Who ARE the Poor?

bouquetSunday’s sermon was about helping the poor. Our scripture was from James 2 which cautions us not to show partiality for those who appear to be better off.

Which set me to thinking about what, exactly, it means to be poor. There’s the obvious answer–people who don’t have enough to meet their basic needs of food, shelter, clothing . . . The homeless. The hungry. The family struggling to make ends meet. The senior choosing between food and medicine.

But it occurred to me that there are plenty of other kinds of poverty in this world:

  • People who are poor in friendships/relationships. Basically, the lonely.
  • People who are poor in joy/peace. Those who struggle with depression or maybe they’re just overwhelmed by life at the moment.
  • People who are poor in safety/security. Those who live in places with high crime or who are fearful of how people might treat them.
  • People who are poor in faith/spirituality. Unbelievers of all kinds–folks who believe this life is all there is.
  • People who are poor in health/wellness. Terminally ill people or even those who are chronically ill.

I suspect this list could go on and on. The point is, while I may not be poor financially, I’m poor in other ways. And so is everyone else.

Our pastor talked about how the poor are often people we don’t see or notice. They’re on the margins of society, tucked away, hidden, unrecognized–which can make them hard to help. We have to LOOK for the poor. But I think that extends to the people we DO see on a regular basis as well. Probably they’re poor in one way or another. And either we fail to notice it or they do a good job of hiding it.

What if we all started paying attention? What if I take the time to notice when a co-worker is poor in time and offer to help with a task? Or that a neighbor is poor in visitors and stop by for a chat? Or that a friend is poor in peace and take time to pray with her?

Sometimes we do nothing because it feels like there’s too much need to even make a dent. And yet . . . I know how wonderful it is when someone notices I have a need and meets it. Maybe if we all did just a little, it would add up.

 

Laying Up Treasure

treasuresThis past weekend a good friend and her family hosted a yard sale to empty out her grandparents’ house. Health issues and advancing years have forced the couple into a facility and it’s time to think about selling the little house they’ve lived in for so long.

Thistle and I stopped by for moral support AND to shop for a memento or two. I’ve known this sweet couple since we moved to our current house and she’s the one who first invited me to the church my husband and I now attend. I knew she collected teapots and thought it would be nice to have one.

I came away with a deviled egg plate just like the one my mom used when I was a kid along with a cast iron corn stick pan and a sweet little Brown Betty teapot. Which set me to thinking about what I consider my “treasure.”

I started walking through the house to pick out my favorite things. There’s the salt box and cast iron, elephant-shaped bottle opener from Dad’s childhood. Five or six wee pitchers from my grandmother’s collection. My mother-in-laws 40th anniversary salt and pepper shakers. The embroidered picture Aunt Bess stitched. A Christmas figurine from Mom’s childhood along with the butter mold she used when I was a kid (made by my great uncle).

And then there are the items that belonged to the senior ladies of the church. An amber glass cake plate and hand-painted dessert plates from Billy. A toll painting of a basket of eggs from Ann. And now Betty’s brown Betty teapot and egg plate.

These are my treasures.

But it’s not the THING so much as it is the person each one brings to mind. As I tallied my treasures I realized the value isn’t in the tangible item, but rather in the intangible memories and emotions and . . . love.

Matthew 6:19-20 says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Betty’s teapot has a chip in it. I might break that egg plate while doing the dishes one day. Every last item could be lost or destroyed but that’s okay because they aren’t really my treasures. And ultimately, it’s not even the people they represent that’s the treasure–love is. And love never fails.

 

Queen of the May

May QueenThere are stories all around us. All you have to do is listen.

A dear friend’s mother offers a wealth of inspiration for my Appalachian stories. Anne grew up on a tobacco farm in Kentucky, but spent considerable time with grandparents in town. While she did help with farm work, she was more likely to be found reading.

And she still is.

Tomorrow is her 96th birthday. One of my favorite stories of hers is how she was almost Queen of the May. When she was a child at school, one of the girls would be selected to lead the May Day celebration each year. This is an old-time tradition that often included a parade, May baskets, and dancing around a May pole. It goes back to the Celtic celebration of Beltane and there are variations galore.

Since it was her birthday, Anne assumed she would be chosen queen.

She wasn’t, but her best friend was.

On the way home, her friend gave Anne the crown of May flowers she’d been given as queen. Anne promptly went home and told her mother she had been named Queen of the May.

But lies, even sweet, childish ones, eat away at our well-being. Anne, overcome with guilt, finally confessed the truth with tears.

So every year, we celebrate Anne as Queen of the May (in the photo above she’s a mere 92). Tomorrow, she’ll get to be queen once again.

Happy birthday Queen Anne–thanks for the wonderful stories!

Southern Kentucky Book Fest – Come See Me!

I’m super excited to be heading to Bowling Green, Kentucky, this week for the Southern Kentucky Book Fest. I’ll be teaching a class titled “Setting as Character” at 9 a.m. Friday morning, attending a meet the authors reception Friday evening, and sitting on a panel titled “People, Places, and Pie” Saturday morning. That last panel is with Karen Spears Zacharias, Ann Gabhart, Naomi Miller, and Rachel Miller so it’ll be a treat for me as much as anyone!

I’ll also be signing as many books as they’ll let me!

The Southern Kentucky Book Fest is one of the state‚Äôs largest literary events and is presented by Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Warren County Public Library, and WKU Libraries. The event is in it’s 20th year and I’m honored to be included.

And while it’s great to meet readers, I’ll confess I’m also pretty excited to get to hang out with some author friends. In addition to the ladies on the pie panel, I’ll get to see some other author friends and hopefully meet several new ones. Writing can often feel incredibly solitary, so having an opportunity to spend time with other writers is always a treat.

If you’re in the vicinity of Bowling Green this weekend, I hope you’ll come out to see us. And if you’d like to register (the event is free), click HERE to learn more.

Dreaming Big – Once Upon a Prince

upon a princeWhen Rachel Hauck released Once Upon a Prince, I hesitated to read the story. I was afraid it was going to be just another reinterpretation of Cinderella. And while I LOVE Cinderella, did we really need another, modern version?

Boy, was I wrong!

Oh, there are echoes of Cinderella, but somehow Rachel has managed to craft a surprisingly believable commoner falls for royal story with a wonderful faith theme woven through.

And now, it’s being released as a Hallmark movie.

The thing is, shortly after an author’s book is released, friends and readers start saying things like, “This would make a great movie.”

And your job, as the humble author, is to thank them and say things like, “Oh, well, it’s tough to get a movie deal.” Or, “There are so many great stories out there–who’s going to notice mine?”

But secretly you’re thinking, “Yes! It would make a great movie. When’s that going to happen?”

Well, for Rachel, it’s happening this coming Saturday at 9 p.m. Eastern on the Hallmark Channel. Which could easily lead to things like comparison and jealousy.

But here’s what I know about Rachel. She’s written 30 or so books. Lots of them have won awards. Some haven’t. She’s incredibly active in the world of Christian and romance writing. She teaches. She mentors. She endorses books by new authors. She sits across the table at lunch and listens with her heart.

And now, for Rachel, her dream of a movie is coming true. I, for one, can hardly wait! Check it out this Saturday at 9 p.m. on the Hallmark Channel.

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 – The Heirloom

On October 2 of this year, my latest work will release–as part of a collection titled The Christmas Heirloom (available for pre-order). As a follow-up to The Sound of Rain, I’ve written Hank’s story. You remember Hank–he was George Heyward’s right-hand man until Judd came along. And now he’s wondering where his future lies.

Earlier this week, we got to release the cover!

This collection has been SUCH fun. I was at a writing conference in 2016 when I sat down next to Karen Witemeyer and she looked at me and said, “You’re books are set in the 1950s, right?”

Right!

Karen, Kristi Ann Hunter, and Becky Wade (all favorite authors of mine!!) were hatching an idea to write a multi-generational series of novellas that would trace the women of one family from Regency England to modern day America. Their only gap was the 1950s.

Oh, I was IN!

And so, after lots of e-mails and a pretty hilarious Skype meeting, we set to work. The thread tying the stories together is a brooch that’s supposed to bring true love when it’s gifted from mother to daughter. Fun!

Plus, I get to insert Appalachia into a series that includes Regency, western, and contemporary stories. Talk about variety! And my character is such fun–a mountain girl who’s much better at shooting than socializing.

Here’s the brief summary for A Shot at Love: Fleeta Brady’s rough-and-tumble childhood means she prefers hunting to more feminine activities. She never expected her family’s brooch might be how southerner Hank Chapin turns her attention from competition to romance.

Fleeta also puts in an appearance in Becky Wade’s contemporary story (the last in the bunch). So excited for this series of interconnected stories to be released this fall.