Friday, February 27, 2009
I was the mom who invited someone over, handed her the baby, and did the dishes, because it was easier to ask for help holding the baby than help doing the dishes. Or the mom who had a friend over and visited with her for a few hours without working up the guts to say, “Can you help me please?” And then when she left, I definitely felt better for having had someone to talk to, but the dishes and other chores were still staring at me.
Why is it so hard for us to ask for help? Or perhaps I should say, easier to give help than to receive help. A fellow blogger commented on this a while ago and got me thinking. She also struggles with asking for help, and found a unique solution in a few neighbourhood kids who needed a place to hang out. Like her, I’m quite okay with helping others. I’ll volunteer to clean, cook, pull weeds, hammer nails, whatever needs doing. But asking someone else to do that for me? That’s much harder.
I enjoy posting stories of Good Samaritans—complete strangers who have helped me, even though it was out of their way or cost them time or money to do so. Yet often, those are incidences when I had no choice but to ask for help. I mean, when I’m stranded on the side of the road with no gas in my Jeep and a baby on my hip, I’m not going to say, “Oh, that’s okay, don’t bother, I don’t need your gas.” I DO!!!
Recently, my husband and I were very excited to hear that there was a dance instructor starting dance classes here in our small town. The only problem was—we’d have to find someone to watch Sunshine while we were dancing. A friend of mine said no problem, and so for the past several weeks, we’ve dropped Sunshine off at her place to play with her kids for an hour or so. We keep asking her what we can do to thank her for her help, and she keeps smiling and saying it’s no problem. Sometimes I wonder why we can’t just take her at her word, why we feel the need to pay her back, make it even.
Maybe it’s because we grow up with the message that “it’s better to give than to receive.” Or maybe it’s a fear of being rejected, of not getting the help that we request. I know that, at times, I’ve wanted help but felt that I had to do things myself, because even if I asked for help, I wouldn’t get it. Yet more often, I think it’s pride. We want to be strong, capable, generous. Asking for help implies weakness somehow—the admission that we need others.
And yet as I think about our life as Christians, I realize that God made us to need each other, and that He created us to meet those needs. In the very beginning, Adam was alone in the garden and needed someone: Eve. That doesn’t make her his slave; they need each other, complement each other, are better together than they are alone. In the New Testament, Paul talks about the body of Christ being like a human body, where the hands need the eyes and the mouth needs the stomach, and no Christian should be able to say to anyone else, “I don’t need you.” We all have gifts and we’re called to serve the Church with those gifts—and yet also to be willing to let others serve us with their gifts. As Jen says, “to truly live the Christian life of agape is to seek to serve others... but also to let others do the same for us.”
So I guess I’ll work on graciously accepting help when I need it... saying “thank you” with my whole heart, and using my gifts to help others as others have used their gifts to help me.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
He says, “In terms of any input into people's lives over the years, whether it was directing Bible camps, preaching from the pulpit, visiting the sick or shut-ins, or discipling young believers, it seems that the greatest impact is through my writing. So I press on, always looking for more windows to open, more doors to walk through, and ultimately, a strong desire to write full-time.”
How did you become a writer?I took Journalism 11 back in high school and that hooked me on writing. Part of my assignment that year was to write a regular column in the school newspaper, and I found that I had a lot of fun. From there, I wrote for a community college paper, starting writing and editing gospel tracts, wrote gospel columns for years in two community newspapers in 100 Hundred Mile House and Kamloops (both in BC), while I was in ministry there. Somewhere during that time I had been challenged by one of my brothers: he felt he saw no proof of my being a writer, so I felt compelled to go out and prove him wrong—by starting to write more seriously!
What inspires you to write?Let me work with the metaphor of preparing a meal: It is a matter of pulling in all the ingredients and creating something delectable. It also helps when the 'hunger' is satisfied and the (r)eaters want seconds. (I have absolutely no idea where this metaphor is going!) In a directly writing context, I guess I get inspired when there are positive or even effusive responses, and I do get a lot from my various contributions. That really helps me write better and strive higher. Over the years, I have had so much encouragement from my tracts, columns, calendar devotions, and essays that I feel inspired to carry on this stewardship.
What author do you admire and why?Two authors come to mind, and both are secular: Pierre Berton and James Michener. I am looking at these men strictly as writers, not theologians! I have a fairly good idea where they are relative to God, heaven, salvation and the church, and I am not impressed in the least! However, as writers they both move history and move me. When I read them, I feel that history is happening before my very eyes, that I am there with them, and not merely as a spectator (i.e., observing reader).
Monday, February 23, 2009
Thus opens Golden Keyes Parson’s debut novel In the Shadow of the Sun King. The Clavells are Golden’s ancestors, and the story is based upon an ancient genealogy she discovered, telling of the persecutions her family faced under Louis XIV. Her imagination took over from there, and historical research supplied the rest of the facts. The novel was fascinating for its details of the everyday life of French nobles in the seventeenth century and of what life was like in the court of the Sun King. I thoroughly enjoyed Golden’s descriptions of Versailles, with its constant construction and ever-expanding gardens.
Madeleine arrives at Versailles in an attempt to request Louis’ favour for her family. She’s banking on his previous love for her—a love that she ran from, realizing that Louis would never marry her and that she couldn’t be just his mistress. Yet perhaps her husband and mother know Louis better than she does, for they try to dissuade her from going to Louis. Stubbornly, Madeleine believes in her girlhood love, and at first, Louis is delighted to see her and to remember that love too. But when Madeleine refuses to give him any favours in exchange for the one that she asks, Louis retaliates with all the vengeance of a rejected lover and all the power of the king of France.
As the Clavell family is torn apart and dragged to all the corners of France, they must rely on their faith in God to carry them through. At times, this faith is real, as when Madeleine cries out to God in the feeling that her prayers aren’t answered. At other times, the faith seemed written for the story and was a bit too polished. Towards the end of the novel, Pierre, one of Louis’ courtiers who has also fallen in love with Madeleine, converts, and while his conversion is expected, it is a little too perfect. Golden also supplies some facts about the Huguenots' beginnings and their founder, John Calvin.
Golden makes Louis’ persecution of the Huguenots a political issue, rather than a religious one. Louis doesn’t care what people believes; he simply wants France unified, with “one king, one faith, one country.” Decades earlier, the Huguenots had caused the unrest by persecuting the Catholics. One of the characters in the book asks why the Protestants and Catholics can’t get along, when they worship the same God. It’s a question I’ve often wondered myself, and I wish that, as another character points out, religion were not used as a political tool.
In the Shadow of the Sun King first caught my attention because I love historical fiction, and Louis XIV was one king that stood out in my memory from my university history classes. I enjoyed the novel, though at times it got a bit slow, and I felt frustrated by Madeleine’s inaction at some points. Perhaps she had no choice but to wait, as she does, or to ask others for help, but I wanted to see a more active heroine, who perhaps returns to France to look for her husband and daughter after getting her sons to safety in Geneva. In the end, I enjoyed the coincidences that brought the family back together, and the fact that the ending was not too “happily-ever-after”—there are still concerns and questions, which will perhaps be answered in the next book in the series, A Prisoner in Versailles, to be released this fall.
This book was provided for review courtesy of the publisher.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Elaine Ingalls Hogg is an author and inspirational speaker from the Maritimes. Her books include a children's book, an collection of Martime Christmas stories, a pictorial history book, and a collection of inspirational writings.
How did you become a writer?
My journey into writing came late in life. A few years ago I read The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson. In the book, Ordinary feels he is a Nobody and lives in the Land of Familiar. That story in a nutshell describes the journey I took to fulfill my childhood dream.
Ordinary has a reccurring dream and he’d love to pursue it but it would involve him leaving his Land of Familiar. People tell him, “You can’t do that. You’d have to leave your comfort zone and travel across Wasteland. There are giants there and you’d have to battle them. Ordinary, your dream is impossible. It will never come true.”
One day Ordinary noticed something on his window ledge. It was a long white feather, something that had never been there before. When he took the feather in his hand, his dream became more powerful than ever.
In my mind, I was Ordinary… illness, poverty and self-doubt were the bullies that kept me from leaving my Land of Familiar. But the Dream Giver left me a feather – a ray of hope. In my dreams I began to believe that if I dared to face my bullies and cross the Wasteland I could accomplish my dream.
One spring morning I woke up with the sun’s warm rays streaming in my window and as I thanked God for the new day, He reminded me of desire to write. I took the ‘feather’ in my hand, and held it. Drawing in a deep breath, I said, “I’ll never know until I try.” And timidly I prepared to take the first steps to leave the ‘Land of Familiar.’
Bullies met me at the border and urged me to go back: “Your dream can’t be accomplished now. You’re too old. But I pressed on, battling giants—personal obstacles—as I gradually made my way across the Wasteland, all the while holding the feather given to me by the Dream Giver. It was my symbol of hope—hope that someday my dream would come true.
Each time I overcame an obstacle, a strange thing happened. The obstacle turned to an opportunity and the opportunity helped me towards my destiny.
What inspires you to write?
As far back as I can remember, I have followed my ancestors’ footsteps in reading and storytelling. Today, when I look at what I write, I recognize the influence my grandfather made when he shared his stories about our family’s roots. Another strong influence is a result of the Bible stories my parents read to me from an early age. I believe my writing is the voice God has given me in order to share my faith and lessons from history.
What authors do you admire?
I think there is a common theme in the first three books that came to my mind when I started to answer this question.
Lucy Maude Montgomery’s writing captured my imagination as a child. Anne kept me reading and believing that with a good education and much determination, life’s circumstances could change someday.
Laura Ingalls Wilder and I share a heritage through the Ingalls family name, but her real influence came when I learned she didn’t start writing until she was older than I am now. This part of her life’s story has encouraged me to believe it’s never too late to start something new.
One of my special interests has always been history so my third choice would be Rudy Wiebe’s autobiography. The book depicts the history of his family settling in western Canada and leaves the reader with a positive message of how faith played a key role in overcoming obstacles.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009
Did St. Valentine actually live, or is it all just a legend? Archaeologists have found a Roman catacomb and ancient church dedicated to St. Valentine. February 14th was first commemorated to St. Valentine in 496, only a few hundred years after the saint’s supposed death. The Nuremberg Chronicle, printed in 1493, includes the first mention of St. Valentine, noting that he was a Roman priest martyred under Claudius. So the legends are based on an actual man, though we know little about the man himself.
There are several other St. Valentines in the Catholic Church, including one who was pope for a mere 40 days in 827. He had been an archdeacon before his election as pope, and was from a wealthy Roman family. Another St. Valentine, who was a bishop in Germany and was also martyred by a Roman emperor, has a feast day on July 16. Yet another St. Valentine was a bishop in Genoa who aided monastic expansion, and celebrates his feast day on May 2.
So what makes February 14th and this one particular St. Valentine so important? Passing notes on Valentine’s day came from a note that St. Valentine gave to his jailer’s daughter—whose sight he is said to have restored—on the eve of his execute. The note was just signed, “from your Valentine,” as thousands of lovers have since signed their notes. Celebrating the day goes back to a Roman spring-time festival in mid-February. Boys and girls drew names from boxes to find partners for the festival—and sometimes for life! The Church changed this festival by replacing the names in boxes with saint’s names, and dedicating the day to St. Valentine.
A recent BBC article pointed out that St. Valentine is actually not the saint of those trying to find love. He’s the patron for couples who have already found it. Catholic Online notes, “He is the Patron Saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travellers, young people. He is represented in pictures with birds and roses.” And so, Happy St. Valentine’s Day!
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
How did you become a writer?
I've always been a writer from when I was a little girl. I can even remember the first story I worked on. It was called Silver Moonlight and was about a beautiful gray mare. I was very young and didn't understand about mares and stallions, and Silver Moonlight was the leader of her herd! I guess I was an early feminist.
What inspires you to write?
It's passion. And persistence.
What author do you admire and why?
I admire any author who writes a good story that will keep my attention to the last page. I like so many authors, it's hard to choose just one, but right now I'm reading Tess Gerritsen. I like the way she writes; she doesn't write in the present tense for the whole novel, which I find irritating to read. My opinion is that it doesn't suit every type of story and find there is nothing relaxing, settling down with a book in a tense that doesn't 'turn over' into a more comfortable story-telling mode. What appeals to me about any author is the way the book is written as well as the content.
Monday, February 9, 2009
That was a few months ago. Now, when the phone rings, I debate whether I should get it or let the answering machine grab it and explain that no, this is not Lisa's timeshare or the MD Office or whoever else they are looking for.
If I did have a timeshare, I could have sold it multiple times by now. Lisa is losing business over having an out-of-date number on her ad. When we got our answering machine, my husband asked what message we should put on it. I joked, "Hi, this is not Lisa's timeshare." I think the record in one day was three calls for the timeshare, zero calls for me.
One day, the phone rang and a lady was looking for the MD. I told her she had a wrong number and we hung up. Two minutes later, the phone rang again. This time, it was a man looking for the MD. I told him he had a wrong number and we hung up, but I strongly suspected the woman had just had her husband try the number to make sure it was the wrong number. When the phone rang a third time, I didn't even answer it, and nobody left a message on the answering machine.
The problem is, I don't know what we can do about it. So I'll just work on creative ways to say, "Sorry, this is the wrong number."
Remember to leave a comment on the book review below for your chance to WIN a book!!!
Friday, February 6, 2009
Alex Travers grew up on a ranch just outside of Last Chance, riding the range beside her father. When he dies of a sudden heart attack, she finds herself running the ranch on her own. Well-meaning townfolk suggest that she marry one of the area’s eligible bachelors, but none of those bachelors have captured Alex’s heart—and she’s determined she can make the ranch work on her own. However, problems seem to dog her steps, from wranglers quitting because they won’t work for a woman to horses going missing and fences getting cut.
Justin Phillips has problems of his own when he gets a telegram from Alex’s father, asking for help on the ranch. Starting a new job in a new town seems like a good idea, so Justin heads for Last Chance with his three-year-old son, Toby. However, as the new guy in town, Justin has to field accusations of looking like a man on a Wanted Poster and being the one who’s cutting Alex’s fences and stealing horses. Things get even more complicated when his past comes calling in the form of Christy Grey, a beautiful dance hall girl who claims to be his dead wife’s sister—and who wants his son.
Miralee Ferrell spins a good tale of romance and mystery that kept me wondering who was out to get Alex and how Justin and Alex would ever overcome their differences. The book is filled with endearing characters, from lisping little Toby who always wants to ride the “horsey” to Martha who keeps everyone fed with delightful food. Miralee also brings faith into the story, as Alex’s fierce independence keeps her from leaning on God and Justin’s past keeps him from returning to God. So if you need a good story to read while curled in a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate this winter, pick up Love Finds You In Last Chance, California.
Leave a COMMENT on this post for your chance to WIN a copy of Miralee's first book, The Other Daughter. I'll pick a winner next Friday! (I've opened anonymous comments temporarily, so that you can enter the contest even if you don't have a blogger account.)
This book was provided for review courtesty of the publisher.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
I’ve always loved stories, and spent a lot of my childhood either reading or imagining. A few times I started writing a novel, but never made it past the opening chapters. University dampened my desire to write, then I got married and life was too full. After I left a stressful job for the role of at-home mom, there was no time for reading or any other creative outlets. Daydreaming kept me sane. Then one day I got an idea I didn’t want to play out in my mind: what if you came face to face with a killer? The story wouldn’t leave me alone, so I began to write it out. It kept coming, and many revisions later I’m looking for a publisher for that manuscript and a second one.
What inspires you to write?
A snatch of remembered dream, fragment of a song, or just a cool “what-if” will drift around in my brain for a while, gathering other tidbits and possibilities, and when it won’t let go of me it’s time to get started. I’ve learned to do more exploratory planning before beginning the actual draft, because it makes for easier revisions.
What author do you admire and why?
There are so many, and I’m sure I’m forgetting someone key, but here goes:
-J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, for creating novels that reveal new levels on subsequent readings and that “show,” rather than “tell,” us about God.
-Robert Jordan, for his detailed world-building and the epic scale of his Wheel of Time series.
-Timothy Zahn, for his twist endings and for the way he makes a fun science-fiction story richer with his understanding of tactics and psychology.
-Linda Hall, for neither avoiding nor sensationalizing the hard parts of her stories and for always providing a believable and satisfying ending that offers hope.
-Brandilyn Collins, for her “deep” point of view that takes readers on a fast-paced ride.
-J.K. Rowling, for her persistent belief in her story, for her use of foreshadowing in the early books, and for her composure when elements of the public were hostile.
-Madeleine L’Engle, because she valued truth and was not afraid to be herself even when she too faced hostility.
Monday, February 2, 2009
According to the article, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada recently issued a statement calling for “the promotion of normal childbirth whenever possible for the sake of the mother and baby.” That’s a big statement, in the light of information given in The Business of Being Born, a movie released last year, which suggests that most American hospitals are more concerned with making money than with what’s best for the mother and her baby.
Now, I’m not against C-sections. I’m a C-section baby myself. My mom endured twelve hours of hard labour as my twin brother and I both tried to be born first before the doctor finally gave up trying to push one of us out of the way so the other could get out, and ordered Mom into surgery. I’ve heard other stories where I’ve thought it’s a good thing we live in an era where surgery is available and relatively safe. However, I’ve also heard stories where I thought that the C-section could have been prevented, by choices made by either the woman or the doctor.
The article in Saturday’s Journal attributed our high Caesarean rate to “convenience, fear of pain during childbirth, and the growing proportion of expectant mothers who are obese.” We’re a society that likes convenience, dislikes pain, and has a tendency to overeat (I’ll admit I snack more than I should). So babies—who come whenever they are ready, and not usually nearly as fast as we want them to—don’t fit into convenience. And everyone has heard a story, or seen a movie, about a horrifically painful birthing experience, and wants to avoid that.
One teenage girl commented to my mother-in-law and I that she intended to have her kids all by C-section, because then she wouldn’t have to endure the pain of labour. We both told her she’d better rethink her position, because major abdominal surgery isn’t exactly painless. Nobody I know who has had a C-section would recommend it to any other woman. Unfortunately, there seems to be more bad birth stories about natural labours than there are about the problems that come with scar tissue and complications from C-sections.
Doctors aren’t the only ones to blame for the raise in C-section rates, though. I think that as women, we need to educate ourselves better and demand better care. The article mentioned that several groups are saying that “more information about the benefits of a normal, natural birth should be provided to expecting mothers prior to their delivery date.” Too many of us rely on our doctors to tell us what we need to know and do. I am guilty of that; I wasn’t happy with the prenatal care I was receiving from my doctor, but neither was I brave enough to ask him the questions that I had. Thanks to some friends who gave me information and recommended a local midwife to me, I had a normal, natural birth.
In the end, as Dr. Andre Lalonde says, “For each woman and her health-care provider, this decision must be scientifically sound and ensure maximum safety for the woman and her pregnancy.” I don’t mean to cast judgment on any woman, or to suggest that she had a C-section when she shouldn’t have. Every woman, every birth, is unique, and their situation needs to be considered carefully. I just hope that this article will help raise awareness, in both women and their doctors, that a natural, normal childbirth should be the aim in most circumstances.