Wearing a 13-year-old skirt to the Carol Awards

gala dressThirteen years or so ago I walked into a store looking for a summer skirt. Instead, I found an Ann Taylor evening skirt . . . in my size . . . for $4. So I tried it on just for fun. It fit perfectly. Which means I HAD to buy it in spite of the fact that I had no IDEA that I would ever have an occasion to wear it.

So often we have things we’ve acquired or earned that we’re not sure we’ll ever use. It may be an evening skirt or your grandmother’s china or a degree that you thought you’d use until marriage and babies and life got in the way. It may be a manuscript that you’ve poured your heart into that’s sitting on a thumb drive gathering dust. You have no reason to pull it out, but it fits perfectly.

Thirteen years ago I bought a skirt—God knows why. Oh, that’s right, God DID know why. He had a plan and it just so happened an evening skirt would come in handy. I bought that skirt before I was writing seriously. Before I had an agent or an editor or a published book. Certainly before I had any reason to dress up for an awards ceremony.

I didn’t win the Carol Award over the weekend. But that’s okay. Wearing a skirt I bought before I had any notion that I might write and publish a novel reminded me that God can weave every detail into his plan. Nothing is wasted.

So if you’re feeling like it was a complete waste to buy that dress, take that class, or write that book let me assure you God has a plan for you and he can use everything. All you have to do is wait in obedience.

And in my case, not eat too many French fries in the meantime.

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Appalachian Thursday — Getting Language Right

archaic wordsI try to use the language I grew up with when I write my books. Much of it is distinctive to the mountains I love and some of it, I suppose, is pure Loudin. I found this poster of Appalachian words that includes several of my favorites.

I will point out that the poster lists “ya’ll” at the top, which is NOT Appalachian. It’s southern. In the mountains they say, “you’uns.” Several of the others, however, are right on. Including “piddle,” a favorite word of mine that I’m pretty sure I got from my mother. I refer to things (of little consequence) as piddling all the time. And one of my favorite things to do when I have a day off is just piddle around.

Then there’s persnickety, which I hadn’t thought of as being particular to a region, but apparently it is. Turns out it’s a variant of an old Scots word–pernickety. It means overly fussy.

Cattywampus is Scottish, too, perhaps derived from cata (diagonally) and wampish (to flop to and fro). I like that because cattywampus isn’t as simple as catty-cornered (diagonally opposite), it’s more about something that’s wildly askew. Like a child with a shirt on wrong-side out and one arm out the neck hole–now that’s cattywampus.

Learning about words like this can lend real flavor to writing (not to mention talking). Of course, you’d best use the words right or a persnickety reader might have a conniption over it.

What are some of your favorite, colloquial words?

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Pierced Ears and Suffering

led-665723_640My five-year-old niece got her ears pierced yesterday. Today is her first day of kindergarten and while school shopping on Sunday, the time seemed right.

The lady in charge of piercing did a great job of sneaking up on that first ear, but the second . . . let’s just say it almost didn’t happen. Which is how it was when I got my own ears pierced around the age of 12. The first shot hurt enough to convince me one was all I needed. Mom, however, was pretty persuasive. Maybe it had something to do with how long and hard I begged to get my ears pierced.

And now I tuck earrings in my ears almost every day with hardly a thought. I was SO determined to avoid mere moments of pain that have resulted in literally decades of hanging pretty baubles from my ears.

Not that I would regret never having pierced my ears, but the pleasure has surely outweighed that oh-so-brief pain.

Which is how I often am. Eager to avoid even the slightest pain without considering what I’m giving up. What I might miss if I don’t grit my teeth and hang in there just a little longer.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but life can get hard. Challenging. Difficult. And some days I just want to say, “Never mind–I quit.”

So often I find myself looking for the easy way out. The shortcut. The good enough. But seriously. I’d look funny with just one earring. And most things worth having are worth suffering–even if only a little–to get.

I’m glad Olivia and I both stuck it out and got that second ear pierced.

Romans 5:3-5 – Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

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Appalachian Thursday–Gardens I’ve Known

produceAt the ministry where I work, we have a community garden maintained by volunteers. Which means I can occasionally swing by on my way home to grab a few tomatoes, cucumbers, or squash to enjoy for supper. Talk about perks!

I can’t walk into the garden without thinking of the many gardens I’ve experienced over the years and how NOW is peak season for harvesting. So I thought I’d take you on a brief tour of some gardens I’ve known.

We always had a garden when I was growing up. From lettuces in the spring to potatoes in the fall, it was an on-going feast for the belly. Not to mention never-ending toil for the back! We’d pick up rocks when Dad plowed in the spring, help with the planting, weed if someone made us, and harvest the bounty as it ripened.

The best part of the garden was when Dad would let us pick something to plant. One year it was popcorn (which I think failed utterly). I always wanted to grow watermelon.

I think my favorite crop was sweet corn. We always grew Illini Super Sweet. I can remember eating three or four ears at a time. Now two are as many as I can manage, but maybe my mistake is in eating anything else along with it.

When we moved to NC, I grew a few vegetables in pots or tucked into the flower beds, but let’s just say I didn’t meet with a whole lot of success. But a nearby neighbor–now HE had a garden. First of all, he offered us the freedom to come pick what we wanted. I tried to exercise discretion, but oh, those little yellow pear tomatoes! Eventually he gave me two rows to grow what I wanted–reminiscent of those childhood years. And just like those childhood years, his produce was always better than mine.

Now I mostly visit the garden at work. It’s maintained by someone else–someone more meticulous about gardening than I ever was. I try to only take the “extra.” The produce the kids won’t eat (okra, anyone?). But even if I only pick one or two tomatoes and a handful of string beans, they taste all the better for having been plucked warm from the vine.

I think the thing about a garden is the smell of dirt and rain and green, growing things. They whet the appetite like nothing else can.

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What’s a Successful Book Launch?

IMG_1613We had a launch party last Thursday and as far as I’m concerned it was as close to perfect as anything can be. In my estimation, it was a rip-roaring success!

But what does that mean?

Before I was an author, I would have thought a successful launch party would be one with lots of readers coming out to buy lots of books. Success would be measured by attendance and profitability. But I’ve learned a few things since I’ve been published.

Now I have the Elwood P. Dowd outlook on success. Elwood is a character (played by Jimmy Stewart) in the movie Harvey. Throughout the movie Elwood invites just about everyone he meets either for a drink or for dinner. Which is what I’d often like to do, but people think it’s funny if you meet them and immediately invite them over. And they’re too busy anyway.

But if you have a book launch–ahhhh–now you can post the event on Facebook and literally invite everyone and anyone who’s even remotely connected to you.

So when I have a launch party, selling and promoting my books is nice, but it’s not the point. Nope, it’s a chance to throw a party for friends, family, acquaintances, readers I have yet to meet . . . Everyone! Anyone!reading2

And as a bonus, I get to talk about how God has blessed me in this journey to being a multi-published author. And who knows? That might be Good News to someone.

In the movie, Elwood offers his philosophy of life and I think it’s an excellent one. “Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be’—she always called me Elwood—’In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

It’s pleasant to get together in a barn to read, talk, eat, and listen to music while savoring dear friends, new friends, and friends-to-be. I think Elwood P. Dowd and Harvey would fit right in.


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Appalachian Thursday–With a British Accent

RainIn case you haven’t heard, A Tapestry of Secrets released last week. And today is the launch party in a barn with fried chicken and wedding cake. I had thought to post about party plans with a promise to share pictures . . . but I’m not.

Because in the midst of all the hoopla, I had the loveliest moment of respite.

Yesterday afternoon I took Thistle for our usual hike knowing I would use the time to go over (e.g. stew about) details for today’s event. Instead, I met a family of four from Manchester, England. They’re on holiday and decided to head out for a hike in the wilds of Pisgah National Forest.

Thistle made her own introductions and immediately the older of the two girls asked me about snakes and bears. I’m going to call her Lucy because she reminded me so much of Lucy from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I assured her that there are, indeed, snakes and bears, but that I rarely see them while hiking. She appeared unconvinced.

Lucy determined that I knew where I was going and asked her parents, “Are we going to follow this lady?” Lucy, I think, is a natural born leader and organizer (organiser?). I suggested a short loop and off we went.

Of course it rained, but apparently if you’re from Manchester that’s what you’re used to.

Lucy and I took the lead and talked about a great many things including:
-The superiority of root beer to other sodas.
-Celebrating the Queen’s birthday.
-Chickens without names and one chicken in particular who died of homesick.
-Poison ivy.
-Books we like–she’s a fan of Roald Dahl.
-Our mutual preference for literature over maths.
-The fact that our birthdays are a mere eight days apart.
-How school goes by grades in the U.S. and years in England.
-And several other topics that escape me at the moment.

All in all, talking with Lucy was MUCH better than agonizing over whether it will rain, if I bought enough lemonade, who might get lost, will any musicians turn up, or any of a dozen other details I really can’t do much of anything about.

If we hadn’t all been sopping wet, I would have very much liked to ask Lucy, her parents, and her little sister to stop by the house for root beer (we have some very good Frostie’s in the fridge).

Instead, I enjoyed a glass of soda with my husband and told him about how I met Lucy and enjoyed a short, Narnian respite in the rain. I might have even seen a lion off among the trees.

Lucy (and Aslan), I thank you.

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Book Review: The Lady & the Lionheart

lionheartI don’t often review books here on the blog. I do make an effort to write reviews on other sites like Goodreads and Amazon because I know how much I appreciate reviews of my own books. But every now and then a book resonates with me so much that I want to tell you about it.

As I’m reading, I often start writing reviews in my head so I’ll be prepared once I finish the story. With The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischoff, I was seriously leaning toward a four-star review.The story is about a nurse–Ella–who meets a circus’ lion tamer–Charlie. Sounds fun, right?

Bischof has a way with words and I WAS having fun as I was carried into the mysterious world of circus performers. The story is told with the flair of an aerialist and the pent up strength of a sleeping lion. But I found the romance a little TOO perfect. Charlie and Ella are flawed, but in such a GOOD way. Charlie because of his sacrifice and Ella because of her innocence. As much as I enjoyed the story, I kept thinking about how unattainable a love like this is for, well, anyone.

Then I got to the end and realized THAT’S THE POINT. I don’t know what Bischof intended beyond what she says in her notes at the end of the book, but I think she’s disguised an allegory as historic romance. The love story is so very perfect because it’s the story of God’s love for his children. It’s about Christ’s willingness to give his life for the Church–his bride.

If you pick up The Lady and the Lionheart, you may think you’re simply digging into an entertaining circus story set in the late 1800s. But if you’re willing to open your heart and pay attention, I think you may find a great deal more. I certainly did.

Five stars.

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