Monday, October 31, 2011

What to do with a Can of Spray Paint

Just as a screenplay deadline bore down this past week, a wild decorating urge hit me. Mostly because I had a family party coming up yesterday, and in addition, my daughter had stripped her room bare when she moved to the university this fall. The bare walls and shelves cried out for enhancement. But with two kids in college, the budget sure squeaks around here. So, what would I do?

Though I"ve never read it, I’ve always liked the title of David C. Barnette’s book, The Official Guide to Christmas in the South: or If You Can’t Fry It, Spray Paint it Gold. 

It’s not Christmas, and we don’t fry much around here, but I can’t tell you all I’ve done with two cans of silver and gold foil spray paint this week. I told my husband not to sit in one place too long or I might gilt his ears. 

My biggest inspiration was page 97 in my new Country Living Magazine. Sitting beside a Dennis and Leen wingback chair covered in Schumacher fabric was a gleaming silver occasional table perfect for Bethany’s room. The price: a mere $750.00.

Gulp. But, hmm, I already had a table similar to the one in the picture. And I had a can of silver foil spray paint. A few minutes later….Voila! Almost exactly like the one in the picture.

One thing led to another, and before long, I’d silvered picture frames, another table, and made a covered board for pictures. Her room perked up, and all I’d spent was a few dollars for fabric and $4.00 for a can of paint (Of course I used a craft store coupon).

Since my house is a frequent gathering spot for family dinners, I longed to do something different and seasonally appropriate for my table. The large acorns Jerry brought back from a coastal South Carolina swamp excursion caught my eye. After putting long hours in making final dialogue changes and tightening scenes in the screenplay, I set out to spray paint the acorns and hot glue them on to gold cord.

I cut lengths of plaid ribbon I’d plucked some time ago from the clearance bin at a fabric store, tied the ribbon on my napkins and then wrapped the acorn cords around the ribbon. 

I made the screenplay deadline, set an attractive table, and my daughter loved her room improvements so much I had to hold her back from plundering for her dorm room, again.

So, I guess Barnette is right. We do spray paint a lot in the south. 

As I looked around the table last night at the family gathered to celebrate a birthday, I gave thanks I could make things pretty for these dear ones, these sitting to eat in my home. Precious, precious memories.

And I gave thanks for the creative inspiration that comes from the author of all creativity: the one who thought us up, who gave us color, and beauty, and the intricacies of nature. “So God created man in his own image…”(Genesis 1:27). We are creative because God is creative. And whether we’re writing screenplays, or cooking dinner, or making our house a home, we do it because we are created in the image of God.

So, that was my weekend.

I still have half a can of paint left, though. I hate for it to waste. Maybe I’ll buy Barnette's book  and see what he suggests. After all, Christmas isn’t far off.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Great Conference Coming Up

For my readers who are also interested in writing pursuits, The East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers are having another of their wonderful writing conferences On November 11 and 12. This year, the speakers are historical Christian fiction author, Jennifer Hudson Taylor, prolific freelance writer, Edie Melson and I’ll be teaching four screenwriting classes.

For those of you in the Atlanta Metro area, the classes are easily accessible at Georgia Piedmont Technical College in Covington, GA. For those coming from a greater distance, the location is just off Interstate 20. 

The deadline for registration is November 1, so please visit the East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers website for more information and sign up today. There’ll be lots of networking opportunities, great classes, and also an opportunity for fifteen minute appointments with faculty.

Hope to see you there!

“Write down the revelation  and make it plain on tablets  so that a herald may run with it” (Habakkuk 2:2).

Monday, October 24, 2011

An Unusual Bird and the C Word

I looked up from my computer one day last week and at the feeder just outside my window, a bird I’d never seen before munched on black oiled sunflower seeds. 

“Who are you,” I said aloud, and pulled my well-worn copy of Peterson’s A Field Guide to the Birds East of the Rockies from the bookshelf. 

White bars on black wings and red chest feathers distinguished the bird from any I’d ever seen before. 

After some time of searching for the bird’s identity, I had to leave to make a short trip to a doctor’s office to learn the results of my dad’s recent prostate biopsy. 

When I met with the nurse, she didn’t even have to tell me. I could read it in her face. 

My dad, often the healthiest person in the family, now had cancer. And who would have guessed that both my husband and my father would have cancer in the same year.

I left the doctor’s office so sad, barely holding back the tears, and returned home to my computer. But unable to work, I could only sit staring at the new bird that seemed determined to empty the feeder of its contents. I picked up the bird book again and halfheartedly flipped the pages. Something caught my eye as a possibility, but seeking further confirmation, I did a Google search and yes, I'd found it.

The bird was a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Born just this year, he was shades away from his later brilliant plumage and currently resembled the female of the species, except his red chest was beginning to bloom.

I learned that having probably been born in parts north of here, he was headed to the West Indies, Central, or South America for the winter. 

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage” (Psalm 84:5). 

So that’s why he seemed to be gorging at the feeder. He was on a long journey. It amazes me how God equips these small creatures to fly great distances, and sometimes over great spans of water to reach their destination.

I thought of my dad, and the long journey he faced. The next verse in Psalm 84 reads, “As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs…” Baca means weeping. “They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.”

 My prayer is that as we travel through this hard place that we could find our sustenance in drinking the living water that only Jesus gives, that we will go from strength to strength.

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak stayed with me for three days before he headed south. I believe God sent him to my feeder the day I found out my dad had cancer, so that I’d not just remember the bad news, but I’d also remember this touch of grace from a God who knows what brings joy and comfort to our souls.

To learn more about the Rose-breasted Grosbeak and listen to his call, which Peterson says is like a Robin who's taken voice lessons, click here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness and Dancing

In the fall of 2003, the Athens Banner Herald newspaper asked for submissions for a section they were running for Breast Cancer Awareness Month called “Stories of Inspiration.” Specifically, they wanted people to write about the best thing that came out of their breast cancer. I had written the piece below in 2001 and shared it with a few friends. Several of them encouraged me to submit it. I was humbled when it was chosen to be featured in the section among so many moving stories. The picture below from the wedding of Jeff and Mary Crane Krutoy is used by permission of Wingate Downs Photography.

Just days before my scheduled mastectomy in June of 2000, our family decided to go ahead with an already planned short vacation to an island off the coast of South Carolina. Frankly, I didn’t even know if I could enjoy it with the surgery facing me the morning after we returned.

One evening while we were there, our young children, my husband Jerry and I were walking along a boardwalk on an inland waterway. There was a nearby band playing familiar music. Jerry and I found ourselves beginning to dance along the boardwalk under the stars while our children played at our feet. It seemed we were dancing right in the face of cancer.

This has become one of the sweetest memories of our lives together.

Our anniversary fell just a week after my mastectomy. How could we make the best of this situation? In answer to that question my husband went out to a local steak restaurant and picked up take-out dinners. As our children were entertained at a local pizza restaurant courtesy of a dear friend, we ate our take-out dinners on the good china in the dining room by candlelight.

After dinner we took out a CD we had purchased of the band we heard on our pre-surgery vacation. Somehow, I secured the two drainage tubes I had, and we danced unhindered by bandages. As we danced, we remembered the stars and the water from the week before, and God’s faithfulness to us in these days. It’s strange how God enables us to re-frame the difficulties of our lives.

When I think of mastectomy, I think of being held in my precious husband’s arms, and I think of dancing.

To this day, those sweet memories of dancing more than outweigh the memories of the difficulties I faced. God taught me during that time He truly does give us “…beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isaiah 61:3

Edited re-post

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

One Ringing Bell News Update: Up a Tree

This is the latest installment in a continuing series. For more Updates, click on the One Ringing Bell News Update or humor tab in the labels below this post.

Is it our imagination, or do our readers agree, that here at Ringing Bell Headquarters, we spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with Wilbur Varnado’s escapades?

It just so happened that one day this week, the entire Ringing Bell staff had the day off, except for one lone senior staff member. Well, of course, Wilbur picked that day to allow Aunt Lucy to chase him up one of the tall poplars at the rear of Headquarters.

“Help,” he yowled. “Somebody get me down.”

Mama Kitty, ever on alert, heard her son and scampered up the tree to his aid.

“Look, Wilbur, all you have to do is follow me.” She circled the trunk, stepping lightly, and shimmied down the tree with amazing speed.

When she reached the bottom, she looked up. “See, nothing to it.”

“I’m scared,” Wilbur cried. “I can’t do it.”

“Can’t never could,” Mama Kitty said. She stretched out on the ground and pulled on a fur tuft between her toes. After spitting it out she said, “Listen Wilbur, you have to face your fear. You’ll never get out of that tree standing up there howling.”

It’s at this point Wilbur resorted to doing what most do when caught in a tough situation. He bargained.

“If someone will get me down, I promise not to steal any more of the fish’s food. I won’t stalk Isabelle on the stairs. I won’t bite Charles Varnado’s fuzzy poodle tail…” he paused, “I won’t bite Charles Varnado’s fuzzy poodle tail very often…”

“Okay, Wilbur, I’ll help,” the lone staff member said. She proceeded to drag a painter’s ladder over to Wilbur’s tree. But even after climbing up, clinging to the tree, standing on the step clearly marked, “Do not stand on this step,” and extending her hand as far as she could, she could only reach Wilbur’s toe tips.

Wilbur howled even louder. "I'm never going to get out of this tree."

“Now, hold on,” she said. After thinking a moment, she climbed back down, grabbed a chaise lounge cushion,  ascended once more, and tied it in the tree thinking it might cushion a jump to a lower limb.

Wilbur ignored it. “I’m scared,” he cried again.

She then wrestled a long curtain rod pole out of a storage building, again scaled the ladder and used it to bridge a span from the limb Wilbur was on to a lower limb in a neighboring tree. Wilbur did somehow muster the courage to cross the span to the lower limb. But alas, still found himself gripped by fear.

There was so much stuff hanging up in the tree, Ringing Bell neighbors later commented they thought the Swiss Family Robinson had moved in next door. 

How would Wilbur ever get out of the Poplar tree?

The staff member prayed, “Lord, we need your wisdom here at Headquarters. How can I help Wilbur get down?”

Then, a thought crossed her mind. Stand on a ladder and pull the lower end of the limb down so Wilbur can see your face.

She did, and Wilbur who had previously been too scared to walk out more than a few inches on a limb, crept all the way to the end and the staff member grabbed him.

We’re all resting here at headquarters after such an ordeal…

…but meditating on the lesson we learned through Wilbur’s adventure.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:2)

“Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus” (Matthew 14:29)

Signing off for all at Ringing Bell Headquarters. Check with us often for more from the critters you've come to know and love.

Friday, October 14, 2011

New Christian Writers Group

For some time now, I’ve felt God calling me to start a Christian Writer’s Group in this area. When I taught at the Harriette Austin Conference this past summer, a strong contingency expressed interest in meeting with other writers working in the inspirational market.

On a rainy fall evening, a few of us gathered last night for our first meeting. As I wrote them this morning in an email, I’m amazed at how strangers can come together in a room, and because they have Jesus in common, they can leave that room feeling like family. We even had one participant who traveled 200 miles to be with us.

I remembered this verse from Zechariah 4:10, “Who dares despise the day of small things…”

Yes, though small in number, I believe we were mighty in spirit, because of the presence of a loving God who chose to join us. And who knows what God may do through the work produced through these dear folks committed to pursuing Him? Our purpose is to support, encourage, provide writing instruction and links to writing opportunities for those who participate.

I once told Yvonne Lehman, who founded the Blue Ridge Mountain Conference that she would only know in heaven the millions she’s touched through her commitment to encouraging other writers.

If you live in our area in the Southeast, and sense a call to write for the Lord, would you consider joining us as we meet again the last week in this month? You may contact me through my website to find out more.

Many blessings, 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Tea Olives and Heaven

As I walk in my neighborhood, I notice the distinctive fragrance of tea olives. I remember that smell from fall ten years ago. In the evenings, I used to drop my daughter off for gymnastics practice at a gym located in a park near our home, then I’d walk through the tea-olive-filled park to the nursing home to see my mother. I visited her several times a day. She was so sick, dying of cancer. Each evening, I’d move from the intoxicating smell of the tea olives to the nursing home smell, which was not necessarily bad, but different.
Mom and I

My mother didn’t want to be there. She wanted to be home. Home hadn’t been an option for her in quite a while with so many difficult health issues. I felt helpless in the face of a cruel disease that was slowly stealing her life. I’d just sit by her bedside praying, her moments of lucidness becoming fewer and fewer.

On a Saturday night in early October, as I was preparing to go to bed, I dropped to my knees and asked God to heal her or send his angels to take her to be with him. Her pain seemed excruciating, her quality of life so diminished. I put her in His hands, and crawled into an empty bed, because my preacher husband was out of state for a few days ministering at a family camp.

I went in to see Mom early Sunday morning and found her unusually alert. I asked if she wanted some applesauce. She’d eaten so little lately. Unable to speak because of a stroke, I was surprised when she nodded her head.  I fed her the sauce and sat down. Then she did something so bizarre. She began to look up at the ceiling all around the room. I couldn’t understand what she was seeing. I got up to check if there was a spider or bug crawling along the top of the wall.

I kept saying, “Mom, what is it? What are you looking at?” She just continued the wide eyed staring at what I couldn’t understand. A friend came in; we visited a little longer, then my friend and I prepared to leave for church.

“I’ll see you a little later,” I told Mom. Mom briefly acknowledged me with her eyes, and then resumed her intense study of the room’s periphery. What in this world was she looking at? I thought as I walked to my car.

The minister filling in for my husband at church that morning  concluded his sermon by saying, “There are some things you can’t fix, but when God fixes them, they stay fixed.”

As his words lingered in my brain, I left with my children after church to have lunch, and as we finished, my cell phone rang. It was the hospice representative calling to say my mother had just died.

There were things about my mother most people didn’t know--difficult private battles which she’d fought with great courage. Now all those terrible battles were over. I knew then the last time I’d been in her room, she hadn’t been looking at anything in this world. She’d been staring at angels--a room full of them that’d been sent to accompany her into the presence of the Living God.

Paul wrote in II Timothy 4:18 of his confidence that the Lord “…will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.” My experience with my mother on the day she died cemented my confidence in God’s promise of heaven as nothing else ever has.

Yes, it has been ten years ago this week since my mom made that trip to heaven. I’ll go walking again tonight and catch the scent of the tea olives, but I’m just wondering if maybe in some way they are the smell of heaven itself. And the pastor was right, I couldn’t fix my mother’s situation, but God has fixed it for all eternity.

edited re-post

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I Stand By the Door

Just after I gave my life to the Lord, I came upon this verse in Psalm 84:10: “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” A short time later, I discovered a poem, which gave new insight into the verse. I was thinking about this poem a couple of days ago when I learned that it was one of the readings for this week in the liturgical year. Samuel Shoemaker, co founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, wrote “I Stand by the Door.” It’s one of my favorites.

I Stand by the Door

I stand by the door.
I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out,
The door is the most important door in the world-
It is the door through which people walk when they find God.
There’s no use my going way inside, and staying there,
When so many are still outside and they, as much as I,
Crave to know where the door is.
And all that so many ever find
Is only the wall where a door ought to be.
They creep along the wall like blind people,
With outstretched, groping hands.
Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door,
Yet they never find it …
So I stand by the door.

The most tremendous thing in the world
Is for people to find that door–the door to God.
The most important thing any person can do
Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands,
And put it on the latch–the latch that only clicks
And opens to the person’s own touch.
People die outside that door, as starving beggars die
On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter—
Die for want of what is within their grasp.
They live, on the other side of it–live because they have not found it.
Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it,
And open it, and walk in, and find Him …
So I stand by the door.

Go in, great saints, go all the way in–
Go way down into the cavernous cellars,
And way up into the spacious attics–
It is a vast roomy house, this house where God is.
Go into the deepest of hidden casements,
Of withdrawal, of silence, of sainthood.
Some must inhabit those inner rooms.
And know the depths and heights of God,
And call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is.
Sometimes I take a deeper look in,
Sometimes venture in a little farther;
But my place seems closer to the opening …
So I stand by the door.

There is another reason why I stand there.
Some people get part way in and become afraid
Lest God and the zeal of His house devour them
For God is so very great, and asks all of us.
And these people feel a cosmic claustrophobia,
And want to get out. “Let me out!” they cry,
And the people way inside only terrify, them more.
Somebody must be by the door to tell them that they are spoiled
For the old life, they have seen too much:
Once taste God, and nothing but God will do any more.
Somebody must be watching for the frightened
Who seek to sneak out just where they came in,
To tell them how much better it is inside.
The people too far in do not see how near these are
To leaving–preoccupied with the wonder of it all.
Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door,
But would like to run away. So for them, too,
I stand by the door.

I admire the people who go way in.
But I wish they would not forget how it was
Before they got in. Then they would be able to help
The people who have not, yet even found the door,
Or the people who want to run away again from God,
You can go in too deeply, and stay in too long,
And forget the people outside the door.
As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place,
Near enough to God to hear Him, and know He is there,
But not so far from people as not to hear them,
And remember they are there, too.
Where? Outside the door–
Thousands of them, millions of them.
But–more important for me–
One of them, two of them, ten of them,
Whose hands I am intended to put on the latch.
So I shall stand by the door and wait
For those who seek it.
“I had rather be a door-keeper …”
So I stand by the door.

"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20).

Monday, October 3, 2011

Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees finally available

I received a sample copy of my book, Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees, in the mail this past Friday. I sent a picture of it to several family members, but told them it wouldn’t be available for several more weeks. 

Out of curiosity, I checked on line this afternoon and found that as of today, it is indeed available. It’s offered at various retailers, but the best price seems to be here for both the ebook and paperback. 

It’s been a long journey, and even though the book sits on my desk, it still doesn’t seem real. Many thanks to so many of you who’ve prayed for me during this process. Please continue to pray that the book will bring hope and encouragement to all who read it.

May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands (Psalm 90:17).

For His Glory Alone,

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