Sunday, January 31, 2021

It's About Connection

As dreadful as the last year has been with COVID-19, political unrest, racial unrest and all the rest--notice the little play on words, there--something astonishing has happened. The Holy Spirit has placed on my heart various people from my “past lives” and convicted me to renew contact with them. Evidently, this phenomenon is occurring with others, too, because I have heard from a number of folks for the first time in many years. As we connect by phone or email or text, each relationship is renewed instantly. It’s as if we never lost touch. 

Shortly after Christmas, I realized I hadn’t received the usual card from my college voice professor. For fifty years, she and I have exchanged Christmas cards, and that’s it, but I always looked forward to hearing from her annually. Now, my mind filled with concern, especially about her health amid a pandemic. Suddenly, I became aware that I had never told her how much she meant to me, how positively she had influenced my life, and how much I admired her. For the first time in fifty years, I picked up the phone and called her. She knew who I was immediately. I asked her if she had caller ID, and she said, "No, but I’d recognize your voice anywhere.” Imagine that! After fifty years!

What followed was the most delightful, hour-long conversation! She is in her late eighties and in frail health, but her mind is as sharp as ever. With social distancing measures in place, she and her husband (who have no family) are quite isolated in their apartment. Needless to say, my phone call, alone, made her day. But the greatest blessing about our long-overdue discourse was that, finally, I was able to share my sincere gratitude for all the support she provided during my college days, when I was far from home, very naive, and totally unprepared for adulthood. 

Reconnecting with her warmed my heart, and I wondered what had taken me so long. She went on to tell me that, not only had she kept up with my music career, but now she was following my writing career, having read and enjoyed all of my novels. “I’m still waiting for Farm Girl,” she said. I had to tell her I would not be publishing my childhood memoir, after all...that I recognized my parents did the best they could with what they knew and were no longer alive to defend themselves. I would chalk up the project to catharsis and let them rest in peace. 

It was no accident when the very next day, I got a phone call from a friend in Newport News with whom I had lost touch after moving to Williamsburg, a dear sister-in-Christ who helped me through a difficult period in my life. Yes, we’re “friends” on Facebook, but social media is limited when it comes to deep connection...or it should be. Again, we talked for nearly an hour and, not only was I able to thank her for her grace and caring at one of life’s lowest points, but I learned that her family is currently in the midst of a crisis and that a mutual friend of ours is suffering from COVID. 

When another old friend called shortly after the new year, and when I continued to be reminded of long-ignored relationships, I knew that God was sending me an important message: If you are thinking about someone with whom you’ve lost touch, chances are I have placed that person on your heart. Don’t wait for another crisis. Make the connection now and be blessed. 


I’m learning that neither busyness nor physical isolation justifies neglecting relationships. Abundant life is about connection--connection with God and fellow humans. Deep connection results when we nurture relationships, both near and far. Excuse me while I make a phone call.

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Monday, January 18, 2021

Pass it On

My husband and I like to walk on a trail that meanders through the woods. The gravel portion of this trail is closed to bikers, allowing us the freedom to take in our surroundings. 

Along the way, we look for small painted rocks that have been left by others who traverse the same path. Every time I discover one of these smooth, colorful stones, I act as excited as a small child. One would think I had found a twenty dollar bill. I pick it up, admire the artwork, then turn it over in my hand to read where it has been. I have found stones from Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and even Alaska. 

This simple childlike quest has brought me joy during the last year in which there has been little about which to rejoice. Disease, political violence, racial unrest, and poverty have marred the landscape of our daily existence. Searching for stones is a temporary distraction from the events and images that seem determined to cause fear, frustration, and even rage. But this daily pursuit is so much more than a child’s game. 

Someone I will never meet has taken the time to decorate a palm-sized rock, then left it for a stranger to find and appreciate. Similar to geocaching, the idea is for that person to retrieve it and move it to another state or country for someone else to find. With so little travel happening during the pandemic, it’s a rare stone that travels beyond its state border. 

The seemingly insignificant act of leaving a tiny, joyful, yet worthless gift serves to connect strangers with an unspoken greeting that says, “Hi, fellow citizen of the universe. I was here. We’re in this together. Pass it on.”  

I decided to do some research into the phenomenon of painted rocks. It turns out there are websites and Facebook pages dedicated to this movement. According to, its mission is “to spread happiness to as many people as possible through simple acts of kindness.” 

I whisper a prayer of blessing for each person who has touched the rock. I place it in a new location and walk on with a smile behind my mask and a burst of warmth in my heart. Thank you, stranger. Mission accomplished! 

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of four award-winning essays and three published novels: UnrevealedThe Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Her latest book, After Rain, is a collection of devotions offering comfort and peace in times of trial.

Website:; Facebook page: Cindy L Freeman. Her books are available through or

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

From Idea to Novel

One day in 2017, I was shopping in the Peanut Shop of Williamsburg when the idea for my book, I Want to Go Home, came to me. If you have visited Merchant Square at the edge of Williamsburg, Virginia’s Historic area, you know that the Peanut Shop is always bustling with customers. We who live here contend that it sells the most delicious peanuts and boasts the widest range of flavor varieties, from sweet to savory. The best feature of this local treasure is that the counters are lined with samples, allowing customers to taste before committing to a purchase. 

As I glanced around at the myriad samples, I began to wonder if homeless persons ever ventured in to take the edge off their hunger. Would anyone notice if a seventeen-year-old girl wandered in and began helping herself to enough free samples to stop the growling in her stomach? Could she pretend convincingly to be a normal shopper or blend in with students from the College of William and Mary who frequented the store?
From this simple idea, a novel began to take shape and my protagonist, Abigail (Abby) Jordan, emerged. As I began the research for I Want to Go Home, I decided to set the story in Williamsburg. Not only is it a town I know from living here for more than thirty years, but it is assumed to be a middle-to-upper-class community. Surely there are no homeless here. My research confirmed that, indeed, Williamsburg has a considerable homeless population, not just individuals, but whole families living on the streets or sheltered temporarily in motels. 

My church participates with other local faith communities in a winter shelter program for these people, further evidence that they exist. With economic hardships resulting from COVID-19, the numbers have increased. Thankfully, the available services have ramped up in response to this growing number of citizens needing food and shelter. But such measures are temporary at best, and even less available in large cities where homelessness is rampant. 

In my novel, I Want to Go Home, Abigail Jordan, the daughter of a college professor and a stay-at-home mom, lives in a middle-class neighborhood where her family is comfortable and her future is predictable...or so she thinks. As a high school senior, Abby is focused on getting into college where she can study to become a documentary filmmaker. She has no intention of marrying and having children right away, but when she is forced to parent her younger brothers, she must abandon her dreams.

First, I had to create a plausible scenario in which the Jordan family lost their home. Then, I set up a situation that compelled Abby and her brothers to run away. Where would they go, and who would they meet along the way? Would they be able to find shelter? Who would help them?

These were questions I needed to answer as the plot developed. I had fun including familiar places in Williamsburg, like the Peanut Shop, the train station and the public library, and recalling sites I had visited in Washington, DC: Union Station, the Metro, the Smithsonian Museums, the Reflecting Pool, and the zoo, all places Abby and her brothers encounter on their odyssey. But I also enjoyed creating a fictional motel in Williamsburg and Harmony House, a fictional shelter in DC. Finally, I needed to figure out how to restore hope and stability for Abby and her brothers. After a harrowing journey, would these children finally find redemption and the security of a home? You can read their story here and discover the answers for yourself. 

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of four award-winning essays and three published novels: UnrevealedThe Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Her latest book, After Rain, is a collection of devotions offering comfort and peace in times of trial.

Website:; Facebook page: Cindy L Freeman. Her books are available through or