Some gifts are like showers of blessings

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Rain pours and puddles, splashing the grime of the deck onto our dove grey siding. Overfull eavestroughs spill waterfalls into the garden beds, and trees dribble on my head while I hurry to and from the car. As much as I don’t usually mind rain, I’m tired of weeks filled with dull, sodden days. Even my writing has suffered; spiritless, uninteresting words that I first type and then delete.

Into the gloom comes a shaft of warmth, a figurative ray of sunshine that instantly changes the oppression to a blessing. A poem inspired by a recent Facebook exchange I had with Sandra Heska King about, of all things, periwinkles. Sandra’s poem and photos make me smile, until I reach the end and see the words, “Dedicated to Carol Garvin.” Then I cry. What a beautiful gift!

There was a similar gift a couple weeks ago, when Joylene Butler sent the Inspirational Blogger Award my way. I don’t think of myself or my blog as being particularly  ‘inspirational’ so it was an unexpected and uplifting surprise.

Such gifts come from the generous and loving hearts of friends, but I believe the prompting for them comes from God. It’s his omniscience that uncovers my need and fills it with a spillover of lovingkindness from another’s abundance.  Neither Sandra nor Joylene could have known how much I needed the encouragement at that particular moment, but God did.

As I stand at the window and smile at the rivulets of rain, I am reminded of the old hymn, “Showers of Blessing.” Remember it?

May you be blessed to be a blessing today.

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For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised. [I Chronicles 16:25]
I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High. [Psalm 9:2]

~

“Life is Good”

The Christmas CDs have long since been tucked away. I parted with them reluctantly sometime late in January. There’s nothing stopping me from playing them year ‘round, of course, but it’s because I deprive myself of the music for so many months of the year that it re-emerges fresh and precious with each new Advent season.

Two of the carols that I’ve always liked both start out rather mournfully:

“’Twas in the moon of wintertime,

When all the birds had fled,…”

and

“In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone…”

The songs do turn joyous, of course, as the Child’s birth is announced, but to me their lyrics and melodies are always wistful and haunting. They resonate with the longing for a saviour in the winter of our lives.

It matches the longing that many of us are experiencing now that March is a week underway and we’re still slogging through snow, slipping on black ice and muttering about  scraping our windshields.

Maybe that’s why I’ve saved acknowledging a particular blogging award for all these weeks… holding it close, savouring it, and the kindness of the one who sent it my way last month.

It’s in these “bleak midwinter,” not-yet-spring days that something to uplift us is a blessing. Joylene Butler’s “Life is Good Award” was one of those delightful surprises that I mentioned earlier this week… the kind  that catches us unaware and makes us smile.

I’m not following the criteria that accompanied the award, but just want to say, “Thanks for reminding me that life is indeed good, Joylene, and for bringing a bit of sunshine into my frosty day.” You make me think of one of my young granddaughter’s favourite Sunday School songs: “God is so good. God is so good. God is so good. He’s so good to me!”

Are there songs that often linger in your head, reflecting your heart’s mood? What song is replaying for you today?

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Versatility With Substance?

Holidays are my poor excuse for the delay in responding to Carol Benedict and Joylene Butler’s kindness in awarding me the Blog With Substance and Versatile Blogger awards. It’s such a precious gift to have one’s writing efforts acknowledged by other writers. Sincere thanks to both of you!

Both awards come with similar although not identical requirements. The Substance Award asks that I share five words that sum up my blogging philosophy. That’s something I haven’t thought much about. Let’s see, I want this blog to be a place that is:

  1. Respectful – of differences in people, their abilities and their opinions
  2. Reflective – of the world around me, of God’s light and love
  3. Helpful – sharing information, news and advice from within my realm of experience
  4. Individual – an honest expression of me, my faith and my ideas
  5. Uplifting – a place of encouragement and empathy

Then the Versatile Award wants me to share seven things about myself. Seems like I’ve already done that on a couple of occasions. Do you suppose these have to be seven new things? I may have to steal a few from a different list but I’ll give it a try…

  1. Although I’ve never been able to play it very well, my favourite musical instrument is the piano. I’m sure there isn’t a mood it can’t express.
  2. I painted in oils, mostly landscapes, for two decades, sold everything and now don’t own a single piece of my own work.
  3. Despite living on the Pacific west coast, the only kind of seafood I like is barbecued salmon and canned tuna.
  4. In 1954 I was a majorette, twirling my baton and high-stepping with a friend, providing half time entertainment for the BC Lions football games. “Lions roar in ’54!”
  5. Singing the Canadian anthem always brings tears to my eyes.
  6. I love a good mystery story but my favourite TV programs are non-violent ones such as “Little House on the Prairie” reruns, “Heartland” and “Divine Design”.
  7. If I had to pick just one food to exist on it would be soup. I love all kinds of soup except for clam chowder.

There! Does that do it? Not quite. The other requirement is to pass along the awards to several other blogs. I’m never comfortable singling out one favourite over another, and to complicate things, some of the writing blogs I might choose have already received one or both of these awards. Carol Benedict suggested nominating blogs that I feel qualify as blogs with substance, or listing the blogs I check most often. I could do that, but I don’t believe the owner of the one I have in mind would accept an award.

And perhaps that’s my answer. I won’t nominate anyone this time, but simply refer you to Ann Voskamp’s poetic words of faith. If you have not yet visited her blog, A Holy Experience, please check it out. You will be blessed.

On What Rock Do You Build?

Today’s mail brought a glossy brochure advertising the opening of a new CornerStone Church in our area. I like the name.

A cornerstone isn’t a complicated thing to understand. The dictionary defines it as a keystone, foundation, or basis – an important quality or feature on which a particular thing depends.

It makes me think of Matthew 7:24-27* where we are admonished to live securely grounded on the rock that can withstand storms rather than on sand that will wash away. It’s a smart policy whether we’re talking about our faith, our lives or our homes, and I think it can also be applied to our writing.

Writing by “the seat of our pants” is a sans-plotting method that many of us have used. It works, too, but I sometimes wonder why, because it’s a little like building a story on sand. There’s no firm foundation, nothing substantial set in place to anchor it or keep it from falling apart as we labour on, tossing our words at it.

I’ve mentioned my not-quite-pantsing, not-quite-plotting, somewhere-in-the-middle planning method before, in a guest post on Joylene Butler’s blog (you have to scroll down a few entries to the October 14th post if you want to check it out), and I’m not advocating any particular method here. I’m just wondering how other writers guarantee a strong storyline in their novels.

Does your writing have a cornerstone? How does it work for you?

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* “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
[Matthew 7:24-27, NIV]

Lies and Truth Revealed

The day cometh and now is… that I must admit to my “bald faced lies” and disclose the truth. Further to Tuesday’s post where I acknowledged receiving the “creative writer” award from Joylene Butler, I’m here today to reveal all.

Yea, Carol Benedict! You were the only person to guess correctly. #3 is absolutely true.

A summer camping trip took us through central Oregon and while sitting at a picnic table eating our supper in a state campground, we discovered a 3-1/2′ rattlesnake slowly curving his way towards the exercise pen that held our three Shelties. The men managed to reach over the far side of the pen and lift the dogs out in time and then we watched the snake in horrified fascination as it squeezed  its way through the bars into the pen, checked it out, and left via the opposite side. Neighbouring campers were from Arizona and insisted the snake could not be left to continue roaming the campground so “disposed” of it for us, and presented us with the rattle.

Wearing the nine foot python necklace happened at Vancouver’s Zoo while I was a playground director for the Vancouver Parks Board.  All directors were taken for an initial tour during which the curator brought out the python. He draped it over his shoulders and then asked for a volunteer to link hands with his so that it could crawl down his arm and up the other until it was comfortably hanging from the volunteer’s shoulders. I was the crazy volunteer. The snake hung to the ground on both sides of me. Unfortunately nobody had a camera handy.

Oh, and the mice? As a teenager I had pet white mice.

As for the lies:

  • My family loves camping and we’ve had a succession of eight different recreational vehicles (tent trailer, two travel trailers, two motorhomes, one fifth wheel and two campers) in which we’ve travelled on every major highway in Canada and the USA.

Lie. Yes, we’ve had eight RVs but our travel has only included most of the highways and byways of our home province of BC. We’ve driven across Canada from coast to coast once, but certainly didn’t get onto all the major highways. And when it comes to the USA we’ve only camped in Washington and Oregon .

  • I’m a natural brunette and have never dyed or bleached my hair. It’s liberally sprinkled with grey now, but I won’t be changing that anytime soon.

Lie. I’m a salt-and-pepper brunette all right, but back in the 70’s my mother and I decided to lighten our hair with blonde streaks, and I wore it that way for a couple years. At my age I’m not likely to do it again.

  • Snakes and mice don’t scare me. I’ve worn a 9’ python draped across my shoulders and have the rattle chopped from a 3’ rattlesnake that was looking to eat my dogs for lunch.

Absolute Truth. (see explanation above)

  • . Acting fascinates me almost as much as writing and I once played a small part in a movie that debuted at the Toronto Film Festival and went on to be listed as #6 in Time magazine’s ten top movies of 2000.

Lie. I have never acted in a move. However, as consultant  for the filming of the 2000 CastleRock movie, “Best In Show”, I was a crew member. It ended the year at #6 on Time magazine’s Top Ten list of movies, #8 top video rental, and #9 top DVD rental. (That was the same year that Margaret Atwood’s BLIND ASSASSIN topped the Time’s list as best novel. It felt great to have that special link with her.)

  • While visiting my daughter in the Yukon one February I got to watch the start of the 1,000 mile Yukon Quest dog sled race between Whitehorse, Yukon and Fairbanks, Alaska.

Lie. I did visit my daughter one February while she lived in the Yukon. I heard wolves howl and saw the northern lights while there, but I didn’t have an opportunity to watch any of the Yukon Quest.

  • I once drove a stockcar during preliminary time trials at the Digney Speedway in Burnaby, BC. The speedway was built by Andy Digney for the post-WWII midget racing boom and evolved to be a stock car track. It closed at the end of the 1958 season. Does that age me, or what?

Lie. I sat in stockcar #5, but never drove or rode in it. Sponsored by family friends who owned the Gateway Collision repair shop in Vancouver, and lettered by my uncle, it was driven by Roy Long in races at the Digney Speedway and elsewhere in the PNW. I attended the races with my parents.

  • Speed exhilarates me and I love riding the roller coaster at Playland in Vancouver. I attend the Pacific National Exhibition every summer and always take in at least a couple rides on the 50+ year old wooden structure.

Lie. Oh, BIG lie! (Sorry, Joseph.) I have attended the PNE occasionally but I rode this famous roller coaster just once. I was so terrified I swore I would never get on it again, and I never have… neither it nor any other one. I’m really not much of a speed freak.

That’s it, folks. That’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth! I hope you enjoyed these soul-baring revelations.

Lying My Way to an Award

Fiction writing is all about creating stories out of nothing. No, on second thought, that’s not entirely true. It’s about creating stories that evolve from a seed of reality… some small truth that evokes an idea, a possibility, that the writer’s brain can’t wait to develop into a plot.

Recently Joylene Butler nominated me for LESA’S BALD FACED LIAR CREATIVE WRITER BLOGGER AWARD. At first I wasn’t sure whether to be honoured or insulted, but knowing Joylene’s good heart I’ve decided she meant it as a compliment and I sincerely thank her for it.

One of the conditions attached to this award is that I must post seven facts about myself, six of which are lies and one that is true. I must be a very honest person (or a poor fiction writer) because it’s taken me ages to come up with these facts, but here goes:

  1. My family loves camping and we’ve had a succession of eight different recreational vehicles (tent trailer, two travel trailers, two motorhomes, one fifth wheel and two campers) in which we’ve travelled on every major highway in Canada and the USA.
  2. I’m a natural brunette and have never dyed or bleached my hair. It’s liberally sprinkled with grey now, but I won’t be changing that anytime soon.
  3. Snakes and mice don’t scare me. I’ve worn a 9’ python draped across my shoulders and have the rattle chopped from a 3’ rattlesnake that was looking to eat my dogs for lunch.
  4. Acting fascinates me almost as much as writing and I once played a small part in a movie that debuted at the Toronto Film Festival and went on to be listed as #6 in Time Magazine’s ten top movies of 2000.
  5. While visiting my daughter in the Yukon one February I got to watch the start of the 1,000 mile Yukon Quest dog sled race between Whitehorse, Yukon and Fairbanks, Alaska.
  6. I once drove a stock car during preliminary time trials at the Digney Speedway in Burnaby, BC. The speedway was built by Andy Digney for the post-WWII midget racing boom and evolved to be a stock car track. It closed at the end of the 1958 season. Does that age me, or what?
  7. Speed exhilarates me and I love riding the roller coaster at Playland in Vancouver. I attend the Pacific National Exhibition every summer and always take in at least a couple rides on the 50+ year old wooden structure.

Okay, that’s the list. One of the above statements is cross-my-heart absolutely  accurate — but here’s where it gets tricky. Remember what I said about creative stories evolving from a seed of truth? Well, the six “bald faced lies” all contain some truth. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which one is totally true. I’ll do a follow-up post on Friday and reveal all.

The rules also say I’m supposed to nominate seven other lying-through-their-teeth bloggers, but I’m at a loss. I think I’m safest to stay within the family (who can you treat the worst but loving family members?) and will nominate just one:

Sorry, Shari, but I think you’re a great and imaginative fiction writer and I’m curious to see what whoppers you can come up with.  :)

Beautiful Blog or Blogger Award

Receiving an award is always an honour. There have been a number of awards circulating the blogosphere during the past year, each suggesting the recipient’s blog has been providing value to its readership.

Joylene Butler surprised me with the “Beautiful Blogger Award” last week. I was honoured by this award but I admit to a bit of confusion. She called it the “Beautiful Blog Award”, but as you can see, that’s not what it says on the award logo. Joylene’s version seems more appropriate. Most of my readers have never seen me, and those who have would be quick to agree that if the award is based on looks then I really don’t qualify! :)  Anyway, many thanks, Joylene! You’re very sweet and I truly do appreciate the acknowledgement.

I’m told the rules are simple: copy the logo, choose those blogs that you find most beautiful (sometimes that means words alone), and link back to the one who chose you.

So here, in alphabetical order, are the blogs (bloggers) I chose for this award. All are published authors whose blogging words either educate, encourage, or inspire me — sometimes all at once.

  • BERTRAM’S BLOG – for Pat’s openness and honesty about her life and writing.
  • LAURA BEST, AUTHOR – for her pride in and promotion of a Canadian heritage.
  • AUTHOR, JODY HEDLUND - for sharing her faith and publication journey with total transparency .
  • WRITER JENN - Jennifer Hubbard, for her constant encouragement of other writers.
  • RANDOM JOTTINGS – Richard Mabry, for his Godly humility and writing ethics.
  • A HOLY EXPERIENCE – Ann Voskamp, for the oasis of her beautiful words.