Month: July 2015

Intergenerational heaven on earth

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.  Psalm 103:1 (NIV)

Sewing collage2

Lynn. Betty. Shirley. Robin. Ann. Sheryl. Leigh. If I asked you to guess which of those women is the youngest, I bet you’d figure it out. One of the names is of a more recent era.

The correct answer is Leigh. She is in her 30s. These ladies and I taught sewing by hand during a church art camp* earlier this summer. Two of our senior-most helpers are in their early 80s. The 19 students we taught are a bit younger: ages 8-12.

For our class, “A Doll and a Dress,” a simple, gingerbread-man shape had been cut out in advance. Our 3rd- to 6th-grade girls were “sew” diligent (Sorry. I couldn’t resist.), they stitched the doll’s facial features, stuffed the doll, sewed the openings closed, attached yarn hair, cut out a dress, belt, and hair ribbons, and had time to spare. You go, girls! Great job! By Friday we had invented extra accessories for the girls to make and we were calling our class “A Doll and a Dress…and a Second Dress, and a Pillow, and a Tote Bag.” (And, in a couple of cases, a blanket and a necklace!)

We helper ladies were like worker bees all over the large classroom into which had been brought extra tables to hold fabric cutting boards, spools of colored thread (a veritable Avon book of eye and lip colors!), and stacks of donated material. We were threading needles, measuring yarn for hair, sharing the sharpest scissors, helping younger hands to puncture the fabric in just the right places, and living the most enthusiastic and successful intergenerational project anyone could ever hope to see.

None of this would have been possible without the volunteer efforts and unique organizational talents of Ann, Robin, Leigh, Betty, Shirley, Lynn, and Sheryl. Hear my “shout out.” See my “high five.” Understand my “Praise the Lord!” Smack dab in the middle of the most intensive writing I have done in more than ten years, an entirely different creative side of me had one of its crowning moments.

I thank God and my employer, Vestavia Hills Baptist Church, for the privilege of planning and teaching this sewing class for children. (And I thank my mom and my sister for teaching me how to sew when I was fifteen and “halter tops” were all the rage.)


*Arts on the Mountain Children’s Camp at Vestavia Hills Baptist Church is directed by Dr. Beth McGinnis and facilitated by both Dr. Terre Johnson, Minister of Music, and Nancy Akins, Minister to Children and Preschool. In the context of worshiping our Creator through the arts, this camp has provided hands-on training in everything from pottery to flower arranging, knitting to cooking, origami to creative writing, painting to photography. Plus choir, organ, and ukulele!


Remington Steele: in need of a good prayer

TV detective Remington Steele is about to attempt to disarm a bomb, and he is very obviously concerned that the outcome could be deadly. So, he asks Laura Holt, “Do you know any good prayers?” She answers, “The Lord is my shepherd.”

That scene from a favorite television series came to mind in Sunday School class on July 12 during our lesson from Job about “secondhand faith.”* Secondhand faith may be defined as knowing about faith (because of being around people who believe in God, and because of attending church), but not knowing the Lord very well through personal experience. If that’s the case, and we are in a crisis, and a friend who “knows a good prayer” isn’t handy, what confidence do we have?

In the 1949 film version of Little Women, Marmee tells her daughter Jo, “I pray to the Lord to send you as little sorrow as He sees fit.” I am tempted to add, “but enough to give you firsthand faith.” I.e., faith that is firmly established during sufficient experience of worry, fear, sorrow, or anger that proves to you beyond doubt how fully your Lord understands your heart, your hopes, and your hurts; and proves to you, through the comfort you receive, how greatly He loves you.

In Sunday School yesterday, our teacher Doug Arendall began by listing a number of thrill-seeking activities about which one might hear or read, but which the experience of would be much more powerful: bungee jumping, rock climbing, cliff diving, skydiving; and also some sights on solid ground that would cause us to marvel much more in person than in picture or video: the Taj Mahal; the Great Wall of China. I have experienced few, if any, of the things Doug listed on the board. However, today is the 43rd anniversary of my near-death experience at age 11; that event very surely helped to forge my “firsthand faith.” Read more about that here.

1 Peter 1:8, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” NIV

*Difficult Times, Encouraging Words by James T. Draper (2009, CrossBooks)


Can you stand one more?

Yep. One more coincidence having to do with my forthcoming novel, Bend in the High Road (a crime mystery that’s definitely off the beaten track!). This coincidence happened on Sunday, July 5.

Our sweet friend Joan Solka, the aunt of another sweet friend, Laura Troutman (it obviously runs in their family), called out to Jeff and me as we walked past her at the entrance to the retirement home where both she and my mother-in-law live.

Asking about my mother-in-law’s health, Joan called herself “curious,” jokingly adding, “Curious sounds nicer than nosy!” How is this related to my new novel? Joan is my protagonist’s name, and the character Joan Ryan is repeatedly described as curious.

As I have said before, the Joan in my book is not patterned after any known person, and certainly not after any Joan that I know. In fact, the other day I pondered the name and no Joans came to mind at all. (Except, possibly, Joan Rivers, because that name is famous.) If you’re reading this, and you’re my friend, and your name is Joan, please don’t be slighted. I’ve had a lot on my mind lately!

Joan Solka we met about two years ago when my mother-in-law became a resident of the same retirement home, living two or three doors down, on the third floor. My character’s name had been decided well before that. But, our friend and my fictional Joan do share this one trait at least (in addition to being curious): they are eager to help others.

Ah, it has been a fun several weeks, experiencing these remarkable run-ins with names and details out of my novel. (Read my other posts about these “coincidences.”)

I need your prayers as I tread the sidewalk called “working to get my book published.” It’s a busy sidewalk, and I hope I’m wearing sturdy shoes. (And remembering to take my vitamins and calcium. I don’t mind at all bending my back and shoulders to autograph books; I just want to be able to straighten up again afterward!)

I’ve chosen 1 Peter 4:10 as a verse to share with today’s post. I found it here. No, not all of us are entrepreneurs, nor hoping to sell a book manuscript. But we all need reminders from God’s word about confidence, serving others, forgiving, and being encouraged. And, as I have said elsewhere, good business advice is generally good life advice. Check the link; it’s a short, good article.

Blowing Rock, NC

Four years ago last month, I saw the town of Blowing Rock, North Carolina, for the first time.

North Carolina is my home state, and I’ve seen a lot of that state, including the Asheville area, where both my sister and I (and our dad) went to college. But my niece met her now husband in a different region of the mountains, Boone, and the pair chose nearby Blowing Rock for their wedding.

On that occasion, my family and I stayed at Ridgeway Inn, a short distance from a certain intersection near Knight’s On Main restaurant (which closed in 2014) and the Bob Timberlake Gallery. On the heels of this visit to a very charming town, where we spent happy moments walking and exploring and celebrating a marriage, I decided to use Blowing Rock as a rough pattern for the fictional Tennessee town of Crook Mountain in my novel.

I can’t tell you the exact date I started the novel, but it was in the works (obviously) in 2011 when we went to Blowing Rock. My niece and her husband celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary last month. Meanwhile, in Alabama, this writer was finishing the last chapter of said novel.

Two weeks ago, on June 19, this coincidence occurred to me. I texted my sister, Jane, asking, “Isn’t today Kristen and Dean’s anniversary?” Turns out I was off by one day, but I found it really interesting and sweet that the completion of my book fell that close to the anniversary date of my seeing the town of Blowing Rock..

I have drawn a map showing points of interest in “Crook Mountain” and have used the map multiple times to help me write the details of my plot. I’ll include the map when I submit book proposals. Hey – J.R.R. Tolkien included a map of Middle-earth. I’m in good company.

This anniversary coinciding with the completion of my manuscript is the fourth and “final” in a string of coincidences I’ve written about lately… that is, it was the last I’d planned to write about, until I went to church this past Sunday at Dawson Memorial and heard the guest preacher, Dr. Michael Hardin, new Provost of Samford University, refer in his sermon to a colleague who goes by the nickname “Dub.” Get this. Dub is the name of a crucial character in my novel. Just plain crazy that Dr. Hardin said that name – and he also quoted William Carey’s famous words, “Attempt great things for God; expect great things from God.”

In view of all this, can I not believe that God’s timing is at work in my having written this book and in being ready to market it just now? If the pipes, the name Lee, the June 11 prayer & scripture, my niece’s anniversary, and the name Dub aren’t enough “coincidences,” add this: I wasn’t even “supposed” to hear the June 28 sermon by Dr. Hardin (but, obviously, I was)! I was supposed to be serving in a children’s classroom at that hour. But, when I arrived there, the door was locked and the room was empty and dark, indicating that none of the children was present that morning.

Oh, my goodness!!!

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 King James Version