On Being an Odd Duck

My inspiration and my duck collection

My maiden name is Waddell. As a child the name caused me a lot of unhappiness. Children would call out “Waddle, waddle, quack, quack.” Many duck jokes and references were made at my expense. I cried a lot. It seems silly now. As an elementary school child, it was hurtful.

Fast forward to three years ago when God called me to be a writer. I felt driven to journey for the first time by myself across two bridges to get to a writers’ conference over two hundred miles from my home. I was apprehensive about the trip but also confident that God was with me. During the drive, every time I felt panic creep in, which was quite often, I would grip the steering wheel with one hand and raise my other and declare “Jesus is my co-pilot”.

When I arrived at the conference venue, I approached the porch and saw a group of people, many wearing little plastic ducks on strings around their necks. There was a duck crossing sign in the parking lot and a banner with ducks on it welcoming people to the conference. As I entered the building, I was greeted by more ducks. Stuffed ducks on couches and plastics ducks on tables full of books. I was surrounded by ducks. I flashed back to my childhood. Was I having a nightmare? Had I been wrong about God’s call?

I went to the front desk to register for the conference and was given my room key and a folder of information. I went to my room and began to go through the papers. There was a page with ducks printed on it along with a story that was written by one of the conferees many years ago. The story described her first experience at the writers’ conference and likened it to joining a flock of ducks and plunging in along with the group. It also explained that writers, quirkiness and all, were chosen by God. They were odd ducks.

I had an amazing week at the writers’ conference. I made new friends and I learned a lot about writing. I learned to embrace who I was and what God wanted to equip me to become. I joyfully accepted that I was an odd duck. I went home wearing a plastic duck on a string around my neck.

I retuned to the conference last year. My fear of driving over bridges and encountering ducks was gone. I was welcomed by my friends from the previous year and made some new ones. I learned more about writing and in the process, myself. I won a duck trophy at a grammar competition. I went home more confident in my call to write and grateful to be an odd duck.

During the year, I wrote a few short stories, worked on my book concept, started an author’s blog, and ordered business cards declaring I was an author. Two weeks ago, I returned to the writers’ conference for the third time. I was very relaxed during the drive and was excited to see everyone and lean more about writing and being published. I had my short stories critiqued and met with editors, agents and publishers. The critiques and meetings were very encouraging. I am confident and excited that whatever the year ahead holds, it will be according to God’s will and His plan for my life. I am positive that I will never, ever again be sad at being likened to a duck.

“Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” 1 Thessalonians 5:24 NASB

God’s Promise

Cassandra and Ezra August 2000

The rainbow at the top of this website is a picture that I took many years ago.  We were at Camp Sunshine in Lake Sebago, Maine attending a family camp for pediatric oncology survivors.  My daughter had just finished treatment for Neuroblastoma IV a few months earlier.  We were at a camp barbecue when we looked up and saw that magnificent rainbow and felt assured of God’s promises. 

At the time, the internet was still growing in popularity and facebook was not yet created.  I had joined an email list of oncology parents whose children had the same type of tumor as my daughter.  I became very good cyber friends with the mom of another survivor, Ezra.  His family lived in Maine but did not attend Camp Sunshine. We had a lovely visit with Ezra and his mom on the way home from Camp Sunshine.  Both of our families had hope for the future of our children. I have a picture in my photo album and in my heart of my daughter Cassandra and Ezra; two cherubic two year olds, two cancer survivors sitting on a couch enjoying lollipops.  A few months after our visit, Ezra relapsed and succumbed to the disease.  Cassandra had another thirteen years with us.  She passed due to lung disease resulting from her cancer treatments.

Ezra is with God.  Cassandra is with God.  I still believe in God and his promises.  How do I still feel that way given these two precious children passed to eternal life?  Because I trust God. I trust that Ezra and Cassandra are in His loving arms free of their illnesses and broken bodies.  I trust that according to God’s promise and Jesus’ sacrifice I will be reunited with my daughter in eternity.

The picture of the rainbow is in a frame above my dresser.  I wake up to it everyday. It is a daily reminder of God’s promise.  God does not promise that all things will make us happy or that they will work out as we would like.  God promises us security knowing we will have eternal life when our time and work here on earth are completed.  When you trust God and his promises, you can find hope in all circumstances.

Am I joyful that my daughter is not here with me? Absolutely not.  Am I joyful that she is healed and safe? Without doubt.  Do I trust God that what happened is for the best? Yes, but I will admit it is sometimes difficult to accept.

I write because I believe that is what God has called me to do. I find joy in sharing with others about my daughter and our journey.  I believe I can encourage others and help them to find hope and trust God and His promises along their paths.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit, Romans” 15:13 NIV

Writing Becomes Real

This is my first official blog post.  I have been writing most of my life. In the past few years, I have been on a journey to become an author.  When you transition from being a writer to an author it becomes real.

I believe that God has called me to be an author so I want to get it right!  My first step in faith was to go to a Christian writers conference in July 2017.  The conference was in Montrose, PA and it was the first time I drove by myself over a bridge and off of Long Island, NY.  Whenever I got nervous (which was often), I would raise my hand and declare that Jesus was my co-pilot.  It was a week of great growth and revelation.  It quickly became obvious you don’t write a book and voila you’re an author.  There is a lot of hard work that must go into the finished product.  There were terms and requirements that I never knew existed – one sheets, elevator proposals, query letters, book proposals and manuscripts to name a few.  It seemed I needed all of these to evolve from writer to author.  I came home humbled and energized.

I returned to the writers conference in July 2018.  I was a bit better prepared and traveled without apprehension.  I had a piece written and printed for presentation at the conference. I had completed a chapter of my book; I was ready.  There were great classes on non fiction writing. I was more relaxed and got a lot written down and revised during the week. Someone said that by your third conference, you should be focusing on editorial meetings, getting an agent and having your work published.  This was going to be my goal for the next conference.  I was finally off to a good start or was I? I came home re-energized, it did not last long.  I put away my notebook went back to my daily routine.

There is a writers conference coming in July of this year.  I purposed that if I were to go, I would go as a serious author.  I was going armed with a one sheet, a book proposal, business cards and an author’s blog.  I started by going through the notes from the writer’s conferences and drafts of my work.  I went through personal journals and notes written during my daughter’s illness.  I went through many emotions.  I was determined.  In the past three weeks I have drafted a one sheet, written two chapters of the book, written a few short stories, created business cards and started this blog.  I have also cried a lot.  

It has been difficult for me to relive life events and put them on a page with painful detail.  I have had to revisit times and days that were bleak.  I am grateful I have the journals and notebooks, in them I recorded what my mind would not allow me to fully grasp and hold onto. The transformation from a writer to an author has been difficult but my mind and my spirit have been renewed as I know I am following God’s will.   This is a new phase of the journey.  The writing has become real!

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve of what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”  Romans 12:2 NIV