You can still download Appalachian Serenade, the novella that kicks off the Appalachian Blessings series, for free–Kindle, Nook, or just an e-file for your computer. It’s a sweet little story, not too complicated, with a happy ending (I aim to do that EVERY time). Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book. Hope they lighten this day when we’re dealing with a sad anniversary and a raging storm.
He wanted to say something . . . poetic. Instead he’d talked to her about mud and manure. – Robert Thornton
You need a man who will challenge you, who will encourage you to be better than you are. A man who compliments and loves you is a good thing, but the real prize is a man who tells you when you’re wrong and when you’re taking the easy way out. – Emily Phillips
Sometimes God gives you strength to do without because, for whatever reason, he knows it’s better for you not to have your heart’s desire. – Charlotte Long
If there’s one thing I know after all these years, it’s that you lose every time you try to out maneuver God. – Robert Thornton
God knows best. It doesn’t always feel like it, but I’m pretty sure he does. – Charlotte Long
He felt certain God had a plan. He just wished he knew what it was. – Robert Thornton
We all need a little pretty in our lives. Mother always said so. – Liza Talbot
While it’s still a little early to proclaim the season changed, we are getting the loveliest taste of fall this week. Which means it’s prime porch sitting time!
The house we live in has the sorriest excuse for a front porch. But it’s still a porch and I’ll take it. Because the need to sit on the front porch is embedded in my genetic material.
Porch sitting is simply a way of life in the mountains. It’s for work, for socializing, for relaxing, and for keeping an eye on the neighborhood (people AND critters). Characters in my novels do all kinds of things on porches–cry over men, talk about weddings, wait for family, digest meals. Porches make an appearance in pretty much all of my stories.
Every dog I’ve ever had loved ducking under the porch. Sometimes wild animals move in under there (we had a skunk for a time). If the porch is high enough, kids will, too. The porch light serves as a beacon of welcome. Once, we slept on the porch.
On these cool, pre-autumn days, my husband and I will take a glass of wine out after dinner to sit on our skinny little excuse for a porch and enjoy some lazy talk. No serious topics, no important decisions, just chat. Because porches bring that out–that desire to idly talk about nothing in particular. At peace and in communion. Waving to the cars going by.
Probably, if we could get the people we don’t see eye-to-eye with to sit with us on a porch with a glass of lemonade (or something stronger), we’d learn that we have a lot more in common than we ever realized.
Just don’t disturb the bird nesting in that hanging basket. The eggs should hatch any day now.
My heart is heavy for the folks in Texas who are dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. They’re dealing with a horrific mess that won’t be tidied up quickly. But I do want them–and anyone else who feels like the worst has happened–to remember that God often does some of his best work through the worst messes.
We’d had floods and hurricanes before Floyd blew through Conway, South Carolina, on September 16, 1999. As a matter of fact, I owned my very own pair of chest waders. They were camouflage and they kept me dry when I had to park my car and wade the quarter of a mile in to our house overlooking the Waccamaw River.
Floyd didn’t amount to much in the way of hurricane winds, but it surely did dump an excess of rain. The problem with rain in a place where the land is flat and near the ocean, is that runoff has nowhere to go.
Although our house sat on a rise near the river and was a good three feet off the ground, the water just kept coming. We moved what we could to a neighbor’s second story bedroom. We wrapped the legs of the poster bed in trash bags and piled belongings on counters or on top of furniture we never liked. We loaded clothes into more garbage bags and stowed them in the kayak with our three dogs.
Then we abandoned ship, paddled to high ground, and drove to my in-law’s in upstate South Carolina.
When we returned a few days later, the water was still rising. When the water crested, the only part of my car still showing was the tip of the antennae. Water in the house stopped just shy of the light switches. On a perfectly sunny, early autumn afternoon, we paddled our kayak through a set of French doors and into the great room. Light reflected off the water and shimmered across the vaulted ceiling. There was a stillness. An unexpected peace.
That was in September. Less than four months later, in January of 2000, we loaded what we’d salvaged into two cars and a moving van and moved to Western North Carolina. Eighteen years later, life in the mountains is good. And mostly dry.
We still look around at the beauty of the mountains and the changing seasons and marvel at our good fortune. Neither one of us misses the ocean or the flat land or the long, hot summers. We’re right where we’re supposed to be.
And all it took to move us, was a hurricane.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call upon and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13, NIV)
*This is an abbreviated version of an essay I wrote for “When You Pass Through Waters: Words of Hope & Healing,” a collection of essays written to help raise funds for those affected by record flooding in SC in 2015.
It was in August of 2014 that my first, full-length novel released. We launched Miracle in a Dry Season with a bean supper and square dancing. It was the best day of my life after my wedding day. Talk about a dream come true!
So how’s the dream coming along three years later as I prepare for the launch of book #4, The Sound of Rain? Well, it’s still pretty dreamy.
Of course, reality does come crashing in. One book sells great. Another not so well. This book wins an award. That one gets several one-star reviews. (And sales DO NOT necessarily jibe with awards!)
Some days the writing flows like a mountain stream after the rain. Other days it’s an annoying, drippy faucet. Marketing is alternately a pleasure and sheer torture. Doing events when people turn up is a delight. The ones where I sit at a table alone are agony.
So basically, this dream is a lot like . . . life. Good days, bad days, mediocre-nothing-happening days.
But the upshot is, even on the bad days, this is still my dream and my passion. Stepping into the world of my characters remains one of my very favorite things to do. And hearing from readers who have been touched in some way by the stories I’m blessed to write . . . well, that’s pure gold.
I think, when you love doing something, the hard stuff that comes with it is a price you don’t mind paying. I don’t know how long this writing gig will last. But I do know that I’ll keep telling stories as long as God keeps giving me joy in the process.
One of our favorite summertime treats growing up on the farm was hand cranked ice cream. Of course, when you have a cow that delivers lots of creamy milk, the ingredients aren’t hard to come by. I suppose we made other flavors, but good ole vanilla is what I remember best.
Dad would set the churn up on the back porch (where we spent lots of time in the summer–see photo). Mom filled the internal cylinder with the appropriate ingredients–cream, sugar, vanilla. Then ice was added to the bucket, rock salt poured over the top, and the cranking began.
We always wanted to help crank, although I suspect we (or at least I) were more hindrance than help. The churn sat on the edge of the porch with the little drainage spout extending into the grass below. We’d stick our fingers in the drip, drip, drip, then taste and marvel at how salty it was.
Once Dad deemed the ice cream ready, we’d immediately pull out the dasher and dig in. Well, after we fought over who got to lick the dasher.
As an adult, my husband and I made ice cream with an old, hand-cranked maker his dad gave us. It was more work than I remembered! After the ice cream was “made,” my husband packed more ice around the cylinder, covered it with a towel and set it aside.
I asked him what the heck he was doing. “Curing it,” he said.
I was mystified.
Well, it turns out you can pack your freshly churned ice cream in ice (or stick it in the freezer) and it will harden. Just like store ice cream.
It was certainly delicious and, well, sturdier, after the ice cream had cured, but I think I’ll always prefer it uncured. Meltingly soft, so you almost have to hurry to eat it–kind of like summer itself, gone before you fully appreciate it.
Remember when June meant school was over and you had long, hot weeks stretching out ahead of you before you had to think about having a schedule again? Of course, I grew up on a farm, so there was plenty to DO with gardening and haying and general choring. But even so, summer seemed like such a FREE time.
I can even remember–are you ready for this? Being bored! Yes, I got bored on occasion and soon learned not to complain to my mother about it. “Bored? I can give you something to do . . .”
And boredom bred creativity. Out of boredom came the idea to transform a rotted out chestnut tree stump (American chestnut–HUGE stump) into a playhouse. We also had the idea to carpet a clearing in the woods with moss, carefully transplanting sheets of the stuff and then trusting the Good Lord to work his magic (and He did!). We also roamed and rambled, built dams in creeks, got dirty, skinned our knees, read books in the hayloft, went swimming, and a hundred other country summer things.
Of course we got in trouble, too. There were bad decisions and mistakes were made, but I don’t think any of my ER visits happened in the summer. (I do remember a broken toe, but you just wrap tape around that.)
The upshot is we survived and I think we were better for having summers to fill with our own schemes and plans. We worked hard when we had to and played harder when we didn’t. It was wonderful and it gave me such rich material for my writing.
Memorial Day is set aside for remembering those who have died in the service of our nation. Originally, it was proclaimed in honor of the Civil War dead by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. The order became official on May 5, 1868, and was first observed on May 30 of that year (next year is the 150th anniversary!).
Memorial Day has also been called Decoration Day because it was the tradition to decorate the graves of those who died in the war. The day was moved to the last Monday in May in 1971 to ensure a three-day weekend (cause that’s what really matters–right?).
In 2000 a resolution was passed to try and help remind Americans of the true meaning of the day. Signed by Pres. Bill Clinton it include a bullet “Encouraging individual department and agency personnel, and Americans everywhere, to pause for one minute at 3:00 p.m. (local time) on Memorial Day, to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all.”
So I encourage you at 3 p.m. this afternoon, to stop whatever you’re doing and say a prayer of thanks for those who have died to protect us and for those who are, even now, willing to do so.
I’ll be thanking God for some of the veterans I’ll be remembering:
James Walter Thomas Sr., my father-in-law, who served in WWII.
Bill Johnson, a neighbor, who was a WWII fighter pilot.
Arthur “Judd” Loudin, my great-uncle, who lost part of his lung in the war.
Gail Phillips, a cousin, who had WWII shrapnel taken out of his leg in my memory.
All of them are gone, but certainly not forgotten. Who are you remembering this Memorial Day?