The Lightest Burden

The Lightest Burden

 

burden

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

 

It wasn’t a burning bush. It wasn’t a pillar of cloud or of fire. It wasn’t any miracle—recorded or otherwise—that God used to get my attention. Rather, it was weariness.

A weariness that settled in and pressed relentlessly down upon me. A weariness that made me stumble under the load of responsibility that I carried.

Jesus promised that we’d find rest. If His yoke was easy, and His burden was light, why couldn’t I bear it?

“Lord, if Your yoke is so easy, why am I overwhelmed?”

Then it hit me—I was overwhelmed because I’d taken on burdens the Lord never intended for me to carry.

I’d acquired them gradually because I thought I could, and should. I’d underestimated the weight of the responsibilities I already held. I’d also accumulated worries because I didn’t trust God to resolve financial, family, or personal issues without my help.

It’s easy to get overburdened, isn’t it? We strive to be strong for others, to be good at our jobs, to be a good parent. To be on time. To be consistent. To be a good friend. To be and to achieve more and ever more. Because . . . .why?

We feel compelled because others are doing it. We feel we should because the Bible tells us to do “good deeds.” We place expectations on ourselves—what we expect of ourselves and what we think God and other people expect of us.

We mistakenly believe that if there’s a need, we must fill it. And so we take on burden after burden. Before we know it, we’re bent under a load of work, of worries, of grief. We become physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted.

The Lord never intended for us to be buried under the load we carry.  Rather, He wants us to “cast all our cares on Him” and allow Him to sustain us (Ps. 55:22).

Are you tired? If so, come. Drop your fears, your toil, your weariness, your grief at His feet. Receive the rest He has for you. Then listen for His voice; feel the guidance of His hands as you walk under the light yoke that He has for you. His yoke for you is good, and His burden is light.

Character Interview: Daniel from Going to Antarctica

Character Interview: Daniel from Going to Antarctica

daniel waiting crop

One way to learn more about a character you’re writing about is to interview them. This process can be as fun and surprising when the character is based on a real-life person as when it is not.

I recently interviewed “Daniel” from my picture book Going to Antarctica. In the story, the family’s furnace has broken and feisty 8-year-old Daniel is excited to help the repair man. When Mama asks him to stop helping, what will he do Why, he’ll comply with his “not-very-happy-about-it” draggy feet and plan an escape to Antarctica, of course!

 

The real-life Daniel is every bit as feisty as his written counterpart–if not more so! Here is the transcript of our recent interview:

I’m here with Daniel, the main character in the picture book Going to Antarctica. We’re going to ask him a few questions.

Good morning, Daniel.

Gooood morning, Mrs. Seward

How are you today?

Good. I brought my cat Maggie to show.

Oh. She’s a very pretty cat.

Yep. She’s named Maggie.

What a nice name. Now, we have a couple of questions for you. First. we’re wondering what your favorite color is.

Blue, no red, no blue, no red, no blue, no red . . . .aughhhh! (pause) I don’t have a favorite color.

What about your favorite food?

Pizza rice casserole.

Oh, yum. Some people may not have heard of pizza rice casserole. Can you tell us what it is?

It’s rice, cottage cheese, browned hamburger meat, and tomato sauce all put together. You just mix it together after the meat is browned.

Wow. Since it’s PIZZA rice casserole, is there pizza seasoning or anything in there?

Because of the pizza sauce—spaghetti sauce is pizza sauce.

That works for me.Our next question is–what books are you reading right now?

Mandie and the Invisible Troublemaker.

That sounds like fun. What do you like about the Mandie series?

They’re mystery books!

Are there other mystery books that you like?

I love ALL mystery books.

Do you have a favorite book of all time?

No. Probably my least favorite is picture books.

Oh really. (I didn’t think until after the interview to ask what he thought about being the main character IN a picture book. . . .)

I’ve read a 31-chapter book in probably 45 minutes.

Wow, that’s pretty impressive.

I’m also pretty good at piano. Wanna hear my latest song?

Yeah . . . let’s wait just a minute though.

So we know what your favorite food is. We know you don’t quite have a favorite color. What’s your favorite subject in school?

Ummm, science.

What do you like about science?

Well, last week a scientist came. He comes every few weeks, and he was like, “Well, let’s just assume that we want this hard-boiled egg inside my Erlenmeyer flask.” He didn’t push it. He put it in cold water and it went in. And then he put pressure (blowing-whoo whoo whoo whoo) and stuck it in the hot water and the egg came out the top. Finally. (laughing-he he he he) He started with a tiny egg then got a fatter egg, because the tiny egg wasn’t going out.

Did he tell you how it worked?

Mmmhmmm. After you let the egg down, you gotta hoo-hooo-hooo.

You blow?

(Nodding) You get pressure into the system then stick it in hot water really fast so that the egg’s up there.

Is it because the warm water rises—warmth rises?

It’s actually because warm molecules, they move around faster. And cold molecules move around slower. I bet ice molecules are moving around like thiiiiiiis (slow motion), and gas molecules are moving around like whoooosh (fast motion)

Oh, yeah. Probably as fast as you move, huh?

Mmmhmmm.

What are some of your favorite hobbies, some of the things that you like to do?

Read, piano, math.

Oh, you like math?

I’m a whiz.

That’s cool.

I love science too.

So do you like things like domino toppling?

Yep.

Cool. What about making chemical reactions?

That’s part of science! I might be a chemist when I grow up.

That would be—

I could be a chemist, a pianist. . . I could be all sorts of things that I have talents for.

Yep–

I could be a chemist AND a pianist.

You could be anything you want to be—

I’d have certain days I was a chemist and taught people how to do chemistry, and I taught people how to do piano while I was just a great pianist and performed on certain days.

That would be great. We’re just about to wrap up the interview. Would you like to play one of your favorite piano pieces for us?

I’ll play the newest one. It’s called “Sword Dance,” and it’s in D Minor Position.

Wonderful.

**Plays** (click to hear this short portion of the interview: Daniel Interview Piano )

Very nicely done. Thank you so much. And thank you for taking the time to interview with us this morning.

Thank you. Bye! Wait! Let’s interview my cat!

 

The Night Before Christmas

The Night Before Christmas

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The gifts are all purchased,

placed under the tree.

Now we rest and we look,

both you and me.

 

And we sit and we think

while the tree is all lit,

it’s all a reflection–

each little bit.

 

All a reflection

of the gift, so divine

that came in a manger,

a baby sublime.

 

An answer to need,

a promise come true,

a hope for mankind,

for me and for you.

 

A miraculous birth,

declaration of love,

the best gift of all

came from heaven above.

 

Now the hustle and bustle

and flurry have passed,

in the calm and the quiet

we give thanks at last.

How do You Escape the Frazzle Dazzle of Christmas Prep?

How do You Escape the Frazzle Dazzle of Christmas Prep?

christmastrain

Does Christmas tire you out? You enter the season full of joy and excitement but before December 25th arrives, you find yourself short-tempered, frazzled and worn out.

Oh, the list looks short and doable.

  1. Put up decorations
  2. Send out Christmas cards
  3. Buy or make gifts and mail/deliver them
  4. Celebrate!

So why do we get stressed out from Christmas pressure? It’s because, in all reality, the list looks more like this:
1. Put up decorations

  • a. unearth boxes where decorations are stored
  • b. search for Christmas cd’s
  • c. start water for hot cocoa/hot apple cider
  • d. set up the tree
  • e. run to the store to replace burnt out light strands
  • f. run back to the store to buy new garland
  • g. put ornaments on tree
  • h. put star on top
  • i. take star off because top branch can no longer support its weight
  • j. set up nativity
  • k. run to store for superglue to fix broken nativity figurines
  • l. mix hot cocoa
  • m. decide to wait another day to put up outside lights
  • n. put ornament boxes away
  • o. clean up hot cocoa spills and half empty cocoa cups
  • p. wash dishes
  • q. get the kids to bed
  • r. sit down to rest, and enjoy the haphazardly decorated tree

 

2. Send out Christmas cards

  • a. search at least two stores to find Christmas cards you like
  • b. look for mailing list
  • c. if lost, recreate mailing list
  • i. call family members
  • ii. admit fatal flaw (or computer malfunction)
  • iii. talk for 10 minutes
  • iv. write down their address
  • v. wait for any return calls
  • d. write new mailing list—think through old friends, new friends, relatives, church friends, small group members, adoptive grandparents, coworkers . . .
  • e. worry that you’ll miss somebody
  • f. write a message and sign the cards
  • g. address the envelopes
  • h. buy stamps
  • i. affix stamps
  • j. take envelopes to the post office
  • k. receive cards from people you forgot to add to the new mailing list
  • l. find where you put remaining cards
  • m. write a message and sign the card
  • n. affix stamp
  • o. take envelope to post office

 

3. Buy or make gifts

  • a. set a budget
  • b. create list of friends, family, church friends, small group members, adoptive grandparents, coworkers . . .
  • c. shop online
  • d. shop through six or seven or ten stores
  • e. leave many stores with nothing in hand, tired and frustrated and running out of time
  • f. buy “easy” gifts first
  • g. buy 6 rolls of tape (knowing the kids will waste half of it)
  • h. wrap purchased gifts
  • i. label gifts
  • j. sort gifts according to where they will go (under tree, in mail to X, Y, or Z, to church, etc.)
  • k. clean up mess (mostly)
  • l. shop again
  • m. carefully select gifts for tough-to-shop-for people
  • n. reject idea after idea
  • o. finally settle on the first gift option you thought of
  • p. wrap newly purchased gifts
  • q. label gifts
  • r. sort gifts according to where they will go
  • s. find boxes that fit gifts to be shipped
  • t. pack gifts into boxes
  • u. arrange gifts just right
  • v. find bubble wrap, shopping bags, or newspaper to fill in gaps
  • w. find the packing tape
  • x. securely tape boxes
  • y. write addresses on boxes (or on labels to affix to the boxes)
  • z. wrangle boxes into the car
  • aa. drive to the post office
  • bb. stack and carefully juggle the boxes to carry them into the post office
  • cc. wait in line 15 minutes, arms aching under the weight of the awkward boxes
  • dd. pay as much in shipping as you did for the gifts (okay, not really—because you’ve learned that good gifts don’t have to be big or heavy)
  • ee. return home
  • ff. take a nap
  • gg. finish choosing gifts for your kids
  • hh. make new stockings
  • ii. buy stocking stuffers
  • jj. fill stockings Christmas Eve
  • kk. wrap any final gifts Christmas Eve
  • ll. sleep!!!!!

 

4. Celebrate!

  • a. attend special Christmas brunch
  • b. attend Bible study Christmas celebration
  • c. attend holiday dance recital
  • d. attend holiday piano recital
  • e. attend childrens’ Christmas play (all sessions)
  • f. attend holiday work dinner
  • g. attend church Christmas dinner
  • h. attend candlelight service
  • i. attend family Christmas Eve party

 

And we wonder why we get frazzled?

Although we tend to think of the first list, the actual list explodes exponentially with all the little details involved. And really, it’s a longer list than shown above because we still have all the daily responsibilities and chores of life, of work, of homemaking to take care of.

So what can we do to take the crazy out of Christmas?

Here are a few ideas I find helpful:
1. Start preparing earlier.
2. Simplify. Focus only on what’s most important to you and your family.
3. Limit engagements (either Christmas, nonChristmas, or both)
4. Involve the family—in gift making, card preparing and mailing, etc.
What are some ways you’ve found to help combat the Christmas craziness and keep the Joy and Wonder in the season?

How a Picture Book Story Comes Alive

How a Picture Book Story Comes Alive

 

 

dylan sneak

 

 

Dylan poked his head around the corner of the kitchen. Daddy lay in his recliner, watching football.

Dylan ducked back before Daddy saw him. A tricky grin turned up the corners of his lips. Could he sneak up on Daddy this time? (from Tip, Tip, Tippy Toe)

I did a fun photo shoot this weekend for one of my picture books.

When I started writing Tip, Tip, Tippy Toe, I’d pictured a certain young man and a certain young lady as primary characters. Little did I know how apt the story would fit in with their family’s antics.

After I arrived at their house we sat in the living room. I read the story to them. This was one of my favorite parts because when they heard their names and the actions in the story, they giggled over and over. And over!

Then we began to act out the story. I clicked picture after picture. I’d  wondered if it’d be hard for them to focus and act it out because they’re so young, but they did amazing! Any shyness fell away and they joined in eagerly.

Yes, I know. The publishing house that eventually publishes the book will choose the illustrator. And maybe the style they envision is entirely different than my picture-paintings. And that’s okay.

I had fun. I think the kids (and their family) did too. And I have samples an illustrator can draw from for how I envision the characters and some of the pictures to look.

Tip, Tip, Tippy Toe is no longer just words on a page–it’s an active, living, giggling story :-)

 

What’s in a Heroine? A Guy’s Perspective

What’s in a Heroine? A Guy’s Perspective

heroine old mastersmall

“What does a heroine look like?” I asked my husband, Barry.

His answer was somewhat surprising.

Some of my long-time favorite heroines include Anne Shirley, Christy Huddleston, and Elizabeth Bennet. They are spunky, creative and spirited, and I’ve always admired those qualities.

But my husband doesn’t see these particular characters as strong heroines.

His list of character qualities for a heroine looks more like this:

  • She never loses her feminine side (caring, feeling).
  • She is the result of what she has to be (like Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games). She does the best she can with what she has. She loves and protects. She learns about herself and her feminine side in the process.
  • She is not a “dreamer without reason”. She doesn’t have to be perfect (or think she has to be perfect). She learns to be content.
  • She’s willing to jump in and serve, to get her hands dirty.
  • She’s genuine, willing to trade everything to be true to herself and to what’s important to her (again, like Katniss).
  • She is not proud.
  • She can have spunk, but not at the expense of others (like poor Gilbert in Anne of Green Gables/Anne of Avonlea).
  • If you remove femininity, you lose the beauty of womanness–that’s what really draws the heart of the man

Well said, my dear. What a wonderful standard of “heroineism” to strive for in writing, and in living one’s own life story.

The 10 Best Things About the iPad

The 10 Best Things About the iPad

love ipad

The iPad is a useful tool for work, family, and fun. I’ve had mine for almost two years. As a mom, a writer, and a lover of fun, here are some of my favorite things about the iPad:

  1. Camera/videocamera. It’s so easy to capture memories or take videos to share with family or on YouTube or other social media sites. I can share with the click of a button, rather than have to download to the computer, modify the image or video, convert it, and upload to whatever site I want to. If I had to go through all those steps, I wouldn’t share very often.
  2. Social Media. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and other social media apps make it easy to connect with friends and business contacts. I can also write a blog post on the iPad and post it.
  3. Screen shot. I LOVE this function! If there’s a page from an e-book or a website or anything I’m looking at on the screen that I want or need to keep handy, I can click the buttons and have an image to look at later.
  4. Size. I love the size of the iPad. It’s super light and portable–I just put it in my “Mom purse” and take it wherever I go. The screen is also big enough to read e-books or magazines, look at photos, or watch videos.
  5. Wordprocessing. As a writer, I often use the iPad to capture my thoughts. Whether I brainstorm for a story, write a rough draft, journal, or jot down a new idea–it’s amazing!
  6. Worship Videos. The kids and I often open the YouTube app and sing along to worship videos. We take turns picking songs–Hillsong Kids is one of their favorites :-)
  7. Audio recordings. I love this function, too. It’s easy to record reminder memos, the tune to a new little jingle, interviews, and the kids playing piano. Sometimes I want to record their conversations so I can write them into a story, but I often miss out on half the interaction before I can hit the record button :-)
  8. Video streaming. I must admit, I use this function more for the kids. We can watch shows or movies anytime we’re in wi-fi range. Getting iPad time is an incentive for them to get their work done quickly, too. I usually watch “how-to” or informational videos on the iPad.
  9. Educational games. Okay, and the noneducational kind, too. There’s just something about getting to play learning games on a screen that makes it more fun :-)
  10. Music, podcasts, audiobooks. When I drive, clean, or work on a project I often put on a story, music, or a podcast.
  11. “There’s an app for that!” I know, the blog title says “10”. I’m a rebel. But really, this is one of the coolest things about the iPad. No matter what you enjoy or what type of work (or play) you do, there’s an app for it. Flashlights, white noises, e-book readers, e-book makers, compasses, alarm clocks, wordprocessing–you name it!

 

These are a few of my favorite things about the iPad. What are some of yours?

How to Stop the Blame Game

How to Stop the Blame Game

blame game

This morning was a mad dash to get ready for school and race out the door in time to be on time. As usual.

It began when I woke up late. Add a few distractions–like the first snow of the season and new dress-up clothes a certain girl was itching to try on.

So you take a shortened deadline, cool distractions and people, then mix it all up and what do you get?

Chaos. Short tempers. Stuff going wrong. And the blame game.

I’d set a timer to ring at 7:30 every weekday morning. This timer means that it’s time to wrap up whatever we’re doing, finish the bare necessities so we’re ready for school, and head out the door TO THE VAN.

At least, it’s supposed to.

But this morning, like most mornings, that didn’t happen according to plan.

Instead of getting the bare necessities, my daughter stripped off her coat and began trying on another dress-up outfit. Go figure. Then we searched for gloves (to no avail) and hats–which we eventually found.

“Go climb in the van, which is in the garage.” I told my children as I ran downstairs to do one last pressing thing.

When I came back up, neither child was in the van. And the front door was open.

My son had gone out to the front yard (which we’re trying to teach them NOT to do because it’s by the street).

So I found both children and herded them to the van.

Our dog Brownie likes to ride with us. However, when I called for her she didn’t come. Uh oh.

She had wandered out the open door and was meandering somewhere in the neighborhood.

Since it was so late we didn’t have time to find Brownie AND be on time for school, we backed out of the driveway and headed on our not-so-merry way.

Of course, we played the blame game most of the way there.

“It’s your fault if we’re late!” Daughter told Son. “And if Brownie gets hit, it’s your fault too!”

Oh boy. Nothing like the mortality of a loved one hanging over your head to get a great start to the day.

“We could all have done better,” I told them. “Daughter, is there something you could have done better?”

After being prodded and reminded of the morning’s activities, she reluctantly said, “Yes.”

“And there are things I could have done better, too.” I admitted. “What about you, Son? Are there things you could have done better?”

“Yes,” he said.

“So this afternoon we’ll talk about what it means when the timer rings. What we do, and what we don’t do. And we’ll practice once, or twice, or three times.”

In the end, we made it to school on time. I found the dog when I got home–wandering, but close to the house. And I have a plan for how to help tomorrow morning (and hopefully the weekday mornings after that) go more smoothly.

 

The blame game passes judgment and creates division. So how do we keep from playing it?

It helps to open the hands in surrender instead of pointing the finger in division. To admit that we are personally at fault in some way. To say, “How can I, how can we, do better? We are in this together.”

The Thrill of the Submission

The Thrill of the Submission

submission envelope

I just sealed the envelope.

Enclosed within is a picture book manuscript, a query letter, a sample picture book spread layout, a page layout idea, and a SASE.

My heart still beats fast, and the butterflies still rumble through my midsection.

No matter how many times I submit a story, or how many times my work is published, I hope I never lose this sense of excitement and anticipation.

The flutters mean I am going outside myself. Stepping beyond my comfort zone.This story that I have birthed is out there in the realm of possibilities. And I just happen to know the God who turns even impossibilities into possibilities :-) The God who knows the right times, the right places, and the right connections.

So fly well, little one. Go in the grace of God, carried on the wings of angels. Whether or not this is the home where you can grow into your own, may you receive favor and bring smiles and tears (at all the right places).

The Battle of the Bubbles

The Battle of the Bubbles

bubbles

The Battle of the Bubbles, by Bernice Seward

Scrubbing Bubbles on my hands,

In my hair,

Up my nose.

Scrubbing Bubbles under foot,

I slip and slide around.

 

Bathroom window

Hides behind

Washer, dryer,

Cabinet.

Obstacles to squeeze around

So I can get some air.

 

Breathe!

(Heee, hooo, heee, hooo)

 

Escape the bathroom,

Rest awhile.

Check on Facebook.

Send a Tweet.

Pet the cat behind her cheek.

Mount the stairs to

Fetch a drink.

 

There!

 

Lungs are clear

I’m ready now

To brave the Bubbles once again.

Here a step and

There a step.

Inflate the lungs one final time

Then brave the mist once more.

 

(P.S. I like Scrubbing Bubbles. It works really well. I wrote this poem during a major cleaning spree, and I used A LOT of Scrubbing Bubbles in small spaces in a short amount of time.)

Lovable Looper, a story with a moral (sort of)

Lovable Looper, a story with a moral (sort of)

caden and brownie

I love writing stories with the kids. It rarely turns out as planned, but that’s the way it goes when you’re working with creative geniuses :-) Here is a short story we worked on together–I think you’ll love the moral they came up with!

Once upon a time there was a dog who loved people. He loved people so much, he looped around in circles every time he saw someone.

One day a boy named Caden happened to come by. Caden thought the dog was super lovable, and wanted to hug him. This made the dog so excited he looped around in circles ten times. Then he followed Caden home.

His parents let him keep the dog, whom he named Looper.

The End

Moral: Get a dog that’s really lovable.

The Best Thing About a New Old Book

The Best Thing About a New Old Book

book for blog

 

Our local library had a book sale the weekend before last. Young Mister Caden and I stopped by. This was, of course, a no-brainer for a couple of book lovers. (Abbie was sad afterwards that she didn’t get to go. I promised her that she and I will shop for books sometime.)

The best thing about a new old book is not that it’s a great price so you can buy MORE new old books. It’s not that you get the convenience of a wonderfully cluttered shelf full of books you can read at your leisure.

No. The best thing about a new old book is that it has a history. A story all its own. A story that YOU become a part of.

Take this book that Caden picked out, for instance. The White Horse by Elizabeth Coatsworth. Published in 1942, it is over 70 years old. it doesn’t have a dust jacket or a fancy cover. It isn’t flashy or ostentatious.

The book is steeped in mystery. Who originally bought it, fresh from the publisher? Where were they from? What were they like? Since it’s a children’s book, was it a gift? Who has loved this book and kept it all these years?

Add to these questions a few clues. Tucked in the front end papers is a newspaper clipping. A piece with jagged edges, torn from “The Christian Science Monitor, Boston, Wednesday January 27, 1943.”

Curiouser and curiouser.

Why did the owner keep that slip of newspaper? Did they need a bookmark? Did a story interest them?

The only complete information in the newspaper clipping was a picture of the Sultan of Morocco, Sidi Mohammed, who attended a festival at Rabat and also dined with President Roosevelt.

And in the information under the picture of the sultan, we get another clue. The sultan “rode a white horse,” it says. Hmmm. The sultan rode a white horse, and this book is called The White Horse. Perhaps the clipping was not torn from the paper by a father who had been reading the story to his child(ren). Perhaps a girl who received this book as a gift saw this in the paper–or a relative pointed it out–and she was struck by the connection to her beloved book.

And another clue. A name on the inside front cover. Written lightly in pencil, in a feminine hand. Margaret Ellen Williamson.

Who was Margaret? Did she pass this book down to her children and/or grandchildren? How many people have read and loved it?

Why was it at the library book sale NOW? Was a descendant sorting through old books? Was there an estate to be settled, old possessions to be passed along?

And these, these questions may never be answered. Which is okay. The mystery, the history, surrounding the book creates a story around the story that is thrilling, endearing. That makes it uniquely special.

That makes it a treasure.

 

book and clipping