TOUCHSTONES

Anniversary 031Look in my closet and you’ll see what I’m sentimental about. Look around my house. I’m sentimental about my childhood.

I know, everyone thinks they had either an idyllic childhood, or a horrible childhood. There were some bad times for our family – sickness, death of loved ones, etc. – but I really had it pretty good. (Yes, even after my sister came along . . .)

I guess that’s why I love some of my “stuff.” I know, it doesn’t take the place of the memories, but they’re like touchstones for me. Photographs, a special toy, a record album (NOT a CD, a VINYL ALBUM!), a lunchbox – they all bring me back to a simpler time and place.

This time of year, the falling leaves take me back to a huge maple in our front yard that literally left a foot of golden leaves every year. It was like the sunshine didn’t want to leave us, and decided to lie about and let us enjoy it for a few weeks before the dreary days of winter set in.

Anniversary 019A fire in the fireplace makes me remember those Christmases at my grandparents’ house, where the only time there was a fire, was at Christmastime. The green army blankets left the doorways where they hung, protecting us from drafts, and the fire warmed the whole space.

Attending a concert given by my daughter’s college choir the other night, they pulled a quartet out to sing a couple of southern gospel songs – they took me right back to my dad singing in a quartet, my grandmother playing for them, and the many albums of quartet music that formed the background music of my childhood – I’ve had “Sweeter As The Days Go By” running through my head ever since.

My parents’ 50th anniversary this year had us looking through old photographs – it brought back so many memories of the house we lived in when I was very young. The recent death of my grandmother brought the family together to share memories of days gone by. I look at my piano, and I can see my grandmother playing it, my dad, aunt, and uncle singing around her.

Quilts. They’re all over my house. I have the butterfly quilt that my mother started piecing when she was 13, and finished quilting when I was 13. I have the “doll” quilt that my paternal grandmother made and always had on the bed in the back bedroom when I would come to spend the night. I have the quilt that my maternal grandmother made FOR me when I was 10 or 12, and upon which she taught me to quilt. Every quilt has bits of fabric that have stories – and we talk about them, still.

skilletBut you know what one of my favorite touchstones would have to be?

My iron skillet.

My other grandmother, who has been gone for several years, told me that it had belonged to my grandfather’s mother or grandmother. It is the skillet that, at her house, I learned to cook bacon (crispy, not limp!) and French toast. I think of her every time I make cornbread. It is seasoned to perfection. I guess you might say it’s one of my most prized possessions.

I know “stuff” isn’t as important as people – but sometimes I think God imbues our “stuff” with the ability to maintain those memories that make us, us. I thank Him for it every day.

To what childhood object are YOU most attached?

THE HARVEST: JUST DO IT

 

royalty-free-weed-clipart-illustration-435888I walked by the field of a lazy person,
    the vineyard of one with no common sense.
I saw that it was overgrown with nettles.
    It was covered with weeds,
    and its walls were broken down.

Then, as I looked and thought about it,
    I learned this lesson:
A little extra sleep, a little more slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest—
then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit;
    scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.

Proverbs 24:30-34

We’ve all been there – probably some of us more than others.

KIDGARDENAs a very young child, I loved the garden. I could walk through the dirt barefoot, dropping the seeds in the carefully marked row, then later, after other people had tended it, I saw the fruits of my “labor.”

Later on, as an older child, I dreaded the garden. I became one of those “tenders.” My grandmother and I, or my mother and I, would chop out weeds – including the dreaded “sticker weeds” – in the hot, dry summer, when I would MUCH rather have a little more sleep, a little more slumber  . . . 

It wasn’t that I didn’t like what CAME from the garden, it was just that I, as a human living in a fallen world, had become LAZY. 

As a young adult, we planted a few gardens only to let the weeds take them over. It just wasn’t EASY or CONVENIENT to tend the garden.

It was WORK. (Cue Maynard G. Krebs from “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis) 

That’s not a politically correct thing to say, is it? Work is often seen as a punishment, or a choice, rather than as one of the necessities of life.

God made us for work. Originally, he gave Adam and Eve the Garden of Eden – His own perfect place for THEM – only to have sin enter the world. When they were cast out of the Garden, they learned all about nettles, weeds, and broken walls.

I wonder if they thought back to the life they had forfeit? They had come to a place where it was either work, or die. Not, “if the tomatoes don’t make it, I can run to the store.” It was tend the garden, or go hungry.

The last few years I’ve been working on the whole lazy thing. I’ve frozen corn and tomatoes. I’ve cut our grocery budget simply by MAKING things rather than just run out and buy them. I’m trying to combat scarcity and poverty, God’s way. 

I think it’s called “growing up,” and at nearly 50, it’s about time. 

I’m trying to bring some common sense back into my life. How about you? Are you ready to DO something? Get a load of Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Do Everything!”

 

ONCE UPON A TIME . . .

OnceUponATimeOnce upon a time, in a land filled with sunshine and cool breezes, paper and pencil, there was a girl who never heard of someone owning a computer in her home, much LESS a computer in her pocket.

She wasn’t very good at letter-writing – writing stories was much more entertaining, after all – and she tended to put off making phone calls if it were not completely necessary.

ComputerEyeThen, one day, a decree came out that computers weren’t just for the office any more. Computers became common in homes, where documents could be typed and saved, games could be played, and spreadsheets could be created.

The consumer saw this, and it was good.

A little later, the INTERNET was created. It still isn’t clear if Al Gore had anything to do with it or not, but movies such as War Games and television shows such as Family Ties where all the teens wanted for their birthdays was something called “a mouse” came along and hinted at the possibilities that were out there.

Time passed, Windows came along as DOS died, and MySpace was born. The girl didn’t see any use for this – after all, it was an evil plot to get all her personal information out in the cold, cruel world, wasn’t it?

ComputerEmailBut then, a miracle happened. The girl was introduced to email. She found out that she could talk to her sister in almost REAL TIME, just typing – which, for the girl, was much faster than talking.

Email took care of most of the pesky letter-writing and phone-calling that she kept putting off until it just didn’t get done. But even then, you had to know where the person was to get in touch.

LIKE2005 came, and so did Facebook. It was great. She found out that there were people out there that she KNEW, that she had always wondered about, but never took the time to search for them. She reconnected. She made NEW friends. Friends of Friends. People she thought may have died.

The girl thought there could be nothing better than Facebook – until she discovered Fan Fiction about her favorite cancelled television show. It opened up a whole new social network for her. The stories could continue, could swerve around in alternate universes, could go back in time, could fill in the blanks . . .

stfbebanner

What was even better for the girl than reading and responding to fan fiction was writing fan fiction. Through writing, she met some of her best friends. Friends that, years later, even after the fan fiction website was gone, are still there, still encouraging, still sharing the stories of their lives AND their publishing lives.

For the girl discovered that writing, whether it be a comment on Facebook, a long-overdue letter or email, or a fantastical story of an FBI agent, opened up a social network that endures. And for that, she is thankful.

Writing should be about encouragement. About fun. About loving one another and lifting one another up. For the girl, THIS is what social networking is all about.

NOT-SO-GUILTY PLEASURES

Guilty Pleasures . . . Everybody has a few . . . The cool thing is when they CHANGE over the course of a few years!

You realize this does NOT include chocolate? I mean, I don’t feel a SPECK of guilt about that . . . Gilligans_Island_title_card

When I was a child, TV was my guilty pleasure of choice, and after Popeye, there was Gilligan’s Island. Yes, I can sing both the beginning and ending theme songs . . . as well as the theme to Green Acres . . . and Petticoat Junction . . . and . . .

SpockA few years later, it was reruns of Star Trek, Perry Mason, Bonanza . . . No, not soap operas . . .  it changed according to what syndicated reruns were on at the time – but I can tell you I would rearrange my schedule completely for one of those shows.

Nancy DrewReading has ALWAYS been on my list – from Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew, to Harlequin Romances, to Christian Fiction . . . there’s always SOMETHING on my TBR pile!

Then there was Solitaire, both on the computer and with playing cards. There’s just something comforting about a game that your only opponent is YOURSELF!

SueThomasGroup

Fanfiction, like Kim earlier this week, was an obsession for a few years, during which time I wrote prolifically. My particular site is gone, along with a lot of wonderfully-written stories, but many of the friendships remain!

PinterestI had a short-lived love-affair with Angry Birds, but Solitaire won out over that app . . . Then there’s Pinterest, what I lovingly call “Facebook without having to TALK to anybody!” It has become my favorite cookbook, interior design book, style book, craft book, and all-around reference book. We won’t discuss just how many pins I have . . .

But my current can’t-seem-to-stop guilty pleasure?

PolyvoreLogoPOLYVORE.COM. It’s shopping. It’s design. It’s organization. It’s . . . It’s . . . It’s . . . FREE. Yes, you put together outfits according to MANY variables, then you can post the picture of your collage on Facebook or Pinterest, print them out, get a list of where those items are available to purchase, and look at outfits others have put together.

PolyvoreRMI originally started using Polyvore on my laptop, and when my laptop went kaput, I downloaded the app on my iPhone. WAY too small! My bifocals did NOT like that . . . but then, just last week, I discovered that the iPhone app works amazingly well on my IPAD!!!!!

So, I’m back in business . . . the business of shopping without spending a dime, all while sitting in my living room!

Since we know most of our Inksper friends have reading on their list of guilty pleasures, we’re giving away a (gently used) copy of Sarah Sundin’s On Distant Shores to one lucky reader, and a copy of Laura Frantz’s Love’s Awakening to another reader. Every time you leave a comment on posts dated September 9, 2013 through September 20, 2013, your name will be entered.

The two winners will be chosen after midnight on Friday, Sept. 20, 2013 and posted on Saturday, September 21, 2013!

GOT YOU COVERED!

CatMOckingbirdI am a librarian. Yes, I see book covers on a daily basis, and yes, a great book cover STILL has the power to draw my eye. I’m a sucker for a great cover – contemporary, historical, fantasy – you name it, I am drawn to that cover.

I did a little thinking, though, and found some of my favorite covers. They’re not new, up-and-coming titles, nor are they vintage covers – they’re just covers that will STILL draw me in and make me read them, even if I’ve already read them!

And yes, I think Book Covers have distinct personalities.

Almost AlwaysComeHome

I remember the first time I saw Cynthia Ruchti’s debut contemporary novel, They Almost Always Come Home. The cover entranced me. Cynthia, in a mentor meeting at ACFW, entranced me. Now, some of you know that I’m not usually drawn to reading material that won’t make me laugh, or at least swoon. But I was drawn. And I read it. And I was totally, fantastically, humbly, AMAZED at the story journey that that little boat took me on. Sometimes we need to let the cover draw us in!

BrideMostBegrudging

Occasionally, it’s the dress that gets me. I read my first Deanne Gist novel because the dresses were just SO PRETTY! What was great, however, was the girl inside that dress!

CourtingMorrowLittle

I would have read Laura Frantz if it had a plain brown wrapper, but you know what, her books do NOT have a plain brown wrapper – instead, her heroines are bedecked in glorious silks and an expression that is JUST LIKE you would expect when you get to know the heroine.

the-brides-of-bonneterre-series

And then there are the “fellas.” A few of my favorite authors, for certain series, have opted to put the HERO on the cover, as opposed to the HEROINE. I can certainly live with that . . . Kaye Dacus, in her “Brides of Bonneterre” series, just gave us PART of the hero . . . and that was enough. OutOfControlMary Coneally, in her “Kinkaid Brides” series, gave us three distinct personalities for her three distinct heroes. Interesting that both series titles have the word “brides,” and they feature the GROOMS! I love it.

FoolsRushIn

A few other series that caught my eye, and one that I’ve seriously already read twice, is Janice Thompson’s “Weddings By Bella” series (which now has a sub-series started!), and Susan May Happily Ever AfterWarren’s “Deep Haven” series. The colors, the art, the playful quality of both series’ covers make me want to hang them on the wall so I can look at them all the time!

So yeah. Talk about a topic that a librarian can sink her teeth into? It’s book covers.

I’m totally . . . flabbergasted

GOD BLESS MOM AND DAD

EllenMerrick2012ReducedOn Saturday, August 25, 2013, we will move our youngest child into a dorm room, leaving her there, 200 miles away from us.

It’s hard.

When we started talking about “back to school” prayers, I admit that I selfishly coveted those prayers not only for my daughter, but for myself, as well!

collegemoveinThen I realized that I’m not alone. Most of my daughter’s classmates started classes THIS week, so I’m seeing parents post on Facebook about missing them, things not being the same, sadness, etc.

This prayer is for myself and my husband, and for ALL the nearly-empty-nesters out there that aren’t entirely sure that WE’RE ready for this next phase!

move_in_line

Dear gracious Heavenly Father,

You know many of us have mixed emotions these days. We go from “How wonderful that my child is going to college,” to “Why did they have to grow up so soon?”

We want them to grow up to be young men and women of God – and yet, we feel that our job isn’t over . . . is it?

Bless the moms and dads out there that are saddened by the silence in their home, the lack of dirty socks under the coffee table, the slamming doors and huge sighs . . . the random hugs, kisses, and jokes that only a parent and child can share . . . the tucking in at night . . . the rousting out of bed as late as possible the next morning.

It’s hard, Lord. You entrusted them to us, and the whole time we have them we are preparing to give them back. I’m just glad YOU are in control, Lord, and not me. I make a big enough mess of things as it is.

But you gave us the best job in the world – the job of PARENT. You blessed us with immeasurable gifts that we will spend a lifetime going over in our minds and in our family stories with our kids, and our kids’ kids, if we’re blessed with grandchildren.

Thank you, Lord. For your love, for your protection, for your Salvation. Bless them. Bless us. Help us through this transition as only YOU can!

In Jesus’ precious name,

Amen

SUMMER LOVIN’

So, you would think that living in the South, we would bemoan the heat and humidity, chug-a-lug sweetened iced tea, and long for fall weather.

Not in my part of Kentucky this year! We’ve had rain (Yay for the corn farmers!) and amazing temperatures (the s’mores fire felt GOOD this 4th of July!).

   Anniversary 002 - Copy It’s been a special summer in lots of ways. We celebrated my parents’ 50th anniversary. We had pictures made of all ten of us, then had a dinner for them at our house, with my aunts and uncles, and my in-laws, who were also at my parents’ wedding. I always think it’s special to tell people that my husband of 30 years was at the wedding of my parents, who have been married 50 years!

2013-06-28 09.02.08 - CopyWe do not take a “big” vacation every year – it’s just hard to work it around work schedules and finances – but this summer, since we are celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary, we decided to take a mini-vacation to Mississippi. We spent a few days at the beach, then a few days in Natchez, MS, a city that pre-dates New Orleans. Much of the architecture in Natchez was miraculously spared Sherman’s destructive “march to the sea” which decimated many antebellum homes during the Civil War. It was glorious.

2013-06-30 10.19.37Since we’re in a transition period at our house, with one daughter moving home and one daughter getting ready to leave for college, it was a good time to get away. Sometimes you just have to in order to literally FEEL some relaxation in your body and mind!

2013-07-04 19.49.57 - CopyIndependence Day was another great day, this time with my in-laws. My youngest niece, 13, requested that we just have a simple cookout in the backyard of my husband’s parents, and we’ve decided that she’s the family party-planner from now on! Of course, the weather cooperated, the kids of all ages had a great time, and again, we just RESTED. Even a few of the group that had to leave early came BACK in time for the bonfire and s’mores!

So, that’s my theme, I think, for the summer. You can have all kinds of activities going on – some may be stressful – but through it all, you just have to remember who you’re with, why you’re there, and that God tells us throughout scripture to BE STILL and know that HE is GOD.

And the rest will come.

Happy end of summer, everyone!

INFLUENCE THE INFLUENCERS

I do not, by any means, consider myself an influential person. I am an encourager by nature, and sometimes I think THAT is what my role is in this alternate reality we call “writing.”

Stacy Acevero wrote a great article entitled 10 ways to impress your industry’s influencers on Ragan.com. You can read it HERE.

When I read this, I realized that much of this is what I had been doing, as a card-carrying people-pleaser, all along.

 Follow the “cool kids” blogs.

 COMMENT on those blogs.

 Follow them on social media.

 Blog ABOUT them!

 My first visit to ACFW was such an eye-opener. I actually met people who knew MY name, mainly from carrying on conversations with them on Facebook or their blog comments. I started dropping their names (and tagging them! Don’t forget to tag!!) in my Inkspirational Messages posts, and they noticed.

 I also learned, from getting to know these illustrious people that I found out later were just as anxious and insecure as me, that they got where they are in the industry by doing exactly the same thing. Maybe they met their agent as a result of being active in a writing organization such as ACFW. Maybe they became friends with someone who has FRIENDS. You know what I mean.

ACFWgroup

 The point is, getting your name out there IS half the battle. Me? I thought I had dropped out of sight, when lo and behold, a few weeks ago I received an email from an ACFW officer asking to use my 2011 blog post about my first ACFW experience on the ACFW BLOG! How cool is THAT?

Those little things mean a lot. It gets the juices flowing just to know that there are folks out there that value your opinion.

 It’s not just good for business. It’s good for the soul.

COWBOYS I HAVE LOVED

Cowboys have always been a favorite of mine. Historical. Modern. Good guys. Bad guys.

bonanza-cast  When I was little, my dad introduced me to Roy Rogers and Gene Autry via movie reruns. Bonanza? Gotta love that Little Joe Cartwright!

As an older child, I found the “prairie,” via Laura Ingalls Wilder. Cowboys, you ask? Yes. In a very memorable section of her book, “Little House On the Prairie,” Pa Ingalls helps some cowboys round up stray cattle, and in return receives a cow and her calf in payment.

Essie SummersLater I found Janette Oke and many others, including Harlequin Romances that took place on ranches all over the WORLD. My favorites were New Zealand Sheep Stations. Sigh . . . those quiet, responsible, handsome, misunderstood cowboys and the flighty city girls that inevitably were stranded on the ranch and made themselves invaluable as they took care of the orphaned children left behind when Tall-Dark-and-Morose’s brother and sister-in-law was killed in a horrific accident and he was the ONLY family member who could take them and not disrupt their wonderful life on the ranch . . . Sigh . . . I can still get into one of those.

But now, we’re going all modern with SHANNON’S NEW RELEASE!!!! I can’t wait to read it! It’s a shoe-in for my TBR pile!

Rodeo RegretsIn honor of cowboys everywhere, and in every period of time, Shannon is generously giving away two copies of Rodeo Regrets!! Don’t forget to leave a comment so you can be entered. Here’s the blurb:

NATALIE WENTWORTH’S PAST IS ABOUT TO CATCH UP WITH HER

Natalie once dreamed of finding true love. Then Lane Gray broke her heart. After running wild to fill the emptiness inside her, she heads back to her hometown to heal. But when she sees the cowboy she once loved so much, she finds him hard to resist.
Lane Gray is a changed man. The handsome cowboy wants Natalie’s forgiveness-and more. Natalie has made plenty of mistakes in her life, but so has Lane. Could falling for each other again be the worst one yet? Or the path to redemption?

JOB AND THE GRACE OF GOD

We call them Bible “characters,” but they were real, living, honest-to-goodness (and some NOT so honest OR so good!) people who had families, good days and bad days, jobs, and all the other things we deal with every day.

Some of them were victims of unfortunate circumstances. Some were blessed beyond measure with a grace that they couldn’t even fathom.

One such person of the Bible is Job. We’ve been studying Job in Sunday School this month, and the more I read about him and learn about him, the more I think he would have so much to say to us!

We tend to be dissatisfied, impatient, and retaliatory. But Job? He continued to praise God even in his despair.

Even when his friends, and his wife, told him to “curse God and die,” he couldn’t. It didn’t stop him asking “why” a few times, but he always came back around to the fact that God has infinite wisdom.

In our discussion last Sunday, we arrived at the conclusion that what Job’s friends, and we, lacked, is “big picture thinking.” We know, deep down, that God is good. God is love. God wants the best for us.

But we want it NOW. What we don’t tend to remember is that ULTIMATELY, it’s all for HIS glory. Ultimately, we will LIVE WITH HIM, in HEAVEN. FOR ETERNITY. How is that not the best for us?

We tell cautionary tales of God’s blessings for goodness, and His curses for sin, but in this, the earliest known manuscript to be included in the Bible, we learn about God’s GRACE, and that He is our SAVIOR.

Wow. Chew on that for a while.

While you do that, I’ll be sitting in the corner, making my list of questions for Job. By the time they are asked, I will have wished I had the answers way back in 2013!