Prov 17:22

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

Friday, July 24, 2020

Not on My Watch

Do you have moments you wish you could return to and prevent something from happening? I suspect we all do. I experienced one last week.

You may recall my telling about the eight days I spent in charge of my small grandsons in Calgary last January. With their parents two countries away, I felt paranoid all week that something horrible would happen to one of the boys on my watch. I mentally rehearsed how I’d handle such a disaster.

Nothing ever happened.

Ironically, when we visited them again last week, such fears were farthest from my mind. With their mom in a Zoom meeting at home and their dad running an errand, I decided to take the boys to the park at the end of their street. They rode their bikes and wore their helmets. They enjoyed a swell time on the swings, slides, and climbing equipment. I loved pushing them, catching them, and laughing with them while we soaked up a glorious sunny morning.

When it was time to return home, I began packing our belongings and helping the younger guy put his bike helmet back on. Linus, the four-year-old, had never taken his off. He jumped on his bike and took off. Next thing I knew, a stranger ran toward me carrying a screaming Linus. His mouth appeared to be full of blood, the front of his T-shirt soaked red. A closer look revealed a deep gash in his chin. He was shaking and hysterical.

I’d make a pathetic paramedic. At first, I thought I’d lost my phone. After finding it in my back pocket, I called my daughter with shaking fingers and voice. Long story short, Linus ended up with four stitches in his chin and his parents did not get their “date night” that evening.

I felt horrible.

Yes, I know these things happen. Yes, I know it could have happened even if I’d kept my eyes glued to him. And yes, I know it could have been far worse. None of that stopped me from wishing I’d stayed home in Manitoba. That way, even if Linus took a spill, it wouldn’t have been on my watch.

Funny how we think. No one blamed me. In fact, my daughter said if it had to happen, it was the best-case scenario because I could stay with the two-year-old, freeing both parents to take Linus to the hospital.

Did it have to happen? I suppose as long as we live in a broken world where gravity rules and is (mostly) a good thing, these things do “have to happen.” But I’d gladly split my own chin open and worse if doing so could have spared Linus the pain and trauma. Every parent and grandparent understands that.

I’m relieved to hear Linus is healing swiftly. Hopefully, he’ll be a little more cautious…or maybe not. He is a four-year-old boy, after all.

For me, I suppose it’s yet another lesson in humility and knowing I cannot control everything. Sometimes my best effort isn’t enough. If their parents trust me with the boys again, I hope I’ll be more mindful without becoming a worry-wort, helicopter grandmother. Besides, I’ll never know how many angels surrounded Linus that day, allowing this relatively minor injury while preventing one far more serious.

A teacher I admire once said, “Don’t ask God to keep your children safe. Instead, ask him to make them dangerous. Dangerous to the kingdom of darkness.” That’s a hard one to swallow, but there’s truth in it. I suppose if we allow the hard knocks of life to grow us and our children into more valiant warriors in the Lord’s army, they can be answers to that prayer.

Even if they must happen on my watch.

Friday, July 17, 2020

A New Hobby for the Pandemic

Did you take up any new hobbies while isolated at home? Learn any new skills?

I had never been a fan of those coloring books designed for grown-ups. I tried once, but between the teensy little areas to be colored and my (ahem) maturing eyesight, the results looked like a preschooler did it. I decided it was not for me.

(On a coloring-related side note, kudos to Crayola for finally coming up with the Colors of the World skin-tone crayons!)

Wish we'd had these when I was a kid.
Anyway, early in the pandemic, my friend Leta sent me a link to a free scripture coloring page—an array of pretty flowers surrounding these words: “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” from Joshua 1:9. (Side note: I have a friend named Joshua who was born on January 9. How perfect a verse is that for him?)
I decided to color the page using four fine tip gel markers I’d received as a retirement gift plus the four different fluorescent highlighters on my desk. Well, technically, two were snitched from Hubby’s desk.

I also wore the magnifier glasses I use for nail polishing and sliver-pulling. This allowed me to enjoy coloring and I felt so pleased with the result I went looking for more free scripture coloring pages online. I printed the ones I liked and purchased a set of fine tip markers so I’d have more colors from which to choose.

Soon I was coloring while watching TV, listening to podcasts, and—gasp!—listening to online church services. I’d stick one to our front door to encourage the mailman, swapping it out with a new one each time I completed a picture.

So enthralled was I with this new interest, I hatched a plan to share it with subscribers of my author newsletter by gifting them with a scripture coloring page. To motivate them to print, color, scan, and return it, I’d make it a contest with a free book for the winner. Brilliant.

There was only one problem. I do not have the skills to create such a thing and I couldn’t very well be giving away someone else’s artwork without permission. I talked to a couple of artist friends, offering to pay. I selected Psalm 138:8 – “The Lord will accomplish what concerns me.”
The page Gord designed, colored by Moi
Local author Gord Zacharias not only created a gorgeous page, he did it for free (“this time”). I could not have been happier with it! I colored mine, offered the uncolored one in my newsletter, and have been receiving finished ones back for the draw to be made on July 31. How fun is that?

With the arrival of summer’s garden and yard care duties, my coloring has slowed down. (Not to mention I think I’ve already completed all the ones available for free!) Last weekend I asked myself why I was letting my finished pages pile up in a folder where nobody sees them. I took half an hour and sprinkled them throughout my home. Sticky tack works well on walls; magnets are great for appliances and metal doors. Now, almost anywhere we go in our house, we feel encouraged by words of truth and wisdom, surrounded by color and beauty—a definite step up from the negativity in the news or on social media.

In Deuteronomy 6, God told his people his words were to be on their hearts and impressed upon their children. Written on the doorframes of their houses and on their gates.

He never said they couldn’t be pretty, too.

Friday, July 10, 2020

How [NOT] to Launch a Book During a Pandemic

What’s that old saying? “Kick-in-the-behind-sight is 2020?” Something like that.

I thought it would be a cool idea to put several of my newspaper columns from the last ten years into a book, organized by themes and topics. It was my first attempt at self-publishing, and it was going swimmingly. I called the book Out of My Mind: A Decade of Faith and Humour.

I ordered my first proof copy in February. It came in record time, slick as anything. I went through it, marked the needed changes, and revised it. By the time I ordered a second proof copy, the pandemic had hit. Amazon was not shipping proof copies into Canada. I had one sent to my mother-in-law in South Dakota, who mailed it to me.  It arrived three and a half weeks after the day she mailed it and I owed her 21 U.S. dollars for the postage.

Now I was freaking out. If it took that long to receive my author copies, how could I be sure I’d have books to sell at the event I’d booked at my local library—assuming that event could even happen as scheduled? Since I couldn’t order any copies until the book officially released, I bumped up my release day. The book went live on June 7.

I attempted to order my first shipment of author copies only to discover they were not being shipped to Canada, either. Which is weird because Amazon now prints books in Canada and you as a customer can order one—the exact product. My only option was to order mine the same as any other customer, at customer prices. So I ordered 25, but by the time they arrived, they were all spoken for. So I ordered another 25 and by the time they arrived, they were all spoken for.

This should be a good problem to have, but frankly, I can’t afford it. Yes, I could have jacked up my price but that just seemed unfair. Besides, if I keep selling them out of my house, neighbours will think I’m dealing drugs.

So I’ve decided not to order more until I can acquire them at my usual author’s price. Our library has tentatively re-scheduled a book-signing party for me on September 26. If we’re able to go ahead with that plan, you’ll be able to purchase a book or bring the one you already have for signing. Technically, the actual ten-year anniversary of my column isn’t until September anyway, so it’s all good.

But, who knows whether it will happen then or not?

Actually, I do know who knows. It’s not me or you or Amazon or the library or the government. The only one who knows is the same one who’s got us in his hands, come what may. The same one who made us, loves us, and is still sovereign. The one who is never taken by surprise, who never rings his hands or feels defeated.

While my little inconvenience is minor compared to what others suffer, 2020 is kicking all of our butts in some way. But it’s helping me learn to depend on God and trust him for all of it. It’s serving as a good reminder that I am not in control, not even a little bit. It’s teaching me yet again that God can use whatever means he chooses to get this book into the hands of whomever he decides needs one. It helps me remember who my provider is. How about you?

Meanwhile, you can order the book in paperback or Kindle form HERE if youre in Canada and HERE if youre in the States. I hope you do. It could solve your gift-giving dilemmas for months—especially if the people on your gift list are fans of my column. Or would be fans if they knew about it.