You Asked Me! #2


Last week I introduced a new series of posts I’ll be sharing with you in the next few weeks. I’ve been given five questions and I’ll answer one each Wednesday. Here’s #2, from my friend Bob.

QA #2

Now, as someone who has “journalist” listed among my other professional skills, it’s very tempting to try and sound smart and give the impression that I’m on top of all the latest world news, but it wouldn’t do anyone any good for me to be less than honest.

I do try to keep up with current events to the extent that I need to as a somewhat intelligent, functioning citizen of modern society and one who writes about various topics, but I’m far from being a news junkie. Political issues, in particular, are not my strong suit, especially when world history is involved. This is just a matter of fact and who I am, and this is why I tend not to pick up assignments that require a good understanding of politics. I’m not passionate enough about politics to make the effort.

However, I’m very interested in following news about societal trends and issues such as media, education, family, youth, religion, consumerism, health, the environment, etc. Again, I’m not a news junkie but I try to stay informed so that I can have at least some basic information as a starting point when I write on various topics.

Hope this answers your question, Bob! Let me know if it doesn’t and I’ll try to clarify my response.

Curious about next week’s question? “Who was the first person to inspire you to write a book? Or maybe it was not a person?” Good one! I’ll answer this next Wednesday but may post something else in the meantime if inspiration strikes me.

Until then, I wish you a blessed weekend, especially as some of you remember and celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection. If you haven’t read it lately, I encourage you to meditate on Isaiah 53 this week.

You Asked Me! #1


As mentioned in my last post, I’ve started fielding questions on my Facebook page and five good ones have been sent my way so far. Every week I will answer one of them until I run out. (If you have a question for me, on any topic as long as it’s not inappropriate or too personal, please ask me in the comments section below.)

I’ve chosen Wednesdays for this weekly feature only because I’m finally able to get to the first question tonight and it happens to be Wednesday. Pretty clever, eh? :) (I’m posting this late at night so I guess a lot of you won’t see it until Thursday–I’m not trying to confuse you! I’ll try to post earlier next time.)

Here’s the first question (actually two questions), from my friend Salena:

QA #1

This is a fun one for me to answer, partly because I never set out to make a career of writing. I wanted to be a chemical technologist “when I grew up”!

My very first job. . . Well, that depends on whether Salena is referring to my first “real” job. As a teenager I used to earn some cash by babysitting, tutoring, and working at my aunt’s lingerie shop during summer sidewalk sales. The first time I got an actual paycheque was when I worked for 3-1/2 weeks at an animation studio, CinéGroupe, filling in for a production assistant while he was on vacation. I think that was in 1990. I got the job through a friend at church who worked there, not because I was looking for it. It was loads of fun even though I spent most of my time making a bajillion photocopies. The animation series was called The Little Flying Bears but I can’t remember which episode I was there for.

Although that was a temp job, I mention it because it gave me a taste of being involved in a creative project. I still thought I was meant to go into sciences because it never occurred to me to entertain any notions of pursuing a creative career. I excelled in my science and math courses so it seemed natural to go in that direction.

It is obvious now that God had other plans. In the middle of my college studies, I began to do poorly in my program. The life was being sucked out of me and I just couldn’t keep up. Something was wrong. I transferred into a general science program just to complete my studies and get my college diploma, but I started looking around for the path I needed to be on. I applied to university to study computer science and got rejected. In the meantime, I got my second job, which started out as a summer job but ended up going for nine months as I tried to figure out my future; this job (also thanks to a church member) was at a scarf importer, preparing samples for buyers. Again, there was a creative element to my job that I loved but I was still thinking science!

While I waited for a response to my second application to university, I looked for a temporary clerical job. I should mention at this point that throughout this year or so of being in limbo and feeling confused about my career, my parents were a great support (and here we touch on Salena’s second question). My father urged me to consider my talents and interests and he kept talking about how good I was at writing and in English. I not-so-silently scoffed and asked, “What am I supposed to do with that? Become a writer?!” It just didn’t make sense to me.

So, back to my story: I landed at a trade magazine publisher and knew, within days, that this was the industry I belonged in. Thankfully, my second application to university got rejected, too. (It seems they weren’t satisfied with some of my math grades from college.) I was actually relieved! I ended up staying at Home BUILDER Magazine for four years, progressing from typesetter to proofreader to editorial assistant over that time. So, in a sense, this was my first real job. And it also became my last job because, in December 1996, I quit and decided to start my own business.

But before I quit, I had to share my plans with my parents. I was 24 at the time but still depended a lot on their wisdom and guidance in the bigger questions of life. I told my father that I wanted to start working for myself (at that time I was leaning more toward desktop publishing) and that I’d like to try it out for a few months and then, if I failed, look for another “real” job or go back to school. I braced myself for a reaction along the lines of: “Are you out of your mind, child? What kind of a stupid plan is that? You can’t run your own business.”

Not even thirty seconds later, my dad nodded his head and said, “Yup. I think you can do it. Go for it.”

a-smile

That was over 17 years ago! It was tough going for the first few years as I was a complete unknown. I did all kinds of odd jobs designing newsletters and proofreading, along with the occasional freelance writing assignment, but eventually took on a lot of copy editing work and started building relationships at writers’ conferences. Today, I’m waiting for my fourth book to be released and have had nearly 300 articles published. I almost exclusively write. I have one ongoing proofreading job (for Home BUILDER, believe it or not!) and one regular e-newsletter editing job; other than that, all my work is writing. I couldn’t be happier with my job and try to remember to thank God for it every day.

You can learn a bit more about my journey as a writer on the “About” page of my website.

Well, I hope that answered your questions, Salena, and that at least a few others enjoyed learning about my journey. Thanks for your interest!

Curious about what question #2 was? Here’s a sneak peek: “How often do you keep up with current events, as they pertain to Israel? The book of Daniel lately has me watching the news very carefully. Are you a news junkie or do you tend to stay away from what is going on with politics etc.?” Come back next week to see my response!

Love, Follow, Serve


Several years ago, I visited Edmonton for the first time and participated in Missions Fest Alberta. [Continue reading below the graphic.]

love follow serve

Though my primary task was to visit the children’s programs to get some ideas for our local missions fest later that year (I headed up the kids’ program for four consecutive years), I also got to attend the young adults rally one evening. The speaker was Nizar Shaheen, a Nazareth-born preacher and the founder of Light for All Nations, an evangelical television ministry in Burlington, Ontario, that reaches out to Arabic-speaking people with the gospel.

Shaheen urged the young people to examine their spiritual priorities and to move beyond the timidity and fear that hold so many of us back from boldly living out our faith. He emphasized that, as Christians, we must operate from a position of power — God’s power — and not weakness. We read in 2 Timothy 1:7 that “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and self-discipline.”

However, he also pointed out that the only way we can tap into this power is by first placing ourselves in the perfect will of God. Several times Jesus said that He came not to do His own will, but that of God, who had sent Him. How much less should we focus on our own wills but, rather, seek the will of God, our Father?

Shaheen listed three key personal and spiritual priorities each Christian should have, and I’d like to share them with you, too (with my own comments):

  1. Love God supremely — In other words, we must love God to the maximum degree. God must rank #1 in our lives. He must have the highest authority and greatest importance in our lives.
  2. Follow God unconditionally — It’s rather useless, pointless and meaningless to call oneself a follower of God and then not obey Him or walk in His way or go where He leads. If we are truly Jesus’ disciples, if we are sincere when we call Him Lord, there must be no situation where we say, “Sorry… I’m not going there… I’m not doing that.”
  3. Serve God wholeheartedly — Most of us serve God to some degree, but how many of us do it wholeheartedly, i.e. with our whole heart? Does every fibre of our being rejoice in serving God? Are we ready to serve Him at any given moment, when He pleases, or only when it’s convenient for us?

These points really challenged me about my commitment to God. Will you join me in setting our spiritual priorities straight in the coming month?

Soul Searching


I’ve been pretty quiet since my last post, which may not surprise some of you if you read my introspective ramblings on February 28. I guess I’ve been doing some more soul searching regarding things like how much time I spend on social media and where God is calling me to invest my time and energy. Happily, I’ve been gaining clarity.

One exciting development is that I’ve just joined several other writers at A Look at the Book, a blog dedicated to sharing insight from God’s Word through various interesting formats (from brief thoughts to longer reflections). My posts will be featured on the second Tuesday of each month and I’ll be starting in April. In the meantime, however, I was tickled to discover this morning that THIS blog (Piece of Mind) is the featured blog of the week at A Look at the Book (there’s my photo and link to my blog in the right-hand column, partway down the page). I’m looking forward to spending some more time in personal Bible study as I participate. Please check out the other contributors’ posts and blogs and follow along on our journey!

Also, it’s funny how a doctor’s proclamation can sometimes be the kick in the pants we need to finally start taking care of ourselves. Last fall, I faced some challenges when both my ankles inexplicably ballooned like grapefruits. Several blood tests, x-rays and an MRI finally revealed that it was an incidence of tendinitis, possibly a flare-up of psoriatic arthritis. I seem to be okay now, though there is some risk of further sprains if I’m not careful. As such, my rheumatologist suggested two things: wearing ankle sleeves for support when I walk and. . .losing some weight. My first thought was, “Tell me something I don’t already know! I’ve been trying to lose weight.” Amazingly, though, since our conversation on Tuesday night, my whole attitude toward diet and weight loss has changed. I’ve taken my focus off my vanity and pride and placed it on my health. God gave me this body and I’m responsible for taking good care of it. And so I have been doing that these last few days and I’m already feeling a difference.

And, finally, I’ve decided I don’t need to keep up with everyone’s posts on Facebook. (I’d already given up doing that on Twitter some time ago.) I’m only popping in for a few minutes a day to respond to personal messages or to post something quick on one of the pages I moderate (besides my own, I have my author page, our church’s page and our family’s ministry page). I’ve been unplugging more and catching up on my book reading (I just started Dostoevsky’s The Idiot) and on my sleep!

Sometimes the smallest changes we need to make in life can be the toughest to put into motion but also the most rewarding. If you’re feeling restless or uncertain about where your time, energy and resources are going, I encourage you to take some time out to pray and reflect. What excites your soul? What enhances your relationship with God? What brings you joy (not pleasure, but joy)? What brings joy to the people you love? The answers to these questions are clues that will help you make better choices in your life.

To close, here’s a quote from my first book, Designer Genes. Feel free to share this graphic!

Beauty

The Things that Matter


I haven’t posted an update for a while. At first, I will admit, I was distracted by the Winter Olympics (most Canadians love to get excited about the winter Games, especially during gold-medal curling and hockey matches (did I mention that we won all four gold medals in those events?)) but then, as another week slipped by, it was easy to just continue delaying writing a new blog post.

Actually, I’ve been facing a conundrum that regularly pops up in various areas of my life: Does it really matter if I blog regularly? If not, why am I making myself feel bad about it? If yes, why can’t I discipline myself to do it?

I have these inaudible conversations with myself regarding things like weight loss (Does anyone else really care if I’m 15 pounds overweight? Who am I trying to impress? But it’s important for my health so I should do this…) and my writing (I really should buckle down and work on some article and book proposals. But I’ve got enough work — why do I need more? Is this about promoting myself or about being a good steward of the talents God has given me?) and just about anything else I need to make daily decisions about. I constantly find myself questioning my motivation behind why I do things — things that are not wrong or right on their own but could be wrong or right depending on my motives.

I think it’s because, every day, I am confronted with two sets of standards: the world’s and God’s. And I need to decide which one to live up to. The world tells me to look beautiful, wear stylish clothes, be clever and hip on social media, drive my book and author rankings up on Amazon, take gorgeous photos, read all the right books, cook like Emeril, know who’s who in Hollywood, have the right politics, listen to the right music and watch the right movies and quote the best TV shows and… Phew! It’s exhausting.

For a world that says it hates religion for its do’s and don’ts and commandments, it sure knows how to dole out its own unforgiving list of wrongs and rights. We’re constantly told what foods not to eat, what companies not to support, what products to avoid, what causes to stand up for or oppose, whose rights to defend or take away, what moral values to tolerate or reject or teach to our children and, if you live where I live, even what languages not to do business in.

Jesus said: “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30) He doesn’t weigh me down with a to-do list that I can’t keep up with. He asks me to “love the Lord [my] God with all [my] heart and with all [my] soul and with all [my] mind and with all [my] strength” and to “love [my] neighbor as [myself]. There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

All of these thoughts were inspired by a quote I came across last night by Marjorie Pay Hinckley:

I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails.
I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp.
I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbors children.
I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden.
I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder.
I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.

I came here simply wanting to share this passage with you but all the rest came out, too! So I may not post here on a perfectly timed schedule. I hope you’ll forgive me. The photos I post will likely be grainy or awkwardly lighted and composed. I won’t have solutions for losing weight or making it big in your career. But I will do my best to be real and to share with you the love that God has generously poured into my life.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. If it encouraged or inspired you, I hope you’ll share it with a friend. God bless you!