Mustard Seed Faith – At Last!

mustard seedFor a long time now I’ve assumed, based on Matthew 17:20, that my faith is pretty pitiful. Not even a mustard seed’s worth. That scripture suggests that if my faith were as much as even a BB-sized seed, I could move mountains or cast mulberry bushes into the sea. And I can’t. Goodness knows I’ve tried.

It’s long been a discouragement.

And then I heard Susie Larson talking about planting apple seeds. She talked about how one seed produces a tree with, say, 100 apples. And each of those apples has multiple seeds with the capacity to produce another 100 apples. And so on and so on until you have millions of apples.

And just like that the light bulb lit! I had been focused on the SIZE of the mustard seed and had overlooked the fact that it’s a SEED. What do you do with seeds? You plant them.

In other scripture Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed. It’s something tiny that grows into a tree as much as 20-feet tall and almost that wide.

So, in order to move mountains, it’s not about summoning up a tiny seed’s worth of faith. It’s a question of where I plant what faith I have. Jesus didn’t say the mountain and the mulberry tree would move TODAY.

I do have a seed’s worth of faith. Lots of seed’s worth of faith. And I can plant them wherever I go. At work, in the community, among friends and family. And some of those seeds will take root and eventually produce fruit. And then their seeds will do the same. And so on until mountains have shifted and entire forests have been cast into the sea.

Like so much of what I learn on this journey, it’s not about me. My role is small and often goes unnoticed. But taken as part of God’s glorious, intricate whole—it’s integral. Planting seeds matters.

Come sow with me. Nothing is impossible.

He replied, Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20

Appalachian Thursday – Weeeeeelllll

Grandmas and me

Grandmothers are masters of taking a single word and imbuing it with a world of meaning.

A friend and I were talking recently about our families–mostly the senior ladies in our Appalachian families–and how they can take a single word and communicate a wide range of meanings. The perfect example is the word, “well.”

Depending on the accompanying tone and expression, “well” can express a variety of messages. Here are a few:

  • Well. (Short, clipped, with lips pinched.) An expression of disdain suggesting that you can think that if you like but you’re completely wrong.
  • Weeellll. (Smiling, drawn out, sly sideways look.) I know what you’re getting at you devil, you!
  • Well. (Blank expression, flat tone.) I never would have thought it of you, but there you have it.
  • Well-ell-ell. (Laughing with a jolly expression.) Aren’t you the cutest thing I’ve ever seen?
  • Well. (Downcast eyes, soft voice, a little breathy.) I guess that’s all there is to say about that.

I don’t suppose this is exclusive to natives of our mountain region, but it’s surely been perfected here. And it’s one of my frustrations in writing. It’s so hard to share the full range of meanings on the printed page. I often end up editing out a slew of “wells” that really don’t convey what I’m after without the finer nuances of body language.

Which is frustrating.

But oh well.

Live Like You’re Dying

crocusYou’ve probably heard the advice to live like you’re dying . . . because you are. And it’s true, so far as it goes. We’re all going to die one day.

One day. You know it, I know it, we all know it.

Or do we?

I have a friend who has a fatal illness. She’s already lived longer than the doctors thought she would. She IS living like she’s dying. And it isn’t necessarily what I imagine when I think about living as though my time here were short.

I visited her recently and she made an observation that really stuck with me. It  was about how we say we’ll do things, “for the rest of our lives.”

As in, “You’ll need to take this medicine for the rest of your life.” Or, “I’m going to wear this ring for the rest of my life.” Or, “I’m going to live here for the rest of my life.”

Well sure. But that assumes the medicine will be helpful right up until the moment you take your last breath. Unfortunately, medicines stop working. It assumes that the ring will always fit and you’ll always want to wear it. Grandma gave me her engagement ring when she could no longer slide it over her arthritic knuckle. It assumes you’ll be able to live in the same place until the end. Which would put a lot of assisted living and nursing homes out of business.

It would seem there’s nothing like nearing the actual end of your life to make you realize how tenuous and fragile any future plan is. It also makes me realize how foolish worry is. I take a medication to regulate my heart rate and the consensus is I will need it “for the rest of my life.” Except the first medication quit working back in September. And while the new medication is working just fine . . . who knows? Will I take it for the rest of my life? Probably not. And that’s a bridge I’ll cross when the time comes.

When I say, “for the rest of my life,” I suspect I’m exercising a measure of denial. I know nothing is forever and change is inevitable, but imagining that this one thing will remain true and steady no matter what . . . that’s consoling.

Which brings me to the only thing . . . the only ONE . . . that really is forever. And the thought of spending eternity with Him is consoling, indeed.

So how DO you live like you’re dying? I don’t think there’s a formula. My friend seems to just do it one day, one moment at a time. Taking life as it comes with thought and prayer doing the best she can. I’m pretty sure that you can’t plan for dying. You just see what each day brings, living, loving, and hoping as best you can . . .

Car Commercials and Birthdays

birthday giftsIt’s that time of year. The time when car commercials begin subtly hinting that this year a Jaguar or new SUV would be the perfect gift.

And while I wouldn’t say no to a Jaguar (even if it DID have 981 miles on it), that really isn’t my idea of a good gift. Rather, this past weekend was my idea of good gifts.

Yup, I turned 39 + shipping on Saturday. (I’m 47, I just get a kick out of that phrase!) And the people who love me best knew EXACTLY what kind of gifts I’d like.

There was the delightfully thoughtful gift from my husband–a new office chair for all my writing (plus dinner out!). We’ll actually shop for the chair this week since he’s also thoughtful enough to know I’ll have a strong opinion about it.

There was the collection of items from Mom & Jean. They commissioned a bookmark painted with watercolor thistles (my dog’s name) and queen Anne’s lace (my bridal bouquet). There was also a Luckenbooth shipped all the way from Scotland with a “stone” made from the compressed stems of Scottish heather. Sigh. If you don’t get that one, read The Christmas Heirloom. Now I have my own brooch passed from mother to daughter.

Then there was all the singing. The ladies at church sang to me (and Meg, who shares my birthday) as we decorated for Advent. Dad sang his own made up version of a birthday song for me. Mom sang. And best of all, my almost eight-year-old niece belted out Happy Birthday twice. And she remembered that 12/1 is my birthday. Remembering birthdays is her super power.

Finally, we extended my birthday into Sunday to celebrate with my adopted family (also Thistle’s godparents–dogparents?). Since mom’s far away and not up to baking anymore, I called her for the recipe for MY chocolate cake and made it myself. My friends asked me what I wanted for supper (adobo chicken and these AMAZING crispy potatoes) then we topped it off with Mom’s cake.

So am I just bragging about what a great birthday I had?

Oh, maybe a little bit. But mostly I’m pointing out that the very best gifts aren’t something you park in the driveway. Rather they’re anything laced with LOVE.

Now these three remain, faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Happy birthday to me!

 

Appalachian Thursday – Country Roads

sunrise roadReader and friend Frances Sniatecki tagged me on Facebook yesterday with the most amazing video featuring a medley of country songs with Take Me Home Country Roads (Almost Heaven, West Virginia) leading it off.

Turns out this amazing song was recorded two years ago for the 50th anniversary of the Country Music Awards. Somehow I missed it. It brings tears to my eyes. Amazing performers, fabulous lyrics, and a reminder that I still miss John Denver.

Check it out for yourself! This video includes a neat “making of” element. Enjoy!

 

The Christmas Heirloom – Release Day Eve

four authors

Bethany House authors – That’s Karen front center with Kristi to the right. Becky is on the left in the back and I’m three from the right. Man, we need a picture of the four of us!

Tomorrow is the official release day for The Christmas Heirloom: Four Holiday Novellas of Love Through the Generations. (Click on the image to the right if you want to order it!)

Release days have that first-day-of-school feeling. Did I pick the right outfit? Will I like my teachers? Is this the year I get to sit with the cool kids?

I liked school, but first days were always nerve-wracking no matter how ready I hoped I was. But this launch day is different because I’m not on my own. This time I have the privilege of walking into the first day of school arm-in-arm with three outstanding authors.

I’ve had a story included in a novella collection before (With All My Heart Romance Collection). But that was where our publisher simply gathered five ebook novellas with common themes and did a print edition. This time I had the pleasure of collaborating with Kristi, Karen, and Becky and tying our stories together with a piece of heirloom jewelry.

I’m still experiencing launch day butterflies, but knowing I have friends to sit with at lunch . . . well, that’s priceless.

And here’s an early review to help give me some extra encouragement:

I love the idea behind this novella collection! Four authors who each write in very different styles and equally different time periods joined together to write one story that spans generations. The execution was flawless and each author took special care in making sure her story blend well into the next. – JenGalaxy4 Christian Book Reviews

 

What do YOU write??

Bookies (3)

At the awards gala with my friend Shellie (left) and my agent Wendy (right). Smart, literary ladies!

I’ve just returned from the ACFW Conference (American Christian Fiction Writers). It’s always fun to hang out with other writers not to mention my agent and editor. But there’s a certain question folks ask each other over and over again . . .

“So what do you write?”

For years, I’ve struggled with the answer to that question. I usually said Appalachian Romance, but I knew that wasn’t quite right. My stories are set in Appalachia and there’s often an element of romance, but . . . it doesn’t quite fit. So–do I write women’s fiction? Kind of. Or is it historical? Maybe–but often readers think of historical as being set longer ago than my stories in the 40s and 50s.

Well, my agent Wendy Lawton and I finally pinned it down. Are you ready? Do you want to know what I write?

Mid-century, Appalachian, historical.

Is that a genre? Maybe not a typical genre. There aren’t many contests out there with a category for mid-century, Appalachian, historical fiction. You’ll not find a shelf with that label at your local bookstore.

But it’s MY genre. And it’s a relief to finally know what to say when a new friend leans across the table and says, “So, what do you write?”