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.
            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 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.
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,
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 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 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


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.
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.
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.

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.