Prov 17:22

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

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Lessons from the Laundry Room



I have a quirky clothes dryer. For one thing, it’s been in nearly every room of our house. Secondly, the door tends to swing closed when I’m trying to fill it, bonking me on the head. And finally, it nearly always leaves one lone item wet after everything else has dried. 

When we moved into our home, a stacking washer/dryer came with it—housed in a closet on the main floor. Since our bedroom’s in the basement, we wanted to move the appliances downstairs and turn the space back into a coat closet. Like every renovation project, it was easier said than done.

Lucky for me, I don’t represent the muscle segment of my family, so I supervised. The muscles agreed that, once out of its closet and onto a hand truck, the washer and dryer would be better kept together rather than try to separate them and all their wiring. They also agreed it would be easiest to roll the combination out through the front door, down the outside steps, and around to the side door and back inside where the stairs go directly down to the basement. On the way, these appliances took an excursion through our living room.

Home at last.
Once the whole thing had been bounced down to the hallway at the bottom of the basement stairs, the muscles realized that the corner was too tight to make into the laundry room, and the hallway had a dropped ceiling. It was just high enough for the washer/dryer to stand upright without the dolly. They rolled it all the way down the hall to the storage room at the end, where it could be stood upright and the dolly removed. Then it was shimmied all the way back up the hallway toward the laundry room. After a pretty complete tour of the whole house, the washer/dryer was finally installed in the right place and put to work. 

Then I discovered that, with nearly every load of clothes, one item always comes out still wet. Sometimes a sock, sometimes underwear or a T-shirt. You know those fins on the inside of the drum that push the clothes to the top so they can drop to the bottom? Turns out our dryer has just enough space between these fins and the edge of the drum for a small garment to become wedged. Because that garment simply gets dragged around and around instead of being tumbled, it doesn’t dry.

Could my dryer be trying to teach me something? 

Sometimes our life journeys seem to take us on unexpected detours and longer routes than we want. But often, those detours are necessary for us to arrive at the place where we fulfill our purpose.

As for the swinging door, sometimes doors that want to shut on us really ought to stay shut. Other times, we need to hold them open. In order to know which is which, we must be clear about our goal.

Furthermore, and please correct me if I’m wrong here, but wet underwear cannot be used for its intended purpose. Being tumbled around is necessary for it to be useful. Do you find yourself being dragged and dropped repeatedly by life when you’d rather sit comfortably in place, enjoying the ride? Could it be you need a little tumbling, a little disturbance, to get you to the place where you can fulfill your life’s purpose? Where you can be truly useful to God and to other people?

Something to think about next time you’re doing laundry.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Planes, Trains, Automobiles, Buses, and Boats



For Christmas, Hubby and I received an invitation to join our daughter, her husband, and their baby son on Keats Island. It’s one of the little islands off Canada’s west coast, north of Vancouver, near Gibsons. Our son-in-law’s parents live and work there, managing a conference/retreat centre called BarnabasFamily Ministries. It sounded like a rare opportunity to visit a unique place, share in our grandson’s first Christmas, and become better acquainted with his other grandparents. If you remember the 1970’s CBC show, The Beachcombers, you might recognize some of the gorgeous scenery we enjoyed. (We even ate a meal at Molly’s Reach, just because we could.)

But what an adventure in modes of transportation! Portage to Winnipeg by car; Winnipeg to Vancouver by plane. Okay, we could handle that. But from the Vancouver airport, we needed to catch the Skytrain to the city centre, then board a bus to Horseshoe Bay to catch a ferry to catch a boat. Would these two prairie bumpkins find our way without any wrong turns? What if we missed the last boat of the day? One glitch could throw off the whole plan and land us in Seattle. Or Anchorage.

Figuring out the train wasn’t too difficult, although by then it was late afternoon and we’d been travelling since early morning. My brain felt furry and my eyes burned. My hair hurt and my teeth itched. My arms and shoulders ached from the backpack across my back, the laptop bag over my shoulder, and the rolling suitcase I dragged behind. As the train approached our stop, we received a text telling us our son-in-law and his dad were waiting there for us. “We’re by the accordion player,” it said.

As we exited the train and began riding up a nearby escalator, I thought accordion music had never sounded so sweet! There stood our grinning, handsome son-in-law. Hubby threw some coins in the busker’s accordion case out of sheer relief, I think. 

We now had help with the luggage, guides to insure we boarded the right bus, and a boat waiting for us at Horseshoe Bay. I cheered when the boat ride included the sight of a seal smiling at us from a floating log!

The trip presented its challenges, but the rewards—the brilliant reflection of sunshine on the Pacific Ocean, the breathtaking beauty of the Rockies, luxurious accommodations, amazing hospitality, and of course, time with our kids—were priceless. No journey worth taking is made in three easy steps.

If you’ve read this blog recently, you know I’ve been on a much longer journey toward publishing my book, The Silver Suitcase. The planes, trains, and automobiles have been like the different people who have helped me toward my dream: writing mentors, my agent, editors. Some rides proved more turbulent than others, but all helped me move along toward the goal. Sometimes my brain felt furry and my eyes burned from early morning writing sessions. Lugging baggage is similar to the personal life experiences that show up in my book, like the names I borrowed from old friends or family members and the stories my mom shared about teaching in a one-room school. The pain in my shoulders represents the sting of rejection and the weariness of rewriting. Being greeted by our son-in-law felt like finally getting that publishing contract and knowing I would have expert help for the remainder of the journey.

And the reward? Well, that’s where you come in. Early reviewers are saying such kind things! Seeing readers enjoy my story and celebrating with me has made the trip priceless. No journey worth taking is made in three easy steps.

I hope you can join me at the book launch party—Tuesday, January 26, 6:30 – 8:00 pm at the Portage Regional Library. I’ll be going by car.

Me exploring Salmon Rock on Keats Island, Christmas Day 2015. Photo credit: Mindy Erickson.



Thursday, January 14, 2016

It's My Party and You Can Come if You Want To



A party’s in the works, and you’re invited.

If you’ve ever read one of my blog posts (and you’re obviously reading at least part of this one), then you’re invited. Why? Because, as a reader of my blog, you have played an unwitting role in my quest toward becoming an author. After all, a writer is nothing without a reader, right? And this writer needs some readers to celebrate with, so it’s your party too.

Photo by G. Loewen Photography
On January 26, Waterfall Press will release my first novel, The Silver Suitcase. That evening at 6:30, I’m hosting a book launch party at the Portage Regional Library, 40 Royal Road North. Since I first sat down on January 4, 2009 to see if I could write a book, my journey to this day has been a long, roller-coaster ride. I’ve received more rejections than I care to keep track of and made more revisions than I can count. Through most of it, kind comments from readers have often been my inspiration to keep working at the writing craft. When Jessie, my agent, sold the manuscript to an honest-to-goodness paying publisher last February, I could hardly believe it. This month, before we even took our Christmas tree down, twelve boxes of books arrived on our doorstep. Now hubby’s complaining that our home is beginning to look like a warehouse. We need your help! And besides, I want to meet you and say thanks. (And maybe even sell you a book.)

The Silver Suitcase is primarily for lovers of inspirational women’s fiction, but the few men who have read it liked it, too. It’s a story of two women separated by three generations but connected by the secrets stored in an old silver suitcase…and one powerful, healing God who pursues them both.

If you’re not much of a reader, come for the homemade pie and ice cream. (Chosen because the book includes a funny story about pie and a reoccurring theme involving an antique ice cream maker.) If you don’t like pie, come for the live music (my dear friend and inspiration, Julianne Dick, on piano.) If you’re not into music, come for the fabulous door prizes. If you’re not into prizes, come to hear me read a brief snippet from the book. (And if you don’t like hearing me read, I’ll sell you the audiobook read by professional voice actor, Kate Rudd!) You’re under no obligation to buy a book, but if you want to, you can—for twenty bucks, cash or cheque. I’ll sign it and give a dollar for each book sold to our local Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

I’ve chosen this charity because the two main characters in my story grew up in single-parent homes and both could have benefitted from a mentor in their younger years. As Canada’s leading child and youth mentoring charity, Big Brothers/Big Sisters facilitates life-changing relationships that inspire and empower children and youth to reach their potential, both as individuals and citizens. Our Portage la Prairie chapter has been creating such friendships since 1974.

If you can’t make it to the launch at the library, ask for The Silver Suitcase at Heritage Book & Gift Shop, 1609 Saskatchewan Ave. West, or order online from Amazon: HERE if you live in Canada and HERE if you live in the United States. 

But I sure hope to see you at the party—January 26 from 6:30 until 8:00. You earned it!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Remembering Shane



When I was ten years old, my big sister and her husband presented Mom and Dad with their first grandchild and my grandparents with their first great-grandchild, a little boy named Shane. Well, maybe not so little at well over ten pounds.

While we waited for him and his mother to be released from the hospital, Apollo 11 landed on the moon and Neil Armstrong took his famous first step on its surface. I remember gazing up at the moon, fascinated to think there were people up there taking one giant leap for mankind. Still, the news paled in comparison to the new life that had been added to our family. I couldn’t wait to meet my nephew!

While all children are precious, a first grandchild holds a special place in a family’s heart. I thought he was the best thing since macaroni and cheese, and visited every chance I got. When my parents took a trip to the east coast and I got to stay at my sister’s to “help” care for Shane, I didn’t mind missing out on the road trip one bit. 

That Christmas, Shane was showered with presents as each aunt, uncle, grandparent, and great-grandparent picked out something special for him. My gift was a bright orange inflatable Pluto dog—chosen no doubt because I liked it myself! All that gift-giving gradually dwindled of necessity as 13 more grandchildren eventually joined the family. Shane never knew how good he had it! But then again, he grew up to be an especially generous gift-giver himself, so who knows?

We never dreamed that 46 years later, we would find ourselves again gathering as a family around Shane—along with his wife and two sons—to express our love in a completely different way as he fought a swift and aggressive last battle this past November. You will rarely hear me swear, but I believe there are a few appropriate uses for the word “damn.” One of those is cancer. With aching hearts, our family assembled to ease Shane’s suffering in any way we could and to usher him from this life into the next with goodbyes and prayers and songs and hugs and tears; and then to bury his last remains, celebrate his life, and try to comfort the many broken hearts he left behind.

How is it that death is our only certainty, and yet the pain of it runs deeper than any other? If death is such an inevitable part of life, shouldn’t it be easier? 

Could it be because we were designed to live forever? God’s original plan was not for us to die. Parents aren’t supposed to bury their children. Teenagers aren’t supposed to bury their dad. Grandmothers aren’t supposed to suffer the multiplied pain of losing a grandchild while also seeing their own child grieving. There’s really nothing “natural” about it.

And living forever would have been wonderful if this planet had retained its original design, too. Adam and Eve were created immortal. But once sin entered our world through their disobedience, immortality here would have been unbearable. Can you imagine? While there are many enjoyable things in this life to appreciate, let’s face it. Does anyone really want to live forever with the inevitable aches and pains, the suffering and destruction we see around us, with no relief in sight? 

God in his mercy has spared us that. In a sense, death became a blessing. It allows us to complete our journey here and move on to what we were originally created for. Why it sometimes comes “too soon” in our human opinions will remain a mystery, but in I Corinthians 15, Paul explains it far better than I ever could and I encourage you to check it out for yourself. Bottom line? “Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.” (Verse 22) 

Death sucks, there’s no getting around it. We need to grieve, there’s no getting around that either. But joy comes when we remember the final battle has already been won; the last enemy already defeated. In Revelation 3, John tells us “…God himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

I can live with that. And so can you. 

Forever.