Sunday, May 15, 2022

The Beauty of Language

I have a passion for language. The more I write, the more I recognize the power of language and the beauty of certain words. Think of the word edification. Say it aloud a few times. Stretch it out. Then try accenting each syllable in turn. 

Now consider the definition of edification: enlightenment, building up, teaching, nurture. It’s no accident that this word sounds beautiful since its meaning is significant. I remember reading it in the New Testament. In I Corinthians 14, Paul uses edification to compare the gift of speaking in tongues with the gift of revelation or teaching (imparting knowledge). He says that speaking in tongues edifies or enlightens the speaker rather than the listener since the language is unintelligible to others. He instructs the new followers of Christ in Corinth to speak plainly for the edification of others. In verse 12, he says, “...since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.” 

I wanted to learn more about the word, so I researched it. Edification comes from the Latin root aedificare, meaning “to instruct or improve spiritually.” Its basis is aedes, which means “temple” or “edifice.” I wondered if the Hebrew word used by Paul had the same meaning. 

According to, the New Testament term for "building up" the Church, "edification," has roots in the Old Testament concept of building the temple. Jesus used it to speak of building the new people of God (followers of Christ), and St. Paul used it to emphasize the spiritual formation of the Christian community. According to Paul, each of us is responsible for edifying [enlightening, illuminating, building up] our community of believers. What a beautiful concept! What a powerful word! I wonder what would happen if we extended the gift of edification to everyone.

Have you noticed any particular words that trip off the tongue beautifully or carry significant meaning for you? Please post a comment.

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Friday, May 6, 2022

If Buildings Could Talk

Old buildings have always captivated me. During my first year of marriage, I took photographs of old buildings and nothing else. My new husband had bought our first Ricoh camera, and I would snap photos through the car window wherever we traveled.

“Why are you always wasting film on those dilapidated structures?” my husband would ask. Yes, film! We've been married a long time. I couldn’t explain my obsession with ancient edifices in a way that justified the expense to him, but it made perfect sense to me.

Long ago–by American standards, not European standards–someone in another lifetime employed the expense, effort, and expertise to erect a house, barn, store, shed, church, or service station. Each structure represents history and lives lived. If it could talk, just imagine the stories it would tell, stories of birth, death, and everything in between. 

As I study my snapshots (now taken with a cell phone), I am intrigued by tales I can only imagine. I want to ponder the reason for each building’s construction, who lived or worked there, and why they abandoned it. Does its history include romance, friendship, and family? Was it once cared for with paint, regular maintenance, and necessary repairs? Did it provide ample shelter or livelihood for someone? Could it have housed more than one set of occupants or generations? Who were they? How did they look? How did they dress? How did they speak, think, and act? 

To me, buildings possess character and personality. Like older people, geriatric buildings are worth getting to know because they have stories to tell. Sitting with them is like reading a book set in another time and place. It opens new vistas and expands one’s understanding of humanity. 

When I spot an old abandoned building, my imagination soars as my mind’s eye recreates possible plots, characters, scenarios, and even motivations associated with its history. 

Why do I care? It must be the writer in me. 

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Monday, February 14, 2022

February Trick

February Trick

Daffodil is fooled into thinking it is spring.
Donning a yellow sundress, she opens her mouth to sing.

Sunshine plays a trick on her, expelling winter gloom,
dancing upon her budded face and coaxing her to bloom.

Yesterday was cold; the temperature dipped low;
quite normal for the month, we even saw some snow. 

Today, the sun shines brightly. The thermometer climbs to sixty.
Daffodil says, "Look at me! Aren't I just nifty?"

Now her leaves pop forth, reaching toward the sun.
She lets the warmth deceive her, "There's lots of time for fun.

"I'll come out to play and revel in the breezing.
Uh-oh! I took a chance, but now the air is freezing."

What to do? Stay or go? Too late to reconsider.
"I wish I’d brought a coat with me to guard against the bitter."

She promised that this year she wouldn’t rush to arrive.
She’d wait till spring was earnest, when blossoms could survive.

But memory fails our golden friend, for last year was the same;
 Sunshine fooled her that year too; in February she came.

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Saturday, January 8, 2022

What is the Secret to a Long Marriage?

My husband, Carl, and I just celebrated our Golden Wedding Anniversary, which got me thinking. What does it take to stay married for fifty years? Is there one quality of a long marriage that stands out?

When we hear about long marriages, we tend to assume they have always been happy. The truth is no fifty-year partnership has been consistently happy. Two people living together that long are bound to have experienced differences of opinion and clashes of will. Certainly, Carl and I have had those moments…plenty of them. There was even a time when I wondered if we might be better off separating. But, we didn’t separate, and that’s the point I want to make. Instead, we stayed together and resolved to work through our differences.
Life can be stressful and hard. Marriage can be stressful and hard. So, if there is one quality that keeps people together through thick and thin, I’d have to say it is commitment. You thought I was going to say love, didn’t you? Let me explain.

When Carl and I took our marriage vows in 1972, we committed to each other for life. Divorce was off the table from Day One. During the honeymoon phase, it was easy to feel committed. Our love was new and fresh. We were striking out on an exciting adventure, focused on each other and our future together. So, when life threw us its inevitable challenges, it would have been easy to give up, to forget about those vows we took before God and our loved ones.

Disclaimer: lifelong commitment does not apply to abusive relationships. In my opinion, abuse is a dealbreaker.

It may be love or even chemistry that brings couples together, but those feelings can be fleeting, and physical attraction can fade with time. Commitment is a different kind of love. It is not based on emotions or sexual energy. Commitment says, “I promise to love you even when I find you unlovable; I promise to love you even when I feel unlovable.”

Communication has been a huge challenge in our marriage. I don’t think we’re alone in this. Both Carl and I are introverts who don’t communicate comfortably. He is cerebral and private. I tend to shut down emotionally when I’m upset. That’s not a good combination for open communication. It has taken many years and heaps of courage to figure out how to argue productively and work through the issues in our relationship.
Disagreements in marriage (or any relationship) are inevitable, even when the parties hold similar values and personality traits; but no conflict can ever be resolved by pretending it doesn’t exist, holding onto resentment, or refusing to compromise from one’s position. Learning to “fight fair” is probably the most important skill a couple can learn because conflicts arise even in committed relationships. Sometimes learning this skill requires professional counseling. Always, it requires open, honest, respectful communication.

When one partner is sick or angry or exhausted, it is impossible to find the humor in situations. When the other partner sees everything as funny or makes jokes when the other is suffering, the relationship will be strained. For many years, I suffered with endometriosis, a very painful condition. Trust me when I say, “Nothing was funny!” Instead of cajoling me out of my depression, Carl’s attempts at humor only created resentment.

Now, in our golden years, humor is a tool we use to keep from taking minor conflicts (or ourselves) too seriously rather than a tool to put down the other person. When both parties find it funny, the humor can be shared as a tool for intimacy. When one person is not amused, it’s a sign the attempt at humor may have been offensive.

Humans make mistakes. When that happens in marriage, the partner has a choice to either keep score or forgive. Forgiveness is grounded in a shared faith in God. It is also a byproduct of commitment. “What about infidelity?” you ask. I think commitment takes infidelity off the table, so I won’t even go there. But, let’s face it, mistakes and misunderstandings are part of every relationship. If God can forgive our sins when we “earnestly repent” and not hold them against us, don’t we have an obligation to both apologize for our offenses and forgive our partner when s/he earnestly repents?

Have you been married for a long time? What do you think is the secret to your long marriage? I want to hear from you.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2021

My Angel Incident

“Do you believe in angels?” a writer friend asked me. I must admit, I’ve never sensed the presence of a guardian angel, but I think that’s because I always have an awareness of the Holy Spirit’s presence. However, this question reminded me of an incident from a few years ago. Well, it was before cell phones, so I guess you’d say it was more than a few years ago, but it inspired two scenes in my novel, I Want to Go Home

I had just left a rehearsal in Newport News. It was around 9:00 pm, and as I entered Denbigh Boulevard, I saw that a heavy fog had rolled in. Since I had to drive to Williamsburg, I decided to pull into the empty parking lot of what was then Montgomery Ward and wait for the fog to lift. Big mistake. My husband was out of town on business, and our teenagers were home alone. I sat in my car for about twenty minutes but realized the fog wasn’t clearing up. If I’m not home by 10:00, the kids will worry. If I don’t call Carl by 10:00, he’ll worry. I had no choice but to start out and hope the interstate was clear. 

I twisted the ignition key, only to hear the sickening “ruhr, ruhr” that no driver wants to hear, especially at 9:30 on a foggy night. Of course, I tried several times, growing more anxious with each “ruhr.” All the stores were closed, the nearest service station was several blocks away, and I had no way of calling anyone to help me, no way to let my husband or kids know what was happening. 

I wanted to cry, but instead, I prayed. “Okay, God, I’m desperate here. I need your help. Please send someone to rescue me. In the name of Jesus, I thank you. Amen.”

For a while, nothing changed. I felt alone, frightened, and vulnerable, but I knew from past experiences with prayer that I could place my trust in God. I repeated my prayer just in case He hadn’t heard me the first time. After all, God has to deal with wars, natural disasters, and hungry children. There are grieving families, cancer sufferers, and pastors whose prayer concerns are far more important than my dead battery.

Then, as I glanced in my rearview mirror, I spotted headlights approaching from behind. “Thank you, Jesus!” I whispered. There was no doubt in my mind that God had sent someone to help me. I wasn’t afraid to step out of the car and greet a stranger. Rather, I felt total peace. 

A middle-aged man approached. “Looks like you might need some help,” he said.

“Yes, my battery’s dead. Thank you so much for stopping.”

“No problem. Do you have jumper cables?”

“I do.” I retrieved them from the trunk, and he connected them at both ends.

“Okay, start ’er up.” I slid into the driver’s seat, and as I turned the key, I heard the most beautiful sound since the first cries of my newborn babies!”  

“All set,” he said, handing me the cables. “That should get you home.”

“I’m so grateful! You just don’t know…” I gushed as I returned the cables to my trunk, fully intending to offer the man some money or at least get his name and shake his hand, but when I shut the trunk and turned, he and his car were gone. Vanished! 

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Saturday, October 9, 2021

Don't Read My Books

When I write a book, whether fiction or nonfiction, it ends up connecting to some aspect of life that touches readers’ deepest emotions. I don't do it intentionally; it just happens.

The older I become, the more I realize I am an ultra-sensitive person. Whether my own emotions or someone else's, I feel them intensely; I always have. I suppose that’s why my novels deal with emotionally charged social issues like domestic abuse and homelessness. It’s also why some people hesitate to read them, especially The Dark Room. Either they’re afraid my stories will trigger unpleasant memories from their own lives or they prefer to deny that such conditions exist. Of course, it’s easier to not feel pain, and my novels have the potential of triggering pain. But, more importantly, my writing promotes hope, help and healing and my novels always have happy endings. Those aspects of my writing are intentional. 

When one is in the throes of such misery as domestic violence, it’s important for someone to care enough to offer hope. Without hope, our spirits die. Without someone to offer friendship and real help, there is no hope. In order to provide hope and help to anyone, we must first be moved by the pain of others. 

A reader once told me, “I only read happy books; I don’t like feeling sad.” I didn’t argue with her because I knew it would be pointless. I didn’t tell her that I don’t like to feel sad, either, but that without compassion for other peoples’ pain, our days are meaningless and purposeless. We become like the flower children of the sixties, la-di-dah-ing our way through life and perhaps even turning to addictive behaviors to keep ourselves from feeling.

The intensity of my emotions used to embarrass me, but I have learned to embrace my sensitivity and turn it into compassion. When I read a novel, I want it to move me. When I write a novel, I want it to move the reader. 

So, if you don’t like being affected viscerally by a book, don’t read Unrevealed, The Dark Room, I Want to Go Home or After Rain. However, If you have been courageous enough to read one of my books, please post a review on Amazon. It’s quick and painless. I promise.

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Monday, September 27, 2021

How do writers work?

Before I became an author, I often wondered how writers worked. I pondered what a typical day might look like in an author’s life. Surely they are all disciplined, carving out eight uninterrupted hours a day for penning a novel, magazine article, or whatever project is looming.   

Now that I’m a published author, I realize there’s no such thing as a writer’s typical day. I’d like to say that I write every day, but there are times when other responsibilities take precedence; and, while I tend to be more productive in the morning after a good night’s sleep, my teaching schedule dictates that many mornings are unavailable. Often I must catch an hour here or a half hour there. 

So, if I had nothing else to do--no lesson plans, laundry, grading, cleaning, practicing, doctor’s appointments, phone calls, meetings, etc, here’s what an ideal day would look like:

  • Arise at 5:30 am

  • Proceed straight to coffee maker--robe and slippers optional--and stretch while waiting for the Keurig to warm up and produce that first medicinal cup of Starbucks Breakfast Blend 

  • Carry mug of hot, strong brew to sunroom, settle in recliner, snuggle under favorite flannel throw and sip adoringly 

  • Refill coffee mug

  • Open laptop and write for an hour

  • Eat breakfast

  • Write until lunchtime

  • Eat lunch

  • Write until dinnertime

  • Eat dinner

  • Write until bedtime

  • Go to bed

  • Start again tomorrow

Did I leave out anything? Oh yes, I forgot to get dressed or brush my teeth or do housework or laundry or exercise or interact with other humans. Somehow, it sounded better in my head.

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