Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Lightning and Thunder

            One summer evening a thunderstorm loomed on the horizon. I love a distant display of lightning, but the dark clouds were coming my way. Static interrupted the music on the radio as the storm approached.
            It wasn’t long before the flashes of lightning and static became more frequent, the thunder rumbled mere seconds after each flash. It was almost here. I decided to hunker down in the hallway. I felt a little foolish. I’m a grown woman. I like to think I’m fairly brave, but there I sat, knees to my chest, fingers in my ears.
            The flash came as a blinding, white, light and in the same instant, silence. My radio went dead, the lights went out and the silence was deafening—for a millisecond.
            CRASH!
            An intense angry blast jolted the entire house. The windows rattled and the house vibrated as thunder growled across the sky.
            I thought of only one thing.
            What came to my mind in the split second the radio went dead and the house shook was the caricature of a lightning bolt hitting a stick figure from heaven—God striking someone down for disobeying Him. As the windows rattled, my mind raced to the way that our country, our world has rejected God. How angry He must be.
            The bible speaks of the anger and wrath of God.
            But we focus on the kinder, gentler scriptures that speak of His grace and mercy. It seems we sugarcoat our testimony with the sweetness of his lovingkindness. “God loves you, God is gracious, God is kind and merciful”
            All of those things are true.
            That night, as the floor trembled and darkness enveloped me, I felt the power of that bolt of lightning. I felt a tiny minutia of power in comparison to the power of our God. It reminded me that some day, a day that is closer with every moment that passes, He will return and righteously judge us all. When that day comes, will those who have rejected his love and mercy and grace say to us, who knew of the wrath to come, “Why didn’t you tell me about His wrath?”
            Could it be that while some are drawn to him by His love, some will require the fear of God to recognize their need of a Savior?
            Should we be like the man on the street corner holding a sign that says: God’s wrath is coming! No. I don’t think that’s the answer. But perhaps we could season our witness with more of the full truth of His character—sharing the consequences of rejecting God as well as sharing the benefits of accepting His grace and forgiveness. Perhaps in the dark of night, when the radio goes dead and the earth is silent, that knowledge will seal in someone’s heart the need for a Savior and will cause some who are lost to be found.

Revelation 6:15-16
Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb."

But wait... 2 Peter 3:9 says, The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Beauty Marks

            Six years ago, we turned our rarely-used tiny living and dining rooms into one big den. My dad and I worked together to make a built-in cabinet and bookshelves. We measured the room into oblivion and went to a lumberyard to pick out the boards. My dad wanted me to pick clear wood, free of knots and “scars” as he called them. I couldn’t. I liked the interesting knots and scars. He reluctantly agreed to let a few slip into the mix, figuring we could work around them.
            As we got busy ripping the boards, we disagreed about which boards should compose the top and most visible parts of the cabinet. I liked the imperfections. They added interest and color and life to the piece. He saw them as blemishes, ugly warts that would take away from the beauty. It occurred to me that I could rename them and perhaps persuade him from shunning the boards I preferred. I began to call the imperfections “beauty marks”.
            By the time we were finished, he learned that arguing the superiority of clear wood was lost on me. I only saw beauty and he wasn’t about to convince me otherwise. He admitted, once the piece was installed, that it was particularly beautiful, blemishes and all.  I made the above sign to hang in his shop as a reminder.

            Perfection is nowhere to be found in this world. We strive for it, we think we find it occasionally, but it’s doesn’t exist. We won’t see it until we get to heaven. Clear wood may be stronger, more desirable, easier to work with, but imperfection is beautiful, interesting and unique. We all have blemishes—visible and invisible scars from the wounds of living life. It’s time we see them as beauty marks—the evidence of lessons learned and trials endured. Evidence of the faithfulness of God.

Monday, June 18, 2018

My Greatest Source of Inspiration is...(drumroll please)

Aren't they FUN!?!!?
I recently revealed a few of the places I find inspiration.
It wasn't a complete list and I left out a biggie...(on purpose)
Vintage Photos.
I love them so much.
Snapshots are my favorite although sometimes you can find a very funny portrait.
This guy is thinking about the wedding night...
Photo booth photos hold a special place in my heart.
They are usually taken in fun...or while drunk.
Oh, the stories hiding in those tiny gems.
Which is why I love photos so much, they hint at a story.
Sometimes they inspire a character.
Isn't this lady just the SWEETEST?
They help me to think outside the box.
What's going on in this photo?
How did that boy get a shiner?
What is that woman doing in that tree?
Why are those people so close to that bear?
Nothing inspires a story like a three-year old having a tea party on the roof.
So many questions that only my imagination can answer because I have no idea what the real story is.
Is Great Aunt Helga evil or is little Suzy a tyrant? 
I've spent the past several days (weeks, actually) cleaning out my studio.
My collection of vintage photos must have the ability to reproduce because I certainly didn't buy all of those photos! (or maybe I did)
These might be full of photos...maybe...
Sometimes I buy photos individually,
But often I'll buy boxes of them.
When I get home, I set aside the ones I really, really like for myself.
This is where I keep my very favorites...
I like funny, curious, "what the heck is going on here" types of photos.
I have quite an interesting collection.
A HUGE COLLECTION. (translate: thousands of photos)
Many scenes in my novel are inspired by vintage photographs.
The expressions, the scenery, the simplicity of a time gone by...so much inspiration.

In my messy studio are thousands of stories just waiting to be written.
I'd better get busy!

Friday, June 15, 2018

First Father's Day...

It’s the first father’s day without my dad.
I'll admit that I've dreaded it.
I miss him.
The grief comes in waves.
And others are grieving too, but…
It’s personal.
It’s lonely.
It’s work we must do on our own.
Except…
I’m not alone.
So often since my dad died…
I’ve said to God, “Could you tell dad…”
And then I give God a message to relay.
(Usually something about his grandkids...he was so proud of them.)
Then I continue…
"I really wish he were here, Lord."
And I always hear Him whisper, “I’m your Father and I’m right here.”
Oh, yeah.
So I tell him the message again, only I direct it to God, my Father.
And I feel better somehow.
My Father heard me.

So on this father’s day, this first one…
I’m thankful that in my earthly father’s absence,
My Heavenly Father leans his ear toward me
And listens. (As He always has.)
And I’m thankful that I’ve learned to listen a little closer.
Because I didn’t lose my father,
Not really.
I’ll see him again.
But my Heavenly Father,
Has been here all along,
Advising,
Loving,
Caring,
Helping,
Teaching,
Soothing,
Encouraging,
Listening.
And He will never leave me nor forsake me.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Where I Find Inspiration...

I'm still revising my novel while I drag my feet in the search for an agent.
And in the midst of rewriting a few scenes, I thought I'd share where I find my inspiration.

We were on a little trip on the Oregon coast when I saw this sign. I LOVE the name. I made my husband turn around so I could take this photo (I wasn't even writing a novel at that time). 
Stuff and Things is the name of a thrift shop in my novel...borrowed from this little boarded-up shop.
I find inspiration all around me and when I know it's gold, I snap a photo. But I have to pay attention--constantly scanning my surroundings for a nugget of inspiration.

People are endless sources of inspiration.
  • My best friend is in my novel - although I changed her name to protect her identity...as my main character's best friend. 
  • A woman I met at a church we visited several years ago is in my novel. She was a busybody in the nicest, funniest way. I wrote a scene where my character is accosted by her charm in the exact same way I was accosted when we visited that church.
  • An older "church lady" from my youth is in my novel. I'm pretty sure she's not living any more...plus I changed her name. Everyone knows one of those ladies, though.
  • The setting for my novel is a combination of two small towns, Goldendale, Washington and Glenville, Georgia. I loved small town life. 
  • YOU might be in my novel in some way. I'm a people watcher. Quirks and idiosyncrasies are so interesting and attractive. I love subtle mannerisms and outright insecurities and bold personalities. People are a treasure trove of writing inspiration.
Life experience is also a source of inspiration. The death of a loved one, a misunderstanding with a friend, a big move or an empty nest. Feeling judged, being disappointed or left out--all things relational or having to do with the passage of time. Life is inspiration.

God's faithfulness is inspiring to me. How He gently cares for me and provides all that I need. The surprising joy and the peace that can only be from Him. The kindness of God. And grace...the grace of God is always an inspiration. How can I show that grace in story form? It's a challenge I accept every time I sit down with my laptop. I want to write God's grace in every letter I type.

What inspires you? 

Leave a comment and let me know! 

Monday, June 4, 2018

Identity


When I was in high school we were given the assignment to write down all of our identities—daughter, sister, friend, student, etc. After some thought, I was amazed by the number of titles by which I identified.
The difference between my identities back then and the identities people take on today, is that all of my identities were positive. I didn’t identify with negative characteristics or temporary conditions. If I was bummed about a break-up with my boyfriend, I didn’t add ‘depressed’ to the list. I also didn’t add ‘ex-girlfriend’. That wasn’t me—it was something that happened to me. Sure, I was down sometimes, and I felt alone and confused a lot of the time. But I embraced the knowledge that I was a teenager and that all of the shyness and awkwardness and moodiness was temporary.
Later in my life, when the days were long and the frustration of raising three kids weighed on me, I didn’t identify as lonely, depressed and anxious. I knew it was a time to pass through. My kids would not be little forever. I didn’t place labels on myself because I’ve always been in transition…everyone is.
Today, people are quick to identify with conditions, sexual preferences, and life changes. “I’m an ex-con” or “I’m gay” or “I’m a divorcee” or “I’m an addict” or “I’m autistic.” Even if a person is any one of those things, is that the sum of who they are? Why is it so important to advertise to the world our struggles or conditions or our past? Even real conditions are but a piece of the whole. You may be anxious, but you’re also funny and organized. You may be autistic, but you’re intelligent and kind too. You may be divorced but you’re also creative and patient. I realize that for some, labels are broadcast for attention. But the temporary coddling by others will eventually subside and, like a label on a bottle, you’ll be left with a negative residue on your life.
As believers, God does not call us by our conditions, our past or our life choices. He calls us beloved, accepted, adopted sons and daughters, heirs of God, royalty, valuable, created in His image. None of those things jive with any of the world’s identifiers.
The enemy of our souls would have us identify by the things of the world—by the temporary or the negative—to take on labels that cause disappointment, guilt and shame. The world’s labels lead to our dissatisfaction with God’s beloved creation—you and me. 
Romans 8:1 says: For there is no condemnation in Christ, for those who are in Christ Jesus. A rough translation: If I am in Christ, the world's labels do not define me.
I noticed something after the last school shooting (I'm so tired of school shootings). As the names of the victims were revealed, they were described as "compassionate, a friend to everyone, funny, loving, generous" and on and on. Is that how they identified when they were alive? Did they identify as compassionate when they left for school that morning or did another label supersede the positive one? Have you told someone today, how generous or loving or funny they are? 
No matter what we’re going through or how we see ourselves at this moment, time is passing. Circumstances are changing. Our lives are in motion. We may be broken today but tomorrow we will be mended. We may be weak in one area but we’re strong in others.
Consider the labels you attach to yourself. Choose a new identity. Claim the one that God has given to you—beloved.
Have a blessed day my precious reader.            

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Turn Grief into Joy in One Easy Step!

I was in a funk recently.
A grief-induced funk.
Blah...
So a couple weeks ago,
My brother, three of my nieces and my great-nephew came to visit.
I thought to myself,
I need to talk to my brother, see how he's doing. Maybe a talk with him will help me feel better.
And at the same time, I didn't want to bring him down.
Grief is weird.
It's solitary.
No matter how close you are to your family.
No matter who is grieving the same person,
You go at your own pace.
It's not something you can do WITH someone.
I didn't realize that.
Now I do.

So I waited for a chance to be alone with my brother to sob to him that I was hurting.
I never got the chance.
But...
We cheered for our runner girls and we cheered for strangers.
I played with Ace (my great nephew) and we bonded.
I had precious time with my nieces.
I heard what they're doing in their lives.
I listened to their goals and dreams and marveled at the women they've become.
And we laughed and laughed.
And when they left, I was walking on air with overwhelming joy.
How is that possible?
It's a God thing.
Before my family came to visit,
I was focussed on me.
On my grief.
On my pain.
When my focus shifted away from myself,
I received comfort.
It's a "last shall be first, first shall be last" type of God thing.
Who can understand how that works?
But it does.
It was a sweet, gentle reminder that self focus is never healthy, helpful or good.
Shifting my focus to loving others brought untold joy.
I'll try to remember that...
because joy is so much better than grief.