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

Simply Breathing Rooms-An end of the month Breathing Space Post

“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once, “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”

― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

I hope you are finding “simple little pleasures” today. Maybe browsing the below pictures will have you pausing and looking at your gems from past generation in your spaces. The first home pictures are from the Ukrainian Village Cultural Heritage Village commemorating the settlement of east Alberta by Ukrainians.

The second house is Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home in historical Savannah, Georgia.

What simple historical gems do you have in your home that are precious reminders of generations past? Is there a story around the item(s)?

Confused of what to do?

I wish I had three more rooms in my home, I commented to my friend during a phone call recently. I was looking at the items scattered and piled on my desk. Binders, books, day-timers, journals, spiral notebooks, magazines, art cards, microphone, and cameras were just some of the items. I’d like to have a room for painting, another for writing, and another for my work-work (otherwise known as my day job), I told him, have kiddingly but mostly not!

Even though the mess can eventually get overwhelming, I felt content. Even hopeful and driven. Something that had been missing for some time since our country and province began self-distancing rules during the current world pandemic. Feeling better I realized I’m in the grieving cycle. I’m cycling into acceptance, however understand navigating the grief cycle is more erratic than linear. And may cycle backwards into sadness or anxiety.

Just a week ago my desktop was bare.

When my calendar began to empty of sales appointments and open spaces appeared, I wondered what would now enfold in those time slots. What to do with that time? Are the bills going to get paid? Is this opened time now a gift of God? Goodness, then I really do not want to waste it! What to do? As you can imagine, dear readers, this type of thinking only led to confusion and anxiety. I had to find a way to ease my fears and place my time into God’s hands.

Putting our Plans in God’s Hands

  1. Ask the Helper

John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

When we need clarity around something, such as our time, we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us through His teaching and bringing something to mind we need to remember. Our Counsellor is always there to show us Jesus’ way of obedience to His words. When I meditated on this verse, God brought to mind Jesus’ command to love God with all your heart and mind; and to love your neighbour as yourself. (Mark 12:30-31). Practically, how can we do this with our everyday time including some so very ordinary moments?

2. SEEK HIS WILL

Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

Jesus taught to be persistent in seeking God. Not giving up seeking takes faith, focus, and follow-through. When confusion from uncertainty sets in, especially when our plans unravel, we can ask God for wisdom, knowledge, patience and understanding. Practically we can full-heartedly go to His word. We may want to look up ‘plans’ in the concordance of our bibles and then SOAK in those scriptures. We will never know God’s plan completely for our lives, yet we can be directed on how to be obedient to His word. God’s word opens the door to His will for us to know Him better and be known.

3. LET GO AND TRUST GOD

First Corinthians 13:12 “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

In this time, we can only see what we are experiencing. We don’t see the eternal future that God knows. Like looking through a dark glass, we can’t see clearly what is ahead or make sense of what is happening now. Even in obedience using our spiritual gifts to serve others, we are not assured that our plans will come to fruition. We may become confused about what to do with our time or if we are to continue what we thought we are suppose to do! By letting go of trying to make sense of what is going on we place our plans in God’s hands who promises we will know Him fully when we are with Him eternally.

Never Give Up

Never give up asking, seeking, and trusting God, my friend! We will never be free of confusion on this side of eternity, but God’s plans are good!

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead or Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen Hebrews 13:20-21

What plans do you need to place in God’s hands today?

Linking up with Recharge Wednesday

Never a Threat

I am sure all of you had a different kind of Easter celebration than maybe ever before. At my house, I had a Skype call with my eldest and her family as they ate their first turkey dinner prepared in their home. Earlier that day I dropped of a gift of cupcakes and my roaster to my daughter, keeping the 6 feet social distance. For me, my granddaughter left on the porch step a ziplock bag of chocolate chips cookies she had made. Later today they’ve promised to drop off on my step turkey and a piece of apple pie left over from their Easter dinner.

During this time of social distancing, our front steps, our porches, our apartment doorways have become drop off zones of gifts, borrowed items, and left-overs.

I miss walking through doorways.

I look forward to the day when porches and doorways become again just a step before entering rather than the final destination they are today.

But for now, I’m called, like many of you, dear readers, to keep doors closed and stay in for the protection of life for others and myself.

Our Protector

May we always remember though too, we have another protector of life Who lets us through the doorway that brings us into God’s salvation.

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.” John 10:7

When we listen to Jesus’ voice and follow Him through the gate into His pasture, He not only gives us eternal life; we also immediately receive His gifts of forgiveness, love and guidance.

I am the gate, whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:9-10

Our Security

And He never abandons us no matter the threat.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:11

There is a threat currently in our physical world too tiny for the human eye. Yet, nothing is threatening to the One who overcame death. As we follow the guidelines of our governments and health officials, keeping our distance that may mean not opening our doors, may we hold on to our great Shepherd by continuing to do His work He has called us to and let Him work within us.

Now may the God of peace who through blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen Hebrews 13:20-21

Linking up with #TellHisStory

When all Seems Gone-“Peace be with you.”

Usually these weeks before celebrating Easter, our sermons, readings, and devotionals reflect the upcoming celebration of Jesus’ resurrection of the cross. This year Easter seems to have been buried beneath the current events. But Palm Sunday is still almost upon us, followed by the Holy Week. These words I post were written a year ago, however like all of God’s words, it’s message is timeless and timely.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came among them and said, “Peace be with you!” John 20:19

An empty tomb. 

The tomb which had held Jesus, their Saviour, their teacher, their friend, was empty. The broken body of their King, gone.

Peter and John, along with the other disciples (except for Judas for he had betrayed Jesus, and for Thomas who was not with them that day) drew together behind a locked door. John’s gospel teaches it was a first day of the week, and Peter and John had recently witnessed an empty tomb except for strips of linen, and the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head.

An empty tomb. 

Although scripture does not name the room where the disciples were hiding that day, bible scholars think it may have been the room upstairs where they stayed before (Act 1:13) and reference it as the Upper Room.

In the Upper Room that day, I imagine the disciples fear and sadness laced the air, along with the lingering smell of  bread and wine from their last supper when Jesus, their Saviour, their teacher, their friend was still there.

I imagine Peter feeling regret, the roosters crow still echoing in his mind.

I imagine John, tears flowing freely in grief and wondering how best to honour his Saviour’s request to take care of Jesus’ mother, Mary. 

I imagine, even though they huddled together, the room felt empty without the presence of Jesus whose love they had known. 

A love that now seemed gone, with an empty tomb while they huddled in that locked Upper Room. 

And, I imagine, all the disciples hoping they could have just one more day with Him. 

Then….

Then, He is suddenly standing before them. 

“Peace be with you,” He says. 

Peace be with you.

Even after all He had endured—whippings, a crown of thorns, a cross to carry, nails in His hands, and all the sin of the world upon Him…

His first words to His beloved disciples were to settle their grieving, fearful, and shameful hearts.

“Peace be with you!”

And “The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” John 20:20.5

Even when all seems empty, gone–a loved one, a job, a dream, a friend, a child moving out, consequences from a mistake- and your heart is grieving, may you remember Jesus first words to His disciples that day He appeared.

“Peace be with you.”

Those words are for you too, today and forever more.

Lynn J Simpson is just a gal doing life one step at a time. You can find more of her Breathing Spaces Photography at Lynn J Simpson Photography. You can also check out her publications at Publications.

Navigating the New Normal

Years ago I met a couple who had recently immigrated to Canada from India. They said one of the most odd things to them about Canadians was how they talked about the weather. For weeks it surprised them when taxi-drivers, teachers, or store-shop owners would say things like, “Crazy weather we’re having, hey?” or “Looks like it’s going to rain tomorrow.” When they realized how much the weather changed in Canada compared to India, they began to understand why Canadians chatted about the weather so much. Soon they found themselves also talking about the constant changing weather! 

Since then, I’ve tried to be more clever with topics rather than the weather when engaging in small conversations with others. 

On a zoom call with a friend this week we found ourselves talking about the obvious –Covid19–and stating how that is all anyone seems to be talking about these days! Our news, our social media feeds, our work emails are full of pandemic messages. Finally I asked, “Snow in spring, hey? I wonder when we’ll get a really warm day for the big melt?”

It is important to stay up to date to what is happening especially as, like the weather, changes are happening fast. My grandchildren left school on a Friday, all their belongings tucked away as usual, then told on Sunday night they would not be returning, possibly until September. Not even a chance to say good-bye to loved teachers and friends. A friend’s senior high-school daughter still has her grad dress hanging on the back of her bedroom door unsure now when or if it will be worn. And unfortunately due to a possible exposure, I was isolating when I received the news my sister ‘n law had entered hospice. I was not able to visit her before she passed away from cancer. 

Many sad stories are happening currently as we navigate this ‘new normal’ for time. 

Keeping it real, I must admit, I have felt anxiety over the uncertainties. It showed up as an upset stomach. So I knew I had to start getting my mind away from ‘what if’ and into the fruit of the spirt.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

Ten Ways I Calm my Anxious Mind

  1. Listen to Bonnie Gray’s PodCast – Breathe  http://bit.ly/2QlDORN 
  2. Watch Michael W Smith Live Worship Broadcast from his home. You can watch the recording here.
  3. Listen to a local radio station with only music, no news 
  4. Learning Art Journaling
  5. Making a cake just for the fun of it (even though it is just me and the cat in my home)
  6. Skype with my grandchildren as much as possible
  7. Plan Easter dinner where I’ll be having dinner with my kids via Skype
  8. Daily eating my vegetables, making my bed, and getting dressed (I haven’t been putting make-up on but know I will be grateful for the money I’m saving) 
  9. Watch for the chickadees that have recently started feeding from my bird feeder
  10. Intentionally find new subjects beyond today’s current events to talk about when connecting with others

My Go-To Psalm for Calm

Psalm 63

On my bed I remember you, I think of you through the watches of the night, Because you are my help, I sing in the shadows of your wings I cling to you: your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63: 6-8

So how is the weather in your part of the world?