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 get to use a riding lawn mower.
I do like seeing the progress as I go and looking at the neatly trimmed grass as I back out of the driveway brings a certain amount of satisfaction.
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.
Loud.
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 dad...it'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 God...in 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, evil...my 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.
Because...
God doesn't want minions.
He wants children.

As a mom, that was one of the most difficult parts.
The letting go...
But...
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.
Voila!
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.
Tradition.
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...is 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.
Why?
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 children...protection 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...

Friday, March 2, 2018

Senior Discounts...Oh my...

Last week I went to Macy's and made a purchase.
The saleswoman said, "I love your hair!"
The compliment was especially meaningful to me because I recently cut the last strands of color from my hair...it's all natural.
Translation: Gray.
My hair is also naturally curly which does inspire a compliment or two on occasion but since the gray transition was recently completed, deep down I hoped she meant the color.
"Is that natural curl?" she asked.
So much for hope.
"Yes. The curl and the color is natural," I said.
"Well, I figured the color was natural but your face is so young, the gray looks great!" 
She is by far the best saleswoman EVER.
I thanked her and went on my way with a smile on my youthful face.
I stopped at Goodwill on the way home and purchased a book.
"Are you a senior?" The unsmiling checker looked at me, waiting for a reply.
I was still soaring from the "young face" comment.
I crashed to earth and said, (perhaps a bit too enthusiastically) "NO!"
I cheerfully added, "But I'll take the discount anyway."
He gave me the discount.
I choose to believe he was being nice, not that he thought I was lying about being a senior.
Because the truth is, I'm NOT a senior!

My best friend sent me this message last night:
"I just received my very first, completely unsolicited SENIOR DISCOUNT.
I don't know whether to be appreciative, or to cry!!"
I laughed (a knowing laugh).
She sent me a picture of her receipt.
That hit to the ego saved her a measly quarter.
We messaged back and forth about the irony of the senior discount.
It's not fun being on the precipice of a new "identity".
(For the record, I think 55 is a little young to be called a senior citizen.)
It's always a young kid offering the senior discount...a kid who has decades to go before he'll be accused of being a senior.
How could he possibly have the skill set necessary to identify a senior citizen with a quick glance?
He can't. He doesn't.
My friend said, "Asking someone as young as we are if they're a senior is like asking a fat lady when her baby is due. It is only through age and experience that we learn not to assume anything...a rookie mistake made by young people and oblivious old men."
She's always had a knack for comparisons.
She added, "We should embrace aging gracefully and enjoy the perks along the way.
She's absolutely right.
I've always loved a discount!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Why I'm writing a novel...

 
Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
John 21:25

I stumbled upon this verse this morning.  And by stumbled upon, I mean I was looking something up and mistook a two for a five and read John 21:25 instead of John 21:22. 
This was a blessing to my heart.
I am nearing the end of writing and revising my novel.
Why am I writing a novel titled:  The Grace Writers?
Because I am a recipient of lavish grace.
Because I want others to know the grace that is available to them.
Because I want to illustrate (with words) that nobody can out-sin grace.
Because I love the Lord so much, I can't keep this knowledge to myself.
Because I love people so much, I can't keep this knowledge to myself.
THAT is why I'm writing a novel.
And then this verse...read by mistake...but exactly what I needed to read.
This is why I'm writing...
I'm writing just one of the books that will tell of some of the things Jesus has done...
One of the books with some of the things, 
Because if they were all written down, the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Revisions...Revisited.

          I originally wrote this post over a year ago. Today, I'm still revising. 
          A published author once told me that her first novel was the hardest and took a very long time. She said that she learned so much during that first novel, the others flowed much more easily from the first. That's encouraging, but for now I struggle to get the first one right. 
          Writing a novel is a test of will. I will do this. I will, I will, I will...
              I was talking to a friend about the message of my novel.  The story has many messages I suppose, but perhaps the most important one is the message of grace.  I want to share the truth that no one of us is better than another; that we are flawed and imperfect and perfectly redeemable.  
            I filled my story with imperfect people making mistakes and doing harm.  One character, though, remained less tainted than the rest.  Claire—my main character.  She was a little anxious, but otherwise filled with faith and good will.  Bless her.  What a gem. 
            My beta readers weren’t as impressed with Claire as I was.  They said she was boring.  They said she lacked excitement.  They said she was too safe.  She was. She is the stay-at-home mom married to the cop who always had a wonderful attitude about life’s challenges.  A Pollyanna.  Yawn.  The thing is, I’m writing what I know, Claire was a cleaned-up version of what I hoped I could be. 
            I am not as wonderful as Claire.  My attitude stinks.  I’ve entertained angry, unkind thoughts about my husband and sometimes I judge people unfairly and I am selfish.  My house is often messy and I waste more time than I’d like to admit and I’ve withheld forgiveness more times than I can count. 
            Claire was fiction at its finest.
            So, I got to work on her.  If my life was the inspiration for Claire, she was going to have to gain some flaws, angst and ugliness.  I was going to have to let her fail.  Allow her to be stupid and selfish and wrong.  She was going to have to suffer shame.  
            Why?
            Because if I’m going to write about grace, I have to give grace a dark place to go, so the light of grace can shine brightly.
            I showered Claire with flaws and angst and ugliness so that my readers will care and relate and possibly see themselves in her story.  It hurt to do it because I share some of her flaws—what if people think I’ve done those things?  And there it is.  A truth.  People don’t relate to perfect Christians who have it all together and can show us how to have it all together too.  They relate to real, broken, messed up people who had to scrape and scratch their way to God's grace.  What if people think I’m just like Claire (because the resemblances are pretty stunning)?  Well, maybe they’ll relate and feel a sisterhood and realize they can find sweet grace too.  

            I celebrate with Claire as she overcomes the bondage of sin and anger.  I celebrate with her as her eyes open to the joy found in giving and receiving grace.  I have grown along with Claire as I’ve helped her find her way.  
          As the revisions continue, I am thankful for the opportunity to improve my manuscript. I’m even more thankful that in real life, we can revise our story too.  There’s plenty of grace to go around.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Wisdom of Old Photos

I love to buy old photos, one at a time or in great big lots.
I've accumulated a huge collection of other people's memories.
If you think about it, photos are finite.
Sure, we're taking more photos today than at any time in the past, but...
They're digital.
You don't hold them in your hand unless you're holding your phone.
Paper, covered with an image, a snapshot of the past, are a thing of the past.
That's why I collect them.
I want to learn about and, more importantly, learn from a time long past.
Which brings me to this photo.
I picked it up on a vacation somewhere.
I was drawn to the image of a funeral but more than that, all the flowers.
That's a ridiculous amount of flowers.
You don't see that many arrangements at funerals these days.
I don't know who this person is, likely just a Joe or Joan Average.
I almost didn't buy this photo, but before I threw it back into the pile, I turned it over.
"Again I say - Say it, write it, but please let someone know."
I'm not sure what the writer meant.
Did they mean to tell your family you love them?
Did they want to convey the importance of telling your stories?
Your secrets?
Confessing wrongdoing?
Making amends?
An interesting caption for a heartbreaking photo.

I recently lost my dad.
I took the time to write him a letter before he passed.
I told him how thankful I am that he was my father.
What his influence meant to me in my life.
How precious his relationships with my husband and children were to me...and to them.
How my life was made better because of his presence in it.
And it was good.
He was blessed.
I was comforted to know he knew.
And when he passed, there were no unsaid words.
No unexpressed gratitude.
No regrets.
We don't always know when someone will die, though.

This photo reminds me how important words are...Say it, write it...Please let someone know.