Strong Women … and a Hug

I’ve been blessed. Throughout my life, I have been surrounded by strong women. They had to be. They had to deal with me.

My grandmother was always a rock and inspiration who never judged. laughed at my jokes, encouraged me. My mom guided me through my first 21 years, helping me build a solid foundation. She, too, laughed at my jokes and encouraged me. Although I was her only son and she sometimes fought the urge to hold on, I think she secretly was happy to hand me over to Karen, my wife of 40 years who had the unenviable task of transforming me from a happy-go-lucky, wanderlust-driven dreaming kid with big ideas and little resources into a happy-go-lucky, wanderlust-driven dreaming adult, albeit still with big ideas and little resources. She laughed {and sometimes groaned} at my jokes, followed me from state to state to state to state to state without complaint, and always encouraged my dreams, schemes, and, most of all, me.

And then there is Sonni. Mary Lee Hendrickson Sampson. After Karen died, Sonni and I became very close friends. She was the salve that helped heal a broken heart — not repair it, not fill it, not replace it. She learned from experience as a widow and took me under her wing.

I thought of her today, her earthly birthday. I miss Sonni. I miss her laugh. I miss her words. I miss her guidance. I miss her unconditional friendship.

Most of all, I miss her hugs. She believed in the therapeutic magic of a hug … not a small hug, but a deep down, from your soul hug. A Sonni hug!

As my mind wandered, I wondered how she would be handling the new pandemic rules. As health conscious as she was, she probably would be sequestering in place as much as possible and always wear a mask. I’m not sure she would subscribe to the social distancing mandates and I know she would break all the rules if prompted to give a hug. Hugs were her specialty.

My mind’s eye paints a picture of Karen and Sonni sitting there in heaven chatting, Sonni with her Diet Pepsi and Karen with her water turned into exquisite wine. I can see them laughing at the foolish things I say and do without their physical sphere of influence. I see them taking turns proverbially whacking me in the back of the head when I REALLY do or say something foolish.

But today I also see a choir of celestial angels singing a chorus of Happy Birthday. And I’ll join in with her husband Scott, her family past and present, Karen and her friends on both sides of the everlasting plane in singing and toasting you.

Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday dear Sonni! Happy, Happy Birthday you!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: You can choose courage or you can choose comfort. You cannot have both. — Brene Brown 

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Smile Time

One of the misconceptions about being a Christian is non-Christians think we don’t know how to have fun or have a sense of humor. Trust me, if the Big Guy can have a sense of humor when it comes to dealing with us mere mortals, so can we.

The difference for Christians is we don’t have to debase ourselves or others to generate a smile. Laughter at life or ourselves is a gift from God.

Here’s this week’s special edition of Midweek Mirth, tailored to just plain smiling, the  Turkey Day season in the rear view mirror and a preview of Christmas smiles  … so let’s smile a little!

On a Roll

A blonde goes to a soda machine. She puts in a dollar and gets a soda. She does this again and again. A man in line behind her asks why she is taking so long. She says, “Can’t you see I’m winning?”

… A final laugh at Thanksgiving …

Recommendation for Thanksgiving Leftovers

Wrap turkey leftovers in aluminum foil and throw them out. You’re welcome.

… and the bonus with Yuletime in mind …

Which Comes First?

All too often, Christmas is a race to see which gives out first — your money or your feet.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: A good laugh heals a lot of hurts. — Madeleine L’Engle

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Plot Twist

A writer in my writing class last year was getting frustrated. She had outlined her mini story, but as she started to put words on paper, the story started to drift from her original intent. I remember the angst on her face when she asked, “Is that normal?”

Yes, Virginia, it is normal. In fact, it might be more normal than you think. I assured her — whether it’s a short story or a novel or even a journal or blog entry — just about every writer has experienced it. I often refer to it as a “plot twist.”

Your plot is the heart of your story. Without a plot, be it predefined or just an idea, the story stops beating. If your story stops beating, your audience is going to stop reading.

That being said, the soul of your story is your characters. They drive the story, especially the main character and key supporting actors. They move the story forward. They keep the story on script.

But …

The beauty of art — and writing is an art — is it is most successful when it imitates life. Your characters develop through your experiences and imagination and come to life through your descriptions.

As an author, your main characters become your best friends — even the villains. You have to think as them. You have to direct their actions for the moment of the story you’re in. 

That’s where these plot twists come in. As a concrete example, you probably made plans for the holidays. maybe travel, maybe hosting parties, whatever. And along came covid. Plans changed. Travel was put on hold. Parties shifted from in real life to virtual.

The same is true in your story. As you’re writing, you might get an impulse to drive your characters down a particular road. You may even have your story line (plot) in mind as the characters make their choices. So you start tapping the keys and hundreds or thousands words later you go back and read the latest segment and discover the rabbit hole diverted from your initial plot. Gasp!

As the author, you now are faced with figuring out a way to get back to the plot line; revise the plot line; or erase hundreds or thousands of words (not the best option). I have found a hybrid of the first two options work best. I try not to be restricted by where I originally thought I would be. Like life, plans change — and so do plots. The goal may remain, but how you achieve them may change. In your story, your characters’ development may take a detour from where you thought they would go. And that’s okay. It’s your internal plot twist. 

*** *** ***

Now for some Santa updates …

I’m excited to tell you my book has been nominated for the “Cover of the Month” contest on AllAuthor.com. It will help me a lot if I could see some votes coming in, so please remember to vote my book at allauthor.com/cover-of-the-month/10279/. I submitted all of my covers for the AllAuthor multi-round contest over the years. I did make the third round for Heaven Shining Through.

I also received my first five star review for the book. “Uplifting and Fun.” I hope it receives similar positive reviews (hint, hint) as we inch through the Christmas season.

Even though it’s really the Santa lead, I will be virtually launching the book this weekend! In cooperation with the Commons at Central Hall in Dover-Foxcroft, ME, I will formally introduce the book and read a selection from Yes, There Is a Santa … And I’ve Met Him Personally Many Times. We’re still working on the final details, but at this point it looks like 6 p.m. Saturday night (Dec. 5), with two additional readings Dec. 12 and 19. Check out the progress on my social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter.

Yes, There Is a Santa … And I’ve Met Him Personally Many Times is available at Amazon, both in paperback and Kindle version. Order it through me and I’ll sign it!Just comment or e-mail me at wisdomfromafather@gmail.com.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: You have to speak your dream out loud. — Kelly Corrigan

 

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Friends: God’s Way of Taking Care of Us

Our Words for the week come from an urban legend reported to having been written by a Metro Denver hospice physician

I was driving home from a meeting this evening about five, stuck in traffic on Colorado Boulevard when the car started to choke,  splutter, and die. I barely managed to coast, cursing, into a gas station, thankful only that I wouldn’t be blocking traffic, and would have a warm spot to wait for the tow truck. My car motor wouldn’t even turn over. Before I could make the call, I saw a woman walking out of the Quickie Mart building. It looked like she slipped on some ice and fell into a gas pump, so I got out to see if she was okay.

When I got there, it looked more like she had been overcome by sobs than she had fallen. She was a young woman who looked really haggard with dark circles under her eyes. She dropped something as I helped her up, and I picked it up to give it to her. It was a nickel.

At that moment, everything came into focus for me: the crying woman, the ancient Suburban crammed full of stuff with three kids in the back (one in a car seat), and the gas pump reading $4.95.

I asked her if she was okay and if she needed help, and she just kept saying, “I don’t want my kids to see me crying.” So we stood on the other side of the pump from her car. She said she was driving to California and things were very hard for her right now. So I asked, “And you were praying?” That made her back away from me a little, but I assured her I was not a crazy person and said, “He heard you, and He sent me.”

I took out my card and swiped it through the card reader on the pump so she could fill up her car completely. While it was fueling, I walked to the next door McDonald’s and bought two big bags of food, some gift certificates for more, and a big cup of coffee. She gave the food to the kids in the car, who attacked it like wolves, and we stood by the pump eating fries and talking a little.

She told me her name, and she lived in Kansas City. Her boyfriend left two months ago, and she had not been able to make ends meet. She knew she wouldn’t have money to pay rent by January the first. Finally, in desperation, she had called her parents, with whom she had not spoken to in about five years. They lived in California and said she could come and live with them and try to get on her feet there.

So she packed up everything she owned in the car. She told the kids they were going to California for Christmas, but not that they were going to live there.

I gave her my gloves, a little hug and said a quick prayer with her for safety on the road. As I was walking over to my car, she said, “So, are you like an angel or something?”

This made me cry. I said, “Sweetie, at this time of year angels are really busy, so sometimes God uses regular people.”

It was so incredible to be a part of someone else’s miracle. And of course, you guessed it, when I got in my car it started right away and got me home without any problems. I’ll put it in the shop tomorrow to check, but I suspect the mechanic won’t find anything wrong.

Sometimes the angels fly close enough to you that you can almost hear the flutter of their wings. As Psalm 55:22 says, Cast your burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee. He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Triumph is just “umph” added to try.

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Coming Soon: The Return of the King

Our reflection this week is from Darrin Compagner.

He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making everything new!” — Revelation 21:5

In December 2003 the long-awaited third installment of The Lord of the Rings movies was released in theaters. It seemed wonderful and fitting that millions of people, in the season approaching Christmas, were making plans for The Return of the King.

In the New Testament the word for “throne” shows up 62 times, including 47 times in the book of Revelation. This is a book of thrones, crowns, kings, ruling, and reigning. Some evil figures sit on or claim thrones, but the throne of God is the source of unmatchable power and judgment — and at the same time it is the center of glorious worship.

Much of the book of Revelation depicts struggle and chaos unleashed on the earth, yet we always see this guiding image: the throne is not empty. Jesus, the one seated on the throne, is both tremendously powerful but also incomparably loving. On the throne of God is the Lord Almighty, the King of kings, who is also the Savior of the world. And he says, “Look! … I am making everything new!”

Today, on the first Sunday of Advent, we are making plans for the return of the King as we head into the Christmas season. One day Jesus will come to wipe away all the sad things of this world. Grief will be gone. Death will be done. Pain will perish. The King of kings will have his rule fully recognized throughout all creation.

Prayer: You are worthy, our Lord and King, to receive glory and honor and power! Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Compagner serves as a pastor at Blythefield Christian Reformed Church in Rockford, MI. He lives there with his wife and four children, all of whom identify with the kings and queens in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Every day we get a fresh chance to live the way we want. — John Kenney

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Prayer Time

Approach the throne room and respond with faith and not fear, knowing the promises of God and His mighty hand will hold us through any situation! Sometimes, all it takes is just one prayer to change everything. Something extraordinary happens when two or more agree together in prayer.

As we build this community prayer platform, we ask the Lord to listen to our petitions with full confidence they not only are heard but acted upon by God according to His holy will. These requests are on my prayer list and I hope you consider putting them on yours as you place your petitions before the Lord Sunday.

What is one of the most important things we should do as Christians? Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18).

And, so, Lord, we come to You with our petitions, knowing and expecting Your will to be done.

Thoughts and prayers to all worldwide suffering from the consequences of coronavirus flu – and all other strains. Many – many – of the prayer requests are covid-19 related … people diagnosed … people sick … people dying … relatives worried and isolated. We are in this together – in prayer!

Please keep the victims of household abuse in your prayers. Whether it be physical, emotional, sexual or neglect, this time in particular is very horrifying for them to be trapped in a house with their abuser(s) and not being able to escape.

We also need to pray for colorblind peace. Racism will remain a plague until we stop looking at people as black and white, but as human beings created by the same Creator. We pray for new eyes, calmer heads, and softer hearts.  

Special prayer requests have been made for orphanages in Kenya, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and right here in the United States. The need is real.

Financial issues were also high on the prayer lists with millions still out of work. Sustain those who are hurting financially. Give us and them our daily bread.

Natural disasters continue. Keep those in the path of fires and storms safe and focused on You, Lord.

This week’s prayer list will be somewhat limited. Keyboard fried on laptop. But the petitions have been heard and will be shared on my list.

There were a host of unspoken prayer requests and we heard of a number of deaths this week. Prayers for their families as they go through this earthly trial. We grieve … heaven rejoices.

We come to You, Lord, because prayer is the least yet the greatest thing we can do for each other. When two or more are gathered in Your name, we confidently know You are with us. What better company can we have? You reign and we trust You! We may be broken and battered but know You heal and quiet the soul. You are the source for all that happens in our lives. We thank You for the progress being made. We thank You for the many blessings we have received this week. Some we unfortunately didn’t notice. Nonetheless, those blessings are ever-present in our lives. We thank You for healing. We thank You for slowing us down. We thank You for providing us our daily needs — no more and no less. We thank You for being with us, listening to us, walking with us on this journey. We thank You for the support of our family and friends … for seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary — sunrises, sunsets, flowers, kids laughing, adventures, good news amid the bad news. We know we can come to You with our concerns and they will be heard. Through Christ all things are possible. We lift up those family members and friends who are battling various physical, emotional, financial, career or spiritual issues and ask not for Your guidance and healing (although that would be welcomed) but to keep reminding us we are not alone in our battles. Specifically we lift up all those needing Your healing and guiding touch. We pray for the families of all those You have called home. We grieve … You celebrate. We pray for obedience to Your Will so Your “Son” Light shines through us through the power of the Spirit. And we come to You through the confidence of the words taught by Your Son Jesus. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Keep your joys and concerns coming. They have been and will be included during my prayer time and I trust they will be on your lips as well as you approach the altar. All it takes is a couple of keystrokes under the “Contact Me” button on the top bar {or to the right if you’re not a follower yet}. I hope it becomes your best friend as you navigate around the site so we can all be viable prayer warriors. You can also comment or reach me at wisdomfromafather@gmail.com.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Dreams come true. Prayers are answered. God is good.

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Five Minute Friday — Gratitude

Confession time. I was at a loss for this week’s prompt — GRATITUDE. I just couldn’t think of anything new to say. Oh, there is plenty say, but somehow every time I set the timer and glanced at the words, well, they sounded so predictable. I mean, grateful for every day. Grateful to be alive. Grateful for another new day. Blessed by the extraordinary hiding among the ordinary, I was thisclose to calling it a day and skipping the exercise completely or at least taking an extra day or two to reformulate my thoughts. I’ve been known to do that a few times, falling out of my Friday writing routine and into a Saturday session. But, through the grace of God and the indulgence of my fellow Five Minute Friday contributors, I knew I would be forgiven!

Then it happened. As I sat down deliberating my next FMF move, my attention was drawn to a photo medley I just completed on my living room wall. That’s it. That’s my Gratitude Wall … my Blessing Wall … my Memory Wall … my Reason To Go On Wall.

So, instead of five minutes of writing, I’ll share 50 plus years of gratitude. The visual says so much more than my words could ever do.

The Beginning

Joe’s Family

Dee’s Family

Scott’s Family

Jay’s Family

Cole’s Family

I am so Grateful!

Under Kate Motaung’s direction, hundreds of bloggers rally around a themed word and, well, write for five minutes. No rules. No backtracks. Nothing profound. Not perfect. Just five minutes of writing, letting the Spirit move you … on Friday … Saturday … or sometimes beyond. Then we link at www.fiveminutefriday.com, read the remarkable stories from other writers in the group and encourage them. You should stop by, beginning at the Community section. You can read the snippets, share your thoughts, or even join in!

I’ve been using testimonials about the group and the exercise from other members as collected in Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Flat compiled by Susan Shipe. This week’s it’s by Melinda. I hope she inspires you to give this writing activity a shot. I hope at least her words inspire you to at least give this writing workout a look.

“Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘Friends you haven’t met yet?’ That’s what FMF is. A group of friends who get together all over the Internet to write and encourag2e each other. We pray for each other, we talk and laugh, all through social media, a platform that wasn’t so readily available 15 years ago. FMF means friends who write and who are faithful.”

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Grace and elegance is about connecting with people and considering them as your equal. — Garance Dore

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Giving Thanks in 2020

Thanksgiving 2020. Those words seem like an oxymoron. This has certainly been a strange year. When you look around, you might sense there is less to be thankful about than usual as we approach the close of 2020 with anticipation. After all, 2021 has to be better than 2020, right?

It’s a natural feeling. Effects of the virus. Emotional, physical, and financial impacts. Lockdowns, virtual everything, businesses shutting down, not just a jog from “normal” but a sharp left that has many of us just scratching our heads. There will be many empty seats at the traditional Thanksgiving table, some because of the natural aging process, some because of deaths, some because of travel restrictions, some because of gathering restrictions, some because of fear, all because of Covid 19.

On top of the virus, throw on other seemingly never-ending barrages of natural disasters like fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. Civil unrest runs rampant where legitimate protests are often hijacked by looting and violence leaving innocent people and businesses in their wake. We won’t even discuss the political upheaval and angst that has honed sharp ideological divides that have ripped family and friend relationships to shreds. These divisions are causing havoc in the country almost to the point where we can’t have a civil conversation.

We’re winding down, but there are still too many families separated by war.  No one really knows whether the economy is improving but we all know someone still struggling paycheck to paycheck – or even worse – without a viable job. There are still too many people living at or below poverty … and the numbers grow.

Our youth continue to be literally under siege – staring at experimentation and exploitation of seemingly uncontrolled drugs, unbridled sex, wanton violence and unparalleled peer pressure … all at a younger and younger age. Our families are under attack. Our morals – what’s left of them in an increasingly immoral world – are constantly challenged. There is still too much racial, cultural and class intolerance.

Life continues to be tough for families and children, for employees and employers, for church and state. Life changed after the senselessness of Sept. 11 and even after 19 years, it’s aftermath has ushered in gratuitous acts of violence and the ever-present threat of terrorism home and abroad. Those with family in the military feel a certain anxiousness that could dampen the holidays.

But that’s not the right feeling … not the true meaning of the Thanksgiving tradition.

Despite the problems within and without our own little circles, there is a lot to give thanks for this Thanksgiving Day. Above all, we thank God for our very lives and the lives of all we touch and who touch us. That inter-connection itself is wider than you might imagine.

While many of us this Thanksgiving will forego a gathering with family and/or friends around the table, we’ll continue the tradition started by the Pilgrims in 1621 … one that is more than turkey and stuffing … one that includes praise, thanksgiving, sharing, and caring.

Thanksgiving is more than a day off to share with family and friends, sample the stuffing before the bird reaches the table or munch on leftovers while watching football games on television. It’s a day to look inward as well as outward … a day to recognize we still have much to be thankful for, despite all the problems in our nation and world.

I remain hopeful. On top of my blessing list is an ever-widening circle of family, friends, and followers. This Thanksgiving, whether it is with family and friends at the table or socially distant and virtual, please consider:

Counting your blessings instead of your crosses.

Counting your gains instead of your losses.

Counting your joys instead of your woes.

Counting your friends instead of your foes.

Counting your smiles instead of your tears.

Counting your courage instead of your fears.

Counting your full years instead of your lean.

Counting your kind deeds instead of your mean.

Counting your health instead of your wealth.

Counting on God instead of yourself.

It is truly a day for Thanksgiving. And a real good time to continue looking UP!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude. — Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Thanksgiving Smiles

One of the misconceptions about being a Christian is non-Christians think we don’t know how to have fun or have a sense of humor. Trust me, if the Big Guy can have a sense of humor when it comes to dealing with us mere mortals, so can we.

The difference for Christians is we don’t have to debase ourselves or others to generate a smile. Laughter at life or ourselves is a gift from God.

Here’s this week’s special edition of Midweek Mirth, tailored to the Turkey Day season   … so let’s smile a little!

An Ode to Thanksgiving

May your stuffing be tasty.

May your turkey be plump,

May your potatoes and gravy

Have nary a lump.

May your yams be delicious

And your pies take the prize,

And may your Thanksgiving dinner

Stay off your thighs!

… and now for a bonus Thanksgiving thought …

How to Observe Thanksgiving

Count your blessings instead of your crosses.

Count your gains instead of your losses.

Count your joys instead of your woes.

Count your friends instead of your foes.

Count your smiles instead of your tears.

Count your courage instead of your fears.

Count your full years instead of your lean.

Count your kind deeds instead of your mean.

Count your health instead of your wealth.

Count on God instead of yourself.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough. — Oprah Winfrey

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Preface, Introduction or Foreword

I was recently asked what a Preface was and whether it was the same as an Introduction or Foreword.

The answer to the latter part of the question is a resounding No! The three, while preceding your manuscript, serve different functions.

The Preface is written by you, the author as a way to provide a short introductory narrative about the “why” of the book. What was the impetus and/or impulse that led to the upcoming novel. It is a peek inward, giving readers a glimpse of your motives for telling this particular story. Ironically, it is usually written after your final draft. It is also generally separated from body of the manuscript.

An Introduction is also written by you, the author. It’s function is to introduce the book, set it up, share information that might be hidden in your story. It’s usually background that is helpful for the reader but not necessarily part of the story. It becomes the first chapter in your book, not as an official chapter. It flows naturally into the main story.

A Foreword is written by someone other than the author. It’s purpose is to give credibility to the work and the author. Usually, a Foreword is reserved for more technical non-fiction work. Look at it as a qualifier. It is separate from the story.

None of them are absolute necessities. They are props to enhance your work.

Technically, I’ve never used any of them in my writing except for the latest, Yes, There Is a Santa … and I’ve Met Him Personally Many Times. There I employed the Introduction technique, more to explain why I was writing this book. It initially was written for grandchildren and great-grandchildren and I felt that a wider audience would need that background.

It was short and sweet.

“I’ve heard there are some people who don’t believe in Santa Claus!

That’s just silly. I can tell you from personal experience, there IS a Santa Claus. I not only believe it but I’ve actually met the jolly old elf not once, not twice, but many, many times. He is as real as – well – me!

So, I thought I would share some of my interactions with Santa so you can believe too!”

Although I didn’t identify it as an Introduction, there was a Prelude to My Name Is Sam … and Heaven Is Still Shining Through. It was written as a personal letter from Sam.

“The morning sky is dark with rolling clouds as I sit on a boardwalk bench in Seaside Heights, NJ, just reflecting about how blessed my life has been … So, today I lean back and continue to breathe in the salt water-tinged air and feel the sun on my face, constantly reminded of God’s presence in the ordinary as He allows heaven to shine through.

     Love

          Sam”

I felt the letter was the bridge connecting the novella Heaven Shining Through with the spinoff, but I didn’t want to call it an Introduction. I wanted something more personal.

I hope that helps. As always, I emphasize the rules of writing are more suggestions for writing.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: No matter how hard you get knocked down, get back up again. Eventually, you won’t get knocked down. — Elizabeth Holmes       

 

 

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