Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Half a Century Reunion

I have not yet heard, but I suspect my fellow alums and I will celebrate our 50th high school reunion sometime this summer. My first thought is, "Egad, we can't be that old!" Almost worse is realizing I've been out of college for 46 years. Where did the time go? I may be 60-something, but I'm still just a kid inside.

At our last reunion 10 years ago, I told my fellow classmates I wanted to be a published author. Been there, done that − I'm still writing and now editing with some nice credits. I also wanted to see my sons settled both professionally and in their personal lives. That too has been accomplished with Chris finding Erin and becoming a quality engineer, and Ryan finding Katie as he transitions over the next couple of years from an emergency department RN to become a Nurse Practioner. This is all especially important to me because I promised my dear, late husband that I would do all I could to encourage our sons to complete their educations and find their way to a good life.

During this last decade, I have also anxiously awaited and hoped to become a grandparent. That's no surprise to anyone who knows me, and this year Chris and Erin blessed me with the cutest little grandson I could ever have imagined. He joins my adorable grand-dog Dan, and cute new grand-puppy Bernard. More things to check off my bucket list.

There are many other little positive endeavors along with some bigger ones for which I await the outcome, but I realize none of this would have been possible without divine inspiration and faith. After losing my soulmate, best friend, and husband before the last high school reunion, I could never have guessed these things might come to pass.

Even with accomplishments since the last get-together, and so many years having come and gone since high school, I'd like to think I've become a better human being. I'd also say most of that is because of my beliefs, and with help from above to make lemonade out of lemons.

While I'm sure we will exchange updates as to what we've been up to for the last 50 years (assuming the reunion actually happens), it's really who we've become that's most important. In another 50 years, most of our names will be forgotten. But real legacies aren't made from the things a person  accomplished from a bucket list, but rather by the person who did something to make a positive difference in whatever they did. It's that legacy my classmates have been working on that I'm eager to know. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

We're Like Modern Bronte Sisters, but Not Jealous!

Sometimes, we get a little glimpse of how things should be, and maybe even what they are like in Heaven. For instance, as I've grown older, a deeper appreciation of many things has ensued − I value people and experiences far more than possessions. One such example is the way I relate to my older sister who is also a writer.

Marsha became a writer (and a successful one) many years before I picked up the trade. Among her myriad works, she wrote a humor column for our local paper for many years along with countless historical books, both genres which are not my forte.

I, on the other hand, favor inspirational writing of most any kind. Making it into the Chicken Soup for the Soul Books was my dream come true, and I've been able to repeat the dream for a soon to be fifth  time. During my decade of writing, I've encouraged Marsha to also write something for one of their numerous publications. She finally did and was successful on her first submission. (Of course, that's not unusual for Marsha. Professionals readily recognize her professional work.) 

I can honestly say we support each other 100% in our craft. I was thrilled when her story was accepted in Chicken Soup for tor Soul: My Crazy Family (and no, I wasn't the subject matter). In return, she is also excited every time my work merits acclaim or acknowledgment. We also now often give the other a first look at what we write for any type of submission, although I probably do this far more than she because I will always consider her to be my mentor. Her feedback is spot-on and she is honest. If she tells me something needs to be changed, I value her opinion. If she says something is good, then I'm thrilled.

I suspect that Heaven has the same concept for all competition, and yes, I do hope there is some competition in eternity. That is often how we improve ourselves − seeing someone else accomplish something you want to do is a prime example of "it can be done." I surmise the difference in competition between Heaven and this world is what my sister and I experience in our writing. There is no jealousy for success, only genuine and loving support. And that is Heavenly!

As a final note, this is one piece of work for which my sister didn't get a first look. Surprise and thanks, Marsha!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

A Happy Easter and What It Teaches

There is a lot of talk about death surrounding Easter, and the time leading up to it. It's a difficult topic because I imagine there is nothing quite so scary to humanity as the end of being. Of course, for Christians, Easter is a time of joy because it promises the ending to this existence will be followed by a new and better kind of life.

When I was in grade school, we didn't have spring break. Instead, we had Good Friday and the Monday after Easter as holidays. Now, it's difficult to even find stores closed on the actual day of Easter. With so many people afraid to die, it's interesting that little consideration is given to the event that can alleviate that fear, or at least, most of it.

As a child, I couldn't understand why it was called Good Friday because, I surmised, it certainly wasn't good for Jesus! But now I believe two things: 1) If Jesus hadn't died, He could not have risen and there would be no point to Christianity; and 2) Jesus experienced what most of us have in our darkest hours. When He said, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" He wasn't questioning whether there was a God, but maybe only that He could not feel God's presence and wondered why He was still here. (I don't know for sure if that is the case; I'll leave that to the Biblical scholars.) We sometimes feel that way too, and it's our plea to "do something, God!"

Our pastor gave a sermon two weeks ago that included his experience as a former hospice chaplain. Many times, people were ready to die but could not understand why there were still here. His response was provocative − to show others how to die. I'm sure they would have preferred the Charles Dickens's version, "...if they be like to die, then let them do it and decrease the surplus population." Unlike Jesus who commended his spirit to God and then died, it's usually not our choice when that happens. The difference too is that Jesus knew what he was doing and why.

Sunday, I will celebrate Easter and rejoice in its message. I know that faith has made me a better person, not perfect by any means, but better because I've been shown how to live and how to die.

Happy Easter to the World!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Tragedy − Too Close

I heard a number of sirens, but not the gunshot that summoned them less than 30 yards away. Apparently that noise was muffled by my washing machine and dryer.

It's not unusual to occasionally hear the screaming of emergency vehicles on the thoroughfare nearby, even over TV or music. But after ten years, I only notice them if there are many, and Wednesday night, there were. Because the sirens were so incessant, at one point, I went outside to see which direction the vehicles were going. I didn't stay outside long enough to see some of them pull into my own small community of town homes. It was just a short time later that I received a phone call from the wife of the president of our home owner association to alert me, as a Board member, to what happened.

Like all horrific incidents, there is always speculation and misinformation. At first, it was thought a domestic situation resulted in the shooting, and we soon learned a fatality occurred. A few hours later, it was known to be a suicide. All of this occurred so close to my town home that I can easily see the unit from my patio. When the draperies were opened, the multiple and lingering flashing lights confirmed that something bad had, indeed, happened.

It was even more unnerving to me for another reason. Just the day before, I was walking my grand-dog and encountered two of the three people living there. It is a rental and on the street separated by our common ground between the homes. We said hello and spoke briefly, not knowing that the next day held such a devastating secret.

Our neighborhood is comprised mostly of live-in owners in addition to some rentals, so we often don't know the names of transient residents, or sometimes even when they move in or out. But the wonderful thing about human nature is compassion, even when you don't really know someone. Whether it is an epic event like 9-11 or a cataclysmic natural disaster, people come together and want to help. And that's just what has happened during the last 48 hours in our small community.

Of course, my first response was to pray for the unfortunate, departed soul, and also for those left behind; that's something I will continue to do for a while. Even so, at the same time, I am also most grateful for what God has instilled in us − the desire to care for one another. Simply put, tragedy often shows us the real reason we are here.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Why We Are Here

I have recently finished reading Dan Brown's book Origin. It asks two questions about our existence: Where did we come from?Where are we going?

The book, like many others by Dan Brown, has had some negative response, especially due to its main character Robert Langdon who is somewhat agnostic. But strangely enough, the character asks the question which all atheists should ask. In  the book, one of Robert Langdon's former students (Edmond) asserts, "...the laws of physics alone can create life."  And then the paragraph continues with "but for Langdon it raised one burning question that he was surprised nobody was asking: If the laws of physics are so powerful that they can create life...who created the laws?!"  Bingo!

We humans abide by a very linear timeline − things are finite in our world and we can't imagine how it all really began. But it did begin somewhere and many of us call that God. He created us and all that is. As I've said before in other blogs, I really don't care how God created everything, I just believe He (and Jesus, John 1:3) did it. 

Now as to the other question (spoiler alert), asking where we are going, it alludes to becoming one with technology. That part is a little more difficult to refute. Already, advances have created bionics and implants that help to assist and regulate our failing bodies. It's also no secret that at some point, earth will become over-populated, long before our sun becomes a supernova. Although these issues are in the future, I am more concerned with the ever-present question and answer of why we are here.

I do believe in science, and I do believe in God, so in the end, the question of our existence isn't really a problem for me; I simply believe we are here to care for our fellowman. And for me, that's what really counts. Oh, one more thing − I'll also keep reading Dan Brown's books for entertainment.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Ups and Downs

Just like the stock market, life has its ups and downs. Fortunately, most of us know how to weather the bad and enjoy the good. Christians, I think, are especially fortunate because we have faith "in our corner" to see us through whatever challenges we face, and grateful hearts for happiness. For me, the past week has held some very happy times, and I am savoring every detail as a blessing.

Last week, I was able to secure a SKYPE call for our Kansas Authors Club district with Amy Newmark, the Executive Editor and co-owner of Chicken Soup for the Soul. It was an incredible opportunity for our group as well as honor that she chose to make contact with us. Amy discussed what they look for in stories for their publication, and answered any questions we had.

Our scheduled 30 minute conversation turned into nearly one hour. During that time, Amy announced one of my stories was already chosen to appear in their annual Christmas book this year (which was a big surprise since they haven't finished accepting entries as yet)! It will be my 5th time in one of their anthologies, and I am excited and humbled with each selection. I know the call encouraged others in our group to make submissions, some for the first time, and it certainly made my day!

And then on Valentine's Day, our singles group from church gathered for lunch at a local restaurant after Ash Wednesday services. At the luncheon, these wonderful ladies gave me a "Grandma Shower" with fun items to keep at my home for when my new little grandson visits. The gifts included anything from toys and books to practical items such as bibs and spoons, photo album, pacifiers,clothing, and a teether-rattle. These friends knew how excited I was to become a grandparent and graciously asked to see photos too! (What grandparent doesn't like to indulge in that?)

In both of the scenarios, the key element was sharing − one shared helpful knowledge including information that elated me, and the other shared in my joy. Both were also great examples of how God sends others our way, whether in times of need or in times of happiness.

As a Stephen Minister in my church, we call ourselves care givers. God is the cure giver who uses us to provide physical presence of His love for the person who is facing a particular life challenge or experience. It is truly a blessing to be a servant in that manner.

So, as I contemplate this past week, I will file it away as one of blessings. I don't know what will follow tomorrow, next week, or next year. But whatever comes, I know there will be others sent by God to cross my path to give comfort or joy, depending upon whatever is my circumstance.

Friday, February 9, 2018

It's All Relative

When I was a preschool director years ago, I joked that I never enrolled a child of average intelligence. That statement alluded to what I often heard from new parents − "my child has above average intelligence." Sometimes that was actually true, but usually not.

There is something within most of us that doesn't want to be average, even when average is okay. We humans want to be unique, to be of special value, and the funny thing is the best way to do that is sometimes not to purposely try to stand out among the crowd. I'm thinking of Jesus.

Jesus was more than happy to teach us about God and how to live, but he did so without trying to stand out as special himself. He didn't brag, "I'm the son of God, so you better treat me like it!" Instead, it was his willingness to be part of the crowd that ultimately made him not just another face in it.

When my sons were young, I marveled at every accomplishment that was above average, or appeared to be. I even have a picture of my oldest son sitting up at 3 1/2 months. Now before anyone wonders, it wasn't that he had the strength or ability to do so. It was because he had such a round little belly, that when propped up, he only had one way to go and that was sideways! (Although sitting up wasn't really exceptional, he did begin to potty train early at 12 months, and that is true. He wasn't pushed; it was all his choice.)

A few days ago, this same son sent a picture of my grandson at just under 3 weeks of age. If I hadn't seen the picture, I would not have believed it − he's holding his bottle! It appears this isn't some fluke and is actually an exceptional feat, and I'm certain there will be many more such above average occurrences. But, while those of us who love him will smile with pride at whatever above average things he does, I'm hopeful he will be just one of the crowd who stands out because of it.