Excellent Advice

One of my favorite authors, Max Lucado, wrote the excerpt below; it's taken from his book, "Cure for the Common Life" (a highly recommended read). It gives me a lot of hope as I approach these middle age years (can it really be so?) and am just now honing in on what I really love to do as other distractions of life leftover from "the busy years" gradually fade away. His perspective and insight as to how to find what you really should be doing in life are very encouraging to me. And now, here's Max....

Read Your Life Backward by Max Lucado

God is working in you to help you want to do and be able to do what pleases him.
What God said about Jeremiah, he said about you: "Before I made you in your mother's womb, I chose you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work" (Jer. 1:5 NCV).

Set apart for a special work.
God shaped you according to yours. How else can you explain yourself? Your ability to diagnose an engine problem by the noise it makes, to bake a cake without a recipe. You knew the Civil War better than your American history teacher. You know the name of every child in the orphanage. How do you explain such quirks of skill?

God. He knew young Israel would need a code, so he gave Moses a love for the law. He knew the doctrine of grace would need a fiery advocate, so he set Paul ablaze. And in your case, he knew what your generation would need and gave it. He designed you. And his design defines your destiny. Remember Peter's admonition? "If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies" (1 Pet. 4:11).

I encountered walking proof of this truth on a trip to Central America. Dave, a fellow American, was celebrating his sixty-first birthday with friends at the language school where my daughter was studying Spanish. My question—"What brings you here?"—opened a biographical floodgate. Drugs, sex, divorce, jail—Dave's first four decades read like a gangster's diary. But then God called him. Just as God called Moses, Paul, and millions, God called Dave.

His explanation went something like this. "I've always been able to fix things. All my life when stuff broke, people called me. A friend told me about poor children in Central America, so I came up with an idea. I find homes with no fathers and no plumbing. I install sinks and toilets and love kids. That's what I do. That's what I was made to do."

Sounds like Dave has found the cure for the common life. He's living in his sweet spot. What about you? What have you always done well? And what have you always loved to do?

That last question trips up a lot of well-meaning folks. God wouldn't let me do what I like to do—would he? According to Paul, he would. "God is working in you to help you want to do and be able to do what pleases him" (Phil. 2:13 NCV). Your Designer couples the "want to" with the "be able to." Desire shares the driver's seat with ability. "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Ps. 37:4 NIV). Your Father is too gracious to assign you to a life of misery. As Thomas Aquinas wrote, "Human life would seem to consist in that in which each man most delights, that for which he especially strives, and that which he particularly wishes to share with his friends."

So go ahead; reflect on your life. What have you always done well and loved to do?Some find such a question too simple. Don't we need to measure something? Aptitude or temperament? We consult teachers and tea leaves, read manuals and horoscopes. We inventory spiritual gifts and ancestors. While some of these strategies might aid us, a simpler answer lies before us. Or, better stated, lies within us.

The oak indwells the acorn. Read your life backward and check your supplies. Rerelish your moments of success and satisfaction. For in the merger of the two, you find your uniqueness.
And when you've read your life backwards a time or two, leave a comment here and let me know what you found!

Morning Pictures

Inspired by the book A Year of Mornings (http://3191ayearofmornings.com/mornings/), my sister Adele and I have found ourselves recently taking some morning pictures of our own.
She has been working on this longer than I - last August she began her own daily project and created a book of her own with a stunning photo on each page, and then with some blank pages at the end for me to add to if I so desired ( and I do desire). That was part of my birthday present, and it is beautiful. The other part of my present was the book, A Year of Mornings.
This morning she texted me that she was taking more morning shots....and in a few minutes I found myself putting down the bills I was paying and getting out my camera and taking advantage of the gorgeous early sunlight streaming in the windows.

Give it a try!

Giving Grace in a Turkey Moment

"Great things come in the unexpected". That was a quote I profoundly (and proudly) came up with after a wonderful start to my week where the days were good, fun surprises just kept coming around every corner, and the world was my playground. Ah, what a life. I should have known that with days going so well as I floated on the mountaintop, the valley couldn't be far behind.

Lucky me. I found out yesterday afternoon that not so great things also come in the unexpected. Mid-afternoon found me struggling with an issue that I couldn't have possibly seen coming. I was blindsided. Stunned. Incredulous. A "this can't possibly be happening" feeling overwhelmed me. It overwhelmed others very close to me too, and I felt their pain. With one phone call, my day had turned on a dime and my sunny outlook turned grim. Hello, valley.

After working things through with the involved parties at the end of the day, life leveled out a degree or two and I was just starting to regain a slight sense of balance this morning when the second blow hit. This time it was a daughter in tears on the phone, unable to register for spring semester classes at her college due to lack of a required physical, thereby blocking her online records and her ability to do the urgent task at hand. As I sat in my desk chair at work listening to her, I was completely at a loss as to how to help her from 100 miles away. My head started to pound with this new pressure being set squarely on top of the tension still fresh from yesterday that had barely started to clear. Could this much really be happening in such a short period of time? Seemed so, because happening it was.

Whereas dilemma number one's resolution hadn't come yet, for problem number two God showed up in a big way and fast. At the time, I had approximately 20 free minutes at school between classes, and my daughter's phone call came at the top of those 20. Still doing accomplishable work tasks while I set up command central on my cell phone, I placed call after call to various sources trying to help her out. My husband offered to make as many 100 mile round trips as needed to get her home and back if she needed to see our family doctor. Finally, phone call number three for me was the charm- the health services office at her university assured me that if she placed a call to them, they would waive the restriction and off to registration-land she could go. My panic lessened; solutions were on the horizon. I called her, she called them, and in minutes she had a spring schedule and was on her way to the rest of her day. And my 20 minutes were up.

Fortunately as my day continued it held no more surprises good or bad, which was fine with me. After a quick dinner out, I stopped at the store. After picking up my few items, I got in what appeared to be the shortest checkout line. (if you've ever shopped, you know what's coming next.) The woman in front of me was trying to redeem her grocery store coupon for her free turkey. She had a lovely looking bird there, but as I caught the conversation, I could hear the store employees telling her she had picked too nice a catch. This was definitely a turkey upgrade from what the coupon allowed for free... instead of getting the nice fresh gobbler, I think she was supposed to have chosen the frozen block of meat that resembled a bowling ball.

They tried voiding the purchase. We waited. They tried voiding the whole order. We waited.
They tried fooling the register into thinking that she really had purchased the right fowl. We waited some more. Five minutes passed. A store employee went to get another turkey, and when she reappeared with it, it sure looked to all of us in line like the same brand of turkey that had just been denied only minutes before. So, again we waited.

As all good responsible shoppers do, the lady who was trying to buy this bird turned to us line-waiters and got very apologetic. Embarrassing to her, the line was getting longer and longer, the employees were running out of options, and the cash register was still locked up. What to do, her eyes pleaded; what to do?

Personally, for me this waiting was not a bad thing. I had been in constant motion and on my feet all day, so to stand still in the same place for five to ten minutes wasn't bothering me one bit. So when Mrs. Turkey Buyer turned to me and started bashfully apologizing for how long this was taking and how she was holding things up, I seized the opportunity to spread a little Thanksgiving cheer. I just looked at her and said, "Hey - if this is the worst thing that happened to me all day, then I'm doing pretty good." She looked relieved. I continued, "After what I've been through in the past twenty four hours, this is nothing. I don't know about the rest of the line, but I'm in no hurry; I'm fine. Take your time." Her face showed extreme gratitude and appreciation, and inwardly I felt that I had just learned that it's all about perspective. I was tired and looking for a rest; she got the wrong plucked piece of meat and had held up the entire checkout line. Together, we had the perfect storm.

On a different day, if I was late and pressed for time, I might not have reacted quite as gracefully (shame on me). But it didn't happen on another day; it happened today soon after my bad run on events. Maybe today that gal just needed a break. And maybe God knew He had taught me enough in the past twenty-four hours that I was in the right position to give it to her. For whatever the reason, it felt great to not complain and just enjoy my extra time between the candy and the magazines.

You may have a similar experience this holiday season, and if so you have my permission to smile it away and thereby spread a little holiday hope. You'll amaze those around you and gleefully irritate those who wish to be a Scrooge. But buyer beware - to avoid being on the giving end of extra minutes for others in line when you chose your Thanksgiving roaster, choose wisely my friend. Remember to downgrade and choose wisely.

Why I love the Book Fair

What a week of fun - It's certainly not hard to enjoy working retail at the book fair this week in our library. The kids' faces light up as they come in, cash in hand, ready to shop. Our Home and School Association has generously donated funds so that each child gets a free book and no one goes home empty handed- which does wonders in avoiding tears for those who are short (or nonexistent) on cash.
It's impossible not to catch the student's enthusiasm as they revel in the glee of the library-turned-shopping-mall that now holds new treasures for them to purchase.

And, for those of us who would love to one day be one of the lucky ones who wrote a book that's for sale on one of those display shelves, we get to ponder a bit and think, "Wow. How do you do that?"
Time. Patience. Perseverance. And a whole lotta rejection letters. :)

On Writing

This weekend definitely found me feeling under the weather. After a 14 hour sleep Friday night into Saturday, I still wasn't going full tilt. Rather, I just wanted to curl up under a blanket, sit quietly and read to regain my strength. So that is exactly what I did during the day on Saturday, and the book I chose is now one of my best reads when it comes to books about the art of writing; On Writing by Stephen King. If you don't mind a bit of rough language, it's one of the best.
Let me preface this to say that I have never read one of Mr. King's novels. They always seemed too "on the dark side" for my liking. I've seen Carrie and some of The Shining, and they don't fit into my form of entertainment. But this book gave me a window into the author's life story and how he approaches a life of writing and makes it work. It's practical, it's applicable, and it's a great read. Humorous, as well. It definitely gave me a different perspective on who I thought Stephen King was. Not so dark, after all.
I finished the book while still under my blanket Saturday night and immediately went online to Amazon to order my own copy (as the one I had been reading I had borrowed from the library - can't make any good notes or marks in the margins in that.) So, if you're looking for something good to read about writing, I highly recommend it.

I loved one of his quotes that read, "The scariest moment is just before you start". He is referring to writing, of putting pen to paper and seeing if anything comes out that tells a story. But I think it can apply to other areas in our lives as well - any time we face a challenge.

What are you waiting to start? (and why are you waiting??!!)

The Book Fair is here!

This is a most exciting time in our library, and this morning the head librarian and I are like two giddy children on Christmas Eve. just a short while ago, a Scholastic truck with a huge picture of Clifford on the side pulled up to our school and unloaded treasures of picture books, chapter books, easy readers, and a plethera of other things published for our Book Fair that begins on Friday morning. Currently, the soon-to-be-drooled-over merchandise is sitting enticingly in front of me, hidden away in sealed boxes and tightly closed display shelving. But....set up time is fast approaching when we can open up the containers and ooh and aah over the contents. As we unpack and arrange attractive displays, the kid in me will be mentally making a list of new books I just can't live without. Let the fun begin!
Have I mentioned before that a children's library is a great place for a picture book lover like me to work?

Nice Weekend

This was a fairly quiet weekend. It was a good weekend though, with plenty of time to catch up on things, like sleep and relaxation. I sat down yesterday to finish reading Writing Down the Bones, which I did, but it only led to more reading and snuggling under a blanket and dozing on and off for the rest of the evening. I loved every minute of it.

Today was more productive. And this afternoon was especially fun, setting up my studio area in our newly refinished garage- a place for me to scrapbook, work on photography, and write. A place I don't have to clean up. A place I can get creative and make a mess. Awesome. I will enjoy the process of making my space complete. (The process may include a trip to Ikea - one of my favorite things in life).

On another note, I was shocked today when I opened my journal to see that the last entry said, "Today is Halloween"..... I kept flipping pages, sure that I had passed over some that I'd written in during the past week. But no, all the pages after the Halloween entry were blank. Not a very good track record for a writer- that must change. I carry my journal with me all the time now, so it showed me just how busy my Monday -Friday life truly is. I think about writing most of the time, and I love knowing that it's something I can do if I have 5 minutes or two hours. It's always with me, always accessible. It hangs around like a stash of chocolate available to me all the time, only this is chocolate for my brain.

But I digress. Let's get back to talking about the weekend. It was enticingly warm today- enough to make one think that more warm weather is just around the corner. I had to keep reminding myself that winter is coming, not spring and summer. It's getting dark out earlier now, and the shorter fall/winter days are driving us into our homes, into our spaces, evaporating us from the outside world we inhabit when the days are balmy and long. I will miss the communal feel of the great outdoors, but am also looking forward to cozy winter nights by the fire.

Perhaps this will be a good season to read, a good season to write. It will no doubt be a joyous season for holidays, birthdays and anniversaries in our family.

What are you looking forward to this winter?

I love it!
I'm proud to display this badge on my blog.
This comes from Tara Lazar's website, http://taralazar.wordpress.com/, where she is holding an idea/brainstorming session during the month of November for those of us who aspire to write picture books. It's oh so very cool and I'm having a lot of fun following along and jotting down a new idea every day. By the end of the month I'll have thirty new ideas and a whole lotta material to work with.
I'm sure it's not too late to join if you want to jump in on the action...check it out!

Early Morning Text

Whenever I get a text before 8 in the morning, it's usually from a family member. And more often than not, it's from one of my college kids just saying hello from afar. But this morning's early text was different. It was my high schooler with a request - "Any chance you can drop off my USB to me by 10:45? If not, it's cool."

Oh man, I thought. He's forgotten an important document that he needs for a class.... but c'mon, drop off his USB to him before 10:45? I'd be deep into checking out picture books at the elementary school library where I work by then. I hurriedly looked at the clock and realized that if I flew out the door at that very second, I would have just enough time to get to the high school and back and still make it to work on time (I work a minute from home - no lights and only one stop sign.)

Initially I was frustrated that I had to make this unexpected trip, but I realized in the next moment that my son had redeemed himself thoroughly when he said, "If not, it's cool." My heart smiled. There was no demand there. No "you'd better do this for me" kind of attitude. Not a hint of insisting I change my plans to accomodate him. He was totally letting me off the hook if I couldn't do it - he realized it was his fault, his mistake, his error if he didn't get what was on that USB in time for his 10:45 class. He was just asking for some help if would work out okay for me.

As we moms know, I would have run the flash drive down to him no matter what. If it's in my power to help out my kids when they're stuck with something, I do. But the very fact that he tagged his request as he did made me want to do it for him all the more. And I plan to mention that to him when I see him after school because I think it's a good life skill to use on a lot of people besides just your mom.

It made me think of how I approach God when I come to Him with my laundry list of needs, requests, and, dare I say, sometimes demands. Just as I love to help any of my children when they need something, how much more our heavenly Father loves to help us when we are coming to Him with our wants. But how do I ask him? Do I throw in a "You need to do this for me right now" kind of tone, or do I come to Him saying, "I really think I need this, and if You can help me out, that would be awesome; if not, it's cool."

I think it's good for our hearts if we have a tag phrase in there that lets God off the hook if He doesn't produce in the way we think He should. I would be wise to realize that it is not His fault that I've gotten myself into some of the messes I have. He's not to blame, but I sure come expecting Him to fix things right up so that my day can go on uninterrupted.

The next time I have a request, I'll still ask God for it. But this time I'll allow myself to remember who's really in control and whatever answer I get, it'll be cool.

Why Do We Stop Short of our Dream?

Incredible, incredible article about dreams, doubts and fears. I can identify with every step of it- and I'm sure I'll refer back to it often to see what point of wall building or tearing down I'm in..... Give it a read- you'll love it!


Free at last

I saw this while waiting in the grocery line tonight -

and almost laughed out loud while waiting for the conveyor belt to move in my favor. I think this is the first publication I've seen to declare themselves "Gosselin-free". It's sad when they have to advertise who they're NOT going to talk about in order to entice you to buy their magazine. Even sadder yet, I suppose, to be one of the not-talked-about Gosselins. And maybe this says something about our culture- when we start attracting customers by what we're avoiding and making that our drawing card.

Maybe the same tactic would work to let others know what a children's book is NOT about? "Dinosaur free picture book" or "Non-bear themed easy reader". Nah. Doesn't sound good. Guess I better leave that angle to the tabloids.