The Gift of Today

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens… Ecclesiastes 3:1

Bridal Wreath in WinterWhen I was a child my family lived in Hobbs, New Mexico, where it rarely snowed. Wintery weather was always a surprise. I remember coming out of church on a Sunday morning with a pristine layer of white covering everything. The overlay muffled sound and made me think the whole world had gone eerily silent and peaceful, fresh and new. Today when I got up and looked out the window, I thought about those yesteryear gifts of winter and related it to how God works in my life. He muffles the noise of discontent and negativity and makes all things new and fresh. He covers me with forgiveness, and creates in me a renewed spirit, one able to be compassionate and merciful, eager for the next amazing moment along the journey that is my life.

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Bridal Wreath in Winter (c) 2016 Sharon Vander Meer

Carols – 3rd Poem of Christmas

Carolers

Call out! Shout for joy!
Advent tells of a baby boy,
Reigning not as a regal king.
One babe in the manger, that’s the thing.
Live, love, laugh, dance, sing and shout,
Sharing His love, that’s what Christmas is about.

_____________________

These ceramic Victorian carolers have been part of every Christmas since my son was a toddler. He’s now 42. My, how times flies. Have a blessed Christmas.

Q&A With Lisa Ellison: Paying it Forward

Lisa Ellison headshot-1Q. In one sentence who is Lisa Cooper Ellison?
A. I’m a person who believes in the power of stories and the importance of helping others.

Q. Your bio says you come from a family where everything is communicated through a narrative arc. Talk about what that has meant to you as you make career choices.
A. I come from a family with a strong oral story telling tradition. We spent a lot of time telling tales during Sunday dinners at my grandmother’s house.  I was particularly fascinated by her ability to bring stories to life through voices, pauses, and unusual vivid descriptions.

I don’t know when I fell in love with writing, but I have many memories of sitting on my bed as a teenager composing poems or short stories. I studied creative writing while getting my bachelor’s in English, but chose to pursue jobs in the helping professions because it seemed more secure. I continued to write and read in my spare time. When I contracted Lyme disease and had to slow down, I reflected on how quickly life changes and the importance of following your passions. Deep down, I knew that writing would heal me. And, it did.

Q. I was drawn to your work by the article you wrote about your brother. It was moving, painful, and real. Talk about where you had to go inside yourself to write that article.
A. I felt led to write the article “My brother had mental health issues and committed an awful crime. But I love him,” for The Guardian, because the number of families experiencing similar losses was increasing. I wanted to join the conversation regarding mental health crises in order to help those who grieve difficult losses and to challenge some of the misguided viewpoints regarding the complexities of addressing mental health problems.

Writing the article required me to tap into the intense grief I felt regarding my brother’s death, courage to speak publicly about such a personal event, and compassion for my brother, his victim, my family, and everyone this incident touched.

Q. Your writing and blogs convey a desire to provide hope and help. Talk about why this is important to you as a writer and as one who has had to cope with illness and loss.
A. Throughout my life I’ve experienced some significant struggles, including leaving home at age 17, my brother’s suicide, and contracting chronic Lyme disease. Many people provided assistance and hope at crucial moments. Now,  I try to pay forward the gifts I’ve been given. Writing is an effective tool for transmitting hope.

Q. I am intrigued by your description of the book-length memoir you are working on. Tell briefly the premise of the book and why you were inspired to write it.
A. I contracted a debilitating case of Lyme disease, which was complicated by an MTHFR gene mutation, at age 38, the same age my mother was when she became disabled by a fall at work. She struggles with a variety of complex health conditions including lupus, gastro paresis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Her mother retired at 58 and also struggled with unexplained symptoms and diseases, as did her mother before her. After leaving home I was compulsive about my health and determined not to get sick like them. But then I did. When I found out that part of the problem was in my DNA, I knew it was time to write a book.

This memoir takes place in Elmira, New York, a town devastated by massive flooding during Hurricane Agnes in 1972.  The place never recovered, which makes it an apt setting for a memoir about seeking higher ground. On a microcosmic level, the story is a coming-of-age tale about my life in two households—one with my grandmother who never let me leave the house and one with my mother who had a more free-range approach. On a macrocosmic level, it’s a story about the jobs and opportunities that receded with the floodwaters, leaving behind a murky world where unemployed fathers looked to the local prison for opportunity, mothers joined the workforce, and everyone had their desperate and beautiful ways trying to find hope.

Q. What is mindfulness-based writing, a writing discipline you teach?
A. Mindfulness-based writing is a practice that helps writers silence their internal editors, generate more work, and tap into their authenticity. It combines mindfulness meditation, free association writing, and the sharing of unedited work, which often contains kernels of the writer’s deepest truths.

Q. Other than financial, in what ways is being an editor rewarding and satisfying.
A. There’s something magical about helping writers find their voices and develop their ideas into something that adds to the larger conversation about our world.

Q. You are in remission from a mini-bomb of illnesses that led you to create the Body Inflamed website. What has this meant to your healing, and what reactions have you had from readers?
A. During the throws of my illness misery, I made a promise to myself that I would help others if I got well. Body Inflamed is my way of fulfilling that promise. I’m amazed by the courage I’ve seen from writers who contribute to the Messages of Hope section, and the words of encouragement and gratitude I’ve received from those who also struggle with chronic illness. People struggling with chronic illnesses have incredible perseverance, though they are often underestimated. It’s part of why I want to celebrate their voices.

Q. In what ways has writing changed who you are, or has it?
A. Writing helps me make sense of the world and myself.  If anything, writing allows me to be my authentic self.

Q. As a freelance writer, what is the best advice you can give other writers about getting published?
A. • Read and write a lot
• Understand your intentions for writing a story or article. Once they’re submitted, they belong to the world.
• Treat your subjects with love and kindness
• Expect to get rejected A LOT
• Don’t take rejections personally—they may not be a reflection of your work
• Stay humble and be willing to revise one more time
• Always meet your deadlines
• Treat editors with the utmost respect.

Q.  What are you currently working on and how can readers reach you online?
A. I’m working on second draft revisions for my book and a few short essays. I also provide editorial feedback on essays, short stories, and book-length projects  and co-facilitate a mindful writing group.

There are three  ways to contact me:
·      Check out my website: www.lisacooperellison.com
·      Send me a message through the contact page on my website.
·      Join me on twitter @LisaEllisonspen

Because He Has Promised

Fall Trees on the River Walk

 

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:13

There have been too many times
in my life when I thought I could do “it”
– whatever “it” was at the time –
all on my own.

And yet I know
anything I am able to do
comes from placing
the outcome in God’s hands.

My blessings abound.
My courage is like a mantle when I need it.
My gifts are abundant,
all because of God’s generosity and strength.

Without Him I am nothing.
With Him I am able.
I can do all things for which he has prepared me,
not because of anything I am capable of doing.

But because he has promised
to be with me in all times and places.
I am grateful.
He makes all the difference in my world.

Be truly glad

Be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead! 1 Peter 1:6Dawn Las Vegas, NM

Treat every day as more than “everyday”. Make it count. Reach out to someone in need. Lift them up. Give God thanks and praise and look for the joy in life. There are countless reasons to be glad and few reasons to be sad, yet we let the sad and bad times rule. God has a plan. We have a purpose. When we embrace this truth we begin making choices to celebrate and give thanks. No one has a perfect life, but we do have perfect moments. Gifts of grace. Melodies of joy. Whispers of peace.

I Believe in Miracles

Getting BetterOur great granddaughter was frighteningly ill, and now she is on the road to recovery. I believe with all my heart that God is watching over her. The doctors now believe she was in early stage SIDS (Silent Infant Death Syndrome). Thankfully her dad responded quickly, the ambulance service arrived in a timely way, and doctors immediately hooked her up to all the life saving devices her little body needed. This was taken this afternoon. She’s a little tired of the poking and prodding by the doctors and nurses, and just wants to go home.

Most important, she is on the mend and responding well to treatment. I can only say, “Thank you Lord, and thank you to every single person who prayed for her, the medical team, and our family.”

Hug your kiddo today.


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Follow Sharon at:
www.vandermeerbooks.com
https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks
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Encourage one another…

And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.  1 Thessalonians 5:14

EncouragementIt is good to encourage others. By doing so, we are encouraged as well. When we reach out to help someone who is struggling, we understand that at some point we, too, will need help. Find the good in your neighbor. Look for the talents in your friends. Tell someone how much you appreciate them. Draw strength from being patient and understanding. Kindness builds character.

You never know when your encouragement will make a difference in the life of another person. Anne Mansfield Sullivan did not give up on Helen Keller. She encouraged her, instructed her, and brought discipline into her life. She gave Helen hope, which put an end to her unruly behavior and gave her a future. Helen overcame her limitations and became world famous for her advocacy for the blind. “We are never really happy until we try to brighten the lives of others,” she wrote. Keller understood perhaps better than most that encouraging someone else has a personal benefit to the one who gives it.


Thank you for being a reader/subscriber. It is my goal to present informative, interesting and creative content on this site. Your likes, shares and comments are welcomed and hugely appreciated.


Follow Sharon at:
www.vandermeerbooks.com
https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks
Amazon Author Central

Hope and Faith

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Romans 5:10 NIV

The PathJesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. I also know it because I have experienced God’s love time and again. He loves me not because I have deserved it or earned it, but because he is a loving and compassionate God whose love was revealed in the most earth-shaking way imaginable. Through Christ’s sacrifice, I am assured of pardon. Through his resurrection, I have hope. All the realities of life that trouble me are as nothing before the Lord. I have made countless mistakes. Made many foolish choices. Been irresponsible and thoughtless. Through it all I have never doubted God’s love for me. I may have questioned, “Why me, why now?” but I have always known and know now, that I am forgiven, redeemed, and saved. His grace abounds, even in this broken world, even in my broken life.

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Happy Easter

Happy EasterBut I will restore you to health and heal your wounds. ~ Jeremiah 30:17

In what ways are you wounded? Is it physical hurt? Mental? Emotional? Rejection? Fear? Neglect? Stubborn disregard for others? Hate? Jealousy? Greed? All of the above? We all have been wounded. We aren’t required to carry those wounds forever. If we’re not careful, our wounds can rule our lives. The scars they leave may be evident or hidden, nettlesome hurts that grind away little by little until we lose faith. Give up hope. Stop caring. That’s what wounds do. There is One who cares deeply about us. His care and love was demonstrated in a most profound way; His son was wounded for each of us. Christ’s death, the death of our sins. The good news is that he overcame the grave as we can overcome our wounds. The healer is waiting to heal. Trust in him. He is risen. World changing news that resonates, not with hate but with forgiveness, compassion, love, mercy, and acceptance. Nowhere does it say that Jesus died for a select few; he died – and lives – for all. Have a blessed Easter day.

Playing with the camera

Yellow DeterminationPhoto 1: Yellow Determination. Why? For some little while, I didn’t think these lovely harbingers of Spring would ever be anything but leaves, but here they are, bright and beautiful. I have a row of them waiting to open. Anticipation, a great stimulus to creativity.

Photo 2: From a background of resting stems and dead leaves, this purple beauty and new green growth emerge, sure signs of warmer weather. I REALLY must get out the rake and start tidying up the yard, and yet… the spontaneous music of an untended garden sings to me, riotous and rollicking, laughing at winter, God’s great gift of resurrection.Purple Spring

Photo 3: These are three different kinds of succulents. I don’t know where I got them, but I never expected to see them again. Last summer was their first season in the patio pots, and here they are, back again. What a delightful surprise! If I’d known they were going to be this hardy I might have installed them as ground cover. Maybe this year? Assuming I ever get to work in the yard.

Coming to LifePhoto 4: We have a “rainbow catcher” in our kitchen. At least that’s what I call it. It is solar activated, turning and turning throwing rainbows of color across our breakfast time, making us act and feel like children. “See! There it is. Isn’t it beautiful?” Our eyes chase the hues as they land on the wall and then the ceiling and off the mirror in the living room. We’re treated to a carousel or light. I caught this slice of rainbow resting on a copper plate mounted on the wall. In the next photo you can see the plate in context.

Photo 5: The collage of images is an eclectic grouping. Each image speaks to me Catching a Rainbowseparately and collectively. The wreath of eucalyptus still has – after several years of hanging there – a distinctive aroma. My friend Kathy, gave me the cross for Christmas one year. The horizontal post reads “Journey,” and the vertical post is the Jeremiah 29:11 scripture: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to proper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” The fruit collage is tin art, a funky fun piece that makes me smile. The San Pascual Baylon retablo by Peter Lopez, has the following message on the back:

CorneredSan Pascual Baylon, 1540-1592 A shepherd who became a Franciscan lay brother and worked in the dining room or as a door keeper; very devoted to the Eucharist. Patron Saint of the kitchen, cooking, shepherds and sheep. He is also said to guard against a sad spirit. “May the Lord bless and protect you.” Tio Pedro 6/93

Lovely, yes? And I think it works; I rarely have a sad spirit.

The Aztec calendar copper plate was rescued from the basement of my husband’s office right before we sold the building several years ago. It fits that space just right. You can see the “rainbow” on the copper plate to the left of center.

These items serve no purpose other than to make my workspace cheery, and remind me of good friends, laughter shared, and the joy of life.

Playing with the camera is always fun. It’s even more fun to share the experience. I hope you enjoyed this post. Please comment, share and like. I will greatly appreciate it!