Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Ready or Not?












 

 




Another school year begins, and I’m not ready to hear my kids ask: “Do I have everything?” as they race to catch the bus. The truth is probably not. But does it matter on the first day? So why do I worry?

I need to focus on the basics: they ate, brushed their teeth, remembered the backpack, and caught the bus. I pray for them as the storm door swings closed. Then I stare out the window and hold my breath for three minutes, the time it takes my son and daughter to stroll back from the bus stop. At least for the first day, they made it, and I can breathe again.

I can’t relax too soon; sometimes they call from the bus—a call equals problem, something their sleepy minds just remembered. About this time last year, I had to bike to the high school, a twenty-five minute ride, to bring forgotten cleats and shin guards needed for practice. Mommy points for that day!

My two youngest of five kids are teenagers who shouldn’t need my help to get ready for school, but somehow I’m still involved in the process: making lunches, finding pens, fixing my daughter’s hair, and recovering the one lost sneaker. I also guard the door so a little Yorkie, who thinks she has to leave too, doesn’t escape. She hides under the table, waiting for her opportunity. I’d rather not start my morning chasing a dog around the block.

I’m tired and still have to get ready for work. It’s too soon for this school routine; the sky says beach time.

Looking back, I’m amazed at how fast their first days have changed.  Eighteen years ago, we started this journey, homeschooling our five kids. I taught our oldest son to read while keeping two toddlers busy and preventing things from breaking. The first day was exciting for us as we opened the new books, had breakfast, and read Bible lessons together. Our school day moved from the table to the couch, to the floor, to outdoors on a warm day. They started their day without alarm clocks and rushing, or me pushing them out the door.

Now first days involve driving our second oldest upstate four hours away to say goodbye; buying a monthly train ticket for our oldest to commute to the city and a bus pass for our third son to get to the local college. This was the first day of the last year all of our kids will be in school. The oldest graduates college this May. Then we’ll celebrate the “lasts.” Last day of college, last day of high school, last day of having three kids in college at the same time. Will life get easier? Will I worry less? Doubt it, but for now I’ll keep trusting God to help me through each day. And we’re already onto the second week.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34



















Sunday, September 11, 2016

That Day (Remembering 9/11)



Playing stickball with a view of Tower One across the bay
9/11/16


A day we'll never forget: 9/11/2001. Fifteen years later, as I play stickball with my family, we can see the Tower One where we used to see the Twin Towers. And I remember that day...

My husband had left for work. Our oldest three sons, age 5, 7, and 9, had just finished their breakfast and were getting their schoolwork started since I homeschooled them back then. A few minutes before 9:00AM, my mother-in-law rushed downstairs to tell us her sister called her with crazy news. “A plane crashed through one of the twin towers! Turn on the TV!” 

We watched, confused, wondering how an accident like this could happen as smoke and fire billowed from the first tower. Then in live footage we watched a second plane fly into the second tower…and we knew it was a terrorist attack. This was not an accident—it had to be a calculated plan to kill thousands of Americans. About an hour later, we watched the towers collapse in horror.  

In disbelief, we walked a block away to the bay, where we could look across the water. Clouds of smoke stood in place of the towers. It really happened…one of the saddest days for our country. We went home and prayed for the friends and families who lost someone in the tragedy.

We still pray for them.



“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16







Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Writing Surprises







I like surprises—but it has to be a good surprise. I don’t want to hear the dog just stole my son’s burrito and hid it in the clean clothes pile…or someone stole my bike again. Those kind of surprises are detrimental to my health, raising my blood pressure.
As a writer, I get surprised any time I submit a story or novel for publication. Anticipation builds as I wait for an answer. The publishing industry is overcrowded, too many writers competing for too few spots, so the response time could be six months after submitting a story. Sometimes I’ve gotten a response in a week, but usually I wait over two months, checking my email and snail mail with persistent hope every, uh-hum, two minutes. Too much anticipation isn’t fun.  When I least expect it, a reply glows from my inbox of a thousand emails not yet deleted. My hope waivers from “Maybe it’s a yes and they loved my story and can’t wait to publish it” to “It’s got to be another rejection.”
I know it’s a no if the letter begins with a “thank you for submitting your story.” I don’t have to read any further; it’s not going to be a good surprise day. A “but” is coming. A week ago I had a double surprise of two stories not placing in a top literary journal contest. The emails started with a thank you. You’re welcome.
Yesterday I almost choked on my Raisin Bran as I saw my name next to 2nd Place in the Best of the Best Faithwriters contest. I hit a grand slam homerun—a good surprise day! Of course after the excitement wore off, my next thought slipped to pessimism. “What if people read it and think it’s ridiculous? It didn’t deserve to win.” I have to bounce back and remember the judges liked it enough to paste a ribbon to it…and that’s a good thing. Now I won’t have to pretend it doesn’t bother me that I didn’t win on my birthday of all days. I did win a place right next to the 1st place author I’ve admired since I started writing for Faithwriters. That’s a pleasant surprise. I’ll have to cling to that until the next response arrives. Or I could focus on the blessings in my life—my preferred option to moping.
After all, where does winning a writing award or getting published fall on my life importance scale? Not too high. Someday I’ll meet God and my earthly awards won’t matter—only the heavenly awards will remain. The best surprises I’ve encountered in my life were not related to writing: “It’s a boy!” four times and “It’s a girl” once. Those were good days. 

For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward everyone according to what they have done. Matthew 16:27

It’s refreshing to realize God won’t care if my rejection letters outweigh my acceptance ones. He has his own judging scale and surprises beyond what I can imagine.
********
Links to Francy's "Best of the Best" Faithwriter's contest stories:

 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

One More Stolen Bike






Riding my sister on the back of a banana seat bike
When I never had to lock it

My bike that was stolen



It is one o’clock, exactly the minute I leave work for lunch. And I love my lunch breaks; I bike to a nearby park, overlooking the canal and eat yogurt with the sun warming my face and a breeze to cool my skin. I drink iced coffee chilled in a water bottle, read a novel, and write stories, my ideal break from work stress. I get to enjoy the happy sounds of the outdoors—seagulls chatting and children laughing in the playground. But not today.


Today I round the corner of the nursing home where I work and see nothing where my bike should be, nothing where I parked it and locked it at ten o’clock this morning. Nothing but my chain lock, snipped in two places. I open my mouth in disbelief as if I could scream. Screaming would be useless. The thief is long gone. He biked away or threw it in a car. Gone. In broad daylight.


Now would not be the time to remind me that I have a lot to be thankful for and things could be worse, or maybe there is a reason for this happening…or pray for my enemies. I know, and I’ll read the Bible verses to steer my mind toward these thoughts when I’m ready, but for now I’m disappointed. And angry. And frustrated. My bike was only three months old. It was my third fold-up bike. I have bought the same bike three times. The first got rusty after Hurricane Sandy; the second bike was stolen when my son borrowed it and chained it right near the police station. He thought it would be safer there than at the train station. Guess not.


Over the years my kids and I have had at least ten bikes stolen and a couple of bike seats. I’d like to find one of the thieves and hear their story. How did they become so indifferent? Do they ever consider the consequences of their actions or how they affect others by stealing? I’m sure they’d laugh in my face and ask me for my phone.


It took about a day of reading the latest news to get over it. Yes, I’m still frustrated that I’ll have to buy another bike, but if this is my worst problem, I’m having a better life than many people around the world. First the shooting tragedy in Orlando; then two teens died this week—one during a football practice, and one from Toxic Shock Syndrome. I can’t imagine how horrific the grief all the friends and family are suffering.


In this life, we can’t hold onto things…they break, they get lost or stolen; they die. Only faith, hope and love remain if we focus on eternity. Now I’m ready to say this… he can steal my bike, but he can’t steal my joy, faith, hope, or love. The thief has nothing. I need to pray for him. I knew God could twist my thoughts around. He says in his word: “For the Son of Man came to seek what is lost.” Luke 19:10. I don’t think God meant stolen bikes. It’s the thief He cares about who is truly lost.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Changing Dreams





Model drawing I did at FIT

Found the final term garment I made at FIT
My Ladybug dress


When I was a junior, I knew exactly what I was going to do after high school. I only applied to one college, the Fashion Institute of Technology. A friend of the family graduated from FIT and raved about their fashion design program and the high reputation of the school. Her passion clinched my decision…I would become a successful fashion designer.  

I was so sure.

My dad urged me to apply to other schools “just in case you don’t get accepted.” He read how hard it was to get into FIT. Not a good idea to “throw all my eggs in one basket,” but that’s what I did. I earned the grades, wrote the essay, and prepared a portfolio of my artwork. I was confident until I stepped onto the city campus. Nothing like a million people to make one feel small. And the most interesting, stylish, beautiful of the million stood in the same room as me, waiting for their interview to attend FIT. My thoughts:

·         I’m as fashionable as a country mouse.

·         My portfolio is shrinking.

·         Why did I wear a pink skirt? I should’ve died my hair pink instead.


Three professors looked through my artwork while asking me questions about my art, life, and goals. They didn’t seem that impressed with my artwork until they saw my pencil sketch of a chick breaking through an egg. I explained it was a project for the theme “trapped.” That one drawing may have been what got me into FIT. It had nothing to do with fashion. 

I should have realized then, I was an artist, not a fashionista, but I tried. I bought vintage clothing downtown and died my hair magenta. Black clothes replaced pink and pastels. After a year of working my butt off toward my dream, my dream changed. New goal: 

·         Finish my second year in fashion design and switch to illustration

·         Give up sewing—never pick up a needle and thread again, avoid buttons, bury my sewing machine

·         Find the peace my roommate has in knowing God…she didn’t have nervous breakdowns doing her homework 

I was so sure.  

After having a blast as an illustration major for two years, my direction yielded again to my latest plans…get married. Our wedding was two months after graduation. Since I got involved with a church in Manhattan, a friend there offered me a job working for Bridal Guide Magazine. I couldn’t have planned a better job to have while engaged. 

At this point in my young life, I thought I finally knew my direction. Married, living in the suburbs thirty minutes from Manhattan, working as a freelance illustrator, learning about Jesus. 

I was so sure because I didn’t know the surprises life would bring as God braided my dreams, desires, and experiences into a better plan.  

Somehow my original career choice to become a fashion designer led me here: 

·         Managed a group home with my husband for mentally handicapped adults one year

·         Blessed with five kids and the chance to homeschool them for many years

·         Discovered my passion for writing surpassed my love of art


I was stubborn, but God used my stubbornness and determination to lead me to Him. I can’t say I’m sure of what I’ll do tomorrow or next week or next year, but I’ll continue to strive toward goals and see where He leads me.

Combining passions: My novel. Cover designed by me.





Saturday, March 26, 2016

Bad Tooth on Good Friday






Painting (section of larger work) by Eugene Judge


I have a toothache. A week ago I chomped down on a hard piece of granola, about the consistency of cement, and chipped an old filling. My family knows how obsessed I am about cleaning my teeth. I floss at least three times a day and brush at least four times a day…but I was less diligent as a kid. So this old filling in my molar cracked through to the tooth. The dentist knocked out the half that hung by a thread. It didn’t hurt then, but after he placed a temporary something to shape a tooth, it gradually ached, gradually throbbed, and felt infected. Oh, the regret for loving junk food as a child!

Today is Good Friday, and the day after Purim, so my dentist is on vacation. I will have to suffer until Monday morning. I never thought I’d look forward to a root canal, but I’m ready to do anything to rip out this pain.

I’m reminded of the pain Jesus suffered. My little pain, intolerable to me, doesn’t even reach one percent of what Jesus endured. He didn’t complain when He was beaten, spat upon, tortured and finally hung on the cross. I can’t imagine that kind of agony. And to think He suffered this punishment that He never deserved in our place.

Isaiah 53 says it all:

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him. He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.

This is love. When I read this, my tiny tooth doesn’t hurt so much. I am humbled. I look forward to my mouth healing, but Jesus looked forward to His resurrection and victory over sin and death. He would join the Father and make a way for His children to enter heaven’s gate. He saw the place of no more pain, or sorrow or tears. Or toothaches. He was willing to suffer because He loves us more than we can imagine and wants us to follow Him into His perfect kingdom.

A toothache won’t stop me from celebrating the most amazing day in history. Jesus is alive, and I choose to live in Him.

*******

If you'd like to read other stories by Francy...

Novel 

Anthology: Three poems, one short story


Monday, February 15, 2016

Family Fun in the Poconos












Some of our family’s winter fun…



Every January, my family stays in the Poconos for a long weekend with my parents, sister, brother-in-law, and nephew. We used to look forward to going to Daniels, a family resort, until it closed down two years ago. That place had enough activities to keep everyone busy-an indoor pool, ping pong, a pool table, scheduled competitions, sledding, night entertainment, and karaoke. We have great memories from that place. The last two years, my parents found a house to rent close to the same area, but we had to create our own entertainment.




Last year, the kids played monopoly at night—their version that included dares. They didn’t realize they were going to an indoor water park the next day when they wrote silly phrases in permanent marker all over my son’s back and arms. He got plenty of stares that day. 

This year aside from having fun snowboarding on man made snow, we drove to Hickory State Park to play Disc Golf. I’ve never heard of the game. We each had our own dog Frisbee that we threw toward a numbered basket, similar to miniature golfing. Two young men, the only other people at the park, showed us the proper discs meant for the game that work better than dog Frisbees, but who cares. Each person counted how many throws it took to get it inside. The fewer the better, like golf. It was a cold, fun time…and a Frisbee only got stuck in a tree once.



At night we played Pictionary on a white board and watched movies. The best part was being together with family. Nothing can replace those times together and the memories that last.
                                              

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