Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Clattering Away...



If you've been wondering where I am ... yes, I'm still here. Pounding away on my keyboard. Still trying to get the home sweet home project done (that may not happen as I don't want to send something unless I'm happy with it). Plus, I'm busily working on a project for Christmas (shhhhh....it's a book for someone special in my life...and I can't say who in case this certain someone reads this post.)

I just took a webinar yesterday on how to make gift books through Blurb.com. Interesting. Fun. Now I'm really excited.

So I can't come out and play... or blog... or visit... as we just got this idea recently and we don't have time to dally. You see, in order to have a physical printed copy of this little gift book in my hand by Christmas Eve it needs to be at the printers (Blurb.com) by Dec 10th.

Talk to you soon -- here's wishing you a beautiful day. The snow is melting. The sun is shining.

Hugs,
Brenda



Photo source:  © Brenda Leyland
 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Winners of the Books Giveaway!

 


WE HAVE TWO WINNERS!!!
Remember, all names were in both draws




by Carolyn Weber

Our winner is Kathryn Ross!





 


Surprised by Oxford
by Carolyn Weber

Our winner is ElizabethD!
  


Congratulations to our two special winners -- we're so pleased. Please contact me with your mailing address so I can send these to you right away. Thanks so much to everyone who entered our giveaway.

Wishing you all a beautiful day...
Brenda
xox







Saturday, November 16, 2013

Early Morning Musings


Twinkle lights created a cozy corner in my front room


I sit here at my desk in the wee sma' hours of the morning. Rather than turn on the lamp (which you recall gave me so much delight yesterday afternoon), I'm keying this in using only the light of the computer screen.

You see, the Upstairs Weatherman finally made up his mind about what we would be getting. And as I peer out my window, the garden has turned into a snowy wonderland. Although it's still quite dark in the 'there's no sign of sun for at least a couple few hours yet', the urban lighting is diffused and so the skies are stained with a warm peachy hue that is quite, quite lovely.

Why am I up at this hour, when I don't have to go to clean at our performing arts center this morning? After all this time (it'll be two years in Dec), my body is plain used to it. Mmmm... funny how my body doesn't grumble this morning.

My body and I are enjoying this quiet time when the world around me still sleeps. Earlier I crept out of bed away to my wing-back chair by the fireplace, a cozy blanket in one hand (no, not the one covering my slumbering hubby), my journal and bible in the other. I turned on my twinkle lights tree.

What bliss to have unhurried moments to journal, read and chat with my Father about some stuff that have been rumbling around in my mind. Many journal pages later, I realize some time has passed. So I gather my things to go back to bed.

But wait... the view outside is too lovely to sleep through. So I sneak into my study to post something.

I hear someone in the house stirring. Almost 4 hours since I first woke. Yawn and stretch. Maybe it's time for another of my favourite moments in any day... our morning coffee in bed. Freshly brewed with a not too crumbly slice of toasted homemade bread and peach jam. Light conversation. Reading a few pages in my book. As I said before.....bliss.

On that note, I'm off to say good morning to Dear Hubby as the new day brims with promise and my freshly brewed cup of coffee.

Peace be with thee and thine!
Brenda
xox
 


Friday, November 15, 2013

Raindrops and Bird Choirs


It's raining... wait, wait...

No, it's snowing... no, it's raining... ah, it's snowing...

Hold on, it's rai...


The weatherman upstairs is quite unsettled about what kind of weather to send our way today. It's been interesting to watch.I thought it a lovely scene from my study window to find raindrops hanging in little bead formation from the bottom of the Hawthorne branches. I'm not sure if I've ever noticed that before.

I'm also happy to report that, in spite of the inclement weather, the large flock of sparrows that flew in earlier this afternoon did not feel it necessary to cancel choir practice. Such a song as welled up from the tree tops and bushes. Lovely!

Although it's only mid-afternoon here, it's so dim I reach to turn on the lamp. Don't you just love it when the light of a lamp so cozily fills darkening corners with warmth and comfort? For indeed I am comforted.

If I was to create a list of things I'm grateful for today, I'd be sure to add the int'resting weather we've had thus far. I'd add a special note of thanks for the song of our feathered friends, and for the electricity that wends it way across the miles to light up my little corner of the world.

On that note, here's wishing you warmth and shelter...

Hugs,
Brenda
xox




Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Home Sweet Home Submissions


Have you ever read a Chicken Soup for the Soul book? Chances are you have...at least one over the years.  As you probably know, there are dozens of titles out there in bookstores nowadays.

And, it seems that the publishers keep dreaming up interesting new titles. Which means they are also always on the look-out for new submissions from people just like us -- people who live and breathe and experience all manner of life events that we like writing about.

What makes me all excited today is the fact that  when I went to their website I found a title and description that grabbed my imagination. (There are other titles listed as well.)

You might be surprised (or not) how quickly I thought of so many of you. Yes indeed! In fact, I started to email some personal notes to a couple of you and then decided to blog about it (as that seemed quicker). After all, the reason many of us are blogging friends is because we share a love of creating beauty in our lives and making those places we call home comfortable and enjoyable for our families.

Here's what they are looking for: 

Home Sweet Home. "Whether you rent your home or own your home, home is where your heart is. It is your safe place in the world. Your home can be a mansion, a cottage, an apartment, a condo or a mobile home... it doesn't matter. It is yours! It is where you live, where you cook and sit around the table with your family and friends, sharing a meal and your dreams. We are looking for stories about homes: getting your first home, returning to your childhood home, do it yourself repair disasters and successes, moving up or downsizing, moving day or any heartwarming or funny stories associated with home. This book will make the perfect housewarming gift. The deadline date for story and poem submissions is November 30, 2013."   ~ Excerpt from the Chicken Soup website

 
I'll let you in on one of my little secret heart-goals. I've been thinking about submitting a story to one of their future books for a while now.  Every so often I'd check to see what titles they were working on, looking for a theme that would jump out and say, write about me. 

I don't read every chicken soup book that comes out. But it has become a delightful little treasure hunt for me when a new one arrives in the stores to quickly scan the contents and author pages. For I have found more and more names of people I know who have had their stories published. Friends, writing colleagues and fellow bloggers. Somehow it makes it all seem so much closer, less remote. The books become more special when I can find pieces by writers I know!

Here's the scoop. I'm planning to submit something for the Home Sweet Home theme.  If you are interested in submitting something too -- ah, come on, it'll be fun -- leave a comment, and maybe give us a hint of what you want to work on. Here is the link to the guidelines. The deadline, alas, is November 30, 2013.  So there's no room for dallying.

Sometimes it's not even about being published -- although we like that too -- but it's about following a dream or just doing something for the fun of it. Making a party of it. And if we find our names one day in that list of titles of contributing authors, it's icing on the cake.

Maybe at the end of the month we can celebrate in some way...virtually...of course. We'll think on that later.  First, I have a story to write.  I'll leave a comment about my piece when I figure it out.  


In the meantime, here's wishing you a beautiful day,
Brenda
xox



Photo source:  Penniwigs



Saturday, November 09, 2013

Two Books...Two Giveaways!

 

As a follow up to our Guest Post yesterday with author Carolyn Weber, where she shares an excerpt from her newest book, I'm excited to host a book giveaway this month, in which we'll give away two of Carolyn's books. Draw will be two weeks from today on Saturday, November 23, 2013.

First book, first giveaway: Holy is the Day: Living in the Gift of the Present, by Carolyn Weber


"I wrote this latest book as a kind of prayer walk, as a way of working through how we are called to a second, deeper calling as believers. In the every day, and every day, we can keep converting, we can keep turning toward Him. By choosing to be in God’s presence, by grasping on to Him and refusing to let go, we indeed experience any moment as holy."

 


Second book, second giveaway: Surprised by Oxford, by Carolyn Weber


"Surprised by Oxford is the memoir of a skeptical agnostic who comes to a dynamic personal faith in God during graduate studies in literature at Oxford University."
  




The Giveaway is now closed.


All the best,
Brenda






Friday, November 08, 2013

Guest Blogger: Carolyn Weber


I'm so excited to welcome Carolyn Weber as my Guest Blogger today. I first 'met' Carolyn through her delightful memoir Surprised by Oxford.

Carolyn Weber is an author, speaker and teacher. Her recent academic positions include associate professor of English literature at Seattle University and visiting associate professor of English Lit. at Westmont College, Santa Barbara, California. She is also the author of Surprised by Oxford, a memoir about her doctoral studies at Oxford. Carolyn and her husband share the joy of parenting three spirited children in London, Ontario.

Carolyn has written a new book and it's now published. She's here today to share some thoughts and an excerpt from the book.

Enjoy,
Brenda




 


BY CAROLYN WEBER

In my conversion memoir Surprised by Oxford, I chronicle how I became a Christian during my first year at Oxford University in England. As someone who did not grow up in the faith, and who then traveled widely and lived in various places before returning to Canada a few years ago, I have been given the gift of seeing “home” again with new eyes.

As a result, I would like to share with you today, then, an excerpt from my new book Holy is the Day: Living in the Gift of the Present (InterVarsity Press, 2013) that may particularly resound with us more northerly folk.

I wrote this latest book as a kind of prayer walk, as a way of working through how we are called to a second, deeper calling as believers. In the every day, and every day, we can keep converting, we can keep turning toward Him. By choosing to be in God’s presence, by grasping on to Him and refusing to let go, we indeed experience any moment as holy.

I hope you will enjoy! And I wish you every blessing, new friends.
Carolyn



Excerpt from

Growing up in the Great White North, I remember hearing stories about pioneers who had to run a rope or clothesline from their house door to their barn or shed, so they could find their way in the blinding snow to tend to their animals or reach a firewood supply. In these wintry furies, the streets are a mess: traffic halts, letters sit on a mound of snow inside the mailbox, indoor pipes freeze. No matter what you do, the snowy onslaught keeps coming and you can’t stay on top of it. Everything shuts down. Existential angst builds as you shovel and shovel without effect, much like a frostbitten Sisyphus pushing a great snowball up the hill only to have it roll back down, and over you.

How do we find our way in the chaos?

I considered hanging a clothesline from my bedroom to the nursery for those nighttime trips resulting from the demands of newborn twins.

But it was the inner, not the outer, weather that most terrified me. Being cut open literally caused the inner me to pour out. Even as Christians we can lose our way. We all lose our bearings. How to find God in the snowstorm? I found myself wondering.

Countless snowflakes whirling outside the window mirror the dizzying effect of our daily addictions to the opiate of busyness. And then there comes that pause . . . when the snow stops swirling and the wind dies down. When you open your back door, or rather, push and push on it until you can shimmy a small wedge into the dune of snow that has accumulated. And then you stand in a small triangle of space, the heat of the house on your back and the cold of the winter on your face, and you hold your breath at the settling.

Suspended.

For a moment, seeing—sensing—how white does indeed hold all colors at once.

For, if you are not still, if you do not stop and listen, you will miss the hush of newly fallen snow. The sight of it powdering the ever- greens. The delicate icing of branches so that the barren trees are given life renewed and stretch their glistening arms in a nudity blown from glass.

I look at my sleeping babes with the same willing suspension of disbelief.

Part of the glory of swirling snow, I think, is that you cannot possibly count all the snowflakes. Yet we know that each one has its own distinct pattern, a personal fingerprint. Not everything that counts can be counted, said Albert Einstein, a man who lived intimately with numbers, and science, and wonder.

Irreverence begins in not paying attention. And yet, I think, it can also stem from counting too often and too closely. The eternal cannot be insisted into a measurement. The snowstorm reminds us of this. Eventually, it pricks our want for clear sky, our ache for the star by which to mark our journey. We crave the wisdom of settled clarity, especially from within the flurry of beauty that startles and quiets.



Thursday, November 07, 2013

I Am Holding Unto You



Though he falls, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord grasps his hand in support and upholds him. ~ Psalm 37:24

Have you ever been in a situation where you feel like you just cannot hang on another minute and your grip is slipping away? 

I am not a rock or mountain climber, but I have watched documentaries where climbers would lose their grip or footing, and suddenly they were dangling in midair, swinging over deep crevices from safety harnesses. My stomach lurches at the mere thought. If they had not been firmly anchored and held by safety ropes, these climbers would have fallen to their certain deaths.

Some years ago, I was just being quiet and meditative when a moving picture started to play in my mind's eye. I saw the Lord Jesus scaling up the side of a huge craggy mountain and I was with him. (It seemed he was bent on us getting to the top.) I wasn't climbing; Jesus was carrying me up the mountain with him. Except, I was not nicely tucked under his arm or straddled to his back. No, no, He had me by the arm, and I dangled as he climbed, much the way a toddler would schlepp his teddy bear around by one arm.

Seeing myself in that precarious position, and remembering visions from those documentaries, the thoughts raced through my mind, what if I can't hold on? What if my sweaty hand slides out? What if I get so tired that I just let go?

It was then that I heard Him say, "You are not holding unto Me, I am holding onto you."


And then it was as if the 'camera' zoomed in and I saw He had a firm hold of my wrist. My being safe in His grip had nothing to do with my own strength and ability. He was holding me. The scene still looked pretty wild...scary...but I didn't feel the fear anymore.

Sometimes we get to places in our lives where it seems we can't hold on another minute, another second.The pressure is too, too much. The stress is almost to make the tops of our heads blow off. We're losing grip -- and as one friend facing her own precipice in a life situation once said -- we're barely holding on by a fingernail.

But in truth, though we fall, we are not utterly cast down, for the One who hurled universes into existence grasps our hand in support and upholds us.

Whew....that changes everything. We can let go and relax.  Maybe even enjoy the ride or the scenery a little. You might still be dangling, but He's got a good grip and He's not letting you slip out of his fingers.  Not now.  Not ever.

With hugs and a gentle kiss atop thy head,
Brenda
xox
 
Photo source:  Found on Google Images




Saturday, November 02, 2013

Paper, Prompts and Wordlings

Over the past few weeks, I've been slowly clearing out the rat's nest of paper that I have gathered around my office...yet again.

I am thankful it never gets as bad as this woman's! My piles seem quite 'mole-hill' in comparison, like 3-4 file boxes worth. However, there are some days when I feel totally overwhelmed by paper.

What can I say? I love paper ... in all its glorious forms. You name it, magazines and clippings, website articles printed off (even though I keep saying I'm not doing that anymore), pretty notepaper and stationery, empty notebooks waiting their turn, not to mention comments from people who have encouraged me in some way.  It starts out neat, but then 'someone' makes it all messy again.

It's so easy for me to hang onto yet another sheet filled with inspiring words, ideas, photographs... and, as it turns out, even the scribbled musings from my own pen.

That's always interesting to find... fragments of one's own wordlings (don't know if that's a real word, but doesn't it feel like it should be one if it's not? Like a seedling or a duckling, it's in early stages, formed but not fully matured.)

In all that fore-mentioned paper tangle, I came across a writing exercise inspired by Natalie Goldberg from her book Old Friends From Far Away. Rather than throw it out entirely, or keep it for a writing date in the future, I decided to share it with you today. Mind you, be warned, it is in its wordling, unedited form.  I wrote this sometime earlier in the year.





The Instruction: Keep writing, no editing, and allow the thoughts to rise. If you get stuck, start a new paragraph and continue with the same prompt.

The Prompt:  I am looking at...

I am looking at the moss green cozy blanket flopped on top of the light comforter on our bed.  With the downpour this afternoon and the air cool, it feels perfect to cozy up even if it's a summer evening.

And I am looking at the open window -- Rick would ask why don't you close it if you're cold, but I love an open window too much to worry about the cool breeze wafting in.

I am looking at Natalie's book about writing memoirs propped up with my left hand, as I have the page-wrapped over the top edge notepapd laying atop my lap, as I'm propped against my pillows (mmm...what's with all the propping... this might lead somewhere interesting).

I am looking at the clock ticking away and it's 7:10 pm and I should be sleeping already.  I tend to get a little knot in my stomach as I think I have to get up at a few hours -- generally unrested and sore and irritated because I can't start (my day) more leisurely and meditatively.

I am looking at a new page -- last one not yet flipped over and tucked completely behind the cardboard back.

I am looking at this exercise as a utilitarian one -- and not taking the effort to create beauty in the midst.

I am looking at the week ahead and wondering if it will be any different than the last one or the one before that and the one before that one.

Instantly the thought comes of the time when going away on holidays and coming back home to the boredom and tedium of daily life was very distressing for my mind and heart (at that season).  Because I'll always remember when I was looking at the lovely rainbow that we drove under on our way home from holidays and the promise the Lord gave me that I was not going home the same way I came/left.  It helped.

I am looking at the evening drawing near and the circle of yellow light on my night table.  -end-

And so.. we have a posting, I can put that piece of paper in the recycling bin, and we hope you will have some fun reading it, as I had fun writing it this morning.

We're off... breakfast of French Toast which hubby is making, a meeting with our Writers Fellowship executive, and then a rare treat concert at the symphony tonight to hear my most favourite composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places ...
even in a pile of paper,
Brenda
 xox


Photo source:  Microsoft Images.com