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So. . .What Now?

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Page 100!

I just finished writing a book.

A real book.

It has characters, and plot, and conflict, and it made me laugh and cry while I wrote it.

It took me over twenty years to do it, though.

Paper Wrappers was originally a short story called Milly’s Magic that I wrote in a college creative writing course at UNC-Chapel Hill under the direction of Ms. Doris Betts.  I was pursuing a minor in creative writing to go with my English major.  Ms. Betts didn’t particularly care for Milly’s story.  It wasn’t her style or subject matter and she thought I used my characters’ names too often.  Several of my fellow students, however, thought there was potential in the story, especially for children, though they did point out it was a “Dumbo’s feather” story.

It is. I don’t deny that.

The next year, I was in a children’s creative writing course, finishing my minor, under the tutelage of Ms. Ruth Moose.  She loved Milly and wanted me to try to make her into a book.  She suggested some new conflicts for Milly to overcome.  I wrote two chapters before I became a teacher.

Then Milly took a back seat.

I worked on it over the course of my teaching career.  In fact, every time I shared Paulo Coehlo’s The Alchemist with a class, I would publicly recommit to finishing the manuscript.

But, much like Stephen King says in his book On Writing, teaching sucks the creative juice right out of you.  So, often, Milly got pushed to summer.

Somewhere along the line, the title changed to Paper Wrappers.

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I guess my name changed along the line, too.

Several years ago, I toyed with changing Milly’s name to Hope.  But I couldn’t.

Some characters did change names.  Some just changed the way they spell their names.

At any rate, now I have a manuscript.  Think EB White and Charlotte’s Web or Stuart Little when you think about the age group of the intended audience.

Today, when I finished at approximately 2:10pm EST, I felt a little sad. But also excited. I have birthed a 28,913 word 100 page book.

I’m proud of Milly.  But I’m also scared for her.  What if no one likes her?

I’m not naive enough to think she doesn’t need some polish.  But, polish often has grit in it to smooth away those rough spots.

Truthfully, I just have no idea what to do now.

 

Three years

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It was a Friday. Weathermen were calling for snow, a significant amount.

I like to watch snow fall.  There’s something peaceful and cleansing about it. But I missed it that year because I was in a small corner room in the hospital after just being told Nugget was gone.  Even if he wasn’t, I would’ve been in that room because he was in my Fallopian tube.  {I say he, but we don’t know about Nugget.}

It was a whirlwind of life changing information in those few hours.  One of those moments that leaves you breathless.

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My dad and stepmom gifted us this ornament for Christmas. I burst into tears when I opened it.

There are moments when I forget exactly how long it has been.  Then there are moments when I’m fully aware of every day that’s passed and every event that hasn’t happened.  But every day I know that my life is not what it would’ve been. . .I’m living an alternate reality.

At times I can share my story without choking up.  I’m always astounded at those times, like I’ve done something miraculous.  Other times, out of nowhere, I can’t get words past my throat and my face contorts in that grotesque holding back tears way.  I’m always astounded at those moments as well.

In the last three years, Steven and I haven’t had one where we didn’t lose a child. One year, it was two.

It’s exhausting.

It’s redefining of who we are.

Every single time.

 

 

 

God’s Gift: Christ, our Saviour

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Thank you for taking a few minutes each day over the last month to travel to this final gift with me.  I hope you have found the journey rewarding, and it has been a blessing for you.  As we continue to walk towards Epiphany in these twelve days of Christmas, may God show Himself in tangible and unmistakable ways to you. With the love of Christ, Season

Bible Reading: Luke 2:6-21

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The Shepherds and the angel, Carl Bloch, 1879

Shepherds.  They see Christ first.  They are the images used in Old Testament prophecy.

Shepherds who protect, guide, discipline. Shepherds who restore their relationships with the lost of their flock.

Christ is here! He is here to restore what was broken in the Garden.  He is here to provide the peace that surpasses understanding. . .because it is His peace, not human peace.  He is here to draw us closer to the kingdom of Heaven, the rule of God

He is what we have been waiting for.

Thoughts for today:

How does knowing that Christ is here change your time of waiting?

What does this, the final gift of God, mean to you personally?

Oh, how undeserving we are of this gift.  But how grateful we should be. Jesus. What is there to say in response to the enormity of this gift? Our reliance on His embodiment of every other gift from God is the only way to show our gratitude.  God doesn’t say that it will be easy. He understands our human hearts. He knows that while we want to do right, we won’t. But He’s here, while we wait, while we struggle, while we try.  

And He loves us. He is our gift.

God’s Gift: Prophecy

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Advent officially ended with the celebration of Christmas Day. However, sometimes, it’s longer and I have two more days in God’s Gift for those years when it does. May days 26 and 27 bless your heart and glorify God.

Bible Reading: Luke 2:1-5

It’s almost time.  The waiting is almost over.  In the midst of the busiest time of year, the child is coming.

It’s interesting here that despite the fact that the scriptures aren’t describing our modern Christmas season, there are distinct parallels. . .crowds converging in one place, no space or elbow room.  Both times following the decree of society, because what is Christmas shopping if not a societal sanctioned norm?

But in the middle of meeting government requirements Joseph and Mary fulfill God’s plan, prophesied in the Old Testament. 

It’s happening. All that we’ve been told would happen.

Will anyone slow down enough to notice?

Thoughts for today:

How can you slow down today and take in the details of happenings around you?

What part of the prophecy of Christ’s coming resonates with you most deeply?

We can thank God.  We can thank Him for each of the gifts He has put in place for us as we wait.  Preparation, promise, prophecy. He has not left us here to wait alone. Our circumstances are not without His knowledge and His care.  Each of His gifts is a helpmate during advent.

God’s Gift: Fulfillment

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Day 25 of Advent and God’s Gift.

Merry Christmas! May the peace and love of Christ light your day with joy.

Bible Reading: Matthew 1:18-25

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Joseph’s Dream in the Stable, Rembrant, 1645.

Joseph, a man trying to do what is right and good in the eyes of the Lord through His law. Probably heartbroken.  His betrothed appears sullied, unclean, a liar even.

Even in his hurt he shows mercy.

In the dream from the Lord, he’s given the explanation and the instruction. And like Abraham many centuries before him, he doesn’t question.  He simply puts one foot in front of the other to move the way God last told him.

It doesn’t make sense. But he’s assured that it is part of the fulfillment of the Lord.  So, in the time of waiting, he does it.

Thought for today:

As you wait, what is the last instruction you received from God?

How can you feel confident, even in uncertainty, in moving forward with that instruction?

Like Joseph, do you need to show mercy?

God doesn’t owe us any explanation, but He will give us enough instruction to move forward.  The strength it takes to move one foot in front of the other while we wait comes from the Lord.  He will take all we do in His confidence and exalt it.

God’s Gift: Evidence

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Day 24 of Advent and God’s Gift.

Bible Reading: Luke 1:26-38

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Annunciation scene from Jesus of Nazareth, Franco Zeffirelli, 1977.

Mary, mother of Jesus.

But in these verses, she’s just a girl.  A troubled girl at that. She heard a proclamation that seems impossible; it goes against everything she understands about the world.

But Gabriel provides evidence that nothing is impossible in God’s hands. . .that this is not to be understood by the world’s standards.

Mary claims her servanthood to the Lord.  She claims her part in a plan much bigger than herself despite the earthly ramifications she is sure to face.

She puts her faith in God.

Thoughts for today:

Can you recall a time when God provided you with evidence to ease your heart?

How does the gift of evidence prove that God understands our human-ness?

God created us.  He understands our needs better than we do. He knows when we need reassurance.  In your time of waiting, don’t be hesitant to ask God for that evidence. He wants to give us all that He has.

God’s Gift: Preparation

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Day 23 of Advent and God’s Gift.

Bible Reading: Matthew 3:1-6

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John the Baptist, Juan de Juanes, c. 1560

A season of waiting does not negate the need to prepare.  John the Baptist extols that need.

Repent–make radical changes to prepare yourself for the coming of God’s kingdom. Make straight the path for Christ to follow into your heart.

Preparation takes work.  It is not merely sitting in the quiet, though that is part of the task to hear God’s voice.  It is taking the knowledge of His promises and the evidence of His blessings and putting them to use.  

God worked to prepare the way for Christ’s coming. We should follow His example.

Thoughts for today:

Do you find it easy in a time of waiting to become lax in your own preparation?

In what area of your life are you waiting for something to change?

What could you do today that would be active preparation during your waiting?

Our body, mind, and soul need to be prepared for all that God calls us to.  It takes work to make each of these elements stronger. God, help us to do the work that is required to be strong in You during Advent.

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