Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The good, good Father

Father’s Day can be a reminder that we’re all just a bunch of wounded little kids, can’t it?

One of the pitfalls of being a published writer is exposing your work—and yourself—to criticism and rejection. I know authors who don’t read reviews of their books because it can be too painful, especially when a negative one comes on an already difficult day.

This happened to me recently. I’ve always read all my online reviews. Though most are positive, some real stinkers show up as well. It proves you can’t please everyone, that readers’ tastes vary. The positive reviews keep you writing, the negative reviews keep you humble—at least in theory. I have even taught other artists tricks for handling both praise and rejection.

But for good reason, this review felt like a personal attack. And when the words come from an anonymous stranger, there’s little you can do. You can cry. I did not, although that’s often my go-to reaction. You can hit something. I didn’t do that, either. You can toss back a handful of chocolate chips. I resisted, this time. You can brush it off and tell yourself it doesn’t sting. I knew full well it did. You can go on social media, rant about how stupid the reader must be to not “get” what you were trying to say. I’ve seen authors do this. They are looking for someone to defend them, and it works. Until it doesn’t. Either way, it appears unprofessional, immature, and frankly, kind of pathetic.

I distracted myself for an hour with a TV show, and when the show ended, the hurtful words surfaced again. Thankfully, it was bedtime. And thankfully, I have this little routine when I crawl into bed. I recap the events that seem significant from my day—good, bad, or ugly—whatever comes to mind. I thank God for each one, then lay it at his feet. He alone deserves the praise for the good stuff, and He alone can handle the difficult stuff. This is also a good time to confess the wrongs I’m guilty of from that day, as they come to mind, and ask His forgiveness.

Then, as I snuggle down into the sheets, I let my bed and blankets represent God’s warm loving arms around me. I become an infant, cradled in the embrace of a devoted parent—safe, secure, precious. Loved beyond measure by the one who made me. It’s a wonderful way to fall asleep. And it came in handy that night.

The next morning, I looked at the painful book review with fresh eyes. This time, I saw the words of a hurting person wounded by religion. Someone who doesn’t know she can go straight to her Creator who loves her like his little child. This time, I was able to pray for her. And yes, even to shed some tears. For her.

None of this would happen on my own. It does not come from years of church attendance or self-discipline or religious rule-following. It’s a direct result of embracing the truth of God’s commitment to his children. And it’s yours for the asking. You have a good, good Father. It’s who he is. And you are loved by him. In fact, it’s who you are. Loved. By. Him.***
“I’ve been carrying you from the day you were born, And I’ll keep on carrying you when you’re old.” (from Isaiah 46)

Happy Father’s Day!

***Lyrics from Good Good Father, Chris Tomlin, 2016

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Cinderella Finally Goes to the Ball

Friends have been asking if I’m going to Mississauga. They saw the local newspaper article about my work being in the running for the 2018 Word Awards to be presented there on June 15.

What they may not know is what happened a year ago, when my first novel, The Silver Suitcase, was in the running. To go or not to go, that was the question. It was exciting to entertain the idea of donning my first-ever evening gown and hobnobbing with authors and publishers, maybe even receiving an award. But how silly is it to buy a plane ticket for Toronto for just one evening, when you don’t know whether you’ve won? My mind torn, I could see four possibilities:

1.     I would not go, and I would not win. (In which case, I’d be glad I didn’t go.)
2.     I would not go, and I would win. (In which case, I’d be bummed I didn’t go.)
3.     I would go and not win. (In which case, I’d be bummed I went.)
4.     I would go and win. (But I’d be there without any of my loved ones to share the big moment, lonely, and a bit bummed.)

It became obvious that only one of these scenarios resulted in my not being bummed: the first one. So I stayed home and weeded my garden. Deep down, I think I secretly hoped my fairy godmother would appear at the last minute, transform me into a princess, and sweep me off to the gala in a magical coach.

She did not materialize.

By the time I learned my book had indeed won the historical fiction prize, the gala-goers were home in their jammies and I was showering off garden dirt, mosquito repellent, and Cinderella dreams. The win seemed as fictionalized as my book until weeks later when a package arrived in the mail containing a certificate, a check, and a heavy glass award. (No, it’s not slipper-shaped.)

That’s when I made a decision. By then, I knew I’d have two books eligible for this year’s contest. I would enter them both, and if either book made the short-list of finalists, I’d attend the gala no matter what.

In January, I entered Maggie’s War and Bleak Landing, along with a short play in the Scripts category, and two of last fall’s newspaper columns in the Column Series category.

On May 9, The Word Guild released its short-list. My column made it, along with two other contenders. In the Historical Fiction category, only two books made the final round. I wrote both of them.

What can I say, it’s a small pool? I’ll never know how many other books competed, since each entry must score 80% or higher to make the short-list. But now my two books are competing against each other. Like any parent, I hope they’ll be good little children, that the winner will behave graciously, and the runner-up won’t pout.

So yes, I am going to Mississauga! But that’s not the best part. My precious daughter, whom I see only a couple of times a year, is flying there from Calgary to attend the gala with me. It’s the best-case scenario of all! Even if they tell me it was all a gigantic mistake and the only award for me is in the Ugly Stepsister category, I will still be anything but bummed.

Who needs a fairy godmother? I've got a very real GOD, a loving Father, who makes all things possible!

Friday, June 1, 2018

If you can’t say anything nice…

June first is a big day. Did you know it is “Say Something Nice” Day? It’s also Donut Day, World Milk Day, Go Barefoot Day, Leave the Office Earlier Day, and Fish and Chip Day. 

It wouldn’t be hard to observe it all. Just order fish and chips, a donut, and a glass of milk for lunch, then leave the office early and spend the rest of the day barefoot. For many of us, it’s saying something nice that creates a challenge.

Say Something Nice Day began in Charleston, South Carolina, when the mayors of Charleston and North Charleston came together with church leaders to create a day to be kind to the special people in our lives. It can be a day to remember and celebrate people who provide us with a variety of services such as bus drivers, healthcare workers, and teachers. It’s also an opportunity to apologize to people we have wronged. The aim is to fight against unkindness, bullying, and the lack of politeness dominating society. Its creators hope this one day of pleasantness will grow until people are kind to each other every day. They hope parents will lead the way and set an example by encouraging their children to be nice to each other.

I’ve heard teachers say they can tell how children are spoken to at home by the words that come out of their mouths and the tone in which they are delivered. Like most parents, I could have done much better at encouraging my kids when they were little. Still could. But my heart felt warmed recently when my daughter told me a story about her two-and-a-half year-old, Linus. His little buddy was struggling to walk through some tall grass when she overheard Linus say, “Wow, you’re doing a great job!”

Linus was repeating the words and the tone he hears from his mom every day. He has no reason to choose any other sort. Lots of kids hear “the other sort” all too often, and sometimes to exclusion. Can they learn to say kind and encouraging words? Can YOU, if you were not blessed with this type of heritage?

Anything can be learned, with practice, at any age. But it won’t come easy.

The Bible says the tongue is the hardest force to tame. “It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.” (James 3:5-6, The Message)

These days, we are more likely to say things through our written words on social media where our words—helpful or harmful—can be seen by the whole world. Permanently! I have a long way to go in this area. Caustic sarcasm is right there, especially when I’m miffed or not feeling good about myself in the moment. Jumping in to express a less than well thought-out opinion or to get a laugh can be so tempting.

On June first, let’s practice together, shall we? Kind and encouraging words only. And whether we succeed on that day or blow it, let’s start again on June second. And so on.

Maybe we could even reward ourselves with a do