Prov 17:22

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

Friday, August 12, 2022

Spoiled ... Rotten?

Opportunities to spoil my grandsons are few, so when Rascal Number Three slept over recently, I served food he liked, took him shopping for new swim trunks and then to the splash pad, bought him an ice cream cone “even though we had some at home,” and let him watch too much TV.

Every once in a while, I feel as though God spoils me like that. I experienced one of those days last month.

Oh, it didn’t begin so promising. With a major thunderstorm and three inches of rain overnight, I couldn’t wear the summer dress I’d planned (I know, boo hoo.) Then I needed to detour around a couple of lakes on Lorne Avenue to make my nine-a.m. optometrist’s appointment. His bill was more than I wanted to pay, too. But his news almost made it worthwhile—no change in my eyesight, and no need to return for two years.

Then the fun part began. I picked up my friend Amanda and we headed down the highway to Winnipeg. When you get out of town as infrequently as I do, this alone is special. We yackety-yacked for the 75 minutes it took us to reach the restaurant. Her mother-in-law had invited me as a guest author at her book club’s monthly meeting. They’d just read my novel, Bleak Landing.

I met six delightful new friends who asked brilliant questions, listened intently while I yammered on about my work, and purchased six of my books! They paid for my delicious lunch, reimbursed my mileage, and gifted me with a Chapters gift card. Is it any wonder I left the restaurant feeling spoiled?

I dropped Amanda off at her mother’s for an hour’s visit while I bummed around in Grant Park Shopping Center. At Winner’s, I treated myself to a new scented candle (Vanilla Bean!) and a package of Crayola’s “Colors of the World” pencil crayons. When I was a kid, any crayon box with 16 or more crayons included a pinky-peach one labeled “flesh.” A few years ago, Crayola came out with their “Colors of the World,” helping kids understand skin comes in many colors, all of them beautiful. My 24-pack ranges from “Extra Light Rose” to “Very Deep Almond.” Now I need pictures of people to color, or better yet, a visit from my youngest grandsons so they can join me. I’m proud of Crayola for making these available. 

But I digress.

I left McNally-Robinson for last, knowing that once I entered a bookstore, my remaining 45 minutes would pass in five. There, I found a copy of Genevieve Graham’s newest book. Graham writes excellent Canadian historical fiction.

Amanda and I yackety-yacked all the way to Portage. Later that evening, her hubby dropped by my house with a potted flower for our yard! Could this day get any better?

Apparently, it could. God had not yet iced the cake.

While I’d been out, The Word Guild announced the shortlist for the 2022 Word Awards. I felt so honored to learn that both novels I released in 2021 made the list: The Last Piece short-listed for Contemporary Fiction. Rose Among Thornes short-listed in three categories: Historical Fiction, Best Cover, and Social Justice! They’ll announce the winners next month.

It was still July, but I felt like a spoiled grandkid on Christmas Day.

Which do you enjoy more—being spoiled or spoiling others? May both happen for you this week


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Sunday, August 7, 2022

How My Garden Grows

Terrie, Terrie, quite ordinary,
How does your garden grow?
With beets and beans and lettuce greens
And cucumbers all in a row.

My tomatoes look dreadful and I don't know why.


This time of year, I love how every meal preparation involves stepping out to my garden for something. Given the skyrocketing food prices and the decrease in our household income this year, I thought it prudent to jam-pack my little garden with vegetables and keep my flower budget to zero. I took the geranium I’d barely kept alive indoors over the winter, divided it into three pots, and said, “God bless you.”


My resurrected geranium. Where there's life, there's hope.



Then my son gave me a lovely potted calla lily for Mother’s Day.

Then my sister-in-law gave me twenty bucks as a hostess gift, saying “Get yourself some flowers.” I bought a pot with a beautiful red/white/purple combination.

Then my friend gave me a gorgeous coral impatiens plant.

Then another friend gave me a pretty pot of pale purple calibrachoas.

I know, I’m spoiled.

Meanwhile, the geranium I thought I’d killed began showing delicate signs of life in all three pots. By the time they amount to anything, summer may be over, and it’ll be time to take them indoors for another winter. But still.

I also have three perennials faithfully doing their bit: daylilies, hydrangeas, and sedum.

All that to say, my “no flower” summer has turned into just enough flowers to bring joy to my soul and to demand their fair share of attention.

As for the vegetables, our cold wet spring made for a slow beginning. I planted the first week of June and finally harvested our first picking of lettuce on July first. By the next day, you couldn’t tell I’d picked at all. My spinach has been rather disappointing and the carrots even more so. Will they suddenly take of?

Zucchini is quickly taking over. I’m using them in stir-fries and salads and hope to freeze some for baked treats and soups.

Green beans showed up next, and I hope to harvest plenty for eating and even more for the freezer, but we’ll see. I planted way too many cucumbers, then thinned them to half. I should thin them to half again, but don’t have the heart. I’d love to harvest enough dill pickle-sized cukes at once to fill several jars, though. Most years, I save a week’s worth of pickings only to fill two or three jars. My last blood pressure check said I should avoid salt, so hubby will eat the pickles. Do you suppose I can make enough for his work-day sandwiches for a whole year?

 

 

Which brings me to the dill. I planted some new seeds in case last year’s didn’t come up voluntarily. It did.

I’ve got lots of beets, too. I throw the greens in salads until it’s time to pull up the root. We enjoy eating those cooked as a side dish, plus I always put several bags of beets in the freezer to use in borscht come winter.

Of course, can you even call it a garden if it doesn’t include tomatoes? I planted six this year. It’s already August and I’m still looking forward to biting into my first toasted tomato sandwich. Something to look forward to, I guess.

I hope you’re enjoying your own or someone else’s fresh garden produce this summer.


Friday, July 29, 2022

What's in YOUR Name?


In a sermon series on Jonah at our church, the speaker informed us that the Bible refers to Jonah as “Son of Amittai.” Jonah means “dove,” a symbol for peace, while Amittai means “faithfulness.”

While ancient cultures put great stock into the meanings of names and how their names affected their lives, most of us don’t. But this information made me curious. I decided to investigate the meaning of my own name and of my parents’ names.

It got more complicated than I’d hoped.

If, like me, you were born in 1959, chances are you had a Terry in your class. Mine had three at one point—two girls and a boy. An online search tells me that, in Canada, the name peaked for baby girls in 1955 and for boys in 1958. Given its many spellings, variations, and gender-neutral nature, finding an accurate meaning became a “choose-your-own-ending” story.

Technically named after my great-grandmother, Theresa, I started there. Probably derived from the Spanish, Theresa means “Harvester.” An alternate site told me Terrie means “late summer” in Greek or old German. Well, it’s not hard to make the connection between harvest and late summer.

My father’s name, “Matthew,” of Hebrew origin, means “gift from God.” Though he was born in 1919, Dad’s name didn’t reach its popularity peak until 1996. I bet you know a few Matthews now in their late twenties.

My mother’s name, “Norma,” comes from Latin meaning “the standard” or “norm.” It reached its popularity peak in the 1930s.

If I wanted to be sinister or cynical, I could put these three meanings together and concoct some doozies. I could see myself as “God’s gift” to the world, “harvesting” where I didn’t plant, helping myself to what others worked hard for, because that’s considered “normal” in today’s society. I could be a professional thief, movie star, or maybe a politician.

If, on the other hand, I wanted to draw valuable spiritual life applications, it’s not hard to see this a different way. Since my father was a gift straight from God and since my mother set a pretty high standard for what’s “normal,” (she even attended “Normal School” back in the day to become a teacher) and since I am apparently the harvester of all this goodness, how hard can it be? Seems like a person known as “Harvester, Daughter of God’s Gift and The Standard” ought to be raking in a bountiful crop by now. Turning around and feeding the hungry. Teaching those around her valuable lessons. Maybe even storing away sustenance for future use, possibly even for others after she’s gone. Hmm. Those all sound like things mothers, grandmothers, and writers might accomplish.

Well, as I said. You can bend, twist, and stretch meanings to fit however you’d like. But I think learning the meaning of your name and your parents’ names can prove valuable in establishing your life’s purpose. You may need to pick one from several options, but once you do, if you take it seriously and make it your calling, who knows what might develop? Once I knew my name meant “Harvester,” I Googled Bible verses about harvest. I found thirteen. Guess what? Half of them already appeared in my top-ten all-time favorites! Perhaps there is more to this than I knew.

Do you know what your name means? How about the names of your parents? It’s easy to find out. Do a little digging—see what resonates with your heart. Find corresponding scriptures. Claim your purpose, God’s purpose, for your life. You’ll be glad you took the time.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Lillie and Diana

In 1940, Lillie, a young woman with a deeply troubled past, turned for comfort to another man while her husband served overseas in World War II. When Lillie discovered she was pregnant, she sought an illegal abortion without informing a soul, not even the man with whom she’d had the affair.

At a doctor’s office a few weeks later, Lillie learned she’d been duped. She was still pregnant. When, a few months later, her husband returned wounded from the war, it’s difficult to say who was more caught off-guard—Lillie, at the sight of her husband’s facial disfigurement, or her husband, at the sight of his pregnant wife.

Fast-forward to 2019. A young woman named Diana is enjoying her single life in Edmonton when a mysterious DNA test result indicates something amiss in her family tree. When her 80-year-old father begins to reveal the long-kept secrets his mother, Lillie, passed on to him before her passing, Diana is swept into Lillie’s world. Meanwhile, Diana feels torn in half by the two most terrifying invitations she has ever received: to adopt a young girl’s unborn baby, and to marry a man she considers only a friend.

It requires over three hundred pages to adequately tell Lillie’s and Diana’s stories, even though they are mere figments of my imagination. This split-time tale is the novel I wrote in 2020 while the world was locked down. I titled it “From the Ashes.”

In February of 2021, my agent pitched “From the Ashes” to seven publishers. By January of 2022, we’d received our seventh rejection and my agent had run out of potential publishers. By that time, I’d completed another manuscript and we moved on to a new round of rejections. “From the Ashes” was history in more ways than one.

When the 2022 Braun Book awards opened for submissions, I decided to enter “From the Ashes” even though I knew its odds were slim. After all, I’d entered four other manuscripts in this contest over the course of thirteen years and never won. But what did I have to lose? My last pathetic shred of confidence? I sent it off and forgot about it.

On May 27, I received a phone call. The team at Word Alive Press in Winnipeg had selected “From the Ashes” as the 2022 Braun Book Award winner! They plan to publish the book before the end of the year. This will be my first novel published in Canada.

I share all this with you, my readers, as a reminder. My author’s journey has provided the perfect metaphor for life. Just when you think all hope is gone, it’s not. Just when you think you’ve got it made, you don’t. Just when you think your path is clear, God comes along with a surprise that shifts your direction. Through it all, you learn he can be trusted. He truly does know what’s best.

To prove this point even further, the week before I planned to post this story, my agent dropped me from her clientele list due to not being able to place my books. If you’ve ever been fired from a job or dumped by a boyfriend/girlfriend, you’ll know how humbling this feels. I loved being part of that agency and feel deeply disappointed and sad. Will it mean the end of my novel-writing? Possibly. Will "From the Ashes" be my final hurrah? Could be. Only one thing is certain. It’s not the end of God’s faithfulness. I didn’t know how much I’d need to read my own words this week.

As the release date for “From the Ashes” nears, I’ll keep you updated. While I hope you enjoy Lillie’s and Diana’s stories, I hope even more that you’re inspired by mine.

Don’t give up. God has a plan. He hasn’t forgotten you.


 

Friday, July 15, 2022

Stained

Though our little deck right off the kitchen is convenient for preparing meals on the barbecue, I have frequently wished it held more people. Four is pretty much its limit if you want everyone comfortable.

I harbored no such desires, however, when I decided this was the summer to stain the thing. In our nine years here, I’d never performed this feat, only dreaded it. Fear of difficulty and of doing a bad job made me postpone it far too long. But the deck wasn’t getting any younger, and neither was I.

I watched a few how-to videos on YouTube and received conflicting advice. Oil-based is best. Water-based is best. No need to sand. You must sand. Use a roller. Use a brush. The only thing these videos had in common? The people presenting them were all men. Deck-staining lands nowhere near the top of my man’s priority list. He did, however, remove the barbecue so I could proceed.

To start, I borrowed a pressure washer and hosed down the deck, gouging the wood in only a few places. No matter. I’d already decided this job would not be perfect, only an improvement. I came home from our local paint store with a gallon of latex stain, a sheet of sandpaper, and some advice.

Then I waited a week or two for the weather to cooperate.

I am now convinced God may have given me the one perfect weekend we’ll see all summer, June 4 and 5. Perfect temperatures. Zero mosquitoes. No humidity. Glorious sunshine and a gentle breeze. My favorite music wafting through the screen door from inside.

After sanding the worst spots, I vacuumed the surface. Then I stirred the stain and began brushing it onto all the spindles and trim. Expecting the big job to prove unbearably tedious, I was surprised to realize I was enjoying myself. Time-wise, I could have completed the entire job that day. Energy-wise, I knew I’d better hold off or I’d become extra careless.

The next day dawned beautiful again. After church and a nap, I went out and completed the deck floor in about ninety minutes. The next day I touched up a few spots. By mid-week, the furnishings were returned to their places. Our beautiful, imperfect deck stood ready for me to put up my feet and read a good book. I’d spent less than a hundred dollars.

Almost immediately, heat and humidity emerged along with mosquitoes, tree fluff, and flying seeds. I cannot describe how thankful I felt for that brief window, confirming the sign on my fridge that says, “Procrastination is the arrogant assumption that God owes you another opportunity to do what you had time to do.”

Naturally, I can’t tackle something so challenging without learning and sharing some life lessons, so here are three from my deck-staining journey.

1. Sometimes you just need to jump in and start, because the need for perfection will paralyze you. I didn’t do a perfect job, but I made a huge improvement. I posted before-and-after photos on social media and lapped up friends’ praise. Those who may have spotted my goofs kindly kept quiet. Or lied.

2. Small can be best. If we owned the huge deck I frequently hanker for, the staining job would have cost far more money, time, and energy. I could never have completed it within the sweet window I was given.

3. When God adds his blessing, a difficult job becomes a joy. I have no control over the weather, but I know the gorgeous weather made all the difference that weekend. May I never lose the wonder of such an unexpected, undeserved gift. 

BEFORE
AFTER