Family and FAITH: Of Accidents and Angels

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Life's intersections create change.

 

My first car accident was at 5:30 one morning on the way to a rock radio station where I wrote the morning news. Slippery roads and a heavy foot took me on a free, 360 degree spin ride and slammed my car against a fence. 

Though less than 2 miles from home, I asked the police officer to take me to my dad’s office, where he had to be pulled out of a presentation he was doing on driver safety. Meanwhile, a friend who noticed my car, went to my home, asked mom where I was and said he said my car kissing the fence. 

I was 18. 

My second accident totaled the car I was driving. As the third car in a five car pileup on the interstate, I saw brake lights ahead and could do nothing but try to minimize the impact, which lifted the SUV in front of us. As I saw the front end of my car crinkle toward me like an accordion I sensed God’s hand cover the windshield as if to say, “You can crunch, but only this far.” The impact sent my glasses air born and needless to say, I was late getting my passengers to middle school. 

I was a mother of teens. 

And then, the other morning God awakened me at 6 a.m. All I could sense was an urgency to pray – for anyone, everyone, family, friends, those I don’t know facing problems I don’t know. 

At 8:10 a.m. the call came. “Dad, I’ve been in an accident, but everyone’s OK,” the matter-of-fact voice said. 

He is 18. 

While waiting for police to show up and write the report, my son looked at me and said, “We were lucky.” 

From somewhere in my soul, my mouth spoke. “No. You were prayed for,” I replied and recounted my early morning talk with God. 

I’ve always been concerned about making faith or God seem like good luck charms for life because they aren’t. I know people are in car accidents and have other events occur in their lives without good endings. But I do know that when our lives intersect in unexpected ways with others – through car crashes, decisions or consequences – our lives change. 

Mine changes. I’d like to say it changes daily for the better. Maybe others can see changes before I do. What I do know, however, is that intersections in life can be good. They cause us to pause and consider. It probably gives guardian angels a breather, too. 

After arriving at the accident scene, the other driver  introduced herself as Angel. The car belonged to her pastor. I guess intersections can’t be all bad. 

Just wondering: consider the most recent intersection in your life. Did you pause to consider how God wants you to continue through it? Ask him for His directions for your life.

Fun: Meet My Friend, an Award-Winning Author!

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One of the biggest benefits of being a writer isn’t the money.  

It isn’t project completion.  

It’s the opportunity to say “way to go!” to writer friends who are ahead on the path and to cheer them on. In the mid-80s, God allowed Rachel and I to meet while attending Tallahassee Community College. Miraculously through the years we have been able to remain in touch.  

Rachel's latest work is The Sweet By and By.

 

So now, I’d like to introduce you to Rachel Hauck, a woman who loves Jesus and uses the gifts and abilities He’s given her to write. Her latest project is a collaboration with Sara Evans, who is an award-winning music artist!  

Enjoy!  

– Cheryl  

BOOK BACKGROUND:
Jade Fitzgerald left the pain of her past in the dust when she headed out for college a decade ago. Now she’s thriving in her career and glowing in the light of Max Benson’s love.  

But then Jade’s hippie mother, Beryl Hill, arrives in Whisper Hollow, Tennessee, for Jade’s wedding along with Willow, her wild younger sister. Their arrival forces Jade to throw open the dark closets of her past–the insecurity of living with a restless, wandering mother, the silence of her absent father, and the heart-ripping pain of first-love’s rejection.  

Turns out Beryl has a secret of her own. She needs reconciliation with her oldest daughter before illness takes her life. In the final days leading to the wedding, Jade meets the One who shows her that the past has no hold on her future. With a little grace, they’ll meet in the middle, maybe even before that sweet by and by.   

 WHAT REVIEWER’S ARE SAYING!  

“…heartwarming collaborative debut.” – Publishers Weekly  

“This Southern mother-daughter story is refreshingly well written and will easily engross readers of women’s fiction.” – Library Journal   

ABOUT RACHEL:
Best selling, award winning author Rachel Hauck is known for well-written stories that paint real-life characters facing

Rachel (left) with Sara Evans, with whom she collaborated.

 

real-life challenges. She writes with depth and humor. As an author, worship and prayer leader, it’s Rachel’s heart to spread the love and fragrance of God to those she meets. In person or on the page. His plans for each individual are vast and good. “I have one goal in life. To seek His face. Everything has come together for me because of seeking Him. Even in my weakness, He is strong. I’d like others to know the same success.”  

 Rachel lives in central Florida with her husband, a teacher and pastor, and their ornery pets.  

ABOUT SARA EVANS:
Multi-platinum recording artist Sara Evans has garnered such honors as ACM’s Female Vocalist of the Year, CMA’s Video of the Year, named one of People Magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People,” and she was the first country star to compete in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. This is her first novel. Sara has said that the redemptive message always attracts her to a given story. It’s the story she’s cares about most in the songs she records and sings; it’s the story of her life; it’s the story she looks for in the faces of those she meets.  

“I’ve been a Believer since I was 21. My faith has been everything to me in my life since then. In my marriage, my motherhood, my career, and just dealing with everyday life, God is my constant companion and friend. I find myself praying constantly prayers of gratitude and guidance. As a mom and a career woman, my life is filled daily with choices and decisions to make that will affect lots of people. So I rely on God to guide me!”  

AND NOW, HERE’S RACHEL:  

Q: How did this collaboration come about?  

RH: Really? God. Thomas Nelson approached Sara about a fiction project, then approached me about writing with/for her. My career was in a place of make-it or break-it, and I’d just prayed one of my “surrender prayers” to the Lord and was ready to go anywhere, do anything. Not having children, I am pretty much 100% available to pick up and go whenever and wherever. Knowing the Lord would take my husband and current writing and worship commitments into account, I was ready to go! It was very freeing to say, “God, I have nothing. What do you want to do? I’m 100% available. You’re so good, whatever it is You want for me, I’ll love it.”  

 I’ve loved this journey writing with Sara. I struggled in some of my weaknesses from time to time, but this was one of the easiest books I’ve ever written even though I’d never written women’s fiction. Never written flashbacks. Never written a continuing character series.  

 Q: What was Sara’s part of the process?  

RH: She cast the vision. We sat down and talked about what she wanted in the book, what kind of story she wanted to tell, and hashed out an overview. I went home and added the details and did the writing. If I was unsure about something, I’d email her and ask for her input. For example, we ended up dealing with a controversial social issue in this book and I wanted to know she was ready to assign her name to it.   

 Q. What do you want readers to take away from this story?  

RH: God is good. There is always hope and redemption. While our past can impact our present, we don’t have to carry the burden of pain and sin into the future. God truly does work all things together for our good.  

 Q. What’s next for you and Sara?  

RH: The second book, Softly and Tenderly, is written and releases January 2011. We are collaborating on two more books to be released January 2012 and 2013. They will be a continuation of the series. Book two is really exciting. Hit’s the ground running.  

Q. As an author, how did this book impact you and your work?  

RH: I learned a lot about myself. Going back to the original prayer of surrender, I had to see that when God brought something to me to do it might not center around me! Maybe He wanted me to use my gifts and talents for others. At the same time, what amazing grace and peace He gave me.  

My writing had to take on a different flavor and tone. I learned to write about two women instead of a romance with a hero and heroine. I had to develop back story that worked on stage instead of through dialog. This project forced me to work on a much deeper emotional level. I was exhausted when it was done. But I loved the process.  

 Q. Who is your favorite character?  

RH: Well, Jade, the protagonist, of course. But her sister Willow really captured me. We had to back her up a bit or she’d steal the show! I also really had an affection for the character Dustin.  

Q. What’s next for you? Any solo projects?  

 RH: Yes! I have a late 2010 release from Thomas Nelson, Dining With Joy, about a cooking show host who can’t cook.  

RESOURCES:
 Amazon link: http://www.amazon. com/Sweet- Sara-Evans/ dp/1595544895  

Rachel’s web site: http://www.rachelhauck. com  

Sara’s: http://www.saraevans. com  

FAITH: My “tune up”

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The Guiro sounded beautiful in my son's hands. He played the part he was to play.

 

My week ended on a high note.  

Even though most times, God repairs the weak areas in my mind and soul with music during church, tonight it happened at a District Honor Band concert where my youngest son was first chair percussionist.   

First, let me back up to put life in perspective. During the last week, my friend has experienced the passing of her last brother. Her other one died only six weeks ago. Today, only two days post, she’s telling me on the phone how she got to share Jesus with a co-worker who had come to pay respects!  

A 4-month-old baby in our church required open heart surgery. Surgeons were ready to fix several small holes and a large one, but prior God chose to close the small ones Himself. After all He is the Great Physician!  

My whole first semester of Power Point lessons and miscellaneous other documents for my creative writing students are now the squeakiest example of cleanliness thanks to my flash drive’s swim in the washing machine. That ranks right up there with flushing my cell phone (accidentally) but that’s another story. Suffice it to say that wearing a sweatshirt with a kangaroo pocket housing a cell phone inside are not a good combination when pressing “the handle.”  

And then, there was tonight’s concert.  

I could spot him immediately by the way he moved around the stage immediately prior to the concert’s beginning. He has a confidence and a courage I rarely see in performers his age. I sat with my husband in our county’s largest high school’s auditorium toward the top of the seating. You know, moms always like to see everything! And it was that crowded.  

First the middle school district honor band took stage. It made me think back a few years to one of my son’s first of many band auditions. I never progressed to that level in my own musical background. Anyway instead of saying, “I know you’ll be fine,” I told him to make them [the judges] say, “Wow.” I don’t know where it came from but it became our little “you can do it” pep talk before most of his future auditions as well – even if I weren’t on-site and waiting for him.  

I enjoyed the middle school program and remembered him playing in that group a few short years ago. Today he’s in high school, and as the “first chair” he played the guiro, bells and the bass drum.  

I beamed as most parents do when they see their children perform. But he taught me a lesson: no matter what part you play, you can play it well.  

Isn’t that the lesson of being a Christ follower? Play the part(s) well Jesus has assigned to you. Don’t play someone else’s part. It won’t sound the same. Your part matters because it’s your part – specially designed for you and no one else.  

So, if  in my little slice of life, I have to recreate Power Point presentations and lessons, so be it. If my friend needs quiet company, prayer or a home-cooked dinner in the weeks ahead, I can do it. And if God can close the holes in a baby’s hurting heart, I can trust Him. Again. And again. And again.  

Now that’s the music of a beautiful life lived before others and pointing to God. May I stay “in tune” to what He tells me and play my part in harmony with His plan.  

Just wondering: How has God shown Himself to you during the past week? Has he surprised you with a new part to play?

unFUN: Not the last resort

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 I feel helpless.  

I am watching students’ lives spin out of control and all I get to do is notify parents of violations to the district’s code of conduct.  

 I am saddened that such bright potential is so boisterous, disruptive and clueless about it all – thinking it hilarious that lying to me is a game of one-upsmanship among others to see who can cause me to “pop my cork.”  

 I am glad for a personal trainer and that I could head to my usual workout immediately after my day because I knew I would feel physically better afterward.  

 Thank you, God, for sweat.   

 I am glad for a husband who asks about my day and really means it.  

 He got to hear.  

I'm glad to know I can't handle it all and that God can.

 

 But I know someone else was listening as well – God.  

Back pedal from today to this past Sunday when I found out that a dear friend’s husband left her in November. She asked about my sister and I started to cry. “Just pray,” I whispered between breaths.  

We embraced and I told her I would be praying for her and that prayer was not a last resort.   

I say I believe that and I do. So before I turn on my “breathing machine” that helps my sleep apnea, before I pull the three layers of blankets up to my chin and turn to my left side to fall asleep – I will pray. For my friend. For students. For myself.  

I can’t carry these burdens.  

But Jesus can. The Bible tells me so.

FUN: Opportunity to Inspire

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God has planted me in a special vineyard this year: a middle school with students in nine different arts areas. I’m in Creative Writing with 6th through 8th graders. Do I get tired? Sure. Do I love it? Yes and I thank God I can honestly say so!

If you’d like to know more, check out this link:

http://skirt.com/articles/muse-cheryl-b-lemine

Family and Faith: My Favorite Christmas Gift

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First, let’s flash back to the late 60s when yours truly was a young whipper snapper on a Christmas shopping spree for her two uncles and assorted family members. At the DIME store [these existed before today’s DOLLAR stores] I perused aisles searching for perfect gifts. I had $1 and was confident I’d pick the best gifts ever!   

I can’t believe how patient my parents were! They took me and my two younger sisters who are twins several times during our elementary years. But back to me.   

Super Selections   

After carefully examining the offerings I remember two specific choices. For Uncle Bill – a vice president type for a national trucking firm at that time – I chose a box of paper clips. Every businessman needs paper clips and I was certain that the ones I selected were the best of all time. For Uncle Bob who is still in marine related law enforcement, I chose thumb tacks. My memory’s a little fuzzy here about why but thumb tacks were my gift of choice.   

I wrapped each tiny box and anxiously awaited my uncles’ surprised and grateful faces on Christmas morning as my family gathered at Maw Maw’s and Paw Paw’s for the unwrapping festivities.   

Of course, Uncles Bob and Bill were both thankful and speechless for reasons upon which you are welcome to speculate. I relished the fact that I had chosen such perfect gifts for my loving uncles.   

Here and Now   

Now fast forward to Christmas, 2009.   

To be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to it and much of that had to do with news about one sister’s cancer journey. But of course, Christmas would still come and me and my family still went to my parents where we routinely gathered to celebrate.   

When we’re all together there are 15 of us. My dad says when we all show up it’s like Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus and when we leave it’s like Culley and Sons Funeral Home. (My hometown really has a funeral home with this name!) Since my maiden name is Bailey the circus analogy is rather fitting since there are 7 grandchildren between the ages of 11 and 18.   

But back to me.   

It was almost present opening time. Everyone sat anxiously with their gifts beside their chairs as we started the one-by-one procedure thereby allowing us to all see what each other received. Of course, this present opening policy was NOT present during the years of young children.   

Check out the cool sock gift from my niece!

 

Two gifts I especially want to mention came from my only niece and one of my youngest nephews. The niece is a teenager and earns income by babysitting; she had used her own money to buy me the adorable gift you see pictured. It’s a funky baby sock with a closure for loose change and bills if you want to toss them in. The unusual and colorful are also favorites of mine. My heart warmed knowing the sacrifice she had made on my behalf.   

My nephew’s gift was sentimental and shrewd. At 11, he was elected president of his 5th grade class and he already knows the value of not alienating his constituents (aka his favorite aunt) . His school had a Christmas gift shop and  he selected a beautiful golden star ornament that said #1 Aunt. He also presented my other sister with another featuring the same sentiment! I love it nonetheless.   

My Favorite Gift   

But my favorite gift of all…besides the family time…besides watching all the kid cousins playing “dead or alive” football in the front yard…or eating from the plethora of Christmas cookies lovingly baked by mom was a gift that needed no unwrapping. If you were to ask everyone there with me that day – not only would they say they received the same gift, but that they were happy for it as well.   

It wasn’t a “one size fits all” garment.  It wasn’t a blanket with sleeves. It was a gift that sustained us, encouraged us and made Christmas Christmas.   

The gift was comfort and joy.   

We hadn’t had tidings of it before Christmas and future days will be uncertain but somehow despite it all – no, in spite of it all – God gave what became my favorite gift.   

Comfort and joy are hard to explain. Their added dividend of peace is even more amazing. And while I adore my special sock and my aunt ornament, I know comfort and joy aren’t exclusively mine. God’s storehouse of love is brimming with them – for each of us.   

There’s enough comfort and joy to go around – the whole world. Want some?   

Just asking: What’s your favorite gift from this last Christmas and why? It doesn’t have to be “spiritual” in nature.

FUN: Annual Goals a.k.a. Resolutions

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I plan to celebrate 2010!

 

Wishes are for birthdays. Resolutions are for new years. Progress is my plan for 2010. 

How about you? 

I was late this morning. But I rolled out of bed and went to step aerobics anyway. 

When it was over I was glad – not because I was winded, but because I accomplished a goal. While there, the instructor said she gave up on resolutions and doesn’t want any stress.

I can understand. 

Unbeknownst to her, I had decided to join the “just let it happen” camp this year and was actually feeling pretty good about it. I had even read a story in my local newspaper encouraging readers to make un-resolutions – writing out the opposite of what you want to do – as a twist of fun. 

The only problem? I really don’t want to get to Dec. 31, 2010 and wonder how another year could have come and gone so quickly without realizing it or moving forward in my life. We all know that aiming for nothing guarantees we’ll hit it every time. 

BABY STEPS 

For years, my friend Janice told me I should start a blog for my professional writing. Another friend – Rachel Hayes Hauck – an award-winning author – recommended I begin reading several blogs – one from a literary agent and the other of Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson publishing. 

 I found myself intrigued, entertained and encouraged. 

So how does this relate to the “should I or shouldn’t I make New Year’s Resolutions” discussion? It relates because one day I had to decide to take action. 

One day I came home from an exhausting but exhilarating day of teaching creative writing to middle schoolers. I was done thinking about blogging, reading about blogging and trying to understand the technology of blogging. Before bed that night, I had written my first post, determined a writing focus [family, faith, friends] and a frequency [twice weekly]. 

HOLD THE BUS! 

That’s great, you might be thinking. You actually thought about something and did it. But you don’t know me. 

You’re right. I don’t know the details of your life, but if you’re still reading, you’re probably thinking about moving back to the “I think I’ll try this resolution thing once more” side. 

After my satisfyingly sweaty workout I checked my email to find another blog post by Mr. Hyatt – this one on making resolutions that are realistic. Try looking at them as “annual goals,” he said. 

So I did and now I have five SMART annual goals for the year. 

But before I “go public,” with mine, let me encourage you to remember that it is God who grants life. When you [and I] are living for and loving him we can have goals that even have an external, spiritual nature to them. I encourage you to visit Mr. Hyatt’s blog [listed under resources at the end of this blog post]. He does such an incredible job of breaking down the SMART acronym. I certainly don’t need “systems or procedures” to worship, but I think his  explanations are simple, easy and to the point – something I truly appreciate! 

TO BEGIN 

Lose weight. Read more. Drive more safely. These sound valiant but they’re vague and lack determination. Shake it up this year and try a new approach to resolutions – you’ll be more apt to achieve them. 

Mr. Hyatt recommends a four-step strategy to making resolutions: 

1. Fewer are better. It increases your ability to focus on them. Don’t bog yourself down with “micro-points” beneath each. They’re distracting and eat at your energy. 

2. Make them SMART: specific, measurable, “actionable,” realistic and time-bound. [See www.michaelhyatt.com for more details.] 

3. Don’t just think about them – write them down! 

4. Go “public” and let others know your intentions. Who knows? Your “public” could very well be the cheerleaders lining your road of life this year. Who knows? They may help you as you make steps toward success! 

If we register soon, we can even have our names on our race numbers!

 

MY “SMART GOALS” for 2010: 

1. Participate in a women’s accountability group beginning Jan. 5, 2010. 

2. Participate in the 5K Charity Run and Walk event held in conjunction with the annual River Run on March 13, 2010. [See link below to register! I think we should get a team together! I’ll be mostly walking… Who will join me?] 

3. Read through the entire Bible by Dec. 31, 2010. 

4. Write 108 blog posts (two per week) by Dec. 31, 2010. 

5. Finalize my children’s picture book manuscript and submit it to at least one publisher by Dec. 31, 2010. 

Resources: 

http://michaelhyatt.com/ 

http://rachelhayeshauck.blogspot.com/ 

http://gate-riverrun.com/howtoenter.htm 

Just wondering: Are you considering whether or not to make a few resolutions? Tell me about them so I can encourage you!