Unexpected Inspiration


Her attention to detail was barely noticed by the gathered crowd from various parts of the eastern seaboard. We were an unlikely group except we had two things in common: we were women, and we were waiting to use the restroom. This woman, employed by South Carolina’s Welcome Center, certainly had her hands full–the line wrapped around the building, yet her heart embraced her calling with joy and grace.
We talked briefly. She explained how bad she felt for the bus load of special needs adults who took extra time to do what we were all there to do as quickly as possible. She looked away speaking kindly to the old woman with the walker making sure she had a clean stall and toilet paper. 

She continued, “I hope I don’t need this kind of care one day, but if I do, I’m sure someone will be there for me as I have been for others.”

“I hope so too, ma’am! And thank you for making a difference.”

“Have a blessed day!” She said ducking her head in another stall to sanitize it.

Oh I will, I thought, because of your inspiring example.

“As you did to the least of these you’ve done it to Me.” Matthew 25:40 (paraphrased)

Here a Date, There a Date…

Woman writing in her diary at sunset

I have done it for years, and it has always been a happy habit that I enjoy. It has been easy for me to remember dates on the calendar and special things that happened on that day 1, 5, or even 10 years ago because I have journaled consistently for nearly 3 decades. My husband and I still celebrate our first date, the day he proposed and our wedding anniversary.

Thirteen years ago the dates on the calendar began taking a sad turn for me–my dad died on January 3, 2004; My daughter moved out-of-state with her husband and three children in May of 2011; My Mom passed away on December 15, 2012; My son moved to TN with his wife and three children on March 24, 2014; the list goes on and on.

This year we’ve faced more challenging dates on the calendar–my Mother-In-Law fell and broke her hip, our daughter needed surgery and it was scheduled right between Christmas and New Years Day. Not to mention the friends who have moved, friends who have endured incredible suffering and life-threatening illnesses.

What used to be a fun habit can now at times bring torment and despair. It’s all on how I choose to remember. A friend recently gave me a plaque with this quote on it by Dr. Seuss. It says,

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

I tend to look back and remember precious times that are no more and feel sad. God is helping me to change this habit, but old habits don’t die easy. I don’t know if I’ll ever celebrate Christmas without remembering my parents and what my siblings and I walked through with them on the road to eternity. It was the most precious hardship I’ve ever endured.

Isn’t that how it is with life? We long for the happy moments, but it is the intensely sad ones that often become the most precious to us. Most of life’s important lessons we learn come to us through tears.

What dates on your calendar bring you joy? Tears? Do you think it’s good to remember or better to forget? I’ve decided it’s good for me to remember, but to limit those things on which I allow myself to dwell.  Remembering the hard parts may not be the best for me. I must choose instead to remember what I learned through it all and focus on that!

This year I pray I’ll be more aware of how quickly my heart attaches to dates and their meaning on the timeline of my life, and resist the downward spiral of emotions that comes so easily to me. I want to instead remember the good with smiles of gratefulness for what once was and let go of the weight of regret for how things have changed. Life is too short to look back unless it is to give thanks to God for it all.

 

The Boost of a Dozen Reviews at Once

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It’s been three years since I last attempted to begin my second book. When I put it on hold, I knew God would show me when the time was right to start.

My time may have arrived.

As I mentioned in my last post, I was privileged to attend a local ladies book club in Marietta, GA, where they had chosen my book to read for the month of September. I was hopeful to hear their thoughts and questions at their monthly meeting this past Tuesday night. I was not disappointed.

I was relieved and grateful to discover the atmosphere in the group was casual and friendly. The ladies seemed to really enjoy my grandmother’s story, and to sit among all this excitement and hear their questions was such an amazing honor for me, not to mention a much needed boost.

I found out things they are hoping to discover in the next book. I was surprised that there are some characters they are hoping to hear more from that I had planned to never mention again. Imagine! Some of my fictional characters stirred enough interest to make them want to find out more about them.

So it begins…as I prepare to dust off my historical/fiction writing skills, I’m as excited to see how it all turns out as much as my readers are to read about it. Knowing there are readers who really care about my grandmother and what happens to her next is quite a blessing and one that would have made my mom proud.

Special thanks to the Ladies Book Club in Marietta, GA, for blessing me with this much needed boost! 

(I was so excited I failed to take a single picture! For those of you who know me that never happens!)

Excited and Curious


I am on my way to Atlanta where I will be sharing with a book club that has been reading my book this month. I’m very excited to hear their thoughts and questions. I’m thinking this may be the jumpstart I need to begin the second half of Grace’s story.

I just re-read my book in order to help me hear Grace’s voice as I consider the next events in her life and how best to share it. Curious, do you have any questions you’d like to ask? I’d love to hear!

God’s Timing Is Perfect

Photo Credit: quotesgram.com

Photo Credit: quotesgram.com

I couldn’t believe what I was reading with my own eyes. There I was sitting at my computer reading a message addressed to me on Ancestry.com from a man with the same first name as my Dad’s, saying we were a 1st or 2nd generation match through our DNA. What?!

Although I was shocked, it wasn’t a complete surprise to me. My Mom had told us just weeks before she died in 2012 that my brother, sister and I had a half-brother somewhere out there. News which at the time I didn’t understand or appreciate, but now I’m grateful to God that she didn’t let this secret die with her. She said all she knew was he was a boy and he was named after my Dad.

Mom had purchased a DNA test kit through Ancestry.com to have a documented sample of our family’s DNA on the site where she had invested so much time recording our genealogy through the years. Unfortunately, due to her advanced illness, she was unable to do the test. I told her before she died that I would do the test and send it in so her investment didn’t go to waste. Low and behold, it was my DNA that matched this man’s DNA who was contacting me cautiously through the Ancestry website.

My first reaction was uncontrollable tears. Then I called my brother and sister to see what they wanted me to do with this information. We all agreed to contact him and see where it would take us.

I discovered the man contacting us wasn’t our brother, but his son. Of course, I wanted to be sure his dad knew he had contacted us and that he wanted to meet. After double-checking we were happy to hear he was as excited to meet us as we were to meet him. We connected on Facebook–an amazing tool God used in such a marvelous way. We shared stories, photos and joy–much joy.

Finally, this past Saturday night we planned for us all to meet for dinner. The anticipation was palpable on both sides. Thanks to social media I have this photo of my newly discovered brother waiting for us to arrive at the restaurant.

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The first hug was surreal since Stan looks so much like my Dad. The conversation was non-stop as we told our stories of how we had come to this place at this moment in time. We all had an overwhelming sense of God’s kindness to bring us together. The server at the restaurant did a great job keeping the food and drinks coming, and when we told her our amazing story, she joined in our joy.

family

My Mom always said, and I’ve quoted this in my book, “When someone dies a library of information dies with them, unless someone takes the time to write it down.” How grateful I am that Mom didn’t let this secret die with her. Although it wasn’t understood at the time she told us, she was caring for us by letting us know that she knew of my Dad’s past and was okay with it. This allowed us to fully embrace our brother with gratitude as a gift from God.

There are so many more dots I could connect of God’s faithfulness to bring us to this point, but suffice it to say–

“The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad.” – Psalm 126:3 ESV

 

 

 

 

Like A Mom To Me


Mother’s Day used to be a day we celebrated without much thought. Each year our Moms were there. Each year our kids were with us. It was so routine I didn’t appreciate it until everything changed. Now Mother’s Day is more of a challenge to guard my thoughts and watch my attitude. Because it’s so easy to take the spiraling downward emotional roller coaster of self-pity and discouragement.

Within the past five years my two older kids moved to other states and my Mom took her last breath in this life. Now Mother’s Day is a holiday fraught with temptations of all sorts.

But this year is different. God has planned a very special surprise for me. I’m hosting my First Ladies retreat of 2016 beginning on Sunday, and on Tuesday I got a phone call from my mentor and friend who has been like a spiritual mom to me my entire adult life. She said God made it clear He wanted her to come to my retreat!

So, on Sunday I will be able to spend extended time with my dear friend and I am grateful to God for taking thought of me.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Jesus Movement Turns 40

  
It was 40 years ago today that an event took place that would set the course for the rest of my life–it was Jesus 76 set up on what would become Disney property. It was a cow pasture where thousands of young people gathered to hear the Gospel proclaimed in terms relevant to our generation. We heard it preached by C.J. Mahaney, Larry Tomczak, and Jamie Buckingham to name a few. And we heard it sung by 2nd Chapter Of Acts, Barry McGuire and Lamb. 

It was a time like no other in the church. Our parents weren’t sure about it, but they liked the results, young hearts captivated by the love of their Savior. 

We didn’t know the Bible well, but we had met its Author and we were changed. While many of our friends in school were experimenting with free sex and drug use, we were finding a different kind of high and we wanted to tell everyone about it.

It was an amazing time in history.

Looking back I can see how God arrested my heart. It began when our Baptist Youth Pastor loaded us all up on the church bus and took us to Wilmore, Kentucky, for Ichthus 75. I didn’t know it then, but I was being introduced to the power and ministry of the Holy Spirit. I saw people my age and a bit older completely sold out to live for Christ. They raised their hands to God in worship. They took notes. They marked up their Bibles. And they talked about what they were learning. It was contagious!

So Happy Birthday, Jesus 76. How I thank God for the celebration you began in my heart 40 years ago. Oh, and thank you for introducing me to my future husband as well. My, how God has used you in my life! And I’m eternally grateful!

For more on this check out this excellent blog post.

Happy Birthday, Grace

Grace

Yesterday would have been my grandmother’s 127th birthday. She was born in 1889, and my how the world has changed from that time until now. 127 years seems like a long time, but on the timeline of history it is a mere inch. It can seem insignificant when you compare this span of time with all of time, but it isn’t. Every minute of every day we’ve been given is a gift from God. How we spend those minutes matters more than we know.

Francis Chan is a pastor and speaker whom I admire greatly. He has a way of bringing home a point to where you not only get it, but it changes how you see things. This too, is a gift from God. Listen to what he has to say about the timeline of eternity:

Yes, I want to “pass that line well”! How about you?

Connecting The Dots Of God’s Faithfulness

  
I had the privilege of speaking to a group of ladies at Bethel Fellowship Church in Minneota, MN, a couple of weeks ago.  Because I’ve journaled for years it has helped me connect the dots allowing me to sometimes see the bigger picture of what God is doing. As I shared this I realized what a gift it is when God allows us to see this.

In Genesis 50, the account of Joseph provides a great example of connecting the dots. Listen to what he says when he gets it:

 

I love how Joseph humbly weeps realizing how good God was to him through all the pain, hardship and years of waiting with unanswered questions.

Writing Christian historical fiction is like this. It’s telling a story that is set during a time in history that connects the dots of God’s faithfulness to the characters portrayed. What lessons we can teach; what examples we can set; what a privilege it is to do this.
Before we can write about it it helps to experience it for ourselves, writing with the voice of one who has been there.

How have you connected the dots of God’s active work in your life? If you’ve never considered this–ask Him to show you. He loves to make His name and presence known in all the circumstances we face. Those who are looking for His hand will find it was there all along pointing the way.

(Image credit Pinterest)