Guest Blog

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I am pleased to introduce you to the lovely and talented Greg E Elliott!

BIO 

An illustrator and graphic designer, Greg has served extensively in small group ministry for men. His book, New life in the Boarding House describes the transformational potential and relevance of the Bible. Available directly from greg.liturgical@gmail.com or Chapters/Indigo.

What are YOU giving up?

The next 40 weekdays present an opportunity to renew our spirits and draw closer to God, relieving ourselves of the accumulating spiritual baggage that weighs us down, stifles and spoils the enjoyment of the abundant life and relationship Jesus offers us.

Since the 4th century, this is the season of Lent — a spiritual journey utilizing prayer, fasting, self-denial and repentance to prepare us for the triumph of Easter Day, the basis of our hope as we live through the challenges in our personal lives and increasingly disturbing world events.

My weary spirit however never seemed to benefit from using popular suggestions like ‘giving up’ that favourite colourful word or that sticky toffee pudding dessert or spending less time on Facebook. I only discovered this practice of Lent to be beneficial once I started to question whether options like those fit the definition of self-denial and fasting or where the prayer and repentance parts were accommodated.

Questions like — Is it worth continuing to carry anger or jealousy for that difficult family member or co-worker or is that a weight God hopes you will ‘give up’? Maybe deciding to ‘give up’ your noon hour quiet time to share a pizza and talk to that scruffy kid sitting on the sidewalk is what God would suggest is a beneficial ‘giving up’ option? How about ‘giving up’ 5 minutes each day to pray for the men and women serving us as elected representatives in these complicated times instead of vegging in front of the TV? — produced options that indeed lightened the baggage count significantly.

As the tradition goes, Lent is a chance for self-reflection and honestly ‘giving up’ something from your heart to God, who knows ‘giving up’ a chocolate treat is not the same as forgiving that person who hurt you. Think about Jesus’ original ‘giving up’ example.

Greg R Elliott, author of the renovation devotional A New Life in the Boarding House Chapters/Indigo or directly – greg.liturgical@gmail.com

 

Greg-cropped

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My heart is full…

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Wow, We are 11 days into Lent. Did you enjoy your pancakes? Did you make it to an Ash Wednesday service? I missed Ash Wednesday this year. My mom was sick on the couch after her flight on the 5th of March.

My sister and brother-in-law arrived on the 2nd of March after managing two stressful flights, both airports failed them in many ways. In my last blog, I mentioned the fun I was having trying to book wheelchair accessible hotels and how worried I was about my brother-in-law being able to get into and out of my car. I am happy to say that he managed my car great. My little Rav4 fit his wheelchair and our entire luggage, with only minor tetras manoeuvres. All in all my brother-in-law’s experience, once he got here in BC, was good. Traveling with someone in a wheelchair has opened my eyes. If you get the chance sometime spend a day traveling with someone in a wheelchair. You will view the world differently.

My heart is full! I loved my time with my sister and brother-in-law, but I have missed my characters and writing time.

That must sound weird to anyone who doesn’t write, but my book is a part of my heart and soul, it is my baby, and I miss it. Right now as I type this, my mom is reading my unfinished first draft. I’m nervous. She doesn’t read fantasy, so this is all new to her.

Letting someone read an unfinished first draft is always dangerous. I wonder how many writers allow anyone to read their first drafts? I am happy to say that after the first 10 chapters she was enjoying it, and we chatted about some of the characters. Who she loves, who irritates her, and who confused her (fantasy characters like my Ent). She loved the magical elements and can understand why kids love fantasy books. My heart is overflowing. I know I have work to do, but the fact that my mom, who doesn’t read fantasy, loves what I have written has given me the energy to keep going!

Mom is here for a month, so I will have two guest blogs for you this month. I’m excited to introduce you to an author Greg and to have Nicole return to do a blog post!

WIP word count: 30674, chapter 24

How are you spending your Lent? Are you taking something on or giving something up?

Are you following any of the calendar activities? If so which ones are you doing?

Goodbye and Hello

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Since my characters are still running amok on me, I’m going to procrastinate by writing my blog post. Perhaps by turning my back on them, they will decide to play nice. For two days my word count remains at 28, 091.

My son and I had a lovely visit while he was home. We sat and read together, we played some games, and we went for some walks around the neighborhood. There is nothing I value more than quality time together, even if we are only sitting side-by-side reading. The house is always so quiet after he leaves, not because he’s noisy but because his presence is gone. I go through empty nest syndrome all over again.

Does being an empty nester ever get easier? My mother enjoys it, or so she says.

This week I’m preparing for my sister and her husband to come for a visit! I am beyond excited. I’ve lived in BC for 10 years, and my sister has been out once. My brother in law has never been to BC. My prayers have consisted of nice weather for them, safe flights, and good connections.

My brother in law is in a wheelchair now and traveling isn’t easy for them anymore. It has opened my eyes and made me appreciate my life and health. I suffer from autoimmune diseases, which makes traveling a pain, but it’s nothing to what my sister and brother in law have to deal with. From booking hotels (there was only 1 in Victoria), checking my house to make sure his wheelchair can get through doorways (they can’t), and making sure he can get into my car, he says he can! I pray he can…

Needless to say, I will have limited writing time next week to write. There might be a few down times where I can sneak in a few hundred words if my characters decide to cooperate! I’m hoping that this reconnecting time will spur on my writing. The time away from social media in and of its self will be good for me.

Bring on the sunshine!

Procrastination blog

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The sun is shining, the snow is melting, and my son is home! To say I am happy is an understatement. I’m over the moon, and already driving my son crazy!

We haven’t done any co-authoring talk yet because he has to get his homework done first. And when he’s not doing assignments, he’s sending out job applications. He’s a dedicated young man, and I am one proud momma bear!

I have done tons of rewriting and as of this morning, I have completed the chapter where I noticed that my sub characters had hijacked my plot.

Accountability word count check: chapter 21–26, 932 words.

You would think I would be rocking with excitement, but I have officially kicked into procrastination gear by writing this week’s blog post! I usually do housework when I want to procrastinate, but I don’t want to interrupt my son’s focus on his assignment.

Shhhh — Don’t tell my husband but I’ve started to the spring-cleaning! I figure if I do it slow enough he won’t notice right? The temptation to do spring-cleaning has gripped me this year, and I am working my way through drawers, cupboards, and my eye keeps twitching when I look at the garage.

Do you do Spring-cleaning?

Do you do a personal spring-cleaning by self-reflecting?

A few weeks ago I mentioned doing self-reflection during Lent and spring. This past week I realized two things.

1) My husband got me two new books, and I noticed my TBR pile was getting rather high. (But we won’t talk about that)

2) I noticed that 9 of the 16 books were for personal growth or self-reflection.

How is your TBR? What books are you reading?

Blessings, Snow, and Family

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Well, Old Man Winter reared his head and pulled a fast one on us! So much for our early spring that I posted about last week. The problem with it snowing over here is that most communities/cities/towns don’t have snow removal equipment! So we are officially on our 2nd snow day.

How do you spend your snow days? I write or read by the fireplace!

Last week I said you might not hear from me if I didn’t make it out of my husband’s office and that I was going to talk about self-reflection and growing. Well, I made it out of his office, but I’m not going to talk about self-reflection and growing because I have some exciting news to share.

On Sunday our first snowstorm hit, and we were out of town for church. My husband was guest preaching at a friend’s church. We met his lovely wife and two beautiful daughters. I was excited to meet the girls because they’ve read my first two devotional books and the eldest daughter was reading Timothy’s adventures.

Linnea, who is 6, was wonderful enough to colour me two pictures to bring home. One picture was of puppies from Timothy’s Adventures, and one was the Lamb of God. We were sitting beside a stained glass window of the Lamb of God and every time we said the phrase during the service she would pop up and point at the window!

It was a blessing and honour for us to show our support to this friend on his last Sunday at his parish. As of Monday, he is on his way to prepare for being a chaplain in the Royal Canadian Air Force! May his family be blessed abundantly for his courage, love, and dedication to God and his country.

I’m also excited because my sister, brother-in-law and my mother are coming out to visit! My sister and brother-in-law will be here the first week in March, and my beautiful mom will be here for the month! And on Saturday I get to pick my handsome son up; he’ll be home for spring break! I love talking about writing with him. We’ve toyed with the idea of co-authoring a devotional book. We will see what the future holds.

Quick update on my new book: I’m pushing myself to get as much writing done as possible in the next few weeks due to my family visiting in March.

After having two side characters hijack my plot, I’ve spent several months replotting and doing in-depth character profiles, with the help of my wonderful mentor Kate. I’m excited to say that as of this moment, my new word count is 12927. I am excited to hear what my handsome son thinks of the new storyline

Spring has sprung!

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Spring has sprung! Or at least it has for us.

I don’t know if the groundhogs saw their shadows or not, but when my husband and I got back from our walk on Monday, we saw buds bursting, colorful crocuses, and flowering heather.

I love spring and fall. There is something magical about those two seasons for me.

For me, spring is about the washing away of the dirty snow, the new birth bursting through the frozen earth, and of course the babies!

And who can forget Lent and Easter. Some people find it weird that I love Lent. What’s not to love? It’s the period of preparation, of fasting, and reflection, but more on this closer to Lent.

Back to new birth, babies, and spring!

My family all live back in Ontario. As of today, they are still covered in snow and in a deep freeze warning. I have to be honest though, I was mean and texted my sisters pictures of our crocuses, buds, and flowering heather.

I always find that during season changes I tend to do more self-reflection and growing. (More on this in my next blog!) I also get the itch to clean the house, the closets, the gardens, the car, and my husband’s office!

If I’m not back by next week come looking in my husband’s office!

Creativity and stories retreat

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This past weekend I had the privilege and honour of leading a “Discovering God through creativity and stories” intergenerational (9 and up) retreat at my husband’s church. It was wonderful to see how music, creativity, and stories can bring people together.

 

I started the retreat by giving the adults permission to play. This was important because adults have this sense that they aren’t allowed to play anymore. Yet, Peter Berger in Rumours of Angels states, “When play is at its best, something of the presence of God breaks into our lives and redemptive powers are experienced.” I also shared with them a quote from C. S. Lewis. In Surprised by Joy Lewis says, “…play at its best can lift us out of time and space and place us in a rapturous state in which we taste something of the eternal.”

 

Our story was a Godly Play rendition of the mustard seed. It was delightful to see how enthralled they were when they were invited into the new experience. There is something beautiful about being a part of a story, experiencing the story in an intimate way. When we experience a story from our heart, it becomes a part of our very being in a beautiful way.

 

We had the pleasure of uplifting music from my son’s university chapel choir, a contemporary piece, a breathtaking Syrian orthodoxy chant of Psalm 135, and a meditative Gregorian chant. Interspersed through these lovely pieces of music we looked at and coloured icons, stain glassed pictures, and we played with the idea of how God views us. We ended our retreat with two graffiti walls where we explored what worship means to us and Christ’s question to all of us: Who do you say that I am.

 

It was inspiring to watch everyone relax to the point where many of them didn’t want to stop colouring! It’s common knowledge that music and art affect our moods, emotions, and creativity, but they are also a means of prayer and connecting with the Divine. Perhaps you are familiar with the famous quote from St. Augustine: he who sings prays twice.

 

On Saturday we discovered that creativity, music, and stories are good for our souls. Creativity, music, and stories will refresh your spirit if you are open to allowing them.

 

Our God is a creative God, look in the mirror. You are a beautiful creation!

 

And it’s with this creative energy I move into my writing this week; with an open heart and mind to exploring the world I have built. I look forward to seeing where my characters take me this week!

Pictures by Trina