Advent is coming + a free download

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

dot by faithful dot

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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:

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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

before a work of heart

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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

the reality of my corner office

 

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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.

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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!

agendas

agendas

I could tell you a story,

paint you a picture,

hand you a book or

buy you a movie ticket.

Whether heard or witnessed, experiences are rarely identical.

I might smirk while you laugh until tears escape.

It’s doubtful the same sentences would be underlined or the faintest ¬†of brushstrokes

hiding in the corner of a frame would be celebrated in one accord.

I believe conferences are like a collective fellowship

revealing the tandem fibers woven into our lives.

I mentioned on Monday, I attended the Faith and Culture Writers Conference.

I would love to share my thoughts knowing I won’t capture even an

ounce of what each person’s perspective.

Let’s call them footnotes.

I am usually a prolific note taker but I didn’t take as many notes this year.

I chose more often to put the pen aside and step into the stories told by others.

For clarity and length sake, I will provide the link to each speaker mentioned so

you can read their bios and have a firmer place to land.

Four speakers shared with over 300 writers and creatives on Friday night.

Standout quotes and thoughts:

Tony Kriz

We tend to make ourselves the hero of every story. 
Jesus was good at making others the heroes of the story.

We must be willing to lay down our agendas. (my paraphrase)

You must write for art, for beauty, never for the career.

At the end of his talk, Tony instructed the audience to turn in their seats
in such a way where our eyes could land on the greatest amount of people.
One by one he read statements for us to raise our hands if the answer was yes.
We were given time to scan the faces unlike our own but united
in lifted hands.
Statement by statement we stood together in honesty as we were stripped down
until we arrived at the final statement of
I am a writer.

You can read those statements here.

Sarah Thebarge

I was riveted and only wrote her name on the page ūüôā
She shared that we are writers because we write.
We need patience in our writing as God may have only unfolded
half of our story.
When the other part arrives, it will illuminate the first part
and bring completion to the whole story.

Randy Woodley

Our stories are stretched through diversity.

Allow new adventures and people to stretch us and our stories.

Remember God says I am doing a new thing, will you not see it?

Deidra Riggs

Deidra shared a day when she abandoned her routine and agenda and
simply allowed God’s whisper to lead and teach her.
He showed her things she would have never seen had she been
unwilling to let go of her plans.

Go closer.

Choose a different way.

Go off the prescribed path.

Whether you are a writer or not,

God is writing your story.

Be willing to wait,

to lay aside agendas and control.

Wander away from

the concrete path and allow your

feet to tread in squishy

and muddy terrain.

Our stories possess more

colors than contained in the

largest Crayola box.

Will you let Him?

Will you listen so you can write it down?

Will you share your story in spoken words

or words upon a page?

His glory is supremely magnified when we utter our stories.

Saturday marks the point when brains become saturated with

information, thoughts and dreams.

It’s here where life-giving water floods our

once solitary paths and unites them with a multitude of footprints

gently treading upon our souls.

Eric Larson

The memorable final dance sequence of Flashdance provided a visual

reminder to “take our passion and make it happen.”

God has not given us a spirit of cowardice but of love and

a sound mind.

Be brave in life and in your writing.

Paul Louis Metzger

Our lives and our writing should be shaped by the object of our affections.

Our lives should be shaped by sacred literature.
Keep learning from the literary guild.

The best writing is often not found in the place of comfort,
but often in the margins through suffering.

Don’t hide what you want to write because you believe
no one wants to read it.

Stay thirsty, my friend!

Sarah Bessey

We were blessed to hear from Sarah twice over the weekend.

I did a lot of listening and not a lot of jotting down.

Our dear friend from the north brought her Canadian sensibilities,

her passion for Jesus and blessed us with prayer.

Writing is my spiritual discipline, my prayer,
my cloister, but it is also my offering.

Quit writing with an agenda, a motive or a strategy.

Begin with your own life-giving life, 
not a copycat life,
but a life brimming life.

His words are not an addition to our lives.
They are life.

Write in the midst of the mess as it is where we meet God.

Deidra Riggs

We ended our time with Deidra gently urging us to

not discount the blessedness of rest.

You know she was speaking my language ūüôā

Rest is our heart’s true home.

When we deny ourselves rest, we deny our true home.

Rest is where our feet find solid footing.

Rest is holding things loosely…our callings
our gifts and letting them go.

Don’t forget God’s promise that we will enter
into His rest.
An intimacy designed just for us in the private place.

Don’t rebuff God’s advances to you.

Take this life and make it an offering.

Take your life passions and make it happen.

What will you do with your

calling,

gifts

and life?

Will you fully give it away?

I repeat,

Will you share your story in spoken words

or words upon a page?

Live a great story!

 

 

relinquishing the default button

relinquishing the default button

During my teen years, I would head to the public library to

check out back issues of SEVENTEEN magazine.

I rarely made eye contact with one particular librarian as she once arched her

eyebrows in my direction, lowered them long enough to view my selections

and inquired,

“Just how old are you?”

She might have called me “missy” but I don’t recall.

I quickly added a birthday and said, “15.”

My eyes would devour every detail of what most teenage age girls considered

the gospel truth.

Some articles were of minor interest to me and others I didn’t comprehend.

I did understand acne and although it wasn’t a major problem, a brief article

about this dreaded plight drew my attention.

In the margin with bold type contained the answer to my misery.

“Pimples seldom occur past age 21”.

21 seemed a universe away but it gave me a pursuit.

One day these breakouts would be

game. set. match. over.

Because SEVENTEEN magazine tells the truth.

Until I reached 22 and 25 and now at 49,

I know the falsehood of that bold print statement.

The grains in an hourglass fall through space,

collecting in heaps but their mass cannot bury

all things hard and inconvenient.

I was reminded of this truth in my life this past weekend while attending

the Faith and Culture Writers Conference.

I believe the Father loves me and knows me.

Yet I forget He knows my frame, my desires and my ways.

He knows even after my year of brave, walking into a crowd of

hundreds is not my sweet spot.

He knows I never want to impose or intrude or thrust myself upon

another even if it comes wrapped up in a writing treasure named Deidra.

The One who knows my name and every ounce of my frailty and

tendencies decided to take care of business before the conference

had even begun.

As I was standing in line to check-in to my room, I found myself behind

Cornelia, conference founder extraordinaire.

We embrace and she introduces

me to Phil Long, a stellar poet who wowed us last year.

He exits the lobby to find his room and suddenly there is Deidra Riggs.

Cornelia introduces us, we hug and exchange small talk.

I could tell she was weary from her trek across states and time zones

and she was gracious to ask me more questions than

I ventured to ask in return.

How tender of God to provide an introduction in natural surroundings

because he knows we are both just two travelers

pulling rolling suitcases.

He whisperers,

See what I can do, Helen?

It’s not two steaming mugs at a

Starbucks but it will do.

And it did.

The breakouts I deal with at 49 are ones

I clearly thought would be laid to rest by now.

They are contained in a tiny box I check

when asked,

“Do you want this to be your default mode?”

The box repeats,

I am not enough.

I am different.

I will not be included.

In any setting, I allow my eyes to inspect a room of people

and count how many I would term the life of the party.

My default is to open my trick or treat bag like Charlie Brown

and declare,

“I got a rock called calm.”

Can I tell you how often I have rejected being calm?

For too long, I have said no thank you to the way God

has carved my soul.

Can I also tell you how often God and other people met me

in the calm this weekend?

Too many times to write in this post.

As I wrote in the beginning, I poured over SEVENTEEN

magazine.

But I subscribed to ‘Teen magazine.

One day, I decided to write a letter to the editor.

I told him that I had been a  subscriber for years and

I was considering canceling my subscription because I could

not follow the hair or make-up advice.

There was no one pictured within the magazine covers who bore

any resemblance to me.

How was I to know what type of make-up to wear when my eyes

were not blue or green and I didn’t have freckles?

I had an afro and not straight hair.

This was my quiet and calm rebellion.

Several issues later there were two African-American

identical twin sisters featured as models in the magazine.

I am confident mine was not the only complaint.

Perhaps it never occurred to them that two models of color

who looked exactly the same was not completely

solving the problem.

It was a step in a better direction but it also provided

me with unexpected instruction.

I will never learn who I am in the pages of a magazine.

I can’t understand beauty by someone else’s standard.

None of us are identical.

I still forget.

I still look at glossy covers and book deals and Facebook likes

as the indicator or final word in worthiness.

God guides me under his wing

and His love displays how I have

mistakenly read the wrong script.

My friend Pam, was to be at the writers conference

and a guest panelist but was unable to attend.

She asked via Instagram if I would consider writing about

the conference.

This week, I would like to share a collection of

thoughts and quotes from some of the speakers.

You might believe semicolons, plot lines and

agents are the only topics at a writers conference.

You might be tempted to take the week off from this

blog.

I would encourage you to wander back and see if you might discover

yourself right along with me.

This past weekend

we talked about

faith, life and fears.

We shared tales of

rejection, messes and passions.

We admitted our dreams are good

and the need to be brave in writing

down our stories.

United we witnessed the power in proudly calling ourselves writers.

A book deal doesn’t define calling.

We all need to know who we are.

Won’t you join me this week?

.

it’s about time…

it’s about time…

March 2014 Desktop Calendar

When your 10-year old asks why your laptop screen saver is still the December

calendar, you realize it is time to move on into 2014.

Enjoy March’s desktop courtesy of Dawn Camp.

Simply click the photo and it will take you to the place to choose the size

best suited for your computer.

Have a wonderful weekend.

I am headed to the Faith and Culture Writers Conference.

Last year, I came home encouraged and inspired.

There were times when I sat back in my chair and whispered,

“Glory!”.

I was  deeply in awe of the Creator who ladles out

His creative spirit to His people in such unique and profoundly lovely ways.

I hope that this weekend there will be something or someone worthy of

causing you to lean back and whisper or even shout GLORY!

See you next week!