End of the Year Thoughts

copy-of-done-1Another year is coming to a close and I can’t believe how quickly it has passed. Seems like just yesterday that I was looking ahead to all I wanted to try in 2016. I can honestly say my year has been productive and full.

I have not written on this blog for a while but not because I wasn’t writing. For the last four months I spent most days editing one of my novels. Though there are always things I could change, I am pleased to say I am finished. The editing process is harder than the creating the story, but I have learned so much about the process itself.

My only frustration has been in the actual writing program itself. It won’t export in a format I can use without redoing some spacing things. When you write a 50,000 + word novel, that can take time to fix. The Christmas season is not the best time to try to do this. After a short break I’ll make another attempt.

As I close out my year, I can honestly say I finished my book. It is no longer just a dream I talk about. I am self-publishing in 2017 and can’t wait to see it in print.

God is good and I am grateful for his many blessings I have been given in 2016. I can’t wait to see what plans he has for me in 2017!

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Make a Difference

Time seems to pass so quickly with the busyness of life. I am mindful of which activities I commit to do.

The older I get – the more urgency I feel about making a difference in life. When I taught those darling little children, I knew they looked at my actions as model of how to treat others. Many of them had a home life without stability or happiness. School was sometimes the only bright spot in their life. I remember one student coming back from spring break and writing about how he hated vacations. For him, he looked forward to the stories I read, the fun things we did, and a caring person he could depend on.

same-kind-of-different_In my retirement, I have missed those moments when I knew I changed a life. We all have the ability to be a positive or negative influence on the lives each day. I am reading a book entitled same kind of different As me. What a true story of a Christian woman’s faith journey that had a profound effect on the lives of homeless people. She didn’t walk past them and do nothing. Through compassion and love, she changed countless lives and continues to do so after her death.

Each year the holiday season begins earlier. For me, it also signals the ending of another year. What changes have you made this year? Have you thought about your legacy? Like the character in the book, you hold the key to change the lives of those less fortunate whether it be giving away a coat, paying for someone’s lay away, or simply bringing a meal to someone who is alone. Her husband’s life also changed in ways he never expected and so will yours.

Probably one of my most favorite books has been The Traveler’s Gift by Andy travelers-giftAndrews. If you haven’t read it you are missing out. I have read it several times and each time came away with something new. I  have led discussions with book clubs, teacher groups, youth groups, and given it as a gift countless times. Through the seven characters the traveler receives life changing messages.

My favorite character was Joshua Chamberlain. He was a high-ranking Union officer in the Civil War. Against all odds at Gettysburg and with nothing but bayonets lead the charge down the hill. He made a courageous decision to take action despite the fact he did not have ammunition. His bravery and leadership helped the Union win the battle. His action was an example for others to follow. Would the United States be here if Gettysburg was not a victory?

Both books give example of how two different people took actions which impacted countless lives long after their deaths.

The world needs more people of action. Use your talents and take action today. Look around for places to give or ways to serve in your community. You will be glad you did!

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Writing is Painful

My post retirement dream was to become a writer. I have been working at it for over four years now. As a teacher, I loved helping students create stories because they used their imagination to take the story anyplace they wanted to go. As an adult, I realized I have spent a lifetime reading many great books. Like with my students, I admired the creative stories of other authors especially the books that had me so lost in the story that I didn’t want to put the book down. I dreamed of writing like them.

Taking online writing classes was my first step toward my goal. My intent was to improve my skills as a writer. What I didn’t count on was the fact that writing can be painful. My professors often gave assignments that centered on life events that made me go deeper into examining past experiences and feelings that I stuffed way down inside without ever verbalizing my pain. That caught me by surprise!

Since that first year of writing, I have begun to create Christian novels of my own and am working at my editing. Characters in my books are frequently  based on people I’ve met in my life in some way or they reveal parts of me. Character flaws create drama in the plot and often tap into personal pain. Using familiar events, places or people help make my manuscript  easier to write.

It is clear that my faith journey is also an important piece of the writing I am doing. Everyone has a story to tell and should try to share it with others so they can learn from it. Pain will come with the writing, but once on paper peace will follow. The process can show you how far you have come.

During a recent Bible study, we were chatting about how the Bible is a God breathed book. A series of writers were inspired by God to write what became the all time best seller book for over 2000 years. There is not another book that can claim that.bible

Anyone who reads the Bible will find themselves in the stories because they are metaphors of life today. Included are flawed characters, action, drama, evil, love, war, betrayal, incest, murder, family dysfunction and things that make us read other books. God inspired these stories and they have stood the test of time. He used ordinary people to do extra ordinary things

When comparing yourself and your own life to the imperfect people in the Bible and their dysfunction, the revelation of how to change will be realized. It is a book on redemption and hope.

I can now imagine God’s pain when people disappointed him over and over again.  He continued to forgive and love in spite of human failure. He is the same loving and forgiving God today. The best news is we know how the story ends and good does win. Pain is only of  this world. The best is yet to come!

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Second Chances?

This part of my life has been a second chance for me to pursue writing. Over the years I have made attempts at it, but my life was just too busy. Even though I taught students how to write, I never had the time to actually write much myself.  With less commitments  I can now take webinars and classes freely with the intent to improve my skills. Like this blog, I am a work in progress. Now I work to become a skilled, published writer and I use my creativity daily.

This week I watched Dancing with the Stars and admire how hard the participants are working to become dancers. They balance their busy schedules to perform in front of an audience and are judged on it. For some, that is very difficult. Ryan Lochte is one of those dancers and he really has inspired me. He made a huge mistake while he was in Rio for the Olympics, but he also has acknowledged his mistake over and over. He had the courage to try dancing which is out of his comfort zone. Last week he was called names in front of a live audience and all he really wants is a second chance. The fact that he came back this week shows perseverance. Facing his mistake and moving on is something to be admired. Henry Ford said  “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely.”¹ I am not condoning what he did, but I believe people need to give him a break. It is easy to point fingers at others.

We are who we are because of where life has taken us and how we respond to events. The Bible is full of flawed people who were given second chances (or even more opportunities) and went on to become great people because they learned from their mistakes.

time-for-youFor me, I have made many mistakes in life and changed because of them. Those experiences are helping develop realistic characters that need opportunity to make amends. My hope is to self publish my Christian novel soon.

How about you? What do you want to try? Take the chance and go for it! A friend of mine decided to take tap dance classes after retirement. Other friends have done their family genealogy. Or maybe you have stories you want to write. What do you have to lose? Just go for it!

¹”20 Iconic Quotes on Failure.” MindBodyGreen. Ed. Zoë B. N.p., 4 Mar. 2013. Web. 21 Sept. 2016.
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What if?

Life has been a roller coaster ride for me. I have had so many life altering events happen  I thought I would never get through because I felt like I was drowning. There were seasons where each time I thought I was through it, something else happened. As a Christian, I believed  bad things weren’t supposed to happen to me. When they did, I prayed for how I wanted the prayer to be answered. Sometimes I got what I wanted, but many times the answer was not what I asked for.

Faith is a journey we take with the Lord. He hears our prayers and answers them according to his plan for our life. But it is his plan, not ours.

Each one of those bumps in the road were part of the plan  for making me a better person.  Through life events such as divorce, betrayal, tragic accidents, unemployment, work place bullying, health issues, financial difficulties, and deaths, the pain was real and it didn’t go away immediately. At times, I felt abandoned by God or sometimes I even felt anger toward God. However, most of those events changed me.

 I have looked back and wondered – what if? What if he had answered all What if-those prayers that I poured out? What would life be like if I took a different road?  Garth Brooks even has a song called Unanswered Prayers. Sometimes the best answer is no.

I have come to the same conclusion as the song. Those prayers that weren’t answered have helped me become a stronger Christian. There was a reason I needed to go through those seasons.The Bible contains countless stories of the struggles of ordinary people who grew stronger in faith to do extraordinary works with God’s help for his purpose.Through love,  God helped them to do more than they could imagine themselves doing.

Now I don’t look back and try to figure out any what ifs of the past. The past can’t be changed. Looking to the ahead,  I think more in future what ifs. What if I write that book? What if I take that trip? What if I read the Bible? What if I join that Bible group? There are so many things ready to explore. I ask God for wisdom in all things knowing he is faithful and will lead. I never have to worry that he will abandon me.

Diem

What if you put your trust in him? It won’t be easy, but it will be an adventure. There is still time to do amazing things and travel new roads. You may be glad you did.

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Vacation Reflections

Retirement has been a great time to travel to see the places I have only read about or seen on television. When I was teaching, vacation was a time I just wanted to sit and relax on the beach. Now I just want to travel and see sights.

As a child we never traveled due to the fact that our family was large and we didn’t have the money to do it. My dad wasn’t big on it either. All my traveling was done through a book and most of the time in my imagination as I read. I loved to do my United States puzzle and dreamed of going to all of the states. I am not sure that will happen, but I am delighted to say that I have traveled a good bit with my family. Traveling with grand children has been exciting.

My recent trip to the Grand Canyon was memorable. I have always wanted to go there. Despite the crowds and the heat, it was well worth the trip. I had prepared physically because I knew with age and elevation, I would have to be careful. What I wasn’t prepared for was the view.

Looking out over the canyon, I stood in awe of the beauty. It looked just like the pictures I had seen but seemed surreal. All you could do is stand there and try to take it all in as the guide explained what was across and below. There are many points of interests and opportunity to individualize the trip. My daughter and grandson biked and even walked part way down toward the canyon floor.The shuttle makes it easy to go from point to point. I saw a group of elk go by as I sat in the lodge having a cup of coffee.

We traveled to the canyon on the train which we took from Williams, Arizona. It was easier than driving and AARP does have some nice benefits and packages when traveling. The time on the train was spent in conversation, playing cards, or eating. It was worth it.

The group across from us explained to the photographer that this trip   marked the first visit that a member of their family had made to visit them since they moved to Arizona 22 years ago. Both couples were much older than me and fell asleep several times on the trip. It made me wonder why they had waited so long to visit? I wondered if they really could enjoy the canyon because they had difficulty getting around. I hope so.

This was not the only part of our vacation. We went to Santa Fee, saw the meteor crater, stood on the corner in Winslow, ate at the famous Turquoise Room in Winslow, and made it down to Sedona to see the beauty of the red rocks.

I have decided, this is the best time in life to plan visits that may have been postponed or to go to the places you have dreamed about. There’s time to make new memories. I am glad I did! But I have still have more to see and do. As Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go says, there are so many more adventures to go on.

 

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Wounds or Scars

Easter is always an important day in my Christian walk. Not everyone believes in Jesus or that he died on a cross for our sins, but the fact is for over 2,000 years that story has been told. History is full of stories of wars and struggles over religious beliefs and proof of his existence.

When Jesus appeared to people after his Resurrection, he was not the same bloody figure last seen on the cross. His appearance was the same as it was before his horrific crucifixion except for the fact that his wrists and feet had scars from the nails the Romans had used.

For Christians, his death and resurrection bring hope of eternal life in heaven. He paid the price for our sins and established a new covenant with God the Father in heaven. Easter is a time to reflect on how tremendous his sacrifice was. What we believe should be reflected in our daily life.

Once this season is past, it is easy to forget that message. But Easter was a model on how we are to live life. Jesus had scars, but they weren’t open wounds. Life wounds us the wounds should become scars like his were. He taught forgiveness, mercy, compassion, and reconciliation.

The events that took place last week have shocked our nation. They have triggered more violent events. Tempers are out of control and more people are getting hurt or killed.

How do we heal these wounds? It won’t happen overnight. People need to grieve and all we can do is be there for them. Their pain is real and can’t be minimized. We can pray to one who can help and try to model what he has taught us.

I saw a simulcast last night of an upcoming movie called Ben Hur. It is coming out in August and is a remake of a famous movie I watched years ago. I think it has a powerful message that speaks to reconciliation and forgiveness which is a very timely message.

I recommend this movie to all movie goers. We need to come together as the great nation that we are and help heal our nation. We are all wounded by these tragedies and now we need communicate on how we can close these wounds so we can heal. This will be a long process, but it a process that all of us should help in. If we don’t, the wounds will never heal.

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How is your garden growing?

There is something about digging up soil that is so therapeutic. Digging and planting new plants is a reminder about how beautiful life is. I love planting and watching them grow, but they do need nurturing if they are going to make it. That is what takes the time and retirement gives me more time to take care of them properly. The weeds are pulled out a little sooner now and I also seem to have more time to simply enjoy them.

Iris

Iris 2016

Over the years I have changed the way I garden. Instead of buying mostly annuals, I have switched to more perennials. Using the Internet, I try to buy plants that bloom at different times so that there is always something new blooming. Additionally, I created a

Fairy Garden2

Fairy Garden 2016

Fairy garden under our front tree. It’s not exactly the way I want it yet, but it sure has been a way to use my creativity.

Gardening is a lot like life. Each season of life brings something new. Sometimes we can plan it and sometimes we can’t.  Looking at the calendar, I realized this year is almost half over. I stopped for a moment to see if I was taking time to tend to my life and start new things that will help me grow. The answer is yes. I have challenged myself to continue to read the authors that I admire and want to learn from. Joining a The Jerry Jenkin’s Writer’s Guild has given me many opportunities to expand my own craft. Even though as a teacher I taught writing, I have a lot to learn.  I had a Twitter Chat discussion about writing with Book Baby which was very informative. I also have joined groups online to talk about writing and books I was reading. I am learning a new program for my pictures called Canva. That has been  such fun! I also have been blogging for our local Pregnancy Resource Center.

Nurturing my own growth also means my spiritual health. Retirement has given me the time I need to grow in my relationship with God. He’s given me so much and I just take time daily to thank him for the many gifts he has given me. There are so many ways to do Bible study online. I just completed my second one with Faithgateway and  am so excited that they will start a new one in a couple of weeks. We watch a video online (weekly) and do the study on our own (or with a small group). Once  a week we join the group online to discuss the questions (which lasts for an hour). I wasn’t sure I would get much out of doing a study like this, but I am here to say it was amazing and I learned so much from the others in the group.

Gardening also reminded me that I need to tend to my own body, too. Age seems to bring many new aches, pains, or changes that can be become challenging if we lose control (like balance and strength) . I started a new 21 day fitness challenge and am on day 14. What a difference! Just go at your own pace, with approval from your doctor, and listen to your body. My body said ouch more than once. But I didn’t stop because being retired and older means you still need to keep in shape. Exercise is something that we don’t always look forward to, but the benefits outweigh the pain.Those friends who don’t exercise seem to have more health issues.

Lastly, retirement can be a time to be more generous. Generosity can come in many different forms. Maybe it means sending an e-mail or text with encouragement. It might mean having a cup of coffee and listening to a friend in need when you would rather be doing something for yourself. Sending a card to someone who is alone may lift their spirits. The flowers in the garden might be a great gift for a lonely widow. Gently used books could be a comfort to someone who is bedridden or perhaps for the ICU waiting room. Of course, money is also a way to become more generous. I like to do it anonymously.  The possibilities are endless.

So how is your gardening going? Are things blooming or are the weeds choking the new opportunities out? Try some new things. You will see how much you will grow and how fulfilling life can be.

 

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A Journey of Faith

I can’t remember a time that I didn’t believe in God. I was brought up in the Catholic faith and never doubted that there was a God. My great grandmother instilled in me a healthy reverence and fear of God. Going to church was something you did witGreat grandmah out question. Each Sunday and special holiday, we would walk to church together.  In her home, she prayed constantly. My childhood wasn’t filled with material things, but it was filled with faith,family and love. One regret that I have is that I never thanked her for showing me what really was important.

Life has brought many trials and difficulties, but one thing that has been a constant is my faith. I can’t remember a time I didn’t go to church, but as I look back I realize that going to church doesn’t necessarily mean you are Christian. There were seasons where I went to church out of habit. My prayers were quick rote prayers or a laundry lists of my needs that I wanted God to help me with. I found God to be the closest when I was in the middle of a crisis. He didn’t always answer the way I wanted him to, but with his help I dealt with divorce, being a single mom, poverty, and many serious health issues. When I searched for him during my dark times, I found him and I grew stronger as a person.

There are many Bible studies available to study and help in the faith journey. The Bible is God’s word to us and is meant a guide to how to live as a Christian. To truly understand it, it helps to do it in a group.

I started serious studying after my children were grown. As I went deeper in the word, I just wanted to learn more. The hunger to study is fueled by the fact that instead of just learning about God, I am learning about myself. Some of it is good and some of it is bad, but we have a merciful, forgiving God. All he wants is a relationship with him and attending church for an hour a week isn’t enough. He is a big God and deserves more. What happens between Sundays and how you deal with everyday challenges with God’s help is your faith in action. His help and guidance should guide our daily living.

Retirement has given me more time to study the word of God which is how we know how to live as a Christian. Small church groups are only one way to learn and grow in that area.

This season has been a time where I needed to study at home. Perhaps, you can’t study with a group outside of the home either. I have done online Christian book clubs on Facebook with Karen Kingsbury. Recently, I have have joined Bible study groups on Faithgateway and in June I will do a study with Beth Moore through Lifeway. All of them are amazing opportunities to grow. These are just a few samples of studies that help deepen relationship with God. Although I don’t actually see who is responding, their insights about God and the Bible have been invaluable.

I believe life is a faith journey and each person has a story to tell. Our stories are meant to be shared. Consider joining a group of some kind. Your life story could help someone who is in a rough season of life find faith in the darkness or perhaps, they may help you find hope. The possibilities are just a click away.

It all goes back to legacy, too. What do you want people to remember about you? It is never too late to start a relationship with God.

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A Writer’s Manifesto

What is this blog about and why am I writing it? As part of a 7-Day challenge I am taking, I am looking at those questions and will answer them as honestly as possible.

I love writing and creating. In a recent Beth Moore  Bible study I did, she encouraged us all to use our God given creativity. She went on to say that we have all been given creative skills and it is our choice on how or if we use them. I have found this to be true. Writing is one way I  can be creative and I love it.

I have to admit that as a child, I did not always enjoy writing. Writing a report or a term paper just seemed tedious. I was a great procrastinator and yet, I still got great grades. The only type of writing I enjoyed was creative writing because it seemed less restrictive and anything was possible.

College was something I did later in life. I didn’t write for over ten years and I missed it. Although attending college meant more term papers, I was pursuing my goal to become a teacher so I really put more effort into them.

Being an elementary teacher gave me an opportunity to encourage my young students to be creative in their writing. As they wrote, I wrote. We created many class books together and I encouraged them to continue to write daily. I think that sometimes educators actually stifle creativity and young children have great imaginations.

Retirement has given me a chance to spend more time writing creatively. I have taken writing classes, done webinars, and have taken part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) twice. Participating was challenging, but so exciting. I have two Christian novels in rough draft form and am learning how to edit. This blog will share some of my writing experiences as I continue to learn and because I think it can help others.

My blog is also meant to encourage others to continue to explore creative endeavors, to keep active,  and to share individual God given gifts. Sometimes I don’t think people really just exist after retirement and others could really use their help.

I also want to recommend some incredible books that I have read that really have a powerful Christian message. Books that are treasures even if they aren’t on the best seller list.

I want to build a community for anyone who is trying to find purpose in life, not just people who are retired. My message and legacy is one of faith and hope in our creator as we take a chance in life.

 

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