All Creatures, Praise God!

doxology crossThese days I have been singing “The Doxology” as I wash my hands.

I understand others may be singing “Happy Birthday” as they follow the current guidelines for cleanliness. However,  I prefer “Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow,” the common doxology. I have been singing this song every week of my life for as long as I can remember. My family sometimes also sings it as a blessing before meals.

Doing this several times a day now is an awesome way to praise God!

I have also taken the time in the last few weeks to become more in tune with nature. On my daily walks I have heard the birds sing more loudly than ever. I have seen rocks and roots and roses that I never seemed to have noticed before. This unusual spring is allowing us all the opportunity to realign our focus.

This Easter we may not be able to raise our voices in praise as a congregation, but we can praise the risen Lord. As “The Doxology” instructs, we can show appreciation for our blessings. From a distance of six feet apart, all of us creatures on earth can praise His name wherever we are.

jillromanlordbook

Like all the characters in Jill Roman Lord’s board book The Quiet Crazy Easter Day, every duck, every butterfly, every fish, every frog joins in to praise the King of Kings and celebrate His resurrection. The disciples shout while the peacock shows out! Locusts provide percussion as all God’s creatures join together in song.

peacock easter book image

In her interview on The Bible for Kids podcast, Jill Roman Lord describes her inspiration for this Easter celebration story. Based on several passages in Psalms, this book encourages young children to pray and praise and celebrate Christ. (You can listen to her full interview at https://waynation.com/podcast/jill-roman-lord-the-quiet-crazy-easter-day/.)

Another author celebrates the resurrection of life in a more symbolic way. In the story of “Gareth and Lynette,” one of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, a young man takes on a pilgrimage (much like John Bunyan’s famous Christian) to prove himself worthy of becoming a knight. The road he travels is narrow and difficult. However, when he finally faces the “Death” knight, he discovers new life.

Arthur and Christ

At the end of Gareth’s journey, Tennyson says, (like the characters in The Quiet Crazy Easter Day),  “Everyone, with dance and revel and song, made merry over Death.”

And then the sun rose! AND THE SON ROSE!

This April let’s celebrate spring and this special Easter season with a renewed sense of hope. Let us go out in joy and be led forth in peace. With the mountains and the hills, let us burst into song. With the trees of the field, let us clap our hands (from Isaiah 55:12).

Alone or together we can give God the glory!

Let “The Doxology” be your song of the day, and take a moment to quietly reflect upon your blessings as you listen to this instrumental version.

“All creatures of our God and King, lift up your voice with us and sing, Alleluia, Alleluia.” –St. Francis of Assisi

1 Peter 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:9; Psalm 66:4

Homeschooling Help

comma poster

Blanche DuBois, a character in Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire, is most famous for her line, “All my life I have depended upon the kindness of strangers.”

Yes, the worst of times can often bring out the best in humanity.

During this time of isolation, I would like to share some kindness in the form of comma exercises for those of you who may be struggling with homeschooling your kids. When a friend asked me for help with her son’s essay, I decided that others might need some help as well.

Aesop

Below you will find printable PDF files for comma rules and comma worksheets for elementary, middle school, and high school students.

Since the comma is the most misused mark of punctuation, I think students should know why they are used. According to Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition, the last and most important rule, not to use unnecessary commas, requires knowledge of why they are necessary.

In the file labeled “Comma Rules,” you will find fifteen rules with examples. For the parent who hasn’t studied grammar in perhaps fifteen to twenty years, I have also included explanations of terms such as participial phrases, adverb clauses, etc.

Comma Rules

In addition to the rules, you will find a worksheet for three different grade levels.

In the My Weird School worksheet, your elementary child can identify comma uses while learning more about Dan Gutman and his awesome books. I have also provided an answer key if you need help. My nieces and nephew love A.J. and his weird school antics!

Elementary pdf Comma Exercises

Elementary pdf Comma Exercises answer key

In The Hobbit worksheet, your middle school child can learn about Tolkien and his world of Middle Earth. I would encourage you to watch The Hobbit movies if you haven’t already seen them.

MiddleSchool pdf Comma Exercises

MiddleSchoolAnswerKey

Finally, the high school worksheet contains information about Shakespeare and his three famous plays Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, and Macbeth. I encourage you to engage in conversation with your child about his or her knowledge of this great playwright.

High School Comma Exercises

High School Comma Exercises AnsKey

I think my students enjoyed their quests to be “Comma Conquerors” and “Knights of Commalot” when we were studying literature with a good vs. evil theme. However, they  tackled these comma rules after several months of studying the underlying principles of grammar.

With that in mind, don’t be too concerned as a parent if your child doesn’t fully understand “two independent clauses with a conjunction” or a “nonessential adjective clause.” Take time not only to analyze the comma usage but also to learn about these authors and their literary works. Look up unfamiliar words, find places on Google Earth, or try to write a sonnet together. Just make a connection, and be kind with one another.

If you have any questions, feel free to follow this blog by entering your email address. You will then see a comments section where you can address your concerns. I will do my best to respond.

“The level of our success is limited only by our imagination; and no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” –Aesop

Psalm 31:21; Proverbs 31:26

 

 

Spring 2020 Newsletter

IdesofMarch

Dear Reader:

Welcome to March 15, 2020, and my spring newsletter!

Today marks an important day in the world of Shakespeare enthusiasts. Those who have studied Shakespeare’s plays may recall a soothsayer’s advice to Caesar to beware this day. Alas, Caesar should have heeded this warning, but we need not fret. March 15 marks another day closer to the official beginning of spring and a reminder that hope abounds! (Romans 15:13)

In this newsletter I want to show my appreciation for your following. Because I collect bookmarks and I often find profound ideas in the books I’m reading, I have created a page of poetic printables for your enjoyment!

idea image

If you click on the link below, you will find a page of colorful bookmarks containing some of Shakespeare’s memorable lines. These may be printed in color on card stock and used to mark your page in that awesome book you are reading.

Shakespeare bookmarks

When I was teaching full time, I always celebrated Shakespeare’s birthday (on or around April 23) by making advice cupcakes (as opposed to Chinese fortune cookies) for my students. Inside the cupcakes I placed laminated quotes advising my students to be true to themselves or to “love all, trust a few, and do wrong to none,” etc.

These bookmarks can be a new way to carry on that tradition. Please celebrate the coming of spring with me, and enjoy a good book and some of Shakespeare’s sage advice!

As I write this newsletter, people around the globe are concerned about the threat of a potentially deadly virus, an economic crisis, war, uncertainty, and many other issues. However, Shakespeare reminds us that “present fears are less than horrible imaginings.”

I wish you all peace and hope, and I leave you with the words of Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”

Lovingly yours,

The Literary Lyonesse

Song of Solomon 2:11-12; Job 29:23; Matthew 6:28-29

 

Seeds and Signs of Hope

seed imageMarch is a month of hope. Some people focus on madness, but I am looking for signs of hope.

I planted iris and tulip bulbs in late fall, and I believe my yard will burst with color soon. The signs of hope are already there.

Last week one of the students in my youth Bible study appeared to be napping and not listening to the lesson. This week that same student quoted verbatim the theme of the lesson. Some seeds must have fallen on fertile soil. I took it as a hopeful sign.

I recently received a message from a former English student who told me she had been reading Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales of Shakespeare to her young children. Her six-year-old son was especially enjoying King Lear!

“I wanted you to know,” she said, “that you planted a seed.” What a wonderful legacy and harvest! Yes, the signs of hope are there.

In Glenys Nellist’s book Little Mole Finds Hope (illustrated by Sally Garland), a young mole sees only the darkness surrounding his burrow. When his mother sees his sadness, she tells him, “Hope is hiding in the darkness. Sometimes it’s hard to see. But it’s always there.”

little mole 1

Little Mole’s mama shows him a beautiful daffodil that has pushed its way out of the dark earth. She helps him envision the bright green leaves of the newly budding trees. She also shows him a chrysalis that will soon break open to release a beautiful butterfly.

little mole 2

When Little Mole takes his focus off the darkness, he finds hope. The signs are there; he just needs to look for them. In the end, Little Mole says, “Now I know that there’s always hope, even in the darkest places.”

When we take our focus off the darkness, we, too, can find hope.

I can relate to Little Mole’s feelings of sadness. It’s been a long fall and winter, but I have the assurance that spring is fast approaching.

The seeds of hope are getting ready to sprout. I believe they’ve been taking root and will soon burst into bloom. I know my garden will grow. Hebrews 11:1 reminds me that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.”

Miraculous things are happening all around us. Cardinals flock to our feeders, tufts of green grass grow here and there, and daylight lasts longer than the day before.

cardinal_at_feeder

We can trust God to do something special with the seeds we have planted, and He will give us signs that those seeds have taken root.

So try planting some seeds of hope today. Leave a legacy. Focus on the light, not the dark. Look for the good, not the bad. Imagine the possibilities!

If you are down and weary and troubled, allow the One Who Gives Hope to raise you up above the darkness. Allow Him to show you the beauty above the baseness.

Take a moment to bask in that beauty as you listen to the song “You Raise Me Up” by Brendan Graham (performed by Josh Groban).

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” —Romans 15:13

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair.” –J. R. R. Tolkien

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”–Emily Dickinson

Psalm 130:5; Ecclesiastes 11; John 1:5; Galatians 6:7

 

How Do You Say It?

littlegoldenbookHow do you say, “I love you”?

Alison Krauss sings, “You say it best when you say nothing at all.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning famously counts the ways she loved her husband Robert.

Shakespeare believes “love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind.”

When Piglet asks Winnie the Pooh how to spell love, Pooh answers, “You don’t spell it, you feel it.”

In the Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow, lions say it “with a purr and a cuddle,” and wolves say it “with a howl and a huddle.”

lion cuddle

All of God’s creatures have the ability to express love in many ways.

According to Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages, we can express our love through words of affirmation, acts of service, gift giving, quality time, and physical touch.

love is kind image

Little Owl, a character in Laura Sassi’s book Love Is Kind, speaks all five of these languages when he sets out to buy his grandmother something special for her birthday. He gives words of affirmation to Beaver, provides a service for Mrs. Mouse, graciously accepts a gift from Rabbit, and spends quality time with Grammy. In the end Grammy holds Little Owl in her lap and thanks him for spreading love to everyone he has met.

cuddlingowls

He has put the needs of others before his own.

“And that is the best gift of all,” said Grammy.

The book of Matthew tells us that love should be the biggest priority in our lives.

In Chapter 22, verses 37-38, Christ says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Our society needs to hear and heed these words today.

The song “Written in Red,” penned by Gordon Jensen in 1984, speaks to the ultimate love, the agape love, revealed by Christ when he gave His life for all of us.

Written in Red

In letters of crimson, God wrote His love on the hillside so long, long ago; for you and for me Jesus died, and love’s greatest story was told. I love you, I love you. That’s what Calvary said. I love you, I love you, I love you, written in red. Down through the ages, God wrote His love with the same hands that suffered and bled, giving all that He had to give, a message so easily read. I love you, I love you. That’s what Calvary said. I love you, I love you, I love you.

(Click on the link below, and allow this song, performed by the Gaither Vocal Band, to speak to your heart.)

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/0WjcOSV-8v0

There has been no greater love than this. (John 15:13-17)

Tell someone you love them today. Words are not required.

Say it with patience. Say it with kindness. Say it with forgiveness. Say it without envy.

Commend someone for a job well done. Hug your spouse or your child. Graciously give of your time and energy.

Let’s not just say it. Let’s live it.

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. What the world needs now is love, sweet love, no, not just for some, but for everyone.”

(Hal David/Burt Bacharach ©1965)

1 Corinthians 13:4-5; 1 Corinthians 16:14; Proverbs 3:3-4

 

 

Going out and Coming in

Jan20blog

I recently spent some quality time on the beach in Florida. While watching the waves roll in and out, I reflected on the purpose of the ocean tide. Not being a science guru, I didn’t fully understand the “ins and outs,” but I was awed by the magnitude of what lay before me.

I sought a simple explanation. According to almanac.com, “The regular rise and fall of the ocean’s waters are known as tides. It is high tide when water covers much of the shore by rising to its highest level. It is low tide when water falls to its lowest level and recedes from the shore. The highs and lows are caused by the combined effects of the gravitational forces exerted by the Moon and the Sun and the rotation of Earth.

This explanation attests to the symmetry and wonder of God’s creation.

“You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, You still them.”Psalm 89:9

As I watched the water recede, I thought of the falling away of an old year, one that for some may have been marked by pain, suffering, and heartache. When the waves reversed and the water reached toward my toes, I thought of the coming opportunities of a new year, one that may be filled with hope, joy, and blessings.

In Act IV, Scene 3 of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Brutus advises his soldiers to take advantage of opportunity. He uses the tide as an analogy:

There is a tide in the affairs of men, 
Which taken at the flood leads on to fortune. 
Omitted, all the voyage of their life 
Is bound in shallows and in miseries. 
On such a full sea are we now afloat, 
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

 As this new year begins, all of us have the choice to “seize the day,” to act and move forward, or we can choose to sit back and watch the tide roll away. As we begin the voyage into 2020, let us focus on the full sea of opportunity that surrounds us.

In Pat Miller’s children’s story Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution, the main character’s friends advise him to find an opportunity to “make a fresh start.” With the help of the other animals in the forest, Squirrel learns he has the gift of encouraging others, and he resolves to help someone every day.

squirrelbkLike Squirrel, all of us have many opportunities every day to make a positive difference in the world. Like the going out and coming in of the ocean waves, we also have the choice to let go of the old and embrace the new. I encourage you to “take the current when it serves.” When the tide starts rolling in and the opportunity presents itself, think about what you can do to help others.

Happy 2020!

Psalm 96:1; 2 Corinthians 5:17; John 13:34-35; Jeremiah 29:11

“Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.” --Alfred, Lord Tennyson
“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes 
in it yet?”--L. M. Montgomery

 

 

 

 

 

The Greatest Story Ever Told

nativityblog

Many members of the #writingcommunity have been asking people to share their favorite Christmas story. Responses have included everything from Clement Clarke Moore’s classic story to movies such as It’s a Wonderful Life.

I love all the classic books and movies, but the greatest story ever told is written in the second chapter of the book of Luke.

My father traditionally read this story aloud to our family on Christmas Eve. After his death I took over the tradition by reading it aloud to my young nephews. After they were grown and had children of their own, my sister began a new tradition with this story.

Using one of her many nativity scenes, my sister encouraged her grandchildren to bring the story to life as they added the characters to the scene.

nativityscene.jpg

The greatest story set in a stable
Is a tale that’s real and not a fable.
The setting is humble; its characters are true.
A baby is born to save me and you.

I’m thankful this story has been such an important part of my life. I cannot imagine a world without it. This Christmas I pray you will hear the angels praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

I hope you find the time this season to read the second chapter of Luke. Ponder these things in your heart as Mary did when she received the angel’s visit. Make this story the most important story in your life.

Luke 2

“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.”–Charles Dickens

 

 

The Perfect Gift

Where can we find the perfect gift?

During this special season many of us spend time searching for perfect gifts for our loved ones. We fret over sizes and styles and suitable items; but when the season is over, we often re-gift the items we’ve received.

According to a children’s song by Ellen Woods Bryce, “The Perfect Gift” can’t be found in a store, and it can’t be bought.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above.” –James 1:17perfect gift imageIn the song “The Little Drummer Boy,” written by Katherine K. David, Henry Onorati, and Harry Simeone, a young musician is told he must lay his finest gift before the newborn King. The poor boy laments that he has no gift to bring, but he offers to play a simple song on his drum. This song, played from the heart, brings a smile to the baby’s face. The song costs nothing, but it is a perfect gift.

little drummer boy

Several years ago I received a perfect gift from my nephew. As a starving artist, he didn’t have extra money to buy a gift, but he spent time writing a beautiful song for me. The song cost nothing, but his time and his talent and his thoughtfulness were invaluable.

I remember another Christmas almost thirty years ago when my aunt and uncle gifted me with tulip bulbs. They not only spent time digging up spare bulbs from their own yard, but they also planted them in my yard for me. All these years later I continue to enjoy this perfect gift every spring.

These gifts of love can and always should be re-gifted.

Michelle Medlock Adams’ alphabet story C Is for Christmas reminds us that Jesus is the reason for the season. “At Christmas we send packages to all our special friends. But, Jesus is the greatest gift, the gift that never ends.”

C Is for Christmas

God gave us the perfect gift when He sent His son to save the world. All we have to do is give Him our hearts.

I wrote the following story based on true events revolving around a Christmas program at my church. It first appeared in the anthology Celebrating Christmas with . . . Memories, Poetry, and Good Food, published by Hidden Brook Press in 2011.

The value of a flashy gold jewelry box, $20

 The value of an innocent child’s wisdom, Priceless

The children had been rehearsing for the church Christmas pageant since October, and everyone appeared ready to present a great performance of “The Perfect Gift.” On the morning of the performance, Jeremy’s mom frantically cornered Miss Debbie before Sunday school and told her she would need to find a substitute wise man. Jeremy had been throwing up since early that morning, and he was also running a low grade fever. He would not be able to play his role as one of the three wise men.

Miss Debbie’s brain quickly started searching for a substitute. Her three-year-old son Jason had attended every rehearsal. It was a stretch, but maybe Jason could play the part. He had been singing all the songs for the last month, and the wise man had only one line to say. This might work.

That afternoon Miss Debbie shortened Jason’s nap and shared with him the good news that he would be playing one of the wise men in the church pageant that night. She called his two older brothers into the den to help with a quick rehearsal. After a short eye-rolling session, they agreed to help.

Jason not only carried his gift with a regal air, but he also said his line on cue: “I bwing you gold!”

Satisfied that Jason appeared ready to make his acting debut and that the night’s performance would go as well as could be expected, Miss Debbie dismissed her two older boys to play in the backyard while she showed Jason how to march in his bathrobe.

That evening the shortest wise man could not be seen by everyone in the church, but his mom was proud and knew he would be a good pinch hitter. As the march of the kings’ music cued their entrance, the assistant director handed each of the three kings his gift and pointed to center stage where they were to face the audience and sing their song.

Jason’s gift was an old jewelry box that had been spray painted gold and embellished with a few fake jewels. It was not the book he had used in practice earlier that afternoon. The three-year-old immediately became entranced by the gift he was holding. As the other two wise men sang their song, Jason focused all his attention on examining his box and, with great effort, trying to open its clasp.

gold box

When the song ended, the wise men were supposed to lay their gifts beside the sleeping baby Jesus and then say their lines. Following Miss Debbie’s whispered directions, the other two wise men presented their gifts and proclaimed their purposes. Jason, in the meantime, had finally succeeded in opening the clasp on his box when he cried out, “I can’t bwing any gold. My box is empty!”

After the laughter died down and the wise men were joined by the rest of the cast to sing their finale, the children received a standing ovation. Many people made comments like, “That’s the best program they’ve ever done,” and “Wasn’t that littlest wise man the cutest thing?” Miss Debbie herself was beaming with pride for her three-year-old wise man.

Even though Jason was momentarily distracted by the shiny box he was holding and by its jeweled façade, his epiphany was a lesson to us all that we should not focus our attention on the shiny material things in life. If we do, we will find there is no real gold inside the box. Our lives will be empty if we focus all our energies on the things money can buy.

As you think about gifts this year, don’t worry about size or style or suitability. Consider a gift that money can’t buy.

So where can you find the perfect gift this Christmas? Try looking in a manger. Then look inside your own heart as you reflect upon the words of the song “In the Bleak Midwinter.”

“If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give.” –George Macdonald

Luke 2; John 3:16

 

Thanks for Giving

picasso quotes

According to artist Pablo Picasso, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”

I believe writers, musicians, and other artists have been purposely blessed with creative talents so that they may bless others.

I have been blessed beyond measure to meet many artists whose works have made the world a better place. Some of these artists probably don’t remember me, while others have become valued friends. Either way, they have influenced my life with their spiritual gifts.

I would like to express my gratitude to a few of them.

Thanks, Ann Patchett, for giving me an opportunity years ago to witness first-hand the generosity of talented people. When I attended an NCTE conference at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, you “gifted” each of us secondary teacher attendees with a free stack of your books. I felt like a kid in a candy store; and to this day, I continue to appreciate your works, your Parnassus store, and your support of the creative world.

Thanks, Ron Block of Alison Krauss & Union Station, for giving me inspiration. You sat beside me at a writers’ conference luncheon. We shared our stories. You listened. You recommended the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I was blessed by your poetry, your empathy, and your kindness.

Thanks, Tom Brantley and Becky Buller Haley, for giving me music, for sharing the songs of your souls with me. You’ve taught me to play the violin, and you’ve generously shown your gift of patience.

Thanks, Lisa Patton, for giving me acknowledgement. I had the chutzpah to introduce myself to you at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville. I invited you to make a guest appearance at my school, and you befriended me, a nobody. On page 294 of your book Yankee Doodle Dixie, you ACKNOWLEDGED me! You acknowledged ME as an important person! You are a treasure!

acknowledgements

Thanks, Amy Parker, for giving me encouragement. By chance, or maybe not, I walked into the Murfreesboro Barnes & Noble bookstore and saw you signing your books. We talked, and we became friends. My youngest niece learned to say, “Night-night” because of you, Amy Parker. You asked me to become a part of your “street team,” and you have since become a major influence in my writing journey. You have generously endorsed my own book. What a gift!

Amy, you also introduced me to your friend Laura L. Smith. Laura, you gifted me with your book Skinny, and it became the basis for a Bible study with my church youth group. My high school students were eager to return to class each week because your book spoke to them! Thanks, Laura, for giving us good role models.

Bob Hostetler, I have been honored to hear you speak at writers’ conferences. Your book The Bard and the Bible inspired me to start a Sunday school class that has grown into a huge blessing for me and our class and our church. Thanks, Bob, for giving us your powerful insights.

I could mention many, many other writers and artists whose one good turn has led to another in my life. Like a pebble in a pond, I have been blessed repeatedly by those who have generously shared their gifts. In turn, I have tried to bless others.

In his book The Butterfly Effect: How Your Life Matters, Andy Andrews encourages us to use our spiritual gifts to bless others. He says, “You have been created in order that you might make a difference. You have within you the power to change the world.”

The apostle Paul also promotes the importance of recognizing our spiritual gifts and generously using them to make the world a better place.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”—Romans 12:6-8

Like Mr. Beaver in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, we should all be willing to share our gifts, whatever they may be, with humility and grace. When Mr. Beaver leads the children across the bridge he has built, “he had a sort of modest expression on his face—the sort of look people have when you are visiting a garden they’ve made or reading a story they’ve written.”

Mr. Beaver must have heard Paul’s advice to be devoted to one another in love and to honor others above ourselves.

In Jean Petersen’s new picture book Kind Soup, a young girl and her mommy make a delicious soup filled with the fruits of the spirit. This book teaches an important lesson:  “The best part of making [the soup] is the feeling you get when you share it.”

kind soup

How have you shared your spiritual gifts today?

Have you written some profound prose or kissed a cut knee or held open a car door for someone?

Whether you are a NYT bestselling author or a parent or an Uber driver, you have the opportunity to show love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You have an opportunity to give to others.

If you will harvest the fruits of the spirit in your own life and then share your bounty with others, you will be a blessing, and you will be blessed.

If you think you have nothing to give, remember the words of the song “In the Bleak Midwinter” by Gustav Holst:

What can I give Him?
Poor as I am.
If I were a shepherd,
I would give a lamb.

If I were a wise man,
I would do my part,
But what can I give Him?
Give him my heart.

What you give to Him, you give to others.

Thanks for giving.

Proverbs 11:25; 2 Corinthians 9:11

“The object of art is to give life a shape.” –William Shakespeare

A Guest Interview with Jean Matthew Hall

fallimage

I first met Jean Matthew Hall at a writers’ conference in Memphis this past spring. I quickly learned that we share many common interests in writing, in perseverance, and in faith. I am honored to interview Jean about her newly released picture book with Little Lamb Books. God’s Blessings of Fall is the first in a series of four picture books highlighting the blessings God bestows upon us throughout the seasons.

jean matthew hall

Q: Welcome to my blog, Jean! I understand this is your first picture book. How long have you been a writer, and when did you start working on God’s Blessings of Fall?

A: I started writing for publication around 2007. I’ve been studying and having some success since then. God’s Blessings of Fall is my first picture book. So, that means 12 years. This manuscript was one of my first. I wrote the first draft in 2009.

Q: This is a beautiful book and the first in a series about the four seasons. What is your favorite season, and what inspired you to write this series?

A: I believe fall is my favorite time of year. The cool weather, the colors, the food and those cozy sweaters and blankets!

I am enamored with God’s created world. I enjoy observing the changes in the seasons. So, following the adage “write what you know,” I began a story about my four-year-old grandson running through the yard on a crisp autumn day.

The idea for a series came from my agent. And there you have it!

Q: Tell us about the illustrations in your book, and describe your favorite scene.

A: Olya Badulina did a wonderful job! The animals are realistic, yet cute. I think my favorite is the scene with the dirt road and the barn in the background. It just looks so fallish!

Q: What do you think children will like most about your book?

A: The sweet animal characters in the illustrations are sure to be a favorite, I think. But I hope they also love recognizing those same creatures in the world around them.

Q: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A: I had a hard time making up my mind! I wanted to be an artist. Then I decided to become an interior designer. By high school I wanted to be anything but a teacher—oh, my! My freshman year in college I decided to become a vocalist and music director for churches. God really fooled me after I got saved. I taught school for more than 20 years and loved it. After retiring, I started learning to write for publication.

Q: What do you like to do now when you’re not writing?

A: Hanging out with my eight grandkids is the best! The youngest is two years old. The oldest is twenty-three years old. When I’m alone, I read or watch old movies while I crochet. I study the Bible every day, too.

Q: What do you hope your readers and listeners will take away from engaging with this book?

A: That God is our loving Creator and Designer of this beautiful world and of us.

Q: Where is your book available, and how can readers purchase it?

A: They can order it online from LittleLambBooks.com, from Barnes & Noble.com, or from Amazon.com. Hopefully, it will also be available in local B&N stores. If not, please ask your local book dealer to order it for you.

Q: How can readers learn more about you and your future books?

A: They can visit my website/blog at jeanmatthewhall.com, and they can connect with me on social media: Jean Matthew Hall Author on Facebook, Jean_Hall on Twitter, and JeanMatthew_Hall on Pinterest.

Thank you, Joyce, for inviting me to chat.

Oh, one more thing: If you like the book, please leave a review on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, or Goodreads. Thanks!

Thank you, Jean! We look forward to the future books in this series.

GBOF Cover

God’s Blessings of Fall reminds our children and us to appreciate the awesomeness of God’s creation. Let this be a reminder to you, dear Reader, to reflect upon your own blessings during this season. How do you appreciate God’s masterpieces that surround your world? Have you said a prayer of thanks today for God’s blessings?

David tells us that God “made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting.” —Psalm 104:19

Solomon states, “There is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” —Ecclesiastes 3:1

According to “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “He prayeth best, who loveth best; All things great and small; For the dear God who loveth us; He made and loveth all.”

These lines from Coleridge’s poem possibly inspired Cecil Frances Alexander to write the hymn “All Things  Bright and Beautiful.” In this hymn Mrs. Alexander references God’s seasons. She says, “He gave us eyes to see them, And lips that we might tell How great is God Almighty, Who has made all things well.”

Take a moment to marvel at His sunrises, His sunsets, His mountains, and His meadows. From the tiny fallen acorns to the majestic oaks towering against the sky, we are surrounded by His wonderful works!

Take a moment to pray with a child today and thank God for His mighty acts.

Blessings,

The Literary Lyonesse

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” –L. M.  Montgomery

“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.” –John Donne