Prov 17:22

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

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Great Minds...

My kids may want to shoot me for yet again turning every insignificant incident into a blog post, but here I go anyway.

For Christmas, I made a not-very-subtle wish for candles. Specifically, three-wick candles from Bath and Body Works. Burning them in my home office while I write in the pre-sunrise hours before it’s time to go to my regular job is often the best part of my day. Nothing like a cup of steaming coffee with my favorite hazelnut creamer, the quiet of early morning, and the warm glow of a scented candle to remind me of something important. You see, for me, the candle represents a spiritual truth: God’s triune presence with me, helping me as we work together. As I light the three wicks, I ask him to fill the room with his Spirit, to infuse my writing with his light and fragrance and warmth. To somehow ignite a spark in a reader’s heart through the words I type.

Well, maybe that’s a tad lofty. But I pray for it anyway. And so, I asked my family for more candles for Christmas. “The kind that smell like something yummy is baking,” I said, since I rarely bake any more. Writing is more lucrative and less fattening.

Hubby toed the line by giving me three candles in three different scents from the specified store. Not exactly cookie dough or banana bread scents, but very pleasant fragrances nonetheless: Midnight Blue Citrus, Winter, and Goal Digger. These will keep me typing for months, leaving no excuse for not writing.

Then we drove all the way to our daughter’s house in Calgary to spend Christmas with her family. By December 29, the remainder of the family had arrived from Manitoba, some by plane and some on wheels. It was our first time all together in ages, and the first time ever for our newest member. Thirteen of us under one roof created delightful chaos, especially when it came time to open gifts.

When dear old mom’s turn came, we enjoyed a good laugh. Two of our three offspring had been thinking similar thoughts. While desiring to honor my request for candles, neither of them wanted to risk buying the same scented candle as anyone else. So they didn’t shop at Bath and Body Works. To ensure their gift would be unique, they each picked a different store, one in Calgary and one in Winnipeg.

The result? Two identical 3-wick Mercury candles in the same Mulled Cider and Cinnamon scent from Indigo. From two different people who, it turns out, might think more alike than they want to admit.

For the record, “Great minds think alike” is not from the Bible. But I’m glad God gave my kids great minds. And the matching candles look (and smell) terrific side by side on our dining table…at least until it’s time for each of them to take their turn at my writing desk.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Stuff I Learned in 2017

Going a whole year without learning anything new would be a tragedy, don’t you agree? Some years it might be a stretch to figure out what you learned, but taking inventory of the past twelve months usually sheds light on a few. Here are mine.

I learned some new words.
You would think I’d know a lot of words, fancying myself a writer and all. But the more writerly friends I make, the more I realize my vocabulary is stuck in Grade Five. So, I’ve intentionally tried to notice new words as I come across them. Unfortunately, I’ve already forgotten both of them. Perhaps in 2018, I will remember to take actual notes, not just mental ones. 

One new word that sticks in my head, likely because I see it on Facebook so often, is “trynna.” I’m trynna find a good plumber. I’m trynna clean the house. I’m trynna write a blog post with some value to it.

“Trynna” is similar to “wanna” or “gonna.” Only wronger.

I learned how to launch two novels in the same year.
Photo by Stan Wiebe
My second novel came out at the end of January and my third in mid-August. I’ve learned I need to take a week off from my day job if I’m going to have enough energy for the whirlwind of launch parties, radio and newspaper interviews, hair and nail appointments. It’s a rough life. 

Some readers have asked about a fourth novel and I’m happy to say one is in the works. Since my publisher discontinued its fiction line, however, I’m praying for a new publisher in 2018.

I learned I can still be helpful. For a limited time only.
Our fifth grandson arrived in September. He was considerate enough to postpone his arrival until a day after I’d landed in Calgary to help. I spent ten days chasing his big brother, cooking, cleaning, and generally trying to make myself as useful to my daughter and son-in-law as possible. Long-distance grandparenting seems to be an all-or-nothing deal, so I gave 110%. When the time came to catch my flight home, it was the first time I’ve said goodbye without crying. Too exhausted or too relieved? I’m still not sure. The tears came later, when my daughter’s thank you card arrived in the mail, pouring out heartfelt gratitude.

I learned to celebrate…sort of.
Hubby and I reached our 40th wedding anniversary on October first. Our lofty goal to check all forty activities off our list throughout the year revealed how celebration-challenged we are. Still, we did accomplish half, which is more than we’d have done without the list. Best thing I learned from that experience is if you actually write things down, you’re more likely to take the steps toward making them happen. And there’s no law saying we can’t finish it in our forty-first year or beyond.

Not too shabby, eh? How about you? Look back through your calendar. I’ll bet you’ll be surprised by how much you’ve learned, too.  Happy New Year!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Ornaments I Love, Part 4

“This is just wrong,” I mumbled as I stepped out of the store’s festive holiday glitter and into the lukewarm humidity of East Texas in mid-December. The Chipmunks chirped We Wish You a Merry Christmas over loudspeakers in the parking lot where teenagers in yellow rain slickers sold evergreen trees. Small bunches of live mistletoe could be purchased for a quarter apiece, and I decided to splurge. It grows wild in the south, a parasitic plant clinging high atop trees some entrepreneurial soul had mustered enough courage to climb. 

It was 1980 and my first Christmas away from home in Manitoba where Christmas sounds, looks, and feels like it’s supposed to: the sharp crunch of snow underfoot, little kids bundled into snowsuits like overstuffed teddy bears, and wisps of white frost clinging to mustaches. Hubby was in university and we were expecting our first baby. With money tight, we’d agreed a trip home was not feasible. We would create our own holiday memories instead. We found a little artificial tree for three dollars at a garage sale and decorated it with one small strand of multicolored lights and a set of tiny wooden ornaments. Painted red and gold, the set included bells, Santas, skaters, rocking horses, angels, toy trains, and my favorite: a wee nativity scene. Made in China, the characters’ painted-on faces were Asian in appearance, reminding us of the universal nature of the holiday and how it didn’t really matter where we celebrated.

But as Christmas day approached, I grew melancholy. Thoughts turned to my siblings gathering at home, the coats piling up on Grandma’s bed, the homemade cabbage rolls and perogies being consumed, and the wild pandemonium of nieces and nephews tearing into their gifts. I pictured them enjoying it all while we sat in our dreary apartment with our Charlie Brown tree, exchanging practical gifts like socks and pencils. Though longing to set up a nursery, my nesting instinct was trumped by our empty bank account. I yearned for a little snow. Surely all of this was rationale for a pity party, and I zealously indulged.

Then, as Hubby read aloud the familiar words from Luke 2, I looked at my round tummy and thought of our coming child. I felt him move and I identified with Mary. She, too, found herself far from the familiar faces of home. The climate in Mary’s homeland of Israel was far more comparable to Texas than what felt like “proper Christmas weather” to me. The stable where she gave birth was anything but cozy and inviting. Not only did Mary have no nursery to decorate, she barely had a roof over her head! Yet her humble obedience resulted in the greatest gift ever given—the birth of Messiah. I’d been making it all about my own traditions and memories. Perhaps it was time to focus on the one whose arrival we celebrated, wherever we found ourselves and whatever the circumstances.

Each year, when I pull out those tiny wooden ornaments, I’m reminded of that lonely, long-ago Christmas and of the lessons learned. I recall how little we had, but how rich we were.

Let every heart prepare him room.

Photo by G. Loewen Photography