Having worked on my science fiction novel for about five years (more if you count when I first conceived it, but put it aside after three chapters to focus on motherhood) and to come to this moment of time when it will be officially launched for the world to enjoy, can only be described as amazing and marvelous – amazing I managed to get to this point and marvelous because I got to this point. All of the hard work has come to fruition and I am about to launch Alien Neighbors into the world!
Publishing a book is a long and arduous process. After you finish the writing, the next phase begins – preparing to market your book. Reviews are so important to selling books and NetGalley is a platform that many traditional and indie publishers use to garner reviews. The idea is that ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) are made available to registered members for free in exchange for honest reviews. As you can well imagine, this can be a scary process viewed with some trepidation by the author. I am so excited to share we got our first review. Somehow, getting this review from a complete stranger, has brought me a wonderful sense of affirmation and joy.
Tomorrow is the Official Launch Day – the culmination of my dream to publish a science fiction novel that began as just an idea after reading an article in 2000. I am going to share parts of that journey in future blog posts, but in the mean time, my Book Launch Buzz video will give you a general idea of the story behind Alien Neighbors and what it means to me.
I have made it a tradition to write about each year as part of our anniversary celebration. In preparation, I went to last year’s anniversary blog post:
We are living in extraordinary times. The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun. But while that is certainly true, living through a pandemic is new for most of us. It has been a challenging time as we receive changing information daily and must navigate our relationships, how we conduct business, make tough decisions regarding our children’s education, and what we should or shouldn’t do based on something we can’t even see. I know for myself, I sometimes wake up and everything feels so surreal – I never imagined living through this type of situation.
Those words really startled me and caused me to reflect on where we were then, and where we are now. It doesn’t seem like there’s much difference and it can be really easy to allow ourselves to get caught up in that fact.
I wish I could do like I did for our One Year celebration and just share about all of the wonderful different things that we were able to participate in and the very cool things that we did for our community. But the fact is, the world just didn’t allow us to do that for the second year in a row and that’s hard. So what can we do? How can we proceed? Well, Carrollton League of Writers already answered that question and in a very powerful way. We have chosen to be a family and to love, support, and respect each member of our family.
It hasn’t always been easy. Since I took on a full-time job and had shoulder surgery, the leadership I have been able to provide in the past has declined. But the Carrollton League of Writers board met the challenge and kept things going. I think we can be very proud and grateful that in a time where many writers groups have been unable to keep meeting, the foundation that was laid by a group of people who have decided to be invested in one another three years ago has stood firm – and that is truly a wonderful thing to have come out of this pandemic.
I have had occasion to talk to various members of our group and what is really amazing is that we all come from different places, backgrounds, and beliefs, yet we are dedicated to respecting each other and even more, loving and encouraging one another in the most difficult of circumstances. So, what should we celebrate when we celebrate our 3rd anniversary? Sure, we managed to do some good things. We worked really hard at putting on a virtual writers retreat to take the place of our usual annual retreat at Lake Texoma. Obviously, it didn’t have the same vibe, but it accomplished something. It said that we will not go gentle into that good night. The board met several times and created an ever-evolving plan of how we should conduct our meetings to meet the needs of our group.
3 Year Anniversary Meeting
Carrollton League of Writers may have to respond to external circumstances that affect how we move forward, but none of that will ever change the fact that we are the family that we have chosen to be. And regardless of what is going on in the world – that will always be something to celebrate!
I don’t think people always realize that when someone is ill, often there is someone behind the scenes taking care of them. I don’t think we should discount what the person is going through with their illness, but I think it’s also important to recognize that the people caring for that person are also going through a very stressful journey. It’s not easy to be a caregiver for a number of reasons. One of the biggest ones is that the caregiver is emotionally invested in the person they are caring for, so it is also hard for them to watch as their loved one is going through such a difficult time. Walking alongside them and caring for them is an act of love, but it is extremely emotionally and physically draining. I felt led to write this article to help people remember that while we should certainly and rightly focus on the person that is experiencing the illness, we also need to remember the people who are caring for them so that we can support them as well. Both need physical help, emotional support, and our prayers.
A great example for me personally is the fact that I recently had rotator cuff surgery. My husband has been my hero, as he spends each and every day meeting my needs. Because the surgery was for my dominant right arm which had to be immobilized for 4 weeks, he really had his work cut out for him. The physical therapy is an additional three to four months, so his schedule is completely disrupted as he continues to care for me and also facilitates the physical therapy exercises I’ve been assigned. All of this while working and taking care of all of the household chores. One of the best things that happened is that the day after my surgery, my very dear friend Sabitha came by our house and dropped off a package at our door, without even knocking.
She recognized that I was probably exhausted from my surgery and in no shape to greet anybody, but she wanted to help by providing my husband with food. He could continue to focus on me while enjoying the delicious soups that carried him through the next three days. I can’t begin to say how grateful I am for that very kind gesture. Another important point is that she didn’t wait for me to reach out to her. She acted. I’m not taking away from people who offer to help by saying, “Let me know if you need anything.” But the truth is, many people may need something (or at least would be blessed with a little help) but can’t bring themselves to reach out, fearing they will inconvenience others. By taking action upon herself, Sabitha met a real need we had and blessed us immeasurable by her gifts, both tangible and intangible.
Sabitha also had some goodies for me which I deeply appreciated, but the greatest impact for us was seeing that my husband was cared for so that he could care for me. What a blessing that was! On top of all that, she returned with more goodies the following week to cheer me on in my recovery. If you know of anybody who is going through a health challenge, please don’t forget them. They need continual encouragement and prayers. They also need love and support expressed in tangible ways. But don’t forget that their caregivers need all of that, too.
I posted this recently on Facebook: My heart is so happy – I’ve been dreaming of having this picture hanging in our home for years and today it happened! He came for ALL of us! Every time I look at it, I feel incredible joy.
A good friend of mine asked me what this picture represents. The title given this picture by the artist Ron DiCianni is Simeon’s Moment, but it is a moment that we can all share in. Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord and Simeon is holding the baby Jesus.
When I look upon Simeon’s face, I can see the inexpressible joy that he is feeling. God gave Simeon a very special gift which we can find in the Bible in the second chapter of Luke. Verse 26 tells us, “It had been revealed to him [Simeon] by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.” What must it have been like to live a long full life and enter into old age while clinging to that hope! I can only imagine the incredible delight Simeon must have felt as he held in his arms the salvation of the world.
After living a long and faithful life, Simeon’s Moment represents the culmination of the promise that God has given to Simeon and to all of us: a way out of the desperate condition that we all share, a way out of our sins, so that we can be in fellowship with Him and have eternal life. Matthew 1:21 tells us, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,because he will save his people from their sins.” Simeon holds our salvation in his arms – the light of the world come down from the heavens in the form of a helpless baby, because He knew we were all in need of a Savior. Simeon’s words (Luke 2:29-32) states it so well:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
But it’s not only the ecstasy on Simeon’s face that I can relate to, in which God’s promise for the redemption of humanity is being held in Simeon’s arms. I also love how the artist echoes Simeon’s words and created a global presence interwoven into the fabric of the picture, which shows that Jesus is not only for Simeon, but that He came for the entire world. It fills my heart with joy to see the expression of the Gospel in Simeon’s arms. Love has not come for just one people, but for all peoples, so that we all may be saved. Hallelujah!
Finally, the tear that Simeon sheds is subject to interpretation. Perhaps it is a pure expression of the emotion he is feeling. Perhaps it is a response to what he knew was coming – this man of God who surely studied the Hebrew Scriptures all of his life and understood the prophecies that were to be fulfilled glimpsed the future – that this precious baby that he held in his arms would one day carry the weight of the world’s sins upon His shoulders and the price of love would cost Him everything. Simeon’s words to the baby’s mother, Mary, in Luke 2:34-35 testify to this:
“This child [Jesus] is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
What must it feel like to hold your salvation in your arms? We may not be able to experience it the same way Simeon did, but we can surely experience it for ourselves – and if you choose to ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior and follow Him, I believe you will feel what Simeon feels. If you want to learn more about the babe in Simeon’s arms, the Book of John in the Bible is a great place to start. You may also want to consider reading about Jesus in this easy-to-read devotional that I wrote which celebrates His coming from heaven to be born in a manger on Christmas day, Taking Back Advent Moving from the Mundane to the Miraculous.
Even when we know those we love are finally out of pain and in the presence of our Savior, saying goodbye is hard. I wish I could pick up the phone and hear my sister’s sweet soothing voice and ready laugh once again. When I think about my sister Lynn, I think about somebody who was very gifted in the creative arts. I remember from a very young age that she was always doing beautiful drawings. I also remember that she loved to sing and that music was a very important part of her life. But the one thing that I remember the most is the love that my sister had for the Lord and what that looked like in her life. She loved people and she was always taking younger people under her wing. She had a huge generosity that was displayed in many different ways. She had a passion for both life and for worshipping the One that gives us life. She had a great deal of enthusiasm for celebrating our family’s Jewish roots which are the roots of Christianity that culminate in Yeshua, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The very last text that I received from Lynn, she was thinking of me and not about her own situation. She knows that I love horses and she sent me this picture of these two horses. She wrote that the picture really touched her and when she saw it she thought of me. Her words were “This is so beautiful. The blind horse is being helped by a friend.” I wrote back, “It is very beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing. Maybe someday I’ll write a story about the picture. Love you so much!” Her last text to me was her reply, “Love you so much too!”
I think the reason it resonated with her so much is because it was also a picture of who she is. The story I decided to write is her story. My sister would be the horse holding the feed bucket so that the other horse would be able to eat. I didn’t get to live very close to my sister, so I’m not sure of all the things that she was involved in, but I do know that whatever she devoted herself to, she did it with great enthusiasm and her legacy is the many people that she invested in with that enthusiasm. I am one of those people and I am so grateful that my sister was always an encourager to me throughout my life, even when she was journeying through her difficult illness. She was my cheerleader and she was one of my best friends. She would hold the feed bucket so that I could eat from it. She was the person who would look around and see what she could do to make someone else’s life better.
My sister modeled what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. She experienced much joy and did so many things during her lifetime. Lynn was also a nurse, an actress, a teacher, and a singer. She was so blessed to have two sons, Danny and Matt. Her wonderful husband Brian loved her deeply and accompanied her through the trials of this life, of which there were many. She faced each situation with incredible grace and she persevered, running the race laid out before her with courage and trusting the Lord every step of the way.
Lynn always called me Little Sis and I called her Big Sis and I’m very grateful that God gave me such a wonderful big sister for the time that I had with her. Somehow the increased frequency of our phone calls and texts made me feel better because we had some wonderful conversations, more than we have had in years, but also worse, because it makes her absence more profound. It wasn’t nearly long enough, but our hearts will always be connected and someday we will have eternity together. In the mean time, I will follow her beautiful example and do my best to hold the feed bucket for others.
I love you, Big Sis. I’m sure going to miss you. I have the feed bucket ready.
John 15:13 is an amazing verse which speaks directly to sacrificial love. The same love that brought Jesus to the cross because He loves us so much, He couldn’t bear to leave us in our hopeless state of sin and its dreadful consequences. So how can we live out the words of this Scripture in our own lives? As we celebrate Memorial Day, we remember those who laid down their lives, so we could be free. Their example is one way for someone to lay down one’s life, and we are forever grateful for their sacrifice.
Pastor Chad of Living Word Global Church shared a wonderful way to celebrate Memorial Day. Rather than buy into the consumerism that sadly revolves around this day, do an act of service to honor God. It doesn’t have to be elaborate – something as simple as a phone call to someone who may be feeling lonely. As Pastor Chad put it this morning, we are all going to die someday. God didn’t make our bodies to be perfectly preserved, so that we survive unblemished into our eighties. We are called to stretch and go out of our comfort zones to help others and point them to Jesus. As we celebrate Memorial Day, it would be good to reflect on those who have sacrificed for us and on what we can do to sacrificially help others.
While we are not all called to make that ultimate sacrifice, we can lay down our lives for others in many ways – by serving them. Our lives should be how others see God – by seeking the well-being of others and loving them in His Name. When Josh was in first grade, he talked about this topic. May the pure faith of a child bless your understanding of living a life spent in loving others.
I have been wanting to talk about the difference between empathy and sympathy for a while now. I have been reflecting on my response to my mom in my younger years when she expressed the various aches and pains that she was experiencing. I recall feeling bad for her, but I don’t recall comprehending the depth of the pain that she was going through. As I’m getting older and experiencing my own aches and pains that is a natural part of the aging process, I have been reflecting on the difference between empathy and sympathy, how I responded to her back then, and how I would today.
One of my favorite scripture verses has always been 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
This is a perfect picture of empathy. Sympathy is recognizing that somebody is struggling and offering some words of comfort from a place that while sincere, does not actually comprehend the pain the other person is going through, at least to the same extent as someone who has experienced it themselves. This Scripture verse tells us that after we have gone through a trial, we can comfort someone else going through a similar trial with the same comfort God has given us. That is so powerful!
I personally have some regret because I wish I was more empathic to what my mom was going through as she aged: her painful back issues, her frustration at being limited physically in her golden years, and her unspoken feelings of isolation. But upon further reflection, I find that type of empathy is often the result of growing in wisdom and maturity. It is the exception rather than the rule for younger people who have not experienced the same issues or if they have, it was temporary.
I have come to understand that my mom would hold no grudge against my lack of empathy, just as I hold no grudge against my own children. They simply cannot comprehend what they have not felt for themselves. Indeed, as parents, we typically shelter our children from our infirmities because we don’t want to burden them.
Regardless of our season of life, we can all still strive to become more empathic. How do we do this? I recently heard of Brene Brown and the work she is doing in this area. I wanted to share this video because I think it speaks very directly to all of us as to how we can exercise empathy rather than sympathy, even in those situations where we have not experienced what the person is going through for ourselves. I think it’s worth watching – I hope it blesses you, like it has me, with a better understanding of how to be more compassionate to those around us.
And if you feel a little sad or guilty for not having more empathy for someone you love who is no longer with us, I have empathy for you, for I feel those things as well. I would like to share the comfort I have received from God. He loves each one of us unconditionally where we are at. I also believe those who love us (including my mom) knew we were not yet mature enough to understand. They would want us to continue to grow and learn as we move through each season of our life, gaining wisdom and increasing in compassion, without being weighed down with regrets. The best way to honor their legacy is to live the best version of ourselves each day, without letting the past hold us back from being a blessing to those around us, and by cultivating empathy for others.
I was lying in bed this morning thinking about my old days at DeVry Institute of Technology and how much I love working on electronics. I was a faculty assistant while I was going to school. I remember when they were tearing down the upstairs lab to turn it into another classroom. DeVry decided to make the oscilloscopes available for students to purchase at a somewhat affordable price. Being a faculty assistant, I got first shot. The instructor that I worked for helped me choose the best one. It became the mainstay for my home lab along with some equipment I had purchased at the monthly sidewalk sale under the bridge in Dallas, affectionately referred to as “First Saturday.”
A DeVry analog and digital trainer consisting of a function generator, an AC power supply, and a variable and fixed (5 and 12 volt) DC power supply, became part of the lab that I had set up in my bedroom, along with numerous breadboards and a container holding various diodes, transistors, resistors, IC chips, LEDs, and capacitors. I also had a soldering iron and solder sucker I kept handy. I absolutely loved designing circuits on my bread boards and building projects. I spent many wonderful hours at DeVry learning my trade. It served me well, because I went on to work at a job as a test engineer for many years and I always said “I can’t believe they pay me to come into work to have so much fun!”
That was several years ago and my life has taken many turns since then. I married a wonderful man and raised an amazing son while doing many different things including teaching English as a Second Language at the adult education center in my community, getting my master’s degree, and teaching as an adjunct professor at Dallas Christian College, while starting a small business selling portable trail obstacles for horses.
I had a fantastic run indulging in my favorite past time – horses. I have been blessed with several wonderful equine partners over the years. Time, distance, and the busyness of life has caused my ability to participate to fade. I still ride but instead of three or four times a week, it’s been three or four times a year.
More seasons: In the last few years, I have devoted myself to writing. I started a writers group called the Carrollton League of Writers, going on three years now, and have been blessed with so many lovely friendships through it. I am in the midst of revising a 94,000-word science fiction novel that I hope to publish by year’s end. I have also taken up my husband’s passion of bicycling and we try to ride our bikes several times a week.
Most recently, I have embarked on a new career path working in Information Technology as a Quality Assurance lead. As I lay in bed this morning, I felt nostalgia for and a strong desire to reignite my passion for electronics. But then I realized that God has given me many wonderful seasons and that my electronics time was a special season for me to enjoy, but not necessarily something to return to, or at least not to devote a tremendous amount of time to it.
God will always have something for me. What a blessing to know that He will continue to bring new things into my life, not to replace my previous passions, but to bless me with new experiences – new seasons.
My thoughts then went a step further. I think I was reminiscing about DeVry because a dear friend, the instructor I mentioned earlier, went to be with Jesus last month. It’s particularly hard to think about because he was also my husband’s closest friend and his passing was so unexpected. As I thought about him, and became teary-eyed, I realized that as the years go on, this was going to continue to happen, because it is a part of life. While our souls are eternal, our bodies are perishing, and we will be saying goodbye to many friends eventually. In the last six months, we’ve said goodbye to four dear friends and I find my grief coming out in patches, as special reminders of them occur randomly in my life.
But God told me something about that, just as He did about the areas of passion I described earlier that I’m no longer able to do. While I’ll always treasure the memories I have of my friends and look forward to reuniting with them one day in heaven, God is also bringing new people into my life, not to replace them because they will always have a special place in my heart, but because He loves us so much. Just as He’s bringing me new things to do, He’s also bringing me new friends. It reminds me of a childhood song we used to sing in Girl Scouts – Make new friends, but keep the old…one is silver and the other gold.
I thank God for both the new seasons in my life to look forward to, and the previous seasons to remember and cherish. I also thank God for the new friends He has been bringing into my life. It doesn’t make saying goodbye to those I love any easier, but it does bring comfort and hope for the future.
I wrote this article a couple of years ago, but I love its relevancy to Good Friday, so I would like to share it with you again today. I hope it blesses you as we reflect on the sacrificial love of our Savior on this day that He gave everything for us. Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
When someone dies, their last words are typically formed around what they hold to be most important, those things most dear to them. The person is speaking from their heart regarding their greatest concerns. Even in dying, we can see that for Jesus, His greatest concern was for us, rather than the excruciating pain that He was bearing. His desire to articulate His thoughts from the cross must have brought shock waves of pain as He struggled to lift His torn body upward against the nails, to draw enough breath to speak. Scripture records that Jesus spoke seven times. Let’s examine more closely these words He deemed so important, He uttered them from the cross in the midst of His passion.
I would like to share some insights garnered from a little book by Russel Bradley Jones called Gold from Golgotha. Jones writes “Everything at Calvary is significant, but in a very special sense the Savior’s seven words, spoken from the heart of His vicarious suffering, interpret Him to mankind.”
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34
In the midst of great suffering, Jesus was thinking of others, not Himself. He had come for the lost and in that prayer He was asking His Father to give them a chance, instead of the condemnation they deserved. He asked God to allow them a chance to believe. Russel Jones points out that in the Greek original, “Then Jesus said” might be changed to “Then Jesus kept saying.” The verb is imperfect, indicating continuous action in past time. Jesus’ prayer was a continuous petition on our behalf in the midst of His suffering!
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23:39-43
Jesus was faced with temptation just as He was in the wilderness and in the Garden of Gethsemane. One thief asked for physical release, goading Jesus by challenging Him to show His power and save them if He really was the Christ. The other thief appealed to Jesus to “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He wasn’t asking for release from his cross, but from his sin. What is amazing is the choice before Jesus – the cessation of torture or the prize of His agony: totally unworthy sinners such as the self-confessed criminal hanging next to Him – and each one of us!
When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. – John 19:26-27
Notice, Jesus said woman instead of mother. He assigned John as His substitute and in those words severed His earthly relationship with Mary, so she would be free to have the higher relationship of believer, with Jesus as her Savior. Heartbreaking as it must have been for both of them, it was necessary for Mary to lose her son in order to gain her salvation.
About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” – which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Matthew 27:46
2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus suffered for our sin at the cross, in the God-forsaken depths of agony. Jesus’ soul cries out as He descends into hell for us – His Father is no longer there.
In this terrible time of forsakenness, we see the evidence of God’s wrath towards sin. Because Jesus was assuming the sin of the world, God’s attitude towards sin forced Him to turn His back on His beloved Son. This speaks to the incomprehensible sacrifice of both the Father and the Son – all for the sake of love.
Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” – John 19:28
Jesus said “I am thirsty” after “all was now completed.” What He set out to do at the cross was complete. There was nothing more to be done. Jesus was also fulfilling prophecy and identifying Himself as the Messiah in those three simple words. In Psalm 69 His suffering is predicted, and that of His thirst when He would be offered vinegar to drink.
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. – John 19:30
In the original Greek, “it is finished” may be translated as one word – “tetelestai” meaning “It was finished and as a result it is forever done.” There is nothing left to be done to complete the work that the Lord Jesus Christ perfected at the cross. “It” is the suffering of the full punishment of all guilt for all time. He paid the penalty due for sin with His perfect sacrifice. Sinners can now approach God through their faith in Jesus and because of His righteousness. A place in heaven is now possible because God’s divine justice has been satisfied. Nothing more is needed.
Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said his, he breathed his last. – Luke 23:36
The last words of Jesus show His death was voluntary, that He chose to give up His life for us. In His final words He is the Victorious Son, committing His all to His Father. This is the best example for us – a voluntary commitment of ourselves into the hands of God with all that we are and have.
We can’t understand everything that Christ said in His final hours, but there is much that we can and should study and reflect on. In Russel Jones’s words, “Golgotha is the place where the contrast between the Savior’s heart of grace and man’s heart of rebellion is most striking. Golgotha is the focal point of revelation and history and experience. There God did His best and man did his worst. There faith is justified, hope assured, and love conquers.”
I have been reading of so many lives nearing the time when the Lord is calling them to their eternal home lately. My eyes were drawn to this plaque hanging in our kitchen today after hearing of yet another dear friend’s passing, and it brought unexpected comfort. Each one of us has a purpose under heaven and we are each given a season to live out that purpose. Our ultimate purpose is to love God and to love others. That looks different for each one of us because we are all unique, but the end result is the same: In whatever we do, let us honor God and seek to please Him, and love one another in both our words and actions. Life here on earth is both precious and short – Let’s remember to do that each and every day