Stories All Around Us

SummerMy husband and I went to dinner Sunday. We enjoyed a lovely meal and headed out into the mild evening to make our way back to our car.

I think I’ve mentioned that I can’t resist a dog.

Well, there was a girl sitting on the sidewalk with a puppy dancing around her. I handed the takeout box to my husband and crouched down to say hello.

Oh my. Four months old and all feet. His name was Bemis.

I petted and played with the puppy and chatted with his person. She looked like she was late teens or maybe twenty. Neat and tidy if a little offbeat. She had some small sketches set out beside her with a sign that said, “Buy My Art.”

She said she travels from city to city, hopping trains and hitchhiking. I told her to be careful and she assured me she’s very careful. I bought a piece of art (a pencil sketch of a dragon–quite good!) and told her I’d be praying for her.

I don’t know her story. I don’t know her history or her dreams. But she touched my heart. Her and that adorable puppy.

But I know God loves her just like he loves me. And he loves you. He has a plan for her–and I hope she learns what it is.

So today, I’m asking you to join me in praying for Summer and Bemis. Pray for a girl with a backpack, a puppy, and a knack for drawing pictures. Pray that she’s safe and that she finds whatever it is she’s looking for.

She has a story and I pray that she lets God direct each chapter.


Appalachian Thursday – Watch Out for Deer

deer at table

A normal afternoon behind my mom’s house in WV. Photo by: Jean Clark

I saw a Facebook post earlier this week sharing how to speak “Appalachian.” Some of the phrases weren’t exclusive to Appalachia–they definitely overlapped with the south. But one was 100% Appalachia.

“Watch out for deer.”

And what’s the translation?

“I love you.”

It sounds odd at first, but let me explain. In WV it’s hard not to trip over deer when you walk around outside. When we porch sit at the farm, it’s just a matter of time before the deer start drifting through the pasture. When we drive up to the house after dark, the headlights almost always pick out several deer as we come around the last turn. And the photo above speaks for itself.


Which means people are forever hitting them on the roads. Most people I know from back home can tell you about the time they hit a deer. Or were hit by one. Sometimes the poor animals misjudge and leap straight into a moving vehicle.

It’s awful and it’s dangerous. (For the driver AND the deer.)

So, when someone from Appalachia says to you, “watch out for deer,” what they mean is . . . I care about you. Be safe. Keep an eye out and don’t get in a wreck. Be careful. Come home to me.

Which really does mean, “I love you.”

So for all my friends and readers out there . . . watch out for those deer!

Sometimes I (gasp!) read reviews

reviewsSo many authors will tell you not to do it. Some even have friends who read reviews for them and only pass along the ones that are really stellar.

Because even if there are only a handful of bad reviews, they tend to dent your confidence. Some will even batter your confidence and make you wonder if you really ARE a fraud.

Even so, I read reviews. I LIKE hearing what people thought of my books. Once in a while I even learn something I can do better. One reviewer pointed out my tendency to use the word, “somehow,” which seriously weakens whatever it is I’m trying to say. I totally need to thank her!

So, last week, I popped in on Goodreads and saw that The Sound of Rain had some new reviews. Mostly good (phew). But one . . . oh my. Sometimes, a reader will just get whatever it is I was trying to do in a way that clarifies it even for me. A reviewer named Kav did that last week.

I try to be careful about “tooting my own horn” here on my blog, but this review brought tears to my eyes. So here you go. A review from someone who totally made my day and reminded me why I keep writing.

Sometimes the people who needed the most help didn’t look like they needed any help at all.” (p 290)

Sarah Loudin Thomas has a lyrical style that is sheer poetry. I find myself reading out loud from time to time just to hear the impact of her words. The Sound of Rain is an exquisite escape into another time and place. And I have a secret fascination for all things Appalachia. Stoic people, hardworking and proud. They blend faith and culture into a fascinating seize-the-moment kind of living that really speaks to me.

But Judd leaves that life in a bid to escape heartbreaking reminders of all that he has lost. He flees the darkness of the coal mines for the promise of light in work above ground in South Carolina. What he doesn’t realize is that he carries that darkness within him. (Exactly! -SLT)

By contrast, Larkin’s light shines brightly. Enthusiastically. Misdirected at times but she has a gift for brightening the lives of the people around her. It’s a dangerous gift in the hands of someone who doesn’t recognize its power — and Larkin doesn’t in the beginning of the story. She’s spoiled and idealistic which Judd finds both frustrating and fascinating. But he’s drawn to that inner glow and Larkin is equally intrigued by a real-life mountain man.

In some ways, Judd and Larkin’s stories seem independent of each other as their goals lead them in different directions. That doesn’t mean they don’t share a lot of ‘page time’, because they do and when that happens there’s an undeniable connection that speaks of hope in their future. Of course, there’s a lot to work through before Thomas brings us to that end. Larkin needs to grow up some, and Judd need to open up more. There’s a lovely spiritual undercoating that binds their stories together even when they are miles apart.

Sarah Loudin Thomas delivers another stunning portrayal of life and love and the faith that connects it all.

Thank you, Kav, for being an incredible encourager.

Appalachian Thursday – Southern States

growing chicksNo, not the states below the Mason Dixon Line. I’m talking about the cooperative store started by farmers in Virginia.

When I was a kid, we’d go to Southern States to buy things like cattle feed, bulk dog food, bag balm, seeds, medicine for cattle, and SPRING CHICKS. Mostly, going to Southern States wasn’t all that exciting. The store had a kind of chemical/sweet feed smell and there wasn’t a whole lot to interest an eight-year-old. Until the spring chicks arrived.

We’d walk in the store and hear them. A chorus of tiny cheeps. There they would be, moving balls of yellow fluff, walking around, pecking at feed, sipping water, and pooping (it wasn’t ALL adorable). We could hold them as long as we were G-E-N-T-L-E.

Back at the farm, the box of chicks would go out in the barn with a light to keep them warm and we’d visit and cuddle as often as allowed.

But here’s the problem with adorably, baby chicks — they grow into chickens.

And it happens much more quickly than you’d expect. One day some of the fluff has been replaced by rough feathers and soon the adolescent chickens are as awkward as any teenager. Then, next thing you know, they’re just plain old chickens waiting to peck the back of your hand when you gather their eggs.

But isn’t that the way with so many things? Nothing stays the same. Nothing lasts. Seems like Robert Frost had something to say about that when he wrote Nothing Gold Can Stay.

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Yep. Baby chicks don’t stay adorable very long. But the memory of them . . . oh, that lasts and lasts. I haven’t gone with my dad to pick up spring chicks in nearly forty years. But I can close my eyes and hear their cheeps, feel the softness of their down, and smell the must and dust of their warming box.

I think Robert Frost was a little bit sneaky. When he captured a bit of gold on paper, he made it stay. Here’s hoping I can do a bit of that myself.

Fruit of the Spirit – Gentleness

stars2That’s what our pastor talked about yesterday. I always thought it meant something like kindness–a sort of being careful with whatever is fragile in life. But here’s a definition from a Bible dictionary:

“Sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love.”

Which makes gentleness a whole lot more complicated than I thought. It’s certainly not weak. It doesn’t mean to be a pushover. It’s not just being nice. The first part of the definition is pretty much what I expected, but that second part, that’s complex.

Gentleness is founded on strength. Picture a man’s large, strong hand cradling a newly hatched chick. Gentleness has the power to destroy . . . and yet it doesn’t. Which is where that last bit of the definition comes in.

Gentleness is prompted by love. Gentleness has power and strength, yet chooses sensitivity and kindness out of love. It doesn’t lash out. Doesn’t knock anyone down or push them around just because it can.

As a matter of fact, it seems like it might be impossible to be gentle unless you are strong and loving. So the question then is–what is my strong foundation? What prompts me to love?

All I can say is that all too often I feel weak and . . . well . . . not loving. That would be ME operating under my own power. So if I want to be gentle (and I do) then I’d better find my source elsewhere.

I Peter 3:14-17 – But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

I guess being gentle is tougher than I thought. But isn’t that the way with most worthwhile endeavors?

Appalachian Thursday – Lion or Lamb?

Family photo

Grandma Burla would be telling me March is coming in like a lion!

My grandmother loved talking about whether March came in like a lion or lamb. The idea being that if the month roars in on March 1 with wind and heavy weather, then the last day of the month will be calm and pleasant.

I was worried earlier today, with mild temperatures and a light drizzle–hardly lionish weather. But the day has taken a turn and we’re now under a high wind warning and the temperatures are dropping.

Normally, I wouldn’t be altogether pleased, but since I long for the weather to improve throughout the month, this is a welcome turn of events. My grandmother would be snuggled under a crocheted afghan telling us not to worry, “in like a lion, out like a lamb.”

The weather will only improve from here on out!

There are a few other March sayings–probably because March is the first time all winter we’ve dared hope spring really is nearly upon us.

  • A dry March and a wet May? Fill barns with corn and hay.
  • As it rains in March, so it rains in June.
  • March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers.
  • So many mists in March you see, so many frosts in May will be.

So I guess we’d better start counting rains and mists so we’ll know what’s going to happen in May and June. Today was a rainy, misty day (until the wind blew it all away). So maybe that’s one each for a frost in May and rain in June.

Best not start planting the garden until after Mother’s Day . . .

What’s Your Gift?

Tapestry editsI’m fairly good at writing.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been in love with words since Dad first fell asleep while reading me a book and I had to figure out how to finish the story on my own.

But really, even before then, I remember being drawn to words. I wanted to write them, to touch them, to read them. I wanted to OWN words.

I used to keep all the junk mail my parents would have normally thrown away. Documents with all those lovely words marching across the paper appealed to something deep inside me. I kept them in stacks and sifted through them–finding a kind of comfort that soothed me.

Now, as an adult, I suspect God planted a love of words in my spirit. It’s my gift. Which means I’m NOT good at writing. It simply means God created me with a love for language woven into my very being. It’s not something to be proud of. It simply IS.

I see similar gifts in others. My husband speaks the language of music–a foreign tongue to me. Friends speak other languages–hospitality, parenting, management, organization, teaching . . . The list goes on.

Sometimes I think we worry too much about what our gifts AREN’T. We look around and see people who are better at something than we are. And we tend to downplay our own gifts because, well, they come more easily. And that makes them seem like not such a big deal.

Today I’m challenging you to identify your gift and own it. Not because it makes you better, smarter, or more amazing. But because God gave YOU that gift for a reason. So own it. Appreciate it. And then go use it.