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New Year, New Page, New Start

1 Jan

On this, the seventh day of Christmas, I received a most precious gift, as did you.

I stayed in bed this morning as long as I could, savoring the opening of it the way one unwraps a much-anticipated present—instead of tearing into the wrapping, I glided my metaphorical finger just under point where the paper overlaps and I nudged the tape until it released its hold.

Then I pulled back the wrap and lingered over the newness of it all, inhaling the scent of promise and potential.

It is here.

sunriseThe new year has dawned like a magnificent sunrise over an expansive ocean, with a freshness of clean linen, the newness of a tightly folded flower bud, and the secrecy of a locked treasure chest. I’m giddy over the endless possibilities of what lies ahead.

In my heart, I’m staring in wonder at a book that contains 365 blank pages, and my heart can only smile.

Right now, the pages are unstained, unblemished in any way. I haven’t hurt anyone with my sarcasm all year. I haven’t said any words I cannot take back. I haven’t judged someone for being different. I haven’t broken a promise to a friend, or missed an opportunity to put aside my work to take a long walk with my husband.

At this moment, anything is possible.

In time, the pages will fill, some with heartache, others with joy and victory. I pray for more of the latter but understand it’s not my decision, just as I also know that, when the year ends, page after page will contain absolutely nothing—a chronicle of hours burned up on mindless tasks.

I resolve to turn the pages more purposefully this year. I pray I can record at the end of each day that I smiled more, laughed more, and loved more on that day’s page than on the one before it. I pray this year my focus is not on how I can better myself, but on how I can make life better for others. Forgive those who hurt me, reignite waning friendships, write encouragement for others. What does that mean, exactly? I have no idea, but I’m sure I’ll learn.

This year I will write a book, see more family, and meet new people. It’s going to be a blast.

How about you? What do you hope to put on your blank pages? Imagine the unimaginable with me, would you? Set your sights on the seemingly unattainable and laugh, because you can do it. Believe and make that first mark on the pristine page.

For no yearning is too big, no dream impossible on this, the first day.

—-

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! — 2 Corinthians 5:17

Play Ball! Nationals “Fan” Dares to Hope

13 Oct

Five hours and counting.

Not that I am counting, but if I were, five is the magic number. Five hours and seventeen minutes. Give or take.

…because counting would imply that I’m some sort of fanatic. That I’m somehow invested in the outcome of tonight’s baseball game. That I care, for some reason, whether Max Sherzer slept well last night.

Pshaw! It’s just a division title, give me a break.

He did sleep well, didn’t he? Is there a press release on that?

But then, why am I writing this instead of working on the myriad assignments vying for attention on my desk? Why am I doodling “Go Murphy” on the thesis I’m editing? Why am I secretly giddy that the Red Sox are out, knowing a certain fan living in New Mexico might be crying in her baked beans tonight?

To be clear, I’m not giddy that she’s crying, but when my Broncos faced her Patriots during the race to the Super Bowl in January, the FBosphere started getting uncomfortable, and I couldn’t cheer as loudly as I wanted to. It’s hard to yell “In your face” when someone’s Gronk is riding the stretcher to the locker room, you know? So, I’m happy to have that obstacle on the side of the road.

No, I’m not a fanatic. I can quit watching Nationals Baseball any time I want to. Then again, if that were true, I may not have sat up so many nights when we went into extra innings…Like that six-hour, 16-inning, suspense-a-palooza against the Twins last April when I couldn’t sleep until Chris Heisey’s walk-off put me out of my misery. Lots of coffee the next morning.

Lots.

It’s just that I admire this team, their dedication, their coach, and their creativity. They are fun to watch. You’ve got Espinosa hitting home runs as both a left- and right-handed batter in the same game, a rookie named Turner who can fly, and Harper stepping up on his supposed day off to pinch-hit a game-tying home run in the 9th inning. And there are six players on the team with 20 or more homeruns this season. SIX! Even the second-string players are phenomenal. Although our hearts were crushed when The Buffalo re-shattered his knee in the team’s first post-season game, Jose Lobaton stepped up to fill his cleats and got our hearts beating again.

My favorite player is Jayson Werth, for whose T-shirt I relinquished a few tenners. Not the jersey. I imagine if I were a true fan I wouldn’t let a measly C-note stop me from sporting the colors, but struggling writer budget trumps style. Werth, to me, epitomizes the game. He plays hard, pushed through a lengthy slump this year to emerge as one of the team’s top hitters, and he’s absolutely awful in front of the camera. I love it when “MASN Dan” dares to approach him with the mic—the more glorious the moment, the more colorful the language.

Four hours and 33 minutes.

nats

Even if they win, I promise not to get a big head over it.

And while we’re on favorites, I even like The Big-headed Presidents. Well, not Hoover. He’s a tad creepy. Teddy is the coolest, because he just looks as if he’s there to enjoy the game. I decided that if I made it to a game this year, I’d wrangle a photo-op with him in case I ever blogged about the Nationals. Sigh…then when my big moment finally arrived, Teddy kinda wandered away, leaving me with Willy Taft. I’ll take what I can get.

I do have a life outside of baseball. And the Broncos. And the Caps. It’s just that I can’t quite remember what’s in it. By this time tomorrow, I may get a glimpse, because my nights would be baseball-free, but I hope not. This series against the Dodgers has been a nail biter, but all the Nats players seem to be playing on high octane (and I’m betting Harper is just reserving energy for an upcoming dramatic save). So, I’m fully prepared to put off my meager social life even further to cheer the Nats through the World Series.  Starting in four hours and ten minutes.

I’d better double check the schedule to make sure the time hasn’t been moved up. Not that I’m a fanatic, mind you.

Criminy. There’s also a Broncos game on at 8:30. And the Caps play at 8.

Now what do I do?

***

Morning After Report:
Nationals lost.
Broncos lost.
Capitals lost.
I must really be a fanatic, because it hurts so very much. 😦
#GoNats2017

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Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. – Proverbs 13:12

A Story is Born: From the Remnants Just Released

12 Sep

It’s official!

Today Cathy Schrader and I released “From the Remnants, A Story of Light and Hope.

bookcover

Click on Book Cover to Order! …And thank you. 🙂

It is the true story of Cathy’s journey from heart-shattering brokeness to a place of healing and purpose.

This book is for anyone whose faith in God has been tested by the sudden and unexplainable loss of a loved one. Although we all race through life understanding its inherent brevity, we sometimes take for granted the days we’re given to share with those we love. We choose our paths based on what we expect they hold for us. However, God, in his sovereign mercy, knowing infinitely more about our journey than we do ourselves, sometimes allows devastation in our lives by calling our loved one to Himself sooner than we could have predicted, turning those paths into dead-end roads, and thereby prompting that age-old question:

Why, God?

This book responds with the age-old answer:

We don’t know.

Because we’re not God.

However, sometimes, if we press forward through the anger and pain, and we resolve to retain our faith despite the apparent senselessness of it all, we can catch a glimpse of the larger picture—an aerial view, so to speak—of our lives and purpose through His eyes.

This vision may not, and probably won’t heal the scars of our suffering, but it’s not supposed to. Those scars brought us to the place we are, to a place of awareness that we are not the author of our own destiny, but that we can walk with the One who is. And when we walk with Him, we can know we’re on the course he intended for us to travel. Only then can we truly receive the joy and peace He has placed along the way.

I invite you to walk briefly along Cathy’s path, and to discover as she did, that God’s ways are not our ways, but when we trust him, they tend to be just a tad better…

Blessings and Happy Reading!

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Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or imagine, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:19-21

New England in 15 Days: A Dish Best Served Warm

26 Aug
bridge

Beautiful Newport — Is that redundant?

I’m walking mournfully from room to room, sighing heavily because the trip I’ve been waiting for and planning for nearly three years is now but a memory, and I long to go back. I yearn to feel that cool ocean breeze blowing into my bedroom window and to fall asleep listening to the waves crash rhythmically along the New England shores.

I unwrap the tourist magnets and find homes for them on the already over-full refrigerator: Prospect Harbor, Maine; Stowe, Vermont; Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Plymouth, Massachusetts; Hartford, Connecticut; Newport, RI.

It was a whirlwind tour, designed to show my friend Michele as much of my beloved New England as possible in only 15 days. When she first told me she’d never been there, my mind nearly exploded with compassion and amazement. That meant she’d never stood on Concord’s North Bridge, where our nation was born. She’d never driven over Rhode Island’s Newport bridge into Jamestown and looked in wonder at the single house on the rock. She’d never stood in the center of Bristol Commons while the noon church bells chimed. Why, the poor thing had never tasted Maine lobster straight off the pier! Well, that certainly explains the thumbs up I’ve seen her bestow on our northern Virginia area “seafood” establishments.

It took some doing, but we finally set off on a 2,878-mile journey that zipped up the Massachusetts coast to Gouldsboro, Maine in time for the Winter Harbor lobster festival, then snaked back and forth through New England, ending in Hartford, Connecticut.

We saw all the touristy places, of course. The tip of Cape Cod, Plymouth Rock, Salem (big disappointment), the Gloucester seaport, Strawberry Banke, Acadia National Park, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream graveyard, the Vermont Country Store, the Newport mansions, and Mark Twain’s home. And although we did stop to see Lenny, a real chocolate moose, our memories of this trip are made of sweeter stuff than highway attractions

What made this a true adventure was the people we met along the way.

Jim Owens

Jim Owens: Mill Keeper

We found 88-year-old Jim Owens in Eastman, Cape Cod, sitting in a windmill, apparently waiting for us to happen along. He spoke briefly about the windmill and its history, but then went into storyteller mode—obviously his preferred canvass. He shared his story of being left at a Newport orphanage at age 7 after his mother died. His father, in this age where dads didn’t raise children, wanted him to finish out his school year at the orphanage before going to live with relatives in Middletown, RI. He told us about his uncle, who served as a Marine in WWI, and his own military service and ensuing travels, which only served to deepen his love for New England. Today Jim is a renowned historian throughout Cape Cod and Rhode Island.

His joy for life is so contagious I could have sat at his side for hours.

Breakfast soup

Breakfast soup on hand-made plates with Dolly’s edible garnish

We met Dolly at breakfast in the Acadia Oceanside Meadows Inn on Prospect Harbor. She served us breakfast each morning, delightfully naming for us each sprig and flower on our beautifully prepared plates. “All edible, and I picked them myself this morning!”

I could probably write an entire story about Dolly, but I’d have to first pin her down long enough to learn it. She flitted from table to table like a hummingbird, truly enjoying each guest, a perfect emissary for Maine hospitality.

corea

Corea Harbor

Maine also introduced us to Joe at the Warf Gallery & Grill in Corea, where we had the best lobster rolls I’ve ever tasted. Near the end of our visit, though, we learned that the Warf is actually famous for its crab. Upon hearing that a customer had driven miles for his crab, which had just run out, Joe removed his shucking apron, jumped into a small dingy and sped out to a trap on the water to bring in some more.

Maine is also a place to find beautiful, hand-made artwork. I learned why from Cindy Fisher, at the U.S. Bells shop we ducked into to avoid a brief summer storm. The gorgeous bronze bells sold there are hand-cast by her husband Richard in the Forge nearby. Expecting to find only bells in the shop, we were surprised and delighted to see walls lined with lovely pottery, quilts, jewelry, and other artwork. “It’s what we do in the winter,” she explained. “The snow kinda’ forces you to stay put.” She happily talked about each of the artists whose work was displayed there, making me wish I could meet them all.

bench

For Annette: Can you miss a woman you’ve never met?

In Stowe, Vermont, we spent an evening watching the Olympics with the bed & breakfast owner Randy and his giant Bernese, Mickey. Randy and his wife Annette purchased the inn with dreams of forever in their hearts, but the world had different plans. Near the inn, a lone bench under a currant tree waits for Annette, the garden behind it clearly untouched in the year or so since her passing. Randy, wearing a sad-sweet smile, continues pushing forward with Mickey, his new greeter and partner. The inn was homey and welcoming, and Randy must be a classically trained chef, because the food that he sent to our table made me want to stay on another week.

Although we found breathtaking scenery at every turn, Rhode Island’s shoreline offered the best, in my humble, Rhode Island-native opinion. I sat on a breakwater on Little Compton’s Sakonnet Point for perhaps 30 minutes, listening to the waves lap the rocks and just wishing I could stay forever. We travelled nearly every inch of shoreline from Tiverton to Charleston, stopping at each breathtaking vista to photograph lighthouses and meet the locals.

quahogs

Quahogs–they make great chowda!

In Galilee, we stopped at George’s Restaurant for one last taste of fresh lobster, and there met Julia, a delightful waitress who was eager for us to enjoy what the local seaport had to offer. When I explained that Michele still hadn’t seen a real quahog shell, she went back to the kitchen and found us two shiny, purple-streaked beauties that I’m sure Michele will treasure more than any store-bought souvenir.

towers

Before…

In Narragansett, where I just HAD to show Michele the famous stone towers, we met Christina in the Chamber of Commerce office at the towers’ base. Her enthusiastic love for Narragansett nearly had me searching for realtors on the spot, as did the familiar ocean view. I honestly reached the point where I thought I’d do anything to be able to stay in New England. Then I spotted a picture that stopped my longing immediately. Regrettably, it wasn’t for sale, but Christina sent me to Sharon Mazze, a delightful shop owner who might know where I could obtain one. After a brief chat (where I learned she knows Jim the Miller), she sent me down the pier to John McNamara, the photographer.

I bought the picture as soon as I saw it. John’s image not only reminds me of all I love about New England, it also reminds me why I live in Virginia. I will hang it over my desk to help me recall what was quite possibly my best summer vacation ever, but also to help me keep my perspective. I should have realized when Cindy explained the origins of Maine’s lovely artwork:

Winter.

It comes every year.

blizzardI’ll be back, New England, many times, I hope. And I will always love you…

From afar.

————-

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. — 1 Corinthians 10:13

 

When Fathers are Imperfect: You Call This Love?

14 Jun

No, I won’t be re-blogging all summer long. I just read this from two years ago and decided it’s still a fitting tribute. I hope you all have wonderful Father’s Day memories and, if not, can at least thank your father for making you you…because you’re fantastic!

—————————

Not everyone loves Fathers’ Day.

Did you have the perfect dad, someone who attended every sporting event, band concert, and scout ceremony? Who knew your friends’ names and read the articles you wrote for the school paper?

I didn’t. My dad barely knew me, and he attended nothing—not even my high school graduation.

Dads are a strange lot. When we’re young we think they’re perfect, but for most of us, at some point we learn the truth: that they’re human, and we’re disappointed.

What was that moment for you?

Perhaps your dad was away on business on your birthday one year and he didn’t call.

Or maybe he promised to bring you something and then forgot.

Perhaps he committed an unspeakable shame that your mother forbade you to talk about, even  with your best friend.

Perhaps one day, when you needed him more than ever, he looked the other way.

Or worse, walked out of your life.

Maybe he died before you even got to know him, and all you have of him is a photograph in a tiny frame.

Or maybe you don’t even know who he is.

I believe there’s a place in everyone’s heart set aside for loving a father, and we long for that love, but it doesn’t always look as we expect it to.

My dad was tough, a U.S. Marine, private first class. He fought with the First Marine Division in Korea, where one day a piece of shrapnel sliced through his head like a band saw. The Corps sent him home with a metal plate in his head and a glass eye, and a prediction that he wouldn’t live to 25. He beat the odds, married, fathered nine children, and died at the age of 64 in 1997. Love wasn’t part of his vocabulary.

Still, I know without a doubt that my father loved me, even though he only said it once. I was around 35, and home for Christmas, unaware that it would be the last time I’d see him alive. He mumbled, “luv ya” at the door when we were saying good-bye. I was so surprised I asked him to repeat himself, but he wouldn’t.

If I had measured his love for me according to outward affection, I’d be one hurtin’ puppy. In fact, I remember standing beside his easy-chair every night, waiting for my bedtime kiss. He’d touch his palm to his lips, turn his hand over, and slap me on my forehead. That was love.

Oh, how I despised him sometimes. Many times. He let me down; he let my brothers and sisters down, each one in a different way; and he let my mother down in the worst way. He never read to me. He got himself fired every time we were about to be ok. And he died, way too soon.

Oh, how I loved him. He was a good man. He made us all laugh. He could fix just about anything, and he loved dogs. We joked that he treated his dogs better than he treated his kids, but I challenge my siblings to consider this: he treated us just like his dogs. He wrestled with us, took us out on the water so we could feel the ocean breeze blow through our hair, and he always made sure we were fed. That was love.

Dad and his father

Dad and Grampa. Don’tcha just want Gramps to pull him closer?

Dad’s own father was more than strict; he’d been hardened by events of World War I and the Depression, and by a secret past he didn’t want anyone to know about. To his children, he was as cold as ice.

So here’s my epiphany: Nobody taught my dad how to “do” fatherhood, so he did the best he could with what he knew. I believe my dad was determined to be what his father was not—warm, funny, and adventurous. He took the good from his dad, too, like a hard-working spirit and a sense of responsibility for family. We often went without, but we were always sheltered and fed (I know Jo, but a tent is shelter). You see, he could do the opposite of his father’s example and he could mimic those traits in his father he admired, but he couldn’t create a picture of what love looked like by watching a man who didn’t love.

I forgave Dad for being human long ago. He gave me my sense of humor, pride for my country, and a special fondness for the ocean. As a parent, I’ve tried to retain the good from his example and forget the rest. I’ve disappointed my sons many times, but I think I’m closer to getting the love part right because I saw into my dad’s heart, to who he wanted to be but didn’t know how. I pray my sons come even closer with their children.

I know now that there’s only one perfect Father, and He has shown us everything we need to know about love. He loved us first so we could watch and learn. I sowish my dad had known Him.

Regardless of where you stand this Fathers’ Day, there’s something you can do to make it a meaningful day:

If you’re angry at your dad, forgive him.

If your father is still here, tell him you love him.

If he’s gone, remember the good things about him.

If your heart is aching because you never knew a father’s love, call to the one true Father. He won’t let you down.

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

Forks and Eyeballs: My Boy’s All Right

3 Jun

This is the calm before the storm.

In just over an hour I’ll pick up my 17-year-old and head to a nearby elementary school so he can usher in the first of three delivery trucks. From there a chaos will erupt that should last through Sunday.

My son is running on empty. We’ve had a busy few weeks and I worry he’s going to reach stress-fracture stage soon. He’s been to every hardware and garden center in the region, soliciting supplies and donations. He’s been trying to run regularly because there’s a timed running test coming up. He spent three days working a youth yard sale, where he lifted, on-loaded, off-loaded, and then, after sale, re-loaded heavy furniture until he was so spent he could barely stay awake for the ride to the Junior Prom that night, but he did his part.

Yet, he keeps going.

I was watching him Wednesday at MANDATORY band practice putting everything he had into finding the right cords on his piano. To look at him, you wouldn’t know he’d just left another hour-long after-school session of Driver’s Ed, or that he would leave this practice and change in the car on the way to scouts. (Yes, moms, I made him eat something.)

I watched him at the scout meeting, discussing building and planning issues with the adults and cajoling friends and new scouts to give up their Saturday mornings and come help him put six garden beds together at the school—one for each grade. He looked so grown up and at ease. Only Mom and Dad knew about the history project weighing on his mind that he’d had to push to after the meeting (when we arrived home at 9:30 p.m.), or that he’d be taking his driving test the next day and could really use a good night’s sleep.

Nothing on his plate is difficult, but many milestone events are intersecting – driving test, Eagle Scout project, final exams, running, Youth Sunday at the church, and oh yes, homework. I actually let him sleep in one morning this week and then do his homework, missing first period (shhh – probably frowned upon in Academia, but sometimes common sense steps in).

Through it all, he has remained focused and outwardly calm. Of course, his eyes close every second that he isn’t busy, but he’s remarkably on the ball otherwise. We haven’t even had the usual struggle to get chores completed. The trash disappears as if by magic, animals get fed, and the dishwasher keeps emptying.

I can’t find my boy anywhere.

down time

Prom prep. Making use of all time available…

The mom in me wants so much to rescue him from this stressful time, take something from his plate, baby him a little longer. But the parent in me sees how much he’s growing as he deals with unanswered emails, typos on fliers, and confusion over deliveries, and feels only pride. I’m seeing a man develop here, one with deep convictions about responsibility and one who is learning early that if you can’t do it all, just do what’s next. As long as you do your best, that’s all you can do.

But the greatest aspect of all this is seeing him pray. We pray every morning for stamina, endurance, and wisdom, and he is aware that his life and all these activities are in God’s hands, so we have peace despite the brewing storm. Although he’s acutely eager to do a good job tomorrow and has put a lot of effort into making this project come together, I know he understands it’s but a blip in eternity and that his relationship with the Lord is more important than anything else.

Yes, he passed his driver’s test yesterday, and by the end of tomorrow will have built his garden beds. He will play with the band Sunday and then write an after-action report on the project and start studying for finals. He may not pass the physical fitness test with flying colors (sorry Jim), but he will pass because he will do his best.

forks and eyeballs

Because you never know…

I walked into his room a few minutes ago, pondering where my little boy might have gone. The LEGOs are gradually being pushed aside to make room for an expanding coin collection, children’s’ books have been replaced by thick hardcover novels, and I see few remnants of his childhood. I made my way to his desk and open the top drawer. I needed to look no further. My boy is still here. He may be a man on the outside, strong, honest, hard-working, kind, funny, and capable, but as long as he always has at least one drawer filled with forks and eyeballs, I’ll know he isn’t taking life too seriously.

Charles, I admire you and the man you are becoming. The pride in my heart is indescribable. I love watching you grow and mature, and take on new responsibilities. I will not worry because I know God’s hand is on you, and he knows where you’re heading and what he’s preparing you for. Take God seriously, not life, and you’ll be fine.

Now, about those forks…

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Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.—Proverbs 16:3

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You

20 May

In order to tell you about this book, I’d like to introduce you to two very important people.

flag_bear_thmbThe first is Cathy Schrader, who makes teddy bears. Not just any teddy bears, but bears that bring comfort to hurting people. Sick children, orphans, victims of abuse, recovering addicts, people who have lost loved ones . . . essentially, her bears are for anyone who needs a hug and a reminder that none of us is expected to make it in this world alone, and that, regardless of how shattered we feel by an event or a series of events, every remnant can be gathered and put back together and can become something lovely.

How does she know this? Because her own life has been shattered. Again and again and again. There are no words to describe the heart-wrenching sorrow of closing the lid on a tiny white coffin, or the anger one can feel toward God when it happens a second time, or the fear of standing before a figurative tidal wave that’s bearing down on your family and you realize the only optional direction is forward.  Just how does a woman move forward when the God in whom she’s supposed to place her trust and faith keeps disappointing? And yet, when this happened to Cathy, she did move forward. And from the shattered remnants came something lovely. It’s been a long journey and, yes, she still feels sadness when she looks back, but her life is filled with joy.

If you asked her how, after all she’s been through, she’s not curled up in a ball afraid to raise her head for fear of intercepting another missile of darkness, she’ll tell you two things.

First, that she didn’t get through it on her own, but instead had to relinquish any thought that she controlled ANY part of her life. If there’s another missile headed her way, she will get through it, with help. Second, in order to learn this lesson, she had to do some mighty odd tasks for the one who did save her from the darkness.

Offer the town drunk a ride on a rainy day.

Use her last dollar to buy something for someone else.

Make teddy bears. From remnants.

That’s right, it wasn’t her idea. In fact, it never would have occurred to her, because she had never sewn a stitch in her life when the topic came up. But those bears became the catalyst for an unusual story of light and hope.

If you want to know more about Cathy’s story, I’m pleased to tell you it’s all contained in a book called “From the Remnants,” which should be hitting the shelves just in time for your summer vacation.

Now, before I forget, let me introduce you to someone else: Brad Harding, a man about whom I know very little. Yet.

I suspect he has a great sense of humor. He must have, because we’ve now worked together for a few months and he hasn’t fled. We haven’t even met face-to-face, so I can’t give you a proper introduction at all. But I can say one thing about him:

Brad is a fantastic artist with an eye for detail and an uncanny ability to read my mind through email. Because of that, I can announce with pride and excitement, the cover for “From the Remnants” is complete and ready for its official unveiling.

Ain’t she a beauty?

front_cover



 

And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.” — Joel 2:25

Great News for Caged Sparrow

4 May
Sparrow in prison book cover

Get your copy now!

Okay, so it’s not a Pullitzer, and it’s not even a super big deal, but it’s a ray of hope, so I’m going with it.

Caged Sparrow has been named a finalist in the 2016 Selah Awards for the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. Not too shabby!

We’ll have to wait until May 25 to learn how the book fares overall, and while I haven’t read the competing books, this is a group of writers I admire and respect very much for their professionalism and dedication to Christian writing. As such, Joe and I are far from expecting to win. However, just being a finalist gives the book a greater chance of getting picked up by book stores, so I’m more than thrilled.

Those of you who have read Caged Sparrow have surely noticed its potential to lift the spirits of those imprisoned, whether by real iron bars or bars of their own making. If you’re the praying type, please pray with me that, win or lose, this event will catapault Joe’s story onto a new level of readership, and into the hands of those whose hearts would be filled with hope if they read it.

To those of you who have yet to read it, what are you waiting for?

What the Habukkuk is Going On? The April Fool’s Antidote

25 Apr

 

“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I might have.” —Abraham Lincoln

I had to take a few weeks off to regroup after my recent blog about April fools. Not that it doesn’t reflect my true feelings, but because I diverted from my mission. Let me assure you, all you wonderful people who sent me encouraging messages, although I’m frustrated with the direction this nation is taking, my spirit is still at peace.

Being at peace does not enable me to close my eyes to what’s happening in this nation. It stirs me to act, using the only weapons God has chosen to armed me with: words and prayer.  Sometimes I feel as if I’m running through a forest of sleeping people, trying to wake them so they can flee an approaching tidal wave. But after posting my April Fool’s blog, I remembered, that’s not my job. My job is to remind people that there is light in the darkness for those who seek it. That there is hope, and love, and peace in this nation, regardless of what we see in front of us.

So this week, I present the April Fool’s antidote: light.  It’s an increasingly rare commodity, but it’s something we all need in order to keep hope in our hearts. There’s light in each of us that we’ve been given to share, and when we do, it becomes contagious.

Sometimes it takes darkness to bring out the light. I’m reminded of the prophet Habukkuk, an oft overlooked character in the Bible with a heart for his country’s fools. Habukkuk became fed up with God for not “fixing” what was wrong with Israel. He accused God of taking a rather heartless stance against the Israelites, refusing to hear their cries for help.

God didn’t reply with sweetness, but basically said, “Habukkuk, my boy, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

The rest of the short story involves Habukkuk waging a futile argument to save his people despite their foolishness, and trying to show God the folly of his plan to have the Babylonians conquer the land—those stinking Babylonians who are even worse sinners than we are, thank you very much. But God assured him the Babylonians were on their way to enslave Israel. Eventually, the prophet realized he had only one recourse: trust God, regardless of his apparent senility.

So, Habukkuk looked for the light. He reviewed all the things God had done in the past for his people, from freeing the slaves living in bondage in Egypt to bringing them into a land of their own. And he reviewed all the promises God had made and brought to fruition. Then, despite all desolation and ugliness around him, Habakkuk vowed to continue praising God for his sovereignty and his goodness, and to trust God’s plan.

His spirit was at peace, even though the world was not.

That same peace is available to all of us. While it’s quite possible our country is about to suffer horribly for decades of bad decision-making and a tendency to race away from God, his people can still be at peace by remembering there’s more going on than what we see, and God’s plan for us is good. Review all God has already done in your life, and all the promises he has made. Not once did he promise that our lives will be easy, or that our loved ones will not suffer, or that the world will not crumble around us. But God has told you he knows what he’s doing, and you can trust him. He’s with you throughout all these troubles, and he’s going to bring you through it. But there’s more.

Once you find this peace, figure out what your job is in spreading it to others. Use whatever weapons God has given you to beat back the darkness. Be one of what former president George H.W. Bush referred to as the “thousand points of light.”

I thought of this when I heard a story on the radio this morning about a judge who sentenced a repeat-offender alcoholic and veteran to jail—and then spent the night with him. The judge, a fellow veteran, recognized the signs of PTSD, and while he had a legal obligation to sentence the man, he didn’t want him to be alone in that cell. Read about it here: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/n-judge-jail-vet-article-1.2612232

So, as the antidote to April Fools, let me tell you about a few other points of light I’ve heard about recently. People who understand how to beat back the darkness. As you read, ponder this: what are you doing with your light?

. . . A restaurant owner in Kochi India put a refrigerator outside her business so the homeless could help themselves. She kept the fridge stocked with unused food from her restaurant and it remained unlocked around the clock. Other restaurant owners started adding to the supplies. A steady stream of visitors partake of the food, but they each take only what they need. http://www.presstv.com/Detail/2016/04/03/458925/India-Minu-Pauline-refrigerator-homeless/

. . .Two boys from Illinois helped a homeless man get out of the cold and talked one of their fathers into helping purchase a train ticket so he could visit his son.  Two years later the man sent $10,000 to their high school to say thank you. http://abcnews.go.com/US/high-school-students-good-deed-spurs-10000-donation/story?id=38006234

. . .A café owner, when approached by a homeless man for food, offered him a job instead. The man, who couldn’t get work because of his criminal background, is quickly becoming one of her best workers. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/minnesota-cafe-owner-shows-homeless-man-job-not-the-door/

strong_stronger

Now, THAT’s a man of light

. . .A powerlifting former Marine befriended a 12-year-old girl with a rare disease and is now spending all his efforts to increase awareness of her disease so others do not have to suffer. http://distractify.com/news/2016/04/06/powerlifter-girl-bff

. . .A young Houston girl with terminal brain cancer was given a Make-a-Wish grant. Instead of using it for herself, she asked them to make a well in Sierra Leon so children there could have clean drinking water. Her act touched singer Matthew West and inspired a song on his new album.  http://www.breathecast.com/articles/matthew-west-young-girl-brain-cancers-story-inspired-song-new-21755/

I’d love to add more to this list, with stories of courageous people who refuse to be dimmed by the world. In fact, as my contribution to fighting back the darkness, I’ve decided to write a monthly “Stand in the Light” post. But I’ll need your help. If you know someone who is a light to others, I’d like to write about that person. Or, send Rosefitz.portraitwriter@gmail.com a link to your favorite light-filled story, I will share it with my, er…, 49 or so readers. Perhaps we can inspire people to start their own fires…

We’re all in this together, people. Let’s light up the world.

—-

I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
– Habakkuk 3:16-18

 

April’s Fool. What’s So Funny?

1 Apr

Sigh. April Fool’s day and I have no giggles.

I thought I’d have a hilarious blog today. However, as I started ruminating over what I thought would make an ideal “gotcha,” I realized that the ridiculous has become reality in our society; we’re no longer shocked by the absurd.

Sure, I might have startled a few folks by announcing that, out of the 322 MILLION people in America’s population—a pool that contains some of the greatest brains and strategists in the world, we’ve narrowed down our scope of presidential options to a dangerous liar and a narcissistic buffoon. Sorry; not an April Fool’s joke.

And how scary would it be to reveal that today I returned a bag of green grapes because they rang up at $8.59? Or that we were window shopping for a USED truck that has a sticker (sicker?) price of $44,000?  Inflation is far out-pacing income increases and everyone’s hurting. Well, not everyone. I’m still waiting for the airline industry and trash company and  all the other businesses who asked us to put up with price hikes when gas was nearing $4 a gallon to take that surcharge off the bill. Riiiight.

Oh, here’s a good one…let’s look at what’s happening now that we’ve turned our young adult children over to those crazy professors at the university, where they are taught to worship learning and personal opinion. Ooooh, they’ve become passionate, though…”Save the wildlife! Save our Oceans! Look at this poor polar bear stranded on an ice berg! Down with senseless tradition! More money, less work!”

spring break trash

It ain’t funny.

Aren’t they cute?  Wait, are these the same people responsible for the filthy post-Spring-Break-ravaged beaches we’re seeing on the news these days? How amusing–while the bears are swimming to the next berg for another photo shoot, America’s civic treasuries are being emptied to pay for beach clean-up. Joke’s on us, I guess.

Don’t laugh, though. It gets worse. Sadly, we’ve taught our children so little about world history that they actually think the European economy is doing well—and they’re excited about voting so America can adopt the same policies that sent those nations plummeting into debt, economically AND socially. Ha, ha. Wouldn’t that be a hoot to watch?

Us “grown ups” are no laughing matter either. Entire state and federal government bodies now believe saving money on court and legal costs outweighs the benefit of saving lives and brain cells, and actually embrace the recreational sale and consumption of marijuana. And they’ll tell you it’s better to put the safety of our young children aside than to risk hurting the feelings of someone who claims to feel more comfortable in another gender’s restroom or changing facility. Oh, those crazy leaders.

Things that just ten years ago would have made the Tonight Show’s thigh-slapping joke list are now current events. Someone in Florida is threatening to sue a man for unwanted touching—pulling her aside in a crowd. Children suing their parents for college tuition. People wanting to marry their pets. Funny stuff. We watch, and we chuckle, all the while inching those boundaries further and further away from what we know is right.

No I don’t have any silliness on this April Fool’s day. I can find plenty of jokes, but nothing to laugh about.

The biggest joke of all? That we call this progress.

So I ask you, who are the April fools now?

——

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. — 2 Timothy 3:1-7