Tomorrow’s the Big Day

And I’m a bit nervous. I know just enough about my neck surgery to think (and think and think) about the possible complications.”Awful-izing,” my husband calls it.

And then, of course, some good friends filled me in about their own surgeries and how terrible they felt for a couple of weeks afterward. Thanks, guys!

I would have much preferred to hear half-truths: “Piece of cake. Hardly even needed painkillers. All that stuff you hear about complications? Don’t believe it. Not gonna happen.”

I had my pre-op appointment with the surgeon  the other day. He says I’ll feel like I have strep throat and whiplash for a couple of weeks.

He keeps his face thoroughly composed even when he says, “The only thing you have to be careful about while you’re recovering is falling. Oh, and choking.

Do you ever have some big thing that you’re dreading, and as you get closer to D-day, you start this count-down thing?

Like: “in seventy-two hours, at @ 4:30 PM, this will be over.”

And the next day you think: “in 48 hours, at @ 5 PM,  I’ll be in recovery.”

And now, Monday, Nov. 28th,  at @ 2:45, I’m declaring: “in 24 hours, I’ll be right in the middle of surgery.”

And the Lord will be right there, too. Even though I won’t hear Him or feel Him.

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5 NIV Bible)

If you happen to remember me at 11:30 AM Tuesday morning on Nov. 29th, pray for me!

Thanks.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Still Not Done?

I’m talking to my writer friend, Kim, the other day. About getting older, dealing with health issues. How we’re both looking forward to heaven. The completion of this part of our eternities, the end of pain.

Bible promises jump into my mind. Ones about courage, patience and hope:

“Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” (Psalm 31:24 NKJV)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” (Galatians 5:22 NIV)

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction.” (Romans 12:12 NIV)

We need courage, patience, and hope because we’re still not done. We still have things to accomplish on this side of eternity. And when my heavenly Father determines that the time is right, He will call me home. What a great encouragement and hope that is.

I need this kind of encouragement, too, right now, in fact.

Because I’m a writer. (Cue the descending trombone slide)

I’ve finished my manuscript, signed a contract. Shouldn’t that be the end of it?

Oh, no. Just like my life journey, walked in faith, I have a publishing journey to take before the novel leaves my hands for good.

The edits: I’ve just completed round one. I’m sure there will be many more coming around the bend. (“Be of good courage.“)

The waiting: Suspenseful days, waiting for my editor to get back to me. (“The fruit of the Spirit is…patience...”)

More edits: More preparations for the day of release. Will it ever end?! (“Be joyful in hope…”)

What I learn about courage, patience, and hope in the Christian life spills over into my life as a writer. And visa versa.

I’m still not done?

Apparently not. (I wish there was a sound emoji for a whining kid. But my granddaughter’s face below says it all.)

denas-phone-113

Here’s a quote for writers that should be just a few notches lower than scripture:

“The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.”

And here’s my own (that’s right, it’s not scripture) quotation:

“Be of good cheer, o writer, thy work hath a great reward if thou persevere in faith, and if thou dost not trust in thy own limited insight, but verily, doth wait on the Lord—and the editor— with patience in affliction, filled with hope.” (Dena Netherton, author and Christian)

I hope you have a great day, still not being done!

 

 

Like Little Children

When I was a small child I found the world of adults—particularly my parents— gargantuan, scary, and incomprehensible.

The things they conversed about sounded like gibberish.

They could do things that seemed god-like, such as lighting a pilot light, driving a car, or going to sleep in a dark, dark room without needing a night-lite.

Who else but a god could read a newspaper and understand it, let alone enjoy its contents?

Who else but a god knew how to drive from our house to some strange place we’d never been before?

And who but a god knew the order of our days: when to get up, what to wear, and if the events of the day were going to diverge from the ordinary?

So when my god-like parents determined that it was time to take a nap, I did not question them.

When food was placed before me, it did not occur to me to ask for menu options.

If my parent-gods were pleased with me, my world felt secure.

If one of these gods was displeased, I felt shame.

I learned to socialize.wild-basin-june-2011-072

A few years passed.

I went to school, developed relationships with my peers, and learned to do god-like things like read and write.

By ten, my parents were no longer gods. Sure, they were people to be admired, even feared at times.

But they no longer dwelt on Mt. Olympus.

I let them know by my words and body language—even though, obedient— that I no longer accepted their orders and instructions without question.

I ceased to be a little child.

This is as it should be for the growing child. He or she must begin to learn how to live independently.

But in the supernatural world of the seeker of Christ, or the disciple of Christ, to be child-like is exactly what we need to be. Dependent.

To recognize that the world surrounding us is gargantuan, often scary, and almost always incomprehensible.

And to trust that our Father knows what is best for us.

Unlike the little child living under his parents’ roof, I will never grow so mature and knowledgeable that I won’t need Him.

I need to keep reminding myself that…

He is the Alpha and Omega

and I am just a wee small babe in constant need of protection and guidance.

img_0277

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’

He called a little child and had him stand among them. And He said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'” (Matt. 18: 1-3 NIV Bible)

We All Want Connection

img_2610

I volunteered to help teach the four and five-year-olds Sunday School the other day.

There were three of us adults in the class, which was just about perfect, considering that each of these kids has a strong personality and tremendous energy.

A little later in the hour, two other kids arrived. The boy joined right in for the lesson. But the little girl—I’ll call her Joni—proceeded straight to a table and climbed underneath.

We teachers welcomed her and invited her to join the group.

But she remained there for the duration of the lesson and song-time and nothing I said could induce her to leave her spot.

Which was a bit of a problem because she distracted the other children and some of them tried to climb underneath the table to join her.

After song-time I said, “Okay, it’s time to wash our hands and get ready for snack time.”

Immediately our little Joni jumped up and rushed to the head of the line for wash-up.

I helped her suds her hands and rinse and dry them.

She ate her graham cracker with gusto and quickly downed her dixie cup of water.

I sat down next to Joni as the craft items were place on the table.

She dove for the crayons and stickers.

Hmm, this little girl sure fooled us. She had seemed shy when she entered the room.

“Can you write your name?”

She looked at me as if I were crazy.  Without a word, she deftly wrote her name at the bottom of her sheet of paper, then glanced up at me as with a cute but pugnacious thrust of her tiny chin.

She placed her stickers amongst the words, “Jesus loves me.”

Then colored with a skillful hand.

Joni insisted that I sit nearby so I could see how well she was coloring.

After she finished the craft, I said, “Can you draw other things?”

“Of course,” she said. “Wait till you see how well I can draw a horse.”

She turned the sheet over and grabbed another crayon. “Now close your eyes and don’t look until I’m finished.”

When she was done she told me I could look. Sure enough, she’d drawn a very recognizable horse and even added a saddle and stirrups.

We spent the rest of craft time talking about My Little Ponies and I told her about my granddaughter’s collection of My Little Ponies.

After the Sunday school ended, one of the teachers remarked, “Well, it looks like all Joni needed was someone to connect with.”

Arriving late, Joni saw that we were already involved in an activity and found the area underneath the table a safer place to be.

I’ve seen this with grown people too.

Not that they hide underneath tables!

I work in women’s ministries and have seen grown women arrive at a women’s social, then turn around and go home if they do not quickly find an available table to sit at with women they already know.

image-3

But once they’re safely situated, they talk and participate like old pros.

Just like Joni.

Folks, let’s turn our eyes outward and notice others.

It’s so easy to only think about our own schedules and our own friends.

Look around. Is some person sitting all by himself at church? Go sit with him.

Who’s that couple in the lobby at church? Go over and introduce yourself.

How about that nice family three doors down from your own house? Invite them over for lunch.

img_1857

And if you are lonely, call somebody and invite them to do something together. Don’t wait for somebody to call you. Make the first move. People will love you for it!

Everybody wants to be wanted.

Sometimes the connection is as simple as trading stories about your last trip to the zoo with a grandchild.

img_0921

“Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he had received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4: 7-10 NIV Bible)

 

Skunked!

I talk to lots of people each week. Frequently, the conversation turns to the topic of family or business relationships. We all have challenges with other people, and I hear all sorts of methods of dealing with difficult family members.

The most challenging relationships are with people who continue to say or do the same irritating things, never learning to resolve conflicts in a new or better way.

Have you ever said to yourself, “I blew it again. Why do I always say (do) the same thing? When will I ever learn?”

When we lived in Paradise, California, a skunk used our backyard as his private highway. I believe he lived under a shed in the vacant lot next to our property.

Every night, he began his routine foray by scratching and digging just outside the master bedroom window. I watched him search for bugs and grubs. Continue reading Skunked!

Dust Yourself Off

 (Note to readers: This is a post I wrote about three years ago, but, given that it’s about the season for writers to start submitting their manuscript excerpts to writing contests, I thought I’d re-post it. Also, since then, I have signed a writing contract for the novel mentioned below in the post, with a strong possibility of having the next two of that series being published, as well.):
I received scores from three judges for a writing contest I’d entered recently.
The first two judges loved the excerpt of my romance novel and gave me glowing scores and remarks.
The third judge hated everything about my piece. He/she couldn’t muster any constructive comments. Not one.
Third judge’s score was a whopping 40 points (out of 100) lower than the other two judges.
If her low scoring had followed with constructive suggestions such as: “this paragraph needs an action beat,” or “add more description of the environment in this section,” I’d have received her evaluation with appreciation.So, I will chuck her unbelievably low scores.
I’ll push my jaw back in place after it dropped to the floor for ten incredulous minutes while I perused this judge’s low score.
And I’ll dust myself off and “get back on the horse,” so to speak.
I’ll study what the positive judges said and put their advice into practice.

If I were a new writer, this negative and (non-constructive) evaluation would have really messed with my mind and heart.
I wonder if judges realize that their comments have the power of life or death over aspiring writers, even established authors.
The writing tone of the negative judge smacked of a kind of “got-you” attitude.

But I’ve already published lots of articles and stories and devotions.
And last year (this year, too, in spite of negative judge) I semi-finaled in a national writing contest.
I’ve got more publications coming out in the fall
and my literary agent is shopping out one of my novels.
And I have five more novels waiting in the wings.

I’ve experienced both rejections and acceptances and I’m getting used to the idea that the writing industry, just like the music world I used to live in, is fraught with emotional upheaval.
There’s nothing new under the sun.

So it doesn’t shock me so much when I see how subjective the evaluating of manuscripts can be.
And I don’t take it personally. Well, not as much as I used to.

And the main reason I don’t get so bent out of shape by a lousy evaluation is that God has given me a vision for how my writing can be a blessing.
So what is one fallible judge’s opinion compared to the Lord of the entire Universe?
Of course I have much more to learn in my craft. What writer doesn’t?
But I won’t let one little, negative evaluation thwart the plan that the Lord has for me to write stories that glorify Jesus and comfort and encourage readers.

So if you’re reading this, still smarting from a similar negative evaluation at work, at church, in sports or the arts, at home, wherever, please don’t let it stop you.
Get back up, take a big breath and ask God how this experience might teach you, and make you a better person.
Only vision-less people stay down.
Hold onto your vision.

Lift your eyes and gaze at the horizon, where your future lies.
img_0476

For God’s sake, hold on!

“Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still;
teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.” (Proverbs 9:9 NIV Bible)

Solomon’s Conclusion

IMG_0965The world famous pop singer, Madonna, said in an interview with Dianne Sawyer, that she felt insecure, not happy, and not emotionally safe.

Yet she had achieved it all: fame, wealth, a rich and handsome husband—well, more than one rich and handsome husband. Many, in fact.

The “material girl” had sold millions of records, was featured on the cover of glamorous magazines, was often quoted by admirers, followed by paparazzi, fawned over by hotel staff, and restaurateurs.

Beautiful , brainy, talented, and driven.

In the world of musical entertainment, she had achieved the pinnacle of success.

Who wouldn’t want to be like her?

Yet she didn’t feel “emotionally safe.”

Kind of like the ancient king, Solomon. His success story happened three thousand years ago. But since then, nothing’s changed in the hearts and minds of men and women.

We still wrestle with the same needs and motivations, the same questions about the existence of God…

Why am I here? What is my life all about? How can I find significance? Am I loved and valued?

Perhaps I will find the answers to my deepest questions, and fulfill my greatest needs by…

intellectual pursuits: college degrees, new skills, more letters after my name: JD, MD, PhD, etc.

Maybe my significance is found in building something: a house, a business, a charitable foundation; writing a best seller, building my bank account.

Being popular and sought after? That’s a roller-coaster ride because people have a short attention-span.

Physical feats in sports or warfare, or travel to exotic places? Feels good for a short while.

If not that, then maybe I can dull my senses by engaging in the ultimate sexual experiences?

No?

Why not drown my disillusionment in marijuana, drugs or alcohol?

And finally:

I’m tired of life. I’ve tried it all. Nothing makes me happy or gives me peace.

We all come to the Solomon conclusion eventually, if we give ourselves time to reflect.

He concluded: “‘Meaningless! Meaningless!,” ‘says the Teacher.’ “‘Everything is meaningless.'” (Ecclesiastes 12: 8)

Certainly, the famous pop singer had recognized the futility of success. I’m not sure, though, that she came to Solomon’s conclusion.

In my own little world of volunteering at the local pregnancy clinic, I have had the opportunity to share this with my clients:

“Nothing makes sense unless we have a true connection—through Christ—with the God who made us. He understands how we are made, because He made us.”

 

Solomon’s conclusion: “fear God and keep His commandments.”

Holy Cow! that sounds old-fashioned and hell-fire.

But if mankind hasn’t changed, then the Teacher’s words are true and applicable for us today.

Deeply respect and humbly follow the Loving and all-wise God who made you. Listen to Him, and don’t do life your own way. (When has that ever brought you lasting satisfaction, anyway?)

Solomon was right, but it took him a long time to discover this truth.

I hope we come to agree with Solomon’s conclusion while we’re still young.

“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1 NIV Bible)

 

 

Seeking the Creator in nature and the arts

%d bloggers like this: