Appalachian Thursday–Signs of Spring?

GE DIGITAL CAMERAEvery year a few hardy daffodils jump the gun and bloom in February.

Every year we act surprised.

Somehow it seems too soon, but I’ve looked back at notes from five years ago and this is nothing new. Every February the daffodils unfurl seemingly fragile yellow petals. My hostas send tightly furled leaves poking up through the soil and sometimes there’s even a buttercup  or dandelion smiling up at me from the dead lawn. I can’t help but think about how we often have at least one snow in April and I want to warn my flowers to take a steadying breath and wait.

At the same time, I love seeing signs of spring. I love getting hints that soft, warm days are right around the corner. Soon enough, I’ll be getting my daily dose of Vitamin D from the sun again. Of course, there can still be icy, wintry, northern days as well. More than once I’ve seen apple blossom bitten back by a late frost. The old timers look at the daffodils and shake their heads. “We’ll have winter, yet,” they say.

I have a terrible habit of looking for “signs” in every area of my life. All green lights on my way downtown? Good sign. A rainbow as I’m on my way home to the farm? Great sign! Dead bird in the road when I walk Thistle? Bad sign.

The catch is, I spend too much time looking for signs and not nearly enough living in the moment. I’m too busy trying to guess what comes next. Planning and anticipating can be good things, but they can also become debilitating. Spring and the future will both come when they’re ready.

In God’s own, good time.

Appalachian Thursday – Cover Reveal

While my fourth novel–The Sound of Rain–won’t officially release until early November, I can now share the cover with you. And I’m head over heels for it!

The designers said they wanted to do something a little different this time and I offered lots of suggestions and samples of covers I thought conveyed the “feel” of this story . . . which probably didn’t help them at all.

But that’s okay because Bethany House designers are some of the best in the business and they can be trusted! So here it is . . .

THOMAS_SOUNDOFRAIN_FR&SP.indd

Sigh.

I love the antique, nostalgic feel which is my BRAND y’all! And then those raindrops. And the e.e. cummings lack of capital letters in the title. Lovely!

And, as you can see, Larkin is NOT blonde, but has brown to auburn hair. Well of course she does. As soon as I saw the dress, I wrote it into the story (I was working on edits at the time). It makes me happy to “find” the cover when I’m reading, so I assume others like that, too.

Here’s one version of the back cover copy:

Judd Markley is a hard working coal miner who rarely thinks much past tomorrow until he loses his brother—and nearly his own life—in a mine cave-in. Vowing never to enter the darkness of a mine again, he leaves all he knows in West Virginia to escape to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It’s 1954, the seaside community is thriving, and Judd soon hires on with a timber company.

Larkin Heyward’s life in Myrtle Beach is uncomplicated, mostly doing volunteer work and dancing at the Pavilion. But she dreams of one day doing more—maybe moving to the hollers of Kentucky to help the poor children of Appalachia. But she’s never even met someone who’s lived there—until she encounters Judd, the newest employee at her father’s timber company.

Drawn together in the wake of a devastating hurricane, Judd and Larkin each seek answers to what tomorrow will bring. As opposition rises against following their divergent dreams, they realize that it may take a miracle for them to be together.

Appalachian Thursday–The Outhouse at My Wedding

Dad at church
When we say it’s a one-room church, we’re serious.

We celebrated our 20th anniversary yesterday, which seems impossible since we only just met, fell in love, and decided to spend our lives together! But here we are, a chunk of LIFE under our belts. I think you could say our wedding was pretty uniquely Appalachian with some special, “rural” touches. I say it was perfect.

We got married at Laurel Fork United Methodist Church in West Virginia. I’m the fourth or fifth generation in my family to attend the little, white church on the hill and it was where I wanted to pledge my heart to my husband for life.

We invited our friends and family, but didn’t expect many to make the trek to Nowhere, WV, for the nuptials. Those who did travel from SC (where we lived then) were encouraged to use the facilities at their hotel before coming to the church 30 minutes away in Laurel Fork.

Ha-ha, they thought, a West Virginia joke. Nope. Even today the only bathroom is an outhouse. Of course, some adventurous souls might have enjoyed the experience, but I’m pretty sure everyone held it until the reception back in town.

When I was a kid, we actually had TWO outhouses at church. One for the ladies and one for the gentlemen. The ladies had two stalls (fancy) each with a separate door for privacy. It was painted white and tucked back in the trees behind the church for discretion. Unfortunately, it’s leafy, protected eaves seemed to be prime spots for wasps to build their nests, but you often have to sacrifice something for the sake of your dignity.

The men’s outhouse was a much roomier one-seater with an open end that served as an, ahhh, urinal. It was closer to the doors of the church, which often made it preferable when I was young. The wooden seat was worn remarkably smooth and there was always a stack of church bulletins in place of toilet paper. Waste not, want not.

And honestly? It wasn’t unpleasant to use. Oh, it wasn’t great on a January morning, but in general, it served just fine. It smelled of worn wood as much as, well, what you’d expect, and members of the church maintained both outhouses well. MUCH nicer than any port-o-let I’ve ever been in.

Outhouses have become something of a redneck or hillbilly joke, but I’ve used them and they’re no joke. They’re just the best way to deal with a necessity in a place with no running water. And trust me, if your power went out (along with the well pump), you’d be glad to have one.wedding day

Because we need reminders . . .

Reach outIf you read last Monday’s post, you know I shared my experience of having a minor stroke. I’m ten days out now, and doing remarkably well. The only lingering effects seem to be some bruised ribs from falling and continued numbness in two finger of my left hand.

But I think the numbness is fading.

And as weird as it sounds, losing the numbness makes me a little sad.

Because something happened to me. Something significant. And I know it happened and wasn’t just a crazy dream because these two fingers feel odd. I know it because my left hand doesn’t work quite as well when I’m tired.

You know how it can be when something dramatic happens. You lose your job. You fall in love. You wreck your car. You inherit some money. Something unexpected happens and it changes your life.

But then . . .

You get used to the new thing. You find a new job. You take love for granted. You buy a new car. You tuck the money in the bank for a rainy day. It’s not a big deal anymore, it’s just your new normal.

The Israelites were chased by the Egyptians right up to the edge of the Red Sea. They were done for and they knew it. Then God parted the sea and destroyed the army chasing them. Talk about dramatic. Talk about life-changing.

But what did the Israelites do just three days later? They grumbled because there was no water to drink. I’m not saying it wasn’t scary, not having good water, but they’d seen God part a sea three days earlier. And then they thought he’d let them die of thirst.

How quickly we forget.

I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to forget the way God has been oh-so-present with me throughout this stroke experience. I don’t want to forget the lessons he’s taught me. I don’t want to forget how blessed I am. How beloved.

And each time I brush my hair back and notice the strangeness of my fingers; each time I rub my dog’s ears and fail to feel their silkiness; each time I sit down to type and have to trust my hands to find the way without the fine brush of fingertips against keys . . .

. . . then I remember. God is with me. And this, too, is part of his plan. I need reminding and so, am grateful for it.

Why I DON’T want to win the lottery

snowglobeI was driving to a speaking engagement Sunday morning, listening to the radio. Every other story was about how no one had won the US Powerball Lottery which meant the next drawing–on Wednesday–would likely reach $1.3 billion.

I don’t play the lottery for several reasons, but as I listened to news anchors chatter on, I thought, why not buy ONE ticket? If God wants to bless me with a billion dollars, the least I can do is buy a ticket. Right?

Then I began to play that mental game–you know the one–it used to be “What Would You Do with a Million Dollars,” but I guess that’s a billion now.

I imagined being able to take care of my parents and family. No more worries about health care or education. At work that fundraising goal we’ve set? MET. Those long-range plans? Done. My church would be getting that new roof it needs. And those fabulous, historic homes I look at just for fun? We could pick the one we like best.

But then . . . my palms started sweating a little. And I could feel my stomach getting tight. Because you can’t just DO all that stuff. You have to set up accounts, and trusts, and endowments. You have to work through financial advisors you can trust. You have to deal with tax repercussions. Not to mention the, ahem, people who’d like a slice of the pie that just fell in your lap.

And suddenly your worth is tied up in dollar signs and you wonder if people like you because of who you are or what you have. That new book I hope my editor likes–will he accept it just because of this new level of name recognition? Or because it’s good?

And that, I think, was when I decided NOT to buy a ticket. One of life’s great satisfactions is accomplishing difficult things through skill, perseverance, prayer, and . . . help.

There are days when I’m pretty sure I’d let someone wave a magic wand and fix my problems. But in hindsight, I’m mostly glad that God has sent me challenges to shape me, mold me, and hopefully make me just the tiniest bit more Christlike as I walk through this world on my way to eternity.

And in eternity, a billion dollars is nothing more than a cloud of glitter settling inside a snow globe.

Appalachian Thursday — Cover Reveal

With All My HeartMy Mom was kind of sad when she found out she could only ready my novella, Appalachian Serenade, digitally. My mother-in-law has yet to read it since she wouldn’t know how to read something on a screen.

But soon, the whole world will be able to hold Appalachian Serenade in their hands and turn the crisp pages. As a bonus, there will be four other novellas in the With All My Heart collection by some pretty fantastic authors.

I’m not sure which is more exciting, finally having a print copy of my novella, or being grouped with the likes of Karen Witemeyer, Jen Turano, Melissa Jagears, and Jody Hedlund!

With All My Heart is due out next summer, but in the meantime here’s a look at the cover. Bethany House aimed for a somewhat general image since all five stories deal with different heroines in varied time periods and settings.

I LOVE it. Mostly for the rhododendron spilling over a split rail fence.

Can you get any more Appalachian than that?!?

Appalachian Serenade: A Novella
Delilah Morrissey has always wanted to be a mother, but when she becomes a young widow, that dream seems farther away than ever. Unable to continue to live alone in Chicago, her only option is to accept her sister’s offer to move in with her family back in West Virginia. Will Delilah have the faith to pursue a new dream–even if it means giving up the old?

Appalachian Thursday–The Golden Horseshoe

Golden HorseshoeI make it a policy to avoid regret as much as possible. It just doesn’t do any good. But there is ONE thing I regret.

I wish I’d studied harder for the Golden Horseshoe Test when I was in eighth grade.

I am NOT a Lady of the Golden Horseshoe although my father IS a Knight of the Golden Horseshoe. He studied harder than I did. And now I am the keeper of his horseshoe pin, which is almost as good as having won it myself.

Of course, you’re wondering what the heck I’m going on about. Here’s the summary from the WV Department of Education’s website:

One of the highlights of the eighth-grade year is the opportunity for a student to become a Knight or Lady of the Golden Horseshoe. This prestigious program takes its name from the golden horseshoes given to the early explorers of West Virginia. In 1716 the Governor of the Virginia colony, Alexander Spotswood, saw the need for exploration of the land west of the Allegheny Mountains, most of which is now West Virginia. The governor organized a party of about 50 men, all of whom adopted the pledge, “Sic jurat transcendere monte,” which means “Thus he swears to cross the mountains.” Governor Spotswood presented each member of his party with a small golden horseshoe to commemorate the bravery of those who crossed the mountains into Western Virginia, beginning the Golden Horseshoe tradition.”

Pretty romantic stuff, right? If you’re one of the recipients you even get knighted with a real sword.

Now, lest you think I just wasn’t bright in eighth grade, here’s a sample question: “On June 24, 1776, Virginia’s Committee of Safety sent 13 prisoners captured from the British sloop Oxford to this present-day West Virginia county.”

Yeah, yeah, you knew right away it was Berkley County, but trust me this will trip most people up.

Or how about this one? “This Barbour County community was named for the son of Henry Gassaway Davis.”

I actually guessed that one correctly as “Junior” since my mom lives near there. I wonder if she knew that’s where the name came from?

It’s too late for me to go back to middle school and study harder, but I have learned that the state typically hands out a few honorary horseshoes each year. So now that’s my dream. If this writing gig pans out, maybe I’ll get famous enough to earn an honorary Golden Horseshoe.