Looking Up!

Ps. 121-1 I look up to the mountains

Living in Indiana is not very conducive to “looking up to the mountains,” as this verse suggests, but it’s what’s beyond the hills that gets to me and draws me closer to my God. Looking at the sky and knowing God put it there to protect me from dangerous things outside my atmosphere, provide the sunshine and rain to grow my food and meet my physical needs, and inspire me to think about Heaven and what it might be like to sit and talk with Jesus there, fills me with a contentment beyond degree.
 
We recently housed two great young men from the Grundy Mountain Mission school, who live in a valley surrounded by mountains. One of them asked if he could get up early and watch the sunrise. He said he never gets to see a sunrise or a sunset with the mountains always in the way. Though I might complain about the ground always being flat where I live, he reminded me that we see some amazing sunrises and sunsets here.
 
So whether you live on flat ground like me, just hilly, or mountainous like the students at Grundy, Virginia, remember to look up to the sky and know that God is in all of these places waiting for us to show up and praise Him for it.

New Year – New Reason to Stay Sober

sober-by-the-grace-of-god-rack-card

2017 is a new year and I published a new book. It is the biography of my parents- Don and Theresa Wenning. The title is Sober by the Grace of God- One Alcoholic’s Story, because it was by God’s grace that my father started to love God, his wife, and children more than the bottle. If you’ve made a resolution to drink less this year, or to stop drinking, this book will encourage you to keep that resolution.

My dad became an alcoholic in the Navy during WWII. When he came home, he married my mother and tried to live a normal life as a husband and father. But his life was a mess. He and Mom had 13 children, of which I was the second oldest. For the first decade of my life Dad couldn’t figure out why he had so many problems, why he kept getting fired from his jobs, and why his wife kept harping on him for his drinking. He came to the conclusion that he was going to have to get up every day and drink all day for the rest of his life. He decided he was worth more to his wife and children dead than alive. He attempted suicide, but God intervened and kept him from going through with it.

Then on his birthday, August 13, 1964, he ended up in a jail cell with broken ribs and a contrite heart. It finally occurred to him that he was a sinner and heading to hell. He got on his knees and asked God to forgive him and to take over his life. That was the beginning of his sobriety and he stayed sober until he died at the age of 77. He’d been sober for 39 years and helped countless other alcoholics to reach sobriety.

Don and Theresa’s story is amazing and full of hope for anyone who is affected by alcohol’s grip on their life or the lives of their loved ones. A copy of this book can be purchased on Lulu.com or Amazon.com. Don’t let alcohol ruin another year for you and those you love. Let 2017 be the year that you “Let Go and Let God” be in control of your life; not alcohol.

Stretching My Wings

When I Mitchell and monarchtaught school, I used to have my class bring in Monarch caterpillars they would find on milkweed near their homes. Sometimes we would have 6 or 8 caterpillars brought in at the same time. We watched them feed on milkweed leaves and grow big and fat in a discarded fish tank with a screen lid on it.

How we enjoyed watching the caterpillars climb laboriously up the sides of the fish tank, attach themselves to the screen at the top and hang upside down until the seemingly miraculous moment when they would shed their skin and turn into a chrysalis. After about a week, they would break out of that chrysalis, with much struggle, and stretch their new wings out to dry. If anywhere along the way, we tried to help the caterpillars get to to the top or help the butterflies get out of their chrysalis, they would die. They had to go through the struggle. It made them stronger in the end.

As a writer, I felt many times like I was that caterpillar, struggling to get my words on paper and edit, edit, edit. Then patiently wait for the rejection letters that never gave me any helpful advice. And finally, after an excruciating time of waiting, I find out that someone thinks my book is worthy to be published! Amazing!

At last I am that butterfly who has emerged and has to stretch her wings. I am doing things to promote my book that are foreign to this elementary teacher. It is always hard for me to promote myself. I have had to become a public speaker, which turns out to be very fun and rewarding. I have sat long hours in Author Fairs with 20 other authors where all of us only sold a few books. I have had book signings at more coffee shops than I can remember and I don’t even like coffee.

Now I have been to two schools to do an all day Author Visit and it has been wonderful. It was not because I signed books, but because I was back in the classroom doing what I loved to do for so many years; teach. I try to teach at least two test standards that I know elementary students will encounter; poetry and figurative language. I use excerpts from my books and talk about becoming an author. It has been great!

Very soon I will be sitting at a booth at the Great Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio talking with moms about my book and how they might use it in their homeschooling. I am still stretching my wings and hopefully one of these days, I am going to fly.

(Mary is available for Elementary school visits for the 2016-2-17 school year. Email her at booksbymarywilkinson@gmail.com)

A Better Plan

Shipshewana 3

How does a small town girl, one of 13 children, grow up to do anything worth writing about? Well, let me tell you. It wasn’t my plan, and I didn’t do it alone.  It’s not that I didn’t have plans. I did. I wanted to be a singer like my mother. She had studied opera at Indiana University for three years before becoming a wife and mother.  The babies just kept coming and soon the opera part had been thrown out the window with the bath water. Still, she didn’t give up on singing. I think everyone in town had my mother, and her equally talented sister, Rita, to sing for their wedding or funeral. Besides that she taught all thirteen of us to sing and harmonize with her. We were one big musical family. So my first career plan was to be a singer, preferably on the Lawrence Welk show.

My second plan came about because my dad was a recovering alcoholic. My older sister, Sherry, and I had to babysit our siblings at least three nights a week so that Dad and Mom could go to AA and Al-Anon meetings to keep Dad sober and mom from going crazy.  Sherry and I would get the kids bathed and in their pajamas. Then I would tell them a whopper of a story I made up. After I had their attention, I’d finish with a big finale. Putting them to bed with a story was fun. I started thinking maybe I could be a writer. I really loved working with children and dreamed I would be a children’s book author.

My last plan was to get married and have a home and children of my own. That one wasn’t going so well either. Sherry got all of the dates in High School. I never really had a boyfriend.  My father wanted all six of us girls to eventually be married off and in homes of our own. He felt that being a wife and mother was God’s greatest calling for a woman, but since I was not dating, he told me I definitely needed a job when I graduated to support myself.

I talked to my dad about my dreams; being a famous singer or an author, but he said I would never make any money in those two careers.  I always wondered if I would have been dating someone at the time, if he might not have been ok with my aspirations. After all, I could sing and write and still be a wife and mother. I did pretty well in High School and my counselor told me I might want to consider being an elementary teacher.

I had one of those “Aha!” moments when she said that, even though I had no idea how I’d be able to pay for college. I went to Ball State and that was where I found Jesus. Dad hoped I would come home with a degree and a husband, which I did.  I taught 5th and 6th graders for 29 years. I read my students stories I had written to encourage them to write. I sang songs I’d made up to make them laugh or to help them learn a particular lesson.  I became a mom and wrote songs and stories for my children. In the summers I sent my stories out to publishers. In the winter of the year, I counted all of my rejection letters.

It seemed none of my plans were quite working out like I wanted, except for being a mom. That was the absolute best.  I wondered if I should keep writing stories and songs when they took so much time and effort. I didn’t realize it at the time, but God had plans for me too, but He had a timeline that was different from mine.

Several years ago, our church started a Praise Band and they wanted someone to sing who could do harmony. They chose me and I was thrilled. I am still thrilled every Sunday that I get to sing in the Praise Band.  Then just when I was wondering when to retire from teaching, a publisher called me out of the blue and wanted to publish my first novel, Call Me Lizzy.  If I could put that whole book down into one sentence, it would be this: Never quit believing that God answers prayer.

Maybe your plan is not going how you want it to go either.  Ask God to show you what His plan is, and be ready to wait for His perfect timing. In the meantime, use those talents any way you can.  Ecclesiastes 11:6 says, “So your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.” So sing, write, dance, draw, whatever inspires you and trust that God has the better plan. He’ll show it to you when the time is right and you are ready for it.