June’s Blogs

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?

Friendship Shockwaves

News of the earthquakes and aftershocks in California this week, brought fear and a state of emergency. Tremendous damage followed each quake, along with numerous injuries and property loss. Prayers continue for recovery and restoration as people attempt to deal with the situation.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve had shockwaves hit concerning my friend, Patsy. I received a late night call informing me she had a stroke and was in the hospital. The test results determined she had a TIA (transient ischemic attack), which could mean a future stroke may happen. She seemed okay and was released from the hospital.

On the evening of July 3rd, 2019, another call came. Patsy had a stroke and this time was unresponsive. Immediately my friendship years with Patsy played in my head. The laughter we’d shared, retreats we attended, our shared worship at church, and fun times in our Red Hat gatherings. I saw scenes of holiday and birthday celebrations, road trips and chats at Starbucks. I suddenly feared our times of making treasured memories had crumbled.

Have you ever experienced a threat to a dear friendship? Fear, anxiousness, tears, prayer, hope…? All the emotions which are buried in our being, seem to rise, rumble and crack open our little world. A state of emergency describes what happens when we continue to focus on our emotions, our friendships, and how it will affect us. We care deeply, love strongly, and wait impatiently. We want things to be as they were, without disruption. Normal.

I went to the hospital and was devastated at the sight of my sweet friend. Eyes closed, she seemed to be fighting an internal struggle (which indeed, her brain was). Uncontrolled flailing of her right limbs in contrast to her silent left, gave me a glimpse of the road ahead. Would Patsy have paralysis on that side? How would she handle it? My heart was breaking as I gazed on the outside of my friend being held captive inside. Please, God. That’s how we regain our balance when shockwaves hit, and life as we know it starts fracturing.

Please, God. Bring my Patsy back. If she can’t be the same physically, make it okay for her. Help us move forward, discovering new ways of communicating, sharing, and deepening our friendship. Allow me to help her pick up the shards and fit things together for her.

Earthquakes and aftershocks continue in California even today, and experts say residents may expect the same for a long time to come. A new normal may need to be decided upon. How each person deals with it will differ. Hopefully it will begin with, Please, God.

Yesterday when I saw Patsy, she briefly, at the mention of her name, opened her eyes and said, “wow.” She then closed them and went back to her inner zone. I felt God had winked and hope came down. The doctor acknowledged we were in a holding pattern, a waiting game. His words were, “she’ll wake up when God brings her out.” Until then we pray…please, God.

Light Bulb Moments

Having been sick for almost three weeks has put me in a position of pause. I reluctantly rescheduled appointments, delayed duties, and missed occasions of enjoyment with family and friends. I pleaded for prayers of healing and restoration of my voice. With my vocal ability on hold, I focused on my manuscript for Book Two in my Legacy Series. Legacy’s Path is coming along with me in the middle of chapter thirteen. I did considerable first aid on this chapter, cutting and pasting until I felt it was right. My characters did their part in leading me in the direction they needed (dare I say wanted?) to go.

Yesterday as I sipped yet another cup of soothing tea and allowed “Seth and Emily” to carry a scene, a light bulb came on. In that illuminating moment, I knew how this book would end. What is more exciting is I also have the framework for Book Three!

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In my Bible, I have tiny lightbulbs drawn next to verses where God revealed something important to me. It often indicates a turning point in my thinking, attitude, or actions. I have commented to people about those “aha” moments when I finally can see the direction God wants me to go. I like to color yellow rays of light in my journaling. It helps me catch the thought and explore it more fully.

I find in my writing, when I allow the characters to speak, and we work in tandem, things flow easier. If I interject my plan on them, it usually ends up needing first aid. In my spiritual life, writing my own life script apart from God never fares well. He then steps in when I cry out for help. He is The Author and Finisher of my faith, and a much better writer than I ever hope to be.

Have you experienced light bulb moments? Please stay and share, I’d love to hear about them.

Talking About Books

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Discovering a good book and reading it begs conversations with other readers. It’s kin to finding a fantastic restaurant; you want to share the news with everyone you know. You mention your favorite item on the menu, the great service, atmosphere and the best time to visit.

With books we happen upon; either accidentally, through advertisement, or by recommendation, when it’s something that touches your soul, changes your life or gives you guidance, you can’t resist telling someone. Such was the case with me and a sweet friend a good number of years ago when she moved from San Antonio to Del Rio.

Deb and I determined to stay in touch and both being avid readers, what better way. We formed our unofficial Duo Book Club. We take turns suggesting a Christian book to read, and then each Sunday afternoon we discuss it over the phone from three till four o’clock. One chapter a week keeps it fresh and relevant. We choose nonfiction books which address areas we want to work on in our life, decide we’d like to develop a better awareness of a topic, or learn a different approach to more consistent spiritual disciplines.

Our talk time begins with a quick catch-up on what we’ve been doing through the week, praises for which we’re thankful, along with current prayer needs. Our book discussion begins with an overview of the chapter, and continues by drawing out specific points we feel are important, profound, or yes, occasionally pointless. Some of our selections have made a huge impression on us, while a few we struggled to get to ‘The End.’

While we strive to connect every week, there are times when we skip due to vacations, illness, or family gatherings. Our Duo Book Club has strengthened our friendship over the years. Through it, we’ve discovered things that draw us closer together. We support each other in many ways not possible without the closeness we’ve developed.

Book Discussion Clubs are fun and fantastic regardless of size. Besides my phone club, there are online groups, and of course, physical groups meeting in homes, coffee shops and libraries. Some read both fiction and nonfiction, while others enjoy fiction exclusively. Some seek out serious reading material but during the summer, they lighten it up with a selection just for fun.

I know of one overseas group (through a friend of my daughter), who chose my book, The Estate Sale, to read and discuss. A friend in California belongs to an online group and will be reading it in August. I also have a friend here in town who is a member of a library group and chose my book for October. She has invited me to be a guest for that meeting. I’m very excited and honored.

Talking about books with others creates windows of discovery about your (and their), views of life, death, and eternity. Start or join a group this summer and see where it takes you. If you’re a seasoned book discussion group member, let me know what you’re reading.

Hovering

I poured myself a cup of English Breakfast tea, and sat watching the hummingbirds dive, swoop and hover, around the two feeders on our back patio. It’s a challenge to keep them filled, because there are so many fighting for a spot at the sweetened nectar houses. I am entertained for as long as I remain still, undetected and quiet.

I learned that the male is responsible for the “bee-like” buzzing sound while hovering. The female whirring is a bit quieter. They pitch and dive, and emit various squeaks, twitters, and other high-pitched warning sounds. These tiny feathered friends are fun to observe, but they teach things if I watch and listen.

The hovering fascinates me. Suspended in air as they sip nectar quickly, their little wings move twenty-five to fifty times per seconds (some species much more). Hummingbird’s legs are tiny and weak, so they spend almost all their time in the air, resting briefly on occasion. They return often, trusting the feeder will contain what they need.

Mornings when I pour my tea and sit quietly, immersed in God’s Word, I’m learning a hummingbird lesson. I’ve started hovering at certain passages of spiritual nectar, drinking it in. My weakness is strengthened, enabling me to continue the journey God has planned for me. Sometimes I take a quick sip, while other occasions, I linger long. Daily I return to spend precious time hovering, trusting I will receive the nectar I need. The source of my spiritual food is unlimited and always available. I need only to seek it out.

I hope you’ll take time to feed, watch, and enjoy hummingbirds at your house this spring. Delight yourself in their antics. I pray you will, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psalm 34:8