Send Me!

And then I heard the voice of the Master: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”
I spoke up, “I’ll go. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8 MSG)

Image result for image here I am LordFor Christian writers, there usually is a point in time when they sensed God calling them to write. Sometimes answering the call isn’t always easy. There are disappointments and obstacles to overcome.

When the prophet Isaiah was young, he made excuses and tried to ignore the call, but an encounter with Jehovah caused him to change his mind. The mighty prophet served four kings and penned one the most beautiful Old Testament books, full of hope and proclaiming the coming of the Messiah.

Have you ever thought of what might have happened if Isaiah had neglected the call? If the Scriptures that have comforted God’s people down through the ages had not been written? It’s a sobering thought, isn’t it?

None of us claim to be “Isaiah,” or even close to the anointed prophet, but God still has some writing assignments for those He has called. Some days we must dust off our keyboards in faith because we don’t feel like we have anything to say, but our heavenly Father sees things differently. His ways are higher than our ways. Our Father believes we have a story to tell. That is why He has called us to write.

Let’s raise our pens in faith and believe God will help us write stories that bring glory and honor to Him.

And when we hear the voice of the Master, “Whom shall I send? Who will write for Me?” . . . We can answer, “I’ll go. Send me!”


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by Dixie Phillips, CES Editor, Writing Coach, Award-Winning Children’s Author and Songwriter 

 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com 

The Priority Maze

I haven’t mentioned it in a while, but I’m so glad you’re here. Yes, you! A blog without readers is . . . well, it’s more like a journal entry. And now, on to today’s topic.

Priorities List for Business plans or Life GoalsPriorities . . . we all have them. Our To Do list hints at just what they are. And our actions, what we choose to focus our energies on each day, are even more telling.

For the sake of this post I’m going to assume writing is high on your list of priorities. Though you may place the following items in a slightly different order, it’s best to include them all when it comes to writing.

WRITE

I realize this is self-evident, but you’d be surprised at how many writing-related endeavors (and non-writing-related ones) can crowd out time spent actually writing.

READ SKILLS DEVELOPMENT BOOKS, BLOGS, ETC.

It doesn’t matter how much you know about the ins and outs of writing, there is always more to learn. And the industry is always changing, so what you once thought a writing absolute may no longer be relevant. It is crucial that you stay current in your chosen genre or writing style.

APPLY WHAT YOU LEARN

Many skills development books include exercises. It’s best not to skip these. And even if they don’t, you can create your own exercises and write a short piece applying what you’re learning. Practice may not make perfect, but it certainly makes better.

READ ANYTHING YOU CAN GET YOUR HANDS ON

Read what you write (poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, etc.). Read what you’d like to write. Read what you can never imagine yourself writing. Read classical works. Read contemporary works. Read blog posts. I’m not suggesting you read something that offends your sensibilities, but do try to stretch yourself.

WRITE SOMETHING BRAND NEW TO YOU

Hopefully something you’ve read recently will challenge/inspire you to write something you’ve never tried your hand at before. Remember you never have to share this with anyone else, but you may be surprised. You might find you truly enjoy this new writing style.

GRAB YOUR NOTEBOOK AND/OR YOUR CAMERA AND GO FOR A WALK

It doesn’t matter what you write, inspiration is all around. Sometimes, however, life gets so busy that we forget to keep an eye out . . . or an ear. Snap nature pictures that inspire you. (Be cautious about taking photos of people or property without express permission; written permission is best.) Record snippets of conversations or visuals that stir your creativity. (This is one important reason writers should always carry a notebook and pen—or download a note-taking app for their smartphone.)

FLIP THROUGH YOUR PICTURES AND YOUR NOTES WHEN LOOKING FOR INSPIRATION

The more you have on hand, the less likely writer’s block will ever get the better of you.

TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND ASK FOR A CRITIQUE OF YOUR WRITING

When a piece is as good as you can make it—for now, ask for an honest evaluation of your writing. If you have been working on a specific skill (i.e. writing believable dialogue), ask that your reader focus on that area. Your reader need not be a writer, but it can help.

REWRITE. REWRITE. AND REWRITE SOME MORE.

The more you learn and the more people read your work and make suggestions (though not all of them will be helpful), the more you must be willing to rewrite. Although what constitutes “perfect writing”—if there is such a thing—is subjective, making your work the best it can be is something that will require rewriting—often.

And as the shampoo bottle says . . .

RINSE AND REPEAT

Wash away those nagging voices that say your work will never be good enough to share with the world and be willing to repeat the above steps time and time again.


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by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist 
 

 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com 

Source of Inspiration

Birth of IDEA. Concept background.Every writer will run around the “writer’s block” from time to time. Some days our creative juices just won’t flow no matter how many cups of coffee we drink. Here are some lessons I’ve learned to help prime my mind’s pump and keep me inspired.

  1. Rest! Rest! Rest! Be sure you are getting adequate rest. Fatigue dries up creative juices and clouds a writer’s mind. I’m convinced a 15-minute afternoon power nap can recharge brain cells.
  2. Clean your plate. Be sure you are eating nourishing meals. Sugary snacks can cause blood sugars to rise for a few minutes and then plummet. Low blood sugar creates foggy thinking. Keep healthy snacks at your fingertips.
  3. Count your blessings.  Make your favorite pastime counting your blessings. Stress short circuits creativity. Remind yourself often that you’re too blessed to be stressed.
  4. Keep growing. Read inspirational books, blogs, magazines, etc.  Expand your mind and continue to develop as a person. Don’t allow the problems in life to make you bitter and cynical.
  5. Keep making music. If you play a musical instrument, take time out of your busy day to relax and make music. If you don’t play an instrument, turn on the radio or play your favorite CD. Fill your home with songs that move and motivate you.
  6. Join a writer’s critique group.  It’s a great day to be a writer. If you don’t have a writer’s group in your area, you can join one online. Be humble enough to allow others to critique your work. Remember the best manuscripts aren’t written, they are rewritten.
  7. Visit a nursing home. My first story in print was about two elderly women bidding each other a final farewell. I was an eyewitness and deeply moved by their simplicity and authenticity. I went home and jotted down the encounter.

Find your source of inspiration . . . and keep writing!


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by Dixie Phillips, CES Editor, Writing Coach, Award-Winning Children’s Author and Songwriter

 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com 

When Is It Okay to Play Hooky?

play-hooky

Have you ever had those times when the tsunami of undone tasks threatened to crash over you? It’s at those times that something has to give. Much as we don’t want to, sometimes we have to admit to ourselves—and others—that we just can’t fulfill a particular responsibility; we must play hooky. (That’s what happened to me last week.)

As you may know, I seek writing inspiration pretty much anywhere. So, let’s use this reality to prompt our writing this week.

How?

Well, I’m glad you asked.

Here are seven ways to use life’s craziness and our humanity as fodder for our writing:

  1. Write a poem about your hectic schedule.
  2. Allow your character to “play hooky” for a scene and thus, take the story in a slightly different direction. It’s a good way to add a twist if your readers are expecting the character to respond in a certain way. Just be careful; readers won’t be happy if there isn’t a plausible reason for the unexpected change.
  3. Write a blog post on the topic of playing hooky and when it’s acceptable—and perhaps, when it isn’t.
  4. Write a creative nonfiction piece about a time you actually played hooky. If you never did, imagine doing so and write a fiction piece that sounds like it could be true.
  5. Do you feel guilty if you have to let something slide, if you think you’ve let someone down? Write about it as a journal entry.
  6. Write a list of all the things you would like to accomplish in the next week. Go over the list and rank them in order of importance. Include specifics if this will help you decide (i.e. why this is important/why it can wait). Choose at least two things from the bottom of the list that you can put off at least for now, if not indefinitely. If there isn’t time for your writing, you may want to shuffle some things around.

This next one may not include writing exactly, but it could provide lots of inspiration for your endeavors in the future.

  1. Plan a party. I know. I know. How is that going to free up any time? It’s a Let’s Play Hooky party. No, I’m not suggesting you ditch school or call into work sick. But an evening out with a few friends can be energizing. It may just give you the lift you need to “get back at it.”

When have you played hooky? Did it turn out to be a good thing? We’d love to hear about it.


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by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist 
 

 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com 

There’s a Book Inside You

See the source imageI once saw a comic that tickled my funny bone. A man went to the doctor and had x-rays. The doctor points to one of the x-rays and says, “Good news! You have a book in you, just waiting to come out.”

I meet people all the time who ask, “How do you know what to write about?”

I always tell them that I write about real life. People’s stories are fascinating. Your story is fascinating.

As a child, I remember devouring the Little House series. I was a reluctant reader, but when my grandmother introduced me to Laura Ingalls Wilder, I was hooked on books. Her stories were written about everyday pioneer life and are a timeless collection, still recommended by elementary educators today.

I’m sure when Laura was a little girl she never dreamed she would grow up and write a story about her life. For those of us mesmerized by her storytelling, aren’t we glad she did?

I’ve always loved the elderly. I guess it was a gift my mother gave me. She was a geriatric nurse and would allow me to make “short and sweet” visits to some of her patients. Mom would introduce me and usually give me a brief history of their life. She had a way of making each feel loved and extremely important. She still has this gift today.

After I married and became a mother, I began to realize I how much I wanted to preserve the history of my grandmother’s story. I purchased a Memory Book for her. The book was filled with questions.

What was life like when you were growing up?

Where did your parents buy their groceries?

What did you pay for a dozen eggs?

What was your greatest disappointment?

What was your greatest joy?

Who were your parents?

When were the born?

Grandma filled in the questions a little bit at a time. When she passed away, this book became one of my most treasured possessions.

I encourage you to write some stories about your life for your loved ones. Share them now if you can, and be sure to tuck them in a hope chest or somewhere safe. Your family will be glad you did. So what are you waiting for? Get writing. There’s a book inside of you, just waiting to come out.


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by Dixie Phillips, CES Editor, Writing Coach, Award-Winning Children’s Author and Songwriter

 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links 

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com 

Focused and Flexible

sign-36417_150Focused and flexible. These two words are becoming very important in every area of my life.

I am eclectically-interested and have lots on my To Do list. I’m sure it’s the same with you. If I’m always looking ahead to the next thing on the list (or popping over to my email and Facebook accounts), I cannot give the task at hand adequate attention. It won’t be the best it can be.

This is one reason I love my lists. I don’t have to worry about forgetting something important. Plus, if I arrange my list in order of priority, I can work from the top to the bottom, knowing, if I don’t get everything done, at least those things that were most pressing are the first things to get scratched off the list.

When my mind is at rest, I can dive into the responsibility I’m pursuing right this minute.

And yet . . .

An important text may come through. A phone call I shouldn’t ignore. Or an unforeseeable but unavoidable change in plans. That’s when the flexibility kicks in.

One day, for example, I looked forward to working in a quiet house to make a huge dent in my list. And then . . . first thing in the morning, I got 1) a request for transportation and 2) an invitation for lunch. I could have said no, but spending time with this young friend was good for both of us. (And lunch was tasty too.)

Not everything that comes along should derail or postpone our plans, but there are times we need to be flexible as well as focused.

When you set aside time for your writing, how can you tell if you should forge ahead or allow a request to alter your plans?

Here is a series of questions to ask before making a decision:

  1. Can you fulfill the request at a later time? If so, keep to your writing schedule.
  2. Can someone else do what has been asked of you? If so, give them the opportunity to do so.
  3. Is it a matter of conditioning to answer the doorbell, the telephone, the buzz on your cell phone that indicates you have a new email? If so, it may take time, but it’s good to view these distractions as “the urgent” that impinges upon “the important,” as Stephen Covey puts it.
  4. Are you simply following the White Rabbit down yet another rabbit hole? Sometimes it’s best to steer clear of fuzzy distractions.
  5. Is it a genuine emergency? If so, then, of course, walk away from your writing.
  6. Is a family member or friend facing a crisis? If so and there is something you can do—even lend a listening ear—do so without hesitation.
  7. Has an even more exciting writing opportunity presented itself? If so, you may want to designate the time to a different project.
  8. Is your daughter turning 25 the next day and you have to choose between writing and making her favorite dessert? If so, crack those eggs and beat that cake batter. (Wait! That would be me. My “baby” hit the quarter century mark this past Saturday.)

How do you achieve the balance between focus and flexibility?


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by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links 

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com 

Make Time to Write

ideaUnless you write for a living, you may wonder how on earth you will ever find the time to write. And even if you earn an income from one type of writing, you may want to venture into another style or genre.

The truth is you will never find the time, but you can make it.

Here are 10 ways to do just that:

  1. Set your alarm back a half hour and use that time to write. Don’t allow yourself to get distracted by all the other things calling your name even before you get out of bed.
  2. Instead of watching TV after the children are settled in for the night, sit down with a pen and paper or in front of your computer and write for an hour.
  3. Keep a notebook by your bed. If a wonderful idea strikes you as you’re nodding off or when you first awaken, write it down. You may think you’ll remember it, but you may not.
  4. Keep another notebook with you at all times. A snippet of conversation, an observation, even a fleeting thought can serve as inspiration for your writing. (I’ve had a character’s name rattling around in my head for the longest time.)
  5. Back to the idea of conversation . . . You may want to keep a separate notebook for quotes you come across that grab your attention. (Years ago, I bought my son a pair of army boots. They really were too big, but he wanted them and this mama wanted to make him happy. At church the following Sunday, one of our older friends asked, “Hey, Boots, where are you taking that boy?” I’ve never forgotten the quote, though until recently, I didn’t know how I would use the question as inspiration for my writing.)
  6. Instead of surfing the Net, texting, or reading one of the many e-books on your phone (if you’re anything like me), use those found minutes to jot down ideas in your notebook . . . or on your phone. You may even want to write a line or two for that story that’s beginning to take shape. Those moments will add up—and so will the ideas.
  7. If you’re stuck, why not search YouTube for instrumental music that doesn’t bring lyrics to mind? Use it to fuel your writing.
  8. Grab your camera—or your smartphone—and go for a walk. Snap lots of pictures. Some of them may serve as inspiration for future writing projects.
  9. Are you interested in writing for children? Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) is simply amazing. Each day of November, you can read posts by professionals in the industry. And your only commitment? To come up with 30 ideas for picture books during the month. Plus, you’ll have several chances to win amazing prizes.
  10. Sign up for October Poetry Writing Month (OctPoWriMo)—even if you’re not a poet. It’s a wonderful way to make yourself write 31 poems in 31 days.

How do you make yourself write?


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by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist 
 

 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links 

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com

Time Travel

Pocket watch with starfish in the sand on the beach

When someone says, “historical fiction,” what comes to mind? How about researching an event from days gone by? Does this fill you with curiosity and anticipation? Or does the very thought of it make you yawn.

Here are six ideas to try even if history isn’t “your thing.”

  1. Do a little digging into your family history until you come across an interesting character you would like to learn more about. And then dig some more.
  2. Look into the history of your hometown. Record details you find captivating. Use these to write a piece for the local paper or as a springboard for a short story.
  3. Imagine yourself without modern day conveniences. Write a journal entry as if you were an earlier settler to your area. Do sufficient research to get the facts right.
  4. Is there a destination you’ve always wanted to visit? Virtually all have a rich history. Since you are beginning from a point of interest, studying their history should be more intriguing.
  5. What do you love besides writing? Fine art? Architecture? Photography? Choose something that interests you and do some research into its beginnings.
  6. Still not interested in ancient history—or even what happened in the 1800s? Consider the significant changes you’ve seen in your lifetime and try your hand at a creative nonfiction piece (a true story that incorporates setting, dialogue, and conflict as you would read in a work of fiction).

And now, it’s time to hop into your time machine and head off for the future. Even if you’re not a sci-fi fan, there are ways to approach the future that may very well spark your interest. Give at least one of these ideas a try in the week ahead.

  1. Let’s start by taking a small leap forward. Write a journal entry as if it were 10 years in the future.
  2. Look ahead and imagine your great, great grandchildren. What do you think their world will look like?
  3. So much has happened in the last century. It’s mind-boggling. Now picture yourself as a 22nd century reporter. You’re sent to cover the inventor of the most recent technological advancement. Write out that interview. Remember to cover the who, what, when, where, and why of the story.
  4. Imagine that because of overcrowding, you have to choose to live on Mars or under the sea. Which would you choose and why? Write in as much detail as you can.
  5. So, since we mentioned sci-fi, why not turn our gaze to the heavens? Write two pieces, a fantastical piece of what it would be like to encounter aliens and a piece in which you simply share your thoughts and feelings about seeing the heavens from deep space minus the alien lifeforms.
  6. If you’re so inclined, write a dystopian short story. (This isn’t my preferred genre, so perhaps I should give it a try to expand my writing horizons.)

We’d love to hear which of these ideas you used as writing prompts. Did they give you a new view of the past or the future? How so?


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by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist 

 

 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com 

Keep Writing for the King

Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were delicate, but Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance. Now Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.”

And Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me.” So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.
Genesis 29:16-20 NKJV

Have you ever felt like the unwanted on or the unattractive one? Leah did. By birth, she was Rachel’s older sister, and by her father’s trickery and deceit, she was Jacob’s first wife. Can you imagine what she must have felt like when Jacob looked at her and realized she wasn’t Rachel, the one he was deeply in love with and had worked seven years for? I’m sure the rejection she felt stung to the bone.

God loved Leah and had a plan and destiny for her life. She bore Jacob six sons and one daughter. Levi was one of the boys born to Leah and Jacob. The priestly tribe came from this lineage. Judah was another son born to Leah and Jacob. King David came from the lineage of Judah—and so did Jesus Christ.

cropped-write5.jpgYour Father has a plan for you, too. You might feel others can write better and are having more success in their writing endeavors than you. Stay faithful. Keep writing. Don’t compare yourself with someone else. Be authentic. Be transparent. Be the one God created you to be. God has a destiny for you and your writing. You never know where He will send your stories. Keep writing for the King.


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by Dixie Phillips, CES Editor, Writing Coach, Award-Winning Children’s Author and Songwriter 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com 

The Power of the Written Word

The day before what would have been my maternal grandmother’s 100th birthday, I spotted an old letter crammed in the back of a dresser drawer.

Senior writes a testament“Wow! This letter is over 30 years old,” I gasped when I saw the postmark. “And it’s from Grandma!”

I plucked the three-page letter from the tattered envelope and began reading. Immediately tears trickled down my cheeks.

                Dear little Dixie,
                I love you more than you’ll ever know . . . 

Discovering Grandma’s letter reminded me of the power of the written word, whether a simple note or professional manuscript. Our words have power to impact the reader and keep memories alive.

Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking every time we write, it has to be something profound, but I’ve discovered more often God uses the everyday experiences of life to minister to others.

I want to share a piece I wrote about my paternal grandmother’s death. I never dreamed my “common” experience of losing a grandmother would resonate in the souls of so many, but it did, and I have had numerous requests for reprints.

Never underestimate “your” story. God may just use it to heal the brokenhearted and your words could touch a generation your eyes may never see. Keep writing.

_____________

Mable

The move from a spacious home to a small, one-bedroom apartment was devastating to Grandma Eleanor. Devastating, but necessary, because of a terminal inflammatory breast cancer diagnosis.

In her apartment complex, other women who were experiencing the same pain she was—terminal illness, limited income, loss of spouse to death or a nursing home—surrounded her. A remnant of these women formed a weekly Bible study. Grandma became a faithful member. This band of women became kindred spirits as they prayed for one another and comforted one another from God’s Word.

It became apparent by fall Grandma would not be with us much longer. Her spirit was strong, but her body grew weaker. The Sunday before Thanksgiving, she had to be hospitalized. The cancer had metastasized to her lungs and colon.

Word spread quickly among her little Bible study group that Eleanor was dying. Some had seen the ambulance take her away. Loving cards and concerned phone calls began pouring in.

Wednesday morning a knock came to her Hospice room.

“Mable, how did you get here?” Grandma asked.

“Took a cab, Eleanor. I just had to.” Mable tiptoed to Grandma’s bedside with a brown grocery sack in her arms. “It’s cold outside, but it was warm in the cab!”

“Oh Mable, you shouldn’t have come out in this bitter cold.”

“I had to, Eleanor! Christmas is coming. I wanted you to have your Christmas card and the gift I made for you! It’s all right here in my bag.” Mable rummaged through her grocery sack, pulled out a bright red envelope, and tore it open. “Let me read it to you.”

Mable cleared her throat and continued,

               “What can I give Him poor as I am?
                If I were a shepherd, I’d give Him a lamb.
If I were a wise man, I’d do my part,
I know what I’ll give Him,
All of my heart!”

Tears glistened in Grandma’s eyes. “Thank you, Mable.”

“That’s not all, Eleanor. There’s more! Christmas is coming! I just wanted you to have your Christmas present a little early this year.” Mable pulled out a small package topped with a recycled bow.

Grandma was too weak to open her gift. Mable handed it to me. I gently tore the paper off the box and opened the lid. Peering back at me was a teddy bear holding a lacy parasol.

“Yep, it’s true, Eleanor! Christmas is coming, and I just had to give you your present a little early this year.” Mable reached for Grandma’s hand.

“Mable, thank you for being my friend this past year. You tell our little group good-bye for me. Thank them for all their prayers. Tell them I’ll be spending Christmas with Jesus this year.”

Tears trickled down Mable’s face and fell on her quivering lips.

“I love you, Eleanor!”

“And I love you!” Grandma replied.

Mable collapsed in my arms and wept.

After Mable left, I stood beside Grandma’s deathbed. I placed the little teddy bear on the table. I realized Grandma’s “home-going” would be soon. I looked at the teddy bear holding the lacy parasol and reread Mable’s Christmas card, “What can I give Him poor as I am?”

I realized that I had just witnessed these verses lived out before my eyes. A loving friend with meager means had given her very best. She even celebrated Christmas before Thanksgiving knowing my Grandmother wouldn’t live to see Christmas this side of heaven.

I closed my eyes and silently thanked God for giving me such a wonderful grandmother, and for giving my grandmother such a wonderful friend.

Grandma went home to be with Jesus two days after Mable’s visit. She did just what she said she would. She celebrated Christmas with Jesus!


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by Dixie Phillips, CES Editor, Writing Coach, Award-Winning Children’s Author and Songwriter

 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links 

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com