January 31, 2015

Looking Forward Looking Back - Guest Blogger Alan Anderson

As I considered the theme of this blog there is something that immediately came to my mind. This past year was an emotional one for my family and I. It began with the death of one of our family pets after sixteen and a half years. Misty our Border collie spaniel cross, died on New Year’s Eve day of 2013. I’ve always loved having a dog in my life and can only remember a very few years without having a dog as a great friend.

My wife and I knew that sooner or later we would have to say goodbye to Misty and realized this was the time. We made our final journey with her to the local animal clinic nearby with our hearts breaking. The veterinarian approached the care of our old dog with compassion and great kindness. He informed us that she would gently fall asleep and feel no pain. It seemed like only a short few years since Misty was a pup full of energy and fun. The time had flown by and now it was time for goodbye.

A couple months after Misty died our second canine family member died after being with us for almost twenty years. His name was Angus and he was a Poodle. Like Misty it seemed Angus would always be with us. They brought my family and I much love in the way only a dog can.

Most recently on Dec. 22 of 2014 a dear friend of my wife and I, who happened to be the grandmother of one of our daughters in law, died. Her daughter and other family members gathered round her in her final days while she was a patient at the local hospice. “Granny” received very professional and tender care from the hospice staff.

A theme of loss, illness and death help sum up 2014 for my family and I. Needless to say our emotions have been all over the place. I have mentioned only a few experiences that visited us this past year. Some issues related to health and illness continues to this day.

I thank God that our lives need not be defined by the grief we experience. To endure grief that will most assuredly come into our lives looking forward may be even more precious. The Great Shepherd of our souls is fully aware of our experiences and readily relates to our grief and the joys that come our way.

From my point of view as a husband, father and grandfather I look forward to enjoying life with my family. Perhaps due to the ministry calling the Lord has given me it has made me incredibly sensitive to how brief and fragile our lives not only can be but also are. After almost forty years of local church ministry including pastoral ministry and other areas of leadership my wife and I are tending more to our family. I also have more time now to devote to a more focused period of writing and look forward to seeing where this season of renewed focus will lead.

Here is a promise we may all look forward to. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Rev. 21:4)" Our grief, tears and even our deaths are not without meaning. God knows them and has graciously promised us they will one day pass away.

Alan is a husband, father, grandfather, brother, and friend. He was born in Dundee, Scotland but has lived in British Columbia most of his life. he ministered as a bi-vocational pastor for a number of years and is currently employed as a Spiritual Care professional in a couple of long-term care facilities. Such work/ministry has allowed him to come alongside many people over the years and listen to their grief stories. Especially in adversities, we are each other's teachers and companions. God shows up in amazing of often surprising ways even in the presence of complex of healthcare needs.

January 30, 2015

Press On by Susan Barclay

Image from Pixabay
January 2014 seems like a long time ago, but as I recall, I started the year out writing strong. Usually I break for the summer because kids are out of school and everyone is out of routine, so when fall arrived, I expected I'd get back to work. When things were still chaotic in September, I held out hope for October, but that didn't happen either. My mother had problems with her house and came to stay with us while they were resolved (they still aren't, by the way). I never get much writing done when she visits. She sees me on the computer and thinks I am wasting my time. Her priority is for me to clean my house, to go to work, and spend time with her. Not that I don't enjoy her company, but putting my writing on hold is frustrating, especially when it becomes months.

There were other stressors that got in the way of writing last year, but that was the big one. I try not to dwell on the past except as a learning experience, since there's nothing I can do to change what’s done. And there are seasons in one's life when your priorities have to shift, at least for a time. I've been reading the earlier posts from this month and see I'm not the only one living this.  

At such times Philippians 3:13-14 encourages me: 
No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,  I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us (Apostle Paul, The Living Bible)
 I am still not all I should be, but I am putting the past behind me and looking forward to what lies ahead. My mom is visiting her sister now and I am able to get more writing done. I am making use of the time I have until she returns. Hopefully, she'll be back in her own home by the summer. She would like that too.  

I've been reading books by Christine Caine in the last little while, and I found this quote that references past and future very instructive. Perhaps you will too: 
When it comes to our dreams our thinking is extremely powerful. Just like the control panel of an aircraft determines its flight path, our thoughts will either take us toward our destiny or away from it, propelling us into our future or anchoring us to our past.
 This is another reason to learn from the past, but not to dwell there. I want to move toward my destiny, not away from it. I want my writing to move ahead. God gave me the talent and I've developed the skill. It seems wrong not to use it. 

I want to leave you this powerful statement from Mother Teresa: 
Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.
For more of my writing, please visit me at www.susan-barclay.ca

January 29, 2015

One step at a time by Ruth L. Snyder

2014 was one of the most challenging, but exhilarating years I've ever had, both personally and as a writer. My first novella, Cecile's Christmas Miracle (Part of the Kathi Macias 12 Days of Christmas Series) was published in e-book format in December 2013 and paperback in 2014. After a successful release where I joined the ranks of "Amazon Bestseller," the publisher (Helping Hands Press) asked me what else I wanted to do.

I decided to join the writing team for The San Francisco Wedding Planner - one plot, five writers. I faced several challenges with this series - some self-inflicted, and others having to do with working with other creative people who have differing ideas. However, overall the experience was fun and produced an interesting option for Christian fiction readers. My novella, Shadows and Sunshine, is in volume 1 and Life Lessons is in volume II.

Other projects I enjoyed were contributing two devotionals to Rise, a devotional book for high school graduates, joining the blogging team for A Beautiful Life and putting together a group of Uplifting Devotionals for Parents.

Throughout the year I found myself scrambling to learn everything I needed to learn. I spent hours listening to webinars about the greatest and latest marketing tools. I researched different publishing options. I worked with a professional editor for the first time. I experimented with blog hops, twitter chats, press releases, and a self-hosted WordPress website. I took online courses and put together my own Facebook Author Page. Somehow I managed to get more writing done (and published) than ever before.

Through this whole time I also worked on a full length novel. I shared the synopsis and had many people cheering me on, including an editor. However, I found myself getting impatient with family members because I wasn't meeting deadlines. Instead of enjoying a warm summer day with my children, I sneaked away to our local library to write. Phil Callaway's stories (at our InScribe Fall Conference) about the realities he faces as a writer made me stop and think. My husband complained about my lack of attention to our family and I wondered if this was the wrong season of my life to seriously launch a writing career.

I took some time to look back and plan forward at the end of December. As a result, I thought I knew what I'd be working on in 2015. Reflection showed me that my stress came from working on the full-length novel. As I stepped forward, God opened a different door.  My focus switched to writing some non-fiction books and self-publishing them in a series format. The non-fiction projects are much easier to tackle in small chunks. I've put my fiction writing on hold until God prompts me to go back to it. This year looks like another steep learning curve with figuring out how to create professional-looking book covers, Kindle formatting, podcasts, webinars, and videos . . . unless God shows me otherwise!

My overarching priority in 2015 is time alone with God, daily asking for His wisdom and guidance, and being sensitive to His schedule for me. There are many steps ahead, but with God's help I'll take those steps one at a time and give Him all the glory.

January 28, 2015


It has been a dream of mine for years. As I sat indoors on many beautiful days, I wished I could sit in my yard and write. At long last, I bought a laptop.

I must admit that it's difficult for me to get used to a laptop. Having began my computer experience with MS DOS, typing in commands seems more convenient than moving a mouse pointer around.

I eventually surrendered to Windows in 2000 when I bought a new computer. It had Windows 98, an operating system designed by a masochist. Freezes and crashes were a common occurrence as I struggled to learn this new system.

How I wish I'd switched to Windows XP sooner than 2008. It worked much better than 98 for starters. Though the command prompt was hidden in a nested directory, I made a shortcut to the desktop so I could have easy access  to it. It was most useful for scrounging files from old CD-ROMs which a friend sent me. I've now amassed a large folder of images for my blog. I also found other useful file types.

Now I'm exploring Windows 8.1 and my new laptop. Though I'm slow when it comes to adopting new technology, like the cell phone a friend gave me last year, I expect to find many new features which I should have availed myself of years ago.

My computer experiences have also given me an understanding of people who feel reluctant to become a Christian. After all, it's a totally different operating system from that of the world.  My hope is that God will work through me to help those reluctant souls to see the benefits of being a follower of Christ.

January 27, 2015

The Only Way To Know What Lies Ahead by Melanie Fischer

I remember the days when us kids would hop in the box of pickup-trucks and go for a ride. That was in the age when it was not illegal but equally a bad idea.

It was so exciting to gaze over the tailgate and watch the trees and signs wiz past the back of my head. I would then lock my eyes on a particular object and become fascinated with watching it come into focus as we moved further away.

Life tends to work in the same way. It whirls experiences by our head that can only be brought into focus by moving past them. How could we possibly know the positive impact of our painful experience unless we move beyond it? How would we see the blessings within a loss without moving through it? How could the reason for a period of excruciating pain possibly come into perspective until we become far enough away from it that we can see it clearly? It is not until we move past the object that we can focus on it and understand what the purpose of it was.

When in the back of the truck, I could have turned around and watched that same object through the windshield. What a different perspective that would have been. I would have known what was coming, perhaps it would have spoiled my fun though. Things seemed to come much slower when looking ahead rather than seeing what unfolded behind. And what if we stopped or turned? The object that I anticipated seeing would have never come into full view.

If I have learned anything from looking back, it is that it rarely looks the same as it did when I was looking ahead. If all things came to us the way we “planned”, we would never experience hardships and blunders. We don’t fill our dreams with hurdles, or pepper our plans with hurts, although, it is the bumps in the road that makes life an interesting ride.

If we are trusting that Christ is in charge, then we are trusting that we are going where He intends for us to go. It is up to us to pray for direction then move ahead. It is when we do that we are rewarded by getting to look behind and watch the past unfold.

We can set goals, have dreams, and look ahead. But the only way that we will know for certain what lies ahead, is by moving forward then looking back.

January 26, 2015

Looking Up in 2015 by Marnie Pohlmann

“Look Up. Look wa-a-ay up.”

“One little chair for one of you, and a bigger chair for two to curl up in, and for someone who likes to rock, a rocking chair in the middle.”

“And there's that boot.”

“I'll go on ahead and lower the drawbridge.”1

Do you recognize these words? You may be dating yourself along with me if you do. As a child I remember pausing in play to watch The Friendly Giant, who said these lines each show. This month’s theme is looking back, looking forward, and these words of The Friendly Giant help me do both.

In my writing, when I look back I can see some advancement in 2014; but to be honest, I have to look wa-a-ay back to see any real forward movement in my writing. Over the years I have received praise from teachers and professors, known the freedom of journaling to aid in personal healing and understanding, experienced the joy of winning contests, felt the satisfaction of supporting organizations with my prose, and seen the occasional publication of a written gem. Writing is a large part of me no matter what I am doing, but any accomplishment has been happenstance, not purposed, and rarely sought.

The Friendly Giant Museum
For a while I avoided involvement with writing, but last year I reconnected with Inscribe and with some of the local writers here in the Peace Region. I was reminded that while we may enjoy different genres, we also enjoy gathering to share and sharpen our gift of writing. I wonder if writing may be a solitary pursuit best done in community. I appreciate so much the encouragement I find with Inscribe writers; there is no direct competition, simply uplifting support. No matter our preference of expression or desire to publish or not, we are all welcomed. “One little chair for one of you, and a bigger chair for two to curl up in, and for someone who likes to rock, a rocking chair in the middle.”

I am amazed at how fast the last few years have flown by,  with major life events and changes marking time in my journey. Life continued while I was not looking, and I became rusty at what I enjoy. It’s time to get in shape! Being connected to other writers is a way God is encouraging me to exercise writing - making time to write, writing specific projects rather than jumping from one unfinished project to another, and seeking to somehow share my offering. “And there’s that boot.” So in 2015, with God firmly nudging and strengthening me, and with fellow writers to encourage me through accountability, I submit to God and will be more purposed in my writing.

I hesitate to say I undertake this commitment of writing with excitement, but I embark on it because it’s clear the season is now. Nothing in my life has changed - I still minister with my husband while working full time, my health is stable with energy returning and closing on the mark of two years cancer-free, my family is still adjusting to new dynamics in living arrangements - yet the promise I made to God years ago, remains. “That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.” (Psalm 26:7 KJV) God now seems to be going before me to provide opportunities, so I will head where God is leading, as He goes “on ahead to lower the drawbridge”. What a great picture of hope for our writing - when I see in my circumstances a dangerous moat and no way across, God provides a drawbridge; a path of safety He opens for me.

Whatever genre I settle into, whatever audience of readers it is shared with, if any, God is not simply leading me in my writing - He is leading me in His eternal kingdom. Eternity is a concept hard to grasp - it makes me feel so small, like the little chairs looked next to The Friendly Giant’s hand. Yet eternity with Him is what God promises and what motivates me toward more purposeful writing in this physical realm of that eternity. The only way I know to be purposeful is to look to God for leading, clarification, and inspiration through Scripture, prayer, and relationship. 

My goals for 2015, therefore, are to “Look up, look wa-a-ay up” and to write with purpose – to deadline, to word count, to finish, and to share.

God will do wondrous works in our lives and through our writing as we look to Him this year.

1. The Friendly Giant (1958-1985), Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

photo credit:

January 25, 2015

Connecting the Dots by Vickie Stam

Proverbs 16:3 "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed."

I sometimes find it difficult to only reflect on the previous year because I find myself playing a mental game of connect the dots. When I look back, I end up looking further; following the trail back to that first dot. A person, place or thing that stands out.         

A thought entered my mind while I was thinking about last year. I realized I had been out of school for more than three decades. Wow! Time had slipped away. I never felt the years gaining on me until I looked in the mirror. The lines of time were forthright; each one growing more difficult to conceal. Underneath it all I could still see the younger me; the girl who enjoyed her English class during her time in high school. I recognized that time in my life as one of those first dots. My formal introduction to writing. 

Taking part in a number of writing classes over the last four years has only heightened my desire for a pen and paper. After so many years away from school I never imagined that in my forties I would choose to enroll in some general interest writing classes, but I did. There I was putting words down on paper for someone other than myself. I was so far outside the 'safety net' of my journal and I was enjoying it. 

Last year, I actually began to admit, "I'm a writer." When someone asked me, "What do you do?" I didn't hesitate to tell them that my husband and I are farmers, words that flowed out of me rather easily. It's part of who I am. And then I heard myself say, 
"I also like to write." 

"What do you write about?" 

They sounded intrigued.

I explained that at this point in time I mostly write about myself?

"Anything non-fiction, really"  

Those words, "I like to write" were out there hanging in the air, hovering over me with an overwhelming sense of insecurity but in that moment I could hardly take them back. Even though I felt uncomfortable I felt something flutter in me. It was the moment of truth. Another part of who I am.

"Are you writing a book?" They asked

 "No.... not yet." I replied.

"But I am writing for InScribe Christian Writers' on-line blog."  

Most people I talk to have never heard of InScribe. Neither had I until I found myself searching the internet for an on-line writers group, a place to connect with other writers, people like myself who can't imagine life without words, brainstorming, writing, editing and maybe even--- publishing.

In January of 2014 I was preparing my first post for InScribe's blog. I felt nervous and excited all at the same time. I wondered what people might think or say about the stories I would contribute each month but the feedback has been nothing but kind and gentle. Encouraging.   

Writing allows me to feel everything. It is my constant companion. I can't imagine my life without it. I look forward to what God has in store for me as I press on. Writing contests, delving into fiction, having short stories published and who knows.....in the future, I may even tackle writing a book.

    **** In my world of dots, I trust that God holds the marker. That he has traced every line long before my feet travel its path from one to the other. I trust it is his will that I write, and I trust it is his will that someone reads it.


January 24, 2015

Blessings and Confession - Tandy Balson

2014 was a significant year for me.  It was when I started to call myself a writer.   The highlight early in the year was the release of my first book.  Holding that book in my hands didn’t seem like the realization of a dream as much as the beginning of one.

Attending two writers’ conferences and making connection with other Christian writers were important factors in following that dream.  It was a blessing as well as a relief to meet others whose minds also went in strange directions.  I learned that I’m not crazy, I’m a writer!

My problem has been in keeping my motivation when I am back in my own little world.  On that note, it’s time to get honest and admit that I have a big problem.  I know I’m not the only one afflicted with this, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.

The issue I struggle with is procrastination.  I’ve joked about this by saying things like, “Why do today what I can put off until tomorrow?” or “If it wasn’t for the last minute nothing would ever get done.”  All joking aside, this has got to stop.
Case in point: I sat down at my computer to do some writing.  Since I was there anyway, I might as well check my email.  There was one with a link to a blog I follow, so needed to click on that and read today’s post.  That reminds me, I should check on my latest blog post to see how it’s doing.   I wonder why this one doesn’t have as many views on Facebook as the last one.  Maybe I should check and see who “liked” it.  Before I log out I should take a quick look at my news feed.  There are a couple of things I need to comment on.  Oh look, here’s a test to see which Disney Princess I’d be.  That looks like fun.

It’s time to get back to my writing.  I started out strong but am stuck for just the right words now.  Maybe I’ll just play a game (or three) of computer solitaire while I’m waiting for inspiration to strike.  I’d go back to my story but think I need a snack and maybe a hot drink.  While I’m here I should probably throw a load of laundry in.  Oh yes, I was going to bake muffins today.  I can always go back to my writing while they’re in the oven.

This would be funny if it weren’t an accurate picture of how easily my day can get off track.  What I want most is to write.  What I fear is that what I write isn’t good enough that anyone will want to read it.  If I procrastinate long enough, I won’t have to worry what anyone will think because there won’t be anything written.  My self-sabotage will be complete.

This story is getting old and needs a new ending.  I can’t keep doing this to myself.  The only one who can eliminate this problem is me. For 2015 I need to set writing goals, be firm with myself and stick to them.  Even more importantly, I need to make sure my writing is covered in prayer.

God has called me to be a writer.  With his guidance I can do this. 

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 NIV

 blog: http://www.timewithtandy.com