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Friday, October 31, 2008

Christmas Before Thanksgiving




(Grandma is the lovely lady on the left.)



The move from a spacious acreage to a small, one-bedroom apartment was devastating to my grandmother. She was forced to move because of an aggressive inflammatory breast cancer diagnosis.

In her new apartment complex other women were experiencing the same pain she was; terminal illness, limited income, loss of spouse to death or a nursing home. A remnant of these women formed a weekly Bible study. Grandma became a faithful member. This band of prayer warriors became "kindred spirits" as they prayed for one another and comforted each other from God's Word.

It became apparent by fall that Grandma would not be with us much longer. Her spirit was strong, but her body was growing weaker. A few days before Thanksgiving, she had to be hospitalized. The cancer had metastasized to her lungs.

Word spread quickly among her little Bible study group that Grandma Eleanor was dying. Some had seen the ambulance take her away. Loving cards and concerned phone calls began pouring in.

I hurried to the hospital and hovered over my grandmother's weak frame. I cherished every moment I could spend with her. There was a tap on Grandma's Hospice room door. One of her friends from her Bible study appeared at the door. In her arms was a brown paper grocery sack. She tiptoed to Grandma's bedside, and stooped over the metal bedrail and planted a kiss on Grandma's cheek. Grandma's dark chocolate eyes twinkled as she recognized her friend.

"Mable, how did you get here?" Grandma asked.

"Took a cab, Eleanor. I just had to." Mable chuckled, "It's cold outside, but it was warm in the cab!"

"Oh Mable, you shouldn't have come out in this bitter cold."

"I had to, Eleanor! Christmas is coming. I wanted you to have your Christmas card and the gift I made for you! It's all right here in my bag."

Mable rummaged through her brown bag. She pulled out a bright red envelope.

"This one is from me to you, Eleanor!" She showed Grandma the card. The sunlight shone through the window. Sunbeams splashed on the colorful card causing Mable's eyes to squint.

"Let me read it to you." Mable said as she began to read aloud,

What can I give Him poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I'd give Him a lamb.
If I were a wise man, I'd do my part,
I know what I'll give Him,
All of my heart!


Tears glistened in Grandma's eyes as she whimpered, "Thank you,
Mable."

"That's not all, Eleanor, there's more! Christmas is coming! I just wanted you to have your Christmas present a little early this year." Mable gushed as she pulled out a small package wrapped in previously used Christmas paper topped with a recycled, red bow.

Grandma was too weak to open her special gift. Mable handed it to me. I carefully tore the paper off the small box and opened the lid. Peering back at me was a teddy bear holding a lacey parasol.

"Yep, it's true, Eleanor! Christmas is coming, and I just had to give you your present a little early this year." Mable squealed as she reached for Grandma's hand.

"Mable, thank you and all the other ladies for being my friend this past year. You tell our little group goodbye for me. Thank them for all their prayers. Tell them I'll be spending Christmas with Jesus this year."

Hot tears trickled down Mable's face and fell on her quivering lips.

"I love you, Eleanor!"

"And I love you!" Grandma whispered and then closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.

Mable reached for me. We embraced. We wept. I thanked her for her kindness to my beloved grandmother as I walked her to the door and told her goodbye.


When I returned to Grandma's side, I wept quietly as I realized that Grandma's "home-going" would be soon. I looked at the teddy bear holding the lacey parasol. I reread Mable's Christmas card,

What can I give Him poor as I am?

I realized that I had just witnessed these verses lived out before my eyes. A loving friend with meager means had given her very best. She even celebrated Christmas before Thanksgiving knowing Grandmother wouldn't live until Christmas.

I closed my eyes and silently thanked God for giving me such a wonderful grandmother, and for giving my grandmother such a wonderful friend.

Grandma went home to be with Jesus two days after Mable's visit! She celebrated Christmas with Jesus.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

More Pix from Dix






Just had to share some more pictures with y'all from Pastor's Appreciation Sunday.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Apron






I will never forget a treasured Christmas present I received from my paternal grandmother over forty-eight years ago. I was only three or four, but I still can envision in my mind’s eye how Grandma watched with anticipation as I opened a package and pulled out a red gingham checked apron that she had hand-stitched just for me. The single pocket on the front was solid red cotton, cut out and sewn in the shape of a baby carriage with two large buttons for wheels. A white chain stitch was embroidered and topped off with a flat pearl button for the carriage handle. But what made the apron the perfect gift for a girly girl was an itty-bitty plastic doll tucked inside the carriage pocket.

Grandma believed in learning life skills early. “Little hands should be helping hands,” she often said with enthusiasm.

My preschool hands were taught how to set and clear the dining room table. Christmas baking was also part of my early childhood training. Grandma would set me on a chair that faced the kitchen counter of the old farm house, tie my gingham apron around my tiny waist and my cooking lessons would begin. We would bake all kinds of Christmas cookies. Grandpa loved smelling the tantalizing aroma of cinnamon and gingerbread that wafted through the whole house. My job was to put the Red Hots and raisins on the gingerbread man’s tummy and face. When all the baking was done, Grandma would fold my apron and put it in a cabinet drawer. Then, I crawled up in her lap and listened as she read, “The Gingerbread Man.”

In 1997, Grandma was diagnosed with terminal inflammatory breast cancer. I wondered how I would go on without her daily presence in my life. She was the stabilizing force in our family for as long as I could remember. As the time for her departure grew near, we spoke often of favorite family memories. I mentioned the gingham apron. She smiled weakly and said, “Life’s simple treasures are the best.”

After her death, I thought I would drown in the grief that swelled over my soul in waves. Shades and shadows of suffocating bereavement attempted to swallow me. I would find comfort in the Scriptures and consolation in the old hymns about Heaven, but for some strange reason the familiar gingham apron soothed my anguish, too.

I have a special drawer in my kitchen for the precious heirloom. On days I feel I’m losing eternal perspective I take it from its hiding place. Its symbolism helps keep me grounded. Every inch of it resonates my godly grandmother’s life. The three buttons are still securely fastened even after nearly fifty years – so like Grandma. She was always predictable and dependable. The decorative chain stitch represents Grandma’s keen ability to keep all of our family linked together no matter what life tossed our way. And the little baby tucked in the pocket symbolizes a little girl, forty-eight years ago, who through my grandmother, God kept safe and sheltered from life’s howling winds. Even though the apron no longer fits around my ballooning waist, it fits around my heart just fine.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Family Pictures







Here are a few of family pictures.
Enjoy,
Dixie

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Clergy Appreciation





We have the most precious flock. Today was Clergy Appreciation Sunday. It was a very special day. A time of reflection and looking back over this past year and all the blessings that God has sent our way. Here are a few pictures of our special day. Our creative son-by-God's-design, Zacharia David Fox, put together a human video that ended with Paul high up on a scaffold. Look at the pictures and see for yourself. :-)

Some of you have been e-mailing and asking how you can purchase "Stubby's Destiny". If you just let me know how many copies you want, I will reserve them for you and mail them out as soon as the books arrive. They are $13.00 each. We are going to try to keep the cost down as much as we can. If you'd like to reserve a copy just e-mail me at Phillips4Him@omnitelcom.com. Thank you for your love and support.

Writing for wee ones,
Dixie

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Shaping Small Souls




I just wanted some of you to see Kim Sponaugle's amazing work. Kim has illustrated both "Angel Eyes" and "Stubby's Destiny". Next month she will begin illustrating "One Noble Journey".

The first of the year the very talented K.C. Snider will be illustrating my fourth book with GAP - "Baby Jethuth is Mithing".

To see just how amazingly talented Kim and K.C. are, you must visit their web pages.
You can go to Kim's at www.picturekitchenstudio.com - Just drop in there and be sure to take time to look around. You'll be glad you did.

To see K.C.'s awesome artwork just go to www.kcsniderart.com You will be blown away by her talent. Be sure to check out all her western art. Makes me want to start yodeling.

I am so thankful that the Lord has allowed these two ladies to be a part of my life.

Dixie

Stubby's Destiny is Released







Auntie Lo, Cindy Wendland and I went on a road trip to see Libby and Ike at Liberty University. It was wonderful to see the kids.

Paul and I are so excited because of the release of "Stubby's Destiny" from Guardian Angel Publishing. If you know of any children who are in difficult circumstances, we pray that they can hear the story of "Stubby's Destiny". It's a heartwarming tale of hope for children of all ages.

Hope you enjoy some of the pictures we have posted.
Dixie

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Angel Eyes Interview

Shari Lyle Soffe interviewed me. I thought some of you might like to read it.
If you'd like to read more of Shari's interviews, just go to her blog at www.sharilyle-soffe.com/

Shari: Welcome Dixie. Tell us a little about yourself?
Dixie: I am a pastor’s wife and mother of four grown children. My husband, Paul, and I have served the congregation of the Gospel Lighthouse Church in Floyd, Iowa, for the past twenty-seven years. We will have been married for thirty-one years next month. Our only son, John, gave Paul a kidney on June 12th, 2008. Our oldest daughter was married exactly a month after her daddy’s transplant and our second daughter was married on August 9th. It was a summer we will never forget. Our motto was “We are too blessed to be stressed.”
Shari: How long have you been writing for children?
Dixie: I have been writing for twenty-seven years. When we first came to Floyd, I began writing Christmas and Easter programs for the children of our church. The little ones would “steal the show” and make my writing look better than it actually was.
Shari: Why do you write for children?
Dixie: Children are full of potentiality! Their little hearts are like wet cement. They can be molded and shaped into whatever God wants them to be. I remember the stories my grandmother read to me helped shape my destiny. My prayer is that one of my stories will “stick to a child’s ribs” and maybe influence them at a pivotal point in their life.
Shari: What did you do before you took up writing?
Dixie: I’ve been in fulltime ministry for over nearly thirty years.
Shari: Have you taken any writing classes?
Dixie: I have taken a few creative writing classes, but my writing springboard really came from a writing group on the internet called FaithWriters. They provide a free weekly writing competition. Writers from beginners to seasoned wordsmiths compete. I joined the group and began competing in the Weekly Challenge. Somehow I managed to place a few times. It was such an encouragement to me. It was their support and constructive criticism that helped me and continues to help me hone my writing skills.
Shari: Do you have any publishing credits we should know about?
Dixie: I have two drama books – “Glimpses of Heaven” and “More Speeches and Recitations for Young Children” from Abingdon Press. More of my writings are found in Eldridge Publishing and Standard Publishing. A true story about my grandmother was published by LIVE Publications. I am a contributing author in several books and for the past three years, I have ghostwritten ten books.
Shari: I know you have a new book out "Angel Eyes". Tell us all about it, please.
Dixie: “Angel Eyes” is a heartwarming tale of two cherubs – Kennedy and Tristan. The two little angels are curious and can’t figure out why Prince Emmanuel would have to leave the comforts of Heaven, where He was loved and adored, and go to Earth and become one of “them.” It gives children a peek behind the scenes of Heaven and let’s them see what the angels might have felt when Jesus left Heaven and came to Earth. Kim Sponaugle illustrated “Angel Eyes.” Her colorful illustrations take the book to another level.
Shari: Is this your first picture book? What was the inspiration for the book?
Dixie: Yes, this is my first children’s book. When our children were small, our youngest child, Libby, asked us how the angels felt when Jesus came to Earth and was crucified. Her question “burned” in my heart. After a few days “Angel Eyes” was born.
Shari: What are you doing to promote this book?
Dixie: I have two book signings at two Christian bookstores scheduled for November. There are two newspaper interviews also scheduled.
Shari: What is the best advice you can give to a new writer?
Dixie: Three words… Write! Write! Write! There is no substitute for experience. Join a writer’s group like FaithWriters and jump into the Writer’s Challenge. You will be amazed at how you can grow as a writer if you will just write and allow other writers to speak into your life.
Shari: What are you working on now?
Dixie: I am presently working on another children’s book that I am excited about. It is a humorous but poignant story. I’ve learned that when inspiration strikes and the creative juices are flowing, I need to stop what I am doing and find a place to write.
Shari: If you could be any writer in the world, who would you want to be?
Dixie: Wow! That’s a tough question. I have so many favorites. Amy Carmichael is my all-time favorite author. Her books offer comfort and hope. That’s the kind of author I want to be…. Someone who gives a parched soul, a cool drink of water, or as a children’s author, I would love to write stories that bring hope to children in hopeless situations.
Shari: What is your writing space like?
Dixie: I usually try to find a quiet corner somewhere. Being in fulltime ministry is a busy life, but I take my laptop with me and squeeze in as much time as I can to writing.
Shari: What do you do to overcome writer's block?
Dixie: The stresses of life can lap up all of our creative juices. I have found that if I can stay inspired and well rested it helps keep me motivated to write. So, I try to surround myself with inspirational music, good books and great friends.
Shari: That’s good advice for all of us. What has been the most difficult thing for you to learn about writing for children?
Dixie: Because I have written so many plays, I find dialogue comes naturally, but to make the story visual I have to work at interesting, descriptive sentences that appeal to children. Something that makes the story come alive to the child and also inspires the illustrator. I have to really work at this and not end up with a story that has two “talking heads.”
Shari: Do you have a website or blog that we may take a look at to get to know you better?
Dixie: I have a section on our church website at http://www.floydslighthouse.com/ Just click on Writer’s Block and it should take you to my “From the Heart of Dixie” page.

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