Monday, May 21, 2018

In the Laughter is the Love...

Our family came together to cheer for my daughter as she ran her first half-marathon a few weeks ago.
We're a loud group.
We've been known to be "not invited" to my niece's high school shooting meets...
Apparently the contestants prefer quiet while aiming.
I digress.
So, we lined the trails around Deception Pass as the runners made their way through trees, up and down steep hills, across the breathtaking bridge and along the scenic coastline.
It was a challenging course.
We had fun signs and since other people were running by, we cheered for them as well.
Some of them laughed,
Some of them said, "Thanks!"
Some of them high-fived,
All of them smiled.
I took a break to do a little beach combing (I found a bit of sea glass and an agate in case you wondered).
From the beach, I heard my family talking and laughing and cheering as runners went by.
Their voices echoed over the beach.
I rejoined the happy group.
Our voices traveled over the water and up to the trail where my daughter heard us before she could see us.
Our laughter spurred her on.
My daughter said that other runners asked her if we were her family.
She admitted that yes, we were. (I can't tell you how thankful I am that she actually claimed us.)
They appreciated our loud raucous encouragement. (And we do a killer "wave")
We did another cheer squad last weekend for my daughter and my niece...a five miler this time.
They rocked it.
It's the same when my family gathers in my home or any home for that matter, and nature calls,
I retreat to the rest room.
By myself, in the quiet of the "loo", the sounds of the house echo through the halls and under the door to where I sit.
What do I hear?
Always laughter.
My family loves to laugh.
It echoes in jumbled conversations peppered with chuckles and hilarity followed by gasps between guffaws.
I can't make out a single word but the laughter needs no interpretation.
I finish my business and wash my hands and listen.
I always hesitate to re-join the fun.
Because it's like a favorite song I don't want to end...
I dry my hands and smile.
I love those people.
We don't always get along, or see eye to eye.
That's okay.
There's no harm in disagreeing.
But when we spend time together,
We always laugh.
We laugh at stories, at idiosyncrasies, at each other, at ourselves.
We poke fun, we play tricks and we tell jokes.
And in the laughter is the love.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Our Great UK Adventure!

Before I left for the United Kingdom, I made a list of things I was excited about. The list is as follows, along with the reality of our experience in parentheses. :)
  • Castles (We saw several, my favorite being St. Michaels Mount - a beautiful castle on an island just off the coast of Cornwall...we were the last people of the day to go through the castle - Alex had to run to the ticket booth to get us in before the deadline - and as a result, we got a personal tour! I even got to ring the chapel bell! Pretty cool! Edinburgh castle was also very interesting as was the Tower of London, which was probably the most curious castle of all.)
A stormy day at St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall
  • Accents (English, Scottish and every accent under the sun. We had a conversation with a waiter in Chester who asked where in America we were from. I said, "What does an American accent sound like to an Engish it pretty? Your accent is so pretty." He said he liked our accent...I still don't think we have one though. His co-worker claimed his pet-peeve was the  American mispronunciation of aluminum. He claimed it should be properly pronounced: Al-U-Men-Ium. It does sound fancier, I'll grant him that.                                      
  • Meadows filled with sheep (We were not disappointed...they're just so stinkin' cute!)
  • Thatched roof cottages (Not as many as I'd anticipated. We did see a few but...only a few...even in The Cotswolds.
The Cotswolds...
  • Old cathedrals (Beautiful...stunning...old. We attended Evensong at Westminster was glorious.)
  • Flea markets (A little disappointing if I'm honest. We mixed up the day for the flea market we were dying to attend. We went to a couple of others instead and they weren't that great. Lots of clothes but not a lot of antiques. Oh well. We also went to a boot sale - a car boot sale. Our bed and breakfast host warned us that we'd be looking at a lot of rubbish, but we went anyway. He was right. Rubbish.)

One of the only vintage booths at the flea...
  • Meeting nice people (SO MANY nice people! Always stay in bed and breakfasts when traveling abroad. It's just the best!)
  • Catching a glimpse of Will and Kate's new baby? (Nope. But we enjoyed how the people we met were waiting on pins and needles for the announcement of the new prince's name...we guessed his name would be Arthur, but we were biased due to the fact that it was my father's name. We were thrilled when Arthur was one of the chosen names! It was fun to be part of the excitement.)
  • New food (We learned what haggis is and tried it anyway. I have to admit, I liked it!)
  • Ornate architecture & ruins (Not so much in the UK...that's more an Ireland thing I guess.)
A raven at the Tower of London.
  • Kilts (We did see many kilts in Edinburgh...but not as many as I'd expected.)
  • Music (Shockingly, we ran across two - yes, only two - bagpipe players. One in Edinburgh and one in London. We didn't hear music wafting from pubs like we did in Ireland. I was a little surprised...and disappointed. I love music.)
  • Searching for English sea glass (Oh man. The sea glass was amazing. Now I have a gallon-sized ziplock bag of the most beautiful glass to display somehow, excited!)
  • Sitting in the drivers seat and not driving (Stressful and nerve-wracking but Alex did a great job keeping our van - yes, a mini-van - within the narrow lines. We may have been honked at more times than we can count and perhaps we went a bit slower than normal but we saw parts of the UK we couldn't have seen otherwise. So proud of my husband!)
Seen in London...

My prince in front of Buckingham Palace...

  • Staringawkwardly at palace guards (Nope. Couldn't get close to 'em. bummer.)
  • Fancy words (So many fancy words. Whilst listening for them, I learned that the English people make fun of us for using the word "awesome" so much.)
  • Not understanding English...but trying to understand English. (The struggle was real, especially in Scotland.)
  • Cobbled streets (Twisted ankles.)
  • The London Eye
  • Climbing King Arthur's Seat (Oh the views! Oh the climb! Oh the satisfaction of reaching the top and looking down at the kingdom of Edinburgh!)
Made it to the top of Arthur's Seat.
We were there.

  • Shortbread (I may have eaten too much.)
  • Giving tea another try (I didn't. I couldn't. I loathe tea.)
  • Walking the streets of Reykjavik. (Colorful buildings, lots of art, cute shops and wool everywhere...the thickest wool sweaters I've ever felt...FAR too warm for even the coldest day in the PNW.)

Hallgrímskirkja, a Lutheran Church of Iceland in Reykjavik.

  • Eating something daring in Iceland...but not from the sea...something that isn't fermented in a bucket in the ground for months on end...or something that doesn't have a name that ends in "death". (Alex and I ate - drum roll please - Puffin. It tasted like very lean beef. It was delicious although I had to NOT think about the cute puffins as I consumed it.)
The Tower Bridge
The Scottish Guard outside Buckingham Palace
My mom considers scaling the fence to storm the palace.

The Shard
The "loo with a view" at the top of the Shard.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Meeting God on a Riding Lawn Mower...

I love to mow my mom's yard.
It's not the mowing part I love...although I do get to use a riding lawn mower.
And I like seeing the progress as I go and looking at the neatly trimmed grass as I back out of the driveway.
But what I truly love is ear buds in my ears and the music turned up loud.
Rend Collective, Needtobreathe, All Sons and Daughters, Phil Wickham, Mack Brock, Tauren Wells...
Just to name a few.
And I sing.
Because the mower is loud and no one is going to hear me, right?
Oh Lord, please let no one hear my singing.
And God goes with me.
Back and forth...this way and that.
And as the grass gets a trim, my heart is filled.
It is filled with comfort.
I'm mowing the grass just like my dad liked it done.
It honors him and by honoring him I feel a bit of relief from the sorrow.
My heart is filled with joy.
Joy from the words of the songs I am singing so badly (but sincerely) to my Savior.
And it is filled with love.
Love for my mom and's just a little thing I can do to help.
And the special time with God makes this "chore" an extravagant time of fellowship.
He is worthy of all the praise pouring out of me as I make tight turns and straight(ish) lines.
And it occurs to me as I pound the steering wheel with the beat of the music...
That I might look awfully foolish.
But I don't care.

"And I will be undignified
And I will praise the Lord my God with all my might
And I will leave my pride behind
And I will praise the Lord my God with all my life"
(Undignified by Rend Collective)

I continue my worship as I drive home...usually singing just as loudly.
Yesterday it was a sunny day and I had the windows down.
I sang quieter at stop lights.
Honestly, no one should have to hear that.
And I shed tears of joy as I realized what a blessing it is that God rides with me on the mower.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

I was wrong...

I've said it once or twice, that writing fiction is so much fun because I get to be like an imaginary sort of way.
And that seems legit on the surface.
I create people and situations and stir my little finger in the pot of circumstances.
Complete control is mine all mine...(insert sinister laugh here).
I decide who is married, smart, funny, happy, choice.
Hopes, dreams, desires...all mine.
I choose their home, or lack of one.
My character's quirks are my creation.
I decide whether they succeed or fail,
Whether they live or die.
Just like God, right?
Well, not quite.
There's a missing piece.
The piece de resistance if you will.

None of my characters have free will.
They cannot choose for themselves what they do or the path to take.
I will not be influenced by what I think they would want.
I am a dictatorial kind of "god".
My will is paramount over everyone and everything I write.

God is not like that.
I think that's the most amazing thing about God.
Even though He is all-powerful,
He allows us to make choices.
We choose the people we associate with.
We choose how we spend our time,
And what we do with our one precious life.
And we even choose whether or not we believe He exists.
He steps back and lets us...
Knowing that some of us will make terrible choices and even deny His existence.
It's a chance He's willing to take.
God doesn't want minions.
He wants children.

As a mom, that was one of the most difficult parts.
The letting go...
God gives me a perfect example of letting go.
He let me go.
He gave me (he gives everyone) freedom.

do love my characters...well, most of them.
But my characters aren't as fortunate.
I make them do all sorts of crazy things.
They have to do it and like it.
My characters were created to do my bidding and that's all.
Until I kill them, or the book ends.
My characters will have to wallow and wait.
Will they live or die?
Their god hasn't decided yet.

In my novel, when my main character flounders in a place of sorrow, this verse brings her comfort:
Psalm 118:5 Out of my distress, I called on the Lord, the Lord answered me and set me free.

God's most loving work is setting us free from the chains of sin and death.
He doesn't use us for a good story,
He loves us and desires a relationship with us.
He wants the story of our lives to go on through eternity with Him.
The story that never ends.
And that's better than any novel ever written.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Loose Change...

I tipped the recliners over yesterday while cleaning.
Fifty-two cents tumbled out of one of them.
Not the one my husband always sits in.
Which led me to believe that the two quarters and two pennies belonged to my dad.

My dad was notorious for leaving change wherever he sat.
He kept his loose change in his pocket and it ALWAYS fell out.
When I was growing up, this was very handy.
If I wanted a soda from the driving range down the street, I'd fish around in the sofa cushions.
On ice-cream day in junior high, a little side trip to the living room before leaving for school usually netted the quarter I needed.
My kids caught on to the situation early on.
They loved to check the couch for coins.
I wouldn't be surprised if he loaded up the couch before they visited.
Then again, he probably didn't have to.

My mom bought him a little coin pouch.
She hoped that having all the change in a pouch in his pocket would give it weight to stay put.
It didn't work.
He lost the whole thing.

The last time we went to the movies with my dad was a little over a year ago.
By that time he was fairly hard of hearing.
We sat down and heard the tinkling of change falling to the floor.
My husband and I laughed.
My dad had a puzzled look on his face. "What's so funny?"
"You didn't hear that?" I asked.
"Hear what?"
"Oh nothing. Why don't you stand up for a second."
He stood and I used my phone to light the space under his seat.
A couple of dollars worth of change lay scattered about on the sticky floor.
"Oh my stars," he laughed.
I picked it up and handed it to him but he refused it.
Finders keepers.

So yesterday, when the change fell out of the recliner, I paused.
A little gift from my dad.
When I was a kid, I could have bought a couple of candy bars for the two of us.
Fifty-two cents doesn't go as far as it used to.
I'll just hang on to it.
Thanks Dad.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Pulling An All Nighter...

I did not go to college, but I hold several honorary degrees...
The research papers, reports and essays I've edited are too numerous to count.
And although I've spent many hours editing papers, the all-nighter's I've pulled are very different from a college student's.

My dream career was motherhood.
When the kids were little, I had my fair share of sleepless nights.
During that time, I had a silly notion that those days were numbered.
That one day, I'd sleep soundly in my quiet house oblivious to my children because they'd be grown and gone and safe and sound.

One day is here.  My kids are grown and gone.
Yet sleep eludes me.
I'm not up every night, but every now and then, I do not sleep.
Because I'm a mother.
I lay in bed and think about my kids and start to pray.
Sometimes a passage of scripture comes to mind.
Last night it was 2 Timothy 1:7.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
I prayed that verse over my children. 
I prayed God's protection over my from the spirit of fear - from the evil one.
God is faithful.

All of my children are in flux - beginning new seasons of their lives - doing big things and taking on enormous challenges.  
My children do not shrink from life.  They live boldly.
My son is starting a strenuous course of study to become a physicians assistant.
My daughter and her husband are hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
My younger daughter is graduating from college and looking forward to serving the Lord with her life.
A mom could become overwhelmed with anxiety if she dwelled on the hard work, difficulty, danger, uncertainty and risk involved in each of their endeavors.
I'm thankful that I can fall to my knees before God in the stillness of night and lay my children at His feet.  
Their Heavenly Father, who loves them more than I could hope to, will provide for them, protect them and draw them nearer to Him in the process. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

*Update: This was written almost a year ago...My son is doing well in PA school, my daughter and her husband successfully finished the PCT and my youngest daughter is working in her chosen field...God is faithful. And next year, things may have changed, new challenges might emerge, and God will still be faithful! Amen!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

To the Writers Who've Gone Before...

My manuscript is ready.
I'm querying agents.
This is the part I've been dreading.
Selling my story (Selling myself).
It seems boastful and showy to "talk up" my story.
How does one remain humble and sell their story?
One of the synonyms for humble is unambitious.
I am not unambitious.
So I must learn to put myself and my story out there.

I will start by thanking the writers who paved the way for me.

I'd like to thank the writers who've gone before...
Who have shared what they've learned about the writing process with other writers via their blog, an interview and in books filled with gems of wisdom.
Who have shared how to to write fearlessly, with color and texture and brevity.
Your generosity has helped me immensely.

I'd like to thank the writers who've gone before...
Who griped and moaned and complained about writing a synopsis.  Their words of angst, anger and utter aggravation have helped me feel normal and validated as I delete lines of writing.
Why is this so hard?  I wrote the novel, surely I re-tell the story in a nutshell...or within a couple of pages...ugh.

I'd like to thank the writers who've gone before and have generously shared the process of querying agents.
Who have waited and suffered rejection.
Who wrote about the upset and their endurance and perseverance.
Who have shared that sometimes it takes a long time to find that perfect combination of story, timing, agent, publisher and audience.
I'm prepared to be patient.

Because of your willingness to share your experience, writers like me feel better prepared for the process and possibilities of publishing our work.  Thank you.

Now, back to work...