Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kindle Fire HD Giveaway- Patricia Strefling

Please include full name, email and mailing address.  
Trouble with the click to enter? 
Just email your name address and email to patskindlead@icloud.com.

You will be able to send extra entries- you will be emailed a list of all ways you can earn extra entries. No purchase necessary.
The contest ends at midnight December 9th, 2012.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Falling Star

There are some things that need to be written down. Moments of clarity in the midst of hurt and pain in this world. There are moments when it seems that understanding death, divorce, broken lives, deep hurts from words or deeds that have affected our life forever, will never be understood.

I was having some of those moments, when late at night a friend called to talk about a recent hurt she was experiencing. She was sludging through the muddy mess, trying to understand what had happened. We talked at length about why -- and if God was there why didn’t he answer the prayer of her heart? Why did it seem he had thrown her under the bus? We knew it wasn’t true. But right then it seemed so true.

Both of us were hurting. For very different reasons. She, suffering from a most recent devastating break-up of a relationship she thought was sent from God. An answer to a life-long prayer. And now it was over. What had happened? And why?

There were moments of silence. 
There were no answers.

Struggling with my own emotions that night, I wasn’t much help to her, except to know that the depth of pain sometimes is deeper than our understanding. We discussed all the why’s and what-for’s. But came up silent at the end. There was no magic answer for either of us.
One thing did become clear as we talked out what we couldn’t fix in our lives: that those who have experienced deep pain are the only ones others want to talk to when they are hurt. And how could we ever understand another living soul if we ourselves had never been devastated by life’s storms?

How could we earn the right to say to someone, “I know what you are going through?”

The conversation slowly came to a sense of understanding that we can’t always know why. She, for her deepest feeling of rejection AGAIN, me for a lifelong trial with the same issue; a lifelong feeling of rejection that had taken up residence in my life.

These emotions can’t be “thrown up in the air” hoping they will magically disappear in thin air. They have to be dealt with. At the time neither of us wanted to quote Bible verses. We knew them. For the moment, we needed to grieve.

And so we grieved for the loss of a relationship she had long prayed for and thought had finally arrived, me for a lifelong sense of rejection that never goes away, no matter how much I want it to.  We had both prayed for years about these struggles and we were mired in them again.

All the time we were talking, I was sitting in a rocking chair facing a big picture window looking out on the back yard behind our house on a cool early November evening. It was nearing midnight and this was my view from the window:  huge full moon high in the midnight blue sky, long white streaks leaving jet lines crisscrossed across the moon’s path. Stars so explicitly bright they seemed hardly able to contain their brightness as they formed the ancient constellations.

The trees had lost all their leaves so the vein-like branches created a beautiful view in front of the moon. The ground was white from the light of the moon. And then realization struck: the fact that God, though his majestic creation, was standing right there looking through the window at me.  Displaying the works of his hands before my eyes without saying a word.As my friend and I talked out our frustrations it became very clear that God was there. Just looking, waiting, hoping that I would see his presence.

My friend was talking and suddenly I interrupted her . . . “You are not going to believe this!” I was breathless.

Across the sky, for the first time that I can remember I saw a falling star. A quick arc-like slide and then it disappeared.
She was excited as I told her what I saw. Our conversation became quieter. A sense of amazement began to fill us.
All that we had said, commiserated about, hurts we didn’t want to face, became suddenly less powerful. I could hear it in her voice. 

One small star, a momentary second of brightness and then it was gone. We realized it was like our lives. Seen for a millisecond and gone.

Could we stay too long in our hurt places and miss what shining moment we might have?

We talked a bit more, but the conversation had gone full circle. We needed to be heard, and we were. The small interruption lasted a nanosecond, but it had soaked into our souls somehow.

I had to wonder if that star fell just for my friend and I . One November night in the middle of deep hurt.

~ Patricia Strefling


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Journaling in England

A familiar sight. Sheep on the green hillsides. This one is from the window at Near Sawrey B&B right next door to Beatrix Potter’s Hilltop Farm. You can understand why she wanted to keep the area the way she found it.  A large portion of the area is under the Trust Foundation she established to protect the land. And yet today we are recipients of the beautiful sights and sounds we viewed, thanks to her.

The land has many paths that run alongside the curving roads allowing people to walk through the areas that look today like they may have looked in Beatrix Potter’s day. While Debbie and I walked this one (heading to Far Sawrey) we found this little scene upon a fence post! We passed it the first time, but thankfully spotted it on our way back.

This photo was taken inside Near Sawrey B&B where we stayed. The windows from the big house right next door to Beatrix’s farm was beautifully decorated inside. This is the view from the window!

We met two very nice people at Beatrix’s Farm who offered us a ride to Hawkshead, suggesting we visit the quaint town. The two-mile jaunt down winding roads led us to a very scenic area. Way above on a high hill overlooking the town where Mr. Heelis (Beatrix’s husband) kept his office, and where William Wordsworth went to school, we found an ancient church. This was the view from inside looking out.

This picture shows where we stayed in Stow-on-the-Wold in the Cotswald area. Sheep were brought for buying and selling. There were many “hallways” leading out from the town center so sheep could be divided and taken away as they were sold.

Behind our B&B in Stow-on-the-Wold was a huge old church, St. Edwards. As I walked around to the back of the church I saw a beautiful old door with two trees growing on either side. I could only think C.S. Lewis may have liked this scene!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Humbled by One Simple Deed

Do you ever feel compelled when something visible grabs you? When you know it’s not you making the plan. It’s an overpowering feeling of knowing you must do this thing?

I pulled up at a Wendy’s drive-through in my hometown today and while waiting saw a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk outside the door. He was neat, had a large backpack sitting next to him. He was almost invisible until I looked again.

Suddenly I knew what I had to do. No thought. Just a knowing. I ordered my food and an extra meal. My heart was beating fast. By now I was on the other side of the building and prayed that when I pulled back around I’d find him still there.

My heart felt joy when I saw him. I pulled up, not knowing what to say, handed him the food and said, “God bless you.”

He took the bag and standing next to my window, thanked me more than once. I was compelled to say something like, “Jesus, it’s Jesus.”

Then looking me in the eye he said, “Give me 30 seconds?”

I said okay, thinking a pitch for money was coming.

Instead he bowed his head, took my hand and prayed for me. It went something like this, “Jesus I thank you for this lady, praying over her, her health, her safety, and her faith. Amen.”

I, who thought I was helping him, found out that a man that I did not know was so grateful for being seen, given food, for whatever reason, took the time to pray for me.

I asked his name and told him mine.

What came to mind was this:

“Do not forget to entertain strangers, 
for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”
 Hebrews 13:2 NIV

I met a man named James, today, who I sense I will see again in heaven. And  I met him by one simple act of obedience in that compelling moment when God allowed me to choose.  To bring him food or ignore him.

Truth: When you feel compelled, throw away fear, and do it.

--Patricia Strefling  copyright© 2012                                  

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Dancing at Midnight

Okay, so I dance the dance. Fool around, think about writing, then go clean the closet, think about writing again and whoops, got to get supper, then must do laundry.

What is this? I put off cleaning the closets, don’t like to cook as much as I used to, and laundry is done while I’m watching television any other night of the week.

So why the big push to do stuff I don’t like to do? Because it’s time to write. That’s why.

It’s the strangest phenomenon. 

And I have no explanation. Until I talked to my writer friend tonight at 2:45 am as we are checking in to report word counts and plot ideas.

What? At that hour? Well of course, what do you expect? After cleaning a closet, making dinner and putting two loads of laundry into the machine, I finally give up and sit down to write.

And what time is it?

Midnight. And I’ve known all day I wanted to write.

So, I am formally dubbing myself Midnight Writer.

And that’s that.

If I have to start at that hour, I may as well own up.

Writers are crazy. Crazy about what they do. Love what they do. Avoid the process like the plague but glory in the results. Go figure.

Midnight Writer….strikes again.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Travel - A Writer's Inspiration

England is calling our name. A friend of mine and I are traipsing over the pond to visit in a few weeks. My friend, who loves all things Victorian, even has her own shoppe with a distinctly Victorian accent, is going over for the first time.

We are both thrilled. Although I have been once, there’s nothing like taking a good friend who will see castles and visit tea rooms, not to mention the English countryside and B &B’s we hope to experience, for the first time.

Her excitement and anticipation has sent me flying to the local travel office for some concrete plans.  It has taken three years, working at a local B&B and selling crocheted baby items at craft shows to save the money. And it’s almost time to actually fulfill the dream. Hers and mine.

Our plan is to arrive in London, then take the train to the Lake District, visit Beatrix Potter’s farm, then off to The Cotswalds, hopefully for a stay in Stow-on-the-Wold, a quaint, historical town. After 3 days at each of those places, we plan on riding the rails to our next stop. Alton. To visit Jane Austen’s homeplace and museum in Chawton.

Then back to London and fly home, star-struck, and planning our next visit!

Where is your dream location?  And why do you want to go there?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Comfort Zone

            How often do you like to step outside your safe place? The one you’ve built very carefully, so it protects you from doing stuff you really don’t like to do?

            I had to step out of mine recently and thought I’d was going to lose my nerve. Now, in all the world’s problems this is going to sound terribly insignificant. Silly, really.
            But that’s what life is. Doing stuff we hate to do for the sake of something or someone else.

            Our pastor was preaching a series about going out and being “the church in the world.” He prompts us every week at the end of the sermon to do just that.  I love that about him…that he encourages us to step out. To DO something.

            So when he asked me to make a video telling a story about a “God Interruption” in my life I instantly said, “No thank you. I don’t do cameras, lights, action or microphones.”

            Figured he could get someone else in the congregation to tell their story.

            Went home and felt that I had been completely honest with him and that was THAT.

            Next day I emailed him back telling him I would do it. I had no idea how I was going to handle it but I knew one thing:

This was not MY story…it’s was God’s story.

            So, for ten days, I would lay in bed going over and over in my head, talking out loud, to see how the story sounded, all the time wishing I hadn’t been so quick to agree on a whim.

            Finally, I located the original typed version I wrote when it happened and re-read it half a dozen times, trying to pick out the highlights.
            I worried about what I would wear for the taping, and if my low voice and fear of anything live would end up ineffective. Would I be the first person who could not make a video because I’d had to stop and start so many times?
            I don’t like my picture taken, my voice turns weak when I am speaking in front of people, and would rather swallow cod liver oil than stand up in front of people.

            Did I mention that I’m ADD…and that thoughts fly through my mind like a jet through the clouds and I can’t remember things when I’m suppressed with fear.

            So I think you get the picture. I was not looking forward to the video session.

            It just happened that two of our three sons were here visiting, one from NYC, the other from Southern California so our household was wonderfully crazy that week.

            Which did two things for me.

            First, I didn’t have time to wash clothes to dress nice, had to grab the best blouse I could get my hands on, comb my hair quick and run out of the house the day of the taping. There was no time to think too hard about what I was about to do.

            Second, I had no time to re-rehearse what I had already gone over a million times! In other words, I was flying by the seat of my pants that day.

            I had no idea what to expect. Did they sit me in front of the church and video there? Would there be an audience?
            I met the young man who was doing the video and waited for instructions.

            Thankfully, since I am a one-on-one type of gal; enjoying a visit with one or two people just floats my boat. You really get to know people that way. And when I’m in a large group I just lose any sense of that closeness.  So I was very happy there weren’t lots of people standing around looking at me.

            It was just me and him, the lights, the camera. I could do this.

            And I did. When it was done I was so thankful I asked the young man if I could hug him! He was fine with that.

            I flew out of there glad to be going home. Glad I had said yes to our beloved pastor and glad that our sons and their girls were waiting at our house. They had been praying for me.

            End of story? Nope. The worst, for me, was yet to come. I thought that was the end of my journey, having done something I hate to do.

            The next hurdle presented itself when I realized the video was going to be shown at church to two services full of people I know!

            I wanted to skip church. Just let my husband tell me about it.


            But my husband said, “maybe people will want to talk to you about your story.”

            “That was fine.” I said. “They can call me on the phone.”           

            My husband and I had driven one son and his wife to the airport in Chicago in the middle of the night…so we had very little sleep that Sunday morning.  So I must have been out of my mind to go to church that morning.

            I walked up to the door with my stomach in flip-flops. I thought the worst was over at the taping and here I had to sit through a viewing of myself up there on the screen. In front of the whole church. I mean can it get any worse when you are a gal who does NOT like that kind of attention all at once?

            I love attention. Just one-on-one attention.

            Our wonderfully sweet greeter at the door whispered in my ear how much she loved the story, that it brought her to tears.  My heart began to settle down.

            If SHE said it was okay, then it was OKAY!

            Pastor preached the whole sermon and I was about to jump out of my seat every time he made a move…I had hoped he would not show it until the end. And that was the case, so I was grateful for that.

            But during the entire time, my stomach was still flip-flopping.

            Finally I sat there watching myself on screen criticizing my hair, my facial movements, that shirt I had on…and watched as though I was in a dream.

            There is was.

            I had done it. I had told the story … the one pastor reminded me was “God’s Story” not mine.

            And realized something that day.

            It ain’t about me!!! 

            Idea: Do something outside your safe zone and share your story with me?

            I’d love to hear it.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Mustang Owners

When your three sons find work on two different coasts and your eldest son and his wife, take themselves and your grand-kids 3000 miles away what do mom and dad do?

Buy a 1965 Mustang of course!

For four years my husband, a local letter carrier walked by homes with old cars sitting in garages. And every time he saw a Mustang…anything older than a 1970, he would ask about it.

But nobody wanted to sell -- until we saw a 1981 Mustang sitting on a corner near our house and stopped to take a look. We quickly went home and dragged our neighbor down to the corner and take a look at it for us.

Our neighbor can tear down a car and have it looking brand new in no time.  He looked at it, declared it would take a lot of work and mentioned that there was a pretty little 1965 sitting down at a local tattoo shop. Would we like to drive by?

Would we like to drive by????

Of course we would. We went in to the tattoo shop, met a nice young man who said he had to sell his Harley or his Mustang for a down-payment on a home. Thankfully he chose the Mustang.

He even took us for a ride in her. When we got out we knew were going to buy that car. And we also knew we had better get it quick. It was hot-shot red, with a 289 engine in it and boy did it roar up good. Ten inch tires on the back kicked us into high gear.

We could hardly sleep that night. Since my husband had to work the next day, my neighbor rode along to make sure I could get the car home.

Neighbor said, “You’d better be there when he opens at noon with cash in your hand. That car is going to go fast.”

So, I rushed to the bank. Got the cash and we were waiting when the owner drove up to open his store the next day.

As I was counting out the cash on the counter some young guy came in and said, “My boss wants to buy that Mustang for his son.”

The owner looked at me, hooked his thumb my way and said, “She just bought it.”
The young man howled out loud, “Darn.”

And I tell you I could not help it. I smiled.

Take a look at the photo and tell me we didn’t get a good deal.

My husband spent a couple summers adding, adjusting, redoing, rewiring, and all sorts of things to make our girl, whom we dubbed, Ruby (she is red and she is a jewel after all) look really good.  Step on the gas and everyone knows Ruby is around!

He shined her up and we took her out to our downtown car show and parked her near all the other oldies but goodies.

An investment. That’s what we said when we bought it. And sure enough we are the proud owners of a 1965 red Mustang.

And when the sons and grandsons come home…well, you know they like to lay that accelerator down.

Patricia Strefling

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness

Random Acts of Kindness

Christmas is the time when many acts of kindness are distributed throughout the world. It’s a magical time of year.

Since we are entering a new year, why not spend it looking for ways to give little gifts all year long? Sounds great, but how do we do this?

Here’s one idea we came up with. When we find ourselves in a drive-through we ask the cashier if we can pay for someone’s order that is two cars behind us. They usually have their order on computer by then and that way we have a car between us so we can perform our “getaway” before they know who we are.

When my grandsons came for the holidays we decided each one would have a one-on-one with grammy and we would look for a way to give a gift without the receiver knowing who we were.

Our first day out Connor  (age 13) and I delivered a trunkload of food collected at a recent family party to our local Salvation Army just two days before Christmas. We drove away remembering the happy faces as they unloaded box after box. Although we were known, it blessed us to see the workers inside the building smiling as the boxes and cans kept coming in.

Second day out Calvin our youngest at (age 8) and I went to Wal-Mart to wire money to a family friend who had no Christmas gifts for their children. As I was about to tell the cashier an amount, Calvin said, “Grammy, give more.”  I looked at him and upped the amount! A child knows things we don’t!

Third day out our eldest (age 15) knew what he was looking for: to buy lunch for someone since we were eating out. He looked around the restaurant and did not see an opportunity, so decided we should get in the car and go our local McDonald’s drive-through and buy someone’s order behind us.  We pulled in but the drive-through was empty. So we parked and when we saw cars coming in, quickly maneuvered into the drive-through. Sure enough there were two cars behind us. We pulled up to the window and told the cashier we wanted to pay for the second car back.  The cashier rang it up and alas the lady had bought only a Coke. We were a little disappointed at first, for this was Christmas, we were looking for GREAT gifts. Then we realized maybe this WAS the greatest gift to this lady…one simple act of kindness. The fun part was we gunned the gas pedal and got out of there before she could see us!

Fourth day out Cameron (age 11) chose McDonalds as his favorite place to eat. So we went inside looking for a way to use his random act of kindness. Since he didn’t see an opportunity we decided to head downtown for some candy at Veni’s our local chocolate shop. We bought turtles for Cameron’s mom and his favorite chocolate-covered marshmallow with pecans.

Then got an idea. We purchased a gift certificate from the cashier and gave it back to her with this request: “Give it to the next person who walks in the door!”  Excitedly she said, “What? You’re giving this away to a stranger?”

We smiled and said we were. She got a bit teary-eyed and said, “As long as I’ve worked here this has never happened before.” We hurried out before someone could catch us, Cameron and I smiling because the cashier was bubbling over with excitement as to who it would be. Two people were touched this time.

A few days later after all the boys had flown home with their parents, I went into Veni’s again and the same cashier was there. She told me excitedly that the next person to come in that day was from out of town. The receiver asked to give the gift certificate to a family member.

Then the cashier said the most amazing thing. “You know what else?  A lady came in here the other day and said someone had paid for her order at McDonalds.”

I just looked at her. The cashier knew our other grandson’s story about the drive-though Coke.

We looked at each other. There is no way of knowing who did this random act of kindness, but it sure made us feel all goose-bumpy, just thinking about it.

This was the gift that just kept giving.

Amazingly strange stories can come from just one act of kindness.

It was a wonderful week! Our “acts” cost us very little, but the excitement was overpowering as each gift began to include more and more people along the way.

I don’t think the boys nor I will soon forget. If they begin to perform acts of random kindness in their city just think how each gift will ripple outward.

Once people know how to give they, too, can find ways to change one person’s day, to let someone know there is still love and kindness in a world that is full of trouble.

Why don’t you try it one day and see what happens?

We would love to hear your story.  If you want to share, just hit reply, or visit https://www.facebook.com/patricia.strefling.author and let me know. 

January 17, 2012
© by Patricia Strefling