The Countdown Begins

August 1, my debut novel, An Anchor on Her Heart, releases for distribution. For the next several weeks I’ll be offering insights into what prompted the story and why I wrote what I did.

 

The story behind the story—

When my college graduate son landed a job as an observer biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service, I was thrilled he’d found work in his chosen major. He’d spent an extra term earning twenty additional marine studies credit hours to add to his biology degree and it appeared that extra effort had paid off.

Until I found out where he was headed.

Dutch Harbor, Alaska, a world class fishing port in the middle of the Aleutian Islands, is an area rife with history. Look at a map of the northern hemisphere and you’ll see what appears to be the skeletal bones of a dinosaur tail hanging down from the tip of Alaska. Dutch Harbor sits near the end of that tail, not far from Kamchatka which was once part of the Soviet Union. The port encloses the same waters where the reality television show, Deadliest Catch, is filmed.  My son was leaving Christmas Day which meant he was flying to a territory in the middle of winter, a region covered with snow and ice. He would be working on the Bering Sea.

Proverbs 3:5 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.”

Imagining all that could happen to him, I had to hide my fears. Watching him board the plane, it was all I could do not to run and drag him back. The next few months would be an experience in trust. I spent a lot of time on my knees, not knowing God was giving me fuel for a future endeavor.

When my son returned from his adventure and talked about his in-depth training and his work experience, I knew I had the setting for a great story. From his descriptions of life at the fishing port, the numbers of nationalities that frequent the area, and the personal accounts of men he met, the character of Rudy Taylor began to emerge.  All I needed to add was a heroine with a problem. That wasn’t far off.

More next week. . .

 

Abba Father

This week I attended a memorial service for a young man who died too soon. He had once been a six-year-old  in the Bible club where I was a leader. I remembered him as ambitious, who always tried to have his Bible verses ready to recite each week. Now thirteen years later, he was gone. I mourned his passing. What a tragic waste of a promising future.

I watched his parents leave the auditorium, agony on their faces, devastation in their eyes. With their son’s death so close to Father’s Day, the celebratory holiday would become an annual reminder of what they’d lost. Their grief would not soon pass. I ached for their pain.

This Sunday we will honor our fathers, the family leader that God often favors in His word. In Deuteronomy 6:1, Moses gathered all of Israel together and taught them the standards God wanted them to know. He admonished the fathers to teach the precepts to their sons and grandsons, preserving God’s law among the future generations.

“That you might fear the Lord, your God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments .  .  .you, your son, and your son’s son.”  With the admonition comes a promise that we may live long in the land God gives us.

In Ephesians 6:4, fathers are told to bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Anyone who has parented a child knows this is not an easy task.

In this often confused and crazy world, our children are daily subjected to outside influences  that may or may not be good for them.  Staying abreast of everything to which they are exposed requires constant vigil. Correcting misguided ideas takes a strong fatherly figure.  No wonder God gave that responsibility to men.

If your father is still living, honor him this week. For better or for worse, he has paved the way for you, leading you on the narrow path he hopes will keep you safe. Life’s pitfalls turned his hair gray, gave him worry lines across his forehead. But he earned those wounds loving you. Thank him.

Summer Anyone?

As I stood at my kitchen window this week and watched rain pelt my patio and the wind whip the trees, I struggled to remember that the summer solstice is a mere eleven days away. Dubbed the wettest Oregon spring in one hundred years, I marveled at how this season differed from last year.

The unseasonably warm days in 2016 teased my dahlias out of their slumber early, many of them blooming by mid-June. In 2017 they’re barely above ground. My patio flowers were planted and thriving, not huddling in their pots trying to stay alive beneath the deluge to which they’ve been subjected these past few months.

I appreciate the change of seasons. Rain is necessary for plant life to grow, wildlife to thrive, and rivers to flow. I’ve seen how a lack of it can devastate an otherwise healthy landscape, turning a beautiful meadow into a patch of weeds. God put the seasons into place and in his wisdom he allows both sun and rain to flavor our world. Too much of one or the other can have disastrous effects on the environment.

Our lives can be a lot like the weather. Events that make us happy and help us enjoy life can be sprinkled with trials that cause us to despair. One season we flourish, another we struggle, trying to make sense of our circumstances. Often we try to fix blame, wanting someone else to suffer in our place.

In Matthew 5:43-45 God’s word tells us: “You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you; that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.”

Take heart. The rain will eventually disappear. Or the snow. Or whatever weather you are facing that you don’t like. Maybe you have too much sun! In its place will come something different. Appreciate the change knowing all things work together for good. That’s also in the Bible. Look it up.

Good Summer Reading

 

 

 

 

 

 

When someone mentions Amish fiction to you, how do you react? Do you yearn for a simpler lifestyle, where farm animals factor into your life, and a slower pace fills your days? Or does the word evoke something else in you, an overdone retelling of a life that most people would find difficult to live?

I don’t read a lot of Amish fiction, but one author who writes about the Plain community has captured my interest because she pits the simple life against the complicated culture in which the Amish have to exist. Her books bring the two different worlds face to face in a collision of values and the stories that result are fascinating.

Her name—Leslie Gould. The series—Neighbors of Lancaster County.

I finished reading the first story, Amish Promises, and found myself longing to know more about these characters.  The Lehmans, a dysfunctional Amish household, run a dairy farm and live next door to the Becks, an all-American military family. That alone is a pivotal factor for conflict, but the unmarried Lehman aunt  and a single male friend of the Becks, a soldier recently returned from Afghanistan, discover each other and sparks fly. Literally!

In the second novel, Amish Sweethearts, the Lehman children and the one son of the Becks play together and grow up as close friends. But the two worlds are a universe apart and when the children show interest in the lifestyle on the other side of the fence, trouble brews. The eldest Lehman daughter and Zane, the Beck’s son, deny their love for each other, but it is a struggle they cannot win, even when the girl begins seeing an Amish man her father arranged for her to court.

I have yet to read the third tale in the series, Amish Weddings, but have it on my to-be-read shelf waiting for its turn in the line-up. I promise you won’t be disappointed by any of the three in the series, but if you take a chance on all of them, you will have a wonderful summer of reading.

Mother’s Day Beginnings

Mother’s Day means many things to different people. Most of us view the date as a way to show honor to our mothers, often bestowing gifts and sentiments to them. But, originally, the day began for a very different reason.

The observance grew out of a movement known as the Mothers’ Day Work Clubs, designed to raise awareness of poor health conditions in communities toward the end of the Civil War. A social activist named Ann Reeves Jarvis, working alongside Julia Ward Howe, believed mothers would unite to help the less fortunate and hoped to unify them to work for world peace.

Her daughter, Anna Marie Jarvis, found her inspiration for Mother’s Day when she heard her mother say she wished one day someone might create a day just for mothers. Anna was motivated to carry on the social work her mother started. When the older woman died, Anna held a memorial ceremony on May 10, 1908, three years after her mother’s death, to honor the matron’s life work. A shrine was erected at Andrews Memorial Episcopal Church in Grafton, West Virginia. Anna contributed five hundred white carnations for all who attended the service. This is believed to be the first official Mother’s Day observance.

As commercialization moved in and gifts of cards, candy, and flowers came to be associated with the celebration, Anna Jarvis lost her enthusiasm for the day she’d helped establish. Embittered, she is quoted as saying the printed card was a poor substitute for a handwritten sentiment to a woman who did more for her children than any other person alive. Candy was a pretense for the gift giver to help himself. Only the white carnation, in her opinion, continued to represent the purity of a mother’s love.

Anna Jarvis never married. Her birthplace, Anna Jarvis House, in Webster Taylor County, West Virginia, has been listed as a national historic landmark.

How sad it is that Anna died unhappy with the work she started. Her quest had a biblical basis. The scriptures are filled with references to honoring one’s parents. In Exodus 20:12 we are told, “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”

However you remember your mother this week, know you are carrying out a command that the Lord established for each of us.

Happy Mother’s Day.

 

Acknowledgements: Wikipedia online encyclopedia, dltk children’s Bible lessons

Launching A Book–Part 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edits. Track Changes. Copy Edits. Proofreading copy. More edits. Deadlines. Deadlines. Deadlines.

Launching a book is not the process I thought it would be when I first signed my contract. These past few weeks I put the finishing touches on the final proofread of book one before I send the manuscript back to my editor. Every comment from her or the proofreaders had to be addressed. Each word choice checked. Meticulous, tiring work, but satisfying as well.

One proofreader sent me a note through my publisher saying, “I hope to finish in the next few days. I had to stop for the evening because I’m having trouble reading through my tears. This is good stuff!”

Be still, my heart. My story made a proofreader— a man—cry? I had to stop and catch my breath. I didn’t see that coming.

Three proofreaders read the manuscript and made suggestions. In some places they disagreed about the need for changes. In others they concurred. The constantly shifting copy made my head swim, but the book moves forward, now barreling down the publishing timeline to its release date, September 1.

Once I submit the final read, I also have to send the copy for the second novel which will launch next year. I received the content edit back this week. The woman who read it made some great suggestions and found some (oops!) inconsistencies. All part of the process.

Often I feel as if I climbed aboard a treadmill from which I can’t step off. But rather than feeling tired, or overwhelmed, I’m buoyed by the fact that I will soon be a published novelist. A title I’ve worked hard to achieve. God, in His wisdom, knew when my turn could come.

I think of Esther (Esther 4:14) who was afraid when she was called to defend her people and Mordecai said to her, “who knows whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Like her, my time is here. Both exciting and frightening.

I’m sure there will be more tripping hazards ahead—like reviews, sale numbers, blog interviews, and book signings—but I’ve earned the right to participate and I am ready to take it on. For better or for worse.

More to come soon.

The Saddest, Gladdest Day

 

In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre.

And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow:

And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

Matthew 28:1-7 KJV

Jesus came for the sole purpose of giving his life that we might attain eternal life in heaven with him. The only step we need to take, as it says in Acts 16:31, is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and we shall be saved. The choice is ours.

A joyous Easter to you.

Hosanna Procession

A friend entered eternity this week. She’d been an inspiration to me, her attitude toward life one of positive assurance that God would take care of her.

She’d reared three children after her husband left to find other women, had worked as a fraternity cook for nearly three decades, and had walked the cancer journey alone when illness struck later in her life. Her response to trials was always, “God has taken care of me in the past, he’s taking care of me now, and he will take care of me in the future.” Her unwavering faith in the face of hardship spoke volumes to those of us who knew her.

When I read of her death, I was warmed knowing she made her exit from this earth to heaven the same week we celebrate Palm Sunday—Christ’s glorious entrance into Jerusalem. He and his disciples were headed to the holy city to celebrate Passover. He knew, as he stood at the top of the hill leading to the main gate, he would not leave alive. Time for the fulfillment of his purpose had come. Mankind would forever be changed. Jesus would become the sacrificial lamb, offering anyone who believed in Him hope for eternal life in heaven.

In Ephesians 2:4-7 we are told: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”

As I read those words and thought of what Christ did for us at the cross, I imagined my friend’s final triumphant walk into the arms of her Savior. Goodbye dear friend. Save a spot for me.

The Dogwood Has Bloomed

The dogwood has bloomed. The tree sits on a corner along the street I  follow to get to my bank. Every year I anticipate the arrival of the flowers, waiting for the splash of white blossoms to stir my heart as I hurry down the thoroughfare.

Not only is the sight breathtaking, it reminds me of the season into which we are about to enter. The most important day in the earth’s history is about to be celebrated, the remembrance one that affects every person on the face of the planet.

Two thousand years ago, God had sent his son to earth. After thirty-three years here, Jesus was about to fulfill his destiny. He traveled much of Jerusalem with his band of followers, teaching people about the kingdom of heaven, healing their diseases, restoring their loved ones. He’d made enemies and gathered many friends.

The Sanhedrin feared him because he spoke against the false teachings for which they were known. He threatened to upset the delicate balance the Jews maintained in the presence of the Roman occupation. They looked for opportunities to remove him.

He knew their hearts. He understood their thoughts. He sensed them watching him. He ate with publicans and sinners. He healed on the Sabbath. They were waiting to accuse him when the time was right.

Passover was coming. Jesus would enter Jerusalem to celebrate with his disciples. No one but him can know this would be the last time he would enter the city. His enemies waited. They plotted. They watched. Soon they would act. God’s plan was about to be fulfilled.

Acts 16:31 says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” In the violent acts that would follow, everyone would gain access to eternal life. The innocent would be slain, the guilty redeemed, the key to heaven placed within everyone’s grasp. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, it would be only a matter of time.

 

This is the first installment in a three-part series leading up to the celebration of Easter.

 

Carrying Another’s Burdens

I thought I was going to slip out of winter this year without being hit by one of the inevitable viruses that seem to affect most who reside in the wet and cold Willamette Valley. But not to be left out, I developed a persistent cough two days before “spring” arrived and began the downward spiral toward a full-blown cold. So much for sneaking by.

I’m the chief cook and bottle washer at my house. That fact alone makes me extra vigilant when risking the health of others around me. A nasty virus could potentially affect many people. My 94-year-old neighbor takes supper with us. Our son, who lives nearby, prefers the company of his nutty parents rather than a lifeless computer screen. Finish the list with my daughter and husband and the potential to infect four additional people exists. A great responsibility.

My son, though, is an excellent cook. When he learned of my plight, he took over in the kitchen. He is familiar with most of the recipes I had included on my menu planner and assembled them for me. He also is great on cleanup detail. I slept through two nights of meals, secure in the knowledge my people were being cared for.

The Bible tells us in Galatians 6:2-3: “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” I wonder if when God spoke those words He meant a son would step in and cook for his mother when she is ill. I’m not a commentator nor a Bible scholar, but from my perspective what my son volunteered to do certainly bore my burden. He blessed me with a simple kindness, but the act multiplied in the numbers of people he fed.

Who is looking to you today for help carrying their load? The need might be as close as your neighbor’s kitchen sink.