The End of Summer

No, school doesn’t start on Monday, but it is the end of summer all the same. The end of summer jobs for my two oldest, the beginning of football two-a-days for the two youngest. (That one in the middle overlaps into both groups!) It is also the date I’d set in my mind for the end of research on the new book. I have some good stuff, but now I have to figure out the actual story and see what specific research I need to fill some holes. So come Monday, we will all buckle down and get to work. Even the daughter who doesn’t leave for school quite yet must finish sorting her room into taking-to-college and storing-in-garage so her brother can move in when she leaves.

When I wake up Monday morning, my whole thinking will have shifted. And that’s a good thing. While I’ve learned to enjoy the go-with-the-flow of summer days, I’m ready to get productive again.

So what signifies the end of summer for you? A date? An event? A holiday? Do you end summer reluctantly or with a warm embrace of farewell? 


Hinds Feet on High Places

Over a decade ago, as the Lord wooed me into a deeper relationship with Him, I read a book that gave bolstered my weak faith and spurred me forward. Hannah Hurnard’s Hinds Feet on High Places is an allegory of the Christian’s journey from one in employment of the Shepherd to one who lives in intimate relationship with Him. It isn’t about the journey to heaven, like Pilgrim’s Progress, but about the journey of our relationship with Jesus here in this life.

I really hadn’t thought of this book in years. Not until the possibility of a book contract began to look like a real thing. One day as I once again prayed “not my will but Yours be done,” it struck me that I had reached a true place of surrender—at least in my writing life. (Not there yet in other places!) Anyway, it occurred to me then that the Lord might be about to call me from a safe plateau to a new climb of faith. That’s when I thought of Hinds Feet on High Places.

Last week I pulled the book from my shelf. It isn’t a long book, but it is one that should be pondered. I read with both remembrance of the past and fresh eyes for the future. I saw how far the Lord has brought me up that mountain and how far I still have to go. Maybe it’s one of those things I need to read every 10 years or so as a benchmark, a measuring stick, a mark on the wall that tells me inches have been added.

I challenge you to read it for yourself, to evaluate your own journey—where you are now, where you began. And I pray Ms. Hurnard’s story will encourage you, as it did me, to continue the journey of faith the Shepherd has set beneath your feet.


Inkwell Inspirations

I'm talking about my fear of the weather over at Inkwell Inspirations today. 
Come join me!


A Sunday Psalm

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me.
Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
  --Psalm 16:7-8


The Search for a Connection

Did you know it can still be difficult to find internet in a small town? While getting ready for our last minute, quick trip to my husband’s hometown for Gram’s funeral, we both breathed a sigh of relief remembering the new coffee shop of with internet we’d found when we visited at Christmas. No more searching for a nice place to check email and catch up on a bit of work. But to our dismay, the shop was closed—for vacation!

So we took ourselves (and our computers) to another place in town we’d used before, one which charged for Internet access. No matter, we decided. But when we arrived, the place had changed hands and was now a cafĂ© and a flower shop! We went in and asked about Internet access (actually, I asked it they had Wi-Fi and the guy said, “Huh?”). Turns out they did—when they finally found the right password to give us. But we felt bad taking up a table while just drinking tea, depriving a waitress of a party with a larger check.

Finally, on a whim, we checked the McDonald’s. Lo and behold, we were connected—and for free. We answered emails and other things in a decently comfortable booth in a completely remodeled restaurant (no playground, no red and yellow motif.) I never imagined I’d be happy to spend an afternoon at Mickie D’s after all those years of Happy Meals with my kids!


The Pieces of Our Lives

My daughter is cleaning out her room. Not only is she returning to college in a few weeks, her youngest brother is moving into her space when she leaves. So she’s packing up all the things she isn’t taking to school to store them for later. It’s been an interesting process. I remember being her age. I didn’t want to let go of anything! Everything had sentimental value!

She is a bit like me that way, although she has definitely trashed and given away more than I did at her age. But I’m not pushing her to purge. I know when she goes through that stuff again in one year or three years, she’ll find more she can let go of, more that doesn’t feel necessary to her life and memories.

So I smile as she sorts through the pieces of her nineteen years. I laugh as she chooses what to keep and what to give away, explaining her reasoning and her stories behind each piece. And yes, my eyes even mist over occasionally as I realize its another step in the process of growing up and moving on to her own life. 


Grandma's Legacy

We have been fortunate, my husband and I, to have our grandmothers in our lives into our adult years. Our kids have been fortunate to grow to an age where they remember, vividly, three of their four great-grandmothers.

My father’s mother went home to Jesus not long after she watched the calendar turn to the year 2000. My mother’s mother slipped away in 2006, before we expected her to go, while we were still preparing ourselves to say good-bye. Now my husband’s maternal grandmother waits at the threshold of heaven’s gate. And again, we grieve. This time from far away.

We will miss gathering at Grandma’s house when we visit. We will miss the strength of a woman who endured the sudden loss of her husband and raised her three girls alone. We will miss her laughter. But most of all, we will miss her cooking.

A truly creative cook, Grandma loved us all with her food. How thankful we are that several years ago Aunt Sheri complied all Grandma’s recipes into spiral bound books for each family! From that book my daughter made her first cheesecake, the one that helped finance her trips to Africa. The one that fueled her confidence in her ability to cook by taking 3rd place at the State Fair.

But my daughter isn’t Grandma’s only culinary legacy. Grandma’s daughters both enjoy being in the kitchen. As does my sister-in-law. And my daughter. And another of Grandma’s great-granddaughters. So even as we prepare to say good-bye, we know Grandma will live on in our gatherings around the table, in the love in which the food is prepared and received.


A Sunday Psalm

I will praise You, O Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of You among the peoples.
For great is Your love, reaching to the heavens;
Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let Your glory be over all the earth.
   --Psalm 57:9-11


Revisiting High School

Yes, I’m one of those weirdoes who look back with fondness on my high school experience. Not that it was perfect. Far from it. But somehow I understood even then that those years would in many ways be the most carefree of my life. Because of this, I’ve always enjoyed my high school reunions, too.

Five years ago I had to forego the get-together. My husband had been invited to a legal seminar in London over the same weekend and, well, you don’t turn down London! I remember thinking at the time how much I’d have to catch up on at the 25th reunion. Never in a million years did I imagine Facebook!

In the past two years I’ve reconnected with so many of my classmates, seen pictures of their kids, heard what is happening in their lives, that our reunion this weekend will truly be meeting up with old friends instead of an attempt to reignite long-dormant relationships. Of course there will be others there, too—ones I haven’t kept up with through social media. Ones I will be surprised to see again after all these years. But it’s not so overwhelming when I already feel “caught up” with so many.

Now into our 40s, many of us have children graduated from high school, or getting close. Some are even grandparents! Our lives have all taken different paths and yet still we have a past shared experience that bridges the gaps. And remembering who we were then in light of we are now makes me thankful for all that God has done through the years. And I think it gives us all hope for our kids and their friends, too!

I’m looking forward to every minute!


That's My Girl!

I have many author friends who find pictures of famous people or catalog models and use them for reference as they create their characters. I confess I’ve never done this, although I have perused many old photo albums. My characters usually appear in my head and to try to find a picture match of them would be a long waste of time. But as I’ve been researching my next book, my heroine has been a bit fuzzy. Not her character. I see that clearly. But her mannerisms. Her face.

I do often look at newspaper pictures in my research. (That’s the advantage of setting stories in a time where photographs were readily available!) It helps with setting and clothing and other accoutrements of life. But as I said before, rarely with characters.

Until now. While searching through the online database of a research library, my heroine appeared from the pages of the 1915 Chicago Daily News! I love that it isn’t a portrait but a spontaneous shot. And I could just see in her smile and her bearing that she's the one.

I already feel like she is my friend!


What's in a Name?

I love my name. I really do. I love the uniqueness of the apostrophe and the capital A. I love that it forms a contraction of my parents’ names: Don and Ann.

But what I love, computers hate. Databases scoff. Website and email addresses distain. It’s been a struggle since college, really. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been mistakenly called “Dan” from computer printouts. Or “D”, as in the initial. I get mail addressed to all sorts of interesting combinations of my name, too.

So when the possibility of publication drew near, we considered the question of my name. Would it cause a problem? The answer: most likely. So after many prayers we came to the conclusion that it was more important to be found by readers than to hold on to my uniqueness.

Very soon all my web presences (website, facebook, twitter) will become ANNE MATEER, as that is the name that will appear on my book covers. Yes, you will all still know me as D’Ann. And my D’Ann accounts on the web will still work, too. But the primary identity I’ll use as an author will be Anne Mateer.

It’s kind of strange as I think about it. But it’s kind of fun, too. It allows me put on and take off my “writer” hat. It helps shy, reluctant me to market this other persona. And it keeps me humble.

So I'm rejoicing in and get used to my new name. Look for it to pop up on the blog and other Internet meeting places in the very near future!


Humbled and Amazed

I can remember sitting in my bedroom, somewhere around 30 years ago now, reading a Eugenia Price novel and thinking Someday I would love to write historical fiction that is specifically Christian. You have to understand: Eugenia Price’s novels, published by Doubleday, had the most Christian content I’d read in a currently penned book. But I longed for more. 

Enter Janette Oke. And Bodie Thoene. And Gilbert Morris. I devoured their books as I finished college, got married, had babies. Suddenly Christian historical fiction was everywhere! The reader in me rejoiced. The writer? Not so much.

But in fits and starts, from about 10 years old to 33 years old, I nursed my writing dream. In 2000, with my youngest off to kindergarten, I began to take my writing more seriously. In 2001, I actually finished the manuscript for a historical novel.

Then I switched to contemporary women’s fiction. Wrote three more novels. Experienced a miraculously specific encouragement from the Lord to return to historical fiction. Wrote a new historical novel. Received a request for that manuscript from an editor judging it in a contest—an editor at a publishing house I’d have never raised my sights to dream about. I revised and revised and revised under the direction of said editor. And I prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed. Not that I would be published necessarily, but that the Lord would teach me through the journey, no matter the outcome.

Today--exactly 13 months since the day I received the email requesting my manuscript--I can finally announce that I signed my first book contract, a two-book deal with Bethany House Publishers. As I look back through the details of the past 10 years—details I keep in a file started long ago named “My Writing Journey Or How God Managed to Orchestrate My Career”—and I am humbled and amazed.

Today is my day to boast in the Lord. To declare that He has done this wondrous thing. To shout from the highest mountain, "To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen."

Oh Lord, You have done wondrous things and my mouth will never cease to tell of Your greatness!


Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes

I’d heard a box of tissue was required for the reading of Gina Holmes’s debut novel Crossing Oceans. And although I’m generally a crier, I took that as kind of a challenge to get through the book without enough tears to require the assistance of Kleenex.

But I didn’t make it.

The thing I loved about this book is that while the story line seemed guaranteed to tug at my heartstrings, Gina drew her characters with such realism that what could have been a bit melodramatic came across as true-to-life. As the characters’s emotions rollercoastered from joy to anger, fear to faith, frustration to resignation, mine followed. And though the ultimate end was known almost from the beginning, it was poignant and beautiful and worth the ride.


When Work is Play

We went on vacation to Colorado a couple of weeks ago. And I determined it really would be a vacation. I didn’t even take my laptop! Granted, I wasn’t completely unplugged. I still had my blackberry for emails and my ipod touch for facebook and twitter and reading blogs and stuff. But for the most part, I relaxed.

We played games. (I lost every one.) We hiked a bit. (I did it, even if I didn’t like it!) We watched movies and read. (Four books in seven days. Now that’s what I call a vacation!) And a couple of afternoons, my husband and I journeyed into the town to scrounge up a bit of history, for that is what we love.

And did we find a treasure trove! Not only were many of the buildings along the main strip built in the early 1900s, but the historical society also had a nice little (free!) museum with quite an array of artifacts. I took more pictures of those than of the waterfalls and other vistas we viewed. Oh—and we browsed two antique stores, marveling at the finds we couldn’t justify paying money to own.

To some (like my teenaged sons), that might not sound like much fun. But when it comes to research, my work is play. With each new piece of history, be it information or artifact, my mind automatically churns back to another era. I file away the details, the feel, the smells. I imagine a character, a scene, a story. I get lost in the possibilities. And since vacation is about doing what you enjoy instead of what has to be done, I guess I was blessed to be able to spend my time doing just that, even if it doesn’t sound like much fun to anyone else!


Inkwell Inspirations

I'm interviewing my friend Carla Stewart over at Inkwell Inspirations today!
Come read about her debut novel Chasing Lilacs.


Representing King and Country

I have loved watching the FIFA World Cup this year. But my favorite parts haven’t been the games, though they have at times been exciting. No, what I have enjoyed are the pre-game ceremonies. I love watching the little South African boys in their football uniforms escorting the players of each team onto the field, holding hands with some of the best players in the world. Some of the young faces are split with grins. For others, their features are etched with the seriousness of the situation. All, I am certain, will retell their moment on the world’s stage for the rest of their lives.

The teams file onto the field, the little boys now standing in front of each player. I love how the camera pans the players’ faces as their national anthem is sung. It’s that same feeling I get during the Olympics. Each player carries the weight of their entire country on their shoulders, knowing they are competing for the honor of their fellow citizens. And yet, in spite of the pressure, they are proud. They sing with fervor as the camera then seeks out their fans, some draped in their flag, others painted with country colors, all singing at the top of their lungs.

Lately those scenes remind me not of my loyalty to America, but of my loyalty to my real King and country, knowing that my true citizenship is in heaven. Every day I “compete,” as Paul reminds us in his letters. I run a race, and I am to run it in a way that is seeking the prize of the high calling of Christ. Every day I represent my King and all my fellow citizens of heaven in my every action, large or small, public or private. If only would I always consider my representation of the Lord and His saints as much of an honor and responsibility as the soccer players competing for their country in a World Cup game.