Archives for September 2007

End of an Era

It’s the end of an era at the Barker house. This weekend we laid to rest (out in the garage for now) a well-used and well-worn permanent fixture in our home. Our dining set of nearly 30 years has finally been retired. The poor thing has cried out for retirement for probably a decade or more, but we pressed it into continued service while our funds were being diverted to the halls of higher education (aka “kids in college”). Tack a wedding onto the end of those years, and the old dining set just didn’t have a chance.

I should have known our girls would have mixed feelings about the whole thing. Kristin and Kelli are about as sentimental as they come. Protest usually precedes any change I want to make around here, and believe it or not, Don is not the guilty party.

Thanks to our sentimental daughters (both out on their own now), we still have an empty dog house sitting out in the backyard, a Hello Kitty toothbrush holder attached to the bathroom wall, and a variety of other items that they assure us our yet-to-be-conceived grandchildren will most definitely use someday. When I think about it, I really see this as a compliment of sorts. At least they have fond memories of growing up at home.

The old dining set certainly holds a host of memories. Come to think of it, we’ve had it longer than we’ve had the girls. (Gosh, now I’m wondering if we should get rid of it!) We have gathered around that table through every phase of life, from a young couple just starting out to a family in full swing to a more “seasoned” couple wondering where the years have gone.

The table has seen it all. An expectant mom tired of trying to reach the food and finally just setting the plate on her belly, babies in high chairs having fun with spaghetti or nodding off into naptime before lunch was over, preschoolers blessing the food, and little girls playing play-doh on top of the table and making their “house” underneath.

Later came after-school snacks and daily homework, endless hours of Kelli’s crafty creations, birthday cakes with friends gathered round, Kristin learning the art of cookie making, and Don slaving over taxes and college financial forms. Soon the old table started seeing boys pull up a chair, and now we have one who has a permanent spot at the table.

Family games have always kept the table hopping, ranging all the way from Disney dominoes and Monopoly to Spades and Cranium. And of course, many prayers have been said at the table by the alone-again couple as the girls went off to college and made new lives of their own. Three decades of memories, most of them good. No wonder the girls are reluctant to let the old table go.

Of course, it’s not really the table that means so much to all of us but rather the memories of all the good times we’ve had with those we love. And so… the table can change. The memories will stay with us forever, priceless and treasured. What about you? Where have many of your fondest memories taken place? Go ahead, indulge in some nostalgia. You might even want to call a loved one and say “I thank my God every time I remember you.” (Philippians 1:3 NIV)

Worth the Drive – Part 2

Last time I promised more on the topic of my writers group. Let me start with some background. In early 2006, a little more than 10 years after I had begun writing, I started wondering if I should be doing something else. The plentiful rejections and long stretches between successes left me doubting if I was on the right path. I definitely felt like God had led me to begin my writing pursuits, but I couldn’t help but question if He now had a different plan for me. After all, I wanted my work to be used, my time to be well-invested, and wanted to be able to contribute more to our finances.

In the beginning, I had researched how to get started in the writing business and then plunged in, hesitant and hopeful at the same time. I asked for God’s leading, committed my work to Him, and simply plowed ahead in the best way I knew how. Most of the time I felt like a lone ranger, though. By its very nature, writing can be a lonely business.

As time went on, I poured out my frustrations to God and also shared them with my good friend Jeneal. Since she too had writing aspirations, we had mutually encouraged and acted as sounding boards for each other over the years. Sensing my current struggle, she sent me a Bible study for writers (Write His Answer by Marlene Bagnull). As I worked through it, it left me feeling reassured and refreshed.

Jeneal had also joined a writers group called Fellowship of Christian Writers and could not stop singing their praises. Even though they were 75 miles away from me, I decided it would be well worth the time and expense to attend (interacting with other writers was one of the things the Bible study had recommended). I was hooked after just one meeting. The support, camaraderie, and training have drawn me back again and again. In one short year, I have made several new friends, gained tons of writing and publishing insight, have received and also given encouragement to others, and have had my batteries recharged time and again. To sum it up, no more lone ranger status for me.

How about you? Are you part of a group that recharges your batteries? If not work-related, maybe for some other aspect of your life? A special interest or maybe a church or community group? If not, take a tip from a former lone ranger writer — plug in somewhere and get recharged. You’ll be glad you did. Remember our Words To Live By from last week? “…encourage one another and build each other up…” (1 Thes. 5:11).

Worth the Drive

I’m off to T-town in a few minutes. Fellowship of Christian Writers meets there the 4th Tuesday evening of every month. I’ve been part of the group for a year now and don’t miss the meetings unless weather or illness or some other life-emergency prevents me from making the drive. I’ll explain more in another post sometime, but joining FCW has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I generally make a day of it, taking care of a multitude of shopping chores as well as spending some time with my friend Jeneal. She’s the one, in fact, who invited me to be a part of this amazing group. I always come away inspired and ready to tackle the challenges of the writing life one more time.

This is just a quick post today. I’ll write more on this topic another time. For now, may God bless and inspire you today, too!

Creative Giving

Friend. The word alone creates good feelings. Warmth, fun, support, love, laughter, encouragement, understanding. You get the picture. A good friend shares in your life. Keeps pace with your ups and downs. Knows when you need some chocolate and exactly where to get it. And most importantly, would never let you eat it alone :) Seriously, though, a good friend knows you inside and out, loves you anyway, and would do most anything for you. I feel fortunate to have a few friends like that.

This past week I experienced that “do most anything for me” part of friendship. For close to a year now, my good friend Teri has heard me talk about trying to find just the right desk-top accessories for my new desk. I wanted an “in and out” organizer as well as one of those upright magazine files. But I didn’t want just any old thing. I wanted something that would go with the emerging color scheme in my office as well as something that looked a little more feminine than what can be found in all of the office stores. Teri has not only heard me talk about it but has also tramped around half of T-town with me looking for these elusive desk accessories :)

So, know what she did? Unbeknownst to me, she searched the internet, still not finding what she knew I wanted. However, she was determined to give them to me as a birthday gift so she just got creative. She ordered some plain accessories, went to the trouble to find some pretty scrapbook paper in the right colors, and covered them using a decopage finish (sorry, but I am craft-challenged and don’t know how to spell that!). Anyway, she happily presented them to me a few days ago as a belated birthday gift. I, of course, loved them! But more than that, I loved her for going above and beyond in order to try to give me my heart’s desire. What a friend!

After she gave me that precious gift, I got to thinking about Someone else who will go above and beyond for me and for you. The Bible tells us that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20 NIV). Is there something you’ve been longing for? Maybe looking very specifically for? Talk to God about it. He loves you and longs to give you good gifts. And remember, creativity is His speciality. Allow Him to be creative in your life. His answer will probably be more than you ever asked or imagined.

(P.S. – check out the new “Think On This” and “Words To Live By”. If life cooperates, I will try to change those weekly.)

Techie Help To The Rescue

Remember how proud I was the other day about getting my blog up and running all on my own? Well, I found out first-hand (again) how pride goes before a fall. The very first time I tried to log back in, the log-in process wouldn’t work for me. This technologically challenged boomer broke into a sweat and began to imagine having the only one-post blog in the world. I tried a few things, ended up in my gmail, and by some fluke my blog showed up on my screen, open and ready for me to make changes. I added a few extras, closed it out, and hoped that the next time it would magically work again. It didn’t.

I won’t bore you with the whole long story, but suffice it to say that I tried everything I knew — which is not a lot but somehow took me forever :) I needed techie help. Even though they live 2 1/2 hrs. away, my first line of defense is always my daughter Kristin and her husband Shawn (I skip right over my husband because he actually comes to me for computer help!). Not only has Shawn proven to be a terrific son-in-law, he has become my techie hero as well (an all-round superb addition to the family!). This time, however, Kristin came to my rescue. After a long day at work, she got on her computer and discovered something for me to try. It worked! Thank you, Kristin! And since Shawn had an even longer day at work than you did, I’m sure he thanks you as well :)

All of this to say that occasionally we all need some help. We all have help to give, too. We each have our strengths and weaknesses, different God-given gifts and abilities. We need each other — in our marriages, families, friendships, workplaces, churches, and communities. The Bible paints a perfect picture of this when it refers to the church as a body made up of many parts, each part with its own importance. “If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” (1 Corinthians 12:17-18 NIV).

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. God has gifted someone else to help you. And believe it or not, He has gifted you to help someone else. It’s a blessing either way. So go — bless and be blessed!