Bidding A Colleague Goodbye

Llorettaredone

I met Loretta Miller Mehl at an Oregon Christian Writer’s conference one spring. When I read her name tag, I realized she was the grandmother of friends—her son and his wife homeschooled their children through the same channels I homeschooled mine.

I said, “I know who you are!” She gave me a skeptical smile. When I proved myself, she broke into that effervescent grin I would come to know as her trademark. Loretta loved being with people and rarely met a stranger, her smile a contagious draw.

We crossed paths again later that summer at the college graduation party of a mutual acquaintance. Loretta invited me to her critique group because I didn’t currently attend one. “Wear your toughest skin,” she warned, “these people are brutal.”

I visited the group and stayed, bearing their scrutiny of my work with dignity. Their attention to detail made me a better writer. Attending each week made Loretta a welcomed friend. She wrote prolifically and sold, or so it seemed, almost every thing she submitted. Her stories were vignettes of family life, incidents she remembered while rearing three sons and a daughter. Her book about her life as the daughter of a southern sharecropper made me cry. I fought professional envy of her success. Her manner of telling stories with poignancy and adapting a scriptural truth to each tale made editors love her.

Health events slowed Loretta as the years hurried on. Still, she came to critique, always dressed fashionably, moving with a walker, sharing a hearty hello and a story—she didn’t leave home without one. Her words made people laugh, cry, and feel everything in between.

When the critique group faltered and began to drift, I moved on to another. Loretta and I stayed in touch. She’d e-mail me about a blog I’d posted, or when she wanted to pass on family news. I visited her in re-hab. When I learned she’d needed acute care, I was saddened.

This week Loretta joined her husband, Bill, at the throne of God’s grace. She’s earned her reward. In Galatians 6:9-10, the Apostle Paul tells us, “And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.”

Loretta is probably chatting with Jesus, that unstoppable smile in place, those mischievous eyes twinkling. I know she’s telling a story and I’m sure Jesus is laughing.

Goodbye, dear Loretta. We will meet again.

For the Contemporary Reader

meissner 3Contemporary and historical fiction alike find places in my reading library. I’ve discovered both genres to be satisfying pastimes. One multi-published contemporary author who recently garnered my attention is Susan Meissner, a writer whose books cross into both past and present worlds. Her skill at mastering a story set in two eras is amazing.

The Shape of Mercy, named by Publisher’s Weekly as the best book of 2008, explores the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. Mercy Hayworth, a young woman who lived during the witch frenzy, records the unfathomable and unsubstantiated accusations of innocent women in her diary, a tome which survives the next three centuries.

Three hundred years later, Lauren Durough, an affluent college co-ed, is hired by eccentric 83-year-old librarian Abigail Boyles to transcribe Mercy’s diary. Lauren is captivated by the writings of this young girl. She finds herself drawn to the young woman’s plight as Mercy becomes trapped by the superstitions and snap judgments of her generation. The more Lauren learns, the more she realizes the diary contains secrets that explain the nature of embittered Abigail with whom Mercy shares a family tie.

Lauren also discovers things about herself, having broken rank with her wealthy family when she accepted the writing position. Living on campus at a state college instead of attending Stanford, and working a job instead of taking her monthly allowance, are both acts which puzzle Lauren’s parents, who can give her everything she needs. But Lauren is determined to find her true self and comes face to face with two different choices. Will she, like Mercy, play the helpless defendant or become the misguided judge?

You won’t be disappointed by this read.

 

Other books by Meissner written in the same crossover style are A Sound Among the Trees and Lady in Waiting, all published by Waterbrook Multnomah. Ask your local book retailer to order your copy today.meissner 1meissner 2

 

Enduring Love

 valentine blog picture**The man hurried to his early morning doctor’s appointment, anxious to see his physician and leave in time for his next appointment across town. 

The practitioner asked the man what the urgent demand on his time was. He replied he went every morning to see his wife at the memory care facility where she’d been the last seven years. Alzheimer’s disease afflicted her, stealing every recollection of her former life, including him.             The doctor asked the man why he went, when his wife no longer knew him.         He replied, “Because I remember her.”**

Sadness tugged at my heart when I first read this post, having had friends and family consumed by this terrifying disease. Watching a loved one slowly slip away from reality, though he or she still lives, wrenches your spirit.

But the excerpt also stirred feelings of happiness, knowing an unknown husband devoted himself to his wife’s care enough to sacrifice his time daily, with no prospect of having the commitment returned. That kind of love is hard to find in this self-absorbed culture in which we live.

In John 13:34-35 (NKJV) Jesus commanded us to love one another. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this, all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Valentine’s Day is a great time to renew your commitment to love others—not only the romantic interests in your life—but your fellow man. Every day each of us encounters someone who is lonely, forgotten, hurting, or ignored. Take time to remember them as Christ remembers you. Be interested enough to listen with a whole heart. You may mend someone’s sorrow.                                                                                           Happy Valentine’s Day.

**(Adapted from another article, author unknown)

Nothing Super Here

football

Girls team sports were not an option when I attended high school. My exposure to group athletics came from mandatory physical education classes.

That suited me.

I found basketball confusing, sometimes shooting the ball at the wrong basket. Softball proved tedious when I could do little more than swing—which wasn’t often. Track found me panting through my first lap as others headed for the showers. Give me a horse to ride or an aerobics class and I performed well. Otherwise, forget it.

My opportunity for redemption came when the senior girls decided to put on a powder puff football exhibition game. Sounded like fun. No tackling. Male football team members to teach us. One silly game. I should have known.

I made the squad, scrabbling through the plays, never sure where the pigskin was, and frequently lost track of the goal. When the coach asked for volunteers to practice place kicks, I stepped forward. Here was my chance to shine. Just run and punt a stationary ball. Piece of cake.

Each of us took our turn, assuming the “stance”, counting our steps, and hitting our stride as we kicked the ball airborne. When my turn came, my excitement overflowed. I could do this. I got into position, calculated the distance, and with a mighty burst of energy zeroed in on the ball. My leg swung, my toe connected with something, and I went sliding six feet in the mud on my rear.

To the side lay the football, the person who’d been holding it doubled up in laughter, her sides shaking. My team members were biting their lips. The coach had the decency to stare at the horizon. Like Lucy with Charlie Brown, I had missed. That’s not something one forgets.

In Proverbs 16:18-19 the scriptures read: “Pride goes before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. Better it is to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.”

This Sunday, while my husband tunes in to the Super Bowl for a quarter or two, I’ll make the caramel corn, heat the refries, and serve the chips. I’ll read more pages in my novel. I may even do a load of laundry.

Because, behind the scenes, I can still hear the ball holder howling. Enjoy your game.