Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Watch Out 2021...The Americans Are Coming

 How will you remember 2020? 


Some people are ready for the year to simply “be over.” 


I get it. It has certainly been a strange one. I don’t want to downplay the horrific death toll due to COVID-19. I am not insensitive to the racial injustices weighing on our citizens of color. I have been frustrated by the politicizing of anything and everything in sight. 


My family has been gravely impacted by the novel COVID virus. I have many friends of differing racial backgrounds and ethnicities who walk an unbelievable tightrope in their everyday lives. And politics? I am fully aware that even though the election is over, there are those still stoking the fire.


Yet as I look back on 2020, I also see some good coming out of it.


Quarantine mandates were rough on many. For some, it brought out the worst side of dysfunctional family life. From others, however, I’ve heard testimony of people enjoying the unexpected time with family


I hear a growing appreciation for teachers and the work they do. Some people I know claim to be more productive working from home and report finding new ways to connect with clients and co-workers. 


A few who rarely cooked before are discovering their kitchens.


As for the unrest prompted by systemic racism and the ever present social injustices in America? I think more people are aware of the underlying problems inherent in our thoughts and speech and our long held assumptions about people who “are different.”


As a nation, we’ve tried to have those conversations before. Note the word “tried.” We’d move an inch forward and then feel so satisfied with ourselves we’d return to our old ways and fall back a half-inch on the equality scale. 


Not this time. This is not a summer of discontent. This is a season of reckoning. 


What prompts me to say this? Back to the virus. It knows no boundaries. It is colorblind. It has no barrier. Borders cannot contain it. Differing languages don’t confound it. Simply put: COVID-19 threatens everyone. We are in this together. All of us.


The year 2020 may be remembered as the year of the pandemic, but I hope it will be equally remembered as the year this beautiful country I love, remembered to love others. 


We have always had a good standing in the world. People look up to us for leadership in what to do. We have always taken the lead in problem solving. 


Though it may have been slow to get started, Operation Warp Speed met the challenge to quickly develop a new vaccine.


Ultimately, it is who we are. Free to think and solve problems and strong enough to face our own shortcomings. We can do this. 2021…look out. The Americans…All of Us are gearing up to make the world a better place.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Thrill of Hope...

 A Thrill of Hope…The Weary World Rejoices


You probably thought this would be a post about the COVID-19 vaccine. 

No. It is far more serious. More serious than death you ask? I know the virus is life threatening. A vaccine is celebrated. I totally agree. COVID-19 makes people ill. And it kills.


The promise of a vaccine fills us with hope that this awful virus will be eradicated. Okay, at least slowed down. And weary world? Definitely. We are all weary of 2020. They call it quarantine fatigue. I get it. But that is not the weary world of which I speak.


 “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices” comes from a Christmas carol called O Holy Night. The song was penned in 1847. It is about a lost world. A world condemned. A world that is sick. Tired. Weary. A world without hope. 


A world without Jesus.


I’ve discovered so many people, despite what they think or believe, celebrate Christmas. They sing the songs and display nativity sets on the hall table. But so you know, nowhere does the word “Christmas” appear in the Bible. Seriously. In fact, we don’t have all of the particulars about the exact day and time of the birth of Jesus.


What is very clear, however, is that Jesus, the Messiah, is the subject of the Bible from the first book of God’s Word (appropriately named Genesis because it is the beginning) to the very last book of the Bible, Revelation, which means to reveal. 


We are a weary world. We cling to the promise of healing. We hold to hope.


There are people who read my blog who actually question the Bible and have openly questioned me about what I believe and why I believe it. 


Actually, it isn’t what I think that counts. Make your own call. The decision is and always has been yours. I simply ask you make an informed decision.


View the Bible as you might regard eyewitness testimony in a courtroom. Read it for yourself. Not hearsay. Not what others have told you they think, read the book for yourself. 


Not sure where to start? Three easy steps to get you started:


1)        Choose a translation instead of a paraphrase of the Bible. I usually read the New International Version. You can read the book online if you don’t have a copy on hand.


2)        The Bible has two divisions (with 400 years in between). The first division is the Old Testament. The second is called the New Testament. I suggest you start with one of the four Gospels. (Gospel means “good news” by the way.) The Gospels are the first four books of the New Testament. Each of them chronicles the life of Jesus for the thirty-three years he was here on earth. Think of each as a sort of resume. An overview. A biography. Choose one:


a) If you are a history buff or have connection to the Jewish community, start with Matthew.  You’ll appreciate the references to the Jewish culture, Hebrew writings, and the lineage of Jesus. 


            b) More of a short story person? Take a gander at Mark. You can literally read through the entire book on a flight from New York to L.A. 


            c) Like research and answers based on evidence? Then Luke is the book for you. The author had a scientific mind. He was a physician. He was something of a qualitative researcher, interviewing people and collecting data then putting it together chronologically.


            d) Perhaps your psychological/sociological brain needs to understand the underlying story with emotions and motivations. John is a beautiful book to touch your soul. 


Eventually, you’ll want to read all four gospels. But start with the one that speaks to the person God made you to be.


My morning B&B
(Breakfast and Bible)
3)        Once you’ve read one of the gospels, read the book of Acts. This chronicles the Acts of the Apostles of Jesus. They didn’t always get it right, but I like that. I don’t always get it right, either. 


There is so much more I could share. But by now you’re wondering why I chose to write this now. 


It’s Christmas. It’s all about giving and receiving, right? The Bible is a gift you can open now and enjoy forever.


By the way, did you know if you averaged reading fifteen minutes a day every day you could read through the Bible in one year? The whole Bible… from Genesis to Revelation. It’s true. So this isn’t simply for Christmas. Maybe it’s a New Year Resolution, too.


Let me know if you’re willing to take the challenge. I’ll happily send you the next steps on this reading journey. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

I Hope You Dance



We met at a dance in the school cafeteria.

I was a junior, he a senior.

A mutual friend named Anthony introduced us.

We shared a dance. One.


After that, for the entire school year, Tommy Waters asked me out. Every Friday. 

He would call on Friday and want me to go out with him that evening. I told him no. I told him he couldn’t ask me out at the last minute. It wasn’t respectful. I had no way of knowing at the time that he never knew until Friday evening if he would be allowed to use the family car or not.


Tommy graduated.

I managed to run into him in late July. (Another story for another time.)

I had moved. He asked for my new phone number. 

He called. This time he called on a Tuesday and asked if I would go out with him on Friday. 


That Friday night proved to be my last “first date.”

Homecoming Chamberlain HS


I was now a senior in high school. When it came time for homecoming, Tom took me. It was our second time to dance. But not our last.


Eventually we married, raised a family, and shared wonderful experiences too numerous to mention here. 


We danced with each other at our daughters’ weddings and I have precious pictures of Tom dancing with each of his girls.


The girls were grown with homes of their own when we decided to take square dance lessons. We made lifelong friends at “The Barn.” That was followed by round dance lessons. Round dancing is, in essence, cued ballroom dancing.  


Sweetheart Dance with Our
Square Dance Club

From this post you may get the idea that “dance” was central to our lives. 

You would be wrong. Dance has been a thread. Not the fabric of who we are. Or were.


There is a song called I Hope You Dance. I particularly like the Ronan Keating version. (YOU CAN WATCH IT ON YOUTUBE HERE)


I often think of it as my life song. 

Perhaps that video will show up at my funeral one day. Who knows?


The song says to never lose your sense of wonder. To never take one single breath for granted. It says when you have the choice to sit it out or dance, dance.


December 18th is my wedding anniversary. And to Tom, “I trust you’re dancing.” 


This Still Hangs in My Office


Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Anything But Quiet

 Anything But Quiet


Every year I choose a “word of the year.” I started doing this several years ago after reading an article in the Guidepost Magazine by author Debbie Macomber. I wanted to be an author so I paid attention to what she said.  

I chose a word for that year and one ever since. I generally spend time in December thinking it over. I pray for the word God wants to reveal to me. In January, I often share my word with others. In fact, the last couple of years, I have shared my word for the year on my blog.

Then I wait. I watch. I listen. 

Over the course of the year, I generally see unexpected ways the word plays out. Sometimes I am challenged to do more. Other times, my choices and actions are affirmed by that one simple word. My ears perk up when I hear that word or read it in a book or article. As a writer, the significance of one single word is not lost on me. 

Then there was the year 2020. 

I chose the word Quiet. I based it largely on a verse in the Bible found in 1 Thessalonians.  Chapter 4, verses 11 & 12 read “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your own hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” (New International Version)

That verse inspired my book, The Edge of Quiet. It is the book I intended to write in 2014-2015 but only completed this past October.

Seriously. Quiet. I kept bumping into the word. For example, in the New Testament, Peter speaks of a quiet spirit and in 1Timothy, Paul writes to Timothy about living peaceful and quiet lives. There was this sense of peacefulness and stillness to the word. 

As I said...then there was the year 2020.

The year started out quiet enough. Until March. The COVID-19 pandemic brought words like isolation and quarantine into my vocabulary, disrupting my sense of “peaceful quiet.” Suddenly, the word quiet sounded lonely and hopeless.

There was nothing quiet when, in the summer of 2020, the ever-present, systemic social and racial injustices in our country erupted into not-so-quiet protests. And the political scene? The election season was louder than I’ve ever experienced in my life. No, the stillness I expected did not seem evident. 

Yet, as I look back, when God brought this word to me, He didn’t promise it would meet my expectations. The word helped me grow and think and change.

Choosing the word Quiet for the year 2020…

... Helped me prepare for living alone. Truly alone.

...Gave me an appreciation for what quiet really means…to discover the word quiet isn’t simply “absence of noise."

...Offered unequaled times of solitude and reflection.

Though I’ve grown personally through this experience, I’ve promised my family I won’t choose the word Quiet again. They’ve told me they like it when I choose words like hospitality and generosity. I get it.

No, I won’t be choosing Quiet as a word for the year again, but I know I will choose quiet now and again as a way to be still and know God, because no matter what difficulties I may have faced this year, God is in control of my life.

By the way, I’ve been considering next year’s word. One keeps coming back to me. I’ll announce it and the story behind it in my first blog for 2021. 


Have you selected a word for next year? 

Think about it. 

Choose one and stick with it. 

Let the adventure begin.


Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Finish the Race. Find Closure. Find Peace.

Sometimes Moving Ahead, Means Putting Behind 

These past two months have been like most of 2020. Different.


It’s bad enough to have the pandemic hanging over our heads like an umbrella blocking the sunshine we seek. Add to that Thanksgiving and Christmas and even the most Pollyannaish of us can struggle. (Tom always considered me the ultimate Pollyanna.) 


I did not want this year to get the better of me. And it could have. The final quarter of 2020 dawned poised to do just that.  


Long ago I learned that the things you leave undone are the things that make you tired. I wrote about that in a post called "A Good Kind of Tired" a few weeks ago. You can read that post by clicking HERE. I had “things left undone” on my proverbial to-do list. Things left undone for six years. And the effect was far more than “tiring.” 


It was draining. 

Finish the Race

I shared a few weeks ago that I set out to complete The Edge of Quiet in October. It was the book I started right before my husband died.


I also planned to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November. It was also something I anticipated doing in November, 2014 but never did.


You know my story. I've shared it before. On October 29, 2014, I sat at my desk setting my goals for the days of NaNoWriMo and the writing of The Edge of Quiet.Two hours later, Tom died from injuries he sustained when his bicycle went off the road and threw him into a tree. 


Of course I didn’t write. I was working to put one foot in front of the other. I was trying to breathe without that invisible heavy stone crushing me. Blocking every breath from reaching my lungs. I still find it amazing my heart continued to beat. I was broken. 


If it had even made my list of things to do, writing a book during that time would have landed in the last spot.


Tom and I had talked about the premise of The Edge of Quiet. We both thought it could well be my best book to date. It followed me through the next few years as a job left undone.


I did not write the book.
I did not participate in NaNoWriMo.

I survived.

That’s all.


As I've said, the things we leave undone are the things that make us tired. And anxious.

It is important to FINISH THE RACE.


I was tired of being tired. I simply knew this was the year I would make a change. I made a plan to write and finish The Edge of Quiet by the end of October.  And I did. 

I decided I would craft the first draft of its companion book during NaNoWriMo in November. 50,000 words in a month. And I did it. 


The two pieces of my life, left dangling and taunting me since 2014 are behind me now. There is no magic in completing a book or finishing a challenge, but for me there is closure.



Things I had left undone are now finished.

Finished brings with it a sense of peace.

And with peace comes renewed energy. 

But there is more. 

The two books I crafted these past two months are totally different from others I've written. 

I also applied a few new writing strategies to get the job done. to finish the race. I share them here. Maybe they will help you, too.

1) If I want to get a certain number of words down...turn off the self-editor. Ignore the misspelled words my computer is underlining in red and get the idea down. I can always go back and fix spelling.  I can't always go back and recapture a great idea.

2) I learned to "journal" a book. Every morning after I read my Bible and had a cup a coffee, I opened a small journal and wrote thoughts on the book, the experience, what I thought was going on to motivate a character. I could have counted these words toward the Nano project, but didn't. I found them to help me think through the next part of the story and get my creative juices flowing so I could write my 1667 words each day without the stress of facing a blank screen.

3) Though it is intense, NaNoWriMo is a good lesson in consistency. We all know if we want to complete...anything...we must tackle the job and be consistent. Writing 30 days in a row got me into that mode of consistency.

4) Sometimes it is best to take the story you though you were writing, print it out, cut it apart and put it back together. That happened with The Edge of Quiet. I threw away sluggish parts and enhanced more exciting parts. 

These are lessons I will take with me to my next project. Maybe not with the intensity, but they work: Write the story, journal the book, be consistent, and don't be afraid to get rid of what isn't working


What is it you always thought you’d do, but have yet to put behind you?