MAXINE BILLINGS, Photographer & Author

Fine Art Photography Inspired By Natural Creation & Wholesome Reading For Your Family's Entertainment


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MY LITTLE HELPER

WASH DISHES 7This is my niece Avery.  She was my little helper today, and WASH DISHES 6she got extremely upset with me when I finally got her down from the sink.  Aren’t children so funny and cute?  I remember when my daughter and son were little–they always wanted to help do cleaning around the house.  Then when they got big enough to really help, I practically had to beg them for their assistance :).

Children bring so much extra joy to our lives.  That’s why I often include them in my stories.  Here are the names of some of the youngest ones you’ll meet in five (5) of my books:

Kayla (5 years old)

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Janae (5 years old)

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Misha (Mee Mee) (1 year old)

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Misha (Mee Mee) (3 years old)

Jaydon (Jay) (1 year old)

Camra (Cammie) (1 year old)

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Name ? (Age ?)

DH COVER 4_8.25.14WASH DISHESPerhaps you noticed that I omitted the name and age of the child from my book DESPERATE HEARTS.  This is because for a limited time, I am offering free, autographed book giveaways of my first five (5) published novels to the first person who correctly answers this two-part question.

But that’s not all.  The giveaway also includes a mass-market paperback copy (a smaller, less expensive version) of A MEASURE OF FAITH, so that’s six (6) free books in all.

Please submit your answers to me at maxinebillings@yahoo.com, and remember to include your mailing address so I’ll know where to ship your books.

And in case you don’t know, I’m still running two (2) book quiz contests on Goodreads.  To participate, please click here to go to my Books page.  Then scroll down until you see CONTESTS (GOODREADS BOOK QUIZZES).

Well, that’s all for now.  HAPPY READING!  And as always, this is from my heart to yours!

Maxine 🙂

http://www.maxinebillings.com

http://www.maxinebillings.wordpress.com

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http://www.pearlspearlsofwisdom.wordpress.com


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COPING WITH DISABILITIES

WHEELCHAIR ATHLETEAs I write this post, I’m typing it with the fingers of only one hand, and it is extremely difficult and frustrating.  I’m tempted to try to get the fingers of my left hand to assist those of my right.  Why am I only using one hand?  Am I performing an experiment of some sort?  I wish that was the case.  I’m doing it because I have to.  Being a secretary for almost 34 years before retiring several months ago, in addition to starting my writing career in 1999, have left me with a sensation in my left hand that feels as though I have carpal tunnel.  My left pinkie finger is numb which is making it difficult for me to use my left hand; therefore, I’m trying to rest it while also intermittently exercising my fingers.  It is extremely frustrating not being able to use both of my hands like I normally do in the way I’m accustomed to.  So this got me to thinking about how defeated a person must feel (especially, initially) when some part of his body is unable to function the way it should.

There is a passage in the Bible at 1 Corinthians 12:14-26 that says the body is not made up of one member but many.  It goes on to help us to appreciate that even the body parts that are seemingly weaker are still necessary and all should have mutual concern for one another–because if one of them suffers, all the others suffer with it, and if one of them is glorified, all the others rejoice with it.  Of course, this is an illustration comparing each follower of Christ with each individual member of the body.  But all the same, just as we as humans need each other, each member of our body also needs the other.

ISAIHIn my book, IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH, Darryl has to learn to come to terms with his sudden and unexpected disability.  You know, sometimes it’s hard for us to understand what a person is going through until we have to take a walk in their shoes.  Until I recently started having this nagging feeling of paralysis in my finger, I only had a very limited idea in my imagination of how a person in this situation might feel.  But now, having personally experienced it on a very minute level (compared to what so many others are facing), I finally have an even greater higher regard for them and the everyday struggles they face–but more importantly, I have a deeper appreciation and admiration of how they have refused to let their disability handicap them more than it perhaps already has.  So, to them, I would like to say, “Thank you so much for being such an illustrious beacon of light to the world, and especially to those of us who may at times take for granted that we still have full use of all of our body members.  You are truly an inspiration!”

HAPPY READING!  And as always, this is from my heart to yours.

Maxine

http://www.maxinebillings.com

 

(Wheelchair Athlete Photo-Courtesy of Office.com Clip Art)


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MALE MENOPAUSE?

manDo men go through menopause?  Unlike their female counterparts, some men are less likely to go to a doctor when they are sick or to seek preventive health care.  But is there such a thing as male menopause?  Hormone changes are a natural part of aging regardless of the person’s gender.  While the changes that women experience during menopause are more dramatic and occur during a relatively short period of time, sex hormone changes in men appear more gradually over a period of many years.  And while there are also other terms to refer to so-called male menopause, many doctors call it “andropause.”  So, what are some of the symptoms a man going through this stage of life might experience?

  • Sexual Function Changes which might include reduced sexual desire and erectile dysfunction.
  • Sleep Pattern Changes such as insomnia or increased sleepiness.
  • Various Physical Changes consisting of increased body fat, reduced muscle bulk and strength, and loss of body hair.  Although rare, might also include having less energy and experiencing hot flashes.
  • Emotional Changes like feeling sad or depressed and having trouble concentrating or remembering things.

Women are usually more apt to openly discuss with their doctors exactly what they are feeling and the changes their bodies are undergoing in any given situation.  We like to talk about what is bothering us.  Some men, on the other hand, tend to internalize their emotions and may be reluctant to seek medical help, let alone to actually be honest with their doctor (or perhaps anyone else) regarding what they are experiencing.  In THE BREAKING POINT, Roger refused to communicate with his wife Estelle about some of his deeply-rooted feelings.  Darryl, of IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH, did speak with his wife Catina about how he felt but in ways that were dogmatic and pessimistic .  ISAIHBoth men had to learn to overcome their own idiosyncrasies in order regain a sense of peace and normalcy in their lives.

TBPThe Scriptures say at Genesis 2:24 that when a man and a woman marry, they become one flesh.  Yet 1 Peter 3:7 and Ephesians 5:21-33 help us to appreciate that both are unique in their own special ways and are still considered as individuals.  Therefore, while they are extremely different, they should also be united in their efforts to keep their marriage honorable, to be each other’s rock (even when they don’t always understand what the other is going through), and to maintain harmony to the extent possible.

So as women, may we keep in mind that we are not the only ones who experience changes in life–the men we love do so as well–and it is up to both genders to help pave the way so that the transition is not more turbulent than it has to be.

HAPPY READING!  And as always, this is from my heart to yours,

Maxine

http://www.maxinebillings.com

(Photo Of Man Courtesy Of Office.com Clip Art)

 


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THE MIRACLE OF LIFE

Ahhhh, babies!  Who doesn’t love them?  Have you ever noticed how whenever we see one, we nearly hurt ourselves trying to get to itBABY SLEEPING?  It’s understandable though–they’re so sweet, cuddly, lovable, and adorable.  Oh, and they also smell soooo good.  The ability to give life to another living, breathing human being is truly a miraculous gift from God as the Scriptures point out.  (Genesis 1:27 & 28; Psalm 127:3)

Consider what an amazingly marvelous process human reproduction is–the remarkable way that God made us!  The woman’s egg cell, no bigger than a pinpoint, is fertilized by the man’s sperm cell which is 1/85,000 the size of the egg cell.  In time, another complete human matures from the union of those two tiny particles, inheriting qualities from both parents according to the composite “blueprint” (DNA) that formed when the cells were united.  WOW!  Isn’t it fascinating!

My baby sister had her second child almost seven months ago–a precious, little girl!  Whenever I’m with her, I can’t help but watch how she is constantly taking in her new surroundings.  As she does so, I wish I could just reach inside her tiny head and grab all of her thoughts so I’d know exactly what is going on in that magnificent brain of hers.  I think back to the time when my own children were babies and how blessed I am to have brought two more human beings into this world!  Think about it–all of us started out as infants, but look at us now!  Because of our wonderful, magnificent Creator, we are all a part of the cycle of human reproduction that is called life.

ATOFI oftentimes include children in my stories because they can be so funny (most of the time, without even trying.)  As I’ve mentioned before in a previous blog, they add so much spice to our lives.  They start out as these little, tiny people (some of which you can hold in the palm of your hand) but can grow up to be incredible human beings (not just in our eyes), but more importantly, in the eyes of the One who is the source of all life, our Heavenly Father and Creator!  (Psalm 36:9)ISAIH

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Well, that’s all for now.  HAPPY READING!  And as always, this is from my heart to yours,

Maxine

http://www.maxinebillings.com

(Sleeping Baby Courtesy Of Office.com Clip Art)

 


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LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE

I’ve had a lot going on this week with my mama.  Earlier, my baby sister had called to tell me she hadLAUGHTER to contact 911 for her.  So I jumped in my car and flew to Mama’s house.  My sister, the fire truck, and the ambulance were already there when I arrived.  The ambulance was parked in the driveway so I pulled up onto the front lawn out of the way of the vehicle.  In doing so, I had forgotten about a small wire garden fence there around Mama’s daylilies.

I suddenly heard a noise underneath the front of my car and realized that I had driven over something.  It was dark (almost eleven o’clock at night.)  I immediately backed up a little, and that’s when I remembered the fence.

But since I did not have time to worry about it at the moment, I rushed into Mama’s house where she was being assisted by the emergency medical technicians.  My husband arrived in his car.  After everything was situated and Mama was taken to the hospital, I stayed behind for a few minutes to tidy up the house while my sister and her family went to the hospital.  I told my husband about the fence.  He then moved my car to the driveway and straightened the fence.

At the hospital as we were waiting for Mama’s test results, I could not help but laugh to myself every time I thought about running over the fence.  I told Mama what happened as she laid there in her hospital bed.  She, my sister, and I got us a good laugh from it.  I still chuckle inwardly when I think about it.  It reminds me of another time when Mama was in the hospital and my kids and I were going one Sunday morning to visit her.

It was raining slightly, and my children (who were much younger then) were on either side of me as I tried to hold my umbrella in one hand and keys in the other.  I had given one of them my pocketbook to carry.  The next thing I knew, I was going down and could not stop.  I went down so fast that neither of them were able to try to help stop my fall.  The umbrella went one way and the keys, another.  I fell flat on my “boom-boom” onto a huge clay pot of begonias that I had recently planted.  The cool part about the fall was that when I went down onto the pot, it was as though I had just plopped down onto a chair–a flower-pot chair!  I never hit the ground.  It looked like someone had just picked me up off the ground and set me onto the flower pot.  Since the only thing that was hurt was my pride (just kidding–only my children saw me), all I could do was laugh at myself.  To this day, I continue to tell others about it as I’m doubled over with laughter.  It was so funny to me that I ended up putting it in one of my stories, IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH, which is my sequel to THE BREAKING POINTISAIHTBP

I love writing stories, and I love adding humor to them.  Many of us have heard of the age-old saying, “Laughter is the best medicine.”  And although many things in life are certainly no joke, there are times when having a sense of humor about them helps us to cope.  I often ponder God’s and his son Jesus’ sense of humor.

When Jesus was on earth, although he was serious-minded when it came to his ministry and way of life, he was not a tight-lipped disciplinarian.  He was kind, warm, and friendly. The Bible says at Matthew 11:28 that he brought refreshment to others.  At the same time though, many of us might sense a touch of humor in some of the things he said and taught.

Although his teachings were mainly for the purpose of spreading the good news about God’s Kingdom, one might also find amusing the idea of a camel attempting to pass through the eye of a literal sewing needle.  (Matthew 19:23 & 24)  Of course, this was just one example of Jesus’ way of teaching in order to get people to open up their minds and really think.

Since Jesus is the perfect reflection of his Father (John 14:9 ), it goes without saying that God also has a sense of humor.  Let’s look at just one example–his animal creation.  Have you ever stopped to take the time to watch them?  Some of them perform many humorous antics which bring a smile to our lips, laughter bubbling from within us, and extra joy to our lives.

Humor is a delightful gift from God and when used in moderation and with sound judgment, adds flavor, zest, and sparkle to our everyday lives.  So , yes, life will get us down now and then–but sometimes, laughter really is the best medicine!

Good-bye for now.  HAPPY READING!

And as always, this is from my heart to yours.

Maxine

http://www.maxinebillings.com

THE MUSCLE OF WILLPOWER

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MUSCLES (Poor)

I watched part of a very interesting program yesterday on the PBA television channel featuring Dr. Ben Carson where he spoke on the subject of brain health. One of the things he mentioned that caught my attention was that our willpower is stronger when we understand the consequences and effects of our bad actions or conduct.

It’s been said by some that our willpower is very much like a muscle. The more we use or exercise it, the stronger it becomes. On the other hand, if we rarely use it, it will grow weak.

MUSCLES (Exercise)

In my book IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH, Darryl loses his willpower to go on after he becomes physically disabled. He has to make some very important decisions in his life–ones that not only affect him but also his wife and child. Everyday we are faced with decisions–some big, some small–but no matter what the scope, at some point in time, we must make them. What, though, determines how we make our decisions?

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It’s not always easy to make wise decisions and carry them out. However, it is a process that can be learned which brings us back to exercising or training our senses or perceptive powers to not only discern both right and wrong but also to actually carry out what we should. (Hebrews 5:13 & 14) In doing so, we continually exercise our muscle of willpower, thereby making it stronger and firmer yet flexible to the proper degree when circumstances allow.

MUSCLES (Good)

HAPPY READING! And as always, this is from my heart to yours,

Maxine

http://www.maxinebillings.com


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MY FOUR MAMAs

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Without a doubt, mothers are some of the most wonderful creatures God has ever made!  They have an honored role within the family arrangement, and we should find ways everyday to show them our gratitude for their loving care, regardless of how young or old we are.

As many of you are already aware, I love writing stories about family.  In all of my books, I focus on family relationships.  Yet, I don’t always reflect on the good things that families share because that is simply not reality.  I also touch on their faults and imperfections because as much as we love our family, if we’re honest, we have to admit that there are times when we get on each other’s nerves and rub each other the wrong way.  However, because we truly love one another, we continue putting up with one another in love.  (Eph. 4:2)

I am blessed to have four Mamas in my life.  Four! you say.  Yes, four!  First, there is my biological mother who will soon be 79.  Second, I have my mother-in-law who is 77.  Next is a spiritual sister in my congregation who just turned 92!  And last is another spiritual sister who recently turned 90!  This post would be quite lengthy if I wrote of the many ways in which they are a blessing to me.  Therefore, I’ll simply say that they help me to better appreciate why God tells us to treat the older women as mothers.  (1 Tim. 5:2)

Whether we have our biological mother in our life or not, there is, more than likely, someone in our life who fills that role.  Perhaps it’s a grandmother, an aunt, or someone else.  Whatever area we are lacking in, God always comes up with a beautiful way to make up for it.

To place your order for copies of any of my books, please click on the appropriate cover(s) below. HAPPY READING!

And as always, this is from my heart to yours,

Maxine

http://www.maxinebillings.com

AMOF

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TTW

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TFH

ISAIH

OOAK

LAM


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COMFORT FOR THE DEPRESSED

“If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.” (Proverbs 24:10)

We need our power, strength, and energy in order to keep going in this troubled world we live in. We all struggle with negative feelings from time to time. But prolonged negative emotions can zap us not just mentally and emotionally but physically and spiritually. They can also cause us to do and say things that we ordinarily might not. In my first published novel, A MEASURE OF FAITH, this is what happens to Lynnette. Initially, she cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel and is so wrapped up in herself and what she’s going through that she spends the majority of her time wallowing in self-pity. Have you ever had a friend who was plagued by a personal trial to the point of constantly whining and complaining so much that you just wanted to shake them–not in a bad way–but in a good way because you love them and hate to see them suffering?

As imperfect humans, all of us can become overwhelmed at times from feelings of discouragement. However, some of us are more prone to a higher level. Stress coupled with prolonged negative emotions can affect the body and contribute to a chemical imbalance in the brain of some people, thus producing depression. This is the case with Andrea in A TEST OF FAITH. Darryl of IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH experienced a temporary bout with depression.

Whether or not a depressed individual decides to accept medical treatment is up to them. But what are some practical things we can do to help them? The Bible encourages us to comfort them. (1 Thessalonians 5:14) They need to know that they are cared about. They also need an empathetic person in whom they can confide, someone who is a good listener and very patient. They don’t want to be lectured to or judged. And even if it is not possible to completely win the battle with depression, there is still hope–God’s promise of a time when depression and everything else that causes us pain, heartache, and suffering will be things of the past. (Revelation 21:4)

From my heart to yours,

Maxine

http://www.maxinebillings.com

AMOF
ATOF
ISAIH


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CHILDREN–THE SPICE OF LIFE

Yesterday, I went with my five-year-old nephew and my sister (his mom) on a school field trip to the Atlanta Children’s Museum. It brought back so many wonderful memories of me and my own children when they were younger when I used to go on field trips with them and the tons of other things my husband and I did with them. Well, my children are grown now, but I still love spending time with them (that is, when they can find time for me). My husband and I don’t have any grandchildren yet. Years ago, I used to think that I would feel depressed seeing everyone else playing with their grandchildren while we have none. Now, however, while I appreciate that my husband and I now have more time for each other, we also have many nieces and nephews we can help spoil and spend time with.

In three of my books, A TEST OF FAITH, A HEALING OF THE HEARTS (of the THICKER THAN WATER anthology), and IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH, my little, young characters help to add spice to the lives of their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others. The Bible even calls our children an inheritance from God and a reward. (Psalm 127:3)

God’s own son, Jesus Christ, was such a warmhearted individual that people (even children) were comfortable around him. His loving and compassionate personality drew them to him. Jesus even went so far as to help us to appreciate that we should imitate the humility of young ones. Have you ever taken notice of how most children are so humble and teachable? That’s food for thought. Also, Jesus loved children so much that he did not hesitate to take them into his arms, even blessing them. (Mark 10:13-16)

I recall a time when my daughter and son were young and we were shopping in the grocery store. I had always taught them that it was rude to tell people to shut up. Well, this particular day, the two of them continued bickering back and forth at each other, and I had continually told them to stop. After telling them to quit for the umpteenth time, I finally said, “Shut up.” My son suddenly covered his mouth with his hand and said, “Ooh, Mama, you said, ‘shut up.’ ” In his mind, since I had trained them not to use those words, I had said what amounted to some very bad words. Thereafter, while still young, he would often ask me, “Mama, do you remember the time you told me and Tasha to shut up?” To this day, I smile inwardly whenever I think about it. He will soon be 27, and my daughter is almost 35.

Enjoy your kids while you can because they grow up much too fast. No, they’re not always sugar, spice, and everything nice, but to our lives, they add a whole lot of spice.

From my heart to yours,
Maxine
http://www.maxinebillings.com

ATOF
TTW
ISAIH


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MARRIAGE: THE EARLY YEARS VS. THE LATER YEARS

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“When I’m with him, I feel like I’m walking on clouds.”

“Every time I see her, my heart skips a beat.”

Sound familiar?  For those of us who have been in love or are in love, we can totally relate to the above sentiments.  When we meet that special someone and our hearts collide, we feel that there is nothing in the universe that can separate us from one another’s love.  In my book, IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH, this is exactly how newlywed Catina feels.  Now, consider a different scenario.

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“We have nothing in common anymore.  Instead of marriage mates, I feel like we’re cell mates.”

“I feel so lonely.  I may as well be single.”

Same two people–different thoughts.  What happened?  Answer:  They discovered that their mate isn’t the perfect person they initially saw through rose-tinted glasses.  And suddenly, the little idiosyncrasies they used to ignore about each other are now of gigantic proportion, absolutely annoying, and driving them insane.  This is the category that my older, long-time married couple Estelle and Roger of my book, THE BREAKING POINT, fall under.

While the Bible promotes a positive view of marriage (Proverbs 18:22), we should also expect problems within the marital arrangement.  This is because the Bible also presents a realistic view of marriage (1 Corinthians 7:28).  Therefore, there will be challenges.  One of the biggest challenges we should expect is conflict.  Since no two humans’ personalities are exactly alike, they will occasionally have conflicts no matter how compatible they are.  And because we’re all imperfect, they will even sometimes do and say unpleasant things to each other.  Misunderstandings and differences are bound to happen sooner or later.  So instead of being too quick to feel that they are no longer compatible, perhaps they should try to deal with their incompatibilities in a loving way.  In the end, if things still don’t work out, at least they’ll know that they put forth their best efforts.

From my heart to yours,

Maxine

http://www.maxinebillings.com