Posted in writing

First Class Faith

“Mom! Mom!” I woke up with a start, the sound of the voice still ringing in my ears. The voice had been my own. I’d been calling out to my mother so I could tell her about the envelopes.

What is this? I’d wondered when the first envelope arrived in my mailbox, and then when I opened it, “Why would someone send me a birthday card meant for a Dad?”

What it was, what each subsequent mysterious envelope has been, in essence, is an affirmation of faith.

A couple of weeks ago I posted what I hoped would be taken as a light-hearted, yet well-intended plea for help in my goal to attend a Christian Writer’s conference in November, a plea that also requested prayers for my hopeful endeavor. One of the conference leaders had planted the idea in my head of treating the conference like a mission trip, but initially I hadn’t been completely sold on that notion. Granted, much of my writing is intended to encourage and inspire others, but I still couldn’t see a reason why anyone should help me in my quest for a conference. What would they get out of it? Instead, I believed I could just sell a few things on eBay and help God help me. After all, God helps those who help themselves. I did what I thought my mother would do and got a little creative about making some money towards the conference. I posted some beautiful, artistic magazines on eBay. 175 people “watched” my set of magazines go for a low-ball bid of less than $30. That was disappointing, but I still had a few tricks up my sleeve. I posted some children’s books I’d picked up at book sales. The conference fund slowly worked its way to almost $100, but prestigious conferences replete with big-name editors and agents don’t come cheaply, and $100 was just a drop in the conference budget bucket.

And then there was the motel room.

And the paid critique my friend Mary and I decided we both needed.

The Pro Member supper at the table with those editors.

I reconsidered the idea of the conference as a mission. What was it about the three-day workshop that would lead a conference head to suggest I treat it as a mission trip? Well, it wasn’t just any conference, but a Christian one. Having attended one this
summer, I knew that there was more to a Christian conference than just networking and learning. There was also the spiritual aspect I won’t soon forget.

I have reiterated many times on this blog and to anyone who will listen, how I am a changed person since my mother’s death last November. Oh, the seeds of change were planted with my husband’s cancer experience in 2006, but whatever God had been working on in me cumulated in November of 2010 as I watched my mother die, and in the weeks following her death. Everything she had ever attempted to teach me about faith was brought home to me upon her death, and since then I have grown exponentially, spiritually and creatively. I understand, finally, how one can be a vessel of God.

“You have talent for writing and for speaking,” my father had told me years ago, and he was neither demonstrative nor generous in compliments, so I’ve never forgotten his words. “Use them for good and not evil,” he’d added with a chuckle.

I know now what he meant. The power of words, written or spoken, can go in either direction. They can be used to as arrows to be slung at their target in meanness and spite, or to lift others up, to inspire and encourage.

Sorting through my mother’s books and papers, I came across many references to her ten children and their many talents. How she yearned for each of us to use our God-given talents! I have the same desire for my eight. It is neither money nor fame I wish upon them, but an enjoyment in what they do.

Writing has been a joy for me for over 20 years. More recently, public speaking has been added to my roster of joyful activities. Especially since my mother’s death, I have felt the call to use both my writing and my public speaking to reach others, and when possible, to also glorify our Lord, no small feat in the world of publishing where a bestselling book about putting children to bed has the F-word prominent in the title and shallow celebrities can sell pretty much whatever drivel their publicist decides they should write.

I have been unable to sufficiently explain what has transpired in my life since last November except to say that my mother’s influence on me has extended far beyond her death. Any attempt to explain this falls flat, and frankly, may even sound slightly ridiculous.

You believe your mother left you some of her creativity, along with the numerous notebooks and boxes of holy cards? Uh-huh. Right.

You ask yourself what your mother would do before you do an interview or enter a room full of strangers for a speech? What would Mother do? Just who do you think she was? Jesus?

And you think your mother wants you to go to this writing conference for some reason?

Yeah. Right.

Well, I think your mother wants you to buy a plot of swampland I have for sale.

I finally decided this conference could be like a mission trip for me, since I was feeling led by God (and my mother) to go there. So, I posted something on my blog, asking that anyone who felt led in that direction would either pray or send a dollar or other donation to the cause.

A couple of days later, I felt kind of stupid for having done so, and I removed the post. It felt too much like begging. I was embarrassed I’d actually written it. Maybe no one had noticed, I thought.

Someone noticed. That very day I got the “Happy birthday Dad,” card from a woman whose father had died before she could give it to him. His birthday was the same as mine, and she donated $5 to help get me to the conference. I felt a lump forming in my throat. My eyes filled with tears as I wrote her a thank-you note. I couldn’t believe her generosity and caring. The next day I worked for my sister, where another dear woman had left a $5 bill for me. Then the first envelope with no return address arrived, a pretty
blue envelope with money folded inside a sheet of yellow legal pad paper. It was that envelope that prompted me to call out to my mother in a dream. I so wanted to share with her what was happening. She’d always loved a good inspirational story.

Today a white envelope was in the mailbox, again with bills folded inside a piece of paper. And this morning, Fed-Ex delivered a box of 50+ Barbie dolls to my sister’s consignment store, all the way from a New York friend who wanted me to sell them to help meet the conference fee.

Mom, Mom!” I called out to my mother’s back to get her attention. I woke up before she turned around, the realization that it had only been a dream slowly dawning on me. I will not see my mother’s face again in this world.

Mom, guess what I got in the mail today? I’m going to the writer’s conference!” I imagine the look on my mother’s face when I tell her; the satisfied smile as she lights up a cigarette and takes a swig of the cold coffee in the cup next to her, her head nodding as if to say, “See, I told you so.”

She wouldn’t have been surprised in the least.

Author:

Author, public speaker, and workshop presenter for community colleges, libraries, women's groups and for grief support groups, Hospice and retreats. Reporter for the Manchester Press newspaper and popular public speaker and workshop presenter on the topics of writing and finding hope in grief. "Coupon Crazy: The Science, the Savings, and the Stories Behind America's Extreme Obsession" was published by Familius Publishing in 2014. "Chemo-Therapist: How Cancer Cured a Marriage" and "Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace" were released by Familius in 2014. "Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink," co-written with Mary Jedlicka Humston of Iowa City, was published in September 2015.

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