May 19, 2018

Hearts and Buds by Eunice Matchett


Winter has finally loosened its hold. The snow is gone, but behind it, is hours of work. Raking, mowing, trimming, the list goes on and on. A couple weeks back, when I was raking my front lawn, fatigue overcame me. I laid my rake down, by the forsythia tree, noting the expanding buds on the branches, and went inside to rest.

An hour later, I bent to pick up my rake, and wow, the buds on the top half of the tree had exploded into beautiful yellow flowers. I could not believe what I was seeing and stared at it like an enthralled child. In all my springs, I have never seen such a rapid transformation.

It took me back many years, to a little country school house that served as a church on Sundays, where I gave my heart to Christ. Although no buds exploded into blossoms that day, something awoke inside me that made me want to jump and run. Sadness that gripped my eight-year-old mind disappeared. I had a brand-new friend who loved me and lived right inside me.

Church became an adventure, rather than boring as it had before. Each week I learned a fresh dimension of my new life. At first the lessons were simple. David and Goliath, Esther, Ruth and Boaz. and how their experiences related to my own life. Later, I learned about the Paul’s life and how relevant his teachings are today.

No, life didn’t remain on such a high. I was eight years old and continued to get myself into trouble as I explored my boundaries. But my conscience sharpened. I grew a respect for ‘do not enter’ commands. Most of the time. Those times I ignored the silent red flags I suffered the consequences of my foolish actions. And regretted them, but not alone. Jesus stayed with me, offering forgiveness, and strength to refrain from making the same mistake again.

As years pass, the trials I encounter change. Some, I wonder how I survived, but no matter what happens, I am very aware that I’m not alone. Jesus is with me.  Regardless of how many times my own limited thinking has led me onto unstable ground, Jesus never turns away or gives up on me. All I need to do is ask Him for help.



May 18, 2018

Like A River - Gloria Guest

Water is a part of who I am. It winds its way like a river through my soul and cascades like a hidden waterfall  in my spirit. And so in thinking about this month's topic I couldn't get my mind off of a blog post I'd actually written about being a Mother  a few years ago. I thought of interchanging the words mother for writer and then, with Mother's Day just past and with me about to be a Grand-Mother again in just a few weeks, I  decided to take some poetic licence with this months topic and let you read it as it is. As it is, I find that most of my writing is relational and springs from my relationships with those God has placed in my life.
I hope that you will be able to also relate it though to writing and how we draw from a source greater than ourselves as writers.

A river also describes my spiritual journey. Creator God has taken me from a young child and poured his healing waters into my many cracks and broken, dry places bringing me to life again. Some days it feels  more like only a tiny rivulet breaking through but I have learnt that God can do mighty things with even that.  

Like a River

Motherhood has been compared to many things such as a budding flower or a sheltering tree but for myself, thinking back over my thirty years of being a mom, I see my experience of motherhood as being more like a river.

My middle name of Lynn, means cascade or waterfall so perhaps that is why I have always felt an affinity to water, rivers and water falls. But I’m sure it’s also due to the fact that I spent my formative years in Fergus, Ontario where the beautiful Grand River runs through the town first named Little Falls because of its scenic water falls downtown. [1] From there it travels through the quaint town of Elora where I spent my Junior High School years and spills into the Elora Gorge with its 22 metre high cliffs and where many a school truant spent their afternoons diving from the high rocks and swimming in the gorge’s deep blue waters.

My high school years were then spent in Athabasca, Alberta  where the fast-moving Athabasca River originating from the Columbia Glacier rushes through the town. Flowing along ice fields and through gorges, its banks home to many wildlife habitat [2], one can almost envision the fur traders that once traveled by canoe up and down its dangerous current.

Image
Standing beside the Falls of the Grand River flowing through Fergus, Ont. where I grew up.

To me, rivers are life-giving, steadfast, fascinating in their ebb and flow and determination to move forward no matter the obstacles in its path. Ever changing, the river flows from a source often larger than itself ; sometimes rushing, diverging and then converging again; other times cascading gently over small rocks and through gully’s to eventually turn off into a babbling brook running through the woods or even become the tiniest of rivulets breaking through a crevice. But always, whether it’s a mighty force or a small stream it flows onwards towards a definite course; winding gently around obstacles or grinding them down with its powerful current; the river simply never stops until it reaches its destination; a channel, lake or sea.

img049 (2)
Four generations 1990; last picture with mom

As a mother, I too have garnered my determination and adaptability from a source larger than myself, with God being my greatest source and the underlying current that has kept me moving steadily forward. However there have been other sources given to me by God to help me along the way; diverging streams that have joined eventually with my own, adding their energy and life-giving strength to my own, teaching me, guiding me with a wisdom that can only come from their own experience of motherhood.

I think of my grandmother who was in my life until she was 97 yrs. of age. I could never know as I was growing up, that her steadfast love of mothering her own six children through the depression years, and then becoming a doting, loving and joyful grandmother to myself and her other 23 grandchildren and eventual 55 great-grandchildren, would leave such an indelible mark on my life. But as I move further into my life I find that it has; her rich legacy winding its way into my mother heart and soul so that I often find myself thinking of her and how she would have viewed a particular trial or challenge. She has become a part of the river for me; a source of inspiration.

Her daughter, my mother, is the woman who formed, nurtured and loved me the most during my childhood years. Mom had many of her mother’s qualities of perseverance and courage. She too has been a source larger than myself for me even though she passed away while my children were still babies. Her diagnosis of cancer when she was only thirty-six years old and I sixteen became a twelve-year fight to overcome; through her example to live her life to the fullest despite her circumstances, I draw some of my strength and hope when I face circumstances that I feel are too much to bear. And in spite of her not being there to turn to while my children were growing up, I’ve often found myself repeating something that she did with me as a child or saying something she used to say to me to my own children. Our mothers are always a part of us; guiding us and moving us forward whether they are with us or not.

There can be many other sources larger than ourselves that we come to rely on for a season; perhaps a mentor, friend, sister or counsellor. Anyone who comes along and flows and bends with us through the curves of the river of life can be part of that underlying force that carries us on through those rough spots, teaching us how to persevere and either adapt and flow around a particular obstacle or grit our teeth and find a way through it. Eventually we will come out the other side, wiser, stronger, perhaps not as we had envisioned, but always moving forward, through the rocks and boulevards, steady, streaming, onwards towards our destination where we join with generations of mothers, just like ourselves. From there, with God as our constant source, we can flow into other streams and rivers; joining and supporting them along their path as a mother; like a river.
Introducing my grand-daughters to their new baby sister








Gloria Lynn writes and blogs from her home in Caron, Sk; where her husband, children and grand-children light up her world anytime that they come through the door.

May 17, 2018

Painting a Word Picture - Lynn Dove




























If I liken my writing process to painting a picture...


The canvas rests precariously on the easel.  In stark contrast to the room that surrounds it, it is bleached, devoid of colour.  It has so much potential where it is, but it will never be fully realized unless splashed with colour, meticulously or haphazardly applied, dependent upon the artist's whims.  It begs to be painted, the masterpiece vibrantly alive and vivid in the mind's eye of the artist, but she hesitates over the canvas.  The colours are right there in front of her, the brushes poised to be picked up, but she procrastinates again wiping her hands nervously on her smock. 


This is the most difficult part of the painting: the first stroke.  The whiteness of the canvas is, in many ways, pure perfection.  There are no mistakes to wipe off and away, no regrets, no tears upon it yet.  That first stroke will change it forever.  The experiences and will of the artist will be reflected upon it, the moment she begins to paint.  That is why she hesitates.  She knows what she wants to express.  She knows the colours and the shading she wants to incorporate into the piece, but will the masterpiece in her mind come to glorious fruition on the canvas?  Has she over estimated her abilities as an artist?  Does she have the talent, or the will, to express herself in such a way that anyone who gazes upon the painting will experience the same colourful landscape she sees in her mind's eye?  She is almost paralyzed with insecurity. 


Taking a deep breath, and whispering a sigh-like "help me" prayer, she dips her brush into the paint.  As soon as she makes that first brush stroke she is committed.  The painting takes on a will of its own.  The original picture she envisioned is changing before her eyes.  She adapts by adding hues, texture, and tones she hadn't originally thought about using.  It's not perfect but it's the imperfections that give it subtle essence and depth of perspective.  She steps away many times to pace, clear her head, and rethink what her next move will be. 


She forgets to eat, the clock on the wall ticks on rhythmically, keeping time with her brush strokes.  The light dims in her studio, but still she paints on. Reluctantly, she lets the brush drop when her eyes can no longer focus on the intricacies of the work before her.  She is spent.  The canvas is still wet.  Wiping her paint splattered hands off on her smock; she sees something out of the corner of her eye and wonders if she has time to add just a dab or two more of burnt umber to highlight the scene.  Shaking her head, she wills herself to walk away.  Tomorrow will come soon enough, and though the unfinished picture still burns in her mind, she forces herself to return to some kind of normalcy that is found just outside of her studio at day's end.  Sleepless nights and crazed days of painting, sap her of strength but she is driven to finish her work.  Her imagination now splayed in wild abandon, on the once bleached canvas, is uncontrolled and unbridled. No amount of coaxing can sway her from completing her task.  


Her family has been patient with her while she has felt the urgings of creativity pull her away from the chores of making dinners, vacuuming rugs and cleaning toilets.  Her paint projects always seem to take her far away from the trivialities of life.  Her family understands.  Subsisting on pizza and take-out while she paints, her family are her greatest cheerleaders.  It does not go unnoticed by her.  She will call them her precious inspirations.  When the painting is finished, framed and displayed on the walls of a gallery, she will trivialize her efforts in a humbling attempt to bring honour to the way her family sacrificed while she painted.  Until then, she is completely immersed in the project at hand. 


After what feels like a lifetime of effort, she jabs her brush like a rapier towards the canvas one last time.  With the conclusive splash of colour, she steps back exhausted and almost weeps at the finality of it.


In the days following the unveiling of her work, when others praise and critique her efforts, she will remember and recount the "help me" prayer lifted up in panic, moments before the first brush stroke.  She will acknowledge that without His Calling on her life, and His Gifting, she would not be able to generate the art before her. 


In the weeks that follow, there is a peaceful lull.  She cleans her studio, and her home.  She reacquaints herself once again with the routine of being a wife and mother and finds some tranquil satisfaction in her less flamboyant role as homemaker.  She all but abandons her paints and brushes in favour of this temperate existence until she remembers a new blank canvas with so much potential waiting for her in the studio.  A picture gradually develops in her mind's eye, and she cannot abandon the thought of it.  It beckons to her until she can no longer ignore the Call and she breathlessly murmurs another "help me" prayer before she once again begins to paint.




  
Lynn Dove is the award-winning author, of the YA “Wounded Trilogy”- a contemporary Christian fiction series with coming-of-age themes.  A wife, mom, grandmother, and free-lance writer with articles published in several magazines and anthologies including Chicken Soup for the Soul books, her blog, “Journey Thoughts” is a Canadian Christian Writing Award winner.  Readers may connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and at lynndove.com 


Note: this metaphorical story is an extension of what I posted last month.

May 16, 2018

Welcome to My Garden of Words by Nina Faye Morey





Spring is the time of year when everyone gets anxious to get outside in the fresh air and sunshine. Those of us who are gardeners have already been planning what to plant for months. We’ve been studying our seed catalogues throughout those last cold days of winter, choosing the seeds we want to grow. We may even have started germinating some seedlings indoors in preparation for planting. My favourite spring ritual is the annual trip to a local nursery to choose which flowers I want to transplant into my flowerbeds and flowerpots. The warm, moist, fragrant air; the sunshine streaming down; and the glorious rainbow of colours that greets you once you step inside the greenhouse is enough to cure anyone’s winter doldrums and awaken a yearning to create that prize-winning garden.




Writers are the gardeners of words. We spend plenty of time planning what to write. We read, study, and research the Scriptures and various writings, searching for those special seeds that inspire us and so titillate our senses that we want to plant them in our next nonfiction book or novel. We hope that if we do our groundwork properly and sow these seeds under just the right conditions, they will germinate and flourish. So we diligently toil to transplant them into vivid, descriptive words and sentences that will likewise captivate our readers. As a writer, I pray that I will be able to skillfully sow the seeds God has given me in such a way that they will grow and blossom in readers’ hearts, souls, and spirits.

Writing, like gardening, not only demands preparation, but also a lot of perspiration and patience. Beyond selecting what seeds to sow, we need to carefully prepare the plot in which to plant them if we want them to take root, sprout, bloom, and bear fruit. As Jesus explained to His followers in the Parable of the Sower, if seeds are sown into ground that is not properly prepared, they will not germinate and grow (Matthew 3: 4-8). We can’t just scatter our seeds indiscriminately; we first need to sketch an outline of our plot. Then we can plant them seed by seed, working our way methodically line by line, watering and fertilizing them with just the right components, so that the entire composition contains rhyme and reason. As we work section by section, according to our plan, we must make sure that each part contributes to the overall composition. Placing faith in our creativity, we work patiently to ensure these seeds gradually germinate and grow into an intriguing garden of words.




If we want our creation to develop and mature into a true work of art, it will require the sweat of our brow throughout its entire season of growth. And we will need the patience to labour on through several seasons if we want to create a perennial masterpiece. If we tend our creation carefully, it will flourish. If we fail to regularly water, weed, and fertilize, it will become dry, barren, and lifeless. Weeds may resemble pretty flowers at first glance, but they will overgrow and overshadow the beauty of our budding creation if allowed to proliferate. If we make no effort to uproot them, they will sap the strength and smother the life out of our precious creation. Therefore, it’s vital that we keep reseeding and reworking our garden of words over and over again until we’re absolutely convinced that we’ve created a beautiful piece we can be proud of. Then we may even dare to daydream about winning that coveted award or creating a work that will someday become a classic.







Photos: Pixabay Free Images

May 15, 2018

A Dramatic Metaphor - Tracy Krauss

"All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts."
As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 7
I couldn't help myself. I've been teaching Drama full time for almost eighteen years and seem to find a lot of useful metaphors from the theatre. This month we're talking about metaphors for writing, but this one applies to all of life. Specifically, I want to highlight two key principles of improvisation. (Side note: I'll be facilitating a workshop at the Fall Conference called 'Acting Up' which includes improv!
Good improv has few rules, but there are two basic ones that can make or break the success of any given session. They are: 1) the rule of agreement and 2) be a giver. 
The rule of agreement' simply means that the actor must 'buy in' to whatever is suggested by his or her scene partner. Some people mistakenly interpret this to mean "Always say yes," but it's a little more complicated than that. Without the rule of agreement, a scene can die a quick and often disastrous death. (I've given some examples below.*)
So it is in life. As Christians we need to 'buy in' to God's plan for our lives. This means we are acting upon what God is telling us, not necessarily what other people suggest. We can't always say "Yes" to people, but we must always say "Yes" to God, knowing He will bring about an outcome that will be just right for our lives.
'Be a giver' is the next most important rule in improv. It's not enough to 'buy in' to a suggestion on stage. It's each actor's job to provide information to keep moving the scene forward. If one actor is carrying the entire scene it begins to look lopsided. The 'giver' might even get tired and give up. When the actors work together, however, bouncing ideas off one another, it is a spectacular thing to watch.
This principle can also be applied to real life. We need to be supporting others in their journey, not always taking for ourselves. Being a giver isn't always easy. It can be hard work and sometimes it takes us outside our comfort zone, but in the end the rewards are great for everyone involved.
It reminds me of Jesus' response when He was asked which was the greatest commandment. In Luke 10:27 He said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind." This is a full scale 'buy in', just like the 'Rule of Agreement'. Then He goes on to say, "And love your neighbour as yourself." What better way to love other people than by being a giver?
_______________________________________
*Examples of the rules in action:
Peggy: Hi Grandma. How are you today?
Bill: I'm not your Grandma.
Done. Dead. Scene over. Nothing kills a scene more quickly than Bill NOT agreeing to
Peggy's suggestion that he is her Grandma. Boo! Let's do that over.
Peggy: Hi Grandma. How are you today?
Bill: Your meds are making you hallucinate again. I'm not your Grandma, remember?
Bill still isn't buying in, but at least he gave Peggy another avenue to carry the scene forward.
Peggy: Hi Grandma. How are you today?
Bill: Just fine, dearie, Come on in and I'll fix you some cocoa after I feed my pet rhinoceros. 
Okay... probably not what Peggy was expecting, but Bill bought in to her idea AND
offered new information that she now has to run with.
_______________________________


Tracy Krauss continues to write - and play theatre games - in her role as Drama teacher at Tumbler Ridge Secondary School. Visit her website for more: http://tracykrauss.com  
- fiction on the edge without crossing the line -