Prov 17:22

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

Friday, June 29, 2018

Fear of Fireworks?

Gayle Loewen captured this at last summer's International Fireworks Competition.

With Canada Day around the corner, I did a little digging into an interesting phobia shared by a surprising number of people. It’s called Pyrotechnophobia, the fear of fireworks. Related fears go by other names: Misophonia, Phonophobia, Ligyrophobia. All are varying types of irrational fear of sounds or loud noises. 

Reading some of the testimonies of the sufferers, I was astonished by the degree to which these fears can debilitate people. It robs them, not only of enjoying an annual fireworks display, but in some cases of daily peace. Sufferers dodge social events because balloons may be present. The mere sound of a balloon being inflated can trigger a panic attack resulting in vomiting or an inability to breathe. They might avoid stage plays in case of gunshot sound effects. Noisy equipment can make the workplace terrifying. 

One American woman said, “Every Independence Day for the past decade, I've escaped the holiday by checking into a secluded hotel beyond the suburban booms of the night.” So powerful was her fear, she rarely left her dorm room her first year of college—even with her industrial strength noise-blocking earmuffs, the kind used by construction crews with jackhammers. ["It Happened to Me"]

Talk about a paralyzing fear! And judging by the comments left on her online article, she clearly isn’t alone. In some cases, people can trace their fear to an early-childhood incident. For others, the cause is nebulous at best and for others, a complete mystery. For a few, it came on suddenly after a lifetime of no such fear. Yet as desperate as these folks feel to shed the phobia, many resist treatment. Fear holds such a grip on them, it’s become part of who they are. They don’t want to lose a part of themselves, even if it’s a part they loathe. It’s called Eleutherophobia, the fear of freedom.

Can you relate to any of this? Maybe fireworks or loud noises are not your fear. Maybe it’s elevators or public speaking or dogs. Beards. Pregnancy. Mirrors. Bananas. (I’m not making this up!) Even the “fear of fear” has a name: Phobophobia (of course!) Some of these can sound ridiculous if they’re not your issue. But when you’re inflicted, it doesn’t feel irrational at all—even when your brain tells you it is.

Anxiety disorders abound, with various forms of treatment available and varying results. They can’t necessarily be divided into emotional, spiritual, and physical because we are whole, complex beings and all these elements work together. Dr. Rob Reimer, author of the book Soul Care, comes at it from a spiritual framework. Our fears, he says, are one of seven fundamentals that keep us from soul health—principles Jesus taught. The suitcase of our soul often contains so much anger, bitterness, fear, and deception that no room remains for the good stuff. 

I’m no expert, but I do know this. Jesus paid a mighty high price for our freedom. Sure seems a shame not to live in it, doesn’t it? If you suffer from irrational, debilitating fears, I truly hope you will seek help. You don’t have to live that way. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

Freedom can be found, and freedom is one of the things we celebrate this Canada Day. May you thoroughly enjoy the holiday, this great country, and the beautiful fireworks this July first—free from all fear!

 “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The REAL Beauty Queens

Just to prove Cinderella really made it to the fancy ball, here’s a photo of Mindy and me at the Word Awards in Toronto on June 15. My novel, Maggie’s War, took the award for Best Historical Novel. I was also surprised to bring home the prize in the Column Series category for a pair of columns that ran in the Herald Leader last fall: “Practically a Spa Day” and “A Bone to Pick.” (which you can also find on this blog by clicking on the titles.) What an honor! 

Thank you, Word Guild. And thank you, friends and readers, for all your support and encouragement!

But now for what you really want to hear about: the glamour and glitz. Not to brag or anything, but it only takes five people to make me look this good. Let me introduce these drop-dead gorgeous women.

Jodi Boldt Knox runs a boutique out of her home called The Lovely Pink Chair. She buys high-end clothing and accessories from consignment shops and rents or sells them to her clients. The real beauty lies in her full-service specialty. You don’t simply browse through racks of clothes and pick something out. When I showed up at the appointed time, several pre-assembled outfits already hung around the room, waiting for my perusal. For the next forty minutes Jodi treated me like a queen to her lady’s maid. Once we settled on this fabulous dress, we experimented with shoes, jewelry, and handbags—all to rent! The whole experience was nearly as special as the gala itself—and cheaper. You can contact Jodi at

Doreen Klippenstein has been untangling my mop of hair for twenty years, regaling me with her funny and wise stories. These days, she is often joined in her shop by her daughter Genevieve Webber. When an out-of-province wedding forced Doreen to change my pre-gala appointment, I felt a moment of panic. Who could I trust with this mess of hair? Long story short, I got two talented hairdressers for the price of one. Doreen performed a cut and color earlier in the week, before she had to leave; then I returned two days later to have Genevieve style it for me before I left. What a team! I don’t know if they’re taking any new clients, but you can email me if you want the shop’s phone number.

Even though I’m not a frequent customer, Rachel Utz graciously works me into her appointment book to do my nails for special occasions. She’s fast, she’s good, she’s reasonably priced, and she’s wonderful to chat with while she transforms hands into objects of beauty. You leave feeling wonderful, thanks to her loving spirit and artistry. Alas, Rachel is having a baby in a few months and is not taking new clients. I’ll keep her phone number to myself.

My daughter Mindy Erickson is not technically in the beauty business, but her years of helping young women discover their potential as loved children of God makes her someone you love to hang out with. As my gala date, she provided moral support as we texted each other photos of our outfits leading up to the event, then helped me with my makeup in our hotel room. Besides, she makes me laugh, and laughing is like cosmetic surgery for the face.

So, I guess it’s official. I have become one of those high maintenance women. But I think the biggest beauty secret all these women share is their love for Jesus, which shines through their countenance and settles onto the people they serve. Whoever said beauty is only skin deep has not met these five.

Here’s to the professionals who make this ol’ world a more beautiful place, and this ol’ gal a little more glamorous every now and then!

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