A Christmas I Won’t Soon Forget

But there was a silver lining

It began with the arrival of our youngest daughter, Meagan and her energetic Black Lab cross, Pika. Just before they arrived we discovered our Bernedoodle, Livy, had two abscessed teeth and needed close to $2000. worth of dental surgery followed by antibiotics and pain killers. She was not so energetic, which seemed to puzzle Pika, who whined at her. A lot. Also, just before they arrived, I started feeling a strange rumbling in my tummy. Someone had given me an unexpected Christmas present – the stomach flu.

So as my eldest daughter, Kate, arrived with her husband and one-year-old Great Dane, Arturo, I retreated to the bedroom. From there I heard Kate ask her dad for blankets. Was she so cold? I wondered, hoping she wasn’t coming down with a bug too. No, the blankets weren’t for her, but for Arturo. He was afraid of our hardwood floors so blankets were needed so he could join the rest of the tribe. I heard laughter as they coaxed him until he gingerly put only one paw on the bare floor.

By the time our youngest, Laura, arrived, I was spending more time in the bathroom than the bedroom but in between, got to enjoy the squeals of our grandson as Arturo snuffled his neck, then leaped back as the little one reacted. Our granddaughter thought that was hilarious and of course squealed with delight when she saw the many presents under the tree, most of which had her name on them. At only three years old she already recognizes and can write her own name. No flies on that one!

Kate, ever the caregiver, popped into the bedroom now and then to bring me water, an antacid, and ginger ale.  I dosed off and on, listening to the girls chatting as they prepared the breakfast quiche and set the table. I sensed the calm as I heard my husband’s voice pray the blessing over all.

Auntie Meg entertained Thea and Spencer-Mark with puzzles and tent-making in the basement while my two sons-in-law chatted about ways to relieve stress. (They both work in the health care profession). I prayed for them before dozing off again, until my husband poked his head in to ask if I wanted to put on a mask and join the family for the traditional unloading of the Christmas stockings, which had, as usual, overflowed into gift bags around the tree. I made a feeble attempt but then thought it wise to save them all the unpleasant memory of me upchucking on the living room floor, or more precisely, on one of the blankets covering it. I slipped away back into the bedroom.

I woke at one point to the smell of gingerbread cookies baking and smiled as I thought of the look that would be on my granddaughter’s face while she helped decorate them.

At some point the turkey was prepared, with all the trimmings, by my three capable girls and that calm moment of prayer helped me dose off again. I woke a few times to hear laughter and the pitter-patter of those little feet joined by the scrabble of the dog’s nails on the floor. All except Arturo’s, I assumed.

Eventually the day came to a close. I felt more than a little sorry for myself as I heard the commotion of gathering kids, dogs and sundries, followed by the good-byes and ‘I love you’s’ and the thump of the doors closing.

The next morning I felt well enough to emerge, slowly, to sip a cup of tea, slowly, and was surprised to see all the stockings and gift bags still full under the tree. “They all wanted to wait for you.” My DH explained they all planned to return later that morning. But by the time they did, I was banished again to the bedroom. Kate and her hubby decided to head out on their two hour drive, hearing of bad weather on the way, and Laura and family decided to stay put in the city since the little guy seemed a bit out of sorts and they wondered if he was coming down with the bug. Turned out they were right, so we promised to bring the presents to them later in the week, when everyone was feeling better.

Meg stayed for a couple more days, during which she continued to do most of the cooking and helped her dad replace a problematic kitchen faucet. Then it was her turn to say good-bye with air-hugs for me and a big real one for her dad.

The tea and toast stayed down that morning, so I decided to risk a turkey sandwich on one of my son-in-law’s wonderful homemade buns. It tasted great, though I was still a bit sad that I’d missed the real meal.

“There’s lots of left-overs,” my DH said, obviously reading my mind. I managed a smile and a short, though heart-felt prayer of thanks for him and the rest of my ‘tribe,’ including the four-legged variety.

And perhaps it was the Lord who pointed out a silver lining as I went to bed that night. This is the only Christmas in memory when I did not gain a few unwanted pounds.

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Blessings to you all in 2023! May it be full of precious moments with your ‘tribe.’

The Power of Christmas

Photo by Marcia Lee Laycock

The Power of Christmas

It’s been a busy season for me this year. Perhaps because I’ve been trucking around to many Christmas markets and events to showcase my children’s book, Merrigold’s Very Best Home. The pace has been hectic but I’ve found a silver lining, provided by God.

It was at a Christmas market in a local community that it happened for the first time. A group of local authors were invited to set up a table in the library, which was on the main street of the town. The Santa Claus Parade was happening that day so we were guaranteed lots of ‘traffic.’

I tend to be a little bit cynical when it comes to these markets. In the past, sales haven’t been all that great. But this year, I’ve discovered children’s books are quite popular. It was a delight to see mom’s and grandmother’s eyes light up when I described what my book was about. But the true delight that filled my heart and soul was witnessing the joy.

Everyone was smiling. Acts of random kindness were evident all day. When I discovered the library had provided a place for people to come and have a bowl of chili, with the bowls provided by the town’s pottery club and the chili provided by the restaurant across the street, the epiphany hit me. I was witnessing true community. The kind of community designed by God. It’s described in Acts 4:32. The believers gave to one another, cared for one another, and were “of one heart and soul.”

As I watched the people that day, I realized that this is the power of Christmas. It brings us together under the banner of praise for the birth of the Christ child who came to save. Even those who do not normally attend a church are drawn by the message blazing forth at this time of year. It’s the message the shepherds heard from angels who appeared to them on the night of Jesus’ birth – “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10,11).

The prophet Isaiah proclaimed the same message 700 years before Jesus was born – “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Perhaps it would be a good idea to focus on this banner of praise under which we all can gather as we draw closer to Christmas day. Let’s look around and join the community of good works, the community of love and peace, the community of faith.

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Hibernation – Not an Option

The process of writing a novel is exciting but labor-intensive. When I finished the first draft of my novel, I was elated – for about five seconds. Then it dawned on me how much work was still ahead. The task of editing and revising lay before me like a long uphill climb. I knew I’d need help, so I joined a critique group.

Having my work dissected and evaluated by strangers was daunting, but it proved to be invaluable. Others saw things I missed, pointing out the errors as well as inconsistencies in the story. In the end, the work was much improved.

There are times when I think about trying to live my life like a true Christian and it too looks like a long uphill road. I know my weaknesses are many and my stubbornness rooted deep. I know I need help, from friends who understand and most of all from God himself. It can be daunting to ask for the kind of help I need from time to time. My pride gets in the way and I hesitate. But in the end I know it will be worth the effort.

I don’t know where I would be today if it weren’t for the help of other believers, mentors and friends who were able to say and do the right things to put me back on track or encourage me to keep going when things got a little tough.

I’m reminded of something a friend said to me once. He was a trapper and fisherman, living alone in the Yukon wilderness until he gave his life to Christ. Then he moved to town and committed his life to serving this God he was getting to know. When I asked him if it was hard to give up his old life, he said, “The bush would have been the death of me. I can’t follow Christ in a spiritual vacuum.”

Living with people can sometimes be hard. There have been times when I’ve wanted to walk away from the church and other believers, times when I’ve wanted to curl up and hibernate. But that, as my friend said, would lead to death – the death of social skills, the death of a vital connection to one another and to God. He designed us to live in communion with Him and His people. When we do, in the end, the work of our lives is much improved.

So I take to heart the scripture that says, “let us not give up meeting together … but let us encourage one another …” (Hebrews 10:25).

As we move now into the winter season and closer to the day on which we celebrate the birth of Christ, let’s also celebrate the families He has given us – the gatherings of believers – whether they be critique groups or church groups, they are families all, given to us that we might grow and accomplish God’s purposes on this earth,

“and all the more, as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25b).

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You Did It!

A BIG THANK YOU to all those who contributed to the IndieGoGo campaign! Picturing Merrigold went to 105% funded!! The book should be in your hands by early November, barring any print delays. Your support has been overwhelming. Can’t thank you enough! Blessings upon you all! Marcia

AND … I’m happy to announce the winner of Wee Merrigold’s Wee Wanderings is ….. Drum roll here …

Angela McCoy! That book too will be on its way to Angela by early November.

A Short Update

Hello everyone – Just wanted to let you know that my IndieGoGo campaign, Picturing Merrigold is now sitting at 90% funded, with 4 days left to go!

As you may know, all funds raised will go toward paying for the wonderful illustrations and production of the book.

All who contribute in the next 4 days will be entered to win a copy of Wee Merrigold’s Wee Wanderings – a scrapbook of pix (like the one below) of all the places the little Amigurumi has gone since the campaign started. I do SO appreciate your support!

https://indiegogo.com/projects/picturing-merrigold

The Dissipation of a Niggle of Guilt

I had just spoken to a group of Christian women. The response had been wonderful, God’s presence evident. It was thrilling and humbling to know He had used my words to draw women closer to Himself.

One of those woman approached and asked which of my books I would recommend. We moved to the book table and chatted. She chose a devotional book and asked me to sign it. When she moved away, one of the leaders of the organization approached. I could tell she was not pleased. She explained that she’d been talking with another author who had applied to be a speaker for the group. “She told me someone had told her that our group was a good place to sell books.”

Her eyebrows arched. I knew she knew that “someone” was me. I was puzzled as to why the woman was upset until she said, “We’re in the business of bringing people to Christ, not selling books!” She marched off before I could respond.

I pondered her words, and my motives, as I drove home. Was I wrong to sell my books at these venues? I prayed about it and when I received an email from someone telling me how one of my books had helped her, I realized God had answered.

I realized, too, the leader of that group failed to see my books as an extension of the ministry God had given me.

This wasn’t a new experience. Even mentioning my books in a church sometimes met with disapproval. But I have seen how God has worked through the words in my writing. His calling on my life has been confirmed over and over again, often at times of discouragement, when I needed it most.

Perhaps the negative reaction of some Christians lurked in my subconscious when I contemplated launching an IndieGoGo campaign to help fund the illustrations for my children’s book, Merrigold’s Very Best Home. I was hesitant to do it and doubted that it would be successful but my publisher pushed me to give it a try.

When the campaign soared to the 50% mark in the first five days I was amazed, and deeply humbled by the generosity of the sponsors. But something still niggled. Wasn’t there something wrong with asking for money to do this? When two sizable donations arrived one morning, that niggle of guilt increased.

I don’t think it was an accident that the email I received from Scripture Union Canada that same morning dealt with 1Chronicles 29:1-20. For several days previous, I’d been following the story of David’s desire to build the temple in Jerusalem, and was struck again by God’s provision. I found myself wishing I’d been there in those days, so that I too could give toward the building project David initiated and tasked his son Solomon to complete. On that particular morning, the words of the scripture struck me in a different way. David lists all that he has given to the project, then addresses the leaders of Israel and asks, “ … now, who is willing to consecrate themselves to the Lord today?” (1 Chronicles 29:5).

The next two verses hit me.

“Then the leaders of families, the officers of the tribes of Israel, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of the king’s work gave willingly. They gave toward the work on the temple of God …”

David asked the people to give because it was the Lord’s project, a part of the building of God’s kingdom on earth. They responded generously and with joy because they too realized it was a privilege to be able to do so.

David goes on in verse 14 – “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. … And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you.”

I do not suggest that my tiny children’s book project is in any way comparable to the building of the temple in Jerusalem. But I know that it is a tiny thing that is God-ordained. It has been obvious that it is His will that this book be completed and I believe it is His will that others are given the opportunity to contribute to it. It may be a very tiny pebble in the grand scheme of the building of His kingdom, but God seems to think it needs to be there.

And so I pray, with David – “Lord, …keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you” (1Chronicles 29:18).

May we all continue to build His kingdom together, one tiny pebble at a time.

The Countdown is On!

Hello my friends! Just want to let you know, if you don’t know already, that my Indiegogo Campaign, Picturing Merrigold, will launch in less than ten days! Indiegogo is a sponsorship platform that I’m using to raise the funds to pay for Kyla Wiebe’s awesome illustrations of my new children’s book, Merrigold’s Very Best Home. This is my first children’s book and it’s been a joy but illustrations are expensive so I value your support!

I hope the “perks” (aka free stuff) will delight you and the little ones in your life. The activity pack includes colouring pages, a pattern for making paper finger puppets and stickers. Other perks include pressed marigold bookmarks, and a very special small book with all the pix I’ve taken of Wee Merrigold along the way. If you haven’t seen pictures of our tiny mascot, just check out my Instagram page

Then head on over to the Pre-launch page and register to receive a notification when the campaign goes live on September 1st.

Please share the links above and encourage your friends/family/contacts to join in on the fun!

I SO appreciate your support! Blessings upon you!

Marcia

Another Step in the Process

This is the opening illustration in Merrigold’s Very Best Home

Hello folks! I’m excited to announce that the Pre-launch page for my Indiegogo Campaign, Picturing Merrigold is now live. I’d be delighted if you’d check it out and sign up there to receive updates. I so appreciate your support. Feel free to share the link with friends and family. 🙂

Interview with Author Robert Stermscheg

I’m thrilled to host an interview with author Robert Stermscheg. This will be of special interest to those intrigued by WW2 history. Enjoy!

Q1. Thanks for joining me today, Robert. Why did you write this book?

A1. I’ve always had an interest in aviation and hold a personal connection to WWII.

Q2. Your story, Stealth, is also about two men, the Horten brothers. Who are they?

A2. Actually, there were three brothers. Wolfram, Walter, and Reimar. All three men were Luftwaffe pilots during the second world war. Wolfram was shot down over the English Channel early in the war. Walter and Reimar were best known as aircraft designers.

Q3. That’s interesting. Pilots for the Luftwaffe as well as designers. What was their claim to fame?

A3. The two brothers had worked on gliders for many years. This led to a new delta-wing design, a “Nurflügel” (one wing). It was revolutionary to say the least.

Q4. A one-wing design? Please explain.

A4. A standard airplane design at the time had a prominent cockpit, fuselage, or empennage, wings and a tail component. For example, the American P-38 Lightning even had a twin tail boom. But the Horten brothers envisioned an aircraft with no tail at all.

Q5. Hmm, that went against traditional thinking. So, did it make it past the design stage?

A5. It did indeed. They developed several designs, initially with gliders and followed up with a full-scale prototype utilizing two piston-powered motors in the aft portion of the wing. It wasn’t until 1943 when Herman Göring, head of the Luftwaffe, called for all designers to come up with new ideas/concepts. That is when the Hortens introduced their revolutionary design, amidst skepticism from well-established designers like Messerschmitt and Heinkel. Göring, though himself skeptical at first, was dully impressed and authorized the Hortens to commence building a jet engine powered prototype.

Q6. Were they successful? It seems like they encountered opposition from the start. I mean, every new design is wrought with all sorts of inherent problems and supply issues.

A6. That’s very true. They encountered some issues, like securing the favoured type of jet engine that would fit into the existing inlets. Still, they were able to overcome many obstacles and began conducting test flights in late 1944. The prototype exceeded many expectations. The Horten came close to the unheard of speed of 1000 km/hr, or 600 mph. By way of comparison, the latest version of the American P-51 Mustang could only reach a top speed of @700 km/hr, or 430 mph, and that apparently was in a dive. A reciprocating engine airplane was no match for a turbine-powered jet. The British were developing a jet fighter, but it didn’t factor into the war.

Q7. I heard of rumours that the Horten airplane had stealth capabilities. Is that really true, or was it something dreamt up by the notorious German propaganda machine?

A7. It’s not propaganda. Many years after Germany had lost the war, Reimar Horten related that his team of designers had delved into what we today would refer to as stealth technology. Reimar stated that he and Walter experimented with mixing charcoal dust and other compounds, together with glue used in cementing the wood panels. Reimar speculated that this would allow the wood surfaces—specifically the wings—to absorb a segment of electromagnetic waves (as opposed to bouncing off), thus minimizing the aircraft’s radar signature to Allied radar. Anyway you look at it, you have to admit that the Germans—in this case the Hortens—were far ahead of proven designers, German or American.

Q8. Earlier you mentioned a personal connection. Can you explain?

A8. Sure. My father, John Stermscheg, was conscripted into the Yugoslav army prior to WWII, and a few candidates were chosen to train as pilots in their Air Force contingent. My father was fortunate to be accepted and began training, logging several hours in the French made Potez 25 trainer. Unfortunately, his training was cut short by the advent of imminent hostilities with Germany. Along with many other hopefuls, he was reassigned to the army. Months later, in the spring of 1941, his entire company –with many men on horseback—was captured by an advancing German Panzer division. As a result, he, along with his company, was confined to a German Stalag for over a year. Many years later, having heard my father’s war-time experiences (over and over), prompted me to collaborate with him and write his biography, POW #74324.

Q9. I understand that you’ve also produced an audiobook. Can you explain?

A9. Yes. Savvy readers are always looking for the next thing, a better experience. Not long ago we were introduced to eBooks. Well, they certainly have their place and have gained in popularity. But the latest innovation –I hate to use the term fad – is the audiobook. I think it’s taking the book world by storm. Sales of audiobooks are exploding. I’ve heard that some avid readers listen to an audiobook while following along on their tablet. It seems that there’s no limitation for what readers want these days, looking for ways to enhance their journey. So, I’ve engaged a voice narrator, Ron Hughes, to produce an audiobook of Stealth. It is currently available on several platforms, including Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple and Nook. I’m waiting for approval from Audible (Amazon).

Q10. Thanks so much for sharing, Robert. I’m sure readers will want to know more. Where can they find you online?

A10. My website: www.robertstermscheg.com

I can also be found on these social media sites:

https://www.instagram.com/robert_stermscheg_author

https://www.facebook.com/RobertStermscheg

A Divergence

The Proposed Cover of my Work in Progress. What do you think of it?

Hello everyone!

You might notice a bit of divergence from the usual fare here on my website blog in the next while. I’ll continue to post the devotionals now and then but will vary that with other posts letting you know what I and some of my writer friends are up to, as well as a few posts that are just random thoughts. I hope you won’t mind.

So … to start this off, I want to let you know about my latest WIP (work in progress). I’ve been having such a good time with this one. It’s a children’s book! Yes, that’s right, I’m sticking my finger in yet another pie!

Merrigold’s Very Best Home is about a little girl who thinks God has put her in the wrong house because her parents make her eat veggies she doesn’t like and take naps when she doesn’t want to. So she goes off to find another home. She visits a puppy but bumps her head going into his house, which is rather smelly. She spots a raven and climbs the tree to get to his house but the sticks poke her when she sits down. She chats with a chicken but her house is full of sawdust that gets into her shoes. She meets a fox but his house is just a dark hole. She steps in something gooey and stinky in the pony’s house and finally she ponders what the pig says in his very muddy pen. “Maybe you should go home to your own house.” Merrigold decides that is a very good idea. Her mommy and daddy welcome her back, give her a nice meal (even the veggies taste good) and a nice warm bath. When Merrigold snuggles into her nice warm bed with her favourite blue teddybear, she thanks God for giving her the very best parents and the very best home in all the world.

So it’s a book about being grateful, with an ending reminiscent of the story of the Prodigal Son. And the illustrations are wonderful! Kyla Wiebe has done an excellent job on the ink drawings (don’t you think so? see some of the ink drawings below. Go to my Instagram profile to see more). I’m anxiously waiting to see them in colour.

As I said, I’ve been having a blast putting this all together, but I am a little nervous too. Producing a children’s book is expensive, mostly due to the illustrations. I think they are worth every penny, but my pennies are limited these days. I’m also going “hybrid” with this one, which means I’ll be paying Siretona Creative Publishing to help me with some of the production (layout etc.) and promotion. So I’m going to be running an Indiegogo fundraising campaign. Picturing Merrigold will launch at the beginning of September. You’ll be hearing more about it in the days ahead.

But for now you can join a discussion group set up there and join in the excitement. Please do! I’d love to get some ‘buzz’ going about Merrigold. I’ll be posting a question every now and then and it would be rather embarrassing if no one responds. 😉 You can also sign up there to receive an email when the campaign goes live. Or, sign up for my newsletter, Home Words so you won’t miss any of the exciting ‘reveals’ as we go along. That link will put your name on the list and take you to a free download of one of my most popular short stories.

I also hope you’ll partner with me by supporting this project through the Indiegogo campaign. I promise I’ll try to make it as much fun as possible. And of course there will be ‘perks’ added to all levels of support. If you aren’t able to help in that way, I totally understand, but would ask that you spread the word about the campaign and pray for me and the team working to make it happen. Above all, pray that the children who hear Merrigold’s story would be blessed.

So – to sum up, here’s what I’m asking you all to do –

1 – Pray for me, the production team, and for the kids who will hear this story.

2 – Join the discussion group and fill in the form on the discussion page to be notified when it goes live.

3.- Keep up with it all by subscribing to my newsletter, Home Words

4 – Participate in the Indiegogo Campaign and spread the word to friends and family.

I’d love to hear what you think about all this, so let me know with a comment or reply by email.

Blessings to you all! Marcia

Here are a few of the ink sketches Kyla has done: