The Day I Faced My Failure

Photo by Johnson Chou on Unsplash

This time of year makes me a bit jittery. It’s that time when people ask, “Do you garden?” I take that question personally. I guess it’s a hold-over from my Yukon days, but I always have the feeling the person is really asking, “What are you good for, anyway?” The question always makes me squirm because I’m not good at it. I inherited my mother’s black thumb. I’m death to fruits and vegetables.

Not that I haven’t tried. For twelve Yukon summers I dutifully planted rows of cabbage and broccoli, peas and lettuce. I even built a greenhouse and kept a fire burning in it at night to keep a few tomato plants alive. Once I replanted three times when late frost hit, only to have it all wilt  from an early one in August. With a season of twenty-four hour sunlight, the plants that survived grew furiously. So did the weeds. A neighbour once drove by, honked and called out – “tendin’ the weed bed, are ye?”

I wanted to give up, but at the end of each summer, I harvested what had managed to survive. I was thankful there was a grocery store in town. We surely would have starved if we’d had to live on what I could grow.

When we moved to Alberta, I anticipated the “game” would go on, but was delighted that there were so many grocery stores to choose from. When spring arrived, I dutifully got out my spade and tested the ground in the back yard. But, oh, woe is me, it was full of roots! The large old cottonwood in the corner of the yard had spread its thick underground fibers far and wide. My husband took a turn at the spade but could find not a single spot suitable to till. Such a pity.  

Having an excuse eased the guilt, but I feared my failure was apparent to the world. When friends asked if I wanted their harvested leftovers I always said yes, with thanks, but had that nagging suspicion they were pitying me. I knew I was a failure. So did they.

Then one day, a friend asked if I’d like some potatoes. Seems she’d planted way too many and they all grew wonderfully (of course!). My family and I spent a morning digging up her potato patch. It was one of those special times – a glorious morning with the smell of earth freshened by rain and the delight of children’s voices in the crisp air. But the most wonderful part was the look on my friend’s face as we loaded the boxes of food into our vehicle.

“I just love being able to do this,” she said. “Thanks for coming out.”

The power of her words hung in the air around me for days as a simple truth sank in. There were things I loved doing that could be a blessing to others. I don’t have to be good at everything. It’s okay to be a failure at gardening. It’s not my gift.

1Peter 4:10 says – “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” My friend did a great job of that the day she invited us to her potato patch. On that day I started admiring the work of people with green thumbs, without feeling guilty. They have that gift. I have others.

Do you know yours?

Other places to read my work:

On find me at and and a few other publications along the way.

And on InScribe Writers Online

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In The Midst of His Agony

Photo by Hennie Stander on Unsplash

“When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” John 19:26

When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2011, the thing that crushed me most was having to tell my children. Knowing they would grieve with me was almost more than I could bear. I wanted to spare them the pain I knew they would suffer. But I was helpless to prevent it.

I suspect it was the same for Jesus, as he suffered the agony of the cross, watching those he loved in anguish below him. Especially his mother.

But he did what he could. He appointed one he knew he could trust to protect and care for her. No doubt he was thinking not just of his mother, but of his friend, John, as well. he knew this “disciple whom he loved” would be blessed in the caring for his mother.

In a way, Jesus’ words might be surprising. Perhaps we would expect him to say something like, “Put your trust in God and you’ll be fine.” Or “Why are you weeping? Where is your faith?”

But Jesus is compassionate. What a beautiful testimony to the character of our Saviour, that even in his agony, he was other-centred.

And he was practical. There’s an old Irish saying – ‘Trust in God but don’t dance in a small boat.’ Jesus knew the world in which he was leaving his mother, a world that was not often kind to women not protected and cared for by a husband or son. So he did what he could to ensure her well-being.

It brings to mind the words written by James, the most practical of the apostles – “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15,16).

Jesus is, as always, the example for us to follow, even in this. We too are to give practical aid where and when we can, with compassion and love, as Christ did, no matter our own circumstances. We too are to be other-centred, for when we do, we exhibit the true nature of Jesus and when that is revealed the world stands in awe. God is glorified.

I saw a beautiful example of this some time ago, at a Christian writers’ conference. I’d been suffering with what is called, ‘frozen shoulder,’ an extremely painful condition, but I had agreed to teach at the conference and felt I could not back out of that commitment. A woman I barely knew approached me just before my workshop began. “You’re in pain, aren’t you?” I was surprised, since I hadn’t told anyone about my condition. I asked her how she knew. She smiled. “I’m quite familiar with pain. I can tell by the way you’re moving. Just wanted to let you know I’m praying for you.” Then she walked away. It wasn’t until later that I learned that woman had a medical condition that gave her pain so severe she was required to wear a morphine patch to manage it.

That left me in awe, that someone, in such agony herself, would recognize my pain and petition the Lord on my behalf. She exhibited the compassion of Christ. God was glorified through her, and I’ve never forgotten it.

(RIP, Lizzy!)

Taking Time for a Pilgrimage

Have you ever been on a pilgrimage? defines it as “a journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion.”

The closest I’ve come to going on a pilgrimage was the trip my husband and I took to Israel some years ago. It was a time of soaking up the word of God while being in the very places where the events of the Bible happened. It was a stirring time during which I experienced several moments of ‘epiphany’ and insight.

I remember one day in particular. I was alone, having had to stay behind with an elderly woman in our group who had taken a bad fall. While she rested in her room, I took a walk along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and stopped for a while to read my Bible. I landed on the calling of James and John in Matthew 4. When I finished and looked up, the sun was pouring through the clouds, striking the lake with a glorious stream of light and I was struck by the sudden realization that the very words I’d been reading had occurred in that place. And the words took on a deeper meaning, a more clear reality.

Going on a pilgrimage is a very old concept, one that began centuries ago. Some trace it back as far as Abraham, who was charged by God to leave his home and travel to a far country. It is believed Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land began as early as the 4th century A.D.

True pilgrimage is not just about travelling to a far-away place. I like what Brian Morykon, Director of Communications at the Renovaré Institute, said about it. “It’s a journey undertaken with a humble heart and with an openness to be transformed. The pilgrim isn’t trying to get somewhere as fast as possible. She wants to become someone along the way. She’s willing to linger, to reflect, to slow down.”

That is exactly what I hoped for those who would read Abundant Rain, my collection of devotionals for writers of faith. I chose Deuteronomy 32:2 as the theme of the book: “Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.” It has become my prayer for all my work, and I hoped it would be so for readers of Abundant Rain, that their writing would flow out to their readers with refreshment and enlightenment that would cause many epiphanies.

Although a pilgrimage is and should be a deeply individual thing, it is usually undertaken with others, and for good reason. The Christian walk is not a solitary affair. It is meant to occur in community.

After a time of prayer one day, I began to ponder the idea that writing is not done in isolation either, as many might suggest. Writing is a communal effort toward wholeness, both for the writer and all those who assist her, and for the reader as she takes in the words and then puts hands and feet to them in the world around her. So I launched the first Abundant Rain Pilgrimage, that I might share in a pilgrimage of words that bring epiphanies, with others.

That first group was small but mighty, committed to the process and the goal of “becoming someone along the way,” someone refreshed and rejuvenated by drawing closer to Christ.

I’m excited to launch a second pilgrimage in the days ahead, using Volume 2 of Abundant Rain as the catalyst.

As often happens, God has encouraged me along the way. I opened my email the other day to find a message from Malcolm Guite who has written a wonderful book called Word in the Wilderness, which “introduces poems about pilgrimage itself and our life as pilgrimage.”

I leave you with a few words from the poems Malcolm chose –

“At length I go unto the gladsome hill,
Where lay my hope,
Where lay my heart;”

(The Pilgrimage by George Herbert)

“And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage
… My soul will be a-dry before;
But after, it will thirst no more.”

(The Passionate Man’s Pilgrimage by Walter Raleigh)

And some words from Malcolm’s poem, First Steps, Brancaster:

“This is the day to leave the dark behind you
Take the adventure, step beyond the hearth
Shake off at last the shackles that confined you,
and find the courage for the forward path.”

And finally, scripture:

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.”

(Psalm 84:5)

Home: Is It Where Your Heart Is?

A while ago our neighbourhood was turned into a beautiful winter wonderland. The temperature had dropped suddenly and for a while we were shrouded in thick fog. When that cleared, the sun came out and everything sparkled as though it had been painted with a fairy’s brush. The thick frost was dazzling. As I walked Livy that day I remember thinking,

What could be more beautiful?

I love where we live. It’s a quiet neighbourhood full of large trees, crisscrossed with walking paths dotted with boxes of doggie bags at strategic places. On a calm night we can hear the gurgling of the river behind us and the lights from the small town aren’t enough to block out the stars. Deer often wander up from the nearby woods and now and then a moose will jog down the street. I often fall asleep to the sound of coyotes yipping at the moon. Yes, I love it here.

But it’s not where my heart belongs.

My heart belongs in a faraway place that I’ve never seen, a place that, unlike our current home, can never be corrupted or destroyed. Matthew 6:19 & 20 says – “do not lay up for yourselves treasured on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (ESV)

I thank the Lord every day for giving us such a beautiful place to live, but my true home is where my Saviour is, where my Heavenly Father lives. Remembering that truth keeps me from grasping for the eathly things that will fade away, rather than focusing on those things which are eternal.

Home. Is it where your heart is?


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.


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!

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.