A Trust of Timing

From where I write, when I glance up from my laptop, I see a framed picture of my best-friend and I. Both in summer tops, mine magenta and her’s white, we are standing in front of her backyard pool, our arms encircling each other’s waists. A moment taken and then like vapour, gone. And she left too, 8 months later, passing away from cancer at 49 years old.

As time has gone on, I observe how life goes on. The earth still spins, the sun rises and sets, and although the grief still remains, threads of joy weave through it’s strands, balancing the colours so one does not overwhelm the other. Death is a certainty, a leaving from an earth that continues to spin, repeating natures cycles long after we are gone. There will come a time, when we are not remembered anymore.

Striving to Find Meaning

So what is the point? In my most painful of times, when dreams seemed to vaporize and when overcome by losses, I’d wondered what really is there to gain from life when it is just taken away?

Wisdom is knowing we have limited access to the full picture. Trust God’s timing and be purposeful with the time you have.

Finding Freedom From Endless Searching

He has made everything beautiful in it’s time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from the beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:9

It’s easy to become wearisome when we try to search for answers in things that are in God’s timing. A loved ones death too soon, a job loss, a dream unfulfilled–all can leave us disillusioned and questioning when we try to reason out the why with our own limited understanding. Solomon’s teachings show us how earthly pleasure and pursuits can never satisfy us, but we have “eternity in the human heart.” In other words, we have a restlessness for His perfect creation. In our limited world view, we cannot comprehend everything, but are called to trust His timing to make all thing’s beautiful in it’s time. To free us from our endless striving for answers, let’s look up in trust and say “my time is your hands.”

What are ways that help you trust God’s ways and timing?

Becoming Free-Lessons from Ecclesiastes 2:11

Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind, nothing was gained under the sun. Ecclesiastes 2:11

While watching my grandchildren the other day, I followed the house rules by reminding my granddaughter that her homework had to be finished before she could play. The expectation became that once she finished her school work she could expect to play. I know when growing up I had similar expectations. The expectations of completing chores may have even included a few dollars from time and time, and later when working jobs a pay check, of course, was the expected result of my toils.

From completing our school assignments to working our jobs, we place an expectation that we will receive retribution for our efforts. When checking off our goals, or seeing our first book in print. or walking that 10,000th step of the day, we can measure our efforts as successful. When we exceed sales targets, or run that marathon, or declutter those office drawers, we can feel accomplished and successful from these things. Our expectation can grow that things are what make us a success and life meaningful. The idea that it is the stuff of the world that we can expect to make us feel successful, is planted in us at a very young age from well-meaning adults (something I still catch myself doing to the ones I love).

Things are Temporary

The thing is though, that things are just temporary. That A on that exam, that one marathon, that one completed book can make us wonder what is next to achieve. We search for meaning and happiness from what we have and do. We use things expecting them to serve us instead of seeing them as gifts from God. Solomon called this endless toil for life’s pleasures as “chasing the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:11). Wind passes by us just like our good feelings from our accomplishments. All is temporary.

“We use things expecting them to serve us instead of seeing them as gifts from God.”

What is Meaningful?

Celebrating our achievements, recognizing our talents and gifts, are good things, when we move our expectation from the thing itself being a means to an end. In other words, it is not in the achievements that we receive meaning. When we are no longer expectant of things to bring us meaning, our security and self-worth no-longer are dependent on our successes, accomplishments, or anything that is temporary. We become free to enjoy God’s gifts in our lives.

Go then, eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works. Ecclesiastes 9:7

And this brings me a cheerful heart! Joy Bailey, author and project manager of Hope Connections, after just picking up first copies for final, final edits (hopefully) of Hope Connections! You can find out more about the project at Inspiring Hope In You.

What gifts from God are you enjoying today? Is there anything you are placing your time and energy into that may one day be considered as a “chasing after the wind?”

Round and Round We Go

Maui Sunset

“The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.” Ecclesiastes 1:5

Late in his life, around 935 B. C., Solomon wrote reflections that we now read in the wisdom book, Ecclesiastes. Although written approximately 3,000 years ago, his words apply as he intended for all future generations. Interestingly, we still say the sun rises and sets, even though we know now that the sun stays in place while the earth does a full rotation around the sun every 24 hours, passing through it’s light. Daily, around and around the earth spins on it’s axis, never changing it’s direction causing the sun to appear to rise in the east and set in the west.

Nothing is new under the sun.

Death is a Certainty

Round and round life goes, Solomon writes (Ecclesiastes 1:8). Anything you do will have been done again if not already done before. (9) No one will remember the generations that have been and yet to come. (1:11). You will be forgotten.

Maybe it’s because I am now in my mid-fifties that I find myself more curious about my family’s past generations. Maybe it is because I have had loved one’s pass away seemingly too soon and before the generation before them. Maybe I am questioning more what the meaning is of all this time I have left here on this side of heaven. If I take a measuring tape, and with my fingers on one hand on the number that reflects my age, and then the other hand’s fingers on the number when I think I will leave this place, I see a whole lot of tape fallen away from me, and less between my fingers. It is the less that is left.

Death is a life certainty for us all.

Maui

Our Insatiable Search

God’s plan for us though, goes beyond life and death.

“The world and it’s desires passes away, but who ever does the will of God lives forever” 1 John 2:17.

To grasp that there really is nothing new under the sun can be complex. Once I used a dial telephone that hung on a wall and now I punch numbers on a phone that I carry in my pocket. Generations before me that I do not know sent letters via a messenger or may have been the messengers sent on behalf of others. The way we communicate is new. Or has it just changed? The pursuit of communicating with others is not new, just the devices on how we communicate have changed. And will change again.

The search for what we think are better ways to navigate our world continues. The pursuit for better goes round and round, never changing, never new. Solomon calls the pursuit for world pleasures meaningless (Ecclesiastes 1:1). Pursuits not of God leave us feeling empty and insatiable. True happiness cannot be achieved from the pleasures of this world without God at our centre.

Maui

“Happiness is too noble and delicate a plant, to grow in this world’s soil.” – Thomas Watson

I hope you’ll join me over the next weeks as I do deep dive into the wisdom book of Ecclesiastes. Gosh, I need it, I know! Together we’ll discover that understanding the meaningless pursuits in our lives leads us to using the time we have left here wisely and fulfilling.

If you haven’t taken a look yet, come on over to Inspiring Hope In You where you will meet the Hope Connections writers! The Hope Connections book is in final edits and hope to have a hard copy in our hands in the next couple of weeks. This week’s feature post is by contributing author and poet – Hope Defined by Connie Mae Inglis.

(And talking of things going round and round…who remembers the Banana Comb from the 80’s? I guess they are on a comeback! I had a favourite pink one I wore almost daily! And butterfly clips too, are back, but honestly, I never stopped wearing those. Is there something that you have continued to use beyond it’s popularity? Or something you’d like to see come back in popularity?)

Linked up today at Recharge Wednesday with Soaring in Him

Struggling with life

“The reality is not everyone wants to hear our messes or wounds. Not everyone will care or understand. Not everyone will believe or support us. But that doesn’t make our stories any less true or important.” Trudy Den Hoed at Freed to Fly

Trudy’s blog post this week challenged me. I want to hide away my struggles, bury them under smiles and justifications. When I find myself talking about a current challenges, there is an underlying shame that I’ve caused this messiness and don’t deserve to be accepted. Will this person that I am sharing with still accept me? Will they see me as bad mother? Or cold and unsympathetic? Or with too much mess in my life to be bothered with?

Shame too, comes from another question. Who am I to be admitting to these challenges when I have so much? And then the guilt. My struggles shouldn’t matter and don’t deserve attention. Is this self-pity?

Ironically, my purpose to write is to create connections. To create connections so one does not feel alone in the world. Trudy writes, “And even if our stories aren’t received by all, there just may be someone who needs to hear it and will feel less alone and more understood.”

Her words are what I needed to read. Are they words you also needed, dear readers?

Feeling less confident

Although I know that in life we will have struggles, the current pandemic environment has amplified my uncertainty about the future. Where once I felt like I was understanding how to navigate the bumpy and curved roads, now I grip the wheel with less confidence. I do hold on to hope for better days to come, particularly with my job that pays the bills and with my special-needs son whose defiant behaviour is again escalating.

Feeling Fearful

But I am fearful.

Although God calls us not to fear–I fear, my friends. I fear for my future, and I fear my son’s behaviour will damage his new living arrangements in a supportive group home.

I fear I am not good enough at my job and not a good enough mother, regardless of the current environment, to turn things around.

There have been days I struggle to stay awake. Somedays I loose that struggle and find myself covering myself up in a quilt and closing my eyes when hours of daylight still remain.

Better days

There also have been days with hikes in the mountains, neighbourhood walks with girlfriends, and star-gazing by campfires. There have been days with discovering new places among creeks and valleys and a first climb to the top of an old rusty grain bin to watch the deer in the distance and the hundreds of Canada Geese resting in a farmers field. There have been precious days, too, with the delightful laughter of grandchildren.

It’s these days that help keep me mentally okay. Family, friends and nature–oh do I need you even though I may hide behind smiles. Or be too proud to show that I need anyone. For to need seems just too vulnerable. What if you leave and never return?

Keeping it raw and real, I have no answers right now, wisdom or advise. I don’t want to water-down the reality with a feel-good meme or cliché. What I hope though, is you know that you are not alone in your struggles and even if your struggle is different from another’s, someone (maybe even me) understands how darn hard and messy it is. You are not alone.

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart.

Matt Maher, Lord I Need You.

Another blogging friend, Rolain Peterson, is releasing his first devotional book this week, Rise Above Fear, Choosing Faith in Fear-Filled World. Rolain’s post are real and encouraging, and steeped in God’s truth. I hope you’ll take a moment to discover his place, Kingspeech. Considering the fears I have been having, I see God’s hand in the timing of his book release!

Also, my writing group, Writers’ Cafe, is working through the final edits of their story collection, Hope Connections. To find out more and be the first to hear of the latest news on the Fall 2020 release, visit Inspiring Hope In You.

How are you are seeing God’s hand in your life right now? If you’re feeling alone in your struggles, please let me know if there is something we, as a community here, can help you with.

IWSG-A Beta Reader among the Trees

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

September 2 question – If you could choose one author, living or dead, to be your beta partner, who would it be and why?

The best possible thing you can do when you’re requiring a boost of energy, a reset of your brain, or a remedy for your boredom is to go spend time among trees. They will not speak encouragement or cliched sentiments. They will not drag you to a dance club or feed you triple chocolate truffles washed down with Red Bull. But they will restore you.

Trees cannot be your friend, your editor, or your personal driver. But they help us breathe, provide homes for wildlife we wonder at, and reduce our pollution. They show us the value of a supportive environment. When trees grow together, writes Peter Wohlleben in The Hidden Life of Trees, “nutrients and water can be optimally divided among them all so that each tree can grow into the best tree it can be.”

Peter Wohlleben began his forestry career in Germany assessing trees to be chopped for lumber mills. It was later when leading tourists in survival skills in the forest when he began to pay closer attention to all trees–the gnarly, the spindly, the stumps–and his wonder of trees grew to researching deeply this communicative community. He has written several books on trees, nature, and animals.

I imagine when walking among the trees with Peter Wohlleben, he’d point out details, patterns, and buried roots I did not see. I imagine his knowledge of nature and his wisdom from observing the social network of the forest would converse into themes and hypothesis that parallel universal stories. I imagine him deeply present in our setting, not letting a moment go by unnoticed.

If Peter Wohlleben was my beta partner, I think first we’d walk among the trees to kindle my energy, clear my mind, and remedy my writers block by igniting the present. Together, like a forest of trees, we’d discover how to grow my story into the best it can be.

Read more authors at IWSG

Who would you choose be your beta partner?

News: I’ll be back posting regularly on Wednesday starting September 2020. Also, if you have a moment, check out Inspiring Hope In You, a site I recently created dedicated to Writers’ Café and our soon to be launched book, Hope Connections.

IWSG-The Writing Life. It finds you.

I’m interrupting my summer break with a post as part of #ISWG. I’m hoping to make this a regular post on the first Wednesday of the month. When I first started blogging in 2007, many of the writers at ISWG were my first readers and vice versa. I hope you check them out!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

August 5 question – Quote: “Although I have written a short story collection, the form found me and not the other way around. Don’t write short stories, novels or poems. Just write your truth and your stories will mold into the shapes they need to be.”
Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn’t planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?

The awesome co-hosts for the August 5 posting of the IWSG are Susan Baury Rouchard, Nancy Gideon, Jennifer Lane, Jennifer Hawes, Chemist Ken, and Chrys Fey!

The IWSG is the brainchild of Ninja Captain Alex J Cavanaugh

August 5 question – Quote: “Although I have written a short story collection, the form found me and not the other way around. Don’t write short stories, novels or poems. Just write your truth and your stories will mold into the shapes they need to be.”
Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn’t planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?

When I was a young mother of three children under the age of five years-old, I was a very busy mamma. From meal preparation to reading bed-time stories, from swimming lessons to mom & tot groups, and from Lego pick-ups and to laundry, my days were full. But I still daydreamed of stories while pushing swings or waiting for the chicken fingers to bake. I’m sure I wanted to be writer even before my first memory. My books were my most precious possessions, the library my favourite place, and seeing the coffee table stacked with magazines and the latest newspapers. I read them all, dreaming of seeing my name under a newspaper story, or listed in the contributor section of the magazine. So, as a young mom, when I saw the local university offering an evening English course, I jumped at the chance for some ‘me’ time to learn about a subject I love.

Our first assignment was to write a descriptive paragraph. My dreams of writing articles had changed to imagining myself as a story writer. I’d even written chapters of a novel while tucked away in my bedroom as a teenager. I also had a binder full of silly love poems and songs I penned during math class. Needless to say, I just scrapped by with just a passing mark in math. So, our first assignment in that English class to write description with no story line was not one I thought I would like. But I took to the task. A train idling on tracks became my descriptive subject. I made sure to have a notebook every where I went, not wanting to forget the words and phrases that came to me while busy with the children. Images of trains consumed my mind, and I’d even hope the children would pick Thomas the Tank Engine for their bedtime story. I was eager to get to reading my newly purchased thesaurus in the pursuit of new descriptive words that evoked the rumbling of a train engine, the colour of deep red, and the vibration of wheel axles.

The excitement and satisfaction of finding the perfect words and then creating phrases and sentences, and then re-working them for rhythm and syntax made my skin tingle, my heart beat faster, and I felt 100% alive (as I do even now while I go back into memory)!

Later in that English class, that skill transferred to a personal essay that my professor commented to ‘keep in a special place as it is that good.” He also read it to the class for an example. The subject was my children. Forward twenty years later to 2020 that has me editing a Creative Non-Fiction piece called “A Mother’s Gold.” Although I have an unfinished novel and a couple of short stories, writing personal essays on topics that allow description to be prevalent are still the most satisfying for my heart.

Your turn. Have you ever written a piece that changed how you planned to write or redirected your genre?

Stopping in for the Extraordinary

Hello!

How is your summer so far? I’ve been restless to travel provincially to Jasper and Banff, however the timing has not yet been right! I still have 8 more weeks of summer, and will get there with camera in hand. And then have new landscape Breathing Spaces to share!

Today, I am over at Inscribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship. Below is an excerpt.

Have you ever nervously laughed when something so extraordinary is told to you that you have a hard time believing it could truly come to pass? 

After already a long life-time that had Sarah and Abraham still childless, I can imagine the news that they would have a son in a year was astonishing. Their life experiences had thus far shown them a child of their own becoming an impossibility as time marched on. Today we may flippantly refer to times when things just don’t happen like we expected as “it just wasn’t in the cards,” or  “it is what it is.” We may laugh at ourselves while we try to justify in our minds and hearts that our unmet dreams were silly or unrealistic in the first place.  Or we laugh at others when suggestions so extraordinary from our own perception have us choking down chuckles while internally we throw water on any flame sparked in our hearts.

 The realistic and ordinary become the safe places to navigate rather than the possibility of the extraordinary. Dreams dim as circumstances prevail. Years, maybe even decades pass by and, like Sarah, the womb stays empty. Hope leaves with the passing of time. But the Nourisher never stops working. Continue reading….

What places are you planning on visiting this summer?

Themes and Breaks

Today you’ll find me over at Inscribe Christian Writers’ Online.

“Your theme is a Petri dish and experimental bubble in which you’re going to test and explore your theme and premise.” Ted Dekker

In The Creative Way, author Ted Dekker instructs writers to develop theme by looking within to the questions, struggles and victories they are experiencing in their own life.  Every aspect of your story must serve your theme. And never to cheat by forcing a conclusion, but rather be vulnerable. Experience and explore where the story takes you, be open to surprises and let go of your own preconceived endings. “Everyone is dealing with the same questions in life, so they will connect,” he writes. 

Creating connections through stories has been my goal for my writing as long as I can remember. As a very shy child, books were ways to explore my world safely. Looking back on the books I connected with most, I began to see a theme of the lost being found. 

In my childhood favourite book, Are You My Mother by P.D Eastman, I flew with a baby bird hatched in an empty nest who goes searching for a mother it’s never seen and is rescued by a bulldozer that drops it back into its nest where mother soon appears.

In elementary school my favourite books were Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White and A Cricket in Times Square by George Seldon. Reading Charlotte’s Web, I cheered for Wilbur, the pig, as his lonliness lifted when Charlotte, the spider, befriended him and webbed encouraging messages for the world to see.  Imagining Chester, the lost cricket, and his songs blessing the crowds in Times Square, The Cricket in Times Square showed me that friends can come from the most unlikely of places. Continue reading by clicking here

What favourite books do you see reflected as themes in your life?

Now that summer is here which means more work fun and less screen-time, I’ll be taking a blogging break. You may see me pop in from time to time here and at your places! And always love to connect with you at Instagram.

May you have a blessed summer!

This Kind of Hope

In spite of everything I see around me every day, in spite of all the times I cry when I read a newspaper, I have a shaky assurance that everything will turn out fine. I don’t think I’m the only one. Why else would the phrase ‘Everything’s all right’ ease a deep and troubled place in so many of us? We just don’t know, we never know so much, yet we have such faith. We hold our hands over our hurts and lean forward, full of yearning and forgiveness. It is how we keep on, this kind of hope.”

ELIZABETH BERG – Talk Before You Sleep

This week my hairdresser let her clients know that the salon will be re-opening. And then listed all the rules. Stay in car until someone comes to get you, salon will provide you a mask, and your stylist will also be wearing a mask. This, of all things over the last two months, made me want to cry. Maybe it’s because I had hopes that I’d be able to see smiles and laughter and even grimaces by all when social distancing restrictions lifted. And less arrows in grocery stores as those can be so darn confusing! I am somewhat of a rule follower and failing at navigating the aisles properly stresses me! Anyone else with me on that?

I hope for less ZOOM soon and more VROOM from my car traveling the open National Parks, stopping where others too, are enjoying the view of mountains, lakes, and wandering elk.

I hope for less YOUTUBE while on a mat and more ICE-CUBE like ice as I skate in open recreational facilities to challenge my skills and physical fitness.

And I hope for less device FACETIME and more real FACETIME with real hugs instead of circling arms while calling out “virtual hug!” after social distance times with grandkids, kids, and more recently, friends.

Hope is not the closing of our eyes to risk difficulty or failure. It is the trust that if I fail now, I will not fail forever; that if I am hurt, I shall be healed; that life is good and love is powerful! And I shall always prosper in my relationships with God, others and myself.

LYNN J SIMPSON

I hope for these changes. And this kind of hope whispers “it’s going to be okay” easing my troubling places within.

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

ROMANS 5:1

What kind of hope do you have today?

Perfecting Unmet Expectations

“We added the $100 senior discount as well. Thanks.”

What? I re-read the text message. A senior’s discount? I walked to the nearest mirror, scanned my face and hair. Had all this isolation these past weeks aged me? I did look paler, and sure miss going to my aesthetician to swipe (well, rip is a better word) those –ughh–unwanted hairs away. And there are more greys than blonde in my hair, however that has been happening for many years now. Why did the man who scanned my backyard for 10 minutes to give me an estimate on a deck build think I was a senior deserving a discount?

My phone pings. Another text message.

“We trying to help communities and seniors in this Covid19 era…I can add another $75 gift card for groceries for you. Thanks”

What?!!

He must have me mixed up with someone else. Or does he?

And where did this vanity in me come from? I didn’t think I was that concerned about aging….

In a month I will be 55 years-old. Freedom 55 some call it! I’m far from freedom 55. No sailboating in a Caribbean Sea in a white polo t-shirt and blue knee – length LLBean shorts with a husband at the helm and a school of dolphins playing close by.

Instead on my birthday, after my work day has ended at 4:30PM, I’ll likely don my comfortable runners and a bamboo hat so my ears don’t start aching from the prairie wind, walk around the man-made urban pond in my neighbourhood and watch the Canada Geese (if I’m lucky) leisurely paddling in the muddy water.

Ah…life….it does not often turn out like a life insurance commercial.

(To be fair, I have read recently that the life insurance company who branded Freedom 55 is now rebranding to reflect the more realistic scenario of people having to work much longer, the goal of retiring at 55 becoming less attainable in our economic climate.)

But, on my birthday walk in a middle class neighbourhood of green grass backyards adjacent to man-made ponds, I’ll pass couples walking dogs, kids on bicycles, and flutters of sparrows. I’ll take a 20 minute drive to my eldest daughter’s and her husband’s home where I can take another walk with my two grandchildren and discover a new weed growing in prairie grasses and listen for a call of a nuthatch. We’ll eat cupcakes made from a mix and topped with ready-made whip cream. We’ll play Uno and read Star Wars New Reader books. We’ll make a summer plan of a weekend at a lake. Later, back home to my duplex, I’ll smell the cannabis being smoked by the neighbour who shares a wall with me. I’ll light a lavender candle, tuck myself into bed as I have for 20 plus years as a divorced gal, and read and read and read until my eyes start to flutter closed.

And life…is well…perfect in all it’s imperfections and unmet expectations. Even this aging thing is okay….

————————————————–

The college age boy scoops my items at Bulk Barn. I tell him that my girlfriend owned a bulk store thirty years ago when they always had to scoop for their customers even though no pandemic regulations in effect.

He stops, a scoop of carob chips in his hand, looking confused. “Did you say thirty years ago? Aren’t you like thirty something years old?”

I’m smiling. (I like this kid)

That deck man must have gotten me mixed up with someone else.

What gifts are you experiencing from unmet expectations?

Linking up at Soaring With Him