We each have a life story, penned without ink, read by the people around us. Who's writing your story?

Saturday, September 30, 2017

A Reassuring Voice . . .

It seemed the bottom fell out of my soul. 

How could I go on . . . alone?

I, the follower, the glad-I'm-not-in-the-spotlight wife and mom, the one who sought my husband's opinion on, well . . . just about everything. Barry always seemed to know how to think and what to do.

As I trudged uphill on the path called "widowhood," I began to discover God's provision in new ways. While climbing the steep learning curves of insurance, home maintenance, college decisions, and finances, I heard several voices whispering their wisdom to me, voices that, in retrospect, guided me along when I didn't know how to think and what to do.

One of those voices belonged to Shawn Stockdale. Shawn and Kay had been friends for many years. We saw them at church, at school, and at soccer games. Kay and I shared tea and prayer requests. Shawn, Barry, and another friend walked together in the mornings before work.

About twelve years ago, Shawn became our financial advisor. He and my husband met regularly. I came sometimes, more often as time when on. Little did I know then, that this relationship would be a huge gift to me, one that would lessen my stress and give me the direction I needed.

After Barry passed away, I sat in Shawn's office with Barry's words ringing in my ears. "If anything happens to me, Shawn will help you."

And he has.

With a gentle kindness, Shawn assisted me in consolidating our savings and offered a long-term plan for the future. Using the Dunkin' Donuts situated nearby as an illustration, he explained the various pieces of a healthy financial picture and the basics of good stewardship. I took notes, and with every meeting my understanding increased a little more.

I also learned to ask questions. Questions about our resources, about what to do when my Subaru gave out, and about where to buy good snow tires at a reasonable price. I brought in mail with insurance offers, statements I couldn't make heads or tails of, and health insurance options. He and his sensitive, competent staff walked me through each issue, step by step. I've thanked them over and over.

After his fourth open-heart surgery, Shawn passed away this past Wednesday. 

I'm so very sad for Kay and their children and grandchildren. I pray God gives them the strength they need day by day. I'm sad for those whose lives he touched with his smile, kindness, and practical help. I'm sad because it's a loss for me, too.

Even through my tears this week, I'm finding ways to be grateful. I'm reaching out to the One who promises to always be with us. And I've found myself thinking about Shawn and Barry . . . old friends . . . walking the streets of gold . . . without a word about money!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

PENNED WITHOUT INK Celebrates its First Anniversary!

What were you doing a year ago today?

For most, September 26, 2016 seemed like a typical fall day - complete with falling leaves, pumpkins or mums arranged on front porch steps, and early morning school buses rolling by. For me, I awoke to a day long anticipated . . . the release date for Penned Without Ink: Trusting God to Write Your Story. 

I flew down the stairs first thing that morning and checked in with Amazon.  Sure enough, there it was . . . a newborn book, ready to share with the world! 

Then, on November 5th, many of you joined me at Duffy's Coffee House in Northeast PA for my book signing. All these months later, I am still overcome with gratefulness for your prayers and support . . . and by the fact that you wanted to read our story. THANK YOU. Many have come back to thank me for writing  about our journey and to express how much it has encouraged them. 

So, what's been happening since then?
  • I shared my book at several churches, a college class, a ladies' luncheon, a book club, and even went to an elementary school as an "author."
  • I taught a workshop at the Women's LYFE Conference.
  • My quarterly newsletter is up and running. (If you'd like to receive it, click HERE!)
  • Penned Without Ink won two awards: 
    • Bronze/3rd Place Award in the 2017 Feathered Quill Book Awards Program for the Best Inspirational category
    • 2017 Bookvana Awards Finalist in the "Religion: Christian Inspirational" Category
One of the most rewarding experiences took place last fall when a group of women gathered to study God's Word, using Penned as the text. What a privilege for me to lead a small group using my own book! Together, we all learned more about what it means to truly trust God with our life stories.
As I prayed about what to write next, a professor asked if she could use Penned with a reading group on her college campus in NC this semester. Her request gave me the direction I needed to organize and add to my notes from last fall to create a Penned Without Ink Guide for Small Group Leaders, which I completed in time to send to her last month.

On this first anniversary of Penned Without Ink, I want to share my hope and prayer that this Guide for Small Group Leaders will be available in the near future. My goal is to equip facilitators with practical resources to help lead individuals/groups to increase their trust and hope in a faithful God who writes perfect stories. Presently, an editor is reviewing it. I'll keep you posted.

Again, thank you for your support for me and for Penned Without Ink. If our story has blessed  and encouraged you, I hope you'll share it. You can still find it on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats here.

In all our endeavors, it's the people who make all the difference . . . people who have a story that's unique and important . . .

People just like you.  

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Things We Keep

September . . . my favorite month of the year, a new beginning in many ways . . . a new season, a new school year, new routines, new start-up activities in the community, and maybe even a new project or two . . .

I'm ready to settle in. How about you?

This fall my Bible study and writer friends are meeting around my table. Having the accountability is nice for all of us. Then there's a few monthly commitments that will pick up again. All good.

Every month (when I'm focused), in my journal, I write out what I need to do and what I'd like to do and even who I'd like to connect with for that month. For the past couple of years, cleaning things out and simplifying has topped the list. In honor of my late husband, Barry, I touched almost every one of his papers, files, and books. I've found treasures--thoughts covering all kinds of topics--that I've filed so I and the girls can easily access them. I've also given away an odd assortment of things that were important to him . . . but to me? Not so much.

The things we keep or get rid of tell a story.

I recently cleaned out my desk and found something my dad had passed down to me a while ago: the hospital bill from my birth fifty-some years ago! I carefully removed it from the envelope . . . $119.75. To think my parents kept this bill over all these years. From what they've told me, my coming was not exactly in their plan just yet, but I always felt wanted and cherished. A wonderful gift, I know.

Another treasure I came across is the budget Barry and I kept from our first year of marriage in 1979. Barry graduated from college with $40 in his pocket. He drove home and worked for several area farmers until our wedding in July, saving enough to last until his first paycheck as a Social Studies teacher in a Christian school. Our weekly income after taxes and giving turned out to be $133.55. We began a meager savings account at that time and even gave ourselves an "allowance" of  $2 a week! At ages 21 and 23, we enjoyed one of the happiest (and simplest) years of our lives.

Over the past months, I've found quite a few things I want to hang on to. Suffice it to say, the things we keep tell a story . . . a story of God's faithfulness over many years, of His watch-care over a chubby baby girl from Buffalo, and of His provision for a couple of young kids who wanted to serve God together more than anything else in the world.

What have you saved? And, more importantly, what stories do they tell?