It’s Over for Another Year! A to Z 2018 Reflections.

This entry is part 28 in the series Improve Your Life, Improve Your Mind

And it’s over for another year!

I had a crazy month in April. This is my 3rd A to Z Blogging challenge. (I actually think there is one missing, which would make it the 4th, but I can’t find it.)

Great plans

I almost didn’t sign up for this year’s challenge as I knew it was going to be a busy month. However, I came across a theme that I really wanted to explore and share with others. One of my main reasons for wanting to do the A to Z challenge this year was to boost my niche website (Rise and Soar – a site to encourage and inspire those facing the Cancer Valley). So instead of posting on my main site (Write to Inspire) I chose a theme that would fit Rise and Soar without being specifically cancer-related.

I decided to write all my posts in advance and schedule them. Then all I had to do was comment on other blog posts and respond to comments on mine. I could do this!

Hah! Little did I know!

I only managed to write three posts in advance, so for the rest of the month I wrote the post the night before, and edited it early the next morning before publishing it.

I had a book deadline (for the last day of the month) for which I’d scheduled a five-day writing retreat, plus my husband and I went to visit family for the best part of a week on two occasions.

As if that wasn’t hectic enough, I added to the general chaos by forgetting to take my blood pressure medication, not once but twice on consecutive days. That ended up with a frantic drive down the mountain to the nearest hospital, half an hour away, with a scary blood pressure, and an overnight in the hospital

Fruitful Month

For all that, I kept up and really enjoyed the craziness of the month. My book is finished (Naomi ~ Beloved Mother-in-law) and will be available in print in the USA and South Africa at the end of July. (eBook will be available shortly on Amazon.) My blood pressure is finally under control. And the A to Z challenge is complete.

My theme, as some of you know, was Improve your Life, Improve your Mind.  I discovered that the one thing we should NOT do is accept symptoms as inevitable because we’re getting older. There is often a reason which can be rectified and the symptoms may be reversible. 

The challenge certainly boosted my site. In the month of April alone I saw:

Extra visitors: Over 4,000.

Comments: Almost 300.

Thank you to all who supported me and left comments on my posts.

Here are the topics covered:

  • Theme Reveal: About the theme: Improve your Life, Improve your Mind.
  • A for Age. Read about how you can cut back on mental deterioration as you get older.
  • B for Brains. See how you can best improve the brain you have.
  • C for Care for and love your body and brain. Where are you falling short? How can you improve?
  • D for Dopamine. What does this do for you? And how can you counteract a shortage?
  • E for Exercise and how you can use it to improve your body and your mind.
  • F for Fitbit which has certainly turned my life around!
  • G for Genetics  which can be a death sentence or a wake up call. Which do you choose?
  • H for Hearing Loss. How good is your hearing? See how you can improve your hearing, your life and your mind.
  • I for Inflammation, Immunity and Infection and how you can avoid or deal with them.
  • J for Journal and ways you can use this to improve your life and your mind. 
  • K for Knowledge about ways to improve your life and improve your mind. 
  • L for Learn Something New every day and some suggestions how you can do this.
  • M for Music and ways it can improve your life and your mind. Fascinating study!

Then moving on through the alphabet:

  • N for Nourish your life which will in turn nourish your mind.
  • O for Opportunities! Life is full of them. Look out for ways to improve your life and mind.
  • P for Persevere if you genuinely want to improve your health and mind.
  • Q for Quiet and ways to find this necessary commodity in our lives.
  • R for Retirement – coming soon to a home near you! How to get the most out of it. 
  • S for Stress and the importance of handling it right. 
  • T for Thankfulness which can give you an attitude of gratitude and improve your life and mind.
  • U for Understanding  how important it is to look for ways to improve your life and your mind.
  • V for Variety, the spice of your life, and how to add this seasoning to improve your life and mind.
  • W for Water, it’s pros, its cons, and how to get the most out of it.
  • X for Xerosis, that pesky skin disorder most of us get at some point in time, and how to deal with it.
  • Y – now say YES! to going through these again next month and selecting the ones you’re going to tackle first!
  • Z is for Zipa-dee-doo-dah It’s over! And I’ve survived. Wonderful feeling! Wonderful day!

Commencing on 23rd May, there is a Road Trip for all those who were involved in the A to Z. Sounds like fun. Join me?

Until then, keep looking after your life and your mind! Every blessing.

Music: How does it improve your life and your mind?

This entry is part 14 in the series Improve Your Life, Improve Your Mind

 Today we look at M for Music.

Does it do any good for us, apart from blocking off outside noise, or giving us something to cheer us up?
I’m a musician, yet I was amazed when I discovered some of the attributes we gain through listening to music.

 

Music improves our minds when it

  • improves our moods
  • reduces our anxiety
  • creates feelings of joy and happiness and helps brain-injured people recall memories

read more

Looking at the Crown of Africa – Mt. Kiliminjaro

This entry is part 1 in the series Devotions

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” James 1:12 NIV.

Mt Kilimanjaro goodfreephotos
View from a plane.

“Look out the window, Shirley,” my mother urged. “See that mountain? It’s Mt. Kilimanjaro.”

Even at my sceptical age of 12, I caught my breath. Rising serenely through the carpet of clouds on the left of our plane, was a majestic mountain peak, the first real mountain I had ever seen. The snow on its surface caught the rays of the sun and glittered, resembling jewels on the face of a royal crown.

It was one of those “Ah-hah!” moments in my life which I’ve never forgotten. To this day, I can remember the view as if the photograph was projected on the back of my eye forever.

The Crown of Africa

Only many years later did I learn that this majestic extinct volcano, Mt. Kilimanjaro, is the highest mountain in Africa. Situated in Tanzania, East Africa, it is often referred to as the Crown of Africa. It is the highest mountain in Africa as well as the highest freestanding mountain in the world (5,895 meters or 19,341 ft above sea level).

Writer and speaker, Daniel Noll, when writing about his climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro makes some excellent suggestions for those preparing to climb. One is: “Keep your head down if you need to, but don’t forget to look up.” 

Doesn’t that apply wonderfully to our day-to-day walk? How easy it is to get caught up with “life” we forget to look up! To look to God.

You cannot escape looking at your treatment and the decisions you need to make, but don’t forget to look to God. Mt Kilimanjaro Crown of Africa, Goodfreephotos

Do You Need Time-out?

This entry is part 3 in the series Devotions

Is rest part of your normal day?

Do these words bring tears to your eyes? Do you feel a deep ache at the thought of a “real rest”? Yet rest is not a luxury. It is an essential part of our make-up. If we don’t rest voluntarily, we will become ill—and rest will be forced upon us.

Have you ever stopped to read a book and been consumed by guilt? Do you sometimes sit down with a cup of your favorite beverage and gulp it down before anyone sees you? Have you switched your PC screen for a “quick game” of Solitaire, which may not have been all that quick after all? Do you sometimes want to scream at yet another interruption from those demanding children? (Yes, those same ones you wanted so badly and love so dearly!) 

Divine insight.

In the New Testament of the Bible, Jesus says, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 1:28 KJV).

Eugene Peterson, who wrote The Message version of the Bible, puts the verse this way: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.” 

My friend, don’t succumb to the lies from Satan, “If you stop work and take a rest during the day, you are weak and lazy,” he’ll tell you. “What will people think if they see you taking a break?” “A whole day off? Don’t be ridiculous. You can’t afford to take time out.”

God, the Almighty Creator, needed rest. He worked for six days—then he took a whole day’s break. If God needed time out, I guess I do too. And you.

Sydney Harris said, The best time to relax is exactly when you do not have the time for it. The best time to relax is exactly when you do not have the time for it. - Sydney Harris Click To Tweet


A Challenge for you

My challenge for you right now is to choose a period of time, or even an entire day, out of the next seven days in this coming week, and mark it off on your diary or your calendar as “Time Out for Me!” And then stick to it. You’ll be surprised. The world won’t stop turning. You will return from your rest with more enthusiasm and inspiration. God took time out. He expects nothing less from us, His children.

Do you wake up each morning and wonder
Why your life seems to keep spinning by?
At the end of the day when the house becomes still
Do you fall into bed with a sigh?

Do you long for the days when your time was your own?
Then feel guilty for thinking that way?
They’re your children, they’re precious, you do love them so,
Yet they need you each second, all day.

Do you wonder if God feels that way when you call?
If He ceases to care what you do?
Well my friend, that’s the wonder, He’s always right there,
He never takes time out from you.
©Shirley M. Corder 2006

A question or three for you.

Do you rest enough? What do you do to relax? Do you ever feel guilty when you take time out from the craziness of daily pressure? Leave a comment below and let’s encourage each other.

When Goodness and Mercy Follow

This entry is part 2 in the series Devotions

Keeping up

In January, we celebrated my husband’s birthday. He was a year older than the same time the previous year. (Strange that!) Yet it seemed like only a few months since his previous birthday.

What happened to last year?

I find it difficult to believe that as I write this, we are already into the second month of this year! It doesn’t seem possible. I feel a bit like this little guy in the yellow shirt as he follows his brother. Trying to keep up.

How about you?

When I was undergoing aggressive cancer treatment, there were times when I longed for a tangible awareness of God. Oh there were many occasions when I did feel God’s presence, but other times? It felt as if I had lost touch with Him, and I seemed to struggle through on my own.

One day I was reading my Bible and I came to that well-known passage.

Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalms 23:1-6 NIV)

As I read the words, I allowed myself to dwell on the picture of the Lord as my shepherd.  The shepherd in those days walked ahead and trusted the sheep to follow. If the Lord is my shepherd, that makes me a sheep. Yes, I could see the similarities, many of which I preferred not to dwell on.

If the Lord is my shepherd, that makes me a sheep. Click To Tweet

He makes me lie down, leads me, restores me and He guides me. Clearly the Lord was in charge. Just as well. I shuddered at the mess a sheep would make of things if he was in charge.

The sheep follow the shepherd

When I reached verse 4, I paused. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . .” I identified with that picture too. It often felt as if I was in the shadow of death. Reading on . . .  “Goodness and love will follow me . . .” (v. 6). Suddenly the words will follow seemed to stand out from the page.

When I used to go for a walk with our little dog, she often trotted ahead, and I could see her in front of me. But she often lagged behind, determined to sniff at every little bush. Then I didn’t see her. I had to stop and look back to see if she was still following. Look at the picture. That shepherd doesn’t see the sheep that follow unless he stops to look back.

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. I thought back to some of the difficult times of the past months, the times when I hadn’t been aware of God’s presence. His goodness and His love had followed me. God was there all the time, even when I hadn’t noticed Him.

I’m sure we’ve all seen situations like the one pictured above. The little chap in the blue shirt is striding out with confidence. He cannot see his little brother struggling to keep up. The only way he will see his follower is if he stops and looks around.

New Year tradition

Every year end, my husband and I have a tradition. Near to midnight, we stop and look back. What has the previous year brought us? We think of the good times, and we think of the not-so-good times. What evidence is there of God’s intervention in some of the situations? How we marvel at the times He brought us through, sometimes with us resisting all the way.

We end with a time of prayer and praise that even when we didn’t see Him, He was always there. His goodness and love followed us all the way through the year.

Perhaps for you, last year was not an easy year. Maybe there were times when you felt alone. Now’s the time to stop where you are, and look back. Search for signs of God’s love and guidance, perhaps His protection and mercy. He was there all the time.

Now move into this year with your head held high. No matter what lies ahead, God will be with you. We only need to follow. 

Do you want a book of similar meditations especially written for those in the cancer valley? Read here for further details.

The Dream Gains a Name

Originally published in 2012. Updated in February, 2018

eagle from morguefiles

Vereaux Eagles

During my rigorous months of chemotherapy, one of my favourite haunts was the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden not far from our home in Krugersdorp, South Africa. There we would sit and watch for the appearance of one or both of the Vereaux’s eagles that nested high on a cliff overlooking a rocky valley. I would marvel at their ability to rise and soar across the valley until they were mere specks in the sky. How I wished I could rise and soar over the valley of cancer.

It’s Not the Messenger that Counts – devotion

This entry is part 4 in the series Devotions

“In my distress, O LORD, I called to you, and you answered me. From deep in the world of the dead I cried for help, and you heard me” Jonah 2:2 GNB.

Meet the messenger

Imagine the scene. Here comes Jonah, squishing along the beach. He’s covered in the stomach contents of a fish and smells of vomit. His skin and hair are bleached white from stomach acids. Seaweed drapes around his shoulders. This man has a message from God? You have to be joking! Yet amazingly, the people of Nineveh listen to this unlikely messenger. They repent and turn to God.

At the beginning of my cancer treatment, I prayed that I would continue to be a witness to others of God’s love. But toward the end of the year my thinning hair looked and felt like straw. My complexion was so pale and spotted that my sons said I was “transparent.” My eyes were sunken because I had lost so much weight. I don’t think I looked quite as bad as Jonah must have looked, but I didn’t see how God could use me. Yet surprisingly, He did.

Many people listened to what I had to say. They saw God at work in my life and asked questions about my faith. The Lord opened doors for me to write about my experiences so that others would be encouraged. 

People don't need to know me personally. I'm only the messenger. Click To Tweet

Not the Messenger

Years later I wrote about my cancer experiences in a book of meditations, Strength Renewed. Many people have contacted me to share how the Lord has spoken to them through one or more of the messages. Yet they don’t even know me. I am only the messenger.

As I’ve thought many times about the story of Jonah and his terrifying fish ride, I have seen over and over again that it is not the messenger that makes the difference—it’s the message. Often when we are at our weakest, God can use us to spread His message of love and forgiveness. 

As writers, how often do we face a writing project that seems beyond our abilities? We believe God wants us to tell a story, but we don’t have the experience. Perhaps we lack the knowledge. We feel we’re too young. Or too old. Inexperienced. Not well enough known. Whenever you feel that way, remember the story of Jonah. And remember, it’s not the messenger that makes the difference. It’s the message.

 

Launch Day!

3D-Women-Flying-SRPlease note: This post was written on launch day for Strength Renewed.

October 1, 2012. Launch Day!

Strength Renewed, Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer is finally on the shelves in America.

I’ve also had several calls from people here in South Africa to say their influencer copies arrived today. What perfect timing!

The books will only be released in South Africa in mid-November, but the amazing thing is, they’re going to be in all major bookstores “across Southern Africa”. Not just South Africa. Wow! Thank You Lord! I also found out today that it has been released on Kalahari.net- now Takealot-the South African equivalent of Amazon.com.

So South Africans–you don’t need to wait until mid-November as the bookstores have advertised!

Prayer required

I ended my previous post on this series with a request that you prayed.

We had booked a hall for October 4 for a celebration of the book launch–but it was beginning to look as if there would be no books at the launch. We needed prayer. Prayer for a miracle.

You prayed.

I prayed.

We didn’t get one miracle. We got two!

The day after Rob and I arrived home from our time away, I collected the exciting parcel with my author copies. Woohoo! We thanked the Lord together for His goodness, then told Him we would really be delighted if the books for prizes also arrived before the 4th.

The very next day, I collected them from the post office!

Abundance of blessings

So I now have a table full of books for our book launch. Isn’t the Lord amazing? I told you this book has been a miracle from the start. Hopefully, having read through the story, you will agree with me. It has now ended as it began–with several miracles! Obviously, if I sell any from the prize box, I will replace them when I get my local copies, but it means I won’t run out on the evening. (That’s in case the staff of Revell Publishers is reading this!)

Our youngest son, David, arrives tomorrow with daughter-in-law Pam and our two youngest grandchildren. They are flying in from Johannesburg in the early afternoon. Stephen, our older son, arrives the next day with daughter-in-law Hannelie. What a wonderful time we will have together as we put finishing touches to “goody bags”, and show one another our contributions.

The next day we will spend a good deal of the time arranging the chairs, tables, etc. What fun to do something like this together as a family. It is the first time we have done anything like this. (And no, I don’t just mean a book launch! Just to have a project like this that we’re all working together on. What fun!)

We are expecting in the region of 80 guests on Thursday evening. I have two guys armed with cameras so hopefully by the end of the evening I’ll have a good assortment of photos to share with you.

Thank you for making this journey with me. It’s been exciting. It’s been thrilling, and at times it’s been plain scary! But we’ve made it. My baby, Rise and Soar, is all grown up and has a new name: Strength Renewed, Meditations for Your Journey through Breast Cancer.

But the message remains the same:

“Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up on wings as eagles.” Isaiah 40:31

I think I can finally say, “The eagle has landed!”

You can preview or even purchase Strength Renewed, Meditations for Your Journey through Breast Cancer by clicking below if you’re interested.

Read Right!

What to read?

If you’re fighting cancer (or any other life-threatening situation) look for, and read, as many positive books you can find. If you have cancer, especially look for life stories of survivors. 

Don’t read:

Don’t read books of instructions, with their do’s and don’t’s. You’ll get enough of those from your medical staff and visitors. Look for light reading which will encourage you in your fight against cancer. 

Three books you may find helpful are:

  • The Bigger the Hair, the Closer to God: Unleashing the Cute, Witty, Delightful, Intelligent, Passionate by Sue Buchanan. This book contains a message of hope, survival, and God’s faithfulness, in which the Sue Buchanan encourages her readers to take control of their thinking and move on to a more enriched life.
  • When God and Cancer Meet: True Stories of Hope and Healing by Lyn Eibb. This book contains powerful stories about various cancer patients and their families, and how they have been touched by God in miraculous ways.
  • Spinning Straw into Gold: Your Emotional Recovery from Breast Cancer by Ronnie Kaye. I found this uplifting guidebook amazing. Although it was written in 1991, it is still around today. Through her personal story, this psychotherapist helps women deal with the emotional crisis of cancer and makes insightful suggestions toward recovery. I personally found this very helpful during my time of treatment.3D-Women-Flying-SR

and of course you don’t want to be without

Strength Renewed,
Meditations for Your Journey through Breast Cancer!

Read more about this book here. 

You can preview it or even purchase it by clicking on the relevant tab below.

U-Turn Ahead!

3D-Women-UturnAn unexpected  life change

One beautiful, sunny African afternoon, my life changed forever.

For two years, I had asked my gynaecologist for a mammogram. For two years, he had told me it wasn’t necessary.

Finally another specialist sent me for a “routine mammogram and ultrasound” which turned out to not be as routine as I’d hoped.

I had breast cancer. And because it hadn’t been discovered earlier, it had already spread to the glands and beyond.

How can I describe the experience?

It was like when you are tearing along the road, enjoying the scenery and eager to arrive at your destination, and all of a sudden the road turns back on itself. You jam on brakes and grip the steering wheel in an effort to keep the car under control as you attempt to navigate the U-turn you hadn’t seen coming.

It was just like that.

I jammed on brakes, gripped my steering wheel, and sped into battle against what turned out to be an aggressive form of cancer. With the use of a skilled surgeon, an unconventional and courageous oncologist, a supportive family, and a team of praying friends, God pulled me through that dreadful year of treatment.

A change of direction

Not only did I survive the U-turn, I found myself traveling, as you do with a U-turn, in a different direction.

I went from being a nursing sister (RN) to being a published author. God promises in His Word that in all things God works for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). It took me a while to see it. But I eventually realised how many invaluable lessons God taught me during my “cancer year” and beyond. And it wasn’t long before He prompted me to share these lessons with others in the form of meditations.

A key verse:

One verse that followed me throughout the whole cancer experience: “They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles” Isaiah 40:31.

I wanted so badly to have my strength renewed, but how do you wait on anyone, even the Lord, when you are told you have cancer?

The Lord was ready and willing to teach me. Sometimes I got it right, and sometimes I didn’t. But gradually and patiently He led me through many bumpy experiences, and I emerged from the journey closer to Him than ever before.

In Strength Renewed you can read about 90 of these times, and it is my prayer that you will be be blessed and helped as you navigate the U-turn in your life–hopefully with more control over the steering wheel than I often had.

Strength Renewed, Meditations for Your Journey through Breast Cancer!

Read more about this book here.  

Or you can preview or even purchase this book by clicking on the relevant tab below the following image.