Saturday, April 23, 2011

A friend named Janie

Every morning, as early as possible in my busy days, I read from my daily devotional. It is a calm, rewarding break for me and I share the reading with my husband. We discuss the message for that day, look up the accompanying scriptures and often marvel at how spot on it is for that particular time, current 'problems' or concerns.

The very story behind the devotional is unusual. I read from a little book titled Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young. It is written in first person Jesus, so it's as if He's talking to you personally. I received the book from a friend in New Jersey. Nothing unusual about that but in this case there is. I have never met or spoken to this friend in Jesus. Another friend from Florida was receiving a daily "hug" from a lady named "Janie". She asked if I'd like to receive a hug every day and a spiritual message every evening. I, of course, said I'd love that. I can't tell you how much delight I've received from not only the wonderful book Janie sent me (when she learned I was dealing with a serious medical problem for my son) but also from her personal messages once in a while. We communicate via email and she has become a fan of my books, but I digress.

Yesterday's message really hit home. Of course, I cannot say that doesn't happen often because it does. But yesterday not only did the message hit the spot it drove itself right into my heart. Here's just a portion of the message, 'Walk with Me in holy trust, responding to My initiatives rather than trying to make things fit your plans. I died to set you free, and that includes freedom from compulsive planning. When your mind spins with a multitude of thoughts, you cannot hear My voice."

Well, that hit the nail on the head because I am a compulsive, obsessive PLANNER! In fact, here it is not even May and I'm planning for an October conference. There are some serious things to consider with regard to this event, but already I'm planning what might or might not occur. My plans usually are fraught with what I call my 'what if' syndrome. And, all this time I was wasting brain time. Oh, it's not that I haven't prayed about what I'm planning and I'm pretty sure that's okay but just taking over is not what He wants.

Every once in a while you have to bring yourself up short, open your eyes, which you thought were already open, and turn things over to God. I thought I was doing that but apparently I hadn't planned on this eye-opening, back to basics message I received yesterday. I'm grateful ever day for the blessings in our lives. I'm blessed - with many things and many people. One of them is named Janie.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Progress - is it all that's it's cut out to be?

I just spent a mind-boggling five days getting my latest book, Forgiven, entered into the Florida Writers Association RPLA competition. Two of my previous novels were entered and won some recognition. I love competitions, not only for the opportunities they sometimes provide but also just challenging myself and trying to get into the rush of things. Also, getting feedback from real judges is a great boost to an author. I hope all my writer friends try competitions and/or contests. It doesn't have to be something you think should really be on the New York Times best seller list (and how realistic is that?) but competions are a great writing tool. I tell my students that stretching your writing ability will only produce better writing. For me, I don't really enjoy writing short stories. I need 300 pages and 100,000+ words to get my story told as I'd like it. But I enter short story and poetry contests(another thing I'm not paticularly good at) just to see what happens. Sometimes I've been pleasantly surprised and at other times, I don't even get a response. Must have been pretty bad. But, the stretching part for me is to actually get a short story across in 1500 words. So, when this year's FWA competition opened I planned to enter my latest book.

Now we get to the progress part. In the past I read the instructions, typed up what was needed, crossed every 't' and dotted every 'i', pushed it into a properly addressed envelope with all the other things the competition required and took it to the post office. Easy, right? But, this year we have gone technical. All submissions must be electronic i.e., sent via email. Being totally inept at these mechanics, I studied and studied the instructions. They use language I'm not familiar with. So, I pored through the 20 pages of instructions again so that I would cross every 't' and dot every 'i' but it wasn't the 't/s' and 'i/s' I needed to be worried about. It was the instructions on how to get this into the email with the proper identifications, in the right order and to the right person.

This morning I assembled my submission, checking and rechecking the instructions. By jove I think I've got it. But, and here the heart comes to a slow halt, after I pushed the send button my mind catapulted through those 20 pages of instructions. Had I? Did I? Should I have? Oh, drat. It's gone and I'm hoping it just gets to the right person and gets processed. This is harder than writing the book! I guess it's progress and sometimes I think we as a culture try to simplify things by making them more difficult. One opinion, I'm sure.

This brought me to think about another 'progressive' thing I've experienced in the last couple of weeks. Two weeks ago I was at my doctor's office and he thought he found something that needed to be checked. I hadn't planned on this at all. In fact, I was on my way to my hairdresser. But, instead, the doctor sent me to the hospital for a test. Plans changed and I was a bit nervous. Upon arriving at the hospital, and God knows I've been there too often in the past couple of years, I checked in at the front desk. Usually you check in, they take your driver's license I.D. and your insurance cards and then send you off to the proper department. So, being savvy on these things I arrived at the front desk, cards in hand, expecting to follow the usual procedure. But, No. Things have been modernized. They didn't need my cards and I.D. The lovely young woman behind the counter handed me one of those square gadgets you get in restaurants which will alert you when your table is ready. You know the things, they blink inoccuously for a while and then go into a frantic buzzing, flashing and vibrating and you know your table is ready. The lovely young woman directed me to a waiting area and said when the 'buzzing thing' went off I could go into the lab. I did as I was instructed. Did I tell you it was pouring, one of Florida's quick and saturating downpours? Sitting on the chair with a very wet umbrella, the doctor's orders, and my I.D. cards in my hands I was comtemplating this unexpected turn of events when the buzzy thing went off. The umbrelly fell wetly to the floor, my cards flew in several directions and the doctor's orders suddenly became wet and wrinkled. My heart was in my throat; after all this was a bit scary just being there. Is this progress? I really think it would have been a whole lot kinder if I'd just waited my turn and had the lovely young woman call softly to me that it was my turn to go into the lab. I guess I'm just not programed for all this progress.

But, and there is always a but, I passed the test and I'm praying my submission entry flew through cyber-space and has safely landed in the right receptical or in front of the right eyes. Time will tell. We must keep up with progress even if it kills us.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My Mother's Birthday

Today is my mother's birthday. I can't bring myself to say 'would have been my mother's birthday' because every April 3rd is my mother's birthday. She left us way too soon, dying well into her 90th year. She would have been (those awful words again) 105 today.

I always thought of myself as a Daddy's girl but I certainly didn't love my mother any less. It was just that Daddy and I were so alike in many ways. I remember after his death, when my mother came to live with me, she'd often say, "Oh, you're so like your daddy)and her voice was wistful because she missed him terribly. I wondered, after his death, how she would manage because they were so close, but she stiffened her spine and carried on. They were the closest couple I've ever known, doing so much together and in their later years the bond became even closer, if that was possible.

I truly think of my parents every day even though both died many years ago but the memories of a different ilk. I remember fun times with both of them but the difference was that with Daddy it was always different or exciting and with Mother it was comforting, supporting, calming and loving. My earliest memories are of Mother reading to me. She read every day until my teen years when the after-school activities took over. Even so, we all read a lot, sharing favorite passages or reading to each other. As a child I remember Mother cuddling me to her when I scraped my knee, had a bad day or made a goal I'd set for myself. Her cheering was quiet, Daddy's was exuberant.

My parents didn't have a lot of friends they could interact with because they traveled so much, but I don't think they had a single enemy. I cannot remember an incident where my mother was angry or upset with anyone. She offered strict yet gentle discipline because while instilling in me a sense of what was acceptable and what was not, she never lost her temper. Was she a saint? I doubt it but to me she came really close to that stature.

I remember my mother with love and thanksgiving because that's what she instilled in me. I often wish I could leave the legacy she did but we had such different adult lives. She had Daddy for 53 years and he was a wonderful husband and father. Her life was steady, not that they didn't have difficult times but they faced them and solved problems together. My life was pock-marked with bad decisions and unfortunate happenings. I had a difficult time and it's only now in the last 16 years that I have the steadiness and love that I longed for. I loved my children with all my heart and I did my best.

For as long as I live, when April 3rd comes around I'll quietly celebrate my mother's birthday. I miss my mother.

P.S. When September 22nd comes around I'll celebrate my daddy's 105th birthday too. I miss him too.