, and theater)

Five Ways to Turn Your Trials to Treasures by Janet Eckles at Reflections in Hindsight (about helping others in ways you weren't)

I WAS WRONG! - When Life Gets in the Way of Writing by Lillian Duncan at the ACFW blog (about rethinking "write every day no matter what.")

Not Going Back... by Kristi Huseby at Broken and Redeemed (about "burning" your past)

Don't Give Up (you're on the right track) by Seth Godin at his blog (about knowing it can be done)

A good variety of posts this week. Hope you enjoy them!

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

4/11/12

What We Couldn't Do...God Is So Good



Welcome to my Wednesday feature God is So Good. Here I will share stories - true and fiction, mine and others' - of the Lord's presence in the midst of trials, struggles, and difficulties.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33b
With a sick husband and a pregnant wife, there are certain things that are nearly impossible to accomplish. Since I was six months along with my daughter when Marc's brain tumor was discovered, this was certainly an issue for us. But, as is always the case, the Lord made a way for those things to get done.

There are some things I would rather not do, but I do them anyway. Sifting and cleaning the litter box is one of those things. I'd wager (if I were a betting woman) that you don't know a single person who looks forward to this task.

So, having to ask someone ELSE to do it for me was not something I relished. But it had to be done.

For the past five months, my husband had been cleaning the litter box (a job he hated even more than I did!), because of the possible risk of passing disease to our unborn child if I should come in contact with cat feces carrying the disease (toxoplasmosis info here). FYI - the risk was quite minor, but better safe than sorry, right? But now, since he was fresh out of brain surgery, this was not a possibility.

So we needed someone to clean up cat poop - for three months. Would YOU apply for that job?

Well, somebody did. Gladly. The lovely Val Fennema began her "litter box ministry" the very next day, and was an incredible encouragement to us during that time. If that isn't being the hands and feet of Christ, I'm not sure what is.

Talk about above and beyond the call of duty.

And this wasn't the only project that was suddenly out of our ability to accomplish. Another - less crucial but greatly appreciated - job, on the "no-no" list for us, got done thanks to a sister in Christ.

As soon as we found out our second child was a girl, we (okay - maybe I) started planning and pondering what her room would look like. After not too long, we'd chosen a look. Noah's Ark wallpaper border. "Sky/cloud" wallpaper above. Green paint below. And Marc got started. Made some decent progress even.

But then came a craniotomy. And, surprise of surprises, it was NOT recommended that EITHER of us be around paint fumes, ladders, or anything else of that nature. Not for anyone fresh out of brain surgery. Not for anyone in their third trimester of pregnancy. Not for either of us.

So we figured we'd let it go a while. It wasn't like our baby would NOTICE if the nursery wasn't fully prepared. In fact, she probably wouldn't even be in the nursery for the first month at least - I'd keep her in a bassinet next to me in the bedroom. And we were okay with that.
One of the only pix of the nursery I have, it seems

But our dear friend, and apparently our Heavenly Father, wasn't.

The sweet and wonderful Marilyn Leali recruited a professional painter friend of hers to finish up the job - for free.

It certainly wasn't a necessity, like that litter box thing, but it was absolutely a blessing to us in a time when blessings were ever-so cherished.

**

Two gifts from wonderful sisters in Christ. One requested; one volunteered. One necessary; one a "bonus." Both blessings from God. He is SO good!
Do you have a story you'd like to share about God's goodness in your struggles? Drop me an email and we can talk!
 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

4/9/12

Welcome To The Family

I'm at the Barn Door today, talking about the weather we've had over spring break (which ends today!). Definitely a good variety. Stop by and see what Weather Wisdom I picked up. 
Weather wasn't the only thing that changed over spring break. We also increased the number of mammals who currently reside in our home.

In other word, we got a couple new pets. Two guinea pigs have taken up residence in our living room - and our hearts.

Coconut's the darker one. Scooter's lighter
We just got them last Friday, after the kids spent a week showing they could be responsible enough to care for a pet (we had them help us with kitty "chores."). And we grownups, of course, did our own research.

We bought, and read cover to cover The Guinea Pig Handbook. We discussed where we'd put them, what we'd need to purchase to keep them happy/alive, who would take care of them. We picked out a spot in the corner of the living room for them to stay. Planned how we'd keep the cat away from them (they stay in the kids' rooms at night with the door closed - they're alternating).

And when they came home on Friday, there was more preparation to do: setting up the cage, figuring out where to put the food and water, adding bedding, etc. etc. And, of course picking names. Andrew decided to call his Scooter, and Annika named hers Coconut.

Scooter enjoying some hay
And now they're bona fide members of the Sher family. And all Scooter and Coconut had to do was show up.

In a way, we're like Scooter and Coconut when we become a member of the family of God. (I'll bet you were wondering where I was going with this, eh?) We don't need to do anything. It's all Christ. He had to be born in a stable. Live a sinless life. Die on the cross. Rise again the third day.

Christ did all the preparation - including preparing good deeds ahead of time for us to do (Ephesians 2:10) and preparing a place for us in heaven (John 14:2). All we have to do is believe.

The guinea pigs are living in a cage they didn't purchase, eating food they had no part in gathering, drinking water they didn't draw, playing with toys someone else gave them. And they give their owners pleasure through their antics and cuteness.

God does the same for us: think of all the "things" His children have because of our relationship with Him. The Holy Spirit. His Word. The fellowship of believers. Eternal life.

And again, all we need to do is believe. The abundant life is ours because we're in the family of God. Just like Scooter and Coconut get their own version of a wonderful life in the Sher family through no cause of their own.

If only we people can give pleasure to the Lord as much as these guinea pigs delight my children.
**


Yesterday we celebrated Christ rising from the dead. Have you thanked Him for all the blessings He has given you? Does He know how grateful you are for the gift of salvation? Do others know of the blessings He has provided? Do you serve Him - bring Him pleasure?

Comment below, and/ or stop by Living by Grace and we can chat a bit!




 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

4/8/12

He is Risen, Indeed!


I was blessed to wake up this Easter morning with a song in my head, and my heart. Praising God for sending His Son to die for us, and praising Him that He rose again. He's alive forever. AMEN.


Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

4/6/12

Finds for Fridays: April 6

  Finds for Fridays is my way of sharing some of the wonderful blogs posts I read each week. I am currently following close to 100 blogs and at least scan them as much as I can. Each week, I'll note and "set aside" some posts that especially speak to me for whatever reason. And each Friday that I am able, I'll share them with you. I hope you'll stop by and read the posts, and maybe even follow the blogs if you aren't already. A win-win, right?

And here they are!

Becoming by Nikki Turner at In Truer Ink (about becoming what you believe)

Is Your Mechanic Editing Your Manuscript? by Scott Eagan at Babbles from Scott Eagan (about checking who's checking your writing)

Following the "Cloud" by Lynda Schultz at Grains of Sand (about God's guidance)

Hope you enjoy these posts - I'm sure you will be as blessed as I was. Thanks!

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

4/5/12

Writing Craft Recap for March

2012 is my "learning the writing craft" year. And once a month, generally on the first Thursday of the month, I will share some highlights of what I learned. And here I go.

My source of craft learning for March was from a few sources: Margie Lawson's Deep Editing class, the first third of Emotions, Character, and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress, and some writing magazines/journals I get. I think I'll start from the end and work my way to the beginning.

From ACFW Journal, the April The Writer and the March/April Writer's Digest:
  • Each successive problem, opponent, hurdle, weakness, fear or setback that occurs in your story must be greater than those that preceded it.
  • Read books in your genre - by NEW authors - to determine what's selling.
  • Writing well requires practice  - practice of things you don't do well until you do - whether they're craft or content
  • You don't want readers to admire your writing: you want them to be so engaged in the story itself that they don't notice the way you use words to shape it.
From the first 78 pages of Character, Emotions and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress:
  • To create effective characters, you must learn to be three people at once: writer, character, and reader.
  • Which character you choose as a protagonist determines what the story will be about.
  • Choose physical details that subtly reinforce the impression you want to make of your character.
  • You can build more plausible, complex characters if they want not just one thing, but two that are in conflict.
  • The key to keeping track/control of the many elements of fiction is to write in scenes.
  • Before you write, you should know exactly what the scene is supposed to accomplish.
From Margie Lawson's Deep Editing: the EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More:
  • Rhetorical devices can make a huge difference in the power of your language.
  • Backloading picks up the pace, but flow should trump backloading.
  • Use of scene-themed words can make a big emotional impact.
  • Avoid cliches like the plague (cliche alert!) - unless you "twist" it a bit.
  • If a scene is written well, if your character has a strong visceral response, your reader will have a visceral response.
  • Every word counts.
  • Read your work out loud (yeah - this one was on my list from last month - but I NEED it!).
  • Slip slivers of backstory into your manuscript in active ways.
  • As you review your pages, ask if what you've got there deepens the characters and/or moves the story forward. Otherwise, cut it.
  • Make sure your story starts at the right point.
  • Work just as hard on middle and later chapters as you do on those first few chapters.
  • Compress time when you have boring things going on - expand time to spotlight thought processes, action, and/or emotional reactions. .
  • There are at least ten gazillion ways I can improve my writing.
Hope you learned something too! Watch this spot next month for what I learn in April (including from the rest of Nancy Kress's book, plus applying all I've learned above!).

Questions? Comments? Observations?

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

4/4/12

Just Call Me Kathy - God Is So Good



Welcome to my Wednesday feature God is So Good. Here I will share stories - true and fiction, mine and others' - of the Lord's presence in the midst of trials, struggles, and difficulties.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33b
I thought I'd share a bit of fiction today. I wrote this piece a few years ago, when I wanted to experiment a bit with historical fiction and dialogue. I definitely also tried to weave a string of hope through this sad tale.

JUST CALL ME KATHY

Simon shuffled toward the meetinghouse, pebbles on the sidewalk pressing into his bare feet. Despite the pain, he scarcely lifted his legs as he walked, preferring the discomfort to the effort required to relieve it.

He hoped they would let him in. Street urchins, with their grime and crime, were excluded from such gatherings. Yet, this was one of their own. Weeks before, Cameron shared a ratty blanket with Simon. Then, good fortune suddenly seemed to shine on Cameron.

Picture source
The boys had been begging together along the street a month previous. A lady - clearly from high society - dropped her handkerchief right by them.

Cameron retrieved it. Simon planned to ask for it later, in exchange for a bowler hat. Before he could, however, Cameron did something shocking.

"Excuse me, mum," Cameron said, tapping the lady on the back. "You dropped this."

Simon's mouth dropped. Urchins were to never speak to, much less touch, anyone outside their kind. Friends had been beaten for less.

Simon retreated and turned his head, watching the two discreetly. He didn't want to be seen as Cameron's cohort.

"Why, thank you." She took her handkerchief from Cameron. "What is your name, young man?"

Cameron lowered his eyes. "Cameron, mum."

"Just call me Kathy." She smiled. "Cameron, where is your mother?"

"Dead, Miss. Pa, too."

Kathy held Cameron's dirt-caked hands. "You poor boy."

She looked into Cameron's eyes and smiled. "I'd like to help you, Cameron. Will you come home with me?"

"Mum?" Cameron's jaw dropped.

Simon discarded his plan for discretion. He stepped closer and gawked.

Kathy smiled gently. "I'd love to take you in, Cameron, if you'd like."

"Oh, yes, mum. Thank you, mum." Cameron danced down the sidewalk, grabbing the woman's outstretched hand. The two walked off.

Cameron hadn't turned to wave goodbye, and Simon wasn't surprised. He was getting a new life: why look back?

Over the next couple weeks, Simon heard gossip from local vagabonds. Cameron had his own room in a mansion. He ate four full meals a day. Kathy would adopt him.

Then, suddenly, the scuttlebutt turned grim. Cameron had fallen down a flight of stairs. He was in the hospital. The doctors couldn't help him.

Finally, just the day before, Simon learned Cameron was dead and his funeral was noon today, in the meetinghouse.

Fellow urchins had discouraged him from going, saying he'd never get into such a fine gathering. Simon was undeterred.

"Gotta go, fellas. If they don't let me in, they don't. I hafta try."

From the location of the sun, Simon could tell noon was fast approaching. He quickened his pace slightly, reaching the meetinghouse as several finely-dressed people entered.

He recognized Kathy right away. She stood at the meetinghouse door, greeting guests as they entered. Once the crowd cleared, she grinned and beckoned Simon, who stood beside a lamppost just outside the doorway. He approached cautiously.

"You must be Simon." The boy looked up and was immediately drawn into her warm eyes and gentle smile. "Cameron told me so much about you."

"Mum?"

"He surely missed his friend Simon. In fact, we were planning to come calling on you when..." She lowered her eyes briefly and sighed. "I do miss him, but it's a blessing to know he's in a better place, isn't it?"

How could she say that? Cameron was dead; how was that better than being rich in a fine house with a kind woman? And why was she smiling? Was she happy Cameron was gone? Simon bawled.

"Oh, Simon, don't cry." Kathy cupped his dirty face in her hands. "Cameron is in heaven."

Simon choked back further tears.

"Of course I'm sad that Cameron is dead, Simon. But he believed in Jesus before he passed on. Now he is in the most wonderful place, waiting for me - and for you, too.

"If you believe, Simon, you will see him again. And while we wait, we can know this: our friend Cameron is full of joy - more than we can imagine. For that we can be happy, yes?"

"Mum, I have to believe? How?" Simon pleaded. "I want to see Cameron again, and go to heaven. It sounds so much nicer than this place."

Kathy took Simon's hand. "The funeral is beginning, Simon. Come in with me and help us remember your friend. I'll tell you about it once you come back home with me afterward - if you'd like to, of course."

Simon nodded, full of hope, and entered the meetinghouse with her.

**

I hope you enjoyed my story, and saw the hope this woman gave to these boys. God is so good!
Do you have a story you'd like to share about God's goodness in your struggles? Drop me an email and we can talk!

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

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