Quote of the Weekend

“I’m glad to report that even now, at this late day, a blank sheet of paper holds the greatest excitement there is for me—more promising than a silver cloud, prettier than a little red wagon. It holds all the hope there is, all fears. I can remember, really quite distinctly, looking a sheet of paper square in the eyes when I was seven or eight years old and thinking, ‘This is where I belong, this is it.'” E. B. White (HT: Gretchen Rubin)

(This is amazing! I feel much the same way about a blank sheet of paper, I just wish I’d realized it when I was eight, but all in God’s hands with no worries.)

A Texas Cousins Adventure: Real Love

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

“Aunt Abby?” Joshua asked. “Can you tell us a story? A story about Dusty?”

“Well, I think Dusty might have more than enough of his own stories,” Aunt Abby said. “How about a story about love.”

“Ewww,” Bruce said wrinkling his knows. “That’s gross.”

“Love is NOT gross,” Jules exclaimed bopping Bruce on the back of the head.

“Yes it is!” he yelled bopping her back.

“Hey now, hey now,” Aunt Abby said separating them. “We’ll have none of that, thank you very much.”

“He’s wrong though,” Jules exclaimed. “Isn’t he?”

“Yes, Jules, love is one of the most wonderful things in the world. The Bible teaches us that. But Bruce may be confusing real love and eewwy-gooey love.”

“What do you mean?” Bruce asked.


Once upon a time, eight cousins—four boys and four girls in cowboy boots—bounded onto Grammie and Grandpa’s Texas Ranch. Hobbes, the golden lab, greeted them with a wag of his tail and licked every face. Clyde, the gray donkey, pointed his big ears at them and let out a loud, “Hee-Haw, Hee-Haw”. The cousins hugged Hobbes, hugged each other and hugged Grammie. They dog-piled Grandpa laughing as he tickled them left and right.

“Shouldn’t there be nine of us?” Constance whispered.

Yes, what about Imogene’s baby?” Ellie asked.

“Yes, what about my baby that’s in Mommy’s tummy?” Imogene asked.

“We don’t know what you’re Mommy is having yet, so we have to wait. It’s like the best present ever! It’s the present of a new person!”

They arrived on a fine spring day from all over the place. They came with the first of the flowers and the first buds on the trees. They came with the dancing wind and the still cool breeze. Joy filled there air as the cousins came together at the Ranch, the magic of all that they would do, all that they could do when they were together.

“Happy Valentine’s Day!” Jules said handing Grammie a pink card when they got inside.

“Is it Valentine’s Day?” Jules exclaimed.

“Yes, in this story it is.”

“Oh good, Valentine’s is my most favorite day ever.”

“Yes, I know.”

Everyone passed out little pink and red Valentine’s. Some had stickers, some had fake tattoos, some had funny sayings, but all of them were covered in hearts, hearts, hearts.

“Hearts for love,” Jules sang dancing around the room. “And I love everyone.”

“No you don’t,” Bruce said.

Jude smiled at Bruce having played the ‘no you don’t’ game many times.

“Well, everyone who is good. Everyone who isn’t bad.”

“You don’t know everyone,” Joshua pointed out as he dumped out the car bucket.

“I know everyone,” Bruce said.

“No one knows everyone.” Constance agreed with Joshua.

“God does,” Imogene said. “God knows all things.”

“See,” Jules smiled. “If God’s knows everyone so can I.”

“Know you can’t,” Bruce disagreed.

“Only God knows all things,” Ellie explained.

“Well,” broke in Grandpa. “We know at least two of you are learning your catechism. Jules, if you love someone what does that mean?”

Jules stopped dancing around the room and frowned at her Grandpa pondering.

“It means you kiss them!” exclaimed Imogene kissing Grandpa on his near-by knee.

“And hug them!” added Ellie.

“And don’t bite them,” said Rook who had heard this from his momma a lot lately.

“It means you make sure they have food to eat, like Mommy and Daddy do. They love us!” explained Constance.

“Right,” agreed Bruce. “And you don’t hit them.”

“Nope,” Joshua said. “We’re not allowed to hit.”

“And you ask their forgiveness when you do something bad?” Jules ventured.

“Yes, but what are all those things?” Grandpa asked.

The eight cousins stared at Grandpa and slowly blinked. Grandpa sighed.

“Love is action. When you love someone you make the choice to love them every day, all the time, no matter what.”

“Wait!” Jules gasped. “It’s like Valentine’s day. We don’t just say we love each other, we give each other cards.”

“Yes, like that. It’s doing. It’s action. I don’t just tell your Grammie I love her. I get to know her. I talk with her. I spend time with her. I sacrifice for her.”

“Grandpa loves Grammie very much,” Jude stated.

“Yes I do. You know who else I love?”

“Who?” gasped Ellie, her blue eyes opening wide.

“You!” Grandpa bellowed. “All of you!”

“Us?” Bruce wasn’t so sure.

“Yes! Do you know how you know I love you?”

The eight cousins glanced around the room for clues.

“You let us play with your cars,” Joshua pointed out.

“Yes.”

“You give us raisins and animal crackers,” Imogene smiled.

“Yes!”

“You chase us,” Bruce said.

“You throw the ball for us,” added Jude.

“And you have movies we like.” Constance patted the TV.

“Yes, yes, yes.”

“You have us over,” Rook said, “a lot.”

“You let us dress up and play Pirates!” shouted Ellie.

“You let us play with Grammies doll house and polly pockets and you have a room with pictures of us so we can spend the night,” Jules said all in one breath. “Guys!” she turned to all her cousins. “Grandpa really loves us. You know how we can tell?”

“HOW???” the other seven cousins gasped in unison.

“Look at all he’s done for us! That’s how we know he loves us!”

“I bet,” Grammie said, “that even if Grandpa was gone today slaying dragons, you would still know he loves you.”

“Grandpa slays dragons?” Joshua asked.

“Yes,” Grammie said. “He’s one of the best dragon slayers ever.”

“You know what?” Grandpa asked. “This is how believers know God loves them. God gave Christ to die for sinners and then shows us every day, even when we can’t see Him, that He loves us. Love is not a feeling. Love is an action. And because this is what God does, we do the same. That’s how Grammies and Grandpas, Mommys and Daddys, Brothers and Sisters, and Cousins show love. By our actions.”

“Let’s all be loved,” Grammie said.

The eight cousins dropped their toys and gathered around Grandpa and Grammie. They hugged and squeezed.

“Let’s all be loved!!!


“So Bruce, what do you think? Is that a gross love?” Aunt Abby asked.

“No,” Bruce hesitated, “I don’t think so.”

“You don’t think so,” Jules gasped. “I know so. I also know I love you and so I’m sorry I bopped you on the head. Will you forgive me?”

Bruce looked from Jules to Aunt Abby and back.

“Yes!” He gave Jules a big hug. “Will you forgive me for bopping you back?”

“Yes!” Jules gave Bruce a big hug.

“Look!” Imogene declared. “We love each other!”

The eight cousins smiled big smiles.

“Yes, we do,” Aunt Abby said.

The End10801629_10205412873871223_4584408967729332710_n

My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

 

The Persecutor and Safely Home

One of my favorite classes in collage was a three-hour class on Texas History and American Literature. The books we read for the American Literature part synced with what we studying in the Texas History part. This created a wonderful way of learning the facts of history and the emotions of history. Combining a well-written historical fiction with a well-taught history class gave all of us a well-rounded view of the time-period we studied. Names and dates on a page took on life. We didn’t just learn about the settlers who came west; we read books about a girl kidnapped by Mexican bandits. The world breathed. It leapt off the page.

This is still my favorite way to learn history. I pick a time-frame of interest and start looking for well-written non-fiction and historical fiction taking place in the same era.

Study WWII? Yes, but watch Band of Brothers and you suddenly feel along with knowing. It is so much better to feel and know, instead of just one or the other. Knowing without feeling is compassionless, and feeling without knowing is pointless. Both, together, create something worth experiencing.

This happened, on accident, or by providence alone, this Christmas. I got sick the day after Christmas for several weeks. While this wasn’t fun, it did give me time to catch up on some reading. I’m a wishlist maker. I have a detailed list, with links, which I email to my husband each year at Christmas. I put a wide variety of things on that list so that I can still enjoy being surprised. This year, my Husband bought me something not on my list. He bought it because he thought it would interest me. It did!

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0800706315/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0800706315&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=7WK5W3VRUQDLKBA4

It was a little paperback book called The Persecutor by Sergei Kourdokov. It is the story of a young Russian Navy Officer who is conscripted by the local police and the KGB to persecute the church in communist Russia. Through the refusal of a beautiful young woman to stop attending church he becomes a Christian, defects to Canada, and is assassinated (unsubstantiated due to lack of evidence) by the KGB.

I read this book in one day . . . granted I was sick, but even if I’d been well, I still think I would have read it in a short space of time. It is well worth your time to read.

Not only is communist Russia of interest to me, not only does it give insight into the lives of orphans on the streets which is helpful to me because of the fairy tale I’m writing, but the story of the growth of Christianity during a time of persecution is encouraging to my faith. No matter how many times this young man and his friends went out to destroy the church more churches popped up. They just couldn’t understand it.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/141434855X/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=141434855X&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=3OH4VDASBFJWV2YL

A few days after reading this book, I picked up Safely Home by Randy Alcorn. This is a fictional story about the persecution of Christians in China. See how beautifully these two books nestle together? One was autobiographical and very straight forward, the other was emotional and dramatic. Both focused on the same thing: Christian persecution under communism.

Now, I could talk all day long about the ills of communism, but that really isn’t what I want to focus on. What I want to focus on was the chance I had to learn about persecuted believers. I have seen it from the point of view of the persecutor and the point of view of the persecuted. It was beautiful. Watching the hand of God on His people is always amazing.

I was thankful to see how closely the truth and the fictional story matched up. If they hadn’t then I wouldn’t be writing this article, but they did. The fictional story told of how each time the police came to stamp out a church more churches sprang up. The fictional story told of guards coming to faith while they tortured Christians in prison. The non-fictional story told of many of the same things. I came away from these two books with a better understanding of how to pray for persecuted believers, a better sense of what they endure, and a greater love for the Lord.

Disclaimer: There are many doctrinal things in both these books that I wouldn’t agree with, just FYI. Believers in communist countries tend to have a more mystical view of the working of God’s providence. Some parts in Alcorn’s book seem scripted. Last, Alcorn has scenes in his book of heaven. I will admit that they brought me to tears. I didn’t agree with everything he said and obviously some of it was totally imagination and conjecture, but he did a good job of using his imagination to show a martyr coming home to heaven and for that I’m very thankful. Imagination can be a very good gift from God if used wisely. It can help us flesh out parts of scripture so they don’t become hollow and dry for us. I think Alcorn does that if you take his story with a grain of salt. I also appreciated his handling of suffering. The persecuted believers never shied away from it. They saw it as part of being a Christian.

I was stuck very strongly by one point in Alcorn’s book where the Chinese Christians were asked what their greatest need was. They said good teaching because heresy trolled the land. Many believers there have no understanding of the Bible because many of them don’t have a Bible or only bits and pieces. Also, many of the men get thrown in prison leaving families and churches without leaders and teachers. They need good teachers and good books and most of all good Bibles. Like I said, this book helped me understand what to pray for for these people.

So, providentially, I read a non-fiction and a fictional book about the persecuted Church which substantiated one another. They gave me facts and emotion helping me to spend some of my sick time in pray for brothers and sisters around the world. I would recommend both books to fellow believers. They also tie in nicely with the books about the Wurmbrands.

Work In Progress: Teddy Bears

. . . Last time in Teddy Bear . . .

(Might I suggest you read Tock as if Martin Freeman were his voice actor? That’s how he sounds in my head.)

Chapter 1

photo by evindrews

photo by evindrews

Where was she? Tock rubbed his scratched, dark, plastic eye and tried to make out where he was. Had he been left outside? That didn’t seem likely. She hadn’t been outside in several months.

“It’s awful sunny,” he grumbled pushing himself up on his feet.

“The clouds are so fluffy and is that a rainbow . . .” he trailed off.

“No. No. This is all wrong. All wrong. It can’t be. No,” he said, all in a painfully slow rush. He plopped down on his tail. “No. I can’t be here.”

Tock wished he could close his one scratched, dark, plastic eye, but he wasn’t any doll with blinking, batting eyelids. He was a Teddy Bear, eyes open! Guarding, protecting . . . the thoughts caught in his cotton-stuffed mind.

“Nope. Don’t believe it. There’s been some mistake.”

The grass around him danced in a teasing wind and a creek bubbled cheerfully behind him. He didn’t want to be cheerful. He didn’t want to dance. He couldn’t. Not if he was here.

“Hello!” someone called.

From behind a bush covered with baby pink flowers tottered a gray koala bear wearing a diaper followed by a cheetah, a bear made entirely of fabric with no fur or real clothes at all. Everything was printed on his fabric, even his eyes.

“Hello,” the koala bear said again waving her paw.

Tock whipped his good eye and pushed up out of the thick grass ready to get some answers.

“You’re new,” purred the cheetah gracefully stalking beside the other two, “very fresh.”

“New?” Tock said. “Where am I?”

“Why, you’re in Holiday of course. I’m Baby Bear by the way,” said the koala. “And this is Charlie the cheetah and this is Just Bear.”

“No. No. I’m not and I don’t care about your stupid names,” Tock said “How do I get home?”

“That’s not nice,” Charlie the Cheetah drawled.

“Get home?” Just Bear said. “No one knows. This is Holiday.” He stressed the last word.

“You don’t understand,” Tock aid. “You don’t. I can’t be here. My child,” he choked on the words, “my child is sick.”

A sorrow so deep, so vast as to be unhealable, shown in the plastic and fabric eyes of all the stuffed animals.

“Oh,” Baby bear said softly. “Oh. How horrible.”

“It’s not, it’s not. No. There’s been a mistake.”

“There’s never been a mistake before,” Charlie said, each word drawn out and lazy.

“Well, there’s been a mistake now,” Tock said. He brushed past the three greeters and started towards a path heading east. “Who’s in charge around here?”

“In charge? No one’s in charge. This is Holiday,” Baby Bear said as if that should explain everything to Tock.

Tock growled. He growled in frustration. He growled to dam up the great ocean of sadness about to overwhelm him. He knew he should be here, and if he shouldn’t be here that meant his child was alone somewhere. All alone. And scared. He had to get back. His Lórien Jay was alone. The path wasn’t far, but would it take him back to here.

“We should take him to the Originals. They’ll know what to do,” said Just Bear behind him.

“Yes, but it’s so far,” Baby Bear said.

“Please, please take me,” Tock said turning back to the other three stuffed animals. “My child is sick.”

Tears filled Baby Bear’s eyes. “But there’s never been a mistake before.”

“Would you bet your child’s life on ‘never before’?” Tock asked taking her worn gray paw.

“Our child grew up,” Charlie said.

“And if she hadn’t grown up and out grown you?”

Charlie sat down in the thick grass under the perfect oriental blue sky and licked his paw. “I’d do anything necessary to get back.”

“Let’s go,” Just Bear said.

Charlie lopped off towards the path leading the way. His long tail twitched behind him while Baby Bear and Just Bear followed behind him. Tock glanced up at the sky with its fluffy clouds on the other side of the rainbow. He made a fist of his furry paw and pointed it at the sky.”

“I’m coming, Lórien Jay. I’m coming,” Tock swore refusing to believe she didn’t need him anymore.

. . . to be continued . . .

Writing Lesson: Teaching old Dogs New Tricks

dog

I’ve been writing since about 2000. (That’s 15 years!) I host a monthly writing group, a monthly writing class, and do beta and alpha reads for other authors. I know a lot of writing rules and tricks. I can even judge when to break them most of the time. Why? I have experience. Been there, done that, learned to do better. But, a little over a year ago, I changed what I write and have had to learn some new rules.

Writing for children is different than writing for adults. In some ways, it’s easier. I feel released because there are things I can skip and not worry about explaining. But, in some ways, it’s much harder because it’s new to me. I’m the new kid on the block. 😉

One of the writing rules I teach my class is repetitive words. Never be accidentally repetitive. You can be repetitive on purpose, but not on accident. When you repeat words beyond AND or THE it catches the readers eye and draws them out of the book. It makes them stop flowing in their reading and start reading every word specifically. Now they are doing a vocabulary study, not reading your story.

There is one exception to this word. The word ‘said’. You can repeat ‘said’ as many times as you like. Over and over. Sentence after sentence. Why? Because the human mind stops reading it. They read the dialogue and then the name of the speaker never once reading the word said. This is in fact why writers are encouraged to not use other words like asked, exclaimed, and growled to describe a character talking. When they use a more descriptive word it breaks the flow of reading. The reader has to stop the flow of the words in their mind and make sure they read the dialogue correctly.

Did I read that line with a growl?

Did I understand that the character was exclaiming?

In the best-case scenario, the reader should be able to tell by your word choice and vocabulary the emotion of the situation without saying anything beyond ‘said’.

This is a rule I have honored, taught, and experienced. I have stood by this rule for years.

Then my younger brother broke it for me.

My younger brother is married and has two of the cutest little girls in the world. He works for Halliburton and has spent time all over the world on oilrigs. I don’t get to see him very often, so we started a Christmas tradition of going shopping together before the holidays. He gets gifts for the girls and his lovely wife and I finish up everything I haven’t gotten done yet. Between stops, we talk about what we haven’t covered via text or email, and some things we have but we wish to rehash. We talk about books, movies, philosophy, Tolkien, vampires, my writing, his girls, and just life in general. It is one of the many things I love about the Christmas season.

This year, as we drove from Target to World Market, we talked about my Texas Cousins Adventure stories. They are very popular with my nieces and nephews and I hope to get them published some day. My brother told me how much he enjoyed them but wanted to offer one word of critique: the word ‘said’ is used too much.

What??

You can’t use ‘said’ too much!!

It’s a rule!

But wait . . .

Children’s stories are not the same as novels. They are short and meant to be read aloud by parents to little people who can’t read yet. Eureka! Lightbulb!

They are meant to be read aloud.

Few of us read novels aloud. We read them silently in our heads. But a children’s story is meant to be gathered around and enjoyed by several little people while someone reads each word. Why yes! In that case, you would never want to repeat the word said because it would get old and annoying. In a novel, your mind and eye skip it. But when you’re reading it aloud, you’re reading it over and over and over and over and over.

Oh my.

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In that one little moment, I realized that I need to look at Texas Cousins Adventure stories as something read verbally and heard with the ears. I need to read it aloud before sharing it so that I can make sure it works well with the human mouth and not just the human eyes. I need to used words like exclaimed, asked, growled, grunted, and any other fun descriptive word I can come up with for the way someone talks.

I was thankful for his honest and gentle critique. It’s important as a writer to have friends who are willing to tell you where you’re going wrong. It’s tough to take, but worth it.

Now, on to better writing!

(Our current debate is about genres. Are they good, bad, a necessary evil? We’re still discussing it over text and emails, so I’ll keep you posted. Also, I’m listening to some audio books to see how they handle this situation. Do they skip said if they’re doing distinct voices or do they say it and we start to ignore it? Thoughts?)

Me and my younger brother!

Me and my younger brother!

Dream Builders have to have Helpers (Part 2)

serve

I’m going to chalk this up to being sick since the day after Christmas. A day after I posted my article last Monday on Dream Builders have to have Helpers, I remembered a whole other point I was going to include in the article. Like I said, I’ve been sick. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 🙂

Service.

That is the point.

Think about the quote. “If you don’t build your dream someone will hire you to help build theirs.”

Do you hear the implied concept that it would be a bad thing to be hired to help someone build their dream? This quote is saying it is evil or at least bad to help others build their dreams. How self-focused can you be? Is not helping others a worthy way to spend your time?

Service is a worthy way to live life. We should always be serving. We should pour ourselves out in service.

How much do we hear about ‘me time’? Now, I understand that a few minutes to re-focus, time to think, and doing something you enjoy, or even just taking a hot bath can make it much easier to serve. I know. I worked retail for 14 years. You wanna talk about service. We made service the hallmark of our boutiques. We demanded it of our employees and I set the example at every step. I have spent hours at other people’s beck and call. I know how taxing it can be. I know how it can eat away at your soul to do that every day. So, I’m not talking about the things servers do to rejuvenate so they can face the next day of demanding customers. I’m not talking about the mom who needs a break so she can tend to her family, or the caretaker who needs a few days away in a cabin somewhere to refresh herself.

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I’m talking about a me focused culture. A culture that is all about what my needs and wants are without any concern about other people. We have a whole generation growing up who were never taught that the world doesn’t revolve around them. They were never taught to serve.

Why? Well, there is a humility to services. There is, if you want to serve well, a forgetting of self. There is an attitude of I don’t matter, you do. There is a laying down of self.

We don’t like this. We instantly rage: What if someone takes advantage of me? What if no one ever appreciates what I do?

That may happen. Think about it. Think about Christ dying on the cross and how many people don’t appreciate that, even believers at times.

Listen to the messages of media, music, art, television, and novels. How many of them preach that you are significant? How many of them teach our children that they are the most significant thing to come along, ever? But are they? No. They are sinners just like us in need of a Savior. There is only one truly significant and important person ever born—Christ. And what did he do? He washed the apostle’s feet. He served in all humility. He came, lived, and died for us, to save us.

Instead of worrying so much about living a significant life, following our dreams, making sure everyone thinks well of us, making sure we never care what anyone thinks about us, we should lay it all aside and seek to serve one another. Yes, you may not be appreciated, but if you are serving for Christ’s sake than you can trust that he sees the work of your hand even if no one else does. Yes, someone may take advantage of you, I’ve seen it, I’ve experienced it. But, Christ sees. He knows. And He is trustworthy. The joy of watching Christ work outweighs standing up for our rights any day.

Standing up for rights is short-sighted and often selfish. (I’m not talking about constitutional law, I’m talking about the constant demand for me and my rights.) Instead of waiting on the Lord, quietly and meekly, trusting Him with our souls, we loudly demand our rights, our acceptance, our significance. Dear believer, if you will wait quietly you will see the hand of Christ in your life. Trust your heart to Him. Is He not mighty enough to protect it?

Don’t worry about your dreams, whether they are being built or not. Worry about serving your church and your family and trust your dreams to the one who gave them to you. He is far more creative about how those dreams are fulfilled than you ever will be. And remember, this life is not all there is. Oh, if you can only grasp that one little concept. This life is not all there is. You don’t have to try and fit every dream and desire into this one life time. Serve Christ and his people and trust yourself to Him. Get in there and do the hard work of service and you will be blessed to watch Christ tend to you and your needs. You are His and He won’t forget you.

Okay, rant over. I promise.

Quote of the Weekend

“It’s me,” he realized. “I’m the last to die.” It was clear. It was Gregor the rats wanted. He was the warrior. He was the threat. He wast he one who had to decide where he stood. And it wasn’t going to be here, watching the people he loved die. He was the warrior, and the warrior saved people.

– Gregor the Outlander by Suzanne Collins

(I read this book over the Christmas holiday snuggled up under my Christmas quilt by the light of my Christmas tree. It was the perfect evening read, straight forward, exciting, heart warming, and fun. And you know me, I love anything about warriors.)

The Holly Berry Battle

by Elizabeth Groves

Bruce by Elizabeth Groves

Aunt Abby got sick right after Christmas. She lay on the couch bundled in all sorts of blankets and surrounded by mugs of tea and water. One day, Bruce came to see her with his Mommy and some groceries.

“Are you sick?” he asked.

“Yes, I am sick,” Aunt Abby said.

“Are you going to write another story soon?”

Aunt Abby smiled for there is no better question to ask a writer.

“I will, as soon as I’m well.”

“Can it be about holly berries?”

“Holly berries?”

“Yes.”

“I guess so.”


 

For Bruce: Once upon a time, a little Auntie lived in a little house, on a little bit of land with several large oak trees. Across the street, make sure you look both ways, lived her two blond-haired, blue eyed-nephews. One was still quite little though he had a smile that could charm the world. The other, Bruce, was quite tall and not little at all. He was so not little that he was often mistaken for a four or a five year old, even sometimes by his little Auntie.

One day, when the smiling nephew wasn’t smiling so much Auntie offered to take Bruce on a walk to the park. Bruce’s mom bundled him in a coat and off they went. First, they had to make their way past the super dangerous traffic. Auntie tightly held Bruce’s hand until they were safe. Then, they had to cross the big open lawn filled with squirrels hunting for pecans. Auntie and Bruce chased several squirrels, but the squirrels were always faster.

“Look at all the puppies!” Bruce exclaimed pointing.

So, next they let kind old dogs sniff their fingers and patted many heads.

“Look up there!” Auntie said.

They turned their faces to the sky and Auntie pointed out the bird’s nests in the bare branches left over from the summer and the squirrel nests being prepared for the winter. Finished looking up, the chased leaves, collected rocks, and had a sword fight with two sticks. When both their stick swords broke, they poked their noses behind two trees and found a little path.

“Should we see where the path goes?” Auntie asked.

“Yes!” hollered Bruce.

Going with great care, watching for huffalumps and woozles, listening for dragons and giant spiders, Auntie and Bruce crept down the path. The path twisted between trees. It climbed up a small hill and slid down the other side. It snaked around a small creek and then stopped.

It stopped right beside a holly tree covered with holly berries. Dark green leaves with pointy ends covered the tree and little red berries brightened the day.

“Look Bruce! It looks like Christmas all in one tree!” Auntie said.

She started to sing an old song called the Holly and the Ivy quiet off key.

“No it doesn’t and don’t sing,” Bruce ordered with a twinkle in his eye.

This only made Auntie sing louder, “The holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown . . .

Bruce grabbed a handful of bright red holly berries and threw them at his Auntie. She stopped singing with a gasp!

“Bruce!”

Without warning, Auntie gathered up some berries and dumped them on Bruce’s head. He squealed as they rolled down under his shirt. With that, the battle of the berries began. Back and forth, dancing around and around the holly tree, giggling for all they were worth, Auntie and Bruce pelted each other with holly berries.

Soon, all the berries they could reach were gone. Their hands were scratched from the sharp leaves. Their cheeks were red from the battle and their eyes sparkled.

“Good battle,” Auntie said holding out her hand.

Bruce shook it seriously. “Good battle.”

“Now, let’s go home and get something warm to drink.”

Hand in hand, Auntie and Bruce, followed the trail back through the trees, noticed nests, patted dogs, and chased away the squirrels. Hand in hand, they braved the sidewalk beside the dangerous traffic until they got back to their street.

Bruce couldn’t wait to tell his Mommy about all their adventures and the holly berry battle.


 

“How’s that for a holly berry story, Bruce?”

The End

My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

Dreamers have to have Helpers

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This is a Pinterest inspired rant. Yes. One of those. I came across the above quote the other day and had a knee-jerk reaction of anger. Why? Well, to be honest, it’s because I’m the kind of person who a) hates statements like this, b) enjoys, and is satisfied with helping others. Thinking through my reaction led me down a few interesting trains of thought and through some personal history.

Personal History:

1) It brought up my old Dungeons and Dragons days. Yes. I was one of those strange geeky girls who played DnD and wore over-sized baggy plaid shirts and t-shirts. Deep down, that girl still lurks inside me. She lives alongside the farm girl me, and has been joined by the boutique girl me.

One of the great gifts of DnD—and there are many—is the insight it gives you into yourself and others. We’re all a little freer when we’re “role-playing” a character. There’s a safety when you’re just playing a character to do things and say things you might not normally do. It’s like the idea of you don’t know who you are until you’re put in an intense situation and then who you really are will come out. DnD creates fake intense situation with the covering of role-playing that lets you have some insight into the people around you that you might not otherwise get. (This is why choosing who you play with is very important.)

When I first started playing, I always played fighters and barbarians. I wanted to be the biggest and baddest in the bunch. (This also manifested itself in an odd height competition between me and my brother that resulted in us both having ridiculously tall characters.) I wanted to exert myself, prove myself. I was totally butch all the time . . . and almost never happy. See, I’d try to lead and then when it was important, I didn’t like being in charge. I tried to be big and bad, but no one liked my characters. I wasn’t a nice person to be around.

After many post-playing discussions centered on my unfeminine characters, I decided to try some of the support classes. I decided to try to help instead of lead. (Some feminist somewhere is vomiting.) I switched to playing rouges instead of butch, beefy fighters. Now, I had some great butch characters, namely TearSong and Phoenix, but I quickly found that I, myself, was much happier with my rouges. Rouges are the ones who help the party. They sneak around in the shadows making sure the party is safe.

I learned that I’m more content as a sidekick, as a helper.

2) I did the same with our business. Our boutiques were never my vision. Ever. And when the time came for me to shoulder the bigger leadership responsibilities, we sold the boutiques in less than a year. (There were other factors involved with this, but this was part of it for me.) I didn’t enjoy being the Boss Boss. I don’t mind being the Boss, but to be THE BOSS, isn’t appealing to me.

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Trains of Thought:

I like helping other people build their dreams.

This doesn’t mean I don’t have dreams. I do. They just aren’t grandiose. They’re small. This is not because I lack heart or passion, but because it’s in my nature to be a sidekick, to be the Samwise Gamgee of the story, not the Aragorn. I don’t want to be Aragorn. I can be a captain. I don’t want to be a general. I’m content helping the general.

This quote makes it seem like a bad thing to help build someone else’s dream, but really it’s an insult to everyone who has every helped you.

As someone who has spearheaded many projects both in our business, at home, and at church, I try to always appreciate those willing to help me. They are vital and necessary. I need helpers to do the things I need to do. The dreamers have to have people who help them build, and oddly enough, the helpers need the dreamer.

We live in a society that almost always focuses on either the employee or the boss. We need both. We need someone with money to start the company and we need someone to work the machines. We need the hero and the sidekick. One without the other doesn’t work. And being the helper is no small thing!  Our society likes to look down it’s nose at the idea of a man leading his family and the wife helping him, but all that does is degrade helpers. Helpers are very important. That would be like the general deciding he doesn’t need captains, or the business owner deciding he doesn’t need employees, or…the hero trying to save the world without a faithful sidekick. It won’t work.

And, it’s not an issue of forcing someone to help when they’d rather be a hero, either. There are people, like me, who are very happy being the helper. We don’t want to be the hero. We don’t want to be the top dog. We derive immense satisfaction in helping others succeed. We enjoy being on a team, working with others. We enjoy being the moms in the background, the geek behind the computer, the rouge in the shadows, the wife beside her husband.

It took me a long time to realize I am a sidekick, but I am. And once there, I’m content and happy! There’s no place I’d rather be.


Update on my Health:

I’m slowly but surely feeling better. As my doctor said, I must patiently work at getting better. This means lots and lots of rest. So this week I’m on light duty, very light duty. I hope to get the Christmas decorations down by the end of the week. I’ve had to forgo a lot of things I would normally be involved in, but it’s given me time to read, pray, examine my trust in God’s providence, and lean on my husband for a time. I’m so thankful for my church and my family who have brought meals, prayed, picked up groceries, texted me, and reminded me that I’m not forgotten or alone even while I’m trapped on the couch. I’m not back on schedule with the blog yet, so please bear with me as it’s very hit and miss right now. Writing can even wear me out. Thank you for your prayers and thoughts over the last few weeks and going forward into this new week.