Turn

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“Turn” is my word for this year. Specifically, in baffling or important decisions, turn and ask Jesus first. Sounds like a piece of cake, right? Easier to write than to do, at least for me. You see, I have this hangup. It’s bred into me to say yes and scramble to accomplish whatever need someone presented or whatever good deed needs doing. HOWEVER, this is not biblical. Have you ever noticed that Jesus didn’t heal everyone in Israel? There were still sick, twisted people when He headed back to Heaven. That’s because He talked over His earthly mission with His Father, every day, all the time. He turned, and then He obeyed. That’s how He managed to be gentle and lowly, even in a human body.

There’s an important truth there. He talked it over with His Father. We call that prayer. The trick, for me and you, is to turn off automatic response in favor of discussing the current situation with Jesus. Sometimes I don’t even get my whole thought out before Jesus starts answering. Sometimes he taps me on the shoulder before I have a thought. Other times I ask and ask and He just says, “I’ve got this.” Finally, of course sometimes I ask Him and He says nothing. That is a dead giveaway that I need to stand in place, not rush off to anywhere. But I’m still practicing, sometimes I still forge mightily ahead and don’t ask.

Nevertheless, He loves me. Whatever his response, I know He loves me and will give me His best answers and His best in everything. So this year, I’m practicing. Won’t you join me? Turn and ask.

Goals

This may seem obvious, but to set goals, we have to stop and think. About what we want, whether we’ve given up in the face of obstacles, fear, longing, all that human stuff. It seems possible to me that most folks are like me, and need goals to put flavor in life. If you disagree, please speak up. Might make a great discussion.

At any rate, in the last week of 2021, I spent all the time I had on considering. One thing that had been bothering me was that my marketing ability was so ineffective with my books. I’d spent twenty years in the public relations profession, but my writing was the world’s best hidden secret. A lady at church even said, “I didn’t know you were a writer. You need to speak up.” Not good. I read yesterday that the best marketing tool to sell books is to write a good one, and go for word of mouth promotion. See, I already knew that. So why so tight-lipped? (Lord, please don’t let it be false humility.)

Another was that I wasn’t getting as much time with my adult children and grandchildren as I wanted. A couple live clear on the other side of the county, so that complicates the situation, but I’m a pretty smart cookie. I can figure it out. And I’m the one with the most flexible time, thus the opportunity to plan to be together. Got on that one this week.

I could go on, but I think you get my drift. Just one more thing. One big, lofty goal seems like a great idea, no matter how old you are. There’s this award for Christian fiction writers, called the Carol Award. I’m going to win that award, maybe next year.

And by the way, have you checked out my books on Amazon yet? There’s a new one, Queen of the Third Grade published for less than a month. See, I can speak up. https://smile.amazon.com/Queen-Third-Grade-Jane-Baker-ebook/dp/B09MP35BZT/ref=sr_1_3?crid=3C8YQA94YV17Y&keywords=queen+of+the+third+grade+book&qid=1641482725&sprefix=Queen+of+the+Third+Grade%2Caps%2C128&sr=8-3

Queen of the Third Grade

My novel about the rewards and challenges of teaching elementary school is finished! You can preorder it on Amazon, and it will be out December 23 in time for gifts for teachers or parents on your Christmas list.

Here’s what Barbara Reed, San Joaquin County Teacher of the Year, said about Queen of the Third Grade.

 “’Love them first. They’ll learn their heart out for you.’ The Queen of the Third Grade teacher’s quote in her last year of teaching says it all in this beautifully written novel. Her heart is wide open for her dizzying array of third graders–from a learning-disabled boy unable to read to an autistic child fixated on Quantum Physics to an emotionally disturbed boy to an angry girl with questionable bruises to a girl who doesn’t speak English. She addresses her students’ vastly different abilities, challenges and gifts by focusing on strengths, teaching to each child’s ability, rewarding the good, giving her students power; and embracing “Truth and Grace” to apologize in front of the class when she is wrong.  However, the teacher’s work is not limited to the four walls of the classroom; she goes far beyond, working with the families, mentoring new teachers, and challenging the shameful dictates of state-wide testing that leave students feeling worthless.  Intertwined in her school life is her full-time devotion to her husband and family with all its blessings and tragedies.  Just when the reader thinks this teacher’s retirement signals a final departure from her students, her trust in the Lord opens a brand new and heroic chapter in her life!”

I hope you enjoy Queen of the Third Grade. If you do, please leave a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or both.  And Merry Christmas! 

Truth and Grace

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I’m coming to the end of the writing process on Queen of the Third Grade, where my protagonist, Gwen Murphy, finishes her last year teaching. She ponders as she faces various challenges how to manage life in truth and grace. Somewhere along the line, she realizes only God knows truth and only God can find the boundaries between truth and grace, which puts humans in the position of needing to turn to Him whenever life hands us sticky situations.

Now, I’m not talking about whether to do the dishes or not. If you choose not to, that can get pretty sticky. But that’s not the sticky I mean. The sticky I mean is more like when you become friends with someone who lives in a culture or lifestyle you don’t share. The Atheist and the Christian, the person of color and the white, the straight and the gay, the rifle-toter and the pacifist, that kind of thing. In those kinds of relationships, one pastor suggests you need a yes, no, yes philosophy, which I think is one way of applying grace and truth.

My understanding of yes, no, yes is yes, I’m going to be your friend, respect you as someone made in the image of God. No, I can’t agree with everything you think or do. But yes, I’m going to be your friend anyhow. And I’m going to pull this off because as we move through life, I’m going to keep turning to Jesus to ask where truth and grace are right now, in this situation and copy His example of open arms and honesrty.

I hope, when Queen of the Third Grade is published, you’ll take a look at Gwen’s last year. It’s a doozy. Hopefully, it’ll be on Amazon by Christmas.

Stuff

Be careful about buying stuff or accepting stuff. I suggest this because I am becoming gray haired, and there’s no place else to put all these things I’ve acquired over the years. Don’t buy me any stuff, please. Alot of the stuff I have, I bought. A lot I didn’t. Either way, it takes up space and because what I haven’t already thrown away has memories attached, I keep it.

I have old stuff. Like the little pink ceramic cradle my dad gave my mom when I was born, in the last century. I have congratulatory stuff, like the courtesy trophy I won for being nice to bus drivers and cafeteria ladies in high school. I have pictures of relatives who were born in the century before the one I was born in. I have boxes full of stuff I wrote here and there. I have the black velvet dress with the oriental writing that Bake brought me when he served in the Navy in Vietnam. I have phony flowers and a phony otter statue that commemorates my first novel. I have more jewelry than one woman could wear in a lifetime. I have hurricane lanterns just in case the lights go out, which they haven’t in a real long time. I have trinkets kids gave me when I was a teacher. I have pillows I saved for company, left from the ones I gave away to immigrants. I have an inukshuk we brought home from our trip to Alaska, and you probably don’t even know or care what that is. My hutch is overflowing with china, crystal glasses, blown glass and tea cups. I even have the ashes of a dog I loved in a box with her picture on it.

Some stuff I’ve thrown away. Like my wedding dress, yellowed with age. I think I threw away about forty tons of old clothes and shoes. I threw away my tennis racquet since I can’t run on phony knees, and the shoe skates I bought with my first babysitting money, for the same reason. I’ve thrown away great loads of writing I thought was so good at the time. I’ve donated a whole library full of books. And that’s only counting my stuff. If I get started on Bake’s, this will be a tome instead of a blog. (Boxes and boxes of cds, just sayin’)

Now you may wonder why I even bring this up. Well, there’s the dusting and washing. But that’s not the lion’s part. One of these days I’m headed for heaven. After that, I can envision our Laura, holding up my Helen Keller/Annie Sullvian hands figure to the tune of “What in the …. is this?” I can see our John toss my little angel from Chewy into the dumpster without a thought. I can watch Maryann hoard fishing poles and delve into the myriad of journals in my study looking for the gold that I’m not sure is there.

Gosh, maybe stuff’s not that bad. Maybe that exercise will be good for my progeny, or at least a lesson in not procuring stuff.