Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ah, Glorious Spring!

Chuck and I just returned from a wonderful get-away week at our little cabin nestled in the mountains of N. Carolina. Spring was just dawning in our tiny yard about 3/4 of the way up a 5,000 ft peak, although it was in full swing in the valleys beneath.

So unlike our home in Florida, where the only trace of spring is often barrels of oak pollen, I was thrilled to see tulips and daffodils nosing upward from the frozen earth, soft dogwood blossoms of pink and white (sometimes grafted onto the same tree!), and multiple shades of brilliant green as hostas emerged to fill out desolate flower beds.

The creek beside our cabin fairly danced with glee as it gushed with runoff from the 60" of snow that blanketed our mountain this winter.

All small things, sure, but it was sublimely refreshing to have the time to take delight in the small things that often escape my attention in this busy life. On my long morning trail walks in the crisp 40 degree air, I intentionally thanked Papa God for each and every flower, chirping bird and ray of sunshine.

What a difference it makes to have an attitude of gratitude! My entire day was lived from a different perspective - one of humility and awe at the myriad of blessings before me, rather than worry, hurry and regret at things not accomplished.

I think that's why God makes spring. So the renewal of His earth can demonstrate to us the power of renewing our minds.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sooo excited to be a guest blogger on Margaret McSweeney's Pearl Girls blog today!

Check it out at

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Real Test

The call from the Women's Center was surprising: "We've got a homeless woman here who lives in her car. She's written a book and would like to see about getting it published. Since you're an author, we wondered if you'd mind speaking with her."

I cringed quietly (didn't want the counselor to know how annoyed I was) and replied, "Well, I'm kind of busy right now, with two speaking events coming up next weekend to prepare for and a book proposal my agent wanted yesterday."

No reply.

Enter conscience. I had volunteered to help the charity "in any way I can." And I had just finished writing in my speech on "Becoming a Barnabas" the incriminating statements, "A true Encourager must be willing to be used whenever, however, and for whomever God places in her path. That means willingness to be available, even if it means interrupting our own busy schedules for unexpected developments."

Yikes! Time to put my conviction where my mouth is.

So regardless of my private eyerolling and preconceived ideas that this would be a waste of valuable time, I met with "Lynn" in the lobby of a church where we could sit in air conditioned comfort to discuss her manuscript.

To my utter astonishment, it was good. Very good. She was a bit rough around the edges in appearance (who wouldn't be, living in a car?) but was articulate and well educated. Lynn had been working on her memoir for nearly two years and had painstakingly typed it into book form on a computer at the public library.

I found her story fascinating and well written, and with some good editing, I believe it has commercial potential.

When we first met and she reluctantly turned over her well guarded manuscript to me, I could read the fear in her eyes. Or was it distrust? Probably both. Her tension was palpable. For a moment, I thought she might snatch the bundle of papers out of my hands and bolt for the door. But after I completed the first chapter, I'll never forget the light in her eyes and relief on her lined face when I assured her it was one of the best first drafts I'd ever encountered.

Her smile was absolutely radiant!

I was able to offer a few tips and recommend a professional editor I know. But most of all, despite my initial selfishness, I was able to encourage this aspiring writer who had received much discouragement and disappointment from life in recent years. I gave her a copy of my book, Grit for the Oyster: 250 Pearls of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers and invited her to our monthly writing group and a free writing mini-workshop I'll be doing at a local bookstore soon.

We hugged as kindred spirits when we parted ways, me to my nice home in a safe neighborhood and her to her rusty car packed with all her earthly possessions.

Yet I was the one most encouraged.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sometimes it's Just Roadkill

Did you hear about the Pennsylvania man who was arrested after trying to resuscitate a possum on the side of the highway?

Nope, I ain't funnin' ya.

According to the article in the 3/27/10 Florida Times Union, a 55-year-old , um, gentleman (and I use the term loosely) was a apparently bit tipsy on his way home one afternoon. Several witnesses called in a report of a man kneeling in the road before the deceased animal, attempting to give it mouth-to-mouth resucitation.

You just can't make up stuff this good.

While we may never understand his motives, one can only assume that he was an animal lover with passions gone awry. Or eww-y in this case. A possum? Have you ever seen a possum up close and personal? That species must have been last on God's to-do list and he ran fresh out of eloquence. A wee, cuddly puppy or an adorable fawn I might understand, but a possum?

It wasn't like our guy had just hit the thing with his car; witnesses said the possum had been "dead a while." Wouldn't you love to read that police report?

Anyway, it occurred to me that trying to revive one of my old manuscripts is kind of like that. I pulled the thing out of its bottom drawer with the intention of infusing it with life and giving it one more shot at a future. After all, I spent many hours of effort and energy on that ill-fated plot years ago; why just bury it without first pulling out the electric paddles?

But you know what? It was too far gone. It had no pulse. No heartbeat. No dying breath. So I got out the coffin.

As much as writers hate to admit that every single thing they write isn't golden, we must face hard, cold facts. Sometimes it's just roadkill.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Bunny Revenge

Although I've never before observed the tradition of Lent, as I was studying the subject five weeks ago, Papa God whispered to my heart that He wanted to teach me more about personal sacrifice. I was okay with that.

Until He mentioned that chocolate - gasp! - was the sacrifice.

SIX WEEKS WITHOUT CHOCOLATE??? You've got to be kidding!

He wasn't.

The problem is that I'm a world class choco-athlete (I prefer this term over chocoholic; sounds healthier somehow). I've not missed a single day without the creamy, delicious, delightful stuff for thirty years, with the exception of four months in 2008 when I was dutifully bound by a strict no-fat diet (wonder why?)

How could I possibly give up my life blood? My reason for living past 3 PM every day? Surely I misunderstood. Instead of chocolates, maybe God said to give up socklets or wallclocks.

Only those things hold no great affinity for me and I know the purpose of Lent is self-sacrifice, reflection anad repentance. Originating before AD 1500 as a preparatory time for Easter, Lent is the forty-day period beginning on Ash Wednesday during which believers commemorate Jesus' forty-day pilgrimage into the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-2) by fasting, praying and rededicating themselves.

I realized that it was no personal sacrifice if the item I was fasting held no special meaning to me. If it wasn't melted into my very soul with its luscious Godiva tentacles wound around my heart and caressing the comfort center of my brain. Sigh.

And so I entered the Lenten season kicking and screaming, wrestling the overwhelming hourly urge to indulge my little secret vice. When you can't have something, it screams your name even louder.

With only a few days to go, you can well imagine that I'm a bit, well, on edge. Actually, I fear it's withdrawal: My hands shake, my head jerks like a squirrel's and I'm even more ornery than usual. I know this because my family and friends are now baking me brownies and begging me to take just one nibble of fudge. I don't think they can stand me much longer.

But I'm holding firm.

How pathetic that Jesus could suffer and die for me and I struggle to give up this one little thing when He asks me to. Every time I open my computer drawer containing my stash of Cadbury bars, I breathe in the heavenly aroma and remember His sacrifice for me.

It doesn't quell the craving but at least it redirects my thoughts and fills me with humble gratitude.

Another added bonus, I have definitely learned more about that prune in the fruit bowl of the spirit: self-control. But I still plan on biting the heads off every chocolate bunny I can find Easter morning.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Smiling in the Dark

I'm soooo excited that Everyday Hope has been nominated for a Retailer's Choice Award! It's such an honor even to be nominated, but the down side is that it's up against a Max Lucado book. Yikes!

It would take a real miracle to win. But hey, God's in the miracle business, right?

May I share a letter excerpt from a reader of Everyday Hope?

"I went into the grocery store and this beautiful little book jumped into my cart! It must have known how many people in my life are struggling with hope. I shared your devotion, 'Smiling in the Dark' with a friend whose mother-in-law fell two months ago, which resulted in her becoming blind. My friend couldn't believe the words that seemed meant for her:

'Hope isn't just an emotion; it's a perspective, a discipline, a way of life. It's a journey of choice. We must learn to override those messages of discouragement, despair and fear that assault us in times of trouble and press toward the light.

Hope is smiling in the darkness. It's confidence that faith in God's sovereignty amounts to something ... something life-changing, life-saving and eternal.'"
~ Nancy Stoppelkamp, North Carolina