And So We Choose This Thing

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Thirty one years. Today. I stood before him in a long white gown that cost more than my father wanted to spend, but he bought it for me anyway, because it was the one and he was ‘the one’ and my Dad would have bought me the moon if I said I wanted it.

I stood before him, this man I loved with all my being, both of us still more kids than adults, at 20 and 21. Kids who thought we knew what we were doing but the only thing we really knew was that we couldn’t live without the other. I stood before him amongst a crowd of friends and family and fragrant roses and I repeated the words my father-in-law said in a voice barely above a whisper, and before I knew what was happening we were husband and wife. And holy cow. There was no going back.

People thought it wouldn’t last. Oh, nobody was impolite enough to say it, but I know some friends thought we were nuts. Some adults shook their heads and probably regretted the amount they spent on crystal and silver and fine china for what would surely become another sad statistic, a failed marriage.

We’re still using that silver and china, though there’s not much of the crystal left. And sure, maybe the odds were stacked against us. Maybe the long nights of a resident doctor who couldn’t come home when his three-month old wouldn’t stop crying and his wife was about to lose her last nerve would have taken their toll.

Maybe the selfishness and petty arguments and all the things we said and did that we didn’t really mean, maybe those would have turned the tide at some point. Made it easy to walk out. Maybe raising two kids and being an island doctor where everybody knows your name and most of your business and when you’re young and stupid and a bit insecure and you feel like you might need to be in the in-crowd and all the parties and poor choices made . . .  maybe those would have over time eroded what was once a solid foundation. Maybe.

I’ll tell you, we had those moments. Everybody has those moments. Because marriage. Marriage is not easy. Not. Easy. If it is, if you’ve never had a single argument or thought one bad thing about your spouse or wanted to throw a plate across the table (we never did this, though I wanted to at times and he probably did too) well . . . if you’ve never had those moments, I won’t say you’re doing it wrong, but I might want to check your pulse.

Here’s what so many people don’t get. 

Love is more than just the gooshy feeling you get in the pit of your stomach. Love is more than catching each other’s eye across a crowded room and sending silent messages that make you want to dissolve into laughter. Love is more than knowing when to say the words and when to stay silent. Love is more than all the emotions being together evokes.

Love is choosing to sacrifice yourself for that person.

Choosing them, their happiness and well-being above your own. And sure, you can work that out and call it being a team or a partnership or whatever worldly tag you want to tack on it, but it’s more than that. Love, true love, the kind that lasts, that’s something spiritual. That’s a gift from God. And the thing about gifts? We get to choose whether to accept them. We can take a gift and thank the giver and promptly stick the thing on the shelf and let it gather dust. Or we can unwrap it and choose to use it.

Marriage is a choice. Staying married is a choice.

You choose. You choose him on the day you say I do and you choose him every single day after that. You choose him when you trip over the pile of clothes on the bedroom floor in the middle of the night. You choose him when he drinks all the milk and leaves dirty dishes on the counter and you choose him over every stupid thing that drives you bonkers but it doesn’t really matter in the long run because . . . he is yours. You choose him. And he chooses you. Believe me, if I listed everything I do that probably drives him up the wall, this would be one long blog. Though I know I am not the easiest person in the world to live with at times, I also know he chooses me too, and I thank God for it.

After thirty one years of choosing to love one another, there are still days when I don’t think we’ve got anything figured out at all. But those days get fewer and far between as each year passes. Time together gets sweeter and more precious. We’ve seen other marriages fail. We’ve cried over them. Prayed over them and hoped to God that something might change, and I think that makes us more determined in our own choices. More determined to love anyway. To laugh more. To be more intentional in our relationship with one another. And we don’t have it all together. We probably never will because we’re just human. We will still fail. But we will continue to choose to forgive. Choose to forget. And always choose each other over all else.

How? I’ve been asked. How in the world do you still have this happy marriage after so many years? And there’s really only one answer to that.

Because of Jesus.

Because He gives us the strength. He gives us the love. He gives life and breath and everything we never knew we needed and I can tell you . . .without Him? Yeah. It’s hard enough with Him. But without that trust, that mutual faith and foundation we placed this relationship on from day 1? Maybe we would be that statistic, who knows. I hope not. But we chose Him. We choose Him. And through Him, we choose each other. Over and over and over again.

These words, I know you hear them at almost every wedding, but there’s a reason for that. It’s because they are true. Words to live by. Every day.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

And so we choose to do this thing. To keep doing it until our last breath together.

We choose love.

Is It Supposed To Hurt This Much?

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That was a text I got from my daughter a few hours into labour.

“Is it supposed to hurt this much?”

I wanted to laugh, but I didn’t. Because, yes. It is.

And it does.

And it will continue to.

With every challenge that comes with being a parent. Being a mother or father or husband or wife or grandparent or just being . . . living this life.

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Life hurts this much. Is it supposed to? I don’t know.

I wish I could say with complete certainty that no, no it’s not supposed to, but what do I do with that when it does? What do I do when life takes an unexpected turn and everything goes off the rails and we’re suddenly facing down giants we never imagined existed? What do I do when there aren’t any answers to all my pathetic questions and all I feel is inexplicable anger and confusion and sadness and there’s no STOP button?

Is it supposed to hurt this much?

 “‘Cause you can’t jump the track,we’re like cars on a cable
And life’s like an hourglass, glued to the table
No one can find the rewind button girl,
So cradle your head in your hands
And breathe, just breathe,
Oh breathe, just breathe . . . ”

That soulful Anna Nalick song from years back still gets me every time.

‘Cause you can’t jump the tracks.

Cradle your head in your hands. And breathe. Just breathe.

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Breathe out all the fears and all the prayers that can’t be voiced because the words won’t come. Breathe them out and hope they’re heard anyway.

As long as we still have breath, we still have life. Hope. I think this is still true. I’m trying to convince myself it is. Trying to convince myself that all this, these unforeseen challenges our family is facing, is happening for a reason. Though for the life of me I can’t make sense of it.

I wrote on my Facebook page a week or so ago that I feel like a bad Christian when life hurts too much and I just don’t get it. I feel like I’m supposed to hold my head high and slap on a smile and say something like this too shall pass, God is in control, we’ll just keep praying . . . but honest? I don’t feel the assurance I think I’m supposed to. And I get that knot in my stomach as fear rises and everything I thought I believed in is pushed beyond the limit. Faith is tested. And faltering.

Is it supposed to hurt this much? 

I’ve been in this place before, under different circumstances. And I thought that valley was bad. My lamentations then were nothing compared to this current feeling of helplessness. Desperate to fix things that you have no power over and trying to be strong because they need you to be but all you feel is small and weak most days, and nights are long and restless, filled with unpleasant thoughts and clammy, clinging fear.

And yet still I know others walk a road filled with obstacles far greater than the ones we face. Their giants loom larger and more menacing, their nightmares far more frightening. But this road, our road? It’s still hard. It’s still rough and winding and treacherous in its own way and some days feels impossible to traverse. And I guess we can own that. I guess it’s okay to want to find a detour, a short cut, a better way. But when there isn’t one?

You gotta keep going.

I learned this lesson a long time gone and now I know it’s the only way forward. One foot in front of the other. One day at a time. And if you need a hand to hold onto or another ten feet of rope because yours is frayed and that knot you tied in desperation is slowly coming unraveled?

Yell for more rope.

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“And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went to the top of the hill. It turned out that whenever Moses raised his hands, Israel was winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, Amalek was winning. But Moses’ hands got tired. So they got a stone and set it under him. He sat on it and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on each side. So his hands remained steady until the sun went down.” Exodus 17: 10-13

I love this scene, this vision of old Moses losing strength, unable to lift his hands one more time. And there come his friends alongside him, grab hold tight and lift his arms for him. This picture I get in my head kind of makes me cry a little. Because I’m so grateful for my Exodus 17 friends. The ones who hold you up when you can’t stand anymore. The ones who pray when your voice is gone, throat too tight to speak. The ones who reach out even when there’s really nothing to say, just to let you know they’re there. And they don’t mind when you ask the same question over and over again.

Is it supposed to hurt this much? 

Maybe. If only for this reason. To see the good in others, to know love and concern and realize the world isn’t so bad after all, and to be heard and seen and understood and held up in thought and prayer. And to know that when the tables turn, as they surely will, you can be there in that way for them . . . so maybe it is.

Maybe it is.

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Why You Keep Trying And When It’s Time To Quit.

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How did it get to be Friday already?! Well, here we are, and I hope you’ve had a good week. I have some thoughts rattling around lately, that I figure I might try to express, because we’ve been talking about this stuff, my friends and I, and maybe you have too.

Fractured Relationships. 

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Yowch. Yeah. I know. That’s most of us. Hold up the hand, shake the head, oh no, we’re not going there. That hurts. There’s no point. Done with all that crazy.

I write about this stuff. Family Drama. Broken relationships.

All my books, right from the start, have centered around family. If I had to answer why, I’m not sure I could. I think though, growing up as an only child, I was fascinated by the idea of a big family. I envied my friends who had siblings and big extended families. I had cousins around my age, but they lived thousands of miles away and we rarely saw each other.  Once I reached adulthood however, I realized that not every family was The Waltons. Stuff happens. And it’s hard. Because life is complicated and messy and we’re all different.

But what happens when it’s too hard? Too much to bear?

In my new Reader’s Group on Facebook, (yes, you can join if you’d like), we’ve been talking about how sometimes there is no repairing a broken relationship. When that other person simply won’t budge, sometimes you have to walk away. And that’s the hardest thing, especially when it’s family.

Is it for the best? Sometimes. I always think the rule of thumb is your own mental health. If you know you can’t take what’s going on a minute longer, if it’s worn you down thin and you’re in a bad place because of it, it’s time. Time to walk away. Doesn’t mean you love the person any less, but if you’ve tried and tried and tried, I think you get a pass. And if they walk away from you first, I’m not sure it does any good to go chasing after them.

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When I searched for my birth family, my dream of that large family suddenly came true. I’ve talked lots about my sister, my birthmother’s daughter, and how from the minute we connected we were and have remained, very close. The gift of that relationship is something I will always be so grateful for. But I also found other siblings on my birthfather’s side. Suddenly I had more brothers and sisters than I knew what to do with

And then I didn’t.

For reasons that still aren’t clear to me years later, that side of the family chose to end our relationship. After meeting and sharing stories and finding commonalities, suddenly it was over. And I didn’t see it coming. Those of you who know me well can imagine the impact that had on me. The fact that I’ve not even written about it until today might give you some idea.

I don’t deal well with rejection. Well, who does, really? And it’s hard not to blame yourself, question yourself and wonder what you did or didn’t do or could have done differently. But what good does that do in the end? What good does it do to keep reaching out, hoping they’ll change their mind and things would go back to the way they were? In my case, that didn’t happen. And honestly, and I hope I can say this without bitterness, it’s their loss. Mine too. But I understand that sometimes life gets too overwhelming. Sometimes it’s too hard. And they couldn’t deal. Chose not to.

So when I say sometimes it’s best to walk away, I don’t say that lightly. Because I know how hard it is. I know how excruciatingly painful it can be to keep trying, to keep reaching out, only to be met with silence. And that does something deep down, rips at the soul and threatens to tear it right in half. That’s when it’s time to walk. Time to let go and trust God for the rest. Time to accept the choice already made for you.

Do you know what I mean? Have you been there? Are you there right now, weighing the pros and cons and hoping against hope that things will change?

 

I know. I know that kind of hurt. And I’m not going to tell you everything will feel better in the morning. But I am going to suggest you take stock of all the good in your life. The people surrounding you who do love you, who do care about you and want only the best for you. Those are the people worth investing in. I have many such people in my life, thank God, and even though I probably drive them a little nuts at times, I am secure in those relationships. I trust them and I know they’ve got my back. Take the balm of those beautiful relationships and use it to soothe the hurt.

Is there hope? Always. I truly believe that. Forgiveness? Healing? I’d like to think so. Would I be open to a fresh start with someone who walked away? Well. That one’s not so easy to answer, is it? But I’d like to say yes. Would you?

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She’s Here!

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I know. I left you all hanging. Well. The three people that read this blog on occasion. Ha. I can’t blame you, sporadic blogger that I am. Anyway. One week yesterday, our little Annabel Rose made her dramatic entrance, and I have to say, though I may be slightly biased, she is perfect. And I am officially “Mimi”.

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And as you can see, Papa is already smitten. I’m happy and relieved to report that Mom and Dad are doing just fine, in fact we’re in awe at how smoothly they’ve stepped into their new role as parents. It’s amazing to watch, and even though they’re tired and emotional and think they don’t know what they’re doing, they do, and we’re so proud of them. Annabel is one lucky baby to have such wonderful parents!

I’m sure my Facebook friends are getting a little tired of baby pictures already, but this is all so fun and new and miraculous . . . it really is true that your life changes. It was true when I had Sarah, and then Chris, and now, watching my baby have a baby (well, I didn’t watch it, but I was waiting nearby), it reminds me again just how precious life is. What a gift we’re given. Day after day. And I guess that’s what I’m thinking about this evening.

Life.

Connecting.

Really and truly being there for one another. It’s hard to do sometimes. Hard to reach out when you’re tired or stressed or scared of rejection. There are a million reasons why we don’t make more effort, be kinder, say the words, do the things . . . but what if we did? What if we went to visit that person in the hospital? What if we took that meal to the new mom or the elderly shut in? What if we made that phone call? What if . . .

I know there are so many of you already doing it. Already reaching out and being a friend, being the hands and feet, and I’m so glad you are. But me . . . I can do better. I don’t think I’m alone in that corner. I know I’m not. But when I meet a new life, when I hold that precious bundle and think of all the things she has in front of her, all the opportunities that lie ahead, I can’t help but take stock. I can’t help but wonder what I could do better. What I can change and improve on. Because she’ll be watching.

And that’s humbling. Daunting. And challenging.

But maybe that’s what we need. Maybe we need to stare into a pair of brand new eyes and ask ourselves what they’ll see when they look up at us. What will we want them to see?

Reflection is a good thing. Taking action is even better.

Would you agree?

Annabel Rose

We’re Waiting For You!

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Dear Baby E,

You’re late. I suspect this may be a good indication that we will get along well. (I think this trait may come from both sides!).

As your grandmother, I reserve the right to tell you what’s up, and rest assured I probably will, whether you like it or not. Heads up – from age 11 to 18, you probably won’t like it at all. But I know you’ll have been raised right so you’ll smile politely and half agree, then you’ll go home and grumble. And that’s okay. But I hope you and I have the kind of relationship where you feel safe enough to grumble to my face. So I can grumble back and then we can talk about our grumblings. Like Bears. Bears grumble a lot. But that’s the best kind of friendship there is. The ones where you’re comfortable enough to grumble together.

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So you’re getting ready to make your grand entrance into this world. (A week late, but I’ve already pointed that out). And you’ve probably heard a few things over the last 9 months from your cozy warm spot inside Mom’s belly, and you may be a little freaked about coming out. I don’t blame you. But here’s the thing.

The world is still a good place. 

I know, I know. That’s not what you’ve heard. I get it. But I have to believe it is. I have to believe that there are still really, really good people around us. I happen to know a few of them. You’ll be meeting them soon, but here’s a preview.

Your Dad. Well, let’s start with the super cool fact that your dad is a firefighter!! Yeah, he can drive the firetruck!!

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And spray the big hose! How cool is that? (We don’t have red engines here, sorry). But basically what your dad does is a service, which means he’s ready to lay his life down for others at a moments notice. Right now he doesn’t do a whole lot of running into burning buildings, and we’re okay with that, but he knows how. Your Dad also has a great sense of humor, a huge heart, he’s really smart, and he’s pretty much a walking encyclopedia, so keep that in mind when you need to research for school projects. Best of all, he loves Jesus, and he loves your Mom beyond measure, so that makes him tops in our book. Trust me, I know all about great Dads, and you’ve snagged yourself a keeper.

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Your Mom – Well, you’ll see as soon as you arrive, but you have a gorgeous mom. She is truly beautiful, not only on the outside, but on the inside too. Though I suspect she’ll be a wee bit tired when you first meet. There’s so much to say about her, but I think you’ll figure out pretty quickly that she’s super cool and chill. Your mom has the best laugh. She got it from her Dad, more about him in a bit. She’s also got a wicked sense of humor – the sarcasm gene runs strong, you have been warned. (I take full credit for this trait). She is also the most loving person you will ever meet. She went to Africa and Romania and loved on little kids. She’s got the biggest brightest smile that makes you feel right at home and I bet you have the same one. I can’t wait to see the two of you smiling at each other. I will probably cry and pretend there’s dust in the air. Speaking of crying, sorry to say but you’re pretty much emotionally screwed from the get go. You come from two extremely emotional families. With the exception of myself, who is finding keeping those emotions at bay more difficult as each year passes, everyone can cry at the drop of a hat. So you might want to invest in the Kleenex company. Your mom loves music, and she loves to shop (my apologies, it’s my fault), and she is the best photographer, ever. You will have the most beautiful baby pictures. And all the pictures for the rest of your life. You’re set. So hopefully you don’t inherit your dad’s aversion to cameras, because . . . well, it’s going to work in your favor to just smile and be adorable. She can also be a bit of a worrier (my apologies again), so if you can do your best not to cause her any anxiety ever . . . okay, never mind. She’ll worry anyway. It’s a Mom thing. But seriously, do your mom a favor and come out soon, Baby E, because she’s really anxious to meet you!

Your Uncle and Aunt – what can we say about these two? Well, for starters, the first wedding you attend (more than likely), will be theirs!! How cool is that going to be?! You’ll get to be all dressed up fancy and hopefully be on your best behavior, but you’ll only be just over a year old, so even if you throw a fit, nobody will care. (But listen, you can only get away with that for a few months okay?). So these are two of the people that will spoil you rotten. Of course Papa and I will too, but we’ll see you more so we probably have to throw in a bit of discipline now and then. These guys are going sing you songs, (they might even write you one because they’re pretty talented in that arena), you should be very musically inclined as you will have it from both sides of your family. They will take you fun places (all the rides your parents say no to) and give you all the ice cream you want. Just don’t throw up in their car. Your uncle might try to tell you inappropriate jokes from time to time. Just ignore him. They are full of light and love and laughter, and you’re going to have so much fun getting to know them. They are really good at lots of stuff, really fun to be around, and they are going to love you to the moon and back.

Your Papa – I’m probably a little biased, since I am still crazy in love with the man after 30 plus years, but I think your Papa is the best. He’s got this amazing smile, and the biggest, craziest laugh, it might startle you at the beginning, but you’ll get used to it, and I bet it’s going to be one of the things that makes YOU laugh! Your Papa just LOVES. And I mean loves . . . he sees the good in everyone, puts the rest of us to shame, really, so learn from him. Your Papa loves taking care of people. He learned that from his dad, your Great-Papa. You won’t get to meet him, but he was an amazing man, and he would have loved you to bits. He took care of people as a pastor, and your Papa loves taking care of kids. He’s very smart and knows how to make sick kids all better. That’s pretty cool, huh? Papa has a great sense of humor (are you sensing a theme here?), he loves to play guitar and worship Jesus, you want to see him bouncing up on that stage some day, he’s crazy passionate about it and it is awesome! Papa will do anything for anyone. Papa loves his family like we’re the best thing on earth, which to him we are. His dream vacation is to get us all together and just hang out. And we like to do that a lot, so I hope you’ll learn to love those times just as much as we do. If you ever have a problem, Papa is a great listener. He may not always be able to fix the problem right away or even at all, but he will always listen and he will pray for you, and sometimes that’s better than a quick fix anyway. Oh, and he gives the best hugs. And makes the best silly voices. You’re going to love him. He already loves you more than you can imagine.

Baby E, you’re so lucky to be coming into a big family! You have family in Bermuda and Canada and America and Northern Ireland and the Netherlands even!! You have great-grandparents, and grandparents, and uncles and aunts and great uncles and great aunts and second cousins who are all anxiously awaiting your arrival! I love that you are so so loved by so many people already. My family was pretty small and I lived far away from all my relatives, but you have more relatives than I can list on one hand!!

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Since I’ll probably be one of the first people you meet after your mom and dad, I just wanted to say all this now, because there’s going to be some dust in the room that day and I might not be able to say too much at first. By the way, you should know that about me. I’m much more comfortable with the written word than the spoken ones. But that’s just me. I’m kind of an introvert, (like you’re being right now,) I prefer to be with a small group of friends or family, and sometimes I don’t say a whole lot. But I promise to always talk to you. To always listen, speak when you need me to and stay quiet when you don’t. I will always be there for you, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.

And I have a feeling you’re stepping into greatness, Baby E. Because you can be whatever you want. Do all the things. Don’t be afraid. Respect your fears but don’t let them control you. Be brave. Sometimes that’s hard and maybe you might think it impossible, but trust me. You come from brave people. You can conquer anything.

Read lots. Books are your friends. Love fiercely and then some. Laugh long into the night. Be a light. See the world for what it is and not what you think it should be, and love it anyway. Love Jesus with all your heart. You’ll need Him more than you know.

Love your crazy amazing family as much as we love you, we’re not perfect, but you won’t be either. But we’ll tell everyone you are. Over and over again. 🙂

Pray lots, for us and for others, and your heart will grow. Mostly, just enjoy every day, every new discovery, and every chance to do it all over again with the sunrise.

You are about to embark on the greatest adventure ever. The greatest gift God ever gave us.

Life.

And I can’t wait to see what you do with it.

I already love you all around the earth and all the planets and back again times a million.

Love,

Mimi

Full Disclosure

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Happy Monday, friends. Not sure why we say that, really, since most folks I know aren’t all that jacked about Mondays. Me included. But hey, maybe it helps the motivation pick up a little speed, who knows. Positive thinking is always a good thing, right?

So, April 2017. Which means I have survived the release of my second novel, The Memory of You, through Harper Collins Christian Publishing. Whew. What a ride. Can I just say again that a few years ago you could have knocked me over with that proverbial feather if you’d told me I’d actually be published by one of the Big 5.

But here we are, with the books and the smile on my face to prove it. I won’t bore you with a photo of my smiling face, because it’s at this point in a book’s release that I get a little tired of looking at myself and reading about myself and hearing myself . . . not saying you will, I hope you don’t, because that wouldn’t sell me any books, would it, but I need a little breather from the buzz. But here’s the first bookstore sighting, taken over the weekend by my son in Boston!

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Here’s what I want to talk about today – 

Full disclosure.

Interesting term, don’t you think? I like it. It says to me, hey, I’m telling you this because I want to be honest with you. I want you to know the truth.

I had an interesting thing happen last week. I got this email. From a reader who’d picked up my novel, The Things We Knew. And she was kinda annoyed. Because she didn’t know it was a “Christian” novel. Didn’t know there would be references to God and Jesus and maybe even the Bible on occasion. And she. Was. Not. Happy.

Okay, so I got over the email. I have to admit, full disclosure and all, those things sting. Nasty reviews are one thing, you know, the hold nothing back I’m coming at you with a pitchfork kind – yeah those little suckers sting too. But for the most part, I think there’s a little cuckoo crazy in those reviewers that’s not too hard to pick up on. But when a reader goes out of their way to send an email, a rather lengthly detailed description of all the things they hated about the book . . . suck town.

I know, I know. Don’t take it personally. It’s not about me, it’s about them. I’ve taken all the advice from my fellow author friends and agent to heart. Advice from my kids was appreciated as well, but probably not the best way to respond . . . though I loved them for it. 🙂 And no, I didn’t reply to this person, because sometimes there is no need for a personal response to that kind of emotional attack. Because here’s the thing.

With each book I write, I pray for the words, and I pray that once those words are out in the world, God takes them where they need to go. So I believe that particular pissed off reader had my book for a reason. I don’t need to know the rest of the story. But something in that email got me a little twitchy, so I want to tell you what it was.

Full disclosure. 

This reader accused me of not being honest about my faith. She was ‘deceived’ she said, because she hadn’t intended to buy a book that delved into spiritual matters. Or specifically, those of a Christian leaning. Okay, fair enough.

I could point out that my books are currently listed on Amazon under the Women’s Fiction – Christian, and Fiction -Religious and Inspirational, categories. I could also point out the name of my publisher is Harper Collins Christian Publishing. But I also know that my books are cross-marketed to reach not only readers in the Christian market, but those in the general market as well. I know that right now my books are sitting on the Fiction/Literature shelf in Barnes & Noble in Boston. And I’m not going to apologize for that. It’s one of the many things I love about my publisher.

I don’t have to compromise. 

I am a Christian and I write from a Christian worldview. Which means that at some point in any one of my books, you will encounter some brush with faith, be it through a believing character or as subtle as the dawn rising over the tree tops after death. I infuse my beliefs into my writing because it’s who I am. And I don’t believe those stories would be the same without that.

Some of my characters have a strong faith. Some have very little. Some have major doubts. Some have no faith at all. Bet you know a few of all of those kinda folk, don’t you? So yes, you will find faith in my stories. You will also find hope. Mercy. Grace. Forgiveness. All those necessary but hardest thing we’ve ever done things . . . all the stuff of life. That’s what I write about. The ugly, the messy, the crazy, the unconscionable. Because come alongside that with some truth and love and opportunity for healing . . . and I think you’ve got yourself the makings of a truly good book. Life is hard. Life changes us. For better or for worse.

And reading about the hard stuff, that’s not for everybody. I get that. I appreciate that. If you decide my books aren’t for you, well, that’s your choice and I respect it. But I don’t ever want to be accused of trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. Trying to peddle a product disguised as something they don’t really want.

I’m not whomping anyone over the head with bible verses or profusely praying characters. I’m not saying you have to believe the same things I do or identify with any of my characters. I’m just telling you what you might encounter. In the spirit of full disclosure. You will find God in the midst of every book that has my name on it. You may not even know it, but He’s there. Because the stories all come from Him first, the greatest Author of all.

Just wanted you to know.

All Good Things

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Ever been in a place where you were just awed by the majesty of God’s creation? While we were in California on our anniversary trip, one thing we knew we wanted to do was see the Redwoods. Having only seen photographs of these amazing trees, I could hardly wait to experience them up close.

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It was the kind of sight that takes your breath away. And sometimes we need that, don’t we? Sometimes we need to be reminded that God is the creator of all things. That’s He’s the one in control of this crazy world. Not us. And thank goodness for that!

As I thought more about the book I wanted to write over the coming year, lots of things kept pointing me back to that thought. All good things come from Him. And I knew the characters in The Memory of You would have to learn that lesson.

Sometimes Tanner wished they still did things the old-fashioned way. An hour or two of taking his frustrations out on a bunch of grapes might do wonders for his soul.

Both Natalie and Tanner are strong-willed individuals, with struggles that sometimes seem more than they can bear. I knew their journeys were going to be interesting, and at some point, they’d have to come to realize that giving up control over things you can’t change is the first step on the path toward healing. But I won’t give any more away!! We are in countdown mode to release day now! Several cool things are happening.

If you haven’t yet read The Things We Knew, it’s still on sale and you can grab the e-copy for $1.99!

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And on March 28th, the day The Memory of You releases, we’re having an online party!! I hope you’ll join us! It’s going to be on Facebook – and you’ll find the event link on my Author Page, or you can bookmark in now if you like HERE!

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It’s been so much fun reminiscing about my California trip with you. I hope you’ll join me on the 28th! I’m so looking forward to it!

When was the last time you stood in awe of God’s majesty and gave thanks for all the amazing gifts He gives? 

Beyond Imagining

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We’ve been talking about my trip to Sonoma on the blog this month. You can catch up on the past few weeks here and here, if you want! Last week I shared how enthralled I was when we visited a small family-owned winery. I couldn’t imagine what a larger one might look like. And oh my goodness, did I see some beautiful ones!
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As we traveled around the countryside and visited such beautiful homes and gardens, I began to think about what it would be like to live in such a place. How you would come to love the land and care for the vines. I considered the wine-making process and realized it truly is an art. So much goes in to it. I knew that I had to do much research while I wrote the story, and I found it fascinating. I loved that I could take all I had learned on our trip and weave it into the plot, without overwhelming the reader with facts they didn’t care that much about. One of my favorite scenes in The Memory of You was able to give a glimpse into that process without a lecture on winemaking :-

He walked over to a row of vines and examined the leaves under the glow of his flashlight. She watched him carefully turn the leaf and check out the underside.                                            “What are you looking for?”                                                                                                         “Mildew. Bugs.” He bent to snag a weed, yanked it by the roots, and tossed it onto the path. “Do you know how long it takes to get a first harvest, Natalie?”                                   “No idea.” She shot him a tentative smile.                                                                                           “It can take years. You don’t use your first year’s crop. The fruit is too small, not sweet enough. You have to train the vines, you see. You cut them back, tend to them, keep them free of bugs and disease. It’s not a process you can just walk away from.” He stooped low and came up with a few stray grapes that the pickers had left. Walked to where she stood and held a purple globe to her lips. “Taste.”                                                                               Natalie opened her mouth to receive the morsel and allowed the flavor to saturate her taste buds. “Wow, that’s sweet.”                                                                                                         “Too sweet.” Tanner munched on a couple of grapes and spat seeds. “When the fruit begins to ripen, we have to continually monitor what’s going on out here. The ripening process is crucial to our end result. Veraison—when the grapes soften—is when the sugars accumulate, and the taste of the grape tells us when they’re ready. You can’t turn your back on it. Not for a minute.”                                                                                                                      “I suppose not.” Natalie watched him pull a few more weeds around the vines. “Rather like raising a family, right? You can’t bring children into the world and then let them fend for themselves.”                                                                                                                                        “No. You can’t.” He rose, brushed dirt off his jeans. “But it happens all the time.”

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I never imagined all the hard work and care that went into one bottle of wine. We take such things for granted. Things we just pick up at the store, wine, cheese, olive oil, even milk, vegetables . . . things we may not think much about, but others have. They have spent years cultivating and perfecting the product we bring to the table. And I realized as I wrote this book, that there are so many things in life we don’t fully appreciate. About the world around us and those closest to us. And I knew that would have to be a major part of my characters arc, an awakening if you will, to all the good things life has to offer.

Come back next week to learn more about The Memory of You!

Have you ever been surprised at things you’ve learned in unexpected ways?  I’d love to hear your stories! 

A Different Perspective

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Welcome to another Throwback Thursday Post! We’re talking about my California anniversary trip that inspired me to write The Memory of You! If you’re just jumping on here, you can read last week’s post here.

Today we’re going to to talk about perspective. Meaning, how we view things, the world, our families, friends, co-workers. Sometimes life gets hard doesn’t it? Sometimes we need that different perspective to spark a new idea or a new way of seeing something.

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One of the first stops on our tour of Napa/Sonoma was an amazing family owned winery. Robert Hunter Winery was tucked away amidst the rolling hills and towering trees, and took my breath away the moment I stepped out of the car and looked around. Beautiful scenery, rose gardens and the most amazing wisteria vine I’d ever seen, surrounded a delightful home where the owner and his family had lived for generations.

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It was fascinating to tour such a small winery, but also to listen to the history of the place. The Vintner obviously loved what he did and loved the land he worked on. He and his family lived on property, and I found myself thinking what a cool place this must be for kids to grow up. The highlight that day was meeting Robert Hunter himself. He was pretty frail all those years ago, and I suspect he’s probably long since passed, but he spent some time with us on his beautiful patio overlooking the vines, and it was one of those moments where you know you’ve been in the presence of an old soul who’s seen more in one lifetime than you could imagine.

If I had to pinpoint one particular day when the first spark of a story idea started, I think it would be that day, staring over the vines and wondering about the people who had come and gone through the doors of the old house. And I wondered if this island girl could possibly create a story based in California. A story about something she knew so little about.

A matter of perspective.

I didn’t know how this story would shape up yet. But I knew I had to write it and as always, trust that the words would come. Because sometimes that’s the only way, isn’t it?

Once I determined to do it, I knew the rest would fall into place eventually. And I’m so glad it did.

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Sometimes it’s all about changing our view for a little while, isn’t it? When we find a new perspective, anything can happen!

Have you discovered something new through a shift in your perspective? Let’s talk! 

#TBT – A Dream Come True!

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As you may know, my upcoming release, The Memory of You, takes place in Sonoma, California. As we count down to March 28th, we thought it might be fun to use “Throwback Thursdays” to share the origin of that story, and how the seed was planted back in 2010.

One of my bucket list trips has always been to travel to California. Growing up on a small island in the 70’s and 80’s, I immersed myself in pop culture. I dreamed of living in California, of partying with the television and movie stars who smiled down at me from the Tiger Beat posters tacked to my bedroom wall. California had an allure all its own and I knew one day I would get there. Now of course, years later, the glow of the screen has faded, and I’m not so attracted to the big bright lights. But when my husband started musing about a trip to California wine country to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, it only took a half second for me to jump all over the idea.

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And so, that October, we were off. I was beyond excited, and although I can be a bit of a nervous flyer,  I was okay on the long flight from Atlanta to San Francisco because I just couldn’t wait to see this place of my dreams. My husband had already done all kinds of research and pretty much planned out our entire trip. With the help of the concierge at our hotel, we were looking forward to ten days of touring, tasting and relaxation. He was all about the food and wine, and I couldn’t wait to see the scenery. We’d heard from friends who’d done wine country tours how beautiful it was, so I had pretty high expectations going in. And as we passed over the Golden Gate Bridge, (which is more of a rusty red by the way),  drove a little further along the highway and the first glimpse of red rolling hills lines with rows upon rows of vines, my heart jumped a little.

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‘As she crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, bright shards of light split the clouds and the California sun began to warm the car’s interior. Her smile broadened as the scenery changed. Rolling brown hills ran into rows upon rows of lush vines that hid clusters of purple and gold treasures under green foliage. The sight unwrapped feelings she thought she’d long put aside. The sweet smell of grapes permeated her senses, and the joy found in simply being here surprised her.’ The Memory of You

Our first stop was a delightful little restaurant called The Fig, and then it was on to our hotel, The Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa.

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As I settled into the large, luxuriously soft king bed that night and sleep descended, I knew we’d landed in a special place. And I knew there was a story here, just waiting to be told.

Next week I’ll share more about my California dream trip and tell you about the first spark that resulted in The Memory of You!

Have you been on a special trip, traveled someplace you’d always wanted to go? I’d love to hear about it!