Royal Weddings and Real Life

Halloween

The closest I’ve come to being a princess–Halloween 1980-ish.

When I called my dad on Sunday I jokingly asked him if he’d watched the royal wedding. He scoffed and asked why everyone seems to care about it so much.

Indeed. Why DO we care about it so much?

I think as pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps Americans the notion of being born into royalty is wildly exotic. Oh sure, we have well-know families and figures–American royalty–like the Vanderbilts, Kennedys, Oprah, movie stars, athletes, and so on but even then if you look far enough back you’ll find someone who worked his or her tail off to get where they are.

Which means, theoretically, I could work my tail off and launch a similar legacy. Conversely, I can never work or earn my way into royalty. But I COULD marry into it (well, not ME, I already have a prince of a husband). And now an American has done just that. And while she’s minor Hollywood royalty, she’s also mixed race and divorced. Her mother is a social worker, her father a television lighting director. She’s a lot like . . . regular folks.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, proves that even the wildest dreams sometimes come true. Rachel Hauck has written the Royal Wedding series starting with Once Upon a Prince which was recently made into a Hallmark movie. Each book follows a royal mismatch made in heaven. Fairy tales, really, except now . . . well, for Meghan Markle the fairy tale is real.

And isn’t that what we all long for?

I’m betting Meghan will have challenges and struggles she didn’t anticipate and we’ll never know about. Rain falls into everyone’s life, but seeing her standing at the altar with her prince gives all of us watching the kind of real-life happily-ever-after we long to see. The kind we need in a world with school shootings, spiteful politics, death, disease, and tragedy happening every day.

And my very favorite part? The way her hair began to come loose from it’s upsweep. Stray pieces crept down the left side of her forehead and wisps came loose under the veil. You know, just like mine does when I try and put it up.

My name means God’s Princess. And I love that. Because all of His children are royalty in His kingdom. But until I get my own crown (and let’s be honest, mine’s going to be a tiara!) it’s nice to see Meghan wearing hers.

Here’s hoping the Most Reverend Michael Curry’s wedding sermon about the power of love–holy, God-honoring love–not only ushered Meghan into her new role as Duchess but also ushered some of those listening into God’s own royal kingdom.

That’s my dream-come-true.

A Man Called Ove–a Book I Hated Then Loved

OveI’ve had a copy of A Man Called Ove in my to-be-read pile for quite a while. Finally, I got an audio copy and began listening to it on a long drive.

I could NOT stand Ove.

There were one or two flickers of seeing something worthwhile in him, but overall, I simply found him to be a miserable human being. And I wondered why so many people raved about this book.

I was tempted to give up, but I had more driving to do and, well, what the heck.

I finished the story last night and I LOVE Ove.

Which, I think, is the point.

A story about a grumpy old man who turns out to have a heart of gold is NOT a new idea. But Frederik Backman managed to take what could have been a simple story of redemption and elevated it to a deep message of hope and love.

Ove was awful at the beginning and he was still pretty awful at the end. I mean, the poor guy who sold him an iPad would not have gone home and talked about dealing with a curmudgeon who was really a marshmallow inside. Ove was vindictive, unbending, impatient, and deeply set in his ways.

And yet. He was also fiercely loyal, ethical, and willing to stand up for what he believed to be right even if it killed him. Backman retained the essence of Ove even after he was redeemed.

Which is why I found this book so ultimately hopeful. The message wasn’t that Ove needed to change, rather it was that Ove needed to be appreciated. He didn’t change so much as the people around him came to see the beauty inherent in this big, tough Swede.

I like that.

Too often, I suspect we think the people around us (especially the people we disagree with) need to change. But maybe, just maybe, if we were willing to understand what makes people see the world the way they do . . . we could–if not agree–at least understand.

And then, perhaps we could see the value in everyone.

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.

Holy Week–The best story EVER

Easter gardenJust picture it.

Jesus comes riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. People act like he’s a rock star–waving palm branches, throwing their cloaks down in the street.

The king is here.

But wait. This isn’t the king they expected. He doesn’t overthrow Roman rule. He doesn’t claim a throne, wear a crown, or live in a palace.

Instead, he makes fools of the religious leaders. He sets the temple straight. He tells stories and gives them the greatest commandment all wrapped up in love.

He is NOT what anyone expected.

And then they arrest him and kill him.

But Holy Week doesn’t end there. Easter morning is yet to come. And it’s the greatest day the world has ever known.

This is my FAVORITE time of year. It’s better than Christmas. Better than my birthday. Better than my wedding day.

This coming Sunday, as the sun tips over the horizon, I’ll remember what God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit conspired to do . . . for me. Every year I recognize that I don’t deserve it. And every year I recognize that, nonetheless, salvation is mine.

I hope and pray salvation is yours as well. Because he didn’t do it JUST for me (although he would have). He did it for YOU as well.

 

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 – 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.

 

Social Media and REAL Community

KermitI am generally on the side of believing that social media is NOT conducive to developing REAL relationships. What we see of our “friends” on-line tends to be superficial and sometimes even downright misleading.

However. Every once in a while it turns into something compelling and wonderful

Saturday evening I checked Facebook and stumbled across a comment from a writer-friend in Canada. She was writing at a pub and noticed a large group of friends nearby . . . including an attractive guy (she’s single).

“i am trying to ascertain if the woman beside him is with him —or just part of the group. and this is me on sleuth duty. keep you posted.”

And that was the beginning of a four hour+ festival of her friends (many of them writers) being glued to a single Facebook post that ultimately had more than 600 comments. We waited breathlessly for her to report on observed interactions offering advice with varying degrees of helpfulness and posting a ridiculous number of gifs. My favorite being one of Kermit the Frog biting his nails.

Then . . . a loooooong silence.

Yet not silence because writers began doing what they do best–making stuff up. Entire romances spun out. Wedding invitations were mailed. One mom had to step away to deal with a poopy diaper. (Okay, that was pretty real.)

And then, about three hours in, our friend returned to report that she’d joined the group and learned that the cute guy in question was married. However, there was a plot twist. An unmarried guy in the group did ask to exchange numbers!

I think I heard the roar of applause across the United States, Canada, and apparently New Zealand.

She finally wrapped the evening up with this: “and some nights are so unique that you end up sitting with strangers and laughing and plotting cowboy romances for harlequin (yes) and cheering olympic skiing . . . and just feeling a community in a huge metropolis.”

The funny thing is . . . while my friend was experiencing actual, first-person community, she had also created a space where hilarious virtual community swept up 30 or 40 people in an incredible evening of love and laughter.

I’m still a HUGE fan of actual, in-person interaction. However, it seems that genuine, REAL, social media interaction is possible. The trick is for someone to start out by being so honest, open, and real that it attracts the same . . .