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 . . .

Appalachian Thursday – Burning the Trash

IMG_0094I suppose it’s odd to feel sentimental about trash.

Even so, I caught a whiff of burning paper the other day and was transported back to childhood days and the chore of burning the household trash.

There wasn’t a trash pick-up service for a farm way out in the country. And if there had been, we probably wouldn’t have paid for it. So what did we do with our trash? Well, for starters, we didn’t make that much of it. When you harvest a fair amount of your food, there’s a whole lot less packaging to mess with.

If it was glass, we washed it and reused it. If it was paper or cardboard it went in a paper grocery sack in the kitchen trash can. If it was foodstuffs, it went in a big bowl and either the dog ate it or it went in the garden for compost. Anything else went in the metal garbage can that was emptied just a few times a year. I won’t tell you where (NOT environmentally friendly).

Back to that bag in the kitchen . . . that was the burn bag. Typically, my older brother got to be in charge of burning the trash. There was a cinder block trash burner beside the garden–tall in the back, mid-height on the sides, low in the front. I’m pretty sure the ashes were scattered over the garden periodically.

We loved burning the trash. We’d find bits of paper, dry grasses, or sticks to make it last longer. We’d poke and prod to make sure every bit was consumed. There was something magical about watching flames eat a page of newsprint with a whoosh. Or watching the slow lick of flames up the side of a cereal box.

I kind of wish we burned our trash even now. I realize burning isn’t automatically better than burying trash in a landfill. But I do maintain it’s pleasanter. And much nicer for toasting a marshmallow.

Plus, it reminds me of being a kid.

What IS the Reason for the Season?

nativityI keep hearing folks admonish the world to stop focusing on presents and holiday trappings. Rather, focus on the reason for the season. Which is Jesus, right?

Except I think we get mixed up about the reason for the season. I mean, what would Christmas look like if it really were just about Jesus? Sit with that a minute.

There’s a lot more than presents and fancy Christmas dinners that would go out the window if the season really were all about Christ and him crucified (because crucified is the whole point!). Maybe even some good things like time with family and church programs and nativity scenes.

I think our biggest Christian holidays boil down to two things:

  1. He is come!
  2. He is risen!

To take that a bit further. He came to die for YOU and for ME, but he’s not dead. And really, there’s only one way to celebrate that–tell someone.

So, today, I’m telling you. You who are having a remarkably perfect Christmas. And you who’s Christmas is just awful. You who don’t have enough fingers and toes to count your blessings and you sitting alone, steeped in sadness.

Christ came as a vulnerable baby, lived a perfect life without sin, and then sacrificed himself for YOU. And if you want, you can live forever with him. It really is the perfect gift and this Christmas my wish is that we’ll get to spend eternity together.

Jesus loves you. That, I think, is the reason for the season.


Just One Week Till Christmas!

church-doorsAre you ready?

Tree lights twinkle in the window, I’ve finished my shopping, made a pan of fudge, even sent out some actual Christmas cards . . . I guess I’m ready.

Do you remember Christmas Eve when you were a kid? Lying in bed, eyes wide open, listening for reindeer on the roof or the jingle of sleigh bells? Then, somehow, actually falling asleep and waking in the small hours of the morning to wonder if you could get up yet. And finally running to the tree to find all those wonderful gifts.

When’s the last time you were that excited about anything?

Of course, by the end of the day I also remember being tired from too little sleep, worn out with excitement and cousins, and somehow finding my gifts–as nice as they were–less exciting than they’d been that morning. The shine always wore off . . .

Maybe that’s because I’ve typically prepared for the wrong thing. It’s easy to say Christmas is about more than presents and decorations and food, but it’s hard to live that out. It’s hard to hold on to the idea of God incarnate when the world is so determined to draw our attention with all the little gods of the season.

So this week–this week leading up to the celebration of Christ’s birth–my goal is to prepare my heart for Christ and him crucified. Which the world would say is a funny thing to think about at Christmas. But which my heart tells me is exactly what I should be preparing and living for every day . . . with excited anticipation.

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 – And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

Please Stop Asking Authors THIS Question

4 booksI love talking about my books and my writing. And it’s so nice when friends, family, readers, and others ask for details.

But there’s one question that comes up over and over that I simply don’t know how to answer. It usually comes up in that quiet time after the flurry of releasing a book is over but before I’m really promoting the next one.

The dreaded question is some variation of . . . How are your books doing?

Oh wait, I do know how to answer it. I DON’T KNOW.

And even when I kind of know, I still don’t know.

Here’s the problem. I get statements twice a year. Sure, they list how many books have been sold . . . as of three or four months ago. So I kind of have an idea of how many books moved a while back. Of course, if a new book has released in the meantime, I don’t know much about that one at all.

Oh but wait. The statement doesn’t actually list how many books SOLD, it lists how many books have been ordered by bookstores and other vendors. And guess what–they get to return the books they don’t sell.

For example: Say a June statement shows that 1,000 copies of a book published in January had been ordered as of February. The December statement may show that 250 of those were returned as of August. Does that mean 750 sold? Maybe. But not necessarily. Another 250 might have been returned in September.


So here are a few questions I’d love for you to ask instead:

  • How’d you come up with the idea for that last book?
  • What are you working on next? (I’ll be vague, but it’s still nice to be asked.)
  • What do you like to read when you’re not writing?
  • Or any of a dozen what’s-your-writing-life-like questions.

Basically, ask me about writing. Because I really don’t know how my book is doing . . .

Advent – Looking Forward to Christmas

YChristmas 1974esterday was the first Sunday of Advent. Which, in my book, means the Christmas season has begun.

Advent is traditionally a time of preparation, of looking forward to celebrating the birth of Christ and to his return.

Do you remember what it was like to look forward to Christmas when you were a kid? I know I was on pins and needles. I’d mailed off my list to Santa. We’d be baking cookies, singing carols, and decorating the house. There might have been a visit to some obviously lower level Santa at the mall. The anticipation was building and . . .

. . . I was EXCITED!!

So how do I look forward to Christmas these days? Hmmmm.

There are presents to buy, decorations to put up, parties to host or attend, cards to mail, food to prepare, family to wrangle, and expectations to . . . well . . . fail to meet.

Oh, and then there’s all the church stuff. Greening the church, our ladies’ Christmas party, a Christmas program, a Christmas Eve service . . .

And somewhere in there maybe, just maybe, pausing to remember what’s actually worth looking forward to–what I really should be anticipating. In a word–Jesus.

The Christmas season is upon us. We all know how easy it is to be swept up by our to-do lists and to end up just checking off each day until suddenly, Christmas has come and gone.

This Advent season I encourage you to pause and remember that tingle of anticipation you felt when you were a kid. And then to realize that while you may not believe in Santa Claus anymore, you still have something truly wonderful to look forward to.

Merry Christmas.


Appalachian Thursday–Feeling Thankful

I traveled to West Virginia this week for an early Thanksgiving with my family. Having enjoyed turkey and all the trimmings there, my southern husband and I will enjoy shrimp and grits today. (And sweet potato pie–you can’t let all the traditions go!) Here are pictures of some of what and who I’m thankful for this year. How about you? What (or who) are you thankful for today?