Monday, September 13, 2021

Standing on God's Promises

Have you noticed that when we are sick or grieving or afraid, it’s difficult to see beyond those limitations? When life is less than perfect, it’s challenging to focus on the positive aspects, to notice God’s blessings or even acknowledge God’s presence. Like a magnet, our attention is drawn to where we are hurting. Our pain, whether physical or emotional, distracts us from all that is still good in our lives. We just want the pain to stop. We may decide subconsciously that until we feel better, we cannot experience wholeness or happiness or fulfillment, so we put living on hold.  

The truth about pain, however, is that the more attention we give it, the more intense it becomes and the more self-involved we become. It’s like trying to reason with a toddler who is having a temper tantrum. Every parent learns that giving the child attention during a meltdown is just adding fuel to the fire. 

Both my husband and I have experienced illness this summer. At times it has seemed overwhelming. Fortunately, he has recovered fully, but I have yet to receive a diagnosis and treatment plan. It’s frustrating and inconvenient. I confess to sometimes questioning God’s purpose. I confess to sometimes feeling like my life has been placed on I can’t live fully until my health issue is resolved. Any unresolved issue, whether relationship, career, financial, etc. can trigger a similar reaction. As we wallow in our pity party, perhaps we think God is testing us or even punishing us. We might begin to doubt God’s love. Why would a loving God allow (or even cause) me (my loved one) to suffer? 

When such paralyzing thoughts invade, that’s when we need to dive into God’s Word and claim God’s promises. There are so many beautiful promises sprinkled throughout the Scriptures! They are precious treasures just waiting for our hungry hearts to discover (or rediscover) and embrace. I decided to start making a list, one that I can add to and refer to whenever I begin to slip into destructive self-pity. Here are a few of the powerful promises I am claiming as a follower of Jesus Christ:

  • “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you (Hebrews 13:5c).” 

  • “This is my command-be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9).”

  • “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).”

  • “So do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).”

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise (Hebrews 10:23).” 
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Saturday, September 4, 2021

We Fear What We don't Understand

It seems to be human nature to fear what we don’t know or understand. But we have a choice in how we respond to our fear. We can either ignore it or we can face it. Ignoring fear is the easy choice but can result in abysmal consequences. Fear that is ignored or denied invariably grows and metastasizes. Because it doesn’t go away, it produces anxiety, distracting us from what and who are important in our lives. As it festers, fear can make us angry, causing us to lash out verbally or even physically. It can make us tired and sick, both mentally and physically. 

A close family member, someone I have loved my whole life, is living in fear. As a result, he has cut off his entire family. He is so fearful of our political differences that he can’t even entertain a dialogue with us. In fact, he has shut down all hope of communication. Sadly, I don’t think our family is the only one going through this.

In his final communique with me, he lashed out at someone he had always claimed to love, calling me names like “Commy, left-wing Socialist, and anti-American.” Incidentally, we have never discussed our political views. It’s just that he discovered we didn’t vote for the same party/candidate. Am I frustrated by his words and behavior? Yes. Am I hurt? Of course! But, after much thought and prayer, I realize his verbal assault and rejection are based in fear. He is lashing out because, as a White man in his sixties, he is afraid of losing his comfortable position of White male superiority. 

I’m convinced that fear is a powerful force underlying much of what we see happening in our country and our world. Political divisions, racial divisions, religious divisions...all are based in fear. I see White supremacy as fear of what will happen if Whites are outnumbered or lose their position of power, if Blacks or Asians or Mexicans or Native Americans are given power--or even equality--what will happen to us Whites who have been conditioned from birth to think we’re superior to people of color. Will we then have to contend with oppression or prejudice or slurs? 

Fear fuels race wars and political conflict. What if someone reaches a position of power whose belief system is not in agreement with our belief system? What if we let Muslims or Hindus or Jews infiltrate our so-called Christian society? Will they out-number us, over-power us or, heaven-forbid, try to convert us? We fear what we don’t understand. But, unless we try to understand those who look different, worship differently, or vote differently, how can we hope to achieve harmony? If we refuse to move beyond our base (often baseless) fears, there’s no possibility of engaging in healthy discussion that doesn’t require us to agree, but only compels us to be respectful. 

I still pray that my family member will one day move beyond his fear to initiate open communication in the spirit of love we once shared; but at my age, I must accept the possibility that I may never see or hear from him again. That realization hurts far more deeply than any name-calling. 

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear...(1st John 4:18)."

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Saturday, August 28, 2021

A Pleasant Encounter

In general, I don’t enjoy book-marketing events. Why? They’re usually long and tiring. But, as an author, I know that, unless I hire a publicist (which is expensive), I am ultimately responsible for marketing and selling my books. 

Don’t get me wrong. After a year-and-a-half of quarantine, I’m grateful for the return of in-person events; and I'm sometimes pleasantly surprised to meet interesting people who engage in meaningful conversations. They make all the entry fees, hours of standing--sometimes in the hot sun--and sales-pitch repetitions worthwhile, especially when they end up buying a book or two. 

Last month’s 2nd Sundays event in Merchant Square, Williamsburg was just such an experience. Two other local authors and I shared a tent and marketed each others’ work as well as our own. The weather was pleasant, and as we enjoyed good camaraderie, the time passed quickly.

Best of all, we met hundreds of friendly, kind, interesting people. One couple, in particular, was memorable. Actually, they were two couples traveling together from New York City. The women approached our display while the men stood across the street talking, laughing and obviously enjoying each other’s company. One of the women suggested that her husband should be a character in a book. “He’s definitely a character,” she said. She went on to say he hadn’t had a bad day in his entire life; he laughed every day; and for their forty-some years of marriage, he had made her laugh every day. I told her I’d like to meet him, so she called him over.

I wish I could remember his name. I certainly won’t forget his attitude. “Your wife says you’ve never had a bad day,” I said. “What’s your secret?”

“I’ve had plenty of bad things happen in my life,” he answered, “but a long time ago, I decided to view everything as a blessing. I was injured in Vietnam. We lost a child in infancy. I lost my job once. The worst event was when my wife, here”--he wrapped his arms around her shoulders”--was diagnosed with kidney cancer. I thought my life was over because I thought her life was over. The lowest blow was when I found out I wasn’t a match to donate a kidney.”

“But our son was!” she chimed in. “It was a miracle. That was twenty-five years ago, and I thank God every day for my life.”

“And I thank God every day for her,” he said, beaming.

“So, would you say it’s how we view life that determines our level of contentment?” I asked.

“Absolutely! It’s all about gratitude...being thankful for what and who we have, not moaning about what we don’t have or what we’ve lost.” 

He saw my book, After Rain, and asked about it. I told him writing it had been my pandemic project. “I wrote it because I had a strong sense that we all stand in need of comfort and peace.” I mentioned that one of the devotions was about the practice of gratitude, the very thing we had been talking about. “I have to remind myself every morning to be grateful,” I said. “It’s so easy to slip into complaining, especially during the last year-and-a-half when it seems like our world has turned upside down. That’s why I wrote After Rain. I needed the reminder that, no matter what we are going through, God stands ready to walk us through it and help us triumph over the challenges.” 

“Amen!” said his wife, who I didn’t realize had been listening. She bought the book. Then, she bought one for a friend. I hope both she and her friend are as blessed by reading it as I was in meeting her and her devoted husband.

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Friday, July 30, 2021

The Mountains Called

The mountains called and we answered. Many people go to the beach for their summer vacations. That’s just fine, but my husband and I prefer the mountains. The idea of spending the bulk of our precious summer months in hot, humid Eastern Virginia gives us a severe case of the heebie-jeebies. The good news is that we can travel a mere three hours to reach the Blue Ridge with its lower humidity and cooler temperatures and still be in Virginia. There we can sleep with the windows open, dine al fresco, and hike without breaking a sweat. 

Our favorite get-away spot is Wintergreen Resort where

we rent a condo with a breathtaking view that includes

an abundance of stunning flowers and butterflies. We have access to tennis (golf, too, but we don’t play), and great hiking trails. We even hiked the Appalachian Trail this time...for about 100 yards. Whew! There are many good restaurants, wineries and cideries in the area, too. You might even catch a glimpse of a black bear. 

The best part of our annual get-away is the Wintergreen Summer Music Festival, Erin Freeman, Artistic Director. After having to cancel last year’s event, Erin (no relation) outdid herself this year! We attended two of many concert offerings held in the Dunlop Pavilion, and both were stellar. From Bach to Brahms and Mendelssohn to a commissioned work for virtual chorus and live orchestra, every musical moment was mesmerizing. 

I know! This blog sounds like a copy ad for Wintergreen Resort, but trust me when I say, "Don’t go to Wintergreen Resort in the summer."

We prefer having it all to ourselves.


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Saturday, July 10, 2021



I tend to be a creature of isolation. It’s not that I don’t enjoy being with people, especially close friends and family members. It’s just that I feel comfortable with my alone time. Time alone allows me to ponder the universe, both macro and micro, both temporal and spiritual; and it allows me to express that pondering through my writing. So, last year, when social distancing became necessary, it didn’t feel like a sacrifice to me. Rather, it seemed like a gift. I could still take my walks and enjoy the beauty of nature; and with so much writing and editing to accomplish, I never grew bored. 

Last week, for the first time in eighteen months, I met three friends inside a restaurant, none of us wearing masks. At first it felt strange, uncomfortable. Typically, we would have hugged. Later, I realized the idea of hugging never occurred to me.   

At first our conversation felt strained, yet we were the same four women who had so much in common, so many shared experiences, so much history together...before COVID. The server brought menus, and we buried our heads, hiding in the decision of what to order. With that task accomplished, we looked at each other, heaved a collective sigh, and shared a laugh at our awkwardness. Finally, with the proverbial ice broken, the conversation entered familiar, but long-neglected territory. We ended up talking and laughing until the servers began setting up for dinner.  

I left the restaurant feeling refreshed and exhilarated by the human contact that can never be replaced by Zoom meetings, phone calls, Facebook, emails, or text messages. Yes, I value and protect my alone time, but the pandemic has shown me how much I need human contact, with or without hugs.

I would love to hear your post-pandemic stories. Please respond and share how reentry has felt to you. Have you had to make adjustments that surprised you or did you jump right into life-as-usual? How about your children? What effects from isolation have you observed in them?

Speaking of responses, I received feedback from another writer friend about how to dispel a creative crisis. Lynn says he goes to a public setting and observes people. Then he makes up stories about them in his head. Often, a character will emerge that inspires a new novel. Thanks for the tip, Lynn! Fortunately, we can frequent public settings again. 

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Monday, June 28, 2021

Tips for Managing a Creative Crisis

In my previous blog post, I wrote about feeling creatively depleted, uninspired, and a little panicky since summer flies by so quickly. Many writers call this phenomenon writer’s block, but that sounds so chopping block or road block. I asked my writer friends to weigh in with some ways they address a creative crisis...and don’t try to tell me you’ve never had one.

As promised, here are the suggestions submitted by some of my writer friends. 

Cyrus says, “Close your eyes. Inhale good thoughts; exhale bad thoughts. Breathing deeply, take your body and mind to the stars. Release your mind from any thoughts and continue to breathe. Re-engage your mind with thoughts of walking without floors, seeing without eyes, hearing without ears, and become one with yourself. Empty your mind, fill your heart and breathe. Let the thoughts and words come through you and not to you.”

Wow! That’s some existential stuff there, Cyrus...very meditative. I do meditate in preparation for prayer, but I never thought about preparing for writing this way. I’ll definitely try it.

Monti, another author friend, suggests, “Go for a walk, find a tree, and discover an image in the bark patterns. Write about that image, tell what it means to you, and what the important words are. Put it in the little notebook you are carrying with you.”

Yes to the walking part, Monti! It’s one of my favorite energizer activities, and it works equally well for increasing both physical and mental energy. I like the bark idea, too. That’s definitely a new one, and I will try it. The “little notebook” is my phone, but it’s the same concept.

This morning, after my first good night’s sleep in a week, I realized I wasn’t in a crisis. I was just plain tired. Sometimes I don’t recognize when I need to take a break. I think I’m supposed to trudge through the fog of fatigue when stopping to rest and recharge would be a better plan.

But I appreciate the excellent suggestions from Monti and Cyrus. How about you other creative writers? What do you do to re-engage your muse?

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Monday, June 21, 2021

Creative Crisis

Photo Courtesy of HighBabe

Okay, school is out for the summer, and I have time to write again. Yay! So, here I sit waiting for my muse to show up, and she is several days late. What to do! Let’s start with another cup of coffee.

Nope! That didn’t work, either. Even writing a blog post--something I normally enjoy--is a struggle. Is this how it’s going to be all summer? Do I just need to chill and wait until the mood strikes?

Some people call it writer’s block. For me it’s not so much a block as a fog. I can’t seem to concentrate or get my thoughts in order. Without an imposed schedule, I waste precious time and get distracted easily. Believe it or not, I have a YouTube channel. I was hoping to actually use it this post some videos about my writing career that might be helpful to other creative writers. But how can I advise others when I’m in a slump.

Fellow writers, what do you do to break the cycle of a creative crisis? I’d love to hear from you. Please send your helpful hints. I’ll compile and share them on my author page and website...maybe even on my YouTube channel. We’re all in this together.

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