Advent is coming + a free download

One of my writing goals for 2018 was to write an e-book. Joyous wedding preparations declared dibs on the first half of the year. But in October, visions about Advent started to percolate, an idea was born. Then 3 weeks of fatigue from a strange virus left me wondering if my window of time and opportunity had passed.
Lately, I have realized how often I break promises to myself so I rose early to write and came home from work to write even more. I must admit, I had a lot of fun thinking about Advent from my childhood through adulthood.
Tomorrow, the calendar turns to December and the procession to Christmas day quickens. Sunday marks the first day of the Advent season, which is the first day in the church calendar. Essentially it is a new year before New Year’s Day ūüôā There are 4 Sundays in Advent and many church traditions celebrate by lighting candles, singing specific Advent carols, reading scriptures, praying and a whole host of other ways as well.
Sometimes the most challenging part of Advent is it happens during the crush of December. Why not spin this reality and respond by acknowledging the fullness of December and endeavoring to counteract it by spending time pondering the birth of Jesus?
As the image above displays, I have written an e-book called
Behold
An Uncommon Advent Guide.
I have compiled 4 weeks of short readings and meditations to draw you away from incoming stress and towards resting in the peace Christ came to bring. This is not a daily devotional but weekly reflections.
On the sidebar (or at the bottom of site if using a mobile device), you can download your free copy and print as you desire. With the help of my son Caleb, we kept the color minimal to be visually restful and not empty a computer ink cartridge.
I hope you will enjoy this gift for my faithful readers. I am so immensely grateful for your continued reading.
Blessed Advent and Christmas to you!
Helen

dot by faithful dot

wpid-20150616_160103.jpg

I arrived to this space with an apology for not writing.

Except that would not be accurate, I am always writing.

I write in my journal and on random slips of paper,

jotting notes in the margins of books and tapping sentences into my phone.

Words arises from the steam of my shower or the soft indent

in my pillow before succumbing to sleep.

Sometimes my thoughts compose a post while driving to work.

Perhaps I should curb this practice for safety’s sake.

Often I will open a notebook and find scribbles and arrows,

circles and sentences all in CAPS.

As I scan the page, a grin will pass over my face

and at the top of the hieroglyphics I will usually

write “this became the blog post” and fill in the title.

Somehow parts jotted all over the paper

became a map that directed the way to a published post.

My mind has felt like one of those pages of scribbles.

The exception being many of the dots are without

connecting lines.

There are a half-dozen half-written pieces in my

draft folder.

They may or may not ever see the light of a computer

screen other than mine.

For whatever reason, I can’t seem to finish the majority

of my writing.

I can’t figure out what to make for dinner.

There is lonely dirt by the fence where my

sunflowers usually ascend to the sky.

I can’t seem to finish a book. (Ack.)

Although I plan for the drought to end this week.

(I started reading this book on the road last weekend
and it is giving me so much to think about as a parent.)

My mind has been swimming with work,

a daughter graduating from college,

middle school decisions

for our son and a steady stream of bad news.

Somehow the joyous mingled with the sorrow

siphons away anything extraneous.

It has bothered me,

I have fought it and

been frustrated when I can’t concentrate

on a litany of pursuits.

Then I reflect on January, when I chose words

to help guide my year.

Be faithful.

Elisabeth Eliot’s constant encouragement

was to

“Do the next thing.”

Two sentences which will remind me

to breathe and take each aspect of

life one by one and as it comes.

Are your dots connecting?

Do you need to just keep faithfully

walking into the places laid before you?

I will work.

I will celebrate.

I will mourn with those who mourn.

I will listen and not look away.

I will cook.

I will write.

I will read.

Sometimes I will simply just be.

Most of all I will be faithful.

Today it meant pressing publish.

*****

Alright I did read one sweet book awhile ago which could be finished
over a weekend with a bottomless frosted glass of iced tea…
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.
Enjoy.

 

Image

welcoming back words

For years, I had buried words deeply into the earth

and I feared they were beyond hope of emerging.

If you picture an avalanche, the initial sliding snow

is relatively small, like frozen skidding pebbles, seemingly innocent.

As the speed increases, more snow becomes entangled with force

and anything in the path of an avalanche is obliterated.

I felt an unparalleled ambush of words, illustrations and images.

Notebooks were scattered all over the house for

quick retrieval to scribble down ideas.

I am sure I possessed a glazed expression as I

tried to upload the words coursing through my mind.

I am also sure it wasn’t always a joy to live with me.

After taking a few writing courses,

I started to gather scraps of courage

to share my writing beyond my journals.

What was I to do about physical therapy?

How does one who entered the field to help people

announce the need to exit?

It felt so counter and harsh to admit this reality.

However I could barely care for my family

much less physically shoulder the needs of patients.

I feared I would disappoint the people in my life by saying

I was abandoning the profession.

Undoubtedly I had put a lot of effort into becoming a P.T. but

others had been a tremendous help and support.

Was I going to let them down in the process of following my heart?

I recently heard author Sue Monk Kidd  explain her decision to no longer

be a nurse. She knew nursing was one of the noblest of professions

and she had chosen it because it was traditional and safe.

She recalls that she was a pretty good nurse, she cared,

did her best but she never felt as if it were her true

place of belonging.

She felt homesick for home.

When she began to write, it was a homecoming.

She believes it takes courage to find out what lies

at the bottom of our hearts.

I could have expressed the same sentiments.

I was a pretty good physical therapist.

I worked hard, I cared deeply about my patients but I

never felt exhilaration in the way I did holding a pen.

I did not work outside the home in any capacity until Caleb was 8 years old.

I decided to give physical therapy another try.

Perhaps after this long absence, the old feelings wouldn’t resurface.

My first day of holding a list of patients to treat, I felt nervous and rusty.

As I was working with my second patient, her two sons anxiously hovered

as I positioned a walker before her wheelchair.

She had emphatically told me she was not going to walk today.

Perhaps this is why I loved working with children, it doesn’t

occur to them to answer no to your requests.

I gently told this sweet lady, I was there to help and

all she needed to do was make an attempt.

She amazed herself and her sons by raising to stand and taking

some slow shuffled steps.

I placed just the right amount of contact on her back to keep her

moving forward, out of the corner of my eye,

I saw one of the sons writing something and putting a piece of

paper on my clipboard.

At the end of the session, I gave my final instructions and issued

a good-bye to this precious family.

As I walked back to the office to tackle the computer

charting system, I glanced down at my clipboard and

saw this note:

20140416_170855

 

I set my clipboard down and I touched the words written by one of the

equally concerned sons.

I had extended simple kindness and expertise and considered it the natural

course of my work day.

To this dear son, it was everything.

I worked another 6 months and it became apparent

a shift in my heart had not occurred as well as aspects

of the practice had flown past me in my absence.

I also needed physical therapy myself for a neck injury.

At this juncture, I don’t know if I will work again in this field.

On the first day back in the trenches, what others

saw in me, despite feeling awkward and out of

practice was Christ in me, the hope of glory.

This was the visible reality of what others had

always seen leaning against each hospital bedside and kneeling

before wheelchairs.

There is no other way I can describe how

God worked through me repeatedly in spite of my weakness.

Two letters following my name allowed me to present an offering

to each patient on the hallowed ground of need.

Physical therapy had been a vehicle for His glory.

Writing was just a different make and model purchased

by the same God.

**********

To be continued…

The last post (I promise) tomorrow.
This post is from a series called A Work of Heart History.
Feel free to read the other posts here, here and here.

 

 

before a work of heart

20140317_151738

As a child, the letter “e” looked like a profile

with a perpetual smile.

Whenever I saw my first and middle names side by side,

I envisioned them grinning from ear to ear.

You are invited to crack a smile as well and nod your head even if

this thought process makes no earthly sense.

Perhaps being named Helen Lelia in honor of my

grandmothers was reason enough to beam with joy.

My story is strung together by paragraphs composed of

embraced and ignored words.

I am not a shade different from the majority of writers

who proclaim they “have always written”.

I spent hours practicing and changing my handwriting.

I can’t recall a time when I didn’t keep a ¬†journal and

I remember fondly a pink 5-year diary

with a gold lock and key.

It remained fairly empty as the lines were so narrow and my

handwriting was not.

Who could possibly summarize a day in three slender lines?

I had a childhood friend who moved from my hometown of Pullman,

Washington right at the beginning of our grade school years.

We wrote letters our entire childhood and through our teen years.

Oh how I wish those letters were still in my possession. Sigh.

It’s doubtful I will ever abandon writing letters and cards even in this

age of technological immediacy.

My Aunt Lelia was a creative who defied definition.

She possessed the most amazing handwriting I have ever seen.

When our family would visit her, she would hand us copies of her latest

newspaper articles.

If the timing was perfect, I tagged along whenever she went into the newspaper

office and I was hypnotized by the murmur of writers and

chatter of typewriters.

She gave me my first Writers Market when I was in late middle school.

I read it from cover to cover as if it were a novel.

Thumbing through page after page, I tried to decipher this new vocabulary of query

letters, submissions and SASE(self-addressed stamped envelope).

I dreamed of the day someone wanted to pay pennies for my words or

allow me to write the squishy centers of Hallmark cards.

Sadly my aunt departed too soon, she would have loved blogging.

She would have adored laptops and social media!

During my years in college, I often felt a nudge to send friends

cards or letters.

At the time, I would not understand where the compulsion resided

but I would heed the plea.

I would sit down, allow my thoughts to quiet and

release my pen to glide wherever

it desired.

Once deposited in a mailbox, the letter might cross my

mind once or twice but for the most part,

I was able to release the words to the postal service

for their safe delivery.

Over the years, I would hear a common collection of words from friends.

“Your letter came at just the right time.”

“I can’t believe the words you wrote in that card.”

“How did you know to write what you wrote?”

I would express gratitude for the words being meaningful

but I had no recollection.

I couldn’t grasp adequate words to explain.

I didn’t recognize nor did I pay attention to the reality

of witnessing the Spirit and the crazy mystery of God.

The signposts pointing to God were there, the words flowing

from my pen were indicators,

I chose to take a detour away from words.

To be continued…

 

 

the reality of my corner office

 

20140411_161118

I imagine most homes have one or two prized places to sit.

The overwhelming majority of my family likes to plop into their seats and

linger for a while in one place.

It’s not the most comfortable chair but it possesses the best lighting and I dare say the

best place for inspiration.

The head chair at our dining room table is this highly favored spot.

I have dented the cushion with countless hours making lists,

pouring over books or verses and  pounding out words

upon my laptop.

Others like to read the newspaper while eating their morning Wheaties.

Some just sit with ear buds in place and read.

Any given activity is abruptly stopped to witness the increased

traffic pattern of birds finding our bird feeders.

There is an unspoken language in our family and we all make way for whoever

happens to take a seat first.

I appreciate this grace extended to all.

Most days I can wait my turn as I have the most access to this chair.

Over the last couple of years, there have been extended times where the

chair has been occupied…continually.

I decided to turn a section of our “everything” room into a creative space for me.

It already had bookshelves where I kept most of my books and there was a table,

several cupboards and EVERYTHING else.

It was a room where items without a home found a rest stop.

When we first moved in 20 years ago, it was an empty room which we christened

the Costco room. We couldn’t imagine it ever being filled from floor to ceiling.

I got serious last summer and it has taken nearly a year to recover this space.

The process was lengthy as each time I cleared a space,

some lovely wonderful precious person would fill it.

Did I mention they were lovely and wonderful and precious?

Okay!

Good!

I had to reinforce new boundaries for this room.

We all had to reorient our thinking.

When company would come, it had been a pattern to dump wayward objects

on my work table or on the floor.

Returning later, I would find a mountain of stuff and it would extinguish any

creative flame.

We all have places in our lives not only our homes

which are crammed from floor to ceiling.

We shout halt to a few areas in our lives to welcome space and

are puzzled how easily and quickly a no vacancy sign returns.

This small space is a work in progress because this room is not a static space.

It is going to take constant monitoring and avoiding slipping back into bad habits.

Even though it is functional, I have to rewire my thinking

and remember to come downstairs.

20140411_161537

For many evenings, I would walk down the stairs, turn the switches

of the lamps and let my eyes dance around the room.

I would smile, I would dream a little and head back upstairs.

Months of painstaking work and I felt powerless to enter into this set apart space.

Perhaps I was scared to consider what might be created in this place.

But today, I could be upstairs, watching the birds and witnessing the breeze create a

spring snowfall as white azalea petals are tossed airborne.

Instead, I am sitting in a different chair with a different view.

I wonder:

Are there any spaces in your life?

Is your day filled from pillow to pillow?

Do you have a space but are afraid to “sit in the chair”
because of what it might demand?

Sometimes only a corner is needed to resuscitate 

your passions.

Where in your life are you longing for space?

Name it and believe the people in your life will

support you.

Let them amaze you in their solidarity

to not abandon the stuff which does

not belong in your space.

Take a deep breath and claim your space.

**********

A few months ago, I changed the tagline for A Work of Heart.

Bonus points, if you can remember the old one!

The current tagline still needs a bit of tweaking and condensing but for

now it is a piece of A Work of Heart.

I have become aware how many people who pop in and read this blog either

are not in my offline life or haven’t read from the beginning.

Some are in my day-to-day life and only due to the wonders of Facebook,

have just discovered I write.

I started A Work of Heart almost 8 years ago

and next week, I would like to share a bit of

my story.

I think it will be fun and even if you do know me,

you might discover a tidbit I have neglected to mention.

Join me for  a short A Work of Heart history session.

Have a most blessed weekend!