Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Friday, April 29, 2011

How to Paint a Flat for David and his Mother

     Getting involved with Prairie Players is a great way to try your hand at lots of different things. As stage manager for The Odd Couple in 2007, I think I drove our stage hands a little crazy with my obsessive organizing. In 2009, I was privileged to be on stage with four other women as we portrayed the Dixie Swim Club. How well any of us actually swim was never discussed. For M*A*S*H last fall, I helped out as a stage-hand and discovered to my chagrin that I do not have the ability to lift one end of a stretcher that is behind me. I had to turn around and walk backwards with it.
      For David's Mother, I thought I wasn't going to be able to help. With an exam to write and a speaking engagement the same weekend as the production, I'd be pushing it to even be in the audience.
      Then a call went out to help paint flats, three weeks before the show.
      "A-ha!" I thought. "That, I can do."
      Although I never had.
      I learned this is quite the production in and of itself.
      I arrived at the Glesby Centre on a Sunday afternoon. Terry, Cathy, Violet, George, Kristine, and Keith were pulling flats out from their storage space under the stage. If you're not sure what a "flat" is, it's a wooden frame with fabric stretched on it, much like a giant artist's canvas. When lying down, it is all of one inch high, thus the term "flat." These form the walls in the background of a stage set, but are much lighter and easier to store than an actual hunk of wall.
      Deciding which ones are needed is quite the science. Although each is 12 feet high, not all are the same width. Some have doors cut in them. Some are 4-foot squares used to create windows. Each play requires a different configuration. It's like figuring out a jigsaw puzzle, something I've never been good at. There's a lot of friendly bickering, bossing, and advising required. Clearly, these folks have worked well together for a long time.
      Once selected, pieces are laid on the floor. Then we go around and place newspapers under the edges of each flat to protect the floor. By this time, Vicki has arrived to help, and she and I agree that next time the Players have any money to spend, it should be on drop cloths with which to cover the entire floor before laying out the flats. What a job!
       Finally, the painting begins. With long-handled rollers, we work together to make the top 9 feet beige and the bottom 3 feet brown. Vicki and I get nostalgic, covering over the pretty blue of our Dixie Swim Club cottage. Before long, the flats will be upright on the stage, creating the NYC apartment where David and his mother live.
       Hope you can get out to see David's Mother, April 28, 29, and 30 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $13 from the Glesby Centre.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"It's me, it's me, oh Lord...standin' in the need of prayer..."

Zero minus 36 hours. Saturday morning I'll be writing a Municipal Law exam from nine until noon. At 1:30, I'm speaking to a sorority of school teachers and retired school teachers. I had to have been a little out of my mind when I agreed to this, but what I didn't know then was that I would not be feeling really well. All of which is rather overwhelming.

So I'm leaning hard into II Corinthians 12:9. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 

I'm weak.
This somehow makes God's power perfect.
I don't pretend to understand how this works, but I think it's very cool. And I really hope it's true.
And I'd love it if you would pray for me.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It's enough to make you wish your name was Mary-Lou...


Last night was our Clog Dancing Wind-up. Next stop: Radio City Music Hall. Keep in mind that my videographer has only one hand. And that he basically came along for the ice-cream.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

An Easter Weekend Photojournal by Keegan (age 3 yrs. 10 mos.)

My Dad

Grandma & Me colored eggs

We put all our eggs in one basket.

And made yummy trifle

Daddy's best side

My little brother

My grandma's desk

My grandma

Grandma a & Grandpa's "Hot Pool"

My Grandpa

My mom. This family's big into cheesy grins.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Real Hero

Those who seek and receive professional counsel for their life and relationships are considered heroes at my church. If this includes you, you know the process can be both encouraging and difficult, but worth it. Taking time to root around beneath the surface has an inevitable tendency to expose emotional rubble we don’t always want to look at. And we all have our rubble.
     One of the most overwhelming and recurring thoughts I’ve had through my own counseling journey has been the staggering size of God’s heart. The hurts and disappointments in my own life are minuscule compared to what others have suffered, but when you multiply those hurts by the billions, for every person who ever breathed, all with our pain and scars, one question surfaces. If God truly sees it all, how can he bear it? We hear on TV about abused or malnourished children and we want to change the channel because our hearts cannot handle it. The atrocities of war fill volumes. Hunger and disease run rampant. The age-old question about why God allows all the misery crops up ever so easily, leading many to conclude he may be loving or he may be all-powerful, but he certainly cannot be both.

     And then our protest is silenced by the shadow of a cross.
     Not only does God see it all, but if the Bible is true, he loves each hurting individual with a love we can only imagine. So how can his heart stand it? His capacity for pain must be at least as great as his capacity for love. God’s heart breaks for the abuser as much as the abused, the perpetrator as well as the victim. And on some level, we are all both.
     When Jesus died on the cross, it was not only for the sins you’ve committed but also for the sins done against you. Not just for forgiveness, but for healing. I don’t claim to understand this, but Isaiah 53:5 foretold it: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
     As you celebrate Easter weekend, may God grant you a fresh picture of his great big heart. We simply cannot put him in a box, understand, or explain him with our little human hearts and brains. We cannot fully appreciate the battle at Calvary, when all the forces of darkness rallied everything they had and hurled it all at my hero as he hung there. Every vulgar thought, every loathsome deed, every emotional or physical wound ever inflicted. All of it, flung at him as though he committed it all himself.
     The suffering will one day come to an end. We have the ultimate Hero. He took it all. He paid the price. It is finished. We win! 

 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Writer's Prayer

I can't take credit for this prayer, but I'm thinking it's a great one not just for writers but for all. 

A Writer’s Prayer

(written by Mary DeMuth)
Lord, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power. 
Thank You that nothing is too difficult for You.
Forgive us for living in a way that shuns Your power and magnifies our own ability to live in our strength, like practical atheists.
Forgive us for making our appetites and ambitions our god.
Forgive us for forgetting how beautiful and amazing Your people are.
Forgive us for thinking that fame and glory are ours to grasp and cherish.
May we become a knee-worn people, dependent.
May it be that any fame that blows our way becomes a holy platform to sing and herald Your fame.
I pray we would withstand the trial of notoriety, take the last seat, rest in what You’ve done, and honestly rejoice in others’ success.
Forgive us for letting bitterness fester in our hearts.
Dear Jesus, nothing significant happens in kingdom unless death occurs. Thank You for being our paradoxical example of laying everything down through death.
By an act of our will, with joy, we choose now to die to anything that hinders a deeply connected, passionate relationship with You.
We are Yours.
What we do is Yours.
What we write is Yours.
How we think is Yours.
How we live is Yours.
We love You. We adore You. We need You.
Amen.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Why My Grandsons Won't Be Getting a Clucking Bunny (at least, not from me...)

Please don't think of me as the Grinch who stole Easter. I adore chocolate and daffodils and fluffy chicks and bunny rabbits and little girls in frilly frocks.
     I just think that if we truly needed a kids' story to replace the real Easter story, we could come up with something more credible than a clucking rabbit who lays chocolate eggs and delivers them to children for no apparent reason. So I decided to come up with one. A Manitoba-friendly, parent-friendly, wallet-friendly one. Here it is.
     Once upon a time, a long time time ago, before colour was invented, the world was all in black and white and shades of gray. A little girl named Ruby and a little boy named Jim were exploring in the forest near their home.
     By and by they came across a little house in the middle of the forest. The house was made of snow.
"I wonder who lives here," Jim said as he approached the door. But before he could raise his hand to knock, the door opened (which was a very good thing because knuckles rapping on snow do not produce much sound). A little skunk stood in the doorway.
     Now skunks were the only creatures who had any colour, for they held the colour key. While the rest of the world was black and white and shades of gray, skunks had red heads and orange legs and yellow bodies and blue tails and purple feet and green stripes down their backs. They stood out like the little girl in the red coat in Shindler's List.
     "Welcome! Come inside," the skunk said.
     Since neither of the children had ever seen a skunk before, they went inside. The skunk offered them hot chocolate, which they happily accepted. What they did not know was that the skunk was an evil skunk who had put sleeping powder in their hot chocolate and Jim and Ruby were soon fast asleep. Because the writer of this tale had a word count limit, however, they soon awoke, tied up the evil skunk, grabbed the colour key, and ran home where their parents tucked them into their cozy beds and they slept soundly until 10:37 the following morning. When they awoke, the world was all in colour, for the evil skunk had been defeated at last.
     And that is why, to this very day, skunks are black and white and the rest of the world is in colour. Except for Manitoba in early spring, when it is all black and white and shades of gray. This is why children must sleep late on Easter weekend. For if they do not, the world will remain black and white and colour will not come.
     There, now isn't that much better? And so believable, too. 
     No need to thank me.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

When will YOU quit?

1.  Be still my heart. I got a writing cheque in the mail today for $2.50. It's in US funds, so currently worth about $2.25 Canadian. I'm extremely tempted to spend it all in one place but I shall restrain myself.

2.  Got another email from the "Partner" publisher who is so very eager to publish my novel. I wrote back, and had a reply in minutes. It's amazing how quickly they respond and then leave you alone when you simply tell them you have no money.

And finally... the following quote is from Terry Burns, a cowboy author and literary agent who is currently facilitating my online course through American Christian Fiction Writers. Shared with permission because I really like it:

I had a person come up to me at the conference and say they just couldn’t find the time to write, should they quit trying?

I said if you can quit writing you should.

I got a really shocked look in return. I said, “Look, this is hard, it takes dedication and commitment and a truckload of patience. Anybody who CAN quit writing should do so. That time could be so much better spent. The problem is that most of us can’t quit, even when  we try to do so, for a variety of reasons. But as to your finding the time to write, it doesn’t exist and probably never will. I hear all kind of qualifiers, like when I retire, or when the kids leave home, when . . . when . . . when. There is an old saying that work expands to fill the time available and it is true. Our time will always be filled. The young mother with kids hanging on her shirt tail or the retired person who was surprised to find themselves busier than they ever were when they were working, anyone who wants to write has to carve out the time and jealously protect it and use it."

It will never just exist.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

First Church of Gynecology and Obstetrics

The First Church of Gynecology and Obstetrics met at my house tonight for the second time. There are eleven in this little congregation, although two were missing. With a name like that, you might expect it to be an all female church, but there are men in it, too.

      Okay, so it's a play.
      Three years ago I found myself sitting in an OB-GYN's crowded office, waiting endlessly. As I observed the other patients, it occurred to me that there was a lot of drama going on in one little room. Every person in there was at some major emotional event in his or her life: expecting a baby, just had a baby, hoping to have a baby, hoping to NOT have a baby, lost a baby, all done having babies...and the men who love them, each with his own little crisis too. It occurred to me these folks could each use a higher power in their life right about now, whether they acknowledge it or not.
      And so a little play was born and is now being brought to life by the Prairie Players, directed by Moi. We'll be taking it to the ACT Festival in Winkler the middle of May. We've got Vicki Hooke and Terry Tully coupled off, Melissa Draycott and Kevin Hamm coupled off, and then we have Danica Turcotte, Natasha Klassen, Liz Driedger, Barb Knott, and Ember Rodgers. Big cast for a 15-minute play, I know. They are going to do a fabulous job.
      For those who can't get to Winkler, we're hoping to have the dress rehearsal open to friends and family, free of charge, on Tuesday, May 10, at 8:00 p.m. at the Glesby Centre.
     There will be blood.
     But only if Melissa goes into labour.  


Friday, April 8, 2011

Leaning

The soundtrack from the 2010 movie "True Grit" includes a song called "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms." I haven't seen the movie yet, and haven't heard the song much since childhood, but evidently its message is ingrained as deeply as the blood vessels carrying the gift of life through my veins.
     I found this out while attending a writers conference recently. Because it is a Christian conference, they incorporate times of worship singing and prayer. Because they are writers, they choose the wordy old hymns, sung to an upbeat tempo. A good choice for people who love words and who are coming from many varied locales and backgrounds. I happily joined in.
     When "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" was sung, I was immediately transported back to age seven.
     It's 1966 and I'm sitting with the other kids in the front row at the Amaranth Sunday School Mission. My big brother has been hospitalized due to a serious accident with a horse, resulting in a head injury. He lies in a coma at Winnipeg Children's Hospital two hours away. Friends and family are praying for him and for us. At seven, I am far from understanding the seriousness of the situation. I have been spending a lot of time at my cousins' house and that makes me happy. Mom and Dad are pretty preoccupied, and that makes me sad. But what happens next will take 40 years to fully penetrate my heart with its implications.
     My father and mother stand up in front of the congregation and sing a duet. They do not know whether their 12-year old son will live or die, but they sing "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms." And they mean it.
     Fast forward to 1995. My husband has been in a horrible farm accident and is about to have his right arm amputated. My friend Melanie tells the story of greeting me in the emergency waiting room with a hug. She says I looked her in the eyes and said, "for this, we have Jesus."
     Although it didn't appear to faze me as a seven-year-old, it would seem my parents taught their children, by example and by song, where one leans when one is hurting and afraid. A lesson to be treasured.
     Where do you lean?

"What have I to dread, what have I to fear?
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms." -- Elisha Albright Hoffman, 1887

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On Guard for Thee

Just happened to be home for lunch today when I got the most interesting phone call from Connecticut. Amy Newmark, publisher at Chicken Soup for the Soul, invited me to serve on the “Editorial Advisory Board” for their upcoming book called O Canada! How cool is that? Because this book will be filled with stories about Canada and Canadians, she needs some Canadians to help her evaluate them (and buttered me up by telling me I was one of their favorite Canadians).
     They received thousands of stories for this book, which they have narrowed down to 145 (one of which is mine). They need to further narrow it to 101 stories for the book. So I, along with five others, will be reading and scoring these stories and they’ll use our feedback to make their final selections. No way would I turn this down, even though Amy said there was nothing in it for me but fame and glory. I’m thinking it will look pretty sweet on my writing/publishing credits, eh?
    I’ll be looking for subtle Canadian nuances or political incorrectness that American editors might miss. Like how much we enjoy bragging about our rotten weather. Have you got any you'd like to remind me of?
   And don’t worry, the book will have plenty of hockey and Tim Horton’s stories in spite of me.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

One Small Stroke

I’d been driving around with my gas gauge on “E” and figured if I didn’t soon stop procrastinating I’d be in big trouble. So I headed over to the gas station and within ten minutes was driving away again, 75 dollars poorer. But my “E” had been converted to an “F” as easily as if someone had come along and erased the bottom stroke. It occurred to me that sometimes “one small stroke” is all it takes for our emotional tanks to go from Empty to Full as well. And vice versa.
     As a writer, I’m learning rejection is part of the game. Some experts say you should expect six or seven rejections for every acceptance, so if you make it a “goal” to get six rejections a week, you’re on track. Strange goal, but if it helps keep things in perspective and makes you feel successful, why not?
     But it’s not easy to maintain one’s mood. I’ve found myself swinging like a pendulum after just one little email. An acceptance that has me energized and happy today is only temporary. I have to guard against the crankiness, depression, and self-loathing I’ll be tempted toward with tomorrow’s rejection. How easily we can go from full to empty! Just one little stroke.
     Where do you go for your “strokes?” Depending on people to provide them is risky business, for even when they do come our way they provide only fleeting joy. In a twinkling, whatever encouraging words may have been spoken to bolster us can become meaningless--blown away by circumstances or by our own second-guessing. Such is life as a frail human being, forever checking our Facebook comments to see if anybody "likes" them.
     Likewise, our own accomplishments will never satisfy our need for full tanks. For no matter what I achieve today, tomorrow is coming. How will I match it, much less top it? Sooner or later the athlete’s body weakens, the successful businessman’s mind will get cloudy, the brightest Hollywood star will become little more than a collection of memorabilia or an icon to be impersonated.
     Many years ago, the writer of Ecclesiastes got it right when he said, “Meaningless, meaningless, utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
     I don’t mean to weaken the power of our words to uplift others. But while there is much we can do to provide positive strokes for others, ultimately what your Creator says about you is the only thing that will last. What does he say? Check out Romans 8:38.
     You are loved. Every day. Fill your tank with it daily and let it keep your engine humming!