Sunday, December 31, 2006

Let Go, Then "Let's Go!"

Jazzy loves to "pretend-bury" treats for future enjoyment. She tucks her rawhide in the folds of her favorite blanket, and then pushes with her nose to "throw dirt" over the hole until she believes it is hidden from view. Other treats are "buried" in various corners of the house, waiting to be rediscovered by her at a later date. The best part is to watch her fuss over the burial process, and then to watch her retrieve the treat immediately, to be buried elsewhere or enjoyed in an instant gratification moment. With Jazzy, this process is all fun and games, but we humans practice a similar process that leads to our ruination.

We say we are burying the hatchet, the grudge, the hurt. We make a big ordeal out of the burial process, so the offense is hidden from view. But we hide it just about as long as Jazzy hides her treats. Even before the hurt fades from memory, we snatch it back up so we can ruminate on it some more. We lick our wounds and think about how pitiful our situation is. We think about how a person or event harmed us beyond repair, and we don't even think of asking Jesus to heal our broken hearts. How are we helping the healing process by reliving those things that bring us down? When we ask Jesus to help us really forgive, we can move forward and enjoy the clean slate of our future.

As we begin a New Year, we can lighten our load by putting away those things that hinder our journey. Goal setting can only help us with our future when we have successfully dealt with the past. This is the perfect time of year to take inventory of our burdens and let them go like helium balloons rather than hide them in the ground. That way, we can look up rather than bury our heads in the sand.

Let go, and then "let's go!"

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Blessings-Gratitude List

1. I'm grateful for my Savior first of all. I know He probably didn't come on December 25th, but I know He came, and that is the most important historical event to affect me in such a real way.

2. I'm grateful for my dear husband Russ. He is such an amazing man of integrity and honor. I am a woman most blessed!

3. I'm grateful for friends who are the real deal. Not phony fakers, but super sincere. I know I can trust my heart to them.

4. I'm grateful for my "lot in life." It may seem bad, with 3 minor surgeries and 1 major surgery in 2006 and one more minor surgery on January 8th, but I am so blessed compared to others in my life. My friend Betty fell down her concrete stairs out back, taking the trash out, and heard a loud crack. She crawled back to her house because no one could hear her cries for help, and made it to the E.R. She has a compression fracture of her back (L1 vertebra) and must be in a back brace for 8 weeks. Her pain is so unbearable that the morphine is just now starting to help, days later. A six year old "little friend" of mine received bad news recently, so we went out to McDonalds to talk about it. She found out her mother had abandoned her at her father's house, and no one has heard from her since before Thanksgiving. Her teacher wants to know why she acted out at school by dumping her juice on the table. She received detention, but she just wanted a little love! So, all things considered, I'll just keep my bag of trials, rather than trade them for someone else's.

6. I'm grateful for my Christmas gifts. I love them all! And the best part was giving gifts to others. It seemed like my budget was specially-blessed and I was able to buy a lot for very little. Some would call it luck, but I choose to believe my good bargains to be a gift from God above.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Plastic Joy-Limerick

I was the runner up for a Christmas Limerick contest sponsored by Humor Power. Here is the web address:


There once was a girl with a doll
That doll could pee-pee and then bawl
It made me feel glad
To know that her dad
GI Joe was just 12-inches tall!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Breath of Heaven for Me

Every year, around this time, one Christmas song stands out in my mind. I find myself humming along to it in the stores, and getting all teary-eyed when I hear it on the radio. It touches me in such a deep and meaningful way. Each year I desire to sing it in church, but talk myself out of it because of the lyrics. You see, the song I'm talking about is "Breath of Heaven" by Amy Grant. The song is sung from Mary's perspective, as she carries the babe to be named Jesus — the very Son of God we worship to this day.

Even though the song means so much to me, I was unsure of singing it because I'm unable to have children. Some of the lyrics go:

"I have traveled many moonless nights,
Cold and weary with a babe inside,
And I wonder what I've done.
Holy Father you have come,
And chosen me now to carry your Son."

Would it be distracting for listeners to hear me sing the song, since they know I'm a barren woman? Would they say I have no idea what it would be like to carry a child?

But this year I decided not to worry about what others think, and just sing the song from my heart to God's ears. You see, I do know what it is like to have Jesus living in me. I may not have carried Him to term, but I do know His indwelling Spirit. It would have been a miracle for me to have been with child. But wasn't it also a miracle for the virgin Mary to carry the Christ-child? And isn't it a miracle when each one of us receives the gift of His presence in our lives?

So now I sing the song with even more humility and more worship than before.

"I am waiting in a silent prayer.
I am frightened by the load I bear.
In a world as cold as stone,
Must I walk this path alone?
Be with me now. Be with me now."

Who hasn't felt intense loneliness? Only the presence of Jesus strengthens us when we feel we journey through this life all alone.

The chorus is sung several times in the song. It says:

"Breath of heaven,
Hold me together,
Be forever near me,
Breath of heaven.
Breath of heaven,
Lighten my darkness,
Pour over me your holiness,
For you are holy.
Breath of heaven."

The final verse says:

"Do you wonder as you watch my face,
If a wiser one should have had my place,
But I offer all I am
For the mercy of your plan.
Help me be strong.
Help me be.
Help me."

This Christmas, my prayer for you is that you have experienced the Breath of Heaven in your own lives. May the miracle of Christ living inside us draw us even closer to the Heavenly Father above.

Merry Christmas!
Kathy Carlton Willis
Living Out Loud Communications

Monday, December 18, 2006

Breath of Heaven

I am preparing to write an article about the song by Amy Grant, "Breath of Heaven." Sunday I'll be singing the song for church. Here are the lyrics:

They Say I'm Donder!

Which of Santa's Reindeer are you?

Which of Santa's Reindeer Are You


Like Donder you are sensible and a good leader. You know the right things to do at the right time and have people's respect

Find out which of Santa's Reindeer you are at

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas Card Friendships

Today I worked on writing notes in Christmas cards for our Sunday School class. Each one gets a special note, so it takes a while. I took a break and went to the mailbox to look for season's greetings from my loved ones. If I'm being honest, I divide these greetings into 4 categories. One-cards with preprinted names. Two-cards with signed names. Three-a form letter looking back over the year. Four-a personal note from the sender. All of the cards and notes mean something to me because the person took the time to think of me. I don't have time every year to write the personal notes. Change that. I don't MAKE the time. It's all about choices.

Acquaintances and friendships develop in a similar pattern. Intimacy builds with transparency. Some friendships remain distant because conversations are shallow and walls of protection are up. As the walls come down and the conversations become more real, the potential for friendship grows. With some people, I know them in name only, just like the preprinted Christmas cards. Others I learn nuggets about them, but that's about it, as in the signed Christmas cards with little else written on the card. Most friendships get to the third level, where I know the facts about their calendar year, but I know less about matters of the heart. When a friendship enters the fourth level, hearts are shared and a bond is formed. Not many reach it to this level.

The Lord had similar friendship circles. He had those who followed from afar, the masses that knew OF Him, but didn't KNOW Him. The disciples made a greater commitment to follow Him. To them He shared many of life's lessons. But the 3 in his inner circle, Peter, James and John interacted with Jesus in the most intimate way.

Who do you have in your friendship circles? Do you have an open space in the circle for new relationships? Are you maintaining your existing friendships? Perhaps a note or phone call during this Christmas season would be the best gift you could give them.

John 3:16 a says, "For God so loved the world, that he GAVE..." What are you giving this Christmas season?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Going WAY Back

Tonight while looking for a certain size box, I dug up a boot box filled with items my Grandma Mary had saved through the years from our family. I smiled with delight as I saw childhood photos of my Dad and read letters he wrote Grandma while in the Army. She saved newspaper clippings whenever someone from my family made the paper. In a town of 4,000 there were plenty of slow news weeks, so we made the news a lot! I recalled events and occasions I had forgotten all about and learned new things that were not discussed in front of me as a child (or I was too busy to notice).

I always get nostalgic this time of year. I'll be turning another year older in a couple of days. That probably has something to do with the trips down memory lane. And the holidays inspire my most homesick feelings. Rather than try to ignore my feelings, I allow myself to become immersed in the quilt of love pieced from the scraps of childhood memories.

I'll try to type up some of the things I read, and if I get very creative (and plug in some extra smarts) I will try to scan in some photos to share as well. Come back for more!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A Target on My Head

The last few weeks have been crazy-weird. I say that because, if I were to inventory some of the freaky facts, I would think I have a target on my head or something. Instead, I'm more worried about the target on my heart. Do my reactions and responses glorify my Creator and Savior, my Heavenly Father and Friend? Do I give in to parties of pity or do I celebrate small blessings? All of these answers determine my outlook and my UPlook.

Here's a look back, recorded here for a laugh later on:

• I've been having lots of sinus and lung problems, and I was back for my third visit to the doctor. Only one problem. The wrong doctor walked in to take care of me. She didn't know my case and she missed the mark with her assistance. I asked the office what the policy was on swapping doctors like that-because I saw my own doctor in the hall. I felt like I was in a Twilight Zone episode! The office manager called me and apologized-asked me to come back in to see the right doctor. It was office error.

• Dr. "Right" ordered a high resolution CT scan of my lungs. Of course, the technician had trouble getting the dye into my veins, but eventually I guess something more than my glowing personality lit up the screen!

• Dr. Right's nurse called to say my test results were in, and to confirm I would be at such-and-such phone number so the doctor could call. I'm sure I'm not dying. I never get the "dying" kind of illnesses because that would be too quick. I get the long drawn-out-over-a-lifetime kind of diseases. But you know what? I've quit praying for God to heal me. I've seen Him use my health problems to minister to others and to point others to Him. God showed me the scripture that talks of Paul praying 3 times for his thorn to be removed, and God told him to quit praying for healing, and instead accept the sufficient grace He offers. This taught me that I might not be "all better" until Heaven, but I can have something even better than health right now-God's grace! And I really HAVE found it to be sufficient for my needs.

• Of course-since nothing is simple this month-the doctor didn't call. Instead, her scheduler called to schedule more tests. She didn't know the results of my CT scan. So, I had to wait until a week after my test to get the results. The doctor's assistant called last night. She said the doctor told her to tell me my scan was normal. I asked her if it still showed the autoimmune lung disease that the last one showed-and said that those sorts of things don't normally go away. Then she admitted the report showed some things, but she didn't know how to read the report and was told to say it was normal and that I was to wait and go to the pulmonary function tests. I told her these weren't until the end of the year. So now I'm wondering what the CT report actually said. I've had doctors say a test is normal because they don't know what to look for with my rare things-so if it isn't something that they were looking for, or if it doesn't just glare at them on the page, they say "normal." Then I take the same scan or report elsewhere, and they think something big/bad is brewing in there.

So, I guess I should be glad it is "normal" but there is a part of me scratching my head thinking-how did that happen? I also know that some calcified granulomas (little rocks of old infection or inflammation which aren't harmful, but are usually noted as a finding) should have shown up-those don't disappear either.

I'm beginning to think the comedienne was right when she said that NORMAL is just a setting on the washing machine. No one is normal. I'm used to MY normal. It works for me, but I'm sure it would be quite ABnormal to someone else!

I know not to borrow trouble from tomorrow. That is why I stay in the Word and also stay busy. Keeps my mind occupied with the good stuff. So I don't mean to sound like a faithless woman when I say I wonder what the report REALLY said. It's just that with my history, it seems like normal is a foreign word. I've learned not to trust it. I've learned to trust my gut instead. Especially since this assistant has twice acted like there is something on the report, but she isn't authorized to tell me anything other than what the doctor tells her to say. (I realize that is policy-but she did indicate the report had "something.")

•And of course, not to be outdone, other parts of my body have been getting jealous of all the attention. Part of my nerve-damage work-up this year has been regarding my bladder issues. Of course, the doctor couldn't find just one thing wrong. He found three things wrong-all different. So, I'm looking at more surgery (suburethral sling). It might as well happen this year while the deductibles are met-if they can clear me for surgery. I might as well get all the yucky stuff over in 2006, so that 2007 can be over-the-top amazing without these little inconveniences to weigh me down. After surgery they can address the other two bladder issues.

• My sugar levels decided to go high last weekend, thanks to the tapered prednisone steroid dose. 274 high! Numbers that high do not do a body good (to borrow the milk slogan). This is the second time this has happened with prednisone-so now we know this form of steroid does not work well with my system. Prednisone out-and numbers went down. But I had another "episode" making me think my sugar was high and I checked it. It was at 202 with no steroids, and my fasting blood glucose today was 186. Not good! Especially considering I was careful with my diet this week.

Stress can affect it, as can obesity. I am the poster child for both! And from what I understand, even when you attempt to manage the stress well (venting, meditation, Bible reading, praying, bubble baths, journaling, etc) that the things that are stress inducers can still cause the levels to be high. So, unless I can heal myself and create a hassle-free ministry for Russ and have only perfect relationships and...and...and...I will have stress for a while! I still need to deal well with the stress (helps my blood pressure) but it doesn't always help sugar levels (because they are affected more from the adrenaline response that is triggered by the stressor itself).

I hate this! I told my doctor last week that I was sick of doctors and I just don't want to go anymore. But I know it would not be smart to ignore this. God expects me to be a good steward of my health-it is part of what He entrusted to me. But if it weren't for that, I'd love to go on a doctor strike. Maybe by the time Lent rolls around I can claim "no doctors" for what I'm giving up for Lent (that's funny since most Baptists don't participate in Lent). haha!

• There are non-health related "freaky findings" too. Jazzy's losing her hair. Russ is pulling his hair out with ministry stress. Our car developed a HOLE in the battery, and wouldn't start when Russ needed to be to church early last Sunday morning. I was hurt by a friend who disrespected and rejected me rather than communicate. Christmas cantata is coming and I'm married to the "music man."

But I learned a long time ago that it isn't the trials in my life that define me or defy me. Only my reactions to the trials can do that. I haven't arrived, but I'm working on it!

Sunday, December 03, 2006


(An Interview with Kim Stuart)

Take one twenty-nine-year-old woman, add a career, add a husband, add a home, toss in a best friend, and you have a great life.

Add a baby. Not a problem. Still can do.

Add a seductive ex-boyfriend moving a few houses over. Hmmm, a little more complicated, but managing.

Add a blonde twenty-something ski bunny flirting with your husband. Uh-oh. Did we mention the postpartum body? Somebody press the panic button.

Pile on returning to work after maternity leave, and sprinkle in a nosey Mommies Group . . .

And you've got a Balancing Act--a hilarious look at the challenges faced by modern women as they juggle careers, marriage, and children.

+ What inspired you to write Balancing Act?

I was neck-deep in the throes of motherhood and found it could make me laugh until I made unfortunate snorting noises, cry until I needed to breathe into a paper bag, and hang my outgrown roots in forced humility, and all before nine a.m.

+ I wanted to write a story that would acknowledge both the chaos and the blessing, the euphoria and the nagging doubts involved in mothering a child.

More than anything, I wanted to write a story with authentic, achingly real characters who struggled with faith and morality as well as sleep schedules and diaper rash. I figured if I could imagine my friends becoming engaged with the story, I was on the right track.

+ Is it true you wrote this novel while pregnant? What was that like?

I was four months pregnant when I attended a writers’ conference and received some very positive feedback from an editor at NavPress. She encouraged me to send my manuscript to Nav’s fiction line when I got a chance.

My “manuscript” at that time was around three thousand words, the very rough beginning of Balancing Act. I found an expanding uterus to be like my own private motivational speech. It was a fixed deadline, so to speak, and I like deadlines. So each afternoon, while my two-year-old napped, I’d waddle over to my laptop and crank out my thousand words. God is good, I finished the book, and my water broke, in that order.

+ Experiencing mommy-hood for the second time, did you go back and make revisions?

My son, who just turned one, is very different from my daughter, who is now four. Mitchell wants me with him, wants to cuddle, and thinks I’m a rock star even with morning breath. Ana, however, is very independent, cuddles only when feverish, and minces no words regarding morning breath. So I feel like I’m revising all the time, trying to keep up with their very different needs and personalities. My most major revision, however, has been throwing out Neurotic Kim and going for a more laid-back approach out of necessity. Funny how four years of parenting does that to a girl.

+ Did you use true-life stories in your novel? Can you give us an example?

While Balancing Act is absolutely a work of fiction, there are threads of my own experience woven throughout. Nora, the baby in the book, is loosely patterned after my daughter, Ana. She gets to talking in the sequel, Bottom Line, set to release in May. I see a lot of Ana in that part of Nora’s story.

The protagonist, Heidi Elliott, certainly has my sense of humor. Like Heidi, I taught high school Spanish. Like Heidi, I identify with the tightrope walk of a woman living in this century. I know the chaos of working, mothering, wife-ing, and trying to be plain old me, for crying out loud. And like Heidi, I’ve had a certain amount of distrust for church-run women’s groups, always fearing they’ll make me quilt or something.

But I’ve assured my family that unlike what occurs in the book, there are no skanky dealings in my marriage, that I don’t know any well-endowed heiresses, and that none of my relatives are represented in the characters. Well, that last part isn’t entirely true, but you’ll have to wait to read my posthumous memoirs to get the full scoop.

+ How do you balance motherhood and writing?

It isn’t pretty, I’ll tell you that much. Far easier to make up a story about the balancing act than to actually do it well oneself. I’ve been known to type while my son drools on my big toe and my daughter screams the soundtrack to “Little Mermaid” in the background. This system does not seem to reap the most productive writing moments. So I have help. God has always turned out to be sufficient when I let Him. My mother, bless her, and my babysitter, Ashley, bless her too, help me out for a couple hours each day so I can write. My husband is a fantastic human being who assumes I can conquer the world and should. My friendships keep me above the surface just when I think I’ll sink.

And on grace-drenched days, there’s always naptime.

Author Bio: After teaching Spanish and English as a Second Language, Kimberly Stuart took a huge increase in pay to stay at home full time with her daughter, Ana. She lives in Des Moines, IA. While writing Balancing Act, Kimberly was pregnant with her second child.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Indulge Me?

Usually when I say "indulge me" it means I hope you will read my opinion on something that might be a little bit outside of the box. But today I'm actually discussing why women need to indulge themselves every so often. Why? Because we tend to (on the whole) put ourselves last as we serve those around us (husband, children, extended family, neighbors, parent groups at school, church family, etc.).

So, if we don't recharge our batteries every so often, we will be no good to anyone else. It is the same concept as when they tell us on the airplane in case of an emergency to put the oxygen mask on ourselves before we assist others.

Three times a year I host 3 larger ladies events for our church. One is a Mother-Daughter Tea, another is a Friendship Tea with special pampering, and the third is a Spa Retreat with seminars and spa treatments. Total pampering! Why? Not because we deserve it because, as Christians I don't see that we are "good enough" to deserve anything-we have no rights, and are just blessed because of Jesus in our lives. But we do NEED to be pampered. And I'm all about filling needs.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a Spa/Beauty school in Cincinnati with a friend and had a spa manicure. Totally different than my home manicures. I received a hot stone massage of the hands and arms and a variety of other spa treats for the hands. For $17 (and no tips allowed) I felt like queen for the day.

Today I went to a tea room with some friends to celebrate our December birthdays. The 45-minute drive to the tea room was a nice time to escape into my thoughts and enjoy the radio. The meal was nice, but having someone else serve me was even nicer! I tend to overdo it during the holiday season, so by setting aside time to be pampered, I'm preserving my sanity, and passing on that stable mental health to those I'm around. Stress relievers at their best!

For those who love to hear about tea rooms, this one is called Country Manor. The owner converted her 2 car garage into the tea room. She cleverly disguised the garage doors and tracks with lattice and wrapped decorative cloth around the garage door openers. She has 4 tables set for 8. The walls are filled with shelves of tea themed gifts. Two tables were playing cards before eating-perhaps cribbage. We had a 10 year old at our table, and she was given a scrunchy, fluffy teddy bear by the owner. The rest of us were given Victorian Style calendars for 2006.

The menu: Butternut Squash Bisque with a dollop of sour cream; chicken/cranberry salad served over a bed of lettuce, with a menu cheese muffin; cranberry scone with variety of 3 spreads; some sort of yellow layer cake with raspberry filling. Deejarling tea was served in a tea pot with tea cozy, served with white and brown sugar cubes.

Sometimes, my pampering time is a bubble bath or curling up with a good book. Other times it is lighting a candle in my favorite scent and listening to good music.

What is your pamper of choice? Indulge. It just might be the best gift you can give those around you. When you are calm and at peace, it has a beneficial effect on others, as well as you.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Nostalgic Christmas

Definition of Nostalgia
1 : the state of being homesick
2 : a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition; also: something that evokes nostalgia

Every year, around this time, I become nostalgic. It has something to do with the fact that I live away from my childhood home as well as far from all my family. One of the ways I turn my homesickness into a holiday celebration is to enjoy fond memories.

This year I have a bonus. My high school class held its 25th class reunion. I was unable to attend, but I still feel connected because my classmates have enjoyed group e-mail since then. Exchanging photos makes me almost feel like I am there with them. I impressed myself by being able to identify each person in a group picture from a class gathering. Yes, faces and figures have changed, but their essences are still the same.

Many women who have experienced weight gain like me are hesitant to attend their class reunions. They assume everyone else has stayed the same and they are the only ones who have changed. But guess what? Life happens to all of us, as worries and concerns mature our once-taunt skin and gravity changes our waistline into a wasteland. Some of the late bloomers look more gorgeous today than ever before, but the rest of us just look...well...older.

What I notice happening with our class now that we are all 40-something is that we have let go of our cliques and we are really bonded in what unites us, our childhood memories. Those things that make us different don't divide us, but make us unique and interesting. No longer do we look for cookie-cutter friends. It's great having a blast from the past, like reuniting with school acquaintances, and finding some that become even closer friends now that our walls of division have come down.

As Christians, we can learn from this example. Rather than only fellowshipping with people we deem acceptable, we should let down our guard and find a common bond. If we are all following Jesus, won't we find ourselves on the same path? Let's all fellowship on that journey. What better Christmas present to give our Lord, for Him to see His children enjoying each other's company.

Allow yourself to become homesick this holiday. If you follow the star of Bethlehem, you will find your way Home again.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Blessing List for Year

If I was sitting at the Thanksgiving table, and I could stop time so that the others wouldn't be mad at me for "yam"mering on and on about my blessings for the year, here would be a few of the big ones for which I'm grateful:

+ My soulmate, Russ. I can't imagine life without him.
+ Renewed relationships with my aunts-they have been amazing to me this year-nurturing!
+ An opportunity to grow closer to my Lord in the quiet times, the down times, the low times, the painful times, and yes, during the ELATED times too!
+ The gift of friendships. I am a girl most blessed.
+ A place of service in a variety of ministries at church, with a year of seeing both trials and victories, allowing us to see God's hand more clearly.
+ Getting to sing with our church choir, special music, and the praise team. Music is audio-to-cardio medicine!
+ Three successful big events in the Women's Ministry-a real adrenaline kick!
+ One year of blogging, with the potential to stay in touch better with family and friends.
+ Rediscovering old friendships, some from as far back as my childhood.
+ The bundle of energy and love called Jazzy-one year old this week.
+ The implantation of the spinal cord stimulator-already making the pain more bearable-a true answer to prayer!
+ My freelance jobs (writing and editing) taking off after networking with close friends in the writing business for 3 years.

I really have a lot for which to be thankful this Thanksgiving. Most of all, for my salvation, which started an amazing relationship with the One who made life make sense and have purpose, whose love never ceases to amaze me.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Attitude of Gratitude

(Written 2002)

Thanksgiving Day, as celebrated in the United States, was this week. What a great way to kick off the holiday season leading up to Christmas! One of the greatest reasons of all to give thanks is because we have the gift of Christ from our Heavenly Father. God's unconditional love allowed Him to give up what He held most dear, His perfect Son, to provide for a way of salvation for His created humanity. What better timing then, for Thanksgiving and Christmas to go hand in hand!

When we begin to think about it, we must admit, we are so blessed! Even families enduring great hardships can find something for which to be thankful. In fact, it is an attitude of gratitude which will transform a downcast spirit into a countenance radiating joy. Others may not even realize the trials you are enduring because your shoulders are not burdened down and there is still a spring in your step. Happiness depends on happenings, but joy comes when we focus on all the reasons we have to be grateful.

I know at least two families who read their calendars wrong and celebrated Thanksgiving last week. At first, I laughed at their silly mistake. But then I couldn't help but realize there is nothing wrong with wanting to hurry up Thanksgiving. In fact, it is one holiday that could change our world, if each of us would have an attitude of gratitude all year long.

Just think what a transformation would take place if we were all thankful. We would be thankful for our salvation, so we would tell others about Christ. They would become thankful for the gift and have their own spiritual birthday. We would be grateful for God's provision, and would share our provisions with those in need. We would be thankful for friendships, and would get along better with others. We would appreciate our families more, and would spend more time together. We would be grateful for our jobs, and would become the best employees possible.

Can you see how developing an "attitude of gratitude" could transform our world? It wouldn't just become a positive place to live. It would become a Christ-filled world.

May this Thanksgiving Day start your own gratitude revival!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Deer are Dear!

This morning, I had a treat for breakfast. Not lucky charms. A treat of the visual kind. I looked out our French doors and into our woods and saw a deer. Another deer was frolicking in the field next to the woods. She disappeared into the woods to forage for food. Then not two, not three, but FOUR deer walked in an almost straight line into the field. They started running. It seemed they would run right into traffic, during rush hour. I found myself crying out, "Oh baby, be careful. Don't get hit!" Believe it or not, the head deer, looked both ways and put on the brakes. All the other deer followed suit. Then, a merciful driver slowed down and the deer seemed to know it was safe to run across the road. I wasn't so sure about the driver, but she stopped. Imagine her delight, to watch three deer run right in front of her bumper! I said three deer because the fourth one was stuck in the field, scared to death. The driver waved to the deer to go ahead and join the others. I doubt the deer understood the sign language, but did sense it was safe, and she ran the fastest of all to catch up with the others, playing in a field on the other side of the road. It was an amazing sight.

I didn't take any photos, but I do have a picture of my two "dears" to share with you. This was when Russ and Jazzy were lounging.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Glasswinged Butterfly

These photos are too beautiful not to share. They are taken of a Glasswing Butterfly, which lives in South America.

Obviously, a butterfly such as this, with transparent wings is a rare find. It is said the wings are as delicate as finely blown glass. The wings shine like panes of a stained glass window, in hews of turquoise, orange, green, and red. Enjoy, and glorify the Lord for this beautiful creation.

WARNING: Highly Opinionated-Part Two

Someone wrote me to remind me that while all sin has the same price (which Jesus paid for on the cross), that there are different consequences for different sins. Some sins affect more people than others, and cause more damaging results.

This was my reply:

You brought up a good point. There are different consequences for different sins. I think that is why I'm so burdened about this topic. If there are certain sins that have greater consequences, why do we act more hateful to those individuals? Why do we put up a wall between us rather than reaching out a hand to draw them into our loving guidance to the TRUTH? Why do we preach messages of hate, very similar to messages I hear from prejudiced individuals about someone of a different skin color? I have heard preachers make fun of homosexuals from the pulpit and call them names, and then wonder when the invitation is given why the lesbians in their congregations don't come forward. I've seen people who call homosexuals "those people" in a tone similar to Archie Bunker talking about a different culture or color. I've seen people coordinate boycotts, but they won't take a casserole across the street to the gay couple who have had a setback.

How in the world are we going to reach these beautiful individuals who God created with loving tenderness who have a greater consequence for their choice of sins, if we draw a line between "us" and "them"?

I know there are people who say they have a gay person in their lives, but they still mock them, much like a prejudiced person says they have an African American friend, which somehow seems to allow them to make black jokes and still have a heart.

But to use that same "I have gay friends" statement that some say before they make a gay-bashing joke--I have had gay individuals in my life as long as I can remember. Some of the people I was closest to in my childhood were gay. I can count at least eight before I was 17, in a small town of 4,000. In my adult life it seems the Lord has opened my eyes to the hearts of several others who have chosen the homosexual lifestyle. When a lesbian stayed in my home for a weekend retreat, my heart was so touched by her plight that I have never been the same. She was struggling to find her way in this world, and so open to biblical truths, when given with doses of love and not condemnation.

Some say they could NEVER be a homosexual. Don't be so sure. I have to admit, there but the grace of God go I. What does that mean? If I had not been introduced to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ at an impressionable age, I could have gone down a different path. When diagnosed with a reproductive congenital defect at the age of 17, I'm not sure what I would have done without the peace of Christ that passes all human understanding. I have known many others with the same anomaly who have become lesbian after the diagnosis because of their confused hearts and minds. That could have been me.

A cousin who was as close as an older brother lived a homosexual lifestyle. That wasn't the only thing that defined him as an individual, but I'm sure it was all a gay-hater could see. But if you could get past that, you saw a phenomenal human being. He died at a young age last year about this time, all alone. His passing has caused me to reevaluate many things "religious." Was it a message of hate that drove Mark away from the life in Christ he embraced as a teenager?

I am not condoning any sin. I'm just against treating some sinners as more despicable than other sinners. Since some do face great consequences than others, we should reach out to them with open arms rather than closed fists.

WARNING: Highly Opinionated!

This week Elton John made the news by stating he thinks organized religion should be banned because it has encouraged hatred against homosexuals. I'm not sure what you thought about that statement, but I had three main thoughts rushing through my mind. I know it isn't a feel-good inspirational topic, but perhaps I can share my thoughts in such a way as to build up rather than tear down.

My first thought was a quip I've heard my husband say when someone objects to church because they are against "organized religion." He ponders, "Would you rather have UNorganized religion?" Sir Elton said he likes the teachings of Jesus, but he isn't a fan of Christianity. Isn't Christianity the study of Christ's teachings (perhaps in an ORGANIZED way?).

But if you get past that basic question, I have to acknowledge that Elton John has a valid point. Not the part where he wants to ban religion, but that religion has encouraged us to hate people who aren't like us. I've heard the saying, "hate the sin, love the sinner" but to be honest I've read quite a bit of e-mail that sounds a lot like hate to me.

I believe homosexuality falls into the same category of sins as other sexual sins. Expanding that thought further, no sin is worse than another when it comes to the price. There isn't one sin that is minimal enough to not cost Jesus His life. The unbiblical choices I make each day that cause me to rebel against God and His teachings puts me in the same category as a homosexual or a murderer. It's just easier for people to preach about someone else's sins than their own.

The third thought that came to me when I heard Elton John's quote is the part about religion being banned. The term religion as we know it is a practice of tradition passed down from previous generations, based on a set of doctrines regarding how we view God or god (depending on the religion). I'm guessing those who practice religion probably struggle with hating those who do not live by their set of beliefs. But those who take religion a step further, who live a RELATIONSHIP with Christ, spill out love in the same way He spilled out blood for each one of us. Not condoning the sin, but building trust and respect from those who have different belief systems.

Let's not ban organized religion. Let's ban hate. Let's get off of our spiritual high horses and admit our sins break the heart of God just as much as the sins of others. Maybe that's what the Bible means when it mentions we must get the big ol' sticks of wood out of our own eyes before we can get the splinter out of the eye of the one we want to judge. And maybe then, with a clearer focus, we won't want to pick on the other person at all. We will just want to live a life that reflects Christ.

I'm sorry, Elton John. I'm sorry that you have received a message of hate from pulpits and lecterns. But if you read more from the teachings of Christ which you say you believe, you will see just how much He loves you and wants to draw you to Him. Open arms. Open heart.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

my "Bag Lady"

I have to tell you a neat thing that happened at our Fall Friendship Tea. We had a purse theme, and so I wanted to decorate the stage area with handcrafted purses. I contacted about 5 different purse makers, through a google search. Only one said "yes." Guess where I found her? On eBay! So, I invited her to attend as my guest, and bring her handbags to be on display. She brought a baker's rack type shelf unit to display them on. Some of the ladies teased me for inviting a perfect stranger to the Tea. They said she could have been a serial killer or axe murderer or something.

She came early, to set up, and then had to wait over an hour for the Tea to start. I had asked a friend to come early to sit with this special guest, since I would be tending to last minute details, but she hadn't arrived yet. So, this "bag lady" asked if she could help us do anything. Normally I would have been horrified to say "yes" but I know when I go speak somewhere, I'd much rather help out than "sit pretty" at the head table all by my lonesome. So, I took Dixie up on her offer to help. She was a real sweetie, and had a ton of fun being "one of the gals."

The Tea went great (yay)! And after the Tea, Dixie and I were saying good-bye. She asked, "can I have a hug?" I told her I was a hugger, and we hugged like we were long lost friends! She said the Tea had blessed her heart sooooo much, and she was glad she came.

Now how cool is THAT?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

For Novelists

Are you a novelist? I just ran across two new services offered by Glass Road Public Relations. You might want to check them out.

#1-Speakers' Bureau. What? Fiction writers speak too? You bet! The bureau will help you come up with great themes and will actively pursue events for you. They coordinate deals with bookstores so that you don't have to tote your books to every event, which will drive your sales numbers up (when your purchase books to sell, they do not go towards your sales number).

#2-Blog tours. Blog tours are offered with the full PR package. The numbers show that sales go up with a successful blog tour. Now GRPR offers a blog tour package for those who don't want the complete PR package. They work with over 100 bloggers to coordinate tours for you. These include book reviews on blog sites, book giveaways, and author interviews.

If you (or someone you know) might be interested in either of these two new services, check them out at the following website:

Hope this helps someone out there!
Kathy Carlton Willis
Living Out Loud Communications & Manuscript Editorial Services

Gratitude List

I'm grateful for:

-Music. It changes my spirit within seconds-what power to uplift and energize! And I'm one of those gals who cranks up my radio in the car. I sing along too. You probably saw me looking really goofy at the stop light!

-A possible job. The PR firm who was considering me for a potential publicist position, was so pleased with my work that they want me to head up their new division-a speakers' bureau for novelists. If I take the job, I will work with fiction writers who also speak, and will possibly be helping coordinate blog tours for writers with a book launch. This is a different job than I originally applied for, but it is something I would LOVE. So now I'm praying about it, and will let them know before the end of the month. Will you pray with me? The note the president of the firm wrote me was a huge day brightener!

-A fuzzy robe. One size fits most fluffy shaped women. That means me whether I was a size 12 or a size 22. This one is special because it was my mother-in-love's until she passed away in 1997. Okay-so maybe it isn't as fuzzy of a robe as it used to be, but it still does the trick!

-A busy week this week. Something every night. That's okay. It means we have friends to visit and places to be where we have purpose. The nights at home are good too. We usually try to go for a balance, but this week we will just have to put it into overdrive and rest when we can grab a few minutes.

-An opportunity to vote. What a great country!

-Great news from a friend. His lung biopsy test came back negative. Woo Hoo!

So much more for which to be grateful. So little space. I'm sure it would fill up all the pages of all the computers in all the houses in the world if we were honest.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Shed Blood

I voted this week. There were no major issues, but I wanted to do my part for my country. I told my husband that there is no other greater duty outside of church to mankind than to vote. I compared it to giving blood. It felt good to wear the "I Voted Today" sticker all day long.

Today I saw on the news that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stepped down. Politics aside, I hurt for our armed forces. This Saturday is Veteran's Day. Our veterans are willing to sacrifice the ultimate price for our country. All I did was vote. I compared it to donating blood to the Red Cross. But they shed their blood to protect our country and to keep the wars away from our soil. They leave all they know and love to do their civic duty. I will highly respect our military. I'm grateful for our veterans because they risked their lives for me and others, perfect strangers.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price. He suffered and died, an innocent man, for a crime he did not commit, to pay the price for a people who may or may not accept this gift of love. Veterans often feel unappreciated and misunderstood. I imagine our Lord has felt the same way. In fact, in Luke 17:11-19, it is documented that Jesus healed ten lepers. One (a Samaritan) glorified God, and fell down on his face at Jesus' feet and gave Him thanks. Jesus answered, "Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole."

Jesus understands what veterans feel like for others to take them for granted. This week of our Thanksgiving month, let's focus our gratitude on our veterans who volunteer their blood for our freedom. And, like the one Samaritan, let us also fall at the feet of our Savior and give God the glory with our gratitude and thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

It Went Well!

Thanks to those of you who prayed for me as I made a guest appearance to the Dancing Word Writers Network chat room discussion last night. We had somewhere between 8-15 writers (I didn't count). The format was excellent. The moderator prayed and then they had a specific protocol for the chatters to ask questions or make comments. The moderator would then call on them by name when it was their turn. That way we didn't have 5 conversations going on at once.

Most of the writers wanted to know how to break into the business, so I hope I had helpful advice for them. The archives will feature the manuscript of the chat, once they have been transcribed. I'll let you know when that happens. And soon, I've had several ask for my ideas, so soon this blog will also feature some my basic recommendations for beginning writers, to help you launch into the world of writing.

Two of my friends from the Baptist Bible Fellowship International e-list came to the chat. One told me as soon as I entered the chat room that she was there. The other hid under another name and told me after. Shame on you Pat! Actually-I was sooo glad each of them was there. Nice to have support!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Come Support Me!

In the Dancing Word Writers Network newsletter, Annie McDonald issued the following invitation. I'd like to invite you to attend this chat to give me your support:

Are you wanting to take that next step in your writing career? Do you wish you had more inside information on how to get published? Join writing coach, Kathy Carlton Willis this Friday, November 3rd, beginning at 9 p.m. Eastern/6 p.m. Pacific in the Dancing Word Chat Room.

Participants are encourage to bring questions regarding:

-what a writer's coach can do for you
-copy editing (how to polish your piece-grammar, style, punctuation, usage)
-finding work as a freelancer
-how to find markets for your work
-how to be your own publicist
-the good, the bad, and the ugly about online critique groups
-how to write your own bio
-how to write a query letter
-how to write a book proposal

To join the chat, go to This will take you to a new window. Once it has loaded, follow the directions to enter the chat room. If this is your first time to the chat, it is recommend that you do a practice run a few hours prior to the chat.

Those who cannot use the java program will need to use the central chat mIRC program. Go to: and save the software to your desktop. Then get offline, disable your antivirus software and install mIRC. Reenable your antivirus software.

To enter the chat room, start the mIRC program and follow the directions, then type in /join #dancingword.

Be sure to test out the program several hours before the chat so if you have problems, you will have time to fix them.

If you have difficulties with the chat room, please contact me at

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Too Much!


It's just too much! Too much pain, too much suffering, too much confusion. Between several of my friends, there is just too much bad stuff going on. How does God expect us to cope when times are so bad? One of my closest friends died of cancer this year at age 50 and now another one age 52 is being tested for a suspicious lung lesion. Another friend has had such a terrible time at work that she says she is rehearsing her "I quit" speech, just in case she is pushed to her breaking point. And yet another friend is so overwhelmed by all the demands in her life that she says she can't take one more thing.

Isn't it odd how we tell God when things get to be too much-as in too much negative, but we never tell Him when things are just "too good"? With our soured perspectives, do we ever even see things as God blessing us too much? Do we ever ask Him to take some blessings back because we just can't handle it? I doubt it!

One of the things I started doing a few years ago was a gratitude list. At least twice a week I type out some things for which I am grateful. Russ has been teasing me about how often I exclaim the beauty of the autumn colors. I told him today that I seriously doubt God gets tired of hearing us praise Him for the beauty of His creation. Never does He say "too much."

What are you thankful for today? Can you make a list?

I make it a point not to just be thankful for the big things. By being grateful for the small things, I can develop an "attitude of gratitude" no matter what the big bad wolf has brought my way. Today, my list for the week includes:

• medical treatments that make me feel so much better.
• a conversation with a friend who "gets it."
• the splurge of a hired housekeeping team once every other week.
• sunshine hitting the autumn colored trees.
• a doting husband who helps me with the little things.
• a request to help compile and edit a book for a missions project.
• Pepsi over crushed ice with a straw before NOON!

See how throwing a simple thing in your gratitude list makes you smile? This month, the month we celebrate thanksgiving, rehearse your gratitude to the Lord. Gratitude lists magnify the positive and diminish the negative in my life. May the same be true for you.

"Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms." ~Psalm 95:2

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Dancing Word Interviews Me

Earlier in the year, I was invited to be interviewed during an online chat, by writers and those who want to be in the writing industry. They scheduled me for November. November is here, and now it is time to prepare for the chat-it will be this Friday-November 3rd at 9 p.m. EST. If you are curious-you can go to the site to see the ad for it, and you are welcome to attend the chat. It is easy and free.

I am a writer's coach, and we will be discussing all things relevant to the writing industry. Examples of topics to be covered: query letters, book proposals, copy editing, finding writing opportunities, online writers' groups and critique groups, marketing, and public relations.

Please pray that I can help the ones who sign up for the chat. Also pray that there will be no technical difficulties.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Jazzy is chewing on a 15-inch root as we speak. Yes, a root. My almost one-year-old Boston Terrier thinks she is Yule Gibbons or something when it comes to eating nature snacks. I looked at the root, and my first thought was, "Oh, I long to be rooted!"

To those of you who have lived in the same place your entire life, perhaps you don't understand that desire. Let me explain. My first 18 years, I lived in the same home. From that time, until now, 25 years later (and please don't do the math!), I have lived in 20 dwelling places. TWENTY! That amounts to eight towns and six states. No wonder I yearn for roots!

I desire to never write another change of address card again! My friends who grew up moving with military don't understand that. They are happy with a move at least every 3-5 years. And perhaps gypsies never lose that wandering gene. But for the most part, God placed a longing for stability in the hearts of his children. When the Hebrews wandered in the desert for forty years, they moaned and complained. I imagine that is where the phrase "Are we there yet?" came to be! With the world changing around us, we want HOME to stay the same.

God places a longing for roots in our very being. Psalm 1:3 says, "And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." May I be planted in the Bible, God's Holy Word, so that I can get all the nutrients I need from the good soil and water, to be fruitful in producing what God wants in my life.

But I also realize what Paul said in Philippians 4: 11, "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."

I'm very sure Paul wasn't speaking of states of the union, since America had not even been discovered yet, but it can apply to me being content no matter what state I live in. But more importantly it tells me that no matter what God allows to come into my life, even if it doesn't involve roots, I can learn to be content. My joy comes from God's grace, not from my circumstances.

If I'm honest, I'd much rather be rooted in Him, than in some street address. May I be rooted in contentment-the very best location to be.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006



I was watching a movie the other day, and a quote really stuck in my mind. The character said something like, "Sometimes things need to stay broken. It's not up to you to fix everything. Your job is to let it stay broken for now."

That struck a chord with me because I'm a chronic fixer. If I see something that's not right, I try to solve the problem and make things okay. If someone has a relationship problem, I become the mediator. If there are conflicts, I take on the role of peacemaker. If someone has a physical need, I am the self-appointed provider to meet that need.

All of that sounds good until I realize that I often jump ahead of God and just "fix" something without asking God if it is my job to repair it. That movie showed me that sometimes we learn more through the brokenness than we do when things are A-okay.

I heard myself saying the other day, "but I just don't want to see them suffer." And another Christian reminded me that the Bible speaks about suffering as if it is something with which the believer becomes greatly acquainted during his life journey. Suffering sometimes delivers a testimony of God's grace, and sometimes it is a schoolmaster of what is important to God. We learn better through suffering, about the heart of God, than we do when things are hunky-dory. And we communicate more with God when we are in a broken place in our lives. So, it's okay for some things to stay broken for a while. It's not my job to fix everything. Only God can mend the wounds of a broken heart.

The words of David Meece's song, "Brokenness" penetrates my soul. I pray his lyrics ministers to you as well.

"In my brokenness ~ In my hour of darkness
~ I will lift my hands ~ And worship You

~ In my brokenness ~ In my time of sadness
~ I will lift my voice ~ And praise to You

~ Time stands still ~ As I kneel down before You
~ Life draws near ~ Like waves upon the shore

~ You touch me ~ In my brokenness
~ In these whispering shadows ~ I will lift the pieces ~
Of my heart to You."

Friday, October 13, 2006

Make Your Requests Known

When our meal planner gave us the list of who was bringing meals, we noticed the name of a Brazilian woman-Carla. Russ and I talked about it, and wondered if it would be rude to hint that we would LOVE a Brazilian meal.

So, Russ handled it very delicately. He went up to her and said, "Hey, Carla, a little birdy tells me you might be bringing a meal over this week. Is that right?"

She smiled and said in her broken English, "I make lassagna for you!"

He sort of got a pouty lip and said, "Oh Carla, no Brazillian food for us?"

Her eyes lit up, her posture straighted with excitement, and she said "You wish I make recipe from Brazil?"

Russ said, "Yes! Yes! Please. Anyone can make lassagna, but only you can make an authentic Brazilian dish in our church."

So, Wednesday, Carla brought over Feijoada. This is a black bean dish that has ham, bacon, and sausage in it. Very tasty. She brought over yucca flour called manioc flour or farofa and instructed me to sprinkle some over the Feijoada to thicken it. She also brought white rice and collard greens, which is how the meal is traditionally served.

It was delicious. We're so glad we decided to speak up and make our request known. Otherwise it would have just been one more Italian dish. Instead we were transported to Brazil—if only through our tastebuds.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Fall or Winter?

Earlier this week, I took photos of the trees in our woods. They were just starting to turn colors. I planned to take photos every few days to show the progression of color.

There's only one problem.

Last evening, the rains and wind came, darting towards our home at some unnatural angle. I looked outside and exclaimed,"It's raining LEAVES!" No fooling, the leaves just blew off the trees.

Today, I woke up to freezing cold temperatures. At 9:00 a.m. it was only 34 degrees outside. I called Russ and asked him if I could turn on the heat because our thermostat said it was only 64 degrees inside! He laughed to think I would call to get "permission" but of course I was mainly asking because I wasn't sure if our system had been winterized yet. Imagine my good fortune when he said I could turn on the heat!

I looked outside, and one of my trees is almost "naked." The other trees have a few more leaves, but I can kiss goodbye any dreams of photographing the progressive colorization process. It's not Fall today, it's Winter!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Oscar or Felix?

Do you remember The Odd Couple? Oscar Madison and Felix Ungar shared an apartment. Oscar was messy, unorganized, and laid back. Felix was neat, regimented, and probably would be diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in 2006. It's amazing these two got along so well. Have you ever wondered how they could be such good friends when they were so different from each other? Perhaps it is because deep down, if you removed all their differences, they both had the same good heart.

I have certain characteristic traits similar to Oscar and Felix. I'm normally organized and professional when it comes to work and church projects and love to dress sharp. But I'm sloppy at home, even when I have the best intentions. Are you more of a Felix or an Oscar? How does your temperament help or hinder your relationships?

When it comes to reading the Bible, are you more like Oscar or Felix? When Oscars look for wisdom in the Bible, they use the magic verse technique. Perhaps you are familiar with this. Oscars flip open the Bible to any page, close their eyes and point to a verse. This is their verse for the day and they claim it for any circumstance that comes their way. Oscar types are tempted to procrastinate reading the Bible.

Felixes have a systematic, organized technique for reading their Bibles. Perhaps they read through the Bible in a year, or use a special Bible Study book, or some other routine reading schedule. Felix types are more disciplined, and read the Bible before there is a felt-need for biblical direction or advice.

Obviously there are no wrong techniques for Bible reading. God's just glad you want to hear His voice via the Word. When you open the Bible you are inviting God to speak to you. You learn His heart, and grow more like Him. The more a child spends time with his father, the more he becomes LIKE his father. That happens to us when we spend time with our Heavenly Father in His Word.

Are you an Oscar or a Felix? No matter what your personality type, the Bible can become a part of your life.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Wishing On Dandelions

Enjoy this author interview.

Book: Wishing on Dandelions

Author: Mary E. DeMuth

• This book deals with difficult subject matter: childhood sexual abuse and its residual affects. How did this book emerge?

My passion is to write about redemption through the avenue of story. I started the first book, Watching the Tree Limbs, in a flurry. In my mind I saw the streets of Burl and a girl who didn’t know where she came from. Because my personal story involves different instances of sexual abuse, I wanted to write a story that showed the reader how God could intersect an abuse-victim’s life and make a difference.

• So, are you Maranatha?

In some ways yes, some no. Like Maranatha, I felt like God had transformed my life in such a radical way (like her name change from Mara—bitter—to Maranatha—Come Lord Jesus). Like Maranatha, I endured sexual abuse, but I was much younger when it happened. Like Maranatha, I wondered if I had been marked, that every sexual predator could “tell” I was a ready victim. I wrestled through relationships in my teens with Maranatha’s twin feelings of revulsion and attraction. But, she is not me in many other ways. She is more independent. She has no parents. She lives in an entirely different culture. She is less ambitious. She has the privilege of many wiser people to mentor her through life.

• What made you decide to write a love story?

The book didn’t start out in my mind as a love story, but it evolved into it as I continued writing. Characters have that uncanny way of taking your prose and running in all sorts of directions with it. Charlie just kept being faithful. In a sense, I fell in love with him!

• What made you choose East Texas as the setting for both novels?

The South fascinates me. I grew up in the Northwest. When my last child was born, my husband was transferred to East Texas to start a department in a hospital. Because I was a stay-at-home mom and home schooling, I didn’t have much else to do there except to observe small town southern culture. Because I didn’t grow up in that culture, my senses were heightened and I eventually began to really appreciate the differences.

• Childhood sexual abuse is not talked about very often, and seldom covered in novels. What made you decide to write about it?

For that very reason. The more victims are quiet, the less healing they will receive. The more we talk about it, bringing heinous acts to the light, the better able we are to know we are not alone. I wrote this book so other abuse victims would feel validated and heard. And to offer hope.

• Why do you end your books with hope?

Because hope is essential to Jesus’ Gospel. Even when things are bleak, there is always hope—if not in this life, then in the next. I’m not interested, however, in presenting hope in a superfluous way. I don’t want to tie up every story thread neatly. The truth is, life is tragic and difficult and bewildering, but God intersects that life and brings hope.

• Have you always wanted to write?

Yes. Since my second grade teacher told my mother that she thought I was a creative writer, I’ve wanted to write. I kept a diary since the sixth grade. Though I was an English major, I didn’t start writing seriously until my first daughter was born. I wrote for ten years in obscurity before my writing career took a turn for the better.

• Who are your literary heroes?

I love Harper Lee. I only wish she’d written more. Leif Enger, who wrote Peace Like a River, greatly inspired me to write visually and artistically. I love Sue Monk Kidd’s Secret Life of Bees, how you could almost taste her characters. I’m fascinated and intimidated by J.R.R. Tolkein—how he managed to create an entire world with several languages is way beyond my literary prowess.

• What do you want your reader to take away from Wishing on Dandelions?

That redemption of a broken life takes time. We’re all on a journey of healing. Sometimes it’s slow going, but if we can endure through the dark times, God will bring us to new places of growth. I want the images and characters to stay with a reader for a long time.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Autumn Reminiscence

Shades of yellow, gold and orange splashed across the hillsides. Air crisp as a saltine crackers filled the lungs of life-breathers; deeply inhaling the scents of Fall. Trail walkers crunched across the rice krispy paths carpeted with fallen leaves and twigs. Fathers and sons stuffed duffle bags with indulgent snacks and camping gear for their annual deer hunt. Cinnamon smells wafted from the kitchen — laced in apple cobblers and nut breads. Harvesters emptied fields of Earth's bounty, leaving behind the barren fertile soil filled with hopes and dreams of next year's crop. Cider mills produced liquid gold, chilled to perfection. Spotless apples saved for caramel or candied treats. Leaf forts raked to the curb and ignited into smoldering mounds; smoke signals sending Morse code messages. "Hello. Good-bye. Fall has come. Fall has gone. Day is done."

As you have probably guessed, I have fond memories of autumn. I've lived in areas of the country where Fall was absent from the seasonal calendar. The Gulf of Mexico has its own subtropical beauty. The desert of New Mexico had its wide-open grandeur. But neither has Fall. Their loss. It's not just the scenes of autumn, but the smells and moods of autumn that speak to hearts.

No matter where you live, allow this time of year to remind you of how blessed we are with God's creation. He gifted us with this beautiful world to enjoy. It sustains us physically, and gives us what we need emotionally, mentally and spiritually as well. Pick up a leaf, and you will notice some points on each side, and a point at the top of the leaf. This tells me I need to look to each other and to my surroundings for fellowship, but most of all I am pointed to my Heavenly Father (at the top).

Take time to breath in God's bounty before Winter comes.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Expiration Date

"Is it okay to use cheese that has mold on it? Can't I just cut off the mold and use the good part?"

This was a recent question on the new Rachel Ray television show. It got my attention because I'm guilty of letting food park in my refrigerated "garage" too long. I hate to let things go to waste, but I won't use food that might make me sick. So how do you know?

Rachel Ray answered the cheese question by saying the moldy cheese will never taste as good again, even if the mold is removed, UNLESS it was a moldy cheese to begin with, such as gorgonzola. She went on to the next offensive items in the refrigerator, those past their expiration date. We've heard it time and time again that the expiration date is there for a reason, but what if the date is a "sell by" date instead? Then how do you know if the item is still okay? Usually it is the milk that has a sell by date, and there is an easy way to tell if it has gone bad, if you are willing to recruit your nose for the job!

One tip I learned early in my marriage was how to know if eggs are still fresh (and these CAN be used past the expiration date). Put the suspicious egg in a bowl of salted cold water. If it floats, throw it out. If it sinks, it is fresh. If it swims somewhere in the middle of the water-neither floating or sinking-it is safe to use for baking or for deviled eggs, but not fresh enough for an eggs and bacon breakfast.

All this talk about expiration dates got me to thinking about our time to leave this Earth. Some believe when it is your time to go, it will happen no matter what you do to alter the date and time. I know a few cases documented in the Bible of people who actually were able to bargain with God for a later expiration date.

One thing we should focus on more than the expiration date is the "use by" date. Yep-I fooled you. That is the same as the expiration date. You know what that tells me? All creation is meant to be USEFUL to the very end. But keep in mind that usefulness to God might be different from the "usefulness" our guilt-trips try to persuade us to do. While service is good, what God really finds useful is when we are fellowshipping with Him. This is what He created us for.

In the great egg test of life, I hope God finds that I sink rather than float. And if you knew my swimming ability, you would realize just how possible that might be!

Feeling expired? Trade it in for feeling INSPIRED.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Gratitude List

I think I've missed posting my gratitude list the past two weeks-so I better get with it! If I can't be thankful, I can't really be living, right?

I'm grateful for:

1. Breakfast cereals eaten dry as snacks. Yum!

2. Jars of homemade vegetable soup delivered in a gift bag yesterday along with two very nice lotions. Pampering for my skin and my belly-how nice is that? Thanks to Les and Juanita for that.

3. A phone call from my Aunt Verna. I'm grateful that this past year has helped me reconnect with my three paternal aunts-a true blessing to me. I think when my cousin died it was a wake-up call for all of us. I've received cards from all 3 aunts in the past month-how thoughtful!

4. Phone calls from friends-one is even willing to come over and shave my legs since I can't bend-now THAT'S a friend!

5. Donatos pizza-how convenient to call for delivery. I love 1/2 pepperoni and 1/2 Hawaiian on thin crust.

Pizza is good for when your cupboards are getting empty. I haven't been to the grocery story for over two weeks-I'm overdue. Russ almost ate yogurt yesterday that had expired! I did have an outing on Friday-to go eat a grilled cheese sandwich at Frishe's Big Boy (had a gift card). We were going to go to Kroger after we ate, just to pick up 5 items, but we had forgotten my remote control programmer for my spinal cord stimulator. I'm not supposed to go through the security gates at stores without turning off the stimulator, so that means we aborted the grocery trip and Russ did it on his way home. But...I'm really due to get out of the house again-cabin fever is setting in!

I go tomorrow for my first post-op visit, and also for a visit with Medtronics to reprogram my device.

I'm definitely on the mend!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

We Have A Winner!

Congrats to J. Arnold of PA for winning the book drawing for _Coldwater Revival_. I just finished the review copy and I'm glad to pass it on to one of my readers. I'll be posting a new contest soon-so check back often to enter.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Jazzy Psyched Us Out!

Jazzy, our 10 month old Boston Terrier, thinks all the company we have been having are here to see her. It's all about JAZZY, don't you know?! So, if someone comes with a meal in their arms, we try to put Jazzy out, and she can watch us visit from the French Doors on the deck. She gives a side show for our friends by jumping sky high, like she is on an invisible pogo stick. She can jump higher than our deadbolt.

Well, yesterday Betty and Bev came by with some KFC, and they felt sorry for Jazzy. They insisted it was okay to let her in. Jazzy smothered them in sloppy wet kisses and let them know she was in love at first sight. We didn't want Jazzy to overwhelm them, so Russ scooped up Jazzy and held her while we chatted. Bev found one of Jazzy's balls and decided to throw it for Jazzy to chase. Jazzy acted like she was all excited to chase the ball, but as soon as Russ let her down, she headed for our guests-to give them round two of kisses. We tried this three different times, and each time, Jazzy acted like she would chase the ball, but would instead go give kisses. It was hilarious.

It hurts to laugh, but it hurts NOT to laugh, if you know what I mean!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Now I Lay Me Down


Psalm 4: 8, "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep; for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety."

As a child, I was forced to slow down long enough to take a nap. Back then "nap" was the opposite of fun. I hated missing anything life might be throwing my way. I didn't realize why I needed naps and felt they were a waste of time. When I was quite young, though, I enjoyed the prequel to the nap, on my mother's lap. I recall the gentle back and forth rocking motion as we sat atop our antique rocking chair, while she sang "She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain." The rhythm of the chair in motion, the soothing notes sung, and the loving caress all made me feel loved and safe.

I'm on my way to take a nap as I write this article. Now that I am grown I believe the afternoon nap is the best free indulgence available. It doesn't discriminate. It is open to poor and rich, young and old. Naps restore my energy and renew my mental focus. My body wakes to less pain and more vigor.

But even if I didn't receive any benefits from napping, the process of taking a nap would be enough reason for me to set aside time for this luxury. I'm able to turn off the distracting burdens and to-do lists that pile up in my mind and heart.

When I walk toward the bedroom and say, "Jazzy, let's take a nappy" she prances eagerly by my side and jumps up to nuzzle next to me in bed. She is an excellent nap companion. Everyone needs a pet who is a nap fan!

Soon my breathing slows down, and the world fades away. Slumber. Sweet slumber. What a gift from God. He promises to give me rest, and I gladly receive that gift.

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray I slumber long and deep.

May all my cares be whisked away
And peaceful joy be here to stay.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Expect The Unexpected

You know how there is a book called, "What To Expect When You Are Expecting"? There needs to be a book called "What To Expect When You have Spinal Cord Stimulator Surgery." Amazing the things they just FORGOT to tell us.

I guess if we should have learned anything by now in life, it would be to expect the unexpected. And so it is with this surgery. I didn't expect so much pain, or bruising. I did expect to be bedridden longer and I'm not (get too stiff if I lay very long). I expected smaller incisions-surprise! I didn't expect to sleep well, but I have been sleeping great (probably thanks to the Percocet). I didn't realize just how dependent I would be on someone for the basic things like dressing or scratching the top of my head. I didn't expect the restrictions to, well, RESTRICT me so much. Cramps my style! For example, I wanted to make potato soup for lunch. Russ had to fetch the potato for me, and the pan. And I had to add water to the pan a little at a time while it sat on the burner, rather than holding it under the faucet, due to the weight. Everything I take for granted must be reevaluated these 8 weeks of recovery. I'll learn to appreciate my independence more when I get it back. One sign that I will have "arrived" is when I'm allowed to drive-in 6-8 weeks time.

Good news: fever is reduced and the redness connecting the two incisions is from bruising rather than infection. How did I know? It started turning orange/yellow.

Speaking of colors-I truly believe I've got my own rainbow or coat-of-many-colors going on with this bruise. How can one bruise embrace my belly and wrap underneath my arm and land somewhere on my back? ONE bruise! Perhaps my skin and soft tissue is revolting from the surgical attack, or maybe the fat cells are wondering why they weren't siphoned off and deemed medically unnecessary.

And my hair...boy is it a sight! Right now, I really don't care. Before surgery, I thought I would care what I looked like (making sure I had enough clothes that would work, and people to do my hair). But now, if I get a shower every other day and clean clothes on, I really don't care if I'm ready for the red carpet. But my really IS awful. How in the world can I develop bed-head from hair that was combed straight down like a Peter Pan cut, when I don't toss and turn in bed? However Russ positions me for my sleep position is how I wake up in the morning. Stiff as a board. Sometime in the night, the hair fairies came out to play in my tresses to distress them beyond repair. How important is a hairstyle in the full scheme of things anyway?

Yes, the surgeon left my sense-of-humor gene intact. Laughter really is a merry medicine to the deepest of the deepest hurts-even to the bones.

Thanks for praying-please keep it up!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


RE: My spinal cord stimulator surgery

Just a quick note to let you know I'm home. I had a rough night-slept for about 20 minute intervals in the hospital. The hospital staff was awesome,though. I had to deal with nausea this morning after breakfast, so took a couple of phenergans so that I wouldn't get sick on the way home (about a 35 minute drive).

I am in a great deal of pain. Especially when I have to change positions. I'm using all of my positioning techniques (legs not back, log rolls,etc.) I have bruising around the two incisions (each incision is about 5 inches). But I have a LOT of bruising connecting the two incisions (where the tubing is the "conduit" for the wires connecting the pacemaker type device to the electrodes in my back). That bruise is probably 3" by 5"at its biggest. They said the bruising will increase over the next couple of days. I'm pretty swollen too.

The device is working so/so. The guy who programmed it for my surgery was different than the nurse who programmed it for the trial, and so it is set up different than with what we are familiar. So, we will experiment with the settings, and then will also get it tweaked when I go back for my post-op in 2 weeks.

I've been sleeping a lot since I got home, but that's not a bad thing.

Thanks for praying!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Don't Drink The Water!

We saw this photo on a CD at the bookstore. Loved it! (Remember-we own a 10 month old Boston Terrier)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Too cute!

Someone sent me this photo, and I thought it was too cute not to share!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Author Interview: Nancy Jo Jenkins

I'm reading a great book right now, and I can't wait to tell you about it. Since I'm not finished with it yet, I can't write a full review at this time, so I thought I'd share an author interview with you. If you are interested in reading this book, e-mail me or leave a comment, and I will have a drawing of the names. I will send the winner the book when I'm finished with it.

About the Book: Just three weeks before her wedding, Emma Grace Falin has returned to her hometown of Coldwater, Texas, consumed by a single, burning desire. She must confront the guilt and shame of a devastating event that has haunted her since childhood.

"...What a stunning debut novel."

--Wendy Lawton, Literary Agent, author of Impressions in Clay

"An astonishing debut! Coldwater Revival is a hauntingly beautiful story made doubly so by Nancy Jo Jenkins stunning, lyrical writing. I was mesmerized from cover to cover."

--Deborah Raney, author of A Nest of Sparrows and A Vow to Cherish

Nancy Jo Jenkins Press Pic


Q. How long did it take you to write Coldwater Revival?

A. I perceived the idea for Coldwater Revival in June, 2003, and completed the manuscript in March, 2005.

Q. Tell us about your journey from writer to published novelist.

A. During my teaching career, I dreamed of the day when I could write the stories that continually swam around in my head. I didn't know at the time that it would take me four or five years of attending workshops, conferences, retreats, lectures, and of studying tapes, books and other materials before I was ready to put my newly-acquired knowledge to use, and begin writing the stories that God had prompted me to write. In March, 2004, at the Mount Hermon Christian Writing Conference, I submitted a book proposal to Steve Laube (Literary agent), and Jeff Dunn, (Acquisitions Editor) for RiverOak. Both gentlemen asked me to send them all I had written on Coldwater Revival, which at the time was 109 pages. During the summer of 2004, both men offered me a contract. My book was published by RiverOak and released in May, 2006.

Q. The agony and healing Emma Grace went through are so real. What personal
experiences did you draw from to portray Emma Grace's feelings so well?

A. There was a time in my life when I suffered with depression, though it was not due to a death in the family, as Emma Grace's was. At the time, it seemed that I was in a daily knock-down, drag-out fistfight with sadness. I was truly blessed in that I was never prescribed any kind of medication to treat my depression, which proved to be relatively short-lived. But I did receive counseling, which was just what I needed to win the battle with this debilitating condition. During that time of depression I endured many of the symptoms that Emma Grace suffered through. Excessive sleeping was about the only symptom we did not share. There were times when I couldn't swallow my food, and times when I could almost touch the face of that same blackness that almost overwhelmed Emma Grace. Her sorrow and guilt were difficult scenes for me to write, and I found myself crying each time I wrote about Emma Grace's sadness and the continual ache in her heart.

Q. Emma Grace loses all desire for life when her brother dies - not eating or talking, just living in the blissful cocoon of sleep. Do you have any advice for folks who are in that dark place right now?

A. Communication was the key that unlocked the door of depression for me. Communicate with God, even if the only words you can utter are the words, "Help me." But I also benefited greatly from talking to a certified counselor; one who was trained in helping people express their pain, their needs, their fears. I hope that anyone who feels sad and lonely for an extended length of time, will contact their pastor, or someone who can direct them to a Christian counselor.

Q. Emma Grace's grandmother lives in the city while the rest of the family lives in the country. Why do you think she didn't move out to the country with the rest of the family long ago?

A. Granny Falin immigrated from Ireland to America with her husband and son when Emma Grace's papa was just a lad. This family shared a dream about their new country. It would be a place where they could find work and prosperity, raise their family, and put down roots. Even the Great Hurricane of 1900 couldn't wash those dreams from Granny's heart. Though her only remaining child lived a hundred miles away in the rural township of Coldwater, Texas, Granny could never leave Galveston. The island and the sea that surrounded the island were her home now. It was where the ashes of her husband and three children were buried. It was the home she and her husband had dreamed of during their desperate years together in Ireland. If she left Galveston and moved to Roan's home, she would be giving up the dream she had shared with her husband.

Q. Papa and Elo have a tough time showing their emotions. Elo, especially, is so hard to read in the book. Why do you think some people hole up inside themselves rather than sharing their emotions?

A. I believe we are born with a portion of our personality already deeply embedded within us. Some people are reticent to express their feelings and emotions, while others have no problem whatsoever in expressing what they feel or think. I have known many individuals who are like Elo; people we sometimes refer to as "the strong, silent type". Papa and Elo are powerful protectors and providers who waste little time and effort on words. Both of these men feel that "actions speak louder than words". Added to that is the fact that Elo feels extreme discomfort when his mother and sisters are emotionally distraught, therefore, he maintains a rigid demeanor, in part, to provide a stable link in the chain that makes up his family - The Falins.

Q. Do you have other books coming out soon?

A. Thank you for asking about my upcoming books. I'm about to submit my proposal for a novel entitileld, "Whisper Mountain". This story takes place in the early 1900's in the Great Smoky Mountains. It is the story about lost love, and a desperate woman's journey to fill the void that deprivation and loss have left in her heart. The story has elements of mystery, intrigue, murder, and of course, romance. I'm very excited about this story. I've also begun writing a sequel to "Coldwater Revival" which will parallel both Emma Grace's life after 1933, and the adventurous trek Elo begins when he falls in love.

Monday, September 04, 2006

If They Were Psychic-Humor Contest

One of the humor writing contests suggested writers make a list of "if this thing/person was psychic, what this result would be." I enjoyed a five minute exercise of letting my creative juices flow. Some are funny, some aren't, but that's how you find the ONE that works (you go through all the clunkers to get to the treasures!). Why not have fun with this little exercise yourself?

If doctors were psychic....they'd lose their house in Miami from running less tests.

If dogs were psychic...oh wait—they are!

If teachers were psychic...they'd know when the dog really ate the homework.

If priests were psychic...there'd be no need for confession.

If pastors were psychic...they'd see through that compliment of "good sermon, Pastor."

If police were psychic...they'd only do a body cavity search if it was absolutely necessary.

If turtles were psychic...they'd know better than to cross the road.

If joke hearers were psychic...they'd know why the chicken crossed the road.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Photo Shop Me!

Recently, the news reported that Katie Couric and Rosie O'Donnell had "retouched" photos in PR shots. Someone behind the scenes thought it would be kind to put Katie and Rosie on instant diets by reducing inches before our very eyes. Okay-not inches, but it would have been if the photos were lifesize!

How convenient to just erase any unwanted flaws. Not only do you look good in the photo, but it provides an easy disguise when you meet people on the streets. They will never recognize you without your stage makeup and your retouched figure and face. I'm not sure what they do about live shots on television though. No time to retouch anything. I guess they just use special filters on the cameras, and hope people think the camera adds 10 pounds.

I haven't followed the photo shop route when it comes to retouching my photos. I hear it can be quite fun. But I must admit that the photo on this site is a photo from 2002 when I was about 60 pounds thinner. UGH.

No worries-I'll just go on the photo shop diet.

No pain, no gain. To my disdain, it's because I'm vain.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

So Much Sadness

There is so much sadness in the news. The accident of Flight 5191 in Lexington, KY killed 49 victims and left one survivor struggling for his life. One couple that died in the crash was just married the evening before in a fairy tale wedding celebration. Another man in the crash had a heart of gold for Habitat for Humanity. Every life extinguished in that broken and burning plane was special to someone.

The news also has been documenting the yearlong struggle for the Gulf of Mexico region to recover from Hurricane Katrina. Bible Baptist Church in Gulfport recently celebrated their new building, but many homes and businesses remain in ruins. One young man rescued from the Louisiana nightmare was deposited by bus in Houston, later to be shot and killed on the street.

For the past two weeks, the greater Cincinnati area (my "backyard") has been looking for Marcus Fiesel, a three year old special needs child. The foster mother claimed something happened to him while she had a fainting episode at a local park due to a heart condition. When she came to, the three other children were present, but Marcus was missing. Churches and communities as far as 60 miles away showed an outpouring of concern as they prayed and helped in the search.

Authorities soon realized that little Marcus had never been in the park. Now the truth is out: the foster parents had routinely restrained Marcus and left him at home. Days before the park incident, Marcus had his arms pinned behind his back and was wrapped in a blanket and packing tape like a mummy. With only his head exposed, he cried out in fear, so the couple placed him in a closet with a fan turned on to block the screams.

Marcus was abandoned for 36 hours, and found dead when they returned home. To cover up the death, the foster dad burned the body several times in an abandoned chimney out in the country, and then allegedly dumped the remains in the Ohio River.

During times like these, we need a Savior. Not just a one-time Savior who saves us from our sinful nature to be claimed for an eternity with Him, but also a day-by-day Savior who indwells believers and comforts us with a peace that passes all human understanding.

What have you done with your sadness lately? Have you found yourself floundering under the dark clouds or reaching out to each other and to our Heavenly Father?

...In Times Like These, We Need A Savior...