The ABCs of my 2013 – Part 3

[If you missed Part 1, here’s the link: The ABCs of my 2013 – Part 1. Part 2 can be found here.]

I’m sorry it took so long to get this post up on the blog but I’ve been feeling a little under the weather since the weekend and, I hate to admit, I’ve been hemming and hawing about the letter “Z.” As I type this post, I still haven’t decided what word I’m going to use but I will have my word by the time I get to that letter. I think. 😀 Here we go with the rest, in the meantime…

Q – Quilts: In 2013, I managed to sew four baby quilts. I finished the fourth one on New Year’s Eve but it was still 2013 in Montreal! I’m not sure I’ve ever made so many in one year before. Three of the quilts for the firstborns of church friends. The other one was a commissioned project for a giveaway. You may have seen my post about it earlier this year. Here are the completed quilts:

R – Reunion: At the end of September, I had the pleasure of attending my high school graduating class’s 25th year reunion, which I’d also helped organized. I was a bit nervous because quite a few of the alumni we were expecting were people I’d barely known in high school (our class had 220-250 students, if I remember correctly and a big chunk of those had transferred to our school one or two years before we graduated because their former school had closed). In the end, I had a wonderful time! Not only did I reconnect with pals I hadn’t seen in years but I forged new friendships with people who had been mere acquaintances 25 years ago. I’ve become Facebook friends with a lot of them and we enjoy staying in touch.

What was really fun about that evening was discovering that 11 of us had also graduated from elementary school together — so it was a 30th year reunion, too! We took a souvenir photo and I think all of us got a little choked up. It felt like a family reunion as we recognized that some of us had spent every day of up to 10 years together during a crucial time in our lives. It’s strange how those friendships seem to disappear after graduation…until you meet again years later. Most of us just picked up where we had left off, simply filling in some of the missing details of the 25-year gap. Anyway, here’s our “family” photo of our elementary school gang. I’m in the back, fifth from the left.

Edward VII group

S – Shepherd: I learned something about myself last year. As young adults, I believe most of us try to sort out what our talents and gifts are, what special set of skills we have that we can hone and put to good use either in a career or ministry. I thought I had mine pretty well figured out until two separate people both told me last year that they felt I have the gift of being a shepherd.

They didn’t mean doing crowd control on a group of woollies, of course, although that sounds like it might be fun. What they were telling me was that I seem to have a knack of bringing people together, identifying what they have in common and connecting them in a way that will be mutually beneficial — whether it’s individuals or a small group — and then gently guiding that group in its conversations or goals. For example, when it came time to organize our high school reunion, it seemed natural for me to look for our former classmates, contact them, invite them to a Facebook group I created, and make sure there was always some activity on the group page. I do the same with a group of freelance writers who belong to the same professional organization as I do. I’ve done this with other groups and, just before the end of the year, I brought together 11 of my friends to create a small support group through which we are encouraging each other to pursue some specific goals.

I never really noticed that I do this and could not have named this “talent,” if that’s what it is. But when my two friends said they see me as a shepherd, something clicked. I like that word in this context. And I’m happy to take on this role as God may lead me in the future.

T – Television: Several years ago, I stopped watching television. Although this was partly because I just stopped liking the shows being offered, it was also for practical reasons: I could never coordinate watching what I might have liked with when either I was free or the TV was free. But then I discovered Netflix and I have to admit that I do watch some television now. But I either watch reaaaally old shows (such as The Facts of Life or Wings) or else I’m a season or two behind everyone else watching the shows on TV (e.g., Sherlock and Mr. Selfridge). Either way, it’s been fun to be able to watch what I actually like.

U – Ukelele: (I always want to keep typing “elelele” when I use this word!) No, I do not play the ukelele. But I might one day. I first noticed how cool this instrument is when I went on a mission trip in 2012 and one of our teen girls brought along a cute little red number. Last summer, a friend’s friend was moving out of the country and he left behind his cobalt blue ukelele. I was told I could have it! I said, “Um, but I don’t play…” (but felt a little giddy at the same time). I was reassured that I could learn. And so I might. But I haven’t yet. Still, I am now the proud owner of an adorable ukelelelelele… 😀

ukelele

Oh… and how perfect is it that it matches my cobalt blue bottles? Quite!

V – Victory: One of the things that got me down in 2012 was the awareness that I had a problem with Diet Pepsi. I drank way too much of it and people were warning me about it. However, since I don’t drink coffee and I was avoiding fruit juice because of the calories and  I can’t stand Perrier…I felt stuck.

In early February, I was at a board meeting for a women’s organization I belong to and, afterward, some of us were sharing about things we struggle with. I mentioned my addiction to Diet Pepsi and a few of the ladies promised to pray for (and with) me about it. I also promised that I was going to try and go cold turkey and quit that weekend. When I got home, I had half a bottle left in the fridge. I had it with my supper and guess what? I haven’t had a drop since that day, February 9, 2013. I can hardly believe that 11 months have passed but, by God’s grace, I have experienced victory in this area of my life. I’m ever-so-grateful!

There have been other victories, some too personal to share, some too mundane. God has been showing me again and again that when I trust Him with what seems impossible, He always comes through.

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(1 Corinthians 15:57)

“What is impossible with men is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)

W – Winner: [Note: I realize I just talked about victory but this next bit about winning has nothing to do with victory or triumph; it’s about a small confidence-booster.] I’ve been a published writer for about 20 years but have often struggled with confidence in my work (a common malaise among my species). Ever the autodidact (see my “A” entry in this list), I had no formal training or education in journalism, feature writing, book writing, editing or any of the other jobs I’ve picked up in the last two decades. But my editors and clients obviously like my work because I am busier than ever with writing assignments. As affirming as it is to have editors come to me with writing opportunities, there’s something special about having your work recognized on a larger stage. And that finally happened for me last year.

In May, during the Evangelical Press Association conference awards ceremony (see my Nashville entry in the previous post), I nearly fell off my chair when they announced that my story in the May 2012 issue of Christianity Today  — without question the most difficult project I have ever worked on (yes, even more difficult than my books!) — had won first place in the Freelance Article category. Now, I had entered the article so I shouldn’t have been shocked, but I don’t think I really believed I could win.

Is this a big deal? Not really…Many writers win awards and there are many, many, many writers who are far, far, far better at this craft than I will ever be. But this award mattered to me because it was confirmation that this path I’m on was indeed ordained by my Creator and I should continue, even when it’s tough or thankless or tedious.

(Wow, it was really hard to write that. I hope I don’t sound boastful. I want to add that I recognize that most careers don’t give out awards for good work and that most people never get recognized for their skills and achievements. I hope it was still okay to share this blessing I received.)

X – Xylophone: Another funny instrument! No, I do not own a xylophone, though I think I could probably manage to play one if I did. I chose this word because I’ve noticed that whenever I hear a song with a xylophone in the mix of instruments, I immediately pick up on it and it makes me smile. There’s something very happy and music-box-ish about the sound of a xylophone, which may be why we associate the instrument with children. I especially noticed this when I heard the song “Can’t Stand the Rain” performed by The Rescues. Check it out:

Y – Yerevan: I suppose some of you expected me to use “A” for “Armenia” but I really wanted to use the word “autodidact” so I had to relegate Armenia to almost the end of the alphabet. As you probably know, Yerevan is the capital of Armenia and that’s where I spent three weeks of last summer with my dad. It was my first time in Armenia and I pray it wasn’t the last. I fell completely in love with the country! While I must confess that I felt more at home in the villages and towns we visited than I did in Yerevan, there is no denying that it is a beautiful city…and huge! It’s colourful and busy and teeming with fashionable young people (which may be why I felt more at home in the villages… ha!)

You can read more about my trip to Armenia in these three blog posts.

Z – Zzz: Sleep. If I should make one resolution for 2014 it’s to get more sleep, specifically by going to bed earlier. I have a few problems: I am a light sleeper, it takes me a long time to fall asleep and I seem to fight sleep. I sometimes find myself sitting at my computer late at night doing nothing important just to avoid going to bed. The thing is, I don’t get up late. Even though I work at home, I’m always up between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. and ready to start working at 9:00. I can joke that I’m a night owl but, at my age, I know I need better sleeping habits.

On a positive note, I did something last year that has helped me fall asleep faster (I tend to get distracted by outside noises because we live on a busy street and my bedroom is at the front of the house): I bought an inexpensive sound machine. I have it set to “summer nights” (or something to that effect), which basically gives me the sound of trees rustling their leaves and crickets chirping, for 15 minutes. It’s been encouraging to note that I almost never hear the machine go off, which means I’m falling asleep within 15 minutes.

Why did I choose sleep as my last topic? I’m not sure. On Facebook, I asked my friends for suggestions and they gave me all kinds of interesting words: zeal, zaftig (I almost went with that one but my thoughts were getting too complicated), zappy, zippy, zesty, zen, zeitgeist, zinia, zocalo and a lot more!

But I guess sleep is something that’s important to us all so I’ll just, um, let this rest now. 😉

“The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep.” (Ecclesiastes 5:12)

In other news, I’ve spent many hours in the last week or two de-cluttering and organizing my studio/office so I’m hoping to sink my teeth into some creative projects in the weeks ahead, which I can then share with you. Please stay tuned!

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