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Photo credit: Vjeran

Photo credit: Vjeran

Crazy. November was crazy. Many of you know that on November 1st, I set out to write an entire novel in one month. There were days that I felt like giving up, days that I was sure I couldn’t go on. But I kept on writing until the ache in my shoulders was a constant reminder of the task ahead of me.

I reached my goal and crossed the figurative finish line.

I was exhilarated and exhausted. I can’t describe how weary I was at the end of that month. I’d deprived myself of too much sleep, fresh air, and exercise. I’d tried to juggle running my home and homeschooling my six kids with writing for hours every day. It was just one month, though. I survived, and I’m grateful for what I was able to accomplish.

In the mist of it all, I discovered who my audience is–who I’m writing for. It’s women who love birth.

And this is where the pieces of my life fit together. I’d been working towards becoming a certified birth doula. I had taken courses, attended a birth, and read everything on birth I could get my hands on. But I thought I might have to give it all up, because I was also working really hard at becoming an author. I didn’t know if it made sense to try and do both. These two pieces of my life go together beautifully, though, now that I know my novels will center around doulas and midwives and women giving birth.

Yay!

I just added a new page on my website that gives some specifics on the doula work I’ll be doing. You can check out Cherishing the Moment Doula Services here.

I’ll be starting the long process of editing and rewriting my novel in January. My goal is to have it ready to submit to an agent at the end of 2015. And maybe one day–not too far in the future–you’ll see my labour of love in print.

Blessings! <3 Rachel

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Photo credit: thesaint

Perhaps November should be called national blog neglecting month. Has it really been three weeks since my last post?

At the end of last month, I told you that I was taking part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where hundreds of thousands of writers set out to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November.

I’ve been writing like a maniac, often waking up at 5:00 in the morning in order to write for three hours straight before my kids get up. I take my computer with me to the church where my children take band lessons, cloister myself in the church nursery, and type away. Any chance I get, I’m writing.

I am eyeball deep in my manuscript with 45,000 words locked in the hard drive of my computer. (Yes, I did back it up!) My characters delight and horrify me by their decisions, and sometimes I can’t sleep while the story plays out in my mind. I’ve kept the goal before me: I will win NaNoWriMo this year!

But then some doubt entered my mind this week. What if I can’t reach 50,000 words before the 30th? What if I don’t finish my novel before the end of the month? There are so many responsibilities with homeschooling and raising a family. There are baby showers to attend and friends and family to connect with by email, phone, or in person. There are important things to do that don’t just go away because I have a goal.

I realized that it’s okay if I don’t win NaNoWriMo this year. I’m going to keep working on it. It’s still my goal, but even if I don’t “win” I still wrote almost a whole novel in one month.

Goals are important. Without a goal, I couldn’t have made it this far in my book. And like a friend reminded me this week: if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time. But a goal is just that—something to aim at. It shouldn’t cause anxiety, guilt or disappointment.

The lesson God wanted to teach me this week is that time spent with the people I love is never wasted. Never.

 

There are few things more miserable than going to help a friend and then making things worse. And if there’s anyone who’s going to make that mistake, it’s going to be me. {Sigh.}

My misfortune happened at a work bee. I love work bees. The social gathering that’s more than just a gathering; we get to accomplish something together. I was there to help my friend move out of her trailer and get the trailer ready for her in-laws. We were cleaning and organizing and visiting and drinking tea. Is there a better way to spend a day?

“I’ve got a job for you, Rachel,” said Barb. “You can transfer my kids’ measurements from the wall to this height board. You like a challenge.” It’s true—I love a challenge, but my penmanship is sloppy and I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be neat enough.

I used a ruler to keep my lines straight, and carefully transferred each mark. It didn’t take long to finish, and it didn’t look too bad.

Barb’s mom cocked her head to the side and examined the board. “I didn’t know the kids were that tall.”

A tingle climbed the back of my neck. Something was definitely wrong. The heights were all a foot out!

The ladies assured me that the foot-markings could be changed, but they were big and written in permanent ink. No matter what, it was going to be a mess. I didn’t want them to groan every time they looked at the board for the next several decades and think of me.

I wracked my brain for a solution, but it was Barb’s mom that came up with the idea of flipping the board and redoing it on the back. I was just grateful for a solution.

I snuck the board home and spent that evening redrawing the lines and numbers and then measuring and copying the heights from the other side. I prayed for Barb while I traced the numbers and marked off each line. I prayed for her pregnancy and the house they are building, and then I prayed for each child as I copied their names onto the wood.

God knows that I needed that lovely, relaxing evening of prayer and meditation. I needed to slow down and be thankful for good friends and to remember that sometimes even mistakes pave the way to peace and prayer.

 

 

 

 

 

50,000 Words

Cover 2

November is only two days away. Yes, I’ve been counting down the days. November is NaNoWriMo–or National Novel Writing Month. My goal, along with hundreds of thousands of others, is to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. Crazy? Yes. Exhilarating? Absolutely!

I took part in NaNoWriMo 2013 and wrote the rough draft of my novel Letting You Go. Okay, so I didn’t actually “win” because I only wrote 34,000 words during November. But, really, I did win because I came away with a story that I’m happy with–that I never would have written if I hadn’t challenged myself to do something crazy.

So here’s a little peek into Letting You Go. I need to do a lot of work on this book before it’s ready to submit to an agent or publisher, but I’m on a journey and loving it!

Blessings! <3 Rachel

 

Letting you Go–Overview:

Lillian leads a perfect life as a homeschooling mother to her three sons. Her life is shattered, though, when her husband David and their sons are killed in a mysterious accident. Lillian refuses to believe the evidence of David’s shadowy other life until she discovers a hidden fortune and an illicit affair.  She spirals into despair until she finds healing in the fostering of tiny, drug-addicted babies Sophie and Timmy, but her wounds are opened again when Timmy is incomprehensibly ripped from their family. Hurting for Sophie and in agony over her own loss, Lillian must learn to forgive, and to love the birthmother who seeks to reclaim Sophie.

 

Credit: Maiden

Credit: Maiden

Here’s another guest post from my dear friend Miriam. Enjoy!

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When I went to Haiti on a Missions Trip with our church in the Spring of 2013, our group had the privilege of attending Haitian church on Sunday. We couldn’t understand the sermon, so we just read our Bibles, and soaked in the delightful atmosphere of exuberant and heart-felt worship. (People of African descent have just the most incredible singing-voices – I think!)

One of the passages I happened upon at this time was Mark 14, where Jesus is reclining at the table of Simon the Leper, and the woman comes and anoints His feet with a very costly perfume.

While some of those present are indignant about the waste, and even rebuke the woman harshly, Jesus rises to her defence. And of His defence, the words that struck me most were, “She did what she could.” I thought, you know, that’s all any of us can do – be willing and available and ready to just simply “do what we can” wherever we are, whatever opportunity God places in our paths.

Maybe we can’t do something as well as John or Mary over there, maybe we haven’t been called to go overseas and minister to people in other countries, but we can all contribute somehow, in some way, with what God has gifted us – and if we all faithfully do our part of doing what we can, we will be used of God wherever we are, even – or perhaps I should say in many cases, especially? – right here at home.

“Use what talents you possess. The woods would be silent if only those birds sang who sang best.” – Henry Ward Beecher

Credit: Kids Math

Credit: Kids Math

I couldn’t get away from school fast enough. My stomach tightened, and I pressed the palm of my hand against the anxiety that balled up in my chest. I’d just barely passed the math test last week, and today’s lesson left me bewildered. Walking down the road towards the restaurant where my mom waitressed, I hoped it wasn’t busy.

Mom set down a Coke with ice and I took a long sip through the straw. “I’ve never really liked math, but I always understood it—until now. I’m scared, Mom.”

“Why don’t you ask Grandpa for help? He’s always been good with numbers,” Mom said as she filled the coffee pot.

Just having a plan made me feel a little better. The corners of my Grandpa’s eyes crinkled with pleasure when I asked him to help me with my math. I pulled up a chair to his recliner and placed my grade 7 math book on a rickety little table between us.

For an hour he reviewed the concepts with me that I’d failed to grasp and made sense of the problems that had left me feeling ill. More importantly, though, he showed me math could be fun like doing a puzzle or discovering the answer to a riddle.

I didn’t learn to love math all at once, but I did come to appreciate it. I became fascinated with geometry, and Pythagoras’ theorem stayed locked inside my mind ever since. The number Pi intrigued me—the key that unlocks circles, cylinders, and spheres. It’s perfect and yet irrational.

I often hear students and parents bemoan that they will never use the math they are learning, but take a moment and think of how dreary our lives would be if we limited our education to what we thought we would use every day. Why bother going to school beyond grade 3? Do we really need to know how to write a poem or how many planets circle the sun? Do we need to know who Alexander the Great was or Isaac Newton? Most of us don’t use this information in our day-to-day lives, but undoubtedly it enriches us. So does math.

Owning math concepts—not just knowing them enough to pass a test—is what makes them useful. I’m not sure in what grade I learned cross multiplication, but I’ve used it countless times since for reducing a recipe or comparing the prices of similar products. I’ve used Pythagoras’ theorem to determine how long the rafters should be when we were building our house. And just like a magnificent waterfall can give us a glimpse into the nature and beauty of God, math can reveal a little of God too—his perfection and infiniteness.

Just spending one hour with someone who loved math showed me math could be useful, fun, and beautiful. I challenge you to be that for your children, the person who sparks in them a passion for learning—even learning math.

Echo Lake

Echo Lake

We all have them, those little quirks that make us unique. Some of my “quirkiness” rose to the surface last weekend, and I’m still shaking my head.

I’d been looking forward to the weekend all year. It was the homeschool mom’s retreat at Echo Lake. It’s one weekend a year to spend time with a group of women with similar goals. Invigorating. So much so, in fact, that I couldn’t sleep.

When I’m nervous or shy, I get very animated—obnoxious really. Friday night, we stayed up late talking. One lady read a story about a woman’s experience with bikini waxing. I laughed until tears ran down my face. I made those horrible cackling noises that I make when I’ve lost all control. But I didn’t care. I was having a blast.

We all said goodnight and headed to bed, but I was buzzing like I’d slammed two pots of coffee. I read for two hours before I even tried to get to sleep, and then I laid in bed and turned over every 20 minutes for the rest of the night. I might have slept as much as two hours. Maybe.

It’s embarrassing to admit that you are so excited you can’t sleep all night. Am I twelve? Quirk number one.

I didn’t want to miss a thing, so I got up to run with a lady at 7:00. (I only begged her to walk once. It was a big hill. Honest.) Then I went for a power walk at 10:00. (There is no way I could keep up with some of those ladies. I’m blaming it on my short, little legs.) Then we went for a lovely canoe ride in the afternoon.

I was sore for days. It was a good thing I was so active, though, because we ate amazing food and lots of it. (Thanks, Rebecca!)

I crashed pretty hard in the afternoon. I even went down to my room and laid down for half an hour, but I kept thinking, “What if I miss something fun?” So that didn’t last very long.

That evening we watched a movie and painted ceramic mugs. On my mug, I painted all of my children (as stick people) doing the things that they love. Yes, I was loving every moment of my mom’s retreat, but I was missing my family too.

That evening we stayed up late talking again. One has to soak up these moments, you know. It was after everyone else had gone to bed that I realized I didn’t know where I was sleeping. We’d shuffled the sleeping arrangements to make room for two more ladies. I’d been moved, but I forgot to ask where. Sleeping on the couch seemed like a better option than shining a flash light in people’s eyes and asking if they knew where an empty bed was.

I tried to sleep. Really I did. But I had this unpleasant realization that I’d told my family I’d have my phone with me all the time, and if they needed me they could call. The problem was my phone had died a few hours earlier.

Quirk number two: I’m neurotic about keeping my word to my kids. I act irrational and freak out if situations prevent me from fulfilling a commitment to them.

I gave up trying to sleep. As long as my phone was dead, I’d be worrying about someone being injured and having to go to the hospital while I was out of reach. I padded up and down stairs looking for a cord I could borrow. I went to my van twice—barefoot (couldn’t find my shoes) until I could successfully charge my phone.

By the time I headed back to bed (actually couch) It was 3:00 am. The floor dipped under me like a boat deck. I was dizzy with exhaustion, but I didn’t feel tired. Bad sign. I got about two hours of sleep again.

The next morning, I tried to write a cheque, but it took me a full minute to remember what month it was. I thought it was finished, but I realized I hadn’t written in an amount. It’s not a great idea to hand out blank cheques.

I did question whether I was in a state to drive, but after a couple of cups of coffee I felt more coherent. I said good-bye, prayed for God’s protection, and headed home. The only weird thing I did was stop for the mail. (It was Sunday.)

It took me all week to recover. I do know that it’s pretty ridiculous to go away for a retreat—which should refresh—and come back home too exhausted to function. I’m telling myself that it’s better to know your neurosis than to have these issues and not know about them. Everyone has quirks, right?

Have an awesome weekend!

 

 

 

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