June’s Blogs

Gold Nuggets

A delightful lady approached me at a book signing and asked where I found the idea for writing “The Estate Sale.” I shared my short version of how I’d always enjoyed attending such sales, and being a writer, my creative juices took it from there. We laughed and then I realized she wanted the real story.

Everyday experiences provide a stream where I pan for nuggets to build a story. When I journal I take note of certain experiences of each day or week and mark them as possible story nuggets. I also jotted down words I felt were attached to the sale. When I journaled about a particular estate sale I enjoyed visiting, I added inheritance, legacy, tragedy, and love, to the entry. These became nuggets I needed to form my story many years later.

People I’ve met through the years become character nuggets. One person’s appearance or mannerisms, another’s quirks or temperament, may show up in a future story. I pay attention to how people react (myself included), in circumstances of life. I tend to jot down these things lest I lose them in the current of life.

The “Estate Sale” formed gradually, beginning as a short story and then sat in my file drawer several years. When I joined my small critique group, I needed something to read and have critiqued, so I pulled it out. I knew then this was going to become a story with purpose. One year later it was published.

Book 2, Legacy’s Path, continues exploring paths of the original characters, while bringing them in contact with new personalities who will be transformed by the legacy of Mary Ludwig. I pull more nuggets from my journal and God gives me the purpose and message He wants people to have. The real nugget I hope to share through my writing is that of God’s Truth. It shines brightly in “The Estate Sale,” as it does in “Legacy’s Path.” You see, it’s not simply my idea. It’s God’s.

A Blend of Emotions

Book Two of my Legacy Series is finished! YAY! It was a joy to write, although I must admit to bouts of obstacles and setbacks during the process. My muse became frustrated with me I’m sure, when I became distracted and avoided putting myself in front of the computer. Isn’t life like that? We often know what to do but we avoid placing ourselves in the place we need to in order to do it.

I’m such a blend of emotions when I write. I begin with high enthusiasm, pouring myself into story, ignoring housework and unpleasant tasks. My muse prods easily, filling my creative spirit with scenes and solutions. Then life happens!

A friend has life-threatening strokes and story stops. All attention is turned toward standing in the gap for someone you care deeply about. Hours pass in the hospital waiting room, bedside, and prayer. Story doesn’t matter.

My husband develops a heart condition which may be corrected through shocking his heart, and then is hit with a serious skin infection turned septic. Either situation could have taken him. Days pass commuting to and from the hospital three times a day for eight days. Story stops. He is all that matters.

My friend is making progress as she receives several different therapies several times a week. Story resumed with renewed passion only to have those emotions poured into lives of the characters. My muse collects bits and pieces of what I experienced and saved them for when I returned to story.

My husband’s heart shock was successful, returning his rhythm to normal. The antibiotics did their job as prayers were answered and healed his body. The blend of emotions I experienced flowed from my heart onto paper into story.

This book is finished and hopefully will be in readers hands soon. It’s in the editing phase for now, I wish sometimes I could put my life in an editing phase, preventing errors, reworking scenes, and taking out unnecessary words.

The truth is; life happens in real time and the errors, clumsy scenes and unnecessary words are how we mature, and become better equipped for future trials. I pray the ending of Legacy’s Path illustrates this truth.

Laughter Truly is Good Medicine

Months have passed since serious situations have entered my life and I’m still keeping vigilance over a couple. My dear friend, Patsy, whose I recently wrote about, was released from the hospital only to be re-admitted soon after. Progress yes, but then more complications. At this writing she is home once again beginning several therapies to help her function better. I realize the life she enjoyed has changed and I’m trying to help her adapt. It weighs on me.

My husband was released after eight agonizing days in the hospital. The cardioversion performed on him successfully put his heart back in rhythm, and the cellulitis which turned septic in his leg, has finally cleared. His follow-up with the cardiologist yielded a good report, but came with a caution concerning his blood pressure. If it rises over 140 he is to go back on one of his meds. Two days ago the reading crept up to over 160 so yesterday he restarted the pill which has since brought it back down. We are more vigilant in monitoring his vitals.

In all of this I began feeling the stress in my back and neck. Then one morning it happened. My precious puppy wanted to play, although I wasn’t in the mood. He curled up on a furry coverlet I found for him. I threw it over him and he was still. I called his name. He didn’t move. Finally I pulled one edge back and said, “peek-a-boo.” That started the game. He’d grab the edge and pull it over him with me calling him. As we played, laughter welled up inside me until it spilled from my eyes. He was able to wiggle his way into my anxiousness and find the button to push and lighten my load.

I realized that morning, laughter really is the best medicine for relieving stress. Chai makes sure there’s unlimited amounts of it for me to tap into. I’m fully aware that God has everything under control. He knows the outcome of the circumstances going on in my life. While I am still concerned, I’m not obsessed. I know my prayers are heard, so I continue to pray. I tend to the everyday details of living, but laughter has brought a delight to my days.

I hope if you are facing serious situations or undergoing difficult days you will find moments to laugh and let the weight fall away for a time. I pray this for you.

Back Burners

Last month I wrote about the time I spent learning under my daughter’s tutorship, the art of paper-piecing a quilt block. I was excited to begin the next block after she left on August 29th. Little did I know the drama waiting to unfold in my family would descend the very next day.

Scary symptoms were present when my husband awoke from a nap. I thought he had a stroke. I rushed him to the hospital ten minutes away and once in the ER he was triaged immediately. Thankfully it was not a stroke, but scary and life threatening nonetheless. With a heart rate of 160 (an irregular one as well), and a WBC in excess of 33,000, (indicating infection somewhere in his body), he was immediately put on antibiotics and heart medication, as well as oxygen. He remained in the ER four hours and was then transferred to ICU where he stayed for six days.

During that time, two procedures were performed. The first was a TEE, where a camera was inserted down his esophagus to see if any blood clots were present. None were seen so they went ahead with the second procedure called a cardioversion (they shock the heart), to reset his heart rhythm. It was successful.

He could have gone home the next day except he developed cellulitis in his right leg from the ankle to the knee. Each day it was progressively worse. They did more bloodwork and a CT scan, finally deciding on a single antibiotic which targeted skin infections. It worked. The following day we saw improvement but they wanted to keep him one more night to be sure it was working. On the eighth day of his hospitalization, he was released with prescriptions prepared to continue keeping his heart working properly and his leg healing.

During this season of our life, I was forced to put many things on the back burner as I made Nick the central focus of my attention. His health was more important than anything I was involved in. The paper-piecing I had excitedly looked forward to was set aside. The final chapters of Legacy’s Path, Book Two in my Legacy Series, went unwritten. My newly acquired puppy was forced to spend many hours alone in between my back and forth daily hospital visits. I prayed, cried, hoped, and longed for Nick to be back home. One night I had a nightmare and he wasn’t here to wake me before it became terrifying.

I realize now it’s okay to put important projects on the back burner. It’s a way to triage the situation and focus on the urgent. Then slowly, as things improve, those back burner items which beckon me can be brought forward once again. Since my hubby came home I’ve written four pages of chapter 19 (with more to come), and spent many hours being entertained by my adorable Shih Tzu, Chai. Nick is still not fully strengthened, so other things will resume at a later time.

Life is seasonal and back burners can provide the safety net we need as God walks us through troubled times. I was fully aware of all the prayers offered for Nick and I by our family, friends, and even people we don’t know personally. God was with us the entire time and continues to uplift and strengthen me and heal my husband.

Paper Piecing

I am excited and thankful for the time I’ve had with one of my daughters. Kathleen currently lives with her family in Saudi Arabia, but they were here on summer vacation until today, when she had to return home. During our time together we created memories which will last. One of the highlights of having her close is that she taught me a method of quilting I have longed to learn, but was afraid to attempt on my own. It’s called Paper Piecing.

Kathleen teaches it when she’s in Saudi and she is a very talented quilter. I certainly realize how blessed I was in having a private tutor. She patiently repeated directions, bailed me out when I joined pieces incorrectly, and volunteered to rip out some of my mistakes. She taught me how to fold on the lines in the right direction, and gave me homework to do until the next day. It took nine days to complete Snowman Sam, and I must say I’m proud of how he turned out. The pattern was not a beginner block. With over eighty pieces, he was quite the challenge.

Given my age, I feel I have strengthened my “little gray cells,” and developed confidence to tackle the rest of the blocks and complete the winter quilt. This was important to me. I feel somewhat like Snowman Sam with all those many pieces. God knit me together in a perfect way, each part folded correctly and placed exactly where it needed to go. My life as I see it looks a mess, just as the back side of Sam’s block. Looking at the front is like seeing me through God’s eyes. I messed up a lot while paper piecing this block. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life as well. Kathleen helped me correct the paper problems, but God is the only one who can help me with heart problems. He pieces me together, removing what shouldn’t be there, teaching and guiding me, so I am able to fulfill His purpose for me.

Another benefit from learning to paper piece is now I see more detail. This method shows enormous detail, more than in other methods of quilting. I also see more detail in how God wants to use me to help guide others to know Him better. I have much homework to do; Scripture to study, prayer time to dedicate, and becoming more teachable. It’s worth the effort.

Is there an area in your life you may need to step out of your comfort zone? A process to learn? Post your comments here and let’s talk about these areas.

Teacup Treasure

Often, when I sit quietly with a cup of tea, I share my anxieties with God. When a pressing problem hits and I find myself trying desperately to resolve it (unsuccessfully) on my own, I prepare my tea, pull out my Bible, and grab my journal. Realizing I’m powerless to change, fix, or dissolve the problem in my own strength, I turn to the only One, who does have that kind of power.

Every Scripture in the Bible is a treasure by virtue of the fact that it’s God’s Word. But, there are times when God speaks clearly and gives me a Teacup Treasure; a sip of Scripture to hit the spot and lift me up.

A few years ago, I received such a Treasure from God during a time when my anxiety over a problem was almost overwhelming. A solution was out of my hands. I had been in a fearful state of worry and felt desperate because I couldn’t fix it. Sleep was far from me without hope of appearing anytime soon.

I was crying out to God for help (He had been waiting, I’m sure), when I began reading Psalm 4:8. “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O God, make me dwell in safety.” I reread the verse several times and even wrote it on an index card to keep by my bedside. It became the last thought in my head which enabled me to fall asleep peacefully. I committed this verse to memory, but still keep the card on the nightstand as a reminder of where I dwell.

You see, the only place I can safely dwell is in God’s presence. Yes, I know He is always present, but I must place myself in His loving, protective arms instead of stomping off on my own. Settling in with God is where I dwell safely, especially at night when destructive thoughts seem to roam.

I have shared Psalm 4:8 with many people, and I know they have been helped so much, that they have shared it too. A lot of people think they can’t memorize Scripture, so writing it on a card and displaying it by your bed may be helpful. Make it the last thing you think and say before going to bed. Focus on the One who holds you safely through the night. Enjoy your own Teacup Treasure tonight.

Inglenook

In my book, The Estate Sale, there is mention of an Inglenook, which is a recessed fireplace. The Old English word comes from ingle, which means fireplace. I happened upon it during the course of writing this unique story, and it surprised me, there were so many versions of such a nook. I wanted an exceptional design which would fit the home in my story, so I poured over Pinterest pictures, architectural drawings, and even tried my hand at creating one (scratched that idea quick). When my eyes landed on the picture you see here, I knew it was a perfect fit.

As you can tell, the space in the nook is perfect for reading your favorite novel (Emily chose a Jane Austin book), or spending time in the Scriptures. One might sneak in a short nap under a lap quilt, or simply sit and ponder. I visualize myself there. A fire crackles as I figure out the next scene in book two, while I sip a cup of Rita’s favorite tea. I have a small tray of snacks, such as English scones with jam and clotted cream, or perhaps wheat finger crackers and blue cheese. Then it’s back to reality and I’m transported back in front of my computer, listening to my characters tell me what to say. My Inglenook retreat is over.

I’ve discovered though, when I delve fully into what I’m reading or working on, I emerge more knowledgeable. If I devote myself to meditating on God’s Word, allowing the Holy Spirit to transport and guide me along the path, then I come away wiser, with more understanding than before.

I’ve learned that what I feed and devote myself to, will fuel me. My desire is to follow Jesus and serve Him. The more I read His Word, study it, and take it into my heart, the wiser I’ll become, and have more understanding of His plan for my life. I’ll be more available for God with an open heart, and have a willingness to leave what I’m doing and follow Him.

How about you? Do you have an Inglenook where you can retreat to? Where is it? What is your favorite use of the time spent hidden away?