Monday, October 24, 2016

Shaken (a review)

Shaken, by Tim Tebow and contributor A.J. Gregory, is a multi-faceted book that offers more than a few surprises.

One of those surprises is that this book, Tebow's latest, is far less about the game of football than would be expected from one written by a Heisman Trophy winner, 1st-round draft pick, and former NFL player.

Instead, Tebow focuses on the emotional and spiritual impact of the game, particularly the devastating lows -- being traded by the Broncos to the Jets, only to be cut after one year; being cut by the Patriots after training camp; and again being cut after training camp a year later by the Eagles.

Tebow is refreshingly open about the effect of these disappointments. He admits that he struggled emotionally, questioning himself and his dream. In short, he is candid in explaining that his failure to be successful in the NFL shook him.

However, that failure did not shake Tebow's faith. And it is that unwavering faith and the lessons he learned from his professional struggles that form the core of this book.

Tebow explains how, despite all the media scrutiny and relentless discussions of why he'd failed, as well as the widespread speculation about his professional future, he never lost sight of who he was and what was truly important to him. He in turn explains, in a warm and engaging style, how the reader can share that same confidence in who they are no matter what life throws his or her way.

Shaken is not just for the football or sports fan. Rather, it is for every person who has faced disappointment, who has run into seemingly-insurmountable obstacles, and whose dreams have been broken.

In fact, it is a book for anyone and everyone.

I was provided a free copy of this book in return for my honest review, which I have provided here. Shaken is published by WaterBrook and released today (October 25, 2016)

 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Who Has My Vote

"I've been following all the election coverage," a friend said to me late last week, "and it's all such a mess. What personalities! And the issues. So complex and so many. What issues do you think are most important?"

I explained that I vote according to one thing only, and that is absolutely true. Before I explain what that one thing is, though, I want to share a little backstory.

In May 1976, I celebrated my 18th birthday, knowing that in just 6 months I would cast a ballot in a U.S. Presidential election. My parents had always taught me that with rights came responsibility, so I was determined to be an informed voter and to make a wise decision.

As a result, I watched television and read newspapers, but there was so much to wade through that I finally made a chart that showed how each candidate -- Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford -- stood on each issue and then chose the one with whom I agreed on the majority of issues. They both seemed quietly dignified, one in a somewhat more sophisticated sort of way, so to my way of thinking, their personalities weren't an issue.

I did the same thing -- Carter and Ronald Reagan that time around -- 4 years later. In that election, personality was an issue. Both men were genial and personable yet stern and serious when the issue called for it; however, Reagan was the more charismatic of the two. While I don't remember specifically, I would imagine that my 22-year-old self was at least slightly influenced by that.

But eventually -- I don't remember exactly which election -- I changed my strategy in two ways.

First, I stopped considering the candidates' personalities and demeanor for the simple reason that they do not matter. Disagree with me? History abounds with examples, but consider just one.

Harry Truman was considered by many outside rural and small-town -- and particularly by the "movers and shakers" and the media -- to be a crude country bumpkin, unfit to be President of the United States. At the same time in history, Adolph Hitler was consistently acknowledged, even by his critics and those who were plotting his downfall, as charismatic and polished. Compare their personalities; compare their actions and "accomplishments".

Second, I stopped comparing the candidates' positions to how I stood on an issue. I continued making a chart of each candidate's stands, but instead of comparing theirs with my own beliefs, I compared them only with God's position.

By the way, I would love to say that the two -- God's position and my own -- were always the exact same. But I must admit that sometimes I get distracted by the gray areas; in reality, though, truth is not relevant and murky. Real Truth never changes and is  absolute.

Some issues were easy. God's Word is very clear in regard to the sanctity of life and, despite what some might say, same-sex relationships (yes, the New Testament does address this issue).

Other issues were not so clear. I read passages and cross-references, looked up what original Greek words were used and what those words meant, and tried as best I could to draw from all that information a bottom line, for want of better word.

There was no reason to look at any one specific issue because no one specific issue was more important in and of itself. Rather, what was important, to me at least, was which candidate's views were most closely aligned with God's view. .

That hasn't changed.

This year,  like every 4 years since I changed my strategy, one candidate stands out. His or her positions -- as indicated by their actions and their own words -- on the various issues are aligned with Godly standards far more consistently than the other candidates'. And that is the only thing that I consider when I cast my ballot.

Who is that candidate? Rather than tell you, I hope you will do your own research and that, when you discard all the chatter and focus only on the candidates' words and actions, you will have a clearer picture of where each stands in regard to Biblical truths.

An even greater hope is that on November 8 you will cast your vote for the candidate whose beliefs are most closely aligned with those truths.

I truly believe our country is at a very significant crossroad and that it is crucial that we elect a President who will put us on the right path, the Godly path.

I also believe that "not voting" is not an option. Our citizenship provides us countless benefits, but it also places on us responsibilities, the greatest of which is to vote. It is, in my opinion, irresponsible and even immoral to fail to vote for any other reason than absolute physical inability.

I realize this is a controversial issue, and I of course realize that many will disagree with what I've said here. Please share your own thoughts, even if you disagree -- but do so respectfully. Thank you!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Feeding the Sheep

"Rio de Janeiro Mission Trip meeting on Tuesday, September 6, at 6:30 in room . . . . "

Those words greeted me when I opened my church bulletin Saturday evening, and I was instantly intrigued. I served on a missionary team to Mexico in the Spring of 2005, and I've wanted to serve again, but illness, moving, moving again, etc, has prevented me from doing that.

Then I saw the date of the trip; because it will take place while I'm on sabbatical, I could serve without taking off from work like I did last time.  But Rio de Janeiro? That destination raises more than a few concerns.

I shared on Facebook my intention to attend the informational meeting and learn more about the trip. In the ensuing discussion, and from others I've been a part of, I know some people, even Christians, are less-than-enthusiastic about foreign mission trips. Over and again, I hear the same 3 concerns, objections even.

There are plenty of places right here in the U.S. where churches and individuals can serve.

That is, without a doubt, the number one objection to short-term foreign mission trips that I hear.

There certainly are plenty of areas, plenty of people here in the U.S. who are in need of help. You only need to watch one story on a local or national news program or read one article in the newspaper to know the truth of that statement.

But there's another very simple truth that applies here. It's not an either-or proposition. It's not a matter of we can do only domestic or foreign short-term mission work.

If all the able-bodied U.S. Christians spent even a fraction of their time on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, or even yearly) serving the needs of others, I'm pretty confident that we could handle many of the issues that can be addressed by individuals or volunteer groups. Don't believe me?

84.8% of Americans are over 12 years old. According to self-reporting and government statistics, 19% are disabled, but for only 9% does the disability impair their ability to function -- work, do life tasks. Considering the 2016 population of 324,118,787 and only considering those over age 12, gives us 274,852,731 people, of which 250,115,986 are physically and mentally capable of some sort of work.

Look at that! A volunteer pool of over 250 million people!! Just imagine what we could accomplish. I can't imagine that we would actually have enough projects for that many people, which leads me to the point that  volunteerism isn't an issue of domestic OR foreign service.

If those who are not comfortable, don't have the means -- physically, financially, or otherwise -- or don't feel led to serve outside the country volunteer in some way to address domestic needs, that would leave foreign volunteerism to those who feel led to that and who have the means to do so.

Wait, some will say, the fact is that not all of the 250+ million able people are serving. Therefore, those who can serve should serve domestically. I disagree. I can't worry about those who don't.

Instead, I hope that those who don't currently volunteer in any way and who are irritated by the fact that some Americans serve internationally will gain a "Well, I'll show you" attitude, stop talking about what should be done by others, and start doing what can be done by them!

A majority of those people and groups who are more than happy to receive help from volunteers are able-bodied and have the means to do the work themselves. They choose not to. Doing things for them that they could do for themselves isn't making a difference; rather, it's perpetuating the problem-situation.

I have to admit that, to a large degree, I agree with that statement. Two points to consider, though. If you are a Christian and are looking at this from a Biblical perspective, God repeatedly instructs us to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, etc. He does not instruct us to first figure out why they are hungry or poor and only help those who can't help themselves. (By the way "God helps those who help themselves" does not come from the Bible; it comes from Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac).

On a practical level, that last sentence -- that helping those choose not to help themselves brings no lasting positive change -- has merit in my eyes.

As a result, I am first careful as to where and how I choose to volunteer. Second, when I serve, I diligently put out of my mind any thoughts as to whether those I am serving really *need* assistance. I figure that if God led me to serve in this capacity, I'll trust Him that it's where I should be.

It's not safe. I have a wife/husband, children, parents, etc. who depend on me. I cannot go somewhere that would put my life at risk or expose me to a dangerous illness that I would then bring back home.

Zika. Ebola. Drug cartels. ISIS. Those and other words can strike fear in the hearts of people considering foreign travel. As a widow and single mom, I understand that fear. I've read the horrible story of Kayla Mueller, US aid worker captured by ISIS, repeatedly raped and tortured, and finally murdered. I certainly don't want to endure anything remotely similar.

Of course, I can't tell anyone else what to do, but my plan is to approach any foreign mission opportunity with an open mind; learn as much as I can about the target country, those around it, and the risk of danger from unbiased, reputable sources; pray diligently, seeking God's guidance; and then decide.

If I feel God is telling me to go, despite a very real concern on my or my children's part for my safety, I hope that I would still obey. But I would take every precaution to ensure my safety and health both before and during the mission trip.

So . . . am I going to Rio de Janeiro? I have no idea. I'm going to pray about this and attend the informational meeting Tuesday night.

Perhaps there will be a very clear need for a person with my talents and skills to perform tasks behind the scenes, here at home. Perhaps there will be a very clear need for people like me to travel to Brazil. Who knows now where God will lead me?

I'll keep you posted!

Have you ever served on a foreign mission team? Or a mission team that served here in the U.S.? I'd love to hear about your experience and thoughts and hope you will comment below.

Have you dreamed of serving on a mission team? What's holding you back? Please feel free to share via a comment. 

 

Friday, September 2, 2016

A New Path (Five Minute Friday)

I'm very excited to again this week join a talented group of women bloggers in an online, unedited flash mob free write. Week after week, these women produce insightful and inspiring posts based on a word-prompt given to us by our fearless leader Kate Motaung (whose wonderful blog can be found at katemotaung.com). My timer is set for 5 minutes; let's see where the word "path" takes me.

Confession may be good for the soul, but it's embarrassing for many of us, including myself.

Pride and fear keep me from sharing honestly sometimes, particularly if the sharing is going to make me vulnerable or expose failure on my part. So, I confess, I am often succumb to pride and fear.

But today, I'm shucking off both to share that I have in some ways been on the wrong path for quite some time.

I've spent a large part of my life going my own way, following the path that seemed right to me, that I believed would allow me to have the things I thought I needed, the things I wanted -- usually not for me, but for my loved ones.

Big mistake.

In other areas of my life, I've been on the right path, but along the way I found a really comfortable spot -- a carpet of grass bathed in sunshine, warm but with a gentle breeze, the sound of a nearby gurgling creek, and no bugs or flying insects. And I've stayed put.

Much of that staying-put time, I've been content sharing my comfortable spot with others. When alone, I've reached into my tote and pulled out some beloved time-passers.

And there, in my comfortable spot, I've waited for things to come to me.

Another big mistake.

In recent months -- and certainly more so in recent weeks -- I've become less and less satisfied here in my comfortable spot. I've been looking around me.

I've spent a little time looking at the path behind me, the path that brought me this far, but primarily I've been looking the other direction.

And the more I look, the more I realize that I don't want to stay on the path I'd been traveling. But I don't want to stay in my comfortable spot, either.

I can see the first few yards of a couple of paths. I even hear the voices of different people in my life off in the distance, down each one.

But I can't see where any of those paths go. Not exactly. Beautiful vegetation and a bit of a haze keeps me from seeing very far at all.

That's a bit scary.

Even scarier is that, after those few yards, I can't see the paths themselves. I don't know the terrain of any of them. I don't know what obstacles I'll find along the way. I don't know how each path twists and turns or how many forks I'll encounter that lead me to further choices in path.

That's also scary.

But it's time. It's far past time, in fact, for me to stand up, ignore my grumbling muscles and the "don't go" voices in my head and the fear. It's time for me to follow a new path.

Goodness, but these first steps are hard.

But oh so exciting, too!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

T-minus 425.834 Days and Counting

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I wish I had a dollar for every time the sentiment that fear is the greatest obstacle to change or to living the life you want has popped up in a book I'm reading or in a meme on Facebook or has been uttered in a conference workshop or keynote address.

I'm fairly certain I read one variation or another at least 100 times as I devoured just one book -- Chicken Soup for the Soul's Reboot Your Life!

As I've read and listened, I've been . . .

encouraged by "I did this and so can you"

cautioned by "time is fleeting, life is short, regrets are ugly things"

and even bullied by "if you really trust God, you'll take the leap and trust                Him to catch you."

Through it all, I've vacillated on the continuum of uncertainty.

Sometimes, I'm somewhat certain I can make the monumental vocational leap I dream of. Equally often, I'm pretty certain that doing so would be a huge misstep . . . or mis-leap.

Never, though, have I felt confident I can do it, that I can walk away from the thing I once loved but that has changed so drastically I hardly recognize it to do what I've dreamed almost my entire life of doing.

I know what's holding me back, what fears keep me continuing down the path I'm already on.

I simply haven't been able to overcome those fears.

For years, I've read or heard countless testimonies of people who finally pushed through their fear by burning bridges. There was the unhappy ad executive who walked into his boss' office one day and gave his 6-month notice and the couple that put everything they needed and used in one room of their house, invited homeless people into their home to take whatever they wanted for free, and then downsized to a tiny house they built with their own  two hands.

I chuckled at the story of the woman with 6 sizes of full sets of clothing to fall back on when her latest diet failed. She boxed up all but the smallest size and drove 4 hours to drop off the boxes of at a resale shop that raises money for a battered-women and children's shelter. She said she considered a town only 2 hours away but was fairly certain a 2-hour drive wasn't enough to make her overcome the urge to go back and re-buy all her clothes. She was pretty confident that a 4-hour drive each way would do the trick.

Two weeks ago, I decided to burn a bridge.

I did it the very next day.

Only two people -- my son and my daughter -- are aware that there was a bridge burning the afternoon of August 19.

Truth be told, the bridge is burned, but there's a rowboat on the shore I can use in a pinch. But I'm trying really hard to forget that rowboat exists, to remember that there's a way to circumvent that burned-out bridge.

And so, the bridge has been burned, and I'm ignoring the row boat. How much time do I have to prepare for the actual leap?

14 months.

425.834 days.

Here we go!

 

 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Civility be Darned, Shower-Style

When I got married just over 30 years ago, two individuals offered to throw a shower. I appreciated their thoughtfulness, provided the asked-for guest list for one of them, and only asked that the hostess not go to too much trouble or expense. The same thing happened again when I was expecting my son and later my daughter.

I wasn't doing anything special; that's how things were done then. Brides and mothers-to-be were thankful to have a shower and behaved accordingly. We gathered in the church fellowship hall or someone's living room, enjoyed cake and punch, played a few silly games, and opened gifts.

I witnessed similar situations as friends married and had children over the years, but somewhere along the lines, something has gone horribly wrong.

In the past couple of weeks, in fact, I've heard story after story of what can only be termed "total brat" brides, expectant mothers, and couples.

Types of women and details here are true, but they are mixed around to protect the privacy of the women who shared the information.

One bride-to-be informed her future sister-in-law (to whom she barely speaks and occasionally ridicules to her face) by text that future sister-in-law "must" throw a shower at a specific day and time. She dictated the menu (a keg and Buffalo Wild Wings were on the list), the source and style of invitations, the venue, and the guest list of 37 couples (yes, that's a potential of 74 guests). The future sister-in-law, a college student with little money, responded that she would love to do this but simply did not have the resources. The respondent text read, "Find it".

One young couple wants the wedding of their dreams at the expense of others. Those who received an invitation to the wedding also received their "assignment" -- what food or beverage they are expect to bring to the reception. The invitee I spoke to was instructed to bring "two bottles of dry wine" from a specific winery.  Another friend invited to the same wedding was instructed to bring "a crock-pot with pulled pork".

This young couple didn't want to leave anything to chance; the invitation insert stated that the food or beverage assignment was "in addition to our wedding gift".

Mothers-to-be are getting in on the game as well. One young mother, expectant with her 3rd child, told her best friend that she needed to host not one, but two, showers -- one for her "first tier" friends, the other for the "second tier". Of course, she had specific requirements for each shower. Heads up to those in the second tier -- your refreshments and the venue are not nearly as nice as those for the first tier friends.

These are just a few of the stories I've been told -- and invitations I've actually seen -- since the topic first came up several weeks ago when a future sister-in-law shared her story.

The problem is clear. Self-entitled, selfish young men and women have been taught from birth on to behave in this manner.

The solutions are also clear. If you're the proposed hostess, decline as gracefully as you can. If family peace dictate you hostess the event, hold your ground as best you can and ask anyone who says you must give in to every demand to co-hostess with you. If none of those work, develop some sort of temporary illness or move away . . . far away.

If you receive such an invitation, decline.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Happy Birthday to You! (a review)

What a joy it is to review Happy Birthday to You! -- written by Michelle Medlock Adams and illustrated by Sandra Rodriquez -- on this particular date. You see, today is my son's 30th birthday!

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"Happy Birthday to You" is a delightful book and the perfect birthday gift for the little ones in your life.

Several things are, to me, especially impressive. First, author Michelle Medlock Adams provides text that is upbeat and cheerful, and the rhyme scheme is carried throughout the book in a way that creates a very smooth flow and that keeps the listener's attention. I especially loved the final page, in which the focus shifts from the party with guests, cake, and all the normal trimmings to the mention of a "prayer of thanks" for the birthday boy/girl and the line "I'm so proud of who you are". What a great closing!

The artwork is also outstanding. Bright, cheerful colors abound, and they are used in a way that (like the text) creates a smooth flow from page to page. The human characters and animals are adorable, and the facial expressions are well done. Each scene is interesting and complex enough to keep a child's attention time after time; at the same time, the scenes are not so complex as to be too "busy". Very nicely done by Sandra Rodriguez!

However, because "the proof is in the pudding", I read this book to 5 toddlers (one at a time). Each one asked me to read it again . . . and again . . . and again. Each smiled, giggled, and laughed as I read, and each one pointed at various things on the page as I turned them.

They also loved pressing the button -- 2 laughed at the song; the other 3 smiled and sang along (as best they could :)).

I also asked the mom of each of the 5 to loan me a photo of their toddler, and I inserted that in the sleeve on the last page. When I turned to the last page, each child was so surprised to see their own picture right there in the book, and they were obviously delighted to be a part of the book.

Then I handed the book to each child. It was a good fit for their small hands, and the pages are thick enough that they were able to turn them without difficulty.

It is interesting to note that none of the 5 children I shared "Happy Birthday to You!" was actually celebrating a birthday. That didn't make a bit of difference to them, so I'm sure any child that receives this book will enjoy it far after their birthday is past.

I will definitely be ordering multiple copies of this book -- one for each of my 5 reviewer-helpers and several more to have on hand for gifts!

(I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review, which I have provided above)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Hope Prevails by Dr. Michelle Bengtson (a review)

Quite simply, Hope Prevails: Insights from a Doctor's Personal Journey through Depression is a God-send for anyone who struggles with depression and for the loved ones of those battling the illness.

A quick topical search here on Amazon shows that almost 49,000 books on the subject of depression are currently available. While I certainly haven't read them all, I have read a countless number of them in the past 10 or so years, so I was somewhat skeptical that this book would provide any new insight or be any different. I was wrong.

First, author Dr. Michelle Bengston knows what of she speaks. Her extensive experience as a psychologist who works with patients struggling with depression would more than qualify her to author this book. However, her own personal experience with depression is what sets this book apart from others on the subject. It is refreshing to read a book from a qualified physician who has been in the trenches, who has faced her own dark times, and who has come out on the other side.

Because of her own experience, Bengston knows first-hand that the typical treatment regimen of medication, counseling, journaling, exercise, etc. in and of itself is not enough. Unlike many clinicians, she recognizes that a person is far more than just a physical and emotional being, and she explains and stresses the importance of a person's spiritual health as they battle the often-debilitating disease of depression.

Dr. Bengston's own personal testimony is relevant and recognizable to those facing their own battles with depression; that testimony provides invaluable hope to her readers. They quickly see that they are not alone, that someone knows what they are going through, and that that someone can provide hope and help.

Bengston avoids the two traps that most books on depression fall into; it is neither too technical or too "touchy-feely". Rather, Bengston's writing is warm and engaging while at the same time clear, concise, and informative. When I first saw that at the end of each chapter she had provided a playlist of songs to download, I was tempted to skip right past them, but I decided to give the first set a try and found that listening to these songs as I went about the business of my day reinforced what I had been reading. I know have a wonderful "Hope Prevails" playlist that I find uplifting and encouraging!

The title of this book is an apt one. The tools Dr. Bengston provides give hope, and they provide a way *through* depression to a better, healthier life on the other side.

All Good Things . . .

Has a snippet of a song ever run through your head off and on all day, leaving you totally unable to remember the rest of the song or the title?

That's been the case with me for the past 13 hours. I knew what I wanted to write about this evening, and I thought I might use some part of the song as a jumping-off point for my title or post. Of course, I couldn't remember more than the one phrase -- and it's garbled at that: "All good things must come to an end and {such it is?} with the {wildwood ?} flower".

If you know the name of that song (I'm 99% sure it's a country song, but then again . . .), and share it in a comment, I'll be really grateful. :)

Anyway, a good -- no, a wonderful thing is coming to an end for me tomorrow morning when I return to the office after being off-site for a few months. I've worked part of the summer, but I've worked from home.

It's been a busy summer. A quick trip to Fort Worth for my son's graduation from medical residency, countless hours trying to line out things with my former contractor, and eventually starting all over with various jobs being completed piecemeal.

Gutting a kitchen all by myself (I'm pretty darned proud of that one!) and taking far too long (and buying at least 12 little samples -- yes, 12!) to pick out the color for present living room.

Traveling to visit my daughter with my son and his fiance; visiting several area wineries and doing a eco-ziplining tour while there.

Enduring more days of rain than I can remember ever having over the Summer. Reading books and participating in a couple of book launches and writing quite a few reviews.

Getting a book club started and enjoying a couple of lunches out with friends. Hours spent in physical therapy for shoulder issues that include a torn rotator cuff, bursitis, and osteophytes.

Now it's time to get back into my regular routine, complete with a 2-hour-each-way commute (which I choose to make, but that's another story) several days a week, 15-hour days, and quite a bit of stress.

I'm not complaining, though. Many in my field -- and in other fields as well -- are without jobs or are unhappily working outside their field. I am blessed to have a job, the job I have. The job I will go back to tomorrow.

All good things must come to an end . . . to make room for other good things, I hope.

 

 

Friday, August 12, 2016

I Could Really Use a Lift (Five Minute Friday)

I'm very excited to again this week to join a talented group of women bloggers in an online, unedited flash mob free write. Week after week, these women produce insightful and inspiring posts based on a word-prompt given to us by our fearless leader Kate Motaung (whose wonderful blog can be found at katemotaung.com).

What you are about to read is almost-surely quite different from those posts. My brain, when presented with an on-demand timed writing situation, goes in all sorts of directions at once, and there's simply no telling what will pop up on the screen.  My timer is set for 5 minutes; let's see where the word "lift" takes me.

"Hey, can you use a lift?" I looked over to see a woman who had pulled over and was slowly driving along beside me as I walked down the street earlier this week. She was leaned over a bit, peering out at me through the passenger window of her minivan.

She looked completely harmless -- you know, the type of woman who has a family, complete with cat and dog, of stick figures on the back of her minivan -- but I smiled and said, "No, but thank you. I'm just walking to the library." She smiled and waved before driving away, and I walked the remaining 100 or so yards to my destination.

I didn't need the physical, car-ride type of lift she was referring to, but there are other lifts I would certainly appreciate. I wonder how she would have reacted if I'd jumped into her car and said,

"Yes, I'd love a lift. Actually, I'd appreciate a couple of lifts. Do you have pen and paper to jot these down? You do? Great!

First, I'd be so thankful if you could take away the incessant political posturing and debating and rehashing that surrounds us. It's not productive and only serves to distract and divide us from what's really important.

Of course, it would be great if you could lift from my life all the unnecessary tasks and stuff I've managed to collect. You know, so I'm left only with the true essentials, the things of real value.

Oh, no! We're almost to the library, and there are some other things I want to add to the list. You say I only have time for one or two more?

Hmmmm . . .

Well, I'd love for you to lift the cloud of doubt and uncertainty that keeps me from pursuing a career as a writer. 

One last thing. I know it's vain of me, but could you lift the jiggly stuff on my thighs and upper arms and the bags under my eyes? Oh, and don't forget the wrinkles! Don't worry about the ones that don't show -- just get the ones on my face.

Yes, I could use a lift!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Trailer Park Princess series (a review)

Salem Grimes is a dog groomer, recovering alcoholic, and new Christian who, of course, lives in a trailer park. She is also the most refreshing protagonist in cozy mysteries!

In The Trailer Park Princess and the Middle Finger of Fate, the first of the (so far) three-book Trailer Park Princess series, Salem finds a murder victim on her way to an AA meeting. Assisted by her sidekick Vivian and accompanied by her separation-anxiety ridden dog Stump, she tries to clear her not-so-ex-husband of the crime.

At the same time, Salem deals with issues of her own, taking the reader along for the often-hilarious, yet at the same time thought-provoking ride.

In both this book and its two successors, Unsightly Bulges (The Trailer Park Princess Cozy Mystery #2) and Caught in the Crotchfire (The Trailer Park Princess Cozy Mystery #3), Kim Hunt Harris has created interesting plots with just the right number of twists and turns.

Harris' characters are funny, the dialogue is sharp and witty, and the laugh-aloud moments are plentiful.

But the books in this series contain more than just intriguing mysteries and the funniest & freshest protagonist and most hilarious dialogue & situations found in the cozy mystery genre.

Harris deftly weaves those elements with Salem's journey as a recovering alcoholic and new Christian. Readers will see aspects of themselves and their own struggles and questions in Salem's honest, practical, sometimes-poignant and often-commical approach to God and having a relationship with Him.

Do yourself a huge favor.

Order or download a copy of The Trailer Park Princess and the Middle Finger of Fate, gather your favorite snack, and sit back and relax with Salem and Stump, Vivian, and the rest of the group. You are in for a wonderful treat!

 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

TV-Free and Doing Fine

Nine weeks. It has been nine weeks since I moved into my (to me) new home and decided not to subscribe to a cable- or dish-provided television service.

I'd had subscription service through the same company for over 18 years and, other than having to pay for a larger package with tons of channels I never watched in order to get the sports channels I wanted, I was very satisfied.

A couple of years ago I began playing around with the idea of dumping the satellite. I joined Netflix, but most of the time I forgot I even was a member. As long as I had my subscription service and had the NFL and college football, professional baseball, college basketball, and hockey, along with HGTV, I really didn't need anything else.

I gave more serious thought to dumping the dish as my most-recent move neared, and I finally decided to, as Nike always urges me, just do it. Besides, I reasoned, I could always resubscribe if I changed my mind.

I reasoned, too, that I could listen to the radio or watch programs on Netflix, but I haven't done either one. In fact, I've only listened to the radio when in my car and have watched a grand total of two hours of programming via Netflix in the past 70 days.

There have been some interesting outcomes of my television-less lifestyle.

As expected, I have more time to accomplish other things. I've read even more books than usual, written more letters, and, yes, even whiled away more time surfing the internet and pinning images on my pinterest page. But I've also gutted a kitchen -- tearing out the cabinets all by myself (my son did help me carry the long countertop outside) -- and then prepped and painted the new cabinets, rehung the doors, and put all the knobs and pulls back on.

There have been a couple of unexpected benefits as well.

First, despite having no stove or microwave for much of the past nine weeks, I've eaten out far less than I had become accustomed to. Not only do I have more time to prepare meals now that I'm not watching TV, I also am not tempted by the images of a juicy steak and baked potato at a popular steak house or my favorite sandwich at a national deli chain.

I'm also sleeping much better than I normally do. Instead of lying awake for at least an hour, waiting for my mind to stop racing 90 miles per hour, I fall asleep almost as soon as I lay down. Perhaps my body is more tired, given the projects I've been working on. However, I think the main reason is that, without the stimulus of evening television, my brain more easily "lets go", allowing me to slip easily into the deep rest of sleep.

I'm feeling far less stressed as well. Considering that we're less than 4 months from a national election and I'm a highly-political person, that is quite an accomplishment! Instead of feeling "worked up" about this or that much of the day, itching to share my opinion with friends or family via a text or Facebook, I feel calm and unruffled.

I've also discovered I don't miss sports programming nearly as much as I thought I would. In fact, the only thing I've missed is watching the Olympics -- this is the first Olympics, winter or summer, that I haven't set aside much of the 2+ weeks to watch as much of the Games as I can. Even so, I've only had a few little pangs of not-even-regret, and those little twinges aren't enough to send me to my nearest sports bar/restaurant to watch the competition and enjoy a nice meal.

I'm enjoying this break from television and subscription programming. It may not be permanent. I may at some point decide to put a dish atop my little house and watch "Law & Order" marathons again.

Until then, I'll just relax and enjoy the peace and quiet of my television-free home.

What about you? Have you ever thought of going TV-less? If you have, what's holding you back?    Share your thoughts/experiences via a comment -- thanks!

Congratulations, CurtissAnn -- you are the winner of the free copy of Breaking Up With Perfect! I'll be in touch with you to get your address. :)

 

 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Rule-Breaking, Author-Style

I spend an inordinate amount of time every week reading and responding to the writing of other people. I read blog posts and comment; additionally, I read more than a couple of books (primarily e-books) and post reviews.

As I read these published texts, I am often appalled by the number and nature of the grammatical and mechanical errors.

Obvious capitalization errors, spelling errors, punctuation errors, run-on sentences, and the like dance across the screen or pages with wild abandon.

When I mention this to someone, they often respond that it's content that matters. Besides, they offer, errors such as the ones I mention can even be found in books written by widely-published, iconic authors.

To a degree, that's correct. Sentence fragments, run-ons, and other "construction" issues can be found in books and magazine/newspaper articles.

Sometimes that's because of poor writing and sloppy editing. Those writers and editors should be ashamed of themselves for their lack of respect for their reader and their craft.

Sometimes, however, those "errors" are deliberately and very- thoughtfully made.

Writers -- those who produce the very best texts that engage and motivate and move those of us who read them -- can bend, and even break, the rules.

Why? Because they have demonstrated their knowledge of the rules of grammar and mechanics, they typically followed them for many years themselves, they now know what effect will be created by the breaking of a rule, and they want to achieve that effect.

Not convinced?

Think back to your first day in a chemistry class, or, if you're like me and never (thank goodness) took one, imagine that scene.

On that first day, did the instructor unlock the cabinets in which all the chemicals and beakers and test tubes were stored and call out with glee, "Go for it! Have fun!"?

Of course not. They knew, hopefully not from experience, that the result might very well be a blown up table, at the very least.

Instead, you weren't allowed to touch anything but your textbook, notebook, and pen/pencil for a couple of weeks, until you knew about various chemical properties (or something like that -- I have to admit that chemistry terminology is beyond me) and the rules for mixing, for example, an acid and a base. Only then were you allowed to actually work with the actual chemicals.

But, and here is the key, at least some of those once-novice chemistry students went on to break the rules. Individuals who followed the rules in high school chemistry class and who decided to continue those studies in college and grad school became scientists in laboratories across the country who violate the basic principles of chemistry that mere mortals (i.e. high school chemistry students) cannot.

They break them because they know the consequences of breaking them and, as a result, do so safely. They do so with the intent to create something -- a cure for leukemia or for Parkinsons or for Lou Gehrig's Disease, for example.

If those very-knowledgeable and skilled individuals never broke the rules of chemistry, new and wonderful things would never be invented.

And so it is with words and sentences. The rules must be followed until they are mastered and until the writer knows how to effectively break them to create something new and wonderful.

As a result, a skilled writer can pen, "But Mary's phobias kept her from exploring the world." to create some effect. They can even construct similar sentences on a fairly-regular basis as part of their writing style.

However, if a writer is not trying to create an effect and is simply writing sentences like that out of habit, they need to edit more carefully.

(Explanation: "And" is a conjunction; conjunctions join words and groups of words. If a conjunction is found at the beginning of a sentence, the words after it are not joined to anything and, typically, do not constitute an independent clause. Hence, a fragment. However, there are situations in which a sentence can begin with a conjunction, but that's a topic for another Tuesday.)

The internet is a wonderful tool, as are e-readers. However, the world is being flooded with poorly-written pieces by bloggers and fledgling writers.

I have my own opinion as to why that is happening, and I'll share that next Tuesday.

Of course, now that I've posted this, my own writing will no doubt be more-carefully scrutinized by anyone who stops by. That's okay. I know the rules, and I break some of them.

Deliberately. If you read much of what I write and if you know the rules of grammar and mechanics, you'll recognize those that I break as part of my own writing style.

Let me know if you do!

Just for fun, think of your favorite iconic writers. What "errors" do they make as part of their writing style? Share your response through a comment below.

Let's take a minute to be totally transparent. What are the mechanical and/or grammatical errors you tend to break (by accident) most often? Share via a comment below.

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Faith, Courage, and Victory by Katy Kauffman (a review)

Over the years, I have used literally countless Bible studies, and  Faith,Courage, and Victory: The Stories, Struggles, and Triumphs of 24 Characters of the Bible by Katy Kauffman  ranks as one of the top three or four of all.

Within a few days of beginning this 40-day study, it was apparent  why it is the Selah award winner for Bible studies in 2016. Faith, Courage, and Victory stands out -- and above -- the rest of the crowd of Bible studies for several reasons.

First, the format of each day's lesson is different than the vast majority of Bible studies.. Most, if not all, studies I've done in the past open with a Bible verse or passage, followed by the discussion of that passage (which takes up the bulk of the lesson), a shorter explanation of application, and possibly study questions to complete,

Kauffman instead opens all but a few of the readings with a real-life or true contemporary narrative before introducing the Biblical character and discussing them and the relevance of their story to life today. She brings each of the 40 lessons to a close with several questions and a short prayer.

The real-life narratives Kauffman opens with are imminently relevant and, therefore, captured my attention; in turn, I was eager each morning to see how God addresses the issues encountered  by so many of us today.

Kauffman also includes in each chapter the Bible passages that tell the story of the Biblical character (some chapters also have 1 or a few references to related Scriptures that are not included).

While this may seem like a minor benefit, it allows the reader to carry the book in his/her briefcase or purse and, when faced with a block of quiet time in their day, read one of the chapters wherever they might be. In a world in which it is simply assumed that everyone has access to an online Bible or wifi at all times, it's wonderful to find an author who realizes that some people do not.

Another strength of "Faith, Courage, and Victory" is that while each day's lesson is clear and easily digested, it does not lack depth. For the past 20 days, I have completed the Bible study each morning, gained valuable insight, and then gone about my day.

Each of those 20 days, at least one nugget from the lesson has come to mind as I've gone about my daily routine; those nuggets remind me of the lesson of that day's chapter, cause me to contemplate them more fully and to realize yet another way the chapter and its message -- and God's Word -- is relevant to life today.

Kauffman's writing style is particularly impressive.. She uses language extremely well; she writes clearly and concisely yet still creates a flow that draws the reader from sentence to sentence smoothly, even lyrically. And in a day when ebooks and even hard-copy books with obvious grammatical and mechanical errors are commonplace, Faith, Courage, and Victory is a welcome rarity -- an extremely well edited book.

At the end of the book, Kauffman provides a "Scrapbooked Bible Study" that explains (with illustrations!) how to create take-away cards. These take-away cards are a wonderful resource for memorizing Scripture and Biblical principles and for posting throughout the house, etc. to remind the reader of key points from the book.

Of course, the very-clear instructions for creating these cards have numerous applications. A great resource that I haven't found anywhere else!

In short, if you are looking for a enlightening, engaging Bible study for either personal or group (a leader's guide is provided in the back of the book), this is an excellent choice!

Faith, Courage, and Victory is published by Lighthouse Bible Studies (2015).

(I mentioned in a discussion group that I was planning to use this study and review it here; the author saw my post and offered me a free copy; she explained that she wanted nothing but an honest review in return, and that is what I have provided here.)

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Breaking Up with Perfect by Amy Carroll (a review -- and a give-away!!)

Anyone who has seen my house, my hair, or how I dress would agree with me when I say that I am not a perfectionist. As a result, I was sure Breaking Up with Perfect: Kiss Perfection Good-Bye and Embrace the Joy God Has in Store for You by Amy Carroll,wasn't "for me".

However, when I was offered the opportunity to review this book, I jumped at the chance, and I'm glad I did.

In the Introduction (which you do not want to skip), Carroll provides an engaging and informative discussion of two types of women -- Good Girls and Never Good Enough Girls -- and their "lists".

As I read, I found parts of me being described . . . well, perfectly, and I'm sure other readers will find the same to be true for them as well.

Carroll goes on to discuss the ramifications of being a Good Girl or a Never Good Enough Girl.

In exposing the lies of perfectionism, Carroll explains how a relationship with "Perfect" is both personally unhealthy and damaging to our relationships with God and the people in our lives.

Fortunately, she doesn't stop there. Carroll goes on to explain how we can stop struggling with "Perfect" and rest in God's perfect love. Her transparency in sharing her own, sometimes-humorous, struggles with perfectionism bring to life the discussions of topics such as restoring healthy relationships with others, establishing Godly values, and adopting a lifestyle that reflects those values.

Each chapter provides wonderful insight based on Biblical principles and ends with Transformation Points. These questions and prompts are useful tools for personal use or group study.

For those who want to delve further into the principles discussed in the Introduction and each chapter, Carroll has provided a "Going Deeper" section at the back of the book. The journaling or discussion prompts and Scriptural connections (in many cases, the Scripture is provided in the text) are outstanding tools for personal and group study.

In Breaking Up with Perfect: Kiss Perfection Good-Bye and Embrace the Joy God Has in Store for You, author Amy Carroll provides inspiration and tools to help a woman relinquish perfectionism.

I am so excited to be able to offer a free copy to one reader. To enter your name in the give-away, please post a comment in which you share something about your own relationship with perfectionism. It might be about how your own perfectionism has affected you, or perhaps you might share how you have been affected by someone else's pursuit of perfection. 

A name will be drawn at 11:00 p.m. on Wednesday, August 3, and the name will be announced here Thursday, August 4, 2016. 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Captives, by Megan Whitson Lee (a review)

Oh how glad I am to be back on my blog. I won't go into any detail -- too long, too boring, and I don't want to relive it all in the telling -- but the past 6 weeks have been incredibly stressful and busy beyond belief. 

As I return to the blog, I'm revamping my posting schedule and my content. From here on out, I will talk about writing and my writing life each Tuesday; my plan is to share information that might be helpful and interesting. On Thursdays, I will post a review of a book.

So let's get to my first review!

From the first line of the prologue  -- "Amy's coffin had been closed for over an hour, but Douglas Timothy still couldn't get the image of his daughter's dead body out of his mind." -- to the last word of the epilogue, Captives, by Megan Whitson Lee, is a captivating tale of the very-relevant issue of sex trafficking.

But Lee's novel isn't the grim, depressing novel you might expect; rather, it is inspiring and uplifting.

The story is told from the perspective of three individuals -- the sister of a missing girl, a former sex trafficking victim who helps hunt for the missing girl, and a young man struggling with a secret sex addiction.

Each of Lee's three narrators is realistic and complex, flawed but not without redeeming qualities. Each could be a coworker or the person who sits next to you on the bus as you commute to work or the person you chat with from time to time at the gym. They are "real".

Their individual stories are woven together to create a plot that holds more than a few surprises without being contrived or unbelievable. As the reader follows the three narrators' struggles to find what they are looking for -- a lost girl, escape from the demon of pornography addiction, some measure of peace -- they get a close-up look at the devastation wrought from the self-trafficking that plagues our culture.

At the same time, however, Lee shows that through the efforts of tireless and heroic individuals and groups, sex trafficking can be fought and individuals caught up in it in one way or another can be saved, not only physically but spiritually.

Captives is a book that will grab your attention and keep it long after you've read the last word. It is a book that can change lives for the better.

**********

After I shared with authors and editors that I was interested in reading books and posting honest, unbiased reviews on my blog, Facebook, etc., I was provided a free copy of this book to review. I have, in turn, provided my honest opinion of this novel.

 

 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Growth of a Different Kind

I'm very excited to again this week to join a talented group of women bloggers in an online, unedited flash mob free write. This week, the word-prompt given to us by our fearless leader Kate Motaung (whose wonderful blog can be found at katemotaung.com) is "grow". My timer is set for 5 minutes; ready, set 

Shhh . . . don't tell Kate or the rest of the Five Minute Friday ladies (they are all ladies, aren't they?), but I'm cheating this week.

When I first saw this week's prompt, my first thought was "uh-oh". Growth is not something I give much thought to. Determined to write, though, I set my timer and wrote a lovely (if I may say so myself) post about the beautiful flowers that greet my eye when I look out any window of my current home.

But truth be told, the post didn't feel authentic. It felt forced, fake. I deleted it. Every single word.

Instead, here's the unvarnished truth about my gut response to the prompt "growth".

I know, it's late Spring, so for most people "growth" conjures up thoughts of Spring flowers -- daffodils and lilies -- and new life and babies and a myriad of cute and wonderful things.

But I'm at a point in my life where "growth" can be an ugly thing. A very ugly thing.

Take, for example, my thighs. (Yes, I was very tempted to channel Henny Youngman, but I resisted -- you younger folks can google his name and "take my" to see what I'm referring to)  Back to my thighs.

Early last week, I slipped on a pair of slim capris that I hadn't worn since last August or early September. I was shocked to see that my thighs had, without my knowledge, experienced some growth in the last 8 months. I'm not shocked because it happened -- my 16-hour a week commute this past semester has resulted in my being far more sedentary than usual -- but I'm surprised that I hadn't noticed before now.

Other than shorts and capris, I wear the same type of clothing in the Fall and Winter as I do in the Spring and Summer -- skirts, pants, an occasional dress -- and I get dressed and undressed at least twice a day. How could my thighs have grown without my being aware of it?

I thought perhaps that particular pair of capris had shrunk the last time I washed them, so I tried on another pair. Hmmm . . . and then I tried on a pair of shorts. Oh my! Well, no need to slip into -- or force myself into -- one of my swimsuits. It's not the capris. My thighs have experienced growth. Unwelcome, unwanted growth.

And here's another thing. Just the other day I was sitting in my car at an intersection, patiently (okay, not really so patiently) for the light to change. I slid open the covering to my sun roof and my front seat was bathed in gorgeous bright sunshine.

Just then, I looked at my face in my rear view mirror and gasped. Not only have the wrinkles I already had grown in length and depth, more than a few have joined them! When in the world did that happen?

And while I'm laying it all out here for anyone to read, I'll confess that when I was gently massaging my just-purchased coconut oil (supposedly *the* best thing for those nasty wrinkles) on my face, I felt something on my chin that I'd never felt before.

Oh my goodness! I can't. I thought I could, but it's too ghastly to share.

I'm thinking I shouldn't have deleted that cute little post about Spring and flowers and babies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Unite? I'd Love To!

I'm very excited to again this week (after quite an absence on my part) to join a talented group of women bloggers in an online, unedited flash mob free write. This week, the word-prompt given to us by our fearless leader Kate Motaung (whose wonderful blog can be found at katemotaung.com) is "unite". My timer is set for 5 minutes; ready, set,

I have really missed participating in the 5 Minute Friday weekly writes so I was really looking forward to participating today. Until I saw the word. Unite.

Do I write honestly? From the heart? Or do I fake it and compose a post that doesn't at all represent what this word brings to mind?

I'm going with the honest, from-the-heart post. Warning: You may want to stop reading right now. This post may contain some (well, maybe more than that) whining, griping, and complaining.

To be united to something, I believe, a person has to have some sort of meaningful connection. Oh how I long to be united -- connected in a significant way -- to other people who share my interests and with whom I could spend time, go out to eat, talk about writing or books or life.

In fact, my greatest sorrow -- what causes me the most pain -- is that, other than my connection with my son and daughter, I'm not united with anyone or any group in any real, tangible way.

At work, my colleagues and I are either in the classroom or in our offices (meeting with students, grading papers, or preparing for class) or attending this or that meeting. I occasionally go out for a quick lunch or tea/coffee with one of two ladies I teach with, but other than that -- nada. They live in various parts of the city, spread out and busy with their own families and friends, and even when I lived just across the river, my female colleagues and I gathered outside work only one evening every month or two.

I attend church, but because of my current work schedule, I can't attend a small group. I walk into our large sanctuary every weekend, alone, past families and groups of people I don't know, groups busy chatting and laughing. I sit alone, I worship alone, I leave alone.

Don't get me wrong. I have acquaintances. But they're busy with their jobs, husbands, children, grandchildren. All of the connections I had -- the friendships I had -- faded away with my own personal "perfect storm" -- a move 50 minutes away from "home" just as my youngest began her Junior year in high school (hard to make new friends in a rural area when I was commuting elsewhere to work), 2 job changes in 10 years, connections to parents through our son's sports activities evaporated when he left for college, my husband's passing, my move to the city -- 2 hours away from home.

I've sought connections with other writers. No luck. I've attended conferences and met some fantastic ladies ------ from North Carolina and South Caroline and . . . well, 1/2-way across the country.

Oh, I've made new acquaintances. But every person I've met or who I've reconnected with is busy . . busy with their already-friends, their husbands and children and grandchildren, their lives.

United? Connected? I'd love to be. I'm not.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Home Sweet to-be Remodeled Home

I’m feeling very decadent. Through a set of fairly complicated circumstances, I currently have two homes.

It’s not a case of purchasing a new home before selling the old one.

For the past 14 months, I have been living in the adorable home my son bought last January in preparation for moving back home this June to practice medicine.

Knowing I needed to be out of this house by mid-June and not wanting to rent, I began looking for a house of my own almost a year ago because I knew that finding what I wanted was going to prove difficult. And I was right.

You see, I was looking for a small — as in only 1 or, at the most, 2-bedroom — home in a “good” neighborhood. My dear realtor-friend Connie agreed with me that my search might be a long and fruitless one, but I was hopeful.

Last March, I approached a woman who I knew owned a vacant and very small, very cute house that I’ve always admired. She explained that the house is part of her company’s property and that it is highly unlikely that she and her sons would ever take that house out of the corporation and sell it. She took my name and number, though, and said she’d keep me in mind if the situation ever changed.

In February, she contacted me. When she identified herself, my heart began to race. I just knew she was calling me about the little house I wanted so badly. She quickly took care of that notion by informing me that she had recently inherited a 2-bedroom house and that she was giving me first dibs on purchasing it.

Located just where I want to live — within walking distance of the city library, both city parks, the University, and the downtown area with its eclectic shops and restaurants, the house sounded intriguing, so we arranged for her to show it to me the next day.

I liked the house very much and saw potential in it, and the current owner and I quickly came to an agreement.

Fortunately, nothing needs to be done to the house; the roof is 18 months old, and the siding was put on just 2 years ago. A new high-efficiency furnace was installed 3 years ago, and the A/C unit is also fairly new. The previous owner, a 94-year old widow with an active lifestyle to the day she passed away, took excellent care of her home.

That said, I created a list of things I want to do: tear out the wall between the living room and one bedroom to create an open living & dining room; convert the tub to a tub with shower and put in a new bathroom vanity; move the washer and dryer upstairs to the kitchen and “hide” them behind cabinet doors; tear out the cabinets and use open shelving above the new cabinets; put in a new electric box and convert from a gas stove to electric; and paint the walls, remove the carpet, and have the hardwood floor “repaired” to fix the spot where the to-be-removed wall now stands.

I’ve had so much fun! Super-planner that I am, I measured the rooms and all my furniture a month go. I drew out the house plan on graph paper (1 sq = 1’), cut appropriately-sized graph paper rectangles and squares to represent my furniture, and color-coded them by room with hi-liters.

I happily “removed the wall” between the living room and bedroom and “rearranged furniture” time and again.

I created a “New Home Wants” board on Pinterest and have been pinning paint colors and kitchen cabinet ideas and other small-home ideas.

The more I’ve played around with the layout and collected specific ideas, the more confident I've become that this house will fit my needs and can almost-perfectly satisfy my wants.

Now it’s time to schedule the electrician and handyman for walk-throughs and estimates of schedules and costs. An exciting time ahead, to be sure, as I create my perfect little home.

What about you? What would be your dream home? Tiny, small, huge? Old or new? How would the rooms be arranged? How would you decorate? I hope you’ll share details via a comment.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Scarecrow and I

scarecrow1


I've always sympathized with The Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz; like him, I've sometimes had a hard time making a decision. And hearing Dorothy and The Scarecrow's voices in my head . . . "If I only had a brain" . . . certainly doesn't help.


When I was married, decision-making was much easier. Well, except for the occasional "Where do you want to eat?" discussion that could last for hours -- until one of us gave in and chose a place or until one of us passed out from hunger.


If both of us, or the entire family, would be affected by the decision, we discussed the options and possible outcomes as a couple before coming to a decision.


Even when only I would be affected by the option chosen, as part of a couple, I had someone to bounce my ideas and options off of, someone who would eventually (if I pestered him enough) proffer an opinion or two. Usually, though, just talking through the decision to be made and the various options with my husband helped me arrive at a decision on my own.


But like so many others who have experienced a major life upheaval and are then faced with the challenge of creating a "new normal", I'm now making decisions on my own. My children are happy to listen, but they are busy with their own lives; additionally, sometimes the details I would need to share would only remind them of their own terrible loss and would burden them. Even when I feel comfortable sharing the situation with them, they often lack the life experiences (both are in their 20's) to truly understand what I'm facing.


In the past month, I've faced a major life decision, and as I've prayed about it and waited much more patiently than I would have imagined possible for the answer to make itself known, I've come to realize that indecisiveness is not caused by a lack of critical thinking skills; rather, several very specific factors are what make the process difficult.


The first factor is thinking skills that are too sharply honed. When I was first faced with this most recent decision, for example, I followed the textbook-advice and brainstormed options.I wrote every single option on my list, not prejudging and dismissing out of hand a single one of them. I set the list aside for a day or two, jotting down additional options as they occurred to me until, finally, I couldn't think of another one.


That's when I recognized the second factor that makes decision-making difficult: too many options to choose from. Because I'd thought through the situation and possibilities so diligently, I ended up with far more options than I'd anticipated.


But I didn't give up; instead, I culled out those that, with closer thought, I could see just weren't reasonable. My list slightly shorter, I began listing the pros and cons of each of the remaining choices.


It was that process that brought to light the third factor that those of us who are redesigning our lives often run into. The proverbial "clean slate" that so many wish for often brings with it very few limitations. With a clean slate and the ability to start over, a person can go almost anywhere, do almost anything.


Too good thinking skills + too many options + too clean a slate == the perfect storm for decision-making.


Finally, it came down to one last, quite simple activity. On a piece of notebook paper, I made a grid: 3 squares across the top and, down the side, one square for each of the remaining options. Above the 3 horizontal columns, I listed my 3 top values or priorities: God, family, and my own physical & emotional health. For each option that had made the not-so-aptly-named "short list", I put a plus, check, or minus to indicate how well that option honored each priority.


Within minutes, my choice was clear.


Decision-making is hard in the best of situations. When a person is redesigning their life or reinventing themselves, the process becomes much more daunting. In the end, it comes down to a person's values and priorities. When measured against them, the decision will be the right one.


I've discovered it's not our thinking skills -- or lack thereof -- that cause indecisiveness. .

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

It's Never too Late . . . But

Fitzgeraldquote

Fitzgerald is right. It's never too late to start over.

He's also right in implying that it takes strength to do so. More specifically, a person must be strong in all aspects of his or her life -- physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally -- to make such a sweeping change.

To wipe the slate clean and draw a new picture.

Even, sometimes, to gather the broken pieces of the slate and glue it back together before wiping it clean and picking up a fresh piece of chalk.

But it can be done. You . . . and I  . . . can start over.

Because we want to. Maybe because we have to.

I hope that you'll join me each Tuesday, as I share . . .

* stories of those, including myself, who have started over

* information and resources that can help you draw a new picture on the slate of your life

* inspiration for your own journey through the process of redesigning your life

I hope, too, that you will share with other "redesigners" you know or encounter how they can join us here.

Lastly, when you feel inspired to chime in, to share your own experiences, your own successes and failures, your own thoughts, your own fears . . . whatever you might feel led to share . . . it is my fervent and heartfelt hope that you will share either through a comment here or by email (pattimiinch@yahoo.com).

So join me . . . let's start over together.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Eureka Moment, Writer Style

Eureka

I wasn’t sitting naked in a bathtub, a la Archimedes (sorry if that put a mental image in your head), when it happened.

No, I was fully clothed, sitting with a large group of writers (also fully clothed) at the Asheville Christian Writers Conference/Boot Camp last Friday evening when I had a mental lightening-bolt moment that actually made me gasp aloud.

I grabbed my notebook and hurriedly jotted down a few notes, and then I sat back in my comfortable theater-style seat, let what gifted speaker and author Vonda Skelton had said sink in even deeper, and relished the moment. After almost exactly two years of floundering along in the wonderful adventure of blogging, I found absolute clarity about what I want to do and where I want to go as a writer.

It was, as they say, a heady moment.

But it was more than just a moment. For the remainder of the weekend, as I listened to presentations by one dynamic writers/speaker after another, what came to me in that initial moment of clarity was not only confirmed, but also clarified.

The following morning, I was blessed to have a 15-minute appointment with social media guru Edie Melson, author of Connections: Social Media and Networking Techniques for Writers. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’d purchased her book 18 months before on the advice of several experienced novelists but hadn’t read a single page.

I’d been too busy floundering.

Something Edie said caused me to think of the Blue Ridge Mountain Writers Conference, a conference I’d been reading and hearing about from successful writers for over two years. Over and over, I’d heard about the impact this conference had had one published writer after another.

I asked Edie about the conference. Her eyes widened slightly, and then she informed me that she is its new director. Coincidence? I think not.

Fast forward through one fantastic workshop after another with LaTan Murphy, Larry Leech, Bob Hofstetler, and Scott McCausey, and I was back in my hotel room at 10:30 p.m., googling the Blue Ridge Mountain Writers Conference and registering to attend.

And so, I am excited to share that on my XYth birthday (some numbers are not meant to be shared), I will be attending the opening day of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in Ridgecrest, North Carolina.

If you are a writer, I hope you’ll prayerfully consider attending this conference. If you do, I hope you’ll let me know you’re going so we can meet for tea/coffee while we’re there. I’d love to meet you.

If you’re interested in attending, please click on: Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference

I hope to see you there. And if you have your own Eureka moment, I hope you’ll tell me about it!
And if you’re interested in attending the 2017 Asheville Christian Writers Conference/Boot Camp, registration will be opening soon. Bookmark this site and check back — you don’t want to miss it! Asheville Christian Writers Conference/Boot Camp

Friday, February 26, 2016

Good Morning! (Five Minute Friday)

I'm very excited again this week to join a talented group of women bloggers in an online, unedited flash mob free write. This week, the word-prompt given to us by our fearless leader Kate Motaung (whose wonderful blog can be found at katemotaung.com) is "morning". My timer is set for 5 minutes; ready, set,

This used to be me:

wakeupearlySaturday

For years, I struggled 5 days a week to wake up at 6:30. Didn't the world know I was a night person? Didn't my boss realize that I do my best work after 7:00 p.m.? Sadly, high schools in my area didn't offer night classes, so I was forced to "rise and shine" far earlier than I would have preferred every single weekday. I hated mornings. Despised them with every atom in my sleep-craving body.

At the end of every week, without fail, that blissful thing we call a weekend would arrive. on Friday night, I'd reset my alarm for 8:30, giving me plenty of time to get ready for whatever activity my children had planned for Saturday and for church on Sunday. But without fail, I'd wake up without the benefit of the alarm no later than 6:15. Wide awake, no less!

I couldn't figure it out. It was as if my body was playing a joke. Every single week.

I hated mornings.

I don't know what happened, but a few years ago the relentless cycle ended. Maybe my body forgot about playing it's little prank every week; perhaps it joined my mind in forgetting stuff. Just part of the fun of entering middle-age, right? (Yes, I said "entering" -- it's called poetic license!)

Whatever the reason, I began waking up during the week just a few minutes before my iPhone -- the world's most expensive alarm clock -- blasts the tune from Happy Days.

Not only do I wake up before the 6:00 blast to the past, but I wake up feeling refreshed and ready to start the day. And I do the same thing on weekends. Every morning, I enjoy a leisurely morning of devotion, prayer time, a cup of hot tea, and  the view from the dining room window.

And now, this is me in the morning!

smallerjoy

 

 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Silver Hearts

Today is, of course, Valentine's Day'

For some, it's a wonderful day, marked by a Hallmark card, a nice dinner, and a gift of some sort -- chocolate, a stuffed bear holding a red heart that says "I Love You", or maybe even a piece of jewelry.

For others, Valentine's Day has not been so wonderful. In fact, it's a day they've been dreading and trying to ignore from the moment the stores replaced their Christmas decorations with red and pink hearts and streamers.

As I reflected this morning on the February 14ths of my life, I realized that Cupid had done his thing for about 1/2 of them. Several years, I had a relatively steady boyfriend when mid-February rolled around, 1 year I was engaged, and for 25 of those years I was married.

Of course, I can't help but think today about those 25 Valentine's Days spent with my husband -- and most years, also with my children. The earliest years, when my non-romantic husband was forced to work with a very tight budget; the years of little ones and hand-made cards he helped them make; the later years, when some of my "romance" training had begun to bear fruit and the budget had a bit more wiggle room.

And then, there was our last Valentine's Day. When I think of February of 2009, I don't think of Valentine's Day at first. Instead, my mind goes back to the Saturday before the big day. My husband and I had driven to the city to spend the day with our college-freshman daughter.

We wandered in and out of some cute little shops, browsing and enjoying each other's company. In one of them I saw a gorgeous silver bracelet with several strands of different sizes and styles of silver beads and a few dangly silver hearts. My husband and daughter were elsewhere in the shop at the time, so neither saw me hold it around my wrist and discover that it was a perfect fit.

I wanted that bracelet, but I didn't want to flat-out tell my husband I wanted it. I wanted him to see it, think of me, and buy it on his own.

That wasn't likely, though. I knew that my husband wouldn't look at the jewelry and therefore wouldn't even see the bracelet, much less think of buying it. I was going to have to hint.

Just after I replaced the bracelet on the black velvet t-display, my husband joined me and asked me if I'd found anything interesting. Ahhhh . . . the perfect opportunity had presented itself.

I pointed at the bracelet and casually commented, "Just this bracelet. Isn't it pretty?" He glanced at it and responded that he guessed it was. Just then, our daughter came up and said she wanted to show him something, and off they went. Drat!

I stayed in the vicinity of the bracelet, knowing he'd return to the area, which would give me the opportunity to drop another hint. A few minutes later, he did just that. I picked up the bracelet, draped it over my wrist, and said, "I really like this. And it actually fits!" (I have tiny wrists, so most bracelets are so large they fall off if my arms are at my side or slide almost up to my elbows if my hands are up -- neither look is a good one).

Over my husband's shoulder, I saw the saleslady; she had been watching my efforts at subtlety, and she smiled at me with a bit of pity when my husband responded, "Yeah, it does. That's nice", and walked off again.

Not deterred, I remained in the general vicinity of the bracelet; because the display was near the front door, I figured I'd get one more opportunity to get my point across as we prepared to leave and go on to the next shop.

Just then, my daughter and husband approached and indicated they were ready to go to the next store. It was time to be a bit more obvious, I decided. I reached out and touched the bracelet one last time. "I really like this. And it would make a lovely gift," I said, smiling at my husband.

The saleslady covered her laughter with a snort and my shoulders dropped when he replied, in all seriousness, "For who?"

My daughter just looked at her dad, open-mouthed and wide-eyed. I gave up. As we walked out of the shop, my daughter leaned back and mouthed at me behind her father's back, "Wow!"

That memory never fails to make me laugh. It is a classic example of my husband.

It is also a classic example of my daughter that, while I visited the restaurant restroom to wash my hands before lunch, she explained to my husband what all the bracelet-comments were about and that sometime that day, without me noticing, she went back to that little shop for her dad and bought the bracelet.

I acted surprised when I opened it on Valentine's Day. And when my husband casually said, "I knew all along. I just acted like I didn't know, so you'd be surprised," I acted like I believed him.

I wear that bracelet other days, of course, but I always wear it on Valentine's Day. In fact, if you were sitting here right now, you might be a bit surprised at my outfit -- thick wool purple socks, Uggs slippers, and thick fleece bright blue with purple polka dot pajamas, accented by, of all things, a gorgeous silver bracelet with beads of various sizes and shapes and dangly silver hearts.

Happy Valentine's Day!

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Living with Limits (with relative grace on my part) -- Five Minute Friday

I'm very excited again this week to join a talented group of women bloggers in an online, unedited flash mob free write. This week, the word-prompt given to us by our fearless leader Kate Motaung (whose wonderful blog can be found at katemotaung.com) is "limit". My timer is set for 5 minutes; ready, set,

Kate, are you hiding in my house, looking over my shoulder as I read my morning Bible devotion and write in my prayer journal? I ask because, once again, the word you've chosen dovetails perfectly with my morning meditations and an issue I've been dealing with. Let me explain.

As I think I've mentioned before, if you'd known me the first 40+ years of my life, you would have described me as someone who had to have all her proverbial ducks in a row, all the details worked out and noted in my Franklin-Covey planner in a tidy little daily schedule. To put it mildly, I didn't do well if I didn't know the plan for action ahead of time. And, if truth be told, I felt most comfortable if the plan that was going to be followed was one that I had devised.

The words "control" and "planner" fit me likely a custom-made leather glove.

If you have followed my blog, you know that 6 1/2 years ago, my carefully laid-out plans took a hit -- no, two hits. The first, which I thought at the time was a major one, was a minor prelude to the second.  For almost two years, I did little planning, and I rarely felt in control. I didn't care, though; I was living on auto-pilot in a grief-induced fog much of the time that wasn't consumed by work.

Of course, the fog finally lifted, and I began living what I refer to as my "new normal". I slipped back into using a day-planner (not a Franklin-Covey, but a wonderful "system" that I absolutely love and will share more about on another day), but without the need to control the circumstances around me. Not because I didn't have the desire -- no, it was more that I didn't bother with it. Hard to explain, but true.

Lately, though, I've been faced with 2 really big, exciting opportunities. In the past, I would have chomped at the bit to plot and plan in anticipation of ultimately executing my plan.

But I'm not. Instead, in the last year or so, I've made a very deliberate decision to follow God's plan instead of my own.

The problem is that I don't know what HIs plan entails. You see, he has placed limits (you thought I was never going to get back to today's word, didn't you?) on what I can see.

In short, I don't have a clue as to what step I should take in moving forward. Not a single clue. I can't see a single foot in front of me. My view is limited.

In my former life, I'd have long ago given up waiting on God -- heck, I wouldn't have left things in HIs hands to begin with.

Now, though, I'm waiting. And I'm waiting pretty darned patiently, if I may say so myself.

Part of my waiting involves my morning devotion because -- wouldn't you believe it? -- they have focused for the past week or so on seeing earthly things through the eyes of eternity, following God's plan instead of my own.

And so I'm not chafing at the limited sight I have. I'm waiting. For direction. God's. 

Phew -- that was a fast and furious five minutes. I don't think I've ever written that much for a Five Minute Friday post! If you are so inclined, I ask that you keep me in your prayers in the days ahead, in the days before God reveals to me the next step He wants me to take. I don't want to share what the 2 opportunities are or what decisions I will need to make. I've learned that when I do that, people are more inclined to offer advice than to add me to their prayer list. Not to be rude, but I don't want human advice; I want Godly direction.  And when I receive it, I'll share here where I'm going next. Thanks so much!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Storm has Passed . . . I Hope

Just as I expected (and shared 2 weeks ago) the start to this semester was hectic. Actually, because of what we hope is a set of unique circumstances, it was the most unsettled semester beginning I have experienced. In fact, what is usually a first-week phenomenon extended through the end of the second. It goes without saying that the past two weeks have been stressful.

If the normal chaos of the first week of classes wasn't enough, a somewhat nasty storm system dumped several inches of snow just before Wednesday's afternoon rush-hour. Less than 1/2 of my 5:30-class students showed, and by the time I left campus at 6:45 for, the interstates were covered and treacherous. My entire drive -- interstate all the way -- was made at no more than 45 mph on snow-covered lanes, and my normal two-hour commute stretched to double that. Thankfully, roads were cleared overnight and the next morning's commute was back to normal.

Finally, while driving home from a night class on Thursday, I felt the frenzy of the past two weeks was over and everything was finally settling into place . . . for me, at least. It will take some students much longer to get into a routine that works for them. Sadly, some never will.

I contemplated that concept -- that some will make the adjustments necessary every semester and be successful while others will do neither -- much of the drive home, and I considered that the same thing happens in and outside of the workplace.

Some people adjust to a new boss or a new job; others do not and end up leaving or, worse, being asked to leave or fired. Some people adjust easily to a move to a new neighborhood, town, or state (even country), and make new friends, find a church home, and become part of their new community quite quickly; others never make their new home a true home.

That led me to ponder what makes the difference. What is it that causes some people to adapt to new situations easily while others struggle and even fail.

One important difference-maker is attitude. We've all read quotes and see posters about the importance of attitude, and while they might seem cliched, the idea that what you expect is what you will get is, by and large, true.

Another difference-maker is work ethic. Adapting to new circumstances takes work. If a person is content to sit back in their new cubicle or office or home and wait for others to come to them or to somehow magically learn about their new environment while being sequestered from it, they will never learn and make the necessary adjustments. Instead, they must get out, meet new people, learn the new territory, and make it their own. Some people find that an easy task and are invigorated by it, but others find it to be daunting.

Self-image and self-confidence are other factors. A person who lacks self-esteem is far less likely to make the proverbial steps outside their comfort zone needed to learn about and fit in their new place.

Another factor that came to mind was flexibility. We've all known or worked with the person whose mantra was "Well, at my old job/town/church/______ we . . . "  While it may be helpful, when brainstorming a new procedure or plan, to share an experience from a prior job/church/etc., the time to do that is after you've settled into the new. When adapting to the new situation, it's important to be open to and accepting of new ways of doing things.

There are other factors, of course, but these were the four that stood out to me on my drive home. I jotted them down, and I'm putting them out here so I can come back to them in June or July, when I'm settling into and adapting to my own new environment.

This impending move has been on my mind throughout the month of January as (to complete my 16 in 2016 January challenge) I opened and sorted through every box, bin, closet, drawer, etc., in the house -- even the stuff in the basement -- and donated and threw away anything I don't love and/or use.

I wanted to lighten my physical load as much as possible. It's going to be hard, though, to lighten the emotional load. But for now, I'm not going to worry about that. Instead, I'm going to enjoy every day I have in this house, in this town.

And in June, I'll adjust my attitude, roll up my sleeves, square my shoulders, and prepare myself for change.

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Challenge Updates:

16 in 2016 -- I completed my challenge!!

Write 365 -- I wrote every day these past 2 weeks, primarily in my journal, but this coming week I plan to add "in my new book".

52 Books -- I actually read more than 1 book per week; books are my antidote to chaos.

January 17-23      Tombstone Courage     and      Desert Heat -- both byJ.A. Jance

January 24-31      Murder in Gramercy Park   and  Murder on Lenox Hill -- Victoria  Thompson

A Killing in the Hills -- Julia Keller

A Window Opens -- Elisabeth Egan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Lull Before the Storm

In researching the source of  "Confession is good for the soul", I discovered that it is an old Scottish proverb. That was an "aha" moment for me. I can now look to my paternal grandmother (Roberts, whose family emigrated from Scotland) for the source of my willingness to share my foibles and failures as (anonymous) examples when trying to convey a concept or when blogging.

But I digress.

Last week was my lull before the storm of a new semester. When classes ended in December, I was a week away from my son and daughter's visits and from all the Christmas festivities. As soon as I submitted final grades, I rushed home to get started on my company's-coming to-do list, and after their week-long visits, I stayed busy working on various projects around the house.

Last week, though, I turned into a sloth.  On the days I didn't have to go into work for pre-semester meetings, I sat around in my sweats/pajamas (they become the same thing when a person doesn't change from one to the other at bedtime) most of the week, not venturing out into the bitter cold unless there was good reason.

(Confession within a confession: When I drove to McD's one evening for a large iced tea with light ice, I merely threw a hoodie on over my sweats/pajamas and went through the drive-through. Wearing my Uggs house slippers.)

I didn't use that time productively, either. Instead, I made a significant dent in the shows saved on my DVR, read several books, added more than a few pins to my Pinterest boards, chatted on FB, and basically was a lazy bum.

And I don't regret it a bit.

I know that, starting tomorrow, my life will become filled with class prep and responding to emails and, the largest time-sucker, grading papers. Last week, then, was my lull.

Tomorrow, let the storm begin!

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Challenges Updates

January "16 in 2016" challenge to ruthlessly sort through all my possessions: nothing -- not a single thing. I was a sloth, remember?
Write 365 (write every day) -- journaled every day

52 Books in 52 Weeks -- Read The Bette Davis Club by Jane Lotter (published posthumously) -- a fun novel about a woman who is sent to retrieve her runaway-bride niece (and more), accompanied by the jilted groom-to-be.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Buying Time (Five Minute Friday)

I'm very excited again this week to join a talented group of women bloggers in an online, unedited flash mob free write. This week, the word-prompt given to us by our fearless leader Kate Motaung (whose wonderful blog can be found at katemotaung.com) is "time". My timer is set for 5 minutes; ready, set,

As we transition from one year to the next, we typically focus on time. How did we spend the time we were given over the past 12 months; what do we want to accomplish or do or become in the coming year?

This past week, most people moved from focusing on time to thinking about and dreaming about money. With all the talk of the mega-million lottery, many people were spending their time in lines at their local convenience store in order to buy that coveted winning ticket.

I spent some time thinking of what I'd do if I won, and I actually couldn't come up with much of a list. I'd tithe every year (no lump payment here) pay off my son's and daughter's student loans, pay off my SUV, buy a class B camper, buy a very small house, and quit my job. That's it.

I don't want more stuff. I want more time.

And while time can't be purchased, time can be freed up through money. You need more time on the weekends to do what you love? Hire a house cleaner so you are relieved of that time-consuming chore. Have a huge yard for the kids to play in but you'd rather play with them than mow and edge it and take care of the garden areas? Hire a lawn service to take care of those things.

Time can't be created; it can be re-allocated.

I read the book The Other 8 Hours a year or so ago and gained some interesting perspectives about time and some new ideas about how to better utilize the time I'm not either asleep or at work. Self-discipline is required.

Lots of it.

I'd rather buy a lottery ticket.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Going Home

For months, I've joined thousands of others who have been following the story of Joey Feek's battle with cancer through her husband Rory's blog (This Life I Live). Just a few days ago, Rory shared a post which clearly indicates that, despite the many prayers that have been offered by family, friends, and countless fans, Joey is not going to experience physical healing and is, most likely, not going to live much longer.

In that blog entry, Rory shares that his beloved wife has in recent days told Jesus she's ready to go "home". When I read that, my heart dropped, and I was taken back 6 years, 4months, and 2 days ago, to the living room of the home my husband built. Where just 6 weeks before, my then presumably-perfectly healthy husband and I had talked of buying cattle and other dreams for the future. Now, instead of dreams for a lengthy future, my son and daughter, a hospice nurse, and I surrounded my husband's hospital bed, dreading what was soon to come.

My husband, who had dozed much of the night while our children and I kept watch, talking to him and reassuring him of our love when he would wake briefly, woke again about 7:00 a.m. and, without opening his eyes, said, "I want to go home."

Unsure as to his clarity of mind (he was on morphine drops) and thinking he might be confused as to where he was, I responded, "Home to our house or," I almost couldn't get the words past the lump in my throat, "home to Heaven?" I heard both of my children gasp slightly. Steve answered very matter of factly, "Home to Jesus."

The tiny part of my heart that hadn't yet broken, shattered.

He left us less than 30 minutes later.

I'll draw a curtain there; the rest of the morning and the next few days were beyond difficult.

Over the next 10 or so months, every time my mind wasn't actively focused on my job or some other task, it was filled with an endless loop of memories of the 6 weeks and 1 day of my husband's illness. Scene after scene ran through my head.

But there was one memory that, when it began to appear, I resolutely shut down. Yes, it was the moment when my husband quietly said he wanted to go home. Like a child flirts with the idea of touching their tongue to the gaping hole where a tooth recently was, I began to inch closer to remembering that moment, always jerking back at the last second.

And then, one day, I finally let that scene play itself out in my mind.

Of course, I cried. But with the tears came something very important. Words and sentiment that had been part of my entire life came to mind.

"I'm but a stranger here; Heav'n is my home," which I'd sung countless times ("I'm but a               Stranger Here" from The Lutheran Hymnal).

"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2).

These words, which (if truth be told) had been little more to me than platitudes throughout my life, became amazingly, startlingly real.

I'm not going to lie to you. I still grieved, and I still missed my husband. But at the same time, the sense of controlled panic I'd felt much of the time since his passing was gone.

In its place was a sense of calm, of peace. Steve was home. Not just figuratively, not just theoretically.

Really, truly Home. With his Family, Who love him beyond my wildest imagining. Free of pain and stress and toil.

And so, a few days ago, when I read Rory's post about his wife's imminent passing, my heart did drop for just a few seconds.

But then, I remembered that she will be going Home.

Yes, there will be grief. But let there also be great joy.

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I realize that the thought of finding joy after a person's death may seem repugnant to some people; it certainly would have been to me just 5 or 6 years ago.  Please feel free to share your thoughts via a comment or by email (pattimiinch@yahoo.com); of course, all views are welcome, but I ask that they be shared in a respectful manner. Thanks so much!