Monday, November 16, 2015

When Friends Pray

Because we never know where our paths lead, I wanted to share about a friend  today. I'll call her Pam. She and I met over thirteen years ago on the first day of class to become real estate agents.

Since then through many moves, we remained close, encouraging each other with life's ups and downs. She's the person I can call and not feel dumb because of my fears. She does the same with me. When Curt lost his job, she stood by my side as we pulled ourselves together and moved forward. When a serious relationship of hers turned sour, I did the same for her.

We joke about whose turn it is to support the other. One of us always needs to be together enough to help the other as life strikes.

Last winter, right before the end of the year, she called me. "I'm depressed. It's not just the holidays. I think I will never feel Joy again or love someone and always be alone. My life is the same day after day."

I remember trying to encourage her. Promising her that life can improve. Pointing her toward past events. Past moments of triumph. Nothing I said worked this time. She cut her calls back, Went to a doctor, Tried everything.

Each morning, I pick up a notebook where I keep names. Names of people I've met online or in person who need prayer. I'd prayed for Pam in the past but this situation warranted more,  I added her name and beside it wrote JOY.

Nine months passed.

During that time, I finally convinced her to join Facebook. "You might meet old friends. Find new relationships. Feel connected." She hesitated. Complained she didn't have time. Didn't know how to do it. Finally she wrote her first post. Maybe one line, I can't remember but I do remember how soon she connected with friends from her childhood home.

Before I knew it, she talked about going home to her class reunion. I said, "Do it!" She found someone to care for her 93 year old mom, her dog, and booked her tickets.

We always love a good ending, don't we?

Hang on, I'm going to give you that.

She called to say she wept when she drove toward the town she grew up in. The weather was cool, unlike her hot years spent stuck in Florida. She met up with more friends than I can count and she felt JOY.

Answered prayer.

But that's not the best part.

My friend was approached by an old boyfriend. A long lost love. A guy she broke up with because she went to college and felt it was the right thing to do considering the circumstances.

Let me end here because I don't want to share too many details. What amazes me is how God answered not only my prayers for my friend but turned her life upside down in a way we never imagined.

Friends praying for friends. Changing the course of lives.

Check back for the rest of the story...

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

When Your Inspiration Goes into Hiding

When I left for vacation over a week ago, I'd written 50,000 words on my new book. I was excited to see it finished. Then I spent a week with family: dance classes, soccer and watching my daughter juggle a busy schedule.

As usual, when I returned, I took a hard look at my own life. What are my goals? What purpose do I have? Why am I writing? Will I ever be good enough? Will I be a one-book-wonder author? Does what I do really mean anything at all? Do I still like it enough to finish this book and then maybe have it rejected like my last one?

As you can tell, I tend to get a little melodramatic.

Most writers do at one time or another. We envision ourselves on a wave of writing success and crashing down periodically. Waiting on the next wave.

I guess that's where I'm at right now. Rowing my boat trying to catch the next wave so I can finish my book and let God take it where it should go--on my shelf or on a bookshelf in a store.

I've always read that you don't wait for inspiration to appear to write. Just write. That's why this blog post.

Already I feel the water rising, lifting me back onto a wave.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The paths we follow

When my husband and I first married, we moved to Virginia. The DC area. It was part of the deal when he proposed. I refused to move to his hometown--a town with one tiny grocery store and a population of maybe 400. Okay, maybe 500. Or less.

He re enlisted into the Marines. A career he just left. And didn't really like. That's how much he loved me.

Two years later, he got out. We moved back to PA to Scranton so he could go to school. Nothing against that place but the first thing I noticed was the trash along the roads. Our house was a duplex in an alley with our landlords right next to us. Polish. They screamed at people when they blocked the parking with garbage cans. Today my rental home is a condemned property.

Another two years passed and we moved an hour north to Tunkhannock as I was driving too far to my job. We rented another house that touted peeling wallpaper and woodburners. Our water froze in the toilet that first winter. We installed another woodburner. Built a back porch and hung fresh paper. Even adopted our first dog. Panda. A cat wandered by and I adopted him too.

Our life was forming. We were becoming adults.

And then I got pregnant. The dog went outside. We longed for our own place. We finally found land and after begging three banks to give us a chance, we secured our construction loan. After months of grueling work, we moved into our house on the hill that promised me a kitchen and cupboards someday. Plus carpeting and doors. But we loved it.

Now we felt grown up. We had a mortgage. Jobs. A child. A church.

What more could we want?

Evidently not what we had. I still remember the day. Fifteen years later, my husband stood at our bedroom window. "I can't take this cold weather."

And so it began. The search. The packing. The crying. The move to Florida. New beginnings. New friends. New schools. New jobs. New churches. Everything new again.

We adjusted. Were warm. Bought a beautiful home. Watched our only child move across the country away from us. Watched the recession choke Florida in its grip. Lost our careers. Lost friends. Grieved.

But grown ups don't give up. Even though we felt like children again.

We tried everything. Part time jobs we hated. School. New business. Cashed in our savings. Finally moved to Texas. Sold our home. Hated both choices--the job and the state.

 "I have to go home, " I told my husband. He loved me enough to agree.

So we made the long trip across the country back to PA. Now everything would be fine, or so we thought. It wasn't. I cried when I walked into our new rental. Was I twenty-one again? We stacked our boxes in the spare rooms. Prayed for strength. Prayed that God would once again see us through. Started building a house in that town I first refused to live in. Started a business. Hope sprang.

A year and a half later we worried we were going to starve. No work. Bills. Cold.

Then another opportunity. Florida. Again. The job my husband left years ago. Really God? Move again?

We left our half-finished home, packed the small UHAUL and made the trek to a rental we found online.

We couldn't give up. There was no other choice.

No one ever promised our path would be straight. What made us think that so long ago? Today I find myself dreaming about another return to PA, to my house, to another pet, to a slower lifestyle. To friends and family.

But I can't hack out my own path. I must just go with it as it opens before me. Climb when we need to climb. Swim, run and drag each other when we get weary.

And thank God we can do all of it.

What's your path look like today? Are you preparing for the twists that will come? Are you thanking God for the cleared path in front of you?

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Why Do You Write?

A writer friend of mine is struggling. She's writing her first book. She's been writing that same book for more than twenty years. It's almost done. Her original goal was the end of this year. Sadly, she is sabotaging herself and her writing.


With fear. Fear that the book she's poured her entire life and work into won't measure up. Won't be the one that changes the world or lives. 

So she is frozen. Like that stature above. Paralyzed to drop his wheel and spin into the future,

Are you that writer? Have you considered why you started writing? Why you want so badly to produce a book and see it in print? Sure, I know you are going to say it's not about the fame. It's not about the numbers. It's because you want to make a difference. 

But how big a difference? How big an impact? 

What if only one person buys your book. Would all your sweat and tears and labor have been worth it? Would you write the next book? 

You better know your answer. I'm going to tell you what happened to me. I sold my seventh novel. Finally. Oh JOY! I had made it. It's been a little more than four months. I might have sold 350 plus books. Sure, some were given away in a marketing plan from the publisher. And yes it was a small publisher. And then I could have done more to push the sales...Are you listening? There will always be some reason we can come up with but the fact remains my first book was not a BestSeller. Yours might not be either. 

Does that mean you give up? Does that mean you don't write your book after hearing numbers? Or are you thinking but mine will be different. I hope so. I feel that way about my next book and the one after that. As I grow as I writer, I plan to improve my skills and my marketing abilities. 

So think again. Why do you write? Why do we waste time day-after-day turning out a book that maybe not a lot of people will read or buy? 

Here's my answer: Because ONE person might.

I can't tell you how many kind and sweet emails I received by readers who were touched by my words. They encouraged and comforted me. 

But is ONE enough for you?

It was for me. Once the reality of publishing washed over me and I came up coughing but alive--I found new resolve. One reader IS enough. Will I always dream for more? Of course. Hey, I'm human. But until then...ONE is always enough.

Want to impact a life with what you write? Then do it. Write it. Get it out there.

Someone is waiting.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Hobbies: Do you or don't you?

I always wanted to be an artist but lacked talent. So I wrote instead. I then needed a hobby to take my thoughts away from my writing projects so I could return energized. Last December, with my husband's persuasion, I purchased a camera and lens and bag. The works. I went to work reading every book I could get my hands on about taking good pictures.

You see, years ago, I had tried photography but it was before the digital age. For some reason, I couldn't figure out F Stops, Aperture, ISO, Bracketing, etc, When I finally sat down and read book after book, a light came on. I finally understood what it took to take a good photo.

Understanding and expecting results didn't come hand-in-hand. I have to practice and practice as much as I can. Just like my writing. I started writing small challenges for Faithwriters.Week after week. Studying the comments to improve. Eventually I submitted online to free forums. Then I challenged myself to submit for pay.

I'm following that same process with my photography. It may be years before I'm any good but I'm enjoying it as I go. Just like I did with writing.

But I also take my new hobby seriously. I carve time out of my schedule to make those practice shots. To push my creativity.

I'm still finding the kind of art I want to create with my photos but that's the joy in starting a new hobby. Anything goes

What new hobby have you taught yourself in the past years? Is there something you have been wanting to try but haven't taken the steps yet to do it?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

It's my day and I don't plan to waste it

The first thing I do each morning is open my curtains on the patio. I can't wait to see what the light looks like as it shines across my building. Part of that love is from being a photographer. I've learned that the best times to take photos are early in the am or just before dusk.

The other part of my love for that morning light is what it means about my day. A new beginning, Another chance to accomplish what I'd planned. Another day to correct the mistakes I made yesterday. Another day to enjoy. Another day to live.

Another reminder that I'm alive. 

And who doesn't want to wake up and see the sun?

I didn't always feel that way. I have had my share of dark moments where I rolled back over and groaned, wishing I didn't have to get out of bed and face the day. I'm trying now to live in the moment that God has given me. He doesn't promise us more than today. So today is here and I have a choice--how best to use it.

That gives me excitement. Anything can happen today. Something could change the course of my life with a phone call, an email, a letter. Yesterday I booked a trip to Seattle to see my family. It's been three years since I last went. Now I rise with thoughts of how much fun I'm going to have then. Later today, I might get an encouraging email from a reader of my book. Maybe I'll have the opportunity to congratulate someone on their day. Maybe I'll be able to lift my friend who's feeling down now. Maybe I'll step on that scale and finally see the number I have been shooting for!

What I do know is this day won't be wasted. Not a moment. Not a thought. Not an action.

It's God's gift  to me and I plan to open it. 

Hope your day is just as sweet!

Monday, September 14, 2015

My Daughter Says I Ruined Her

The other day, my daughter called earlier than usual. "My stomach hurts. I was up all night from something I ate. I wish I could call in sick."
"Call in," I said. "You've worked there ten years and have taken few sick days."
"I can't," she said with a sigh. "You ruined me."

When my daughter was ten, she asked to take tap dancing lessons. We gave in and bought the shoes and tights and paid the fees for a month even though it stretched our budget. We wanted her to have the opportunity to enjoy an activity like many of her other friends.

After two lessons, she came to me in tears. She hated it. She couldn't get the steps right. She wanted to quit.

It was the only time I let her quit anything. 

We had this rule. If you aren't throwing up or have a high fever, you go to school. My daughter had an excellent attendance record. We also had this other rule. If you start something, you finish it. That meant when she signed up for softball or field hockey or gymnastics or band or Awana, she finished the season whether she liked it or not.

She did.

Except for tap dancing.

A part of me knew that I'd encouraged tap dancing because it was something I'd always wanted to try but never did. She was fulfilling my dream not hers.

When we moved to Florida, she had to start a new school in her Junior year. She came to me that morning with tears in her eyes and pain in her belly. I knew if I said she could stay home, the next day would be harder. It broke my heart to drop her off  and watch her walk in alone.

I did what I thought was right even though it was hard.

It paid off. 

Today my daughter is married to a fine man, raising two fine children and works in a very good position with her company. She moved across the country the day she married and started over again in a strange city. She survived and blossomed.

I couldn't be prouder.

What more could a parent want who ruined their only child?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Why I won't throw my husband or marriage away like I did my eight-track tape player

Thirty-eight years I've been married. A lifetime. Pretty good considering I knew my husband only three months before he proposed. In less than a year, I said "I do" and moved to Virginia with him to start my dream of marriage.

Or should I say the nightmare. I blame it now on youth. Believing that fairytale lie that all will be perfect and beautiful without any work. It wasn't. By year two, I left my new husband for the longest two weeks of my life.On the wise counsel of my mother-in-law I returned.

My husband told me then that he had failed at other things in his life but he would not fail at his marriage.

He kept his word. 

Today we throw everything out that no longer appeals to us or doesn't work perfectly. I've chucked furniture, clothing and boxes of books on my many moves about the country. To be honest, my husband has given me many good reasons to chuck him as well. So have I for him.

Seven years into our marriage, I found we couldn't conceive. I wanted a child. We tried everything the doctor suggested. I became frustrated and depressed and made life miserable for my husband. With time, we were finally blessed. Then came the struggle to maintain our marriage with a toddler in our midst.

The ups and downs never steadied.

The dreaded seven-year-itch got me at about year nine. Was this to be my life? My husband worked long hours like me plus we had the added responsibility of raising a daughter. Life wasn't that promised bed of roses. It was filled with thorns.

I found myself wondering again if I'd made the right decision. I could be someplace else without these burdens.

That's when God appeared.

We'd never talked about our beliefs before. With a little divine intervention, we found ourselves in church for the first time together. Our marriage surged. We moved away from our home we'd known for years to start over in a new state for a better job. Yes, good money helped, too. But money doesn't keep a marriage together either. Nor the lack of it. When my husband lost his job, I  bolstered and supported him--until I thought I couldn't take it any more. He was too depressed and sad and angry. Did I sign up for this? Where was that strong man who cared for me? I wanted to pack and run.

I didn't. That's not what you do when the going gets tough. (I married a Marine, you know.) You stay by their side and together you dig the trench to save yourselves. He hadn't left me when I'd been just as sad. I couldn't leave him now.

Today we both wield a shovel in our hands. His hands wear the look of age--marred with scars of labor. Mine can't even open a pickle jar anymore. That's what he does for me. Together we weather the hard times and the good times as one.

Thirty-eight years. I'm counting on forty more.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015


Summer has ended for most people. Today my grandson starts second grade. A huge part of me wishes I could be there with him in Seattle, take his hand and walk with him into his new classroom. Well, I'm sure the take his hand part wouldn't happen. But maybe I would be allowed to take a peek at where he will be spending the next nine months. 

When I see all the ads for back-to-school stuff and see Facebook photos of kids standing in front of their front doors, smiles on their faces, it stirs memories. Memories we all have of first days. New classrooms, new friends, new beginnings.

For some reason, my memories pull up fourth grade. May, to be exact. I was extremely shy. Always would be right through college. So when my teacher, Mrs McMahon asked me to be a princess in the May Day court, I was shocked. I remember running home to my house to find my mother baking pies in the kitchen. She didn't go back to work until the following year so I was able to share with her my joy and excitement.

We remember those highs and lows in our lives. What I wonder about is the in-between times. Those memories that don't quite make the list. I see myself in kindergarten drinking milk and eating graham crackers and then in first grade learning to read. Then time skips and I'm in third grade with Mrs. Dawson, scared of the teacher they called Dogface Dawson.

What happened in second grade? I can't pull up one scene. No pictures of my classroom in the old brick building a few miles from my house. Nothing. 

How much time in our life is forgotten because something monumental didn't cause us to remember it? What else was happening then? 

I think about all this stuff and yes, it's just stuff, as the season turns. What will I remember about this past summer? What will lodge a permanent home in my memory to pull out some day and smile? Or cry? 

If anything over the years, I've learned to appreciate each day a little more. Grab onto it and find a purpose. Today started like any other day but I have a plan. A plan to make a memory. Do you?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Highs and Lows of the Writing Life

My husband snapped this picture of me with my grandson at a park in PA while on vacation in June. We're waiting in line for a ride. The guy behind us--a stranger. The way he's pictured gives me the shivers if I let my imagination run wild.

That's what I intend to do. That's what I want my books to do.

Last week was a turning point with my writing. Highs and lows. After reading the beginning of my latest work, my agent decided to shelve it.

I don't blame her now.

Her decision didn't sit so well with me at first. She said the story needed more 'sit on the edge of your seat' stuff. The opening dragged. Something every writer dreads hearing.

So I gave her the first three chapters of the story I'm writing now--suspense. She loved it.

She also took the time to show me through detailed edits how I could further improve it,

I finally got it. No more writing to impress the reader. Just write the story. Make it move. And make it a good story.

For a moment last week, in the throes of my poor me cry, I wanted to quit writing forever. Why should I waste any more time in my life creating something that ends up being worthless? I ranted and debated alone in my house, telling myself  I should just get a real job where my time meant something. If you're a writer, I'm sure you have been there. Many times. So have I.

You would think rejections would roll off me by now. They don't. They stick a little.

I finally took a deep breath and read her suggestions. It struck me by the second page what she was talking about. I needed to change my writing style if I wanted to keep a reader's interest.

So I ordered two more books on writing, plus delved into the pile of fiction I've been meaning to read. My agent not only turned me around but helped drive me to the place I should be headed.

Not every writer gets that chance.

There will be highs in writing and there will be those lows. It doesn't matter how thick our skin is or how well we think we are prepared.

Because this is writing. Can you relate?