Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks is a Habit

Several years ago now, Hurricane Katrina swept a not-so-elderly refugee into our lives. This lady was extended family in a round about, several degrees of separation sort of way, but my Mama took over her care as is she were flesh of her flesh and bone of her bone. The storm had dealt Mrs. Shirley a hard blow, but it’s after effects were nothing compared to the cancer that was ravaging her body. She was only here for a few months, but I'll never forget the valuable lesson she taught me as she dealt with her impending death.

I remember it clearly. I sat on her bed and reached for her hand.
“How are you today?” I asked.
She smiled widely. “I reckon it’s a pretty good day…as far as dying goes.”

We went on to talk about other things, including her craving for coconut cookies but I couldn’t get that phrase out of my mind, “as far as dying goes.” I knew what the doctors were saying, too. We all did. Their verdicts offered little hope. Unless the Lord granted Mrs. Shirley a miracle she was looking at days, not weeks. Knowing that you’re dying brings life a clarity that can’t be reached any other way. Mrs. Shirley had a hard won perspective. Even now I remember her telling me how badly she wanted to shake people and tell them to enjoy life, to treasure every day.

I left Mrs. Shirley’s room that evening with a renewed purpose, not only to count my blessings but to live in a way that spreads those blessings to those around me. Sound familiar to anyone? Then you can probably write the next line. Everyday life wasted no time coming in to challenge that commitment. It always does, doesn’t it? Sometimes our attitude of gratitude slips, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it flat out goes missing. I say, thank the Good Lord we can always find it again in God’s word and in prayer.

For, here’s a truth perfectly for Thanksgiving. If we can have a grateful heart for an hour, we can have a grateful heart for a day. If I can count my blessings today, I can count ‘em tomorrow. Just because we slip is no reason to quit trying. Gratitude is a habit, and it only gets better with practice. Let’s aim to live such a grateful life that it never takes someone else’s loss to remind us of our gain, or someone else’s pain to remind us of our blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving friends! It's back to the kitchen for me. :)


Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Blessings of Rejection

Hey Y'all,

I shared these thoughts recently on a writer's blog I contribute to occasionally. It occurred to me that y'all may enjoy it, too, if for no other reason than to remind everyone to keep on keeping on towards your dreams and goals! We were asked to opine on reviews and rejection...

Somewhere between my ears another book is rolling around picking up mass. If you need a visual think more along the lines of a tumble weed in an Old Western than a snowball headed down the mountain. (My muse has attention deficit issues.) I don’t know how it works for the rest of my more learned colleagues but in my head the story shares attic space with a half dozen other tales insisting upon their turn at the keyboard. That’s where it gets complicated and it’s precisely where my thoughts on reviews and rejection begin.

The book I mentioned, the latest one forming in my head, the working title is something like “The Blessings of Rejection” and if writing what you know is the maxim, I’m well-equipped to share the power of no. Let’s just say I’m blessed and blessed indeed. I have rejection and review stories that will make you laugh and cry, simultaneously.

For whatever reason, my lot in life appears to be doing what I’m told isn’t done. I’ve learned to simply sigh anytime someone says, “Well, Shellie, it’s not altogether impossible, but it’s really not done.” Experience has taught me that I’m about to throw another log in my little engine that can and go where wiser people have the good sense not to travel.

I seem bent on pursuing rejection from a host of different sources. Apparently I like my rejection variety style. One would think that after stacking up that magic number of rejection slips and getting a foot in the door with my first non-fiction book, and after having it do better than the wildest dreams of myself, my agent, and my editor, I’d be content to bathe my wounded oft-rejected writer’s ego in it’s modest success and stick to what’s working. But no, being rejected in one genre isn’t enough for my muse. She’s turning out children’s books, fiction, non-fiction, Bible studies, you name it she’s writing it, despite the well meaning and knowledgeable ones who insist that it’s hard, if not impossible, to cross genres unless you are a seriously big time author. (Hello John Grisham.) Sigh. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m finding it difficult to find CBA representation that’s willing to take on this horse of many colors, even though my precious ABA agent is willing to split the pie and share the responsibility and the rewards of my talkative muse.

The funny thing is, I’ve stuck around long enough to do some of those “not dones” and I know something about next to impossible; it’s still possible. Almost ten years ago now, long after I had tired of filing rejection slips away alphabetically, and before my first book deal with Penguin, I birthed All Things Southern, self-pubbed a few books of my own, and decided to approach the radio world about running my daily segments, (think a rambling female Paul Harvey.) I was told that Christian stations wouldn’t pick up All Things Southern because four of the five days were just good clean fun, but not inspirational. I was told secular stations wouldn’t pick up All Things Southern because one of the five days was inspirational. Sigh. Today my short taped segments air in more than two dozen markets across the South, on country stations, oldies, talk, easy listening, and Christian. I also have a one hour live talk show called All Things Southern LIVE. FYI, heavy metal stations haven’t picked me up, but who knows what tomorrow holds?

And now, a closing thought on reviews. Despite my obvious hard-headedness in the literary world, it should be noted that I really do know when to fold ‘em in other areas. Once, many years ago, I was holding my young niece in my arms during church. It was a beautiful day and the song service was extraordinarily uplifting, which I suppose encouraged me to forego my normal trepidation about singing in public as I can’t carry a tune were it deposited in my well-meaning hands. I was well into a robust hymn when sweet Blair took her wee head off of my shoulder, looked around for the offending noise, located it, and promptly whacked me in the mouth with her rattler. I have yet to contact a single person on music row.



Friday, November 13, 2009

The Lord is my shepherd....

Hello dear porchers! Beloved Hubby and I are blessed to have two wonderfully strong God seeking young women in our immediate family. There's Jessica Ann, (AKA Grant's mommy) our firstborn, and Carey, (AKA Emerson's mommy) brought to the family by our number one son. This evening I'm honored to have Carey here as a guest blogger. I hope you enjoy her thoughts. We do! Hugs, Shellie

The Lord is my shepherd...

I shall not want.

The beginning of the 23rd Psalm, one of my favorites as a child, and the first scripture I ever memorized. How could it be that I've known that scripture for almost 15 years and never really thought about what it means? Honestly, almost everyone knows this passage. I've read it myself and heard it read countless times, and not until the last couple of days have I stopped and pondered on it....

I just finished reading a series of books by Francine Rivers (a wonderful author by the way) called The Mark of the Lion. There is scripture all throughout and that line "the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want" for some reason caught my attention. The series is set in ancient
Rome and trust me many people lived in want during that time. It is absolutely atrocious how little life was valued. But those early Christians clung to the knowledge that God was the Good Shepherd and in Him they would not want for anything. As I read and pictured these people living in dire situations, persecuted even till death for their faith; I thought of how blessed I am. Seriously, if I want to go on the street corner and yell to the top of my lungs that Jesus is Lord, I might get some funny looks, people might talk about me, they may even ostracize me; but no one would feed me to a pack of lions or wild dogs for entertainment.

Do we ever really stop and think about how much we have and yet we still
want for more?

I find myself walking through a store, any store, even Wal-Mart picking something up,
wanting it and then saying, "No I don't have enough money, or I don't really need it, but man, I want it!" Even as a Christian, I still want what this world has to offer...why? I believe it's because I constantly feed on the world, I constantly look to them for what I'm supposed to say, what I'm supposed to look like, heck even what I'm supposed to cook for supper. I live in want, simply because I go to the wrong source for my sustenance.

Jesus said come and eat of the bread of life and you will hunger no more. You will not
want from the world because you will know that the Lord alone can satisfy! Beloved, feed on His Wonderful Words of Life! Don't just memorize them or read them or hear them, but feed on them.

You shall
want no more.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Today's 3 R's: Round Ball, Rambling and Refreshment!

'Fess up, time.

I woke up this morning wishing I could just stay home. It'd been another very long week, albeit a good one, and the bones were weary. Beloved hubby was scheduled to drive in from his week long hunting trip in Kansas and I was in a nesting mood, eager to see him and thinking about how nice it'd be to put a big pot of soup in the crockpot and settle in with the hard-to-get-around-to current manuscript. Instead, I was looking at an hour and forty-five minute drive and a speaking engagement. For the record, Dixie Belle was even more unhappy with my plans. Boy, that dog can pout.

It wasn't easy, but I began surrendering my attitude to the Father's plans. (Hey-- this is a confession folks.) Total honesty-- God loves it. Our hearts are never a surprise to Him, but baring them and inviting Him to change 'em is all He asks.

I would be speaking to a group of pastors' wives while the men met separately. When I accepted the invitation months ago, I'd been informed that it would be a small group, (which matters to me none at all), and told that the need was for refreshment. Laughs and inspiration, Mrs. Bessie had said. That's what these ladies need. That's what I asked the Father to help me give them.

I told the pouting dog good-bye in the carport, promising her a game of fetch upon my return, and shoved in the praised and worship tape Rhonda, AKA Madness Czar, had burned for me last month when we were ministering together in Mississippi, (thanks Madness). I knew if I made my mouth start recounting His glory, my heart would catch up. And, of course, it did. Before long I had to pause the tape to pray, and then back to song, prayer, song, prayer, song, the miles came and went. By the time I arrived at my destination, which included a spell where I thought I was lost and had daughter in Houston google the address and make sure I was headed in the right direction (oh, the wonders of technology), Eyore had long since morphed back into Tigger.

I parked my car at Seeker Springs Ministry Center at 9:30 A.M. with awe in my heart for the beautiful day as I took in the interesting vista before me. By now my spirit was fully awake and up to speed. Another surprise awaited when I opened the car door. Was that the sound of someone playing basketball inside the building? This ex-coach LOVES me some basketball and the sound is pretty unmistakeable to me, but I decided that it couldn't be. (Stay tuned.)

Walking up to the building was neat in itself. A gorgeous wrap-around porch stretched before me, outfitted with a couple dozen rocking chairs.

And then, I was thru this door and immediately in the presence of a smiling group of folks, and the lady who had invited me. They were instant friends!

And yes-- right behind them, visible through the foyer, was nothing but-- a GYM-- a full-sized gym and a handful of people shooting roundball! Come to find out, this retreat center was once a vibrant country school. Okay, so I know you're wondering. The answer is YES, of course! It wasn't but a few minutes and I was out of the heels and shooting basketball with my new buds!

We had a blast and that was BEFORE it was time for the meeting. That, was another blessing entirely. Oh, the joy of sharing laughter and love with those pastors' wives will be with me for a while! Let's just say that I rambled all over the place and they didn't mind one bit!

After the meeting, and before a fantabulous lunch was spread out, I slipped around and took some pics of the place. Below is a shot of the softball field and the gazebo meeting place outdoors.

Here's a shot of the pool out back. You can't see it well in the pic, but there's also a big porch back here in case some folks would rather watch the water fun from the shade.

I left Seeker Springs totally today feeling like I had just been privileged to one of my Heavenly Father's Super Set-ups. I hope and pray those women were just half as refreshed as I was by our visit. I love the way He does things. Everything with our Father is a win/win. Yes, the day was for those ladies, but because He is who He is, it was also about rest and respite for me! I could almost hear my Father planning the day..." Oh, and Jesus, let's throw in some basketball. You know, she does love that silly game."

There's more here-- I had one forever more awesome idea while I was there that is continuing to percolate in my spirit, but the time is not quite right to spill it, not yet. Beloved Hubby is home and I want to spend more time talking to him and I also need more time with the Father to iron out the wrinkles. When I do announce it, we'll reference this post.

Y'all take care and have a good day in the Lord's house tomorrow. I plan to.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Oh, yeah-- I did it. I said I would!

P.S. When it's been several decades since you actually cheered, things tend to slip your memory. Case in point, as the Madness Czar (aka, BFF Rhonda) and I were walking into Jehovah Java she said, "You do have on bloomers, don't you?"

"Bloomers?!! I knew something didn't feel right."

Hence, no jump at the end of the cheer. But seriously, folks, y'all have to give me my props for going this far, right? And speaking of props, thanks again to everyone who helped ATS raise $4,800 to drill a well for a needy community. I love y'all to pieces!