Friday, July 30, 2010

I had the honor today of posting a guest blog on "Reflections in Hindsight," a site belonging to a group of fellow writers. I love their tag line: Grace in the Rearview's closer than it appears. Every Friday their topic is marriage--specifically lessons learned in hindsight. I could have written a book, but I narrowed it down to a single revelation that made a huge change in our marriage, at least from my perspective. (Maybe someone should ask Bill...) Stop by and please leave a comment.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Does God Delight in the Works of Our Hands?

For you make me glad by your deeds, O LORD; I sing for joy at the works of your hands.
Psalm 92:4

I rode my bike out on a country road this morning. Yellow butterflies flitted around the blue cornflowers in the ditches beside row upon row of tall, tassled corn. I saw my first monarch of the year. A bright yellow finch with black wings led the way for me for a quarter of a mile, dipping and rising as if riding rolling waves. A red-tailed hawk glided across the road, came to rest on top of a telephone pole, and let me get within ten yards before taking flight again, skimming the corn so closely I'm sure the the tassles tickled his belly. A cloudless sky presided over all this activity.

It was an easy setting in which to praise, to be enthralled with the works of God's hands, but I carried my own, personal, black cloud with me this morning. I learned yesterday that one of our books, which had finaled in a contest judged by readers, placed third. Third out of three. The joy of finaling faded. We had lost.

A few miles slid under my tires with the shadow of that cloud hovering around me amid outrageous beauty before I gave in and confessed to God what He already knew--I was all wrapped up in self. I began to revisit the reasons why I write. The main reason is simply that this is the way God has shaped me. He's made me a lover of words. But there's a practical, unglamorous reason, too: It's a job. I may not earn a lot, but enough to motivate my backside onto my chair every morning. In truth, if we had no need of my income, I would still write, but it would be whimsical poetry and journal entries, not hundred-thousand-word stories requiring editing and rewriting--a process that often feels like lopping off body parts.

Finally, of course, I write with hopes of bringing glory to God. As I added that to the list, it provoked a sudden realization: If I write to please God, then surely, at times, He's actually pleased by my work! "Pleased" is not a static word. It involves a reaction. When one of my grandkids runs into the house, paper flapping in the wind, calling, "Grandma, I made this just for you!"I react with emotion. I feel. Joy, love, pride... Can we imagine God Almighty, the Creator of the Universe feeling something at the works of our hands? Is it possible to imagine Him with a wide smile, down on His knees, opening His arms to us like a grandparent thrilled over a crayon drawing? Or are we stuck with a picture of a pat on the head and an unemotional "Well done"? Or are we convinced that nothing our hands produce would ever be good enough to please Him?

Today, when I sat down at the computer, I prayed that God would help me write words that would delight him and bring him joy. The black cloud disappeared. My words were not more eloquent today, my grammar and punctuation no less flawed. But my attitude was transformed. I wrote for an Audience of One Who I believe smiles, not because of my ability, or because my words took third place, but simply because I want to delight Him. "Look, Father, I made this just for you!"

The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17

Friday, July 16, 2010


Stones of Remembrance
Ten months ago our thirty-five-year-old son Scott was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver from unknown causes. He ran fevers and had some level of constant pain. In January he was hospitalized for the third time with blocked bile ducts. It was so hard to see my big, strong burly son in bed, skin and eyes yellow with jaundice. The doctors' best guess at that time was auto-immune disease. Scott was given a strong IV antibiotic and told that he would probably be looking at repeat hospitalizations and possibly a liver transplant. His length and quality of life did not seem promising six months ago. He is the father of three amazing kids and you can imagine the fears his wife was battling.

While the docotors used the resources available to them, Scott's family and friends and people who had never even met him took his name before the throne of God. Since that last hospital visit, his health has appeared to steadily improve. He has regained strength and energy and we have all been hopeful, yet afraid to believe he could be healed until we saw proof. This week, Scott got the results of an MRI and recent blood tests. We have our proof! His liver enzymes are normal for the first time since his diagnosis. His spleen is back to normal size and the nodules on his liver have all either reduced in size or disappeared!

We may never know what caused the on-going inflammation and infections, but the disease process has stopped and his liver is regenerating. We are assuming the healing began with the IV antibiotics he received in January. Some people may find it hard to accept that while we give credit to the medical profession, we give all the glory to God. Nothing happens outside of His will and we are so very grateful that He chose to answer this prayer in a way that brings us such joy.

I'm in a ladies Bible study on Tuesday nights and we're using the video series "Me, Myself, and Lies" written by Jennifer Rothschild. The title of the lesson I did today was "I Will Remember." It spoke of the "stones of remembrance" God told his people to collect to remember what He had done for them. Exodus 28:9-12, Deuteronomy 27:1-7, and Joshua 4:3-9, 20-21 all speak of these stones. So I decided to go outside and find a stone to remember the glorious news we've received this week. I walked out the front door and began looking at the river rock that fills the spaces between our overgrown hostas. I wondered if God had one particular stone already chosen for me, and would I recognize it when I found it? I found a nice smooth one and bent to pick it up. As I did, my gaze landed on a reddish stone...remarkably resembling the shape of a human liver!

My "Scott's healing" stone of remembrance now sits on the base of my desk lamp. Everytime I look at it I will remember my prayer from Matthew 17, verse 15, which is marked and dated 09-08-09 in my Bible: "Lord, have mercy on my son." And I will remember, maybe always with tears, how God answered that plea.

I intend to collect more stones and hope the day comes that we need to order a whole new truckload of river rock because our garden is bare--and my desk is covered with stones!

Because every post needs a bit of comic relief, I want to beat my son to the punch on this one--I fully recognize that he's had enough (bile duct) "stones of remembrance" to last a lifetime and won't even want to look at the one on my desk!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Vote for Burt and Ruby!

Pure Serendipity, the third book in our Illinois series (coming out in September), will be voted on this week as a possible ACFW Book Club selection. So I'm shamelessly asking all friends, family, and faithful readers to vote for this fun romance between two widowed empty-nesters trying to enjoy life "a little outside of normal" while their daughters try to run their lives. If you're not yet a Book Club member, a couple of easy steps will sign you up and introduce you to some great reads. Voting ends on Saturday, July 17. Thanks for your support. Burt and Ruby won't let you down.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010



I’ve just passed the halfway point in writing Tomorrow’s Sun, my first solo, first full-length contracted novel. I love my characters, I’m excited about the concept, but the past four months have been riddled with doubt. Sure, I can write a sweet little romance, but who am I to think I can write women’s fiction with layers of plot and multiple points of view? And what if I can’t do this on my own without my co-author’s input, encouragement, spiritual insight, and boot in my backside? Am I doing this for me or for God? Maybe it will amuse a few readers, but will it convict? Will it turn them toward the Lord? Am I on the right path?

Two days ago God, God lit the ground at my feet.

My hero, Jake, is dealing with anger over the recent death of his sister, Abby. He’s also trying to overcome his tendency to be a rescuer. Emily, my heroine, is recovering from a horrible skiing accident. After a year and a half of depending on others, she's out on her own and determined to take care of herself. And then she finds herself in a boat in the middle of a storm with Jake’s eleven-year-old nephew. Enter our the rescue.

As you probably guessed, Jake’s developing some feelings for Emily. But Emily fights his attempts to rescue her from the river, and from her demons.

So this is where I was in my manuscript on Sunday when Bill and I decided to visit a different church...just for a change of pace. The pastor began his sermon: “Many of you are familiar with the story of Abby Sunderland, the sixteen-year-old girl who tried to sail solo around the world. There are many lessons to be learned from her story, but the one I want to focus on today is how she unexpectedly needed someone to rescue her.”

A girl named Abby, a boat, a storm, an unexpected need to be rescued... God had my attention.

The pastor went on to read from Matthew 18: “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one. . .if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.”

I have said, and written, many times that there’s no such think as coincidence. But sometimes we’re too busy to recognize the “Godincidences” in our lives. I came home from church on Sunday, still tingling with “Holy Spirit bumps” and listened and transcribed a chunk of the online sermon into my story. If the pastor grants permission, I’ll use it verbatim. If not, I’ll paraphrase. That message—the one I wouldn’t have heard if we hadn’t decided on a “whim” to visit another church—gave me the spiritual focus I needed at that very moment for my hero: God pursues us relentlessly...we need to join Him in relentlessly pursuing the lost. At the same time He gifted me with the confidence I’d been lacking—the belief that story is a way he allows me to help "pursue," and He may use this message in my story to reach one of “the lost.”

So at the moment, Jake is going to focus on leading Emily back to her Shepherd. (A few weeks from now. . .well, you’ll just need to read the book!) And I’m going to focus on trusting that God has a plan for Tomorrow’s Sun.

And if I needed another confirmation, I turned on the Biography channel while folding clothes this afternoon. Tony Danza was in the middle of telling about the horrific skiing accident he was in fifteen years ago. He described his thoughts at the time. I’ll be using those, thank you. And he mentioned something else—it took him eighteen months to fully recover. Just like my Emily.

God is so good.