12/29/2009

And a Happy New Year

Have a safe and joyful celebration of reflecting on the old year and looking forward to the new!

12/24/2009

Merry Christmas!




May your celebration of the birth of Christ be filled with wonder and joy!

12/21/2009

Christmas Movies


I love Christmas movies. I especially love sharing them with my family and friends. This year, I discovered that several of my friends had not only never seen Christmas in Connecticut with Barbara Stanwyck, but they’d never even heard of it! One of those people was my son’s girlfriend. I think she’s a fan now. Of course, she and I had a major meeting of the minds when deciding which Christmas movie we’d watch with them. When I mentioned Miracle on 34th Street, I said, “It’s the old one.”

She replied. “That’s the only one.”

I wholeheartedly agreed, for I refuse to even acknowledge the other versions! I think that was a very scary moment for my son.

So in case any of you need something new to watch this season—or just to be reminded of a movie you haven’t seen in several years, here are my top 5 Christmas movies:

  1. It’s a Wonderful Life
  2. Holiday Inn
  3. Miracle on 34th Street (original version)
  4. Christmas in Connecticut
  5. [tie] Elf and Home Alone

(Notice that the top four were all made before 1950!)

Of course there are others that my family watches every year—and this year I’ve also indulged in several sappy Hallmark channel Christmas movies—but if I can only make time for a few, those are the ones that make my short list!

What are your favorites?

12/14/2009

Homemade Sugary Goodness


I remember the first time I realized that all marshmallows didn’t come from a plastic bag in the grocery store. We were at a fancy restaurant for our anniversary and I ordered the s’more for dessert—made with a homemade marshmallow. It was amazing! Never did I think I’d taste anything like it again.

But I was wrong. My daughter had a hankering to try her hand at marshmallow-making and I can highly recommend the results! In fact, I’m not sure I’ll be able to eat the store bought kind again. When that squishy, sugary connection sank into my hot chocolate and melted—oh my word!

Then she used them to make a “s’more” topping for her cheesecake. And while I didn’t taste those results, I’m sure it was amazing, too.

Have you ever eaten a homemade marshmallow? If not, seize the opportunity, should it arise. I don’t think you’ll regret it!

12/12/2009

Crazy Days


The crazy days of Christmas have intersected with the crazy days of finishing up my latest manuscript.

So now you know why I’ve had nothing to say . . .

12/07/2009

A Precursor of Things to Come


We celebrated my husband’s birthday yesterday. It was a strange celebration day in many ways, and a precursor of what is to come.

We spent the day mostly in the usual Sunday ways, but in the afternoon, when present opening time came around, we had to call up our daughter via the computer so she could join in the family circle from far away. That was good, but not quite the same.

After dinner that night, one boy went to a praise and worship youth service and one went to his girlfriend’s house. So after all our birthdaying, my husband and I were alone in the house.

Then it hit me: this is what if feels like for my parents when we all come over to celebrate something or other and then we all leave again. Nice and quiet, yes, but with a bittersweet edge. All the children have their own plans, their own friends, their own lives. And while that makes me very happy (because frankly, I’m ready to have my own life again, too), I see how strange it will feel when the quiet times are broken by the chaotic ones, instead of the other way around.

12/06/2009

An Inkwell Inspirations Devotional




I'm over at Inkwell Inspirations today talking about the words we tend to overlook in Scripture.
Come join me!

12/04/2009

The Violent Bear It Away


A very long time ago, I read some Flannery O’Connor short stories. A week or so ago, I read her novel The Violent Bear it Away. All I can say is wow!

As a writer I’ve often heard “show, don’t tell.” As an editor, I often say it. But rarely do I find such an incredible example of what that means than this book. Never does Flannery O’Connor say “there is a struggle between faith and reason.” Never does she say “there is a struggle between flesh and spirit.” No “there is a God and there is a Satan.” But all of these things are clearly seen on every page.

It’s a short book, the story of a boy’s journey. At least that’s what it is on the surface. But beneath the surface is the journey of everyman—toward God, away from God, acknowledging God, refusing to acknowledge God. It is a powerful story that never comes out and tells you what to glean from it, but it is full of symbolism and metaphor that is not obscure or confusing. If you have lived as a Christian, you will see pieces of your own journey in this word picture story.

I have a feeling this is one I’ll read again, because I’m sure I didn’t catch everything the first time!

12/02/2009

Christmastime is Here


I am officially in the mood for Christmas! I admit, it took longer to “take” this year for some reason, but today I have that “I’m excited for Christmas” feeling.

Maybe it was the cold weather—and the few wet snowflakes that dotted my windshield this morning. Maybe it was grocery shopping and buying all the ingredients for the baking and making a tub of hot chocolate mix. Maybe it was a quick change of plans that means we will have our Christmas day a bit earlier. Whatever did it, I’m ready. Or at least I’m ready to get ready!

The Christmas music has been playing all day long. The decorations go up tomorrow. I even downloaded Christmas ringtones to my phone! I imagine a fire will appear in the fireplace again soon. The shopping will commence in earnest this weekend—and hopefully finish, too. The Christmas wrapping box will find a permanent home in my bedroom, along with the tape and scissors. And when my daughter arrives home next week, the house will fill with smells of baking things and Christmas movies will play on the TV.

And then of course there will be family and food and the celebration of a Christmas Eve service at church and the joy of giving to others as God the Father gave to us—generously, without reserve.

What is your favorite part of Christmas? I truly can’t decide. I love it all!

11/29/2009

A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts



Have you finished your Christmas shopping yet? Still mulling over a gift for that hard-to-buy-for person on your list? Remember the book A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts! It’s a colorful book of heartwarming stories (including one of mine!), traditions, recipes, and other Christmas tips. And if you want daily stories and ideas, check out the blog by the authors of this book. It might be just the thing to put you in the mood.

11/26/2009

Happy Thanksgiving!



Have a blessed and joyful day thanking the God from whom all blessings flow!

11/25/2009

Giving thanks Day 24


I am thankful for my five senses—especially at this time of year!

11/24/2009

Giving thanks Day 23


I used to dread extended school holidays—like Thanksgiving week—when my kids were small. Now I am so grateful for the time off!

11/23/2009

Giving thanks Day 22


I am thankful that basketball is played indoors!

11/22/2009

Giving Thanks Day 21


Thank you, Lord, that Your mercies are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness!

11/21/2009

Giving Thanks Day 20

I am thankful that I am looking forward to getting together with my family for Thanksgiving dinner. I always know the food and conversation will be great. What a blessing to not have awkward family relationships to tiptoe around.

11/20/2009

Giving Thanks Day 19


I am thankful to have all my kids back at home for a week. I know the days of the five of us will not last forever, and I will welcome in my new “children” when the time comes. But for now, I am appreciative for every day we have to make memories with our children who are quickly becoming adults!

11/19/2009

Giving Thanks Day 18


One of the first steps I took toward “seriously” writing was attending a local Christian writers group in 2002. Little did I know what the Lord had in store! There I met two local ladies who asked me to join them in starting a weekly critique group that we named Life Sentence. We began meeting in May of 2003. They encouraged me to attend my first writing conference in 2004. There I met a whole slew of other writers, some of whom I now call friends. Then I joined ACFW and met even more writers, at conferences and via the web.

I am so thankful for other writers to walk with on this journey. Some I only know on my computer screen, some I look forward to seeing every year or two. Some I see often at the monthly writers group I first attended and now help lead. And six years later, Leslie, Mary, and I still meet weekly. God has done amazing things in all three of us, personally and professionally. I couldn’t have imagined it all when I stepped out of my comfort zone and attended that critique group all those years ago. God is so good!

11/18/2009

Giving Thanks Day 17


I am thankful for organizations like Samaritan’s Purse that allow our family to participate in a small way in ministry that touches those in other parts of the world. Since my children were small, we have wrapped and packed Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. In 2006, my daughter was blessed to help pass out some of these boxes in remote villages in Ghana.

If you haven’t yet filled your Operation Christmas Child boxes, do it now! Click here to find a drop off point or to pay for your shipping online and print your barcoded box labels. This is new, way cool thing. The bar code will be scanned at shipping and you will receive an email telling you the country to which your box was shipped! Amazing!

11/17/2009

Giving Thanks Day 16


Yes, I am thankful for Facebook. It has allowed me to reconnect with people I’d lost touch with and helped me continue to keep up with them on a more consistent basis!  

11/16/2009

Giving Thanks Day 15


I am thankful that my baby is 15 years old today! I love watching my kids grow up!

11/15/2009

Giving Thanks Day 14


Thank you, Lord, that You love me so much that You won’t let me remain in my current state. You are always growing me, always prodding me toward maturity. And yet You never expect me to outgrow my need of You!

11/14/2009

Giving Thanks Day 13


I am grateful for indoor plumbing, grocery stores, telephones, automobiles, airplanes, and most other modern conveniences! As much as I love reading and writing about other time periods in history, I wouldn’t have enjoyed living in most of them!

11/13/2009

Giving Thanks Day 12


I am thankful for my family—both the one I was born into and the one I married into. I am grateful for their love and support and encouragement through the years. I love y’all!

11/12/2009

Giving Thanks Day 11


Teachers are amazing people. I’m thankful for those that encouraged me to think and learn through elementary, middle and high school as well as college. I’m also thankful for the ones that have impacted my children thus far in their schooling. I am so grateful that God gifted these special people with the patience and the passion to walk into a room full of children and attempt to impart some knowledge to them!

11/11/2009

Giving Thanks Day 10


I am thankful for all the men and women who have served our country in a military capacity—from the patriots that fought to free us from England to those who currently serve, stateside and around the world. Thank you for laying your lives on the line to keep us free.

11/10/2009

Giving Thanks Day 9


I am thankful for my children. I am thankful for the joy they have brought to my life as well as the times they have driven me to my knees. They are not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but I love watching them become who God has made them to be, which requires a few bumps along the way!

It is fun to cheer them as they succeed and even to comfort them when they don’t. They have taught me what it means to love like Jesus loves. They have taught me the difference between the things that really matter and the things that don’t. I am changed because of them—for the better.

Thank you, Lord, that You give us what we need and not always what we imagine we want. I am so grateful that you gave me these three to love and nurture and steward through their childhood and teenaged years. And I thank you that you are growing them into such amazing people—people I like!

11/09/2009

Giving Thanks, Day 8

Thank you, Lord, for Your provision of the necessities of life—food, shelter, clothing—but also for your blessings above and beyond those things. Let me never forget that those “extras” are not bestowed because of any “deservedness” on my part, but simply because of Your extravagant love for Your wayward creation. And thank you for allowing me to often be the conduit of Your blessing into the lives of others. The joy of giving is just another of Your gracious gifts.

11/08/2009

Giving Thanks, Day 7


I’m thankful that Jesus “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:17)

Thank you, Jesus, for conquering death in order to give me life.

11/07/2009

Giving Thanks, Day 6


I am thankful for variety. In the colors of the world. In the personalities of people. In types of music and books and art. I’m thankful that God is a creative God with a multi-faceted personality and that this world is a reflection of His nature.

11/06/2009

Giving Thanks and Inkwell Inspirations



I'm thankful for a great group of ladies who blog together at Inkwell Inspirations! I love that the Lord brought us together, with all our different personalities and writing styles and made us friends!

Come join me at Inkwell Inspirations today where I'm blogging about Abigail Adams!

11/05/2009

Giving Thanks, Day 4


I am thankful for contact lenses instead of coke-bottle glasses and for enough moisture in my eyes to continue to be able to wear them!

11/04/2009

Giving Thanks, Day 3


I am not always as thankful as I should be for the gift of my husband. It’s not easy being married to me! I am thankful for our conflict because it helps me see the places in my heart that are not as Christ-like as they should be. I am thankful for our love because it isn’t based on the emotion of the moment. I am thankful for the fun times we have together and with our family. Mostly I’m thankful he has put up with and taken care of me for the past twenty-two years! Poor guy. He’s married to a crazy, fiction-writing wife who hates to cook and clean. I really don’t think he understood what he was getting into all those years ago!

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of my husband. He brings me joy and helps me grow. I wouldn’t want to do life with anyone else.

11/03/2009

Giving Thanks, Day 2


I’m thankful for flannel pjs, blazing fires, hot drinks, fuzzy socks, and good books in the wintertime.

I’m thankful for swimming pools, air-conditioning, iced tea, flip-flops, and good books in the summertime.


11/02/2009

Giving Thanks, Day 1


Thanksgiving is on its way. In between now and then we get to cheer our sons in at least one football playoff game, celebrate our youngest son’s birthday and enjoy our daughter’s arrival home for a week from college. With so much going on, I thought perhaps I needed to focus on the giving thanks part of the season. So I will try, from today to Thanksgiving Day, to post at least one thing I am thankful for.

Today I am thankful for good friends, ones that listen, advise, and encourage—and that let me do the same for them. I’ve learned, through the years, that reciprocal friendships are especially hard to find!

Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of friendships, old and new, ones that last and ones that are only for a season. Each one is a gift from Your hand. Thank you.

11/01/2009

An Inkwell Inspirations Devotional



Click on the banner above and join me for a devotional at Inkwell Inspirations today!

10/28/2009

The Family That Serves Together


I don’t remember doing any “formal” mission or service projects in my family while I was growing up, but I do remember my parents always on the lookout for people that needed help. For my dad, that often meant picking up a hitchhiker or bringing home a family-less person or couple for a holiday dinner. I remember my mom hiring a housekeeper she didn’t have to have because the woman needed work. Helping others was often a quiet thing, but we knew it was there. An atmosphere of service that apparently got caught.

My sister and I always accompany kids from school on their mission project day. We both enjoy helping others and watching our kids learn to help others. At the ministry where my youngest son and I served today, there is a school for at-risk kids. As we were wrapping up our work time, our boys played a game of basketball with the boys from the school. While the game was in full swing, my brother arrived with his weekly pizza delivery for the school kids’ lunch. That’s what he does to help out. A little thing, but so appreciated and necessary. I didn’t know I’d see him there, although I know he’s been involved in that ministry for years. So the three of us were out serving the Lord by serving others today. And then of course there is our youngest sister, too, who serves full time overseas.

Usually on these mission days I reflect on what it means to minister with my kids and their friends. But today I am overwhelmed by the privilege of serving Christ and others alongside my brother and sisters, even when we’re in different locations. And I’m grateful for a mom and a dad who provided us the opportunity to catch a lifestyle of helping others.

10/24/2009

Walking the Line


Where is the line between humble dependence on God alone and insidious pride that refuses help or wise counsel? After all, the Lord wants us to rely on Him alone—on his quiet word in our ear telling us to turn to the right or to the left, on His sufficient and perfectly timed provision, on His ability to right the wrongs that come our way. And yet . . . He has formed us into a body, where one part makes up what another part lacks, He encourages us to seek and heed wise counsel, He asks us to help others.

I’ve considered this question in various circumstances of my life and have lately been mulling it over again. I know it isn’t either/or. It’s both. And I guess the line comes down to my motivation. Am I seeking counsel because I desire validation from someone besides the Lord? Am I asking for help because I don’t have the fortitude to do the thing I know is right in order to rectify a situation? Am I holding my troubles close to myself because I don’t want others to think less of me? Am I keeping to “me and God” because I don’t want to be hurt or because I don’t want to extend myself to love the unlovable?

The line is very thin, I believe. And of course when I examine my motivations, I can easily deceive myself. I guess that’s why it is so important to take God’s word as a whole, to understand His heart from start to finish. I’m trying to put my entire reliance on Him. But in doing so, I pray that I don’t neglect the rich relationships and resources He’s given me in the body of believers.

10/20/2009

The Reluctant Teacher


It looks like I’m going to have to break down and homeschool my youngest child—for drivers ed! Despite coming from a long line of teachers, I am not one. It was an easy choice to send my daughter to the local driving school. I wanted her to learn to drive without putting my own life—or hers—in danger. I wanted to enjoy the process with her, but not be responsible for it.

When my next child, my son, turned 15, we could have foregone the driving school in that he would have listened to us and done what we said. But, like his sister, he has a spring birthday, so his sports were finished for the year and going to a three-week class didn’t pose a problem.

Now comes the baby of the family. A fall birthday. His drivers ed classes would fall smack-dab in the middle of things. Football would be winding down. Basketball would be gearing up. Not to mention the weekly piano lesson that would have to be moved. The scheduling becomes a nightmare, so I’m going to have to take on the task myself. (He doesn’t want his dad to do it. All of the kids banned Dad to the back seat when driving with their permits. His stress turns into their stress.) My son is motivated to get it done, so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem, but, I confess, it stresses me out a bit.

I don’t mind being driven by a learning driver; I’m just not sure how comfortable I’ll be teaching one!

10/16/2009

A Lesson Learned


My daughter came home from college for the first time this weekend. We were so excited to see her, and yet I knew she would come home with plans that didn’t include her family. I didn’t want to make that a big deal. I just wanted to enjoy the bits of time she gave us. So on her first evening home I asked her agenda, mainly due to sharing cars. She went on to tell me about Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

“But I told everyone I couldn’t do anything on Sunday. I told them I was spending time with my family that day,” she said.

Immediately my mind flashed back The Cosby Show. Over the years, we’ve loved watching the reruns with our kids. We’ve probably seen most of the episodes multiple times. Anyway, her words seemed to mimic Denise Huxtable’s on her first weekend home from college.

I looked at my daughter. “You got that from Denise, on The Cosby Show, didn’t you?”

She laughed. “I really did think of that, how her family wanted to see her but she was so busy with her friends. Then she told her friends she had to spend a day with her family.”

Sometimes that visual image stays with them much longer than mere words. So thank you, Bill Cosby, for lots of laughs and family memories—and even some lessons learned!

10/14/2009

The Reason for Quiet


Yes, I’ve been quiet lately. Sometimes that means I’m just busy—with kids, with writing, with life. Sometimes it means I don’t have anything to say. Sometimes it means things are simmering in my head, not quite ready to land in the public arena yet.

This time it’s all three. I’m deep into rewrites on my novel. Those need to be done by the end of next month so my critique group has time to evaluate the whole book and so I can get some Christmas shopping done! Because of that, my head is full of those characters and that story, leaving little room for anything else.

What room is left in my head has been focused on homecoming festivities and football and fall break and an editing job, so the thought of looking at a blank screen and trying to figure out what to blog simply unnerves me.

And yet . . . there are things simmering in there. Thoughts I occasionally take the lid off of and sniff the air. Are they done yet? Have all the flavors permeated the dish? I smell and taste and shake my head, stick the lid back on and wait. One of these days I’ll be ready to set those thoughts on the table for you.

So when you see a lull in my posts after you type in or click on my name, say a little prayer for me, please. I assure you I’m busy doing something. And if I’m busy enough not to blog, then my days are probably more than full!

10/09/2009

A Funny (kind of) Dream

I had a dream last night, or early this morning to be exact. I dreamt that it was my turn to bring football drinks and fruit for halftime (which it is) and that I got to the game—and all the way to halftime!—before I remembered. In my dream, it was an away game (tonight we’re at home) and I ran to the concession stand to buy drinks for the team. And guess what? I had no cash! So I asked if I could use my debit card. They said no.

I remember in my dream looking at the little machine on their table and blinking in wonder. “You don’t take debit cards?” I asked. I pulled out another card. “How about credit?”

The little girl (read: teenager) working the concession stand pulled out a piece of paper. “Yes, we take those things, but not from you. We checked your account balance and it is insufficient.”

“What?!” I cried. I couldn’t tell if I was more outraged by her checking my account or the fact that I knew I had enough money in there for this.

Off I raced with my empty wallet, determined to find a bank and a grocery store. Time cut to my return to the football field where, when I’d left, the score had been 6-6. Our players were making their way to the cars, heads down.

“What happened?” I asked the nearest person.

“45’d,” was the answer. (The six-man football mercy rule.) The other team had scored 45 points (and us, 0) in the time I’d been gone.

I was furious—with myself. In this dream, I berated myself for a head so full of writing that I overlooked what I needed to do for my boys. It was an awful dream, and one of the most vivid I can remember lately. But you can be sure that I won’t forget to send drinks for the football team this evening!

10/08/2009

10/05/2009

Through Christ

It’s a busy, busy week this week. So much on my calendar that is not my own. And yet I have my own agenda, too. How will it all get done? Inevitably, I get little sleep the night before a week like this. I toss and turn trying to fit all my plans into the coming days, but it feels like fitting pieces into a puzzle of a snow-covered landscape. Finally, finally—after all that wrangling—I give my week to the Lord, asking Him to arrange it, to make time for what needs to be done and to give me wisdom to not worry about the unimportant. It still takes a while to release the need to figure it out, but eventually I sleep.

Why do I do that? Why do I wait so long to do what needs to be done at the very first hint of anxiety?

I woke early this morning, again anxious, but again releasing my day, my week, into the hand of the Lord. After a cup of coffee and another glance at my calendar/to-do-list, I found it manageable, as long as I remain focused. The hours are there to accomplish what I must. But another question lingers: will I use those hours to their fullest potential instead of frittering away valuable time?

With a deep breath and another prayer of relinquishment, I determine that I will.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phillipians 4:13

10/04/2009

An Inkwell Inspirations Devotional

Click the banner and come read my Sunday devotional over at Inkwell Inspirations!

10/01/2009

Autumn Musings

Fall has truly inched its way into Texas. I love this time of year. The nights and mornings are cooler now. My sweet tooth craves candy corn. My dinner menus include lots of soup. I pull out my jeans and my longer sleeved shirts. Football is in full swing. Pumpkin pies will be made and eaten. Summer seems a long, hot dream—one I have no desire to revisit soon.

But mostly what I love about autumn is the promise of winter that tinges the air. I’m so glad God made the seasons to change.

9/30/2009

Over Regulation

I don’t often pay attention to news items, but this one caught my eye and stirred my passions. A Michigan woman received a notice that if she continued to watch her neighbors children in her home while they waited for the morning school bus, she would be in violation of state law.

Are you kidding me? It seems like everywhere we turn lately the government is trying to get into people’s business. This was a friend doing a favor for other friends. Apparently they often trade off watching each other’s kids. I know what that’s like. I did the same when my kids were small. But Michigan law says some crazy thing like “you cannot have non-family member children in your home more than four weeks in a calendar year unless you are a licensed day-care.” Seems a bit over-the-top, don’t you think? What about an older couple who take the role of “surrogate grandparents” for a younger couple and keep the kids in their home sometimes? Or what if a family takes in a friend of their child’s after school so that child doesn’t have to be home alone? Is Michigan going to threaten those people, too?

I think we’ve lost all perspective in government. In an attempt to ward off any potential abuse in a system, we begin to penalize those who are simply doing the right thing. Being an American and a Texan, I have an independent streak a mile wide, the same independent streak that characterized my forefathers. I know what is right and intend to do it. I expect the government to deal with those who don’t. So it rankles when a government—any government in my United States—makes laws that penalize good citizens in order to possibly deter one or two offenders. (Because of course we know that those who circumvent the law usually find a way to do it, no matter how the law is worded.)

Ok, I’ve vented now. You can return to your regularly scheduled program.

9/28/2009

A Slow Burn

I’ll admit I’m a bit biased. Mary DeMuth is not only one of my critique partners, but she is also a very good friend. For years, I’ve been able to see her books go from idea to first draft to published novel. And while her language has always been beautiful and surprising, what strikes me most in reading A Slow Burn is her growth as a storyteller.

A Slow Burn is the second book in the Defiance, Texas Trilogy. It follows Daisy Chain, in which a young girl goes missing. While Daisy Chain recounts fourteen-year-old Jed Pepper’s struggle to come to grips with Daisy’s disappearance, A Slow Burn delves into Daisy’s mother’s battle with guilt and grief. But lest you think this book is a downer, it is also filled with grace and redemption, sometimes from very surprising places.

As I said, re-reading this book (or rather, reading it in its final, finished form) illuminated Mary’s growth as a storyteller. Not only do her characters live and breath, but each character, each word, each description has meaning that is often revisited throughout the book. The story not only holds together, it forces you as a reader to keep turning the pages. And its final destination does not disappoint. No string is left hanging, no question unanswered—except those that will be revealed in the third and final book!

I’m not the best “book reviewer” in the world, so if you want to see what others are saying about A Slow Burn, check out these blogs.

9/25/2009

The State Fair of Texas

We went to the State Fair of Texas today. It’s a yearly pilgrimage to fried food and farm animals, with the new car building reminding us we are well into the 21st century. This year, as my feet walked familiar paths, I remembered that our annual journey to this place is not something new.

The State Fair of Texas has been around since 1887, with its initial draw being horseracing. Aerial shows and automobiles became featured in the early 20th century. The Great War and the Spanish flu caused its cancellation in 1918. So as we walked past Big Tex and visited the numerous buildings and shows, I imagined others around us, those who over a hundred years ago enjoyed a similar family outing, a day (or in the case of some people, days) of escape from the normal routine. It feels good to walk paths long trod. It gives one a feeling of continuity. A remembrance that though things change, so many, many things remain the same.

9/22/2009

The Hard Work of a Writer

I think there is often a misconception about the real work of a writer. Yes, it seems amazing to some people that writers come up with unusual storylines or characters or that they can write pages upon pages, thousands upon thousands of words, to spin the tale. But that isn’t the real work of a writer. That, my friends, is the fun part. The real work of the writer is in the re-writing.

I finished an 86, 000-word manuscript. I’ve had majorly positive feedback on it. But now it is time to get down to the gritty work of implementing changes to make the story and characters stronger. To make them gripping—and unforgettable. To tell the story in such a way that the reader remembers it long after she turns the final page.

To achieve this lofty goal requires the ability to detatch, to tear apart and build up again, to discard something “good” for the sake of something “better.” That will be my task over the next couple of months. It is make or break time. I can create character and weave a story, but can I do the hard work of a writer? Only time will tell.

9/20/2009

2009 ACFW Conference

I had a blast this year at the ACFW Conference. I connected and reconnected with some wonderful people, learned more about writing, worshiped with 500 other believers and witnessed the hand of the Lord in both my own life and in others’ lives. I came home with memories that will be cherished for a lifetime.

One fun thing was meeting some of my fellow "Inkies" from the new Inkwell Inspirations blog. Before this past weekend, I'd only met one of these ladies face to face, but after the weeks we've spent weeks planning our blog, I'd already come to think of them as friends.




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9/15/2009

Going and Growing

I love writing conferences. There is something so wonderful about being surrounded by so many other people who “get” you. And when those other people also love the Lord, the experience becomes even more amazing!

Over the past 6 years that I’ve been attending conferences, I stand in awe at how much the Lord has done in me as a person and as a writer. I’ve learned and grown in the craft of fiction, but I’ve also learned and grown in my faith. This year, I’m not frightened at the thought of meeting new people or speaking to editors and agents about my work. Not that I don’t have any nervous flutterings over those things, but I’m not afraid. I’m even rooming with someone I’ve only met via email. That’s a huge step for me! So even if writing conferences are never my path to publication, they have been worthwhile endeavors. They have provided great opportunities for learning to trust the Lord and yearly markers through which to see the progress of growth.

I’m so thankful for yet another opportunity to go and to grow!

9/14/2009

Just What I Needed

We walked into church and looked at our programs. The sermon topic: Do not worry.

“I guess that’s a good one for you before you go to your conference,” my husband said.

I shook my head. “I’m not worried. I’m good.”

And I believed that. Until the sermon. As the preacher spoke word upon word, the Holy Spirit sliced through my heart. I was worried. Maybe not about the things I’ve been worried about in past years, but worried all the same.

And a life lived in worry is a life not lived by faith. And whatever isn’t from faith is sin. So I discovered I had some repenting to do. I know whom I have believed. And I need to trust Him for all things.

So the sermon I thought I didn’t need was the one I needed after all. Isn’t God good?

9/11/2009

That Time of Day

Just a few months after I turned 40 I decided I had to start exercising and eating right. It was a “now or never” moment. So I plunged in.

Two years later, I’m still at it, more faithful than ever (although the eating thing takes a big hit whenever my daughter is around to cook). But here’s the thing: I still hate it. I hate not eating chocolate cake whenever I want it. I hate making myself exercise, whether at home or in the gym. I thought that, after awhile, I’d begin to enjoy exercise. Or at least that I wouldn’t hate it. (I never really thought I’d come to love the eating right thing. I’d live on desserts if I could!)

I’ll admit I that I’m probably in the best shape of my life (or at least getting there now that the girl is away at school!) and that I feel good. So why is it I still dread that exercise time of day?

9/07/2009

Julie & Julia

We finally went to see Julie & Julia. I loved the Julia Child parts. I hated the Julie Powell parts. But let me explain.

At first, I had some sympathy for Julie. After all, I remember that feeling of life slipping away, of wanting to “do” something, to “be” somebody. But as her story progressed, all I could see was a woman becoming more and more enamored of herself, of her accomplishment. The most telling line came when her husband asked, “What are you going to do when you aren’t the center of the universe anymore?”

Contrast this with Julia Child, who enjoyed cooking for herself and her husband, her friends and her family. She wanted to be good at what she did. She wanted to fill her time with something worthwhile. She didn’t cook to become somebody. She knew who she was and was comfortable in that. She pursued her passion, and after years and years of work, her cookbook got published. But her cookbook and television success didn’t define her. It was simply an outgrowth of who she was. The cooking blog seemed the other way around for Julie—a desperate attempt for definition. At least in how it was portrayed in the movie. (I confess I have not read the book, so I don’t know if the movie was accurate.)

The most astounding thing? My 18-year-old daughter told me the same thing the day she saw it. I was amazed. At 18, I was definitely in the “trying to define myself” mode. In fact, I wandered that road for a very long time. After years of inner turmoil, I found my peace by pressing into Jesus. He gave me a deeper understanding of how much He loves me and of what He desires for my life. In Julie & Julia, the contrast between the settled and the seeking becomes so painfully apparent.

9/05/2009

The Blue Enchantress

I have been so excited to read M.L.Tyndall’s newest book The Blue Enchantress, the second book in the Charles Towne Belles series. For those who enjoy an action-packed romance set in the 18th century on the high seas, you won’t be disappointed!

Poor Hope Westcott. We learned a bit about her in the first book. It was obvious she was a disaster waiting to happen. And because of her numerous shortcomings and insecurities, her redemption is so sweet. The truth of God’s power to redeem both our past and our present come shining through. But least you think that makes for a ho-hum read, the drama in this story is non-stop, complete with a hurricane, a deserted island, and pirates thrown in for good measure.

I will admit that Hope did not capture my heart as completely as her sister Faith in The Red Siren, but I think that is just my personal preference not any fault of the author. And in great “leave them hanging” fashion, Tyndall set the stage for sister Grace’s story. I can’t wait to see what happens to her!

9/02/2009

Spaces

One of my favorite features on my Mac is a thing called Spaces. For those of you who have never seen this nifty option, it basically divides the screen into four “spaces.” You can then place open documents, applications, whatever, into these spaces and switch between the spaces at will, the chosen “space” occupying your entire screen and eliminating the need to constantly switch what is on top.

I think the reason I love this option so much is that it mirrors the way I work in the physical realm. I have different “spaces” in my house in which I tend to do different things. For instance, my small leather recliner by the front window, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling bookshelves tends to be where I read when I don’t want to be disturbed. It is away from the family room, but not beyond its sight. Sometimes it is for quiet weekend mornings of reading the paper with my husband in his matching chair beside me.

My chair in the family room is for the details. My computer lives on the ottoman most of the time. I can sit and work while my family watches TV or does homework. I keep a file basket beside me to hold all the paperwork mom’s have to keep up with—school, music lessons, sports, etc.

In the study, I can write. And edit. And revise. Seriously. A lot of material in a short amount of time. When my computer and I land in the chair-and-a-half, we know it is time to work with words and story.

And in my bedroom is the spot on a small sofa where relationship happens—relationship with Jesus, movies or private conversations with my husband, even an occasional heart-to-heart with one of my children. That space is sacred, rarely jumbled up with the business of life or writing.
So just like my “spaces” in my home keep my world from becoming too cluttered, so Spaces on my computer does the same thing. I guess that’s part of what is meant when people say a Mac is more “intuitive.” It reflects the way we do things in the real world.

8/31/2009

Inkwell Inspirations



Hey y’all!

I’m excited to be part of a new group blog of award-winning, not-yet-published writers that goes live TODAY. We call our blog Inkwell Inspirations. I think it will be a fun, challenging, and informative place for readers and writers. We’d love to have you visit—and stay awhile, if you like!

Those who comment will be entered in daily prize drawings through September and October.

I’ll still post here, but a couple of times a month, I’ll post over there. And don’t worry. I’ll always let you know when.

8/25/2009

To Be Like Jesus

Isaiah 11 tells of the coming of the Messiah. The beginning of this chapter was quite familiar to me—a stem of Jesse, the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him—but a couple of verses down it describes Jesus this way:

And He will delight in the fear of the Lord, and He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make decisions by what His ears hear. (Isaiah 11:3)

Oh, that I would be like Jesus in these ways!

8/22/2009

The Writing Spa

Who would have thought that seven years ago when two wonderful ladies asked me to be in a weekly critique group with them (a group we named Life Sentence) that it would lead to this.

My dear friend Mary DeMuth, then an unpublished author, now a multi-published one, recently started an editing and mentoring service called The Writing Spa. And as of this month, Leslie Wilson and I are joining her team!

I can officially say that I am a freelance editor. Not a destination I ever imagined for myself, and yet one that seems to fit nicely, like a good pair of shoes. If you are a writer in need of some help, come check out The Writing Spa.

8/18/2009

Clash of Cultures

Jeff and I will use any excuse to tour a historical site. And to stay over night in one? Well, that’s even better!

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about the history of southern Louisiana. In the space of a few hours, we got to glimpse the clash of cultures in that region firsthand. In the morning, we toured a Creole plantation house. It was built by a French family. That afternoon, we toured a plantation house built by an English-speaking family originally from North Carolina. A fascinating contrast!

Besides the obvious—French-speaking vs. English-speaking, Catholic vs. protestant—there were some other interesting differences. For instance, Creole houses were painted in bright colors. They had no hallways—one room flowed directly into another. The center doors were not used, though they often stood open. The planters conducted business from their bedrooms, only later using a small dressing room off the bedroom as a designated office space (because their more Americanized counterparts were not comfortable conducting business in a bedroom).

On the other hand, most homes of English-speaking people were painted white. The particular house we visited (and stayed in overnight!) was classic Greek revival with white columns, a large center door opening into a central hall and staircase. Very Gone With the Wind-ish. While in both houses the dining room comprised the largest of the rooms, this house sported two parlors and a library besides the various bedrooms.

Each family viewed their dwelling as differently as they built them. The English-speaking family lived in their house. It was home. For many French-speakers, the plantation house was business, a place to live during planting and harvesting seasons. Many considered “home” to be a house in New Orleans. Not true for all, but more common than for their more American counterparts.

The history represented in both houses is the kind of history I love. To me, the “big” historical events pale in comparison to how daily life was lived out. I love family histories and pictures and memoirs. I loved staying in that historical home and imaging what it would have been like to live there in 1850, 1880, 1910, 1950. We had a lovely adventure into the past at both plantations. I’m glad we got to visit them in the same day.

8/13/2009

Beginnings of Change

The season is beginning its change around our house. No, the leaves aren’t putting on their autumn colors or fluttering to the ground. And yet just as sure as new blades of grass signal the advent of spring, we are on the cusp of transformation.

Our oldest is leaving for college. Her departure is the first cold front that promises winter, the first 100-degree May day that warns of summer’s heat. In four short years we will have an empty nest. While we will enjoy the last years of our children in our house on a daily basis, we also plan to prepare for what lies ahead for just the two of us.

The season is changing. And I find that instead of wanting to hold on to the season that has passed, I’m embracing the one to come.

8/10/2009

Ten Days

I’ve hit that point in my summer where I am ready for school to begin. I’m tired of no set schedule. I’m ready for things to settle into a routine. It’s not really that I want my kids to go away (which is usually the case), but more that I need some real structure to my life again.

Ten more days. I just have to hold on for ten more days.

8/06/2009

Psalm 23

We went over Psalm 23 a few weeks ago in Sunday school. I’ve been thinking quite a lot about it since then. What struck me, on this reading, was the first verse: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.

I’ve always read that verse in context of today’s definition of “want”: desire, crave. Reading with that definition, the onus for the act of not wanting is on my shoulders. But that is not what God meant at all. The Hebrew word for “want” in this verse is the older definition: to lack. “I shall not lack” puts the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the Shepherd.

I’ve been thinking about that difference in terms of specifics. Look at it in these two sentences:

I shall not crave peace.

I shall not lack peace.

Wow. “I shall not want” does require something of me. It requires me to stop striving. To rest. To trust. To keep my eyes off the things around me—both the good and the bad—and keep them on Jesus, my Shepherd, my Provider. And yet it goes beyond “me,” too. This same statement is made to every believer, so I don’t have to worry that my brother or sister in Christ won’t have everything they need, when they need it. They won’t lack, if Christ is their Shepherd, just as I won’t lack.

I think there is great freedom in realizing “I will not lack” versus “I will not desire.” Our flesh still desires so many things. But the way to combat that flaw of sinful man is by knowing, believing, clinging to the fact that “I will not lack” something vital and necessary to my life because the Lord is my Shepherd.

I’m sure I’ve heard a pastor say all this at some point in my life, but sometimes it takes me a while to get it. And I’m still not sure I get it completely. But isn’t that the best part? I will not lack for understanding—even when it comes a little at a time over the course of many, many years.

8/04/2009

Grace for the Moment

Last summer I went on an organizational frenzy. I cleaned out all the closets, cabinets, and panty—even my side of the garage! I found a calendar and filing system that worked for me. I had a place for everything and everything in its place. Why? Because something stirred strong inside of me, pushing me to get it done, telling me I’d be sorry during the school year if I didn’t. Yes, it was the Holy Spirit.

I confess, at the time I thought it might be because something would happen with my book. Halfway through the school year I realized it had nothing to do with that at all. It was simply God’s grace to prepare me for an extremely busy year that was partly of my own making (by not saying no to a few things) and partly the nature of having a senior as well as other kids still in school.

This summer, I haven’t had any fits of cleaning out, but in spite of the fact that clutter and disorganization usually make me crazy, I haven’t been bothered by it. Not yet, anyway. Again, I see God’s grace for the moment. I have been able to focus on writing my book and being with my family and God’s grace has tamped down my normal stress over everything else.

I’m learning that the Lord provides grace in each day. And grace that prepares for what we don’t know that lies ahead. It’s just a matter of learning to recognize it for what it is.

8/01/2009

I'm Back!

Yes, I’ve been away for a while. Not away from home. Hunkered down at home, actually, finishing my latest manuscript. It’s off for a last look by my critique partner and after I fix what she finds, it will wing its way into the world.

I’ll have more to say about what I’ve learned through that process later on. For now, I just wanted to say that I should be blogging again more regularly now.

Thanks for sticking around!

7/24/2009

A Fun Find

We spent a couple of days in east Texas with some of our good friends. One morning, Jeff and I ventured into a larger town and wandered through a few antique stores. We love antiques, though we buy very few. Our weakness, however, is books. (Of course!)

We found three books we were willing to shell out $2-$3 each to own. One was a copy of a book I read as a child. It’s kind of an obscure book. I’ve never heard anyone mention it, never found it hanging around in a current library collection. But when I saw it in a dusty back corner amidst a tumble of children’s books, I grabbed it up.

I don’t know if, on a re-reading, it will hold any literary merit at all, but I remember it being a book I truly enjoyed, one that continued to fuel my love of reading—and book-buying, for it was one that lived in my bookshelf for years! I wondered if the author would find a satisfaction in that. She didn’t write a bestseller, but her story meant something to someone. And isn’t that the point?

Actually, I still have titles on my shelves that few people have ever heard of, authors that are not even close to household names. I keep them for the same reason that I bought this one: because the reading of them is a good memory. And somehow I feel I owe it to the ones who penned those stories to make sure they don’t disappear forever.

7/22/2009

The College Life

What is it about a college campus that draws me? For the past two days I’ve been on a local university campus while my sister attended yearbook workshops with her students. She needed an extra driver and thought the time away without responsibilities would afford me time to write. And it did. I got tons accomplished! But just walking across campus and into the student center sent waves of longing through me.

My reaction didn’t surprise me, though. It happens to my husband and I every time we return to our university for a football game or other event. I think it’s a combination of good memories, a beautiful place, the opportunity for intellectual stimulation, and a lifestyle that thrives on relationships. But our infatuation with the college life is more than the campus, more than the classes, more than the lifestyle. It’s all three in combination with each other, none able to be separated out.

Maybe that’s why the thought of sending my oldest to college this year hasn’t seemed as hard for me as for other mothers I know. I’m so excited for her—to get to experience and learn and make lifelong friends. She’s too much like both Jeff and I not to thrive in that environment.

I’d go back to college myself in a heartbeat. And in any capacity—student or staff. Maybe wife of a professor. Hm, that might be the best of all worlds!

7/15/2009

Slow and Steady

In our fast-paced, run-faster world, we sometimes forget to remember that the story of the tortoise and the hare represents a true truth. I’m re-learning that this summer. Instead of having big chunks of time in which to write a book that must be finished in the next month, I’ve had all the normal errands as well as summer stuff as well as kids in and out of the house—sometimes on an hour-by-hour basis. But through it all, I’m writing a little here, editing a little there. Every time I think there is no way I can finish this project on time, I realize that slow and steady is at least keeping pace. I find I’ve done more than I imagined. I discover that perhaps my deadline set by faith can be met, both by the grace of God and my diligent efforts to run the race step by step instead of in frantic bursts.

I think the diligence and self-discipline are the real lessons here. And I know these truths apply to so much more than my writing. They apply to exercising, eating right, Bible study, relationships, money—everything! But I don’t act as if they do. Instead, I hurry, hurry, hurry, doing a slap-dab job at one thing, ready to move on before I should. I forget that the end result of slow-and-steady is the one I am really trying to achieve. I want to cross the finish line not just for the sake of “winning,” but also to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

7/09/2009

Pages of the Past

I went to look up just one little piece of information for my historical novel. I knew I needed it straight from the source my character would have had access to: the newspaper. Two hours and about twenty printed pages later, I emerged.

You see, I’m a sucker for old newspapers. They say so much! The language is, of course, important—what words are used and how. I love one ad I found: Estrayed—one fawn-colored jersey cow. Estrayed! What a great word! The articles are important for what is told and the conclusions that are reached on national and international events and questions, especially from the vantage point of looking back and having more information. The ads are wonderful sources of detail to add texture to a historical story and also good research into what kinds of things were available to the general public at a given time.

Page after page after page of fascinating stuff. And very little of it would have seemed so to the people who read it in “real time.” For me, these pages of the past help round out the picture of life for people that lived through the events we read of in our history books. And for me, the lives of ordinary people are the best part of history.

7/06/2009

Feeling Left Out

Trust has been a huge topic between the Lord and I lately. Seems like every teaching I hear, every scripture I read and every conversation I have comes back around to trusting God. Really trusting, not just saying I trust Him.

I have come to that place of trust in some areas of my life. Not so much in others. Just this past week I’ve been sliding into a funk over not having an agent. It seems like everywhere I turn I hear other writers talking about their agents. Writers that are on about the same level I am. And I’ve started feeling left out. I’ve been wondering what I’ve done wrong. Have I not been as persistent as I should? As personable? Is my writing still not up to par?

Now I do know that I am happy none of the projects that I’ve pitched to and had rejected by agents have come to fruition, because I don’t think I would have been happy with those projects and possibly those agents in the long run. I keep telling myself that somewhere out there is someone who “gets” me, someone who, on a professional and a personal level, will champion my work. But right now it feels like finding that person will never happen.

And then it all comes back to trust. Do I trust the Lord to do with my writing what He will—even if that never includes publication? Do I trust the Lord to give me the exact right agent for the exact right project at the exact right time? Do I trust that the Lord can make what He wants happen, with or without an agent in the picture?

I’m grappling with all of that as I finish this manuscript, one that I feel good about, one that has already garnered some attention. And still I struggle. Do I trust God—ultimately and always? The answer is yes, but sometimes getting my head to believe my heart takes a little while.

7/01/2009

The Tree and the Chaff

I love so many of the word pictures in the Bible. They often explain God’s heart so much more fully than mere words would do. Lately I’ve been considering the contrasting pictures in the first Psalm. Those that “delight in the law of the Lord” are described as a tree rooted by a stream. The “wicked” are compared to the chaff that the wind blows away.


Think about that. Can there be two more extreme images? A tree—a flourishing tree, nonetheless—that soaks up water from the nearby stream through its deep roots. It is living. Steady. Immovable. Lasting. It is also beautiful. And functional, providing shade as well as producing fruit in its season.

The chaff, on the other hand, is almost weightless, able to be blown away by the wind. It is the extra but unnecessary part of the crop. The dead and useless part. The waste.

I’ve considered both of these images in the past, but never in their direct contrast with each other, as they are presented in Psalm 1. It really makes you want to be the tree, doesn’t it?

6/24/2009

World Magazine's Last Lines Contest

My name appeared in World Magazine this week. They’d asked for submissions of favorite “last lines” of books. I got so excited, because I do have some favorite last lines. But alas, there was a 50-word limit, and my favorite ending required contained a few words more to complete the sentences. So I submitted my second favorite ending, from Gone With the Wind. Four others also submitted this one. Our names appear beneath our entry.

But I still contend that if I’d been able to submit from my first choice, it would have been in the running to win. So since I have the forum to do it, I thought I’d share it here. Below are my favorite “last lines” of a novel. In fact, I’ve often wanted them framed so I could read them as I pass by. They are beautiful not only for their sentiment, but for their poetry.

From The Train to Estelline by Jane Roberts Wood:

I sat on the steps and watched Christobel, who loves Mr. Sully, Berl who has nobody, and Mr. Dawson, who had wanted a boy, watched them dancing, and I said to myself, “Lucy, you could sit here on these steps forever, waiting for things to be right.”

And I got up and walked out to where the dancing was.

I hope instead of spoiling the book, these lines intrigue you enough to read it!

6/20/2009

Up

A good movie does what a good book does: it shows, it doesn’t tell. However, sometimes books and movies have lazy writers who tell instead of show. The people who create the Pixar movies very seldom fall into that category.

We saw Up last night. Wonderful movie. But from the “short” before the main feature through the end of the film, I was also fascinated by the mastery of the writers in showing, not telling.

Have you ever considered the Pixar short films? They are completely wordless, yet you don’t just know what is happening in them, you know who it is happening to. The sense of character is extraordinary, even with no words spoken.

I found this to be particularly true of the beginning sequence of Up as well. We see, we experience, Ellie and Carl’s years together in a way that impacts us emotionally. (Ok, I cried.) Having Carl say, “Ellie and I had a good, long marriage. I miss her,” wouldn’t have had the same effect. Likewise, throughout the movie, even the dialogue revealed character with a subtleness of getting to know a new friend.

I highly recommend this movie for writers. But I also highly recommend this movie for everyone else, too. It will make you laugh and cry and inspire you to go back to your life and live it.

6/17/2009

The Making of a Great Day

I had a great day yesterday. A productive one. Laundry done. Nine pages edited and sent to my critique group. 4175 new words written. I worked out, had some time in God’s word, and even managed to watch a movie in bits and pieces as I folded clothes. But those things, which normally would have defined my great day, weren’t the reason for it.

The best part of yesterday was receiving a call from a friend that morning to pray for her and finding out that afternoon that the Lord had intervened in a miraculous way. Even if I hadn’t marked one thing off my to-do list yesterday, it still would have been a great day just because of that! I love it when the Lord so clearly shows Himself!

6/15/2009

The Parties Are Over

I’m not a very good party giver. I prefer to play hostess to more impromptu and casual affairs. On those occasions, it doesn’t bother me that my house is less than stellar, nor do I care that the food is not five-star quality. I just enjoy the fellowship and don’t worry about the rest. But a planned event is a whole different thing in my mind. I get majorly stressed—over the house, the food, the people attending. I want it all to be right. And I want everyone to have fun.

I gave a graduation party two weeks ago and a bridal shower yesterday. As usual, I didn’t feel like either went the way I wanted them to. But as I considered it later, I wondered if my stress colors my perception of the outcome. Perhaps both parties were nice and fun. Perhaps people enjoyed being there. Perhaps everything really did go according to plan but the details that required my attention from beginning to end skewed my view of each party as a whole.

Thinking these things still doesn’t make me want to give a party again anytime soon. In fact, it makes me grateful there isn’t anything like that on my calendar in the near future!

6/09/2009

Delighting in Dickens (Yet Again!)

The sheer size and density of each Dickens’ novel intimidates me. I think I’ve said that here before. And yet when I finally take a deep breath and crack open the cover, I revel in the world he creates, marveling at his genius as a writer. 

I just finished Little Dorrit. I picked it up after watching the new Masterpiece Classic version on PBS. And what a delightful read! As usual, Dickens ability to create character is almost unparalleled. This one, in particular, used some great devices to show character, whether through speech or mannerisms or thought processes. 

For instance, throughout the entire book Mr. Pancks is described in terms of a steamboat. It is amazing how Dickens makes the reader see Pancks by this extended metaphor. 

Flora,  a woman stuck in the past, runs her mouth continually in stream-of-consciousness dialogue (or rather monologue, since other characters can barely get a word in!) Dickens SHOWS this trait by writing her dialogue with almost no punctuation. Lines after line of it, subject constantly changing, with only the occasional (very occasional) comma and period. 

The Marshalsea Prison becomes a character and is even described as one would a person, both in looks and thoughts. It becomes a living, breathing part of that world, not just a “setting.” 

Of course, being Dickens, these characters are only a few in a cast of many. I could go on and on concerning the “dream sequences” of Afferty, the unique physical appearances of Flintwinch and Mrs. Clennam and Blandois and “the Bosom.”  Add in the irony of the Circumlocution Office and Society and this romping satire of politics and society make this Dickens novel another jewel for both the reader and the writer. But I think my favorites might be the cast of truly “good” characters. Amy Dorrit. Arthur Clennam. John Chivery and his father. These are characters you root for, and ones who do not disappoint in the end.

 

 

6/08/2009

Home Again

Elizabeth got home last night from her senior class trip to Cancun. They had a great time. We asked her if they got on each other's nerves. (It's a small school. These kids are almost always together!) Her reply? "Nope. We got along great. It was like one big family vacation."

Wow! I love that! She said when they ventured out from the resort a couple of times, the guys were extremely protective of the girls, stationing themselves before and behind the group. I love these kids! I love the relationships she has had with these boys, how they have been good friends to the girls and treated them with respect. I hope she will find some more of these types of friends as she goes off to college! 

I'm glad she got to celebrate her graduation with her friends and with a few days of fun and sun. Now it's back to the real world: work and getting ready for her Ghana trip!


6/07/2009

Busy As Bees

Have I mentioned how much I hate to work outside? Don’t get me wrong, I love a beautiful yard as much as the next person, I just hate the hot and the dirt and the bugs! But my in-laws love it. When they come to visit, they take on the projects I don’t have the time or inclination to do. Like cleaning out the flower beds and trimming the bushes and re-cementing the mailbox (we had it propped up with bricks!) and staining the deck. 

I wish I had some before and after pictures, but since I don’t, here are the after pictures. It’s all beautiful! And just in time for me to give a bridal shower next weekend. Thanks, Bernie and Jane!







6/02/2009

A Routine Search

I’m at the beginning of an unusual summer for me. Generally, after a school year of routine, I’m ready for a few (and I do mean few!) weeks of unstructured time. However, this school year never felt like it fell into a predictable rhythm for me. Between my volunteer responsibilities and my kids, something urgent seemed to crop up almost daily. Thus, I find myself on the precipice of summer searching for that which, at this point in the year, I usually despise: routine. 

This summer, my goal is to find a daily routine that encompasses ALL of my priorities—time with the Lord, physical exercise, writing, and family—as well as a weekly routine that allows me to maintain my home, my relationships, and my sanity. Sound impossible? Probably. But if I can even gain a good foothold this summer, the transition to the school year shouldn’t be overwhelming with just 2 high school boys, both on the same schedules of sports and things. 

Of course this is all easier said than done. And I know that even finding a good routine doesn’t guarantee that it will happen every day. After all, life happens. But my routine will never happen if I don’t try!

5/29/2009

Graduations

We’ve been planning all year for a graduation this week. But we didn’t expect two graduations. Earlier this week our Aunt Debby graduated from the Now into Eternity. As Elizabeth crosses the stage and receives her high school diploma, a prelude to the next step in her life, Aunt Debby will be laid to rest 2000 miles away. 

We will miss being there with the family. And they will miss being with us. We will miss Aunt Debby when we visit next—miss her laughter and her conversation. In fact, it won’t really seem real that she is gone until we miss her then. 

So we will rejoice and grieve at the same time tomorrow. But isn’t that in itself simply a picture of our life on this earth? We take the good with the bad, the happy with the sad. We smile and we cry. Our hearts swell with pride and break with hurt, all at the same time. Yet our God is in every moment. And life goes on.