Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Guest Post from Christy Award Finalist Gina Homes

Christy Award finalist Gina Holmes has dropped by today to share about her newest release, Dry as Rain. She also offers writing advice for aspiring novelists.
Gina Holmes is the author of the award-winning novel, Crossing Oceans and newly released Dry as Rain. She founded Novel Rocket (formerly Novel Journey) in 2005 where she continues to wreak havoc to this day. She and her husband and fabulously good-looking and brilliant children make their home in Southern Virginia. You can learn more about this modest writer at www.ginaholmes.com or www.novelrocket.com






When you’re constantly receiving rejection letters from publishers or agents, the last thing you’re probably thinking about is publicizing a novel you can’t even seem to sell.

Before I continue, let me stop a moment and give this very loud and clear disclosure: nothing, nothing, NOTHING, matters more than writing a killer book. Spend 99 percent of your writing time perfecting your craft and fashioning a story that will change the lives of those who read it, or at least entertains them.

But with the other one percent of your time, even if you’re just starting out, start building yourself a PR folder. You’ll thank yourself later.

My debut novel, Crossing Oceans, released May 2010 with Tyndale House Publishers. Though it was the first to earn a publishing contract, it was actually the fifth novel I’ve written. I started my marketing folder back on book two because I was sure it would be published. Although book two still collects dust, as does three and four, I’m lucky to have gotten that head start.

The thing with publicity is if you wait until your book is releasing or even about to release, you’re almost too late.

Once you sell your first novel, you often are under contract for a second, and possibly third. I was contracted for a second novel which was due the end of the month my first novel released.

I had more than a year to write this novel, so I didn’t stress. Until that deadline snuck up on me and I wasn't even close to being finished. What happened? Well, I had some personal things that set my writing back. I got married to an amazing man who distracts me just by walking by. Major life changes, no matter how good have a way of slowing the literary flow—for me at least.

After what seemed like a ridiculous amount of time, I finally turned my sample chapters in for approval… they weren’t approved. The story I'd planned and plotted was too different in tone from the first. I was asked, for my own career good, to hold off on this one and try something else. Both my agent and publisher were in agreement, and after a little consideration, so was I.

I found myself with just a few months to publicize my all important, debut novel, and write my all important sophomore novel.

I also had children, a day job and Novel Rocket to tend to. Guess what? I was certainly stressed, but not as stressed as I would have been had I not started preparing for that moment years in advance. I’d like to share some of what has helped me.

What can you do now to get ahead of the eight ball?

1. Buy your website URL and begin to build it. You can go very expensive and pay thousands for a professional site, or you could start small and do something like godaddy, where you build your own site. I took a third route and hired someone to make me a template and then set it up like a blog, so that I could tweak and update it easily.

2. Get professional headshots. I hired a friend whose work I admired but who is still considered an amateur. For fifty dollars and my husband agreeing to baby-sit for an afternoon, I got a few really great and professional looking pictures. Don’t let anyone convince you that a good headshot is a waste of money for a novelist. On Novel Journey we post lots of author photos, many of which look like candid shots that other people are cut out of. Remember how important perception is. I look at a substandard picture and I subconsciously think this author is no perfectionist, and am less likely to want to read their work. Spend the money and get a good promo picture of yourself.


3. Keep a file filled with the names of magazines you come across that fit your writing. For example, if you write Victorian era historicals, Victorian magazines might later be interested in an article written by you. Jot down the names of them and any other publications you come across that might be a fit. This will save you a lot of research time later on.


4. Keep a folder of book reviewers you’ve come across that seem to enjoy the type of stories you write. I send myself emails with the reviewer’s name, books they’ve reviewed and liked, their email address and, if I know them, how I know them. While it’s true that they might not still be reviewing when your book finally releases, it won’t hurt to try.

5. Start reading marketing/publicity books now and take notes. My personal favorite is the simply titled Publicize Your Book. If you can only afford one book on marketing/publicity, I highly recommend you make it that one.

6. Read The Tipping Point. It will explain some very important concepts on what makes things popular. It’s an easy and surprisingly entertaining read.

7. Read How to Make Friends and Influence People. The book has been around forever for good reason.

8. Keep a list of natural influencers. You’ll call upon these folks later for help in getting the word out about your book.

9. Help anyone you can. For one, it’s just the right thing to do, for two, what goes around comes around.

10. Start building your platform now. Write articles, create a blog with excellent and frequently updated content, volunteer to teach classes on what you’re an expert in, or for whatever committees in ACFW, or other writing organizations you belong. People are much more likely to be interested in your book if they feel like they know you and you’ve shown interest in them.


In conclusion, Crossing Oceans, my debut novel went on to hit CBA, ECPA and PW's bestseller's lists.  Did my platform and diligent efforts pay off? I tried to do everything right—to write an excellent story, to build a platform, network, help others, and everything humanly possible to publicize my book.

Was that what made the  difference?
That’s the kicker, maybe yes, maybe no. The thing with publicity is that no one really knows what works. All we can do is write the best book we’re capable of, not let any chance pass that will help get the word out about it, and say our prayers.

With my sophomore novel, Dry as Rain in stores now, I get to ride the up and downs with as much wonder as the first go around. It's still every bit a mystery as it always was, but I'm doing what I can once again to help my book's chances of finding readers. . . and not letting book three's deadline catch me off guard this time. 

Behind every broken vow lies a broken heart.
When Eric and Kyra Yoshida first met, they thought their love would last forever. But like many marriages, theirs has gradually crumbled, one thoughtless comment and misunderstanding at a time, until the ultimate betrayal pushes them beyond reconciliation. Though Eric longs to reunite with Kyra, the only woman he has truly loved, he has no idea how to repair the damage that’s been done.

Then a car accident erases part of Kyra’s memory—including her separation from Eric—and a glimmer of hope rises from the wreckage. Is this a precious opportunity for the fresh start Eric has longed for? Does he even deserve the chance to find forgiveness and win back Kyra’s heart . . . or will the truth blow up in his face, shattering their last hope for happiness? A richly engaging story of betrayal and redemption, Dry as Rainilluminates with striking emotional intensity the surprising truth of what it means to forgive.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Dream Summer: On the prairie with Laura Ingalls Wilder

This is another post in a series entitled Dream Summer from our family's pre 911 trip across this country in 2001. For more click on the Dream Summers label.

I kept noticing on the South Dakota map a notation that read, “Little Town on the Prairie.” It was in De Smet, and I remembered that as being the setting for several of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. So we made an unplanned detour, which turned out to be a real jackpot.



 The people of De Smet take pride in this piece of their history. On the location of Laura’s parent’s, Charles and Caroline Ingalls homestead, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society has recreated an authentic homestead, barn, and schoolhouse. Our family was up for wagon rides, playing in the barn, and running through the prairie. Bethany, our gift shop queen, bought a bonnet and apron actually hand made by the women in De Smet.






We boarded one of the wagons to ride through the prairie to the school house they moved there to mimic the one Laura taught in when just a teenager. Written on the chalkboard was a quote from Laura, “It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with the simple pleasures and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.”

I’ve often thought of that line and the story of the winter the Ingalls spent in town which Laura captured in the book The Long Winter. Snow upon snow kept the train from getting through to De Smet with supplies and the family lived off brown bread alone for nearly two months. Along with the rest of the town, they were close to starving, but thankfully the train made it just in time.



I looked out over the homestead and imagined myself Laura, a tiny girl in a vast prairie. I could see how she could love it. The prairie, just as all God has made, has its own charm. 



 Charles and Caroline spent their latter years in town at a house, which Charles built in l887. Laura, of course, met and married Almanzo Wilder and moved to Mansfield, Missouri. All this talk of the Little House adventures made me want to know and see more. I looked at the map to see how far out of the way Mansfield, Missouri was. Not too far. So for our final stop on the way home, we plotted the path from De Smet to Mansfield. On our way, the children and I tried to imagine making this trip in a covered wagon with a little girl.


It was in Mansfield that Laura began to put down her experiences growing up. Laura’s first Little House book, Little House in the Big Woods, was published in 1932, and followed by many others in the series, all written in Mansfield. In the museum adjacent to the house I found it fascinating that they have original manuscripts for some of the books, written long hand in pencil on nickel tablets. Also in the museum are some of the items that traveled from De Smet to Mansfield: the writing desk, which for all of Laura’s readers is so familiar as the place where she temporarily lost her precious money for the house in Mansfield. Also, a quilt, a cupboard and of course there was Pa’s fiddle. Her house is so beautifully preserved, I felt almost like an intruder as it seemed that at any moment she might come through a doorway.



As much as I love home and longed to return there, I wanted to linger in Mansfield and savor this time--remember the way the rooms looked and the grain of the wood on the writing desk. Over the next year in homeschool, we’d try to read all of the Little House Books set in the places where we’d been.

We recalled what it felt like to run through the prairie, to ride in the wagon, to play in the barn and  just  how far it was from De Smet To Mansfield. We’d remember what it was like to sit on the porch of the Little House on Rocky Ridge and we’d often thank God for the life of a brave little girl named Laura.

Laura made a note in her Bible of several Bible chapters which were especially meaningful to her. 

From Psalm 48, "Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise..."




           


Friday, August 26, 2011

Storm Watch and a Cure for Narcissism

I’ve had an article from our local paper floating around on my desk for several days. Can’t get it off my mind. In it, University of Georgia Psychologist, Keith Campbell, says narcissism is increasing in America.



“…National Institutes of Health surveys …show rising scores on a test designed to measure narcissism-and corresponding decline in scores that measure compassion for others,” the article claims.



A few days later, an editorial appeared in the paper that suggested a solution for this problem. The editor said, “One way for each of us to put a check on our own narcissistic tendencies might be to focus on other people.” The editor went on to say, “…it might be wise for each of us to look for opportunities each day—no matter how small they might seem—to lighten someone else’s load.”


Writer and actor Torry Martin makes a habit of spending the first part of his day promoting others. In fact, he helps to set the tone at conferences by his example of placing more emphasis on connecting others than making connections for himself.


The chorus of a song by Charles Meigs written early in the last century, goes like this:



"Others, Lord, yes others,
Let this my motto be,
Help me to live for others,
That I may live like Thee."



As we’ve watched Hurricane Irene bear down on the East Coast, I’d say those of us not in harm’s way in the next few days, are going to be given a premier opportunity to live out the meaning of these lyrics. Our prayers are going up for all those in the storm’s path.




Let’s think about what we can do to help those who may potentially suffer  the effects of this storm. Samaritan’s Purse is a good option, because their aid goes out wrapped in the love of Jesus. Of course, we could also do some hands on ministry.



“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interest, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).



After a day of marketing in this “shameless, self promotion” world of writing and publishing, I’m so ready to think of someone other than myself.



"Others, Lord, yes, others."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Out of Pain, the Wonder Comes



I’m a little behind on blog posts as I’ve been editing the galleys for “Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees.” I was told today, that the book should go live on several sites within the next month or so and then start making its way through distribution channels. Still doesn’t seem real.


Tonight, I just returned from sharing about my writing journey with a group of precious clergy spouses.


As I prepared to tell my story tonight, I was once more struck by how God birthed this journey out of pain--how he pressed the words from the weight of circumstances.


Over and over again, he’s called me to write in the midst of times when part of me only wanted to lie down and pull the cover over my head. But no. God had other plans.


I think of the words of a long ago writer, who penned his words to another people struggling to be what God was calling them to be.


From Eugene Peterson’s version in The Message, “We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken…what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives!” (2 Corinthians 4:8-11)


And another verse from that same chapter this time from the NIV, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God, and not from us” (2Corinthians 4:7).



I am but a vessel formed from the earth, and all the pain sometimes feels as if it may split me into a million pieces, but it hasn’t, and by God’s grace, it won’t, because “God hasn’t left our side.” In fact, he uses all of this to work his good will. He uses the good from the pain to point to His power, His working. It’s about Him and it is truly a wonder.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Eighteen Candles and Unfailing Love






A big birthday here this week. Tomorrow we’re packing the car, and she’s heading out to a big city university.

A couple of weeks ago, she saw a copy of an illustrated verse I’d done.

“Do you still have the original?” she asked.

I didn’t know, but after searching my portfolio, I discovered I’d probably sold it.

“I’d like to have that verse in my dorm room,” she said. “Could you do another for me?”

Could I do another for her?

I’d do twelve if she wanted.

So, I thought about it a bit, and tried to render it in a style more suited to her liking.

For the times when she wonders…



My prayer is that she’d always know, regardless of circumstances, that Love never fails.

We give thanks for her, and pray God’s protection and blessing on this new adventure.

Where did those eighteen years go?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dream Summer: Last Glimpse

This is another installment in the Dream Summer series. For more, click on the Dream Summer label.
 

Somewhere between Sheridan and Gillette, Wyoming, I started crying.

Jerry pulled over at a scenic overlook, where I stepped out of the car, sat on a bench and just boo-hooed. The kids wanted to know what was wrong. Jerry knew. It’d been twenty years since I’d seen the Rockies and I was having a hard time saying good-bye. Would it be twenty more years until I’d see them again? Sitting there on the side of the road with the mountains still in view, I got it out of my system. Even as I write now, though, there’s wistfulness for that very spot in the road.

Oh, how I love those majestic peaks. One of the reasons might be they remind me of the first few weeks Jerry and I were together.

We’d been seeing each other only a short time, when I received an unusual call from him. At the time, I was a buyer for a department store. I picked up the receiver of the ringing phone on my desk.

“Hi, how’d you like to go to Colorado with me?” he asked.

I couldn’t believe he was asking that, since both of us knew exactly where God had set the boundaries in our relationship. I guess the silence on my end of the phone made him realize he needed to provide a quick explanation.

“Don’t worry, we’ll be well chaperoned by another couple, and hundreds of high school folks at a Young Life Camp north of Denver, Colorado.” At the time, Jerry was the chair of the local Young Life Committee.

 I’d never been west before. “Yes,” I said. “Definitely, yes.”

That week we did everything the kids did, horseback riding, chapel times, white water rafting, and climbing the very tall mountain. I woke up every morning to the soothing sounds of cascading waters outside the cabin that I bunked in with some of the female workers.

 A now well-known country-Christian musician, a good friend of the camp director, was at the time recovering from an accident, so he chose to do that in Colorado with his friend. I still remember “Colorado Rocky Mountain High” as he sang it that summer.  

 Yes, I’m sure that happy time has something to do with my love for the Rockies.

But there’s also this: At that spot in the road, I was reminded that these magnificent Rockies point to God’s strength and power which encompasses his children at all times and in all places. Their beauty helps lift my heart to heaven. They inspire praise to their creator.

Once more, I wanted to stay, but I knew God had other plans for us. So, I dried my face, and  with a last wistful glimpse I said good-by, but to this day, through many trials, I have carried these words in my heart, “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore” (Psalm 125:2). 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dream Summer: High Places

Another installment in the Dream Summer series. For more click on the Dream Summer label.

I love the National Park Service. I really do. In fact, I’m thinking of becoming a park ranger when I grow up. Not only do I love the uniform, but also I can’t think of any occupation that would be more fun. But I have a few questions I’d like to ask someone in authority.


In some parks, there are guardrails on walkways and roads to keep you from falling off a log. In Yellowstone at the time of our visit, one walked on boardwalks across hot boiling water and along precipices of undetermined depth with not a handrail in sight. Why is this? The signs simply said something like, “Please don’t jump off these walkways or you could die.”


Really Scary.


At the lower falls of the Yellowstone, it seemed we stood on just a few rocks thrown together on the side of the canyon walls. I peered over a small ledge and gasped. It had to be a drop of a least 50,000 feet. But, I forgot my fear as I gazed at the thundering falls-- awesome, powerful, and astoundingly beautiful. An incredible work of God and a high place, indeed.




“Mommy, you’re hurting my hand,” Bethany said. I loosened my grip a bit to give her relief, but continued to hold it. My seven year old had already proved herself untrustworthy by jumping off the walkway at Mammoth Hot springs to inspect a little hole in the ground. Thankfully, her landing spot was solid earth and not molten lava.


On our exodus toward the North Gate of Yellowstone, meadows and wildlife surrounded us, and I began to feel as if I knew what to expect, when we went through a pass in the mountains and literally glided on to nothing. I didn’t know we’d been in a hanging valley and the road at this point was supported at times not by good solid earth, but simply suspended over the canyon by I don’t know what. When the road did lie on terra firma, I felt the wheels of our converted van barely made traction along the top of the sheer cliffs. I’d look out the window at the drop and feel my stomach leave me. I understood then, why my Dad’s wife had gone to the back of the van to lie down when they made this trip.


But how often does one actually get to ride through the air on four wheels? Another high place.




As far as high places go, nothing could prepare us for the spiritual heights to which God was about to take us. We were headed to a family camp high in the Montana mountains.


It was here, not far from the timberline, that God confirmed in my heart the dream of writing a book.


“Beverly,” I heard the worship leader say one evening as I was leaving a meeting. He approached me, “I feel like God is saying that you’re afraid to go after what God is telling you. I believe he’s encouraging you to ‘Do it afraid.’ And that he will confirm whatever this is to you.


That night in a dream, I saw a book, and the title was from Matthew 7:7, "Ask, and it shall be given you."


"Do it afraid,” I’ve repeated often through the years as I’ve come up against the old relentless enemy of self-doubt, and when fear reared its ugly head.


Just like Peter wanted to put up shelters on the mount of transfiguration, I wanted to stay on this mountain. I’d learned in the high places, that if we want to get to the beauty, we have to face our fear. So, when we left the camp on Friday, we were making a descent in more than one way. Oswald Chambers says,


“We have all had times on the mount, when we have seen things from God’s standpoint and have wanted to stay there; but God will never allow us to stay there. The test of our spiritual life is the power to descend; if we have power to rise only, something is wrong. It is a great thing to be on the mount with God, but a man only gets there in order that afterwards he may get down among the devil-possessed and lift them up. We are not built for the mountains and the dawns and aesthetic affinities; those are for moments of inspiration. That is all. We are built for the valley, for the ordinary stuff we are in, and that is where we have to prove our mettle”(My Utmost for His Highest).
 

In the weeks after our return home in that summer of 2001, it would definitely feel like a valley. The situation with my mother would spiral downward. We’d begin a yearlong fight against cancer for a dear friend, face a difficult ministry situation, and of course wrestle with the fallout from the event we’ve come to call 911.


But I remembered in my pain, and sadness, and grief that God had called my name one Wednesday night on a Montana mountain. I remembered that I’d seen the rare beauty of the wild earth God had created. I remembered and I prayed that I’d be able to give away the hope God had planted in my heart in the high places.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

If Someone You Love is Suffering

We’re hanging on to Jesus here. Still lots and lots of pain. Hardly manageable at times. 
 
 
It’s strange how God uses circumstances to sensitize us to his word. Yesterday when reading Matthew 4:24, I came upon this, “…and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them.”
  
 
I’ve devoted quite a bit of time to studying prayer and healing, but the words, “severe pain” leapt off the page in a way they never have before. I continue to pray that Jesus would heal my husband of his "severe pain," and that God would use this circumstance, that the pain wouldn’t be wasted. 
 
 
I’ve marveled at how my kids have stepped up to the plate to take care of their dad, helping with physical therapy, and just being available. 
 
 
It seems only yesterday, we were taking care of them. 
 
 
It’s hard to watch someone you love suffer. Helpless feelings threaten to overwhelm.
  
 
Here are some things I’ve found beneficial: 
 
  • Staying connecting to the Lord is vital to riding out the waves. Take the time to pray and read the Word. 
  • Breathe. In and out.
  •  Have others help with the care so you can take a break, even for a few minutes.
  • Keep the dialogue positive and forward moving. Try to move off any dead centers—If your loved says something like, “I don’t know how much longer I can….” We only live one moment at a time, and we can do anything we need to in one moment.  
  • Love. Love. Love. Tender Touches. 
 
I share this recent photo I took while at the Gideon conference of butterflies swarming around a bed of zinnias. You might not be able to see the butterflies, but I know they were there and when it feels like the walls are closing in here, I remember there’ll be butterfly days again.  
 
 
God is good.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Few Hours at the Gideon Film Festival

My thirty-six hours away from home at the Gideon Film Festival were all too brief, but I was eager to get back home to my husband, Jerry, who’s still in the throes of recuperating from knee replacement. He at last seems to be getting some relief from the pain, but we'd love your continued prayers.

I'm thankful that a lot can happen in a little time at the Gideon. One of the highlights for me this year was a class I had with Brian Bird, co-executive producer of one of my all time favorite shows, Touched by an Angel. Most recently he produced a film for the Hallmark Channel—an adaptation of one of Beverly Lewis’ books, The Shunning. I missed it on the Hallmark Channel back in April but especially enjoyed a second chance to see it when it screened at the Gideon Monday night. An exquisite film. Can’t wait for it to come out on DVD September 16. Along with producer Ken Wales (Amazing Grace), Brian Bird is currently producing and directing a project entitled Captives which tells the story of the 2005 Atlanta hostage crisis.

Producer Dave Moody, a grammy nominee and multiple Dove award recipient, led worship this year at the Gideon and in conjunction with his record company, Lamon records, also sponsored both a singer and songwriter competition. Dave's production company Elevating Entertainment holds an option on one of my screenplays.


I met producer, Kent Williamson of Palladin Pictures, on the way to lunch and had the opportunity to learn more about his amazing work. I caught up with Michelle Cox, whose project Eighteen Summers, is also optioned by Elevating Entertainment. Angela Walker of Christian Cinema.com helped me with some marketing ideas. And Erica Lane and I stayed up til way past midnight Sunday night just talking as we rocked in the chairs on the porch at Ridgecrest.


Many thanks to sweet friend, Maria Lennon, who at the last minute, made space for me to stay in her room. So gracious. Maria’s a real talent with many awards as a screenwriter under her belt including being an adaptation screenplay finalist again at Gideon this year.

Yes, I had so little time at the Gideon, but the time I had was blessed. This and what Christians are doing in the film industry reminds me of a song written by Kittie Suffield early in the last century:





In the harvest field now ripened
There’s a work for all to do;
Hark! the voice of God is calling
To the harvest calling you.
Refrain
Little is much when God is in it!
Labor not for wealth or fame.
There’s a crown—and you can win it,
If you go in Jesus’ Name.

Films are being produced on unimaginably tight budgets. Writers, actors, producers, musicians, and technicians often work on deferred payment and sometimes no payment. But the people I know in this industry feel called to it. And what we're seeing in Suffield's words is that "little is much when God is in it." The people I know are not laboring for wealth or fame, but they're laboring to get out the message of Jesus Christ--to touch with a film or song. To minister to the hearts of people who might never enter a church building. God is doing much with the resources and talents surrendered to Him.

May the Gideon Film Festival only increase in it's effectiveness and reach and may its founders, Rodney and Lori Marrett, be blessed for all they do for so many.

"We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish," they answered (Matthew 14:17).

"The number of those who ate was about five thousand..." (Matthew 14:21).


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Erica Lane and "River Road"

Jerry continues to do well, and with his daughter the physical therapist here for a bit, I’m heading out to the Gideon Film Festival for a couple of days where I have a meeting with Dave Moody, the producer who has an option on my screenplay for "Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees."

My friend, Erica Lane, is a presenter again this year and has just released a video entitled “River Road” I wanted to share with readers. Gorgeous Erica has an extraordinary voice and has worked harder than just about anyone I know to follow the path to which she believes God has called her.

Take a moment and enjoy the beautiful artistry of this video produced by her husband Kyle Saylors, an award winning film producer with a Sundance screening under his belt. If you would share it with your social media friends, I’m sure Erica would appreciate it.

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord…” (Psalm 33:12).


Friday, August 5, 2011

Grace Gifts

We welcome him home today with banana pudding
and pork chop sandwiches. Some of his
favorites.


And we give thanks that after this year of cancer, and the recent surgery, we’re once again all under one roof. Tomorrow Jerry’s daughter, Mari, will join us, and she will do for her dad what she does so well—practice the art and skill she has as a physical therapist to help him heal.


Because of insurance changes these past few years, we’ve had to use a hospital other than the one where I had my children and where I was treated for cancer. But, again, because of insurance changes, Jerry returned to that hospital to have his knee replaced. Somehow, it comforts me to remember when I faced health challenges that just a few floors up, I’d seen the faces of my babies for the first time, and held them in my arms.


In a hospital setting, I’m often reminded of the transience of life, having experienced myself the passing of loved ones as well as having been with others when cherished loved ones died. 


Also, here in this particular hospital, when the elevator doors open on the first floor, I see directly in front of me at eye level a memorial for my husband’s daughter who died in an elevator accident in a relative’s home at only eight years old.



Life is so fragile. I grieve again for this little girl I never knew whose precious face graces almost every room in our home, and serves as a constant reminder of her sweet short life. 


The memorials for her at the hospital (there is more than one) helped provide resources for expansion of the facility shortly after her passing. For a time, the tragedy almost killed her dad as well; his piercing grief was so profound. But exactly two years from the date of her death, he gave his life wholly to the God he has served now for more than thirty years. First as a lawyer turned seminary student, and twenty-five years as a pastor.

Years ago, Gloria Gaither wrote lyrics about how all we hold for sure is this present time. The number of our days here are uncertain. Oh, how right she is. All the more reason to be grateful for these hallowed moments together as a family.


Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts quotes Chesterton:
Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And with tomorrow begins another
Why am I allowed two?


Having lost a sister at four years old, Ann wonders about her own son’s being rescued from a near tragic accident while just down the road another young boy died. She says, “Can it be that, that which seems to oppose the will of God actually is used of Him to accomplish the will of God. That which seems evil only seems so because of perspective, the way the eyes see the shadows. Above the clouds, light never stops shining.”


In part due to the departure of that little girl who took a piece of her daddy’s heart to heaven with her, Jerry is a pastor today. He has told his story to countless others, and I’ve watched at how God has used his tragedy to touch many. Over the past thirty years, thousands in prisons, and homeless shelters, and churches, and camp meetings, and revivals have given their lives to Jesus.


Ann Voskamp again, “All new life labors out of the very bowels of darkness,” and “It is suffering that has the realest possibility to bear down and deliver grace.” 

We’ll eat our banana pudding and pork chop sandwiches and remember they are grace gifts. We’ll laugh and share stories and watch his bionic leg take miraculous steps. We’ll gather, one short, and give thanks for this blessed time.

Though our days here are uncertain, what is to come is lasting and permanent. 

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

In Sickness and in Health

As I write, my husband is undergoing knee repacement. It's been a big
medical year at our house--cancer, knee replacement. Ahead weeks of
rehab, another possibale knee replacement in November. I read the
scripture for today, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you
face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith
develops perseverance."

What is a test?

A test is something you can walk away from--a difficult marriage, a
rebellious child, a challenging relationship. Situations when you can
choose to stay in the fray or just eject.

We can refuse to take a test. But, if we stay with it, God promises
the testing will yield perseverance. And in words that have meant so
much to me, the apostle
Paul says, "...suffering produces perseverance, perseverance,
character, and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us bccause
God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit,
whom he has given us" (Romans 5:3-5).

It seems the testing we face today is not for Jerry but for me just as
it was for him when I faced cancer. He could have walked away from a
woman bearing drastic physical changes
from the one he married. Other men have. Instead he stayed, told me
how beautiful I was, how nothing changed in his eyes.

He passed the test with flying colors. He helped me emerge from cancer
feeling whole.

For me, during the rehab ahead, i pray I can be just as supportive and
patient as he has been with me. I don't want to barely pass the test,
grumbling all the way. I want to embrace the opportunity to give back,
to bless, to encourage. I want to allow God to use this time to work
his good work in me, too.

So, as always thanks for your prayers. God is good in sickness and in
health.


Sent from my iPhone

Monday, August 1, 2011

Laughing at the Days Ahead

Years ago, I had a dream in which a young woman, whom I’m sure represented some aspect of me, was trying on a lovely sky blue formal gown. The gown had a tag inside marked with the initials R.H. Completely convinced the gown would not fit this woman, I made negative remarks about her ability to zip the back of the dress.

But to my surprise, the zipper closed, and I danced and shouted with joy, “It does fit, it does fit.”

The initials R.H. are those of a young woman I knew who brimmed with vitality and joy. I loved being around her. The color blue is the hue of majesty and healing in the Bible. I doubted in the dream that the garment of youth, joy, and healing would fit me. But the fact is the garment did fit.

I thought of it this lovely dream often, and weeks later, I had a chance encounter with R.H. As we caught up for a few minutes, I felt I should tell her about my dream. As I began to speak, her eyes widened. When I finished she sat…stunned. She said, “I had a dream, too.”

In her dream, she struggled over accepting a clothing item, which belonged to me. She knew it represented the family she longed to have, but for many reasons was not sure she deserved. But God showed her in the dream to take the garment. Both of us wrestled with receiving the grace gifts God had for us. Battling posttraumatic stress at the time, doubts threatened to keep me from believing God would heal and restore me. But God confirmed the truth to each of us through not only our own dreams but also each other’s.

R.H. is an artist. One day after church, she left a hand painted card on my car window of a woman in a blue dress with the caption, “It does fit, it does fit.”

Below the picture was the scripture from Proverbs 31:25, “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”

For me, the months ahead continued to contain many difficulties including breast cancer.

All these years later, I still have R.H.’s thoughtful card in my office. She now has a precious family with several children. And sure enough, God healed me of the PTS and even enabled me to laugh at the dark visitor of cancer.

How do we face an uncertain future?

Where does strength and dignity come from?

The same Hebrew word for strength is used in Isaiah 12:2, “…the Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.”

The Hebrew word for dignity in Proverbs 31:25 is used in Psalm 8:5 as it refers to God’s creation of man. It’s translated as the word honor in the NIV, “You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.”

The garments of strength and dignity with which we clothe ourselves come from God. And it’s only as we receive and wear this mercy woven clothing, that we may laugh at the days ahead.

 I’ve really enjoyed wearing my blue dress all these years. I have every reason to believe it will never wear out.


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