Monday, August 26, 2019

100-word Photo Story*

            “He’s smart and handsome, and he’s traveled the world,” Shirley promised.
            Mary wasn’t getting any younger. She was game for any date—blind or otherwise.
            She arrived at the grange hall at precisely six o’clock, dressed in her Sunday best.
            “Hello, Mary.” Her boss strolled in the door behind her. “Did you finish the filing before you left work?”
            “Yes, Mr. Dickson.” Ugh. Why is he here?
            Mary excused herself and escaped to the hallway. 
            Shirley appeared around the corner. “Mary, he’s here!” She pulled her by the arm and introduced her to her date—Mr. Dickson.
(97 words)

* I love old photos. Many of my stories are inspired by them. I invite you to write your own stories...and share them with me in the comments (100 words or less). You may use the caption or tell a completely different story! Have fun!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Perfect Verse.

I like to write the scriptures...literally.
The other day, I copied this verse:

Hebrews 12:13...make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

It spoke to me.
I wasn't sure why.
I use a study bible, but there were no notes on that verse.
Plenty on the verses before and after, but that verse floated in mystery.
After reading it five or six times, I moved on.
But I pondered it that day and the next.

I recently wrote a new little prologue for my novel.
Two pages of fun before the first chapter of the book.
I liked it, but something was missing.

How do I make it fit...make it comfortable?
I prayed about it.
Lord, I know this is right, but it seems out of place just sitting there before the first chapter.
It's a whisper of hope.
My readers need it before diving in.
As I prayed, it hit me...
Start with scripture.
But what verse?
I thought about it.
And then I remembered the verse that jumped off the page.
They jumped and jumped, and I couldn't figure out why.
Now I knew.

My main character has been hurt.
She is nurturing bitterness as a prized possession.
But what does Hebrews 12:13 say?
"Make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather healed."

Knock me down with a feather.

She wants to be healed, but it's become comfortable to hold on to the hurt.
Ouch. Been there, done that.

Will she move to the straight path so what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather healed? You'll have to read the book.
Maybe, just maybe it'll be published one day!

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Be still...

Today I am editing a scene in my novel about striving.
The striving has to do with forgiveness...
Nurturing bitterness as a prized possession.

We do that.
We protect our hurts.
They're real, after all.
No one would argue they're not
But it doesn't help us to do that.
It stops us.
We cease to move forward and wear ourselves out in the deep mud of striving.

Forgiveness is a thread running through all of our stories.
We've all been hurt.
People are like that.
We hurt each other.
But we hurt ourselves by striving.

I write to tell stories of God's grace,
But as I write, I learn.
I learn about forgiveness when my character forgives someone who's not apologizing.
I feel the burden lift as the words flow onto the page.
She's finally free.
And I ponder...
Am I free?

Are you?

Forgiveness is the key to unlocking peace that passes all understanding.
Yet we think we're comfortable clinging to our hurts.
We don't know what's possible.
We haven't tasted freedom.

If we don't forgive others, God will not forgive us. (Matthew 6:14,15)
If for no other reason...
But there is more to it.
That freedom.
Prying satan's claws off a stronghold.
The lightness of liberty.

Are you clinging to hurt?
Are you tired?

Be still and know that I am God...Psalm 46:10
Let it go and know that He knows.
He understands.
He saw it all.
And He doesn't want you to carry it any more.
Take His freedom.
Unlock peace.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

My Cathedral...

Those of you who know me, might know I'm not a flamboyant worshipper.
Worship time is one of my favorite parts of the church service.
My hands don't reach for the sky when my heart overflows.
I might clap, but only if someone else claps first.
Singing is something I do rather quietly...I think...I hope...
I don't want anyone else to hear me.
(You're welcome.)
I might sway a bit or close my eyes in worship but that's as crazy as I get.
Whoa there.

I have a hang-up.
I confess.
Sometimes I want to raise my hands.
But, I don't.
Partly because I've been annoyed by flamboyant worshippers...
People who disregard personal space and stick their arms in front of others as they reach for the heavens.
And partly because flamboyant worship can be deceptive...and that's all I'll say about that.
(I'm being real here.)
And...I know me.
I don't want to be fake - to raise my hands to appear to be worshipping when my heart isn't in it.
(I might have done that once or twice.)
And I don't trust myself to mean it when I'm in a crowd of my friends and acquaintances.

Just being honest.

But I do have a no-holds-barred cathedral.
No one else is there, yet people are all around.
It's just me, God and whatever worship song is playing.
In my car.
Not every time I'm in my car, but sometimes.
I don't doubt my heart when no one will know and no one but God sees.

I turn up the radio and belt out my praise.
It's loud.
I sing.
I cry.
I pray.
I raise my hand...only one, because Jesus won't LITERALLY take the wheel.

I stop singing at stoplights if it's a crowded intersection.
Then, when the light turns green,
I laugh,
And sing some more...

I don't think I'm the only one.
Is your car a cathedral?

Monday, May 20, 2019

Coffee with Gentlemen (The time I had coffee with scientists and confounded them with a 5-letter word.)

            I sat at a table for four with my coffee and breakfast sandwich in a crowded coffee shop in Connecticut. As I sipped my coffee, two gentlemen came through the door and one approached me.
            “Young lady, would you mind if we sit at your table?” 
            I liked him immediately. Having recently let my hair go back to its natural gray, the word young—in reference to me—was delightful to hear.
            “Not at all,” I replied, waving them to the chairs on the other side of the table.  
            “Thank you, it’s not often people are willing to share a table these days. I’m Robert and this is Rex,” he said, pointing to his companion.
            “I’m Heather,” I said. “Nice to meet you.”
            They got in line and it wasn’t long before they joined me, and the three of us began to chat. 
            “Do you come here often?” Robert, a short, balding man was the first to speak.
            “No, I’m on vacation from Washington State.” I replied.
            “We were just there,” he said, glancing at Rex. “For a climate symposium, brilliant lectures, very academic.”
            “Yes, we very much enjoyed it.” Rex was tall and thoughtful. The quieter of the two.
            “That’s wonderful, isn’t the Northwest beautiful?” I couldn’t hide my PNW pride.
            “Oh yes, it’s lovely,” Robert enthusiastically agreed, “What are you seeing while you’re here?”
            I told them what I planned to do and see, and then they had some suggestions for me—which went something like this…
            “She should see the blah blah blah,” Robert said.
            “Oh yes,” Rex agreed.
            “She could get there by boat I think.” Robert added.
            “No, they don’t have boats there.”
            “Yes they do.”
            “No, they stopped running a while ago.”
            “I think they do. I’m sure of it.”
            “No, remember, we read about that in the paper. They stopped running the boats last year.”
            Long pause. “Oh, you’re right. I do remember that.”
            After no less than five of these old-married-couple exchanges, it occurred to me that the men were, in fact, married. 
            “We're planning to visit Yale,” I said.
            “There’s a restaurant near the library, a vegetarian place, it’s lovely.” Robert said.
            “Oh, are you vegetarian?” I leaned in. “My son is too, he used to be vegan—but not the militant, save-all-the-animals kind of vegan.” (I should have inserted my foot in my mouth right then, but I’m typically tardy in doing so.)
            “Vegan is difficult but yes, we’re vegetarian and we do advocate for animals.” Robert said. He told me of his tour of a Perdue chicken farm and the horrors he witnessed. I redeemed myself by sharing that I keep a small flock of spoiled hens, none of whom would find themselves on my dinner plate.
            “We should get some chickens,” Robert said to Rex. 
            “You think so?” Rex shook his head. Dressed in a suit, I could see he wasn’t the chicken-farmer type.
            I took a bite of my dead pig and chicken embryo breakfast sandwich and felt a little foolish doing so.
            They told me about a lecture series they’d recently attended at Yale—explaining that they were scientists. “It was quite enlightening.” Robert said. Rex nodded quietly.
            Then Robert asked the question I always dread. “What do you do?”
            I took in a breath and said, “Well, I was a stay-at-home mom for many years and then I wrote a novel. I’m working on revisions.” I looked back and forth between them for a reaction. They smiled and nodded.
            “What is the name of your novel?” Robert asked.
            “The Grace Writers.”
            “The what?”
            “The Grace Writers.”
            “The great writers?”
            “No, grace.”
            “Excuse me?”
            “The Race Writers?”
            “Grace.” I said the word loudly and clearly. Up to this point neither Robert nor Rex had any trouble hearing what I said, so this exchange was a bit odd to me.
            “G-R-A-C-E?” Robert asked, spelling the word for clarification.
            “Yes, The Grace Writers.” I smiled and took another bite of my death sandwich.
            “Oh.” Rex gave Robert a look. Robert returned the look and their body language told me our conversation was over.
            Robert turned to Rex. “As I was saying earlier about time-space continuum…blah blah blah…” 
            I’ll be honest, as I finished my coffee and listened to his observations on the evolution of time and space and the dimensions therein, I was taken aback by how one little word had abruptly ended our conversation. 
            Grace had confounded the scientists—and the end of our enjoyable conversation confounded me.  
            I’ll grant them—grace is hard to understand. It’s mysterious and startling—not scientific in the least.  
            I hope my sincere enjoyment of their company allowed them to see people of faith in a different light. Perhaps they noticed that we’re not all that intolerant of those with differing beliefs—that we can be on opposite ends of the spectrum of belief, but still enjoy coffee together…so long as they don’t mind dining with a carnivore.
Micah 6:8
This is what the Lord requires of you: Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Easter Surprise!

Sixteen Easters ago,
Our yard was abuzz with eight kids hunting Easter eggs.
It was a beautiful day.
The adults watched and basked in the sun, talking, laughing and enjoying the day.

Then it happened...
A low hum on the horizon.
We looked around, nothing.
The hum grew louder and then the cloud appeared.
A dark mass of bees, like an airborne amoeba slowly moving through the air.
We gathered the kids on the other side of the yard.
We watched.
It was amazing.
Scary and amazing.
We'd never seen a swarm of bees before.
Then they a tree in the yard.
A living, humming blob of bees.

We called a bee wrangler.
He was THRILLED to help us on Easter Sunday.
No, really, he was.
Free bees? He was here in a heartbeat.
We spent our Easter Sunday watching a beekeeper do his work.
It was so interesting.
When he was done, he took his box of bees and went home.

A couple of months later my doorbell rang.
The beekeeper stood on my porch with a jar of honey.
Honey from "our" bees.
How sweet!

I tell this story because I don't want to forget it.
Also, you never know what a day might bring.
This Easter Sunday, keep your eyes and ears open.
Something amazing might be humming on the horizon!

He is Risen!
He is Risen Indeed!

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Locked In...

I volunteered (or was I voluntold?) to chaperone at the Youth Group all-night-long party.
On its face, being locked into a church with 50 (yes, 50) teenagers, and staying up all night (translation: do not sleep under any circumstances) to ensure their safety and welfare, sounded a lot like torture.
But I did it anyway.
(This is where I admit that sometimes I volunteer to do things I don't want to do, because deep down, I still struggle with the misconception that I must earn God's favor. For the record, that's a bunch of bunk.)
My attitude wasn't great when I agreed to volunteer a few weeks ago (I might have whined), but as the day approached, my excitement grew...
Not about the stay-up-all-night part, but about the getting-to-know-the-kids part.

So I ordered a quad latte and showed up.
Those teenagers, they taught me a lot while I didn't sleep...
  1. They're magicians. 17 pizzas disappeared in a matter of minutes.
  2. They are 50 different stories...interesting, funny, sad, inspiring, hopeful stories.
  3. Many kids are seeking family (they may not put it that way), because they don't have a stable one. They're looking for a place to be accepted. 
  4. It's so cool to see 50 kids paying attention...listening intently to the message.
  5. It's utter JOY to know students were impacted by the message...that it begged more conversation.
  6. Even shy/insecure/quiet kids will stand up in front of 49 of their peers and SING! (I would NEVER have done that at their age.)
  7. They're BRAVE. (See #6.)
  8. They're supportive of each other. They cheer for each other. (See #6 & #7)
  9. They're HILARIOUS. Oh man. So many kinds of hilarious. One kid took it upon himself to hide water bottles in the most clever places all over the church. Why? Because all night long, every time we found one above a doorframe or in a high windowsill, we laughed. Genius.
  10. They like to talk to adults (to older adults with gray hair even). Did I, when I was their age? I don't think I did. I don't actually remember adults reaching out to talk to me (it was a different time). And, since I'm on the subject, teens are FUN to talk to. They're interesting, open, curious and kind. They answered my questions...and truth be told, I can be nosy.
  11. They want someone to be interested in them. (See #10.)
  12. Some kids do not need caffeine...period...cartwheels at 3am, running at full speed through the church at 4am...I'd like a teaspoon of what they're having, please.
  13. There are EXCELLENT student leaders in the TGW youth group.
  14. It is VERY satisfying to be included in their their games.
  15. It is even MORE satisfying to be sneeringly accused of murder and killed as a result of their utter disdain of your deception while playing their game.
  16. But it is the MOST satisfying to get away with murder(s), after playing many rounds of Mafia BEFORE being killed.
  17. It's fun to watch kids include each other, get to know each other and enjoy each other's company hour after hour.
  18. Sitting makes one tired. Standing or walking or talking helps one stay awake (caffeine at 3:30am doesn't hurt either).
  19. The dedication of the youth staff is inspiring. They care deeply about the kids. They love them utterly. TGW youth are so very blessed!
  20. It is BEAUTIFUL to watch kids (who haven't slept) happily clean a great big church after having messy fun all night.
  21. Laughter makes time go by faster. It was the fastest awake-all-night of my life
  22. I take great pride in the fact that I did not so much "power nap" for 5 minutes, yet young whippersnappers curled up as early as 1am because they just couldn't stay snooze you lose. ;)
  23. My "wall" is 5am. Good to know because I would do this again. I'd stay up all night all over again. They're so worth it.
I don't write this for any other reason than to encourage you. If you have the opportunity, volunteer with youth. I realize it might not be for everyone, but I think it might be for more of us than we think!

The biggest thing I learned is that you don't have to be "cool" or "up on all the things" to be a youth volunteer (I've never been accused of being cool). You just have to step out of your comfort zone and open up your heart...or agree to do something you don't think you want to do...and see what happens.

Those kids nudged their way into my heart as I yawned through the night and I couldn't be happier about that. They are the future of the church, the future of our country and they are about to be adults, deciding if God - if God's people, are worthy to associate with in the future. Knowing we care about them will go a long way in helping them decide!