The Day I Ordered My Coffee Black, A Short Story

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I am a part of a writer’s group that has been together for the past 15 years. Every Wednesday we are given a writing prompt to help us keep our creative inspiration flowing. Today’s prompt was one that immediately got my mind thinking…

Writer’s Prompt: The girl at Starbucks who always gets a caramel macchiato orders black coffee today.

A man of quiet strength, he had been the one who kept Jo grounded when her world seemed to be spinning out of control. Her Dad was confident in her ability as a writer. This infused her with determination to meet his expectations. Even as the rejection letters mounted, it didn’t sway his belief that her voice was something special. Yet, on this day of all days, Jo was struggling to remember the sound of his voice, and it left her fraught with anxiety. What daughter forgets her Dad’s voice after only three years? If his voice faded so fast, would she forget her voice too? What if she never knew her voice? Was it all a facade visible only by her Dad’s faith in who she could be?

Tormented that his death would cause a similar death to her future, Jo decided she needed to get outside. She was hopeful the fresh air would stimulate her thoughts.

Fall was living up to its name as crisp, colorful leaves descended in cadence to the sidewalk below. Jo gathered her jacket around her neck to ward off the chill. Instinctively, she walked to the corner for her morning pick-me-up. As she waited in line she remembered the countless times she and her Dad had met here to go over her latest plot. He would smile as she read, not so much because he loved the story, but because he loved its author. A tear started to fall, which she caught with her sleeve before it had a chance to show itself to a watching world.

She discovered why she was struggling this Father’s Day. It was the reality that no one was watching her, and no one cared for her as he had. She shifted in line reading the food offered on the rack where she stood, hoping to forget. Jo realized her anxiety had followed her, and it was impossible to run fast enough to get away.

She let out a sigh when the barista asked, “What can I get for you today? Your usual?”

She recalled the countless times her Dad had answered this question. In his gentle, reserved manner she could hear him say, “I’ll have a tall, coffee. Make it black, please.”

Her memory exploded alive along with her Dad’s voice.

“No Caramel Macchiato for me today.” Jo thought to herself.

It was Father’s Day and this one was for Dad. Along with his voice came fresh inspiration. The title of what she would write next, “The Day I Ordered My Coffee Black”.

Prompted to Remember

(Photo from 1962, Silver Star Pharmacy)

I am a part of a writer’s group that provides a writing prompt once a week in order to help us keep the creative juices flowing. This past week’s prompt led me down an unexpected path. The following is the prompt and what I wrote in response.

Wednesday Writer’s Prompt:

What place, or kind of place, elicits fond memories of the past?

Opening the door was an entry to my childhood. A time capsule bursting open in celebration of what once was.

The soda fountain served guests a daily special prepared by our beloved cook, Flossie. She was like a grandmother to me, always making sure I had enough food in my belly to fuel my curiosity. The clattering of dishes passing through the triple sinks to wash, rinse and sanitize were the background music of life in my Dad’s Pharmacy.

The regular customers provided a cadence call of life in our small town, beckoning us to participate together in life’s difficult moments.

But the center of it all was my dad’s caring heart. Each customer knew they had a faithful friend who would sacrifice time with his family in order to provide for their needs in crisis. He listened to their laments and carried their concerns to God in prayer.

But that was then.

Sadness cloaks me with a familiar comfort. Gone are the customers, the needs, the community of friends who called my Dad “Doc”. Gone are the rich smells of comfort food served with a smile. Gone are the days of my childhood.

Yet the memories linger as I sign the paper ending an era. Soon this building will belong to someone new.

(Photo from 2017)

We will go our separate ways to live our dreams and provide for those to whom God has given us to care and provide.

Tomorrow’s memories are being written on the walls of today. Each day matters; make them count for eternity.

April Is National Poetry Month

Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

I’ve always enjoyed writing poetry. In fact my first writings as a child were simple rhymes. I love the challenge of finding the right word that says what I want it to say. Dr. Seuss took license here and made up his own words and characters that rhyme. Some we’ve all grown to love like Cat in the Hat, Yertle The Turtle, Horton Hears A Who, and everyone’s beloved, Grinch.

There is a challenge for writers this month called NaPoWriMo, which stands for “National Poetry Writing Month“. Those who are participating are writing a poem every day for the entire month. That’s a bit much for my schedule, so I’m going for once a week, maybe. It depends on whether or not my creative energy is available.

I’ll heed the advice of my favorite poet…

“Think left and think right and think low and think high.

Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try.” – Dr. Seuss

Instead of writing poems that rhyme, I’ve decided to write prose. I hope you enjoy this one.

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 soul,

thus filling the air with a sweet fragrance of 

UNITY.

Do you enjoy writing poetry? Have you ever tried? 

“If you never did, you should. These things are fun and fun is good.”

– Dr. Seuss

___________________________

My new book that my husband and I have written is now available on Amazon

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!)

A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes

orgcoach.net

orgcoach.net

I’ve been thinking about how God has allowed me to see the biggest dream of my life come true–I wrote, edited, completed and published the book I had in my heart to do for 25 years. And I couldn’t have done it without my Mom, my husband and my writing group. The support of others in making a dream come true is crucial.

The quote used in my title is from the Disney movie, Cinderella. Her life was certainly one of abuse and unfulfilled dreams, yet she never stopped hoping. Her dream was to be free from her wicked step-mother’s abuse, but when it finally came true it was so much more than she ever hoped or imagined.

I’m reminded of this Scripture…(emphasis mine)

14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every familyc in heaven and on earth is named, 16that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” – Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV

What dreams do you have? Have you shared your dream with those closest to you? Have you prayed about it and given your desires to God to do with as He will? I encourage you to take some time and submit all your dreams to the One who is able.

I must confess I have a new obsession.

It’s the TV show on HGTV, Fixer Upper. I’m sure you’ve probably enjoyed it longer that I have. You see, I didn’t really give them a chance–I formed a first impression opinion of Chip and Joanna that wasn’t true. It wasn’t until a good friend shared with me how amazing they are in incorporating their faith with their dreams that I discovered otherwise. I felt horrible for allowing a first impression to rob me of getting to know such an amazing couple.

I found her testimony on You Tube that is filled with encouragement to continue hoping for your dreams to come true. Listen in to what she has to say…

I love the fact that Chip played a huge part in seeing her dreams weren’t tossed aside. He not only used his words to encourage her, but he acted by giving her the space she needed to hear God speak.

If you have dreams you’ve forgotten or tossed aside. I encourage you to…

  • Take a second look in 2016.
  • Submit them to God.
  • Tell a couple of close friends and your spouse, if you’re married.
  • Seek out those you respect who have similar dreams.
  • Expect God to speak.

If your dream is from Him, it’s only a matter of time for it to happen. If your dream isn’t, then know that He something even better in store. The key is to not give up looking with expectancy at what God will do. He is faithful and has promised He will return–now that’s a hope we can cling to.

(Note: In case you haven’t perused my blog much, check out the Oklahoma Recipes tab at the top. I’ve added some recipes that go with my book, and I’ve included the page where the food is mentioned. I hope you’ll give them a try. Food makes ordinary moments a celebration.)

The Faraway Nana – 4 Ways To Make The Distance Easier

Kiddos

As most of you know, all 7 of my grandchildren now live far away from me. It has been a difficult and emotional transition for me–one where I’ve shed many tears, and prayed often for God to help me see this new season from His perspective. And He has!

What I miss most as the Faraway Nana is being able to do fun things with them in my home–like baking, reading, picking flowers, going for walks around the block, watching their favorite movies while munching on hot, buttered popcorn, coloring pictures and playing Polly Pockets–to name just a few.

I was having one of those days when I was feeling particularly sorry for myself when God dropped an idea into my head.My four oldest grandchildren tell me often that they miss Nana’s House, which has always been like a jab to heart. But this time God gave me an idea, and a new tradition was born.

Nana’s House Newsletter

I told Bristol, Norah, Willow and Bradley that if they couldn’t come to Nana’s House, then Nana’s House would come to them. 🙂 I began publishing a monthly newsletter called Nana’s House. In it I put personal notes, little contests, crafts and something they can all enjoy from the 7 year olds down to the babies. When finished I stuff all the supplies needed for the crafts as well as candy treats into the Priority Mail Flat Rate small box and send it on its way. I take a picture of the receipt with the tracking number and text it to my daughters, so the kids can know when their little package will arrive.Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 9.25.58 AM

This has helped me more that I could have ever imagined. I still get to go to the craft store and pick out something special for them to do. I still get to highlight funny things they’ve said or done. I still get to hear their voices squeal with excitement when they see another newsletter is on its way. The only thing I haven’t figured out how to do is hug their little necks and do nosies with them. Which brings me to the next thing I’ve done to help with the distance…

Skyping

What fun we have had Skyping, and now using Google Hangouts (which works better when you are connecting three phones). We have colored Easter Eggs together, baked cookies and read books. I’m currently reading a series of books to the girls titled, The Doll People. They color while I read to them, and it has been wonderful. I  love how they have absorbed the story and beg me, “Nana, just one more chapter–pleeeaaassssee?” We’re currently on book two, The Meanest Doll In The World. After this there are two more, so I think we’ll be able to enjoy this adventure together for quite a while.

Facetime

StellaMy younger grandchildren love to talk with Nana on FaceTime because they can carry me with them to their room to see their new toys. I have had the best conversations with Stella (aged 2) all the while looking at the ceiling.

She takes the phone to her room, sets me on her kitchen set and fixes me the best cups of coffee. I’m always asking her to prop me up so I can see her face. 🙂 We are still working on that one, but I wouldn’t trade staring at her bedroom ceiling for anything. She’s precious.

Writing Letters

I love writing. I love penmanship. I’ve heard that public schools are no longer teaching handwriting, and it makes me sad to realize this is going away. I always loved learning to write my letters. I practiced over and over again, until I like how it looked.  This gave me an idea to start writing letters to my grandchildren once they learn to read. I print until they learn cursive writing. Once they do, I will write to them in cursive. The younger ones who can’t yet read, don’t like that the older ones get this special treat. But, I pray it will motivate them to learn to read for themselves. Cards are also a fun treat for the younger ones when it’s not their birthdays. Such an inexpensive way to show them how special they are to me. 

Final Thoughts

Being far away from those you love is not easy, especially since they grow up so fast. For a long time I resisted finding joy in the distance, but I’m beginning to see that there is much good that happens when miles separate you from those you love. In this day and age we can still connect in ways my grandmother would have never imagined possible. When she moved away from her family to Jenks, Oklahoma, she didn’t know if she would ever see their faces or hear their voices again. Their only means of communication was through snail mail–although back then, it was delivered by horse. We are blessed that no matter how faraway you are, you can connect in so many ways as often as you like. What a small world.

Are you separated from your little people? I hope my ideas will inspire you to embrace the distance and make it something special. 

Blessings!

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And So It Begins…

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I’ve started to do research again for my second book. It happened yesterday when I really didn’t have the time to do it, but I just did. Sometimes that is  when I get the most work done, when it’s spontaneous and not planned.

I’m setting up a timeline of events beginning in 1907. There are many moments I am very familiar with, but I know that when I start to write her story I will relive much of the emotions Grace must have walked through. It is a privilege to document her life, her struggles and her faith in God. I am part of the story–her legacy, but I must admit that there are events she walked through that I pray I never experience.

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Marion W. Oswalt, b. 7/1/07, d. 7/20/08 Leonard E. Oswalt, b. 3/20/09, d. 1/21/10

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Vincent b. 11/2/1912, d. 3/19/1920

These are the grave markers of three of Grace’s children, my Mom’s brothers. I know I’m giving away part of the story by writing this post, but as Halloween is tomorrow, I wanted to make a statement that death isn’t something to trivialize.

In our writer’s group this week, one member shared how he has been affected recently of the reality that we will all die soon. Most of us are in the second half of our lives–our children are grown, our time is more available to do the things for which we’ve dreamed, and realizing the brevity of life will help us push past the excuses of why we haven’t completed the writings God has laid on our hearts to write. We were sobered and convicted to make sure we do those things that are of most importance to us.

Time is short.

It took me 12 years to write Through The Eyes Of Grace. In 12 years I’ll be 67, if the Lord doesn’t take me home. I have no guarantees. I must DO, not talk about doing. I must write, not think about writing. It is what God has called me, as a writer, to do, so I’m starting with this post. I hope I haven’t rambled too much, but sometimes getting a rusty engine going again takes lots of puffs and sputterings. Soon my computer keyboard will run full speed into writing the rest of Grace’s story. Won’t you pray for me? Prayer is the fuel I need to keep pushing through until I discover what it is God wants me to know and the story that is of most importance for others to read. Our stories matter because they are his story–our history.

And so it begins…

 

The Value Of Handwritten Notes

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Do you have an old family Bible?

I do. I found it when we were cleaning out my Mom’s house a year ago. It’s a rich treasure holding keys to my family’s history. Most of the facts I already knew, but to see birth dates and death dates penned by my Great-Grandfather’s hand is quite the experience. It’s a treasure! To think that a man I never met was holding the same Bible at one time recording information in it for a generation yet to come (me!) is awe-inspiring. It matters, and I am grateful.

I love handwritten notes. When my husband, children and now grandchildren take the time to write out their heartfelt sentiments to me on paper I have a hard time ever parting with them; My closet is proof of it. I have a small handwritten note from my grandmother that she gave to me at my bridal shower 35 years ago. When I received it, it was expected. But when she passed away only four months later in June of 1979, it suddenly became priceless to me.

I’ve heard there is a huge debate taking place about the need for teaching our children how to write in cursive. Really? They say there is no need for it anymore, since everyone communicates through a keyboard or Smart phone. How sad. If cursive goes by the wayside, it will be a permanent disconnect from our past. So many important documents are written in cursive, like the Declaration of Independence and our own Constitution, to name a few. If children can no longer read it, maybe they will no longer care. It will become as indecipherable to them as a foreign language.

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Four Reasons Handwriting is Better Than Keyboards:

1. When someone takes the time to write their thoughts on paper you know they’ve purposed to slow down and think about what they want to say. It’s not the same as receiving a quick text or e-mail. I can type so much faster than I can write, so I don’t have to think as hard when I’m using a keyboard. Case in point–think of the many texts and e-mails you wish you could rescind. But a handwritten note is usually read through before it is sent on it’s way. And when it is received it is appreciated all the more.

2. One’s handwriting was also proof that it was they who said what was written. In the Bible, the Apostles often ended their letters by saying it is with my own hand that I write this to you. It was a validation. Computers are much  more impersonal. They validate nothing because anyone could have typed an e-mail.

3. It is believed that creativity is inspired when one writes in cursive. It provides an expressive outlet for what we want to say. It’s not just about the words chosen, but also about how the words are written. I remember when I was in sixth grade practicing how to spell my name over and over again. I wanted to have pretty handwriting, so I worked hard on how I wanted each letter to look. I paid attention to how others wrote their letters, and if I liked it, I practice until I could do it as well. Some of my letters I still write the same today–and I’m turning 55 this year.

4. Finally, handwriting is proof that we existed. Years from now when people see something we’ve written, they’ll pause to see what it is we took the time to write–like when I found my family Bible. Think of how special each signature is on the Declaration of Independence. You knew that each man was in the room when it was signed. It was a part of the story, seeing their “John Hancock” written so beautifully. It’s not only a rich document in content, but it’s rich in artistic beauty.

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I pray we won’t allow our children/grandchildren to lose the gift of handwriting. The only way they will appreciate it is if it is seen as valuable to us. Do you believe there is value in writing in cursive? Or have you stopped altogether and communicate only by way of keyboard? My 57 journals written by my own hand since 1989 are proof of my answer to this question. I pray each volume will matter to those who are growing up behind me, my three children and my seven grandchildren. It is my hope that they will read what mattered to me while I was living, and that in doing so it will have an effect on how they live.

(Photo Sources: Bible, letters, child writing)

 

 

 

 

 

A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes…

a_dream_is_a_wish-32635…when you’re fast asleep… is how the song goes from a popular fairy tale. But today I feel as if I’m living that dream.

Tomorrow I leave for my first Ladies Retreat at Barefoot Cabin. This is the place Tom and I bought in May for the purpose of hosting marriage and ladies retreats. It is a dream come true.

My love for this kind of retreat came about when I attended my first one in 1989. It was there that God shared with me His desire to use my writing for His purposes. All I knew then was He wanted me to start keeping a personal journal. I didn’t realize how doing this one daily exercise would strengthen my writing skills and help me remember significant events in my life and family. But it has! Whenever I take the time to write out what God has done, it cements it in my memory and enables me to recall it later.

Take for instance my research for Through The Eyes Of Grace. I can’t tell you how many times my Mom told me all the facts surrounding my grandmother’s story, but they never made it permanently into my memory bank until I wrote it down. Now I feel as if my grandmother is my friend, and someone with whom I can relate.

There was one time in particular that I want to share where I was so overwhelmed with God’s love for me through my journals. I was facing an extremely difficult season; my only hope was in God doing what seemed impossible to me. I was writing out my fears and worries in my journal when God interrupted me. I heard Him say that five years from now I will look back on this journal entry and thank Him for what He had done. Of course, I wanted this to be true, but my mind quickly filled with doubt, “That’s just you speaking, Debi. That’s what you want to hear!” I wrote out what I thought He had said, but quickly forgot about it.

Fast forward five years. Things were going well in our household, and I was filled with gratefulness to God for some specific things He had done. I took the time to write out those specifics in my journal as a prayer to God for His kindness and mercy in my life. As I was doing so, God once again interrupted me and said, “I want you to look at your journal from five years ago.” Puzzled, and having completely forgotten about the previous paragraph, I did so. Imagine my overwhelming response when it was where He had told me I would thank Him for what He had accomplished in the circumstances with which I was anxious and afraid!!

What a God we serve. He isn’t far off as some suppose, but He is intimately acquainted with all our ways. His kindness and mercy knows no bounds, and when He stoops to encourage me in little ways like these, I am undone.

So as I embark on this new journey, I know God has gone before me. He has surprises along the way that I can’t wait to discover. But most of all I can’t wait to spend time alone with Him. He is the author of our dreams and the finisher of our faith. He will complete the work He’s begun in you and in me.

In what ways are you tempted to fear tomorrow? How has God helped you remember His faithfulness?

The Expanding Family Tree

Photo Credit: Fall All Year Long on Instagram

Photo Credit: Fall All Year Long on Instagram

We all have one we’re hung upon

the branches of this tree

We might know a few whose branches are new

but there are more who are strangers to me.

~~~

Why do I go to such lengths to know

The stories behind each leaf?

Because what they’ve seen and what it all means

Will help me grow in belief

(that)

God is the author, my great Heavenly Father

of the stories He’s planned so well

Of my sister and brother, my grandfather and mother

And how we got faith, they tell

~~~

God has been faithful and worth the wait for

Him to give meaning to life.

He’s chosen my portion for this I adore Him

His boundaries bring safety from strife.

~~~

I’m waiting today for a call that will say

That my second grandson is born

This green leaf is new as God’s mercies are too

That Vito will be swaddled and warm

~~~

I write to record and to worship the Lord

for His faithfulness which never fails

He was there long ago I’m privileged to know

Because my mom discovered such tales

(of)

Generations long past of which has out-lasted

the lives of those I’ve yet to meet

They have gone on before to rest in the Lord

And now walk on Heavenly streets

~~~

Each year that passes God’s story surpasses

All we could imagine or think.

When life seems too hard or pleasures too far

It’s good to remember such things

(that)

God is faithful to tell “his story” so well

If we are only willing to ask

Good questions to those who are older and know

the ones that explain our past.

(So)

Purpose to know the branches that grow

In your own family tree

The hope that is hung for victories won

Is worth the effort to see.