If you feel like your creative spirit is asleep, or has disappeared altogether, take a hike, or at least a walk—which is more my speed these days.
This morning I followed a pathway around a pond. Bursts of pink and white blooms floated upon shiny green petals, like servings of a delectable dessert.
After months of working on The Adventures of Agnes, Book Two, I was reminded of God’s provision, His encouragement, when we need it the most.
I have spent untold hours in labor, and as writers or artists know, that’s what we do because our creative spirits have been stirred. Yet there may come a time when the well seems dry as dust.
During the process of writing my second book, I have deleted scenes—well, not exactly. I’ve saved most of them to a separate file to possibly use in book three. I have rewritten and revised the manuscript and added new scenes to move the plot along. What is plot? The glue that holds the book together, the storyline. I love my characters, but sometimes they wander about going nowhere or somewhere they should not go. A good plot can rein them in just enough, but not too much.
Hopefully I am learning, and I have much to learn, but that’s part of the joy of writing. I am thankful for the journey, as crazy as it can be sometimes.
If you feel like you are walking across a desert, a dry and dusty land, for whatever reason, try to find a place where you can see the beauty of God’s creation. If you can’t leave your home perhaps you can find a window where you can look to the heavens. The cloud formations lately have been amazing.
Be encouraged. Put your hope, your faith, in our Creator.
We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Daddy said he grew up “rough as a hickory nut.” He was born in 1918 in “Bloody Harlan,” KY where men often settled arguments with the guns they toted. Pine coffins, built and stacked in the town’s hardware store, waited for the undertaker.
Daddy's Lunch Bucket
From a family of coal miners, he followed suit. He worked in mining camps with names like Yancey, Arjay, Turkey Pen, Blanche, and Cow Branch.
I can see him on a typical workday when he heads to the mines before first light, before a rooster crows, before morning glories open their blooms. Sometimes two or three gaunt dogs follow him, whining for attention. All strays, he has tended to their worms, their mange and wounds. He treats them like pedigrees.
His work boots crunch along a well-worn path. His lunch pail, with bologna sandwiches and a Moon Pie, thumps against his leg as he heads down one mountain and up another. When he enters a labyrinth of dark, damp tunnels, he splashes through rancid water. A tiny carbine lamp clamped onto his cap casts a golden glow on the dust suspended in the air. When he reaches his workstation he sets his lunch bucket nearby and places a rock on its lid to keep the rats out. Timbers creak and groan overhead.
As a child, I knew nothing of the dangers he faced.
Somehow he found time to show my sister and me the beauty of summer storms rumbling over the mountains or a pink lady slipper poking through a brown-leaf carpet. Once he planted cotton in our hillside garden—so we could see it, touch it, compare it to the textbook drawing.
Often he interceded for his two girls. One summer day, we built a clubhouse and nailed it to one side of our home. Since daddy worked long hours, as did Mother as manager of the camp’s commissary, we basically entertained ourselves—after finishing our chores. That evening Mother surveyed our construction and said it must come down at once, if not sooner. Daddy said, “Now, Edith, look what a good job they did and I bet they have blisters on every finger. Let them keep it up a day or two.” And so we did.
That was my daddy. He was both a gentle man and a gentleman. He loved the simple things of life: his family, Juicy Fruit gum, the Kentucky Wildcats, and pinto beans and cornbread.
Many were blessed with his presence on this earth for 93 years.
Are You Living In The Past?
I have made my share of mistakes, and if I dwell on them their weight can pull me down into a quagmire. An accusing voice may say, “What were you thinking?”
Or my thoughts can do a 360 and I find myself longing for a simpler time, a slower pace, the “Good Old Days” of yesteryears. I have forgotten my struggles and have enriched the fond memories. Wasn’t I happier then?
As the Israelites trudged across a dry and dusty land, they began to grumble and complain. They wished to go back to Egypt, where they had been slaves. They forgot about their harsh taskmasters raising their quota of bricks while requiring they gather their own straw. Instead, they remembered eating varieties of fruit, vegetables, fish, and breads. In the wilderness they ate a boring diet of manna day after day. They asked, “Did the Lord bring us out here to die? Didn’t we have a better life in Egypt?”
Or, Are You Living In The Future?
Sometimes I look ahead, try to plan for whatever may lie around the next corner, or a distant corner. Sounds like the logical and smart thing to do, but I can get tangled up in imaging a possible event. What will I say? How will others respond? My fears and anxieties about upcoming situations can overwhelm me. Can’t I plan enough to be prepared, but give up my compulsion to control when God is the one in charge, not me?
When those same Israelites stood on the cusp of entering the Promised Land, they balked. How could they conquer giants, after all? How could they overcome armies much greater in number? Surely they would all die. Because they didn’t trust God to protect them, they wandered in the wilderness for forty years until that unbelieving generation passed away.
Unless I can surrender myself, my past guilt or yearnings, and my future fears, and come humbly to the Lord now, today, moment by moment, with thanksgiving, I will never have peace. The Lord is with me now. He lives within me now. He knows what lies ahead and whatever it is, He is there too. I don’t need to worry.
And the past mistakes I’ve made? He has that covered. My sins have been forgiven and tossed into the sea. He remembers them no more. So why do I keep bringing them up?
Talk to the Lord today. Tell Him what is on your heart. Thank Him for your past and present blessings. And ask Him to fill you to the brim with His everlasting love and peace. Come into His presence today.
A favorite verse: Zephaniah 3:17
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.—NKJV
Share a favorite verse that has brought you comfort.
Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar has been nominated for Pat Conroy’s Beach Music Mystery Award. I am honored and thankful to be on a list with such distinguished authors. Check out this web site for more information.
Another Adventure of Agnes Hopper Series, Betting On Murder, is forthcoming. When I have a definite launch date, I will share more details, after shouting for joy.
To celebrate both blessings, I am giving away two signed copies of my first book in the series, Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar, to two winners. If you have read my book, and enjoyed it, you could give it away as a gift.
How to win?
Leave a comment on my website to this question:
What advice did a favorite person in your life give you?
Example: My daddy knew I had a rebellious heart, because he always told me ‘If you can’t be good, be careful.’
Your name will be entered as many times as you leave a comment. The winners' first names will be announced on FB and my website ten days from now. Those two people can then contact me with an address and I'll mail their books.
CONTEST BEGINS APRIL 10, 2016 and ENDS APRIL 20, 2016.
Give From Your Heart
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Romans 9:7 NIV
Bonay pulled weeds under a hot, Haitian sun. Hours later he carried an armful to the missionary’s gate. “For your new rabbit,” he said.
Judy Revis, known as Madam Steve, knew this boy from their village was not only thirsty, but hungry as well. So when she brought him water, she handed him a peanut butter sandwich.
“Merci,” Bonay said with a broad smile.
From this simple exchange, a new ministry was born.
Bonay ran and shouted to his brothers and sisters and all of his friends, “I traded weeds for peanut butter!”
Soon scores of children combed the countryside, pulled more armfuls of weeds, and carried them to Madam Steve. This time she had prepared lots of limeade and a basketful of peanut butter sandwiches.
Through out that afternoon the same children returned time after time as the weed piles grew taller. Too much food for one lone rabbit, but Steve soon acquired three goats and that problem was solved.
Still, Judy was puzzled. The children could not have eaten all the peanut butter sandwiches she had given to them in such a short time. She turned to Bonay and asked him,“What are the children doing with their food?”
Bonay hung his head, but then he looked up and told the truth. “They are giving it to others in our village who are hungry.”
Elated, Judy laughed and cried and hugged the little boy. The Haitian people had been too proud to accept “handouts” from the missionaries. But they were willing to enjoy the fruits of the children’s hard labor.
Before long, the supply of bread and peanut butter was depleted. But the story does not end there.
Word about Madam Steve’s “peanut butter kids” spread stateside and cases of peanut butter began arriving in Haiti, shipped by the Revis’ family and friends.
Months later, the children who first traded weeds for peanut butter began coming to the missionaries, not only for food, but for another reason: a backyard Bible study where they eagerly learned about the “Bread of life.”
More months passed. Then, some of the parents of those children asked the Revis couple if they would hold church services in their yards.
God used a hungry, skinny boy with an armful of weeds and a missionary with bread and peanut butter, both with giving hearts, to bring hope to a Haitian village.
If you think you don’t have anything grand to offer to the Lord, give willingly whatever you have. The Lord will bless it and use it for His glory.
These true events have inspired a children's story: The Peanut Butter Kid
I am thankful and excited about this story.
What "weeds" have you given to the Lord? Did things work out like you had hoped? Or did the Lord have something else planned? What did you learn from the experience?
Please share a few words with us. Many blessings, Carol
Grateful to Carole Brown, an award-winning author, for this guest post. Check out her website at: sunnebnkwrtr.blogspot.com
The Worst Christmas Ever
By Carol Heilman
From an early age, I discovered that sharing our Savior’s birthday resulted in sweet fellowship like no other.
My favorite Christmas memories of childhood include relatives coming together from near and far in joyous celebration. Family would fill my grandparent’s house nearly to overflowing.
Mother and her four sisters, who always wore their red dresses, greeted each other with laughter and hugs, and they set aside any ill feelings that might have accumulated over the past year.
My uncles stood around and soaked up the good will. They wore proud smiles and shared corny jokes or talked of politics while my cousins and I ran in and out of the back door, playing tag or hide and seek, if the Kentucky weather proved mild enough. And when everyone finally sat down to eat, I feasted on little else but my grandmother’s chicken and dumplings.
Many years later, when my husband and I had children of our own, we began a tradition of including those around our table who would otherwise be alone. One Christmas, we had a row of walkers parked by the backdoor. We had more people who needed assistance than those who didn’t, but somehow we managed. My dinner couldn’t compare to my mother’s cornbread dressing or my grandmother’s chicken and dumpling, but no one seemed to mind.
Years passed on by. Then a Christmas came when the unthinkable happened. No one could come. Mother and Daddy were too frail and ill and even the best-cooked meal had no appeal. That was the same year our children, for one reason or another, told us they couldn’t make the trip to our North Carolina mountain home. Maybe next year.
On Christmas morning my husband and I met some friends, on their way out of town, at Denny’s for breakfast. Then we spent the day with my parents doing all we could to make them as comfortable as possible in their assisted living apartment. We were happy to spend our Christmas with them, but that night, on the way home, a lonesome feeling came over us. We stopped at Bojangles for dinner. While munching on fried chicken and biscuits, my husband said, ”This is the worst Christmas ever!” I could hardly swallow for the lump in my throat.
Throughout the day, we had talked with our son and his wife in Charleston, as well as our daughter, son-in-law, and grandson in California. That night we decided to check up on our west coast family again, but could not reach them by cell or house phone. Where could they be? Perhaps out to eat or to a movie, we reasoned.
We kept calling, but no answer. We finally went to bed, with phone in hand. We were getting more worried by the minute, when our grandson finally answered his mother’s cell phone.
“Where in the world are you?” asked my husband.
“At the airport. We’re on our way to your house.”
We jumped out of bed, full of energy and joy. They had been determined to surprise us and they certainly accomplished their mission. They turned our worst Christmas into one of our best.
Christmas, or any holiday, can be a lonely time. Sweet fellowship can make can make all the difference. Do you know someone who will be alone this Christmas? Reach out to him or her, and if possible, invite them into your home. Share our Savior’s birthday with others and you will be blessed. It might even be your best Christmas ever.
The Language of Heaven
I love the sound of foreign tongues.
Years ago, on the darkest night I can ever remember, I traveled a remote mountain road of northwest Haiti in a hefty truck, along with some missionary friends and two Haitian men. Often, to pass the time, we sang hymns together, a blend of English and French Creole rising upward as we bounced along. My favorite was It Is Well With My Soul.
Years later, while riding a camel in early morning darkness to the top of Mt Sinai, my Arabian guide, walking beside me on a narrow trail, broke out in song. The night sky was filled with stars. Even though I did not know his words, we joined our voices as I sang praise songs to the Lord.
Today, while walking a nearby trail, I often listen to music I’ve downloaded onto my phone. I especially love to hear a group of Navaho women sing Amazing Grace.
Do you ever wonder what language we will speak or sing in heaven? Will every person speak his or her native tongue? Yet will we have the ability to understand all of them? Or will we communicate in some other way and words will no longer be necessary?
Anything is possible with the Lord. Perhaps we will all speak and sing one language—the language of heaven.
When Jesus asked the crippled man lying near the pool of healing waters, “Do you want to be well?” I thought, What kind of question is that? Of course he does, I answered. That’s why he was there day after day, for years, thirty-eight of them. Other people crowded ahead of him every time and he didn’t have a chance. Surely Jesus could not find fault in that.
But then I looked closer at this handicapped man. I saw him shrug his shoulders when people pushed him aside. He crawled back to his familiar spot to wait for the next time when an angel would stir the waters, but he knew it would be no different than all the times before. He had accepted his fate. He had become comfortable in his pitiful condition.
After all, what could he have done?
He could have shouted, “Wait! It’s my turn!” Or perhaps he could have asked someone to help him reach the waters in time.
Jesus knew the man’s heart and his very thoughts. Did he want to be healed? Or was it easier to stay in the same condition? He had no responsibilities.
He had the perfect excuse—he blamed others.
I can relate to him because I have done the same thing. When I have been wounded by someone’s words, and those arrows have pierced deep into my heart, I don’t plead for the Lord to remove them. I don’t beg Him to bind up my wounds so that I can sing and laugh and praise His name.
No, I would rather moan and groan and say, “Woe is me. Do you see what this person has done to me? He has damaged me beyond repair. The ache and unfairness of it all will always be there. I’ll just sit here and do nothing because there is no hope. I can never forgive him.”
Folks, this is the devil speaking, not the Lord. Do I want to be healed? I have no power to do it on my own. How then? Only by releasing all of my brokenness to the Lord. Every stinking bit. No half-way business will do.
If I can give all my fears, failures, and wounds to him, He will heal me. A simple solution, but it is not easy. I would rather keep my damaged self, blame the one who hurt me, and use it as an excuse for not living in the Lord’s Light. How much sense does that make?
It doesn’t. I want to be well. Thank you, Jesus, for your healing touch.
Give the broken pieces of your heart to the Lord. He can create a glorious mosaic.
Read the story of Jesus and the lame man in John 5:1-18.
Have you ever suffered from depression? I have and here are a few things I have learned along the way.
It can feel like falling into a deep, dark pit filled with quicksand.
Depression can hurt, not only emotionally, but physically.
It can affect my ability to think clearly.
I may become restless, unable to sleep, and lose interest in my usual activities. I may lose hope.
Winston Churchill suffered from clinical depression and called it the “black dog.”
If you find yourself in the clutches of this disease, get help. And do it today. Talk to someone you trust. You may need to contact a trained professional. You could have a chemical imbalance, or perhaps you have suffered abuse, rejection, or feelings of unworthiness and have kept the hurt and anger inside yourself and it’s eating you alive.
I am thankful I no longer need medication or counseling, but if I should again, I would gladly accept whatever it took to help me get well.
Thirty or so years ago I was depressed and didn’t realize it. My doctor at the time, bless him, did. I was so ashamed. I didn’t even share with my husband that I had begun taking medication. Actually, I didn’t tell anyone. What would people think?
I am a Christian and I thought I should be able to handle whatever came my way. I was wrong, on many counts. Because I am human, I cannot handle anything on my own. The good Lord did not create us to journey through our earthy lives alone. Now I cry out to Jesus and lean on Him. He has never failed me.
Today, I sometimes will see depression lurking in the shadows ready to pounce. I am most vulnerable when tired or sick, or even more so when disappointed in circumstances not unfolding like I had planned. Imagine thinking I am the one in control. That’s when I pray the hardest and try to give everything over to the one who knows my every thought and fear and insecurity, yet loves me anyway. Yes, mess that I am, Jesus loves me. He loves you. That makes all the difference.
He (the Lord) will rejoice over you with gladness. He will quiet you by His love. He will exult over you with loud singing.
My mother always yearned for a middle name so as a young adult she gave herself Marie. Later in her life, if she couldn’t remember your name, she chose one that she thought suited you, and that’s who you were to her from that time forward. Brent became Steve and Martha Jean might become Janie and no one seemed to mind.
Years ago my husband called me “Big Mama” when I am not that big, and it stuck. He also designated my daddy as “Boss” after working for him in his dry cleaning business and he kept it for the rest of his life. It often brought a smile to those who heard it for he was a gentle, unassuming man and everyone knew mother was the real boss in our family.
Today I am also called Momma, Mom, Mamaw, MeMo, Carol, and Sis by a dear friend.
In my book, Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar, the main character, Agnes, shares my mother's spunky spirit as well as part of her name--Marie and Hopper, mother's maiden name.
Names are important. They help to tell the story of who we are.
What are some of your names?
This page is dedicated to my inspirations and those who have enriched my life along the way.