Category: Life (page 1 of 4)

Thankful for New Life

It’s thanksgiving here in Canada and I wanted to share a quick update. I am SO  thankful for new life – especially my new granddaughter, Ingrid! 

This has been a year of challenges but also many victories. In short, I am thankful for LIFE itself, having gone through major heart surgery earlier this year. ‘Thankfully’, I’m back  on the road to recovery and anticipate many more good things before the year is over. (Including another grandchild in December!)

The Power of Fiction

While non-fiction is probably the most direct way of addressing issues of importance, my personal preference, for both reading and writing, uses fiction as the vehicle.

A few months ago I read a book called Then She Was Born, written by Cristiano Gentili and translated into English by Lori Hetherington. I am often asked to review books and in this case, I received an unsolicited copy. I don’t always have the time or desire to read the books I receive, but something inside nudged me to try this book. I’m glad I did for it impacted me profoundly. The book is about the plight of African albinos living and struggling to overcome deeply rooted superstitions, even in today’s ‘modern’ world. I had no idea. Although I’m sure I would have been sympathetic to the cause had I read an article in a magazine, hearing it from the point of view of a person going through it brought the issue up close and personal.

That’s what good fiction is supposed to do: transport us into the lives of the characters in such a way that we feel what they feel; experience what they experience. As a Christian writer, I see huge opportunities to spread the gospel in an unobtrusive way while highlighting some of the struggles common to both Christians and non-Christians. I don’t need to get on a soapbox to talk about drug and alcohol abuse, pornography, the occult, or sexual promiscuity. I just let my characters struggle with these issues. Hopefully, but not always, they come out on the other side with the help of the Lord and other caring individuals. Sometimes things don’t get wrapped up quite so neatly, however, but I think there are lessons to be learned no matter what the outcome.

I’ve heard it said that you should write what you know. I’m not sure I totally agree. I wouldn’t want to have to go through some of the abuse that my characters have had to and I don’t need to murder someone in order to be able to write about it authentically! I think this is where writing from a place of personal passion comes in. My goal is to expose the darkness and shine the light of Jesus on whatever situation my characters find themselves in. In the end, it is up to them how they choose to respond.

I’ve taken some criticism about the use of ‘edgy’ content in my work. My characters have pretty much done it all: drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution, pornography, dabbling in the occult, promiscuous sex – not to mention lying, cheating, stealing, greed, doubt… the list goes on. Some are believers while involved in these activities, some aren’t. For me, God’s grace and the redemptive power of the cross is everything – for those who don’t know Him and even more for those who do and mess up. While I do not feel comfortable writing graphic scenes (most of the aforementioned occurs ‘off camera’) I don’t try to hide the fact that it takes place. God’s power shines brightest against the darkness.

Perhaps part of my desire to write what I do stems from my own experiences. I came to the Lord as a young adult, having dabbled in some of the seedier side of life before crossing over to the light. My husband and I have also been in ministry for many years and we’ve seen some pretty dark things, even among believers. The truth is, all have fallen short of the glory of God. To pretend that hot button issues aren’t relevant in the church is to bury one’s head in the sand. All is not always as it seems.

The good news is, nobody is too far gone for God. Hallelujah! That’s why I will continue to write the kind of fiction that I feel called to write. God’s redemptive power can shine, even in fiction.

This post originally appeared on the Inscribe Professional Blog on June 29, 2017. 

 

Passing On the Legacy – A Post Mother’s Day Tribute

This post was originally shared on my previous blog ‘Expression Express’. Since Mother’s Day has just come and gone, I share it here again. Enjoy!

My mother was a very vibrant and eccentric individual. She was known for her whimsical ways and inspired a family phrase that perfectly described the way she lived her life. The Doreen Method is our way of saying ‘make it up as you go along’. This applied to recipes, sewing, carpentry… just about anything. Mom wasn’t afraid to tackle tasks if she had no previous experience or skill, but the outcome might not be the norm. As an artist she loved to paint on any surface from canvas to rocks to whole buildings. When my sister and her husband moved into Mom’s old house they were faced with a dilemma.  There were lots of funny little murals she had painted in obscure nooks and crannies. How could one paint over them?

Mom was also a storyteller, and some of my favourite childhood memories include listening to bedtime stories and songs. We were well acquainted with Thornton W. Burgess’ Adventures of Reddy Fox, for instance. In fact, foxes and mice were the favourite characters in her repertoire of stories and songs. She shared them with her children and nieces and nephews, and the tradition was carried forward to her grandchildren and even her great-grandchildren.

Mom passed away in 2007 at the age of 80. Unfortunately, we lost her seven years earlier to dementia. It was so difficult to see such a formerly vibrant individual reduced to the shell that she became. I had the privilege of sitting with her during the hours before she passed away. Somewhere around four o’clock in the morning on January 17, 2007, she slipped away to be with Jesus, free from the mental constraints that had kept her trapped for those seven years.

While I sat with her, holding her hand, I sang some of those old songs. One particularly special song was an old Haven Gillespie tune written in the 1930s called ‘The Sleepytown Express’. (listen here!) This is the song that ushered her into the presence of the Lord.  Strangely, my sisters and my two female cousins all woke at around four o’clock, dreaming about the Sleepytown Express…

I decided soon afterward that I would like to publish a book illustrating the song as a tribute to my mother. It took several years to do the paintings and quite a bit of  research to obtain permission to use the lyrics, but finally, in February of 2014, seven years after Mom passed, The Sleepytown Express was published.

For me this project was so much more than another book under my belt. It was about sharing Mom’s legacy with the extended family and passing it on to the next generation. This is not a book to be kept in pristine or precious condition; it is a book to be sung and celebrated as we pass the memorial torch on to the next generation.

 

Waiting Can Be a Blessing

Have you ever been bumped off your flight and had to wait for hours to catch another one, missing all your connecting flights in the meantime? This happened to me just last Friday – and it turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise.

I am on a little speaking tour, stopping at three different ‘WorDshops‘ (mini-conferences for writers sponsored by Inscribe Christian Writers Fellowship) in three different provinces over the next two weeks. My first stop was in Steinbach, Manitoba, where I was scheduled to be the keynote presenter on March 18. My flight from Grande Prairie, Alberta to Edmonton was delayed because of fog and when the replacement flight arrived two hours later, there was a long line up to get on that plane.

Low and behold, when it was my turn at the gate, the plane was already full! I was the last in line and there was simply ‘no more room at the inn’. I’d heard the flight attendant speaking to one of the others, saying that this might be a possibility. He even made an announcement asking if there was anyone willing to stay behind voluntarily and take a later flight.

I was told to go back through security and rebook my tickets. I had been praying for God’s protection and will, so I was quite calm about the whole thing. I’d heard of people being delayed and then the plane going down (not that I’d wish that on all those others passengers!) but I knew that I just had to leave it in God’s hands to get me to Steinbach on time.

As it turned out, missing that flight meant missing my connections in Edmonton and Calgary. (Which may have happened anyway because of the delay.) The organizer of the WorDshop was meeting me at the Winnipeg airport at 6pm, but now she and her husband would have to wait until 11:30pm – not fun since they live about an hour out of the city. However, there wasn’t much I could do about it. God had a plan. As long as I got to Steinbach by 8am, I figured it was a win!

And then… the airline attendant informed me that for my trouble and inconvenience, the airline would be sending me a cheque for $800. My eyes got wide, I’m sure! That more than compensated me for my travel costs.

You see, as Inscribe’s current VP, it was my responsibility to help organize the six WorDshops going on around Western Canada. While keynotes and presenters are paid, there is no money in the budget to cover travel costs. These events are typically small in size, and must be run on a cost recovery basis. To keep registration fees down, it means finding local presenters or asking those coming any distance to cover their own fare.

I believe in the importance of these events, and wanted to be supportive, so I was footing my own travel bill from BC to Manitoba, and back through Saskatchewan and Alberta on my way home. God has blessed me with a good job so I don’t mind ‘giving back’ where I can.

Steinbach WorDshop. Made it!

And then sometimes He surprises me with a blessing that I didn’t even see coming! The inconvenience was minimal compared to the reward. Oh… and I’d like to thank Air Canada for helping to sponsor this year’s WorDshops… 🙂 

At the Steinbach WorDshop

L.O.V.E.

rosesShakespeare’s Sonnet 116 is by far my favourite sonnet and possibly my favourite poem. It epitomizes the kind of unconditional love that I aspire to possess in my marriage and with my children, and I also think it is a wonderful metaphor for God’s love. I’ve committed it to memory and have been known to quote it or use it in a card or two.

It is also very multi-purpose in that it works well for activities outside the usual ‘Valentine’ variety. I often ask students to analyze it in my poetry classes and I’ve even been known to give bonus marks for those who can memorize and recite it in class. I’ve also used it in my drama classes, getting students to recite it ‘in character’. It’s surprising how the meaning can change depending on the character’s motivation.

Since Valentine’s day is just around the corner, here for your enjoyment is the sonnet in it’s entirety. Enjoy.

SONNET 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
   If this be error and upon me proved,
   I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
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