Thanksgiving is my favorite American holiday. There’s something very pure about a day devoted to expressing gratitude, a day you don’t have to buy any presents for, a day that people from all strata of society can participate in.
I spend much of November thinking about the hundreds of things I’m thankful for. This Thanksgiving blog will focus on freelance projects from the past year that I am particularly grateful for. Let’s call it,
Top 10 Projects I was Thankful to Work On This Year
(I apologize in advance if your project is not specifically listed—it’s been a full year, and I couldn’t list them all!)
1. The Geertsema Chronicles
This book is a wonderful example of how an ordinary person can write a meaningful memoir that will bless his family for generations. It’s also an example of how the process is just as rich as the product. John Geertsema worked on this memoir for 15 years, beginning in 1994 when his children gave him a book in which to jot down his memories of growing up in Holland. Because he was in no particular hurry to “finish” the book, Mr. Geertsema spent a lot of time adding vivid details, historic documents, and plenty of photographs, which really brought his stories to life. He worked with his daughter, Nancy Buis, to finally organize all the stories and images, and she cherishes the time they spent together. I don’t think he had originally planned to turn it into a published book, but when Nancy saw a book I had helped a friend of hers with, she wanted something similar for her dad. Although the book is a personal history, I honestly think the stories Mr. Geertsema has captured would fascinate a broader audience. Either way, The Geertsema Chronicles developed into a beautiful keepsake, and because it’s a print-on-demand publication, family members here in the States as well as in the Netherlands are able to order copies one at a time, as they desire. It was a wonderful project to work on. (UPDATE: John Geertsema passed away in August of 2010. With his family’s permission, in honor of his memory I’ve posted a more detailed look at his autobiography: “The Geertsema Chronicles: a well-written memoir, an enduring legacy.”)
2. The VitaMinute
The VitaMinute e-newsletter was my first experience with email marketing leader Constant Contact, and Shaklee Distributors Ann Schenkel and Dori Dykstra were gracious about learning right along with me! We sent a “short and sweet” newsletter once a month to their contacts, and Constant Contact provided a lot of quick help and useful data. I’m thankful for the fun meetings we had at Panera, and for the good information we were able to share in an efficient format. (UPDATE: Ann Schenkel has now transformed her e-newsletter into a weekly VitaMinute blog!)
3. Chris Klein’s book
How many of you know Chris Klein? He’s a guy who won’t let cerebral palsy keep him from learning, teaching, and enjoying life. After starting a ministry called Clay Vessel, Chris decided it would be helpful to have a book about his life. So he and I have been working on that project off and on for the past several months. I have never met Chris in person, but the beauty of technology is, we can communicate and collaborate quite efficiently and effectively using keyboards, email attachments, and internet connections! I’m thankful for Chris’ sense of humor, his unique perspective, and his passion for helping people. If you are eager to see his book in print, send Chris an email or write on his Facebook wall.
4. Memorial folders
When the father of my best friend passed away this summer, I had the honor of working with the family to prepare a customized memorial folder, using photos they provided, favorite memories, and meaningful Scriptures woven into the order of service. (Click the image to view the PDF.) Not only did this unique program become a keepsake for family and friends, it gave me a way to help the family and pay tribute to a wonderful man. Since then I’ve had other opportunities to serve families who have suffered loss. This kind of work is sensitive and time-consuming, but the gratitude from the families is overwhelming, and I’m thankful to be entrusted with their memories in this unique way.
This blog is a new project for me this year, and it’s another one I’m grateful for. I appreciate the discipline of posting new, worthwhile content weekly. I enjoy being able to feed this content to my other web locations. And I value the different kinds of comments I get from different kinds of people in these different locations.
6. The Mexi-Can
A friend of mine from church, Al Villarreal, is a skilled handyman with a big heart. He hired me to design business cards for him, and he asked me to put a Bible verse on the back, so he could witness to people each time he hands out a card. His evangelism program must be working, because a few weeks ago he asked me to print more cards for him! I’m thankful for Al’s skills (he’s helped with a couple projects at my house) and his compassion.
7. Archer’s Arrows
I haven’t actually worked on this book this year, but George Griffiths, who originally hired me for the project in 2008, did order some additional copies last month, and that got me to thinking about the enduring nature of old-fashioned, printed books, and how technology today can really enhance the best qualities of the books we love. You see, Archer’s Arrows is an updated version of a book originally called Arrows. Arrows was a book of poetry by Judge William Archer: his daughters collected 38 of his poems and presented them to him as a hardcover book published by J. J. Little & Ives Company (New York). This was back in 1931, for Judge Archer’s 60th birthday. George Griffiths (Archer’s grandson) has a copy of that original book, and he wanted to share it with other members of the family. He re-published the collection as part of an expanded volume that also includes rare photographs, newspaper clippings, papers, and certificates that are all part of the family history. I suppose if George were a little more comfortable with his computer, he would be sharing this family history via Facebook or something, but somehow that kind of convenience and efficiency still can’t quite replace the presence of an actual printed book.
8. Social Media
At the same, there’s a lot to be said for social media, and I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had this year to learn tweeting, blogging, Linking, Facebooking, and more! I’m thankful for the excellent, helpful seminars and webinars I’ve attended this year, and for the vast resources available online. If you are getting ready to wade into Web 2.0 waters yourself, let me know, and I’ll be happy to recommend some helpful sites.
9. Humorous devotional
I recently had an opportunity to submit an entry to Creative Enterprises, a publisher working on a one-year devotional of humorous/inspirational stories. I submitted a story from an experience I had on a Bible League trip to China a few years ago, and writing about it again made me thankful for the wonderful people I worked with, the powerful mission we shared, and the enlarged sense of “church” we developed.
10. Cancer Freedom
Cancer Freedom is actually an old book, the first one I ever had published (by Baker Book House in 1995, under the title Surrender or Fight). I’m thankful that this old book has seen new life this year. Having the rights reverted back to myself and co-author Bea Hoek has given us the freedom to update the text, title, and cover, and to make the book available in print through Lulu and as an ebook through Smashwords. I’m also exploring the possibility of releasing an audio version, so that might be in my Top 10 list next Thanksgiving! (See “Cancer Freedom: a living memoir,” for the story behind the book.)
I love that Thanksgiving gives me an opportunity to review my year, count my blessings, and thank my God. And I hope this holiday gives you a chance to do the same. In fact, if you’d like to start your own Thanksgiving Top 10, feel free to post a comment below and get your list started!
Thanks again, friends and colleagues. It’s been a wonderful year.