Guest Post // Tips for Writing Disabled Characters in Your Stories

Penny Wood Guest Post 5-24-18

Today, I’m excited to introduce to you a guest blogger! Her pen-name is Penny Wood and below you can read her post about writing disabled characters into your book or story.

“Penny Wood is soon to be a homeschool graduate after being educated at home her entire life. She loves animals, writing, laughing with her sisters, and is a hopeless Pinterest addict. She blogs at A Southern Belle With Stories To Tell about movies, Christianity, writing, and anything else that pops into her mind. She lives in a tiny North Carolina town with her parents, two sisters, and her crazy dog, Buddy.”

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Have you ever wanted to put a disabled character in your novel but weren’t sure how? Maybe you were worried you’d “get it wrong”? In writing my novel, The Summer I Saw Blue Peak, I learned a lot about disability and how to execute it in writing form, and it’s something that’s been on my heart to write lately. It was a little nerve-wracking at first to me, too, but I’ve learned a few things over time and I’d like to share with you some tips on how to write them into your novel.

Research, research, research

Maybe some of you are groaning right now, but research really is the best way to learn how to correctly portray disabled people in your novel. You can find out about lifestyle, daily activities, hobbies, and technology through research. You’ll also discover that many stereotypes about disability are surprisingly not true. For instance, it is a common misconception that blind people touch people’s faces to figure out what they look like, but actual people who are blind will tell you over and over that this is not true. Every author’s worst nightmare is getting told that they don’t know anything about their writing topic. Don’t let that be you; do your research!

Ask them for yourself

This is probably one of my best tips. There are many disabled bloggers and vloggers out there who are very happy to talk to you about their disability if you ask. It will seem strange at first, but we authors are known to do weird things for our books, so you might as well get used to it. 😊 People are so kind and gracious when you ask. I love contacting real people because I get tailored answers to my questions and I end up with a new friend, too!

(Note: Please do not ask rude or private questions. It’s okay to be curious, but everyone knows that some boundaries should not be crossed. I am disgusted with some of the questions disabled people get asked that are really no one else’s business. Don’t go there, it’s just not nice.)

Remember that your character is a person first and disabled second

When writing a disabled character, it’s easy to get caught up in the “s/he is blind, deaf, et cetera” and forget to develop a personality for the character (this is even more important if the character is your protagonist.) The character still needs a rich personality, likes and dislikes, funny quirks, and not-so-nice flaws. They are a person just like everyone else and need to be treated that way as you develop them in your writing.

Don’t go with what you might have seen on a TV show or movie, or even another book about disability

Chances are, they probably don’t have it right. Disabled people are very much stereotyped, often by television and books. It is painfully obvious who has and hasn’t done their research when it comes to the disabled characters (if you’ve ever seen a western featuring a blind person, you know what I’m talking about). This goes back to research again, so no, watching your favorite TV show that has a disabled character in one episode does not count as researching it! 🙂

It’s probably not a good idea to actually pretend to be your character

If you walk around your house wearing a blindfold or earplugs for a year, you’ll probably end up in the hospital. Maybe, if you’re sitting still, you might close your eyes for a second to notice how amplified everything else becomes, or how it might frustrate you if you lived in a wheelchair and had to do everything sitting down (but don’t actually rent a wheelchair or walk around with your eyes closed). My friend Cheyenne Raphael made an interesting point when she said that when you do that, all you will be thinking about is how hard this is, and that’s not really how disabled people think.

I hope I have encouraged you to start using disabled characters in your stories or have helped you to continue writing about them. Keep up the good writing work and thank you to Megan Joy for letting me be a guest on her awesome blog!

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Thank you, Penny Wood, for being today’s guest poster!

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Have you ever written a disabled character into a book or story?

Have you checked out Penny’s blog yet?

Do you want to be a guest poster on Simply Megan Joy? Just contact me so we can talk!

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Megan Joy

Longing for Transformation

Longing for Transformation - simplymeganjoy.wordpress.com

There is always something that we wish to change in our lives. It was the transformation from winter to spring that I longed for this year. It seemed to take forever for nature to wake up and be alive again. Every time I felt the bitter cold in my face I asked: where are you spring? Why haven’t you come? For months, mother nature’s heart refused to be warmed.

In one of my favorite films, Little Women (1994), Jo March says that she is “longing for transformation.” I know precisely how she feels. Don’t you?

In each of our lives there are stages, some good and some bad. It’s the bad stages that seem to drone on forever. It feels like there is no end, for we cannot see it ahead.

With whatever someone is going through, a family member sick or in the hospital, financial burdens, continuous frustration, any trial that we may have, are we guaranteed an end? Are we handed a calendar with a big X on it, symbolizing the day of the transformation from bad to good? No. So how can we continue on with a smile? If there is something to bog down our happiness, why be happy?

As Christians, we “know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 KJV. Trials, loss, pain; it’s all temporary. Every moment we live longing for transformation is a moment of building hope and faith in God. The question is, can we push past our heavy burdens and finally reach that transformation? Only with God’s help, we can. The Lord may let trials fall in our path, but he is always there to help us, never forsaking us. He makes sure that we are equipped, so that we may walk through those trials and come out the other side with a smile.

Choose to look at each of your trials as a test. Can you keep faith that God knows best as you wait for that transformation? Can you keep a smile and uplifted heart as you wait for that change? Can you use your situation for Him? Can you trust in the Lord?

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” KJV

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What trials have been in your heart lately?

Do you have any prayer requests? Just let me know and I’ll be happy to pray for you.

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Megan Joy

Why We Shouldn’t Try to Be Popular

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Being popular sounds inviting, does it not? Isn’t it true that we all like to be liked? Whether we’re scrolling through Instagram, reading a blog, or talking to someone in person, do thoughts of jealousy silently creep in when we see their greater popularity? Do we not, even subconsciously, compare our own lives to what we are presented through social media, the internet, and conversations? That’s the key word here: presented.

For this post, I’m going to use Instagram as the main example, but it can be applied to any social media platform, the internet, or an in-person experience.

The countless Instagram accounts brimming with perfectly planned photos and striking filters may make it seem to any onlooker that those accounts represent the real lives of the Instagrammers. However, I can assure you, they do not. The Instagrammers don’t see the world through the Valencia filter or have lives compiled of only the most seemingly perfect photos they post. Life doesn’t work that way, not for anybody. Many people post content for the sole reason of becoming popular with their audiences. Their content may not even please themselves, and only be posted for sheer popularity/followers/likes.

Now that we’ve established that what some people choose to present to their audience does not necessarily reflect their true lives, let’s each ask ourselves a question. Do I do that?

When we post something either on social media or the internet, or even how we act and speak, are we doing it for popularity, to impress someone, and to seem a little different than we really are? Are we trying to get more likes or friends by presenting things that do not reflect our true selves? What if, by doing that, we are creating a fictional social front and not revealing what we truly enjoy, think, or find interesting?

Fortunately, there is an easy fix for this epidemic of trying to become popular: don’t try. Just completely drop everything that is dishonestly encouraging popularity and instead be yourself. Present content that truly makes you happy and interests you. Stop “trying” to be popular, because if you aren’t being yourself, then they don’t like you, they like the artificial life you have presented.

Also, this is a reminder that you do not have to agree with other people (on social media, the internet, or in real life) just to become popular in their eyes. Do not feel as though you must pretend to like or agree with something that a friend likes or agrees with to win their friendship or approval. Lying and being dishonest about what you believe or like to gain popularity is definitely not a good thing to practice. Being popular in the eyes of friends, peers, and strangers matters not a pittance if you aren’t popular in God’s eyes.

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When people look at what we present to the world, we should want them to see us, not a fake life that we’ve created for an audience. More importantly, when people look at us, they should see Jesus. We should always remember that what we present should be a reflection of our Lord above; things that are true, things that are pure, and things that are lovely. Be yourself, the daughter/son of The King and be sure to represent Him in everything we do.

As my final question: what are you presenting to the world: content created to gain popularity, or the real you, the child of The King?

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Do you find yourself presenting content for popularity that isn’t the real you?

Have you ever felt like you had to agree with someone to gain popularity in their eyes?

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Megan Joy

(P.S. There is nothing wrong with posting pretty or pre-planned pictures on social media, but make sure that it represents the true you, things that you like, enjoy, and wish to share with others, like the love of our Heavenly Father!)

A Dozen Ways to Keep Busy During a Power Outage

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A few weeks ago, I lived by candlelight. No electricity, no internet, no running water, no refrigerator, no heat, and no oven. It was fun for a while; it was like living in the past! However, after continually trying to get things done and failing miserably for four days, life got very frustrating, very fast. So, I’ve put together a list of fun things to do to keep you busy during a power outage!

1)      Collect candles. Gather every candle and lantern that you can find in the house. Also, for more light, gather some empty glass jars, put tea lights inside, and place them all on a big metal tray (not plastic) and carry it around from room to room for some extra light. Just be cautious and extra safe about where you put flames and never leave them unattended.

2)      Play a board game. Gather your family and use candles or a flashlight to illuminate the room. Scrabble, Clue, and Life are some fun games to try!

3)      Make music. You could sing or play an acoustic instrument. If it’s too dark to read music, try playing by ear.

4)      Play hide-and-seek (or sardines). Make special rules like: you can only hide on one level of the house, or only the seeker can have a flashlight. It can make the game so much more thrilling when the seeker has to go through a pitch-black house searching for everyone! Do not use any real flames when doing this! (p.s. no one is ever too old to play a game of hide-and-seek)

5)      Do a coloring page. Get some colored pencils and a coloring book. A power outage is a great excuse to do something you wouldn’t have time to do ordinarily, like coloring. I personally like this book!

6)      Read these verses. 

John 8:12 – “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Psalms 119:105 – “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

John 9:5 – “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Psalms 139:12 – “Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.”

Ephesians 5:8 – “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:”

7)      Write in a journal. Document everything that happens and write down how life is different with and without electricity.

8)      Play the story round game. Set a flashlight on the floor facing up and gather around it, (maybe with blankets and snacks). Have one person begin a story with one sentence. Then have the next person in line continue it, and so on until the story ends. Make it as wild or as mild as you wish!

9)      Make shadow puppets. Use a flashlight to cast shadows on the wall. There are so many different animals to do, you could make up a whole show. Make it a game by casting a shadow and having the others guess what it is.

10)  Read a book. It only takes one candle to illuminate a page. You could even read it aloud to someone, if you wanted.

11)  Make a list of all the things you have to get caught up on once the power is back on, things like, reset all the clocks, dispose of thawed out food in the refrigerator, and recharge all electric devices.

12)  Remember the olden days. Electricity is one of the world’s more modern discoveries! Up until the late 1800s, every family had to live without running water, electric lights, and heaters. They used candles or lanterns for light, wood or coal for warmth, and hand-drawn water every day! Thinking about it this way can even make us feel spoiled by all the many “luxuries” we’ve all been given, like flipping a switch to brighten a room, not to mention cell phones, computers, or toaster ovens!

Living in the past for a while has certainly made me more appreciative of what my ancestors once lived without, and I feel very thankful that I do not have to continue without power permanently. What are some other fun things that you could do during a power outage?

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Which board game is better: Scrabble, Clue, or Life?

Have you had a power outage yet this winter?

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Megan Joy

Poems of Old // All Nature Has a Feeling

Spring is on its way and I’m 98% sure that you are eagerly waiting for it, as I am. There’s just something outstandingly special about that season. It brings so many good feelings into my heart that I can’t exactly explain in words, which is why I decided to post this poem by John Clare, All Nature Has a Feeling. The first three lines are my favorite, as I find them so very true. It’s a short poem, nevertheless packed with little meanings and things to think about. Read away!

Poems of Old - All Nature Has a Feeling - simplymeganjoy.wordpress.com

All nature has a feeling: woods, fields, brooks

Are life eternal: and in silence they

Speak happiness beyond the reach of books;

There’s nothing mortal in them; their decay

Is the green life of change; to pass away

And come again in blooms revivified.

Its birth was heaven, eternal in its stay,

And with the sun and moon shall still abide

Beneath their day and night and heaven wide.

John Clare, 1800s

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Do you ever get those spring feelings?

What are some things you’re looking forward to in the new season?

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Megan Joy

12 Ways Get Your Book Started

12 Ways to Get Your Book Started - simplymeganjoy.wordpress.com

Writing a book means being inspired by something and then transferring that inspiration into words, sentences, and chapters. There is something that sparks our imagination and urges us to begin writing in fury, typing down the story that we so much want to tell. However, what happens when you’ve no idea how to begin your story and have no inspiration to get started?

Now, I’ve never had trouble starting a book, but instead my dilemma is with finishing them. I write out the plot, get more than half way complete, and suddenly a new story pops into my head. It seems as though there will never be enough time to write down all the stories I want to tell! Nevertheless, I do get stuck in my writing sometimes which calls for inspiration. So here is a list of twelve ways to find inspiration when you want to begin writing a book (or finish one!).

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Go on a spontaneous walk or plan out a long adventurous trek. Either one is sure to spark your inspiration. Let your feet take you to an unknown destination and enjoy your time venturing.

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Sometimes, reading a classic work of fiction can help pull us into the world of writing. It inspires us to mold our own stories and put together a plot of our own. Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, and The Secret Garden are some great classics to read.

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Yes, I’m sure we can all go back into our distant memories to recollect a time when to find someone’s phone number, you had to look it up in a book that was mailed to you once a year, called a telephone book. If you still have one laying around today, you may not be able to use it as it was originally intended, however it is very possible to extract some inspiring ideas from it. Open it to a random page and point to any last name. Turn to another page to find a first name to go with it. Do this over and over, and soon you’ll have a whole book’s worth of characters to write about!

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Playing a musical instrument can be so inspiring; whether it be a piano, violin, guitar, flute, ukulele, or yes, even a harmonic or recorder. Go outside and play; see if the birds sing along. Listen to nature and hear what it says! You’re bound to have something to write about when you come back inside.

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Create a story-inspiration board and pin any photo you come across that looks interesting. The pictures that urge us to know the stories behind them are the ones that give us inspiration for writing, so be on the look out for those. Also, you can always make those boards private if you don’t want to share them with your followers.

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Get onto Spotify and play your favorite instrumental track. Listen to your favorite movie scores or find something new! I’ve found it helpful to create a separate playlist for each of your stories; it definitely helps to get you into the world you’re writing about.

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It doesn’t matter if you aren’t an artist. The point isn’t to create a masterpiece, but to create something that will get your mind flowing and open to new ideas. Draw a mountain, a dog, a person; it really doesn’t matter!

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Pack snacks, pens, and a notebook, and take a trip into the nearest bustling city. Roam the streets, people watch, or find a little café to write in, and just take in everything that you see, and use it to propel you into your writing.

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I’m not kidding about this one. Not only are you doing something profitable but cleaning out your closet or work space can also provide you with tons of inspiration. You could come across old letters or memorabilia hidden away that spark ideas for writing. If not, the cleaning will bore you so much that you begin daydreaming about anything other than cleaning, giving you ideas for a book!

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Visit any thrift shop and look around. I’m sure you’ll find something inspiring. Go with a list of things to find, like a book dated before 1900, a vintage jewelry box, or old ice skates. Anything you find that interests you can be the starting point for a book.

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For me, some of the most inspiring moments happen when watching a really good movie. If you want to write a story set in the 1820s, watch Sense and Sensibility; not so you can copy it, but to draw ideas from it; how they spoke, dressed, and acted. There’s something so motivating in seeing a movie set in the era in which you intend to write!

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Talk with other writers and aspiring authors in person or through blogs. Sometimes just reading about what others are writing, will get you thinking about forming a plot of your own! It’s always fun to know what others are doing in their writing. Below you can find a list of writing blogs to visit for more writing tips and stories!

Reveries // Ruffles and Grace // Once Upon an Ordinary // Charis Rae // Invisible World // Claire Rachel // Liv K. Fisher // The Writing Writers // Forever and Everly // Peeking Beneath

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Do you enjoy writing?

What are you working on right now?

Do you think any of these 12 ways would be helpful?

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Megan Joy

7 Free Bible Verse Posters to Hang on Your Wall

Seven Free Bible Verse Posters to Hang on Your Wall - simplymeganjoy.wordpress

What’s a better place to hang some inspiring and uplifting verses other than your bedroom wall?  I’ve created 7 verse designs for you to print out and place where you will see them every day!

Proverbs 3:5-6

Proverbs 3 5-6

Joshua 1:9

Joshua 1-9

Matthew 11:28

Matthew 11-28

1st Peter 5:7

floral 5

Philippians 4:13

Philippians 4-13

Matthew 6:21

Matthew 6-21

Romans 8:28

Romans 8-28 2nd

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You can save these photos to your computer, print, and cut them out, and hang them wherever you like. You could give one to a friend who needs encouragement or fold one up and slip it into your sibling’s backpack with a note on the back saying how much you appreciate them! Be creative by printing them out on cardstock and give them as Valentine’s Day gifts (or save them for Easter)!

P.S. All verses above were taken from the King James Version Bible.

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Which verse speaks to you the most?

Shout out to “The Hungry JPEG” for the use of their free graphic designs!

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Megan Joy

Poems of Old // Hope is the Thing with Feathers

This week’s poem is by the inspiring Emily Dickinson (1830-1886). It is believed to have been written during the first year of the Civil War and published three decades later. Below you can read her clever way with words in “Hope is the Thing with Feathers.”

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Hope is the things with feathers

That perches in the soul,

And sings the tune without words,

And never stops at all,

 

And sweetest in the gale is heard;

And sore must be the storm

That could abash the little bird

That kept so many warm.

 

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,

And on the strangest sea;

Yet, never, in extremity,

It asked a crumb of me.

Emily Dickinson, 1861

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What do you think of this poem?

Don’t you just love Dickinson’s pleasant phrasing?

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Megan Joy

 

 

Quote of the Week // 51st Week

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Luke, the author of the third gospel in the Bible and one of the twelve disciples, is well known for recording the birth of Jesus, which can be found in Luke 2:1-20. Originally a physician, Luke researched and gathered Jesus’ past history and reported it in his book, which was later selected to be part of our Bibles today. It is said that Luke died at age 84, supposedly of being killed for his religious beliefs. Over 2,000 years later we can read his works of Jesus’ birth.

In the passage above, an angel is speaking to a group of shepherds in a field in Bethlehem, around 4 A. D. Here are those two verses in context:

1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.” Luke 2:1-20, King James Version

Did you happened to notice that between those twenty verses, fourteen of them involved the shepherds? Do you find it strange that the angels appeared in a field to tell a group of lowly sheep keepers of the King of the Universe’s birth? If this baby is so important, why didn’t the angels appear before the governors and priests of the town, or the richest of residents so they could see this baby? Why did God choose poor shepherds?

Shepherds of that day were considered the lower class of the city. They spent all their time out in fields, no matter what the weather or time of day. (Fun fact: each night before a shepherd would doze off each night in the fields, he would count his sheep to make sure they were all together, which is possibly where we get the idea that counting sheep will help us go to sleep!)

Shepherds certainly weren’t the most accepted group in Bethlehem, but to God, the shepherds were the prefect people to tell about Jesus’ birth! It shows us that clearly God loved the shepherds just as much as the priests, governors, and scribes. God didn’t choose from the top of the wealth list, but from the list of those who were less fortunate, those who were looked down upon, and those who knew how to spread the word! Verse 18 says that the shepherds went about to declare Christ’s birth, and that their listeners were curious of the news. I doubt that a governor would go about the streets at night telling news of this baby born in a stable!

It was God’s plan for the angels to appear to the shepherds. Their wealth, social status, and class didn’t matter. God doesn’t look at those things when He chooses people for important tasks or jobs. Instead He looks at the heart. So we must be well prepared and ready for any task that we are given, whether it be traveling to see a newborn king (which is sort of unlikely nowadays), telling a friend about the birth of Christ, or even just simply smiling at a grumpy person you happen to cross paths with. Whether you’re a shepherd or a governor, you never know what God will ask you to do, so be ready and willing for anything, because I know that He has something very special in store for you!

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Do you have any other thoughts of why God choose the shepherds to see Jesus?

Did you know that counting sheep may have come from the Bible?

Are you ready and willing for anything God has in store for you?

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Megan Joy

Quote of the Week // 50th Week

Quote of the Week - 50th Week Simply Megan Joy Blog

Jane Austen (1775-1817) was the renowned British author of Emma, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abby, and more, all of which have been adapted into numerous films or tv series’. Austen died at age 41 of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Only after her death did her literary works become popular.

It is a sad thought, but true. After years of constant life, it may seem as though we are quickly skidding across time doing many little and frivolous things of no great importance. Yes, there are moments and events that break up this feeling of continuous life and trivial tasks, but the succession of “busy nothings” we execute daily can pull us into a gloomy lull, and I think that this happens to everyone, whether we realize it or not.

My suggestion is; go back to the basics. Focus on what matters. This day, this moment. Pick the top ten things that matter to you, and stick by them. Make a list of things that matter, and another list of things that don’t, things that you could let go of for now to get back on track.

Let not our days be filled with little nothings and useless tasks, but be helpful, useful, and productive. Let’s get back to the simple basics and keep close the things that matter.

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Do you like Austen books or movies better?

Do you find that life has turned into a succession of busy nothings?

Do you plan to go back to the basics?

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Megan Joy