Called to Be Creative, contest, Debbie Macomber, giveaway, writing

Happy Blog Birthday! A Gift for You~

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I began this blog eleven years ago, in June 2009. I was 49 years old. Four of my eight children still lived at home. The youngest would turn six that summer and my oldest had yet to turn 30. My husband David had survived cancer and our marriage was the best it had ever been. Determined to write another book before I turned 50, and spurred on by a supportive spouse, I’d made the decision to chronicle the history of couponing and refunding, a topic I had lived and breathed since 1979. Aware of the importance of a “platform,” I  began blogging. The original title of this blog was “Mary Potter Kenyon: A Housewife Writer Dishes on Writing.” That somewhat old-fashioned, probably politically-incorrect housewife moniker was abandoned a few years later. A month after my initial blog posting, on July 4, 2009, encouraged by my husband to “begin already,” I spent a good ten hours at my kitchen table, frantically writing while drinking copious amounts of coffee. I completed an outline and what would become the first two chapters of  Coupon Crazy: The Science, the Savings, and the Stories Behind America’s Extreme Obsession

Three years later, failing to have sold the completed book, I would lose the man who inspired it. Three days after coming home from the hospital following a heart stent surgery, David died sometime during the night.

Signing a contract seven months after his death, the book that had been his idea in the first place appeared in our local Barnes & Noble window in the summer of 2013. Which just goes to show you; dreams can come true, but not always in the way or the timing we’d choose. Still numb with grief, I was devoid of emotion when I first spotted the display, valiantly attempting to feel what I was supposed to be feeling as an author whose book had just been released.

barnes and noble

Occasionally, I succeeded. I am reminded of this when I see photos of me taken at various book-related events; when my smile is genuine and reaches the eyes.

I signed five more book contracts in the ensuing six years. Coupon Crazy had been my husband’s idea. Chemo-Therapist: How Cancer Cured a Marriage was our love story; a marriage revitalized by caregiving through cancer. Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace chronicled the losses of mother (2010), husband (2012), and grandson (2013) in the space of three years. It was just as much a story of faith as it was of grief. Neither of those books would have been written without my relationship with David, or the loss of him.

Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink, co-written with my long-time friend Mary Jedlicka Humston, was a turning point for me as an author. The subject matter, female friendship, while not directly related to grieving, still included details of how our friendship dramatically changed following my husband’s death.

At times I felt like I was a spectator, watching her enjoy what I had not been able to with the release of each of my previous books; books that would not have existed without David. It felt like both a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because, as a co-author, I could vicariously enjoy what I had missed. A curse, because what I’d lost became all the more obvious, the loneliness heightened as I observed what it was to share one’s success with a spouse. When her husband Jim graciously brought flowers to both of us at a reading, I had to turn my face away lest he see the tears that were not his doing.

Expressive Writing for Healing: Journal Your Way From Grief to Hope, was a perfect companion to the expressive writing for healing workshops I began doing five years ago. While it’s debut in April 2018 fell through the cracks of my increasingly busy life (I was working on another book, looking for a new job and about to face a big move), I can honestly say it was the first book released since 2011 that I’ve experienced no residual sadness upon it’s release, which is interesting, considering the topic was, once again, grief-related.

So we come, full-circle, some eleven years after this aspiring book author’s feeble attempt to build a platform. A sixth book to be released since that day in 2009 when I began blogging. A book that began as a file folder labeled “Creativity” in early 2011, has come to fruition nine years later. And while grief does make a cameo appearance,  (creativity is proven to be a healing tool), I feel nothing but excitement for the book that #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber endorsed this way: “I devoured this book. Each chapter is filled with encouragement and inspiration. If you’re looking for something to feed your creative soul, this is it.”

FM - Called to Be Creative - Cover_r3 (1)

Called to Be Creative is for anyone looking to reignite that tiny spark inside of them and invite creativity into their lives through simple, everyday practices. A certified grief counselor and a Program Coordinator for Shalom Spirituality Center, Mary Potter Kenyon walks you step by step through the process of exploring your true potential in this inspirational guide to embracing your innate creativity. With in-depth research from the most notable creative authorities, insight from creative pioneers, her personal experiences, and small activities to kick-start your own creative revolution, Kenyon offers you everything you need to live a more creative life.

This book feels every bit the celebration my blog anniversary deserves. And there are two ways my blog readers can join in on the celebration. One way is to enter a drawing for a free signed advance copy of Called to Be Creative. To enter, simply comment beneath this blog post. One winner will be drawn on July 28

The other way is to enter a Goodreads giveaway for a copy. You can actually do both, to up your odds of winning.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Called to Be Creative by Mary Potter Kenyon

Called to Be Creative

by Mary Potter Kenyon

Giveaway ends July 20, 2020.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

Bible verses, faith

The Word

“I haven’t chosen my word for the year yet,” I lamented to the group of women who attended my Women’s Christmas program Sunday night. I began the practice of choosing a word for the year after reading Debbie Macomber’s One Perfect Word in 2011. In the book, Macomber discusses how concentrating on a single word has become a tool for God to work in her life, and in the lives of others.

one word“I know what my word means, but I don’t know what word encompasses the meaning,” I continued. “I want to learn how to just live in the moment this year, to just be, but I don’t want the word BE. It has to mean relax, revel, appreciate…” My voice trailed off. Most of these women were strangers. They couldn’t know how impatient I was, how I struggled to entrust the daily workings of my life to God.

A woman who was sitting nearby smiled broadly. “I know the word. It’s mine for this year. I learned it in Bible study this week. It means to relax, to reflect, to love, to listen. It’s used over seventy times in the Psalms.”

I could barely contain my excitement. I loved reading the Psalms.

“What is it?”

“Selah. The word is Selah.”

I’d never heard it. How could I not be familiar with what sounded like the perfect word for my year?

Turns out, the NIV version I use doesn’t include the word in the text, but as a footnote. Nor do Bible scholars agree on the Hebrew word’s meaning. Some say the implied meaning is a simple musical “rest” or pause. More scholars tend to go with the term meaning “pause and reflect.” And that’s exactly how my Everyday Life Bible, Amplified Version, with notes and commentary by Joyce Meyer includes it.

Psalm 32:7 You are a hiding place for me; You, Lord, preserve me from trouble, You surround me with songs and shouts of deliverance. Selah (pause, and calmly think of that)!

A third interpretation would include both the others, and claims the meaning is “lift up, exalt, and magnify” The Lord.

Pause. Reflect. Rest. Lift up, and exalt The Lord. This year, I want to pause and reflect before I speak, write, or schedule programs and events outside of work. I want to rest in the Lord, allow him to guide me in all my endeavors. I also want to include restful activities; quiet mornings alone, nature, shared moments with the people I love. I want to lift others up. And I most definitely want to exalt and magnify the Lord in everything I do.

selah

Selah. I found my word for 2019.

faith, grief, hope

I CHOOSE HOPE

Last year, it was patience; the word I chose to concentrate on for an entire year, following the advice of author Debbie Macomber in her book, One Perfect Word.  I chose the word “patience” on February 27, 2012, exactly one month before I would lose my husband. The word seemed a perfect choice at the time, considering I was very impatiently waiting to hear from a literary agent who was reviewing my book proposal. For a non-writer, David was incredibly savvy in the ways of the publishing world, and he’d learned how to diffuse the tension inherent in a lifestyle of submission and rejection. I counted on him to “talk me down” when I was particularly anxious.

I taped the word to my desk, where it remains today.

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The word hardly seemed to fit after David’s death; how could patience help me now?

“Why do you always have to be in such a hurry?” David would often ask me, yearning for his wife to be able to take things at a slower pace, enjoy them more; not worry so much.

When I lost David, I wanted nothing more than to hurry through the process of grief, to get through to the other side. The initial pain cut through me like a knife and I didn’t think I could endure it for long. Ironically, the very person I wanted to talk to about the overwhelming process of grief was the very one I grieved. I could not escape the pain. I had nowhere to turn except towards the ONE who had gifted me with David in the first place. Through the loss of David, I developed a closer relationship with God. For that, I will always be grateful.

One of the first books I picked up after David’s death was Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage. In it, author Madeleine L’Engle wrote these words that warned me of what was to come;

“But grief still has to be worked through. It is like walking through water. Sometimes there are little waves lapping about my feet. Sometimes there is an enormous breaker that knocks me down. Sometimes there is a sudden and fierce squall. But I know that many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.” (page 229)

It would not be possible to “hurry” through grief. Unexpectedly, I had to learn patience as I’ve slogged through the floods of grief. I cannot rush grieving, nor can I avoid it. As others have said more eloquently than me, one cannot go over, around or under grief; we have to go through it.

As I look back on 2012, I can see how patience worked in my life. When I signed with an agent in May, I dropped all worry and anxiety about my book in his more than capable lap. For four solid months, I did not worry about a book that had originally been my spouse’s inspiration and idea. I was free to grieve. By the time the responsibility of the book’s sale was returned to me in late September, I’d been to the bottom, emotionally. I’d lost my spouse, my best friend, my partner in life. Losing an agent hardly seemed to matter, in the scheme of things. Besides, in the ensuing four months, I’d been learning a very valuable lesson; I was learning to let God lead me in my life. If that agent wasn’t meant to be mine, then God surely had better plans for me and my book. If nothing else, I’d obtained four worry-free months from the relationship. I amazed myself, and  my long-time friend Mary, with my lack of worry or anxiety over the latest development in a two-year publishing journey with my book. My reaction would have pleased the dear husband who’d so often felt powerless over my anxiety. Within two weeks of the break-up with an agent, I’d signed a book contract. My long-awaited book, Coupon Crazy, will be released in August.

Patience worked well for me in 2012.

January has been a difficult month. While I’d meant to choose a word to concentrate on for the coming year, my grandson’s cancer recurrence and a virulent bout of Influenza A in our house kind of sideswiped me completely. January 2013 will forever remain a big blur in my mind, a month that I accomplished very little in the way of writing, platform building, or anything else, for that matter. Other than a well-dressed trip to Mayo, I’ve pretty much spent the entire month in yoga pants and a sweatshirt, aimlessly wandering from couch to table, and making half-hearted attempts at organizing photos for a scrapbook, cleaning out files, and sorting through piles of papers; the sort of thing one does in the middle of winter in Iowa when one has nothing on their schedule.  With all the time in the world, I still hadn’t managed to choose a word for the year.

But then, the word chose me.

I did not feel well enough for much reading this month, but as I’d mentioned in an earlier blog posting, I had sloughed through A Widow’s Story, a decision I regretted even as I continued reading. I was incensed by the lack of hope in the true account of grieving. My anger was provoked again by the doctors at the University of Iowa when they left my daughter and son-in-law with no hope for their seven-year-old son, my grandson, Jacob.  Grief, I can handle. I have grown accustomed to grief; it has been my constant companion for the past ten months. But lack of hope? There is nothing darker, more oppressing, than despair.

There are many words I could have chosen for this year that I will face the one-year anniversary of my husband’s death; strength, stoicism, even sorrow.  For as the March date approaches, I do feel a looming sense of sadness and yes, dread. The woman who so impatiently wished to complete that first year of mourning, now dreads the milestone. I will not be alone; there are friends and family to call on if I need reinforcements. Besides the first anniversary of my husband’s death, I must continue to face the unknown of my grandson’s cancer this year. There are words I could choose in regards to that, as well, including the seemingly appropriate “FEAR.”

But, instead, having learned far more than just patience this past year, I am choosing a word that embodies my new relationship with Jesus Christ.

The word for the coming year should have been obvious after I read A Widow’s Story. Our experience with the new doctor at Mayo clinic and her choice of words; “miracle,” and “hope,” could have reinforced my choice. Then this gift from my sister Pat would have validated it;

hope 006

But it was yesterday, after a big snowstorm here in Iowa and a fun moment spent outside with my sixteen-year-old where we lay in the snow making snow angels, that I passed this sign I’d hung on my porch last summer, and I knew, without a doubt, what my word for 2013 would be.

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The word is HOPE.

I choose HOPE.

Psalm 62:5 (NIV)

Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
    my hope comes from him.

What about you? Do you choose a word each year? What word would you choose for 2013?