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.

Please check out my author website: There you'll find a FREE book just for visiting. Someone in your life might need its offer of hope and healing.

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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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 on 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 on 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 a 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'm ultimately responsible for marketing and selling my books. 

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

Last month's 2nd Sunday event in downtown Williamsburg was such an experience. Two other local authors and I shared a tent and marketed each other's works and 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, and 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 said 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 discovered 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 daily for my life."

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

"So, would you say that how we view life 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." 

As his wife turned back to her friend, he spotted my book, After Rain, and asked about it. I told him writing it had been my pandemic project. "I wrote it because I strongly sensed that we all needed comfort and peace." I mentioned that one of the devotions was about the practice of gratitude, the very thing we were discussing. "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 she and her friend are as blessed by reading it as I was in meeting her and her devoted husband.

Please check out my author website: ,where you'll find a  FREE gift just for visiting.

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.


Please check out my author website: where you’ll find a  FREE gift just for visiting.


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 and uncomfortable. Typically, we would have hugged. Later, I realized the idea of hugging never occurred to me.   

Our initial conversation was 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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Thursday, June 10, 2021

Pigpen and Me


Image courtesy of Wikipedia

We all remember the character, Pigpen, from the comic strip, "Peanuts." Wherever Pigpen went, a cloud of dust enveloped him. Little boys seem to be drawn to dirt. I have a picture of my son as a toddler dressed for church on Easter Sunday. As soon as I turned my back he was out the door and heading for the drainage ditch in our backyard. Before I could scoop him up, he had squatted to play in the mud, hands submerged up to his wrists, shoes covered with muck, and pant legs drenched. At first I was horrified, but then I couldn’t resist laughing and grabbing my camera. Now that he’s a grown man, I treasure that photo. It reminds me of how quickly we can become covered with the dirt of living. It happens when we run away from God; when we ignore God’s Word and God’s will.

I consider myself to be a good person, one who cares about others, one who tries to be kind and compassionate and truthful. But, like every human, I am a sinner. In Romans 3:22 and 23, we learn, “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” It doesn’t say “some” or “a few” or “everyone else” has sinned. It says “all.” This means every human is stained with the soil of sin. Fortunately, Paul doesn’t stop there. If he did, we would have no hope. In Verses 24 and 25, we learn that “All are justified freely by [God’s] grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.” 

When I think about all the mistakes I’ve made, all the little white lies I’ve told, all the times I’ve gossiped about someone or judged someone or envied someone or worried about a situation, I feel ashamed. I feel like Pigpen, surrounded by a cloud of dust, weighed down by my sins. But there is good news for every one of us sinners. God, through Jesus Christ, can wash away the dirt of sin that threatens to envelop us. How? Verse 25 makes it clear that redemption comes through believing in “Christ’s sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood--to be received by faith.” In other words, Christ’s sacrifice--through his crucifixion--is a free gift which can be received simply by faith in the resurrection.    

What would happen if, instead of charging headlong toward the mud puddles of temptation, worry, and selfishness, I allowed God to scoop me into his arms of forgiveness? Would my life be free of problems and challenges? No. Would I be free of sin? No. Would I be forgiven? Yes!

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Sunday, May 9, 2021

It Must Be My Day


I don't claim to be a poet, but after editing numerous poetry books lately, I felt inspired to give it a try. Here's what I came up with yesterday when, in the words of newspaper columnist, Jack Neworth, "My birthday candles almost started a forest fire."

It Must Be My Day

Slept late, awakened to coffee made and breakfast in bed.

He hates coffee, can’t even stand the smell.

It must be my day.

A dozen roses, a subscription to Hulu

so I can watch season four of “Handmaid’s Tale.“

It must be my day.

Text messages from kids, kids-in-law, and grandkids;

Facebook greetings from friends near and far.

It must be my day.

Cards, emails, phone calls,

Car trip to a state park; he drove, I typed. 

It must be my day.

Hugs, whiffle ball with grands, picnic lunch;

Walking, talking, more hugs.

Yes, May 8 is my day,


But so is tomorrow since I’m a mom.

I wonder...will I get breakfast in bed again?

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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Don't Change That!

Image by Craig T. Owens
I don’t like change. When things change I feel uncomfortable, insecure. Maybe that’s what it is about technology that annoys me. I just get used to doing something one way and the next time I go to do it, it has been updated and “improved.” I use technology every day. It seems reasonable that it would become instinctive after a while. 

I started taking piano lessons at age seven. That means, I’ve been playing the piano for more than sixty years. The process has not changed. There are still eighty-eight keys, and music notation has remained the same all these years. So, with practice I have gotten better; by applying the same procedures over and over, I have achieved a level of comfort and mastery. Likewise, when I don’t play for a while, that level diminishes. It’s all quite logical and predictable.

Like technology, life isn’t logical or predictable. Life changes constantly. All living creatures experience metamorphoses in both themselves and the universe. I daresay humans are the only lifeforms that resist change. We might even become frustrated and angry when certain changes occur: the aging process with its physical alterations, the onset of a serious illness, the loss of a loved one. These are natural, expected metamorphoses. Yet, when they occur, they throw us into a tailspin. 

The more we resist change, the more frustrated and angry we become. Some changes can even challenge our faith in God. Why would a loving God put us through this? Why does God allow us (or a loved one) to suffer? How many times have you heard someone say, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” Poppycock! That saying isn’t even scriptural.

In John 16:33, Jesus is recorded as saying, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Perhaps the false saying comes from a misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 10:13 where Paul is talking about temptation. “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape….” Even Jesus was tempted. It was not God who tempted His Son. Likewise, it is not God who tempts us, but offers us a means of escape. 

Even in the Old Testament, one Psalmist tells the Israelites, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea...the Lord of hosts is with us...cease striving and know that I am God (Psalm 46, selected verses).” According to bible scholars, this Psalm (hymn) was sung as long ago as the tenth century BC in response to the invasion of Israel by outside forces. The author reminds us that when change threatens to unravel our plans and even challenge our trust in God, it is not God who has changed. Rather, it is we who have rebelled against God (“our refuge and strength”).  

It has taken me a lifetime to learn that God is not the giver of trouble. Rather, God gives me strength and courage to face trouble head-on. When I abide in union with Him, God provides the means to handle whatever life, with all of its changes, deals me. 

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Friday, April 9, 2021

Channeling A Prolific Author

I enjoy discovering new authors. New to me, anyway. Recently, I happened upon the work of a British author, Catherine Cookson. Not that I’ve read her books. Rather, my husband and I found numerous movies on Amazon Prime based on her intriguing novels.

Born in 1906 in Northumberland England, Cookson was an extremely prolific author, having written around 120 books, including seventy novels. Perhaps the most fascinating fact I uncovered is that she dropped out of school at age fourteen. Imagine that! Yet, according to Wikipedia, “She is in the top 20 of most widely read British novelists with sales topping 100 million, while retaining a relatively low profile in the world of celebrity writers.”

Cookson’s stories, many written under her maiden name, Catherine Marchant, are complex and emotive, and her plots often take surprising twists. She writes about the nineteenth century working class in England, seeming never to exhaust her storehouse of fascinating subjects and storylines.

After watching a half-dozen movies made from her books, I became keen to learn more about Cookson’s life, which, I discovered, was most interesting. It seems that she was born the illegitimate daughter of a poverty-stricken, alcoholic barmaid, Kate, whom she was told was her older sister. She began working as a maid then a laundress in her hometown of Tyne Dock, but longing to escape poverty eventually moved to Hastings. There she met and married Tom Cookson, a local school master, who encouraged her writing. After winning numerous awards, Cookson quickly rose from regional acclaim to international best-selling status. In addition to seventy novels, this prolific writer penned eight autobiographical books, which I can’t wait to get my hands on.

Thus far, my husband and I have watched “The Man Who Cried,” “The Moth,” “The Black Candle,” “The Rag Maid,” and “Tilly Trotter.” If all of her novels have been made into movies, we have a long way to go. But, as entertaining as her stories and characters are on the screen, I am anxious to read her books to see how she uses language to paint her vivid pictures. Movie adaptations can never do justice to an author’s style or voice. 

Both Catherine Cookson and her husband died in 1998. She was ninety-two. They had no living children--a devastating aspect of her life that caused depression and surely influenced her writing. Upon her death, her bank account held 20 million pounds--all of which went to charities. 

If you have read any of Cookson's novels, I'd love to hear from you. As for me, I expect my Kindle reader to be busy for quite some time.

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Saturday, March 13, 2021

Stop "Awfulizing"

I tend to think I’m responsible for other people’s moods and reactions. I know this is a sign of insecurity, so I’m embarrassed to admit it. But it’s true. Following are two examples with the names changed to protect the innocent.

In the corridor of a school where I once worked, a fellow teacher walked toward me. She and I had always enjoyed a congenial relationship, but as she drew closer, I saw that her face wore a scowl with deep lines etched in her forehead. I smiled and said, “Hi, Martha. How are you?” She blew past me without a word, her frown set in concrete. Immediately, I decided I must have done something to offend her, but what? I wracked my brain, but came up with nothing. That night I couldn’t sleep as my imagination recreated scenarios in which I might have slighted or insulted Martha. What must she be thinking of me? How will I ever repair this broken relationship?

Ginny and I always called each other on our birthdays. One year I called twice and left messages then tried again the next day. This time I said, “Please call me back.” No response. So, I texted, “What’s wrong? I haven’t heard from you.” But I was thinking, “Why are you ignoring me? Why are you mad at me? What have I done to you? Will we ever be friends again?” Another sleepless night followed. 

As it turned out, Martha was suffering from a migraine the day I met her in the corridor. She was in so much pain that she couldn’t function. A few days later, when we talked in the teacher’s lounge, she was her friendly, gregarious self who didn’t even recall passing me in the hallway. In her desperation to get home, take her meds and find a dark place to rest, she hadn’t even noticed me. And the friend who ignored my calls and texts? She had lost her phone for a few days. Upon recovering it, she called to thank me for my birthday wishes. 

There is enough drama in life that I don’t need to manufacture it. Yet, I used to indulge in self-defeating thought patterns regularly. Jack Singer, author of The Teacher’s Ultimate Stress Mastery Guide, calls this negative thinking “awfulizing.” Unfortunately, awfulizing is a deeply ingrained habit from my childhood when my anxiety caused me to turn every emotion into a catastrophe. I carried this stress-inducing pattern into young adulthood and still find myself slipping from time to time.

I can’t say I am cured of awfulizing, but I do catch myself more quickly than I once did, and I have developed strategies to stop the craziness. First, I say affirmations to myself such as, “How does this problem stack up in terms of eternal significance?” Or “Every problem has a solution, and I am intelligent enough/mature enough to find it.” Then I breathe deeply, utter a quick prayer for calm, and either table the problem until I have time to deal with it or jot down the negative emotions that have upset me: “I’m feeling worried, or sad, or defeated, or angry.” Finally, when the time is right, I sit with God, who helps me identify the incident or comment that triggered my emotion. Together we evaluate the consequences, and form a plan to address the issue. 

Usually I’m able to come up with one of two healthy responses: 1. Tomorrow, I will do or say such-and-such toward fixing the problem; or 2. His/her comment/behavior is not about me. Controlling other people’s emotions, words, and actions is not my responsibility. 

This year I will turn seventy-two. Someday I hope to be an adult who doesn’t resort to awfulizing whenever I’m faced with a challenge.

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