Thursday, January 31, 2008

She Speaks...He Speaks.....

She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”
Proverbs 31:26
Lysa TerKeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministries is opening up yet another wonderful opportunity, to win a scholarship to the 2008 She Speaks Conference. The contest rules are to post a bit about the conference and to write why you would like to attend.

Conference Director, LeAnn Rice, has this to say about the conference, "She Speaks is a life-changing conference for women of every generation seeking to explore the tug on her heart to reach out to the world for Jesus. Through She Speaks, Proverbs 31 Ministries encourages and equips women who are called by God to share our mission to bring God’s peace, perspective and purpose to today’s busy woman. Sharing God’s truth with love is not only a holy calling but a remarkable responsibility. We believe by equipping women to become more effective at sharing the Word of God, we multiply our efforts to reach a hurting world with the life-transforming hope of Jesus."

Here's what's in store for 2008:
She Speaks : (Speakers Track) Whether you feel led to speak in a large arena or lead Bible studies in your church, you will be equipped with the tools you need to effectively share your message, create a bio sheet, market your ministry, and jazz up your presentation.

She Writes : (Writers Track) Learn everything from basic writing guidelines to preparing an article or manuscript for submission, and everything in between. In addition, you will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with some of the top editors, publishers, and literary agents in the Christian market.

Or maybe you are a blogger and just want to learn how to more effectively connect with your readers and increase the impact of your blog. What better way than to sit in sessions taught by three of the most widely read blog authors: Boo Mama, Big Mama, and Rocks in My Dryer.

She Leads : (Women's Ministry Track) This track is specifically designed for women's ministry directors and facilitators. Learn creative ways to reach your community, organize small groups, select a team of volunteers, plan successful events, and network with other directors.

She Influences : (The Next Generation Track) This track provides 12-17 year old young women with the confidence they need to make a difference within their own sphere of influence, and equipping them with skills that will enable them to answer God's call on their lives to speak or write for His Kingdom.

For detailed Conference Information, Schedule, Session Descriptions, Registration and Payment, Speaker Information, Writer Information, Womens Ministry Information, and Next Generation Information, visit Proverbs 31 Ministries - She Speaks Conference here.

The team at Proverbs 31 Ministries has a sincere and heartfelt desire to teach, train, and equip women through this life-changing conference. It is their prayer that during this year’s conference, God will validate old dreams and inspire new ones.


He Speaks - "Come, go higher with me!"

This is the tale of the little Shulammite maiden and my reason for desiring to attend the She Speaks Conference. In the Song of Songs, the maidens lover comes, leaping across the mountains, and invites his beloved to go higher with him: “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me.” (Song of Songs 2:10 NIV) He does not get the answer he wants, she is content. She is camped out “in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places of the mountainside” (Song of Songs 2:14 NIV). She had gone so far with the Lord then she hesitated, stopped, camped out feeling satisfied with where she is and she refuses to go higher with Him, afraid of what it might involve. After her refusal he goes to the higher places without her. She is lonely, sad, and desperately begins to look for him.

For the past six years I have lived the life of a secluded writer, very content, in a comfortable camp keeping my words hidden away from public view. I knew without a doubt six years ago that God was calling me to a writing ministry and I was just as certain that He desired me to be faithful with the task at hand until His timing was right. I knew that I was to wait and listen in my safe hiding place in the cleft of the rock until He called for me.

I identify with the little maiden in that there is a temptation to stay where I am comfortable, content, and satisfied, to let fear rule and keep me captive. But greater knowledge rests in the blessings of obedience. I don’t want to find myself refusing His call, being lonely, sad, and abandoned because He moved on without me. The maidens story, however, does have a happy ending. Tenderly, her lover knows how much she can bear, so he returns to her after a short absence. She learns a valuable lesson, until she really leaves, she cannot fully cleave.

A few weeks ago I heard Him speak to my heart, “Come, and go higher with me!” He said. I was given the choice to stay or obey. I stepped out on faith by choosing an opportunity that opened up before me. I asked a question, made a submission, and received confirmation all within a few days time. More perfect peace cannot be felt than that of being where He wants you, doing what He desires you to do, and following where He is leading you.

My desire is to learn from those who have gone before me, just as I have learned a valuable lesson from the Shulammite maiden of answering His call, accepting His challenge, knowing that He is directing my steps. I am really ready to leave my hiding place and fully cleave to Him as I seek out my God given voice in the writing world. I realize the benefit of being well trained when pursuing any path and I feel that the Proverbs 31 Ministry – She Speaks Conference can be a valuable part of the foundation of the ministry God is calling me to.

Listening for His Voice,

Sandy Babb

Weather Woes.....

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather. ~John Ruskin

A Change In The Weather
Dear Readers, sorry for dropping off of the radar so suddenly. We have been subject to some strange weather woes here at the Quill. On Sunday it was sunny and warm, it felt just like a Spring day, the peepers could be heard in the woods. Hearing them gave my heart hope for an early Spring but I knew this was just a tease. Sure enough, by evening the sudden warm front hit the cold front and storms started to brew.
Scenic Artwork
Storm Sky Background
These were not your regular storms but lightning storms. We live up on a rocky ridge line where there is an element in the rocks, or boulders I should say, that attracts lightning. It strikes with a fierceness and travels out from the stone contact point and sparks along the ground. It is as if someone is sitting in the heavens shooting fireworks towards the earth below. The bursts are brilliant to witness from afar in the safety of shelter.
The Line Storm
By J. Steuart Curry (1935) Oil
On Monday we had fierce winds come up from the South and then whipped in from every known direction. I sat and watched this force of nature twirl the trees, as if in some frantic tribal dance, to the ancient moan that accompanied it. I stepped outside and was literally almost blown over by a sudden 60 mile per hour gust. Clinging to the handrail on the steps I listened to the death like rattle of brittle leaves as they clung fiercely to the dried up old bones of branches clacking in the wind. I felt the strength of the unseen wind and was chilled by the banshee like moans and wails.
Undine in the Wind
Fine Art Print
This second storm knocked out our power. We spent two days living the pioneer way, heat from the fireplace, light from candles, and entertained ourselves with such old fashioned past times as reading aloud, telling stories, sharing memories and playing board games. OK, I totally confess we did not rough it when it came to food, we had take out! (but we did have to maneuver through the darkness to get into town to get it;) It was rather pleasant to have no phone, television, internet, even no cell phone service as something went haywire with that also. The only glitch in this lovely withdrawal from modern society was that our dear old faithful generator died and so did much of our refrigerated food. The old girl has been replaced with a newer sleeker model.
MY AIN FIRESIDE
From the Painting by John Faed, R.S.A.
Last night the temperatures dropped and another front moved in only this time we are experiencing a winter mix of rain, sleet, and snow! I like the sound of the ping of ice pellets hitting the roof as I bask by the fireside. I don't expect any of it to stick around but with the strange events of the last few days who knows what to expect.
Fireside Reflections
Oil Painting by Herman Pekel

All this crazy weather reminded me of a favorite book I had when I was young, Dorrie and the Weather Box, (1966 - by Patricia Coombs).

Dorrie is a little witch whose “hat is always on crooked and her stockings never match.” She has a black cat named Gink who follows her wherever she goes. She lives with her mother, the Big Witch, and their house-hand, Cook. Dorrie finds a picnic basket and wants to have a picnic, but it’s raining. She decides to try to fix the weather by using the Big Witch’s secret magic room. Unable to find a recipe for melting clouds, Dorrie mixes two recipes together and hopes for the best. Instead of fixing the weather, Dorrie creates a colorful storm inside the house. The Big Witch comes home just in time to make things right.

I am happy to report that so far there are no pink storm clouds forming inside the Quill like Dorrie conjured up, unless you count pink glitter being sprinkled a "cloud". I'm off to finish up some "heart" art for a couple of Valentine swaps and then I will indulge in a few seaside dreams as I put the finishing touches on my mermaid swap goodies.

Warm Weather Wishes,

Miss Sandy

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Potpourri Post....

Dear Readers, today I have a potpourri post for you. A mixture of material to share. First off in my mixed bag of tricks I wanted to tell you about a give away over at French Garden House . Lidy is giving away a signed copy of the new Romantic Homes publication entitled Vintage Vavoom! Lidy has posted some of of the wonderful contents of this book on her site so head on over for a sneak peek and a chance to win.With all the hoopla gong on in Hollywood about the writers strike and lack of awards ceremonies I am glad to report that this has had no effect on the blogging industry. Blog writers are happy to post with no pay and sometimes no comments! AND they are generous in giving out their awards. I am happy to report that I am a recent recipient of two blog awards from the lovely Heather at Mommy Monk. Heather and I recently met through the Proverbs 31 writing contest.

Here is the beautiful presenter, Heather, esteemed wife, mother, speaker, writer, teacher, and daughter of the King, all glorious within:

Here are the awards:

Here I am in a pouty pose for those pesky paparazzo as I am about to enter my big red ride to the red carpet event:
They always catch you at your very worst and publish your photo is the oddest places. "Please stop, your flashes are blinding me!" I say as I squint and try to turn my face into my hood. And here I am arriving on my limo, a girls gotta make a memorable entrance! The look on my face is because the hood is hot :)Here I am all gussied up for my strut down the red carpet.
"Sandy, Miss Sandy, who are you wearing?"

"Why Jack and Jill of course!"

"Tell us a bit about your gown."

"Well, It is red velvet over sheer white organza with a peter pan collar trimmed in lace and ruffles topped off with a little velvet bow at the throat. The underlay of the dress is a soft white tulle and is positively musical when I walk. A must have for every Southern Belle! Little gold bells on red velvet bows are stitched to the tulle and I sound like Tinkerbell every time I move."

"Who's shoes are you wearing?"

"These are Buster Brown's best! I decided to go classic with a black patten leather strappy little number. I love the darling details of the triple heart cutouts above the toes and chose to accessorize with the elegant but classic white lace ruffled turned down sock."

"No jewels this year?"

"No, I thought the gown spoke for itself and didn't need any bling to make it stand out."

"Tell us about the new do."
"Well, I have this look from my recent role as a toddler and I'm trying to grow it out but it is a slow process."

Now for my acceptance speech:

"She likes me, she really likes me!" (Sorry, had to spoof on Sally Fields just a little! ;) Seriously, thank you, Heather, for your kind and thoughtful support. I look forward to getting to know her better through her blog and pray that her writing, speaking, and teaching ministry will continue to expand a she blesses others with her gifts. I am honored and I humbly accept.

Here I am leaving the awards ceremony all smiles with bloggy awards firmly grasp in my hand. Can't see them you say, of course not, they are virtual awards silly.
"Sandy, Miss Sandy, just one more question! Where will you display your awards?"
"Why on my blog sidebar on my blog mantle, where else?"

I hope this helped you get your red carpet and awards ceremony fix! (My daughter just came in and said I have way too much time on my hands :)

Now on to the next ingredient in my mix. I do not know how these things get started, rumors and misconceptions here in blog land, it must be those terrible tabloids, but I'd like to clear one up. My name really and truly is Sandy, well, actually it is a nick name for my given name of Sandra, but I never go by Sandra, it's always been Sandy, although I did not know my given name was Sandra until I was six years old.

Picture the first two weeks of first grade. Every morning we lined up and filed into our class room behind our teacher, Miss Butts being my teachers name. (No kidding!) After scuffling and shuffling in the cloak room removing sweaters and jackets and hanging up book bags and placing our lunch pails on the shelf we each went to our assigned seats. Announcements were made over the loud speaker, we stood for the Pledge of Allegiance, the singing of the Star Spangled Banner and America the Beautiful, and bowed our heads in prayer as our school principal prayed for us.

We sat in our seats and our teacher called role and you were to stand up and answer, "Present." Everyday Miss Butts called each student by name and received the proper response to all but one student, Sandra. I wondered everyday why the teacher never called my name, being painfully shy I never asked. I also wondered why Sandra never showed up for school.

The teacher contacted my mother and said she thought I had a hearing problem and so I was tested and no problem was found. My mother told me I needed to answer my teacher when she called on me and I said I would. This went on for about two weeks with notes going back and forth between home and school. Finally in frustration my mother met with the teacher face to face to try and figure out the problem. She asked Miss Butts what she was calling me and was given the answer, "Sandra." My mother burst out laughing and said that was the problem. Never in my life had I been called by my given name only my nick name and I probably did not know it was me she was addressing. The next day I was thrilled when she called my name and I too got to stand and say, "Present!" So yes, my name is Sandy but I will not answer you if you address me as Sandra, I'll wonder who you are talking to.

If you wonder about the Miss in front of it, it is a Southern thing. We are raised to be polite in the South and always address our elders by proper titles of Miss, Mrs, or Mr and their last name. If one is on very familiar terms with an elder and permission has been given you call them Miss (even if they are married) or Mr and their first name. I am widely known in our area as Miss Sandy. It started with my children's friends and carried over into my church and it just stuck. I have no secret identity, my first and last name are published on my blog banner if you care to know this information.

I am a regular real person with no hidden identity! (But it might be fun to create one!) Now, go and have yourselves a really great weekend. I hear the call of scissor, paper, glitter, and glue so I must answer.

Blessings,
Miss Sandy

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Paper Work, Glorious Paper Work.....

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Matthew 6:19-21
Dear Readers, I have been positively swimming in paper work. This kind of paper work is not of the dull variety like bank statements, tax forms, or bill paying. Those I leave to dear hubby to do. Nope, this has been pure pleasure. I have snipped, clipped, glued, and glittered to my hearts content. I was totally inspired by my latest acquisition, an old suit case full of vintage ephemera.Last week I stopped in one of my favorite antique stores and I literally stumbled over a box full of old papers and saw some sheet music peeking out so I decided to dig. This box held some of the coolest contents I had ever seen. The price tag said each piece of ephemera was $1.00. I picked out a few and went to the check out. As the owner and I were chatting casually she said she wished I'd buy it all. She said I could have this really great old suit case, all its contents, and the box I had stumbled over for $30.00. I talked her down to $25.00 and dragged it all home. Please, some ephemera aficionado, tell me I got a good deal!
When I got home I dug through my treasure with darling daughter snatching up sheet music right and left and hubby grabbing old car and car product ads as I went. I was adding to my pile all the Harper's Bazaar and Godey's Ladies books dated in the 1800's, calling cards, photos, post cards, vintage ads for beauty products and grocery items, and a few Currier and Ives calendar prints. The really old pieces were so delicate and fragile that they were literally crumbling away to dust and they had to be handled very carefully. We were all in paper heaven!
After much oohing and ahhing and calling to one another, "Look at this!", the ephemera extravaganza was over and we each felt we had received a great treasure. Darling daughter could fill the house with sweet music from her voice or her flute. Hubby had plenty of cool ads to frame and display in his vintage styled garage. I had plenty to frame, hang, and copy to inspire and use in numerous art projects.
After we got everything all sorted out I carefully packed everything back into the suit case for storage. I gently placed the oldest pieces on top, closed the lid, and snapped the locks shut. I instructed everyone to keep the suit case flat when getting it down from the shelf as not to disturb the contents and cause any further crumbling until I could get all the paper treated to stop the aging process.
Today as I was snipping, clipping, gluing, and glittering using some copies of the vintage pieces I thought back over our reaction to a tatty old suit case full of outdated, crumbling, yellowed paper. I realized with a start that the Lord was once again giving me a little life lesson.
It is so easy to be enticed by the things of this earth, to desire, acquire, and store up more stuff than we need or can use in a lifetime. When I stumbled over that box and I saw the contents it held I did have an overwhelming desire to own it all. Wisdom told me to only take what I needed and I did when I chose only a few pieces. Then temptation was thrown my was in the form of a promise of even more at bargain price and I found myself easily enticed into acquiring it all. This is when earthly treasures can became a stumbling block. When presented to my family, each of us were lured to something different in the treasure trove of papers. We all began to hoard our own piles and proceeded to handle these earthly treasure with such great care. We were storing them up.God has given us all things to enjoy in moderation. Will we enjoy and use these earthly treasures? Yes, we will. Will we hoard them all to ourselves? No, we have already separated much of it to be shared. Will we care if they are lost, damaged, or stolen? No, not at all. Will we prize these crumbly pieces of paper above all else? Certainly not!
This was just a gentle reminder to exercise wisdom when faced with temptation, to evaluate and separate my needs from my desires, and to be careful not to put a stumbling block in front of someone else, and to make sure that the only paper work we put a great emphasis on are pages of glorious Scripture where we will be storing up treasure in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy.

Blessings,
Miss Sandy

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Southern Girls Gotta Have Her Pearls.....

The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Matthew 13;45-46 (NKJV)
With great anticipation I opened the shiny pale pink package and gasp in surprise at the jewelers name stamped on top of the box. "My very first piece of real jewelry!" I cried. I carefully lifted the lid and inside lay a soft gray pouch with pink stitching around the edges. Sliding my fingers under the flap I pulled forth a card that was embossed with elegant gold swirls. The middle of the card held one single pearl on a delicate gold chain. It was an Add-A-Pearl necklace, a gift from my dad for my 13Th birthday.
For many special occasions in the years to come I would receive another pearl to add to my necklace. Most girls my age at the time were receiving these necklaces. In many Southern families it is tradition to pass along pearls from generation to generation, mother to daughter or grandmother to granddaughter. We didn't have any such treasure in our family so the tradition was to start with me. I was thrilled and so began my love affair with pearls.

Over the years my collection has been added to. My most recent additions arrived in the mail yesterday. I received this gorgeous hand made necklace and ring from Jeweled Elegance. These are from the Secret Garden line. The wonderfully talented designer, Heather, sells these as well as some of the most delicate, feminine, and reasonably priced jewelry through her online shop. I am so excited over these pieces, especially the ring. I am the very first belle on the blog block to have one! It is stunning and fits like a dream. The darling little birds nest design is awesome and perfect little pearls are nestled inside like tiny eggs. I also purchased a pair of the most delicate feminine earrings from her.
I've always been fascinated by the formation of pearls. Pearls are formed in oysters or mollusk as a response to an irritant, which enters when the shell valves are open for feeding or respiration. The oyster or mollusk secretes a lustrous substance, nacre, around the object to protect the soft tissue and to seal off the irritation. Layer upon layer the nacre coats the irritant and a pearl is formed. Light reflected from the layers produces the iridescent luster. Pearls vary in color which depends upon the type of mollusk or oyster, the type and depth of water where they live. Pearls that are grown in warmer deeper water tend to be darker in color, are more rare and valuable. The pearl is the official gemstone for my birth month of June. The meaning of pearl is gem of the sea. Pearl is often used as a metaphor for something rare, fine, and admirable. It is said that the pearl is a symbol of femininity, wisdom, charity, honesty, integrity, preciousness, purity of heart, and spiritual transformation.

Thinking about the formation of these lustrous gemstones made me realize that my spiritual life has been formed in much the same way. There was an irritant, sin, inside the shell of my heart. I had been feeding and taking in the wrong things and it was resulting in a damaged life. When I invited Christ into my life He began to serve as a protective layer, a balm of sorts, that covered my sin and sealed it. As I began to grow in Him layer upon layer, line by line, precept by precept, spiritual transformation began to take place.
The first layer I received was honesty, realizing and admitting I was a sinner in need of a Savior. The next layer was one of purity. He washed away my sin and purified my heart. Another layer was then added, one of wisdom which I received by feeding upon the Word. A generous layer of integrity was added as I began to follow and obey His commands. A layer of charity was added and enabled me to reach out to others. A lustrous layer of femininity was added as I learned submission. All these layers were created and fused together through all types of circumstances. Sometimes through depths of despair and at others through times of peace and joy.

We Southerners hold our traditions dear in our hearts. My hearts desire is to pass all my pearls on to my daughter. I want to give her more than just something for physical adorning. I sincerely hope I can pass to her the spiritual treasures of my heart, pearls of great price that cannot be bought or sold, ones that can only be learned, lived, and told.
God is able to do an infinitely greater and more valuable work in the heart of man than any oyster or mollusk will ever produce in even the rarest of pearls. He took the ragged rough grains of sin in my life and began to slowly transform them over time, growing my heart into a precious object of great value and beauty in His sight. He desires to create in all of us something rare and fine and admirable. My hope is that in the rest of my span on this earth I will continue to collect layer upon layer of His light which would reflect from me to produce an irresistible iridescent luster that draws other to Him.

Blessings,
Miss Sandy

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sharing A Bit of Good News.....

Dear Readers, I hope this Monday finds you all happy, healthy, and hopefully warm! It is bone chilling cold here at the Quill and I dread each trek beyond my door. My sidekick, Sophie, and I are huddled together under a blanket enjoying a little snuggle time. Things have been quite busy here over the past few days and I wanted to share a bit of news with all of you who so graciously cheer me on and encourage me.

On Friday afternoon I was doing a little blog browsing and stopped by one of my favorite sites, Cheaper by the Half Dozen, and saw that there was a writing contest going on over at Lysa TerKeurst site, so I thought I'd pop over there to see what it was all about. The contest was for Proverbs 31 Ministries. The winner would be published in their magazine. The deadline was for that day. I started to dismiss it by thinking that it was too late to get an entry in but I just felt a nudge from the Lord to do it.
I picked out a post and re-posted it with all your comments of stepping out swirling in my mind and knowing that Vee had dusted of her pom-poms and was cheering me on and Cindy had her fingers crossed, which would probably prevent her from crafting, that I'd better do it. I totally expected nothing to come of it but it felt good to obey and to get out of my comfort zone, that was reward enough for me.

I was up before sun up as the mysterious malady that has been plaguing me decided that I did not need to sleep but be painfully miserable at the hour of 4:00 A.M. I shuffled to the kitchen to put the kettle on and turned on my computer to send a message to my cousin. I clicked over to my blog and found a comment telling me congratulations. "What for?" my foggy brain asked. Then it dawned on me, the contest. "Nah! That can't be it." I thought to myself. After spending the weekend reading all the entries and having my heart filled by so many wonderful writers, I had chosen a favorite and was rooting for her and thought my chances were slim to none.
I thought I'd go check anyway and got the shock of my life, I along with two other entrants had won, plus there were four honorable mention winners! Well, I tend to get a little over excited some times and I ran through the house, barreled through the bedroom door and pounced on the bed beside my sleeping husband who popped straight up into sitting position and wondered what was going on. I told him I won, he congratulated me, plopped back down and looked over at the clock, sighing that he could sleep some more and promptly began to snore! OK, so much for that reaction. I try again with darling daughter. I burst into her room and hop on the bed saying, "Guess what? Guess What?" when she almost slugs me for scaring the bejeebers out of her and mumbles, "Uh huh, that's great." and pulls the covers over her head. My little sidekick, Sophie, is excited because I am excited and she wants to run around the house too and celebrate whatever it is I am celebrating and I about got her too excited and we barely made it out the door before she had an accident on the floor! Well at least she was happy for me!
I am very excited to see where the Lord is leading me in this new journey and thankful for each experience He has given me to share through writing. My heartfelt thanks goes out to each of you who pray for and encourage me, in the words of an old song, "I'm drinkin' from my saucer, cause my cup done overflowed!" I feel very humbled and honored and I ask you to visit each of these ladies and assure you that you will be blessed. Congratulations to each one!
The winners:

Honorable Mention:
Graceful by DeeDee
A complete list of all the entries with links can be found on Lysa's blog here.

I hope each of you, my dear friends, has a wonderful day!

Blessings,

Miss Sandy

Friday, January 18, 2008

A Cup of Encouragement.....

"Encourage one another and build each other up..."
1 Thessalonians 5:11(NIV)
Dear Readers, in case you are wondering about this entry as a re-post, it is for an opportunity to be visited by Proverbs 31 Ministries. A writing contest is being sponsored on the web site of Lysa TerKeurst. The winner is to be announced on Monday and will be published in their magazine. I'll be back to regular posting on Monday. Have a great weekend!
Last night before drifting off to sleep my mind clicked back in time to about ten years ago. I was wondering what became of a little boy who was part of our church bus ministry. I spent some time praying for him and hoped that now that he is in his teen years he was doing well. This little guy captured my heart and I've thought about him often over the years. I first met him when a couple in our church started a bus ministry. That first group of children were a rag tag bunch indeed. Mostly they were from a low income area and often were sent on the bus by parents who wanted a break or free baby sitting for a couple of hours. They were often rolled out of bed and put straight on the bus without breakfast so we fed them a hearty hot meal when they arrived. Many of these precious little ones where starved not only for food but for attention, affirmation, and were in great need of encouragement.

Once a month my husband and I filled in teaching for the regular children's ministry leaders so they could have a break. I really saw that these children needed to be encouraged and wanted to find a way to fill this need. At the time I had just read Silver Boxes by Florence Littauer and it gave me an idea.
We had an object lesson on building one another up with encouragement and then I had all the children gather around the art table. I presented each child a small silver painted box with a little silver bow on top. At each place there was a pencil and a piece of paper that contained a grid of boxes. At the top of each box was written, "You are special because..." or "I like you because...." The children were instructed to write their name at the top of the page and then pass their paper to the person on their right. Then each child was to fill in an answer for one of the writing prompts for the child who's name was at the top of the page and then keep passing and filling in answers until their page was returned.

You would have thought you were watching a group of excited wiggly puppies as anticipation grew with each passing sheet of paper. I wish you could have seen their little faces when their papers were returned to them, eyes were shining and smiles stretched from ear to ear. One little girl hated her red hair but was thrilled to get this message, "You are special because...You have red hair and it is the bestest happiest color to have." One little boy was painfully shy and he receive this message, "I like you because....We can be friends and play with no talking, just smiles." All the children were allowed to read their little slips of encouragement aloud and then I instructed them to carefully cut each one apart and place them in their silver box along with a message I had written for each of them. I told them that when they had a bad day, felt lonely, or sad that they could take out these little messages and remember that they are special, important, and loved. I felt a gentle tap on my arm and there stood the one who had captured my heart. He looked up at me with the most earnest expression on his face and said, "Miss Sandy, I never been 'preciated 'afore, this is great! I am going to keep my box forever!" He flung himself into my arms for a big hug and I watched him depart to board the bus back home. There was a spring in his step, a smile on his face, and a handful of encouragement clutched to his breast.

I knew a bit of what that little guy faced when he stepped back off that bus and I hoped his little silver box would soften it for him some. His family moved away not long after this so I don't know where he is or how his life has turned out but I know I did my best during the time that our lives touched to encourage him. Encouragement softens the hardness along the way. It lightens the difficulty of a task and it blesses the recipient on the journey in life. It supplies us in times of famine and strengthens us when we are weak. Encouragement is a companionship in trial and lifts a bit of the shadow of care. Perhaps you know someone who could use a cup of encouragement today. I encourage you to offer a few kind words to someone you know that needs a little lift. Pour a bit of yourself into someone else's empty little cup, offer them a refill, to help soften trying circumstances, to put a smile on a face, or to fill an empty spot with warmth and love. One cup of encouragement, so easily given, can make a difference.

May each of your cups be full today with knowing that you are much appreciated by me.

Blessings,

Miss Sandy

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Heartfelt Gratitude.....

Dear readers, I wanted to thank all of you who responded with such encouragement to the writing post. I am overwhelmed by the kindness extended to me. I appreciate each and every one of you who read this blog. Thank you for sharing your hearts and lives. You will never know what it means to me to have met each of through this amazing medium of blogging. I look forward to seeing where the Lord will lead me in this new venture and I thank you for your support.

Blessings beyond measure to you all!

Miss Sandy

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tag, I'm It......

Pinkie Denise over at Pinkpomegranate tagged me. I am to link back to her, tell you seven weird things about myself, and then tag seven other people. Karin over at Creative Chaos was afraid the Blog Police would come and haul her off for being tagged and reposting (is that a word? well, we rewrite, so I guess we can repost too, anyway) answers from a previous tag. Well I'm going to do a bit of that too AND I am not going to tag anyone! If you want to be tagged then you are tagged, if not then just read about my weirdness.

I told Pinkie that I need a few days to ruminate over all my weirdness and this is what I came up with:

1.) The weirdest job I ever had was as an elf! You can read about it here.

2.) The weirdest thing I ever ate was fried squid. It tasted like an icky rubber band and it had gotten a bit cold and quite chewy!

3.) The weirdest thing (at least one of them) that happened to me was when I was minding my own business while walking in the cross walk in a parking lot when a lady on her cell phone was looking one way and driving another and gunned her big 'ol dual cab white Ford truck and hit me!

4.) All the women in the world will agree that this is weird and some say even unamerican, I hate chocolate!

5.) All the women of the world will also agree that this is weird, I hate going to the mall. I have not been to a mall in years!!!!! I hate to shop for clothing!!!! I only do it because it would create quite the stir if I were to go streaking around in public!

6.) I have a weird thing about textures, be it food or fabric, it has to feel right to the tongue or skin or I won't eat or wear it.

7.) I have this weird built in radar for when an object in my home has been moved, even slightly. My family thinks it is great fun to set things a bit off kilter to see if I will notice. I always do. I home in on it as soon as I enter the room and I am compelled to straighten it. They all laugh when I do this but I can't help it.

Blessings,

Miss Sandy

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Reluctant Writer Asks, Whadaya Think?

"Fair words gladden so many a heart."
Longfellow - Tales of a Wayside Inn.
The Musician's Tale.
Miss Sandy has been avoiding answering a question that has been frequently asked in comments and through private emails, sooooo, I'd like a little blog block honesty. It has been asked if I am published, suggested that I sell my stories, or that I should be a writer. It is one thing to share a story and quite another to pursue publishing. I am quite comfortable here as my anonymous self, BUT (there always is one, and usually it's a BIG one!) I know in my heart that this may be a part of the plan for my life. I have struggled with this issue for almost six years now, ever since my first article was published.

I have been a closet writer all my life, keeping my words secreted away from public view. I have diaries, those little lock and key kind, from when I was quite young. I loved every writing assignment that was ever given in school and and flourished in English and Journalism. I have always dabbled in poetry, made up stories, recorded real life incidences, and for the last twelve years kept an almost daily journal. These journals started as a prayer tool. Being new in my faith I found it difficult to sit still and pray. My mind pinged all over the place. I found writing kept me focused on the task at hand. Then I began to add how I saw God at work in my life. I have recorded poetry, family blessings, family devotionals, special devotionals and activities for holidays and celebrations, and life lessons and observations that I am learning or have been taught, along with prayers for family, friends, etc. These pages record the good in my life, the bad, and sometimes even the ugly. They are honest and they are my conversations with God.
In April of 2001 I awoke one night and just had these words floating in my mind and I could not shake them so I crawled out of bed at 3:00 a.m. and gave birth to what was to become my fist published piece. Oddly enough it was about my first born child. I didn't know why I was writing it and I had no intention of sharing it. I thought it would just be another piece of the legacy of faith I was recording for my children because that is all I thought those journals to be.
A month or so after this was written and tucked away I had a very strong urging to type this piece up and I tucked it into my Bible. I thought perhaps that I would meet someone who needed to hear those words and they might help or encourage them in some way. Wanting to be obedient to what I felt led to do I prayed and waited. Fast forward one week later on a sunny Sunday morning I am sitting in church with my family and our pastor opens up the service for a time of praise and sharing. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that THIS was the moment for which those words had been written. There was one slight hitch in this whole thing - I don't do public speaking, ever! I had the strongest urge to turn around and stick my tongue out at my mother for teaching me obedience!
I swallowed my fear, stuck my hand into my Bible withdrawing the folded pages, rose to my feet, took a deep breath, and I obediently began to read. A deafening hush fell over the church and I was sure my voice could not be heard over my rattling quaking bones. I sat back down to stunned silence, who knew quiet little Miss Sandy had that many words in her? After services I just wanted the quickest exit out of the building but was stopped by what seemed to be a billion people telling me that this needed to be published. I laughed. When I was finally within sight of the door a hand reached out, clasp my arm, and drew me aside. It was my pastor. I felt like I was being called in to the principals office. I was instructed to wait until he was through with his greeting duties.
When he finished he asked my husband and I to step into his office and proceeded to tell me that he firmly believed that I needed to pursue publication. I got a slight lecture on hiding my light under a bushel and was urged to think about it. I said I would and before we left he asked for a copy and my permission to make it available to anyone in our congregation who wanted a copy. I said this was fine and went home with a headache.
My pastor believed in me and the message of those words so strongly that he contacted an editor of a well-known Christian publication on my behalf. Now this particular magazine does not take unsolicited articles, much less articles from some unknown author. He must have been very persuasive because the editor agreed to read it if it was faxed to him immediately as he was headed out of town. Meanwhile I am struggling away, do it, don't do it, do it, don't do it and my phone rings. I answer and it is a representative of the magazine and they want to buy my article and publish it in the May 2002 Mother's Day issue. She spits out an amount they will pay, I gasp, she explains the terms, asks for my email address, gives me the name of the editor who will contact me, and the next thing I know the contract is in the mail!
When my church family found out there was much rejoicing and I was totally uncomfortable with my new status. Well, not everyone was happy, one person was downright mean about it and it caused so much hurt I thought about hurling my favorite writing pen into the sea! (That would have been a record breaking hurl as I live no where near the sea!) Insecurity, uncertainty, and doubt crept in to camp around me and I withdrew. I never pursued being published. I have one and only one published piece to my name (Oh, and get this, they spelled my name wrong on the by line, talk about being kept humble!). I put away any thought of this path until I was through home schooling my daughter. I wouldn't pursue this path because when I do something I do it wholeheartedly and I would have went into it with a divided heart and either writing or schooling would have suffered. I really wanted all the time I could spend with my daughter and I wanted no regrets. Well, she graduated this past May and hubby says my time is up, no more procrastination, WRITE! He believes in me so much that he built me a little writing cottage by our garden pond where I can retreat to a tranquil place with no interruptions.

One of the many reasons I started to blog was to get back into writing practice. I thought it would be a good way to get feedback and this feels like a safe way to share my writing. I've been quietly doing some homework, I joined a writing group, I attended a mini writing seminar via the internet the other night, and I am checking into building a writing web site through a group where editors and publishers access the sites looking for material to publish. So, back to the post title question, whadaya think? I'd really like some honest feedback - critique away - I have to learn to take it if I'm gonna make it!

Confession of a Reluctant Writer,

Miss Sandy
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