Pleasant Places

Today my heart is once again clinging to God and His Word for strength, help and comfort.

Elias, our 22 month old grandson, is a fighter. He has been since he was born.

  • Born at 24 weeks and 5 days, after his water world broke at 22 weeks
  • He was in the NICU for 116 days
  • He was born with CMV which led to microcephaly and cerebral palsy
  • He exudes more joy than most of us on our best days
  • He is a miracle whom God rescued

Now another challenge has confronted him. He has cancer—rhabdomyosarcoma—behind his left eye to be specific. Of the two strands, his is the one less threatening, but still serious. He had a biopsy of his protruding left eye revealing a 1” tumor intertwined with nerves and blood vessels—inoperable. The pressure in his eye threatens glaucoma.

God rescued him yet again. Heather happened to read the story of a little boy who’s eye started bulging. It turned out he had this same cancer hiding behind the eye. After reading it, Heather thought Elias’ eye looked a little bulged. Her doctors all said to watch it and see if it changed. Most likely it was just swollen with allergens.

Had she not read this story we may not have noticed the threat as quickly. She has tried to go and find this article to no avail. Could it be God was leading her in a miraculous way?

Elias will have to do many more hard things to fight this beast. One happened yesterday when they inserted an NG tube through his right nostril. To say he didn’t like it would be an understatement! I am grateful I wasn’t there to experience his protest. Nana has limits. The good part of this, Elias will get all the nutrition he needs to gain some weight before chemo begins. It is also giving Heather the first break from around the clock feeds since he was born.

What’s next? Tomorrow he will have a bone marrow biopsy as well as a spinal to see if there are any cancer cells hiding there. He will also have a PET scan.

A two week hospital stay is likely this time. And once again we wait.

But God! He is not absent or indifferent. While I can’t say why He allows these things to happen. I can say that He has rescued little Elias for a reason. His joy is infectious, ask anyone who has followed his story—and there are many! He has shown us all how to keep going making the most of each day.

I love this little guy so much.

The Lord impressed Psalm 16:5-6 on me yesterday at church:

“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”
‭‭- Psalm‬ ‭16:5-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

My circumstances are not the boundary lines around me. If they were it would be hard to agree with David that my lines are pleasant places. No. God has also said in His Word that He goes before me and behind me. HE is the lines that surround me giving me boundaries of His grace. I can rest knowing He’s my Shepherd no matter what threatens.

Indeed, the lines have fallen in Pleasant Places!

If you would like to help, our oldest daughter set up a Go Fund Me campaign to provide for their many needs in the months to come.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/elias-angel-fight-cancer

Sweet Fragrance of Unity

A pleasant warmth brushes my face as I inhale the morning air.

IT WHISPERS,

“Winter has at last fallen asleep”, tucked beneath the black dirt of the garden bed.

“Tread lightly,” it cautions.

Hope, peeking through the soil as a timid flower, is unsure of the climate.

Thunder clouds gather like opposing views bringing with it…

…winds of threat and cloudy accusations.

…Meant to harm, yet providing something needed…

RAIN

As the

words

fall

from

the

sky

of lofty

opinions,

some run off rejected

a torrential flood of judgment.

Other words

                        S

                        I

                       N

                       K

                       deep, bringing with it gentle correction.

The solar sentinel ever present though not seen, 

sends out rays of help

chasing the clouds of accusations away

like a faithful friend.

SUNSHINE

A second look and hope has emerged safe and at attention

in response to the steady cadence call of the sentinel in the Sky.

Gone are the threats.

Spring at last.

The garden has learned to embrace only words which nourish the soil and the soul,

thus filling the air with a sweet fragrance of 

UNITY.

Interviews

I’ve had two recent interviews that I need to share with you. They were both significant moments where time seemed to stand still as I listened to myself answer questions from across the screen or room. Stories of the last three years and God’s faithfulness in each step.

The first interview was with my husband. A friend who hosts a podcast, Counseling Over Coffee, asked if we would be willing to share what it’s been like to have a grandchild with special needs. I like what her daughter, who has two boys on the spectrum called him, not disabled, but different-abled. Elias has continued to surpass expectations. We had so much to share our interview quickly became a two-episodes. You can hear the first interview here.

The second interview was unexpected and one of those “connect-the-dots of God’s faithfulness to me” moments.

Norah is our second oldest grand-daughter. She will be 15 next month which in itself is huge! Almost three years ago she battled a wicked disease called PANDAS. It is a miracle she has survived these past three years. Most of you are aware of this part of her life. If not, you can read it here.

She was given an 8th grade assignment to interview a grandparent. She came up with all the questions and asked them to me over Facetime. We got off to a good start…

“What year we’re you born?” 1959.

“Where were you born?” Orlando.

“How do you come to know Jesus?” This is when time seemed to slow to a crawl.

I realized Norah was asking me all the questions I regretted never asking my own grandmother. She died when I was 19. I was her youngest so she was 90 and had lived a full life. I just didn’t hear the answers to these questions until she had died.

I regretted my missed opportunity. How I wished time had slowed in that season of my life to ask such questions.

“How did you and Papa meet?“ We met at a Jesus Festival held here in Orlando.

“Have you ever seen God do a miracle?” Yes! I’m talking to her now!

Just this exchange was a moment—me sharing with her the miracle we both saw from two different perspectives.

“What gifts has God given you?” In 1989 God impressed on me that He had given me a gift of writing. He said He wanted me to keep a journal. And I’m still writing to this day—I am currently on my 78th journal.”

“You have 78 journals?” I do. I realized that writer’s write and God wanted me to learn how to write by writing. She smiled.

Through all my years of journaling I learned how to write, and this allowed me to finally write my grandmother’s story in my book titled, Through The Eyes Of Grace. It took me 12 years, and my Mom was the first to read it. To say it was my life-long dream would be an understatement. I have recorded with words the story I never took the time to discover when she was alive. But God helped me uncover it one question at a time.

What questions come to mind when you consider the story of your life? Do your children know the answers? Do your grandchildren? I encourage you to write them down so when they finally think to ask, the answers will be available for them to discover.

A Beginning, Not An End

Today is the final day of The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post every day in November. I have succeeded in what I set out to do.

But God! He succeeded in giving me a fresh vision for the purpose of this blog.

Originally it was simply a place to share bits and pieces from my book, Through The Eyes of Grace, (now available in hardcover) as well as background stories. I realize how limiting this has been to me.

Instead, I now see that this blog is mine to use for my enjoyment; writing whatever is on my mind for the good and hopefully encouragement of all who read it. But even if no one reads, I will still be full of happy to have this outlet of creativity and joy.

You all have been a part of this discovery. Thank you for reading, for commenting and for encouraging me in countless ways.

It took me a long time to call myself a writer. But I realize the old adage is true—Writers write! This is what God has given me to do in this life. I will listen to His prompts and follow His lead in writing from this foundation.

I write because I enjoy it, I always have—since I was a young girl writing silly poems that expressed my heart at the time.

I write because it helps me process life with all its good and enjoyable times as well as the hard and difficult times.

I write because it connects me to others who write well and inspire me in my craft. it is an art worth pursuing well.

I write to hopefully do the same in inspiring others. Either in their writing, in their faith, in their parenting, marriage or dreams.

To celebrate this, I am changing the name of my blog…

Write From the heart

Writing from my heart is what I’ve always done. Now my blog lines up with my mission. Thank you all for your part in this challenge and in this change. I invite you to join me as I discover more in this new season of writing.

I have been blessed to meet so many of you.

Completed November 2021

A Letter To My Teenage Self

Today’s prompt is to answer this question: What would you say to your teenage self based on what you know today?

When I was a teen I thought I knew a lot about life and how it worked. But I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I would say to myself—take it easy and enjoy the process. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to be everything to everyone. You don’t even have to be in control. You never will be anyway!

I would say—God is leading every step you take, even when His footprints are unseen. What you can’t see you don’t know, but that doesn’t mean He’s not there.

I would say—take time and talk to your grandmother. When she gave you her ring when you were 16, pause and ask her the story behind why she was doing this. You won’t have much longer with her, and you will regret not knowing what you don’t know.

I would say—laugh more at yourself and stop taking what everyone thinks of you so seriously. What really matters is what God says about you. Focus on Him and all the other stuff will dim in comparison.

Relax.

Embrace every high and low of the road ahead. These are the lessons that will carry you to maturity.

Read your Bible everyday. Not because you have to but because you don’t know what you don’t know. This is the place to begin discovering those answers.

Be grateful, humble and kind. Everyone has a story. And friendship is the key to unlocking them. It begins with a smile and asking good questions. It takes being a good friend to have good friends. You never know what you don’t know until you ask.

This is my 29th post in The Ultimate Bog Challenge to post everyday in November.

About Elias

Yesterday I invited questions from readers, and I received some outstanding ones. Thank you all!

Tamara asked about our youngest grandson Elias.

Our daughter and her husband were expecting their first baby on January 29, 2021. Tom and I were so excited to finally visit them in Arkansas to see Heather pregnant. It was such a happy anticipation to welcome grand baby #9 and watch Matt and Heather receive the blessing of parenthood.

After our wonderful visit. I got a phone from her saying the doctor was putting her on bed rest. I flew out to take care of her and to help keep her baby safe and secure.

But what we didn’t realize was God was working to rescue Elias from a virus he had contracted during the first trimester called CMV. Babies that go full term with this virus often have very serious health disabilities including hearing loss, lung, liver and brain damage. Some don’t survive.

Elias Angel was born on October 14, 2020, at 24 weeks and 5 days. He was 1 lb 6.6 ozs and 12” long. Roughly the size of a water bottle.

Elias and Ollie Octopus at one month old

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭139:13-14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The NICU staff was amazing. Our daughter calls them God’s angels. They began Elias on medication right away to fight the effects of CMV. Everyday he surprised all of us making forward progress.

From his little NICU cubicle we were able to watch God do what He normally does in the “secret place” as Psalm 139 declares. We were in awe of this miracle being formed before us.

He was in the NICU a total of 116 days. When Matt and Heather were finally able to drive him home from Oklahoma to Arkansas (a two hour drive), Papa and Nana were there waiting to see and hold him for the first time. What a moment that was!

He was so tiny and quiet. The ventilator and his immature core muscles made his voice very weak. The only way we knew he was crying was when his heart rate monitor would go off. His care required 24 hour diligence with feeds and medications.

Fast forward to today, Elias…

  • Is still making forward progress, thanks to an amazing team of doctors and therapists
  • can hear well
  • can see and recognize people
  • Has the cutest personality
  • Loves to belly laugh (still quiet but now he’s audible)
  • Is trying his best to crawl
  • Is eating baby food
  • Has two teeth
  • Loves books
  • And kisses Mommy every chance he gets

His prognosis is wait and see. Every child in his condition is unique. There are no certainties. But one thing we know! But God! He has been leading every step of Elias’ treatment since the day He was conceived. He is our miracle baby and one whom we call our Tiny Warrior.

He now weighs over 14 lbs at 13 months of age.

I write a song for each of my grandchildren. This is Elias’ song, sung to the tune, Jesus Loves The Little Children…

🎶Nana loves Elias Angel. He’s as sweet as he can be. When he was born he won my heart, tiny warrior from the start. I thank God He brought you to our family!🎶

This is my 23rd post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to write everyday in November.

The Power of Words

When we moved into our neighborhood in 1992 our children were 10, 8 and 6. We had a cat named Bunny and a guinea pig named Cupcake. I homeschooled all of our kids since day one and this neighborhood was full of other homeschooling families. It was so nice to be able to plan things together and not feel so isolated.

Imagine my disappointment when we went to our first HOA meeting.

The air was so tense neighbors were using it to fling lots of complaints and insults at each other, many of which were warranted. But still. There is a positive way to say things that produce results. This was not working. I had an idea but had to ask myself if this was a challenge I was willing to take.

I asked the HOA President if he would be open to me starting a neighborhood newsletter. I told him I could say what needed to be said in a way that would be more “hearer friendly”. Since things were so volatile, he was more than will to let me try. I said I would never be on the HOA so my words would always be from one neighbor to another, not from the Board make directives to the “homemoaners”.

Our Sun newsletter began in 1999 with the byline, “helping our neighborhood shine”.

It was more of a hope than a reality. But I knew the power of words, and this was a challenge that would have tremendous rewards. Not only for our quality of life, but for our property values too.

It began as a monthly newsletter. I write a regular piece for the front page that focuses on the importance of being a good neighbor. Other regular columns are from the HOA President, the Architectural Review Board highlighting Yard of the Season, and our Neighborhood Watch report. The last page is the Kids page with seasonal jokes, puzzles and challenges.

As the years have passed we have changed the newsletter to be distributed quarterly. Some have suggested we go digital, but honestly we have found people are more likely to read a colorful newsletter dropped at their door, then they are to click a link on their computer.

Our neighborhood was established in the early 80’s. The fact that our HOA is still being run by neighbors who volunteer their time for a year commitment is an anomaly. It’s even more so that our board gets along well. When there is a disagreement we have learned how to work it through in a civil way.

Words have the power to tear down.

We’ve seen this more so on social media in recent years. And we can never take those words back. It is best to use our words to build up and say what needs to be said without a pointing finger.

Our pastor says, “Every time you point a finger at someone remember there are three more pointing back at you.” Which goes with the saying, “Better to remove the log from your own eye before going after the speck in your brother’s eye.”

We are all capable of tearing down or building up. This challenge was to see if a simple newsletter could shine the light of kindness on a battlefield and bring peace. I’m thrilled to say it did, and our neighborhood is shining all the brighter as a result.

What challenge have you taken and found positive results?

This is the 21st post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

Many Publishing Options, Which One To Choose

Our prompt is to share with you something we have to offer. Hmm. I had to think about this for a while. Then, I realized that I haven’t finished telling you the story about my experience in publishing my first book.

I shared about how I needed to hurry to publish my book in my post, 10 years. What I didn’t tell you is how I ended up with my new publisher, Prevail Press.

My first publisher made my book available, but I had no help in the marketing aspect of the book, other than ideas on how to tell others about it. It was discouraging to say the least. All that work yet no one could find it. I ended up giving away lots of copies with the hopes they would tell others which would lead to more sales.

Mind you, I never wrote this book with making money in mind. I just wanted to recap how much money we spent on the initial print, which was significant. And I wasn’t anywhere close!

I have been a part of a Writer’s Group for nearly 20 years. It was my involvement and growth in this group that led me to the next step in my publishing journey.

Rob Swanson, who leads our writer’s group got the idea to begin a publishing company that doesn’t work anything like a typical vanity press or self-publishing company.

First of all, he is selective on the quality of writers accepted to publish through Prevail Press. He does this to protect the reputation of his company. Good books draw good customers. And a relationship of trust grows.

Secondly, by switching to Prevail Press I didn’t have to buy hundreds of copies of my book. My book was now available in a print on demand format as well as an ebook, so the overhead cost was minimal. An added benefit when you don’t have a lot of money to invest in the first place.

Thirdly, I make more royalties per book than I did previously. There really are so many more benefits with this method than my previous publishing experience.

Finally, Prevail Press is a micro-publishing company and is in my opinion the BEST OPTION for up and coming authors, unless you are able to secure an agent and go the traditional publishing route. Not all authors who make a submission to Prevail Press are selected, but you can begin the process by reading the Submission Guidelines.

We now have two books available through Prevail Press–Through The Eyes Of Grace, an historical fiction, and Cherishing Us – a book by my husband and me offering 365 healthy marriage tips to help your relationship grow.

In case you don’t know, Tom and I have had a marriage blog, The Romantic Vineyard, for the last 14 years. It has been our passion to help marriages grow strong to last a lifetime. We hope you’ll stop by and visit there when you have the time. We offer date night ideas, date night questions, and lots of resources to help you succeed at loving your spouse well.

I also encourage you to check out the other authors published through PP. There are some outstanding books you might really enjoy. Check out the offerings here.

This is my 15th post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.

The Benefit of Doubt

My title is a play on a familiar cliche’ when you choose to think the best of someone–you give them the “benefit of the doubt”. However, that is not what this post is about. It came as a question in yesterday’s post by a reader/blogger I’ve met through my current UBC group. She asked the following…

“What made you doubt for so long your ability to write your grandmother’s story?” She added, “I’m sure you had what it takes in 2000.”

She is nice to make such an assumption, but looking back I can see how much I changed over those 12 years. My Dad passed away in 2004 (the first death of someone close to me since my grandmother died 25 years before him!) My two oldest children got married. We were blessed with 5 grandchildren in that time. Our daughter moved away with her husband and two of our precious grand kiddos (also the first in our family, which nearly killed me).

I have taken all the personality tests and they all come to the same conclusion–I feel things 100%. If you are hurting I’m going to put myself in your place and hurt with you. When my grand babies would FaceTime me crying because they wanted to come to Nana’s house, it ripped my heart out because they no longer lived minutes from us! I didn’t like the changes and the emotions were too raw for me to even think about writing.

I was discouraged. I felt like I didn’t have it in me to finish what I had started. I doubted. But what I didn’t realize was God was still at work finishing His promise to me that I would write my grandmother’s story.

Every heartache. Every delay. Every sad goodbye was teaching me things my grandmother experienced in her lifetime.

  • Her uncle had made an arrangement with her father that if he was able to stake two claims in the Indian Territory Land Rush of 1893, he would give her parents one of the claims.
  • Her uncle was successful, so she left her grandparents in Kansas when she was only 4 years old to move to what would soon become Oklahoma.
  • She experienced losses, disappointments and tragedy.

Once I realized how much I was learning about her by feeling her pain, I became better at documenting her story. I realized that God was intentionally delaying my progress to make me a better story teller.

Then, God had our friend’s fiancé move in with us not knowing how she would be a crucial piece of my writing puzzle. If she hadn’t come along I don’t think I would have finished in time. And I hate getting to the end of a big puzzle and realizing the last piece is missing. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

Doubt has many benefits. Even when I lose all hope, God promises to complete the work He’s begun in me. That included helping me fulfill my life-long dream of writing, Through The Eyes Of Grace.

In what ways has a delay in your story or your goals helped you in the long run?

This is my 9th post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to write everyday in November.

Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash

10 Years

My Beautiful Mom

Our prompt was to look back ten years to see where we were and write about it. In 2011 I was only a year away from publishing my first book. My goal had always been to finish it before my Mom died. When I started in 2000 she was 78. Time was on my side, at least I didn’t let myself think otherwise.

As the years passed, my confidence was shaken, i.g. who am I to think I can write a book? I went years without any progress. I was discouraged.

My prayer was often, “God, please don’t let my Mom die before I finish.” She had helped me with all the research, and it was her idea for me to do this. I couldn’t let her down, or that would be one.more.regret!

In 2011 I had finished my manuscript. It was in need of the hard edit that to be honest is very difficult. You have to let go of some of your favorite parts because you realize it isn’t necessary to the over all story arc. I did what I could, but I needed help.

A few years prior we had invited a young fiancé of a friend to live with us until their wedding day. We didn’t know each other, but God had this planned all along. She was an editor. I had even helped her find a job at a local publisher’s office. It was her job to polish books with the final edit to make them ready to go to print.

When she discovered my need she offered to do the hard edit for me. I couldn’t believe it! She said it was the least she could do since we had done so much for her.

I gave her my manuscript in January of 2012. It took her five months to finish, but once she did it was ready to publish. I didn’t have time to pursue traditional publishing because my Mom had just turned 90. Time no longer felt on my side.

My husband was willing to pay the money necessary to use a vanity press publishing company. This is where you keep all creative rights to your work. They help you design the cover (which I loved), and then you pay a large fee to have it printed. Our first print bought us 250 copies.

In September of 2012, my book was published. When I held that first copy in my hand, I knew what I had to do. I wrote inside, “We did it, Mom. I love you”, and gave her the first printed copy.

It was a moment I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. My Mom died three months later after a short illness. Before she died she wrote inside my book’s cover, “I love you, Mom” and gave the first copy back to me.

I was filled with gratefulness to God for making sure I didn’t have regrets in this regard. My Mom loved my book, and I loved her for all she did to help me.

In my next post I’ll share about what I see looking forward 10 years.

This is my 8th post in The Ultimate Blog Challenge to post everyday in November.