Announcing: 7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers Blog Hop

In July I told you about the launch of a new e-book called 7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers. I appreciated the opportunity to not only have my article, “Fit Writing Into a Busy Schedule” included, but to also help put the book together and see it through to publication. On Friday evening, September 25, 2015, InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship will be launching the paperback edition of the book. You can still join in the celebration by purchasing a ticket for the banquet (http://inscribe.org/product/fall-conference-banquet/). Better yet, come join us for the whole conference! (http://inscribe.org/events/fall-conference/) You can also purchase your own copy of the book in either e-book or paperback format at http://mybook.to/ChristianWriters1.

I love the variety this book contains:

-Written by 28 Canadian authors

-Poetry, articles, devotionals, and short stories

-7 themes: time with God, healthy living, time management, honing writing skills, crafting a masterpiece, submitting your work, and marketing

Here’s a sample poem for your enjoyment:

Why Do I Love Shakespeare?

(With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

By Alvin Ens

 

Why do I love Shakespeare?

Let me count the ways.

I love his characters

To the fidelity of kindred souls.

I love his vocabulary

To the deepest well of coining.

I love his humour

To the soul of comic relief.

I love his poetics

To the great expanse of the iambic.

I love his wisdom

To the heart of a philosopher’s wit.

I love his plots

To the height of the double cross.

I love him to the far reaches

Of heroes like Hamlet, Olivia, and Romeo,

To the villainies of Shylock, Cassius, and Lady Macbeth,

To the purities of Cordelia and Brutus,

To the entertainment of Falstaff and Sir Toby.

And if God choose, I shall but love him better

When I meet him after death.

You are invited to follow along as many of the contributing authors of 7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers  participate in a blog hop. I encourage you to click on the links below to see what each author shares. Comments would be appreciated, and if you like what you read remember to share the post on your favourite social media sites 🙂

Ruth L. Snyder  http://ruthlsnyder.com/blog/ Monday, September 14th
Brenda Wood http://heartfeltdevotionals.com   Wednesday, September 16th
Janet Sketchley http://janetsketchley.ca/tenacity-blog/  Friday, September 18th
Jack Popjes http://www.jackpopjes.com/category/blog/ Monday, September 21st
Kimberley Payne http://kimpayne.wordpress.com Wednesday, September 23rd
Marcia Laycock http://www.writer-lee.blogspot.ca/ Friday, September 24th
Steph Nickel https://stephseclecticinterests.wordpress.com Monday, September 28th
Sally Meadows http://sallymeadows.com/blog Wednesday, September 30th
Tracy Krauss http://www.tracykraussexpressionexpress.com Friday, October 2nd
Glynis Belec http://www.glynisbelec.com/blog.html Monday, October 5th

Fleeting Glimpses of Beauty

The other day I received a photography tip that suggested carrying a spray bottle around to enhance pictures of flowers etc. This morning as I walked my children to the bus, I was delighted to see that God decorated my yard with his own spritz bottle – a heavy dew, combined with brilliant sunshine. After my children were on their way to school, I enjoyed fleeting glimpses of beauty in my yard. Here are a few pictures for you to enjoy.

Dewdrop
Dewdrop
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Clover
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Sparkling early morning dew
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Fleeting beauty
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Enjoy it while it lasts!
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Beauty in small things

Lessons in Trust and Technology

Lessons in trust and technology

 

Sometimes I just have to laugh. (I’d rather laugh than cry, wouldn’t you?!) After I posted last time, I ran into major technology issues. It all started quite innocently, with the addition of a new e-mail address. After the creation of the e-mail address, I wanted to add it to my e-mail program so that I don’t have to check e-mail on the web. Although I thought I had the address configured properly into my Apple Mail program, I soon discovered I made some errors, which not only resulted in me not being able to access my new e-mail address, but also resulted in me not being able to access my website, or the website of InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship, or the admin panel for either of these websites. Why? Because my IP address was singled out as the source of a possible virus . . .  and blocked. This happened on May 21st and today is the first day I’ve had access to all my services again!

At first I felt stressed, frantic. I’m in the middle of taking an excellent course from Shelley Hitz, called Author Audience Academy. I started the section of the course on building an e-mail list, only to find myself locked out of my website. I couldn’t change anything, I couldn’t apply what I was learning, I couldn’t even look at my website.

Instead of focusing on what I couldn’t do, I decided to focus on what I could do. I’m also in the middle of writing my second how-to book for Twitter (Learn Twitter: 10 Intermediate Steps). My original goal was to have the rough draft finished at the end of last week. That didn’t happen. I still have three chapters to write and edit. I’ve already told people I’m going to publish it the end of June and next week I’m going to Write Canada, which means no time for writing. More cause for panic . . .  Or not. As I thought about it, I remembered that I could upload a draft copy and put the book up for pre-sale. As long as that happens in June, people will be happy because they know the book is on its way. That gives me some breathing space and allows me to finish the book well. It also gives me time to get the book to beta readers for feedback. (If you’d like to be one of my beta readers, e-mail me!)

Although I wasn’t able to post on my own blog, I was still able to write two posts which were shared on other blogs:

 


Shadow (German Shepherd/Collie/Mongrel) joined our family when our oldest daughter was eighteen months old. He died peacefully in his sleep when she was fifteen, under the trampoline where he spent many hours “supervising” as our children played and jumped above him. He lived a full, long life, but it was hard to say “Goodbye” or think of replacing him. Nine months ago a beautiful white bundle of energy (Husky/Malamut) joined our family. Our children named him Olaf, after the snowman from the movie, Frozen. Olaf has reminded me of several important truths regarding parenting (Click here to read the rest of this post on A Beautiful Life.)

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” -William Wordsworth

It started at the breakfast table. After we read about what qualities God looks for in a person and how we should look beyond people’s actions and appearances.

“You’re dumb. I don’t like you.”

“I don’t like you either.”

“Mom, Levi’s bugging me.”

I sighed. My husband was already at work. “Are you guys being kind to one another?”

They gave me crooked grins and shook their heads. It was quiet for a few milliseconds before they were at each other,  again.

(Click here to read the rest of this post on InScribe Writers Online)

I believe God’s timing is perfect. I know that He is trustworthy. But sometimes in the hustle and bustle of life, it’s easy to lose sight of HIM.

What have you been learning about technology and/or trust lately?


Introducing Dragonflies, Snowdrifts & Spice Cake by Tandy Balson

I met Tandy Balson last year through Facebook; we were both planning to attend Write Canada and looking for roommates. Although we had never met face-to-face  before June 2014, we experienced an immediate rapport because of our common beliefs and interests. (Tandy is my sister in the family of God and we are both writers.) This week I’m celebrating Tandy’s release of her newest book, Dragonflies, Snowdrifts & Spice Cake: Finding Inspiration in Everyday Things. She has given me permission to share the following reading with you (from page 41 in the book).

Tandy cover

Spice Cake

When asked what kind of cake she’d like for her birthday, my daughter didn’t hesitate. “Spice cake with caramel frosting” was the quick reply. I happily obliged and made the cake, along with a favourite meal to take to her house the following day. She and her two oldest children have celiac disease, so I modified the recipes to make them safe and enjoyable for all.

I left the remainder of the cake with her. Being a very generous person, she shared it that night with other gluten-free friends. The next day one of them asked for the recipe. My daughter and I didn’t think twice about the recipe, but her friend was confused. You see, the recipe was a regular one from my old Betty Crocker cookbook and not a specific gluten-free recipe.

Over the years I have become quite comfortable at taking favourite recipes and adapting them to suit our changing needs. With practice this has become so successful that others don’t know of the changes. The end results are the same texture and flavour as regular recipes.

So it is with my life. I may end up with a similar result as you but don’t achieve it in the same way. There are adaptations along the way. I can maintain the integrity of my goal while learning to be flexible and adapt along the way. God guides each of us in the way we should go. Our end goal is the same, but there are many interesting ways to get there.

“For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” (Psalm 107:9 NIV)


 

Dragonflies, Snowdrifts & Spice Cake: Finding Inspiration in Everyday Things by Tandy Balson is now available for purchase from:

www.timewithtandy.com ( Tandy is offering a giveway for those who purchase through her website the week of April 20-26), Friesen Press and Amazon.

 

Tandy Balson

Tandy is a wife, mother, grandmother, friend, volunteer and observer of life.  Her greatest joys in life are spending time with family and friends, baking (but then I have to give it away so I don’t eat it all!), spending time in nature, reading and writing.

She has been doing inspirational speaking in BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan since 2001.  You can read her twice weekly blogs at www.timewithtandy.com

Her work has been accepted for publication in FellowScript Magazine, Testimony Magazine and The Upper Room.


Redefining Disability Week 8: Family life and disability

Disability and Family Life

In our experience, raising children who have special needs affects every facet of family life: family activities and recreational choices, schedule, discipline, holidays, even the type of work and ministry parents have. I don’t see living with a disability as a disadvantage, but it is different.

The “disabilities” of our children include difficulty with balance, cognitive limitations, fine motor challenges, behavioural challenges, hearing loss, and extreme near-sightedness (myopia). This means that although our children are able to participate in most activities, the activities will look different. For example, even though our twins are fourteen, they do not have the motor control necessary to participate in bowling without some help. They love the activity, but it has to be adapted for them. This means that family activities take more planning and preparation for our family than for some other families. The end result is that we don’t participate in as many activities because of time and energy limitations.

Our family schedule is also different from many families because our children seem to require more sleep. On school nights we aim to have our four younger children in bed between 8 and 9 p.m. We have discovered by trial and error that less sleep for our children affects everyone negatively. (I’ll leave the specifics to your imagination 🙂 ) Our schedule also has to allow more time for most every day activities that most people don’t even think about – dressing, eating, bathing, etc.

Discipline (teaching and training children) is a challenge for all families. In our family we have to make sure we consider our children’s abilities. I’m thankful our children have the ability to learn. Sometimes they learn quickly; other times it takes hundreds of repetitions to teach them. Some skills will never be attainable due to physical and cognitive limitations. For some of our children, we can assign extra chores. For other children assigning extra chores means that one of us adults will be working right beside the child, sometimes hand-over-hand. We’ve had to assess consequences to make sure one child’s consequences do not severely impact other members of the family.

Our family has had the opportunity and pleasure of going on some holidays many people don’t experience. We have made multiple trips to the United States and a couple trips across Canada. Our children love to travel. Probably our most memorable trip was traveling through 28 states in 30 days. A feat in itself, but more of a challenge when you have a family member without bowel control. Again, pre-planning is important, and generous amounts of time and energy.

One fact I’ve had to come to grips with is that I will not be able to work away from home full time, at least not in the foreseeable future. The special needs of our children require that my schedule is flexible. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to find ways to contribute to our community and broader world through writing and other work on my computer, and also through prayer.

It’s time for me to put breakfast on the table and start a new day. Thanks for stopping by. Does your family live with disabilities? How does it affect you? If your family is not affected by disabilities, did you find this post surprising in any way? Leave a comment and let me know.


redefining-disability1

Last year Rose Fischer started a Redefining Disability Challenge. This year she is continuing to invite people to join the challenge by blogging about a set of questions she developed. I’ve decided to join this challenge and most Mondays (or Tuesdays!) will be answering one of her questions.

 


Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Image shared on Facebook by www.countthekicks.org.uk
Image shared on Facebook by www.countthekicks.org.uk

This image brought tears to my eyes. 1998 is a long time ago in many ways, but the memories are still there. Many people who know me, don’t know. Miscarriage is a private grief many deal with, but few talk about.

My experience led to me write and enter the following story in a writing competition in 2005. The piece was subsequently published by Testimony Magazine. I share it here with hopes it will minister to others who grieve and help others understand how profound the grief may be for people who experience miscarriage.

 

Gifts from a Loving God

Leaves crackle under our feet as we walk. Lois, my mentor and friend, smiles at me. I relish this rare opportunity to spend time with her. “Infertility is a gift from God. I never thought I’d say that,” Lois confesses.

I swallow hard to bury my protest. “Are you crazy,” my heart screams. “How can anything this painful be a gift?”

The only career I want is motherhood. My desire haunts me, like a mirage in a dry, dusty desert. First, an infertility specialist informs my husband and me it is impossible for us to have children of our own. Then, against all odds, we conceive, only to face the crushing disappointment of miscarriage. Conception continues to elude us. Now what? Do we relinquish our dream of parenting children? Do we investigate other options, like adoption or foster care?

Since we have no children, I have the gift of time – time to volunteer in the local school and catering club, time to pray, time to grow. Over time, I learn to navigate the waves of grief as they splash over me – some gentle, others that leave me gasping and drowning in grief. Mother’s Day, the birth of a baby, interacting with nieces and nephews, watching parents play with their children are all bittersweet. Slowly I learn to receive and give the gift of compassion.

A year later, we begin our challenging journey on the road called adoption. In January, we hear about nineteen-year-old Mary and her baby. Mary is unsure she can provide for her baby and may be looking for an adoptive family. In May, after anxiously waiting for news that never comes, we sit down to fill out an adoption application with a private agency. That night the phone rings! “Hi, this is Sue. Mary asked me to phone and see if you are still interested in adopting her baby.” Four frantic days later, we bring home our daughter. For us, adoption is a gift of joy and celebration, but for a birth Mom, it is a gift of sorrow and sacrifice. Our daughter, Grace (unmerited favor) Victoria (victorious one), reminds us often of God’s loving gifts.

Four years later, we marvel again at God’s gifts – twin boys placed with us by Child & Family Services for adoption. (The boys were born at 27 weeks gestation, weighing less than two pounds each. The fact they are even alive is a miracle.) As we meet the foster parents and compare notes, we are in awe of God’s leading. The foster parents love Jesus Christ and rejoice that the boys will grow up in a Christian family!

Our 18-month-old twins introduce us to a completely new world – special needs. Only those who walk in these shoes know the special joys, challenges, and gifts these children provide. The first thing we notice about our boys is their silence – no babbling, no chatter. We learn they have “global developmental delays.” After six months of scooping with a spoon, our hand over his – every day, several times a day – we celebrate while Luke actually feeds himself. At twenty-seven months, we cheer while Levi takes his first wobbly step. A few months later, he is able to climb up on a chair by himself and stand. We clap, momentarily forgetting that Levi’s balance still needs help. He stands for mere seconds, grinning from ear to ear, before taking a terrible tumble to the floor. He lands on his head with glasses protruding at an odd angle, and blood gushing.  We cringe as the doctor interrogates us. “Who was looking after your son when this happened,” she inquires while stitching Levi’s face. We learn to sign, using Signing Exact English, so the twins have a means of communicating with us. Progress is excruciatingly slow. Imagine our joy when we hear our boys, at age four, actually voice the words, “Mom” and “Dad” for the first time! The pediatrician who first saw our twins said they would never walk, talk, or feed themselves. We are thankful God has other plans for them!

Two years later, Jayson joins our family. Although Jayson is a full sibling to Luke and Levi, he has fewer obvious challenges. However, more often than not, we grit our teeth in frustration, quelling the temptation to yell. Jayson stands looking up at us, his brown eyes large. We search for any sign of sorrow, repentance, or desire to please. It isn’t there. He defies us, again. Then he lies to us, repeatedly, despite the fact that his siblings are providing a running commentary of what has taken place. Parenting skills that have worked with our other children are not nearly as effective with Jayson. God uses Jayson to give us the gifts of humility and total reliance on God.

Several years later, we receive another phone call. “I have good news! You’ve been matched with twins (a three-year-old boy and girl) for adoption.” However, the adoption falls through before we even meet the children, due to circumstances beyond our control. We grieve silently, unable to share details with our families because of legal issues.

Life settles into a comfortable routine. It seems our family is complete. We are thankful for the gift of children God has given. Now that the children are all in school, I decide to take on a part-time position with the local school board. A month later, the phone rings. “Hi, I have some news for you. The boys you adopted have a new baby sister. Would you consider adopting her if she becomes available?”

It does not take long for us to answer, “Yes!” Our file is still open from the “match” that fell through. This makes it possible for us to become foster parents in a matter of days. We drive to the hospital to meet our new little daughter. Although we are excited, we are also nervous. We have never cared for a newborn infant before, let alone one who has heart problems. The staff at the hospital is very gracious. We are patiently shown what we need to know to care for her. “She’s lucky to have you,” one of the nurses comments. “You know, some of the kids in here end up staying for up to six months because we have nowhere to send them. There are so many, we cannot spend the time we would like with them. Sometimes we have to sedate them, just so they stop crying!”

My eyes fill with tears. “God, have mercy on our nation,” I whisper as I cuddle our newest daughter close. She snuggles into the crook of my arm and falls asleep. Her face is a picture of peace and contentment.

There are still many unknowns before us. Each day brings new challenges, some very unexpected. Our stability in the midst of this change is Jesus Christ, our rock, our Savior, our guide.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” I can now honestly agree with Lois, “Infertility is a gift from God.” Without this gift, we may not have received many of the other gifts God has chosen to give us on our adoption journey. We are thankful for God’s blessings: past, present and future. Although we may not always understand, we can choose to accept every gift God sends our way and trust Him to work them all together for good.

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Writer’s Blog Hop – Sample from Hope: Reflections to brighten the Dark Days of Life

31 Days of Hope231 Days of Hope1

One of the major projects I’m working on this year is a series of Kindle books (31 Days of … Series). The first book I’m putting together is Hope: Reflections to brighten the Dark Days of Life. I’ve worked on the cover design and received feedback. Now I need to finalize which colour scheme I’m going with. Which cover do you prefer? Left or right? Or is there a different colour you think I should try for the main title? (Let me know in the comment section below.)

Below you’ll find Focus, one of the devotionals I’ll be including in the book. I’m also learning to make podcasts, so listen in if you prefer 🙂

NOTE: to see what other authors are working on, go to the blog hop.

Focus

By Ruth L. Snyder

It’s 8:03. The bus comes at 8:25. My daughter wants me to read a story to her and her brothers are looking at the latest Scholastic book order forms, trying to get my attention so they can tell me what they want to order. I want to tell them we’ll deal with the book order after school, except today’s the last day orders are being accepted. My daughter opens her book. I start reading. While she’s flipping to the next page I find one of the desired books and circle it on the order form. I read the next page. One son pushes his way closer so he can listen too. I read the next page then cut out the order form while the page is being flipped. This process continues until 8:11. The book is finished; the order forms are half filled out. It’s time to get jackets, backpacks, and mitts. I still need to add the order up, write a cheque, and write the book down on my daughter’s reading list.

“Get your jackets on. I’ll finish here.”

The children rush to the entryway. I add the order up, write a cheque, staple everything together, and write the book down on the reading list. I’ll clean up after the kids are on the bus.

I take the order and reading list to the entryway. Two boys are on their way out the door. My daughter is having trouble with her zipper. My other son is nowhere to be seen. I put the order and reading list in her backpack and help with the zipper. Then I go in search of my MIA son. He’s just coming out of his room.

“Hurry! It’s time to go.”

As I’m talking to him, a glimpse of the sky takes my breath away. The sunrise is beautiful. For over a week temperatures hovered in the minus thirty range. Today it’s warmer and the sky is showing evidence of the change in temperature. You know the saying: “Red in the morning, Shepherd’s warning.” I race to grab my camera and snap a picture. My daughter’s ready, and my son is close behind.

As we walk to the bus, my focus is on the beauty of the sunrise. The busyness of the morning rush is forgotten. I breathe deeply, smile at the antics of our Husky dog, Olaf, snap pictures, and pray with my children before they climb on the bus. After the bus leaves, I continue to snap pictures as the sun rises and colours change. I revel in the moment, knowing it will soon disappear and the hectic pace of life will be back, clawing and whining for attention.

Focus. We can choose our focus. We can allow all the ugly, dark, discouraging events we all face to drag us down. Or, we can instead focus on the glimpses of beauty that surround us.

In Matthew 14, we read about the disciples crossing a lake in the middle of the night. It was stormy. They had to work to keep the boat going in the right direction. Then, just before dawn, they saw something, someone, walking on water towards them. Some of them cried out in fear, thinking it was a ghost. Peter responded by calling out:

“Lord, if it’s you, tell me come to you on the water.” (verse 28)

Jesus tells him to come, so Peter gets out of the boat and walks on the water toward Jesus. Verse thirty tells us:

“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’”

Jesus reached out his hand and caught Peter, rebuking him for doubting, and helping him climb back into the boat.

I don’t know what you’re facing today, but Jesus does. He’s there for you: the same Jesus who spoke the world into existence.

Are we going to focus on our circumstances today? Or are we going to choose to focus on Jesus and trust Him?


Must Read: Fellowship of the Burning Heart

I’ve decided that I will read some classics in 2015. Fellowship of the Burning Heart came highly recommended, so I purchased a copy. It sat on my table until a few days ago when I picked it up and started reading it.

Fellowship of the Burning Heart is a collection of 10 sermons by A.W. Tozer. The collection is edited by James L. Snyder. He has done a great job of keeping the integrity of the sermons while making them a joy to read. In his introduction, James L. Snyder says:

“When you finish reading these ten sermons, you will come away with a reverence for God and an appetite for the sterling spirituality he (Tozer) advocates in his preaching. One thing is certain: you will never be the same after exposing yourself to ‘Platform Tozer.’ I know I’m not.”

The book includes a short biography of A.W. Tozer written by Snyder, some pictures of A.W. Tozer, a study guide, and the ten sermons:

  1. How to Pray for Revival
  2. In Everything by Prayer
  3. Believing Prayer
  4. Prepare by Prayer
  5. He Must Increase
  6. Hearing is a Divine Art
  7. Manifest Presence – Something Else
  8. Presence Everywhere
  9. Three Faithful Wounds
  10. The Way to Paradise

Here are some quotes to whet your appetite:

“Never underestimate the power of prayer. And remember that without it, you cannot win. With it, you cannot lose.”

“The Bible always tells the facts…It tells you that you’ll have eternal life now and lots of trouble and hardships and thorns and cross-bearing in this world and glory in the world to come and eternity with God. If you’re man enough to put up with the thorns and the crosses and the hardships and the hostilities, you can have the crown.”

“God is God. He made Heaven and Earth and holds the world in His hand and measures the dust of the earth in the balance and the sky; He spreads out like a mantle. The great God Almighty is not your servant; you’re His servant. He’s your Father; you’re His child. He sitteth in the heaven and you’re on Earth. The angels veil their faces before the God who cannot lie.”

“Von Hugel said about Pierre Gure, the great saint, ‘The reason Pierre Gure’s writings so incessantly and habitually bless and help so many people is that Pierre Gure refuses – absolutely refuses to write anything until he is blessed himself. He wants the oil of God upon him, flowing, or he won’t touch a pen,’ I think that’s beautiful.”

“Now remember, you can have all your plans you want and you can get the help of all the advertisers and all the modern mechanical gadgets, but when it is all done, you’ll fall short unless first God is glorified in the midst of His Church.”

This book will challenge you, encourage you, and force you to examine the Scriptures.

Tozer Sermons